Today is Wednesday, and it is a day of most importance to all “Gawd Furrin'” good xtians in Banjoville….it is a day that you will find most businesses closed. Yup…can’t even get you a new confederate flag or a can of lighter fluid down at the Local Red KKK Convenient Store because Wednesday is a day of rest and reflection and prayer for bigoted racist in this quiet red-neck backwoods mountain town.
I wonder if the talk at church this evening will be about the historic moment from yesterday’s DNC in Philadelphia. Hillary Clinton: The First Lady to Become the Nominee – The Atlantic
In a historic moment, the Democratic Party formally nominated Hillary Clinton for president Tuesday, making her the first female nominee for the nation’s highest office in 240 years.
I am so grateful for Boston Boomer, for putting up a thread this morning…as you all may know, we are in the process of moving to a new house…and today we are moving the big items. So again this is an open thread. Here are a few links to get you started:
Here is the transcript of the speech last night by Bill Clinton. I didn’t even get a chance to see it. We cannot even get satellite service here…the new house is that far into the mountains that the trees block all line of sight to the satellites above! From what I understand, it was a knockout:
And next, a few links on Trump:
In a bit of mixed messaging,Donald Trump promised mighty rewards to Russia in exchange for interfering in the election, while his VP pick promised “serious consequences.”
At a press conference Wednesday morning Trump encouraged Russia to release State Department emails in order to injure Hillary Clinton‘s campaign. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press,” he said.
Shortly afterward, his Vice Presidential nominee, Indian Gov. Mike Pence issued a statement saying that, rather than rewards, there would be “serious consequences” to Russia if it was behind the hack of the DNC emails released to the public last Friday. (Expertsbelieve that Russia is responsible.)
Pence’s statement reads in full:
The FBI will get to the bottom of who is behind the hacking. If it is Russia and they are interfering in our elections, I can assure you both parties and the United States government will ensure there are serious consequences. That said, the Democrats singularly focusing on who might be behind it and not addressing the basic fact that they’ve been exposed as a party who not only rigs the government, but rigs elections while literally accepting cash for federal appointments is outrageous. The American people now have absolute and further proof of the corruption that exists around Hillary Clinton. It should disqualify her from office, if the media did their job. [emphasis added]
Not backing down, Trump tweeted, “If Russia or any other country or person has Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 illegally deleted emails, perhaps they should share them with the FBI!”
At a press conference earlier today, Donald Trump said: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the thirty thousand emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press. Let’s see if that happens.”
To put that in perspective…take a look at this headline:
Now, let all that sink in a bit, and tell me if you don’t feel ill right about now.
More links to ponder:
I hope everyone has a smashing afternoon!
Happy Weekend Sky Dancers!!
We just have a few more days until the New York primary is over with. I hope we all survive. Honestly, I don’t know how much more of the Bernie Sanders hype I can take.
Apparently, Bernie got to meet with the Pope in Rome after all, although there are no photos. The Associated Press reports:
U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders told The Associated Press that he met briefly with Pope Francis at the papal residence Saturday and said it was a “real honor” to call on “one of the extraordinary figures” in the world.
Sanders, in Rome for a Vatican conference on economic inequality and climate change, said the meeting took place before the pope left for Greece, where Francis was highlighting the plight of refugees.
The Vermont senator, in a race with Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination for president, said he told the pope that he appreciated the message that Francis was sending the world about the need to inject morality and justice into the world economy. Sanders said that was a message he, too, has tried to convey.
Jeffrey Sachs must have some serious pull at the Vatican.
Sanders and his wife, Jane, stayed overnight at the pope’s residence, the Domus Santa Marta hotel in the Vatican gardens, on the same floor as the pope….Jeffrey Sachs, a Sanders foreign policy adviser, said there were no photographs taken of the meeting.
The Pope lives in a hotel? I did not know that.
Sanders said the meeting should not be viewed as the pope injecting himself into the campaign.
“The issues that I talked about yesterday at the conference, as you well know, are issues that I have been talking about not just throughout this campaign but throughout my political life,” Sanders said in the interview. “And I am just very much appreciated the fact that the pope in many ways has been raising these issues in a global way in the sense that I have been trying to raise them in the United States.”
Well, Sanders doesn’t get to decide how this is “viewed.” In my opinion, it will certainly be interpreted as the Pope “injecting himself” into a U.S. election campaign.
Sachs said the candidate and his wife met the pope in the foyer of the domus, and that the meeting lasted about five minutes. Sanders later joined his family, including some of his grandchildren, for a walking tour of St. Peter’s Basilica, one of the holiest Catholic shrines.
I expect we’ll be learning more about this as the day wears on. The meeting sounds oddly similar to the “private meeting” that Kim Davis claimed to have with Pope Francis during his visit to the U.S. last year.
In that instance, Francis “greeted” a number of people in passing as he left the Vatican Embassy in Washington DC. The Pope did not know that Davis was there.
The AP article says that Sanders “met” the pope in “the foyer of the domus” of the hotel. If Francis did actually meet and talk personally to Sanders, I think he made a big mistake. We’ll just have to wait and see what the fallout will be.
The Daily Mail provides details on Sanders’ trip to Rome, which was funded by campaign donations.
A day after Bernie Sanders claimed he ‘introduced the most comprehensive climate change legislation’ and said he would tax carbon use, the Democratic presidential candidate chartered a Delta 767 to fly him to Rome and back for less than 24 hours.
After attacking rival Hillary Clinton for her stance on fossil fuels stepped on Thursday, Sanders stepped off the plane on Friday in Rome for the Vatican conference with his wife, ten family members, a group of campaign staff, Secret Service detail and members of the press.
The total group of what is believed to be below 50, flew in a chartered Delta 767 for their trip, which can seat between 211 and 261 people, depending on the model. It is unclear if Sanders’ aircraft had flatbed seats.
A 767 aircraft carries up to 23,980 gallons of fuel, which is ‘enough to fill 1,200 minivans’, according to Boeing.
Sanders’ wife, who is Catholic and ten of Sanders’ other family members joined him for the 8,870 round-trip flight, including four of his grandchildren….
With a range of 6,408 miles on a full tank of gas, it can be calculated that a 767 like Sanders’ flying 4,435 miles from New York to Rome uses approximately 16,596 gallons of fuel. The round-trip flight will use approximately 33,193 gallons.
On average, an American flies only 7,500 miles per year, according to AmericanForests.org, 1,360 fewer miles than Sanders’ round-trip Rome travel. Thus, an average American releases less carbon emissions via aircraft each year than Sanders did in 24 hours.
Yesterday, while Sanders flew to Rome on a chartered plane and spent a night at the Pope’s residence, Hillary Clinton visited a public housing building for elderly people in Harlem. New York Daily News:
Clinton traveled to East 116th Street in Harlem for a tour of the Corsi Houses, a seniors-only New York City Housing Authority building that has struggled with mold, leaks and an inadequate repair system.
“I wanted to come here to really make a very strong plea that we do more when I am president to help the people who live in developments like this,” Clinton said.
She was given access to an apartment on the second floor that was in the midst of a major repair job to fix mold issues and leaks….
“I will do everything I can as your president to remember what needs to be done here in the city that I love, that is the greatest city in the world,” she said to cheers from the crowd.
To fix NYCHA, which has suffered for years from federal disinvestment, she said she would boost funding for the section 8 program, invest $125 billion to help struggling communities like the South Bronx, and expand Low Income Housing Tax Credits to curb rental costs.
“I will fight for you,” she said.
Clinton also hobnobbed with residents and guests, at one point joining in a game of dominoes in the rec room.
In other strange Bernie Sanders news, actress Sharon Stone hypothesizes that Bernie has done a lot of acid. NY Daily News:
Outspoken actress Sharon Stone recently told The Hollywood Reporter she worries the presidential candidate, 74, dabbled in psychedelic drugs during his younger years.
“He didn’t really work until he was 40, so I wonder, like, how much acid has this guy taken?” the “Basic Instinct” star told the magazine.
“I really do (wonder), that’s not a joke. We were so aggressive asking people, ‘Did you smoke pot?’ But in reality, how much acid has Bernie Sanders taken?” she asked again.
“There’s a certain edge to his personality and way about his behavior that makes me wonder, ‘How much LSD have you taken?'” she asked a third time during the recent interview.
Weird. IMHO, if Bernie had taken some acid trips he might not be so grumpy and negative today.
Bernie and Jane have finally released their full tax returns (except for the list of charities) from 2014. They say they will also release the 2015 return once it is filed. No word on the rest of the promised returns going back to 2007. David Cay Johnston at The National Memo:
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders released nearly all of his and wife Jane Sanders’ 2014 tax return Friday night, but that disclosure still remains far from his wife’s promise to release returns for the last eight years — raising more questions about the candidate’s judgment and his wife’s claims.
As expected there was nothing startling in the schedules, but the failure to fulfill their promise to release returns back to 2007 — when Sanders was first elected to the U.S. Senator from Vermont — erodes the likelihood that other Presidential candidates this cycle and in the future will release their own full returns.A key detail withheld by Sanders until Friday night prompts yet another question: The senator and his wife have both said on national television that Jane Sanders prepares the couple’s returns using TurboTax software. But a schedule that had been withheld until now shows $204 in tax preparation fees.
The most expensive version of TurboTax sold currently — a higher grade product than needed to prepare the couple’s returns, costs $109.99 That price includes both an online download and a compact disc. And that is the price charged by Intuit, the manufacturer, with retailers offering discounts pricing the top product at under $100.
Hmmm . . . maybe Jane got a fee for filling out the forms?
While Bernie was out of the country, his supporters picketed a fund-raiser hosted by Amal and George Clooney for Democratic candidates in San Francisco, where they chanted, “Hey hey, ho ho, Hillary Clinton has got to go.” Very classy. ABC News describes the bizarre scene:
Clinton and her aides arrived at the home of venture capitalist and Democratic donor Shervin Pishevar around 6:30 p.m. for the fundraiser, which kicked off at 7 p.m. Tickets to the event cost roughly $30,000 per person or $350,000 per table. (This is the first of two Clooney-hosted fundraisers this weekend. On Saturday night, the Clooneys are hosting another fundraiser, at his home in Los Angeles.)
The San Francisco street where the home is located was blocked off by police, but the protesters gathered at the top of the hill and then marched around the block.
Holding signs that read “Hillary: You can’t sit with us unless you have money” and “$353,000 for Dinner? And you thought SF home prices are high,” while banging pots and pans, protesters were vocal about Clinton’s ties to big money.
“Hey, hey, ho ho, Hillary Clinton has got to go!” the crowd, many of whom appeared to be in their twenties and thirties yelled out. “Bernie or Bust!”
It’s difficult to fathom why these people oppose raising money for Democrats running for Congress. Wouldn’t a President Bernie Sanders need Democrats in the House and Senate? The ways of Bernie supporters are very mysterious.
That’s all I have for you today. I didn’t even look at the Republican side of the campaign. It’s all just too crazy for me today. And now I plan to try to regain some kind of serenity before the big showdown arrives on Tuesday.
What stories are you following?
Who know a few album covers could look so dramatic?
The images you will see today are from one of my favorite photo blogs: vintage everyday: Mix and Match – Strange and Amazing Collage Arts from Famous Album Covers of the 1980s and 1990s
Christian Marclay is a Swiss, New York-based modern artist and composer. He came up with an idea to create funny collages from famous album covers.
So enjoy these collages as we look into some non-election news.
A couple of days ago, LG&M had a post that caught my attention…see if you get the same vibe as I did: Clearly, Paying Teachers Peanuts is the Way to Produce Good Teaching – Lawyers, Guns & Money
I can think of no better way to provide quality education for our students than paying teachers so poorly that they are forced to get 2nd and 3rd jobs to make ends meet, thus giving them no time to prep for class or rest.
Second and even third jobs are the norm for many school teachers in South Dakota, where teacher pay ranks lowest in the nation, according to a state education task force. Gov. Dennis Daugaard has proposed a half-cent sales tax increase to help raise teacher pay, but his plan needs two-thirds approval in both the House and the Senate — a tough proposition in a legislature with an anti-tax lean.
Mary McCorkle, president of the South Dakota Education Association, said teachers often give up their evenings by grading papers and preparing lessons, and second jobs lead to burnout.
“Something has to give, whether it’s your health, your sanity,” McCorkle said. “You just can’t do everything, and you want to be there for your students.”
The SDEA, which represents more than 5,000 teachers in the state, said Daugaard’s proposal is an acknowledgement that South Dakota schools are having trouble hiring and keeping teachers.
The Brookings School District used to get dozens of applications for each open teaching position but now receives resumes from just a handful of qualified candidates, said school board President Steve Bayer. The pool depth is likely dwindling as applicants look across South Dakota’s eastern border to better-paying jobs.
“When you can make another thousand dollars a month as an experienced teacher, it’s probably worth looking at a place in Minnesota,” he said.
South Dakota’s average teacher salary of $40,023 in 2013-14 lagged an average of six states that border it by $11,888 a year and was $8,643 behind the next lowest neighbor, North Dakota, the group found. In some of South Dakota’s more remote areas, that average salary drops quickly.
Now, this next link will take you to the average starting teacher salary per state: NEA – 2012-2013 Average Starting Teacher Salaries by State
And here is a site that give you both starting and general average salaries, which is a bit convoluted to discern. Teacher Salaries By State | Average Salaries For Teachers | Beginning Salaries For Teachers | Teacher Raises | TeacherPortal.com
Finding accurate beginning and average salaries for teachers by state is a tricky business. In our effort to build the most accurate list of teacher salaries by state, we have averaged the salary from multiple sources, including the National Education Association, job surveys, and private data analyses to create the Salary Comfort Index.
So if you are curious…take a peek at those numbers.
While on the subject of schools…in South Dakota:
I will leave that story up to you. Take a gander at the new bill and the logic behind this mess.
The bill was approved by the state Senate on Tuesday and now awaits the signature of Gov. Dennis Daugaard (R), who has said it seems like a good idea. The measure would mandate that students use facilities corresponding with their “physical condition of being male or female as determined by a person’s chromosomes and anatomy as identified at birth,” not the gender with which they identify.
Next up: The Pope….
He was in Mexico this week.
Religious leaders and migrants rights advocates in the United States say Pope Francis’ acknowledgment during his visit to the U.S.-Mexico border of the struggles of immigrants will send a humanitarian message.
Just before his Mass Wednesday afternoon in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Francis is to walk to the border fence along the Rio Grande, which separates the two countries. There, he’ll offer a prayer for migrants on the other side and for those who died trying to get to the U.S. A group of about 500 people, including migrants and refugees, will be on the U.S. side.
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville said at a news conference in El Paso Wednesday that “because something has political dimensions it doesn’t mean that it does not also have moral dimensions.
That is sweet…because with the statement the Catholic Church put out on the Zika virus…we don’t want to get into a discussion on Moral Dimensions…or Dilemmas!
As the Zika virus spreads in Latin America, Catholic leaders are warning women against using contraceptives or having abortions, even as health officials in some countries are advising women not to get pregnant because of the risk ofbirth defects.
After a period of saying little, bishops in Latin America are beginning to speak up and reassert the church’s opposition to birth control and abortion — positions that in Latin America are unpopular and often disregarded, even among Catholics.
“Contraceptives are not a solution,” said Bishop Leonardo Ulrich Steiner, the secretary general of the National Council of Bishops of Brazil, and an auxiliary bishop of Brasília, in an interview. “There is not a single change in the church’s position.”
He urged couples to practice chastity or use “natural family planning,” a method in which women monitor their menstrual cycles and abstain from sex when they are fertile.
Of course these babies are gifts from Gawd.
This is not a stance likely to win many new followers. South America happens to be the continent with the highest proportion of Catholics who already disagree with the church on abortion and birth control, according to a large international poll commissioned by Univision in 2014. Seventy-three percent of Catholics in Latin America said that abortion should be allowed in some or all cases, and 91 percent supported the use of contraceptives — a higher percentage even than in Europe or the United States.
“The Vatican is very well aware of the seriousness of this issue, and the Holy Father is very aware of it,” Father Rosica said. “We’re waiting to see how the local churches in those countries respond.”
But Father Rosica said church teaching on abortion and contraception remains the same. The Zika epidemic, he said, presents “an opportunity for the church to recommit itself to the dignity and sacredness of life, even in very precarious moments like this.”
The five countries in Latin America and the Caribbean that have advised women to delaypregnancy are Brazil, Ecuador, El Salvador, Colombia and Jamaica. But access to contraception is limited throughout the region, especially for poor and rural women. Abortion is restricted in many countries, and it is illegal without exceptions in the Dominican Republic, El Salvador and Nicaragua, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
There is no vaccine for the Zika virus, and no cure for microcephaly. The World Health Organization this monthdeclared the Zika epidemic an international public health emergency. The organization advised that women should have full access to a range of contraceptive options, as well as “safe abortion services to the full extent of the law.”
Many church officials are wary that the Zika epidemic will lead to the loosening of laws on abortion and contraception. Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga of Honduras, who serves on Pope Francis’ nine-member advisory council, denounced the notion of “therapeutic abortions” for women carrying babies with microcephaly. He spoke at a Mass attended by the Honduran president and first lady.
Another link on the Zika epidemic….WHO: $56 Million Needed To Combat Zika Virus Through June
The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday that $56 million were needed to combat the Zikavirus until June, including for the fast-tracking of vaccines, diagnostics and research studies into how it spreads.
The funds, including $25 million for the WHO and its regional office, would also be used to control the mosquito-borne virus that has spread to 39 countries, including 34 in the Americas, and has been linked to birth defects in Brazil.
“Possible links with neurological complications and birth malformations have rapidly changed the risk profile for Zika from a mild threat to one of very serious proportions,” WHO director-general Margaret Chan said in the WHO Strategic Response Framework and Joint Operations Plan issued in Geneva.
The WHO expects the funds to come from member states and other donors and said that in the meantime it has tapped a new emergency contingency fund for $2 million to finance its initial operations.
Chan will travel to Brazil from Feb 22-24 to review Zika-related measures supported by WHO and will meet the health minister, a WHO spokeswoman said.
The United Nations health agency declared the Zika outbreak a global public health emergency on Feb 1, noting its association with two neurological disorders, microcephaly in babies and Guillain-Barre syndrome that can cause paralysis.
Brazil is investigating the potential link between Zika infections and more than 4,300 suspected cases of microcephaly, a condition marked by abnormally small head size that can result in developmental problems.
More at the link.
Just a question…and it is a offensive one at that…since my life is defined by classic film and movies, the flick “Freaks!” (Yeah, I’m going there.) Didn’t the pinheads suffer from microcephaly? Innit that the same thing as this Zika virus? NWLuna? School me right!
Shit, I said I wasn’t going to mention the idiots of the election: Trump Surrogate Blows Up Panel Discussion By Referring To ‘Big Boobs’ | Crooks and Liars
There is a reason for this…I promise.
Nothing says 2016 political discourse like a Trump surrogate and supporter calling out another panelist’s “big boobs” on Fox Business. I’m pretty sure all those stock market geeks tuning into Fox Biz were delighted by it.
Manigault: Yes, so let’s talk about Iraq and let’s talk about Donald Trump’s position. When Ta-mah-ra says that Donald Trump’s–
Holder: Tah-mara. It’s Tah-mara.
Manigault: It’s the same difference. You want to come on with big boobs, then you deal with the pronunciation of your name. Look. Donald Trump stands firm on what his position is about us going into Iraq —
Baritromo: Wait a second! Why are you bringing up Tamara’s boobs? I don’t understand why you brought up Tamara’s boobs.
The C&L post makes a point about why the mention of boobs is made:
Poor Maria just cannot understand. It’s because it gets attention, Maria! Mention boobs and every man watching looks up from his otherwise boring work to see what the catfight is all about.
Of course, it’s also crass and sexist but that’s what Trump’s campaign embodies. And who better than Omarosa to speak for Trump about some other woman’s breasts?
I think it is just a carry over of the Sexist and Misogynistic culture (as related to rape culture) that is allowed to flourish as Sexual Harassment in our high school’s and college’s locker rooms…as discussed in this article from Deadspin: How Tennessee’s Sexual Harassment Allegations Caught Up With Peyton Manning 20 Years Later
This is a very long read, I know that BB has written post on Manning before, but please take some time and look it over.
In 1996, the summer before Peyton Manning’s junior season at the University of Tennessee, with his Vols a national championship contender, associate trainer Jamie Whited—later Jamie Naughright, after her divorce—filed an employment discrimination complaint. In that complaint, filed with the Tennessee Human Rights Commission and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, she listed 27 specific examples of sexual harassment and discrimination she claimed to have experienced while working for Tennessee’s athletics department.
Athletes, she said, called her breasts “midgets.” One athlete called the women at the sexual assault crisis center center “white ‘male hating’ females.” And her concerns about violence by athletes toward women were “played down by my supervisors, and an effort was made to shield the student athletes.”
It was accusation No. 27 that lives on, though. An unnamed athlete, later identified as Peyton Manning, “pulled his pants down and exposed himself to me, as I was bent over examining his foot after asking me several questions.”
“Despite the above referenced complaints,” her filing said, “no effective remedial action has been taken by coaches, or other supervisor personnel. Instead complaints of sexual harassment are treated as jokes and efforts are made to protect the student athletes, and cover-up the complaint.”
Naughright settled with Tennessee. The investigative report on her allegations, compiled by Tennessee’s Office of Diversity Resources and Educational Resources (DRES) repeatedly finds that she was “not subjected to unwelcome sexual conduct,” and that “many of the individual allegations involved conduct that was not sexual in nature.” Her accusation against Manning seemed destined to become another incident written off as a young man’s foolishness.
Her claims and the investigative findings read differently, though, in the context of a wide-reaching Title IX lawsuit recently filed against the University of Tennessee, which describes Tennessee as having cultivated a “deliberate indifference to known sexual assaults so as to create a hostile sexual environment.” So, too, does her long legal history with Manning, recently brought back to public attention by the Daily Beast’s Robert Silverman and bythe New York Daily News’s Shaun King publishing a 74-page “facts of the case”from Naughright’s 2002 defamation suit against Manning. That document outlines, from the perspective of her lawyers, a claim that the Manning family and Tennessee essentially covered up a case of sexual assault to protect the star quarterback.
It will get you going…be prepared for the usual excuses and typical outcomes.
Let us see if the new combat roles for women change the way the military works…Exclusive: Report shows Marines’ shifting approach to women in combat – CSMonitor.com
The Marines have long been resistant to including women in combat units. But a Pentagon document obtained by the Monitor offers a more optimistic view.
Check it out…details emerge on the new airline plans for Cuba:
I always loved the way this man’s name sounded when I was a kid…now comes news of his death: United Nations News Centre – UN mourns death of former Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali
Another death, this time an actor. You may remember him in Tootsie and Mel Brooks To Be or Not To Be: George Gaynes Dead: ‘Police Academy’ Star Dies at 98 – Hollywood Reporter
The rest in link dump format, because it is really getting late:
Global food production needs ‘significant’ fertiliser boost – BBC News– This talks about the phosphate shortage. In Florida, you could spot a phosphate mine miles away. (Well, I don’t know about technically miles…but damn if you could not see them from across the bay.) Our science class would have field trips inside those mountain valley holes to look for fossils. Anyway, give that link a moment of your time.
Let’s end it with two videos….
This is an open thread..post what you want…
It sure looks like Vladimir Putin is trying to embarrass President Obama with the Russian air strikes in Syria. The Russians have bombed U.S.-supported rebels rather than ISIS. From The Guardian:
Russia has bombed targets in north-west Syria for a second day, as the Kremlin said it was going after a list of well known militant organisations and not just Islamic State.
The Russian defence ministry said planes hit 12 Isis targets, including a command centre and two arms depots, though the areas where it said the strikes took place are not held by Isis.
Activists reported a number of strikes in the country’s north and centre, including strikes in the province of Hama, which they said hit locations controlled by the US-backed rebel group, Tajamu Alezzah.
A spokesman for the Syrian civil defence said a strike also hit Jisr al-Shughour in Idlib province.
“They targeted the northern neighbourhood of the town, which only houses civilians, but there are very few people there because of repeated airstrikes,” the spokesman said.
Al Mayadeen, a Lebanese pro-Assad TV channel, separately reported that Russian aircraft had launched 30 fresh airstrikes against Jaysh al-Fateh, a powerful rebel coalition that includes Ahrar al-Sham and the al-Qaida affiliated al-Nusra Front.
The Daily Beast: Putin Hits West’s Rebels Instead of ISIS.
A Russian general asked the U.S. to remove its planes from Syrian airspace Wednesday, just hours before Russian airstrikes began there.
The Russian three-star general, who was part of the newly formed intelligence cell with Iraq, Iran, and the Syrian government, arrived in Baghdad at 9 a.m. local time and informed U.S. officials that Russian strikes would be starting imminently—and that the U.S. should refrain from conducting strikes and move any personnel out. The only notice the U.S. received about his visit was a phone call one hour earlier.
The Russian strikes were centered about the city of Homs, according to initial accounts in the local press and in social media. That’s significant, because Homs is not known to be an ISIS stronghold.
This can’t be good.
“The northern countryside of Hama has no presence of ISIS at all and is under the control of the Free Syrian Army,” Major Jamil al-Saleh of the Free Syrian Army told Reuters. U.S. officials corroborated this account to The Daily Beast.
The FSA has receieved U.S.-made anti-tank missiles; the CIA and Pentagon have been recruiting FSA soldiers as proxies against ISIS.
“There is no Islamic State in this area,” another FSA commandertold Reuters. “The Russians are applying great pressure on the revolution. This will strengthen terrorism, everyone will head toward extremism. Any support for Assad in this way is strengthening terrorism.”
The Washington Post: Obama administration scrambles as Russia attempts to seize initiative in Syria.
UNITED NATIONS — Blindsided by the unexpected swiftness of Russia’s air attacks in Syria, the Obama administration scrambled Wednesday to retake the diplomatic and military initiatives, saying that it would not be bullied into supporting President Bashar al-Assad and that it was about to significantly expand its own Syrian air operations.
After spending much of the day together here behind closed doors, Secretary of State John F. Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, said in terse evening statements that U.S. and Russian military officials would meet, perhaps as soon as Thursday, to “deconflict” their operations in Syria.
Standing side by side outside the U.N. Security Council chamber, they said they had reached some preliminary agreements on a way forward toward a negotiated political solution to Syria’s civil war but indicated they were far from agreed on its outcome. They took no questions.
“We have a lot of work to do, understanding fully how urgent this is,” Kerry said.
Earlier in the day, Russian President Vladimir Putin brushed off Western concerns, suggesting that other countries “get involved” in Syria under Russia’s leadership. Senior foreign policy spokesmen in Moscow said the action proved Russia was a force to be reckoned with on the world stage.
Administration officials countered that the airstrikes showed only Russian weakness and what White House press secretary Josh Earnest said was growing concern “about losing influence in the one client state they have in the Middle East.”
This is really making me nervous–probably even more so because I’m not sure how to interpret this news.
Back in the USA, Republicans in Congress are still focused on such non-issues as Benghazi, Hillary Clinton’s emails, and trying to cripple Planned Parenthood–although I’m sure they’ll find a little time to criticize Obama’s foreign policy as well.
The media is filled with descriptions of the contents of meaningless Clinton emails and suggestions that her server may have been hacked. Of course the State Department server actually has been hacked several times and so have a number of other government servers. So perhaps Clinton’s private server was actually safer.
Associated Press reports: Russia-linked hackers tried to access Clinton server.
Russia-linked hackers tried at least five times to pry into Hillary Rodham Clinton’s private email account while she was secretary of state, emails released Wednesday show. It is unclear if she clicked on any attachments and exposed her account.
Clinton received the infected emails, disguised as speeding tickets from New York, over four hours early the morning of Aug. 3, 2011. The emails instructed recipients to print the attached tickets. Opening an attachment would have allowed hackers to take over control of a victim’s computer.
Security researchers who analyzed the malicious software in September 2011 said that infected computers would transmit information from victims to at least three server computers overseas, including one in Russia. That doesn’t necessarily mean Russian intelligence or citizens were responsible.
Nick Merrill, a spokesman for Clinton’s Democratic presidential campaign, said: “We have no evidence to suggest she replied to this email or that she opened the attachment. As we have said before, there is no evidence that the system was ever breached. All these emails show is that, like millions of other Americans, she received spam.”
Practically every Internet user is inundated with spam or virus-riddled messages daily. But these messages show hackers had Clinton’s email address, which was not public, and sent her a fake traffic ticket from New York state, where she lives. Most commercial antivirus software at the time would have detected the software and blocked it.
The phishing attempts highlight the risk of Clinton’s unsecure email being pried open by foreign intelligence agencies, even if others also received the virus concealed as a speeding ticket from Chatham, New York. The email misspelled the name of the city, came from a supposed New York City government account and contained a “Ticket.zip” file that would have been a red flag.
Sigh . . .
On the Benghazi front, erstwhile Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy opened his big mouth yesterday and gave Democrats an amazing gift. Bloomberg:
…the Republican leading the race to replace John Boehner as House speaker said it for them, boasting Tuesday that his party has spent nearly three years dragging her through investigations of the Sept. 11, 2012, attack in Benghazi in hopes of doing serious damage to her presidential campaign.
“Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right?” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy boasted on Fox News Channel’s “Hannity.” “But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would’ve known any of that had happened had we not fought and made that happen.”
Wow. The longest investigation in House history–longer than the Watergate hearings!–was totally trumped up, and the next House Speaker admits it publicly. Democrats quickly responded.
“It’s just jaw-dropping,” said former Democratic presidential candidate and Vermont Governor Howard Dean, who has endorsed Clinton. “The Republicans lied through their teeth when they said this wasn’t about politics.”
Clinton herself said on Wednesday that McCarthy’s comments were “deeply distressing.”
“When I hear a statement like that, which demonstrates unequivocally that this was always meant to be a partisan political exercise, I feel like it does a grave disservice and dishonors not just the memory of the four that we lost but of everybody who has served our country,” she said in an interview with MSNBC’s Al Sharpton.
Earlier, Clinton campaign press secretary Brian Fallon called McCarthy’s words “a damning display of honesty by the possible next speaker of the House,” who has “just confessed that the committee set up to look into the deaths of four brave Americans at Benghazi is a taxpayer-funded sham. This confirms Americans’ worst suspicions about what goes on in Washington.”
The Benghazi committee’s top Democrat, Maryland Representative Elijah Cummings, said in a Wednesday statement that McCarthy had simply acknowledged what “Republicans never dared admit in public.” He added that Republicans “have blatantly abused their authority in Congress” by spending more than $4.5 million in taxpayer funds on the Benghazi committee “to pay for a political campaign against Hillary Clinton.”
New York Representative Louise Slaughter, the top Democrat on the House Rules Committee, added: “That’s not what we’re here for and, in fact, I think that might be impeachable for crying out loud.”
Someone in the government also chose the day after Republican members attacked Planned Parenthood head Cecile Richards for nearly five hours, someone in the government to leak some embarrassing information about the committee’s chair Jason Chaffetz. From the Washington Post:
An assistant director of the Secret Service urged that unflattering information the agency had in its files about a congressman critical of the service should be made public, according to a government watchdog report released Wednesday.
“Some information that he might find embarrassing needs to get out,” Assistant Director Edward Lowery wrote in an e-mail to a fellow director on March 31, commenting on an internal file that was being widely circulated inside the service. “Just to be fair.”
Two days later, a news Web site reported that Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, had applied to be a Secret Service agent in 2003 and been rejected.
That information was part of a Chaffetz personnel file stored in a restricted Secret Service database and required by law to be kept private….
The Chaffetz file, contained in the restricted database, had been peeked at by about 45 Secret Service agents, some of whom shared it with their colleagues in March and April, the report found. This prying began after a contentious March 24 House hearing at which Chaffetz scolded the director and the agency for its series of security gaffes and misconduct. The hearing sparked anger inside the agency.
In another slap in Chaffetz’s face the organization that has been running the right wing campaign against Planned Parenthood admitted that the video that Carly Fiorina described in the last Republican debate had nothing to do with Planned Parenthood and the baby Fiorina saw had not survived an abortion. Raw Story: ‘This wasn’t an abortion’: CNN forces anti-Planned Parenthood group to admit Fiorina was wrong.
David Daleiden, the project lead Center for Medical Progress’ anti-Planned Parenthood campaign, admitted on Wednesday that an alleged fetus on a table that GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina described during a graphic anti-abortion rant was actually from a miscarriage.
Read the rest at the Raw Story link.
Finally, some reactions to Kim Davis’ meeting with Pope Francis for you to explore:
Vanity Fair: Kim Davis and Pope Francis’s Curious Meeting.
Tuesday night, lawyers for Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples even after she was jailed, announced that she had been invited to a secret meeting with Pope Franciswhile they were both in Washington, D.C.
The Vatican initially refused to confirm or deny those reports, which suddenly made things far more confusing. On Wednesday morning, however, the Vatican changed its tune, and confirmed the meeting to The New York Times.
“I do not deny that the meeting took place, but I have no other comments to add,” said Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi.
Robert Moynihan at Inside the Vatican, a magazine covering Catholic news, broke the story on Tuesday night, citing “Vatican sources” as confirmation. The New York Timesfollowed up with an interview with Davis’s lawyer, Mathew Staver, who said that yes, totally, the meeting definitely took place.
During the visit, Staver said the Pontiff gave Davis two rosaries and told her to “stay strong.”
According to Staver, the invitation was extended through the Vatican itself, and seeing as Davis and her husband, Joe, were in town to receive an award from a conservative advocacy group, they decided to briefly visit the Pope at the Apostolic Nunciature right before he left for New York City.
Staver added that he expected the Vatican would soon send them photos of the visit.
As far as I’m concerned this is so disgusting that I think it might overshadow anything good that came from the Pope’s visit to the U.S. The fact that the meeting was kept secret until Francis was back in the Vatican makes it even more awful and shameful. The Pope probably doesn’t understand the damage he did, but along with the canonization of Junipero Sera this will leave a very bad taste in the mouths of many Americans.
More links to peruse:
Vanessa Urquhart at Slate: Why Pope Francis’ Meeting With Kim Davis Is Such a Disaster.
Trevor Martin at The Guardian: Pope Francis’s meeting with Kim Davis should come as no surprise.
So . . . what else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links on any topic in the comment thread and have a terrific Thursday!
Pope Francis is currently visiting Washington DC, and he will address Congress this morning. Yesterday he said a mass and canonized a questionable new saint. From NPR:
Pope Francis celebrated the Mass of Canonization of Junipero Serra at Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., today. You can watch the proceedings in The Washington Post video above.
Serra, the first Hispanic American saint and the first saint to be canonized in the U.S., helped Spain colonize California in the late 1700s, converting tens of thousands of Native Americans to Catholicism in the process. Some Native American groups objected to the canonization of a priest who converted indigenous people to Christianity using force.
The pontiff addressed Serra’s history in his homily.
“Junípero sought to defend the dignity of the native community, to protect it from those who had mistreated and abused it. Mistreatment and wrongs which today still trouble us, especially because of the hurt which they cause in the lives of many people.”
After the mass, Francis met with Native Americans at the basilica to speak with them privately about the controversy.
At the link, you can read tweets from people who noticed that Francis fell asleep at one point during the mass.
NPR tried to soft-pedal the controversy over Serra’s canonization. NBC has more details:
…to some Native Americans, Serra’s achievements are nothing to celebrate. They say he created a military-backed mission system that thrived on brutality and resulted in tens of thousands of deaths.
“It is very offensive to canonize the person who actually enslaved, whipped, tortured and separated families and destroyed our cultural and spiritual beliefs,” said Valentin Lopez, chairman of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band. “How can that behavior be recognized as saintly behavior?” ….
Robert Senkewicz, a professor of history at Santa Clara University who has written a book about Serra, said it’s probably no accident that a pope who hails from Latin America, where the missionaries were seen as protectors, would support Serra.
He said he understands both sides of the debate: there’s evidence that Serra supported the flogging of the California Indians as punishment; he had women and girls locked away at night to keep them safe from rapists; and the crowded missions helped breed the disease that killed many.
“Serra, by his own right, really loved the Indians,” Senkewicz said. “But he thought of them as children. Like 99 percent of the people of the day, he thought Europeans were superior to the native people.”
Lopez said he was stunned by the pope’s elevation of Serra given that the pontiff has championed the downtrodden and even apologized in July for the church’s “grave sins” against the indigenous peoples of the Americas.
Like most of what the Vatican does, conferring sainthood is a political process. Frankly, to me it’s meaningless; but I can certainly understand why many Catholics would be up in arms about it.
The Washington Post on Francis’ speech to Congress this morning:
Pope Francis, a symbol of unity for the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, will address Congress Thursday morning, marking the first time a pope has bridged the church-state divide to speak to America’s elected representatives.
The pope is scheduled to arrive on Capitol Hill at 9:20 a.m. Hours earlier, hundreds people began lining up outside the Capitol grounds, waiting to pass through security checkpoints and stake out a place to see him….
At 10:01 a.m., the House sergeant-at-arms is scheduled to announce: “Mr. Speaker, the pope of the Holy See.” His words will formally launch an event that would have been politically impossible through much of American history, when Catholics — especially waves of immigrants from Italy, Ireland and central Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries — suffered widespread discrimination.
That began to change with the election of John F. Kennedy to the presidency in 1960, according to the article.
In speaking before Congress, the pope was to take the central position in a tableau reflecting a wholesale shift in Catholics’ place in the United States. Vice President Joe Biden (D), who is also Catholic, will sit behind him, next to Boehner. In front of him will be four justices of the Supreme Court — including three of the six Catholics who currently sit on the nine-member court.
There are 164 Catholics in this Congress, or 31 percent of the members. That’s a higher proportion than in the overall U.S. population, which is 22 percent Catholic. Despite those numbers, it seems doubtful that even a pope who has admonished world leaders to argue less and accomplish more can break the bitter, years-long political paralysis in the U.S. legislature.
Unfortunately, many of the “Catholics” in this Congress and the Supreme Court do not subscribe to actual Catholic values such as humility, helping the poor, protecting the environment, and making peace, not war.
Pope Francis also held a meeting with the Little Sisters of the Poor to “quietly” support their battle against birth control being covered by Obamacare. USA Today:
WASHINGTON — Pope Francis made an unscheduled stop to visit the Little Sisters of the Poor Wednesday, a move that Vatican officials said was intended to send a message of support in the nuns’ battle against Obamacare.
The religious order of Catholic sisters is suing theObama administration over a provision of the Affordable Care Act that the administration has interpreted as requiring the sisters to purchase health insurance with birth control coverage.
Catholic teaching opposes the use of birth control. The sisters can request a waiver, but their lawsuit argues that requiring that paperwork infringes on their religious freedom. The sisters are suing under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a Clinton-era law that prohibits the government from placing a “substantial burden” on the free exercise of religion.
Last August, an appeals court sided with the government, but an unusual dissent by five judges this month called that decision “clearly and gravely wrong — on an issue that has little to do with contraception and a great deal to do with religious liberty.” The question now goes to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Sigh . . .
News From the Clown Car
Donald Trump is once again feuding with Fox News.
Citing unfair treatment, Donald Trump said Wednesday that he is not going to appear on any Fox News shows “for the forseeable future,” reigniting a feud that has heated up and cooled throughout the summer.
“.@FoxNews has been treating me very unfairly & I have therefore decided that I won’t be doing any more Fox shows for the foreseeable future,” Trump tweeted at mid-day on Wednesday.Fox News fired back a couple hours later, saying Trump had it all wrong, and that it was Fox who dumped Trump. A spokesman issued a statement, condeming Trump’s attacks on Fox’s journalists.
“At 11:45am today, we canceled Donald Trump’s scheduled appearance on The O’Reilly Factor on Thursday, which resulted in Mr. Trump’s subsequent tweet about his ‘boycott’ of FOX News,” the statement reads. “The press predictably jumped to cover his tweet, creating yet another distraction from any real issues that Mr. Trump might be questioned about. When coverage doesn’t go his way, he engages in personal attacks on our anchors and hosts, which has grown stale and tiresome. He doesn’t seem to grasp that candidates telling journalists what to ask is not how the media works in this country.”
The Republican presidential candidate had devoted Monday and Tuesday nights this week to blasting the network’s coverage of him on Twitter, tweeting and retweeting criticism.
More details at the link. Ugh.
Also from Politico: Trump: I’m so tired of this politically correct crap.
A seemingly exasperated Donald Trump announced on Wednesday, “I’m so tired of this politically correct crap,” telling a crowd of South Carolina business leaders that he’s still the straight-talking, shoot-from-the-hip kind of guy that surged to the top of the polls this summer.
The Republican presidential candidate is suffering a bit of a slump, due to some slippage in the polls, a lackluster debate performance, and another round of negative headlines due to his refusal to apologize for not correcting a questioner at a New Hampshire town hall who insisted President Obama is a Muslim and not an American.
On Wednesday, he tried to reclaim his mojo, launching another Twitter-based attack on Fox News before taking the stage in South Carolina to blast his rivals. In the case of Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush, Trump remarked that both candidates “hate each other … but they can’t say it.” Rubio was state senator while Bush was governor of Florida.
Trump, addressing the Greater Charleston Business Association and the South Carolina African American Chamber of Commerce, detailed his grievances with the way politicians act.
“This is what bothers me about politicians. He announces he’s gonna run and they go to Jeb, ‘what do you think of Marco Rubio?’ ‘He’s my dear, dear friend, he’s wonderful, he’s a wonderful person, I’m so happy that he’s running.’ Give me a break,” Trump said. “That’s called politicians’ speak. Then they go to Marco, what do you think of Jeb Bush? ‘Ohh, he’s great, he’s brought me along.”
Rubio and Bush “hate each other,” Trump said, blasting Rubio as “overly ambitious, too young, and I have better hair than he does, right?”
What Donald Trump refers to “political correctness” is behavior that normal people call common courtesy.
Jeb Bush had another stumble a couple of days ago.
CNN reports: Jeb Bush weighs in on ‘multiculturalism.’
Jeb Bush argued Tuesday that the United States is “creeping toward multiculturalism” and described it as “the wrong approach.”
His answer came in response to a question at an Iowa diner Tuesday from a woman who wanted to know how the former Florida governor would help refugees and immigrants integrate into U.S. society and “empower them to become Americans.”
“We should not have a multicultural society,” the Republican presidential candidate responded.
But Bush, who’s a self-admitted policy wonk and tends to use nuanced language, was referring to “multicultural” in the literal sense — a social model in which cultures live in “isolated pockets,” as he described them, rather than assimilating into society.
“America is so much better than every other country because of the values that people share — it defines our national identity. Not race or ethnicity, not where you come from,” he said. “When you create pockets of isolation — and in some cases the assimilation process is retarded because it’s slowed down — it’s wrong. It limits peoples’ aspirations.”
He added that people who aren’t “fully engaged” in a broader community will struggle to get the best education and argued that learning English would better accelerate access to opportunities.
Personally, I think it’s entirely possible for ethnic groups in the U.S. to hold onto their languages and cultures, while at the same time fitting in to American society. The children of immigrants usually assimilate; at the same time, I think they should be encouraged to understand their ethnic and cultural history and be able to speak their native language with older family members.
In The News
The New York Times: Hackers Took Fingerprints of 5.6 Million U.S. Workers, Government Says.
Some Interesting Longer Reads
Scientific American: Why the Human Brain Project Went Wrong–and How to Fix It.
The New Republic: Down the Rabbit Hole. The rise, and rise, of literary annotation.
What else is happening? What stories are you following today?