The Ledes

Tuesday, May 4, 2016.

AP: "The entire population of the Canadian oil sands city of Fort McMurray, Alberta, has been ordered to evacuate from a wildfire that officials said destroyed whole neighborhoods.... The wildfire, whipped by unpredictable winds on a day of unseasonably hot temperatures, worsened dramatically in a short time and many residents were given little notice to flee."

The Wires

The Ledes

Tuesday, May 3, 2016.

AP: "Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Tuesday that an American serviceman has been killed near Irbil in Iraq. 'It is a combat death,' Carter said at the outset of a news in Stuttgart, Germany where he has been consulting with European allies this week."

New York Times (May 2): "A historic Serbian Orthodox church in Manhattan that plays an important role in New York’s Serbian community was gutted by flames on Sunday, just hours after parishioners had filled its pews for Easter services. The New York Fire Department said it received the first report of the blaze at the Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Sava, on West 25th Street between Fifth Avenue and Avenue of the Americas in the Flatiron district, shortly before 7 p.m.... The church, which has served for decades as the backbone of New York’s Serbian Orthodox community, was previously known as Trinity Chapel, an Episcopal church that was sold to its current owners in 1943." ...

... CBS/AP: "Investigators in three cities are looking into large fires at Orthodox churches that occurred around the religion's Easter celebrations and caused widespread damage. The blazes in New York City, as well as Melbourne and Sydney in Australia, caused only minor injuries, according to multiple reports."

Public Service Announcement

New York Times: "Taking a stance sharply at odds with most American public health officials, a major British medical organization urged smokers to switch to electronic cigarettes, saying they are the best hope in generations for people addicted to tobacco cigarettes to quit. The recommendation, laid out in a report published Thursday by the Royal College of Physicians, summarizes the growing body of science on e-cigarettes and finds that their benefits far outweigh the potential harms." -- CW

Washington Post: "More than a third of advanced-melanoma patients who received one of the new immunotherapy drugs in an early trial are alive five years after starting treatment -- double the survival rate typical of the disease, according to a new study."

Zoe Schlanger of Newsweek: "If you are eating fast food, you're probably also eating phthalates,... a class of chemicals that have been linked to everything from ADHD to breast cancer, ...[which] are common in food packaging, drink containers, the tubing used to transport dairy and the equipment used to process fast food." --LT

Politico's Late Nite Jokes:

New York Times: “'Hamilton,' the groundbreaking hip-hop musical about the nation’s founding fathers, has been nominated for 16 Tony Awards, the most in Broadway history." ...

... Here's the full list of Tony Award nominees.

MIT News: "For the first time, an international team of astronomers from MIT, the University of Liège in Belgium, and elsewhere have detected three planets orbiting an ultracool dwarf star, just 40 light years from Earth. The sizes and temperatures of these worlds are comparable to those of Earth and Venus, and are the best targets found so far for the search for life outside the solar system. The results are published [Monday, May 2] in the journal Nature.... The scientists discovered the planets using TRAPPIST (TRAnsiting Planets and PlanetesImals Small Telescope), a 60-centimeter telescope operated by the University of Liège, based in Chile."

Washington Post's Reliable Source: At an "afterparty hosted by MSNBC following the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner [Saturday, May 1]..., a scuffle broke out between Fox News correspondent Jesse Watters and Ryan Grim, the Huffington Post’s Washington bureau chief.... The two flailed around a bit, upending a table and bumping into several people. 'Punches were definitely thrown,' said one witness. Before any damage was done, several bystanders, including Sean Spicer, communications director at the Republican National Committee, separated the two."

New York Times: "... a nearly 47,000-word journalistic series [by Walt Whitman] called 'Manly Health and Training,' were lost for more than 150 years, buried in an obscure newspaper that survived only in a handful of libraries. The series was uncovered last summer by a graduate student, who came across a fleeting reference to it in a digitized newspaper database and then tracked down the full text on microfilm.Now, Whitman’s self-help-guide-meets-democratic-manifesto is being published online in its entirety by a scholarly journal, in what some experts are calling the biggest new Whitman discovery in decades."

This is for safari:

... Via the New Yorker.

Washington Post: "Late last week, Comcast announced a new program that allows makers of smart TVs and other Internet-based video services to have full access to your cable programming without the need for a set-top box.  Instead, the content will flow directly to the third-party device as an app, including all the channels and program guide. The Xfinity TV Partner Program will initially be offered on new smart TVs from Samsung, as well as Roku streaming boxes.  But the program, built on open Internet-based standards including HTML5, is now open to other device manufacturers to adopt. As video services move from hardware to software, the future of the traditional set-top box looks increasingly grim. With this announcement, Comcast customers may soon eliminate the need for an extra device, potentially saving hundreds of dollars in fees."

BBC: "Dame Judi Dench and David Tennant have joined other stars at a gala marking 400 years since Shakespeare's death. Saturday's Shakespeare Live show in the playwright's birthplace of Stratford-upon-Avon included play scene performances, dance and music." Then this:

New York Times: "The Pulitzers are in their centennial year, and the winners announced by Columbia University reflected in part the changes sweeping the media landscape." Here's the full list of the prize winners, via the New York Times.

CW: The AP produced this video in January 2015, but I just came across it:

New York Times: "James Levine, who transformed the Metropolitan Opera during four decades as its music director but has suffered from poor health in recent years, will step down from his post after this season to become music director emeritus, the company announced Thursday."

Politico: "Gabriel Snyder, editor in chief of The New Republic for the past 17 months, is leaving the magazine in the wake of its sale to Win McCormack.... The masthead change marks the first big move since McCormack, a publisher, Democratic booster and editor in chief of a literary journal called Tin House, bought TNR from Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes in February after Hughes was unsuccessful at turning around the money-losing magazine’s business during his four years of stewardship."

The Great Octopus Escape. Guardian: "An octopus has made a brazen escape from the national aquarium in New Zealand by breaking out of its tank, slithering down a 50-metre drainpipe and disappearing into the sea. In scenes reminiscent of Finding Nemo, Inky – a common New Zealand octopus – made his dash for freedom after the lid of his tank was accidentally left slightly ajar. Staff believe that in the middle of the night, while the aquarium was deserted, Inky clambered to the top of his glass enclosure, down the side of the tank and travelled across the floor of the aquarium."

... Charles Pierce: "One of the best biographies I've ever read was Scott Berg's brilliant, National Book Award-winning account of the life of Maxwell Perkins, the editor at Scribner's who was responsible for bringing out the best work in Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Ring Lardner, and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.... I'm going to be first in line to see [the film "Genius."] OK, so there won't be a line, but I'll be there nonetheless."

Michael Cavna of the Washington Post on the artistry in the film "All the President's Men."The real Woodward & Bernstein weigh in.

Contact the Constant Weader

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Tuesday
Feb212012

Worse than the Dark Ages

CW: This post began as a comment, but I wanted to give it greater prominence. Many thanks to author Akhilleus for reminding us that churchmen once were leaders in scientific inquiry in stark contrast to the Santorums & Gingrich's who would take us back to primitive explanations for natural phenomena. 

Bishop Robert Grosseteste. 1168-1253.The antipathy towards science and truth regarding the natural world on shocking display in the warped funhouse mirror that is the Republican Presidential primary campaign represents a new low in the right’s never-ending search for more and more insidious ways to grab onto power with every sucker on each of its slimy tentacles.

The Rick Santorum quotes about the environment offer a chance to consider how far we've come -- and how low we've sunk.

The contemporary hatred and distrust of science by the religious right and right-wingers in general has not always had this kind of power, even in the Dark Ages during which the pursuit of scientific knowledge was highly regarded among many religious teachers, scholars, and leaders. Robert Grossteste, an English bishop and master of theology, wrote extensively on optics, mathematics, astronomy, and even composed a treatise explaining the scientific basis for tidal activity (Bill O’Reilly’s mental capacity has yet to rise to the level of a guy who was writing on parchment paper in the 13th century).

The rise of methods of investigating the natural world and which prompted several scientific revolutions was supported and, largely, created by medieval churchmen like Grossteste, Roger Bacon, Albertus Magnus, Henry of Ghent, William of Ockham, and one of the big guns in Church history, Thomas Aquinas hisself.

Aquinas, at least according to my reading of his work, would kick the intelligent design people down the stairs. They just don't fit in with his understanding of the workings of the natural world. This isn’t to compare Aquinas with Einstein as a pure scientist, but it is a recognition that for these scholars, science and religion could live together. In fact, many of them went toe to toe with the less enlightened clerics of their day. They didn’t always win, but in some cases (Roger Bacon) they were even supported by the pope (Clement IV, I believe).

These guys laid the groundwork for what became the empirical method eventually taken up by beacons of enlightened thought such as John Locke and David Hume, neither of whom were buddies of reactionary religious troglodytes.

So why the regression? Why is today’s religious right and their political enablers and supporters like Santorum and Gingrich even more benighted, more backward than ignorant, uneducated pissants who lived nearly a thousand years ago? Why do today’s religiously (un)informed right-wingers scream bloody murder at the very mention of climate change, stem cell research, natural selection, and a myriad other scientific topics when many of these same fields of study were avidly pursued by prominent members of the Church centuries ago with an eye toward increasing, rather than diminishing, humanity’s knowledge and understanding of the natural world?

The best guess is power and control. Empowering ignorance is a useful way to to stave off the sovereignty of truth. Holding up science as a straw-man/boogieman enables the right to distract the masses from the real problems facing them, problems often directly caused by right-wing policies. The religion vs. science screamfest is a handy smokescreen for the right as they attempt to divert scrutiny away from their actual plan of taking control of the country away from anyone who is not of their tribe and handing it to the wealthy, the oligarchs, and those whose motives are firmly grounded in their book of rules, the right-wing quarto of money, power, war, and control.

There’ve been a number of pieces written recently pointing out the strategic problems of this scheme. First, by elevating the ignorant, they have inadvertently ceded a certain amount of power and now the ringmasters are the ones having to jump through hoops of fire and stumble around the big top after tumbling out of their primary season clown car. The masses, fired up with the fury of imbecility, hatred, and ignorance, now want their show trials in which their enemies (science, truth, rationality) are hung in effigy, if not in reality. And what the rest of the country is left with is the very real possibility of an uninformed, willfully ignorant, hate-spewing birdbrain like Rick Santorum, as President of the United States.

It’s one thing when hypocrisy and rank desire for power cause you to foul your own house with the stinking sluice of sluggish stupefaction and feeble-minded ineptitude, but when you drench the rest of the country with this effluence, you deserve nothing less than perdition and infamy.

And demanding that schoolchildren learn magical thinking in place of scientific truth is more than a step backwards. It’s a descent into insignificance and complete collapse.

But that's the Way of the Right: If we can't be in charge, we'll burn it all down.

Any better reason to go out and vote against these monsters?

-- Akhilleus

Reader Comments (7)

Amen!

February 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

@Akhilleus
I agree with you on all points except I take offense at comparing Santorium's brain to that of a bird. I'm an avid bird watcher and can say with certainty that birds are very intelligent!

I am quite worried over the things that Santorium has been spewing. I find I must remind myself that not all Christians are so radical. Him and his ilk with their words spread fear among people. I just hope that the majority of citizens are more tolerant of differences among people or least we see a revival of the Salem witch trials.

February 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJulie in Massachusetts

@Akhilleus--

As a scientist--by worldview, education and career--and, yet, a Progressive Christian, let me say that IF the whack jobs who seem to dominate Republican primaries actually DO succeed in nominating Santorum, the Republican party will experience the greatest LANDSLIDE LOSS since they ran with Barry Goldwater.

Thinking Conservatives, Independents and, yes, even most Christians will finally take a close look at this guy and either flock back to Obama, sit out the election, or vote for third-party candidates. I know I will do one of the latter two actions.

Here's the latest extremist religious lunacy that has been dredged up on Santorum:

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-57382008-503544/santorum-in-08-satan-is-attacking-america/

February 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterZee

Charles Pierce performs his magic once again:

http://www.esquire.com/blogs/politics/rick-santorum-church-talk-6789284?src=rss

February 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDaveS

From outside the United States, there is very little difference - and what there is only works to US disadvantage - between it and the most fanatical countries on the planet. Exaggeration? Vaginal probes? Ultrasound on fetuses? Arguments against contraception? Years ago, while the Iran hostage crisis was in full swing, our national broadcaster, the BBC, had an interview with an American historian, who said that in order to understand Iran, we had to understand that there was very little difference between the two countries. Imagine what that historian would say now, three decades later.

On another note, I would like to thank Ms Burns for her tireless work on this blog and NYTXaminer. It is much appreciated, although at my darkest moments, I hear her voice as one crying in the wilderness. Thank you very much for your good sense.

February 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTerence

Sorry! Read CBC, not BBC. I was listening to the BBC telling us of the death of Marie Colvin.

February 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTerence

Julie, my apologies for the avian gaffe. You're quite correct about birds. I have several feeders near our kitchen windows that allow us to observe their sociology up close. They seem much more able to negotiate turf disputes and group dynamics than many current politicians. And Zee, I'm always thrilled to hear from thoughtful members from the conservative ranks. I'm thinking that were I in your shoes I would bristle at the way the term "conservative" has been co-opted by those on the far right. When I think of conservatives I think of Theodore Roosevelt not Rick Santorum who is clearly out beyond the pale. And by the way, your self identification as a progressive Christian would make you, in Rick Santorums rheumy eyes no Christian at all. In fact, according to comments he made in 2008, you are the handmaid of the devil. I think (at least I hope) that it is this kind of complete intolerance of any who exhibit the tiniest difference from these buffoons that may eventually bring them down. Claims to be the sole source of the Truth of God, coming from hypocritical fools like Santorum should be a clear indication to real Christians that this guy is damaged. Spiritually, ethically, morally, and intellectually. The pathology of the Rick Santorums of the world would keep a psychology grad student busy for years. It used to be that hard times brought out the crazies. Certainly for many, these are hard times. The incredible part of this puzzle is the fact that a huge number of the difficulties in which we are embroiled stem from policies promoted by politicians like Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich.

The country is in dire need of two serious political parties (we'll leave aside Tom Friedman's third party for the nonce) who can work together when necessary and serve to balance each other when required. Right now we don't have that. We've got a Democratic Party so battered by decades of bullying that they've adopted a permanent shell to hide under. Then we've got a Republican Party that has sold its soul to the likes of Santorum.

What a state we're in!

February 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus
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