Feb 122016

It's been a good week for Bernie (not that we aren't all working to make it even better), but stuff can still happen which seems to me to call for the efforts of the Greek Furies (Erinyes) to come and deal with it. As a reminder, though no one really knows how many there were supposed to be, the three names we have are Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone. These roughly translate as "unceasing," "grudging," and "vengeful destruction."

I have only one story this week.  I just didn't think it gets any more complete than this.  Here's the headline:

“A New Low” — Cop Suing the Family of a Teen HE Killed, Saying it Caused HIM Emotional Trauma

Yes, you read that right.

(In fact, you've probably seen it – it is so outrageous as to have gotten a lot of attention.)

Chicago, IL — A Chicago Police Officer who responded to a call for assistance by killing an unarmed 19-year-old college student and a neighbor, who was uninvolved in the situation, has now filed a lawsuit against the estate of the student HE killed — saying the shooting left him traumatized.

It beggars belief.

I can give names and dollar figures.

Officer Robert Rialmo is inexplicably seeking $10 million in damages from the estate of Quintonio LeGrier — apparently because killing someone is so traumatic, he must also sue for what he did.

I can give quotes from attorneys:

According to the Associated Press, Rialmo’s attorney, Joel Brodsky, “said it was important in the charged atmosphere [in Chicago] to send a message that police are not ‘targets for assaults’ and [they] ‘suffer damage like anyone else.’”

Attorney Basileios Foutris is representing Antonio LeGrier in the wrongful death suit he filed days after Quintonio’s death and said he was astonished at the “temerity” Rialmo has displayed in suing the still-grieving family of the man he shot.  “That’s a new low, even for the Chicago Police Department,” he said. “First you shoot them then you sue them.”

I can provide bare bones facts:

Quintonio LeGrier was killed on December 26, after his father summoned police for what he thought would be help handling the distraught teen. Instead of giving aid, Rialmo shot LeGrier — six times — as well as neighbor, Bettie Jones, who had simply been watching for police to direct them to the appropriate apartment. Though a statement from police wasn’t forthcoming at the time of the incident, they did say LeGrier was “combative” and carrying a baseball bat.

I can give a general idea of the conflict in the stories:

While Rialmo claims LeGrier was “3 or 4 feet away” from him and was advancing aggressively with the bat, descriptions from LeGrier’s and Jones’ families say the officer was 20 or 30 feet away when he fired his weapon — and therefore could not possibly have feared for his life.  Additionally, Quintonio placed the original call to 911. As Foutris stated, “If you’re calling multiple times for help are you going to charge a police officer and try to hit him with a bat? That’s ridiculous.”

I can tell you the FBI has been asked to investigate, and I can quote someone who knows a little about these situations:

Phil Turner, a former federal prosecutor and current defense attorney who is not involved with this case, told the AP such a lawsuit is highly unusual, and “said it appeared intended to intimidate LeGrier’s family. He said he had never heard of an officer blaming his shooting victim for causing trauma.”

But I can't say anything more telling than the author of this article said:

Maybe if Officer Rialmo hadn’t shot and killed an unarmed teenage college student and ‘accidentally’ shot a neighbor in the neck, but had instead used de-escalation techniques and any number of less-than-lethal options, like backing up, perhaps he wouldn’t be ‘suffering’ so horribly — and these families would not have lost their loved ones.

In fact, the way I feel, if I has said that, it would have been laced with profanity.  So I won't.

I will save my breath to ask Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone to hurry on down to the Chicago Police Department, and to Officer Rialmo's home, if he is on paid vacation, as so often happens.  There's counseling needed here.  Thank you, ladies.

This article appeared in AlterNet credited to the Free Thought Project, which I have also credited and linked as primary source.  Because their view on copyright is "Feel free to republish all original content from this site. We just ask that you link back to us. You will not be sued for aiding humanity in the struggle for peace!"

The Furies and I will be back. 

Feb 072016

06 February 2016

Today, 06/02/2016, is the Interbational Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation.  A 27/11/2012 press release by Amnesty International UK said: 

The adoption yesterday of a resolution against female genital mutilation (FGM) in the UN General Assembly’s human rights committee is a major boost to civil society organisations fighting for an end to the abusive practice, Amnesty International has said.
This is the first time the Assembly’s Third Committee, which addresses social, humanitarian and human rights issues, has adopted a resolution on FGM – the cutting of a girl’s genitalia clitoris often without anaesthetic in conditions that risk potentially fatal infection.

The resolution is expected to be endorsed by the UN’s General Assembly in December.  Although not legally binding, UN General Assembly resolutions carry considerable moral and political weight.

FGM is common in 28 countries in Africa as well as in Yemen, Iraq, Malaysia, Indonesia and in certain ethnic groups in South America. However it is an issue of worldwide concern, said Amnesty, with Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and girls in diaspora communities also at risk of being subjected to FGM.

Then on 27/12/2012, 

A resolution against female genital mutilation (FGM) has been endorsed by the UN general assembly in a move hailed by Amnesty International. Today’s result was a first for the UN’s general assembly. …

“The UN resolution places FGM in a human rights framework and calls for a holistic approach, stressing as it does the importance of empowerment of Women's rights's, promotion and protection of sexual and reproductive health, and breaking the cycle of discrimination and violence.”

From Wikipedia — FGM "…is the ritual removal of some or all of the external female genitalia. Typically carried out by a traditional circumciser using a blade, with or without anaesthesia, FGM is concentrated in 27 African countries, Yemen and Iraqi Kurdistan, and found elsewhere in Asia, the Middle East, and among diaspora  communities around the world."

FGM_prevalence_UNICEF_2015.svgBy Johnuniq – Own work, GFDL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37848398

In addition, there are growing numbers in Indonesia.  Here is an article from 2014 specifically dealing with FGM in Indonesia.

The Guardian — It's hot, noisy and chaotic, and almost everyone is smiling.

Twelve-year-old Suminah is not. She looks like she wants to punch somebody. Under her white hijab, which she has yanked down over her brow like a hoodie, her eyes have the livid, bewildered expression of a child who has been wronged by people she trusted. She sits on a plastic chair, swatting away her mother's efforts to placate her with a party cup of milk and a biscuit. Suminah is in severe pain. An hour earlier, her genitals were mutilated with scissors as she lay on a school desk.

During the morning, 248 Indonesian girls undergo the same ordeal. Suminah is the oldest, the youngest is just five months. It is April 2006 and the occasion is a mass ceremony to perform sunat perempuan or "female circumcision" that has been held annually since 1958 by the Bandung-based Yayasan Assalaam, an Islamic foundation that runs a mosque and several schools. The foundation holds the event in the lunar month of the Prophet Muhammad's birthday, and pays parents 80,000 rupiah (£6) and a bag of food for each daughter they bring to be cut.  

female circumcision

Suminah will be 18 now; a grown woman. She could well be married, or at least betrothed. Soon enough she will probably have her own kids. I hope she's forgotten her pain, but held on to her rage.

The how and why of female genital cutting varies around the globe.  

The 'how' :

Female genital mutilation is classified into four major types:

  • Type 1 – Clitoridectomy: partial or total removal of the clitoris (a small, sensitive and erectile part of the female genitals) and, in very rare cases, only the prepuce (the fold of skin surrounding the clitoris).
  • Type 2 – Excision: partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora (the labia are “the lips” that surround the vagina).
  • Type 3 – Infibulation: narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal. The seal is formed by cutting and repositioning the inner, or outer, labia, with or without removal of the clitoris.
  • Type 4 – Other: all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, e.g. pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterizing the genital area.

As  shown on the map above, FGM is wide spread across west Africa to north-central and north-east Africa.  It is here that the type of FGM varies.  The following April 2015 article goes into the "why", the culture of cutting.

The Atlantic — She [Bettina Shell-Duncan, an anthropology professor at the University of Washington] also challenges some common misconceptions around FGC, like the belief that it is forced on women by men. In fact, elderly women often do the most to perpetuate the custom. I thought African girls were held down and butchered against their will, but some of them voluntarily and joyfully partake in the ritual. I thought communities would surely abandon the practice once they learned of its negative health consequences. And yet, in Shell-Duncan's experience, most people who practice FGC recognize its costs—they just think the benefits outweigh them.  

Shell-Duncan: The girl was 16. Which was young by their standards. Mostly they’re 18, 19, 20, around that.

Women were going to a dispensary the day before and they were getting antibiotics and an anti-tetanus injection. They would get a clean disposable razor. Before they had a traditional knife that was used, but they stopped using that, and now every bride has her own clean razor.

Khazan: And you watched this unfold?

Shell-Duncan: Well, they invited me. They said, “There’s a wedding going on, do you want to go?” And I was like, “Alright.” They took me to this blended-branch hut. They brought in the bride, and they brought in the circumciser, a woman, and a couple of other women followed. And I just sat on the edge in this tiny hut, and watched what was going on. It all happened pretty quickly. They had one woman working, and other women held each leg. The circumciser came in and lifted this cloth that the woman had been wearing draped around her. The circumciser kneeled, and did basically this.

[Flicks her wrist twice.]

And it was done. They poured some water with herbs boiled in it over her body. They moved her up to this little loft.

After a little time everybody looked to see if the cut was okay, and after that, they started brewing some tea. One woman went outside and announced the circumcision was successful. People started roasting lamb, meat. A little while later, warriors came over to the hut and started singing and dancing praises to the bride and the groom. This went on for hours. There was this complete celebration. I was completely perplexed. I sat there just sort of, you know, “Did anyone just see what I just saw?”

Khazan: Was the girl like, “No, don’t do this to me!” or was she like, “This is happening.”?

Shell-Duncan: No, no, she was proud. She sat there stoic and looked up at a focal point. She didn’t flinch, and that’s apparently a really important part of showing your maturity: Can you withstand the pain? It shows that you have the maturity to face the hardship that is coming as a woman.  

Shell-Duncan: There's no question this is a global-health issue. In the U.S., adult women are capable of giving consent for surgical procedures. But what would it take to get a woman in an African country to the same position of being able to give consent? Social pressures [in the nations that practice FGC] are so strong that no woman could ever opt out. Everybody would come down on her. That’s the problem. Why can we give consent and they can’t?

Click through this excellent article for more about the 'why'.  For the western world, FGM is anathema to our way of life.  But as people move about the globe, many of their cultural practices follow.  In the west however, FGM is done in secret because it is against the law and the law is enforced.  In some African countries, FGM is against the law but the laws are not enforced as vigorously, or at all.

In another article, a former excisor now activist against FGM, tells her story of being an excisor for 30 years.

Huffington Post — As my mother was an excisor, it was inevitable I would become one, too. I started as an assistant to my mother-in-law, helping whenever she excised girls. When my mother-in-law died, a few years after my own mother had passed away, many women from my community were insistent I take over.

Even though I'd only ever observed excision, I felt I had enough knowledge needed to perform excision. After much hesitation, I started accepting regular requests from the community as the "work" is profitable. Practitioners are economically stable. They earn their own wage and they carry a lot of social prestige.  

Several years ago, Plan International and its partner organization ERAD came to our village to raise awareness about the risks of FGM and the associated gynecological problems. Villagers were shown photos and videos. Psychosocial support was also provided for women and they were able to understand more about the issues they faced.

The link between female genital cutting and cases of keloid, dysmenorrhea and urinary incontinence became clear. Five years ago, I decided not to practice excision any more. Soon after, my village decided to ban FGM.

Here is an article on the Care2 site posted by Evelyn, a fairly well known human rights activist on Care2: The Fight Against FGM.
Also, here are two petitions against FGM:

Help Stop Female Genital Mutilation – Urge Congress to Pass the International Violence Against Women 

Stop FGM in Indonesia 

Feb 052016

I have a few items this week which seem to me to call for the efforts of the Greek Furies (Erinyes) to come and deal with it. As a reminder, though no one really knows how many there were supposed to be, the three names we have are Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone. These roughly translate as "unceasing," "grudging," and "vengeful destruction."

I have left out the water in Flint, MI, because that made such a stir that I expect you are already on to those people.  I have left out the seditious militants because I am confident you are on to them and indeed have already got some action from a grand jury (good going there).  I have also left out the "pharma bro" who seems to be digging his own grave.  Although any or all of these could possibly resurface in the future, they seem for now to be getting handled.

I do want to draw attention to what happened to Melissa Harris-Perry in Iowa.  A journalist with a news-opinion show on MSNBC, a professor of political science at Wake Forest, and an author, she was there, with students, to experience the caucuses.  She was sitting in the hotel lobby, eyes glued to the TV, when suddenly this guy was standing next to her.

When he started he speaking it was like he was picking up in the middle of sentence, finishing a conversation we had begun earlier, but I couldn’t remember ever meeting him.

“…So what is it that you teach?”

“I am a professor of political science.”

“My wife is a professor of communications.”

“Does she teach here in Iowa?”

“What I want to know is how you got credentialed to be on MSNBC.”

I am not sure if it is how he spat the word credentialed, or if it is how he took another half step toward me, or if it is how he didn’t respond to my question, but the hairs on my arm stood on end. I ignored it. Told myself everything was ok.

“Well. It is not exactly a credential…” I began.

“But why you? Why would they pick you?”

Now I know something is wrong. Now his voice is angry. Now a few other people have stopped talking and started staring. Now he is so close I can feel his breath. Before I can answer his unanswerable question of why they picked me, he begins to tell me why he has picked me.

“I just want you to know why I am doing this.”

Oh – there is a this. He is going to do a this. To me. And he is going to tell me why.

She jumped up and put a table between him and her.  Her friend jumped and put herself between them.  They raised their voices, starting to make a fuss.  The man ran out, jumped in a car, and drove off.  They spoke with hotel security, who listened politely, "but this is the Iowa caucus, and I am not a candidate, so they go back to their evening. And we go back to ours." 

This sounds like grudging to me.  Particularly “But why you? Why would they pick you?”  Perhaps, Megaera, you can find this – person – for counseling.  And, if you have time, stop off at Breitbart, who loudly dismissed and mocked her story (Republican not linked).  Thanks much.

Then, Tisiphone, I suspect you will be interested in the management of Tyson Foods in Arkansas.  Tyson comes in for a lot of flack over the way it treats chickens inhumanely, and the way it overfeeds them antibiotics, but this isn't about the chickens.  This is about the workers.

According to an email from the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee,

A stunning 91% of surveyed poultry workers reported having no earned sick leave, and almost two-thirds reported working while sick. More than half of these workers said they experienced discrimination, a very troubling statistic for a workforce made up mostly of first- and second-generation immigrants, as well as minority workers from the United States.

 Women, in particular, cited gender discrimination in the way bathroom breaks are withheld by male supervisors. Some have even urinated on themselves because they were not granted breaks when needed.

Well, OK, maybe it is about the chickens too.  That last sentence can't have improved anyone's appetite, even for non-Vegans.  But I primarily was thinking of the vengeful destruction of the human spirit when you make people pee themselves to keep their jobs.  I suspect a lot of these women are mothers, incidentally.  Giving birth can be rough on the sphincters.

The stockholders' meeting was yesterday, and a Twitter/Facebook Thunderclap was planned.  Not being on either, I don't know how it went, but, I hope well.

Finally, Alecto, I don't even know whether there is anything you can really do about the uncea$ing issues of privatization, prisons, and immigrants; although if anyone can, it's you.  ITPI ("In the Public Interest") exists to study and bring to light the specific ills of privatization, which always ends up costing taxpayers more money for less service, while lining the pockets of people rich enough to own an empire to provide the private "service."  Immigration is no exception.  And whenever pri$on is a part of a cycle, and exists to make money, the stakeholders develop a vested interest in keeping people in them to make more and more money.  But, as this graphic shows, there are a lot more people making money from prisons than just prisons.  This contributes more and more to make the cycle never-ending – unceasing.

I think it speaks for itself.  If you need to see it larger to read it you can easily click through.  It does try to distinguish between civil offenders, who are offenders by just being here, and criminal offenders, who have actually committed a crime.  In practice, I don't know.

Alecto, Megaera, Tisiphone, and I will be back next time.  Whenever that is.  Meantime, we wish everyone perfect blood pressure.


Jan 292016

Sorry I wasn't here yesterday to post an Open Thread but my arthritis flared up, swelling my fingers and making it too painful to type or use the mouse, although I managed to respond to TC's articles.  I suspect the heavy rains were the catalyst.  It wasn't until late this afternoon that things started to normalise.  Well I know I am in the dog house, so to speak, with my furbabes as Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday they ignored me, completely!  I suspect it may be the reduced rations.  It is amazing though — the power of food — as they started coming to me a bit more.  I think I am forgiven now.

The Intercept — New FEC filings show that all of the $417,250 in monetary donations to a Super PAC called “Black Americans for a Better Future” comes from conservative white businessmen — including $400,000, or 96 percent of the total, from white billionaire hedge fund manager Robert Mercer.


Call the PAC something that it is not in hopes that it will convince some African American voters to get behind Ted Cruz . . . Black Americans for a Better Future, thy name is deception.

Huffington Post — California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) is asking voters to overturn a strict sentencing law he signed nearly 40 years ago because of its "unintended consequences," including a surge in the prison population.

Brown, in a call with reporters Wednesday, announced a ballot initiative called the Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016, which he said would likely reduce prison time for many of the 127,000 nonviolent offenders locked in the state's overcrowded correctional facilities. 

Personally, I think this is  a great move.  Couple it with Obama's recent call to ban solitary confinement for juveniles and as punishment for low-level infractions in federal facilities, and you have the first steps of prison reform.

Global News — Months after being released from an Egyptian jail, Mohamed Fahmy is adjusting to the life of an academic at the University of British Columbia, talking to students about his experiences as a journalist.

“It feels very inspiring that I’m actually lecturing students and getting feedback about various topics,” he said.

He has no shortage of things to talk about. Fahmy spent more than 400 days in prison on terrorism charges after an Egyptian court case that was the subject of broad international criticism.

From CBC News

Click through for the interview and short videos to see what Fahmy is trying to do.  I really don't know how much Americans know about the Mohamed Fahmy case in Egypt.  Fahmy, Cairo bureau chief for Al Jazeera English and an award winning journalist, was arrested  29/12/2013 and accused of conspiring with a terrorist group, the Muslim Brotherhood, and fabricating news to portray Egypt in a state of civil war.  His journey has been long, unnecessarily so, courtesy of ex-PM Stephen Harper who would not speak to the Egyptian president on behalf of Fahmy.  I support Fahmy.

My Universe — h/t Ted W and Carol D, Care2


Jan 272016

Today was a miserably wet day out and of course I had 3 waterphobic cats to get to the vet's for their annual exam.  They love their vet very much and were purring and rubbing up against him.  Winnie, my ginger, took the lid from the treats jar and almost got his head stuck in the jar.  The good news: they are all very healthy!  smiley  The bad news: they have all put on weight. sad  Primo, my tuxedo is now 15.05 kg (33.11 lbs), Winnie is 13.1 kg (28.82 lbs), and little Annie is 11.45 kg (25.19 lbs) . . . that is 39.6 kg (87 lbs) in my bed each night!  Is it any wonder that I was almost dumped on the floor a few nights back?!  They were already on reduced rations so we will see what happens with reducing them a bit more.  Apparently they are middle aged now . . . the boys turn 8 in mid April . . . so part of the problem is likely a slowing down of their metabolism.  My vet says they have fattened up with love (no, I don't over feed them).  Tomorrow is physio again so, as my stepfather would say, I'll be peddling my ass for another 40 minutes.

Short Takes

Alternet — Every candidate in the GOP presidential race is running on the same economic platform: slash taxes, slash spending, slash regulation. It’s the Republicans’ special formula, guaranteed to spark prosperity and opulence for all.

Deregulate the private sector, shrink taxes for everybody, but especially corporations and the rich. America has been here before. These ideas are not new. Throughout the 1920s, they were policy.

An excellent article that puts historical context around current Republican economic platforms.  Republicans just love their St Ronnie!  Interesting how Republicans don't want to acknowledge the cause and effect of the 1929 stock market crash and the depression.  It is laws like the original Glass Steagall that made a big difference.

CBC — The federal government discriminates against First Nation children on reserves by failing to provide the same level of child welfare services that exist elsewhere, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has ruled.

Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations and Family Caring Society, along with the Assembly of First Nations, filed a complaint against Ottawa with the Canadian Human Rights Commission in February 2007.  

Before final arguments were heard in October 2014, during which the tribunal heard from 25 witnesses, the federal government had racked up $5.3 million in legal fees.

A great ruling!  In February 2007, Stephen Harper was Canada's Prime Minister.  He ws not one to act on or coöperate in any way for the benefit of First Nations.  But to be fair, previous governments, both Conservative and Liberal, did not handle First Nations issues well at all.  It is past time that changed.  I watched a brief statement by Charlie Angus, MP Timmins-James Bay, earlier as he recounted how there were some 89 Aboriginal kids on suicide watch a few years ago and the federal Conservative government in concert with the Ontario provincial government fired all the social workers leaving the kids and their families in dire straits.  And of course trust the fiscally conservative Stephen Harper, like US Republicans, to spend money legal issues that should never have been done.  Imagine the good that $5.3 million could have done for First Nations kids.

Huffington Post — The Canadian government has fired off a pre-emptive strike before American lawmakers hold a hearing in which the northern neighbour's Syria refugee policy will be on the hot seat.

It sent a note to members of a powerful U.S. Senate committee that has scheduled a meeting next week titled, "Canada's Fast-Track Refugee Plan: Unanswered Questions and Implications for U.S. National Security."

The U.S. Senate homeland-security hearing is, for the Trudeau government, an unwanted flip-side to the praise it received from progressives and foreign media outlets last month when the prime minister personally greeted refugees at the airport.

This will be far less laudatory, judging from the list of witnesses invited to testify before the committee next Wednesday: most have already publicly challenged Canada's plan to quickly accept 25,000 refugees.

Here comes the American paranoia over Muslims from the Republican dominated Congress and it is directed at Canada.  The Canadian Ambassador to the US declined to testify "…citing a long-standing practice of avoiding appearances in that partisan domestic political chamber."  Partisan is an understatement!

My Universe — 

Australian Aboriginal Proverb


Jan 162016

It was a busy day today, much of it spent teaching English or tutoring mathematics.  I was slowed down by 2 blood sugar lows this afternoon (cannot drive during those), but after a short shop, arrived home.for dinner and a nap. Sitting here, two of my furbabes are cuddled up together under the desk and purring away.  There is nothing like a purring cat, except maybe two or three purring cats.  It seemed that everywhere I turned today in the news, there were articles about fracking and coal.

Short Takes

Alternet — Five years ago, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was commissioned by Congress to undertake a study on the impacts of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) on drinking water. This newer method of oil and gas extraction involves the pumping of highly pressurized water, sand and chemicals into underground rock formations.

Fracking has driven the boom in U.S. oil production and contributed to the steep drop in gasoline prices, but the environmental impacts of this relatively new technique are not well understood.

The EPA’s draft study—released in June to solicit input from advisers and the public—found  that fracking has already contaminated drinking water, stating in the report:

“We found specific instances where one or more mechanisms led to impacts on drinking water resources, including contamination of drinking water wells…

The first time I read and saw coverage of fracking and its affects on drinking water, maybe 4 years ago, there were flames coming out of kitchen faucets!  Flames!  Wells were being contaminated.  Water from contaminated wells could not be used for any purpose.  The EPA has landed squarely on both sides of the issue at various times. Potable water is a necessity for humans and animals alike.  Potable water is a human right.  The EPA must take a cautious approach . . . fracking is a problem for water quality.

CBC — Tremors caused by industrial activity will become more frequent and large enough to cause significant damage in the future, warns an expert on human-caused earthquakes.

"As we generate more and more earthquakes, we expect that some of them are going to be larger," said Gail Atkinson, who studies induced seismic activity at Western University in London, Ontario.

"So this is another example of the potential for oil and gas activity to generate some larger earthquakes which could become damaging."

The Alberta Energy Regulator has not definitively linked fracturing, or fracking, with seismic activity in Alberta, but it is researching the link.

Induced earthquakes are closer to the surface, so the shaking is more intense than a natural earthquake which happens many kilometres further below, said Gail Atkinson, who studies induced seismic activity at Western University in London, Ontario.

An induced earthquake that registers 4.0 on the Richter scale can shake the ground more than a natural 5.0 magnitude quake, she said.

Another issue with fracking is earthquakes.  Alberta has been hit with earthquakes, something not normally seen there, as a result of fracking.  Back in 2014, Jeff Gu, a seismologist at the University of Alberta, commented that "The study [a peer reviewed published study in the Journal of Geophysical Research] concludes that waste-water injection into the ground is highly correlated with spikes in earthquake activity in the area."  When will we learn?

Huffington Post — Unfortunately, Chelsea Clinton misrepresented Senator Sanders' position, and her premiere performance on the stump backfired, producing a flood of political donations to Sanders.

Here's what she said: "Senator Sanders wants to dismantle Obamacare, dismantle the [Children’s Health Insurance Program], dismantle Medicare, and dismantle private insurance." Whew! She would have us believe that the Vermont senator is a one-man wrecking crew, an enraged King Kong — or, to be modern about it, a mendacious Darth Vader — proposing "to go back to an era — before we had the Affordable Care Act — that would strip millions and millions and millions of people off their health insurance."

When I first saw this comment elsewhere, I said "Say what?".  There is absolutely no way that Bernie said, or even implied such a position.  Could it be that the Clinton camoaign, or at least Chelsea Clinton, is worried about Bernie's poll numbers, especially as the first of the primaries and caucuses approaches?

My Universe

This first picture is very common here on the Pacific coast.  There is something very special about watching these giants of the oceans cruising along.




And I have always wanted to swim with dolphins . . . to feel their freedom in the water and watch their playful antics.


Jan 132016

Madaya is besieged by Assad's forces, and until yesterday (Monday) had not received any food, water or medical supplies since last October.  Kefraya and Foah have been besieged by rebel forces since last March and are equally desperate.  Starvation is being used by all sides as a tool of war and is being investigated as a war crime by the United Nations.

Map showing besieged parts of Syria

Reuters — Residents of a besieged Syrian town have told U.N. investigators how the weakest in their midst, deprived of food and medicines in violation of international law, are suffering starvation and death, the top U.N. war crimes investigator told Reuters on Tuesday.

An aid convoy on Monday brought the first food and medical relief for three months to the western town of Madaya, where 40,000 people are trapped by encircling government forces.

Another United Nations official who oversaw the aid delivery described on Tuesday how he saw malnourished residents, particularly children, some of whom were little more than skeletons and barely moving.

The U.N. commission of inquiry documenting war crimes in Syria has been in direct contact with residents inside Madaya, the commission's chairman Paulo Pinheiro said in an emailed reply to Reuters questions.

The Guardian — Pawel Krzysiek, spokesman for the International Committee for the Red Cross in Syria, accompanied an aid convoy on Monday to the town of Madaya, which has been besieged by forces loyal to the Syrian regime since July. Supplies were delivered as part of a deal under which convoys also entered two Shia villages, Fua and Kefraya, that are surrounded by rebels. Krzysiek provided the following account, which is excerpted from an audio message he recorded after entering the town and a telephone interview with the Guardian while he was on the ground.

It’s really heartbreaking to see the situation of the people. A while ago I was just approached by a little girl and her first question was: “Did you bring food? I hope that you brought food to Fua and Kefraya and to Madaya because we are really hungry.” And I believe her, she looked hungry.

It’s very dark here as there is no electricity. But I see people on the street, women, children, many of them are coming and thanking us for coming, greeting us. But some of them were shouting and asking “why so late?”

People are asking us: “Did you bring food? Did you bring food because all we have eaten last week is water with spices.”

Huffington Post — Rebels opposed to President Bashar Assad are in control of Madaya, a mountain town about 15 miles (24 kilometres) northwest of Damascus. Government troops and fighters from the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah have surrounded the town. Opposition activists and aid groups have reported several deaths from starvation in recent weeks.

Syria's U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari denied anyone was starving in Madaya and blamed Arab television especially "for fabricating these allegations and lies."

Speaking at U.N. Headquarters, he blamed "armed terrorist groups" for stealing humanitarian aid and reselling it at prohibitive prices.

"The Syrian government is not and will not exert any policy of starvation against its own people," Ja'afari said.

But O'Brien, the U.N. humanitarian chief, said all the evidence the U.N. has shows there has been very severe malnourishment, severe food shortages, and reports of people "who are either starving or indeed have starved and died."


Syrian Red Crescent aid convoys carrying food, medicine and blankets, leave the capital Damascus as they head to the besieged town of Madaya on Jan. 11, 2016. (LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images)

BBC — Some 400 people in the besieged Syrian town of Madaya need to be urgently evacuated for medical treatment, says UN humanitarian chief Stephen O'Brien.

Mr O'Brien was speaking after the UN Security Council held an urgent meeting to discuss the crisis in the rebel-held town near Damascus.

Earlier, an aid convoy brought food to 40,000 town residents who have been under government siege for months.

The UN says it has received credible reports of people dying of starvation.

Disturbing images follow

 Image result for pictures of madaya Image result for pictures of madaya Image result for pictures of madaya 

Comparatively few know the horrors that have been visited upon the people of Syria.  When I see the images of Madaya, Kefraya and Foah, I am reminded of the atrocities of the holocaust during WWII.  Some Syrians have been lucky to be able to get out, but others have not been so lucky. Words fail me. My heart aches for the innocents! Have we learned nothing from the past? . . . apparently not.  Ben O, Care2 several years ago shared some wise words with me:

Comfort the disturbed, disturb the comfortable.



Jan 102016

How many times each day do we go to the water tap, run cold water, fill a glass, and then quench our thirst?  I drink about 4 litres of water every day, about 16 cups.  Do I even think about whether the water is fit to drink?  Not usually. But what happens when the water becomes unfit to drink , , , like in Flint, Michigan?


Democracy Now — In Flint, Michigan, a growing number of residents are demanding the arrest of Governor Rick Snyder over the ongoing water contamination crisis. Snyder declared a state of emergency for Flint Wednesday, after learning federal prosecutors had opened an investigation into lead contamination in the drinking water. The poisoning began after an unelected emergency manager appointed by Governor Snyder switched the city’s water source to the long-polluted Flint River in a bid to save money. Lead can cause permanent health impacts including memory loss and developmental impairment. Researchers at Virginia Tech who have been testing Flint water say the city could have corrected the problem by better treating the water at a cost of as little as $100 a day. On Thursday, the mayor of Flint revealed it could now cost as much as $1.5 billion to fix the city’s water infrastructure. We speak to Curt Guyette, investigative reporter for the ACLU of Michigan, who has closely covered the story.


Common Dreams — The Republican governor appointed Flint emergency manager Darnell Earley who enforced the April 2014 decision to switch from the Detroit system to the Flint River to source water. In an angry letter to Snyder, filmmaker and Flint native Michael Moore wrote:

Your staff and others knew that the water in the Flint River was poison — but you decided that taking over the city and "cutting costs" to "balance the budget" was more important than the people's health (not to mention their democratic rights to elect their own leaders.) So you cut off the clean, fresh glacial lake water of Lake Huron that the citizens of Flint (including myself) had been drinking for decades and, instead, made them drink water from the industrial cesspool we call the Flint River — a body of "water" where toxins from a dozen General Motors and DuPont factories have been dumped for over a hundred years. And then you decided to put a chemical in this water to "clean" it — which only ended up stripping the lead off of Flint's aging water pipes, placing that lead in the water and sending it straight into people's taps.

Moore, in fact, is circulating a petition calling on U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to arrest Snyder for "corruption and assault."

Michael Moore's Arrest Governor Snyder Petition

Al Jazeera — This emergency goes beyond simply a public health problem. (Lead is a potent neurotoxin, which can cause irreversible brain damage in children.) It is something much worse: a human rights abuse in an American city. In 2010, the United Nations declared that “ … clean drinking water … [is] essential to the realization of all human rights.” Flint’s contaminated water will prevent children from realizing their human right to health, enumerated in Article 25 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Public reaction is understandably very heated.  This crisis is totally man made — Republican man made — and the result of Republican ineptitude, greed, and bigotry.  In Flint, 40% of the people live in poverty.  Many of the people are African American.  The old lead city water distribution pipes were corroded by the Flint River toxic water, so much so that a return to getting water from Lake Huron through Detroit is not working.  The pipes were corroded and continue to leach lead into the water.  The only solution is the replacement of the city water pipes at a cost of $1.5 – $2 BILLION.  On top of that, I would expect a class action lawsuit against the state, Snyder and a whole spate of other administrative persons who failed in their fiduciary responsibility to the people.

Jan 082016

No earth shattering events today.  Tomorrow will be busy, and next week unbelievably busy.

Short Takes 

Huffington Post — A widely circulated post on social media alleging Syrian refugees receive more money for food than Canadians on welfare is not true, say federal and provincial officials who also debunk other widely circulated claims.

The Facebook post, which also appears on Instagram, began circulating on Dec.18, and government officials say it is the latest in a series of false claims on social media.  

Federal and provincial officials told CBC News that the figures are simply "not correct," and federal monthly support for Syrian refugees is based on provincial and territorial welfare rates.

The haters are at it again!  Unfortunately, there will always be people who will hate, who cannot see justice except for themselves.

The Nation — From the look of the presidential campaign, war crimes are back on the American agenda. We really shouldn’t be surprised, because American officials got away with it last time—and, in the case of the drone wars, continue to get away with it today. Still, there’s nothing like the heady combination of a “populist” Republican race for the presidency and national hysteria over terrorism to make Americans want to reach for those “enhanced interrogation techniques.” That, as critics have long argued, is what usually happens if war crimes aren’t prosecuted.  

The recent history of US torture, he [Obama] said, “needs to be understood and accepted. We have to as a country take responsibility for that so hopefully we don’t do it again in the future.” 

So what is this "we"?  The average American had no say in the use of torture and other war crimes (ie carpet bombing).  I suppose some might argue that "we the people" elected the leaders, but why?  Surely it wasn't to commit war crimes.  Now the Republican presidential aspirants openly advocate policies to use methods of war classified as war crimes.  The article mentions a report, No More Excuses”, released 01/12/2015 which makes the following recommendations:

To US Authorities

  • The Attorney General, with the support of the president, should appoint a special prosecutor to conduct a thorough, independent, and credible criminal investigation into the CIA torture that examines all evidence, including statements from current and former detainees.
  • The president should acknowledge wrongdoing, apologize to victims of torture, and devise policies ensuring that victims receive appropriate redress, compensation, and rehabilitation services.
  • The president should declassify the full Senate Intelligence Committee Report on the CIA rendition, detention, and interrogation program, redacting only what is strictly necessary to protect national security, to ensure there is a full public accounting of government wrongdoing and that victims of torture can obtain redress.

To legitimately be the leader of the free world, the US and its government officials must walk the talk, respecting international law.  That will mean holding leaders and former leaders accountable.  To agree with the trials of Milosevic and Hussein at The Hague, but not ratify the creation of the ICC, is the height of disrespect for international law.

Huffington Post — Democratic lawmakers in Maine plan to move forward with a motion next week that could result in Gov. Paul LePage's (R) impeachment.  

The House order would establish an investigatory committee to look at eight separate charges against LePage, including the one regarding Good Will-Hinckley. It would report back to the legislature with its findings by April 1. 

"This would set up a House investigation committee to look at all eight counts in their totality to see if there is a clear pattern of abuse of power, misuse of public assets, any violations of state law," Chipman said. "We feel pretty confident there have been violations of law and that we'll probably be voting on impeachment."

Another "Divisive asshole" and bully.  I wonder if LePage is a Trump wannabe.  This is not LePage's first threat of impeachment, the first being in June 2013.  

Travelogue  I thought I might, from time to time, show you some beautiful locations.  The Earth as art!


The Grand Canyon


The Wave, Arizona

My Universe — 

up a tree


Jan 052016

I said yesterday that today would be busy, and it was.  I arrived home finally about 18:30 and sat down to relax . . . that was that for about 2 hours.  Tomorrow should be more relaxed.  Certainly was nice to come home to 3 purring furbabies.

Short Takes

Alternet — America has succumbed to a vicious cycle in which great wealth translates into political power, which generates even more wealth, and even more power.  

The progressive era welled up in the last decade of the nineteenth century because millions of Americans saw that wealth and power at the top were undermining American democracy and stacking the economic deck. Millions of Americans overcame their cynicism and began to mobilize.  …

 it is up to the rest of us to continue to organize and mobilize. Real reform will require many years of hard work from millions of us.

"Real reform will require many years of hard work from millions of us."  This is the bottom line!  Getting out the vote.  Unrelentingly pushing for change.  We are still in an age of instant gratification.  But we have to realise that change does not happen over night.  Change takes time, persistence and dedication.

Mother Jones — Between the shooting deaths of three people at a Colorado Planned Parenthood, the Supreme Court's decision to hear its first abortion-related case in nine years, and the more than 50 new abortion restriction laws enacted by state governments, abortion access was one of the most important issues of 2015. With presidential politics and ongoing legal challenges in the states, abortion rights will continue to be under fire in 2016.

"Last year's big events, like the Planned Parenthood videos and the Supreme Court case, have actually ginned up even more interest in restricting abortion," Elizabeth Nash, a senior state issues associate at the Guttmacher Institute, tells Mother Jones. "If it was possible, they've actually added more energy to decreasing abortion access."

Republicans say they want small government, but they insist on making more repressive laws that affect women. And family values?  They have no idea what true family values are!

Huffington Post — California lawmakers can ask for voters' opinions on campaign-spending laws after the California Supreme Court on Monday upheld the Legislature's power to use advisory ballot measures.

In a 6-1 decision, the Golden State's high court ruled lawmakers have the power to place a nonbinding measure on statewide ballots asking voters if Congress should be spurred to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United ruling on unlimited independent campaign donations.

This sounds promising , another tool in the End Citizens United tool box, at least in California.  Will similar measures catch on in other states?  Certainly not in Republican states.  Citizens United should have never come to be.

My Universe


The natural order!


Jan 032016

Well I spent yesterday doing laundry and the Politics Plus Monthly Report so I pooped out before doing an Open Thread.  Today, the end of the laundry!  As I sit here, I can hear the fog horn blowing out in the inlet.  Tomorrow is physio, teaching, and a doctor's appointment so it will be a long day.

Short Takes

Huffington Post — But 2016 Republican candidate Carly Fiorina dismissed Iran’s reaction to the death of the leading anti-government protester.

“I take the Iranian condemnation with a huge grain of salt,” Fiorina told CNN’s "State of the Union" on Sunday. “This is a regime that tortures citizens routinely, that thinks nothing of executions, that still holds four Americans in jail.”  

Retired neurosurgeon and presidential hopeful Ben Carson went further, suggesting that the nuclear deal struck last July between Iran, the U.S. and five world powers pushed Saudi Arabia to violently repress its Shiite population.

“The Saudis have been one of our strongest allies in the Middle East, and I think it’s unfortunate that we put them in the position we have by showing the support to Iran that we have with this foolish deal,” Carson told ABC’s “This Week." 

These Republicans call Saudi Arabia an ally of the US yet Saudi Arabia, according to the Human Rights Watch World Report 2015. continues to "… try, convict, and imprison political dissidents and human rights activists solely on account of their peaceful activities. Systematic discrimination against women and religious minorities continued. … subjected hundreds of people to unfair trials and arbitrary detention. New anti-terrorism regulations that took effect in 2014 can be used to criminalize almost any form of peaceful criticism of the authorities as terrorism."  In addition, Saudi Arabia is the world's #1 importer of arms as at 2014.  What does it do with all these arms when it only has a standing armed forces of 239,000?  The Saudi's have not assisted in the placement of refugees from anything I have heard, and in the past were thought to be supporting ISIS in various ways.

The US is seen as the "boogeyman" in the Middle East, contributing substantially to the instability in the region.  But Saudi Arabia is destabilising force as well.  By executing Shiite dissident cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, Saudi Arabia has upped the ante.  The Iranian response has not helped either, but it is a direct response to Saudi Arabia's provocative action.

Count on Republicans to throw gasoline on a fire.

The Guardian — Speaking in Biloxi, Mississippi, the Republican presidential hopeful implied that the Obama administration should have heeded his call for the US to seize oil assets controlled by Isis but had instead allowed the terror group to prosper.

“I’ve predicted a lot of things, you have to say, including, ‘Get the oil, take the oil, keep the oil.’ Right? I’ve been saying that for three years, and everybody said, ‘Oh, I can’t do that. I mean, this is a sovereign country. There is no country!” Trump said.

They’ve created Isis. Hillary Clinton created Isis with Obama,” Trump said.

As I understand, ISIS was "created" by Baby Bush and Cheney when they invaded Iraq for oil, toppled Sadam Hussein and left a vacuum in Iraq.  Out of the sectarian violence came ISIS to fill the vacuum.  And leave it to Trump not to acknowledge the role his inflamatory rhetoric has played in recruitment videos.  He probably wants an OSCAR nomination for his work.

Alternet — "Fear," a great Jedi master named Yoda once said, "leads to anger," which leads to hate, which leads to suffering, which, of course, leads to the Dark Side.  

In other words, it went down exactly the way Republicans wanted it to go down. They've always used fear to win elections.

Whether it's fear of same-sex couples getting married, fear of the government taking away the people's guns or fear of Black men, they've always understood that fear works to motivate their white base.

IMO, Thom Hartmann is spot on.  Time to get the progressive vote out and talk down the fear.

My Universe — 

10683509"Please sir, might I have more?"

Dec 272015

I have had a very relaxing, nay, lazy day today.  It is supposed to snow tonight but we'll see.  Snow and Vancouver drivers don't generally mix well.  Some of us have a lot of experience driving in snow (like me), while others don't change their wild driving habits for anything!  I have church in the morning and then I may try to go see the new Star Wars movie.  Just to let you know that since TC has taken back the puzzle, I will probably scale back my postings in January sometime.

Puzzle — You,ve been finding the puzzle here for over 3 months, but starting today, TC has taken back the puzzle. Maybe I should try something like Suduko if I can find one on the web that is embedable so we're all doing the same one.

Short Takes

Alternet — … the question to ask is whether this film can spark a political revolution just in time for the 2016 election.  

“Where to Invade Next” begins with the observation that the United States has not won a war since World War II.  It then comically imagines the Department of Defense calling on Moore to step in and save our nation.  His plan? Invade nations not to take them over, but to take their good ideas. We then see a hilariously ironic shot of Moore on a ship draped in the American flag and heading out on his quest.

Moore then embarks on a tour of a series of European nations and one in Africa where he finds society getting it right. From debt-free education to paid leave, women’s rights, prison reform and delicious school lunches, Moore offers viewers a world where people simply live better than we do here.

This is a short trailer for the movie.

Michael Moore is interviewed by Stephen Colbert.

I have not seen the movie and probably won't for some time even though it debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2015. I can't find any distribution information for Canada but it is rolling out in the US in the lead up to the New Hampshire primaries.  All of us need to think of our national issues in new creative ways.  BTW, MM weighs in about "where he got his international outlook growing up in northern Michigan (“I blame Canada”)".  Now I, as a Canadian, can accept that notariety! Michael Moore in “Where to Invade Next” : "The American  dream seems to be alive and well everywhere except America."

Mother Jones — At least 96 children died at Dozier between 1914 and 1973, according to school records, and while state officials say there’s no proof, former students insist that some of the deaths were the result of foul play. Boys of all races were routinely, brutally, and even fatally beaten by staff, they allege; some were raped, and “runners” were fired upon—at least seven kids were reported dead after trying to escape.

dozier school for boys Marianna florida

Tens of thousands of boys passed through Dozier’s gates between its founding in 1900 and 2011, when Florida officials shut it down (citing budgetary reasons) amid a Justice Department investigation that found ongoing “systemic, egregious, and dangerous practices” at the school.

I stumbled upon this 2014 article and found the level of violence unimaginable, yet evidence as noted in a Tampa Bay Times follow up article bears witness to the stories of former residents.  Was this a stop on the school to prison pipeline?

CBC — Siham Abu Sitta, a social worker, and her two daughters fled Syria for Lebanon in February 2013 after her husband was killed by a sniper.

She is Palestinian, but grew up in Syria in Yarmouk, a permanent Palestinian refugee camp close to Damascus that has been the scene of vicious fighting between anti-government rebels, Syrian forces and, more recently, ISIS.

A long siege of Yarmouk has led to several hundred deaths from starvation.

While a refugee in Lebanon, Siham met a Canadian-Lebanese filmmaker Carol Mansour who made a short film about her and four other refugee women as they struggled to get by.

The film, Not Who We Are, won two international awards and, earlier this year, caught the attention of Fairlawn Avenue United Church in Toronto, whose congregation reached out to sponsor Siham and her daughters. 

With the prospect of moving to Canada, Siham and her twin girls, Joudy and Jana, have been working hard to become fluent in English.

Syrian refugee crisis

This picture taken on Jan. 31, 2014, and released by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, shows residents of the besieged Palestinian camp of Yarmouk, queuing to receive food supplies, in Damascus. (UNRWA via AP, File)

Click through to read Siham's story about her husband's death and her life in Lebanon with her very young twin daughters.  So why are refugees like Sirham still rejected by the US?  Sirham and her daughters have now arrived in Canada.

My Universe — Cats can be sooooooooo melodramatic!

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