Monday Reads: Losing Ground but Finding Strength

Coyote Buttes South. Photo: John Fowler

I keep fighting back the urge to sing “It’s the end of the world as we know it” even though it seems like that way on so many fronts. The most dreadful of all gaslighting tricks fills the airwaves.  Brett Kavanaugh and his republican enablers are pretending that they are the victims of women’s hysteria while Dr. Ford can’t return to her home because of actual threats. Then, there are the rest of us. The people that aren’t white males or white male enablers.  How many more rights can they strip?

We’re looking to a future of having our voting rights stripped, our right to self determine our access to health care removed, and the enabling of police to shoot unarmed black men while white men complain they can’t watch their football without seeing folks bending a knee to remind them of the injustice. We’re looking to a future of likely seeing a President put above the law even though his obstruction of justice, theft of public property, and cooperation with Russian agents is there for nearly all to see. We’re going to continue to watch children and babies thrown into tents in the middle of deserts and jail cells after being ripped away from their parents.  We’re going to see the folks that need protection from our bad foreign policy flee to our borders only to be incarcerated for asking for refuge. We’re looking to losing spouses, jobs, and rights because of who we love and wish to marry.  In each of us, there is all of us.

We have to take one of the Houses of Congress away from the Republicans to turn this around.

There are other things we have to turn around too and I fully admit that I’ve thrown myself at the wall a few too many times to rise again. And yet, like every one else, I must.  We must.

Buffalo in Yellowstone National Park

From WAPO: The world has just over a decade to get climate change under control, U.N. scientists say. “There is no documented historic precedent” for the scale of changes required, the body found.”

The world stands on the brink of failure when it comes to holding global warming to moderate levels, and nations will need to take “unprecedented” actions to cut their carbon emissions over the next decade, according to a landmark report by the top scientific body studying climate change.

With global emissions showing few signs of slowing and the United States — the world’s second-largest emitter of carbon dioxide — rolling back a suite of Obama-era climate measures, the prospects for meeting the most ambitious goals of the 2015 Paris agreement look increasingly slim. To avoid racing past warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) over preindustrial levels would require a “rapid and far-reaching” transformation of human civilization at a magnitude that has never happened before, the group found.

Gros Morne National Park

NYT: Major Climate Report Describes a Strong Risk of Crisis as Early as 2040″

The report, issued on Monday by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of scientists convened by the United Nations to guide world leaders, describes a world of worsening food shortages and wildfires, and a mass die-off of coral reefs as soon as 2040 — a period well within the lifetime of much of the global population.

The report “is quite a shock, and quite concerning,” said Bill Hare, an author of previous I.P.C.C. reports and a physicist with Climate Analytics, a nonprofit organization. “We were not aware of this just a few years ago.” The report was the first to be commissioned by world leaders under the Paris agreement, the 2015 pact by nations to fight global warming.

The authors found that if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, the atmosphere will warm up by as much as 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius) above preindustrial levels by 2040, inundating coastlines and intensifying droughts and poverty. Previous work had focused on estimating the damage if average temperatures were to rise by a larger number, 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius), because that was the threshold scientists previously considered for the most severe effects of climate change.

The new report, however, shows that many of those effects will come much sooner, at the 2.7-degree mark.

Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming

The Guardian: “We have 12 years to limit climate change catastrophe, warns UN”

At 2C extremely hot days, such as those experienced in the northern hemisphere this summer, would become more severe and common, increasing heat-related deaths and causing more forest fires.

But the greatest difference would be to nature. Insects, which are vital for pollination of crops, and plants are almost twice as likely to lose half their habitat at 2C compared with 1.5C. Corals would be 99% lost at the higher of the two temperatures, but more than 10% have a chance of surviving if the lower target is reached.

Sea-level rise would affect 10 million more people by 2100 if the half-degree extra warming brought a forecast 10cm additional pressure on coastlines. The number affected would increase substantially in the following centuries due to locked-in ice melt.

Oceans are already suffering from elevated acidity and lower levels of oxygen as a result of climate change. One model shows marine fisheries would lose 3m tonnes at 2C, twice the decline at 1.5C.

Sea ice-free summers in the Arctic, which is warming two to three times fast than the world average, would come once every 100 years at 1.5C, but every 10 years with half a degree more of global warming.

l Capitan looms over the Merced River in California’s Yosemite National Park.

Back to Judge Bad News and Worse Temperament … Sarah Kendzior writes this for Canada’s Globe and Mail: “Kavanaugh’s appointment isn’t a step backward. It’s a head-first plunge into an ugly past”.

The confirmation of Justice Kavanaugh was, at heart, a referendum on the integrity of U.S. institutions and of the impunity of elites – and the U.S. failed. Senators who purport to believe in rule of law vouched for a judge who sees himself as above it. Senators who purport to believe in democracy honoured a man who degrades it, and did so in deference to a man seemingly attempting to destroy it – President Trump.

Checks and balances are nearly gone. The executive branch was long ago corrupted; the independent legislature neutered by a GOP majority nakedly seeking one-party rule. Until now, the judiciary had been the strongest bulwark against autocracy, having struck down many of Mr. Trump’s unconstitutional executive orders during his first year. The Trump administration responded by packing the courts, appointing right-wing judgesto lifetime appointments and purging attorneys they view as opponents. Justice Kavanaugh is the final nail in that coffin.

This is now Mr. Trump’s Supreme Court of the United States, run on white male entitlement and alternative facts. Justice Kavanaugh is expected to act as Mr. Trump’s legal lackey, exonerating him regardless of the charge or the evidence. His appointment may not only end the efficacy of the Robert Mueller probe, but curtail other attempts to prosecute Mr. Trump or his aides on state charges, due to a case, Gamble v. The United States, that the Supreme Court is set to hear this term.

Autocrats rewrite the law so they are no longer breaking it, and they hire and fire accordingly. This is why I have been warning for years that Donald Trump, whose seemingly autocratic consolidation grows stronger every day, was akin to a criminal able to someday select his own judge or delay his own trial – and now he has. This is why a purge of the FBI was followed by a sham FBI investigation into Justice Kavanaugh, reminiscent of those of authoritarian states, with key witnesses and evidence ignored.

For the President, the confirmation of this judge is a hand-picked gift, but for ordinary Americans, he marks the end of truths we deemed self-evident. Justice Kavanaugh marks the imposition of a corrosive new reality. The Supreme Court is likely to roll back decades of hard-earned rights, particularly voting rights, civil rights and women’s rights.

Also, a lot of Trump’s thug buddies in thuggish countries are disappearing journalists and others.

 

 

 

The silence is showing exactly what kind of country we’ve become.  We’re just another one of those ugly countries where the ruling class can’t possibly be bothered with human rights and hates the idea of a free press.

That’s all I can stomach today.

I’m trying to stay focused on the city around me because it’s kinda where I am right now and it appears the housing market has shifted against me in the last six months.  It’s one of those signs that tells me that the economy is likely to get pretty ugly pretty fast.   So, hug the ones around you, be thankful for what you have, and drag at least 10 people with you to the voting both in November.

It’s a matter of life and death for all of us.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

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Tuesday Reads

Great white shark swims beneath paddleboarding man on Cape Cod last week.

Good Morning!!

We’re having an incredible heat wave in Boston, and I know we’re not alone. It’s hot just about everywhere. Today it’s supposed to hit 100 degrees here. Anyone who believes the climate isn’t changing is delusional.

Maybe the sharks are affected too, because we’ve had some Great White close encounters here in Massachusetts lately. The Boston Globe: Shark sightings force swimmers out of the water in Plymouth, Cape Cod.

Swimmers at Plymouth and Wellfleet beaches looking to catch a break from the oppressive heat were forced out of the water Monday afternoon after sharks were spotted lurking nearby.

Plymouth beaches were closed after a great white shark was seen off Manomet Point. Red flags were flying at the beaches as crews investigated, the Plymouth harbormaster tweeted shortly after 2:30 p.m.

Researchers with the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy were about a quarter-mile from Marconi Beach in Wellfleet when they saw a great white shark at around 1:45 p.m. They reported it to beach officials, and lifeguards promptly pulled everyone out of the water, Leslie Reynolds, chief ranger at the Cape Cod National Seashore, said. The beach was closed for an hour as a standard precautionary measure.

Also from the Globe: ‘It came right up, and opened its mouth’: Great white shark breaches water below boat.

State biologist Greg Skomal got an up-close look at a great white shark during a recent excursion off Cape Cod when one of the apex predators that researchers had been observing breached the water right beneath him, exposing its large teeth.

“Did you see that?! Did you see that?!” Skomal can be heard saying in a video posted by the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy Monday morning. “It came right up, and opened its mouth right at my feet!”

In the video, Skomal can be seen standing on the research boat’s pulpit, as the captain closes in on a shark. Skomal was using a long pole with a GoPro camera attached at the end so he could dip it into the water and capture footage of the shark. That’s when it suddenly breached the ocean’s surface.

“Oh!,” the boat’s captain, John J. King II, can be heard saying. “Holy crap! It dove right out of the water.”

Here’s the video. Be sure to put it on full screen and wait for the close-up.

Holy crap!

Seriously though, have we already lost the fight to reverse climate change? That’s the argument put forth by Nathaniel Rich in last week’s New York Times Magazine: Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change.

The world has warmed more than one degree Celsius since the Industrial Revolution. The Paris climate agreement — the nonbinding, unenforceable and already unheeded treaty signed on Earth Day in 2016 — hoped to restrict warming to two degrees. The odds of succeeding, according to a recent study based on current emissions trends, are one in 20. If by some miracle we are able to limit warming to two degrees, we will only have to negotiate the extinction of the world’s tropical reefs, sea-level rise of several meters and the abandonment of the Persian Gulf. The climate scientist James Hansen has called two-degree warming “a prescription for long-term disaster.” Long-term disaster is now the best-case scenario. Three-degree warming is a prescription for short-term disaster: forests in the Arctic and the loss of most coastal cities. Robert Watson, a former director of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has argued that three-degree warming is the realistic minimum. Four degrees: Europe in permanent drought; vast areas of China, India and Bangladesh claimed by desert; Polynesia swallowed by the sea; the Colorado River thinned to a trickle; the American Southwest largely uninhabitable. The prospect of a five-degree warming has prompted some of the world’s leading climate scientists to warn of the end of human civilization.

Is it a comfort or a curse, the knowledge that we could have avoided all this?

Because in the decade that ran from 1979 to 1989, we had an excellent opportunity to solve the climate crisis. The world’s major powers came within several signatures of endorsing a binding, global framework to reduce carbon emissions — far closer than we’ve come since. During those years, the conditions for success could not have been more favorable. The obstacles we blame for our current inaction had yet to emerge. Almost nothing stood in our way — nothing except ourselves.

Check out the full story at the NYT.

Today there are some interesting primary elections and one special election to watch. Will we see portents of a blue wave in November?

Vox: Every August 7 primary election you should know about, briefly explained.

Voters head to the polls in five states Tuesday to test whether Democrats will get their “blue wave” on Election Day this fall.

Danny O’Connor

The most heated race to watch is a special election in Ohio’s 12th Congressional District, where a Democrat hasn’t won since the 1980s. Despite big spending by Republicans, a huge ground push, and even campaign appearances by President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, polls show the Democrat, Danny O’Connor, might actually beat Republican Troy Balderson.

Washington state’s top-two primary will be a similar test of how Democrats might perform in historically conservative districts.

In a governor’s race in Michigan and a House race in Kansas, meanwhile, Democrats will test whether the future of the party is rooted in its progressive wing.

To win back a House majority in November, Democrats will have to triumph in historically red districts, as they did in Pennsylvania earlier this year when Conor Lamb pulled off a surprise victory. Some big wins on Tuesday night could be another sign that a wave year is possible.

Read the details at Vox.

On Sunday, we watched Trump incriminate himself and throw his own son under the bus on Twitter. Will Don Jr. be indicted? Charles Savage at The New York Times: Donald Trump Jr.’s Potential Legal Troubles, Explained.

“I did not collude with any foreign government and did not know anyone who did,” Donald Trump Jr. told the Senate Judiciary Committee in September 2017. But his participation in the Trump Tower meeting with the Russians, as well as another meeting, has put that claim under scrutiny.

Ahead of the meeting with Russians, an intermediary promised Donald Trump Jr. that a “Russian government attorney” would provide “very high level” dirt on Hillary Clinton as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” He wrote back, “If it’s what you say I love it.”

In a meeting three months before the election, Donald Trump Jr. met with another small group offering to help his father win the election. It included an emissary for two wealthy Arab princes who run Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as well as an Israeli specialist in social media manipulation. The younger Mr. Trump responded approvingly, a person with knowledge of the meeting told The New York Times.

Of course we all know by now that “collusion” is just another word for “conspiracy,” which can be a crime.

….lawyers instead talk about conspiracy: an agreement by two or more people to commit a crime — whether or not they end up doing so. A powerful tool for prosecutors, conspiracy charges allow them to hold each conspirator responsible for illegal acts committed by others in the circle as part of the arrangement. To convict someone of such a conspiracy, prosecutors would need to obtain evidence of an agreement to commit a specific crime….

A provision of the Federal Election Campaign Act, Section 30121 of Title 52, broadly outlaws donations or other contributions of a “thing of value” by any foreigner in connection with an American election — or even an express or implied promise to take such action, directly or indirectly.

Depending on how a grand jury interprets the facts the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has gathered about the two Trump Tower meetings, it could find that the foreigners violated that law — and that Donald Trump Jr. conspired in that offense.

Another provision of the same statute makes it illegal for an American to solicit a foreigner for such illicit campaign help — again, even indirectly. If a grand jury were to interpret the evidence about Donald Trump Jr.’s words and actions as a solicitation, he could also be vulnerable to direct charges under that law, experts said.

Notably, the statute can be violated even if the promised or requested help is never provided.

Read the rest at the NYT.

At The Washington Post, William Ruckleshaus, who served as deputy attorney general under Nixon writes about Trump’s behavior: Only one other president has ever acted this desperate.

President Trump is acting with a desperation I’ve seen only once before in Washington: 45 years ago when President Richard M. Nixon ordered the firing of special Watergate prosecutor Archibald Cox. Nixon was fixated on ending the Watergate investigation, just as Trump wants to shut down the Mueller investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

A lesson for the president from history: It turned out badly for Nixon. Not only could he not derail the investigation, but also, 10 months later, he was forced to resign the presidency.

In fact, in some ways, Trump is conducting himself more frantically than Nixon, all the while protesting his innocence. Nixon fought to the end because he knew that what was on the tape recordings that the prosecutor wanted would incriminate him. We don’t know what Trump is hiding, if anything. But if he is innocent of any wrongdoing, why not let Robert S. Mueller III do his job and prove it?

On the way Trump and his minions are attacking the investigation:

…the cynical conduct of this president, his lawyers and a handful of congressional Republicans is frightening to me and should be to every citizen of this country. We are not playing just another Washington political game; there is much more at stake.

The vehemence and irresponsibility of the rhetoric attacking the Mueller investigation tear at the very structure of our governance. Men who have sworn to use and protect our institutions of justice are steadily weakening them. Should the president finally decide to fire Mueller and put in place someone who will do his bidding, the country could be thrown into a political crisis that would scar our democracy and further erode the trust of our people in our governmental institutions.

We need leaders who tell the truth. This is not now happening. Mueller is living up to his superior reputation as a model public servant. His is a search for the truth; we should not complicate his job. Support him, and when he has finished his work, listen to what he has found.

Read the whole thing at the WaPo.

There are a lot more interesting reads out there today. Some to check out:

Forbes: New Details About Wilbur Ross’ Business Point To Pattern Of Grifting.

Rolling Stone: Rick Wilson: Trump’s Tweets May Actually Be His Undoing.

NBC News: Now the Trump administration wants to limit citizenship for legal immigrants.

Politico: Manafort prosecution’s frustration with judge leads to fiery clashes.

The Washington Post: Trump’s political base is weaker than it seems, our new study finds.

Think Progress: Here’s what a new trove of Russian Twitter accounts tell us about Moscow’s support for Jill Stein.

Buzzfeed News: Accused Russian Agent’s Journey To Washington Began In South Dakota.

Franklin Foer at The Atlantic: How Trump Radicalized ICE.

What stories are you following today?


Monday: Foggy Day Reads

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

I’ve talked to people from several places around Texas and they have the same eerie fog that we’ve got here in New Orleans.  Foggy is also a good description  for my brain activity today. It’s also foggy in Minnesota. Nothing seems clear at the moment.

Four US Senators are urging Senator Al Franken to reconsider his resignation over alleged sexual misconduct. It’s a rare day I’m in agreement with Joe Manchin.

“What they did to Al was atrocious, the Democrats,” said West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin in an interview for POLITICO’s Off Message podcast to post on Tuesday.

Franken’s unusual timeline — in his departure announcement he said he’d go “in the coming weeks,” without setting a date — has fed the fleeting hopes that there’s still time to reverse course. However, Tina Smith, Minnesota’s Democratic lieutenant governor, was named last week as his appointed successor.

People familiar with Franken’s plans said he has not changed his mind and intends to formally resign in early January. He praised the selection of Smith and has begun working with her on the transition.

At least four senators are urging Al Franken to reconsider resigning, including two who issued statements calling for the resignation two weeks ago and said they now feel remorse over what they feel was a rush to judgment.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who urged Franken not to step down to begin with — at least not before he went through an Ethics Committee investigation — said the Minnesota senator was railroaded by fellow Democrats.

An Amtrack train derailed this morning outside of Seattle.  It actually dropped from a raise overpass onto a section of I-5.  It is also drizzly and foggy up there too. The cause, extent of damages, and the number of folks injured are unknown. There are eyewitness accounts indicating there are cars beneath the fallen cars.

The Amtrak train car fell from an overpass, landing on the I-5 highway outside Seattle. All lanes of traffic have been closed.

Authorities have not yet confirmed the extent of casualties. But witnesses say several people have been injured.

Local news stations report that this was the inaugural run of the new high-speed rail line.

The crash occurred around 07:30 (15:30 GMT), about 45 minutes into train 501’s journey between Portland and Seattle.

Before the crash, it was travelling at more than 80mph (130kmh), with at least 75 people aboard.

It is unclear if it landed on any cars below, but CNN reports that several cars are crushed below the train.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating.

David Leonhardt has a great Op Ed up in the NY Times about the Republican Tax Plan and how it will exacerbate income in equality. Here is one significant finding of three provided in the piece.

The great tax-cutting revolution of the last half-century hasn’t actually been a tax-cutting revolution for most Americans.

True, they have benefited from a series of cuts in income-tax rates, signed by Lyndon B. Johnson, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. At the same time, though, another tax has been rising. It is the quiet giant of federal tax policy: the payroll tax.

It funds Social Security and Medicare, and it has been rising in response to the aging of society and rising medical costs. It increased from 2 percent just after World War II to 6 percent in 1960 to 12.4 percent in 1990, where it is today. It has risen so much that it’s now the largest tax that 62 percent of American households pay — larger than the income tax, which gets much more attention.

The increases in the payroll tax have more than offset the declines in the income tax for most middle-class and poor families. They now face higher total tax rates than a half-century ago.

Kremlin Caligula and his krazy krewe of kooks have developed a new Security Strategy that doesn’t include climate change. It also has weird language for traditionally hostile nations like China and Russia.

The White House will unveil a new national security strategy that, according to multiple reports, will break with the Obama administration by declining to recognize climate change as a threat to national security interests.

Why it matters: The report is the latest sign of how the Trump administration, in addition to unwinding domestic global warming rules, has made a sharp rhetorical break with its predecessor when it comes to the geo-politics of climate change.

Buzz: The New York Times points out that climate will surface in the report in a section on embracing U.S. “energy dominance.” The Federalist reported Friday that the strategy will note that “[c]limate policies will continue to shape the global energy system” but will also state:

“U.S. leadership is indispensable to countering an anti-growth, energy agenda that is detrimental to U.S. economic and energy security interests. Given future global energy demand, much of the developing world will require fossil fuels, as well as other forms of energy, to power their economies and lift their people out of poverty.”

It also underscores the mixed messages from the administration on how to assess climate change.

Russia and China are now “competitors”. 

 President Donald Trump will declare that China and Russia are competitors seeking to challenge U.S. power and erode its security and prosperity, in a national security strategy he will lay out in a speech on Monday.

“They are determined to make economies less free and less fair, to grow their militaries, and to control information and data to repress their societies and expand their influence,” according to excerpts of Trump’s strategy released by the White House.

Still no word about the cyber threat to our elections and the capture of the administration by our ‘competitor’ Mother Russia.’

Twitter has announced new rules designed to promote safety and reduce “hateful conduct and abusive behavior”.  Will it ban Kremlin Caligula?

Today, we will start enforcing updates to the Twitter Rules announced last month to reduce hateful and abusive content on Twitter. Through our policy development process, we’ve taken a collaborative approach to develop and implement these changes, including working in close coordination with experts on our Trust and Safety Council.

New Policies

New Rules on Violence and Physical Harm

Specific threats of violence or wishing for serious physical harm, death, or disease to an individual or group of people is in violation of our policies. Our new changes include more types of related content including:

  • Accounts that affiliate with organizations that use or promote violence against civilians to further their causes. Groups included in this policy will be those that identify as such or engage in activity — both on and off the platform — that promotes violence. This policy does not apply to military or government entities and we will consider exceptions for groups that are currently engaging in (or have engaged in) peaceful resolution.
  • Content that glorifies violence or the perpetrators of a violent act. This includes celebrating any violent act in a manner that may inspire others to replicate it or any violence where people were targeted because of their membership in a protected group. We will require offending Tweets to be removed and repeated violations will result in permanent suspension

We shall see.

What’s on your reading and blogging list?  How’s the weather and end of the year stuff going?


Thursday Reads: Russia News and Natural Disasters

Goldie Hawn reading a newspaper

Good Morning!!

Naegeli court reporters investigation is getting closer and closer to Trump. Here are the stories that broke just last night, with brief excerpts:

The New York Times: Mueller Seeks White House Documents Related to Trump’s Actions as President.

In recent weeks, Mr. Mueller’s office sent a document to the White House that detailed 13 areas in which investigators are seeking information. Since then, administration lawyers have been scouring White House emails and asking officials whether they have other documents or notes that may pertain to Mr. Mueller’s requests.

One of the requests is about a meeting Mr. Trump had in May with Russian officials in the Oval Office the day after James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director, was fired. That day, Mr. Trump met with the Russian foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, and the Russian ambassador to the United States at the time, Sergey I. Kislyak, along with other Russian officials. The New York Times reported that in the meeting Mr. Trump had said that firing Mr. Comey relieved “great pressure” on him.

Mr. Mueller has also requested documents about the circumstances of the firing of Michael T. Flynn, who was Mr. Trump’s first national security adviser. Additionally, the special counsel has asked for documents about how the White House responded to questions from The Times about a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower. That meeting was set up by Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son,Th to get derogatory information from Russians about Hillary Clinton.

Jane Fonda

The Washington Post: Manafort offered to give Russian billionaire ‘private briefings’ on 2016 campaign.

Less than two weeks before Donald Trump accepted the Republican presidential nomination, his campaign chairman offered to provide briefings on the race to a Russian billionaire closely aligned with the Kremlin, according to people familiar with the discussions.

Paul Manafort made the offer in an email to an overseas intermediary, asking that a message be sent to Oleg Deripaska, an aluminum magnate with whom Manafort had done business in the past, these people said.

“If he needs private briefings we can accommodate,” Manafort wrote in the July 7, 2016, email, portions of which were read to The Washington Post along with other Manafort correspondence from that time.

Interesting Twitter posts on this subject:

Isn’t that fascinating? Trump and Putin are obviously still collaborating.

One more from the NYT last night: Manafort Working on Kurdish Referendum Opposed by U.S.

Paul J. Manafort, the former campaign chairman for President Trump who is at the center of investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, is working for allies of the leader of Iraq’s Kurdish region to help administer and promote a referendum on Kurdish independence from Iraq.

The United States opposes the referendum, but Mr. Manafort has carved out a long and lucrative career advising foreign clients whose interests have occasionally diverged from American foreign policy. And he has continued soliciting international business even as his past international work has become a focus of the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, into ties between Russia and Mr. Trump and his associates, including possible collusion between them to influence the presidential election.

In fact, the work for the Kurdish group appears to have been initiated this summer around the time that federal authorities working for Mr. Mueller raided Mr. Manafort’s home in Virginia and informed him that they planned to indict him.

Catherine Deneuve

Manafort is in serious trouble. It’s hard to believe he’s still refusing to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation. It also looks like Trump is royally f**cked at least in terms of obstruction of justice, thanks to his own loose lips in the Lester Holt interview and his chummy Oval Office meeting with the Russians.

More Russia-related stories from this morning:

Politico: Manafort used Trump campaign account to email Ukrainian operative.

Former Donald Trump aide Paul Manafort used his presidential campaign email account to correspond with a Ukrainian political operative with suspected Russian ties, according to people familiar with the correspondence.

Manafort sent emails to seek repayment for previous work he did in Ukraine and to discuss potential new opportunities in the country, even as he chaired Trump’s presidential campaign, these people said….

In the emails to Konstantin Kilimnik, a Manafort protégé who has previously been reported to have suspected ties to Russian intelligence, the longtime GOP operative made clear his significant sway in Trump’s campaign, one of the people familiar with the communications said. He and Kilimnik also met in the United States while Manafort worked for the Trump campaign, which he chaired until an August 2016 shake-up.

Mike Allen at Axios: Another potential Mueller honey pot: Spicer’s notebooks.

Now we can tell you about another potential honey pot for Mueller. Former colleagues of Sean Spicer tell Axios that he filled “notebook after notebook” during meetings at the Republican National Committee, later at the Trump campaign, and then at the White House.

When Spicer worked at the RNC, he was said to have filled black books emblazoned with the party’s seal. Spicer was so well-known for his copious notes that underlings joked about him writing a tell-all.
  • One source familiar with the matter said that the records were just to help him do his job.
  • “Sean documented everything,” the source said.
  • That surprised some officials of previous White Houses, who said that because of past investigations, they intentionally took as few notes as possible when they worked in the West Wing.

Allen texted Spicer about this story and Spicer flipped out, telling Allen to stop contacting him or he would “report to the appropriate authorities.” What authorities? Spicer thinks it’s illegal to text another private citizen–Allen says he has been on friendly terms with Spicer for “more than a dozen years.”

Marlon Brando

Axios also has a terrific timeline of Manfort’s activities beginning in 2006: How the Russia probe closed in on Paul Manafort.

Former U.S. Attorney Harry Littman at the LA Times: Trump will fire Robert Mueller eventually. What will happen next?

Here’s predicting flat out that yes, at some point Trump will try to oust Mueller.

As the probe advances, the likelihood increases that Mueller will uncover evidence of a serious offense by Trump. With the recent search of former campaign manager Paul Manafort’s home, Mueller has shown his willingness to follow the money trail aggressively. (The latest reports suggest that Mueller’s team is planning to indict Manafort for possible tax and financial crimes.) And Mueller has begun to negotiate interviews with up to a dozen White House aides as well as former White House officials. Trump likely fears that Mueller will zero in on something sleazy or criminal whose revelation could cripple his presidency. Each turn of the screw of the Mueller investigation — and there will be many — increases the pressure on Trump to act preemptively.

The odds also seem great that the erratic, power-consumed and thin-skinned Trump, who every week launches a new Twitter attack on a real or imagined enemy, will be unable to stay his hand month after month as the Mueller investigation unfolds. Like the fabled scorpion who stings the frog even though it dooms him, Trump, being Trump, won’t be able to endure domination by Mueller over the long term. Of course, Trump likely fails to appreciate that it is not Mueller personally, but the law, that is asserting its dominance.

Let’s say Trump snaps.

Angelina Jolie

To fire Mueller, Trump would need to order Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein to remove him. But Rosenstein, a career prosecutor with a strong dedication to the values of the Department of Justice, would likely resign his office rather than comply with the order, as would the department’s third-ranking official, Rachel Brand.

Eventually Trump, moving down the hierarchy, would find someone willing to fire Mueller (as Nixon found Robert Bork, the then-solicitor general, to fire Archibald Cox).

From there, Mueller could launch a legal challenge to the ouster (potentially with the support of the Department of Justice). It’s by no means clear that Mueller, an ex-Marine of legendary rectitude, would choose to sue. Assuming he did, though, he would need to overcome a series of constitutional arguments by the president’s lawyers that any restrictions on the president’s ability to terminate him would impinge on presidential power under Article II.

Click on the link to read the rest.

The natural disasters continue as Hurricane Maria devastates Puerto Rico and moves on the fresh destruction and Mexico City struggles to recover from the recent earthquake.

NBC News: Hurricane Maria Leaves Puerto Rico Facing Months Without Power.

Millions of people across Puerto Rico woke up Thursday to a grim new reality.

Hurricane Maria, the most powerful storm to hit the U.S. territory in almost a century, ravaged the island, demolishing homes and knocking out all electricity. It could take half a year to restore power to the nearly 3.5 million people who live there.

The eye of the storm moved offshore overnight, but the danger remained Thursday: Intense flooding was reported, particularly in San Juan, where many residential streets looked like rushing rivers.

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz said the devastation in the capital city was unlike any she had ever seen.

“The San Juan that we knew yesterday is no longer there,” Cruz told MSNBC. “We’re looking at 4 to 6 months without electricity.”

Elizabeth Taylor

The Washington Post: Mexico anxiously awaits the fate of a 12-year-old schoolgirl after deadly earthquake.

 A sprawling earthquake recovery effort spanning several states turned intensely personal Thursday as Mexicans were riveted by an effort to save a 12-year-old girl who was pinned in the rubble of her elementary school.

The drama played out live late Wednesday and early Thursday on the major news channels here, with television cameras tracking every movement of the Mexican marines and others who sought to rescue the girl now known as “Frida Sofia.” Under a soft rain, the work was delicate and painstaking, relying on thermal cameras and other technology to try to locate and remove young children trapped for more than 30 hours after their school collapsed on Tuesday afternoon.

At one dramatic point in Wednesday night’s broadcast, Televisa reporter Danielle Dithurbide learned from the marine admiral leading the recovery effort that Frida Sofia — which may not be her real name — was able to tell rescuers that five other students were possibly trapped with her. It was unclear whether they were alive.

I’ll end with this from Grist, via Mother Jones: This Is the Hurricane Season Scientists Tried to Warn Us About.

There is evidence that we are emerging from an era of messy meteorological data, where we were blind to warming seas strengthening hurricanes because the really damaging ones were rare. If that’s true, weather historians may look to this year as the beginning of a frightening new phase of superstorms.

About 85 percent of all damage done by hurricanes is attributable to “major” storms—those stronger than Category 3, so roughly one-quarter of all storms. While relatively infrequent, they are by far the most destructive—a Category-5 cyclone has 500 times the power of a Category 1. Globally, major hurricanes have become slightly more common in recent decades, even as overall numbers have held steady.

Haley Mills

Further, there’s nothing in recorded history that resembles what Irma and Maria have inflicted on Caribbean islands in recent days. Since Sept. 6, the two hurricanes have made six separate landfalls at Category-5 strength. Before this month, just 18 such landfalls had happened in the previous 165 years (and never more than three in a single year). Clearly there’s something happening here—and there’s a developing consensus among scientists about what factors are responsible.

There have been only 33 Category 5 storms in the Atlantic since hurricane records began in 1851. Twenty-three of them have formed since 1961; 11 in only the last 14 years. Part of that uptick comes from better weather monitoring equipment, like satellites that help us spot hurricanes before they make landfall. But even since we developed satellite technology, there’s been a measurable increase in major storms.

The strongest hurricanes require an exceptionally warm ocean to intensify, and with water temperatures currently near record highs in the Caribbean, it’s providing conditions ripe for Category 5s. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, since 1970, the oceans have retained more than 90 percent of the excess energy generated from global warming. That’s a lot of extra fuel for stronger storms.

Read the rest at Mother Jones.

So . . . what else is happening? What stories are you following today?


Thursday Reads: The Latest on Harvey’s Aftermath

toi Arkema Plant, Crosby, TX

Good Afternoon!!

If you watched Rachel Maddow the past two nights, you know about the flooded chemical plant in Crosby, Texas that was expected to explode. Well it happened this morning.

The Washington Post: Chemicals ignite at flooded plant in Texas as Harvey’s devastation lingers.

CROSBY, Tex. — The remnants of Hurricane Harvey carried its wrath up the Mississippi Delta on Thursday, but not before hammering the Gulf Coast with more punishing cloudbursts and growing threats that included reports of “pops” and “chemical reactions” at a crippled chemical plant and the collapse of the drinking water system in a Texas city.

Authorities warned of the danger posed by the plant in Crosby, about 30 miles northeast of Houston. The French company operating the plant said explosions were possible, and William “Brock” Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, called the potential for a chemical plume “incredibly dangerous.”

Still, officials offered differing accounts regarding what occurred at the Crosby plant, which makes organic peroxides for use in items such as counter tops and pipes. The plant’s operators, which had earlier Thursday reported explosions, later said they believe at least one valve “popped” there, though they noted it was impossible to know for sure since all employees had left the site.

The Environmental Protection Agency said that it dispatched personnel to the scene and did not immediately detect issues regarding toxic material.

Let’s hope that the EPA can still be trusted under Trump. According to Rachel’s report, Texas Governor Abbott made it illegal for people to know when and where toxic materials are being stored in the state. In case you missed it, here’s a bit of the report from last night. We covered the West, Texas explosion quite a bit here at Sky Dancing Blog.

From CNN:

A pair of blasts at the Arkema chemical plant in Crosby sent plumes of smoke into the sky Thursday morning, and the company warned more blasts could follow.

“We want local residents to be aware that product is stored in multiple locations on the site, and a threat of additional explosion remains,” Arkema said in a statement. “Please do not return to the area within the evacuation zone until local emergency response authorities announce it is safe to do so.”

The twin blasts Thursday morning happened after organic peroxides overheated. The chemicals need to be kept cool, but after the plant lost power Sunday, the temperature rose, officials said.

That led to containers popping, including one container that caught fire — sending black smoke 30 to 40 feet into the air.

The thick black smoke “might be irritating to the eyes, skin and lungs,” Arkema officials said in a statement.

Fifteen Harris County sheriff’s deputies were hospitalized, but the smoke they inhaled was not believed to be toxic, the department said. By midmorning Thursday, all of the deputies had been released.

Reporter Matt Dempsy of the Houston Chronicle was on Rachel’s show last night, and his Twitter feed is helpful for following this story. More info in this Twitter thread:

Beaumont, Texas is now without water. HuffPost: Beaumont, Texas, In Crisis After City Loses Water Supply Indefinitely.

BEAUMONT ― Residents of this city in eastern Texas are desperate for clean water after the main municipal water pumps failed due to flooding.

Beaumont, which has a population of over 100,000 people, lost both its main and secondary water supplies on Wednesday. The storm caused the Neches River to overflow, which damaged the city’s water pumps, according to city officials. The city’s secondary water source, which is located at the Loeb wells in Hardin County, is also offline.

City officials said the outage is indefinite, pending inspection of the damaged pumps, which they are unable to do until the water recedes.

Read more details at the CNN link. MSNBC is currently showing a Beaumont hospital being evacuated because of the loss of water supply.

Here are a couple of stories that help explain the flooding in the Houston area.

Jay Casano at International Business Times via the National Memo: How Texas Republicans Rejected The Chance To Plan For Climate Change.

With rising sea levels and increased rainfall, experts agree, climate change made the flooding from Hurricane Harvey far worse than it would have been even a decade ago. The Texas legislature had multiple opportunities to create a “climate adaptation plan” that could have resulted in preparations, but the bills were killed every time. The sponsor of the legislation told International Business Times that former Texas Gov. Rick Perry made sure that the climate adaptation bills would not pass.

People begin lining up at a closed Wal-Mart store in Beaumont, TX at around 2:30 Thursday morning after hearing the water supply for the city had failed.

“When I filed that legislation, then-Governor Perry’s legislative staff told me that no legislation that had climate change in it would get out of committee,” former Texas state representative Lon Burnam told IBT. “They came to our office and said to stop filing these bills:  ‘We’ll never let it out of committee.’”

Houston is the heart of the nation’s fossil fuels industry, making the discussion of climate change post-Hurricane Harvey particularly relevant. The Texas state government has been widely criticized for being beholden to oil industry interests. Campaign finance records bear out that claim: Over the last two election cycles, Texas state lawmakers have received more than $11.3 million from the oil and gas industry, including $2.3 million for Texas State House Speaker Joe Straus. Former Gov. Perry, now Donald Trump’s Secretary of Energy, received more than $1.6 million from the oil and gas industry during his very brief 2016 presidential run. As governor of Texas, he received more than $10 million across three elections, including $6 million in the 2010 race.

More at the link.

Bloomberg: Harvey Wasn’t Just Bad Weather. It Was Bad City Planning.

Houston has been wet since birth. In the 1840s, the German explorer Ferdinand von Roemer described the Brazos River prairie just outside the young town as an “endless swamp” that mired the wheels of his wagons. He reported that some people who’d intended to settle in Texas turned around and left after seeing the “sad picture.” But Houston never let itself be hampered by its hydrology. It spent billions patching together a mess of dams and drainage projects as it grew and grew. It’s the fourth-biggest city in the U.S., boasting one of the world’s largest medical centers, oil refineries, a stupendous livestock show and rodeo, highbrow culture, vibrant economic growth, and speakers of 145 languages. The consolidated metropolitan statistical area surrounding Houston and extending to Galveston is larger than the state of New Jersey.

Downtown Houston from the air.

Harvey is a devastating reminder to Houston that nature will have its due. The Category 4 hurricane that hung around as a stationary tropical storm punished greater Houston with rainfall measured in feet, not inches. No city could have withstood Harvey without serious harm, but Houston made itself more vulnerable than necessary. Paving over the saw-grass prairie reduced the ground’s capacity to absorb rainfall. Flood-control reservoirs were too small. Building codes were inadequate. Roads became rivers, so while hospitals were open, it was almost impossible to reach them by car.

Harvey’s damage was selective. It’s a minor event for the $19 trillion U.S. economy, since most of the economic activity that was interrupted will be made up later. It was a light hit for insurers, because few underwrite flood insurance and the wind damage they do cover was minimal; insurers’ stock prices barely fell. The refining and petrochemical industries lining the busy Houston Ship Channel also got off fairly lightly (this time), because they’ve invested heavily in storm defenses.

The impact on taxpayers is more serious, because Harvey is likely to generate tens of billions of dollars in emergency federal aid and claims on the money-losing National Flood Insurance Program….

Above all, Harvey is a humanitarian disaster. Ordinary Texans were defenseless against rising waters contaminated by sewage and dotted with floating colonies of fire ants. The confirmed death toll, 20 as of Aug. 30, is expected to rise as rescuers discover more bodies. Residents will return to damaged homes vulnerable to the spread of mold. Much of the damage, which could run to $100 billion or more by one estimate, is uninsured. “This will be the worst natural disaster in American history” in financial terms, Joel Myers, founder and president of AccuWeather, predicted in an Aug. 29 statement.

Mike Pence is in Texas today to fake empathy toward victims of Hurricane Harvey after Trump was unable to do so yesterday. The White House is busy trying to clean up the mess Trump made when he claimed to have seen the horror “first hand.” The Washington Post: Trump claimed he witnessed Harvey’s devastation ‘first hand.’ The White House basically admits he didn’t.

President Trump clearly and unmistakably exaggerated the “horror and devastation” he witnessed in Texas. The White House’s response? To pretend words don’t mean what they mean.

Trump tweeted Wednesday morning that he had seen this horror and devastation “first hand.”

But reporters quickly took issue with that….

A reporter asked White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders about this later Wednesday, and her answer was … something:

He met with a number of state and local officials who are eating, sleeping, breathing the Harvey disaster. He talked exI tensively with the governor, who certainly is right in the midst of every bit of this, as well as the mayors from several of the local towns that were hit hardest. And detailed briefing information throughout the day yesterday talking to a lot of the people on the ground. That certainly is a firsthand account.

No, it’s not. That’s a *second*hand account — the very definition of one, in fact.

There’s much more news, especially about the Russia investigation, but you probably heard about that last night. I’ll post a couple of links in the comment thread just in case. What stories are you following today?


Monday Reads

Good Afternoon!

The unfolding drama of the flooding of Houston and surrounding areas takes me back 12 years ago to Katrina when my community was surrounded by a similar hell realm full of water, the stench of death, and mass destruction.  Right now, Houston is relying on skilled first responders, its local government, and neighbors. Soon, it will be a test of our country’s ability to help our own as well as the test of the charity of nations around the world.

What is it going to take for Republican decision makers to understand that some things are too big and too important to be left to the for-profit-motivated private sector of carpet baggers?  When will they realize their constant denial of science and sycophantic support of the fossil fuel industry is driving us to epic catastrophe? 

Twelve years ago I was hunkered down on a pink futon with my two yellow labs–Karma and Honey–and Miles in between the beds of a grad student from Macau and one from Japan. My cell phone could receive but not make calls.  We were watching TV with the families of two other grad students that I had earlier told to get the hell out of dodge while they could still get a hotel room.  One family from Turkey.  The other from Jordan. I know what it’s like to be homeless, scared, broke,  and confused.  A day later, I discovered I had to go some place and that my university had failed to pay me.  I was totally reliant on the goodness of others and much of that goodness came from the people of Texas and Nebraska and the American Tax Payer. There were a few local businesses that helped but the majority of help came from people and the Federal Government.

This is the kind of event that tests our character as a country and we have a soulless narcissist at its helm.  I laugh at the ChristoFascist preachers who blame liberal political views for Gawd’s wrath as seen in these natural disasters.  It seems more likely that their Gawd keeps testing Republican Presidents and finds their governing ways come short of dealing with hell and high water.  The Republican Bushs and now a Trump have faced historic hurricanes. While the Clinton and Obama administrations have tried to rebuild our ability to respond through FEMA and other agencies, it took no time for this latest Republican disaster to seek to gut our ability to help our neighbors in need. It always amazes me that tax cuts for the wealthy come before helping our neighbors in harm’s way.

This destruction is a window into the future of climate change. This is what happens when humanity fails to either meaningfully restrict greenhouse gas emissions or prepare for the damage that is certainly coming.

Now, before the inevitable pedant brigade pounces in, that doesn’t mean Harvey was definitely caused by climate change. Global temperatures have only markedly increased for a few decades, and extreme weather events are rare and random by definition. It will take many more years for enough data to be collected to be able to establish causality.

But what we can say is that climate science predicts with high confidence that increased temperatures will increase the likelihood of extreme weather.

It will make hurricanes that do form stronger. It may also increase the number of hurricanes, though that’s harder to predict with certainty. It’s also besides the point. A storm doesn’t need to qualify as a hurricane to pose many of the same dangers. Simple big storms can still have high winds, tornadoes, and especially flooding, which is the major danger along the Gulf Coast.

I’m calling real estate agents and getting out of here.  I am too old to exist in red state beholden to oil and gas industries where people refuse to see that science is right.   I’m too tired to live in areas where suburban sprawl and concrete provides run off for massive rain creating risks that all too often fall on the heads and homes of people like me. Climate change is likely responsible for the kinds of stalled, training storms like Harvey.  Human destruction of nature’s ways of dealing with water exacerbates it.

Persistent episodes of extreme weather in the Northern Hemisphere summer have been shown to be associated with the presence of high-amplitude quasi-stationary atmospheric Rossby waves within a particular wavelength range (zonal wavenumber 6–8). The underlying mechanistic relationship involves the phenomenon of quasi-resonant amplification (QRA) of synoptic-scale waves with that wavenumber range becoming trapped within an effective mid-latitude atmospheric waveguide. Recent work suggests an increase in recent decades in the occurrence of QRA-favorable conditions and associated extreme weather, possibly linked to amplified Arctic warming and thus a climate change influence. Here, we isolate a specific fingerprint in the zonal mean surface temperature profile that is associated with QRA-favorable conditions. State-of-the-art (“CMIP5”) historical climate model simulations subject to anthropogenic forcing display an increase in the projection of this fingerprint that is mirrored in multiple observational surface temperature datasets. Both the models and observations suggest this signal has only recently emerged from the background noise of natural variability.

The increase in the occurrences of 100, 300 and 500 year events in my backyard is statistically significant.  It also is positively correlated to Climate Change. That’s the science.  Sea level rises have a lot to do with the destruction of the natural barriers to storm surge that are particularly a side product of things that the oil and gas industry do. This is the risk of that business forced onto humanity, nature, and the tax payer.

But Ojeda is watching the Atlantic hurricane season that begins on June 1 with more concern than usual. The retired Coast Guard employee worries that rising sea levels could make the next hurricane more destructive than those he’s lived through.

“That’s really scary to me,” the 70-year-old said.

A study released in May shows that rising sea levels threaten to make storm surges more dangerous, seemingly reinforcing Texas officials’ push for federal funding for a storm-surge barrier, or Ike Dike, to protect Galveston.

“Every storm surge today reaches higher because it starts from a higher level, because sea level is higher,” said study co-author Ben Strauss, a scientist who is vice president for sea level and climate impacts for Climate Central, a group of scientists and journalists dedicated to climate change awareness. “A small amount of sea-level rise can lead to an unexpectedly large increase in damages to most kinds of structures.”

Brian Streck, 62, a retired Galveston firefighter, has watched high tides creep into the streets around the house at the edge of West Galveston Bay, where he has lived for 37 years.

He has no patience for climate-change deniers who doubt seas are rising.

“I’ve witnessed it,” Streck said.

High tides once flooded the streets around his home about twice a year; the flooding in the last decade has increased to a dozen times a year.

“I’ve considered selling this place because eventually I’m going to have a lake house,” he said.

Scientific studies have established an acceleration in sea-level rise because of a warming atmosphere. Coal and oil burning and the destruction of tropical forests have increased heat-trapping gases that have warmed the planet by 1.8 degrees since 1880. Earth has been losing 13,500 square miles of ice annually since 1979, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Sea levels are generally rising faster along the Texas Gulf Coast and the western Gulf than the average globally, according to a January study by NOAA.

“The western Gulf is experiencing some of the highest rates of relative levels of sea-level rise in the country,” said NOAA oceanographer William Sweet, lead author of the study. “The ocean is not rising like water would in a bathtub.”

Sea-level rise is making storm surges larger, said John Nielsen-Gammon, Texas state climatologist at Texas A&M University in College Station.

“Compared to a storm that would have hit, say, 30 years ago, the additional storm surge we are talking about is on the order of … about 7 inches,” Nielsen-Gammon said.

The NOAA study found sea levels rising at more than double the rate estimated during the 20th century, increasing to more than 0.13 inch annually. NOAA made six projections of sea-level rise, from low to extreme, and found the global mean level under the lowest projection could rise 2.3 inches by 2020 and 3.5 inches by 2030. The extreme projection shows a 4.3-inch rise by 2020 and a 9.4-inch rise by 2030.

The rate of sea-level rise even under the lowest projection would increase the chances of severe flooding on the Texas Gulf Coast from storm surges or other causes from once every five years to once every two years by 2030 under the extreme projection, and 2060 under the low prediction.

“We’re not talking much longer than a mortgage cycle,” Sweet said. “I just bought a house, I’ve got a 30-year note. That’s 2047.”

By 2100, sea level is expected to rise between 1.3 feet and 31 feet, the NOAA study predicts; Galveston Island and most of the Texas coast would be swallowed up under the latter scenario.

Scientist Michael Mann keeps doing compelling science and making cogent arguments that are being ignored by policy makers.  He’s the scientist behind the research on the “rain bombs”.  That’s a term with a lot of click bait appeal.  But, how do you get anyone to listen when you discuss things like this?  What happens when a hurricane parks itself over you home or an intense thunderstorm sits over you city and just does nothing but dump rain for days on end in biblical amounts?

So Harvey was almost certainly more intense than it would have been in the absence of human- caused warming, which means stronger winds, more wind damage, and a larger storm surge (as an example of how this works, we have shown that climate change has led to a dramatic increase in storm surge risk in New York City, making devastating events like Superstorm #Sandy more likely (http://www.pnas.org/content/112/41/12610.full).

Finally, the more tenuous but potentially relevant climate factors: part of what has made Harvey such a devastating storm is the way it has stalled right near the coast, continuing to pummel Houston and surrounding regions with a seemingly endless deluge which will likely top out at nearly 4 feet of rainfall over a several days-long period before it is done.

The stalling is due to very weak prevailing winds which are failing to steer the storm off to sea, allowing it to spin around and wobble back and forth like a top with no direction. This pattern, in turn, is associated with a greatly expanded subtropical high pressure system over much of the U.S. right now, with the jet stream pushed well to the north. This pattern of subtropical expansion is predicted in model simulations of human-caused climate change.

More tenuous, but possibly relevant still, is the fact that very persistent, nearly ‘stationary’ summer weather patterns of this sort, where weather anomalies (both high pressure dry hot regions and low-pressure stormy/rainy regions) stay locked in place for many days at a time, appears to be favored by human-caused climate change.

How will the Texas Representatives and Senators respond to the disaster in their own back yards?  Will they fight funding they way they fought it for those impacted by Super Storm Sandy?  Will Kremlin Caligula with his 2 second attention span be able to rise to the occasion of saving lives and help people rebuild and heal? What about threats to shut down the Federal Government over funds for the Wall?

The catastrophic floods brought by Hurricane Harvey to southeastern Texas will pose an immediate test for the White House and Congress, pressing policymakers to approve billions of dollars in recovery funds even though they haven’t agreed on much else this year.

White House officials and GOP leaders were already taking stock of the challenge on Sunday, even as the floodwaters in Texas — and the eventual cost of recovery — were still rising. One senior White House official and GOP aides on Capitol Hill said late Sunday they expected to begin discussing an “emergency” package of funding soon to help with relief and rebuilding efforts, even if agreement as to the size of such a package remained premature.

Harvey’s devastation poses President Trump’s first test in emergency assistance, potentially revealing whether he can overcome Congress’s deep divisions over spending and the budget to prioritize aid. It will also test whether Trump can suspend his adversarial governing style and even postpone his own agenda, notably an overhaul of the tax code, to assemble a major — and costly — package that could be directed to law enforcement, emergency relief, schools, infrastructure, hospitals, food banks and several other entities.

The storm comes as Washington was gripped with a budget battle and little time to resolve differences. Many government operations are funded through only the end of September, and Trump has threatened to partially shut down the government if lawmakers don’t approve $1.6 billion in funding to construct parts of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Harvey could upend that budget fight, pressuring politicians to reach a quick resolution. That is because a government shutdown could sideline agencies involved in a rescue and relief effort that officials are predicting will last years.

This battle starts after the battle first responders and volunteers are making to save lives ends.  This is still an ongoing disaster.  There is still very much potential, additional for flooding the next few days. It is still happening now.  Two Reservoirs are being opened that will contribute to flooding.  Resources will undoutedly be running short as well be tempers.

In Houston, reservoirs swollen by rain from Hurricane Harvey were opened early Monday, a move that was expected to flood more homes — but one that the Army Corps of Engineers says is needed to limit the scope of the disaster that’s threatening lives and property in Texas.

“If we don’t begin releasing now, the volume of uncontrolled water around the dams will be higher and have a greater impact on the surrounding communities,” said Col. Lars Zetterstrom, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Galveston District. He warned residents to stay vigilant as water levels rise.

Around midday Monday, Gov. Greg Abbott activated the entire Texas National Guard to support communities cope with the flooding. Thousands of guard members were already deployed in the effort; the number now stands at roughly 12,000.

Gates to Houston’s reservoirs were opened as emergency crews and residents scramble to deal with the intense rains brought by Harvey, which became a tropical storm after making landfall as a Category 4 storm late Friday.

Houston set a new daily rainfall record Sunday, with 16.07 inches reported at the city’s international airport, the National Weather Service says. On Saturday and Sunday, more than 2 feet of rain (24.44 inches) fell.

Here’s how to help those dealing with Harvey. I can tell you that the American Red Cross did a lot for me after Hurricane Katrina.

Scientific American reminds us that Harvey had some disturbing features that has caused it to be so destructive. Is this our future?  If so, will our policy makers rise to the challenge of disrupting our contribution to climate change and providing adequate federal funding and systems to support our neighbors in need because they failed to act when they could?

I have to admit that my Katrina PTSD is full force between the images on my TV,  its 12th anniversary, and the knowledge that Harvey could still do irrational things like move back in to the Gulf to strengthen.  It’s path and timing is still so uncertain.   Now is the time we need heroes and leadership.  The heroes are on the ground.  We have to wait and see when it comes to the leadership.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?  Also, please Texas Sky Dancers!  Let us know if we can help!!!  Let us know if you’re okay!! We’re here for you!!!


Sunday Reads: Book Rainbows 

Good Afternoon

 

What a beautiful image….

On Friday, Dak gave you lovely works from artist known for their use of color. Particularly Georgia O’Keefe… she also wrote about women bloggers….don’t you love when a post focuses on women doing extraordinary things. (As compared to what the misogynist male establishment would rather see us do.)

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Yesterday, Boston Boomer treated us all with images of beautiful people. (Paul Newman and Steve McQueen…who doesn’t want to look at those gorgeous faces and bodies?)

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Today I bring you pictures of books. Rainbow colored books. Although, I am not sure if anyone of us has enough books with colorful covers to do anything like this….but it sure is pretty to look at.

Slow Show – Chris Cobb

 

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Chris Cobb, an artist based in San Francisco, has created an amazing installation in bookshop called Adobe Books- he catalogued every single one of the 20,000 books by color. The project is titled There is Nothing Wrong in This Whole Wide World. They were arranged by hand over a 10 hour period, and he enlisted the help of 16 volunteers. Such beautiful results, they transformed the bookshop overnight.

So enjoy the lovely books.

Here are you links for today.

I am going to post this horrible news first…Nearly 120 killed in overnight Baghdad bombings claimed by Islamic State | Reuters

Nearly 120 people were killed and 200 wounded in two bombings overnight in Baghdad, most of them in a busy shopping area as residents celebrated Ramadan, police and medical sources said on Sunday.

imageThe attack on the shopping area of Karrada is the deadliest since U.S.-backed Iraqi forces last month scored a major victory when it dislodged Islamic State from their stronghold of Falluja, an hour’s drive west of the capital. It is also the deadliest so far this year.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had ordered the offensive after a series of deadly bombings in Baghdad, saying Falluja served as a launchpad for such attacks on the capital. However, bombings have continued.

A convoy carrying Abadi who had come to tour the site of the bombings was pelted with stones and bottles by residents, angry at what they felt were false promises of better security.

A refrigerator truck packed with explosives blew up in the central district of Karrada, killing 115 people and injuring at least 200. Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement circulated online by supporters of the ultra-hard line Sunni group. It said the blast was a suicide bombing.

Along with this attack on Friday: Bangladesh Attack Marks Tactical Shift by Islamic State Militants – WSJ

When assailants armed with guns and explosives stormed an upscale cafe in the Bangladeshi capital Friday, shouting “Allahu akbar,” it represented a sharp escalation by extremist followers of Islamic State in South Asia, a region where the terror group had previously gained little traction.

imageBy the time security forces retook the restaurant after an assault backed by armored vehicles early Saturday, 20 civilians, two police officers and six militants had been killed. Brig. Gen. Nayeem Ashfaq Chowdhury, the army’s director of military operations, said 13 people held hostage were freed.

Among the dead were two students from Emory University, which is based in Atlanta. Abinta Kabir, a U.S. citizen who was an undergraduate student at the school’s Oxford College campus in Georgia, was killed, along with another student, Faraaz Hossain, spokesmen for their families said Saturday. Mr. Hossain’s nationality hasn’t been confirmed.

Tarushi Jain, an 18-year-old Indian national who attended the University of California-Berkeley, also perished in the attack, the Associated Press reported.

Friends mourn Emory students killed in Bangladesh terror attacks | www.myajc.com

When Raquel Jeanette Solla learned two of her Emory University friends were being held hostage in a café in Bangladesh, she clung to the hope they would survive.

“I really believed they’d be okay because they’re such good people, and seemed too sweet to have something so horrible happen to them,” said Solla, a student at the Oxford campus, in an e-mail to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

She found out about the terror attack, about her friends, Abinta Kabir and Faraaz Hossain, being trapped inside a popular cafe in Dhaka, through a Facebook group message. When the stream of updates stopped, she feared the worst early Saturday morning. A Facebook post soon confirmed it.

Abinta and Faraaz were well-known in the tight-knit group of students at Emory University’s Oxford University campus, both sharing a reputation of being bright, enthusiastic, and really, really nice. Bengali students at Emory often get together for pickup soccer games, to talk about some cricket match or share news of home, a place they say rarely makes it into international headlines.

Till now, when Bangladesh was added to the the rapidly escalating list of places devastated by Islamic terrorism. Only days after the attack in Istanbul, and weeks away from the Orlando tragedy, this latest blood bath delivered an extra blow to the Atlanta region. It took the lives of two of our own.

imageMore at the links…

And while you ponder on that, remember….52 still hospitalized after deadly Istanbul airport attack – World – CBC News

Fifty-two people are still in the hospital four days after suicide bombers attacked Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport, killing at least 44 others, the city’s governor said Saturday.

The governorate said 184 airport victims have been discharged from hospitals so far, including 13 people released Saturday. It said 20 people were still in intensive care.

Three militants armed with assault rifles and suicide bombs attacked one of the world’s busiest airports on Tuesday night. Although no one has claimed responsibility for the attack, Turkish officials say they believe it was the work of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group.

However according to Reuters: Around 20 Islamic State members in custody over Istanbul airport attack: Erdogan | Reuters

Around 20 Islamic State militants, mainly foreigners, are in custody in connection with an attack last week on Istanbul airport that killed 45 people, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday.

Two Russian nationals have been identified as suspected Islamic State suicide bombers in the attack that is thought to have been masterminded by a Chechen, Turkish media said on Friday.

“The latest findings point to the Daesh (Islamic State) terrorist organisation,” Erdogan told Reuters at the Istanbul Ataturk airport, where he visited the attack site.

Video at the link.

imageTake a deep breath after that section of the thread. Go and get something to drink…The rest of the links are not so violent.

There was a warning from the UAE recently, which urged its citizens to avoid dressing in their customary outfits while traveling in the US: UAE tells citizens to avoid national dress while abroad after man held in U.S. | Reuters

The United Arab Emirates has urged men to avoid wearing the white robes, headscarf and headband of the national dress when traveling abroad, after a businessman visiting the United States was wrestled to the ground and held as an Islamic State suspect.

UAE media reported that the Emirati man was detained in Avon, Ohio, last week after a female clerk at a local hotel called 911 to report what she had described as a man affiliated to Islamic State, according to the Arabic-language al-Bayan newspaper. It only identified him by his initials.

The English language The National said the receptionist at the Fairfield Inn hotel called the police after she heard the man talking on his phone in the hotel lobby.

Gulf News, another UAE newspaper, published photos of the Emirati man in white robes being wrestled to the ground and handcuffed before being led away by police.

In a message on a Foreign Ministry Twitter account focusing on citizens traveling abroad, the ministry said on Saturday:

“For citizens traveling outside the country, and in order to ensure their safety, we point out not to wear formal dress while traveling, especially in public places,” the message dated July 2 stated, without referring to the Avon incident.

imageIt is frightening stuff…when you think about it. Isn’t it enough that so many US citizens already are worried for their lives because they look a certain way? The hateful rhetoric is only getting worse…at what point does the US become a High Risk Travel Warning to other nations abroad? When a racist misogynistic fascist asshole is elected president?

Stephen Hawking: Greed And Stupidity Are What Will End The Human Race | The Intellectualist

Physicist Stephen Hawking says pollution coupled with human greed and stupidity are still the biggest threats to humankind.

During an interview on Larry King Now, the science superstar told King that in the six years since he’s spoken with the talk show host people haven’t cleaned up their act.

“We certainly have not become less greedy or less stupid,” Hawking said. “The population has grown by half a billion since our last meeting, with no end in sight. At this rate, it will be eleven billion by 2100.”

You can read the rest of the USA Today article here, including some video: Stephen Hawking: Humankind is still greedy, stupid and greatest threat to Earth

In connection with Hawking’s climate prediction: ‘Unprecedented’: Scientists declare ‘global climate emergency’ after jet stream crosses equator

Paul Beckwith appears in a YouTube video (screen grab)

And meanwhile in Florida: Toxic algae bloom crisis hits Florida, drives away tourists (w/video) | Tampa Bay Times

It’s going to be a long, stinky Fourth of July weekend on Jensen Beach.

Instead of red, white and blue, the color of the day is green. Thick, putrid layers of toxic blue-green algae are lapping at the sand, forcing Martin County officials to close the beach as a health hazard.

“I’ve seen Jensen Beach closed for sharks,” said Irene Gomes, whose family has run the Driftwood Motel since 1958. “I’ve never seen it closed for an algae bloom before.”

As bad as it looks, the stench is far worse, driving away Gomes’ motel customers, chasing off paddleboard and kayak renters and forcing residents to stay indoors.

“It smells like death on a cracker,” said Gomes’ friend Cyndi Lenz, a nurse. Morgues don’t smell as bad, she added.

Boats docked at Central Marine in Stuart, where workers were wearing respirators, are surrounded by blue-green algae on Wednesday. Officials want federal action along Florida’s Atlantic coast where the governor has declared a state of emergency.

 

The toxic algae bloom afflicting Jensen stretches for miles along the Martin County shoreline on the state’s Atlantic coast near Palm Beach. It’s also coating the water in the Indian River Lagoon and the St. Lucie River. It’s thick in Lake Okeechobee, where the toxicity is 200 times what the World Health Organization says constitutes a human health hazard.

And now it’s apparently showing up over on the state’s west coast, too, forcing the closure of a popular park on the Caloosahatchee River and flopping onto Fort Myers Beach.

That is a long article, so give it a look.

But with all this bad news on the environmental front…how about something positive?

imageDecades after the Montreal Protocol, there are signs the hole in the ozone layer has begun to heal – Los Angeles Times

For the first time in 30 years, the gaping hole in the ozone layer above Antarctica is showing signs of healing.

Every year since it was discovered in 1985, scientists have watched the hole grow bigger from one Antarctic spring to the next, eventually covering 10.9 million square miles in 2015.

Now researchers are noting an encouraging trend. Though the hole still exists and reached a record size last year, it is forming at a slower rate, according to a reportpublished Thursday in the journal Science.

Thanks to human actions to curb the use of ozone-destroying chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, the hole has started growing later in the spring, the study’s authors said, and they can foresee a time, around the middle of the century, when it’s gone.

“We are starting to see signs of improvement over Antarctica,” said Paul Newman, an atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center who monitors the hole but was not involved in the study.

Whatever you do, be sure to click on that link and go see the images on the LA Times site. It is very interesting…especially with all those little earths spinning next to each other.

Now for some political news links:

Dolly Parton endorses Hillary Clinton: ‘I think a woman would do a great job’ – DeadState

The Utter Inconsequence of Hillary’s Veep – The New York Times

Poll reveals young remain voters reduced to tears by Brexit result | Politics | The Guardian

Germany should offer young Britons EU citizenship after Brexit, says German Vice-Chancellor | Europe | News | The Independent

One more link for you, this one…from my area of the backwoods of Georgia…in the county next door to Banjoville. Fannin County to be exact, where the phrase…

“We have deep mountains.”

Means exactly what you would think it means if it was uttered by some mafia dude to another mafia dude talking about what to do with a body after icing someone in the local fried chicken joint.

Georgia publisher jailed after filing open records request | www.myajc.com

‘Retaliation for use of the Open Records Act will inhibit every citizen from using it.’

A North Georgia newspaper publisher was indicted on a felony charge and jailed overnight last week – for filing an open-records request.

Fannin Focus publisher Mark Thomason, along with his attorney Russell Stookey, were arrested on Friday and charged with attempted identity fraud and identity fraud. Thomason was also accused of making a false statement in his records request.

» READ THE INDICTMENT

Thomason’s relentless pursuit of public records relating to the local Superior Court has incensed the court’s chief judge, Brenda Weaver, who also chairs the state Judicial Qualifications Commission. Weaver took the matter to the district attorney, who obtained the indictments.

Thomason was charged June 24 with making a false statement in an open-records request in which he asked for copies of checks “cashed illegally.” Thomason and Stookey were also charged with identity fraud and attempted identity fraud because they did not get Weaver’s approval before sending subpoenas to banks where Weaver and another judge maintained accounts for office expenses. Weaver suggested that Thomason may have been trying to steal banking information on the checks.

But Thomason said he was “doing his job” when he asked for records.

“I was astounded, in disbelief that there were even any charges to be had,” said Thomason, 37, who grew up in Fannin County. “I take this as a punch at journalists across the nation that if we continue to do our jobs correctly, then we have to live in fear of being imprisoned.”

Thomason and Stookey are out on $10,000 bond and have a long list of things they cannot do or things they must do to avoid going to jail until their trials. On Thursday, for example, Thomason reported to a pretrial center and was told that he may have to submit to a random drug test – a condition of the bond on which he was released from jail last Saturday.

Alison Sosebee, district attorney in the three counties in the Appalachian Judicial Circuit, and Judge Weaver say the charges are justified. Weaver said she resented Thomason’s attacks on her character in his weekly newspaper and in conversations with her constituents.

“I don’t react well when my honesty is questioned,” Weaver said.

imageYou can read more at the link…

Colorful books, how about a colorful nation. Babies Of Color Are Now The Majority, Census Says : NPR Ed : NPR

Today’s generation of schoolchildren looks much different than one just a few decades ago. Nonwhites are expected to become the majority of the nation’s children by 2020, as our colleague Bill Chappell reported last year. This is now the reality among the very youngest Americans: babies.

Babies of color now outnumber non-Hispanic white babies (1 year or younger), according to new estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. The newest estimate shows that on July 1, 2015, the population of racial or ethnic minority babies was 50.2 percent.

Which of course, makes me think of that song Cartman sings from South Park…about the Minorities are the Majorities….at his waterpark.

Not My Waterpark – Video Clip | South Park Studios

Cartman sings a heartfelt ode about how his water park isn’t the way he remembered it.

 

But you know, some things never change: The richest families in Florence in 1427 are still the richest families in Florence — Quartz

imageThese next few links are interesting, from a scientific background, first a look at an old article published in 1879:

Interesting perspective on why children die from Birmingham newspaper July 2, 1879 | Alabama Pioneers

Compare it to this:

Can the Ancient World Save Us from the Antibiotic-Resistant Suberbug Apocalypse? – The Daily Beast

Marijuana Compound Removes Alzheimer’s Plaque From Brain Cells, Study Finds | Popular Science

Looking back to find a cure and looking forward to find a solution?

Since we have books on display, we need to have a couple of book list to go with them:

29 Books That Will Enrich Your Inner Literati | TIME

The 75 Best Books of the Last 75 Years: Today in Critical Linking

And finally, a tribute to a lady who is 100 this weekend!

100 Years Of Olivia De Havilland Handling Sexism, Her Sister, And Scarlett O’Hara : NPR

Olivia de Havilland — the last surviving cast member from Gone with the Wind — turns 100 on July 1.

Actress Olivia de Havilland, the last surviving star of the most popular film of all time, retired from showbiz decades ago, apparently feeling that 49 films, two best actress Oscars, and a best-selling memoir were accomplishment enough for one career.

Friday in Paris, she celebrates her 100th birthday, which seems a good moment to reflect on the mix of sparkle and resilience that marked her public life.

De Havilland’s career spanned more than five decades. Thanks to a lawsuit she filed against Warner Bros., she even has a landmark judicial ruling named after her — the de Havilland law limits the terms studios can impose up on actors.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Celebrating the Centenary of Olivia de Havilland – Olivia de Havilland – Lady of the Classic Cinema

Here is the video that Robert Osborne has done for Olivia de Havilland over at TCM:

 

If you cannot see the embedded video click here:  “I’m certainly relishing the idea of living a… – Turner Classic Movies: TCM

Robert Osborne on Olivia De Havilland

imageI confess it: as a Brit would say, I have been one very lucky bloke. It has never ceased to amaze me that a fellow with no connections whatsoever to show business and who grew up in a small farm community in the Northwest (population: 2500), could end up on a national television network with the dream job of talking about classic movies as I get to do on TCM. Something else which constantly reminds me of how lucky I am is the 40-year friendship I’ve had with TCM’s Star of the month for this July, Olivia de Havilland.

[…]

imageWe’ll be sharing many of Olivia’s stories with you on Friday nights this month as we also celebrate a great landmark birthday for her–her 100th. It is her birthday but we’re the ones who get the presents. Every Friday we’ll be toasting Olivia, showing 39 de Havilland films in all, including all the biggies such as To Each His Own(1946, Oscar® #1), The Snake Pit, (1948, Oscar® nomination #3), The Heiress (Oscar® #2) and several which are lesser known, such as when she played France’s Queen Mother in the era of the Three Musketeers in the rarely shown The 5th Musketeer (1979) with Rex Harrison, Jose Ferrer and Cornel Wilde. And just for the fun of it, you can see 1939’s Wings of the Navy and decide if you agree with Olivia’s assessment of it.

Through the years, in addition to all the many assets that are such an integral part of her, she’s also proven to be someone who always makes good on promises. The night she celebrated her 80th birthday in Paris in 1996, Olivia told me she’d just made a vow to live to be 100. And she’s done it. During a more recent phone chat, she said, “I’ve changed my goal. I’ve decided I want to live to be at least 110.” That’s the best birthday present this amazing woman from Hollywood’s golden era could give us. I have no doubt she’ll make it. Bravo, Olivia!

by Robert Osborne

 

This month on TCM they are celebrating Olivia’s birthday  by featuring her as the star of the month with her films: Olivia de Havilland – Fridays in July

Movie Line-Up

You know I will be taping many of these…especially The Heiress and Hold Back the Dawn!

 

Anyway, that is my post for the day, have a wonderful and safe 4th of July!

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