Saturday ReadsPosted: December 7, 2013 Filed under: Barack Obama, Foreign Affairs, morning reads, Republican politics, U.S. Politics | Tags: chronic brain injury, crime, Eric Cantor, FDR, immigration laws, James Downing, Merrill Newman, Nelson Mandela, North Korea, Onyango Obama, Pearl Harbor, Poverty, Richard Pena, Rick Santorum, Toxoplasmosis gondii, weather, winter storm Cleon, winter storm Dion 41 Comments
Today is Pearl Harbor Day, “a date which will live in infamy,” December 7, 1941. From the LA Times:
An Associated Press story on the Dec. 8, 1941, front page of the Los Angeles Times reported:
Japan assaulted every main United States and British possession in the Central and Western Pacific and invaded Thailand today (Monday) in a hasty but evidently shrewdly-planned prosecution of a war began Sunday without warning.
Her formal declaration of war against both the United States and Britain came 2 hours and 55 minutes after Japanese planes spread death and terrific destruction in Honolulu and Pearl Harbor at 7:35 a.m. Hawaiian time (10:05 a.m., P.S.T.) Sunday.
The claimed successes for the fell swoop included sinking of the United States battleship West Virginia and setting afire of the battleship Oklahoma.
On Dec. 8, 1941, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt started his famous speech:
Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, members of the Senate and the House of Representatives: Yesterday, Dec. 7th, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.
Within an hour, Congress passed a declaration of war against Japan, bringing the United States into World War II. On Dec. 11, Germany and Italy declared war on the United States.
There are more dramatic photos at the link. There aren’t many survivors of that day left, but at least two of them talked to news outlets yesterday. From the Denver Post:
COLORADO SPRINGS — No one asked Navy Lt. James Downing to hurriedly memorize the names on the dog tags of the dead and injured during the attack on Pearl Harbor.
But Downing, then 28, did it because he could not bear the thought of families not knowing the fate of their loved ones. He wrote to as many families as he could.
The Colorado Springs resident, who celebrated his 100th birthday in August, is the oldest known survivor of the Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese sneak attack that killed more than 2,400 Americans .
Downing fought to save lives that day, all the while wondering whether it was the day his own life would end.
Downing was a gunner’s mate 1st class and postmaster, assigned to the USS West Virginia. The battleship had just returned to base after more than a week on patrol.
His wife of five months, Morena, was cooking Sunday morning breakfast for a few servicemen in the couple’s home near the harbor when they heard explosions in the distance, Downing said.
“Then an anti-aircraft shell landed right outside and blew a crater about 25 feet across,” Downing said, illustrating with outstretched arms.
In those days, there was no way for survivors to let their families know they were okay–it took until Christmas for some to be able to to contact loved ones. Another Pearl Harbor survivor, Richard Pena, spoke to Huffington Post.
It was life and business as usual for Navy veteran Richard Pena until the bombs dropped on Pearl Harbor just before 8 a.m. on December 7, 1941.
Pena was eating breakfast and was about to head out for his morning duty as quartermaster to raise the flag when the attack started, he told HuffPost Live. As far as he recalls, the flags never went up that day, Pena said.
Before the attack, Pena said he and his fellow officers were living “the good life” stationed in Hawaii. Coming from San Antonio, Texas, it was his first time away from home.
“In the blinking of an eye, a split second, your life is turned topsy-turvy,” Pena reminisced. “It’s hard to describe what you’re feeling. People tell you you’ve trained for this all the time, but you didn’t know that it was going to happen the way it did.”
Back in December 2013, much of the country is dealing with stormy weather. CNN reports: Power outages, travel nightmare — and snow in Vegas?
More sleet and subfreezing temperatures are predicted to hit areas from Dallas to Memphis until Sunday, and Little Rock, Arkansas, until Monday.
The nation’s capital will not be spared from the cold either. Snow or sleet is forecast for Washington on Sunday.
In the central Appalachians through central New England, snow is expected into early Saturday morning, the National Weather Service said.
In addition to the plummeting temperatures, the drastic swings were startling. Hot Springs, Arkansas, experienced a record high of 75 on Wednesday. By Friday, it was in the middle of an ice storm.
The Dallas/Fort Worth area is among the hardest hit. It will have a high of 27 degrees Saturday, a day after the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport canceled almost 700 flights, about 80% of those scheduled.
And, yes, Las Vegas will be in the 20’s over the weekend.
The bad weather across the South and Midwest came from winter storm Cleon. Out in the Northwest, winter storm Dion is gearing up to rush across the country, impacting the south and moving up into the Northeast. You can get live updates on Dion here. For once, eastern New England could be one of the least affected areas. We got some freezing rain last night and the streets are slippery this morning, but it’s no big deal. The only other impact on us will probably be some sleet and freezing rain on Monday morning. I’m really feeling for those of you who are suffering from these storms. Trust me, I know what you’re going through! Here are some of the records that have been set around the the country:
- Denver: Record low of -13 degrees on Wednesday beat the old record of -5 degrees set in 2008. Thursday’s low of -15 tied the daily record. Denver dropped to -13 degrees on Saturday morning, tying another record low.
- Ely, Nev.: Record low of -17 degrees on Wednesday crushed the old record of -5 degrees.
- Great Falls, Mont.: Record low of on Wednesday topped the old record of 22 degrees below zero.
- Casper, Wyo.: Record low of -22 degrees on Wednesday beat the old record of -11 degrees set in 1972.
- Medford, Ore: Record low of 18 degrees on Wednesday and a record low of 14 on Thursday. According to the National Weather Service, this is the coldest air mass in the city since 1998.
- Portland, Ore. and Astoria, Ore.: Three straight days with daily record lows through Tuesday through Thursday.
- Spokane, Wash.: Saw its first high in the teens since Feb. 26, 2011 on Thursday.
- Glasgow, Mont.: Recorded its first subzero high temperature since Jan. 18, 2012 on Thursday.
- Great Falls, Mont.: Low of -33 degrees on Saturday was the coldest temperature recorded so early in the season. Previous record was Dec. 8, 1972 (-36 degrees).
Some good news: North Korea has released (they say “deported”) 85-year old Korean war veteran Merrill Newman after holding him prisoner for more than a month and forcing him to “apologize.” The Independent reports:
North Korea has deported an elderly US tourist and Korean War veteran detained since October for alleged hostile acts against the country.
The country’s official state news agency Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Merrill Newman has been expelled on “humanitarian grounds” because of his age and health after he “confessed” to crimes during the 1950-53 war and apologised.
The 85-year-old flew to China this morning where he boarded a flight to San Francisco. Speaking to Japanese reporters at Beijing airport, he said: “I’m very glad to be on my way home. And I appreciate the tolerance the DPRK government has given to me to be on my way. I feel good, I feel good. I want to go home to see my wife.”
[Newman] has been in detention since being taken off a plane on October 26 by North Korean authorities following a 10-day tour of the country. KCNA claimed that Merrill had ordered the deaths of North Korean civilians and soldiers during the war. His family say he was a victim of mistaken identity.
I have some more new and some longer reads for you, which I’ll list link dump style.
MassLive: President Obama’s uncle, Onyango Obama, to face deportation hearing in Boston.
According to a court docket, the case will be heard by Immigration Judge Leonard Shapiro on Tuesday afternoon in Boston Immigration Court at the John F. Kennedy Federal Building.
Onyango Obama is the president’s father’s half brother.
A judge issued a deportation order against Onyango Obama, who is from Kenya, in 1992. But Obama never left the country. The Boston Globe reported that Obama was working as a liquor store manager when the Framingham Police arrested him for drunk driving in August 2011. He was sentenced to probation in that case, and the charges brought renewed attention to his immigration status.
The Globe reported that Obama has been living in the United States since 1963, when he came to enroll in school here as a 17-year-old. He was first ordered deported in 1986, although appeals continued in that case for six years.
For Pete’s sake, why can’t they just let the poor guy stay in the US? He’s been here for 50 years! Meanwhile, President Obama acknowledged that he lived with his uncle briefly in the 1980s. It had been thought that the two had never met, but no one bothered to ask the President directly about it until now.
New research on Toxoplasmosis gondii, the parasite associated with cat litter boxes, undercooked meat, and other sources, shows that it can have some positive effects on the brain.
New neuroscience research says that Toxo—the cysts in our brains from cats—can improve our self-control. For the 30 percent of people who have this infection, it’s about more than promiscuity, schizophrenia, and car crashes.
I’ll let you read the details at the link if you so desire. I decided not to read about it, since there’s nothing I can do if I have it…
This article in the Atlantic is from September, and it’s long; but I highly recommend it if you like human interest stories and/or true crime tales. Murder by Craigslist: A serial killer finds a newly vulnerable class of victims: white, working-class men. Fascinating and surprising reading–I highly recommend it.
From Technology Review: Identifying Signs of Chronic Brain Injury in Living Football Players
Eight former pro football players learned this year that they have signs of a degenerative brain disorder called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a condition linked to depression, dementia, and memory loss. These somber findings were uncovered using a new method of brain imaging that, for the first time, enables researchers to spot signs of the condition in the living brain. Previously CTE could only be identified after a victim died.
The new method could help quantify the risks of repetitive blows to the head (see “Images of a Hard-Hitting Disease” and “Military Brains Donated for Trauma Research”). It could also help future players avoid the degenerative and sometimes lethal condition by limiting their exposure, and it may help scientists develop better protective gear and treatments.
Two interesting reads from Alternet:
20 Things the Poor Do Everyday That the Rich Never Have to Worry About
This one partially explains why I’m so down on Glenn Greenwald: Why Atheist Libertarians Are Part of America’s 1 Percent Problem
This morning’s stupid right winger stories:
Rick Santorum: Nelson Mandela Fought ‘Great Injustice,’ Just Like Republicans Are Battling Obamacare
Eric Cantor Calls the Police on Children Who Were Singing In His Office
House Majority Leader Brushes Off Young Girl As She Asks Him To Help Her Undocumented Father
The Right Wing’s Campaign To Discredit And Undermine Mandela, In One Timeline
Those are my offerings for today. What stories are you following? Please let us know in the comment thread, and if you are in the path of Cleon and/or Dion, please stay safe and warm and update us on your situations if you can.
Friday Morning ReadsPosted: September 13, 2013 Filed under: morning reads, U.S. Economy, U.S. Politics | Tags: Bobby Jindal, David Vitter, drug testing pregnant women, Eric Cantor, food stamps, Greg Zoeller, Hawaii, Indiana, molasses spill, sequester, SNAP 41 Comments
Syria is again dominating the headlines. Here’s a few things that might be slipping under the rug.
If Congressional Republicans have their way, SNAP recipients will only get $3.37 a day for meals.
In July, House Republicans decoupled SNAP from the rest of the farm bill. Now, led by Majority Leader Eric Cantor, they are working on a food-stamp provision that could cut as much as $40 billion over 10 years, according to reports. Legislative language for the Cantor proposal is not yet available.
The conservative case goes like this: The food-stamp program is abused by recipients who are not meeting eligibility requirements. In particular, conservatives want to tighten loopholes that they contend allow able-bodied adults without dependents to receive assistance; they want to limit coverage for the able-bodied adults to three months within a 36-month period.
“Currently, working middle-class families struggling to make ends meet themselves are footing a bill for a program that has gone well beyond the safety net for children, seniors, the disabled, and families who desperately need the assistance,” said Cantor spokesman Rory Cooper.
Antihunger advocates say House Republicans’ proposed cuts would hit some of the neediest Americans hard, and they argue that the law already contains adequate restrictions against abuse.
At the Capital Area Food Bank, a 100,000-square-foot warehouse facility — a kind of Sam’s Club for food pantries in the metro Washington area — officials say food-stamp funds typically last recipients two and a half weeks. After the benefits run out, many go to food pantries to help make ends meet, according to the Food Bank’s Brian Banks.
Conservatives, meanwhile, argue that food-stamp funding has been rising too quickly. The program cost about $78.4 billion to help feed roughly 47 million participants in 2012, according to the Agriculture Department. That’s up from about $17 billion from 2000, when 17 million Americans participated.
“The national debt has now topped $16 trillion and will continue to grow rapidly for the foreseeable future. To preserve the economy, government spending, including welfare spending, must be put on a more prudent course,” wrote the Heritage Foundation’s Robert Rector and Katherine Bradley in a white paper.
Anti-hunger advocates, though, point to a spike in the number of Americans who are “food insecure,” a term used by the government, that correlates to the recession. According to USDA, the number has recently stayed at roughly 15 percent, with 17.6 million households classified as such in 2012, according to a newly released report. With 59 percent of food-insecure households using food stamps, advocates argue that it’s important not to slash SNAP.
Now that Congress has returned, the farm bill and the food-stamp program will compete for scarce legislative time with the situation in Syria, appropriations bills, and a debate over the debt-ceiling limit, which the government is expected to reach sometime this fall. Among antihunger organizations, optimism is in short supply.
Indiania seems to hate its pregnant women. They’re at it again. This time they want to drug test all pregnant women even if there is no probable cause to believe they might be ingesting something harmful.
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller is calling on the legislature to help reduce the number of babies being exposed to narcotics while still in the womb.
It is called Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, or NAS, newborns exposed to addictive illegal or prescription drugs before they are born.
Attorney General Greg Zoeller says treating NAS at Indiana hospitals cost an estimated $30 million in 2011, the most recent year for which data is available, and he says that’s with limited tracking because hospitals are not required to report the condition.
Zoeller says one solution is requiring pregnant women take drug tests to identify the problem and start treatment before birth.
“You can reduce the length of stay for the newly born baby from six weeks to two weeks, the better health of the baby as well as the costs,” he say.s
State Senator Pat Miller, R-Indianapolis, says the legislature is exploring different options because of concerns about mandatory drug tests.
“Verbal screening as opposed to the kind of blood or urine analysis that might drive women away from getting prenatal care,” she says, adding that a definitive answer has not been reached and a legislative panel will continue to investigate the issue leading up to next session.
Republicans are gearing up for the fight over the sequester in October.
On Tuesday, House Republicans unveiled their proposal to keep the government running past September 30, when the law that currently funds federal operations expires. It would last through December, at which point the parties would have to come up with yet another extension. As expected, the proposal more or less “locks in” funding levels from budget sequestration—in effect, it keeps the cuts that have been reducing Head Start slots, weakening the economy recovery, and generally wreaking havoc. As you may recall, sequestration cuts were never supposed to happen: They were supposed to be so crude and unpleasant, to conservatives and liberals alike, that the two parties would agree on an alternative way of reducing the deficit. But that hasn’t happened, so the cuts have taken effect this year. And if this new House Republican proposal passes, they will stay in place for at least a little while longer.
The House proposal also includes a provision to withhold funds for implementing Obamacare. Again, this is not a surprise. And, like some previous efforts, this one is mostly an effort of political theater. By design, the Senate could strip out the Obamacare defunding and approve everything else in the House leadership proposal. That would leave a “clean” government-funding bill, as House Republican leaders call it, for President Obama to sign. But House Republican leaders have assured anxious conservatives that a real effort to undermine Obamacare will come soon—proabably sometime in early October, when the federal treasury nears its official borrowing limit. At that point, the leaders say, they will refuse to authorize more borrowing unless Obama and the Democrats agree to certain concessions. The demands will include some kind of effort at defunding or delaying Obamacare—quite possibly, by insisting that the Obama administration postpones the individual mandate (the requirement that everybody get health insurance) by one year.
Senate Democrats have had all they can take from David Vitter and his fixation on Obamacare — and they’re dredging up his past prostitution scandal to hit back.
Vitter, a Louisiana Republican, has infuriated Democrats this week by commandeering the Senate floor, demanding a vote on his amendment repealing federal contributions to help pay for lawmakers’ health care coverage.
But Democratic senators are preparing a legislative response targeting a sordid Vitter episode. If Vitter continues to insist on a vote on his proposal, Democrats could counter with one of their own: Lawmakers will be denied those government contributions if there is “probable cause” they solicited prostitutes.
According to draft legislation obtained by POLITICO, Democrats are weighing whether to force a Senate vote on a plan that would effectively resurrect Vitter’s past if the conservative Republican continues to press forward with his Obamacare-bashing proposal.
It is now much easier to make the case that Gov. Bobby Jindal knows his chances of winning the presidency in the 2016 election are securely in his past. In fact, given the record he is now so feverishly and self-destructively building, it is difficult imagining the governor winning another — any — statewide election in Louisiana. In making that case, Exhibits No. 1 through No. 50, at least, are on display in Jindal’s bafflingly deliberate and long-running defiance of orders issued by Baton Rouge state district court Judge Janice Clark in a key public records case.
Over five months ago, on April 25, Judge Clark emphatically ruled in favor of plaintiff newspapers, the Advocate and NOLA.com | Times-Picayune, and ordered the LSU Board of Supervisors to “immediately produce” the documents identifying all those who sought the combined job of LSU president and chancellor. F. King Alexander was selected for the job, and Jindal does not want citizens to know who the other candidates were. Thus he directed his go-to lawyer, Jimmy Faircloth, to burn a trainload of taxpayer money by stiffing the citizenry and the judge … repeatedly … and proudly.
The rarity of observing such a months-long political train wreck was underscored by Lori Mince, the attorney representing the two Louisiana newspapers, in a Sept. 10article by Mike Hasten of Gannett News. Ms. Mince noted, “This is the first public records case I’ve had when the public body refused to comply.” No one else with whom I have spoken or emailed can remember another such instance, either. Such makes sense because once a public records case goes all the way to court, and a judge orders the documents produced, public officials have every reason and need to, well, produce the documents. That is precisely what happened when a group of us in Shreveport sued the highway department for documents, went up against Jindal / Faircloth’s initial opposition, and headed to Clark’s court. When our hearing came up, the requested documents appeared as Faircloth did the opposite.
To grasp how bizarrely foolish the Jindal / Faircloth / Board of Supervisors argument is, it began with Faircloth arguing that the only word in the related law which mattered was “applicant,” and that there was only one of those — the winner, F. King Alexander. Note that Faircloth made this argument to Clark even though Blake Chatelain, the LSU board member who led the search committee, said in his subject court deposition that he and his committee began their work with about 100 prospects, cut that to 35 keepers, then down to “six or seven,” before picking Alexander. All of this was managed via a web portal belonging to a Dallas consultant hired for such purpose, a reported key in the Jindal plan to maintain secrecy throughout the process. (Thanks to Gordon Russell, then writing for the NOLA.com | Times-Picayune, for his April report.)
It is anyone’s guess as to what Jindal is hiding: Was/is Alexander qualified? Was he the best candidate? Who did Jindal really want, and why didn’t that person get the job? Those of us who have been down this road with the man and his team, especially Faircloth, know that the explanation may be much simpler: Jindal has never believed the rules and law and constitution apply to him.
It seems a molasses spill in Hawaii is killing fish.
Officials responding to a spill of 1,400 tons of molasses in Hawaii waters plan to let nature clean things up, with boat crews collecting thousands of dead fish to determine the extent of environmental damage.
The crews already have collected about 2,000 dead fish from waters near Honolulu Harbor, and they expect to see more in the coming days and possibly weeks, said Gary Gill, deputy director of the Hawaii Department of Health.
“Our best advice as of this morning is to let nature take its course,” Gill told reporters at a news conference at the harbor, where commercial ships passed through discolored, empty-looking waters.
So, that’s a little this and that! What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Thursday Reads: Civil Rights Struggle, Syria Intervention, NYPD Spying, Boston Bombing, and “League of Denial”Posted: August 29, 2013 Filed under: Foreign Affairs, morning reads, Republican politics, U.S. Politics | Tags: Boston Bombings, chemical weapons, Civil Rights Movement, concussions, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Eric Cantor, ESPN, John Boehner, John F. Kennedy, John Odom, Julian Bond, Martin Luther King, NFL, NYPD, PBS Frontline, police photography, Prime Minister David Cameron, Rep. John Lewis, traumatic brain injury, We Shall Overcome 19 Comments
I’ve got so much news for you this morning, I don’t know if I’ll have room in a reasonable-length post, so I’ll get right to it. I’ll begin with some stories on yesterday’s 50th anniversary of the March On Washington.
PBS had an amazing interview with Rep John Lewis in which he recounted his memories of that day in 1963 and the speech he gave as a youthful leader in the Civil Rights Movement: ‘I Felt That We Had to Be Tough’: John Lewis Remembers the March on Washington. I hope you’ll read the whole thing, but here’s a brief excerpt:
REP. JOHN LEWIS, D-Ga.: On that day, I was blessed.
I felt like I had been tracked down by some force or some spirit. I will never forget when A. Philip Randolph said, “I now present to you young John Lewis, the national chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.”
And I went to the podium. I looked to my right. I saw many, many young people, staffers from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, volunteers. Then I looked to my left. I saw all these young people up in the trees, trying to get a better view of the podium.
Then I looked straight ahead. And I saw so many people with their feet in the water trying to cool off. And then I said to myself, this is it, and I went for it.
On meeting with President Kennedy before the March, and how the podium and the crowd came to be so diverse:
He [JFK] didn’t like the idea of a March on Washington.
When we met with him, A. Philip Randolph spoke up in his baritone voice we met with the president. And he said, “Mr. President, the black masses are restless. And we are going to march on Washington.”
And you could tell by the movement of President Kennedy — he started moving and twisting in his chair. And he said, in effect, that if you bring all these people to Washington, won’t it be violence and chaos and disorder?
Mr. Randolph responded and said, “Mr. President, there’s been orderly, peaceful, nonviolent protests.”
And President Kennedy said, in so many words, I think we are going to have problems. So we left that meeting with President Kennedy. We came out on the lawn at the White House and spoke to the media and said, we had a meaningful and productive meeting with the president of the United States. And we told him we’re going to March on Washington.
And a few days later, July 2, 1963, the six of us met in New York City at the old Roosevelt Hotel. And in that meeting, we made a decision to invite four major white religious and labor leaders to join us in issuing the call for the March on Washington.
NPR had a wonderful story yesterday about the history of the Civil Rights Movement’s signature song: The Inspiring Force Of ‘We Shall Overcome’.
It is not a marching song. It is not necessarily defiant. It is a promise: “We shall overcome someday. Deep in my heart, I do believe.”
It has been a civil rights song for 50 years now, heard not just in the U.S. but in North Korea, in Beirut, in Tiananmen Square, in South Africa’s Soweto Township. But “We Shall Overcome” began as a folk song, a work song. Slaves in the fields would sing, ‘I’ll be all right someday.’ It became known in the churches. A Methodist minister, Charles Albert Tindley, published a version in 1901: “I’ll Overcome Someday.”
The first political use came in 1945 in Charleston, S.C. There was a strike against the American Tobacco Co. The workers wanted a raise; they were making 45 cents an hour. They marched and sang together on the picket line, “We will overcome, and we will win our rights someday.”
There’s much more about how the song was passed from group to group and changed over time. Please give it a listen–it’s only about 8 minutes long, but really fascinating.
Not a single Republican appeared at yesterday’s commemoration of the March on Washington and Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech. George W. Bush and his father George H.W. Bush couldn’t come because of health issues, but John Boehner and Eric Cantor are presumably in good health, but they refused offers to make speeches at the event, according to Roll Call.
That wasn’t a wise choice, said Julian Bond, a renowned civil rights activist, in an interview with MSNBC on Wednesday afternoon.
“What’s really telling, I think, is the podium behind me, just count at the end of the day how many Republicans will be there,” Bond told news anchor Alex Wagner. “They asked senior President Bush to come, he was ill. They asked junior Bush, he said he had to stay with his father.
“They asked a long list of Republicans to come,” Bond continued, “and to a man and woman they said ‘no.’ And that they would turn their backs on this event was telling of them, and the fact that they seem to want to get black votes, they’re not gonna get ‘em this way.” [….]
Cantor’s decision to turn down the invitation to speak is especially striking given his stated commitment to passing a rewrite of the Voting Rights Act in the 113th Congress, and the many opportunities he has taken over the past several weeks to publicly reflect on the experience of traveling with Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., to Selma, Ala.
Sadly, Dr. King’s dream of peace has not made much progress in the past 50 years. And now the U.S. and its allies are considering another military intervention–in Syria.
Fortunately, the UK is now hesitating. NYT: Britain to Wait on Weapons Report Ahead of Syria Strikes.
Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain, who runs a coalition government, is facing political difficulties from legislators mindful of the experience in Iraq, when assurances from Prime Minister Tony Blair and President George W. Bush that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction proved inaccurate and a false pretext for war.
Mr. Cameron bowed on Wednesday to pressure from the opposition Labour Party and to some within his own coalition who want to allow United Nations weapons inspectors a chance to report their findings and for the United Nations Security Council to make one more effort to give a more solid legal backing to military action against Damascus.
At BBC News, Nick Robinson explains why Cameron “buckled.”
If you think that NSA domestic spying is invasive, you should take a look at what the NYPD has been up to since 9/11. Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman of the AP have a new book out called Enemies Within: Inside the NYPD’s Secret Spying Unit and bin Laden’s Final Plot Against America. There’s an excerpt at New York Magazine: The NYPD Division of Un-American Activities. It’s long, but a very important story. Please give it a read if you can.
Yesterday Apuzzo and Goldman published a related shocking story at AP: NYPD designates mosques as terrorism organizations.
The New York Police Department has secretly labeled entire mosques as terrorist organizations, a designation that allows police to use informants to record sermons and spy on imams, often without specific evidence of criminal wrongdoing.
Designating an entire mosque as a terrorism enterprise means that anyone who attends prayer services there is a potential subject of an investigation and fair game for surveillance.
Since the 9/11 attacks, the NYPD has opened at least a dozen “terrorism enterprise investigations” into mosques, according to interviews and confidential police documents. The TEI, as it is known, is a police tool intended to help investigate terrorist cells and the like.
Many TEIs stretch for years, allowing surveillance to continue even though the NYPD has never criminally charged a mosque or Islamic organization with operating as a terrorism enterprise.
The documents show in detail how, in its hunt for terrorists, the NYPD investigated countless innocent New York Muslims and put information about them in secret police files. As a tactic, opening an enterprise investigation on a mosque is so potentially invasive that while the NYPD conducted at least a dozen, the FBI never did one, according to interviews with federal law enforcement officials.
Boston Magazine has published more photos from “Behind the Scenes of The Hunt for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.” Above is a photo of Tsarnaev exiting the boat in which he hid for hours as law enforcement searched all over Watertown for him. See more photos at the link.
In more hopeful news, one long-hospitalized survivor of the bombings was given the go-ahead to return home to California yesterday: Boston Marathon bomb survivor John Odom set to return home to Torrance (Daily Breeze News).
Nearly five months after a bomb almost took his life at the Boston Marathon, John Odom of Torrance was cleared by doctors on Wednesday to finally come home.
Odom’s wife, Karen, who has never left her husband’s side, has been chronicling her husband’s long recovery on Facebook, called it a “monumental” day.
“It’s official, John is released to go home!!!” she posted on the John Odom Support Page. “Although his recovery is nowhere near complete, there is no medical or physical reason he can’t fly home and continue his recovery in California. We are hoping to be home the end of next week, a few days shy of 5 months since we left on that now famous 4 day trip.”
“Famous” is one way to put it. The couple could have never imagined the journey they’ve been on since April 15.
Read the rest of this moving story at the link.
On October 8th and 15th, NPR’s Frontline plans to show League of Denial, “a two-part two-part investigation examining whether — as thousands of former players allege — the NFL has covered up the risks of football on the brain.” The documentary has so far been produced in partnership with ESPN, but last week the sports channel backed out of the collaboration presumably because of pressure from the NFL. From The New Republic: ESPN Quit Its Concussions Investigation With ‘Frontline’ Under Curious Circumstances.
“Frontline,” the prestigious, multiple-Emmy-winning investigative news show produced by Boston’s PBS member station, announced late Thursday afternoon that a 15-month-old partnership with ESPN in which they published a series of pieces exploring how the National Football League has (and has not) accounted for the relationship between playing football, head trauma, and brain damage, had come to an end. Dating back to last November, “Frontline” had run articles on its site featuring the work of Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru-Wada, ESPN staffers (and brothers) even as these articles appeared at espn.com and as the brothers did segments for ESPN’s award-winning investigative series “Outside the Lines.” The end result—in addition to abook that the brothers are publishing in October—was to be a “Frontline” documentary, League of Denial (also the book’s title).
According to “Frontline,” the documentary will premiere this season on October 8 and 15, but, “from now on, at ESPN’s request, we will no longer use their logos and collaboration credit on these sites and on our upcoming film.” Executive producer David Fanning and deputy executive producer Raney Aronson expressed their “regret” and credited ESPN with “a productive partnership.” They added, “The film is still being edited and has not been seen by ESPN news executives, although we were on schedule to share it with them for their editorial input.”
Aronson told me late Thursday that ESPN contacted “Frontline” last Friday to request that it remove ESPN’s logo from its website, citing the technicality that it was a “trademark issue.” It wasn’t until Monday, after the latest collaboration was published on “Frontline”’s website and aired on “OTL,” that ESPN also requested that language describing collaboration not be used, and that it became clear the collaboration itself was coming to an end.
The circumstances are indeed mysterious. Perhaps it was over-cautiousness on ESPN’s part or perhaps indirect pressure from the League. If you’re interested in this important story, go read Marc Tracy’s piece at TNR.
A couple more useful links on this story:
PBS: Questions Over NFL Doctor Cloud League’s Concussion Case
Bill Littlefield at NPR’s Only a Game: ESPN And Frontline Part Ways Over ‘League Of Denial’
The authors of the book League of Denial will continue their involvement with the Frontline presentation.
I’m running out of space, so I’ll end there, and add a few more links in the comments. Now what stories are you following today? Please share your links in the thread below.
Friday Reads: The Ides of MarchPosted: March 15, 2013 Filed under: morning reads | Tags: Bobby Jindal, budget, Eric Cantor, Higgs boson, imagine no religion, mars rover, Paul Ryan 28 Comments
Ah! The Ides of March and today’s political men with that lean and hungry look are upon us! Let’s check out what Eric Cantor, Bobby Jindal and Paul Ryan are up to. All of them have that creepy angular look that makes my skin crawl. I always wonder if their supporters are as odd looking and grinch-like?
Ryan “looks with such ferret and such fiery eyes” and is trying to ride the same old budget that the voters soundly rejected in November.
Ryan’s budget is a retread of his previous offerings, the same ideas that were rejected by voters in the 2012 election. Like the old Bourbon kings, he has learned nothing and forgotten nothing. Once more he doubles down on the failed ideas of the past, and once more he brazenly seeks credit for making hard choices while refusing to tell us what those choices are. The cowardice and lack of candor reflect just how unpopular these ideas are.
The basic strategy is the same; the only new packaging is the pretense of balancing the budget in 10 years. Ryan does that by adopting the $600 billion in “fiscal cliff” taxes that Republicans voted against, the Medicare tax hikes that were part of the Obamacare that Ryan proposes to repeal, and, most brazenly, the infamous $716 billion in “Medicare cuts” that Ryan and Romney and legions of Republicans have railed against over the last two election cycles.
Ryan’s basic strategy is unchanged. He would lower rates on income and corporate taxes. He does this despite studies showing that lowering rates over the last decades have produced more inequality, but not more growth. With the top 1 percent capturing a staggering 121 percent of the income growth coming out of the Great Recession, and corporate profits at record highs as a percentage of the economy, Ryan still argues that if they just had more money, they would start investing here at home.
The lower tax rates, Ryan claims, will be paid for by closing loopholes and eliminating “tax expenditures” — only he reveals none of those that he would close. Studies show millionaires could give up all their tax deductions and still pocket a big tax break from the Ryan plan. By definition, middle class families will end up paying more — and will face the loss of tax deductions for mortgages, for employer-based health care, for state and local taxes and more. No wonder Ryan doesn’t want to reveal what’s behind the curtain.
Ryan then calls for cutting $4.6 trillion in spending over 10 years from projected levels. $2.5 trillion of that comes from repealing Obamacare and gutting Medicaid. That will leave, according to estimates of the Urban League and the Congressional Budget Office, 40 to 50 million more poor and middle-income Americans uninsured, even as the wealthy and multinationals pocket their tax breaks. In addition, Ryan promises to dismember Medicare 10 years from now, turning it into a voucher that will push more and more costs on seniors over time.
Ryan would cancel the “sequestration cuts” for the military over the next decade while cutting even more from domestic services. All domestic services — education, border patrol, workplace safety, food and drug monitoring, research and development, Head Start, infant nutrition, etc. — would be cut to levels not seen in modern times. Naturally, Ryan does not identify what would be cut.
His budget is expected to pass the House yet again even though there is no chance in the Senate and no chance that “Obamacare” will be repealed. Yet, he’s consistent which is more than we can say about Eric Cantor recently. You know Cantoe. ” Seldom he smiles, and smiles in such a sort s if he mock’d himself and scorn’d his spirit that could be moved to smile at any thing.”
Cantor seems newly pained by his reputation as an ideological roadblock. In Virginia, his favorable rating is twenty-seven per cent, a fact that makes a statewide run for office in the near future a dim prospect. Cantor explained why he argued at the retreat against using the debt ceiling as political leverage. He had been hearing from donors on Wall Street and in the business community about the potential impact on the markets. “Most people would say incurring debt at this point is allowing money for bills that you already incurred,” he said. “It’s to pay the bills.” Eight days earlier, at a press conference, Obama had made the same argument.
Besides, there were better fights to come. Conceding the debt-ceiling vote was a simple way for House Republicans to prevent the U.S. government from going into default, which would be disastrous for the economy here and abroad. It also meant they could save their leverage for the coming fight over the automatic spending cuts in the sequester. “We’re not trying to sit here and just obstruct,” Cantor said. “We’re trying to solve the problem, and we’ve been put in this position, I guess, perception-wise, that all we want to do is obstruct. So this is an attempt for us to get on firmer ground.”
To win over the right, House leaders promised three things. They would demand that the Democratic-controlled Senate write a formal budget, which Senate Democrats have avoided doing for several years; if the senators didn’t pass a budget, they wouldn’t get paid. Second, they promised conservatives that the cuts in the sequester would be kept intact or replaced with something equivalent. The final promise was far more daunting: Paul Ryan would write a budget that balanced within ten years. “Big goal,” Cantor said, and he sounded relieved that it wouldn’t be his job; Ryan’s last budget, which included severe spending cuts, didn’t promise to come into balance until the late twenty-thirties. “People were concerned that it took too long to balance,” Ryan said. To make the budget balance in a decade, the level of cuts will have to be extreme. Cantor may have led his colleagues out of the debt-ceiling canyon only to get them trapped in another one.
I pointed out that, because the fiscal-cliff deal included more than six hundred billion dollars in higher taxes over the next ten years, Ryan’s job might be a little easier. Cantor flashed a mischievous grin. “Irony!” he said.
Jan Moller with the Louisiana Budget Project said he fears a financial blow to the state’s most vulnerable citizens.
“At a bare minimum, a tax overhaul should not be an excuse to make the state’s poorest citizens pay more, and they would suffer the most from the governor’s proposal to raise sales taxes,” Moller said in a prepared statement.
Barfield said something will be proposed to offset any increase for low- and lower-middle-classes.
“They would be in no worse position than they are today,” Barfield said.
Barfield said the administration wants to encourage job creation and economic growth, which help elevate the poor.
One has to wonder how the national ambitions of these men jibe with voters given their agendas benefit very few people. I suppose the idea is to appease the big donors and hope that every one else just votes based on name recognition and glossy mailers. Still, Jindal’s popularity sits at 37%. As mentioned above, Cantor’s popularity sits at 27%. Ryan’s last poll was the election.
“This is the start of a new story of physics,” said Tony Weidberg, Oxford University physicist and a collaborator on the Atlas experiment.
“Physics has changed since July the 4th – the vague question we had before was to see if there was anything there,” he told BBC News.
“Now we’ve got more precise questions: is this particle a Higgs boson, and if so, is it one compatible with the Standard Model?”
The results reported at the conference – based on the entire data sets from 2011 and 2012 – much more strongly suggest that the new particle’s “spin” is zero – consistent with any of the theoretical varieties of Higgs.
“The preliminary results with the full 2012 data set are magnificent and to me it is clear that we are dealing with a Higgs boson, though we still have a long way to go to know what kind of Higgs boson it is,” said CMS spokesperson Joe Incandela.
As is often the case in particle physics, a fuller analysis of data will be required to establish beyond doubt that the particle is a Higgs of any kind. But Dr Weidberg said that even these early hints were compelling.
“This is very exciting because if the spin-zero determination is confirmed, it would be the first elementary particle to have zero spin,” he said.
“So this is really different to anything we have seen before.”
Even more data will be required to explore the question of more “exotic” Higgs particles.
This HuffPo article suggest that there will even be fewer Americans for those Republicans to fool in the future as religion in America hits new low!!
The number of Americans who claim to have no religious affiliation is the highest it has ever been since data on the subject started being collected in the 1930s, new research has found.
Sociologists from the University of California, Berkeley, and Duke University analyzed results from the General Social Survey and found that the number of people who do not consider themselves part of an organized religion has jumped dramatically in recent years.
Back in the 1930s and 1940s, the number of “nones” — those who said they were religiously unaffiliated — hovered around 5 percent, Claude Fischer, one of the researchers with UC Berkeley, told The Huffington Post. That number had risen to only 8 percent by 1990.
But since then, the number of people who don’t consider themselves part of a religion has increased to 20 percent.
No wonder Republicans want to tank public education. I’d say there’s a bit of intelligent life left here!
Finally, the Mars Rover “Curiosity” finds some astonishing things on Mars.
The verdict is in: Mars’s Gale Crater was habitable in its distant past, perhaps during the same period in which microbial life was establishing itself on Earth between 3 billion and 4 billion years ago.
That is the conclusion scientists have reached after NASA‘s Mars rover Curiosity analyzed the first sample ever culled from deep in a rock on another planet. Curiosity used a first-of-its-kind drill to extract the sample.
Now, only seven months into its mission – a period set aside primarily for testing the rover’s various instruments – Curiosity has already given researchers the answer to the broad, basic question they set out to answer: Did Mars ever host environments suitable for life?
The issue of habitability is “in the bag,” said John Grotzinger, a planetary geologist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., and the mission’s lead scientist, during a press briefing announcing the results on Tuesday.
The minerals in the tiny, gray, ground-rock sample exposed by Curiosity’s drill speak of abundant standing water, conditions neither too acidic or too alkaline for life, and the minerals that would have provided a ready energy source for microbes, if any had been there.
Wonder what Pat Robertson will say about this?
and what’s on your reading and blogging list today?