Before I get started on the news, I need to ask our readers for a little help. We need about $50.00 to pay WordPress for upkeep on the blog–for our design and extra storage space, that kind of thing. We’d be very grateful if some of our readers would kick in just a small amount to help us pay our bills. If you can spare a few bucks, please click on the “Make a Donation” button down below on the right. Thanks for whatever you can do.
Now that that’s out of the way, on to the news of the day.
A Change in the Weather
Mother Nature has decided to be kind to those of us who are sick and tired of being so cold. There’s a warming trend on the way! From the Weather Channel, January Thaw: Weather Pattern Change to Erase Arctic Blast.
While weather patterns can get “locked in” for lengthy periods of time, one thing is for sure: Change will occur if you wait long enough. If you’re sick of bone-chilling temperatures, you’re in luck. A thaw is now taking shape thanks to a large-scale weather pattern change.
Wednesday morning was the last hurrah for the worst of the cold, with subzero readings again over the Great Lakes as well as parts of the interior Northeast.
A temperature moderation began Wednesday and will accelerate Thursday into Friday.
Our Friday forecast high temperature compared to average map shows that much of the Plains, Rockies and West will be engulfed by above-average temperatures. Some cities, including Omaha, Nebraska and Fargo, North Dakota, could be 10 to 20 degrees above mid-January averages.
The above-average warmth will spread to the East Coast over the weekend.
Read more and watch a video at the link. For the Boston area, it means that for the next 10 days it will be in the 30s and 40s instead of the ‘teens and single numbers. I hope you’ll get warmer days where you live too!
Boston Olympics Update
On Saturday, I wrote an anguished post about a the Olympic Committee submitting Boston as the U.S. location for the Summer Olympics in 2024. I think this would be a disaster for the city I love. Today The Boston Globe reported on the organized opposition to bringing the Olympics here.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and the Olympic bidding group Boston 2024 have said they believe the majority of the public supports holding the 2024 Summer Games in the Hub. With little public polling on the issue to this point, it’s hard to judge whether that’s the case.
But if No Boston Olympics, the group leading the opposition to the city’s bid, does represent a minority, it showed that it plans to be a vocal one at a public meeting it held in the Back Bay Tuesday night. More than 100 people attended the meeting at the First Church in Boston.
The meeting featured a talk by sports economist and Smith College professor Andrew Zimbalist.
Zimbalist, who has written extensively on the lack of economic benefits sporting events like the Olympics bring to cities and countries, scoffed at the idea that Boston’s bid can be done on a $4.5 billion budget for operating expenses, and said he was skeptical that the budget can be entirely privately financed (as is proposed by Boston 2024). Boston 2024 also says public money would go toward infrastructure and security.
Zimbalist discussed some of the hidden expenses to hosting the Olympics, including the loss of advertising revenue on the MBTA during the Olympics. (The International Olympic Committee has historically required control of advertising space in the host city during and around the Olympics. An example of host city requirements built into the bidding process can be seen here, from page 213 on.) He also said that construction costs can go up if planning falls behind at all, because projects may need to be done in a rush as the Games approach.
“It’s one thing to have a nice idea and say the private sector is going to cover this,” he said. “It’s another thing to have hard contracts.”
On possibility the group is considering is getting a question on the ballot in 2016. This has worked in some cities in the past.
In other cities across the country and the world, opposition groups to Olympic bids have gone directly to the voters. Bids for the 2022 Winter Olympics lost in referendums in Poland and Switzerland.
Perhaps most famously, Colorado voted not to put any state money toward a 1976 Denver Winter Olympics bid. At the time of the bid, Colorado had already been awarded the games for that year by the IOC. But voters said no, leaving the IOC high and dry and in need of a new host. (It got one, in Innsbruck, Austria.) [….]
But going to the voters is not the only method opposition groups have used to oppose the games. A referendum in Oslo, Norway, over whether to host the 2022 Games passed in 2013. Even so, that bid was eventually dropped as the public soured on the idea over the course of the next year. And in Chicago’s bid for the 2016 Games, the Windy City’s opposition group had the opportunity to meet with the IOC and voice its concerns. The IOC ended up choosing Rio, Brazil. It’s also possible the Olympic bid could turn into a 2016 state elections issue.
How do voters feel about the Olympics coming here?
Public opinion polling on the Boston bid has been pretty sparse, but in a survey of likely Massachusetts voters earlier this year, The Boston Globe found 47 percent support for pursuing a bid, with 43 percent against. When asked if they supported taxpayer money going to funding the games, 64 percent of respondents were against the idea, though.
So there is a realistic chance of preventing what I believe would be a terrible mistake.
Boko Harum Attacks
I thought I’d follow up on Dakinikat’s post from Monday, in which she called out the hypocrisy the media and cultural elites for expressing faux outrage over the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris, while basically ignoring the horrific Boko Harum attacks in Nigeria. Other writers around the internet also noted the disparity in coverage; and several days later, the corporate media has begun to call more attention to the Nigerian situation.
Charred ground and cinders mark the sites where once thousands of homes stood. That’s according to a series of satellite images released Thursday by Amnesty International, which the rights group said shows the “horrific scale” of the devastation wrought by Boko Haram militants.
As they’ve trickled out, accounts of the bloody attackson the northern Nigerian town of Baga and surrounding villages have shocked even those all too used to reports of violence by Boko Haram militants.
Witnesses told how the attackers sped into the town on January 3 with grenade launchers — their gunfire and explosions shattering the early morning calm. Some terrified residents fled, while others took refuge in their homes — and were torched with them.
Local officials reported death tolls ranging from hundreds to as many as 2,000 people. But authorities have yet to access the remote area near the border with Chad to get a full picture.
View the before and after satellite images at the CNN link. Tens of thousands of people have been displaced by the attacks.
Of the 30,000 people displaced during the latest attacks, 20,000 camped in Maiduguri city, capital of Borno state, while another 10,000 headed to Monguno town, nearer Baga. Others were stranded on Kangala Island on Lake Chad.
“These people are adding to the hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people and refugees, who have already stretched the capacity of host communities and government authorities,” Amnesty International said….
Boko Haram has terrorized northern Nigeria regularly since 2009, attacking police, schools, churches and civilians, and bombing government buildings.
It has also kidnapped students, including more than 200 schoolgirls who were abducted in April — and remain missing.
NBC Nightly News reported on Boko Haram’s apparent use of the kidnapped girls as unwitting suicide bombers.
Three suicide bombings by girls aged as young as 10 suggest that Nigeria’s Boko Haram has employed a new tactic of forcing abducted children to blow themselves up, according to experts.
The Islamist sect has been carrying out almost daily killings and kidnappings across northeast Nigeria in a campaign of violence now in its sixth year. Deadly attacks on Saturday and Sunday were carried out by three young female suicide bombers.These came just days after a week-long killing spree by Boko Haram, in which the group torched at least 10 towns leaving around 2,000 people unaccounted for. Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday called the attack “a crime against humanity.”It is not clear if the girls were coerced or were even aware they were strapped with explosives, which may have been detonated remotely. But experts say that Boko Haram appears to be using the children it kidnaps — such as the 276 Chibok girls who sparked the #BringBackOurGirls social media campaign — and using them as a readily available supply of suicide bombers.
“It is highly likely that Boko Haram is conscripting young girls to use as suicide bombers,” said Elizabeth Donnelly, assistant head of the Africa program at London’s Chatham House think tank. She told NBC News that these conscripts were little more than “slaves fed by countless abductions since the crisis started.”
Boko Haram roughly translates to “Western education is sinful.” The group aims to create its own state based on strict Islamic law.
At Huffington Post, Okello Kelo Sam wrote about the #RememberOurGirls twitter campaign, Amid Boko Haram’s Latest Killings: I Vow to #RememberOurGirls.
Eight months is a long time. Long enough for international outrage to rise, fall and fade away. That’s how long it’s been since Boko Haram militants stormed a secondary school in the northeastern village of Chibok in Borneo State, abducting more than 200 still-missing teenage girls.
A global Twitter campaign – #BringBackOurGirls – caught fire with the help of US First Lady Michelle Obama, former US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, UK Prime Minister David Cameron and, most importantly, millions of global hashtag activists. They focused the world’s attention on the girls, leading to support from the US, UK, France, Canada, China, Iran and Israel, reportedly in the form military intelligence and special forces…..
Meanwhile, the international efforts to recover the girls failed. So did several rounds of negotiations to exchange the girls for the release of captured Boko Haram fighters held in Nigerian jails….
Sam himself was a victim of the violence in Africa. He was abducted and forced to be a child soldier in Uganda. He was able to escape, but later his younger brother was also forced into combat with Joseph Kony’s group and lost his life.
Yes, I lost my brother. But I never lose hope. I do, however, fear hope for the Nigerian girls is slipping away, internationally. Media tickers marking the days since their abduction have disappeared from front pages, web pages and broadcast reports. Sometimes I wonder: Does anyone still remember the 219 missing girls?
They do in Abuja. Every day the Bring Back Our Girls demonstrators – which fueled the hashtag campaign – rally at Unity Fountain in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital. Families of the missing girls, neighbors, and fellow countrymen congregate and chant the now-familiar mantra: “Bring back our girls.” [….]
It’s easy to naysay advocacy efforts like #BringBackOurGirls as “slacktivism.” After four million Tweets, the 219 girls have not been rescued. So what’s the point, right? Wrong. Until a social-media savvy Nigerian lawyer, Ibrahim Abdullahi, came up with #BringBackOurGirls, there was a practical media blackout of the abductions.
Had it not been for this social media campaign I wonder if anyone outside of Africa would know about the Chibok girls? Would the story have lasted more than one news cycle in the West? Would you be reading this now?
No, social media won’t return the girls. But it got my attention and probably yours. It’s been said by the demonstrators what is needed is a renewed campaign to once again gain mindshare of a distracted world. Mine is one voice of millions demanding the girls’ rescue. But I stand in solidarity with those at Unity Fountain and declare this My 2015 Resolution: I will #RememberOurGirls.
Please go read the whole article at HuffPo. Today, I resolve to remember those lost girls.
In Other News . . .
Global Research, FBI Thwarts Terror Plot on Capitol (That They Planned).
What stories are you following today? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a tremendous Thursday!
Ray Manzarek, who as the keyboardist and a songwriter for the Doors helped shape one of the indelible bands of the psychedelic era, died on Monday at a clinic in Rosenheim, Germany. He was 74.
The cause was bile duct cancer, according to his manager, Tom Vitorino. Mr. Manzarek lived in Napa, Calif.
Mr. Manzarek founded the Doors in 1965 with the singer and lyricist Jim Morrison, whom he would describe decades later as “the personification of the Dionysian impulse each of us has inside.” They would go on to recruit the drummer John Densmore and the guitarist Robby Krieger.
Mr. Manzarek played a crucial role in creating music that was hugely popular and widely imitated, selling tens of millions of albums. It was a lean, transparent sound that could be swinging, haunted, meditative, suspenseful or circuslike. The Doors’ songs were generally credited to the entire group. Long after the death of Mr. Morrison in 1971, the music of the Doors remained synonymous with the darker, more primal impulses unleashed by psychedelia. In his 1998 autobiography, “Light My Fire,” Mr. Manzarek wrote: “We knew what the people wanted: the same thing the Doors wanted. Freedom.”
It’s difficult to describe how powerfully I was affected by The Doors’ sound back in January 1967. I was 19 years old, a sophomore at Ball State University in Muncie Indiana.
I had purchased their first album in the college bookstore on a whim–based simply my intuitive response to the cover art. I had never heard of the group–their music wasn’t being played on AM radio, that’s for sure.
I bought a lot of albums “sound unheard” in those days–a new kind of music was being born and the powers that be in radio didn’t know what to make of it yet.
When I got home, I put the LP on my cheap stereo record player and sat on my bed to listen. As soon as I heard the sound of Manzarek’s “piano bass” on “Break on Through to the Other Side” and his amazing organ intro and solo on “Light My Fire,” I was transfixed. This was really something new and unique. It’s not an exaggeration to say that music changed my life.
Along with Bob Dylan, Frank Zappa, Jack Kerouac, and a few other musical and literary influences, The Doors music helped me begin to realize that I was not alone, despite my sense of being out-of-place in my dull Midwestern town–there were other people out in the world who were like me, who didn’t want to accept the status quo in those days, who didn’t want to settle for the unexamined life. Little did I know as I listed to those songs that I would be living in Boston just a few short months later–a place where so much was happening, where so many other young people were opening up to new ways of being, thinking, and feeling.
I guess that sounds pretty corny now, but it’s the truth. The late 1960s was a time of real change, when “the doors of perception” really did begin to open and a different world began to form.
Back to the Times obituary of Manzarek:
The quasi-Baroque introduction Mr. Manzarek brought to the Doors’ 1967 single “Light My Fire“ — a song primarily written by Mr. Krieger — helped make it a million-seller. Along with classical music, Mr. Manzarek also drew on jazz, R&B, cabaret and ragtime. His main instrument was the Vox Continental electric organ, which he claimed to have chosen, Mr. Vitorino said, because it was “easy to carry.”
The Doors’ four-man lineup did not include a bass player; onstage, Mr. Manzarek supplied the bass lines with his left hand, using a Fender Rhodes piano bass, though the band’s studio recordings often added a bassist.
Mr. Densmore said, via e-mail: “There was no keyboard player on the planet more appropriate to support Jim Morrison’s words. Ray, I felt totally in sync with you musically. It was like we were of one mind, holding down the foundation for Robby and Jim to float on top of. I will miss my musical brother.”
From the Detroit Free Press: Ray Manzarek’s keyboards opened musical doors
It was the iconoclastic makeup of The Doors that helped make them a success from the monster debut of the group’s self-titled 1967 album.
There was Morrison’s otherworldly howl, Krieger’s Spanish-influenced guitar work, Densmore’s subtle, jazz-infused drumming and perhaps most striking of all, Manzarek’s keyboard, which did triple-duty as lead instrument, accompanying instrument and the band’s lone bass sound. Together, the group recorded numerous multiplatinum albums and had hits with “L.A. Woman,” “Break On Through to the Other Side,” “The End” and the Manzarek showcase, “Light My Fire.”
“You just can’t imagine ‘Light My Fire’ without Manzarek’s organ,” says Andy Greene, associate editor of Rolling Stone. “He was unquestionably one of the best rock keyboardists ever. But more than that, he was proud of the band’s legacy (after Morrison’s 1971 death in Paris). The Doors came back in a big way in the ’80s and Ray was mainly the one carrying the flame.”
Greg Harris, CEO of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, of which Manzarek was an inductee and at whose ceremonies he was a frequent performer, said the organist was “instrumental in shaping one of the most influential, controversial and revolutionary groups of the ’60s, (which owes) much to Manzarek’s innovative playing.”
For many fans and musicians alike, The Doors’ brooding and sometimes dark sound crystallized the experimental rock music emanating from Los Angeles, which stood in stark contrast to the lighter, soaring sound coming out of the San Francisco Bay Area that was typified by the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane.
In other news,
MOORE, Oklahoma — Officials lowered the death toll to two dozen this morning as emergency crews continued to search feverishly for survivors in the rubble of homes, schools and a hospital in an Oklahoma City suburb ravaged by a powerful Monday afternoon tornado.
Officials in Oklahoma City said on Tuesday that 24 bodies were recovered after a 2-mile wide tornado tore through Moore, a sharp decline from the 51 deaths they previously reported.
“We have got good news. The number right now is 24,” said Amy Elliott, chief administrative officer at the Oklahoma City Medical Examiner’s Office. The prior figure of 51 dead may have included some double-reported casualties, Elliott said.
“There was a lot of chaos,” Elliott said.
She cautioned that additional bodies could yet be recovered from the rubble.
At least 60 of the injured are children. Obviously, this story is far from over. I’ll update in the comments thread as I learn more–and please add what you hear as well! But it does sound like good news that there may be more survivors of this incredible storm than authorities originally believed.
More surprising (and disappointing) news breaking… From the BBC: Guatemala annuls Rios Montt’s genocide conviction
Guatemala’s top court has thrown out the conviction for genocide and crimes against humanity of former military leader Efrain Rios Montt.
The constitutional court ruled that the trial should restart from the point where it stood on 19 April.
On 10 May, Gen Rios Montt was convicted of ordering the deaths of 1,771 people of the Ixil Maya ethnic group during his time in office in 1982-83.
The 86-year-old was sentenced to 80 years in prison. He denies the charges.
The three-to-two ruling by a panel of constitutional judges annuls everything that has happened in the trial since 19 April, when Gen Rios Montt was briefly left without a defence lawyer.
The defence team had walked out of the court on the previous day in protest at what they called “illegal proceedings”.
The New York Times reports:
The decision by Guatemala’s Constitutional Court was a dramatic legal victory for General Ríos Montt, 86, and a blow to human rights advocates who had called his conviction a sign that Guatemala’s courts would no longer allow impunity for the country’s powerful.
General Ríos Montt was sent to prison immediately after the verdict on May 10 when a three-panel tribunal found him guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity. He was sentenced to 80 years in prison but was soon transferred to a military hospital for medical tests. Monday’s decision means that he will return to house arrest, where he had been held since the case against him began in January 2012.
The additional effects of Monday’s court ruling were unclear. The court did not invalidate the entire trial, which began on March 19. Instead, the court ordered that the proceedings be rolled back and reset to April 19, when a complex decision by another judge sent the trial into disarray, causing a brief suspension….Legal experts said repeating the final days of the trial before the same tribunal would be unlikely because it would amount to a form of double jeopardy for the general. But it was unclear if the rest of the trial would remain in limbo or could be restarted before a new tribunal.
General Ríos Montt was found to be responsible as commander in chief for a series of massacres and rapes and the forced displacement of the Maya-Ixil ethnic group during his 17-month rule in 1982 and 1983. During a month of prosecution testimony, the court heard wrenching descriptions by survivors of the army’s scorched-earth policy through the hamlets of the Mayan highlands.
I’ve long been appalled by the FBI’s use of elaborate sting operations to entrap hapless men in Muslim communities in the U.S. who would never have thought of or have been able to commit a terrorist act on their own. Here’s one recent example. In fact, I suspect that the Boston Marathon bombings may have resulted from the FBI’s targeting of accused bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
I recently read a book on this subject by reporter Trevor Aaronson called The Terror Factory, and I highly recommend it. According to Aaronson, there have been hundreds of convictions of American Muslims for supposedly planning “terrorist attacks,” but only a few of those involved actual attempted terrorist attacks. The rest were operations in which the FBI sought out a vulnerable person, provided the know-how, the plans, an the (fake) weapons. In many cases these men were very reluctant and had to be really pushed by the FBI “informants” who targeted them.
There have also been reports of the NYPD using similar tactics, and yesterday the AP focused on those efforts in one of their “big stories,” a report from an ongoing NYC trial.
A New York Police Department detective told a federal judge that he’s seen no evidence that one of his informants brought up the subject of jihad as a way to bait Muslims into making incriminating remarks. But text messages obtained by The Associated Press show otherwise.
And while the detective, Stephen Hoban, described the activities in a new legal filing in U.S. District Court as narrowly focused on a few people under investigation, text messages show a wide-ranging effort. Eager to make money, Shamiur Rahman, the informant, snapped pictures during prayer sessions, rallies and a parade; recorded the names of people who signed petitions or protested; and reported fellow Muslims who volunteered to feed needy families.
When the detective responded, his text messages nearly always sought more information:
“Did you take pictures?”
“I need pictures from the rally. And I need to know who is there.”
Rahman told the AP last year that he made about $9,000 over nine months spying widely on friends and others. He said the NYPD encouraged him to use a tactic called “create and capture.” He said it involved creating conversations about jihad or terrorism, then capturing the responses and sending them to the NYPD.
I wonder how many other large city police departments are emulating the FBI in this way? Could Boston be next? I sure hope not.
I’ll end there, and throw the floor open to your contributions. What stories are you following today?
Ruslan Tsarni, pictured above talking to reporters, is brother to Ansor Tsarnaev and uncle to Ansor’s sons Dzhokhor and Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Another brother, Alvi Tsarni, lives fairly close to Ruslan. At some point Ruslan and Alvi had their surnames legally changed.
As you can see from the photo above, Ruslan Tsarni lives in a rather stately, expensive-looking home. He has been identified in news reports as “a corporate lawyer and oil company executive.”
I’ve been floating around Twitter, Google, and Facebook for the past few days, mainly trying to find out anything I can about the mysterious “Misha,” who supposedly influenced Tamerlan Tsarnaev beginning some time in 2010.
I don’t want to get into too much in the way of conspiracy theory, so I’m just going to lay out the facts that are being reported around the internet and let the chips fall where they may. I really don’t know what it all means–maybe nothing–but there are certainly some interesting connections coming out.
I’ll get to the “Misha” story a little later; first some background on Uncle Ruslan, who has some “spooky” connections (pun intended). Daniel Hopsicker, who is somewhat eccentric but IMHO an excellent researcher and writer, has dug up some very suggestive stuff about Ruslan Tsarni. I got some additional information from this post at Democratic Underground.
The uncle of the two men who set off bombs at the Boston Marathon, who struck the only grace note in an otherwise horrific week, worked as a “consultant” for the Agency for International Development (USAID) a U.S. Government Agency often used for cover by agents of the CIA, in the former Soviet Republic of Kazakhstan during the “Wild West” days of the early 1990’s, when anything that wasn’t nailed down in that country was up for grabs.
“Uncle Ruslan” Tsarni of Montgomery Village Md., whose name was the top trending topic worldwide on Twitter last Friday for his plain-spoken condemnation of his two nephews, has had a checkered business career, that began well before he graduated (as Ruslan Z Tsarnaev) from Duke Law School in 1998.
Tsarni was also a Halliburton contractor:
Ruslan’s involvement with USAID, while suggestive, might still be irrelevant, were it not for the discovery of his decade-long involvement with companies in the orbit of the Sun God, Halliburton, which stands accused in numerous and increasingly-credible accounts as “lead dog” in an invading force of “non-state actors.”
All of this, mind, was in support of a noble cause. We were fighting communism. No, wait? We weren’t anymore.
Still, we must have been fighting something. Wait. It’ll come to me…Maybe it was a push to weaken Russia’s grip over former Soviet Republics. That sounds like an admirable goal. Alas, the means chosen to achieve it involved providing covert U.S. support, in Chechnya, to Islamic terrorists.
Haven’t we all already see that movie? No one with a functioning heart could be anxious to see it again. But, wait! Does Dick have a functioning heart?
Hopsicker has a pretty colorful writing style, and you can read all the details at his blog, but briefly, in 2005 Ruslan Tsarni went to work for Big Sky Energy (a Halliburton subsidiary) as Vice President, Business Development & Corporate Secretary. Before that Tsarni worked for two other Halliburton-connected companies, Nelson Resources and Golden Eagle Partners.