Today is National Doughnut Day. That’s not important. This piece about the New York Times being a religion is:
The Times has of late acted a great deal like a corrupt religious institution. This column has chronicled its often vicious and dishonest attempts–both on the editorial page and in the news sections, which Abramson will head–to shore up its own authority by trying to tear down its competitors. Examples:
• In January, the Times responded to the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords by instigating a witch hunt against “Republicans and particularly their most virulent supporters in the media,” as an editorial put it–even though by the time the editorial was published, it was clear that suspect Jared Loughner was not motivated by politics.
There are other examples in the piece. The Gray Lady is dishonest, and it’s hard to take anyone who respects it seriously.
Yay! Hobbit movie!
Filming on the two Hobbit movies has begun following months of delays caused by funding problems, a row over actors’ wages and surgery for its director.
Filming is taking place at Stone Street Studios, Wellington, and on location around New Zealand.
Production on the films, starring Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins, is expected to take up to two years. The first is due out in late 2012.
In January, director Peter Jackson had surgery for a perforated ulcer.
Studios Warner Bros and New Line had previously considered taking the production away from New Zealand after acting unions threatened to boycott the films in protest over payments.
The films had earlier been stalled by problems including rows over distribution rights and the exit of original director Guillermo del Toro.
The film, which also stars Sir Ian McKellen as Gandalf the Grey, Andy Serkis as Gollum, Elijah Wood as Frodo and Cate Blanchett as Galadriel, is based on JRR Tolkien’s epic fantasy novel.
The Hobbit films act as a prequel to Jackson’s trilogy of films based on Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.
Nothing can be said to be “good” news:
Rikuzentakata fire chief: ‘I spend all day looking for the bodies of my firemen’
Electricity has been restored to three reactors at the Japanese nuclear plant wrecked by fire and explosions after the 11 March quake and tsunami.
However the cooling systems are not yet operating, and the UN nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, says the situation remains very serious.
Some workers at the stricken facility were evacuated on Monday after smoke was seen rising from reactor No 3.
The official death toll from the twin disaster has now risen to 8,450.
Nearly 13,000 people are still missing.
Engineers have restored power to three reactors at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant and hope to test water pumps soon.
Workers have been battling to cool reactors and spent fuel ponds to bring the radiation-leaking plant under control.
A plant spokesman says some workers were evacuated from the complex after smoke or vapour was seen rising from the No 3 reactor.
Villagers living near the plant have been told not to drink tap water due to higher levels of radioactive iodine.
“There have been some positive developments in the last 24 hours but overall the situation remains very serious,” said Graham Andrew, a senior IAEA official.
“We consider that now we have come to a situation where we are very close to getting the situation under control,” Deputy Cabinet Secretary Tetsuro Fukuyama said.
The BBC’s Chris Hogg in Tokyo says the government is expected to announce new measures later to try to prevent produce and goods containing radiation reaching the market.
Over the weekend spinach and milk produced near the Fukushima nuclear plant was found to contain levels of radioactive iodine far higher than the legal limits, although not at levels that would be a risk to human health.
Radioactive materials three times higher than the legal safety limit were detected in the water there.
At the moment local governments are asking producers of spinach and milk in the affected areas not to send their goods to markets.
The government is considering whether additional precautions may be needed.
Bad weather forced Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan to cancel a planned visit to emergency workers near the Fukushima plant.
It is also making the recovery work a much more grim and difficult task.
Search-and-relief efforts in the prefecture of Miyagi, where the police chief believes the final quake-tsunami death toll could reach 15,000, have been delayed by driving rain.
“We basically cannot operate helicopters in the rain,” Miyagi official Kiyohiro Tokairin said.
“We have been using helicopters to deliver relief goods to some places but for today we have to switch the delivery to places that we can reach by road,” he said.
More than 350,000 people are still living in evacuation centres in northern and eastern Japan, says the BBC’s Chris Hogg.
There are shortages of food, water, fuel and medicine in the shelters, our correspondent says.
Some aid from foreign countries has started to arrive. The government has begun the process of finding temporary housing in other parts of the country for those made homeless.
Nearly 900,000 households are still without water.
In a rare piece of good news, an 80-year-old woman and her grandson were found alive in the rubble of their home in Ishinomaki city, where they were trapped for nine days.
American and European allies bomb Gaddafi’s military to enforce a no-fly zone, all in the hopes of helping the rebels win the civil war in Libya. Meanwhile, the Arab League, who endorsed the bombing at the beginning, are now furiously backtracking. China and Russia and the African Union (whatever’s left of it) call for a complete stop of bombing from all sides. In essence, a mess:
TRIPOLI, Libya — American and European militaries intensified their barrage of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi‘s forces by air and sea on Sunday, as the mission moved beyond taking away his ability to use Libyan airspace, to obliterating his hold on the ground as well, allied officials said. On Monday, European nations went out of their way to rebut Libyan claims that civilians had been killed.
In London, the Defense Ministry said British Tornado aircraft that had flown 1,500 miles from a base in eastern England aborted their mission at the last minute after “further information came to light that identified a number of civilians within the intended target area. As a result, the decision was taken not to launch weapons. This decision underlines the U.K.’s commitment to the protection of civilians.”
But Britain also made clear that it placed no store in a Libyan announcement on Sunday night of a second cease-fire. “We and our international partners are continuing operations in support of the United Nations Security Council resolution” authorizing the attacks, the Defense Ministry said on Monday. In an interview on British radio, Foreign Secretary William Hague said the allies would judge Colonel Qaddafi “by his actions not his words.”
“They have to be observing a real cease-fire” before the air and sea attacks stopped, he said.
In Paris, an official said France had no information that civilians have been killed in the air assaults. François Baroin, a government spokesman, told a French television channel that French commanders were not aware of any information relating to civilian deaths.
Continue reading The Bombing of Libya 1 2 3
Following a devastating tsunami, radioactivity from failing nuclear power plants is brewing in Japan:
The emergency flooding of two stricken reactors with seawater and the resulting steam releases are a desperate step intended to avoid a much bigger problem: a full meltdown of the nuclear cores in two reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. On Monday, an explosion blew the roof off the second reactor, not damaging the core, officials said, but presumably leaking more radiation.
So far, Japanese officials have said the melting of the nuclear cores in the two plants is assumed to be “partial,” and the amount of radioactivity measured outside the plants, though twice the level Japan considers safe, has been relatively modest.
But Pentagon officials reported Sunday that helicopters flying 60 miles from the plant picked up small amounts of radioactive particulates — still being analyzed, but presumed to include cesium-137 and iodine-121 — suggesting widening environmental contamination.
Japanese reactor operators now have little choice but to periodically release radioactive steam as part of an emergency cooling process for the fuel of the stricken reactors that may continue for a year or more even after fission has stopped. The plant’s operator must constantly try to flood the reactors with seawater, then release the resulting radioactive steam into the atmosphere, several experts familiar with the design of the Daiichi facility said.
That suggests that the tens of thousands of people who have been evacuated may not be able to return to their homes for a considerable period, and that shifts in the wind could blow radioactive materials toward Japanese cities rather than out to sea.
Alarming news from the great state of Colorado, where a man, on his own initiative, made Paczki. Here are the harrowing pictures:
A hair-raising story only for the not-faint-of-heart:
A New York teenager has been charged with a felony, with the possibility of a two-year prison sentence, for killing her family’s pet hamster, authorities said on Wednesday. The killer, 19, of Brooklyn was arguing with a family member in June when she reached for the hamster, choked it and threw it outside the house, police said.
Her arrest stemmed from an investigation into the incident after the killer’s father contacted the America Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said ASPCA assistant director Joe Pentangelo.
The killer is charged with one felony count of aggravated cruelty to animals. If convicted, she faces the possibility of two years in prison.
“Sadly, very often, pets find themselves in the middle of these situations,” said Pentangelo.
“A family will have a disagreement and unfortunately the animal is the recipient of misdirected or redirected rage.”
The hamster died from blunt force trauma, liver damage and a brain hemorrhage, he said.
A grand jury selection to consider the killer’s case is set to begin on Friday in Brooklyn Criminal Court.
This is just awful. I wonder if paramedics were called to the scene and, if they were, if they tried to revive the hamster. I wonder if the autopsy report concluded that it was, indeed, a homicide (or, hamsptercide). This is important because some enterprising lawyer may say that the hampster had pre-existing conditions that caused the death. A plausible scenario is that the hamster fell from his/her running-wheel, and that the liver damage and brain-hemorrhage was the result of over-drinking from the hamster’s little sippy-cup. Just saying, is all.
NPR still has some of the best radio-news programming in the world. However, like any other large organization, there are nutty, petty rubes. Unfortunately, some of those are in the highest offices, as the recent NPR scandal reveals:
NPR president and CEO Vivian Schiller resigned Wednesday in the wake of comments by a fellow executive that angered conservatives and renewed calls to end federal funding for public broadcasting. On Tuesday, conservative activist James O’Keefe posted a hidden-camera video in which NPR executive Ron Schiller bashed the tea party movement as “racist” and “xenophobic” and said NPR would be better off without federal funding.
Are Ron and Vivian related?
Ron Schiller is not related to Vivian Schiller.
Whatta coincidence. Anyway, what happened?
O’Keefe, best known for hidden-camera videos that embarrassed the community-organizing group ACORN, posted the NPR video Tuesday on his website, Project Veritas. The group said the video was shot on Feb. 22.
The video shows two activists posing as members of a Muslim group at a lunch meeting with Ron Schiller and another NPR executive, Betsy Liley. The men offer NPR a $5 million donation and engage Schiller in a wide-ranging discussion about tea party Republicans, pro-Israel bias in the media, anti-intellectualism and other topics.
“The current Republican Party is not really the Republican Party. It’s been hijacked by this group that is … not just Islamophobic but, really, xenophobic,” Ron Schiller said in the video, referring to the tea party movement. “They believe in sort of white, middle America, gun-toting — it’s scary. They’re seriously racist, racist people.”
Then comes the most nutty, petty rubistic thing ever said by anyone, anywhere:
Ron Schiller said: “While the meeting I participated in turned out to be a ruse, I made statements during the course of the meeting that are counter to NPR’s values and also not reflective of my own beliefs. I offer my sincere apology to those I offended.”
Let that sink in for a moment: Ron Schiller says that he said something that are not only against NPR’s values, but also his own. In essence, he is saying: “I said something I don’t believe in even though I said it as though I believed it.”
The War on Donuts had its Fort Sumter moment when a prominent baker of paczki (pronounced “paunch-kee”), a form of donut, claimed that “Paczki are better than donuts.”
While Fat Tuesday was an excuse for many New Yorkers to indulge their sweet tooth, in Brooklyn‘s predominantly Polish Greenpoint neighborhood it was the last chance to pack on some paczki pounds before Lent.
Pronounced “punch-key,” paczki are essentially jelly donuts – and they are a no-no for Catholic Polish immigrants during the fasting season that starts tomorrow on Ash Wednesday and ends on Easter.
“I love paczki very much,” said a smiling 73-year-old Eugenia Wdowkowska. “I can’t eat too many. But I’m eating two. They’re the best.”
The paczki pounding began last week on what Poles call “Fat Thursday.”
“We sell them every day, but come Fat Thursday we go from selling 60 paczki to 1,000,” said Karolina Zalewska, 35, who works at Old Poland Bakery. “It’s a big tradition.”
For 27-year-old Marta Goclan, it’s not just about satisfying a craving. “I still enjoy eating them because they remind me of Poland,” she said.
The tradition of eating paczki goes back to the Middle Ages when bakers would use up the sugar, butter and eggs that might go to waste during Lent.
Classic Polish paczki have raspberry, custard or prune fillings, although strawberry and lemon varieties are also available in some bakery shops. They sell from 75 cents to $1 each.
“Paczki are better than donuts,” Zalewska said.
Telling we, the American people, what we want to hear (and we’re not there, so it may be true), General Petraeus sees progress in the 10-year-long Aghanistan War:
KABUL, Afghanistan — Besides well-reported advances in southern provinces, American and NATO forces have also been able to halt or reverse Taliban gains around the capital, Kabul, and even in the north and west of the country, Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American commander in Afghanistan, said Tuesday.
Under General Petraeus, the tempo of operations has been stepped up enormously. American Special Operations forces and coalition commandos have mounted more than 1,600 missions in the 90 days before March 4 — an average of 18 a night — and the troops have captured and killed close to 3,000 insurgents, according to information provided by the general.
Other aspects of the war remain difficult, and progress is patchy and slow, General Petraeus conceded. There has been only modest momentum on efforts to persuade Taliban fighters to give up the fight and join a reintegration program, and a plan to train and install thousands of local police officers in rural communities to mobilize resistance to the Taliban has proved to be a painstaking business constrained by concerns that it will create militias loyal to warlords.
“The momentum of the Taliban has been halted in much of the country and reversed in some important areas… The Taliban have never been under the pressure that they were put under over the course of the last 8 to 10 months… You cannot eliminate all the sensationalist attacks… That is one of the objectives for our spring offensive — to solidify those gains and push them back further… The Taliban had to leave hastily, and the fighters and leaders were killed, captured or run off, and if they were run off they could not cart off all the I.E.D. and weapons and explosives that they had established over five years in some cases.”
However, with Spring comes more fighting:
As Afghanistan braces for an increase in fighting that traditionally occurs in the spring, however, tensions over civilian casualties have flared again, after an episode in eastern Afghanistan last week when American helicopter gunners killed nine boys collecting firewood.
A time lag between the sighting of a group of insurgents by ground forces and the relay of the information to a helicopter attack team led to the deaths, the general said, citing a preliminary inquiry. The attack team believed that the group of boys was the group of insurgents, he said.
“They thought they saw the same group but did not, and there was a gap in time before the final positive identification from the ground force until the handoff to the weapons team,” he said. “Beyond a human tragedy, it was a terrible and tragic mistake.”
Today is March 8 and today is International Women’s Day. Happy International Women’s Day!
(today it is customary to give a flower to women in your life)
Qadaffi uses all means of state violence to hold onto power while the Americans ponder airstrikes:
BREGA, Libya — From the feeble cover of sand dunes, under assault from a warplane overhead and heavy artillery from a hill, rebels in this strategic oil city repelled an attack by hundreds of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s fighters on Wednesday. The daylong battle was the first major incursion by the colonel’s forces in the rebel-held east of the country since the Libyan uprising began.
The battle of Brega was a ragged affair. There were no orders, no officers, no plans: most of the men said they had simply jumped in cars to defend their freedom after hearing that government loyalists, whom the rebels call mercenaries, had begun a dawn raid on Brega.
Fighters carried every kind of weapon. Some manned big antiaircraft guns, wearing black military berets and saluting as they rode past. Others drove beat-up old taxis, clutching rifles, pistols, anything they could find, even butcher knives.
“We fought them barefoot,” said Erhallem Jedallah, a burly man who wore crossed belts of ammunition across his shoulders. “So with these weapons we can defeat Qaddafi.”
As night fell, the government fighters were on the run and the rebels were celebrating in Brega and all along the road north to Benghazi, the seat of rebel power, where fireworks lighted up the sky.
Meanwhile, American hawks want a no-fly zone, but SecDef Gates and pres Obama are wary:
Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, a Connecticut independent, who along with Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, has been calling for a no-flight zone…
Mr. Gates, the most prominent Republican in the administration, was even blunter than usual as he approaches the end of his time in office… “Let’s just call a spade a spade,” Mr. Gates said. “A no-fly zone begins with an attack on Libya to destroy the air defenses. That’s the way you do a no-fly zone. And then you can fly planes around the country and not worry about our guys being shot down. But that’s the way it starts.”
“There’s a great temptation to stand up and say, ‘We’ll help you rid the country of a dictator,’ ” one senior administration official said, insisting on anonymity because of the delicacy of the discussions. “But the president has been clear that what’s sweeping across the Middle East is organic to the region, and as soon as we become a military player, we’re at risk of falling into the old trap that Americans are stage-managing events for their own benefit.”
“Bewilderment and anger:”
President Hosni Mubarak told the Egyptian people on Thursday that he would delegate authority to Vice President Omar Suleiman but that he would not resign, enraging hundreds of thousands gathered to hail his departure and setting in motion a volatile new stage in the three-week uprising.
As protesters began gathering on the 18th day of the uprising, the military held what it called an “important” meeting and said it would issue a statement, its second in as many days, according to the state news agency. The development came as the city — and many other places in Egypt — prepared for noon prayers on the Muslim holy day of Friday, a moment that has been the prelude for demonstrations since the revolt started.
The president’s 17-minute speech itself underlined a seemingly unbridgeable gap between ruler and ruled in Egypt: Mr. Mubarak, in paternalistic tones, talked in great detail about changes he planned to make to Egypt’s autocratic Constitution, while crowds in Tahrir Square, with bewilderment and anger, demanded that he step down.
Mr. Mubarak seemed oblivious. “It’s not about me,” he said in his address. When he was done, crowds in Cairo waved the bottoms of their shoes in the air, a gesture intended to convey disgust, and shouted, “Leave! Leave!”
Here’s a list of what the Republicans have proposed to cut from the budget thus far. Included on this list are:
From programs that help minorities and other disadvantaged Americans:
Minority Business Development Agency -$2M
Legal Services Corporation -$75M
Rural Development Programs -$237M
Job Training Programs -$2B
Community Health Centers -$1.3B
Family Planning -$327M
HUD Community Development Fund -$530M
LIHEAP Contingency fund -$400M
From programs that aid food, water and drug safety
Food Safety and Inspection Services -$53M
Clean Water State Revolving Fund -$700M
Drinking Water State Revolving Fund -$250M
From programs that promote clean air and a healthy physical environment
Natural Resource Conservation Service -$46M
EPA State and Local Air Quality Management -$25M
Fish and Wildlife Service -$72M
National Park Service -$51M
Forest Service -$38M
From national security programs
National Drug Intelligence Center -$11M
US Marshals Service -$10M
State and Local Law Enforcement Assistance -$256M
Not to mention programs such as:
Flood Control and Coastal Emergencies -$30M
Poison Control Centers -$27M
CDC (Center for Disease Control) -$755M
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services -$96M
An Op-Ed in The New York Times by Essam El-Errian, “a member of the guidance council of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt” allegedly outlines “what the Muslim Brotherhood want:”
THE Egyptian people have spoken, and we have spoken emphatically. In two weeks of peaceful demonstrations we have persistently demanded liberation and democracy…
Our principles, clearly stated since the inception of the movement in 1928, affirm an unequivocal position against violence…
Along with other representatives of the opposition, we recently took part in exploratory meetings with Vice President Omar Suleiman. In these talks, we made clear that we will not compromise or co-opt the public’s agenda. We come with no special agenda of our own — our agenda is that of the Egyptian people, which has been asserted since the beginning of this uprising.We aim to achieve reform and rights for all: not just for the Muslim Brotherhood, not just for Muslims, but for all Egyptians. We do not intend to take a dominant role in the forthcoming political transition. We are not putting forward a candidate for the presidential elections scheduled for September.
As our nation heads toward liberty, however, we disagree with the claims that the only options in Egypt are a purely secular, liberal democracy or an authoritarian theocracy. Secular liberal democracy of the American and European variety, with its firm rejection of religion in public life, is not the exclusive model for a legitimate democracy.
We embrace democracy not as a foreign concept that must be reconciled with tradition, but as a set of principles and objectives that are inherently compatible with and reinforce Islamic tenets.
It seems the Muslim Brotherhood — whose group did spawn al Qaeda’s second-in-command, considered the driving intellectual force of al-Qaeda — want something between a liberal democracy and a theocracy. Not an authoritarian theocracy, but a democratic theocracy… maybe.
There is nothing wrong with a mix of religion and state, so long as freedoms to practice all religions are strictly enforced. As we all know, the U.S. mixes religion and state, with the word “G-d” on our dollar bills, a hearty “G-d bless America” after every Presidential speech, and federal funding for faith-based social welfare programs. What is not acceptable is religious repression, which is what authoritarian theocracies practice, and is a concern with the Muslim Brotherhood, considering some of their ideological off-shoots. Unfortunately for them, they have a lot to proove to the world that they will do as they say, and not do as some of the least among them have done.