Wednesday Reads: China, North Korea, France and Solomon Islands

Waterman-Ideal-Fountain-Pen-Giclee-Good Morning

Last night a strong earthquake hit the Solomon Islands, triggering a tsunami.  This is the latest information at the time of this writing, according to the Sydney Morning Herald the tsunami warning was cancelled:

Tsunami Fear After Quake Off Solomons

Residents of islands from the South Pacific to Australia were preparing Wednesday for the possible effects of a tsunami set off by an 8.0-magnitude earthquake off the Solomon Islands, according to scientists and news reports from the area.

“Sea level readings indicate a tsunami was generated,” the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said on its Web site.

The earthquake struck around 11 a.m. Australian time in the Santa Cruz Islands, part of the Solomon chain.The center said the tsunami warning was limited to the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Tuvalu, New Caledonia, Kosrae, Fiji, Kiribati, Wallis and Futuna.

Earthquake near Solomon Islands, Tsunami Alert Cancelled

A major earthquake registering at magnitude 8 has hit near the Solomon Islands, with early reports of villages destroyed.

A tsunami measuring 91 centimetres in height was recorded at Lata Wharf in Santa Cruz Islands, near the epicenter, and an 11-centimetre wave was recorded in Luganville, Vanuatu.


The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said the tsunami may have been destructive along coasts near the earthquake centre.

The quake struck at a depth of 5.8km at 11.07am AEDT on Wednesday, near the Santa Cruz Islands, which are part of the Solomon Islands nation.

The director at Lata Hospital on the main Santa Cruz island of Ndende said it was believed villages had been destroyed by the quake.

“The information we are getting is that some villages west and south of Lata along the coast have been destroyed, although we cannot confirm this yet,’’ the director said.

I will post updates in the comments.
There has been some wild news out of North Korea, check out the latest propoganda, which was posted on Youtube: North Korea video shows city resembling New York under missile attack
The video is shot as a dream sequence, with a young man seeing himself on board a North Korean space shuttle launched into orbit by the same type of rocket Pyongyang successfully tested in December.As the shuttle circles the globe — to the tune of “We Are the World” — the video zooms in on countries below, including a joyfully re-unified Korea.In contrast, the focus then switches to a city — shrouded in the US flag — under apparent missile attack with its skyscrapers, including what appears to be the Empire State Building, either on fire or in ruins.“Somewhere in the United States, black clouds of smoke are billowing,” runs the caption across the screen.“It seems that the nest of wickedness is ablaze with the fire started by itself,” it added.The video ends with the young man concluding that his dream will “surely come true”.

“Despite all kinds of attempts by imperialists to isolate and crush us… never will anyone be able to stop the people marching toward a final victory,” it said.

Video is at the link.

There are more calls from the UN regarding investigations of human rights in North Korea: UN Official Urges Human Rights Probe of North Korea

A report by a special U.N. investigator is calling for the United Nations to open an inquiry into North Korea for possible crimes against humanity.

In his report Tuesday, U.N. special rapporteur Marzuki Darusmanwants the Human Rights Council to authorize a probe into North Korea’s “grave, widespread and systematic” human rights violations.

He said an inquiry by the Geneva-based body should examine the responsibility of government and individuals in alleged abuses.

North Korea denounced the report before it was made public.

Meanwhile, a court decision is making headlines, this time a ruling in a Chinese Court that has granted an American woman a divorce….In China, a victory for women’s rights and the power of social media

Kim Lee, an American woman who used social media to go public with accusations of domestic violence against her wealthy and famous husband, Li Yang, has just scored a major victory for women’s rights and the rule of law in China.

As reported by Didi Kirsten Tatlow at the New York Times, Lee made history this weekend after a Beijing court granted her divorce on the grounds of abuse and issued a three-month protection order against her ex-husband, a first in the nation’s capital.

“It’s a very important case. All of society was paying attention,” Guo Jianmei, a lawyer, told the Times. “We’ve been waiting for this for a long time.”

And although censorship remains widespread in China, Lee’s court victory is also a testament to the growing power of social media to share information and avoid direct control by government censors. After Lee posted photos and an account of her experience of domestic violence on Sina Weibo, a microblogging service similar to Twitter, it quickly went viral.

Sticking with world news a bit longer, BBC news is reporting: France: Hundreds of Islamist militants killed in Mali

“Several hundred” Islamist militants have been killed since France launched an offensive in Mali last month, the French defence minister has said.

Jean-Yves Le Drian said they had been killed in airstrikes and direct combat with French troops.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has said that France may begin pulling out of Mali as early as March.

Back in the US, Anti-Abortion Ideology Trumped Science In Weld County Decision To Stop Providing ‘Morning After’ Pill

When Weld County commissioners decided to stop providing emergency contraception to county patients, concerns rooted in anti-abortion politics trumped scientific facts and testimony provided by the county’s medical chief, according to documents obtained by The Colorado Independent.

Board meeting minutes from the summer of 2010 detail how members led by Commissioner William Garcia were concerned that the popular “Plan B” contraception drugs dispensed at the county’s low-income Title X family-planning clinics prevented pregnancy by destroying fertilized eggs, or inducing abortions, as they put it. Garcia cited reports he found on the Internet to bolster his case and, echoing rhetoric made popular over the last four years by abortion opponents battling health-care reform, he said the board should eliminate Plan B from the county’s services because the law of the land bars tax funding for abortions.

Same old crap…yes? “Reports on the internet.”

Dr. Mark Wallace, who directs the county’s health department, explained to commissioners on at least three separate occasions that summer that Plan B contraception can not abort a fertilized egg. He recommended Weld County continue to dispense Plan B, and he objected to Garcia’s proposal to include any language in the county’s Title X contract that would suggest Plan B was an abortion drug.

“Dr Wallace stated he has a strong professional opinion that Plan B does not disrupt established pregnancies,” the record of the July 12 meeting reads (pdf). “[Wallace] stated the language placed in the agreement regarding Plan B should be medically accurate and should not refer to [PlanB] as an abortive agent.”

Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer–the only woman on the five-member board–was concerned that Garcia’s proposals would put funding at risk and bring popular county family-planning services to an end.

Here it comes…

An anti-abortion Republican, Kirkmeyer was sympathetic to her colleagues’ concerns, but she felt the research cited to support Garcia’s proposals was unproven.

“Plan B is basically a high-dose birth control pill,” she argued, according to the minutes from a May 24 meeting (pdf). “Why is there concern with [Plan B] and not standard forms [of birth control]?

“A lot of women have and will benefit from this type of counseling,” she said.

Despite Wallace’s testimony and initial pushback from Commissioner Kirkmeyer, Garcia’s motion carried unanimously. After roughly a decade providing emergency contraception, Weld County’s clinics stopped dispensing Plan B pills. Conservative Weld and El Paso are the only two counties in Colorado where official policy is to not offer Plan B. Instead, the counties refer patients asking for emergency contraception to other low-cost providers, mainly to Planned Parenthood.

Then the next step is to defund Planned Parenthood, as they have in Texas.

MoJo has an article about the mass shootings of late, What We Still Don’t Know About Mass Shootings

Late last week Megan McArdle of the Daily Beast posted an online interview she did with criminologist James Alan Fox, in part taking issue with our mass shootings investigation at Mother Jones. I was glad to see McArdle continue the conversation with Fox; as he and I agreed in a recent exchange, mass shootings deserve continuing inquiry.

Give that a read.

A new study is out, Mentally Ill Smoke 30% of All Cigarettes.

Federal survey results indicate that smoking intensities as well as smoking rates are dramatically higher in the mentally ill compared with other Americans, officials said Tuesday.

A joint “Vital Signs” report from the CDC and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) indicated that, among adults who reported symptoms consistent with a recognized mental illness, 36.1% were current smokers, compared with 21.4% of the rest of the population.

The report, based on data from the 2009-2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, also found that 30.9% of all cigarettes consumed in the U.S. were smoked by the mentally ill. In part, this disproportion reflects heavier smoking in the mentally ill, with an average of 331 cigarettes per month compared with 310 in the rest of the smoking population.

Individuals classified as mentally ill in the study represented 19.9% of the sample surveyed after weighing to reflect the general population’s demographics.

I wonder if the subject of this next and last article link would be able to smell a smoker from 100 feet. Evidence moles can smell in stereo

Most mammals, including humans, see in stereo and hear in stereo. But whether they can also smell in stereo is the subject of a long-standing scientific controversy.

Now, a new study shows definitively that the common mole (Scalopus aquaticus) – the same critter that disrupts the lawns and gardens of homeowners throughout the eastern United States, Canada and Mexico – relies on stereo sniffing to locate its prey. The paper that describes this research, “Stereo and Serial Sniffing Guide Navigation to an Odor Source in a Mammals,” was published on Feb. 5 in the journal Nature Communications.

“I came at this as a skeptic. I thought the moles’ nostrils were too close together to effectively detect odor gradients,” said Kenneth Catania, the Stevenson Professor of Biological Sciences at Vanderbilt University, who conducted the research.

What he found turned his assumptions upside down and opened new areas for potential future research. “The fact that moles use stereo odor cues to locate food suggests other mammals that rely heavily on their sense of smell, like dogs and pigs might also have this ability,” Catania said.

Catania describes how he did it…

He created a radial arena with food wells spaced around a 180-degree circle with the entrance for the mole located at the center. He then ran a number of trials with the food (pieces of earthworm) placed randomly in different wells. The chamber was temporarily sealed so he could detect each time the mole sniffed by the change in air pressure.

“It was amazing. They found the food in less than five seconds and went directly to the right food well almost every time,” Catania said. “They have a hyper-sensitive sense of smell.”

That is a good start for this Wednesday morning, what are you up to today?

47 Comments on “Wednesday Reads: China, North Korea, France and Solomon Islands”

  1. Morning, latest on earthquake in Solomon Islands:

    Tsunami Causes Deaths and Damages Homes on Solomon Islands –

    The low-lying Solomon Islands, however, were not spared. At least 100 homes in the community of Lata were destroyed by a surge of water, according to World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization. Water and electricity also remain down in the township, which is the capital of the Solomon Islands’ Temoto Province.

    Government officials said that in addition to the four confirmed deaths in the islands, there were unconfirmed reports that some people in fishing boats were swept out to sea.

    Tsunami strikes Solomon Islands; 5 reported dead

    • RalphB says:

      In Lata, they got about a 4 foot wave. Just imagine the damage from a large one. Rising sea levels are gonna wipe them out, unless we tackle climate change now or maybe anyway.

  2. bostonboomer says:

    Interesting stuff today. I need to take a closer look at that smoking study. I’d like to see how they defined “mentally ill.” I wonder if they are including alcoholics and drug addicts in that category?

    • RalphB says:

      I’m betting they are.

      • bostonboomer says:

        If so, that could be a confound, because people who have a tendency to addiction would be different from people with other types of disorders.

      • RalphB says:

        I’ve known some recovering addicts to also smoke like crazy for a period of time. I think that would throw it off a lot.

    • Fannie says:

      I have been to Napa State Hospital…………..visiting. I really felt uptight walking around, and at that time I was a smoker. I remember walking up and offering a group of patients smokes, and yes that did it, everybody was talking to me, and answering my questions…………I don’t smoke now, but I’ll never forget that.

      • hyperjoy says:

        Everyone in a mental hospital is a nervous wreck wondering what’s going to happen next and so they smoke in an attempt to ease it some. I was in one for a brief period of time many years ago, so I know. I quit smoking in 1999 and finally got off the nicotine gum early last year.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Everyone in AA used to smoke constantly. I haven’t been to a meeting for many years, so I don’t know if it’s still the case. I couldn’t stand it.

  3. bostonboomer says:

    We are preparing for a blockbuster snowstorm in the Northeast on Friday and Saturday. Amounts are’t definite yet, but it looks like I could end up with a foot of snow or more and Pat J. would get even more.

  4. bostonboomer says:

    Post Office will cut Saturday deliveries starting in August.

    I’m sure Congress doesn’t realize this, but their war on the Post Office is going to really hurt the economy. People like me who sell books on-line will be hurting and so will mail order businesses.

  5. hyperjoy says:

    Not deliver packages, disburse. Sorry.

    • bostonboomer says:

      The problem is that no Sat. deliveries will mean layoffs, and the CBO study already showed that the mail would get backed up and deliveries would slow down if they cut all those employees.

  6. RalphB says:

    USAToday: Ex-House members spend campaign money after they depart

    Florida Republican Allen West, for instance, spent more than $17 million in his unsuccessful bid for a second House term, but he had enough leftover campaign cash to donate a combined $500,000 to two foundations, including the Allen West Foundation.
    West, a Tea Party favorite known for his fiery rhetoric and prodigious fundraising, has among the biggest leftover campaign war chests. He ended the year with a stockpile of more than $900,000 – even after donating $500,000 to the new groups Dec. 28.

    The Allen West Foundation and American Legacy Guardians each received $250,000.The organizations share a post office box in Boca Raton, Fla., according to campaign filings.

    In an interview, West declined to describe the groups’ missions or whom they would employ. “That will be coming out later this month,” he said.

    Asked why he used campaign money, West said, “It’s something that’s been done before.”

    Of course, they can’t just point to West as a crook. They have to balance it out with Norm Dicks donating $25K to his alma mater and some other small change items because “everybody does it”.

  7. bostonboomer says:

    Facebook and Instagram locking users’ accounts and demanding to see their driver’s license or passport if they want access. WTF?!

    • janicen says:

      That has to be a hack. There are tens of thousands of people who play online facebook games and will set up additional accounts so that they can manipulate two or more game players at the same time. If facebook started insisting that there be one real person per account, their membership would be cut in half. If anyone gets that message I would strongly recommend people report it to facebook and do not scan any photo ID online. EVER.

      • bostonboomer says:

        I would have been suspicious, but TPM is pretty reliable, plus they have a screenshot from Instagram.

        TPM itself has received a number of emails and communications from users reporting that they have been abruptly locked out of their accounts and asked to provide photos of their IDs.

        TPM checked with Facebook and Instagram directly.

        As it turns out, the requests are official and are being done by Instagram and Facebook in response to suspected violations of the two social networks’ distinct terms of service.

        “This is just a general practice for both Facebook and Instagram to request photo IDs for verification purposes depending on what type of violation may have occurred,” a spokesperson for Facebook told TPM. “Unfortunately, I can’t share more with you beyond that as we don’t go into details beyond that.”

        Facebook declined to state exactly why a number of users would collectively receive notifications to provide government issued IDs this week or what specific violations of terms prompted the notifications.

        Back in February 2012, well prior to its acquisition of Instagram in April that year, Facebook confirmed that it had begun asking some users to provide government issued photo IDs, but at that time, a Facebook PR rep told TPM that the company was only “testing this process right now with people who have a large number of subscribers,” and would “iterate based on the feedback we receive.”

        That iteration seems to have extended the online ID checks to people even with relatively small numbers of Friends and followers, as one user who emailed TPM to complain only reported having about 200.

        Facebook’s own spokesperson told TPM the government-issued ID checks were only being done “if we have reason to believe the person is potentially in violation of the Terms,” irrespective of a user’s number of followers and Friends.

        The new round of prompts for IDs came shortly after Instagram updated its terms of service and privacy policy on January 19, changing the language of these documents slightly but meaningfully, giving Instagram more discretion to advertise around user content and to manage its network. A previously proposed change that would have allowed Instagram to display a user’s identity, content or account in conjunction with advertising products was scrapped after a vocal outcry from some users.

    • janicen says:

      Wow. I can’t believe anyone would go along with that. I hope they don’t ask me because that would be the end of my facebook page. I’d have to jump over to tumblr where people in my daughter’s generation hang out! She’ll love that! 🙂

  8. RalphB says:

    National Journal: Bob Menendez Spent Up to 87 Percent of Wealth Paying Back Donor

    When Robert Menendez arrived in the U.S. Senate in 2006, he was a relative pauper in a chamber often called a millionaires’ club. The New Jersey Democrat ranked 97th out of 100 senators in terms of his personal wealth, according to financial records filed that year and compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

    So Menendez’s decision last month to use his personal funds to reimburse a prominent political contributor $58,500 for two flights to the Dominican Republic came at a major cost. The repayment amounts to between 32 percent and 87 percent of the assets Menendez reported holding in bank accounts and stock, according to his latest financial-disclosure form, which was filed last year.

    If you think the press isn’t after Bob Menendez, just take a look at this article. He’s not rich enough to pay $58K back comfortably, so it adds to the suspicions and thus his scandal.

  9. RalphB says:

    Duncan Black in USA Today. Great column!!!

    401Ks are a disaster

    Recent and near-retirees, the first major cohort of the 401(k) era, do not have nearly enough in retirement savings to even come close to maintaining their current lifestyles.

    We need an across the board increase in Social Security retirement benefits of 20% or more. We need it to happen right now, even if that means raising taxes on high incomes or removing the salary cap in Social Security taxes.

    • RalphB says:



      The CBO has announced that they predict that Teh Deficit is falling! Everybody cheer!!!

      Also, too, unemployment will remain above 7.5% all year.

      Only dirty hippie bloggers on the internetz will point out that these things are actually related.

      Contractionary policy is contractionary.

  10. bostonboomer says:

    Catholic laundries enslaved women and girls as recently as 1996.

    After more than seven decades of exploitation and a 10-year struggle for justice, Ireland on Tuesday admitted its role in the enslavement of thousands of women and girls in the notorious Magdalene Laundry system, but stopped short of issuing a formal apology from the government.

    A long-awaited report headed by Senator Martin McAleese said there was “significant state involvement” in how the laundries were run – a reversal of the official state line for years, which insisted the institutions were privately controlled and run by nuns.


    Labelled the “Maggies”, the women and girls were stripped of their names and dumped in Irish Catholic church-run laundries where nuns treated them as slaves, simply because they were unmarried mothers, orphans or regarded as somehow morally wayward.

    Over 74 years, 30,000 women were put to work in de facto detention, mostly in laundries run by nuns. At least 988 of the women who were buried in laundry grounds are thought to have spent most of their lives inside the institutions.

    • RalphB says:

      OMG, that’s horrible. Between this and their awful anti-choice position, I have no respect left for them at all!

    • RalphB says:

      The inquiry into the Magdalene scandal was prompted by a report from the UN Committee Against Torture in June 2011. It called for prosecutions where necessary and compensation to surviving women.

      The Irish government is still trying to weasel out of their responsibilities. Damn them!

  11. RalphB says:

    It turns out Sam Brownback is a big spender after all, on himself.

    Charles Pierce: This Is The Matter With Kansas

    Well, Sam may be busy shredding the safety net, and balancing the budget on the backs of the poor, and inviting corporations to come to Kansas and leave nothing behind but the bones, but when it comes to public money, it turns out that, when it comes to the public purse, Sam may be something of a whited sepulcher. …

  12. bostonboomer says:

    CNN is really scraping the bottom of the barrel now. They hired Dick Morris.

  13. janicen says:

    This is interesting. Some colleges and universities are puffing up their stats in order to get a higher ranking in the USNews annual list of colleges.

  14. dakinikat says:

    Speaking of UN Human Rights audits:

    This is from the site Jews for Justice for Palestinians. The story comes from the Tel Aviv News paper.

    Israel has become the first country to refuse a request to appear before the United Nations Human Rights Council for review.