Sunday: Hili dialogue

December 11, 2022 • 6:45 am

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 DayIndiana 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.

Da Nooz:

*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.

Americans are staying against the advice of the State Department.

*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:

From NYT:

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)
In Polish:
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:

From Divy:

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!

From Masih. Iranian theocracy out now!

Here’s Kyrsten Sinema’s “populist” video about becoming an independent:

From Malcolm, a kitten who needs a bit more practice:

From Simon, a very bad error:

From the Auschwitz Memorial:

Tweets from Matthew. Here’s one I retweeted: a fabulous example of mimicry (actually, I think it’s a planthopper):

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.

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:

Most ducks love kale, though I hate the stuff:

25 thoughts on “Sunday: Hili dialogue

  1. The perception on the Griner deal seems to be that the exchange was proposed by the Biden administration this past summer.

    Since Bout had been in custody for years he could have been offered in exchange for one of the other prisoners previously. Fame prompting efforts others were not granted is the most common complaint I have heard.
    Argument seems centered around perceived unfairness of unequal efforts.

    Glad she is home and the above is not my argument. Just my attempt to convey the other side.

  2. *There’s been considerable beefing—mostly by Republicans—about the prisoner swap in which we got Brittney Greiner [sic] back for Viktor Bout, and some of it reflects the fact that Griner is a women, black, and gay.

    Had the Biden administration swapped Paul Whalen for Viktor Bout — a deal that was never on the table — Republicans would be beefing that the administration released a dangerous international arms dealer for a guy who got a “bad conduct” discharge from the Marine Corps Reserves.

    I hope Whalen comes home ASAP, and so do Brittney Griner and her family. The Whalen family has, in turn, been very supportive of Ms. Griner’s release.

    Republicans are going to beef about anything the Biden administration does. Republicans (most of ’em, anyway) have no interest in governing — they have no platform, no legislative agenda to speak of — but merely want to sit back and take potshots. Just wait to see what a shitshow the GOP-controlled House of Representatives is next term under the inveterate invertebrate and maladroit political operator Kevin McCarthy (or whoever else becomes House Speaker, since McCarthy’s not guaranteed the Speakership, and the House wingnuts are trying to get one of their own in the job).

    1. Look, I’m very happy Griner is free, and personally I think her offense was minor (if an offence at all), but I think it was not very clever of her bringing hash oil into a country where that is considered a major crime.
      She was lucky it was not in, say, Thailand or the Phillipines, where she might even have been executed.
      Still, nine years for stupidity is pretty harsh , IMMO.
      As I know little about Bout, and the harm he can still do, which I suspect is very little since one would expect his arms deal years are over (but I maybe mistaken, of course) I have no well founded opinion on the exchange, but I tend to think it was not that bad.

      1. Could the US offer to trade them some Russian criminal if the Russians would agree to keep Steven Seagal there permanently? He could work as a bouncer at Gerard Depardieu’s restaurant, where Edward Snowden is Maître d’ (but not allowed to see the menu).

    1. Nor did they wail when the prior administration allowed the release of 5,000 Taliban soldiers, or allowed Turkey to overrun our allies, the Kurds, or when thousands of MAGA maniacs stormed the US capital at Trump’s behest, or when Trump tried to blackmail Zelensky to get dirt on Biden, or when Trump kissed Putin’s ass any chance he could get and made sure NO ONE was allowed to know what was said, or when he purloined thousands of top-secret documents, or when he said to terminate the Constitution and appoint him king, or…I could go on, but you get the point.

      The GOP is not a political party…it is a grievance imbued cult of personality fueled by hate, religious intolerance and bigotry.

      1. No, I’ll go with Stephen, K2. Although I spent some time in Nepal, Northern India and Northern Pakistan, I’m very far from an expert though.
        If I remember correctly, the image in my mind of the Ama Dablam is more pointed, steeper, narrower.

        1. The more I look at the picture our host posted, the more sure I am it is K2 and not Ama Dablam. Is that a kind of ‘cognitive assonance’ phenomenon?

            1. I would also add that PCC(E) has stated in past posts that Ama Dablam was his favorite mountain. He usually posts that photo with a bright green pasture with horses (iirc) in the foreground and the peak as a backdrop. Stunning photo!

              1. It’s the photo from the Ama Dablam Wikipedia page, so unless an editor is screwing with us… and I wonder if you might be thinking of Nanga Parbat in the Pakistani Karakoram range, whose Wiki page photo sounds like what you’re describing. That to me is the most stunning mountain photo ever, like Jackson Hole and the Grand Tetons but on a larger, higher, wilder scale.

              2. Well if you click on the image above, you can see that Dr. Coyne has named the photo:


                So now we must decide if Dr. C is a thorough scientist that meticulously names his images, or if he is a messing with us, as I said, like some kind of mad genius… 🤣

  3. Kale with Bregenwurst (and spicy mustard) and potatoes. A typical meal in the winter in Northern Germany. Very yummy. 😀

    1. I like kale, but it needs to be cooked like collard greens. Meaning “cook the hell out of them”.

      I looked up the Bregenwurst recipe you mentioned and it looks delicious. I read that Bregenwurst used to be made with pig or cattle brains, but no longer because of BSE. I think I’d prefer the Bregenwurst sans brains, myself. 🙂

      1. Yes, since the BSE scandal in Europe in the 1990 it is forbidden to add brain to Bregenwurst recipes. But it is very tasty and hearty and the ingredient brain is not really necessary.

        In Northern Germany there are a variety of recipes for Bregenwurst, so the they always taste slightly different. An important decision is, for example, whether you take a fresh or a smoked sausage. I prefer a fresh Bregenwurst.

    1. If the terms of his bail allow for him to go to work, I suppose the DoE will have to keep him on the job until he is found guilty. He isn’t accused of stealing nuclear fuel rods, fortunately. The bail judge likely wants him to stay out of airports, though.

    2. It looks to me like his obvious mental illness was ignored because of his LGBT credentials.
      In the real world, a person would quickly lose their security clearance, and thus their job, for being involved in such shenanigans. They would not likely wait for a conviction.

  4. > “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.” [emphasis added.]

    I’m not sure the linked NY TImes article supports that assertion. It’s actually the Times that makes much of her race and sexuality as to why it, the Times, is giving her so much attention. Then they segue into why prisoner exchanges are always fraught for the Left. If that’s true, it often seems to me that the kind of people the Left wants to spring are the kind of people that should remain in jail, or at least should not be traded to spring really bad people on the other side. D. Trump Jr’s crack about upping the DEI quotient is just the kind of snark I would make. Tucker Carlson’s observation that she was ransomed because she’s Black and lesbian seems to me to be obviously true on its face. Those are the only two right-wing mentions of her race/sexuality quoted in the whole article. The rest is all valourizing her for being a Black lesbian. (Even the Left grumps that if she’d been a male athlete she would have been sprung sooner.)

    The Times also thinks that putting someone in jail for their own actions (like smuggling dope) is victim-blaming but to their credit they did cite this:

    ** “There’s that underlying sense that this is part of the Democrats’ focusing on someone who is sympathetic to them and leaving a Marine behind,” said David Silbey, a military historian at Cornell University. “It fits nicely in the narrative that a lot of the right is telling America, about who gets the privilege in Biden’s America.” **/quote
    (I can’t seem to make my indents work to mark quotations.)

    I don’t see the Right arguing that she should have been left to rot in Russia just because she’s a Black lesbian. I see them arguing that it was wrong to free her just because she is. Most of the criticism from the Right is about trading a basketball player who doesn’t like America much for an arms dealer who had conspired to kill Americans. Isn’t killing Americans the Original Sin (to use John LeCarré’s) term that you never ever forgive foreigners for?

    If it is your view that American citizens imprisoned abroad must be extracted from their foreign jails no matter what it costs you, then everything I’ve said above will ring flat. Some idiot stumbles into trouble in a foreign country and her captors want an arms kingpin ransomed for her? Sure, of course we will. Why wouldn’t we?

    (We have some experience with hostage diplomacy having been caught in the middle between the U.S. and China in the Meng-Two Mikes case, which dragged on for 3 years.

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