Thursday Reads: Hurricane Florence and Other News

Hurricane, Bahamas, by Winslow Homer

Good Morning!!

Hurricane Florence coverage is dominating the news as the storm approaches the Carolinas. Will the storm live up to the hype? For the sake of the people in it’s path, I hope it continues to weaken.

The Weather Channel: Hurricane Florence Long Siege is Beginning; Storm Surge, Catastrophic Flash Flooding, High Winds to Hammer the Carolinas, Appalachia.

Hurricane Florence is making its final approach to the Carolinas, with landfall possible either overnight tonight or Friday, kicking off an agonizing crawl through the Southeast into early next week, producing catastrophic inland rainfall flooding, life-threatening storm surge and destructive winds.

As of Thursday morning, Florence’s eye was located about 160 miles east-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, moving northwestward.

Outer rainbands are already pushing ashore in eastern North Carolina, only the beginning of what could be a record wet siege from a tropical cyclone in parts of the Tar Heel State….

On the Eye of the Hurricane, by Danittza Zimic

The National Hurricane Center noted Wednesday evening that while Florence has weakened some, “the wind field of the hurricane continues to grow in size. This evolution will produce storm surges similar to that of a more intense, but smaller, hurricane, and thus the storm surge values seen in the previous advisory are still valid.” [….]

“This will likely be the storm of a lifetime for portions of the Carolina coast,” the National Weather Service in Wilmington, North Carolina, wrote in its Tuesday evening area forecast discussion. A Wednesday morning forecast discussion said flooding in southeast North Carolina and northeast South Carolina could be “unprecedented.”

USA Today: Hurricane Florence nears coast: ‘This is a life-threatening situation.’

The storm was about 145 miles east-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, and 195 miles off the coast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina Thursday as of 8 a.m. EST. But with tropical force winds extending almost 200 miles from the center, Florence was a poised to bring havoc well before making landfall.

That could happen sometime Friday, probably somewhere near the states’ border. FEMA administrator Brock Long urged people in mandatory evacuation areas to get out. And he warned that the storm cleanup will take time and patience….

Hurricane Katrina, by Carol Warner

More than 1 million people were evacuated from coastal areas, and 10 million live within areas of hurricane or tropical storm warnings and watches. Storm surge of up to 13 feet will be “life threatening” and rainfall of up to 40 inches will mean “catastrophic” flooding, he National Hurricane Center said.

“We want to continue to send the message that this monster of a storm is not one to ride out,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said.

Some folks still plan stay put, according to the article.

Meanwhile, we learned a couple of days ago that the Trump regime stole money from FEMA to pay for it’s child separation policy and immigrant concentration camps. But it turns out the situation is even worse than we thought.

CNN reports: It’s not just FEMA: ICE quietly got an extra $200 million.

The Trump administration this summer quietly redirected $200 million from all over the Department of Homeland Security to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, despite repeated congressional warnings of ICE’s “lack of fiscal discipline” and “unsustainable” spending.

Menemsha Hurricane, by Thomas Hart Benton

The Department of Homeland Security asked for the money, according to a document made public this week by Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley. Of the $200 million, the document says $93 million will go to immigrant detention, a 3% budget increase that will fund capacity for an additional 2,300 detainees; and $107 million for “transportation and removal,” or deportations, a 29% budget increase.

The additional $200 million would put ICE’s budget for detention and transportation at more than $3.6 billion.

The money came from different parts of DHS, including FEMA, the Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office, Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers, Coast Guard, Transportation Security Administration, cybersecurity office and Customs and Border Protection.

Read the rest at CNN.

The residents of the states in the Florence’s path should be very nervous. This morning Trump again attacked Puerto Rico on Twitter. CNN: Trump falsely claims nearly 3,000 Americans in Puerto Rico ‘did not die.’

Nearly 3,000 people died in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. President Donald Trump denied this reality as a hurricane barrels toward the Carolinas.

“3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000,” he said in a tweet Thursday morning as Carolinians prepared to be pummeled by Hurricane Florence.

Hurricane Irene, by Eileen Dorsey

Earlier this month, the island’s governor formally raised the death toll from Hurricane Maria to an estimated 2,975 from 64 following a study conducted by researchers at The George Washington University. CNN’s own reporting reflects similar numbers. The university study accounted for Puerto Ricans who succumbed to the stifling heat and other aftereffects of the storm and had not been previously counted in official figures. Much of the US territory was without power for weeks.

Trump has consistently denied any fault for his administration in the aftermath of the storm. In fact, the President has instead sought praise for his handling of Hurricane Maria, saying earlier this week that it was “an incredible, unsung success.” [….]

“I think Puerto Rico was incredibly successful,” Trump said Tuesday in the Oval Office, noting that the island location is “tough” during a hurricane due to the inability to transport vital equipment and supplies by truck. “It was one of the best jobs that’s ever been done with respect to what this is all about.”

Whether or not FEMA is prepared and has the necessary funds, Trump will claim he did a fabulous job.

The Senate Intelligence Committee met this morning, and they decided to postpone the vote on Brett Kavanaugh until next Thursday, Sept. 20 at 1:45PM after Democrats successfully pushed for the
delay
. CBS News:

Under the committee rules, any member can ask for a one-week delay on the vote of a nominee. After numerous Democrats deployed a strategy of holding up hearing business, citing lack of access to documents pertaining to Kavanaugh’s record, the minority pushed for another delay in the confirmation process.

Maurice Sapiro: Orient Point, After The Hurricane

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, began the committee’s business by motioning to adjourn “to make sure we have the time and information we need, the documents, the facts, the witnesses in order to proceed on the Kavanaugh nomination.”

“This nomination is going to be tainted, it will be stained by process…broken the traditions of this committee.” He added the nomination was rushed through to judgement in a “highly partisan and unfortunately failed way.”

Blumenthal argued that there’s an “even more urgent and pressing duty to get those documents and having witnesses to enable us to evaluate serious concerns raised as a result of evasive and seemingly misleading answers given to us at the hearing.”

Read more at the link. At least they bought time for more public opposition to Kavanaugh. Susan Collins of Maine has been subjected to sustained pressure, and she hasn’t handled it well at all.

Slate: Susan Collins Complains of “Bribery” After Nonbillionaires Try to Influence Her Kavanaugh Vote.

On Monday, Sen. Susan Collins accused political opponents of Judge Brett Kavanaugh of attempted “bribery.” The charge itself is without any legal merit whatsoever. That complaints about the campaign finance effort came from Collins, Republican election lawyer Cleta Mitchell, and an aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell make the episode almost too rich to be believed. Their cries of bribery, illegality, and lack of principle lay bare the bankrupt campaign finance system that Mitchell and McConnell helped create and that Collins has contributed to with previous Supreme Court votes and will supersize with her likely vote to confirm Kavanaugh.

The Hurricane, by Michael Rucker

Collins labeled as a “bribe” a fundraising plan by two progressive Maine groups, aided by the company Crowdpac, to raise funds for Collins’ eventual opponent in 2020. People are pledging to give money via Crowdpac to that unknown future opponent, but donors will only be charged for the donation if Collins votes “yes” on Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. As of Tuesday night, the groups reported pledged donations of more than $1 million, with a $1.3 million goal. There were more than 39,000 individual pledges ranging from $1 to the maximum allowable donation to a candidate of $2,700.

Now we can argue about whether the political threat to Collins funded by tens of thousands of small donations should be illegal. But claims by Mitchell and others that the fundraising effort is illegal are wrong, in part thanks to the deregulated campaign finance system that Mitchell and others have helped to create through litigation and a sympathetic Supreme Court.

Read more at Slate.

For the past couple of days we’ve been hearing that Paul Manafort is negotiating for a plea deal to avoid having to go through a second trial. But it looks like he is still counting on a pardon from Trump once he’s finished with the legal process.

Today Politico reports that Trump and his legal team aren’t the least bit concerned.

At any time, Trump could wipe out Manafort’s earlier convictions and eliminate the need for the D.C. trial or a plea deal by pardoning Manafort. The president has sounded open to the idea, expressing deep sympathy for his former campaign chief….

The Storm, by Jim Booth

Several aides and advisers have told POLITICO they believe Trump will grant clemency to Manafort, but Giuliani has said the president has agreed to put off any consideration of the issue until the Mueller probe concludes.

Asked Wednesday whether a plea deal would close the door on Manafort getting a Trump pardon, Giuliani replied, “No, it doesn’t. I can’t speak for his exercising discretion on a pardon. But I don’t see why it would foreclose it, no.”

Isn’t dangling a pardon obstruction and/or witness tampering? Giuiliani also revealed that Trump’s and Manafort’s attorneys are still in a joint defense agreement, so Trump is privy to everything Manafort is doing and vice versa.

Giuliani also confirmed that Trump’s lawyers and Manafort’s have been in regular contact and that they are part of a joint defense agreement that allows confidential information sharing.

“All during the investigation we have an open communication with them,” he said. “Defense lawyers talk to each other all the time where as long as our clients authorize it therefore we have a better idea of what’s going to happen. That’s very common.”

Giuliani confirmed he spoke with Manafort’s lead defense lawyer Kevin Downing shortly before and after the verdicts were returned in the Virginia trial, but the former mayor wouldn’t say what he discusses with the Manafort team. “It’d all be attorney-client privilege not just from our point of view but from theirs,” he said.

It appears the fix is in. For all we know the attorneys already could have worked out how they will handle the pardon. Of courses that still would not get Manafort off the hook for state charges or for being forced by Mueller to testify before the grand jury. But Giuliani says they won’t act on a pardon until the investigation is over, so I guess until it happens, Manafort could still take the fifth and refuse to answer questions. I hope Mueller refuses any plea that doesn’t include cooperation from Manafort.

So . . . what else is happening? Let us know your thoughts in the comment thread below.

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Thursday Reads

Childe Hassam - Two Women Reading

Childe Hassam – Two Women Reading

Good Morning!!

 

Wolf Blitzer must be celebrating this morning, because the mystery plane is back in the headlines.

Associated Press reports (via CTV):

SYDNEY, Australia — Investigators looking into the disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines plane are confident it was on autopilot when it crashed in a remote stretch of the Indian Ocean, Australian officials said Thursday as they announced the latest shift in the search for the jet.

After analyzing data exchanged between the plane and a satellite, officials believe Flight 370 was on autopilot the entire time it was flying across a vast expanse of the southern Indian Ocean, based on the straight path it took, Australian Transport Safety Bureau chief commissioner Martin Dolan said.

“Certainly for its path across the Indian Ocean, we are confident that the aircraft was operating on autopilot until it ran out of fuel,” Dolan told reporters in Canberra, the nation’s capital.

Asked whether the autopilot would have to be manually switched on, or whether it could have been activated automatically under a default setting, Dolan replied, “The basic assumption would be that if the autopilot is operational it’s because it’s been switched on.”

But exactly why the autopilot would have been set on a flight path so far off course from the jet’s destination of Beijing, and exactly when it was switched on remains unknown.

The New York Times explains what likely happened:

Wolf plane

A report issued by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, outlining how the new search zone had been chosen, said that the most likely scenario as the aircraft headed south across the Indian Ocean on March 8 was that the crew was suffering from hypoxia or was otherwise unresponsive.

Hypoxia occurs when a plane loses air pressure and the pilots, lacking adequate oxygen, become confused and incapable of performing even basic manual tasks.

Pilots are trained to put on oxygen masks immediately if an aircraft suffers depressurization; their masks have an hour’s air supply, compared with only a few minutes for the passengers. The plane, which left Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, bound for Beijing, with 239 people aboard, made its turn south toward the Indian Ocean about an hour after it stopped responding to air-traffic controllers….

Evidence for an unresponsive crew as the plane flew south includes the loss of radio communications, a long period with no maneuvering of the aircraft, a steadily maintained cruise altitude and eventual fuel exhaustion and descent, the report said.

“Given these observations, the final stages of the unresponsive crew/hypoxia event type appeared to best fit the available evidence for the final period of MH370’s flight when it was heading in a generally southerly direction,” the document said.

Based on the report, a new search zone has been designated, according to the LA Times:

Experts from Boeing and the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board were among the specialists who helped define the zone, based on satellite data and analysis of previous similar incidents.

The new zone, about 1,100 miles west of Perth, Australia, is farther south than where previous intensive search efforts were carried out this spring after the plane vanished March 8 with 239 people aboard. The flight was en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing when it went missing….

Australia Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said the search was continuing with a mapping of the ocean floor in the newly defined area, to be followed by a comprehensive seafloor search.

The seafloor search, he said, should start around August and be completed within one year. The area is 58 miles wide and 400 miles long, covering an area as big as Lake Huron, the second-largest of the U.S. Great Lakes. By comparison, the area searched with a robotic, sonar-equipped submarine in May was about 330 square miles.

First gay marriage license issued in Indiana

First gay marriage license issued in Indiana

There was exciting news yesterday in the struggle to legalize same-sex marriage state by state.

From NPR: Federal Judges Reverse Gay-Marriage Bans In Utah, Indiana.

Utah and Indiana are the latest states to see their bans on same-sex marriage struck down by a federal court, following rulings in both states Wednesday that found the prohibition unconstitutional.

In Utah, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals panel upheld a lower court ruling striking down the state’s gay-marriage ban. And in Indiana,U.S. District Judge Richard Young made a similar ruling.

“It is wholly illogical to believe that state recognition of love and commitment of same-sex couples will alter the most intimate and personal decisions of opposite-sex couples,” the three-judge panel in the Utah case said. The panel immediately put the ruling on hold pending its appeal, either to the entire 10th Circuit or directly to the U.S. Supreme Court, according to The Associated Press.

In Indiana, Young wrote: “Same-sex couples, who would otherwise qualify to marry in Indiana, have the right to marry in Indiana. … These couples, when gender and sexual orientation are taken away, are in all respects like the family down the street. The Constitution demands that we treat them as such.”

Both decisions are significant in that they may influence decisions in other states.

Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond, writes NPR in an email that the Utah decision “is very significant, as [it is] the first appellate court to address the marriage equality issue.

“The 4th Circuit [in Virginia] may well apply the reasoning of the 10th Circuit opinion, as will numerous district courts that have yet to rule,” he says.

“The Indiana ruling invalidating its ban today also used similar reasoning,” Tobias says. “All courts are finding that the bans violate the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th amendment.”

In another breakthrough, Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine has announced that she supports same-sex marriage. From The Washington Post: 

“A number of states, including my home state of Maine, have now legalized same-sex marriage, and I agree with that decision,” Collins said in a statement, adding later: “I have long opposed efforts to impose a federal ban on same-sex marriage. In both 2004 and 2006, I voted against amendments to the United States Constitution that would have banned same-sex marriages by preempting state laws.”

Collins joins three other Republican senators who publicly support gay marriage: Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Rob Portman (Ohio) and Mark Kirk (Ill.).

Today at noon Eastern, the U.S. plays Germany in the World Cup.

world cup

CBS News reports, Team USA: “Everything’s on the line” for Germany match.

 

It’s been a roller coaster ride for the American team so far in the World Cup. The team that, on paper, many pundits didn’t expect to advance, now has a real shot at moving on to the second round. And as CBS News’ Elaine Quijano reports, that fate is hinged on beating or at least coming up even against one of the cup favorites, Germany.

Team USA was greeted with cheers from American fans Wednesday as they arrived in the Brazilian city of Recife.

Players spent the three days between matches recovering and regrouping after a physical first game against Ghana and an emotional tie against Portugal.

“This is the biggest game of a lot of our lives, so any fatigue in our legs will be erased,” said American midfielder Kyle Beckerman. “We’ve got to give everything we’ve got and more.”

Team USA began their World Cup run in the so-called “group of death,” but their aggression, attacks and overall stamina on the pitch have defied pundits who originally dismissed their chances of advancing.

“I think some people might be a little bit surprised at our results so far,” coach Jurgen Klinsmann said Wednesday. “We are by no means any underdog here in this tournament, but we know it’s the biggest hurdle we have to take now with Germany.”

Klinsman suggested that U.S. fans should take a day off work to watch the game, and wrote a letter to bosses asking them to excuse their employee’s absences, reports Reuters.

In the style of a ‘doctor’s note’, Klinsmann addresses employers and asks them to forgive their staff for their absence.

The letter was distributed on social networks by the U.S. Soccer.

“I understand that this absence may reduce the productivity of your workplace, but I can assure you that it is for an important cause,” wrote Klinsmann.

“The #USMNT (U.S. Men’s National Team) has a critical World Cup game vs Germany and we will need the full support of the nation if we are to advance to the next round.

“By the way, you should act like a good leader and take the day off as well. Go USA! Signed Jurgen Klinsmann, Head Coach, U.S. National team”.

And from Jake Simpson at the Atlantic: The Surprisingly High Stakes of the U.S.-Germany World Cup Game.

In the wake of the U.S. team’s heartbreaking come-from-ahead draw against Portugal in the World Cup on Sunday, soccer analysts and Twitter users scrambled to figure out the many ways the U.S. can still get to the next round. With a three-point lead over Portugal and Ghana in Group G, the Americans can advance even if they lose their match against Germany at noon Eastern today, depending on the outcome of the Portugal-Ghana game played at the same time. Deadspin has one of the better graphical breakdowns of every potential scenario for the U.S., including the dreaded drawing of lots.

All the focus on permutations and goal-differential scenarios has undercut the importance of today’s game for American soccer. There’s not as much at stake, goes the implication, because we can move ahead even if we lose to Germany. But this is about more than getting to the next round. This is an opportunity for the U.S. to face one of soccer’s elite teams on the biggest stage and prove it can hang with—even beat—any country in this World Cup.

Before the tournament, most people thought it would be an unlikely success for the U.S. just to get out of the so-called Group of Death and to the Round of 16. Now, after beating Ghana and dominating much of the game against Portugal, the U.S. can dream bigger. Beat Germany, and America wins its group for the second straight World Cup, a result nearly unthinkable when the draw was announced in December. Beat Germany, and the U.S. secures a favorable Round of 16 match most likely against Algeria or Russia, rather than a trickier faceoff with sneaky-good Belgium.

Just as important, a win would mean that the Americans have defeated one of soccer’s oligarchs at a World Cup, with both sides trying their best for a victory. That by itself would be a precedent-setting result.

People in Oklahoma are beginning to ask questions

about why their state has been having so many earthquakes all of a sudden, according to the Globe-Gazzette.com.

Barbara Brown poses for a photo on the front step of her home that now sits about one foot off the surface of her lawn, Saturday, June 21, 2014, in Reno, Texas.

Barbara Brown poses for a photo on the front step of her home that now sits about one foot off the surface of her lawn, Saturday, June 21, 2014, in Reno, Texas.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma residents whose homes and nerves have been shaken by an upsurge in earthquakes want to know what’s causing the temblors — and what can be done to stop them.

Hundreds of people are expected to turn out in Edmond, Oklahoma, on Thursday night for a town hall meeting on the issue.

Earthquakes used to be almost unheard of on the vast stretches of prairie that unfold across Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma, but they’ve become common in recent years.

Oklahoma recorded nearly 150 between January and the start of May. Though most have been too weak to cause serious damage or endanger lives, they’ve raised suspicions that the shaking might be connected to the oil and gas drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing, especially the wells in which the industry disposes of its wastewater.

Now after years of being harangued by anxious residents, governments in all three states are confronting the issue, reviewing scientific data, holding public discussions and considering new regulations. Thursday’s meeting in Oklahoma will include the state agency that regulates oil and gas drilling and the Oklahoma Geological Survey.

Gee, do you suppose it could have anything to do with fracking? And what about all that wastewater that has to be disposed of in the fracking process? From Techsonia: Fracking Fluid Spills release Colloids that Pollute Groundwater.

According to a new research, wastewater contains substances that bind to pollutants and their release in soil leads to the ground water contamination as they get along with the water when it is soaked by earth.

In this study, flowback fluid from hydraulic fracturing was analyzed. Colloids are the charged particles and larger than molecules and have the potency to bind to sand grains. With the wastewater, colloids get released in to the ground water.

This study was published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society and was conducted by the researchers at the Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

This study was done to determine the remaining colloids amounts in groundwater when the above soil got exposed to flowback fliud in a hydrofracking spills.

Ugh.

One last story . . .

Scientists have unearthed interesting facts about Oldest human faeces show Neanderthals ate vegetables.

Found at a dig in Spain, the ancient excrement showed chemical traces of both meat and plant digestion.

An earlier view of these early humans as purely meat-eating has already been partially discredited by plant remains found in their caves and teeth.

The new paper, in the journal PLOS One, claims to offer the best support to date for an omnivorous diet.

Poo is “the perfect evidence,” said Ms Ainara Sistiaga, a PhD student at the University of La Laguna on the Canary Islands, and the study’s first author, “because you’re sure it was consumed”.

Ms Sistiaga and her colleagues collected a number of samples from the remnants of a 50,000-year-old campfire in the El Salt dig site, a known Neanderthal habitation near Alicante on Spain’s Mediterranean coast.

So if you bought into the “cave man diet” AKA “Paleolithic diet” recommendations, you were scammed. These early Neanderthals even cooked vegetables and may have used plants for medicinal purposes. Read the whole article at the link. It’s fascinating.

Now . . . what stories are you following today? Are you going to watch the U.S.-Germany game? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread.

 


Maine Congressional Caucus Throws a Monkey Wrench into Obama’s Plans

One of the last of an endangered species: Rockefeller Republicans

Via Think Progress, Maine Senator Olympia Snowe announced she will not vote for a budget bill that includes cuts to Medicare or Social Security. From the Bangor Daily News:

AUGUSTA, Maine — Don’t look for members of Maine’s congressional delegation to support cuts in Social Security or Medicare as part of the debt limit legislation, but all four say a debt reduction package that includes budget cuts and new revenues is likely.

“There are solvency problems with both programs,” Sen. Olympia Snowe said in an interview on Friday, “They have to be addressed but not as part of the debt reduction talks.”

She said any debt reduction plan worked out by President Barack Obama and congressional leaders will still need the support of members of both parties and both Medicare and Social Security have strong bipartisan support.

“The talks between the President and congressional leaders should have happened in January,” Snowe said. “Everyone knew we would be coming up against the debt limit and that we needed to take action to reduce spending but it kept being put off until it has to be addressed and it has to be addressed.”

Snow and fellow Maine Senator Susan Collins support cutting agricultural subsidies for “wealthy corporate farmers” who grow “corn, wheat, soybeans, and rice. Collins points out that farmers who grow blueberries and potatoes (popular Maine products) don’t get subsidies, why should the richy-rich farmers get them? Collins also mentioned that “a second type of engine for the new joint strike fighter aircraft is unneeded and eliminating would save billions.”

I hope we aren’t going to see President Obama prostrate before Susan Collins again, as he was in the health care fight. And I hope the Maine Caucus sticks to their guns on Social Security and Medicare.