Lazy Saturday Reads: #tRump – Bull in a China Shop

cytex2axaaa_adr

Good Afternoon!!

Yesterday I spent the afternoon and evening with my brother’s family–they invited me for a birthday dinner and family movie. Unsurprisingly, while I wasn’t paying attention for a few hours the president-elect did massive damage to U.S. foreign policy, overturning decades-long policies on China. And it appears this wasn’t about policy but about enriching the #tRump family business.

Ann Gearan at The Washington Post: Trump speaks with Taiwanese president, a major break with decades of U.S. policy on China

President-elect Donald Trump spoke Friday with Taiwan’s president, a major departure from decades of U.S. policy in Asia and a breach of diplomatic protocol with ramifications for the incoming president’s relations with China.

The call is the first known contact between a U.S. president or president-elect with a Taiwanese leader since before the United States broke diplomatic relations with the island in 1979. China considers Taiwan a province, and news of the official outreach by Trump is likely to infuriate the regional military and economic power.

The exchange is one of a string of unorthodox conversations with foreign leaders that Trump has held since his election. It comes at a particularly tense time between China and Taiwan, which earlier this year elected a president, ­­­Tsai Ing-wen, who has not endorsed the notion of a unified China. Her election angered Beijing to the point of cutting off all official communication with the island government.

image-1

It is not clear whether Trump intends a more formal shift in U.S. relations with Taiwan or China. On the call, Trump and Tsai congratulated each other on winning their elections, a statement from Trump’s transition office said….

A statement from the Taiwanese president’s office said the call lasted more than 10 minutes and included discussion of economic development and national security, and about “strengthening bilateral relations.”

Trump claimed the call was initiated by Taiwan’s president, but that was a lie, NBC News reports:

BEIJING — A phone call between Donald Trump and Taiwan’s leader that risks damaging relations between the U.S. and China was pre-arranged, a top Taiwanese official told NBC News on Saturday.

Trump — who lambasted China throughout the election campaign and promised to slap 45 percent tariffs on Chinese goods — tweeted that Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen had called him.

“Maintaining good relations with the United States is as important as maintaining good relations across the Taiwan Strait,” Taiwanese presidential spokesman Alex Huang told NBC News. “Both are in line with Taiwan’s national interest.”

He added that the call had not been a surprise.

Apparently the call was carefully planned and scheduled by Trump staffers. It was also reported that bomb-thrower John Bolton was seen at Trump tower yesterday. Could he have helped instigate this?

After the media reported foreign policy experts’ heads exploding, Trump defensively tweeted again.

China was apparently on the phone with the White House right after the news broke, and they have now filed a complaint with the U.S. about this breach of diplomacy. The Guardian:

China has lodged “solemn representations” with the US over a call between the president-elect, Donald Trump, and Taiwan’s leader, Tsai Ing-wen.

Trump looked to have sparked a potentially damaging diplomatic row with Beijing on Friday after speaking to the Taiwanese president on the telephone….

The US closed its embassy in Taiwan – a democratically ruled island which Beijing regards as a breakaway province – in the late 1970s after the historic rapprochement between Beijing and Washington that stemmed from Richard Nixon’s 1972 trip to China.

Since then the US has adhered to the “One China” principle, which officially considers the independently governed island to be part of the same single Chinese nation as the mainland.

Geng Shuang, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, said in a statement on Saturday: “It must be pointed out that there is only one China in the world and Taiwan is an inseparable part of Chinese territory. The government of the People’s Republic of China is the sole legitimate government representing China.”

Geng added: “This is a fact that is generally recognised by the international community.”

139_188217

#tRrump is a real bull in a china shop, so to speak. But what was his real goal in talking to Taiwan? Think Progress: Trump’s unusual phone call is great for his business, dangerous for America.

Trump is mixing his business with the presidency. Today was a stark illustration that the combination is extremely dangerous — to Americans and the world.

The Financial Times, citing three sources, reports that Trump called Tsai Ying-wen, the president of Taiwan, on Friday. The call is a symbolic breach of the United States’ “One China” policy, which recognizes Beijing as the only government and which has been in place since 1972.

The call will antagonize China and risks “opening up a major diplomatic dispute with China before he has even been inaugurated.”

The incident is raising eyebrows because the Trump Organization, in which Trump plans to maintain ownership as president, is actively seeking new business opportunities in Taiwan. The Shanghaiist reported on the Trump Organization’s interest last month:

A representative from the Trump Organization paid a visit to Taoyuan in September, expressing interest in the city’s Aerotropolis, a large-scale urban development project aimed at capitalizing on Taoyuan’s status as a transport hub for East Asia, Taiwan News reports.With the review process for the Aerotropolis still underway, Taoyuan’s mayor referred to the subject of the meeting as mere investment speculation. Other reports indicate that Eric Trump, the president-elect’s second son and executive vice president of the Trump Organization, will be coming to Taoyuan later this year to discuss the potential business opportunity.

#tRump is trying to turn our country into a wholly owned subsidiary of the #tRump organization.

113016stevebreen_creators

In just the past couple of days, Trump has bumbled through bizarre phone calls with Pakistan’s prime minister Nawaz Sharif and Philippine strongman Rodrigo Duterte. Do you supposed #tRump even knows that China, Pakistan and sworn enemy India have nukes?

The Atlantic: Lessons From Trump’s ‘Fantastic’ Phone Call to Pakistan.

This week, the U.S. president-elect spoke with the Pakistani prime minister and, according to the Pakistani government’s account of the conversation, delivered the following message: Everything is awesome. It was, arguably, the most surprising presidential phone call since George H.W. Bush got pranked by that pretend Iranian president.

Pakistan, Donald Trump reportedly told Nawaz Sharif, is a “fantastic” country full of “fantastic” people that he “would love” to visit as president. Sharif was described as “terrific.” Pakistanis “are one of the most intelligent people,” Trump allegedly added. “I am ready and willing to play any role that you want me to play to address and find solutions to the outstanding problems.” ….

Like their problems with India?

It’s unclear how accurate the Pakistani government’s record of the discussion is, though the language does have a Trumpian ring to it (Trump’s transition team released a much more subdued summary of the call). But what’s surprising about the account is how disconnected it is from the current state of affairs. Everything is not awesome in U.S.-Pakistan relations. The two countries are the bitterest of friends. They have long clashed over the haven that terrorist groups have found in Pakistan and over U.S. efforts, including drone strikes and the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound, to kill those terrorists. Pakistan, a nation with a growing arsenal of nuclear weapons, is the archenemy of India, another nuclear-armed state and a critical U.S. ally. U.S. officials see Pakistan—with its weak political institutions and suspected government support for militant groups in Afghanistan and the contested territory of Kashmir—as an alarming source of regional instability. The suspicion is mutual: Just a fifth of Pakistanis have a favorable view of the United States. Trump himself has argued that Pakistan “is probably the most dangerous” country in the world, and that India needs to serve as “the check” to it.

lk120116dapr

The reports also provoked a caustic response from the Indian government, which opposes U.S. mediation in its border dispute with Pakistan. “We look forward to the president-elect helping Pakistan address the most outstanding of its outstanding issues: terrorism,” a spokesman for the Ministry of External Affairs said. And, ultimately, they forced Pakistani officials to backpedal after initially publicizing the conversation. “Our relationship with the United States is not about personalities—it is about institutions,” a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs clarified. In other words, a brief, breezy conversation had real reverberations on the subcontinent.One lesson of the phone call is that words matter, especially in international relations where information is patchy, things get lost in translation, rhetoric is often interpreted as policy, and a government’s credibility is only as good as its word. (Think of all the people in the United States puzzling over what policies Trump will pursue as president; now imagine trying to do that from Islamabad or New Delhi.)

 

And now Pakistan is sending an envoy to meet with the #tRump bumblers. The Indian Express reports:

Pakistan has decided to send an envoy to the US to hold meetings with Donald Trump’s transition team, two days after a “productive” telephonic conversation between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the President-elect. Pakistani Prime Minister’s special assistant for foreign affairs Tariq Fatemi will visit the US this weekend to meet officials of the Trump transition team.

Fatemi’s meeting with officials of Trump transition team was confirmed by Jalil Abbas Jilani, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US. “Besides meeting members of the transition team, Fatemi will meet officials of the outgoing Obama administration,” said Jilani.

120216tomstiglich

Huffington Post: Donald Trump Praises Philippines Deadly Drug War And Invites Leader To White House.

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump praised Philippines leader Rodrigo Duterte for his war on drugs that has left thousands dead, Duterte said on Saturday after the two held a phone conversation in which Trump also invited Duterte the White House.

“He was quite sensitive also to our worry about drugs. And he wishes me well … in my campaign and he said that … we are doing it as a sovereign nation, the right way,” Duterte said in a statement. Duterte has conducted a severe crackdown on drugs in the country, where police and vigilante groups have killed thousands.

Trump’s brief chat with the firebrand Philippine president follows a period of uncertainty about one of Washington’s most important Asian alliances, stoked by Duterte’s hostility towards President Barack Obama and repeated threats to sever decades-old defense ties.

The call lasted just over seven minutes, Duterte’s special advisor, Christopher Go, said in a text message to media, which gave few details. Trump’s transition team had no immediate comment.

So #tRump is on the record supporting mass murder now. Awesome.

Two more links to check out:

The New York Times: How Trump’s Calls to World Leaders Are Upsetting Decades of Diplomacy.

The Washington Post: Donald Trump keeps confirming fears about his diplomatic skills.

Isn’t there anyone who can do something about this monster before he destroys our country and/or blows up the world? We are so screwed.

What stories are you following today?


Tuesday Reads: Philippines Disaster, Economics News, and the Concern Troll Media

November snow1

Good Morning!!

Boy did I ever get a shock when I looked out my window this morning and saw a mix of snow and rain coming down outside. Noooooo! It’s way too early for winter weather. I hope this isn’t a sign of things to come.

Now that I’ve looked at this morning’s news from the Philippines, I’m ashamed to be complaining about a little bit of freezing rain. The disaster following Typhoon Haiyan is beyond belief. ABC News talked to a 19-year-old American woman who who survived the massive storm.

Rebecca Ruth Guy, 19, was living in the city of Tacloban, which bore the full force of the winds and the tsunami-like storm surges Friday. Most of the city is in ruins, a tangled mess of destroyed houses, cars and trees.

“When the storm hit, our apartment was flooding so we tried opening the door but the flooding was already rising up to our chest,” Guy told ABC News.

Faced with a life-and-death situation, Guy’s friend smashed the window so they could climb to the roof and escape the storm surge, which is being blamed for a large part of the destruction and death.

“We got out to the roof,” she said. “The rain was coming, the winds were crazy and it was getting cold. So we ended up sandwiching together and holding onto one another for warmth, praying for protection of the people.

“The most harrowing was when I saw women and children piled under tarpaulin, and when I saw dogs skewered on gates, cars thrown into buildings, people trying to find something to eat, water to drink,” she added.

According to the article, the U.S. sent planes to evacuate Americans living in the Philippines; other residents aren’t so fortunate.

CNN is reporting that 1,774 people are dead; but that number will continue to rise.

Cebu, Philippines (CNN) — Typhoon Haiyan has killed too many people to count so far and pushed to the brink of survival thousands more who have lost everything, have no food or medical care and are drinking filthy water to stay alive.

By Tuesday, officials had counted 1,774 of the bodies, but say that number may just be scratching the surface. They fear Haiyan may have taken as many as 10,000 lives.

The storm has injured 2,487 more since it made landfall six times last Friday, the government said. It has displaced at least 800,000 people, the U.N. said Tuesday.

Unfortunately a new storm and an earthquake have hindered rescue efforts.

As authorities rush to save the lives of survivors four days after Haiyan ripped the Philippines apart, a new tropical low, Zoraida, blew in Tuesday delivering more rain, the Philippine national weather agency PAGASA reported.

Zoraida is not a strong storm, but has dumped just under four inches of rain in some places, CNN meteorologists say….

An earthquake also rattled part of the affected area. The 4.8 magnitude temblor shook San Isidro Tuesday, the U.S. Geological Survey reported.

Here are a few more links about the storm and its aftereffects:

An aerial view of a coastal town in Samar province on Monday, Nov. 11. (REUTERS/Erik De Castro)

An aerial view of a coastal town in Samar province on Monday, Nov. 11. (REUTERS/Erik De Castro)

The Week: The terrible destruction of Typhoon Haiyan. This one has a number of shocking photos like the one to the left.

CNN: How it happened: Tracing Typhoon Haiyan’s havoc in the Philippines (lots more photos at this link)

NPR: WHO Rates Typhoon’s Medical Challenges ‘Monumental’

NPR: ‘It Looks Like A 50-Mile Wide Tornado’ Hit The Philippines

CTC News: Typhoon Haiyan: Before and after photos of storm’s damage

In other news, here’s one that will interest Dakinikat: Obama to Tap Treasury Official as Top Derivatives Regulator. From The New York Times Dealbook blog:

President Obama will nominate Timothy G. Massad as the new chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission on Tuesday, a White House aide said, choosing the senior Treasury Department official to run an agency that polices some of Wall Street’s riskiest activity.

If confirmed by the Senate, Mr. Massad will succeed Gary Gensler, a former Goldman Sachs banker who overhauled the agency in the wake of the financial crisis. Mr. Gensler, credited with turning one of Wall Street’s laxest regulators into one of its most aggressive, must leave office at the end of the year when his term officially expires.

Mr. Massad, an assistant secretary of the Treasury who oversaw the unwinding of the government’s bailout program stemming from the financial crisis, would join the agency as it undergoes a makeover.

Bart Chilton, the agency’s most liberal commissioner, announced last week that he would soon depart. David Meister, the enforcement director who led actions against some of the world’s biggest banks, departed the agency last month. And Jill E. Sommers, a Republican commissioner, left months ago.

The vacancies have raised the stakes for Mr. Massad’s nomination. If Mr. Chilton and Mr. Gensler depart before their successors are confirmed, the five-member commission will be down to just two members: one Republican, Scott D. O’Malia, and one Democrat, Mark Wetjen.

That would not be good. I know Dakinikat is busy today, but here’s another article for her to weigh in on if she has time: Confessions of a Quantitative Easer. From Andrew Huszar at the Wall Street Journal:

I can only say: I’m sorry, America. As a former Federal Reserve official, I was responsible for executing the centerpiece program of the Fed’s first plunge into the bond-buying experiment known as quantitative easing. The central bank continues to spin QE as a tool for helping Main Street. But I’ve come to recognize the program for what it really is: the greatest backdoor Wall Street bailout of all time.

Five years ago this month, on Black Friday, the Fed launched an unprecedented shopping spree. By that point in the financial crisis, Congress had already passed legislation, the Troubled Asset Relief Program, to halt the U.S. banking system’s free fall. Beyond Wall Street, though, the economic pain was still soaring. In the last three months of 2008 alone, almost two million Americans would lose their jobs.

The Fed said it wanted to help—through a new program of massive bond purchases. There were secondary goals, but Chairman Ben Bernanke made clear that the Fed’s central motivation was to “affect credit conditions for households and businesses”: to drive down the cost of credit so that more Americans hurting from the tanking economy could use it to weather the downturn. For this reason, he originally called the initiative “credit easing.”

Huzar claims that Janet Yellen will likely continue Bernanke’s policies.

Even when acknowledging QE’s shortcomings, Chairman Bernanke argues that some action by the Fed is better than none (a position that his likely successor, Fed Vice Chairwoman Janet Yellen, also embraces). The implication is that the Fed is dutifully compensating for the rest of Washington’s dysfunction. But the Fed is at the center of that dysfunction. Case in point: It has allowed QE to become Wall Street’s new “too big to fail” policy.

0225-warren-clinton-630x420

More pundits are joining the anti-Hillary ranks. According to The Hill’s Alex Bolton:

Liberal leaders want Hillary Clinton to face a primary challenge in 2016 if she decides to run for president.

The goal of such a challenge wouldn’t necessarily be to defeat Clinton. It would be to prevent her from moving to the middle during the Democratic primary.

“I do think the country would be well served if we had somebody who would force a real debate about the policies of the Democratic Party and force the party to debate positions and avoid a coronation,” said Roger Hickey, co-director of Campaign for America’s Future, an influential progressive group….

Clinton raised concern among the Democratic Party’s populist base when she recently accepted an estimated $400,000 from Goldman Sachs for two speeches.

Influential progressives wonder whether someone who accepted such a large sum from one of Wall Street’s biggest investment firms could be expected to hold corporate executives accountable if elected president.

They also wonder how aggressively she’d call for addressing income inequality, which many see as one of the biggest economic problems facing the nation.

That’s odd, since Obama ran to Hillary’s right in 2008 and received more contributions from Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street firms than either Hillary or John McCain. But let’s not get caught up in facts…

Politico has taken up the suggestion from Noam Scheiber at The New Republic that Dakinikat wrote about yesterday that Elizabeth Warren should run against Hillary. Concern trolls Ben White and Maggie Haberman write:

There are three words that strike terror in the hearts of Wall Street bankers and corporate executives across the land: President Elizabeth Warren.

The anxiety over Warren grew Monday after a magazine report suggested the bank-bashing Democratic senator from Massachusetts could mount a presidential bid in 2016 and would not necessarily defer to Hillary Clinton — who is viewed as far more business-friendly — for the party’s nomination.

And the fear is not only that Warren, who channels an increasingly popular strain of Occupy Wall Street-style anti-corporatism, might win. That is viewed by many political analysts as a slim possibility. It is also that a Warren candidacy, and even the threat of one, would push Clinton to the left in the primaries and revive arguments about breaking up the nation’s largest banks, raising taxes on the wealthy and otherwise stoking populist anger that is likely to also play a big role in the Republican primaries.

So what does Warren think about all this?

A spokesperson for Warren declined to comment on whether she would consider a presidential bid against Clinton, though Warren has previously said she has no plans to run. People close to Warren note that she signed a letter from female Democratic senators urging Clinton to run in 2016. And Warren associates, mindful of any appearance of creating the narrative of a Warren-for-president campaign, have corresponded with Clinton associates to stress that they didn’t fuel the New Republic story by Noam Scheiber.

Assholes. Hey, I have an idea–why not get Kirstin Gillibrand to run against Hillary too? Of course Chris Cillizza is also rooting for Warren and Clinton to destroy each other’s chances to do anything positive about the economy:

Quick, name someone who would have a realistic chance of beating out Hillary Clinton for the 2016 presidential nomination. Martin O’Malley? Nope. Joe Biden? Maybe but probably not. Howard Dean. No way. There’s only answer to that question that makes even a little sense. And that answer is Elizabeth Warren.

And so on… bla bla bla… Don’t these idiots have anything important to write about? Like maybe jobs, children without food or health care, or the upcoming battle over the debt limit?

Thank goodness for TBogg at Raw Story: What if Elizabeth Warren went back in time and smothered Baby Hitler in his crib?

If you have been  perambulating about the internet these past few days, the above is exactly the kind of linkbait bullshit narratives that are being peddled by people who have wearied talking about President of New Jerseymerica Chris Christie or whether Rand Paul was the real life inspiration for the J.L. Borges short story, Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote. It seems that frustrated  writers lacking hobbies have turned their lonely eyes to the Democratic side of the 2016 presidential election which is just around the corner, if by corner, you mean: three years from now. But with Hilary “Killary” Clinton pretty much chillaxing with the nomination ripe for the taking (providing she doesn’t rehire Mark Penn, aka The Man Who Could Fuck Up A Baked Potato) there isn’t a whole lot of  tension the likes of which you can find on a daily basis on the Republican Wingnut Flavor of the Week side.

So naturally, Noam Scheiber felt obligated to create some Democratic conflict. T-Bogg responds:

I love Elizabeth Warren. I would totally have her baby if she would have me. You love Elizabeth Warren. We all love Elizabeth Warren. Someday Elizabeth Warren t-shirts may very well become as ubiquitous as Che T’s. But, outside of the hazy crazy patchouli-scented fever palaces that are the comment sections of the manic progressive websites, nobody really thinks that Warren could, would, or should run an insurgent primary campaign against Clinton. And, to be quite frank, those who think Warren should run to in order to “start a conversation” are the  kind of people who have attempted this kind of thing in the past and , as my grandmother used to put it, “don’t have dick to show for it”.

Read his replies to Politico and Cillizza at the link. BTW, I wrote comment before I discovered T-Bogg’s piece. Great minds think alike, but T-Bogg expressed my reactions so much better than I could.

That should be enough to get us started on the day’s news. What stories are you following? Please post your links in the comment thread and have a terrific Tuesday!


Big Storm, Unbelievable Image, Open Thread

The eye of the storm is over 600 Kilometers across…

That has to be one of the scariest radar images I have ever seen…Super Typhoon Haiyan Could Be One Of The Strongest Storms In World History

Super Typhoon Haiyan — which is one of the strongest storms in world history based on maximum windspeed — is about to plow through the Central Philippines, producing a potentially deadly storm surge and dumping heavy rainfall that could cause widespread flooding. The densely populated city of Manila, home to 12 million, is in the storm’s path, although it is predicted to escape the worst of the winds and storm surge.

typhoon
Enhanced satellite image of Super Typhoon Haiyan showing the telltale “donut” appearance of an intense tropical cyclone. Credit: U-Wisconsin-CIMSS via Twitter/@Ryan_Maue.

As of Thursday afternoon Eastern time, Haiyan, known in the Philippines as Super Typhoon Yolanda, had estimated maximum sustained winds of 195 mph with gusts above 220 mph, which puts the storm in extraordinarily rare territory. Since 1969, only three storms have had sustained winds close to this magnitude — Hurricane Camille in 1969, Super Typhoon Tip in 1979, and Hurricane Allen in 1980. No storm in the Atlantic has ever been stronger than Haiyan, accoring to The Weather Channel.

Haiyan is capable of causing catastrophic damage in the central Philippines and its outer bands are already starting to affect the island nation.

Then you have to look at what this thing looks like from space:

For the past 24 hours, the storm has remained at a strength close to the theoretical upper limit that cyclones can reach. Unlike in the tropical North Atlantic, there is no aircraft reconnaissance of tropical storms and typhoons in the Western Pacific, so the actual wind speeds and minimum central air pressure — two key parameters used to classify such storms — are being estimated using satellites.

typhoon2
Wide-angle satellite image showing Super Typhoon Haiyan approach the Philippines. Credit: Facebook/EUMETSAT.

I hope that people find safe places to shelter during the storm…it is going to be bad.

Super typhoon Haiyan slams central Philippines, millions seek shelter | Reuters

Super Typhoon Haiyan bears down on the Philippines | TIME.com

This is an open thread.


Tuesday Reads: A Mixed Bag of Breaking News

morningcoffee

Good Morning!!

There’s a lot of news breaking around the world this morning, much of it only tangentially to politics; so I have a mixed bag of reads for you to peruse.

Let’s start with some humor. Did you hear about actress Helen Mirren’s public rant yesterday? The NY Daily News spells it out: Helen Mirren, dressed as Queen Elizabeth II, tells drummers who interrupted her performance to ‘shut the f- -k up’

All hail the drama queen!

Dame Helen Mirren was spotted cursing up a storm in London after a gay pride parade chanced to pass outside the theater where she was performing.

The Oscar-winning actress, dressed in character as the Queen of England, rushed out onto the street and screamed at the noisy crowd to “shut the f–k up.”

The 67-year-old star was headlining the play “The Audience” at London’s Gielgud Theatre. Drummers from the gay music festival stopped outside the theater and kept up the racket for the first half of her performance.

During the intermission, Mirren burst through Gielgud’s front doors and tried to grab the conductor’s arm.

mirren drums

Later, she told reporters she’d “yell at [the] drummers again.”

Helen Mirren has said that she’d repeat her expletive-filled outburst at a group of drummers who disrupted her performance at the Gielgud Theatre in London at the weekend.

“If they make the same noise I would say the same again,” she said. “I was very upset, I was very cross.”

The Batala samba band had begun an impromptu performance on Sunday outside the theatre at which Mirren is starring as the Queen in the play ‘The Audience’.

But on hearing the noise, Mirren, still dressed in her costume, stormed off the stage and out into the street to give the band a piece of her mind.

A Volcano erupted in the Philippines, killing five members of a group of mountain climbers. BBC News:

Mount Mayon, 330km (206 miles) south-east of the capital Manila, sent a cloud of ash and rocks into the sky early on Tuesday.

The ash blast caught a group climbing the mountain, which is famous for its near-perfect cone.

At least seven other climbers were hurt in the eruption, which lasted for just over a minute.

“Five killed and seven are injured, that is the latest report,” National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council chief Eduardo del Rosario said.

Four of those killed were German nationals and the fifth was their Filipino guide, the NDRRMC said later in a statement.

You probably heard about the horrific limo fire in San Francisco yesterday. SF Chronicle:

They were heading out on what was supposed to be one of the happiest nights of Neriza Fojas’ life, a party to cap off the bridal shower she’d been celebrating with eight of her nurse friends. Then the women’s stretch limousine headed west over the San Mateo Bridge – and horror erupted.

Just after 10 p.m. Saturday, flames burst out in the back of the 1999 Lincoln Town Car. The driver pulled over, and he and four of the women managed to escape. But the other five passengers, including Fojas, remained trapped.

They couldn’t get out the rear doors, so they tried to squeeze through a small window into the driver’s compartment. Within seconds, the back end was engulfed and it was too late.

Emergency workers later found Fojas and four of her friends clustered under the 3-by-1 1/2-foot window. The women, all in their 30s and 40s, died in the flames.

WPTV-limo-fire-1_20130505073118_320_240

The driver claimed he did everything he could to help, but one of the survivors is “disputing” his story. Detroit Free Press:

One of the survivors of a limousine fire that killed five women on a San Francisco Bay bridge is disputing the driver’s version of what happened when the limo burst into flames.

Nelia Arellano told San Francisco’s KGO-TV that she yelled at the driver to stop the car, but he “didn’t want to listen.”

When the driver, Orville Brown, did finally stop, Arellano says he did nothing to help the women get out of the burning car after he exited.

Brown has said that, at first, he misunderstood what one of the passengers in the back was saying when she knocked on the partition between the passenger area and the driver and complained about smelling smoke.

With the music up, he initially thought the woman was asking if she could smoke. Seconds later, he said, the women knocked again, this time screaming, “Smoke, smoke!” and “Pull over,” Brown told the San Francisco Chronicle.

CNN reports: Death toll from Bangladesh building collapse climbs above 700

Dhaka, Bangladesh (CNN) — The death toll from the disastrous building collapse in Bangladesh last month has risen above 700, authorities said Tuesday, as recovery workers continued to pull bodies from the rubble.

The building, which housed five factories full of garment workers, caved in nearly two weeks ago, burying hundreds of people in a heap of mangled concrete in Savar, a suburb of the capital, Dhaka. It is the South Asian nation’s deadliest industrial disaster.

Rescue workers managed to save more than 2,400 people in the aftermath of the collapse, but their work for the past week has focused on using heavy machinery to uncover the remaining bodies buried inside the ruins.

The number of people confirmed dead from the disaster reached 705 on Tuesday, according to Jitendra Kumar Nath, a senior official with the district administration of Dhaka.

A large number of people have continued to wait near the site of the collapse for news of missing relatives. Their gathering point is a school playing field where bodies retrieved from the ruins are taken for initial identification attempts.

From Reuters: Head of U.S. Air Force’s anti-sexual assault unit arrested for sexual battery

The officer in charge of a program to curb sexual assault in the U.S. Air Force was arrested over the weekend for allegedly grabbing a woman by the breasts and buttocks in a parking lot not far from the Pentagon, officials said on Monday.

Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Krusinski, 41, was arrested on Sunday and charged with sexual battery after the alleged incident in the Crystal City area of suburban Arlington, Virginia, officials said.

Krusinski, the head of the Air Force’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, was removed from his job pending an investigation on Monday….

An Arlington County Police spokesman said Krusinski, who was under the influence of alcohol, grabbed the woman by the breasts and buttocks in a parking lot. She fended him off, and when he tried to grab her again, she called the police, who arrived shortly thereafter and detained him, the spokesman said.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel expressed “outrage” over the incident:

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called Air Force Secretary Michael Donley Monday to express his “outrage and disgust” after the Air Force’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response branch chief was arrested and charged early Sunday morning with sexual battery.

“Secretary Hagel expressed outrage and disgust over the troubling allegation and emphasized that this matter will be dealt with swiftly and decisively,” said George Little, the Pentagon’s top spokesman, in a statement.

Arlington County police officers arrested Air Force Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, 41, in the early morning hours of Sunday morning in a Northern Virginia parking lot near Crystal City Gentleman’s Club and Restaurant — a strip club one mile from the Pentagon. He was accused of fondling a woman near the strip club before the female victim fought him off, according to the police report.

Micaria sociabilis

Micaria sociabilis

Here’s an interesting science story: Male Black Widows Flip Sexual Cannibalism

Black widow spiders get their names from the belief that the female devours her partner after sex. But this gruesome ritual doesn’t always happen after mating and sometimes, the roles are even reversed, researchers say.

For choosy female black widows, sexual cannibalism is an extreme way to assert their partner preference, with less desirable males more likely to be chased down and eaten after they insert their sperm-coated palps into a female.

But in the species Micaria sociabilis, males are more likely to eat the females than be eaten, a new study found.

A team at Masaryk University in the Czech Republic studied how different pairings of the spiders interacted in a lab, making sure the creatures were well-fed to rule out hunger-driven cannibalism.

Males ate the females typically after the spiders’ first contact and before any mating, with the culprits most often males from the summer generation, the researchers found. These males tend to be larger than their counterparts born into the spring generation, suggesting size matters in aggression.

Meanwhile, age might be a dooming factor for the female Micaria sociabilis. There was a peak in reverse sexual cannibalism when males from the summer generation encountered older females from the spring generation, the researchers found. What’s more, not even virginity or big body size, often considered signs of mating quality for spiders, could save the older females from male cannibalization.

Kidnapping suspect Ariel Castro

Kidnapping suspect Ariel Castro

 

Authorities in Cleveland are currently holding a press conference on the dramatic story of three missing women being discovered in a home in Cleveland. You can watch it hear or on CNN.

If there are new developments today, I’ll update in a later post.

What’s on your mind today? What are you hearing and reading? Please post your links on any topic in the comment thread.


Sunday Reads: The phrase “brain-eating” never makes a good headline…

French Chocolate Poster, 1898

Good Sunday Morning!

Ah, hope everyone is having a magnificent weekend.  Yesterday, Wonk the Vote served up two awesome posts…here and here, if you missed them. Also, Boston Boomer wrote a quick post about the Obama bullshit remark that 60 Minutes cut from their interview with, “the 4th best American president…evah.”

Well, here is my offering this morning, just one more week until the 25th of December, and like something out of a Dickens’ nightmare…the powers that be are once again sticking it to the poor.  Congress Cuts Winter Heating Aid For The Poor While Boosting The Defense Budget

Congress reached a deal Thursday to avert a shutdown that would have begun at midnight tonight, and in doing so, Republicans found another low-income program to target, cutting funding for subsidies that help the poor stay warm during the winter by nearly 25 percent. At the same time, however, the Pentagon’s budget is getting a 1 percent boost, as the Associated Press noted:

Highlights of the $1 trillion-plus 2012 spending legislation in Congress:

—$518 billion for the Pentagon’s core budget, a 1 percent boost, excluding military operations overseas. […]

—$3.5 billion for low-income heating and utility subsidies, a cut of about 25 percent.

The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) has become increasingly vital for American families affected by the recession, and it is utilized more and more by military families. One of every five families using LIHEAP is a military family, a 156 percent increase from 2008. Congress, however, decided to cut that program to give a boost to a budget that already makes up 20 percent of the country’s total budget and has been spared in multiple spending agreements this year (the super committee trigger a notable exception).

Plenty of evidence exists that Congress should be focused on investing into programs that boost economic growth and job creation, rather than chasing fiscal austerity toward another recession. If it insists on cutting spending to deal with the deficit now, however, the least it could do is not take the knife to each and every program that helps the poor.

Can you hear these rich congress critters, telling people like Mr. Cratchit what a waistcoat and jacket are used for… “Garments, used for protection against cold.” It is really a sad situation, at least some folks are doing good this holiday season, good as in good deeds.  Saturday, at the Walmart where my husband works, someone came in and paid off some lay-aways, then they went just up the road to another Walmart in Ellijay and did the same, $5000 worth at the Ellijay store alone!

In Louisiana, another person has falling victim to a “Brain Eating” amoeba from using a Neti Pot.

Louisiana state health officials are warning patients about potential dangers of using tap water in the sinus-irrigating neti pot after two patients died of Naegleria fowleri infection.

N. fowleri is known as a “brain-eating” amoeba because it can enter a patient’s nose, infect the brain, and cause primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), a brain-tissue destroying condition.

The first Louisiana patient died of neti pot-induced infection in June.

[…]

Patients that irrigate their noses with a neti pot should use distilled, sterile, or previously boiled water, Raoult Ratard, MD, a Louisiana state epidemiologist, said in the statement. He noted that tap water was safe to drink, but may not be safe for nasal cleansing.

Uh, safe to drink? Makes me wonder how safe it is period…the CDC is working with Louisiana officials on an investigation as to how these N.fowleri are getting into the municipal water supply.

In other US news, some may have missed this article from Mother Jones, No Country for Innocent Men:

“Dear Mr. Cole,” the letter began. “My name is Jerry Wayne Johnson. I’m presently a Texas prisoner. You may recall my name from your 1986 rape trial in Lubbock.”

Ruby Session was shaking as she read on. The year was 2007, and the letter was addressed to her son Timothy Cole. “I have been trying to locate you since 1995 to tell you I wish to confess I did in fact commit the rape Lubbock wrongly convicted you of.”

Ruby sat down, stood up. A picture of Tim in a tuxedo, taken at his junior prom, smiled from the mantle. Before his trial the prosecutor had offered him a deal to plead to lesser charges. “Mother,” Tim had said, “I am not pleading guilty to something I didn’t do.” He was sentenced to 25 years in prison. Thirteen years later, he died behind bars.

All I can do is give you these first opening paragraphs, you need to read the entire article…words cannot express the sadness and injustice…Rick Perry must be an evil person to be able to sleep so soundly at night.

I’m going to turn to global news for a bit, the latest numbers of missing and dead from the typhoon that struck the Philippines is over 500.

The Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) estimated 497 were killed in eight provinces in the southern Mindanao region, with more than 100 still missing.

“It’s difficult to be certain on those missing,” Gwendolyn Pang, secretary-general of the PNRC, told Reuters. “The floods washed out whole houses and families inside. It’s possible entire families are dead and no one is reporting them missing.”

The latest report by the state disaster agency said 327 people had been killed and 274 were missing.

Stories of a wall of water washing away everything are now being reported. Philippines floods: victims tell of panic as wall of water hit cities

Devastating flash floods have drowned hundreds of people in their beds in two southern Philippine cities. Twelve hours of heavy rain from a tropical storm swelled rivers and sent walls of water crashing into homes in the Mindanao region late on Friday night, wiping out whole families, many of whom had been at Christmas parties.

I wanted to write about this next link which was published on Friday, but could not bring myself to do it.  It is still too disturbing, so I will just give you the title and the heading, you can read it if you want…or skip it until later.

Tens of thousands of children abused in Dutch Catholic institutions, report says

Eight hundred Catholic clergy and church employees were guilty of abusing children over 40 years, a commission reports

An 1,100-page report from a commission led by a former education minister and Christian Democrat leader said it could identify 800 Catholic clergy and other church employees guilty of sexually abusing children in the 40 years from 1945 and that more than 100 perpetrators were still alive.

Okay, here are a couple of links about the mistreatment of women…no surprises here:

 

Female prisoners around the world are being subjected to body cavity searches, beatings and force-feeding, are held in padded cells, shackled during childbirth, and made to work in chain gangs. Some of the worst conditions are in developing countries, but there are also serious abuses and overcrowding in Europe and North America. These are the major findings of a survey by The Independent on Sunday to mark the first anniversary of United Nations rules governing the treatment of women in prison.

 

In a scene that could have been lifted from Montgomery, Alabama in the 1950s, a public bus was halted in Israel on Friday when an ultra-Orthodox man boarded and demanded that Tanya Rosenblit, commuting to Jerusalem for work, get up and move to the rear.

She refused, at which point the offending man told the bus driver that “it was his right to have her sit in the back and that he had paid to be able to do so.” He then pried open the doors, refusing to allow the bus to continue, at which point the driver called police.

When an officer arrived and approached Rosenblit, his first words weren’t empathic notes of comfort, nor were they chagrined articulations of an apology. Instead, the officer asked if she might, you know, respect the man’s wishes and move to the back.

In a Facebook post chronicling the ordeal, Rosenblit responded unequivocally:

I answered that I respected them enough by wearing modest cloths, because I knew I was going to an Orthodox neighborhood, but I wouldn’t be humiliated by those who can’t even respect their own mothers and wives.

Love that comment about respect, or lack thereof, for the wives and mothers.
This past week academia and women everywhere lost a powerful voice for women’s equality within the Jewish faith, Paula E. Hyman, Who Sought Rights for Women in Judaism, Dies at 65

Paula E. Hyman, a social historian who pioneered the study of women in Jewish life and became an influential advocate for women’s equality in Jewish religious practice, including their ordination as rabbis, died on Thursday at her home in New Haven. She was 65.

Michael Marsland/Yale University

Paula E. Hyman was an author and a social historian at Yale.

The cause was breast cancer, said her husband, Dr. Stanley Rosenbaum.

Dr. Hyman, a professor of modern Jewish history at Yale University, wrote 10 books about the Jewish experience in Europe and the United States, many of them focused on women’s roles in various communities before and after the immense Jewish migrations of the 19th and 20th centuries.

She spotlighted the special stresses confronting married Jewish women from Eastern Europe when they arrived in the United States, for instance: although they were used to working outside the home, even as primary breadwinners in some ultrareligious families, they were initially housebound in America, where custom placed married women in the home.

In her books Dr. Hyman chronicled how married Jewish women from Eastern and Western Europe overcame such customs to become full partners in family businesses, a major part of the New York garment work force and leaders of successful community protests like the Lower East Side kosher meat boycott of 1902 and the New York rent strike of 1907.

Her works are considered seminal in creating a new field of historical study — part women’s history, part Jewish history, part history of immigration in America.

I thought the story about Tanya Rosenblit connected in some sad way to the death of Paula E. Hyman, in that the conflicted cultural/religious standards which Rosenblit experienced by refusing to sit in the back of the bus are the same kind of conservative customs Hyman wrote about and studied…women having to overcome this “exclusion” of women in the Orthodox and Conservative branches of the Jewish denominations.

Influenced by the feminist movement of the 1960s, Dr. Hyman sought to apply “consciousness raising” principles to Jewish traditions that, in her view, made women second-class members of their own cultural communities, said Martha Ackelsberg, a fellow Columbia graduate student and now a professor of government at Smith College. Dr. Hyman organized discussion groups that evolved into the organization Ezrat Nashim (“Women’s Help”), which conceived and presented the “Call for Change.”

We all remember the images of Hillary Clinton that had been wiped out by an Orthodox Jewish newspaper published in NYC…the struggle is ongoing, and it seems like whether it is Jewish, Christian or Muslim…there are many religions out there that treat women as second class citizens.

I just mention the three big ones…but it goes without saying there are many, many religions that demean, degrade and disparage the status of women. And no matter what advances we make in this world, I don’t see these insulting “exclusions” of women fading at all. It may sound disheartening, but I feel that we will never get the true respect and admiration women deserve, there will always be an underlying thread of sexism masked in religious and cultural beliefs.

All right, now I’m going to move on to some lighter “stuff.”

From Minx’s Missing Link File:  You may have heard that Roger Ebert’s show is no longer being produced. However, he is very active in his blog for the Chicago Sun-Times and this post, from December 15th  is his list of The Best Films of 2011.

Making lists is not my favorite occupation. They inevitably inspire only reader complaints. Not once have I ever heard from a reader that my list was just fine, and they liked it. Yet an annual Best Ten list is apparently a statutory obligation for movie critics.

My best guess is that between six and ten of these movies won’t be familiar. Those are the most useful titles for you, instead of an ordering of movies you already know all about.

One recent year I committed the outrage of listing 20 movies in alphabetical order. What an uproar! Here are my top 20 films, in order of approximate preference.

Take a look at his obligating list of favorite 2011 flicks…I’ll be honest, I haven’t even seen many of them.  (In fact the only one I sat through was the Harry Potter, and that was because I took the kids to see it.) We don’t really get these other kind of films shown here in Banjoville…but I am looking forward to seeing Hugo and The Artist at some point.

And now for your Easy Like Sunday Morning Link of the Week:  With such a downer of a post, I have to bring it up and end it with something funny.   On The Fourth Day Of Christmas, My True Love Gave To Me: The Twelve Days Of Conservative Movement Christmas

There is a video at the link but I prefer reading the lyrics to this time honored classic Christmas song:

On the first day of Christmas the dummies gave to me
A Kenyan in the Presidency.

On the second day of Christmas the dummies gave to me
Two squawking Bachmanns.
And a Muslim in the Presidency.

On the third day of Christmas the dummies gave to me
Three Fox News Hosts,
Two squawking Bachmanns ,
And a racist in the Presidency

On the Fourth Day of Christmas the dummies gave to me
Four Blackboard Truths,
Three Fox News Hosts,
Two Sausage Munchers,
And a liberal in the Presidency.

On the fifth day of Christmas the dummies gave to me
Five Tea Parties,
Four Blackboard Truths,
Three Fox Nudes,
Twenty Three Bachmann kids,
And the most radical president in our history.

On the sixth day of Christmas the dummies gave to me
Six Newts a Laying,
Five Golden Boehners,
Four Blackboard Truths,
Three Fox Nuts,
Two more years of Bachmann,
And a gangster in the Presidency.

On the seventh Day of Christmas those dummies gave to me
Seven puppets thinking,
Six Cains a Laying,
Five prayers for Rain,
Four Egyptian caliphates,
Three Fox Frauds,
Two Doctor Pauls,
And a Hussein in the presidency.

On the eighth day of Christmas the dummies gave to me
Eight Malkins clucking,
Seven Puppets writing,
Six Newts a laying,
Five Death Panels ,
Four Blackboard Truths,
Three Fox & Friends,
Two Suckers Koch,
And a secular socialist presidency.

On the ninth day of Christmas the dummies gave to me
Nine ladies dancing,
Eight Coulters Braying,
Seven Puppets Marching,
Six Newts a lying,
Five Santorum smears,
Four Blackboard Truths,
Three Chicken Littles,
Two squawking Bachmanns,
And an elite in the presidency.

On the tenth day of Christmas the dummies gave to me
Ten Becks a weeping,
Nine Sarah’s Tweeting,
Eight Breiberts Baaaing,
Seven Palins drowning,
Six Newts a lobbying,
Five Months No Rain,
Four Blackboard Truths,
Three Fox Freakouts,
Two squawking Bachmanns,
And a liberation theologist ushering in the secular socialist agenda presidency.

On the Eleventh Day of Christmas the dummies gave to me
Eleven Government takeovers,
Ten Becks turrets,
Nine Palin coining,
Eight Cows a Mooin’,
Seven puppet staring,
Six Newts a laughing,
Five Nuts on Stage,
Four Blackboard Truths,
Three Dummy Hosts,
Two Squawking Bachmanns,
And a Kind of a dick in the Presidency.

On the twelfth day of Christmas the dummies gave to me
Twelve dummies dumbing down down down down down down down down the electorate.
Eleven Pipelines piping,
Ten Becks a Weeping,
Nine Rogues a goin’,
Eight Armageddons,
Seven wasteful spending,
Six Newts advising,
One Donald Trump,
Four Blackboard Truths,
Three f**ing dolts,
Two squawking Bachmanns,
And a Freedom hater who will take your guns and put you in FEMA camps (unless you buy gold right now) in the Presidency.

Have a wonderful day, and please let us know what things you are reading and thinking about today.