Tuesday Reads: Depression, Anxiety, and Suicide Should Be Discussed Openly

Despair, Edvard Munch

Despair, Edvard Munch

Good Afternoon!!

Sorry to be so late again. But I think I have some interesting reads for you today, so I hope some of you will be able to check them out afternoon and evening.

I’m going to begin with a sad story that happened in the Greater Boston town where I live.

On Friday, August 31, a 15-year-old high school sophomore named Jeremy Kremer-McNeil committed suicide in the basement of his home using cyanide. So far there’s been no explanation of how he obtained the chemical, but according to The Boston Globe, police suspect he may have gotten it on the internet.

A hazmat crew had to be called in to decontaminate the house before the scene could be processed by police. At first the boy’s name was not released, but his family asked that it be made public. Here is the obituary Jeremy’s family submitted to the Arlington Patch:

Jeremy A. Kremer-McNeil, 15, Had a Strong Wish to Put an End to Human Trafficking.

Kremer-McNeil, Jeremy Alexander, 15, of Arlington, died on September 4, 2015.

Jeremy is the beloved son of Amy Kremer and Taylor McNeil, and brother of Emily. He is also survived by his grandmother, Esther Kremer; aunts Betsy (Kremer) Lane and Jenny (McNeil) Foerster; uncle Randall Kremer; and many cousins.

He was and is loved deeply by all his family and so very many friends.

Jeremy had a strong wish to put an end to human trafficking. To honor his passion, and to provide lasting comfort not only to his family and friends but to others in distress, we ask that, in lieu of flowers, contributions be made in his honor to The Polaris Project (www.polarisproject.org). In this way, he will live on in the good that is done in the world.

Ashes, Edvard Munch

Ashes, Edvard Munch

From The Boston Globe: Arlington teen apparently consumes cyanide, spurs hazmat response.

ARLINGTON — Hazmat crews rushed to a quiet street on Friday afternoon after a 15-year-old died by apparently consuming cyanide, officials said.

Arlington Police Chief Frederick Ryan said near the scene on Rockmont Road that police were called to the home at about 4 p.m., after a relative voiced “concerns” about the male victim, who lived in the home.

Ryan did not elaborate on the concerns but said that officers found the victim’s body in the basement of the home, and that observations led them “to believe that the deceased may have consumed cyanide.”

As a result, Ryan said, neighbors were evacuated from their homes and a hazardous-materials crew descended on the residence to begin decontaminating the area, as well as the victim’s body.

The office of Middlesex District Attorney Marian T. Ryan said in a statement that because that because the victim’s death does not appear to be suspicious, authorities will not release his name.

I was stunned to learn that there is such a policy in place. So many young people struggle with depression and anxiety; and suicide by teenagers and even younger children is not uncommon. So why the secrecy? People who are depressed and despairing need to know they are not alone.

The Scream, Edvard Munch

The Scream, Edvard Munch

The Boston Herald reports:

The apparent suicide of an Arlington teenager who school officials identified yesterday left the town shaken as the odd way he died drew attention to a death that police said would otherwise have passed by unnoticed.

“The manner in which this young man took his life was out of the ordinary — suicide itself is a quite common occurrence for us — and typically suicide incidents or suicide are not publicized,” Arlington police Chief Frederick Ryan told the Herald. “So the general public does not realize how frequent it does occur.”

How awful. No death by suicide should “pass by unnoticed.” This is a public health problem and the public needs to be aware of how many young people commit suicide. The family did the right thing by asking that his name be released.

More from Wicked Local Arlington: Editorial: Why we haven’t eulogized AHS teen.

In a little over one month, the town of Arlington has lost three young people to untimely deaths, tearing three holes in the fabric of three families and of this community. Two, Catherine Malatesta and Katherine Wall, were felled by aggressive cancers. The third, Jeremy Kremer-McNeil, killed himself in his parent’s basement using cyanide.

The deaths of Malatesta and Wall received significant coverage in these pages, yet the passing of Kremer-McNeil is only lightly covered. Does the manner of his death cheapen the life of a 15-year old cruelly taken from us? Is he suddenly undeserving of the same public mourning this paper has afforded his peers?

Suicide is undeniably a public health issue in the Commonwealth.

In MA, suicide was listed as the cause of death in 624 cases in 2012, the most recent year for which data from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health is available. On top of those 624 suicides, 4,258 people were hospitalized with self-inflicted injuries in Massachusetts in 2012, and the counseling hotline Samarateens responded to 187,849 crisis calls in that same year. As shocking as those numbers may seem, our overriding responsibility as a media outlet is to cover the broader issue of suicide, and not its individual instances.

Weeping Nude, Edvard Munch

Weeping Nude, Edvard Munch

By the way, there was a time when cancer deaths were hushed up as if somehow shameful or distasteful. I clearly recall when the mother of one of my high school classmates died very young of cancer. Her cause of death was whispered among the other students, but didn’t appear in her obituary.

Wicked Local’s explanation for the lack of press coverage:

Most responsible media outlets are mindful of the possibility that the greater the coverage and the more explicit the information published about a suicide attempt, the greater the risk is that the a suicide will be imitated. Research by psychiatric epidemiologist Madelyn Gould at New York City’s Columbia University shows that media attention around a peer’s suicide can make teens more vulnerable to killing themselves. Her research, as reported by NPR in 2009, showed that the increase in suicides following a suicide story is proportional to the amount, and the duration, and the prominence of the coverage of the initial event….

Despite the very public nature of Friday’s suicide, many aspects of this case are acutely private. In covering all tragedy, journalists must balance a family’s need for respect and privacy with the importance of the event. Those are pressures we feel even more acutely at The Advocate. The people we cover are not anonymous. They are our neighbors. In this case, we believed and continue to believe that the former definitively outweighs the latter.

Is this really a good policy? Are these media and law enforcement policies common around the country? Wouldn’t the suicide of a young person in a community be an appropriate time to educate residents, reach out to other local depressed young people, find ways to help them, rather than hush the suicide up and let depressed youngsters think they are alone in their struggles?


I only wish someone had been able to reach out to Jeremy and help him get past whatever he was going through. Sometimes just a hug or an empathetic listener can be a step toward deciding to stay alive.

I know something about this, because I was very depressed when I was Jeremy’s age, and I frequently considered suicide. Somehow, I always talked myself out of it and was able to go onward. I have struggled with depression for most of my adulthood also. I became an alcoholic through my attempts at self-medication. Now as a senior with more than 30 years of sobriety, I expect to take an antidepressants for the rest of my life. Over the years, I have learned may tools for dealing with my depression, but I know that I must be “ever vigilant”–as they say in A.A.–because I have a chronic illness that is both physical (highly genetic) and emotional.

I’d be very interested in learning what our readers think about the issue of media and law enforcement silence when people kill themselves.

Of course it isn’t just high school students who suffer from depression and anxiety. For most of each year, the Boston area has a massive population of college students, and the local papers usually run lots of back-to-school stories in September. This year the Globe is focusing on mental health issues among college students.

From yesterday’s Globe: College kids are sad, stressed, and scared. Can their counseling centers help them?

When Ramya Babu thinks about her freshman year at Boston University, she remembers the day she stood alone in her dorm room and screamed in anguish.

Babu had been thrilled to start college. But just a few weeks into the school year, she began to feel like the world around her was simultaneously spinning too fast and leaving her dizzy, but also moving too slow in a way that made her feel like her loneliness and anxiety would never end. All of the overwhelmed emotions she had tried to suppress caught up to her, making her cry out in pain.

Frantic, Babu called a friend from home, who suggested she see someone at BU’s counseling center.

A counselor at BU’s behavioral medicine center diagnosed her with both depression and an anxiety disorder. Each week, at her appointments, Babu would talk through her feelings and concerns with her counselor and leave feeling like she had strategies that would help her survive.

But at the end of the semester, after only eight sessions, her counselor handed her a referral sheet and told her this would be their final meeting. She would have to find a new therapist.

“I had no idea what to do,” she said. “I felt like the support in the referral process was next to non-existent. I know they have a limited number of therapists, but this is a college campus with a mental health center and there I was trying to negotiate with outside practitioners I knew nothing about.”

Melancholy, Edvard Munch

Melancholy, Edvard Munch

When I was teaching at Boston University, I often talked to students who had terrible problems; many were obviously depressed and anxious. I always tried to listen to and empathize with the problems they shared, but there was little more I could do. I knew about the short-term counseling available at BU and most other universities, and always thought it was terribly inadequate. More from the Globe article:

From today’s Globe: ‘I didn’t need to pretend anymore:’ the fading stigma of mental illness at college.

Wendy Chang’s friends could recognize her laugh from a distance. Even if they didn’t see her right away, they knew from the boisterous sound that echoed down Harvard’s hallways that Chang would soon appear, her head thrown back and nose scrunched up with mirth.

Lanier Walker thought Chang’s constant laughter was a sign that she was happy. But Walker later learned that Chang hid what pained her most. The 22-year-old Harvard senior hung herself in her dorm room in 2012.

Walker was shocked and horrified that the life her friend lived didn’t match the image that she portrayed. Then she realized that her friends and peers didn’t know much about her own personal struggles, either.

Walker decided to take action.

After another Harvard student died by suicide in the spring of 2014, Walker felt overwhelmed by the need to do something. She wrote an op-ed for The Harvard Crimsoncalled “We Need to Talk” about her own struggles with depression and anxiety. By her sophomore year, Walker was having four to five anxiety attacks a week.

“Harvard doesn’t always make it easy to talk about ourselves,” she wrote. “It’s a place that demands perfection, and as a result, we feel compelled to present perfect versions of ourselves. We don’t talk about what’s really going on.”

Walker’s letter ended with a call to her peers to start talking, and to let others know they were around to listen. After the letter was published, she needed to take her own advice.

Read the rest at the Globe link.

Self Portrait in Bergen, Edvard Munch

Self Portrait in Bergen, Edvard Munch

I’ll end with this Globe article from May of this year: Parents of teen track star who took her own life: ‘It’s okay not to be okay.’

Madison Holleran was a track star at the University of Pennsylvania. She was smart. She was beautiful. She was loved. Her posts on Instagram depicted the kind of life that you looked at and wondered why yours wasn’t nearly as perfect.

But it wasn’t perfect. On January 17, 2014, Madison Holleran lept off the ninth floor of a parking garage and died. She was 19 years old.

“There are moments when the Hollerans are chasing the ‘why,’ still,” said Kate Fagan, who wrotethe in-depth article about Holleran’s life and death forESPN magazine’s May issue.

“Every time I talked to them, it came back to, ‘The reason we’re talking about it is because we wanted to let people know it’s okay to not be okay.’”

Those are such wise words! Yes, it is “okay to not be okay.” We need much more public discussion of depression and anxiety in this country. These illnesses–and they are illnesses–should be discussed openly. Of course the U.S. doesn’t have anything approaching a good system to address mental health problems either, and that has to change. If suicides are hushed up, that is not going to happen. The public needs to know the extent of the problem and the public needs to be the catalyst to bring out change.

The Wave, Edvard Munch

The Wave, Edvard Munch

I have a few more interesting stories to share–I’ll just give you the headlines and links and I hope you’ll check them out.

First, here’s an important story from the Winnipeg Free Press that Dakinikat linked to in a comment yesterday. I thought it deserved more prominent placement. It’s an edited interview with Jane Goodall in which she discusses climate change denial, research myths, and animal rights: Jane Goodall remains a road warrior for the planet.

A long article at The Atlantic that I haven’t read yet: The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration, by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

From The National Memo: Endorse This: Look, It’s Super-Jeb! by Eric Kleefeld.

Vanity Fair: NetJets Pilots Ask for Better Pay for Flying Millionaires.

Mitch Albom at The National Memo: Tape Tells Story In James Blake Arrest Case.

A terrifying case of race profiling that hasn’t gotten much attention: Kamilah Brock: Woman held in mental health facility because police didn’t believe BMW was hers.

What stories are you following today?

Wednesday Reads: History according to Lego and other things

5116b9018bff112970689c3d9157ac0b (1)Good Morning

If you want to kill some time today, check out these images of Lego greatness:

Over a thousand pictures here: Lego Art on Pinterest 

There is even a Klimt in this one:  Lego mania on Pinterest

e7a647c998afa3841b4466b2288f71a8And more artsy fartsy stuff here: Lego Creations on Pinterest

Why do I bring all this up? Because today’s post is going to center around popular culture and nothing represents that more than Legos…used as an artistic representation in historic museums.

As a history major, and a geeky one at that…you know being a wonky sort of history geek, specifically Medieval, I don’t know how to feel about this.

cf9c84490868a589aa2b87e5ad38672dI am so enthralled with these works of Lego art, the detail, the delight it brings…but there is also a part of me that thinks…Lego? Used in a legitimate archaeological/historical sense?  Then I slap myself and say, don’t be such a pompous ass JJ…get over your fucking self. These things are not your typical play toy Lego “houses” just look at the scale models the artist create.

The latest made its debut in Sydney this past month. LEGO Pompeii Excites New Audiences – Archaeology Magazine


Professional LEGO builder Ryan “The Brickman” McNaught has crafted a model of Pompeii at the University of Sydney’s Nicholson Museum, according to The Conversation. The project, which took more than 500 hours to complete and used more than 190,000 blocks, is one of the largest LEGO historical models ever built. The display shows three phases of the ancient city: as it looked in A.D. 79 when Mount Vesuvius erupted; as it appeared when it was rediscovered in the eighteenth century; and as the ruins stand today. Over the past two years, McNaught created a scale model of the Colosseum out of the colorful bricks, and the LEGO Acropolis, now on display at the Acropolis Museum in Athens.

This thing is amazing!

From the link to the University of Sydney’s Nicholson Museum above: Lego Pompeii creates less pomp and more yay in the museum

Lego Pompeii was painstakingly recreated from more than 190,000 individual blocks across 470 hours for Sydney University’s Nicholson Museum – it’s the largest model of the ancient city ever constructed out of Lego blocks. There is a mix of ancient and modern elements within the model’s narrative; displaying Pompeii as it was at the moment of destruction by the volcano Vesuvius in 79AD, as it was when rediscovered in the 1700s, and as it is today.c4583b144ba8bcad2c555720b7cfc100

The historical model is the exhibition centrepiece in an archaeological museum where, until recently, displays of Lego would have been unthinkable.

The Nicholson Museum, with collections of artefacts from the Mediterranean region, Egypt and the Middle East, is a place where visitors can expect to see Greek vases, Egyptian sculpture and ceramic sherds from Jericho.

Yet since 2012, the museum has commissioned professional Lego builder Ryan “The Brickman” McNaught to recreate three ancient sites made from Lego. Together these models represent an interesting experiment; attracting a new audience to the museum space and demonstrating the importance of fun in a museum context.

This is not the first rodeo for The Brickman…

The first Nicholson Lego scale model was a replica of the Colosseum in Rome.

The joy of the model was its ability to contrast the old with the new. Half the model featured the amphitheatre in antiquity; the other half featured the building in ruins with Lego modern tourists.

The model proved such a success it subsequently toured several regional NSW galleries and museums. It is currently displayed at the Albury Regional Art Gallery along with Roman artefacts from the Nicholson Museum’s collection.

The second model, opened in 2013, was the Lego Acropolis, which featured buildings of ancient Athens peopled with historical Greek figures. It is now displayed at the Acropolis Museum in Athens.

Go to the Nicholson Museum link to read the rest of the story, and how The Brickman studied and designed his Lego city of Pompeii.


Brickman is one of Lego’s Certified Professionals, these people have amazing jobs…check out some of the artist work at that link. (Mini Bios at that link too.) It seems that most of these LCP’s are men…but I have not researched enough of the culture to be sure of this…that is just my observation as I look through the websites and images. And, the one woman that is a Certified Professional is associated with education, autism, special needs and using Lego as a teaching tool. But I will just say this is only my thoughts on the matter. Let’s just go on with the post.

b9cbb10ad2d15a817e44c0d13bac09d1Alright then, how about that Blizzard? Here’s some pictures for you:

16 Images to Illustrate the Blizzard of 2015 – Scientific American

City dwellers in New York hoping to wake up to mountains of snow will have to content themselves with trawling Instagram pictures from New England. The blizzard of 2015—or really the #blizzardof2015 if we’re doing this right—brought less snow than expected to New York Cityb1e0bc0dc37ce8abac82abbe0b4ab9d5 and a number of points south. But to the east on Long Island and north throughout New England, the storm has lived up to, and in some ways exceeded, expectations with heavy snow and coastal flooding.

Snow totals are still being updated but as of Tuesday morning, a National Weather Service weather spotter has reported the highest total from the storm so far, with 30 inches in Framingham, Mass. Other central Massachusetts and South Shore locations have also piled up more than 2 feet of snow.

The second-highest snow total comes 28.5 inches measured in Orient, N.Y., on the far eastern tip of Long Island. In both places, wind gusts are piling up drifts and sending snow cresting over the eaves of houses.


Holy shit! I hope Boston Boomer and Pat, along with X and the rest of our Sky Dancing New England regulars…Sophie and…oh…I know I am missing some others too, are all doing okay this morning!a61ff5a45e146bf46ac0a26874a97a67

But there has been some complaining. For a look at the technical side of forecast, Cliff Mass Weather Blog: Forecast Lessons from the Northeast Snowstorm

The complaints swelled quickly this morning, both in the social media and the press:

8f4ee0d3ea03c4dd2131112f6d965d17National Weather Service forecasters had predicted two to three feet over New York City and adjacent suburbs for Tuesday and only about 8-10 inches showed up.

The city had been shut down overnight–travel banned on major roadways, mass transportation systems (e.g., subways) closed, schools and businesses closed–and all for a minor snow event!  A few samples from the press illustrates some of the commentary:


And then a National Weather Service forecaster even apologized for a  “blown forecast”, something that doesn’t happen very often.

And you had to expect that some global warming critic would use the forecast troublex to cast doubt on global warming predictions.

9a403543373ad0213d1e87763d4866e9So what is the truth about this forecast event?   As I will describe below, although the forecast “bust” was not as bad as it might appear, it did reveal some significant weaknesses in how my profession makes and communicates forecasts, weaknesses that National Weather Service director Louis Uccellini says he recognizes and will attempt to fix.

The general forecast situation was well understood and skillfully forecast starting on Saturday.   A low center (a midlatitude cyclone) would develop off the SE U.S. and then move northward up the East Coast–a storm commonly called a Nor’easter.  Here is a surface weather map at 4 AM PST this morning, when the storm was near its height.  e96907b49653ca28d24ede22ef46fb92In such a location, the storm can pull cold air off the continent while swirling in moisture from off the ocean.  The result is moderate to heavy snow to the west and north of the low center, as well as strong winds over the same areas.  Thirty years ago we could not forecast these storms with any skill. That has changed.

Go and read how it has changed at the link.

In other science-ish news, y’all know that big ass rock that flew by us Monday?

Best images! Asteroid 2004 BL86, as it swept near Earth | Today’s Image | EarthSky

A video still of asteroid 2004 BL86 and its newly discovered moon from Goldstone Solar System Radar.  The image is from last night (January 25).  Image via Slooh.com.

A video still of asteroid 2004 BL86 and its newly discovered moon from Goldstone Solar System Radar. Image via Slooh.com.

46a3a41c379e657d458b0dd6c3bcbbd1Well…turns out the thing has it’s own moon!

Check this shit out:

Asteroid that flew past Earth on Monday has a moon! | Science Wire | EarthSky

Radar images of asteroid 2004 BL86 confirm the primary asteroid is 1,100 feet (325 meters) across with a small moon 230 feet (70 meters) across.

Wow! Scientists working with NASA’s Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, California have released the first radar images of asteroid 2004 BL86, which flew closer to Earth on Monday than any asteroid this large will again until the year 2027. Closest approach was 1619 UTC (11:19 a.m. EST) on January 26, 2015. Nearest distance was about 745,000 miles (1.2 million kilometers, or 3.1 times the distance from Earth to the moon). The radar images confirm what other astronomers first discovered this past weekend, that asteroid 2004 BL86 has its own small moon!

cde3bc59f08305a4960d464aff53632aVideo and more info at the links.

Let us move from science to environment, but still on a pop culture connection…cause what else would you expect from something like this? Chinese Methanol Plant in Louisiana ‘Cancer Alley’ | Al Jazeera America

Uh, okay… I will just give you a quick overview of the area and the situation. This plant is poisoning people. These people are poor. They are people of color. Nuff Said!

This article is the second installment of a three-part series on China’s role in redeveloping southern Louisiana called China’s Louisiana Purchase. The first part investigated links between Chinese government officials, Chinese gas giant Shandong Yuhuang and Gov. Bobby Jindal.

ada6a7b045883973320c2fabe045b969Chinese company behind methanol plant in mostly black Louisiana town has come under fire for shirking health laws

ST. JAMES PARISH, La. — No one asked Lawrence “Palo” Ambrose if he wanted a Chinese company with a controversial environmental record to build a methanol plant in his neighborhood. But if they had, the 74-year-old Vietnam War vet would have said no.

A town hall meeting about it in July at St. James High School, which is close to the site of the plant, in a sparsely populated area with mobile homes and a few farms, took place only after the St. James Parish Council approved the project.

“We never had a town hall meeting pretending to get our opinion prior to them doing it,” said Ambrose, a coordinator at St. James Catholic Church. “They didn’t make us part of the discussion.”

The St. James Parish Council did not respond to interview requests at time of publication.

Edwin Octave, 92, who lives with his family in the area, agreed with Ambrose. “I don’t think the way they went about getting the plant was right. They bought the property before they tell people it’s going to happen.”

The area has gotten the nickname Cancer Alley. I don’t know the state of Louisiana is becoming more and more like the poster child for all that is bad and could be bad when fuckwads get elected and have shit everything up. “Literally.”

There is a term being used, it is called Environmental Racism.

‘Environmental racism’

St. James Parish gas station owner Kenny Winchester said he hopes U.S. environmental standards will be enough to prevent any abuses too detrimental to the health of his community. “There shouldn’t be a problem if they follow the rules,” he said. “If they take shortcuts, we’ll have a problem.”

But Malek-Wiley said that hope isn’t realistic. “It’s not feasible to just hope they will abide by regulations. Most of the industry environmental reporting requirements are done by companies without a secondary check with the Department of Environmental Quality or EPA,” he said. “In effect, if a company was doing wrong, it would have to write itself a ticket. I know every time I’m going down the interstate too fast and there’s no cop, I pull over and write myself a ticket … No, it doesn’t happen that way.”

297757e9be0827b6e7a5f1944c11c44eThe only way to tell if a company breaches regulations, he said, is “after the plant’s built, unfortunately.” An environmentalist nonprofit focused on opposing petrochemical pollution in the region, the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, could “teach folks how to take air samples in their community,” he said, and that tactic has led to “a number of companies to be fined for air pollution, but that’s after the fact.”

After successfully organizing legal bids around black communities not consulted on energy projects, Malek-Wiley believes that “with St. James Parish, they could have brought up concerns about environmental racism.”

f23e3a57ddb5ed39a0039b5531581e92Take this from Charles Blow, it dealing with yet another polluted area of Louisiana, a Superfund site… Louisiana Army Ammunition Plant near where Blow’s relatives call home:

Inequality in the Air We Breathe? – NYTimes.com

How could this plant have been allowed to contaminate the groundwater for 40 years? How could the explosives have been left at the site in the first place? How is it that there doesn’t seem to be the money or the will to more safely remove them? Can we imagine anyone, with a straight face, proposing to openly burn millions of pounds of explosives near Manhattan or Seattle?

3885f12203ffd8ab775e508c93499c3bThis is the kind of scenario that some might place under the umbrella of “environmental racism,” in which disproportionately low-income and minority communities are either targeted or disproportionately exposed to toxic and hazardous materials and waste facilities.

There is a long history in this country of exposing vulnerable populations to toxicity.

Fifteen years ago, Robert D. Bullard published Dumping in Dixie: Race, Class and Environmental Quality. In it, he pointed out that nearly 60 percent of the nation’s hazardous-waste landfill capacity was in “five Southern states (i.e., Alabama, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas),” and that “four landfills in minority ZIP codes areas represented 63 percent of the South’s total hazardous-waste capacity” although “blacks make up only about 20 percent of the South’s total population.”

More recently, in 2012, a study by researchers at Yale found that “The greater the concentration of Hispanics, Asians, African-Americans or poor residents in an area, the more likely that potentially dangerous compounds such as vanadium, nitrates and zinc are in the mix of fine particles they breathe.”

Among the injustices perpetrated on poor and minority populations, this may in fact be the most pernicious and least humane: the threat of poisoning the very air that you breathe.

I have skin in this game. My family would fall in the shadow of the plume. But everyone should be outraged about this practice. Of all the measures of equality we deserve, the right to feel assured and safe when you draw a breath should be paramount.

BTW, Bullard’s website with lots of links can be found here: Environmental Justice / Environmental Racism

I just get so damn sick about all this.

But if you want some more sick shit to read, the Koch Brothers.

Koch Bros To Spend Nearly A Billion Buying The 2016 Elections | Informed Comment

And again…going back to the pop culture of the day…that link will take you to an article and then a video with a discussion from Cenk Unger and Ben Mankiewicz .

In other news, something that is really becoming too frequent a headline. Yet another college athlete is accused of raping a woman…this time it is a swimmer. Fancy that? Former Stanford swimmer accused of raping unconscious woman on campus – LA Times

…former Stanford University swimmer will face several felony charges after prosecutors say he raped a  woman as she lay unconscious on campus grounds.

Brock Allen Turner, 19, is expected to be formally charged Wednesday with five felony counts, including rape of an unconscious woman, rape of an intoxicated woman and two counts of sexual assault with a foreign object, the Santa Clara County district attorney’s office told The Times.

Early on the morning on Jan. 18, prosecutors say, two men riding bikes on campus spotted a man later identified as Turner on top of an unconscious woman. Turner ran away, but the pair tackled him. A third person called police.

Turner was arrested, booked into the Santa Clara County Jail and released after posting $150,000 bail, prosecutors said. He’s scheduled to be arraigned Feb. 2.

It is a good thing those two bike dudes went after the asshole.

Just a few more pops on the pop links: Gabrielle Union Says Smart Things About Ferguson, the NFL, Hollywood

On the events in Ferguson and Eric Garner in New York, Yahoo points out that she generally tries to stay positive in her public comments and Union acknowledges that she makes an effort to be responsible about what she says publicly:

There’s a bit of a gap between what I really want to say and what I know is responsible to say. The general lack of compassion for your fellow man is really frustrating. I think what the protesters are saying, or at least some of them, is it’s not just about police brutality. It’s about a widespread systematic crippling of some people in this country by birthright, and no one’s acknowledging it. There may be a power shakeup if you’re really going to do something about it. A lot of people aren’t interested in that. They say, “It’s not that bad. We have Barack Obama. We’re good.” Or, “You’re not getting lynched.” They’re not acknowledging the institutional racism that impacts daily lives.

You should read the other things Unions says, it is nice to see a smart woman being quoted…too bad it probably won’t get much attention outside of Yahoo Entertainment and Jezebel.


Also, in History News, Seventy Years After Auschwitz, One Survivor Has Her Revenge – Truthdig

Eva Slonim was a child when she was taken to Auschwitz, where she was tortured and experimented on by Dr. Josef Mengele.

The camps that made up the Auschwitz complex were liberated 70 years ago by Soviet troops. But not before the Nazis killed 1.1 million prisoners there.

Slonim was held with her twin sister in a special section of the camp, which had to do with Mengele’s fascination with twins.

She tells the Australian Broadcasting Corp. she is still haunted by the trauma: “I have this madness about locking the bedroom door every night, and I have a light under the door so I can see if there are any boots there.”

But, Eva Slonim says, she got her revenge in the end, by producing a large family to take the place of the one she lost. She lives in Melbourne, Australia, and has 27 grandchildren.


Have you seen this?

Domino’s Unleashes the Most Terrifying Print Ad in History


Domino's Unleashes the Most Terrifying Print Ad in History




Finally, let’s get a little Medieval on ya: Erik Kwakkel • A horse on wheels, what’s not to love? Great…


A horse on wheels, what’s not to love? Great post.



Medieval Connections to ‘Classical Roots’

This manuscript (British Library, Royal MS 20 D I) of the Histoire ancienne jusqu’à César (‘Ancient history up to Caesar’) is the earliest surviving manuscript of the second redaction of this work. This redaction, like this manuscript, was produced in Naples around 1330-1340. It focuses on the story of 904fe6f6198d33fe46a60189b543f8b4Troy, which is no longer taken from Dares, a supposed eyewitness of the fall of Troy, but from the prose version of Benoît de Sainte-Maure’s Roman de Troie. As a result, it is much more extensive.

The goal of these types of histories was to join the classical past and the medieval present. The author, therefore, did not always keep historical accuracy in mind if it did not fit his purpose. This allowed nobles to bind themselves and their families to classical founders.

I love that the horse is supposed to represent the wooden horse, and the scribe/artist drew the thing with wood-like knots and tree rings as the pattern of the horse itself.

But I wonder if a large wooden badger would not have been more appropriate?


Have a wonderful day and for Gawds sake…watch out for the Knights who say Ni!



Evening Open Thread: A little toilet humor…

7ih4al4khe0o3sGood Evening

Ya, let’s have some laughs…a little infantile…but there is a reason for my madness.  Let me explain.

Earlier today, my mom and dad were farting around on the web, after my dad made some observations that the squirrels around our house are full of bite marks and scars from previous battles. He could not believe such happy little creatures could be so vicious.

Well, my mom set him straight…by showing him some YouTube videos of squirrels fighting each other, beating up birds and even snakes…and in doing so, she got sucked in to the black hole that is YouTube.

Soon she was looking and listening to all sorts of animal attacks and then strange animal sounds, coming upon a frog in Australia, that sounds just like a mountain lion.

And that is when YouTube began to “suggest” videos of news anchors farting on live TV…which she had to show me:

Hey, she sure as hell handled it great!!!!

And what is really perfect? This comment from a dude…Jim Boh  2 days ago

Doing what FOX does best, talking out of their ass

Oh…now that is funny.

In fact, when my mom read that comment out loud…she farted while laughing…and me? Well, I almost peed my pants.

Now, for something serious. World Toilet Day aims to make sanitary conditions available for all | Al Jazeera Americas

toilet day

Demonstrators carry signs to mark World Toilet Day in New Delhi, India on Nov. 19.Sajjad Hussain/AFP/Getty Images

On Tuesday much of the underdeveloped world celebrates World Toilet Day, which is meant to bring focus to the diseases and social unrest that can occur when people don’t have sanitary places to relieve themselves. While the World Toilet Organization, the Singapore-based non-profit behind the celebratory day has been around since 2001, this is the first day the United Nations has supported the event.

“We must break the taboos and make sanitation for all a global development a priority,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said Tuesday.

Ban stressed that having access to a toilet is an extremely serious issue. They help prevent the spread of diseases that have ravaged many poor areas around the world.

Each year, more than 800,000 children under five die from diarrhea, the U.N. said, many due to poor sanitation.

Lack of access to clean bathrooms in schools also deters many women and girls from pursuing their education after they reach puberty, says a report titled “We Can’t Wait” from WaterAid, a private agency working with the U.N. and Unilever, the multinational consumer goods company.

“Sanitation is central to human and environmental health,” said Ban as he launched a campaign to end open defecation by the 2025 and cut in half the number of people lacking decent sanitation. “It is essential for sustainable development, dignity and opportunity.”

By working together — and by having a frank and open discussion on the importance of toilets and sanitation — we can improve the health and well-being of one-third of the human family,” added Ban. “That is the goal of World Toilet Day.”

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:
Image Addition Date:

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.

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.


“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 »

Friday Reads: Two Years Gone and where has all the Sealife Gone?

Good Morning!

This Morning Reads will have a theme.  Two years ago the Gulf was oozing nasty, icky, oil.  Like Hurricane Katrina, it’s an event that’s changed our lives down here in ways that are hard to explain and share.  We’ve not fully recovered from either of these events.  That’s not exactly what the Oil, the seafood, or the tourist industry wants any one to tell you.  It’s not what state, local, and federal governments and agencies want you to know either.

But there it is.  There is still devastation. There are huge problems. The folks that created the problems are not being held to account.

The stories I will share are human, animal, vegetable, and mineral.  The BP Spill turned an entire ecosystem and way of living inside out.  It’s being covered up by smiling people inviting you to our Gulf Coast Cities and Beaches in ads.  It’s being hidden behind pictures of big heaping plates of staged seafood buffets.  What’s hidden behind the ads and the promos is disturbing science, economics, medicine, and social upheaval.  Here’s somethings you may want to know from our local news stations, scientists, and doctors.

From wusf News: Two Years after the BP Oil Spill: The Oil You Cannot See

On some Florida Panhandle beaches, swimmers can come off the beach with oil from the BP oil spill still on their skin — two years after that environmental disaster.

And, even after showering, the oil can still be on their skin. Only an ultraviolent light can show it.

Tampa Bay Times environmental reporter Craig Pittman says that’s because leaked oil, mixed with chemical dispersant sprayed on the spill two years ago to break it up, is pooling in some shallow waters of Panhandle beaches.

And the mixture actually accelerates absorption by human skin.  Seen under the ultraviolet light, it’s kind of creepy.

From The Nation: Investigation: Two Years After the BP Spill, A Hidden Health Crisis Festers

n August 2011 the Government Accountability Project (GAP) began its investigation of the public health threats associated with the oil spill cleanup, the results of which will be released this summer. “Over twenty-five whistleblowers in our investigation have reported the worst public health tragedies of any investigation in GAP’s thirty-five-year history,” Shanna Devine, GAP legislative campaign coordinator, told me.

Witnesses reported a host of ailments, including eye, nose and throat irritation; respiratory problems; blood in urine, vomit and rectal bleeding; seizures; nausea and violent vomiting episodes that last for hours; skin irritation, burning and lesions; short-term memory loss and confusion; liver and kidney damage; central nervous system effects and nervous system damage; hypertension; and miscarriages.

Cleanup workers reported being threatened with termination when they requested respirators, because it would “look bad in media coverage,” or they were told that respirators were not necessary because the chemical dispersant Corexit was “as safe as Dawn dishwashing soap.” Cleanup workers and residents reported being directly sprayed with Corexit, resulting in skin lesions and blurred eyesight. Many noted that when they left the Gulf, their symptoms subsided, only to recur when they returned.

According to the health departments of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, from June to September 2010, when they stopped keeping track, more than 700 people sought health services with complaints “believed to be related to exposure to pollutants from the oil spill.” But this is likely an extreme undercount, as most people did not know to report their symptoms as related to the oil spill, nor did their physicians ask. Like virtually everyone I have interviewed on the Gulf Coast over the past two years—including dozens for this article—Nicole Maurer’s doctors did not even inquire about her children’s exposure to oil or Corexit.

It will take years to determine the actual number of affected people. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), with financial support from BP, is conducting several multiyear health impact studies, which are only just getting under way. I spoke with all but one of the studies’ national and Gulf Coast directors. “People were getting misdiagnosed for sure,” says Dr. Edward Trapido, director of two NIEHS studies on women’s and children’s health and associate dean for research at the Louisiana State University School of Public Health. “Most doctors simply didn’t know what questions to ask or what to look for.” There are only two board-certified occupational physicians in Louisiana, according to Trapido, and only one also board-certified as a toxicologist: Dr. James Diaz, director of the Environmental and Occupa-tional Health Sciences Program at Louisiana State University.

Diaz calls the BP spill a toxic “gumbo of chemicals” to which the people, places and wildlife of the Gulf continue to be exposed.

From a George Washington Blog Post Crossposted at Naked Capitalism: The Gulf Ecosystem Is Being Decimated.  This is a huge list of sources covering the many problems.

 New York Times: “Gulf Dolphins Exposed to Oil Are Seriously Ill, Agency Says

MSNBC: Gulf shrimp scarce this season (and see the Herald Tribune‘s report)

Mother Jones: Eyeless shrimp are being found all over the Gulf

NYT: Oil Spill Affected Gulf Fish’s Cell Function, Study Finds

CBS:Expert: BP spill likely cause of sick Gulf fish (and see the Press Register’s report)

  Study confirms oil from Deepwater spill entered food chain

Pensacola News Journal: “Sick fish” archive

Agence France Presse: Mystery illnesses plague Louisiana oil spill crews

MSNBC: Sea turtle deaths up along Gulf, joining dolphin trend

MSNBC:Exclusive: Submarine Dive Finds Oil, Dead Sea Life at Bottom of Gulf of Mexico

AP: BP oil spill the culprit for slow death of deep-sea coral, scientists say (and see the Guardian and AFP‘s write ups)

A recent report also notes that there are flesh-eating bacteria in tar balls of BP oil washing up on Gulf beaches

And all of that lovely Corexit dispersant sprayed on water, land and air? It inhibits the ability of microbes to break down oil, and allows oil and other chemicals to be speed past the normal barriers of human skin.

Just google up the Legacy of the BP Oil Spill and feast your eyes on the eyeless shrimp,  lesions on fish, and all the dead sea mammals washing up on Gulf Cost beaches.  This is from AJ.

“The fishermen have never seen anything like this,” Dr Jim Cowan told Al Jazeera. “And in my 20 years working on red snapper, looking at somewhere between 20 and 30,000 fish, I’ve never seen anything like this either.”

Dr Cowan, with Louisiana State University’s Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences started hearing about fish with sores and lesions from fishermen in November 2010.

Cowan’s findings replicate those of others living along vast areas of the Gulf Coast that have been impacted by BP’s oil and dispersants.

Gulf of Mexico fishermen, scientists and seafood processors have told Al Jazeera they are finding disturbing numbers of mutated shrimp, crab and fish that they believe are deformed by chemicals released during BP’s 2010 oil disaster.

Along with collapsing fisheries, signs of malignant impact on the regional ecosystem are ominous: horribly mutated shrimp, fish with oozing sores, underdeveloped blue crabs lacking claws, eyeless crabs and shrimp – and interviewees’ fingers point towards BP’s oil pollution disaster as being the cause.

This AJ article explains that “Nearly two years after BP’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, fishermen and scientists say things are getting worse.”

Fishermen, in particular, are seeing their way of life threatened with extinction – both from lack of an adequate legal settlement and collapsing fisheries.

One of these people, Greg Perez, an oyster fisherman in the village of Yscloskey, Louisiana, has seen a 75 per cent decrease in the amount of oysters he has been able to catch.

“Since the spill, business has been bad,” he said. “Sales and productivity are down, our state oyster grounds are gone, and we are investing personal money to rebuild oyster reefs, but so far it’s not working.”

Perez, like so many Gulf Coast commercial fisherman, has been fishing all his life. He said those who fish for crab and shrimp are “in trouble too”, and he is suing BP for property damage for destroying his oyster reefs, as well as for his business’ loss of income.

People like Perez make it possible for Louisiana to provide 40 per cent of all the seafood caught in the continental US.

But Louisiana’s seafood industry, valued at about $2.3bn, is now fighting for its life.

We actually see all this reported in the local media.  We see the pictures. We live the effects.  I completely admit to having scaled back my consumption of seafood since the spill.  It’s just not the same and I don’t trust it.  But, if you watch the ads that BP runs on TV stations around our neighboring states and listen to the deafening response by governments, you think it all just disappeared.  They keep saying everything is safe and it’s all back to normal. Well, it isn’t.  If you ask me, I think it’s just going to get worse.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

Monday Reads: Back in black…and other dark sordid tales

Good Morning!

It is a Big Fat Monday morning, the kind that makes you want to crawl back into bed and wait till Tuesday morning…

A special thanks to Dakinikat who switched with me on Sunday. (Thank you Kat! oxox)

I have a lot of news items to bring you, this first one is from Cannonfire, and it is spectacular… in a creep you out sort of way. (Especially if it is not an April Fool’s joke.)  Is the Romney campaign using subliminals in their ads?

Folks, this is genuinely weird. I received a message from a reader informing me that certain teevee ads for Mitt Romney contain monod-bizarro “extras” that pass by at hummingbird speed. Be warned: This investigation gets into some very unsettling areas.

You need to read the entire thing so go to that link…now.

After I read that amazing post late last night, I felt so violated, and I would guess this is pretty common among all political party campaigns. Joseph, that was one hell of a post!

Alright, next up we have some quick links to things you should watch out for…you will see what I mean in a minute.

Major Security Breach At Atlanta Credit Card Processor; Experts Warn Consumers To Check Transactions –  Susie Madrak brought this to my attention via C&L:

You should pay close attention to your accounts, but as one quoted expert says, you need to be especially vigilant right now:

Visa and MasterCard acknowledged Friday that they’ve been alerting banks about a major breach at Global Payments, an Atlanta-based payment card processing firm.

Global Payments issued a statement late Friday saying it discovered the breach in March and reported it to industry officials and the FBI. The company scheduled a press conference for Monday morning.

Gartner banking security analyst Avivah Litan says unverified reports point to a New York City street gang with Central American ties taking control of “an administrative account that was not protected sufficiently.”

“I’ve spoken with folks in the card business who are seeing signs of this breach mushroom,” says Litan.

When the words “breach” and “mushroom” are used together to describe a credit card hacking scheme, it isn’t very encouraging.

Chemical Exposure Is Suspect in Early Female Puberty–  Take a quick look at this, from TruthDig:

Marcia Herman-Giddens first observed the age of puberty dropping for American girls in the late 1980s. Today, she and other researchers agree that the average age of onset has fallen significantly since the 1970s, and some point toward chemicals like bisphenol A—a ubiquitous hormone-like substance that the FDA recently refused to ban—as a possible cause.

There is a link to a New York Times article about the study, I would guess that all the hormones in foods like chicken would also bring about early puberty. I have seen it first hand with my daughter…and many of her girlfriends at school. The boobies start to pop out earlier than they did in my day.

You may have seen this next link over the weekend, but I have an update for you: Financers and Sex Trafficking

THE biggest forum for sex trafficking of under-age girls in the United States appears to be a Web site called Backpage.com.

This emporium for girls and women — some under age or forced into prostitution — is in turn owned by an opaque private company called Village Voice Media. Until now it has been unclear who the ultimate owners are.

That mystery is solved. The owners turn out to include private equity financiers, including Goldman Sachs with a 16 percent stake.

Here is the latest on this sick disgusting story…Goldman Sachs Sex Trafficking Controversy: Company Sells Stake In Village Voice Media For Promoting Under-Age Sex Trade

A private equity fund run by Goldman Sachs Group Inc, under fire over its business ethics, has agreed to sell back its stake in a media company that critics say facilitates sex trafficking.

GS Capital Partners III on Friday signed a deal to sell its 16 percent stake in Village Voice Media, which owns the website Backpage.com, back to management, a Goldman spokeswoman said Sunday.

Doesn’t it seem strange that Goldman was not aware of the kind of ads associated with Backpage? You’d think Goldman would have done some due diligence before they invested in it. (I mean, everyone know what that Backpage of the Village Voice is like, I would not doubt that some of those dudes at Goldman Sachs have utilized the “want ads” themselves.)

Crazy innit? (That little link there is my own kind of subliminal message…so is this one.)

More news round-ups after the jump… Read the rest of this entry »

There Will Be Blood

If you listen to the GOP, you’d be convinced that the WH, Democrats in general and crazed environmentalists specifically had nixed the Keystone Pipeline out of sheer orneriness or a deep-seated hatred of good ‘ole American Capitalism.  Rick Santorum and his Prince of Darkness tour would no doubt smell brimstone in the midst of any pipeline dissent.

Well, surprise, surprise.  The push back is not limited to protestors in the United States.  Our northern neighbors in Canada have as many if not more objections to the Petro State ripping through their country, poisoning watersheds, destroying wildlife and property, causing disease and health problems among citizens, all in the name of King Oil and the desire to wring every last drop out of the planet.

The Hell with Consequences!

First Nation, the indigenous population of Canada, has already predicted:

There will be blood!

Why the outcry?  Enbridge, Inc. and the conservative government in Canada is pressing forward with their own pipeline project, Northern Gateway, which would carry 500,000+ barrels a day 731 miles from a town near Edmonton, westward through the Rocky Mountains to a port on the British Columbia [BC] coast.  Over 60 indigenous organizations have expressed their opposition, refusing to be moved by the promise of revenue, jobs and an increase in their quality of life because their lives are deeply attached to the natural resources of BC, most importantly the integrity of the salmon trade that depends on the streams and tributaries of the Fraser and Skeena Rivers.   In addition, the proposed port on the coast, which would host over 200 oil tankers a year, could expose the Great Bear rainforest to irreparable damage.

Think Valdez!

Interestingly enough, First Nation opposition is the most serious threat to the Harper government’s enthusiastic endorsement of the pipeline.  Unlike other indigenous groups, First Nation never signed treaties with the Canadian government and consequently never relinquished their lands to the Federal government.  On the other hand, the government and oil companies have nearly unlimited funds to fight this battle in court.

According to the LA Times report Tribal Chief Jackie Thomas has said:

“It’s going to be a war. The only question is, who’s going to draw the first blood.”

And here’s a chilling factoid: Enbridge is the same company responsible for the leak of 800,000+ gallons [the EPA now reports over 1 million gallons] of tar sand oil into the Kalamazoo River, Michigan.  Presumably, the oil company has spent $700 million in reclamation procedures.  The area is still a gigantic mess.

Kalamazoo River Spill

Added to the environmental risks [the cost of which is usually ignored] the Northern Pipeline is likely to boost the price of oil for Canadian consumers because like the Keystone proposal, the oil would be exported, not available domestically. The video below is instructive in a grim way.

Why are we having these bitter disputes?

Because we desperately need new energy sources. And there’s tons of money on the line.  More importantly, we need an Energy Policy/Strategy, where the pros and cons of transitional sources are seriously considered–the trade-offs, the costs, what we as a culture are willing to put up with or risk until renewable, clean sources are developed and brought online.  That’s a plan that would look at what we need today, five years down the road, 10, 20, 30 years.  You set benchmarks.  You invest in, encourage and unleash innovation, while focusing on increased efficiency from power plants–the traditional US coal power plant is only 35% efficient, meaning we’re wasting most of the energy we’re producing–to autos to buildings to everything else.

Where is that policy?  Nada.

The Department of Defense’s push towards alternative energy is not a sign of the US military becoming rabid tree huggers.  As the world’s largest institutional energy consumer, the DOD knows the score: the days of cheap fossil fuel are over and our dependence on foreign and unfriendly suppliers is a serious security issue.  The Department’s commitment to this reality can be seen in proposed budget expenditures: $3 billion by 2015; $10 billion by 2030.

As GreenTech Media reported, this sort of shift has historical parallels:

Military spending in support of energy is not new. Winston Churchill’s decision in 1911 to move the British Navy, then the world’s then most dominant military force, from coal to oil changed the world’s energy marketplace. The emerging trend in DoD spending on renewables is an equally historic marker.

Neither American or Canadian energy needs should come down to an either/or contest: shut off the electricity or rip the environment apart, robbing people, wildlife, the very planet of their health, sustainability and future.  We cannot poison our watersheds, jeopardize our aquifers or damage fertile farmlands for the sake of profits or our unwillingness to conserve and efficiently utilize what we have.  King Oil has ruled long enough. The damage they’re willing to exact is unacceptable, even obscene.

Alberta Tar Oil Sands, Aerial Satellite Shot

First Nation peoples of British Columbia know this and are willing to fight tooth and nail to preserve what’s left of their way of life and cultural traditions. To save the irreplaceable.

Great Bear Rainforest

There may very well be blood.  It’s a worthy fight.