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.
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.”
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.
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
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.
…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?
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.”
“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.
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.
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It’s been cool here in the Boston area for the past few weeks, and then suddenly yesterday on the anniversary of 9/11/2001, the temperature shot up to 97 degrees.Today it’s only supposed to get up to the high 80s. And then we’re back to fall over the weekend. Very strange. You just never know what to expect from the weather these days.
On that day 12 years ago, my parents had rented a house on the beach in Rhode Island for a week. We had been obsessed with ExploreSUP reviews of paddle boards and were trying them out in the water. My sister from Indiana and my brother and sister-in-law from Cambridge were there too. This was before my two nephews were born. It was a beautiful New England day, and I recall it was pretty warm–but not hot.
I was out sight-seeing with my parents and sister when we got the first hints that something was terribly wrong. My sister heard someone say that a plane had hit the World Trade Center in New York. We rushed back to the beach house to horrible scenes of carnage on TV. We spent the rest of our vacation reading newspapers and watching TV for updates. A couple of days later, I had to drive back to Boston where school was starting and I had to teach at Boston University.
Driving up I-95 alone, I felt irrationally frightened, and I kept looking up in the sky for planes, even though I knew all air traffic had been grounded (except for the bin Laden relatives whom the Bush administration allowed to fly out of Boston–creepy!). The fact that the planes that hit the twin towers had flown out of Boston felt like a terrible violation. So even though nothing had happened to me and I was safe, I still had some post-traumatic stress. I guess we all did. For the first time, Americans learned what it feels like to be attacked in our own country. It was a loss of innocence.
Anyway, that’s my 9/11 memory–not very dramatic, but impossible to forget.
Under a perfect blue sky, President Obama stood stock still on the neatly-manicured White House South Lawn and said not a thing.
In a capital where words are weapons, the silence was disarming.
The President, First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Biden and Jill Biden had quietly walked out of the glistening white residence to observe a moment of silence on Wednesday, the 12th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
They were flanked by a military honor guard and White House staff. If you looked toward the South Portico of the nation’s most famous home, a flag was at half-staff.
The two couples held hands as a bell tolled at 8:46 a.m., exactly the moment when the first plane crashed into the World Trade Center. The poignant simplicity was inescapable.
Afterwards, Obama attended a memorial service in front of the Pentagon, at the site where one of the planes had been flown into the building that symbolized America’s military might.
In the news…
I hope you’ll find time to read this important investigative article by Reuters reporter Megan Twohey about Americans who adopt children from foreign countries, then have regrets, and then give their children away to total strangers they meet on the internet. Many of these children end up being abused emotionally, physically and/or sexually. It’s one of the most shocking stories I’ve ever read. Here’s Part One and Part Two. I really can’t do this story justice with excerpts, but here’s the introduction:
KIEL, Wisconsin – Todd and Melissa Puchalla struggled for more than two years to raise Quita, the troubled teenager they’d adopted from Liberia. When they decided to give her up, they found new parents to take her in less than two days – by posting an ad on the Internet.
Nicole and Calvin Eason, an Illinois couple in their 30s, saw the ad and a picture of the smiling 16-year-old. They were eager to take Quita, even though the ad warned that she had been diagnosed with severe health and behavioral problems. In emails, Nicole Eason assured Melissa Puchalla that she could handle the girl….
A few weeks later, on Oct. 4, 2008, the Puchallas drove six hours from their Wisconsin home to Westville, Illinois. The handoff took place at the Country Aire Mobile Home Park, where the Easons lived in a trailer.
No attorneys or child welfare officials came with them. The Puchallas simply signed a notarized statement declaring these virtual strangers to be Quita’s guardians. The visit lasted just a few hours. It was the first and the last time the couples would meet.
I can’t believe such a thing is possible in the U.S., but it turns out most states don’t really regulate what adoptive parents do with their children. Within a few weeks, Melissa Puchalla learned that Quita and her new parents were missing and that Nicole Eason had a troubling history as a mother:
• Child welfare authorities had taken away both of Nicole Eason’s biological children years earlier. After a sheriff’s deputy helped remove the Easons’ second child, a newborn baby boy, the deputy wrote in his report that the “parents have severe psychiatric problems as well with violent tendencies.”
• The Easons each had been accused by children they were babysitting of sexual abuse, police reports show. They say they did nothing wrong, and neither was charged.
Finally, the “Meet the Press” panel. Each panel this morning was somehow worse than the one before. This one was Wall Street Journal scribbler Peggy “Lady Peggington Noonington” Noonan, Harold “Living Embodiment of Everything Wrong With American Politics” Ford Jr., NPR’s Steve “Objective Journalist Who is Implicitly Here to Represent the ‘Liberal’ Side Even Though He is Not a Liberal” Inskeep, and two representatives from NBC’s right-wing finance “news” station CNBC, Maria Bartiromo and Jim “Wrong About Everything and Sort of Crazy But Actually Not That Bad on Politics In Terms of CNBC Figures” Kramer.
Everyone said precisely what you’d expect them to say. Noonan was very sorrowful about how the president is going around making Americans feel scared by saying scary things about how the sequester will be bad for the economy. “I just have a bad feeling about going out and trying to scare the American people right in the middle of the Great Recession when everybody is nervous enough.” Ford and Noonan both agree that people in Washington need to “think big” and also leaders should show leadership. Pegs obviously blames the president for being mean to Republicans and being scary, but Ford had the much more controversial perspective that in the current situation, both sides are to blame for bad stuff. “No one, Democrat or Republican, can be pleased with how their party is performing,” he said, which is a very self-evidently untrue statement, because obviously lots of people can and do think their party has the right idea. But those people are “extreme partisans” and thus they do not count.
Inskeep basically said Republicans are willing to cut a revenue deal but are scared of it being called a tax hike. Bartiromo said the sequester won’t be so bad because “the markets” aren’t complaining. A few minutes went by and then Cramer said the stock market is doing well because “the markets” don’t believe the sequester will happen. That’s TV financial news in a nutshell, basically: Two completely opposite premises based on unknowable interpretations of the intentions of “the markets” stated with absolute certainty.
They closed, again, with Oscar talk. These people talking about who will win Oscars is absolutely perfect, because none of them have any clue — they don’t have any special insight into or expertise in the movie industry, or even film in general, they are just people who are on TV — but they were all very happy to explain what they thought would happen and why.
It’s hard to believe that people get paid so well to be that mundane and worthless. Better we should be paid to watch it. Oh, it get’s worse. Juan Williams is still complaining about getting fired for making bigoted statements about Muslims. Hasn’t this dude figured out that this is bigotry and not just a dissident voice?
Fox News political analyst and “Special Report” panelist Juan Williams said in an interview with The Daily Caller’s Ginni Thomas that mainstream media outlets “stab” and “kill” dissenting voices.
Williams was fired from National Public Radio in 2010 after saying he sometimes gets “nervous” when seated on an airplane with Muslims, while making a broader point about the importance of religious tolerance.
“I always thought it was the Archie Bunkers of the world, the right-wingers of world, who were more resistant and more closed-minded about hearing the other side,” he said. “In fact, what I have learned is, in a very painful way — and I can open this shirt and show you the scars and the knife wounds — is that it is big media institutions who are identifiably more liberal to left-leaning who will shut you down, stab you and kill you, fire you, if they perceive that you are not telling the story in the way that they want it told.”
I’m sure Juan would’ve been very understanding of some lily white person talking about how they get “nervous” when walking near black men, yes? The link goes to The Daily Caller and the host is the revolting Ginni Thomas. Go there at risk to your own stomach contents. I’m reminded again why I stick to the foreign press as a rule. What a set of morons!
So, it’s an easy jump from the wife of Justice Long Dong Silver to the subject of pedophiles. As BB can attest, there’s always been a huge debate in the study of human behavior and the role of nature v. nurture. The study of men and pedophila is in the middle of that debate. There will be a new pope. Let’s hope this one had no role in enabling the churches’ baby rapers. Let’s also hope we can figure out ways to squash this horrible behavior no matter what the root.
And now new research suggests that some people are born with brains ‘wired’ for sexual attraction to children—or pedophilia—a propensity that’s further shaped by life experiences and often cannot be controlled.“Whatever the chain of events is, the chain begins before birth,” said James M. Cantor, a University of Toronto professor of psychiatry whose research team has made a series of startling correlations finding that pedophiles are likely to share physical attributes, such as slightly lower IQs, shorter body height, left-handedness and less brain tissue.
“There is no way to explain the findings that we get for pedophelia without mentioning or without including biology,” he recently told Canada’s Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers. “It is inescapable at this point. We cannot rule out psycho-social influences, but we cannot have a complete theory that cannot explain these non-obvious but but exquisitely important biological findings.”
Cantor’s findings have become big news not just because pedophilia is seen as one of the worst crimes—and its scandals and cover-ups don’t seem to end, whether in the Roman Catholic church or football-protecting universities. The idea that moral—and immoral—behavior has a basis in biology is the latest twist in the age-old debate of whether nature or nurture drives human action. For much of the 20 th century, psychologists looked more to the nurture side of the equation. But 21 st century science, with brain-scan imaging and computing power to analyze big data, are suggesting that both factors—one’s genes and one’s upbringing—shape human sexuality.
I’ll let BB check out the methodology and see what she thinks.
Ever heard of a Social Impact Bond? It’s a new debt instrument used to raise money for social services. It’s being tested in the UK and US. The Economist follows a homeless advocate in London whose work is being funded in part via of this new type of investment.
The homelessness SIB is one of 14 that have now been issued or are in development in Britain, which pioneered the instrument back in 2010 with a bond funding a prisoner-rehabilitation programme in Peterborough. The idea is also winning fans elsewhere. New York city launched a SIB last year tackling recidivism among inmates at Rikers Island prison; Goldman Sachs is among the investors. Work is under way on three more American SIBs, one in New York state and two in Massachusetts. Jeffrey Liebman, a Harvard University professor who is providing technical assistance on all three, has just invited applications from other state and local governments to receive help setting up SIBs: 28 applied.
And there is rising emerging-market interest in SIBs, where they go under the name of “development-impact bonds”. According to Michael Belinsky of Instiglio, a start-up devoted to designing SIBs in poor countries, there is less scope for government savings to pay back investors in emerging markets because social safety nets are thinner. So international-development agencies are more likely to act as sponsors. Mr Belinsky is working on potential SIBs in India, to improve educational outcomes for girls in Rajasthan, and in Colombia, to reduce teenage-pregnancy and school drop-out rates.
As the buzz about SIBs increases, the questions will also become more searching. Projects which take many years to have an effect (the impact of pre-school education on university admissions, say) will not interest investors. Good data are crucial for measuring outcomes: that can be a problem in developing countries.
The hardest questions concern the returns that investors will demand if SIBs are to attract serious amounts of money. The Peterborough SIB dangles an annualised return of up to 13% if reoffending rates go down by enough; but investors lose everything if recidivism does not fall by at least 7.5%. That sort of equity risk is not going to appeal to many, acknowledges Nick Hurd, the British government minister for civil society. “SIBs need to evolve so that they become more like a debt instrument.”
So, it seems only fitting that after banks make so many folks homeless through innovative financing that they now can now actually invest in homelessness. I’m sure there’s a lesson in there some where but I’m just not prepared to delineate it right now.
Prehistoric humans didn’t have toothbrushes. They didn’t have floss or toothpaste, and they certainly didn’t have Listerine. Yet somehow, their mouths were a lot healthier than ours are today.
“Hunter-gatherers had really good teeth,” says Alan Cooper, director of the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA. “[But] as soon as you get to farming populations, you see this massive change. Huge amounts of gum disease. And cavities start cropping up.”
And thousands of years later, we’re still waging, and often losing, our war against oral disease.
Our changing diets are largely to blame.
In a study published in the latest Nature Genetics, Cooper and his research team looked at calcified plaque on ancient teeth from 34 prehistoric human skeletons. What they found was that as our diets changed over time — shifting from meat, vegetables and nuts to carbohydrates and sugar — so too did the composition of bacteria in our mouths.
Not all oral bacteria are bad. In fact, many of these microbes help us by protecting against more dangerous pathogens.
However, the researchers found that as prehistoric humans transitioned from hunting and gathering to farming, certain types of disease-causing bacteria that were particularly efficient at using carbohydrates started to win out over other types of “friendly” bacteria in human mouths. The addition of processed flour and sugar during the Industrial Revolution only made matters worse.
“What you’ve really created is an ecosystem which is very low in diversity and full of opportunistic pathogens that have jumped in to utilize the resources which are now free,” Cooper says.
And that’s a problem, because the dominance of harmful bacteria means that our mouths are basically in a constant state of disease.
Let me think about that last one. “Our mouths are basically in a constant state of disease.” Well, maybe that explains the Sunday Talk Shows and Gini Thomas. I think it’s a deserving hypothesis, don’t you?
So, after a weekend of gray skies, storms spitting hail at my windows, and being shut in doors most of Saturday by a NOPD man hunt complete with SWAT teams and noisy swooping helicopters, I’m hoping Monday ends a little better than it’s starting. What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
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The Sky Dancing banner headline uses a snippet from a work by artist Tashi Mannox called 'Rainbow Study'. The work is described as a" study of typical Tibetan rainbow clouds, that feature in Thanka painting, temple decoration and silk brocades". dakinikat was immediately drawn to the image when trying to find stylized Tibetan Clouds to represent Sky Dancing. It is probably because Tashi's practice is similar to her own. His updated take on the clouds that fill the collection of traditional thankas is quite special.
You can find his work at his website by clicking on his logo below. He is also a calligraphy artist that uses important vajrayana syllables. We encourage you to visit his on line studio.