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."

madaya

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.

 

 

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Dec 152015
 

There has been much ado about how the recent climate deal reached in Paris is non-binding.  The following article explains how that need not be important, because the parties involved made the commitment in good faith, and their reputation in the international community is tantamount.  While I agree in principle, we must not forget the exception to good faith.

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The Paris climate deal has been lauded as “historic,” “sweeping,” and “ambitious” — a way to lead the world into a post-fossil-fuel, less-than-2°C-warming future.

But it has also been ridiculed for being “non-binding.” That is to say that America and nearly 200 other countries all got together and agreed to try really, really hard to slow climate change and to submit ongoing progress reports, but didn’t set up penalties within the agreement.

Non-binding, though, does not mean meaningless.

It’s worth taking a moment and thinking about what a binding agreement is. If I offer to pick your child up from daycare Thursday afternoon, is that a binding agreement? You can’t, strictly speaking, punish me if I leave little Sarah sitting on the curb. But — and this is a big but — you can shame me. You can avoid me, distrust me, and not make any more social agreements with me.

This idea of social pressure and participation does not only apply to carpools. It also applies to the international community. Sure, China could renege on its promises to transition off coal. The United States could decide it’s not going to give any money to developing nations to help build renewable energy. But that would make for pretty bad foreign relations.

In fact, most international agreements rely on countries’ desire to continue having good relationships with their counterparts, Michael Burger, executive director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School, told ThinkProgress.

“International agreements operate under good faith,” Burger said. “Whether a country is an upstanding member of the international community is what’s at stake.”…

Inserted from <Think Progress>

The Republican Party does not give a rat’s ass for America’s reputation in the international community.  They proved that when they defaulted on our debt in 2011, causing a drop in our credit rating.  They are the exception to good faith, and they have seditiously tried to undermine these negotiations at every turn.  So the future livability of our planet may well depend on who we elect in 2016.

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Dec 132015
 

I have a nurse coming this morning to help me set up services at home, so if this is late, that’s why.  Tomorrow I have to go to TriMet to have my wheelchair measured, so expect only a Personal Update, and that late.  Today is a holy day in the Church of the Ellipsoid Orb.  My Broncos service is with the Raiders, and I get to see it.  Wooo Hooo!!

Short Takes:

From Daily Kos (Classic 10/2014):It’s been in the news. Now it has been confirmed. As of this past weekend, Raymond Leo Burke, America’s highest-ranking cardinal at the Vatican, was officially removed from the Vatican’s Supreme Court, and demoted to chaplain of the Knights of Malta, where he will reign with much less responsibility. The ultra-Conservative and anti-gay cardinal, continuously challenges the jurisdiction of Pope Francis, and the Catholic Church’s new receptive stance on homosexuality.

How ironic it is to find the demoted cardinal is from the United States. What does that say about America – that even the Catholic Church and a pope are ahead of so many anti-LGBT lawmakers and extremists in this country.

Weeks after taking office in 2013, Pope Francis asked, ‘Who am I to judge?’ speaking of the LGBT community.

Although I disagree with Francis on many issues, he is more willing to coexist than any other Pope has been.

From NY Times: Senator Ted Cruz of Texas surged to a 10-point lead in a new poll released Saturday of likely Republican caucusgoers in Iowa, signaling that his campaign is gathering momentum and suggesting that a long nominating fight is ahead.

Donald J. Trump, who continues to lead most national polls, was second in the Iowa poll, with 21 percent naming him as their first choice, compared with Mr. Cruz’s 31 percent.

Ben Carson, after leading an October survey by the same pollster, commissioned by The Des Moines Register and Bloomberg Politics, tumbled to 13 percent, followed by Senator Marco Rubio of Florida at 10 percent.

If anyone could be worse than Hairball, it’s Uranus Inspector.

From Think Progress: In a literally world-changing deal that was almost unthinkable just a year ago, some two hundred leading nations unanimously embraced a plan that will leave most of the world’s fossil fuels unburned.

As part of a concerted effort to avoid catastrophic climate change, the world unanimously committed to an ongoing effort of increasingly deeper emissions reductions aimed at keeping total warming “to well below 2°C [3.6°F] above preindustrial levels.” The full text of this Paris Agreement goes even further, with the parties agreeing “to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above preindustrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.”

Already, global coal use appears to be plateauing, and global oil use will likely follow suit in the next decade as countries ratchet up their CO2 targets.

To get an idea of how challenging these negotiations have been, imagine trying to get a substantive agreement on any major topic in the U.S. Senate if the requirement for success were unanimity! Tragically, conservatives in Congress are doing everything that they can to undermine this deal, which is humanity’s best chance to avoid decades if not centuries of needless suffering for billions of people.

In my view, this plan does not go far enough, but I prefer it to nothing at all.

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Dec 072015
 

Because I expect a very busy day today, preparing to return home on Wednesday, this is my only article today.

Religious Ecstasy:

1206Broncos17-Chargers3

Short Takes:

From The New Yorker: Moments after its conclusion on Sunday night, President Obama’s speech about combating ISIS came under heavy criticism from people with zero better ideas.

The President’s proposals, ranging from coalition air strikes against ISIS to beefing up intelligence about potential terrorists, were blasted for being “nothing new,” with the harshest criticism coming from people with nothing new.

“I was incredibly frustrated hearing the President say he would destroy ISIS,” New Jersey Governor Chris Christie told CNN. “ISIS needs to be obliterated.”

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz shared Christie’s scathing assessment of Obama’s speech. “The President seems to think that ISIS will go away just by us bombing them,” Cruz said. “If I am President, I will bomb them so hard that will feel like they have been triple-bombed.”

Andy is reporting straight news again. 😉

From YouTube:

 

Click here for a transcript of Obama’s speech.  Your thoughts?

From NY Times: The international climate change negotiations entering their second and final week encompass a vast and complicated array of political, economic and legal questions. But at bottom, the talks boil down to two issues: trust and money.

In this global forum, no one questions the established science that greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels are warming the planet — or that both developed and developing economies must all eventually lower their greenhouse emissions to stave off a future that could wreak havoc on the world’s safety and economic stability.

In a major breakthrough, 184 governments have already submitted plans detailing how they will cut their domestic emissions after 2020.

Those pledges are expected to make up the core of a new accord, which could be signed next weekend. The agreement is also expected to require countries to return to the table at least once every 10 years with even more stringent emissions reduction pledges.

But can those governments be trusted to do what they say they will do?

Republicans are committing sedition to make the international community believe that the US cannot be trusted to keep our word.

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64 years later, the Republican Party is repeating the attack.

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Nov 282015
 

I slept in today and did it ever feel good.  Saturdays should be like that from time to time.  I'm off to pick up some tastey buns that look like cinnamon rolls but instead have pesto and cheese.  They are oh so good!

Puzzle — Today’s took me 3:11 (average 4:52). To do it, click here. How did you do? 

Short Takes

The New Yorker  On Saturday, at 2:08 A.M. local time, an American AC-130 began to bomb a hospital run by Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), in Kunduz, Afghanistan. According to accounts from doctors and nurses, the air strike continued for more than an hour, in fifteen-minute waves. The hospital burned for hours afterward; photos and videos from the scene show the structures illuminated by flames from within. “We tried to take a look into one of the burning buildings,” a nurse named Lajos Zoltan Jecssaid, in a statement distributed by M.S.F. “In the Intensive Care Unit, six patients were burning in their beds.” At least twenty-two people, ten patients and a dozen staff members, were killed by the strike or by the fires that the bombs started. 

Click through for some of the questions that still need answering, even almost 2 months later.

Common Dreams — Doctors Without Borders is challenging the Pentagon over the findings of internal probes into the bombing of a hospital in the Afghan city of Kunduz on October 3, saying the military's conclusions offer "more questions than answers" and that claims of "human error" simply don't correspond to the available facts.

"The frightening catalogue of errors outlined today illustrates gross negligence on the part of U.S. forces and violations of the rules of war," said MSF director general Christopher Stokes. (Photo: Andrew Quilty/Foreign Policy)

Pentagon spokesman Gen. Wilson Shoffner said "some individuals have been suspended from their duty positions" for failing to follow "rules of engagement" and are awaiting disciplinary action. 

Sorry, but not good enough General Shoffner.  Click through to see the log of calls made by MSF Kabul to the OCHA Civil Military liaison in Afghanistan, among others. 

Foreign Policy — As  the powerful American gunship circled over the densely packed Afghan city of Kunduz on the night of Oct. 3, the crew was flying blind, with little prior intelligence as to where potential Taliban targets were located and without access to key video or electronic communications systems, which were down for much of the mission.  

‘Human Error’: U.S. Troops Suspended Over Kunduz Hospital Strike

The exterior of the bombed out Kunduz hospital that was staffed by MSF.

Brig. Gen. Wilson Shoffner, spokesman for the NATO command in Kabul, said members of the crew of the AC-130 gunship “did not follow the rules of engagement” in launching the 29-minute attack, and have been suspended from their duties pending possible disciplinary action.  

The mistakes on Oct. 3 began even before the plane took off from base. An investigation by the U.S. military has found that the gunship launched without being briefed on “crucial mission materials, including no-strike info that would have determined the coordinates of the hospital,” Campbell said. The investigation also found that the crew relied almost entirely on a physical description of the building, as opposed to grid coordinates, which led to the strike on the wrong building.

And when all is said and done, will anyone truly be held accountable for this tragedy?  The MSF is calling for an independent investigation by the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission (IHFFC).  I was reading that the MSF has called this a war crime.  

When all is said and done, there should be no wrist slaps or suspensions. There should be real accountabilty including an international trial at The Hague, substantial prison time right up the line (not just those flying the mission that should not have been), reparations and fines.

There is a petition at Change.org signed by 542,102 supporters with a goal of 1 million signatures, asking Obama to consent to "an independent international investigation into the events of October 3 by the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission (IHFFC), the only permanent body set up specifically to investigate violations of international humanitarian law."

YouTube Pardoning of the Thanksgiving turkeys

My Universe — Simon has a sister and she has a dog!  This should be a PSA!

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Nov 272015
 

Yesterday my friends were under the weather and could not come, But after PT worked ne with my prosthetic leg, I went down to the café by myself.  The open face turkey sandwich was good, but the raspberry cheesecake had flavor to die for.  I watched football for most of the day, but Pam is really kicking my kitty-butt at fantasy football.  Because this  is such a slow news day, this is my only article.

Short Takes:

From Upworthy: …The shopping surge also means that many retail workers have to leave their loved ones and work on the day after (and sometimes the night of) Thanksgiving.

So if you only get one day-after-Thanksgiving every year, it’s silly to waste it at a crowded store with hundreds of other people who are willing to throw elbows to get a new Blu-ray player.

Instead, here are seven ways to spend Black Friday that are (at least in my mind) a whole lot better than shopping.

1. Take a trip to a state park.

I’m pretty sure that parks offer much better views than the inside of a Walmart. So load up your Thanksgiving leftovers into a picnic basket, find the closest park, and get some fresh air. If you live in Minnesota, you can even take advantage of free admission to all of the state’s parks this Nov. 27.

I do not shop on Black Friday.  I shared one. Click through for the other six.

From NY Times: Clasping hands with youngsters in red Communist Youth League scarves, contestants from more than 110 nations descended on the southern Chinese island of Hainan this week for the 65th annual Miss World contest.

But one contestant was absent from the opening ceremony: Miss Canada, otherwise known as Anastasia Lin, a 25-year-old actress and classically trained pianist who has been denied a Chinese visa to attend the monthlong pageant, apparently because of her outspoken advocacy for human rights and religious freedom in China.

After waiting in vain for weeks, Ms. Lin packed up her Canadian-designed eveningwear on Wednesday and quietly boarded a Hong Kong-bound flight with the hope she might obtain an on-demand visa at the border and perhaps slip unnoticed into mainland China.

It was not to be.

The Chinese authorities, tipped off to her arrival, barred her from flying onward to Hainan.

 

Kudos to Anastasia. We all should boycott Miss World.

From The Hill: The Obama administration is warning states that they cannot refuse to accept refugees fleeing war-torn Syria, saying that noncompliant states may be subject to penalties.

The federal Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) said in a letter to state agencies on Wednesday that they cannot withhold services to refugees based on their country of origin or religion.

“Accordingly, states may not categorically deny ORR-funded benefits and services to Syrian refugees,” the letter said. “Any state with such a policy would not be in compliance with the State Plan requirements, applicable statutes, and their own assurances, and could be subject to enforcement action, including suspension and termination.”

The letter cited the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which bars discrimination on the basis of race or country or origin.

“Thus, it is not permissible to deny federally funded benefits such as Medicaid or TANF to refugees who otherwise meet the eligibility requirements.”

After their big holiday dinners, you can rest assured that hundreds of Republican politicians and pundits will have huge loads in their pants over this one!

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Nov 152015
 

Individually and as a society, we must examine our attitudes towards terrorism, and our response to terrorist attacks.

paris

Anytime there is an attack on civilians in the post-9/11 West, demagogues immediately blame it on Muslims. They frequently lack evidence, but depend on the blunt force of anti-Muslim bigotry to bolster their accusations.

Actual evidence, on the other hand, shows that less than two percent of terrorist attacks from 2009 to 2013 in the E.U. were religiously motivated. In 2013, just one percent of the 152 terrorist attacks were religious in nature; in 2012, less than three percent of the 219 terrorist attacks were inspired by religion.

The vast majority of terrorist attacks in these years were motivated by ethno-nationalism or separatism. In 2013, 55 percent of terrorist attacks were ethno-nationalist or separatist in nature; in 2012, more than three-quarters (76 percent) of terrorist attacks were inspired by ethno-nationalism or separatism.

These facts, nonetheless, have never stopped the prejudiced pundits from insisting otherwise.

On Friday the 13th of November, militants massacred at least 127 people in Paris in a series of heinous attacks.

There are many layers of hypocrisy in the public reaction to the tragedy that must be sorted through in order to understand the larger context in which these horrific attacks are situated — and, ultimately, to prevent such attacks from happening in the future.  

The Paris attacks, as horrific as they are, could be a moment to think critically about what our governments are doing both abroad and here at home. If we do not think critically, if we act capriciously, and violently, the wounds will only continue to fester. The bloodletting will ultimately accelerate.

In short, those who promote militarist policies and anti-Muslim and anti-refugee bigotries in response to the Paris attacks are only going to further propagate violence and hatred.

Click through for the rest of this inward looking article from Alternet.  Do we want a world at peace?  How far are we willing to go to bring about peace?  Are we even capable of bringing about peace?  Such will require a great deal of hard work.

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Nov 142015
 

Des policiers recouvrent le corps d'une des victimes des attentats à Paris vendredi soir.From Le Figaro

Alternet — This is a running update based on information from The Guardian

  • One of the attackers at the Bataclan is understood to be a 30-year-old French national, who was known to French police because of links to Islamic radicals.

The news will be awash with questions, speculation, and hate in the coming days and weeks and months.  At one point I read that these attacks are by far the worst on French soil since WWII.

While ISIS claims responsibility and rejoices at the carnage, conservatives have pulled out all the stops on their vitriole.  This and others from Alternet

James Woods ✔@RealJamesWoods

If we can survive Obama and Kerry and Hillary until we can close our own borders, we might avoid this. http://www.thedailybeast.com/cheats/2015/11/13/france-closing-borders.html …

3:07 PM – 13 Nov 2015

 The Daily Beast

 1,1421,142 likes

From Le Figaro, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said: «Nous répliquerons coup pour coup pour détruire Daech» (translation: We will repay blow for blow to destroy Daesh).  

And further down the page, The Metropolitan Opera showed solidarity with France by singing LaMarseillaise, the French national anthem.

From Al Arabiya 

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar and Egypt have been among the Arab states leading condemnations of the simultaneous attacks in Paris that killed 129 people and wounded 250 – 80 critically – on late Friday.

In addition, Saudi King Salman has sent condolences to French President François Holland and the people of France.  But is he playing both sides of the fence?  Saudi Arabia has been known to support ISIS in the past.

Of course Ted Cruz wasted no time in politicising the Paris tragedy for his own political gain.

Alternet — Ted Cruz continues to try to outflank the other Republican candidates from the right, wasting no time after yesterday's attacks in Paris to issue a bellicose statement insisting President Obama was too concerned with civilian casualties in Syria. 

"It will not be appeased by outreach or declarations of tolerance. It will not be deterred by targeted airstrikes with zero tolerance for civilian casualties, when the terrorists have such utter disregard for innocent life. We must make it crystal clear that affiliation with ISIS and related terrorist groups brings with it the undying enmity of America—that it is, in effect, signing your own death warrant."

NBC News has a series of short videos which includes CAIR denouncing the attacks.  We must be careful not to condemn all Muslims for these cowardly attacks.  Perhaps if we all pull together as one people, we can defeat ISIS.

Please join me in condolences for France, the dead and their families, the injured and their families, the first responders.  Let our prayers and thoughts be with them in their time of need.

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Nov 142015
 

I just got back to bed after eating breakfast in a wheel chair and taking a hunting trip a around the unit.  I couldn’t ketch one today either.  Smile with tongue out    I’m hoping OT comes today so I can mount the porcelain throne to Republicate.

Short Takes:

From KPTV: In a unanimous vote Thursday, the Portland City Council passed a resolution opposing any project that increases the transportation or storage of fossil fuels in Portland.

Now, city workers will develop rules that move Portland away from projects that involve coal or oil.

Furthermore they recently passed a measure banning explosive oil trains from the city. Oregon leads the way.

From Daily Kos: That Ben Carson gets awfully creative with the truth is by now well established. Here’s one if his more interesting ones, that Medicare and Medicaid fraud  is “huge—half a trillion dollars.” Which is pretty much impossible, since total spending for the two programs is less than a trillion—$980 billion last year, to be exact. But here’s a new wrinkle on that specific claim: Carson has some very personal experience with Medicare fraud: his best friend and business partner has been convicted of it.

The friend in question, indeed Carson’s best friend and business partner, is a Philadelphia-area oral surgeon, Alfonso Costa. 

Carson and Costa have long been tight. They vacation together, and Carson holidays at an Italian resort villa owned by Costa’s company. Costa is president of the Pittsburgh chapter of the Ben Carson Scholars Fund, which awards $1,000 college scholarships to students who demonstrate good character and strong academics. And Costa’s real estate development firm helps to oversee a lucrative investment for Carson and his wife, one that last year netted the Carsons between $200,000 and $2 million, according to the GOP candidate’s financial disclosure forms.

As much as a quarter of Carson’s $8 million-plus personal wealth is tied up in various real estate ventures with Costa.

Why am I not surprised? If uncle Token weren’t a criminal, he wouldn’t be a Republican!

From NY Times: The Paris area reeled Friday night from a shooting rampage, explosions and mass hostage-taking that President François Hollande called an unprecedented terrorist attack on France. His government announced sharply increased border controls and heightened police powers as it mobilized the military in a national emergency.

French television and news services quoted the police as saying that around 100 people had been killed at a concert site where hostages had been held during a two-hour standoff with the police, and that perhaps dozens of others had been killed in apparently coordinated attacks outside the country’s main sports stadium and four other popular locations in the city. But estimates on the total number of dead varied.

Witnesses on French television said the scene at the concert hall, which can seat as many as 1,500 people, was a massacre, describing how gunmen with automatic weapons shot bursts of bullets into the crowd.

This is tragic. I’m sending thoughts and prayers to the survivors, the victims families, all who love them. However you connect with the infinite, please join me.

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Aug 192015
 

It’s another very hot very humid day.  After today, we should get two temperate days, before the 90°+ weather returns on Saturday.  Yesterday afternoon, I learned that my friend with cancer was in recovery, after a successful mastectomy.  I feel quite relieved about that.  Store to Door delivered groceries early.  I have them put away.  Now, if I can just stay conscious until after my articles are up and out, it’s A/C hunker time again.

Jig Zone Puzzle:

Today’s took me 2:21 (average 4:24).  To do it, click here.  How did you do?

Short Takes:

From The New Yorker:

On the evening of August 6th, when the news broke that Senator Charles Schumer would vote against the Iran accord, the Democratic Senate leader, Harry Reid, was as stunned as the rest of his caucus. The two men are close friends. When Reid became the leader, in 2005, Schumer was a backbencher, who mused about running for governor of New York. Reid took an interest in him, came to rely on both his fund-raising prowess with Wall Street and his counsel on a range of matters, and always advised his ambitious protégé, “Be patient, be patient.” Last March, when Reid announced that he would retire at the end of 2016, he endorsed Schumer to succeed him and announced that another contender, Richard Durbin, the Democratic whip (and Schumer’s former roommate), would stand down. For those progressives who questioned whether Schumer should be leader, Reid said that Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders would keep the caucus honest. Now, because of Schumer’s position as presumptive leader, Reid felt that Schumer should have informed him of his decision on the Iran deal, given its importance, according to a Senate aide. Still, when a White House official called Reid that night to ask if he would announce his support of the deal to counter Schumer’s opposition, Reid refused, saying he wasn’t ready, a close associate said. (A spokesman for Senator Reid later issued a statement denying that Reid was surprised by Schumer’s announcement. “Their relationship is as close as ever. On Iran, Senator Reid respects the decision of conscience Senator Schumer made and he did not raise concerns with the announcement or the timing.”)*

More than a week has passed, and Reid still wonders why Schumer decided to announce his opposition when he did. Schumer was the first Democratic senator to oppose the deal. And it was his timing, perhaps even more than the substance of his decision, that has upset his pro-deal colleagues and, most unmistakably, the White House. Josh Earnest, the President’s press secretary, said he wouldn’t be surprised if some members of the Senate Democratic caucus “consider the voting record of those who say they would like to lead the caucus,” and he went on to liken Schumer’s decision to oppose the Iran deal to his support for the Iraq War, in 2003. It always seemed implausible that Schumer—an AIPAC stalwart who boasted that he is Benjamin Netanyahu’s best friend on Capitol Hill—would oppose AIPAC and Netanyahu on a deal they both claim is an existential threat to Israel. (I have written about AIPAC’s influence on politicians for the magazine.) “Chuck was always among the least likely Democrats to support the deal,” a longtime close friend of Schumer’s told me. And, after Schumer’s announcement, Durbin said, “I always expected him to be against the agreement.”…

Click through for the rest of this highly informative piece. If your Senator(s) are Democrats, call them regularly to tell them to strip this Bankster-bought traitor of any and all party leadership positions.

From NY Times: Russians are experiencing the first sustained decline in living standards in the 15 years since President Vladimir V. Putin [R-RU] came to power. The ruble has fallen by half against the dollar, driven by the plunging price of oil, the lifeblood of Russia’s economy. As a result, prices of imported goods have shot up, making tea, instant coffee, children’s clothes and back-to-school backpacks suddenly, jarringly expensive.

The Russian people are learning first hand the steep price they have to pay for putting a Republican in charge of their nation.

From Alternet: Ann Coulter knows who she wants to be the Democratic nominee for president, and who that person is, well, it may surprise you.

She wants Hillary Clinton to be the nominee, and thinks that if Bernie gets the nod, he’ll beat whoever the Republicans come up with to run against him.

You won’t hear me say this often, but Ann Coulter is right.

If Bernie Sanders ends up being the Democratic nominee for president, and it looks more and more every day like he will be, his Republican opponent is going to have a very hard time beating him.

And that’s because of all the Democratic candidates running, Bernie Sanders has the best chance of capturing Republican votes.

I’ve seen how Bernie does this, up close and personal.

Despite its reputation as a place filled with liberal hippies, Vermont, like most of rural northern New England, is home to a lot of conservatives.

Anyone running for statewide office there needs to win these conservatives’ votes, and Bernie is great at doing that.

As much as I’d like to echo this author’s optimism, northern NH Republicans are more like the old time back woods Republicans that were somewhat progressive in their views and opposed to the old time Dixiecrats, that now hold the Republican Party in thrall. To get lots of Republican support, nationwide, Bernie would have to convince a lot of willfully ignorant voters, too lazy to want to learn, not to be afraid of media-hyped "Socialism". That’s a tall order, not because Bernie lacks skill, but because he would be trying to plow a swamp.

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Jun 062015
 

Forty-nine years ago today, I graduated from High School.  There are bands and festive floats passing under my window, but I don’t think they are there to celebrate me.  It’s the Grand Floral Parade, the second and last of the Portland Rose Festival.  Unfortunately, it’s blocking my access to prime kitty basking in the sun.  By the time it’s over, it will be too hot.

Jig Zone Puzzle:

Today’s took me 4:42 (average 10:02).  To do it, click here.  How did you do?

Short Takes:

From MoveOn: Ten Ideas to Save the Economy: Raise the Estate Tax

Inequality slows economic growth. To prevent the rise of a new aristocracy, we need to raise the estate tax.

 

The Reich on the left is right. America does not want a privileged aristocracy, but those are the ONLY people Republicans, the Reich on the right that is wrong, actually represent. This is the eighth video in the series. Please click through to MoveOn, and share it from there.

From TPM: A panel of federal judges on Friday ruled that Virginia lawmakers must redraw the state’s congressional map because it places too many black voters in one particular district at the expense of their influence in other districts.

“Because plaintiffs have shown that race predominated in Virginia’s 2012 plan and because defendants have failed to establish that this race-based redistricting satisfies strict scrutiny, we find that the 2012 plan is unconstitutional and will require the commonwealth to draw a new congressional district plan,” the judges wrote in the 2-1 decision, as quoted by The Roanoke Times.

…The panel of judges ordered the Virginia House of Delegates to redraw the map by Sept. 1, which The Washington Post points out would force the state’s General Assembly to hold a special summer session. But the state’s Republican congressional delegation is likely to appeal the latest decision, according to the newspaper.

Republican attempts to steal elections never end!

From Think Progress: The Norwegian Parliament voted Friday to remove coal investments from the country’s $890 billion government pension fund, which is considered the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world.

Under the new policy, power and mining companies whose activities or revenue are at least 30 percent coal-related will be removed from the portfolio.

Kudos to Norway. May this mark the start of an international landslide.

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May 082015
 

Here’s the rest of what happened yesterday.  Fortunately the LIFT bus dropped me off over an hour early, because I discovered that my doctor’s office sent me to the hospital Imaging Department, when I was supposed to go to the Professional Plaza Imaging Department down the street.  I called TriMet LIFT and they agreed to change my pickup location.  A walk up a steep hill later, I got to the Professional Plaza who discovered that my doctor’s office screwed up the paperwork for the X-Ray.  They called and found that her back office staff had just left for lunch.  I had to sit al hour waiting for them to return to fax them the right paperwork.  Apparently the order was unsigned.  After they got the paperwork I went into the queue.  The X-Ray only took 10 minutes, which was good, because I made it to the LIFT bus area with only a few minutes to spare.  I got to take the grand tour dropping off other riders, but there was no congestion from Obama’s visit.  I’ll be brief, because I’m worn out.

Jig Zone Puzzle:

Today’s took me 3:04 (average 4:48).  To do it, click here.  How did you do?

Short Takes:

From MoveOn: 10 Ideas to Save the Economy: Fight For $15

No one who works full-time should live in poverty. A decent nation ensures that all workers can pay their rent and feed their family.

 

Please click through to MoveOn to share this from there.

From The New Yorker: In a deepening humanitarian crisis, residents of the city of Austin report that they are completely surrounded by Texas, a situation that locals are calling “dire.”

Austin has traditionally enjoyed freedoms as a semi-autonomous region, hosting film festivals and literary events without the interference of its hostile neighbors, but there are growing fears that those days may be coming to an end.

Alarmingly, citizens of Austin report, extremists within the city limits have taken over the Capitol Building and installed a militant government with dominion over its residents.

In recent days, Austin has made desperate requests for assistance to the U.S. military, which will be conducting exercises in Texas in July.

From Andy we have the clarion call. Save Austin!!

From Reuters: Prime Minister David Cameron won a stunning election victory in Britain, confounding poll predictions that the vote would be the closest in decades to sweep into office for another five years with a clear majority and his Labour opponents in tatters.

My condolences to the people of the UK for demonstrating that the US does not have an exclusive on voter idiocy. Perhaps Pat can fill us in on why this happened.

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