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Archive for July 8th, 2014

Forgotten Vials of Smallpox Found

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 8th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Forgotten Vials of Smallpox Found
Employees at the National Institutes of Health recently discovered some old vials of smallpox, the deadly until it was considered eradicated in 1980. The vials appear to date back to the 1950s and were discovered in an unused part of a storeroom at a Food and Drug Administration lab in Bethesda, Maryland. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there is no evidence any of the vials were breached, nor were any of lab workers exposed to the virus.


NYPD arrests mother of baby left in subway station

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 8th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

NYPD arrests mother of baby left in subway station
NEW YORK (AP) — A woman suspected of abandoning her baby girl at a Manhattan subway station was in police custody on Tuesday.


WH requests $3.7 billion to handle influx of undocumented children

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 8th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

WH requests $3.7 billion to handle influx of undocumented children
Administration sends request to Congress to handle immigration crisis in an “aggressive and cost effective way”

Is the surge of illegal child immigrants a national security threat?
Lawmakers and experts debate whether the migration surge from Central America is more than just a humanitarian issue


How Morning Joe Is Helping To Turn Clinton’s Legal Work Into A Political Liability

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 8th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

How Morning Joe Is Helping To Turn Clinton’s Legal Work Into A Political Liability

Joe Scarborough and Ezra Klein

Joe Scarborough and Ezra Klein are helping to normalize guilt-by-association smears targeting defense attorneys based on their clients, arguing that Hillary Clinton’s work defending an alleged child rapist in 1975 is becoming a political liability.

The American Bar Association has condemned this type of attack as “disturbing.”

Clinton’s work on the case, known publicly and reported on for years, re-emerged after the Washington Free Beacon violated library policy and published an interview Clinton gave in the mid-1980s discussing her legal representation of the alleged rapist.

Clinton defended her work on the case in an interview with Mumsnet that was published July 4, explaining once again that she was assigned to the case, that she asked to be relieved from the assignment, and that she “had a professional duty to represent my client to the best of my ability.”

Reporting on the warmed-over scrutiny of the case on Tuesday, Vox claimed that “a criminal defense case from Hillary Clinton’s past as a lawyer is becoming a political liability.” The headline ominously stated: “Hillary Clinton’s legal career is coming back to haunt her.”

Klein, the co-founder of Vox, appeared on Morning Joe to expand on the idea that Clinton’s legal work was a political liability. “I think it’s hard for folks to understand why you would go to the mat for a client who had done something terrible who you knew is guilty,” Klein said. “And what she’s saying there is that that was her obligation as a lawyer and that the prosecution had done a horrible job.”

While Scarborough at one point agreed that attorneys “usually take that court appointment and do their best to defend their client,” he subsequently tried to parse the distinction between a public defender and Clinton’s role as a court-appointed attorney from a legal aid clinic:

SCARBOROUGH: [I]sn’t there a distinction, though, between when you are hired by a public defender’s office, and the purpose of the public defender’s office is actually to give people the representation that they are guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States of America? And then you have Hillary Clinton’s case, where she was running a legal clinic. She may have been court-appointed, but obviously she had a lot more discretion on whether she was going to take a child rapist or not on as a client than if you are a public defender, where you are working as a public defender, you have no choice.

Legal and child welfare experts told Newsday that Clinton’s work in the case was appropriate in 2008, the last time her work in the case came under media scrutiny. Clinton wrote about the case in her 2003 autobiography, Living History. Jonathan Adler, a libertarian law professor, has urged Clinton’s critics not to attack her representation in this case, specifically warning that it could be chilling to send a message to young attorneys that representing unpopular clients could become a “political liability.”

Adler is not alone. Republicans Ken Starr, Lindsey Graham, and Michael Mukasey have all cautioned against using an attorney’s clients as a cudgel.  


Obama Turns to Congress to Stem Migrant Children Surge

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 8th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Obama Turns to Congress to Stem Migrant Children Surge
Alexis Simendinger, RealClearPolitics
“Stem the tide.” That’s the phrase the Obama administration used Monday to describe why it will ask Congress to help fast-track the expulsion of migrant children apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border. While President Obama is poised to seek billions of dollars in new appropriations Tuesday, followed by a request for statutory “flexibility” to respond to the border crisis through tough enforcement, immigration reform advocacy groups also expect him to head in another direction. That would be to rebuke Congress altogether by using his executive heft to protect some…

Racial Differences Are Real But No Cause for Discrimination
Michael Barone, RealClearPolitics
“New analyses of the human genome establish that human evolution has been recent, copious and regional,” writes Nicholas Wade in his recently published book, “A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History.” That sounds reasonable, and Wade, a science reporter and editor for many years at Nature and the New York Times, seems an unimpeachable source. But many well-meaning people will regard his words as provocative and even dangerous. For they fatally undermine the idea, widely shared by so-called progressives, that any apparent differences between groups of people are the product of…


Minister in ‘sack Cameron’ photo op

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 8th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Minister in ‘sack Cameron’ photo op
Tory minister Matthew Hancock falls foul of “sack Cameron” graffiti – proving once again that politicians should always look behind them when posing for pictures.

Parties appeal for 12 July calm
The five Stormont executive parties have issued a joint statement appealing for calm over 12 July, after discussing the parades situation in north Belfast.


Left frets on Ginsburg’s next steps

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 8th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Left frets on Ginsburg’s next steps
Liberals are beginning to question whether it’s time for her to go.


Dick Cheney is Yelling Fire and Wonders Why No One Is Listening

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 8th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Dick Cheney is Yelling Fire and Wonders Why No One Is Listening
“We stand at a critical moment in the life of our nation. The policies of the last six years have left America diminished and weakened. Our enemies no longer fear us. Our allies no longer trust us… Threats to America’s security are on the rise.”

Dick Cheney is back. He is not running for anything, he assured Charlie Rose, so he is free to speak his mind. After six years of the Obama presidency, Cheney sees America’s power and prestige declining across the globe, and he wants to do something about it. He has created the Alliance for a Strong America.

This is not new for Cheney. Last time a Democrat was in his second term, Cheney was a signatory in the founding of the Project for the New American Century, the seminal organization created to promote the neoconservative agenda in foreign policy. Both organizations were created in the second term of Democrat Presidents. Both organizations sought to spearhead the promotion of American power and leadership in the world. Both sought to build support for rebuilding American military power.

But Cheney is no longer mincing words and has cast aside the “Neo” label that connoted a commitment to the promotion of economic and political liberty. Cheney never really put his heart and soul into the neoconservative ideology. Spreading “political liberty” and bringing democracy to the Middle East might have been important in the minds of Paul Wolfowitz and Bill Kristol, but never for Cheney. For him, the democracy rhetoric was always a red herring. It may have been useful as a rationale for removing Saddam Hussein from power, but social and political reform was never the point. Cheney was always more Neo-Maoist than Neo-Conservative: forget ideology, power is about power.

Dick Cheney shares the concerns of our “friends” that America is turning away from its historic relationships in the region. Cheney’s friends–our guys, to use his jocular rhetoric–are the Gulf monarchies. “Our guys” are the Saudis, whose Wahhabi partners have long been proselytizers of the most extremist branch of Sunni Islam and the lead funders of modern terrorist movements.

But Americans are no longer so sure who our friends are, as it was our guys who funded the Saudi terrorists responsible for the 9/11 attacks. In time, we have come to grasp the complexity of the region, the depth of the animosity for the west–and for America in particular–and the duplicity of the Saudi game.

What we do know is that Cheney took America to war once before. He blithely assured us of the dangers we faced and who was behind them, all the while assuring us that we had friends in the region that would rally to our side. Over the decade of war that ensued, we learned the hard way that there are deep historical roots to the conflicts there, and we have to think long and hard when we take sides. Friendship in the Middle East is transactional, and it not as simple as the aphorism “the enemy of our enemy is our friend” might suggest.

No doubt many Americans would agree with Cheney that our policies seems to lack coherence. In Iraq, the US and Iran are now effectively allied in opposition to the Sunni ISIS insurgency. While in Syria, where the Iranians are fighting alongside the Shi’a allied Assad regime, the US is determinedly on the other side, allied with the Syrian opposition and tacitly with their Sunni jihadist allies. Yet even as he decries that incoherence, Cheney suggested to Charlie Rose that although Iran is our mortal enemy, perhaps it is time to switch sides in Syria and consider that Assad may not be the worst threat after all.

In his broadside against President Obama, Dick Cheney fails to grasp the central irony of his situation. Cheney wants us to respond to his cries of “fire,” but does not understand that all we see when he speaks is the arsonist. Speaking to Charlie Rose, Cheney admonished those fixated on how we got into Iraq and, despite repeated prodding, he refuses to amend or apologize for a single word of an historical record on his watch that has been so deeply contradicted. Even as he scorns the President in a manner never seen before by one administration toward a successor, Cheney is a man with no sense of accountability for his own actions and his impact on the world around him.

The debate that led up to the Senate war resolution, like the campaign to build public support for war, was built on a deliberate campaign of misinformation. That debate laid the groundwork for a deepening mistrust across the political spectrum of the use of intelligence that sowed the seeds for the Snowden affair and the elevation of Snowden to heroic status on the right and the left. The residue of the lies and dissembling in the run-up to the Iraq war is the hallmark legacy of Cheney’s Vice Presidency. The poisoning of the public square and the political climate change it helped to engender has contributed to declining faith in the ability of our government to honestly deal with problems that we face at home and undermined the credibility of our efforts to promote democracy abroad.

Cheney demands that we heed his warnings, but evinces no awareness of why his credibility is suspect, or why Americans might feel burned for having trusted his words and followed his lead before. He is the poster child for the lies and duplicity of an era, the effects of which continue to ripple forward. Republicans and Democrats alike would rather Cheney just go away. He has become a parody of himself, and if America is at risk, the last way to get Americans to hear that is for Dick Cheney to tell them. He simply fails to recognize that the man he scorns in the White House came to office not because of that hope and change thing, but because Americans had been lied to by their leaders who took the nation to war, and they wanted out. Dick Cheney may have nothing but contempt for Barack Obama, but the irony is that Cheney is one of the reasons Obama was elected.

Senator Arthur Vandenberg famously observed that our politics stop at the waters’ edge, that foreign policy was the realm of national consensus. If America was to go to war, the nation had to be of one voice and to understand and believe in the cause. Perhaps Vietnam marked the end of that national consensus, but the manipulation of information in the promotion of war in Iraq, in order to steep public opinion and stifle democratic debate, is a legacy for which Cheney bears responsibility. All of Cheney’s words now are colored by that poisoned discourse, which contributed so much to what now remains a deeply damaged nation.


With Talks Uncertain, Ukrainian Rebels Cling to Hope in Strongholds

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 8th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

With Talks Uncertain, Ukrainian Rebels Cling to Hope in Strongholds
In Donetsk, the eastern regional capital, fighters say they expect a final showdown with government troops soon.



World Briefing: Somalia: Troops Repel Attack on Presidential Palace
Somalia’s government said its troops had retaken the presidential palace in the capital, Mogadishu, on Tuesday after Islamic militants forced their way in and exchanged heavy gunfire with troops and guards.



Spying Case Left Obama in Dark, U.S. Officials Say
When President Obama placed a call to Chancellor Angela Merkel last Thursday, he did not know that a German intelligence operative had been arrested a day earlier, and had admitted to passing secrets to the C.I.A.




Snowpiercer: Ambitious, Eye-Popping Post-Apocalyptic CliFi Movie Descends Into Nihilism

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 8th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Snowpiercer: Ambitious, Eye-Popping Post-Apocalyptic CliFi Movie Descends Into Nihilism

While deeply flawed, the new climate fiction movie “Snowpiercer” totally passes the “Lost” test. Like the mind-bending TV series, the movie is very entertaining if you don’t spend any time thinking about the plot and you do not watch the last 5 minutes.

The post Snowpiercer: Ambitious, Eye-Popping Post-Apocalyptic CliFi Movie Descends Into Nihilism appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Snowpiercer_posterAt the very start of the entertaining but nihilistic new Climate-Fiction movie “Snowpiercer,” more than 99.9999% of the world’s population die (thankfully off camera). The cause: A failed geoengineering experiment to stop global warming that turns the Earth into a frozen, dystopic wasteland. Darn you, Bjorn Lomborg and Bill Gates!

What remains of humanity ends up on long super-train powered by a perpetual-motion engine, which circles the now-frozen globe once a year. If you’re the kind of person who wonders why humanity would risk destroying the planet by widely dispersing an anti-warming industrial chemical when somebody already has developed a perpetual-motion engine, then YOU WILL HATE THIS MOVIE!

But then that would make you one of those super nerds who probably mocked “Sharknado” or “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

SPOILER ALERT: If you don’t want to know how many of the remainder of Earth’s population die on the train, too, don’t read this review. Oh, and if you don’t like stories that ruin themselves in the last five minutes, don’t watch this movie.

I try to keep up on the latest addition to the post-apocalyptic SciFi genre, as readers know. And, in fact, there is a nascent effort to label a sub-genre CliFi (led “by climate activist Danny Bloom”).

Annoyingly, some Climate Fiction movies have this thing about freezing the earth — first, “The Day After Tomorrow,” and now “Snowpiercer.” I guess the directors and writers and producers think that stuff frozen quickly is visually more appealing (and more directly relatable) than stuff that is slowly heating up. Darn you, brainless frogs!

And one of the best things about “Snowpiercer” is how it looks, especially the unique character of each train car that the lower-class rebels (from the back of the train, of course) fight their way through as they try to break through to the upper class cars in the front — all in order to meet (and kill) the mysterious industrialist who created the super-train, its physics-defying engine, and its Dickensian social structure.

Yes, this is another post apocalyptic movie that is really more about class and the 99% vs. the 1% like “The Hunger Games.” Interestingly, “The Hunger Games” books are clearly CliFi, but it is much more debatable whether the movies are, since they are stripped of any climate references.

But for better or worse, “Snowpiercer” explicitly opens with text explaining that in 2014 the world decides to fight climate change — now that’s fiction for you! — and agrees to disperse some anti-warming industrial substance, which apparently has never been tested on a large scale. This is a change from the 1982 French graphic novel it’s based on, “Le Transperceneige,” which the UK independent says “is undoubtedly one of the greatest science fiction comics ever created.” Sadly, the novel lost something in translation.

The South Korean director, Bong Joon-ho, explained in a recent interview why he made the change and what the movie’s theme is:

In Snowpiercer, it’s more about how big business tries to both use and control nature. And how it backfires on them. Nature takes its revenge and sends them back to the ice age. This is an aspect that is different from the graphic novel. I wanted to make a story change because I felt that climate change is more current of an issue and will continue to be, because it’s not in the interest of big business to change, but to control.

At least that’s the theme he was trying to convey, but I don’t think he succeeds, thanks to the muddled, nihilistic ending.

In fairness, Snowpiercer totally passes the “Lost” test. Like the mind-bending TV series, “Snowpiercer” is very entertaining if you don’t spend any time thinking about the plot and you do not you watch the last 5 minutes.

The action set pieces are original and visually compelling. The acting is strong across the board, starting with a performance by Tilda Swinton that is killer. Literally. And if you wanted to know if Chris “Captain America” Evans can act, well, Snowpiercer makes clear the answer is yes.

But basically everybody on the train — that is to say, what was left of humanity — dies at the end. And rather pointlessly. Indeed, they die because the “brains” behind the train decide to try to keep the population in balance by starting a rebellion, which, surprise surprise, doesn’t turn out as they planned. Yes, two children are technically left alive, but they will have to fend for themselves in a virtually uninhabitable frozen icescape — a while that’s a different movie, it still ends very badly.

Now I don’t oppose nihilistic endings — I love “Memento” and “King Lear” — but the endings have to serve a dramatic purpose. Heck, I argued in 2008 that “No Country for Old Men,” one of the most nihilistic movies ever made, was “a perfect metaphor for modern American politics and global warming.” And the classic post-apocalyptic movie “On The Beach” has a very grim ending — but the purpose is to show that we can’t survive a global nuclear holocaust, so we’d better prevent it!

In “Snowpiercer,” however, the ending’s purpose seems to be to send the message that saving humanity is hopeless, that even after we destroy virtually all of humanity with our willful ignorance and greed, we are still doomed to finish off the rest of humanity. Not my cup of tea.

Worse, in this movie, everybody seems to die in the name of environmental principles like “balance” and “sustainability” mouthed by the powers that be. Admittedly, everybody dies because the supposedly brilliant people who mouth those principles grotesquely misapply them — but again, that would seem to be the theme of the movie: Humanity is doomed to destroy itself no matter how hard it tries to do the right thing because the greedy, powerful people are a lot dumber than they think.

And then there is the final image. After the two children emerge from the wrecked train, what do they see in this supposedly frozen wasteland? A polar bear!

Now it’s a bit hard to believe a sophisticated guy like Bong Joon-ho doesn’t know that the polar bear is perhaps the iconic image of a species whose very existence is threatened by global warming. But that would mean the ending and theme are beyond ironic: In its misguided effort to end global warming, humanity destroys itself but saves the polar bear after all. Ouch!

Is Joon-ho suggesting that no effort to end global warming is rational or possible or non-suicidal or even worthwhile? Since he never offers any non-nihilistic alternative, we have no positive alternative answers to choose from.

This is not a film whose premise or plot bears the slightest scrutiny. For instance, when and why did the world even build this immense circular railway? Certainly nobody would have spent money in such an inane fashion after the apocalypse. But as this screenshot from the film shows, the train goes over the open ocean for hundreds of miles, which would be bloody hard to do before everything froze.

Snowpiercer clifi

A map of Snowpiercer’s annual route, showing the location of the train at key dates in the year. It is “a screencap from the film (actually from the educational film in the classroom scene) overlaid with Googlemaps screengrabs” of country names (via Copperbadge).

Are we really to believe that the cold wiped out 7 billion people? I mean, it takes a drop of less than 10°F to bring us back to an Ice Age. But that wouldn’t come close to making the planet uninhabitable in the tropics. As you may recall, we actually evolved into homo “sapiens” during the last few ice ages. And given modern technology, it simply defies any plausibility that the only place anyone could survive on the entire planet is a super-train.

Where does most of the food on the train come from? It’s kind of an important question since the central premise is that the train can’t sustain its current, growing population, so people must be killed off in a violent fashion. But food would appear to be the only limiting factor.

Joon-ho sets up what he expects everyone to see as a “big reveal” in the middle of the movie — that the gelatinous protein bars the lower classes are forced to eat are made from insects. This is a yawner (if we ignore the question of where all those insects come from year after year). It is already pretty widely accepted that if food supply gets low people will eat (more) insects — as I wrote in May. Indeed NPR reported last year, “2 billion people worldwide already enjoy insects with gusto — in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Australia.” In fact steamed/boiled silkworm pupae are a delicacy in Joon-ho’s home of Korea.

OK, now you’re thinking, sure, but if science fiction movies had to be in the least bit plausible, then from “Star Trek” to “Star Wars,” every major spaceship battle would be incredibly boring, with ships passing by one another and randomly blowing up (or not) because of course you can’t see the path of lasers (or comparable energy weapons) in outer space, as the spoil-sport website HowStuffWorks has explained.

Ignoring science to make a movie more entertaining or accessible is perfectly reasonable to me — it’s just a movie, after all. But to create a monumentally contrived premise that is wildly implausible to advance a nihilistic theme that doesn’t stand any scrutiny — that is artistic failure to me.

One of the characters says “the train is the world” as if this makes the movie an allegory. “Snowpiercer” is certainly all-gory. But an allegory (aka a fable or even an extended metaphor) is designed to “reveal a hidden meaning, typically a moral or political one.”

I think you could argue “Snowpiercer” works as a grim allegorical critique of our class-based society. But the director went out of his way to frame the movie in terms of global warming. Sadly, he kept any positive or useful meaning on climate change too well hidden.

The post Snowpiercer: Ambitious, Eye-Popping Post-Apocalyptic CliFi Movie Descends Into Nihilism appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Companies With Female CEOs Beat The Stock Market

Female CEOs saw an average return of 103.4 percent, while the S&P 500 gained 69.5 percent.

The post Companies With Female CEOs Beat The Stock Market appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Woman business owner executive

CREDIT: Shutterstock

Female CEOs at the country’s biggest companies oversee financial results, on average, that beat the stock market, according to Fortune Magazine’s analysis of data from Factset Research Systems.

Fortune 1000 companies with a woman in the top role saw an average return of 103.4 percent over the women’s tenures, compared to an average 69.5 percent return for the S&P 500 stock index over the same periods.

female_return_perc

CREDIT: Fortune

The companies with female CEOs also seem to generate an outsized amount of revenue compared to others. While just 51 companies have a female CEO among the Fortune 1000, or 5 percent, those companies generate 7 percent of total revenue for the entire group.

Other studies have found that companies run by women outperform others. Hedge funds run by women had a 6 percent return between 2007 and 2013, beating both a global hedge fund index at the stock market. And Vietnamese companies with women CEOs have tripled their gains over the past five years, nearly twice the gain made by a benchmark index.

Numerous studies have also found that companies with women on their boards of directors perform better than male-only ones. Others have hinted at why: women are more likely to be cooperative in decision-making and to consider the rights of others, which leads to better company performance, and women on boards tend to keep companies from paying more for acquiring other companies and reduce the number of acquisitions overall, which protects shareholder value.

But a very small number of companies are reaping all of these benefits. Fortune notes that the number of women CEOs among Fortune 500 companies has risen steadily since 1998. Still, just 24 of those 500 companies have a woman as chief executive.

female51_number-of-females1

CREDIT: Fortune

Overall, women have held less than 15 percent of executive officer positions at Fortune 500 companies for four years and less than 17 percent of corporate board seats for the last eight.

And despite their likelihood to produce better results, female executives are paid less than male ones. Median pay for the 11 highest-paid female CEOs is $1.6 million less than median pay for the top-paid men. Last year, female CEOs made less than 80 percent of what male ones made. All of the highest paid female executives in any C-suite role make 18 percent less than the men.

The post Companies With Female CEOs Beat The Stock Market appeared first on ThinkProgress.