Friday Reads

Good Morning!

I thought I’d try to focus on some interesting news today and ignore politics. We’ll see how well I do.

BBC News reports that “an iceberg twice the size of Manhattan has broken away from the Petermann Glacier in northern Greenland”. You can see the NASA satellite picture at the link.  Is this yet another symptom of global warming?

Scientists have raised concerns in recent years about the Greenland ice shelf, saying that it is thinning extensively amid warm temperatures.

No single event of this type can be ascribed to changes in the climate.

But some experts say they are surprised by the extent of the changes to the Petermann Glacier in recent years.

“It is not a collapse but it is certainly a significant event,” Eric Rignot from Nasa said in a statement.

Some other observers have gone further. “It’s dramatic. It’s disturbing,” University of Delaware’s Andreas Muenchow told the Associated Press.

“We have data for 150 years and we see changes that we have not seen before,” Mr Muenchow added.

Okay, here’s another one of my grave stories. No “seriously”, it’s another story about a grave.  This time they think they may have located Mona Lisa’s remains in Florence.

Scientists claim that they might have found the skeleton of the woman who posed for Leonardo Da Vinci’s most famous painting.

Most art historians agree that Lisa del Giocondo was the woman who inspired Da Vinci to create his iconic work.

Now the archaeologists working in Florence are pretty convinced they have found the remains of the lady, merchant Francesco del Giocondo’s wife Lisa Gherardini.

The skeleton was unearthed beneath the medieval Convent of Saint Ursula in Florence. Knowing she became a nun after her husband died and lived in the convent until her death in 1542, a team of archaeologists began excavation works at the abandoned convent last year.

Sheila Bair is still on the stump for financial regulation.  She answered some questions on Wednesday on the state of Dodd-Frank.

Horwich: So going after systemic risk suggests safety, it suggests caution. Then we have this other important aspect of our economy where we say financial institutions are supposed to be taking risks on deserving people and businesses. How do you reconcile what seems like a real contradiction there?

Bair: Well, I think we do want banks to take risks but we want them to take risks on economic activities that have some real economic benefit. I mean, trading CDS indexes with a bunch of hedge funds — I don’t know what kind of positive economic benefit we would get from that. It’s the kind of risk you take and whether you’re taking a well-measured, well-understood, well-evaluated risk, that’s really the question.

Horwich: There are many people out there who would have liked to have seen and might still like to see banks fail — especially big banks fail — that they think have been misbehaving. What do you say to them?

Bair: Well, I say that we should have a let a couple fail. It makes me angry that we didn’t and I think there were tools there that could have been used that were not. You know, there were a couple of institutions that were clear outliers in the terms of their mismanagement — the risks that they took — and they should have been put into a bankruptcy-like process and they weren’t. I think if we had done that; that would have been more powerful than all the rules that we’re writing now to try to correct these misbehaviors. Be that as it may it’s a legacy of the bailouts and it’s something we have to deal with now.

Here’s one of my favorite Brit Economists Robert Skidelsky on “The Bad Society”. He raises some interesting points on income inequality.

There is a strange, though little-noticed, consequence of the failure to distinguish value from price: the only way offered to most people to boost their incomes is through economic growth. In poor countries, this is reasonable; there is not enough wealth to spread round. But, in developed countries, concentration on economic growth is an extraordinarily inefficient way to increase general prosperity, because it means that an economy must grow by, say, 3% to raise the earnings of the majority by, say, 1%.

Nor is it by any means certain that the human capital of the majority can be increased faster than that of the minority, who capture all of the educational advantages flowing from superior wealth, family conditions, and connections. Redistribution in these circumstances is a more secure way to achieve a broad base of consumption, which is itself a guarantee of economic stability.

The attitude of indifference to income distribution is in fact a recipe for economic growth without end, with the rich, very rich, and super-rich drawing ever further ahead of the rest. This must be wrong for moral and even practical reasons. In moral terms, it puts the prospect of the good life perpetually beyond reach for most people. And, in practical terms, it is bound to destroy the social cohesion on which democracy – or, indeed, any type of peaceful, contented society – ultimately rests.

Is Syria collapsing and what will this to do its ally Iran?  Better yet, what will this do to further instability in the region?

The fall of the Assad government would remove Shiite Iran’s last and most valued foothold in the Arab world, and its opening to the Mediterranean. It would give Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Arab states their long-sought goal of countering Iranian influence in the region, finally splitting the alliance between Tehran and Damascus that has lasted for decades. And it would further erode Iran’s role as a patron of the Middle East’s revolutionaries, a goal that moderate Arabs and the United States have long sought.

Already the militant Palestinian group Hamas, long dependent on Syria and Iran, has thrown its support behind the Syrians in the streets seeking Mr. Assad’s overthrow.

Worse might follow, from Tehran’s point of view. Iran and Syria’s last revolutionary ally, the Hezbollah party that dominates Lebanon, would lose its source of weapons and financial support. And Lebanon’s fragile sectarian balance might be torn apart, raising the threat of another civil war there.

On Wednesday, Hezbollah was quick to respond to the government’s worst day so far to make its strongest declaration yet that it would not abandon Mr. Assad.

Meanwhile, intense global pressure is being brought to bear on Putin and Russia. Russia and China once again vetoed a Syria resolution.

Russia and China again vetoed a Western-backed U.N. resolution Thursday aimed at pressuring President Bashar Assad’s government to end the escalating 16-month conflict in Syria.

The 11-2 vote, with two abstentions from South Africa and Pakistan, was the third double veto of a resolution addressing the Syria crisis by Damascus’ most important allies.

The defeat leaves in limbo the future of the 300-strong U.N. observer mission in Syria, which was forced to suspend operations because of the intensified fighting. Its mandate, to monitor a cease-fire and implementation of international envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan, expires Friday.

Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant, who sponsored the Western-backed draft, said he was “appalled” at the third double veto of a resolution aimed at bringing an end to the bloodshed in Syria and creating conditions for political talks. The resolution had threatened sanctions if the Syrian regime didn’t quickly stop using heavy weapons.

“The consequence of their decision is obvious,” he said. “Further bloodshed, and the likelihood of descent into all-out civil war.” Activists say more than 17,000 people have been killed since the uprising began in March 2011, most of them civilians.

“The consequence of today’s action is the situation will continue to deteriorate,” U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice told reporters.

The Smithsonian Magazine tell us that Ocean Acidity is just as much of a challenge for us as Climate Change.  WTF are we doing to Mother Earth and Mother Nature?

Rising ocean acidity is now considered to be just as much of a formidable threat to the health of Earth’s environment as the atmospheric climate changes brought on by pumping out greenhouse gases. Scientists are now trying to understand what that means for the future survival of marine and terrestrial organisms.

In June, ScienceNOW reported that out of the 35 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide released annually through fossil fuel use, one-third of those emissions diffuse into the surface layer of the ocean. The effects those emissions will have on the biosphere is sobering, as rising ocean acidity will completely upset the balance of marine life in the world’s oceans and will subsequently affect humans and animals who benefit from the oceans’ food resources.

The damage to marine life is due in large part to the fact that higher acidity dissolves naturally-occurring calcium carbonate that many marine species–including plankton, sea urchins, shellfish and coral–use to construct their shells and external skeletons. Studies conducted off Arctic regions have shown that the combination of melting sea ice, atmospheric carbon dioxide and subsequently hotter, CO2-saturated surface waters has led to the undersaturation of calcium carbonate in ocean waters. The reduction in the amount of calcium carbonate in the ocean spells out disaster for the organisms that rely on those nutrients to build their protective shells and body structures.

The link between ocean acidity and calcium carbonate is a directly inverse relationship, which allows scientists to use the oceans’ calcium carbonate saturation levels to measure just how acidic the waters are. In a study by the University of Hawaii at Manoa published earlier this year, researchers calculated that the level of calcium carbonate saturation in the world’s oceans has fallen faster in the last 200 years than has been seen in the last 21,000 years–signaling an extraordinary rise in ocean acidity to levels higher than would ever occur naturally.

So, today we have a moment without US Presidential Politics.  Take a deep breath, then tell me what’s on your reading and blogging list today?


51 Comments on “Friday Reads”

  1. ecocatwoman says:

    Another non-political story: 14 people killed & about 50 injured at a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, CO. The attacker was wearing a gas mask, was carrying a rifle & handgun & threw a gas canister into the theater before he began shooting. Police have a 24 year old man in custody. Thank you NRA for keeping our 2nd Amendment Rights safe & endangering the lives of innocent people everywhere.

    • Seriously says:

      It’s so horrible and also scary, it’s been so hot and the movies are one of the most common places people think to head to to get out of the heat, along with the library and the mall.

      • bostonboomer says:

        I’m really surprised that people would take little kids and even a 3-month-old baby to a midnight movie though. Isn’t that movie rated “R”?

      • Seriously says:

        No, PG-13, I don’t think the studio would want to release a movie like this with an R because so many kids would want to see it and they’d probably lose a ton of money if it couldn’t be a family type outing. I am not sure, but I think it was released today so I guess parents took the little kids to the midnight show as a special treat so they could be the very first ones to see it, kind of like with the Harry Potter movies.

      • bostonboomer says:

        One of the young kids who was interviewed said they had a 12-year-old with them. He wasn’t with his parents, and he really freaked out the guy said. A 9-year-old girl was shot and a 2 or 3 month-old baby. I wasn’t blaming the victims, just surprised that parents would let kids that young go to a midnight movie. There are often problems at those late night showings. I don’t know why a 3-month-old would need to see Batman.

        I guess my parents were old-fashioned….

      • Seriously says:

        Oh, I didn’t mean to imply that you were blaming anyone! I have a cousin who’s like 65 and spent many, many years working in movie theatres, and he’s a big, big talker so I’ve just heard a lot about movie theatre practices over my life. 🙂 I don’t think that an unattended kid would necessarily be let into a regular midnight showing even of a PG-13 movie because you’re right, it’s definitely not safe, and I don’t think too many parents would take their kids to midnight movies under normal circumstances either. There would only be a handful of people in the theatre normally, guys by themselves often, and sending in a kid would be a definite safety hazard. I think it’s just a little different on holidays and special screenings with sold out shows. Like I’ve been to midnight movies on Christmas and it’s always crazy crowded and there are tons of little, little kids there. I think the parents just want to take a break from their relatives and holiday stress and have no one to park the kids with. Sometimes the kids are even asleep, almost like they’re curled up in the backseat at the drive-in or something. A sold-out special event type thing just probably feels a little different to parents than a regular, more seedy midnight movie IMO. The baby’s parents are probably uber fans and couldn’t find a babysitter or wanted to take a picture of the baby at her first Batman movie or something like that.

      • bostonboomer says:

        One woman had dropped off her daughters who were in their early teens. Fortunately, they escaped unhurt.

  2. 14 shot dead at ‘Dark Knight Rises’ screening in Aurora, Colorado – U.S. News

    Witnesses said the gunman entered the theater through an emergency exit door.
    The suspect was found in possession of a gas mask, Oates said. Ammunition was found in the suspect’s car, police said.
    Three firearms
    Citing officials, NBC News’ Pete Williams reported that the shooter had three weapons — an assault-type rifle and two handguns. The suspect’s car has Tennessee plates but authorities believe he was living locally.
    Oates said there was no evidence of additional suspects.
    The suspect’s apartment building in north Aurora was evacuated after the suspect made a statement to police about possible explosives at his home, Oates said.
    An FBI official told NBC News that the agency was working with local authorities on the investigation, but that there was no early indication of a link to terrorism. President Barack Obama had been notified by counterterrorism chief John Brennan and was aware of the incident, KUSA said.
    In a statement, Obama said: “We are committed to bringing whoever was responsible to justice, ensuring the safety of our people, and caring for those who have been wounded. As we do when confronted by moments of darkness and challenge, we must now come together as one American family.”

    • Witnesses recall chaos after gunman bursts into theater – CNN.com

      The first witness accounts to surface from a deadly shooting in Aurora, Colorado, painted a surreal picture of what happened inside Theater 9 of Century Aurora movie theater.
      Several moviegoers said a man burst into the theater through an exit door near the right side of the movie screen. Dressed all in black, he wore bulletproof vest and a riot or gas mask.
      Trey Freeman, was inside the theater, said he first thought the man might somehow be part of the show. The man threw a tear gas canister near where he was sitting — but the danger did not register with him until the canister exploded.
      Then, without saying a word, the man threw a second gas canister, Freeman said in a YouTube video.
      “He looked so calm when he did it, it was so scary,” he said.
      The man in black waited until both gas canisters exploded, Freeman said. Then he started shooting.

    • Beata says:

      I have relatives there, at least one of whom is a big fan of that type of movie. I am concerned. Is there a list of victims printed somewhere?

      • I don’t thinks so beata…

      • Beata, there is this number: Family members can call 720-848-2626 to see if loved ones are being treated at area hospitals.

        I got it from this link: 14 Dead, 50 Wounded at Aurora Late Night Premier of “Dark Knight Rising” : Cañon Current

      • Beata says:

        Thanks, JJ. That number is for victims taken to one particular hospital. No relatives there, but victims were taken to other area hospitals, too. The woman I spoke to said uninjured people who were at the theatre are being kept by police somewhere ( I’m sorry, my brain isn’t working, and I don’t remember where ) and have no access to cell phones. I am so upset. I will keep in mind what Seriously wrote and consider the odds are that none of my relatives were at the theatre.

        • Oh Beata, I hope your relatives are okay, I believe the witnesses are taken to Gateway High School…

          I think the second number is to the Aurora Police Department, maybe that is a better place to get info. I am so sorry…

      • Here is another number Beata:

        9:37 AM – Today
        Aurora PD Hotline
        AuroraPD @ AuroraPD : UPDATE: Information line for info on victims or tips: 303-739-1862

        (Note: Please only call this number if absolutely necessary)

      • Beata, I tried to email you these links, here is another number:

      • Seriously says:

        Beata have you tried Facebook? The police are encouraging local residents to use social media to let everyone know that they’re okay.

  3. HT says:

    Good gracious, that iceberg is huge. Mind you if it in any way contributed to the cooling these past two days (it’s once again wonderful here – 72 wonderful degrees) then it’s a good thing. Even so, it is disturbing with all the climate craziness.

    Beata, I hope your relatives are all safe. That theatre shooting is horrible. The man is obviously deranged. Mind you, some of the comments on the live blog are equally deranged. When did people lose perspective?

    • Seriously says:

      I hope your relatives are all safe, too, Beata. There were multiple showings of the movie at that time right at that multiplex and there are other cinemas nearby, so hopefully the chances of your loved ones being in the that specific theatre are very, very low.

  4. UPDATE: 12 killed in Colo.; police say suspect’s apartment booby-trapped | Star-Exponent

    By: THOMAS PEIPERT | Associated Press
    Published: July 20, 2012
    Updated: July 20, 2012 – 11:05 AM
    » Comments | Post a Comment
    AURORA, Colo. —

    11 a.m.

    Police say the apartment of the suspect in a mass shooting at a Denver area movie theater is booby trapped, so they’ve evacuated five surrounding buildings.

    Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates says bomb technicians are determining how to disarm flammable or explosive material in the third-floor apartment. He says police could be there some time.

    Oates says pictures from inside the apartment are fairly disturbing and the devices look to be sophisticated.

    FBI agents and police used a hook and ladder fire truck and put a camera at the end of 12-foot pole inside the apartment where 24-year-old James Holmes lives.

    The apartment is about four miles from the theater where at least 12 people were killed and 50 were wounded.

  5. Sweet Sue says:

    Maybe as well as making sure that private citizens can’t get their hands on military assault weapons, it’s time to retire Comic Con.
    It’s hard to live in a country that does nearly everything wrong.

  6. Watching this press conference…after politicians talk now the police are able to give info on situation.

  7. Sweet Sue says:

    Update at 3:52 p.m. ET: Holmes “said he was the Joker, enemy of Batman,” New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly
    said after conferring with the Aurora, Colo., chief, the New York Daily News reports. “He had his hair painted red.”

    I knew it, that’s why I -half jokingly-called for an end to Comic Con.
    It’s time for all Americans -even teens -to grow the eff up.

    So glad to see you, Mona.