Tuesday Reads: Hugs Help

Good Morning!!

Besides being the official celebration of Martin Luther King’s birthday, yesterday was National Hugging Day. I’m using that as an excuse to post pictures of creatures hugging each other in today’s post. From Psychology Today: National Hugging Day: Five Scientific Facts About Hugging, by Sebastian Ocklenburg. Excerpts:

No one knows exactly when the first hug occurred between two human beings, but we do know that hugs have been in the human behavioral repertoire for at least several thousand years. In 2007, a team of archeologist discovered the so-called “Lovers of Valdaro” in a Neolithic Tomb near Mantua in Italy (Stewart, 2007). The lovers are a pair of human skeletons that have been buried holding each other in a tight embrace (see Figure 1). They have been determined to be approximately 6000 years old, so we know for sure that people already hugged each other in Neolithic times….

When we hug, we wrap our arms around another person. Typically, we lead the hug with one arm. A German study in which I was a co-author analyzed whether people preferentially hug with their left or their right arm (Packheiser et al., 2018). In this study, we observed hugging couples at the arrivals or departure lounges at international airports and also analyzed videos of people who blindfold themselves and let strangers hug them on the street. We found that overall, most people hugged to the right….

A study from the University of North Carolina investigated how hugging before a stressful event reduced the negative effects of stress on the body (Grewen et al., 2003). Two groups of couples were tested: In one group, partners were given 10 minutes time to hold hands and watch a romantic movie, followed by a 20 second hug. In the other group, the partners just rested quietly and did not touch each other. Afterwards one partner had to participate in a very stressful public speaking task and their blood pressure and heart rate were measured while they spoke. The results? Individuals who had received a hug from their partner prior to being stressed showed significantly lower blood pressure and heart rate than those who did not touch their partners before the public speaking task. Thus, hugging leads to lower reactivity to stressful events and may benefit cardiovascular health.

A study from the University of North Carolina investigated how hugging before a stressful event reduced the negative effects of stress on the body (Grewen et al., 2003). Two groups of couples were tested: In one group, partners were given 10 minutes time to hold hands and watch a romantic movie, followed by a 20 second hug. In the other group, the partners just rested quietly and did not touch each other. Afterwards one partner had to participate in a very stressful public speaking task and their blood pressure and heart rate were measured while they spoke. The results? Individuals who had received a hug from their partner prior to being stressed showed significantly lower blood pressure and heart rate than those who did not touch their partners before the public speaking task. Thus, hugging leads to lower reactivity to stressful events and may benefit cardiovascular health.”

Here’s another piece by Ocklenburg on the ways that hugging increases well being. It turns out that hugging can reduce your chances of getting a cold, lower your blood pressure, and improve your mood.

So as we go into day 4 of the MAGA teens story and day 32 of the government shutdown, remember that hugs can help.

The New York Times: Government Shutdown: Updates on Where Things Stand.

It has been a month since the first day of the government shutdown.

Furloughed federal employees have started part-time jobs with delivery and ride-hailing apps and applied for other opportunities, such as yoga-instructor positions, to try to make ends meet without a government paycheck.

Some of the most vulnerable Americans — including the homeless, the elderly and people one crisis away from the streets — are feeling the burden. Without payments from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, nonprofit groups that support low-income renters are also struggling. Many other social safety net programs are facing similar crises.

As a bone-chilling flash freeze swept through the Midwest and Northeast over the holiday weekend, hundreds of thousands of federal workers remain furloughed, and some continued to work without pay, including forecasters at the National Weather Service. Veterans of the emergency management field are worried about longer-term trouble, too.

Government workers are suffering.

When it began, the shutdown left about 800,000 federal workers without pay, with just over half continuing to work, including members of the Coast Guard and food safety inspectors. The number of people working has grown as the Trump administration reinterprets longstanding rules, often to the benefit of the president’s base.

Some of the employees who still have to report to work during the shutdown spoke with The New York Times about their experiences….

Many federal workers have filed for unemployment benefits. In Washington, local programs have sprouted up to support the city’s large, struggling federal work force. Nationally, an informal network of businesses has also mobilized to ease the pain.

The article notes that we are approaching the point when the federal courts will run out of money, and the economy is beginning to feel effects. Frankly, with Trump calling even more people back to work without pay, this is starting to feel criminal–it’s forced labor.

The shutdown is impeding law enforcement. No wonder Trump likes it.

Just one story on the MAGA teen Nick Sandmann from The Louisville Courier Journal: Louisville PR firm played a key role in Covington Catholic controversy. The firm is Run/Switch, and one of its partners is Scott Jennings, who is a paid commentator on CNN and also writes a column for the Courier Journal! From the article:

Lion rescued as a cub hugs her rescuer.

RunSwitch partners Steve Bryant and Gary Gerdemann said that Sandmann family asked people they knew over the weekend about getting help with handling the media.

“They reached out to our firm, and we responded,” said Bryant, adding that the business specializes in crisis management “all over the country.”

Scott Jennings, a conservative political commentator and a columnist for the Courier Journal, is the third partner in RunSwitch.

I’ve seen Jennings on CNN and interestingly, he routinely wears a smirk just like the one we all saw on Nick Sandmann’s face. Jennings smirks as other people are talking, no matter what is being said, and then he smirks as he defends whatever Trumpian thing is being discussed during his appearance. I find him utterly repulsive and infuriating.

So why was Jake Tapper the first shitty media man to tweet out the poor little Nick’s PR statement?

So Jennings worked for Karl Rove and Mitch McConnell too. How not surprising. I remember when CNN was a serious news channel, but now it’s just a Fox News wannabe that hires people like Oliver Darcy and Kaitlin Collins away from right wing sites (The Blaze and The Daily Caller respectively).

But I’ll move on to other news. This depressing story broke this morning. The Washington Post: Supreme Court allows Trump restrictions on transgender troops in military to go into effect as legal battle continues.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed President Trump’s broad restrictions on transgender people serving in the military to go into effect while the legal battle continues in lower courts.

Rescued Kangaroo hugs rescuer.

The justices lifted nationwide injunctions that had kept the administration’s policy from being implemented.

It reversed an Obama-administration rule that would have opened the military to transgender men and women, and instead barred those who identify with a gender different from the one assigned at birth and who are seeking to transition.

The court’s five conservatives–Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr., Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh–allowed the restrictions to go into effect while tIhe court decides to whether to consider the merits of the case.

The liberal justices–Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan–would have kept the injunctions in place.

I feel nauseated.

From The New York Times last night: Deripaska and Allies Could Benefit From Sanctions Deal, Document Shows.

When the Trump administration announced last month that it was lifting sanctions against a trio of companies controlled by an influential Russian oligarch, it cast the move as tough on Russia and on the oligarch, arguing that he had to make painful concessions to get the sanctions lifted.

Sea hugs baby seal toy

But a binding confidential document signed by both sides suggests that the agreement the administration negotiated with the companies controlled by the oligarch, Oleg V. Deripaska, may have been less punitive than advertised.

The deal contains provisions that free him from hundreds of millions of dollars in debt while leaving him and his allies with majority ownership of his most important company, the document shows.

With the special counsel’s investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election continuing to shadow President Trump, the administration’s decision to lift sanctions on Mr. Deripaska’s companies has become a political flash point. House Democrats won widespread Republican support last week for their efforts to block the sanctions relief deal. Democratic hopes of blocking the administration’s decision have been stifled by the Republican-controlled Senate.

From ABC News: US banker with ties to Putin’s inner circle sought access to Trump transition: Sources.

Nine days after Donald Trump won the presidency, as scores of supporters clamored for meetings with his transition team, the Hollywood producer of “The Apprentice,” Mark Burnett, reached out to one of Trump’s closest advisers to see if he would sit down with a banker who has long held ties to Russia.

The banker, Robert Foresman, never got the role he was seeking with the fledgling Trump administration. But he has recently attracted the attention of congressional investigators as one more name on an expanding list of Americans with established ties inside the Kremlin who appears to have been seeking access to the newly elected president’s inner circle, according to three sources familiar with the matter.

Foresman, who is now vice chairman of the Swiss bank UBS’s investment arm, lived for years in Moscow, where he led a $3 billion Russian investment fund and was touted by his new company as someone who maintains connections to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle. Reached by phone, Foresman declined to comment. Attorneys he has hired, including one in Washington who was hired to deal with the congressional probe, also declined to discuss the matter.

One more and then I’ll wrap this up. Catherine Rampell at The Washington Post: The GOP has become the Soviet party.

Once upon a time, Ayn Rand-reading, red-baiting Republicans denounced Soviet Russia as an evil superpower intent on destroying the American way of life.

My, how things have changed.

The Grand Old Party has quietly become the pro-Russia party — and not only because the party’s standard-bearer seems peculiarly enamored of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Under Republican leadership, the United States is starting to look an awful lot like the failed Soviet system the party once stood unified against.

Supposedly middle-class workers — people who have government jobs that are supposed to be stable and secure — are waiting in bread lines. Thanks to government dysfunction and mismanagement, those employed in the private sector may also be going hungry, since 2,500 vendors nationwide are unable to participate in the food stamp program while the government is shuttered and unable to renew licenses for the Electronic Benefit Transfer debit card program.

Why? Because of the whims of a would-be autocrat who cares more about erecting an expensive monument to his own campaign rhetoric than about the pain and suffering of the little people he claims to champion.

And for now, at least, most of those little people are too frightened of the government’s wrath to fight back overtly. Instead, desperate to keep jobs that might someday offer them a paycheck again, the proletariat protest in more passive ways: by calling in sick in higher numbers.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

Now, what stories have you been following? Please share in the comment thread below.


Monday Reads: MLK Holiday, Super Blood Wolf Moon, and waiting for this too to pass …

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

The beginning of our celebration of the American Civil Rights Movement and the birth of Martin Luther King began with the syzygy of a Super Blood Wolf Moon in lunar eclipse.  I hope you had as good a view of it as we did down here in New Orleans.  It was amazing.  

We began the day with another Democratic Party contender for President in 2020. Kamala Harris threw her hat in the ring.  We have an amazing number of women with serious potential and ability eager to take on the Russian Potted Plant. This is the legacy of many and most importantly Hillary Clinton.  Today, made me think of my childhood shero Shirley Chisolm.  Kamala gave her a shout out!   Chisolm would be ecstatic to see so many serious women candidates.  Politico’s Christopher Caledego assesses Harris’ plan to run as a former, high profile prosecutor which worries many.

According to interviews with a half-dozen of her confidants and strategists, Harris will court voters wary of law enforcement by presenting herself as a kinder and gentler prosecutor — a “progressive” attorney who advocated for the vulnerable and served the public interest. At the same time, they believe leaning into her background will allow her to project toughness against Donald Trump, and contrast what they call her evidence-based approach to law and politics with the president’s carelessness with facts and legal troubles with the special prosecutor.

“In the face of a lawless president and a lawless administration, Americans are going to be looking for somebody who represents and stands for the rule of law,” one Harris adviser said.

But it will be a tough balancing act, and it’s an open question whether Harris has the political dexterity to pull it off. A scathing New York Times op-ed by a California law professor last week gave a taste of what the Californian is in for: It argued that Harris was overzealous against defendants in a slew of cases she or her office handled. Her critics and opponents quickly circulated the article.

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A view of the lunar eclipse pictured in Jubilee Park, in Brussels, Belgium. (Photo: OLIVIER HOSLET, EPA-EFE)

We need immense criminal justice reforms as well as the reform of our immigration process. We have incredible problems nationally with local police forces and their treatment of minority communities.  Does Kamala have the chops for these issues? Astead W Herndon of the NYT writes about her candidacy and her chances today.

In California, Ms. Harris sought to fashion a third-way approach to criminal justice as a city and state prosecutor, what she dubbed being “smart on crime.” But like many Democrats, she has sought to align herself with the party’s leftward drift in recent years, proclaiming her support for “Medicare for All” and, after an initial hesitation, disavowing most corporate donations and embracing the legalization of recreational marijuana, which Ms. Harris once rebuffed.

But it remains unclear how exactly Ms. Harris will position herself on the ideological spectrum in this race. She does not hurl rhetorical thunderbolts at Wall Street in the same fashion of colleagues and rivals like Senator Warren. Still, she is no centrist and would likely embrace an agenda that is more unreservedly progressive than some of her moderate opponents.

Ms. Harris focused her initial campaign themes on broad themes of unity and revitalization, which emphasize her unique status as one of — if not the — most viable black women to ever run for president. Her announcement video borrows language from “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” the song and poem written in 1900 and long referred to as America’s “black national anthem.”

At a recent appearance to promote her latest book “The Truths We Hold: An American Journey,” Ms. Harris, when asked why she would run for president, cited the need for leaders who have a “vision of our country in which everyone can see themselves.”

Democrats flocked to see her at a handful of public events tied to the book and many were enthusiastic about her potential.

“Her message of unity is key — people need that hope again,” said Valoree Celona, a 50-year-old insurance executive, who attended one of Ms. Harris’ book events earlier this month in New York. Ms. Celona, who said Ms. Harris caught her attention during Senate hearings, described the senator as “tough, but she’s fair.”

“I didn’t think someone from California could speak to all parts of the country, but I was impressed,” said Ava Leegant, a surgeon from San Francisco who also came to the New York event.

The super blood wolf moon is seen during a total lunar eclipse near Salgotarjan, northeast of Budapest, Hungary. (Photo: PETER KOMKA, EPA-EFE)

VP Pence–whose sole mission in life seems to be taking rights from others–has been co-opting the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  CNN’ Julian Zelizar calls his behavior and words “shocking”.

In the weekend of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, Vice President Mike Pence shockingly invoked a line from the civil rights leader’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech to build support for President Donald Trump’s proposed deal on the border wall. Asking legislators to agree to Trump’s proposal of spending $5.7 billion on a border wall along with a temporary extension of the DACA program(that Trump dismantled), Pence said, quoting King, on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” “Now is the time to make real the promises for democracy.” He compared King’s belief in using the legislative process to solve social problems to what the President is trying to do.

The “I Have a Dream” speech continues to resonate to this day as one of the most important symbols of a civil rights movement that was committed to ending social injustice and dismantling policies that enabled the inhumane treatment of people living in the United States and all around the globe.

The comments made by Pence — who works at the top of an administration that promotes policies that directly contradict King’s message — fly directly in the face of Martin Luther King’s legacy.

It does so because this is an administration that right now is holding the government hostage — leaving civil servants without paychecks and citizens without full benefits — in exchange for a monument made of brick and mortar or steel that most experts agree won’t do much to enhance border security. Not to mention that, under this administration, thousands of parents have been separated from their children at the border.

In a stark contrast to what King stood for, the Trump administration has repeatedly sent encouraging signals to the forces of white nationalism, starting with the President saying that there were “very fine people” among the neo-Nazi marchers in Charlottesville, the keepers of the flame for the white Americans who did everything in their power to stop civil rights back in the 1960s.

And as a way to promote the passage of new voting restrictions — which would fall hardest on marginalized groups of voters — the administration has promoted false claims of election fraud.

 

Blood Moon. A super blood wolf moon over the peace statue on Brighton seafront during a lunar eclipse. Picture date: Monday January 21, 2019. Andrew Matthews/PA Wire URN:40746499 (Press Association via AP Images)

I wake each day with one thought on my mind. Is today the day we can make him go away?  Max Boot writes on the two year anniversary of this travesty of everything right and democratic at WAPO.  “A look back on two dismal years of the Trump administration”.  I’ve chose to share the section on incompetence with you.

Incompetence: If Trump has a saving grace, it is that he is so incompetent: A more cunning populist would be far more dangerous. His tweets are riddled with spelling, grammar and factual mistakes. (Remember the “smocking gun”?) More significantly, he couldn’t get a Republican-controlled Congress to approve a border wall or repeal Obamacare. His attempt to implement his Muslim ban led to chaos in airports and a lengthy court battle. He has record-setting turnover and numerous vacancies among his staff. (There is still no nominee for 37 percent of key administration jobs.) He impetuously announced a ban on transgender soldiers, the suspension of military exercises with South Korea and the withdrawal from Syria, catching the Pentagon by surprise. His administration leaked so badly that one anonymous official boasted in a New York Times op-ed of obstructing Trump’s agenda. He launched a trade war with China and a government shutdown with no exit strategy. His midterm campaign backfired, leading the Democrats to pick up 40 House seats. He can’t consistently break 40 percent approval despite a booming economy. And he’s not learning from his mistakes. From the vantage point of 2019, in the midst of a record-setting government shutdown, the chaos of 2017 looks like the good ole days.

Full moon rises behind snow-covered mountains in Hakkari province of Turkey
Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

We’re learning more about the cadre of young men from Kentucky whose parents sent them on a jaunt to the District to assert their white male privilege over the bodies of women.  While it appears that the story began as a rush to judgement, the initial judgement was not that off.  This situation still reeks of the white washing of Brett Kavanaugh and the fact they have the same smug little looks on their faces as they pronounce their sanctimonious BS still lets me know one thing.  The struggle is real and the MAGA hats are today’s white hoods.  This is via the NYT which has a history of white washing.  Look out for the mayo!

In a lengthy video posted to YouTube, the Hebrew Israelite activists shouted insults at Native Americans and the high school students. One of the activists, Shar Yaqataz Banyamyan, denied in a Facebook video that his group had been instigators.

On Sunday night, Mr. Banyamyan said that their words had been misconstrued as hateful and that they, in fact, were being mocked by the students.

“I know we seem aggressive reading the Bible, but the Bible states for us to cry aloud and don’t spare anybody’s feelings,” he said. “We’re not violent or ignorant.”

A parent of a Covington Catholic sophomore, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of safety concerns for his family, said his son, who attended the event, said the students were shouting school chants to drown out harassment from the black men. When it worked, the students were “hyped up and high-fiving each other,” he said.

The parent and Mr. Sandmann’s statement denied that the students chanted about building a wall at the border with Mexico, as Mr. Phillips had said. But in an interview on Sunday, Chase Iron Eyes, a spokesman for the Indigenous Peoples Movement, which organized the march, said he had also heard chants of “build that wall,” a rallying cry of supporters of Mr. Trump.

Marcus Frejo, an Indigenous hip-hop artist who is also known as Quese Imc, said he was standing with a friend near the black men when tensions flickered. He said he was worried “something ugly” was going to happen.

Around that time, he said, Mr. Phillips approached, asking to borrow a drum. Together, they headed into the center of the students, creating a sort of prayer circle. They sang what he said was a well-known spiritual song associated with the American Indian Movement of the 1960s and used for prayer and resistance.

Any one wearing a MAGA hat is not going to be taken as a person of good intent. I do not care how self righteous the kid and his friends say they’ve been in this situation. And, all women and all POC  know that “look” of white patriarchy asserting its superiority.  Little white boys at expensive prep schools learn that look well.

The struggle continues.

Here’s a link to The Guardian’s pictures of last night’s moon. They’re worth a look.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?