The Big Smokey?

So, I have to go to the Daily Mail to really get some good coverage of this since the US  corporate media isn’t quite up to getting to news anywhere in the Great Fly Over.  New Orleans has spent 4 days now in a blanket of nasty white smoke from what was one and now is two marsh fires.  The second marsh fire is more threatening and is supposedly the result of arson.

This incredible image that looks straight out of Star Wars shows how smoke from a raging marsh fire in New Orleans has surrounded the iconic Superdome, as an emergency is declared in the city.

Helicopters are dropping water from 500-gallon baskets, hundreds of acres of land have been burned and now a second marsh fire has started in what is turning into a city-wide disaster.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu spotted a second marsh fire during a flight over one that has hazed the metro area with smoke for three days and he has now declared an emergency.

Okay, as of yesterday, we’re beginning to get some attention. It’s not exactly as bad as when I was screaming to every media outlet I could about the BP Oil Spill that all of them ignored for weeks.

Haze from the fire was reported as far west as the Baton Rouge metro area, the National Weather Service said. It expanded its smoke alert from New Orleans and six suburban parishes to 23 parishes, including towns 100 miles from New Orleans.

As of Tuesday morning, the original fire had burned all but about 537 acres — about eight-tenths of a square mile — of the trees, shrubs and grass on a 1,552.5-acre area surrounded by canals, said Ryan Berni, spokesman for Landrieu. It started in the center of the area and has been spreading outward.

“It would take an armada of helicopters” to drop water on it and douse it, said state Rep. Austin J. Badon, Jr., D-New Orleans, who flew over the fires separately from Landrieu.

Landrieu said he was told that each basket of water, when it hits earth, covers an area about the size of a pickup truck.

Along the East Coast, some 40 hot spots in the Great Dismal Swamp were still smoldering even after Hurricane Irene dumped 10 to 15 inches of rain on the area, according to a news release posted Tuesday on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website. That fire that lightning started on Aug. 4 has burned more than 6,000 acres in southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina.

Some New Orleans schools had canceled outdoor activities because of smoke which has spread across the metropolitan area for three days. Meteorologists expected the smoke to move north over Lake Pontchartrain by evening, but to settle over the metro area again overnight.

I’ve had a nearly constant headache and sick feeling since Sunday when I went out to walk the dog through what looked like white fog.  The smell definitely will let you know that this is not fog.  It’s an acrid, nasty smoky smell and its full of particulates.  We’ve had unhealthy air now for several days and the hospitals are filling up with people whose respiratory  ailments cannot handle the excess stress.

What I really want to point your attention to is an appearance by Tulane Professor Melissa Harris Perry as the Guest host of the Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC.  I can’t pick up the video at the moment so you’ll have to go check it out yourself here.  She explains how this health disaster might be better managed than it is being handled now if we had marsh buggies or the funds to get to big planes to drop substantial amounts of water on the fire.  We don’t have any of those because the state doesn’t have money at the moment.  Yes, a lot of that is due to the fact that our Governor is obsessed with getting his ass ready to run for President 4 years from now and has even vetoed the cigarette tax in the state since it could be used against him as a possible tax increase by the Grover Norquist crowd.

This brings me to the larger topic of Eric Cantor who is insisting that any disaster aid to any of the victims of the flooding in Irene or any place else right now including tornado ravaged Joplin Missouri be offset by spending cuts.  Also, nasty little neoconfederate Ron Paul wants to eliminate FEMA. I have no idea what it’s going to take to get these folks to understand simple things like economies of scale and public goods that exist because the private sector can’t or won’t do it, but you’d think these kinds of disasters would be no-brainers on just the it’s our country and their our people argument.  Cantor isn’t busily cutting off his own but others while Ron Paul thinks the recent response to Galveston flooding was a lot more worse than the horrible Galveston hurricane of 1900 where thousands died.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-Va.) insistence that federal disaster aid be offset elsewhere in the budget runs directly counter to his position in the past when the money went to help his district.

In the summer of 2004, after Tropical Storm Gaston slammed into Richmond, Cantor was on the front lines of efforts to secure millions of dollars in federal assistance to clean the wreckage and repair damaged infrastructure. Although the funding was not offset, Cantor cheered its arrival.

“The magnitude of the damage suffered by the Richmond area is beyond what the Commonwealth can handle,” Cantor said in a news release at the time, “and that is why I asked the president to make federal funds available for the citizens affected by Gaston.”

That episode is raising eyebrows this week, after Cantor told Fox News that disaster aid in the wake of Hurricane Irene should not be funded with borrowed money. Instead, Cantor said Monday, all federal assistance should be offset by cuts elsewhere in the budget.

“Yes, we are going to find the money. We are just going to have to make sure there are savings elsewhere to continue to do so,” Cantor told Fox. “Just like any family would operate when it’s struck with disaster, it finds the money to take care of a sick loved one or what have you, and then goes without trying to buy a new car or [putting] an addition onto the house.”

Yes, Eric, even if the metaphor worked–which it doesn’t–most families do find the money.  They get loans and grants from the Federal Government just in case you didn’t know.  But, back to that metaphor,  when I can print money that every one universally accepts or when I can sell bonds that every one in the world wants at nearly zero interest rates, I’ll get back to you with some support for your lunacy. I can tell you how devastated my grandparents were by the 1927 flood too and how it took them decades to recover because they had no help and were dirt poor too. They had exactly one porcelain pig cream pitcher to show for their first decades of marriage and work and had to crawl out of poverty yet one more time after that flood.

I have no idea what it is going to take to get these neanderthal Republicans out of the 1900s and into the 21st century where we know that evolution is a scientific theory because there is tons of proof and no holes, where we know there is a role for the federal government in creating jobs and jumpstarting a bad economy, where we know that global warming exists and that climate science isn’t a hoax.  I imagine that it’s going to take something of a miracle to get the Koch brothers money and the religious right’s tentacles out of our government, but whatever ever it takes, it’s a battle we need to wage.

Here’s a good example of the problem from Matt Yglesias who for some reason keeps getting lumped in with liberals. It’s a pretty good indicator that progressive is a misnomer and more than just Neanderthal Republicans can jump the shark on public goods.

Suzy Khimm asks, sensibly, “Why are we subsidizing the building of homes in flood-prone areas?”

As she explains, the National Flood Insurance Program offers sub-market insurance rates to people who want to build houses in very flood prone areas. It’d be as if we had a special program to offer subsidized health insurance to people who refuse to wear seatbelts. Sounds nuts? And yet there it is. But I do think it’s important to note that this kind of program, generally the worst kind of thing the federal government does, tends to be totally uncontroversial politically. The National Flood Insurance Program Reextension Act of 2010 was sponsored by a bipartisan group, it passed the filibuster-ridden Senate by unanimous consent on September 21, it passed the House of Representatives on a voice vote on September 23, and was signed into law by President Obama a week later. The lead sponsor of the current Flood Insurance Reauthorization is Senator Roger Wicker, Republican of Mississippi. Amidst fierce ideological debate about the size and scope of the federal government, in other words, there’s no serious budget-cutting move to stop subsidizing people from living in dangerous flood zones.

Risk Theory is not the easiest topic to study unless you love calculus and probabilities.  This is the theoretical basis for insurance and it does explain a lot of things like moral hazard or information asymmetry. Risk theory and basic microeconomics also explains why some public goods are necessary because the private sector won’t provide them or they provide them at such a cost that nearly no one can afford them.  The deal is this.  FEMA does provide flood insurance.  It also provides a plan to folks who repeatedly live in areas that flood with a that plan buys them out or makes them do something to offset the risk–called hazard mitigation–so that these kinds of repetitive losses do not recur on our tax dollars or any one else’s money. But then, journalist memes and lore are so much more fun that facts!! FEMA also provides flood insurance because no private company will do it at a reasonable cost.  Private insurance is basically a Mafia-type gambling activity.  They only provide insurance when there’s a distinct house advantage.  For example, my Allstate homeowner’s insurance policy for which I pay more than I ever used to now has a wind and rain deductible that exactly equals my loss during Katrina.  That’s the only claim I’ve ever had in the 11 years of living here. Also, sit down with me and a beer some time and let me tell you all the things that they were supposed to cover which they never did. FEMA flood insurance provides a small sum of money that would barely cover the rebuilding cost of my small house, should it have flooded.  I know that no one back east that has the insurance is going to get an amount close to rebuilding their house.  Yet, what little they do get will stop them from going into complete personal devastation and that’s the point.  A sum of $250,000 will get you back on your feet a lot quicker than the fisting you’ll get from the good hands people, believe me.

So, my rant is not that an act of lightening set a marsh on fire or that some idiot arsonist compulsively made life a lot worse for a lot more folks for some reason.  It isn’t that that mother nature shouldn’t send floods or prairie fires or hurricanes.  It’s that in a huge country, there are huge risks.  Huge risk pools are only possible when you opt in the population and you go around the private sector that wants to cherry pick its way to executive bonuses.  Economies of scale in standardized processing, ratings, policies and administration is only possible at the public good level.  Same deal goes with health insurance which is something every other developed nation figured out a long time ago.  However, they obviously don’t have to deal with lobbyists and neanderthals and neoconfederates like we do.

Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!! I’m having trouble finding any new news, but I’ve done my best to dig up a few interesting reads for you.

The Boston Herald has the lowdown on President Obama’s illegal immigrant uncle.

An illegal immigrant from Kenya busted for drunken driving after nearly striking a cop car in Framingham is the uncle of President Obama, the Herald has learned.

Obama Onyango told cops he wanted to “call the White House” after he was nabbed for OUI Aug. 24 after nearly plowing his SUV into a police cruiser. He was arraigned Thursday and was ordered held without bail because he was wanted on a federal immigration warrant, officials said.

Mike Rogers, a spokesman for Cleveland immigration attorney Margaret Wong, who is representing Onyango, confirmed that the 67-year-old is the president’s uncle. Wong is the same lawyer who represented the president’s aunt, Zeituni Onyango, in her fight to win asylum last year.

Reached at her apartment in a South Boston public housing complex today, Zeituni Onyango said of her brother’s arrest: “Why don’t you go to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. in Washingon, D.C. and ask your president? Not me.” She then hung up on a reporter.

OK, it’s another right wing source, but Fox News has a funny article on Obama’s announcement of his new economic adviser Alan Krueger: Seriously? Obama Uses 2 Teleprompters for 3 Minute Speech

President Obama required two heavy-duty teleprompters on Monday during a three-minute speech in which he nominated Alan Krueger to serve as chairman of his Council of Economic Advisers.

“I am very pleased to appoint Alan and I look forward to working with him,” Obama said, staring at the large, flat-screen monitor to his right, then shifting his eyes to the teleprompter on his left. “I have nothing but confidence in Alan as he takes on this important role as one of the leaders of my economic team.”

Why couldn’t he just memorize that?

In more serious news, the aftermath of Hurricane Irene has been devastating in Vermont, but the networks aren’t covering it 24/7. I wonder why?

Vermont is reeling today from what is becoming the state’s worst natural disaster since the epic flood of 1927. At least three people have died in the storm, one man is missing, hundreds of roads statewide are closed, and thousands of homes and businesses suffered power outages and serious damage from flooding associated with Tropical Storm Irene.

[Update 5:40 p.m.] Three people are confirmed dead in Vermont in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene, and a fourth person is missing, state officials said at a news conference in Montpelier late this afternoon.

The deaths occurred in Wilmington, Rutland and Ludlow. Another person, the son of the Rutland victim, is missing and feared dead, according to state officials.

Perhaps if the media elites lived in Vermont, we’d hear more about it. But they don’t, so it’s not real to them. This is why we can have 25 million people unemployed in this country and the media and political class completely ignore the devastation it causes.

Sarah Jaffe has an important article at Alternet on “How the Surveillance State Protects the Interests Of the Ultra-Rich.”

Jaffe discusses the refusal of the British government to recognize that poverty played a role in the recent riots in London and other cities, as well as the shutdown of cell phone service by BART during the protests of the killing of a man by BART police. She writes:

The techniques that were roundly decried by Western leaders when used by Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak against his people’s peaceful revolution are suddenly embraced when it comes to unrest at home. Not only that, but techniques honed in the “war on terror” are now being turned on anti-austerity protesters, clamping down on discontent that was created in the first place by policies of the state.


As a burgeoning international protest movement takes shape, opposing austerity measures, decrying the wealth gap and rising inequality, and in some cases directly attacking the interests of oligarchs, we’re likely to see the surveillance state developed for tracking “terrorists” turned on citizen activists peacefully protesting the actions of their government. And as U.S. elections post-Citizens United will be more and more expensive, look for politicians of both parties to enforce these crackdowns.

Despite growing anger at austerity in other countries, those policies have been embraced by both parties here in the States. Groups like US Uncut have stepped into the fray, pointing out the connection between the tax dodging of banks like Bank of America and other corporations and the slashing of the social safety net for everyone else. The new protest movements are led not only by traditional left groups like labor unions, but a generation of young, wired activists using the Internet for innovative protest and revolutionary activism.

It’s a lengthy article, but well worth reading.

Joseph Heller as a young man

I’ll end with a literary piece. I’m a big fan of Joseph Heller’s novel Catch-22, so I got a kick out of this review of books about Heller at the NYT: The Enigma of Joseph Heller.

“Oh God, this is a calamity for American literature,” Kurt Vonnegut said on learning of Joseph Heller’s death in 1999. John Updike was less alarmed: Heller “wasn’t top of the chart” as a writer, he reflected, though he was “a sweet man” and his first novel, “Catch-22” was “important.” Note the Updikean judiciousness of “important”: he didn’t say he liked the book, but it was a great cultural bellwether as novels go, and it has endured. Despite mixed reviews on publication in 1961, “Catch-22” was soon adopted by college students who recognized a kindred spirit in Yossarian, the bombardier who rebels against a materialistic bureaucracy hellbent on killing him. “Better Yossarian than Rotarian” became a popular slogan, all the more so with the timely (for the novel’s sake) military escalation in Vietnam, which became the “real” subject of “Catch-22” and partly accounts for its sales of more than 10 million copies to date. It’s hard to argue with that kind of importance.

IMHO, John Updike’s work isn’t likely to be read 100 years from now. Does anyone still read “Couples?” Please. “The Witches of Eastwick” was funny, but hardly deathless literature. Catch-22, on the other hand, might hold up 100 years from now. To me it’s the ultimate book on the insanity of war. I might just check out that Heller biography, even though the NYT reviewer wasn’t that thrilled with it.

That’s all I’ve got for today. What are you reading and blogging about?

Hurricane Irony: Lame Press Coverage

I’m hoping that all of you on the East Coast had an uneventful Hurricane Irene visit.  It’s always a pain to lose electricity and some tree branches, but hey, as I’ve been hearing all day today, it could’ve been worse.   I seriously can’t believe the coverage this weekend.  You’d have thought the martians had landed.  I think the corporate media out did itself.  So, I’m putting up any open thread so you can share your stories and I’m also putting up what I considered some of the most offensive press moments of the week.

My number one choice for stupid press tricks was who ever thought to call Ray Nagin on to the media circuit as a preparedness guru.  Remember, Ray Ray,  he was the mayor of New Orleans that basically put all the city buses right in the most flood prone sections of the city and hid in the penthouse of the Sheraton Hotel until the President showed up to offer him a shower about 5 days after landfall.  It gave all of us at Rising Tide 6 a source of endless jokes.

No, this wasn’t meant to be a joke. Although many believe the 2005 response to Hurricane Katrina was a colossal failure at every level of government, former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin appeared on MSNBC on Friday to offer preparedness advice for those in Hurricane Irene’s path.

Speaking with Martin Bashir, Nagin gave government agencies and their leaders high marks for their preparations. But he said only time will tell if the public follows their instructions.

“[I] think they’re doing an excellent job of alerting the public, which is one of the main things you need to do. One of the problems they’re having on the East Coast is that they have not experienced a storm like this in so long, so there are going to be many people who may not heed the warnings, or may move too late to try and evacuate. And that is when the drama will unfold.”

Nagin didn’t deny that he made some errors with Katrina in 2005. But he put much of the blame on New Orleanians themselves:

“Well, I would tell you this, Martin: It was a historic, catastrophic event … “[N]ow that I have had a chance to really go back and take a look, there are a number of things that I think that I could have done better. But in an evacuation situation where a catastrophic storm is approaching, the leader has one responsibility, but also the citizen has a responsibility to heed the warnings and act appropriately.”

My second lame press trick of the Hurricane coverage was how Geraldo Rivera couldn’t suppress his disappointment that there wasn’t more mayhem and death.  Every time I tried to find something on TV other than hurricane coverage, I would eventually see Geraldo.  The look on his face said “Damn! It’s empty again!!” every time I saw him.

Number three is up there on the Youtube.  That’s the Sea Foam covered Tucker Barnes in Ocean City telling us how he smells while reporting because he’s taking a sea foam shower.  If it doesn’t smell great and it’s coming in during flooding, chances are you don’t really want to be covered in it.
Number four is Howard Kurtz’s pronouncements that are just lame by definition:  “Cable news was utterly swept away by the notion that Irene would turn out to be Armageddon”.  No Howard, they were utterly swept away because it’s always all about them and this was doubly so.

The fact that New York, home to the nation’s top news outlets, was directly in the storm’s path clearly fed this story-on-steroids. Does anyone seriously believe the hurricane would have drawn the same level of coverage if it had been bearing down on, say, Ft. Lauderdale?

The symbiotic relationship between television and local officials played a huge role. Chris Christie, the New Jersey governor who was all over television on Sunday morning, had drawn saturation coverage with his blunt warnings to “get the hell off the beach.” New York’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg, who ordered evacuations of low-lying areas, has been a constant presence. President Obama and FEMA officials made sure to generate their share of news as well.

These officials have a responsibility to plan for worst-case scenarios, of course, but something more blatantly political is at work. Mayors and governors need to be seen as on top of the crisis, which means being visible on the tube. No one wants to be the next Ray Nagin or Heckuva Job Brownie, looking disorganized after Katrina. A badly handled snowstorm has contributed to more than one mayor’s defeat.

The blizzard of press conferences, in turn, enable the networks to keep their “Breaking News” banners up and furnished a sense of drama for a story that otherwise consisted of reporters on streets where the hurricane was expected to strike and weather experts with their maps in climate-controlled studios.

All I can say is that we’re lucky there is better stuff on the internet these days.  Otherwise, no one on the east coast would’ve probably gotten some real information at all.

This is an open thread, so have at it!!!

Sunday Reads: Sea Cows, Paper Birds, and the Milky Way

Well, Irene must be pounding New York City…I hope that all our readers in its path are safe…as I was writing this post last night, it was reassuring to see some of you checking in.

Irene has put many events and sports games on hold, but as Boston Boomer mentioned yesterday, one of the postponed disappointments is the inauguration of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in D.C.  Rupert Cornwell: He had a dream – and now it’s set in stone – Rupert Cornwell, Commentators – The Independent

The new Martin Luther King memorial will be dedicated by President Barack Obama

afp/getty images

The new Martin Luther King memorial will be dedicated by President Barack Obama

In terms of physical damage and devastation, Hurricane Irene may have a great deal to answer for. But here in America’s capital, to injury has been added insult. The storm has forced the postponement of today’s planned formal inauguration of the new memorial to Martin Luther King on the National Mall in Washington DC. The dedication was to have been performed by the black president whose own miraculous ascent and inauguration would never have happened but for Dr King and the movement he led, and the speech he made close to that spot exactly 48 years ago.


But the mere dedication of a monument does of itself not turn wrongs into rights, or wipe a country’s conscience clean. Yes, the new King memorial is remarkable: the Mall is a place that honours wars and those who died in them, and the country’s greatest government leaders. Yet King was a pacifist (and widely reviled for it). He was an outsider, who made his reputation by defying the laws of the land.

He preached reconciliation, but as Cornel West, a Princeton professor and leading African-American intellectual, argued in The New York Times on Friday, King was also a revolutionary, who never ceased to decry the “racism, poverty, militarism and materialism” of American society.

Obama was supposed to speak at the event, which has been postponed indefinitely, and although I am disgusted with Obama, his lack of leadership and his pro-GOP policies… that a black president would be officiating at the MLK memorial’s opening is sure to bring emotional feelings for anyone, no matter what you think of Obama.

Yes, we have come a long way since that speech King gave 48 years ago, but it is sad that under this first black US president, African-Americans are experiencing a trend that is not moving blacks forward toward the dream that Mr. King spoke so eloquently about.

Since the 2008 crash, blacks have gone backwards economically. Since George W Bush left office, black unemployment has risen from 11 per cent to nearly 16 per cent, compared with an overall national rate of just over 9 per cent. According to one recent study, the median wealth of black households is one-twentieth of that of white households.

In 1963, King declared that the March on Washington was not an end but a beginning, and so it proved. The same goes for the new memorial, a reminder not of what has been achieved, but of what remains to be achieved.

Over in China, workers face unbearable conditions and forced overtime…in a toy factory that also employs children.  Disney factory faces probe into sweatshop suicide claims | World news | The Observer

Sturdy Products

A Sturdy Products’ employee works to fulfil orders, for ranges that include Disney ­merchandise. But a monitoring group claims that workers’ rights are often abused

Disney’s best-selling Cars toys are being made in a factory in China that uses child labour and forces staff to do three times the amount of overtime allowed by law, according to an investigation.

One worker reportedly killed herself after being repeatedly shouted at by bosses. Others cited worries over poisonous chemicals. Disney has now launched its own investigation.

It is claimed some of the 6,000 employees have to work an extra 120 hours every month to meet demand from western shops for the latest toys.

The factory, called Sturdy Products, makes toys for the giant Mattel company, which last month announced quarterly profits of £48m on the back of strong sales of Barbie dolls and Cars 2 toys. Sturdy Products, in the city of Shenzhen, also makes toys for US superstore chain Walmart. Among the brands produced are the Thomas the Tank Engine range, Matchbox cars, Cars, Toy Story, Barbie and Fisher Price products, Scrabble and the Hot Wheels sets.

So, this factory makes toys for Disney, Mattel and Walmart…

Sacom’s accusations against the factory include:

■ The employment of a 14-year-old. Staff also reported the presence of other child workers, according to the investigator.

■ Routine excessive overtime. Employees produced a “voluntary” document they said they had to sign agreeing to work beyond the maximum overtime legal limit of 36 hours a month, along with wage slips that suggested they were averaging 120 hours of overtime a month.

■ A harsh working environment in which workers complained of mistreatment by management. One worker injured on the production line was shouted at and ordered back to work despite needing medical treatment.

■ Concerns about the chemicals in use and poor ventilation. Employees claimed three workers had fallen ill. They said they had to hide pots of adhesive and thinners during audits of the factory by its client companies.

■ They also claimed that they were paid by the factory to give misleading answers during audits and that they were fined for failing to hit targets. The calculation of wages for different workers was described by Sacom as arbitrary.

The International Council of Toy Industries’ Care Foundation, oof what a long name…is supposed to be overseeing the production of toy’s made overseas.

Sacom’s findings brought a rebuke from the International Council of Toy Industries’ Care Foundation. “We are the first to concede that much more work lies ahead of us, but we refuse to accept the sensationalist, media-oriented declarations of any group, especially when they are carping and filled with incorrect information. It is simply counter-productive,” the foundation said.

“The plain truth is that workers in many toy factories in China are better off now than they were before and that this is due in considerable part to the ICTI Care Process.”

Hmmm, that is some attitude to take isn’t it? Can you imagine how bad the factories were before the ICTI Care Process was enacted.

Now that Gaddafi has been pushed out of Tripoli, large mass graves are being found.  Charred remains of massacre victims found in Tripoli – Africa, World – The Independent

The terrible price many Libyan people have paid to be free of Colonel Gaddafi is becoming plain. Yesterday, only a day after more than 120 decomposing bodies were found in a Tripoli hospital, a British television team filmed the charred remains of an estimated 53 people in a burnt-out warehouse in the south of the city.

Stuart Ramsay of Sky News was led to the building by residents who had made the discovery. Inside was a scene of mass cremation: more than four dozen corpses of what were once human beings, their ages and genders impossible to tell. Ribcages, skulls and other bones lay in a blackened mess. Local people told of how the bodies of perhaps as many as 100 others lay nearby, including those of two soldiers with their hands behind their backs who had been executed for refusing to fire on the victims of the massacre, be they regime critics, civilians, or other refusenik soldiers.

The residents said they had been alerted by shooting some days ago, but when they tried to approach they were told by regime snipers that they would be shot if they did not retreat. After the Gaddafi men left, they went inside the warehouse, which is next to a military base. They said that in the past few weeks, they had seen people digging at night and the sound of gunfire. In the morning, the holes would be filled in.

But this is, like all civil wars, an exceptionally brutal conflict, with blame on both sides, and victims everywhere. The bodies keep piling up – civilians caught in crossfire, fighters lying where they fell, and the executed of both sides, including men from sub-Saharan Africa who may have been Gaddafi mercenaries, or just some poor wretch gone north to find work.

The article points out that Gaddafi loyalist are not the only ones who have been involved in brutal violence, it also questions the background of the  leader of the Rebel forces.

Yesterday, The Independent on Sunday learned that the rebel military commander behind the successful assault on Tripoli had fought in Afghanistan alongside the Taliban and was an Islamist terror suspect interrogated by the CIA. Abdelhakim Belhadj, the newly appointed commander of the Tripoli Military Council is a former emir of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) – banned by Britain and the US as a terrorist organisation after the 9/11 attacks.

If this is the case, it gives me the willies. But it would not be the first time the US has put its support behind a questionable leader of a rebel force.  That is one tricky mess the State Department will be dealing with. I am just glad that Clinton, someone I trust completely, is there to put her expertise to work.

Going back to Irene, and the impact it is having on New York City.  For some perspective, here is an article that discusses New York’s History of Being Buffeted, Starting in 1821 –

Remains of houses littered Westhampton after hurricane in 1938.
The New York TimesRemains of houses littered Westhampton, N.Y., after a hurricane in 1938.

Stephen Fybish, a 74-year-old weather historian from Manhattan’s Upper West Side, celebrated his second birthday in Jackson Heights, Queens, on Sept. 20, 1938, the day before the great hurricane struck New York City. Nonetheless, his mother often proudly reminded him, everybody who was invited made it to his party.

The 1938 storm, which claimed 600 lives in the Northeast, devastated eastern Long Island, but spared much of the city, which, Mr. Fybish recalled, was soaked by about five inches of rain over two days and whipped by 60 m.p.h. winds.

Like other hurricanes, even that storm paled in comparison to the fiercest gale ever recorded, the one that that slammed the city head-on near what is now Kennedy International Airport on Sept. 3, 1821 — before Mr. Fybish’s time, he acknowledges. The tide rose 13 feet and the Hudson and East Rivers converged in lower Manhattan.

Take a look at the rest of that article. It summarizes the various hurricanes that have hit the city, Irene isn’t the first, and it surely will not be the last.

In another NYT article…The question of global warming and the effect on weather is debated. As Climate Changes, Scientists See Irene as a Harbinger –

While the number of the most intense storms has clearly been rising since the 1970s, researchers have come to differing conclusions about whether that increase can be attributed to human activities.

“On a longer time scale, I think — but not all of my colleagues agree — that the evidence for a connection between Atlantic hurricanes and global climate change is fairly compelling,” said Kerry Emanuel, an expert on the issue at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


Storms are one of nature’s ways of moving heat around, and high temperatures at the ocean surface tend to feed hurricanes and make them stronger. That appears to be a prime factor in explaining the power of Hurricane Irene, since temperatures in the Atlantic are well above their long-term average for this time of year.

The ocean has been getting warmer for decades, and most climate scientists say it is because greenhouse gases are trapping extra heat. Rising sea-surface temperatures are factored into both Mr. Knutson’s and Dr. Emanuel’s analyses, but they disagree on the effect that warming in remote areas of the tropics will have on Atlantic hurricanes.

Air temperatures are also rising because of greenhouse gases, scientists say. That causes land ice to melt, one of several factors leading to a rise in sea level. That increase, in turn, is making coastlines more vulnerable to damage from the storm surges that can accompany powerful hurricanes.

Powerful cyclone storms have also affected the environment in Australia.  Famine threatens Australia’s gentle sea cows – Nature, Environment – The Independent

The dugong is under pressure from pollution, encroaching industrial development, and hunting


The dugong is under pressure from pollution, encroaching industrial development, and hunting

An underwater famine is posing the latest threat to one of Australia’s most endangered marine species, the dugong, which lives entirely on sea grass. At least 100 have starved to death in recent months and many more are likely to follow in the absence of their only food source.

Torrential rain and storms, including Cyclone Yasi earlier this year, have destroyed vast swathes of sea grass from northern Queensland to the New South Wales border. More than 1,000 miles of coastline which once provided the perfect habitat for these oddly shaped and gentle creatures are now denuded of the dugong’s natural foodstuff.


“This is a national environmental disaster,” says Professor Ellen Ariel, a marine biologist at James Cook University in Townsville. “What’s happening now is they have nothing to eat and it’s not going to change in any way soon. Sea grass takes between two to three years to recover, if there are no other extreme weather events in the meantime.”

Those dugong look a lot like manatees don’t they?  They are in fact in the same order of species. Dugongs, Dugong Pictures, Dugong Facts – National Geographic

Photo: Dugong under water

Possibly the inspiration for mariners’ tales of mermaids, dugongs are closely related to elephants.

For those of you who are not getting hit by Irene, Look overhead to see the summer Milky Way | Tonight | EarthSky

The moon will be new tomorrow and then in a waxing crescent phase in the west after sunset in the next few days. That means that, over the coming week, the moon will set soon after sunset and be mostly absent from the evening sky.

And a moonless sky means this is a good time to get out into the country for a look at the summer Milky Way: the edgewise view into our own galaxy.

Here is the view if you are standing facing east – but craning your neck to look overhead. The galaxy stretches across the sky during the evening hours now. When you look at it with the eye alone, you might think it looks hazy. But you’ll see the truth if you’ll peer at the Milky Way with an ordinary pair of binoculars. Binoculars cause the so-called haze to explode into view as myriad, distant stars.

We are going to try to get a look at the Milky Way from our back porch…I will let you know if we do get to see it with the naked eye.

From the Minx Missing Link File: Ah, this missing link is from yesterday, and is from one of my favorite sites,  Medieval News: 500 years ago, yeast’s epic journey gave rise to lager beer

In the 15th century, when Europeans first began moving people and goods across the Atlantic, a microscopic stowaway somehow made its way to the caves and monasteries of Bavaria.

The stowaway, a yeast that may have been transported from a distant shore on a piece of wood or in the stomach of a fruit fly, was destined for great things. In the dank caves and monastery cellars where 15th century brewmeisters stored their product, the newly arrived yeast fused with a distant relative, the domesticated yeast used for millennia to make leavened bread and ferment wine and ale. The resulting hybrid – representing a marriage of species as evolutionarily separated as humans and chickens – would give us lager, the clear, cold-fermented beer first brewed by 15th century Bavarians and that today is among the most popular – if not the most popular – alcoholic beverage in the world.

Click the link above to read the full paper this little “tease” of an abstract is giving.

Easy Like Sunday Morning Link of the WeekThe Makerie Shows off Beautiful Paper Birds | Geekosystem Take a look at these paper birds…cool stuff indeed.

Artists Joyanne Horscroft and Julie Wilkinson comprise The Makerie, makers of incredible works of paper art. While their work has encompassed many different subjects, they’ve recently produced some truly amazing birds made from paper. While birds are a favorite subject for origami artists, The Makerie shirks the ancient approach for a more sculptural and dynamic look. The feathers cascade, the colors pop, and there’s an eerie sense of life in some of these works. Be sure to read on below for some more examples of their work.

There is your Sunday reads for today.  If you are in the path of Irene, please take care and let us know that you are okay.

Are you finding anything interesting this morning? Post some links, and I will catch y’all later in the comments!

SDB Evening News Reads for 082511: BOA, Under the Bridge and Irene

Evening Y’all!

Today’s evening reads is going to be on the short side, so please help me out by posting links in the comment section.

Bank of America got a Buffet Bailout of sorts today.  Buffett invests $5 billion in Bank of America, giving bank a vote of confidence; stock soars – The Washington Post

Warren Buffett is coming to the rescue of another fallen giant.

Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway announced Thursday that it would invest $5 billion in Bank of America Corp., giving a much-needed vote of confidence in the struggling bank.


Buffett said in a statement Thursday he called Bank of America’s CEO Moynihan to ask about investing because he considered the bank a strong, well-led company.

Berkshire will receive a dividend of 6 percent on his investment in Bank of America. Berkshire will get 50,000 preferred shares and warrants to purchase 700 million shares of common stock at $7.14 per share. Buffett can exercise the warrants at any time in the next 10 years. If he does, it would make him the banks largest shareholder with a stake of 7 percent.

An hour after the deal was announced, Buffett had already made a profit on paper of $500 million on the stock warrants thanks to a surge in Bank of America’s stock price. After closing at $6.99 Wednesday, the stock jumped 87 cents or 12 percent to $7.86 Thursday. Bank of America’s stock traded as high as $15 in January, before its mortgage woes worsened.

Buffett’s investment in Bank of America sent the stocks of other banks higher too. Citigroup Inc. rose 2.7 percent and Morgan Stanley rose 3.4 percent.

Buffett’s BofA Stakes Net $1.4B on First Day – Bloomberg

Warren Buffett may have earned $1.4 billion in one day on his $5 billion investment in Bank of America Corp. (BAC)


“I’m sure Warren cut a pretty good deal,” said Linus Wilson, assistant professor of finance at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. “For Bank of America, you get the endorsement of Warren Buffett, and it’s going to make it a lot easier if Bank of America wants to raise more capital from other investors.”

Didn’t Obama have a phone call with Buffet a few days ago? Buffet says he got the “idea” for the BOA deal while in the “bathtub.” I wonder if Buffet has a phone in that bathroom of his…Warren Buffett: I Dreamt Up Bank Of America Deal In The Bathtub

Warren Buffett is the third wealthiest man in the world. He also seems to like making market-shifting financial decisions while relaxing in the bath. On Thursday, Buffett, the billionaire investor and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, announced his company would buy $5 billion worth of shares in Bank Of America. Critics wondered if Buffett had been pressured to help the troubled bank. Not so, Buffett says. “He says he just dreamt this idea up on Wednesday morning while he was in the bathtub,” CNBC’s Becky Quick said on Thursday after speaking with Buffett over the phone.

The deal is being compared to previous Buffett deals like the $5 billion Goldman Sachs investment during the financial crisis not only because of the risk attached, but also because of the prominence of an anecdotal bathtub story.  After the Goldman Sachs deal, Buffett compared the struggling economy to the tub with “cold water in the front and hot water in the back,” The New York Times points out.

I am avoiding the political yada yada yada today, but feel free to share anything you find interesting down below in the comments.

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