30 April 2014

Movie review for the day

Rico says he's far more willing than almost anyone to rewatch movies he's seen, and tonight's rerun was Shooter, starring Mark Wahlburg as the intended patsy in a Presidential assassination:
A marksman (played by Wahlberg) living in exile is coaxed back into action after learning of a plot to kill the president. Ultimately double-crossed and framed for the attempt, he goes on the run to track the real killer and find out who exactly set him up, and why.

Russian undergtound

Rico says it's a different world:

Game of Pawns, for real

The Chronicle has an article by Karin Fischer containing a warning from the FBI:
For American college students, studying abroad is an opportunity to explore a new country, sample a unfamiliar culture, and meet people from very different backgrounds. But the Federal Bureau of Investigation is apparently worried that some of those new friends might actually be foreign spies.
The FBI has produced a slick, new film, Game of Pawns (video, above), to warn students of the "possibility that a foreign intelligence service might try to recruit them while abroad to eventually steal secrets from the US government." The half-hour movie is based— somewhat loosely— on the story of Glenn Duffie Shriver, who studied abroad in China and later was induced by intelligence officers there to apply for American government jobs. "We are very interested in the friendship of young Americans," one of the Chinese agents tells the character based on Shriver, who was arrested by American authorities in 2010 and sentenced to four years in prison.
The FBI began asking colleges to show Game of Pawns to departing study-abroad students last summer, but in the last week the agency has begun a more aggressive public-awareness campaign. Reaction among educators has been mixed. Some have called worries about potential spies in study abroad exaggerated, particularly compared with other health and safety issues that can arise when students are overseas, including alcohol consumption, traffic accidents, and mental-health crises.
Others have screened Game of Pawns for students or, like Marquette University, mention foreign-intelligence concerns in their online pre-departure orientations and tell students where they can view the movie on their own. Gail Gilbert, Marquette’s assistant director of international education, was part of a committee that has drafted guidance for colleges on the film, posted on the website of NAFSA: Association of International Educators.
Some 283,000 Americans studied abroad in the 2011-12 academic year, according to the Institute of International Education.
Why is the FBI beating the drum about spying and study abroad now? In a written response to The Chronicle, an FBI spokeswoman said the US government had seen an increase in the number of American students targeted by foreign intelligence services while overseas. "Innocent" students are "vulnerable because they are in a perfect position to be recruited," said the official, Minique Crump. "Even if one student sees this movie and walks away a bit more savvy about the world around him/her," she said, "it has served its purpose."
Rico says it's what we pay them for...

Faked out

The Chronicle has an article about a dirty collegiate trick:
Members of New York University’s Students for Justice in Palestine recently served two thousand undergraduate with fake eviction notices, CBS New York reported.
The fliers were slipped under doors in the university’s Palladium and Lafayette residence halls. They denounced the demolition of Palestinian homes by Israel and indicated that “this is not a real eviction notice” at the bottom. “Eviction notices are routinely given to Palestinian families living under Israeli occupation for no other reason than their ethnicity,” the fliers said. “Forced evictions are arbitrary, racist, humiliating, and in violation of Article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.”
Many Jewish students live in the dormitories, but other students got the notices as well. Some Jewish students said the move was an attempt to intimidate them. Laura Adkins, a member of a student group that supports Israel, said the notices were an example of freedom of speech taken too far. “It’s pretty alarming to a lot of students,” she said.
The pro-Palestinian group released a statement acknowledging responsibility for the fliers and maintaining that it had not targeted Jewish students.
Similar incidents have occurred at Northwestern and Rutgers.
Rico says the difference is that, here, they don't show up with tanks...

Sarah for the day

The BBC has an article by Kierran Petersen about Palin:
Sarah Palin (photo) has long been a bete noire of the left, but she has always been able to count support from grass-roots conservatives. At least, until now.
During a speech to members of the National Rifle Association this past weekend, Palin cracked a joke that, while being well-received by her audience, didn't go over as well with many Christian commentators, many of whom considered her an ally. "They obviously have information on plots to carry out jihad," she said, referring to prisoners. "Oh, but you can't offend them, can't make them feel uncomfortable, not even a smidgen. Well, if I were in charge, they would know that waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists."
For The American Conservative's Rod Dreher, Palin's statement is "sacrilegious". He says that those who laughed at the joke should be ashamed of themselves. Baptism, he says, should be about starting a new life, not celebrating torture. "If I thought that kind of hateful declaration and abuse of the Christian religion was what conservatism stood for, I wouldn't be able to call myself a conservative," he writes.
Dreher isn't the only religious conservative unhappy with Palin's jibe. Joe Carter of the Gospel Coalition says that while it is "suicidal" to try to find tolerance and understanding within those who want to destroy the US, dehumanizing the country's enemies is just as bad. "Like us, our enemies need to accept Jesus and to be baptized by water and the Spirit," he writes. "That is the Christian way, not as Palin would have it, to have our enemies fear a pagan god and have their spirit broken by water."
The Federalist's Mollie Hemingway agrees: "Joking about baptism in the context of this aggressive action suggests that we don't think baptism is as life-giving or important as it is," she writes. Hemingway says that, while she is a longtime supporter of Palin, these latest remarks cross the line. In her eyes, Palin is using religion for a political endgame, and while this type of "civil religion" definitely unites people politically, it comes at the expense of the church.
The Wonkette's Doktor Zoom lampooned Hemingway's criticisms, poking fun at her for missing the mark on exactly why Palin's comments were inappropriate: "You just see here, now, Palin, we don't so much mind you sticking it to the godless heathen Muslims, but don't you go joking about the sacraments," he writes. In fact, he says, it can be difficult to pin down just what is so out of line about Palin's statement.
"We're not sure what the most hilarious part of this line is; the desire to live out conservative commentator Ann Coulter's dream of victory through forced conversion, the mistaken belief that torture gets reliable intelligence or the very notion that Sarah Palin will ever be in charge of anything but a third-rate cable television show," he concludes.
While it is well-known that Palin is no longer a real politician, writes Patrick Brennan for National Review, she still stands for a group of people who are serious about the ideas of faith and freedom. He asks why any of her supporters would continue to back her after what she said. "Torture— waterboarding being something reasonable people may consider to constitute it— is and should be a question of grave moral consequence for Christians, and is for any Catholic familiar with the Catechism," he writes.
By some coincidence, Palin's remarks came just hours before Robert Costa of the Washington Post published an article that outlines the former governor's political decline and the diminishing power her endorsements hold. "Even as she travels to Iowa and elsewhere to bolster her handpicked candidates," he writes, "her influence in these midterm elections has been eclipsed by a new class of stars and her circle has narrowed, with a handful of aides guiding her and a few allies in Washington beyond a group of backbench troublemakers in Congress."
Palin was part of the trendy 2010 Tea Party movement, he says, but, increasingly among her friends in Washington, she finds herself in a supporting role.
And for some, including Politicus USA's Jason Easley, it's about time: "Sarah Palin is the one-hit wonder who started out playing arenas, then moved down to clubs, then moved further down to the county fair circuit," he writes. "When you stop drawing a crowd on the county fair circuit, it's over. The media is finally catching on that it is time to ignore Sarah Palin."
Rico says the Catholic Church is famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view) for using torture to compel conversion; their version of waterboarding, of course, involved molten lead...

IRA for the day

The BBC has an article about Sinn Féin:
Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams (photo, top) has been arrested by Northern Ireland police in connection with the 1972 murder of Jean McConville (photo, bottom left).
McConville, a 37-year-old widow and mother of ten, was abducted from her flat in the Divis area of west Belfast and shot by the IRA. Her body was recovered from a beach in County Louth in 2003.
Speaking before his arrest on Wednesday, Adams said he was "innocent of any part" in the murder.
Police said a 65-year-old man presented himself to Antrim police station and was arrested.
In a statement, Sinn Féin said: "Last month Gerry Adams said he was available to meet the PSNI about the Jean McConville case. That meeting is taking place this evening."
McConville, one of Northern Ireland's Disappeared, was kidnapped in front of her children after being wrongly accused of being an informer.
Last month, Ivor Bell, 77, a leader in the Provisional IRA in the 1970s, was charged with aiding and abetting the murder. There have also been a number of other arrests over the murder recently.
The case against Bell is based on an interview he allegedly gave to researchers at Boston College. The Boston College tapes are a series of candid, confessional interviews with former loyalist and republican paramilitaries, designed to be an oral history of the Troubles.
The paramilitaries were told the tapes would only be made public after their deaths.
However, after a series of court cases in the United States, some of the content has been handed over to the authorities.
The claim that McConville was an informer was dismissed after an official investigation by the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman.
She was held at one or more houses before being shot and buried in secret.
The Disappeared are those who were abducted, murdered, and secretly buried by Republicans during the Troubles. The IRA admitted in 1999 that it murdered and buried at secret locations nine of the Disappeared.
The Independent Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains was established in 1999 by a treaty between the British and Irish governments. It lists sixteen people as "disappeared". Despite extensive searches, the remains of seven of them have not been found.
Rico says the Brits have wanted to bust this guy for a long time, but 1972? That's stretching it...

More international scams for the day

From: mail.oj.gob.sv@mail.oj.gob.sv
Sent: Wednesday, 30 April, 2014 12:19
Subject: Bank Draft of $800,000.00 United States Dollars

I have been waiting for you since to contact me for your Confirmable Bank Draft of $800,000.00 which I promised you, butI did not hear from you since that time. Then I went and deposited the draft with FedEx Courier Service of West Africa,because of my wife that said I should not compensate you. I have travelled out of the country for a months' course and I will not come back till end of July. What you have to do now is to contact the 
FedEx Courier Service as soon possible to know when they will deliver your package to you because of the expiring date. For your information, I have paid for the delivery charge, Insurance premium, and Clearance Certificate Fee of the cheque showing that it is not drug money or meant to sponsor Terrorist attacking your Country.The only money you wills end to the FedEx Courier Service to deliver your Draft direct to your postal address in your country is ($180.00USD) Dollars only, being Security Keeping Fee of the Courier Company so far. Again, don't be deceived by anybody to pay any other money except $180.00. I would have paid that, but they said no, because they don't know when you will contact them and in case of demurrage. You have to contact the FedEx Courier Service now for the delivery of your draft with this information below.

Contact: Mr Martins Cole
Email Address: fedexpost667@yahoo.com.hk

Finally, make sure that you reconfirm your postal address and direct telephone number to them again to avoid any mistake on the delivery, and ask them to give you the tracking number to enable you track your package over there and know when it will get to your address. Let me repeat again: try to contact them as soon as you receive this mail to avoid any further delay and remember to pay them their Security Keeping fee of $180.00 for their immediate action. You should also let me know through email as soon as you receive your bank draft.

Yours faithfully,
Brain Hurt

Rico says he would love to email these idiots and say 'Got it!', but that would only invite further stupid emails...

International scam for the day

Rico says he continues to wonder who falls for this stuff:

From: Wu@online.comSent: Wednesday, 30 April, 2014 14:06To: "ME" <Wu@online.com>Subject: Attn:WESTERN UNION MONEY TRANSFERMALAYSIAN PAY-OUT CENTERTransaction #: WUMT-MY9631***/2014 ( Your Security Code )Dear Western Union Beneficiary,Your funds transaction of 1,500,000.00 USD has been approved by the United Nations(UN) in their on going poverty alleviation program 2014, and we have been instructed to start sending you 7,600.00 USD daily using our Western Union system. To begin receiving your daily payment as stated above, we need you to provideus with your full name, address, and phone number. Upon receipt of the requested details, your first transaction will be activated by you, before we can proceed to provide you with the Money Transfer Control after 24 hours of Receiving each payment. For more information on your payment status, email Mrs. Franca Lee or call our 24 hour Helpline @ +601-648-453-21 or 00601-648-453-21 for any inquiries on the above message.All email response should be sent to wtern.unmy@kimo.com for confirmation and payment approval.Yours truly,Sophie Cheetham
For: United Nations/Western Union, Malaysia

Gratuitous nudity for the day

Rico says, on the other hand, there's always some wackiness that's good:

Adolf for the day

Rico says we must never forget what a wacko he was:

Tool for the day

Rico doesn't chop much wood these days, but Kristin Hohenadel has a Slate article about what he'd use if he needed to:
The ax has been around in one form or another for more than a million years. Now Finnish inventor Heikki Kärnä has revolutionized the age-old chore of chopping firewood by brilliantly redesigning the tool. The new and improved Vipukirves (Finnish for Leverax) uses a “unique lever action” that is “considerably stronger than a traditional axe” to separate a log into sections, allowing the user to easily create a pile of firewood in seconds. The ax is painted in traffic-light red and yellow to make it easier to spot if left on the ground.
On his website, the 74-year-old inventor writes that he moved to “the gloomy forest of Sipoo” twenty years ago and began clearing trees to build a house, an arduous task that led to an obsession with improving on the tools he found at the local hardware store. He spent fifteen years building numerous prototypes of his ax at a local steel workshop.
“At times the man was discouraged, but his persistent Finnish nature didn't allow him to give up,” he writes. “The man continued developing a safer and more efficient axe; one that would allow him to conquer the roughest terrain; one that would be completely manual to overcome the lack of electricity in the middle of the thick forest; one that could be used where even a tractor could not get through, where the mossy forests are too precious to be destroyed by the digging machines.”
He had a design epiphany one day, while levering stones with a crowbar, when it struck him that the crowbar’s prying power over big rocks and stumps could also be applied to an ax.
The Vipukirves is used like a conventional ax, except that users are required to loosen their grip on the three-foot-long birchwood handle when the blade strikes the log, as it automatically inclines to the right, creating torque that multiplies the splitting force and detaches the chopped portion from the log with a single strike. This prevents the blade from getting lodged in the log. The ax head is attached to the handle from the side and not through the center, changing the center of gravity of the ax and the strike line.
Here’s a demonstration in slow motion:
The inventor provides instructions for how to build your own wood-chopping stand from a used tire, including step-by-step tips on wood-chopping form and safety advice, like refraining from using the ax while drunk, or allowing it to be handled by children. Another tip: “Don’t hold the log with your hand while chopping. This could result in losing a finger.”
Kärnä’s website urges you to “order Vipukirves now and chop your work in half!” but the ax— which costs $281 and has a ten-year guarantee— is temporarily out of stock.
Rico says it's a cool advance in some really old technology...

Porn forest

Rico's arch-perv friend Dave insisted Rico post this BuzzFeed article by Richard James:
Pornhub has announced it is planning to plant a tree for every hundred videos watched in a specific category on the site. The Pornhub Gives America Wood stunt coincides with Arbor Day, the annual event when people are encouraged to plant and care for trees.
The porn site said over twelve thousand trees have so far been planted since Arbor Day on 25 April 2014.
In a statement, the hugely popular site declared:
This Arbor Day, Pornhub will do what it does best and give America some serious wood by donating one tree for every hundred videos viewed in our Big Dick category.
The more videos that are viewed, the more trees we will plant!
While you’re watching some nice pieces of ash, you’ll also be helping spruce up America! (Bushes are optional).
It remains unclear where the trees will be planted and by whom, although, Pornhub’s PR director has apparently told The Daily Dot the site is considering three environmental groups. So, there’s no need to feel so guilty about watching so much porn anymore. You’re saving the planet.
Rico says like that's any consideration...

Ten more myths about Tom Horn

True West has an article by Larry D. Ball about Tom Horn:
Tom Horn (photo, top) occupies a prominent, if controversial, place in frontier annals. While he had a varied career in his forty-three years— miner, cowpuncher, pioneer rodeo star, and lawman— his most enduring legacy was as a civilian packer and scout for the Army in the Apache campaigns of the 1880s, as a Pinkerton operative, and, finally, as a Wyoming range detective. As a means to leave his version of his life for posterity, Horn wrote his autobiography while awaiting execution in a Cheyenne, Wyoming jail. Although he concluded his life story nearly ten years before his death, the autobiography has had much to do with the creation of his legend. Horn’s exaggerations, especially in his account of the Apache campaigns, are glaring and untrustworthy. This book, when combined with tales that later circulated about Horn’s activities as a “hit man” for Wyoming cattle barons, has had the effect of making the real Tom Horn difficult to discern.
1. Estranged from His FamilyHorn asserted that his father, a fervent Disciples of Christ follower, was such a strict disciplinarian that he chased his son away from home at the age of fourteen. This was partly true. He was probably several years older when he left, and he maintained contact with his family. In the late 1870s, he and his older brother, Charles, ran their father’s livery stable in Burrton, Kansas. When he became a Pinkerton operative in Denver, Colorado, in 1890, his sister Maude served as his housekeeper.
2.  Chief of ScoutsHorn told readers that Al Sieber, the most noted civilian scout in the Apache Wars, hired him as an assistant in 1876, and that Horn immediately became a scout. However, Horn did not arrive in the Arizona Territory until 1881. Army quartermaster records indicate Horn was first employed in September of 1881 as a teamster at Whipple Barracks, near Prescott, Arizona. He soon moved to the pack train service and remained there until 1885, when the Army began to use him as a scout. Only in the fall of that year did he become a chief of scouts, a position he held until October of 1886.
3. Apache FluencyOne of Horn’s most outrageous assertions was his fluency in the Apache language. The Missourian did not speak the Apache tongue well enough to interpret in formal negotiations. Horn did learn the border Spanish that prevailed in the Southwest well enough to serve as an Army interpreter in that lingo.
4. Geronimo's InterpreterHorn declared that Apache war leader Geronimo insisted only Horn could serve as his interpreter. As a chief of scouts (several were always at work during campaigns), Horn was present in the final pursuit of Geronimo in the summer of 1886, but he was never Geronimo’s interpreter, and certainly not for the formal surrender in Arizona in September of 1886. Horn did personally escort Geronimo to the train at Bowie Station that transported the captives into exile in Florida.
5. Horn's Apache WifeWhile Horn did not admit in his autobiography that he took an Apache girl as his common-law wife on the San Carlos Reservation, Sawn, whom he called his “housekeeper,” may have been his wife.  In the Apache language, Sawn meant “my wife” or “my old lady.” Furthermore, she may have given birth to one, possibly two, children by Horn. He reportedly deserted his family when he joined the Pinkerton National Detective Agency in 1890.
6. A Pinkerton HeroHorn’s performance as a Pinkerton operative was spotty. He won applause for helping catch the robbers who held up a train in Cotopaxi, Colorado, in August of 1891, but he failed in another high profile case in Oregon. He was not only unsuccessful in locating the felons who had wrecked a train near Salem, but also, in an abrupt turn of events, was arrested for robbing a casino in Reno, Nevada! Two trials, and the influence of his employer, William Pinkerton, were required to gain an acquittal. While the citizens of Reno remained convinced of his guilt, Pinkerton asserted bandit Frank Shercliffe did the deed.
7. Mankiller, or Not?In May of 1892, the Pinkerton agency sent Horn to Johnson County in the aftermath of the Cattlemen’s Invasion. Horn left the Pinkertons and gained employment with the Wyoming Stock Growers Association and, later, entered the service of individual range barons. While Horn was never convicted in a court of law of assassinating an alleged livestock thief, by 1895 he had the reputation of being a killer-for-hire. He may have shot and killed at least four men, but the story that he killed seventeen men in Colorado alone is pure myth.
8. Horn the GunfighterHorn’s contemporaries never regarded him as a gunfighter. As a consequence, he failed to gain a place in the popular mind or in Hollywood equal to Wyatt Earp or Billy the Kid. (His reputation as a man who shot his victims from ambush diminished his appeal.) Nor was he an accomplished brawler. In spite of his impressive physique— six feet two at 180-200 pounds— Horn was ineffective with his fists and shunned the use of a knife.
9. Veteran of the War with SpainWhen war erupted with Spain in April of 1898, Nelson Miles, commanding general of the Army, sought out Horn for the civilian pack train. With the Fifth Corps in Cuba, chief packer Horn supervised eight pack trains. In spite of the foul weather, enemy guerilla activity, and chronic illnesses among his packers, Horn persevered and won applause. Yet the War Department rebuffed him when he sought a position as pack master in the Philippines.
10. The Fake Confession?This is the unknowable myth. Horn’s supporters claimed Deputy U.S. Marshal Joe LeFors employed underhanded means to extract a confession that the range detective had killed fourteen-year-old Willie Nickell. Whether the confession was true or not, it sealed the fate of Horn, who was executed in November of 1903.
Rico says that the Steve McQueen (photo, bottom) movie was good...

Stupid is as stupid does

John Branch has an article in The New York Times about booting Sterling out of the NBA:
The National Basketball Association (NBA) handed a lifetime ban to the longtime Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, an extraordinary step in professional sports, and one intended to rid the league of Sterling after he was recorded making racist comments.
Commissioner Adam Silver said the NBA would try to force Sterling to sell the Clippers, fully expecting to get the necessary three-quarters approval from other team owners. It would be a rare, if not unprecedented, move for a North American professional sports league, made even more unusual by the fact that the NBA is punishing Sterling for comments he made in a private conversation.
Sterling was also fined $2.5 million, the largest that league bylaws would allow, but a small percentage of his estimated two billion dollar fortune. It is unclear how Sterling, who is believed to be eighty years old, will respond. He has made no public comments in his defense since the episode began.“The views expressed by Sterling are deeply offensive and harmful,” Silver said. “We stand together in condemning Sterling’s views. They simply have no place in the NBA.”
Sterling’s time as owner of the Clippers has been marked by player unrest, accusations of racism and sexism, and, until the team began winning consistently three years ago, incompetent basketball management.Dozens of players and several team owners released statements applauding Silver’s move. Even the Clippers’ organization, apparently freed from the fear of repercussion from its unpopular owner, released one with the approval of Andy Roeser, the team president, and Doc Rivers, the team’s head coach: “We wholeheartedly support and embrace the decision by the NBA and Commissioner Adam Silver today,” the Clippers’ statement read. “Now the healing process begins.”
The team’s website featured an all-black background on its home page, and a simple message next to the team’s logo: We Are One.
The controversy began over the weekend with the release of audio clips of Sterling making wide-ranging racist remarks in a conversation with a female acquaintance. He was perturbed that the woman posted online pictures of herself with black men, including Magic Johnson, who played his Hall of Fame career with the Los Angeles Lakers.
“Don’t put him on Instagram for the world to see so they have to call me,” Sterling said, in recordings released by TMZ. “And don’t bring him to my games. Yeah, it bothers me a lot that you want to promo, broadcast, that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?”
Sterling has made no public comment about whether the voice was his, but Silver said the NBA’s investigation revealed that the voice belonged to him, and that Sterling admitted that the words were his.Silver did not elaborate on what grounds, specifically, the league believed it could force Sterling to sell the team, nor did he make clear how a transfer of ownership might be conducted. The Clippers are valued at more than five hundred million dollars.
Sterling’s comments have overwhelmed the NBA playoffs, especially the first-round series between the Clippers and the Golden State Warriors. The teams were tied, 2-2, in the best-of-seven series before the recent game in Los Angeles. At Game Four in Oakland, California, Clippers players wore their practice shirts inside out, concealing the team’s name, as a sign of solidarity and protest. Other playoff teams followed suit.There was talk of boycotting games if players felt the league was too soft on Sterling. The Warriors made loose plans to go out for the jump ball and walk off the court before the discipline against Sterling was announced.
“I believe that today stands as one of those great moments where sports once again transcends, where sports provides a place for fundamental change on how our country should think and act.” said Kevin Johnson, the mayor of Sacramento, California and a former NBA player.
“Former and current NBA players are very happy and satisfied with Commissioner Silver’s ruling,” Magic Johnson said on Twitter.
The game began with a festive air, the team aggressively promoting the We Are One slogan and fans carrying signs conveying messages of unity in a post-Sterling environment. Fans + Players = Clippers Nation, one read.
Outside the arena on a warm afternoon, where any planned protests against Sterling or the NBA fizzled after word of the sanctions, some wore black t-shirts that had Sterling’s name on the back with a jersey number: –1.
Sterling is not the first owner of a professional sports team to run afoul of his league’s standards, but he may end up with the most severe punishment. George Steinbrenner, the Yankees’ principal owner, was given a lifetime ban from the day-to-day operations of his team in 1990 for conspiring with a gambler in an effort to defame Dave Winfield, a Yankees player. But Steinbrenner was not forced to relinquish his ownership of the team, and he was reinstated three years later. In 1993, Major League Baseball suspended Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott from the day-to-day operation of the team for one year and fined her $25,000 for using racial slurs toward employees and making anti-Semitic remarks.The NBA’s response to Sterling’s comments may put an end to one of the more criticized ownership tenures in American sports. Sterling bought the San Diego Clippers in 1981 and moved them to Los Angeles in 1984, deep in the shadow of the popular and successful Lakers. The Clippers spent decades as a consistent joke, with Sterling the easy punch line. The team managed just one winning season in Sterling’s first two dozen years as owner, and has yet to make it past the second round of the playoffs.
But a few years of high draft choices and strong basketball management have turned the Clippers into a burgeoning league power with an enviably deep and talented roster.
The NBA has long been uncomfortable with Sterling. He was unsuccessfully sued by the team’s former general manager, NBA great Elgin Baylor, for age and race discrimination in 2009. Baylor said in the suit that Sterling “had a pervasive and ongoing racist attitude” and ran the team with a “Southern plantation-type structure”.
That same year, Sterling paid $2.76 million to settle a housing-discrimination suit brought by the Justice Department on behalf of African-Americans, Latinos, and families with children.
Silver said that Sterling was being barred from the league for his recent comments, but that the owners’ coming decision whether to force him to sell the Clippers would take into account his entire ownership tenure. Silver said the process to vote on forcing the sale of the team would begin immediately.
Silver, whose tenure as commissioner began this year, made the announcement at a news conference in New York City, where the NBA’s headquarters are located. The Clippers, minus Sterling, were at their modern headquarters and practice facility, where the lane entering the gated parking lot is named— for the moment— Sterling Drive. Players were watching film with Rivers, who interrupted to share the news. “There was complete silence,” Rivers said.
In a courtyard outside City Hall in Los Angeles, California, Mayor Eric Garcetti of that city and Mayor Kevin Johnson of Sacramento, a former NBA player, gathered with a contingent of current and former NBA players with ties to the city’s teams, the Clippers and the Lakers. “This is a defining moment in our history,” Johnson said. “Through history, sports has played a pivotal role in advancing civil rights: Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympics; great leaders like Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Arthur Ashe, Jason Collins, and our very own Jackie Robinson. I believe that today stands as one of those great moments where sports once again transcends, where sports provides a place for fundamental change on how our country should think and act.” Among the current and former players present were Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Steve Nash, Tyson Chandler, Norm Nixon, and Luke Walton. “We may be a two-team town,” Garcetti said, “but today we’re behind one team, and the players of the Los Angeles Clippers; tonight, we want you to know that we love you, we are behind you, and today we feel like justice has begun to be served.”
At Clippers headquarters— where, according to SilverSterling is no longer welcome— there were few outward signs of change. A couple of television crews and one man stood outside. He was DeWayne Williams, waving two American flags and a sign that read: No time for racism. Love. “It’s important for people to know that we don’t tolerate that anymore,” Williams said. As for the news of Sterling’s banishment, Williams took a wait-and-see approach. “I prefer him to be out,” Williams said. “It’s hard for players to play for a person you know doesn’t have respect for you. So I’m going to be here every day until he’s out.”
Rico says this ain't over...

Oklahoma inmate dies after 'botched' injection

The BBC has an article by Victoria Gill about an execution that didn't go quite as expected:
A death row inmate in Oklahoma died of a heart attack after his execution was halted because the lethal injection of three drugs failed to work properly.
The execution of Clayton Lockett (photo), 38, was stopped after twenty minutes, when one of his veins ruptured, preventing the drugs from taking full effect. The execution of a fellow inmate, due two hours later, was postponed. Both men had unsuccessfully challenged a state law that shields the identities of companies supplying the drugs.
Since it was first used in Texas in 1982, "the triple-drug cocktail" has become the standard execution method in US states that have the death penalty. It was designed by anaesthesiologist Stanley Deutsch as an "extremely humane" way to end life.
The first drug, a barbiturate, "shuts down" the central nervous system, rendering the prisoner unconscious. The second paralyses the muscles and stops the person breathing. The third, potassium chloride, stops the heart.
But critics suggest that the method may well be painful. One suggestion is that people could be too sedated by the first drug to cry out, or that they might be in pain but paralyzed by the second drug.
Another complication, as appears to have been the case with Clayton Lockett, is that intravenous drug use is common among death row inmates, meaning many prisoners have damaged veins that are difficult to inject.
Problems sourcing some of the drugs in the official protocol have also led to claims that states are using untested drugs in their executions. The problems surrounding Lockett's execution come amid a wider debate over the legality of the three-drug method and whether its use violates guarantees in the Constitution "against cruel and unusual punishment".
Lockett was sentenced to death for shooting nineteen-year-old Stephanie Neiman and watching as two accomplices buried her alive in 1999. Neiman and a friend had interrupted the men as they robbed a home.
Lockett writhed and shook uncontrollably after the drugs were administered, witnesses said. "We believe that a vein was blown and the drugs weren't working as they were designed to. The director ordered a halt to the execution," Oklahoma Department of Corrections spokesman Jerry Massie said.
But Lockett's lawyer, David Autry, questioned the remarks, insisting his client "had large arms and very prominent veins," according to the Associated Press.
The prisoner was moving his arms and legs and straining his head, mumbling "as if he was trying to talk", Courtney Francisco, a local journalist present at the execution, told the BBC. Prison officials pulled a curtain across the view of witnesses when it became apparent that something had gone wrong. "It was a horrible thing to witness. This was totally botched," Autry said.
Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin said in a statement that she had ordered a full review of the state's execution procedures.
Fellow inmate Charles Warner, 46, had been scheduled to be put to death in the same room two hours later in a rare double execution. Warner's lawyer, Madeline Cohen, who witnessed Lockett's execution, said he had been "tortured to death" and called for an investigation. "The state must disclose complete information about the drugs, including their purity, efficacy, source and the results of any testing," she said.‏
Warner was convicted of the 1997 murder and rape of an eleven-month-old girl.
He and Lockett had unsuccessfully challenged an Oklahoma state law that blocks officials from revealing, even in court, the identities of the companies supplying the drugs. The state maintains the law is necessary to protect the suppliers from legal action and harassment.
Lockett and Warner argued they needed to know the names of the suppliers in order to ensure the quality of the drugs that would be used to kill them and to be certain that they had been obtained legally.
In March of 2014, a trial court ruled in their favor, but the state's highest court reversed that decision last week, ruling that "the plaintiffs have no more right to the information they requested than if they were being executed in the electric chair".
US states have encountered increasing problems in obtaining the drugs for lethal injections, amid an embargo by European pharmaceutical firms. Some have turned to untried combinations of drugs, or have sought to obtain the drugs custom-made from compounding pharmacies. The triple-drug cocktail, first used in Texas in 1982, has become the standard execution method in the US. It was presented as a more humane replacement for lethal gas and the electric chair, but critics of the three-drug protocol say it could cause unnecessary suffering. Several US states that still have the death penalty have since switched to a single-drug method.
Rico says, sorry, but wasn't the point of executing this guy that he die? (And, after shooting her, they buried her alive, surely cruel and unusual behavior, but we're all worried about how he died? And his co-convict, Warner, was convicted of the 1997 murder and rape of an eleven-month-old girl? He should be beaten to death, preferably on live television...) Time to go back to firing squads; time-tested, and they work.

Another great one gone

The BBC has an obituary for Bob Hoskins, one of Rico's favorite (sorry, favourite; British, you know) actors:
British actor Bob Hoskins, who was best known for roles in The Long Good Friday and Who Framed Roger Rabbit, has died of pneumonia at the age of 71.
Hoskins' agent said he died in hospital, surrounded by family.
The star won a BAFTA and was Oscar-nominated in 1987 for the crime drama Mona Lisa, in which he starred opposite Sir Michael Caine and Robbie Coltrane.
He announced he was retiring from acting in 2012, after being diagnosed with Parkinson's.
"We are devastated by the loss of our beloved Bob," the actor's wife Linda and children Alex, Sarah, Rosa, and Jack said in a statement. "Bob died peacefully at hospital last night, surrounded by family, following a bout of pneumonia. We ask that you respect our privacy during this time and thank you for your messages of love and support."
Sir Michael, who also appeared with Hoskins in the films Sweet Liberty and Last Orders, remembered him as "one of the nicest and best actors I have ever worked with".
Dame Helen Mirren, who played the wife of the gangster he portrayed in The Long Good Friday, also paid tribute, describing him as "a great actor and an even greater man" whose "inimitable energy... seemed like a spectacular firework rocket just as it takes off. When I worked with him on his iconic film The Long Good Friday, he was supportive and unegotistic," she went on. "I had the honour of watching the creation of one of the most memorable characters of British film."
Those sentiments were echoed by Timothy Spall, who said Hoskins was "an adored man and a deeply respected and admired actor who was able to make people laugh and cry".
Hoskins, who was born in Suffolk but grew up in London, started out on the stage before embarking on a television and film career. On the small screen, he appeared in shows such as Play for Today, On the Move, Van der Valk, and the BBC drama The Street. On film, his credits also included Mermaids, Hook, Mrs. Henderson Presents, and Made in Dagenham. His last film role was as one of the dwarves in 2012's Snow White and the Huntsman, starring Kristen Stewart.
Dame Judi Dench, who starred opposite Hoskins in Mrs. Henderson Presents, told the BBC News website: "I'm so very sorry to hear this news, and am thinking of his family at this sad time."
Hoskins was BAFTA nominated twice prior to his Mona Lisa win, for The Honorary Consul (aka Beyond the Limit) in 1984 and The Long Good Friday in 1982.
He was also nominated for a television BAFTA for his role in Dennis Potter's BBC musical drama, Pennies from Heaven.
British film critic Jason Solomons called The Long Good Friday "a great Londoner's movie. London ran through him like a stick of rock," he added.
Tributes to the actor have appeared swiftly on Twitter, with BAFTA saying it was "deeply saddened" to learn of his death.
Actress Vicky McClure, who worked with Hoskins on Shane Meadows' 1999 film A Room for Romeo Brass, said: "He was one of the best. I feel honoured to have met & worked with him."
Sherlock creator and actor Mark Gatiss, who appeared as Rat opposite Hoskins' Badger in a 2006 adaptation of The Wind in the Willows, tweeted a picture of the two together, praising Hoskins as "a true gent and an inspiration".
Stephen Fry added: "That's awful news. The Long Good Friday is one of the best British movies of the modern era. A marvellous man."
Rico says he'll be missed.

History for the day

On 30 April 1975, the South Vietnamese capital of Saigon fell to Communist forces.

Rico says it was good riddance as far as the US was concerned, but we all know how well that turned out... (Though it did provide background for Rico's book, At All Hazards.)

British children and dead Germans

DelanceyPlace.com has a selection from Good Bounces & Bad Lies by Ben Wright:
The author, who later became a commentator for CBS Sports, was ten years old in wartime Britain in 1942. The experience changed him:

You see, the war had turned my young friends and I into beastly little savages. Luton, the town in which I was born, is thirty miles north of London and was quickly in the thick of things in World War Two.  A Vauxhall factory (now a General Motors plant) had switched from making automobiles to becoming Britain's biggest producer of Churchill tanks. The townspeople, therefore, experienced daylight raids of dive-bombing German Stukas (video) early in the war. I learned as a young boy to recognize the frightening whine of a Stuka in full dive. My lads and I had opportunities to view the occasional handiwork of the Royal Air Force when we would pedal our bikes to the crash sites and raid the downed German planes. We would always be in a hurry to reach the downed bombers because, if we got there before anyone else, we could canvas the wreckage for wallets, valuables, and gauges from the instrument panels. We'd grimly scavenge for anything we might be able to sell on the black market. We never ran into any pilots who were still alive, but I won't kid you, we did run into pilots who were still warm. It was a morbid hobby for a ten-year-old child to have.We were very evil little children, shaped from the hardship of war. I recall vividly coming very quickly upon a downed Messerschmitt 110, which was a two-engined fighter-bomber. One of my friends and I were rooting around in the cabin, where we'd collected both pilots' wallets, when we noticed smoke billowing out of one of the engines. 'We'd better get out of here!' I shouted. As we fled, the plane exploded and we were both blown into a nearby hedge. By the grace of God, we didn't suffer a scratch, but even we had more sense than to go back into downed aircraft after that awful experience.At that young, impressionable age, I was forced to learn to get used to this kind of violence and destruction. I survived the V-1 flying bombs and the V-2s, which were more lethal. The V-1s were little unmanned airplanes with a primitive, noisy jet engine on the tail. Flames came out of the engine, so they could always be spotted at night. I could hear their sound— a 'chug-chug-chug'— as they flew over. The sound would stop when their engines cut out, and they would take about 45 seconds to fall from the sky and explode on impact. My sister and I would stand on the steps of the air raid shelter and watch them fly over. When the motor cut, there was a very distinct silence, so we would run down into the shelter, slam shut the heavy door and brace for the explosion.The sight of London burning, its skies orange with the glow of fire, became sort of ordinary to me and the others who were going to survive this horror. I became emotionally dead, and became this little beast.
Rico says he's sure it was exciting, but he's glad he missed it...

29 April 2014


Eric Holthaus has a Slate article about the recent crop of tornados:
A slow-moving storm system is producing one of the most prolonged, intense outbreaks of the past decade. More than a hundred tornadoes across eleven states have been reported over the past two days. The death toll has reached thirty, according to CNN. More tornadoes are likely.
The tornado threat will shift east slightly, as the outbreak reaches its third day, with Mississippi and Alabama again at greatest risk for severe weather. The scope of the storms remains enormous: more than seventy million people will be at risk, according to the Storm Prediction Center. By evening, a secondary round of tornadoes could threaten Atlanta to the Carolinas to Washington.
Besides tornadoes, total rainfall has already reached in excess of eight inches in some parts of the South. Heavy rains will begin on the East Coast, with similar totals possible by week’s end. Flood watches are posted in a continuous swath from New Orleans to New York City.
By all accounts, this week’s tornado outbreak is rare. It’s unlikely, but this could mark the first time since 3 to 5 May 1999, with three consecutive days of “high risk” of severe weather. That’s the only other time such a severe and long-lasting outbreak has been forecast by the Storm Prediction Center since accurate tornado forecasts became possible in the 1980s.
Rico says his mother is in the path, but hopefully will be spared...

Star Wars Episode VII

Aisha Harris and Forrest Wickman have a Slate article about the next Star Wars:
After endless speculation, the cast for J. J. AbramsStar Wars: Episode VII has finally been announced, and as was rumored, the list features the return of old favorites as well as some relative newcomers. We do not yet know the details of which character each will play, though Adam Driver has been rumored as the movie's main villain. Meet the cast:

John Boyega is best known for his role in 2011’s Attack the Block.

Daisy Ridley is a relative newcomer who has primarily appeared in small television roles.

Adam Driver is most commonly referred to as “Adam from Girls”.

Oscar Isaac starred in the Coen BrothersInside Llewyn Davis.

Andy Serkis became famous playing Gollum in the Lord of the Rings movies, and he will next be seen once again embodying Caesar in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

Domhnall Gleeson played Bill Weasley in the last Harry Potter movie.

Max von Sydow is a cinematic icon from Sweden who played Father Merrin in The Exorcist, among many other famous roles.
And the original stars are back: Mark Hamill is Luke Skywalker, Harrison Ford is Han Solo, Carrie Fisher will again don the cinnamon buns (presumably) as Princess Leia, Peter Mayhew is back as Chewbacca, Kenny Baker will return as R2-D2, and Anthony Daniels will (we hope) get back in the C-3PO suit.
Rico says he'll probably pass; some things can't be repeated... (And who could tell who's in the R2-D2 and C-3PO plastic suits?)

Art history for the day

The BBC has an article by Stephen Evans about an unlikely owner of a painting:
A portrait of a sixteenth-century Welsh noblewoman was discovered in the art collection of Hermann Goering. What was it doing there?
She seems the gentlest of gentlewomen as she stands reflectively. Her skin is pale against the blackness of her dress. She holds a prayer book, indicating devout learning. Her other hand rests easily on a skull; the reminder of death. She exudes nobility.
So how did this grand Welsh lady get to mix with bad Nazi company? The painting is now owned by the National Museum of Wales but, during World War Two, it was in the collection gathered by Hermann Goering, Hitler's deputy, the head of the Luftwaffe, and the man who founded the Gestapo.
The subject of the painting is Catrin of Berain, or Katheryn to her English friends. For centuries the portrait hung in family homes near Denbigh in North Wales, but somehow it was acquired by the Nazis.
The story of how the painting went from Cardiff to Berlin and then back to the National Museum of Wales has been pieced together by experts keen to establish that there are no legitimate counter-claims to its ownership. Controversy invariably surrounds works of art accrued by the Nazis, so the curators in Cardiff have made doubly sure that the portrait of a Welsh gentlewoman has a clean past.
After all, there are currently fierce legal disputes over a collection of paintings discovered hidden in Munich, and over priceless artifacts from the medieval church, bought by the German state from Jewish art dealers in the 1930s when the Nazis were in power, and now on display in a museum in Berlin.
Looking at Catrin's life story, it's difficult to see why exactly a top Nazi might take an interest in her. According to Helen Williams-Ellis, who is writing a biography of Catrin, the noblewoman was born in 1540 in Berain near Denbigh in north-east Wales.
Catrin's father was a land-owner, Tudur ap Robert, with a substantial three thousand acres. At the age of 22, Catrin married one John Salusbury, the son of a neighboring land owner. In those days, money married money to keep money in the family.
After nine years of marriage and two children, Catrin's first husband died. Williams-Ellis told the BBC that, afterwards, Catrin married another rich man, Sir Richard Clough, again, according to Williams-Ellis, to keep the money in the family.
Clough, known by the Welsh as Rhisiart Clwch, was a merchant who divided his time between north Wales, London, where he was one of the founders of the Stock Exchange, and Antwerp, Belgium. In what seems like a Welsh cliche, Clough had not been born to immense wealth, but was noticed for his fine singing voice in the choir of Chester Cathedral and despatched to court in London. That opened the way to riches.
In Antwerp, Catrin had her portrait painted, and the picture was hung for more than two centuries in family homes in north Wales.
In 1938, the owners decided, for reasons that haven't been established, to sell the picture and contacted a dealer in London. It was offered to the National Museum of Wales but, somehow, the sale failed to happen. The London dealer had connections with the art market in Amsterdam in the Netherlands and, in November of 1940 the painting was bought by Walter Andreas Hofer, the adviser on art to Hermann Goering. It may seem incongruous that the founder of the Gestapo should be an art collector, but he was building up a collection to aggrandize the Reich.
In 1945, with the Reich in ruins a mere twelve years into its existence, the portrait was rediscovered by the victorious Allies and documented. Special units, soon to be depicted in the movie The Monuments Men, rescued works and then traced their route to the Nazi collection: the circumstances in which they were acquired, and who originally owned them. In the case of the portrait of Catrin, they tracked down the Dutch dealer who originally had sold it and returned the painting to him. It is for this reason that the National Museum of Wales is confident there can be no dispute over ownership: the man who sold it got his work back.
Why did the Nazis want the painting of a Welsh noblewoman? Oliver Fairclough, the Keeper of Art at the National Museum of Wales, said the Nazis accrued works to aggrandize themselves and their regime. "A lot of it was 'art as power and status'," Fairclough says. They wanted to display the best of traditional art. It seems the regime wanted the picture because it was a Flemish masterwork, rather than for its subject. It was probably painted by Adriaen van Cronenburgh, who produced portraits of merchants in the commercial hub that was sixteenth-century Antwerp.
Nonetheless, Fairclough is intrigued by what he calls a "fascinating" picture. "She is very well dressed," he says. "She's wearing black, which was a very expensive cloth because it had to be dyed. There's a gold chain around her neck, and pearls in her head dress".
Despite the seriousness of the portrait, there is a scintilla of a hint of a smile if you want to see one. It is nice to imagine that she was not straight-laced. In all, she married four times and had six children by three husbands.
Williams-Ellis wonders if she is pregnant in the picture, because rich women of the era occasionally had their portraits painted before childbirth, which increased the family's consciousness of mortality.
Catrin divided her life between the deep countryside of north Wales and the hubs of the new commercial world, Antwerp and London. It must have been a whirlwind of change as she moved between Denbighshire and these two bustling centres.
Six years into their marriage, Sir Richard Clough died in Hamburg at the age of forty, the second husband Catrin had lost. There is a theory that he was poisoned as a suspected spy for Queen Elizabeth I; Catrin's world was not boring and ordinary.
For a time, Antwerp was Catrin's home She then looked back to Wales and to property for her third husband, Maurice Wynn of Gwydir, the High Sheriff for Caernarfonshire. The cynical view, and also the view of Catrin's present-day fan, Williams-Ellis, is that this marriage was, at least partly, about financial considerations. Catrin had another two children with her third husband. And then, he, too, died. So she married a fourth husband, who, finally, survived her.
Catrin of Berain died on 27 August 1591. She is buried at the parish church in the village of Llanefydd near the farm where she was born and grew up.
After her death, thirteen elegies were written in praise of her; eight in Welsh, two in Latin, and three in English.
What about the man who had bought the portrait for Goering? Walter Andreas Hofer was Director of the Reichsmarschall's Art Collection from 1939 to 1944. After the war, a French military tribunal sentenced him in absentia to ten years in prison. Somehow, though, he never served that sentence and continued to work undisturbed as an art dealer in Munich, dying in an obscurity he no doubt welcomed in the early 1970s.
And what about the mysterious Catrin? It would be nice to think that she shudders from beyond the grave at the very thought of monstrous Goering once gazing on her kindly image.
The story of Catrin o Berain can be seen online at s4c.co.uk/clic. English subtitles are available.
Rico says ain't history fun?

Apple for the day

Rico says that, as ever, Bill Gates gets no recognition, even in Hacker Crackdown:
Hackers at their most grandiloquent perceive themselves as the elite pioneers of a new electronic world. Attempts to make them obey the democratically established laws of contemporary American society are seen as repression and persecution. After all, they argue, if Alexander Graham Bell had gone along with the rules of the Western Union telegraph company, there would have been no telephones. If Jobs and Wozniak had believed that IBM was the be-all and end-all, there would have been no personal computers.

Not nice, but interesting

Rico says there's a bunch of posts below about the Nazis and their stuff.
Rico hates Nazis with the best of them, but finds their stuff interesting.
If you don't, skip on down...

Skin is an organ

DelanceyPlace.com has a selection from Extreme Medicine by Kevin Fong, M.D.:
The entire epidermal layer of your skin turns over every forty-eight days.
We do not think of skin as an organ in the conventional sense. It lacks the solidity and the discrete locus of the more familiar viscera. That elastic but porous covering stretched over your frame, folds of flesh and imperfections that you know well enough to take for granted, fulfills an essential task. It is no less important to your continued survival than a heart or a pair of lungs.
Skin is the first line of defense against the microbial hordes massing on its surface; it prevents the excessive evaporation of the body's precious fluids; it harbors an exquisitely sensitive array of detectors that warn us of harm and allow us to respond fast enough to avoid further injury; and it thermoregulates to keep us warm when it is cold or cool us down when it is hot.
Skin is deeper than you think; in some areas of the body it is up to a fifth of an inch thick. The stuff at the top is dead, a keratinized layer that serves the purpose of physical protection. Below that layer is living, moist tissue that needs nutrients and a blood supply, and is vulnerable to attack and injury.
Skin is organized into distinct strata. The topmost layer, the epidermis, forms the tough barrier with which we feel so familiar. The cells of the epidermis are densely packed and further subdivided into layers. The base layer consists of stem cells that boast large purple-staining nuclei. These cells mature, eventually losing their nuclei and acquiring filaments of keratin, making them more rigid. As they develop, they ascend through the epidermal layer toward the surface, finishing at the top to form a tough protective layer of dead cells.
That layer tends to reinforce our image of the epidermis as a durable but passive barrier to the outside world. Yet it is anything but passive. The layers of epidermal cells, constantly being born and marching forward, are like a never-ending conveyor belt of foot soldiers throwing themselves at the wire. They mount a spirited defense: they create a dry and acidic environment hostile to bacterial growth; their tentacle-like appendages seek out and destroy foreign bacterial cells, and they secrete enzymes and fatty chemicals to further deter would-be colonists. The fight at the surface is fierce; a war against perpetual mechanical, chemical, and biological attack. Consequently the rate of attrition among these cells is high. For a single epidermal cell, that journey, from birth in the basal layer to combat maturity on the surface of the epidermis, takes something like six weeks. The rate of replacement must match the rate of loss, and the entire epidermal layer turns over every forty-eight days.
But the epidermis, the layer that we casually refer to as our skin, represents only what we can see. Beneath this there is the dermis, which, under the microscope, looks like a vertical section through a chaotically-planted vegetable garden. There are microscopic structures here that look like the cut surfaces of onions. That baconlike connective tissue is found here, dotted with strange-looking whorls, blood vessels, and tubes. Here the skin becomes more recognizable as an organ, run through with a network of glands and vessels and studded with organelles. It is from this layer that the skin derives both its elasticity and its supply of blood and nourishment.
Together the epidermis and dermis form a waterproof but breathable layer. They have pores that are small enough to prevent ingress of water droplets but large enough to let molecules of water vapor out. But it is the sensory array that is perhaps the skin's most remarkable feature. Able to resolve point contacts little more than a millimeter apart, it's capable not only of registering heat and cold, but also of differentiating between a lover's caress and pain from a needle tip.

History for the day

On 29 April 1992, deadly rioting that claimed over fifty lives and caused a billion dollars in damages erupted in Los Angeles, California after a jury in Simi Valley acquitted four LAPD officers of almost all state charges in the videotaped beating of Rodney King.

Ten controversial films, buried

The BBC has an article by Christian Blauvelt about ten never-seen movies:

The Day the Clown Cried by Jerry Lewis
Cinephiles love to discuss films by famous directors that were planned but never made. But if there’s one area of cinematic speculation even more tantalising it is the subject of buried films: movies that were shot, more or less, and maybe even released before being locked away by their makers, their studio or because of lawsuits. Jerry LewisThe Day the Clown Cried was the American comedian’s first foray into dramatic filmmaking in 1972. He was to play the role of Helmut Doork, a German clown imprisoned in a concentration camp for political reasons during World War Two, who performs for Jewish children before they’re led off to the gas chambers. Upon its completion Lewis decided it should never be released. “In terms of that film, I was embarrassed,” he said. “I was ashamed of the work, and I was grateful that I had the power to contain it at all, and never let anyone see it. It was bad, bad, bad.” (Rico says doesn't that look like Colonel Kurtz in the background? Nah...)

Alfred Hitchcock’s Memory of the Camps
“Some films are slices of life, mine are slices of cake,” Alfred Hitchcock once said. But one documentary he produced in 1945 confronted reality head-on: Memory of the Camps. Directed by Sidney Bernstein and produced by Hitchcock, the film was edited together from footage of the Nazi death camps shot by the British Army Film Unit after their liberation by the Allies. Hitchcock’s big contribution was in suggesting to Bernstein that he emphasize the close proximity of the camps to population centers, making the case that the general public in Nazi Germany and Nazi-occupied territories were aware of the slaughter. Though a conjurer of horrific images himself, the Master of Suspense was so affected by these images of the Holocaust that he disappeared from Pinewood Studios for a week in a deep depression. The British Film Board ultimately chose not to release Memory of the Camps for fear it would stir up such fervor against Germany that post-war reconstruction would be derailed. It finally made its debut at the Berlin Film Festival in 1984, but has rarely been shown since.

The Brave by Johnny Depp
The actor’s first directorial effort was also his last to date. For The Brave, a modern-day Western about a man who agrees to be killed on camera to raise $50,000 for his family, Depp called upon his A-List friends. Iggy Pop composed the score and Marlon Brando, in one of his final roles, played the snuff film’s producer. When it debuted at the Cannes Film Festival in 1997, the critics were not kind; Geoff Andrew of Time Out summed up the general feeling by calling The Brave “tediously slow and hugely narcissistic”. Depp was so startled by the backlash that he prevented the film from getting a US release and home video distribution, though it did play in European cinemas.

Walt Disney’s Song of the South
Journalist Joel Chandler Harris first compiled the Uncle Remus stories– African-American folktales with a distinct moralistic tone, almost a kind of Aesop’s Fables for the American South– in 1881 to great acclaim. With their mix of human and animal characters, the stories were perfect fodder for Walt Disney’s experiments combining live-action photography and animation in the 1940s. But Song of the South ended up earning the condemnation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which issued a statement: “Song of the South unfortunately gives the impression of an idyllic master-slave relationship which is a distortion of the facts.” Though Disney reissued the film to cinemas several times over the ensuing decades, by the late 1980s it had disappeared from circulation, and has never been released to home video. Disney CEO Robert Iger has called the film “fairly offensive” and there are no plans to make it available to the public again. Despite its invisibility, Song of the South gives us one of the Disney Studios’ most enduringly popular songs: Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah:

Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story by Todd Haynes
Music has played a central role in the films of Todd Haynes. His 1998 film Velvet Goldmine imagined glam rock characters loosely based on David Bowie, Iggy Pop, and Lou Reed, and his 2007 reverie I’m Not There featured six characters playing Bob Dylan. The film that first brought him into the spotlight was no exception. His Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story charted the rise to fame and eventual downfall of the singer– played, like all the characters in the film, by a Barbie doll. Haynes chipped away at the doll’s plastic to convey Carpenter’s struggle with anorexia, which ultimately caused her death by cardiac arrest in 1983. Though sympathetic to the title character, everyone else in her life is portrayed as monstrous. Karen’s brother Richard Carpenter, reportedly deeply angered by the movie, found a way to suppress it by suing Haynes for not acquiring the music licenses to use The Carpenters’ songs included in the movie. It has never been released since.

Nailed by David O Russell
Before he achieved major success and Academy Awards recognition for The Fighter (2010), Silver Linings Playbook (2012), and American Hustle (2013), David O Russell’s career was in limbo. His 2004 comedy I Heart Huckabees was a critical misfire and his planned follow-up was to be Nailed, a political satire about a woman (played by Jessica Biel) without medical insurance who gets impaled in the head by a nail, causing bizarre psychological effects. She takes her fight for health insurance and treatment to Washington, where a sinister congressman (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) exploits her for political purposes and takes full advantage of the extreme sexual urges that have resulted from her brain damage. The film was completed, but production shut down four times during the shoot due to financial problems,which ultimately prevented it from being distributed. Russell has stated he has no plans to release the film anytime soon.

Who Killed Bambi? by Russ Meyer
20th Century Fox wanted to make a punk rock version of A Hard Day’s Night starring The Sex Pistols in the late 1970s. Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious were adamant, though, that the film would have to be made by the filmmaking team of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, their favorite film: director Russ Meyer and screenwriter/film critic Roger Ebert. The low-budget film, titled Who Killed Bambi?, went into production, though accounts vary as to how much was actually completed. Enough was shot and edited, though, to make Fox realise that the entire project was so incendiary that it could not be released nor salvaged in the editing. Jimmy McDonough, Russ Meyer’s biographer, claims that Fox board member Grace Kelly personally intervened to prevent its release. In 2010, Ebert posted his entire screenplay to his website to give a glimpse at what might have been.

Richard Pryor’s Uncle Tom’s Fairy Tales
Wayne’s World director Penelope Spheeris was to have made her debut straight out of film school in 1969, directing this provocative comedy starring Richard Pryor. The plot of the movie concerns a wealthy white man abducted by a group of Black Panthers and symbolically tried for white Americans’ history of racism. The film was finished and the footage edited, when Pryor actually tried to destroy it. According to Spheeris’ account in the Pryor biography Furious Cool, he and his wife had a huge argument, which ended with him saying: “You think I love this film more than you? Watch this!” as he tore the celluloid to shreds. Some of it was salvaged, but having lost a year’s worth of work to his rampage, Pryor sold the footage to Bill Cosby in the hope that he could finance its re-edit. Cosby never did.

One AM by Jean-Luc Godard
After he declared “the end of cinema” with the title card of 1968’s Weekend, Jean-Luc Godard returned to filmmaking quite quickly. He teamed with documentarians DA Pennebaker and Richard Leacock to make a film about the revolutionary political underground in the US. It would be comprised partly of documentary footage and partly of staged dramatizations; almost exactly like the structure of Godard’s Rolling Stones film Sympathy for the Devil. The final product was One AM, which may have stood for One American Movie. Godard abandoned Pennebaker and Leacock regarding the film’s distribution to pursue the Maoist agitation that would lead to him founding the Dziga Vertov Group. Drowning in debt, Pennebaker and Leacock declared bankruptcy and were unable to fund One AM’s exhibition, though Pennebaker has screened it a few times at film festivals, with a few reedits of his own making, under the title One PM– which possibly stands for One Pennebaker Movie.

Dark Blood by George Sluizer
River Phoenix’ death at 23 shocked Hollywood, and left his final film suspended in limbo. When he suffered a fatal overdose on 31 October 1993, he’d completed most of his work on Dark Blood, a film by Dutch director George Sluizer. He played a young widower mourning the loss of his wife due to radiation poisoning from nuclear testing. Fearing that the film would be unsalvageable without the last few scenes Phoenix was to have shot, the production’s insurer seized the movie’s negatives, prompting studio Fine Line Pictures to cancel its release. Sluizer did gain access to the footage in 2012, and was able to screen Dark Blood at several European film festivals, but a proper theatrical release still seems impossible.

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