August 11, 2012 archive

Meanwhile in Afghanistan

Afghan policeman kills 10 fellow policemen

By DEB RIECHMANN, Associated Press

3 hrs ago

An Afghan police officer killed at least 10 of his fellow officers on Saturday, a day after six U.S. service members were gunned down by their Afghan partners in summer violence that has both international and Afghan forces questioning who is friend or foe.

A day earlier, two Afghans shot and killed six American service members Friday in neighboring Helmand province in the south where insurgents have wielded their greatest influence.

In the first attack, an Afghan police officer shot and killed three Marines after sharing a pre-dawn meal with them in the volatile Sangin district, according to Afghan officials.

Then at around 9 p.m. Friday in the Garmser district farther south, an Afghan working on an installation shared by coalition and Afghan forces shot and killed three other international troops, said Maj. Lori Hodge, a spokesman for the coalition in Kabul. A U.S. defense official confirmed the three victims also were Americans.

Attacks where Afghan security forces or insurgents disguised in their uniforms kill foreign troops have spiked with four such attacks in the past week. There have been 26 such attacks so far this year, resulting in 34 deaths, according to the U.S.-led coalition.

Perseids 2012

The Perseids are the remnants of Comet Swift-Tuttle and stretch all the way around its 130 year orbit because it’s falling apart.  First historically recorded about 2,000 years ago the main current debris source is a chunk that fell off more or less 1,000 years later and a stream from 1862.  This year’s display is expected to be exceptionally active because of the numeric density of the material the Earth will pass through.

Perseid meteor shower: NASA explains why it’ll be the year’s best

By Rene Lynch, Los Angeles Times

August 10, 2012

But the Perseid meteor shower is only part of the treat in store for stargazers, NASA says.

“The brightest planets in the solar system are lining up right in the middle of the [Perseid] display,” NASA says. Specifically, “Jupiter, Venus and the crescent moon are gathering together just as the Perseid meteor shower reaches its peak.”

The red giant star Aldebaran will also be visible, “adding a splash of color to the gathering,” NASA says.

The three celestial orbs will make for a brilliant, three-point line in the sky, all surrounded by shooting stars. The display is expected to be best seen in the eastern skies and in the early morning hours before sunrise.

The show will get better as the weekend winds down. Early Monday, the increasingly narrowing moon will pass even closer to Venus, as Jupiter “hovers” overhead, according to NASA.

“Star-watchers say there’s nothing prettier than a close encounter between the slender crescent moon and Venus. Nothing that is, except for the crescent moon, Venus and a flurry of Perseids.”

Viewing conditions might not be the best, especially in the Northeast, but should get better by sunrise.

Perseid meteor shower peaks tonight, best places to view it

David Epstein,

August 11, 2012

Much of Texas, the Ohio Valley, Tennessee, the northern parts of Alabama, Mississippi and the Rockies look to have favorable sky conditions. parts of Florida and a good deal of the West Coast will also be mainly clear.

If you live where it is expected to be cloudy, like here in the northeast, it is still worth looking up later tonight. Last evening we had big thunderstorms in the area but early this morning it cleared enough to see some of the meteors in the Massachusetts area. The same thing could very easily happen across the northeast later tonight.

On Saturday the 11th, leading into the 12th, expect about 25-60 meteors per hour. You won’t see the meteors evenly spread out over time. You may see nothing for five minutes and then four or more in a row a minute later. Lie on a blanket and look up rather than stand. If you stand with your neck tilted up, you will have neck issues in the morning. On Sunday night, heading into the morning of the 13th there will be fewer meteors per hour, but still a nice show. The best time to see this will be around 2AM-3AM, but if you don’t want to wait till then it’s still worthwhile once it gets dark.


Now, where’s my Bud.  Thank goodness all those froo-froo sports are done sucking up the TV Box and we can get back to NASCAR and the NFL.

On This Day In History August 11

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

August 11 is the 223rd day of the year (224th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 142 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1934, the first Federal prisoners arrived at Alcatraz.

A group of federal prisoners classified as “most dangerous” arrives at Alcatraz Island, a 22-acre rocky outcrop situated 1.5 miles offshore in San Francisco Bay. The convicts–the first civilian prisoners to be housed in the new high-security penitentiary–joined a few dozen military prisoners left over from the island’s days as a U.S. military prison.

Alcatraz was an uninhabited seabird haven when it was explored by Spanish Lieutenant Juan Manuel de Ayala in 1775. He named it Isla de los Alcatraces, or “Island of the Pelicans.” Fortified by the Spanish, Alcatraz was sold to the United States in 1849. In 1854, it had the distinction of housing the first lighthouse on the coast of California. Beginning in 1859, a U.S. Army detachment was garrisoned there, and from 1868 Alcatraz was used to house military criminals. In addition to recalcitrant U.S. soldiers, prisoners included rebellious Indian scouts, American soldiers fighting in the Philippines who had deserted to the Filipino cause, and Chinese civilians who resisted the U.S. Army during the Boxer Rebellion. In 1907, Alcatraz was designated the Pacific Branch of the United States Military Prison.

In 1934, Alcatraz was fortified into a high-security federal penitentiary designed to hold the most dangerous prisoners in the U.S. penal system, especially those with a penchant for escape attempts. The first shipment of civilian prisoners arrived on August 11, 1934. Later that month, more shiploads arrived, featuring, among other convicts, infamous mobster Al Capone. In September, George “Machine Gun” Kelly, another luminary of organized crime, landed on Alcatraz.

By decision of Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, the penitentiary was closed on March 21, 1963. It was closed because it was far more expensive to operate than other prisons (nearly $10 per prisoner per day, as opposed to $3 per prisoner per day at Atlanta), half a century of salt water saturation  had severely eroded the buildings, and the bay was being badly polluted by the sewage from the approximately 250 inmates and 60 Bureau of Prisons families on the island. The United States Penitentiary in Marion, Illinois, a traditional land-bound prison, opened that same year to serve as a replacement for Alcatraz.

The entire Alcatraz Island was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976, and was further declared a National Historic Landmark in 1986. In 1993, the National Park Service published a plan entitled Alcatraz Development Concept and Environmental Assessment.  This plan, approved in 1980, doubled the amount of Alcatraz accessible to the public to enable visitors to enjoy its scenery and bird, marine, and animal life, such as the California slender salamander.

Today American Indian groups such as the International Indian Treaty Council hold ceremonies on the island, most notably, their “Sunrise Gatherings” every Columbus and Thanksgiving Day.


Odd what you can find.  Complete.  One of those films you should put on your bucket list.

Fritz LangMetropolis 1927 (2:30)

Part 1 (50:43)

Part 2 (50:42)

Part 3 (50:41)

Late Night Karaoke

Random Japan



Two women in western Japan are suing the operator of a yoga studio for threatening them with possession by evil spirits if they didn’t fork over millions of yen. They’re being supported in their efforts by the delightfully named National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales.

A professor at Keio University has developed a robot that can pass along the sensation of the things it touches to human hands.

A trio of climbers was arrested for attempting to scale Nachi Falls in Wakayama Prefecture. The falls and a nearby shrine are both UNESCO World Heritage sites, which led the head of the shrine to say the stunt was “an insult to our religion.”

Meanwhile, a delegation from UNESCO will travel to Gunma to judge whether the Tomioka silk mill is worthy of World Heritage status. The mill was established by the government way back in 1872.

Popular Culture 20120810: Jethro Tull, the Beginning

One of the most complicated bands in many ways is the British band Jethro Tull.  They are complicated in their music, extremely complicated in their personnel, and almost mind bogglingly complicated in insofar as why I adore a limited set of their work and either care not a fig or actually dislike the rest.  I have such a love/hate relationship for any other band.

I do not understand why I feel this way, but I do.  At their best, they are superb.  When they are a bit off they are still better than most bands, but the material that I dislike is just awful, at least in my view.

This is why it has taken me so long to get started with this series.  I generally try to write about things that I have unambiguous feelings, usually bands that I really like.  Sometimes I write about horrible acts, like Ray Stevens, who really never did anything of real merit.  But to write about a band that can move me greatly with some material and with other material make me say, “What IS that?” is quite different.  Please bear with me!

DC to institute campaign against anti-transgender discrimination

The District of Columbia has had recent problems vis-a-vis the transgender community, what with a rash of transwomen being shot or otherwise killed, including at least one time by an off-duty police officer.  In 2000 a government study of the DC trans community showed a 42% unemployment rate and that 47% of the community did not have health insurance.

The study also indicated that in order to survive, many transpeople resorted to sex work.  MPD responded to that news by instituting a policy of using condom possession as evidence of prostitution.

These actions discourage sex workers from using condoms, increasing the risk of HIV-a particularly worrisome possibility for transgender people in the District, where the rate is already so high across the population, says Megan McLemore, a senior researcher in the Health and Human Rights Division of Human Rights Watch.

As you might imagine, this has caused a lot of tension between transpeople and the city government.  Imagine our surprise, then when the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights announced that it will launch what it believes is the first government-funded campaign aimed at stopping anti-transgender discrimination.  The effort will commence in late summer/early fall.