Sunday Reads: Sea Cows, Paper Birds, and the Milky Way
Posted: August 28, 2011 Filed under: China, Environment, Environmental Protection, Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, Libya, morning reads, racism, worker rights | Tags: australia, Climate change, Disney, dugong, Hurricane Irene, Mattel, MLK Memorial, Walmart
Well, Irene must be pounding New York City…I hope that all our readers in its path are safe…as I was writing this post last night, it was reassuring to see some of you checking in.
Irene has put many events and sports games on hold, but as Boston Boomer mentioned yesterday, one of the postponed disappointments is the inauguration of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in D.C. Rupert Cornwell: He had a dream – and now it’s set in stone – Rupert Cornwell, Commentators – The Independent
The new Martin Luther King memorial will be dedicated by President Barack Obama
In terms of physical damage and devastation, Hurricane Irene may have a great deal to answer for. But here in America’s capital, to injury has been added insult. The storm has forced the postponement of today’s planned formal inauguration of the new memorial to Martin Luther King on the National Mall in Washington DC. The dedication was to have been performed by the black president whose own miraculous ascent and inauguration would never have happened but for Dr King and the movement he led, and the speech he made close to that spot exactly 48 years ago.
But the mere dedication of a monument does of itself not turn wrongs into rights, or wipe a country’s conscience clean. Yes, the new King memorial is remarkable: the Mall is a place that honours wars and those who died in them, and the country’s greatest government leaders. Yet King was a pacifist (and widely reviled for it). He was an outsider, who made his reputation by defying the laws of the land.
He preached reconciliation, but as Cornel West, a Princeton professor and leading African-American intellectual, argued in The New York Times on Friday, King was also a revolutionary, who never ceased to decry the “racism, poverty, militarism and materialism” of American society.
Obama was supposed to speak at the event, which has been postponed indefinitely, and although I am disgusted with Obama, his lack of leadership and his pro-GOP policies… that a black president would be officiating at the MLK memorial’s opening is sure to bring emotional feelings for anyone, no matter what you think of Obama.
Yes, we have come a long way since that speech King gave 48 years ago, but it is sad that under this first black US president, African-Americans are experiencing a trend that is not moving blacks forward toward the dream that Mr. King spoke so eloquently about.
Since the 2008 crash, blacks have gone backwards economically. Since George W Bush left office, black unemployment has risen from 11 per cent to nearly 16 per cent, compared with an overall national rate of just over 9 per cent. According to one recent study, the median wealth of black households is one-twentieth of that of white households.
In 1963, King declared that the March on Washington was not an end but a beginning, and so it proved. The same goes for the new memorial, a reminder not of what has been achieved, but of what remains to be achieved.
Over in China, workers face unbearable conditions and forced overtime…in a toy factory that also employs children. Disney factory faces probe into sweatshop suicide claims | World news | The Observer
A Sturdy Products’ employee works to fulfil orders, for ranges that include Disney merchandise. But a monitoring group claims that workers’ rights are often abused
Disney’s best-selling Cars toys are being made in a factory in China that uses child labour and forces staff to do three times the amount of overtime allowed by law, according to an investigation.
One worker reportedly killed herself after being repeatedly shouted at by bosses. Others cited worries over poisonous chemicals. Disney has now launched its own investigation.
It is claimed some of the 6,000 employees have to work an extra 120 hours every month to meet demand from western shops for the latest toys.
The factory, called Sturdy Products, makes toys for the giant Mattel company, which last month announced quarterly profits of £48m on the back of strong sales of Barbie dolls and Cars 2 toys. Sturdy Products, in the city of Shenzhen, also makes toys for US superstore chain Walmart. Among the brands produced are the Thomas the Tank Engine range, Matchbox cars, Cars, Toy Story, Barbie and Fisher Price products, Scrabble and the Hot Wheels sets.
So, this factory makes toys for Disney, Mattel and Walmart…
Sacom’s accusations against the factory include:
■ The employment of a 14-year-old. Staff also reported the presence of other child workers, according to the investigator.
■ Routine excessive overtime. Employees produced a “voluntary” document they said they had to sign agreeing to work beyond the maximum overtime legal limit of 36 hours a month, along with wage slips that suggested they were averaging 120 hours of overtime a month.
■ A harsh working environment in which workers complained of mistreatment by management. One worker injured on the production line was shouted at and ordered back to work despite needing medical treatment.
■ Concerns about the chemicals in use and poor ventilation. Employees claimed three workers had fallen ill. They said they had to hide pots of adhesive and thinners during audits of the factory by its client companies.
■ They also claimed that they were paid by the factory to give misleading answers during audits and that they were fined for failing to hit targets. The calculation of wages for different workers was described by Sacom as arbitrary.
The International Council of Toy Industries’ Care Foundation, oof what a long name…is supposed to be overseeing the production of toy’s made overseas.
Sacom’s findings brought a rebuke from the International Council of Toy Industries’ Care Foundation. “We are the first to concede that much more work lies ahead of us, but we refuse to accept the sensationalist, media-oriented declarations of any group, especially when they are carping and filled with incorrect information. It is simply counter-productive,” the foundation said.
“The plain truth is that workers in many toy factories in China are better off now than they were before and that this is due in considerable part to the ICTI Care Process.”
Hmmm, that is some attitude to take isn’t it? Can you imagine how bad the factories were before the ICTI Care Process was enacted.
Now that Gaddafi has been pushed out of Tripoli, large mass graves are being found. Charred remains of massacre victims found in Tripoli – Africa, World – The Independent
The terrible price many Libyan people have paid to be free of Colonel Gaddafi is becoming plain. Yesterday, only a day after more than 120 decomposing bodies were found in a Tripoli hospital, a British television team filmed the charred remains of an estimated 53 people in a burnt-out warehouse in the south of the city.
Stuart Ramsay of Sky News was led to the building by residents who had made the discovery. Inside was a scene of mass cremation: more than four dozen corpses of what were once human beings, their ages and genders impossible to tell. Ribcages, skulls and other bones lay in a blackened mess. Local people told of how the bodies of perhaps as many as 100 others lay nearby, including those of two soldiers with their hands behind their backs who had been executed for refusing to fire on the victims of the massacre, be they regime critics, civilians, or other refusenik soldiers.
The residents said they had been alerted by shooting some days ago, but when they tried to approach they were told by regime snipers that they would be shot if they did not retreat. After the Gaddafi men left, they went inside the warehouse, which is next to a military base. They said that in the past few weeks, they had seen people digging at night and the sound of gunfire. In the morning, the holes would be filled in.
But this is, like all civil wars, an exceptionally brutal conflict, with blame on both sides, and victims everywhere. The bodies keep piling up – civilians caught in crossfire, fighters lying where they fell, and the executed of both sides, including men from sub-Saharan Africa who may have been Gaddafi mercenaries, or just some poor wretch gone north to find work.
The article points out that Gaddafi loyalist are not the only ones who have been involved in brutal violence, it also questions the background of the leader of the Rebel forces.
Yesterday, The Independent on Sunday learned that the rebel military commander behind the successful assault on Tripoli had fought in Afghanistan alongside the Taliban and was an Islamist terror suspect interrogated by the CIA. Abdelhakim Belhadj, the newly appointed commander of the Tripoli Military Council is a former emir of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) – banned by Britain and the US as a terrorist organisation after the 9/11 attacks.
If this is the case, it gives me the willies. But it would not be the first time the US has put its support behind a questionable leader of a rebel force. That is one tricky mess the State Department will be dealing with. I am just glad that Clinton, someone I trust completely, is there to put her expertise to work.
Going back to Irene, and the impact it is having on New York City. For some perspective, here is an article that discusses New York’s History of Being Buffeted, Starting in 1821 – NYTimes.com
The New York TimesRemains of houses littered Westhampton, N.Y., after a hurricane in 1938.
Stephen Fybish, a 74-year-old weather historian from Manhattan’s Upper West Side, celebrated his second birthday in Jackson Heights, Queens, on Sept. 20, 1938, the day before the great hurricane struck New York City. Nonetheless, his mother often proudly reminded him, everybody who was invited made it to his party.
The 1938 storm, which claimed 600 lives in the Northeast, devastated eastern Long Island, but spared much of the city, which, Mr. Fybish recalled, was soaked by about five inches of rain over two days and whipped by 60 m.p.h. winds.
Like other hurricanes, even that storm paled in comparison to the fiercest gale ever recorded, the one that that slammed the city head-on near what is now Kennedy International Airport on Sept. 3, 1821 — before Mr. Fybish’s time, he acknowledges. The tide rose 13 feet and the Hudson and East Rivers converged in lower Manhattan.
Take a look at the rest of that article. It summarizes the various hurricanes that have hit the city, Irene isn’t the first, and it surely will not be the last.
In another NYT article…The question of global warming and the effect on weather is debated. As Climate Changes, Scientists See Irene as a Harbinger – NYTimes.com
While the number of the most intense storms has clearly been rising since the 1970s, researchers have come to differing conclusions about whether that increase can be attributed to human activities.
“On a longer time scale, I think — but not all of my colleagues agree — that the evidence for a connection between Atlantic hurricanes and global climate change is fairly compelling,” said Kerry Emanuel, an expert on the issue at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Storms are one of nature’s ways of moving heat around, and high temperatures at the ocean surface tend to feed hurricanes and make them stronger. That appears to be a prime factor in explaining the power of Hurricane Irene, since temperatures in the Atlantic are well above their long-term average for this time of year.
The ocean has been getting warmer for decades, and most climate scientists say it is because greenhouse gases are trapping extra heat. Rising sea-surface temperatures are factored into both Mr. Knutson’s and Dr. Emanuel’s analyses, but they disagree on the effect that warming in remote areas of the tropics will have on Atlantic hurricanes.
Air temperatures are also rising because of greenhouse gases, scientists say. That causes land ice to melt, one of several factors leading to a rise in sea level. That increase, in turn, is making coastlines more vulnerable to damage from the storm surges that can accompany powerful hurricanes.
Powerful cyclone storms have also affected the environment in Australia. Famine threatens Australia’s gentle sea cows – Nature, Environment – The Independent
The dugong is under pressure from pollution, encroaching industrial development, and hunting
An underwater famine is posing the latest threat to one of Australia’s most endangered marine species, the dugong, which lives entirely on sea grass. At least 100 have starved to death in recent months and many more are likely to follow in the absence of their only food source.
Torrential rain and storms, including Cyclone Yasi earlier this year, have destroyed vast swathes of sea grass from northern Queensland to the New South Wales border. More than 1,000 miles of coastline which once provided the perfect habitat for these oddly shaped and gentle creatures are now denuded of the dugong’s natural foodstuff.
“This is a national environmental disaster,” says Professor Ellen Ariel, a marine biologist at James Cook University in Townsville. “What’s happening now is they have nothing to eat and it’s not going to change in any way soon. Sea grass takes between two to three years to recover, if there are no other extreme weather events in the meantime.”
Those dugong look a lot like manatees don’t they? They are in fact in the same order of species. Dugongs, Dugong Pictures, Dugong Facts – National Geographic
Possibly the inspiration for mariners’ tales of mermaids, dugongs are closely related to elephants.
For those of you who are not getting hit by Irene, Look overhead to see the summer Milky Way | Tonight | EarthSky
The moon will be new tomorrow and then in a waxing crescent phase in the west after sunset in the next few days. That means that, over the coming week, the moon will set soon after sunset and be mostly absent from the evening sky.
And a moonless sky means this is a good time to get out into the country for a look at the summer Milky Way: the edgewise view into our own galaxy.
Here is the view if you are standing facing east – but craning your neck to look overhead. The galaxy stretches across the sky during the evening hours now. When you look at it with the eye alone, you might think it looks hazy. But you’ll see the truth if you’ll peer at the Milky Way with an ordinary pair of binoculars. Binoculars cause the so-called haze to explode into view as myriad, distant stars.
We are going to try to get a look at the Milky Way from our back porch…I will let you know if we do get to see it with the naked eye.
From the Minx Missing Link File: Ah, this missing link is from yesterday, and is from one of my favorite sites, Medieval News: 500 years ago, yeast’s epic journey gave rise to lager beer
In the 15th century, when Europeans first began moving people and goods across the Atlantic, a microscopic stowaway somehow made its way to the caves and monasteries of Bavaria.
The stowaway, a yeast that may have been transported from a distant shore on a piece of wood or in the stomach of a fruit fly, was destined for great things. In the dank caves and monastery cellars where 15th century brewmeisters stored their product, the newly arrived yeast fused with a distant relative, the domesticated yeast used for millennia to make leavened bread and ferment wine and ale. The resulting hybrid – representing a marriage of species as evolutionarily separated as humans and chickens – would give us lager, the clear, cold-fermented beer first brewed by 15th century Bavarians and that today is among the most popular – if not the most popular – alcoholic beverage in the world.
Click the link above to read the full paper this little “tease” of an abstract is giving.
Easy Like Sunday Morning Link of the Week: The Makerie Shows off Beautiful Paper Birds | Geekosystem Take a look at these paper birds…cool stuff indeed.
Artists Joyanne Horscroft and Julie Wilkinson comprise The Makerie, makers of incredible works of paper art. While their work has encompassed many different subjects, they’ve recently produced some truly amazing birds made from paper. While birds are a favorite subject for origami artists, The Makerie shirks the ancient approach for a more sculptural and dynamic look. The feathers cascade, the colors pop, and there’s an eerie sense of life in some of these works. Be sure to read on below for some more examples of their work.
There is your Sunday reads for today. If you are in the path of Irene, please take care and let us know that you are okay.
Are you finding anything interesting this morning? Post some links, and I will catch y’all later in the comments!