Monday Reads

Good Morning!

Bjy32YbCYAAE11RI’m going to remind you today of some events that happened 4 years ago with the BP Oil Gusher and show you that bad things are still going on in the Gulf.The leftover issues from abandoned oil rigs are bigger than Louisiana.Please consider this an open thread while I let you know how I feel.

If corporations are people, then BP and others in the extraction business are serial killers.    All over our country and throughout our history, extraction companies have killed their employees, the people that live around their businesses, and the wildlife and the environment and water systems that sustain the life of our country.  Look at that map.  Those are active and orphaned/abandoned oil wells/pipelines that are disintegrating, leaking, and killing someone.

“I started noticing, towards the end of 2010, other leaks that were unrelated to the BP disaster,” Henderson says. “I would find wellheads that were leaking or platforms that were leaking. Just in the last year, I have filed 50 reports for different leaks and spills unrelated to the BP disaster.”

Under the Clean Water Act, when a company spills any amount of oil in the water, it must file a report with the National Response Center run by the Coast Guard. But when Henderson checked, he found many of those smaller spills were not making that list.

So environmental groups formed the Gulf Monitoring Consortium to get a better count on spills. The partnership is a blend groups of complementary skills.

Gulf Restoration Network, for example, has personnel who can spot spills from the air and file complete reports.

SouthWings, a group of volunteer pilots, helps get those spotters aloft.

Louisiana relies largely on the oil industry to self-report leaks and spills. The Gulf Monitoring Consortium was formed to improve that effort and said it often finds smaller leaks like this one, near Golden Meadow, that go unreported by the companies.

A third member, the West Virginia-based tech group SkyTruth, finds the spills on satellite photographs, then applies a formula used by spill experts to translate the size of the oil sheen into gallons of oil in the water.

SkyTruth spokesman David Manthos says its estimates typically are much higher than what’s been reported.

“We found that the spill was usually 10 times larger than had been reported, and that was averaged out across a lot,” he says. “In some, the mismatch was much larger than that.”

The sheer size of the industry here means there’s seldom a quiet day for the consortium. In an average year, the NRC receives 10,000 reports of spills in the Gulf.

It’s a number that surprised even SouthWings Gulf Program Director Meredith Dowling, a veteran of monitoring efforts.

“I can’t think of a single instance where our volunteers have flown offshore and not found spills,” Dowling says. “This was something that was really amazing to me when I first moved here … that is was a continuous, absolute failure of business-as-usual practices.”

There are many active spills around here.  Many come from orphaned and abandoned wells.  Many come from active wells.  They are all spewing toxicil_570xN.378041774_q0qdwaste and it’s not just in Louisiana.  Here is a program in Pennsylvania dedicated to plugging orphaned and abandoned wells.  There are similar issues in Texas, New York State, and just nearly anywhere there’s been activity.  Louisiana alone has about 6000.   You can see that they are nearly everywhere if you look at the map at the top of the post.  Many of these  wells were first put into play in the 1850s and were just left where they were.  They are rotting, they are decaying, and they are leaking.  They are also dangerous. 

Methane is an odorless, colorless gas that exists naturally below the surface. It isn’t poisonous, but it’s dangerous. When enough methane gathers in an enclosed space — a basement or a water well, for instance — it can trigger an explosion.

The gas didn’t come from the Butters well, nor did it originate from the Marcellus Shale formation that a nearby Shell well had recently tapped into. What most likely happened to cause the geyser in June, Shell and state regulators say, was something of a chain reaction.  As Shell was drilling and then hydraulically fracturing its nearby well, the activity displaced shallow pockets of natural gas — possibly some of the same pockets the Morris Run Coal company ran into  in 1932. The gas disturbed by Shell’s drilling moved underground until it found its way to the Butters well, and then shot up to the surface.

Areas impacted by oil spills are never the same. The BP Oil Gusher has introduced issues into the ecosystem that have left endangered species teetering further towards extinction.  In the case of Louisiana, it’s even the state bird.

On a bright spring morning, P.J. Hahn is walking through a graveyard in the middle of Barataria Bay.

It’s a 30-yard patch of mud and sand bristling with bare, dead mangrove brush surrounded by miles of open water. Each mangrove is a tombstone marking the death of a nesting site used for decades by brown pelicans and roseate spoonbills on what was once the string of wetland pearls that made up the Cat Islands chain.

But in 2010 the oil spewing from BP’s Deepwater Horizon would send them all to an early grave.

“Four years ago we had more than five acres of habitat and there were tens of thousands of birds nesting on these islands,” said Hahn, director of coastal zone management for Plaquemines Parish. “Then the oil came in and coated the mangrove roots, and two years later the islands started going.

“I don’t know where those birds are nesting now – but they can’t do it here any more.”

The post-BP story of the brown pelican, Louisiana’s official bird, is the perfect metaphor for the crisis confronting the state’s coast.

Before the Deepwater Horizon blew out on April 20, 2010, brown pelicans were living the good life in southeast Louisiana as one of the great wildlife comeback stories. In 1963 not a single brown pelican could be found in the state due to impacts from the insectiside DDT.  The comeback started in 1968 when the state began transplanting birds from Florida, and populations began to soar after DDT was banned in 1972. Thanks to the abundant food in one of the world’s most productive fisheries, by 2010 their numbers were thought to be near historic levels, as high of 85,000.*

il_570xN.369622702_4p2jFour years later, the sea floor closest to the spill and even the shores in the Gulf of Mexico are  comparable to an Arizona Desert. It is barren, bleak and dead.  There was life there.  Now, there is the look of a forest fire without the resultant new growth.  Nothing will grow back amid the poison of Corexit and Oil.

When a crew of journalists and environmental groups studying the effects of the BP Deepwater Macondo oil spill disembarked on Cat Island in Baratria Bay last week, there was a collective gasp.

“It looks like the Arizona desert,” said Eileen Fleming, who’s reported for WWNO spring after spring since the April 20, 2010 spill.

“It looks like there was a fire here,” said Doug Meffert, vice president of the National Audubon Society and president of the Louisiana chapter, “but there wasn’t a fire.”

The bones of black mangrove stumps are all that remain of what was a thriving bird rookery here in Plaquemines Parish Four years ago, footage of oiled brown pelicans and the thousands of shorebirds nesting here went around the world in the aftermath of the 200 million gallons of thick crude that spilled into the Gulf of Mexico.

Today the only green thing on the beach is a glass bottle. There are no pelicans, no mangroves, and worse, much of Cat Island itself is washing away. It and most of the barrier islands and marsh in Barataria Bay are steadily degrading, losing their battles with coastal erosion and subsidence faster than ever.

The NIH is still studying some of the direct health impacts of both the oil and the toxic Corexit used to hide the extent of the spill.

Areas around Barataria Bay and Grand Isle, La. were particularly hard hit, but they weren’t the only affected areas. Moreover, thousands of birds, other wildlife and marine life including dolphins perished, were oiled, sickened and overall left in distress. The effects on the area resonate now, which is only a shock to those either unfamiliar with garish oil spills or unwilling to accept the truth.

In the days following the “spill”, BP, apparently colluding with the US Government, doused a horrific amount of a deadly dispersant in the affected areas. Called “Corexit”, the cutesy name belies the sickening effects it brings to all it touches. On background, an environmentalist working in the area explained to me last year that they were, essentially, damned if they did, and damned if they didn’t, but chose the lesser of two ills.

That remains to be seen as the National Institutes of Health continues its 10-year “GuLF” study of BP spill health effects, from those most affected out on the Vessels of Opportunity boat that included BP-hired personnel trying to contain the spill, to residents in the line of fire, such as around Barataria Bay.

There is a way of life dying along the southern parts of the Gulf Coast in Louisana.  The coastline disappears daily, the salt water intrudes in to the fresh il_570xN.382956444_9et2water marshes, and the land doesn’t sustain the people or the animals like it once did.  There is not better place to study the impacts of the extraction business and human addiction to fossil fuels than many parts of Cajun Louisiana.

Sea level rise is like an ultra-slow-motion hurricane for low-lying areas, but unlike a hurricane, it can be forecast decades in advance. Projections that some town or road will be underwater in 100 years can—and must—be mitigated against today.

Osborn characterizes the choice as “being proactive rather than reactive. Once you get into situations like Louisiana facing some very serious challenges in a very near time frame, all of a sudden you’re in a reactive posture.” Louisiana is a harbinger of things to come for New York, Miami, and other major coastal cities that would do well to look 20 to 75 years ahead and budget accordingly. Local, state, and federal governments will have to make critical decisions about infrastructure, water and sediment diversion, and wetlands restoration in the next 10 to 15 years, he says, and while NOAA scientists can contribute data, they can’t green-light projects or secure funding.

Osborn makes a technical distinction: “Right now it’s what’s called frequently flooded. And the risk is it will be routinely flooded.” Routine flooding will start to happen as early as 10 years from now, he says. They can call it whatever they want, but Gill says soon LA 1 will be “flooded every day during high tide.”

NOAA scientists predict that eventually all the marsh that surrounds LA 1 and Port Fourchon will disappear, connecting two major bodies of water that now are distinct: Barataria Bay and Terrebonne Bay. The only thing out in the water at all, by 2100, may be a raised road and Port Fourchon. “I can imagine Port Fourchon being like the Florida Keys,” says Chiasson, “being on its own, in the middle of open water, maybe a little marsh around it, but nothing between here and there.”

The fact that the entire extraction business is so fraught with so many bad things is why the men that run it must find politicians to protect them from lawsuits and regulations.  Making these guys pay for what they’ve done would undoubtedly run their companies deeply into the red. Donation whores like Republican Governor Bobby Jindal will do anything to protect the benefactors that he hopes will fund him to the White House. There is nothing about Louisiana that this man is interested in except as a step on the rung of his personal ascent.

The state Senate targeted the flood protection authorities around New Orleans and the lawsuit one of the levee boards filed against the oil and gas industry for damages to the state’s wetlands.

In one bill, advanced by a Senate panel Wednesday morning, Gov. Bobby Jindal would get sweeping power to remove members of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authorities. Opponents said the move, which would allow a governor to remove authority members under certain conditions, reintroduces politics into the levee boards, which is precisely what revamp after the 2005 hurricanes was designed to prevent.

Another measure, which was passed by the full Senate late Tuesday night, would derail a lawsuit filed last year by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority — East against 97 oil and gas companies. The levee board sought damages for contributing to coastal erosion and led to higher than anticipated storm surges.

Jindal opposes the lawsuit and has called it a windfall for lawyers, who would be paid with a portion of any winnings rather than a flat fee. Critics say the legislation would keep the oil and gas industry from taking responsibility for damage caused by drilling and productions activities over the years.

SB553 is aimed at a lawsuit filed by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East. It would not impact similar suits filed by Jefferson and Plaquemines Parishes. But other measures currently being considered might.

The legislation passed Tuesday night, Senate Bill 553, would apply to retroactively. That measure was sent Wednesday morning to the Louisiana House.

Even kindergartners know they should clean up their messes.  That is ones that aren’t sociopaths.

But, wherever there has been the extraction business, there are the sociopaths.  We have the hundred year anniversary of just such an example.

Linda Linville climbed down the steep stone steps into the dugout on the southern Colorado prairie Sunday where one branch of her family was wiped out in one day 100 years ago.

Her great aunt, her unborn baby and two children died in a fire that broke out during a battle between coal miners striking against John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and the Colorado National Guard in what became known as the Ludlow Massacre. Twenty-seven-year-old Cedilena Costa, 4-year-old Lucy and 6-year-old Onofrio suffocated from the smoke as they hid below ground to escape the battle. Linville said Cedilena’s husband, Charlie Costa, was captured and shot in the head that day and never knew his family’s fate.

“Anyone who says they died in vain is wrong,” said Linville, a retired history teacher from Corona, Calif., referring to the fact that the miners eventually ended up going back to work without winning any of their demands.

The massacre and battle left 21 people dead, including the Greek-American union leader Louis Tikas, and set off 10 days of civil war in which the miners killed 30 mine guards, supervisors and strikebreakers. They surrendered only after President Woodrow Wilson sent federal troops to the state.

The deaths drew national attention to the long running strike and forced Rockefeller to take a public role in Colorado Fuel & Iron. He instituted a company union and grievance system, which the miners later rejected when the won a right to unionize on their own during the New Deal. The massacre and the deadly Triangle Shirtwaist fire in 1911 are credited with the helping win the eventual passage of the 1935 National Labor Relations Act.

Linville and over 100 others — including members of the United Mine Workers of America wearing the red bandanas the strikers wore — gathered at the site of the former Ludlow tent colony to mark the massacre’s 100th anniversary with a Greek Orthodox Easter service. It was very similar to the one the miners, who came from a variety of countries, shared in 100 years ago with the Greek strikers the day before the massacre. In a coincidental reminder of Ludlow’s international community, the Easter service will include the traditional reading of the Gospel story in many languages to symbolize the universality of its message.

It is easy to look back at the years of coal and oil and see that not much has really changed in terms of the business.  The only thing that’s changing is that people, nature, and animals don’t have a chance at all and the deathtoll and damage are obvious if you actually get to see it.  I have a small car.  I really don’t drive much at all.  I think in a busy week I may put on 15 miles.   I have a bike and nearly everything I need is about a mile away. I suppose, for me, that it’s nothing to say that I really don’t benefit from any of this.  I’d frankly rather pay for every single person to have some form of solar or wind generator in their home than the tax breaks we give to the oil industry.  I think it would save every one in the country a lot less grief in the short and long run.  But then, I could care less how much money the likes of the Koch Brothers earn.  I’d frankly rather be dancing on their graves.

I just wanted to add that I found some of  these wonderful skull art prints from this site. 

I know it doesn’t look like it, but this is an open thread.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Wednesday Reads: Leon sells cartoon balloons in town…

Intellicast – Current Radar in United States

Okay, so the storm is not called “Levon” but “Leon.”

It’s just that I had substituted the name Leon in that Elton John song as it “played” in my head, all day long yesterday…

Uh, Good morning!

Find the latest on the weather system the weather channel is calling Leon:

Winter Storm Leon Forecast: Major Snow, Ice From Gulf Coast to Georgia, Carolinas, Virginia – weather.com

Winter Storm Leon: 12 Inches of Snow?

Winter Storm Leon: Live Updates on Southern Snow, Ice Storm – weather.com

This storm is kicking the South’s ass…But this is no laughing matter: State troopers headed to schools where students, teachers are… | www.ajc.com

Shortly before midnight, about 50 students were still aboard Atlanta Public School buses, a spokeswoman for the district said. In DeKalb County, at least 20 vehicles were involved in a pileup on U.S. 78 eastbound, past Hugh Howell Road. All lanes were blocked around 1 a.m. Wednesday.

These kids are stuck in buses, some are stuck overnight in schools: State troopers to help with security at schools where stranded kids are spending the night | AccessNorthGa

Gov. Nathan Deal says state troopers are being sent to schools where students are stranded because they could not make it home on clogged roads caused by Tuesday’s snowstorm.

The governor spoke at a news conference at he State Capitol late Tuesday night.

Deal also said that state and local officials will try to rescue those stranded along highways that are at a standstill. Normal 30-minute commutes have turned into hourslong odysseys for thousands.

A winter storm that would probably be no big deal in the North all but paralyzed the Deep South, bringing snow, ice and teeth-chattering cold, with temperatures in the teens in some places.

Gridlock continues as unspeakably horrible commute home… | www.ajc.com

The winter storm has mostly moved into the Carolinas, but metro Atlanta traffic remained gridlocked at 4 a.m. Wednesday as Tuesday’s afternoon rush hour from hell stretched into hour 16.

Traffic was still bumper-to-bumper and barely moving on several Atlanta interstates, including on I-75 north of downtown, on I-20 west of downtown and on the top-end Perimeter.

Imagine those people stuck on the road without medicine…and running out of gas.

There were warnings…I don’t understand why the schools did not close or plan for a delayed opening. My kids almost did not make it home from the bus themselves, the snow hit so fast and hard. We could not believe how close the school board cut it this time. It really amazes me how many people got caught up in this mess.

In Atlanta, the gridlock was so bad, a baby girl was delivered alongside Interstate 285, said Capt. Steve Rose, a spokesman for Sandy Springs police in suburban north Atlanta. He said an officer made it to the mother and her husband in time to help with the delivery, which he described as “flawless.” There were no complications and the family was taken to a hospital.

That is something, eh?

Yesterday was the SOTU: Full text: State of the Union | Al Jazeera America

President Obama’s 2014 address was his fifth in office. Read the entire transcript here, all 6,777 words

What does it mean if I did not watch the speech live, nor did I watch a taped version, I haven’t read any commentary or summaries, and the thought of reading all those 6,777 words makes me want to throw up everything I ate this evening.  Even the possibility of nodding off during the speech was nothing to look forward to…

SOTU cheat sheet: Everything you missed

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg sits among the other justices during President Obama's address.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg sits among the other justices during President Obama’s address.  Win McNamee, Getty Images

• Did Justice Ginsberg fall asleep? Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 80, was trending during Obama’s speech, with viewers speculating that she had fallen asleep, or at least was in full head-bob mode. We may never know for sure if it was a slump or a nap.

It would not be the first time she nodded off…But WTF is this all about?

Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., left, and Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., share a sign as they take their seats for the president's speech.

Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., left, and Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., share a sign as they take their seats for the president’s speech.  Charles Dharapak, AP

You know, that is pretty close to the sign for vagina (when I took ASL in college…from what I remember) could it be code for an anti-woman PLUB agenda? Or is it some little “I heart pussy” thing? Perhaps they were making reference to this:

The State of the Uterus (video)

To whet your State of the Union pallate, I give you: “The State of the Uterus.”

state-of-the-uterus

The State of the Uterus is a fun new video – it literally just went live – about a serious issue, women’s rights in America.

Here’s a portion of their press release:

We all know the State of the Union is strong, but what about the State of the Uterus? On this most ceremonial of days in the nation’s capital, a uterus is taking up that question and will deliver a live address moments after President Obama’s Speech and the Republican Party responds.

“Madam Uterus” (UTOUS) for so she shall be addressed — will talk at length about the state of the uterus, and the vagina, in a country where state legislatures have variously deemed that women are pregnant before they are pregnant, have magical powers to deactivate rape sperm, and must be forced to carry stillborn babies to term.

“The state of our uterus is in the hands of so many,” Madam Uterus will say, according to the text of her prepared remarks. “As the old saying goes, behind every successful uterus is a man calling her a whore while cutting her pay.”

So here are a few links on the SOTU speech:

Dak, Boston Boomer and others live blogged it here…and here.

State of the Union by Political Cartoonist Bruce Plante

143671 600 State of the Union cartoons

SOTU POTPOURRI | Gin and Tacos

The best of the worst: Right-wing Twitter reacts to the State of the Union – Salon.com

We Got Your Back | BobCesca.com | News and Politics Blog and Podcast | We Cover the World

After the speech there was this: Rep. Grimm Threatens NY1 Reporter Following State of the Union – NY1

Staten Island Rep. Michael Grimm physically threatened NY1 political reporter Michael Scotto at the conclusion of an interview in the Capitol Rotunda following Tuesday night’s State of the Union address.

 Grimm’s threats came at the end of a brief interview in which he discussed the president’s speech, calling the address “divisive.”

Scotto then tried to ask the congressman about the ongoing federal investigation into his 2010 campaign fundraising:

Grimm told the reporter:

Grimm: “Let me be clear to you, you ever do that to me again I’ll throw you off this f—–g balcony.”

Scotto: “Why? I just wanted to ask you…”

[[cross talk]]

Grimm: “If you ever do that to me again…”

Scotto: “Why? Why? It’s a valid question.”

[[cross talk]]

Grimm: “No, no, you’re not man enough, you’re not man enough. I’ll break you in half. Like a boy.”

Hmmm…taking some pointers from Christie? Or did he watch that movie A Few Good Men? Or perhaps he was listening Divine on his iPod during the speech:  You Think You’re A Man Lyrics – Divine

You will notice in the video…there are a lot of boys being tossed over balconies.

Digby had this nugget of news at her site: Hullabaloo

Iceland’s big problem: bringing 4% unemployment down to 2%

by digby

At one time there was a big debate about whether or not Iceland came out on top during our current depression, largely due to it’s hard core treatment of its banks. It was always pretty obvious that they made the smarter decision.  It looks even more obvious today:
Iceland let its banks fail in 2008 because they proved too big to save.

Now, the island is finding crisis-management decisions made half a decade ago have put it on a trajectory that’s turned 2 percent unemployment into a realistic goal.

While the euro area grapples with record joblessness, led by more than 25 percent in Greece and Spain, only about 4 percent of Iceland’s labor force is without work. Prime MinisterSigmundur D. Gunnlaugsson says even that’s too high.

“Politicians always have something to worry about,” the 38-year-old said in an interview last week. “We’d like to see unemployment going from where it’s now — around 4 percent — to under 2 percent, which may sound strange to most other western countries, but Icelanders aren’t accustomed to unemployment.”

It doesn’t sound strange to me, it sounds fucking awesome!

The island’s sudden economic meltdown in October 2008 made international headlines as a debt-fueled banking boom ended in a matter of weeks when funding markets froze. Policy makers overseeing the $14 billion economy refused to back the banks, which subsequently defaulted on $85 billion. The government’s decision to protect state finances left it with the means to continue social support programs that shielded Icelanders from penury during the worst financial crisis in six decades.

We, on the other hand are making nearly 7% official unemployment (along with many millions not even being counted) the new normal. And we’re slashing our meager safety net, even food assistance. But our megabanks are doing very well which is what matters.

Geez, I really want to move to Iceland…to hell with this country’s right-wing assholes who have taken over everything. I mean, how can we even be at the point where the dicks are actually debating this shit…

Texas GOP Lt. Gov. Candidates Agree: More Religion Needed in Science Class – Little Green Footballs

Submitted without comment other than to notice how several of the candidates refer to evolution in schools as being part of a “politically correct” conspiracy.
From left: Sen. Dan Patrick, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples and Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson
Texas GOP Lt. Gov. Candidates Agree: More Religion Needed in Science Class

Oh…can someone get me outta here? I can’t take it anymore!

This is all I can bring myself to write, y’all go ahead and give it up in the comments below.

Oh yeah…

Enjoy your day…


Sunday Reads: Let them drink tap water…

Good Morning

76c7d10c3f207359ba1ad1a52277554f

I used to think of Twitter as a stream of consciousness thing, where

you type out a thought that comes to you…abstract, free-form and unassuming.

It just floated out there in the mass twit universe.

Facebook was more like a personal thought because it was “friends” or “family” that would see the shit you typed out into your little space on the wall.

More like a statement made out-loud…right?

I make statements out-loud at home all the time. Hell, don’t we all. I mean, sometimes I do it when no one is listening. (And lots of those times they include the words asshole and shithead preceded of course by the key adverb “fucking”) But when someone is listening in my home…they usually know what my thought process is and can complete the fragment of a statement I make even if I don’t state my case in a full and intelligent manner.

I realized the other day that I do the same exact thing here…in the comments. And it is funny because the same people who pick up on my cues here…are the ones who pick up on the shit I type out on my Facebook wall.

The was a little item in the news over the weekend, Rep. Steve King was talking out of his ass again…and of course it pissed me off. I mentioned it here and on my Facebook page. I think I called King a fucking asshole and posted a link to his comment:

Susan Wood, a George Washington University professor and former FDA official, told the all-male judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution that HR7 – which would make the Hyde Amendment permanentban federal subsidies for private insurance plans that cover abortion and would permanently block the District of Columbia from spending local tax money on abortion services – could “virtually eliminate abortion coverage from the private insurance market” and would especially hurt low-income women, threatening to push them “deeper into poverty.”

“While it may not seem like a big expense to a Member of Congress, in these tough financial times, for many people, abortion care costs more than their monthly rent, putting it out of reach for their family’s pocketbook,” Wood said.

When it came time to ask questions, Rep. King mocked Wood’s comparison of the cost of abortion to a month’s rent, wondering, “I wonder how many abortions a month does she need to keep up with the monthly rent check.”

Antikamnia calendar 1897 ebayMy mind was working on his comical statement, considering his PLUBic stance on providing that woman and her fetus with funding for food stamps and other “welfare” assistance once that fetus pops out of the incubation hole and becomes a living breathing tax burden.

That is what I was thinking..but I didn’t write it all down. Do you all do that? I don’t know. Is it cause I am lazy. Or cause I just tend to write stuff here like you are my family and this is my way of talking to you all? It is a ridiculous observation…but there it is.

BTW, images are from The Antikamnia Chemical Company via BibliOdyssey:

After beginning his working life as a printer’s apprentice, Louis Crucius (or Crusius) completed the necessary requirements to graduate as a pharmacist in 1882 and a doctor in 1890 in St Louis, Missouri. While he was studying he worked in a pharmacy and made humorous sketches that were placed in the window of the store. A collection of these drawings was published in 1893 (‘Funny Bones’). He lectured in histology and anatomy and eventually came to be a Professor of Anatomy but died in 1898 from kidney tumours.

3f74509875adde36355821a9b9bf19a5Although he gave most of his drawings away, Crucius sold a number of them to the Antikamnia (‘opposed to pain’) Chemical Company which had been established in St Louis in 1890. They produced antikamnia medicines containing the coal tar derivative, acetanilid, an anti-fever drug with pain relieving properties somewhat related to paracetamol, but which would be later shown to be a toxic compound not to mention addictive. Antikamnia was mixed with substances like codeine and quinine to enhance the pain relieving effects.

30 of the Crucius ‘dance of death’-inspired drawings were used to make 5 years worth of Antikamnia Chemical Company calendars – between 1897 and 1901. They had a fairly aggressive marketing campaign in which the calendars (aimed at the medical fraternity) as well as postcards and sample packs were distributed to doctors in the United States and overseas.

Now for the morning’s reads, starting with a series of links on the chemical spill in West Virginia.

Antikamnia calendar 1900 jan.feb francaisThe Wait Continues for Safe Tap Water in West Virginia – NYTimes.com

As hundreds of thousands of residents faced a third day without water because of a chemical spill in a local river, a water company executive said on Saturday that it could be days before it was safe for them to drink tap water again.

Jeff McIntyre, president of West Virginia American Water, said that officials had set up four labs to test the amount of chemical in the water, but that it might take days to provide enough samples to determine whether the water was safe.

A state official also said that thousands of gallons more of the chemical had leaked into the river than was initially believed.

b3207cde6c4bbfd534d17a42ef2990d6Not only that…but it turns out the company was not the one who notified authorities of the leak. It was the EPA. The amount of chemicals spilled was under-reported at first, and it sounds like the company Freedom Industries…fucking ironic isn’t it, is starting to cooperate a little more.

About 7,500 gallons of chemical was spilled into the river, about 2,500 more than previously estimated, said Mr. Dorsey, the state environmental official.

After local officials complained of problems communicating with Freedom Industries, Mr. Dorsey said on Saturday that the company had been more cooperative. “It’s in everyone’s best interest to communicate well,” he said.

State officials said the chemical 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, or MCHM, used in coal processing, seeped from the ruptured storage tank on Thursday into the Elk River, just upstream from the intake pipes for the regional water company. Exposure to the chemical, which smells like licorice, can cause headaches, eye and skin irritation and difficulty breathing, according to the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists.

This story is only going to get more disturbing as the investigation starts to delve deeper into the spill and the companies involved. For that I turn to the local newspaper, The Charleston Gazzette. Check these articles out, they are excellent and you need to read them in full:

b90be3d5b21e135e560f746f18366d72This one details the discovery of the leak…Freedom Industries cited for Elk chemical spill  by Ken Ward-  The Charleston Gazette

When West Virginia inspectors arrived at Freedom Industries late Thursday morning, they discovered that the company had taken “no spill containment measures” to combat the chemical spill that has put drinking water supplies off-limits for hundreds of thousands of residents.

The state Department of Environmental Protection said Freedom Industries violated the West Virginia’s Air Pollution Control Act and the Water Pollution Control Act by allowing the chemical “Crude MCHM,” consisting mostly of 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, to escape from its facility, just upstream from West Virginia American Water’s regional intake in the Elk River.

[…]

“It’s a bad situation,” said Mike Dorsey, chief of the DEP’s homeland security and emergency response division.

Dorsey said the tank contained about 30,000 gallons of material at the time of the leak, and that the company had pumped the rest of the material out and shipped it to another of its operations.

Dorsey has said DEP officials began an investigation after receiving odor complaints from nearby residents starting at about 8:15 a.m. The DEP and Kanawha County emergency officials traced the odors to Freedom Industries, which had not self-reported any sort of leak or accident, officials said.

48f2b6c2785da61fb771d518cfd47cd4So the company did not notify EPA…it was residents in the area that started to smell this shit who called the local DEP…and they were the ones who contacted Freedom Industries and told them they had a spill on company property. WTF? This is where you want to pay attention to the matter:

In an air-quality enforcement order, the DEP said air-quality officials who arrived at the site at 11:10 a.m. “discovered that no spill containment measures had been initiated and that an accumulating MCHM leak pool was seeping thru a dike wall adjacent to the Elk River and a downstream oil sheen was observed.”

DEP Secretary Randy Huffman said more information needs to be gathered, but that it seems possible the spill into the river might not have been as bad if Freedom Industries had acted more quickly.

“Depending on when they knew [about the leak], had they put containment measures in place the instant they knew, it’s logical to deduce that there wouldn’t have been as much product in the stream,” Huffman said.

e40bafcc09badbd0d8276c631335e864Oh yeah and you want more ridiculous ways Freedom Industries handled the situation?

Smells from the spill were reported early Thursday morning, but Freedom mostly stonewalled media inquiries — releasing only a bland news release through a public relations firm — until a 10-minute news conference Friday evening.

At the news conference, Freedom Industries President Gary Southern gave few details about the company, made several statements seemingly in conflict with what government officials have said, and was whisked away by a public relations handler with reporters still shouting questions.

Prior to the news conference, the most extensive public statement from anyone connected with the company came Friday afternoon from Kathy Stover-Kennedy, the girlfriend of Freedom Industries executive Dennis P. Farrell.

Stover-Kennedy stressed that the spill was an accident and said that Farrell has received threatening and frightening messages from people around the world.

“I’m not asking for anyone’s sympathy but a little empathy wouldn’t hurt. And just so you know, the boys at the plant made and drank coffee this morning! I showered and brushed my teeth this morning and I am just fine!” Stover-Kennedy wrote on her personal Facebook page.

5dacfaf261a33961e3624575c89a56cdYeah…Let them drink tap water!!!!!

“There has been criticism from many about how Freedom Industries is handling this,” she continued. “Denny is not a spokesperson and has no desire to be. His expertise was much needed elsewhere. If he had taken the time to talk to the numerous media networks, giving statements, he would not have been able to react to the situation and perform his job accordingly. It wasn’t his decision to hire a spokesperson and it isn’t his job to be one.”

Well, if you look at these links I am giving you here, it seems Denny did not do much…in the way of working his expertise. The Charleston Gazette is examining this leak, and the company, Freedom Industries, rather well…I wish there were reporters like these out there doing the same in other towns where industrial environmental disasters have devastated more than the water supply. (But then perhaps there is a reason for the silence too…)  (And really, I could go further and add political governmental disasters as well but that would get me off on another tangent.)

Anyway, take a look at this…regarding the leak and what actions took place after it was discovered…and prior to? Why wasn’t there a plan?  Key players knew of potential for Elk River spill By Ken Ward Jr. – The Charleston Gazette

7fab6c1c0717cc9b7b640f1ec3c9abeaA few specific points:

Freedom Industries filed its “Tier 2″ form under the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act. State emergency response officials got a copy. So did emergency planners and responders from Kanawha County.

Under the law, government officials are supposed to use chemical inventory information on Tier 2 forms, like Freedom Industries’, to prepare for potential accidents.

Armed with the forms, they know what facilities could explode, where large quantities of dangerous substances are stockpiled, and what industries could pose threats to things such as drinking water supplies. They can plan how to evacuate residents, fight fires or contain toxic leaks.

Sounds like that diagram from the movie Office Space, “Planning to Plan”

Those same agencies and public officials, though, have said they know little about the chemical involved. They’re all acting a bit surprised that this mystery substance was being stockpiled so close to a crucial water intake, and shocked that something like this could have happened.Water company officials are equally puzzled. For example, West Virginia American Water President Jeff McIntyre told reporters on Friday that his company didn’t know much about the chemical’s possible dangers, wasn’t aware of an effective treatment process, and wasn’t even sure exactly how much 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol is too much.

“We’re still trying to work through the [material safety data sheet] to try to understand the risk assessment of this product,” McIntyre said during a Friday-morning news conference. “We don’t know that the water is not safe. But I can’t say that it is safe.”

8f42e52c3854bfd3029ca566071b45a3It only gets better. /snark

McIntyre said his company hadn’t at that point had any contact directly with Freedom Industries, and he wasn’t able to identify any previous efforts by the two firms to work together on emergency response planning.

“I can’t answer that question,” McIntyre said when asked about such planning. “I don’t have that information.”

Fred Millar, a longtime chemical industry watchdog in Washington, D.C., said the lack of better planning was an example of how the landmark emergency response law hasn’t been properly enforced around the country.

“Obviously, the whole idea of the chemical inventory reports is to properly inform local emergency officials about the sorts of materials they might have to deal with,” Millar said Friday. “It’s just head-in-the-sand to be ignoring this type of threat.”

No shit.

7611aeb45bd1056859790bac0e8ec809But this next article is one that starts to peel at the toxic layer of protections “corporations” can muster when it comes to being people…Freedom Industries execs are longtime colleagues- by Dave Gutman   The Charleston Gazette

Freedom Industries, the company whose chemical spill is responsible for the contamination of much of the Kanawha Valley’s water, has existed in its current form for less than two weeks.

On the last day of 2013, Freedom Industries, which distributes chemicals used in coal mining, merged with three other companies: Etowah River Terminal, Poca Blending and Crete Technologies, a Delaware company.

Poca Blending, in Nitro, and Etowah River Terminal, in Charleston, now comprise the two branches of Freedom Industries.

The company’s website says the Charleston branch, which spilled the chemical, “can process large volumes of chemical rapidly, and cost effectively.”

They can leak the shit rapidly too.040b20741beeaa72604faa1e72bb5f52

And what exactly is ‘Crude MCHM’? Few know  – by Ken Ward Jr – The Charleston Gazette

That should really get you all up to speed on the spill in West Virginia. The rest of the links will be quick, in dump format after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »


Sunday Reads: Billion Pixels of Red Dust and a Cast Iron Petticoat

1921Good Morning

And here we are, another Sunday morning…well, yesterday was the first time in weeks that I found myself suffering from a migraine.  As I write this post, I still feel the after effects; that groggy disoriented unattached feeling that comes with a sense of exhaustion and overwhelming emotional blah…with all that being said, the links this morning will be quick and to the point. I just can’t muster up the energy to do anything more than that.

I am going to start with this kick ass photo from NASA. It is a billion, let me say that again….a biiiiiilllllion pixel photo of the planet Mars, and it is interactive! Seriously, take a look, there is a rock that is called “Toilet Seat Rock” and when you zoom in you can see little Marvin the Martian dude from Looney Tunes sitting there making his very own an “Earth shattering kaboom”….Mars Exploration Program: Interactive: Billion-Pixel View of Mars from Curiosity Rover

Original Caption Released with Image:
FireShot Screen Capture #479 - 'Mars Exploration Program_ Interactive_ Billion-Pixel View of Mars from Curiosity Rover' - mars_nasa_gov_multimedia_interactives_billionpixel_index_cfm_image=PIA16919&view=pano
This image is a scaled-down version of a full-circle view which combined nearly 900 images taken by NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover. The Full-Res TIFF and Full-Res JPEG provided in the top right legend are smaller resolution versions of the 1.3 billion pixel version for easier browser viewing and downloading. Viewers can explore the full-circle image with pan and zoom controls at http://mars.nasa.gov/bp1/.The view is centered toward the south, with north at both ends. It shows Curiosity at the “Rocknest” site where the rover scooped up samples of windblown dust and sand. Curiosity used three cameras to take the component images on several different days between Oct. 5 and Nov. 16, 2012.This first NASA-produced gigapixel image from the surface of Mars is a mosaic using 850 frames from the telephoto camera of Curiosity’s Mast Camera instrument, supplemented with 21 frames from the Mastcam’s wider-angle camera and 25 black-and-white frames — mostly of the rover itself — from the Navigation Camera. It was produced by the Multiple-Mission Image Processing Laboratory (MIPL) at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.This version of the panorama retains “raw” color, as seen by the camera on Mars under Mars lighting conditions. A white-balanced version is available at PIA16918. The view shows illumination effects from variations in the time of day for pieces of the mosaic. It also shows variations in the clarity of the atmosphere due to variable dustiness during the month while the images were acquired.NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory project is using Curiosity and the rover’s 10 science instruments to investigate the environmental history within Gale Crater, a location where the project has found that conditions were long ago favorable for microbial life.Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, built and operates Curiosity’s Mastcam. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages the Mars Science Laboratory project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington and built the Navigation Camera and the rover.
Image Credit:
NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
Image Addition Date:
2013-06-19

That is the description of the image shown above, to get a better view of the picture you can click on the link and check it out yourself. It is freaking cool! And I bet you will spend some time getting lost in the red dust on the Martian surface.

You may have seen the next few links during the past few days, but I will put them here in link dump fashion just in case.

Goodwill pays workers with disabilities as little as 22 cents an hour – Salon.com

In 2011, the multibillion-dollar nonprofit Goodwill Industries paid Pennsylvania workers with disabilities wages as low as 22, 38 and 41 cents an hour, according to Labor Department records obtained by NBC News. In 2010, an Applebee’s in a tony New York suburb hired hearing- and visually impaired employees through a placement program with the Helen Keller National Center and paid them between $3.97 per hour and $5.96, well below the state minimum wage of $7.25.

And it’s perfectly legal due to a Depression-era loophole in federal labor law, as NBC reports:

Section 14 (c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which was passed in 1938, allows employers to obtain special minimum wage certificates from the Department of Labor. The certificates give employers the right to pay disabled workers according to their abilities, with no bottom limit to the wage…

The non-profit certificate holders can also place employees in outside, for-profit workplaces including restaurants, retail stores, hospitals and even Internal Revenue Service centers.

While employers like Goodwill defend the practice as providing jobs to people who need and want them, disability and labor rights advocates have called the loophole exploitative, saying it traps workers in a “two-tiered” system that says “Americans who have disabilities aren’t as valuable as other people,” as Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind, told NBC. “That’s wrong. These folks have value. We should recognize that value,” he added.

When we lived in Tampa, my brother worked for Marriott at Tampa International Airport, they paid minimum wage and with the exception of the last manager who did not want to work with the Downs students at Denny’s school, the experience was very good for both Marriott and my brother. But…this crap about below minimum wage…that is ridiculous. There is a bill proposed which could repeal Section 14 (c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act…but it is facing opposition. Guess we will just have to wait and see.

This next link from Digby:

This really is Big Brother: the leak nobody’s noticed

by digby

This McClatchy piece (written by some of the same people who got the Iraq war run-up story so right while everyone else got it wrong) is as chilling to me as anything we’ve heard over the past few weeks about the NSA spying. In fact, it may be worse…

She links to this article: Obama’s crackdown views leaks as aiding enemies of U.S. | McClatchy

Even before a former U.S. intelligence contractor exposed the secret collection of Americans’ phone records, the Obama administration was pressing a government-wide crackdown on security threats that requires federal employees to keep closer tabs on their co-workers and exhorts managers to punish those who fail to report their suspicions.

President Barack Obama’s unprecedented initiative, known as the Insider Threat Program, is sweeping in its reach. It has received scant public attention even though it extends beyond the U.S. national security bureaucracies to most federal departments and agencies nationwide, including the Peace Corps, the Social Security Administration and the Education and Agriculture departments. It emphasizes leaks of classified material, but catchall definitions of “insider threat” give agencies latitude to pursue and penalize a range of other conduct.

I know that this was linked to in the comments yesterday, but I thought it deserved to be on the front page. Creepy is what Boston Boomer thought about it. Yup…it sure is.

Well, in the finance news: SEC Wants Banks To Admit Wrongdoing – Business Insider

For decades, the SEC has let companies and individuals settle charges without actually admitting guilt, letting bigwigs more or less off the hook with only tacit — but not legal — acknowledgment of wrongdoing.

No longer. The Commission will begin to push for more accountability on a “case-by-case” basis, the Wall Street Journal reports:

From the Journal:

The new policy, which came out of a review [SEC Chairman] Ms. White began when she joined the agency in the spring, will be applied in “cases where…it’s very important to have that public acknowledgment [of wrongdoing] and accountability,” she told reporters at a Wall Street Journal CFO Network conference in Washington, D.C.

Decisions will be made on a “case-by-case” basis, Ms. White said. But she added the agency intends to target cases of egregious intentional conduct or widespread harm to investors.

Most cases still will be allowed to settle using the standard “neither admit nor deny” formula, Ms. White said.

Washington legislators like Elizabeth Warren have recently urged the SEC to take big banks to task for wrongdoing, the Journal reports.

I can’t even think straight to make sense of anything dealing with finance, numbers, math, numbers, but I will say that I sure liked Treasury Secretary Jack Lew’s signature when it was all loopy-loops. Treasury chief’s loopy signature evolves into something almost legible – U.S. News

The official signature of Treasury Secretary Jack Lew on a $5 bill, top, and Lew’s signature on a 2011 memo.

The top finance official in the federal government was given the humiliating nickname Loopty Lew. Worse still, the treasury chief is one of two people whose signatures grace United States currency. President Barack Obama joked that he might devalue the dollar.

This next item is something that worries me, hopefully it does not give us a preview of what we are going to see here.  Google Makes Google News In Germany Opt-In Only To Avoid Paying Fees Under New Copyright Law | TechCrunch

Google News in Germany will soon change. Starting August 1, it will only index sources that have decided to explicitly opt-in to being shown on the search giant’s news-aggregation service. Google News remains an opt-out service in the other 60 countries and languages it currently operates in, but since Germany passed a new copyright law earlier this year that takes effect on August 1, the company is in danger of having to pay newspapers, blogs and other publishers for the right to show even short snippets of news.

Publishers will have to go into Google’s News tools page to agree to be indexed by Google News. Publishers who don’t do this will simply be removed from the index come August 1.

Many of Germany’s publishers had hoped to force Google to pay a licensing fee for their content, but today’s announcement does not even mention this. Instead, Google notes that it is saddened by the fact that it has to make this change. On its German blog, Google argues that Google News currently gets 6 billion visits per month and that, if anything, it’s providing a free service for publishers that brings them more traffic.

One of the main issues with the “Leistungsschutzrecht” (how’s that for a good German word?) — the ancillary copyright law that the German government passed after large protests earlier this year — is that it’s not clear when a “snippet” becomes a snippet. The law doesn’t feature a clear definition of how long a snippet actually is (140 characters? 160? 250?).

Google always argued that the new law was neither necessary nor useful and that it wouldn’t pay for links and snippets. A number of major German publishers have already said that they will opt-in to being featured in Google News, but there is a good chance that quite a few will decide that they don’t need the traffic.

It then makes you wonder what will eventually happen here in the US, with more and more newspapers going to paywall subscription services…and what that means for bloggers and news-aggregate or RSS services.

Deep in the heart of Texas via Policy Mic: Texas Passed Abortion Laws In a Special Session, Because Trampling On Women’s Rights Can’t Wait

Late Tuesday night, the Texas Senate advanced anti-abortion legislation known as SB5, raising serious concerns for the future of abortion clinics in Texas. Governor Rick Perry called for a special session to discuss redistricting issues which arose from the 2011 court rulings that deemed Texas’ redistricting as discriminatory. SB5 passed 20-10 in the Texas Senate, leading way to a vote in the GOP-dominated House of Representatives in Texas.

The bill includes many provisions to limit women’s access to health care resources in Texas. The bill would ban abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy with one or two exceptions. In addition, the bill also would require abortions to be conducted in ambulatory surgical centers by doctors with admitting privileges. These surgical centers have to be within a 30-mile radius of a hospital near the clinic. Furthermore, the bill would ban telemedicine, which would require doctors to only give abortion-pill prescriptions in person and not via telecommunications such as Skype or other means.

This provision would endanger all but five clinics in Texas, severely limiting women’s access to healthcare options and limting their right to choose. This is in line with what Governor Perry and some other Republican state sentors have said about reshaping a “Culture of Life” in Texas. Such provisions have been said to “reshape the landscape” in the state, as fewer clinics and longer distances to reach them will make it far more difficult for women in many parts of Texas to obtain abortion if they choose to.

And the latest on the Paula Deen mess:

[VIDEO] Paula Deen Apologizes but Food Network does not renew her contract.

They are lining up to stuff their mouths and support Deen In Savannah, Many Defend Paula Deen From Critics – NYTimes.com

This video explains the situation down in Brazil, give it a look see if you have some time.

The next few links revolve around one photo I saw yesterday on Reuters. Photos of the week | Reuters.com

FireShot Screen Capture #476 - 'Photos of the week I Reuters_com' - www_reuters_com_news_pictures_slideshow_articleId=USRTX10WII#a=3

The caption reads:

A submerged statue of the Hindu Lord Shiva stands amid the flooded waters of river Ganges at Rishikesh in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand, India, June 17, 2013.
REUTERS/Stringer

When I saw this image, it immediately made me think of an image from an old movie…from 1939. I will show you the image shortly. The film was called The Rains Came, according to TCM:

The Rains Came (1939) A lavish and expensive prestige picture, budgeted at $2.5 million, and based on a critically acclaimed novel, The Rains Came (1939) stars Tyrone Power as an Indian doctor in the mythical city of Ranchipur, India. He begins an affair with a married British noblewoman (Myrna Loy) until a massive flood, earthquake and plague disrupt everyone’s lives. To complement its huge star Tyrone Power, Twentieth Century-Fox borrowed Myrna Loy and director Clarence Brown from MGM, and George Brent from Warner Brothers. Rounding out the cast is a splendid roster of supporting players including Maria Ouspenskaya, Henry Travers, Jane Darwell, H.B. Warner and Nigel Bruce (cast against type).

It’s Power’s show all the way, however, as he is costumed stunningly in outfits ranging from turbans and satins to military uniforms and hospital whites. Power’s most significant co-star here is probably the special effects, which won the first-ever Oscar® in that category. The picture was also nominated for five further Academy Awards: Art Direction, Black-and-White Cinematography, Film Editing, Sound, and Musical Score.

You can see the first scene in the film here at this link, in it you will see the statue that mimics the image in the Reuters photograph above.

Rainscame1

“The Cast Iron Petticoat”

Rains Came, The (1939) — (Movie Clip) Cast Iron Petticoat

From the opening scene, Brit artist Ransome (George Brent) and local doctor Major Safti (Tyrone Power) discuss the former’s inertia and the state of contemporary India, a missionary mother and daughter (Marjorie Rambeau, Brenda Joyce) visiting, in The Rains Came, 1939, co-starring Myrna Loy.

FireShot Screen Capture #472 - 'Пришли дожди _ The Rains Came _1939_ — Видео@Mail_Ru' - video_mail_ru_mail_armog68_RETRO__FILMS2_24949_html

This statue of Queen Victoria later becomes one of the iconic images in a film that was loaded with advance special effects and cinematography…from the TCM link above:

Cinematographer Arthur Miller had plenty of fascinating recollections about The Rains Came, too. He was asked to replace Bert Glennon early in production because Glennon was not lighting the sets the way Brown wanted. For a grand dinner-party scene, for instance, Brown wanted the furniture and dcor to shine, “and Glennon had made it shadowy and soft.” Miller got the brilliant, shiny look Brown was after by spraying the tables and other furniture with oil, and having the silverware polished over and over until everything glistened. “When the old Maharajah died and the veil over the bed blew a little in the wind, I made the whole scene glow as vividly as possible, to suggest a spiritual, transcendent quality.”

Miller had photographed Myrna Loy once before, on The Truth About Youth (1930), and he knew some of her tics. He described one exchange which says much about how stars of the time tried to control the technical aspects of their on-screen appearance: “She asked me before we did the test to have a matchbox light with a red gelatin on it shine in her eyes with fifteen candle power. I thought, ‘What the hell was the use of that when I already had hundreds of watts shining on her anyway?’ And I asked her what she wanted it for. And she said, ‘It makes my eyes dark.’ Crazy, of course, but I jiggled it around for her and whether she had the light and the gelatin on it or not didn’t make any difference! It was all hokum; stars get that way. Luckily, she accepted my point that the light she wanted had no sense, and from then on we got along O.K.

“But oddly enough, I did use the red gelatin once. It’s when she takes a drink in the hospital and you know she’s become infected with a disease and her face fills with shadows. I just wanted a special kind of look in her face, as though death is coming over her and she doesn’t know it. And the gelatin was wonderful for that.”

Miller continued: “I became obsessed with rain on that picture; I was always amazed when I left the studio that it wasn’t raining. I hate movie rain that falls straight down, and I know that rain never does; it always falls at an angle. I made the prop department adjust the spouts accordingly. I even shot the raindrops so they seemed much larger. You never saw such water in your life! Brent and the others took a hell of a beating on the picture. There was one scene when Nigel Bruce and his manservant were on the landing of their house and the water rushed in and ‘drowned’ them in one shot, without a cut. And in fact the actors actually took the full force of that, and even had bits of the set flying on to them! They risked their lives, even though the material was balsawood; if it had hit them the wrong way it would have killed them instantly…

“One trouble with the way they handle rain today…is that they don’t backlight it. You have to backlight rain or you don’t see it; it’s just a blur. And all the way in my picture the rain shines; it was the theme of the film.”

Beautiful, that is what the film is.

There is another post, from the blogMatte Shot that looks at how the film makers actually shot some of the sequences in this movie: Matte Shot – a tribute to Golden Era special fx: December 2010 Fred Sersen burns Chicago and floods Ranchipur – the effects shots from IN OLD CHICAGO and THE RAINS CAME  I will give you a quote from the section that deals with The Rains Came:

An invisible matte shot that features early on in the proceedings.  Truly a testament to the skills of the matte painter.

And here is that same matte being painted by Hector Serbaroli.  I’d like to compliment the effects cameraman for this shot too as the composite is flawless and at no time would one suspect a trick is being played on us the viewer. *Photo from the collection of Joseph Serbaroli

You need to go to the blog Matte Shot and read that post to fully understand the work behind these “old school” special effects, which I think looks way better than some of the CG shit coming out today.

Anyway, I want to show you the two photos side by side, so you can see why I thought of that specific shot from this old 1939 movie…

Photos of the week I Reuters_com' - www_reuters_com_news_pictures_slideshow_articleId=USRTX10WII#a=3

FireShot Screen Capture #473 - 'Пришли дожди _ The Rains Came _1939_ — Видео@Mail_Ru' - video_mail_ru_mail_armog68_RETRO__FILMS2_24949_html

Anyway, here are the rest of the links….after the jump and yes, I am sticking with the movies for a little longer.

Read the rest of this entry »


Sunday Reads: Anticipation of Stop and Frisk for Cotton Candy

$(KGrHqUOKj8E6,2h5192BOp(YVVQT!~~60_35Good Morning

We are freezing our banjo playing fingers off up here in the Georgia mountains.  Winter took an awfully long time to get here.

I guess you can tell by the image on the left, one of our stories this morning is about the Heinz merger deal. S.E.C., Suspecting Insider Trading, Freezes Account Over Heinz Merger

Regulators froze a Swiss account at Goldman Sachs on Friday after unearthing activities suggestive of insider trading in the $23 billion acquisition of H. J. Heinz, taking an abrupt action after one of the biggest deals in recent years.

The action, by the Securities and Exchange Commission, illustrates the temptation that such big takeovers may present. Despite a number of prominent crackdowns on insider trading, regulators continue to uncover cases involving traders who spin confidential tidbits into illicit profits ahead of deals.

Ya know what? I bet any of these greedy white-collar crooks get away with crimes that would land most of us in prison. Then you have those people who get treated like criminals, just because of the color of their skin. Take this news out of New York City…Forest Whitaker given the ‘stop and frisk’ inside NYC deli in false theft allegation…No freakin’ kidding!

“See, not even an Academy Award can stop a Black man from being criminalized…”


God almighty, if it’s not the police it’s shopkeepers shaking down The Scary Black Man. And apparently it doesn’t matter if you’re an Academy Award winning actor. Forest Whitaker was on the Upper East Side and deigned to step into Milano MarketNewsOne:

TMZ reports that Whitaker said he was falsely accused of lifting an item off the store’s shelf and subsequently frisked by an employee. An eyewitness told the entertainment site that the Academy Award winner was frisked in plain view of everyone.

Of course, the shake down produced nothing belonging to the store and Whitaker left the establishment angry and embarrassed.

TMZ was told this by Whitaker’s rep:

“This was an upsetting incident given the fact that Forest did nothing more than walk into the deli. What is most unfortunate about this situation is the inappropriate way store employees are treating patrons of their establishment.  Frisking individuals without proof/evidence is a violation of rights.”

“Forest did not call the authorities at the request of the worker who was in fear of losing his employment. Forest asked that, in the future, the store change their behavior and treat the public in a fair and just manner.”

Damn, nothing ever surprises me. For another look at race in today’s climate…h/t Tennessee Guerrilla Woman: Emory president holds up “three-fifths” compromise as noble, honorable

In a shockingly horrible column, the president of Emory University held up the “Three-Fifths Compromise” — the deal between Northern and Southern states which counted slaves as three-fifths of a person — as a shining example of political compromise at its best.

In his “from the president” column — titled “As American as … Compromise” —  in the winter issue of Emory magazine, president James Wagner writes about the fiscal cliff and the importance of keeping one’s mind open to other points of view. All standard president’s letter dullness so far, right?

Then comes this:

One instance of constitutional compromise was the agreement to count three-fifths of the slave population for purposes of state representation in Congress. Southern delegates wanted to count the whole slave population, which would have given the South greater influence over national policy. Northern delegates argued that slaves should not be counted at all, because they had no vote. As the price for achieving the ultimate aim of the Constitution—“to form a more perfect union”—the two sides compromised on this immediate issue of how to count slaves in the new nation. Pragmatic half-victories kept in view the higher aspiration of drawing the country more closely together.

Some might suggest that the constitutional compromise reached for the lowest common denominator—for the barest minimum value on which both sides could agree. I rather think something different happened. Both sides found a way to temper ideology and continue working toward the highest aspiration they both shared—the aspiration to form a more perfect union. They set their sights higher, not lower, in order to identify their common goal and keep moving toward it.

So under Wagner’s formulation, one of the basest and demeaning political deals of American history, if not the basest, is an example of working toward a “highest aspiration.” Counting slaves as three-fifths of a person becomes an example of American politicians setting their sights high!

Wagner is no history professor…his specialty is Electrical Engineering. I’ve got a couple of takes on Wagner’s position:

From Erik Loomis,  Almost Verbatim Emory University President James Wagner: “The 3/5 Compromise is a Model to Which We Should Aspire. Also, the Liberal Arts are Like Slaves and Should Be Treated As Such” – Lawyers, Guns & Money

The president of Emory University evidently lacks people to make sure he doesn’t say insane, horrible things.

Take a quick look at his point of view. And be sure to look through the comments on that LGM post.

Raw Story takes a different approach, also citing Gawker comment on Wagner’s statements: University president: ‘Three-Fifths’ slavery agreement example of ‘pragmatic’ compromise

Wagner’s invocation of the agreement as a “lesson of our forebears” was immediately criticized on social media on Saturday; Salon also called “shockingly horrible” ; and Gawker suggested that same day that The Affordable Care Act, the Voting Rights Act, or “Do all homework, you get to watch The Simpsons” would have been more appropriate examples of political compromise.

As stated in Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3 of the U.S. Constitution, the agreement mandated that, “Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.”

The agreement was abandoned after the abolition of slavery, as mandated by the 13th Amendment.

I agree with TGW on this one...she says:

Amazing. An amazingly stupid thing to say. Emory University does not need this and neither does Atlanta or this already bad-mouthed region.

Moving on to immigration: Report: White House immigration bill in the works would lay out an 8-year path to legal status

The White House is circulating a draft immigration bill that would create a new visa for illegal immigrants living in the United States and allow them to become legal permanent residents within eight years, according to a report published online Saturday by USA Today.President Barack Obama’s bill would create a “Lawful Prospective Immigrant” visa for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants living in the United States. The bill includes more security funding and requires business owners to adopt a system for verifying the immigration status of new hires within four years, the newspaper said.

USA Today reported that the bill would require that immigrants pass a criminal background check, submit biometric information and pay fees to qualify for the new visa. Immigrants who served more than a year in prison for a criminal conviction or were convicted of three or more crimes and were sentenced to a total of 90 days in jail would not be eligible. Crimes committed in other countries that would bar immigrants from legally entering the country would also be ineligible.

Those immigrants who pass the requirements can apply for a visa, and work on getting their green card within eight years.

Another bit of news from the swamp, this time a group of Democrats have put their feelings on Medicare/Social Security cuts down on paper. Majority of House Democrats Call on President Obama to Reject Benefit Cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security Benefits

107 House Democrats, a majority of Democrats in the House of Representatives, wrote President Obama today, urging him to reject any proposals to cut benefits millions of American families depend upon through Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. The letter was led by Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL),Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chairs Reps. Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), and Rep Donna Edwards (D-MD).

The Members specifically singled out “Chained CPI”—a proposal to reduce Social Security benefits by changing the way inflation is calculated—and raising the Medicare retirement age as policies they oppose.

“A commitment to keeping the middle-class strong and reducing poverty requires a commitment to keeping Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid strong,” the Members said in the letter. “We urge you to reject any proposals to cut benefits, and we look forward to working with you to enact approaches that instead rely on economic growth and more fair revenue-raising policies to solve our fiscal problems.”

Full letter to Obama can be found at the above link. At least someone is making a case for their constituents…

Just a few more links for you. There is reason to believe a suspected serial killer has been caught:  Man Charged in Killings of 2 Women in Missouri

A Kansas City-area man was arrested Saturday in the killings of two prostitutes whose bodies were found posed on the sides of rural Missouri roads nearly a year apart.

At a news conference Saturday night, authorities said Derek Richardson, 27, has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of abandonment of a corpse. His bail is set at $2 million. It wasn’t immediately known whether he has an attorney.

“We absolutely stopped a person who was going to kill again,” said Kansas City police Sgt. Doug Niemeier, adding that authorities will search across the United States to ensure there weren’t other victims.

Police say they know Richardson has traveled around the US, they are now investigating other crimes that may be connected.

And over in Japan, someone is sending out golden packages worth a total of $250,000…Golden gifts sent to tsunami-hit Japan port

People in a small Japanese fishing port that was devastated by the 2011 tsunami have been receiving gold bars in the post from an anonymous benefactor.

Packages containing gold bars started turning up in Ishinomaki, in Miyagi prefecture, about 10 days ago.

I’ve got two space stories for you, one is in connection with the huge meteor that struck Russia a couple of days ago. Dismissed as Doomsayers, Advocates for Meteor Detection Feel Vindicated

For decades, scientists have been on the lookout for killer objects from outer space that could devastate the planet. But warnings that they lacked the tools to detect the most serious threats were largely ignored, even as skeptics mocked the worriers as Chicken Littles.

Well, the sky was literally falling in the outskirts of the Ural Mountains…

No more. The meteor that rattled Siberia on Friday, injuring hundreds of people and traumatizing thousands, has suddenly brought new life to efforts to deploy adequate detection tools, in particular a space telescope that would scan the solar system for dangers.

A group of young Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who helped build thriving companies like eBay, Google and Facebook has already put millions of dollars into the effort and saw Friday’s shock wave as a turning point in raising hundreds of millions more.

“Wouldn’t it be silly if we got wiped out because we weren’t looking?” said Edward Lu, a former NASA astronaut and Google executive who leads the detection effort. “This is a wake-up call from space. We’ve got to pay attention to what’s out there.”

Hot rocks falling from the heavens are not the only thing out there in the darkness of space, there is a cloud bursting with color relatively near us that holds something dark indeed.  Cotton Candy Cloud Hides Baby Black Hole

Composite image of supernova remnant W49B

This looks like the explosion of a cotton candy Death Star (run by evil space clowns, perhaps?) but it is the remains of a star’s death. This colorful cloud is a supernova remnant, seen in infrared, radio, and x-ray light… and at its center may hide one of the galaxy’s youngest black holes.

Located 26,000 light-years away in the northern constellation Aquila, W49B is a snapshot of the shockwaves from a star that went supernova an estimated 1,000 years ago (not including the time it took for its light to reach us). Several observation methods and instruments were used to create the technicolor image above – X-rays from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory shown in blue and green, radio data from the National Science Foundation’s Very Large Array in pink, and infrared and optical data from the Palomar Observatory in orange and yellow — but put all together, one feature becomes glaringly obvious.

This thing is a mess.

Typically supernova remnants have a roughly circular or shell-like shape, generally seen as a ring of bright material surrounding the dense burnt-out core of a star. The ring is bright because it’s composed of interstellar gas and dust that’s being violently ionized by the spreading force of the supernova. Ionized material gives off many forms of radiation, detectable in various wavelengths by observatories on the ground as well as in space.

W49B isn’t a ring, though. It’s a sloppy barrel shape that indicates an uneven, asymmetrical eruption, hinting that the original star didn’t go peacefully into this good night.

That Discover article calls this star corpse a black hole, and if that turns out to be the case,

…would be the galaxy’s newest black hole — at least as far as what’s been discovered so far. A mere thousand years old, an alleged black hole at the heart of W49B would have just been born in the night sky around the same time that Vikings were first setting foot on North American shores.

The paper on W49B was published in the Feb. 10 issue of The Astrophysical Journal.Read more on the Chandra X-ray Observatory website here.

Y’all try and stay warm today, and let us know what you are reading and thinking about today.


Sunday Reads: Other Things

lion

Good Morning

Just some links to get us started this morning, I am sure that there will be more information about the mass murders in Newtown, Connecticut. Check the comment section below for updates.

I have to share these two links with you however, first is this one…from Susie Madrak…thank you for posting this link Susie! We need to talk about mental illness. 

‘I am Adam Lanza’s mother’ | Suburban Guerrilla

This is also very sad. And infuriating. Hey, let’s cut some more mental health funding!

Friday’s horrific national tragedy—the murder of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in New Town, Connecticut—has ignited a new discussion on violence in America. In kitchens and coffee shops across the country, we tearfully debate the many faces of violence in America: gun culture, media violence, lack of mental health services, overt and covert wars abroad, religion, politics and the way we raise our children. Liza Long, a writer based in Boise, says it’s easy to talk about guns. But it’s time to talk about mental illness.

[…]

I live with a son who is mentally ill. I love my son. But he terrifies me.

Please read that post and share it!

Then there is this shit: Westboro Baptist Church Members Say They Will Protest In Sandy Hook

It is 3:33am, and I lay in bed…unable to breathe. I thought if I added these two stories to my post I could somehow fall asleep. I am sick with all this, it is horrifying…. Please…make it stop.

Now for some stories that caught my eye this past week.

Glenn Greenwald looks at HSBC, too big to jail, is the new poster child for US two-tiered justice system

The US is the world’s largest prison state, imprisoning more of its citizens than any nation on earth, both in absolute numbers and proportionally. It imprisons people for longer periods of time, more mercilessly, and for more trivial transgressions than any nation in the west. This sprawling penal state has been constructed over decades, by both political parties, and it punishes the poor and racial minorities at overwhelmingly disproportionate rates.

Lanny Breuer, HSBC

Assistant attorney general Lanny Breuer said taking away HSBC’s US banking licence could have cost thousands of jobs. Photograph: Richard Drew/AP

But not everyone is subjected to that system of penal harshness. It all changes radically when the nation’s most powerful actors are caught breaking the law. With few exceptions, they are gifted not merely with leniency, but full-scale immunity from criminal punishment. Thus have the most egregious crimes of the last decade been fully shielded from prosecution when committed by those with the greatest political and economic power: the construction of a worldwide torture regime, spying on Americans’ communications without the warrants required by criminal law by government agencies and the telecom industry, an aggressive war launched on false pretenses, and massive, systemic financial fraud in the banking and credit industry that triggered the 2008 financial crisis.

This is ridiculous, more at the link, in fact Greenwald has updated the post since it originally was published on 12/12/12.

From ProPublica, a report on the US water supply.  Poisoning the Well: How the Feds Let Industry Pollute the Nation’s Underground Water Supply

Federal officials have given energy and mining companies permission to pollute aquifers in more than 1,500 places across the country, releasing toxic material into underground reservoirs that help supply more than half of the nation’s drinking water.

In many cases, the Environmental Protection Agency has granted these so-called aquifer exemptions in Western states now stricken by drought and increasingly desperate for water.

EPA records show that portions of at least 100 drinking water aquifers have been written off because exemptions have allowed them to be used as dumping grounds.

“You are sacrificing these aquifers,” said Mark Williams, a hydrologist at the University of Colorado and a member of a National Science Foundation team studying the effects of energy development on the environment. “By definition, you are putting pollution into them. … If you are looking 50 to 100 years down the road, this is not a good way to go.”

As part of an investigation into the threat to water supplies from underground injection of waste, ProPublica set out to identify which aquifers have been polluted.

That is just the beginning, go read the rest when you have time.

Okay, we’ve had links to outrages regarding the Fed and DoJ, and the EPA. Now on to the latest news about Obamacare…and Walmart.  Walmart Workers At Risk In States Rejecting Obamacare Medicaid Expansion

If state governors follow through on plans to oppose the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare, one substantial group of low-wage workers appears vulnerable to going without medical coverage: people who work at Walmart.

The world’s largest retailer recently outlined a new policy that will exclude from health coverage newly hired employees who work fewer than 30 hours per week, as The Huffington Post reported this month. Experts described that move as an attempt by Walmart to shift the burden of providing health coverage to the government — specifically, to Medicaid, the insurance program for the poor.

Isn’t it wonderful? /snark.

I’ve got another article to share with you, this time it is on various Federal District Courts: Help Wanted On The Federal Bench – The Dish | By Andrew Sullivan – The Daily Beast

Robert Kuttner points out that there “are now more than 100 vacancies on the federal bench, out of some 856 federal district and appellate judges, far more than on the day Obama took office”

Y’all know what this means. Why are there so many vacancies left open by the Obama Administration?

The rest of today’s links are listed below…

Tattoos Illustrate Art of Saving Lives- Voice of America

Prince is still king, say Hot Chip | Music | The Guardian

Democratic Congressman Delivers Lengthy Apology For Using The Word ‘Midget’ On House Floor | Mediaite ( I include this link for obvious reasons.)

Finally, later in the week, TCM will be showing one of the best movies of film noir, Double Indemnity staring Babara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray, and directed by Billy Wilder. So in connection to this film, check out the two videos below. From the Carol Burnette Show:

Double Calamity

See you all in the comments later on today.


Wednesday Morning Reads: Egypt, Lego and 1.6 Trillion Suns

cllas

Morning Y’all!

After spending last night watching Lost in America...it made me think about Skippy, the manager at the Der Wienerschnitzel and those frozen fries, you know, the importance of details that make you great at your job.  (If you forgot the scene I am talking about, the manager of the hot dog joint tells Albert Brooks just how wonderful his wife, Julie Hagerty, is…because of her attention to details, she noticed he had served “frozen” fries…with bits of ice inside of them.)

I wonder if Bank of America’s Bryan Moynihan, had such an attention to detail, but according to this article by Matt Taibbi, it looks like attention to detail is obviously not essential to a CEO…snark.  Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan Apparently Can’t Remember Anything | Matt Taibbi | Rolling Stone

Thank God for Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan. If you’re a court junkie, or have the misfortune (as some of us poor reporters do) of being forced professionally to spend a lot of time reading legal documents, the just-released Moynihan deposition in MBIA v. Bank of America, Countrywide, and a Buttload of Other Shameless Mortgage Fraudsters will go down as one of the great Nixonian-stonewalling efforts ever, and one of the more entertaining reads of the year.

In this long-awaited interrogation – Bank of America has been fighting to keep Moynihan from being deposed in this case for some time – Moynihan does a full Star Trek special, boldly going where no deponent has ever gone before, breaking out the “I don’t recall” line more often and perhaps more ridiculously than was previously thought possible. Moynihan seems to remember his own name, and perhaps his current job title, but beyond that, he’ll have to get back to you.

Yes, the key to holding a top executive position is being able to recite the phrase, “I don’t recall,” over and over again. I am not a fan of Matt Taibbi, but this article did make me laugh.
Anyway, over in Egypt, President Morsi leaves palace as police battle protesters.

Egyptian police battled thousands of protesters outside President Mohamed Mursi’s palace in Cairo on Tuesday, prompting the Islamist leader to leave the building, presidency sources said.

Officers fired teargas at up to 10,000 demonstrators angered by Mursi’s drive to hold a referendum on a new constitution on December 15. Some broke through police lines around his palace and protested next to the perimeter wall.

The crowds had gathered nearby in what organizers had dubbed “last warning” protests against Mursi, who infuriated opponents with a November 22 decree that expanded his powers. “The people want the downfall of the regime,” the demonstrators chanted.

“The president left the palace,” a presidential source, who declined to be named, told Reuters. A security source at the presidency also said the president had departed.

Since this is a “fluid” situation, I will update this story down below in the comments.
Like a house of cards, things in the Mideast are precariously unstable…let’s move on to a topic that has some strength behind it. I am talking about those little plastic pieces that always seem underfoot, Legos:  How tall can a Lego tower get?
A 32.5m tall tower made of Lego in Prague
Building Lego towers is a competitive business – this one in Prague, at 32.5m, may be the tallest to date

It’s not just children who like to build towers with Lego – the internet is alive with discussion on how many Lego bricks, stacked one on top of the other, it would take to destroy the bottom brick. So what’s the answer?

There has been a burning debate on the social news website Reddit.

It’s a trivial question you might think, but one the Open University’s engineering department has – at the request of the BBC’s More or Less programme – fired up its labs to try to answer.

“It’s an exciting thing to do because it’s an entirely new question and new questions are always interesting,” says Dr Ian Johnston, an applied mathematician and lecturer in engineering.

The article goes into some detail on how the test were conducted, so if you are interested…check it out. I will go ahead and spoil it for y’all…just how tall is this mighty tower of legos?

The average maximum force the bricks can stand is 4,240N. That’s equivalent to a mass of 432kg (950lbs). If you divide that by the mass of a single brick, which is 1.152g, then you get the grand total of bricks a single piece of Lego could support: 375,000.

So, 375,000 bricks towering 3.5km (2.17 miles) high is what it would take to break a Lego brick.

A graphic showing the height of the Lego tower, the height of Mount Olympus, the height at which Felix Baumgartner pulled his parachute, and the Eiffel Tower
That is one big ass tower of plastic.
And while we are on the subject of height or distance, it looks like Voyager is in the news again. Voyager discovers ‘magnetic highway’ at edge of solar system

NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft has encountered a “magnetic highway” at the edge of the solar system, a surprising discovery 35 years after its launch, the experts behind the pioneering craft said Monday.

Earlier this year a surge in a key indicator fueled hopes that the craft was nearing the so-called heliopause, which marks the boundary between our solar system and outer space.

But instead of slipping away from the bubble of charged particles the Sun blows around itself, Voyager encountered something completely unexpected.

This is amazing…think about how far Voyager has gone.

The craft’s daily radio reports sent back evidence that the Sun’s magnetic field lines was connected to interstellar magnetic fields. Lower-energy charged particles were zooming out and higher-energy particles from outside were streaming in.

They called it a magnetic highway because charged particles outside this region bounced around in all directions, as if trapped on local roads inside the bubble, or heliosphere.

“Although Voyager 1 still is inside the Sun’s environment, we now can taste what it’s like on the outside because the particles are zipping in and out on this magnetic highway,” said Edward Stone, a Voyager project scientist based at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena.

Imagine, traveling 11 miles a second!  Voyager Discovers New Region of Solar System

We got ourselves all excited for NASA’s Mars press conference today, even though we already knew it wasn’t about life on the red planet, but what we should have been paying attention to was happening nearly 11.5 billion miles away in the heliosphere. The Voyager 1 spacecraft has encountered a new region of our solar system. What’s even more exciting is that NASA scientists believe this region is the final barrier between Voyager and interstellar space. That’s so much more impressive than chlorine on Mars.

The Voyager 1 spacecraft is now so far out into space that light from the Sun takes over 34 hours to reach it. NASA debated whether this new region should still be considered part of our solar system, but project scientist Edward Stone makes the call by saying, “Although Voyager 1 still is inside the sun’s environment, we now can taste what it’s like on the outside because the particles are zipping in and out on this magnetic highway.”

The scientists believe that Voyager will pass out of the solar system within the next two months or so. I’ve got one more space link for you this morning, it is about our Galaxy the Milky Way,  New estimate suggests Milky Way mass of 1.6 trillion suns

Panorama of Milky Way from the inside: a mosaic of multiple shots on large-format film, comprising all 360 degrees of the galaxy from our vantage point. More about this image here. Image Credit: Digital Sky LLC via Wikimedia Commons

Our home galaxy the Milky Way is thought to be approximately 100,000 light-years wide and about 1,000 light-years thick. You often hear the estimate that the mass of our galaxy is equal to several billion suns, but some estimates have ranged up to twice that high, or even higher. Now some astronomers are suggesting a mass for the Milky Way of 1.6 trillion suns. The estimate isn’t just for stars but also includes the mass of our Milky Way’s invisible dark halo. It’s based on the first-ever measurement of the proper motion, or sideways motion along our line of sight, of a small galaxy satellite galaxy to our Milky Way. Ken Croswell reported on the role of this small galaxy – called Leo I – yesterday (December 3, 2012) in Scientific American.

There is a lot of information in that article, be sure to go and read the whole thing.

The rest of today’s post will be in link dump fashion…

An Amazing New Use for Ecstasy- Helping women deal with PTSD after rape.

Big Pharma Company Mocked Patients Who Got “Jawbone Death” from Drug: “Ma Toot Hurts So Bad” – Merck couldn’t care less about the patients…as long as they could make more money.

Noam Chomsky: What the American Media Won’t Tell You About Israel -Decades of hell in Gaza.

New research shows corrosion may accelerate failures at Fukushima Daiichi- Great…and guess what? There is nothing that can be done about it.

Be sure you read these couple of links on the NFL murder suicide this past weekend:

Jovan Belcher: Murder is Domestic Violence [by @QuadCityPat] | Angry Black Lady Chronicles

If you only read one thing about the Kasandra Perkins murder- Feministe

Regarding privacy in America…Laptop seizures by US government highlight 9/11-era climate of fear | Glenn Greenwald

And lastly, a bit of history…. Disability history month: Was Tamerlane disabled?

Tamerlane – derived from his nickname Timur the Lame – rose from obscurity to become a 14th Century conqueror of nations, who piled high the skulls of his enemies. It was quite a feat at a time when physical prowess was prized, writes Justin Marozzi.

Think of the greatest conquerors of all time and chances are you’ll quickly list Genghis Khan and Alexander the Great. It is rather less likely, unless you come from Central Asia or the Muslim world more widely, that you’d spare a thought for Tamerlane.

Yet in many ways this Tartar warlord, born near Samarkand in 1336 in what is now Uzbekistan, outshone both the Macedonian king and the Mongol warlord.

Lots of links, I know…but it is a busy time of the year, and if you can’t take it all in one shot…come back during the day when you have the time. And be sure to share the things you are reading about today…