Sunday Reads: Elephants and Landmines, a Seemingly Awful Combination.Posted: March 15, 2015
Hey, what do you know?
They use other animals to sniff out land mines, including dogs and rats…which seems like a more logical answer to me. I mean, if a rat missteps on a landmine and bang….little mess.
But an elephant?
What will you see when you see an elephant step on a landmine?
I’ll tell you one thing, it sure a shit won’t be a small showing.
But back to the elephants….Elephants can also smell water a kabillion miles away as well…so perhaps California could make use of them as well?
Given the historic low temperatures and snowfalls that pummeled the eastern U.S. this winter, it might be easy to overlook how devastating California’s winter was as well.
As our “wet” season draws to a close, it is clear that the paltry rain and snowfall have done almost nothing to alleviate epic drought conditions. January was the driest in California since record-keeping began in 1895. Groundwater and snowpack levels are at all-time lows. We’re not just up a creek without a paddle in California, we’re losing the creek too.
Statewide, we’ve been dropping more than 12 million acre-feet of total water yearly since 2011. Roughly two-thirds of these losses are attributable to groundwater pumping for agricultural irrigation in the Central Valley. Farmers have little choice but to pump more groundwater during droughts, especially when their surface water allocations have been slashed 80% to 100%. But these pumping rates are excessive and unsustainable. Wells are running dry. In some areas of the Central Valley, the land is sinking by one foot or more per year.
As difficult as it may be to face, the simple fact is that California is running out of water — and the problem started before our current drought. NASA data reveal that total water storage in California has been in steady decline since at least 2002, when satellite-based monitoring began, although groundwater depletion has been going on since the early 20th century.
Right now the state has only about one year of water supply left in its reservoirs, and our strategic backup supply, groundwater, is rapidly disappearing. California has no contingency plan for a persistent drought like this one (let alone a 20-plus-year mega-drought), except, apparently, staying in emergency mode and praying for rain.
Well, that is a scary last paragraph there. More of that op/ed at the link.
I know that the beginning of the post was lighthearted, however now I need to touch on some of the destruction set in motion over the last 48 hours in the South Pacific.
Cyclone Pam struck Vanuatu as the UN was hosting its third world conference on disaster risk reduction in Sendai, Japan.
That meeting heard that over the past 45 years the Asia Pacific region has suffered cumulative economic losses of $A1.49 trillion from natural disasters, and had lost more than 2 million lives. And Vanuatu, according to a key report presented to delegates, was the country most at risk in the entire world, followed by Tonga, The Philippines, Japan and Costa Rica.
Today, as the island nation begins to count its dead and the economic cost of the weekend destruction, it will need all its traditional resilience to live up to its name. Vanuatu means “Our Land Forever,” a phrase that has always struck an appropriately defiant note in the face of the many threats it faces.
In this latest challenge, winds of up to 270km per hour ripped through the island group, after building speed as the cyclone passed first over Kiribati and then Solomon Islands immediately to Vanuatu’s north west. Alice Clements, a spokeswoman for UNICEF, who was in Port Vila, told Reuters that as the cyclone hit the city, “it felt like the world was coming to an end”.
Be sure to read that article, it has a lot of information, about the island nation…it’s people and what they will be going through after the clean up.
Cyclone Pam hit the island as a Category 5. First aid teams reach Vanuatu, find widespread devastation after cyclone | Reuters
The first aid teams to reach Vanuatu reported widespread devastation on Sunday as authorities declared a state of emergency after a “monster” cyclone tore through the Pacific island nation.
With winds of more than 300 kph (185 mph), Cyclone Pam razed homes, smashed boats and washed away roads and bridges as it struck late on Friday and into Saturday. Aid workers described the situation as catastrophic.
Aid workers were particularly worried about the southern island of Tanna. An official with the Australian Red Cross told Reuters an aircraft had managed to land there and aid workers confirmed there was “widespread destruction”.
“Virtually every building that is not concrete has been flattened,” said the official, adding two deaths had been confirmed on the island which has a population of about 29,000 and is about 200 km (125 miles) south of the capital, Port Vila.
Witnesses in Port Vila described sea surges of up to eight metres (26 feet) and widespread flooding as the category 5 cyclone hit. Residents said the storm sounded like a freight train. Port Vila was strewn with debris and looked as if a bomb had gone off.
Pacific nation devastated by historic Cyclone Pam – Video at that link.
And then, on the other side of the world, a tragic bus accident: Brazil bus crash: at least 40 dead after plunge off cliff | World news | The Guardian
At least 40 people died on Saturday when a passenger bus drove off a cliff in the southern Brazilian state of Santa Catarina, police said.
The bus, en route from the neighbouring state of Parana, swerved off a curve and fell dozens of metres before crashing in a wooded area. Rescue crews were bringing up dozens of bodies as well as survivors.
The bus was about six miles (10km) from its destination in the city of Joinville when it crashed. Highway and weather conditions at the time were good, a police spokesman said.
Though no immediate cause for the crash had been determined, police said it appeared the brakes on the bus failed.
Brazil has some of Latin America’s deadliest roads. Despite nearly a decade of sustained economic growth that only slowed in recent years, the country has done little to improve or expand its creaky infrastructure.
Alright, back to the other links:
Likely 2016 Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush used his personal email while governor of Florida to discuss troop deployments, nuclear plant protection and other such matters, the Washington Post reported on Saturday.
The report followed revelations that Democrat Hillary Clinton, also seen as a likely presidential candidate, used a personal email account exclusively during her time as secretary of state, raising questions about security and transparency.
On his personal account, firstname.lastname@example.org, Bush discussed the Florida National Guard’s movements and training activities as well as his decision to provide less security to nuclear power plants in the state, the newspaper reported.
Bush aides told the Post that none of the emails contained sensitive or classified information, and many of the events mentioned in them were documented in press accounts. But security experts say private email systems such as the one used by Bush are more vulnerable to hackers.
Democrats have attempted to divert the focus on Clinton’s use of a personal email account to conduct work as U.S. secretary of state by saying that Bush used the same practice in Florida, where he was governor from 1999 to 2007.
Then you have this, Hillary Clinton’s Over-Played Woman Card | RealClearPolitics
Last week, the Wall Street Journal featured “A Better World, Run By Women,” a rather hilarious essay penned by Emory anthropology professor Melvin Konner. As more women gain power around the world, Konner argued, the better our lives will be. “Research has found,” he wrote, “that women are superior to men in most ways that will count in the future.”
Konner was just warming up. “There is every reason to think that a future national hierarchy staffed and led by women who no longer have to imitate men, dealing with other nations similarly transformed, would be less likely to go to war,” he added. “But that’s not all. Sex scandals, financial corruption and violence are all overwhelmingly male.”
I assume he wrote this with a straight face. I also assume that he has never watched The Real Housewives of New Jersey, attempted to score half-price designer shoes at the Barney’s Warehouse Sale, or patronized a crowded Chuck E. Cheese’s that serves liberal amounts of alcohol in an over-the-hill and questionably located strip mall. (Hint: There are often fights.)
That shitty piece is written by a woman by the way…I won’t quote any more from it, you can go and read the rest of the bait at the link if you really want to. That is if you feel like getting in a pissy mood.
So after a link to an article like that, how about a link to someone good…that cares about her fellow women: Feminists don’t hate men. But it wouldn’t matter if we did | Jessica Valenti | Comment is free | The Guardian
One of the most common derisive taunts thrown at feminists – and one of the oldest – is “manhater”. It’s been around since the days of suffrage, and still gets used today, though its a pretty anodyne insult. Most feminists, like me, shun the label and work to convince people that despite the stereotypes feminists absolutely, without a doubt, do not hate men.
But so what if we did?
It’s not that I recommend hating men or think it a particularly wise use of one’s time, but to each her own. Straight white men still hold the majority of political, economic and social power in the world, and everyone else struggles to make their lives work with less. So if the worst thing that happens to a man is that a woman doesn’t like him …well, he has it pretty damn good. It’s not as if we’re living in some sort of Wicker Man-inspired dystopia, after all.
Besides, when women hate men, we hurt their feelings. When men hate women, they kill us: mass shootings have been attributed to misogyny, and sexual and domestic violence against women is often fuelled by a hatred for women.
That’s why it’s so hard to take seriously any claims that “misandry” is a tremendous problem – they’re based on the idea that merely insulting men is similar to the life-threatening misogyny women face worldwide. (Most recently, Newsday writer Cathy Young argued that men being called “mansplainers” or rape apologists is akin to the rape and death threats that women get online.)
But a younger generation of feminists has embraced what Slate writer Amanda Hess calls “ironic misandry”. Hess wrote last year that the rise in popularity of “male tears” mugs and man-hating inspired shirts and crafts serves as a sort of fuck-you to the constant barrage of harassment that feminists often face: “On its most basic level, ironic misandry functions like a stuck-out tongue pointed at a playground bully.”
Finish it up at the link.
Hey, check this out: Republican Votes for Loretta Lynch May Be at Historic Low
The most amazing thing about the Loretta Lynch story is that the congressional community no longer views it as amazing.
Lynch is on course to be confirmed this month after the longest wait ever for a nominee to be attorney general — and very likely by the closest vote ever to put a new person in charge of the Justice Department.
When Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Tuesday that the Senate debate on the nomination would begin next week, it marked 17 weeks and three days since President Barack Obama announced his choice for one of the most prestigious and pivotal positions in his Cabinet. At the time, Lynch was assured the bare minimum level of public support required for victory. Only four Republicans have announced they’ll join the 46 members of the Democratic Caucus in voting for her, meaning that at least for the time being Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. had best keep his March travel schedule a bit flexible.
Still, her sluggishly contentious path toward becoming the nation’s top law enforcement official has garnered relatively little public attention. That’s in large part because Lynch hasn’t become a focus of the daily partisan histrionics on the Hill or on cable news. And a big reason for that is because neither side views the fundamental dispute over her — extraordinary as it is by historical standards — to be remarkable at all in the context of today.
One more feminist article: TripAdvisor removes ‘feminist’ review | UK news | The Guardian
A review in which a customer described seeing a manager biting a waitress and slapping her on the bottom has been removed by TripAdvisor for contravening its guidelines.
And lastly…Cuba is coming into the 20th Century: Free Wi-Fi in Havana Shows Cuba’s Telecommunications Future — The Atlantic
It’s an image that’s familiar around the world: A group of young people, glued to their laptops or smart phones, lounging around a public space and taking advantage of free, wireless Internet. But in Cuba, this scene is far from ordinary. When the famed artist Kcho provided wi-fi at his cultural center some weeks ago, he established the first such venue in the country’s history. Now, in a rapidly changing Cuba, milestones like this have become more commonplace.
To its beneficiaries, free wi-fi is about more than gaining access to computer games and social media. It also involves establishing contact with the outside world. One 20-year-old at the cultural center was using wi-fi to chat with his father, who lives in the United States.
“Thanks to this service I can talk to him,” the man, Adonis Ortiz, told theWashington Post.
This is something amazing indeed…
At least I think so. Not on the political front, but just in terms of a cultural standpoint. We are talking about a country driven by the car wheels of the 50’s…literally.
Three months after President Obama announced that the U.S. and Cuba would normalize relations, the island’s long period of isolation appears to be coming to an end—and telecommunications is just one dimension of the change. On Saturday, a group of 80 civic and business leaders will travel from New Orleans to Havana to attend a conference, marking the first direct flight between the two cities in 57 years. And next week, a New York-based tour operator will launch a weekly charter flight between the Cuban capital and New York’s JFK airport.
Still, Cuba’s antiquated communications infrastructure presents an obstacle to economic development. In anticipation of restored U.S-Cuban ties, Havana is seeking billions of dollars in foreign direct investment across a range of sectors, but the lack of IT resources hampers these relationships. Nine out of 10 Cubans lack access to a mobile phone, and Internet connections are slow and subject to government censorship. State-run Internet cafes in the country charge $4.50 an hour for online access, a huge sum where the average monthly salary is about $20. Broadband Internet connections in Cuban homes are virtually unheard of.
The transition to a modern, Internet-driven economy won’t happen overnight. Nor is it certain to force political change. In the U.S., critics of normalization have argued that establishing closer economic ties to Cuba will only empower the Castro regime. Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican and probable presidential candidate, has cited evidence that engagement with other Communist countries did not compel them to liberalize.
“We have those policies of normalization toward Vietnam, for example, toward China,” Rubio said in December. “They’re not any more politically free today than they were when that normalization happened.”
Kcho’s cultural center offering free wi-fi in Havana, too, offers little promise of political liberalization—the center even hosted Fidel Castro last year. But for Cubans long deprived of the quality Internet service the developed world takes for granted, getting online has less to do with politics than with daily conveniences such as communicating with friends and buying things off the web. Belkis Baisal, a bed and breakfast operator in Havana, told AFP that regular Internet access will allow her to advertise her rooms. Normalization, she said, is a positive sign.
“It’s better to have friends than enemies.”
In an October (2014) survey, 40 percent of more than 1,000 teens said they had been hit or nearly hit by a car while walking, the organization Safe Kids Worldwide reported. And 85 percent of those said they were listening to music, talking on their phones or texting when it happened.
Researcher Jack Nasar at the University of Ohio calculated that more than 1,500 pedestrians were treated in emergency rooms in 2010 for injuries suffered while using their cellphones.
That was almost six times as many as five years earlier.
And Nasar said the number was probably much higher since it isn’t strictly tracked. He hasn’t followed up since, although he and others are working on a study of just how prevalent cellphone use is on the street.
Several hospitals in the Lower Hudson Valley said they don’t ask people if they were texting when they got hurt. And patients may be too embarrassed to volunteer the information.
“They may not want to admit they were an idiot,” Nasar said.
Most of us are no stranger to this scenario: A group of friends sits down to a meal together, laughing, swapping stories, and catching up on the news – but not necessarily with the people in front of them! Nowadays, it’s not unusual to have one’s phone handy on the table, easily within reach for looking up movie times, checking e-mails, showing off photos, or taking a call or two. It’s a rare person who doesn’t give in to a quick glance at the phone every now and then. Today’smultifunctional phones have become anindispensable lifeline to the rest of the world.
We might expect that the widespread availability of mobile phones boosts interpersonal connections, by allowing people to stay in touch constantly. But a recent set of studies by Andrew K. Przybylski and Netta Weinstein of the University of Essex showed that our phones can hurt our close relationships. Amazingly, they found that simply having a phone nearby, without even checking it, can be detrimental to our attempts at interpersonal connection.
It’s been a long, terrible day. As you recount your struggles, you suddenly notice your partner is furiously typing on his phone. Your anger boils (you’ve forgotten that you did the same thing to him just yesterday). It’s time to step away from the smartphone, put down the tablet, shut the laptop and turn off the TV. A slew of recent researchsuggests that if people want happy relationships, they need to stop clinging to technology.
In a new study, Coyne asked 143 married or cohabitating women to answer questions about technology use and relationships. She wanted to understand how technology encroaches on our lives and relationships, what she calls “technoference.” The vast majority of respondents, 70 percent, said using a cell phone interrupted interactions between them and their partners sometimes, often, very often or all the time. Even more, 74 percent, said that computers sometimes, often, very often or all the time disturbed their interactions with partners.
The women who reported technoference also said they fought more with their partners, which made them feel badly about their relationships. On top of this, they felt more depressed and less satisfied with life.
“What I think the most important finding is, the more you let the technology interfere, the more conflict you have with your spouse or partner and that leads to not feeling great about the relationship,” she says.
Still there’s other research showing that cell phone dependence can be unhealthy.
“Cell phone attachment is positively related to an increase in stress and anxiety and even depression,” says James A. Roberts, a professor of marketing at Baylor University Hankamer School of Business.
In a 2012 paper, Roberts coined the word “phub,” a mash-up of phone and snub. Phubbing occurs when someone chooses to play with an app, text or take a phone call instead of paying attention to a person.
“Essentially, what we are saying is that you don’t matter,” he says. “It touches at our core.”
Oh boy…the horror…..Cubans are a hot-blooded people, believe me I know from my experience. But we are also a passionate emotionally connected people with a strong culture of close associations. We are not a cold group of people either…we hug…human contact is big with us. So I hope that those kinds of cultural values don’t change as technology seeps into Cuba. I can’t say if it has changed within out own communities here in the US…as I have been stuck in Hicktown Banjoville for so dang long, but I can at least hope and pretend things are still the same back home in West Tampa. It’s all I got sometimes, when all around me is fried chicken and racist ignorance. I do miss the days when there were more colors in my world….all types of colors.
You all have a great day.