It’s Groundhog Day, and Punxsutawny Phil says spring will come early this year.
An end to winter’s bitter cold will come soon, according to Pennsylvania’s famous groundhog.
Following a recent stretch of weather that’s included both record warm temperatures and bitter cold, tornadoes in the South and Midwest and torrential rains in the mid-Atlantic, Punxsutawney Phil emerged from his lair Saturday in front of thousands but didn’t see his shadow.
Legend has it that if the furry rodent sees his shadow on Feb. 2 on Gobbler’s Knob in west-central Pennsylvania, winter will last six more weeks. But if he doesn’t see his shadow, spring will come early.
Do you ever get the feeling the U.S. is becoming an armed camp? On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on gun violence at which two loony right wingers–Crazy Wayne LaPierre of the NRA and attorney Gayle Trotter–were permitted to dominate the proceedings with their bizarre defenses of assault weapons.
Three days later, the gunman in Alabama is still in his homemade bunker with his 5-year-old hostage. CNN: Authorities tight-lipped as standoff over child hostage enters 5th day
As an armed standoff entered its fifth day Saturday, authorities negotiated through a ventilation pipe with a man accused of barricading himself and a 5-year-old hostage in an underground bunker in southeastern Alabama.
Police have been tight-lipped about a possible motive since the hostage drama began unfolding in Midland City with the shooting of school bus driver and the abduction of the 5-year-old.
In a sign of perhaps how tense negotiations are between authorities and the suspect, officials have refused to detail what, if any, demands have been made by the suspect.
On Friday, the Dale County sheriff did confirm what neighbors have been saying and news outlets around Midland City have been reporting since the standoff began — the suspected gunman’s identity.
He is Jimmy Lee Dykes, 65, a Vietnam veteran and retired truck driver who moved to the area about five years ago.
One of Dykes’ next-door neighbors said the suspect spent two or three months constructing the bunker, digging into the ground and then building a structure of lumber and plywood, which he covered with sand and dirt.
Neighbor Michael Creel said Dykes put the plastic pipe underground from the bunker to the end of his driveway so he could hear if anyone drove up to his gate. When Dykes finished the shelter a year or so ago, he invited Creel to see it — and he did.
“He was bragging about it. He said, ‘Come check it out,” Creel said.
He said he believes Dykes’ goal with the standoff is to publicize his political beliefs.
“I believe he wants to rant and rave about politics and government,” Creel said. “He’s very concerned about his property. He doesn’t want his stuff messed with.”
The kindergartner whom Dykes is holding hostage has been heard crying for his parents, who say he has Asperger’s syndrome and ADHD. Dykes’ neighbors say that he has enough supplies to stay in the bunker for an extended period of time.
In Phoenix, a second shooting victim has died of his wounds. New York Newsday reports:
Mark Hummels, 43, had been on life support at a Phoenix hospital after Wednesday morning’s shooting that killed a company’s chief executive and left a woman with non-life threatening injuries.
Hummels died Thursday night, a publicist for his law firm told The Associated Press early Friday.
Colleagues of Hummels described him as a smart, competent and decent man who was a rising star in his profession and dedicated to his wife, 9-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son.
Hummels had worked as a reporter until 2001 when he returned to school to become an attorney.
Hummels worked with the Phoenix law firm Osborn Maledon with some support from the Hastings law firm in Houston and focused on business disputes, real estate litigation and malpractice defense. He died Thursday night, publicist Athia Hardt told The Associated Press early Friday.
He was a reporter for the Albuquerque Journal and Santa Fe New Mexican before he left to go to law school in 2001. He graduated first in his class at the University of Arizona’s law school.
Santa Fe New Mexican editor Rob Dean said in a statement Friday that Hummels “was an accomplished journalist and an even better person. He had the intelligence to understand difficult problems and a hunger to do important work.”
Hummels was admitted to the Arizona bar in 2005.
The body of the alleged shooter, Arthur Douglas Harmon was found dead on Thursday, apparently having shot himself with a handgun.
Mayor Greg Stanton vowed Friday that the bloodshed will not define his city.
“This is not the norm,” Stanton said hours after the latest of three Phoenix shootings that, combined, left at least four people dead. “It’s a tragic set of circumstances. These incidents are an aberration. But these tragedies will not define the city of Phoenix.”
The three days of bloodshed left Stanton more convinced than ever that a comprehensive approach to gun control is needed, combined with stronger mental-health laws and improved community policing.
The three incidents and the motives behind the violence were unrelated: a dispute over a civil lawsuit, a possible drug transaction and a drive-by shooting that may have been gang-related.
Details at the link. Good luck to the Mayor of Phoenix getting any gun regulations passed in Arizona.
Yesterday President Obama handed more ammunition to Republicans in their ongoing war on women. From Wonkblog: The White House’s contraceptives compromise.
The Obama administration proposed broader latitude Friday for religious nonprofits that object to the mandated coverage of contraceptives, one that will allow large faith-based hospitals and universities to issue plans that do not directly provide birth control coverage.
Their employees would instead receive a stand-alone, private insurance policy that would provide contraceptive coverage at no cost.
This is a really bad idea, because it lends credence to Republicans’ efforts to separate women’s reproductive health needs from health care in general.
It could also breathe new life into lawsuits filed against the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive requirement, some of which were put on hold until the Obama administration clarified its policy on the issue.
Under this proposal, objecting nonprofits will be allowed to offer employees a plan that does not cover contraceptives. Their health insurer will then automatically enroll employees in a separate individual policy, which only covers contraceptives, at no cost. This policy would stand apart from the employer’s larger benefit package.
The faith-based employer would not “have to contract, arrange, pay or refer for any contraceptive coverage to which they object on religious grounds.”
Whatever happened to separation of church and state? Besides, the fetus fetishists aren’t satisfied, and they never will be satisfied until women’s bodies are under complete control of the state and women’s lives are reduced to breeding, child care, and housework. From LifeNews.com: “Pro-Life Groups Blast Revisions to Obama Abortion-HHS Mandate” (I’m not going to link to the story because I don’t want a bunch of fetus trolls coming over here):
Leading pro-life groups don’t have much good to say about the proposed changes the HHS department announced today to the Obamacare mandate that forces religious groups and religiously-run companies to pay for birth control and abortion-causing drugs.
The Christian Medical Association (CMA), the nation’s largest faith-based association of physicians, today called the administration’s policy announcement regarding its contraceptives and sterilization mandate “unacceptable,” noting that the ruling still flouts the First Amendment.
CMA CEO Dr. David Stevens said, “This latest version of the contraceptives and sterilization mandate remains unacceptable. Since when does the government get to pick and choose which groups will get to enjoy First Amendment protections? Our founders intended the First Amendment to protect every American’s freedom to act according to one’s conscience. They didn’t specify that only groups deemed religious will be afforded this protection; freedom of conscience applies equally to all Americans.”
You can find many more quotes from men who hate women by googling the headline.
But wait a minute… Amanda Marcotte says the HHS contraception mandate is “Exactly What It Was a Year Ago.”
The Department of Health and Human Services has just released the proposed rules for handling religious objections to a new mandate requiring employer-provided insurance to cover contraception without a copay. The New York Times, at least, is covering this release as if it were a new and exciting “compromise” between the Obama administration and employers who believe their God wants ladies to be perma-pregnant. First the Times announced it in a “Breaking News” banner, and now the home page headline reads: “Birth Control Rule Altered to Allay Religious Objections.” Click on that and you’ll get to: “White House Proposes Compromise on Contraception Coverage.” The problem is that the proposal isn’t new, and nothing’s been altered since the Obama administration announced a clarification of the plan a year ago….Nothing has changed in the proposal.
OK, now I’m really confused. All I know is that the war on women has expanded from outlawing abortion to ending birth control. American women are quickly being reduced to a separate category of beings who are seen as less than human. We need an Equal Right Amendment, stat!
Here’s another wacky example of the right-wing anti-woman, anti-science pontificating we’ve been subjected to for the past couple of years from Right Wing Watch: Wombs of Women on Birth Control ‘Embedded’ with ‘Dead Babies’
Well, here’s some medical research we hadn’t heard about. Generations Radio host Kevin Swanson, who last week delved memorably into feminist theory, tells us this week that “certain doctors and certain scientists” have researched the wombs of women on the pill and found “there are these little tiny fetuses, these little babies, that are embedded into the womb…Those wombs of women who have been on the birth control pill effectively have become graveyards for lots and lots of little babies.”
Shades of Todd Akin. Where do these crazy ideas come from anyway?
I’ll wrap this post up with some link-dump-style reads:
Wall Street Journal: Interview: Axelrod on Hillary Clinton’s Political Prospects
Wall Street Journal: Clinton’s Exit: Either Epilogue or Prelude
The Spokesman-Review: Idaho senator compares health exchange to Holocaust
The Boston Globe: Mass. GOP scrambling to find US Senate candidate
The Boston Globe: Scott Brown’s finances may influence ex-senator’s next step
Now it’s your turn. What’s on your reading list for today? I look forward to clicking on your links!
Well, the President gave another speech last night, and it frankly put me in mind of the movie Groundhog Day. I think Obama’s handlers should be told to keep him under wraps until such time as he actually has something to say. I’ve had it with this whole debt ceiling mess, and I’m not going to say anymore about it in this post.
Instead, here’s an inspiring story that Dakinikat called my attention to: German tourist rescued teens during Norwegian island massacre.
A German tourist is being hailed as a hero for rescuing at least 20 people from a gunman’s rampage on Utoya island in Norway, according to media reports.
Marcel Gleffe, 32, was with his family Friday at a campground across the water from the island when he heard gunshots, Der Spiegel reported. He and his family looked out from the shore, thinking it might be fireworks, but instead they saw a plume of smoke and a girl swimming frantically in the water and screaming.
Gleffe got into the boat he had rented and set off, Der Spiegel said. He was the first person to reach the island where Anders Behring Breivik gunned down dozens of youngsters at a summer camp….
“You don’t get scared in a situation like that, you just do what it takes. I know the difference between fireworks and gunfire. I knew what it was about, and that it wasn’t just nonsense.”
Kemp knew something was wrong when he was jogging on the Seaside promenade Saturday and saw 6-year-old Hailey’s face as she struggled to get away from Knox when having a Fantastic Race on a group of people.
“She was scared to death – terrified,” Kemp said.
He asked Hailey if she knew the woman and she shook her head in horror.
“I knew there was a problem at that point (and) that this is very, very serious. This child is terrified,” he said.
He knew he had to do something, especially when he heard what sounded like a death threat.
“She kept telling Hailey: ‘I am your queen; I am going to take you to see our king, our Lord. I am taking you with me.'”
Kemp broke the woman’s grip on the little girl, and when the kidnapper tried to get away, he chased her down and held her till police arrived. This isn’t the first time Kemp has been a hero.
In 2004 he rescued a woman who was injured by a hit-and-run driver and left lying in the road. Then he found the car which led to an arrest.
He’s also chased down and caught a shoplifter running from a store and another time he caught a robber who just held up a Hallmark shop.
Finally, there’s Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, who was instrumental in ending the four-month-long NFL owners’ lockout. At the press conference announcing the agreement yesterday, Kraft apologized to the fans.
“First of all I’d like, on behalf of both sides, to apologize to the fans that for the last five, six months we’ve been talking about the business of football and not what goes on on the field and building the teams in each market, but the end result is we’ve been able to have an agreement that I think is going to allow this sport to flourish over the next decade and we’ve done that in a way that’s unique among the major sports that every team in our league, all 32, will be competitive, we’ve improved player safety, and we’ve remembered the players who have played in the past.
During the months of the lockout, Kraft was going back and forth between labor talks and his wife Myra’s bedside. She was ending a long battle with cancer, and was buried on Friday.
It’s difficult to imagine how trying – emotionally, physically, mentally – these last few weeks have been for Patriots owner Robert Kraft, as his beloved wife, Myra, was dying of cancer and difficult negotiations dragged on between NFL owners and players over the terms of a new collective-bargaining agreement.
“He is a man who helped us save football,” Jeff Saturday, the center for the Indianapolis Colts and a member of the NFLPA’s executive committee, said Monday after the league’s players joined the owners in approving a new collective-bargaining agreement. “Without him, this deal does not get done.”
Kraft previously had made it possible for New England to keep its football team when he bought the Patriots in 1994 just as they were about to move to St. Louis. Kraft is proof that people can be wealthy and remain decent human beings.
Randy Vickers, America’s chief of cybersecurity has abruptly resigned without any explanation.
The director of the agency that protects the federal government from cyber attacks has resigned abruptly in the wake of a spate of hacks against government networks.
U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) director Randy Vickers resigned his position Friday, effective immediately, according to an e-mail to US-CERT staff sent by Bobbie Stempfley, acting assistant secretary for cybersecurity and communications, and obtained by InformationWeek. A Department of Homeland Security (DHS) spokesperson confirmed the email was authentic.
The DHS has not provided a reason for Vickers’ sudden departure and the spokesperson, who asked to remain anonymous, declined to discuss the matter further. Vickers served as director of US-CERT since April 2009; previously, he was deputy director.
Current US-CERT deputy director Lee Rock will serve as interim director until the DHS names a successor for Vickers, according to the email.
Was he forced out? Maybe we’ll learn more about this today.
David Neiwert is an expert on right wing extremist groups–he’s written two books about them–and he had a post up yesterday on Crooks and Liars about Anders Breivik, the Norwegian terrorist/mass murderer. It would be hard to choose excerpts from the story–please read the whole thing if you can find time. One important point Neiwert makes is that Breivik is not “crazy,” he’s just a right winger with connections to a group in Norway that is similar to the Tea Party here.
Scott Shane had an excellent article yesterday in the NYT on the connections between Breivik’s sick ideology and a number of American bloggers and media personalities. Of course Dakinikat has been writing about this for the past couple of days also.
The Guardian UK has an in depth article about Breivik, his appearance in court, his threats that “more will die.”
The rightwing extremist who confessed to the mass killings in Norway boasted in court on Monday that there were two more cells from his terror network still at large, prompting an international investigation for collaborators.
After Anders Behring Breivik pleaded not guilty, despite admitting that he had carried out the attacks in Oslo and on Utøya island, officials said it was possible he had not acted alone.
Prosecutor Christian Hatlo said Breivik had been calm in court and “seemed unaffected by what has happened”, adding that the suspect had told investigators during his interrogation that he never expected to be released.
“We can’t quite rule out that someone else was involved. This is partly based on the information that there are two other cells,” Hatlo said.
The prosecutor said he could not discuss whether Breivik had organised the cells or whether he was working alongside them. Police have said they have no other suspects at present.
It also emerged on Monday that Norway’s police security service had been alerted to a suspicious chemical purchase by Breivik in March, but had decided not to investigate further.
Norwegian officials have lowered the number of deaths from the attacks to 76.
At the Daily Beast, Michelle Goldberg, who wrote about about right wing Christian fundamentalism, discusses Breivik’s hatred of women.
Conservatives worried about the Islamization of Europe often blame feminism for weakening Western societies and opening them up to a Muslim demographic invasion. Mark Steyn’s bestselling America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It predicted the demise of “European races too self-absorbed to breed,” leading to the transformation of Europe into Eurabia. “In their bizarre prioritization of ‘a woman’s right to choose,’” he argued, “feminists have helped ensure that European women will end their days in a culture that doesn’t accord women the right to choose anything.”
This neat rhetorical trick—an attack on feminism coupled with purported concern about Muslim fundamentalist misogyny—is repeated again and again in Islamophobic literature. Now it’s reached its apogee in mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik’s 1,500-page manifesto, “2083: A European Declaration of Independence.” Rarely has the connection between sexual anxiety and right-wing nationalism been made quite so clear. Indeed, Breivik’s hatred of women rivals his hatred of Islam, and is intimately linked to it. Some reports have suggested that during his rampage on Utoya, he targeted the most beautiful girl first. This was about sex even more than religion.
It’s a fascinating article with lots of psychological background on Breivik’s misogyny.
That’s all I’ve got for today. What are you reading and blogging about?