Thursday Reads: Southern Snow Mess, Amanda Knox, Ukraine Protests, and Nobel Peace Prize Nonsense

Mary Cassatt, Young Woman Reading

Mary Cassatt, Young Woman Reading

Good Morning!!

The weather crisis continues down South, and it really isn’t funny. It’s easy for us up here in the North to laugh at a couple of inches of snow, but when a large city doesn’t have the equipment and experience to deal with it, it can be a disaster, as we are seeing right now in Atlanta.

As I said in the comment thread yesterday, I think the only good solution is to shut down the city and keep cars off the streets for a few days. That’s what Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis did here after the Blizzard of ’78. He declared a state of emergency, got businesses to shut down for a week, and ordered everyone to stay off the roads except for emergency and government vehicles. Then Dukakis appeared on TV everyday updating the public on the crisis and explaining what he and officials were doing to deal with it.

I hope JJ will be around today to update us on the latest news from the embattled Georgia city. Meanwhile, here are a few links for you to peruse.

From the Houston Chronicle: Snow, ice send South’s flagship city reeling

A storm that dropped just inches of snow Tuesday wreaked havoc across much of the South, closing highways, grounding flights and contributing to at least a dozen deaths from traffic accidents and a mobile home fire. Yet it was Atlanta, home to major corporations and the world’s busiest airport, that was Exhibit A for how a Southern city could be sent reeling by winter weather that, in the North, might be no more than an inconvenience.

The Georgia State Patrol responded to more than 1,460 crashes between Tuesday morning and Wednesday evening, including two fatal crashes, and reported more than 175 injuries.

At Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, more than 400 flights in and out were canceled by 6 a.m. Thursday, according to data from the flight tracking service FlightAware. Many of those flights were canceled before the day began.

Thousands of schoolchildren either slept on the buses that tried and failed to get them home, or on cots in school gymnasiums. All were back home by Wednesday evening, officials said.

State transportation crews spent much of Wednesday rescuing stranded drivers and moving disabled and abandoned vehicles that littered the interstates, medians and shoulders. Gov. Nathan Deal said emergency workers, police, and the National Guard would help drivers Thursday to recover their cars and would provide them with fuel if necessary.

Crews planned to use four-wheel-drive vehicles to take motorists to vehicles they abandoned to reclaim them Thursday. State officials also said they were creating a database to help motorists locate vehicles that were towed to impound lots.

At least the schools are closed today, but it’s still not safe to drive; and I have no clue why the governor is allowing people to do so. Trust me, the idiots will be out there on the ice. Can you believe it dripped to -15 degrees in Georgia last night?! And it will all freeze up again tonight when the temperatures once again drop below freezing.

New York Daily News: South still crippled by big chill after storm brings Atlanta to a standstill

The deep freeze that brought the South to its knees hasn’t released the region from its chokehold just yet.

Overnight temperatures were well below the freezing mark overnight on Thursday — complicating cleanup of frozen streets along across the storm weary state of Georgia.

For many, sitting in snarled traffic was a painful experience. For Amy Anderson, it felt like she was going into labor — until she realized she was actually about to give birth….

“We couldn’t go forward any more and that’s when I knew,” Anderson told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “The contractions had gotten so strong, I knew that this baby was coming, because we just couldn’t get through.”

Baby Grace was delivered safely and brought to an area hospital, where she is relaxing with her mother and father.

Read much more about the snow/traffic situation and see photos at the link.

From ABC News: Who’s to Blame for the Atlanta Storm Chaos?

Officials in Georgia are on the defensive, trying to explain why Atlanta was so ill-prepared for a snow storm that gridlocked highway traffic, leaving thousands of students stranded in schools and on buses, bringing out National Guardsmen and state troopers to help with rescue efforts.

The icy weather wreaked similar havoc across much of the South, closing schools and highways, grounding flights and contributing to at least a dozen deaths from traffic accidents and a mobile home fire.

Yet it was Atlanta, home to major corporations and the world’s busiest airport (According to Atlanta-Business-Directory.com/biz/c/home-services/), that was Exhibit A for how a Southern city could be sent reeling by winter weather that, in the North, might be no more than an inconvenience.

Instead of showing leadership, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal just let it happen and then whined about the weather forecasters and the media.

“At that time, it was still, in most of the forecasts, anticipated that the city of Atlanta would only have a mild dusting or a very small accumulation if any,” Deal said at a Wednesday press conference. “Preparations were made for those predictions.”

Forecasters erupted following the comments. The National Weather Service argued that the appropriate outlooks, watches and warnings were released two days in advance….

“I would have acted sooner, and I think we learn from that and then we will act sooner the next time,” Deal told reporters.

“But we don’t want to be accused of crying wolf. Because if we had been wrong, y’all would have all been in here saying, ‘Do you know how many millions of dollars you cost the economies of the city of Atlanta and the state of Georgia by shutting down businesses all over this city and this state?'”

Hey, that’s the way it goes. You prepare for the worst, and if the predictions are wrong, you still took precautions and thousands of kids don’t get stuck on the roads and in their schools. That’s what Massachusetts officials learned after the ’78 blizzard. That wasn’t predicted either, and we ended up getting more than 20 inches of snow that landed on top of a previous snowfall of more than a foot. It was a disaster, and nowadays we prepare for the worst and just give a sigh of relief the worst doesn’t happen. If you don’t want to show real leadership, don’t run for governor. The problem with Republicans is that they don’t really believe in government, so they sit on their hands when disaster strikes.

In other news . . .

Italy is trying Amanda Knox for the third time–apparently over there, the government gets to keep appealing even in a murder case if they don’t get the verdict they want. They don’t have laws against double jeopardy. From the LA Times: Jury starts deliberating in Amanda Knox appeal.

FLORENCE, Italy — Lawyers for American student Amanda Knox warned jurors not to overlook mistakes made by investigators as deliberations began here Thursday in Knox’s new appeal of her conviction for the 2007 murder of British student Meredith Kercher.

“We are anxious about your verdict,” lawyer Luciano Ghirga told the judge and jurors moments before they filed out to consider the fate of Knox, 26, and her former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, 29.

Prosecutors have called for sentences of 26 and 30 years for Sollecito and Knox, the exchange student from Seattle who shared a house in the Italian town of Perugia with Kercher, then 21, who was found partially naked in a pool of blood with her throat slashed….

Surely President Obama won’t allow Knox to be extradited to Italy. I sure hope not.

Knox has refused to attend the second appeal, which opened in Florence last year, writing to the court from Seattle that she fears being “wrongly convicted.” [….]

In an interview with Italian television Wednesday, Knox said she would be waiting at home with her family for the verdict with “my heart in my mouth.”
“The proof is in the facts. There is no proof I was there when it happened,” she said.

I really don’t understand why this is happening.

Things are really getting out of control in the Ukraine–and that’s an understatement. Some updates:

BBC News: Ukraine protesters defy terms of new amnesty law.

Parliament backed an amnesty for detainees if protesters vacated the government buildings they had occupied and unblocked streets and squares.

The opposition has rejected this and protesters remain camped out in central Kiev and still occupy key buildings.

The protests began in November after President Viktor Yanukovych reversed a decision to sign an EU trade deal.

The next month he signed a $15bn (£9.2bn; 10.9bn euros) bailout deal with Russia….

The new amnesty law will not come into effect unless protesters leave the local administration buildings they have occupied across Ukraine within 15 days.

The pro-EU protesters have taken over a number of properties in Kiev and other cities which they are using as operation centres and dormitories, and to seek refuge from the freezing conditions outside.

Meanwhile, the president has called in sick. From the LA Times: As Ukraine’s troubles mount, president takes sick leave.

KIEV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich has taken a sick leave amid the nation’s political crisis.

“Ukraine’s president is on a sick leave in connection with an acute respiratory disease accompanied by high fever,” Alexander Orda, the presidential staff’s deputy health chief, said in a statement posted on Yanukovich’s official website Thursday morning.

The announcement came a day after Yanukovich compelled parliament to sign a conditional amnesty for more than 100 detained participants in protests that started over two months ago when Yanukovich refrained from signing an association and trade deal with the European Union.

The protests were predominantly peaceful until mid-January, when Yanukovich endorsed a number of controversial laws curbing rights to assembly and free speech. That move set off a fierce confrontation between thousands of protesters and riot police in central Kiev.

The conflict raged for most of last week and left at least four protesters dead, hundreds injured on both sides and dozens of protesters detained in Kiev and elsewhere in the country.

Read more at the link.

Yesterday the Snowdenistas were celebrating because the heard someone nominated their hero for a Nobel Peace Prize. Well guess who else was also nominated? 

Yes, Vladimir Putin was nominated for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize in October 2013. Maybe they can share the prize and go to the ceremony together. After all, they both live in Russia.

At The Daily Beast, Michael Moynihan explains that “thousands of officials” can nominate anyone they want for the Nobel Peace Prize. He fully expects to be pilloried for it by the Snowden/Greenwald cult.

If you have a paper thin skin (as I do) and are paid to comment on the news (this, for some mysterious reason, also applies to me), it’s advisable to fully disengage from writing about the Edward Snowden saga. After the initial leaks, I offered a cautious piece, urging against the instant beatification of the former NSA contractor. We knew little about him, I argued, so let’s wait for it to play out, and we’ll be better situated to determine if he was more Pentagon Papers thanPumpkin Papers. But it’s one of those stories allergic to nuance: you’re either a lackey of empire (the Snowden skeptic) or a fulminating anti-American trying to undermine Obama’s foreign policy (the Snowden supporter). In a debate without shades of grey, I’d rather leave the whole business to those with more anger, passion, and energy.

But allow me to wade into one tiny aspect of the Snowden affair without wading into the debate: across Twitter and cluttering my inbox; in stories from Time, Bloomberg, The Verge, The GuardianThe Washington Post, Reuters, and dozens of others; and in breathless dispatches from the universe of Facebook, I have been repeatedly informed within that last twenty-four hours that Edward Snowden has been “nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.” Take that previous Nobel Peace Prize laureate Barack Obama!

Well, almost. Because all of the media outlets listed above, and all my Snowdenite friends on Facebook and Twitter, have fallen for the perennial person whose politics I share was nominated for the most meaningless prize on the planetstory. But what, dear reader, does it actually mean to be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize? The short answer: not much.

I hope you’ll read the rest at the link.

I have more links, but I’m running out of space and time, so I’ll put the in the comments. I hope you’ll do the same with any stories you want to share. Have a great day, Sky Dancers!!

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Thursday Reads

Good Morning!

You know the Occupy Movement is having an effect when the propaganda patrol starts trying to pin the “TERRORIST” label on them. From Politico:

If confirmed, this will likely be a much, much bigger image problem than the reports of crime in Occupy encampments:

Authorities suspect [Oscar Ramiro] Ortega-Hernandez] had been in the area for weeks, coming back and forth to the Washington Mall. Before the shooting, he was detained by local police at an abandoned house. U.S. Park Police say Ortega-Hernandez may have spent time with Occupy D.C. protesters.

Ooops! In an update, Politico has to take it back–it turns out authorities couldn’t find a connection. But you just know they’re going to keep trying. And ABC News reported it. Lots of people will take that as gospel and never hear that it wasn’t true.

However a GOP campus leader at the University of Texas Austin responded on Twitter to the news of shots fired at the White House.

Hours after Pennsylvania State Police arrested a 21-year-old Idaho man for allegedly firing a semi-automatic rifle at the White House, the top student official for the College Republicans at the University of Texas tweeted that the idea of assassinating President Obama was “tempting.”

At 2:29 p.m. ET, UT’s Lauren E. Pierce wrote: “Y’all as tempting as it may be, don’t shoot Obama. We need him to go down in history as the WORST president we’ve EVER had! #2012.”

Pierce, the president of the College Republicans at UT Austin, told ABC News the comment was a “joke” and that the “whole [shooting incident] was stupid.” Giggling, she said that an attempted assassination would “only make the situation worse.”

Tee hee hee… this is the future of the GOP?

Maxine Waters is still number one voice of reason in Washington DC. When the propaganda merchants tried to get her to say something disparaging about OWS, here’s how she handled it.

When asked to comment Wednesday about the deaths and crimes that have occurred around Occupy protests being held across the country, Rep. Maxine Waters said “that’s life and it happens.”

“That’s a distraction from the goals of the protesters,” Waters, who says she supports the Occupy movement, told CNSNews.com after an event at the Capitol sponsored by the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

I love that woman!

“Let me just say this: Anytime you have a gathering, homeless people are going to show up,” said Waters. “They will find some comfort in having some other people out on the streets with them. They’re looking for food. Often times, the criminal element will invade. That’s life and it happens, whether it’s with protesters or other efforts that go on in this country.

“So I’m not deterred in my support for them because of these negative kinds of things,” said Waters. “I just want them to work at doing the best job that they can do to bring attention to this economic crisis and the unfairness of the system at this time.”

Way to go, Maxine!

In contrast, Republican ratf^^ker Karl Rove isn’t quite so mature. He really lost his cool on Tuesday night when he was targeted by Occupy protesters and ended up acting pretty childish.

Former Bush political adviser Karl Rove seemed a bit flustered Tuesday night after his speech to Johns Hopkins University was interrupted by a group of about 15 protesters connected to “Occupy Baltimore,” who got under his skin enough to get him cursing.

As he spoke about public debt and attempted to pin America’s economic pain on the Obama administration, a woman shouted out, “Mic check?”

A chorus of voices replied, “Mic check!”

“Karl Rove! Is the architect!” they shouted. “The architect of Occupy Iraq! The architect of Occupy Afghanistan!”

“Here’s the deal,” he replied. “If you believe in free speech then you had a chance to show it.”

“If you believe in right of the First Amendment to free speech then you demonstrate it by shutting up and waiting until the Q & A session right after,” Rove trailed off as supporters applauded.

“You can go ahead and stand in line and have the courage to ask any damn question you want, or you can continue to show that you are a buffoon…” he said, as the group of protesters descended into random shouting. One woman called him a “murderer, ” while others chanted, “We are the 99 percent!”

“No you’re not!” Rove replied, chanting it back at them. “No you’re not! No you’re not! No you’re not!”

Gee, that was fun to watch.

Not that any of the European elites will listen, but Brad Plummer at Wonkbook talked to a number of experts and came to the conclusion that the whole story about it not being legal for the ECB to rescue the European financial system is a bunch of hooey.

European officials keep insisting that the ECB isn’t legally allowed to play savior. On Tuesday, the head of Germany’s Bundesbank called it a violation of European law. The Wall Street Journal argued Wednesday that the European Union’s founding treaty would need to be revamped before the ECB could act as a lender of last resort to countries like Italy. So is this true? Could Europe really melt down because of a few legal niceties?

Not really, say experts. It’s true that the Treaty of Lisbon expressly forbids the European Central Bank from buying up debt instruments directly from countries like Italy and Spain. But, says Richard Portes of the London Business School, there’s nothing to prevent the central bank from buying up Italian and Spanish bonds on the secondary market from other investors.

“If that’s illegal, then officials should already be in jail,” says Portes. “Because they’ve been doing it sporadically since May of 2010.” The problem is that the bank’s current erratic purchases only seem to be creating more uncertainty in the market. “Right now,” says Portes, “nobody’s buying in that market except the ECB.”

Instead, what many experts want the European Central Bank to do is to pledge, loudly and clearly, that it will buy up bonds on the secondary market until, say, Italy’s borrowing costs come down to manageable levels. In theory, says Portes, the central bank wouldn’t even have to make many purchases after that, because expectations would shift and become self-fulfilling. In the near term, investors would stop worrying about whether they’d be repaid for loaning money to countries like Italy, and Italy’s borrowing costs would drop — giving it room to figure out its debt woes. (Granted, that latter step is a daunting task.)

But as Dakinikat wrote a couple of days ago, we’ll probably just have to wait and see what happens when the psychopaths in charge do exactly the opposite of what they should do.

The New York Times has a story this morning about Obama’s commitment of troops to Australia: U.S. Expands Military Ties to Australia, Irritating China.

CANBERRA, Australia — President Obama announced Wednesday that the United States planned to deploy 2,500 Marines in Australia to shore up alliances in Asia, but the move prompted a sharp response from Beijing, which accused Mr. Obama of escalating military tensions in the region.

The agreement with Australia amounts to the first long-term expansion of the American military’s presence in the Pacific since the end of the Vietnam War. It comes despite budget cuts facing the Pentagon and an increasingly worried reaction from Chinese leaders, who have argued that the United States is seeking to encircle China militarily and economically.

“It may not be quite appropriate to intensify and expand military alliances and may not be in the interest of countries within this region,” Liu Weimin, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, said in response to the announcement by Mr. Obama and Prime Minister Julia Gillard of Australia.

Attention Nobel committee: Isn’t it about time to rescind that Peace Prize?

OK, that’s it for me. What are you reading and blogging about today?


A Nobel Peace Prize for Women

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakul Karman. Photograph: Alex Wong/Getty, Frederick M Brown/Getty, Khaled Abdullah/Reuters

CNN Breaking News:

The 2011 Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman for their work for women’s rights.

Liberia’s Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is Africa’s first democratic elected female president. Leymah Gbowee has worked to mobilize women across ethnic and religious dividing lines to bring end to the long war in Liberia.

Tawakkul Karman has played a leading role in the struggle for women’s rights and democracy in Yemen.

We’ve been covering a lot of news about women around the world here for as long as we’ve had a voice.  It’s perhaps a natural offshoot of our roots in feminism and our roots as Hillary supporters.  There has been a lot of major unrest in the world recently.  Women and children have suffered tremendously.  Women have been the victims of mass rape as a war weapon. Children have been recruited into armies.  Women have been forced into early marriage, denied the right to participate in government and even to do the simple task of driving a car in major countries who we support, arm, and enrich.  Our President is currently in the process of loosening punishment by our country for the use of children soldiers.  That is hardly the act of a Nobel Peace Prize winner.  The winning women are outstanding choices that do more than just symbolize the struggle of women to achieve independence, dignity, safety, and autonomy around the world.

These three  women have campaigned for peace and democracy in Liberia and Yemen and are more than just symbols of the aspiration for peace. They have put their lives on the line for it in countries riddled with problems that we can barely imagine here.  Sirleaf has been a personal hero of mine for some time since she is an economist as well as a leader.  She spent time in prison and is the first woman president on the African Continent.  She is a small woman with the heart of a lion.  I look forward to learning more about the other two women. Here’s a few things to get his started!!!Here are some profiles of the winners from the UK Guardian.

The Liberian president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and Leymah Gbowee, a social worker turned peace campaigner from the same country, will share the 10m kronor (£950,000) prize with Tawakul Karman, a journalist and pro-democracy activist in Yemen who has been a leading figure in the protests against President Ali Abdullah Saleh since January.

The Nobel committee said the three had been chosen “for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work”.

“We cannot achieve democracy and lasting peace in the world unless women obtain the same opportunities as men to influence developments at all levels of society,” the committee said in a statement. They are the first women to be awarded the prize since 2004 when the committee honoured Wangari Muta Maathai, the Kenyan environmentalist who died last month, and bring the tally of female winners to 15, compared with 85 men.

Sirleaf, 72, is a Harvard-trained economist who became Africa’s first democratically elected female president in 2005, two years after the country achieved a fragile peace after decades of civil war. The committee said she had “contributed to securing peace in Liberia, to promoting economic and social development, and to strengthening the position of women”.

Seen as a reformer and peacemaker in Liberia when she first took office, Sirleaf declared a zero-tolerance policy against corruption and has made education compulsory and free for all primary-age children. She is currently running for re-election, with a vote to be held on Tuesday.

Gbowee, 39, was instrumental in helping bring Liberia to peace in the early 2000s, leading a movement of women who dressed in white to protest against the use of rape and child soldiers in the war. During the 2003 peace talks, she and hundreds of women surrounded the hall where the discussions were being held, refusing to let delegates leave until they had signed the treaty. The committee said she had “mobilised and organised women across ethnic and religious dividing lines to bring an end to the long war in Liberia, and to ensure women’s participation in elections”.

Since 2004, Gbowee has served as a commissioner on Liberia’s truth and reconciliation commission, and she is now executive director of the Women in Peace and Security Network, an organisation that works with women in Liberia, Ivory Coast, Nigeria and Sierra Leone to promote peace, literacy and political involvement.

“In the most trying circumstances, both before and during the Arab spring, Tawakul Karman has played a leading part in the struggle for women’s rights and for democracy and peace in Yemen,” the Nobel committee said of the third winner. Karman, 32, is a mother of three who in 2005 founded the group Women Journalists Without Chains.

She has been a key figure among youth activists in Yemen since they began occupying a square in central Sana’a in February demanding the end of the Saleh regime, and has often been the voice of activists on Arabic television, giving on-the-ground reports of the situation in the square outside Sana’a University, where dozens of activists have been shot dead by government forces.

She called her award “a victory for the Yemeni people, for the Yemeni revolution and all the Arab revolutions”.

“This is a message that the era of Arab dictatorships is over. This is a message to this regime and all the despotic regimes that no voice can drown out the voice of freedom and dignity. This is a victory for the Arab spring in Tunis, Egypt, Libya, Syria and Yemen. Our peaceful revolution will continue until we topple Saleh and establish a civilian state.”

More information can be found at BBC News as well. In some ways, I feel that this prize reflects Hilary Clinton’s priorities as she has made the rights of women and children and their oppression by strict and violent patriarchal regimes has been a focus of her work.  I’m going to close this thread with a quote from then-First Lady Hillary Clinton that seems very appropriate.

Women have always been the primary victims of war. Women lose their husbands, their fathers, their sons in combat. Women often have to flee from the only homes they have ever known. Women are often the refugees from conflict and sometimes, more frequently in today’s warfare, victims. Women are often left with the responsibility, alone, of raising the children.

from a speech given at the Conference on domestic violence in San Salvador, El Salvador (17 November 1998)

Congratulations to these outstanding women whose quest for peace has come at great personal danger and sacrifice!!!!