News PM Punch — ‘Soul Crushing’ Cold

December 9, 2013

newsmanCold and clear this afternoon on California’s north coast — warm in the sun, but cold-as-shit in the shade.

Among the continuing-contentious news cycle this PM, was this study on bad-news coverage: More exposure to coverage seems to be connected to more stress. The study authors suggested that doctors, government officials and the media be aware of this link.

The study examined people in connection with the Boston Marathon bombings.
Jon Elhai, an associate professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Toledo: “Knowing information about the effect of media exposure on mental health after a disaster can inform public health initiatives. For example, after a local disaster, the Red Cross usually tries to get local media coverage to help provide information about physical and mental health problems that may be present in order to help people adjust and get help that they may need.”
And a future full of similar horrific events.

Such as the horror still continuing in Syria. A story I noticed this morning was Seymour Hersh’s explosive piece in the London Review of Books on the possibility President Obama lied about that nerve gas attack earlier this year. A major snip:

But in recent interviews with intelligence and military officers and consultants past and present, I found intense concern, and on occasion anger, over what was repeatedly seen as the deliberate manipulation of intelligence.
One high-level intelligence officer, in an email to a colleague, called the administration’s assurances of Assad’s responsibility a ‘ruse’.
The attack ‘was not the result of the current regime’, he wrote.
A former senior intelligence official told me that the Obama administration had altered the available information — in terms of its timing and sequence — to enable the president and his advisers to make intelligence retrieved days after the attack look as if it had been picked up and analysed in real time, as the attack was happening.
The distortion, he said, reminded him of the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident, when the Johnson administration reversed the sequence of National Security Agency intercepts to justify one of the early bombings of North Vietnam.
The same official said there was immense frustration inside the military and intelligence bureaucracy: ‘The guys are throwing their hands in the air and saying, “How can we help this guy” – Obama – “when he and his cronies in the White House make up the intelligence as they go along?”’

Hersh is one of the way-better investigative reporters around, and has been at it for more than four decades. He lays out some critical stuff — the piece is lengthy and detailed, but well worth the read.
And it’s going to kick-up some shit. Hersh was on Democracy Now! this morning, and gave Amy Goodman some insight into Obama’s character:

And so, it wasn’t just a case—you know, from the military’s point of view, this was a president who many respected in many ways. There’s many good things about Obama.
There’s a lot of things—as I said, I voted for him twice.
And he’s probably going to be the brightest president we’re ever going to have, and maybe the best president we’re ever going to have.
The system is — doesn’t produce always the very best, our system.
But the fact of the matter is that this president was going to go to a war because he felt he had to protect what he said about a red line.
That’s what it was about, in the military’s point of view.
And that’s not acceptable.
You don’t go to war, you don’t throw missiles at a country, when there’s no immediate national security to the United States.
And you don’t even talk about it in public.
That’s wrong, and that was a terrible thing to do.
And that’s what this story is really about.
It’s about a president choosing to make political use of a war crime and not do the right thing.
And I think that’s—to me, Amy, that’s a lot more important than where it was published and who told me no and who told me yes.
I know the press likes to focus on that stuff, but that’s not the story.
The story is what he was going to do, and what it says maybe about him, what it says about that office, what it says about the power, that you can simply — you can create a narrative, which he did, and you know the mainstream press is going to carry out that narrative.

In the last few months, Obama’s portrait has been stretched thin and the future doesn’t look all that promising, either.

Meanwhile, an Orwellian-Blade Runner preview of a near-future right now is Shanghai’s current envelopment problem — via Climate Progress:

For the seventh day this month, Shanghai officials have warned children and the elderly to stay inside in a city where 24 hours exposed to the off-the-charts pollution would have hazardous consequences to one’s health.
Hundreds of flights and sporting events have been cancelled, while face masks and air purifiers sold out in stores.
All week, the pollution level hovered at “heavily” and “severely” polluted, according to Shanghai’s Air Quality Index, at up to 31 times the recommended levels.

And at the link: Eerie photographs of Shanghai show a city in a yellow haze…
Just crazy, and happening in reality, not science-fiction.

Just don’t fall asleep during the preceding, or else you might wake up in an empty, locked airplane, like Tom Wagner, who dozed off on a flight to Houston:

Wagner, who had fallen asleep in a window seat near the back of the United ExpressJet plane, described the moment he realized he was left behind.
“I woke up and I happened to look up and the lights were out,” he said.
“I was like, ‘Well, what’s going on here?’
And then I looked down the aisles and nobody was there.”
Wagner then called his girlfriend, who laughed and didn’t believe him.
“Debbie, you gotta call the airlines,” Wagner said, recalling the conversation.
“I’m locked in the plane.”
Maintenance workers eventually arrived and opened the door about a half hour later.
“They were like, ‘Who are you? What are you doing on this plane?’ I said,
‘Dude, I was a passenger on the plane.’ … and then [they] said, ‘Where’s your badge?’
I said, ‘I don’t work here.'”

“ExpressJet is investigating to determine how this occurred,” the carrier said in a statement.
“We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this caused for the passenger.”
Wagner was given a free hotel room and a $250 voucher by United for his trouble.

A sleeper hit.

And a sidebar news item in a similar vein as my post this morning about income inequality, was this piece on the emergence of a certain financial class of Americans, “the new rich” — household income of $250,000 — and the political/economic impact of this seemingly detached group on life in the US. Apparently, a good 20 percent of Americans achieve this “rich” level at some point in their lives, even if temporary:

In a country where poverty is at a record high, today’s new rich are notable for their sense of economic fragility.
They rely on income from their work to maintain their social position and pay for things such as private tutoring for their children.
That makes them much more fiscally conservative than other Americans, polling suggests, and less likely to support public programs, such as food stamps or early public education, to help the disadvantaged.

The new research suggests that affluent Americans are more numerous than government data depict, encompassing 21 percent of working-age adults for at least a year by the time they turn 60.
That proportion has more than doubled since 1979.
Even outside periods of unusual wealth, members of this group generally hover in the $100,000-plus income range, keeping them in the top 20 percent of earners.

And they want to not only stay there, but keep others, though like-minded, hobbled up.

Finally, all this cold we’ve been having around here is all relative to what others have been experiencing — Idaho is way-way-colder than the north coast of California, but there’s also “soul crushing” cold:

Try 135.8 degrees Fahrenheit below zero; that’s 93.2 degrees below zero Celsius, which sounds only slightly toastier. Better yet, don’t try it.
That’s so cold scientists say it hurts to breathe.

In East Antarctica, silly — the coldest ever recorded.

Off into the evening, and most-likely continue my return to the ‘X-Files‘ on Netflix — Scully and Mulder look like babies — and I’m just into the first season. A big favorite of the kids growing up was the Sunday night Fox line-up (‘Simpsons’ and etc.) that included the X-Files, saw all the episodes originally, then later on video.
A most-excellent show. At least in those early years — the music even has a wondrous, nostalgic sense.

(Illustration above found here).

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