Monday Reads: What are we doing to our fragile ecosystems?

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Good Morning!

Is it too late to notice that our consumerist society is a lot like a swarm of parasitic insects clinging to the belly of a rapidly dying host?  What are we to do when so many wealthy individuals prey on the superstitions and ignorance and greed of our fellow citizens to ensure their wealth grows while our planet dies?  They convince us we need more than we do, underpay us, entice us with loans and plastic, then ship themselves off to pristine virgin island bank havens while we are surrounded by the chemicals, the death, and disasters that hyper-consumerism has wrought.

How can you possibly deny what we are doing to our home? Here are the top five items from a ‘terrifying” report presented over the weekend..

The impacts of climate change are likely to be “severe, pervasive, and irreversible,” the chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said Sunday night in Yokohama, Japan, as the world’s leading climate experts released a new survey of how our planet is likely to change in the near future, and what we can do about it.

Here’s what you need to know:

We’re already feeling the impacts of climate change. Glaciers are already shrinking, changing the courses of rivers and altering water supplies downstream. Species from grizzly bears to flowers have shifted their ranges and behavior. Wheat and maize yields may have dropped. But as climate impacts become more common and tangible, they’re being matched by an increasing global effort to learn how to live with them: The number of scientific studies on climate change impacts, vulnerability, and adaptation more than doubled between 2005, before the previous IPCC report, and 2010. Scientists and policymakers are “learning through doing, and evaluating what you’ve done,” said report contributor Kirstin Dow, a climate policy researcher at the University of South Carolina. “That’s one of the most important lessons to come out of here.”

Heat waves and wildfires are major threats in North America. Europe faces freshwater shortages, and Asia can expect more severe flooding from extreme storms. In North America, major threats include heat waves and wildfires, which can cause death and damage to ecosystems and property. The report names athletes and outdoor workers as particularly at risk from heat-related illnesses. As the graphic below shows, coastal flooding is also a key concern.

risks chart

Globally, food sources will become unpredictable, even as population booms.Especially in poor countries, diminished crop production will likely lead to increased malnutrition, which already affects nearly 900 million people worldwide. Some of the world’s most important staples—maize, wheat, and rice—are at risk. The ocean will also be a less reliable source of food, with important fish resources in the tropics either moving north or going extinct, while ocean acidification eats away at shelled critters (like oysters) and coral. Shrinking supplies and rising prices will cause food insecurity, which canexacerbate preexisting social tensions and lead to conflict.

Coastal communities will increasingly get hammered by flooding and erosion. Tides are already rising in the US and around the world. As polar ice continues to melt and warm water expands, sea level rise will expose major metropolitan areas, military installations, farming regions, small island nations, and other ocean-side places to increased damage from hurricanes and other extreme storms. Sea level rise brings with it risks of “death, injury, ill-health, or disrupted livelihoods,” the report says.

We’ll see an increase in climate refugees and, possibly, climate-related violence.The report warns that both extreme weather events and longer-term changes in climate can lead to the displacement of vulnerable populations, especially in developing parts of the world. Climate change might also “indirectly increase” the risks of civil wars and international conflicts by exacerbating poverty and competition for resources.

There have been so many disasters just recently that it’s hard to keep track.  You can see our handprints on many of them.  Has the policy of clear cutting timber created situations like the Washington State mudslide?  Many scientists and environmentalists say yes.

As rescue workers, specially trained dogs, and heavy equipment move carefully through the area, longstanding questions are being raised about logging there and how it might have contributed to the slide.

The hillside in and around the slide area, which slopes steeply down toward the river, has seen much clear-cut logging over the years. Much of the forest there is second- and third-growth timber, replanted or regenerating naturally after earlier cuts.

Concern over logging’s impact has involved environmentalists and native American tribes. Large, old-growth trees take up more water than younger stands, which can take decades to mature and may be cut down before they reach full maturity. The demand for lumber, plywood, paper, and other wood products is part of an industry that once dominated Washington State and Oregon.

The Tulalip Tribes were so concerned with landslides hitting the Stillaguamish River and its prime salmon habitat that they blocked a proposed timber sale above an earlier slide in 1988.

“There were some very large clear-cuts planned for that area, which made us very concerned,” Kurt Nelson, a hydrologist with the tribes, told KUOW, the NPR affiliate at the University of Washington in Seattle.

“That reach of the North Fork has multiple, ancient, deep-seated landslides,” Mr. Nelson said. “There’s a lot of unstable terrain in that area.”

Landslides have followed logging in that area at least four times, KUOW reported.

“There was cutting in the 1940s; it failed in the ’50s. There was cutting in 1960, then it failed in the mid-’60s. There was cutting in ’88; it failed in ’91. There was cutting in 2005, and it failed in 2006 and in 2014,” said geomorphologist Paul Kennard, who worked for the Tulalip Tribes in the 1980s and now works for the National Park Service at Mt. Rainier.

“This had been known at least since the ’50s as one of the more problematic areas on the Stillaguamish for perennial landsliding,” Mr. Kennard said.

Although state logging regulations have been tightened in recent years, The Seattle Times reports that a clear-cut nine years ago “appears to have strayed into a restricted area that could feed groundwater into the landslide zone that collapsed Saturday.”

An analysis of government geographical data and maps suggests that a logging company “cut as much as 350 feet past a state boundary that was created because of landslide risks,” the newspaper reported.

This is an area above the most recent slide. Scientists and officials are investigating whether that clear-cut could have contributed to the current disaster.

washington-mudslide-01_77948_600x450Scientists tell us that mudslides are inevitable when you treat these mountains as we do and we fail to recognize that some places just aren’t meant for human habitation.  However, tell that to the developers.

Almost 25 years ago, I went into one of the headwater streams of the Stillaguamish with Pat Stevenson, a biologist with the American Indian tribe that bears the same name as the river and claims an ancient link to that land. The rain was Noah-level that day — just as it’s been for most of this March.

We drove upriver, winding along the drainage of Deer Creek, one of the main tributaries of the Stillaguamish. We couldn’t see Whitehorse Mountain, the dreamy peak that towers over the valley, that day. We could barely see beyond our windshield wipers. At last, we arrived at an open wound near road’s end. I’d never witnessed anything like it: an active slide, sloughing mud and clay down into the formerly pristine creek. We watched huge sections of land peel and puddle — an ugly and terrifying new landscape under creation before our eyes.

Stevenson pointed uphill, to bare, saturated earth that was melting, like candle wax, into the main mudslide. Not long ago, this had been a thick forest of old growth timber. But after it was excessively logged, every standing tree removed, there was nothing to hold the land in place during heavy rains. A federal survey determined that nearly 50 percent of the entire basin above Deer Creek had been logged over a 30-year period. It didn’t take a degree in forestry to see how one event led to the other.

The Stilly, as locals call the river, is well known to those who chase fish with a fly rod, and to native people who have been living off its bounty for centuries. Zane Grey, the Western novelist, called it the finest fishing river in the world for steelhead, the big seagoing trout that can grow to 40 pounds. What Stevenson showed me that day in a November storm was how one human activity, logging, was destroying the source of joy and sustenance for others. When the crack and groan of an entire hillside in collapse happened a week ago Saturday, I thought instantly of Stevenson and that gloomy day at Deer Creek.

And, sure enough, logging above the area of the current landslide appears to have gone beyond the legal limits, into the area that slid, according to a report in The Seattle Times.

1972276_10152123415958305_2063239767_nMeanwhile, the latest oil spill disasters take their toll in both the North and South of this Country.  There are still long lasting effects in Alaska and in the Gulf of those giant oil spoils.  But, even Galveston Bay shows sign of permanent damage from its latest brush with deadly oil that’s no where near the size of those other two. It’s getting to be that no one’s back yard is safe.

Authorities in charge of the cleanup from last week’s Houston Ship Channel oil spill say they’re responding to reports of oil near North Padre Island and Mustang Island, some 200 miles southwest of the original accident.

The command center for the cleanup reports Sunday that oil sightings were made earlier in the day by crews aboard flights being conducted by the Texas General Land Office and the U.S. Coast Guard.

Some tar balls — from dime-size to about 6 inches — have been spotted in seaweed patches along Mustang Island’s J.P. Luby Beach but it’s not certain if they are related to the spill a week ago between Galveston and Texas City.

The spill endangers wildlife nearby.  There is a bird refuge that is in a particularly precarious location. That was also the clean side of the Gulf where images (25)you could still trust the fish and the seafood.

The spill, which dumped what one Texas official referred to as “sticky, gooey, thick, tarry” oil that doesn’t evaporate quickly into Galveston Bay, occurred about eight miles from the Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary, which attracts 50,000 to 70,000 shorebirds each year. March is right around spring migration for many species of birds, and other birds are still wintering at Bolivar Flats, so tens of thousands of birds are living at the sanctuary, which is designated a Globally Significant Important Bird Area. Cleanup crews are using cannon booms to try to deter birds away from oiled beaches, and so far, oil hasn’t washed up on Bolivar Flats, but birds that have come in contact with oil in the water or on other beaches have been landing there.

Houston Audubon Society volunteers have been tracking the oiled birds they see at Bolivar, and Jessica Jubin, development director at the Houston Audubon Society, told ThinkProgress that the group was “definitely seeing more” oiled birds now than when they first started the day after the spill. She said on Monday, volunteers cataloged 40 to 50 oiled birds at one spot at Bolivar Flats, and on Tuesday, they counted about 100 at the same site. On Wednesday, she said, the number increased to about 140, with most birds ranging from just a few spots of oil on them to half covered in oil.

It’s the shorebirds and seabirds that are most at risk of becoming oiled from the spill, Jubin said.

“Like pelicans, for example — I don’t know if you’ve ever watched them fish, but they will soar in the sky and then spot something down below and then dart right into the water, and that’s how they get so much oil on them,” she said. “They can’t distinguish whether or not the oil is there, and they don’t know how to react to it.”

Mike Cox, spokesperson at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, told ThinkProgress the agency has so far collected 45 oiled birds in the Galveston area, with 19 birds in rehabilitation and 26 that were found dead. Jubin said Audubon was reporting birds they saw to Texas Parks and Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but she worries about the movement of the oil. If it drifts too far south or west, it could end up in important habitat for endangered whooping cranes. Already, the oil has reached the ecologically-sensitive Matagorda Island, soiling at least 12 miles of the barrier island’s pristine beaches. So far, however, the Parks and Wildlife Department hasn’t received reports of oiled wildlife from Matagorda Island, Cox said, and crews were working to put up booms to keep the oil from getting into Matagorda Bay.

But birds aren’t the only wildlife at risk from the oil spill. As the Texas Tribune reports, marine scientists are worried that the spill could result in long-term health effects on Texas marine life. The thick fuel oil that spilled Saturday is persistent, so marine species could be even more at risk from oil-related defects like irregular heart rhythm and cardiac arrest than they were from the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Shrimp are a major part of the Galveston Bay fishing industry, and they’re also among the species most vulnerable to the oil spill — if their marshy homes are polluted with oil, they may not survive.

That, of course, doesn’t include the danger to the people and the clean up workers.

mossvilleMossville, Louisiana is poised to be the next town wiped off the map down here by greed and environmental racism. 

In 1790, a freed slave named Jim Moss found a place to settle down on a bend in the Houston River in the bayous of southwest Louisiana. Although never formally incorporated, the village of Mossville became one of the first settlements of free blacks in the South, predating the formal establishment of Calcasieu Parish by 50 years. But over the last half century, Mossville was surrounded. More than a dozen industrial plants now encircle the community of 500 residents, making it quite possibly the most polluted corner of the most polluted region in one of the most polluted states in the country. Now, a proposal to build the largest chemical plant of its kind in the Western Hemisphere would all but wipe Mossville off the map.

The project, spearheaded by the South African chemical giant SASOL, will cost as much as $21 billion, but stands to benefit from more than $2 billion in incentives (including $115 million in direct funding) from the cash-strapped state budget. It has the backing of Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, considered a likely 2016 presidential candidate, who traveled to the outskirts of Lake Charles for the official announcement of the plan in 2012. The state thinks it’s an economic slam dunk. One study from Louisiana State University projected that it would have a total economic impact of $46.2 billion. It is the largest industrial project in the history of Louisiana. And after a community meeting on Tuesday, it’s one step closer to realization.

But that massive plant will come with a steep environmental price. It will produce more greenhouse gases than any other facility in the state. And the project will almost certainly spell the end for the 224-year-old settlement of Mossville, a poor enclave that has been forced to play host to industrial facilities no one else wanted in their backyard.

An analysis conducted by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) in February determined that the new project “will result in significant net emissions increases” of greenhouse gases, promethium, sulfur oxide, nitric oxide, and carbon monoxide. By its calculations, the plant will spew out more than 10 million cubic tons of greenhouse gases per year. (By contrast, the Exxon-Mobil refinery outside Baton Rouge, a sprawling complex that’s250 times the size of the New Orleans Superdome, emits 6.6 million tons.)

It’s beginning to feel a lot like we’re trapped between a future envisioned in the “Blade Runner” and that envisioned in Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale”.  Either way, the outcome will be sponsored by the likes of the Koch brothers and we will soon discover the fresh hells they’ve created for us. The dominionists and the capitalists join together to force their earth and its people into submission.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Saturday Reads: Obama Talks to Rouhani, Pakistan and Kenyan Disasters, Republican Terrorism, and More

Harvard-Square-Out-of-Town-News

Good Morning!!

It’s a beautiful Fall day in New England, the Red Sox have taken the American League East with the best record in baseball after winning 97 games with one game left to play. On top of that, the Yankees are pitiful. The playoffs start next Friday. It just doesn’t get better than this.

There is quite a bit of news for a Saturday. First up, President Obama spoke on the telephone to Iranian President President Hassan Rouhani yesterday–the first time leaders of the U.S. and Iran have spoken directly since 1979. The AP reports:

The United States and Iran took a historic step toward ending more than three decades of estrangement on Friday when President Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani spoke by phone and agreed to work on resolving global suspicions that Tehran is trying to build a nuclear weapon.

The 15-minute call capped a week of seismic shifts in the relationship that revolved around Rouhani’s participation in the annual U.N. meeting of world leaders. The night before the two leaders spoke, U.S. and European diplomats hailed a “very significant shift” in Iran’s attitude and tone in the first talks on the nuclear standoff since April.

The diplomatic warming began shortly after Rouhani’s election in June. But it is rooted in both presidents’ stated campaign desires — Obama in 2008 and Rouhani this year — to break through 34-year-old barriers and move toward diplomacy.

Iran is also seeking quick relief from blistering economic sanctions that the U.S. and its Western allies have imposed on Tehran to punish it for refusing to scale back its nuclear activities. Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only, but years of stonewalling inspections and secrecy about its activities have fueled fears it is seeking to build warheads.

Rouhani and Obama spoke while the Iranian president was in his car and headed to the airport to fly back to Tehran, with Obama at his desk in the Oval Office. Rouhani’s aides initially reached out to arrange the conversation, and the White House placed the call.

I’m not sure what it means to “work on resolving global suspicions that Tehran is trying to build a nuclear weapon,”–do they want to calm suspicions or tamp down the nuclear efforts? But at least it’s a step in the right direction. The New York Times has more:

“Resolving this issue, obviously, could also serve as a major step forward in a new relationship between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran, one based on mutual interests and mutual respect,” Mr. Obama, referring to Tehran’s nuclear program, told reporters at the White House after the 15-minute phone call. “It would also help facilitate a better relationship between Iran and the international community, as well as others in the region.”

A Twitter account in Mr. Rouhani’s name later stated, “In regards to nuclear issue, with political will, there is a way to rapidly solve the matter.” The account added that Mr. Rouhani had told Mr. Obama, “We’re hopeful about what we will see from” the United States and other major powers “in coming weeks and months.”

More detail about the call itself:

Mr. Obama placed the call from the Oval Office around 2:30 p.m., joined by aides and a translator.

He opened by congratulating Mr. Rouhani on his election in June and noted the history of mistrust between the two nations, but also what he called the constructive statements Mr. Rouhani had made during his stay in New York, according to the official. The bulk of the call focused on the nuclear dispute, and Mr. Obama repeated that he respected Iran’s right to develop civilian nuclear energy, but insisted on concessions to prevent development of weapons.

Mr. Obama also raised the cases of three Americans in Iran, one missing and two others detained. In a lighter moment, he apologized for New York traffic.

The call ended on a polite note, according to the official and Mr. Rouhani’s Twitter account.

“Have a nice day,” Mr. Rouhani said in English.

“Thank you,” Mr. Obama replied, and then tried a Persian farewell. “Khodahafez.”

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports that: U.S. Says Iran Hacked Navy Computers.

U.S. officials said Iran hacked unclassified Navy computers in recent weeks in an escalation of Iranian cyberintrusions targeting the U.S. military.

The allegations, coming as the Obama administration ramps up talks with Iran over its nuclear program, show the depth and complexity of long-standing tensions between Washington and Tehran.

The U.S. officials said the attacks were carried out by hackers working for Iran’s government or by a group acting with the approval of Iranian leaders.

The most recent incident came in the week starting Sept. 15, before a security upgrade, the officials said. Iranian officials didn’t respond to requests to comment.

The allegations would mark one of the most serious infiltrations of U.S. government computer systems by Iran. Previously, Iranian-backed infiltration and surveillance efforts have targeted U.S. banks and computer networks running energy companies, current and former U.S. officials have said.

I’m sure Glenn Greenwald will have a highly disapproving story about this in the Guardian today. Oh wait, he’s probably more outraged that the NSA was able to discover the Iranian spying . . . Never mind.

When Rouhani got home, he was “met by hardline protesters chanting ‘Death to America,’” according to BBC News.

Hundreds of people gathered at Tehran airport, with supporters hailing the trip and opponents throwing shoes.

An Agence France-Presse journalist said some 200-300 supporters gathered outside the airport to thank Mr Rouhani for his efforts.

But opposite them were about 60 people shouting “Death to America” and “Death to Israel”.

Mr Rouhani raised his hand to the crowds as he was driven off.

A New York Times reporter described the scene as chaotic, with dozens of hardliners hurling eggs and shoes at the president’s convoy.

There was another powerful earthquake today in Pakistan, according to CNN.

The 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck in Balochistan province Saturday about 96 kilometers (60 miles) northeast of Awaran, the United States Geological Survey said.

Rasheed Baloch, the Deputy Commissioner Awaran told CNN seven people died when a house collapsed in Mashkay Tehsil as result of new earthquake on Saturday.

Just Tuesday, a 7.7 magnitude earthquake struck the same area of Pakistan. The death toll in that quake has risen to 366 people and another 765 are injured….

Baloch said a rescue operation was under way in Awaran district to retrieve the dead bodies and shift the injured to hospitals.

The remoteness of the affected area and damaged communications networks are hindering the rescue operation, officials said.

The Atlantic has a good article following up on “Tragic and Heroic Stories from Survivors of the Kenyan Mall Attack.”

Witness accounts and survivor stories from the Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi continue to emerge, telling a freighting [sic] story of violence and terror. Yet, as the investigation continues, there are still some disturbing questions about the attack that have yet to be fully explained.

Now that more access has been granted to the ruined mall, images confirm that three floors of the building collapsed, presumably because of a large explosion. The Associated Press reported today that the collapse was actually caused by the Kenyan military, supporting a claim made by the terrorists themselves. It’s still not clear how or why they managed to set off the explosion, but it may have killed some (perhaps most?) of the hostages still inside the building.

The official death toll is still listed at 67, but it’s likely that unrecovered bodies will be found in the rubble. As many as 60 people are still missing.

CNN is also reporting today that the terrorists did not just plant weapons inside the mall in the days before the attack, as had been previously reported, but that members of al-Shabab had rented out a storeand were actually running it as functional business for nearly a year.

While investigators, including the FBI, continue their work, we’re learning more about what happened inside the mall during the attack, and what those who lived through it endured.

Check out some of the survivor stories at The Atlantic link.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a shocking report yesterday, according to BBC News. IPCC climate report: humans ‘dominant cause’ of warming.

A landmark report says scientists are 95% certain that humans are the “dominant cause” of global warming since the 1950s.

The report by the UN’s climate panel details the physical evidence behind climate change.

On the ground, in the air, in the oceans, global warming is “unequivocal”, it explained.

It adds that a pause in warming over the past 15 years is too short to reflect long-term trends.

The panel warns that continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and changes in all aspects of the climate system.

To contain these changes will require “substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions”.

Too bad no humans in powerful positions are likely to do anything about it.

Back in the USA . . . 

Congress is still battling over whether or not to crash the global economy because Republicans don’t want ordinary Americans to have health care, Ted Cruz is still getting headlines for making an ass of himself, and the media is still trying to blame Democrats and Republicans equally for the mess we’re in.

From the Washington Post: Obama chides Republicans as shutdown looms.

With Washington barreling toward a government shutdown, a deadlocked Congress entered the final weekend of the fiscal year with no clear ideas of how to avoid furloughs for more than 800,000 federal workers. Millions more could be left without paychecks.

The Senate on Friday approved a stopgap government funding bill and promptly departed, leaving all of the pressure to find a solution on House Republican leaders.

President Obama weighed in, sternly lecturing GOP leaders that the easiest path forward would be to approve the Senate’s bill, which includes money for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the president’s prized legislation achievement, which he signed into law in 2010. But a far-right bloc of House and Senate Republicans banded together to leave House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) virtually powerless to act.

“My message to Congress is this: Do not shut down the government. Do not shut down the economy. Pass a budget on time,” Obama said in the White House press briefing room.

Boehner’s leadership team offered no public comment and remained out of sight most of Friday, hunkering down for another weekend on the brink. For Boehner, this is the latest in a series of unstable moments that have become the hallmark of his three-year run as speaker.

Al Gore uncharacteristically joined the fray, according to The Hill. Gore to GOP: ‘How dare you?’

Former Vice President Al Gore accused Republicans Friday of engaging in “political terrorism” by using a government shutdown as leverage to defund ObamaCare.

“The only phrase that describes it is political terrorism,” Gore said at the Brookings Institution, according to ABC News. “Why does partisanship have anything to do with such a despicable and dishonorable threat to the integrity of the United States of America?”

The former vice president also criticized Republicans for threats to link defunding ObamaCare to the debt ceiling, which is set to expire Oct. 17.

“Now you want to threaten to not only shut down our government but to blow up the world economy unless we go back and undo what we did according to the processes of this democracy?” Gore said. “How dare you?”

But the media is still pushing their “both sides do it” narrative. At The Atlantic, James Fallows offers Your False-Equivalence Guide to the Days Ahead. Here’s just a taste:

As a matter of journalism, any story that presents the disagreements as a “standoff,” a “showdown,” a “failure of leadership,” a sign of “partisan gridlock,” or any of the other usual terms for political disagreement,represents a failure of journalism*** and an inability to see or describe what is going on. For instance: the “dig in their heels” headline you see below, which is from a proprietary newsletter I read this morning, and about which I am leaving off the identifying details.

This isn’t “gridlock.” It is a ferocious struggle within one party, between its traditionalists and its radical factions, with results that unfortunately can harm all the rest of us — and, should there be a debt default, could harm the rest of the world too.

Now please click the link and go over to The Atlantic–it’s a must read.

I’m running out of space, so I’ll go with a link dump on Ted Cruz–if you have the stomach for the details you can go to the sources.

Huffington Post: Student Cited By Ted Cruz As Proof Of Obama’s Failure Is Actually Grateful For Obamacare

John Dickerson at Slate: Why Senate Republicans Hate Ted Cruz

Jonathan Chait: Ted Cruz Now Ruining John Boehner’s Life, Too

Politico: Ted Cruz again refuses to back John Cornyn

Those are my recommendations for today. What are you reading and blogging about? See you in the comment thread!


Sunday Reads: Getting ready for the next round…

8a4d3b7509d0276b145d15413c53a599Good Morning

Two more days until my daughter goes under the knife for the first time in her life and she is a nervous wreck. (Me too.) She has never even had stitches, so this little trip to the hospital on Tuesday will be one hell of an emotional ride for her. And to top it all off, her 15th birthday is on Wednesday…hopefully she will be in too heavy a drug induced haze to feel the pain. So please, all you Sky Dancers will send positive thoughts her way, she needs it!

Since there is so much going on right now, I will give you this mornings links in quick fashion and if any are repeats…oops! (Just have been so busy since we found out about her surgery, don’t know what has been said or linked on the blog.) ;)

I had no idea that John Kerry met with, Henry Kissinger. Geez…it is hard for me to even type the man’s name without thinking of his deep, deep voice and that accent, or as Betsy and Arlene called him in the 1999 movie Dick…”That German guy.” Here is what Amy Goodman had to say about it: John Kerry meets coup plotter Henry Kissinger on the 40th anniversary of Chile’s Sept. 11

While this was going on, Congress is still making with the War on Science continues: plan to create science laureate falters in Congress. They can’t even agree on naming a person as an honorary non-paid US Science Laureate, which is a position kind of like the US Poet Laureate…only this person will be involved in sciences. Of course this means “science” as only the way Gawwwd intended.

The Senate version of the bill was sponsored by Senators Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Roger Wicker (R-MS), and by Representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) in the House. It had been sailing through Congress with bipartisan support. Wired Magazine speculated about potential nominees in the vein of Richard Feynman or Carl Sagan, such as Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Brian Greene, Jill Tarter, Mike Brown, or Sylvia Earle.

And then, the American Conservative Union discovered the plan when it hit the schedule for a floor vote, the magazine Science reported Thursday.

After Larry Hart, Director of the ACU, sent a letter to Congress saying in part that the president would be able to appoint scientists “who will share his view that science should serve political ends, on such issues as climate change and regulation of greenhouse gases,” House leadership pulled the bill from the schedule, returning it to Committee on Science, Space, and Technology where it will likely be killed in the Republican-controlled House.

You know…Mountain Dew is the best soda ever made.

Ah…rednecks. Speaking of which, this next article is pretty interesting: Ironically-Named City of Sistersville Still Bans Women from Voting

West Virginia (unfairly most of the time) seems to be the go-to backwoods state in America. Incest, murderous hillbillies, haunted coal-mining towns straddling the cave mouth to Hell, illiteracy, and prescription drug abuse are often mentioned in connection with West Virginia, as if the Appalachian squiggle-blob state (seriously, it’s like the cartographer coughed while drawing the borders) functioned as a repository for all of America’s nastiest secrets. You want to make a movie about a crew of British spelunkers who find themselves deep underground at the mercy of highly-evolved, carnivorous bat-people? Set it in West Virginia! You’re lost and hoping to stop at a gas station to ask for directions? Don’t stop in West Virginia! Every state has its stretches of desolate terror highway, so where does West Virginia’s bad rep come from?

It might have something to do with outdated town charters like the one belonging to a tiny city on the banks of the Ohio River called Sistersville, a place that sounds unfairly creepy, as if the twins from The Shining stood sentry-like next to the sign at the city limits, beckoning for creeped-out motorists to play with them. In fact, Sistersville, with a population just shy of 1,500, has a more unfortunate problem than ghosts wandering the city limits — its charter still bars women from voting. Yup, the ironic twist in Sistersville is that, according to the town charter, only the dudes can vote.

I know, right? WTF. The town could change the charter, allowing women the right to vote, but this cost money….Money the town just does not have.

The Nineteenth Amendment ensures that women can freely vote in Sistersville. In a way, ignoring the outdated charter — which must have all kinds of other anachronistic nonsense about not leaving your gaslamp on when the Wendigo comes around, or making sure to chase away French fur trappers if they wander too close to your property line — is itself a sign of progress; it’s so thoroughly taken for granted that women can vote that Sistersville charter issue has been reduced to a cost/benefits issue. Besides, according to Schleier, West Virginia is full of outdated town charters, like the charter in nearby Paden City that requires men have to do manual labor for the city two days out of every year for the discount rate of $1.05. Why focus on one outdated town charter, misogynistic as it may be, when there are plenty riddled with long-ignored pen strokes from a long time ago?

Then again, not changing the charter to show that women can vote would leave Sistersville’s female population particularly susceptible to the whims of a post-apocalyptic town despot who takes over when the United States federal government falls into ruin (one must always plan ahead). Plus, it must really suck to live, work, and pay property taxes in a city that doesn’t officially consider you a full-fledged citizen.

Honestly, I don’t think it will take an apocalyptic event for some dickhead to take over the city where women work, live and pay property taxes in and then declare its women are not full-fledged citizens. Fairfax, Virginia comes to mind…Remember this asshole and the mess regarding the abortion clinics facilities within the city limits? Virginia City Attempts to ‘Ordinance’ Out Safe Abortion

The Fairfax, Virginia, city council voted 4-2 Tuesday night to change the city zoning code in such a way that “medical care clinics” will be considered separate from doctors’ and dentists’ offices, a move that abortion rights advocates are concerned could make it more difficult for the city’s only abortion clinic to operate.

Under the new zoning rules, medical care clinics will require additional, expensive permits as well as approval from the zoning board to operate. The changes could make it much more difficult for Nova Women’s Healthcare in Fairfax to relocate, after the clinic’s previous landlord ended its lease early because of complaints that included the clinic “attract[ing] numerous protesters … whose presence and actions constitute an unreasonable annoyance.”

During Tuesday’s city council meeting, Fairfax Mayor Scott Silverthorne accused “outside groups” of trying to create a controversy over the zoning change. “I don’t appreciate some of the outside groups here tonight, such as NARAL [National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League of Virginia], parachuting into my community and spreading misinformation,” he said, according to Fairfax Patch. “This vote is not about abortion.”

Oh…Bullshit! (I think that is the same remark I made when I first wrote about the dickhead Silverthorne.)

What to read more ridiculous crap from the right?  Scott Lemieux over at LG&M has this post up and you must check out the links he is writing about…Innovations In Rape Apologia

Thers finds a classic of the genre from R. Stacy “Emmett Till had it coming” McCain:

Date rape is an apparently common campus crime that usually involves two drunk young people, one of whom has an erect penis, and the other of whom is unable to avert what the erect penis typically does.

Whether you’re trying to blame the rape victim or apologize for the rapist, positing a dick with a mind of its own is a useful device.

Here are the links:

Whiskey Fire: Strictly Comedy, Writes in regard to the R. Stacy McCain quote up top:

To the morally and intellectually sane, if a woman is “unable to avert an erect penis,” in plain English, she is being raped. That is rape. It is as blunt a definition of rape as one could imagine. Unwanted genital penetration occuring without consent? Rape!

The twerp downstairs solemnly informs us that R. Stacy McRape in this quote is a “MAN… SPEAKING HYPOTHETICALLY OR WITH A CERTAIN LEVEL OF IRONY.”

Which is crap.

And, Eschaton: Eschaton, Fair and Balanced, it is a long, long post so go read it in full, but here are a few bits:

Talk Left reminds us that PBS is broadcasting the Murder of Emmett Tilll.

There is some controversy about this case, however. Not everyone agrees with the standard view of this murder case. Here at Eschaton we always strive to present both sides of an issue. So, after visiting Talk Left to read about it, you can read the alternative interpretation by Moonie Times reporter/Assistant National Editor Robert Stacy McCain as posted to the Free Republic under his pseudonym BurkeCalhounDabney…

[...]

Was Till’s killing racially motivated? Certainly, at least in part — just as Till’s initial action toward Carolyn Bryant was racially motivated. Till thought he could impress his relatives and friends by defying the customs of rural Mississippi. He succeeded too well. Roy Bryant returned home to find that Till’s insulting behavior toward his wife was the talk of the community. Not merely was this a challenge to Bryant’s personal honor, but to the peculiar community standards of that place and time. Roy Bryant either had to do something about Till, or become a pariah and/or a laughingstock in his community.

Now, it is likely that no would wish to return to the community standards and customs that apertained in rural Mississippi in 1955, when the Bryant brothers could kill Emmett Till and be judged not guilty by a jury of their peers. But Emmett Till’s insult to Carolyn Bryant was a personal wrong, and the murder of Emmett Till was a very personal murder. He was not a martyr for “civil rights,” unless you consider it a civil right to insult women.

If you’re bored you can write Andrew Sullivan and noted civil rights expert Jonah Goldberg and ask them what they think of their co-worker.

UPDATE: Just wanted to add that all of Mr. McCain’s posts on the Free Republic were pulled hours after Mike Signorile’s article was published. So, you’ll have to take my word for it.

You go and read the full post.

Hey, check this out too: Medical Examiner In Martin Case Says It Was Lost Deliberately By Prosecution (VIDEO) -

The Martin prosecution was an example of what my lawyer friend calls “a piss-poor job” of presenting evidence to convict. It bothered him and the idea was floated that maybe the case was being thrown, lost on purpose.

Now it looks as though that may have been what happened. The Volusia County medical examiner on the case, Dr. Shiping Bao, is now saying that the prosecutors did lose the case on purpose. Bao claims that the prosecution team, the Sanford police and his superior at the medical examiner’s office were all biased against Trayvon Martin, with the general attitude that “he deserved it.”

Dr. Bao is the M.E. who, as assistant coroner of Volusia County, handled the teen’s body on the night he was shot. According to him, there was no way that Martin could have been on top of Zimmerman when the gun was fired. His autopsy report details why this scenario was impossible. When he was on the witness stand, during the trial on July 5, he testified that Martin took up to 10 minutes to die from exsanguination – he bled to death – and that the boy was in pain and suffering the entire time. He was prepared that day, as a witness for the prosecution, to prove that Martin could not have been the aggressor in the incident. He was ready to present scientific evidence of why this was so. But the prosecutor never asked and Dr. Bao was not able to give his evidence. His testimony could have decisively put the case away for the state.

Dr. Bao was, soon after the case ended, fired from the medical examiner’s office. He felt that he was terminated wrongfully because he knew the truth of the matter: that the prosecution intentionally lost the case. He has now filed a $100 million lawsuit against the state of Florida for wrongful termination. His attorney, Willie Gary, told reporters:

“He was in essence told to zip his lips. ‘Shut up. Don’t say those things.’ “

Of course, it is possible that Dr. Bao is lying. But that seems like a stupid thing to do if he is suing the state. With the recent revelations concerning Zimmerman’s attorneys not being paid and Zimmerman apparently unable to stop himself from falling back on his substitute penis gun when he’s feeling petulant, these allegations raise serious questions. Was a murderer intentionally set free to kill again? The Chief of Police in the town where Zimmerman currently dwells seems to think so. If this is true and Zimmerman does murder again, the state of Florida is in deep doo-doo, along with the county, police and attorney general’s office. If this is true – if the prosecution in the Martin case purposely lost the case – it opens up the possibility that this is not the first time. All other cases tried by the current attorney general of Florida and her team would be called into question. And the state could be held liable. All because a group of racist officials decided that a 17-year-old kid deserved to die. It’s mind-boggling.

Watch the video of the local Orlando news report at the link.

Update on the Vanderbilt football player accused of rape: Vanderbilt Player Involved in Rape Cover-Up Pleads Guilty to Misdemeanor

They are calling the flood in Colorado, a 1000 Year Flood, take a look at some pictures and video here: Photos and videos from dramatic flash floods in Colorado | Grist

Colorado floods: More than 500 still unaccounted for – CNN.com

At least four deaths have been blamed on the flooding, and a fifth person is presumed dead. More than 500 were “unaccounted for,” although authorities cautioned that designation included people who simply have not yet contacted concerned relatives elsewhere.

Hundreds unaccounted for in deadly Colo. floods

About 350 people are unaccounted for in Larimer County, according to the county’s sheriff’s office. In adjacent Boulder County, more than 170 people were unaccounted for but were not considered missing yet, though they had not contacted family members.

Areas from Denver to the Wyoming border remained under the threat of additional rain Sunday, with flash flood watches and warnings posted. Airlifts were set to continue with helicopter crews expanding their searches east to include Longmont, Fort Collins and Weld County.

I hope that anyone with family in the area of these floods has heard from their relatives…let us know that everyone is safe and sound.

I am going to switch gears now…how about a few book and movie links and reviews?

Review: Prepared to flee Cuba ‘Una Noche’ – latimes.com: Movie review: Twins, a sexy bad boy and a planned escape from Cuba. A feature debut captures the country in almost-documentary detail, but the plot thins.

‘Happiness, Like Water,’ by Chinelo Okparanta -New York Times Book Review:  NYTimes.com

‘My Brother My Sister,’ by Molly Haskell – New York Times Book Review: NYTimes.com (Molly Haskell is frequently on TCM discussing film from a feminist point of view.)

MovieMorlocks.com – The unexpected comedy stylings of Alfred Hitchcock Oh, btw…This month is Alfred Hitchcock month…every Sunday TCM is showing Hitchcock films.

And for the last story today, it is official…Voyager 1 is out of the solar system!

Scientists confirm Voyager 1 probe is in interstellar space | Reuters

Scientists have been debating for more than a year whether NASA’s 36-year-old Voyager 1 spacecraft has left the solar system and become the first human-made object to reach interstellar space.

By a fluke measurement, they now know definitively it has.

“We made it,” lead Voyager scientist Edward Stone, from the California Institute of Technology, told reporters on Thursday.

The key piece of evidence came by chance when a pair of solar flares blasted charged particles in Voyager’s direction in 2011 and 2012. It took a year for the particles to reach the spacecraft, providing information that could be used to determine how dense the plasma was in Voyager’s location.

Plasma consists of charged particles and is more prevalent in the extreme cold of interstellar space than in the hot bubble of solar wind that permeates the solar system.

Voyager 1, now 13 billion miles (21 billion km) from Earth, could not make the measurement directly because its plasma detector stopped working more than 30 years ago.

“This was basically a lucky gift from the sun,” Stone said.

Read the technical stuff on how they measured up the miles at the link above.

Now that Voyager I Is An Interstellar Ship, Let’s All Listen to the Golden Record | Geekosystem

No, we’re never going to stop talking about this. It’s the coolest thing ever.

golden record

Back when Voyager I was first launched into space, a committee lead by Carl Sagan put together a series of messages for any intelligent life outside our solar system who might come across the ship. Etched on gold-colored copper plates, this series of images and audio greetings is meant to reflect the whole of humanity — and now it’s totally in interstellar space.

There are a lot of ways you can listen to the music that’s contained within the golden discs. First, there’s a simple archive of .wav and .mp3 files on the NASA Voyager archive page. You can stream from there, or you can even download the files and take them around with you on your MP3 player and constantly pretend you’re an alien trying to navigate our way of life. We imagine that would make getting stuck on public transportation so much more fascinating.

If you’ve got a pretty decent internet connection and you also want to stream the record in the coolest way possible, there’s this interactive Golden Record website. While there’s no instructions (the aliens don’t get any, either), you can figure out your way around by clicking on the different parts of the flash menu. If you can’t, here’s a quick tip: top left is the music; top right is the images that were also included; bottom right is the space map that shows Earth’s location in the galaxy.

Want to know more about what is on the Golden Record, click the Geekosystem link and find out.

Hey, look at that? I started out with something connected to Carl Sagan, and I finished up with something different, but still referencing Carl Sagan.

Let’s end with one last picture: How our galaxy might look from outside | Today’s Image | EarthSky

This artist’s impression shows how the Milky Way galaxy might look seen from the outside, from an almost edge-on perspective.

Artist's impression of the central bulge of the Milky Way

Credit: ESO/NASA/JPL-Caltech/M. Kornmesser/R. Hurt

New research suggests that, as seen from the outside, the central bulge of our Milky Way galaxy shows up as a peanut-shaped glowing ball of stars, while the spiral arms and their associated dust clouds form a narrow band.

One of the most important and massive parts of the galaxy is the galactic bulge. This huge central cloud of about 10,000 million stars spans thousands of light-years, but its structure and origin are not well understood. Why not, when it’s our home galaxy? Because, from our vantage point from within the galactic disk, our view of this central region — at about 27,000 light-years’ distance — is heavily obscured by dense clouds of gas and dust.

There is a link to a 3D version of what our galaxy may look like, just go to the EarthSky link from the image up top to find it.

Well, this should keep you busy for a while. I will be very  damn busy myself this week, so if I’m AWOL y’all know why…its because I am taking care of “the Girl,” my little munchkin…

Have a great day and enjoy your third Sunday in September.


The big melt and great dildo extinction… Evening Open Thread

4c3zxkrkGood Evening

Hey there, how’s everyone doing today? Tonight two stories brought to you by global warming and humans hunting animals to extinction.

First, this very damn interesting article and interactive map that Juan Cole wrote about on his blog:  Bye, Bye Florida: Scientists find the last time it was this hot, Seas rose 65 feet | Informed Comment

A study published in Nature Geoscience by researchers, from Imperial College London and their academic partners shows that 5-3 million years ago in the Pliocene, the last time it was as hot as it is going to be in this century, antarctic ice shelf melting caused a sea level rise of as much as 20 meters (65 feet).

At 65 feet sea level rise, we basically lose Louisiana and most of Florida, according to this useful intractive map:

60 feet sea level rise Florida

Yup, most of Florida is in the drink, and Dak…New Orleans is gone too.

Here are the original links to the articles Cole links to…Ancient ice melt unearthed in Antarctic mud

Global warming five million years ago may have caused parts of Antarctica’s large ice sheets to melt and sea levels to rise by approximately 20 metres, scientists report today in the journal Nature Geoscience.

The researchers, from Imperial College London, and their academic partners studied mud samples to learn about ancient melting of the East Antarctic ice sheet. They discovered that melting took place repeatedly between five and three million years ago, during a geological period called Pliocene Epoch, which may have caused sea levels to rise approximately ten metres.

Scientists have previously known that the ice sheets of West Antarctica and Greenland partially melted around the same time. The team say that this may have caused sea levels to rise by a total of 20 metres.

[...]
Dr Tina Van De Flierdt, co-author from the Department of Earth Science and Engineering at Imperial College London, says: “The Pliocene Epoch had temperatures that were two or three degrees higher than today and similar levels to today. Our study underlines that these conditions have led to a large loss of ice and significant rises in in the past. Scientists predict that global temperatures of a similar level may be reached by the end of this century, so it is very important for us to understand what the possible consequences might be.”
[...]

Analysing the mud revealed a chemical fingerprint that enabled the team to trace where it came from on the continent. They discovered that the mud originated from rocks that are currently hidden under the ice sheet. The only way that significant amounts of this mud could have been deposited as sediment in the sea would be if the ice sheet had retreated inland and eroded these rocks, say the team.

The academics suggest that the melting of the ice sheet may have been caused in part by the fact that some of it rests in basins below sea level. This puts the ice in direct contact with seawater and when the ocean warms, as it did during the Pliocene, the ice sheet becomes vulnerable to melting.

Carys Cook, co-author and research postgraduate from the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial, adds: “Scientists previously considered the East Antarctic ice sheet to be more stable than the much smaller ice sheets in West Antarctica and Greenland, even though very few studies of East Antarctic ice sheet have been carried out. Our work now shows that the East Antarctic ice sheet has been much more sensitive to climate change in the past than previously realised. This finding is important for our understanding of what may happen to the Earth if we do not tackle the effects of climate change.”

The next step will see the team analysing sediment samples to determine how quickly the East Antarctic ice sheet melted during the Pliocene. This information could be useful in the future for predicting how quickly the could melt as a result of .

And the interactive map, I have gone and saved a screen shot of the Northeastern US and California Coast: Global Sea Level Rise Map – Global Warming & Climate Change Impact

The map below can be used to show which areas would be under water if sea level rises a specific amount. You can select a value of sea level rise using the drop down box in the upper left corner of the map. Although this map is not a carefully surveyed and extremely accurate presentation, it does provide a visually striking view of what geographic areas might be flooded if global climate change continues unabated.

Note: Some inland depressions, such as the Caspian Sea, show inundation on the map but would not be flooded. This is because the mapping algorithm is based upon elevation and can not distinguish areas that are separated from the oceans by a ridge or other high area. Be sure that you trace a connection with the ocean before assuming the area would be flooded.

Global Sea Level Rise Map - Global Warming & Climate Change Impact 2013-07-23 19-00-17

Global Sea Level Rise Map - Global Warming & Climate Change Impact 2013-07-23 19-02-14

As you can see…San Francisco Bay engulfs Sacramento…the state of Delaware is no longer above water and the major cities in the Northeast are shit out of luck too.

But…these cities are not the only things heading for extinction…Bad News: CNN Host Reports Humans Have ‘Hunted The Dildo Into Extinction’ | Mediaite

CNN International host Jonathan Mann undermined the point he was trying to make about climate change a bit when he offered up this particular example of previous “man-made extinctions”: “We hunted the dildo into extinction.”

Speaking to a guest about a study that says many animal species won’t have time to adapt to a rapidly warming planet, Mann said, “Now extinctions, I don’t have to tell you, have been a part of the history of the world for millennia. And man-made extinctions have even happened before.”

“I guess we hunted the dildo into extinction,” he let slip, before slowly realizing his mistake. “Um, but, the Dodo, rather, forgive me, I’m having trouble with my words today.”

The Dodo bird species is believed to have perished for good sometime in the 17th century, but, for now at least, the dildo is alive and well.

Funny eh?

Go to the link up top so you can see the video clip of the dildo slip, which David Letterman used in his show last night, “CNN…most trusted name in news” indeed.

This is an open thread.


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.

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