Welcome to the (formal) top o’ the week: Sunday, December 11, 2022: National “Have A Bagel ” Day. (Why the scare quotes?) Good luck finding one that isn’t just puffed-up Wonder Bread!
Here is a real bagel I ate in Montreal on March 1, 2016. There are two famous bagel bakeries in the city, and I went to the Fairmount. They are not doughy or puffy, but smaller and chewy. Plain or with sesame seeds is the only way to have them (with a schmear, of course). These are boiled in water with a bit of honey and then bakes over a wood fire:
It’s also International Noodle Ring Day, International Choral Day, Indiana Day (celebrating that state’s admission to the Union on this day in 1816), National Tango Day in Argentina, and International Mountain Day. Here’s what I consider the most beautiful mountain I’ve ever seen. Can you identify it?
Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the December 11 Wikipedia page.
*There’s been considerable beefing—mostly by Republicans—about the prisoner swap in which we got Brittney Greiner back for Viktor Bout, and some of it reflects the fact that Griner is a women, black, and gay. It turns out that not only was the Russian government opposed to this kind of swap, as they wanted more concessions from the U.S., but so was the U.S. Justice Department, at least according to the Washington Post.
After the two passed within a few feet of each other on an airport tarmac in the Persian Gulf on Thursday, a public debate raged in the United States over how the government handles prisoner exchanges for citizens it considers “wrongfully detained.”
Supporters of Griner, civil rights leaders and LGBTQ advocates who had pressured the White House to bring her home hailed the swap as a long-overdue remedy to a travesty of justice. Critics, including Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), who is vying to become the next speaker of the House, said the trade was “unconscionable” and risked detentions of more Americans abroad.
Privately, those same disagreements also played out inside the administration and cut across familiar bureaucratic lines, senior officials said. Like others interviewed for this report, they spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal deliberations.
Negotiating for an exchange of prisoners often involves complex political trade-offs within different parts of the U.S. government, and the Griner-Bout case was no exception.
Within the Justice Department, many officials resisted the idea of trading Bout before his scheduled release in 2029, according to current and former officials. “If she were my relative, I would want to do the swap,” said one. “But trading a notorious international arms dealer for a basketball player is madness.”
The most painful aspect of the exchange was that it excluded Paul Whelan, a U.S. Marine veteran who is serving a 16-year sentence on espionage charges that the U.S. considers bogus.
For months, State Department officials had advocated a swap involving Bout that would include the release of both Whelan and Griner, but Moscow refused unless the United States also secured the release of Vadim Krasikov, a former colonel from Russia’s internal spy agency, said officials familiar with the matter.
Krasikov is serving a life sentence for murder in Germany, and Berlin had made clear that releasing him was a non-starter, a U.S. official said.
Russia’s demand for Krasnikov, and insistence that it would only trade Griner for Bout, one-for-one, continued until mid-November. At that point, the United States asked if Marc Fogel, an American citizen also imprisoned in Russia, could be included along with Griner. The Russians refused.As a result, the administration decided to trade for Griner and keep negotiating for Whelan and Fogel in the future, a vantage point Blinken described bluntly on Thursday.
“This was not a choice of which American to bring home. The choice was one or none,” he said during a news conference in Washington.
Well, one is better than none, so I think we did the best we could. The Germans wouldn’t cooperate and the Russians were adamant, so at least one America is spared nine years in the gulag.
*The arrest and detention of Brittney Griner has caused Americans in Russia to rethink their plans. Could they be arrested, or do they even want to be in a country at war with a U.S. ally? The NYT discusses the ins and outs of that decision, and there are some surprises.
Ms. Griner’s detention has injected a complex new factor into the calculation of whether to travel to, or work in, Russia, an already fraught decision with the war in Ukraine as a backdrop.
More than 1,000 multinational companies have curtailed their operations in Russia since the invasion, with foreign managers often being the first to go. Most Western universities have halted student exchange programs with Russian peers. And most major European and American cultural institutions have ended collaborations with Russian theaters and museums, including the Bolshoi in Moscow and the Mariinsky in St. Petersburg, two of the world’s most storied houses for opera and ballet.
But in other areas the numbers of Westerners have held steady or even grown since Ms. Griner’s arrest. Most choose to come or stay to advance careers, but there are also examples of Americans who made Russia their home for political reasons. Most famously, they include the actor Steven Seagal and the former intelligence analyst Edward Snowden, who just this month took an oath of Russian citizenship.
And athletes. Those Europeans who are leaving are being replaced by Americans and Canadians who want a high income but aren’t good enough to secure that at home.
Athletes have long provided one of the biggest streams of prominent Westerners to Russia. Players “whose careers were declining went there to maintain the same level of income that they were accustomed to,” said Bill Neff, an agent with clients across the world.
After the outbreak of the war, the Russian teams in the Continental Hockey League, which includes Russia and its neighbors, lost nearly half of its foreign players. Finns and Swedes led the exodus, largely abiding by their countries’ hard-line stance toward Russia’s aggression.
*Well, the surprises continue at the World Cup. Here’s today’s: Portugal goes home, and with them Ronaldo ends his career as a substitute on a losing team:
Another step for Morocco, another step for the Arab world, another push to a new frontier for North Africa. Morocco’s reputation-shredding journey through the World Cup has now felled another European giant.
After sending the Arab world into a state of ecstasy that it had previously never experienced, Morocco’s soccer team did so once more. In a display of defensive grit and ice-cold nerves, the Moroccans are now barely believable qualifiers for the semifinals, adding Portugal to a list of major European nations it has dumped out of the World Cup on its thrilling joyride through Qatar.
Having never previously been in contention for soccer’s biggest prize, Morocco is now just one game from a place in the final, having seen off Belgium, Spain and now Portugal, thanks to a first-half goal from Youssef En-Nesyri on Saturday. It is now also the first African team to make the semifinals, where it will meet either England or France.
“Pinch me, I think I’m dreaming,” Bono, the Morocco goalkeeper, said after the game. “These moments are great but we’re here to change the mentality. With this feeling of inferiority, we have to get rid of it. The Moroccan player can face any in the world. The generation coming after us will know we can create miracles.”
. . .Portugal simply could not get the ball to break for it in the way Morocco had in that one first half moment where the air in the stadium stilled, where the ball hung in the air for what seemed like an age, before being met by En-Nesyri.
The tall striker timed his run to perfection, meeting the hopeful cross from Yahia Attiyat Allah just a fraction of a second before goalkeeper Diogo Costa could get his hand on it.
The highlights—En-Nesyri’s goal for Morocco is at 1:53:
And France knocked out England:
From CBS News:
The defense tried to give the game away but Oliver Giroud powered France into the World Cup semifinals in a 2-1 victory over England. Two of the favorites for the World Cup title squared off in a game that was certainly fit for it. France were pushing to open the game but with England’s defense sitting back, Aurelien Tchouameni opened the scoring with a goal from outside the box in the 17th minute. Enlgand [sic] weren’t able to get back into things in the first half but Bukayo Saka took over the game after the break drawing a penalty in the 54th minute. Harry Kane would fire it home to draw level with Wayne Rooney as England’s all time leading male goalscorer with his 53rd goal for the national team.
But France weren’t done as Oliver Giroud forced a great save out of Jordan Pickford before getting a second chance with a header. Giving Giroud two chances was quite a mistake as he wouldn’t miss putting France ahead in the match with his 78th minute goal. England were given another chance with Theo Hernandez decking Mason Mount in the box but the mind games got to Kane as he blasted the chance over the box and that 84th minute penalty was as close as England would come to tying it up. Next up for France is a clash with Morocco as the defending World Cup champs keep their pursuit of back to back titles going.
(Dreadful writing above, no?) The highlights:
*According to the Guardian, Iranian security forces are specifically targeting female demonstators at protests, and not only that—they’re apparently targeting men and women differently. It’s disgusting (h/t GInger K)
Iranian security forces are targeting women at anti-regime protests with shotgun fire to their faces, breasts and genitals, according to interviews with medics across the country.
Doctors and nurses – treating demonstrators in secret to avoid arrest – said they first observed the practice after noticing that women often arrived with different wounds to men, who more commonly had shotgun pellets in their legs, buttocks and backs.
While an internet blackout has hidden much of the bloody crackdown on protesters, photos provided by medics to the Guardian showed devastating wounds all over their bodies from so-called birdshot pellets, which security forces have fired on people at close range. Some of the photos showed people with dozens of tiny “shot” balls lodged deep in their flesh.
The Guardian has spoken to 10 medical professionals who warned about the seriousness of the injuries that could leave hundreds of young Iranians with permanent damage. Shots to the eyes of women, men and children were particularly common, they said.
One physician from the central Isfahan province said he believed the authorities were targeting men and women in different ways “because they wanted to destroy the beauty of these women”.
Is that a surprise? Given the misogynistic regime, and the fact that women don’t want to hide their faces and hair any more, it’s clear that security is trying ensure that the women will cover themselves for a different reason. And target the genitals is beyond belief. I think this isn’t just a bunch of independent intiatives by gunmen, but that there must be orders from above.
The Guardian site has some pretty horrific photos and X-rays. The wounded are treated in secret by doctors and nurses, who themselves fear arrested for helping the protestors. Unbelievable.
*The world’s oldest known pair of jeans, recovered from a trunk inside a ship sunk in 1857, have been auctioned off, and at a hefty price. As the AP reports:
Pulled from a sunken trunk at an 1857 shipwreck off the coast of North Carolina, work pants that auction officials describe as the oldest known pair of jeans in the world have sold for $114,000.
The white, heavy-duty miner’s pants with a five-button fly were among 270 Gold Rush-era artifacts that sold for a total of nearly $1 million in Reno last weekend, according to Holabird Western American Collections.
There’s disagreement about whether the pricey pants have any ties to the father of modern-day blue jeans, Levi Strauss, as they predate by 16 years the first pair officially manufactured by his San Francisco-based Levi Strauss & Co. in 1873. Some say historical evidence suggests there are links to Strauss, who was a wealthy wholesaler of dry goods at the time, and the pants could be a very early version of what would become the iconic jeans.
But the company’s historian and archive director, Tracey Panek, says any claims about their origin are “speculation.”
“The pants are not Levi’s nor do I believe they are miner’s work pants,” she wrote in an email to The Associated Press.
Without documentation, they’re just an old pair of pants, and it looks like somebody got taken. Here’s a photo of the pants that cost $114,000, apparently next to a newer pair of button-fly jeans:
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is snuffling about, and allows Baby Kulka (right) to come close:
Paulina: What do you see there?Hili: I don’t see anything but I hear something from below.(Photo: Paulina)
Paulina: Co tam widzisz?Hili: Nic nie widzę, ale słyszę jakąś krecią robotę.(Zdjęcie: Paulina R.)
From Beth (I tweeted this and of course got a lot of believers beefing about it):
Found somewhere on FB:
God is back issuing pronouncements on Mastodon (I’m not a member so I’ll give screenshots). Issuances on Mastodon are apparently called “toots” rather than “tweets”. But God jumped the shark with this one:
My tweet. Brinton did it AGAIN!
Sam Brinton, Deputy Asst. Secretary of the Department of Energy’s Office of Spent Fuel and Waste Disposition, is now accused of a SECOND luggage theft, this time in Las Vegas, and of a bag containing $1700 in jewelry. A warrant is out for grand larcenyhttps://t.co/d4lckJpXhB
— Jerry Coyne (@Evolutionistrue) December 11, 2022
From Masih. Iranian theocracy out now!
The moment the mother of Iranian protestor Mohsen Shekari, age 23, learns he’s been hanged for “waging war against God”. The regime told her to stay silent to win his release. This execution was meant to deter further dissent, but likely does the opposite. pic.twitter.com/FdX9uWIcKw
— Karim Sadjadpour (@ksadjadpour) December 9, 2022
Here’s Kyrsten Sinema’s “populist” video about becoming an independent:
In a natural extension of my service since I was first elected to Congress, I have joined the growing numbers of Arizonans who reject party politics by declaring my independence from the broken partisan system in Washington and formally registering as an Arizona Independent. 1/3 pic.twitter.com/jUQHAeuxym
— Kyrsten Sinema (@kyrstensinema) December 9, 2022
From Malcolm, a kitten who needs a bit more practice:
He’s doing such a good job!!! 🤗
NOOOOOOOOO!!!! 😨 pic.twitter.com/DRp74XJ32G
— Tweets of Cats (@TweetsOfCats) November 19, 2022
From Simon, a very bad error:
I hope they mean retinal… pic.twitter.com/bIB29vKlRr
— No Context Brits (@NoContextBrits) December 8, 2022
From the Auschwitz Memorial:
11 December 1906 | A Czech Jewish woman, Valerie Winternitzová, was born in Prague.
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) December 11, 2022
Tweets from Matthew. Here’s one I retweeted: a fabulous example of mimicry (actually, I think it’s a planthopper):
Probably a leafhopper (facing right), but it looks like an ant facing left. A remarkable case of mimicry. https://t.co/4ELummnb7g
— Jerry Coyne (@Evolutionistrue) December 10, 2022
Placozoans! These are free-living, multicellular marine organisms, and the simples of all animals. They’re in their own phylum, and there are three known genera. They’re about a millimeter across.
To put that in terms of animals we are more familiar with, they are as different from one another as a cat, a dog, and a badger. Or a pig, a whale, and a giraffe! If those groups of animals happened to look identical. My colleagues were able to use the genomes 2/4
— John Burns @email@example.com (@burnsajohn) December 8, 2022
And a thread showing that epigenetic changes induced by the environment cannot be the basis of adaptive evolutionary change, although the genetic ability to be modified can be adaptive:
Epigenesis for epidemiologists: does evo-devo have implications for population health research and practice? https://t.co/tZDENKyEGE – a wonderfully clear-eyed critique of claims of transgenerational epigenetic inheritance by @mendel_random (2012)
— Kevin Mitchell @WiringtheBrain@mstdn.social (@WiringTheBrain) December 8, 2022
Most ducks love kale, though I hate the stuff:
— Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary (@HEEFS_) December 8, 2022