March 22, 2013 archive

Mar 22

NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament 2013: Day 4 Late Evening

A surfeit of games.

Time Network Seed Team Record Seed Team Record Region
9 TBS (7) San Diego State 22-10 (10) Oklahoma 20-11 South
9:30 CBS (7) Notre Dame 25-9 (10) Iowa State 22-11 West
9:30 TNT (1) Kansas 29-5 (16) Western Kentucky 20-15 South
9:30 True (6) UCLA 25-9 (11) Minnesota 20-12 South

Mar 22

Contrasts in equality

On Wednesday the Canadian House of Commons approved a bill that would make it illegal to discriminate against transgender people.  The bill passed without the support of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, but eighteen Conservatives, including four cabinet members, joined with the opposition New Democrats and others to pass the third reading of the bill 149-137.   photo garrison_zps9b11c611.jpgThe private member’s bill was sponsored by New Democrat MP Randall Garrison.

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has been pressing for LGBT rights in his travels abroad.  Baird, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, Labour Minister Lisa Raitt, and Heritage Minister James Moore split with Harper to support passage.

Today, New Democrats are proud to have contributed to ensuring equal protection under the law from discrimination and hatred based on gender identity.

Transgender and transsexual citizens are among the most marginalized and are too often victims of harassment and acts of violence.

–Garrison

Mar 22

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Mar 22

NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament 2013: Day 4 Early Evening

A plethora of games.

Time Network Seed Team Record Seed Team Record Region
6:30 TBS (2) Georgetown 25-6 (15) Florida Gulf Coast 24-10 South
7 CBS (2) Ohio State 26-7 (15) Iona 20 – 13 West
7 TNT (8) North Carolina 24-10 (9) Villanova 20-13 South
7 True (3) Florida 26-7 (14) Northwestern State 23-8 South

Mar 22

NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament 2013: Day 4 Late Afternoon

Games 5 through 8.

Time Network Seed Team Record Seed Team Record Region
2:30 CBS (7) Creighton 27-7 (10) Cincinnati 22-11 Midwest
3 True (4) Kansas State 27-7 (13) La Salle 21-9 West
4 TBS (1) Indiana 27-6 (16) James Madison 21-14 East
4:30 TNT (7) Illinois 22-12 (10) Colorado 21-11 East

Mar 22

NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament 2013: Day 3 Late Afternoon

Games 5 through 8.

Time Network Seed Team Record Seed Team Record Region
2:30 CBS (7) Creighton 27-7 (10) Cincinnati 22-11 Midwest
3 True (4) Kansas State 27-7 (13) La Salle 21-9 West
4 TBS (1) Indiana 27-6 (16) James Madison 21-14 East
4:30 TNT (7) Illinois 22-12 (10) Colorado 21-11 East

Mar 22

Cartnoon

Mar 22

NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament 2013: Day 4 Early Afternoon

It never stops.  It just never stops.

Sixteen more games today.

Time Network Seed Team Record Seed Team Record Region
noon CBS (2) Duke 25-4 (15) Albany 24-10 Midwest
12:30 True (5) Wisconsin 23-11 (12) Mississippi 26-8 West
1:30 TBS (8) NC State 24-10 (9) Temple 23-9 East
2 TNT (2) Miami 27-6 (15) Pacific 22-12 East

Mar 22

On This Day In History March 22

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.

March 22 is the 81st day of the year (82nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 284 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1784, the Emerald Buddha is moved with great ceremony to its current place in Wat Phra Kaew, Thailand.

The Emerald Buddha is the palladium of the Kingdom of Thailand, a figurine of the sitting Buddha, made of green jadeite (rather than emerald), clothed in gold, and about 45 cm tall. It is kept in the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew) on the grounds of the Grand Palace in Bangkok.

According to the legend, the Emerald Buddha was created in India in 43 BC by Nagasena in the city of Pataliputra (today’s Patna). The legends state that after remaining in Pataliputra for three hundred years, it was taken to Sri Lanka to save it from a civil war. In 457, King Anuruth of Burma sent a mission to Ceylon to ask for Buddhist scriptures and the Emerald Buddha, in order to support Buddhism in his country. These requests were granted, but the ship lost its way in a storm during the return voyage and landed in Cambodia. When the Thais captured Angkor Wat in 1432 (following the ravage of the bubonic plague), the Emerald Buddha was taken to Ayutthaya, Kamphaeng Phet, Laos and finally Chiang Rai, where the ruler of the city hid it. Cambodian historians recorded capture of the Buddha statue in their famous Preah Ko Preah Keo legend. However, some art historians describe the Emerald Buddha as belonging to the Chiang Saen Style of the 15th Century AD, which would mean it is actually of Lannathai origin.

Historical sources indicate that the statue surfaced in northern Thailand in the Lannathai kingdom in 1434. One account of its discovery tells that lightning struck a pagoda in a temple in Chiang Rai, after which, something became visible beneath the stucco. The Buddha was dug out, and the people believed the figurine to be made of emerald, hence its name. King Sam Fang Kaen of Lannathai wanted it in his capital, Chiang Mai, but the elephant carrying it insisted, on three separate occasions, on going instead to Lampang. This was taken as a divine sign and the Emerald Buddha stayed in Lampang until 1468, when it was finally moved to Chiang Mai, where it was kept at Wat Chedi Luang.

The Emerald Buddha remained in Chiang Mai until 1552, when it was taken to Luang Prabang, then the capital of the Lao kingdom of Lan Xang. Some years earlier, the crown prince of Lan Xang, Setthathirath, had been invited to occupy the vacant throne of Lannathai. However, Prince Setthathirath also became king of Lan Xang when his father, Photisarath, died. He returned home, taking the revered Buddha figure with him. In 1564, King Setthathirath moved it to his new capital at Vientiane.

In 1779, the Thai General Chao Phraya Chakri put down an insurrection, captured Vientiane and returned the Emerald Buddha to Siam, taking it with him to Thonburi. After he became King Rama I of Thailand, he moved the Emerald Buddha with great ceremony to its current home in Wat Phra Kaew on March 22, 1784. It is now kept in the main building of the temple, the Ubosoth.

Mar 22

Muse in the Morning

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Muse in the Morning


Triple 31

Mar 22

The Legacy of the US in Iraq

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Warning: The video below the fold in this article contains very disturbing pictures that may be difficult for many to watch.

It is now ten years since the the United States launched its illegal invasion of Iraq based on a string of lies about non-existent weapons of mass destruction and wild accusations of Sadaam Hussein’s connection to Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden and 9/11, all for control of Iraq’s oil riches by one evil man, Richard “Dick” Cheney. What the US has left behind is a devastated country:

Ten years ago, Iraqis, even if they had originally opposed them, hoped that the US invasion and occupation would at least bring an end to the suffering they had endured under UN sanctions and other disasters stemming from defeat in the first Gulf War in 1991. Today, people in Baghdad complain that they still live in a permanent state of crisis because of sectarian and criminal violence, pervasive corruption, a broken infrastructure and a dysfunctional government. Many Iraqis say that what they want in 2013 is the same as what they wanted in 2003, which is a visa enabling them to move to another country, where they can get a job.

But even worse, the US left a health care crisis that will last for generations, not just the lack of care and hospitals but a legacy of horrific birth defects and cancer that has been caused by depleted uranium (DU) contamination. DU, along with lead and mercury, was contained in the armor plating and ammunition used in attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan. The high rates of double and triple cancers, as well as miscarriages, still births and bizarre birth defects, in the cities of Basra and Falluja, have been blamed on DU by researchers. A study published in the Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology (pdf) that focused on maternity hospitals in the cities of Basra and Fallujah opens with this stunning paragraph:

Between October 1994 and October 1995, the number of birth defects per 1,000 live births in Al Basrah Maternity Hospital was 1.37. In 2003, the number of birth defects in Al Basrah Maternity Hospital was 23 per 1,000 livebirths. Within less than a decade, the occurrence of congenital birth defects increased by an astonishing 17-fold in the same hospital.  A yearly account of the occurrence and types of birth defects, between 2003 and 2011, in Al Basrah Maternity Hospital, was reported. Metal levels in hair, toe-nail, and tooth samples of residents of Al Basrah were also provided. The enamel portion of the deciduous tooth from a child with birth defects from Al Basrah (4.19 lg/g) had nearly three times higher lead than the whole teeth of children living in unimpacted areas. Lead was 1.4 times higher in the tooth enamel of parents of children with birth defects (2,497± 1,400 lg/g, mean±SD) compared to parents of

normal children (1,826± 1,819 lg/g).

The article concludes:

Present knowledge on the effects of prenatal exposure to metals, combined with our results, suggests that the bombardment of Al Basrah and Fallujah may have exacerbated public exposure to metals, possibly culminating in the current epidemic of birth defects. Large-scale epidemiological studies are necessary to identify at-risk populations in Iraq. The recognition that birth defects reported from Iraq are mainly folate-dependent offers possible treatment options to protect at-risk populations.

From Mike Ludwig at Truthout, there are currently over 300 contaminated sites that are in need of decontamination.

In 2012, European researchers visited a scrap metal site in Al Zubayr, an area near Basrah in southern Iraq. A local police officer told them that the site had at one time held military scrap metal from the bloody battles waged during the American invasion. A local guard told the researchers that children had been seen playing on the scrap during that time, and both adults and children had worked disassembling the military leftovers. At one point, the guard said, members of an international organization with equipment and white suits showed up, told guards that the site was very dangerous and “quickly ran off.” [..]

There are between 300 and 365 sites where depleted uranium contamination was identified by Iraqi authorities the years following the 2003 US invasion, with an estimated cleanup cost of $30 million to $45 million, according to a report recently released by IKV Pax Christi. Iraqi authorities are currently cleaning up the sites, mostly located in the Basrah region, and 30 to 35 sites still need to be decontaminated.

Mar 22

The Cyprus Game of Chicken

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Cyrus banks will remain closed until Tuesday as the government of Pres. Nicos Anastasiades struggles to find away to avert a banking failure and withdrawal from the euro.

Crisis talks among the political leadership in Nicosia are set to resume on Thursday after late-night meetings to discuss a “Plan B” broke up on Wednesday without result.

EU officials voiced frustration but little sympathy for an ambitious but now bust banking system that extended itself well beyond the island; Russia, whose citizens have billions to lose in those Cypriot banks, called the EU a “bull in a china shop”. [..]

Finance Minister Michael Sarris extended a stay in Moscow, where Russian officials said he asked for a further 5 billion euros on top of a five-year extension and lower interest on an existing 2.5-billion euro loan from Moscow.

According to Yves Smith at naked capitalism not all of Cyprus’ banks are in the same shape and “the back story is complicated”

It’s key to understand that this crisis was created by the Troika. Cyprus asked for a bailout nine months ago and the deadline is a bond payment this June. And while it has become fashionable to pin the blame for this mess on Cyprus, the backstory is more complicated. From Cyprus.com:

   Not all the banks are in the same condition.

   (a) Cyprus has two money-center type banks: Laiki (Popular) Bank and Bank of Cyprus.

   (b) Laiki was purchased by a Greek vehicle (Marfin Investment Group) backed by Gulf money. Marfin’s purchase of Laiki took Laiki from being a fairly conservative local bank to being highly exposed to Greece. Laiki is definitely insolvent and needs to be restructured.

   (c) Bank of Cyprus has been more conservative vis-a-vis Greece, but still has meaningful exposure. It is conceivable that, given time, Bank of Cyprus could survive.

   (d) Beyond the main two banks, there is Hellenic Bank (a much smaller bank with much less Greek exposure), Cyprus Development Bank (no Greek exposure), the Co-ops (no Greek exposure) and the Cyprus subsidiaries of foreign banks (aka, Russian, English, etc banks), also with no Greek exposure.

   (e) All the local oriented banks (BoC, Laiki, Hellenic, Coops) have exposure to the local real estate market that went through a bubble during the 2000-2009 period. This exposure however is not short-term and could be resolved over the period of years. It is a problem, not a crisis, and is offset by the fact that the two main banks have quasi-monopolistic earnings power locally. Given the time and some financial represssion (a la the United States) and the local issues would be manageable.

In other words, the bank that is the epicenter of the problem was driven into the ditch by foreign buyers. Now admittedly, the local bank supervisors did nothing to stop that, but can you point to a single national bank regulator (ex the Canadians) that put much in the way of constraints on their banks prior to the crisis.

Paul Krugman’s take on this:

Still trying to wrap my head around the Cyprus situation; what makes it so interesting (as in “may you live in interesting times”) is the role of the island as a tax, regulation, and law enforcement haven.

It’s not just about the Russian connection, but that connection is really huge. Here’s another metric: Cyprus is, according to official figures, the largest single foreign direct investor in Russia – this from an economy roughly the same size as metropolitan Scranton PA. What’s that about? The FT explained it a while back: [..]

And a key aspect of the current mess is that the Cypriot government isn’t willing to give up this business. That’s why solutions like converting large deposits into CDs haven’t been on the table; once round-tripping Russians know that they can find their money trapped for long periods, they’ll go find another treasure island.

Stay tuned for more to come.

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