Lazy Saturday Reads: Valentine’s Day Blizzard Edition

Computer simulation of the wind field associated with the New England storm on Feb. 15, 2015.

Computer simulation of the wind field associated with the New England storm on Feb. 15, 2015 (image from Earth Simulator at earth.nullschool.net.

Happy Valentine’s Day!!

To anyone who aren’t jaded by past relationship experiences, I wish you a wonderful, romantic day. For the rest of us, it’s Saturday, and that’s nice too. For millions of people in the upper Midwest and New England, it’s just one more blizzard. Ho-Hum {yawn}.

Michigan was in the eye of the storm last night, and later today it will hit the Boston area. Once again, the storm is going to be at its worst along the coast, including in the Greater Boston area. From NBC News: Northeast Braced for Blizzard as Another Winter Storm Looms.

Fifty million Americans were braced for another punishing winter blast Saturday – even as the Northeast was digging out from three major storms in as many weeks.

Twenty-six states were under weekend winter weather warnings, with no sign of an end in sight to the freezing conditions.

Some of the coldest air in the past 20 years will be accompanied by winds approaching hurricane force — and, for the snow-battered coast of New England, what could be a paralyzing blizzard.

A blizzard watch was in effect from the Maine-Canada border south to Long Island and a winter storm watch was in place for New Hampshire and parts of Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut.

We’ve been under a blizzard warning her since yesterday afternoon, but we’re not supposed to get the really high winds until tomorrow. From Mashable: The upcoming Boston blizzard may be equivalent to Category 2 hurricane.

UPDATED 4 p.m. ET: The National Weather Service upgraded the blizzard watch to a blizzard warning for Boston, which is in effect from Saturday at 7 p.m. ET to Sunday at 11 a.m. ET. The blizzard warnings and watches stretch from Cape Cod all the way to the border between Maine and Canada. The NWS is forecasting between 10 to 14 inches of snow in Boston on top of the three to four feet already on the ground, and is also warning of a life-threatening combination of powerful winds and cold temperatures during and in the wake of the storm through Sunday.

The powerful Valentine’s Day storm set to blast eastern New England this weekend with roaring, frigid winds, heavy snow and pounding surf will be so strong that it can be compared in some ways to a Category 2 hurricane.

Fortunately, though, it will not bring the same impacts as a hurricane of that intensity, but its effects on multiple locations — from Providence and Boston to Portland and Bangor, Maine — will be similar to a winter hurricane, with power outages, tree and structural damage, and coastal flooding. Depending on the storm’s exact track, it could dump a foot or more of additional snow in the Boston area, with even more snow in coastal New Hampshire and Maine.

Yup. The good news is that we’re only expecting about a foot of snow this time. After I managed to dig myself out of the last storm all by myself (a little bit at a time), I’m feeling pretty confident I can handle one more foot of snow. Of course there are predictions of more snow for Tuesday and next weekend, but those are puny little 3-5 inch storms. I went to the grocery store yesterday, and I’m all stocked up. I know I won’t get out again for several days, but I’ll deal with it.

Meanwhile how much snow will the Boston area have gotten if the predictions for this storm hold true? Check out this image from the National Weather Service, via Mashable:

Snowfall-projected

So what should I do while I’m trapped in the house today, tomorrow, and who knows how many days after that? I could watch some of these “kickass sci-fi/fantasy” movies at The Mary Sue blog (I found it by following one of JJ’s links from last night’s post).

10 Kick-Ass Sci-Fi/Fantasy Movies on Netflix to Celebrate Valentine’s Day With

For some, Valentine’s Day is a day for love, sex, ’n’ romance. For others, it’s… not. Options include: Be Bitter About Your Love Life Day! Be Defensive About Your Lack of Love Life Day! Day Before Discount Candy Day! Or… drumroll…SATURDAY! Regardless of how you choose to live your life, not all of us will be sopping up the rom-com vibes come the fourteenth. For you lovely bastards, I present this list of ten kick-ass action movies to stream on Netflix while all your be-coupled friends are off being all lovey-dovey.

Or, hey, how about some of you watch one of these with your equally-badass significant others? Screw The Notebook. Definitely screw 50 Shades of Grey. (Or don’t screw 50 Shades of Grey. That shit’s gross.) BE BOLD!

Check out the list at the link and see what you think.

valentine-roses

Or I could catch up on the latest political and foreign affairs news. Here are just a few of today’s top stories.

BBC News, Ukraine crisis: Poroshenko says peace deal in danger.

The Ukrainian president has warned a deal to end the war in the east is in “great danger” after heavy fighting ahead of Saturday night’s ceasefire.

Petro Poroshenko also accused Russia of “significantly increasing” its offensive in spite of the peace agreement reached in Minsk on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the US said it was very concerned by reports of heavy weapons coming across the border from Russia.

Big surprise, right? CNN has more details, Shelling in Ukraine cities ahead of midnight ceasefire.

Mariupol, Ukraine (CNN)Shelling could be heard in two eastern Ukrainian cities Saturday morning ahead of a midnight ceasefire deadline, raising fears that the deal to end a bitter 10-month-long conflict may be in jeopardy.

Both incoming and outgoing artillery could be seen in the vicinity of the coastal city of Mariupol, and there was significant shelling in rebel-held Donetsk through the morning, CNN teams reported….

Poroshenko said that after the agreement reached Thursday by the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France, the offensive against Ukrainian troops by the separatists had intensified.

The separatists may be trying to take control of strategic locations, such as the railroad hub of Debaltseve to the north, before the ceasefire lines are drawn. Pro-Kiev militia have also been pushing forward around government-controlled Mariupol.

Much more at the link.

add9a273

Canada says they have prevented a serious attack that didn’t involve Islamic terrorists. CBS News reports:

TORONTO — Canadian authorities said Saturday that a foiled Valentine’s Day mass murder plot in Halifax was not related to Islamic terrorism.

“This appeared to be a group of murderous misfits that were coming here, or were living here, and prepared to wreak havoc and mayhem on our community,” Canadian Justice Minister Peter MacKay said. “It would have been devastating. Mass casualties were a real possibility.”

MacKay said all the suspects have been arrested or are dead. He said police would release more information publicly later Saturday. He credited police for their quick action.

A senior police official told The Associated Press that the two suspects were planning to go to a mall and kill as many people as they could before committing suicide.

According to the Globe and Mail,

Mr. MacKay [said that the] group’s motivation…seemed to be “quite random”. “It didn’t appear to be any specific philosophy that motivated this,” he said. “So there is no clear line … there is a very grey area in terms of anyone who would do this for any reason,” he said.

Police have yet to say what was motivating the four young people – three men from Nova Scotia and a woman from Illinois.

Referring to today being Valentine’s Day, Mr. MacKay said: “A day known to represent love and affection would have taken on a much different meaning today.”

“Based on what we know so far it would have been devastating,” he said. “Mass casualties were a real possibility.”

valentines-day-comment-050

Just a short time ago today, there was an attack on a “free speech event” in Copenhagen. NBC News reports:

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Danish media say several shots have been fired at a cafe in Copenhagen where a meeting about freedom of speech was being held, organized by Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who has faced numerous threats for caricaturing the Prophet Muhammad in 2007. The TV2 channel said Saturday there were some 30 bullet holes in the window of the Krudttoenden cafe and said at least two people were taken away on stretchers, including a uniformed police officer. NBC News has not immediately confirmed the details.

Helle Merete Brix, one of the organizers of the event, told The Associated Press that Vilks was present at the event but not injured. When the artist is in Denmark, he receives police protection. The cafe in northern Copenhagen, known for its jazz concerts, was hosting an event titled “Art, blasphemy and the freedom of expression” when the shots were fired. Niels Ivar Larsen, one of the speakers at the event, told the TV2 channel that he saw two wounded people.

I guess we’ll be hearing more about that later today.

Governor John Kitzhaber of Oregon resigned yesterday in the wake of a scandal involving his fiancee, who has been acting as the state’s first lady.

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber resigned effective Wednesday, Feb. 18, in a letter submitted to Secretary of State Kate Brown.

“I am announcing today that I will resign as Governor of the State of Oregon,” he wrote in a statement released just after noon Friday.

Brown, also a Democrat, will be sworn in as Oregon’s 37th governor, but the timing of that ceremony is uncertain.

In just four months, a public corruption scandal involving Kitzhaber and his fiancee, Cylvia Hayes, has hobbled one of Oregon’s most durable politicians. Kitzhaber, a public official for 37 years, was sworn in for a historic fourth term as governor just a month ago. Facing not only a state criminal investigation and an ethics review, Kitzhaber watched his support from fellow veteran lawmakers crumble this week.

The governor’s resignation does not end either the criminal investigation or ethics review.

images

The Oregonian has more details on the scandal, Massive FBI investigation targets Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber, Cylvia Hayes, and the Washington Post has a profile of Kitzhaber’s successor, This woman will soon become the first openly bisexual governor in American history.

In Alabama, the fight against allowing same sex couples to marry appears to be failing, according to The Washington Post, A majority of Alabama counties are now issuing same-sex marriage licenses.

Two-thirds of Alabama counties have agreed to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, according to gay rights groups, a dramatic turnaround from earlier this week when all but a handful were holding the licenses back.

The change in policy came after a federal judge on Thursday ordered officials in Mobile County to comply with her ruling striking down the state’s same-sex marriage ban. The decision led a number of probate judges to conclude that the ruling also applies to them, even though they got conflicting orders from the state’s chief justice, Roy Moore.

“Once that was done yesterday, [the probate judge] was satisfied we wouldn’t end up in a lawsuit or in trouble, so we’re doing it,” said a woman who identified herself as a manager in the Cherokee County probate office, one of at least 42 counties where same-sex marriage licenses are now available in Alabama, according to Equality Alabama, a local gay rights group. The manager declined to give her name because she wasn’t authorized to speak for the office.

“It wasn’t ever a thing of us not wanting to, morally or religiously, we were just kind of waiting for clarification,” she said.

Several counties indicated they would begin issuing the licenses next week. Still, that left about 20 of the state’s 67 counties as apparent holdouts.

And The New York times has a nice profile of an Alabama gay couple who have “tr[ied] to wed, early and often.”

flowers

Finally, an Appeal for Help from Sky Dancers

Before I sign off, I need to ask our readers for some help for my dear friend Dakinikat. Although she rarely complains, Kat has struggled for the past 4-5 years with chronic pain and an inability to walk or stand for any length of time because of untreatable dermatitis on her feet. At times her feet bleed and she has to go through multiple changes of socks in the course of a day. She has tried every possible treatment for the condition, but nothing seems to work for any length of time.

For the past 3 years Kat has essentially been disabled. Frankly,  just getting out of the house to buy groceries is a painful process for her. It is even difficult for her to do daily tasks around the house like laundry and loading the dishwasher.

Kat has been doing her best to support herself with an on-line teaching job that she can do at home, but the work pays so poorly that IMHO, it amounts to slave labor. It hasn’t been enough to cover her mortgage and other basic expenses. As a result, Kat was forced to dip into her savings and at this point the money she had saved for retirement is nearly gone.

The three of us writers work very hard to produce interesting posts 7 days a week. All three of us are struggling financially and in other ways, but we take pride in this blog and the work we have done to sustain it for quite a few years now. But this blog would be nothing without Dakinikat. I well remember what a relief it was to come here after the difficulties many of us experienced at another place. I’m sure a number of you also recall those days. Kat is the one who opened her personal blog to us and who has taken responsibility for maintaining and improving the blog design over the years.

Right now, Kat is truly in desperate straits. I suggested that we should ask for contributions to help tide her over until she can either find more work or figure out what else she can do to make ends meet–perhaps by moving to a state that isn’t being bankrupted by its own governor.

If you have appreciated this blog over the years and you can afford to give something, I would be eternally grateful. We seldom ask for donations at Sky Dancing; we do this because we love to write and we’re fascinated by politics and current events. But this is a special case. Kat has been a wonderful friend to me–and to others here as well–and I hate to see her struggling like this. Please help if you can afford it–if you can’t, I totally understand. But I had to ask. Thanks so much for reading this and for whatever you can do to help.

What stories are you following today? Please share your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a great weekend!


Lazy Saturday Reads

cat computer sleeping

Good Morning!!

Southern California has been hit with a “5.1 magnitude earthquake” and “more than 100 aftershocks,” causing “relatively minor damage” according to the LA Times:

Most of the aftershocks have been small, but some were strong enough to be felt in the areas around the epicenter in northwestern Orange County…. Fullerton police said early Saturday that as many as 50 people had been displaced by the quake. Several buildings are being investigated for possible structural damage, including some apartment buildings. The quake, centered near La Habra, caused furniture to tumble, pictures to fall off walls and glass to break. Merchandise fell off store shelves, and there were reports of shattered plate glass windows. Residents across Orange and Los Angeles counties and the Inland Empire reported swinging chandeliers, fireplaces dislodging from walls and lots of rattled nerves.

The quake also caused a rock slide that damaged a car as well as numerous water main breaks.

Third-grade teacher Barbara Castillo and her 7-year-old son had just calmed their nerves after an earlier 3.6 temblor and sat down in their La Habra home when their dogs started barking and the second, larger quake struck, causing cabinet doors to swing open, objects to fall off shelves and lights to flicker. “It just would not stop, it was like an eternity,” said Castillo, an 18-year La Habra resident.

The search for missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 continues,

with various objects being reported by searchers, but this latest report from CNN is just nuts, Malaysia official: Maybe, just maybe, they’re alive.

Earlier this week, loved ones of those aboard missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 heard this: “All lives are lost.”

But Saturday, a Malaysian official met with relatives and then told reporters he had not closed the door on the possibility that survivors may exist among the 239 people aboard the Boeing 777-200 ER that went missing March 8.

“Even hoping against hope, no matter how remote, of course we are praying and we will continue our search for the possible survivors,” said Hishammuddin Hussein, Malaysia’s acting transportation minister.

“More than that, I told the families I cannot give them false hope. The best we can do is pray and that we must be sensitive to them that, as long as there is even a remote chance of a survivor, we will pray and do whatever it takes.”

How cruel can you get? In China relatives were alleging some kind of conspiracy.

“They’re all still alive, my son and everyone on board!” yelled Wen Wancheng, 63, whose only son was among the passengers. “The plane is still there too! They’re hiding it.”

He held aloft a banner that read: “Son, mom and dad’s hearts are torn to pieces. Come home soon!”

I can’t even begin to imagine the torture those people are going through. To give them false hope is incredibly irresponsible.

Please don’t skip over this brief but must-read piece on the ongoing scandal involving the US nuclear arsenal.

The Daily Beast: Cleaning House at Nuke Command Raises Bigger Issues.

Nine Air Force officers were fired Thursday and dozens more disciplined for their roles in a cheating scandal involving airmen in charge of the nuclear weapons arsenal. But one source familiar with the Air Force program told The Daily Beast that the punishments handed out were more show than substance, and that problems in the nuclear program go far deeper than what has been addressed so far. According to a retired senior Air Force officer familiar with the Global Strike Command (the headquarters responsible for the Air Force nuclear arsenal), who spoke with The Daily Beast on the condition of anonymity, the punishments issued yesterday at the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana were a good show, but wouldn’t affect much substantive reform. “This issue needs leadership,” he said. “You’ve had two stars and three stars [general officers] running the reorganized nuclear enterprise of the U.S. Air Force who have been unable to raise morale, transform the culture and forestall this very type of thing.”

Read the rest at the link. I can’t understand why this scandal isn’t getting more attention. We’re talking about the people who are responsible for our nuclear weapons!

I have several articles on the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.

Russian troops massing near Ukraine border

Russian troops massing near Ukraine border

There have been reports in the past few days that Russian troops are gathering on the Ukraine border and medical and food stations are being set up. From The Wall Street Journal: Russian Buildup Stokes Worries; Pentagon Alarmed as Troops Mass Near Ukraine Border.

Russian troops massing near Ukraine are actively concealing their positions and establishing supply lines that could be used in a prolonged deployment, ratcheting up concerns that Moscow is preparing for another major incursion and not conducting exercises as it claims, U.S. officials said. Such an incursion could take place without warning because Russia has already deployed the array of military forces needed for such an operation, say officials briefed on the latest U.S. intelligence. (Follow the latest developments on the crisis in Ukraine.) The rapid speed of the Russian military buildup and efforts to camouflage the forces and equipment have stoked U.S. fears, in part because American intelligence agencies have struggled to assess Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s specific intentions. The troop movements and the concealment—involving covering up equipment along the border—suggest Mr. Putin is positioning forces in the event he decides to quickly expand his takeover of the Crimea peninsula by seizing more Ukrainian territory, despite Western threats of tighter sanctions.

On the other hand, Russian officials are publicly denying any plans to invade Ukraine and Russian President Vladimir Putin called President Obama yesterday, supposedly to discuss diplomatic options. But can Putin be trusted? What would an invasion of Ukraine look like? Although, he suspects it won’t happen, Mark Galeotti at Business Insider provides an answer to that question.

In brief, the aim would be a blitzkrieg that, before Ukraine has the chance properly to muster its forces and, perhaps more to the point, the West can meaningfully react, allows the Russians to draw a new front line and assert their own ground truth, much as happened in Crimea (though this would be much more bloody and contested). This would not be a bid to conquer the whole country (the real question is whether they’d seek to push as far as Odessa, taking more risks and extending their supply lines, but also essentially depriving Ukraine of a coastline) but instead quickly to take those areas where there are potentially supportive local political elites and Russophone populations, and consequently pretexts (however flimsy) to portray invasion as ‘liberation.’

He goes on to explain in further detail, and it’s well worth reading. Here a few longer think pieces on Obama’s and Putin’s goals in the Ukraine crisis. Check them out if you have the time and inclination. Fareed Zakaria: Obama’s 21st-century power politics Mosaic: It’s Not Just Ukraine The Guardian: How Vladimir Putin’s actions in Crimea changed the world

In domestic political news . . .

Gallup reports some good news for Democrats: Young Americans’ Affinity for Democratic Party Has Grown. stmc_lm6lus16wuy9y-jyq

From 1993 to 2003, 47% of 18- to 29-year-olds, on average, identified as Democrats or said they were independents but leaned to the Democratic Party, while 42% were Republicans or Republican leaners. That time span included two years in which young adults tilted Republican, 1994 and 1995, when Republicans won control of Congress. Since 2006, the average gap in favor of the Democratic Party among young adults has been 18 percentage points, 54% to 36%. This Democratic movement among the young has come at a time when senior citizens have become more Republican. The broader U.S. population has shown more variability in its party preferences in recent years, shifting Democratic from 2005 to 2008, moving back toward the Republican Party from 2009 to 2011, and showing modest Democratic preferences in the last two years. A major reason young adults are increasingly likely to prefer the Democratic Party is that today’s young adults are more racially and ethnically diverse than young adults of the past. U.S. political preferences are sharply divided by race, with nonwhite Americans of all ages overwhelmingly identifying as Democrats or leaning Democratic.

In Texas, Greg Abbot is still acting like a complete idiot. From Think Progress: Sidestepping Equal Pay Attacks, Greg Abbott Tries To Accuse Wendy Davis Of Gender Discrimination. Huh?

Greg Abbott and Wendy Davis

Greg Abbott and Wendy Davis

Texas gubernatorial candidate and Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) faces continued tough scrutiny over his campaign’s position against equal pay for women. His campaign has twice justified the gender wage gap and implied he would veto an equal pay bill that makes it easier for women to sue. Instead of addressing the criticism directly, Abbott has chosen to fire back accusations that Wendy Davis, his opponent in the gubernatorial race, is “defending gender discrimination.” Over the last week, the Abbott campaign has posted Facebook ads that call Davis a hypocrite on the gender wage gap, linking to a petition on his site that describes a client Davis once reportedly defended:

Sen. Wendy Davis continues to launch attacks over equal pay while shielding her own record of defending gender discrimination. And while on the Fort Worth City Council, Sen. Davis approved funds to defend a former city employee with a “legs and lipstick” policy.

Here, Abbott is referring to a routine vote Davis cast as a city council member that granted legal counsel funds to a Fort Worth employer sued for harassment and discrimination.

Why on earth would anyone vote for this man? The media has been taking note of the sexist attacks on Chris Christie’s former aide Bridget Kelley. Amy Davidson has a summary at The New Yorker: Chris Christie, Surrounded by Emotional Liars? Check it out if you can. This might be a good sign for better reporting in the New York Times Magazine. Jake Silverstein editor-in-chief of Texas Monthly has been hired to revamp the stagnant NYT Sunday magazine.

Under Mr. Silverstein, Texas Monthly has been nominated for 12 National Magazine Awards and won four, including the general excellence prize.

In an interview on his new role at The Times Magazine, Mr. Silverstein said, “I think this is a remarkable moment for the magazine to commit to the kind of long-form impactful journalism that has made the magazine one of the most influential publications throughout its history.”

Mr. Silverstein, 38, holds an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Texas at Austin and became editor of Texas Monthly in 2008. He is only the fourth editor of that magazine, which published its first issue in February 1973.

In the Boston bombing trial . . .

Accused Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s attorneys have requested records of any FBI contacts with Dzhokhar’s older brother Tamerlan and any FISA court ordered surveillance of the Tsarnaev brothers. From the Boston Globe: FBI pushed elder Tsarnaev to be informer, lawyers assert.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev

Tamerlan Tsarnaev

Lawyers for accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev asserted Friday that his older brother and alleged accomplice had been encouraged by the FBI to be an informant and to report on the Chechen and Muslim community, according to court records. “We seek this information based on our belief that these contacts were among the precipitating events for Tamerlan’s actions during the week of April 15, 2013, and thus material to the defense case in mitigation,” the lawyers said in their court filing. “We base this on information from our client’s family and other sources that the FBI made more than one visit to talk with Anzor [his father], Zubeidat [his mother] and Tamerlan, questioned Tamerlan about his Internet searches, and asked him to be an informant, reporting on the Chechen and Muslim community

“We do not suggest that these contacts are to be blamed and have no evidence to suggest that they were improper, but rather view them as an important part of the story of Tamerlan’s decline. Since Tamerlan is dead, the government is the source of corroboration that these visits did in fact occur and of what was said during them.”The lawyers suggested that Tamerlan Tsarnaev could have misinterpreted his interactions with the FBI as pressure from the agency, and that they could have “increased his paranoia and distress.” The defense wants to investigate those factors as it seeks to portray Tamerlan as a dominating family figure who may have pushed the younger Dzhokhar to take part in the April 15 bombings last year. Tamerlan was killed days after the bombings in a confrontation with police in Watertown. Good luck with prying anything loose from the FBI.

So . . . what stories are you following today? Please post your recommended links in the comment thread, and have a terrific weekend!


Thursday Reads

spring robin

Good Morning and Happy Vernal Equinox!!

Today is the first day of Spring. Isn’t it wonderful? Soon those of us in the North will begin seeing the signs–little yellow buds on the forsythia bushes, crocuses, and robins hopping around outside. We’ve survived another winter. Sure, we could get a little more snow, but it won’t stick around as long because the days are longer and the sun is brighter.

The Independent has an explainer on the vernal equinox.

In the most basic terms an equinox is when the length of the night and the length of the day are roughly equal. There are two equinoxes (one in March for the beginning of spring and one in September for the beginning of autumn)  and the word itself comes from the Latin for equal (‘aequus’) and night (‘nox’).

seasonalvariations-edited

The ‘opposite’ of an equinox is a solstice – another pair of biannual events which occur in the middle of winter and summer when the Sun appears at its lowest or highest point in the sky. Each of these four days occur at roughly equal time periods, marking major transitional points as the Earth orbits the sun.

These transitions (and the season themselves) are caused by the Earth’s axial tilt….This tilt means that different parts of the planet are exposed to different amounts of sunshine as the Earth orbits the Sun. The tilt itself is actually caused by the distribution of land masses and ice sheets on the planet – the Earth is literally top-heavy, meaning that it tilts as it’s spun.

Humans living thousands of years may not have known the details of this astronomy, but over generations they certainly learnt that the Earth gets warmer and colder in pretty regular cycles, with the spring equinox marking one point when the Northern Hemisphere begins to shrug off winter’s cold.

Read all about it at the link.

Late last night, news broke that two large pieces of debris had shown up on satellite imagery off the coast of Australia that could be from missing Malaysian flight 370. AP via ABC News: Australia Checking 2 Objects in Search for Plane.

Military search planes flew over a remote part of the Indian Ocean on Thursday hunting for debris in “probably the best lead” so far in finding the missing Malaysia Airlines flight, officials said.

The four planes were checking to see if two large objects spotted in satellite imagery bobbing in the ocean were debris from Fight 370 that disappeared March 8 with 239 people on board….

One of the objects spotted by satellite imagery was 24 meters (almost 80 feet) in length and the other was 5 meters (15 feet). There could be other objects in the area, a four-hour flight from Australia’s southwestern coast, said John Young, manager of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s emergency response division.

“This is a lead, it’s probably the best lead we have right now,” Young said. He cautioned that the objects could be seaborne debris along a shipping route where containers can fall off cargo vessels, although the larger object is longer than a container.

Young told a news conference in Canberra, Australia’s capital, that planes had been sent to the area about 2,500 kilometers (1,550 miles) southwest of Perth to check on the objects. He said satellite images “do not always turn out to be related to the search even if they look good, so we will hold our views on that until they are sighted close-up.”

This morning, ABC reported that so far nothing has been found.

A nine hour search of the Indian Ocean by the world’s most sophisticated search plane failed to locate the objects spotted by a satellite that investigators believe could be from the missing Malaysia Airlines jet, instead finding only a freighter and two pods of dolphins.

The hunt by the P-8 Poseidon airplane is an indication of how difficult it will be to find the objects spotted by a satellite or any debris in the vast expanse of the southern Indian Ocean.

The military airplane is considered so sophisticated that civilians’ cameras were confiscated so photos could not be taken on board.

The search area is so remote that it took the Poseidon three hours of flying to arrive over the area part way to the South Pole and 1,300 miles west of Australia.

More details at ABC News. Of course even if the objects are located and they are found to be parts from MH370, it still will be some time (if ever) before we learn what happened to the missing plane. 

Meanwhile, the crisis continues in Ukraine. Even Angela Merkel has begun speaking out, saying there will be no more G8 meetings “until the situation changes.” Merkel also threatened more sanctions by the EU.

Kiev — European leaders were on Thursday to debate biting economic sanctions against Russia for its annexation of Crimea as Ukraine tore up key ties with the Kremlin and drew up plans to evacuate its nationals from the rebel peninsula.

The European Union is under intense pressure to find a credible response to an explosive security crisis on the 28-nation bloc’s eastern frontier that NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen on Wednesday called “the gravest threat to European security and stability since the end of the Cold War.”

But the Kremlin has warned repeatedly that it would strike back hard if confronted with a new wave of Western punitive measures that EU nations — their energy and financial sectors intertwined with Russia’s — would keenly prefer to avoid.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said EU leaders would widen the list of people targeted by travel bans and asset freezes and warned of economic sanctions if the crisis escalates.

The EU Council “will make clear that we are ready at any time to apply third-phase measures in the event of a further worsening of the situation,” she said, adding that “it will, without a doubt, be a question of economic sanctions.”

USA Today on Russia’s actions in Crimea: Russia takes over Ukraine’s military bases, officers.

KIEV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s government said Wednesday it will pull its troops from Crimea, where Russian troops and Crimean allies are seizing military bases and officers.

Masked armed men assumed to be Russian military seized Ukraine’s naval headquarters in the city of Sevastopol on the Black Sea in Crimea and took away a Ukrainian admiral.

Ukraine’s defense minister and deputy prime minister put off a trip to Crimea in what they said was a bid to avert an escalation in hostilities after the self-appointed prime minister in Crimea, Sergei Aksyonov, warned that they “are not welcome,” Interfax news agency said.

The hostilities follow a decree by Russian President Vladimir Putin that the former captive of the Soviet Union, Russia’s predecessor, is now part of Russia despite warnings from the White House and Europe that Moscow will pay “costs” for a takeover.

For anyone who wants to dig deeper check out this article at The Independent, Ukraine crisis: New face of Crimea revealed after naval base is stormed, and these opinion pieces:

Financial Times: Threat of future Russian aggression remains.

CNN: Putin’s breathtaking lies about Russia.

Finally, I thought this post by Carl Bialek at Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight was kind of funny: Another Explanation For Crimea Referendum Landslide. Bialek discusses statistical explanations, but never mentions the possibility that the election was fixed. Not everything can be explained by statistics.

Anzu wyliei – a bird-like dinosaur nicknamed the 'chicken from hell'

Anzu wyliei – a bird-like dinosaur nicknamed the ‘chicken from hell’

In other news . . .

Have you heard about the recently discovered dinosaur that has been nicknamed the “Chicken from Hell?” It looks like something out of a 1950s monster movie. From the WaPo:

Scientists have discovered a freakish, birdlike species of dinosaur — 11 feet long, 500 pounds, with a beak, no teeth, a bony crest atop its head, murderous claws, prize-fighter arms, spindly legs, a thin tail and feathers sprouting all over the place. Officially, it’s a member of a group of dinosaurs called oviraptorosaurs.

Unofficially, it’s the Chicken From Hell.

That’s the nickname the scientists have been using. It’s the term in the news release associated with the discovery. This dino-bird is not literally a chicken, or even a bird. It’s definitely a dinosaur, and it lived at the end of the Cretaceous period, from about 68 million to 66 million years ago….

“It would have been a cross between a chicken and a lizard,” said Tyler Lyson, a paleontologist at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, who excavated some of the fossils on his uncle’s North Dakota ranch in 1999.

The fossils of three specimens of the new dinosaur were found in a sedimentary rock layer known as the Hell Creek Formation in three locations in North and South Dakota. The formation, the scientists said, helped inspire the nickname.

This undated handout photo issued by London antique dealers Wartski via the Press Association on Wednesday March 19, 2014, shows a rare Imperial Faberge Egg. The London antique dealer says the gold ornament bought by an American scrap-metal dealer has turned out to be a rare Faberge egg worth millions. (AP/WARTSKI/PA)

This undated handout photo issued by London antique dealers Wartski via the Press Association on Wednesday March 19, 2014, shows a rare Imperial Faberge Egg. The London antique dealer says the gold ornament bought by an American scrap-metal dealer has turned out to be a rare Faberge egg worth millions. (AP/WARTSKI/PA)

Here’s another freaky story for you. Have you heard about the scrap dealer who bought a Faberge egg at an antique fair in the Midwestern U.S.? The guy bought it for about $14,000 hoping to melt it down and make a small profit from the gold; but the buyers he talked to thought he was asking too much for it.

From the Telegraph: The £20m Fabergé egg that was almost sold for scrap (That’s $4o million in U.S. dollars).

The egg languished in his kitchen for years until one night in 2012, when he Googled “egg” and “Vacheron Constantin”, a name etched on the timepiece inside.

Speaking of the kitchen, it is the heart of any home right? One of the most important aspects of a kitchen remodel is the surface that you use on a daily basis: your counters. That’s why I recommend Boise countertop specialists. There you’ll find the latest in premium countertop surfaces, including Quartz countertops, Solid Surface, and Laminate. Call them directly at 208-576-6120 or visit their website page http://floform.com/locations/boise/.

The result was a Telegraph article published a year earlier, featuring a picture of his egg and the title: “Is this £20 million nest-egg on your mantelpiece?” The dealer – who wishes to remain anonymous, given his newfound wealth – contacted the Fabergé expert named in the article, Kieran McCarthy of Mayfair jeweller Wartski.

Mr McCarthy said: “He saw the article and recognised his egg in the picture. He flew straight over to London – the first time he had ever been to Europe – and came to see us. He hadn’t slept for days.

McCarthy then traveled to the U.S. to make sure the egg was genuine.

“It was a very modest home in the Mid West, next to a highway and a Dunkin’ Donuts. There was the egg, next to some cupcakes on the kitchen counter.

“I examined it and said, ‘You have an Imperial Fabergé Easter Egg.’ And he practically fainted. He literally fell to the floor in astonishment.” The dealer etched Mr McCarthy’s name and the date into the wooden bar stool on which Mr McCarthy sat to examine the egg, marking the day that his life changed forever.

The scrap dealer is hoping none of his neighbors find out how rich he is now. But how did the “egg” get to the U.S.?

I’ll end with some sports news that no one but my mother and I probably care about. Today is the first day of March Madness–the NCAA basketball tournament, and my parents’ alma mater North Dakota State is a 12 seed in the tournament. They will be playing number 5 seeded Oklahoma, so they probably won’t make it to the second round, but President Obama picked them to pull an upset. Sadly, no Indiana teams made it this year. Some Cinderella teams from my current home state are Harvard and U. Mass. I usually root for Kansas, but I wouldn’t mind at all if Michigan State wins the whole thing, as Obama predicted.

Now what stories are you following today? Please post your links on any topic in the comment thread.


Tuesday Reads: More Snow, Mystery Plane, Joe McGinniss, Ed Snowden, and Ukraine Crisis

A Snowy Harvard Square in 1969

A Snowy Harvard Square in 1969

Good Morning!!

I’ve had a scary couple of days. I woke up on Sunday morning to find my house very cold. I soon realized there was something wrong with my furnace. It was still running and there was hot air coming out of the vents, but it wasn’t pushing out enough heat to warm up the house. It turned out the blower motor had died so I called furnace installation davenport ia to diagnose the problem.

Why is it these things always seem to happen on a weekend or holiday? Luckily it hasn’t been terribly cold so I’ve managed to stay relatively comfortable by wearing lots of layers and using a portable electric heater. I was able to find someone to come and fix it yesterday. I got so relaxed that I overslept this morning, and so this post is going to be late.

In addition, health benefits of infrared heating impacts our mind and body. Increases your core body temperature, stimulating continuous blood flow from the heart in and around the body. The improvement of circulation enables an increased level of fresh oxygen and other nutrients to reach vital organs, removing carbon dioxide and other waste substances away from these organs, improving their functions helping to perform better and feel healthier.

So now I’m completely broke but warm, and I’m prepared for the upcoming snowstorm. Yes, the Weather Channel is predicting another one and has given it one of those annoying names. You can check out the predicted impact on your area in this summary article, Winter Storm Vulcan Forecast: Long Swath of Snow Across Rockies, Midwest, Northeast. I can only hope this one turns out to be a bust like the last one. Otherwise, I’ll be shoveling snow again on Friday.

The story of the missing Malaysion plane continues. Here are the latest reports:

missing-plane-graphic

Reuters (via Nipawin Journal): Malaysia military tracked missing plane to west coast: Source

KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysia’s military believes a jetliner missing for almost four days turned and flew hundreds of kilometres to the west after it last made contact with civilian air traffic control off the country’s east coast, a senior officer told Reuters on Tuesday.

In one of the most baffling mysteries in recent aviation history, a massive search operation for the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER has so far found no trace of the aircraft or the 239 passengers and crew.

Malaysian authorities have previously said flight MH370 disappeared about an hour after it took off from Kuala Lumpur for the Chinese capital Beijing.

“It changed course after Kota Bharu and took a lower altitude. It made it into the Malacca Strait,” the senior military officer, who has been briefed on investigations, told Reuters.

That would appear to rule out sudden catastrophic mechanical failure, as it would mean the plane flew around 500 km (350 miles) at least after its last contact with air traffic control, although its transponder and other tracking systems were off.

A non-military source familiar with the investigations said the report was one of several theories and was being checked.

Authorities are pretty sure there was no terrorism involved. At least one of the men with stolen passports was an asylum-seeker from Iran.

CBS News: Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 search widens; men carrying stolen passports ID’d as young Iranians

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — At least one of the two men traveling on a missing Malaysian Airlines jetliner was an Iranian asylum seeker, officials said Tuesday, as baffled authorities expanded their search for the Boeing 777 on the opposite side of the country from where it disappeared nearly four days ago with 239 people on board.

In the absence of any sign that the plane was in trouble before it vanished, speculation has ranged widely, including pilot error, plane malfunction, hijacking and terrorism, the last because two passengers were traveling on stolen passports. The terrorism theory weakened after Malaysian authorities determined that one of the two men was an Iranian asylum seeker.

Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble said at a news conference Tuesday that the international police agency had identified two Iranian men, Pouri Nour Mohammadi, 18, and Delavar Seyed Mohammad Reza, 29. Noble said based on investigations carried out into the men to date, they were “probably not terrorists.” The chief of police in Kuala Lumpur said earlier in the day that Mohamadi was apparently trying to fly to Europe as an asylum seeker.

The plane took off from Kuala Lumpur, on the western coast of Malaysia, early Saturday en route to Beijing. It flew overland across Malaysia and crossed the eastern coast into the Gulf of Thailand at 35,000 feet. There it disappeared from radar screens. The airline says the pilots didn’t send any distress signals, suggesting a sudden and possibly catastrophic incident.

hotshot_selling-of-the-president-1968

I was surprised and saddened last night to learn that Joe McGinniss has died at 71 of complications from inoperable prostate cancer. McGinniss was only 26 when his first book The Selling of the President 1968 hit the bestseller lists. I bought the book and read it way back then. I couldn’t put it down. Same thing with his pathbreaking true crime book on the Jeffrey MacDonald case, Fatal Vision. From the AP obituary (via First Post World),  ‘Fatal Vision’ author Joe McGinniss passes away at 71.

McGinniss was a columnist for The Philadelphia Inquirer in 1968 when an advertising man told him he was joining Hubert Humphrey’s presidential campaign. Intrigued that candidates had advertising teams, McGinniss was inspired to write a book and tried to get access to Humphrey. The Democrat turned him down, but, according to McGinniss, Nixon aide Leonard Garment allowed him in, one of the last times the ever-suspicious Nixon would permit a journalist so much time around him. Garment and other Nixon aides were apparently unaware, or unconcerned, that McGinniss’ heart was very much with the anti-war agitators the candidate so despised.

The Republican’s victory that fall capped a once-unthinkable comeback for the former vice president, who had declared six years earlier that he was through with politics. Having lost the 1960 election in part because of his pale, sweaty appearance during his first debate with John F. Kennedy and aware of his reputation as a partisan willing to play dirty, Nixon had restricted his public outings and presented himself as a new and more mature candidate.

McGinniss was far from the only writer to notice Nixon’s reinvention, but few offered such raw and unflattering details. “The Selling of the President” was a sneering rebuttal to Theodore H. White’s stately “Making of the President” campaign books. It revealed Nixon aides, including future Fox News chief Roger Ailes, disparaging vice presidential candidate Spiro Agnew, drafting memos on how to fix Nixon’s “cold” image and debating which black man — only one would be permitted — was right for participating in a televised panel discussion.

Historian David Greenberg wrote in “Nixon’s Shadow,” published in 2003, that McGinniss “sneaked in under the radar screen, presenting himself to Nixon’s men as such an insignificant fly on the wall that they never thought to swat him away.”

McGinnis was criticized for getting too close to Jeffrey McDonald and somehow betraying him, but I think McGinnis got it right. His contract stated that he would have full independence. He started out thinking McDonald could be innocent of the murders of his wife and two daughters, and he had an inside track on the defense; but in the end McGinnis concluded that MacDonald was guilty and wrote about his change of heart in the book.

Colette, Kimberly, and Kristin MacDonald

Colette, Kimberly, and Kristin MacDonald

From Reuters:

His 1983 book “Fatal Vision” became a classic of the true crime genre and was based on unlimited access he gained to former Green Beret Jeffrey MacDonald and his attorneys during MacDonald’s 1979 murder trial in the deaths of his pregnant wife and two young daughters in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

MacDonald, who at the time of the 1970 killings was an Army doctor, was found guilty and is serving three life sentences.

He has maintained the murders were committed by drug-crazed intruders. McGinniss had begun by expressing support for MacDonald but ended by concluding in his book that he was guilty of killing his family.

“I kept trying to find any reason I could to believe that he was not guilty,” McGinniss testified at a 2012 court hearing where MacDonald sought to be granted a new trial.

New Yorker magazine writer Janet Malcolm, in a 1989 article, accused McGinnis of displaying the underside of journalism by deceiving MacDonald with a show of support and then betraying his confidence, an argument McGinnis vehemently denied.

A terrific writer has left us far too soon.

Edward Snowden has been making more virtual appearances than a best-selling author on a publicity tour. Yesterday he was at South by Southwest Interactive in Austin Texas. I’m sure everyone here knows I’m not a fan of the pale and nerdy defector, so I’ll spare you my editorial comments and just give you a couple few links.

From Politico’s Josh Gerstein: Snowden Inc.

First, National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden popped up in Hong Kong. Then, Russia. By Monday, the fugitive from justice, a man regularly accused of treason, was in Austin, Texas, hitting the nation’s hottest tech festival — via the Web, of course.

“They’re setting fire to the future of the Internet,” Snowden warned darkly, in jerky video relayed through a series of proxies from an undisclosed location in Russia. With an image of the U.S. Constitution projected behind him, he urged the tech-savvy SXSW attendees to ride to the rescue against rampant surveillance by the NSA and others. “The people who are in this room, now, you guys are all the firefighters, and we need you to help fight this,” he said, sounding every bit the geek as he described various encryption applications he believes should get wider use.

Snowden was painstaking in how he assembled a huge trove of top-secret documents while working as a tech contractor at an NSA facility in Hawaii. And he’s been equally deliberate in the way he and the team around him have crafted and cultivated his public image — controlling and carefully managing how he’s been perceived by the public in the months since he burst into the spotlight. It’s an endeavor that’s involved everything from coordinated efforts to beat back Obama administration attacks to the careful parceling out of tantalizing tidbits about his everyday life.

08082013_Leaking_Hot_Tub_DL

Snowden is campaigning for clemency; but frankly, I hope he ends up stuck in Russia for life. Ooops! Sorry, that’s my last nasty comment. A couple more links:

The Verge: Edward Snowden: ‘Would I do it again? Absolutely yes’

The Washington Post: ‘They’re setting fire to the future of the Internet’

I’ll wrap this up with some interesting articles on the crisis in Ukraine.

Putin biographer Masha Gessen at the LA Times, Is Vladimir Putin insane? Hardly. He is merely acting the way he always has, like a playground bully.

Politico, Bill Clinton no fan of ‘crazy’ moves on Ukraine

Financial Times, Ukraine is a test case for American power: If the Chinese leadership were ever to ‘do a Putin’, how could the US and allies react?

Robert Shrum at The Daily Beast, Obama’s All Eisenhower On Russia: Like Ike before him, Obama’s non-moves against Russia are the right moves.

Now what stories are you following today? Please post your links on any topic in the comment thread, and have a terrific Tuesday!

Thursday: Hillary, Vlad, and the Crisis in Ukraine

Vladimir Putin,Hillary Rodham Clinton

Good Morning!!

We’re close to two years away from the 2016 presidential primaries, but already the media is putting everything Hillary Clinton said or does under a microscope. I don’t know how I’m going to get through this. For some reason, I just can’t help being protective of Hillary even if I don’t agree with everything she says. The latest flap is over remarks she made about Vladimir Putin’s actions in Ukraine at a private fundraiser for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Long Beach, CA .

It began on Tuesday night when Buzzfeed’s Ruby Cramer reported what she learned from two people who attended the event: Hillary Clinton Compares Russia Moves To Nazi Aggression.

“Mrs. Clinton talked at length on the situation in the Ukraine,” said one attendee, Harry Saltzgaver, the executive editor of a group of newspapers in Long Beach.

Both Saltzgaver and a second fundraiser attendee, who requested to speak without attribution, described Clinton’s parallel between the actions of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Adolf Hitler, who resettled tens of thousands of ethnic Germans in Eastern and Central Europe to Nazi Germany before the war.

“She compared issuing Russian passports to Ukrainians with ties to Russia with early actions by Nazi Germany before Hitler began invading neighboring countries,” Saltzgaver said. “She said, however, that while that makes people nervous, there is no indication that Putin is as irrational as the instigator of World War II.”

A reporter also provided Cramer with direct quotes:

According to the Long Beach Press Telegram, whose reporter attended the event, Clinton told attendees, “Now if this sounds familiar, it’s what Hitler did back in the 30s,” she said. “All the Germans that were … the ethnic Germans, the Germans by ancestry who were in places like Czechoslovakia and Romania and other places, Hitler kept saying they’re not being treated right. I must go and protect my people and that’s what’s gotten everybody so nervous.”

Oh no! Clinton breaks Godwin’s law! Suddenly there was a stampede to be the first to criticize her for invoking Hitler. I mean, how dare she? She’s only the former Secretary of State and a possible candidate for president in 2016.

Philip Rucker at the WaPo: Hillary Clinton’s Putin-Hitler comments draw rebukes as she wades into Ukraine conflict.

Hillary Rodham Clinton has sparked a political uproar this week by wading into the middle of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, likening the moves of Russian President Vladimir Putin to the actions of Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler leading up to World War II.

The former secretary of state’s provocative comparison drew swift rebukes Wednesday from U.S.-Russia policy experts — including some who served under her husband, former president Bill Clinton — while attracting rare notes of support from hawkish Republicans in Congress.

The comments put Clinton, a possible 2016 presidential candidate, at odds with President Obama and her former administration colleagues, who have been measured in their statements on Ukraine in hopes of avoiding an escalation of Putin’s incursion into Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

Rucker quoted one “expert” who claimed Hillary was trying to take a “hard line” on Putin now because she had been “the face of the Obama administration’s “effort to “reset” its policy with Russia.”

Ian Bremmer, president of Eurasia Group, a nonpartisan global risk consulting firm, said Clinton’s Hitler comment signaled she was trying to “stage manage” the Russia issue.

“Hillary’s too smart to actually believe that Putin’s actions are remotely close to anything that Hitler did,” Bremmer said. “The only reason she would say that is that she believes she was vulnerable in having been the architect of the failed ‘reset’ and wants to show that she’s harder-line than anybody else.”

But former Russian Ambassador Michael McFaul disagreed.

He said Clinton was “much more skeptical” of Putin than other administration colleagues, that she was the first U.S. official to condemn Putin’s disputed 2011 election, and that she made a point of meeting with civil-society critics during official visits to Russia.

Buzzfeed’s Andrew Kaczinski followed up on his colleague’s reporting with a clarification from Hillary in a report on her appearance at at UCLA yesterday.

“The claims by President Putin and other Russians that they had to go into Crimea and maybe further into Eastern Ukraine because they had protect the Russia minorities,” Clinton said Wednesday, “that is reminiscent of claims that were made back in the 1930s when Germany under the Nazis kept talking about how they had to protect German minorities in Poland, in Czechoslovakia, and elsewhere throughout Europe. So I just want everybody to have a little historic perspective. I’m not making a comparison certainly, but I am recommending that we perhaps can learn from this tactic that has been used before.”

Clinton also assessed Putin’s personality, based on her personal experience:

“As for President Putin, I know we are dealing with a tough guy with a thin skin,” Clinton said. “I’ve had a lot of experience — well, not only with him but with people like that — but in particular with President Putin. I know that his political vision is of a greater Russia.”

“I support the administration’s call for Russia to respect its obligation and to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity of Ukraine,” Clinton added.

Still, at CNN last night Timothy Stanley chided Hillary for “raising the specter of another world war.” Sorry, but isn’t Putin the one doing that? A couple more reactions:

LA Times: Hillary Clinton highlights pragmatism in approach to Russia

Hillary Rodham Clinton defended her record as secretary of State against Republican criticism that she had been too accommodating to Russia, arguing Wednesday that she had taken a tough but pragmatic approach so the U.S. could attain its goals.

In remarks at UCLA’s Royce Hall, Clinton assertively brushed aside opponents’ suggestions that she and the Obama administration effectively invited Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s recent incursion into Ukraine by failing to blunt his aggression.

Clinton said that when she became secretary of State in 2009, “we had some business we wanted to get done with Russia.” Among the U.S. goals at the time: an arms control agreement, the creation of a pathway through Russia to provide support for U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and an effort to get Russia into the World Trade Organization.

“There is a debate in foreign policy, and you hear these voices on TV right now: ‘These are bad folks; they’re doing bad things; do nothing with them,'” Clinton said, adding that her approach was to “be smart about it; pick and choose; stand your ground on disagreements, but look for ways to get things done.”

Pointing to the administration’s accomplishments, Clinton said that the U.S. “even got [Russia] to support sanctions against Iran in the [U.N.] Security Council — something people predicted we couldn’t get done.”

NYT The Caucus Blog: Clinton Ratchets Up Criticism of Putin and Backs Obama.

Hillary Rodham Clinton continued her sharp condemnation of Russian President Vladamir V. Putin here on Wednesday, calling him “a tough guy with a thin skin” and saying she supports the Obama administration’s call for Russia to resist further intervention in neighboring Ukraine.

“His political vision is of a greater Russia. I said when I was still secretary that his goal is to re-Sovietize Russia’s periphery,” Mrs. Clinton said at the top of remarks she delivered at the University of California. In the process, she said, Mr. Putin is “squandering the potential of such a great nation. The nation of Russia.”

I think Hillary handled herself pretty well, and I agree with her tough approach to Putin. Let’s not forget that Putin has Edward Snowden and all his stolen secrets. As former NASA analyst John Schindler tweeted yesterday,

“As crisis mounts and war looms, I hope US and NATO have excellent intelligence on Russia. Too bad #Snowden compromised all that SIGINT…”

Just one last article on the crisis in Ukraine, this time from the Russian standpoint and it shows the need for Western leaders to take clear stands. From the Moscow Times: Why There Will Be War in Ukraine. Author Sergei Markov of The Institute of Political Studies argues that the current leadership in Ukraine is anti-Russian and will intimidate Russian speakers living in the country. He predicts this could eventually lead to efforts to overthrow Putin in Russia.

After that, Kiev may evict Russia’s Black Sea Fleet from Sevastopol and purge Crimea of any Russian influence. Ukraine could easily become a radicalized, anti-Russian state, at which point Kiev will fabricate a pretext to justify taking subversive action against Moscow. This looks especially likely considering that ruling coalition members from the neo-fascist Svoboda and Right Sector parties have already made territorial claims against Russia. They could easily send their army of activists to Russia to join local separatists and foment rebellion in the North Caucasus and other unstable regions in Russia. In addition, Russia’s opposition movement will surely want to use the successful experience and technology of the Euromaidan protests and, with the help and financial support of the West, try to carry out their own revolution in Moscow. The goal: to remove President Vladimir Putin from power and install a puppet leadership that will sell Russia’s strategic interests out to the West in the same way former President Boris Yeltsin did in the 1990s….

Markov too breaks Godwin’s law:

Putin made the right decision: He did not to wait for that attack and took preventative measures. Many in the West say the Kremlin’s reactions were paranoiac, but Germany’s Jews also thought the same of leaving the country in 1934. Most of them chose to believe they were safe and remained in Germany even after Hitler came to power. The infamous Kristallnacht took place five years later, one of the first early chapters in the “Final Solution.” Similarly, just four years remain until Russia’s presidential election in 2018, and there is a strong risk that subversive forces within and outside Russia will try to overthrow Putin, in part using their new foothold in Ukraine.

Will there be war in Ukraine? I am afraid so. After all, the extremists who seized power in Kiev want to see a bloodbath. Only fear for their own lives might stop them from inciting such a conflict. Russia is prepared to move its forces into southern and eastern Ukraine if repressive measures are used against the Russian-speaking population or if a military intervention occurs. Russia will not annex Crimea. It has enough territory already. At the same time, however, it will also not stand by passively while Russophobic and neo-Nazi gangs hold the people of Crimea, Kharkiv and Donetsk at their mercy.

Yikes!

So . . . what do you think? And what other stories are you following today? Please share your links in the comments. I have few I’ll post there too.