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Ravenzlo – Obama Finally Signs Veterans Bill into Law

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Obama signs veterans bill into law

President Barack Obama signs into law the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014. | AP Photo

The signing, which took place at Fort Belvoir, Va., caps off months of heated negotiations. | AP Photo

President Barack Obama on Thursday signed into law a bill to overhaul the Department of Veterans Affairs, in what amounted to a rare display of bipartisanship amid the current congressional gridlock.

The signing, which took place at Fort Belvoir, Va., capped off months of heated negotiations. The president was flanked by his newly installed VA secretary, Robert McDonald, and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

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The Republican chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Rep. Jeff Miller of Florida, was unable to attend because of previously scheduled trips, including a visit to an Army medical center in Texas.

In a speech ahead of the signing, Obama said the bill was passed with bipartisan majorities — which “doesn’t happen often in Congress.” As he signed the measure, he joked that the members of Congress in attendance ought to send him more bills to sign — a dig at the congressional gridlock that has dogged much of his tenure.

The president said the bill marks a first step toward fixing the problems at the VA and highlighted the work still left to be done, including ending veteran homelessness, eliminating the backlog of VA disability claims and helping more veterans get jobs. He also urged the Senate to confirm several pending nominees for senior VA posts, including Linda Schwartz, selected to be assistant secretary of veterans affairs for policy and planning.

“As soon as the Senate gets back in September, they should act to put these outstanding public servants in place,” Obama said. “They’re ready to serve; they’re ready to get to work.”

The legislation was written after allegations earlier this year that some veterans may have died waiting for health care, generating outrage that led to the May resignation of McDonald’s predecessor, Eric Shinseki. Though negotiations about the bill’s terms at one point almost broke down, lawmakers on Capitol Hill eventually struck a breakthrough compromise, seeking to avoid going home for the August recess without addressing the VA’s issues.

The $16 billion measure, passed on the Hill last week, makes it easier for the VA secretary to fire or demote top officials accused of mismanagement — a response to the allegations that VA officials falsified records to make it appear they were meeting agency goals for providing care.

The bill also authorizes new VA clinics, provides funding to hire more health care providers and allows veterans who have faced lengthy waits to seek doctors outside the VA health system, among other provisions.

“America has to do right by all who serve under our proud flag,” Obama said Thursday.

In a statement, Miller said the signing ceremony should be a “wake-up call” and accused the Obama administration of ignoring the department’s challenges “at every turn.”

“I am pleased President Obama has finally recognized what we have been telling administration officials for years: that VA’s widespread and systemic lack of accountability is jeopardizing the health of veterans and contributing to all of the department’s most pressing problems,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sanders said he was “glad we accomplished something significant for veterans” in a “dysfunctional Congress.”

“This legislation will go a long way toward ending unacceptably long waiting times for veterans to access health care and allow the VA the resources to hire the doctors, nurses and other medical staff it needs to address these problems over the long term,” he said.

Some veterans groups hailed the legislation, arguing that it marks an important step in fixing the VA. John Stroud, national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, said in a statement that the law will help McDonald “fix what’s broken, hold people accountable and restore the faith that veterans must have in their VA.”

Still, some cautioned that there remains more work ahead. Paul Rieckhoff, chief executive and founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said in a statement that the legislation represents a “good first step toward healing the VA,” but it’s not a “silver bullet.”

“It is merely a Band-Aid and one that will soon fall off,” Rieckhoff said. “American leaders must continue to focus on the VA and veterans issues more broadly.”

Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2014/08/obama-veterans-bill-law-109813.html#ixzz39jAoW2pP

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New Phase of Gaza operation from CBS/AP – Ravenzlo

Israeli military announces “new phase” of Gaza operation

Last Updated Aug 3, 2014 1:45 PM EDT

RAFAH, Gaza Strip – A United Nations school sheltering displaced people in the southern Gaza Strip was hit Sunday by what a U.N. official said appeared to be an Israeli airstrike that killed 10 people as Israel signaled a possible scaling back in the ongoing war.

 

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the attack near the Rafah school as both “a moral outrage and a criminal act.”

The Israeli military had no comment on the Rafah school strike but confirmed it was redeploying along the Gaza border for a “new phase” of an operation aimed at stopping rocket fire toward Israel and destroying the Hamas underground tunnel network.

“We have indeed scaled down some of the presence and indeed urged Palestinians in certain neighborhoods to come back to their homes,” said Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a military spokesman.

The U.S. State Department also condemned the attack on the school. Spokesperson Jan Psaki released a statement calling it “disgraceful,” adding: “The coordinates of the school, like all UN facilities in Gaza, have been repeatedly communicated to the Israeli Defense Forces. We once again stress that Israel must do more to meet its own standards and avoid civilian casualties.”

Several Israeli tanks and other vehicles were seen leaving Gaza a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suggested troops would reassess operations after completing the demolition of Hamas tunnels under the border. Security officials said the tunnel mission was winding down and Israel would soon be taking its troops out of the strip.

israel troops tanks generic

Israeli soldiers stand on top of their Merkava tanks along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip after they pulled out from the Gaza Strip on August 3, 2014.

 

COHEN MAGEN/AFP/Getty Images

 

 

 

In Gaza, meanwhile, Israeli airstrikes and tank shelling continued. Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra said at least 10 people were killed and 35 wounded after the strike near the boys’ school in Rafah. Robert Turner, the director of operations for the U.N. Palestinian refugee agency in Gaza, said preliminary findings indicated the blast was an Israeli airstrike near the school, which had been providing shelter for some 3,000 people. He said the strike killed at least one U.N. staffer.

“The locations of all these installations have been passed to the Israeli military multiple times,” Turner said. “They know where these shelters are. How this continues to happen, I have no idea. I have no words for it. I don’t understand it.”

The Israeli military said they were investigating.

 

Inside the U.N. school’s compound, several bodies, among them children, were strewn across the ground in puddles of blood.

“Our trust and our fate is only in the hands of God!” one woman cried.

Some of the wounded were transported to the Kuwaiti hospital in Rafah and others were treated in what seemed to be a makeshift clinic underneath a tent.

At least six U.N. facilities, including schools sheltering the displaced, have been struck by Israeli fire since the conflict began, drawing international condemnation. In each case Israel has said it was responding to militants launching rockets or other attacks from nearby.

In nearly four weeks of fighting, Palestinian health officials say more than 1,750 Palestinians, mainly civilians, have been killed. Nearly 70 Israelis, almost all soldiers, have been killed.

Israel launched an aerial campaign in Gaza on July 8 to try to halt Palestinian rocket fire on major cities, and later sent in troops to dismantle Hamas’ cross-border tunnels that have been used to carry out attacks.

Artillery shells slammed into two high-rise office buildings Sunday in downtown Gaza City and large explosions could be heard seconds apart, police and witnesses said. Al-Kidra said more than 50 Palestinians were killed Sunday, including 10 members of one family in a single strike in the southern Gaza Strip. Israel said it carried out 180 strikes Sunday.

CBS News correspondent Charlie D’Agata reported from Tel Aviv that Israel struck 200 alleged terror targets in Gaza on Saturday, while Hamas launched more than 80 rockets into Israel.

 

When people returned to neighborhoods Saturdday where Israelis said their offensive was done, most found little to save from war’s destruction, reports CBS News correspondent Barry Peterson.

Israel cut off cement during its eight year blockade, saying it was being used not to build a better life but Hamas tunnels to attack Israel.

But no cement, according to American educated engineer Mustafa El Hawi, means nothing gets rebuilt.

“Cement is the basic material,” he said. “In Gaza cement is the key for every construction. Homes, mosques, schools.”

So is Gaza’s lone power plant gone. With help from the outside world, it might be repaired in months. Without help, it may never work again.

And without light many of Gaza’s 1.8 million people will live in a modern day dark ages.

The bodies of the Al Ghoul family, killed early Sunday morning, were lined up on the floor of the Kuwaiti hospital in Rafah. Doctors wiped dried blood from the faces of three men. Outside the hospital, men and children shed tears while sobbing women cradled the smallest of the dead, kissing their faces.

In another hospital room at the hospital, at least four children were piled into an ice cream freezer, all wrapped in white cloth drenched in blood. Doctors say that morgues in Rafah are at maximum capacity.

 

In Cairo, Egyptian and Palestinian negotiators held talks over a potential cease-fire. After accusing Hamas of repeatedly violating humanitarian cease-fire arrangements, Israel said it would not attend the talks and there was “no point” negotiating with the Islamic militant group.

Hamas official Izzat al-Rishq said the Israelis will have to either withdraw unilaterally or accept a political agreement that addresses Hamas’ demands.

“Hamas will not accept any ceasefire deal as long as Israelis are still in Gaza Strip,” he said.

Hamas has said it will not stop fighting until Israel and Egypt lift their blockade of Gaza, imposed after the Islamic militant group overran the territory in 2007. Large swaths of Gaza have been destroyed and some 250,000 people have been forced to flee their homes since the war began.

In a televised address late Saturday, Netanyahu warned Hamas they would pay an “intolerable price” if militants continued to fire rockets at Israel and that all options remain on the table.

From an Israeli perspective, the advantage of a unilateral pullout or troop redeployment to the strip’s fringes is that it can do so on its own terms, rather than becoming entangled in negotiations with Hamas. However, a unilateral pullback does not address the underlying causes of cross-border tensions and carries the risk of a new flare-up of violence in the future.

Rocket fire continued toward Israel Sunday. More than 3,000 rockets have been fired since the war began, which have killed three civilians and damaged several homes. Several soldiers have been killed in the current round of fighting by Palestinian gunmen who popped out of tunnels near Israeli communities along the Gaza border.

The Israeli military death toll rose to 64 after Israel announced that Hadar Goldin, a 23-year-old infantry lieutenant feared captured in Gaza, was actually killed in battle. His funeral is later Sunday.

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon revealed on his Facebook page Sunday that he is a distant relative of Goldin and had known him his whole life. The information was previously kept under wraps while Goldin was feared to be abducted.

Israel had earlier said it feared Goldin had been captured by Hamas militants Friday near Rafah in an ambush that shattered an internationally brokered cease-fire and was followed by heavy Israeli shelling that left dozens of Palestinians dead.

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Ravenzlo – Jim Oeffinger’s plane crashed Thursday as he tried to land it at a Wisconsin airport.

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OSHKOSH, Wis. — Authorities on Friday identified the victim of a single-engine airplane crash at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh as Jim Oeffinger, 74, of Versailles, Kentucky. Oeffinger’s Breezy crashed in a grassy area east of the airport’s north-south runway while he was attempting a landing at about 9 a.m. Thursday, during the fourth day of the Experimental Aircraft Association’s AirVenture convention. Oeffinger was taken to Theda Clark Regional Airport in Neenah, Wisconsin, where he later died. His passenger, 21-year-old Jennifer Woloszyk, of Elmhurst, Illinios, is at an Oshkosh hospital with serious injuries.

According to the Oshkosh Fire Department, the plane burst into flames after it crashed into a line of Oshkosh Corp. military trucks that are being stored on the periphery of the airport. John Holland of the Oshkosh Fire Department said fire crews on the grounds saw the crash happen and were able to get to the scene within two minutes. “The fact they were right there certainly helped,” Holland said. “We have a complete fire department on the AirVenture grounds all week. We couldn’t beat the speed of that response. Our presence there speeds up response times and, hopefully, saves lives.” The airport was temporarily closed for several hours after the crash. The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board are working with local authorities in the ongoing investigation of the cause of the crash. Ravenzlo.com/Ravenzlo – blog

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Oops!! Sony gaming websites go down because they didn’t pay the bill. Ravenzlo

Oops! Sony gaming websites go down because they didn’t pay the bill

Tim Hornyak , IDG News Service

Sony on Wednesday was struggling to ensure access to game-related websites that went offline apparently because of unpaid domain name bills.

Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) sites www.soe.com and www.sonyonline.net were sometimes redirecting users to generic holding pages from Network Solutions.

Some SOE-related sites for games such as Everquest, Everquest 2, Landmark and H1Z1 were also apparently affected.

A spokesperson at Sony’s headquarters in Tokyo said the electronics giant was looking into the matter.

On Twitter, however, SOE President John Smedley suggested that the company had failed to pay its website bills.

“The payment notifications went to a junk email box,” Smedley tweeted, adding, “Someone left and it got caught in the replacements junk filter. Simple as that. Embarrassing as that. No point dodging.”

”DNS problems could take up to 48 hours to resolve,” he wrote, adding, “We are really really sorry on this one folks. Embarrassing and preventable. We screwed up.”

“The login issues reported this morning have begun to be resolved,” an SOE community relations staffer wrote in a forum post on Tuesday.

“However, some players may be unable to connect to SOE services intermittently for up to 48 hours, including websites, forums and games. We apologize for the inconvenience.”

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Celebrating the 4th of July??………be mindful of Veterans suffering from PTSD.

Celebrating the 4th of July is a fun and commemorative event across the nation.  Food, Fun, Fireworks celebrating with friends…..crowds…..smells……crowds….smells…..noises….BOOM ….fireworks…… 🙁

PTSD 4th of July Celebration RavenZLO

As I begin preparations for this wonderful day I plan to fire up the smoker……..do some tenderloin, ribs and a chicken.  My family is excited, dawning the colors of our nations flag.  My wife is putting together a very “interesting” watermelon..strawberry…blueberry something or the other………….

However I can’t help fighting the grip that I can hold  on…..I can stay in the moment.  I can…….just not remember not find myself somewere else…….  “DADDY…..stop staring……don’t you like my outfit?  I’m red white and blue even my toes and finger nails…..and I can’t wait to be at the park and see the fireworks”  ………uh….yeah honey……….me uh….too.

Veterans andActive duty and others suffering from PTSD are honored at most celebrations, asked to stand, and cheered for……HOWEVER.

The struggles that arise or prevent many veterans from even attending these events are not so trivial.  PTSD is delt with every day, every night, in every crowd.   A time to celebrate is often much worse than attending a funeral depending on the circumstances of the injuries, memories or conditions  experienced.

This year pay attention to those around you.  It may be more than the food or the music.  If your loved one or you are struggling with being in the moment, without remembering those lost or injuries or re-living what is real every moment of every day.  Maybe a little extra encouragement is in order.

Your veteran is already Hypervigilent to his surroundings, gauging all possibilities of risk, engagement, counting, assessing, fighting memories, processing smells, all that have been deeply engrained tie to his soul…………AND Your freedom.

Handle this with care and caution.  Vets that are overstimulated do not need extra attention or more on their plate to process.  Confrontation is not the best idea.   Just understand,  and when the fireworks begin remember that while pretty, bring out severe consequence to our existence as a free country.  A price being paid in the lives of so many today……everyday and most nights.

If you are a veteran or a loved one of a veteran in Crisis please call, text or visit the Veterans Crisis Helpline.  1-800-273-8255.   Immediately Contact 911.

PTSD is a serious condition.

Symptoms

There are four types of PTSD symptoms:

1. Reliving the event, which disturbs day-to-day activity

  • Flashback episodes in which the event seems to be happening again and again
  • Repeated upsetting memories of the event
  • Repeated nightmares of the event
  • Strong, uncomfortable reactions to situations that remind you of the event

2. Avoidance

  • Emotional numbing or feeling as though you do not care about anything
  • Feeling detached
  • Not able to remember important parts of the event
  • Not interested in normal activities
  • Showing less of your moods
  • Avoiding places, people, or thoughts that remind you of the event
  • Feeling like you have no future

3. Hyperarousal

  • Always scanning your surroundings for signs of danger (hypervigilance)
  • Not able to concentrate
  • Startling easily
  • Feeling irritable or having outbursts of anger
  • Trouble falling or staying asleep

4. Negative thoughts and mood or feelings

  • Constant guilt about the event, including survivor guilt
  • Blaming others for the event
  • Not being able to recall important parts of the event
  • Loss of interest in activities or other people

You may also have symptoms of anxiety, stress, and tension:

Exams and Tests

Your health care provider may ask how long you have had symptoms. PTSD is diagnosed when you have had symptoms for at least 30 days.

Your health care provider may also do a mental health exam, physical exam, and blood tests. These are done to look for other illnesses that are similar to PTSD.

Treatment

Treatment for PTSD involves talk therapy (counseling), medicines, or both.

TALK THERAPY

During talk therapy, you talk with a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist or therapist, in a calm and accepting setting. They can help you manage your PTSD symptoms. They will also guide you as you work through your feelings about the trauma.

There are many types of talk therapy. One type that is often used for PTSD is called desensitization. During therapy, you are encouraged to remember the traumatic event and express your feelings about it. Over time, memories of the event become less frightening.

During talk therapy, you may also learn ways to relax, especially when you start to have flashbacks.

MEDICINES

Your provider may suggest that you take medicines. They can help ease your depression or anxiety. They can also help you sleep better. Medicines need time to work. Do not stop taking them or change the amount (dosage) you take without talking to your provider. Ask your provider about possible side effects and what to do if you experience them.

Support Groups

Support groups, whose members are people who have similar experiences with PTSD, can be helpful. Ask your provider about groups in your area.

Outlook (Prognosis)

PTSD can be treated. You can increase the chance of a good outcome:

  • See a health care provider right away if you think you have PTSD.
  • Take an active part in your treatment and follow your provider’s instructions.
  • Accept support from others.
  • Take care of your health. Exercise and eat healthy foods.
  • Do not drink alcohol or use recreational drugs. These can make your PTSD worse.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Although traumatic events can cause distress, not all feelings of distress are symptoms of PTSD. Talk about your feelings with friends and relatives. If your symptoms do not improve soon or are making you very upset, contact your health care provider.

Seek help right away if:

  • You feel overwhelmed
  • You are thinking of hurting yourself or anyone else
  • You are unable to control your behavior
  • You have other very upsetting symptoms of PTSD

References

  1. American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. 5th ed. Arlington, Va: American Psychiatric Publishing. 2013.
  2. Gilbertson MW, Orr SP, Rauch SL, Pitman RK. Trauma and posttraumatic stress disorder. In: Stern TA, Rosenbaum JF, Fava M, Biederman J, Rauch SL, eds. Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry. 1st ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Mosby; 2008:chap 34.
  3. Hetrick SE, Purcell R, Garner B, Parslow B. Combined pharmacotherapy and psychological therapies for post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010;(7):CD007316.
  4. Roberts NP, Kitchiner NJ, Kenardy J, Bisson JI. Early psychological interventions to treat acute traumatic stress symptoms. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010;(3):CD007944.

Review Date: 3/10/2014.

Reviewed by: Timothy Rogge, MD, Medical Director, Family Medical Psychiatry Center, Kirkland, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

Post-traumatic stress disorder

PTSD

Last reviewed: March 10, 2014.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a type of anxiety disorder. It can occur after you have gone through an extreme emotional trauma that involved the threat of injury or death.A.D.A.M.

Causes

Doctors do not know why traumatic events cause PTSD in some people, but not in others. Your genes, emotions, and family setting may all play roles. Past emotional trauma may increase your risk of PTSD after a recent traumatic event.

With PTSD, the body’s response to a stressful event is changed. Normally, after the event, the body recovers. The stress hormones and chemicals the body releases due to the stress go back to normal levels. For some reason in a person with PTSD, the body keeps releasing the stress hormones and chemicals.

PTSD can occur at any age. It can occur after events such as:

  • Assault
  • Car accidents
  • Domestic abuse
  • Natural disasters
  • Prison stay
  • Sexual assault
  • Terrorism
  • War

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Let the Mass Destruction Begin

Let the Mass Destruction Begin

‘Transformers: Age of Extinction’ Is Fourth in the Series

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Clip: ‘Transformers: Age of Extinction’

A scene from the movie.

Credit By Paramount Pictures on Publish Date June 26, 2014

Credit Industrial Light & Magic/Paramount Pictures

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Continue reading the main story

“Transformers: Age of Extinction,” the fourth film in an apparently inexhaustible, profoundly exhausting series based on Hasbro toys, raises, not for the first time, a basic question: Who are these movies for? This one, like its predecessors, is likely to make a lot of money all over the world, but that only makes the matter more puzzling. The “Transformers” franchise seems like the most baldly and cynically commercial calculation imaginable — it is merchandising-based entertainment at its purest — and yet somehow it does not pander.

Certainly not to women, who are on screen mainly to be ogled, shamed and rescued. The few action-type things that the female characters are allowed to do — throw a punch, drive a car, fasten a cable to a big piece of metal — feel like grudging concessions to changing norms. The mysterious alien force that designed the Transformers made them all dudes.

But even though these robots with the power to change into vehicles started out as children’s playthings, the movies are a little too vulgar, violent and nasty to have been made expressly for the youngest viewers. They’re also a little too dumb for the adolescent or adult genre geeks. The mythology seems to have been cobbled together at corporate strategy sessions out of notions ripped off from elsewhere. The battle between the human-allied Autobots and the treacherous Decepticons recalls the intramutant struggles of the X-Men universe. The sentient robots from a distant time who speak in catchphrases and smash buildings have some kinship with the Terminator. The elaborate, thematically overloaded martial back story carries echoes of Tolkien and “Star Wars.” Lasting 166 minutes — though it feels much longer — “Age of Extinction” makes clear what has always been true of the Transformers movies: Although they may look like soulless corporate studio product, they are really examples of personal cinema, expressions of the will and imagination of their director, Michael Bay. The narrative incoherence is a feature, not a bug. (The screenplay is by Ehren Kruger.) Mr. Bay’s strongest films (with the partial exception of “Pain and Gain”) are those in which the battle between sense and sensation ends in a rout. If you spend any time thinking about why the C.I.A. and an Apple-like technology corporation would be in cahoots with an intergalactic bounty hunter in an anti-Autobot pogrom you are missing the point.

If, on the other hand, you are bored by the sight of giant robots fighting, this will feel like a very long art film. Which, in effect, it is, albeit one that was made with unlimited resources. Those looking for conventional, middlebrow cinematic pleasures — witty dialogue, credible acting, the play of light and shadow across landscapes and faces — will find a few moments of satisfaction. Kelsey Grammer and Stanley Tucci are amusing as the C.I.A. heavy and his tech-mogul sidekick. The evening sun in a place identified as “Texas, USA” (as opposed to Texas, Belgium, I guess) is golden and lovely. So is Nicola Peltz as Tessa, the teenage daughter of an inventor played with cheerful machismo by Mark Wahlberg. Tessa has a boyfriend (Jack Reynor). That’s enough plot summary for now.

The story is scaffolding for the action, and like every other standing structure it is wrecked in a thunderous shower of metal, glass, masonry and earth. Chicago, pounded almost flat the last time, takes another beating, and is joined by Hong Kong. The obliteration of cities is a commonplace in summer movies, but Mr. Bay is a connoisseur of urban demolition, adept at using digital imagery and fast editing to bend and mock the laws of physics and flout any sense of moral consequence.

You can admire what he does without really enjoying it, and two hours and 46 minutes of pulverized architecture is a lot to endure. But in every Michael Bay movie there are at least a few moments of inspired, kinetic absurdity. Late in “Age of Extinction,” a giant spaceship hovering over Hong Kong, equipped with some kind of magnet, sucks up a lot of vehicles — buses, trucks, fishing boats, ferries, whatever — and drops them onto the city below. I could not tell you exactly why, because it doesn’t matter, but the sequence is both exciting and revealing. It reminds you what these movies are really about: a boy at play, reveling in the creative and destructive power, and the glorious uselessness, of his own imagination.

“Transformers: Age of Extinction” is rated PG-13. Mayhem and rough language.

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