Good morning on Wednesday, January 13, 2021: National Peach Melba Day, a dish of peaches, vanilla ice cream, and raspberry sauce, said to have been invented by the great French chef Escoffier to honor his friend, Australian opera singer Nellie Melba. (Melba has the honor of having two comestibles named after her: the other is Melba toast.) Although the preceding link calls the dessert “one of the most famous and beloved desserts in the world,” I’ve never had it. Has anyone?
Wine of the Day: A lovely Austrian Riesling (I don’t drink many Austrian wines and consider Grüner Veltliner overrated). It accompanied a simple dinner of rice and Trader Joe’s Channa Masala, a dish of curried chickpeas. It’s a simple meal for when you don’t want to cook, is authentic in its taste (and spicy), but also requires a good, fruity wine to wash it down. I was pleased to find that the Riesling, described as “bone dry”, was not: it was off dry, and that touch of sweetness went well with the dish. At 12.5%, the wine is low in alcohol.
News of the Day: I can’t seem to get away from Trump, impeachment and the Capitol riots. And somehow I don’t think Trump will go gentle into his retirement. Here’s one tweet that I find reassuring, though the need for it isn’t reassuring. The Joint Chiefs of Staff all signed a letter disavowing violence like that occurring at the Capitol (and may occur again in the next few days), and emphasizing that their brief is to defend the Constitution. The letter is in the tweet below or, if you can’t read it, at this link.
"The violent riot in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6, 2021 was a direct assault on the U.S. Congress, the Capitol building, and our Constitutional process." — Message to the Joint Force from Joint Chiefs Chair Gen. Mark Milley and the rest of the Joint Chiefs. pic.twitter.com/coIh9yqEpI
— Katie Bo Williams (@KatieBoWill) January 12, 2021
And, as CNN reports, it’s unprecedented for the Joint Chiefs to issue a statement like this,
America’s most senior military leaders condemned the violent invasion of the US Capitol last week and reminded service members of their obligation to support and defend the Constitution and reject extremism in a statement that underscored the unprecedented challenges facing the country in the aftermath of the January 6 insurrection attempt by President Donald Trump’s supporters.
“We witnessed actions inside the Capitol building that were inconsistent with the rule of law. The rights of freedom of speech and assembly do not give anyone the right to resort to violence, sedition and insurrection,” said the statement, released Tuesday and signed by America’s most senior general, Mark Milley, and the entire Joint Chiefs of Staff, which is comprised of the heads of each military branch
The extraordinary statement underscores the scale of the challenge and the depth of the uncertainty and concern in Washington, where officials across the US security establishment scramble to deal with the aftermath of the chaos at the Capitol, and around the country, as all 50 states are preparing for possible violence.
Trump has also absolved himself of any responsibility for inciting the invasion of the Capitol:
“People thought that what I said was totally appropriate,” Trump said.
Yes, some did, but not the sane ones.
On the upside, Mitch “666” McConnell may lose one of his 6s. According to the New York Times, McConnell privately backs the impeachment proceedings against Trump, but, although the Senators are starting to break ranks, we still need 17 Republican Senators to vote to convict before the Orange Man gets his punishment. Oh, and the third most powerful Republican in the House, Liz Cheney, is also voting in favor of impeachment, which is pretty much a done deal since it requires just a majority in the House:
“The president of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack,” Ms. Cheney said in a statement. “There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”
For those who thought the Capitol rioters would at best get a slap on the wrist, relax. The New York Times reports that many more arrests are in the offing, and some protestors are going to get hit with very serious charges:
The top federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C., said on Tuesday that more than 70 people tied to the Capitol riot had been charged with crimes and that he expected that number to rise into the hundreds, with prosecutors looking at charging some rioters with sedition and conspiracy.
. . . In addition to pursuing possible charges of seditious conspiracy, which is defined as an effort by two or more people to overthrow the government or use force to hinder its operations, investigators are also prioritizing investigations into attacks against police officers, theft of confidential information from the Capitol and attacks against reporters.
If you go to the link above, you’ll find out what “seditious conspiracy” means:
Current federal criminal code defines “seditious conspiracy” as an effort by two or more people “to conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof.”
It also appears to mean long prison terms.
More arrests to come in the storming of the Capitol. The Washington Post reports that cellphone records and extensive video will be the petard on which the rioters are hoisted:
Phone records make determining the owners of these devices trivially easy. Congressional investigators and federal prosecutors can also identify devices and users who may have connected wittingly or automatically to congressional guest WiFi networks — unless rioters made a point of deactivating their devices or leaving them behind during the takeover.
The countless hours of video — much of it taken by the rioters themselves and uploaded to social media — also offers an ideal data set for facial recognition. Many scenes were captured from multiple angles, with good lighting, over several minutes. Few people wore masks. While facial recognition technology often struggles to reliably identify people with dark skin, the large majority of the Trump supporters who entered the Capitol on Wednesday appeared to be White.
Lock ’em up!
Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 380,878, a big increase of about 4,400 deaths from yesterday’s figure, or about 3 deaths per minute. In roughly a week we’ll pass 400,000 deaths: double what the most pessimistic pundits thought we’d have. The world death toll is 1,972,380, a big increase of about 17,200 deaths over yesterday’s total. That’s about 12 deaths a minute, or one every five seconds. We’ll pass 2 million deaths worldwide in just a couple of days.
Stuff that happened on January 13 includes:
Here’s the 1822 flag with the modern flag below it:
I’ll put a space here because I don’t want the designs to run together:
- 1842 – Dr. William Brydon, an assistant surgeon in the British East India Company Army during the First Anglo-Afghan War, becomes famous for being the sole survivor of an army of 4,500 men and 12,000 camp followers when he reaches the safety of a garrison in Jalalabad, Afghanistan.
Actually, he was the sole European survivor; several Indian sepoys survived as well.
- 1879 – In Mozart Gardens Brooklyn Ada Anderson completed a great feat of pedestrianism – 2700 quarter miles in 2700 quarter hours, earning her $8000.
Anderson had to be awake except for her short rest periods, and finished the feat. 2700 quarter hours is 28 days, and induces severe sleep deprivation.
- 1888 – The National Geographic Society is founded in Washington, D.C.
- 1898 – Émile Zola‘s J’accuse…! exposes the Dreyfus affair.
This famous essay, which got Zola convicted of libel (he fled to England), also helped free Dreyfus from his conviction for espionage, though Dreyfus was not exonerated until 1906. Here’s Zola’s famous defense of Dreyfus in L’Aurore:
- 1910 – The first public radio broadcast takes place; a live performance of the operas Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci are sent out over the airwaves from the Metropolitan Opera House in New York.
- 1942 – World War II: First use of an aircraft ejection seat by a German test pilot in a Heinkel He 280 jet fighter.
Here’s a more recent ejection from 2003: “Capt. Christopher Stricklin ejects from his F-16 aircraft with an ACES II ejection seat on 14 September 2003 at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho. Stricklin was not injured.” Caption from Wikipedia, and video is here. Note that Stricklin says that this was considered an “unsurvivable ejection” because he and his parachute landed in the plane’s fireball.
- 1953 – An article appears in Pravda accusing some of the most prestigious and prominent doctors, mostly Jews, in the Soviet Union of taking part in a vast plot to poison members of the top Soviet political and military leadership.
- 1966 – Robert C. Weaver becomes the first African American Cabinet member when he is appointed United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
- 1968 – Johnny Cash performs live at Folsom State Prison.
- 1982 – Shortly after takeoff, Air Florida Flight 90, a Boeing 737 jet, crashes into Washington, D.C.‘s 14th Street Bridge and falls into the Potomac River, killing 78 including four motorists.
Harvard entomologist Bob Silberglied, a lovely guy whom many of us knew at the Museum of Comparative Zoology, was one of those killed. He’s still the only person I knew who died in a plane crash.
- 1990 – Douglas Wilder becomes the first elected African American governor as he takes office as Governor of Virginia in Richmond, Virginia
Notables born on this day include:
- 1808 – Salmon P. Chase, American jurist and politician, 6th Chief Justice of the United States (d. 1873)
It’s a little known fact that Salmon Chase was depicted on the highest-value American currency ever circulated, the $10,000 bill. Chase was one of only 3 people to appear on currency who was not a President. Can you name the others? Heeeeeere’s Salmon!:
- 1832 – Horatio Alger, Jr., American novelist and journalist (d. 1899)
- 1893 – Chaim Soutine, Belarusian-French painter (d. 1943)
I’m a fan of this expressionist painter. Here’s his “Cagnes Landscape with Tree,” painted in 1926-26:
- 1924 – Paul Feyerabend, Austrian-Swiss philosopher and academic (d. 1994)
- 1927 – Sydney Brenner, South African biologist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 2019)
Matthew wrote an obituary on Brenner, a titanic figure in modern biology. To interview him, Matthew traveled to sweltering Singapore, where Brenner lived during his last years. One upshot was a half-hour BBC program featuring Matthew’s conversation with Brenner and his take on Brenner’s life and career. You can listen to that interview here.
In this photo, Brenner is on the extreme right. But there are a number of other famous molecular geneticists here. Can you name any?
- 1938 – Cabu, French cartoonist (d. 2015)
Cabu was one of the artists killed in the attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices.
- 1961 – Wayne Coyne, American singer-songwriter and musician
I don’t really know who Wayne Coyne is, but I put him up because he might be a distant relative.
Those who crossed the River Styx on this day include:
- 858 – Æthelwulf, king of Wessex
- 1864 – Stephen Foster, American composer and songwriter (b. 1826)
- 1929 – Wyatt Earp, American police officer (b. 1848)
- 1941 – James Joyce, Irish novelist, short story writer, and poet (b. 1882)
- 1956 – Lyonel Feininger, German-American painter and illustrator (b. 1871)
Feininger is also one of my favorite artists, and underappreciated. Here’s one of his paintings:
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, “Jerry Maguire” Hili says “Show me the label!”
Hili: Show me the label of this cat food.A: Why?Hili: I have to check “best before” date.
Hili: Pokaż mi opakowanie tej karmy.Ja: Dlaczego?Hili: Muszę sprawdzić datę ważności.
And here’s Szaron on Andrzej’s desk, looking sleepy:
From Facebook: This scam has irked me for a long time! Under this nefarious scheme, you have to buy four packages of dogs and 5 of buns to come out even:
A tweet from Barry. Assuming this is the North American Baltimore Oriole, it is not at all customary for them to overwinter where there’s snow. They do like fruit, though. I’m glad this one was happy.
A rare sight in winter this little oriole stayed north and saw him eating suet pieces that fell from my feeder. After spotting him a few times I hung out an orange for him and he’s super happy. Watched him return many times to feeder.#birding #birdphotography #NaturePhotography pic.twitter.com/sauCwO4psL
— DiamondLynne (@DiamondLynne1) January 11, 2021
Tweets from Matthew, who calls this first one “grimly impressive.” Indeed.
Going through old photos, I found this one with a Crab Spider (Thomisidae) with eyes bigger than their sucking stomach. pic.twitter.com/25jhyeZ00o
— All Bugs Go To Kevin (@AllBugsGo2Kevin) January 11, 2021
A beautiful flashing ctenophore:
— ༺❆ᗙ Martin 🏳️🌈 ᗛ❆༻ ¸.•*´¯*⊱• ⁛҉ (@KlatuBaradaNiko) January 11, 2021
Forgetting passwords is a bad business, but this one’s especially bad, as it may cost the hapless guy $220 million:
— Steadman™ (@AsteadWesley) January 12, 2021
A lovely cover for Birding Magazine. It almost looks as if the woodpecker were a hero in a Marvel Comic:
— Frank Izaguirre (@BirdIzLife) January 12, 2021
This is very sad. I importuned Matthew to go and take his daughters, but, as he told me when he sent me this tweet, “I never got a chance to go. . . ”
— AboutManchester (@AboutMcr) January 12, 2021
University of Alabama students violate pandemic restrictions big time! It’s a football victory, of course.
Tuscaloosa tonight. pic.twitter.com/1rQhydSH6z
— Alina Stefanescu (@aliner) January 12, 2021
Finally, can you guess what this invention is? Like the polio vaccine (never patented by Salk), it’s a lifesaver. Answer is in the thread.
In 1959, a Swedish engineer at Volvo patented what would become one of the greatest inventions of all time
Volvo stood to make billions
But after a meeting with Volvo's President, he decided to give it away for free – and it changed the world
Here’s how that meeting went 🧶👇
— Ankith Harathi (@ankithharathi) January 12, 2021