Sunday Reads

Good Morning

What a sunny way to start a Sunday post….a sun on skis. So, the images of today’s thread are from artist Celestino Piatti. You can see a bunch of his work here and read more about the artist here, Celestino Piatti – Swiss Graphic Design Foundation.


Why don’t we start of with a few tweets:

This tweet from @eaglewoman4 seems like a brilliant idea…if it could work:

Read some of the comments. Some claim that there could be precedent for this exact protection, as some tribes afforded protection to citizens during WW2 who faced being placed in internment camps. (I looked online and could not find any information on this…but it was not a very thorough search.) Still, it does seem like an idea to flesh out.


Meanwhile, it appears John Lewis isn’t the only one boycotting the SOTU:


I don’t think we will get anything together unless we go back to using paper ballots:


Over here tRump has been overly suggesting prison for his former opponent Hillary Clinton, in Russia…tRump’s puppet master has done just that:

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny arrested during protests – CNN

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was arrested Sunday during anti-Kremlin protests in Moscow as rallies continue nationwide.

“I’ve been detained. This doesn’t matter. Come to Tverskaya (Street). You are not going there for me, it’s for you and your future,” Navalny tweeted after his arrest.
Within minutes of arriving at Pushkinskaya Square, where hundreds of protesters had gathered, Navalny was wrestled into a patrol van by police, in dramatic footage posted on Youtube.
Moscow Police said Navalny was taken to a police station for arraignment and to be charged for illegally organizing a protest. If found guilty, he faces 30 days in detention and a fine.
How long before we get the jealous tweet from the orange dictator?

Tweets from Navalny:

Translation: The detention of one person loses any sense if there are many of us. Someone come and replace me

Moving on…


Oh brother.

This weekend marks another Anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz,

There is a key word here…which I think you may miss without knowing it.

It begins with the letter M.


I will leave with this latest breaking news:

Pennsylvania shooting rampage leaves 5 dead

Five people were killed and another was wounded Sunday in a shooting rampage in a small town 50 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania State Police said.

Police said four people died at the scene and one died after being rushed to a hospital. The shootings took place at a car wash in Melcroft at about 3 a.m. ET. The facts were still being sorted out, but it was possible the shooter was among the victims, police said.

“There is no threat to the community, no imminent danger,” police said in a statement to USA TODAY. The identity of the victims, three men and two women, were not immediately available, police said.

Pennsylvania Shooting Rampage Live Updates: Deadly Attack at Small Town Car Wash

11:10 a.m. – A source at the scene told a KDKA reporter that the suspected shooter used a semi-automatic rifle. Police have not confirmed the weapon that was used.

This is an open thread.


Sunday Reads: Mad Man Alwaleed’s Mini Men and the Dwarves of Auschwitz

Vintage Advertisement for “Midget City” an entire city populated by midgets…

Good Morning

A big hat tip to Boston Boomer, who sent me these stories about a rich crazy man, and his entourage of dwarfs. (Or is it dwarves?)  Seriously, it fed my “midget” fascination, which had been neglected lately.

From a 2012 article in the Business Insider… THE DWARF-THROWING BILLIONAIRE WHO’S BUYING UP AMERICA: Tales Of The Mysterious Saudi Prince Alwaleed

This is one hell of a link, I highly suggest you read the entire article…because giving you a couple of paragraphs as a teaser is not enough.

“It’s his kingdom. He can do what he likes.”

Given how rich Alwaleed is, it’s not surprising to hear that his life is insulated from the morality and sensibilities of the outside world — especially the world outside Saudi Arabia.

All you need to hear to understand that are stories about Alwaleed’s dwarfs.

Almost every source we spoke to, including Alwaleed’s official spokesperson, confirmed that, like a medieval monarch, Alwaleed keeps in his entourage a group of dancing, laughing, joking dwarfs. One source called them “jesters.”

All joking aside, it seems life as an Alwaleed jester is not all fun and games…

“They were entertainers. They did do some crazy things — they’d dance, they’d chase each other around.”

Sometimes, the play turned darker.

One source, who left Alwaleed’s employ with a letter of recommendation from the Prince, says that at least once, Alwaleed set up a “midget-tossing” contest, promising money to whomever could throw the little people the farthest. There were pillows.

Another time, says this source, at one of the parties Alwaleed would throw in the desert, he tossed $100 bills into a bonfire, encouraging the dwarfs to run into the “raging fire” and pull the money out, “scorching themselves” in the process.

You can take it from there…Vanity Fair also had an article on the Prince, this one is an interview from February of this year:

The Creation Myth of Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, Saudi Arabia’s Billionaire Investor

Prince Alwaleed at New York’s Plaza hotel, of which he is part owner.

Worth an estimated $27 billion, the enigmatic Prince Alwaleed bin Talal has very public holdings: he is the second-largest voting shareholder in News Corp., he owns Paris’s George V hotel and part of New York City’s Plaza hotel, he is a stockholder in Apple, and he will soon own the world’s tallest building. But the private origins—and exact size—of his massive fortune are the subject of continued debate between bin Talal and prominent media outlets. So what’s the truth? And does one of the richest men on Bloomberg’s Billionaire Index—a calorie-counting cell-phone addict who loves texting James Murdoch—really spend his free time throwing dwarves?

This VF interview is also a must read, it does mention some items from the Business Investor piece, but you get a feel for the madness because of the outrageous way Prince Alwaleed talks about his life and his investments.

While reading these two articles I kept on thinking about the similarity between Alwaleed and the “Sammy Glick” movie producer stereotype.

For those unfamiliar with Sammy Glick, he was the main antagonist in Budd Schulberg’s novel called What Makes Sammy Run?

Told in first person narrative by Al Manheim, drama critic of The New York Record, this is the tale of Sammy Glick, a young uneducated boy who rises from copyboy to the top of the screenwriting profession in 1930s Hollywood by backstabbing others.

I found an archived essay about Budd Schulberg that I think you will all enjoy. VQR » Budd Schulberg: An Appreciation Here is a small sample of Schulberg’s work,

Consider bits of the jazz-like opening of The Disenchanted, Chapter 10:

The white tile of the Holland Tunnel rolled past them as the airline’s black limousine raced through the enormous artery feeding the heart of the city.

Finally they burst out into the open, into the swarming labyrinth of downtown Manhattan. There were the trucks, the cops, the bars, the stores, the cabs, the reckless pedestrians picking holes through traffic like shabby Albie Booths. There were fruit, all colors, vegetables, hock shops, Italians, Jews and the global hustle of the water front. . . . It was all here now, the money and the power and the brains they employ and their great army of camp followers catching the crumbs . . . punch-in punch-out, spiced-ham sandwich and a cupa coffee.

The man could write one hell of a paragraph.

Hell yeah, Budd Schulberg certainly was a fantastic writer…

Actually, Alwaleed sounds more like a cross between Sammy Glick and the psychotic killer character of Tommy in the film Goodfellas.


It must be so stressful working in an environment where you are constantly walking on eggshells.

Okay, I’ve got one more story that is somewhat connected to Alwaleed…check out this picture by Photographer Joe McNally Takes Photo From Top Of Burj Khalifa, World’s Tallest Skyscraper, In Dubai

joe mcnally burj khalifa

McNally, who told The Huffington Post he was standing on the railing of a support structure for the building’s airplane warning lights, said the photo wasn’t a work assignment — it just “seemed like fun.”

“My old battered shoes climbed the worlds tallest building today,” McNally wrote on Instagram. “What an amazing structure! Tweeting from 820 meters straight up!”

My hands get clammy just looking at that picture. For an idea of how high the Burj Khalifa is, here is a graphic from the building’s Wiki site:


What is the connection between the Burj Khalifa tower and Prince Alwaleed? Alwaleed is building an even bigger tower…Kingdom Tower project to beat Burj Khalifa as world’s tallest to start

Dubai’s Burj Khalifa has only five years left as the world’s tallest building if Kingdom Tower, a kilometre-tall skyscraper in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, goes ahead as planned.

Yesterday the developers planning to build the world’s latest tallest building appointed The Shard builder Mace and EC Harris, the project manager behind Abu Dhabi’s largest hotel complex, to manage construction of the US$1.2 billion (Dh4.4bn) Kingdom Project to the north of Saudi Arabia’s second-largest city.

Jeddah Economic Company (JEC) also appointed the EC Harris and Mace joint venture to provide commercial and design management for the development, which when completed will be higher than Dubai’s Burj Khalifa and four times the size of The Shard in London.

The 500,000 square metre tower will include a Four Seasons hotel, serviced apartments, offices, flats and the world’s highest observatory. I did a tour of the services apartments and it reminded me back of my serviced apartment in Shanghai.

Construction work is due to start on site on April 1 and is expected to be completed 63 months later in 2018.

One kilometer is equal to 3281 feet!  So they are starting to build it on April 1st? That would be one hell of an April Fool’s joke eh?

JEC comprises Prince Al Waleed bin Talal’s Kingdom Holding Company, which owns a 33.35 per cent stake, Saudi Binladin Group, the largest construction firm in the world, which owns a 16.63 per cent stake, Abraar International Holding Company, represented by Samaual Bakhsh, with a stake of 33.35 per cent, and the prominent Jeddah businessman Abdulrahman Hassan Sharbatly with a stake of 16.67 per cent.

“The vision of constructing the tallest tower in the world in Jeddah belongs to HRH Prince Al Waleed bin Talal,” said Waleed Abdul Jaleel Batterjee, the chief executive of JEC.

“His vision is also that the project itself will set the world’s sights on our beloved Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and particularly on Jeddah. Furthermore, the project will help create hundreds of jobs for our Saudi countrymen.”

Here is another graphic for comparison.

Crazy innit?

For a man who fancies surrounding himself with mini men, Alwaleed sure does go to the extremes when it comes to his building projects and investments.

Mad Man indeed…

Now I have another little person story for you…from The Guardian: The dwarves of Auschwitz (Please note dwarves is spelled as it is in the article.)

The Ovitz family

The Ovitzs (from left): Elizabeth, Perla, Rozika, Frieda, Franziska and Avram

‘I was saved by the grace of the devil,” Holocaust survivor Perla Ovitz told us. Again and again, she recounted in detail how she and her family were taken to the gas chamber and ordered to strip naked. A heavy door opened and they were pushed inside. “It was almost dark and we stood in what looked like a large washing room, waiting for something to happen. We looked up to the ceiling to see why the water was not coming. Suddenly we smelled gas. We gasped heavily, some of us fainting on the floor. With our last breath we cried out. Minutes passed, or maybe just seconds, then we heard an angry voice from outside – ‘Where is my dwarf family?’ The door opened, and we saw Dr Mengele standing there. He ordered us to be carried out and had cold water poured on us to revive us.”

The Ovitz family, from the village of Rozavlea in Transylvania, was the largest recorded family of dwarves: a dwarf father who sired 10 children, seven of them dwarves. Perla, born in 1921, was the youngest. In that remote part of Romania in the early 20th century, it was difficult for anyone to eke a living from the land and livestock, and impossible for someone standing less than 3ft tall.

That is just the first two paragraphs….Yes, go and read all of that long article at the link, it is an amazing story.

The rest of today’s reads will be in link dump fashion.

The CDC has released the fatal statistics for the 2012-2013 flu season: 105 US kids died of flu this season; most didn’t get vaccine

The death of Google Reader is still making headlines:

John C Abell of Reuters is asking….What is Google doing?

What is Google doing? I’m not sure. There may well be a great, bumper-sticker answer. But Google’s actions are too chaotic to come up with a grand, unified theory. It’s toying with apps, mobile software, mobile hardware, mobile phones – and, oh yeah, still dabbles in Web services it decides with zero discussion to terminate with extreme prejudice. It’s one thing to be pulled in all directions as a dance partner, it’s another to have it happen on some carnival ride.

Paul Krugman calls it: The Economics of Evil Google

Google’s decision to shut down Google Reader has upset a number of people I know, and provoked a lot of discussion about the future of web-based services. The most interesting discussion, I think, comes from Ryan Avent, who argues that Google has been providing crucial public infrastructure — but doesn’t seem to have an interest in maintaining that infrastructure.

I’ve been trying to think this through in terms of more or less standard microeconomics, and here’s what I’ve come up with…

You can read Krugman’s thoughts at the link.

Here is the Ryan Avent article Krugman links to: Utilities: Google’s Google problem | The Economist

And over at zdnet:  Embrace, extend, extinguish: How Google crushed and abandoned the RSS industry

It is amazing to me that so many journalist I follow relied on Google Reader as much as I did.

Anyway, HuffPo has updated its Mapping the Dead: Gun Deaths Since Sandy Hook

HuffPo also has this article: Jay Gordon, MD: CDC: One in Every Fifty Children Has Autism

I thought this was interesting, from The Guardian: Christine Lagarde’s flat raided by French police

The Des Moines Register has this story, about the U.S. still paying Civil War veterans’ families

(I actually expected to see some commentary about cutting the survivor benefits…but the article is based on an AP report.)

And one last news link, this is just freaky weird: The sheepshead fish has human teeth, but it’s okay because it won’t give you a psychedelic crisis

sheepshead fish teeth

Credit: VA Institute of Marine Science (VIMS)

There’s nothing like the thought of a delicious piece of meat with human teeth wrapped in prison stripes to put you to a gentle, dreamless sleep.

And with that horrifying picture, I end this morning’s post. What are you reading and blogging about today?