Tuesday Morning Open Thread

Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.

John Quincy Adams
Brother of Syrian parliament speaker assassinated

Gunmen killed the brother of Syria's parliament speaker as he drove to work in Damascus on Tuesday, the state-run news agency reported, as the international envoy for Syria warned the country could become another Somalia.

Mohammed Osama Laham, brother of Parliament Speaker Jihad Laham, was killed in the Damascus neighborhood of Midan, the SANA news agency said.

It was the latest in a wave of assassinations targeting Syrian officials, army officers and other prominent supporters of President Bashar Assad's regime. Four of the president's top security aides were killed in a rebel bombing of state security headquarters in Damascus on July 18.

Shadow of Mao still lingers over China

Lately, Mao has re-emerged as the face of resistance and defiance more than three decades after his death. Young Chinese protesters have carried his image aloft during protests against Japan over disputed islands in the region. One young woman from Mao's home village in Hunan province lamented how weak she thought her country's leaders have become -- that if Mao were still alive then China would just take the islands.

Despite this reverence, Mao's remains a flawed legacy. For those who see strength in his face, others remember fear: revolution, paranoia, famine, brutality and tens of millions of deaths.

Was a North Korean General Really Executed by Mortar Fire?

The latest gallows gossip from Pyongyang recounts the execution of fifty-something Kim Chol, the nom de guerre of a deputy defense minister. South Korean daily Chosun Ilbo reported in late October that Kim was one of several senior Korean People's Army officials executed or arrested after Kim Jong Un's accession following the December 2011 death of his father Kim Jong Il. According to the paper, during North Korea's official three-month mourning period, Kim Chol enjoyed liquor in the company of a female colleague in the North Korean military, a violation of Kim Jong Un's explicit warning against "singing or dancing, merrymaking or recreation." If the story is accurate, Kim Chol and his comrades were killed by mortar rounds fired at point-blank range.

Kim Chol's fate cannot be confirmed. North Korea is notoriously opaque, with strict controls on information and a rigorously censored state media. Narrative accounts about North Korean elites are often fabrications; little snippets of information are imaginatively threaded together by creative diplomats or intelligence officials (Chosun Ilbo sourced Kim Chol's death to a lawmakers' "intelligence data") and peddled to journalists working in the hyper-competitive South Korean and Japanese media markets. And yet sometimes the stories of elites emerge from gossip inside the country, from clerks, typists, telephone operators, workers in foreign trading corporations and middle management in the ruling Workers' Party of Korea. The Kim Chol story first appeared in South Korean media in March; its reappearance, and the trivial reason cited for his execution, suggests it originated from gossip.

Details Emerge in Afghan Village Massacre

Staff Sgt. Robert Bales spent the evening on his remote outpost in southern Afghanistan with fellow soldiers, watching a movie about revenge killings, sharing whiskey from a plastic bottle and discussing an attack that cost one of their friends his leg.

Within hours, a prosecutor said Monday, a cape-wearing Bales embarked on a killing spree of his own, slaughtering 16 Afghan civilians before returning to the base in predawn darkness, bloody and incredulous that his comrades ordered him to surrender his weapons.

NYC Marathon Runners Find Their Own Way to Run — and Give Back

On Friday evening, with slightly more than 36 hours to go before the 2012 ING New York City Marathon, Mayor Michael Bloomberg canceled the annual event, amid criticisms the runners would be siphoning off valuable resources needed in the city’s recovery from Superstorm Sandy. But the decision hardly discouraged a group of nearly 1,300 runners from boarding the Staten Island Ferry toward the starting line. Far from anticipating a grueling 26.2-mile run, however, these would-be racers ran their own marathon, carrying garbage bags and backpacks full of donated supplies ranging from blankets to Home Depot gift cards that they delivered to the destroyed homes of Staten Island residents.

“I’ve run the marathon three times, and there was an odd familiarity getting on the Staten Island Ferry this morning with a group of runners for a completely different reason,” says runner and New Yorker Jon Bennion. “It was fascinating, the anxiety and jitters were replaced by an overwhelming sense of community.”

'Really intense nor'easter' heads for New York, New Jersey

A "really intense nor'easter" was expected to hit New York and New Jersey on Wednesday, bringing rain and wind gusts of up to 50 mph in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy, weather.com reported.

Tom Niziol, a winter weather expert with weather.com, said the storm would weaken slightly Thursday but could bring snow to an area from the Catskill Mountains, N.Y., to parts of northern New England.

“If the snowfall amounts get to be a few inches … and we combine that with some brisk winds in that area, we may look at another round of power outages for areas that weren’t as affected as the New Jersey and Long Island coasts from Sandy,” he said.

Ohio woman who drove on sidewalk to avoid school bus ordered to wear ‘idiot’ sign

A woman caught on camera driving on a sidewalk to avoid a Cleveland school bus that was unloading children will have to stand at an intersection wearing a sign warning about idiots.

World's rarest whale seen for first time after New Zealand beaching

The spade-toothed beaked whale is so rare that nobody has seen one alive, but scientists have proof the species still exists.

Two skeletons were identified as belonging to the species after a 17-foot whale and her calf beached themselves in New Zealand in 2010. Scientists hope the discovery will provide insights into the species and into ocean ecosystems.

It was almost a missed opportunity, however, since conservation workers misidentified the carcasses as a much more common type of whale and buried them.

Mixed Results on the Benefits of Multivitamins

Many Americans spend billions of dollars each year on multivitamins, assuming that taking a daily multivitamin will help protect against certain diseases, even though there's been no conclusive studies on the benefits of taking multivitamins.

New findings from a long-term study published Monday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, for example, suggest that multivitamins do not protect against heart disease in men. The study, which included nearly 15,000 male physicians over age 50, found that those who took a daily multivitamin for more than 10 years did not reduce their risk for heart attack, stroke or death.

The findings are part of the large-scale Physicians' Health Study II, which has been tracking the long-term effects of multivitamins on the risk of heart-related diseases and cancer.

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Wow.

downsouth's picture

What an interesting compilation of news!  I especially love the Kim Chol story.  Looks like Kim Jong Un may be even more crazy than his father or grandfather.  I wonder what other imaginative ways he's found to execute people? 

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I would take that Afghanistan story with a grain of salt

geomoo's picture

"New details emerge".  The Afghanistan Parliament . . . you know them? . . . the emodiment of the noble reason we are killing Afghanis? . . . well, they conducted their own investigation which has been ignored here in the west.  What they found indicated a much darker story.  The story coming out of the army changed a few times, as their intial stories encountered physical impossibilities involving time and space.  It is very likely that the killing was done by more than one person and that the there were helicopters involved as well.

 

as the international envoy for Syria warned the country could become another Somalia.

I swear I read some pro-Obama person include Somalia on a list of success stories for Obama's foreign policy, success in the sense of "spreading democracy".  It seems the Syrians view developments in Somalia as less than hugely successful.

 

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good afternoon vots. Too late to say good morning.

temptxan's picture

So glad it is almost over. I wan't to watch television with the sound on again!  Avoiding the television until tonight when I am sure curiosity will get the best of me and I will have to look. I am hoping that sanity returns to facbook and the rest of the internet, hoping but not really counting on it. Tommorrow starts the 2014 election cycle and we will be at it again.

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