Saturday, November 30, 2013

True America: When the "A-Team" Breaks Bad

More: Afghan President Hamid Karzai is backpedaling furiously on the security deal the US claims it reached with the impoverished state. He told Susan Rice, the national security advisor, in Kabul on Monday that besides putting an end to raids on private homes, the US must send back Afghan prisoners detained at the Guantanamo gulag. Karzai claims that the Loya Jirga imposed this condition when it approved the security pact last week. He also blamed the US for meddling in the 2009 presidential election. Karzai has proved to be an exasperating collaborator and his latest reneging is true to form. DoD officials want the agreement signed by the end of the year, but Karzai appears to be in no mood to sign anytime soon. He is supposed to step down from the presidency after elections in April.

Update: {27.11.13}The Obamatron's national security advisor is in Kabul to twist Hamid Karzai's arm to sign the recently negotiated bilateral security pack that gives legal immunity to stay-behind US troops. Karzai has publicly said he does not trust the Americans "and they don't trust me." He has attempted to enlist the support of Afghanistan's tribal elders who are gathering in their traditional grand council or loya jirga. But the five day council surprised many by supporting the agreement. Sibghatullah Mojaddedi, spokesman for the council told Karzai to quickly sign the security pack. The agreement provides billions of dollars in further aid to one of the poorest nations in the world. Naturally the Taliban condemned the loya jirga's endorsement. A Taliban spokesman said Afghanistan will "truly become the graveyard of international arrogance."

Karzai has already said signing a security deal should only take place after elections in April. He must leave the presidency after two terms. The issue of legal jurisdiction over remaining US troops, said to be around 8,000 up to 15,000 could be a stumbling block. Immunity for foreign soldiers is widely considered to be an infringement of Afghanistan's sovereignty. Karzai again took issue with American forces raiding private homes as part of their operations despite reassurances from the Obamatron that such raids would be "only under extraordinary circumstances". The Iraqis took the same position against legal immunity when the US demanded it for troops in their country. Iraq refused, so the US withdrew all of its forces.

The security situation in Afghanistan is dire and the presence of US forces is considered necessary to prevent the Kabul government from collapsing. The Taliban remain in control of much of the countryside and are making inroads in urban areas. Drug corruption and use is rampant. This year's opium crop is set to be a record breaker. Afghanistan's economy is on foreign aid life support and it will shrink by 10% as foreigners leave the country. To add to the country's problems is its hostile relationship with Pakistan. Border skirmishes have intensified in the past two years, and recently a "baroque" intrigue hatched by Afghan's intelligence service to support terrorists in Pakistan came to light in the New York Times. Considering the chaos that is brewing just below the surface, is not easy to understand how 8,000 American troops can do what 47,000 could not. Putting even fewer boots on the ground to control a hostile populace and kill hardened enemy fighters will almost certainly lead to violent excesses by demoralized American soldiers. It is simply mission impossible. Packing up the old kit bag and smiling as you board the plane out is the best thing Americans can expect to accomplish from their longest war on the edge of empire.

{21.11.13}Wars of insurrection are dirty business. America's involvement in these wars is no exception beginning with the Indian uprisings on the original thirteen colonies' frontier, the genocidal war against western tribes, the Philippine Insurrection, the Vietnam War to the present dismal experience in Afghanistan. The United States is insisting that troops remain in the central Asia desert on the edge of empire. Afghanistan's weak central government is attempting to resist imperial demands especially since it would have no jurisdiction over US troops if they commit crimes or attrocities. This issue has been a sticking point in a status of forces agreement under negotiation with quisling Hamid Karzai, but a security pack must be approved by Afghanistan's national assembly That atrocities have been committed is highly probable, but the US is refusing to aid investigation of allegations against US Special Forces made by former collaborators. This report by RT is eye-opening:

Friday, November 29, 2013

'Toontime: Thanks in A Time Of Materialism

[credit: John Coles, Times Tribune]

Retailers have finally hijacked the last semblance of a holiday set aside for reflection and gratitude. Corporate masters are demanding their chain stores and franchises stay open on Thursday, Thanksgiving Day. So-called "Black Friday" has become the "30 Days of Shopping" before the end of the year sales. Corporate flacks pound out the message on all channels: BUY, BUY, BUY! People are camping out for almost a week to be first in line at the store door, while violence is an option to get yours. Thanksgiving shopping is America's newest competitive sport in the wasteland of the corporate state.

[credit: Jeff Darcy, Cleveland Plain Dealer]

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Cat Blogging Thanksgiving

And here for your holidaze enjoyment is "Tardar Sauce" a British kitty full of disdain for people he finds annoying:

Is kittums disgruntled or just suffering from indigestion? US Person thinks he looks somewhat like Winston Churchill. Enjoy and give thanks!

Seahorses Get No Respect

These fragile creatures (Hippocampus. s) get no respect.  Yes, they are admired for their surreal beauty, and the males make great mothers, but when it comes to "street cred" seahorses are not on the A list. Even crabs seem more dangerous than a seahorse. A new study may change the human perception of seahorses as slow, awkward swimmers frozen stiff in an upright position. But as predators they are ferocious and ingenious. The elongated snouts make few ripples in the water to alert their tiny copepod prey. If a copepod detects water disturbances from a preditor it can jet away at speeds equivalent to a six foot human swimming 2,000 mph. Yet seahorses which are the slowest fish in the sea can regularly overcome the copepods speed advantage.

Seahorses catch their intended prey 90% of the time in calm water, an incredible success rate for a predator.  Dr. Brad Gemmell, of the University of Texas, Austin who authored the study, wanted to know how they did it. Syngnathid fish which include seahorses use a stealth technique termed pivot feeding that involves rapid movements at short range. A seahorse's arched neck acts as a spring allowing it to move its snout rapidly. The snout is shaped to minimize hydrodynamic disturbances so the strike [video] can be made over a distance of about 1mm without alerting the prey. This fact was discovered using 3D holography. Get close and don't hesitate works well for seahorses too.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Berlusconi Finally Booted

He put up a tenacious fight, but finally Italian law enforcement caught up with former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. The Italian Senate expelled Berlusconi with immediate effect, thus depriving him of legislative immunity. He was convicted of tax fraud after a lengthy court battle which ended in August when the appeals court upheld the trial verdict. Berlusconi has also been convicted of paying an under age prostitute for "bunga-bunga"--sex. The way could now be politically clear for other criminal prosecutions against a powerful public figure who dominated his country's politics for twenty years. He vowed to remain the head of the Forza Italia Party on what he called a "day of mourning" for democracy. Because of his age he is unlikely to serve his one year sentence in jail but under house arrest. The Senate debate was heated with two rival Senators nearly coming to blows in time-honored Italian tradition. There was no formal vote to expel, but all challenges to the process were defeated.

COTW: US Miltary Fuel Consumption

The Obamatron sent B-52s over the disputed, uninhabitated specks of land off China's coast in a demonstration of the US military global reach. It costs a lot of money to operate those flying behemoths because they consume about 3300 gallons per hour of flight. To put that obscene figure into perspective, the Humvee gets as low as 4 mpg or six times less than a T Model Ford. What Obamatron will not tell you, but US Person will, is that our military consumes an enormous amount of energy every day. In FY2006 DoD consumed 844 trillion Btu which on a per capita basis is ten times more than China and 30 times more than Africa. Oil accounts for more than three-fourths of military consumption. Most of the fuel costs are incurred by the United States Air Force as jet fuel, JP-8. To be fair modern tanks also burn jet fuel kerosene in their  turbines. An Abrams main battle tank achieves an unimpressive 0.5mpg):
USAF is the largest consumer of fuel in the federal government. It spent $9.7 billion in FY2011 for energy and $8.3 billion of that was for fuel, and is experiencing massive budget shortfalls due to escalating fuel costs. The US military is man's most energy intensive operation in history, period. So ask yourself do we really need these expensive joy-rides?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Dead Kennedys II Reprise

Dr. Milton Halpern, formerly Chief Medical Examiner of New York City and whom the New York Times said "knows more about violent death than any one in the world", and who conducted over 2,000 autopsies on gunshot victims expressed his opinion about the "magic bullet": "The original pristine weight of this bullet before it was fired was approximately 160-161 grains. [1grain = .0648g] The weight of the bullet recovered at Parkland was reported by the Commission at 158.6...I cannot accept the premise that this bullet thrashed around in all that boney tissue [fracturing rib and wrist bones] and lost only 1.4 to 2.4 grains of its normal weight. I cannot believe either that this bullet is going to emerge miraculously unscathed, without any deformity, and with lands and groves intact..." Twenty-one people stated to the Commission that shooting came from the grassy knoll in Dealy Plaza. Acoustics experts testifying to the House Assassinations investigation concluded, the grassy knoll shot "was fired from a point along the east-west line of the wooden stockade fence, about eight feet from the corner of the fence." At that point an assassin equipped with frangible, high velocity ammunition was thirty-five unobstructed yards from the President of the United States. First posted November 26, 2006. Links are original, but may have expired:
After the 1961 Bay of Pigs disaster, President Kennedy handed Attorney General Robert Kennedy the covert ops portfolio. RFK, a committed cold warrior like his brother, bluntly told the CIA he wanted Fidel Castro to "disappear". Nothing was put in writing, but the Agency had its marching orders. RFK denied ever directly ordering assassination. Between 1960 and 1965 there were eight attempts on the revolutionary leader's life according to former Secretary of State, Al Haig. What is not widely known is that besides Operation Mongoose and Operation 40, the government was involved in planning a Cuban coup d'etat and US military invasion of Cuba that included the participation of a famous and respected Cuban comrade from the Sierra Maestra days. A feature of the plan was the formation and equipping of assassination teams that were to infiltrate the island during the invasion chaos and kill Castro. Castro would be replaced by the collaborator who would use his considerable influence to end resistance and reestablish civil order. The plan was known by its CIA code name AMWORLD.

A 1963 CIA memo previously classified top secret was not discovered in the National Archives by researcher Stuart Wexler until 2004. The document and related material had been declassified in 1999 by the JFK Assassination Records Review Board. The five page memo from the Chief, Western Hemisphere Division outlined the CIA role in the planning and preparation of the Cuban coup for station chiefs who might come across "manifestations" of the operation. Its title is "AMWORLD--Background of Program, Operation Support requirements and Procedural Rules." The memorandum was published by authors Waldron and Hartmann as part of their authoritative study of the Kennedy Assassination, Ultimate Sacrifice and a copy of it can be seen at their
website. There is no doubt that Robert Kennedy controlled the large scale, very secret effort to violently depose Castro. Secret planning took place at the top level of the administration and RFK ran the three groups involved, the "Interdepartmental Coordinating Committee on Cuban Affairs", the "Special Group" for covert matters and the "Standing Group" for contingency plans and policy assessment. This dispersal of functions into small groups was intended to make them easier to control, preserve tight secrecy, as well as provide the President with plausible deniability.
Cyrus Vance, Secretary of the Army and trusted Kennedy advisor, headed the Pentagon's participation. He wrote a memo dated September 26, 1963 titled "Plan for a Coup in Cuba" to the Joint Chiefs of Staff in which the coup plan was presented to them as an option, but in reality it was the only plan being considered. Operation Mongoose was not having the intended effect of destabilising Cuba and promoting the overthrow of Castro. Vance told Chief of Staff Maxwell Taylor that the CIA and the State Department concurred with the coup plan. The invading exile groups would need to establish a provisional government (under the leadership of the still secret paid collaborator) and "hold a significant piece of territory long enough for the US to extend support." The document says that US support can only begin after "Fidel Castro...has been neutralized." Thus, killing Fidel was the key component of the entire operation eventhough the Kennedys may have viewed it as providing direct military assistance to invading Cuban exile groups. Both of Vance's aides, Joseph Califano and Al Haig, confirm Bobby Kennedy was the boss of the operation. Haig told an interviewer, "Bobby was the President," as far Cuban operations were concerned. Former CIA Deputy Director for Plans, Richard Helms (later CIA Director under Nixon) told interviewers on different occasions the same thing, "There are two things you have to understand: Kennedy wanted to get rid of Castro, and the Agency was not about to undertake anything like that on its own." He was equally adamant that Bobby Kennedy was in charge, telling a biographer that, "Robert Kennedy ran with it, ran those operations, and I dealt with him almost every day."

An AMWORLD memo sent by CIA director McCone on the morning of JFK's murder, confirms that the coup was scheduled for December 1, 1963. There were circumstances in Cuba that put pressure on plan participants to stick to the December 1 deadline. Another AMWORLD communication on November 22nd from a Cuban inflitrator said that Castro was concerned about possible insurrection by some of his men and was undertaking a massive propaganda campaign to bolster loyalty. He had reason to worry. Some old comrades still in Cuba felt Fidel had betrayed the revolution by embracing the Soviets. The Commandante had also laid plans to begin a military draft in early December which exiled coup leaders believed would "tremendously" impact clandestine activities in Cuba. Domestic political considerations too played a role in setting an early December deadline. Polls showed the public giving the President low ratings on his handling of Cuba. But US troops fighting in Cuba with US air support during the Christmas holidays was not desirable. If the plan failed, time was needed before the 1964 campaign got underway to deal with the repercussions. AMWORLD was more than just convoluted contingency planning by November 22, 1963. It was a high risk military operation with vital clandestine components set to go off in ten days. Bobby was set to fall on his own sword if it did not succeed.

What RFK apparently did not know about until May 7, 1962, when the CIA general counsel briefed him on the subject, was the involvement of the Mafia in previous CIA efforts to assassinate Castro going back to 1959. These operations had been approved by Director Allen Dulles and had used Jimmy Hoffa as a 'cut-out'. The teamster boss had access to Castro since he had participated in gun running to the Cuban leader with the CIA's blessing. Of course the Mafia had extensive contacts in Cuba as a result of their lucrative casino businesses sponsored by Batista. After the revolution came to power and dispossessed the gangsters, bosses like Santo Trafficante and Johnny Rosselli, who represented the Chicago don Sam Giancana, were willing to use their considerable resources to aid the CIA in its efforts to "neutralize" Fidel. There was even historical precedent for such cooperation since the mob had aided the WWII effort by enforcing labor peace and detecting sabotage on the docks. Nevertheless, the CIA revelation must have concerned Bobby Kennedy greatly. CIA told him the operations had ceased, but this was false. (Operation AMLASH and the CIA executive action program code named ZRRIFLE exposed by the Church Committee for example). 

Bobby and his brother had made powerful mob enemies during the 1957-61 McClellan corrupt unions hearings. Sam Giancana and New Orleans boss Carlos Marcello were forced to appear and were subjected to embarrassing public examination by the younger brother as the Committee's chief counsel. Trafficante was beyond subpoena power in Cuba, but other witnesses implicated him as the mob boss of Tampa. After the hearings, then Attorney General Kennedy deported Carlos Marcello, a Tunisian national, to Guatemala. Traffacante's Orlando gambling business was shut down by the IRS. Rosselli was audited and his financial transactions examined by the FBI. The dons had suffered insult and prosecution at the hands of Jack and Bobby. They were men unlikely to forgive. How the Mafia used the AMWORLD operation to its own ends is the subject of another post. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Canada's Neighbors Will Investigate Refusal to Aid Polar Bear

UK Daily Mail: drifting at sea
The threat posed to the polar bear's survival as a species by the melting Arctic ice cape is now undeniable. Yet Canada, for reasons undoubtably related to economics refused to give Ursus maritimus full protection under its endangered species law. The United States and Mexico by the authority of the North American free trade agreement have asked for an investigation into Canada's decision to give only limited protection to an iconic species that faces decimation because of global warming. The United States, after pressure from conservation groups, declared polar bears within its territory an endangered species in 2008. Canada only recognized the bear as "species of special concern" in 2011. Trophy hunting in Canada is still big business despite the fact that USGS estimates two-thirds of the world's polar bear population will die off due to starvation. Polar bears need sea ice to hunt for its main prey, seals, and sea ice is rapidly disappearing in the Arctic. A USGS study said several polar bear populations within Canada will disappear entirely or be severely decimated.

The trade agreement's Central Environmental Commission said there were questions about whether Canada's pro-development government used best available science to make its decision The Center for Biological Diversity which petitioned for the investigation said Canada's decision to give the bear only third tier consideration was not adequate since it offers little in the way of real protection.  Canada's environmental record has lately come under international scrutiny. It has been criticized for dropping out of the Kyoto Protocol and expanding Alberta tar sands mining. The Center for Global Development ranked Canada last among the worlds 27 richest countries for its poor environmental record.  Conservative prime minister Peter Harper has been accused of muzzling government scientists when their opinions do not fit his energy development agenda. A new regulation requires Canadian government scientists to submit their work to a department head even after acceptance by a peer science journal. CEC has given Canada sixty days to respond to its request for a factual record of how Canada reached its decision to deny polar bears maximum legal protection.

Friday, November 22, 2013

'Toontime: Truthiness Challenged

Almost everything in Washington is a deception, a sham, a cover for a diddle wrapped in an ulterior motive. Turns out the $13 billion fine levied against mega-bank JP Morgan is mostly tax deductible ($7 billion of it). You cannot actually keep your insurance policy if you opt for Obamafarce. The Afghan war is almost over. And the Senate's filibuster reform only applies to presidential appointees; the rest of us can go to hell:
[credit: Glenn McCoy]
Wackydoodle sez:  I bin practicin ma evil laugh too!

"Dead Kennedys" Reprise

The fiftieth anniversary of an assassination that changed history is here. US Person first posted a series about JFK's murder in Dallas seven years ago. Because it is a fact that a majority of Americans rightly do not accept the Warren Commission's erroneous conclusions about the ambush in Dealy Plaza, he chooses to reprise his series, "Dead Kennedys" now. The government's own forensic medical experts who examined the emergency room reports from Parkland Memorial Hospital and the autopsy record at Bethesda Naval Hospital, Maryland for the United States House investigating committee concluded Kennedy was hit three times, twice in the head and once in the back. One of the fatal head shots came from in front of the presidential limousine as it rolled down Elm Street. That forensic conclusion alone is enough to totally negate the theory sprouted by Arlen Specter that Lee Harvey Oswald, an average Marine marksmen, operating an inexpensive, war surplus, bolt-action rifle was solely responsible for killing the President of the United States with two bullets fired from the Texas Schoolbook Depository located behind the presidential limousine at the fatal moment.

US Person concluded, and no information fifty years later has surfaced to dissuade him, that Oswald's ulterior role in the ambush was as a decoy, whose pursuit by the Dallas police allowed the other professional assassins (perhaps one or two others) to escape detection. Oswald's previous association with both intelligence agents and organized crime figures made him unusually suited for this role. "Lone nut" defenders have produced numerous computer animations supposedly verifying the incredible trajectory of the "magic bullet" by moving Governor Connelly's position in the limousine. However, equally plausible results are achieved if the bullet's trajectory is changed to originate not from the sixth floor of the School Book Depository but across the street from the DalTex building. Then Dallas Police Chief Jesse Curry told an interviewer he believed there could have been another assassin based on evidence at the scene. As Oswald himself told the press in the central police station: he was a "patsy". He was telling the truth. This first post in the series appeared on November 26, 2006. Subsequent additions or corrections are bracketed, [ ]. "CE" refers to Commission exhibit. Original hyperlinks can be read by choosing the original post in the blog archives:

Recent television programs in the US have prompted [US Person's] opinion on perhaps the most compelling murder mystery in American history: the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. It has been the subject of two Congressional inquiries since the Warren Commission rendered its dubious verdict of a lone assassin, besides numerous books and several films concerning the events. Cultural regurgitation of the spectacular motorcade ambush and ruthless elimination of the alleged shooter appear as each anniversary of November 22, 1963 passes. Yes, [US Person] recalls where he was that day. The announcement of the president's death came over the school loudspeaker as he sat in his [5th] grade class at Fort Crook Elementary school.

The blurry frames of the Zapruder home movie [since enhanced in clarity] seem burned into the collective consciousness of Americans. Despite the limitations of its technology, that film remains the best physical evidence of what actually happened in Dealey Plaza. Abraham Zapruder filmed the assassination taking place in front of him with his Bell & Howell 8mm camera set to record at 18.3 frames per second from atop a masonry wall on the grassy knoll. His film shows the President being hit three times in the space of about 6 seconds. Why there should remain so much interest sixty three years later in how the President was murdered reduces to this fact: a majority of Americans believe that Lee Harvey Oswald was not the only shooter in Dallas and that JFK was the target of a conspiracy which the Warren Commission tried to cover up.

[US Person]does not consider himself an assassination buff or a sucker for conspiracy theories, but [he] agrees with those Americans who are convinced that Oswald did not act alone. His opinion is admittedly based on published studies of the assassination which vary greatly in degree of objectivity and rigor. But he has examined several authoritative studies and forced himself to look at the grisly autopsy photos. Josiah Thompson's "Six Seconds in Dallas" first published in 1967 stands out in his mind for its forensic approach to evaluating the available evidence. Thompson's work as a consultant for Life Magazine, which purchased the Zapruder film, has stood the test of time. Several salient facts stand out from the many that make up the historical collage of the autumn day in Dallas that changed America forever:

  • There where some 190 eyewitnesses to the murder. 172 gave an opinion on the number of shots. 90% of these reported hearing at least three shots that afternoon. Of the Secret Service agents reporting an opinion, 87% said there were three shots. This is a probative amount of unanimity. The Warren Commission concluded that two bullets caused all the wounds to JFK and Governor Connelly and that one shot missed. The Commission could not say which shots hit. [The US House Assassinations Comiittee found that scientific evidence does not preclude the possibility of two shooters and acoustic evidence collected from police radios very probably supports two assassins.]

  • The "magic bullet", so-called because it was found at Parkland Hospital in near pristine condition (slight longitudinal flattening) and [allegedly] followed a bizarre theoretical trajectory, hit the President in the upper back , passed through his body [Frame 238] and hit Connally in his shoulder, breaking his 5th rib, and shattering his wrist. A [subsequent] bullet caused the massive, fatal wound to the President's head that the Zapruder film captured in horrifying detail [Frame 313]. [Even if the bullet entering his back was slowed considerably by JFK's body, there should be more deformation than there is on CE399 if it also caused Connally's wounds.]

  • Forensic evidence such as JFK's clothes, the Bethesda autopsy notes, reports and photos show a bullet entered the President's upper back (O'Connor: "about three inches down and and an inch or two to the right of the seventh cervical vertebra") and did not exit the body. (Jenkins: "The probing I saw indicated that there was a dead end behind the plural cavity." O'Connor: "Dr. Humes took his finger and poked it into the hole and said it did not go anywhere.") Since this bullet (Commission Exhibit 399) did not hit bone, its possible that the relatively undeformed bullet found on a stretcher at Parkland fell out of the [President's] back wound during rigorous cardiac massage. [The other explanation advanced is more sinister, that the "magic bullet" was planted on a gurney sitting in the hallway outside the emergency operating theater at Parkland.]

  • Test bullets of the same type--6.5mm metal jacket--showed significant deformation when fired into bone. (CE 856, 853) Two Army ballistic experts as well as physicians testified to the Commission that CE399 could not have caused Governor Connolly's wounds. Metal fragments recovered from Connolly were not matched on an atomic level with CE399. If two different bullets hit JFK and Connally, then Oswald was not alone since it is physically impossible to operate his bolt-action, war surplus Mannlicher-Carcano fast enough in the time frame (1.6 seconds) established by the film. [Computer simulations are only cumulative evidence since they are based on parameters collected from other available evidence such as scene measurements and witness testimony, then entered into a program.]

  • Close study of the Zapruder film shows that a head shot drove the President's body to the rear and to [his] left indicating the kill shot came from the right front of the President's limousine consistent with the physical law of conservation of momentum and inconsistent with the Commission's conclusion that the shot came from the Texas School Book Depository to the rear of the motorcade. Head wound location and extent first seen by the Parkland attending physicians and lay eyewitnesses are consistent with this trajectory.

  • Several credible eyewitnesses (one with a panoramic view of Dealey Plaza in front of the motorcade, two sitting in the car directly behind the President's, and two standing on the curb fifteen feet from the President--Bowers, Powers, O'Donnell, Newmans) reported a shot from a stockade fence behind the grassy knoll about 40 yards from the motorcade. An easily concealable weapon loaded with high speed, hollow-point [fragmenting] ammunition could have caused the massive head trauma at short range. Brain matter exploded from the impact spraying the First Lady and motorcycle outriders (Hargis, Martin) following the limousine. A piece of the President's occipital bone was found in the median grass to the left of his motorcade's path, a debris field consitent with a bullet path from [his] front right to left rear. [Oswald, nor anyone else in the Schoolbook Depository, could physically be responsible for a shot coming from in front of the limousine. To further complicate the lone assassin scenario, an eyewitness statement made by Officer Roger Craig long after the assassination says another rifle, a German 7.65mm Mauser not Oswald's Italian Carcano 6.5mm carbine, was found on the sixth floor near the "snipers nest". {20.10.13, Witness to a Hit}]

  • Medical and photographic evidence shows another head shot from the rear (perhaps from the Dal-Tex Building or Records Building) entering the right occiput of the President's skull, moving toward the midtemple, crushing the volmer bone and fracturing the floor of the skull at the right eye. (CE 386) (Lipsey: "...absolutely and unequivocally yes, they [the Bethesda autopsy doctors] were convinced he had been shot three times.", quotes from Law, In the Eye of History) Perhaps this shot drove a bone fragment from the bottom of JFK's brain case through the neck causing an exit wound in the throat that was later obscured by a trachecotomy. This possibility is suggested by two deep mid-brain lacerations that connect and the absence of copper traces from a bullet on the shirt front hole. [Accepting that the shot in the President's back exited through his trachea and hit Connoly, the material fact is that there were too many forensically distinct wounds on two men to be plausibly caused by only two bullets, one of which is in near undeformed condition. Bullet fragments were found in the limousine and Connoly's wounds. So the question begged is why CE 399 is not missing any appreciable mass? Magic indeed. Experienced trauma physicians who first examined the president's body at Parkland Hospital all had the same impression, that the President suffered three bullet wounds.]

  • As early as 1966 the Warren report was criticised in public. Sylvia Meagher extensively cateloged the Commission errors, omissions and inconsistencies in her 1967 book, Accessories after the Fact. At a 1967 pretrial hearing for Clay L. Shaw, alleged to be an Oswald co-conspirator by then New Orleans District Attorney, Jim Garrison, the judge refused to admit the Warren Report into evidence, saying it was "fraught with hearsay and contradiction". Research into the US archives since then shows that the Warren Commission had good reason to stick with then Commission Counsel Arlen Specter's lone gunman theory regardless of its lack of credibility. Those reasons had to do with this country's clandestine war against Fidel Castro and are the subject of another post. Links to websites do not indicate an indorsement of their content, but are for illustrative purposes only.

    Contrary to some author's assertions, the Kennedy assassination is far from a closed case, but the crime becomes colder with each passing year. So why would the Warren Commission want to deny the existence of a conspiracy? The answer to that question lies in the excesses of the American security state. Upcoming: "Dead Kennedys II"

    Thursday, November 21, 2013

    True America: The Truth About Unit #4

    Update: TEPCo began removing rods on Monday. The first rod assembly from Unit #4 was transferred to a cask around 4pm. The company plans to remove 22 assemblies or fill one cask through Monday night beginning with unused ones because they are less fragile. TEPCo admitted on November 15th that there are more damaged fuel assemblies in Unit #1 cooling pool; the damage occurred long before the March 2011 disaster. TEPCo says it notified the government of the condition. News reports from Fukushima are typically late in arriving outside of Japan.

    {17.11.13}Arnie Gunderson of, and a former nuclear industry engineer, discusses the perils of the fuel rod transfer process at Fukushima Unit #4 using company-produced animated propaganda to highlight the misleading information disseminated by TEPCo. US Person agrees with Gunderson that the continuing disaster is beyond the resources of any one company. Clean up of the highly contaminated site will be in the billions of dollars. Clean up cost projection is now at $10 billion, and radiation levels in some hot spots near the facility are five to ten times higher than the surroundings.

    Spent fuel removal looks like child's' play in the company cartoon, but the reality is far more dangerous. The removal process is no longer computer controlled. The rod bundles are deformed and full of building debris which increases the likelihood of a stuck fuel assembly. There may not be enough boron left in the surrounding cladding to prevent criticality. Breaking a single brittle fuel rod assembly would be disastrous. Gunderson explained to Reuters, "The problem with fuel pool criticality (uncontrolled nuclear chain reaction) is that you can't stop it. There are no control rods to control it. The spent fuel pool cooling system is designed only to remove decay heat, not heat from an ongoing nuclear reaction." Why is this video featured on True America when the stricken reactor is Japanese? Simple: Unit #4 reactor is American designed and fallout knows no national boundaries.

    Powder River Basin: Another Sacrifice Zone?

    Montana's Powder River basin is still wild and the home of 250 bird species including 137 different songbirds. The Northern Cheyennes also call the region home since the late 1880's after the government lied, cheated and starved them out of the way of the white man's "progress". In 2010 Montana Land Board handed the future of the Basin to Arch Coal for $86 million plus future royalties on an estimated 570 million tons of Otter Creek coal. Arch Coal wants to turn the verdant prairie into Montana's largest open pit mine. Will Americans at least benefit in someway from another sacrifice of its remaining wild places? NOT. The sodium heavy coal is destined to feed the pollution belching power plants of a horribly polluted China. Arch Coal proposes to bring the coal to the northwest coast of Washington and Oregon by coal train. Arch and BSNF need 2700 acres of new right-of-way along the Tongue river which borders the Cheyenne's reservation. The reservation has some of the best air quality in the nation. Dirty mile long coal trains will chug through the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area and central Washington to proposed terminals on the Pacific Coast.

    Of course environmentalists are alarmed by these latest corporate plans to alter the global climate and destroy Americans' quality of life. Each year America's own coal plants produce about 130 million tons of ash waste that are contaminated with mercury, lead and arsenic. About 40% is recycled, but the rest is dumped. If China is able to source coal relatively cheaply from the United States, its power companies have less incentive to switch to cleaner power production. Coal mining in the Basin has left indelible scars on the land. Thousands of acres are strip mined. Six in Montana alone cover 1,000 acres. Wastewater and from mines and coal methane wells has raised the Tongue River's salinity so high some irrigators will not use the water for fear of injuring their hayfields. Uncovered coal trains spread coal dust along their route posing a particulate pollution hazard to communities next to the right-of-way [photo]. Freighters taking on coal at ports also present a source of carcinogenic pollution. Commercial and tribal fishing is big business in the Northwest and it would undoubtably be affected by an export coal industry. For example the proposed Cherry Point terminal in Washington would be build on an Indian burial ground and a state aquatic reserve. It would wipe out the Lummi fishing business that owns the largest fleet on the 'left' coast. Other industrial devlopment such as oil refineries has killed off 90% of the area's herring and the shellfish are too contaminated to eat. Declining salmon runs already jeopardize Puget Sound's few remaining orcas. For the first time in Wyoming's history the BLM failed to receive a single bid to mine the state's portion of Powder River coal last August. Maybe there is still hope.

    Tuesday, November 19, 2013

    COTW: Unaffordable Affordable Health Care

    As real reformers and cat herders like US Person warned before the insurance industry's preferred option was passed in Congress, health care costs will not be controlled by Obamatron's healthcare legislation even after they get the website to work properly. As evidence here is a chart run by the Washington Post's "wonk blog" of Massachusetts's experience with its private insurance-based revision:

    The federal legislation is modeled upon the Massachusetts plan which the late Senator Ted Kennedy helped to pass in his state. The number of adults who have opted to suffer rather than go to a doctor has crept steadily upward (blue line). Without a doubt, health coverage has expanded under the plan since 2006, but authors of a recent study of the state system say, "Massachusetts continues to struggle with escalating health care costs..." US Person says the solution to escalating costs is a single-payer system. In practical terms that means building up and improving the existing Medicare/Medicaid program to cover every American. Socialized medicine works in other countries, is America so different? NOT. Of course, we may have to sell a few submarines to pay for it. Just one of twenty-one examples of the United States' ludicrous health costs:

    Monday, November 18, 2013

    Russia Considers Piracy Charges Against Greenpeace

    credit: Rose/AP
    Update: A Russian court has granted bail to three Greenpeace crew members--the ship's Russian doctor, a Russian photographer, and a press spokesperson. Bail was set at $61,200 for each. A separate court in St. Petersburg denied bail to an Australian citizen who participated in the protest. Twenty-seven activists are still in jail. More may be released soon, but it is not clear if foreign nationals will be allowed to leave Russia.   The reduced charge of "hooliganism" carries a heavy seven year maximum. Hooliganism entered the English language at the end of the 19th Century when a south London gang, the "Hooligan boys" gained notoriety. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle later used the term in one of his Sherlock Holmes stories, "The Adventure of the Six Napoleons". In Russia, "khuligan" refers to scofflaws and political dissenters and the charge is used by prosecutors as a catch-all for criminalizing unapproved behavior. Russia refused to participate in a Law of the Sea arbitration demanded by the Arctic Sunrise's nation of registry, Denmark. Russian authorities dismissed the request saying it does not have to participate in legal disputes concerning "sovereign rights and jurisdiction". Earlier, Greenpeace introduced satellite data showing its ship was outside the 500 meter exclusion zone around the Prirazlomnaya platform.

    Latest: {24.10.13}Russian authorities have reduced the charges against Greenpeace activists who took part in a Bering Sea protest aboard the Arctic Sunrise. The charge is now one of "hooliganism" a Russian offense that is akin to vandalism. The same charge was used against "Pussy Riot", a feminist punk-rock group who performed a lewd political song without permission in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, Moscow. Three of the group were sentenced to two years imprisonment after awaiting trial for about five months without bail. The Greenpeace activists still have not been granted bail after two months. Murmansk jail conditions are described in a letter to home as cold and basic; perhaps making a young British female activist feel she was born to loose.

    Update: In an expected move, Russian law enforcement officials have charge 30 people with piracy, a serious felony, in response to a Greenpeace protest against drilling in the Arctic. The charged includes a British journalist and a Russian cameraman on board the Arctic Sunrise when it was assaulted by Russian spetznaz last month. Greepeace called the charges an "imaginary crime".  Dutch government said it would start arbitration proceedings to return the Dutch registered ship and its crew. Greenpeace is protesting the exploitation of oil deposits in the Arctic Sea, until recently relatively untouched by the international oil industry. The organization has consistently made the point that exploiting the Arctic's resources will exacerbate global warming. The most recent report by the International Panel on Climate Change says humanity can only emit around 800 gigatons of carbon and still limit global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celcius. As of 2011 humans have already released 530 gigatons. This means the world's remaining fossil fuel deposits will have to remain unburned, a highly unlikely scenario given the huge profits to be had by international oil corporations.

    {25.09.13}Russian spetznaz borded the Greenpeace ship, Arctic Sunrise on the 19th, dropping down from a military helicopter on ropes to the deck of the ship in the Barents Sea . Greenpeace is protesting drilling in the Arctic by the Russian company Gazprom which it considers to be "one of the most reckless oil companies in the world today." The raiders held the bridge crew at gunpoint and took over the ice breaker bringing it into Kola Bay about six miles from Murmansk. No one was injured during the operation. On Tuesday the Russian government announced it would open a criminal case against Greenpeace activists for piracy. The charge carries a 15 year prison sentence No formal charges have yet been filed. An Russian investigator said the Greepeace icebreaker was crammed with electronic equipment of "unclear purpose", and that some activists attempted to board a drilling platform operated by a Gazprom subsidiary evoking "reasonable doubts about their intent". Greenpeace said its activists intended to raise a banner on the Prirazlomnaya drilling platform to protest Arctic pollution. Activists approached the giant platform in small boats launched from the Arctic Sunrise the day before the seizure. Two attempted to climb up the platform, but crew members cut their ropes causing them to fall back into the frigid water. A Russian Greenpeace representative disparaged the potential serious criminal charges labeling them "absurdist". She said the organization's ship was in international waters and the Russian government had no right to board a peaceful foreign ship. Russia'a Foreign Ministry reportedly summoned the Dutch ambassador asking him to ensure the Netherlands registered Arctic Sunrise would not engage in such activity again.

    Deepwater Horizon Trial Concludes

    Phase II of the BP trial in New Orleans federal court to determine liabilities for the Deepwater Horizon disaster ended Friday. Judge Carl Barbier called for summations and proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law by December 20th. Responses are due by January 24, 2014.  The second phase focused on BP and its partners' spill responses in the first three days of the Macondo well blowout that killed 11 workers, injured 16 others, and killed uncounted numbers of federally protected wild creatures. Millions of barrels of crude were released into the Gulf of Mexico. The legal total was the subject of the trial's Phase II. That number will determine in large part the amount of damages to be assessed against BP and its "aligned partners" for the spill.  Parties who presented witnesses will be limited to 40 pages in their briefs.

    Barbier did not indicate from the bench Friday if he would hold yet another phase of the trial in which penalties would be determined. Penalties could be enhanced from $1100/barrel spilled to $4300/barrel spilled if evidence shows that BP or its partners were grossly negligent or engaged in willful misconduct. Even untrained US Person thinks there is evidence in the record to support a finding of gross negligence. Even a maximum penalty of $18 billion would not cause British Petroleum to go bankrupt. The company generates tens of billions in worldwide revenue each year.

    Saturday, November 16, 2013

    Condors Get Protection from Lead

    Hopper Mtn NWR
    Restoring the California condor (Gymnogyps californianus) to the wild has been an intensive, decades long effort. The first generation of wild condors are now taking to the skies above California [photo] and our friend Gov. Jerry Brown helped to keep them flying. He signed historic legislation last month that requires hunters to use lead-free ammunition, the last source of unregulated lead in California's environment. The danger to wild birds from lead has been known since the 19th Century, but it was not until 1991 that the federal government banned the use of lead shot for waterfowl hunting. Audubon California joined the fight to ban lead when research showed that lead poisoning was the greatest threat to restoring the California Condor. In 1987 all twenty-two remaining wild condors were captured and a captive breeding program begun. This conservation project may be one of the most expensive ever undertaken for a single species, costing over $35 million since WWII (in contrast, a single nuclear submarine cost $2.6 billion to build) Today there are perhaps 435 living condors, 237 living in the wild, and 198 in captivity, making it one of the rarest bird species in the world. Lead poisoning is particularly a problem for the scavenger due to its extremely strong digestive juices which can dissolve bone as well as lead pellets embedded in a carcass.  Golden and Bald eagles also are threatened by consumption of lead ammunition.  Lead in wild game poses a problem for human consumption too. Although voters favored the legislation by a 2:1 margin the bill faced stiff opposition from the gun lobby. Assembly Bill 711 requires a gradual phase out of lead ammunition through 2019.

    Friday, November 15, 2013

    'Toontime: Let Them Not Eat

    [credit: Mike Lukovitch]

    The United States sent one of its aircraft carriers to aid the Philippines in recovering from one of the strongest typhoons on record. At home, the federal government is cutting food stamp aid to pay for more aircraft carriers.  Well, perhaps not aircraft carriers, but the Navy just launched its eleventh Virginia class submarine, USS North Dakota.  The Navy wants 30 of these ultra-sophisticated nuclear subs.  SSN 784 cost $2.6 billion to build.

    [credit: Jeff Koterba, Omaha World Herald]
    Wackydoodle sez, Quik come see, it's two fer agin!

    Thursday, November 14, 2013

    COTW: Economic Policy in Two Charts

    The Senate's Banking Committee will host Federal Reserve chair nominee Janet Yellen this week for a round of friendly posturing before the cameras. Expect no bombshells. What you can expect in monetary policy to come is more of the same. The US Federal Reserve, because it is the handmaiden of financial interest, will continue to keep interest rates near zero and print more money. To do otherwise would risk a repeat of the Panic of 2008. Call it the "Japanning"
    of the US economy. This chart explains why there is no apparent high inflation after five years of easy money policy:

    Like an addict who no longer gets high on the usual amount of drugs, the general US economy is not responding to quantitative easing, but the stock markets sure are. If reserve injections were evenly distributed throughout the economy the multiplier effect would be higher and stable. Beside benefiting asset owners, the Federal Reserve has a mandate to implement policies that foster full employment, but it and the administration has accepted high unemployment as a new fact of life. Apparently, it is easier to consider US Person "unemployable" than give him a job. Failing to respond to long-term employment while implementing austerity policies has reduced our nation's productive capacity by about 7%:

    source: Mother Jones

    Wednesday, November 13, 2013

    Chickens Enjoy Free Range

    The European Union banned chicken battery cages last year.  Typically the wire mesh cages gave 4-5 hens only the space covered by a piece of A4 paper in which to survive.  In the US eight birds are crammed into the same space.  Such treatment is literally a living nightmare.  These hens never experience natural light, fresh air, earth beneath their feet, or stretch their wings before they are taken to the slaughterhouse.  An improvement, but not much, is the colony cage which is sometimes called the "enriched cage" since they are slightly less crowded (20% more square space than an A4 page) and allow some movement.  But hens cannot perch or avoid hen pecking.  Modern laying hens are bred to produce a unnaturally high number of eggs that deplete the animals calcium stores resulting in osteoporosis and fractures.  Battery raised eggs are noticeably inferior.

    The ideal way to raise chickens is the free range method, that costs more per egg so is incompatible with the strictures of unethical capitalism, but the hen giving up her eggs for human consumption leads a life more approaching normality.  In a word, the hen is happier.  A free-range hen lives in a shelter where she has a nest in which she can do her duty quietly and with some comfort.  During the day she can roam her enclosure, peck the ground, flap her wings, and occasionally even get off the ground.  Her interactions with other birds are less stressful. She can have a dustbath if she likes.  The difference can be likened to heaven and hell: as a consumer you have a choice, support hell or help heaven.

    Will Yellowstone be Quieter this Winter?

    visitor w/ respirator
    Snowmobilers have turned Yellowstone National Park into their own winter wonderland, scaring the wildlife from their homes and polluting the atmosphere [photo]. Smog lined the roadways and rangers directing traffic began wearing respirators. The crush of noisy, smelly machines deteriorated other visitors' experience of nature. Most snowmobiles currently used employ two stroke engines that pass 20-33% of the fuel which is mixed with lubricating oil straight out the tailpipe. Pressure from environmentalists and a lawsuit convinced the Park Service to write a Winter Use Plan to address the threat to Yellowstone's preservation.  The Clinton administration began the process of writing a rule but it was not finalized before the Charlatan and his fossil fuel handlers were able to kill the Clinton rule which suppressed snowmobile use in the Park in favor of multi-passenger snow coaches.  NRDC and other conservation groups represented by Earthjustice won a victory against Bush's permissive rule for snowmobiles on the basis that it would impair the Park's resources. The following years saw a battle between conservations and snowmobile advocates over how the Park could be used in winter without killing off the natural beauty of the place.

    Yellowstone Lake sunset
    The Park Service has adopted a different regulator approach in contrast to caps on vehicle numbers which hopes to balance private access during the winter with protection of the Park's natural assets. In the final rule the Service has set up "110 transportation events" per day. Only fifty of those can include snowmobiles and those events cannot exceed an average of eight snowmobiles during the winter. The rule may allow total traffic to increase above the current cap of 318 snowmobiles per day, but manufacturer's and operators are required to cut noise and carbon monoxide emissions by 2015 using the best available technology if they want to operate their machines in the Park. NRDC is generally pleased with the new rules after sixteen years of lawsuits and five environmental impact statements. Of course the rule could be more advantageous to Nature. In US Person's view, snowmobile use is incompatible with the Park's real purpose--preservation of the wild (see Organic Act of 1916). It is the publics' Park, but if they want to revel in unspoiled nature they should put forth the effort during their visits to keep it that way and respect the year-round residents.

    Tuesday, November 12, 2013

    TEPCo Postpones Rod Removal at Fukushima

    After 150,000 signatures was presented to the United Nations asking for a global intervention into TEPCo frightening effort to remove fuel rod assemblies from Fukushima's Unit #4 elevated cooling pool, TEPCo announced it was postponing the harzardous removal project for "more tests". The US Energy Department will meet this week to brainstorm how to remove the heavy, extremely radioactive rod assemblies safely. The assemblies are clad in zirconium alloy which is highly flammable if exposed to air. Consequently the assemblies must be kept immersed in water while they are removed. Years of exposure to radiation have made the assemblies brittle. In short, the dangerous engineering task is one that has not been confronted before and isprobably beyond the resources of any one company or government. But as the October 25th 7.3 trembler in the region demonstrated it is a project that must be completed safely. Three reactor cores have been lost at Fukushima--literally melted through the basements and into the ground. At last report the cores did not reach China!

    But a lot or radioactivity is reaching the Pacific ocean and it is spreading. 400 tons of contaminated water enters the ocean every day. [photo]The damaged facility has been leaking radioactive water for two years and will continue to do so until TEPCo finds a way to contain it all. Alaskan
    scientists are already concerned about the levels of contamination being found in fish and wildlife along the Pacific coast, and it could reach levels not seen since atmospheric testing of atomic weapons was ended in the 1960's. The official position is that radioactive fallout is not a problem since it will have dissipated once it reaches North America. But a US Atomic Energy Commission memo from 1955 says, "dissipation of radioactive fallout in ocean waters is not a gradual spreading out of the activity from the region with the highest concentration to uncontaminated regions, but in all probability the process results in scattered pockets and streams of higher radioactive materials in the Pacific.

    Monday, November 11, 2013

    Shark Finning Continues

    credit: INTERPOL
    Cynically exploiting a loop-hole in the international ban against shark finning adopted last year, shark hunters are leaving valuable shark fins attached to a butchered shark's spinal column [photo]. The fleshy carcass is dumped overboard, so the butchers can still fill their boats with fins. The ban requires that shark fins must be "naturally attached to the body". The tactic was discovered by Costa Rican coast guard who notified Interpol. A purple notice was sent out to 190 countries that adopted the ban. Interpol tracks and suppress fisheries crimes that cost the global economy $23 billion each year and is connect to other forms of organized, international crime.   More than 30 million sharks are estimated to be killed on an annual basis supplying the trade. In Asia shark fin is considered a delicacy with curative properties, but education campaigns coupled with better law enforcement have succeeded in reducing demand as measured by falling prices in Hong Kong and other Chinese markets.

    Sunday, November 10, 2013

    True America: Poverty for the Rest of US

    Twitter's IPO almost doubled in price after its appearance on the Wall Street casino giving the rich who can afford to buy IPO securities in large amounts yet another opportunity to get richer quick. The real story for the rest of US is the $7.25/hr world where secure jobs paying living wages are hard to find, debt piles up, and families live without financial security (Australia has one of the highest minimum wages in the world at $16.88)

    Friday, November 08, 2013

    'Toontime: Lil' Green Merkle

    [credit: Shrank, The Independent]
    Wackydoodle sez: Only exceeded mit der Englisher schnüffel!
    Snowdenfall is continuing unabated. Now we learn Ed was industrious indeed. He convinced co-workers to give him their passwords so he could obtain even more embarrassing information about the paranoia that rules Washington. He persuaded 20 to 25 coworkers at the secret Hawaiian NSA base to give him access to classified information. Some of those cooperatives have been removed from their assignments. This development indicates the lax security NSA tolerated within its walls. Snowden's leaks are without doubt the worse breach of the secret agency's classified files in its sixty-one year history. This week the British signals intelligence agency, GCHQ publicly testified before a parliamentary committee about its operations. Nothing new was revealed in the typically polite questioning, but it was clear British security chiefs were livid about the effects of Snowdenfall. The GCHQ head predictably said, "Al Qaeda is lapping this up." Both GCHQ and NSA have been accused of undermining encryption code used by commercial internet companies like Google. GCHQ uses a program named "Tempora" which stores intercepted internet content for up to three days and metadata for up to thirty.

    Editing the Book of LIfe

    The UK's Independent reports that a gob-smaking breakthrough in genetic engineering has been developed based on research conducted at UC Berkeley. The technique dubbed "Crispr" derives from bacterial defense mechanisms against viruses has been hailed as a milestone in medical science because it promises an accurate and precise means of editing the DNA code in humans. Applications for treatment of hereditary diseases such as sickle-cell anaemia and Down syndrome or incurable virus infections like HIV are obvious. Up until this development substitution or modification of a human's genome was full of risk. Modified viruses used to insert DNA did so on a random basis. Crispr uses an exact RNA model of the desired code modification and an enzyme, CAS9, to line up the model RNA with the target sequence of the DNA molecule exactly. CAS9 cuts both strands of the double helix and the RNA sequence is inserted. In the laboratory the process is precise and repeatable. Professor Mello of U Mass Medical School, who won the 2006 Nobel Prize for Medicine for his genetic research called Crispr a "triumph of basic science...a tremendous breakthrough with huge implications for molecular genetics. It's a real game-changer." However, prospects of people demanding "designer babies" have made the process illegal in many countries including the UK and the United States. Some scientists believe it is only a matter of time before doctors performing in-vitro fertilizations will suggest eliminating genetic diseases from affected embryos using the Crispr process before they are implanted in the womb.
    Francis comforts a sufferer of genetic disease
    This process was first identified by researchers at University of California, Berkeley in bacteria's natural immune defense against invading viruses. Last year a research team led by Jennifer Doudna published a seminal study showing that Crispr can be used to target any region of a genome in various species including humans. Several other teams have demonstrated the technique's accuracy in plants, worms, fruit flies, mouse embryos, and human stem cells in culture. The technique's ease of use and effectiveness made therapeutic application immediately apparent. Dr. David Adams, a DNA researcher at Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge said, "There have been other technologies for editing genomes but they all leave a scar behind or foreign DNA material in the genome. This [Crispr] leaves no scars behind and you can change individual nucleotides (G,T,A,C) of DNA--the letters of the genetic textbook--without any other unwanted changes." Finally, it really is a brave, new world.

    Thursday, November 07, 2013

    ALEC Turned Back in Ohio

    The Koch Brothers' propaganda and canned legislation machine, ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) suffered a rare defeat in Ohio according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). The corporate backed lobby group rolled out a legislation package erroneously named the "Electricity Freedom Act". The pre-packaged legislation was aimed at rolling back renewable electricity standards adopted by states to require utilities to generate electricity using certain percentages of renewable energy like wind and solar. ALEC got their biased legislation introduced in about a dozen state legislatures this year. However, ALEC was unable to convince any state government to repeal renewable energy standards thanks to UCS and other clean energy advocates. They flooded legislators' offices with information about renewable energy that showed utilities are meeting their renewable goals with little or no cost to consumers. The counter lobbying help defeat ALEC's fossil friendly legislation in Ohio where one corporate-sponsored legislator said Ohio's renewable energy legislation was akin to "Stalin's five-year plan". Minnesota went Ohio one better adding a new solar requirement to its renewable standards. ALEC does not take no for an answer, especially on its fortieth anniversary. It will launch another round of attacks in Ohio despite the latest report from Michigan which shows that state's renewable energy standards are working.
    Cleveland, 1887: first automatic wind turbine

    Republican Governor Rick Snyder released a report saying the state can increase its reliance on renewable energy to 30% or more by 2035 and still maintain cost-effective, reliable electrical energy. The report also concluded that the current standards are attracting significant investment to Michigan, as well as job growth in clean energy industries. Renewable energy costs are far lower than originally anticipated and performing better than expected according to the Michigan governor's office. Despite the science-based evidence that green power works well, the United States is far behind Germany, which recently hit a 59% peak in green power production as a nation, thanks to the malignant influence of the fossil fuel industry in the United States. Is Germany's unquestionable commitment to green energy one reason our corporatist government is spying on Chancellor Merkle? Inquiring minds want to know!

    Wednesday, November 06, 2013

    Drones Over Africa

    The news is full of stories about governments using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to spy on citizens or kill terrorists or just alleged terrorists. Increasingly a beneficial use for drones has been found: protecting wildlife from destruction by man. The little planes, some small enough to be launched by hand, are being deployed around the globe in the fight against organized gangs decimating wildlife for their horns, hides and bones. The poachers are armed with automatic weapons and are not afraid to take on outgunned rangers because the prices paid by ignorant people for wildlife parts is relatively enormous. The wildlife black market in Asia is estimated at $10 billion. UAVs might help even the odds against the criminal cartels. Drones can cover large swaths of wild territory and pinpoint criminal activity because gunshots may no longer be an indication of poaching in progress. Killers have sometimes resorted to tranquilizer guns to immobilize their victims and then hack off tusks and horns with machetes while the animal is still alive. The pictures of brutally slaughtered animals are simply too nauseating to post.

    credit: Ithaca College/Thompson
    All of Africa is under assault from these merciless criminals supplying the mostly Asian market. Even the remotest sanctuaries are not free of their depredations. Dzanga Bai, a remote clearing in Dzanga-Ndoki National Park, is where two hundred forest elephants gather to bath and drink the mineral water [photo]. They have grown accustom to human visitors peacefully watching them. Until Sudanese criminals penetrated to the clearing, climbed the viewing tower and mowed down 26 elephants before help could arrive. Governments have been very slow to react to the reality that wildlife trafficking is financing civil unrest. Even when they do recognize the problem, they often lack the resources to do anything about it. Wildlife rangers are underpaid and under- equipped. The job was once primarily protecting humans from animals, now it is becoming increasingly more dangerous as desperadoes of all sorts resort to wild areas for protection, food, and money. Rangers are in the front lines. Advanced nations, which are the end markets for the body parts, must help poor countries protect their natural heritage. The UK has sent paratroopers to Kenya to train rangers so they can better protect Kenya's elephants. The United States' federal government has recently pledged to increase its financial support of wildlife protection. UAVs are part of this increased support. Namibia has a lot of rhinos left, so it plans to deploy drones with night sensors to stem the tide of poaching across the border that is devastating South Africa's rhinos. Between 2006 and 2012 Namibia lost only five rhinos, South Africa lost 1,805. Namibia, because of its emphasis of local involvement in conservation, is literally sitting on top of a horn gold mine. Ruthless poachers will be sure to follow.

    The UAVs are an quantum improvement over collars and tags. They are less invasive for the animals humans are trying to protect. Drones can inexpensively stay aloft for hours to monitor favorite trials, foraging areas and water holes that are hot spots for poaching. Poachers tend to strike at night in the light of a full moon. Finding them before they kill is difficult. The technology allows rangers to get a jump on the enemy and intercept them before the slaughter is over and all that is left at the scene are rotting bodies and tire tracks into the bush. But no gadget alone will make Africa's dwindling wildlife safe until the criminal bosses at the top of the supply chain are caught and imprisoned or superstitious and greedy people stop buying animal remains.

    Tuesday, November 05, 2013

    Junk from Japan, Enjoy!

    Not only is Japan irradiating the Pacific Ocean and its sealife with Fukushima fallout, but its tsunami debris are headed our way too. A floating island of debris the size of Texas is sitting on the ocean surface 1700 miles off the coast, between Hawaii and California. Some debris already reached Alaskan shores back in April, 2012. It is estimated the debris island weighs over one million tons. The conglomeration contains just about everything you can think of that floats and was destroyed by the tsunami of March, 2011: boats, houses, electrical appliances, furniture, and plastic consumer items. All of it was dragged out to sea by the huge waves. NOAA says the movement of the junk remains unpredictable and it could wash ashore anywhere on the Pacific coast within the next few years. The Japanese ministry of environment says about 5 million tons of rubbish left Japan in the aftermath of the tsunami.

    Some US Fisheries Rebound

    NRDC tells US that America's once abundant fisheries have achieved a significant recovery in just fifteen years. Fished to the point of collapse in the early 1990's [graph], fisheries in the Pacific Northwest and New England have benefited from scientifically controlled fishing under the Sustainable Fisheries Act passed in 1996. NRDC looked at 44 species that were previously overfished. Sixty-four percent have returned to healthy numbers or have made significant progress towards that goal. Even in the face of positive results like these, knee-jerk anti-regulators in Congress continue their attack on these regulations and other environmental protections under their sociopathic mantra of 'bad for business'. US Person thinks no fish in a polluted ocean is even more bad for business. Sustainable fishing in the United States is worth an estimated $31 billion in economic benefits such as jobs. Put that in your empty net.

    Monday, November 04, 2013

    COTW: Squeezing the Middle

    This chart shows the inevitable disintegration of the middle class when society becomes stratified by economic means. The rich become too remote from the poor, increasingly unconcerned with them, and hold no common interests needed to preserve democratic institutions:
    [credit: Residential Segregation by Income, 1970-2013]
    Sorting neighborhoods by income has grown substantially in the last forty years. Income segregation among blacks and Hispanic families is much more prevalent than among white families. In 1970 65% of families lived in middle class neighborhoods, but by 2009 that category was only 42%. Some studies of the effects of socio-economic segregation tend to show that it affects residents' lives substantially. For example, prolonged residence in very poor neighborhoods harms school achievement and outcomes. Anyone who grew up in a ghetto, can tell you how difficult it is to escape the cycle of poverty and achieve a modicum of financial security. The class lines based on wealth are hardening.