03 September 2015

As if...

Rico says his old friend Kelley assured him that Rachel Weiscz would show up, just as soon as Rico bought the tugboat.
Rico doubts it, and hasn't won the necessary lottery anyway...

The song in Rico's head

Rico says he wonders why, if it's not Springsteen (or the Starboard List), it's Simon & Garfunkle:

02 September 2015

California to ban flying a drone over someone's property without permission.

http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2015/09/02/california_to_ban_flying_a_drone_over_someone_s_property_without_permission.html?sid=5388f344dd52b8e411003d4e&wpsrc=slatest_newsletter


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Mark Seymour
215.866.6184
mseymour@proofmark.com

Intense aurora activity seen in Sweden



Slate has an article by Phil Plait about the Aurora Borealis:
Astrophotographer Göran Strand was out on the night of 26 August 2015 in Östersund, Sweden, when the sky erupted in auroral flames. He caught the whole thing in both time-lapse and real-time video, and it’s stunning.
Aurorae are formed when subatomic particles from the Sun are funneled down into our atmosphere by the Earth’s magnetic field. They zip down into our air, energizing atoms and molecules, causing them to glow. Each particle makes a more-or-less vertical line of glow, and huge streams of them make thin sheets of emission.
When we see these sheets edge on, they can look like arcs; when seen from the side they look wider. When they’re directly overhead they fan out, creating what’s called a “corona” (you can see that starting at about 1:30 into the video).
I’ve written a FAQ about aurorae with links to how they form, why they have colors, and more. And I had to laugh: at about 2:10 into the video, did you see the giant goblin face flashing pink and green? I love stuff like that!
Rico says he's only seen it once, when he lived in Nantucket; pretty spectacular...

Quote for the day

Sherlock Holmes, from a story by Loren Estleman entitled "The Adventure of the Greatest Gift":

"A well-armed man is dressed for any occasion."

Rico says he could not agree more...

Illegal immigration


We think we have a problem, but it's worse in Hungary, as Simon Shuster explains in Time:
Hungary wants to impose prison terms against refugees who sneak across the border on their way to the E.U. They're still coming
The smuggler’s asking price was high, about eight hundred dollars, but that didn’t seem to bother Tarek al Saleh, a 23-year-old refugee from Syria. Nor was he much concerned about the risk of getting robbed and left for dead, as many other Syrian migrants have been this year while making their way to Europe. The gamble was worth it, he said, as long as the human trafficker showed him the way into Hungary, his gateway into the European Union and steered him clear of any Hungarian police.
“He knows where police stand,” al Saleh said of his Serbian smuggler. “He knows where to go.” They had agreed to meet at sundown in the Serbian village of Horgos, just a couple of miles south of the Hungarian border, and walk north through the corn and sunflower fields. His final destination, he said, was the Netherlands, where he hoped to meet up with a family friend. But he’d be racing against the clock to get there through Eastern Europe.
When al Saleh reached the northern edge of Serbia, soldiers in neighboring Hungary finished erecting a razor-wire fence along the Serbian border, which had previously been open and unguarded for anyone trying to walk into the EU. Later this week, the Hungarian parliament is set to reinforce that fence with legal penalties. The right-wing government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban wants to make it a criminal offense to cross the border illegally, punishable by up to three years in prison.
“We are going to communicate to them: ‘Do not come to Hungary,’” says Zoltan Kovacs, the government’s chief spokesman. “’Illegal border crossing is a crime. Do not attempt it, or you are going to be arrested.’”
Currently, Hungarian authorities have no right to arrest the migrants crossing into the EU illegally, even as their numbers have peaked at more than three thousand per day at the end of last week. The tide of refugees, mostly coming from conflict zones in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, has been part of the largest mass migration into Europe since World War Two, and Hungary has already registered over a hundred and forty thousand migrants so far this year, triple the number who arrived during the first eight months of 2014. Most of them have little interest in remaining in Hungary, but they have to pass through the country to reach the more prosperous states of Europe, often Germany, which expects to receive an unprecedented eight hundred thousand applications for asylum this year, quadruple the number Germany registered in 2014. As a result, says Kovacs, “the whole system is overwhelmed.”
But, for the moment, the Hungarian border fence is doing nothing to hinder the migrants’ arrival. Quite the opposite— its construction seems to have triggered a massive rush to reach the EU before Hungary shuts the gates. Thousands of people, nearly all identifying themselves to police as Syrian, kept streaming through the gaps in the fence through the weekend, leaving a trail of debris along the railroad tracks that they have used to guide their way north: empty bottles of baby powder, diapers, hand sanitizer, worn-out shoes, used blankets, apple rinds, and peach pits. On Saturday night, a full and yellow moon (photo) rose to light their way, and local farmers came onto the road in northern Serbia to sell the migrants water, cigarettes, and candy bars.
“They seem to be decent people,” said Zoltan Wass, a Serbian citizen who grows grapes and plums on a patch of land along the railroad. Even though the migrants have been picking fruit from his property without permission, he added: “We feel for them, maybe because we know what it’s like to run away from war.”
During the Balkan wars of the 1990s, Hungary was also on the receiving end of waves of refugees, mainly Serbs, Croats, and Bosnians fleeing the slaughter. While the Balkan nations suffered through Europe’s first war since World War Two, the Hungarians remember the discomfort of accommodating tens of thousands of their less fortunate neighbors. That may help explain why most Hungarians; more than sixty percent, according to a nationwide poll conducted in July, support the construction of the fence to keep out migrants from Syria and Afghanistan, lands that are far more culturally foreign to them than the nearby Balkans. But that doesn’t mean such measures will work.
Ghafek Aiad Alsaho, another Syrian in his mid-twenties who is trying to flee his country’s civil war, had been living in a Turkish refugee camp for nine months before he heard in July of 2015 that Hungary was planning to seal its southern border. The news made him realize that it was time to make the journey of more than a thousand miles through Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Serbia and into the EU because he felt he might not get another chance. His hometown of Deir ez-Zour, in eastern Syria, is under siege from the militant group known as Islamic State, and he has no intention of going back there. “It’s a one-way trip for me,” he says.
When he arrived at the Hungarian border with Serbia, he knew better than to walk through the gaps in the fence and risk getting caught by the Hungarian police. Under EU law, a migrant can only apply for asylum in the EU country that first registers his arrival. So most migrants try desperately to avoid being registered by the police before they reach the country where they want to stay.
Alsaho is no exception. His dream is to make it all the way to Norway— whose citizens are among the wealthiest in Europe— before turning himself in to Norwegian authorities to be registered as an asylum seeker. That meant he would need to travel the length of Europe without getting caught by police. So when night fell over Hungary, he scurried underneath the barbed wire and made a run for it. “It was just me, the forest, and the moon,” he says.
But the police were quick to catch him. More than two thousand Hungarian officers have been deployed in recent weeks to help patrol the border with Serbia, and several of them chased Alsaho down and, he says, roughed him up before taking him by bus with other migrants to be registered in a processing camp near the town of Roszke. Arriving there at dawn on Sunday, he stuck his head out of the window of the idling police bus to speak with a reporter. “I’ll be out of here in three days,” he promised in nearly perfect English. “And then I’ll move on.”
That determination was typical of the Syrians at Europe’s doorstep. Their homeland has become an inferno that shows no signs of abating— in four years, half the country has been killed, displaced or forced to flee. Many of them have no homes to which they could return. Even if Hungary’s parliament criminalizes the crossing of its border fence this week and starts putting Syrian migrants in prison, they likely to find another way in, even at the risk of using human traffickers who have little regard for their safety.
Waiting for his smuggler to arrive in the shade of a hackberry tree, al Saleh said he knew of the horrific deaths of seventy migrants whose bodies were discovered inside a refrigerated truck last week in Austria. But the risks of being trafficked across the illegal crossing of a border in Hungary were tame, he added, compared to the dangers he faced in his hometown of Aleppo. With much of that city destroyed amid fighting between the Syrian government and rebel forces, his parents took up a collection among their neighbors and friends so that he could make it to Holland to continue his studies in medical engineering. “They are waiting for me to call,” he says. And no fence is going to stop him.
Rico says when the fuck are we gonna carpet bomb the Middle East and stop this shit?

More Holocaust for the day

Rico says it was a great movie (Woman in Gold, starring Helen Mirren), but the reality was ugly:

Holocaust oops for the day


Sam Frizell has a Time article about a museum exhibit gone bad:
The caretakers of the Auschwitz concentration camp museum in Poland have defended their use of a misting hose to keep visitors cool in the intense August heat, after being criticized for evoking memories of Nazi-era gas chambers disguised as showers.
“Because of the extreme heat wave we have experienced this August in Poland, mist sprinklers which cool the air were placed near the entrance to the Museum,” Pawel Sawicki, a museum spokesman told Time. “The mist sprinkles do not look like showers, and the fake showers installed by Germans inside some of the gas chambers were not used to deliver gas into them.”
The sprinklers, which Auschwitz museum officials said were located near a ticket line at the entrance to the museum where tickets are collected, offended some visitors to the museum. “As a Jew who has lost so many relatives in the Holocaust, they looked like the showers that the Jews were forced to take before entering the gas chambers,” visitor Meir Bulka, 48, told The Jerusalem Post.
Southern Poland has experienced a harsh heat wave in recent weeks, with temperatures reaching into the upper nineties. Some visitors to the Auschwitz museum have fainted in the heat, Sawicki said. “The safety and health of visitors are our priority during the period of extreme heat. Cooling air have been really helpful to visitors in this difficult situation,” Sawicki said.
Rico says they didn't quite think this through...

A new flag for New Zealand


Helen Regan has a Time article about a new flag for New Zealand:
New Zealand has unveiled the final four designs (photo, top) for a new national flag. The country is in the process of choosing an alternative to replace their current flag (photo, bottom), which is controversial due to its inclusion of the UK’s Union Jack and thus association with colonial repression, reports the Sydney Morning Herald.
Three of the new designs show the silver fern— a plant indigenous to New Zealand that has become an important symbol of the country, its people, culture, and sport. The fourth flag depicts the koru, a spiral symbol used in Maori art that represents an unfurling silver fern.
A Flag Consideration Panel chose the final shortlist from more than ten thousand submissions, which was whittled down to a list of forty entries in August of 2015.
Members of the public will be able to vote on their preferred design in November of 2015. The winner of that vote will be pitted against the incumbent flag in a second referendum that will take place in March of 2016.
Prime Minister John Key, who called for the two-stage referendum and All Blacks captain Richie McCaw, favor the silver fern design. But a recent poll by the New Zealand Herald found over fifty percent of voters didn’t support changing the flag.
“So far the debate hasn’t even stirred enough interest to fill up a county hall,” said Tracy Watkins, political editor for Fairfax Media New Zealand.
On Twitter, Kiwis responded to the final four with a combination of ambivalence and disdain.
Rico says the comments were not kind...

Last Bond for Craig



Eliana Dockterman has a Time article about the upcoming Bond movie:
After starring in four films, Daniel Craig is ready to leave the Bond franchise. In an interview with Esquire, the actor said he didn’t know whether he would film another 007 movie after Spectre, due out on 6 November 2015. But if he were to decide right now, he would probably leave the franchise behind. “I don’t know,” he said. “I really don’t know. Honestly. I’m not trying to be coy. At the moment I can’t even conceive it.”
When asked specifically if he would do just one more Bond film, he replied: “At this moment, no. I have a life and I’ve got to get on with it a bit. But we’ll see.”
The profile hit the Internet the same morning that outrage surrounding another piece of Bond news went viral. Current 007 writer, Anthony Horowitz, said in a recent interview with the Daily Mail that The Wire’s Idris Elba— the heir apparent to the franchise if you ask fans— is “too street” and not suave enough to play James Bond. The Internet was not pleased.
Idris Elba: stay by your phone the next few months.
Rico says he'll be sorry to see Craig go; after Connery, he's been the best Bond... (And a black Bond will take some selling.)

The Catholic Church for the day



Elizabeth Dias has a Time article about the Pope's stand on abortion:
Pope Francis announced recently that all priests will have the authority to absolve the Catholic sin of abortion during the upcoming Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, which will begin on 8 December 2015.
It is a bold move, and a spiritual one. Pope Francis is not addressing politicians. He is providing guidance to his Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization as he prepares the Catholic Church for a year of intentional mercy designed to foster spiritual renewal.
Pope Francis’ offer is also not new, but it widens a common Catholic practice. Traditionally bishops are the ones who have the authority to grant forgiveness for certain grave sins like abortion, and they have in the past also shared that power with priests. As the Bishop of Rome, Francis is making that practice as wide as possible during the Jubilee Year.
Forgiving abortion is not the same as saying abortion is now acceptable: forgiveness implies a turning of heart, with the goal of change. Pope Francis made this clear in his papal bull announcing the Jubilee Year in April. “This is the opportune moment to change our lives! This is the time to allow our hearts to be touched! When faced with evil deeds, even in the face of serious crimes, it is the time to listen to the cry of innocent people who are deprived of their property, their dignity, their feelings, and even their very lives,” he wrote. “To stick to the way of evil will only leave one deluded and sad. True life is something entirely different. God never tires of reaching out to us. He is always ready to listen, as I am too, along with my brother bishops and priests.”
The Vatican made this clear after the Pope’s letter was announced. “Forgiveness of the sin of abortion does not condone abortion nor minimize its grave effects,” Father Thomas Rosica, the Vatican’s English-language press assistant, explained to reporters in an email. “The fact that this statement is coming from the Pope and in such a moving, pastoral way, is more evidence of the great pastoral approach and concern of Pope Francis.”
While the news spread quickly, focusing solely on abortion misses the bigger picture of what Pope Francis is trying to do. Before he even mentioned indulgences for abortion in his letter, Pope Francis specifically addressed groups of people that can be easy to overlook— the sick, the elderly, the deceased, and the incarcerated— and directed special care be given to them during the Jubilee Year. His attention to those in prison is particularly noteworthy, as he imagines ways for them experience entering a church symbolically. “May the gesture of directing their thought and prayer to the Father each time they cross the threshold of their cell signify for them their passage through the Holy Door, because the mercy of God is able to transform hearts, and is also able to transform bars into an experience of freedom,” Pope Francis wrote.
The move is also about the importance of the act of confession itself, and creating an environment of openness and safety in the church for people to confess. Abortion divides; it divides families, partners, communities, politics. In the Catholic Church, it also keeps people from experiencing the full communion of the church and being able to participate with others in church life. Confession for Catholics can be an opportunity for healing in a way that mere punishment prevents. The Pope’s goal is to bring people together, and confession is a way to experience reunion.
Confession itself is an act of utmost spiritual importance for Pope Francis. Francis has made confession central to his personal pastoral style from a young age, and even not in church contexts. Austen Ivereigh, one of Pope Francis’ biographers, tells the story in his book The Great Reformer about how Francis, then Jorge Bergoglio, disciplined one of his students when he taught secondary school decades ago. The student, Roberto Poggio, had slapped a younger boy during a sports game. “Bergoglio asked him to come to a classroom at a particular time,” Ivereigh recounts. “When he got there, he saw ten of the his friends sitting in a circle and Bergoglio sitting off to one side. ‘He told me I should tell my friends in detail what happened, and it became something that stuck with me for life. They were understanding, they gave advice, and somehow I felt as if a load been lifted from me; I felt no reproach or criticism from them,’ Poggio recounted.”
It is another reminder that Francis is a Pope with a purpose. He is structuring his mission to be pastoral and healing for all people, and especially those that the Church and society marginalize.
Rico says it still seems ludicrous to him to have a life-long celibate, head of an institution known for its pedophiles, make pronouncements about what a woman should or shouldn't do... (And isn't that papal bullshit?)

Internet scam for the day

Rico says he fails to understand how anyone could fall for this (especially since it didn't even get sent to his correct email address):
From: geor eric <gorg00443@naver.com>
Date: September 2, 2015 at 09:39:48 EDT
To: markmrraymond@gmail.com
Subject: Hello My Dear Can I Trusted You????
Reply-To: george.hamed@yandex.com
My Dear Friend!

I am  Mr. George Harmed. I am A Banker. I Discover $10.5 million USA dollars in my Department to transfer into your account , So if you are interested get back to me imedately ,
Yours Faithfully
George Harmed

BBC - Earth - What the New Horizons probe saw as it passed Pluto

http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20150901-pluto-as-seen-by-new-horizons?ocid=global_bbccom_email_02092015_earth


mseymour@proofmark.com
215.866.6184

Sent from my new iPad

Philly cops are camera-ready

http://mobile.philly.com/news/?wss=/philly/news&id=323802721&nlid=8690631&


Sent from my iPhone

Mark Seymour
215.866.6184
mseymour@proofmark.com

History for the day


On 2 September 1945, Japan formally surrendered, in ceremonies (photo) aboard the USS Missouri, ending World War Two.

01 September 2015

Jeb Bush’s Trump attack ad: Why the establishment favorite’s newest assault on Donald Trump could backfire.

http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2015/09/01/jeb_bush_s_trump_attack_ad_why_the_establishment_favorite_s_newest_assault.html?sid=5388f344dd52b8e411003d4e&wpsrc=slatest_newsletter


mseymour@proofmark.com
215.866.6184

Sent from my new iPad

Obama’s Alaska Trip Isn’t Just About Climate Change. It’s Also About Russia.

http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2015/09/01/obama_s_alaska_trip_isn_t_just_about_climate_change_it_s_also_about_russia.html?sid=5388f344dd52b8e411003d4e&wpsrc=slatest_newsletter


mseymour@proofmark.com
215.866.6184

Sent from my new iPad

Burning Man


Sarah Maslin Nir has an article in The New York Times about Burning Man:
Glitter is a no-no. Sequins are frowned upon. Feathers were verboten, though they have still infiltrated in trims and turbans, to gnashing controversy.
The rules for costumes at the Burning Man festival in the scorching desert of northern Nevada, are complex. Governed by a quasi-spiritual principle to leave no trace behind, festival organizers are committed to cleaning up every speck of party detritus from the sand — Matter Out of Place, or Moop, to use the festival’s term.
Shedding feather boas and stray sequins are a scourge of the playa, or desert basin, where the revelers— known as Burners— strut and frolic for eight days, while anticipation builds for the giant man-shaped bonfire that is the raison d’être of Burning Man.
Such restrictions have not stopped Burning Man from being one of the biggest modern costume shows for adults outside Halloween. Unicorn masks, head-to-toe bird-of-prey outfits, Mylar spacesuits, glow-in-the-dark disco gear; as the scene has grown in psychedelic outrageousness, so has the need among Burners for ever more inventive costumes.
“You are part of the art; the whole playa is an art scene,” said Donna Kaupp, 67, who is known as Uti and sells custom Burner accouterments, like winged goggles and leopard-print dust masks, from her store in San Francisco, California, the Piedmont Boutique in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. “And your participation in it is; you’re also art.”
This year, holographic spandex onesies for men are big. For women, sparkling booty-shorts worn with nothing else are a perennial favorite. The perfect Burning Man costume, experts say, will be lightweight enough to keep the wearer happy in the desert sun, showy enough to turn heads, and accommodating of such essentials as heavy boots and sunglasses.
“It has to be comfortable to wear in either the heat or the cold,” said Mary Hogue, who makes custom costumes with details like mesh armpits for ventilation at Praxis, a shop in the Mission district. “And it needs to be comfortable for when you’re high. When people are tripping, it can’t feel weird.”
At Burning Man, participants escape from society and most of its demands (including cellphone reception), building art in the desert only to burn much of it down. Once a remote counterculture party, the event, nearly thirty years old, long ago moved from San Francisco to a spot about three hours north of Reno, Nevada, where over sixty thousand attendees are expected this year.
It now includes members of the Silicon Valley set and their trappings, as well as a simmering sense that it has sold its soul. Yet, for the cottage industry that supplies its outlandish costumes, the influx means one thing: a bumper year for retailers of spandex and faux fur.
“It’s a place where you can do whatever you want and not feel like ‘why is that woman’s side of her head shaved?’ Or, ‘Why is that person’s hair blue?’” said Joe Carter, 35, a musician and a longtime Burner who favors his custom leather suits in the style of Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin. “None of that matters up there. The societal norms melt away, and inhibitions melt away.”
The term “cosplay”, or costume play, usually with a role-playing element, emerged in the 1990s from Japanese anime and theater, and it has been widely embraced by Burners. Although adults also don elaborate costumes at Comic-Con conventions and similar events, the garb worn at Burning Man tends to be custom made and built for repeated wearings. Few, if any, off-the-shelf superhero capes or witch wigs are to be found.
The extravagant costumes in the Black Rock Desert help with another escape: from reality.
A multiyear study published in 2013 looked at the psychological effect of Burning Man on its participants and found that people there were more comfortable expressing themselves, particularly positive emotions. The costumes, said Kateri McRae, an author of the study and an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Denver, could be a reason. “The clothes may be a sort of cue that the rules are different here,” she said.
On Haight Street, corsets, top hats, mirrored umbrellas and a particular Burner favorite, low-slung leather utility belts to hold desert necessities like lip balm and electrolyte tablets, hang in many windows under signs that say, Burners Welcome!
The costuming has gone international. On Etsy, the online craft marketplace, a search for Burning Man calls up nearly thirty thousand items. They include several from Moscow,  Russia, like a “post-apocalyptic men’s leather bracelet for $183.51,” and from Spain, like a $1,200 chrome corset with a flared collar that Lady Gaga might covet.
Online shops like Playa Cracks sell glowing clothing, embroidered with thin strips of LED wire, that is fashionable and practical: In the pitch black night, it is easy to be hit by a passing Art Car, one of the festival’s extravagantly altered vehicles in the shapes of dogs or boats. At Decades of Fashion, a vintage store on Haight Street, attendants stand like bouncers at the entrance of a special back room packed with Vegas showgirl gowns and extravagant fur coats, admitting only people who utter a password-like phrase: I’m going to Burning Man.
Daniel Zeller, 31, who works in information technology and flew from Melbourne, Australia, for Burning Man, spent several hundred dollars on a slew of glitter onesies from Sea Dragon Studio, a company that specializes in Burning Man costumes. Last week, he was almost out the door to catch his flight, carrying over sixty pounds of outfits in his luggage, when he remembered he should probably bring some street clothes, at least for the airport.
“Tutus are huge for men,” Zeller said. They are worn like kilts, with nothing underneath. “You want to get noticed. All the conversations stop, and people are like, ‘Wow.’ ”
At Praxis, a few days before the festival, Hogue, 28, and her business partner, Aerin Willey, 31, zipped Tal Ariel, a local piano teacher and composer, into a costume. (This reporter, who will attend Burning Man for the first time this year, bought her costume, a made-to-order hooded black bodysuit inspired by Cher, for $80 at Praxis.)
Ariel was trying on a jumpsuit as glittering as a disco ball, with white faux fur flaring around his calves and cuffs. A cape of 3D white fabric roses completed the outfit. He planned to take a piano to the desert, where he would perform, impersonating an idol, Liberace.“But I’m even better,” he said, looking in the mirror. “I’m ‘Glitterace.'”
As in any small community, there is a pecking order. Die-hard Burners sneer at those buying ready-to-wear costumes rather than embracing the spirit of “radical self-reliance” that is part of the event’s ethos and making something on their own. Women in feathered headdresses and bras are derided in online forums as “playa chickens”. In some years, self-appointed fashion police have wandered the sand, doling out citations to the poorly dressed. And outrage flies through the Internet about any item that will flutter away or fall apart, adding extra chores to the postparty cleanup, or “mooping”.
There is also backlash from non-Burners. A tongue-in-cheek online fund-raising campaign this year called for a wall to be built around San Francisco during Burning Man to keep those who departed for Black Rock City, as the festival location is called, out permanently. More than seven million dollars has been pledged to the cause.
Burning Man catered to people who made their costumes,” said Peter Wilczynski, 25, who works at a software company in San Francisco. “That was an iconic part of it.” But today, he said, it is seen as “a playground for rich tech people who mooch off hippies who build art.” Wilczynski would have no part, but for a different reason. “I don’t like sand,” he said.
Rico says the headline is Burning Man’s Fashion Is Wild, but There Are Rules, which is reminiscent of Jean Reno's line in The Professional: Matilda, there is rules... (Rico says he went once; that was enough, but wore jeans and carried an 1897 Winchester shotgun.)

Denying Denali


Jennifer Steinhauer has an article in The New York Times about a disputed name for a mountain:
To be clear, President William McKinley has one of the largest grave sites of any former American president, so perhaps a mountaintop was a bit superfluous.
But this has not stopped the political outrage— manufactured, deeply felt, and otherwise convenient, flowing from the state of Ohio, birthplace of the 25th president, on the heels of President Obama’s announcement that he was changing or, in the view of many Alaskans, restoring, the name of Mount McKinley to Denali (photo).
The announcement has created rare unity between Republican and Democratic Buckeyes against Obama under the well-worn complaint about excessive executive power, and even rarer agreement from members of both parties in Alaska praising the president.
“I’m deeply disappointed in this decision,” Speaker John A. Boehner said in a news release, echoed by Representative Tim Ryan, a Democrat from Ohio, who also felt the deep sting of McKinley being dissed. McKinley had never visited Alaska, perhaps in no small part because it was not even a state until 1959, in addition to his preference for staying close to home and campaigning from his front porch in Canton.
Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska, has been working on this change legislatively for years, and applauded it, as did the junior Republican senator from her state, Dan Sullivan. “The naming rights already went to ancestors of the Alaskan native people, like those of my wife’s family,” Sullivan said. “For decades, Alaskans and members of our congressional delegation have been fighting for Denali to be recognized by the Federal government by its true name. I’m glad that the president respected this.”
Splitting the difference is Karl Rove. Having just written a book about McKinley, whose presidency he has long praised, Rove sees the publicity benefits of this dust-up: “Maybe the late president was doing me a favor.” But he also thinks “it would say something about the president if he found a gracious way to honor his forebear.”
There are also a lot of Americans, all due respect both to the 49th state and to the birthplace of Cincinnati chili, who find this and the debate over whether Denali means the “great one” or “high one” subjects of minimal importance and are far more concerned about the pope’s coming visit to the United States.
“We have no problem whatsoever with Alaskans,” said Kimberly Kenney, the curator of McKinley’s museum and library in Canton, Ohio, which is also home to his large grave site. “We are happy for them. It’s their mountain. It’s just a little bit sad.”
In Anchorage, as Air Force One made its way toward Alaska, residents seemed decidedly unconcerned with the feelings of Ohioans. A chalkboard outside the entrance to Darkhorse Coffee, a bustling cafe next to the convention center in downtown Anchorage, declared: “It’s Denali. Thank you, Mr. President.”
McKinley was never even here,” said Chery Lelis, a hotel receptionist in Anchorage. She noted that this change reflected the reality that most people referred to the mountain as Denali anyway, as they did the park and the area surrounding it.
While McKinley may not have walked along the snowbanks of Alaska, he was a consequential president and the pride of Ohio. “The 1896 election was one of the most profound realignments in our nation,” Rove said, referring to a coalition of new Republican voters that McKinley’s election put into place, including working-class newcomers to the nation’s teeming cities. Rove also cited McKinley’s service in the Civil War, his stature as an abolitionist, his ability to work with Democrats at a time of partisan acrimony, and the grief that engulfed Ohio at the time of his assassination in 1901, six months into his second term. Americans surrounded a train carrying his widow, Rove said, and sang a patriotic song.
David Greenberg, a professor of history and of journalism and media studies at Rutgers University, said that “McKinley was also a pioneer in forging the modern presidency.
Teddy Roosevelt overshadowed him pretty quickly, but McKinley did a lot to make the presidency ‘modern,’ including shooting the first campaign film, which, when shown, had New York City audiences on their feet, convinced they were seeing the man himself,” Greenberg said.
The controversy surrounding the mountain’s name has been longstanding. After a gold prospector who had emerged from exploring the Alaska Range heard that McKinley had won the Republican presidential nomination, he said the tallest peak in North America, at more than twenty thousand feet, should be named in the nominee’s honor. It was formally recognized as Mount McKinley in 1917, but efforts to reverse it to Denali were started in 1975, when some in Alaska began to clamor for it.
The dispute long pitted former Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska against former Representative Ralph Regula, a Republican whose district included Canton, and who worked with the Ohio congressional delegation to oppose any changes. In 1980, the national park surrounding it was named Denali National Park and Preserve, but the mountain maintained the name Mount McKinley.
Obama, in keeping with both his efforts to please Native Americans as of late and his zeal for second-term executive authority moves, gave the nod before his trip to Alaska.
“I don’t think he has that power to change it,” said Regula, who is ninety. “What’s he going to do next, change the Ohio River to the U.S. Freeway?”
Representative Michael R. Turner, a Republican from Ohio, also chafed at what he saw as a presidential power grab, vowed to soldier on in the name of Ohio’s pride. “The president’s recent actions to remove his name and undermine a prior act of Congress is disrespectful, and I will continue to fight for proper recognition of President McKinley’s legacy,” Turner said in a news release.
Kenney, of the William McKinley Presidential Library & Museum, chose to find a silver lining of sorts: Perhaps all the chitchat would draw Americans to Canton, not simply to visit the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but also to revisit the president’s legacy, including his grave site. “He is our most significant artifact,” she said. “Some people are saying, ‘What did President McKinley do anyway?’ ” she added. “We would be happy to have them visit us in Canton.”
Rico says fuck 'em; no one remembers McKinley...

More history for the day


On 1 September 1864, Atlanta, Georgia fell:
Union General William Tecumseh Sherman laid siege to Atlanta, Georgia, a Confederate hub, on 1 September 1864, shelling civilians and cutting off supply lines. The Confederates retreated, destroying the city’s munitions as they went. On 15 November 1864, Sherman’s troops burned much of the city before continuing their march through the South. Sherman’s Atlanta campaign was one of the most decisive victories of the Civil War.
William T. Sherman, born 8 May 1820 in Lancaster, Ohio, attended West Point and served in the army before becoming a banker and then president of a military school in Louisiana. When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Sherman joined the Union Army and eventually commanded large numbers of troops under General Ulysses S. Grant at the battles of Shiloh (1862), Vicksburg (1863), and Chattanooga (1863). In the spring of 1864, Sherman became supreme commander of the armies in the West and was ordered by Grant to take the city of Atlanta, then a key military supply center and railroad hub for the Confederates.
Sherman’s Atlanta campaign began on 4 May 1864 and, in the first few months, his troops engaged in several fierce battles with Confederate soldiers on the outskirts of the city, including the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, which Union lost. However, on 1 September, Sherman’s men successfully captured Atlanta and continued to defend it through mid-November against Confederate forces led by John Bell Hood. Before he set off on his famous March to the Sea on 15 November, Sherman ordered that Atlanta’s military resources, including munitions factories, clothing mills, and railway yards, be burned. The fire got out of control, leaving Atlanta in ruins.
Sherman and sixty thousand of his soldiers then headed toward Savannah, Georgia, destroying everything in their path that could help the Confederates. They captured Savannah and completed their March to the Sea on 23 December 1864. The Civil War ended on 12 April 1865, when the Confederate commander in chief, Robert E. Lee, surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia.
After the war, Sherman succeeded Grant as commander in chief of the Army, serving from 1869 to 1883. Sherman, who is credited with the phrase War is Hell, died on 14 February 1891 in New York City. The city of Atlanta swiftly recovered from the war and became the capital of Georgia in 1868, first on a temporary basis and then permanently, by popular vote, in 1877.
Rico says it was the beginning of the end for the Confederacy...

Netflix takes gamble with Epix film cull in US - BBC News

http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-34110968?ocid=global_bbccom_email_01092015_technology


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Palmyra's Temple of Bel destroyed, says UN - BBC News

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-34111092?ocid=global_bbccom_email_01092015_top+news+stories


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Bangkok bomb: Second foreign suspect arrested - BBC News

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-34114100?ocid=global_bbccom_email_01092015_top+news+stories


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Atlanta falls to Union forces - Sep 01, 1864 - HISTORY.com

http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/atlanta-falls-to-union-forces?et_cid=79964023&et_rid=793226357&linkid=http%3a%2f%2fwww.history.com%2fthis-day-in-history%2fatlanta-falls-to-union-forces


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History for the day


On 1 September 1939, World War Two began, as Nazi Germany invaded Poland.

31 August 2015

What is FiOS (Fiber Optic Service)? - Definition from WhatIs.com

http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/FiOS-Fiber-Optic-Service


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Mount McKinley is now Denali: Obama renames the tallest mountain in North America.

http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2015/08/31/mount_mckinley_is_now_denali_obama_renames_the_tallest_mountain_in_north.html?sid=5388f344dd52b8e411003d4e&wpsrc=slatest_newsletter


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Clinton’s classified emails: State Department says August release includes 150 emails classified after the fact.

http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2015/08/31/clinton_s_classified_emails_state_department_says_august_release_includes.html?sid=5388f344dd52b8e411003d4e&wpsrc=slatest_newsletter


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The Honda 'hearse'

Rico says he knows it's not (it's an Odyssey), but don't it look like one?

History for the day


On 31 August 1997, Britain's Princess Diana died in a car crash (photo) in Paris, France at the age of 36.

Gulag for the day


Neil Farquhar has an article in The New York Times about a squabble over whose history prevails in the new Russia:
Yuri Brodsky, who has dedicated his life to exposing the dark secrets of the ancient Solovetsky Monastery (photos), pointed at a small, dirty courtyard window blocked by a crooked red brick wall. The bricks were a rare leftover from the nearly two decades when the fortresslike monastery served as the Soviet Union’s first gulag, remnants of a horrific period initially detailed by the Nobel laureate and historian Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn.
“All traces of the labor camp are gradually being destroyed and removed,” said Brodsky, a disheveled figure with short white hair.
Russia has been wrangling over how to commemorate the gulag victims, an emotionally charged process that culminated this month when Prime Minister Dmitri A. Medvedev recognized the millions who suffered under Soviet political repression.
Activists were encouraged by a directive he signed, but expressed several misgivings. First, it was essentially nonbinding, with no legal or budgetary weight. Second, it was Medvedev who signed it, not the man who matters most in Russia, President Vladimir V. Putin.
Finally, it contradicted what has actually been happening in places like Solovetsky: downplaying the legacy of oppression. For the first time since the fall of Communism, neither the church nor the government sent a representative to an annual ceremony on 7 August 2015 commemorating the camp’s victims.
Likewise, Perm-36, a former gulag that had been preserved as a museum of political repression, was transformed this year into one that focuses on the camp’s labor history. A recent exhibition there extolled Perm-36’s achievements in timber production.
Such dilution has become more prevalent, especially at sites now controlled by the Russian Orthodox Church. Critics say the church sidesteps questions of accountability as it emphasizes the ecclesiastical role of these sites.
That trend produced an intense tug-of-war over the remote islands on which the monastery is found. The Solovetsky Islands, informally known as Solovki, are in the White Sea, a hundred miles below the Arctic Circle.
The debate pits monks and religious pilgrims against those who believe the site should be consecrated to the countless political prisoners who died here. Villagers who fear expulsion by the church have been drawn into the argument too, as have tour operators who promote the area’s spare beauty and the chance to view beluga whales and other wildlife. UNESCO is also involved, warning that excessive reconstruction might jeopardize the status of the fortified monastery, founded in 1436, as a World Heritage site.
The church sees the monastery as an important testament to the power of faith because it has survived so long in such a remote location. “Many national holy shrines were created in desertlike silence, but as time went by, cities rose around them,” the monastery’s abbot, Archimandrite Porfiry, said in an emailed response to written questions. “At Solovki it is easy to find solitude, so important for the soul.” He characterized the gulag period at the site, from 1923 to 1939, as a mere interlude in the monastery’s long history. However, it looms large for those who want to commemorate its victims.
For one thing, the monastery is the only place where the Bolshevik government ever, albeit briefly, acknowledged holding political prisoners. (The czars used it for that purpose, too, until 1903.) Among the monastery’s first political prisoners were Russian leftists who allied with the Bolsheviks during the revolution.
“This is a very complicated problem,” said Arseny B. Roginsky, chairman of Memorial, an organization founded in 1992 to commemorate Stalin’s victims, but which is now frequently attacked by Putin loyalists as a nest of “foreign agents”.
Roginsky said the clergy at Solovetsky and other sites pray for the dead without examining culpability. “There are two memories competing there,” he said. “Our memory is looking for who is guilty, and the church is not. The state feels safe passing this memory to the church.”
Several historians said that was especially true under Putin, who once worked for the KGB, the secret police agency whose precursors created the camp. In Solzhenitsyn’s telling, the labor camp system was a secret police experiment that spawned a prolonged nightmare, “born and come to maturity on Solovki”.
In the long days of the Arctic summer, it is hard to picture the dystopian scenes described by camp survivors. The main island, covered by thick pine forests and dotted with lakes, has a bucolic if dilapidated air. Cows and goats graze freely outside the monastery walls, in a village with a year-round population of about a thousand.
The islands were considered sacred long before the monastery was built; pre-Christian cultures left behind complex stone labyrinths, built as portals to the afterlife. The monastery’s turreted granite walls were finished around 1601, and withstood a British naval bombardment during the Crimean War.
When Brodsky, 69, first visited the islands in 1970, many traces of the long-closed labor camp remained. An engineer and photographer, Brodsky began documenting it all. He tracked down camp survivors across Russia, at a time when even mentioning the Solovki gulag was taboo. The KGB learned of his project and tried to get him fired.
After the Soviet Union collapsed and some archives were opened, Brodsky created an exhibit and wrote a book, Solovki, a 527-page compendium of documents, photographs, and testimony from former prisoners.
Former prisoners told him that inmates worked twelve hours a day at arduous tasks like felling trees, often with little more than their bare hands. They wore whatever clothes they were arrested in, which eventually fell to rags. In the winter they slept in piles to ward off the icy cold; in the summer, the mosquitoes were so aggressive that one excruciating punishment was simply to be tied up naked outdoors. A remote church on Sekirnaya Hill became a “special punishment chamber”; few sent there returned.
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“The idea of this camp was to change someone from an individual into part of an anonymous crowd,” Brodsky said. It cost many of them their lives, though the overall toll has never been publicly revealed.
The monks, these days, about a hundred, began restoring the monastery a decade ago. Archimandrite Porfiry, the abbot, said major reconstruction was necessary because many of the buildings were in terrible shape. The government plans to spend about two million dollars a year for five years there.
Brodsky said the monks whittled away at his exhibition in the monastery, and eventually pushed it out. In 2011, the Ministry of Culture replaced the exhibit with a small museum in a former barracks in the village, with the abbot as director. Brodsky says the museum soft-pedals gulag life by emphasizing gentler aspects, like the prison theater. The only exhibit within the monastery grounds now focuses on the repression of the clergy.
The abbot said it was appropriate to house the gulag museum in a building built for the camp, and some visitors, like Vitaly Korzhikhin, 24, agreed. “People come to the monastery for different purposes; some seek salvation or support,” said Korzhikhin, a churchgoing mobile phone engineer. “For them, it would be unpleasant to see this exhibition inside the walls.”
Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, a senior church official, said that in the last years of the Soviet Union, the monastery was plagued by “barbarous tourism”, including camping, loud music, and public drunkenness.
“It is a place of prayer, it is place of mourning, it is where many innocent people, who were outstanding representatives of the intelligentsia, died,” Father Chaplin said. “It is a memorial place for many people, believers and not. It should remain such a memorial place.”
Even so, efforts to commemorate gulag victims without church approval have tended to disappear. The Memorial organization erected a monument in 2003 to the first six political prisoners who were shot, for example, but the stone slabs vanished within days.
The commemoration tug of war has played out in other odd ways. A depiction of the monastery on Russia’s five-hundred-ruble note initially showed it as it was during the gulag period, without crosses. The image was later altered under church pressure.
The whole story of Solovki deserves to be studied and remembered, Brodsky said, but with Russia in such a nationalist mood, he saw little hope of that. “History cannot be changed, but it can be analyzed,” he said. “We should admit the errors we made. Repentance does not mean we should hide our heads under the floor; rather, we should look back and think about the path we followed.”
Rico says it's the old church-versus-state problem, and who wants to admit to mistakes?

Uber Hires Hackers to Secure Its Vehicles | TIME

http://time.com/4016108/uber-hires-hackers-self-driving-cars/?xid=newsletter-brief


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Another great one gone: Oliver Sacks


Time has an obituary by Malcolm Ritter about a great mind, Oliver Sacks:
Dr. Oliver Sacks, whose books like The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat probed distant ranges of human experience by compassionately portraying people with severe and sometimes bizarre neurological conditions, has died at 82.
He died Sunday at his home in New York City, his assistant, Kate Edgar, said.
Sacks had announced in February of 2015 that he was terminally ill with a rare eye cancer that had spread to his liver.
As a practicing neurologist, Sacks looked at some of his patients with a writer’s eye and found publishing gold.
In his best-selling 1985 book, he described a man who really did mistake his wife’s face for his hat while visiting Sacks’ office, because his brain had difficulty interpreting what he saw. Another story in the book featured autistic twins who had trouble with ordinary math but who could perform other amazing calculations.
Discover magazine ranked it among the 25 greatest science books of all time in 2006, declaring that “legions of neuroscientists now probing the mysteries of the human brain cite this book as their greatest inspiration.”
Sacks’ 1973 book, Awakenings, about hospital patients who’d spent decades in a kind of frozen state until Sacks tried a new treatment, led to a 1990 movie in which Sacks was portrayed by Robin Williams. It was nominated for three Academy Awards.
Still another book, An Anthropologist on Mars: Seven Paradoxical Tales, published in 1995, described cases like a painter who lost color vision in a car accident but found new creative power in black-and-white. It also told of a fifty-year-old man who suddenly regained sight after nearly a lifetime of blindness. The experience was a disaster; the man’s brain could not make sense of the visual world. It perceived the human face as a shifting mass of meaningless colors and textures. After a full and rich life as a blind person, he became “a very disabled and miserable partially sighted man,” Sacks recalled later. “When he went blind again, he was rather glad of it.”
Despite the drama and unusual stories, his books were not literary freak shows.
Oliver Sacks humanizes illness … he writes of body and mind, and from every one of his case studies there radiates a feeling of respect for the patient and for the illness,” Roald Hoffmann, a Nobel Prize-winning chemist, said in 2001. “What others consider unmitigated tragedy or dysfunction, Sacks sees, and makes us see, as a human being coping with dignity with a biological problem.”
When Sacks received the prestigious Lewis Thomas Prize for science writing in 2002, the citation declared, “Sacks presses us to follow him into uncharted regions of human experience and compels us to realize, once there, that we are confronting only ourselves.”
In a 1998 interview with The Associated Press, Sacks said he tries to make “visits to other people, to other interiors, seeing the world through their eyes.”
His 2007 book, Musicophilia, looked at the relationship between music and the brain, including its healing effect on people suffering from such diseases as Tourette’s syndrome, Parkinson’s, autism, and Alzheimer’s.
“Even with advanced dementia, when powers of memory and language are lost, people will respond to music,” he told the AP in 2008.
Oliver Wolf Sacks was born in 1933 in London, England, son of husband-and-wife physicians. Both were skilled at recounting medical stories, and Sacks’ own writing impulse “seems to have come directly from them,” he said in his 2015 memoir, On the Move.
In childhood he was drawn to chemistry (his 2001 memoir is called, Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood) and biology. Around age eleven, fascinated by how ferns slowly unfurl, he set up a camera to take pictures every hour or so of a fern and then assembled a flip book to compress the process into a few seconds.
“I became a doctor a little belatedly and a little reluctantly,” he told one interviewer. “In a sense, I was a naturalist first and I only came to individuals relatively late.”
After earning a medical degree at Oxford, Sacks moved to the United States in 1960 and completed a medical internship in San Francisco and a neurology residency at the University of California at Los Angeles. He moved to New York City in 1965 and began decades of neurology practice. At a Bronx hospital, he met the profoundly disabled patients he described in Awakenings.
Among his other books were The Island of the Colorblind (1997), about a society where congenital colorblindness was common, Seeing Voices (1989) about the world of deaf culture, and Hallucinations (2012), in which Sacks discussed his own hallucinations as well as those of some patients.
In the AP interview, Sacks was asked what he’d learned from peering into lives much different from the norm. “People will make a life in their own terms, whether they are deaf or colorblind or autistic or whatever,” he replied. “And their world will be quite as rich and interesting and full as our world.”
Sacks reflected on his own life in 2015 when he wrote in The New York Times that he was terminally ill. “I am a man of vehement disposition, with violent enthusiasms, and extreme immoderation in all my passions,” he wrote.
In the time he had remaining, he said, he would no longer pay attention to matters like politics and global warming, because they “are no longer my business; they belong to the future. I rejoice when I meet gifted young people, because I feel the future is in good hands. I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.”
Rico says he'll be long remembered...

BBC - Earth - Ceres: The planet that wasn't

http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20150831-the-planet-that-wasnt?ocid=global_bbccom_email_31082015_earth


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BBC - Autos - Inside the Oshkosh JLTV, the US Army's Hummer replacement

http://www.bbc.com/autos/story/20150828-inside-the-oshkosh-jltv-the-us-militarys-new-hummer-replacement?ocid=global_autos_rss&ocid=global_bbccom_email_31082015_autos


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Italy's Eni discovers huge gas field off Egyptian coast - BBC News

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-34102656?ocid=global_bbccom_email_31082015_business


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William Ash, the cooler king


The BBC has an article about the Cooler King:
World War Two threw up many extraordinary characters. But even among this exalted company, William Ash (photo, top), the model for the character played by Steve McQueen (photo, bottom) in The Great Escape, stands out, writes the author of a new biography, Patrick Bishop.
Ash was an American who, while his country was still reluctant to enter the war, crossed into Canada to train as a pilot with the RCAF. He was posted to Britain and flew Spitfires with 411 Squadron.
In March of 1942 he was shot down over northern France, but escaped from the wreckage of his plane, and was given shelter by a number of courageous French women and men. He was captured in Paris by the Gestapo and condemned to death. His life was saved by the Luftwaffe who argued that, as an airman, Ash was their prisoner.
He spent the rest of the war in a number of POW camps. But instead of being grateful for his salvation he became an obsessive "escapologist", seeking to break free by whatever means came his way.
When Ash died in 2014, at the age of 96. his obituaries noted that he was said to have been the model for Virgil Hilts, the lean, leather-jacketed airman played by Steve McQueen in the 1963 film The Great Escape. Hilts makes a doomed attempt to reach freedom by jumping the barbed wire fences on the German-Swiss border on a stolen motorcycle.
Ash modestly denied the claim. For one thing, he didn't ride a motorbike, he said. For another, he did not take part in the breakout from the Stalag Luft III camp, on which the movie is based.But the reason he did not participate is that he was locked up in the  "cooler" ,as the camp jail was called, as punishment for another escape attempt.
Ash was every bit as charismatic as the fictional Hilts, with whom he shared many characteristics. Apart from being American, he was good looking, dashing, and more than a bit of a rebel. He was also delightfully self-deprecating. He described some of his exploits in his writings, though he often underplayed his sufferings and achievements.
He had a tough upbringing in Depression-hit Texas, where his father struggled to bring up a family on what he made from his job as a traveling salesman. Young Ash worked his way through university, but could find no job at the end of it, and spent months riding the rails as a hobo, seeking whatever work he could get.
His experiences shaped his political views. He was too young to join the idealistic Americans fighting Franco's nationalists in the Spanish Civil War. But when World War Two broke out, he was determined to do his bit to combat fascism. It rankled with him that he did not do more fighting. He only managed to shoot down one German aircraft for certain before he was downed himself. He decided to use his incarceration to wage war on the enemy by other means.
Most of his fellow inmates had little interest in escaping. Having survived the trauma of being shot down, the majority decided they had used up their store of luck and tried to pass the time behind the wire as best they could, often studying and acquiring new skills, while they waited for the war to end.
Bill Ash belonged to a hard core devoted to overcoming every obstacle the Germans put in their way to returning home and carrying on the fight. They often found it hard to analyse precisely their motivations. Some felt it was their duty. For others, focusing on a project was a way of combating the stultifying boredom. In Ash's case it boiled down, he said, to "an unwillingness to crawl in the face of oppression".
He lost count of his escape attempts, or the number of times he was condemned to a spell in the cooler, which meant solitary confinement and a bread and water diet. Some of the escape bids were opportunistic efforts like the time he wangled his way on to a work detail tasked with unloading a train, then made a run for it when the guards' backs were turned.
Others were complex, long-term schemes that required a huge amount of organization, ingenuity, and endurance. A little-known but extraordinarily ambitious project was the Latrine Tunnel Escape, which took place in Oflag XXIB, a camp near the Polish town of Szubin.
Ash had a hand in devising the plan, which was not for the faint-hearted. It involved digging a tunnel more than a hundred yards long from a starting point beneath a large lavatory block. Every day for three months teams of diggers would lower themselves through a trap door set into a toilet seat trying to avoid falling into the lake of raw sewage beneath. An entrance set into wall of the latrine pit led into a chamber where the tunnel began. Day after day they would scrape away at the sandy soil working by the light of margarine lamps. They lived in fear of cave-ins and asphyxiation and panic attacks brought on by claustrophobia.
Tunnelling was in some ways the easy part. To stand any chance of making it out of Nazi-controlled territory, they needed civilian-style clothing, money, and documents. Here they were helped by other prisoners, who brought a wide variety of skills either acquired in peacetime or learned in the camp.
Eventually, one night early in March of 1943, thirty-five men dressed in outfits fashioned from Air Force uniform and blankets and armed with convincingly forged identity cards crawled through the narrow tunnel and under the perimeter fence to freedom.
One managed to get as far as the Swiss border before being recaptured. Two made it to the Baltic and were on their way in a rowing boat to neutral Sweden when they disappeared, presumed drowned. All the rest were recaptured within a few days.
It was a bitter disappointment, but almost all carried on trying to escape. Ash finally succeeded a few days before the war ended, breaking out of a camp near Bremen just as the British Army arrived.
His experiences as a prisoner had a profound effect on his political outlook. After the war he stayed on in Britain and seemed set to follow some of his camp comrades, like Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer Tony Barber and television presenter and historian Robert Kee, into a successful conventional career.
He went to Oxford University and joined the BBC, which gave him a top administrative job in India. His increasingly radical views made it hard for him to conform, however. He rejected the Communist Party of Great Britain as being too compromised and helped found a breakaway group. He also lost his full-time job with the BBC, though he continued to do some work for the drama department.
Ash was a happy and gregarious man who never lost a touch of his boyhood innocence. His career as an escapologist showed him that, in wartime, people were capable of extraordinary selflessness. Why was it, he wondered, that this spirit could not be carried on into peacetime?
Rico says having McQueen play you is a well-deserved honor for such a brave man...

Mount McKinley's Alaska name Denali is restored by Obama - BBC News

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-34105298?ocid=global_bbccom_email_31082015_top+news+stories


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Syria's Palmyra Temple of Bel 'severely damaged' by IS - BBC News

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-34103994?ocid=global_bbccom_email_31082015_top+news+stories


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Fear, Loathing and Disbelief as Donald Trump Looms Large Over New Hampshire | TIME

http://time.com/4016510/donald-trump-new-hampshire-republican/?xid=newsletter-brief


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30 August 2015

Boys as killers


It's traditional to start your jihadis out early, but The Clarion Project has an article about a real kid-killer:
The indoctrination of children has emerged as a primary goal of the Islamic State. Brainwashing children at a very young age to the ideology of the extremist group is the most effective way to assure its continuation and fill its rank and file in the next decade.
The horrifying video shows a very young child dressed in signature Islamic State gear, brandishing a large knife and beheading a teddy bear. The child receives kudos and encouragement from an adult in the background.
Rico says he wonders what this kid will grow up like...

Toys for bad boys


The Clarion Project has an article about the latest ISIS weapon:
The Islamic State has deployed remote-controlled toy cars (photo) equipped with bombs to attack Kurdish forces.
The children’s remote controlled cars are reportedly shipped from Turkey, and were reported by Kurdish forces after one failed to detonate.
The tactic may have been inspired by the computer game Call of Duty, in which attacking with remote controlled cars is one of the options.
“It is just another example of ISIS thugs thinking that they are in a video game," a British fighter for the Kurds told The Daily Star. “They sit around dreaming of new ways to kill people.”
In July of 2015, pictures of chickens reportedly used as suicide bombers by the Islamic State surfaced on social media.  
Rico says the mini-car-bombs are nasty, but at least it spares the chickens...

Movie review for the day: NE


Rico says he and the fiancée saw No Escape, starring Owen Wilson (photo, left) as Jack DwyerLake Bell (photo, right) as his wife, Annie, and their daughters, played by Claire Geare and Sterling Jerins, along with Pierce Brosnan as Hammond, the MI-6 agent who fortuitously (and repeatedly) saves them:
In their new overseas home (Bangkok), an American family soon finds themselves caught in the middle of a coup, and they frantically look for a safe escape in an environment where foreigners are being immediately executed.
Rico says he liked it (the fiancée didn't; too many scary moments), but there were the usual oh-fuck-the-gun's-not-loaded moments, but they each get to whack a bad guy, so it worked out...

Politics for the day


Angela Couloumbis and Craig R. McCoy have an article in The Philadelphia Inquirer about Kane:
Attorney General Kathleen Kane (photo) blames two former state prosecutors for the criminal case against her, saying they "corruptly manufactured" the investigation to cover up the fact that they had viewed pornography on state computers.
Kane's assertion was contained in hundreds of pages of court documents unsealed by the state Supreme Court.
In one legal filing from November of 2014, Kane contends that Frank Fina and E. Marc Costanzo, when they worked for her predecessors, "regularly received, possessed, and distributed misogynistic, pornographic, racist, obscene, and offensive emails on their state-owned computers."
When she discovered the emails, Kane said, the two embarked on a campaign to discredit her by seeking a grand jury investigation into whether she had leaked confidential materials from an old case.
Fina and Costanzo, who now work in the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, did not respond to requests for comment.
Kane, the state's highest-ranking law enforcement official, was charged earlier this month with perjury, conspiracy, obstruction, and other crimes by Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman in connection with the leak.
Prosecutors say Kane secretly released grand jury documents to the Philadelphia Daily News about a long-shuttered investigation handled by Fina and Costanzo. The article suggested that Fina and Costanzo had mishandled that 2009 investigation.
Kane released the information, prosecutors said, because she blamed Fina for an Inquirer article in March of 2015 that revealed she had secretly shut down a sting investigation that captured Philadelphia Democrats accepting cash or jewelry.
Kane, the first Democrat and woman elected to the office, has pleaded not guilty and said she will remain in office despite calls from Governor Wolf and others that she resign.
In court papers, the judge who set the leak investigation in motion said he did so after Fina, Costanzo, and another former state prosecutor said they had been contacted by a Daily News reporter who had confidential grand jury material.
In her filings regarding the porn emails, Kane provided the high court with pages of X-rated images, and also described some in graphic detail. She said they included nude photographs purporting to be of former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin; photos of women's genitalia; a photo of an African-American baby holding a rifle; and photographs purporting to be of President Obama sitting next to a partially-nude Hillary Clinton. In many of the examples, Fina and Costanzo were recipients rather than senders of the emails.
The court papers unsealed were a fusillade of legal motions in which Kane repeatedly tried and failed to block subpoenas demanding her testimony, undo the protective order for witnesses, and, most broadly, shut down the leak investigation as having no legal foundation.
Kane's arguments were made in a series of filings, some brought by the Attorney General's Office and signed by top aides in their official roles, including the chief of her appeals unit at the time. In other cases, the legal theories were advanced by her and her personal lawyers.
Also among the documents unsealed were legal rebuttals to Kane by the special prosecutor in the leak case, Thomas Carluccio. In one from November of 2014, Carluccio called Kane's assertions about the emails an attempt to "divert attention" away from whether she leaked confidential documents. Carluccio said the diversion represented "an ongoing, strategic effort" by Kane to avoid testifying before the grand jury. He noted that she had been subpoenaed three times to appear before finally doing so. The first time, she rescheduled once to attend a funeral of a slain state police trooper. A second time, she reported suffering a concussion in a car accident on her way to testify. All the while, the newly unsealed documents reveal, she was peppering the court with motions to halt the investigation.
In making her argument about the pornographic emails, Kane displayed clear anger at Fina and Costanzo, calling them "porn peddlers".
The language in her November of 2014 brief is vitriolic, even asserting that Fina and Costanzo had engaged in potentially criminal behavior and should be "investigated and possibly prosecuted".
During the course of the leak investigation, Kane said, Fina and Costanzo misrepresented the pornographic emails as they successfully petitioned a judge for a protective order, one that she said barred her from publicly exposing them.
The men called the emails "personal and private" when, in fact, they at times contained porn, Kane said.
"Faced with personal and professional ruin, Fina and Costanzo acted in desperation to avoid the public disgrace that they richly deserve," Kane's lawyers wrote.
Of the protective order, they said: "It also allowed Fina and Costanzo to keep their jobs as state prosecutors, despite having themselves engaged in an ongoing course of potentially criminal conduct."
In a statement, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams said he would review the emails to determine whether to take any action against Fina or Costanzo.
Though the documents single out Fina and Costanzo for having traded the X-rated materials, dozens of former and current prosecutors and agents in the office also participated.
In October of 2014, Kane identified only a small group of people who sent or received the material, leading to criticism that she was selectively releasing the information.
The eight men she named as having traded pornographic images and videos all had ties to Fina and then-Governor Tom Corbett, a Republican who was up for reelection. All eight had since left the Attorney General's office, and many lost their jobs.
At that time, the attorney general stopped short of naming Fina and Costanzo in her public comments. She suggested that she has been barred from doing so because of the protective order in the leak case.
That order, issued by Montgomery County Court Judge William R. Carpenter last summer, prohibited retaliation or intimidation against witnesses, including several of Kane's top staffers.
The Supreme Court unsealed separate documents last week showing that they told Kane late last year that Carpenter's protective order was not intended to restrict the "appropriate disclosure" of information involving the pornographic emails.
They did not define appropriate. But several lawyers familiar with the case have said that while the court was saying Kane was free to release information about the emails, it was also sending a message that the materials should not be used as a weapon to embarrass witnesses or target any person for exposure.
The lawyer said the high court's message was that while Kane was free to name porn recipients, she had to name all of them.
Paradoxically, the Supreme Court's unsealing of Kane's court arguments, in which she named only Fina and Costanzo, effectively undid the court's own edict.
Rico says it's the Kane mutiny...
 

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