My internet has been acting strange lately, so I am writing this post on the fly and comments will be at a minimum.
First up, sad story from India, according to BBC News: School meal kills 22 in India’s Bihar state
At least 22 children have died and dozens more have fallen ill after eating lunch at a school in the eastern Indian state of Bihar.
The poisoning occurred in the village of Dharmasati Gandaman, 80km (50 miles) north of the state capital, Patna.
The free Mid-Day Meal Scheme aims to tackle hunger and boost attendance in schools, but suffers from poor hygiene.
Angry parents joined protests against the deaths, setting at least four police vehicles on fire.
An inquiry has begun and 200,000 rupees ($3,370) in compensation offered to the families of each of the dead.
Twenty-eight sick children were taken to hospitals in the nearby town of Chhapra after the incident and later were moved to Patna.
A total of 47 students of the primary school fell sick on Tuesday after eating the free lunch.
More deaths are possible as many of the kids are under the age of 12 and still in critical condition.
The state education minister, PK Shahi, told the BBC a preliminary investigation indicated that the food was contaminated with traces of phosphorous.
“The doctors who have attended are of the tentative opinion that the smell coming out of the bodies of the children suggests that the food contained organo-phosphorus, which is a poisonous substance,” he said.
“Now the investigators have to find out whether organo-phosphorus was accidental or there was some deliberate mischief.”
Earlier, doctors treating the patients had said “food poisoning” was the cause of the deaths.
“We suspect it to be poisoning caused by insecticides in vegetable or rice,” Amarjeet Sinha, a senior education official, told the BBC.
A doctor treating the children at a hospital in Patna said contaminated vegetable oil could have led to the poisoning.
Patna-based journalist Amarnath Tewary says villagers told local reporters that similar cases of food poisoning after having Mid-Day Meals had taken place in the area previously.
The horror of this story will only be more disturbing if it does turn out to be deliberate. I will keep you all up to date on the details as the day goes on.
Meanwhile, the Zimmerman Jury’s shitstorm has begun B37’s fellow jurors in Trayvon Martin trial bash her for leading country to believe spoke for them – NY Daily News
Four jurors in Trayvon Martin trial have issued a statement Tuesday night bashing B37 for going on TV and leading the country to believe she spoke for all of them.
Just moments after CNN aired part two of its interview with the juror known as B37, four of her fellow members on the six-woman jury issued a joint statement.
“We also wish to point out that the opinions of Juror B37, expressed on the Anderson Cooper show were her own, and not in any way representative of the jurors listed below.”
The jurors added, “We ask you to remember that we are not public officials and we did not invite this type of attention into our lives.”
More from LA Times: Zimmerman trial: 4 jurors say Juror B37 does not speak for them
The other four jurors also cited Florida law. “Serving on this jury has been a highly emotional and physically draining experience for each of us,” the statement signed by Jurors B51, B76, E6 and E40 said. “The death of a teenager weighed heavily on our hearts, but in the end we did what the law required us to do.”
It still makes me cringe to think Zimmerman got away with killing Martin, and not one charge was brought against him…aside from manslaughter…assault…battery…geez, stalking? I guess I am rambling but it still seems inconceivable to me that there are no criminal consequences for Zimmerman’s actions, which did result in the death of an unarmed young man.
Alright, here are some links from yesterday that you should check out.
There really isn’t any other word. Congressional Republicans are simply appalling. They have absolute control of the House. They set the agenda. They decide what comes to the floor. They decide what passes on to the Senate.
They know that extreme legislation isn’t going to be enacted into law. The Democratic majority in the Senate and the Democratic president stand in the way. So the legislation they choose to pass is a statement of their own values. It is simply designed to proclaim, “This is where we stand.” And for the vast majority of Americans, what they proudly proclaim is simply beyond the pale.
New blog post by Kurt Eichenwald: My Family, Our Cancer, and the Murderous Cruelty of Conservatives | Vanity Fair
My wife has breast cancer.
I write this, with her permission, while sitting in the hospital waiting room as she undergoes surgery. Afterward, there will be another surgery, radiation, and probably chemo, but what else might be in the offing is guesswork at this point. I’ll know more this afternoon, when the operation is over.
A comparison over at Juan Cole’s blog: Israel’s District 9: Its Biggest Ethnic Cleansing since 1948 | Informed Comment
30,000 Palestinian-Israelis of Bedouin heritage are are being forcibly transferred by the Israeli government, and thousands of acres of their land is being stolen from them.
The 972 article compares it to Apartheid South Africa’s District 6, the inspiration for the film, “District 9″
Tales from the Walmart inner circle: Four Angry Wal-Mart Workers, and Four Happy Ones
Last week, we brought you some true stories from Wal-Mart workers— stories that alarmed Wal-Mart so much that they (unsuccessfully) begged their employees to send us positive stories to balance them out. Since then, we’ve received many more, both good and bad. Here are some.
Note: Wal-Mart specifically solicited its employees to send us positive stories (and furthermore, one employee tells us, “Walmart does have an official policy on employees posting on social media and yes we *can* be fired for posting content the company doesn’t like”). Despite this, we’ve received a far greater number of negative than positive stories. Today, however, we’re posting an equal number of positive and negative stories. Take them as you will. They’re all revealing in their own way.
An interesting look at Latin America, considering the recent events surrounding Snowden and the “courtship” of his “affections“:
Opponents of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez stage a protest over a drawing of a gagged face during a march to commemorate the 53rd anniversary of the return of democracy after the 1958 coup in Caracas January 23, 2011. (Jorge Silvas/Reuters)
Around the turn of the millennium, prominent Latin America specialist Scott Mainwaring highlighted the surprising endurance of democracy in that region after the transition wave of the late 1970s and 1980s.During that interval, no democracy had permanently succumbed to a military coup or slid back into authoritarian rule. After decades marked by instability in numerous countries, especially Argentina, Bolivia, and Ecuador, this newfound democratic resilience came as a welcome surprise.
The recent suffocation of political pluralism in a whole group of countries is without precedent. For the first time in decades, democracy in Latin America is facing a sustained, coordinated threat. The regional trend toward democracy, which had prevailed since the late 1970s, has suffered a partial reversal. Unexpectedly, democracy is now on the defensive in parts of the region.
That is just a couple of paragraphs, go read the whole article…
There was a freaky story that you may have missed a couple of weeks ago, Mystery of Nazi Swastikas in the Forests – SPIEGEL ONLINE
Over 20 years ago, a landscaper in eastern Germany discovered a formation of trees in a forest in the shape of a swastika. Since then, a number of other forest swastikas have been found in Germany and beyond, but the mystery of their origins persist.
Blame it on the larches. Brandenburg native Günter Reschke was the first one to notice their unique formation, according to a 2002 article in the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper. To be more precise, however, it was the new intern at Reschke’s landscaping company, Ökoland Dederow, who discovered the trees in 1992 as he was completing a typically thankless intern task: searching aerial photographs for irrigation lines.
Instead, he found a small group of 140 larches standing in the middle of dense forest, surrounded by hundreds of other trees. But there was a crucial difference: all the others were pine trees. The larches, unlike the pines, changed color in the fall, first to yellow, then brown. And when they were seen from a certain height, it wasn’t difficult to recognize the pattern they formed. It was quite striking, in fact.
As he was dutifully accomplishing the task he had been given, the intern suddenly stopped and stared, dumbfounded, at the picture in his hand. It was an aerial view of Kutzerower Heath at Zernikow — photo number 106/88. He showed it to Reschke: “Do you see what this is?” But the 60-by-60 meter (200-by-200 foot) design that stood out sharply from the forest was obvious to all: a swastika.
Reschke is actually a fan of his native Uckermark region of northeastern Germany, extolling its gently rolling hills, lakes and woods, as the “Tuscany of the north.” But what the two men discovered in 1992 in that aerial photograph thrust this natural idyll into the center of a scandal.
This is one hell of a story, and at that Spiegel link there is a gallery of images that you need to see: Photo Gallery: Swastikas in the Woods – SPIEGEL ONLINE – International
The planting of swastika formations, like this one near the town of Asterode in the western state of Hesse, was popular among foresters throughout various regions of Nazi Germany. There were many swastikas in the forests surrounding Berlin until they were removed under Soviet occupation.
In this same wooded area of Asterode in Hesse, the numbers “1933,” the year Hitler came to power, were spelled out in larch trees across a backdrop of pine forest, bursting into color in autumn. The eyesores remained for a long time, until the early 1960s, when American occupying forces discovered the trees during an aerial reconnaissance flight and complained to the local government.
But it was not just trees in the forest that took the shape of Nazi symbolism, towns..buildings and other land formations that remained hidden until discovered by views from above…seriously, go and check that article out.
One more link in connection with this story above, Misreading ‘Eichmann in Jerusalem’ – NYTimes.com
The movie “Hannah Arendt,” which opened in New York in May, has unleashed emotional commentary that mirrors the fierce debate Arendt herself ignited over half a century ago, when she covered the trial of the notorious war criminal Adolf Eichmann. One of the pre-eminent political thinkers of the 20th century, Arendt, who died in 1975 at the age of 69, was a Jew arrested by the German police in 1933, forced into exile and later imprisoned in an internment camp. She escaped and fled to the United States in 1941, where she wrote the seminal books “The Origins of Totalitarianism” and “The Human Condition.”
It is easy to cite the ‘banality of evil.’ It is much more difficult to make sense of what Arendt actually meant.
When Arendt heard that Eichmann was to be put on trial, she knew she had to attend. It would be, she wrote, her last opportunity to see a major Nazi “in the flesh.” Writing in The New Yorker, she expressed shock that Eichmann was not a monster, but “terribly and terrifyingly normal.” Her reports for the magazine were compiled into a book, “Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil,” published in 1963.
The poet Robert Lowell proclaimed Arendt’s portrayal of Eichmann a “masterpiece,” a “terrifying expressionist invention applied with a force no imitator could rival.” Others excoriated Arendt as a self-hating Jew. Lionel Abel charged that Eichmann “comes off so much better in her book than do his victims.” Nearly every major literary and philosophical figure in New York chose sides in what the writer Irving Howe called a “civil war” among New York intellectuals — a war, he later predicted, that might “die down, simmer,” but will perennially “erupt again.” So it has.
The op/ed continues to explore reviews of the film, and how Arendt’s work is still causing controversy so many years since it was first published.
Lastly, big news in Atlanta this week, LUN LUN THE GIANT PANDA GIVES BIRTH TO TWINS!
Lun Lun, a 15-year-old giant panda, gave birth to twins on July 15, 2013. The first of the tiny duo arrived at 6:21 p.m., and its twin followed at 6:23 p.m. The cubs are the first giant pandas to be born in the U.S. in 2013 and the first twins to be born in the U.S. since 1987.
The babies are doing great and according to a news release today…are healthy and fine. Zoo Atlanta has a Panda Cam up and running, so I wanted to give you that link:
Tuesday, July 16
The panda team is tired and a little stressed, but happy! So far, both cubs are doing well. We are fortunate that both were born a healthy weight and strong. Sometimes one twin is very small. As you all know, Lun Lun is a fantastic mom, and she’s even more impressive this time. The cubs are being alternated with her, which is a technique first developed by our colleagues in Chengdu and used successfully for many cubs. Lun Lun is such a good mom, though, that she is reluctant to give up whichever cub she has. So, we have not been able to swap the cubs as frequently as we would like. Because of that, both have been supplemented with some formula. Both are doing well with this. Their condition and Lun Lun’s behavior will continue to guide our actions. The next few days are especially critical. So, please continue to keep us in your thoughts. We can use the good vibes!
Rebecca Snyder, PhD,
Curator of Mammals
There is so much information at that link to the Zoo Atlanta website, but I just want to add one more graphic which illustrates how amazing this little baby’s growth timeline really is:
Panda Developmental Timeline
Isn’t it wonderful?
Hope you have a fabulous day today, and try to stay cool out there. See you down in the comments, what are you reading and thinking about today?
I’m not sure if it’s the heat or the depressing news, but I’m having a hard time getting going this morning.
We’re into our third heat wave of the summer, and I’m actually getting acclimated to 90 degree weather; but I suppose it still has an effect on my body and mind.
I’m also somewhat depressed about the Zimmerman verdict and by the often ignorant reactions I see on-line and on TV.
Rachel and Trayvon
One bright spot in the coverage for me was Rachel Jeantel’s interview with Piers Morgan last night. She was real and authentic, and Morgan pretty much stayed out of the way and let her talk. I think she made a real impression on him and the reaction from the live audience was very positive too. It was refreshing. IMO, it says a lot about Travon Martin’s character that he had a friend like Rachel. I’m going to post the whole interview here in case you missed it or you want to watch it again.
Asked about what Trayvon Martin was like as a friend, Jeantel described him as a “calm, chill, loving person” and said she never saw him get “aggressive” or “lose his temper.” She said that the defense’s attempts to portray Martin as a “thug” were unfounded and defended his relatively mild drug use. “Weed don’t make him go crazy,” she said, “it just makes him go hungry.”
Jeantel also responded to the massive mockery she received in social media for the way she speaks, explaining that she was born with an under-bite that has made it difficult for her to speak clearly. When Morgan asked if she’d been bullied for her condition, she simply responded, “Look at me,” to laughter from the studio audience.
Morgan attempted to get Jeantel to offer her opinion of defense attorney Don West, who many claimed was condescending towards her when she was on the stand. Jeantel shook her head, declining to say anything bad about the man given her “Christian” upbringing.
In the second part of his interview with Jeantel, Morgan turned to the “creepy-ass cracker” comment she made and the major impact it had on the tenor of the case. She explained that the term is actually spelled “cracka” and defined it as “people who are acting like they’re police.” She said that if Zimmerman had calmly approached Martin and introduced himself, her friend would have politely said what he was doing there and nothing more would have happened.
Unlike the juror, Jeantel did think Zimmerman was racially motivated. “It was racial,” she said. “Let’s be honest, racial. If Trayvon was white and he had a hoodie on, would that happen?”
I’d also like to recommend this piece by Robin D.G. Kelley at Counterpunch: The US v. Trayvon Martin.
In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, Senator Rand Paul, Florida State Representative Dennis Baxley (also sponsor of his state’s Stand Your Ground law), along with a host of other Republicans, argued that had the teachers and administrators been armed, those twenty little kids whose lives Adam Lanza stole would be alive today. Of course, they were parroting the National Rifle Association’s talking points. The NRA and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the conservative lobbying group responsible for drafting and pushing “Stand Your Ground” laws across the country, insist that an armed citizenry is the only effective defense against imminent threats, assailants, and predators.
But when George Zimmerman fatally shot Trayvon Martin, an unarmed, teenage pedestrian returning home one rainy February evening from a neighborhood convenience store, the NRA went mute. Neither NRA officials nor the pro-gun wing of the Republican Party argued that had Trayvon Martin been armed, he would be alive today. The basic facts are indisputable: Martin was on his way home when Zimmerman began to follow him—first in his SUV, and then on foot. Zimmerman told the police he had been following this “suspicious-looking” young man. Martin knew he was being followed and told his friend, Rachel Jeantel, that the man might be some kind of sexual predator. At some point, Martin and Zimmerman confronted each other, a fight ensued, and in the struggle Zimmerman shot and killed Martin.
Zimmerman pursued Martin. This is a fact. Martin could have run, I suppose, but every black man knows that unless you’re on a field, a track, or a basketball court, running is suspicious and could get you a bullet in the back. The other option was to ask this stranger what he was doing, but confrontations can also be dangerous—especially without witnesses and without a weapon besides a cell phone and his fists. Florida law did not require Martin to retreat, though it is not clear if he had tried to retreat. He did know he was in imminent danger.
Why didn’t Trayvon have a right to stand his ground? Why didn’t his fear for his safety matter? We need to answer these questions as a society. Please read the whole article if you can.
Read the rest of this entry »
I thought tonight it would be good to bring you the cartoonists take on the verdict from Florida…
I will add two stories to these cartoons.
A woman was arrested Saturday after allegedly jumping on stage at a music festival and attacking a legendary musician after he dedicated a song to Trayvon Martin, according to police and eyewitnesses.
The woman, who police identified as 43-year-old Dinalynn Andrews Potter of Barstow, apparently yelled, “it’s all your fault” before shoving 73-year-old Lester Chambers, his family said Sunday.
“She had a crazed look in her eye,” said Kurt Kangas, a friend of Chambers who ran to his aid. “I saw the devil there.”
Chambers was performing at the Hayward Russell City Blues Festival downtown when around 5:15 p.m. he dedicated Curtis Mayfield’s hit “People Get Ready” to Martin, the 17-year-old shot and killed by George Zimmerman.
And this most awesome story from Pennsylvania: Shakesville: I Love This Story
Fifteen-year-old Temar Boggs of Lancaster, PA, rescued a little girl who’d been abducted from his neighborhood last Thursday night…
And as Melissa points out:
CNN has video of five-year-old Jocelyn Rojas’ grandmother Tracey Clay giving Temar Boggs ALL THE HUGS.
The suspect in the abduction, described as “a white male between 50 and 70 years old” has not yet been found.
The bravery and tenacity of this kid (and his friends). The decency. He almost certainly saved Jocelyn Rojas’ life, on his bike, chasing a car through a series of cul-de-sacs. Wow.
[Note: I realize that the timing of this story will inevitably underwrite the urge to make some kind of observation that juxtaposes this story with the Trayvon Martin case, but it would be very easy for that to lead to a thread that disappears Temar Boggs’ individual humanity, so let’s keep the focus on him and how he is SO AWESOME. Thanks.]
Anyway, here is the quote and interview from the local PA station:
Temar Boggs had a feeling he’d find the 5-year-old girl who was abducted Thursday in Lancaster Township.
He was right.
Boggs, a McCaskey freshman who lives in Gable Park Woods, had been hanging out with a friend at nearby Lancaster Arms apartments and helping move a couch when a man came by asking if they’d seen a missing girl.
They hadn’t, Boggs said, so they went to watch TV.
A short time later, his friend went outside and saw lots of police officers and people from the neighborhood looking for the girl.
Police said that the girl had been taken that afternoon from the 100 block of Jennings Drive.
Boggs and about six friends joined the search.“We got all of our friends to go look for her. We made our own little search party,” Boggs, 15, said Saturday, though he didn’t know the girl or her family.They walked through some nearby woods and along a creek where they were told the girl might have gone.When Boggs and his friends returned to Lancaster Arms on Jennings Drive, they saw more police officers and TV news crews.”The whole block was filled,” he said.
That’s when, Boggs said, “I had the gut feeling that I was going to find the little girl.”
A friend asked Boggs to hold his bike. Boggs figured the bike would help him search for the girl.
So he and another friend, Chris Garcia, rode on area streets — Michelle Drive, St. Phillips Drive, Gable Park Road — looking for her.
That’s when a maroon car caught his eye. (He had gotten a bit ahead of Garcia.)
The car was on Gable Park and turned around when it got near the top of a hill toward Millersville Pike, where Boggs said several police officers were gathered with the kind of cart used to carry an injured football player off the field.
The driver, an older white man, then began quickly turning onto and out of side streets connecting to Gable Park, Boggs said.
The neighborhood is something of a maze; many of its streets are cul-de-sacs.
Boggs got close enough to the car to see a little girl inside. Garcia was nearby.
The driver looked at Boggs and Garcia, then stopped the car at Gable Park and Betz Farm Road and pushed the girl out of the car. The driver then drove off, Boggs said.
Boggs said he didn’t see where the car went.
“She runs to my arms and said, ‘I need to see my mommy,’ ” Boggs said.
Boggs scooped the girl onto his shoulders and began riding the bike toward home, but then decided that wasn’t safe, so he carried her and walked back while Garcia pedaled along, guiding the bike Boggs had been using.
Back at Lancaster Arms, when Boggs and Garcia arrived with the girl, someone summoned a firefighter or law enforcement officer.
Boggs said the girl was reluctant to leave him and go to the official.
“She didn’t want to leave me because she thought they were going to do something to her. I said, ‘No, it’s OK,’ ” he said.
Police said later that the abductor took the little girl for ice cream, and that there were indications of an assault.
Boggs met the girl’s family Thursday evening, after he told police his story.
The girl’s family members “were just saying that I was a hero, that I was a guardian angel and that it was amazing that I was there and was able to find the girl,” he said.
Boggs doesn’t see himself as a hero.
“I’m just a normal person who did a thing that anybody else would do,” he said.
This is in open thread.
I will say only this, in a state where something like this happens: Fla. mom gets 20 years for firing warning shots
It is disgusting. I can’t say nothing more. Just to put this link with the reactions from Trayvon’s parents:
At 10:29, Tracy Martin tweeted:
Even though I am broken hearted my faith is unshattered I WILL ALWAYS LOVE MY BABY TRAY
At 11:07 pm, Sybrina Fulton tweeted:
Lord during my darkest hour I lean on you. You are all that I have. At the end of the day, GOD is still in control. Thank you all for your prayers and support. I will love you forever Trayvon!!! In the name of Jesus!!!
The rest of the links today are easy-going, it is just impossible to deal with anything else.
New old graves found in Poland: Vampire graveyard found in Poland?
Skeletons at the site in Gliwice. Photo: press materials of Regional Conservator of Monuments.
Four skeletons were found at the site, where mandatory digs were being carried out prior to the construction of a ring road.
In each case, the deceased had been buried with the head between the legs.
According to folk beliefs, this prevented a possible vampire from finding his or her way back to the land of the living.
There was no trace at the burial ground of any earthly possessions, such as jewellery, belts or buckles.
“It’s very difficult to tell when these burials were carried out,” archaeologist Dr Jacek Pierzak told the Dziennik Zachodni newspaper.
However, it is believed that they took place in the early modern period.
Tests are due to me made, so as to determine exact dates.
Archaeologists believe that the burials may have been done in such a fashion so as to protect locals from vampire attacks. Another theory is that the skeletons were the victims of cholera epidemic. Further research will be undertaken.
The last recorded instance of a vampire burial within current Polish borders was in the village of Stare Mierzwice, Masovia, in 1914. A corpse was dug up in the village, and the head was cut off and placed between the person’s legs.
There is a series at the Paris Review called: Windows On The World
A series on what writers from around the world see from their windows.
In the afternoon when the sun is blazing and in early evening when its orange hue allows me to stare into the horizon, I look out of this window in my office that opens into a terrace but offers a wider view. I see the palatial houses and imagine the few who live there in luxury. Then I think of the many who serve them—who hurl rolls of newspapers onto their porches, bring groceries, drive cars, sweep floors, toil in the sizzling kitchens. They dwell in shanty settlements ensconced within the affluent neighborhoods or live in crammed quarters in the backyards of these houses.
Before dusk I can look beyond the trees and catch a clear glimpse of the thin-looking white minarets of the Faisal Mosque, one elegant and expansive structure on the slopes of the Margalla Hills. These minarets remind me of the worst dictator we have had. He lies buried in the gardens of this mosque while we still struggle to rein in the beasts of ignorance and bigotry he unleashed.
Last week when it stopped raining after several hours, I decided to go beyond the window and walk across the terrace to look over the street from above. I saw a young girl squatting by a small puddle and folding paper into boats. An odd mix of intense sorrow and great hope enveloped my heart. —Harris Khalique
And here is another one…Sheila Heti, Toronto, Canada
Can you see that beautiful shrub? It has no bald patch, right? That’s because the shy, moustached, Portuguese man, who seems to live in that house alone, has spent the last six years standing in front of the hedge, where there was, for so many years, a bald patch. He’d stand before that patch, staring down at it for hours every day, even in the wintertime. When I’d come home from my errands and lock my bike to the pole, he would be there. When I went outside to check my mail, or if I looked up over my laptop, he would still be there.
At first I thought he was crazy. Then I began to think of him as more profound than other men. Why should we look at everything all around us? There is enough in a shrub.
This summer, the patch filled itself in. I guess he knew all along that it was not lacking water or fertilizer or chemicals or conversation. All it wanted was his attention. Now he stands at another empty patch.
I sit in a room lined with books, at a round, teak dining table, on the second (top) floor of a Victorian house. He stares at his shrub as I stare at my computer. His body faces me and mine faces him. Our bodies are opposite each other every day, and we stare at things, and wait for the emptiness to fill in. —Sheila Heti
Go and give those little stories a read, there are lots more at the link and I think you will enjoy them.
I have just one more link today…this should give many a laugh. Two Scenes from Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove, Recreated in Lego | Open Culture
Stanley Kubrick, among the many other skills that made him perhaps the best-known auteur of the second half of the twentieth century, could craft an immediately memorable scene. Moreover, he could construct entire films out of nothing but immediately memorable scenes. This goes especially for his Cold War black comedy Dr. Strangelove: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, whose fans tend to quote to each other not individual lines but entire five-, ten-, fifteen-minute stretches from the movie. One such oft-reenacted scene, the phone conversation in which President Merkin Muffley warns inebriated Premier Dimitri Kisov of the U.S. bombers headed toward Russia appears at the top of the post, in the original black-and-white, with the original voices of Peter Sellers, Peter Bull, and George C. Scott, and — with nothing in front of the camera but Lego bricks and Lego men.
The second video is the best one, and funny too.
Have a great day and please share what you are reading and blogging about this morning.
There’s been quite a bit of legal and courthouse news this week, so I’m going to focus on that today.
Yesterday was a big day at the Boston Federal Courthouse as the Whitey Bulger trial was briefly eclipsed by the first court appearance of Boston Bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. From The Boston Globe:
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev shuffled into the courtroom, appearing confident despite the ankle chains and an orange jumpsuit so big on him that it made him appear younger than his 19 years.
As federal prosecutors read the charges against him Wednesday in his first appearance since being captured in April, Tsarnaev repeatedly looked over his shoulder at the packed courtroom, at one point blowing a kiss to his sisters, one sobbing and another holding a baby.
He leaned into the microphone in the hushed courtroom to tell Judge Marianne B. Bowler with an accent that he pleaded not guilty to 30 charges, including use of weapons of mass destruction. More than 30 victims of the Marathon bombings and about a dozen supporters who say they believe Tsarnaev is innocent watched intently as the accused terrorist yawned and stroked the side of his face, which appeared swollen from a wound.
Tsarnaev, who could receive the death penalty, fidgeted in his seat as he listened to the charges, one of his attorneys patting him on the back gently several times. He had a visible scar just below his throat and had a cast on his left arm.
ABC News talked to survivors of the April 15 bombings who showed up to watch Tsarnaev’s court appearance.
Friends and family members of people whose lives were shattered when two homemade bombs went off near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15 packed three rooms in a federal courthouse on Wednesday as suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev pleaded not guilty to a 30-count indictment.
But the fleeting courtroom encounter brought little relief to Bostonians who said the 19-year-old —accused of conducting the deadly bombings with the help of his older brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev —showed little feeling.
“He came out and he smirked at the families,” said Ed Fucarile, 64, outside of the John Joseph Moakley federal courthouse along the water in South Boston. “The lawyers put their hands on his shoulders like it was going to be all right.”
Fucarile wore a Boston Strong t-shirt with the name of Marc Fucarile, his son who lost his right leg and still carries shrapnel in his body, the father said.
Marc Fucarile, 34, was standing near the second blast when it went off. He still has more surgeries to go, and has spent every day of the nearly three months since receiving medical care, his father said. Members of the family have taken weeks off work so that someone is always at Marc’s bedside, he said.
Read more survivors’ stories at the link.
At the Whitey Bulger trial, there was a bit of comic relief as Bulger flew into a rage toward the end of testimony and exchanged curses with his former close friend and partner Kevin Weeks. It was reminiscent of a scene from Sopranos.
Bulger’s lawyer, J.W. Carney, tried to portray Weeks as an opportunist who knew how to manipulate the system, someone who cut a deal with prosecutors to serve just five years in prison for aiding and abetting five killings, several of which, Weeks testified, he saw Bulger commit.
“You won against the system,” said Carney.
“What did I win? What did I win,” Weeks said, his voice sounding strained and tired. “Five people are dead.”
Asked whether that bothered him, Weeks shot back, “We killed people that were rats, and I had the two biggest rats right next to me …”
At that, Bulger turned and hissed, “You suck.”
“F— you, OK,” snapped Weeks.
“F— you, too,” shouted Bulger as the jury watched.
“What do you want to do?” said Weeks, his eyes locked on Bulger, who was flushed and staring right back.
At one point Weeks even threatened Carney, asking him if he’d like to step outside.
Weeks grew belligerent and threatening as Carney accused him of lying, challenged his motivation for cooperating, and suggested that Weeks, not Bulger, was a rat.
“You can’t rat on a rat,” said Weeks, adding that he lives in South Boston and walks the streets without being called a rat.
When Carney asked Weeks what he would do if someone did call him a rat, Weeks snapped that if he stepped outside the courthouse he’d show him.
Yesterday the testimony was even more grotesque and sickening, as forensic expert Ann Marie Mires testified about remains of murder victims Arthur Barrett, Deborah Hussey, John McIntyre, and Paul J. McGonagle. I’ll spare you the descriptions; you can go to the links and read more if you’re interested.
This morning Carney asked the judge for a break in the testimony so the defense team could catch up.
The defense team for James “Whitey” Bulger is asking the judge to suspend testimony until next week so they can catch up on evidence.
Defense attorney J.W. Carney filed the motion with the court on Thursday.
“Simply put, the defendant’s counsel have hit a wall, and are unable to proceed further without additional time to prepare for upcoming witnesses,” the motion reads. “Counsel have struggled mightily to be ready for each day of the trial since it began on June 3, 2013, working seven days a week and extraordinarily long hours.” [….]
“A major problem has been the delay in the receipt of discovery from the prosecution,” the motion reads, citing examples of receiving binders of documents pertaining to testimony to be given by witnesses the evening before they take the stand.
Yesterday defense teams rested in both the Bradley Manning and the George Zimmerman trials.
From the Guardian via Raw Story: Bradley Manning defense rests its case after calling just 10 witnesses
Having called just 10 witnesses over the space of three days, the defence phase of the trial was brought to a close far quicker than expected. The defence had indicated in earlier hearings that it intended to call more than 40 witnesses, although many may yet still be presented in court during the post-verdict sentencing stage of the court martial.
By contrast, the prosecution took 14 days to make its case, drawing on 80 witnesses.
On Wednesday, the defence team lead by the civilian lawyer David Coombs, focused its attentions on the most serious charge facing the Army private – that he “aided the enemy” by transmitting information to WikiLeaks knowing that it would be accessible to enemy groups notably al-Qaida. Manning faces a possible sentence of life in military custody with no chance of parole under this single charge.
The final defence witness called, the Harvard law professor Yochai Benkler, delivered blistering testimony in which he portrayed WikiLeaks as a legitimate web-based journalistic organisation. He also warned the judge presiding in the case, Colonel Denise Lind, that if the “aiding the enemy” charge was interpreted broadly to suggest that handing information to a website that could be read by anyone with access to the internet was the equivalent of handing to the enemy, then that serious criminal accusation could be levelled against all media outlets that published on the web.
Yesterday was quite a theatrical one in the Zimmerman trial, as a mannequin was brought into court and both a prosecutor and defense attorney Mark O’Mara got down on the floor and straddled the dummy in effort to act out what might have happened during an alleged altercation between Zimmerman and his victim Trayvon Martin.
As professional images go, what followed in the courtroom was probably not something for which Mark O’Mara would most like to be remembered.
Hitching up his pant legs and straddling a life-size human mannequin, Zimmerman’s lead defense counsel got down and dirty on the courtroom floor and proceeded to demonstrate for jurors the “ground and pound” move that they have been told Martin exerted on the accused.
Coming a day after he encouraged one of his witnesses, gym owner and mixed martial arts trainer Adam Pollack, to “step down from the stand to give me an example of a mounted position,” prostrating himself on the floor and asking Pollack, “Where do you want me?” the episode made for an awkward role play, leaving court observers snickering and biting their lips in the midst of an otherwise tragic plot.
Earlier in the day, prosecutor John Guy—described by one public observer in the courtroom on the trial’s opening day as “the supermodel of attorneys”—had also hopped on the mannequin for a similar demonstration in front of the all-female jury.
Later Judge Debra Nelson had a “testy exchange” with defense attorney Don West as she asked Zimmerman whether he planned to take the stand. Zimmerman seemed unsure, and West tried to step in.
West repeatedly challenged Nelson’s decision to press Zimmerman for a clear answer. The judge repeatedly slapped him down, her voice gathering volume every time.
“The court is entitled to ask Mr. Zimmerman about his determination as to whether he wants to testify,” Nelson insisted tersely after West objected to her line of questioning.
She looked back at Zimmerman: “How long do you think you need before you make that decision?” she inquired again, as the defendant—who had a minute earlier been made to raise his hand and swear under oath that any decision whether to testify would be his—turned to his counsel for help.
“I object to the court inquiring of Zimmerman about his intention to testify,” West whimpered for a second time.
“I object to the court inquiring of Zimmerman about his intention to testify,” West whimpered for a second time.
“And I have O-VER-RULED” Judge Nelson spat back—several times—as the objections kept coming.
Finally Zimmerman haltingly said he did not want to testify. I think he actually wanted to–if only. What a disaster that would have been for his attorneys! Closing arguments are scheduled to begin this afternoon.
In other news, I can’t resist sharing this article from Time Magazine about what former Russian spies think is probably happening to Edward Snowden in Russia.
In the summer of 1985, KGB colonel Oleg Gordievsky was called back to Moscow from the Soviet embassy in London, where he was serving as a resident spy. As a pretext, his commanders told him that he was going to receive an award for his service. But in fact the KGB suspected him of being a double agent — which he was — and they were looking to interrogate him. So upon his arrival, his KGB colleagues, still concealing their suspicions, took him to a comfortable country estate in the suburbs of the Russian capital, much like the one where Gordievsky and other former spies believe Edward Snowden, the NSA whistle-blower, has spent the past few weeks….
The official story coming from the Russian government since then is that Snowden has been holed up in the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, waiting for some third country to grant him asylum. But few experts or officials in Moscow still believe that to be true. The accepted wisdom, unofficially acknowledged by most Western and Russian sources, is that Snowden was taken soon after his arrival — if not immediately — to a secure location run by some arm of the Russian government.
Experts and former spies who have dealt with the Russian security services are sure that agents would want to get the encryption keys to the data stored on Snowden’s four laptops. The only way to do that would be to get Snowden to give them up.
So Gordievsky believes Snowden would have gotten roughly the same treatment that the KGB spy got back in 1985. “They would have fed him something to loosen his tongue,” Gordievsky says by phone from the U.K., where he has been living in exile for nearly three decades. “Many different kinds of drugs are available, as I experienced for myself.” Having been called back to Moscow, Gordievsky says his KGB comrades drugged him with a substance that “turned out his lights” and made him “start talking in a very animated way.” Although the drug wiped out most of his memory of the incident, the parts he did recollect horrified him the following morning, when he woke up feeling ill. “I realized that I had completely compromised myself,” he says.
One of the substances the KGB used for such purposes at the time was called SP-117, which is odorless, tasteless and colorless, according Alexander Kouzminov, a former Russian intelligence operative who describes the drug’s effectiveness in his book, Biological Espionage. Now living in New Zealand, Kouzminov worked in the 1980s and early 1990s for the Foreign Intelligence Service, the spy agency known as the SVR, which handles undercover agents, or “illegals,” stationed in foreign countries. In his book, Kouzminov writes that various drugs were used periodically to test these operatives for signs of disloyalty or diversion. Once the drug had worn off, the agents would have no recollection of what they had said and, if their test results were satisfactory, they could be sent back into the field as though nothing had happened.
Yesterday, Snowden announced through Glenn Greenwald that “I never gave any information to Chinese or Russian governments.” I guess he assumes that Chinese and Russian officials don’t read The Guardian, The Washington Post, or the South China Morning Post. Anyway now it’s not clear if he would even remember if he gave them anything.
For all you Snowden and Greenwald fans out there, this information comes from an article in Time Magazine based on interviews with people who have actual experience with the ways Russia deals with spies. Don’t shoot the messenger.