Top o’ the week to you: it’s Monday, December 19: six days until the beginning of Coynezaa and seven until I leave for a visit to Poland. It’s National Hard Candy Day!
According to Wikipedia, here’s how the legend of St. Nicholas as Santa got started:
Nicholas of Myra, according to Christian tradition, was born in Patar in Asia Minor. He is said to have made a pilgrimage to the Egypt to study theology under the Desert Fathers after which he was consecrated the Bishop of Myra. During the Diocletianic Persecution of Christians, Nicholas of Myra was imprisoned. He was released after Constantine the Great promulgated the Edict of Milan in 313, which allowed for the public practice of Christianity in the Roman Empire. Nicholas of Myra was known for his generosity through a Christian legend, in which he gave a poor father money in order to prevent his daughters from being taken into slavery, as the father did not have the funds for his daughters’ dowries. It is said that Nicholas of Myra threw the money through the family’s window, which landed in their shoes, which were drying near their fireplace.
From Wikipedia as well: “A depiction of Saint Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, giving dowry money to three poor girls”:
There’s also a Google Doodle; if you click on the screenshot, you’ll see that it celebrates the life and work of Judith Leyster (1609-1660), a neglected Dutch painter. Wikipedia says this:
Judith Jans Leyster (also Leijster; baptised July 28, 1609 – February 10, 1660) was a Dutch Golden Age painter. She painted genre works, portraits and still lifes. Although her work was highly regarded by her contemporaries, Leyster and her work became almost forgotten after her death. Her entire oeuvre was attributed to Frans Hals or to her husband, Jan Miense Molenaer, until 1893. It was not until the late 19th century that she was recognized for her artistic abilities
The news is very thin today; I guess everybody’s hunkering down for the holidays. In fact, there’s nothing significant on the front page of the NYT, with several articles (and the headline) being about the World Cup. Let us see if there’s anything interesting.
*Well, there’s one semi-interesting article in the WaPo about a movie about the ship Titanic made in Nazi Germany. It was apparently a stinkeroo, but the ship that stood in for the real Titanic in Nazi Germany had a sad and tragic fate.
After shooting wrapped, the boat that stood in for the Titanic, the Cap Arcona, was briefly used to move troops around the Baltic before being reclassified as a prison ship and docked in the Bay of Lübeck.
On May 3, 1945, three days after Adolf Hitler’s suicide, it was holding a reported 6,000 prisoners from the Neuengamme concentration camp, driven there by Nazis anxious to conceal their atrocities from the advancing Allies. (Some estimates put the number of prisoners as high as 7,000.)
Western intelligence had discovered that SS leaders were amassing in the German harbor city of Flensburg, plotting a potential sea escape to Norway. Believing the Cap Arcona to be filled with fleeing Nazi military elite, the British Royal Air Force bombed the ship, which capsized and sank. Pilots then shot at survivors in the water.
The death toll from the ship that had once masqueraded as the Titanic is estimated to be between 4,500 and 7,000 lives. The real Titanic claimed 1,517.
In a final twist worthy of James Cameron’s romanticized 1997 film, star-crossed lovers were united at the height of the tragedy. One of the 350 survivors of the Cap Arcona tragedy was German communist prisoner Willi Neurath. His wife, who was stationed nearby as a navy assistant at Neustadt submarine school, found her husband on the beach by sheer luck, exhausted but alive. Unable to swim, he’d survived by remaining on the burning ship, and was rescued by a British reconnaissance regiment once the Royal Air Force had learned the fatal error of its attack.
*You may recall that transsexual women athletes cleaned up in Connecticut high school competitions, even if they had had no medical intervention or surgery. That’s legal: if a biological male declares that he/she is a woman, that has to be respected. It’s a mess, and also deeply unfair for those competing against medically untreated biological men. But a federal appeals court just upheld the law.
A federal appeals court on Friday dismissed a challenge to Connecticut’s policy of allowing transgender girls to compete in girls high school sports, rejecting arguments by four cisgender runners who said they were unfairly forced to race against transgender athletes.
A three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City upheld a lower court judge’s dismissal of a lawsuit challenging the policy. The panel said the four cisgender athletes lacked standing to sue — in part because their claims that they were deprived of wins, state titles and athletic scholarship opportunities were speculative.
“All four Plaintiffs regularly competed at state track championships as high school athletes, where Plaintiffs had the opportunity to compete for state titles in different events,” the decision said. “And, on numerous occasions, Plaintiffs were indeed “champions,” finishing first in various events, even sometimes when competing against (transgender athletes).”
The judges added, “Plaintiffs simply have not been deprived of a ‘chance to be champions.’”
The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Council argued its policy is designed to comply with a state law that requires all high school students be treated according to their gender identity. It also said the policy is in accordance with Title IX, the federal law that allows girls equal educational opportunities, including in athletics.
It’s no surprise that the ACLU helped defen the two transsexual runners at the center of the controversy. I hope the losers appeal, because surely the issue of medically untreated transgender female athletes is a no-brainer: they should not be allowed to compete in women’s sports purely on the basis of their claim that they’re woman.
*Migrants at the U.S.’s southern border are reaching crisis numbers, as prospective entrants anticipate that Title 42 expulsions put in place under Trump will end on December 21. Things are disastrous as the number of migrants is way to high to handle them effectively, and that includes housing and food:
The mayor of a Texas border city declared a state of emergency Saturday over concerns about the community’s ability to handle an anticipated influx of migrants across the Southern border.
El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser issued the state of emergency declaration to allow the city on the U.S. border with Mexico to tap into additional resources that are expected to become necessary after Title 42 expulsions end on Dec. 21, the El Paso Times reported.
Leeser had previously resisted issuing an emergency declaration, but said he was moved to action by the sight of people on downtown streets with temperatures dipping below freezing, the Times reported.
“That’s not the way we want to treat people,” Leeser said during a news conference Saturday evening.
A ruling Friday by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals means restrictions that have prevented hundreds of thousands of migrants from seeking asylum in the U.S. in recent years are still set to be lifted Wednesday, unless further appeals are filed.
Leeser added that the increase would be “incredible” after Wednesday, when daily apprehensions and street releases could reach up to 6,000 per day, the Times reported.
Last I heard Congress was trying to cobble together some kind of immigration bill, but I haven’t heard anything since. I suspect that this may go up to the Supreme Court.
*As I wrote yesterday, the World Cup was a real squeaker, with Argentina leading 2-0 at the half, and France tying it at 90 minutes. The score was again even, this time 3-3, after the two overtime periods, but it went down to penalty kicks, Argentina’s speciality.
Lionel Messi had to wait, and wait, and wait. He had to wait until he was 35. He had to wait until he had already lost a World Cup final. He had to wait after he had seemed to have won it for Argentina in normal time, and he had to wait after he believed he had beaten France again in extra time.
He had to wait until the end of the most extraordinary final in the tournament’s history, in which Messi offered a career-defining performance and was still, somehow, outdone by Kylian Mbappé, scorer of the first hat-trick in the biggest game there is for more than half a century.
Only then, at the last, was his wait, his agony, over. Only then did he deliver the World Cup, that precious third star, to Argentina, cementing his claim to be the greatest player to have ever played the game.
After extra time started:
. . .For a while, it seemed as though Argentina’s hopes could extend no further than making it to extra time, and then hanging on for penalties. Messi, though, intervened once more, unwilling to accept an ending he had not written. When Hugo Lloris blocked a shot from Lautaro Martínez, there was Messi to drive the ball home.
He celebrated, then, as though he knew just how close he was, his team was; he had not reckoned with Mbappé’s own determination to be the master of his own destiny. His shot was handled by Gonzalo Montiel; with 117 minutes played, he stepped up to take the penalty, to complete his hat-trick in a World Cup final, to ensure the game went the distance, to the sweetest, cruellest conclusion imaginable.
Mbappé scored. Messi scored. But Kingsley Coman and Aurelién Tchouámeni did not, and that left Montiel, the right back, to take the shot that would echo through the ages. The roar that Argentina’s fans emitted when the ball struck the back of the net seemed to pierce the sky. Messi sunk to his knees, clasping his teammates close, his wait over, at last.
Here are the highlights:
Oh, and if you’re wondering whether the winning team gets money, money for both its federation and for individual players, the answer is “yes.”
The New York Times has two op-eds on the World Cup, both of them absoutely awful. Please give “Argentina just won the World Cup, and Lionel Messi is the perfect man for this moment,” and “This was the perfect World Cup for our strange era” a miss. The second one in particular isn’t worth the electrons it’s printed on.
*According to the Guardian, two elderly ladies from Alabama were convicted for trapping, feeding, and neutering stray cats, all to keep the cat population down. (h/t Jez).
Beverly Roberts, 85, and Mary Alston, 61, of Wetumpka, Alabama, were sentenced to two years of unsupervised parole and a $100 fine each on Tuesday, reported the Montgomery Advertiser. The women were also given suspended 10-day jail sentences.
“A warning, an arrest, and a conviction – all because maybe we were about to feed stray cats, and because we were solving a feral cat problem that the city couldn’t solve,” Roberts told the Washington Post.
The women were convicted of multiple misdemeanors after a five-and-a-half hour trial. Officials accused the pair of feeding feral cats near the courthouse, claiming it had resulted in thousands of dollars in property damage.
The women were arrested on 25 June after the mayor, Jerry Willis, called officers to a property owned by Wetumpka county. Officer Brendan Foster said that when he arrived he found Alston holding a can of Fancy Feast cat food.
Alston informed him that she was trapping feral cats, and the officer responded that she had to stop or he would arrest her for trespassing.
“Y’all have three cop cars because I’m feeding cats?” said Alston in a video of the initial encounter. “It’s unbelievable.”
Roberts was arrested first, as officers had previously given her a trespassing order for feeding cats, and Alston was arrested when she spoke against Roberts’ arrest, reported Alabama Live.
The sentencing of the two women has caught the attention of national animal rights organizations, who say trapping feral cats to have them neutered is a successful way to stop the stray cat problem.
“Compassion is not a crime,” said Alice Burton, director of programs for Alley Cat Allies, a feral cat advocacy group that supports trap-and-neuter initiatives.
I say the women should be given medals for reducing the future cat population, and the cops should be locked up.
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili’s kvetching about winter again:
Hili: Can you put an end to winter?A: It’s not in my power.
Hili: I had a higher opinion of you.
Hili: Czy możesz skończyć zimę?Ja: To nie jest w mojej mocy.Hili. Ceniłam cię wyżej.
Cats at Christmas (click to enlarge; from FB). The artist is the famous Louis Wain, who was later institutionalized for mental illness:
A great cat (and d*g) tree from Merilee:
From Masih. The brutality of the regime is unspeakable:
This video of unspeakable brutality is from October 9-10 in #Tehran’s Aryashahr area.
This many security forces are seen brutalizing an Afghan boy during anti-regime protests.
His crime? He opened the door of the store where he works to protesters pic.twitter.com/d32IdTgIB6
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) December 18, 2022
Two from Malcolm: Lord of the Flames:
commanding the flames pic.twitter.com/3e9r3GhdY7
— Dont Show Your Cat (@DontShowYourCat) December 17, 2022
And my ideal work environment, too:
"Describe your ideal work environment"
— No Context Cats (@nocontextscats) December 12, 2022
A tweet by Dawkins on a now-unpaywalled article by Krauss on the incursion of ideology into science. A quote:
Are we at a point where the heart of the nation’s scientific research enterprise is to be held hostage to ideology? Will the U.S. government refuse to fund major national-laboratory initiatives to explore forefront fundamental and applied science because scientists show insufficient zeal for fashionable causes?
Besides skewing scientific priorities, this represents an inappropriate skewing of national priorities. There are serious societal inequities, but they run much deeper and include lack of support for K-12 education, safe housing and child care in inner cities, among other things. Attempting to jerry-rig participation at the highest echelons of science is a waste of time and money.
— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) December 16, 2022
From the Auschwitz Memorial: another child killed upon arrival:
19 December 1934 | Dutch Jewish boy Robert Goudsmit was born in Haren.
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) December 19, 2022
Tweets from Dr. Cobb. The first holds some mysteries. Enlarge the video for the best view:
Fascinating film of what seems to be a switch from solitary to gregarious roosting in very cold weather in Wrens. How is the transition from individual to collective state made? How is the roost site selected? No idea! https://t.co/IK8ZA5HwG7
— Ben Sheldon (@Ben_Sheldon_EGI) December 17, 2022
Teaselcat hunts a hand:
— WildlifeKate (@katemacrae) December 18, 2022
A lovely butterfly:
Echydna punctata – Starry Night Metalmark.
Amazonie et Andes.
( © learnaboutbutterflies ) pic.twitter.com/TiZGIdtdAH
— André Arcadio Fuster (@AAFuster) December 18, 2022
What a task!
January 2022, I transformed my typewriter art into animations. The galloping horse is made from 6 carefully type-written frames. This was an incredibly complicated project and to date I have only completed two of these projects. #artistsontwitter pic.twitter.com/2uljtpSVWr
— James Cook Artwork (@jjcook9628) December 17, 2022