Oi! Put up your dukes and lets duke it out!
WordPress has fugged up with their editor, which means that the pictures and formatting may be a little off in this post. That said the images are all found on pinterest and are all various vintage picture of women boxing.
Because, the shit going on with the Supremes is something that makes me want to put on a pair of boxing gloves and kick some PLUB #HobbyLobby loving ass.
“Your reasoning would permit” Congress to force corporations to pay for abortions, Kennedy told Verrilli. This was not the Anthony Kennedy that worried about conservatives imposing their anti-gay “animus” on others, this was the Anthony Kennedy that views abortion as a grave moral wrong. Shortly after Kennedy made this statement, Justice Kagan’s face dropped. It appeared that she’d just figured out that she would be joining a dissenting opinion.
It’s worth noting that Kennedy expressed a different concern than one offered shortly thereafter by Chief Justice John Roberts. Hobby Lobby objects to four forms of contraception on the mistaken ground that these contraceptive methods are actually forms of abortion — a brief filed by numerous medical organizations explains that they are not. Roberts, however, suggested that someone’s mere belief that something is an abortion is enough to trigger an religious exemption to federal law.
More from :
Ugh….but that fucked up crap about the pill being “abortion” aside, last night Boston Boomer put up a tweet in the comments that I think needs to be shared up on the front page.
This brings up a good point, one of the tweets in this thread says that Hobby Lobby responded…
Some of the tweets mention the “myth” of infanticide and forced abortions…which is bullshit. Take a look at this from Telegraph:
Much has been written about the human rights abuses associated with China’s notorious one-child policy: the forced abortions, sterilisations and even cases of infanticide as rural families sought to rid themselves of girls they thought were less useful than boys.
But the disappearance of MH370 has cast light a less well-known but equally devastating phenomenon: that of the “orphaned” parents who, through accident or illness, lost the only child the Chinese government allowed them to have.
There are an estimated one million so-called “shidu” families in China, with state media reporting that around 76,000 new families are “orphaned” each year.
“When you lose your only child, it feels like the sky has fallen in,” said one bereaved Shanghai mother, who lost her only daughter and her husband to a 2012 car accident.
“Because of the one-child policy a million families have lost their offspring forever,” added the woman, who requested anonymity because of the politically sensitive nature of the subject. “It is an ethical tragedy. Nobody can take away the pain.”
Recent months have seen several major Chinese cities and provinces including Beijing and Shanghai start to change the controversial birth control policy, relaxing family planning rules so parents who are both only children can now have two children.
On the subject of lost children…grown children…the numbers have gone up in the death toll over in the Washington state landslide claims up to 24, more than 100 missing.
The number of dead climbed to as high as 24 with the recovery Tuesday of two more bodies and another eight believed to have been located in the debris.
Authorities did not immediately release the identities of the dead nor did they provide details about where the bodies were found.
At least 176 people are unaccounted for. Officials have stressed those unaccounted for are not necessarily all victims of the disaster. They say they believe many names have been duplicated.
Three sheriff’s deputies who specialize in missing persons cases have begun reviewing the lists to get a more accurate count, Snohomish County Emergency Management Director John Pennington said.
And if death from plane crash or mudslide is not depressing enough, how about Ebola: W Africa scrambles to prevent Ebola spread
West African nations scrambled to contain an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus suspected to have killed at least 59 people in Guinea, with symptoms of the disease reported in neighbouring Sierra Leone and Liberia as well.
The spread of Ebola, one of the most lethal infectious diseases known, has spooked nations with weak health care systems. In Guinea’s southeast, home to all the confirmed cases, residents are avoiding large gatherings and prices in some markets have spiked as transporters avoid the area.
Health authorities in Liberia said they had now recorded eight suspected cases of Ebola, mainly in people who crossed the border from Guinea.
Five of these had died but tests were still being carried out to check if the cases were indeed Ebola, the Reuters news agency reported.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said a total of 86 suspected cases, including 59 deaths, had been reported in southeastern Guinea near the border with Sierra Leone and Liberia.
This next quote is very scary:
“People are really frightened. They have seen people die in a matter of just two or three days. They are constantly worried who is going to be the next fatality,” said Joseph Gbaka Sandounou, who manages operations for aid agency Plan International in Guekedou.
On to more “newsy” link goodness. Major Garrett has a piece up over at National Journal: Obama Tries to Put Putin in His Place—Again
Noting Russia’s long-standing influence in all of Ukraine, Obama said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s illegal annexation of Crimea “indicates less influence, not more.”
I guess that’s why Ukraine’s defense minister resigned and Ukrainian troops bugged out of Crimea, leaving it to Russian forces. This is the only “off ramp” that matters in Crimea. Ukraine and its rhetorically florid Western allies took it. Not Putin.
Even as the White House insists Crimea is not “lost” (Putin can find it without satellite imagery, after all), the grudging language of concession seeps from every corridor of Ukrainian talks here.
“It’s not a done deal in the sense that the international community by and large isn’t recognizing the annexation of Crimea,” Obama said, before acknowledging the “facts on the ground” favored Russia. “It would be dishonest to say there is a simple solution to resolving what has already taken place in Crimea.”
Obama and European leaders are rattled and resentful, thunderstruck that the wispy bonds of international “norms” could be so easily shredded. Fearful of the precedent they appear incapable of reversing, and desperate to limit Putin’s ambitions to Crimea, the G-7 nations have effectively conceded Crimea. They threatened “sectoral sanctions” if Putin further bulldozed international law by gobbling up more of Ukraine or plowing into Moldova. Weak or strong, Putin enforces the new Crimean status quo. All he’s lost is Russia’s G-8 membership pin and decoder ring.
One of our astronauts hitched a ride yesterday. Leaving politics behind, Russian-U.S. crew blasts off for space | Reuters
Two Russian cosmonauts and a U.S. astronaut blasted off for six-month stay aboard the International Space Station on Tuesday, a partnership unaffected by the political rancor and economic sanctions triggered by Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
The Russian Soyuz rocket carrying cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev and NASA astronaut Steven Swanson lifted off at 5:17 p.m. EDT from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The trip to the space station, a $100 billion research laboratory that flies about 260 miles above Earth, was scheduled to take about six hours. However, an unknown problem caused the crew’s Soyuz capsule to skip two planned steering maneuvers, delaying the crew’s arrival until Thursday.
“The crew is in no danger. The Soyuz (is) equipped with plenty of consumables to go even beyond the next two days, should that be become necessary. Nobody expects that that will be the case,” mission commentator Rob Navias said during a NASA Television broadcast.
NASA, however, is not worried about the Ukraine crisis taking a toll on space exploration.
“We do not expect the current Russia-Ukraine situation to have an impact on our long-standing civil space cooperation with Russia, which goes back decades, including our partnership on the International Space Station program,” said NASA spokesman Joshua Buck in a statement to National Journal. “We are confident that our two space agencies will continue to work closely as they have throughout various ups and downs of the broader U.S.-Russia relationship.”
The International Space Station has indeed weathered terrestrial political storms in the past. “It doesn’t appear that we are affected by what’s going on diplomatically with the Russians,” Al Sofge, director of NASA’s human exploration and operations division, has said of the conflict in Syria and Russia’s protection of American whistle-blower Edward Snowden. “I don’t know that we’ve ever even discussed it.”
After 16 years in orbit, the International Space Station is truly a bilateral effort. The station, divided into American and Russian segments, uses American solar arrays and power systems, Russian life-support systems, and a navigation system that comes from both nations.
The U.S. and Russia first collaborated in space in July 1975, when a Soviet Soyuz capsule carrying two cosmonauts docked with a U.S. Apollo module carrying three astronauts. In the 1990s, after the Soviet Union collapsed, the U.S. asked Russia to join its work on the International Space Station. Russia was too financially strapped to build a program of its own, BBC’s Melissa Hogenboom explained in 2012, and the U.S. was behind schedule on the project and needed help.
This “reluctant codependency,” as NBC space analyst James Oberg dubbed it, persists to this day. At the International Space Station, Russia depends on NASA’s electronics and communications technology, which are more advanced. The U.S. depends on Roscosmos, the Russian federal agency, to send its astronauts to space. After NASA retired its space-shuttle program in 2011, Russia became the sole nation with the capability of carrying astronauts and cargo to and from space. Even U.S. national security satellites are powered into orbit on an American rocket with a Russian-built rocket engine.
While Jake was watching that rocket take off, I told him the Russians would not mess up that arrangement, they are getting paid. How much?
Right now, NASA pays $70.7 million per seat to send its astronauts to space on Russian Soyuz capsules, $8 million more than a previous agreement. But by 2017, NASA officials say the U.S. should be able to send its astronauts to the International Space Station on its own, thanks to private American spaceflight companies.
I will put this other link here for you, Zandar Versus The Stupid: Last Call For One Hell Of A Coincidence, where an article in the Business Insider by Michael Kelley is asking the question:
U.S. officials think that Russia recently obtained the ability to evade U.S. eavesdropping equipment while commandeering Crimea and amassing troops near Ukraine’s border.
The revelation reportedly has the White House “very nervous,” especially because it’s unclear how the Kremlin hid its plans from the National Security Agency’s snooping on digital and electronic communications.
One interesting fact involved is the presence of Edward Snowden in Russia, where he has been living since flying to Moscow from Hong Kong on June 23.
In July, primary Snowden source Glenn Greenwald told The Associated Press that Snowden “is in possession of literally thousands of documents that contain very specific blueprints that would allow somebody who read them to know exactly how the NSA does what it does, which would in turn allow them to evade that surveillance or replicate it.”
So it’s either a crazy coincidence that the Russians figured out how to evade NSA surveillance while hosting the NSA-trained hacker, or else it implies that Snowden provided the Russians with access to the NSA’s blueprint.
No doubt Kelley’s article is going to draw a massive screed from Double G and the usual suspects. But as the people who support Snowden’s actions remind us, we need to have a serious debate about American intelligence capabilities, and that includes debating the consequences of someone with the vast knowledge of these capabilities defecting to a foreign country.
I’ve said on a number of occasions that the actions of Snowden and his partners are not consistent with the goal of reigning in the NSA through existing means, but very consistent with the goal of taking it upon themselves to irreparably damage our intelligence-gathering abilities as a lesson to the Unites States government.
It’s a reasonable question to ask if that’s already happened.
So, over at CNN they are looking for news since their 24/7 coverage of MH Flight 370 is coming to a close….Two CNN Producers Arrested in Sad Attempt to Break into the WTC Site
A CNN spokesperson said that producers Connor Boals, 26, and Yon Pomrenze, 35, were on assignment “but were not asked to sneak onto the WTC site.”
According to reports, the pair first tried to talk their way past security guards into the heavily guarded construction site. When that failed, they tried scaling a nearby fence. Both times officers merely turned them away.
The tipping point came on their third attempt, when they tried to forcibly push their way through a security checkpoint.
That coup de grâce got Boals and Pomrenze cuffed and booked on criminal trespass, obstruction of governmental administration and disorderly conduct charges.
Sad…sad…sad…when all they had to do was head on over to Jersey: Body parts injure 4 after man killed by train
A man was struck and killed by a train Tuesday in a gruesome scene that left others on the New Brunswick Station platform injured.
Preliminary eyewitness accounts suggest that the man was struck after leaning into the path of the oncoming train while standing on the station platform.
As a result of the collision, at least four other people waiting on the platform were struck by parts of the man’s body, officials said.
The incident happened at about 5 p.m. EDT and involved a New York-bound Northeast Corridor train carrying about 300 passengers, NJ Transit spokesman John Durso said.
Back to the MH370 for a moment: Families of Flight MH370 Victims Issue Blistering Statement | Vanity Fair
The families on the receiving end didn’t take kindly to the message or the manner in which it was delivered. Families gathered in Beijing read a blistering rebuke of Malaysian Airlines and authorities on Monday:
“At 10pm on March 25, the Malaysian prime minister sent a statement to the families of MH370 passengers without any direct evidence that MH370 crashed in the south Indian ocean and no people survived.
From March 8 when they announced that MH370 lost contact to today, 18 days have passed during which the Malaysian government and military constantly tried to delay, deceive the passengers’ families and cheat the whole world.
This shameless behaviour not only fooled and hurt the families of the 154 passengers but also misguided and delayed rescue actions, wasting a large quantity of human resources and materials and lost valuable time for the rescue effort.
If the 154 passengers did lose their lives, Malaysia Airlines, the Malaysian government and military are the real executioners who killed them. We the families of those on board submit our strongest protest against them.
Malaysia Airlines claims a representative for the company told the assembled families in person, and that phone calls and SMS messages were only sent to relatives who were not in the family-support center.
The rest of the links are in quick dump fashion:
Wearing a pink top and tight jeans, the young woman is whistled and shouted at as she makes her way through the site amongst a growing group of men following her.
University guards are seen in the clip, which has gone viral on social media, escorting her off the premises after she hid in a toilet to escape the group, who were allegedly trying to remove her clothes.
The school Dean blamed the girl of course…video at the link.
From the fuckwads in my state, In Georgia, Carry a Gun, Just Not in the Capitol – NYTimes.com
There’s a lot of concern about new legislation in Georgia that expands how people can buy, carry and use guns. It reduces some licensing requirements and provides Georgians with a stronger “Stand Your Ground” defense should they feel threatened and decide to open fire. Some critics were calling it the “guns everywhere” law. That’s so unfair. Georgia’s lawmakers are not allowing everyone’s safety to be endangered by gun-slinging people. They are deeply concerned, for example, with their own.
The bill, passed on Thursday and awaiting the governor’s signature, will, among other things, allow people to carry concealed weapons into more places — including ones, like bars, which conveniently enough are spots where they are likely to be put to use.
They may also be carried in unsecured areas of airports. Even toting a gun in secured areas will merely be a misdemeanor in Georgia as long as you did it by mistake. After all, who among us has not had the embarrassing experience of forgetting they were carrying their Glock semiautomatic through airport security?
Republican lawmakers in the Georgia House tried — and failed — to require colleges and churches to allow concealed weapons. The law bans them on college campuses (thank goodness for that, at least) and requires armed Georgians to get permission from their church before they go to Sunday services packing heat.
But, while patting themselves on the back for protecting the Second Amendment rights of their fellow citizens and dismissing any notion that guns could be a danger to the public, Georgia lawmakers were careful to continue to ban the carrying of weapons in government buildings with security checkpoints, like the Capitol itself, though guns are welcomed in buildings without screening.
As the Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday about the Obamacare mandate on birth control coverage, Sen. Barbara Boxer questioned why those up in arms about the requirement have no problem with most insurance covering Viagra.
“I have never heard Hobby Lobby or any other corporation, I could be wrong, or any other boss complain that Viagra is covered in many insurance plans, practically all of them, or other kinds of things, you know, for men, which I won’t go into,” Boxer said Tuesday on MSNBC’s “Jansing & Co.”
Yeah, isn’t every sperm sacred?
After 27 years, Burger King Baby finds birth mom, feels pure joy
A woman who, as a newborn, was abandoned in the bathroom of a Pennsylvania fast-food restaurant said Tuesday she has found her birth mother just three weeks after launching a search that garnered worldwide attention.
Next…another blast from 80s’ past, an interview with Boy George: Boy George Discusses New Album, Gender Identity, Madonna And More
If you’re ever given 60 minutes to sit down with Boy George, one of the most beloved pop icons of the 20th century, in a private club on the west side of Manhattan in the middle of February, take them.
In the course of that hour, you’ll not only be treated to stories about how as a teen, his brothers would cross the street so they didn’t have to be seen with him and find out if he ever considered transitioning to the other end of the gender binary, but you’ll also quickly realize that he is one of the most thoughtful — and refreshingly honest — interview subjects you’ve ever had the pleasure of encountering.
Look what the zoo did to the lions: Danish zoo that killed giraffe puts down four lions
Two lions and their two 10-month-old cubs, all from the same family, were put down on Monday to make way for a new male after the zoo failed to find a new home for the felines.
Copenhagen Zoo said in a statement: “Because of the pride of lions’ natural structure and behaviour, the zoo has had to euthanise the two old lions and two young lions who were not old enough to fend for themselves”.
The cubs “would have been killed by the new male lion as soon as he got the chance,” it added.
On the case of inbreeding and genetic defects…no I am not talking about Banjoville, Birth Defects In Last Woolly Mammoths Suggest Inbreeding May Have Led To Species’ Extinction
Scientists studying 12,000-year-old mammoth fossils unearthed near the North Sea discovered that many of them had extra ribs along their neck vertebrae. Cervical ribs, while innocuous on their own, are usually a sign that something went wrong during the animal’s development and are associated with chromosome abnormalities and even cancer.
Researchers found that cervical ribs were 10 times more common in woolly mammoths from the North Sea than in modern elephants. Scientists were stunned to find such a high rate of cervical ribs among European woolly mammoths.
“The high incidence and large size of the cervical ribs [in woolly mammoths] indicates a strong vulnerability, given the association of cervical ribs with diseases and congenital abnormalities in mammals,” the researchers noted in a study published in the journal PeerJ. “The vulnerable condition may well have contributed to the eventual extinction of the woolly mammoths.”
Scientists theorized that there are two possible explanations for the high frequency of cervical ribs in the last of the mammoths. The first is that there was rampant inbreeding among the last mammoth populations. This theory fits nicely with the idea that climate change fragmented the woolly mammoth’s habitat, isolating small pockets of the animals from each other. These groups would have lost their genetic variation through inbreeding, which would have made them susceptible to abnormalities and disease.
The second theory is that woolly mammoth mothers suffered prenatal stress due to outside factors like famine and disease.
And finally, Goats are far more clever than previously thought
Goats learn how to solve complicated tasks quickly and can recall how to perform them for at least 10 months, which might explain their remarkable ability to adapt to harsh environments, say researchers at Queen Mary University of London.
Writing in the journal Frontiers in Zoology today, the scientists trained a group of goats to retrieve food from a box using a linked sequence of steps; first by pulling a lever with their mouths and then by lifting it to release the reward.
The goats’ ability to remember the task was tested after one month and again at 10 months. They learned the task within 12 trials and took less than two minutes to remember the challenge.
“The speed at which the goats completed the task at 10 months compared to how long it took them to learn indicates excellent long-term memory,” said co-author Dr Elodie Briefer, now based at ETH Zurich.
Before each learning session, some of the goats had the opportunity to watch another goat to demonstrate the task.
Dr Briefer added: “We found that those without a demonstrator were just as fast at learning as those that had seen demonstrations. This shows that goats prefer to learn on their own rather than by watching others.”
Wow, I wonder if a goat could learn that the birth control pill does not = an abortion? Yeah, they sound like they are smarter than some of the Supremes sitting on the bench.
Have a great day, and let us know what you are reading and thinking about today.
I woke up this morning with my eyes so scratchy and watery that I couldn’t read anything on-line until I took a long hot shower. It’s either a cold, a sinus infection, or very early pollen in the air–or maybe all three. Who knows? Anyway, I’m feeling better now.
There’s plenty of news this morning, but not a lot of *new news,* if you know what I mean. The Middle East is still in chaos, Malaysian Airlines 370 is still missing, Republicans are still insane; yet the Earth still continues to turn on its axis. I’ve tried to find a few stories worthy of your attention–I’ll let you be the judge.
UPDATE (11:57 Eastern):
There actually is some breaking news from Ukraine. BBC News is reporting that Russian troops storm[ed a] Ukraine airbase in Crimea, shots fired.
Shooting and explosions have been heard as Russian troops – backed by armoured vehicles – stormed a Ukrainian airbase in Crimea.
Reports say at least one person was injured during the assault on Belbek base, near Sevastopol. The base is now said to be under Russian control.
Earlier, several hundred unarmed protesters seized a Ukrainian naval base at Novofedorivka, western Crimea.
Pro-Russian militia has also been seizing Ukrainian Navy ships.
The BBC’s Ian Pannell, in Crimea, says the Ukrainian troops on the peninsula feel beleaguered and abandoned by their chiefs in Ukraine….
In Belbek, two armoured personnel carriers burst through the wall of the base followed by Russian troops firing weapons in the air.
An ambulance was then seen entering the base amid reports that at least one person was injured.
The Ukrainian soldiers were later gathered at the base main square in front of the heavily armed Russian troops.
The storming followed an ultimatum by the Russians to surrender.
Did you hear that Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has blocked Twitter in his country?
A court blocked access to Twitter after Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s defiant vow, on the campaign trail on Thursday ahead of March 30 local elections, to “wipe out” the social media service, whatever the international community had to say about it.
Industry Minister Fikri Isik said talks with Twitter were taking place and the ban would be lifted if the San Francisco-based firm appointed a representative in Turkey and agreed to block specific content when requested by Turkish courts.
What’s Erdogan’s problem with social media?
Erdogan, who has dominated Turkish politics for 11 years, is battling a corruption scandal that has been fed by social media awash with alleged evidence of government wrongdoing. He did not mention the Twitter ban at two campaign rallies on Friday.
Turkey’s main opposition party said it would challenge the ban and file a criminal complaint against Erdogan on the grounds of violating personal freedoms. The country’s bar association filed a separate court challenge.
Twitter users called the move a “digital coup”, some comparing Turkey to Iran and North Korea, where social media platforms are tightly controlled. There were also calls for protests.
“Waking up to no Twitter in Turkey feels like waking up to a coup. The modern equivalent of occupying the radio stations,” U.S. author and journalist Andrew Finkel, who has reported from Turkey for more than 20 years, said on his Twitter account.
This morning Reuters reports that
Turks attempting to access Twitter have found an Internet page carrying court rulings saying that a “protection measure” has been taken, blocking the site.
But many have been able to get around the ban, either by using virtual private network (VPN) software or changing their Domain Name System (DNS) setting, effectively disguising their computers’ geographical whereabouts.
By Saturday, though, computers that had been set with DNS numbers widely circulated to help people get around the ban were not able to access the Internet at all.
“Apparently alternate DNS servers are also blocked in Turkey. New settings are being circulated,” wrote one Twitter user.
Apparently twitter is very popular in Turkey. The Washington Post has lots more reactions to the Turkish Twitter ban.
I know everyone is sick of the missing MH370 story, so I’ll just give you one link to a minor update.
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — China released a new image of a “suspected floating object” in the Indian Ocean on Saturday, in the vicinity of an Australian-led search that has brought fresh hope to the hunt for a missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner.
China has sent ships to investigate, according to the Malaysian government.
The Chinese government said one of its satellites spotted the object on March 18, about 75 miles west of the location released by Australia earlier this week.
A grainy image of the latest find was tweeted Saturday by Chinese state television, CCTV. It is dated two days after the two images released by Australia.
The search for the missing airliner has now entered a third week, with the main hope for a breakthrough hinging on planes and ships being able to locate floating objects picked up by satellites in a desolate stretch of ocean almost as close to Antarctica as to Australia.
Michelle Obama is on a good will tour of China with her mother and two daughters. Time reports on the First Lady’s defense of “the free internet” in a speech at Peking University.
First Lady Michelle Obama used a trip to China Saturday to promote the liberating “power of technology” in a veiled swipe at the harshly restrictive Internet and media environment in the country.
At her first—and only—major speech scheduled during her…trip…Obama said that new technology can “open up the entire world and expose us to ideas and innovations we could never have imagined.”
“It is so important for information and ideas to flow freely over the Internet and through the media,” she said. “Because that’s how we discover the truth, that’s how we learn what’s really happening in our communities, in our country and our world.”
I never watch the Sunday talk shows, because they are horrible; but Paul Waldman of WaPo’s The Plum Line apparently hasn’t given up on them.
Waldman asks: Can the Sunday shows get better?
Most members of Congress would kill to be interviewed on one of the shows, since getting such an appearance instantly brands you as an important person whose opinions are worth listening to. But “Meet the Press,” the oldest and most venerated of the shows, has been struggling of late, falling behind “This Week” and “Face the Nation” in the ratings, leading to some rumors about David Gregory’s future. But as Michael Calderone reports in the Huffington Post, the network is “doubling down” on Gregory as it tries to gingerly step its way into the digital world. The problem, though, is what they put on the air every Sunday.
There’s a conceit about the Sunday shows, that they hold the powerful accountable. It’s where “newsmakers” come to be raked over the coals, unable to escape the probing queries of savvy and unrelenting interrogators. But it’s awfully hard to watch the shows and believe that’s true. What happens instead is that the powerful come on the shows, and the hosts try (and almost always fail) to trap them with various kinds of “gotcha” questions, which the powerful handle by returning again and again to their carefully planned messages. The result, even for those of us who love listening to and talking about politics and policy, is remarkably tedious.
So how can these awful shows be improved?
Let me make a couple of suggestions I know they’d never consider. First, ban all party chairs, White House communication staff, party “strategists,” and anyone else whose primary objective is to spin from ever, ever, ever appearing on the show. Ever. To ask a question I’ve raised elsewhere: Has anyone anywhere in the United States turned off their TV and said, “Wow, that interview with Reince Priebus was really interesting”? Of course not, and the same applies to his Democratic counterpart, Debbie Wasserman Schultz. That’s because their job is to deliver talking points, and they do so with a discipline worthy of the Marine Honor Guard, no matter what questions they’re asked. And they get plenty of time on cable, so why waste valuable minutes on a Sunday show by letting them repeat the same talking points they’ve recited 100 times that that week?
And while we’re at it, why not go farther and cut down the interviews with elected officials and candidates by three-quarters or so? I’m serious. When was the last time you saw a truly edifying interview on a Sunday show with a senator or member of Congress? If you want to talk about what’s going on in Ukraine, I could hardly care less what John McCain (the shows’ most frequent guest) thinks about it, and I doubt I’m alone. He knows next to nothing about the situation, and as a minority party senator with almost no support among his colleagues, he’ll have precisely zero impact on the outcome of events. So how about, as a first rule, the people you bring on should 1) know as much as possible about the things you’re going to discuss, and 2) have little if any interest in spinning?
Good luck with that. I’d say the very best thing that could be done is to ban both John McCain and Lindsey Graham from ever appearing on Sunday shows. And for heaven’s sake get rid of David Gregory and put Bob Schieffer permanently out to pasture. BTW, Bob’s guest tomorrow will be Mitt Romney because he undoubtedly has all the answers on what’s up with Russian and Ukraine.
A few more quick hits . . .
Talking Points Memo: Creationists Complain Tyson’s ‘Cosmos’ Isn’t Giving Them Airtime
Business Insider: North Dakota State Is America’s Team
So . . . what stories are you following today? Let us know in the comment thread and have a terrific weekend!
Good Morning and Happy Vernal Equinox!!
Today is the first day of Spring. Isn’t it wonderful? Soon those of us in the North will begin seeing the signs–little yellow buds on the forsythia bushes, crocuses, and robins hopping around outside. We’ve survived another winter. Sure, we could get a little more snow, but it won’t stick around as long because the days are longer and the sun is brighter.
In the most basic terms an equinox is when the length of the night and the length of the day are roughly equal. There are two equinoxes (one in March for the beginning of spring and one in September for the beginning of autumn) and the word itself comes from the Latin for equal (‘aequus’) and night (‘nox’).
The ‘opposite’ of an equinox is a solstice – another pair of biannual events which occur in the middle of winter and summer when the Sun appears at its lowest or highest point in the sky. Each of these four days occur at roughly equal time periods, marking major transitional points as the Earth orbits the sun.
These transitions (and the season themselves) are caused by the Earth’s axial tilt….This tilt means that different parts of the planet are exposed to different amounts of sunshine as the Earth orbits the Sun. The tilt itself is actually caused by the distribution of land masses and ice sheets on the planet – the Earth is literally top-heavy, meaning that it tilts as it’s spun.
Humans living thousands of years may not have known the details of this astronomy, but over generations they certainly learnt that the Earth gets warmer and colder in pretty regular cycles, with the spring equinox marking one point when the Northern Hemisphere begins to shrug off winter’s cold.
Read all about it at the link.
Late last night, news broke that two large pieces of debris had shown up on satellite imagery off the coast of Australia that could be from missing Malaysian flight 370. AP via ABC News: Australia Checking 2 Objects in Search for Plane.
Military search planes flew over a remote part of the Indian Ocean on Thursday hunting for debris in “probably the best lead” so far in finding the missing Malaysia Airlines flight, officials said.
The four planes were checking to see if two large objects spotted in satellite imagery bobbing in the ocean were debris from Fight 370 that disappeared March 8 with 239 people on board….
One of the objects spotted by satellite imagery was 24 meters (almost 80 feet) in length and the other was 5 meters (15 feet). There could be other objects in the area, a four-hour flight from Australia’s southwestern coast, said John Young, manager of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s emergency response division.
“This is a lead, it’s probably the best lead we have right now,” Young said. He cautioned that the objects could be seaborne debris along a shipping route where containers can fall off cargo vessels, although the larger object is longer than a container.
Young told a news conference in Canberra, Australia’s capital, that planes had been sent to the area about 2,500 kilometers (1,550 miles) southwest of Perth to check on the objects. He said satellite images “do not always turn out to be related to the search even if they look good, so we will hold our views on that until they are sighted close-up.”
This morning, ABC reported that so far nothing has been found.
A nine hour search of the Indian Ocean by the world’s most sophisticated search plane failed to locate the objects spotted by a satellite that investigators believe could be from the missing Malaysia Airlines jet, instead finding only a freighter and two pods of dolphins.
The hunt by the P-8 Poseidon airplane is an indication of how difficult it will be to find the objects spotted by a satellite or any debris in the vast expanse of the southern Indian Ocean.
The military airplane is considered so sophisticated that civilians’ cameras were confiscated so photos could not be taken on board.
The search area is so remote that it took the Poseidon three hours of flying to arrive over the area part way to the South Pole and 1,300 miles west of Australia.
More details at ABC News. Of course even if the objects are located and they are found to be parts from MH370, it still will be some time (if ever) before we learn what happened to the missing plane.
Meanwhile, the crisis continues in Ukraine. Even Angela Merkel has begun speaking out, saying there will be no more G8 meetings “until the situation changes.” Merkel also threatened more sanctions by the EU.
Kiev — European leaders were on Thursday to debate biting economic sanctions against Russia for its annexation of Crimea as Ukraine tore up key ties with the Kremlin and drew up plans to evacuate its nationals from the rebel peninsula.
The European Union is under intense pressure to find a credible response to an explosive security crisis on the 28-nation bloc’s eastern frontier that NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen on Wednesday called “the gravest threat to European security and stability since the end of the Cold War.”
But the Kremlin has warned repeatedly that it would strike back hard if confronted with a new wave of Western punitive measures that EU nations — their energy and financial sectors intertwined with Russia’s — would keenly prefer to avoid.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said EU leaders would widen the list of people targeted by travel bans and asset freezes and warned of economic sanctions if the crisis escalates.
The EU Council “will make clear that we are ready at any time to apply third-phase measures in the event of a further worsening of the situation,” she said, adding that “it will, without a doubt, be a question of economic sanctions.”
USA Today on Russia’s actions in Crimea: Russia takes over Ukraine’s military bases, officers.
KIEV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s government said Wednesday it will pull its troops from Crimea, where Russian troops and Crimean allies are seizing military bases and officers.
Masked armed men assumed to be Russian military seized Ukraine’s naval headquarters in the city of Sevastopol on the Black Sea in Crimea and took away a Ukrainian admiral.
Ukraine’s defense minister and deputy prime minister put off a trip to Crimea in what they said was a bid to avert an escalation in hostilities after the self-appointed prime minister in Crimea, Sergei Aksyonov, warned that they “are not welcome,” Interfax news agency said.
The hostilities follow a decree by Russian President Vladimir Putin that the former captive of the Soviet Union, Russia’s predecessor, is now part of Russia despite warnings from the White House and Europe that Moscow will pay “costs” for a takeover.
For anyone who wants to dig deeper check out this article at The Independent, Ukraine crisis: New face of Crimea revealed after naval base is stormed, and these opinion pieces:
Financial Times: Threat of future Russian aggression remains.
Finally, I thought this post by Carl Bialek at Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight was kind of funny: Another Explanation For Crimea Referendum Landslide. Bialek discusses statistical explanations, but never mentions the possibility that the election was fixed. Not everything can be explained by statistics.
In other news . . .
Have you heard about the recently discovered dinosaur that has been nicknamed the “Chicken from Hell?” It looks like something out of a 1950s monster movie. From the WaPo:
Scientists have discovered a freakish, birdlike species of dinosaur — 11 feet long, 500 pounds, with a beak, no teeth, a bony crest atop its head, murderous claws, prize-fighter arms, spindly legs, a thin tail and feathers sprouting all over the place. Officially, it’s a member of a group of dinosaurs called oviraptorosaurs.
Unofficially, it’s the Chicken From Hell.
That’s the nickname the scientists have been using. It’s the term in the news release associated with the discovery. This dino-bird is not literally a chicken, or even a bird. It’s definitely a dinosaur, and it lived at the end of the Cretaceous period, from about 68 million to 66 million years ago….
“It would have been a cross between a chicken and a lizard,” said Tyler Lyson, a paleontologist at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, who excavated some of the fossils on his uncle’s North Dakota ranch in 1999.
The fossils of three specimens of the new dinosaur were found in a sedimentary rock layer known as the Hell Creek Formation in three locations in North and South Dakota. The formation, the scientists said, helped inspire the nickname.
Here’s another freaky story for you. Have you heard about the scrap dealer who bought a Faberge egg at an antique fair in the Midwestern U.S.? The guy bought it for about $14,000 hoping to melt it down and make a small profit from the gold; but the buyers he talked to thought he was asking too much for it.
From the Telegraph: The £20m Fabergé egg that was almost sold for scrap (That’s $4o million in U.S. dollars).
The egg languished in his kitchen for years until one night in 2012, when he Googled “egg” and “Vacheron Constantin”, a name etched on the timepiece inside.
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The result was a Telegraph article published a year earlier, featuring a picture of his egg and the title: “Is this £20 million nest-egg on your mantelpiece?” The dealer – who wishes to remain anonymous, given his newfound wealth – contacted the Fabergé expert named in the article, Kieran McCarthy of Mayfair jeweller Wartski.
Mr McCarthy said: “He saw the article and recognised his egg in the picture. He flew straight over to London – the first time he had ever been to Europe – and came to see us. He hadn’t slept for days.
McCarthy then traveled to the U.S. to make sure the egg was genuine.
“It was a very modest home in the Mid West, next to a highway and a Dunkin’ Donuts. There was the egg, next to some cupcakes on the kitchen counter.
“I examined it and said, ‘You have an Imperial Fabergé Easter Egg.’ And he practically fainted. He literally fell to the floor in astonishment.” The dealer etched Mr McCarthy’s name and the date into the wooden bar stool on which Mr McCarthy sat to examine the egg, marking the day that his life changed forever.
The scrap dealer is hoping none of his neighbors find out how rich he is now. But how did the “egg” get to the U.S.?
I’ll end with some sports news that no one but my mother and I probably care about. Today is the first day of March Madness–the NCAA basketball tournament, and my parents’ alma mater North Dakota State is a 12 seed in the tournament. They will be playing number 5 seeded Oklahoma, so they probably won’t make it to the second round, but President Obama picked them to pull an upset. Sadly, no Indiana teams made it this year. Some Cinderella teams from my current home state are Harvard and U. Mass. I usually root for Kansas, but I wouldn’t mind at all if Michigan State wins the whole thing, as Obama predicted.
Now what stories are you following today? Please post your links on any topic in the comment thread.
The Obama administration hit 11 Russian and Ukrainian officials with sanctions today as punishment for Russia’s support of Crimea’s referendum. Among them: aides to President Vladimir Putin, a top government official, senior lawmakers, Crimean officials, the ousted president of Ukraine, and a Ukrainian politician and businessman allegedly tied to violence against protesters in Kiev.
One of the officials, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, quickly “laughed off President Obama’s sanction against him…, asking “Comrade @BarackObama” if “some prankster” came up with the list.
HuffPo quoted other Russian officials who were not impressed with Obama’s actions:
…the dire tone coming out of the White House was not shared by many who stand to lose the most from the sanctions. In Moscow, sanctioned Russian officials mocked the U.S. announcement, while in Washington, U.S. lobbyists who represent foreign clients said they were relieved that the sanctions amounted to little more than a slap on the wrist. Even the Moscow stock markets, which had been dragged down by the uncertainty in Crimea, responded positively to the news, posting some of the first gains they’ve had in weeks….
Andrei Klishas, a Russian lawmaker who was targeted, said that the U.S. rebuke was “no tragedy” for him and that he was happy to be in the company of the other sanctioned Russians. Yelena Mizulina, a member of Russia’s parliament best known for authoring the country’s controversial anti-gay propaganda legislation, said she owned no U.S. “real estate” and was “surprised” to be included, given that her role in the Crimean vote was “very modest.”
One particularly juicy response came from adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin and spinmeister Vladislav Surkov, known as the “grey cardinal” of the Kremlin. “I see the decision by the administration in Washington as an acknowledgment of my service to Russia. It’s a big honor for me. I don’t have accounts abroad,” he told the Russian newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets. “The only things that interest me in the U.S. are Tupac Shakur, Allen Ginsberg, and Jackson Pollock. I don’t need a visa to access their work. I lose nothing.”
Meanwhile Putin moved ahead with the official annexation of Crimea. From the LA Times:
Russia has signed a treaty to incorporate Crimea into its territory following a referendum in which residents of Ukraine’s region overwhelmingly backed the move.
President Vladimir Putin signed the document Tuesday with Crimea’s prime minister and parliament speaker following a televised address to the nation, in which he vigorously defended Crimea’s vote as a restoration of historical justice.
Still, according to Bloomberg, Russia’s economy is approaching a crisis: Russia Sounds Alarm on Economy as West Starts With Sanctions.
“The situation in the economy bears clear signs of a crisis,” Deputy Economy Minister Sergei Belyakov said in Moscow yesterday. The cabinet needs to refrain from raising the fiscal burden on companies, which would be the “wrong approach,” he said. “Taking money from companies and asking them afterward to modernize production is illogical and strange.”
Even before the worst standoff against the West since the Cold War, Russia’s economy was facing the weakest growth since a 2009 recession as consumer demand failed to make up for sagging investment. President Vladimir Putin supported a request from Crimea to join Russia, signing an order to approve an accord on the breakaway region’s accession before a meeting today with lawmakers.
The Ukrainian crisis is putting a strain on Russia’s $2 trillion economy, which grew 1.3 percent in 2013 after expanding 3.4 percent the previous year. Last year’s growth was “insufficient” and the current outlook and government forecasts “can’t satisfy us,” Putin said March 12. The Economy Ministry projects growth will average 2.5 percent a year through 2030.
In Poland, Vice President Biden said there will be more sanctions against Russia.
Biden spoke Tuesday after meeting in Warsaw with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk. He says the U.S. joins Poland and the international community in condemning the continuing assault on Ukraine’s sovereignty. He says it’s a blatant violation of international law.
Biden says virtually the entire world rejects the referendum in Crimea that cleared the way for Russia to annex the peninsula in Ukraine.
I came across this video on Twitter yesterday, and I thought it was relevant to Putin’s takeover of Crimea: Watch as 1000 years of European borders change.
Last night in the comments JJ posted a NYT article with some new information about MH 370’s flight path. I’m posting it again here. Lost Jet’s Path Seen as Altered via Computer.
Instead of manually operating the plane’s controls, whoever altered Flight 370’s path typed seven or eight keystrokes into a computer on a knee-high pedestal between the captain and the first officer, according to officials. The Flight Management System, as the computer is known, directs the plane from point to point specified in the flight plan submitted before a flight. It is not clear whether the plane’s path was reprogrammed before or after it took off.
The fact that the turn away from Beijing was programmed into the computer has reinforced the belief of investigators — first voiced by Malaysian officials — that the plane was deliberately diverted and that foul play was involved. It has also increased their focus on the plane’s captain and first officer.
Malaysian officials also changed their minds about when the plane’s communications devices were shut down.
Malaysian authorities on Monday reversed themselves on the sequence of events they believe took place on the plane in the crucial minutes before ground controllers lost contact with it early on March 8. They said it was the plane’s first officer — the co-pilot — who was the last person in the cockpit to speak to ground control. And they withdrew their assertion that another automated system on the plane, the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System, or Acars, had already been disabled when the co-pilot spoke.
Flight 370’s Flight Management System reported its status to the Acars, which in turn transmitted information back to a maintenance base, according to an American official. This shows that the reprogramming happened before the Acars stopped working. The Acars ceased to function about the same time that oral radio contact was lost and the airplane’s transponder also stopped, fueling suspicions that foul play was involved in the plane’s disappearance.
Investigators are scrutinizing radar tapes from when the plane first departed Kuala Lumpur because they believe the tapes will show that after the plane first changed its course, it passed through several pre-established “waypoints,” which are like virtual mile markers in the sky. That would suggest the plane was under control of a knowledgeable pilot because passing through those points without using the computer would have been unlikely.
This information leads experts to conclude that whoever diverted Flt. 370 was a highly skilled pilot. So where could the missing plane have gone?
According to Slate, there are 634 runways where a skilled pilot could have landed it.
As speculation grows that there may be a slim chance Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 landed somewhere after it suddenly disappeared from radars, WNYC published a map to illustrate all the possible runways that could have been used. The WNYC Data News team used information from X-Plane that provides runway coordinates from around the world to determine all the possible spots that could be available for the plane to land within 2,200 nautical miles, considering a Boeing 777 would need a runway of at least 5,000 feet. There are a total of 634 runways that fit the criteria, spread out across 26 countries. But of course the number of places the plane could have landed is much larger as it assumes the plane used a formal runway in the first place. Slate’s Jeff Wise spoke to a pilot who flies 777-200s who said the plane could be landed on a highway. “A runway wouldn’t even necessarily have to be paved,” wrote Wise, “hard-packed dirt would likely be good enough.”
Check out a map of the locations at the link.
You’ve probably heard that Fred Phelps, former pastor of the Westboro Baptist Church in on his deathbed. From The Independent:
He spent much of his life making unwelcome appearances at other people’s funerals, with placards bearing the infamous slogan, “God Hates Fags”. Yet now, as Fred Phelps Sr approaches his own death, even members of his close family have been barred – by other family members who have stayed loyal to him –from saying goodbye. According to a Facebook post by his estranged son Nathan Phelps, the 84-year-old founder of the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church (WBC), was excommunicated last summer by the group he himself founded almost 60 years ago, and is now “on the edge of death” at a hospice in Topeka, Kansas.
Nathan Phelps, the sixth of the pastor’s 13 children, fled his abusive father and the WBC in 1980. Now 55 and an avowed atheist, he lives in Canada, where he campaigns on behalf of LGBT rights. Of his father’s excommunication and imminent demise, he wrote: “I’m not sure how I feel about this. Terribly ironic that his devotion to his god ends this way. Destroyed by the monster he made. I feel sad for all the hurt he’s caused so many. I feel sad for those who will lose the grandfather and father they loved. And I’m bitterly angry that my family is blocking the family members who left from seeing him.”
Fred Phelps Sr, an ordained minister, established the WBC in Topeka in 1955, but only in the past two decades has the church become infamous for its practice of picketing the funerals of gay people, public figures and – since 9/11 – the US servicemen and women killed in Afghanistan and Iraq. Phelps and his bitterly homophobic followers purport to believe that the deaths of US military personnel represent God’s punishment for homosexuality.
The Westboro Baptist Church was known for picketing the funerals of gay people and soldiers (Getty)The fringe Calvinist group – whose lesser-known slogans include “Fags Die, God Laughs” and “Thank God for Maimed Soldiers” – has achieved disproportionate notoriety, given that it has always consisted of fewer than 100 adherents, most members of the extended Phelps family.
Ironically, Phelps was excommunicated because he “called for kinder treatment of fellow church members.” At The Boston Globe, Chris Caesar collected reactions to the news about Phelps’ health.
I was surprised and gratified yesterday to learn that another flim flam man, Kevin Trudeau, has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for taking advantage of unfortunate people who fell for his his fraudulent weight loss infomercials. For years, it was hard to click around the TV channels without being exposed to this smooth-talking con man selling his “cures” for obesity, illness, and poverty. From AP’s The Big Story:
Best-selling author Kevin Trudeau, whose name became synonymous with late-night TV pitches, was sentenced to 10 years in prison Monday for bilking consumers through ubiquitous infomercials for his book, “The Weight Loss Cure ‘They’ Don’t Want You to Know About.”
As he imposed the sentence prosecutors had requested, U.S. District Judge Ronald Guzman portrayed the 50-year-old Trudeau as a habitual fraudster going back to his early adulthood. So brazen was Trudeau, the judge said, he once even used his own mother’s Social Security number in a scheme.
“Since his 20s, he has steadfastly attempted to cheat others for his own gain,” Guzman said, adding that Trudeau is “deceitful to the very core.”
Trudeau, whose trademark dyed black hair turned partially gray as he awaited sentencing in jail, showed little emotion as the stiff sentence was handed down at the hearing in Chicago.
Addressing the judge earlier in a 10-minute statement, Trudeau apologized and said he’s become a changed man. He said he’s meditated, prayed and read self-help books while locked up at Chicago’s Metropolitan Correctional Center.
“I have truly had a significant reawakening,” said Trudeau, who was dressed in orange jail clothes. “If I ever do an infomercial again … I promise: No embellishments, no puffery, no lies.”
Sure Kevin. . . Here’s an example of Trudeau’s work: