Weds/Thurs open thread and misc. blog/news notes

First, some great news:

—– Jon Henke, who created and blogged at QandO before he became New Media director for Senate Republicans at the beginning of this year, has left that job to become a part of the New Media Strategies team and in the process will be working with the Fred Thompson campaign. Jon’s a great guy and one of the hardest working guys in the “new media” (aka “blogosphere”) so I wish him all the best and look fwd to seeing what he can do for Fred!.

Not so great news:

—– ST reader Karl’s family needs your prayers. His son is down with an ankle injury and only has two weeks to recover before his Navy bootcamp physical. If he’s unable to recover in that short timeframe, he’ll washout. So please keep him in your thoughts and prayers.

—– Blogger Danny Carlton (aka “Jack Lewis“) is still in need of a helping hand. His family is going through a really rough time right now thanks to his wife’s former employer. Read more about that here.

—– Due to drought concerns, LA residents have been asked to cut down on their shower time … :-&

And just plain weird news:

—– Beware of the Boost Plus health drink? Read and judge for yourself … I probably should refrain from commenting on this one!

That’s all for now. I may add to this post in a little bit :)

Anti-war “art” – UK style

Because anti-war ‘art’ isn’t just for the US:

LONDON (AP) – An artist’s triptych of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, naked, stony-faced and surrounded by haunting images of the war in Iraq, is one of the arresting sights at a major London art exhibition.

Michael Sandle, whose “Iraq Triptych” was unveiled Wednesday at the Royal Academy of Art’s annual Summer Exhibition, depicts a morose Blair and his horrified wife, Cherie, as Adam and Eve, struggling to cover their nude forms outside their Downing Street home.

Sandle’s black-and-white drawing, in charcoal and chalk, includes panels showing a soldier beating hooded and naked prisoners and a pile of corpses, one with tape covering its mouth.

“This is a biblical allegory—Adam and Eve expelled from paradise—and this is Blair’s legacy,” Sandle said, calling the Iraq war “disgraceful.”

A quote from Sandle and more on the ‘artwork’:

The charcoal drawing was modelled by the artist, who is 71 and has sculpted many public commissions, on medieval paintings of Adam and Eve leaving the Garden of Eden in disgrace. The embarrassed central characters outside No 10 are flanked by one panel representing brutality by British troops in Iraq and another showing a pile of Iraqi corpses under an Hieronymus Bosch-like rain of body parts.

The brutality panel is based on the case of Corporal Donald Payne, who admitted inhuman treatment of Iraqi civilians at a court martial last year in which other soldiers in his unit were cleared amid controversy. Sandle has called the panel “Corporal Payne’s Chorus” because the soldier invited others to hear what he called his “choir” of victims screaming.

“I wasn’t going to submit this year, but I suddenly felt overcome with anger at the way Blair has messed up,” said Sandle, who originally thought he had missed the submission deadline.

He worked non-stop, including fixing up the framing required for all entries, after staff reminded him of the 10 days of grace allowed to academicians entering work. “There he was, elected by a huge majority, and he has allowed his vanity to destroy it all,” added Sandle. “He doesn’t appear to feel a twinge of conscience about Iraq because he is so sure that he did the right thing.

“They have talked about the original perpetrators of violence being the ones who should apologise, but what about the 650,000 Iraqis who have died since the invasion? Who is going to apologise to them, and how?”

Sounds like an older, male equivalent of Rosie O’Donnell.

Here’s a photo of the ‘artwork,’ which won Britain’s Royal Academy Summer Exhibition’s Hugh Casson prize and is the centerpiece” to this year’s exhibition.


This week in history

Today is the 63rd anniversary of D-Day. See a timeline of events that led up to the historic day here. And how about a word of prayer and thanks to our WWII military veterans who helped free the French from the Germans.

President Reagan’s speech at Normandy on the 40th anniversary of D-Day comes to mind. Here are some excerpts:

We stand on a lonely, windswept point on the northern shore of France. The air is soft, but forty years ago at this moment, the air was dense with smoke and the cries of men, and the air was filled with the crack of rifle fire and the roar of cannon. At dawn, on the morning of the 6th of June, 1944, two hundred and twenty-five Rangers jumped off the British landing craft and ran to the bottom of these cliffs.

Their mission was one of the most difficult and daring of the invasion: to climb these sheer and desolate cliffs and take out the enemy guns. The Allies had been told that some of the mightiest of these guns were here, and they would be trained on the beaches to stop the Allied advance.

The Rangers looked up and saw the enemy soldiers at the edge of the cliffs, shooting down at them with machine guns and throwing grenades. And the American Rangers began to climb. They shot rope ladders over the face of these cliffs and began to pull themselves up. When one Ranger fell, another would take his place. When one rope was cut, a Ranger would grab another and begin his climb again. They climbed, shot back, and held their footing. Soon, one by one, the Rangers pulled themselves over the top, and in seizing the firm land at the top of these cliffs, they began to seize back the continent of Europe. Two hundred and twenty-five came here. After two days of fighting, only ninety could still bear arms.

And behind me is a memorial that symbolizes the Ranger daggers that were thrust into the top of these cliffs. And before me are the men who put them there. These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. And these are the heroes who helped end a war. Gentlemen, I look at you and I think of the words of Stephen Spender’s poem. You are men who in your “lives fought for life and left the vivid air signed with your honor.”

You can read the rest of that speech, view a video of it, or hear audio of it here.

Speaking of the Gipper, yesterday was the three year anniversary of his death. We’re still missin’ you, Mr. President – your guidance, your humor, your wit, your strength.

Here’s Reagan giving one of my favorite speeches of all time. It’s especially relevant in these times:

The transcript of the “Rendezvous with Destiny” speech can be read here.

Incidentally, next Tuesday is the 20th anniversary of Reagan’s famous “Tear down this wall!” speech.

Here's to you, Mr. President

Here’s to you, Mr. President, and also to those who fought bravely on the shores of Normandy, in order to give freedom to total strangers. Their service and sacrifices will never be forgotten.

Promising developments in adult stem cell research

Via Yuval Levin at NRO:

The coming week’s issue of the scientific journal Nature, made available online today, includes several extraordinary new studies on an alternative avenue to embryonic-like stem cells that does not require the destruction of embryos. In the most important paper, scientists at MIT have chemically reprogrammed regular adult cells (like skin cells) in mice to function and appear like embryonic stem cells. They express their results with simplicity and confidence: “Our results establish that somatic cells [i.e. normal adult non-reproductive cells] can be reprogrammed to a pluripotent state that is similar, if not identical, to that of normal embryonic stem cells.” They note further, “our results show that the biological potency and epigenetic state of in-vitro-reprogrammed induced pluripotent stem cells are indistinguishable from those of embryonic stem cells”. In other words, adult cells into embryonic-like cells without the need for embryos.

This is one of three studies published today showing similar results with this technique. It’s all still in mice, and results like this always need to be confirmed and re-confirmed over time, but this is a very big deal, and anticipation of it has been generating huge buzz in the stem cell world for a while now. The quotes in this Nature news story give a sense of how scientists in the field are reacting.

Here’s more via the AP:

NEW YORK – In a big step toward a long-sought goal, three teams of scientists say they’ve produced the equivalent of embryonic stem cells, at least in mice, without taking the controversial step of destroying embryos.

Their procedure makes ordinary skin cells behave like stem cells. If the same can be done with human cells — a big if — the procedure could lead to breakthrough medical treatments without the contentious ethical and political debates surrounding the use of embryos.

It’ll be interesting to see the reactions of the “embryonic stem cell research NOW!!!!!” crowd to this news. I mean, think about it: assuming that these tests are confirmed and re-confirmed, the embryonic stem cells the usual suspects so strongly claim that we “need” in order to create “vital cures” for people with diseases which are not yet cureable won’t be “needed.” And I say “needed” loosely because it’s the pro-embryonic stem cell research crowd who claims embryonic stem cells are “essential” to curing diseases like Parkinson’s, in spite of the fact that there has not been one shred of evidence to support the claim. All they have to go on is “hope” – nothing concrete. On the other hand, adult stem cell research continues to surprise and amaze us with the things we’re learning about it. This news is nothing short of awesome.

Age really is just a number

Check out this awesome story of a former police commander and a former US Marine and how they, along with a flight attendant, took care of an unruly passenger on a recent Minneapolis to Boston flight:

Shortly before landing, Bob Hayden and a flight attendant had agreed on a signal: When she waved the plastic handcuffs, he would discreetly leave his seat and restrain an unruly passenger who had frightened some of the 150 people on board a Minneapolis-to-Boston flight Saturday night with erratic behavior.

Hayden, a 65-year-old former police commander, had enlisted a gray-haired gentleman sitting next to him to assist. The man turned out to be a former US Marine.

“I had looked around the plane for help, and all the younger guys had averted their eyes. When I asked the guy next to me if he was up to it, all he said was, ‘Retired captain. USMC.’ I said, ‘You’ll do,’ ” Hayden recalled. “So, basically, a couple of grandfathers took care of the situation.”

The incident on Northwest Airlines Flight 720 ended peacefully, but not before Hayden, a former Boston police deputy superintendent and former Lawrence police chief, and the retired Marine had handcuffed one man and stood guard over another until the plane touched down safely at Logan International Airport around 7:50 p.m.

State Police troopers escorted two men off the flight. Trooper Thomas Murphy, a State Police spokesman, said one of the men was transported to Massachusetts General Hospital for “an unspecified medical issue, possibly mental health.”


Hayden’s wife of 42 years, Katie, who was also on the flight, was less impressed. Even as her husband struggled with the agitated passenger, she barely looked up from “The Richest Man in Babylon,” the book she was reading.

“The woman sitting in front of us was very upset and asked me how I could just sit there reading,” Katie Hayden said. “Bob’s been shot at. He’s been stabbed. He’s taken knives away. He knows how to handle those situations. I figured he would go up there and step on somebody’s neck, and that would be the end of it. I knew how that situation would end. I didn’t know how the book would end.”

I love it!

There’s something to be said for age and experience ;)

Hat tip: Blackfive