Is it too late to notice that our consumerist society is a lot like a swarm of parasitic insects clinging to the belly of a rapidly dying host? What are we to do when so many wealthy individuals prey on the superstitions and ignorance and greed of our fellow citizens to ensure their wealth grows while our planet dies? They convince us we need more than we do, underpay us, entice us with loans and plastic, then ship themselves off to pristine virgin island bank havens while we are surrounded by the chemicals, the death, and disasters that hyper-consumerism has wrought.
How can you possibly deny what we are doing to our home? Here are the top five items from a ‘terrifying” report presented over the weekend..
The impacts of climate change are likely to be “severe, pervasive, and irreversible,” the chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said Sunday night in Yokohama, Japan, as the world’s leading climate experts released a new survey of how our planet is likely to change in the near future, and what we can do about it.
Here’s what you need to know:
We’re already feeling the impacts of climate change. Glaciers are already shrinking, changing the courses of rivers and altering water supplies downstream. Species from grizzly bears to flowers have shifted their ranges and behavior. Wheat and maize yields may have dropped. But as climate impacts become more common and tangible, they’re being matched by an increasing global effort to learn how to live with them: The number of scientific studies on climate change impacts, vulnerability, and adaptation more than doubled between 2005, before the previous IPCC report, and 2010. Scientists and policymakers are “learning through doing, and evaluating what you’ve done,” said report contributor Kirstin Dow, a climate policy researcher at the University of South Carolina. “That’s one of the most important lessons to come out of here.”
Heat waves and wildfires are major threats in North America. Europe faces freshwater shortages, and Asia can expect more severe flooding from extreme storms. In North America, major threats include heat waves and wildfires, which can cause death and damage to ecosystems and property. The report names athletes and outdoor workers as particularly at risk from heat-related illnesses. As the graphic below shows, coastal flooding is also a key concern.
Globally, food sources will become unpredictable, even as population booms.Especially in poor countries, diminished crop production will likely lead to increased malnutrition, which already affects nearly 900 million people worldwide. Some of the world’s most important staples—maize, wheat, and rice—are at risk. The ocean will also be a less reliable source of food, with important fish resources in the tropics either moving north or going extinct, while ocean acidification eats away at shelled critters (like oysters) and coral. Shrinking supplies and rising prices will cause food insecurity, which canexacerbate preexisting social tensions and lead to conflict.
Coastal communities will increasingly get hammered by flooding and erosion. Tides are already rising in the US and around the world. As polar ice continues to melt and warm water expands, sea level rise will expose major metropolitan areas, military installations, farming regions, small island nations, and other ocean-side places to increased damage from hurricanes and other extreme storms. Sea level rise brings with it risks of “death, injury, ill-health, or disrupted livelihoods,” the report says.
We’ll see an increase in climate refugees and, possibly, climate-related violence.The report warns that both extreme weather events and longer-term changes in climate can lead to the displacement of vulnerable populations, especially in developing parts of the world. Climate change might also “indirectly increase” the risks of civil wars and international conflicts by exacerbating poverty and competition for resources.
There have been so many disasters just recently that it’s hard to keep track. You can see our handprints on many of them. Has the policy of clear cutting timber created situations like the Washington State mudslide? Many scientists and environmentalists say yes.
As rescue workers, specially trained dogs, and heavy equipment move carefully through the area, longstanding questions are being raised about logging there and how it might have contributed to the slide.
The hillside in and around the slide area, which slopes steeply down toward the river, has seen much clear-cut logging over the years. Much of the forest there is second- and third-growth timber, replanted or regenerating naturally after earlier cuts.
Concern over logging’s impact has involved environmentalists and native American tribes. Large, old-growth trees take up more water than younger stands, which can take decades to mature and may be cut down before they reach full maturity. The demand for lumber, plywood, paper, and other wood products is part of an industry that once dominated Washington State and Oregon.
The Tulalip Tribes were so concerned with landslides hitting the Stillaguamish River and its prime salmon habitat that they blocked a proposed timber sale above an earlier slide in 1988.
“There were some very large clear-cuts planned for that area, which made us very concerned,” Kurt Nelson, a hydrologist with the tribes, told KUOW, the NPR affiliate at the University of Washington in Seattle.
“That reach of the North Fork has multiple, ancient, deep-seated landslides,” Mr. Nelson said. “There’s a lot of unstable terrain in that area.”
Landslides have followed logging in that area at least four times, KUOW reported.
“There was cutting in the 1940s; it failed in the ’50s. There was cutting in 1960, then it failed in the mid-’60s. There was cutting in ’88; it failed in ’91. There was cutting in 2005, and it failed in 2006 and in 2014,” said geomorphologist Paul Kennard, who worked for the Tulalip Tribes in the 1980s and now works for the National Park Service at Mt. Rainier.
“This had been known at least since the ’50s as one of the more problematic areas on the Stillaguamish for perennial landsliding,” Mr. Kennard said.
Although state logging regulations have been tightened in recent years, The Seattle Times reports that a clear-cut nine years ago “appears to have strayed into a restricted area that could feed groundwater into the landslide zone that collapsed Saturday.”
An analysis of government geographical data and maps suggests that a logging company “cut as much as 350 feet past a state boundary that was created because of landslide risks,” the newspaper reported.
This is an area above the most recent slide. Scientists and officials are investigating whether that clear-cut could have contributed to the current disaster.
Scientists tell us that mudslides are inevitable when you treat these mountains as we do and we fail to recognize that some places just aren’t meant for human habitation. However, tell that to the developers.
Almost 25 years ago, I went into one of the headwater streams of the Stillaguamish with Pat Stevenson, a biologist with the American Indian tribe that bears the same name as the river and claims an ancient link to that land. The rain was Noah-level that day — just as it’s been for most of this March.
We drove upriver, winding along the drainage of Deer Creek, one of the main tributaries of the Stillaguamish. We couldn’t see Whitehorse Mountain, the dreamy peak that towers over the valley, that day. We could barely see beyond our windshield wipers. At last, we arrived at an open wound near road’s end. I’d never witnessed anything like it: an active slide, sloughing mud and clay down into the formerly pristine creek. We watched huge sections of land peel and puddle — an ugly and terrifying new landscape under creation before our eyes.
Stevenson pointed uphill, to bare, saturated earth that was melting, like candle wax, into the main mudslide. Not long ago, this had been a thick forest of old growth timber. But after it was excessively logged, every standing tree removed, there was nothing to hold the land in place during heavy rains. A federal survey determined that nearly 50 percent of the entire basin above Deer Creek had been logged over a 30-year period. It didn’t take a degree in forestry to see how one event led to the other.
The Stilly, as locals call the river, is well known to those who chase fish with a fly rod, and to native people who have been living off its bounty for centuries. Zane Grey, the Western novelist, called it the finest fishing river in the world for steelhead, the big seagoing trout that can grow to 40 pounds. What Stevenson showed me that day in a November storm was how one human activity, logging, was destroying the source of joy and sustenance for others. When the crack and groan of an entire hillside in collapse happened a week ago Saturday, I thought instantly of Stevenson and that gloomy day at Deer Creek.
And, sure enough, logging above the area of the current landslide appears to have gone beyond the legal limits, into the area that slid, according to a report in The Seattle Times.
Meanwhile, the latest oil spill disasters take their toll in both the North and South of this Country. There are still long lasting effects in Alaska and in the Gulf of those giant oil spoils. But, even Galveston Bay shows sign of permanent damage from its latest brush with deadly oil that’s no where near the size of those other two. It’s getting to be that no one’s back yard is safe.
Authorities in charge of the cleanup from last week’s Houston Ship Channel oil spill say they’re responding to reports of oil near North Padre Island and Mustang Island, some 200 miles southwest of the original accident.
The command center for the cleanup reports Sunday that oil sightings were made earlier in the day by crews aboard flights being conducted by the Texas General Land Office and the U.S. Coast Guard.
Some tar balls — from dime-size to about 6 inches — have been spotted in seaweed patches along Mustang Island’s J.P. Luby Beach but it’s not certain if they are related to the spill a week ago between Galveston and Texas City.
The spill endangers wildlife nearby. There is a bird refuge that is in a particularly precarious location. That was also the clean side of the Gulf where you could still trust the fish and the seafood.
The spill, which dumped what one Texas official referred to as “sticky, gooey, thick, tarry” oil that doesn’t evaporate quickly into Galveston Bay, occurred about eight miles from the Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary, which attracts 50,000 to 70,000 shorebirds each year. March is right around spring migration for many species of birds, and other birds are still wintering at Bolivar Flats, so tens of thousands of birds are living at the sanctuary, which is designated a Globally Significant Important Bird Area. Cleanup crews are using cannon booms to try to deter birds away from oiled beaches, and so far, oil hasn’t washed up on Bolivar Flats, but birds that have come in contact with oil in the water or on other beaches have been landing there.
Houston Audubon Society volunteers have been tracking the oiled birds they see at Bolivar, and Jessica Jubin, development director at the Houston Audubon Society, told ThinkProgress that the group was “definitely seeing more” oiled birds now than when they first started the day after the spill. She said on Monday, volunteers cataloged 40 to 50 oiled birds at one spot at Bolivar Flats, and on Tuesday, they counted about 100 at the same site. On Wednesday, she said, the number increased to about 140, with most birds ranging from just a few spots of oil on them to half covered in oil.
It’s the shorebirds and seabirds that are most at risk of becoming oiled from the spill, Jubin said.
“Like pelicans, for example — I don’t know if you’ve ever watched them fish, but they will soar in the sky and then spot something down below and then dart right into the water, and that’s how they get so much oil on them,” she said. “They can’t distinguish whether or not the oil is there, and they don’t know how to react to it.”
Mike Cox, spokesperson at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, told ThinkProgress the agency has so far collected 45 oiled birds in the Galveston area, with 19 birds in rehabilitation and 26 that were found dead. Jubin said Audubon was reporting birds they saw to Texas Parks and Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but she worries about the movement of the oil. If it drifts too far south or west, it could end up in important habitat for endangered whooping cranes. Already, the oil has reached the ecologically-sensitive Matagorda Island, soiling at least 12 miles of the barrier island’s pristine beaches. So far, however, the Parks and Wildlife Department hasn’t received reports of oiled wildlife from Matagorda Island, Cox said, and crews were working to put up booms to keep the oil from getting into Matagorda Bay.
But birds aren’t the only wildlife at risk from the oil spill. As the Texas Tribune reports, marine scientists are worried that the spill could result in long-term health effects on Texas marine life. The thick fuel oil that spilled Saturday is persistent, so marine species could be even more at risk from oil-related defects like irregular heart rhythm and cardiac arrest than they were from the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Shrimp are a major part of the Galveston Bay fishing industry, and they’re also among the species most vulnerable to the oil spill — if their marshy homes are polluted with oil, they may not survive.
That, of course, doesn’t include the danger to the people and the clean up workers.
In 1790, a freed slave named Jim Moss found a place to settle down on a bend in the Houston River in the bayous of southwest Louisiana. Although never formally incorporated, the village of Mossville became one of the first settlements of free blacks in the South, predating the formal establishment of Calcasieu Parish by 50 years. But over the last half century, Mossville was surrounded. More than a dozen industrial plants now encircle the community of 500 residents, making it quite possibly the most polluted corner of the most polluted region in one of the most polluted states in the country. Now, a proposal to build the largest chemical plant of its kind in the Western Hemisphere would all but wipe Mossville off the map.
The project, spearheaded by the South African chemical giant SASOL, will cost as much as $21 billion, but stands to benefit from more than $2 billion in incentives (including $115 million in direct funding) from the cash-strapped state budget. It has the backing of Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, considered a likely 2016 presidential candidate, who traveled to the outskirts of Lake Charles for the official announcement of the plan in 2012. The state thinks it’s an economic slam dunk. One study from Louisiana State University projected that it would have a total economic impact of $46.2 billion. It is the largest industrial project in the history of Louisiana. And after a community meeting on Tuesday, it’s one step closer to realization.
But that massive plant will come with a steep environmental price. It will produce more greenhouse gases than any other facility in the state. And the project will almost certainly spell the end for the 224-year-old settlement of Mossville, a poor enclave that has been forced to play host to industrial facilities no one else wanted in their backyard.
An analysis conducted by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) in February determined that the new project “will result in significant net emissions increases” of greenhouse gases, promethium, sulfur oxide, nitric oxide, and carbon monoxide. By its calculations, the plant will spew out more than 10 million cubic tons of greenhouse gases per year. (By contrast, the Exxon-Mobil refinery outside Baton Rouge, a sprawling complex that’s250 times the size of the New Orleans Superdome, emits 6.6 million tons.)
It’s beginning to feel a lot like we’re trapped between a future envisioned in the “Blade Runner” and that envisioned in Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale”. Either way, the outcome will be sponsored by the likes of the Koch brothers and we will soon discover the fresh hells they’ve created for us. The dominionists and the capitalists join together to force their earth and its people into submission.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Southern California has been hit with a “5.1 magnitude earthquake” and “more than 100 aftershocks,” causing “relatively minor damage” according to the LA Times:
Most of the aftershocks have been small, but some were strong enough to be felt in the areas around the epicenter in northwestern Orange County…. Fullerton police said early Saturday that as many as 50 people had been displaced by the quake. Several buildings are being investigated for possible structural damage, including some apartment buildings. The quake, centered near La Habra, caused furniture to tumble, pictures to fall off walls and glass to break. Merchandise fell off store shelves, and there were reports of shattered plate glass windows. Residents across Orange and Los Angeles counties and the Inland Empire reported swinging chandeliers, fireplaces dislodging from walls and lots of rattled nerves.
The quake also caused a rock slide that damaged a car as well as numerous water main breaks.
Third-grade teacher Barbara Castillo and her 7-year-old son had just calmed their nerves after an earlier 3.6 temblor and sat down in their La Habra home when their dogs started barking and the second, larger quake struck, causing cabinet doors to swing open, objects to fall off shelves and lights to flicker. “It just would not stop, it was like an eternity,” said Castillo, an 18-year La Habra resident.
The search for missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 continues,
with various objects being reported by searchers, but this latest report from CNN is just nuts, Malaysia official: Maybe, just maybe, they’re alive.
Earlier this week, loved ones of those aboard missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 heard this: “All lives are lost.”
But Saturday, a Malaysian official met with relatives and then told reporters he had not closed the door on the possibility that survivors may exist among the 239 people aboard the Boeing 777-200 ER that went missing March 8.
“Even hoping against hope, no matter how remote, of course we are praying and we will continue our search for the possible survivors,” said Hishammuddin Hussein, Malaysia’s acting transportation minister.
“More than that, I told the families I cannot give them false hope. The best we can do is pray and that we must be sensitive to them that, as long as there is even a remote chance of a survivor, we will pray and do whatever it takes.”
How cruel can you get? In China relatives were alleging some kind of conspiracy.
“They’re all still alive, my son and everyone on board!” yelled Wen Wancheng, 63, whose only son was among the passengers. “The plane is still there too! They’re hiding it.”
He held aloft a banner that read: “Son, mom and dad’s hearts are torn to pieces. Come home soon!”
I can’t even begin to imagine the torture those people are going through. To give them false hope is incredibly irresponsible.
Please don’t skip over this brief but must-read piece on the ongoing scandal involving the US nuclear arsenal.
The Daily Beast: Cleaning House at Nuke Command Raises Bigger Issues.
Nine Air Force officers were fired Thursday and dozens more disciplined for their roles in a cheating scandal involving airmen in charge of the nuclear weapons arsenal. But one source familiar with the Air Force program told The Daily Beast that the punishments handed out were more show than substance, and that problems in the nuclear program go far deeper than what has been addressed so far. According to a retired senior Air Force officer familiar with the Global Strike Command (the headquarters responsible for the Air Force nuclear arsenal), who spoke with The Daily Beast on the condition of anonymity, the punishments issued yesterday at the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana were a good show, but wouldn’t affect much substantive reform. “This issue needs leadership,” he said. “You’ve had two stars and three stars [general officers] running the reorganized nuclear enterprise of the U.S. Air Force who have been unable to raise morale, transform the culture and forestall this very type of thing.”
Read the rest at the link. I can’t understand why this scandal isn’t getting more attention. We’re talking about the people who are responsible for our nuclear weapons!
I have several articles on the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.
There have been reports in the past few days that Russian troops are gathering on the Ukraine border and medical and food stations are being set up. From The Wall Street Journal: Russian Buildup Stokes Worries; Pentagon Alarmed as Troops Mass Near Ukraine Border.
Russian troops massing near Ukraine are actively concealing their positions and establishing supply lines that could be used in a prolonged deployment, ratcheting up concerns that Moscow is preparing for another major incursion and not conducting exercises as it claims, U.S. officials said. Such an incursion could take place without warning because Russia has already deployed the array of military forces needed for such an operation, say officials briefed on the latest U.S. intelligence. (Follow the latest developments on the crisis in Ukraine.) The rapid speed of the Russian military buildup and efforts to camouflage the forces and equipment have stoked U.S. fears, in part because American intelligence agencies have struggled to assess Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s specific intentions. The troop movements and the concealment—involving covering up equipment along the border—suggest Mr. Putin is positioning forces in the event he decides to quickly expand his takeover of the Crimea peninsula by seizing more Ukrainian territory, despite Western threats of tighter sanctions.
On the other hand, Russian officials are publicly denying any plans to invade Ukraine and Russian President Vladimir Putin called President Obama yesterday, supposedly to discuss diplomatic options. But can Putin be trusted? What would an invasion of Ukraine look like? Although, he suspects it won’t happen, Mark Galeotti at Business Insider provides an answer to that question.
In brief, the aim would be a blitzkrieg that, before Ukraine has the chance properly to muster its forces and, perhaps more to the point, the West can meaningfully react, allows the Russians to draw a new front line and assert their own ground truth, much as happened in Crimea (though this would be much more bloody and contested). This would not be a bid to conquer the whole country (the real question is whether they’d seek to push as far as Odessa, taking more risks and extending their supply lines, but also essentially depriving Ukraine of a coastline) but instead quickly to take those areas where there are potentially supportive local political elites and Russophone populations, and consequently pretexts (however flimsy) to portray invasion as ‘liberation.’
He goes on to explain in further detail, and it’s well worth reading. Here a few longer think pieces on Obama’s and Putin’s goals in the Ukraine crisis. Check them out if you have the time and inclination. Fareed Zakaria: Obama’s 21st-century power politics Mosaic: It’s Not Just Ukraine The Guardian: How Vladimir Putin’s actions in Crimea changed the world
In domestic political news . . .
Gallup reports some good news for Democrats: Young Americans’ Affinity for Democratic Party Has Grown.
From 1993 to 2003, 47% of 18- to 29-year-olds, on average, identified as Democrats or said they were independents but leaned to the Democratic Party, while 42% were Republicans or Republican leaners. That time span included two years in which young adults tilted Republican, 1994 and 1995, when Republicans won control of Congress. Since 2006, the average gap in favor of the Democratic Party among young adults has been 18 percentage points, 54% to 36%. This Democratic movement among the young has come at a time when senior citizens have become more Republican. The broader U.S. population has shown more variability in its party preferences in recent years, shifting Democratic from 2005 to 2008, moving back toward the Republican Party from 2009 to 2011, and showing modest Democratic preferences in the last two years. A major reason young adults are increasingly likely to prefer the Democratic Party is that today’s young adults are more racially and ethnically diverse than young adults of the past. U.S. political preferences are sharply divided by race, with nonwhite Americans of all ages overwhelmingly identifying as Democrats or leaning Democratic.
In Texas, Greg Abbot is still acting like a complete idiot. From Think Progress: Sidestepping Equal Pay Attacks, Greg Abbott Tries To Accuse Wendy Davis Of Gender Discrimination. Huh?
Texas gubernatorial candidate and Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) faces continued tough scrutiny over his campaign’s position against equal pay for women. His campaign has twice justified the gender wage gap and implied he would veto an equal pay bill that makes it easier for women to sue. Instead of addressing the criticism directly, Abbott has chosen to fire back accusations that Wendy Davis, his opponent in the gubernatorial race, is “defending gender discrimination.” Over the last week, the Abbott campaign has posted Facebook ads that call Davis a hypocrite on the gender wage gap, linking to a petition on his site that describes a client Davis once reportedly defended:
Sen. Wendy Davis continues to launch attacks over equal pay while shielding her own record of defending gender discrimination. And while on the Fort Worth City Council, Sen. Davis approved funds to defend a former city employee with a “legs and lipstick” policy.
Here, Abbott is referring to a routine vote Davis cast as a city council member that granted legal counsel funds to a Fort Worth employer sued for harassment and discrimination.
Why on earth would anyone vote for this man? The media has been taking note of the sexist attacks on Chris Christie’s former aide Bridget Kelley. Amy Davidson has a summary at The New Yorker: Chris Christie, Surrounded by Emotional Liars? Check it out if you can. This might be a good sign for better reporting in the New York Times Magazine. Jake Silverstein editor-in-chief of Texas Monthly has been hired to revamp the stagnant NYT Sunday magazine.
Under Mr. Silverstein, Texas Monthly has been nominated for 12 National Magazine Awards and won four, including the general excellence prize.
In an interview on his new role at The Times Magazine, Mr. Silverstein said, “I think this is a remarkable moment for the magazine to commit to the kind of long-form impactful journalism that has made the magazine one of the most influential publications throughout its history.”
Mr. Silverstein, 38, holds an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Texas at Austin and became editor of Texas Monthly in 2008. He is only the fourth editor of that magazine, which published its first issue in February 1973.
In the Boston bombing trial . . .
Accused Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s attorneys have requested records of any FBI contacts with Dzhokhar’s older brother Tamerlan and any FISA court ordered surveillance of the Tsarnaev brothers. From the Boston Globe: FBI pushed elder Tsarnaev to be informer, lawyers assert.
Lawyers for accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev asserted Friday that his older brother and alleged accomplice had been encouraged by the FBI to be an informant and to report on the Chechen and Muslim community, according to court records. “We seek this information based on our belief that these contacts were among the precipitating events for Tamerlan’s actions during the week of April 15, 2013, and thus material to the defense case in mitigation,” the lawyers said in their court filing. “We base this on information from our client’s family and other sources that the FBI made more than one visit to talk with Anzor [his father], Zubeidat [his mother] and Tamerlan, questioned Tamerlan about his Internet searches, and asked him to be an informant, reporting on the Chechen and Muslim community
“We do not suggest that these contacts are to be blamed and have no evidence to suggest that they were improper, but rather view them as an important part of the story of Tamerlan’s decline. Since Tamerlan is dead, the government is the source of corroboration that these visits did in fact occur and of what was said during them.”The lawyers suggested that Tamerlan Tsarnaev could have misinterpreted his interactions with the FBI as pressure from the agency, and that they could have “increased his paranoia and distress.” The defense wants to investigate those factors as it seeks to portray Tamerlan as a dominating family figure who may have pushed the younger Dzhokhar to take part in the April 15 bombings last year. Tamerlan was killed days after the bombings in a confrontation with police in Watertown. Good luck with prying anything loose from the FBI.
So . . . what stories are you following today? Please post your recommended links in the comment thread, and have a terrific weekend!
Yeah…you know what day it is!!!!!!!!!!!!!
And on with the show…
The rest of today’s cartoons in random order…
The distinction of liberal or conservative often hinges on the association with the word “hypocrite.” To liberals, being a hypocrite is a mortal sin. There’s nothing worse than being accused of not living up to the standards you ascribe to. Hypocrite is a dirty word to call a liberal. It’s even worse than calling them “liberal.”
Take a look at that op/ed when you can.
This is an open thread.
The unbelievable number of arrests of public officials due to public corruption during the last week has been mind blowing. I thought I’d highlight a few of the goings on today.
First up, have they found the Smoking Gun in Cristie’s Bridge Scandal? Only time will tell, but, I really think it’s just a matter of time before he has to resign as Governor of New Jersey.
The Port Authority official who directed the shutdown of lanes to the George Washington Bridge said that he informed Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey about it at a Sept. 11 memorial ceremony while the lanes were closed, according to an internal review that lawyers for the governor released on Thursday.
The official, David Wildstein, who was a longtime political ally of the governor, told Mr. Christie’s press secretary, Michael Drewniak, of the conversation at a dinner in December, on the eve of his resignation from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, according to the inquiry.
But the report said that Mr. Christie did not recall Mr. Wildstein’s raising the topic during their interaction and, in a sweeping claim of vindication, found no evidence that he — or any current members of his staff — was involved in or aware of the scheme before it snarled traffic for thousands of commuters in Fort Lee, N.J., from Sept. 9 to the morning of Sept. 12.
The number of California Democrats in the state’s Senate chambers subject to arrest for public corruption is on the arise. This is another incredible example of a pig at the pubic trough. How on earth did this guy get elected in the first place?
If you thought the charges against Leland Yee would be bad, you had no idea. As in, he offered to set up an arms deal with Islamic rebels for $2 million in cash. As in, he has ties to a gangster namedShrimp Boy. As in, he makes corrupt state senator Clay Davis from The Wire look like George Washington. You can read the whole affidavit here, but it’s really, really long, so we’ve gone ahead and pulled out the highlights. The allegations (and for now they are only that—allegations) are cinematic, staggering, and remarkable in their scope. Here they are, in descending order ofsheeeeeeeeeeeit:
Yee told an FBI agent to give him a shopping list of guns: “Senator Yee asked [the agent] to provide an inventory list of desired weapons […] [The agent] told Yee he would deliver $2,000,000 cash.”
Yee could arrange from some serious firepower: “[The agent] asked about shoulder fired automatic weapons. Senator Yee responded by saying the automatic weapons are the equivalent to the “M16″ Automatic Service Weapon […] [The agent] asked about the availability of shoulder fire missiles or rockets. Senator Yee responded ‘I told him about the rockets and things like that.'”
Yee took personal responsibility for delivering the weapons: “Senator Yee said, ‘We’re interested’ in arranging the weapons deal […] and said of the arms dealer, ‘He’s going to rely on me, because ultimately it’s going to be me. [The agent] stated he would compensate Yee for brokering the relationship and arms deal.”
Yee was in it for the cash: “Senator Yee said, ‘Do I think we can make some money? I think we can make some money. Do I think we can get the good? I think we can get the goods.'”
Yee masterminded a complex scheme to import illegal weapons: “Keith Jackson [a political consultant who worked as Yee’s fundraiser] told [an agent] that Senator Yee had a contact who deals in arms trafficking. This purported arms dealer was later identified. Jackson requested [a campaign donation] on behalf of Senator Yee, for Senator Yee to facilitate a meeting with arms dealer with the intent of [the agent] to purportedly purchase a large number of weapons to be imported through the Port of Newark, New Jersey. During a meeting […] Senator Yee discussed certain details of the specific types of weapons [the agent] was interested in buying and importing.”
Yee had connection with Filipino rebel groups: “Keith Jackson advised that Senator Yee had an unidentified Filipino associate who was supplying ‘heavy’ weapons to rebel groups in the Philippines.”
Including Muslim terrorists: “According to Senator Yee, Mindanao was largely population by Muslim rebel groups who were fighting the federal government. Yee continued by saying the Muslim rebels had no problem ‘kidnapping individuals, killing individuals, and extorting them for ransom.”
In specific the Moro Islamic Liberation Front: “[The agent] asked about the major Muslim organizations in the Mindanao region of the Philippines. Senator Yee responded by saying ‘M.I.L.F.'”
Yee allegedly wasn’t making up the identity of his arms dealer: “This purported arms dealer was later identified.”
And, Russian arms dealers: “According to Senator Yee, the arms dealer source the weapons from Russia.”
Yee knew he was on the wrong side of the law: “Despite complaining about [the agent’s] tendency to speak frankly and tie payment to performance […] Senator Yee and Keith Jackson […] never walked away from quid pro quo requests.”
Yee took envelopes full of cash to influence marijuana policy: “The group discussed the status of medical marijuana policy and the politics of state marijuana regulation. [The agent] took an envelope containing $11,000 in cash and put it on the table in front of Yee and Jackson. [The agent] stated, “this is a campaign donation […] That’s for the meeting with [another, un-named State Senator]. [The agent] said his contributions were ‘not coming in the form of checks.’ The envelope remained on the table for the duration of the meeting […] As Yee and Jackson got up to leave, Yee made a gesture to Jackson toward the envelope of cash, but Jackson did not see the gesture. Senator Yee then walked over Jackson, tapped him on the back, again gestured to the enveloped, and said, ‘take that.” Jackson picked up the envelope.”
Yee nickled and dimed the FBI agent over the price of his bribe: “[The agent] told Senator Yee that he was paying for the meetings and handed en envelope with $10,000 cash to Jackson while telling Senator Yee that the playing field was now level […] [The agent] asked Senator Yee how much he would to introduce marijuana legislation. Senator Yee said that he would have to think about the number.”
The FBI got to Yee through a Chinatown gang: “During the course of multiple undercover operations, [an undercover agent] was brought into a criminal relationship with many of the targets. The purpose of this criminal relationship was for Chow [and others] to launder [the agent’s] money, purported to have been derived from illegal activities […] In further support of [the agent’s] legend, [he] portrayed himself to Chow and others as an east coast member of La Cosa Nostra, an Italian organized crime syndicate. Chow, as the Dragonhead, was the supervisor of the criminal relationship.”
Yee’s fundraiser Keith Jackson was the go-between man: “In addition to his relationship with Chow and the Chee Kung Tong, Jackson is also a close associate with, and has a long-time relationship with, Senator Yee. Keith Jackson owns and runs a business called ‘Jackson Consultancy,’ a San Francisco based consulting firm. During the time frame from at least May 2011 through the present, Keith Jackson has been involved in raising campaign funds for Senator Yee.”
Yee exceeded campaign contribution limits in his mayoral bid: “Keith Jackson solicited [an undercover agent] to make contributions to Senator Yee’s San Francisco mayoral campaign [including donations] in excess of the $500 individual donation limit. [The agent] declined […] but introduced Keith Jackson and Senator Yee to […] another undercover FBI agent. Keith Jackson and Senator Yee then solicited [the second agent] for campaign contributions, and [he] made at least one personal donation in the amount of $5,000 to Senator Yee’s mayoral campaign.”
Yee allegedly traded favors directly for campaign cash: “In connection with efforts to retire [his] mayoral campaign debt, Senator Yee and Keith Jackson agreed that Senator Yee would make a telephone call to a manager with the California Department of Public Health in support of a contract under consideration with [an undercover agent’s] purported client […] in exchange for a $10,000 campaign donation. Senator Yee made the call on October 18, 2012 […] On November 19, 2012, Keith Jackson accepted the $10,000 cash donation.”
Not just once, but twice: “Senator Yee and Keith Jackson agreed to [the agent’s] request that Senator Yee provide an official State Senate proclamation honoring the Chee Kung Tong in exchange for a $6,800 campaign donation, the maximum individual donation amount allowed by law.”
Not twice, but three times: “Senator Yee and Keith Jackson agreed that in exchange for campaign donations, Senator Yee would introduce a donor to state legislators who had influence over pending and proposed medical marijuana legislation […] The donor was another FBI undercover agent, who was posing as a businessman involved in medical marijuana in Arizona and wanted to expand his business interests to California. On June 20, 2013, Senator Yee made one such introduction [and the agent] delivered $11,000 cash to Senator Yee and Keith Jackson on June 22, 2013.”
Yee yearned for a different life: “Senator Yee stated he was unhappy with his life and said, ‘There is a part of me that wants to be like you […] Just be a free agent out there.” Senator Yee told [the agent] that he wanted to hide out in the Philippines.”
Meanwhile, the recently elected Mayor of Charlotte, NC has just resigned due to corruption charges. His charges correspond to his time on the City Council.
The mayor of Charlotte resigned Wednesday hours after his arrest on public corruption charges.
Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon is accused of accepting about $48,000 in bribes from undercover FBI agents posing as businessmen who wanted to do business in the city.
Cannon had been in office 114 days when he was arrested and charged Wednesday.
A spokesman for the city said Cannon submitted his letter Wednesday to the city manager and attorney. In his letter, Cannon said the pending charges will create too much of a distraction for the business of the city to go forward.
Cannon’s resignation is effective immediately, said City Manager Ron Carlee. Mayor Pro-tem Michael Barnes will serve as interim mayor until the City Council appoints a councilmember as the new mayor.
Cannon, 47, faces several charges including theft and bribery.
Cannon’s arrest followed an undercover investigation that began in August 2010. Authorities allege Cannon solicited and accepted cash from the agents who were posing as real estate developers and investors.
Cannon, a Charlotte native, allegedly accepted bribes in exchange for the privileges of his position as an elected official, whether as mayor, mayor pro-tem or a city council member.
If convicted of all charges, he faces 20 years in prison and more than $1 million in fines.
Cannon, a Democrat, was elected mayor in November, replacing Anthony Foxx, who was named Transportation Secretary by President Barack Obama.
The FBI said Cannon accepted money from agents on five separate occasions. The last was on Feb. 21, 2014. He is accused of accepting $20,000 in cash at the mayor’s office. The exchanges began in January 2013, according to the Department of Justice.
We insist that we are a democracy. How is this possible with so many rich people willing to bribe our public officials? How many billionaires are buying justice and our law making system? Former Clinton Secretary of Labor Robert Reich has been preaching to my choir about the recent binge of rent seeking billionaires and more than willing to accept the political pay off politicians.
But in using their vast wealth to change those rules and laws in order to fit their political views, the Koch brothers are undermining our democracy. That’s a betrayal of the most precious thing Americans share.
The Kochs exemplify a new reality that strikes at the heart of America. The vast wealth that has accumulated at the top of the American economy is not itself the problem. The problem is that political power tends to rise to where the money is. And this combination of great wealth with political power leads to greater and greater accumulations and concentrations of both — tilting the playing field in favor of the Kochs and their ilk, and against the rest of us.
America is not yet an oligarchy, but that’s where the Koch’s and a few other billionaires are taking us.
American democracy used to depend on political parties that more or less represented most of us. Political scientists of the 1950s and 1960s marveled at American “pluralism,” by which they meant the capacities of parties and other membership groups to reflect the preferences of the vast majority of citizens.
Then around a quarter century ago, as income and wealth began concentrating at the top, the Republican and Democratic Parties started to morph into mechanisms for extracting money, mostly from wealthy people.
Finally, after the Supreme Court’s “Citizen’s United” decision in 2010, billionaires began creating their own political mechanisms, separate from the political parties. They started providing big money directly to political candidates of their choice, and creating their own media campaigns to sway public opinion toward their own views.
So far in the 2014 election cycle, “Americans for Prosperity,” the Koch brother’s political front group, has aired more than 17,000 broadcast TV commercials, compared with only 2,100 aired by Republican Party groups.
“Americans for Prosperity” has also been outspending top Democratic super PACs in nearly all of the Senate races Republicans are targeting this year. In seven of the nine races the difference in total spending is at least two-to-one and Democratic super PACs have had virtually no air presence in five of the nine states.
What’s a citizen to do?
And, what’s on your reading and blogging list today?
I never know if I should say “good morning” on days when the news is of disasters. But life goes on, and we humans are curious and driven to make sense of what is happening around us.
Yesterday felt surreal to me. There was a full-fledged blizzard not far south of me on Cape Cod, Nantucket, and Martha’s Vineyard, but here in the Boston area we got no snow or precipitation of any kind–just the wind howling outside all day long.
Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard bore the brunt of the storm as it hit Massachusetts, dropping up to 10 inches of snow. The snow had stopped by the afternoon but robust winds were expected through Wednesday night.
Hurricane-force wind gusts of 83 mph were reported Wednesday morning on Nantucket, where more than 1,200 National Grid customers lost power and the high school was opened as a shelter.
NSTAR reported almost 10,000 customers out on Cape Cod at the peak of the storm.
In Chatham, wild winds hammered the coast, as the National Weather Service warned mariners to stay off the water. A 19th century house that was under renovation collapsed in Chatham at the former of Silver Leaf and Main Street.
The pressure dropped down to 960 millibars, and that is stronger than the October snowstorm we had a couple of years ago and the February blizzard in 2013, so this is a pretty massive storm, “Storm Team 5 Cindy Fitzgibbon said.
And yet, here in Greater Boston where the nor’easters usually hit hardest, there was nothing but wind–and in Boston’s Back Bay, a windblown 9-alarm fire that trapped and killed two firefighters and injured 13 others. From CNN:
“In 30 years, I’ve never seen a fire travel that fast, escalate that quickly, and create such havoc in such a short period of time,” Deputy Fire Chief Joe Finn told reporters.
He identified those killed as Lt. Edward Walsh, 43, and Firefighter Michael Kennedy, 33….
According to Finn, firefighters were able to rescue a number of people stuck on upper floors.
He said Walsh and Kennedy became trapped soon after entering the building. They were both later located in the basement, where the fire appears to have started.
Fueled by strong winds, flames quickly engulfed the four-story building.
At one point, there was an explosion and a number of firefighters were blown down stairs, Finn said.
“That fire … was blowing like a blowtorch out the front, from the rear to the front,” the deputy fire chief added.In addition to those killed, 13 firefighters were injured. Some suffered burns, others broken bones.
At least 18 people were taken to local hospitals.
On the other side of the country, the aftermath of the mudslide in Oso, Washington continues. The NY Daily News reports: 90 still missing in fatal Washington state mudslide; 16 bodies recovered
Washington authorities on Wednesday reduced the number of people missing from a community wiped out by a mudslide to 90, as the families and friends of those still unaccounted for begin to confront the reality that some may never be found.
The official death toll remains at 16, with an additional eight bodies located but not recovered, Snohomish County Emergency Management Director John Pennington said. Authorities said they expected more bodies to be found on Thursday.
The number of missing had been fluctuating — at one point reaching as high as 220 — but authorities were able to verify that 140 people reported missing had been located, Pennington said. That left 90 people missing, plus 35 others who may or may not have been in the area at the time of the slide.
The revised numbers come at the end of a rain-soaked fifth day of searching for survivors in the small community of Oso, some 55 miles southeast of Seattle. But as time passes and the death toll continues to rise, the chances grow increasingly dim of finding people alive amid the debris.
With little hope to cling to, family members of the missing are beginning realize their loved ones may remain entombed forever inside a mountain of mud that is believed to have claimed more than 20 lives.
So heartbreaking . . . There was one bit of good news–the incredible rescue of a four-year-old boy from the rubble.
The young child was trapped by the mud and debris after a major landslide in Oso over the weekend. Rescue workers had to use a helicopter to reach the scene, where they managed to carry the boy to safety.
Watch a video of the rescue here.
On Tuesday, we finally got two official reports on shooting of Ibragim Todashev in Florida, and I spent much of the day yesterday reading them. You may recall that Todashev was a friend of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the alleged Boston Marathon bombers who had been killed during the chaotic shootout in Watertown, MA on April 18, 2013. An agent from the Boston FBI office and two Massachusetts State troopers had gone to Orlando less than a week after the Marathon bombing to interview Todashev about his relationship with Tsarnaev and his possible involvement with Tsarnaev in a triple homicide that took place in Waltham, MA on September 11, 2011.
Along with many others, I’ve been extremely suspicious of the FBI in this case, but having read the reports from the Justice Department Civil Rights Division and the Florida State Attorney’s office, I now believe that the shooting was in self defense and that Todashev and Tsarnaev likely committed the Waltham murders. If it hadn’t been for the ridiculous secrecy maintained by the FBI, we all could have been spared a year’s worth of confusion and conspiracy theories.
As I understand it, there were legitimate tips that Todashev was acquainted with Tamerlan Tsarnaev and that he should be talked to about the bombing and the triple murders. The reason the questioning took place at Todashev’s Orlando residence was that he refused to be interviewed any more at the police station because the FBI had arrested his girlfriend on their last visit there. Who could blame him?
As to the incident in the apartment, it turns out that Todashev’s verbal confession to involvement in the murders with Tsarnaev was recorded. As soon as he admitted involvement, he was read his Miranda rights and signed a waiver that he was willing to talk without an attorney present. This is all recorded on video. Todashev’s story was that he thought he was going to help rob some drug dealers and he had no idea Tamerlan planned to murder them. Todashev also verbally indicated he thought he could make some kind of deal for the information he had. He asked how much prison time he would get and whether he would be allowed to smoke in jail. Again this is all recorded–the recordings themselves have not been released, but I’m willing to accept the word of the Justice Department and Florida investigators that they exist.
From the Justice Department report:
Initially, Todashev was not completely forthcoming. As the conversation developed, he proffered that he had direct knowledge of the 2011 triple homicide. At 10:25 p.m., Todashev verbally “waived his rights” and signed a Miranda form acknowledging his understanding of his right to be represented by an attorney and willingness to speak at that time without an attorney. In response to continuing questioning, he hesitantly, but indisputably, admitted complicity in the murders. The verbal confession was recorded on the troopers’ recording devices. More than one recording device was activated at different times by the troopers as either the memory capacity or the battery power of a particular recording device diminished during the course of the interview. Also, one trooper was using his cell phone both to record parts of the interview and to send text messages to other law enforcement officials. As midnight approached, Todashev agreed to write a statement to memorialize his verbal confession and to provide extenuating and mitigating facts that he felt explained his conduct.
At some point, when the FBI agent was looking down at his notes and a Massachusetts state trooper was looking at his cell phone, Todashev allegedly threw the small table on which he was writing and hit the agent in the head, opening a large wound. Then everything turned to chaos. From The Boston Globe, a brief description of the shooting, based on the Florida report.
State and federal investigators knew Ibragim Todashev was dangerous. But he was calm when he led them to his small, dark Orlando apartment last May. He asked them to take off their shoes and ushered the investigators inside, through the door emblazoned with the image of an AK-47.
Over the next several hours, the 27-year-old mixed martial arts fighter chain-smoked, twitched, and eventually, confessed to being involved in the grisly slayings of three men in Waltham in 2011.
Then the room exploded. Authorities said Todashev hurled a coffee table at a Boston FBI agent, striking him in the head, and then charged the agent and a Massachusetts state trooper with a metal broomstick. In seconds, Todashev was dead, felled by seven bullets fired by the agent.
“I was in fear for my life,” the agent said. “There was no doubt in my mind that Todashev intended to kill both of us.”
The two reports are still unnecessarily mysterious, in my opinion. Why was the alleged written confession completely blacked out? In my opinion, that should have been released on day one, along with many of the other details of the incident. There are many unanswered questions–worst of all, why did the agent who killed Todashev refuse to be interviewed by investigators? The two reports of his conduct were based on his written report to the FBI.
Frankly, I was still doubtful until I read Todashev’s handwritten partial confession–which was obtained by Susan Zalkind of Boston Magazine. In my opinion, the photo of the confession appears genuine and the handwriting is similar to the other sample we have from Todashev, a gym membership application.
Here is Boston Magazine’s transcription of the blurred handwriting:
My name is IBRAGIM TODASHEV
I wanna tell the story about the robbery
me and Tam did in Waltham in September
of 2011. That was [?] by Tamerlan.
[?] [?] he [?] to me to rob
the drug dealers. We went to their
house we got in there and Tam had
a gun he pointed it [?] the guy that
opened the door for us [?]
we went upstairs into the house
[?] 3 guys in there [?] we put them
on the ground and then we [?]
[?] taped their hands up
I think one of the questionable words (used twice) is “offered.” It looks like he started to describe what happened and then went back to the “offer” by Tsarnaev. My version:
My name is IBRAGIM TODASHEV
I wanna tell the story about the robbery
me and Tam did in Waltham in September
of 2011. That was [?] by Tamerlan.
[We went] he [offered] to me to rob
the drug dealers. We went to their
house we got in there and Tam had
a gun he pointed it [?] the guy that
opened the door for us [?]
we went upstairs into the house
[?] 3 guys in there [?] we put them
on the ground and then we [?]
[?] taped their hands up
That was [offered] by Tamerlan.
[?] [?] he [?] to me to rob
the drug dealers.
For anyone who wants to read more, here are two summaries of the Florida Report and Susan Zalkind’s lengthy recap of the case.
Boston Globe: Todashev reports detail a confession, then chaos
Boston Globe: Takeaways from the Todashev shooting report
Boston Magazine: The Murders Before the Marathon
This has been a largely Boston-centric post, so I’ll add a few more links to other news before I turn the floor over to you.
NYT Editorial Board: Giving Up on 4-Year-Olds
Now it’s your turn. What stories are you following today?
Oi! Put up your dukes and lets duke it out!
WordPress has fugged up with their editor, which means that the pictures and formatting may be a little off in this post. That said the images are all found on pinterest and are all various vintage picture of women boxing.
Because, the shit going on with the Supremes is something that makes me want to put on a pair of boxing gloves and kick some PLUB #HobbyLobby loving ass.
“Your reasoning would permit” Congress to force corporations to pay for abortions, Kennedy told Verrilli. This was not the Anthony Kennedy that worried about conservatives imposing their anti-gay “animus” on others, this was the Anthony Kennedy that views abortion as a grave moral wrong. Shortly after Kennedy made this statement, Justice Kagan’s face dropped. It appeared that she’d just figured out that she would be joining a dissenting opinion.
It’s worth noting that Kennedy expressed a different concern than one offered shortly thereafter by Chief Justice John Roberts. Hobby Lobby objects to four forms of contraception on the mistaken ground that these contraceptive methods are actually forms of abortion — a brief filed by numerous medical organizations explains that they are not. Roberts, however, suggested that someone’s mere belief that something is an abortion is enough to trigger an religious exemption to federal law.
More from :
Ugh….but that fucked up crap about the pill being “abortion” aside, last night Boston Boomer put up a tweet in the comments that I think needs to be shared up on the front page.
This brings up a good point, one of the tweets in this thread says that Hobby Lobby responded…
Some of the tweets mention the “myth” of infanticide and forced abortions…which is bullshit. Take a look at this from Telegraph:
Much has been written about the human rights abuses associated with China’s notorious one-child policy: the forced abortions, sterilisations and even cases of infanticide as rural families sought to rid themselves of girls they thought were less useful than boys.
But the disappearance of MH370 has cast light a less well-known but equally devastating phenomenon: that of the “orphaned” parents who, through accident or illness, lost the only child the Chinese government allowed them to have.
There are an estimated one million so-called “shidu” families in China, with state media reporting that around 76,000 new families are “orphaned” each year.
“When you lose your only child, it feels like the sky has fallen in,” said one bereaved Shanghai mother, who lost her only daughter and her husband to a 2012 car accident.
“Because of the one-child policy a million families have lost their offspring forever,” added the woman, who requested anonymity because of the politically sensitive nature of the subject. “It is an ethical tragedy. Nobody can take away the pain.”
Recent months have seen several major Chinese cities and provinces including Beijing and Shanghai start to change the controversial birth control policy, relaxing family planning rules so parents who are both only children can now have two children.
On the subject of lost children…grown children…the numbers have gone up in the death toll over in the Washington state landslide claims up to 24, more than 100 missing.
The number of dead climbed to as high as 24 with the recovery Tuesday of two more bodies and another eight believed to have been located in the debris.
Authorities did not immediately release the identities of the dead nor did they provide details about where the bodies were found.
At least 176 people are unaccounted for. Officials have stressed those unaccounted for are not necessarily all victims of the disaster. They say they believe many names have been duplicated.
Three sheriff’s deputies who specialize in missing persons cases have begun reviewing the lists to get a more accurate count, Snohomish County Emergency Management Director John Pennington said.
And if death from plane crash or mudslide is not depressing enough, how about Ebola: W Africa scrambles to prevent Ebola spread
West African nations scrambled to contain an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus suspected to have killed at least 59 people in Guinea, with symptoms of the disease reported in neighbouring Sierra Leone and Liberia as well.
The spread of Ebola, one of the most lethal infectious diseases known, has spooked nations with weak health care systems. In Guinea’s southeast, home to all the confirmed cases, residents are avoiding large gatherings and prices in some markets have spiked as transporters avoid the area.
Health authorities in Liberia said they had now recorded eight suspected cases of Ebola, mainly in people who crossed the border from Guinea.
Five of these had died but tests were still being carried out to check if the cases were indeed Ebola, the Reuters news agency reported.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said a total of 86 suspected cases, including 59 deaths, had been reported in southeastern Guinea near the border with Sierra Leone and Liberia.
This next quote is very scary:
“People are really frightened. They have seen people die in a matter of just two or three days. They are constantly worried who is going to be the next fatality,” said Joseph Gbaka Sandounou, who manages operations for aid agency Plan International in Guekedou.
On to more “newsy” link goodness. Major Garrett has a piece up over at National Journal: Obama Tries to Put Putin in His Place—Again
Noting Russia’s long-standing influence in all of Ukraine, Obama said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s illegal annexation of Crimea “indicates less influence, not more.”
I guess that’s why Ukraine’s defense minister resigned and Ukrainian troops bugged out of Crimea, leaving it to Russian forces. This is the only “off ramp” that matters in Crimea. Ukraine and its rhetorically florid Western allies took it. Not Putin.
Even as the White House insists Crimea is not “lost” (Putin can find it without satellite imagery, after all), the grudging language of concession seeps from every corridor of Ukrainian talks here.
“It’s not a done deal in the sense that the international community by and large isn’t recognizing the annexation of Crimea,” Obama said, before acknowledging the “facts on the ground” favored Russia. “It would be dishonest to say there is a simple solution to resolving what has already taken place in Crimea.”
Obama and European leaders are rattled and resentful, thunderstruck that the wispy bonds of international “norms” could be so easily shredded. Fearful of the precedent they appear incapable of reversing, and desperate to limit Putin’s ambitions to Crimea, the G-7 nations have effectively conceded Crimea. They threatened “sectoral sanctions” if Putin further bulldozed international law by gobbling up more of Ukraine or plowing into Moldova. Weak or strong, Putin enforces the new Crimean status quo. All he’s lost is Russia’s G-8 membership pin and decoder ring.
One of our astronauts hitched a ride yesterday. Leaving politics behind, Russian-U.S. crew blasts off for space | Reuters
Two Russian cosmonauts and a U.S. astronaut blasted off for six-month stay aboard the International Space Station on Tuesday, a partnership unaffected by the political rancor and economic sanctions triggered by Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
The Russian Soyuz rocket carrying cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev and NASA astronaut Steven Swanson lifted off at 5:17 p.m. EDT from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The trip to the space station, a $100 billion research laboratory that flies about 260 miles above Earth, was scheduled to take about six hours. However, an unknown problem caused the crew’s Soyuz capsule to skip two planned steering maneuvers, delaying the crew’s arrival until Thursday.
“The crew is in no danger. The Soyuz (is) equipped with plenty of consumables to go even beyond the next two days, should that be become necessary. Nobody expects that that will be the case,” mission commentator Rob Navias said during a NASA Television broadcast.
NASA, however, is not worried about the Ukraine crisis taking a toll on space exploration.
“We do not expect the current Russia-Ukraine situation to have an impact on our long-standing civil space cooperation with Russia, which goes back decades, including our partnership on the International Space Station program,” said NASA spokesman Joshua Buck in a statement to National Journal. “We are confident that our two space agencies will continue to work closely as they have throughout various ups and downs of the broader U.S.-Russia relationship.”
The International Space Station has indeed weathered terrestrial political storms in the past. “It doesn’t appear that we are affected by what’s going on diplomatically with the Russians,” Al Sofge, director of NASA’s human exploration and operations division, has said of the conflict in Syria and Russia’s protection of American whistle-blower Edward Snowden. “I don’t know that we’ve ever even discussed it.”
After 16 years in orbit, the International Space Station is truly a bilateral effort. The station, divided into American and Russian segments, uses American solar arrays and power systems, Russian life-support systems, and a navigation system that comes from both nations.
The U.S. and Russia first collaborated in space in July 1975, when a Soviet Soyuz capsule carrying two cosmonauts docked with a U.S. Apollo module carrying three astronauts. In the 1990s, after the Soviet Union collapsed, the U.S. asked Russia to join its work on the International Space Station. Russia was too financially strapped to build a program of its own, BBC’s Melissa Hogenboom explained in 2012, and the U.S. was behind schedule on the project and needed help.
This “reluctant codependency,” as NBC space analyst James Oberg dubbed it, persists to this day. At the International Space Station, Russia depends on NASA’s electronics and communications technology, which are more advanced. The U.S. depends on Roscosmos, the Russian federal agency, to send its astronauts to space. After NASA retired its space-shuttle program in 2011, Russia became the sole nation with the capability of carrying astronauts and cargo to and from space. Even U.S. national security satellites are powered into orbit on an American rocket with a Russian-built rocket engine.
While Jake was watching that rocket take off, I told him the Russians would not mess up that arrangement, they are getting paid. How much?
Right now, NASA pays $70.7 million per seat to send its astronauts to space on Russian Soyuz capsules, $8 million more than a previous agreement. But by 2017, NASA officials say the U.S. should be able to send its astronauts to the International Space Station on its own, thanks to private American spaceflight companies.
I will put this other link here for you, Zandar Versus The Stupid: Last Call For One Hell Of A Coincidence, where an article in the Business Insider by Michael Kelley is asking the question:
U.S. officials think that Russia recently obtained the ability to evade U.S. eavesdropping equipment while commandeering Crimea and amassing troops near Ukraine’s border.
The revelation reportedly has the White House “very nervous,” especially because it’s unclear how the Kremlin hid its plans from the National Security Agency’s snooping on digital and electronic communications.
One interesting fact involved is the presence of Edward Snowden in Russia, where he has been living since flying to Moscow from Hong Kong on June 23.
In July, primary Snowden source Glenn Greenwald told The Associated Press that Snowden “is in possession of literally thousands of documents that contain very specific blueprints that would allow somebody who read them to know exactly how the NSA does what it does, which would in turn allow them to evade that surveillance or replicate it.”
So it’s either a crazy coincidence that the Russians figured out how to evade NSA surveillance while hosting the NSA-trained hacker, or else it implies that Snowden provided the Russians with access to the NSA’s blueprint.
No doubt Kelley’s article is going to draw a massive screed from Double G and the usual suspects. But as the people who support Snowden’s actions remind us, we need to have a serious debate about American intelligence capabilities, and that includes debating the consequences of someone with the vast knowledge of these capabilities defecting to a foreign country.
I’ve said on a number of occasions that the actions of Snowden and his partners are not consistent with the goal of reigning in the NSA through existing means, but very consistent with the goal of taking it upon themselves to irreparably damage our intelligence-gathering abilities as a lesson to the Unites States government.
It’s a reasonable question to ask if that’s already happened.
So, over at CNN they are looking for news since their 24/7 coverage of MH Flight 370 is coming to a close….Two CNN Producers Arrested in Sad Attempt to Break into the WTC Site
A CNN spokesperson said that producers Connor Boals, 26, and Yon Pomrenze, 35, were on assignment “but were not asked to sneak onto the WTC site.”
According to reports, the pair first tried to talk their way past security guards into the heavily guarded construction site. When that failed, they tried scaling a nearby fence. Both times officers merely turned them away.
The tipping point came on their third attempt, when they tried to forcibly push their way through a security checkpoint.
That coup de grâce got Boals and Pomrenze cuffed and booked on criminal trespass, obstruction of governmental administration and disorderly conduct charges.
Sad…sad…sad…when all they had to do was head on over to Jersey: Body parts injure 4 after man killed by train
A man was struck and killed by a train Tuesday in a gruesome scene that left others on the New Brunswick Station platform injured.
Preliminary eyewitness accounts suggest that the man was struck after leaning into the path of the oncoming train while standing on the station platform.
As a result of the collision, at least four other people waiting on the platform were struck by parts of the man’s body, officials said.
The incident happened at about 5 p.m. EDT and involved a New York-bound Northeast Corridor train carrying about 300 passengers, NJ Transit spokesman John Durso said.
Back to the MH370 for a moment: Families of Flight MH370 Victims Issue Blistering Statement | Vanity Fair
The families on the receiving end didn’t take kindly to the message or the manner in which it was delivered. Families gathered in Beijing read a blistering rebuke of Malaysian Airlines and authorities on Monday:
“At 10pm on March 25, the Malaysian prime minister sent a statement to the families of MH370 passengers without any direct evidence that MH370 crashed in the south Indian ocean and no people survived.
From March 8 when they announced that MH370 lost contact to today, 18 days have passed during which the Malaysian government and military constantly tried to delay, deceive the passengers’ families and cheat the whole world.
This shameless behaviour not only fooled and hurt the families of the 154 passengers but also misguided and delayed rescue actions, wasting a large quantity of human resources and materials and lost valuable time for the rescue effort.
If the 154 passengers did lose their lives, Malaysia Airlines, the Malaysian government and military are the real executioners who killed them. We the families of those on board submit our strongest protest against them.
Malaysia Airlines claims a representative for the company told the assembled families in person, and that phone calls and SMS messages were only sent to relatives who were not in the family-support center.
The rest of the links are in quick dump fashion:
Wearing a pink top and tight jeans, the young woman is whistled and shouted at as she makes her way through the site amongst a growing group of men following her.
University guards are seen in the clip, which has gone viral on social media, escorting her off the premises after she hid in a toilet to escape the group, who were allegedly trying to remove her clothes.
The school Dean blamed the girl of course…video at the link.
From the fuckwads in my state, In Georgia, Carry a Gun, Just Not in the Capitol – NYTimes.com
There’s a lot of concern about new legislation in Georgia that expands how people can buy, carry and use guns. It reduces some licensing requirements and provides Georgians with a stronger “Stand Your Ground” defense should they feel threatened and decide to open fire. Some critics were calling it the “guns everywhere” law. That’s so unfair. Georgia’s lawmakers are not allowing everyone’s safety to be endangered by gun-slinging people. They are deeply concerned, for example, with their own.
The bill, passed on Thursday and awaiting the governor’s signature, will, among other things, allow people to carry concealed weapons into more places — including ones, like bars, which conveniently enough are spots where they are likely to be put to use.
They may also be carried in unsecured areas of airports. Even toting a gun in secured areas will merely be a misdemeanor in Georgia as long as you did it by mistake. After all, who among us has not had the embarrassing experience of forgetting they were carrying their Glock semiautomatic through airport security?
Republican lawmakers in the Georgia House tried — and failed — to require colleges and churches to allow concealed weapons. The law bans them on college campuses (thank goodness for that, at least) and requires armed Georgians to get permission from their church before they go to Sunday services packing heat.
But, while patting themselves on the back for protecting the Second Amendment rights of their fellow citizens and dismissing any notion that guns could be a danger to the public, Georgia lawmakers were careful to continue to ban the carrying of weapons in government buildings with security checkpoints, like the Capitol itself, though guns are welcomed in buildings without screening.
As the Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday about the Obamacare mandate on birth control coverage, Sen. Barbara Boxer questioned why those up in arms about the requirement have no problem with most insurance covering Viagra.
“I have never heard Hobby Lobby or any other corporation, I could be wrong, or any other boss complain that Viagra is covered in many insurance plans, practically all of them, or other kinds of things, you know, for men, which I won’t go into,” Boxer said Tuesday on MSNBC’s “Jansing & Co.”
Yeah, isn’t every sperm sacred?
After 27 years, Burger King Baby finds birth mom, feels pure joy
A woman who, as a newborn, was abandoned in the bathroom of a Pennsylvania fast-food restaurant said Tuesday she has found her birth mother just three weeks after launching a search that garnered worldwide attention.
Next…another blast from 80s’ past, an interview with Boy George: Boy George Discusses New Album, Gender Identity, Madonna And More
If you’re ever given 60 minutes to sit down with Boy George, one of the most beloved pop icons of the 20th century, in a private club on the west side of Manhattan in the middle of February, take them.
In the course of that hour, you’ll not only be treated to stories about how as a teen, his brothers would cross the street so they didn’t have to be seen with him and find out if he ever considered transitioning to the other end of the gender binary, but you’ll also quickly realize that he is one of the most thoughtful — and refreshingly honest — interview subjects you’ve ever had the pleasure of encountering.
Look what the zoo did to the lions: Danish zoo that killed giraffe puts down four lions
Two lions and their two 10-month-old cubs, all from the same family, were put down on Monday to make way for a new male after the zoo failed to find a new home for the felines.
Copenhagen Zoo said in a statement: “Because of the pride of lions’ natural structure and behaviour, the zoo has had to euthanise the two old lions and two young lions who were not old enough to fend for themselves”.
The cubs “would have been killed by the new male lion as soon as he got the chance,” it added.
On the case of inbreeding and genetic defects…no I am not talking about Banjoville, Birth Defects In Last Woolly Mammoths Suggest Inbreeding May Have Led To Species’ Extinction
Scientists studying 12,000-year-old mammoth fossils unearthed near the North Sea discovered that many of them had extra ribs along their neck vertebrae. Cervical ribs, while innocuous on their own, are usually a sign that something went wrong during the animal’s development and are associated with chromosome abnormalities and even cancer.
Researchers found that cervical ribs were 10 times more common in woolly mammoths from the North Sea than in modern elephants. Scientists were stunned to find such a high rate of cervical ribs among European woolly mammoths.
“The high incidence and large size of the cervical ribs [in woolly mammoths] indicates a strong vulnerability, given the association of cervical ribs with diseases and congenital abnormalities in mammals,” the researchers noted in a study published in the journal PeerJ. “The vulnerable condition may well have contributed to the eventual extinction of the woolly mammoths.”
Scientists theorized that there are two possible explanations for the high frequency of cervical ribs in the last of the mammoths. The first is that there was rampant inbreeding among the last mammoth populations. This theory fits nicely with the idea that climate change fragmented the woolly mammoth’s habitat, isolating small pockets of the animals from each other. These groups would have lost their genetic variation through inbreeding, which would have made them susceptible to abnormalities and disease.
The second theory is that woolly mammoth mothers suffered prenatal stress due to outside factors like famine and disease.
And finally, Goats are far more clever than previously thought
Goats learn how to solve complicated tasks quickly and can recall how to perform them for at least 10 months, which might explain their remarkable ability to adapt to harsh environments, say researchers at Queen Mary University of London.
Writing in the journal Frontiers in Zoology today, the scientists trained a group of goats to retrieve food from a box using a linked sequence of steps; first by pulling a lever with their mouths and then by lifting it to release the reward.
The goats’ ability to remember the task was tested after one month and again at 10 months. They learned the task within 12 trials and took less than two minutes to remember the challenge.
“The speed at which the goats completed the task at 10 months compared to how long it took them to learn indicates excellent long-term memory,” said co-author Dr Elodie Briefer, now based at ETH Zurich.
Before each learning session, some of the goats had the opportunity to watch another goat to demonstrate the task.
Dr Briefer added: “We found that those without a demonstrator were just as fast at learning as those that had seen demonstrations. This shows that goats prefer to learn on their own rather than by watching others.”
Wow, I wonder if a goat could learn that the birth control pill does not = an abortion? Yeah, they sound like they are smarter than some of the Supremes sitting on the bench.
Have a great day, and let us know what you are reading and thinking about today.