Sunday Reads: All of you. They all looked alike, just one face. And it was very young.

Good Morning

February is one of the best months on TCM…the title of this post is a line from the movie Twelve O’Clock High (1949).

It is the first scene after the real footage of bombing raids shot by both the US allies and German combat film during the war. One of the administrators is drunk, and talking about all the letters he has written to the families of the airmen who have died. There have been so many of them….

Major Harvey Stovall: That is not why I am drunk tonight. I got drunk because I am confused. I was thinking, which is a thing a man should not do, and all at once I couldn’t remember what any of them looked like. I, I couldn’t see their faces, Bishop, Cobb, Wilson, Zimmy, all of them. All of you. They all looked alike, just one face. And it was very young. It confused me. I think I shall stay drunk until I’m not confused anymore.

“And it was very young.” That one sentence made me cry….78b85ed95ea84893a3e8ec6d7d08c150

Last night, this film from 1949 about World War II, something that I have seen so many times before…I even own the DVD.  For some reason that one line hit me more this viewing than all the other times I have seen this movie.  Why?

I don’t know…It is strange. Well, my grandfather was a mechanic on those planes during the war, so I guess that is why I always was fond of that movie. There was a connection to it.

You can see some more color pictures here: World War II in Color: American Bombers and Their Crews, 1942 | LIFE.com

As a jumping off point for countless bombing runs, including many in broad daylight, the United States Army Air Forces (the predecessor of the U.S. Air Force) set up bases in England during the war. In 1942, LIFE’s Margaret Bourke-White spent time with the Bomber Command — an assignment that LIFE shared with its readers in an October 1942 feature notable, although hardly surprising, all these years later for its triumphant tone:

Photographer Margaret Bourke-White with the U.S. Bomber Command in England, 1942.

Photographer Margaret Bourke-White with the U.S. Bomber Command in England, 1942.

The most potent U.S. force to hit the Nazis so far in this war is the Bomber Command, stationed in England. Operating Flying Fortresses, it is making attacks on German-occupied Europe as frequently as weather and operating conditions permit. To date, all the raids have been tremendously successful. From 25,000 feet, it has given a superb exhibition of precision bombing by hitting German factories, airfields, ships and oil refineries on the nose. In two months of operations, it has shot down more than 100 German fighters, lost less than six of its own bombers.

[NOTE: As the war dragged on, the bombers and their crews out of England would, inevitably, face steeper and more dramatic losses. On October 14, 1943, for example — “Black Thursday” — nearly 600 crew members and 60 Flying Fortresses were lost in a single raid against a ball-bearing factory in Schweinfurt, Germany.]

To photograph Bomber Command, LIFE sent photographer Margaret Bourke-White to the headquarters of Brigadier general Ira. C. Eaker, commander in chief of Bomber Command, and to one of the secret airfields from which the Flying Fortresses operate…. Miss Bourke-White’s pictures arrived in the U.S. just when the Bomber Command was making its biggest sorties.  Flying Fortresses roared out over the Channel and attacked German industries in the Lille region. Another group of six Fortresses a few days before dropped 600-lb. bombs directly on the German airfield at St. Omer, France. On the way home they were attached by 35 crack Nazi pursuits. When the brief fight was over, at least 13 Germans were plunging earthward and the six Fortresses were sailing on. Another time a Fortress came back to England with one motor shot away, one disabled, a third missing badly, and with 12 cannon holes and 2,000 machine-gun holes in the fuselage. Still other squadrons of Fortresses scored better than 70 percent hits in their first two weeks of bombing operations over Europe. “Fantastic accuracy,” said the British.

Bomber Command was ready. It was confident that although still small, it would grow and grow, and as it grew, the intensity and terribleness of the attack on Germany would grow with it, until the skies of Europe would be blacked and its earth furrowed with American bombs.

ae702404db74e34e7802d146375025f7 Fasten your seatbelts! by Walter BaumhoferAlright, now for this morning’s links:

Celebrity fight between rapper DMX, George Zimmerman called off | Reuters

The celebrity boxing match between rapper DMX and acquitted Florida killer George Zimmerman has been called off, its promoter said on Saturday after threats were made against him.

I figured it was more along those lines, and not the crap about “money not being everything.”

Looks like the US is not the only country getting hit by major snow storms: At least seven dead, 1,000 injured as heavy snow hits Japan

The heaviest snow in two decades has struck Tokyo and other areas across Japan, leaving at least seven people dead and more than 1,000 injured.

Up to 27 centimetres of snow was recorded in Tokyo by late Saturday, the heaviest fall in the capital for 45 years, according to meteorologists.

The storm hit Tokyo on the eve of its gubernatorial election. Observers say the heavy snowfall may affect voter turnout in the city of 13 million people.

tumblr_mjv6a44M6k1s4c1kfo2_r1_500On the new-earth front…check it out…Scientists find 800,000-year-old footprints in UK

They were a British family on a day out — almost a million years ago.

Archaeologists announced Friday that they have discovered human footprints in England that are between 800,000 and 1 million years old — the most ancient found outside Africa, and the earliest evidence of human life in northern Europe.

[…]

British Museum archaeologist Nick Ashton said the discovery — recounted in detail in the journal PLOS ONE — was “a tangible link to our earliest human relatives.”

Preserved in layers of silt and sand for hundreds of millennia before being exposed by the tide last year, the prints give a vivid glimpse of some of our most ancient ancestors. They were left by a group, including at least two children and one adult male. They could have been be a family foraging on the banks of a river scientists think may be the ancient Thames, beside grasslands where bison, mammoth, hippos and rhinoceros roamed.

Lots more at the link. Pictures here: 800,000-Year-Old Human Footprints Found In England, Extinct Hominid Species Was ‘Fully Bipedal’ [PHOTO]

prints

tumblr_mntl580kDP1s4c1kfo2_r1_500In Tampa Florida, specifically West Tampa, a little scheme is being put together. The mayor is working to rid the area of the “projects” and “relocate” the residents….I don’t know, when I saw this in the news it made me laugh in a sarcastic way. Tampa officials unveil draft plan to redevelop area west of Hillsborough River | Tampa Bay Times

“This is big,” Buckhorn said of the transformation envisioned for 120 acres west of the river and north of Interstate 275. “This is bodacious. This is exciting. This will be a game-changer.”

The proposed “West River” plan would start with demolishing the World War II-era public housing at North Boulevard Homes. The imposing concrete-block apartments would be replaced by a more traditional neighborhood with walkable streets.

A total of 820 apartments would be bulldozed, making way for more than 1,600 new townhomes and apartments. The new housing would include both subsidized housing and units that sell or rent for market rates. With more working- and middle-class residents, businesses on Main Street should see more customers, officials say.

e32714ccc0cf5dbc79bfd7d3b7c66e23“Market rates?”  The thing that gets me is that there is very little outrage over this proposed “bodacious” project.  Not that new homes is something way overdue, but the idea that the people living there are going to be kicked out…with no real guarantee of a place to live, that is worrisome.

But all this is too premature. There is no “funding” yet, so no big deal right now…

The rest of the links in quick fashion:

Charlie Chaplin’s only novel to be released

A virtually unknown novel by Charlie Chaplin — the only book the silent film comic ever wrote — is being made public for the first time.

“Footlights”, which will be unveiled in London later Tuesday, was written by Chaplin in 1948 and later transformed into his film “Limelight”, in which a washed-out clown saves a dancer from suicide.

The book is being published in English by the Cineteca di Bologna, an Italian film restoration institute which has been working with Chaplin biographer David Robinson on reconstructing drafts found in the Chaplin archives.

[…]

a79a5ec49845f4080726eee2d6391aedAccording to Robinson, the relationship between drunken clown and desperate ballerina in the much later “Footlights” was likely inspired by his meeting with legendary Russian dancer Vaslav Nijinsky in 1916.

The Cinetaca describes Chaplin’s “vivid, idiosyncratic” writing style which, “unadulterated by editors, moves freely from the baldly colloquial to moments of rich imagery and Dickensian description.

“For a setting, he looked back to London and the music halls of his first professional years, an enchanted period in which he had broken out of the deprivations of his childhood to discover, progressively, his unique gifts as entertainer and communicator,” the institute said in a statement.

“But this retrospect also recalled the painful insecurity of an uneducated, uncultured boy launched into the world of success”, and the clown’s expressions of despair at losing the world’s respect and admiration likely reflected Chaplin’s own feelings as his popularity dwindled.

283384f73086b642a1b508ccaef39ed5The book can be found here: Libri, DVD & Gadgets – Cinestore

The New York Times says the book will also be available at amazon.com.

Did y’all see the Pussy Riot interview with Colbert? Pussy Riot Gives the Funniest, Best Colbert Report Interview Ever | Mediaite

It really was a great interview, and funny that after it got so much press this happened:  Pussy Riot members announce split with freed duo

Members of Pussy Riot’s collective published a letter Wednesday in which they distanced themselves from Nadezhda “Nadya” Tolokonnikova and Maria “Masha” Alekhina and said “they are no longer Pussy Riot.”

“It is no secret that Masha and Nadia are no longer members of the group,” six anonymous members of the group wrote on their blog, “and they will no longer take part in radical actionism.”

They said they said they were “very pleased” with Tolokonnikova’s and Alekhina’s release from prison, and proud of their resistance against the ordeals they suffered, but said the collective could not support the inclusion of “institutionalized defenders of prisoners’ rights.”

7f9fe9822578e05057b7f2b73b58bf22Yup, the two women who were imprisoned for the band, got kicked out of the band.

“Yes, we have lost two friends, two ideological teammates, but the world has acquired two brave human rights defenders — fighters for the rights of Russian prisoners.”

Wow. That was a shitty way to tell the two to go chase themselves…personally I think Masha and Nadia should have told the group “Let’s blouse!” a lot earlier. 59 Quick Slang Phrases From The 1920s We Should Start Using Again | Thought Catalog

“Go chase yourself!”: “Get out of here!”

“Let’s blouse!”: “Let’s blow this popsicle stand!”

And now a few geeky links:

Scientists create bone-like material that is lighter than water but as strong as steel

Here’s How Many LEGO Bricks It Would Take to Build 17 Famous Movie Houses

4e25d0e368cd0247624b2d93f4685864Norse Rune code cracked

A scholar of the University of Oslo has cracked one of the rune codes used by the Vikings, revealing they were sending each other messages such as ‘Kiss me’.

For those of you who liked Breaking Bad: Starz Green-Lights Gritty Ballet Drama — Vulture

Starz has officially green-lighted its gritty ballet drama Flesh and Bone, the network announced today. The show, created by Breaking Bad‘s Moira Walley-Beckett, follows Claire, a gifted young ballet dancer with a dark, self-destructive past who is a new member of a rigorous New York ballet company.

This caught my eye, you should get a kick out of it: 12 Ridiculous Anti-Woman Myths From The Dark Ages That Conservatives STILL Believe

Have you ever been reading or watching a report about a conservative man who said something so incredibly backwards  that you swore he was living in the Dark Ages? Well, you’re not so very far from wrong. 5f7c886b5e09136b8546194c0a9e74deThe Dark Ages were dark partly because education was discouraged and science was suspect, leading to some astoundingly silly things being taken for fact. Like, for example, that the heart was the seat of intelligence. Or that frogs spontaneously generated from mud. As fun as those sort of ideas are to explore, this article will be dealing with beliefs about that strange and inscrutable being: Woman.

Finally, if you are into the Schadenfreude, you can get a few thrills tonight during the figure skating events on the Olympics.  Or…you can just take a look here a few falls…watch them go sailing right out there: The 9 Most Epic Olympic Figure Skating Wipeouts Ever

Y’all have a good day, and share what you are reading about today.

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Thursday Reads: Snow, Sochi, and Snowden

Harvard Square in Winter, Barbara Westman, 1970

Good Morning!!

I was hoping yesterday’s storm would be a bust like the last one, but no such luck. We got more than a foot of snow yesterday, and a couple more fell after I got myself dug out. I shoveled the front steps and the walk myself, but I broke down and paid to get the driveway cleared. This morning all my joints ache–show shoveling is hard work, as George W. Bush would say.

There is more winter weather on the way for much of the country, but it’s not yet clear how bad it will be. According to the Weather Channel,

It is still much too early to forecast specific snow amounts in any given location….

This snow event kicks off Thursday and Friday in the West, with significant snow possible Thursday into Friday in parts of the Cascades, Sierra, Mogollon Rim and Rockies.

Beginning late Friday, continuing into Saturday a strip of snow, sleet and freezing rain may develop farther east into parts of the Mississippi Valley, Ohio Valley and East….For now, Saturday’s snow appears to be a light to moderate event for parts of the East Coast, from the Middle Atlantic into the Ohio Valley, Mississippi Valley and Great Lakes.

Sunday, as the main upper-level southward dip in the jet stream, or trough, swings eastward, more snow may pivot through the Northeast and persist in some areas through Monday.

A little vague, but it doesn’t sound too bad. Cold weather is moving through South again, so I hope all of you stay safe and warm down there and that those Republican governors get a clue about storm preparedness and snow removal.

As the Sochi Winter Olympic games approach, you have to wonder why anyone thought it was a good idea to hold an international athletic event in Russia. Never mind the games, just surviving is going to be an achievement for anyone who attends. Apparently the hotel rooms for attendees are ghastly, and have you seen the tiny beds the athletes will be sleeping in? From Time: Tiny Beds and No WiFi: Welcome to Sochi!

While Olympic athletes got stuck with toy-sized beds and bizarre communal toilets in Sochi, at least their rooms were finished in time for their arrival. Meanwhile, journalists from around the globe have been complaining about everything from dirty water to no internet in their rooms.

On Monday, Sochi organizers tried to downplay the severity of the delays, claiming that 97 percent of the rooms were finished and that 3 percent needed a final cleaning, according to the Guardian. They added that the constructions delays would not affect athlete lodging. However, as one reporter Stephen Whyno pointed out, the Canadian Men’s Hockey team is unlikely to be impressed with their Soviet-style hotel rooms. Nor are athletes likely to enjoy getting to know each other on a whole new level in one of the communal bathrooms at the Olympic Biathlon Centre.

One of rooms Canada men's hockey team will stay in

One of rooms Canada men’s hockey team will stay in

More creepy photos at the link.

Journalists in Sochi who were horrified by Edward Snowden’s leaks about NSA spying are learning what life in a real police state is all about. From Digital Trends: Russia’s wiretapping ‘SORM boxes’ in Sochi make the NSA look like saints.

You thought the NSA was bad? Meet the System of Operative-Investigative Measures (SORM), from Russia. As athletes, spectators and journalists descend on Sochi for the 2014 Winter Olympics this week, the Russian government and their Federal Security Service (FSB) want to know exactly what everyone is saying. If you’re making fun of Putin’s hair, they want to read the text. And “SORM boxes” make it possible.

According to a group of Russian journalists that have been monitoring the events leading up to the spectacle, the FSB has required communication companies in Russia to install SORM boxes that intercept all data passing through the network – and give the FSB access to that data.

Here’s the bizarre part: While the FSB needs a warrant to access the boxes, no one except FSB administrators of FSB ever have to see it. Theoretically, no one but the FSB knows what warrants have been obtained in connection to wire taps that have been executed. This contrasts what happens in the United States, where, under the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), agencies have to show their warrant to the communication company and ask for certain data from them.

SORM has been around since the 80s, meaning it found its beginnings during the Cold War. Back then all they had to do was listen to phone calls, but now the system can monitor all kinds of communication, from emails to texts. This system is in use across Russia, but they’re paying special attention to the Winter Olympics.

Men's toilets in Sochi

Men’s toilets in Sochi

Funny, I haven’t seen any articles about this by Glenn Greenwald et al., have you? I wonder if Edward Snowden is registering objections?

From ABC News, The Other Sochi Threat: Russian Spies, Mobsters Hacking Your Smartphones.

Russian law allows its intelligence agents to do electronic snooping on anyone inside the country, meaning the phones and personal computers of thousands of foreign visitors, including Americans, are fair game. But even outside of the law, Russian organized crime groups also are well known for hacking smartphones and email for information they use for illicit profit.

“It’s the same as during the Beijing Games — the host government, private enterprise and individuals pose a big threat to people traveling to the Sochi Games, in respect to monitoring conversations on cell phones and intercepting texts and emails,” one Olympic security contractor told ABC News last week.

“It should certainly be expected,” agreed a senior U.S. intelligence official, who told ABC News that the influx of tens of thousands of American spectators and dignitaries will be “an intelligence bonanza” for both Russian spies and organized crime groups.

And there’s the problem of getting there, according to Bloomberg News: U.S. Said to Warn Airlines of Bomb Material in Toothpaste.

Air carriers flying to Winter Olympics host Russia were warned today to watch for toothpaste tubes containing materials that could be turned into a bomb, a U.S. law enforcement official said.

The official declined to elaborate on the intelligence that sparked the warning, which was sent to U.S. and foreign airlines, just two days before the start of the 2014 games in Sochi, Russia.

Security at Sochi is tight in response to threats of terror strikes by Islamic militants. The Black Sea city is just a few hundred miles from the North Caucasus region, where Russia has been battling Islamic extremists.

Finally, there’s the matter of the Chobani Greek yogurt shipment. From the NYT: Russia Blocks Yogurt Bound for U.S. Athletes.

Frankly, I’m glad to be staying here in the good ol’ “tyrannical” USA.

Speaking of NSA, they finally seem to be fighting back against all the bad press they’ve been getting. Of course no U.S. journalist reported this, but the BBC posted an article about the 300 people whose job it is to make sure NSA analysts don’t abuse their positions and the man who supervises them.

Officials claim there are multiple levels of accountability and oversight including a new civil liberties and privacy officer within the NSA appointed this week. But one person who has been trying to ensure the system is not abused for a number of years is John DeLong.

After working in the NSA and department of Homeland Security – and a break to study at Harvard Law School – he became the director for compliance at the agency in 2009, running a team of 300 people….

“Rather than characterising it as people with clipboards looking over folks, a rules coach may be the best way of thinking of it,” he tells the BBC in a telephone interview.

“What we focus on in compliance is the very specific consistency each and every second of each and every day with the very specific rules that regulate our activity.”

This includes training, developing systems to look over people’s work and making sure new staff who join are briefed and understand their obligations – including when to ask questions when they see something they think might be wrong.

Compliance is built on a mix of human and automated safeguards, Mr DeLong says.

There’s much more at the link.

The Wall Street Journal interviewed former NSA head Mike McConnell, who is now CEO of Edward Snowden’s former employer Booz-Allen Hamilton. According to McConnell,

“Snowden has compromised more capability than any spy in U.S. history. And this will have impact on our ability to do our mission for the next 20 to 30 years,” said Mr. McConnell. He served as U.S. director of national intelligence from 2007 to 2009 and was NSA director from 1992 to 1996….

The broad details for how Mr. Snowden was hired have been made public, but Mr. McConnell talked candidly about how the former employee came to work for the NSA and for Booz Allen, including where both the agency and the company made their mistakes in the vetting process. Since unveiling the top-secret information in the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper last June, Mr. Snowden has been heralded as a free-speech hero by some and decried by others as a high-risk traitor.

Mr. Snowden was a security guard with the NSA, moved into its information-technology department and was sent overseas, Mr. McConnell said. He then left the agency, joined another company and moved to Japan. But Mr. Snowden wanted back in with the NSA. He then broke into the agency’s system and stole the admittance test with the answers, Mr. McConnell said. Mr. Snowden took the test and aced it, Mr. McConnell said. “He walked in and said you should hire me because I scored high on the test.”

The NSA then offered Mr. Snowden a position but he said didn’t think the level—called GS-13—was high enough and asked for a higher-ranking job. The NSA refused. In early 2013, Booz Allen hired Mr. Snowden.

“He targeted my company because we enjoy more access than other companies,” Mr. McConnell said. “Because of the nature of the work we do…he targeted us for that purpose.”

(Emphasis added) Anyone who still believes that that Snowden hack wasn’t carefully planned is living in fantasy land. Maybe I’m just old-fashioned, but for me stealing the answers to the test is a bridge too far. I thought Snowden was supposed to be a genius, but I’m beginning to wonder.

McConnell also noted that at Booz-Allen, Snowden had access to around a million documents that provided “no kidding insights to understanding U.S. intelligence services.”

David Ignatius, who has lots of sources in the intelligence community wrote in The Washington Post yesterday that one result of Snowden’s leaks could be an internet that is far less free. Russia and China have long resented U.S. control over the internet and want to set their own limits on internet usage; and Europeans who are angry at US spying may stop doing business with U.S. tech companies and develop their own “NSA-proof data storage.”

Edward Snowden’s supporters have portrayed him as the champion of Internet freedom. But when senior European and U.S. experts privately discuss the future of cyberspace, their fear is that the Internet may be closing, post-Snowden, rather than opening. “We may be the last generation to take joy from the Internet,” because of new boundaries and protectionism, as one American glumly put it.

Privacy advocates would argue that any dangers ahead are the fault of the pervasive surveillance systems of the National Security Agency, rather than Snowden’s revelation of them. I’ll leave that chicken-and-egg puzzle for historians. But it begs the question of how to prevent the anti-NSA backlash from shattering the relatively free and open Internet that has transformed the world — and which the NSA (and other security services) exploited. Unfortunately, the cure here could be worse than the disease, in terms of reduced access, cybersecurity and even privacy.

Read it and weep. Could this have been the purpose of the Snowden Operation all along? Did Russia collude with Wikileaks to dupe Snowden into stealing all those documents? After all Wikileaks clearly steered Snowden to Russia and told him he would be safer there than anywhere else.

I need to wrap this up, but I’ll put a few more links in the comment thread. I hope you’ll do the same. I’m looking forward to seeing what your finding out there on the still-free internet.


Wednesday Reads: Womens Rights, LGBT Rights and Human Rights

a09059c71030e5d95798e3d8d0217c94Good Morning

Wow that is some title for a morning post…

I guess we should just get down to it.

There’s still a lot of questions on what actions the US will take (if any) in Russia’s promise to enforce its anti-LGBT “propaganda” laws during the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games. Yesterday, the big soccer association behind World Cup got involved. Russia is hosting the 2018 World Cup and FIFA has a strict no discrimination policy: FIFA asks Russia to explain anti-gay law

FIFA says it has asked 2018 World Cup host Russia for “clarification and more details” about a new anti-gay law.

The legislation prohibiting “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations among minors” prompted an international furor and the IOC already is seeking answers about how Russia will enforce it during the Sochi Winter Olympics next February.

FIFA says in a statement that “Russia has committed to provide all visitors and fans with a warm welcome and ensure their safety” during its monthlong marquee tournament. Football’s governing body added that it “trusts that the 2018 FIFA World Cup hosts will deliver on this promise.”

FIFA says its statutes foresee “zero tolerance against discrimination.”

I won’t praise FIFA for the query…seeing as their “zero” tolerance is a mere few months old…and comes after so many questionable actions of their own. Mostly however regarding the discrimination of women, but that is another story.

You can read about that stuff here:

Soccer: FIFA clears space for female executives — A females-only seat has been created on FIFA’s executive committee after the organisation last year co-opted a woman into its ExCo for the first time in over a century.

Women’s Soccer World Cup: Controversy Off the Field

James Dorsey: FIFA Anti-Racism Campaign Has Work Cut Out for It in the Middle East

FIFA: Activists to Converge in Frankfurt on ‘Day Against Discrimination’ | The New Civil Rights Movement

FIFA must no longer stand idle to human rights abuses in World Football

The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer: French women groups protest FIFA decision to endorse hijab

Lack of understanding might explain UEFA’s record on racism | World Soccer

But back to the anti-gay crap over in Russia… would you believe that even the conservative mouthpiece over at WaPo, Jennifer Rubin, has something to say about supporting Human Rights, and by a round about way…gay rights…check it out: Support human rights, punish Sochi sponsors

I’m a bit of an Olympics grouch. Maybe it was holding games in repressive, pollution-laden communist China. Maybe it was the refusal to designate a moment of silence commemorating the murder of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich games. Or maybe it is the anti-nationalistic blather voiced about games in which every athlete wears his country’s uniform and each nation’s medal haul is calculated by the hour. But Sochi, Russia, really is the last straw.

I agree with Minky Worden of Human Rights Watch. She explains that host countries are supposed to comply with the “Fundamental Principles of Olympism,” which include respect for human rights and freedom of the press:

Starting in 2008, Human Rights Watch has documented myriad Russian abuses associated with preparation for the Olympics. These include government harassment and intimidation of activists and journalists, abuses of migrant workers from the former Soviet bloc who are building all the major Olympic venues (including the media center) and forced evictions of some families without compensation. Some migrant workers who tried to complain have been detained.

Over the past year, Russia has also introduced repressive laws targeting certain nonprofit organizations as “foreign agents.” With raids, threats and intimidation, the crackdown has been the most severe of its kind in the post-Soviet era. Central to this campaign is a new law targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. All these efforts are at odds with the Olympic ideal, as expressed in its charter, of “promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.” Russian authorities are apparently counting on the I.O.C. to keep quiet again.

And then there are the rigged elections, corrupt government, imprisonment of political opponents and — let’s not forget — invasion and occupation of 20 percent of Georgia.

The International Olympic Committee is hopeless, and Vladimir Putin is indifferent to public criticism, but sponsors are another matter altogether. Worden is most upset about gay rights (“Unless sponsors and franchise-holders like NBC, Coca-Cola, G.E., McDonalds and Visa want to risk being associated with an officially homophobic Olympics, they must find their voices — before the next I.O.C. head is anointed.”) But there are many reasons not to patronize the Olympics or patronize those companies getting blood money for the mockery of the Olympic spirit.

Yeah, I went ahead and quoted the whole post…it was a short one but I wanted to make sure you saw all of Rubin’s op/ed. Dang…doesn’t this go against everything a Jennifer Rubin should believe in? Looks like she is calling for the kind of boycott uprising ala Stop Rush.

Actually, I am being a bitch there…and should be thrilled that someone like Rubin is supportive of what is right…for a change.

I also think the IOC is going to pull a Sgt.Schultz on the entire mess…”I see nothing, I hear nothing.”  I mean, for an organization that would throw out wrestling and baseball and consider pole dancing as a sanctioned Olympic sport, what else would you expect?  As Worden states above:

…the Olympic ideal, as expressed in its charter, of “promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.”

Yeah…nothing says “human dignity” more than a woman dressed in skimpy clothing doing a “Spatchcock’ on a stripper pole. (You read that right…spatch…cock.)

[image]
IPSFLiza Szabo tries a ‘Spatchcock’ at the World Pole Sports Championships.

I’ve got another op/ed for you, this one is from Kathleen Parker and it is about Human Rights…are Womens Rights: Parker: ‘Human rights are women’s rights’

Three years out and you’d think the deed was done: Madame President Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton.

She’s everywhere these days because: (a) It’s August; (b) Reporters are bored with President Obama; (c) Reporters are bored with Joe Biden; (d) Clintons are never boring.

Correct.

Op-ed columns are filled with advice about what Hillary needs to do. She needs a narrative. A message. It can’t be that she’s a Clinton or a woman. It has to be …

What?

Here’s a thought: She can save the world.

Shit…we know that already. I just wish assholes like Anthony Weiner would shut the fuck up: Hillary Clinton’s Team Reacts To Anthony Weiner’s Remarks On Huma Abedin’s Role In Potential 2016 Bid

Did you hear what the Twitterdick said at a press conference?

A spokesman for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has thrown cold water on comments New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner made about her potential 2016 campaign.

In a BuzzFeed Brews interview on Monday, Weiner (D) said he knows what wife Huma Abedin’s role in Hillary Clinton’s potential 2016 presidential bid will be.

“I do,” Weiner said when asked if he knew how Abedin, an aide to Clinton since the Former First Lady’s White House days, would factor into a 2016 presidential run. “I’m not telling you.”

Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill denied having any idea what Weiner could have been referencing, Politico reports.

“We have absolutely no clue what he was talking about,” Merrill said, according to Politico. “Maybe his campaign does. Doubt it though.”

Weiner said Monday he believed his multiple sexting controversies have hurt Abedin, who spoke out in defense of her husband during a July 23 conference.

“I feel that what I have done has hurt her, yeah,” Weiner said. “It’s hurt her professionally, it’s hurt her personally.”

No shit Sherlock. Ugh. This guy pisses me off, disgust me, and makes me want to puke.

But if you want to feel better go up and read that Parker link, it is nothing new to us, but it is nice to see it said in print in other media outlets.

Just a few more links…in link dump fashion:

Gunman killed, hostages wounded as police storm Louisiana bank | Reuters

A police SWAT team stormed a rural Louisiana bank early on Wednesday, killing a gunman after he shot and critically injured two hostages, in a dramatic end to a 12-hour standoff.

State Police spokesman Albert Paxton said officers entered the bank building in the small town of St. Joseph shortly after midnight because the gunman was threatening to kill one or both of the hostages he was holding.

The man, identified as 20-year-old Fuaed Abdo Ahmed, the California-born son of Yemeni parents, shot both hostages when police entered the building. Police then shot and killed him, Paxton said.

“He was angry and he wanted to kill hostages,” Paxton said of the gunman, who initially took three bank employees hostage but released one woman after several hours.

Paxton said Ahmed was mentally ill and had complained of hearing voices. The gunman’s family owned a convenience store in the town, officials said.

The wounded hostages, previously identified as one woman and one man, were taken to local hospitals. Their names were not released.

New Jersey Senate Election: Cory Booker Wins Democratic Primary (UPDATE)

New Jersey voters took a step closer to choosing a new United States senator Tuesday, picking Democrat Cory Booker and Republican Steve Lonegan to face off in an October special election.

Tuesday’s vote capped a frantic two-month scramble for votes consistently led by Booker, the popular Newark mayor, and Lonegan, a former Bogota mayor with ties to the Koch brothers. Booker easily defeated Rep. Frank Pallone, Rep. Rush Holt, and state Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver. Lonegan beat physician Alieta Eck.

Booker captured 18 of the state’s 21 counties in his landslide win. Pallone, the second-place Democrat, easily won his home county of Monmouth, but lost to Booker in Middlesex County, which he has long represented in Congress. Holt, the third-place finisher, captured his home county of Mercer and also won in Hunterdon County, which he has represented in Congress.

Well, the last story sounds more like a creature feature to me: Team of scientists create cloned glow-in-the-dark rabbits

Scientists have cloned a colony of rabbits that glow bright green in the dark, in an attempt to advance research into treatments for life-threatening illnesses.

Scientists have produced a litter of fluorescent green rabbits

Researchers based in Hawaii and Turkey produced a litter of eight rabbits, two of which glow green in the dark.

Dr. Stefan Moisyadi, a biogenesis researcher, said the rabbits are like “an LED light”, during an interview with Khon2. “And on top of it, their fur is beginning to grow and the greenness is shining right through their fur. It’s so intense,” he added.

The florescent colouring is used to indicate that the genetic material injected into the embryos is incorporated into the rabbits’ natural make up.

‘It’s just a marker to show that we can take a gene that was not originally in the animal and now exists in the animal,’ Dr Moisyadi explained.

Dr Moisyadi said the animals are not affected by the fluorescent protein and will have the same life span as other rabbits. “The green is only a marker to show that’s it’s working easily,” he said.

Video at the link and a description of how the scientist made the little green buggers.

I hope that these stories were not repeats, I haven’t been able to read much of anything the last day or so. We had a dishwasher blowout at my house Tuesday around 3 am…I went down to the kitchen to get an ice cream sandwich and stepped into a puddle in front of the refrigerator. I’m not talking a little puddle either, I’m talking a Singing in the Rain puddle.

Oh, it was a mess. And it went down into the basement too. Yesterday was also the day I had promised to make the Sicilian pizza for the family.  So there was the dishwasher disaster combined with the big swelling lumps of dough, rising for the crust…looking like my Nana’s huge eggplant shaped breast nestled inside the glass Pyrex pans and bursting out of the saran wrap. Hot and sweaty and cooking up something good. What fun. All we needed was a pole and I could have given my best try at a Spatchcock. Oh well, you can’t have everything.

That is all I got for you, now what do you have for us this morning? Share your thoughts below!


Thursday Reads

reading-in-the-garden Nikolay Bodanov Belsky

Good Morning!!

Yesterday, the White House announced that President Obama will not meet one-on-one with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 meeting in St. Petersburg as previously planned. From The Washington Post:

President Obama has canceled a meeting with Russian Prime Minister Vladi­mir Putin. Russia’s decision to give temporary asylum to former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden has exacerbated tensions with the United States over a number of issues:

“Following a careful review begun in July, we have reached the conclusion that there is not enough recent progress in our bilateral agenda with Russia to hold a U.S.-Russia Summit in early September,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement.

Carney cited a “lack of progress” with Russia over the past 12 months on a broad range of issues including missile defense and arms control, trade and commercial relations, global security and human rights and civil society issues. Carney added that Russia’s “disappointing decision” last week to grant Snowden temporary asylum, allowing him to live and work in Russia for up to a year, was also a factor.

President Obama discussed some of his issues with Russia in an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on Tuesday night.

Saying that he had “no patience for countries that try to treat gays or lesbians or transgender persons in ways that intimidate them or are harmful to them,” Obama criticized a law, enacted in June, that prohibits public events promoting gay rights and public displays of affection by same-sex couples. A Russian official has promised that the law will be enforced during next February’s Sochi Games despite the International Olympic Committee’s contrary stance.

After the announcement, Russian-American journalist Julia Iofee wrote at The New Republic: Obama Bails on His Inevitably Awkward Date With Putin

A week after Edward Snowden was granted temporary asylum in Russia, President Obama canceled his bi-lateral September summit in Moscow with Vladimir Putin, though administration officials are at pains to portray this as something greater than pure tit-for-tattery. Rather, they say, it was an excuse to avoid what, even without Snowden, would have been “a pretty dreary affair.”

A few days before Snowden turned up in Moscow, Obama and Putin met on the sidelines of the G8 conference in Northern Ireland. The resulting photo-op—Obama looking forlornly into the distance, Putin slouched and sullen—said it all: they looked like the aging couple at the neighboring table, intently working on their food and eavesdropping on your conversation because they had nothing to support one of their own. Moscow and Washington had talked and talked, they’d gotten START and the transport route to Afghanistan and the sanctions on Iran, but now, the kids are out of the house and they were talking past each other on Syria, on Iran, on pretty much everything.

Lawrence O’Donnell asked Ioffe to appear on his MSNBC show last night to discuss the issues surrounding the decision; but instead of allowing her to express her opinions, O’Donnell interrupted Ioffe, lectured her about Russia and Putin, basically implying she is a liar. Ioffe responded at TNR:

Tonight, I went on Lawrence O’Donnell’s show, and Lawrence O’Donnell yelled at me. Or, rather, he O’Reilly’d at me. That O’Donnell interrupted and harangued and mansplained and was generally an angry grandpa at me is not what I take issue with, however. What bothers me is that, look: your producers take the time to find experts to come on the show, answer your questions, and, hopefully, clarify the issue at hand.

I was invited on the show to talk about Obama’s (very wise) decision to cancel his Moscow summit with Putin, about which I wrote here. I am an expert on Russia. In fact, it is how you introduced me: “Previously, she was a Moscow-based correspondent for Foreign Policy and The New Yorker.” I’m not going to toot my own horn here, but I was there for three years, I’m a fluent, native speaker of Russian, and, god damn it, I know my shit.

Which is why I wish you’d let me finish answering your bullshit question…

You can watch the interaction at MSNBC and read the things she would have liked to say about Putin at TNR. Basically Ioffe tried to explain the Putin doesn’t control everything that happens in Russia anymore than Obama controls everything that happens in the US. She believes that once the Bolivian plane was forced to land because the US suspected Snowden might be on board, Putin really had no choice but to allow Snowden to stay in Russia, because public opinion there strongly supported him.

I have quoted Ioffe in previous posts, and she certainly is no Putin apologist–as she asserts in her piece. I think O’Donnell treated her shamefully.

In other NSA news, mainstream reporters continue to published far more stunning revelations than anything that has come from Snowden and Greenwald. This morning at The New York Times, Charlie Savage writes about surveillance of e-mails between people in the US and foreign countries without warrants, which is being justified by an interpretation of the 2008 FISA Amendments Act.

The National Security Agency is searching the contents of vast amounts of Americans’ e-mail and text communications into and out of the country, hunting for people who mention information about foreigners under surveillance, according to intelligence officials.

The N.S.A. is not just intercepting the communications of Americans who are in direct contact with foreigners targeted overseas, a practice that government officials have openly acknowledged. It is also casting a far wider net for people who cite information linked to those foreigners, like a little used e-mail address, according to a senior intelligence official.

While it has long been known that the agency conducts extensive computer searches of data it vacuums up overseas, that it is systematically searching — without warrants — through the contents of Americans’ communications that cross the border reveals more about the scale of its secret operations….

Government officials say the cross-border surveillance was authorized by a 2008 law, the FISA Amendments Act, in which Congress approved eavesdropping on domestic soil without warrants as long as the “target” was a noncitizen abroad. Voice communications are not included in that surveillance, the senior official said.

Read more at the NYT link.

And at Reuters, John Shiffman and David Ingram report that a DEA program that appears to use NSA data to target ordinary criminals in the and then require DEA officers to conceal the source of the information was also used by the IRS.

Details of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration program that feeds tips to federal agents and then instructs them to alter the investigative trail were published in a manual used by agents of the Internal Revenue Service for two years.

The practice of recreating the investigative trail, highly criticized by former prosecutors and defense lawyers after Reuters reported it this week, is now under review by the Justice Department. Two high-profile Republicans have also raised questions about the procedure.

A 350-word entry in the Internal Revenue Manual instructed agents of the U.S. tax agency to omit any reference to tips supplied by the DEA’s Special Operations Division, especially from affidavits, court proceedings or investigative files. The entry was published and posted online in 2005 and 2006, and was removed in early 2007. The IRS is among two dozen arms of the government working with the Special Operations Division, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency.

An IRS spokesman had no comment on the entry or on why it was removed from the manual. Reuters recovered the previous editions from the archives of the Westlaw legal database, which is owned by Thomson Reuters Corp, the parent of this news agency.

Just as a reminder that Russia’s treatment of journalists and whistleblowers is actually a hell of a lot worse than anything that happens in the US, Human Rights Watch reports on Russia’s Silencing Activists, Journalists ahead of Sochi Games.

(Moscow) – Local authorities have harassed numerous activists and journalists who criticized or expressed concerns about preparations for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. The six-month countdown to the Sochi Games opening ceremony is this week.

Human Rights Watch has documented government efforts to intimidate several organizations and individuals who have investigated or spoken out  againstabuse of migrant workers, the impact of theconstruction of Olympics venues and infrastructure on the environment and health of residents, and unfair compensation for people forcibly evicted from their homes. Human Rights Watch also documented how authorities harassed and pursued criminal charges against journalists, apparently in retaliation for their legitimate reporting.

“Trying to bully activists and journalists into silence is wrong and only further tarnishes the image of the Olympics,” said Jane Buchanan, associate Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “One of the non-negotiable requirements of hosting the Olympics is to allow press freedom, and the authorities’ attempts to silence critics are in clear violation of that principle.”

Obviously that doesn’t justify the Obama administration trying to influence media coverage of the NSA story, but we do need to keep things in perspective. In that vein, Bob Cesca had a good post yesterday: The Real-Life Stories of Legitimate NSA Whistleblowers (Snowden Isn’t One of Them). I hope you’ll give it a read.

In other news, Yemen has been hit by 6 suspected US drone strikes in the past 2 weeks–probably linked to the recently reported threat of an imminent terror strike that led the US to close a number of embassies last weekend.

An official in Yemen said Thursday that the sixth suspected U.S. drone strike in just two weeks had left six suspected al Qaeda militants dead in the group’s former stronghold in the center of the country. The official told The Associated Press that a missile hit a car traveling in the central Marib province, causing the fatalities.

CBS News correspondent Charlie D’Agata reports that Yemen has long been a haven for al Qaeda leadership, and the country claimed Wednesday to have disrupted a major plot, which may have exposed potential targets.

Yemeni government officials say security forces are turning up the heat on militants from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the global terror network’s branch based in the nation, after foiling the plot to strike foreign embassies, gas and oil installations, and the country’s port cities.

The government has even given a shoot-to-kill order on anybody who looks suspicious and refuses to identify themselves.

The alleged plot appears to have been similar to the January attack in Algeria which saw gunmen storm the Amenas gas plant, killing more than three dozen foreign workers.

Yesterday in The Daily Beast, Eli Lake and Josh Rogin reported that information about the terror threats came from an al Qaeda “conference call,” involving top al Qaeda leaders and around 20 other people–a report that aroused quite a bit of skepticism on Twitter. Why would these guys risk talking on a conference call? Here’s an excerpt from the Daily Beast article:

The intercept provided the U.S. intelligence community with a rare glimpse into how al Qaeda’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, manages a global organization that includes affiliates in Africa, the Middle East, and southwest and southeast Asia.

Several news outlets reported Monday on an intercepted communication last week between Zawahiri and Nasser al-Wuhayshi, the leader of al Qaeda’s affiliate based in Yemen. But The Daily Beast has learned that the discussion between the two al Qaeda leaders happened in a conference call that included the leaders or representatives of the top leadership of al Qaeda and its affiliates calling in from different locations, according to three U.S. officials familiar with the intelligence. All told, said one U.S. intelligence official, more than 20 al Qaeda operatives were on the call.

To be sure, the CIA had been tracking the threat posed by Wuhayshi for months. An earlier communication between Zawahiri and Wuhayshi delivered through a courier was picked up last month, according to three U.S. intelligence officials. But the conference call provided a new sense of urgency for the U.S. government, the sources said.

Al Qaeda members included representatives or leaders from Nigeria’s Boko Haram, the Pakistani Taliban, al Qaeda in Iraq, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and more obscure al Qaeda affiliates such as the Uzbekistan branch. Also on the call were representatives of aspiring al Qaeda affiliates such as al Qaeda in the Sinai Peninsula, according to a U.S. intelligence official. The presence of aspiring al Qaeda affiliates operating in the Sinai was one reason the State Department closed the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, according to one U.S. intelligence official. “These guys already proved they could hit Eilat. It’s not out of the range of possibilities that they could hit us in Tel Aviv,” the official said.

Perhaps the call was encrypted in some way and the US had found a way to listen anyway? But then why would they blow future such operations by leaking the fact that they had listened to the call? This morning  CNN’s Barbara Starr tweeted to Josh Rogin:

Barbara Starr ‏@barbarastarrcnn2h

@joshrogin IT WAS NOT A PHONE CALL. IN FACT, AL QAEDA WENT TO EXTENSIVE MEANS TO SET UP WHAT YOU MIGHT SAY A VIRTUAL MEETING SPACE.”

I’m not sue how to interpret that either. I’ll update if I get anything more on this.

Once again, my morning post has gotten way too long. I have other news links, but I’ll put them in the comments. I hope you’ll do the same with whatever stories you’re following today, and have a tremendous Thursday!!