It’s also Tim Tam Day, celebrating the great Australian chocolate bar, Fat Thursday, Kyoto Protocol Day (it took effect on this day in 2005), Elizabeth Peratrovich Day in Alaska, celebrating the indigenous rights activist, and of course, in North Korea it’s Day of the Shining Star (Kim Jong-il’s Birthday).
The Shining Star liked movies (photo from BBC):
Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the February 16 Wikipedia page.
*Obituaries first, and this is a sad one, for it not only evokes old times, but makes me realize how old I am. What happened is this: movie star and sexpot Raquel Welch died—and she was 82! From the NYT:
Raquel Welch, the voluptuous movie actress who became the 1960s’ first major American sex symbol and maintained that image in a show business career that lasted a half-century, died on Wednesday at her home in Los Angeles. She was 82.
Her death was confirmed by her son, Damon Welch. No cause was given.
Ms. Welch’s Hollywood success began as much with a poster as with the film it publicized. Starring in “One Million Years B.C.” (1966) as a Pleistocene-era cave woman, she posed in a rocky prehistoric landscape, wearing a tattered doeskin bikini, and grabbed the spotlight by the throat with her defiant, alert-to-everything, take-no-prisoners stance and dancer’s body. She was 26. It had been three years since Marilyn Monroe’s death, and the industry needed a goddess.
Camille Paglia, the feminist critic, described the poster photograph as “the indelible image of a woman as queen of nature.” Ms. Welch, she went on, was “a lioness — fierce, passionate and dangerously physical.”
Surely you remember this poster, which to our generation was what the Betty Grable poster was to our fathers:
*I’m no pundit, so I don’t know how much credibility to give this story, and I still don’t think that the major nuclear superpowers (the U.S., China, and Russia) would be willing to risk an all-out war. But, according to one guy quoted in the Washington Post, that’s what may happen if Russia gets a victory in Ukraine.
A Russian military victory in Ukraine will embolden Beijing and lead to war between the United States and China over Taiwan, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the exiled Russian tycoon and vocal critic of Vladimir Putin’s regime, warned in an interview ahead of remarks that he will deliver to global leaders at a major security and defense conference in Germany this weekend.
“A lost war in Ukraine is a steppingstone to war in the Asia Pacific,” Khodorkovsky said in the interview with The Washington Post in London, where he now lives. “You need to understand that when even a big guy is hit in the face, a number of other guys will start to doubt whether that guy is really that strong, and they will want to go for his teeth. … If the U.S. wants to go to war in Asia, then the most correct path to this is to show weakness in Ukraine as well.”
Khodorkovsky, who spent a decade in prison in Russia before being pardoned by Putin in 2013, said stepping up Western military aid to Ukraine and securing its victory was the only way for the United States to avoid such a military conflict with China.
Them’s strong words, partner! I presume he knows more about this than i do, but is he an expert on China’s military strategy. Will they risk a nuclear war over Taiwan? Or will the U.S., which has promised to defend the island? All I know is that should help Ukraine because it’s the right thing to do, and we can’t let Putin, who increasingly resembles a James Bond villain, take whatever he wants.
*The Republicans and Democrats, including Biden, have been squabbling about raising the U.S. debt limit, which is going to be necessary if the country isn’t to shut down and the financial markets go to hell. The problem is that Biden & Co. want an unlimited ability to raise the limit without restrictions, while the Republicans want to counterbalance any raises with promises in spending cuts. Now it looks like a default is imminent if the two parties don’t reach agreement.
The U.S. could become unable to pay all of its bills on time sometime between July and September, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated, giving lawmakers several months to reach an agreement on lifting the debt limit and avoiding a default.
The Treasury Department ran up against the roughly $31.4 trillion debt limit in January. It is now deploying a series of special accounting maneuvers to keep paying the government’s obligations to bondholders, Social Security recipients and others.
In its estimate on Wednesday, the CBO said the so-called extraordinary measures could also run out before July if its expectations for tax revenue are off.
“The projected exhaustion date is uncertain because the timing and amount of revenue collections and outlays over the intervening months could differ from CBO’s projections,” the agency said.
. . .While lawmakers routinely spar over spending, the current debt-ceiling standoff has heightened fears among some market watchers and lawmakers over the possibility of a default. A failure by the U.S. to pay its bills on time could send financial markets into a tailspin and wreak broader havoc on the global economy.
In 2011, Standard & Poor’s stripped the U.S. of its triple-A credit rating for the first time after the Treasury came within days of being unable to pay certain benefits.
It’s even worse because estimates of spending are higher than predicted:
The United States is on track to add nearly $19 trillion to its national debt over the next decade, $3 trillion more than previously forecast, as a result of rising costs for interest payments, veterans’ health care, retiree benefits and the military, the Congressional Budget Office said on Wednesday.
The new forecasts, released Wednesday afternoon, project a $1.4 trillion gap this year between what the government spends and what it takes in from tax revenues. Over the next decade, deficits will average $2 trillion annually, as tax receipts fail to keep pace with the rising costs of Social Security and Medicare benefits for retiring baby boomers.
This will be an interesting standoff, and a test of Biden’s promise to “reach across the aisle”—into the pockets of Republicans.
*This was big news to reader Kurt, who is a professor of religious studies. And it is a fine book, too: the oldest nearly compete Hebrew Bible in existence, and it’s up for auction. It may turn out to be the most expensive book ever sold:
One day, about 1,100 years ago, a scribe in present-day Israel or Syria sat down to begin work on a book. Copied out on roughly 400 large parchment sheets, it contained the complete text of the Hebrew Bible, written in square letters similar to those of the Torah scrolls in any synagogue today.
After changing hands a few times, it ended up in a synagogue in northeast Syria, which was destroyed around the 13th or 14th century. Then it disappeared for nearly 600 years.
Since resurfacing in 1929, the Bible has been in private collections. But one afternoon last week, there it was sitting in a cradle at Sotheby’s in Manhattan, where Sharon Liberman Mintz, the auction house’s senior Judaica consultant, was turning its rippled pages with a mixture of familiarity and awe.
She pointed out the two versions of the Ten Commandments, a beautifully calligraphic rendering of the Song of Deborah and, more prosaically, places where small tears had been stitched together with thread or sinew.
“It’s electrifying,” Mintz said. “This represents the first time the text appears in the form where we can really read and understand it.”
Have a look at this puppy!
The calligraphy is gorgeous, even if it is a book of fiction:
And the price? Austin said a committee began discussing it two years ago, considering the old record for the most expensive book ever sold: the Codex Leicester, a Leonardo da Vinci manuscript bought by Bill Gates in 1994 for $30.8 million. Then in November 2021 came a new benchmark: the $43.2 million paid by the investor Ken Griffin for a first printing of the U.S. Constitution.
The codex was also an expensive object in its time, Mintz said, requiring the skins of easily more than 100 animals. The biblical text, with its calligraphic flourishes, was written by a single scribe. “It’s a masterpiece of scribal art,” Mintz said.
The book of my people—a millennium old. You can bet that nobody around then is still alive.
*Want something else to make you feel old? How about this AP article headlined “Jane Fonda to attend Vienna Opera Ball with 90-year-old date“? The bold part is mine:
American actor Jane Fonda said Wednesday she accepted an Austrian building tycoon’s invitation to attend the Vienna Opera Ball because he offered to “pay me quite a bit of money.”
The 85-year-old Academy Award and Golden Globe winner said at a news conference with her date, 90-year-old Richard Lugner, that she needed the money to pay her bills and to support her grandchildren.
“I support a lot of people,” Fonda said.
The opera ball is one of the highlights of the social calendar in Austria and known for a guest list that includes many celebrities. This year’s event is on Thursday.
Lugner is known for paying undisclosed sums of money to famous women to accompany him to the ball. His past guests include Pamela Anderson, Kim Kardashian and model Elle MacPherson.
Fonda said her commitment would not include dancing at the ball because she has a “fake shoulder, two fake hips, two fake knees.”
“I’m old and I may fall apart,” quipped the actor, whose recent roles have included the TV series ”Grace and Frankie” and the film “80 for Brady.”
Here’s a photo of Fonda and Lugner on their expensive date:
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is being a typical cat (I think we need an evolutionary psychology explanation for why cats hate vacuum cleaners):
Hili: Are there silent vacuum cleaners?A: Why do you ask?Hili: Cats’ lives would be easier.
Hili: Czy są już bezgłośne odkurzacze?Ja: Dlaczego pytasz?Hili: Życie kotów byłoby łatwiejsze.
From Merilee, a Dan Piraro cartoon:
From Terry, a Leigh Rubin cartoon:
From Jesus of the Day:
From Masih. I have endless admiration for these brave young Iranian women. Sound up.
Yasaman Ariani and Monireh Arab Shahi, two political prisoners and activists of the #WhiteWednesdays campaign, have recently been released from prison.
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) February 15, 2023
From Gregory, who calls this “the best response to a mass shooting I’ve seen”. I agree:
Today, we begin to collectively heal from the horrific events which transpired, tomorrow we work.
My official statement regarding the Michigan State University shooting is below:
Fuck your thoughts and prayers. pic.twitter.com/iHCOxOmDA3
— Rep. Ranjeev Puri (@RanjeevPuri) February 14, 2023
Ricky Gervais enjoying the day with his tabby Pickle:
Hope you’re having the day you deserve ❤️ pic.twitter.com/6UsrUgaEFM
— Ricky Gervais (@rickygervais) February 14, 2023
From Barry: The Terminator at breakfast (sound up):
“Terminator” loveliest breakfast pic.twitter.com/NoBaabkeEh
— Blanco (@Blanco66644360) February 11, 2023
From the Auschwitz Memorial, a boy gassed on arrival at eight years old:
16 February 1936 | A French Jew, Adolphe Furmanski, was born in Paris.
He arrived at #Auschwitz on 23 September 1942 in a transport of 1000 Jews deported from Pithiviers. He was among 641 people selected by SS doctors to be killed in a gas chamber. pic.twitter.com/fxFDSphuQc
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) February 16, 2023
Tweets from Matthew. Go look at the new page; I’ve put a what I think is a new photo below the tweet:
The reception of the Complete Photographs of #CharlesDarwin has been extraordinary.
For those who have had a look, we have added about 35 more illustrations since #DarwinDay #Histsci https://t.co/Qq17Pk6j7g pic.twitter.com/cfXDTEqL8D
— Christine A Chua, FLS, editor Darwin Online (@greenleaf6722) February 14, 2023
1861 Apr. 11 Half-length right profile photograph (6×4.5cm) by William Erasmus Darwin.
Have a look at the new and cool paper that Matthew coauthored: a sequence-based analysis of olfactory receptor (OR) genes, giving us an idea what our ancient relatives could smell.
THREAD: This is the most exciting research I have been involved in – peering back into the sensory world of our long-extinct relatives, the Neanderthals and Denisovans. This thread summarises what we found, the paper (OA) is here 1/n https://t.co/CpC1UCH5PI
— Matthew Cobb (@matthewcobb) February 13, 2023
Here’s a lovely thing to do:
Swimming with the starlings earlier this week. Have a good weekend Brighton. pic.twitter.com/bmwPQf1BtZ
— Finn Hopson (@FinnHop) February 10, 2023