Tuesday Reads: GOP Wackos, Oliver Sacks, and Other News

Woman at the beach reading

Good Morning!!

Today is September 1, and Summer is almost over. How did it go by so quickly? Pretty soon the 2016 campaign will begin to heat up; but for now we are still in the silly season and Donald Trump is still grabbing all the headlines.

The Hill: Trump pledges to reverse Obama’s mountain renaming

Donald Trump promised Monday that he would return the name of North America’s largest mountain to Mount McKinley, undoing President Obama’s decision to call it Denali.

Calling Obama’s act a “great insult to Ohio,” Trump, who is running for president next year,tweeted late Monday that Obama reversed the name the peak had for more than 100 years, in honor of President William McKinley, an Ohio native.

Does Donald Trump even know anything about William McKinley? I doubt it. Why won’t this disgusting creep go away and leave us alone? John Kasich is upset too.

“You just don’t go and do something like that,” Kasich said, according to the Associated Press. “In Ohio, we felt it was appropriate. A guy saw that mountain when he was one of the first up there … named it after the president. No reason to change it.”

Um . . . no.

The mountain, in fact, got McKinley’s name before he was elected, and he never set foot inside Alaska.

Why Ohioans should have any say in the naming of a mountain in Alaska is a mystery. But the GOP candidates latch onto anything Obama does in order to get some media attention.

GOP Wackos

These days, when you see a crazy headline, you can be at least 99% sure that it involves a Republican politician.

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This headline from Local CBS5 in Arizona, for example: Matt Salmon facing parents’ anger over civics presentation to young kids.

GILBERT, AZ (KPHO/KTVK) – Several parents are demanding answers from Congressman Matt Salmon, saying they cannot believe what the lawmaker said to young school children during a visit to a Gilbert school.

“It should have probably just been a good civics lesson for kids who initially were excited to meet their congressman,” parent Scott Campbell said.

That excitement, however, turned into fear.

That fear, according to Campbell, was spawned by something Salmon said during a presentation he made Thursday about how bills become laws. The audience? Second- and third-graders at San Tan Charter School.

Campbell said the lesson took a dark turn when it came time to talk about vetoes.

“The congressman chose to give an example of the current situation in Iran, and made some inappropriate comments about ‘Do you know what a nuclear weapon is? Do you know that there are schools that train children your age to be suicide bombers?'” Campbell said.

He and other parents were shocked. He said he had to console his young daughter.

“After school my daughter was very concerned and said to me she actually didn’t even know what suicide was and was very afraid,” he explained.

WTF?!! Where do the Republicans dig these people up?

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Meanwhile most Americans want their Congresspeople to approve the Obama administration’s Iran deal, according to The Hill:

According to the survey from the University of Maryland, 55 percent of respondents said that Congress should get behind the agreement, despite some concerns.

Twenty-three percent, meanwhile, said that lawmakers should instead ratchet up sanctions, and 14 percent wanted U.S. officials to go back to the negotiating table.

In a key stat for Democratic backers of the agreement, 61 percent of independents recommended that Congress approve the deal, along with 72 percent of Democrats.

Just 33 percent of Republicans expressed support, highlighting the partisan divide that has erupted over the agreement, which sets limits on Iran’s nuclear ability in exchange for the lifting of sanctions.

The poll was conducted online, and the participants went through an in-depth process of listening to arguments from both sides. People were subjected to a detailed list of critiques of the agreement, followed by rebuttals to those arguments with reasons to get behind the deal.

Even the fact that 33 percent of GOP voters support the agreement is significant, considering their likely exposure to Fox News and talk radio.

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Speaking of wacko Republicans, even after the Supreme Court told weirdo Kim Davis she can’t refuse to issue marriage license to gay couples, she’s still doing it. NBC News reports:

Defying the Supreme Court and invoking “God’s authority,” a Kentucky county clerk on Tuesday turned away two same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses — touching off dueling protests until sheriff’s deputies cleared the room.

The clerk, Kim Davis of Rowan County, outside Lexington, has said that her personal religious objections preclude her from issuing the licenses.

The standoff came one day after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to intervene in the case. That left in place a lower court ruling ordering Davis to issue marriage licenses.

Davis declined marriage licenses to two same-sex couples — two men and two women — who sought them at her office, in the small city of Morehead.

When is Kentucky going to get rid of this nutcase? She’s an embarrassment to her state and to all rational Americans.

RIP Oliver Sacks

Following the death of Oliver Sacks last week, I found myself browsing around looking for some of his writings on line. Sacks was a wonderful writer, and I’ve always enjoyed reading him. I haven’t read his book on hallucinations yet, and I think I’m going to get a copy and check it out. I have always been fascinated by altered states. Here are some links to essays by Sacks that you might want to check out if you haven’t read (or listened to) them already.

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In July, I wrote about my reaction to an NPR interview about face blindness, which Sacks suffered from. It was fascinating and led to my experiencing a very positive altered state–one of those “peak experiences” that Abraham Maslow wrote about. Check if out if you haven’t already.

Yesterday I read this piece on mystical experiences at the Atlantic: Seeing God in the Third Millennium. Sacks writes that when people have near death experiences, out of body experiences, and other altered states such as the auras that preceded epileptic seizures and migraines, the brain reflects the perceptions as if they are real. These often life-changing experiences have natural–not supernatural–causes, but they can have profound effects.

In 2012, Sacks wrote in The New Yorker about the history of mind altering drugs and his own experiments with them: Altered States: Self-experiments in chemistry.

From 1987, here’s an interview with Sacks on NPR’s Fresh Air: ‘Fresh Air’ at 20: Neurologist Oliver Sacks.

From Science of Us, a summary of a fascinating case study from The Lancet on which Sacks was one of the authors: The Strange Case of the Woman Haunted by Dragons. It’s about a woman who had altered perceptions of people’s faces–they looked “dragon-like.”

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Two recent NYT articles by Sacks:

From February 2015, My Own Life: Oliver Sacks on Learning He Has Terminal Cancer.

From August 2015: Oliver Sacks: Sabbath.

One of my favorite Sacks stories appeared in the book The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat. It was reprinted in the New York Review of Books in 1985: The President’s Speech. It’s about a group of aphasia patients and their reaction to seeing a Ronald Reagan speech on TV. Here’s the introduction:

What was going on? A roar of laughter from the aphasia ward, just as the President’s speech was starting, and the patients had all been so eager to hear the President speak.

There he was, the old charmer, the actor with his practiced rhetoric, his histrionics, his emotional appeal—and all the patients were convulsed with laughter. Well, not all: some looked bewildered, some looked outraged, one or two looked apprehensive, but most looked amused. The President is generally thought to be a moving speaker—but he was moving them, apparently, mainly to laughter. What could they be thinking? Were they failing to understand him? Or did they, perhaps, understand him all too well?

Read the rest at the link.

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Finally, from today’s Washington Post: The tragic story of Oliver Sacks’s celibacy.

When Oliver Sacks was 18, he faced a prospect most young people dread: a belated talk about the birds and the bees with his dad.

“You don’t seem to have many girlfriends,” Sacks wrote his father said in his memoir, “On the Move,” released earlier this year. “Don’t you like girls? … Perhaps you prefer boys?”

Sacks didn’t try to hide.

“Yes I do – but it’s just a feeling – I have never ‘done’ anything,” Sacks told his father.

He pleaded with his father not to tell his mother – but his father did. The news did not go over well — to say the least.

“You are an abomination,” she said. “I wish you had never been born.”

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How heartbreaking. Read more at the WaPo.

In The News, Links Only

The Guardian: Barack Obama in Alaska: global fight against climate change starts here.

Talking Points Memo: Trump’s Latino Bashing Risks GOP Senate Hopes In 3 Key States.

Pope Francis says priests can give absolution for “the sin of abortion.” From Time: What Pope Francis’ Abortion Announcement Really Means.

Jeb Bush tells the Pope how to do his job: Jeb Bush tells pope to focus on ‘mercy for the unborn’: Women should be ‘repentant’ for choosing abortion (Raw Story)

Jonathan Chait: Jeb Bush Responds to Insanely Racist Trump Ad by Calling Trump Liberal

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The Nation: The Trailer for ‘Concussion’ Should Give Roger Goodell Night Sweats.

The National Memo: Hillary Clinton Supports Ban On ‘Revolving Door’ Corporate Bonuses

US News: Clinton, aides stressed need to protect sensitive State Department information in email.

AP via Seacoast online: NH Sen Jeanne Shaheen will endorse Hillary Clinton.

Raw Story: Texas man walks free after alleged rape leaves 2-year-old girl in pool of blood.

AP via ABC News: Investigators: Georgia Officer Likely Shot by Other Officers.

What stories are you following today? Please share in the comment thread.


Sunday Reads First Part: News updates

2318187780_9ed7e996d2Good Morning

Well, today is Mother’s Day and before I get to the fun stuff we have some big things going on.  In fact, in this first post I will focus on some major breaking news and other updates that happened overnight.

There is quite a turn of events out in California…Brother arrested in fatal stabbing of Valley Springs girl

Leila Fowler found stabbed to death April 27

The 12-year-old brother of a Valley Springs girl found stabbed to death in her home last month was arrested Saturday.

Calaveras County Sheriff Gary Kuntz said at a news conference that Leila Fowler’s brother was taken into custody just after 5 p.m. Saturday. He will be charged with homicide, Kuntz said.https://i2.wp.com/www.kcra.com/image/view/-/19950502/medRes/1/-/maxh/460/maxw/620/-/81114sz/-/Leila-Fowler-jpg.jpg

Several classmates of the 12-year-old boy, and parents of those classmates, told KCRA 3 that the boy’s name is Isaiah Fowler. The Calaveras County Sheriff’s Department would not confirm the boy’s identity.

The classmates said Isaiah Fowler was at his sister’s vigil that took place just days after the girl’s death.

Valley Springs residents who knew the family said Saturday after the arrest was announced that they are shocked by the news and that Leila Fowler and her brother were close.

This was a horrifying crime, with a very intense search for the murderer.

Investigators did a door-to-door sweep of homes, storage sheds and horse stables scattered across the oak-studded hills foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Divers also searched two nearby reservoirs in search of clues.

As part of the investigation, authorities seized several knives from the home Leila shared with her father, stepmother and siblings to determine if one could have inflicted the fatal wounds. A neighbor who told detectives she saw a man flee the Fowler home later recanted the story and was discredited by police.

Leila’s brother was taken into custody at 5:10 p.m. Saturday and police hastily called a news conference to announce the arrest.

“Citizens of Calaveras County, you can sleep a little better tonight,” Kuntz said.

Authorities spent over 2,000 hours on the investigation “to provide Leila Fowler’s family answers to her death,” the sheriff said.

The brother said he found his sister dead and reported it to the police saying he saw a tall man with long gray hair leaving his house.

This is one story I am sure we will learn more of as the day progresses. Can you imagine, what a hellish Mother’s day for this woman. One daughter murdered at the hands of her son.

Well we had another one, this time in Texas 5-Year-Old Shot In Head By Another Child

A five-year-old boy in Denton, Texas was left in critical condition after he was shot in the head by his eight-year-old friend Saturday morning. According to the Denton Record-Chronicle, the police said the two boys were alone in the bedroom when the older child found a .22 caliber rifle, pointed it at the other boy, and shot him.

Police said they are investigating the incident as an accident. The family of the victim said two adults, one teenager, and two other children were in the home with the two boys when the incident occurred at about 11:30 AM.

Fortunately, this time the little boy is in critical condition…hopefully he will pull through.

**Update: Police say New Jersey hostage standoff resolved; 3 children safely removed from Trenton home – The Washington Post

Updated: Sunday, May 12, 6:49 AM

A standoff with an armed man who took multiple hostages inside a Trenton home has ended, and three children are safe, police said early Sunday.

Word of the confrontation’s conclusion came a short while after the standoff, which had had prompted the evacuation of nearby homes, entered its third day.

“The Trenton hostage situation is resolved, the three children are safe, and the area is secure,” state police Sgt. Adam Grossman told The Associated Press, delivering a joint statement also from Trenton police and county prosecutors.

Grossman said the standoff ended at 3:45 a.m. Sunday but refused to reveal any more details, including how it ended, what became of the gunman, any information about the children, and if there were any other hostages.

Grossman said more details will be released at a news conference later Sunday morning.

As of the writing of this post, 1am EST, Standoff with armed gunman holding hostages enters 3rd day; authorities seeking ‘peaceful end’

Updated: Sunday, May 12, 12:30 AM
TRENTON, N.J. — A standoff with an armed man who police said took multiple hostages extended to a third day early Sunday as authorities worked to negotiate his surrender and his captives’ release.The man, whose identity has not been released, remained holed-up in a two-story red brick house in South Trenton, authorities said. The standoff began Friday afternoon.

[…]

But family members of a woman they said was among the hostages grew angry as the standoff continued. Late Saturday afternoon, some of them went under police tape and briefly confronted officers about the situation.“Do something! Do something!” screamed a man who said he was the woman’s nephew. “Make something happen!”

The gunman has already killed a woman and one child. Some news reports say it is his girlfriend, some say it is his wife, and then…some reports say the woman is still alive.

In world news, Sharif stages comeback in landmark Pakistan election:

Toppled in a 1999 coup, jailed and exiled, Nawaz Sharif has made a triumphant election comeback and on Sunday was heading for a third term as Pakistan’s prime minister.The polls were a landmark, marking the first time one elected government was to replace another in a country vulnerable to military takeovers.But Saturday’s vote failed to realize the hopes of many that dynastic politics would end after years of misrule and corruption in the strategic U.S. ally.Sharif, 63, a wealthy steel magnate from the pivotal Punjab province, held off a challenge from former cricket star Imran Khan who had hoped to break decades of dominance by Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), led by the Bhutto family.

Khan’s Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) put up a strong fight and he is likely to remain a force in politics.

“Nawaz’s victory says two things about Pakistan: one, the people of Pakistan prefer the comfort of status quo over the uncertainty of revolutions; and two, all roads to the center go through Punjab, and in Punjab, people are right-leaning and conservative,” said senior journalist Nusrat Javeed.

“Still, for a party that only really arrived on the political scene in a serious way two years ago, PTI’s performance was remarkable, to say the least.”

And in Egypt, according to Reuters: Egypt says thwarts suicide attack on foreign embassy

Egyptian security forces have thwarted a plan by an al Qaeda-linked cell to carry out a suicide attack on a foreign embassy, capturing three militants, the interior minister said on Saturday.

Mohamed Ibrahim said the men, who he accused of having links to militants in the Middle East and Pakistan, were found in possession of 10 kg (22 lb) of aluminum nitrate, which is used to make bombs.

He declined to say which embassy had been targeted.

“The Interior Ministry was able to direct a qualitative blow to a terrorist cell that was planning suicide operations against vital, important and foreign facilities in the country,” he said in a televised news conference.

That will take care of the first part of today’s reads, the second part…the fun part will come up in a few hours. See y’all soon.