Oh yeah…Wednesday Morning Reads

currier-ives-summerGood Morning

Wow, I completely forgot it was my turn up at bat. This morning’s post will be mainly links that I have saved up over the last few days. Being sick does have its advantages, you get to bypass all the horrible news stories…and only read about them if you want to catch up. Let’s just say, I didn’t want to catch up and leave it at that.

So here we go…

Sandra Day O’Connor expresses regret about court’s role in 2000 election

No kidding? What do you think brought about this reflective change of feelings from the former Justice? I wonder if it was all that press Dubya got recently from the grand opening of his Presidential Library and Museum to Idiotic Decisions. Anyway, in an interview with the Chicago Tribune,  O’Connor had this to say about Bush v. Gore:

Looking back, O’Connor said, she isn’t sure the high court should have taken the case.

“It took the case and decided it at a time when it was still a big election issue,” O’Connor said during a talk with the Chicago Tribune’s Editorial Board on Friday. “Maybe the court should have said, ‘We’re not going to take it, goodbye.’ ”

The case, she said, “stirred up the public” and “gave the court a less than perfect reputation.”

“Obviously the court did reach a decision and thought it had to reach a decision,” she said. “It turned out the election authorities in Florida hadn’t done a real good job there and kind of messed it up. And probably the Supreme Court added to the problem at the end of the day.”

Ya don’t say? Too little, too late if you ask me.

Well, from one load of shit to another load of shit. However, this load of shit was dumped by a Sandy…not a Sandra. Hurricane Sandy dumped 11 billion gallons of raw sewage into East Coast waterways

Hurricane Sandy dumped about 11bn gallons of raw and untreated sewage into waterways from Washington DC to Connecticut, the science journalism group Climate Central said on Tuesday. That’s or enough human waste to cover New York’s Central Park in 41ft of sewage, or fill 17,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools, scientists told a conference call with reporters.

Damn, that is a whole lotta crap.

Hmmm, speaking of which:  Rocky Musical Trailer | Geekosystem

…draw a Venn diagram between fans of Broadway musicals and fans of the Rocky franchise, I would just draw two circles that were very far away from each other. Sylvester Stallone and Stage Entertainment USA seem to disagree with my assessment, and they’re betting there’s enough of an overlap for their new musical Rocky to be a success. Whether you think a musical version of Rocky is a great idea or a terrible one, the new trailer for the production will probably confirm your opinion. There’s not enough in the video to really indicate whether this will be a good musical version of Rocky or a bad musical version of Rocky, but it sure shows that there’s a musical version of Rocky happening.

Uhhhh…..were you even able to get through that trailer? ( I couldn’t. ) It seems to me that this production of Rocky is what Bialystock and Bloom should have produced as a sure fire flop…instead of Springtime for Hitler.

Damn that is crap.

Alright, sorry there. That is awful. Looks like Gitmo is not the only place where America is practicing torture these days.

Did you see the campaign donor “mess” in Virgina?/snark.  I like the title of this Atlantic article, it is a take on a real damn good Helen Mirren movie: The Governor, His Wife, Their Cook, and the FBI – Philip Bump – The Atlantic Wire

The FBI is now investigating whether or not Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell violated any laws when he allowed a campaign donor to pay for catering at his daughter’s wedding. That is perhaps the least weird part of the story.

The crux of the issue is whether or not McDonnell violated the law by allowing Star Scientific, a company run by Jonnie Williams, to pick up the $15,000 food and floral tab for Cailin McDonnell’s wedding in 2011. The governor explains his failure to report the spending on his finance reports by insisting that the donation was a gift to his daughter. Under Virginia law, only gifts received by officeholders need to be reported. Earlier this month, the Washington Post walked through the evidence for and against that claim. The daughter paid for other parts of the wedding, for example, like the rehearsal dinner and the honeymoon. But McDonnell’s guidance is literally written all over the agreement between the caterer and the family, which the governor signed.

Read more about the twist and turns at the Atlantic link above or here at this Washington Post link: AP sources: FBI looks into relationship between Va. governor, campaign donor – The Washington Post

All these sordid stories lately, a sleaze-ball porn king backs a sleaze-ball former governor currently running for the US senate, innocent Elvis impersonators, and ricin laced dojos of mensa wannabe martial arts instructors.  Not to mention…My Son, the Terrorist.

Then you have Congress, or as Jon Stewart calls them:

“Do-Nothing F@#ktards who couldn’t solve a problem if it was eating them alive anus first.”

Video at the link!

Wow…that is something innit?

But there have been some extraordinary news items that you may have missed.

**Post updated @8:00am below!**

Sgt John Hartley Robertson, US army veteran, ‘found living in remote Vietnam village 44 years after being shot down and presumed dead’

Handout

A US army veteran has been found living in a remote Vietnam village 44 years since his plane was shot down and presumed dead, a new documentary suggests.

Unclaimed, a documentary by Canadian filmmaker Michael Jorgenson, claims that a frail, elderly man, found in a remote south Vietnam village unable to remember the English language, his date of birth or even the names of his wife and two children, may be Sgt John Hartley Robertson – a former Green Beret shot down in 1968.

Sgt Robertson was working on a special operation over the South East Asian country of Laos when his helicopter was shot down. Despite his body never being found, he was presumed dead for nearly half a century; his name etched on Vietnam memorials and army records listing him as “killed in action”.

Despite this, Sgt Robertson’s family believed it was possible he survived the crash and claimed to have documents proving he had been held in a Vietnamese prison for some time.

Read the rest of this story from the Independent at the link, you can see a trailer for the documentary here:

Can you imagine?

Well, I guess this story was too good to be true….from the Independent:

Revealed: Man claiming to be Vietnam veteran Sgt John Hartley Robertson who went missing and was presumed dead 44 years earlier is ‘exposed as a fraud’ – Americas – World – The Independent

It is claimed that the man tacked down and ‘identified’ for a new documentary is in fact a fraudster who the US
government performed DNA tests on 20 years ago and whose story had been fully
debunked

Had it been true, it would have been one of
the most gripping war stories of all time.

But sadly it looks as if the man found living in the Vietnam jungle, who a new documentary claims is ‘long dead’ US army veteran Sgt John Hartley Robertson, is likely to be a fraud.

Meanwhile, after some back and forth…Mariela Castro to get gay rights award in Philly

The daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro will be allowed to travel to Philadelphia to accept an award for her gay rights advocacy, officials said Tuesday, reversing a previous decision to reject her visa request.

Mariela Castro will attend the Equality Forum’s annual conference on civil rights for lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender people, according to Malcolm Lazin, the advocacy group’s executive director.

Lazin, who had blasted the State Department’s travel denial last week, said organizers are “delighted” at the change of heart.

“She is unquestionably the leader for progressive change for the LGBT community in Cuba,” Lazin said Tuesday. “Her accomplishments are nothing short of remarkable.”

[…]

Castro, a married mother of three, is the niece of retired Cuban strongman Fidel Castro. She is also the director of Cuba’s National Center for Sex Education, part of Cuba’s public health ministry, and is the country’s most prominent gay rights activist.

Castro has instituted awareness campaigns, trained police on relations with the LGBT community and lobbied lawmakers to legalize same-sex unions. She was elected as a deputy in Cuba’s parliament in February.

On Saturday in Philadelphia, she will speak about her experiences and receive an award from the Equality Forum.

I am glad she is able to come and get this award. It is an important step no matter what anyone says.

Now check this out, Groundbreaking Surgery for Girl Born Without Windpipe

Using plastic fibers and human cells, doctors have built and implanted a windpipe in a 2 ½-year-old girl — the youngest person ever to receive a bioengineered organ.

The surgery, which took place on April 9 here at Children’s Hospital of Illinois and will be formally announced Tuesday, is only the sixth of its kind and the first to be performed in the United States. It was approved by the Food and Drug Administration under rules that allow experimental procedures when otherwise the patient has little hope of survival.

[…]

Hannah was born without a windpipe, or trachea — an extremely rare condition that is eventually fatal in 99 percent of cases — and had lived since birth in a newborn intensive care unit in a Korean hospital, breathing through a tube inserted in her mouth. Because of other developmental problems, she cannot eat normally and cannot speak.

[…]

Dr. Paolo Macchiarini, a specialist in the field of regenerative medicine who developed the windpipe and led the complex nine-hour operation, said the treatment of the Korean-Canadian toddler, Hannah Warren, made him realize that this approach to building organs may work best with children, by harnessing their natural ability to grow and heal.

Isn’t that wonderful?

I think it is good to end on that happy note, and let you all take it from there.

How are things going for y’all today?


Monday Reads

Good Morning!

Retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor is speaking out on America’s declining opinion of the Supreme Court.

Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor suggests that declining public approval of the court dates back to the controversial Bush v. Gore decision, which decided the 2000 presidential race.

“That was one that was widely talked about at the time, as you know, and involved the public in a presidential election,” O’Connor said in an interview aired Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “And that could be something that triggered public reexamination.”

She said she wasn’t sure if people thought the court had become too political.

“But I suppose that’s part of it, yes,” she said. “And of course, anytime you’re deciding a case involving a presidential election, it’s awfully close to politics.”

She cast the deciding vote in the case, but she demurred on taking responsibility.

“I don’t see how you can say anybody was the deciding vote,” she said. “They all counted.”

O’Connor said she has no regrets about her vote.

“No, I mean it was a tough deal; i[t] was a closely fought election; and it’s no fun to be part of a group of decision makers that has to decide which side the ball is going to fall on,” she  said.

I think if I were her that I’d feel a lot of remorse for that decision considering the decline that the Bush administration has brought to this country in every possible, thinkable positive category of national endeavor.

This should make people appreciate Social Security.  A lot of Americans with ” virtually no assets”. What would so many do without it and Medicare?

It is a central worry of many Americans: not having enough money to live comfortably in old age. Now an innovative paper co-authored by an MIT economist shows that a large portion of America’s older population has very little savings in bank accounts, stocks and bonds, and dies “with virtually no financial assets” to their names.

Indeed, about 46 percent of senior citizens in the United States have less than $10,000 in financial assets when they die. Most of these people rely almost totally on Social Security payments as their only formal means of support, according to the newly published study, co-authored by James Poterba of MIT, Steven Venti of Dartmouth College, and David A. Wise of Harvard University.

That means many seniors have almost no independent ability to withstand financial shocks, such as expensive medical treatments that may not be covered by Medicare or Medicaid, or other unexpected, costly events.

“There are substantial groups that have basically no financial cushion as they are reaching their latest years,” says Poterba, the Mitsui Professor of Economics at MIT.

Here’s a great article from AlterNet: “How Mitt Romney Got Rich Destroying American Jobs and Promoting Sweatshop Capitalism”.

Right now, a man whose predatory career has claimed the jobs of countless Americans is trying to wrap himself in the flag and call himself a “job creator” and “wealth creator.”

Does he mean miserable jobs in Chinese factories? Wealth for the 1 percent? Apparently that’s exactly what he means.

Republicans claim that Mitt Romney’s entrepreneurial activities at Bain Capital have been good for Americans. The truth is that Romney has spent his career offshoring and outsourcing American production processes — and associated jobs — to countries like China where human labor is valued in the market at a very low wage rate.

Mitt Romney’s tenure as Bain’s CEO has long linked him to offshoring and outsourcing. Even today, although he is no longer in that position, Romney still makes a nice profit on undertakings done long after he left the day-to-day management of the firm.

Those profits continue to pour in because of Bain’s practice of vulture capitalism.  This isn’t Schumpeter’s creative destruction.  It’s not even what good equity capital companies achieve.  It’s piracy pure and simple.

Here’s a great interview with Graham Nash. According to TD:  “Graham Nash Still Really Gives a S#!*”

Fish: So where are they then? Where are the songwriters who try to remind us that human beings are precious and fragile and deserving of a world that is environmentally sound, just as an example? Where are the poets to make beautiful the notion that we should not be victimized by the shitty foreign and domestic policies of our governments? Such subject matter seems much less apparent in contemporary popular music.

GN: It’s less apparent because it’s not being shown. It’s less apparent because the people who own the world’s media you can count on one hand. It’s less apparent because [corporations] don’t want protest songs on their radios and their TVs and in their movies. They don’t want to stir up the sheep. They want you to fucking lie there and buy another pair of sneakers and another Coca-Cola, shut the fuck up while we rob you blind. That’s what’s going on—“Bread and circuses, Part II.”

Fish: Which, I guess, brings us to the significance of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

GN: Right, it’s important for people to realize that they’re not alone and that they’re not crazy for thinking we’re fucked. [The movement] is about recognizing the division between the haves and the have-mores—it’s not even between the haves and have-nots. It’s between the haves and have-mores. That’s what’s going on here and people recognize that and they’re getting infuriated.

Fish: And it’s so obvious, this victimization of the 99 percent, that the whole thing came about as a mass realization, like you said. It didn’t require the emergence of a leader or a prophet to arrive on the scene and convince people of something they weren’t aware of.

GN: Exactly, there is no leader, which is a good thing. What happens with movements, historically, is there is usually a face, a leader, for the movement, and an enemy, if he’s smart, will attack that leader.

So, here’s something in my continuing legacy of sharing my fascination with really old graves with you. This is from the UK Telegraph: “Skeleton reveals violent life and death of medieval knight ,  620-year-old skeleton discovered under the floor of Stirling Castle has shed new light on the violent life of a medieval knight.”

Archaeologists believe that bones found in an ancient chapel on the site are those of an English knight named Robert Morley who died in a tournament there in 1388.

Radio carbon dating has confirmed that the skeleton is from that period, and detailed analysis suggests that he was in his mid-20s, was heavily muscled and had suffered several serious wounds in earlier contests.

The knight was laid to rest under the stone-flagged floor of a chapel near the castle’s royal apartments and his skeleton was excavated along with 11 others in 1997.

However, it was only recently re-examined following advances in laser scanning techniques that not only revealed the nature of the three wounds, but also showed that the knight had lost teeth, probably from another blow or from falling from his horse.

Gordon Ewart, of Kirkdale Archaeology, which carried out the excavation for Historic Scotland, said: “This is a remarkable and important set of discoveries.

“At first we had thought the arrow wound had been fatal but it now seems he had survived it and may have had his chest bound up.”

Mr Ewart said that Morley was by far the most likely candidate. His skeleton also shows the effects of riding on the ankles and muscle injuries caused by lifting heavy loads.

Talk about your short brutal lives.

So, did you know that scientists have connected a part of the brain to one’s ability to grasp irony? This is from The Atlantic.

Using magnetic resonance imaging, scientists seem to have located a part of the brain centrally involved in grasping irony.

The IronyBrain2.JPGFrench research team that made the latest contribution to this effort presents its findings in the current issue of the journal NeuroImage. Referring to a part of the brain known as the “ToM network,” the researchers write, “We demonstrate that the ToM network becomes active while a participant is understanding verbal irony.”

This isn’t just one of those “shot in the dark” MRI studies, where you see what brain regions happen to light up when people engage in a particular mental activity. The ToM network has been the focus of previous work on irony apprehension, and enough is known about it to give us some ideas about the particular role it could play in that apprehension.

Here’s how the experiment worked. The researchers prepared short written stories, and each story came in two versions. Both versions contained a sentence that could be read either literally or ironically, with the correct reading depending on how the context had been set earlier in the story. In one story, for example, one opera singer says to another, “Tonight we gave a superb performance,” and whether the sentence is ironic or literal depends on whether the performance had been described earlier in the story as a failure or as a success. The researchers had correctly predicted that the ToM network would show more activity when the sentence, read in context, was ironic than when it was literal.

ToM stands for “theory of mind,” which in turn refers to the fact that we naturally attribute beliefs and intentions and emotions to people we interact with. That is, we develop a “theory”–though not necessarily a theory we’re consciously aware of–about what’s going on in their minds. (An inability to do this is thought to play a role in autism.) And this “theory” in turn shapes our interpretation of things people say. The “ToM network” is a brain region–or, really, a network of different brain regions–that seems to play an important role in the construction of these theories.

It makes sense that parts of the brain involved in theorizing about other people’s minds would be involved in grasping irony. After all, detecting irony means departing sharply from the literal meaning of a sentence, something it’s hard to do without having a “theory” about the intent behind the sentence.

I’m sure we’ll begin to hear the horrible news about the murder of Sikhs in Wisconsin today as well as other things.  Hopefully, this little bit of interesting stuff will get your day started out okay!  What’s on you reading and blogging list today?