31 May 2016

The 50 greatest films by black directors.


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Mark Seymour

Elephants, in Denmark?

The BBC has an article by Josh Gabbatiss about an idea (not necessarily a good one) about wild elephants in an unlikely place:

Thousands of years ago, elephants and lions roamed the plains and forests of Europe and North America. If some conservationists have their way, they will again. 
Rewilding is here to stay. The term broadly refers to restoring areas of wilderness to their former glory, but it is the reintroduction of large mammals, from wolves to beavers, that has captured the popular imagination, and come to define this ambitious conservation strategy.
Such projects are not without controversy. Some ecologists worry that reintroducing extinct animals to our radically-changed modern ecosystems might have unforeseen impacts. Farmers and landowners, meanwhile, express concern about the effect interlopers like wolves or lynxes might have on their livelihoods.
Just imagine how they might react to the ideas proposed by a small but dedicated subset of extreme rewilders. In their vision, the plains of North America and Europe would become home to an even wilder array of species, including lions, elephants, and cheetahs.
"In the beginning, when we told people about this project, they just laughed at us," says Ole Sommer Bach, curator of Randers Rainforest zoo, referring to his institution's plan to introduce a population of Asian elephants in northern Denmark. "I think most people thought it was some kind of provocation, or a practical joke; but it really wasn't."
This is Pleistocene-era rewilding. Advocates want to set the clock back, not hundreds, but thousands of years. Around thirteen thousand years in fact, to when the Pleistocene era was drawing to a close: an almost incomprehensible length of time for us mortals, but the mere blink of an eye for Earth's ecosystems.
One correspondent labelled Greene a "goofball, dipwad, doofus, with a scrambled brain"
Today, the planet's remaining 'megafauna' are largely restricted to Africa and Asia. But, during the Pleistocene, every continent was populated with enormous mammals, from the giant wombats of Australia to the various species of elephant that roamed North America and Europe.
The animals themselves are now gone. But the ecosystems that evolved with them remain, and their function is severely reduced in the absence of such keystone species.
But help could be at hand. Pleistocene rewilders suggest that some animals still found in Africa and Asia, many of which are on the verge of extinction themselves, are similar enough to their extinct counterparts to serve as effective proxies.
These ideas were first proposed by geoscientist Paul Martin as part of his Pleistocene overkill hypothesis, which holds that humanity was the key instigator of global megafauna extinctions. However, they were crystallized in their current form a decade ago by a team led by two researchers from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York: Josh Donlan and Harry Greene. A team of what Greene calls "experts and visionaries" gathered together on a dusty New Mexico ranch. Together, they established a framework by which Pleistocene-type animals could be re-introduced to America.
The underlying rationale was that current conservation efforts to return the US to a pre-Columbian benchmark (i.e., prior to 1492) are totally arbitrary. By this point, humans had already contributed to the extinction of dozens of species.
The result of this meeting was a landmark paper published in Nature entitled "Re-wilding North America". In it, the team envisages the release of, among others, Bactrian camels to replace the late-Pleistocene Camelops, African lions to stand in for American lions, and elephants to take the place of the mammoths, mastodons, and gomphotheres.
Their core aims were twofold. First, they wanted to restore North American ecosystems and re-establish long-gone ecological processes. Second, they offered "a compelling vision for twenty-first century conservation biology: conserving animals away from Africa".
The response to the paper was extensive and frenzied. Fellow scientists, the media, and members of the public all weighed in, with one correspondent labelling Greene a "goofball, dipwad, doofus with a scrambled brain".
More eloquent criticism came from the likes of evolutionary ecologist Dustin Rubenstein, who described Pleistocene rewilding as "only a slightly less sensational proposal" than Jurassic Park. Crucially, he and his fellow researchers opined that the resources invested in this kind of rewilding would be better spent protecting African animals in Africa.
But perhaps Pleistocene rewilding is not as outrageous as it first appears. Donlan, Greene, and their colleagues were not, after all, suggesting a free-for-all on wild animal releases across North America. Instead, they suggested controlled, experimental releases to test their ideas. That was in 2006. Ten years later, there are still no African lions prowling the Wild West, and barring the bolson tortoises reintroduced to their prehistoric range in New Mexico, rewilding efforts in the US have been few and far between.
"In terms of realizing Pleistocene rewilding projects, it's still pretty limited," says Jens-Christian Svenning, a researcher at Aarhus University in Denmark and advisor for the Randers elephant project. "The scientific literature on the subject is filled with debate, but the empirical work is really missing."
Across the Atlantic, however, governments and the public have been more amenable to rewilding in general. There have been many successful projects across Europe, and one or two have even had the 'Pleistocene' label applied to them.
"What we want is to create room for natural processes," says Perry Cornelissen, an ecologist at the park. Instead of opting for artificial management systems to create the perfect habitat for wetland birds, the park's primary remit, its creators opted for a wilder approach. "The results of our monitoring show that the herbivores indeed create large-scale grasslands for geese and meadow birds such as lapwings and golden plovers," he enthuses.
More explicitly, there is Russia's Pleistocene Park, an attempt to "restore the mammoth steppe ecosystem" of the late Pleistocene. Much like Oostvaardersplassen, though, the park has so far drawn the line at introducing anything as exotic as lions or elephants.
"The animals being released in these parks are still mainly from the Holocene era, twelve thousand years ago to present day," says Svenning. "This is less provocative, and only a small step beyond traditional nature management, where you use domestic horses or cattle to graze."
But now, Bach and his colleagues want to stake their claim for the wildest rewilding experiment yet. Under their watch, they hope to see elephants roam the Danish landscape for the first time in millennia. Having successfully overseen the reintroduction of European bison in Randers, Bach and his colleagues see elephants as the natural progression. "European bison have been extinct in Denmark for maybe eight thousand years, and when we mentioned them as a possibility for rewilding almost fifteen years ago, people were also laughing at us," he recalls. "Now that is a reality."
Absolutely crucial to the project will be detailed preparation and monitoring. "We don't intend to just set them free and wait for them to end up in Spain or somewhere," explains Bach. "We will set up a fenced area, release the elephants, and then carefully follow what happens." The team intends to follow everything from their interaction with native trees to the impact their dung has on insect communities.
This is exactly the kind of relatively small-scale experiment Greene and Donlan had in mind. Only with the hard data that result from hypothesis testing and science-based monitoring will it be possible to ascertain how effective such seemingly radical strategies are at creating positive ecosystem change of the type seen in Oostvaardersplassen.
Then there are the economic benefits that arise from preserving ecosystems in this way. "If you built a machine that could do the same things as an elephant, you would probably become very rich," says Bach. "They can do everything from coppicing to spreading seeds, and they already exist! We just need to use them."
And what about that other Pleistocene rewilding goal: realistically, how feasible is the idea of using rewilding as a conservation strategy for endangered, exotic mammals? The answer to this may come from the most unlikely of places: Australia.
White rhinos (Ceratotherium simum) could be taken to Australia (Credit: Shannon Wild)
White rhinos (Ceratotherium simum) could be taken to Australia (Credit: Shannon Wild)
Nowhere is the issue of species introduction more contentious than in Australia. Decades of accidental and intentional species introductions have left the continent with highly fragile ecosystems.
The mission is to airlift a population of white and black rhinos 11,000km from South Africa to Australia
Even relatively modest science-based efforts by Rewilding Australia to introduce native marsupials like quolls and Tasmanian devils to former parts of their ranges on the mainland have had setbacks to deal with.
In this climate, it seems foolhardy to suggest further large-scale introductions of alien species, but this is exactly what David Bowman, professor of environmental change biology at the University of Tasmania, did back in 2012.
Bowman argued that the way to deal with the influx of the giant African gamba grass, which has been implicated in the increase in bushfires in Australia, would be to introduce rhinos and elephants – the only herbivores large enough to eat it. These animals, while far removed evolutionarily speaking from Australia's gigantic Pleistocene marsupials, might still serve as viable stand-ins.
Remarkably, a project of this nature actually is underway, albeit for rather different reasons.
The Australian Rhino Project in action (Credit: Shannon Wild)
The Australian Rhino Project in action (Credit: Shannon Wild)
The Australian Rhino Project is a drastic response to the disastrous situation currently unfolding on the African continent. If poaching continues at its current rate, rhinos will be extinct in the wild by 2024.
It could actually have a beneficial effect in Australia as a whole, as well as safeguarding the rhinos
This issue is what led project founder Ray Dearlove and his collaborators to arrive at the same conclusion as the Pleistocene rewilders: these animals must be conserved away from Africa.
The mission is to airlift a population of white and black rhinos 11,000km from South Africa to Australia. If all goes to plan the first batch will be sent over this year.
Once there, the similar conditions in Australia – and, crucially, its relative lack of poachers – should provide the rhinos with a safe haven.
A white rhino (Ceratotherium simum) (Credit: Shannon Wild)
A white rhino (Ceratotherium simum) (Credit: Shannon Wild)
For Svenning, this project marks an interesting opportunity: "If they add an ecological component, then it could actually have a beneficial effect in Australia as a whole, as well as safeguarding the rhinos," he suggests.
The Australian banteng actually outnumber their endangered Asian counterparts
While careful monitoring of the rhinos and their interaction with the Australian environment will be key to the success of the project, Dearlove does not see such habitat management as the key element. Instead, he sees this project as an exciting new approach to ex-situ conservation.
"It has been suggested that this could become a model for other endangered species, whereby you take them to a safer place until things are sorted out in their native country, then you can return them," he says.
"I think rhinos should be in Africa. I would prefer them to be surviving and breeding where they are, but the reality is that they're not. They've roamed the continent for millions of years, and now South Africa holds around 95% of the rhinos in the world. They've been wiped out."
Intriguingly, Australia already has form when it comes to providing a refuge for threatened mammals. A population of banteng – wild cattle from Southeast Asia – was established on the continent in 1849, and now, owing to habitat decline in their homeland, the Australian banteng actually outnumber their endangered Asian counterparts.
Banteng (Bos javanicus) now live in Australia (Credit: Rod Williams/naturepl.com)
Banteng (Bos javanicus) now live in Australia (Credit: Rod Williams/naturepl.com)
Researchers have highlighted the precedent set by this accidental success story, stressing the role these banteng may play in the survival of the species.
The success of all these projects – whether or not they operate under the banner of Pleistocene rewilding – will provide crucial insights into the efficacy of transferring exotic creatures in order to protect either them or their adopted ecosystems.
Within the next 50 years, Asian elephants might be gone from the world entirely
In fact, maybe Pleistocene rewilding itself is an unhelpful label, which detracts from the bigger picture of enabling natural processes and preserving species. "We are not aiming at restoration of Pleistocene or indeed Holocene ecosystems or landscapes. Those eras are over," says Cornelissen. "We now live in the Anthropocene."
The Anthropocene is by definition a period of highly altered ecosystems resulting from human activity. In this context, bringing elephants to Denmark, or rhinos to Australia, might be seen as just another extreme alteration to our planet's wildlife assemblages.
But extreme times call for extreme measures, and bold conservation strategies such as these could go a long way to revitalising some of our most treasured ecosystems and creatures in a manner that is not only effective but self-sustaining.
"Within the next 50 years, Asian elephants might be gone from the world entirely," says Bach. "Most people in Europe see elephants as exotic, and don't consider it our responsibility to conserve exotic animals, but I think it is a global responsibility."
We can never get back everything that has been lost, but we can still make good use of the resources that remain at our disposal. To do that, we will need to think big.
Rico says that 'goofball, dipwad, doofus' might even be overpolite... (And might have unforeseen impacts? Ya think?) But doesn't 'release the elephants' sound a bit like 'release the kraken'?

Undersea mine in the UK

The BBC has an article (with its usual unbloggable video) about a mine that goes down and out:

The Boulby mine in northern England is where much of Britain’s potash, used in fertilizer, is collected. But to do so they have to tunnel kilometers under the sea.
The mine is located more than 1,400 meters, nearly a mile, underground. Its tunnels are humid and reach temperatures of up to 40°C. It’s from here that Britain gets much of its potash, the potassium-rich salt used in fertilizer.
Boulby is the second-deepest mine in Europe, but it’s not the only thing that sets it apart; its tunnels extend several kilometers out to sea. Here, miners work to get the ore needed to help Britain grow its food, deep below and far from shore.
Rico says it's yet another place he's glad he never had to work...

Ranges on the Range

True West has an article by Sherry Monahan, who has penned The Cowboy’s Cookbook, Mrs. Earp: Wives & Lovers of the Earp Brothers; California Vines, Wines, & Pioneers; Taste of Tombstone and The Wicked West, and has appeared on Fox News, the History Channel, and AHC.about cooking in the Old West:

Whether frontier pioneers lived in a sod hut in Nebraska, an adobe in Arizona, or a frame house in Texas, they all needed a way to cook and bake. Most of the time, they did so in a stove or a fireplace. To prepare for the daily routine of cooking, a pioneer housewife or cook had to start the stove. But heat was not generated via the simple flip of a switch. In cooler months, cooks kept fires in the stove going throughout the night and stoked up the flames with new wood, which she chopped herself, or dried animal dung, if wood was not plentiful. In warmer months, cooks allowed the wood in the stove to burn out and ignited a morning fire using kindling wood, newspapers. or buffalo chips (dried buffalo dung).
Frontier stoves were generally made of cast iron. One side contained the area for burning wood, while the other was used as an oven. The surface was used as a stovetop, and some even had options for hot and cold water faucets. Most were equipped with a reservoir, which often held a few gallons of water at near-boiling throughout the day.
Pioneer cooks had to learn how to regulate the heat in their stove. The stove did not have a numbered dial; a cook held her hand inside the oven to gauge the temperature: warm, hot, very hot. A flue helped to regulate the heat. A familiarity with antique stoves clarifies why old-fashioned cookbooks might state a recipe should be baked in a slow, moderate, or hot oven.
Most people used their stoves to cook and bake, and sometimes to store their pots and pans, but one woman in Omaha, Nebraska, used hers for another purpose. Alice Nelson decided her range was a good place to store her stolen booty, reported Omaha’s The Herald, on 29 December 1888.
Because her husband had not been bringing in enough money to satisfy his wife, Alice, she stole $65 from her landlady. Worried about Mrs. Jacobson becoming suspicious, Alice hid the money in her cold oven. Mrs. Jacobson searched her house for the money and, unable to locate it, called the police. Sergeant Hayes searched the house. He was smart enough to look in the oven. “The only part of that article chilly enough to hold money was the oven,” the paper reported. “When he opened the door of the oven, there lay the roll in its original completeness.”
The Nelsons were arrested, but only Alice was held on bail of five hundred dollars. In the early part of 1889, she pleaded guilty and was sentenced to one year in the state penitentiary.
Alice should have stuck to making soufflés in her oven. A paper in Topeka, Kansas, offered a recipe in 1893 for soufflés that should be “eaten the moment it is out of the oven to be in perfection.” This potato soufflé is basically a twenty-first-century version of twice-baked potatoes:
Potato Soufflé6 large baking potatoes
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk or cream, hot
2 egg whites
Bake potatoes until they are done. Allow to cool enough to handle, and then remove the ends of each one. Carefully scoop out the cooked potato without breaking the skins. Beat the egg whites until frothy and set aside. Mash the potatoes until lump free, then add the remaining ingredients. Stand potatoes on one end and put in the filling. Do no put tops on the potatoes. Allow to bake in 375°F for about 10 minutes or until potatoes are browned or swollen.
Recipe adapted from The Weekly Capital and Farm Journal, Topeka, Kansas, 25 May 1893
Rico says he's just as happy to live in an era where food is prepared by experts...

A Good Gun and a Trusty Horse - True West Magazine


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Mark Seymour

Sweetwater Shoot-out - True West Magazine


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Mark Seymour

A little light in the LGBT gloom

Rico's friend Kelley forwards this article by Rachel Lu from The Federalist:

I was just six years old when it happened. I showed up for the first grade, fresh-faced and ready to learn, only to have my innocence shattered by a monster from the swamps of expressive individualism. In the dark recesses of my memory, he has remained nameless through all these decades. Some Google searches enabled me to find him: inventive spelling.
Apparently, “inventive spelling” has been controversial for some time as a component of “natural child” educational curricula. I’m not sure how I, a young Idahoan, came to be subjected to it, but I clearly remember being encouraged to decide whether I was a “girlgurl, or grrrrrl. Hooray for creativity! Why shackle yourself to the tyrannical dictates of conventional spelling?
This theory seems to have fizzled in most schools, possibly because it’s idiotic. Words have conventional spellings for a reason: their purpose is to communicate. If we encourage kids to form bad habits, it will be that much harder for them to become capable writers later. This theory’s heyday was evidently brief, but still, it left its mark. My classmates and I can thank our lucky stars that, by the time we got to college, spell checkers had come along to cover our shame.
Bad ideas do die, eventually. At their peak this can be hard to believe. Whether it’s Malthusian population controls, global temperature freak-outs, low-fat diets, or disco, it often seems that idiocy seems unassailable until suddenly it isn’t. A page turns, and the emperor has no clothes, as his folly becomes a cautionary tale for future generations.
Here is my prediction. Within my lifetime, the LGBT movement will die. It will be remembered, not as a Selma moment, but as a Salem moment: a period of collective insanity.
Whether the memory of this period evokes mild derision or deep shame will likely depend on these next few years. It’s still possible that the madness might recede and leave gays, lesbians, and religious conservatives all free to live peaceful and productive lives, knowing their fundamental rights will be respected even where their beliefs and lifestyle choices aren’t. Less optimistically, the early twenty-first century could be remembered as a time when any or all of those groups were harshly persecuted, potentially leaving deep scars in our social memory.
Either way, the movement will die. How do we know? Predicting the demise of the LGBT movement may seem rash in the present moment, as North Carolina prepares to battle the Department of Justice and Washington issues edicts demanding submission from every public school in America. But gender ideology is too incoherent and too inimical to real human good. It cannot outlast the moral indignation of the present hour.
On some level, even its most ardent advocates may intuit this. Their desperation to push the boundaries as far as possible, as quickly as possible, may evidence the zeal of the terminally ill. Everything must be done today, because there is no tomorrow.
This is not an invitation to relax. Foolish ideas do eventually self-destruct, but they can do a lot of damage along the way. We also should not assume that the eventual collapse will precipitate a widespread resurgence of common sense. The evil fruits of the Sexual Revolution will likely plague us for the foreseeable future, potentially assuming a whole range of dystopian forms. Still, we can worry more productively about the next chapter when we recognize that this one will pass. The gender ideologies of the present moment just don’t have what it takes to stand the test of time.
If this seems implausible, consider that the past half-century really has not been a tale of near-unbroken moral decline. Some changes (like the introduction of artificial contraceptives and the embrace of no-fault divorce) seem here to stay. Other bad ideas, like open marriage, proved so unworkable that they were largely rejected. We have also seen particular problems mitigated through a concerted social response, as when Americans overwhelmingly agreed they did not want unmarried teenagers getting pregnant.
Historical trends would suggest that society’s wealthier and better-educated tend to reject life patterns quickly when it becomes clear they beget widespread misery and dysfunction. That’s one reason marriage took a hit in the 1970s and early 1980s, but then started to recover among more educated Americans. Once it was obvious that promiscuity and chaotic family structures were harmful to all concerned, people with resources took steps to correct the problem for their own and their offspring’s sakes.
For all its legal victories, gender warriors have little to show for themselves with respect to the most significant of milestones. They have yet to demonstrate that their ideology can provide a foundation for stable, thriving sub-cultures of the sort that can endure. Enormous energy has been poured into preventing skeptics from asking the relevant questions, but that kind of subterfuge can only last for so long.
The evidence we have looks bad. A few years after Facebook gave us our fifty genders, young people flounder to explain why a short white man isn’t a tall Asian woman. We can only imagine how much worse this will be ten years from now, if children nationwide are aggressively drafted into the transgendered social engineering experiment.
Same-sex coupling has been socially acceptable in mainstream society for a number of years now, but insofar as it is normalized, it’s the sort of normalization that involves coming to acknowledge that it’s really very different from traditional marriage. (That, of course, is problematic, insofar as social research still resoundingly affirms that stable two-parent households are the healthiest place for kids.) Victims keep emerging from the wreckage of libertine sub-cultures. It becomes increasingly obvious, as well, that children are at far greater risk in a culture that is unwilling to encourage almost any kind of sexual restraint.
Ideas have consequences, and gender ideologues are only beginning to grapple with the fruits of theirs. Political correctness can be powerful, but people are not endlessly willing to sacrifice themselves and their loved ones to its more ruinous offerings. Lacking the wherewithal to create a healthy culture, the LGBT movement will dwindle and die.
What shall we do in the meantime? My suggestions are threefold:
First, we need to take steps to protect our own children. Engaging the broader culture is important, but that task belongs to grown-ups, not six-year-olds. We must build and preserve communities in which morally important truths can be instilled at least in our own offspring. Within our communities and homes, we must shield our kids from the blight of pornography and a hyper-sexualized media, and more literally, from the sexual predators that predictably emerge when a society celebrates sexuality as a primary form of creative self-expression. Sexual appetite, once unleashed, will not consistently check itself at precisely the point when pious liberals become offended. Children will continue to be victimized. Protect yours.
Next, we must continue to engage our compatriots in civil discourse concerning the body, sex, marriage, and parenting. Encourage responsible sociological research on the dynamics of non-traditional relationships and families. Keep explaining again and again that traditional sexual morality is not a rejection of persons, but of behaviors that are inimical to real human good. As the dysfunction of various alternative lifestyles becomes more evident, that argument may become more plausible. In the meanwhile, we should do what we can to hold up our sub-cultures as beacons for those who are looking for alternatives to libertinism.
As the LGBT fervor starts to ebb, we should be particularly solicitous to the needs of America’s poor. We’ve seen already that privileged liberals tend to adapt their lifestyles to new data while continuing to mouth the politically correct pieties of yesteryear. No one likes to be seen as the stodgy moralist, but this hypocrisy shouldn’t be allowed to stand. Poor children deserve stability just as much as wealthy ones, and we should stand ready to object if our cultural elites start adjusting their habits without changing their memes.
Perhaps the most important thing is to avoid despair. It’s difficult when our culture seems to keep finding new lows on almost a daily basis. Still, when the wheels start coming off completely, it’s worth remembering that a wheel-less vehicle is no longer able to drive. That might factor into our calculations if the vehicle in question is a critical part of our opponents’ vanguard. Future generations are sure to ask: how could the gender revolution ever have reached such absurdities? I intend to see that day.
Rico says it always seems like they're having fun, but Rico suspects they're not...

Polish Codebreakers Cracked Enigma In 1939, before Alan Turing


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Mark Seymour

History for the day: 1859: Big Ben goes into operation

History.com has this for 31 May:

The famous tower clock known as Big Ben, located at the top of the three-hundred-foot-high St. Stephen’s Tower, rang out over the Houses of Parliament in Westminster in London, England for the first time on 31 May 1859.
After a fire destroyed much of the Palace of Westminster, the headquarters of the British Parliament, in October of 1834, a standout feature of the design for the new palace was a large clock atop a tower. The royal astronomer, Sir George Airy, wanted the clock to have pinpoint accuracy, including twice-a-day checks with the Royal Greenwich Observatory. While many clockmakers dismissed this goal as impossible, Airy counted on the help of Edmund Beckett Denison, a formidable barrister known for his expertise in horology, or the science of measuring time.
Denison’s design, built by E.J. Dent & Co., was completed in 1854; five years later, St. Stephen’s Tower itself was finished. Weighing in at more than thirteen tons, its massive bell was dragged to the tower through the streets of London by a team of sixteen horses, to the cheers of onlookers. Once it was installed, Big Ben struck its first chimes on 31 May 1859. Just two months later, however, the heavy striker designed by Denison cracked the bell. Three more years passed before a lighter hammer was added and the clock went into service again. The bell was rotated so that the hammer would strike another surface, but the crack was never repaired.
The name Big Ben originally just applied to the bell, but later came to refer to the clock itself. Two main stories exist about how Big Ben got its name. Many claim it was named after the famously long-winded Sir Benjamin Hall, the Commissioner of Works for London at the time it was built. Another famous story argues that the bell was named for the popular heavyweight boxer Benjamin Caunt, because it was the largest of its kind.
Even after an incendiary bomb destroyed the chamber of the House of Commons during the Second World War, St. Stephen’s Tower survived, and Big Ben continued to function. Its famously accurate timekeeping is regulated by a stack of coins placed on the clock’s huge pendulum, ensuring a steady movement of the clock hands at all times. At night, all four of the clock’s faces, each one over twenty feet across, are illuminated. A light above Big Ben is also lit to let the public know when Parliament is in session.
Rico says it's a grand thing; fortunately, the Nazis missed...

Movie for the day: The Meddler

Rico says he and the fiancée went to see The Meddler:

After the death of her husband, Marnie (played by Susan Sarandon) relocates to Los Angeles, California to be closer to her daughter Lori (played by Rose Byrne), a Hollywood screenwriter. While Lori frets about her mom's smothering ways, Marnie keeps getting involved in the lives of others: she dates an ex-cop (played by J.K. Simmons), helps an Apple Store employee study for law school, and pays for a lesbian couple's wedding. Lorene Scafaria wrote and directed this comedy-drama, which is based on her relationship with her real-life mom. The Meddler made its world premiere at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival.

Rico says he and the fiancée agreed that it's lightweight, but funny...

30 May 2016

Memorial Day 2016 UF

FrontPage has an article by Daniel Greenfield about terrorism:

On Memorial Day, the flowers bloom. A dozen towns in a dozen states all claim that it began there when, after the long weary struggle of the Civil War, the mothers and sisters of the lost and the fallen brought fresh cut flowers to bring a touch of life to the dead men entombed in the cold, gray stone.
“From the silence of sorrowful hours, The desolate mourners go, Lovingly laden with flowers, Alike for the friend and the foe,” reads the famous Francis Miles Finch poem which helped popularize the practice.
Today the wars are no longer fraternal. The First World War is the last war that had anything brotherly in it. It was a war where soldiers from both sides could observe a Christmas truce and hurl nothing deadlier than snowballs at each other. The end of that terrible war on the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month" became Armistice Day and then, when the “war to end all wars” did not end them, but instead gave way to wars fought against terrible evils, Nazism, Communism, Islam, it became Veteran’s Day to remember those who would go on sacrificing in this eternal struggle against evil.
But, while wars are no longer fraternal, the flowers are laid now on the graves of foes, not friends. The men and women who die fighting for the cause of freedom are not accorded a fraction of the tender affection from the press that it lavishes on a single imprisoned al-Qaeda terrorist. We live today in an America in which the butchers of the jihad in Guantanamo Bay receive better medical care than veterans waiting endlessly at the VA. While Obama cut off hot meals for Marines in Afghanistan, Islamic terrorists in Guantanamo Bay were enjoying lemon baked fish, honey glazed chicken, lyonaise rice, tandouri chicken breast, okra, hummus, dates, honey, and seasoned lentils.
While veterans died at the VA, the men they had fought and helped capture were gifted with a soccer field. This treatment is an obscene echo of the days of segregation when German POWs were allowed to sit inside at eateries while the African-American soldiers who guarded them had to wait outside. This segregation no longer occurs by race, but by patriotism and creed.
Obama denies that Islamic terrorism exists, and suppresses any training materials about the role of Islam in Islamic terrorism, while his administration warns of domestic terror threats from veterans. Muslim migrants from Syria receive lavish social benefits while health care for veterans is slashed. The Muslim migrants, many of whom support Islamic terrorists, benefit from job programs while veterans head for the unemployment line. This hatefully discriminatory attitude has become pervasive on the left.
Hollywood bends over backward to avoid accurately portraying Muslim terrorists, but depicts returning veterans as unstable killers and ticking time bombs. The media gushes over each petty Islamophobia grievance, like Tahera Ahmad, who claimed that she didn’t receive a Diet Coke can on a plane only because she was Muslim, while sweeping the sweeping the thousand veterans who died because of the VA scandal under the progressive prayer rug. A Muslim Diet Coke matters more than a thousand dead veterans.
When Secretary of Defense Ash Carter was slow to release Islamic jihadists from Guantanamo Bay, Obama summoned him and personally chewed him out over the delays for his beloved terrorists. His predecessor, Secretary of Defense Hagel, said: “I’d get the hell beat out of me all the time on this at the White House.”
Does anyone imagine that Obama summoned the VA secretary to yell at him over the treatment of veterans? Instead, he initially backed former VA Secretary Shinseki. And it’s doubtful that the current VA Secretary, Bob McDonald, will be getting personally yelled at by Obama for comparing wait lines at the VA to Disneyland.
33% of veterans who have served since 11 September 2001 suffer from a disability. Their unemployment rates are higher, and both poverty rates and food stamp use continue to rise. Behind these tragic facts is the tragic truth that we have forgotten how to honor our veterans. Worse still, the country’s leaders go out of their way to actively diminish the respect due to their courage and sacrifices.
On his visit to Vietnam, Obama referenced veterans, only to praise John Kerry while insisting that “the courage to make peace” is more important than the courage “to fight”. The old-fashioned kind of veteran who fought in Vietnam, who earned his Purple Heart honestly and came home wounded in body and spirit, who is not interested in pretending that the Communist death squads he fought deserve his tribute is, according to Obama, lacking in courage. True courage is appeasement while the courage that stopped Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan is truly something closer to cowardice.
In his apology speech at Hiroshima, Obama cynically equated American and Japanese soldiers, as he had both sides in Vietnam, dismissing World War Two as being fought out of a “base instinct for domination or conquest”. This is how the left sees war and soldiers: there are no good wars. Therefore, the only good veterans are the ones who transcend it by recognizing that they made a mistake by fighting. That war is a misunderstanding to be resolved by the truly courageous diplomacy of men like John Kerry.
Is it any wonder that an administration which views the military as an evil to be abolished, which sees the war against Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany, not as proof of our moral convictions, but as an outgrowth of our ancestors “having learned to make blades from flint and spears from wood, used these tools not just for hunting, but against their own kind,” has such contempt and hostility for veterans?
And is it any wonder that this contempt trickles through the institutions of the left, from entertainment to academia, and that, in the shadow of these institutions, the honor due to the men who fought for our freedom, those still living and the dead, from the birth of our nation to its present crisis, is lacking?
Is it any wonder that veterans go hungry while lavish feasts are thrown in the institutions of government? Once we remembered that our freedoms come from the willingness to fight for them. Not with campus activism or empty words, but on the battlefield against those totalitarian enemies, whether they wear the death’s head, the red star or the crescent, which come to deprive us of them.
But our enemies today are as likely to come from within as without. We are in the midst of a quiet civil war and our veterans have become its first casualties. The heroes of today’s ruling class are racist rabble-rousers who tear down the flag for which so many of our soldiers died and replace it with their own militant banners of identity politics. The privileged leftist activists who once chanted "Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh, the NLF is gonna win", who even attempted to murder soldiers to aid the enemy, are in charge of the country, while Vietnam veterans sleep on the streets and groan in prisons.
Obama’s disrespect for veterans and the military is only a symptom of a deeper rot. Once again a civil war is underway between those of us who love this Union and those who seek to divide it. It is a conflict fought with words and laws, rather than bullets, but it has its casualties who are all around us. It is not only the veterans who have died at the VA who are its victims, but those who have long slept under green grass and gray stone, whose graves wait to be decorated, whose courage waits to be remembered and whose cause waits to be fought once again. 
Rico says WHAT

Good news

Rico's friend Kelley forwards some good news from the War on Terror:

A 23-year-old (bleached) blonde European co-ed who dropped out of school to fight against the Islamic State says the jihadist militants "are very easy to kill".
According to the website Broadly, Joanna Palani (photo), of Copenhagen, Denmark, left college in the fall of 2014 to fight, first for the People's Protection Unit in Syria, known as the YPG, and then for the Peshmerga, the Western-trained and backed army of the Kurdish Regional Government.
"ISIS fighters are very easy to kill," she tells the site, adding that Syrian-trained fighters are a different story. "ISIS fighters are very good at sacrificing their own lives, but Assad’s soldiers are very well trained and are specialist killing machines."
She tells the website she was used as a trainer mainly for younger Kurdish fighters. "The young girls are amazing; they are exhilarated after coming back from the front lines," she tells Broadly. "They are very brave, more brave than I could ever have been at their age."
Born in a refugee camp in Ramadi, Iraq, Palani moved to Copenhagen as a toddler; Broadly reports the Danish government refused to renew her passport when she returned on leave last year. She subsequently returned to her studies in Denmark, where the government pays for her university education, but uses her Facebook page to recall her bond with Kurdish fighters, and says she's disappointed she can't go back to the anti-ISIS fight.
"I am a European Kurdish girl," she told the website. "Most of my beliefs and morals are European. I couldn't live in Kurdistan for more than one or two years, as it is not very comfortable there as a woman. I would rather choose public justice than personal happiness. I would give my life for Europe, for democracy, for freedom, and for women's rights. I feel like I have been betrayed by those who I was ready to sacrifice my life for."
Rico says when the girls think you're 'easy to kill', you're screwed...

Fwd: 1431: Joan of Arc martyred

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Mark Seymour

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From: "HISTORY | This Day In History" <tdih@emails.history.com>
Date: May 30, 2016 at 6:04:00 AM EDT
To: "mseymour@proofmark.com" <mseymour@proofmark.com>
Subject: 1431: Joan of Arc martyred

This day in History
Joan of Arc martyred
At Rouen in English-controlled Normandy, Joan of Arc, the peasant girl who became the savior of France, is burned at the stake for heresy. Joan was born in 1412, the daughter of a tenant farmer at Domremy, on the borders of the duchies of Bar and Lorraine. In 1415, the Hundred Years War between... read more »
American Revolution
Patriot and future President Andrew Jackson kills Charles Dickinson »
First Indianapolis 500 held »
Civil War
Confederates evacuate Corinth, Mississippi »
Cold War
Gorbachev arrives in Washington for summit »
Jonathan Levin is tortured and killed by his former student »
Waters of Kentucky River peak »
General Interest
Andrew Jackson wins duel »
Civil War dead honored on Decoration Day »
Republic of Biafra proclaimed »
Mariner 9 departs for Mars »
Sex and the City movie released »
Christopher Marlowe killed in tavern brawl »
Lesley Gore sings "It's My Party" on American Bandstand »
Old West
Pearl Hart holds up an Arizona stagecoach »
Andrew Jackson kills Charles Dickinson in duel »
Former President Taft dedicates Lincoln Memorial »
First Indianapolis 500 is run »
Vietnam War
U.S. aircraft carry out new raids »
Thieu vows never to agree to a coalition government »
World War I
The First Balkan War ends »
World War II
Brits bombard Cologne in Operation Millennium »
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Movie for the day

The Man Who Knew Infinity

PG-13, 1 hr 48 min 
During World War I, Srinivasa Ramanujan Iyengar becomes a pioneer in mathematics.

Hundreds of migrants feared dead

Time has an article about the on-going losses of illegals in the Med:

Survivor accounts have pushed to more than seven hundred the number of migrants feared dead in shipwrecks in the Mediterranean Sea over three days in the past week, even as European ships saved thousands of others in daring rescue operations.
The shipwrecks account for the largest loss of life reported in the Mediterranean since April of 2015, when a single ship sank with an estimated eight hundred people trapped inside. Humanitarian organizations say that many migrant boats sink without a trace, with the dead never found, and their fates only recounted by family members who report their failure to arrive in Europe.
“It really looks like that in the last period the situation is really worsening in the last week, if the news is confirmed,” said Giovanna Di Benedetto, a Save the Children spokeswoman in Italy.
Warmer waters and calmer weather of late have only increased the migrants’ attempts to reach Europe. The largest number of missing and presumed dead was aboard a wooden fishing boat being towed by another smugglers’ boat from the Libyan port of Sabratha that sank on Thursday. Estimates by police and humanitarian organizations range from around four to six hundred missing in that sinking alone.
One survivor from Eritrea, 21-year-old Filmon Selomon, told The Associated Press that water started seeping into the second boat after three hours of navigation, and that the migrants tried vainly to get the water out of the sinking boat. “It was very hard because the water was coming from everywhere. We tried for six hours, after which we said it was not possible anymore,” he said through an interpreter. He jumped into the water and swam to the other boat before the tow line on the navigable boat was cut to prevent it from sinking when the other went down.
A seventeen-year-old Eritrean, Mohammed Ali Imam, who arrived five days ago in another rescue, said one of the survivors told him that the second boat started taking on water when the first boat ran out of fuel. Police said the line, which was ordered cut by the commander when it was at full tension, whipped back, fatally slashing the neck of a female migrant.
According to Italian police, three hundred people in the hold went down with the second boat when it sank, while around two hundred on the upper deck jumped into the sea. Just ninety of those were saved, along with about five hundred in the first boat.
Italian police said survivors identified the commander of the boat with the working engine as a 28-year-old Sudanese man, who has been arrested and faces possible charges for the deaths. Three other smugglers involved in other crossings also were arrested, police announced.
Carlotta Sami, spokeswoman in Italy for UNHCR, put the number of migrants and refugees missing in that incident at over five hundred based on a higher tally of nearly seven hundred people on board. She said fifteen bodies were recovered, while seventy survivors were plucked from the sea and two dozen swam to the other boat.
Most of the people on board were Eritrean, according to Save the Children, including many women and children. One of the survivors included a four-year-old girl whose mother had been killed in a traffic accident in Libya just days before embarking, Di Benedetto said.
The UNHCR’s Sami also said that estimated that a hundred people are missing from a smugglers’ boat that capsized on Wednesday off the coast of Libya, captured in dramatic footage by Italian rescuers.
In a third shipwreck on Friday, Sami said over a hundred people were rescued, fifty bodies were recovered, and an unknown numbers of migrants were still missing.
Because the bodies went missing in the open sea, it is impossible to verify the numbers who died. Humanitarian organizations and investigating authorities typically rely on survivors’ accounts to piece together what happened, relying on overlapping accounts to establish a level of veracity.
Survivors of Thursday’s sinking were taken to the Italian ports of Taranto on the mainland and Pozzallo in Sicily. Sami says the UN agency is trying to gather information with sensitivity, considering that most of the new arrivals are either shipwreck survivors or traumatized by what they saw.
Italy’s southern islands are the main destinations for countless numbers of smuggling boats launched from the shores of lawless Libya each week, packed with people seeking jobs and safety in Europe. Hundreds drown each year attempting the crossing.
Rico says somebody's gotta start passing the word to these countries that there are no jobs or money, just death by drowning, waiting for them...

The BBC has an article by Kelly Grovier about commemorating them:

The death at sea of a loved one is a fate that haunts survivors with particular horror. This week photos circulated in social media of a temporary memorial off the coast of Turkey, created to eulogize the estimated four thousand Syrian refugees who have died in the desperate journey to find safety in Europe. Comprised of two hundred styrofoam headstones, fashioned convincingly to resemble polished marble slabs, the Sea Cemetery is a flotilla of unsinkable sadness. Anchored by weights that keep the seemingly gravity-defying stones in fluid rows (eerily echoing the order of a veterans’ cemetery), the carved names and cut-short years drift undrownably on the observer’s conscience.
The buoyancy of the headstones is intended, no doubt, to symbolize the resilience of memory, however painful. But the images possess another power too, one capable of casting unexpected light on the solemn tradition of art honoring those who have perished making arduous crossings. The sea has ceaselessly set a cruel stage for the imaginations of artists and writers: whether it’s John Milton’s poem Lycidas, composed in 1637 to in memory of a drowned classmate, or J M W Turner’s sombre painting, Peace – Burial at Sea, which commemorates fellow artist David Wilkie, who perished off the coast of Gibraltar in 1841; William Wordsworth’s Elegiac Stanzas, written in honor of the poet’s brother, John, who died in 1805 commanding a doomed ship in the Irish Sea, or French painter Théodore Géricault’s canvas, The Raft of the Medusa, which controversially called attention to the agonizing demise over thirteen days in 1816 of over a hundred people following the wreck of a naval frigate bound for Senegal.
Seen in the context of the Sea Cemetery, an icescape such as The Wreck of Hope (above), painted in 1823-24 by the German artist Caspar David Friedrich, is suddenly invigorated with contemporary intensity. In Friedrich’s dramatic work, a ship can be seen overturned amid a tumult of arctic ice sheets whose sharp upward thrust has erected a frozen catacomb resembling an ancient burial tomb or prehistoric portal. Though inspired, in part, by the explorer William Parry’s voyage in 1819 to discover the Northwest Passage, Friedrich’s vision of the sea’s frigid surface transformed into an icy mausoleum was mainly macabre fantasy. Placed alongside this week’s photos of the Sea Cemetery, however, The Wreck of Hope reimagines itself as a kind of archetypal holding pattern for titanic loss.
Rico says that styrofoam in not something you want loose in the ocean...

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