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Friday, December 31, 2010

News Nuggets 505


Pilot fish surround a whitetip shark.  The pilot fish get protection from other predators while the shark gets bacteria cleaned off.  From the Daily Mail of the UK.

To readers: HAPPY 2011!!  
Good luck to everyone!

International Stories to Watch For in 2011 (Max Fisher and Elizabeth Weingarten) from the Atlantic
"If 2010 was the year of U.S. efforts to promote global cooperation, then 2011 will be the year when those new coalitions thrive or fall apart."

What to Watch for in China in 2011 (Damien Ma) from the Atlantic

"China's progress is a successful variation on the East Asian growth model. That growth pattern may have exhausted its potential."

World's Top Troublemakers of 2010 from the Global Post
"From Julian Assange to sharks, here's some of the most troublesome characters of 2010."

What Do Anarchists Want? It's Easier to Say What They Don't Want (Brian Palmer) from Slate

"Unlike other political movements that define themselves by what they support—like republicanism, fascism, or monarchism—anarchism is defined by what it rejects. Namely, any authority that's imposed from above."
I've definitely been wondering why there has been a resurgence of anarchism in Europe.

Obama Should Impose a Peace in the Middle East (Paul Pillar) from the National Interest
"In 2011, President Obama should do what is necessary to push through an Israeli-Palestinian settlement that will create a Palestinian state and end Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory. Given the prevailing political and diplomatic circumstances, “pushing through” a peace settlement will likely mean imposing a peace settlement."
Pillar may be right -- but I don't envy anyone trying to do this.  As Thomas Friedman has noted, at some point, the principals have to want peace at least as much as the US does.

US Data Point to Surge in Recovery from the Financial Times [of the UK]
"Hopes of an acceleration in the US economic recovery in 2011 received a boost as fresh data on the health of the manufacturing sector and the labour market were strikingly better than forecasters had predicted."

Why Obama Pushed These Six Recess Appointments from the National Journal
"Why did Obama have to use recess appointments to get his nominees in? Here's some background on each nominee and what held them back:"

The Pelosi and McCain Awards (Robert Shrum) from The Week
"Shrum's first annual honors to the courageous and cowardly in American politics."

Why Liberals Compromise (Kevin Drum) from Mother Jones Magazine
"There seems to be a certain temperamental difference between conservatives and Republicans on the one hand and liberals and the Democrats on the other. In broad strokes, Republicans, especially of the tea-party stripe, are typically proud, at least unapologetic, and sometimes belligerent about their beliefs. Democrats, in contrast, seem to adopt the defensive position by default."
Further discussion of this topic is at Greg Sargent's Plum Line blog HERE.

Speak of the devil!:
How Harry Reid And Mitch McConnell Could Upend Filibuster Reform from TalkingPointsMemo
"A handful of junior Democrats, including Sens. Tom Udall (D-NM) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR), have done an impressive job building momentum for a package of modest, but meaningful, changes to the Senate's filibuster rules. But their plan could be completely upended and replaced by even more modest reforms, if Democratic and Republican leaders successfully negotiate a bipartisan rules reform compromise."
NOTHING meaningful will happen here!  The Senate leadership will generate a new rules package with rule changes that will tinker with the most minor unsubstantial changes.  Then they will go on TV and declare what HUGE reforms they have accomplished.  Take it to the bank.

What the Tea Party Wants from the Constitution (Ezra Klein) from the Washington Post
"I'm very curious to know what the GOP -- or the tea partyers they're presumably pandering to -- think will happen when every piece of legislation requires "a statement from its sponsor outlining where in the Constitution Congress is empowered to enact such legislation." What's the evidence that this will make legislation more, rather than less, constitutional, for whatever your definition of the Constitution is?"

SEE-IT-AGAIN RELIGIOUS BOOK NUGGET!!

I posted this the other day.  After reading Alan Wolfe's excellent review, I reference it again in case you missed it.  I've included a bigger excerpt today.
Faith and Modernity: A Review of Holy Ignorance: When Religion and Culture Part Ways by Olivier Roy from the New York Times
"Over the past few years, a number of theories have been offered about the rise of fundamentalism. Roy proposes the most original — and the most persuasive. Fundamentalism, in his view, is a symptom of, rather than a reaction against, the increasing secularization of society. Whether it takes the form of the Christian right in the United States or Salafist purity in the Muslim world, fundamentalism is not about restoring a more authentic and deeply spiritual religious experience. It is instead a manifestation of holy ignorance, Roy’s biting term meant to characterize the worldview of those who, having lost both their theology and their roots, subscribe to ideas as incoherent as they are ultimately futile."

BAD REPORTING 'BLAST-FROM-THE-PAST' NUGGET!!
Judith Miller: From the Times to the Nuts (Alexe Pareene) from Salon

"A former superstar reporter finds refuge among the right-wing, who don't care how much she got wrong."

AUTO ENVIRONMENT NUGGET!!
The Electric Car Age Just Got a Little Closer from Foreign Policy Magazine

"Last week, Sankey produced a sixth note called "2011 and Beyond -- A Reality Check." Among the takeaways: As of 2010, the new electric car age is coming upon us faster than expected -- far beyond this year's conspicuous arrival of the General Motors Volt and Nissan Leaf, and the race among the world's industrial nations to dominate this technology. Converging even more rapidly, says Sankey, are far higher oil and gasoline prices, starting in 2012."
There is A LOT of discussion out there from many sources predicting much higher gas prices for 2012.

Here's a related story:
Electric Cars Get Charged for Battle from Bloomberg Businessweek
"The first serious contenders for a mass-scale electric car are on the road. They've already changed GM and Nissan; will they change the world?"

HOTEL NUGGET!!
'The Ark': Floating Hotel Designed To Address Climate Change Effects (PICTURES) from Huffington Post

"Russia-based architectural firm Remistudio proposes this arch-shaped floating hotel as a refuge from even extreme floods. Called (quite appropriately) the Ark, the futuristic structure has the ability to exist autonomously on the surface of the water."
A hotel shaped like a … slinky!

MARS NUGGET!!
NASA Scientist Publishes 'Colonizing the Red Planet,' a How-To Guide from FOX News

"A manned mission to Mars would be the greatest adventure in the history of the human race. And one man knows how to make it a reality. In fact, he just wrote the book on it -- literally."
The most recent issue of the Journal of Cosmology HERE is devoted to this topic! 

SCARY MONSTER NUGGET!!
Ancient 8-Foot Sea Scorpions Probably Were Pussycats from LiveScience

"Ancient sea scorpions included the largest and arguably most frightening bug-like creatures known to have lived on Earth, but despite their fearsome claws, these giants might actually have been creampuffs, scientists think."

Thursday, December 30, 2010

News Nuggets 504

A seven-month-old male lion at the Godfrey Nairobi animal orphanage.  From the Huffington Post.

What Does it Take to Become a Great Power? (Ibrahim Kalin) from Today's Zamen [of Turkey in English]
"...emerging markets are likely to increase their share of the global economic pie. But this is not enough to become a great power.We’re confusing emerging markets with great powers because most of our analyses are based on pure economic considerations. But it takes more than economic growth to be a great power. What made the US a great/super power was more than good fiscal policies."

The National Security 'Regressives' (Brian Katulis) from RealClearWorld
"The ratification of the New START nuclear arms treaty with Russia marked a defeat for an influential faction among America's right that can best be described as national security regressives. These are "conservative" voices who oppose strengthening and utilizing the full range of traditional tools of American statecraft, including assertive diplomacy, smart and balanced national security spending, and precise and targeted measures to combat terrorist groups. They may have lost on New START, but they are not likely to go away anytime soon."
One reason for this condition is because there is no genuine 'progressive' core within the foreign policy establishment in the US.  From Foggy Bottom to the most well-funded think tanks to the most influential publications (Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy Magazine, etc.) there are virtually NO progressive voices -- while right-wing hawks such as John Bolton, Bill Kristol, and Norman Podhoretz have ready entre' to the highest decision-making circles, prestige publications and the mainstream media.  In my view, presidents and law-makers have become severely constrained by the straight-jacketed group think that, since the days of Reagan, seems impervious to criticism or self-correction.  They WILL find WMDs in Iraq someday -- and if they don't, what does it matter?  So what if it ends up costing the US between two and four TRILLION dollars?  Where are all the progressive commentators from 2002 (see Phil Donahue's show on MSNBC-- oh, crap, it got canceled, didn't it) who said the Iraq conflict was a mistake?  They are no more welcomed into the 'establishment' now than they were eight years ago.

Why 2011 Will Be a Happier New Year (Fareed Zakaria) from Time Magazine
"2010 was a tough year, not just for Barack Obama, not just for America, but for the West. Whether one looked at the U.S. or Greece or Ireland, the images were of unemployment lines, political protests and general despair. ... Many problems persist, and crises will come again, but let me tell you why I think the year ahead will prove to be a lot better than 2010. Call it my glass-half-full column."

Iran Spat Pits President Against Supreme Leader (Mike Shuster) from NPR's Morning Edition
"Political turmoil seems to be the norm in Iran: Last year it was the reformist opposition taking to the streets challenging what they saw as the fraudulent re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Now another political fissure has emerged within the conservative camp, threatening possible open conflict between Iran's president and its supreme leader."

China Makes Skype Illegal from the Telegraph [of the UK]
"China on Thursday announced that it had made illegal the use of Skype, the popular internet telephony service, as the country continues to shut itself off from the rest of the world."
The question is: Can China's economy become one based on genuine innovation so long as the pull this kind of nonsense?  I HOPE not -- but I think the answer is not at all clear.

South Korea, Out of Options, Revives Nuke Diplomacy With North (Joseph Schuman) from AOL News
"South Korea's president says his country has no choice but to give denuclearization talks with Pyongyang another try."

Obama's Second Act? (Michael Tomasky) from the New York Review of Books
"Lately, Barack Obama doesn’t look like such a bad poker player. … Republicans had invested much time and energy in blocking all of them, and very few Democrats in Washington would have been willing to predict two weeks ago that any of these measures would pass."

Obama Is Suffering Because of His Achievements, Not Despite Them (Todd S. Purdum) from Vanity Fair
"With each victory, Obama’s opponents grow more frustrated, filling the airwaves and what passes for political discourse with fulminations about some supposed sin or another. … For his part, Obama resists the pugilistic impulse. To him, the merit of all these programs has been self-evident, and he has been the first to acknowledge that he has not always done all he could to explain them, sensibly and simply, to the American public. But Obama is nowhere near so politically maladroit as his frustrated liberal supporters—or implacable right-wing opponents—like to claim."
I very much agree with Purdum here.  Obama came into office with REAL political capital -- and he chose to use a lot of it to accomplish substantive things.  One of the many differences between Obama and, say, Jimmy Carter is that Obama burned a lot of his capital to get real things done while Carter burned his capital and get very little done.

Why WikiLeaks Is Unlike the Pentagon Papers (Floyd Abrams) from the Wall Street Journal
Everyone knows that Daniel Ellsberg leaked top-secret government documents about the Vietnam War. How many remember the ones he kept secret, or why?

Wikileaks Rest in Peace from Cryptome.org
"The original Wikileaks initiative is dead, replaced by a bloated apparatus promising 260,000 cables at slower than a snail's pace. At the rate of 20 cables a day it will take 13,000 days to finish -- some 35 years.  The original merits of Wikileaks have been lost in its transformation into a publicity and fund-raising vehicle for Julian Assange as indicated in the redesign website which billboards him.  Its once invaluable, steady stream of documents, packaged in its own, no-frills format, is now a tiny dribble of documents apparently regulated by a compact with a few main stream media which amplify the material well beyond its significance."
Dead on target with these observations!  Some analysis of this article is HERE from Raw Story.

America’s Revival Begins in its Cities (Edward Glaeser) from the Boston Globe
"For decades, the American dream has meant white picket fences and endless suburbs. But the ideas created in dense metropolitan areas power American productivity. We should reduce the pro-homeownership bias of housing policies, such as the home mortgage interest deduction, which subsidize suburban sprawl and penalize cities. We should rethink infrastructure policies that encourage Americans to move to lower-density environments. Most importantly, we should invest and innovate more in education, because human capital is the ultimate source of both urban and national strength."

‘Doubling Up’ in Recession-Strained Quarters from the New York Times
"Of the myriad ways the Great Recession has altered the country’s social fabric, the surge in households like the Maggis’, where relatives and friends have moved in together as a last resort, is one of the most concrete, yet underexplored, demographic shifts."

Some Va. History Texts Filled with Errors, Review Finds from the Washington Post
"The review began after The Washington Post reported in October that "Our Virginia" included a sentence saying that thousands of black soldiers fought for the South. The claim is one often made by Confederate heritage groups but rejected by most mainstream historians. The book's author, Joy Masoff, said at the time that she found references to it during research on the Internet. Five Ponds Press later apologized."

Filibuster Could Be Dead in a Week from the Democratic Strategist
"On January 5th, it appears that a majority of the Senate will vote to change its rules, barring unforseen GOP shenanigans, followed by another vote in which a majority of senators vote to reform the filibuster. The reason it seems like a done deal one week out is that all 53 returning Democratic senators have signed on a letter urging Majority Leader Reid to take up filibuster reform on that day, and they are not likely to settle for anything that preserves the status quo."
I will believe it when I see it.  Prognostications about the imminent demise of the filibuster have been staples of progressive media for YEARS!

For G.O.P., End of the Preordained Candidate (Matt Bai) from the New York Times
"A year ago, Republicans here were shut out of governing but could console themselves with having retained their hold on the party apparatus. This week, they will celebrate the new year having come roaring back to regain the House, and yet they have no semblance of control over the direction of their party and the conservative activists who seem to be steering it."

The Road to 2012: The New New Hampshire from the Boston Phoenix
"Mitt Romney and the rest of the GOP field are about to find a whole new set of players standing between them and first-in-the-nation primary victory. … The result, according to political observers in the state, is a power vacuum in the state's Republican circles, right on the eve of the presidential nomination battle. Or, from the perspective of a Republican presidential wannabe, a slew of total unknowns whose opinion could make or break you."

ENVIRONMENT NUGGET!!
Paris to Test Banning Gas-Guzzlers (Yes, SUVs!) in City Core from GreenCarReports.com

"Why are many European carmakers now planning to build electric vehicles? Because many European cities are widely expected to ban high-emissions vehicles from their city cores over the next decade--perhaps even vehicles with any emissions at all."
That doesn't mean American car makers should make electric cars!!  Why SHOULD they build cars for a global audience when there are still just enough peckerwoods (both male and female I've discovered) in the US that they can foist their gas hogs onto!? 

WORLD WAR II NUGGET!!
The Importance of Being Winston (John Lukacs) from the National Interest

"Churchill, by and large, trusted his ability to impress other important men. In such instances he was more often right than wrong. That is why his “summits” during the Second World War were important, sometimes dramatic and almost always consequential."

RELIGION BOOK NUGGET!!
Faith and Modernity: A Review of Holy Ignorance: When Religion and Culture Part Ways by Olivier Roy from the New York Times

"Olivier Roy agrees with Marx and Weber that religion declines as society advances, and argues that the rise of fundamentalism is only a symptom of secularization."

RECIPES NUGGET!!
Find. Eat. Drink.'s New Year's Eve Food & Drink Recipes from the Huffington Post

"Whether you're throwing a large soiree, a small dinner party or just spending a casual evening at home, these recipes, courtesy of chefs and mixologists, will spice up your night and take you into 2011 in style. "
The Garlic Chili Crab Dip looks great!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

News Nuggets 503

A long-nosed cusimanse, a species of dwarf mongoose.  From Americablog.

Next Year's Wars : The 16 Brewing Conflicts to Watch for in 2011 from Foreign Policy Magazine
"Across the globe today, you'll find almost three dozen raging conflicts, from the valleys of Afghanistan to the jungles of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the streets of Kashmir. But what are the next crises that might erupt in 2011? Here are a few worrisome spots that make our list."

Obama's Foreign Policy Spine (David Ignatius) from the Washington Post
"For a world that feared (and in some cases, cheered) the prospect of American decline, this holiday season has been bracing. It showed that despite U.S. political and economic difficulties, President Obama is still able to rally support at home and abroad for a strong foreign policy."

Breaking Away: Obama’s War on Terror is Not “Bush Lite” (David Cole) from the New Republic
"Obama has in fact introduced critically important changes in U.S. counterterrorism policy, and these changes merit recognition. Where he has continued Bush’s policies, he has generally sought to remove their most objectionable features in order to conform them to the law. He has, to be sure, fallen regrettably short in certain areas, most notably transparency and accountability. But acknowledging the substantive changes he has made is an important step in ensuring that the mistakes of the Bush administration are not repeated."
I have long been annoyed at those who view Obama's counter-terrorism strategy as basically a continuation of Bush.  It's good to see someone actually looking at key differences.

War in Afghanistan: A 'Breeze of Change' Blows in Helmand from the Telegraph [of the UK]
"As British troops spend their 10th Christmas in Afghanistan, Thomas Harding reports on growing signs of success in the fight against the insurgency."
I'm highly skeptical of the picture portrayed here -- but it would be nice if it were true.

How the War Looks From Al Qaeda’s Perspective (Jordan Michael Smith) from the Progressive Policy Institute

"Bergen points to a larger truth about the vast majority of commentary and analysis about Al Qaeda: most of it focuses not on Al Qaeda but on us. Our blunders, our costs, our misguided decisions and our weaknesses. Very little looks at developments from Al Qaeda’s point of view. And from Al Qaeda’s point of view, things don’t look so pretty."

It's Over for Benjamin Netanyahu (Aluf Benn) from Al Haaretz [of Israel in English]
"Instead of initiating and leading, Netanyahu will engage in fruitless holding actions until he falls from power."
Now, I'll have to say that Netanyahu has *extraordinary* staying power.  But I suspect the general trajectory described here is how it will go. I wouldn't be surprised if Obama engages in some subtle maneuvers to "hurry him along."

Iran Doesn't Have Capability for Nuclear Weapon from the Jerusalem Post [in English]
"Deputy PM says that within 3 years, Teheran will be able to create nuclear bomb; Egypt, Jordan fear West Bank take over by Hamas."
So … we went from Iran getting the bomb in one year year - to three.  Anyone for four?

Oppression Born of Fear: Telegraph View: There is Fear at the Heart of the Chinese and Russian Systems from the Telegraph [of the UK]
"An over-mighty state crushes those whom it deems its opponents. Yet in doing so it exposes its weakness. Take the cases of Liu Xiaobo, who yesterday marked his 55th birthday in prison in China, and Mikhail Khodorkovsky, currently on trial in Russia. The reaction of the Chinese government earlier in the year to the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Mr Liu was hysterical. Because the dissident and his family were not permitted to attend the ceremony, the prize was placed on an empty chair, a potent symbol of the oppressive nature of the Communist Party; in short, a diplomatic disaster. The relentless pursuit of Mr Khodorkovsky has likewise further tarnished Russia's image."

Russia: The World's Largest Dying Power (Editorial) from the Moscow Times [in English]
"As 2010 and the first decade of the 21st century wind to a close, the dominant social, political and economic trends of the year raise serious doubts about Russia’s future survival as a sovereign country. Chinese analysts, who have been closely observing Russia for the past 20 years, perhaps put it best: Russia is the world’s largest dying power. If Russia continues down its current path of autocracy, monopolization, corruption and overall economic, political, cultural and technological degradation, it may prove the Chinese correct in their terminal diagnosis."
The Chinese are not idle observers in Russia's decline.  They have a vested interest in pushing Russia over the edge.  I've been reading a lot of credible sources lately arguing that Chinese leaders have been eying the under-populated Russian far east for eventual annexation and settlement for their own burgeoning populations.  This sooo reminds me of Germany's fixation on Lebensraum (living space) first under Kaiser Wilhelm II and later under Hitler.  A rising, economically dynamic -- but deeply insecure -- power dismissing sovereignty issues in pursuit of a misguided view of "entitlement," cultural superiority and global self-aggrandizement.  This could get scary in the next several decades.

Cut Here.  Invest There (Thomas Friedman) from the New York Times
"I’ll be in a better mood when I see our two parties cooperating to do something hard. Borrowing billions more from China to give ourselves more tax cuts does not qualify. Make no mistake, President Obama has enacted an enormous amount in two years. It’s impressive. But the really hard stuff lies ahead: taking things away."

Obama Returns to End-of-Life Plan that Caused Stir from the New York Times
"When a proposal to encourage end-of-life planning touched off a political storm over “death panels,” Democrats dropped it from legislation to overhaul the health care system. But the Obama administration will achieve the same goal by regulation, starting Jan. 1."
Good for the administration!

One for the Books (Ronald Brownstein) from the National Journal
"This Congress will enter the history books for the magnitude of both its political losses and its legislative victories."

Danger Ahead for the GOP (Eugene Robinson) from the Washington Post
"It's been not quite two months since Republicans won a sweeping midterm victory, and already they seem divided, embattled and - not to mince words - freaked out. For good reason, I might add."

Neil Abercrombie Aiming to release Proof in Battle Against Birthers from the Associated Press via Huffington Post
"Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie wants to find a way to release more information about President Barack Obama's Hawaii birth and dispel conspiracy theories that he was born elsewhere. Abercrombie was a friend of Obama's parents and knew him as a child, and is deeply troubled by the effort to cast doubt on the president's citizenship."

Right-Wing Groups Abandon Conservative Forum For Inviting Gay Conservatives To Participate from Think Progress
"The religious right has grown apoplectic over what it sees as the harbingers of its demise: gay conservatives. The emergence of the GOProud, a right-wing group of conservatives that support gay rights, is spurring a civil war between conservative bigwigs."

MORTALITY NUGGET!!
Five Political Corpses in 2011 from the National Interest

"Some may die in 2011. But even if this does not happen, their physical weakness creates political weakness that will force their countries to go through complicated and unpredictable power shifts. The ripple effects of these transitions will reach beyond the borders of their nations."

ENVIRONMENT NUGGET!!
A New Day for Wilderness from the Editorial Board of the New York Times

"[Bush's] “no more wilderness” policy did more than threaten some of Utah’s most fragile wild lands. What it said, in effect, was that none of the lands administered by the department’s Bureau of Land Management, about 250 million acres, mostly in the Rocky Mountain West, would be considered for wilderness designation. Last week, in a very welcome move, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar reversed the Norton/Leavitt agreement on the Utah lands while reaffirming his department’s right to preserve other public lands in their natural state for future generations."

MOVIE NUGGET!!
Ten Most Overlooked Movies of 2010 from the Daily Beast

"For every Black Swan, there’s an ugly duckling that unfortunately fails to connect with audiences. From vampires to a Saturday Night Live spin-off, Marlow Stern brings you 10 films that didn’t get their due this year."

Monday, December 20, 2010

News Nuggets 502

Some wonderful images of X-mas celebrations in various zoos around the world.  For more, go to a really hilarious collection put together by Newsweek.

Here's wishing everyone a peaceful and happy holiday!! While an occasional post may occur, the nuggets will not be daylee again until the 29th.

The Captive Arab Mind (Roger Cohen) from the New York Times
"What we are dealing with here is the paltry harvest of captive minds. Such minds resort to conspiracy theory because it is the ultimate refuge of the powerless. If you cannot change your own life, it must be that some greater force controls the world. While I was in Beirut this month, the conspiratorial world view was in overdrive…"

How America Can Create Jobs (Andy Grove) from Businessweek
Andy Grove was one of the founders of Intel.  He makes some very important observations here.
"Thomas L. Friedman 's argument: Let tired old companies that do commodity manufacturing die if they have to. If Washington really wants to create jobs, he wrote, it should back startups. Friedman is wrong. Startups are a wonderful thing, but they cannot by themselves increase tech employment. Equally important is what comes after that mythical moment of creation in the garage, as technology goes from prototype to mass production. This is the phase where companies scale up. They work out design details, figure out how to make things affordably, build factories, and hire people by the thousands. Scaling is hard work but necessary to make innovation matter.  The scaling process is no longer happening in the U.S."

Some Now See Obama as the 'Comeback Kid' from the Christian Science Monitor
"For a guy who took a 'shellacking' in the midterm elections six weeks ago, President Obama is doing pretty well during this lame-duck political period. Still, his approval rating keeps dropping."

So Far, A Productive Lame-Duck Session (Chris Good) from the Atlantic
"In the face of an onerous legislative docket and partisan tones emanating from all corners of the political sphere, Congress has actually managed to resolve most of the large, immediate issues that came before it in the last few weeks of 2010.  This lame-duck session, it turns out, is what a functioning Congress looks like."

Congress Recognizes a Cultural Shift from Politico
"In a landmark series of votes Saturday, the Senate officially recognized a historic change in American public opinion — that in just 17 years, the ban on openly gay men and women serving in the military went from being seen as a necessary compromise to keep peace between two sides in the culture war to a baffling and unnecessary relic of another era."

How to be President in a Fact-Free America (Gary Younge) from the Nation
"The sad truth is that even when presented with concrete and irrefutable evidence, some people still prefer the reality they want over the one they actually live in. Herein lies one of the central problems of engaging with those on the American right. Cocooned in their own mediated ecosystem, many of them are almost unreachable through debate; the air is so fetid, reasonable discussion cannot breathe. You can't win an argument without facts, and we live in a moment when whether you're talking about climate change or WMD, facts seem to matter less and less."
While I agree with Younge's critique of the right, I think he misses the importance of non-ideological pragmatic voters in the center who WILL determine who's in the White House after 2012.

The "Don't Ask" Repeal Vote (Michael Tomasky) from the Guardian [of the UK]
"…a moment like Saturday's has a thousand fathers. … A thousand fathers; and one president. No, Barack Obama didn't do this with the stroke of a pen, as he could have. But he and Robert Gates settled on a strategy that brought many career military people around and that worked."

Pope Says Sex Scandal Has Hit Unimaginable Dimension from the New York Times
"Pope Benedict XVI said on Monday that the continuing sexual abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church had reached a “degree we could not have imagined” this year, and that the Church must reflect on its failures, help the victims, and prevent abusers from becoming priests."
This actually sounds like someone finally getting into reality about the scale and scope of the problem he and the church face right now.  But he needs to bring his response (and responsiveness) to a whole new level if he is ever to deal with the problem effectively.

Why Is Charles Krauthammer Scared of Obama? (Jacob Heilbrunn) from the National Interest
"Judging by this column, Charles Krauthammer is terrified of President Obama. Where some see a president who has capitulated to his ideological foes, Krauthammer, by contrast, detects a nefarious Obama whose cunning has set a trap for the GOP on tax and spending policy."

John Boehner's Tea Party Nightmare (Benjamin Sarlin) from the Daily Beast
"The incoming House speaker rode a Tea Party wave into the majority, but a debt-limit vote as early as next month could cost him their backing. Benjamin Sarlin on the battle that can’t come soon enough for Democrats."

Haley Barbour's Racist Civil Rights Era Revisionism (Joan McCarter) from Daily Kos
"Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour has a strategy for beating Sarah Palin to the teabaggers' support in the 2012 primaries. Digby calls it his "Southern Strategy," consisting of a the dogwhistle message that "racism in America was always overblown with the implication being that those who complain about it have always been whiners." That includes telling The Weekly Standard's Andrew Ferguson that the White Supremacist Citizens' Council was actually a force for good in the Civil Rights fight."
Normally I don't link to Daily Kos's run-of-the-mill complaining about the GOP -- but this summary of how Barbour is positioning himself is quite revealing and suggests, I suspect, a larger trend within the Republican Party as it happily sheds any vestige of moderation or pragmatism.  Soon they'll be planning screenings of "Birth of a Nation" at the Republican National Convention and calling it great history!

Whitman Paid a High Price for Latino Distrust of GOP from the Los Angeles Times
"A former strategist says the candidate lost so conclusively because her party continues to alienate the state's fastest-growing voter group."

A Course Correction: UMass Tackles Challenge of Crowded Classes, Smaller Faculty from the Boston Globe
A big excerpt is warranted here.  What they're describing here forecasts what will be coming to many state universities very soon.
"Overbooked classes are among the academic hurdles many undergraduates face at the University of Massachusetts Amherst — a campus struggling to break into the top ranks of public universities after losing nearly a fifth of its tenured and tenure-track professors in the past two decades.  Classes at the flagship campus can be so large that some students sit on the floor in lecture halls, leaning against their backpacks, the walls, or the legs of fellow classmates. Nine percent of all classes have more than 100 students — compared with a national average of 2 percent, according to a College Board analysis of public universities. Faculty lament that they have little choice but to evaluate students in oversize classes by multiple-choice exams and use computers to grade homework  Some professors have made attendance at lectures optional, offering as an alternative prerecorded lessons over the Internet, which allows the university to serve many more students than would fit into an auditorium. Some students have even received letters from their departmental advisers suggesting that they take classes at other colleges to improve their odds of graduating in four years. … State funding makes up 25 percent of UMass Amherst’s revenues today, down from 40 percent in 2000. And Holub expects that the state’s budget difficulties will lead to more than $18 million in cuts next year."
Read that last line again.  To reiterate: coming to a state university near you.  I look at this as the problem that has been slowly destroying our k-12 public schools for 20+ years is now moving up to our public colleges and universities.  We want the best -- but GOD FORBID that we should raise taxes to actually pay for good educations for our children.  Better to just cut those wasteful education budgets.  Young people will just have to deal.

MOVIE NUGGET!!
Time Capsule of a Decade: Top Ten Films (Leonard Maltin) from the Huffington Post

"Having scanned my own ten-best lists since 2000, I have chosen ten movies that represent a panoply of significant (and varied) achievements: these pictures spoke to audiences when they were new and still resonate today. "
Leonard is THE MAN when it comes to movie reviews!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

News Nuggets 501

Mount Ararat in Turkey.  People are STILL looking for Noah's ark on its snowy slopes.  From National Geographic.

Iran's Ahmadinejad Seeks "Win-Win" Outcome from Iran Talks from Reuters News Service
"President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Saturday he hoped for a "win-win" outcome from talks with world powers concerned about Iran's nuclear ambitions, striking an unusually conciliatory tone."
There is a certain kabuki quality to the "talks" with Iran.  What Iranian officials say in public bear no relation to (1) what's being said in the talks, or (2) what I suspect Ahmadinejad will ultimately settle for. 

You only have to see the following two items to appreciate the disconnect. 
Police in Iran Streets as Subsidies Are Cut from the Associated Press via RealClearWorld
"The Iranian government sent squads of riot police to man the major intersections of the capital as sensitive cuts in energy and food subsidies came into effect Sunday."

The Regime's New Dread in Iran (Maziar Bahari) from Newsweek
"No one knows how many Iranians have joined the electronic underground. But the Revolutionary Guards aren’t having much success shutting it down"

START Clears Hurdle in Senate from Politico
"The Obama administration on Saturday overcame a big hurdle toward the prospects for New START ratification — though the path to passage of the U.S.-Russia arms control pact is still unclear."

Politics in Iraq Casts Doubt on a U.S. Presence After 2011 from the New York Times
"The protracted political turmoil that saw the resurgence of a fiercely anti-American political bloc here is casting new doubt on establishing any enduring American military role in Iraq after the last of nearly 50,000 troops are scheduled to withdraw in the next 12 months, military and administration officials say."
As I have long said, the US will know it has succeeded in setting up a stand-along Iraqi gov't when officials and citizens say openly "You can leave now ass holes -- and thanks for nothing!"  It seems we are now moving decisively towards that happy state.  And just think -- it will only have cost us between two and four trillion dollars [not counting what we're accomplishing in Afghanistan]!

The Meaning of Russia 2018: What the World Cup Says About the World from Newsweek
"…there may be other reasons why football, with its notoriously murky finances, feels more comfortable in the emerging economies. It was revealing that among the conditions FIFA demanded from the English bid was exemption from money-laundering penalties for FIFA-designated individuals."

Obama's Long Game: 65 - 31 (Andrew Sullivan) from the Atlantic
"Like 2009's removal of the HIV ban, which was as painstakingly slow but thereby much more entrenched, this process took time. Without the Pentagon study, it wouldn't have passed. Without Obama keeping Lieberman inside the tent, it wouldn't have passed. Without the critical relationship between Bob Gates and Obama, it wouldn't have passed."

Gains Outweigh Setbacks in a Landmark Year for Gay Rights from the Los Angeles Times
"Today the military, tomorrow the marriage altar? In an era when gay Americans have seen stunning progress and many setbacks in the quest for equality under the law, many believe 2010 will go down in history as a watershed that will lead inexorably to more legal rights."

No DADT, No Problem (Jordan Sekulow) from the Washington Post
"As a Christian conservative broadcaster, attorney, and activist who recently discussed DADT and my opinion about it on-air, I can say that for the most part, social conservatives are not enraged about the end of DADT. In fact, the grassroots has not been engaged on this issue for a long time."
It would be nice if he's right.  The gnashing of teeth in the right-wing blogosphere today suggests otherwise.

Swedish Police Report Details Case Against Assange from the New York Times
Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks who was released from a British jail late last week, is facing a new challenge: the leak of a 68-page confidential Swedish police report that sheds new light on the allegations of sexual misconduct that led to Mr. Assange’s legal troubles.

The USS Prius (Thomas Friedman) from the New York Times
"what could save America’s energy future — at a time when a fraudulent, anti-science campaign funded largely by Big Oil and Big Coal has blocked Congress from passing any clean energy/climate bill — is the fact that the Navy and Marine Corps just didn’t get the word.  God bless them: “The Few. The Proud. The Green.” Semper Fi."

A Palin Presidency? Early Polls Show Possible Candidacy Tanking from TalkingPointsMemo
"In the last week or so, three national polls found Obama leading her by double digits, including an NBC-Wall Street Journal poll out this week that had Obama crushing her by 22 points, 55% to 33%.  Among the GOP frontrunners for the Republican presidential nomination, Palin has the worst spread in head-to-heads with Obama."
WHAT DO THEY KNOW!?  Look, Sarah -- don't let the lamestream media knuckleheads tell YOU what to do!  You GO FOR IT!!

BUSH BOOK REVIEW NUGGET!!
Bush on Bush: A Review of Decision Points (Michael Kinsley) from the New York Times

Kinsley is at his BEST in this rather hilarious review of W's magnum opus.
"Barbara Bush the elder (“Mother,” he invariably calls her) rang up to say, “How’s the first Jewish president doing?” Maybe I’m deficient in humor, but I don’t see why this is funny, as her son clearly believes it to be. I might even find it alarming if Bush didn’t crowd this book with ­maybe-you-had-to-be-there witticisms. After his first meeting with Prime Minister Tony Blair, “a British reporter asked what we had in common. I quipped, ‘We both use Colgate toothpaste.’” Huh?"

BOOK NUGGET!!
The Daily Beast's Favorite Books of 2010 from … the Daily Beast

"Tina Brown, Peter Beinart, John Avlon, Michelle Goldberg, and other Daily Beast writers and contributors pick their favorite books of 2010."

KINKY BIZZARRO CRIME NUGGET!!
Meet the Superhero Vigilantes (Winston Ross) from the Daily Beast

"A group of costumed amateur crime-fighters is working to make the streets of Seattle safe for the public. Who are these masked men? Winston Ross rides along on their patrol to find out."
Like a cross between Spider Man and A Clockwork Orange.  These folks are very weird trouble looking for a place to happen!

HOLIDAY GIFT NUGGET!!
Christmas Gifts 2010: Non-Material Green Presents from Huffington Post

"So this year, we present to you a (relatively) material-free gift guide. Some of these gifts have sentiment, others will foster memories, a few are simple feel-goods, and most have a pretty darn low carbon footprint. Here's to less plastic carnage on December 26th!"

Saturday, December 18, 2010

News Nuggets 500

 A lighthouse on Lake Erie.  See the Ice Sculpture Nugget below.  From the Daily Mail of the UK.

YES INDEED -- We've reached 500 today!  It's hard to believe but we started this back in September, 2008.  Here's one of our earliest posts.  Thanks for everyone's interest!  Here's hoping the next 500 will be as interesting as the last!  Jared.

The Unquiet American (Roger Cohen) from the New York Times

"The war seemed as unending as the excuses of Western leaders for their inaction. In a besieged Sarajevo, people raised hands to their necks in a gesture of self-strangulation as the flat fracturing boom of another shell reverberated in the valley. Then Richard Holbrooke appeared in the snake pit.  Nobody could end the Bosnian war — nobody."

New Ottomans (Editorial) from Todays' Zaman [of Turkey in English]
"The claim that Turkey’s regional policy is a reincarnation of the Ottoman Empire’s policies is gaining traction. … Basically there are two groups who describe the Davuto─člu-led Turkish foreign policy as a “neo-Ottoman policy.”"
Influence and control usually translate into responsibility.  WHY would the Turks want more responsibility for what's happening in the Middle East?!  They risk looking deeply ineffectual, even foolish -- just as the US does often enough.

Freed on Bail – but US Steps Up Efforts to Charge Assange with Conspiracy from the Independent [of the UK]

"Accused soldier offered plea bargain if he names WikiLeaks founder."
Of course, the question raised here is: are US authorities pressuring Manning to lie -- or to simply testify what the conversations were between him and Assange.  The Independent's sources on this story (it seems) are Assange's lawyers -- so it's hard to assess what's really so.

Bradley Manning's Life Behind Bars (Denver Nicks) from the Daily Beast
"Bradley Manning, who allegedly leaked hundreds of thousands of secret government documents to Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks, turns 23 in jail Friday. The Daily Beast’s Denver Nicks, in an exclusive interview with Manning’s attorney, reports on his solitary confinement, what he’s reading (from George W. Bush to Howard Zinn), and his legal strategy."
The story has few surprises -- given that Manning's lawyer is the key source.  There has been a lot of hyperventilating in the blogosphere about how he's been treated.  One thing that i think is missing from some of this analysis is that, as a member of the armed services, Manning lives in something of a parallel universe in the area of civil rights and due process.  The bottom line is that he is entitled to his constitutional rights -- based on how military courts have judged such matters, not civilian courts. Moreover, while we still don't know what Manning has been or will be charged with, it's quite conceivable that espionage might be sitting out there in his future.  The fact that he had no intention of assisting or working for some foreign power may not matter.  Espionage for "private parties" is still espionage, and I think prosecutors may be working up a case where Assange is the "private party" "conspiring" to commit espionage.  For both Assange and Manning, (if I remember correctly) espionage charges put both of them in a whole different world of legal trouble, one where their civil rights are even more compromised.  Judges (even "liberal" ones) routinely grant a lot of latitude to federal prosecutors in cases involving alleged spying.

Make Julian Assange Irrelevant (Dana Milbank) from the Washington Post
"Before Assange motored off to his house arrest at a friend's mansion, one of his lawyers expressed his determination that Assange "will not be going back to that cell once occupied by Oscar Wilde." Oscar Wilde? Those cheeky Brits. Assange's indiscriminate dump of American government secrets over the last several months - with hardly a care for who might be hurt or what public good was served - can be summarized nicely by a line from Wilde's play "A Woman of No Importance": Nothing succeeds like excess."

Could Lame Duck Be a Big Win for Obama Agenda? from the New York Times
"Is President Obama on the verge of one of his most productive months in office? … Mr. Obama is now on the knife’s edge; the hours and days ahead could go either way for him. But the president is concluding 2010 by directly confronting issues that have come to define the sweep of his presidency – the economy, foreign engagement and questions of social justice."

The New Comeback Kid (Charles Krauthammer) from the Washington Post
"Now, with his stunning tax deal, Obama is back. Holding no high cards, he nonetheless managed to resurface suddenly not just as a player but as orchestrator, dealmaker and central actor in a high $1 trillion drama."

Games vs. Governing from the Editorial Board of the New York Times
"On Friday, Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee said that the Democratic push for military equality for gays and lesbians could “poison the well” for New Start. The two matters are related only because they are both important for this country’s security."

Fox News Viewers Often Misinformed from WorldPublicOpinion.org via Taegan Goddard's Political Wire
"A new University of Maryland study finds that those "who had greater exposure to news sources were generally better informed... There were however a number of cases where greater exposure to a news source increased misinformation on a specific issue."   Key finding: Fox News viewers were were "significantly" more likely than non-viewers to erroneously believe false information about the economy, taxes, climate change, bailouts and whether President Obama was born in the United States."
Gee - what a surprise!

Palin's Got Bigger Problems Than Charles Krauthammer (Jonathan Tobin) from Commentary Magazine
"Palin’s resentment of the Washington establishment and perhaps even of such intellectual gatekeepers of the conservative movement as Krauthammer may resonate with many conservative voters, but her attitude (which is the opposite of conservative icon Ronald Reagan’s genial responses to hostile media) alienates everyone else."
I think this posting from the right-wing mag, Commentary, is a first here at the Nuggets.  I usually can't abide this rag.

Palin's numbers in Ohio point to the political train wreck the GOP may be heading for in 2012.
Ohio Republican Numbers from Public Policy Polling

"This is another state where it seems like GOP primary voters are on a death wish, given that our general election numbers in Ohio made it clear that Palin would be defeated handily by Barack Obama whereas Huckabee or Romney would put the race in toss up status. The numbers in Ohio reflect the standard ideological divide we've been seeing in these polls across the country."
Basically, there are no moderates left among likely Republican primary goers. 

And for some extra-loud political laughs:
John Bolton Eyes 2012 Presidential Run from Politico
"Bolton’s explorations are attracting some notice on the right. He’s on the cover of the forthcoming issue of National Review, the influential conservative magazine."
The main ring-leader for the "bomb Iran" lobby, this guy makes John McCain look like an unalloyed peacenik. If Bolton does throw his hat into the arena for 2012, it almost guarantees one of the most farcical GOP primary seasons in US history.

ELEPHANT NUGGET!!
Record-breaking 5 Elephants Born in One Year! from Zooborns.com

"It's a world record! On December 9, 2010, at 3:30am, Hannover Adventure Zoo welcomed its 5th Baby Elephant birth this year."
Check out the video clip that accompanies the story.  You'll immediately get how you NEVER see this many baby elephants in a zoo. More importantly, while I don't believe Asian elephants are endangered, so many other types of elephants and rhinos are, the experience here may make a difference in helping those more rare species breed more prolifically in captivity. 

SNOW SCULPTURE NUGGET!!
Lighthouse Transformed into a Fairy Castle After Being Encased in Sparkling Ice from the Daily Mail [of the UK]

"Rising from the water in shimmering tiers, it looks more like a fairy tale castle than a lighthouse. But this incredible sculpture was actually created by layers of frost encrusted on the walls of the structure which sits at Cleveland Harbour on the shores of Lake Erie, Ohio."

HOLIDAY NUGGET!!
How December 25 Became Christmas (Andrew McGowan) from the Biblical Archeology Review

"On December 25, Christians around the world will gather to celebrate Jesus’ birth. Joyful carols, special liturgies, brightly wrapped gifts, festive foods—these all characterize the feast today, at least in the northern hemisphere. But just how did the Christmas festival originate? How did December 25 come to be associated with Jesus’ birthday?"

WORLD WAR II NUGGET!!
When Marianne Met Fritz: A Review of And the Show Went On: Cultural Life in Nazi-Occupied Paris by Alan Riding from the Wall Street Journal

"In occupied Paris, the violent imaginings of French artists and intellectuals were tested by a violent reality."

Friday, December 17, 2010

News Nuggets 499

Rare white lion cubs recently born in the Serengeti Animal Park in Hanover, Germany.  See the White Lion Nugget below.  From the Daily Mail of the UK.

On the Way to a New Global Balance (Philip Stephens) from the Financial Times [of London]
"Predictions of the passing of US primacy are premature. For all its troubles, America remains the sole superpower – the only nation able to project power in every corner of the earth. … The world’s rising states are at a stage where they want to enjoy power without responsibility."
Stephens provides an excellent, concise look at the international situation right now.

The Redistribution of Hope from the Economist [of London]

"Optimism is on the move—with important consequences for both the hopeful and the hopeless"

European Report Cites Need to Regain Ground with US from the New York Times
"While the report broke no new ground, it was the first formal confirmation of what European leaders have been saying for months and an indication that Ms. Ashton considers regaining influence in Washington a priority. “Europe is no longer the main strategic preoccupation of U.S. foreign policy,” the document says. “The U.S. is increasingly looking to new partners to address old and new problems.”"

Iran in Secret Talks on Nuclear Swap in Bid to End Sanctions from the Daily Telegraph [of the UK]
"Iran has begun secret negotiations on proposals to surrender a substantial part of its uranium stockpile and suspend enriching nuclear fuel in return for an end to sanctions that have crippled the country's economy."

Obama Scents Victory on Start Treaty from the Financial Times [of the UK]
"Barack Obama, US president, has closed in on one of his biggest foreign policy accomplishments by winning Republican support to move to the final phase of ratifying the Start arms control treaty with Russia."

US Remains Patient with North Korea from the Financial Times [of the UK]
"The US continues to see Tehran as a much bigger threat than North Korea. US officials say they are sticking to their current course of action. North Korea may be a bigger threat than it was – but not yet so big that Washington has altered its calculations."

The Moscow Mob:  Rioting Exposes the Weakness of Russia's Political System from the Economist [of London]
"The tacky fountains and underground shopping malls that epitomise the oil-fuelled consumption of today's Russia can no longer disguise an inherent instability and a growing sense of injustice among different social groups."

Sorry, Hamas, I'm Wearing Blue Jeans (Ashley bates) from Mother Jones Magazine
"A defiant Palestinian feminist from Gaza reflects on being secular in a religious land.."

And the Winner of the Bout Over Wikileaks is … America (Editorial) from Le Figaro [of France in English]
"It's the greatest and least costly public relations campaign ever organized for American diplomats. Julian Assange has been hoisted by his own petard, and if he sought to make American diplomacy look ridiculous, he failed."

Bigger is Easier (David Brooks) from the New York Times
"Obama’s challenge in the State of the Union address is to give voice to the inchoate longing for change, and to chart a political path through the Washington minefield so that voters and bond markets have the sense that the country is at least beginning to grapple with its problems."

Tax Deal is Template for Obama Course Correction from the Wall Street Journal
"President Barack Obama's success in moving a compromise tax plan through Congress is the opening step on a new, more centrist course that White House officials hope will yield bipartisan results in cutting spending, simplifying the tax code, promoting trade and revamping federal education law.  The president is also considering putting forth ideas to engage Republicans on Social Security's long-term finances, officials said."

Is ‘Triangulation’ Just Another Word for the Politics of the Possible? (Matt Bai) from the New York Times
"Had Mr. Obama held the line on principle and allowed all the cuts to expire, as some Democrats would have preferred, the public debate in January would most likely have come down to which of the two parties was responsible for letting middle-class taxes rise during a recession. It’s an argument that Democrats, historically vulnerable on taxes and already fending off charges of expanding government, would probably have lost.  Such compromises, ideal or not, are the building blocks of responsible governance. If that makes Mr. Obama some kind of triangulator, then it could also make him a successful president."

Don't Ask Don't Tell Don't Look Now (Michael Tomasky) from the Guardian [of the UK]
"So don't look now, but don't ask don't tell repeal just might pass."

Vocal Bank Critic Gets Key US Consumer Bureau Post from Reuters
"The Obama administration has selected Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray, a vocal critic of the banking industry, to head the enforcement division of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, according to a Treasury official."
Good.  Warren's agency will be under a lot of fire next year and it's good to see she's not preemptively knuckling under.

California Adopts Cap And Trade from the Wall Street Journal
"California regulators late Thursday adopted the first large-scale cap-and-trade program in the U.S., in a move officials say will protect the environment without hurting the state's still-struggling economy."

The VERY Wide Open 2012 GOP Presidential Race (Ed Kilgore) from the Democratic Strategist
"…there's remarkably little evidence that conservative activists, the true rulers of the GOP, are converging behind any particular candidate.  For a good indication of the landscape, check out the reader poll recently conducted at the highy influential right-wing site RedState."

Conservative Crosshairs (Ed Kilgore) from the Democratic Strategist
"Those with bulls-eyes on their backs presently include Dick Lugar of Indiana, Olympia Snowe of Maine, Orrin Hatch of Utah, Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, and John Ensign of Nevada--exactly half of the Republicans going before voters in 2012.  …  This year, the group of endangered senators is quite heterodox. Each can be said to represent a different grievance held by "true conservatives" against the Republican establishment:"

Palin vs. Obama: No She Can't (Jonathan Capehart) from the Washington Post
"When Barbara Walters asked Sarah Palin if she could beat President Obama in 2012, the half-term governor of Alaska confidently replied, "I believe so." Unfortunately for her, no one else does."

WHITE LION NUGGET!!
Pair of Rare Snow-white Cubs Spring a Surprise on Keepers at Wild Life Park from the Daily Mail [of the UK]

"Two snow-white lions in winter were born in a Caesarian procedure at a German wild animal park after the pregnancy of their mother went unnoticed. Twins Niza and Nero are off the critical list after 15 days in intensive care following their birth at the Serengeti Park near Hanover."

A-HOLIDAY-TO-REMEMBER NUGGET!!
Holiday in Chernobyl, Book Now (Robert Mackey) from the New York Times

"Next year, as Ukraine marks the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, the country will also officially open the area around the plant to tourists for the first time."
OH BOY!  Sign me up!!  Note: actually having just finished David Hoffman's excellent Pulitzer-prize winning book, The Dead Hand, I actually wouldn't mind going.  The scenes of the heroic Soviet first-responders flying over the reactor are quite harrowing!

NATIVITY NUGGET!!
What IS Frankincense? And Where Does it Come From? from Slate

"Compelled in large part by childhood curiosity, I discarded the issue of the kings' provenance and set out instead in search of frankincense, or luban, as it is called in Arabic."
There is slide show showing how they make it HERE.

HOLLYWOOD NUGGET!!
Top 10 Greatest Movie Comebacks of the Year from the Daily Beast

"From Sylvester Stallone’s action-packed appearance in The Expendables to Nicole Kidman’s critically acclaimed turn in Rabbit Hole, 2010 gave many of Hollywood’s nearly washed up players another chance. See the top 10 best return performances of the year."
I am SO PATHETIC!  Almost half the people on the list are stars I have never heard of!  And here they're focusing on borderline has-beens!  They were never-wases in my world.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

News Nuggets 498

A newly rescued baby wombat at the Taronga's Wildlife Hospital in Australia.  From ZooBorns.com.

UP-FRONT DISTURBING NUGGET!!
U.S. Rethinks Strategy for the Unthinkable from the New York Times

"Suppose the unthinkable happened, and terrorists struck New York or another big city with an atom bomb. What should people there do? The government has a surprising new message: Do not flee. Get inside any stable building and don’t come out till officials say it’s safe."

The Balkans’ New Normal: Europe's Success Story (Editorial) from Today's Zaman [of Turkey in English]
"The Balkans is the European Union’s untold success story. The EU’s commitment to bringing the region within its borders remains firm."
This is not just the EU's success story -- it is Bill Clinton's as well.  It was he and the Dayton agreement that set this region on a better course.

Ahmadinejad Under Fire Over Mottaki Sacking from the Associated Press via the Daily Star [of Lebanon in English]
"President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s brisk firing of his foreign minister drew sharp criticism at home Tuesday, re-igniting divisions between him and fellow conservatives who have long resented what they see as the Iranian president’s power grabs."

Fears of Extremism Widen to Scandinavia from the Wall Street Journal
"Sweden's recent suicide bombing underscores a growing reality in the terror world: The threat of attacks is spreading beyond locations traditionally considered targets for Islamic extremists.
Scandinavia is emerging as one such new frontier…"

Sad but predictable.  And Scandinavia is SO not ready for this.

'Stuxnet Virus Set Back Iran’s Nuclear Program by 2 Years' from the Jerusalem Post [in English]
"Top German computer consultant tells 'Post' virus was as effective as military strike, a huge success; expert speculates IDF creator of virus."

Wikileaks, Gulf Arabs, and Iran: An Opportunity for US Policy (David Pollack) from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy
"Recent WikiLeaks revelations about the discrepancy between the public and private views on Iran voiced by Gulf Arab leaders have been widely covered by the pan-Arab media without provoking policy shifts or internal tensions in Gulf Arab states. U.S. officials should therefore be encouraged in their policy of pressing for a robust regional coalition to curb Iran's ambitions."

After Hegemony: A Review of Recent Books (Nina Hachigian) from Democracy: A Journal of Ideas
"America is no longer the world’s only pivotal power. Americans are adjusting—but can their leaders?"

Heroic, Female and Muslim (Nicholas Kristof) from the New York Times
"…there’s another side of Islam as well, represented by an extraordinary Somali Muslim woman named Dr. Hawa Abdi who has confronted the armed militias. Amazingly, she forced them to back down — and even submit a written apology. Glamour magazine, which named Dr. Hawa a “woman of the year,” got it exactly right when it called her “equal parts Mother Teresa and Rambo.”"

U.S. Tries to Build Case for Conspiracy by WikiLeaks from the New York Times
"Federal prosecutors, seeking to build a case against the WikiLeaks leader Julian Assange for his role in a huge dissemination of classified government documents, are looking for evidence of any collusion in his early contacts with an Army intelligence analyst suspected of leaking the information."
If you are Assange, this is really bad news.  "Conspiracy" is a villainously imprecise crime that can carry huge penalties.  It is a charge that is fairly distinct to US legal traditions, and it's been brought to bear most prominently in cases involving war crimes and the mafia.  Indeed, its broad application has been a key element in fairly successful federal efforts to bring down organized crime in the US.  It'll be interesting to see how the UK or Sweden might respond to such a charge.

Poll Supports Shift to Center: Majority of Public Backs Obama's Bid to Reach Compromise With Republicans from the Wall Street Journal
"President Barack Obama has public opinion and the Democratic grass roots with him as he searches for common ground with Republicans in the wake of his party's historic defeats in last month's midterm elections, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds."
Given these and other polls from the last several days, the Dems in the House would be nuts to shoot down the tax deal.

Tax Deal Paves Way for Reform (Gerald Seib) from the Wall Street Journal
"This week's great debate over the fate of the Bush-era tax cuts is doing something more important than determining tax levels for a couple of years: It's helping set the table for a fundamental reform of the tax system."

Enemies of State (Rick Perlstein) from Democracy: A Journal of Ideas

"Historically, nothing has terrified conservatives so much as efficient, effective, activist government. “A thoroughly first-rate man in public service is corrosive,” the former president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce argued in an interview published in the journal Nation’s Business in 1928. “He eats holes in our liberties. The better he is and the longer he stays the greater the danger. …” One reason: Governing well in the interests of the broad majority brings compounding political benefits for the party of government."

Why Conservatives Won't Govern (Alan Wolfe) from  Democracy: A Journal of Ideas
"A profoundly radical shift has taken place in the way conservatives in government understand power, accountability, and policy. Rather than using government badly out of a conviction that it always fails, they now refuse to allow government to do its work at all. They have, in a word, become nihilists. When Nancy Reagan urged Americans to just say no to drugs, little could she have realized that her party would soon say no to everything. Not governing because you will not is far worse than not governing because you cannot."

Victory, Compromise and Hurt Feelings (Gene Lyons) from Salon
"People who fall in love with politicians are always foolish, sometimes dangerous. In the present instance, Obama's left-wing detractors remind me of the "People's Front of Judea" in Monty Python's "Life of Brian," furiously at odds with not the Romans but the "Judean People's Front.""
While I still think Obama is great, Lyons' comments here about the jilted lovers on the left are HILARIOUS!

US-Pres.: WSJ/NBC Poll: Obama in Lead for 2012 from the Wall Street Journal
"President Barack Obama, should he choose to run for re-election, enters the 2012 presidential cycle in relatively good shape, especially considering the string of bad news that has buffeted his presidency."

FRENCH MONARCHY NUGGET1!
Scientists Identify Head of France's King Henry IV from MSNBC

"After nine months of tests, researchers in France have identified the head of France's King Henry IV, who was assassinated in 1610 at the age of 57. The scientific tests helped identify the late monarch's embalmed head, which was shuffled between private collections ever since it disappeared during the French Revolution in 1793."
Y'know I was just wondering about this the other day --- what ever DID happen to his head?  Well, now we know!  you just never know what'll turn up.

CRIME BOOK NUGGET!!
A Member of the Rogues Gallery: A Review of The Big Policeman by North Conway from the Wall Street Journal

"During the Gilded Age, New York's corrupt top cop invented mug shots and 'the third degree'"

MIDDLE EAST BOOK NUGGET!!
Best Books on the Middle East 2010 (Marc Lynch) from Foreign Policy Magazine

"…fortunately I have a blog of my own to offer a longer list of the best books published this year on the Middle East -- or at least the best books published this year which I actually had time to read, which means that it's far from exhaustive. Without further ado, the list:"