Friday Reads: Dog Days of Summer Edition

The ancient Greeks thought of the constellation Canis Major as a dog chasing Lepus, the hare. The star Sirius is the dog’s nose; the Greeks called it the “dog star.”  (National Geographic)

The ancient Greeks thought of the constellation Canis Major as a dog chasing Lepus, the hare. The star Sirius is the dog’s nose; the Greeks called it the “dog star.” (National Geographic)

Good Morning!!

We are in the midst of the dog days of summer–traditionally the hottest days of the year, which extend from about July 2 to August 11. I has been very hot all over the country for the past few weeks. Here in Boston, we have had a couple of weeks of temperatures around or above 90 degrees.

Why do we call them the “dog days?” It dates back to the Greeks and Romans and their beliefs about Sirius, the “dog star.” At National Geographic, Becky Little explains:

To the Greeks and Romans, the “dog days” occurred around the day when Sirius appeared to rise just before the sun, in late July. They referred to these days as the hottest time of the year, a period that could bring fever, or even catastrophe.

“If you go back even as far as Homer, The Iliad, it’s referring to Sirius as Orion’s dog rising, and it describes the star as being associated with war and disaster,” said Jay B. Holberg, author of Sirius: Brightest Diamond in the Night Sky and senior research scientist at the University of Arizona Lunar & Planetary Laboratory. “All throughout Greek and Roman literature, you found these things.”

The phrase “dog days” was translated from Latin to English about 500 years ago. Since then, it has taken on new meanings.

“Now people come up with other explanations for why they’re called the ‘dog days’ of summer, [like] this is when dogs can go crazy,” said Anne Curzan, an English professor at the University of Michigan.

At the end, dogs like summer, they get to play with the kids, and maybe take some baths, and depending on your breed, you could get some pretty good food, we like to give special kind of food to our pitbull, you could get to know more about it in this pitbull meal info.

“This is a very human tendency,” she said. When we don’t know the origin of a phrase, we come up with a plausible explanation.

“The meaning has been lost,” said Holberg, “but the phrase has lived on.”

Read more at the link.

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About the heat wave, from The Weather Channel: West Coast Heat Wave Threatens All-Time Records; Northeast Hot, But Not Historic.

Summer heat is gripping opposite sides of the country into this weekend, including parts of the West and the Northeast.

The heat will help clinch one of the hottest Julys on record for some Northwest cities, and a few locations may challenge their all-time or monthly record highs on Friday. It’s also helped set a record for the most 90-degree days in a year in Seattle and has given Portland its hottest temperatures since 2009.

The Northeast heat will not be as extreme, but it will stick around into next week for some cities….

A strong ridge of high pressure is building over the Northwest as the jet stream bulges northward to the Canadian border. This is allowing temperatures 5 to 20 degrees above average to take hold across parts of northern California, Oregon and Washington into the weekend, while also spreading to portions of Idaho and Montana.

It’s a fitting end to what will be one of the hottest Julys on record in parts of the Northwest. Seattle, Washington, and Astoria, Oregon, were both seeing their hottest July on record as of July 29, according to data from the Southeast Regional Climate Center. For Seattle, July 2015 could beat out August 1967 for the hottest month on record if the final average temperature for July exceeds 71.1 degrees.

July was the third warmest on record through July 29 in Portland, Oregon, and fourth warmest on record for Yakima, Washington.

High temperatures at or above 100 degrees are forecast for the Portland, Oregon, area through Friday, with middle to upper 90s expected this weekend. Portland hit 103 degrees on Thursday, which is the hottest temperature there since July 29, 2009. Even hotter temperatures are expected for the rest of the Willamette River Valley of western Oregon on Friday, which is under an excessive heat warning issued by the National Weather Service.

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Wow! 100 degrees in Seattle? And on the East coast:

Wednesday was the hottest day so far in 2015 in New York City (96 degrees) and Albany, New York (95 degrees). Concord, New Hampshire, set a daily record high of 96 degrees, beating the old record for July 29 of 95 degrees set in 1949.

Highs will stay a handful of degrees above average for mainly eastern sections of the region into early next week.

For the most part, this heat in the Northeast will not be record breaking. However, the longevity of it will likely be greater than we’ve seen so far this summer in some cities. By early next week, some locations could meet the definition for a heat wave in the Northeast, which is generally defined in that region as three or more days in a row with temperatures at or above 90 degrees.

Temperatures in New England are beginning to moderate, and it will be only around 89-90 for the next few days. That will give some relief. I really feel for Luna out in Washington and Fannie in Idaho.

Speaking of Seattle, I came across this wonderful video of the city in 1955, posted on youtube by Jeff Alman, whose grandfather made it when on vacation in the city. The first part, which shows city streets and buildings, is the coolest, IMO. The rest is gorgeous views taken from a small plane.

Altman also posted his grandfather’s video of San Francisco in 1958.

My grandfather made color films many years ago, and they were of such high quality that my brother was able to edit them into a wonderful video that he shared with all of our relatives who appeared in them. Every time I watch it, the old images bring me to tears. What a treasure!

Seeing the scenes of Seattle made me think about how different my life might have been if my Dad had decided to take a job at a different university back in about 1958. He had offers from Seattle, Miami, and a couple of other places, but ultimately he chose the offer from Ball State in Muncie, Indiana. I’m not sure if my folks wanted to live in a smaller college town or if the money was better at Ball State.

Now for some news.

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There’s a big health story this morning: a new vaccine for the Ebola virus could make a huge difference, based on the results of a study that will appear in The Lancet. BBC News reports: Ebola vaccine is ‘potential game-changer.’

A vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus has led to 100% protection and could transform the way Ebola is tackled, preliminary results suggest….

Experts said the results were “remarkable”.

This trial centred on the VSV-EBOV vaccine, which was started by the Public Health Agency of Canada and then developed by the pharmaceutical company Merck.

It combined a fragment of the Ebola virus with another safer virus in order to train the immune system to beat Ebola.

A unique clinical trial took place in Guinea. When a patient was discovered, their friends, neighbours and family were vaccinated to create a “protective ring” of immunity.

This could be the breakthrough the world has been waiting for.

There is caution as the results are still preliminary, with more data coming in.

But officials at the WHO believe the effectiveness of the vaccine will end up being between 75% and 100%.

According to the BBC, other vaccines are also being tested. This could be very good news!

DogDays-wIcedCoffee

I’m sure you’ve heard about the agonizing death of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe at the hands of Walter Palmer, a Minnesota Dentist who likes to kill big game with a bow and arrow.

The AP reports, via USA Today: Minn. dentist accused of poaching legendary lion.

HARARE, Zimbabwe – Zimbabwean police said Tuesday they are searching for an American who allegedly shot a well-known, protected lion with a crossbow in a killing that has outraged conservationists and others.

The American allegedly paid $50,000 to kill the lion named Cecil, Zimbabwean conservationists said. Authorities on Tuesday said two Zimbabwean men will appear in court for allegedly helping with the hunt. The American faces poaching charges, according to police spokeswoman Charity Charamba.

Walter James Palmer of Minnesota was identified on Tuesday by both the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force and the Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe as the American hunter, a name that police then confirmed.

“We arrested two people and now we are looking for Palmer in connection with the same case,” said Charamba.

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Zimbabwe is seeking Palmer’s extradition, and the outrage on social media has been so extreme that Palmer was forced to close his dental practice. He has “apologized,” but that’s apparently not going to be enough to save his skin, and I say “Good!” Still you have to wonder why stories of human deaths don’t get as much attention. More recent headlines on this story:

Kevin Drum at Mother Jones: For a Week, Walter Palmer Is the Worst Human Being Ever in History.

Time: Cecil the Lion, Walter Palmer and the Psychology of Online Shaming.

Mediaite: The Hill Reports Lion Killer Donated to Romney; Twitter Asks Why That’s Relevant.

Boston Herald: Zimbabwean baffled by foreign concern for killed lion.

GossipCop: Betty White On Cecil The Lion Killer: “You Don’t Want To Hear The Things I Want To Do” Walter James Palmer.

Slate: Why Cecil Was Such an Important Lion.

Slate: How America Can Prosecute More Poachers Like the Alleged Lion Killer.

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Obviously, as a New England Patriots fan, I’ve been following the Tom Brady/Deflategate story for a long time, and this morning I came across this in Wired: Even if Tom Brady Did Smash His Phone, It’d Make Zero Sense. It turns out that the NFL and Roger Goodell could easily get Brady’s text messages if they wanted to.

JUST HOW EASY is it to destroy your text messages? In the eyes of the NFL, it’s as simple as destroying your cellphone. But as anyone who has ever had their phone stolen can tell you, that’s not even remotely true.

This week, the NFL upheld the suspension of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for four games in the wake of accusations he was “generally aware” of the team’s deflation of footballs. The decision, authored by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, largely hinged on the revelation that Brady destroyed his cellphone shortly before meeting with league investigators. The league suggests this was to suppress evidence and obstruct the investigation. Brady insists he was just replacing a “broken Samsung phone with a new iPhone 6.”

It was a fun story for a few minutes and there was some mild hoopla surrounding the idea of a frenzied Brady destroying his cellphone. Problem is, even if he had … so what? This isn’t The Wire, and snapping a cellphone in half and tossing it in the gutter wouldn’t be enough to erase Brady’s history anyway. The digital trail our phones leave behind long outlive the physical device itself, and the league could have potentially tracked down the information in a number of ways—which is why the whole story was utterly ridiculous. Regardless, here is exactly why it wouldn’t matter if Tom Brady smashed his cellphone….

Once upon a time, it was hard to recover text messages without actually having the phone they were sent to. However, Google and Apple’s efforts to sync data across multiple devices has made text message retrieval significantly easier.

As Brady was on a Samsung during the “deflategate” scandal, he was most likely using an Android device. Not only do most modern Android devices use Google Hangouts as their primary text messaging app, Google makes the process of deleting those messages inconvenient and difficult. Android’s Hangouts has a setting to delete old text messages, but the feature only does so as disk space fills up. Unlike the iPhone, which can automatically delete messages that are older than a set period of time, Android gives the user no control over how long to preserve messages.

Roger Goodell is such a pathetic liar!

More News, links only

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Newsweek: Exclusive: Inside the Mysterious ‘Death’ of Taliban Leader Mullah Omar.

CNN is still obsessed with the missing plane story: Increasing confidence plane wreckage is from MH370, Australian official says.

Hillary Clinton.com: Letter to the New York Times’ Dean Baquet.

Washington Post: Clinton knocks Bush’s ‘Right to Rise’ pitch in National Urban League speech.

Get an adorable dog now: http://blackgermanshepherd.co/

The Hill: Sanders vows no third-party run in 2016.

New York Times: Jewish Arsonists Suspected in Arson Attack that Killed Palestinian Toddler.

Newsweek: Indiana Clears Planned Parenthood in Fetal Tissue Investigation.

KGNS TV: Primordial soup of compounds found on comet.

Treehugger: New wolf species discovered in Africa.

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a wonderful weekend! 


Evening News Reads: Freak Show and Violent Shootings

Good Evening

Warning, tonight’s post is a bit graphic.

There have been some violent, freakishly gory and strange events going on in North America lately. Is a full moon coming soon? I don’t know what else to say but just put the links out there.

In Seattle today, there were two shootings, and at the time of this post, 3 to 4 people are dead and the suspect may be in custody….or he may have shot himself.  This all happened near Washington University.

Police: Seattle cafe gunman may have shot self – CBS News

AFP: Seattle gunman shoots self after three killed in cafe

Woman dies in shooting outside Town Hall | Local News | The Seattle Times

I have many friends in Seattle, and one has a daughter that goes to WU… doesn’t it always make these violent mass shootings more worrisome when you know someone who lives where it happens.

In Indianapolis, another shooting has taken place:

Two dead, three wounded in Indianapolis shooting, police say | Reuters

A gunman killed one person and wounded three others at an apartment complex in Indianapolis on Wednesday, before turning the gun on himself, police said.

The shooter was hospitalized in critical condition but later died, according to interim Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Chief Rick Hite.

Police did not identify the victims or the gunman and said they could not comment on possible motives.

Then of course there is the Zombie attack in Miami, which just gets more disgusting and disturbing as the days go by. Earlier there was a photo which was allegedly a picture of the victim when he was brought to the ER. It was horrible and has since been taking of the Albany news site, but there are still copies of it on the web. Here is a link to the Village Voice that has the image still up on it’s blog…it is graphic.

New video shows more grisly details of face-eating attack in Miami – Miami-Dade – MiamiHerald.com

Rudy Eugene walked naked alongside the MacArthur Causeway before pouncing on a homeless man he found dozing in the shade of the elevated Metromover train tracks.

For almost 18 grisly minutes, Eugene savaged his victim, punching him and stripping the man’s pants before gnawing off the homeless man’s face — all as cars and cyclists rolled by on the busy causeway on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

The new details of the horrific attack were captured in additional video footage taken by security cameras at the nearby Miami Herald building.

18 minutes? Think about that…

Face-chewing victim face surgery, long recovery  | ajc.com

Police union officials representing the officer said the scene on the MacArthur Causeway was one of the goriest they had ever seen.

“He had his face eaten down to his goatee. The forehead was just bone. No nose, no mouth,” said Sgt. Armando Aguilar, president of the Miami Fraternal Order of Police.

Poppo has been in critical condition in recent days, but police didn’t give an update on his condition Wednesday.

And if this was all just too crazy, over in Canada there has been strange things going on too.

Check out this headline:

The Press Association: Porn star hunted over body parts

You read that right…

Canadian police hunt male porn star over posted hand, foot | The Australian

Canada Severed Foot

A police officer removes a package from the Conservative Party headquarters in Ottawa, Ontario, containing a severed human foot. Source: AP

POLICE have launched a hunt for a male porn star after a human hand was found in the mail at an Ottawa post office, and a decomposing foot was sent to Canada’s ruling Conservative Party.

A nationwide warrant has been issued for Luka Rocco Magnotta, 29, also known as Eric Clinton Newman and Vladimir Romanov.

Montreal police spokesman Ian Lafreniere told a press conference the suspect has no criminal record and asked the public’s help in tracking him down.

Police in Ottawa had previously disclosed that both packages were sent to Ottawa from Montreal.

The gruesome discoveries, described by Canadian Public Safety Minister Vic Toews as “very disturbing,” were made hours after a severed torso was also discovered by a janitor in Montreal early Tuesday in a suitcase in a pile of garbage.

Mr Lafreniere said the finds are thought to be linked after an investigation brought them to a Montreal apartment that is believed to be scene of the dismembering.

Luka Rocco Magnotta video allegedly shows suspect dismembering victim | News | National Post

Slaying suspect Luka Rocco Magnotta once dated Karla Homolka

This is all so crazy…

I will post updates to Seattle in the comments, and a few other strange news items that caught my eye.


Tuesday Reads: Cantor’s Conflict, Libertarian Cruelty, bin Laden’s DNA, and a Cold Case Solved

Good Morning!! I’ll take my coffee iced today, because it’s hotter than hell here in the Boston area. And about 110 percent humidity. OK, let’s get to the news.

The Washington Post has a laudatory profile of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and his refusal to negotiate on raising the Federal debt ceiling–without ever mentioning that Cantor stands to make lots of money if the U.S. defaults on its debts.

Last month, Cantor walked out of talks led by Vice President Biden. Cantor said the reason was Democrats’ insistence on raising taxes as part of a deal to increase the national debt ceiling.

Then, last week, Cantor urged House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) to reject a possible “grand bargain” with President Obama, which could have included tax increases. Boehner pulled Republicans out of those talks.

Now, as Cantor joins other leaders at the White House for near-daily summits in the third different grouping of negotiators, his moves have revealed him as a third major player in a legislative drama that had been dominated by Obama and Boehner. Where Boehner has sought to define what Republicans can do with their newfound power, Cantor, the House’s ambitious number-two, wants to underline what Republicans would never do.

So what is Cantor’s negotiating strategy?

On Monday, with a potential default less than a month away, Cantor was asked to identify compromises that Republicans had offered to help negotiations along.

He told reporters that the negotiation itself was a compromise.

“I don’t think the White House understands how difficult it is for fiscal conservatives to say they are going to vote for a debt-ceiling increase,” Cantor said.

Gee, it wasn’t all that hard to increase the debt ceiling again and again under Bush, now was it? But maybe in those days Cantor wasn’t betting against the U.S. in his financial investments. It’s very troubling that the Post didn’t mention Cantor’s humongous conflict of interest.

According to a new Washington Post-Pew poll, increasing numbers of Americans are “very concerned” about a U.S. default, but they are also “concerned” that raising the limit will lead to out-of-control spending.

The twin, divergent, concerns complicate the political calculus for the White House and congressional leaders as they attempt to strike an agreement. Nearly eight in 10 Americans are worried about raising the debt limit, and about three-quarters are concerned about not doing so.

Asked to choose, 42 percent see greater risk in a potential default stemming from not raising the debt limit, a seven-point increase from a Post-Pew poll six weeks ago. Slightly more, 47 percent, express deeper concern about lifting the limit, but the gap has narrowed.

Sixty-six percent of Republicans worry more about raising the debt limit than the U.S. defaulting on its debts. {sigh…}

Hipparchia has a wonderful post at Corrente that is an extended metaphor for libertarian attitudes about health care, specifically in reaction to the writings of a libertarian from the CATO Institute, Michael F. Cannon on the new Oregon health care plan. Here is the relevant quote from Cannon that set her off.

Michael F Cannon, of Cato@Liberty :

The OHIE establishes only that there are some (modest) benefits to expanding Medicaid (to poor people) (after one year). It tells us next to nothing about the costs of producing those benefits, which include not just the transfers from taxpayers but also any behavioral changes on the part of Medicaid enrollees, such as reductions in work effort or asset accumulation induced by this means-tested program. Nor does it tell us anything about the costs and benefits of alternative policies.

Reduction in work effort?? This would be really funny if Cannon weren’t so deadly serious. Providing health care to poor people means that more of them are just going to spend their days hanging out in parks, yakking on their cell phones , I guess. So, Libertarians are in favor of liberty for themselves and wage slavery for anybody else. Good to know.

Please go read the whole thing if you have time. It’s well worth the effort. We live in a world of selfish, greedy narcissistic fops. How can the country survive them?

Joseph Cannon has a short but pithy post on the media’s obsession with Casey Anthony being found not guilty. He then points out that the media has completely ignored the fact that

In 1995, when the Presidency was in the hands of the despised Bill Clinton, government regulators overseeing skullduggery on Wall Street referred 1,837 cases to the Justice Department for prosecution. That number has gone down. Between 2007 and 2010, the Justice Department has received just 72 referrals a year (on average).

Gosh. How can this be? I guess investment bankers are simply more honest than they used to be.

You won’t see this issue discussed on CNN. It’s not newsworthy.

I did not know that. Thank you Joseph Cannon. F&ck you CNN (and HLN and Nancy Grace).

Here’s an interesting story from The Guardian UK: CIA organised fake vaccination drive to get Osama bin Laden’s family DNA

As part of extensive preparations for the raid that killed Bin Laden in May, CIA agents recruited a senior Pakistani doctor to organise the vaccine drive in Abbottabad, even starting the “project” in a poorer part of town to make it look more authentic, according to Pakistani and US officials and local residents.

The doctor, Shakil Afridi, has since been arrested by the Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) for co-operating with American intelligence agents.

Relations between Washington and Islamabad, already severely strained by the Bin Laden operation, have deteriorated considerably since then. The doctor’s arrest has exacerbated these tensions. The US is understood to be concerned for the doctor’s safety, and is thought to have intervened on his behalf.

The vaccination plan was conceived after American intelligence officers tracked an al-Qaida courier, known as Abu Ahmad al-Kuwaiti, to what turned out to be Bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound last summer. The agency monitored the compound by satellite and surveillance from a local CIA safe house in Abbottabad, but wanted confirmation that Bin Laden was there before mounting a risky operation inside another country.

DNA from any of the Bin Laden children in the compound could be compared with a sample from his sister, who died in Boston in 2010, to provide evidence that the family was present.

Jeralyn at Talk Left has finally decided that Obama deserves to get a pink slip. Yes, I know, she should have known better. But please go read anyway.

I’m going to end with a story about a long ago murdered child and how the case has been solved–54 years later. Maria Ridulph disappeared in 1957 when she was 7 years old. Maria and her best friend Kathy were playing on the street one day.

Kathy Chapman, who was 8 at the time, recalled that she and Maria were under a corner streetlight when a young man she knew as “Johnny” offered them a piggyback ride. Chapman, now 61 and living in St. Charles, Ill., told the AP she ran home to get mittens and that when she returned, Maria and the man were gone.

Maria’s disappearance and death had a powerful effect on her small community.

Charles “Chuck” Ridulph always assumed the person who stole his little sister from the neighborhood corner where she played and dumped her body in a wooded stretch some 100 miles away was a trucker or passing stranger — surely not anyone from the hometown he remembers as one big, friendly playground.

And, after more than a half century passed since her death, he assumed the culprit also had died or was in prison for some other crime.

On Saturday, he said he was stunned by the news that a one-time neighbor had been charged in the kidnapping and killing that captured national attention, including that of the president and FBI chief. Prosecutors in bucolic Sycamore, a city of 15,000 that’s home to a yearly pumpkin festival, charged a former police officer Friday in the 1957 abduction of 7-year-old Maria Ridulph after an ex-girlfriend’s discovery of an unused train ticket blew a hole in his alibi.

Maria Ridulph

From the Seattle Times:

A judge in Seattle set bail Monday at $3 million for Jack Daniel McCullough, of Seattle, a former police officer who denies he is the man Illinois police have been seeking in the 1957 slaying of a young girl….

McCullough, 71, a former police officer in Milton and Lacey, has been living in North Seattle and working as a night watchman in a senior-housing facility, Four Freedoms.

McCullough, 18 at the time of the girl’s death, had been a suspect early in the investigation. He lived about a block from where the girl disappeared and matched the description of a man seen at the site.

At the time, police did not show Maria’s best friend Kathy a picture of their suspect. But last year, they showed her a picture of the teenaged McCullough (then using the last name Tessier) and she recognized him.

That’s all I’ve got for today. What are you reading and blogging about?