I’m going to begin with a quirky story about a stolen painting by Pierre-Auguste Renoir: Renoir painting allegedly sold at flea market returning to museum. From the LA Times:
A small Pierre-Auguste Renoir painting that a woman said she purchased for just $7 at a flea market will return to a Maryland museum that argued that the painting was stolen from its premises in 1951.
A federal judge in Virginia ruled on Friday that Renoir’s “Paysage Bords de Seine,” which was painted in 1879, is the rightful property of the Baltimore Museum of Art. The decision brought to an ostensible end a bizarre case that pitted a driving teacher against the museum in a battle over an Impressionist work estimated to be worth $22,000.
Martha Fuqua, who reportedly teaches driving in Virginia, had said that she acquired the painting from a flea market in West Virginia in 2009. She later attempted to sell the work at an auction, which came to the attention of the Baltimore Museum of Art.
The weird part is that people who knew Fuqua claimed they had seen the painting in her mother’s home. So who stole the painting? From the Washington Post:
…a number of people who know Fuqua have cast doubt on her flea market story, including her brother. Some family acquaintances told The Post that they remember seeing the Renoir in the 1980s and 1990s at the Fairfax County home of her mother, Marcia Fouquet, who attended art college in Baltimore at the time of the painting’s theft in 1951. (The mother passed away five months ago at the age of 85.)
Apparently, Marcia Fouqua was an art thief. Here’s the original police report (PDF).
Unfortunately, there’s more bad news today–another shooting, this time in a grocery store in Elkhart, Indiana. NBC News reports:
A gunman killed a member of staff and a customer at an Indiana grocery store before being shot dead by police, officials said early Thursday.
The man had his gun pointed at a third person when officers arrived at Martin’s Super Market in the city of Elkhart, Indiana State Police Sgt. Trent Smith said in a press conference early Thursday.
When he trained his weapon on the officers they shot him dead, Smith said…
Smith said it was a “huge crime scene” and that shots had been fired from one end of the store to the next. The victims were found 10 to 12 aisles apart.
Police rushed to the scene shortly after 10 p.m. on Wednesday after receiving a 911 call. They heard gunshots when they arrived and rushed to the section of the store from which the shots were fired.
Smith described the gunman as white man in his twenties who lived in the area. He said he was armed with a semiautomatic handgun and a large knife.
A little more from Reuters:
The three dead were believed to be a female store employee in her late teens or early 20s, a female shopper in her mid-40s, and the shooter, who was thought to be in his late teens or early 20s, Smith said.
Details such as what motivated the violence and whether there was any connection between the gunman and store employees were not immediately known, he said.
Police found a large knife and a semi-automatic handgun inside the store near the suspect, who was believed to live in the area, Smith said.
Police were withholding the suspect’s name pending notification of his family.
David Sirota was up to his old tricks yesterday on Twitter. Once Sirota pretended to support Barack Obama–that was in the days when you couldn’t blog on Dailykos unless you behaved like a zombie Obot. But even Kossaks mocked Sirota for his constant bragging about receiving a phone call from then-Senator Obama in 2006 and then being invited to interview Obama and his staff.
In those days, Sirota was critical of Obama. In the build-up to the 2012 election, Sirota became a Ron Paul Fan, calling him a “real progressive.” After Obama was elected to a second term Sirota became so “unhinged” by Obama Derangement Syndrome that he compared Obama to George Zimmerman!
These days, Sirota has fastened his presidential hopes on Brian Schweitzer, former governor of Montana. And so when Jamie Bouie dared to suggest that by “positioning himself as a liberal repudiation of Obama,” Schweitzer was in danger of alienating African American voters who still strongly support the President; Sirota responded by strongly implying that Bouie (an African American) is a racist by calling Bouie’s post at The Daily Beast an “[e]xample of how communities of color are condescendingly portrayed as monolithic & unthinking voting blocs.”
Here’s a little bit of good news from yesterday’s LA Times: U.S. accuses Wal-Mart of labor violations.
The National Labor Relations Board, an independent federal agency tasked with policing bad behavior by employers, is targeting Wal-Mart Stores Inc. over the retail behemoth’s alleged crackdown on its protesting workers.
The NLRB filed a formal complaint Wednesday against the Bentonville, Ark. chain, alleging that the company violated the rights of more than 60 employees rallying over workplace conditions in 14 states — including California….
The Wednesday filing stems from NLRB findings released in November that deemed unlawful Wal-Mart’s reactions to employees who participated in strikes around Black Friday in 2012.
The rallies spread to 100 cities. Nineteen employees were discharged from the company, allegedly as a reprimand for their involvement in the rallies, according to the NLRB.
The agency said that efforts to broker a settlement between Wal-Mart and its workers failed, leading to Wednesday’s complaint. The filing names more than 60 Wal-Mart supervisors — 19 in California — and corporate communications vice president David Tovar.
The article quotes experts who speculate that the NLRB may be trying to signal to corporations that it is going to stand up for not only unionized workers, but also those in non-unionized businesses. If true, that is excellent news.
Last night Cincinnati acted to protect residents from the chemical plume that is making its way down the Ohio River from West Virginia. From WLW 700: Cincinnati Water Works Prepares to Close Water Intake Valves.
(Cincinnati)–Days after a hazardous chemical leaked into the Elk River in West Virginia the chemical has flowed into the Ohio River and the Cincinnati area.
The Chemical known as 4-methylcyclohexane methanol leaked from a 48,000-gallon storage tank owned by Freedom Industries, in West Virginia. Investigators believe the leak began on Thursday Jan, 9. and the chemical foaming agent seeped though a one inch hole, in the storage tank and into the River….
Lisa Cochran the Communication Coordinator with The Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO) said the Chemical MCHM was first detected Sunday Jan 12. in the Ohio River.
She adds (ORSANCO) is coordinating with multiple organizations, including Cincinnati Water Works, Northern Kentucky Water, Kentucky Division of Water, US Coast Guard, West Virginia American Water and others to monitor the progress of the spill. “We have field crew members who actually go out and take samples” to determine the concentration of the chemical.
Cincinnati Waterworks is prepared to close their Ohio River water intake valves when the hazardous chemical plume is found. Cochran says “they (Cincinnati Water Works) do plan to shut down when the plume reaches their water intake”.
In NSA news, The New York Times published more “revelations” from the material that Edward Snowden stole. As has become the accepted technique with NSA stories, the article begins with supposedly terrifying news: the NSA uses mysterious “radio technology” to attack computer that aren’t even connected to the internet! Aiiiiiiiiiieeeeeee!
But read on. So far the software has only been used on 100,000 computers since 2008, primarily in countries like China, Russia, and Pakistan, and the software must be physically installed by a human spy with a flash drive. It has never been used domestically.
The N.S.A. calls its efforts more an act of “active defense” against foreign cyberattacks than a tool to go on the offensive. But when Chinese attackers place similar software on the computer systems of American companies or government agencies, American officials have protested, often at the presidential level.
Among the most frequent targets of the N.S.A. and its Pentagon partner, United States Cyber Command, have been units of the Chinese Army, which the United States has accused of launching regular digital probes and attacks on American industrial and military targets, usually to steal secrets or intellectual property. But the program, code-named Quantum, has also been successful in inserting software into Russian military networks and systems used by the Mexican police and drug cartels, trade institutions inside the European Union, and sometime partners against terrorism like Saudi Arabia, India and Pakistan, according to officials and an N.S.A. map that indicates sites of what the agency calls “computer network exploitation.”
So basically, the NSA uses this technology to do its job–spying on foreign countries to protect U.S. interests. Horrors!
And as for the phone call metadata program, Phone companies don’t want the job of spying on customers’ calls. PBS Newshour:
President Barack Obama is expected to announce Friday what changes he is willing to make to satisfy privacy, legal and civil liberties concerns over the NSA’s surveillance practices. One of the most important questions is whether the government will continue to collect millions of Americans’ phone records every day so that the government can identify anyone it believes might be communicating with known terrorists.
The president’s hand-picked review committee has recommended ending the phone records program as it exists. It suggested shifting the storage of the phone records from the NSA to phone companies or an unspecified third party, and it recommended new legal requirements before the government could search anyone’s phone records.
The phone companies don’t want the job. Executives and their lawyers have complained about the plan in confidential meetings with administration officials and key congressional intelligence and other committees, according to interviews by The Associated Press. Two phone executives familiar with the discussions said the cellular industry told the government that it prefers the NSA keep control over the surveillance program and would only accept changes if they were legally required. The executives spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose the private discussions. But there have been public complaints, too.
Frankly, I’ve never trusted the phone company. I’d much rather have this data stored on government computers, where it can’t be accessed without a warrant approved by the FISA court.
Finally, Rolling Stone is highlighting the Republican war on women’s reproductive rights with a long read by Janet Reitman: The Stealth War on Abortion. I haven’t read the article yet, but I hope it’s good. We need more high-profile publications to highlight what’s happening to women’s rights in red states.