Friday Reads: Two Years Gone and where has all the Sealife Gone?

Good Morning!

This Morning Reads will have a theme.  Two years ago the Gulf was oozing nasty, icky, oil.  Like Hurricane Katrina, it’s an event that’s changed our lives down here in ways that are hard to explain and share.  We’ve not fully recovered from either of these events.  That’s not exactly what the Oil, the seafood, or the tourist industry wants any one to tell you.  It’s not what state, local, and federal governments and agencies want you to know either.

But there it is.  There is still devastation. There are huge problems. The folks that created the problems are not being held to account.

The stories I will share are human, animal, vegetable, and mineral.  The BP Spill turned an entire ecosystem and way of living inside out.  It’s being covered up by smiling people inviting you to our Gulf Coast Cities and Beaches in ads.  It’s being hidden behind pictures of big heaping plates of staged seafood buffets.  What’s hidden behind the ads and the promos is disturbing science, economics, medicine, and social upheaval.  Here’s somethings you may want to know from our local news stations, scientists, and doctors.

From wusf News: Two Years after the BP Oil Spill: The Oil You Cannot See

On some Florida Panhandle beaches, swimmers can come off the beach with oil from the BP oil spill still on their skin — two years after that environmental disaster.

And, even after showering, the oil can still be on their skin. Only an ultraviolent light can show it.

Tampa Bay Times environmental reporter Craig Pittman says that’s because leaked oil, mixed with chemical dispersant sprayed on the spill two years ago to break it up, is pooling in some shallow waters of Panhandle beaches.

And the mixture actually accelerates absorption by human skin.  Seen under the ultraviolet light, it’s kind of creepy.

From The Nation: Investigation: Two Years After the BP Spill, A Hidden Health Crisis Festers

n August 2011 the Government Accountability Project (GAP) began its investigation of the public health threats associated with the oil spill cleanup, the results of which will be released this summer. “Over twenty-five whistleblowers in our investigation have reported the worst public health tragedies of any investigation in GAP’s thirty-five-year history,” Shanna Devine, GAP legislative campaign coordinator, told me.

Witnesses reported a host of ailments, including eye, nose and throat irritation; respiratory problems; blood in urine, vomit and rectal bleeding; seizures; nausea and violent vomiting episodes that last for hours; skin irritation, burning and lesions; short-term memory loss and confusion; liver and kidney damage; central nervous system effects and nervous system damage; hypertension; and miscarriages.

Cleanup workers reported being threatened with termination when they requested respirators, because it would “look bad in media coverage,” or they were told that respirators were not necessary because the chemical dispersant Corexit was “as safe as Dawn dishwashing soap.” Cleanup workers and residents reported being directly sprayed with Corexit, resulting in skin lesions and blurred eyesight. Many noted that when they left the Gulf, their symptoms subsided, only to recur when they returned.

According to the health departments of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, from June to September 2010, when they stopped keeping track, more than 700 people sought health services with complaints “believed to be related to exposure to pollutants from the oil spill.” But this is likely an extreme undercount, as most people did not know to report their symptoms as related to the oil spill, nor did their physicians ask. Like virtually everyone I have interviewed on the Gulf Coast over the past two years—including dozens for this article—Nicole Maurer’s doctors did not even inquire about her children’s exposure to oil or Corexit.

It will take years to determine the actual number of affected people. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), with financial support from BP, is conducting several multiyear health impact studies, which are only just getting under way. I spoke with all but one of the studies’ national and Gulf Coast directors. “People were getting misdiagnosed for sure,” says Dr. Edward Trapido, director of two NIEHS studies on women’s and children’s health and associate dean for research at the Louisiana State University School of Public Health. “Most doctors simply didn’t know what questions to ask or what to look for.” There are only two board-certified occupational physicians in Louisiana, according to Trapido, and only one also board-certified as a toxicologist: Dr. James Diaz, director of the Environmental and Occupa-tional Health Sciences Program at Louisiana State University.

Diaz calls the BP spill a toxic “gumbo of chemicals” to which the people, places and wildlife of the Gulf continue to be exposed.

From a George Washington Blog Post Crossposted at Naked Capitalism: The Gulf Ecosystem Is Being Decimated.  This is a huge list of sources covering the many problems.

 New York Times: “Gulf Dolphins Exposed to Oil Are Seriously Ill, Agency Says

MSNBC: Gulf shrimp scarce this season (and see the Herald Tribune‘s report)

Mother Jones: Eyeless shrimp are being found all over the Gulf

NYT: Oil Spill Affected Gulf Fish’s Cell Function, Study Finds

CBS:Expert: BP spill likely cause of sick Gulf fish (and see the Press Register’s report)

  Study confirms oil from Deepwater spill entered food chain

Pensacola News Journal: “Sick fish” archive

Agence France Presse: Mystery illnesses plague Louisiana oil spill crews

MSNBC: Sea turtle deaths up along Gulf, joining dolphin trend

MSNBC:Exclusive: Submarine Dive Finds Oil, Dead Sea Life at Bottom of Gulf of Mexico

AP: BP oil spill the culprit for slow death of deep-sea coral, scientists say (and see the Guardian and AFP‘s write ups)

A recent report also notes that there are flesh-eating bacteria in tar balls of BP oil washing up on Gulf beaches

And all of that lovely Corexit dispersant sprayed on water, land and air? It inhibits the ability of microbes to break down oil, and allows oil and other chemicals to be speed past the normal barriers of human skin.

Just google up the Legacy of the BP Oil Spill and feast your eyes on the eyeless shrimp,  lesions on fish, and all the dead sea mammals washing up on Gulf Cost beaches.  This is from AJ.

“The fishermen have never seen anything like this,” Dr Jim Cowan told Al Jazeera. “And in my 20 years working on red snapper, looking at somewhere between 20 and 30,000 fish, I’ve never seen anything like this either.”

Dr Cowan, with Louisiana State University’s Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences started hearing about fish with sores and lesions from fishermen in November 2010.

Cowan’s findings replicate those of others living along vast areas of the Gulf Coast that have been impacted by BP’s oil and dispersants.

Gulf of Mexico fishermen, scientists and seafood processors have told Al Jazeera they are finding disturbing numbers of mutated shrimp, crab and fish that they believe are deformed by chemicals released during BP’s 2010 oil disaster.

Along with collapsing fisheries, signs of malignant impact on the regional ecosystem are ominous: horribly mutated shrimp, fish with oozing sores, underdeveloped blue crabs lacking claws, eyeless crabs and shrimp – and interviewees’ fingers point towards BP’s oil pollution disaster as being the cause.

This AJ article explains that “Nearly two years after BP’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, fishermen and scientists say things are getting worse.”

Fishermen, in particular, are seeing their way of life threatened with extinction – both from lack of an adequate legal settlement and collapsing fisheries.

One of these people, Greg Perez, an oyster fisherman in the village of Yscloskey, Louisiana, has seen a 75 per cent decrease in the amount of oysters he has been able to catch.

“Since the spill, business has been bad,” he said. “Sales and productivity are down, our state oyster grounds are gone, and we are investing personal money to rebuild oyster reefs, but so far it’s not working.”

Perez, like so many Gulf Coast commercial fisherman, has been fishing all his life. He said those who fish for crab and shrimp are “in trouble too”, and he is suing BP for property damage for destroying his oyster reefs, as well as for his business’ loss of income.

People like Perez make it possible for Louisiana to provide 40 per cent of all the seafood caught in the continental US.

But Louisiana’s seafood industry, valued at about $2.3bn, is now fighting for its life.

We actually see all this reported in the local media.  We see the pictures. We live the effects.  I completely admit to having scaled back my consumption of seafood since the spill.  It’s just not the same and I don’t trust it.  But, if you watch the ads that BP runs on TV stations around our neighboring states and listen to the deafening response by governments, you think it all just disappeared.  They keep saying everything is safe and it’s all back to normal. Well, it isn’t.  If you ask me, I think it’s just going to get worse.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Sunday Reads: Cleaning up and being taken to the cleaners…

Good Sunday Morning!

Well…did you enjoy your extra hour of sleep this morning?  I love when we fall behind, springing ahead is just to difficult for night owls like myself.

BP is in the news again…trying to clean up their greasy image, and it looks like they aren’t doing a good job of it.  BP’s bid to clean up its act dealt blow by revelations in Russia case | Business | The Observer

BP‘s attempt to rebuild its public image after the worst oil spill in US history has been dealt a blow by court documents showing it was willing to do a major deal with Russian billionaires whom it regarded as “crooks and thugs” to gain access to the country’s vast oil wealth.

The damaging allegations have come to light at a critical time for BP, which faces a criminal investigation by the US justice department while preparing to fight a massive legal case in New Orleans over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

North American rival Norex Petroleum is seeking $1bn damages in its case at the New York supreme court as it argues that BP and its Russian business partner, TNK, have benefited from oil assets that were seized in the late 1990s. Russia is important to BP – its joint-venture, TNK-BP, produces a quarter of its oil. At the heart of the dispute is the alleged misappropriation of the Yugraneft oilfield in Siberia, which Norex claims has generated $1bn in oil revenues in the past decade.

BP had a deal with Tyumen Oil (TNK), which was funded by a consortium, Alpha Access Renova (AAR), made up of the four richest businessmen in Russia.

A BP internal briefing, obtained by Norex and published through the New York court procedure, says: “Sources close to TNK believe [that the] local oil industry [has] been infested with criminal elements long before Alfa took over TNK.”

Some kind of organized criminal activity behind all this? Nah…/snark.

When BP formally teamed up with TNK, it asked for a clause to be written into the contract that would remove it from any liability in the event of a successful action by Norex. The Canadian company believes this is a “smoking gun”, as it says it shows BP realised that the Yugraneft field could resurface as an issue. Norex’s chairman, Alex Rotzang, said BP made a “deal with the devil” by striking the TNK deal in 2003.

An official spokesman for AAR declined to comment on the affair, while BP argued that there was “no merit” in the Norex suit and said it had moved to have it dismissed.

“The allegations made by Norex all involve conduct that predates the formation of TNK-BP and had nothing to do with BP,” said a spokesman from the oil company’s London head office. He went on to rubbish the idea of a “smoking gun” and said that the special clause was “to protect itself against exactly the kind of meritless claims Norex is bringing”.

The article ends by discussing the difficult time BP has had in cleaning up its reputation since the Gulf Macondo disaster. (Of course, as Dakinikat has posted time and time again, they haven’t done a good job of cleaning up the spill either.) Even with the Macondo well still leaking in the Gulf, BP has been approved by the Obama Administration for another deep water well in the Gulf of Mexico.

As if the main stream media not reporting the real story on the various Occupy protest throughout the nation was bad enough, now we have yet another rich luxury car running down Occupy protesters. This time in DC: Exclusive Video: #OccupyDC Protesters Hit by Driver…Who Police Let Go | Crooks and Liars

…the Occupiers chanted and “occupied” most exits while some of the attendees were at pre-scheduled free screening of Atlas Shugged. (No joke, inside they have a booth set up where you can literally put on a Reagan mask and have your picture taken. If this isn’t a metaphor for how the Right’s odd relationship with a President who tripled the national debt and yet still raised taxes almost every year he was in office – I don’t know what is.)

The worst thing to happen to the Koch-funded event attendees last night was that they had to get chanted at while walking a block to catch a cab or use the Metro inside the convention center. “If we made some rich guys use the Metro tonight – we won!” I overheard an Occupier say.

The opposite corner from where I was standing – a full block away – a silver Lexus sedan hit three protesters in the street. The reports were that he actually sped up “like he was playing chicken” according to eye witnesses. The video above is when the police let the driver go. Then the crowd became angry at the police. You can hear an Officer Walsh on the tape saying, “They shouldn’t have been in the street.” The Metro Police have said they released the driver because he had a green light. This contradicts the report or tweet from DC Councilman Tommy Wells who claimed the driver was apprehended blocks away and was in custody.

Okay, so there are some discrepancies in the story when it comes to whether the driver was in police custody…but remember, this is the second time a car, and let’s be honest…a luxury car, has run over protesters. The incident in Oakland involved a Mercedes…and that driver was also let go by the police, even when he tried to “drive away” from the scene of the “accident. “As far as the OccupyDC plow down…

The injuries are described by the Washington Post as “non-life threatening” but they were still taken away by ambulances. I’m not familiar with DC laws – but I’ve always been under the impression that when pedestrians are in the street they automatically have the right-of-way. I can understand the frustration of the demonstrators which led to at least two arrests last night.

Yeah, interesting…pedestrians vs. two tons of metallic 1% on wheels…guess we see just what percent matters to the cops.

Let’s move on to a new Wall Street investing trend that may be a mini follow-up to all those crappy bundled mortgages that hit the fan back in 2008.  ‘Buy Here Pay Here’ Auto Companies Assault Working Poor; Setting Up Another Economic Crisis | Crooks and Liars

Okay, here is the story, a reader sent an email to Kenneth Quinnell, one of the writers at C&L, describing a horrible experience with a vehicle repossession…that never should have happened in the first place. You can read the letter at that link above. Then Quinnell did some digging and found out the old “Buy Here Pay Here” car lots are getting lots of new investors…we are talking big banks, Toronto Dominion big…Check it out:

The details are even more disturbing. The wife’s illness included a brain tumor and the purpose of the extension was to deal with the illness, not out of any irresponsibility. On top of that, the account was not in default and the repo man was belligerent and entered locked and gated property without permission. Luckily — and no thanks to Chrysler — the reader’s wife is still alive and still fighting her illness

Others report similar experiences with cars financed through Chrysler Financial. Chrysler Financial was a recipient of a $1.5 billion bailout via the Troubled Asset Relief Program in 2009. In 2010, Chrysler Financial was bought out and their name was changed to TD Auto Finance. It isn’t clear if Chrysler Financial/TD Auto Finance is what is known as a “Buy Here Pay Here” company, but their repossession practices are in line with that emerging industry.

He goes on to cite a series of articles at the LA Times that are looking into the fast growing scheme. (Scheme is my word for this crap.)

Wall Street is investing heavily in the profitable industry:

Investor money is pouring into the industry from several sources, helping Buy Here Pay Here dealers expand their reach and raise their profile.

In addition to private equity firms such as Altamont, several payday lending chains are moving into Buy Here Pay Here and have acquired dealerships.

Stock investors are snatching up shares in Buy Here Pay Here chains and other publicly traded companies in the business. Two of the biggest, America’s Car-Mart Inc. and Credit Acceptance Corp., have seen big gains in their share prices this year, outpacing the market.

Buy Here Pay Here is also being boosted by one of the sophisticated financial strategies that drove the nation’s recent housing boom and bust: securitization.

Loans on decade-old clunkers are being bundled into securities, just as subprime mortgages were a few years ago. In the last two years, investors have bought more than $15 billion in subprime auto securities.

Although they’re backed mainly by installment contracts signed by people who can’t even qualify for a credit card, most of these bonds have been rated investment grade. Many have received the highest rating: AAA.

That’s because rating firms believe that with tens of thousands of loans lumped together, the securities are safe even if some of the loans prove worthless.

Some analysts worry that the rush to securitization could lead to careless lending by dealers eager to sell more loans, as happened with many mortgage-backed bonds.

“We think that investing in such companies is a ticking time bomb,” said Joe Keefe, chief executive of Pax World Management, which steers its investments into businesses it deems socially and environmentally responsible. “It has ethical as well as systemic risk implications.”

Wow, you know, Toronto Dominion, or TDBank is the largest bank in Canada… TD Auto Finance is one of their many companies, or divisions. My husband used to work for TDWaterhouse before it became TDAmeritrade…they seem to have their fingers in all sorts of pies.

I just find it interesting that when it comes to the greedy Banksters, taking people’s homes illegally just wasn’t enough for them.

Yet another reason for the Occupy movement to press on and fight for the 99%.

Just a few more links for you all this morning, Cuba is now prepared to Allow Buying and Selling of Property  (Uh…with a few restrictions.)

Cuba announced a new property law Thursday that promises to allow citizens and permanent residents to buy and sell real estate — the most significant market-oriented change yet approved by the government of Raúl Castro, and one that will probably reshape Cuba’s cities and conceptions of class.

The new rules go into effect on Nov. 10, according to Cuba’s state-run newspaper, and while some of the fine print is still being written, the law published on Thursday amounts to a major break from decades of socialist housing. For the first time since the early days of the revolution, buyers and sellers will be allowed to set home prices and move when they want. Transactions of various kinds, including sales, trades and gifts to relatives by Cubans who are emigrating, will no longer be subject to government approval, the new law says.

“To say that it’s huge is an understatement,” said Pedro Freyre, an expert in Cuban-American legal relations who teaches at Columbia Law School. “This is the foundation, this is how you build capitalism, by allowing the free trade of property.”

Cuban officials would disagree; they argue that they are carefully protecting socialism as they move toward economic reform, and the new law includes some provisions that seem aimed at controlling both speculation and the concentration of wealth. Owners will be limited to two homes (a residence and a vacation property) and financing must go through Cuba’s Central Bank, which will charge fees, which have not been determined. And a tax of 8 percent will be split by the buyer and seller.

Cuban Economist are hoping this new property law will jumpstart the island’s economy. Spurring renovations and in turn…jobs. Many Cubans are leery about the new law, and are worried it may leave them homeless.

Yet on the other hand, there are also significant social concerns. Mario Coyula, Havana’s director of urbanism and architecture in the 1970s and ’80s, said that wide-scale buying and selling would lead to a “huge rearrangement” in Havana and other cities as the wealthy move to better areas. He and others said it would inevitably exacerbate class conflict.

And because the island has a shortage of housing — with many families and even divorced couples continuing to live together for lack of a better option — critics say that any displacement could raise the prospect of homelessness. For example, if two families are sharing a home and one holds what currently amounts to Cuban title with limited rights, the new law says that the titleholder can sell and the tenant family will eventually have to move.

There are a lot of unknowns that come with property ownership in Cuba, it is going to be something to watch as the laws take hold. I’ll keep you posted on this.

From Minx’s Missing Link File:  Many of you know that I am a fiber artist, being a weaver and a spinner gives me a “connection” to a group of insects that also spin and weave…the spider. Here is one little spider that spins up a huge web, it is so cool: Tiny Spider Spins World’s Largest Spider Web | Geekosystem

While it may not be the biggest spider in the forests of Madagascar, the Darwin’s bark spider — so named as it was described 150 years after the publication of The Origins of Species — has a pretty big claim to fame. According to researchers, the 18mm spiders not only have the toughest thread, but use it to spin webs some 75 feet wide. This quite easily makes them the creators of the largest spider webs in the world. The process by which the tiny weavers go about their work is surprisingly straightforward.

The spider finds itself a river, and then a branch or a bush on the river’s bank. From there, it lets out a line of thread that is blown in the wind — hopefully across the river. Once it lands an anchor on the opposite bank, the spider reinforces this lengthy line of thread and begins spinning an orb web over the river itself.

Though scientists have now cracked how the webs are built, they still aren’t sure why the webs are built. During their observations, scientists wondered if perhaps the massive webs were for the catching of massive prey. But when nothing larger than a beetle or dragonfly materialized in the web, they decided to employ some experimental biology and simply threw larger prey at the web to see what would happen. Despite their highly scientific chucking, frogs and larger insects escaped the web unscathed.

I keep telling myself that my next tattoo is going to be a spider, spinning up a little nest of eggs…a mama spider.

Mama spider, with a big booty too!

Okay, I’m getting a bit loopy, let’s take a look at the last two links for you today.

Easy Like Sunday Morning Link of the Week:  If anyone has ever watched wild birds hunt or work together to get food, you know that these birds are really clever creatures.  BBC Nature – Clever Eurasian jays plan for the future

Experiments with Eurasian jays have shown that the birds store food that they will want in the future – “planning” for their impending needs.

The study revealed that birds would stash more of the foods that they knew would be unavailable to them on forthcoming foraging trips.

Jays are not the first birds to show that they might have the capacity for what is known as “mental time travel”.

But previous claims that birds “plan” in this way have been controversial.

The findings are published in the journal Biology Letters.

Eurasian jay (c) Photolibrary.com

To find out if the jays thought about the future, the scientists exploited the birds’ habit of hiding or “caching” food for later.

The article details the studies results, fascinating.

Lastly, this article from the NY Times. I love this story about the sheep…check it out.

Sheep Lawn Mowers, and Other Go-Getters – NYTimes.com

Randy Harris for The New York Times

In Ohio, Eddie Miller and two of his Jacob sheep, Panda and Nerd, walk to their truck after a mowing job. Customers pay $1 per sheep per day.

So Miller ties his sheep up in someone’s yard and they eat the grass and weeds.

IN this verdant lawn-filled college town, most people keep their lawn mowers tuned up by oiling the motor and sharpening the blades. Eddie Miller keeps his in shape with salt licks and shearing scissors.

Mr. Miller, 23, is the founder of Heritage Lawn Mowing, a company that rents out sheep — yes, sheep — as a landscaping aid. For a small fee, Mr. Miller, whose official job title is “shepherd,” brings his ovine squad to the yards of area homeowners, where the sheep spend anywhere from three hours to several days grazing on grass, weeds and dandelions.

The results, he said, are a win-win: the sheep eat free, saving him hundreds of dollars a month in food costs, and his clients get a freshly cut lawn, with none of the carbon emissions of a conventional gas-powered mower. (There are, of course, other emissions, which Mr. Miller said make for “all-natural fertilizer.”)

That just makes me smile…gotta love the sheep!

Well, I hope you enjoyed the reads this morning. For the next two weeks the SDB Evening News Reads will be posted between 6:30pm and 7:30pm EST. I’ll be busy painting and getting our new hovel in shape during the day, so its easier to post later in the day.

What are you all doing today? Catch ya later in the comments.


The Blob Lives On!

It’s been a year since the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon killed 11 people outright and destroyed an entire ecosystem. It’s the worst environmental catastrophe to ever hit the US. The US celebrates Earth Day on Friday, yet, I never hear one politician make hay over the “lessons of 4/20”.  This is because policy makers refuse to learn the lessons. They’d rather sell oil and tainted seafood than deal with the real issues of the disaster.

Most of the coastline of Louisiana is still coated with oil either right in the marshes or just below the surface. The Oyster populations are way down. Dead Dolphins and Sea Turtles are washing up onto the beaches in record numbers. Where is the outrage? Where is the move to seek justice? Where are the calls about what we’re going to leave to our children?

No one who could make this right is carrying the banner to do so. Thousands of small businesses that rely on the Gulf are still hurting and going under. Those that are hurting include people who fish, oyster, shrimp, and run services businesses that support other businesses or tourist trade. It’s an ongoing tragedy and one that’s been ignored for the most part.   The Times Picayune editorial staff and even Republican Politicians in the area who are obsessed with drilling for oil and the oil industry here aren’t shying away from pointing fingers and blame.  BP is doing the same half-assed job of cleaning up that they did of drilling on the Deepwater Horizon.  There is no justice and no peace down here on the Gulf.  Real people are dying and local economies are going under.  There has been more guffaw in Washington DC over defunding Planned Parenthood than making things right for people impacted by the BP Oil Gusher.  Just ask Congressman Markey who has tried endlessly to pass bills to make it right and hasn’t got one through yet.

The oil lurking just under the soil in the marshes of Pass a Loutre Wildlife Management Area is a testament to that. The area was thick with roseau cane a year ago, Wildlife and Fisheries Secretary Robert Barham told reporters this week. “It was a thick, luscious, green tropical marsh,” he said. Now it is “weathered, stressed, unhealthy.”

The shoreline has visibly retreated in the past year, shrinking several yards from where the water line had been marked in the days after the spill. That is discouraging to Louisianians and ought to worry all Americans, given the importance of our coastal wetlands to the creation of fish and other marine life.

The state created the Pass a Loutre Wildlife Management Area nearly 100 years ago, and it has been an important refuge for migratory birds. Now, the state is using air cannons to keep the birds away from the oily marshes.

This is just one spot on the Gulf Coast that is still suffering from the massive amount of oil that spilled from BP’s well last spring and summer.

In some locations, we are losing 5 feet of marshes and shore line a day.  Deep Horizon oil is everywhere and making things much worse.  All you have to do is talk to the people that live in the affected areas like Grand Isle or Plaquemines Parish or Barataria Bay to see and hear about oil oozing along the coastline.

The noise of the cannons, combined with the swish and flash of metallic strips flapping from poles above the cane, are designed to keep birds from settling into the oily area.

“This is the very terminal end of the Mississippi Flyway,” said Todd Baker, biology program manager for Wildlife & Fisheries. “You get a wide variety of birds, waterfowl, neotropical migrants, raptors, all of them. When they come through, this is the first piece of land they see. When they leave, this is the last place they rest up before they jump across the Gulf of Mexico.

“The hazing cannons are not foolproof,” Baker said, as a Louisiana red-winged blackbird chirped from atop a cane stalk a few yards away.

About 15 miles away as the birds fly — or 30 by boat — Graves used a shovel and his hands to dig about a foot beneath the surface of a spit of sandy beach at the end of South Pass, turning over black-stained sand that smelled like diesel.

Here’s some testimony from people whose health has been impacted by working on the clean-up.  There will probably be lots more of them in the coming months in years.

What does it say about a government that will not make right injustices done to so many people for the benefit of a profit-seeking company? What does it say that our media only shows up to report this story on anniversary days?  How do we explain to our children that we no longer have an entire lifestyle or set of animals and birds or group of human beings because oil is more important than anything?

The silence of Congress is deafening and deadly. They’ve been more concerned with gutting the EPA than learning the lessons from this deadly oilspill and its omnipresent aftermath.  Shame on them and every one else who has forgotten their fellow Americans and the country they profess to love.  This is killing people and it’s killing our land.  We should be talking about the lessons of 4/20 daily.  Instead, we’re just learning how much more Congress loves their donors than the people they are supposed to represent.  It’s a damn shame.


Sunday Reads: Did you ever see an elephant fly?

Morning everyone, my computer is in its final death throes.  It is amazing how much of our lives are on those things. I have some links for you, but since the computer is kaput, I am writing these reads earlier than I usually do. So you may have seen some of these already…I apologize for that. And since my computer has crashed, taking everything with it, I am using a different computer and on borrowed time…Therefore, I don’t have time to write as much as I would like.

In Japan, it seems there is another leak at Fukushima.  How this thing is going to end?  One thing is for certain,  it will not be for a long time.

Japan nuclear commission fails to send experts to Fukushima – The Mainichi Daily News

TOKYO (Kyodo) — The Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan has failed to send designated experts to Fukushima Prefecture to look into the crisis at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant even though a national disaster-preparedness plan requires it to do so, many of the experts said Saturday.

A commission spokesperson said problems following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami such as blackouts had discouraged it from sending any experts to Fukushima Prefecture, but many of the specialists and government officials questioned the claim.

NHK WORLD English

Wastewater level at Fukushima reactor rising

The operator of the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant says the level of highly radioactive water in an underground tunnel for one of the reactors is rising.

Contaminated water in the plant’s facilities is hampering efforts to restore the reactor’s cooling systems. Leakages of contaminated water into the ocean and the ground are also raising concerns.

Tokyo Electric Power Company says as of 6 PM Friday, the level of contaminated water in the tunnel had risen 4.5 centimeters even after part of the water was moved to a condenser in a turbine building on Wednesday.

TEPCO says work earlier this month to fix the leakage of highly radioactive water into the ocean may have caused water from the reactor to accumulate in the tunnel.

TEPCO hopes to begin transferring highly radioactive water to a waste-processing facility by the end of next week so that work to fully restore the cooling systems can resume.

Highly radioactive water may also be leaking underground. TEPCO says it will monitor underground water 3 times a week, instead of only once a week.

A survey conducted by TEPCO on Wednesday showed radiation levels in underground water in storage facilities for the Number 1 and 2 reactors were up 38 times the levels observed a week earlier.

Saturday, April 16, 2011 23:54 +0900 (JST)

NHK WORLD English

Radiactivity rises again in sea near No.2 reactor

The operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant says levels of radioactive substances in seawater have risen again near the water intake of its No.2 reactor.

The Tokyo Electric Power Company, known as TEPCO, says it detected 260 becquerels of iodine-131 per cubic centimeter in samples taken on Friday. That is 6,500 times the legal limit.

In the same area, levels of iodine-131 had been declining since April 2nd when 7.5 million times the limit was detected. On Thursday, the level was 1,100 times the safety limit.

TEPCO says the level of radioactive cesium-137 was also up in the same area. It detected 130 becquerels per cubic centimeter, 1,400 times the legal limit.
The firm says radioactive densities are leveling off or falling in most other areas.

TEPCO has installed underwater barriers and metal boards near the intake to prevent contaminated water from leaking into the sea.

The power company says the rise in the levels of radioactivity may have been caused by the installation work, but no new sources of leakage have been found.

Saturday, April 16, 2011 23:55 +0900 (JST)

Possible new leak at nuclear plant in Japan – MarketWatch

Radiation levels have spiked again in seawater near the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in northern Japan in an indication of possible new leaks at the complex, the government said Saturday, According to reports.

NHK WORLD English

TEPCO to step up discharged water monitoring

The operator of the troubled Fukushima nuclear power plant says it will step up monitoring to assess the environmental impact of radioactive water discharged into the ocean from the plant.

Tokyo Electric Power Company says it will measure radiation levels in seawater in 4 locations 3 kilometers off the coast, and 2 locations 8 kilometers off the coast.

This is in addition to the existing monitoring locations along the shore and 15 kilometers offshore.

The increased monitoring is in response to an instruction by the government’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency. The result of the investigation will be reported to the agency by May 2nd.

Here is some news from Bahrain and Gaza:

Bahrain ‘arrests rights lawyer and doctors’ – Middle East – Al Jazeera English

Bahrain has detained a human rights lawyer and at least two doctors as part of a crackdown on pro-democracy protestors in the Gulf Arab kingdom, campaigners have said.

Security forces arrested lawyer Mohammed al-Tajer on Saturday, the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights and Wefaq, the biggest opposition party, said.

In Gaza this week:

Why Did Jihadists Kill My Friend? | Mother Jones

The jihadist militants in Gaza who kidnapped and murdered Italian journalist and human rights activist Vittorio Arrigoni could not have killed a more steadfast champion of freedom and justice for Palestinians.

I met Vittorio, known to his friends as Vik, during my first week of freelance reporting in Gaza last year for publications including The Nation, GlobalPost, and Jerusalem Post Magazine. Vik graciously offered to show me around. The first time we met, he recounted the Israeli army assaults that he’d witnessed, and advised me on humanitarian stories that I might cover in Gaza. He brought along his laptop, and offered to let me use his pictures and videos. He took deep puffs from his pipe as he told me about the things he’d seen, including the time he saw a friend of his killed in an Israeli airstrike. I remember feeling awed by his determination to perservere despite his grief.

Candlelight vigil held for Italian activist – Middle East – Al Jazeera English

There has been an outrage over the cold-blooded killing of the Italian peace activist [Reuters]

Hundreds of mourners have rallied and many have held a candlelight vigil in the Hamas-governed Palestinian enclave of Gaza for Vittorio Arrigoni, an Italian activist who was killed on Friday.

And in the West Bank, which is run by Fatah, Hamas’s rival, around 100 people, most of them foreigners, marched on Saturday through Ramallah to a house of mourning in El Bireh, an AFP correspondent said.

Vittorio Arrigoni, 36, who was working with the pro-Palestinian International Solidarity Movement (ISM), was found dead by the security forces in a house in northern Gaza early on Friday.

He had been hanged, Hamas security officials said.

Hamas officials said two people had been arrested on suspicion of involvement in the kidnapping and said they were hunting further accomplices.

Ihab al-Ghussein, a Hamas spokesman, called it a “heinous crime which has nothing to do with our values, our religion, our customs and traditions”.

“The other members of the group will be hunted down,” he said.

There has been an outrage over the cold-blooded killing of the Italian.

“I was about to cry when I heard the news. That man quit his family for us, for Gaza, and now Gazans killed him. That was so bad,” Abu Ahmed, a supermarket owner, said.

This week marked the anniversary of the BP spill. Warning the pictures are a bit alarming…I had posted in the comments sometime this week about the release of BP emails discussing ways to manipulate the scientist research. These articles touch on that as well.

BP anniversary: Toxicity, suffering and death – Features – Al Jazeera English

Medical and toxicology experts have told Al Jazeera that the oil spill has triggered environmental and human health disasters that will likely span decades [Erika Blumenfeld/Al Jazeera]

April 20, 2011 marks the one-year anniversary of BP’s catastrophic oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. On this day in 2010 the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, causing oil to gush from 5,000 feet below the surface into the ninth largest body of water on the planet.

At least 4.9 million barrels of BP’s oil would eventually be released into the Gulf of Mexico before the well was capped 87 days later.

It is, to date, the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry. BP has used at least 1.9 million gallons of toxic dispersants to sink the oil, in an effort the oil giant claimed was aimed at keeping the oil from reaching shore.

Critics believe the chemical dispersants were used simply to hide the oil and minimise BP’s responsibility for environmental fines.

Earlier this month Transocean Ltd, the owner of the Deepwater Horizon, gave its top executives bonuses for achieving what it described as the “best year in safety performance in our company’s history”. Transocean CEO Steve Newman’s bonus was $374,062.

BP has plans to restart deepwater drilling on 10 wells in the Gulf of Mexico this summer after being granted permission by US regulators.

Meanwhile, marine and wildlife biologists, toxicologists, and medical doctors have described the impact of the disaster upon the environment and human health as “catastrophic,” and have told Al Jazeera that this is only the beginning of that what they expect to be an environmental and human health crisis that will likely span decades.

Guest Post: No, The Gulf Oil Spill Is NOT Old News « naked capitalism

While the Japanese nuclear crisis might upstage the Gulf crisis, it hasn’t gone away.

As the Wall Street Journal notes today:

Vladimir Uiba, head of Russia’s Federal Medical-Biological Agency… compared the contamination of seawater by the Fukushima complex with an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico by BP PLC last year, and said, “The BP oil spill has caused far more serious impact on the environment than the Fukushima accident” ….

Gulf residents are still getting sick, the number of dolphins and whales killed by the spill appears to be many times higher than officials previously believed. Dead turtles are washing up in Mississippi. And see these photos from my favorite photographer, Julie Dermansky:

A few updates on Monsanto and Mortgage Fraud:

The United States of Monsanto | Emptywheel

WikiLeaks had revealed that our diplomats had proposed a “military-style trade war” to force Europeans to adopt Monsanto’s controversial products.

A Slap on the Wrist for Mortgage Fraud

On Wednesday, three federal regulators — the Federal Reserve, the Office of Thrift Supervision, and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency — released an enforcement order against 14 of the nation’s largest banks and two third-party service providers for persistent irregularities and outright fraud in the way they process mortgages. These regulators are, respectively, the gang that missed the housing bubble, American International Group’s overseer (whose colossal lapses caused it to be disbanded in last year’s financial-regulatory law), and an entity most recently headed by a former bank lobbyist. The product of their deliberations, then, is no surprise: a toothless federal consent decree that essentially lets the offending banks off the hook and puts them in charge of their own prosecution.

Some updates on illegal actions of state governments and an interesting article about WWED….What Would Einstein Do?

Michigan’s Governor Exercises “Emergency Powers” to Break Union Contracts | Crooks and Liars

Benton, Michigan’s city government was shut down yesterday by the state Emergency Financial Manager. Elected officials in that city are now limited to calling a meeting, adjourning a meeting, and approving minutes of a meeting. Beyond that, they can do nothing.

Eclectablog:

This is a complete disenfranchisement of an entire community, an entire large city in my state. The voters are now denied the ability to be governed by the people they elected in a democratic election.

This is nothing short of an abridgment of democracy in raw form.

ThinkProgress » TN State Rep. Argues Einstein Would Teach Creationism

Armed with fantasy and lies, Tennessee legislators are attempting to dismantle science education in their state’s public schools. Last week, the Tennessee House voted by an overwhelming 70-23 margin in favor of a radical bill to teach the “controversy” about scientific subjects “including, but not limited to, biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.” During the debate on HB 368, introduced by Rep. Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville), anti-science conservative Rep. Frank Nicely (R-Strawberry Plains) argued that the “critical thinker” Albert Einstein would have wanted public schools to teach creationism alongside the science of biological evolution:

I think that if there’s one thing that everyone in this room could agree on, that would be that Albert Einstein was a critical thinker. He was a scientist. I think that we probably could agree that Albert Einstein was smarter than any of our science teachers in our high schools or colleges. And Albert Einstein said that a little knowledge would turn your head toward atheism, while a broader knowledge would turn your head toward Christianity.

All I can say to that Einstein link, is ugh….

Mink’s Missing Link File:   This next one is a whopper that I think you all would really find maddening. I expect the comments will be full of venom from this link from Historiann…be sure to click the link so that you can read the full story.

Seminal developments: entitled sexist a$holes divide surgeons’ group : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present

This would actually be a pretty funny story for The Onion, if it weren’t in fact true (h/t to my horrified physician friend KV):

A Valentine’s Day editorial in the official newspaper of the American College of Surgeons has set off a firestorm of controversy that has divided the largest professional organization of surgeons in the country and raised questions about the current leadership and its attitudes toward women and gay and lesbian members.

The editorial, written by Dr. Lazar J. Greenfield, an emeritus professor of surgery at the University of Michigan School of Medicine and president-elect of the American College of Surgeons, extols the mood-enhancing effects of semen on women. It begins with a reference to the mating behaviors of fruit flies, then goes on to discuss studies on the menstrual cycles of heterosexual and lesbian women who live together. Citing the research of evolutionary psychologists at the State University of New York, it describes how female college students who had been exposed to semen were less depressed than their peers who had not, concluding: “So there’s a deeper bond between men and women than St. Valentine would have suspected, and now we know there’s a better gift for that day than chocolates.”

.       .       .       .       .       .       .       .      

The organization has more than 75,000 members (I am one). Roughly 10 percent are women. There are five women on the organization’s 22-member governing board; this month, they issued a letter requesting that Dr. Greenfield step down as president-elect. The entire board is set to vote on the issue on Sunday.

Seriously.  Re-read those paragraphs again.  Especially the part about how this was published in the official newspaper of the American College of Surgeons.And click on the link, too, to be informed by the headline “Sexism charges divide surgeons’ group.”  That’s right:  sexism charges are dividing the group, not the disgusting sexist behavior itself.

Easy Like Sunday Morning Link of the Week:  Okay, no artsy fartsy link this week. Here is one to get you talking as well, I wonder…the President has a similar problem that this little girl did. Ears that stick out a bit more than “normal.”  I just think it is ironic that Obama pushed that anti-bully campaign, this little girl is a victim of bullying, and they both have protruding ears…

Bullying Pushes 7-year Old To Opt For Plastic Surgery On Her Ears

A 7-year old South Dakota girl, who has been a victim of bullying because her ears stick out, underwent an otoplasty – plastic surgery to reshape and pin back the outer ear. Samantha Roselle’s mother told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that the surgical procedure was chosen as a preventative measure, to stop the bullying.

Cami Roselles, Samantha’s mom, said “Kids are mean. That’s just how they are.”

The operation, which lasted two-and-a-half hours, was successful, according to Dr. Steven Pearlman, the surgeon who performed the operation. He told ABC “Her ears look great!”

The link above has a medical description of the procedure. Here is the ABC link: Cosmetic Surgery to Stop School Bullying: Plastic Surgery for Children Increases 30 Percent in a Decade – ABC News

Samantha Shaw will soon be able to enjoy putting her hair up and wearing earrings, two things she never wanted to do a week ago.

Samantha just had otoplasty, commonly known as “pinning back” the ears. Before her surgery, her protruding ears made her the target of lots of hurtful questions by both children and adults.

Dr. Steven Pearlman, Samantha’s New York City-based plastic surgeon, said the two-and-a-half hour surgery went very well.

There are some residual black and blue marks near the incisions, but that’s to be expected, Pearlman said. For the next few months, Samantha will have to wear a headband to protect her ears.

“Her ears look great,” said Pearlman. “Throughout the checkup after surgery and when she got the bandages off, there wasn’t a peep or a tear out of her.”

Her mother, Cami Roselles, said it was a nerve-racking experience, since Samantha had never had surgery before. The anesthesia, she said, made her daughter sick.

But all that was forgotten as the bandages came off and Samantha got a glimpse of her new ears for the first time.

She was asked how they looked. “Good,” she said.

Samantha is just one of an increasing number of children having cosmetic surgery. That number, in fact, has gone up nearly 30 percent over the past decade, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.

I don’t know how I feel about this…maybe you can help me work it out in the comments?

So what are you reading about today, share your links!


Welcome to the Results of TransOcean’s Record Safety Year

Republicans are busy today with their attempts to dismantle the EPA because, after all, they stop businesses from doing so much business, right?  No reason told businesses back, is there?  Those paragons of job creation and responsibility are just drowning in EPA regulation.   Meanwhile, dead dolphins, drowning in BP oil continue to wash ashore down here in Louisiana. Ask me why I haven’t eaten anything from the Gulf for months now. Aren’t you glad Transocean had the best safety year evah?

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says that eight months after the Deepwater Horizon oil well was capped, dolphins are washing ashore in east Louisiana with some oil from that spilled on their bodies.

Spokeswoman Kim Amendola says the dolphins had spots of weathered oil.

Blair Mase — NOAA’s Gulf Coast stranding coordinator — emphasizes there’s no way yet to know why the dolphins died. She says the most recent dolphin bearing BP oil was found two weeks ago.

Mase says 15 dolphins with confirmed or suspected oil on their bodies washed ashore since the spill began last April — and eight had oil from that well, which was capped July 15.

I thought we got told that little miracle microbes ate it all.  Get the feeling NOAA is covering up stuff again?

Related News:

Feds forbid scientists probing Gulf dolphin deaths from speaking to media

Dolphins accidentally drowned by scientists trawling in Gulf

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says federal scientists trawling for fish to test for possible damage from last year’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill accidentally caught and drowned three dolphins.

Spokeswoman Connie Barclay says the pantropical spotted dolphins were caught Wednesday by scientists on the NOAA research ship Pisces, which works out of Pascagoula, Miss.

She said Friday that NOAA is reviewing the incident and will conduct an enforcement investigation.

 


Here we go again x3: Oil Spills 3, New Drilling Permits 4

I just got a tweet from the National Wildlife Federation (NWF).  This comes days after complaints that the government isn’t approving Gulf drilling permits quick enough. I should also mention that the Obama Administration has approved the fourth deep-water drilling permit since the BP oil gusher approximately one year ago. So, here’s information from the NWF where they are tracking THREE separate incidents in the Gulf right now.

At this point, we’re following what are likely three different incidents in the Gulf:

  • Oil coming ashore west of the mouth of the Mississippi River near Grand Isle
  • Reports of possible oil east of the mouth of the Mississippi in Chandeleur Sound
  • A large amount of sediment mixed with a small amount of oil at the mouth of the Mississippi

The Times Picayune reports on the first oil occurring near beleaguered Grand Isle, LA and a Houston company has accepted responsibility for that one. TP also reports on the second oil sighting near the Chandeleur islands.  That’s a picture of it at the top of the thread.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Steve Leeman said the Coast Guard had received no reports of oil-like material east of the river, but a group of environmentalists, engineers and scientists flew over Chandeleur Sound on Monday and Tuesday, and shared photographs and detailed descriptions with The Times-Picayune showing black, streaky plumes over a 20-mile stretch from just east of Quarantine Bay to just west of the shoal remains of Curlew Island.

While the oil industry whines it’s not getting to drill quickly enough, it’s becoming evident that their record of maintaining and inspecting existing rigs is pretty pathetic.  Also, we’ve seen no push by the administration or any one in Congress to implement the recommendations of  the National Commission on the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. Furthermore, BP is not living up to its obligations to deal with its damage to the wetlands done by the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. Louisiana’s congressional delegation has asked BP for $15 million to restore oyster beds and fisheries.  Louisiana is ponying up $12 million of state funds to begin some kind of effort. BP is still supposedly cleaning up the damage still but has no projects active to restore wetlands.

BP set up the GCRO to deal with the spill. On Tuesday, the GCRO opened up its New Orleans office, in an effort to show they are still working on the oil spill.

“BP’s Gulf Coast Restoration Organization is really centered on four things,” Utsler said. “The first and foremost is continuing the completion of this response.”

Dan Favre is with the environmental advocacy “Gulf Restoration Network.” The group has a similar name to BP’s GCRO, but with a totally different take on the response.

“Unfortunately, the response is clearly lacking,” Favre said. “We’re coming up on the one-year memorial mark of the beginning of BP’s disaster here in the Gulf. And so it’s just crazy that there hasn’t been any action to actually start to repair the damage that’s been done.”

That is true, in part. BP set aside hundreds of millions of dollars for their restoration organization, but a year after the spill, only one of their restoration projects is so far underway.

“One of those is already in progress in Mississippi, in terms of wetland restoration,” Utsler said. “Other projects are in discussion in readiness for being approved and agreed to with NRDA [Natural Resource Damage Assessment] trustees, the states and ourselves to conduct.”

However, none of those projects is currently underway in Louisiana — arguably the state hardest hit by the spill. Utsler said they are working on a list of projects, with pending approval. Yet, some environmental groups believe the federal government needs to step in to move the restoration along.

“I don’t think we can leave it to BP to do it on their own accord,” Favre said. “I want to see Congress and the administration actually make BP pay for Gulf ecosystem restoration, by levying the maximum fines and penalties under the Clean Water Act and then allocating those resources directly to environmental restoration in the Gulf.”

It seems somewhat premature to allow these businesses continued access to drilling in the Gulf when they obviously haven’t maintained the rigs, inspected rigs for problems, and shown signs of good faith following damage to the ecosystem and people living in the Gulf.  I think the administration should ask for implementation of the recommendations before allowing any more new permits.  We also need to look for patterns of abuse so that operators with bad records are not allowed new permits.  That’s just one shrimp lover’s opinion. But then, there’s Michelle Bachmann that wants to do away with the EPA and she’s a congress critter.  Newt Gingrich–oil industry suck-up extraordinaire wants that too. I just want my seafood and vacations in warm Gulf Waters to be safe again.

Oh, and honk if you’ve seen or read any of this on MSM from the village.


Wednesday Reads

Minx here with your Wednesday morning reads. Can you believe it is March already? I guess time flies when you are having fun…uh, you know I say that with a huge dose of snark. I know that my family is not the only one out there with only 3 bucks in their bank account to get them to the next payday…which is at the end of the week. Individuals and families seem to have to “shut down” when it gets like this. Y’all know what I mean, you can’t buy any food or gas and just hope that no one gets sick or hurt during the next few days til payday. Well, that is enough of that, let’s get on with it shall we?

Looks like the possibility of a government shutdown has been put off for at least 2 weeks. NationalJournal.com – Shutdown Fears Fade as CR Deal Advances – Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The slim possibility of a government shutdown grew even more remote today when Republicans sent a two-week spending package to the Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., anticipated passage after a vote scheduled for Wednesday morning.

Okay, so now that we got that bit out-of-the-way, lets dig into something more interesting. (At least for me anyway….)

Click on the map to see Region in Turmoil on Al Jazeera English

Yesterday, I was discussing a possible post with some of the gang here on Sky Dancing. It was going to be an overview of the Mid East and Northern African region with information on the countries and links to any updates on the situation there. What do you know, they have done an excellent job of this over a AJE. Damn, I really am fond of this news agency.

Region in turmoil – Spotlight – Al Jazeera English

The world’s attention has been focused on a handful of countries – Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain and Libya – since the first popular protests broke out in Tunisia in December. But nearly a dozen countries in the region have seen political unrest, and the protest movement shows no signs of stopping.

Below is a summary of the demonstrations so far, and links to our coverage. You can also click a country on the map above for more information.

I highly suggest you bookmark this AJE page. There are links to articles for each country discussed.

There is some fast-moving news over in Libya, so for the latest be sure to check the Al Jazeera English Website.

Armed conflicts in poor countries keep 28 million children out of school, a new UNESCO report reveals.

Also from AJE, UN: Conflict robs kids of education – Africa – Al Jazeera English

Armed conflict is robbing 28 million children of an education, by keeping them out of school where they are often targets of sexual abuse and violence, according to a report released by UNESCO.

Released on Tuesday, the Education for All Global Monitoring Report warned that of the world’s primary school aged children not attending schools, 42 per cent of these live in poor countries that are wracked by conflict.

“Armed conflict remains a major roadblock to human development in many parts of the world, yet its impact on education is widely neglected,” Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director General, said in a statement released at the report’s launch in Dakar.

This often leads to a vicious cycle where poverty and lack of development are reinforced by a lack of education, and the risk of further conflict is heightened as millions of youths fail to find employment.

Thirty-five countries were affected by armed conflict from 1999 to 2008, of which 15 are in sub-Saharan Africa.

[…]

Children are also being used as soldiers in 24 countries including the Congo, Chad, the Central African Republic, Myanmar and Sudan, the report said.

UNESCO cited evidence in reports from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that rape and sexual violence are widely used as a weapon of war in many countries.

“Many victims are young girls,” the report said, citing Congo, where one-third of rapes involve children and 13 per cent are carried out against children under the age of 10.

According to the report, insecurity and fear associated with sexual violence keeps young girls in particular out of school.

I realize that many in these war-torn countries are just trying to survive, and education is not on the top of the list when it comes to dealing with the horrors of war and conflict. However, I wanted to highlight this issue here because it is yet another  reason to support  humanitarian aid to these countries. Children have rights as well, they have the right to attend a safe school and receive an education, but I think this tends to get lost in the shuffle in these areas of high conflict.

For another article on Libya, and other oil producing countries in the Mid East, Juan Cole has a new post up: Libya Standoff as Saudi Quivers and Iran, Iraq under Pressure | Informed Comment

It increasingly appears that outside intervention via the UN or NATO is off the table, and so the end game will likely play out inside Libya and based on Libyan dynamics.

Brent crude oscillated between $112 and $114 a barrel on Tuesday, and West Texas crude hit $100 on Middle East uncertainty, but analysts say that the price would have to stay high for weeks or months to have a serious impact on Western countries’ economic recovery. Prices may in fact stay high for a while, since Saudi Arabia is said to be willing to have Brent crude go as high as $120 before intervening with another increase in its own production.

Cole also points out that the Saudi’s have arrested a Shiite Clergyman that was speaking out for a constitutional monarchy:

Saudi authorities on Tuesday detained a Shiite clergyman in the Eastern Province who preached a sermon calling for a constitutional monarchy. Shiites are probably about 12 percent of Saudis and are culturally and politically repressed by the Wahhabi establishment, which typically views them as idolaters. Had the call for constitutional monarchy come from other quarters, it would be more significant, since it is hard to imagine Wahhabi-Shiite political unity. Unrest among Saudi Shiites might affect the oil-rich Eastern Province where they mostly reside, but the Saudi state has significant repressive capacities in that area.

It is a very interesting read, so check it out.

Oh, and did you see this: Obama Administration Approves First Gulf Deepwater Well – And BP Is the Majority Owner | FDL News Desk As Dayen points out, BP is the major stakeholder in the Noble Energy company that just got the permit.

So to recap, BP owns twice as much a stake in this well as Noble Energy, and yet the announcement of the permit says that Noble Energy received it. Noble operates the well, but BP is the biggest stakeholder, and as such could be the biggest voice in making key decisions about cost and safety. Reuters managed to mention this, unlike the AP.

I won’t say anything about this now, I will leave it for the comment section. (Search engines don’t like it when you curse on a blog post…)

On Sunday the Academy Award for Best Documentary– Feature Film was given to Inside Job and during the acceptance speech, the director mentioned that not one of the people responsible for the fraud that led us to the economic meltdown have been held accountable for their crimes.

For more information on this, take a look at this article: What Juror Wouldn’t Convict A Bankster On Known Facts? | Firedoglake

Okay, I am putting up this next link cause I just love it when Faux News gets caught in its own web of lies.

Fox News reporter appears to have lied about being ‘punched’ by protester | The Raw Story

Fox News has been making a lot of hay about one of their reporters allegedly being “punched” by a protester in Madison, Wisconsin.

Turns out, that didn’t happen.

Mike Tobin, reporting from amid the massive demonstration on Friday, claimed that one of the protesters “punched” him in the arm. In another broadcast, he claimed a man threatened to break his neck.

In both cases, supporting evidence for these claims was not broadcast — yet still, Tobin’s reports have been widely cited across conservative blogs that seem eager to depict union workers as hateful and violent.

What’s worse, Tobin’s allegation that he was assaulted might have slipped past without rebuttal were it not for a camera-equipped bystander, who captured the scene.

Turns out, someone merely touched his shoulder, as evidenced in the video below. The incident he claimed was a “punch” could instead be described as a pat, at most.

Excuse me while I laugh out loud! Ha…Ha…

Okay, on to one last link before I turn you over to the comment section. Funny this link is about comments people leave on news or blog post.  Mostly this post deals with the horrible comments during the reporting of the Lara Logan assault. We touched on this here on Sky Dancing. It also discusses the culture of online comments, and how different websites deal with the hate that many people will post, because they see their comments as being hidden behind an anonymous or made up name.

Anonymous Comments | Online Comments | James Rainey LA Times | Mediaite

Rainey goes through several ways different outlets have dealt with the in-fighting, trolling, and barrage of racist / sexist / homophobic / ableist / you-name-it-ist comments frequently dotting their comments sections. The LATimes.com, for instance, “kicks off” comments that have been reported as abuse by two different visitors, and The Huffington Post employs a team of 30 people who monitor threads for abusive posts with the help of a special computer system – a system which is both necessary, given the millions of visitors HuffPost receives, and enviable to certain bloggers (working at, let’s say… oh, Mediaite) who have to manually comb through comments to clean away the muck. It’s no secret that dealing with abusive commenters is a job in itself, and not something a lot of online writers have the time or patience to deal with in addition to churning out content.

So what are you reading today? We don’t have a team of 30 people here on Sky Dancing, but we love reading your comments.  So get to it and let us know how you feel.