Friday Reads: The Good, The Bad, and The Silly

Bart simpson reading

Good Morning!!

There’s plenty of bad news to wallow in today, but I’m determined not to let it get to me. I’m going to begin this post with a story that made me smile and a couple more that made me laugh. After that, I’ll take a look at the dark side of current events.

Last night about 8:00, a “toddler” managed to White House security alert when he “squeezed through the White House gate” and ran onto the lawn, where he was finally intercepted by heavily armed Secret Security agents. At the time, President Obama was about to make a statement on the situation in Iraq. The Washington Post reports:

The brief kerfuffle as agents scrambled to intercept the pint-sized intruder confirms what most people know: toddlers are sneaky, and fast. This one was promptly returned to his parents.

The little guy didn’t get in any trouble — at least, not with the feds. And he was unavailable for comment — to anyone — for at least a few more months.

“We were going to wait until he learned to talk to question him,” Secret Service Agent Edwin Donovan said in a statement, “but in lieu of that he got a timeout and was sent on way with parents.”

I sooooo wish there was a video of the action! I suspect we’ll eventually learn the identity of the boy. If nothing else, he’ll have a great story to tell his friends when he grows up.

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Here’s another silly story. A small-town New Jersey police officer got into an argument with a resident with a grudge against the local animal shelter who was “seen taking pictures” inside a public building. The cop began ranting about President Obama, and the whole thing was caught on tape. From Helmetta, NJ:

Special Police Officer Richard Recine now is the subject of an internal affairs investigation after the video was posted online and was seen by Police Director Robert Manney, who called the comments an “embarrassment.”

In the video, taken Monday at the borough municipal building, resident Steve Wronko gets into a verbal confrontation with Recine, who was called to the building because Wronko was seen taking pictures inside.

After Wronko insists he has a constitutional right to record in a public place, Recine responds.

“Obama has decimated the friggin’ constitution, so I don’t give a damn,” says Recine, a retired Franklin cop. “Because if he doesn’t follow the Constitution we don’t have to.”

Wronko then turns to the person recording the camera to make sure that was recorded. Recine repeats himself.

“Our president has decimated the constitution, then we don’t have to.”

Wronko and his wife have been getting on local officials’ nerves for awhile now. They say they are

campaigning for reform at the borough animal shelter, which they said gave them an underage and sick puppy that caused them thousands of dollars in veterinarian bills.

“We wanted them to pay for the medical bills. Now it’s way past the money,” Collene Freda-Wronko said. “Now it’s about getting animals out of that shelter and getting people into that shelter who could run that facility better.”

She said police have ordered her husband to stop videorecording at the animal shelter during two previous incidents.

Here’s the viral video of officer Recine expressing his opinions about his right to ignore the Constitution.

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Recine, a retired Franklin, N.J. police officer who is collecting a pension of around $76,000, and was working in Helmetta for an hourly wage, has now resigned. Oddly, he is registered Democrat.

“I don’t want to give a black eye to law enforcement,” Recine, 59, said Thursday in an exclusive interview with MyCentralJersey.com. “People are saying some really nasty stuff about cops. I don’t want all officers painted with the same brush.”

Borough Administrator Herbert Massa said the resignation was accepted by Police Director Robert Manney, who had called Recine’s comments an “embarrassment.”

The video first was reported Wednesday by MyCentralJersey.com and the story quickly went viral. The story was picked up by the Drudge Report and was the top story Thursday morning on the online community news website Reddit. Many readers were upset that Recine’s comments were dismissive of civil liberties.

Recine claims that when he made the remarks about Obama, he was just being “sarcastic.”

“It was just a stupid statement on my part. He got me riled and I said it,” he explained. “I don’t believe that at all. I’m the most patriotic person in the world. I believe in God, the flag, country, the Constitution.” ….

“I tried to explain to him that since 9/11 you just can’t walk into a place and take videos,” Recine said Thursday. “All he kept on doing was saying he had civil rights, and the Constitution, and he didn’t have to give me information. And I kind of like lost my temper.”

No one asked Recine why terrorists would target a public building in Helmetta, NJ, population 2,200.

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This next story isn’t exactly funny–well, as my dad used to say, “it’s not funny ha ha; it’s funny peculiar.” From Raw Story, CEO of Baptist center fired after arrest for arranging dog sex encounter on Craigslist.

Jerald “Jerry” Hill, 56, of Camden County [Missouri] was arrested on  Aug. 5th after setting up a meeting with an undercover officer for the purpose of  having sex with a dog, according to the Columbia Daily Tribune.

According to Boone County sheriff’s Detective Tracy Perkins, her office  received a tip that someone was seeking sex with a dog or other type of animal — which she did not specify — on Craigslist. An undercover officer exchanged emails with Hill offering a dog for sex. Subsequently, Hill was taken into custody in Columbia, MO., when he arrived anticipating a sexual tryst.

Hill’s employer is concerned for his “well-being.” Continuing from Raw Story:

Hill is currently listed as the president and CEO of the Windermere Baptist Conference Center, located in Roach, Missouri, whichissued a statement saying that they were supportive and grateful for his work, but were worried about how the impact of his arrest would reflect on the center.

“We are concerned for the well-being of Jerry…and we are also concerned with the well-being of Windermere,” Chairman Arthur Mallory said. “Windermere will continue to function in a good way…. It is a significant piece of God’s kingdom’s work.”

Some Serious but Positive News

I actually managed to find some positive stories in the serious news today, so I’ll begin with that. From Politico: IRS notches legal win over lost tea party emails.

The IRS won what might be Round One in a series of contests pitting tea party groups against the agency, with a federal judge rejecting a conservative group’s bid for a court-appointed forensics expert to hunt for ex-official Lois Lerner’s lost emails.

Judge Reggie Walton of the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia said True the Vote’s lawsuit against the IRS failed to show “irreparable harm” in its injunction relief request and that “the public interest weighs strongly against the type of injunctive relief the plaintiff seeks.”

“Despite the general distrust of the defendants expressed by the plaintiff, the Court has no factual basis to concur with that distrust … and therefore concludes that the issuance of an injunction will not further aid in the recovery of the emails, if such recovery is possible, but will rather only duplicate and potentially interfere with ongoing investigative activities,” he wrote in a court memorandum posted Wednesday afternoon.

simpsons reading

Walton found further fault with True the Vote’s legal arguments.

True the Vote says it is one of the conservative groups that were discriminated against by the IRS in the scandal that erupted last year. The controversy again hit a boiling point this summer when the IRS said a 2011 computer crash erased Lerner emails that congressional Republicans say are vital to its investigation of the matter.
But Walton found a number of problems with True the Vote’s legal demands.

He said the group must establish that it would suffer “irreparable harm” in the absence of the injunction, along with a handful of other requirements such as whether it’s in the public interest.

More details at the link.

I’ve written a few times about the Dozier School for Boys in Florida and the University of South Florida’s archaeological dig a the site of the former reform school. From Reuters, via Raw Story: First remains identified among 55 bodies found at notorious FL reform school.

George Owen Smith, a 14-year-old caught with an older boy in a stolen car, was sent in 1940 to a reform school in the Florida Panhandle, never to be seen again by his family.

His remains became the first to be identified among 55 bodies dug up from unmarked graves last year on the campus of the Dozier School for Boys, the University of South Florida announced on Thursday….

“It feels pretty good, really after 73 years. It’s a feeling of relief,” Ovell Krell, 85, Smith’s younger sister, told Reuters on receiving confirmation of his whereabouts.

Erin Kimmerle, the lead researcher and associate professor of anthropology at USF, said in a statement: “We may never know the full circumstances of what happened to Owen or why his case was handled the way it was.

“But we do know that he now will be buried under his own name and beside family members who longed for answers.”

Video from CBS News:

The Rest of the News, Headlines Only

Homer Simpson news

AP via Bloomberg Businessweek, Iraqi and Kurdish officials welcome US airdrops.

New York Daily News, U.S. military launches first airstrikes on Islamic fighters: Pentagon

Global Post, US launches strikes on Islamic State in Iraq (LIVE BLOG).

Via WaPo, AP Analysis: Iraq upheaval threatens Obama legacy.

Slate, What You Need to Know About the Likely New American Intervention in Iraq.

The Guardian, Against the war: the movement that dare not speak its name in Israel.

AP via Daily Mail, WHO: Ebola outbreak is a public health emergency.

BBC News, Russia arrests Ukrainian officers for ‘war crimes’

New York Times, Russia Responds to Western Sanctions With Import Bans of Its Own

Raw Story, Oklahoma GOP fundraising flier so crudely racist, Democrats at first suspected a hoax.

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have a fabulous Friday!!


Monday Reads

flowersGood Morning!

I’ve been trying to find some things other than politics to post about since I have to admit to being very depressed about the state of affairs right now.  I really think there is little hope for many of us in the reddish states because the religious right is just going nuts!  I’m hoping more people start taking to the street over the situations in Ohio, North Carolina, and Texas.  That is just the start.  We’re very unhappy with our governor here in Louisiana but that’s not doing much in the way of making him listen to the people.  He is too busy looking out for his political interests.

So, here’s a few things to think about.
There has been a lot of evidence about the benefits of meditation.  I’ve meditated for a very long time and I can attest to the results that I’ve experienced.  Here’s some information from an experiment that finds that meditating is associated with compassion and empathy. These are certainly two very Buddhist outcomes.

We recruited 39 people from the Boston area who were willing to take part in an eight-week course on meditation (and who had never taken any such course before). We then randomly assigned 20 of them to take part in weekly meditation classes, which also required them to practice at home using guided recordings. The remaining 19 were told that they had been placed on a waiting list for a future course.

After the eight-week period of instruction, we invited the participants to the lab for an experiment that purported to examine their memory, attention and related cognitive abilities. But as you might anticipate, what actually interested us was whether those who had been meditating would exhibit greater compassion in the face of suffering. To find out, we staged a situation designed to test the participants’ behavior before they were aware that the experiment had begun.

WHEN a participant entered the waiting area for our lab, he (or she) found three chairs, two of which were already occupied. Naturally, he sat in the remaining chair. As he waited, a fourth person, using crutches and wearing a boot for a broken foot, entered the room and audibly sighed in pain as she leaned uncomfortably against a wall. The other two people in the room — who, like the woman on crutches, secretly worked for us — ignored the woman, thus confronting the participant with a moral quandary. Would he act compassionately, giving up his chair for her, or selfishly ignore her plight?

The results were striking. Although only 16 percent of the nonmeditators gave up their seats — an admittedly disheartening fact — the proportion rose to 50 percent among those who had meditated. This increase is impressive not solely because it occurred after only eight weeks of meditation, but also because it did so within the context of a situation known to inhibit considerate behavior: witnessing others ignoring a person in distress — what psychologists call the bystander effect — reduces the odds that any single individual will help. Nonetheless, the meditation increased the compassionate response threefold.

Although we don’t yet know why meditation has this effect, one of two explanations seems likely. The first rests on meditation’s documented ability to enhance attention, which might in turn increase the odds of noticing someone in pain (as opposed to being lost in one’s own thoughts). My favored explanation, though, derives from a different aspect of meditation: its ability to foster a view that all beings are interconnected. The psychologist Piercarlo Valdesolo and I have found that any marker of affiliation between two people, even something as subtle as tapping their hands together in synchrony, causes them to feel more compassion for each other when distressed. The increased compassion of meditators, then, might stem directly from meditation’s ability to dissolve the artificial social distinctions — ethnicity, religion, ideology and the like — that divide us.

Pull up a cushion!  There is plenty of room beside me!bird

Noam Chomsky says that we need a global movement to save the global commons.  That would be the air we breathe, the oceans, the planet itself and all things that are being subjected to destruction by the profit motive of a few.

The blurring of borders and these challenges to the legitimacy of states bring to the fore serious questions about who owns the Earth. Who owns the global atmosphere being polluted by the heat-trapping gases that have just passed an especially perilous threshold, as we learned in May?

Or to adopt the phrase used by indigenous people throughout much of the world, Who will defend the Earth? Who will uphold the rights of nature? Who will adopt the role of steward of the commons, our collective possession?

That the Earth now desperately needs defense from impending environmental catastrophe is surely obvious to any rational and literate person. The different reactions to the crisis are a most remarkable feature of current history.

At the forefront of the defense of nature are those often called “primitive”: members of indigenous and tribal groups, like the First Nations in Canada or the Aborigines in Australia – the remnants of peoples who have survived the imperial onslaught. At the forefront of the assault on nature are those who call themselves the most advanced and civilized: the richest and most powerful nations.

The struggle to defend the commons takes many forms. In microcosm, it is taking place right now in Turkey’s Taksim Square, where brave men and women are protecting one of the last remnants of the commons of Istanbul from the wrecking ball of commercialization and gentrification and autocratic rule that is destroying this ancient treasure.

We have heard about all kinds of abuse of prisoners in the United States. Most of the egregious examples have come from a few generations ago.  Or have they?  This is another nightmare story about private “contractors” and government.

Doctors under contract with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation sterilized nearly 150 female inmates from 2006 to 2010 without required state approvals, the Center for Investigative Reporting has found.

At least 148 women received tubal ligations in violation of prison rules during those five years – and there are perhaps 100 more dating back to the late 1990s, according to state documents and interviews.

From 1997 to 2010, the state paid doctors $147,460 to perform the procedure, according to a database of contracted medical services for state prisoners.

The women were signed up for the surgery while they were pregnant and housed at either the California Institution for Women in Corona or Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla, which is now a men’s prison.

Former inmates and prisoner advocates maintain that prison medical staff coerced the women, targeting those deemed likely to return to prison in the future.

Crystal Nguyen, a former Valley State Prison inmate who worked in the prison’s infirmary during 2007, said she often overheard medical staff asking inmates who had served multiple prison terms to agree to be sterilized.

“I was like, ‘Oh my God, that’s not right,’ ” said Nguyen, 28. “Do they think they’re animals, and they don’t want them to breed anymore?”

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2013/07/07/5549696/female-inmates-sterilized-in-california.html#storylink=cpy

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Here’s a very interesting profile of the Judge that makes the decisions on FISA.

The chief judge of America’s most powerful secret court is a 64-year old man who has said his path toward the law began in part when he was stopped by police in the early 1960s simply for being black, and who once said he became a lawyer to “make an impact on the quality of life for people of color in this country.”

Reggie Walton is the Presiding Judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, whose 11 members are appointed directly by the chief justice of the Supreme Court. Revelations of broad spying by the National Security Agency have drawn unusual attention to the Court, which the New York Times reported Sunday “has created a secret body of law giving the National Security Agency the power to amass vast collections of data.”

Walton has not spoken publicly about his role, and did not respond to an inquiry from BuzzFeed: People who know him spoke largely on the condition of anonymity. But in little-read interviews and in decisions, footnotes, and statements from the bench, Walton has offered clues at a worldview whose contours mirror the growing public comfort with an expansive role for law enforcement in Americans’ lives. A judge who one former clerk described as “fair but harsh” in his sentences, he has shown a liberal streak on social policy from incarceration to drug crime, but has been dismissive of questions about the limits of executive power.

A 1993 interview with author Linn Washington paints a picture of a man who views the law and government as having a sweeping role in creating “social change.”

As a district court judge in Washington, DC, Walton has been a part of some of the most high profile cases in recent history, including the Roger Clemens steroid case and the leak case against Scooter Libby — an experience that left a mark on the former Democrat.

“I saw how mean-spirited people can be,” he told George Vecsey in 2011, complaining that “the liberal establishment” attacked him “because I am a Bush appointee and a registered Republican.” (Walton hasn’t spoken publicly about his political conversion; he said in the 1993 interview that he was a Republican when President Ronald Reagan appointed him to the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, a federal seat, in 1981.)

Genetic Evidence and analysis continues to amaze me with findings on links to our distant relatives.  Here’s some of the latest work done on Native Americans.  (Yes, it involves grave yards!!!)

Ancient people who lived in in Northern America about 5,000 years ago have living descendants today, new research suggests.

Researchers reached that conclusion after comparing DNA from both fossil remains found on the northern coast of British Columbia, Canada, and from living people who belong to several First Nations tribes in the area.

The new results, published today (July 3) in the journal PLOS ONE, are consistent with nearby archaeological evidence suggesting a fairly continuous occupation of the region for the last 5,000 years.

So, that is a little this and that for your Monday!  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?