Saturday Reads: Unpredictable Weather, Rand Paul, and Other Odd News

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Good Morning!!

I got about a foot of snow dumped on me by the latest storm, when the prediction the day before had been for about 3-5 inches. Boy were the predictions wrong for this one! Last night the Boston Globe weather blogger tried to explain “Why was there so much more snow than predicted?”

Now that the big storm is over, I am looking at why this was such a poor forecast. The basic reason was a bit more cold air than expected, more moisture and it lasted longer. No one expected so much snow to fall from 4 AM this morning until mid-afternoon. Storms usually need to be at roughly 40 degrees latitude and 70 degrees west longitude to give us a major snow event. Meteorologists around here call this the benchmark. If a storm passes near the benchmark, and it’s cold enough, we are often in for a good snowstorm. This storm passed hundreds of miles further east than that typical spot for a major snowstorm. One of the reasons I was confident in not seeing this size snowstorm, was the predicted distance of the storm from our area. That prediction by the models turned out to be pretty good. Temperatures were also forecast to be about 4 degrees milder. As it turn out, it’s sort of a good thing it ended up being colder because heavy wet snow of these amounts would have been catastrophic to the power situation.

I see . . . well, not really. Anyway, the stuff is melting already which is a good thing, because I wasn’t able to shovel my driveway out completely yesterday. We’re supposed to get temperatures in the 40s and 50s for the next few days, so I guess that will rescue me.  Now what’s in the news today?

I see that Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is really full of himself after his “talking filibuster” the other day.

He’s got an op-ed in the Washington Post bragging, “My filibuster was just the beginning.”

If I had planned to speak for 13 hours when I took the Senate floor Wednesday, I would’ve worn more comfortable shoes. I started my filibuster with the words, “I rise today to begin to filibuster John Brennan’s nomination for the CIA. I will speak until I can no longer speak” — and I meant it.

I wanted to sound an alarm bell from coast to coast. I wanted everybody to know that our Constitution is precious and that no American should be killed by a drone without first being charged with a crime. As Americans, we have fought long and hard for the Bill of Rights. The idea that no person shall be held without due process, and that no person shall be held for a capital offense without being indicted, is a founding American principle and a basic right.

randpaulwords

I certainly agree that the president shouldn’t have the power to kill Americans without due process, but I’d be more impressed with Paul if he supported other constitutional rights like equal treatment under the law for minorities, women and LGBT people. I can’t take anyone seriously as a defender of the Constitution if he opposes civil rights and the right of a woman to control her own body.

According to Grace Wyler at Business Insider, Libertarians Believe Their Moment Has Finally Arrived. On the other hand, Chris Cillizza explains why Why the Rand Paul filibuster might not be such good news for the GOP.

Everyone seems to be calling Paul’s filibuster “historic,” and no one is even mentioning the (IMO) much more dramatic and impressive filibuster by Bernie Sanders just a couple of years ago.

Sequestration cuts, anyone?

While the Village media types focus on either fawning over or condemning Rand Paul’s performance, local journalists around the country are reporting on the damage being done by sequestration cuts.

The debate over sequestration this past week has come down to two questions: Was the administration exaggerating the impact of the spending cuts, and did they really need to shut down White House tours because of them?

It’s been the predominant theme at the White House briefings, a constant subject of discussion on cable news and a topic of fascination on Capitol Hill. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) even took up the cause at a press briefing this week, saying: “I think it’s silly that they have insisted on locking down the White House, which the American people actually own.”

Beneath that debate, however, is a different type of conversation about the impact of the $85 billion in cuts. While the national media has focused on those two questions, local coverage has been more directed at the tangible impact the budget restraints will have. The Huffington Post reviewed dozens of local television news broadcasts, using the service TVeyes.com, to survey coverage of sequestration outside of the Beltway.

Check out the many examples of real pain for localities at the link. And besides, according to Buzzfeed, Nobody Liked The White House Tours That Much Anyway. They’re only rated 3.5 on Yelp. Read the negative reviews at the link.

Interesting book review at The Daily Beast

The Girls of the Manhattan Project.

They were the employees of the gigantic uranium-enrichment plant at Oak Ridge, Tenn.—those who lived and toiled in this purpose-built secret city in the Appalachian Mountains, many of them young women, had only been told that their efforts would help bring home American soldiers. Then, when atomic power was deployed against an enemy nation for the first (and so far, last) time, Oak Ridge residents realized what they had been working toward, and why their every move had been monitored, their every utterance policed, and their every question stonewalled.

In The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II, Denise Kiernan recreates, with cinematic vividness and clarity, the surreal Orwell-meets-Margaret Atwood environment of Oak Ridge as experienced by the women who were there. They were secretaries, technicians, a nurse, a statistician, a leak pipe inspector, a chemist, and a janitor. “Site X” began construction in late 1942, and was also known as the Clinton Engineering Works (CEW) and the Reservation. Staff members were recruited from all over the U.S., but particularly from nearby Southern states, and were offered higher than average wages, on-site housing and cafeterias, and free buses.

More importantly, they were offered the chance to join the 400,000 or so American women performing non-combatant roles in the armed services, as well as those keeping vital industries afloat and helping the men on the front lines. But whereas a female Air Force pilot or munitions factory worker understood precisely her contributions to the war effort, the women at Oak Ridge were kept in the dark about the actual purpose of their workplace, a mystery heightened by the apparent lack of anything ever leaving the site. Provided with “just enough detail to do their job well, and not an infinitesimal scrap more,” workers at all levels were forbidden from taking the slightest interest in anyone else’s duties. “Stick to your knitting,” in the words of Lieutenant General Leslie Groves, head of the Project.

That sounds like a fascinating book!

ABC News reports on a scary new virus–the coronaviris.

Coronavirus

Coronavirus

Health officials are warning of a new virus that has sickened at least 14 people worldwide, killing eight of them.

There are no known American cases of the coronavirus, known as hCoV-EMC, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control is urging doctors with patients who have an unexplained respiratory illness after traveling to the Arabian peninsula or neighboring countries to report the cases to the CDC.

Doctors should also report patients with known diseases who don’t respond to appropriate treatment, the agency said its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Close contacts of a symptomatic patient should also be evaluated.

The novel virus, which is associated with severe respiratory illness with renal failure, was first recognized last September and caused alarm because it is genetically and clinically similar to the SARS virus, which caused hundreds of deaths worldwide.

Read more at the CDC website.

A new archaeological theory about Stonehenge

The Guardian: Stonehenge may have been burial site for Stone Age elite, say archaeologists.

Stonehenge with a new moon seen through standing stones

Centuries before the first massive sarsen stone was hauled into place at Stonehenge, the world’s most famous prehistoric monument may have begun life as a giant burial ground, according to a theory disclosed on Saturday.

More than 50,000 cremated bone fragments, of 63 individuals buried at Stonehenge, have been excavated and studied for the first time by a team led by archaeologist Professor Mike Parker Pearson, who has been working at the site and on nearby monuments for decades. He now believes the earliest burials long predate the monument in its current form.

The first bluestones, the smaller standing stones, were brought from Wales and placed as grave markers around 3,000BC, and it remained a giant circular graveyard for at least 200 years, with sporadic burials after that, he claims.

It had been thought that almost all the Stonehenge burials, many originally excavated almost a century ago, but discarded as unimportant, were of adult men. However, new techniques have revealed for the first time that they include almost equal numbers of men and women, and children including a newborn baby.

I’ll end with this “chart of the day” from Business Insider:

“The Scariest Jobs Chart Ever”

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I hope that’s enough to get you started on the day. Please share your recommended reads in the comments. I look forward to clicking on your links!

Have a great weekend!!


Interesting Things…Open Thread

19069998392490675_gAMNEfzx_cGood Evening

Look at these pictures of Hilary in action, nice.  I have to admit, I was looking forward to watching Hilary kick ass today…but this PAD I’m suffering from is a lot stronger than I thought.  For what seems like weeks now, it’s been so difficult to even browse or scan over news items that deal with anything involving politics.

So, with that in mind, here are your non-news links.

The two major earthquakes from the last decade, being in 2004 Indonesia and in 2011 Japan, were surprises to seismologist. They occurred in areas where earthquakes greater than 8.4 usually take place. Scientists underestimated potential for Tohoku earthquake: Now what?

Now earthquake scientists are going back to the proverbial drawing board and admitting that existing predictive models looking at maximum earthquake size are no longer valid.

In a new analysis published in the journal Seismological Research Letters, a team of scientists led by Oregon State University’s Chris Goldfinger describes how past global estimates of earthquake potential were constrained by short historical records and even shorter instrumental records. To gain a better appreciation for earthquake potential, he says, scientists need to investigate longer paleoseismic records.

“Once you start examining the paleoseismic and geodetic records, it becomes apparent that there had been the kind of long-term plate deformation required by a giant earthquake such as the one that struck Japan in 2011,” Goldfinger said. “Paleoseismic work has confirmed several likely predecessors to Tohoku, at about 1,000-year intervals.”

It seems to me that study those prehistoric records would be key in predicting earthquakes of this size.

Next up, two articles on ancient archaeology.

A grave that was discovered back in 2010 is finally giving up some of it’s secrets. Large Celtic Grave Excavated in Germany

Archaeologists have been painstakingly excavating the 2,600-year-old grave of a Celtic woman and child that was discovered in 2010 and removed from the ground in a large block. The burial chamber had been fitted with oak beams that were preserved by water from a nearby stream. Artifacts recovered so far from the tomb include gold and amber jewelry and objects made of bronze and jet, in addition to organic materials. “We call her a princess, but we actually know very little about the social organization of the time because we don’t have any written sources,” explained Nicole Ebinger-Rist, director of the project. She hopes to identify the woman as the research progresses.

Check out that link.

This next story is fascinating to me, because it deals with ancient weaving. Loom Weights Discovered in Ancient Cattle Town

Loom weights made of pottery have been uncovered in Turkey’s ancient city of Assoss. “Some of them are round and some of them are cubic. People used even broken ceramic pieces in this period by making a hole in the center of them. There are seals, names, or descriptions on some of these weights. They date back to 2,500 years ago,” said Nurettin Arslan of Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University. The weights were found near the city’s theater, and may have come from a small weaver’s shop.

On to something even older than this grave and weave shop, Taking the temperature of the universe. To take the universe’s temp we need to go back to the beginning of time.

Astronomers using a CSIRO radio telescope have taken the Universe’s temperature, and have found that it has cooled down just the way the Big Bang theory predicts.

Radio waves from a distant quasar pass through another galaxy on their way to Earth. Changes in the radio waves indicate the temperature of the gas. Image Credit: Onsala Space Observatory

Using the CSIRO Australia Telescope Compact Array near Narrabri, New South Wales, an international team from Sweden, France, Germany and Australia has measured how warm the Universe was when it was half its current age.

“This is the most precise measurement ever made of how the Universe has cooled down during its 13.77 billion year history,” said Dr Robert Braun, Chief Scientist at CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science.

Because light takes time to travel, when we look out into space we see the Universe as it was in the past — as it was when light left the galaxies we are looking at. So to look back half-way into the Universe’s history, we need to look half-way across the Universe.

Our last link is closer to Earth….pictures from ISS, International Space Station. Best photos of night-shining clouds seen from ISS

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) sometimes see what are called polar mesospheric clouds by scientists – noctilucent or night-shining clouds by the rest of us. As seen from Earth’s surface, these clouds have a short season when they are most often seen: that is, late spring to early summer. They shine at full intensity over a period of no more than five to 10 days. From Earth’s surface, they are only seen at high latitudes, in the Arctic or Antarctic. And they are most often seen either before sunrise or after sunset. The images below, however, are taken from space and know no such limitations. Astronauts aboard ISS see these clouds at all times of year, and sometimes far into the night. The first image is very recent, taken on January 5, 2013.

An astronaut aboard the International Space Station captured this image of noctilucent, or night-shining, clouds on January 5, 2013, when the ISS was over the Pacific Ocean south of French Polynesia. Image via NASA. View larger.

Hope you enjoy these links, and have a wonderful evening.

This is an open thread.


Thursday Reads: GOP Wars on Democracy, Social Safety Net; Russia and Syria; MacDonald Follow-Up; and Ancient Cheese making

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Good Morning!!

Now that Rick Snyder has succeeded in turning Michigan into a right-to-work-for-less state, he and his Republican House have passed a supposedly “new and improved” emergency manager law. The Detroit Free Press reports:

The House passed the Local Financial Stability and Choice act in a 63-46 vote late Wednesday, with Rep. Kevin Cotter, R-Mt. Pleasant, as the only Republican to join Democrats in voting against it.

Immediate effect for the new bill was rejected 63-45, meaning it would take effect around the end of March if passed by the Senate, likely to happen Thursday, and signed by Gov. Rick Snyder, as expected.

The legislation introduced by Rep. Al Pscholka, R-Stevensville, is similar to a draft Treasurer Andy Dillon and Gov. Rick Snyder had released. The administration said it’s designed to address shortcomings in Public Act 4 by giving local officials in financially troubled cities and school district more input in decisions.

Incoming House Minority Leader Tim Greimel, D-Auburn Hills, said it is a “mirror image” of what voters just rejected and “another slap in the face to democracy perpetrated by this House.”

It appears that both Wisconsin and Michigan are now totally owned by the Koch Brothers. Think Progress reports on How Michigan Voters Can Repeal The GOP’s Anti-Union Powergrab, but this is starting to feel like whack a mole. Republicans seem determined to kill democracy one state at a time.

The New York Times Fed Ties Rates to Joblessness, With Target of 6.5%

The Federal Reserve made it plain on Wednesday that job creation had become its primary focus, announcing that it planned to continue suppressing interest rates so long as the unemployment rate remained above 6.5 percent.

It was the first time the nation’s central bank had publicized such a specific economic objective, underscoring the depth of its concern about the persistence of what the Fed chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, called “a waste of human and economic potential.”

To help reduce unemployment, the Fed said it would also continue monthly purchases of $85 billion in Treasury securities and mortgage-backed securities until job market conditions improved, extending a policy announced in September.

But the Fed released new economic projections showing that most of its senior officials did not expect to reach the goal of 6.5 percent unemployment until the end of 2015, raising questions of why it was not moving to expand its economic stimulus campaign.

Ben Bernanke indicated there isn’t much more the Fed can do at this point. Perhaps its time for GOP lawmakers to quit trying to destroy the economy?

I couldn’t believe this story about cops gone wild in New Hampshire. Raise your hand if you knew it was illegal to buy “too many” iPhones.

Police in Nashua, New Hampshire say they were forced to use a Taser on a 44-year-old Chinese woman who does not speak English after she was told to leave an Apple Store because she was trying to buy too many iPhones.

Through a translator, Xiaojie Li told WMUR that she had bought two iPhones from the Pheasant Lane Mall Apple Store on Friday and returned on Tuesday to buy more to send to her family in China.

“The manager of the Apple Store came and told her something, but she didn’t understand,” Li’s daughter explained.

Soon after that, shoppers captured cell phone video of police — who were providing security at the store’s request — using a stun gun on Li as she laid on the mall floor screaming.

The Apple store employees had to call the police because a customer was spending too much money in their store? That’s just one more reason I’ll never buy an Apple product.

Senator Bob Corker has introduced a bill that would cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid by nearly $1 Trillion in reture for raising the debt ceiling.

Corker said the Dollar For Dollar Act would include $937 billion in savings from Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, with an equivalent, dollar-for-dollar hike to the debt ceiling.

Corker offered some details about his bill during a speech on the Senate floor Wednesday. Corker said his bill would raise the age of Medicare eligibility to 67 and would include the Medicare Total Health package that would increase private-sector competition for covering the elderly. Corker also said there would be a form of means-testing, making wealthy Medicare recipients pay more of their healthcare needs.

Corker said he’d also “slowly” raise the age of eligibility for Social Security benefits, but did not specify an age.

“We should address [Social Security] now because it’s causing the government to spend more than it takes in,” Corker said. “It will be bankrupt by 2017 if we do nothing.”

Izzat so. Social Security will be “bankrupt” five years from now? Prove it, Corker. What an asshole. And this is the guy the corporate media has been presenting as a GOP moderate who is willing to work with Obama.

According to the Washington Post, Russia is admitting that: Assad is losing control and rebels might win in Syria

MOSCOW — Syria’s most powerful ally, Russia, said for the first time Thursday that President Bashar Assad is losing control of his country and the rebels might win the civil war, dramatically shifting the diplomatic landscape at a time of enormous momentum for the opposition.

While Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov gave no immediate signal that Russia would change its stance and agree to impose international sanctions on Assad’s regime, his remarks will likely be seen as a betrayal in Damascus and could persuade many Syrians to shift their loyalties and abandon support for the government.

Russia’s assessment could also further strengthen the hand of the rebels, who have made some significant gains in their offensive, capturing two major military bases and mounting a serious challenge to Assad’s seat of power, Damascus.

“We must look at the facts: There is a trend for the government to progressively lose control over an increasing part of the territory,” Bogdanov, the Foreign Ministry’s pointman on Syria, said during hearings at a Kremlin advisory body, the Public Chamber. “An opposition victory can’t be excluded.”

Here’s an interesting follow-up to Gene Weingarten’s excellent story about the Jeffrey MacDonald case, which I wrote about recently. Weingarten did a live chat at the WaPo on Tuesday in which he was a little more revealing of his own opinions. I learned that he had the same incredulous reaction when he heard the words supposedly chanted a by “hippie intruder” to MacDonald’s home, “Acid is groovy…kill the pigs.”

This is an odd thing to say about a 6,400-word story, but I found myself without the space to tell it as completely as I’d have liked. The introduction to this chat is mostly for those of you who have read the story and are still not persuaded, beyond a reasonable doubt, that MacDonald killed his family and that “A Wilderness of Error” is a deeply flawed and manipulative book. All the rest: Feel free to plow ahead into the questions.

I remember the killings. I was an 18-year-old hippie at the time, roughly the same age as Helena Stoeckley. I didn’t do as many drugs as she did, but I did plenty, including mescaline, LSD, and heroin. When I read in the newspaper that Jeffrey MacDonald – still presumed an innocent victim – told police that his attackers had been vicious hippie intruders who chanted “acid is groovy – kill the pigs,” I knew he had done it. As did every hippie in every city who read that statement with any degree of analytical thought. No self-respecting killer hippie would ever have uttered, let alone chanted, that uncool, anachronistic thing as late as 1970. That was exactly what some ramrod-straight 26-year-old Ivy League frat-boy doctor who was contemptuous of the counterculture would have thought a hippie would say.

Not to mention that hippies, um, didn’t kill people, at least not while stoned in drug-induced trances. The Manson gang were not hippies. They were weirdo murderers. They went around murdering people, not just Sharon Tate and her friends. They did not come out of the dark, descend on a house, do their savage thing, and then disappear back into the world never to be heard of again. That’s not how it works with murderous gangs who would kill sleeping children. Oh, and hippies also don’t arrive at a house intent on mass murder without remembering to bring along any weapons, relying on whatever knives and pieces of wood they might happen to find inside the house. The Manson people brought a shotgun.

But, okay. Forget all that. That’s just me bloviating. Maybe the MacDonald killers were different from all other killers. Maybe they were really disorganized, absentminded murderous hippies who talked funny and only killed just this once. Oh, and who came to hassle the doctor for drugs because they were drug addicts, and who killed his family, but never opened a closet to discover a big stash of syringes and drugs, including amphetamines. Or maybe they saw that stuff but didn’t steal it because murder may be one thing, but stealing is just plain wrong.

After that, he goes through the evidence and responds to readers’ questions. Check it out if you’re interested.

A fragment of a sieve that researchers say were used as cheese strainers.

A fragment of a sieve that researchers say were used as cheese strainers.

Finally, the Wall Street Journal had a fascinating science story yesterday: Europe’s First Cattle Farmers Quickly Added Cheese to Menu.

Researchers on Wednesday said they found the earliest known chemical evidence of cheese-making, based on the analysis of milk-fat residues in pottery dating back about 7,200 years. The discovery suggests Europe’s early farmers added a cheese course to their diet almost as soon as they learned to domesticate cattle and started regularly milking cows.

Scientists led by geochemist Richard Evershed at the U.K.’s University of Bristol tested ancient, perforated clay pots excavated at sites along the Vistula River in Poland, and found they had likely been used by prehistoric cheese mongers as strainers to separate curds and whey—a critical step in making cheese.

The pots have long puzzled archeologists, but their new analysis, reported in Nature, revealed unique carbon isotopes of milk in the traces of fatty acids that had soaked into the ceramic sieves.

“It is a no-brainer,” said Dr. Evershed. “They have to be cheese strainers.”

No one knows exactly when or where cheese-making began, but experts said the traces of milk fat on these unglazed clay strainers are the clearest evidence yet of the origins of this basic biotechnology, which launched a dairy trade that today produces more than 11 billion pounds of cheese every year and as many as 5,000 different named varieties world-wide, from Appenzeller to Zamorano.

As a cheese lover, I was very interested to learn about this.

That’s all I have for you today. What are you reading and blogging about?


Wednesday Reads: The King Who Wanted To Be Queen?

Good Morning

Hope everyone is staying dry, and plugged in…by that I mean your electricity is still on and strong!

I could not bring myself to watch the show last night. Even though it looks as if there was plenty to make fun of, and the speeches probably would have got me all fired up…you know, pissed off.

I could not even force myself to read the various pundit’s views on the evening. (Although this one here by Charlie Pierce is supposed to be a good one.) Safe to say this morning’s reads will touch on things that you may have missed the last few days.

This first link is for Dakinikat, I know how fascinated she is with the archaeology of ancient graves: Archaeologists begin dig to uncover grave of Richard III in Leicester

The son of a descendant of Richard III’s eldest sister was on site today as what is believed to be the first ever search for the lost grave of an anointed King of England began in a city centre car park.

Canadian-born Michael Ibsen watched as archaeological experts from the University of Leicester used ground penetrating radar equipment to find the best spots to begin their search today at the car park off Greyfriars in Leicester.

[…]

Richard III was brought to Leicester where he was buried in the church of the Franciscan Friary, known as Greyfriars, after he fell in the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.

But the exact whereabouts of the church have become lost over time.

While hopes are high at finding the site, which is currently being used as a car park for council offices, the experts are less confident about finding the monarch’s remains during the two-week search.

Rumours say the monarch’s bones could have been thrown into the River Soar after the dissolution of the monasteries.

Philippa Langley, from the Richard III Society which has been involved with the project, said: “We know he was buried here but the church disappeared after the dissolution of the monasteries as did his grave so today we begin the search for Richard.

“We know his body was led into Leicester and put on display for three days by Henry Tudor before he was buried.

“I hope we do find him because I want to give him a proper resting place and also to explode a lot of myths around Richard III.”

Myths? I wonder…

For more on the dig, you can take a look at these articles:

As for the myths…when I think of Richard III, I think of Shakespeare…Richard III:

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that lour’d upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.

Which makes me think of the movie The Goodbye Girl…specifically the scene where Richard Dreyfus is playing the King who wanted to be Queen…

Goodbye Girl, The — (Movie Clip) Don’t Give Me Bette Midler

The first rehearsal of the Off-Broadway Richard III, director Mark (Paul Benedict) offering his unorthodox theory, Chicago actor Elliott (Richard Dreyfuss), cast in the lead, expressing concern, in Neil Simon’s The Goodbye Girl, 1977.

I’ve tried to embed the video below, so if it does not work correctly, please be sure to give that link a click and watch the scene. Too funny!

Assistant Director: Act one scene one…
Elliot Garfield: Uh, excuse me. Sorry. Just how far off the diving board do you want me to jump?
Mark: Well, don’t give me Bette Midler, but let’s not be afraid to be bold.
Elliot Garfield: Bold.
Mark: Bold.
Assistant Director: Act one, scene one, enter Richard Duke of Glochester.
Elliot Garfield: Now is the winter of our discontent… Sorry, one minute. Now is the winter…
Elliot Garfield: [Very effeminate] Now ith the winter of our dithcontent… may I have a 5 minute break please?
Mark: Five minutes.

Okay, so Richard, complete with club foot, twisted hand and pink polish on his nails. What a sight that would be…which leads me to our next link. New strain of hand, foot and mouth virus worries parents, pediatricians

Bernard Cohen, M.D., director of pediatric dermatology at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, and colleague Kate Puttgen, M.D., have seen or consulted on close to 50 such cases in the last few months and have received countless phone calls from scared parents and concerned physicians. Cohen believes this number may be just the tip of the iceberg with primary care pediatricians seeing the bulk of new cases.

Cohen and Puttgen want to reassure parents that most cases of the disease are benign and that nearly all patients recover in seven to 10 days without treatment and without serious complications.

“What we are seeing is relatively common viral illness called hand-foot-and-mouth disease but with a new twist,” Cohen says.

The culprit is an unusual strain of the common coxsackie virus that usually causes the disease. The new strain, coxsackie A6, previously found only in Africa and Asia, is now cropping up all over the United States.

[…]

The new strain, however, behaves somewhat differently from its homegrown cousin, Cohen says. It carries a slightly higher risk for more serious illness and more widespread rash that can involve the arms, legs, face and diaper area. The new strain also seems to affect older as well as younger children.

I wonder if my kids and husband had this strain of the virus, it may not be a club foot, but for some reason the thing with Richard’s illnesses seemed like a pathetic segue into this foot and mouth article. Yeah, I am reaching…I know. 😉

I have yet another laughable connection to the foot and mouth link, this one about a virus that is transmitted by vermin. (Oh, not that the virus is laughable, but that my attempt at making some kind of themed post this morning. Now that is laughable.)  Second Yosemite National Park visitor dies of rodent-borne illness

A second person has died of a rare, rodent-borne disease after visiting Yosemite National Park earlier this summer and park officials warned past visitors to be aware of some flu-like aches and symptoms.

Health officials learned this weekend of the second hantavirus death, which killed a person who visited the park in June, spokesman Scott Gediman said in a statement.

There is one other confirmed case of the illness, and a fourth is being investigated.

Yosemite officials said Monday that the four visitors might have been exposed while vacationing at the park’s Curry Village, and are warning those who stayed in the village’s tent cabins from mid-June through the end of August to beware of any symptoms of hantavirus, which can include fever, aches, dizziness and chills. An outreach effort is under way to contact visitors from that period who stayed in “Signature Tent Cabins,” which have more insulation and amenities than other tent cabins.

Federal health officials say symptoms may develop up to 5 weeks after exposure to urine, droppings, or saliva of infected rodents, and Yosemite advised visitors to watch for symptoms for up to six weeks.

Of the 587 documented US cases since the virus was identified in 1993, about one-third proved fatal. There is no specific treatment for the virus.

Geez, scary stuff innit?

Moving away from the deformed body of a closet queen, and various viruses…I come to an article that shows the twisted irony involved with the religious right…or should that be better phrased as the fucked up hypocrisy that parades around as the anti-gay right wing? Anti-LGBT Prop 8 activist confesses to molesting young boys

A Yucca Valley, California man associated with the anti-LGBT ballot initiative Proposition 8 has confessed to the molestation of multiple young boys over the course of decades.  According to the Wisconsin Gazette, Caleb Edward Hesse, 52, a first grade teacher and youth volunteer, has been arraigned on 4 felony counts of lewd conduct upon a child.  The San Bernadino District Attorney’s office has said that more charges are pending as the case develops and more victims come forward.

“The crimes are believed to have occurred between the early 1980s and as recently as one week ago,” reads a report from the San Bernadino County Sheriff’s Office.  ”Some of the victims may now be 30 (to) 40 years old.”

Hesse allegedly molested the boys on “countless overnight outings that took place throughout California” and were sponsored by the church where he volunteered, Yucca Valley’s Evangelical Free Church.  Hesse has been a first grade teacher at Friendly Hills Elementary School since 1987.

The Gazette has found that Hesse donated in 2008 to the campaign supporting the anti-LGBT ballot initiative Proposition 8.  He was also the owner of ProtectMarriage.com, a now-defunct Prop 8 fundraising site, according to LGBT news service Gayopolis.

You just can’t make this shit up!!!

And speaking of the twisted right…I have a couple of articles to share with you on the Republican Party.

Lawrence Wittner: The Republican “Small Government” Fraud –  This one deals with the kind of hypocrisy we have talked about so many times on the blog.

One of the most widely-advertised but falsest claims in American politics is that the modern Republican Party stands for “small government.”

In the distant past, leading Republicans were sharp critics of statism. And, even today, a few marginal party activists, like U.S. Representative Ron Paul, have championed limited government — even libertarian — policies. But this is not at all the norm for the contemporary GOP.

For example, the modern Republican Party has stood up with remarkable consistency for the post-9/11 U.S. government policies of widespread surveillance, indefinite detention without trial, torture, and extraordinary rendition. It has also supported government subsidies for religious institutions, government restrictions on immigration and free passage across international boundaries, government denial of collective bargaining rights for public sector workers, government attacks on public use of public space (for example, the violent police assaults on the Occupy movement), and government interference with women’s right to abortion and doctors’ right to perform it.

And this barely scratches the surface of the Republican Party’s “big government” policies. The GOP has rallied fervently around government interference with the right of same-sex couples to marry, government provision of extraordinarily lengthy imprisonment for drug possession (for example, in the “war on drugs”) and numerous other nonviolent offenses, government curbing of voting rights (for example, “voter suppression” laws), and government restrictions on freedom of information. Where, one wonders, is the Republican outrage at the U.S. government’s crackdown on people like Bradley Manning who expose government misconduct, or on whistle-blowing operations like Wikileaks and its leading light, Julian Assange?

Oh yeah…preach it baby!

If the Republican Party were a zealous defender of civil liberties, as it claims to be, it would laud civil liberties organizations. But, in fact, the GOP has adopted a very hostile attitude toward them. During the 1988 presidential campaign, George H. W. Bush, the Republican presidential candidate, publicly and repeatedly ridiculed his Democratic opponent as a “card-carrying member of the ACLU.”

Of course, the biggest arena of U.S. government action is the military. Here is where 57 percent of U.S. tax dollars currently go, thereby creating the most powerful national military machine in world history. A Republican Party that wanted to limit government would be eager to cut funding for this bloated giant. But the reality is that the modern GOP has consistently supported a vast U.S. military buildup. Today, its presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, assails his Democratic competitor for military weakness and champions a $2 trillion increase in U.S. military spending over the next decade.

Moreover, the Republican Party is an avid proponent of the most violent, abusive, and intrusive kind of government action — war. In recent decades, as U.S. military intervention or outright war raged in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Grenada, Panama, Kuwait, the Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and other nations, the GOP was a leading source of flag-waving jingoism, as it is today in the U.S. government’s confrontation with Iran. This is not a prescription for creating limited government. As the journalist Randolph Bourne remarked in the midst of U.S. government mobilization for World War I: “War is the health of the State.”

Read the rest at the link…

Then we have this, a sort of logistical view of the exception rules for abortion…COLUMN: How would a woman prove rape to qualify for Romney’s abortion exception?

In the wake of the Todd Akin firestorm, Mitt Romney and a flip-flopping Paul Ryan have emphasized that their anti-choice stance excludes rape. In a Romney administration, abortions would be outlawed except in the case of women who have been raped, the Republican ticket has promised.

So here’s an idea, first suggested by my daughter and one of her friends: Who’s going to be the first reporter to ask Romney or Ryan how that would work? How would they implement that exception?

Would a woman’s rapist have to be convicted in court? How would that work, given that in most criminal cases it takes longer than nine months from when the crime is committed to catch the criminal (assuming the criminal is caught), prepare charges and reach a verdict. In fact, the window would be significantly less than nine months; it would start from when the pregnancy is discovered and end somewhere around the 16 to 20 weeks left during which abortions can be performed most safely.

I won’t even go into the way these exceptions could become a disgusting bureaucratic mess that makes the woman jump through so many hoops,   getting that abortion becomes impossible…all in the name of pro-life fanaticism.

And that brings me to this last article for you, in a world where women are having to fight for their basic rights…elephants are getting birth control for free! And that ain’t the GOP Elephants…we are talking African Elephants. South Africa goes big on birth control for elephants

A South African province home to thousands of elephants is planning a birth control campaign for the pachyderms to prevent a population explosion that could threaten plants and wildlife.

Unlike other parts of Africa where elephant stocks have dwindled to dangerously low levels due to poaching and a loss of habitat, South Africa has seen its populations steadily grow through conservation, with the country pressed for room to house the massive animals with hefty diets.

KwaZulu-Natal province, in the southeast, is looking to expand a project running for more than a decade where elephants populations have been controlled by injecting cows with a vaccine that triggers an immune system response to block sperm reception.

Yup, I say it again, you just can’t make this shit up!

So, what are you reading about today? Feel the urge to rant about the GOP crapfest? Well…by all means…please do.


TBIF Reads

Good Morning!!

Here’s some reads to get you started today!

Hillary Clinton was asked about the SCOTUS ruling yesterday in St. Petersburg, Russia.  She said she was “obviously quite excited”.

“I haven’t had a chance to read the decision. I literally just heard as we landed that the Supreme Court has upheld the healthcare law. Obviously I want to get into the details, but I’m very pleased. That’s how I hoped it would turn out,” Clinton said in video posted by PSB’s “NewsHour” and reported by Agence France Presse.

The high court ruled to uphold the healthcare law in 5-4 decision that prompted calls for repeal from Republicans and daylong praise by Democrats.

“I think it’s a great moment to just think about what this will mean for the millions and millions of Americans who have already benefited from the Affordable Care Act and some many more who will continue to do so,” Clinton added.

She noted that although there is still a lot of work to do implementing the healthcare law, she was “obviously quite exited to hear the results.”

Most right-wing hacks responded in their normal over-the top way.  Rush Limbaugh–why is he still relevant?–said that SCOTUS was a “death panel”.   The Aqua Buddha doesn’t understand the role of the Supreme Court in the constitution.  He said that just because SCOTUS says it’s constitutional doesn’t mean it is constitutional.   Representative “Mean Jean” Schmidt gives all women a bad name with this show of hysteria.  (Let’s not even mention Quitterella or “I married a closet case” Michelle Bachmann.)  Let’s just say the Teabots are on a rampage.

I’m sure we will find more realistic assessments of the ruling in a few days when constitutional law scholars sift through the thing.

Nobel Prize winning Economist Joseph Stiglitz is out on the interview circuit in support of his new book.   Here’s an interesting interview with Stiglitz on the terrible consequences of income inequality.

One of the myths that I try to destroy is the myth that if we do anything about inequality it will weaken our economy. And that’s why the title of my book is The Price of Inequality. What I argue is that if we did attack these sources of inequality, we would actually have a stronger economy. We’re paying a high price for this inequality. Now, one of the mischaracterizations of those of us who want a more equal or fairer society, is that we’re in favor of total equality, and that would mean that there would be no incentives. That’s not the issue. The question is whether we could ameliorate some of the inequality — reduce some of the inequality by, for instance, curtailing monopoly power, curtailing predatory lending, curtailing abusive credit card practices, curtailing the abuses of CEO pay. All of those kinds of things, what I generically call “rent seeking,” are things that distort and destroy our economy.

So in fact, part of the problem of low taxes at the top is that since so much of the income at the very top is a result of rent seeking, when we lower the taxes, we’re effectively lowering the taxes on rent seeking, and we’re encouraging rent-seeking activities. When we have special provisions for capital gains that allow speculations to be taxed at a lower rate than people who work for a living, we encourage speculation. So that if you look at the design bit of our tax structure, it does create incentives for doing the wrong thing.

Basically this means that lowering taxes for the hyper-rich doesn’t create jobs.  It creates gambling and influence peddling.

Here’s “Eight Great Lines Written by the Late Nora Ephron” from truthdig.

Even people who don’t like Nora Ephron movies have to concede that she broadened things for women, both the female professionals following in her wake and the female audience members soaking in her stories. She was no bleeding-edge feminist, but in a culture that produces one vapid Prince Charming chick flick after another, Ephron generally focused on characters—Julia Child among them—who had their own force of personality, their own reasons for being.

Truthdig contributor Carrie Rickey remembers on her own blog eight of her favorite Ephron lines. Here are three:

“When your children are teenagers it’s important to have a dog so someone in the house is happy to see you when you get home.” — from the book “I Feel Bad About My Neck”

“Harry, you have to find a way of not expressing every feeling you have, every moment you have them.” — spoken by Meg Ryan in “When Harry Met Sally … ”

“She makes coffee nervous” — spoken by Tom Hanks (of Parker Posey) in “You’ve Got Mail”

I guess I’m going multimedia these days.  I have another Youtube for you.  This one is kinda kewl.  It’s on “mathematics made visible and the art of M.C. Escher. Who hasn’t had at least one of his posters hanging on your dorm or bedroom wall as a kid?

His cool, analytic tendency was apparent from the start. “Maurits Escher is a good graphic artist,” wrote the headmaster of the Haarlem School of Architecture and Decorative Arts in 1922, the year of Escher’s graduation, “but he lacks the right artistic temperament. His work is to too cerebral–neither emotional nor lyrical enough.” Escher’s work became even more cerebral over time, as it grew in geometric sophistication.

There’s a great 1 hour long documentary available too.  Follow the link above when you have the time.  It’s well worth it.

I also recommend that you read the FT and “A manifesto for economic sense” by Paul Krugman and Richard Layard.

As a result of their mistaken ideas, many western policy makers are inflicting massive suffering on their peoples. But the ideas they espouse about how to handle recessions were rejected by nearly all economists after the disasters of the 1930s. It is tragic that in recent years the old ideas have again taken root.

The best policies will differ between countries and will require debate. But they must be based on a correct analysis of the problem. We therefore urge all economists and others who agree with the broad thrust of this manifesto for economic sense to register their agreement online and to publicly argue the case for a sounder approach. The whole world suffers when men and women are silent about what they know is wrong.

Here’s an interesting archaeological find from the UK. A woman and a cow were found buried together in Cambridgeshire.

The grave was uncovered in Oakington by students from Manchester Metropolitan University and the University of Central Lancashire.

At first it was thought the animal skeleton was a horse.

Student Jake Nuttall said: “Male warriors might be buried with horses, but a woman and a cow is new to us.”

He added: “We were excited when we thought we had a horse, but realising it was a cow made it even more bizarre.”

Co-director of the excavation, Dr Duncan Sayer, from the University of Central Lancashire, said: “Animal burials are extremely rare, anyway.

Skeleton of a woman found in Anglo-Saxon grave Grave goods including brooches indicated the woman was of high status

“There are only 31 horse burials in Britain and they are all with men.

“This is the first animal to be discovered with a woman from this period – the late 5th Century – and it’s really interesting that it’s a cow, a symbol of economic and domestic wealth and power.

“It’s also incredibly early to find any grave of a woman buried with such obvious wealth.”

One more totally bizarre dig story.  I know.  I wanted to be an archaeologist as a kid. I’m still fascinated with it all. This one is from Philadelphia: “How Thousands of Headstones Ended Up Under a Philadelphia Bridge”.  Go look at the pictures.  They are very haunting and macabre.

The Betsy Ross Bridge in Philadelphia seems like any other. It doesn’t have the grace of the Golden Gate or the history of the Brooklyn Bridge, nor does it draw any acolytes wanting to make the trek across. The structure exists primarily to move people, and this it does well, helping connect Pennsylvania to New Jersey. Most commuters, however, are surely unaware of what the bridge’s foundation is actually built on: a cemetery.

The bridge springs from the headstones of a forsaken graveyard, dumped unceremoniously into the Delaware River. The sunken stones at the base of the bridge came from Monument Cemetery, once located two miles from City Hall. Monument Cemetery, established in 1839, was the second Victorian garden style cemetery in Philadelphia, after Laurel Hill, now a protected historic landmark. Monument was modeled after the Pere Lachaise in Paris, and was created to function both as a final resting place for the dead as well as a green respite from the surrounding urban environment.

That’s my offerings today!  Thank Buddha it’s Friday!  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Late Night Open Thread: A collection of missing links….

Evening everyone, I just wanted to post a quick Late Night thread, and thought it would be neat to focus on some links that I have saved, intending to use them in my Sunday Reads post.

There was a story a little while back about looking into the mind of a Neanderthal.

What would have made them laugh? Or cry? Did they love home more than we do? Meet the real Neanderthals…

A new study released by Kristin O’Brien, a biologist at University of Alaska Fairbanks, has found the family of fishes, called icefishes that live only in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica have a strange biological trait in common.

Blood on the left is from a red-blooded Antarctic fish. Blood on the right is from a white-blooded Antarctic icefish. Image Credit: Kristin O’Brien

An icefish off the coast of Antarctica. Its body and blood is translucent. This image has been identified as one of the best pictures on Wikipedia. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

They are unique because they are the only vertebrates in the world that lack the oxygen-binding protein hemoglobin, which is the protein that transports oxygen throughout the body and gives blood its red color. In other words, the blood of an icefish isn’t red. Instead, its blood runs a cloudy white. “I think these animals are among the most fascinating creatures on Earth,” Dr. O’Brien said.

In Treblinka, a Nazi death camp in Poland, a large number of hidden graves have been revealed using new technology.

When the Nazis left Treblinka in 1943 they thought they had destroyed it. They had knocked down the buildings and levelled the earth. They had built a farmhouse and installed a Ukrainian “farmer”. They had planted trees, and – contemporary reports suggest – lupins.

But if they thought they had removed all evidence of their crime, they hadn’t. For a forensic archaeologist, there is a vast amount to study.

The destruction of buildings rarely results in the complete removal of all traces of them. And even on the surface there are still artefacts and other subtle clues that point to the real purpose of the site.

An study by archaeologist Caroline Sturdy Colls in 2010 has revealed some of those graves and hidden clues that lie quietly underneath the earth.

The existence of mass graves was known about from witness testimony, but the failure to provide persuasive physical evidence led some to question whether it could really be true that hundreds of thousands of Jews were killed here.

Although they lasted only a few days, those post-war investigations remained the most complete studies of the camp until I began my work at Treblinka in 2010.

This revealed the existence of a number of pits across the site.

Th

Map of Treblinka shown by investigations of Caroline Sturdy CollsAbout 800,000 Jews – almost one in six victims of the Holocaust – were slaughtered at Treblinka between spring 1942 and August 1943

Here is the above map overlayed on an aerial photograph from late 1943.


Photo of Treblinka taken 30 November, 1943 (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration, College Park)Victims arrived at a fake railway station, and were made to undress and walk naked to the gas chambers along the “Road to Heaven”

In Africa, there are real pink elephants on parade…what is believed to be an albino African elephant was photographed in a herd of elephants in Botswanna. These animals are extremely rare in Africa, and many do not live long because of the harsh sun and extreme conditions the delicate albino skin is exposed to in most of Africa.

Pink baby elephant in Botswana (Mike Holding)

The little pink calf was spotted in amongst an 80-strong elephant herd

…there might be a ray of hope for the pink calf as it already seemed to be learning to adapt to its condition.

Dr Chase explained: “Because this elephant calf was sighted in the Okavango Delta, he may have a greater chance of survival. He can seek refuge under the large trees and cake himself in a thick mud, which will protect him from the Sun.

“Already the two-to-three-month-old calf seems to be walking in the shade of its mother.

“This behaviour suggests it is aware of its susceptibility to the harsh African sun, and adapted a unique behaviour to improve its chances of survival.”

He added: “I have learned that elephants are highly adaptable, intelligent and masters of survival.”

This next link was one I picked and saved specifically for Dakinikat…I thought she would appreciate the use of Hollywood technology to unlock the secret’s of pianist’s sounds.

University of Southampton academics are pioneering a new way of using motion capture technology to examine the way pianists play the piano.

By using a unique kinematic measurement technique, known as HAWK (Hand And Wrist Kinematics), researchers will be able to look at individual pianists’ playing technique — giving an insight into the posture of their hands on the keys and the movements they use — hopefully showing how this translates into the unique sound they create.
The research will also provide new information on musicians’ hand health, to combat wrist injury (for example, repetitive strain injury — a common problem for pianists).

Have any of you seen the movie Zoolander?

This next link proves that the collection called Derelicte designed by Mugatu is really not that far fetched.

The bold and the beautiful: most daring fashion design ever…

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Who is Patrick Mohr designing this for - circus freaks?!

Who is Patrick Mohr designing this for – circus freaks?!

<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
... while Nida Mahmood goes for a more, er, boxy look.

… while Nida Mahmood goes for a more, er, boxy look.

<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
Animal balloons or haute couture? With Japanese designers Ayumi Mitsukane and Rie Hosokai's creations, you don't have to decide!

Animal balloons or haute couture? With Japanese designers Ayumi Mitsukane and Rie Hosokai’s creations, you don’t have to decide!

That is just a sample of the 111 photos at that link.

And lastly,  something from the literary field…Adonis: a life in writing ‘There is a tendency for poets and painters in the Arab world to be politically engaged’

Adonis, the greatest living poet of the Arab world, ushers me down a labyrinthine corridor in a stately building in Paris, near the Champs Elysées. The plush offices belong to a benefactor, a Syrian-born businessman funding the poet’s latest venture – a cultural journal in Arabic, which he edits. Fetching a bulky manuscript of the imminent third issue of the Other, Adonis hefts it excitedly on to a coffee table, listing the contributors “from west and east”, many of them of his grandchildren’s generation. He turned 82 this month. His eyes spark: “We want new talents with new ideas.”

That is just the first paragraph…enjoy.

This is an open thread…