Monday, September 30, 2013

Navy Admiral Accused of Cheating

the women of Malmstrom AFB
A US Navy vice-admiral in charge of the US nuclear arsenal, Timothy Giardina, has been accused of
using counterfeit chips at an Iowa gambling casino. The vice-admiral was relieved of his duties as second-in-command at the US Strategic Command, Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska on September 3rd. He is a decorated former submarine officer and a graduate of the US Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland. Iowa authorities launched an investigation of Admiral Giardina on June 16th after being told of the possible use of counterfeit chips in poker games at the Horseshoe Casino in Council Bluffs, Iowa across the river from Omaha. Robert Kehlerr, his commander, learned of the civilian investigation and referred the matter to the US Naval Criminal Investigation Service (CIS). Associated Press was told the case involved a significant sum of money. Giardina has been suspended from duties requiring a security clearance. This breech is the latest in a pattern of indulgent behavior to affect the US nuclear arsenal. Last month, an underground ballistic missile unit at Malmstrom, AFB failed a nuclear safety and security inspection. The units commanding officer was also relieved of duty. On May 17th launch control officers assigned to Minot AFB were suspended from duties following a safety inspection. Their training officer was relieved from duty. "The person who is disohnest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones." Luke 16, 10

COTW: Coral Reefs Will Die Fast

Carbon dioxide dissolved in seawater is fast approaching the 450ppm level in which coral reefs stop growing. A consensus statement from 2600 marine biologists earlier this year says CO₂ at the current rate will warm sea temperatures by 2-3℃ and reduce pH levels from 8.1 to less than 7.9 or acidic. Storm intensity and frequency will also increase. These ocean conditions have not existed for 150 million years, at the time of the last reef die off. Coral living today cannot survive projected conditions. Already 25-30% of the world's coral reefs are severely degraded by human disturbance and increase in seawater temperature causing major bleaching and mortality.  The chart above shows there is a window of opportunity to act, but it is closing fast. A lack of concerted action by world governments means global temperatures are on track to rise to 6℃ by 2100, a catastrophic level. Instead of the meek, roaches may inherit the Earth.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

True America: Twisted Pasts, Helter-Skelter Minds

Perhaps America's most famous mass-murderer because of the victims' Hollywood celebrity, Charles Manson, talks about his past, twisted and deformed almost beyond recognition, devoid of familial love, and mostly spent in penal institutions where he became a malleable sociopath--"antisoical"--with considerable skills in personal domination:

Manson was saved from death by the 1972 Supreme Court decision in Furman v. Georgia. He and his "family" are at home in the penal system, the only the home Charlie has ever known.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Whale Stranding Due to Sonar Mapping

A mass stranding of 100 melon headed whales (Peponocephala electra) in a Madagascar mangrove lagoon was caused by sonar mapping conducted by Exxon-Mobil. That is the conclusion of an independent scientific review panel which studied the 2008 event. Wildlife Conservation Society with assistance from the International Fund for Animal Welfare sent in a stranding team to the Loza Lagoon in northwest Madagascar to return live whales to the sea and perform necropsies on dead whales. The review panel concluded, "the potential for behavioral responses [fleeing] and indirect injury or mortality from echosounder systems should be considered in future environmental assessments, operational planning and regulatory decisions." The United States Navy, when confronted with objections to sonar operations from environmentalists, often responds with a claim there is no scientific evidence of a link between strandings of marine mammals and sonar use.  Not any more, buddy.

credits: T. Collins/WCS
The Loza even was unusual because despite its remote location, it was scientifically documented within days of its occurrence. The species is a deep water variety and had never been previously known to be present in the shallow tidal estuary.  The melon heads entered the bay on May 30, 2008 after an initial triggering event. Seventy-five died over the following weeks. The triggering event was most plausibly the use of echo sounding equipment by a survey ship very close to the stranding event. The 12kHz multi-beam echo sounder equipment was known to be operating in the mammal's hearing range of 10-100 kHz. Dr. Howard Rosenbaum of WCS said, the review "adds to the mounting body of evidence of the potential impacts of anthropogenic noise on marine mammals. Implications go well beyond the hydrocarbon industry, as these systems are used aboard military and research vessels for generating more precise bathymetry."

UN: Sarin Used, Probably by Syrian Government

Whaa?? The UN produced a good fruit when Resolution 2118 was adopted unanimously last night by the Security Council. It enforces the agreement reached between the United States and Russia on destroying Syria's stockpile of chemical weapons. Secretary of State John Kerry said there "will be consequences" if Syria does not live up to the agreement to put an estimated 1,000 tons of chemical weaponry under international control by 2014. Syria must provide open and unrestricted access to UN weapons monitors by October 1st and achieve complete destruction of its production equipment by November 1st; these deadlines were decided by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Britain and China offered to finance the international operation. It is the first time former cold war adversaries were able to come together over Syria; Syria's chemical arsenal is a legacy of the Cold War. But Russia insists any alleged violations of the agreement have to "be proven 100%" and that the agreement also applies to the rebels. President Putin and his ministers publicly allege the gas attack at Ghouta which killed hundreds was a provocation by Islamist extremists in the rebel ranks, but have been unable to convince the world that was the reality. UN inspectors led by Swedish scientist Ake Sellstrom are now investigating sites of alleged chemical attacks beyond Ghouta including the village of Khan al-Assal where government forces were exposed to a toxic agent. Western governments believe that case was a friendly fire incident. A report on the findings is expected by the end of October. Although the adopted resolution refers to Chapter VII of the Charter which allows force to be used as a last resort, Russia is likely to veto military intervention against its client, Syrian dictator Bashir al-Assad. Ohter provisions of the resolution endorsed the US-Russia disarmament plan adopted by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons at the Hague hours earlier, and endorsed the 2012 peace conference call for a peaceful transition government until elections can be held in Syria.

{26.09.13}Further: The United States and Russia agreed to a draft text for enforcing the agreement to rid Syria of chemical weapons today. The text will be discussed by the full Security Council on Friday. A vote could take place as early as Friday evening. Although the draft refers to Chapter Vll of the UN Charter which allows the use of military force, a second resolution authorizing such force on behalf of the United Nations would be necessary. Up to now Russia has opposed using force against Syria's dictator, Bashir al-Assad. There is also no mention of referring Assad to the International Court of Justice for alleged war crimes including the use of nerve gas against in the civil war that is destroying his country. However the British UN envoy described the document as binding and enforceable. The US-Russian proposal to destroy Syria's chemical arsenal must be accepted by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons which oversees the implementation of the 1973 international Convention on Chemical Weapons.

{23.09.13}Latest: Syria has met the first deadline set up by the United States and Russia in a process to rid the state of chemical weapons. On Friday, Syria submitted an initial inventory of its chemical arsenal which United States officials found surprisingly complete.  A senior official of the current administration said it was encouraged by the submission.  The submission went electronically to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague. The UN Security Council is still debating a resolution to enforce the agreement reached in Geneva by the world's two remaining superpowers. Russia and the United States were able to reach a consensus on the size of Syria's chemical arsenal rather quickly. Locations of chemical weapon materials are not agreed upon, and the locations appear to be changing as the Syrian government moves stocks to protect its arsenal from attack. The US has identified 45 sites it thinks are associated with chemical weapons. By November the first international monitors are supposed to arrive in Syria and inspect all of the declared sites and equipment. The agreed goal is to rid Syria of all chemical weapons by the middle of 2014.

{17.09.13}Update: The UN weapons inspector's report [page nos.]containing scrupulous detail provides more evidence that the regime of Bashir al-Assad was responsible for the Ghouta gas attack that killed hundreds of Syrians. The early morning attack occurred when cold air could press down on nerve agent delivered by rockets of "significant chemical payload" [56 liters in one casing examined, p21], driving the lethal gas into homes, basements, and cellars. Multiple traces of sarin were found on rocket casings designed to carry liquid chemical agents; some casings carried Cyrillic lettering indicating their original source in Russia [p19]. Chemical weapons experts agree that the number of rockets fired, their trajectories, and the method of use indicates a military chemical warfare operation based in government held sectors of Damascus. The rebels are generally considered to be materially incapable of mounting a barrage of the scale at Ghouta. Casings found by the UN inspectors include a 140mm surface to surface rocket, an M14 artillery rocket, and a 330mm artillery rocket used before by Syrian government forces. The UN's chief inspector Ake Sellstrom told Russian envoy Vitaly Churkin in the Security Council meeting where the report was submitted that the sarin used was of a higher quality than Saddam Hussein's and that it bore no indications it was improvised. The Russian government officially maintains it has evidence the sarin previously used in the civil war was not of professional manufacture. That apologia has now officially been laid to rest. Secretary Ban Ki-moon called the findings "beyond the pale" and that the Ghouta attack is a grave violation of the 1925 Geneva protocol against the use of chemical weapons. Without laying direct blame on the Syrian regime, the Secretary also said, "the international community has a responsibility to ensure that chemical weapons never re-emerge as an instrument of warfare."  US Person can certainly agree with the Secretary on that principle of international law.

{15.09.13}UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Friday in a speech to a women's forum that the UN has "overwhelming" evidence of a nerve agent attack at Ghouta in the suburbs of Damascus on August 21st. The statement was made two days before the head of the UN weapons inspection team Ake Sellstrom makes his much anticipated report to the Security Council today. The Secretary did not say who was responsible for the use of chemical weapons in Ghouta, but he did accuse Bashir al-Assad of being responsible for crimes against humanity during the 2½ year long Syrian civil war. A diplomatic source at the UN said the weapons inspectors found multiple samples containing sarin, and also collected circumstantial evidence indicating Syrian government complicity in the attack that American officials say killed over 1400 people including more than 400 children. But the source also said the evidence will not be enough to end the Security Council's deadlock over Syria. Russian President Putin said earlier he will need to see compelling "direct evidence" of Syrian government involvement, not just signals intelligence from western powers, before he would authorize military action against his client, Syria. Whether he would consider spent rocket casings with sarin traces, "direct evidence" remains to be determined. Mr. Putin has steadfastly maintained since the attack was discovered that the use of nerve gas, now established as a certainty, was a rebel provocation intended to provoke the US into a military intervention

Meanwhile, at Geneva talks between Secretary of State Kerry and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reached an agreement to strip Assad of weapons of mass destruction. The dictator, who faces responsibility for crimes against humanity committed during the civil war, must provide a comprehensive list of its 1,000 ton stockpile of chemical weapons by Friday or face the consequences. Under the agreement terms, Syria must allow UN weapons inspectors to complete an initial inspection of his chemical arsenal by November. A deadline for elimination of the weapons is set for the middle of next year. A unilateral US military strike against Syria that was doomed to failure now seems a distant nightmare scenario given success of peaceful US-Russia management of a serious threat to world security. Stay linked to this space for developments.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Toontime: Ham He Is

Tea party extremist Senator Ted Cruz only managed to talk his way into fourth place in the Senate's history of filibuster while paraphrasing Dr. Suess. Former South Carolina Senator Strom 'Sperm' Thurman still holds the record at over 24 hours when he tried to stop the 1957 Civil Rights bill. Cruz's effort was not formally a filibuster under the Senate's rules, but the American public will never know the difference. And besides, Washington obstructionism has reached new levels of dysfunction as the failure to pass a spending bill known as a "continuing resolution" in Hill parlance has started the government shut down clock ticking again. The last shut down cost US about $1.4 billion in extra operating expenses. It's no way to run a railroad, folks.
[credit: Tom Toles, Washington Post]
Wackdoodle sez: Taste's like chikun!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Australia Goes Ahead with Largest Solar Station

outback near Broken Hill, credit: Robyn Mackenzie
The Australian government approved construction of the largest solar power station in the southern hemisphere beginning in January 2014. An agreement was reached on July 27th between AGL Energy Ltd and the New South Wales and Commonwealth governments. The project area is four times larger than Sydney's central business district and will meet the electricity needs of more than 50,000 Australian homes. Australia, the desert continent, has the highest average solar radiation per square meter, more than any other continent. The Two sites have been chosen, Nyngan in central NSW and the other near Broken Hill. Together the stations will produce 155MW. An American company, First Solar of Arizona will provide its advanced thin-film photovoltaic modules for the project. The project will help NSW meet its target of producing 20% of energy from renewable sources by 2020. Project supporters hope it will boost investor confidence in clean energy because of its size. Since Labor was voted into government in 2007 Australia's wind capacity has tripled and more than one million solar panels have been installed. The Commonwealth has invested A$166.7 in renewable energy through the Renewable Energy Agency as well as funding solar power research at the Universities of Queensland and New South Wales. About 24,000 people are employed in clean energy jobs, double the estimated 10,000 employed of five years ago.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Solar Barn Raised in Keystone XL Right-of-Way

credit: Bold Nebraska
Civil protest is definitely getting more creative in America, and is not just a matter of sacrificing your body for a cause anymore. In a ceremony at Benedict, Nebraska a solar and wind powered barn was dedicated on Sunday. Volunteers built the barn directly inside the route of TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline. The barn will serve as an educational center where people can learn about alternative energy that benefits agriculture. If the pipeline is built the structure, built with free labor and $65,000 in donations, will have to be removed.

The State Department's obviously biased environmental impact study for the pipeline project received another failing grade, this one from the Center for Biological Diversity. In a report titled, "In Harm's Way" the Center looked at how the pipeline and potential spills would impact North America's endangered species. The State Department produced a biological assessment that concluded only the American burying beetle would be adversely affected by the pipeline. To the contrary, says the environmental group. At least 11 other endangered species would be threatened by building the pipeline:

  • Whooping cranes--their migratory route follows the path of the pipeline all the way to the Gulf of Mexico, consequently they would be adversely impacted by tailing ponds in Canada, power line collisions and dilbit spills;
  • Black-footed ferrets--habitat disturbances in areas set aside for their recovery;
  • Piping plover--power line collisions, spills and increased exposure to predators perching on lines;
  • Sage grouse--spills and construction noise would interfere with breeding;
  • Interior least turns--power line collisions, spills and habitat disturbance;
  • American burying beetle--loss of habitat, compaction during construction, spills;
  • Northern swift fox--loss of habitat and compaction of dens during construction
The State Department assessment was able to avoid concerning itself with most adverse impacts by unrealistically narrowing its study to the actual footprint of the pipeline itself; thus, no consideration was given to future oil spills which the government admits could be two a year. No consideration was given to power line collisions that account for a major amount of bird mortality in the United States. Nor did the agency consider what expansion of the Alberta tar sands mining is doing to the boreal forest and its wild inhabitants like the wood bison or what it will do to warm the global climate which in turn will drive many species towards extinction. In short, the State Department is a patsy for the oil industry.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Fukushima Now More Dangerous Than Ever

The inept owner of the destroyed Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power facility, Tokyo Electric (TEPCo) said it dumped more than 1,000 tons of contaminated water into the Pacific after Typhoon Man-yi lashed the facility on Monday. According to the company the release was mostly rain water with levels of radiation below the 30Bq per liter limit set by the Japanese government. Tanks of toxic cooling water are spread across the site and some of the hurriedly erected vessels are beginning to leak. TEPCo has no clear plan what to do with the thousands of tons of cooling water that was poured onto melting reactors to keep the reactions moderated. Steam continues to rise from the hot rubble indicating chain reactions somewhere--exact location unknown--below go unabated. The company also estimates 300 tons of contaminated groundwater are entering the ocean everyday.

TEPCo faces an even more dangerous engineering problem than leaking water tanks, although these tanks are very fragile and would not survive another major earthquake. Experts say there is a 98% chance of a magnitude 7.0 earthquake hitting Fukushima within the next three years. TEPCo must remove 1535 fuel rod assemblies from the Unit #4 pool which sits 100 feet above ground, has no containment, and is vulnerable to collapse. The entire Unit 4 reactor, an early design by GE, including its elevated pool is listing. [photo]  If the pool collapses it would impact the nearby common pool containing 6,375 fuel rods of the total 11,421 spent rods stored on site. According to former US Department of Energy official Robert Alvarez, there is more than 85 times the amount of radioactive cesium on site than was released during the Chernobyl disaster. Mr. Alvarez writes that the fuel assemblies cannot be simply hauled into the air by crane and carted away. They must be transferred in water and heavily shielded before being placed safely in dry casks to avoid a radioactive spent fuel fire. This sort of operation has never been done before. Clearly TEPCo is out of its depths and needs worldwide expert assistance with the continuing disaster at Fukushima. As one medical doctor who lead the parliamentary investigation into the accident succinctly put it, "Japan is clearly living in denial. Water keeps building up inside the plant, and debris keep piling up outside of it. This is just one big shell game." If one of the spent fuel pools collapse at Fukushima, nuclear expert Arnie Gundersen said, "move south of the equator if that every happened..."

Monday, September 23, 2013

COTW: Detroit in Three Graphs

Intrepid reporters at the Detroit Free Press have produced a graphic explanation of the Detroit bankruptcy.  They dug into the city finances, some of which records are lost or still analog to show how the city slipped in irretrievable debt over six post-war decades. The reporters singled out a complicated refinancing deal by Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick with Wall Street involving credit swaps as a major contributor to the inevitable bankruptcy; but the cause of the bankruptcy is a familiar one: the city financed its operating needs beyond its shrinking means for too long. The derivative deal now accounts for one-fifth of Detroit's outstanding debts. Unlike the federal government a city cannot print money. Selected charts are reproduced here:

Outspoken Mayor Coleman Young has been blamed for Detroit's downhill run. But as the chart shows, Young actually achieved a city budget surplus leading to an upgrade in the city's bond rating that allowed more borrowing to build Chyrsler's Jefferson North Assembly Plant, among other projects (more free market in action). The following chart shows how an increasing amount of the city's doubled borrowing was needed to meet legacy pension costs. Police pension costs climbed from 12% of the budget in 1960 to 32% in 2012:

White flight from racial integration and increasing taxes caused the revenue stream to shrink in half despite four local taxes and the highest property tax in the state of Michigan. The city began an income tax in 1962 which surpassed property tax revenues in 1974, and as the population continued to fall and unemployment increased, resorted to a gaming tax in 1999.

The Free Press reporters conclude that given the city's continued spending despite falling revenues bankruptcy was on the horizon, but it did not have to happen. If city leaders had taken decisive action against deficit financing, especially financing involving credit derivatives such as credit swaps too risky to be sustained. In a land were what we want it all, and we want it now, who can throw the first stone at Detroit?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

True America: Zoot Suit!

More history of the ingrained racism that plagues 'Amurrica'. Mexican youth were the target of rampaging servicemen in Los Angeles of June 1943. Their alienation from white dominated Southern California society expressed itself in an extravagant  style of "pachuco" apparel called "zoot suits":


Friday, September 20, 2013

Colorado's Toxic Deluge

credit: Denver Post
To say Colorado's floods are "biblical" in scope is an understatement because[photo]these floodwaters from hell are also toxic. Colorado has been on the forefront of the massive increase in domestic oil and gas drilling that is fracking America and driving nuclear power plants out of business. The Denver-Julesburg basin is concentrated with wells, storage tanks and pipelines that floodwaters, rushing downhill from mountain slopes denuded by wildfires, treat with little respect. Late Wednesday reports came in that more than 5,000 gallons of crude oil spilled from two tank batteries into the swollen South Platte River. Weld County officials said at least one pipeline is broken and leaking into the South Platte. Two more are compromised by sagging in saturated soils. Nearly 1900 oil and gas wells are shut-in. Many well sites are unreachable from the ground and are entirely underwater. Crews are attempting to monitor the installations from boats and from above as well as rely on remote pressure sensors. Beside the toxic oil and gas, well sites also contain contaminated waste water and toxic drilling supplies. But environmental regulation is so underfunded in Colorado that there are only 18 inspectors to check operations. Once again a government is shirking its responsibilities for public health and safety onto an industry notorious for irresponsible environmental behavior.

Victory: Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station to be Closed

The announcement that Vermont Yankee, one of the nation's oldest nuclear power stations will be closed down and decommissioned beginning in 2014 was made at the end of last month. The GE Mark I reactor is the twin of the destroyed Fukushima reactors. It began operating in 1972. The announcement of the decision by owner Entergy Corporation delighted activists who spent years protesting the plant's operation. The State of Vermont Senate finally listened to its residents and voted to shut the plant down in 2010, but despite the wishes of the state legislature the NRC granted a license renewal until 2032. The regulatory conflict lead to litigation over which authority had the final say over Yankee's continued operation. The state lost the latest round of the litigation. So, the closure announcement was welcomed by state leaders, but some objected to the company's plan to "SAFSTOR" the facility for up to 60 years while its radioactive components cool down before removal. The company said its closure decision was driven by the economics of cheaper fuel sources such as natural gas and high operating costs. Entergy spent $400 million since 2002 to keep the single, aging reactor up to modern standards of safety and reliability.

Valley Advocate: fire in 2005
Anti-nuclear activists cited the company's record of legal obstruction to keep the plant open with the support of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Plant critics say the company lied under oath about buried leaking pipes, and the plant experienced a string of damaging accidents [photo]. It is also contributing to the thermal pollution of the Connecticut River. Entergy ramped up power production 20% at Yankee after buying the plant from New England utility companies in 2002. Entergy operates 10 other nuclear facilities with an installed capacity of more than 10,000 megawatts. However, in recent months four other nuclear plants have been closed: two at San Onofre, the Kewaunee reactor in Wisconsin, and the Crystal River reactor in Florida. Five planned upgrades also have been cancelled by the industry. For the first time in history the Commission denied a construction and operating license for Maryland's Calvert Cliffs #3.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

'Toontime: Called Shot

[credit: Steve Sack, Minneapolis Star Tribune]
Wackydoodle sez: Lem'me show y'all my sly bridge shot!

It is all the Current Occupant will get out of the Syrian mess. Congress is not about to start Amurrica's fourth war in little more than a decade. US supported rebels are on the defensive even without the use of chemical weapons by the war criminal, Bashar al-Assad. Comrade President Putin's timely offer of a joint plan to take away the dictator's chemical arsenal faulted the war scenario in Congress. However, Russia's propaganda that the Ghouta attack was a false flag operation by the rebels is risible after the report by UN weapons inspectors. US Person thinks it somewhat plausible that rebels may have launched a stray or improvised chemical mortar round or two in Aleppo. Only Assad's vicious barrage killed or injured over 3,000 Syrians in the Damascus suburb. The ball is now squarely in Russia's court to cooperate with the West and destroy the weapons it originally provided Syria as part of the global game of chess that was the Cold War. Even if it means bringing those weapons back home for destruction.

[credit: Bob Englehart, Hartford Courant]
Wackydoodle sez: Don't ferget the part 'bout seein' the white bear!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

COTW: The American Pie

US Person thinks his readers may be tiring of his message that the US economy is rigged for the corporate rich. But given that the corporate mass media is dedicated to denying this fact, and make you feel good about it, here is yet another chart showing just how skewed the US economy has become:

credit: John Hussman via ZeroHedge
Corporate profits after tax have reached a post-war high of over 10% (blue line). Historically, profits have averaged 6% of GDP over the last 66 years. The Wall Street casino is at an all-time high with PE ratios at 1929 crash levels, but the workforce participation rate is the lowest in 35 years. Corporate profits are growing at a robust rate (red line), but real median household income is at 1990 levels. Wall Street banks are even bigger than before the 2008 Panic.  The richest 400 Americans have more money than the annual GDP of Mexico, Italy or Canada.  The top 10% income earners claimed a record 48.2% of the nation's income last year!  Cut us a brake, Mr. Current Occupant. And from the department of American Exceptionalism comes this chart:

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Victory: Anglo-American Calls It Quits

In a major victory for conservationists fighting to stop the disastrous open-pit Pebble Mine, the mine's lead owner, Anglo-American, cancelled its plans for the gold & copper mine development at the headwaters of Bristol Bay, Alaska home to one of the world's largest remaining salmon runs. The astounding announcement was made yesterday. Described as a "hard nosed" mining operation, Anglo-American sunk $500 million in the planning process including an extensive propaganda campaign intended to convince local Alaskans that a pit mine producing 10 billion tons of contaminated waste was in their best interests. The salmon run on which many rely for their livelihoods surely would have been sacrificed on the altar of Mammon. Native groups and fisherfolk opposed the mine from its beginnings realizing it was an environmental disaster waiting to happen. Millions of concerned citizens around the world sent in messages protesting the mine. Two hundred thousand messages from NRDC members alone were delivered directly to the company's new CEO, Mark Cutifani asking that he abandoned the Pebble Mine project. The pressure helped convince the company to write-off $300 million and wash its hands of the project, joining Mitsubishi before it.

The Pebble Mine project is not dead, but it is severely hobbled with the departure of financial giant Anglo-American. Its former partner, Northern Dynasty Minerals must now go it alone trying to convince regulators and the public it can put the massive mine into production without causing severe and irreparable damage. EPA found in its environmental assessment of the project that the mine posed "catastrophic risks". Another international mining giant, Rio Tinto, owns a 20% share of the Canadian company, Northern Dynasty. NRDC's goal is to protect Bristol Bay's watershed from pollution forever by prompting EPA to use its regulatory power under the Clean Water Act to ban large scale mining there. Forty million spawning salmon and the life that depends on them will know the difference.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

TrueAmercia: "Sin City"

The story of Phenix City, Alabama is not widely remembered but in the '40s and '50s it was well known to the US Army which dubbed it "the wickedest city in America" because the crime syndicate that literally took over the town primarily victimized servicemen at Fort Benning, Georgia. The annual take from the soldier chumpsran up to a billion in today's dollars. For a town that was a bedroom for poor textile workers and without a significant tax base the rackets were not just loose change. The town was so corrupt for so long that the National Guard was required to restore order after the newly elected state Attorney General Albert Patterson, who had vowed to clean up Phenix, was assassinated. Martial law was declared in in the town by the Alabama governor; the first declaration of martial law in the South since Reconstruction. Troops deposed civilian law enforcement and began seizing private property associated with illegal vice rackets. US Person suggests watching this amateur video that describes an entire town consumed by depravity (3 parts, with unattributed still photos and clips from the 1955 movie Phenix City Story, also 12 Angry Men and Sin City):

Part Two

Part Three

Friday, September 13, 2013

'Toontime: Putin Week

[credit: Nate Beeler, Columbus Dispatch] 
US Person has to give credit to President Vladimir Putin for throwing the Current Occupant. Of course he is a judo black belt, a martial art that defeats an unstable opponent. Comrade President seized an opportunity presented by a Congress unwilling to vote for war by offering a peace option, and writing directly to the American public in the New York Times. Characteristically blunt, he said what many commentators have already concluded: American suffers from a sense of superiority which the rest of the world finds frightening. Whether his initiative towards eliminating Syria's chemical weapon arsenal will bring substantive progress, or is simply a stall tactic will be revealed in the next few weeks of international diplomacy.
[credit: Jimmy Margules, The Record]
Wackydoodle axes: Can he get me a job?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

US Complicit in Efforts to Overthrow Mideast States

The UK Guardian reports that the US Defense Department had plans to
"attack and destroy the governments" in Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran just a few weeks after 9/11.  Former NATO Secretary Gen. Wesley Clark  said that strategy was fundamentally geopolitical not ideological or humanitarian. Its purpose is to control the region's vast oil and gas resources. The RAND Corp. 2008 report funded by the US Army, Unfolding the Future of the Long War, said since industrialized countries of the west continue to rely heavily on oil, "the region will therefore remain a strategic priority, and this priority will interact strongly with that of prosecuting the long war". The French foreign minister Roland Dumas told French TV that as early as 2009 Britain was planning covert operations in Syria. Assad had refused to sign a proposed agreement with Qatar, a western client state, for a pipeline running from its North Field through Syria to Turkey, thus cutting into Russia's dominance of the European natural gas market. The private intelligence firm, Stratfor confirmed Pentagon training of Syrian opposition forces since 2011 aimed at collapsing the Assad regime. But because of the sectarian fault lines in the Mideast, these covert efforts to destabilize Syria mean indirectly aiding Sunni-Salifi jihadis. Jihadist organizations are supported by Saudi Arabia as a means of counterbalancing the Shia regime of Iran. The RAND report temporized this apparent illogicality by saying, "One of the oddities of this long war trajectory is that it may actually reduce the al-Qaeda threat to US interests in the short is very likely that al-Qaeda might focus its efforts on targeting Iranian interests throughout the Middle East."

credit: AFP
That Saudia Arabia has been a foreign actor in the current Syrian civil war and is supported in those efforts by the US and Britain is undeniable. Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan, bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud, (the higher up in Saudi aristocracy the more names one has) the 'Sultan of Spooks' went so far as to bribe President Putin into switching sides against Assad.[photo] He offered an $11 billion arms purchase and an implied guarantee that the next government after Assad would not compete with Russian gas exports. Putin turned him down. So while the pictures of dead children killed in their sleep by a nerve agent are profoundly distressing, the humanitarian calls for US intervention also provides cover for a great game with much larger stakes: the control of the Middle East's one strategic resource, oil. Assad is a brutal dictator in the mold of his father, and the revolt against him is legitimate even with Islamist jihad organizations in the forefront of the rebellion. But for an empire like the US which is paranoid about running out, oil is worth fighting for everywhere in the world. President Putin put in this way in his editorial in the New York Times, it is "alarming that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for the United States. Millions around the world "increasingly see America not as a model of democracy but as relying on brute force."

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


Due to technical difficulties, PersonaNonGrata has defaulted to an archived format.  The blog's appearance has changed but still the same great
Thank you for choosing the Web's high impact blog.

Indian Tiger Poaching Gang Caught Red Handed

Thanks to a program of wildlife law enforcement funded by the Wildlife Trust of India a gang of six notorious tiger poachers were caught with lethal jaw traps in the Bandupur Tiger Reserve in southern India [map]. The five men and one woman were sentenced to three years each by Karnataka High Court. The gang was caught after two members turned informers. They moved across India often acting as street vendors until the set up camp next to a reserve and enter in small groups to track tigers. They are renowned for their tracking skills and would stay at the illegal work until they killed their prize, usually with a spear thrust into the mouth of the wounded animal; the tiger's skin is quickly stripped and the carcass buried in the forest. The poachers return in a few weeks to collect the valuable bones. The story is remarkable because so few tiger poachers are convicted in India. The law enforcement team of the Wildlife Trust are working with forest protection staff to ensure more arrests lead to court convictions in the future. Survival of wild tigers in India depends directly on strict enforcement of existing anti-poaching laws as well as expanding tiger habitat. Although the sentence handed down was inadequate given the extreme plight of wild tigers in India and the cruel methods employed to kill their prey, conservationists hope these rare convictions will persuade other poachers to give up their illegal trade.

More good news in the fight against illegal trade in wildlife is the announcement that the United States will crush its six ton inventory of ivory. The ivory, stored at a federal repository near Denver, CO is both raw and worked and comes from seizures over the past twenty-five years. The announcement was made by Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell at the White House yesterday. The public relations event is part of the effort by the administration to take stronger measures against international wildlife crime that is increasingly being seen a means for terrorists to support their operations. Elephant massacres have taken place in Gabon, Chad, Cameroon and the Central African Republic in the past year by well-armed, organized criminal gangs. Gabon's Minkebe National Park lost an estimated 11,000 forest elephants in the past decade. The United States remains a major destination for illegal ivory. Officials hope the ivory destruction will remind people that ivory objects are not art or collectable, but the remains of destroyed intelligent being. The US Fish & Wildlife Service provided just $8.6 million in support this year for international conservation projects, hardly enough to buy one modern jet fighter.

Monday, September 09, 2013

COTW: Ignorant Debt Slavery

US Person wrote a few days ago of the "deliberate dumming down" of the American populace. He was not being gratuitously insulting, but communicating a startling fact. The cost of a college education in the United States has increased 15 times faster than inflation! Fewer and fewer families can afford to send their children to institutions of higher learning. Those students who borrow to finance their studies are facing larger debts than ever before. Look at the charts from Mother Jones:
Of course paying off debt is getting more difficult as the virtual economy employs fewer people. But thanks to plutocracy tools like former New York Senator Hillary Clinton, who will be running for president in 2016, student debt is generally not dischargeable in bankruptcy. Banks do not care if a young person goes to an early grave in debt because the debt left behind is insured by Uncle Sam. Sweet deal for the top 1% that own the financial institutions. Working your fingers to the bone [green line below] is no longer good enough for our masters. And who needs unruly college kids demonstrating at the drop of a hat? What they want is ignorant debt slaves!

Sunday, September 08, 2013

True America: Blank Checks

As the United States Congress prepares to vote on war against Syria, it is useful to review the start of a previous war based on calculated lies and deceptions by the president in power. The Vietnam War began in ernest with the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, legislation which President Johnson felt he needed to escalate aggression against North Vietnam already occurring with raids on the North Vietnamese coastline (OPLAN 34-A). The second attack on August 4, 1964 against the destroyer USS Maddox which Johnson said was the reason for his request, did not occur. Congress gave the President authorization to use conventional forces in Southeast Asia on August 7, 1964 without an actual declaration of war. Because of the dubious Tonkin incident and more than a decade of socially debilitating and unpopular war in Southeast Asia, Congress moved to reclaim its concurrent war powers under the Constitution with the passage of the War Powers Act of 1973

Friday, September 06, 2013

'Toontime: Perpetual Bullshit

[credit: Christopher Weyant, The Hill]
More: Just as in the Libya intervention, the goal of a US attack on Syria changes as the arguments against unilateral intervention in another nation's civil war mounts. At first the Current Imperial Occupant assured us his action would be "limited and proportional" for humanitarian relief. Now as the potential target list grows, the goal post has been set at tipping the balance on the battlefield in the rebels' favor. In fewer words we have heard before: regime change. Russia clearly objects to this goal as "destabilizing". The 2005 UN protocol on protecting populations from their own murderous dictators, referred to as "R2P" or the "responsibility to protect" certainly does not apply in a situation where another sovereign objects to a dictator it finds inconvenient or abhorrent. R2P is an emerging doctrine that holds the international community has a responsibility to intervene when a sovereign has committed war crimes or crimes against humanity. Intervention is envisioned to be primarily through economic coercion. Military intervention is considered a last resort and only the Security Council can authorize it. The Obombanator has cried wolf once too often.

This story via is a bombshell in itself: a credible professional journalist, Dale Gavlak who is a correspondent for Associated Press, writes that the alleged chemical weapons attack which killed hundreds was an accident! Her report is based on interviews conducted by Yahya Ababneh in Ghouta. Rebels received chemical weapons via Saudi Arabia, the arch-enemy of Assad, and were not trained in their use. Allegedly the weapons were intended for Jabhat al-Nusra, the al-Qaeda aligned jihadist movement. The weapons were detonated by accident in a tunnel and killed 12 rebel soldiers. An accidental release of a nerve agent would fit with  signals intelligence that show regime officers reacting with surprise to chemical weapons being unleashed. Whether this story is factual or regime propaganda remains to be seen, but in a situation were US intelligence is blaming Assad for mass casualties and their case is not "a slam dunk", the mere existence of such a report deserves further verification. However, according to Secretary of State John Kerry, the US administration is not interested in further evidence since it believes Assad's guilt is already clear to the world.

What deliberately dumbed-down Americans do not understand is that the American military-industrial-security establishment is big business and their business is war. To keep the money rolling in those employed by it need to justify the use of force on every possible occasion, and if a war can be justified under humanitarian cover, that is just fine with the warmongers. US Person has not loss his moral indignation over the apparent illegal use of chemical weapons*, but as the Vatican pointed out, more killing by the United States is not going to end a conflict which has already killed 100,000 Syrians and created 2 million refugees. There is little international material support besides France for military action against Syria as the G-20 summit just concluded demonstrates. Talk of degrading and deterring Bashir al-Assad's regime by destroying most of his air force, as suggested by some pundits, is wishful thinking on the part of the Current Imperial Occupant. Obviously he is thrilled after six years in office by the deluding power of the Oval Office, and he has painted himself into a rhetorical corner over Syria. Such empty rhetoric completely ignores the fact that Syria has powerful and influential allies, unlike Qaddafi's Libya, who themselves could inflict great damage on American interests in the region. If Israel were attacked, would America go to war on the ground against Iran or Hezbollah in Lebanon? If a Russian commander fires upon an American ship in the Mediterranean or an advanced Russian air defense missile takes out a B-2 and its entire crew on an intercontinental bomb run over Syria, would the United States engage in nuclear retaliation? The disaster scenarios are endless. US Person thinks Americans, after forty years of costly and failed expeditions of imperial overreach, are tired of war and especially of war begun under false pretenses. Their consciences would rest easy if Assad were removed from power at a peace conference with no collateral damage. That would be "smart diplomacy", not so-called smart bombs, in action.
[credit: Bob Englehart, Hartford Courant]
Wackydoodle sez: I got'ch an eraser y'all can use!
*The United States has little credibility when it comes to the international ban against chemical weapons. It used toxic herbicides, white phosphorous, and napalm in Vietnam; while not specifically banned, their use can hardly be considered humane. US intelligence informed Saddam Hussein of Iranian troop concentrations knowing full well he was using chemical weapons against them. The US continued to send military aid, including thiodiglycol a key ingredient of mustard gas, to Hussein even after the infamous gas attack at Halabja in 1988 that resulted in the deaths of 5,000 Kurdish civilians. Iraqi is littered with toxic depleted uranium from US munitions. Half the babies born in Fallujah 2007-2010 have birth defects not seen since islanders exposed to the nuclear tests in the Pacific.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Ancient Elephant Walk Protected

credit: IFAW
A Kenyan Maasai community and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) have signed a lease to preserve an ancient elephant migration route between Amboseli National Park and Mount Kilimanjaro National Park. The route traverses the Kenya-Tanzania border and is known as the Kitenden Corridor. The lease by the Olguluillui/Olorlarashi Ranch group extends "paradise for elephants and other wildlife" said the President of IFAW during a signing ceremony. Securing corridors for migration, breeding, and other activity is an important aspect of preserving large mammals into the future. Human population pressure on wildlife is increasing in Africa and it leads to human-wildlife conflicts that inevitably cause wildlife to be displaced or killed. About 1400 elephants live in the Amboseli ecosystem, and use ranch land during the wet season. The Maasai group ranches are the first Maasai communities in Kenya to agree to an ecosystem management plan with Kenya Wildlife Services.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Mexican Gray Wolf Given Protection

The US Fish & Wildlife Service agreed to drop plans to capture Mexican gray wolves (Canis lupus baileyi) entering New Mexico and Arizona and propose expanding their recovery territory in agreements with the Center for Biological Diversity. The Mexican government has been releasing wolves south of the border and the USFWS issued itself a permit in November 2011 to permit trapping and indefinite detention of Mexican wolves entering the border states. In the latest agreement it will rescind the permit as it has no authority to remove protected endangered animals from the wild under the Endangered Species Act.  The Service also agreed to propose releasing wolves directly into the Gila National Forest in New Mexico where there is extensive habitat suitable for wolves, and establish recovery territory between Interstate 10 and Interstate 40 of Arizona and New Mexico by January 12, 2015. Conservationists welcome the changes but do not think they go far enough since wolves that wander outside the designated zones would be subject to capture. For the Mexican gray wolf to make a full recovery they say the Grand Canyon, southern Rockies, and borderlands should all be designated wolf habitat. Wolves are breeding successfully in the existing Blue Range Recovery Area with a least 19 pups in five packs documented. However, the agency's goal of 100 wolves released in the wild by 2006 has not been met due to illegal killings, captures caused by livestock conflicts, and the lack of permissible release area. The Mexican gray and red wolves, both subspecies, were completely eliminated from the wild before reintroduction programs began. The northern grey wolf is still under threat of extinction because the federal government removed its legal protection in what some conservationists think was a political deal between the administration and Congress members from range states. These wolves face rabid anti-wolf politics resulting in unsustainable state policies towards the species.

Evidence Said to be "Thin"

credit: AFP/Getty Images
Whaa? Despite repeated reassurance to the contrary from the Current Imperial Occupant (CIO), his Secretary of State at first refused to rule out American troops invading Syria if the situation in the country spiraled out of control. Kerry said in testimony before the Senate, "it would be preferable not to" insert language in the authorization against ground forces in case chemical weapons fell into the hands of Islamist rebels. He quickly realized he made a serious verbal faux pas and backtracked. He did not explain how a limited airstrike would prevent the unthinkable. Nor could General Martin Dempsey when asked just what the US hoped to accomplish with a military strike doomed to only unintended consequences. Just a month ago the nation's top general warned in a letter to Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) that US military intervention could empower radical groups on the rebel side. Kerry also left Senators scratching their heads when he said the President was not asking for a war authorization. The draft resolution allowing aggressive military action against Syrian--an act of war in most English dictionaries--prohibits the use of ground forces. No matter how much the US calibrates, it is the Syria and its allies response to an attack by "the Great Satan" that is the wild card.

Update: Aware that Congress has no appetite for igniting a wider war in the Middle East, the Obombanator threatened to override Congress if they vote against war. While denying he made an ultimatum that invested his personal credibility in an attack, the Current Imperial Occupant said, "As commander in chief, I always preserve the right and responsibility to act on behalf of America's national security." But the Nobel Peace Laureate did not explain how a civil war in Syria directly affects America's national security or endangered American military forces in the region during a press conference with Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt. He would almost certainly face articles of impeachment in the House of Representatives, controlled by Republicans who have little regard for a president they erroneously consider to be a socialist, if he violated the war powers provision of the United States Constitution and the War Powers Act of 1973. President Putin said in an interview he would be willing to support a military strike if the UN sanction the action against President Bashir al Assad based on concrete evidence of a gas attack committed by Assad's government. So far the Russians are unimpressed with American intelligence implicating Syrian security forces in the Ghouta attack. The Obombanator and Putin will meet at the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg.

{13.09.13}A Texas Republican Congressman told The Hill newspaper that he had seen the classified American intelligence accusing Syria's Bashir Assad of using gas on his people in Ghouta and thought the documents "pretty thin". He also said the evidence could be interpreted to make the case that the other side used the weapons, and the case against Assad actually pulling the trigger was "suspect". Russia has been claiming for some time that the rebels used poison gas on several occasions. The thin evidence has not stopped Congressional leaders from falling into line behind another president determined to "degrade" another dictator's arsenal regardless of the ramifications. US Person thinks it is Libya and Iraq and Vietnam all over again. The decision to attack has been made; now comes the sale with 'facts' tailored by the prevaricators inside the US security establishment to fit the occasion. In the case of Iraq, the 'facts' were fabricated. That's not a crank blogger saying that, but the then chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), a blue-blooded member of the American plutocracy. Fortunately the House of Representatives will not reconvene officially until September 9th, so there is still time for the truth to be revealed. That the Current Occupant apparently is willing to ignore the United States' UN treaty obligations or not even attempt to present Assad's alleged war crime to an international tribunal like the International Criminal Court is perhaps the most disturbing fact of all to emerge so far.

Meanwhile it may be two weeks before international laboratories have completed their analysis of the biological and physical samples take by a UN team from Ghouta [photo]. Blood, hair, and urine from alleged viticims were collected as well as biological samples from corpses. Soil and residues from shell fragments were also taken. Dr. Ralf Trapp, former member of the OPCW told BBC that analyses should be able to determine if the agent was designed for military use or was improvised. Samples arrived at the central lab of the Organization to Prohibit Chemical Weapons in the Hague on Saturday and have been distributed to designated laboratories including Edgewood Chemical and Forensic Analytical Center and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in the U.S. Labs in China, Russia, UK and France are also included. Each sample is marked, photographed and cross checked and sent to three separate, approved laboratories. To further deter cheating or mistakes, two dummy samples are used containing no nerve agent or a breakdown product. Two separate testing procedures must be used, and they are conducted blind.

Monday, September 02, 2013

COTW: No Bang for the Healthcare Buck

As the United States military moves expensive hardware pieces over the globe in a game of "Risk" against the Russians, who believe it or not also have "national security interests" of their own such as an entrance into the Mediterranean, US Person chooses to present yet another example of the misdirected resources caused by the profit motive: healthcare in America. It is well known by now the United States spends more money per capita for health care than almost every developed countries in the world (2nd behind Switzerland where everything is expensive). The results in terms of efficiency measures like life expectancy and incidence of disease we are near the bottom (46th). Counties like Iran, China and Algeria do a better job, as does Australia and Switzerland! Bloomberg, hardly a communist influenced corrupt organization, did another ranking of forty-eight countries that confirms these facts. Look at the charts:
To put the charts into words, the world's richest country spends the most (17.2% of GDP) on health to receive the least amount of care. That's what for-profit medicine and private insurance gets you. Socialized medicine would be a godsend to most businesses since they would be relieved of the escalating expense of providing employee health benefits, and a single payer could drive down costs they do choose to cover in supplemental programs. Under the current chaos, businesses engage in socially backward avoidance schemes like using cheap part-time labor with no benefits. So the next time your heart swells with pride over the carrier "Nimitz" moving around the far side of the globe at great expense in defense of your 'security' ask yourself, what security are we talking about?