Tuesday Reads: Military Scandals, Hollywood Problems and Perversions, and Other News

Hedgehog newspaper

Good Morning!!

Winter weather continues to dominate my world. I was all ready to go out for groceries yesterday when I looked outside and saw snow coming down. Sigh . . .

We’ve got a couple of inches on the ground now–not a big deal except that there are two more storms on the way. We get one day’s respite, and then a big storm on Wednesday (5-9 in.) and a nor’easter coming on Saturday.

The storm we’re getting tomorrow is already impacting the plains states of Oklahoma and Kansas and the Midwest. If you’re in its path, you’d best stay inside and find some indoor activities to keep you occupied–like reading a good book or surfing the internet. Speaking of which, let’s see what’s in the news today.

Here’s some good news from Talking Points Memo: Obama Persuades Dems To Back Off Iran Sanctions, Give Peace A Chance.

Senate Democrats came close to blowing up President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran by toying with a new sanctions bill that negotiators cautioned would poison talks.

But in recent days it has become clear that they’re going to hold off, after aggressive lobbying from the White House, as diplomatic negotiators’ attempt to turn an interim six-month deal struck last November into something more permanent. The goal is to get Iran to surrender its nuclear weapons capabilities in exchange for relief from a swath of economically devastating sanctions….

Legislation to beef up sanctions on Iran, authored by Senate Foreign Relations Chair Bob Menendez (D-NJ), has a whopping 58 additional sponsors, 15 of which are Democrats. Criticism of the interim deal from Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu and AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobbying group, boosted the bill. But in the last three weeks, numerous Democrats have backed away and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has said he’ll wait to see how negotiations play out before considering the sanctions bill.

Obama, Kerry and their top aides pulled Democrats back from the brink by making their opposition to any sort of new sanctions bill clear in a series of public remarks and private face-to-face meetings with top senators. They’ve warned that bringing up a sanctions bill amid talks would empower the hard-liners in Iran, making it politically untenable for President Hassan Rouhani to cut a long-term deal. They’ve conveyed their strong belief that pushing sanctions legislation at this pivotal moment would only increase the chances of a war, according to sources familiar with the matter.

It’s too bad that Obama has to deal not only with Republicans trying to undermine his initiatives, but also with Democrats who seem to be more concerned with what Israel wants then what is best for the U.S.

Recently the Navy has been caught up in a scandal involving “nuclear force officers” caught cheating on proficiency tests. According to Fox News:

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said Thursday the number of nuclear force officers implicated in a proficiency test cheating scandal has grown to 92 out of a force of 500.

James spoke to reporters after touring nuclear bases around the country, which The Associated Press has revealed suffers from such low morale and burnout that they have committed serious security lapses other breakdowns.

James, who is new to the job, said the nuclear force is beset by “undue stress and fear,” and said the nuclear force suffers “systemic problems.”

Today we’re learning of a serious fraud scandal in the Army. The Washington Post reports: Army probes allegations of fraud by recruiters and others in enlistment referral program.

Army criminal investigators are probing the actions of more than 1,200 individuals who collected suspect payouts totaling more than $29 million, according to officials who were briefed on the preliminary findings of the investigation and would discuss them only on the condition of anonymity. More than 200 officers are suspected of involvement, including two generals and dozens of colonels.

The alleged fraud drew in recruiters, soldiers and civilians with ties to the military who submitted, or profited from, false referrals registered on a Web site run by a marketing firm the Army hired to run the program. Suspects often obtained the names of people who had enlisted from recruiters, claimed them as their referrals, and then kicked back some of the bonus money to the recruiters.

The abuse is feared to be so widespread that Army investigators do not expect to conclude all audits and investigations before the fall of 2016.

But there are even more scandals. At the National Journal, Sara Sorcher and Jordain Carney offer A Pocket Guide to the Military’s Many Scandals to help us keep score.

Hoffman

Quite a bit more has come out about the death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. The New York Daily News is now reporting that 70 bags of heroin and numerous prescription drugs were found in the Greenwich Village apartment he was living in had been living in.

Seventy glassine baggies of heroin packed for individual sale — at least 50 of them unopened — were discovered in the $10,000-a-month rental where the Oscar-winning actor was found dead Sunday with a needle stuck in his left arm, sources said.

Some of the envelopes had the words “Ace of Spades” written on them, and others were stamped with the name “Ace of Hearts.” Both are brands of heroin that are often cut with a powerful pain reliever called fentanyl, and have become a plague in Pennsylvania, where they were used in 22 overdose deaths.

Police are now trying to learn where Hoffman got the drugs.

Apparently Hoffman had gotten sober when he was 22 years old. He told 60 minutes interviewer Steve Kroft in 2006 that he stopped drinking and drugging because he was “panicked for my life,” and that there were “things I wanted to do” and he wouldn’t be able to do them if he kept on the way he was going. Reportedly Hoffman stayed clean and sober for 23 years, until he began using again in 2013. He checked himself into localadlink.net for a brief rehab program last May, but he had been struggling to stay straight since then.

As a recovering alcoholic and addict who has been sober more than 30 years, it’s very difficult for me to read about this. When I went into treatment at age 33, I met people who had been sober for more than 20 years and then drank again. It’s hard to believe, but the disease never goes away no matter how many years go by. And they say if you use again, the results will be much worse than when you quit. It sounds like once Hoffman went back to the drugs, he simply couldn’t stop. Although I am one of the fortunate people who have never had a desire to drink again after I quit, I know it still could happen to me. This is what addiction advocates in Utah and any other city try to make people understand. No recovering person is immune.

Last link on Hoffman: CNN pieced together a timeline of his last couple of days. Some friends said he seemed fine, but his ex-partner told police he seemed high the day before he died. Read more details at the link.

Mia Farrow and Woody Allen with adopted children Satchel and Dylan

Mia Farrow and Woody Allen with adopted children Satchel and Dylan

There’s been quite a bit of talk lately about Woody Allen’s creepy interest in young girls, after his adopted daughter Dylan wrote an open letter to The New York Times about her childhood experiences with the famous actor and director. Frankly, I believe her, but as usual many powerful people like Barbara Walters are defending Allen and suggesting that Dylan is either lying or reporting false memories. Of course, these people must ignore the facts that when 7-year-old Dylan first spoke up, Allen had been in therapy for two years for his inappropriate behavior toward her and that the prosecutor in the case found probable cause to charge Allen but felt that Dylan was too fragile to handle a trial. Read the decision in Allen v. Farrow here.

For anyone interested in this case, I recommend reading two long Vanity Fair articles by Maureen Orth–From 1992, Mia’s Story and a follow-up from 2013, Mama Mia! I also want to point to some circumstantial evidence. Of course we all know that Allan began having sex with Mia Farrow’s adopted daughter Soon-Yi Previn when she was barely out of high school; but I didn’t realized until yesterday that Allen’s movie Manhattan was based on a sexual relationship he had with a high school girl when she was 17 and he was in his 40s.  Predictably, the girl, Stacey Nelkin is defending Woody Allen today.

From CNN: Former girlfriend Stacey Nelkin defends Woody Allen, refutes accusations of child abuse and seductive tendencies.

…on Monday evening “Piers Morgan Live” welcomed Stacey Nelkin for an exclusive, primetime interview.

Having dated Allen as a teenager, when she was 35 years his junior, Nelkin remains skeptical of the statements penned by Dylan Farrow, who is alleging to have been molested by her adoptive father as a seven-year-old. To Monday’s guest, the latest claims are simply an extension of the ugly separation between Allen, and Dylan’s adoptive mother, Mia Farrow:

“These accusations came on the heels of a horrible custody battle, Mia being extremely upset, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and she was hell-bent and determined to destroy something that he loved,” said Nelkin, who insisted her own relationship with Allen was entirely consensual and not corrupt in the least. “Woody loved Dylan. We were in contact at the time, and he would talk about her a lot. He loved the kids that they had adopted together, and she took Dylan away by creating this whole scenario.”

Maybe Nelkin is hoping Allen will finally acknowledge her and give her a part. She had a small role in Annie Hall, but here performance was left on the cutting room floor. How would Nelkin know what is true–I wonder if she knows that Woody was having sex with Soon-Yi while he was adopting his two children with Mia Farrow?

One more bit of circumstantial evidence from a 1976 People article about Woody Allen’s neuroses:

Woody will admit now only to “dating around” and living with girls for stretches ranging from “two days to two weeks—if you call that living together.” Could he possibly have mellowed from the days when his movies rated horniness as a human malaise second only to bubonic plague? “I try to have sex only with women I like a lot,” Woody explains solemnly. “Otherwise I find it fairly mechanical.” (He has little interest in family life: “It’s no accomplishment to have or raise kids. Any fool can do it.”)

He goes on: “I’m open-minded about sex. I’m not above reproach; if anything, I’m below reproach. I mean, if I was caught in a love nest with 15 12-year-old girls tomorrow, people would think, yeah, I always knew that about him.” Allen pauses. “Nothing I could come up with would surprise anyone,” he ventures helplessly. “I admit to it all.”

Okay, enough about the problems and perversions of movie stars. Did you hear about the man who claims he survived being adrift in a boat for more than a year? BBC News:

“I want to get back to Mexico,” Jose Salvador Albarengo reportedly said as he was taken to the islands’ capital, Majuro, for a medical examination.

Mr Albarengo said he left Mexico with a friend for a trip in a fibre-glass boat in December 2012.

He was found by people living on the island of Ebon Atoll on Thursday.

He had initially identified himself to authorities as Jose Ivan.

The castaway told the local deputy US ambassador Norman Barth, who was acting as an interpreter for Marshall Islands authorities, that he was originally from El Salvador, but had been living in Mexico for 15 years before his epic voyage.

From ABC News:

Alvarenga, who said he got lost after a shark fishing trip off the coast of Mexico in December 2012, said he survived 13 months drifting in the Pacific Ocean by eating fish, birds and turtles, a representative at the  Washington D.C. Embassy of the Republic of the Marshall Islands told ABCNews.com.

The man also scooped up little fish that swam alongside his drifting boat and ate them raw, while also drinking bird blood to quench his thirst, Thomas Armbruster, U.S. Ambassador to the Marshall Islands, told the Associated Press.

Alvarenga told officials he is  from El Salvador but had been living and working in Mexico as a fisherman for 15 years before his ordeal.

In December 2012, Alvarenga said he left Mexico in a 23-foot fiber glass boat with a teenage companion named Ezekiel for what was supposed to be a day trip of fishing, the ambassador said.

A storm blew their boat off course, Armbruster said, and caused them to become disoriented and adrift. He said the castaway told him Ezekiel died a month later.

Who knows if it’s true?

Now it’s your turn. What stories have captured your interest today? Please post your links in the comment thread.


Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!!

On Sunday during his “get to know the regular people” bus tour, Mitt Romney expressed “amazement” at a gas station in Pennsylvania where you could order “hoagies” using a touch-screen.

At a campaign stop in Pennsylvania on Sunday, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee told a crowd that he had been astonished by a touch screen computer used to order food at the Wawa gas station chain….

“I was at Wawas,” Romney explained. “I went in to order a sandwich. You press a little touchtone keypad, alright? You just touch that and, you know, the sandwich comes up. You touch this, touch this, touch this, go pay the cashier. There’s your sandwich. It’s amazing!”

The ordering system has been there for 10 years. Of course this reminded everyone of the apocryphal story about out-of-touch patrician George H.W. Bush being amazed by a supermarket scanner.

Poor Mitt. In another article on Romney’s bus tour, James Fallows makes fun of the candidate’s habit of expressing surprise by saying “oh my goodness!”

Romney’s trademark small-talk exclamation, “Oh my goodness!” seems completely genuine. But I am trying to think of the last time I heard a 21st-century person use that phrase — as opposed to all the other possibilities, which when you think about it range from coarse to profane. (Jeez louise, WTF, Holy shit, and on through a long list you can fill in yourself.) When combined with his Don-Draper-in-the-’50s very dapper personal style, it adds to a retro atmosphere that some people will find reassuring and appealing and others will find odd.

Well I have to admit that I often say “oh my goodness!” too. Maybe I’m out of touch then–or maybe it’s a Midwestern thing. I got in the habit of saying that when taking care of my nephews. John McWhorter at The New Republic also thinks Romney’s “verbal stylings” are strange. Romney is also guilty of using “g” words like gosh, golly, and gee, which McWhorter says are substitutes for taking the name of “god” in vain.

Gee, gosh, and golly are all tokens of dissimulation. They are used in moments of excitement or dismay as burgherly substitutions, either for God and Jesus—words many religious people believe should not be “taken in vain”—or for words considered even less appropriate. Fittingly, they even emerged as disguised versions of God (gosh and golly) and Jesus (gee; cf. also jeez). This was in line with how cursing worked in earlier English. The medieval and even colonial Anglophones’ versions of profanity were to express dismay or vent pain by swearing—“making an oath”—to God or related figures considered ill-addressed in such a disrespectful way. The proper person at least muted the impact with a coy distortion, à la today’s shoot and fudge. Hence zounds (first attestation: 1600), as in by his (Christ’s) wounds; egad for Ye God (1673); and by Jove (1598). To increasing numbers of modern Americans, the G-words are unusable outside of quotation marks, be these actual or implied, rather like the word perky.

Well, gee, I use that one sometimes too, though not “gosh” or “golly.” So maybe I’m as much of an anachronism as Romney. Of course I’ve been known to swear also. I really think saying the “g” words might be a Midwestern mannerism.

Robert Shrum says Mitt Romney reminds him of Thomas E. Dewey, who was expected to beat Harry Truman in 1948, but didn’t. Check it out. I found it interesting.

It appears that police are suspicious about the drowning death of Rodney King. An autopsy has been done, but the results haven’t been released yet. There was no obvious evidence of foul play, but apparently King was a very avid swimmer. There are also conflicting reports of sounds from King’s backyard right before his body was found. Reuters:

King’s fiancée, Cynthia Kelly, a juror in the civil suit he brought against the city of Los Angeles, “didn’t give any indication he was unhappy or that there was an issue.” He said King was known to swim frequently and at all hours.

Shepherd said Kelly told investigators that, shortly before the drowning, she had been inside the house talking with King off and on through a sliding glass door that leads to a patio beside the pool.

At some point, she told them, she heard a splash, prompting her to run outside to find him at the bottom of the deep end. Unable to swim well herself, she called emergency 911 for help.

The Los Angeles Times, in an online account on Monday, cited a next-door neighbor, Sandra Gardea, 31, as saying she heard the sound of a man sobbing from King’s back yard in the two hours before police say he was found in the pool.

The Times also reported that Gardea heard King’s fiancée trying to coax him back into the house.

“It wasn’t like an argument,” she told the newspaper. “She was just saying, ‘Get in the house. Get in the house.'” Gardea said she heard a splash a few minutes later.

Very mysterious.

The prosecution in the Trayvon Martin case has released calls between George Zimmerman and his wife when he was in jail the first time.

The recordings show that from his jail cell, Zimmerman gave his wife step-by-step instructions on how to change a password and clear security questions so she could move money, gave her orders to withdraw specific amounts and directed her to pay the bills.

Prosecutors allege the couple was moving money out of an Internet PayPal account that was awash with donations for Zimmerman, who’s charged with second-degree murder in one of the most racially-charged criminal cases in the country. He shot Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black 17-year-old, in Sanford Feb. 26.

The couple spoke in code, according to prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda. In the calls Zimmerman makes repeated reference to “Peter Pan,” an apparent reference to PayPal.

And neither Zimmerman or his wife ever refer to more than $100,000, talking instead about amounts generally totaling “10 dollars” and “20 dollars.” Prosecutors say those were references to $10,000 and $20,000.

Shellie was careful to move less than $10,000 at a time, to avoid triggering attention from the feds.

The tapes of six conversations were released Monday, as were bank statements from the Zimmermans’ accounts at a credit union. The statements show repeated transfers to and from the account in amounts just under $10,000. On April 24, for example, there were 8 transfers of $9,999.00 into Shellie Zimmerman’s account. Banks and financial institutions are required to file “suspicious activity reports” in such cases, according to Jack Blum, a Washington lawyer who specializes in money laundering.

Structuring the money in such a way is not itself illegal, he says, if the money isn’t from an illicit source. But, he says, it shows “a guilty mind.”

“What they’ve done,’ Blum said, “is they’ve given the prosecutors, on a silver platter, evidence of guilty intent.”

This one should probably be at the top of this post, but gee golly gosh and my goodness! I thought the other stories were more fun to read–so gosh darn it, what the heck!

Obama, Putin meet on Syria at G-20 summit.

Meeting for nearly two hours on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Mexico, the two presidents tried to focus mostly on areas of agreement — even when it came to areas of disagreement, such as Syria.

The U.S. wants Syrian President Bashar Assad out of power. Russia, which sells arms to Syria, has blocked United Nations Security Council resolutions calling for tough sanctions and leaving the door open to military intervention.

“We agreed that we need to see a cessation of the violence, that a political process has to be created to prevent civil war and the kind of horrific deaths that we’ve seen over the last several weeks,” Obama said after his first meeting with Putin following his return to the presidency this year. “We pledged to work with other international actors, including the United Nations, Kofi Annan and all interested parties, in trying to find a resolution to this problem.”

Putin was upbeat following the meeting, which went on much longer than planned and covered the full range of issues between the two nations. “From my perspective, we’ve been able to find many commonalities pertaining to all of those issues,” he said.

I’m glad it was Obama negotiating and not Romney. Otherwise, we might be at war with Russia by now.

The New York Times has a piece on what Europe will do now that the Greeks have voted for austerity.

BERLIN — After Greek elections eased fears that the country’s exit from the euro zone was imminent, attention turned Monday to an even bigger challenge: restoring the economic body to health with Greece still in it.

A respite from market pressure early Monday proved to be short-lived, as investors shifted their attention from political infighting in Athens to the larger question of whether European leaders could find a more lasting solution to a debacle now well into its third year.

But even though Brussels had been hoping for the victory by Antonis Samaras and his center-right New Democracy Party, the yearned-for result, paradoxically, may weaken Europe’s determination to take more radical steps to avert a meltdown.

German hard-liners were emboldened by the victory, viewing it as an endorsement of the drive for structural adjustment in Greece and elsewhere in Southern Europe through further austerity. As a result, the vote may delay concerted pro-growth steps by central banks and governments around the world, as well as the hard choices within Europe over deeper integration that are likely to prove necessary in the long run.

Much more at the link.

There’s lots of talk around the ‘net about the upcoming SCOTUS decision on the health care law. Scalia appears to be signaling that it may go down. You can read about what might happen if parts of the bill found unconstitutional here, here, and here.

Ronan Farrow with mother Mia

Woody Allen’s son Ronan (who looks exactly like Mia Farrow) celebrated father’s day by tweeting “Happy father’s day — or as they call it in my family, happy brother-in-law’s day.” And Mother Mia retweeted it. Ouch!

Woody and Ronan have been estranged for years since his parents split and because Woody was dating (and later married) Soon-Yi Previn, Mia’s adopted daughter, Ronan’s step-sister. He has been quoted in the past as saying, “He’s my father married to my sister. That makes me his son and his brother-in-law. That is such a moral transgression.” [….]

Ronan, named Satchel Ronan O’Sullivan Farrow when he was born in 1987, is the sole biological child of Woody and actress Mia Farrow. He is currently serving as special adviser to the Secretary of State for Global Youth Issues and director of the State Department’s Global Youth Issues office.

Finally, Roger Clemens was found not guilty yesterday, and honestly I’m glad. He probably did use steroids late in his career, but the prosecution couldn’t prove it. Thousands of players did it, and I think it was terrible; but the Justice Department has much more important things to do than making examples out of baseball players (and former presidential candidates for that matter). Clemens will go down in history as one of the greatest pitchers ever. He certainly is one of the best ever to play for the Red Sox.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?