Sunday Reads: Let them drink tap water…

Good Morning

76c7d10c3f207359ba1ad1a52277554f

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

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

It just floated out there in the mass twit universe.

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

More like a statement made out-loud…right?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[...]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7fab6c1c0717cc9b7b640f1ec3c9abeaA few specific points:

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

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

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

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

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

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

8f42e52c3854bfd3029ca566071b45a3It only gets better. /snark

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

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

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

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

No shit.

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

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

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

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

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

They can leak the shit rapidly too.040b20741beeaa72604faa1e72bb5f52

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

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

Read the rest of this entry »


Wednesday Reads: Booklist, Playgrounds and Lawsuits

Magic Circle, Stonehenge Librarian via Pinterest

Magic Circle, Stonehenge Librarian via Pinterest

Good  Morning

Running a little late this morning, so thanks for bearing with me…

I want to start this post off with a few links to end of year book list.

First, the New York Times Sunday Book Review: 100 Notable Books of 2013 – NYTimes.com

The year’s notable fiction, poetry and nonfiction, selected by the editors of The New York Times Book Review.

It is a staple read for me…and it goes without saying, that I must include the kids list of books too:

Notable Children’s Books of 2013 – NYTimes.com

Then we have this interesting grouping from The New Statesman: Books of the Year 2013

Each year we ask regular contributors to the Critics pages of the New Statesman, together with other friends of the magazine, to write about their favourite books of year. There are no constraints on what kinds of books they are able to choose, so the results are often intriguing.

John Gray  ❦  Ali Smith  ❦  Ed Balls
Stephen King   ❦   Rachel Reeves  ❦  Sarah Sands
William Boyd  ❦  Alan Rusbridger  ❦  Lucy Hughes-Hallett
Simon Heffer  ❦  Andrew Adonis  ❦  Craig Raine
Felix Martin  ❦  Frances Wilson  ❦  John Burnside
Jesse Norman  ❦  Alexander McCall Smith  ❦  Richard Overy
Jason Cowley  ❦  Mark Damazer  ❦  Lionel Shriver
Jemima Khan  ❦  Geoff Dyer  ❦  Laurie Penny
Vince Cable  ❦  Alan Johnson  ❦  Leo Robson
Jane Shilling  ❦  John Bew  ❦  Ed Smith  ❦  Richard J Evans
David Baddiel  ❦  Michael Rosen  ❦  John Banville
David Shrigley  ❦  Chris Hadfield  ❦  Tim Farron
Toby Litt  ❦  David Marquand  ❦  Robert Harris
Michael Prodger  ❦  Michael Symmons Roberts  ❦  Sarah Churchwell

One book that was picked by a few of the folks up top:

Andrew Adonis

The trials and tribulations of modern France yielded my two best books. Robert Harris’s An Officer and a Spy (Hutchinson, £18.99) breathes deep pathos into the Dreyfus affair, electrifying the bitter divisions of Third Republic France, which led ultimately to its disintegration in 1940.

I looked into it, and it is not being publish on Kindle or here in the US until January 2014. It sounds really good.

Anyway, check those list out and let us know what tickles you, or what books you would suggest.

One of the books in that New Statesman link connects to another article I have for you this morning. Look here:

David Shrigley

My favourite art book of the year is Inside the Rainbow: Russian Children’sLiterature 1920-35 (Redstone Press, £35). It juxtaposes beautiful illustrations with texts from writers such as Daniil Kharms and missives from the Soviet state. The artworks are photographed: they retain the flat, matt, paper quality of the originals. It’s a lovely book and there’s nothing in it that is too familiar. I love the subheading, too: Beautiful Books, Terrible Times.

And since the Holidays are about the little ones…both young and old alike, here are some awesome kick ass playgrounds around the world: The Most Amazing Playgrounds in the World (PHOTOS) – weather.com

Playgrounds have certainly come a long way from the ubiquitous swing sets and monkey bars – just visit your neighborhood fast food joint. But lately, we’ve noticed some amazing play spaces popping up all over the world that ditch the plastic ball pit in favor of truly imaginative designs.

Hakone Open Air Museum, 'Woods of Net'

From the whimsical and fantastical to the just plain cool, these amazing constructions are setting a pretty high bar for your local schoolyard. Whether it’s integrating seamlessly with the natural landscape, creating living storybooks or recycling trash into treasure, these playgrounds make brilliant kid-friendly design look like child’s play.

Seriously, take a look at some of these fun grounds.  The ones from Denmark, like that photo above, are really surreal. Then there is a playground in St. Louis that looks like the one from the movie The Wiz.

Okay, just one more “book” link for you. Fifty Years Later, Why Does ‘Eichmann in Jerusalem’ Remain Contentious? 

Each week in Bookends, two writers take on pressing and provocative questions about the world of books. This week, Adam Kirsch and Rivka Galchen on why Hannah Arendt’s “Eichmann in Jerusalem” remains contentious fifty years after it was first published.

I don’t know why, even though that New York Times Review of Books article is new…there is something Déjà vu about it.

And sticking with history a bit longer: Slave artifacts found at Georgia highway project site

In a spring 2013 photo provided by New South Associates Inc., archaeologists Brad Botwick, left, Cory Green, and Nicole Isenbarger, right, excavate, sift soil, and map part of a former plantation site in Savannah, Ga. The site, which is being excavated prior to construction of a highway project, yielded thousands of artifacts that archaeologists believe belonged to slaves.

Photo by Rita Elliot, AP Photo/New South Associates Inc.

In a spring 2013 photo provided by New South Associates Inc., archaeologists Brad Botwick, left, Cory Green, and Nicole Isenbarger, right, excavate, sift soil, and map part of a former plantation site in Savannah, Ga. The site, which is being excavated prior to construction of a highway project, yielded thousands of artifacts that archaeologists believe belonged to slaves.

A Mexican coin punctured with a small hole, nails from long-decayed wooden dwellings, and broken bits of plates and bottles are among thousands of artifacts unearthed from what archaeologists suspect were once slave quarters at the site of a planned highway project in Savannah.

A team hired to survey the site by the Georgia Department of Transportation spent three months excavating 20 acres of undeveloped woods tucked between a convenience store and apartments off busy Abercorn Extension on Savannah’s suburban south side. Archaeologist Rita Elliott said the project yielded a staggering 33,858 artifacts believed to date from about 1750 until after the Civil War.

Historical records show that a wealthy Savannah attorney named William Miller owned a large plantation at the site and at one time had 87 slaves, Elliott said. Archaeologists didn’t find the main plantation house but believe many of the artifacts they found are consistent with slave dwellings.

“These people are pretty anonymous in the historical records,” Elliott said. “The archaeology may not tell us much about their names, but it will tell us about their lives.”

As for the sheer volume of items recovered at the site, Elliott said, “It’s not unheard of. But this is a lot of artifacts.”

Take a look at the rest of that piece…what a story.

Of course I will use that tale of slavery, forced labor and submission to segue into this next article: Forced into a C-section: The latest violation of pregnant women’s rights

In a surreal case that’s lawyers are calling “unprecedented,” an Italian woman who was visiting the U.K. last year for work while pregnant with her third child says she wound up undergoing a forced caesarean and had her baby taken away from her. She is currently waging a legal battle to have her returned.

The story, which broke Sunday in the Telegraph, is a harrowing one. The woman, whose family says she is bipolar and needs medication, had “something of a panic attack” in her hotel room, and called the police. After telling her they were taking her to the hospital to “make sure that the baby was OK,” she says she was shocked to find herself instead in a psychiatric facility, where she was restrained for several weeks. Eventually, after being told one morning she couldn’t have breakfast, she was forcibly sedated and woke up several hours to the news that her baby daughter had been removed by social services. Soon after, she was sent home without her child.

Back home and back on her medication, the woman embarked on a quest to have her baby daughter returned to her. But the Italian court said that “Since she had not protested at the time, she had accepted that the British courts had jurisdiction – even though she had not known what was to be done to her.” And a British judge declared that “He could not risk a failure to maintain her medication in the future.” The woman’s American ex-husband and father of her eldest daughter even tried to plead for the baby to be sent to his sister in Los Angeles, but because the baby isn’t a blood relation to her, the court struck that down too.

The woman’s lawyer, Brendan Fleming, told the Telegraph, “I have never heard of anything like this in all my 40 years in the job. I can understand if someone is very ill that they may not be able to consent to a medical procedure, but a forced caesarean is unprecedented.” And Liberal Democrat M.P. John Hemming, added, “I have seen a number of cases of abuses of people’s rights in the family courts, but this has to be one of the more extreme. It involves the Court of Protection authorizing a caesarean section without the person concerned being made aware of what was proposed.”

It seems crazy to me…but things are unreal in this world. (I will say for the record, women who refuse c-sections that eventually cause the death of their child…that is another matter. I do have problems with the women who do that. When cesareans become a necessary procedure, and the woman is determined to have a vaginal delivery at any cost, she is taking that “fucked up” ideology just as far as those fetus fanatics do…to the point beyond reason.)

Case in point: ACLU sues US bishops over Catholic hospital ethics

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a sweeping federal lawsuit against the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops over its ethical guidelines for Roman Catholic hospitals, arguing the directives were to blame for negligent care of a pregnant woman who went into early labor and whose baby died within hours.

The ACLU alleges the bishops were negligent because their religious directives prevented Tamesha Means from being told that continuing her pregnancy posed grave risks to her health and her child was not likely to survive. She was treated at Mercy Health Muskegon, a Catholic hospital in Michigan.

“It’s not just about one woman,” said Kary Moss, executive director of the Michigan ACLU. “It’s about a nationwide policy created by nonmedical professionals putting patients in harms’ way.”

The lawsuit comes amid a wave of mergers between Catholic and secular hospital systems throughout the United States, raising questions about how much religious identity the hospitals will retain and whether they will provide medical services that conflict with church teaching. Advocates for abortion rights and others fear the mergers will limit access to a full range of medical care for women. About 13 percent of U.S. hospitals are Catholic.

It is a familiar story, we all know too well from personal experience what this woman went through…

According to the lawsuit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Michigan, Means was 18 weeks pregnant in 2010 when her water broke and she went to the nearest hospital in Muskegon. The ACLU said that over several emergency visits, Means was never told that “the safest treatment option was to induce labor and terminate the pregnancy” because the hospital was following the conference’s ethical directives. She eventually delivered the baby, which died after less than three hours. The ACLU says the pathology report found that Means had infections that can result in infertility and other damage.

Under the conference’s “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services,” abortion is barred, along with other procedures that go against Catholic doctrine, such as specific infertility treatments or sterilization. However, each bishop has the authority to interpret the directives within his diocese and it is common to find some variation in how the guidelines are applied among dioceses or according to individual cases.

For example, the directives allow for treatments to cure a grave illness in a pregnant woman even if they result in the death of the child. That issue drew national attention in 2010 with the case of a nun and administrator at a Phoenix hospital who, in her role on the hospital ethics committee, approved an abortion to save the life of a pregnant woman. Phoenix Bishop Thomas Olmsted said the decision meant automatic excommunication for the nun and the hospital could no longer identify itself as Catholic.

Robin Fretwell Wilson, a University of Illinois professor who specializes in family and health law, said a negligence claim would hinge in part on whether the ACLU can establish that the conference has some direct control in this case or in hospitals in general. The bishops have moral authority over local Catholic hospitals but are not involved in the day-to-day business of administration.

“It’s so many layers removed,” Fretwell Wilson said, that she has “a difficult time buying” that the bishops’ conference is legally responsible in this case.

Sigh, well…I guess we just have to wait and see.

All this talk about the Pope and his new focus on the poor is great, but I still can’t fully get on board with Francis and his shitty attitude towards women. Then there is this crap too: Vatican refuses to share sex abuse investigations with U.N. panel | Reuters

The Vatican refused to provide a United Nations rights panel with information on the Church’s internal investigations into the sexual abuse of children by clergy, saying on Tuesday that its policy was to keep such cases confidential.

In response to a series of tough questions posed by the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the Holy See said it would not release information on its internal investigations into abuse cases unless required to do so by a request from a state or government to cooperate in legal proceedings.

The response of the Holy See, which will be directly questioned by the panel in January 2014, will be closely watched as it tries to draw a line under financial scandals and abuse by priests that have damaged the standing of the Roman Catholic Church around the world.

Since becoming the first non-European pontiff in 1,300 years, Pope Francis has largely succeeded in changing the subject after the resignation of Benedict XVI in February.

You bet your ass he has changed the subject!

The questions from the panel aimed to assess the Church’s adherence to the 1990 U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, a treaty guaranteeing a full range of human rights for children which the Holy See has signed.

In its response the Vatican said internal disciplinary proceedings “are not open to the public” in order to protect “witnesses, the accused and the integrity of the Church process”, but said this should not discourage victims from reporting crimes to state authorities.

However, it said state laws, including the obligation to report crimes, must be respected.

The Holy See noted it was “deeply saddened by the scourge of sexual abuse” and emphasized that it had changed the requirements for admitting candidates for priesthood, updated canon law, and asked bishops’ conferences to draw up guidelines to combat abuse.

But it indicated the Vatican could not be held responsible for the behavior of institutions or individual Catholics around the world and said local bishops had the responsibility of ensuring children were protected.

“The Holy See does not exercise effective control over the local activities of Catholic institutions around the world,” the response read, indicating the Catholic Church’s central administration could only be held accountable for events within the Vatican City State.

That makes me think of one thing:

Honestly. Maybe all this brouhaha over the Popes comments is nothing but smoke and mirrors? Get everyone distracted and flustered about one thing over here and they forget about priest molesting little boys over there.

Another news item that could use that Naked Gun clip as an afterthought, Radioactive Japanese Wave Nears U.S. : Discovery News

In the wake of the deadly tsunami that hit Japan in 2011 and severely damaged a nuclear reactor, Japanese officials say the levels of radiation are safe for everyone outside the reactor area itself. But as radioactive water from the plant nears the West Coast of North America — the water is expected to hit in 2014 — can we be sure it’s safe?

The nuclear reactor continues to leak radioactive water due to poor management, while Japanese subcontractors at the plant have admitted they intentionally under-reported radiation and that dozens of farms around Fukushima that were initially deemed safe by the government actually had unsafe levels of radioactive cesium.

Fukushima locals also claim they’re seeing cancer at higher rates and the Japanese government is covering up the scale of the problem.

I really don’t think we are getting all the story from Japan either.  The US EPA monitors Radiation levels around the US, you can see near real-time results here: RadNet | US EPA

The nationwide RadNet system monitors the nation’s air, drinking water, precipitation, and pasteurized milk to determine levels of radiation in the environment. RadNet sample analyses and monitoring results provide baseline data on background levels of radiation in the environment and can detect increased radiation from radiological incidents.

EPA’s RadNet Data | RadNet | US EPA

EPA’s nationwide radiation monitoring system, RadNet, consists of two components. First, stationary and deployable air monitors measure radiation 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The map below provides monitoring results as graphs that are updated several times daily. You can also search the RadNet database in EPA’s Central Data Exchange (CDX) to find monitoring data. Second, EPA samples precipitation, drinking water, and milk on a routine schedule and tests them for radiation in a laboratory. The latest RadNet sampling results are available in Envirofacts.

RadNet Data

Give that some of your time today, it is interesting indeed.

Y’all probably saw this crap yesterday: Zucker plans massive change at CNN | Capital New York

After almost a year of tinkering, CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker has concluded that a news channel cannot subsist on news alone.

So he is planning much broader changes for the network—including a prime-time shakeup that’s likely to make CNN traditionalists cringe.

Once, CNN’s vanilla coverage was a point of pride. Now, the boss boasts about the ratings for his unscripted series, and documentaries like the Sea World-slamming film Blackfish. Zucker, in his first one-on-one interview since taking control of CNN last January, told Capital he wants news coverage “that is just not being so obvious.”

Instead, he wants more of “an attitude and a take”:

“We’re all regurgitating the same information. I want people to say, ‘You know what? That was interesting. I hadn’t thought of that,’” Zucker said. “The goal for the next six months, is that we need more shows and less newscasts.”

Can you see where this is going?

Zucker—“rhymes with hooker,” he likes to say—also expanded on comments he has made about breaking CNN out of a mindset created by historic rivalries with MSNBC and Fox. He wants the network to attract “viewers who are watching places like Discovery and History and Nat Geo and A&E.”

Hmmm, up next on CNN…

Moving on. Two quick links:

Photo-shopped picture falsely portrays Obama as child molester

Asshole actually tries to pass this shit off, and even the idiots who follow him on facebook call him out on it.

And check out The Very Best of ‘Right-Wing Art’ | Mediaite  

Oh, there are no words…

Did you see what happened in Iceland yesterday?

BBC News – Rare Iceland armed police operation leaves man dead

Icelandic police have shot dead a man who was firing a shotgun in his apartment in the early hours of Monday.

It is the first time someone has been killed in an armed police operation in Iceland, officials say.

Wow, the first time?

I don’t know, but with all the shit going on around here, Iceland is looking pretty good.

That is all for me this morning, except for this last story…BBC News – Chess boxing catching on in India

Chess boxing
There are 300-odd chess boxers in India

Chess boxing, a hybrid sport combining the mental workout of chess with the physical challenge of boxing, is catching on in India, reports Shamik Bag.

Wearing boxing wraps around their palms and seated on a bench inside a gym in the eastern Indian city of Calcutta, two players match moves while huddled over a chessboard.

Caught between the mind and muscle, the recently-introduced game of chess boxing is seeing an early surge of interest in India. The game involves alternate rounds of chess and boxing.

Now, that takes the whole hybrid sport thing to a new level doesn’t it? Forget kick-boxing, mixed-martial arts, wrestling stuff they do in world extreme cage fighting. This chess boxing takes brains! However, I don’t see it catching on here in the States. So don’t expect a reality show on chess boxing competitors to show up on CNN any time soon.  I bet we could come up with a catchy title though…”Left Rook and Check Mat.” (Maybe not.)

Have a great day!


Wednesday Reads: Back in the saddle again…

f4b5c963d201a5f61710522d22df3735Good Morning!

Hey, it’s been nice to have a week off…I haven’t read much news items lately, in fact I don’t really have any idea what’s going on in the world outside of Banjoville. (Just this last weekend we had a murder, involving an 80-year-old former cop from Florida who killed his daughter, shot his great-grandson in the leg, and kept two county swat teams busy in a stand-off for three hours before they threw a flash bomb and finally got him in custody…you should see the list of weapons he had in his house.)

Other news from Banjoville (good news), my son played his first varsity football game and kicked five for five, scoring four extra points and one field goal in the season’s game opener.  My daughter also cheered in her first varsity game as well…it was quite a Friday Night!

Little Luther

Little Luther

This weekend I added a little furry bugger to the family too. He is a tiny little thing, at three months he weighs just over a pound.

So as you can see, it has been a busy week…but since I am clueless about the latest debates on Syria, in the dark on the fire in Yellowstone, unsure of new draconian laws against women’s rights that have passed in state houses over the past week…I will just stick with a few links that I have saved from some days back.

Here is one article that is recent however, Fukushima Disaster: Japan To Build Costly Subterranean Ice Wall To Stop Nuclear Reactor Leaks:

The Japanese government announced Tuesday that it will spend $470 million on a subterranean ice wall and other steps in a desperate bid to stop leaks of radioactive water from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant after repeated failures by the plant’s operator.

The decision is widely seen as an attempt to show that the nuclear accident won’t be a safety concern just days before the International Olympic Committee chooses among Tokyo, Istanbul and Madrid as the host of the 2020 Olympics.

The Fukushima Dai-ichi plant has been leaking hundreds of tons of contaminated underground water into the sea since shortly after a massive 2011 earthquake and tsunami damaged the complex. Several leaks from tanks storing radioactive water in recent weeks have heightened the sense of crisis that the plant’s owner, Tokyo Electric Power Co., isn’t able to contain the problem.

“Instead of leaving this up to TEPCO, the government will step forward and take charge,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said after adopting the outline. “The world is watching if we can properly handle the contaminated water but also the entire decommissioning of the plant.”

I don’t know how negative an impact the radioactive disaster will have on the IOC’s decision on Tokyo hosting the 2020 Olympics, I mean… look at the nuclear bomb getting ready to explode in Sochi. I get the feeling the IOC would prefer a radioactive leak of Godzilla proportions than to stand up and do what’s right in Sochi.

Down in Florida they are digging up some graves of a terrible past. Human remains believed uncovered in search at Florida boys school

The first of many to die at a Florida reform school infamous for inflicting beatings and abuse is identified in official records only as “Unknown colored boy.”

Researchers say he died in 1911. But his name, final resting place, and the reason for his early death remain a mystery.

He’s not alone.

The whereabouts of nearly two dozen others who died at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys are also unknown, researchers said.

Those who once stayed at the reform school — and were subjected to regular lashings by school officials — say many more could be buried on the property of the now-shuttered state-run school, located in Marianna, a small town in Florida’s panhandle.

“I think there’s at least 100 more bodies,” Robert Straley, who was at the school for 10 months starting in 1963, said in a telephone interview.

“From 1900 to 1940 were the most brutal years in that place. Back then, a white boy’s life wasn’t worth much and a black boy’s life wasn’t worth anything.”

A clearer view of who died at the school, and why, may soon surface. On Saturday, a team of researchers began a year-long exhumation of burial sites on the school’s property.

But the abuse and suspicious deaths did not end in the 1960s,

Former residents at the school, including Straley, have led the push for setting the record straight about the school’s treatment of its young inmates, which came to light in a 2008 expose in the Miami Herald.

An investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement concluded in 2010 that, although it found dozens of graves, there was not enough evidence to pursue criminal charges related to allegations of physical and sexual abuse of boys at the school.

The state’s Department of Juvenile Justice closed the school in 2011 as the federal government was investigating allegations of maltreatment and abuse. The federal government ultimately faulted the state for poor oversight and violating the rights of the inmates.

Take a look at the link to that LA Times article to read more about the project being carried out by my alma mater, University of South Florida.

Now I will give you a few updates on some stories from earlier in the year.

Check it out…they are calling bullshit on the stories that there were bottles full of shit at the Texas Capitol during the Special Session back in July: Still No Evidence Abortion Rights Protesters Had Excrement In Texas Capitol Ahead Of Bill Debate

And in Utah, Welfare Drug Testing Catches Only 12 Users

From August 2012 through July 2013, the state prescreened 4,730 applicants to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program with a written test. The state followed up with an actual drug test for the 466 of those whose written answers suggested a likelihood of drug use.

The 466 tests turned out 12 positive results, as the Associated Press first reported. The results were similar when Florida launched welfare drug testing in 2011 and just 2.6 percent of applicants tested positive. National surveys usually find that about 8 percent of respondents used drugs in the previous month.

Utah’s drug screening cost the state about $31,000. But state Rep. Brad Wilson (R-Kaysville) told HuffPost he thinks the bill saved more than it cost. He said an additional 247 Utahns dropped out of the TANF application process after they were told to expect a drug test.

“We had 247 who once we told them, ‘our test shows that you are likely using controlled substances, we need you to take a drug test,’ they refused to move forward with the process,” said Wilson, who sponsored the new law. “The Department of Workforce Services here in Utah estimates the benefits of those folks would have received would have been approximately $369,000 of, basically, benefits we didn’t pay to people who were most likely using controlled substances. We spent $31,000 on this program over the last year but we think we’ve saved at least $370,000, if not more.”

[...]

Utah’s law differs from Florida’s in that it first subjects TANF applicants to a questionnaire and only tests those whose answers give the state a reasonable suspicion of drug use. The reasonable suspicion standard makes the law less vulnerable to a civil liberties lawsuit alleging the tests violate the Constitution’s protections against unreasonable search. Florida’s law called for blanket testing and was halted by federal courts after only a few months.

The Florida law also denied benefits to anyone who failed a test. Utah’s law asks applicants to enroll in drug treatment. Wilson said the 12 people who tested positive for drugs are still receiving benefits.

The article states that the twelve are currently in treatment.

One last update, this one is something that hits home for me, y’all know that my brother Denny has Down Syndrome…so please read this one in full…and then, take some time to read the comments. Opinion: Justice for Down syndrome man who died in movie theater – CNN.com

Robert Ethan Saylor died on January 12 after three sheriff's deputies tried to forcibly remove him from a movie theater.

Robert Ethan Saylor died on January 12 after three sheriff’s deputies tried to forcibly remove him from a movie theater.

One day last January, Robert Ethan Saylor, a 26-year-old man with Down syndrome, went to see the movie “Zero Dark Thirty.” When it was over, Saylor briefly left the theater, then decided to return and see it again. The manager called security because Saylor didn’t pay, and three off-duty deputies, moonlighting at the mall, came in to confront him.

According to Frederick County, Maryland, police statements, he swore at them and refused to leave. The deputies tried to remove him, despite Saylor’s caretaker’s warnings and pleas for them to wait and let her take care of it. What happened next is a little unclear, but witnesses say the deputies put Saylor on the floor, held him down and handcuffed him. Saylor, called Ethan by his family, suffered a fracture in his throat cartilage. He died of asphyxiation.

The death was ruled a homicide, but a grand jury failed to indict the deputies and they returned to work without charges.

My son has Down syndrome, so I have been following this case closely. But for months, it seemed as if only people in the disability community cared about it.

Petitions for independent investigations sputtered out with just a few hundred votes. Local reporting on the case never made a splash in national media. Meanwhile, the Frederick County sheriff investigated his men’s conduct, ruled they had followed procedure correctly, and tried to move on.

Police violence against people with disabilities is not uncommon, but the cases don’t seem to get a lot of publicity. Most people see the disabled as, at best, passive victims, objects to care for, perhaps to love, but not people with whom we automatically identify.

This is a mistake. We are all only temporarily able-bodied. Accidents, illness, and age wait for us all. What happened to Ethan Saylor could happen to you.

In July, his death began to get more attention. Heather Mizeur, a member of the Maryland House of Representatives and candidate for governor, seized on Saylor’s story and called for new training for law enforcement. Debra Alfarone, an investigative journalist in Washington, began to broadcast and write about the case. A petition asking Gov. Martin O’Malley to investigate went viral in mid-August, garnering 300,000 signatures in just a week. This petition fueled a renewed, suddenly national, media narrative. Ethan Saylor and #JusticeForEthan are now an official cause.

It is heartbreaking to know that the cops who killed Ethan are walking about…back at work, without being charged. Where is the outrage?  Perhaps Ethan should have worn a hoodie? Maybe this injustice would have gotten more attention.

It is sickening.

Like I said, read the whole piece, it moves on to focus on people with disabilities…and what rights they have…or in the case of Ethan, what rights he was denied that invariably caused his “homicide” and allowed the men who killed him to walk free.

Okay, one last nugget or link for you today. Over at TCM they are presenting a special series that will be on every Monday and Tuesday for the next 15 weeks! .: The Story of Film :.

TCM IS PROUD to present the U.S. television premiere of The Story of Film: An Odyssey (2011), a 15-episode documentary directed and narrated by Mark Cousins, adapted from his 2004 book The Story of Film. Beginning in September and continuing through early December, one new episode, or “chapter,” will be introduced each Monday on TCM, with a lineup of related films. Tuesday evenings the thematic programming continues, and includes a re-airing of the previous night’s episode. By December, the entire festival will include 119 feature films and dozens of short subjects from 29 countries.

Cousins, a film critic from Northern Ireland, will appear as co-host with Robert Osborne in introducing the documentary, which uses film clips, interviews with filmmakers and location footage around the world to take viewers through filmmaking history from the late 19th century to today.

Here is the schedule in PDF format and you can find the Episode Guide is here.

The first episode was shown this week, and it was so damn interesting, be sure to catch the rest of the series if you can.

So…it is good to be back, guess I need to get caught up on current events. Seriously, I don’t know if I can do that just yet. Y’all have a good morning and I’ll see you around in the comments.


Wednesday, the day after….Morning reads.

Edward Gorey

Edward Gorey

Good morning everyone.

Horrible weather is making its way across the US, so first…before we get to any reads, make sure you keep an eye out for bad storms.

Intellicast – Current Radar in United States

Severe Weather Warnings Page

This image of a lighted tree in a pope mobile/sleigh is appropriate for the wet and cold days this holiday.

Let’s start this post with some thoughts on Newtown, CT., both of which are very emotional…for different reasons.

Mom of Sandy Hook Child Victim Shares Daughter’s ‘Message From Beyond the Grave’ in Incredibly Moving CNN Interview

Grace McDonnell was one of the 20 children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School this month. As her parents are grieving the loss of their bright-eyed, seven-year-old daughter, they can take at least some solace in a sign of comfort that she left behind.

Grace was known for leaving messages on the family’s bathroom window — notes and symbols that would show up once fog clouded the room from shower steam. And the day after her death, seemingly on cue, one of these notes appeared to her mother.

Grace McDonnell Leaves Sign for Her Mother Lynn on Bathroom Window | Sandy Hook

Grace McDonnell, one of the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre (Photo Credit: CNN)

On the first day without her daughter, Lynn McDonnell said that the message on the window was a peace sign, Grace’s favorite symbol. Above it were the words, “Grace, Mom.” CNN was moved to call the family’s finding “a message from beyond the grave.”

“I looked and there was her peace sign in the window and I was like, ‘That’s a sign from my Grace,’” Lynn said. ”She was all about peace and gentleness and kindness.”

Heartbreaking. As many of us are thankful this holiday season is almost over, it makes me stop and think how lucky we are to even have a holiday filled with the usual stresses and family dinner get-together, whether they are enjoyable or not.

The other link I have for you is just more discussion on gun-control, in an op/ed from Michael Moore: 3 Reasons America Is Falling Apart — And How We Can Save Ourselves

After watching the deranged, delusional National Rifle Association press conference on Friday, it was clear that the Mayan prophecy had come true. Except the only world that was ending was the NRA’s. Their bullying power to set gun policy in this country is over. The nation is repulsed by the massacre in Connecticut, and the signs are everywhere: a basketball coach at a post-game press conferencethe Republican Joe Scarborougha pawn shop owner in Floridaa gun buy-back program in New Jerseya singing contest show on TV, and  the conservative gun-owning judge who sentenced Jared Loughner.

So here’s my little bit of holiday cheer for you:

These gun massacres aren’t going to end any time soon.

That is just the first few lines of the op/ed, please take a look. I don’t usually post links to the rants of Michael Moore…but he sure as hell got the Columbine story the attention it deserved…along with other gun related shootings and killings in his film, Bowling for Columbine. Anyway, take a few minutes to read his opinion.

This next story is fascinating from an environmental stand-point.  After you read it, just think of the disaster in the making:  Proposed Coles Hill uranium mine: Buried treasure or hidden threat?

Beneath an estate that’s been farmed by the Coles family since just after the Revolutionary War lies the nation’s largest untapped uranium deposit, a potential $10 billion bonanza amid rolling hills, oak trees, pastures and a historic plantation home.

The radioactive treasure in the Blue Ridge foothills is pitting neighbor against neighbor and North Carolinians against Virginians. North Carolina is only about 20 miles from the proposed uranium mine and residents, public officials and lawmakers there worry that a catastrophic release of radioactive waste could poison Kerr Lake, the drinking water source for more than 118,000 North Carolinians, as well as contaminate the fishing- and recreation-rich Roanoke River as far east as Pamlico Sound.

With the recent ProPublica report on the contamination of water aquifers by the US government, this “mother-lode” of radioactive uranium seems like a mining operation that is just asking for trouble.

From the Guardian, this question is one we all should be asking…from Carl Bernstein:     Why the US media ignored Murdoch’s brazen bid to hijack the presidency

CEO Rupert Murdoch

The Ailes/Petraeus tape made clear to many that Murdoch’s goals in America have always been nefarious. Photograph: Reuters

So now we have it: what appears to be hard, irrefutable evidence of Rupert Murdoch‘s ultimate and most audacious attempt – thwarted, thankfully, by circumstance – to hijack America’s democratic institutions on a scale equal to his success in kidnapping and corrupting the essential democratic institutions of Great Britain through money, influence and wholesale abuse of the privileges of a free press.

In the American instance, Murdoch’s goal seems to have been nothing less than using his media empire – notably Fox News – to stealthily recruit, bankroll and support the presidential candidacy of General David Petraeus in the 2012 election.

And like the rest of the articles I have for you this morning, it is just a few first lines, read the rest at the link.

That is all I have for you this morning, how was your holiday and what have you been ready lately?


Wednesday Reads: Old Negatives, Ancient Water and Debtors’ Prisons

Good Morning!

Can you spot a trend in the title of this morning’s post?

Today I will bring you links that are about old things, or about how we as a nation are going backwards in time…either way, I hope you find them interesting, so…here we go.

I will start with that whole ass-backward direction we are heading here in the USA.

Of course, we need to look no further than Florida. Governor Rick Scott Vetoes Funds For Rape Crisis Centers During Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Awww, what a guy!

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) shocked the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence this week when he vetoed $1.5 million in funding for 30 rape crisis centers in the middle of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. State lawmakers allotted the money to offset an increase in need and a lack of sufficient funding for victim services.

A spokesperson for Scott said he vetoed that particular line item in the state budget because the state already funds sexual violence programs, and nobody was able to make it clear to him why rape crisis centers needed the new funding.

What an ass, my guess is that he just wasn’t listening attentively.

“Governor Scott approved funding for many projects that have statewide impact and do not duplicate programs already funded by the state,” Lane Wright, Scott’s press secretary, told HuffPost. “This new funding of $1.5 million would have been duplicative, since, as a state, we already fund sexual violence programs. There was no information suggesting any needs in this area weren’t already being met. The state already provides about $6.5 million for rape prevention and sexual assault services. That is in addition to the funds available for domestic violence programs — $29 million to be specific. Many victims of sexual violence seek refuge at domestic violence shelters.”

Jennifer Dritt, the executive director of the Florida Council, said she was “stunned” and “confused” by Scott’s move and that she questions his reasoning for slashing the funds.

“We say ‘here’s the need, here’s the need, here’s the need,’ and frankly, nobody’s paying any attention,” she told HuffPost. “We gave them information about the number of new survivors we have and we showed them that these rape crisis centers have waiting lists. Survivors are having to wait weeks, sometimes six weeks, in some programs three months to be seen. We included quotes from the programs about the waiting lists and what services they weren’t able to offer because of a lack of money. There is clearly an unmet need.”

As for the $6.5 million that Scott said the government provides for rape prevention and sexual assault services, a large percentage of that money is distributed to education programs, not actual crisis centers serving the victims.

No, I am wrong about that not listening thing…Voldermort Rick Scott is really just an asshole!

From a political standpoint, Scott’s cuts to sexual violence funding could not have come at a worse time, as Republicans in Congress are taking heat for opposing the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. But Scott’s spokesman said the governor’s decision had nothing to do with the oft-cited GOP “war on women.”

“Anyone who’s trying to say this veto is evidence of a war on women, is deliberately trying to mislead the public for political ends,” Wright said.

I call that last line BS.

Oh wait, this was supposed to be about moving backwards, that link up top is about the continuing GOP’s War on Women. I mean, the discrimination against women is certainly moving us backwards, but this next link is more literal in terms of moving back in time.  Jailed for $280: The Return of Debtors’ Prisons

How did breast cancer survivor Lisa Lindsay end up behind bars? She didn’t pay a medical bill — one the Herrin, Ill., teaching assistant was told she didn’t owe. “She got a $280 medical bill in error and was told she didn’t have to pay it,” The Associated Press reports. “But the bill was turned over to a collection agency, and eventually state troopers showed up at her home and took her to jail in handcuffs.”

Although the U.S. abolished debtors’ prisons in the 1830s, more than a third of U.S. states allow the police to haul people in who don’t pay all manner of debts, from bills for health care services to credit card and auto loans. In parts of Illinois, debt collectors commonly use publicly funded courts, sheriff’s deputies, and country jails to pressure people who owe even small amounts to pay up, according to the AP.

How is this happening?

Under the law, debtors aren’t arrested for nonpayment, but rather for failing to respond to court hearings, pay legal fines, or otherwise showing “contempt of court” in connection with a creditor lawsuit. That loophole has lawmakers in the Illinois House of Representatives concerned enough to pass a bill in March that would make it illegal to send residents of the state to jail if they can’t pay a debt. The measure awaits action in the senate.

And you know who has been working overtime on getting laws passed in the creditors favor…

“Creditors have been manipulating the court system to extract money from the unemployed, veterans, even seniors who rely solely on their benefits to get by each month,” Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said last month in a statement voicing support for the legislation. “Too many people have been thrown in jail simply because they’re too poor to pay their debts. We cannot allow these illegal abuses to continue.”

Well, Illinois isn’t the only state that will lock you up for unpaid debt.

A 2010 report by the American Civil Liberties Union that focused on only five states — Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Washington — found that people were being jailed at “increasingly alarming rates” over legal debts. Cases ranged from a woman who was arrested four separate times for failing to pay $251 in fines and court costs related to a fourth-degree misdemeanor conviction, to a mentally ill juvenile jailed by a judge over a previous conviction for stealing school supplies.

According to the ACLU: “The sad truth is that debtors’ prisons are flourishing today, more than two decades after the Supreme Court prohibited imprisoning those who are too poor to pay their legal debts. In this era of shrinking budgets, state and local governments have turned aggressively to using the threat and reality of imprisonment to squeeze revenue out of the poorest defendants who appear in their courts.”

Ugh, I can’t quote anymore, you can go to the link and read the rest of the story…it is just making me so mad.

 

Here is another article discussing our country’s move backward, this time to appease the right-wing christian establishment.5 Supreme Court Decisions Pandering to Christianity

In theory, the Supreme Court is where Americans turn to protect their rights when all else fails. The high court is supposed to be beyond the reach of politics, and more importantly, beyond the reach of popular will. After all, just because many Americans want something doesn’t mean it’s constitutional.

This is true especially in matters of religion. Despite what many Americans believe, the majority does not rule when it comes to religion. Core freedoms depend on no vote. Most people in your town may sincerely believe that compelling students to say Christian prayers or learn creationism in public schools is a desirable – but that doesn’t make it legal.

In the main, the Supreme Court has done a pretty good job of upholding the separation of church and state. The high court has put the brakes on mandatory religious worship in public schools and barred direct tax support of sectarian enterprises.

But the court has made a few missteps along the way. That’s inevitable because as much as we’d like to think that the court is not a political institution, presidents do use the power of appointment to shape the bench, beyond their own terms in office.

Here are five cases where the Supreme Court dropped the ball on separation of church and state.

Go to the link to read about the five cases.

And now a story about an ancient rock falling to earth:

Minivan-sized Asteroid Exploded Over California

The source of loud “booms” accompanied by a bright object traveling through the skies of Nevada and California on Sunday morning has been confirmed: It was a meteor. A big one.

It is thought to have been a small asteroid that slammed into the atmosphere at a speed of 15 kilometers per second (33,500 mph), turning into a fireball, and delivering an energy of 3.8 kilotons of TNT as it broke up over California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. Bill Cooke, head of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office, classified it as a “big event.”

Wow, it actually broke the sound barrier as it fell through the Earth’s atmosphere.

“I am not saying there was a 3.8 kiloton explosion on the ground in California,” Cooke told Spaceweather.com. “I am saying that the meteor possessed this amount of energy before it broke apart in the atmosphere. (The map) shows the location of the atmospheric breakup, not impact with the ground.”

Cooke went on to say that the meteor likely penetrated very deep into the atmosphere, producing the powerful sonic booms that rattled homes across the region. According to Reuters, car alarms in Carson City, Nev., were even triggered.

In other “science” news, scientist have found large sources of water in Africa:  Map Shows Huge Water Source Available Underground in Africa

Helen Bonsor, a hydrologist for the British Geological Survey, said her research shows that groundwater – underground water sources – is available across the continent in huge quantities: “over 100 times the annual renewable freshwater resource available in Africa, and 20 times that stored in Africa’s freshwater lakes.”

Bonsor led a team from the BGS and the University College London in crafting a comprehensive map of the groundwater sources across Africa, complete with details about exactly how much water can be found.

Africa ground water map

[…]

Her team took data from small-scale local studies and compiled them on a continent-wide scale to produce the map. So now, instead of generalities, Bonsor said, “we’re talking about, well in this area, with careful exploration and siting of boreholes, you are likely to get a yield of one to five liters per second.”

Because that quantitative data had been missing, Bonsor said, groundwater had “often been left out of discussions on water scarcity and water security.”

She hopes her new map will help change that, and prompt governments to focus on developing groundwater sources.

Which brings me to this Falco cartoon…

This next item is from The New York Times Lens: Pablo Delano Unravels a Mystery in Barcelona

For the past dozen years, Pablo Delano has been consumed by the mystery of a Barcelona Biscuit Tin: who shot the hundreds of decaying negatives that were packed into the beat-up box he bought for $60 at a Barcelona flea market? Who were the people in the pictures? Where were the photos taken?

Granted, the images he discovered were not on the same level of, say, those by Robert Capa in the famed Mexican Suitcase. But the Barcelona Biscuit Tin had its own mysterious charms — weather-beaten, moldy and fuzzy images of Barcelona between the world wars. Children on bikes and in trees. Cars rambling through the streets. Bullfighters in the ring. Factory workers making huge tubes.

“He seemed to be obsessed with photographing everything in his life,” said Mr. Delano, who teaches photography at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn. “At the same time, he was technically quite inept. The percentage of pictures that are underexposed, overexposed or blurry is quite high. Despite the fact he had real technical problems, he kept doing it.”

There are some interesting photographs, be sure to take a look at them. And…be sure to read the rest of the story, about the “biscuit tin of memories.”

Now, one last link… White killer whale adult spotted for first time in wild This is fantastic, off the shores of Russia…

White orca
“Iceberg” is believed to be the first mature white orca observed
Scientists have made what they believe to be the first sighting of an adult white orca, or killer whale.

The adult male, which they have nicknamed Iceberg, was spotted off the coast of Kamchatka in eastern Russia.

[…]

“It has the full two-metre-high dorsal fin of a mature male, which means it’s at least 16 years old – in fact the fin is somewhat ragged, so it might be a bit older.”

Orcas mature around the age of 15, and males can live to 50 or 60 years old, though 30 is more commonplace.

“Iceberg seems to be fully socialised; we know that these fish-eating orcas stay with their mothers for life, and as far as we can see he’s right behind his mother with presumably his brothers next to him,” said Dr Hoyt

There is some video at the link. Magnificent, innit?

What a world…it could be so wonderful if it wasn’t for certain people

So, what are you reading about today?


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.