Sunday Reads: Isn’t it pretty to think so?

Happy Father’s Day to all you baby daddies everywhere! Just a few links for you today, let’s get to it…

New figures of radiation are being released in Japan, there is a real good post about this at naked capitalism, called Global Nuclear Update.

Science Magazine reports that Japanese scientists have become so concerned about the health of their children that they have initiated their own radiation monitoring program and made their own maps. The results are shocking.

***

It shows one wide belt of radiation reaching 225 kilometers south from the stricken reactors to Tokyo and another extending to the southwest. Within those belts are localized hot spots, including an oval that encloses northeast Tokyo and Kashiwa and neighboring cities in Chiba Prefecture.

***

A map of citizen measured radiation levels shows radioactivity is distributed in a complex pattern reflecting the mountainous terrain and the shifting winds across a broad area of Japan north of Tokyo which is in the center of the of bottom of the map.

That article has info on many other Nuclear sites throughout the world.  Take some time to read it.

Why is it when any distressing news comes out of Africa, it always seems to involves such large numbers?  Half a million displaced as Khartoum moves to crush Sudan’s Nuba people | World news | The Observer

A Sudanese man waves the regional flag

New fighting has increased the chances that a north-south war will reignite, ending hopes of peaceful partition Photograph: Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images

Fierce new fighting along Sudan‘s volatile north-south divide is raising deep concern for the safety of the Nuba people, the forgotten victims of the country’s long-running civil war who are once again under attack by government forces and militias.

The fighting has significantly increased the chances that the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended the civil war six years ago will collapse, reigniting a north-south war and ending all hopes of peaceful partition when oil-rich South Sudan formally declares itself independent on 9 July.

[…]

On 5 June, as the Sudanese government army prepared to “control” – disarm – Nuba fighters, fighting erupted in South Kordofan’s capital, Kadugli, and spread quickly across most of the region. The battle for Kadugli became a street-by-street war of attrition: Khartoum piled in brigades of regulars and irregulars, and the SPLA relentlessly mortared the army’s divisional headquarters.

The UN has issued a report stating that human right offenses are becoming more frequent, and a humanitarian crises is being to build.

On Thursday the Nuba leader, Abdelaziz Adam al-Hilu, told African Union (AU) mediators frantically crafting a ceasefire agreement that more than 3,000 people have disappeared – either killed or their whereabouts unknown – “because they are Nuba or belong to the SPLA”. He said 400,000-500,000 have been displaced, in a population of approximately 2.5 million, and more than 50 towns had been bombed.

Food, he said, was being used as a weapon, with no flow of goods to rural areas since May. Kadugli airport has been closed to humanitarian flights. Relief coming by road has been turned away.

The deadline for the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) staff to leave Khartoum has been set for July 9th,  but the situation has become so violent they are afraid to leave the compound.

Justice Clarence Thomas is again in the news, and this time,  the “friends” he keeps are bringing about serious questions regarding ethics and the Supreme Court.  Friendship of Justice and Magnate Puts Focus on Ethics – NYTimes.com

The seafood cannery that Justice Thomas mother once worked is now becoming a large museum in Pin Point, GA, just outside of Savannah, GA is a new pet project of Thomas.  According to the NYT, Thomas became interested in the property when he met the owner Algernon Varn, while visiting his birthplace in coastal GA.

Varn told Mike McIntire of the NYT:

“And Clarence said, ‘Well, I’ve got a friend I’m going to put you in touch with,’ ” Mr. Varn recalled, adding that he was later told by others not to identify the friend.

The publicity-shy friend turned out to be Harlan Crow, a Dallas real estate magnate and a major contributor to conservative causes. Mr. Crow stepped in to finance the multimillion-dollar purchase and restoration of the cannery, featuring a museum about the culture and history of Pin Point…

The project throws a spotlight on an unusual, and ethically sensitive, friendship that appears to be markedly different from those of other justices on the nation’s highest court.

Many remember the last time Thomas was in the news because of his questionable ethics practices.

In January, the liberal advocacy organization Common Cause asked the Justice Department to investigate whether Justices Thomas and Antonin Scalia should have recused themselves from last year’s Citizens United campaign finance case because they had attended a political retreat organized by the billionaire Koch brothers, who support groups that stood to benefit from the court’s decision.

A month later, more than 100 law professors asked Congress to extend to Supreme Court justices the ethics code that applies to other federal judges, and a bill addressing the issue was introduced.

It is not unusual for justices to accept gifts or take part in outside activities, some with political overtones.

The article mentions a few examples of Judges who participate in events that are connected to outside interest.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg participated in a symposium sponsored by the National Organization for Women’s Legal Defense and Education Fund, and a philanthropic foundation once tried to give her a $100,000 achievement award. She instructed that the money be given to charity.

Unlike Federal Judges that have a code they must follow, the Supreme court is not bound by a code of conduct. However, they claim to “adhere” to it.

Beyond the admonition against fund-raising, the code generally discourages judges from partaking in any off-the-bench behavior that could create even the perception of partiality. It acknowledges the value in judges’ being engaged with their communities, lecturing on the law and doing charitable work, but draws a line where those activities might cause a reasonable person to worry that a judge is indebted to or influenced by someone.

“The code of conduct is quite clear that judges are not supposed to be soliciting money for their pet projects or charities, period,” said Arn Pearson, a lawyer with Common Cause. “If any other federal judge was doing it, he could face disciplinary action.”

Which brings us to the questions this new Museum raises or more importantly, the relationship between Thomas and Crow.  Clarence Thomas is no stranger to ethical investigations.

Justice Thomas’s gift acceptances drew attention in 2004, when The Los Angeles Times reported that he had accumulated gifts totaling $42,200 in the previous six years — far more than any of the other justices.

Since 2004, Justice Thomas has never reported another gift.

The article is really interesting to read.  I just picked out some good points, but go ahead and read the entire thing.

Since I am a history major, certain stories seem to attract my attention more than others. This next link is to a Wall Street Journal interview with David McCullough.  (Who I think has one of the best voices for narrating documentaries or reading audio books.)

The Weekend Interview With David McCullough: Don’t Know Much About History – WSJ.com

‘We’re raising young people who are, by and large, historically illiterate,” David McCullough tells me on a recent afternoon in a quiet meeting room at the Boston Public Library. Having lectured at more than 100 colleges and universities over the past 25 years, he says, “I know how much these young people—even at the most esteemed institutions of higher learning—don’t know.” Slowly, he shakes his head in dismay. “It’s shocking.”


He’s right. This week, the Department of Education released the 2010 National Assessment of Educational Progress, which found that only 12% of high-school seniors have a firm grasp of our nation’s history. And consider: Just 2% of those students understand the significance of Brown v. Board of Education.


Mr. McCullough began worrying about the history gap some 20 years ago, when a college sophomore approached him after an appearance at “a very good university in the Midwest.” She thanked him for coming and admitted, “Until I heard your talk this morning, I never realized the original 13 colonies were all on the East Coast.” Remembering the incident, Mr. McCullough’s snow-white eyebrows curl in pain. “I thought, ‘What have we been doing so wrong that this obviously bright young woman could get this far and not know that?'”


Answer: We’ve been teaching history poorly. And Mr. McCullough wants us to amend our ways.

No kidding, if I am not mistaken, History is one of the subjects that is receiving cuts in funding at many public schools and universities, like in Michigan and Colorado.  So what do you expect?

Also, the attention span and interest levels of the average American these days is pretty pathetic.  I guess if Snookie was giving a lecture on American History, more people would be interested in it.

New anti-abortion billboards have popped up recently, only the group being targeted this time is the Latinas.  Billboards Targeting Latinas Exposes Cynical Motives of Conservative Funders | RH Reality Check

In February, billboards in New York City warned that “The most dangerous place for African Americans is in the womb.” Now Latinos in Los Angeles learn that “El lugar más peligroso para un Latino es el vientre de su madre.” (“The most dangerous place for a Latino in in his mother’s womb.”) So what’s going on in the wombs of minority women in the United States? According to Alfonso Aguilar, executive director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, which launched the Latina version last week in Los Angeles, Latina women are under attack from Planned Parenthood. Aguilar claims Planned Parenthood is systematically entering Latino neighborhoods to promote what amount to eugenic abortions.

What minority group is next on the list?

From Minx’s Missing Link File: Being a “full figured” gal myself, I found this article from last week refreshing.    Full Figured Fashion Week Hits New York City

full figured fashion week hits new york city

Today kicks off the start to New York City’s third annual Full Figured Fashion Week (FFFWeek). Over the next three days, buyers, models, sponsors, and bloggers will enjoy an array of events that celebrate plus-size fashion.

[…]

It’s no surprise that plus-size models and fashion are largely absent in runway shows, magazine advertisements, and clothing stores. FFFWeek is a great opportunity to begin bridging this gap and give full figured women access to beautiful and fashionable clothing like anyone else.

Wow, FFFWeek lasted three days…facinating huh?

Easy Like Sunday Morning Link of the Week:  My son and daughter are named Jake and Brett after the book The Sun Also Rises.  So this travel piece about Madrid caught my eye.  A Tour of Hemingway’s Madrid – NYTimes.com

El Sobrino de Botín, open since 1725 on a tiny street behind Plaza Mayor, claims to be the oldest restaurant in the world. Jake and Brett turned up here — like Hemingway himself often did — to dine on the house specialty, roasted suckling pig, and drink several bottles of Rioja Alta. Botín isn’t above playing up the association: the front window displays an image of the writer and a quote from “The Sun Also Rises” that mentions the restaurant. (Until recently, the owners of a nearby restaurant, presumably trying to differentiate themselves from Botín, hung a large sign above its door reading: “HEMINGWAY NEVER ATE HERE.”)

…I asked for a table upstairs, the place where Hemingway put Jake and Brett and where he preferred sitting as well. And like our fictional counterparts, we dined on juicy roast suckling pig, though we stopped at just one bottle of Rioja. Afterward, I introduced myself to Antonio and Carlos Gonzáles, the third generation of their family (along with José) to run Botín. The brothers hadn’t been born when Hemingway was a regular guest at their restaurant, but they’ve heard plenty of stories.

“Don Ernesto once wanted to make paella,” Carlos said. “And so our grandfather allowed him to go into the kitchen to make it.”

Was it any good?

“Apparently not,” he said, laughing. “It was the last time they let him cook anything.”

So, I will leave you with the last few sentences in one of Hemingway’s masterpieces.  Be sure to leave some comments below, and let us know what you have read today.  Happy Father’s Day…

Ernest Hemingway (with the mustache) with Lady Duff Twysden (wearing a hat), Hadley, and three men at a café in Pamplona, Spain, July 1925.

Quote from The Sun Also Rises:

“Oh, Jake,” Brett said, “we could have had such a damned good time together.”
Ahead was a mounted policeman in khaki directing traffic. He raised his baton. The car slowed suddenly pressing Brett against me.
“Yes,” I said. “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”

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Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!

The Big Sombrero

When I hear those words above, I think of those big monster truck rallies held in the big sombrero…or what was the old Tampa Stadium. We lived near the stadium and I remember feeling the ground move on those Sunday night extravaganzas. Growing up near the stadium was super cool. When the Rolling Stones performed at the stadium, you could hear the concert by just sitting outside on the porch. Don’t know why I thought of this just now, maybe it is because the big game is coming up…or maybe I was just thinking about fond memories and cheap thrills…who knows. Anyway, on with this Sunday’s Reads.

Where to start? Hmm, how about here: President Obama previews State of the Union job pitch – Glenn Thrush – POLITICO.com So it looks like an email was sent out to O-fans ahead of the SOTU, it included a video of “Golden Boy,” like some sort of crappy movie trailer, the kind when you see it you immediately say to yourself…”Oh yeah, that is one to miss.” So, this little tidbit below should give y’all the feel of the production, I mean speech:

“Today, we’re in a different place. An economy that was shrinking is now growing again. But across the country, millions are struggling every day — to find work, to pay their bills, to provide for their families. It is clear that the moment we now face demands a vision for how we as a people will win the future,” reads the introduction to the video, sent to members of Organizing for America, the vestigial campaign apparatus from his 2008 campaign.

“And that vision — that agenda — will be the topic of my State of the Union address.”

Oh great, this reminds me of the same old Hope and Change.  Let me refer to a time when big hair was a fashion statement and there was another fine actor in the White House…barf me with a spoon! You want more? State of the Union: Address is a ‘fundamental moment’ for President Obama – latimes.com On second thought, I will just paraphrase it for you. Obama is moving more and more to the center. He is going to use the SOTU to highlight his move from the left, as a way to appeal to Independent voters. (And these people get paid to write this stuff?)

So I will move on to this link: The Barack Obama 2011 State of the Union Drinking Game. I am pretty sure that here on Sky Dancing we will be having a live blogging session during the State of the Union Address. So, my thought is to make it interesting. We can play this drinking game, and see just how crazy and convoluted the comment section gets.

RULES OF THE GAME:

Every time Barack H Obama mentions bipartisanship, everybody has to drink 2 shots of beer. If he talks about the lessons of Tucson, the last person to throw their arms in the air, fall to their knees and shout “Hallelujah!” has to drink 1 entire beer.

Everybody has to drink 2 shots of beer whenever John Boehner appears to cry. 1 shot of bourbon if he breaks down sobbing and disappears entirely from view.

Every time Barack H Obama says “Democratic leadership,” the first person to stop laughing is exempt from drinking 2 shots of beer.

[…]

If the Chief Executive winks at or points at Michelle, all 4 players swordfight with hot dogs. Whoever is left with an intact weenie does not have to eat an entire shot glass full of that weird green relish.

If the president mentions the Chinese President by name, the last person to ask “Hu Dat?” has to drink 2 shots of beer.

EXTRAS:

Optional: Have all players drink with left hand. Unless left- handed. If they are caught drinking with dominant hand, they must watch the entire Republican response and no drinking allowed.

Okay, you know I am joking, right? However, I think that any sort of mind numbing/altering substance would be extremely useful for anyone watching. I will have my bag of popcorn and a package of Nabisco’s Mallomars to get through the evening. Oh, who are we kidding, two packages of Mallomars…ya know they have fewer of these delicious morsels in their boxes of cookies now. Oops, I have wandered a bit, must be those damn fond childhood memories again.

I thought I would post this link, being that my family’s livelihood depends on Walmart…which in itself is something I thought I would never hear myself say. Is it time to rethink my opinion of Wal-Mart? – Eco-nomics – Stories from the Mother Nature Network – Forbes Yes, it is true that Walmart has teamed with FLOTUS to change some of its products and focus more on healthy eating. Also, each area Walmart store donates tons of money and food to local food banks.  I wonder if Walmart will also be placing warning labels on their healthier can goods.  Along the lines of,  Caution: “Let’s Move” exercise like  the ones that Michelle Obama suggest, may be hazardous to your health.  Warning: Walking across the street  and eating a can of peaches can cause serious injury, including death. That could be the next big push for the likes of Limbaugh and Malkin, after they tackle that “abortion problem.” However,  I do have another story to share about Walmart. We live in a very rural country banjo bible belt area, the new Walmart has saved a lot of families in my town.  Just yesterday, we needed to get new tires for the car and wanted to spend our money locally. But the few local business that sell tires were closed, we had no choice but to go to the TLE (tire lube express) at Wallyworld. Perhaps they were closed to mourn the passing of Roe v. Wade 38 years ago?

If you missed Wonk’s most excellent post yesterday, be sure you check it out: Saturday: Roe turns 38! « Sky Dancing She has some wonderful links and real information that every woman should read, so if you have any woman you care about…send her the link. While I am at it, I will post links to two other post from yesterday on Sky Dancing: Gaslighting America « Sky Dancing and Seymour Hersh Comments Evoke Media Overreactions « Sky Dancing It was just a great day for blog post yesterday, and that is all I will say about that!

It looks like talks with Iran have broken down. Iran Nuclear Talks Break Down | FDL News Desk and Iran nuclear talks end at impasse – Laura Rozen – POLITICO.com What I find interesting is when you read the Iran’s side of the nuclear talks. Check out Google News from Tehran. Everyone has their own way of reporting news…right? It is up to you and me to digest and dig into what is reported today. That is just being responsible readers and listeners. I think that most of us do this already, that is what makes reading and watching the news fun…to use constructive and cognitive brain processes to get at what really is being said.

*Update below* Duvalier is not being allowed to leave Haiti, according to BBC:

Mr Duvalier is barred from leaving the country pending the outcome of an investigation into his alleged crimes…

[…]

One theory offered by analysts and lawyers to explain Mr Duvalier’s return is that he was trying to stave off attempts by Switzerland to donate to Haiti nearly $6m (£3.7) frozen in Swiss bank accounts.

Under a new Swiss law that comes into force on 1 February, the funds can be released even if Haiti has not made a legal move to get them.

Mr Duvalier wrongly predicted that he might be able to avoid prosecution, observers say.

“If Duvalier goes back to Haiti and is not prosecuted, then he could say ‘I was available for prosecution, and you didn’t prosecute me: Give me my money back,'” said Reed Brody, a lawyer at Human Rights Watch. [BBC]

I thought this was interesting and tried to find more information about the new law, Baby Doc assets may soon be returned from Switzerland to Haiti under new law. – swissinfo Seems that this law was made specifically for this situation and has something to do with statute of limitations.

In February 2010 the Swiss government issued an emergency decree to keep the money blocked until a new dictator-assets law could be published. The government decree was a reaction to the country’s top court ruling in January 2010 that the money must be returned to Duvalier’s family because the statute of limitations had expired.

The new law on returning illicit dictator funds, backed by the House of Representatives and the Senate, is due to enter into force on February 1, 2011.

Under the law, the cabinet can block contentious assets and will have up to ten years to launch action to confiscate the assets once they have been blocked. The confiscation of assets must be declared by the Federal Administrative Court.

“It would be unfortunate if there is a problem with the return of the Duvalier funds as this law was tailor-made for such a case,” Olivier Longchamp, a legal expert at the Swiss non-governmental organisation, Berne Declaration, told swissinfo.ch.

Just think, all that money going back to the Duvalier family…makes you shiver doesn’t it? The “Duvalier Law” is supposed to stop this from happening:

…analysts say that the former dictator returned to Haiti to make a claim on the money he does have left—some $6 million frozen in a Swiss bank account. Last year, a Swiss court ruled that $4.6 million of the money could be released to the Duvaliers (the ruling was handed down only hours before the earthquake hit) but public anger prompted officials to do a 180, passing the so-called “Duvalier law” to keep dictators from using Switzerland as a safe haven for ill-begotten cash. With that law set to go into effect on Feb. 1, analysts tell the NYT that Baby Doc’s homecoming was probably an attempt to sneak in and out of the country—thus proving that Haiti had no interest in prosecuting him—in order to make a case for the money. (Duvalier laywer Gervais Charles maintains that his client only wanted to donate the money to the Red Cross.)

*Updated: Opinion: Now We Know — Former Dictator Jean-Claude ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier Just Wants to ‘Help’ Haiti

Friday, when he finally found a place to hold a press conference, at a rented guest house, the ex-dictator said he returned to “participate … in this collaboration for the national reconstruction.” Which make sense, since that’s why everyone’s in Haiti. Though Duvalier’s team doesn’t have T-shirts yet. Or a slogan.

[…]

Friday, we also discovered that Duvalier is now represented by an American legal team — “we’re not his lawyers” — from Snellville, Ga.: Mike Puglise, Ed Marger, and former U.S. congressman Bob Barr.

And they “helped” us better understand Duvalier, too.Marger, on the dictator’s human rights record: “Regardless of what many people say or do or think about what happened during the Duvalier regimes, at least there was stability in the country, and the people, in great measure, were progressing.”

At least? Yes. Except for the tens of thousands dead, tortured or “disappeared.”

He has a team of US lawyers? Which includes a former US Congressman, Bob Barr…WTH?

* ‘Baby Doc’ wants to use Swiss money ‘to help Haiti’

Duvalier ”is very interested in trying to get those funds freed up, not for himself, but so they can be used to help the situation in Haiti,” said Mr Barr, who went with Duvalier to Port-au-Prince.

On Saturday Duvalier, 59, also known as ”Baby Doc”, apologised to victims of abuses during his government, vowed to help the quake-ravaged nation rebuild and said he expected to face ”persecution” upon his return.

He declared himself ”impressed by the welcome I have received, especially from the crowd of young people who don’t know me”.

But their attendance at the villa in the upmarket Montagne Noire neighbourhood was engineered. ”We were paid 10 gourdes ($A25¢) to show up,” said one.

So the people were paid to show their “support” for Duvalier? Some things never change.

From Minx’s Missing Link File: I thought many would find this entertaining: Speak the speech … Shakespeare’s plays to be performed in 38 languages | Culture | The Guardian

Anyone who struggles with Shakespeare in English will next year be able to see if it is any easier in Lithuanian. Or Portuguese, Italian or Spanish, perhaps. And if all that fails – Troilus and Cressida in Maori?

In fact, there will be 38 different ways to experience it, as Shakespeare’s Globe presents all of the Bard’s plays, each in a different language, as part of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad.

It is, perhaps, the most ambitious multilingual Shakespeare project ever attempted and the Globe’s artistic director, Dominic Dromgoole, said today it was “a terrifically clear and simple and slightly bananas idea”, but one, he hoped, that would show how Shakespeare has become an international language.

This is something so cool! The process of staging these plays must be extremely time consuming and requires some patience to get it all put together correctly. “Slightly bananas?” Yes, but wonderfully creative!

Easy like Sunday Morning Link: Another story about one of those writers that influenced a generation: Saving Hemingway’s home in Cuba – CNN.com

Ernest Hemingway hasn’t lived here in over 50 years but Finca Vigia is still his home.

In the garden there’s his boat “the Pilar” used to hunt marlin and then Nazi subs off Cuba during World War II. Scrawled on a bathroom wall next to a scale are the daily records of what the writer weighed.

Lizards and frogs he caught rest in jars filled with formaldehyde. Antelopes and buffalo heads taken as trophies from African safaris decorate the walls. Yellowing Time and The Field magazines are still on the shelves.

Now a museum, a visitor to Finca Vigia or “lookout farm,” could be mistaken for thinking Hemingway might walk in the door at any second.

“Our philosophy was to recover the environment and surroundings,” said Ada Rosa Alfonso Rosales, the museum’s curator. “This was not just a mere house, this was his home.”

Hemingway lived in the home on a hilltop on the outskirts of Havana from 1939 to 1960. The years were pivotal ones for the famed American writer and for his adopted home of Cuba.

There is a video at this link, watch it when you have a chance. My kids are named for a Hemingway book, The Sun Also Rises, so it is a special article to read.

What are you all reading today? Give it up!