Late Night Open Thread: Two Disgraced NYPD Cops are Possible Suspects in Long Island Murders

According to Brad Hamilton at the New York Post, one former and one current member of the NYPD may be suspects in the Long Island serial killer case.

One cop was forced out of the job in the 1990s when his supervisors learned he spent time pursuing hookers and paying street walkers and down-and-out women for sex while he was supposed to be on patrol.

An internal investigation led to his resigning under pressure, one source said.

The other officer still works for the NYPD but was stripped of his gun and badge years ago because he allegedly assaulted a prostitute and got arrested during a sting operation….

The patrolman was allowed to return to the force, they said, though he was placed on modified duty — transferred to a paper-pushing job in Manhattan where he’s not allowed to make arrests or respond to emergencies.

Yikes! That’s creepy. There is no evidence the two cops knew each other. They are not the only suspects investigators are looking at either.

In related news, police suspect the body of a young Asian male found recently beside Ocean Parkway recently may be the remains of a missing college student, Jimmy Tsui. Tsui disappeared without a trace in 1998.

Yim Yeung Tsui (“Jimmy”), 19, a student at Stony Brook University was headed into his junior year. He was last seen leaving his residence in New Hyde Park, New York on 8/26/98 when he disappeared under unknown circumstances. He has not been seen since.

Jimmy Tsui went missing in New York less than 3 months after Yeshiva University student Joshua Bender disappeared.

Apparently, there were a series of mysterious disappearances of young men, and their bodies later turned up in various bodies of water in NYC.


Tuesday Reads: U.S.-Pakistan Deal, “Dr. Sex,” Fearful Republicans, Violence against Women, and More

Good Morning!!

The Guardian posted a story last night that seems to put the lie to all the supposed arguing about whether the Obama administration had the right to unilaterally enter Pakistan and raid Osama bin Laden’s residence. The two governments had agreed ten years ago that this would be acceptable in the event bin Laden’s location was found.

The US and Pakistan struck a secret deal almost a decade ago permitting a US operation against Osama bin Laden on Pakistani soil similar to last week’s raid that killed the al-Qaida leader, the Guardian has learned.

The deal was struck between the military leader General Pervez Musharraf and President George Bush after Bin Laden escaped US forces in the mountains of Tora Bora in late 2001, according to serving and retired Pakistani and US officials.

Under its terms, Pakistan would allow US forces to conduct a unilateral raid inside Pakistan in search of Bin Laden, his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and the al-Qaida No3. Afterwards, both sides agreed, Pakistan would vociferously protest the incursion.

“There was an agreement between Bush and Musharraf that if we knew where Osama was, we were going to come and get him,” said a former senior US official with knowledge of counterterrorism operations. “The Pakistanis would put up a hue and cry, but they wouldn’t stop us.”

So Pakistan kept its word. No wonder they are so insulted by all the accusations that they protected bin Laden. The agreement would protect the Pakistan government from public reaction at home. The only problem is that neither side seems to have thought about what the reaction would be here in the U.S.

Anyway, as I mentioned in a comment a couple of days ago, the Pakistan ISI has retaliated by outing the CIA station chief in Islamabad for the second time . Joseph Cannon has been doing a fantastic job of covering the ins and outs of this story, see here and here.

Back in March, I wrote a post about Professor J. Michael Bailey, AKA “Dr. Sex,” who taught a course in Human Sexuality at Northwestern University. In an optional after-class session, Bailey had a allowed a man to bring a woman to orgasm using a sex toy called “the f*cksaw.” Today Northwestern announced that the human sexuality course will not be offered next year.

Northwestern University will not offer a controversial human sexuality class next academic year after its professor came under fire for allowing a live sex-toy demonstration during an after-class lecture.

About 100 of psychology professor J. Michael Bailey’s students observed a naked woman being penetrated by a motorized sex toy on Feb. 21. The university said in March that it would investigate the incident; officials said Monday that the review continues.

“I learned a week or two ago that they had decided to cancel the course for next year,” psychology department chair Dan McAdams said Monday. “The decision was made higher up than me at the central administration level.”

No other Northwestern psychology professor is qualified to teach the subject, McAdams said. Bailey “will have other teaching assignments in the coming year,” according to a university statement.

I’m not particularly surprised. I wonder what “other teaching assignments” Bailey will be getting–Psychology 101, perhaps? There is bound to be some kind of disciplinary action that we won’t be told about.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) has admitted that the raucous town hall crowds faced by Republicans over his Medicare Destruction Plan have had an effect (although not on him). John Nichols has a great piece about it at The Nation.

But the outcry over his plan to mess with Medicare, heard in Wisconsin communities from Milton to Kenosha, and at spring recess sessions in the districts of Republican freshmen from Pennsylvania to Florida, obviously influenced other Republicans.

Images from Kenosha – a historic factory town in Ryan’s district, where hundreds of people showed up to criticize his scheming to cut benefits for working Americans while giving billionaires and multinational corporations new tax breaks – were featured nationally on broadcast network news shows.

Cable news programs focused intense attention on the story. MSNBC’s Ed Schultz devoted much of a program last week to the outcry. (In addition to a blistering analysis of the congressman’s proposal by the host, this writer provided some on the ground reporting from Kenosha, including details of a brief interview with Ryan, who was typically dismissive of the popular discomfort with his plan.) But other networks — even Fox — at least touched on the congressman’s troubles.

The reporting was noticed in Washington where, last week, GOP leaders began almost immediately to distance themselves from Ryan’s plan to use Medicare funds to enrich the private insurance firms that have donated so generously to his campaigns.

At Salon, Michael Winship has a good article about the many corporations who don’t pay any taxes–yet the Republicans constantly complain that poor people don’t have to pay any on their paltry incomes.

What’s greasing the wheels for these advantages is, hold on to your hats, cash. Over the last decade, according to the New York City public advocate’s report, those same five companies — GE, Exxon-Mobil, Bank of America, Chevron and Boeing — gave more than $43.1 million to political campaigns. During the 2009-2010 election cycle, the five spent a combined $7.86 million in campaign contributions, a 7 percent jump over their 2007-2008 political spending.

“These tax breaks were put in place to promote growth and create jobs, not bankroll the political causes of corporate executives,” Public Advocate Bill de Blasio said. “… No company that can afford to spend millions of dollars to influence our elections should be pleading poverty come tax time.”

And by the way, those campaign cash figures don’t even include all the money those companies funneled into the 2010 campaigns via trade associations and tax-exempt non-profits. Thanks to the Supreme Court Citizens United decision, we don’t know the numbers because, as per the court, the corporate biggies don’t have to tell us. Imagine them sticking out their tongues and wiggling their fingers in their ears and you have a pretty good idea of their official position on this.

Meanwhile, last week Republicans like Utah’s Orrin Hatch, ranking member of the US Senate Finance Committee, grabbed hold of an analysis by Congress’ nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation and wrestled it to the ground. The brief memorandum reported that in the 2009 tax year 51 percent of all American taxpayers had zero tax liability or received a refund. So why, the Republicans asked, are Democrats and others so mean, asking corporations and the rich to pay higher taxes when lots of other people – especially the poor and middle class — don’t pay taxes either.

The great Chris Hedges has a new post up at Truthdig: Your Taxes Fund Anti-Muslim Hatred [PDF]

…perhaps most ominously—as pointed out in “Manufacturing the Muslim Menace,” a report by Political Research Associates—a cadre of right-wing institutions that peddle themselves as counterterrorism specialists and experts on the Muslim world has been indoctrinating thousands of police, intelligence and military personnel in nationwide seminars. These seminars, run by organizations such as Security Solutions International, The Centre for Counterintelligence and Security Studies, and International Counter-Terrorism Officers Association, embrace gross and distorted stereotypes and propagate wild conspiracy theories. And much of this indoctrination within the law enforcement community is funded under two grant programs for training—the State Homeland Security Program and Urban Areas Security Initiative—which made $1.67 billion available to states in 2010. The seminars preach that Islam is a terrorist religion, that an Islamic “fifth column” or “stealth jihad” is subverting the United States from within, that mainstream American Muslims have ties to terrorist groups, that Muslims use litigation, free speech and other legal means (something the trainers have nicknamed “Lawfare”) to advance the subversive Muslim agenda and that the goal of Muslims in the United States is to replace the Constitution with Islamic or Shariah law.

“You would not expect a Democratic administration to fund right-wing groups,” Thom Cincotta, a civil liberties attorney and the author of the Political Research Associates report, told me, “and yet we continue to have hard-right, Islamophobic speakers and companies being paid taxpayer dollars to promote racist doctrines that undermine U.S. national security policy concerning Islam and the Muslim world. Policy expert after policy expert point out that framing our counterterrorism efforts as a war against Islam is a recipe for building increased resentment among Muslims, as well as a potent recruiting tool for those who would like to carry out violent attacks against us. This kind of demonizing breaks down communication between law enforcement agents and Muslim communities, which have proven to be strong allies in the rare instances of domestic extremism. Not only does it threaten to erode basic civil liberties, it threatens freedom of expression and freedom of worship.”

Also recommended at Truthdig, an article about the “anti-war orgins” of Mother’s Day.

In 1870, Julia Ward Howe responded to the horrors of the Civil War by issuing her “Mother’s Day Proclamation,” calling on women around the world to rise up and oppose war in all its forms.

It would be decades before Americans officially began celebrating Mother’s Day, and much of the original spirit of the proclamation has since been lost.

Some new (and horrifying) information came out today in the case of the bodies that have been found in Long Island. It turns out there may be as many as three murderers on the loose in New York.

“It is clear that the area in and around Gilgo Beach has been used to discard human remains for some period of time,” Spota said at a Hauppauge news conference with investigators Monday. “As distasteful and disturbing as that is, there is no evidence that all of these remains are the work of a single killer.”

Jeeze, I’m glad I don’t live in Oak Beach, LI. The most interesting (and very horrifying) information is that some of the body parts found belong to a woman named Jessica Taylor whose mutilated body was discovered 30 miles away in Manorville, NY, in 2003.

Authorities Monday made one new identification: Jessica Taylor, 20, who went missing in July 2003 and whose torso was found at that time near Manorville.

Spota said her death appears related to another woman, still unidentified, parts of whose body was found off Ocean Parkway in April and in Manorville in 2000.

Why do so many men murder women? Serial murder is relatively rare, but it sure seems to happen pretty often in this country. And men murder their wives and girlfriends every day in the U.S. Will violence against women ever be treated as seriously as it should be? It should be seen as an epidemic that needs to be vigorously addressed through public policy. I don’t know if that will happen in my lifetime.

Change would have to start with teachers and textbooks that value women’s current and historical contributions to our society, along with public education campaigns for adults. I also wonder if the anti-abortion movement doesn’t contribute to the general attitude that women have no right to protect the integrity of their own bodies.

It would also help if law enforcement personnel could be made to understand that rape is a serious crime even if the victim isn’t killed or beaten within an inch of her life. Rape is still rape even if the victim knows the perpetrator. With that in mind, I’m going to end with a story from Boston: Thousands Attend Boston’s “SlutWalk” March. The march was a response to an ignorant remark made by a policeman in Toronto.

In January, a Toronto police officer told a group of university students that women should avoid dressing like “sluts” to avoid being raped. He later apologized. The officer who made the comments, Constable Michael Sanguinetti, was disciplined but remained on duty, said Toronto police spokesman Mark Pugash.

However, advocates in Toronto held a “SlutWalk” to protest the officer’s remarks and to highlight what they saw as problems in blaming sexual assault victims. Since then, SlutWalks, organized mainly through social media, have been held in Dallas, Asheville, N.C., and Ottawa, Ontario. Organizers say the events also were held to bring attention to “slut-shaming,” or shaming women for being sexual, and the treatment of sexual assault victims.

“I had watched the Toronto walk happen from afar,” said Jaclyn Friedman, author of “Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape” and resident of Medford, Mass. “When I heard it was coming to Boston I just emailed the organizers and said, `How can I help?”‘

The Boston march attracted 2,000 people, even though organizers expected only 30.

Chanting “We love sluts!” and holding signs like “Jesus loves sluts,” approximately 2,000 protesters marched Saturday around the Boston Common as the city officially became the latest to join an international series of protests known as “SlutWalks.”

That’s it for me. What are you reading and blogging about today?


Tuesday Reads: Victims of LI Serial Killer Were More Than Just “Hookers”

Good morning, everyone. I’m going to do something a little different today. I’m want to focus on the unfolding story of the presumed serial killer on Long Island and take a look at the lives of the murdered and missing women who have been identified.

A couple of days ago, I decided to try reading Matt Taibbi’s latest screed in Rolling Stone. I commend Taibbi for his research and his efforts to explain in plain English what the Wall Street criminals are up to, but I simply couldn’t make it past the first paragraph of his piece. Here is the portion that stopped me in my tracks:

According to popular legend, we’re broke and in so much debt that 40 years from now our granddaughters will still be hooking on weekends to pay the medical bills of this year’s retirees from the IRS, the SEC and the Department of Energy.

Really. Is that the only job Taibbi can imagine for our struggling grandaughters? And what will “our grandsons” be doing? I’ve got a really low tolerance for misogyny these days, and Taibbi long ago showed himself to be a woman-hater. The idea that this man thinks his offhand remark about “hooking” is humorous just turned my stomach.

Thanks, but no thanks, Matt. I’ve just about had it with your pathetic attempts to imitate Hunter S. Thompson. He was pretty crude, but he also managed to be funny. I think I’ll just stick with reading Dakinikat’s writing on economics. She actually knows what she’s talking about too.

I was especially sensitive to the rude remark about young women prostituting themselves for money, because I’ve been following the story of the latest vicious murderer of women–the Long Island serial killer, who murdered women who advertised their sexual services on Craigslist and other on-line sites.

Serial murderers often target women who work in the sex trade because they see these women as throwaways who probably won’t be missed right away. They are also easy to pick up, because their jobs involve interactions with strange men. From Salon

A report was released last month finding that 70 percent of known victims of serial killers are women (consider that only 22 percent of homicide victims in general are female); and it turns out sex workers are 18 times more likely than “normal” women to be murdered. Why might this be? Well, in the words of the Green River Killer, who targeted prostitutes:

I picked prostitutes as victims because they were easy to pick up without being noticed. I knew they would not be reported missing right away and might never be reported missing. I picked prostitutes because I thought I could kill as many of them as I wanted without getting caught.

Since they’re doing illegal work, sex workers have to be secretive and discreet. They often work in isolated and industrial areas. They get in cars with strangers. There are rarely detailed records of transactions. Many are drug addicts and estranged from their families, so they are less likely to be reported missing. Anyone who knows anything about a girl’s whereabouts is likely involved in the trade themselves, so they aren’t super eager to speak with police. What’s more, as we saw with the Robert Pickton case in Vancouver, police sometimes discount tips from working girls (all the more reason to not risk talking to them in the first place).

From what I’ve read about sexual serial killers, they tend have a lot of rage and hatred against women, often because of their relationships with their mothers or some other powerful woman in their lives. They may have difficulties connecting with “normal” women, and so they seek out women they can get easy access to and make them pay for their own inadequacies.

But women who work as prostitutes are human beings, and they have families just like everyone else. When they disappear or die, someone usually cares and grieves at the loss.

I’m going to summarize what is known about the four victims who were discovered back in December 2010. They all appear to have been murdered by the same perpetrator. The women were strangled and their bodies were found in burlap bags.

So far ten bodies have been recovered by police on Long Island beaches, and six are still unidentified. It isn’t yet clear if all of these bodies are connected to the four identified victims, but they were all disposed of in the same general location. Shannon Gilbert, a woman whose disappearance sparked the search that led the police to locate the bodies, is still missing.

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Thursday Reads

Good Morning!! I have a real grab bag of news items for you this morning.

Via Ezra Klein, a Gallup poll found that nobody, including most Republicans, wants the government fooling around with Medicare. I can’t embed the chart, but you can see it at either of the above links. Klein:

The Republican Party has a bit of a problem: Their coalition is heavily weighted toward seniors. But their agenda is heavily weighted toward cuts to entitlement programs that benefit seniors. In 2010, they handled this by relentlessly attacking Democrats for the Medicare cuts in the Affordable Care Act. In 2011, they’re trying to handle it by saying that Paul Ryan’s Medicare cuts will exempt anyone under 55 — but because he’s keeping all the Medicare cuts from the Affordable Care Act and implementing them on schedule, that isn’t, by the GOP’s own logic, actually true….

The most popular position in the GOP’s coalition isn’t that Medicare needs a complete overhaul, as Ryan thinks. It isn’t that it needs major changes, or even that it needs minor changes. It’s that we shouldn’t try and control costs at all.

ROFLOL!

Speaking of arrogant and deluded Republicans, The Smoking Gun obtained FAA documents relating to an incident in which James Inhofe “scared the crap out of” a bunch of Airport employees when the elderly GOP Senator landed his plan on a closed runway.

Newly released Federal Aviation Administration documents and audiotapes shed a scary new light on a bizarre incident late last year during which U.S. Senator James Inhofe landed his Cessna on a closed runway at a south Texas airport, scattering construction workers who ran for their lives as the politician’s plane hopscotched over them and six vehicles.

The FAA material, provided in response to a TSG Freedom of Information Act request, details how Inhofe, 76, chose to land on the main runway at the Cameron County Airport on October 21 despite being aware that it was closed and had a large ‘X’ on its threshold….

Shortly after Inhofe landed, Sidney Boyd, who was supervising construction on the closed runway, called the FAA to report that Inhofe’s plane, a twin-engine six-seater, initially touched down on the runway and then “’sky hopped’ over the six vehicles and personnel working on the runway, and then landed.”

During the call, which was recorded by the FAA, Boyd said Inhofe’s antics “scared the crap out of” workers, adding that the Cessna “damn near hit” a red truck. Referring to the vehicle’s driver, Boyd added, “I think he actually wet his britches, he was scared to death. I mean, hell, he started trying to head for the side of the runway. The pilot could see him, or he should have been able to, he was right on him.”

Inhofe agreed to “complete a program of remedial training” so he wouldn’t lose his pilot’s license.

According to a report by the Senate Permanent Committee on Investigations, released today, Goldman Sachs “Misled Clients, Lawmakers on CDOs.”

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) designed, marketed and sold collateralized debt obligations that misled investors and created conflicts of interest as the company built short positions before the U.S. housing market collapsed, a Senate panel said in its report on the financial crisis.

In the case of one CDO, Hudson Mezzanine Funding 2006-1, Goldman Sachs told investors its interests were aligned with theirs while the firm held 100 percent of the short side, according to the report released today by the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who leads the panel, urged regulators to review all of the structured finance transactions described in the report.

At a briefing today, Levin said he believed Goldman Sachs executives weren’t truthful about the company’s transactions in testimony before the subcommittee at an April 2010 hearing. He said he would refer the testimony to the Justice Department for possible perjury charges.

Good. I sure would like to see some prosecutions of these lying, cheating frauds.

Via Tennesee Guerrilla Women, Ashley Judd is “speaking out against misogyny.” She wrote a couple of paragraphs in her new memoir about rap artists promoting hatred and violence against women:

While speaking about an AIDS awareness program she works with, Judd writes, “Along with other performers, YouthAIDS was supported by rap and hip-hop artists like Snoop Dogg and P. Diddy to spread the message…um, who? Those names were a red flag.”

Judd continued, “As far as I’m concerned, most rap and hip-hop music – with its rape culture and insanely abusive lyrics and depictions of girls and women as ‘ho’s’ – is the contemporary soundtrack of misogyny.”

She concludes, “I believe that the social construction of gender – the cultural beliefs and practices that divide the sexes and institutionalize and normalize the unequal treatment of girls and women, privilege the interests of boys and men, and, most nefariously, incessantly sexualize girls and women – is the root cause of poverty and suffering around the world.”

The backlash was immediate and vicious, and included death threats. Judd apologized for generalizing about all rap and hip hop music, but ended with this:

“Hatred of girls and women, I will oppose with spiritual and non-violent principles every day,” she concludes, adding that the Twitter responses to her remarks included death threats. “Abuse and violence in any form, at any time, in any expression, are never okay. Period. I, and other girls and women, are not afraid of you. You can keep on hating, but I am going to keep on loving.”

More power to Ashley Judd!

In more violence against women news, the search for bodies is continuing on Long Island. After finding ten bodies so far on beaches, searchers are looking underwater for more remains. In addition the FBI is helping out with “high-tech planes.”

“This is not an episode of CSI. This is an intensive long term investigation that includes the use of sophisticated technology as well as good old fashioned detective work,” said Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer at a press conference today.

Dormer said that the FBI will provide investigators with planes and choppers that use sophisticated aerial imaging technology of the Long Island beach area where the skeletal remains of at least nine bodies have been found so far.

“Weather permitting this operation will commence later this week…We’re hoping the technology will help identify skeletal remains that may still be out there,” Dormer said.

Police believe that there are no links between the bodies found on Long Island in 2010 and 2011 and four bodies that were found in Atlantic City in 2006.

According to the NY Post, some of the bones found in the past couple of days could be victims of another Long Island serial killer Joel Rifkin.

The skull and torso found on a desolate Nassau County beachfront are too old to be connected to the serial killings of four Craigslist call girls — and could belong to long-lost victims of notorious Long Island butcher Joel Rifkin, a source said yesterday.

“These are so old that roots were growing around the vertebrae and the skull,” the source told The Post.

“These could be one or two of Joel Rifkin’s victims who were never found,” or the work of another killer, the source said.

Further complicating the case, the bodies of a man and a young child have been found during the search.

Austria is the latest country waking up to the abuse of its children by Catholic priests.

Over 800 cases of abuse in Catholic institutions in Austria have been reported so far, a commission tasked with investigating abuse cases announced on Wednesday.

A total 837 abuse victims approached the commission, which was set up by the Austrian Catholic Church last year after it was hit by a wave of abuse revelations, commission head Waltraud Klasnic told a press conference.

Three quarters of the victims were male, with the most cases — about 20 percent — reported in northern Upper Austria province, followed by Vienna and western Tyrol, according to a commission report summarising its first-year findings.

Back in the good old USA, Bill Donohue of the Catholic League says the kids were asking for it.

The group bought an expensive full-page ad in The New York Times Monday that places the blames for the church’s scandals on “homosexuality, not pedophilia.”

And perhaps most shockingly, it also claimed that some children were active participants in the abuse.

“The refrain that child rape is a reality in the Church is twice wrong: let’s get it straight — they weren’t children and they weren’t raped,” self-appointed Catholic League president Bill Donohue wrote in the ad.

“We know from the John Jay study that most of the victims have been adolescents, and that the most common abuse has been inappropriate touching (inexcusable though this is, it is not rape),” he added, referencing a 2004 study by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, which was funded by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“The Boston Globe correctly said of the John Jay report that ‘more than three-quarters of the victims were post pubescent, meaning the abuse did not meet the clinical definition of pedophilia.’ In other words, the issue is homosexuality, not pedophilia,” Donohue wrote.

Another issue is that priests are in a position of power and should not take advantage of that position to gratify their sexual desires. But I’m sure Donohue would disagree. And where I come from adolescents are still children.

In science news, a new study revealed that Climate change affects tectonic plate movement, causing earthquakes

Understanding why plates change direction and speed is key to unlocking huge seismic events such as last month’s Japan earthquake, which shifted the Earth’s axis by several inches, or February’s New Zealand quake.

An Australian-led team of researchers from France and Germany found that the strengthening Indian monsoon had accelerated movement of the Indian plate over the past 10 million years by a factor of about 20 percent.

Lead researcher Giampiero Iaffaldano said Wednesday that although scientists have long known that tectonic movements influence climate by creating new mountains and sea trenches, his study was the first to show the reverse.

Dakninikat sent me this one from the BBC: Yellowstone supervolcano fed by bigger plume

The underground volcanic plume at Yellowstone in the US may be bigger than previously thought, according to a new study by geologists.

The volcanic hotspot below Yellowstone feeds the hot springs, mud pots and geysers that bring millions of visitors to the US national park each year.

There have been three huge eruptions of the Yellowstone supervolcano: 2.1 million years ago, 1.3 million years ago and 640,000 years ago. Two of these eruptions blanketed a large area of North America with volcanic ash.

The most recent full-scale eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano ejected some 1,000 cubic km (240 cubic miles) of hot ash and rock into the atmosphere. There have been smaller eruptions in between the largest outpourings; the most recent of these occurred 70,000 years ago.

Of course that can’t be true because the earth can’t possibly be that old, right?

That’s all I’ve got for today. What are you reading and blogging about?