Good morning on the end of the work week, Friday, February 11, 2022: National Peppermint Patty Day, honoring not the Peanuts character, but this one:
It’s also National No One Eats Alone Day (but many do), Get Out Your Guitar Day, National Make a Friend Day, International Winter Bike to Work Day (note: only in the Northern Hemisphere!), National Don’t Cry Over Spilled Milk Day (what’s the point—it was determined by the laws of physics), Inventors’ Day, and a UN holiday: International Day of Women and Girls in Science.
News of the Day:
*Tensions continue to mount in the Ukraine, with Russian troops massing not only on the Russian side of the border, but in Belarus as well, where they’re performing “joint military exercises”. I still think that is is one hell of a bluff if Putin is indeed bluffing, and my prediction is that Russia will invade by February 20.
Can you bear to hear Boris Johnson’s assessment of the crisis (given at the AP site)?:
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Thursday the Ukraine crisis has grown into “the most dangerous moment” for Europe in decades, while his top diplomat held icy talks with her Moscow counterpart who said the Kremlin won’t accept lectures from the West.
Amid the deadlock, Russian forces held sweeping maneuvers north of Ukraine in Belarus, part of a buildup of over 100,000 troops that has stoked Western fears of an invasion.
NATO also has stepped up military deployments to bolster its eastern flank, with the U.S. sending troops to Poland and Romania. A British Royal Air Force jet carrying 350 troops landed Thursday in Poland in a move that followed London sending anti-tank missiles to Ukraine to help boost its defenses.
“This is probably the most dangerous moment, I would say in the course of the next few days, in what is the biggest security crisis that Europe has faced for decades, and we’ve got to get it right,” Johnson said at NATO headquarters in Brussels.
Further, a meeting between Russian and British diplomats yesterday was a miserable failure, and now Biden is threatening Putin with a ridiculous claim: he’ll “do something” about the finished Russian/Germany Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline if the Russians invade. The thing is, there is absolutely nothing the U.S. can do about that pipeline: Germany needs the gas and Russia needs the dosh. We have no control about the pipeline, and only if Germany wants to make a big sacrifice for nothing would they not allow the pipeline to start transporting natural gas. After all, forty percent of Europe’s natural gas comes from Russia.
*Shades of Rose Mary Woods! Investigation of Trump’s actions in the White House, and during the January 6 assault on the Capitol, is suggesting some pretty unsavory stuff. First of all, records of phone calls to and from Trump right after he made his speech on January 6 appear to be missing, despite several people who swear that they talked to Trump during this period. This is likely not illegal, but it’s unethical:
The call logs obtained by the [January 6]committee document who was calling the White House switchboard, and any calls that were being made from the White House to others. Mr. Trump had a habit throughout his presidency of circumventing that system, making it far more difficult to discern with whom he was communicating.
Second, there are reports that Trump, leaving the White House, took with him documents marked “classified” and “Top Secret” to Mar-a-Lago. This is a violation of the law.
While it was unclear how many classified documents were among those received by the National Archives and Records Administration, some bore markings that the information was extremely sensitive and would be limited to a small group of officials with authority to view such highly classified information, the two people familiar with the matter said.
Finally, Maggie Halberman’s forthcoming book on Trump, “Confidence Man,” (due out in October), reports that—wait for it— when he was President, “staff in the White House residence periodically discovered wads of printed paper clogging a toilet — and believed the president had flushed pieces of paper.”
Trump denies the illegal flushing as “fake news”.
*The NYT finally “outed” the Russian figure-skater who tested positive for a banned drug—a drug usually given to those with heart disease, but could improve athletic function.. She was on the Russian team that got the gold medal as a group, but it’s possible (and would be reprehensible) if the team retained the gold and she’s allowed to compete in the individual event coming up.
The skater, Kamila Valieva, already considered one of the top athletes in the sport, was found to have trimetazidine, a banned heart medication, in her system, according to a statement Friday from the International Testing Agency. The drug, which is not approved for use in the United States, is believed to improve endurance by helping the heart work more efficiently. Several top athletes, including the Chinese swimmer Sun Yang and the Russian bobsledder Nadezhda Sergeeva, have served doping bans in recent years after testing positive for the drug.
The revelation has upended the Olympic skating competition and generated a slew of questions, including whether Valieva, who was favored to win the individual event next week, will be allowed to compete and whether Russia will be awarded its team gold medal. The United States, led by the men’s gold medalist Nathan Chen, finished second in that event.
As one person commented:
Why a 15 year old with wide open coronary arteries would need a drug to enhance her heart function is beyond comprehension, unless it is a sort of Dumbo’s magic feather–something given to the performer to make her (and her coaches) believe it gives her some sort of edge.
Here’s Valieva’s short presentation in the team event:
*On Friday Luc Montagnier, one of the discovers of the retrovirus that causes AIDS, died at 89. He was part of a brutal scientific dustup about who really discovered HIV, with his rival being Robert Gallo at the NIH. But Montagnier and his colleague Françoise Barré-Sinoussi published first—in a 1983 paper in Science. It later turned out that Gallo’s “HIV” strain was from the same patient as the French one, and that didn’t look good. Montagier sued Gallo, and the case was settled by none other than Jonas Salk, Mr. Polio. In the end, the 2008 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine went to Montagier and Barré-Sinoussi alone.
*It looks as if Harvard is covering up a case of sexual misconduct by a professor, and has done so in a particularly nefarious way. The Daily Kos reports that Harvard anthropology professor John Comaroff, who, along with his wife Jean, was hired by Harvard from the University of Chicago in 2012, is accused of multiple instances of sexual harassment in a lawsuit filed by three graduate students. (It’s John, not Jean, who is accused.):
The plaintiffs allege that Comaroff didn’t just kiss and grope and make unacceptable sexual comments to women over whom he had power. He explicitly threatened people’s careers if they objected to or reported his behavior. And Harvard, after hiring him despite knowing about this pattern of behavior, allowed him to continue.
Complaints to a university official responsible for handling sexual harassment were useless, even though in one case, the official was able to guess who a complaint was about before the accuser named Comaroff. The same official discouraged one woman from pursuing an official complaint. In another instance, an unnamed student’s complaint against Comaroff was read aloud to her by Comaroff himself in a successful effort to get her to withdraw it. He also threatened the career prospects of a postdoctoral fellow who had encouraged that student to report the harassment.
One of the most unsavory allegations, which appears to be true, is that in defending itself, Harvard somehow obtained the confidential records of one plaintiff’s’ therapist without the plaintiff’s consent, and then made those records available to Comaroff. When this became public, 34 of 38 Harvard professors who signed a letter defending Comaroff retracted their signature. I think the case is still going on, and Harvard better pay those women a handsome sum. Stealing confidential records from therapy is a huge no-no! Michelle Goldberg wrote an op-ed about this at the NYT (h/t Scott)
*Over at Bari Weiss’s Substack, an article by Rupa Subramanya, “What the truckers want“. Nope, it’s not vaccination, as they need to be vaccinated to cross the border. Nor is it their objection to vaccination in particular. It’s POPULISM, Jake:
The convoy is spearheaded by truckers, but its message of opposition to life under government control has brought onto the icy streets countless, once-voiceless people declaring that they are done being ignored. That the elites—the people who have Zoomed their way through the pandemic—had better start paying attention to the fentanyl overdoses, the suicides, the crime, the despair. Or else.
In other words, the American truckers might vote for Trump if either Biden or Trudeau don’t do something. This conclusion, while it might be true, is also lame, and the reportage thin. I think that if the truckers want to commit civil disobedience by disobeying the law in a peaceful protest (it’s not really peaceful, as they’re blowing their damn horns as loud as they can), then the Canadian government should arrest the truckers.
*From reader Ken:
If you’ve ever pondered what the connection between ice fishing and prostitution is, Hudson OH mayor Craig Shubert has helpfully provided some “data points” for you to consider:
* A piece at the Guardian recounts the bittersweet gift of a Teddy bear. Reader Jez sent me the link yesterday because it was Teddy Bear Day. Watch the short YouTube video below. Here are the notes:
Why did a teddy bear bring this teen to tears? Taylor McCormack’s Christmas present from her sister was a remembrance of her best friend, Rodney, who died in 2020 when he reportedly drowned in a canal in Manchester, England. This custom bear contained a recording of Rodney’s voice.
*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 914,333, an increase of 2,575 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,810,892, an increase of about 12,700 over yesterday’s total.
Stuff that happened on February 11 include:
- 660 BC – Traditional date for the foundation of Japan by Emperor Jimmu.
A print of the first Emperor; caption from Wikipedia:
- 1534 – Henry VIII of England is recognized as supreme head of the Church of England.
- 1794 – First session of United States Senate opens to the public.
- 1808 – Jesse Fell burns anthracite on an open grate as an experiment in heating homes with coal.
The Pennsylvanian discovered that a draft from the bottom would make hard coal a viable heating material, and this helped spark the industrial revolution.
And its this cartoon that gave the term its name (caption from Wikipedia):
- 1826 – University College London is founded as University of London.
- 1858 – Bernadette Soubirous‘s first vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Lourdes, France.
She died at 35 of tuberculosis but Lourdes is still a flourishing mecca for medical religiosity. You can find a list of 70 official “miracle healings” here. Jesus is very selective about whom he helps!
- 1938 – BBC Television produces the world’s first ever science fiction television programme, an adaptation of a section of the Karel Čapek play R.U.R., that coined the term “robot”.
- 1953 – Cold War: U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower denies all appeals for clemency for Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.
- 1979 – The Iranian Revolution establishes an Islamic theocracy under the leadership of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
- 1990 – Nelson Mandela is released from Victor Verster Prison outside Cape Town, South Africa after 27 years as a political prisoner.
Mandela lived only 14 months in a private house at this prison before his release. Here’s the compound, with the flag flying at half mast during the mourning period for Mandela after his death:
- 2001 – A Dutch programmer launched the Anna Kournikova virus infecting millions of emails via a trick photo of the tennis star.
If you clicked on the photo, email would be sent to gazillions of your contacts, though your computer itself wasn’t corrupted. Here’s the virus email that wreaked so much havoc. (The perp got only 150 hours of community service.
- 2011 – Arab Spring: The first wave of the Egyptian revolution culminates in the resignation of Hosni Mubarak and the transfer of power to the Supreme Military Council after 17 days of protests.
- 2013 – The Vatican confirmed that Pope Benedict XVI would resign the papacy as a result of his advanced age.
Notables born on this day include:
Here is whom Albert Einstein called “the greatest mind in American history”:
- 1847 – Thomas Edison, American engineer and businessman, developed the light bulb and phonograph (d. 1931)
- 1898 – Leo Szilard, Hungarian-American physicist and academic (d. 1964)
- 1915 – Patrick Leigh Fermor, English soldier, author, and scholar (d. 2011)
A great traveler and a great writer! Before I went to the Peloponnese I read his book Mani, which greatly improved my trip. I recommend visiting this area of Greece. Fermor (second from left) was a special operative in Crete during WWII:
- 1926 – Paul Bocuse, French chef (d. 2018)
- 1936 – Burt Reynolds, American actor and director (d. 2018)
- 1939 – Gerry Goffin, American songwriter (d. 2014)
He and Carole King (his first wife) were prolific songwriters during the Great Days of Rock. He wrote 8 #1 songs, many with King. The first one was “Will you love me tomorrow?”, recorded by the Shirelles in 1960.
- 1964 – Sarah Palin, American politician and Governor of Alaska
Those who went to Valhalla on February 11 include:
- 1650 – René Descartes, French mathematician and philosopher (b. 1596)
- 1948 – Sergei Eisenstein, Russian director and screenwriter (b. 1898)
- 1963 – Sylvia Plath, American poet, novelist, and short story writer (b. 1932)
Here’s Plath reading her finest poem, “Daddy”:
- 1978 – Harry Martinson, Swedish novelist, essayist, and poet, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1904)
- 1982 – Eleanor Powell, American actress and dancer (b. 1912)
She could almost match Fred Astaire step for step. Here they are dancing to “Begin the Beguine” from “Broadway Melody of 1940”:
- 1994 – Paul Feyerabend, Austrian-Swiss philosopher and academic (b. 1924)
He looks mean:
- 2012 – Whitney Houston, American singer-songwriter, producer, and actress (b. 1963)
- 2015 – Bob Simon, American journalist (b. 1941)
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is beginning to slightly thaw towards Kulka, whom Hili previously despised:
Hili: She is sitting on my blanket.Kulka: She is slowly starting to accept me.
Hili: Ona siedzi na moim kocu.Kulka: Ona powoli zaczyna mnie akceptować.
From the Unique Birds and Animals FB page, a two-day-old giraffe. Be still my heart!
From Bruce. I don’t think I’ll be here on St. Paddy’s Day, but wanted to post this clever meme. (The tune is traditional, but the words were added only in 1913.)
From Scott on FB. This is one of the most clever ideas I’ve ever seen!
This is true for one Swedish city, and here’s the video to prove it!
From Jacques Hausser: a picture of ducks on a marsh cropped to make it look like Ducks On Jupiter:
I always knew there were ducks on Jupiter pic.twitter.com/HXhpjTCUvN
— Space Explorer Mike (@MichaelGalanin) February 9, 2022
God said it; I believe it; that settles it:
To repeat: This is actually in the Bible.
— God (@TheTweetOfGod) February 10, 2022
From Simon. How can people do stuff like this?
"We thank the reviewers for their helpful suggestions" https://t.co/J2JCsIjrjX
— Oded Rechavi 🦉 (@OdedRechavi) February 10, 2022
From The Auschwitz Memorial:
10 February 1944 | A transport of 1,015 #Jews deported from #Westerbork in the occupied #Netherlands arrived at #Auschwitz. SS doctors sent 142 men & 73 women to the camp.
The remaining 800 people were murdered in gas chambers.
Eva & Liane Münzer (7 and 5) were among them. pic.twitter.com/rSr2wjRWyZ
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) February 11, 2022
From Ginger K.: the history of the “burger flipping” trope:
— afk (@srslyberserk) January 17, 2022
Tweets from Matthew. I wonder what will become of this bill. It certainly CANNOT be passed!
This is insane. https://t.co/eV3ceHdlz9
— Wilfred Reilly (@wil_da_beast630) February 8, 2022
Matthew says he’s not sure he believes this, and neither am I. But it may be true, and, if so, would be stunning: some spiders are more closely related to horseshoe crabs than to other spiders!
A new study published today refutes the monophyly of Arachnida, suggesting that horseshoe crabs colonized the sea from a land ancestor. https://t.co/WYb7QCrqqM. Research from @ggiribet @caitlin_baker @tarantuligia @tauanajc #MCZInvertZoology @HarvardOEB, and colleagues. pic.twitter.com/oLKlMB5uEf
— Museum of Comparative Zoology (@MCZHarvard) February 8, 2022
this is one of my favorite Darwin quotes, and it’s especially apposite for the advocates of Intelligent Design, who make their living from saying that evolutionary problems can’t be solved by science because God was involved.
Charles Darwin began writing his book The Descent of Man #OnThisDay, 1868. “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science." pic.twitter.com/jhhyPhsFYP
— Paige Madison (@FossilHistory) February 4, 2022
This ostrich didn’t have a very good diet!
For some reason I originally guessed that this eclectic collection might have come from an Antarctic explorer, but it turns out that it’s ‘Contents of an Ostrich’s Stomach’ (Frederick William Bond, 1930)https://t.co/fVek9cIuul pic.twitter.com/1A0mK5biuf
— Journal of Art in Society (@artinsociety) February 10, 2022