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Over Easy: How Coffee Works

5:00 am in Uncategorized by yellowsnapdragon

So many important topics I’d like to write about, too little time. Sigh. In Lieu of a proper post, here is a video explaining how coffee works.

How’s everyone doing today? Gracie did well in surgery, although she has been drugged up all weekend. She has to go back to the vet on Wednesday to have her dressing changed and get a post-surgery once over by the vet. We expect the results of the biopsy over the next couple days, so think good thoughts for us.

Over Easy: Putin, Poroshenko and Merkel Meeting in Minsk

4:45 am in Uncategorized by yellowsnapdragon

Minsk House of Government with a statue of Lenin in front

World leaders meet in Minsk to try to create Ukrainian peace.

Ukraine disintegrated into civil war partly over disagreement about whether to join the European Union’s economic integration program, the Eastern Partnership, or to join Eurasia’s new Customs Union (CU). Today, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia will hold CU talks in Minsk, and Ukraine’s President Poroshenko is expected to attend. The CU meeting will be the first formal meeting between Vladimir Putin and Petro Poroshenko since the Ukrainian civil war began. Representatives of the EU will be included in the summit.

Although no agenda for the Minsk summit has been set, talks are expected to include diplomatic efforts to resolve the Ukrainian conflict. Poroshenko has indicated that he plans to ask that rebels be withdrawn from eastern Ukraine, while Putin will likely demand greater autonomy for the restive eastern provinces and protection of human rights there. The EU may pressure Poroshenko to make some kind of speedy resolution of the crisis before economic catastrophe spreads to Europe.

Angela Merkel, who traveled to Ukraine over the weekend, lacks confidence that the Minsk summit will yield meaningful results.

My talks in Kiev were aimed in part at preparing this meeting, which surely won’t produce the one big breakthrough in Minsk — just to curb expectations,

However, she has also just indicated that the EU is now willing to accept a decision by Ukraine to join Putin’s Customs Union if Ukraine chooses to do so. That’s an important shift. Meanwhile, Poroshenko dissolved parliament and called early elections for late October.

Off topic is welcome at Over Easy and everyone is invited to join the cat. Don’t be shy. See you in the comments.

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Over Easy: The Mysterious Parisian Heist

5:45 am in Uncategorized by yellowsnapdragon

A Mercedes parked by a prestigious Parisian hotel

Robbers stole valuables — and “sensitive documents” — from the Mercedes of a Saudi Prince.

Here’s an interesting story. Last Sunday, an anonymous Saudi Prince’s convoy was robbed en route to a Paris airport from a swanky, Saudi-owned luxury hotel. Police suspect the theft was a well planned, inside job because the stolen car appeared to be selected for its valuable contents.

The robbers, said to number between five and eight, seized the Mercedes and its three occupants – as well as €250,000 and what Le Parisien newspaper described as sensitive documents.

Soon afterwards the robbers released the hostages and abandoned the vehicle, which was found an hour later in Saint-Mesmes, a village in the Ile-de-France region north-east of Paris, along with one of the BMWs. Both vehicles were burnt out.

There have been several recent robberies in Paris targeting wealthy foreigners including another Saudi Royal in July and the daughter of the Mayor of Kiev in 2010. Six million dollars in jewels were stolen in that heist. Law enforcement suspects Balkan gangs are involved in the surprise attacks that are completed within moments.

What sets this robbery apart is the theft of “sensitive documents” from Saudi Embassy.

But the matter of the so-called ‘sensitive documents’ remains. Are they, as the Saudi intelligence veteran suggests, just the passports of the entourage? Or could they be something more serious and sinister? Various Saudi princes, after all, have been major sources of covert funding for operations as diverse as Iran-Contra in the 1980s and, more recently, jihadist operations in Syria. (Ties to the infamous ISIS in Syria and Iraq are less clear.) Some French politicians also have been known to accept the largesse of Arab benefactors. So it’s conceivable, if unlikely, that the sensitive documents are very sensitive indeed.

Of course, the documents could be nothing important at all. Most likely, we will never know.

Off topic welcome here at Over Easy and absolutely everyone is welcome to join the chat. See you in the comments.

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Over Easy: Russia Sending Humanitarian Convoy to East Ukraine

5:00 am in Uncategorized by yellowsnapdragon

Red Cross vehicles

An international red cross convoy is set to help eastern Ukraine.

A Russian humanitarian aid convoy left the Moscow area last night on its way to Ukraine to deliver food, medicine and other supplies to the besieged areas of eastern Ukraine. The mission is led by the International Committee of the Red Cross and has been approved by Ukraine.

An emergency meeting of the UN was called last week to discuss the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. According to RIA Novosti,

Earlier this week, Churkin described the situation in eastern Ukraine as catastrophic at an emergency UN Security Council meeting. Over four million people are trapped in the combat zone in eastern Ukraine, and more than 200,000 of them have no access to water, according to Russia’s UN envoy.

Nearly 1,400 people have been killed and over 4,000 wounded in eastern Ukraine since Kiev began attacking the breakaway region. At least 117,000 and as many as 730,000 Ukrainians have become refugees in Russia.

The organization of an aid convoy with the approval of Ukraine is somewhat of a surprise considering reports indicated last week that Cameron and Obama consider a Russian aid mission “unjustified and illegal.” NATO’s Anders Rasmussen has warned that Russia may use a humanitarian mission as a pretext for invasion.

We’ll see what happens next. I suspect a lot of civilians will be relieved.

In the meantime, off topic is welcome and everyone is welcome to join the chat. See you in the comments.

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Over Easy: Ballistic Escalation in Ukraine

5:00 am in Uncategorized by yellowsnapdragon

A few days ago, CNN reported that the Ukrainian Army fired several short range ballistic missiles into rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine, indicating a major escalation in the war. The exact location of the launch was undisclosed as was the intended target.

NATO confirmed the launch, then retracted after Kiev denied the launch. No damage has been reported from strikes of ballistic missiles in Ukraine.

Over at the Saker, Juan reports that 4 ballistic missiles were, in fact, fired toward East Ukraine and that two were aimed at the ring of territory that encircles a besieged segment of the Ukrainian Army near the Russian border called Saur Moglia. The presumed purpose of the attempted missile strikes was to open a corridor of escape for the trapped Ukrainian troops. Yesterday, more than 400 Ukrainian soldiers crossed the Russian border and became refugees after escaping encirclement.

How, then is it possible that missiles were fired but did not reach their targets? Again, from the Saker:

The 4 Tochka missiles were shot down over Novorossiya territory occupied by Ukraine Armed Forces before the missiles reached their programmed height. They were shot down from inside RF [Russian Federation] according to normally reliable sources. No visual evidence has been provided of RF shooting down the Tochka systems nor of the system used to shoot down the Tochka missiles.

However, separatists claim that parts of an unexploded ballistic missile warhead have been found in Luhansk.

To recap: Ballistic missiles were fired by the Ukrainian Army at the Novorussian forces in the east, but those missiles were intercepted by Russia. That’s a huge development if true.

Judge for yourself where the truth lies among the multiple conflicting accounts of the mysterious Ukrainian ballistic missiles. Maybe there were no launches. Maybe there were. Either way, there is likely a eventful backstory we haven’t been told that may for the first time include overt Russian military intervention. Nevertheless, there are reports that Kiev is amassing ballistic missiles in Donestk.

Off topic is welcome as always. Lurkers and newbies are encouraged to join in. See you in the comments.

Over Easy: Geneva II Sochi

4:45 am in Uncategorized by yellowsnapdragon

What does the Geneva II peace conference on Syria have in common with the Sochi Olympics? Why, that lovable rascal Bandar Bin Sultan Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, of course.

Bandar Bin Sultan

The ongoing adventures of Bandar Bush.

Tomorrow, representatives of the Assad government sit down with Syria stakeholders to work out a plan for an interim government to end Syria’s three year old civil war. Russia and the US will have a seat at the table, but the most important actors beyond the Assad regime may not participate.

Here’s the thing: prior to last fall, elements of the jihadi rebels were funded, trained, and armed by cooperating agencies of the US and Saudi intelligence, historic allies and partners in crime. Apparently unbeknownst to Prince Bandar, the US was all the while in secret negotiations with Saudi Arabia’s regional arch nemesis Iran, whose vast, nearly untapped resource wealth and powerful Shia leadership threaten Saudi Arabia’s regional power.

The US double cross provoked Bandar on a parade of threats and bribes to salvage the Saudi’s plan for Syria. Volgograd was bombed in retribution for Russia staunch backing of Assad, and newly released video indicates that more attacks are planned at Sochi. Attacks will involve weapons “up to and including chemical ones.” Note that chemical weapons were also used against civilians in Syria by Bandar’s mercenaries.

After vicious, bloody infighting among the armed rebels in Syria that just happened to begin in earnest after secret US/Iran talks were revealed, opposition forces seem to be moving toward reunification. The political wing of the opposition that loosely represents the myriad competing rebel factions, Syrian National Council (SNC), voted to attend Geneva II.

Considering Bandar’s anger, you may ask what persuaded his jihadis to join Peace talks. Before the SNC voted on whether to attend, US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford met with contingents from Bandar’s proxy army.

During the meeting, Ford told the SNC figures that Saudi prince Bandar Bin Sultan is on long vacation in the United States, “because of sickness and psychological fatigue,” Hamade added, citing the Syrian opposition official who is also close to former Prime Minister, Riyad Hijab.

“We would like to inform you that there are some changes that will take place in Saudi Arabia next March,” Ford said, noting that these changes will reach Bandar Bin Sultan and Saud al-Faissal.

If Bandar is, in fact, in the United States for an extended stay, new questions arise. What exactly is the new relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia? Who in the Kingdom is in charge of Syria policy today and what will change in March? Why would Bandar come to the States for a long visit while relations with the US Government are so strained over the US’s policy turnaround in Syria? Is Bandar’s stay deliberately intended to coincide with the games in Sochi?

Regardless, the changes coming to the Kingdom’s hierarchy appear aimed at affecting Saudi policy in the Shia Crescent. The changes noted by Ford are specifically directed toward Bandar himself.

The US ambassador added that the Saudi committee for Lebanon and Syria (which compromises Abdulaziz Khoja, Abdulaziz Bin Abdullah Al Saud and Muqren Bin Abdullah Al Saud) is to be activated and will take over the Lebanese and Syrian file from Bandar.

Saturday, Iran was invited to participate in Geneva II. Yesterday, the invitation was revoked when the SNC objected. The results of Geneva II, if any, are in question as long as Iran is excluded.

At any rate, it is clear that shifting alliances in the region are bound to bring more surprises.

As always, Off Topic is welcome and lurkers are encouraged to join the chat. See you in the comments around 6 a.m. PST.

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Over Easy: Crafting Edition!

5:45 am in Uncategorized by yellowsnapdragon

Around the time my boys are shuffled off to the school bus for the first time of the year, a catalogue arrives in the mail that elicits giddy anticipation for our favorite diversions of Fall. Halloween costumes! This year, Mom has decided to make the costumes since the boys have chosen more obscure characters — a Minecraft Creeper for the 5 year old and Lego Two Face for my 9 year old.

Two-Face

Two Lego Two-Faces with some sugary henchmen.

How the heck are you going to fabricate those, you ask? Well…I’ve been doing some research on crafting with Fun Foam (also known as craft foam or Foamies), and although it will be challenging for sure, neither of the costumes are impossible to make with the help of Fun Foam (check out the cool costume stuff that can be made).

The Creeper is fairly straight forward and will be my first project. Last night I measured and cut four rectagular pieces for a box body with open ends for the head and feet (yep, that’s right…no such prefab box exists with the right dimensions). Figuring each square pixel would measure 3 square inches, I penned a grid on the outside of the pieces for easy placement of the pieces after the box was fabricated.

The next step was to figure out how to attach the pieces to each other securely enough to withstand the sugar-drunk frolic of an excited first grader hunting for treats. I laid the pieces face down in order and covered them with a rectangle of fine mesh polyester fabric from a remnant I had lying around. Then using diluted school glue, I brushed a coat of glue over the whole thing to bond the box pieces together yet allow them to bend into the box shape.

This morning when I woke up, the piece was warped from the drying glue (of course *rolls eyes*), so my next step is to flatten it again with a heat gun and a piece of plywood before I make a box. Now I need to figure out how to add some kind of suspender straps to make the box wearable.

I’ve looked around for as many shades of green foamies as I could find, but it looks like I’ll have to paint some of the squares. Cutting and gluing the pixel squares will be the most labor intensive portion of the project once I figure out how to complete the wearable structure.

Do you craft? Sew? Knit? Build? Tell us all about what you make for fun. Lurkers especially welcome. As always, Off Topic is welcome as well.

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Over Easy: Another Caturday Night

4:45 am in Uncategorized by yellowsnapdragon

Nagi is cheating on me with another cat lady. I’m convinced of it. He comes home late at night, if at all, and hasn’t slept on my head for weeks. I swear I smell tuna on his breath. He hasn’t gotten any from me. I feel so betrayed.

Whassyer problem, lady?

photo

Strangely, Gracie has been spending way more time indoors than usual in spite of the beautiful, summery weather. I wonder if it is because she is getting old. It’s almost unfathomable to me that she is 12! Feels like she just came home yesterday.

Gracie used to be overweight, rather severely so. Once the front door was opened and she was allowed to roam, the weight seemed to melt away. We should all be so lucky.

Distorted Gracie

photo

Abner is just as he always is, full of backear and acerbic derision. I’ve found him napping a lot in an empty flower pot on the deck that’s surrounded by a flurry of fallen oak leaves and acorns. Instead of looking particularly cute, the pot makes him look a dry kind of overripe, if that is possible. I wish I had a picture of him in it.

How are your kittehs doing? Deposit your cat stories here. As always, off topic is on topic and lurkers are encouraged to join the chat. Come on lurkers, you know you want to brag about your cat.

Over Easy: The Legitimacy of Secret Laws

4:45 am in Uncategorized by yellowsnapdragon

US Constitution

Just some old rags our government keeps lying around …

The Declaration of Independence tells us a lot about conditions under which our government finds legitimacy. We are endowed with certain rights including life and liberty, and we have the right to seek happiness in our individual lives.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

The second sentence of the Declaration of Independence declares that the purpose of government is to protect our rights and government is given legitimacy based on our consent.

Liberty is one of the natural rights our government was tasked with protecting. The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution guarantees protection from government intrusion into our homes to survey and collect personal papers and effects without reasonable suspicion of finding proof of criminal activity.

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Yet, our government has granted itself the power through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) not only to indiscrimnately search our electronic communications, but to record and store that information for 5 years. What’s worse, the FISC made this ruling rendering null the Fourth Amendment without the necessary authority to decide such weighty issues…and in secret.

Just laws are written in plain language for all to see. By contrast, legal contortions made in secret to justify obviously prohibited behaviors cannot be given the consent of the governed without public disclosure. Laws of that kind have no legitimacy.

The Top Secret Verizon ruling of the FISC has no legitimacy. Written and ruled in secret on matters beyond the scope of its authority, FISC is acting under the color of law to violate one of our most basic rights guaranteed by the highest law of the land, the Constitution.

We do not need legal experts to tell us what rights we have; they are clearly enumerated in the Bill of Rights and need no qualification. The law belongs to us, you and me. We are the governed from whom consent is required.

So, what are we going to do about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court’s bogus, illegitimate decision?

As always, Off Topic is welcome, and lurkers are encouraged to join the conversation.

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Over Easy: Caturday Night Edition

7:00 am in Uncategorized by yellowsnapdragon

It’s been a while since we’ve gotten down to the important bizness of talking about our animal masters, namely our cats.  The obvious and foolish mistake in overlooking the importance of our feline overlords has been noted, with much prejudice.  *severe backear*

Gracie is not pleased.

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Nagi, who traveled from Florida and SouthernDragon’s brood to join my fambly in Northern California is officially an indoor-outdoor tiger.  Newly let loose on the great outdoors, Nagi (aka Shadow, Shadoodle, or just Doodle for short) is exploring the challenging world of tree climbing, grass eating, and ballsy neighbor Tom avoiding.  So far he has gifted us with two live mice in one mouthful, and one dead mouse.  On his first free carouse outside, he ate so much grass that he came right back inside and promptly threw up.  He seems to be much happier and more confident since he can go in and out when he pleases, and he is even getting used to the novelty of the fine drizzle that has been falling recently.

Nagi in his element.

photo

Nagi and Abner have learned to coexist peacefully, but Abner has taken the role of Alpha male.  Nagi is second in line for meals, gets second choice of sunning spots, and has been relegated to the foot of the bed whenever Abner snoozes on my torso.  Although Abner is marking more than in the past–including on the brand spanking new kitchen counters–no fur has flown for some time.  Good news.

A is for Alpha and Abner

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How are your little lords who wear fur or feathers?  All animals are equally adored here, so add links to your cutest pictures below.  Special welcome to lurkers who want to brag about their cuties.

I’m on west coast time, so I’ll join comments around 7:30 PST.