Category - Miscellany

Snow breaks Istanbul record in Mideast cold snap

Al Arabiya, February 20

Parts of the Middle East continue to grapple with blizzards as heavy snowfall breaks a chilling new record in Istanbul and a third snowstorm in Lebanon prompted the education minister to order all schools in mountainous areas to shut on Friday and Saturday.

The Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality said Thursday that the snowfall in Istanbul has broken a 28-year record in the Turkish city, with snow reaching as high as 75 cm in the Çatalca district, in the westernmost region of greater Istanbul, The Hurriyet Daily reported.

“Our teams used 18,543 tons of salt and 926 tons of [chemical] solution to keep the roads open,” The Hurriyet Daily quoted Istanbul’s municipality as saying in a statement.

Despite the efforts to melt the icy sheets, the record snowfall is said to have paralyzed many areas of the city, and many locals took to social media to complain that the 1987 snow storm did not hurt Istanbul as much.

Where have all the bloggers and comments gone.

For ten years I used to click thru a number of websites each day to get a feel where indie thought was at. The past few years I have found that I no longer visit blogs. I know the authors sites on facebook and trust their fans to move things thru twitter. I notice over the past six months that The Agonist has become in the main a weekly catblogging and jukebox site, with the occasional glimpse of Numerian and other writers.

I went a googling and note that Nathan Bransford has similar experiences. Bonnie views Instagram as the new noir. Even Jack Handey votes for Instagram.

Remember Wonkette? Moar words and glitzy ditzy panels keep that blog alive.

Ian Welsh maintains some rage, also crying for money.

Little Green Footballs is praising Twitters failure to address troll abuse.

How about you gentle reader, what blogs do you read / and or/ comment at?

Men who take a lot of selfies ‘show strong links to psychopathic tendencies’

Sydney Morning Herald, By Eamonn Warner, January 9

As if we needed another reason to put a stop to selfies.

A new study published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences has revealed that men who take a lot of selfies will score much higher on tests looking for signs of psychopathy.

Conducted by Ohio State University, the research shows that those very fond of a selfie display a wide range of antisocial behaviours.

Overall, 800 men between the ages of 18 and 40 were quizzed on their attitude towards posting photographs of themselves on social media.

Impulsiveness and a lack of empathy were among the most prevalent, while unsurprisingly the responders were also found to possess high levels of narcissism.

Bill Moyers Signs Off

I was a little disappointed in Bill’s final show. I was hoping that he would feature himself and sum up his thoughts about where we have been recently…, and more importantly…, where we are going. And hoping that he would announce that he was going to run for President in 2016. At least that would give me something to look forward to…, without projectile vomitting …, in that race. Anyway…, here are his closing comments:

BILL MOYERS: Mary Christina Wood reminds us that democracy, too is a public trust – a reciprocal agreement between generations to keep it in good repair and pass it along. Our country’s DNA carries an inherent promise for every citizen of an equal opportunity at life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Our history resonates with the hallowed idea – hallowed by blood – of government of, by, and for the people. Our great progressive struggles have been waged to make sure ordinary citizens, and not just the rich and privileged, share in the benefits of a free society. In the words of Louis Brandeis, one of the greatest of our Supreme Court justices, “We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”

Yet look at just a few recent headlines: this one from “The New York Times”: “U.S. Wealth Gap Is Widest in Decades”. From the website Alternet: “Just 40 Americans Own As Much Wealth As Half the United States.” From Slate.com: “The Great Wealth Meltdown: Middle-Class Families Are Worth Less Today Than in 1969.” And from “The Economist”: “Wealth without workers, workers without wealth,” pointing to the reality that “for all but an elite few, work no longer guarantees a rising income.”

So as the next generation steps forward, I am tempted to think that the only thing my generation can say to them is: we’re sorry. Sorry for the mess you’re inheriting. Sorry we broke the trust. But I know in my heart that’s not what they ask or expect. So instead I recommend to them the example of Senator Robert La Follette of Wisconsin, another of my heroes from the past. He battled the excesses of the first Gilded Age a century ago so boldly and proudly that he went down in history as “Fighting Bob.” He told us, “…democracy is a life; and involves continual struggle.” I keep asking myself, what if that struggle is the palpable reality without which this world would be truly barren?

So to this new generation I say: over to you, welcome to the fight.

And to all of you who have been loyal to these broadcasts, and to my colleagues who produced them and our funders who kept on giving despite my foibles and flaws, I say: thank you. This series ends, but not our website — BillMoyers.com. I’ll see you there, and I’ll see you around.

Oh…, he opened with this, “BILL MOYERS: Welcome. This is our final broadcast. But you haven’t seen the last of us — we’ll continue to report and comment at our website, BillMoyers.com, I hope you’ll join me there for a webchat later this month.” I’ll be watching for that…, not sure what to expect?

The New Robber Barons – Bill Moyers

Well…, I am sure I am not the only one who is going to miss Bill Moyers when he signs off his weekly PBS shows in the near future. I already miss Stephan Colbert. A couple of real class acts…, and this one from Bill is a dandy.

BILL MOYERS: Welcome. What happened in Washington over the past several days sent me back a century in time to the Gilded Age, when senators and representatives were owned by Wall Street and big business, and did the bidding of their monied masters by passing favorable laws that increased their already fabulous wealth. We’ve just watched the Senate and the House, aided and abetted by President Obama, reward financial interests that poured almost half a billion dollars into the midterm elections. They did it by slipping into the omnibus spending bill, signed this week by the President, a provision permitting Wall Street to resume the predatory practice of making risky bets with our deposits and sticking us the taxpayers with the bill if the gambles fail. And guess what? That provision was drafted by lobbyists for the huge banking conglomerate Citigroup. Lo and behold, the Citigroup language turns up in the final bill almost word for word.

What’s more, Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress, again with a wink from the President, sealed the grip of plutocrats on our political process with yet another provision tucked away in the same bill. It allows big donors to contribute up to one and a half million dollars to political party committees in a single election cycle. As one of the robber barons of the first Gilded Age exclaimed, “…we are the rich; we own America; we got it, God knows how, but we intend to keep it…”

How Public Power Can Defeat Plutocrats

Bill Moyers with Larry Lessig and Zephyr Teachout

Bill had the same two guests on last week…, I didn’t get around to posting about it…, but should have. I have said more than once here…, that we can’t solve many of our problems without campaign finance reform. Here’s a snip from Bill’s opening commentary:

Today, gifts to politicians that were once called graft or bribes are called contributions. And the Supreme Court has ruled that powerful corporations and rich individuals can give just about anything they want to politicians who do their bidding, and it’s not considered corruption.

The watchdog Sunlight Foundation reports that from 2007 to 2012, two hundred corporations spent almost $6 billion for lobbying and campaign contributions, and received more than $4 trillion — that’s $4 trillion — in government contracts and other forms of assistance.

And if you ask the question…, “What can I do about it?” Here is a link to more than one answer, 8 Things You Can Do to Help Get Money Out of Politics

Bernie Sanders on Bill Moyers

The most important issue out there and there are few commentators…, and even fewer politicians talking about it.

Full Show: Bernie Sanders on Breaking Big Money’s Grip on Elections

Here are some teasers…, you really should see/read the whole thing.

BERNIE SANDERS: The idea that you have these working-class people who are voting for candidates who refuse to raise the minimum wage, who refuse to provide health care for their kids, who want to send their jobs to China, who want to give tax breaks to corporations, it blows my mind. And that is the issue that we have to figure out.

BERNIE SANDERS: You have to bring people together who may not agree on every issue, but who understand that the middle class is collapsing and we are moving toward an oligarchic form of society, where the billionaires will control the economy and the political life of this country.
So, that means reaching out to people from different walks of life and say, you got to overcome this difference and that difference. So, I think what we have to do, Bill, is lay out an agenda which says we are going to take on the billionaire class. You know what? We’re going to overturn Citizens United. We’re going to move to public funding of elections so these guys don’t buy elections.

BERNIE SANDERS: Right now, we’re engaged in a huge fight. It is the economic struggle against the billionaire class who wants it all. They want to kill Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the whole thing. Can we beat them? We can.

BERNIE SANDERS: Yes. The only point, there is a difference between social issues and the economic issues. And I will not deny for one moment that taking on the ruling class of this country and the billionaire class, it’s tough stuff. It is tough stuff. So I don’t have any magical solutions. But what I do know is that if we do not create an economy that works for ordinary people, if we do not end the fact that 95 percent of all new income now goes to the top one percent. We’ve got to end it, and the only way I know to do that is to rally ordinary people around the progressive agenda. So our job is to create a 50 state, grassroots movement around a progressive agenda.

BILL MOYERS: What’s wrong, what’s gone wrong with the Democratic Party?
BERNIE SANDERS: In one answer I’d say money. Time after time we see a hesitancy on the part of the Democratic Party to stand up to the billionaire class because you can’t do that when you’re out hustling campaign contributions.
So whether the issues are disastrous trade policy, lowering the cost of prescription drugs, all of these special interests have enormous power and influence to the Democratic Party. Instead of having public meetings with people, you have Democratic candidates running all over the place, trying to raise money to keep up with the Koch brothers. So I would say, you know, money is corrupting, certainly has taken over the Republican Party, has significantly impacted the Democrats.

Ig Nobels: British researchers take coveted science humour prize

The Guardian, By Ian Sample, September 18

The nation can hold its head up high. Once again, researchers in Britain have been honoured with that most coveted of scientific awards, the Ig Nobel prize.

Not to be confused with the more prestigious – and lucrative – prizes doled out from Stockholm next month, the Ig Nobels are awarded for science that makes people laugh and then makes them think.

The winners this year received their awards at a ceremony at Harvard University, where a stern eight-year-old girl was on hand to enforce the strict 60 second limit on acceptance speeches. The ceremony is organised by the science humour magazine, Annals of Improbable Research.

Speaking at the event was Rob Rhinehart, creator of the all-in-one food, Soylent, and Dr Yoshiro Nakamatsu, a prolific inventor with more than 3,000 patents who won an Ig Nobel in 2005 for photographing every meal he ate in the previous 34 years.

Holding the flag for Britain, though only figuratively because the flight to Boston cost too much, was Amy Jones, who shared the Ig Nobel prize for psychology. Her work with Minna Lyons at Liverpool Hope University revealed that people who habitually stayed up late were, on average, more self-admiring, manipulative and psychopathic.

“To be honest, I hadn’t heard of the awards before,” Jones told the Guardian. “It’s absolutely overwhelming. No one could be more surprised than me.”

[…]

Five bona fide Nobel laureates handed out the Ig Nobels at the Harvard ceremony. The prize for nutrition went to Spanish researchers for exploring the value of bacteria taken from children’s faeces in sausage making. Doctors in the US and India won the medicine prize for demonstrating how to stop an uncontrollable nosebleed with nasal tampons made from bacon.

[…]

The Ig Nobel for art honoured Italian researchers who found that people felt less pain from a laser when they stared at a beautiful painting instead of an ugly one. The entire Italian government won the economics prize for being the first European nation to increase its economy by factoring in revenues from prostitution, smuggling and the sale of illegal drugs.

Bonus, Wired: 7 Hand Gestures That Make You Look Like a Real Intellectual

Reebok jumps on Paleo bandwagon with its own brand of bacon

Washington Post, By Marissa Payne, August 1

The phrase “tastes like shoe leather” is about to get a whole new, much more delicious meaning thanks to Reebok. The athletic clothing and footwear company has came out with its own bacon during the Reebok-sponsored CrossFit Games, which took place last month just outside of Los Angeles.

Simply titled “Reebok Bacon,” the product adheres to the principles of the popular Paleo diet fad, Yahoo News Digest reports. The bacon comes smoked and uncured, and is made without nitrates, preservatives, MSG or sweeteners. Apparently, according to Yahoo, it even has the seal of approval from Paleo Magazine, a go-to source for people who subscribe to paleo’s tenets of basically eating like a caveman… who had bacon available.

But lest you start thinking bacon is a health food, however, the calorie count for seven grams of the stuff is 26 of which 20 come from straight fat, according to the label. And really, who eats seven grams of anything?

Ikea funds went to Romanian secret police in communist era

Secret police files reveal six-figure payments to Ceausescu’s henchmen, as retailer denies knowingly paying Securitate.

The Guardian, By Matei Rosca, July 4

Bucharest – Romania’s brutal communist-era secret police received covert six-figure payments from Ikea as part of the Swedish group’s deals with a local furniture manufacturer in the 1980s, according to documents obtained by the Guardian.

Recently declassified files at the National College for Studying the Securitate Archives (CNSAS) in Bucharest suggest that the furniture firm agreed to be overcharged for products made in Romania. Some of the overpayments were deposited in an account controlled by the Securitate, the secret police agency.

The documents suggest Ikea was complicit in the arrangement. Ikea denies complicity, but has launched an internal investigation into the matter. It says it was unaware of the Securitate’s involvement in its commercial operations.