Evening Open Thread: Panda Babies, Social Clubs and King’s Chapel

12566ef64878a7289a7beab17607a59fGood Evening

Hurray! Tomorrow is a wonderful day in Banjoville…it is a school day! Yes, the first day of school. So tonight will be a busy one, getting things ready because both of my little munchkins will be walking the High School hallways…damn they grow up fast.

Take a look at this article from the LA Times, it discusses the history of Vegas’ Italian American Social Club…and how they are looking for a new clientele to fill their halls: Social club wined and dined Sinatra, mobsters and the feds

It was a Thursday night and the place was packed: the Italian American Social Club was saying goodbye to one of its own.

Singer Mark Giovi was leaving town, and the dress-for-success crowd sipped martinis and watched him work the room with the verve of a Rat Pack member.

Just like the old days.

Over more than five decades, the venerable social club and restaurant on Sahara Avenue, a few miles east of The Strip, has seen its good times and bad: Sinatra was once a member here and Dino (Martin) and Perry (Como) often joined him onstage. But there were also times marked by poor management and the constant battle against the perception (mostly by the federal government) that the place was a perilous mob hangout.

So, were there ever “made” guys in the house?

President Angelo Cassaro smiles. You bet, he says.

Was the joint ever, uh, dangerous?

Never. (Well, almost.)

Las Vegas Italian American Social Club

The Italian American Social Club in Las Vegas still has boccie ball and serves authentic pasta Bolognese. “We’re looking for a new generation to come here and take us into the future,” the president says. (Las Vegas Italian American Social Club / July 29, 2013)

The social club is a survivor, an institution that remembers its past but knows it must change for the future: Sure, there’s still a boccie ball club, and inside the white brick building guarded by several pseudo-Roman statues, the pasta Bolognese is still authentic. The decor is sophisticated — not a red-and-white plastic table top or Tower of Pisa fresco in sight.

Even so, the place is looking for new blood.

“This club is really vintage Vegas,” Cassaro said. “The food is still fabulous and it’s always been a fun place to be. But we’re looking for a new generation to come here and take us into the future.”

That was a bit of history on Las Vegas, now we travel across the US to Boston…King’s Chapel: 1909 | Shorpy Historical Photo Archive

Circa 1909. “King’s Chapel, Boston.” Note the unusually explicit One-Way sign on the lamppost: “Vehicles Must Go in Direction of Arrow.” View full size.


Go to the full size link and take a look at the people in the bus that is in front of the church…if you look closely in the very back seat you can see a young woman looking directly into the camera…or at least in the direction of the camera. It is like all the other people in the picture are going about their business…anonymously, without a note of connecting us to their place in time. But then you have this one woman…a young girl…she is looking right at you…it is emotional and piercing in its personal attachment from our present time to hers.

And lastly, an update on the little panda twins. I will post the zoo’s updates from the last few days, so you won’t miss the information on Lun Lun’s mothering skills and the babies growth:  Zoo Atlanta Panda Cam

Monday, August 8Can you believe that the cubs are already 3 weeks old?! It is absolutely incredible how much the cubs grow and develop each day. On my drive to work, I find myself wondering how much bigger the cubs will be since the last time I saw them (usually less than 24 hours before). How much more fur will have grown in? Just in the last few days, the changes have been very noticeable.  heir black markings have become darker and more pronounced, and their fur has really grown in.  While they still have just a few more days to go before they look like miniature pandas, they now look more black-and-white than black-and-pink. The cubs’ weight gain depends on how much they nurse during each swap and can fluctuate, just like our adult pandas. The weight gain can be small (10-20 grams), but it can also be very large, sometimes as much as 50 grams in four hours (the current length of time between swaps). Usually they fall somewhere right in the middle. As of the last swap, Cub A is now 601.0 grams and Cub B is 628.2 grams.

Jennifer A.
Keeper I, Mammals

Friday, August 2
Both twins now weigh a little over a pound each! Cub A didn’t stay ahead of his brother in weight for long. B caught and surpassed A within a day, but they have remained close ever since. This morning Cub A weighed 492 grams, and Cub B weighed 502 grams. Although they are still very small, they look huge compared to the day they were born. They are also becoming cuter by the day. We ooh and ahh over them every day, noting their increasing fuzziness, fat tummies, and perfectly curved, tiny claws. They are starting to grow a fine coat of fur now, but they also still have the white fuzzy lanugo that covered them when they were born. They will have a full coat of fur in about another week and will then truly look like miniatures of their parents.
Rebecca Snyder, PhD
Curator of Mammals
Thursday, August 1
Third shifts tend to be nice and peaceful. Besides the nursery keeper and vet, Security, and the occasional NightCrawler group spending the night at the Zoo, there aren’t many people here! As the cubs get bigger and stronger they aren’t quite as needy as they were when newborns. You can easily see a cub when Lun Lun is readjusting or they are rooting around looking for milk. Adult pandas usually take an extended nap overnight, but will get up periodically to eat bamboo. Lun Lun just sleeps and focuses on her cub; she mainly eats during the cub swaps. Soon enough she will set the cubs down for longer periods (and they’ll be okay with it) so she can refuel…but we aren’t quite there yet as the cubs are not always thrilled to leave the snuggly warmth of their mother’s fur. We keep a vigilant eye and if we notice that she repeatedly tries to set the cub down in an effort to find food and the cubs protests, we’ll swoop in and hand-feed her through the bars while she attends to her demanding cub. And she definitely needs food! Those two little furballs are growing fast!
Jen W.
Keeper I, Carnivores

Wednesday, July 31
Like Rebecca stated before, we have an amazing team working around the clock to make sure these cute little furballs grow up healthy and strong, and that Lun Lun stays healthy as well. I just started my rotation as a nursery keeper, and it’s pretty cool to take part in a group working so smoothly like a well-oiled machine. The first 24-48 hours after the cubs were born were stressful for everyone as they had to find a rhythm of swapping out the cubs that worked best for Lun Lun and her newborns. This was complicated by the obvious fact that Cub A was smaller than his brother and in the early days was getting hungry far quicker. But very quickly the kinks were worked out and everyone relaxed a minuscule amount because at least we had a routine. Even Lun Lun settled into the (roughly) three-hour swap schedule without much fuss at all.  So much so that on my first day, she kept getting up and become more active right around the three-hour mark, as if she knew what was going to happen.  I am constantly amazed throughout my shifts at just how awesome Lun is in allowing us to take her cub, as if it’s no big deal. It’s a testament to the relationship we have with her and her trusting nature that she allows this.  Currently, Cubs A and B are pretty close in weight; weighing 394.7g and 405.5g, respectively.

Jen W.
Keeper I, Carnivores

Aren’t they cute as hell!

This is an open thread.

Wednesday Reads: Forest for the trees

potagesmaggiGood Morning

My internet has been acting strange lately, so I am writing this post on the fly and comments will be at a minimum.

First up, sad story from India, according to BBC News: School meal kills 22 in India’s Bihar state

At least 22 children have died and dozens more have fallen ill after eating lunch at a school in the eastern Indian state of Bihar.

The poisoning occurred in the village of Dharmasati Gandaman, 80km (50 miles) north of the state capital, Patna.

The free Mid-Day Meal Scheme aims to tackle hunger and boost attendance in schools, but suffers from poor hygiene.

Angry parents joined protests against the deaths, setting at least four police vehicles on fire.

An inquiry has begun and 200,000 rupees ($3,370) in compensation offered to the families of each of the dead.

Twenty-eight sick children were taken to hospitals in the nearby town of Chhapra after the incident and later were moved to Patna.

A total of 47 students of the primary school fell sick on Tuesday after eating the free lunch.

More deaths are possible as many of the kids are under the age of 12 and still in critical condition.

The state education minister, PK Shahi, told the BBC a preliminary investigation indicated that the food was contaminated with traces of phosphorous.

“The doctors who have attended are of the tentative opinion that the smell coming out of the bodies of the children suggests that the food contained organo-phosphorus, which is a poisonous substance,” he said.

“Now the investigators have to find out whether organo-phosphorus was accidental or there was some deliberate mischief.”

Earlier, doctors treating the patients had said “food poisoning” was the cause of the deaths.

“We suspect it to be poisoning caused by insecticides in vegetable or rice,” Amarjeet Sinha, a senior education official, told the BBC.

A doctor treating the children at a hospital in Patna said contaminated vegetable oil could have led to the poisoning.

Patna-based journalist Amarnath Tewary says villagers told local reporters that similar cases of food poisoning after having Mid-Day Meals had taken place in the area previously.

The horror of this story will only be more disturbing if it does turn out to be deliberate. I will keep you all up to date on the details as the day goes on.

Meanwhile, the Zimmerman Jury’s shitstorm has begun B37’s fellow jurors in Trayvon Martin trial bash her for leading country to believe spoke for them – NY Daily News

Four jurors in Trayvon Martin trial have issued a statement Tuesday night bashing B37 for going on TV and leading the country to believe she spoke for all of them.

Just moments after CNN aired part two of its interview with the juror known as B37, four of her fellow members on the six-woman jury issued a joint statement.

“We also wish to point out that the opinions of Juror B37, expressed on the Anderson Cooper show were her own, and not in any way representative of the jurors listed below.”

The jurors added, “We ask you to remember that we are not public officials and we did not invite this type of attention into our lives.”

More from LA Times: Zimmerman trial: 4 jurors say Juror B37 does not speak for them

The other four jurors also cited Florida law. “Serving on this jury has been a highly emotional and physically draining experience for each of us,” the statement signed by Jurors B51, B76, E6 and E40 said. “The death of a teenager weighed heavily on our hearts, but in the end we did what the law required us to do.”

It still makes me cringe to think Zimmerman got away with killing Martin, and not one charge was brought against him…aside from manslaughter…assault…battery…geez, stalking?  I guess I am rambling but it still seems inconceivable to me that there are no criminal consequences for Zimmerman’s actions, which did result in the death of an unarmed young man.

Alright, here are some links from yesterday that you should check out.

Op/ed by Katrina vanden Heuvel: Congress’s appalling Republicans – The Washington Post

There really isn’t any other word. Congressional Republicans are simply appalling. They have absolute control of the House. They set the agenda. They decide what comes to the floor. They decide what passes on to the Senate.

They know that extreme legislation isn’t going to be enacted into law. The Democratic majority in the Senate and the Democratic president stand in the way. So the legislation they choose to pass is a statement of their own values. It is simply designed to proclaim, “This is where we stand.” And for the vast majority of Americans, what they proudly proclaim is simply beyond the pale.

New blog post by Kurt Eichenwald: My Family, Our Cancer, and the Murderous Cruelty of Conservatives | Vanity Fair

My wife has breast cancer.

I write this, with her permission, while sitting in the hospital waiting room as she undergoes surgery. Afterward, there will be another surgery, radiation, and probably chemo, but what else might be in the offing is guesswork at this point. I’ll know more this afternoon, when the operation is over.

A comparison over at Juan Cole’s blog: Israel’s District 9: Its Biggest Ethnic Cleansing since 1948 | Informed Comment

30,000 Palestinian-Israelis of Bedouin heritage are are being forcibly transferred by the Israeli government, and thousands of acres of their land is being stolen from them.

The 972 article compares it to Apartheid South Africa’s District 6, the inspiration for the film, “District 9″

The Palestinian-Israelis are mounting big protests today.

Tales from the Walmart inner circle: Four Angry Wal-Mart Workers, and Four Happy Ones

Last week, we brought you some true stories from Wal-Mart workers— stories that alarmed Wal-Mart so much that they (unsuccessfully) begged their employees to send us positive stories to balance them out. Since then, we’ve received many more, both good and bad. Here are some.

Note: Wal-Mart specifically solicited its employees to send us positive stories (and furthermore, one employee tells us, “Walmart does have an official policy on employees posting on social media and yes we *can* be fired for posting content the company doesn’t like”). Despite this, we’ve received a far greater number of negative than positive stories. Today, however, we’re posting an equal number of positive and negative stories. Take them as you will. They’re all revealing in their own way.

An interesting look at Latin America, considering the recent events surrounding Snowden and the “courtship” of his “affections“:

Why Latin America Is Becoming Less Democratic – Kurt Weyland – The Atlantic


Opponents of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez stage a protest over a drawing of a gagged face during a march to commemorate the 53rd anniversary of the return of democracy after the 1958 coup in Caracas January 23, 2011. (Jorge Silvas/Reuters)

Around the turn of the millennium, prominent Latin America special­ist Scott Mainwaring highlighted the surprising endurance of democracy in that region after the transition wave of the late 1970s and 1980s.Dur­ing that interval, no democracy had permanently succumbed to a mili­tary coup or slid back into authoritarian rule. After decades marked by instability in numerous countries, especially Argentina, Bolivia, and Ec­uador, this newfound democratic resilience came as a welcome surprise.


The recent suffocation of political pluralism in a whole group of countries is with­out precedent. For the first time in decades, democracy in Latin America is facing a sustained, coordinated threat. The regional trend toward de­mocracy, which had prevailed since the late 1970s, has suffered a partial reversal. Unexpectedly, democracy is now on the defensive in parts of the region.

That is just a couple of paragraphs, go read the whole article…

There was a freaky story that you may have missed a couple of weeks ago, Mystery of Nazi Swastikas in the Forests – SPIEGEL ONLINE

Over 20 years ago, a landscaper in eastern Germany discovered a formation of trees in a forest in the shape of a swastika. Since then, a number of other forest swastikas have been found in Germany and beyond, but the mystery of their origins persist.

Blame it on the larches. Brandenburg native Günter Reschke was the first one to notice their unique formation, according to a 2002 article in the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper. To be more precise, however, it was the new intern at Reschke’s landscaping company, Ökoland Dederow, who discovered the trees in 1992 as he was completing a typically thankless intern task: searching aerial photographs for irrigation lines.

For decade, this swastika of larch trees stood undiscovered in the middle of...

Instead, he found a small group of 140 larches standing in the middle of dense forest, surrounded by hundreds of other trees. But there was a crucial difference: all the others were pine trees. The larches, unlike the pines, changed color in the fall, first to yellow, then brown. And when they were seen from a certain height, it wasn’t difficult to recognize the pattern they formed. It was quite striking, in fact.

As he was dutifully accomplishing the task he had been given, the intern suddenly stopped and stared, dumbfounded, at the picture in his hand. It was an aerial view of Kutzerower Heath at Zernikow — photo number 106/88. He showed it to Reschke: “Do you see what this is?” But the 60-by-60 meter (200-by-200 foot) design that stood out sharply from the forest was obvious to all: a swastika.

Reschke is actually a fan of his native Uckermark region of northeastern Germany, extolling its gently rolling hills, lakes and woods, as the “Tuscany of the north.” But what the two men discovered in 1992 in that aerial photograph thrust this natural idyll into the center of a scandal.

This is one hell of a story, and at that Spiegel link there is a gallery of images that you need to see: Photo Gallery: Swastikas in the Woods – SPIEGEL ONLINE – International

The planting of swastika formations, like this one near the town of Asterode in...

The planting of swastika formations, like this one near the town of Asterode in the western state of Hesse, was popular among foresters throughout various regions of Nazi Germany. There were many swastikas in the forests surrounding Berlin until they were removed under Soviet occupation.

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In this same wooded area of Asterode in Hesse, the numbers "1933," the year...

In this same wooded area of Asterode in Hesse, the numbers “1933,” the year Hitler came to power, were spelled out in larch trees across a backdrop of pine forest, bursting into color in autumn. The eyesores remained for a long time, until the early 1960s, when American occupying forces discovered the trees during an aerial reconnaissance flight and complained to the local government.

But it was not just trees in the forest that took the shape of Nazi symbolism, towns..buildings and other land formations that remained hidden until discovered by views from above…seriously, go and check that article out.

One more link in connection with this story above, Misreading ‘Eichmann in Jerusalem’ – NYTimes.com

The movie “Hannah Arendt,” which opened in New York in May, has unleashed emotional commentary that mirrors the fierce debate Arendt herself ignited over half a century ago, when she covered the trial of the notorious war criminal Adolf Eichmann. One of the pre-eminent political thinkers of the 20th century, Arendt, who died in 1975 at the age of 69, was a Jew arrested by the German police in 1933, forced into exile and later imprisoned in an internment camp. She escaped and fled to the United States in 1941, where she wrote the seminal books “The Origins of Totalitarianism” and “The Human Condition.”

It is easy to cite the ‘banality of evil.’ It is much more difficult to make sense of what Arendt actually meant.

When Arendt heard that Eichmann was to be put on trial, she knew she had to attend. It would be, she wrote, her last opportunity to see a major Nazi “in the flesh.” Writing in The New Yorker, she expressed shock that Eichmann was not a monster, but “terribly and terrifyingly normal.” Her reports for the magazine were compiled into a book, “Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil,” published in 1963.

The poet Robert Lowell proclaimed Arendt’s portrayal of Eichmann a “masterpiece,” a “terrifying expressionist invention applied with a force no imitator could rival.” Others excoriated Arendt as a self-hating Jew. Lionel Abel charged that Eichmann “comes off so much better in her book than do his victims.” Nearly every major literary and philosophical figure in New York chose sides in what the writer Irving Howe called a “civil war” among New York intellectuals — a war, he later predicted, that might “die down, simmer,” but will perennially “erupt again.” So it has.

The op/ed continues to explore reviews of the film, and how Arendt’s work is still causing controversy so many years since it was first published.

Lastly, big news in Atlanta this week, LUN LUN THE GIANT PANDA GIVES BIRTH TO TWINS!

Lun Lun, a 15-year-old giant panda, gave birth to twins on July 15, 2013. The first of the tiny duo arrived at 6:21 p.m., and its twin followed at 6:23 p.m. The cubs are the first giant pandas to be born in the U.S. in 2013 and the first twins to be born in the U.S. since 1987.

The babies are doing great and according to a news release today…are healthy and fine.   Zoo Atlanta has a Panda Cam up and running, so I wanted to give you that link:

Zoo Atlanta Panda Cam

Panda Updates

Tuesday, July 16
The panda team is tired and a little stressed, but happy! So far, both cubs are doing well. We are fortunate that both were born a healthy weight and strong. Sometimes one twin is very small. As you all know, Lun Lun is a fantastic mom, and she’s even more impressive this time. The cubs are being alternated with her, which is a technique first developed by our colleagues in Chengdu and used successfully for many cubs. Lun Lun is such a good mom, though, that she is reluctant to give up whichever cub she has. So, we have not been able to swap the cubs as frequently as we would like. Because of that, both have been supplemented with some formula. Both are doing well with this. Their condition and Lun Lun’s behavior will continue to guide our actions. The next few days are especially critical. So, please continue to keep us in your thoughts. We can use the good vibes!
Rebecca Snyder, PhD, 
Curator of Mammals

There is so much information at that link to the Zoo Atlanta website, but I just want to add one more graphic which illustrates how amazing this little baby’s growth timeline really is:

Panda Developmental Timeline

Isn’t it wonderful?

Hope you have a fabulous day today, and try to stay cool out there. See you down in the comments, what are you reading and thinking about today?

The LeRoy High School Outbreak: “Conversion Disorder” or Environmental Contaminants?

Aerial view of LeRoy Junior/Senior High School

I know everyone has already heard about the outbreak of tics and verbal outbursts (described in the media as “Tourette’s-like symptoms”) in the small town of LeRoy, New York. I thought I’d pull together some information on the case anyway. I have been skeptical about the diagnoses that have been publicized (“conversion disorder” and “mass hysteria”) since I first heard about it.

The media descriptions of conversion disorder haven’t been particularly accurate or helpful, and now that school and county officials are trying to limit investigations into environmental causes for the outbreak, I’m even more suspicious that these symptoms may be caused by exposure to toxins in the environment.

The LeRoy students began having symptoms in September of last year, meaning they have continued for about four months. Here’s a description of the symptoms from CBS News:

Last fall, 12 teenage girls from LeRoy Junior-Senior High School – located in a town about an hour outside of Buffalo, N.Y. – began to show symptoms similar to those of Tourette’s syndrome, including painful shaking and jerking their necks….

The condition was so bad for at least one of the girls that she has yet to return to school. School and state officials investigated the outbreak and school building for several months, and concluded no known environmental substances or infectious agents were found that could have caused the symptoms in the teens.

Dr. Laszlo Mechtler of the Dent Neurologic Institute in Amherst, NY, has seen a number of the girls and has diagnosed them with “conversion disorder,” which is really just more politically correct name for what Sigmund Freud called hysteria. The term is drawn from the Greek word for “uterus,” and of course mostly females receive the diagnosis. Mechler is claiming the symptoms are a result of stress and the students who are affected may have are unconsciously acting out their anxieties through physical symptoms. He’s calling it “mass hysteria,” because a number of girls reported similar symptoms.

Mechtler said today that the media hype is just making the symptoms worse and that students who have kept to themselves have improved while those who went to the media got worse; and now that the national media is focused on the situation, those who had improved are now having increased symptoms. 

So I guess we should all STFU and leave poor little LeRoy alone, then?

Lots more after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »