Lazy Saturday Reads: #tRump – Bull in a China Shop

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Good Afternoon!!

Yesterday I spent the afternoon and evening with my brother’s family–they invited me for a birthday dinner and family movie. Unsurprisingly, while I wasn’t paying attention for a few hours the president-elect did massive damage to U.S. foreign policy, overturning decades-long policies on China. And it appears this wasn’t about policy but about enriching the #tRump family business.

Ann Gearan at The Washington Post: Trump speaks with Taiwanese president, a major break with decades of U.S. policy on China

President-elect Donald Trump spoke Friday with Taiwan’s president, a major departure from decades of U.S. policy in Asia and a breach of diplomatic protocol with ramifications for the incoming president’s relations with China.

The call is the first known contact between a U.S. president or president-elect with a Taiwanese leader since before the United States broke diplomatic relations with the island in 1979. China considers Taiwan a province, and news of the official outreach by Trump is likely to infuriate the regional military and economic power.

The exchange is one of a string of unorthodox conversations with foreign leaders that Trump has held since his election. It comes at a particularly tense time between China and Taiwan, which earlier this year elected a president, ­­­Tsai Ing-wen, who has not endorsed the notion of a unified China. Her election angered Beijing to the point of cutting off all official communication with the island government.

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It is not clear whether Trump intends a more formal shift in U.S. relations with Taiwan or China. On the call, Trump and Tsai congratulated each other on winning their elections, a statement from Trump’s transition office said….

A statement from the Taiwanese president’s office said the call lasted more than 10 minutes and included discussion of economic development and national security, and about “strengthening bilateral relations.”

Trump claimed the call was initiated by Taiwan’s president, but that was a lie, NBC News reports:

BEIJING — A phone call between Donald Trump and Taiwan’s leader that risks damaging relations between the U.S. and China was pre-arranged, a top Taiwanese official told NBC News on Saturday.

Trump — who lambasted China throughout the election campaign and promised to slap 45 percent tariffs on Chinese goods — tweeted that Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen had called him.

“Maintaining good relations with the United States is as important as maintaining good relations across the Taiwan Strait,” Taiwanese presidential spokesman Alex Huang told NBC News. “Both are in line with Taiwan’s national interest.”

He added that the call had not been a surprise.

Apparently the call was carefully planned and scheduled by Trump staffers. It was also reported that bomb-thrower John Bolton was seen at Trump tower yesterday. Could he have helped instigate this?

After the media reported foreign policy experts’ heads exploding, Trump defensively tweeted again.

China was apparently on the phone with the White House right after the news broke, and they have now filed a complaint with the U.S. about this breach of diplomacy. The Guardian:

China has lodged “solemn representations” with the US over a call between the president-elect, Donald Trump, and Taiwan’s leader, Tsai Ing-wen.

Trump looked to have sparked a potentially damaging diplomatic row with Beijing on Friday after speaking to the Taiwanese president on the telephone….

The US closed its embassy in Taiwan – a democratically ruled island which Beijing regards as a breakaway province – in the late 1970s after the historic rapprochement between Beijing and Washington that stemmed from Richard Nixon’s 1972 trip to China.

Since then the US has adhered to the “One China” principle, which officially considers the independently governed island to be part of the same single Chinese nation as the mainland.

Geng Shuang, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, said in a statement on Saturday: “It must be pointed out that there is only one China in the world and Taiwan is an inseparable part of Chinese territory. The government of the People’s Republic of China is the sole legitimate government representing China.”

Geng added: “This is a fact that is generally recognised by the international community.”

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#tRrump is a real bull in a china shop, so to speak. But what was his real goal in talking to Taiwan? Think Progress: Trump’s unusual phone call is great for his business, dangerous for America.

Trump is mixing his business with the presidency. Today was a stark illustration that the combination is extremely dangerous — to Americans and the world.

The Financial Times, citing three sources, reports that Trump called Tsai Ying-wen, the president of Taiwan, on Friday. The call is a symbolic breach of the United States’ “One China” policy, which recognizes Beijing as the only government and which has been in place since 1972.

The call will antagonize China and risks “opening up a major diplomatic dispute with China before he has even been inaugurated.”

The incident is raising eyebrows because the Trump Organization, in which Trump plans to maintain ownership as president, is actively seeking new business opportunities in Taiwan. The Shanghaiist reported on the Trump Organization’s interest last month:

A representative from the Trump Organization paid a visit to Taoyuan in September, expressing interest in the city’s Aerotropolis, a large-scale urban development project aimed at capitalizing on Taoyuan’s status as a transport hub for East Asia, Taiwan News reports.With the review process for the Aerotropolis still underway, Taoyuan’s mayor referred to the subject of the meeting as mere investment speculation. Other reports indicate that Eric Trump, the president-elect’s second son and executive vice president of the Trump Organization, will be coming to Taoyuan later this year to discuss the potential business opportunity.

#tRump is trying to turn our country into a wholly owned subsidiary of the #tRump organization.

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In just the past couple of days, Trump has bumbled through bizarre phone calls with Pakistan’s prime minister Nawaz Sharif and Philippine strongman Rodrigo Duterte. Do you supposed #tRump even knows that China, Pakistan and sworn enemy India have nukes?

The Atlantic: Lessons From Trump’s ‘Fantastic’ Phone Call to Pakistan.

This week, the U.S. president-elect spoke with the Pakistani prime minister and, according to the Pakistani government’s account of the conversation, delivered the following message: Everything is awesome. It was, arguably, the most surprising presidential phone call since George H.W. Bush got pranked by that pretend Iranian president.

Pakistan, Donald Trump reportedly told Nawaz Sharif, is a “fantastic” country full of “fantastic” people that he “would love” to visit as president. Sharif was described as “terrific.” Pakistanis “are one of the most intelligent people,” Trump allegedly added. “I am ready and willing to play any role that you want me to play to address and find solutions to the outstanding problems.” ….

Like their problems with India?

It’s unclear how accurate the Pakistani government’s record of the discussion is, though the language does have a Trumpian ring to it (Trump’s transition team released a much more subdued summary of the call). But what’s surprising about the account is how disconnected it is from the current state of affairs. Everything is not awesome in U.S.-Pakistan relations. The two countries are the bitterest of friends. They have long clashed over the haven that terrorist groups have found in Pakistan and over U.S. efforts, including drone strikes and the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound, to kill those terrorists. Pakistan, a nation with a growing arsenal of nuclear weapons, is the archenemy of India, another nuclear-armed state and a critical U.S. ally. U.S. officials see Pakistan—with its weak political institutions and suspected government support for militant groups in Afghanistan and the contested territory of Kashmir—as an alarming source of regional instability. The suspicion is mutual: Just a fifth of Pakistanis have a favorable view of the United States. Trump himself has argued that Pakistan “is probably the most dangerous” country in the world, and that India needs to serve as “the check” to it.

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The reports also provoked a caustic response from the Indian government, which opposes U.S. mediation in its border dispute with Pakistan. “We look forward to the president-elect helping Pakistan address the most outstanding of its outstanding issues: terrorism,” a spokesman for the Ministry of External Affairs said. And, ultimately, they forced Pakistani officials to backpedal after initially publicizing the conversation. “Our relationship with the United States is not about personalities—it is about institutions,” a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs clarified. In other words, a brief, breezy conversation had real reverberations on the subcontinent.One lesson of the phone call is that words matter, especially in international relations where information is patchy, things get lost in translation, rhetoric is often interpreted as policy, and a government’s credibility is only as good as its word. (Think of all the people in the United States puzzling over what policies Trump will pursue as president; now imagine trying to do that from Islamabad or New Delhi.)

 

And now Pakistan is sending an envoy to meet with the #tRump bumblers. The Indian Express reports:

Pakistan has decided to send an envoy to the US to hold meetings with Donald Trump’s transition team, two days after a “productive” telephonic conversation between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the President-elect. Pakistani Prime Minister’s special assistant for foreign affairs Tariq Fatemi will visit the US this weekend to meet officials of the Trump transition team.

Fatemi’s meeting with officials of Trump transition team was confirmed by Jalil Abbas Jilani, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US. “Besides meeting members of the transition team, Fatemi will meet officials of the outgoing Obama administration,” said Jilani.

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Huffington Post: Donald Trump Praises Philippines Deadly Drug War And Invites Leader To White House.

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump praised Philippines leader Rodrigo Duterte for his war on drugs that has left thousands dead, Duterte said on Saturday after the two held a phone conversation in which Trump also invited Duterte the White House.

“He was quite sensitive also to our worry about drugs. And he wishes me well … in my campaign and he said that … we are doing it as a sovereign nation, the right way,” Duterte said in a statement. Duterte has conducted a severe crackdown on drugs in the country, where police and vigilante groups have killed thousands.

Trump’s brief chat with the firebrand Philippine president follows a period of uncertainty about one of Washington’s most important Asian alliances, stoked by Duterte’s hostility towards President Barack Obama and repeated threats to sever decades-old defense ties.

The call lasted just over seven minutes, Duterte’s special advisor, Christopher Go, said in a text message to media, which gave few details. Trump’s transition team had no immediate comment.

So #tRump is on the record supporting mass murder now. Awesome.

Two more links to check out:

The New York Times: How Trump’s Calls to World Leaders Are Upsetting Decades of Diplomacy.

The Washington Post: Donald Trump keeps confirming fears about his diplomatic skills.

Isn’t there anyone who can do something about this monster before he destroys our country and/or blows up the world? We are so screwed.

What stories are you following today?


Thursday Reads

Blue Girl Reading, Auguste Macke

Blue Girl Reading, Auguste Macke

Good Morning!!

Today is my birthday. I don’t feel much like celebrating, but I’m being lazy so I don’t know when this post will go up.

The wildfires in Tennessee are a real disaster. I’m hoping our beloved ANonOMouse and her family are still safe.

NBC News: Seven Deaths Confirmed as Smokies Wildfires Spread in Tennessee.

Officials were continuing to assess the damage Thursday from a ferocious wildfire that erupted across Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park more than a week ago, killing at least seven people and gutting over 700 structures.

Drenching rain on Wednesday helped firefighters beat back the massive blaze, which still burned more than 15,650 acres and was about 10 percent contained, according to the Southern Area Incident Management Team, which assumed command of the fire.

Rescue operations have been slowed by mud and rockslides caused by the wet weather.

“The rain we received may have slowed this fire for a day or two at a critical time, but the threat from this fire is still there,” the team said.

While large swaths of the national park were ravaged, the wind-whipped flames also reached the neighboring Appalachian tourist meccas of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.

Maid reading in a library, Edouard John Mentha

Maid reading in a library, Edouard John Mentha

Efforts to pinpoint the cause of deadly wildfires that engulfed two popular tourist towns outside Great Smoky Mountains National Park and shut down one of the country’s most popular natural attractions focused Thursday on their devastating path through East Tennessee, where officials said at least seven people were dead and hundreds of buildings have burned.

Several people remained missing Thursday, and at least 53 people have been treated for injuries at hospitals, though their conditions were not known.

The fires are estimated to have damaged or destroyed more than 700 homes and businesses throughout Sevier County — nearly half of them in the city of Gatlinburg. Additionally, thousands of wooded acres have burned in the most-visited national park in America.

Park Superintendent Cassius Cash said that the first fires, spotted last week, were “likely to be human-caused.”

As people throughout Sevier County tried to return to their routines Thursday, some schools were still closed and access to Gatlinburg remained limited.

The story doesn’t give anymore information about the suspected causes of the fires.

Girl in grey, Louis le Brocquy

Girl in grey, Louis le Brocquy

In other non-political news, researchers have discovered that psilocybin could help people with anxiety and depression just like MyEtizolam. AP via TPM: Studies: ‘Magic Mushroom’ Psychedelic Drug May Ease Anxiety, Depression.

The psychedelic drug in “magic mushrooms” can quickly and effectively help treat anxiety and depression in cancer patients, an effect that may last for months, two small studies show.

It worked for Dinah Bazer, who endured a terrifying hallucination that rid her of the fear that her ovarian cancer would return. And for Estalyn Walcoff, who says the drug experience led her to begin a comforting spiritual journey.

The work released Thursday is preliminary and experts say more definitive research must be done on the effects of the substance, called psilocybin (sih-loh-SY’-bihn).

But the record so far shows “very impressive results,” said Dr. Craig Blinderman, who directs the adult palliative care service at the Columbia University Medical Center/New York-Presbyterian Hospital. He didn’t participate in the work.

Psilocybin, also called shrooms, purple passion and little smoke, comes from certain kinds of mushrooms. It is illegal in the U.S., and if the federal government approves the treatment, it would be administered in clinics by specially trained staff, experts say….

Psychedelic drugs have looked promising in the past for treating distress in cancer patients. But studies of medical use of psychedelics stopped in the early 1970s after a regulatory crackdown on the drugs, following their widespread recreational use. It has slowly resumed in recent years.

So people stop using drugs to recreational use, at least legally by the doctors, but the people still take all kind of drugs and supplements that help them with their body or gaining muscle or losing weight like plexus slim, which help them with all the above.

Griffiths said it’s not clear whether psilocybin would work outside of cancer patients, although he suspects it might work in people facing other terminal conditions. Plans are also underway to study it in depression that resists standard treatment, he said.

Trumpworld News

Have you heard about the conversation #tRump had with the prime minster of Pakistan? Yes, the president-elect is still talkingto foreign leaders on his personal phone without benefit of intelligence briefings or background information from the State Department.

Chair Car, Edward Hopper

Chair Car, Edward Hopper

Time Magazine: Donald Trump’s Phone Conversation With the Leader of Pakistan Was Reckless and Bizarre.

There are few foreign policy topics quite as complicated as the relationship between India and Pakistan, South Asia’s nuclear-armed nemeses. Any world leader approaching the issue even obliquely must surely see the “Handle With Care” label from miles away, given the possibility of nuclear conflict.

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, however, doesn’t seem to have read the memo, injecting a pronounced element of uncertainty about the position of the world’s only remaining superpower on this most complex of subjects in a call with the Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

According to a readout of the conversation from the Pakistani authorities, he apparently agreed to visit the country and said he was “ready and willing to play any role that you want me to play to address and find solutions to the outstanding problems.” He reportedly added: “You are a terrific guy. You are doing amazing work which is visible in every way.”

The hilarity of his hyperbole aside, Trump’s intervention could have serious consequences for both regional and global stability.

Do you suppose #tRump knows that both Pakistan and India have nukes and they hate each others’ guts? Anyway, read the rest at the link. Here’s the full readout of the call from Pakistan’s press information site. The Trump people don’t bother to provide any information about the god-emperor’s phone calls.

Girl Reading, Jacob Chapiro

Girl Reading, Jacob Chapiro

Yesterday the CIA head John Brennan tried to give #tRump some foreign policy suggestions via an interview with the BBC. The New York Times reports: C.I.A. Chief Warns Donald Trump Against Tearing Up Iran Nuclear Deal.

LONDON — The director of the C.I.A. has issued a stark warning to President-elect Donald J. Trump: Tearing up the Iran nuclear dealwould be “the height of folly” and “disastrous.”

During the election campaign, Mr. Trump railed against the deal, calling it a disaster and pledging to “dismantle” the historic accord, reached in 2015, in which Tehran agreed to limits on its nuclear program in return for the lifting of international oil and financial sanctions.

Representative Mike Pompeo of Kansas, a Republican whom Mr. Trump has chosen to succeed John O. Brennan as head of the C.I.A., wrote in mid-November on Twitter, “I look forward to rolling back this disastrous deal with the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism.”

But in an interview with the BBC that was published on its website on Wednesday, Mr. Brennan warned that scrapping the nuclear deal would undermine American foreign policy, embolden hard-liners in Iran and threaten to set off an arms race in the Middle East by encouraging other countries to develop nuclear weapons.

“First of all, for one administration to tear up an agreement that a previous administration made would be unprecedented,” Mr. Brennan said in the BBC interview, which the broadcaster said was the first by a C.I.A. director with the British news media. “I think it would be the height of folly if the next administration were to tear up that agreement.”

Mr. Trump has professed admiration for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, calling him a strong leader, and promised closer relations with Moscow, but Mr. Brennan, who was appointed by President Obama and will step down in January after four years, warned that the incoming http://Loanovao needed to be skeptical about the Kremlin.

“I think President Trump and the new administration need to be wary of Russian promises,” he told the BBC, reiterating the widely held view that Russia had carried out hacking during the United States election and blaming Moscow for the deteriorating situation in Syria.

More at the link. #tRump supposedly reads the NYT; will he pay attention? Probably not.

Women reading, Robert Breyer

Women reading, Robert Breyer

Some analysis from Vox: CIA Director John Brennan tells the BBC that Trump’s ideas are terrible.

On Wednesday morning, the BBC published excerpts from an interview with CIA Director John Brennan, the first time a serving head of America’s best-known spy agency has sat down with the British media, according to the BBC. Brennan’s comments are, unmistakably, a shot at Donald Trump. He calls Trump’s proposal to scrap the Iran deal “disastrous,” warns that “the overwhelming majority of CIA officers” oppose Trump’s call to bring back torture of suspected terrorists, and says the famously Putin-sympathetic Trump should “beware Russian promises.”

Brennan is stepping down from the CIA leadership on January 20, so he’ll never have to deal with President Trump directly. That means he’s free to do something as brazen as trash the incoming president on one of the world’s most-watched TV channels.

If you take a deeper look at Brennan’s comments, you start to realize that he’s expressing criticisms of Trump policies that are widely held in the foreign policy community.

 Take his attack on Trump’s approach to the Iran deal, which Brennan calls “the height of folly.” He warns that doing so would allow Iran to simply restart its nuclear program.

This, as my colleague Zeeshan Aleem explains, is the consensus among even anti-deal experts and policymakers. That’s because of the way the deal is structured: Iran has already gotten the sanctions relief it was promised, but has yet to fully comply with the terms of the deal that dismantle its nuclear program. If Trump were to scrap the deal on day one, Iran would have everything it wanted without having to give up too much. It would have billions of new dollars as well, and a free hand to build a nuke without pesky international inspectors.

Brennan’s position on Russia is another good example. His argument is that the Obama administration’s negotiations with Russia have mostly failed to alter Moscow’s worst behavior — for example, its slaughtering of civilians in the Syrian city of Aleppo and bombing of the moderate opposition looking to unseat Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad.

Intelligence officials have been reduced to trying to communicate with a madman through the media. Please go over to Vox and read the rest.
Young lady reading, Mary Cassatt

Young lady reading, Mary Cassatt

You probably heard that #tRump drove someone at the Office of Government Ethics Office to nervous breakdown yesterday. Slate: Federal Ethics Agency Spent the Afternoon Sarcastically Praising Donald Trump.

The U.S. Office of Government Ethics, as its name suggests, interprets and advises federal officials on the ethics laws and rules designed to help keep them honest. “When government decisions are made free from conflicts of interest, the public can have greater confidence in the integrity of executive branch programs and operations,” its mission statement admirably declares. Given what likely awaits the agency in less than two months’ time, it understandably had some, um, thoughts on Donald Trump’s vague, predawn Twitter announcement that he will be “leaving his great business” to focus on the presidency….

Remarkably, those exclamation-filled tweets from a normally staid Twitter account don’t appear to be the result of a hack. “Like everyone else, we were excited this morning to read the President-elect’s twitter feed indicating he wants to be free of conflicts of interest,” agency spokesman Seth Jaffe said in a statement on Wednesday afternoon. He added: “We don’t know the details of their plan, but we are willing and eager to help them with it.”

A few of the tweets (see the rest at Slate):

That’s it for me today. Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and enjoy the rest of your Thursday!


Lazy Saturday Reads

Tree Brooklyn

Good Morning!!

 

Yesterday, Slate published a piece by Ruth Graham that started a minor controversy on Twitter and various blogs. Graham argued that adults should be ashamed to be caught reading books written for the Young Adult (YA) audience. Graham writes:

The once-unseemly notion that it’s acceptable for not-young adults to read young-adult fiction is now conventional wisdom. Today, grown-ups brandish their copies of teen novels with pride. There are endless lists of YA novels that adults should read, an “I read YA” campaign for grown-up YA fans, and confessional posts by adult YA addicts. But reading YA doesn’t make for much of a confession these days: A 2012 survey by a market research firm found that 55 percent of these books are bought by people older than 18. (The definition of YA is increasingly fuzzy, but it generally refers to books written for 12- to 17-year-olds. Meanwhile, the cultural definition of “young adult” now stretches practically to age 30, which may have something to do with this whole phenomenon.)

The largest group of buyers in that survey—accounting for a whopping 28 percent of all YA sales—are between ages 30 and 44. That’s my demographic, which might be why I wasn’t surprised to hear this news. I’m surrounded by YA-loving adults, both in real life and online. Today’s YA, we are constantly reminded, is worldly and adult-worthy. That has kept me bashful about expressing my own fuddy-duddy opinion: Adults should feel embarrassed about reading literature written for children.

Graham has no problem with adolescents reading these books, but she thinks adults should focus on reading “literary fiction,” because “Life is so short, and the list of truly great books for adults is so long.”

I’m not one of the demographic that reads the new YA books, but I do love to escape into detective stories and I know many adults who enjoy reading science fiction and fantasy. In essence, what Graham’s is arguing against is so-called “genre fiction.” Her article made me want to rush out and buy a couple of Harry Potter books. The idea that anyone should be shamed for reading something that gives them pleasure really rubbed me the wrong way; and the notion that adults should avoid reading for pleasure–what Graham characterizes as “escapism, instant gratification, and nostalgia.” Her real problem with YA lit is that it is specifically designed to be give pleasure.

Reading tree

Of course I was not alone in my reaction to Graham’s essay. There were a number of excellent responses. Here’s Hillary Kelly from The New Republic: In Praise of Reading Whatever the Hell You Want: Don’t let Slate make you feel ashamed for reading books that you love.

One evening when I was 11 years old, lifelong friends of my parents came to our house for dinner. As the youngest child, I was the only one left at home to sulk on our living room floor and listen to adult chatter that I neither understood nor cared about. But the couple, Bob and Nancy, were thoughtful enough (and had witnessed my boredom enough) to bring me something to keep me occupied: a book, Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

I won’t gush too long and too hard about how that novel affected me, how I felt Francie Nolan’s injustices, how romantic I found her fire escape reading perch, how I reveled in the fact that Francie was a reader like me. It’s enough to say that I lovedin fact, lovethat novel. I reread it about once a year.

In the intervening years, I’ve only found about a half dozen “young adult” books that I’ve enjoyed and found fulfilling. I will reread the Harry Potter books over and over until the day I die. I haven’t come close to picking up The Fault in Our Stars. I found The Hunger Games books clumsy and absurd. Don’t get me going on The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I rarely, if ever, seek out YA lit. It just (usually) isn’t my thing. But that doesn’t mean that the Ruth Graham piece Slate published Thursday, titled “Against YA: Read whatever you want. But you should feel embarrassed when what you’re reading was written for children,” has any merit whatsoever. In fact, Graham fundamentally misunderstands and mislabels the entire genre, and sends a ridiculous message that any reader should rebel against: “Adults should feel embarrassed about reading literature written for children” (itals hers).

You should never be embarrassed by any book you enjoy. And you certainly shouldn’t let some woman you’ve never met make you feel inferior for reading beneath your grade level.

fabian-limberlost

As a young girl, I also read and loved A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I’ve never been tempted to go back and reread it, but I have reread other children’s books over the years–even books written for younger children. I’ve reread and cried over The Wind in the Willows, and I’ve often thought about rereading A Girl of the Limberlost and Laura Igalls Wilder’s “Little House” books, which I adored. I’ve reread Huckleberry Finn numerous times, each time getting more adult insights from it. Another book that I’ve reread several times with pleasure is The Hobbit.

There’s actually an even more practical argument against Graham’s premise that *real* reading should be a *very serious* endeavor. It’s very important for young children to develop a joy in reading–to learn to read for pleasure (pdf). Apparently this is something that is more recognized in the UK at the moment then here, where the focus is on testing and “Common Core standards.”

From the Guardian: How to encourage students to read for pleasure: teachers share their top tips.

The big challenge for teachers is not simply getting students to read – it’s getting them to enjoy it too. It’s one thing for students to trudge through set texts in a lesson, but will they open another book when they get home at the end of the day?

The National Literacy Trust has noted that becoming a lifetime reader is based on developing a deep love of reading.

“Research has repeatedly shown that motivation to read decreases with age, especially if pupils’ attitudes towards reading become less positive,” it said. “If children do not enjoy reading when they are young, then they are unlikely to do so when they get older.”

For younger readers in particular, their home environment is critically important.

“Home is a massive influence,” says Eleanor Webster, a primary school teacher in Nottinghamshire. “Supportive and understanding parents are key to developing their child’s reading.”

Here are a few more responses to the Graham piece if you’re interested:

Rachel Carter at The New Republic: I Write Young Adult Novels, and I Refuse to Apologize for It.

Alyssa Rosenberg at The Washington Post: No, you do not have to be ashamed of reading young adult fiction.

Kat Kinsman at CNN: Grownups: Don’t be ashamed of your YA habit.

Mark Shrayber at Jezebel: Hey, Everyone! Read Whatever the Fuck You Want.

 

Now a few newsy reads:

pot candy

Have you heard about the edible pot controversy in Colorado? A few days ago Maureen Dowd wrote about the bad trip she took on a pot-infused candy bar, and the discussion went viral. Poor MoDo didn’t heed the warnings about not eating the whole thing at one sitting. From The Boston Globe: Maureen Dowd Eats Pot Candy in Denver, Breaks Internet.

As Dowd tells it, she legally purchased a caramel-chocolate flavored edible, ate it in her Denver hotel room, washed it down with some chardonnay, and then waited. About an hour later, the effects of THC set in, and the result was not good:

I strained to remember where I was or even what I was wearing, touching my green corduroy jeans and staring at the exposed-brick wall. As my paranoia deepened, I became convinced that I had died and no one was telling me.

The high lasted eight hours. EIGHT.

Dowd’s conclusion is that pot candy needs to be better labelled. Newbies to the drug should only eat about 1/16 of the kind of bar she ate, according to a medical consultant at an edibles plant she interviewed. Her candy wrapper had no mention of recommended servings, she wrote.

The tour guide who escorted Dowd around said she was warned. It’s not clear if she was told the recommended serving size.

According to The Cannabis, Matt Brown, co-founder of tourism company My 420 Tours, accompanied Dowd as she purchased the edibles at a Denver dispensary. He said she “got the warning” about how edibles affect everyone differently.

I have to admit, I’m a little concerned about pot-infused candy. What if kids get ahold of it? — and inevitably they will. There’s also the man who killed his wife after eating some of the candy and smoking a joint. The Hershey Candy Company is also perturbed and they’re suing: From Boston.com:

DENVER (AP) — The Hershey Co. has sued a Colorado marijuana edibles maker, claiming it makes four pot-infused candies that too closely resemble iconic products of the chocolate maker.

The trademark infringement lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Denver this week against TinctureBelle LLC and TinctureBelle Marijuanka LLC.

It alleges TinctureBelle’s Ganja Joy, Hasheath, Hashees and Dabby Patty mimic Hershey’s Almond Joy, Heath, Reese’s peanut butter cups and York peppermint patty candies, respectively.

omi0-012

At Pando Daily, Mark Ames is continuing to follow the international adventures of Glenn Greenwald’s boss Pierre Omidyar. Two weeks ago, he revealed Omidyar’s role in supporting and profiting from the election of India’s new fascist government: REVEALED: The head of Omidyar Network in India had a secret second job… Helping elect Narendra Modi. He followed up last week with this: eBay Shrugged: Pierre Omidyar believes there should be no philanthropy without profit.

The role of Omidyar Network in so many major events of the past week — helping elect India’s ultranationalist leader Narendra Modi; co-funding Ukraine regime-change NGOswith USAID, resulting in a deadly civil war and Monday’s election of Ukrainian billionaireoligarch Petro Poroshenko; and now, this week’s first-ever sit-down TV interview with Edward Snowden, through an arrangement between NBC News and Pierre Omidyar’s First Look Media — shows how these contradictions are coming to the fore, and shaping our world.

Omidyar’s central role in the US national security state’s global agenda may still come as a shock to outsiders and fans of First Look media’s roster of once-independent journalists. But to White House foreign policy hawks, Pierre Omidyar represents the new face of an old imperial tradition.

And this week, Ames wrote: Just as we predicted, India’s new leader is about to make Pierre Omidyar a lot richer.

Well that was fast. Two weeks ago, we reported that eBay founder Pierre Omidyar’s top man in India had secretly helped elect controversial ultranationalist Narendra Modi, implicated by Human Rights Watch and others in the gruesome mass killings and cleansing of minority Muslims. As we also revealed, shortly after Omidyar’s man publicly joined the Modi campaign in February, Modi suddenly began warming up to the idea of letting global e-commerce companies into the world’s third largest economy. Omidyar’s eBay, which draws the majority of its revenues from overseas operations, has been champing at the bit to get into India.

Now, just weeks after Modi’s election, it seems their prayers have been answered.

Today, Reuters is reporting that Modi is planning to open India up to global e-commerce firms like eBay next month, and that Modi’s industry minister has been drawing up the new guidelines with input from top eBay officials, along with their e-commerce counterparts from Google, Amazon, Wal-Mart and others.

I wonder how all this ties in to Omidyar’s purchase of the Snowden data through Greenwald and Laura Poitras?

In a recent post, I mentioned that there has been a new arrest in the Boston bombing case. A friend of the Tsarnaev brothers, Khairullozhon Matanov, was arrested in Quincy, MA, last week and charged with obstruction of the bombing investigation. AP reported recently that Matanov had wired large amounts of money to people overseas. AP via The Daily Mail: Revealed: Boston bombing suspect’s friend wired $71,000 to people in six countries, as judge rules he should remain in jail.

A friend of Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev wired more than $71,000 to people in six countries and used fake names several times for the transactions – including while Tsarnaev was on a pilgrimage in Russia, according to prosecutors.

Khairullozhon Matanov, 23, is accused of deleting computer files and lying to agents investigating the 2013 bombings, which killed three and injured more than 260.

Prosecutors accuse the immigrant from Kyrgyzstan of a ‘pattern of deceit’ in dealing with authorities as they investigated the bomb attacks.

At a detention hearing, Matanov waived his right to seek release on bail. His lawyer said Matanov has no family here, lost his job as a cab driver after his indictment last week and has nowhere to go if he were released.

Curiouser and curiouser.

I’ll end with three links to interesting and helpful reads on the Bowe Bergdahl controversy.

Think Progress: Did Sergeant Bergdahl Desert The Army Or Did The Army Desert Him?

Reuters: Bergdahl reveals the impossible choices faced by hostages’ families.

NYT Editorial Board: The Rush to Demonize Sgt. Bergdahlgen

I hope you’ll find something worth reading in my suggestions. What are you reading and blogging about these days? Please post your links on any topic in the comment thread.


Saturday Reads: World-Wide Rape Culture and Other News

Newspaper, coffee and bagel at table

Good Morning!!

For the past two days I’ve been reading about the gang rape that took place in Steubenville, Ohio last August. This horrendous story got almost no national publicity until The New York Times published a long investigative piece on it on December 16. I’m sure you’ve probably heard about it by now too.

Sadly, it’s a familiar story. High school athletes sexually assault young girl, town closes ranks to protect boys and blame the victim. We’ve seen similar events again and again over the past few years and probably the only difference in these recent attacks on women from those in previous times–going by centuries–is that they get more publicity now and some people are outraged about them. But it doesn’t stop.

There was the Richmond High gang rape in California, the Pitt Meadows gang rape in British Columbia, the gang rape of an 11-year-old girl in Texas, and most recently the death of a woman who was viciously gang raped in India.

Go here to watch a very good video of Amanda Marcotte and a Canadian blogger discussing our world-wide rape culture, focusing on the cases in India, Steubenville, and Pitt Meadows.

Another difference in these incidents from those in earlier times is that participants often take photos and videos of these horrendous events and either send them to each other or post them on-line. In the Steubenville case, participants even tweeted about what was happening as they watched! This creates more nightmarish problems for victims and for law enforcement, but may also lead to perpetrators getting caught even when there is a local cover-up. In Steubenville, an “Anonymous” group has been involved–hacking into computers to retrieve data that has been erased.

Shockingly, this week, as the Steubenville story broke nationally, we witnessed the shameful spectacle of House Republicans finally refusing–after months of stalling–refusing to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.

To be honest, I wasn’t even sure if I should write about the Steubenville story today. It’s so disgusting that I haven’t even been able to bring myself to watch the video of students joking about the gang rape that the Anonymous group released. I didn’t want to subject all of you to something that I can barely stand to read about.

What I decided to do is give you a brief summary of what I’ve learned so far and post some links so you can read more if you are interested. I’m not going to name names, but you’ll see them if you go to the links.

Steubenville is a small town of about 17,000 people in southeastern Ohio just a short distance from the West Virginia border. Steubenville is crazy about their high school football team (nicknamed “Big Red”) and the team brings in a great deal of money to the community–through increased legal and illegal (gambling) business. There has apparently been a culture of protecting the football players and allowing them to run wild, and the perpetrators in this case are football players.

What I’ve gathered, based on the most recent stories and rumors, is that the victim (age 16) lived in West Virginia but had recently broken up with her boyfriend who was from Steubenville. The boyfriend was enraged about the breakup, and tweeted about the victim, saying she should be punished. He apparently encouraged at least one member of the football team to call the girl, befriend her, and urge her to attend a massive end of the summer party that took place in multiple locations. One of the locations was the home of the local prosecuting attorney whose son is on the football team.

The Anonymous hackers claim the girl was drugged immediately after she was picked up in a car by three football players. That can’t be confirmed because the girl didn’t get to the hospital in time for a date rape drug to be detected. It makes sense though, because the girl was unconscious throughout the night and doesn’t remember anything after she got in the car with the two perpetrators who have been arrested so far.

These two boys (both 16) carried the girl around like an object from house to house (there are photos), and she was repeatedly sexually assaulted by multiple attackers. This apparently happened during parties as the girl lay on the floor or in a chair, unresponsive. One onlooker even “joked” that she was dead. The NYT reports that at one point she vomited in the street and “she remained there alone for several minutes with her top off.” At one point a former football player who was a student at Ohio State University this year called for her to be urinated on. It’s not clear if that happened, but several people reported it.

The girl reportedly slept on a couch in one of the houses and was taken home early in the morning and left on her parents’ doorstep. She had no knowledge of what had happened to her until she started seeing the comments and photos on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. The fact that she has no memory of the night at all certainly suggests that she could have been given a date rape drug. You’ll find a lot more information on Atlantic Wire if you go to that link.

When the girl’s mother realized what had happened, she took her daughter to the hospital and to the police, but it was too late to recover any evidence. The local prosecutor reportedly discouraged the victim and her family from pressing charges, warning that the community would turn against them and the media would never leave them alone.

Eventually two boys were arrested and charged as adults with rape and kidnapping, but many character witnesses testified for them, including the football coach (who is close friends with the Sheriff and who didn’t bench any of the other team members involved) and the kidnapping charge was dropped and the boys are now charged as juveniles. Their trial is scheduled for February. No one else as been charged, but after the story went national this week authorities said there could be more arrests. The case is now being investigated by special prosecutors and the local prosecutor and judge have recused themselves (BTW, the state attorney general is former Republican Senator Mike DeWine–remember him? In addition, the Atlantic reported yesterday that the football coach may be forced to resign. Today Anonymous plans to hold a public protest in Steubenville.

A few more links:

Prinniefied.com, the home of a crime blogger who kept the Steubenville story alive for months when there was little media coverage.

An early (September 2) story from the Cleveland Plain Dealer: Rape charges against high school players divide football town of Steubenville, Ohio

WTOV News 9 in Jefferson County Ohio: New developments revealed in Steubenville teen rape investigation

DailyKos: The Steubenville Rape – A Timeline

American Prospect: Purity Culture Is Rape Culture

The Atlantic: As a Girl in India, I Learned to Be Afraid of Men

The Atlantic: India’s Gender-Equity Problem

In Other News

Some interesting reads on other topics

A fascinating article at The Atlantic about the phenomenon of waking up under anesthesia: Awakening

Linda Campbell was not quite 4 years old when her appendix burst, spilling its bacteria-rich contents throughout her abdomen. She was in severe pain, had a high fever, and wouldn’t stop crying. Her parents, in a state of panic, brought her to the emergency room in Atlanta, where they lived. Knowing that Campbell’s organs were beginning to fail and her heart was on the brink of shutting down, doctors rushed her into surgery.

Today, removing an appendix leaves only a few droplet-size scars. But back then, in the 1960s, the procedure was much more involved. As Campbell recalls, an anesthesiologist told her to count backward from 10 while he flooded her lungs with anesthetic ether gas, allowing a surgeon to slice into her torso, cut out her earthworm-size appendix, and drain her abdomen of infectious slop, leaving behind a lengthy, longitudinal scar.

The operation was successful, but not long after Campbell returned home, her mother sensed that something was wrong. The calm, precocious girl who went into the surgery was not the same one who emerged. Campbell began flinging food from her high chair. She suffered random episodes of uncontrollable vomiting. She threw violent temper tantrums during the day and had disturbing dreams at night. “They were about people being cut open, lots of blood, lots of violence,” Campbell remembers. She refused to be alone, but avoided anyone outside her immediate circle. Her parents took her to physicians and therapists. None could determine the cause of her distress. When she was in eighth grade, her parents pulled her from school for rehabilitation.

Over time, Campbell’s most severe symptoms subsided, and she learned how to cope with those that remained. She managed to move on, become an accountant, and start a family of her own, but she wasn’t cured. Her nightmares continued, and nearly anything could trigger a panic attack: car horns, sudden bright lights, wearing tight-fitting pants or snug collars, even lying flat in a bed. She explored the possibility of post-traumatic stress disorder with her therapists, but could not identify a triggering event. One clue that did eventually surface, though, hinted at a possibly traumatic experience. During a session with a hypnotherapist, Campbell remembered an image, accompanied by an acute feeling of fear, of a man looming over her.

An article at The Atlantic on How Obama Decides Your Fate if He Thinks You’re a Terrorist

Over the past two years, the Obama administration has begun to formalize a so-called “disposition matrix” for suspected terrorists abroad: a continuously evolving database that spells out the intelligence on targets and various strategies, including contingencies, for handling them. Although the government has not spelled out the steps involved in deciding how to treat various terrorists, a look at U.S. actions in the past makes evident a rough decision tree.

Understanding these procedures is particularly important for one of the most vexing, and potentially most dangerous, categories of terrorists: U.S. citizens. Over the years, U.S. authorities have responded with astonishing variety to American nationals suspected of terrorism, from ignoring their activities to conducting lethal drone strikes. All U.S. terrorists are not created equal. And the U.S. response depends heavily on the role of allies, the degree of threat the suspect poses, and the imminence of that threat — along with other factors.

See the flow chart and read detailed explanations {shudder} at the link.

NYT: F.D.A. Offers Broad New Rules to Fight Food Contamination

The proposed rules represent a sea change in the way the agency polices food, a process that currently involves taking action after contamination has been identified. It is a long-awaited step toward codifying the food safety law that Congress passed two years ago.

Changes include requirements for better record keeping, contingency plans for handling outbreaks and measures that would prevent the spread of contaminants in the first place. While food producers would have latitude in determining how to execute the rules, farmers would have to ensure that water used in irrigation met certain standards and food processors would need to find ways to keep fresh food that may contain bacteria from coming into contact with food that has been cooked.

New safety measures might include requiring that farm workers wash their hands, installing portable toilets in fields and ensuring that foods are cooked at temperatures high enough to kill bacteria.

Whether consumers will ultimately bear some of the expense of the new rules was unclear, but the agency estimated that the proposals would cost food producers tens of thousands of dollars a year.

Mother Jones: Powerful Tea Party Group’s Internal Docs Leak—Read Them Here

FreedomWorks, the national conservative group that helped launch the tea party movement, sells itself as a genuine grassroots operation, and for years it has battled accusations of “astroturfing”—posing as a populist organization while doing the bidding of big-money donors. Yet internal documents obtained by Mother Jones show that FreedomWorks has indeed become dependent on wealthy individual donors to finance its growing operation.

Last month, the Washington Post reported that Richard Stephenson, a reclusive millionaire banker and FreedomWorks board member, and members of his family funneled $12 million in October through two newly created Tennessee corporations to FreedomWorks’ super-PAC, which used these funds to support tea party candidates in November’s elections. The revelation that a corporate bigwig like Stephenson, who founded the Cancer Treatment Centers of America and chairs its board, was responsible for more than half of the FreedomWorks super-PAC’s haul in 2012 undercuts the group’s grassroots image and hands ammunition to critics who say FreedomWorks does the bidding of rich conservative donors.

Big donations like Stephenson’s are business as usual for FreedomWorks. According to a 52-page report prepared by FreedomWorks’ top brass for a board of directors meeting held in mid-December at the Virginia office of Sands Capital Management, an investment firm run by FreedomWorks board member Frank Sands, the entire FreedomWorks organization—its 501(c)(3) and (c)(4) nonprofit arms and its super-PAC—raised nearly $41 million through mid-December. Of that total, $33 million—or 81 percent of its 2012 fundraising—came in the form of “major gifts,” the type of big donations coveted by nonprofits and super-PACs. (FreedomWorks’ nonprofit components do not have to disclose their funders.)

Well-heeled individual contributors ponied up $31 million—or 94 percent—of those major gifts, according to the FreedomWorks board book. Eight donors gave a half-million dollars or more; 22 donated between $100,000 and $499,999; 17 cut checks between $50,000 and $99,999; and 95 gave between $10,000 and $49,999. Foundations contributed $1.6 million in major gifts, and corporations donated $330,000.

Now what are you reading and blogging about today? I look forward to clicking on your links.


Saturday Reads: A Fiscal Cliff-Free Zone

MarilynMonroe reads

Good Morning!!

Several months ago, I wrote about seeing a gathering of wild turkeys as I drove down my street in a western suburb of Boston. I was very surprised, but when I got home and googled I learned that the giant, not-very-bright birds have been invading communities all over Massachusetts–including the city of Boston!

Yesterday, as I drove down a street in Cambridge, I had to come to sudden stop as a lone wild turkey meandered into my path. I managed to get around the bird, but the car behind me didn’t make it I could see in my rear view mirror that the driver was forced to sit there as the turkey wandered around in the middle of the road. So apparently the turkey invasion is continuing apace.

From CBS News, December 7: Wild turkeys terrorize Massachusetts town residents

Aggressive turkeys are coming after some Massachusetts residents, prompting one town to consider seeking approval to trap and kill the birds.

In particular, three large male turkeys seem to be leading the assault in Brookline, CBS station WBZ in Boston reported. A meeting was held on Dec. 6 at the Brookline Police Station to discuss the poultry problem.

Karen Halvorson told WBZ that the turkeys have chased her on two occasions, banging on her front door and scratching her as she took her daily walk. She’s taken precautions including buying a hiking stick to ward off the creatures and carrying her phone on her at all times. Halvorson was at the meeting.

“I can’t believe we’re living this way,” she said.

Her husband has made piles of sticks around their house so they can throw them at the turkeys and run for cover. He’s been attacked four times in the last three years.

Jeeze, I’m glad they’re not hanging around in my front yard! BTW, Brookline is basically in Boston. It’s an urban area.

Turkeys.brookline

Here’s more from The Boston Globe in late November:

In Brookline, a roving band of wild turkeys is terrorizing residents, stalking some as they walk down the street and ambushing others as they try to exit their cars. They’re pecking backsides, scratching necks, and flapping powerful wings in the faces of passersby.

For those whose primary experience with the grand bird is when it’s sliced up on a plate, the problem may sound funny. And to those living in rural areas who have found ways to peacefully coexist with wild turkeys for years, the problem may sound overblown. But to residents of Brookline, where the presence of roughly two dozen 3- to 4-foot-tall birds is a relatively new phenomenon, the menace is anything but humorous or normal. Over the past few months, the number of encounters with the increasingly brazen birds ­­— not to mention calls to public safety officials — has risen.

According to the state agency MassWildlife, trapping and relocating the turkeys would be impractical: The best trapping methods aren’t suited for urban and suburban areas, and relocated turkeys often return or find new human populations to annoy. The better option, then, is to teach humans how best to deal with the birds. Brookline officials should get to work educating the town’s residents about best anti-turkey practices, which are available on MassWildlife’s website.

The birds are even invading Martha’s Vineyard: Oak Bluffs police bean rampaging turkey.

Oak Bluffs police officers Saturday used a bean bag shotgun to knock the stuffing out of an aggressive turkey that had run afoul of residents in the Hidden Cove Road neighborhood, where the big Tom attempted to rule the roost.

Lieutenant Tim Williamson said police were called to the neighborhood, located in the Major’s Cove subdivision, on several occasions for reports of turkeys harassing humans. In one instance, a turkey chased an elderly woman who tripped and fell and scraped her knee. “This turkey has been a menace in the neighborhood for at least a month or so,” Lieutenant Williamson said.

On Saturday at noon, police officer Jeffrey LaBell received a call at the station from a resident who police would not identify. The man told police a wild turkey was on his front porch and, according to the police report, “was keeping him and his wife from entering their residence. [The man] explained the turkey is aggressive and has attacked people in the neighborhood in the past on several occasions. [The man] demanded that something be done before the turkey causes harm to someone in the neighborhood.”

Now for some slightly more serious news, please follow me after the page break.

Read the rest of this entry »


Sunday Reads: Venus Fly-Trap, Irish Women, Liz and Dick

Good Morning

**Updated @ 1:40pm**

The world is smaller these days, internet and social media like twitter and Facebook bring people far away closer to us every day. One of my “Facebook Friends” who is an amazing bead weaver, lives in Tel Aviv. Her house suffered a direct hit by a missile early yesterday, fortunately no injuries…but the roof caved in and all the windows in the house were blown out. She has been posting quick updates to her FB page, mentioning the sounds of war just outside her home…talking about the stress of wondering if, or as it turned out, when it would be her family’s turn to experience the latest fight first hand.

I think these kinds of connections bring events like the war between Israel and Gaza home to many people who may not have been only slightly interested or barely aware of this escalating situation in the Mideast. I would post pictures of her house after being hit by a rocket, but she hasn’t posted any updates since early yesterday morning. I just hope Miriam is okay and safe.

** Update**

My FB friend posted an update to her status earlier today, here is what she said:

After a sleepless night I got up to take stock of the extensive damage caused by last nights attack..Daylight revealed just how bad it was and how lucky I am to be alive. Broken glass and debris everywhere, I don’t know where to start…This morning I find my beads covered in debris and dust, work in progress ruined…the car damaged…doors torn out of their frames…Still, I live to see another day, which is more than other people can say so I am thankful. I just want peace for us all. THANK YOU so much for your prayers and concern, you fill my heart with hope! ♥

I am relieved that she is okay, and I hope she stays safe and gets her wish of peace for everyone.

The reason I mention my artist friend is because I wanted to bring the next few links about Gaza and Israel into perspective.

Here are some recent updates on Israel and Hamas, the articles are rather involved so I will just post the first paragraphs and I urge you to go and read them in full:

Stop pretending the US is an uninvolved, helpless party in the Israeli assault on Gaza | Glenn Greenwald

A Palestinian man carries a wounded child in Gaza

A Palestinian man carries a wounded child at a hospital following an Israeli air raid in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip, on November 17, 2012. Photograph: Moiz Salhi/AFP/Getty Images

(updated below)

A central premise of US media coverage of the Israeli attack on Gaza – beyond the claim that Israel is justifiably “defending itself” – is that this is some endless conflict between two foreign entitles, and Americans can simply sit by helplessly and lament the tragedy of it all. The reality is precisely the opposite: Israeli aggression is possible only because of direct, affirmative, unstinting US diplomatic, financial and military support for Israel and everything it does. This self-flattering depiction of the US as uninvolved, neutral party is the worst media fiction since TV news personalities covered the Arab Spring by pretending that the US is and long has been on the side of the heroic democratic protesters, rather than the key force that spent decades propping up the tyrannies they were fighting.

I will however, include this update on the Greenwald piece, which mentions this quote below:

7:55 P.M. Interior Minister Eli Yishai on Israel’s operation in Gaza: “The goal of the operation is to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages. Only then will Israel be calm for forty years.”

To which, Greenwald says this:

Let me know if any of the US Sunday talk shows mention that tomorrow during their discussions of this “operation”.

From the Boston Globe: Israel launches scores of airstrikes into Gaza

Israel broadened its assault on the Gaza Strip on Saturday from mostly military targets to centers of government infrastructure, obliterating the four-story headquarters of the Hamas prime minister with a barrage of five bombs before dawn.

The attack, one of several on government installations, came a day after the prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, hosted his Egyptian counterpart in that building, a sign of Hamas’ new legitimacy in a radically redrawn Arab world. That stature was underscored Saturday by a visit to Gaza from the Tunisian foreign minister and the rapid convergence in Cairo of two Hamas allies, the prime minister of Turkey and the crown prince of Qatar, for talks with the Egyptian president and the chairman of Hamas on a possible cease-fire.

But as the fighting ended its fourth day, with Israel continuing preparations for a ground invasion, the conflict showed no sign of abating. Gaza militants again fired long-range missiles at Tel Aviv, among nearly 60 that soared into Israel on Saturday. Israel said it hit more than 200 targets overnight in Gaza, and continued with afternoon strikes on the home of a Hamas commander and on a motorcycle-riding militant.

From Haaretz Daily Newspaper, Let’s try something new

The Palestinian people want to be free of the occupation. Life is like that sometimes. But how to accomplish that? At first they tried doing nothing. For 20 years they were idle, and indeed nothing happened. They then tried rocks and knives, the first intifada. And still nothing happened, except for the Oslo Accords, which did not change the fundamental nature of the occupation. After that, they tried a vicious intifada: again, nothing. They made a stab at diplomacy; still nothing, the occupation went on as before.

From Al Jazeera English, Israel continues deadly Gaza air raids

Israel and Palestinian fighters have traded air strikes and rockets for a fourth day, with Israel hitting the Hamas prime minister’s office and also downing a rocket aimed at Tel Aviv.

The death toll from the conflict climbed on Saturday to 45: 40 Palestinians, at least 13 of them civilians, including women and children, and three Israeli civilians.

At least eight people were killed and dozens more injured by overnight attacks on the Gaza Strip.

From the New York Times: Arms With a Long Reach Help Hamas

Rina Castelnuovo for The New York Times

A child watches from a field near Ashdod, Israel, as a missile is fired to intercept an incoming Palestinian rocket. About 30 rockets were fired from Gaza into southern Israel on Saturday morning.

And now I will move on to Ireland, and a few updates on a story we have followed here on Sky D.

Thousands March for Abortion Rights in Ireland

About 10,000 people marched through Dublin and observed a minute’s silence Saturday in memory of the Indian dentist who died of blood poisoning in an Irish hospital after being denied an abortion.

Marchers, many of them mothers and daughters walking side by side, chanted “Never again!” and held pictures of Savita Halappanavar as they paraded across the city to stage a nighttime candlelit vigil outside the office of Prime Minister Enda Kenny.

‘Change your abortion law to save lives’ grieving father tells Irish PM

Praveen and Savita Halappanavar.

Praveen and Savita Halappanavar during their wedding four years ago.

The father of the young woman who died after being refused an emergency abortion in Ireland has appealed directly to the Irish prime minister, Enda Kenny, to change the country’s legislation on abortion.

Interviewed by the Observer, Andanappa Yalagi issued a personal plea to Kenny: “Sir, please change your law and take consideration of humanity. Please change the law on abortion, which will help to save the lives of so many women in the future.”

Mr Yalagi also says he will take legal action against the hospital to try to prevent future acts of “inhumanity”. He and his wife, Akkamahadevi, expressed fury at the way in which Savita Halappanavar, 31, had been treated and revealed that no one from the hospital nor the Irish government had been in touch to express any remorse for the death of their only daughter. “I want to take legal action against them over the inhumane way they treated my daughter,” said Mr Yalagi, speaking at his home in the southern Indian town of Belgaum.

Ireland says won’t be rushed into decision on abortion rig – The Times of India

Ireland has said it will not be rushed into an immediate decision on right to abortion even as it assured India that an independent medical professional will assist the enquiry into the death of an Indian national who was refused termination of her pregnancy despite miscarrying.

The Indian envoy to Ireland , Debashish Chakravarti , met Ireland’s deputy PM and foreign minister Eamon Gilmore on Friday to convey the “deep concern” of Indian government at the death of Dr Savita Halappanavar expressing hope that steps would be taken so as not to allow such an incident to recur.

[…]

According to the foreign ministry, Gilmore conveyed deepest sympathies of Ireland for the death of Halappanavar and requested that these be conveyed to the family . He indicated that they were sensitive to the impact of the tragedy on public opinion and civil society.

He said the investigation would be completed at an early date and the Irish side would work closely with the Indian mission.

Meanwhile, Irish PM Enda Kenny has said he is awaiting a report by an expert group on the issue but will not be rushed into an immediate decision on right to abortion. Kenny said his government would go through the report and indicated it will take its own time in arriving at a decision.

Thousands protest in Ireland to liberalize abortion laws – CSMonitor.com

Several thousand abortion rights protesters march through central Dublin on Saturday, demanding that Ireland’s government ensures that abortions can be performed to save a woman’s life.

March organizers claim a turnout of 20,000, but Irish police gave a figure of 6,000. Either way, the march was unusually large by Irish standards, wending its war from the Garden of Remembrance, a national independence  memorial, to Ireland’s parliament, DáIl Éireann, just over a mile away.

“The mood was somber and angry and determined,” says Wendy Lyon, a feminist activist and trainee attorney who attended the demonstration. “The sense was there has to be a turning point. That things can’t be allowed to go on without change. Enough is enough, basically.”

Ms. Lyon says Halappanavar’s death has resulted in a sea-change in Irish opinion, politicizing the previously apolitical: “I think the people really have shifted on it. I’ve spoken to people who were hesitant before but said something had to be done.”

Irish demand reform to abortion law

It is already clear that the Irish government will have to bow to public opinion. One minister admitted “action in some shape or form” will be taken. Dublin has also been under pressure from the European Court of Human Rights which has handed down a judgment criticising the Republic’s current law on abortion.

I realize that was just links with no commentary on the news out of Ireland, y’all know how I feel about this torturous death Savita experienced. I just can’t say any more about it.

Hundreds of Irish women go to England to obtain a legal abortion…an extreme hardship these women must face just to be able to have control over their own bodies. It is outrageous that the Catholic church will use all the power at their disposal to fight against a women’s right to choose or control their own bodies…when they purposely cover up and support pedophile priest, like this one from right here in Banjoville.

Former NE Ga. priest jailed in ’91 abuse case

A Roman Catholic priest accused of taking a 10-year-old boy to West Virginia for sex more than two decades ago was jailed on Thursday.

The Rev. Robert Poandl previously worked at St. Luke’s in Dahlonega, St. Paul the Apostle in Cleveland from 1979 to 1981 and St. Francis of Assisi in Blairsville from 1979 to 1988.

Poandl was most recently at the Cincinnati-based Glenmary Home Missioners, and is now in Butler County Jail in southwest Ohio following an order by a federal magistrate judge that he be taken into custody.

Poandl was here in Georgia until this year,

In February, Glenmary said it had relieved Poandl of his ministerial duties in Georgia and asked him to return to the Glenmary residence in Cincinnati.

Poandl has been living under what the order calls “a safety plan” at the Cincinnati residence and has not been functioning as a priest, Glenmary’s statement said.

According to the St Francis of Assisi Church’s website:

The history of the Catholic Church in Union and Towns Counties is your story – for you are the people who continue to respond in faith and love. To quote Fr. Bob Poandl, “Thank you for being a part of this history by living as part of Christ’s Body.”

Poandl was the church’s first pastor…it is sickening to see this crap hit so close to home.

I will post a few more interesting links below, because this post is getting long. These are articles about Walmart…

Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price | Occupy America

The richest people in America: The owners of Wal-Mart — six members of the Walton family — are all on the list of Forbes 400 richest people in America. Combined, the Waltons have a net worth equal to the bottom 30 percent of all Americans. They are all children or children-in-law of the founders of Walmart. Six people. As much wealth as 30 percent of all the people in America. The Waltons are now collectively worth about $93 billion, according to Forbes.

Wal-Mart employs more people than any other company in the United States outside of the Federal government, yet the majority of its employees with children live below the poverty line.

[…]

in 2004, a study released the UC Berkeley Labor Center found that “reliance by Wal-Mart workers on public assistance programs in California comes at a cost to taxpayers of an estimated $86 million annually; this is comprised of $32 million in health related expenses and $54 million in other assistance. Source: Ken Jacobs and Arindrajit Dube, “Hidden Costs of Wal-Mart Jobs”[PDF file], UC Berkeley Labor Center.

Wal-Mart dismissed the findings of the UC Berkeley study, “Hidden Costs of Wal-Mart Jobs,” as a “union hit piece.” However, text from Wal-Mart’s own internal memo substantially corroborates their findings.

An excerpt from the memo states:

“We also have a significant number of Associates and their children who receive health insurance through public-assistance programs. Five percent of our Associates are on Medicaid compared to an average for national employers of 4 percent. Twenty-seven percent of Associates’ children are on such programs, compared to a national average of 22 percent. In total, 46 percent of Associates’ children are either on Medicaid or are uninsured.”

Source: Wal-Mart Internal Memo [PDF File], via New York Times

A few statistics on exactly how many children of Wal-Mart of employees receive state-funded health care, and the cost to those states:

– FLORIDA: 12,300 WAL-MART Workers and their Dependents on Medicaid

– GEORGIA: 10,261 Children of WAL-MART Employees are Enrolled in PeachCare for Kids

– WISCONSIN: 1,252 WAL-MART Employees and Dependents on BadgerCare

Why are states subsidizing health care for Wal-Mart employees when the Walton family are all in the top ten wealthiest people in the entire nation? I’m not complaining that these families are getting health care, everyone deserves health care, but the Walton’s should be ashamed that they aren’t providing it.

WAL-MART Costs Taxpayers $1,557,000,000,00 to Support its Employees

“The Democratic Staff of the Committee on Education and the Workforce estimates that one 200-person Wal-Mart store may result in a cost to federal taxpayers of $420,750 per year – about $2,103 per employee. Specifically, the low wages result in the following additional public costs being passed along to taxpayers:

– $36,000 a year for free and reduced lunches for just 50 qualifying Wal-Mart families.
– $42,000 a year for Section 8 housing assistance, assuming 3 percent of the store employees qualify for such assistance, at $6,700 per family.
– $125,000 a year for federal tax credits and deductions for low-income families, assuming 50 employees are heads of household with a child and 50 are married with two children.
– $100,000 a year for the additional Title I expenses, assuming 50 Wal-Mart families qualify with an average of 2 children.
– $108,000 a year for the additional federal health care costs of moving into state children’s health insurance programs (S-CHIP), assuming 30 employees with an average of two children qualify.
$9,750 a year for the additional costs for low income energy assistance.”

The total figure is based on the average $420,750 per-store figure, multiplied by 3700 (the approximate number of stores currently in the United States).

Source: Rep. George Miller / Democratic Staff of the Committee on Education and the Workforce, “Everyday Low Wages: The Hidden Price We All Pay for Wal-Mart”, February 16, 2004.

And then there is this:

Walmart’s Internal Compensation Documents Reveal Systematic Limit On Advancement

Two years ago, when she started working at the deli counter of a Walmart in Illinois, Lisa hoped that her job would amount to the beginning of a career, one that would pay enough to cover her bills and enable her to stay current on her student loan debt.

But despite one raise since, Lisa, who asked that only her first name be used, now earns just $9.10 an hour, or about $13,000 a year on part-time hours. Seven months pregnant, she recently filed for bankruptcy. With no alternatives at hand, Walmart now seems like a dead-end to poverty, she says.

“I don’t have underwear without holes in them,” she said. “Everyone at work wears T-shirts that are threadbare. I have just enough to eat and get gas to make it to work for the next two weeks.”

Stories like Lisa’s are even backed up by Walmarts own internal documents.

are confirmed by Walmart’s official compensation policy, an internal company document obtained by The Huffington Post, titled the “Field Non-Exempt Associate Pay Plan Fiscal Year 2013.” The plan details a rigid pay structure for hourly employees that makes it difficult for most to rise much beyond poverty-level wages.

Low-level workers typically start near minimum wage, and have the potential to earn raises of 20 to 40 cents an hour through incremental promotions. Flawless performance merits a 60 cent raise per year under the policy, regardless of how much time an employee has worked for the company. [Click here to read the full pay policy] As a result, a “solid performer” who starts at Walmart as a cart pusher making $8 an hour and receives one promotion, about the average rate, can expect to make $10.60 after working at the company for 6 years.

[…]

The Walmart pay plan is organized around seven levels of job difficulty for hourly workers, called Position Pay Grades (PPGs), ranging from cart-pushers (Level 1) and cashiers (Level 3), to cake decorators (Level 4) and customer service managers (Level 6). Each subsequent pay grade offers 20 to 40 cents more than the previous level, according to the document. This means that the base rate of pay for a top hourly position at Walmart, like a check-out supervisor, is $1.70 more than that of the lowest paying job.

Or even less than minimum wage, which is what my husband makes when you consider how much overtime he puts in a week, because once you get into the level of Assistant Managers, you are no longer hourly. You get a flat salary no matter how many hours you work, and in my husbands case, it could be 60 hours a week or more.

Okay, that is all the newsy stuff I have for you today. I will end with a couple easy stories…first this one that explores the science behind the venus fly trap, Probing the mystery of the venus fly trap’s botanical bite


Plants lack muscles, yet in only a tenth of a second, the meat-eating Venus fly trap hydrodynamically snaps its leaves shut to trap an insect meal.

This astonishingly rapid display of botanical movement has long fascinated biologists. Commercially, understanding the mechanism of the Venus fly trap’s leaf snapping may one day help improve products such as release-on-command coatings and adhesives, electronic circuits, optical lenses, and drug delivery.

Now a team of French physicists from the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) and Aix-Marseille University in Marseille, France, is working to understand this movement. They will present their findings at 65th meeting of the American Physical Society’s (APS) Division of Fluid Dynamics (DFD), Nov. 18 — 20, 2012, in San Diego, Calif.

Read more at the link.

Lastly, two reviews for you on a couple of real shitty movies.

Liz and Dick, which sounds like something I could really enjoy making fun of: Lindsay Lohan in ‘Liz & Dick’: TV Review – Hollywood Reporter

It should come as no great surprise that Lifetime’s Liz & Dick movie starring Lindsay Lohan is spectacularly bad. After all, it’s Lohan, more memorable in the tabloids than she ever was as an actress. No, the mystery here is whether Lifetime actually believed it had a major “television event,” as it says, because this was Lohan’s “highly anticipated comeback movie role,” as the channel’s website notes. Was Lifetime made giddy by the potential, or made blind by it? Most intriguing, did it know that casting Lohan of all people as Elizabeth Taylor would nearly burn Hollywood down — and shock the rest of the country as well, thus ensuring enormous ratings?

Lifetime’s website breathlessly asks visitors, “Are you finally convinced?” — with a link to a photo of Lohan as Taylor and a young Liz side by side. No, the photo is not convincing. Hair and makeup miracles do not make a movie. So calm down, Lifetime.

Lohan is woeful as Taylor from start to finish. But, whatever you do, don’t miss Liz & Dick. It’s an instant classic of unintentional hilarity. Drinking games were made for movies like this. And the best part is that it gets worse as it goes on, so in the right company with the right beverages, Liz & Dick could be unbearably hilarious toward the tail end of the 90-minute running time. By the time Lohan is playing mid-’80s Taylor and it looks like a lost Saturday Night Live skit, your body may be cramped by convulsions.

And then there is Twilight, Breaking Dawn 2,  which led one review to write this:

After 10 minutes of this movie, this was the only note I managed to scribble out:

Oh, but he recommends you see the show, *:

Do I recommend that you see the new Twilight this weekend? Of course I do. Just so long as you get drunk first—irrevocably drunk. I’m talking, “I can’t tell the Partridges apart anymore” drunk. I mean a level of smiling intoxication at which you cannot hear the difference in quality between vintage Motown and Jenna Marbles’ “Bounce That Dick,” nor can you distinguish between your momma’s cooking and the Arby’s value menu.

Take a look at those reviews, you will laugh…and then be glad you didn’t waste your time watching these movies, or perhaps you will get the urge for some quiet time immersed in Hollywood’s version of love. Hey, think about it…the Petraeus affair is really the stuff that movie dreams are made of.

Have a wonderful Sunday!


Open Thread: Hillary in India

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (L) watches a girl do karate during an anti-human trafficking event in Kolkata May 6, 2012.

[Click on the photo to see more pictures of Hillary Clinton in India.]

This is just going to be a link and photo dump, because I know absolutely nothing about Indian politics.

From the NY Daily News:

Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, hoped to narrow a gap with India over Iran on Monday as she tried to throw a spotlight on issues dear to her heart such as the fight against sex trafficking.

Mrs Clinton was paying the first visit by a top US official to the eastern metropolis Kolkata and will then meet in New Delhi with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, amid concern that the growing US-India partnership has been drifting….

On Sunday, Mrs Clinton sought to draw attention to sex trafficking in India, where forced prostitution of women and girls is one of the largest illicit businesses.

Mrs Clinton appeared visibly moved as she watched a dance by former victims of sex trafficking, who recounted their plight in a synchronised performance designed as a form of therapy by the local group Kolkata Sanved.

Mrs Clinton called the recital “mesmerising” and thanked each of the six dancers, telling them she was proud of them. She was shown quilts which former trafficking victims sew as a way to give them new livelihoods.

“What you’re doing is so important to try to not only help yourselves but to help other young girls,” Mrs Clinton said.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (2nd L) holds a sari during an anti-human trafficking event in Kolkata May 6, 2012.

Here’s another article on the anti-trafficking event: Hillary’s date with history
She’s cheerleader in trafficking crusade

To them, she was “US ka bahut bara neta….Bill Clinton ki biwi (a top leader of the US….Bill Clinton’s wife)”. To her, they were the faces of a movement close to her heart.

When Poonam Khatoon, 16, and Uma Das, 19, finally found themselves face to face with Hillary Clinton at the Rabindranath Tagore Centre of the ICCR on Sunday afternoon, all it needed was a smile to break down the barriers.

“Aami bhabtei parini onar shamne darate parbo. Uni amader lorai-tey shamil hoyechhen, sheta ekta boro byapar (I couldn’t imagine I would be standing in front of her. She has joined our crusade, that’s a big thing),” Uma told Metro of her meeting with the US secretary of state.

Community worker Uma and Poonam, a student of Class IX, are daughters of women in prostitution involved with Apne Aap Women Worldwide, a grassroots movement to end sex trafficking. The duo took turns escorting Hillary through a pictorial journey of a trafficked girl.

At the end of the event, Hillary told the women she was their “cheerleader” and that she would “stand by” them. They asked her to talk publicly about human trafficking as much as she could.

The secretary of state’s keepsake from the Sunday afternoon rendezvous was a green wristband with the words: “Cool Men Don’t Buy Sex”.

Hillary not only wore the band immediately, she insisted that members of her entourage sport one each as well. “She was also gifted a T-shirt that read: ‘Together we can end sex trafficking’.

Another photo from the trafficking event

From the Washington Post:

NEW DELHI — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton arrived in India’s capital Monday with a clear message for the country’s leaders: Cooperate with us on with Iran.

Yet less than a mile from her meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, there was another group meeting with Indian leaders. An Iranian trade delegation is in New Delhi, overlapping with Clinton’s trip and potentially undermining one of its main purposes.

The Obama administration is turning up the pressure on India to join international sanctions against Iran that would choke off funds for the country’s nuclear program. India, which relies on Iran for about 12 percent of its oil imports, has so far been unwilling to go along.

“This is a regime that has a history of aggressive behavior,” Clinton warned of Iran during a town hall-style meeting Monday morning in Kolkata, her first stop in a three-day swing through India. “And I don’t think you deal with aggressors by giving in to them. … Our goal is resolve this peacefully and diplomatically, and that’s why we need India to be part of the international effort.”

Finally, a report from India on Hillary’s meeting with the prime minister:

New Delhi: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

Hillary and the Prime Minister discussed several issues related to Indo-US relations. She also urged India to speed up the civil nuclear deal and cut oil imports from Iran….

Before her meeting with the Prime Minister, Hillary met Mamata Banerjee earlier on Monday and promised more US investment in West Bengal….

According to a US consulate statement, the top US diplomat, who had an hour-long meeting with Banerjee, discussed a range of issues including stepping up US investments in the state, according to a US consulate statement.

“Touching on issues, ranging from increasing US investment in West Bengal, including in the retail sector, US-India relations, regional affairs and strong people-to-people connections, the Secretary reaffirmed to the chief minister the US desire to work with India and West Bengal to deepen and broaden our partnership,” it said.