Saturday, August 30, 2014

'Toontime: All Together Now!

credit: Tim Eagan
Wackydoodle sez: Don' tell em that thar's a RD180!
The West continues to accuse Russia of sending troops across the border to aid separatists holding out in Donetsk and Luhansk while President Putin compares the siege of these two cities to the siege of Leningrad in WWII. The rhetoric is getting very hot, and the German Foreign Minister has warned that the situation is slipping out of control. A direct military confrontation between Ukraine and Russia could occur if border infringements do not stop. EU leaders are meeting on Saturday to consider more sanctions against the Russian economy in response to the presence of Russian soldiers inside Ukraine. NATO released a satellite image that allegedly shows Russian self-propelled artillery inside Ukraine; the Kiev government has applied for membership in the western military alliance. Western observers say the rebels opening another front along the coast of the Sea of Azov and the capture of Novoazovsk was made possible by the arrival of Russian troops. Russia continues to deny it is violating Ukraine's sovereignty.  Around 2500 people have been killed in the fighting in eastern Ukraine, or "Novorossiya" as Putin sees it, according to the BBC.

credit: Luojie, China Daily
BC Idonwanna sez:  White man big as mountain, but little man has strong medicine!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Family of Fukushima Suicide Compensated

TEPCo, the owner of the destroyed nuclear power plant at Fukushima, was ordered by a Japanese district court to pay $472,000 to a family of chicken farmers to compensate for the suicide of Hamako Watanabe [photo credit: Reuters/Kyodo]. She became depressed after the family was forced to move from their farm to escape radioactivity released by plant's multiple meltdowns in July 2011. Mikio doused herself with kerosene and ignited it. Her husband refused to settle with the government-connected power company; the favorable ruling came as a surprise to observers. More than 150,000 residents were forced from their homes and a third of those are still living in temporary shelters. TEPCo is expected to spend $48bn in compensation for the disaster in addition to tens of billions for cleanup, containment and decommissioning. The successful lawsuit opens the way for millions more in damage claims for mental disorders allegedly resulting from the meltdowns. Awards for work-related suicides or deaths linked to overwork have a median of 36 million yen ($347,000) in the past twenty years. More than 50 of the 1500 suicides in the prefecture since April 2011 have been linked to the Fukushima nuclear facility.

1300 Fukushima citizens filed a criminal complaint against three former TEPCo executives for the disaster. Prosecutors have until October to decide if they should proceed; a citizen's judicial panel can then mandate a prosecution. The citizens' complaint came after an independent panel of experts concluded that the Fukushima disaster was preventable. Their report said that the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami was not the sole cause of the plant's destruction, but the inability of the company and the government to respond quickly caused the disaster. The report termed the failure a "lack of governance" and "collusion" between the responsible parties. The report is based on an unprecedented six month investigation involving 900 hours of hearings. ;After the verdict TEPCo issued another apology for the "disruption and concern" caused by the meltdowns. TEPCo shares have already been discounted by the market, so there was little reaction to the award.

An active fault underlies Kansai Electric Power Co's Ohi plant in western Japan. Unit#3 began re-supplying electricity to grid in July. Twenty-one of Japan's oldest reactors were constructed before seismic guidelines were established in 1981.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Chart of the Week: The Parasite Known as USA

source: Clive Maund,
Only the United States can get away with this much money creation and not experience crippling hyperinflation. This is true because the dollar is the world reserve currency. If that relationship were to be disrupted or destroyed, the "exorbitant privilege" the US enjoys--creating debt instruments out of thin air denominated in dollars that are accepted in worldwide trade for goods and services--its world dominance would end without destroying the rest of the world. Killing the parasite softly with an alternative currency scheme is exactly what China and Russia are doing now. The US has made a strategic mistake by alienating and disrespecting Russia to the point of re-igniting the Cold War. But then that is exactly what the corporate warmongers in the Pentagon and its weapons industry want--the re-establishment of extremely lucrative demand they enjoyed for fifty years after WWII.

No amount of hysterical propaganda about Trojan trucks alters the fact that Russia, in a financial alliance with China, has the means to bring down the dollar. America itself is already crumbling within as greater numbers of its people collect government benefits--whether social security, disability, food stamps or welfare--and do not contribute to GDP. The middle class is being squeezed into indebted poverty [chart above] while economic recovery is flogged by the corporate media shills. In sharp contrast, those relatively few individuals whose wealth is based on financial manipulation, oil & gas or weapons manufacture are thriving. That sad fact does not stop the arrogant US elites from fomenting a crisis, Ukraine, as an excuse to conduct economic warfare against one of its militarily strongest competitors. (Thank you, Zbignew Brezezinski) Team USA cannot bomb the Kremlin into slavishly accepting the dollar corner on world trade without risking its own profitable civilization. So that is why President Putin and his Chinese counterpart are making moves toward an Asian trade sphere in which the dollar will NOT be accepted as legal tender. So it goes while the Current Occupant does a passable imitation of Nero at the golf course. US Person advises: militarized police is no accident, but preparation for what could come.

BRICS leaders at summit

China Faces Extreme Drought

dried up well, Yunnan Province
Think California's drought is bad? It is, with 60% of the state in extreme
drought conditions. However, China is about to eclipse California, the world's eighth largest economy, once again.  The country's ministry of water found that 55% of China's rivers that existed in the 1990's have dried up.  That's right--disappeared. More than 400 cities are short of water supplies with 110 facing serious scarcity. Most of the water supply is in the country's south. Northern cities have had to dig deeper wells, but the underground supply is running out. Beijing residents in one neighborhood (Haidan district) are taking matters into their own hands and digging wells in the street next to their homes. Most surface water is polluted by development and industry. It is nearly redundant to mention that China is the world's most populous country with one-fifth of the globe's human population. Its economy will soon eclipse the United States' as the world's biggest. China only has 7% of the worlds freshwater reserves.

Unlike developing countries facing water shortages, China has the means to do something about it. One way to mitigate the consequences of drought is too reduce the use of domestic water supplies or to achieve the same end outsource water-intensive agriculture. China has been acquiring land across Africa for the last two decades. It is doing the same in South America. Historically, water has been the cause of wars; Sumerians fought over it in the Fertile Crescent. Now, China is poised to commandeer the upper Mekong basin for its use, and upsetting India, Myanmar and poor Bangladesh. Only one of those countries is a nuclear power. 47% of the world's non-polar fresh water is supplied by rivers shared by two or more states simultaneously. Nevermind religion, water is a necessity of life and countries will do what they can to obtain enough supply

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Sixth Extinction Rolls On

More: Influential Harvard biologist, Dr. E.O. Wilson, has made a radical proposal to save wildlife from the Sixth Extinction. Speaking to the Smithsonian Institution journal, Wilson says humans must withdraw from half the planet's area to prevent a "biological holocaust". He envisions a planetary network of wildlife corridors from north to south poles to allow species to move with temperature changes and west to east to allow species to move in accordance with changing rainfall patterns.{14.05.11, Refuge for Ice Bears} This web of life covering Earth is within the realm of the possible. The Yellowstone to Yukon conservation initiative running 2,000 miles from Wyoming to Canada's Yukon territory is a beginning. {19.11.11, Transboundary Conservation} The initiative encompasses an entire mountain ecosystem and allows animals 502,000 square miles of space in which to live naturally. Of course capitalists will oppose mightily any effort to set aside land and the mineral resources it might contain solely for conservation purposes. The fact that no new national parks have been designated in this century indicates Capital's depth of opposition. According to Wilson scale is important to preserving species. Small habitat areas without links to other similar habitats become biological islands. Genetic health and diversity decline; animals become more vulnerable to disease and disasters without the ability to disperse. Even though his theory of island biogeography is regarded as authoritative, the US currently protects only 4% of its land area. Wilson wants to protect half the Earth! Wilson says battles are where most progress is made, and the goal is half the Earth.

only known drawing of an Oceanic parrot, Vava'u 1793
{21.08.14}The Sixth Great Extinction of species in the planet's history and the only one caused by human activity shows no sign of slowing. The ICUN recently updated its Red List adding 361 bird species following a major taxonomic review of non-perching birds. 87 of those added face extinction. The review determined that many formally classified sub-species or races are actually distinct species. For example the Somali ostrich is now considered a separate species of ostrich (Struthio molybdophanes), and it is listed as vulnerable because of egg-stealing and hunting by humans. Two New Caledonia birds were added to the List as possibly extinct: buttonquail and nightjar. The Sinu paraket from Columbia was also listed as possibly extinct. The Guam kingfisher is now listed as extinct in the wild since biologists took the last remaining kingfishers off the island in 1986 because of predation by invasive snake species. 124 Guam kingfishers live in zoos around the world. Since 1500 Earth has lost 140 different birds or 1% of its total bird species. Birds are one of the most studied animal groups on Earth, so the extinction of bird species is a valid indication of the progress of the Sixth Great Extinction {08.05.07, Turtle Island}. Conservation has undoubtably saved some species from annihilation, but biologists warn that without human protection animals could suffer an extinction event that rivals the one that ended the reign of dinosaurs.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

True America: The Blacklist and Hollywood Ten

A favorite technique of radical capitalists is the economic boycott. They use it against nations like Russia, and individuals like Hollywood actors and politically active lawyers. As this video from the University of Nebraska documents, the source of the Hollywood black list was the studios' virulent anti-union policy. For decades the studios used cheap non-union labor to produce their films and efforts to unionize the work force were met with accusations of communist activity. Former president Ronald Reagan was a prominent frontman for the Screen Actors Guild and testified against union activity that he maintained was instigated by undercover communist agitators. Extreme conservative and possible Nazi sympathizer Walt Disney added his opinion that communist activity was a serious problem in his industry. One hundred and fifty one people were named in the infamous "Red Channels" pamphlet published by businessman Alfred Kohlberg, an original national council member of the extremist John Birch Society. All of these named individuals were labeled "Red Facists" by implication to avoid libel and eventually denied work in the entertainment industry because of their listing.

People who informed on their fellows--"named names"--were rewarded with work, examples are director Edward Dymytryk, a member of the original "Hollywood Ten" who capitulated during his prison term for contempt, and actor Lee J. Cobb. People who did not cooperate in the red witch hunt were punished; Charlie Chaplin was literally exiled overseas by FBI Director Herbert Hoover. Bartley Crum, a lawyer who represented some of the Hollywood Ten before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), was harassed unmercifully by the FBI, which accused him of being a "red symp" or communist sympathizer. As a result of official oppression Crum lost his clients, and unable to cope with the pressure, committed suicide in 1959. Intimidating and dividing the left is now considered to be a central goal of the HUAC hearings. Perhaps not surprisingly HUAC did its dirty work while Congress was under Democratic Party control and Democrat Harry Truman occupied the White House. The other half of the American power duopoly is vulnerable to attacks from the radical right for being "soft" on unionism, progressive socio-economics, and non-imperial foreign policy. US Person agrees with the Ten, "It depends on you:"

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Grizzly Habitat Spared Roads

A federal judge blocked a plan to build logging roads into a 36,000 acre state forest in Montana that is designated critical habitat for the grizzly, a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. The ruling came in a suit brought by three conservation groups (including NRDC) against the US Fish & Wildlife Service which issued a "taking" permit to Montana's Department of Natural Resources. To take a protected species under the Act has various meanings depending on the circumstances. In this case habitat destruction caused by road building would drive bears away from their territory and reduce their reproduction rate. The road plan would have eliminated the only undisturbed grizzly habitat left on Montana state land. Judge Donald Molloy found federal officials did not have a rational scientific basis for their decision to approve new road building in his decision issued late Thursday.

More grizzly news: biologists at Washington State University have concluded based on controlled tests administered to Kio and her fellow bears that grizzlies can use tools. Generally credited with being intelligent creatures, until now there has been no controlled testing of the specie's problem-solving capabilities [photo courtesy WSU] Kio, a nine year old female, has manipulated inanimate objects such as a stump or a plastic bin to obtain a goal, in this case a donut treat hung out of reach. That is the scientific definition of tool use. Other bears in her test group are still learning how to get the donut; there is no training involved in the testing. The results are not surprising since bears have been raiding closed garbage containers in parks for decades. Even US Person would stand on a stump for donut!

Friday, August 22, 2014

20 Earthquakes Plague Oklahoma in One Day

Fracking, the process of hydraulic mining for shale gas and oil and injecting waste water back into the ground, has no adverse effect on the environment according to people like the Koch Bros. Look briefly at this chart:

The dramatic increase in seismic activity coincides with extensive fracking operations that have spread across the state. Twenty small earth tremors registered on Tuesday, an unprecedented event. Although most all of them were to small to do any substantial damage at the surface--below Magnitude 3--one of the quakes was a 4.3 near Guthrie, population 10,000. It was a tremor big enough to rattle china and crack walls. Oklahoma is seismically active, but the Oklahoma Geology Survey said the rate of increase in earthquakes far exceeds any documented cases of induced seismicity. The state has experienced 2500 tremors in the past five years, and nearly all of them can be linked to oil and gas operations. The process of wastewater injection is thought to alter stresses on exiting fault lines to the point of failure, causing earthquakes. The evidence is not conclusive since information about sub-surface pressures in the affected areas is rarely available. Scientists who attended the annual meeting of the Seismological Society of America agreed that fracking operations can produce earth tremors. Despite multiple research reports finding a link between fracking, injection and tremors, the industry refuses to accept the data. The Texas Railroad Commission, widely considered a captive regulator, refused to listen to residents of Azle, Texas when they asked for a halt to using nearby injection wells after it experienced 30 small quakes in three months. Sharp increases in seismic activity has also occurred in Ohio, Arkansas,  and Kansas where fracking operations are increasing. Induced tremors tend to be small in magnitude, but scientist warn that as the amount of waste water injected near faults increases over time and spreads, it could destabilize a larger fault leading to a larger seismic events

Toontime: Rankin'

credit: Michael Ramirez

It has been widely reported that the Current Occupant once characterized ISIS as the "junior varsity" of terror. He probably regrets that call as much as his infamous "Red line" phrase in regard to the use of chemical weapons in Syria. With the help of American airpower and probably American 'advisors' fighting on the ground, the Kurdish army succeeded in recapturing the dam complex in Northern Iraq taken by ISIS fighters a week ago. Less reassuring news was the beheading of an American journalist, James Foley by ISIS fighters in central Syria. That is 12th century league bloodletting in anybody's book.  The jihadists reportedly demanded a ransom of $132m. Foley's employer, GlobalPost, was willing to consider $5m Euros ($6.6m) and never took seriously the only money demand made by the bloodthirsty extremists. Foley had been held since November 22, 2012 before being executed in retaliation, according to the militants, for US airstrikes against ISIS in northern Iraq. Reportedly they also demanded the release of Aafia Siddiqui, formerly a neuroscientist at MIT, who is serving an 86 year sentence in Texas for planning a terror attack in exchange for Foley. A French journalist held captive with Foley told the press that the American was singled out by his captors for cruel treatment when they discovered he had a brother in the US Air Force. Incredibly, it was the second and last time the reporter was taken captive. He had been kidnapped in Libya and released. A commando attempt to rescue Foley failed. An estimated twenty journalists are believed to be held captive by ISIS in Syria.

Whether Foley's medieval murder will be enough to jockey the CO into deeper military action in Iraq will be known shortly. He has after all, made disengagement in Iraq and Afghanistan a central piece of his foreign policy. Washington reactionaries cynically characterize his policy as throwing in the towel; never mind that the misguided US effort in Iraq was doomed from the start. Baghdad Shiites would be delighted with the United States defending their interests now that they face an existential threat from the "junior varsity" of terror. Already the Baghdad government has expressed willingness to allow US air forces to use bases America built during the occupation to attack ISIS. Undoubtably Foley's gruesome death is a jihadist provocation intended to bring Americans back to Iraq.  Big of them, is it NOT?

credit: Bok
BC Idowanna sez: I lik'em 9 iron!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

COTW: Ferguson 'Out of Bounds'

A thousand words.

West Allowed to Buy Into Ukraine's Gas Pipelines

This is a story no one in the corporate owned-and-operated Western media is talking about. They are too busy making headlines out of half empty, white spray-painted trucks from Moscow that they have deemed a modern "Trojan Horse", or the mysterious column of Russian armored personnel carriers that according to two British journalists crossed the border into Ukraine. US Person is sure Vladimirovich is having a hearty laugh over these canards. The law allowing western investment in Ukraine's gas pipelines finally passed parliament on the second try. The first attempt ended in defeat and the resignation of the Prime Minister whose resignation was rejected by the legislature. The proposal was supported by 228 members, only two more than the required number. Western investors will be allowed to purchase 49% of the industry. Russia is currently building a bypass route under the Black Sea to western Europe, so finding western investors may be problematic for Ukraine as long as the civil war continues. The effect the measure will have on Russia's willingness to sell gas to Ukraine this winter cannot be positive. In the same session the Rada voted to impose economic sanctions on Russian companies and individuals supporting separatists in eastern Ukraine. One dissenting Ukrainian MP advised his fellow citizens to stock up on firewood and coal.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Creature Feature: Elephant Orphans

Wasan, right is a two week old orphan who receives 24 hour care
35,000 elephants were killed for their ivory in Africa last year. That leaves a lot of tiny, traumatized orphans wandering the bush to die a slow death form starvation, dehydration, injuries or predators such as hyenas which eat their victims alive. One organization in Kenya is helping to save a few of these collateral victims of man's inhumanity, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, which released pictures of their efforts in honor of Elephant Day (12 August) and posted by See all the photos of these adorable infants being cared for at the Sheldrick orphanage.

Edie & Imenti play, an important activity in overcoming trauma.

Friday, August 15, 2014

'Toontime: Deja Vu Again

credit: Monte Wolverton

Like a lingering odor, Iraq has come back to offend United States policymakers. But they have only themselves to blame for stepping in the horse shit that still sticks to their shoes. The Current Occupant was finally forced to oust Nouri al-Maliki who quit under the pressure yesterday. Is reunification what lies beyond him or possibly another dark age for the region formerly known as Iraq?. Perhaps the US military will still be fighting jihadists equipped with modern American weapons left on the battlefield by the time the next Occupant takes a seat in the Oval Office.

credit: Kevin Siers, The Charlotte Observer

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Sea Stars Dying on Both US Coasts

Starfish are dying en masse from a wasting disease on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. Researchers studying the die- off think it may be connected to warming ocean temperatures. The cause is yet unidentified and die-offs have occurred before but never of the same magnitude or wide geographic extent. Previous die-offs progressed in a predictable way and stopped spreading in winter. This is not the case in the new epidemic. This disease also affects more species of sea stars with twenty species susceptible and six highly vulnerable. It disease affects sea stars in the same way as stars are dessicated if they become trapped above the tidal zone, however, infected stars waste away in suitable habitat. The disease was first found in ochre stars (Pisaster ochraceus) along the Washington state coast. Wasting has been observed in Alaska, California, British Columbia and from New Jersey to Maine. A marine epidemiologist at Cornell University said the epidemic is the largest in the ocean he has experienced.

Sea stars are consider to be an indicator species of ocean health. The epidemic could therefore be a symptom of a much larger disequilibrium in ocean ecology. A publication from UC Santa Cruz says the current research emphasis is to identify a pathogen responsible for the disease. The publication uses bold letters to highlight the current scientific thinking that there is no evidence linking Fukushima radiation releases to the epidemic. Molecular sequencing of samples is underway at Cornell to identify possible viruses or bacteria as causative agents. Biologists know that warm water stresses marine organisms, making them susceptible to disease. Warm tidal pool temperature have been observed where sea stars are wasting away. A strong El NiƱo event is expected this winter which means more warmer sea temperatures. Scientists suspect that warm ocean temperatures intensify the spread of marine pathogens. Pathogenic impacts related to climate change have been observed in corals, shellfish, finfish, and humans.

The loss of an entire species such as ochre stars, which are formidable tidal zone predators can have wide-ranging ramifications for an ecosystem. In fact this was demonstrated by a famous experiment in marine ecology by Robert Paine at the University of Washington in 1963. He removed all of the ochre stars from a small area of rocky shore and observed to see what happened when all the stars were gone. Soon, mussels began to dominate the shore since they were no longer controlled by star predation. From this experiment the concept of a keystone species, the ability of an organism to shape its environment disproportionately to its own population, was introduced into ecological science.

Kruger Rhinos May Be Moved

Massai Mara rhino, US Person
In order to save them from unrelenting poaching, some 500 of Kruger National Park's remaining rhino will be dispersed to other, lesser known parks and private reserves if the plan is approved by South Africa's Department of Environmental Affairs. Kruger has a high profile as a rhino stronghold with 93% of Africa's white rhinos and 39% of black rhinos, so it has become an easy target of poachers. Conservation of the two species began in the early 1900s when rhinos were no living in Kruger. Fifty years ago rhinos from KwaZulu-Natal and Hluhluwe-uMfolozi were relocated to Kruger. since that time the population has continued to grow to around 21,000. The Department wants to follow the same strategy of relocation and creation of multiple strongholds to save rhino from extermination by the illegal and morally despicable horn trade. The Department thinks that strategic relocations will allow cost effective husbandry to maximize population growth.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Afghanistan War Crimes Covered Up

No surprise here. It was all done before in Vietnam. Sure, Americans eventually found out about My Lai, but that was only the largest of many, many atrocities committed by US forces in a war they could not win. The brass tried to cover-up My Lai too, but the cover eventually failed because one former soldier, Ron Ridenhour, wrote a letter to the president and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Amnesty International issued a report concerning the accountability of the US military for Afghan civilian deaths in a five year period of 2009 to 2013. The group, which has no love for the United States government, conducted 125 interviews with Afghan witnesses to attacks that resulted in civilian casualties and examined the documentary record. Amnesty International concluded that the US ignored abundant and credible evidence of unlawful killing of civilians. While the laws of war do not protect a civilian in every instance, summary executions or indiscriminate or disproportionate attacks are considered war crimes. Only six cases of unlawful killing of civilians in the last five years resulted in criminal prosecutions of US servicemen. Sgt. Robert Bales is the most notorious example, having killed 16 civilians during a nighttime rampage. He is serving a life sentence without parole for his crimes. However, other serious crimes have not been meaningfully investigated primarily because the military system relies on self-reporting. Troops in combat situations have little incentive to report possible crimes up the chain of command and many disincentives to remain silent. Even if a case reaches the level of formal prosecution and the public becomes aware of it through an Article 32 hearing, its outcome is heavily influenced by command structure. Under this arrangement only the most flagrant violations or morally reprehensible behavior becomes a criminal case in the military's courts martial. Moreover, the military withholds information on accountability for civilian casualties. FOIA requests are ineffective, or responses delayed for so long the information requested is irrelevant. The Nation filed a broad FOIA request about Afghan civilian casualties in September, 2011 and as of July, 2014 there has been no response. America's longest war is scheduled to end this year.

Night time raids by US special forces and bombing runs often result in civilian casualties that are never investigated. One example cited by Amnesty is the February 2010 raid on a family compound in Khataba Village, Paktia Province. A prominent village family was celebrating the birth of a grandson. Twenty to thirty people had gathered at night including local officials, law enforcement officers, and a vice-chacellor of nearby Gardez University. The raid began after 3am. Two guests who went outside to see what was happening were shot dead in the courtyard. Two pregnant women in the doorway were also shot dead. Only after five people were down with wounds, some fatal, did the shooting stop. Shots were fired by snipers on a nearby rooftop and there was no exchange of gunfire, just a barrage from Special Forces. The compound gate was then blown open and troops entered the house. Male occupants still alive were forced outside into the cold without shoes where they waited for hours, hands over black sacks on their heads. Pleas to aid the dying and injured were ignored. Bullets were removed from bodies and walls. The home was ransacked and valuables stolen.

When asked about this raid, US military officials claimed the victims had been killed in a "traditional honor killing" implying the Taliban was responsible. They said Special Forces found them already dead when the raid took place. An investigator from the Afghan Human Rights Commission visited the village the day after the attack and interviewed twenty people including family members and eyewitnesses. His investigation confirmed the raid was an unprovoked assault on a peaceful celebration and that there were attempts to remove evidence from the scene. His findings were later corroborated by the Criminal Investigation Division of the Afghan Interior Department. A subsequent 13 March 2010 article in the The Times of London reported a cover-up of a botched night raid that killed five civilians. In the face of adverse publicity, military authorities attempted to explain away the dead saying soldiers found the bodies during the raid, with two women bound, apparently awaiting burial. Unable to piece together a coherent or credible cover story, NATO finally admitted responsibility for the deaths in April 2010, but the US military never investigated the attack. No one involved in the attack has ever been prosecuted for a war crime. The family's patriarch reluctantly accepted some money and a few sheep as compensation for the unjustified killings when offered to him in person by Vice Admiral William McRaven, Commander of the Joint Special Operations Command. The grieving patriarch later told Amnesty he believes an informer gave false information to the US military about militant activity at his house, and he wants the perpetrators prosecuted for their crimes.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Mining Disaster at Mount Polley Mine

Canadian politicians from the Premier down are attempting to minimize the incident, but the spill of toxic mining waste from a tailing pond failure is no less an environmental disaster. Imperial Metals' Mount Polley Mine suffered a tailing pond failure (not a breach according to the company) during the night of August 4th that released 5 million m³ of contaminated water into Hazeltine Creek and from there into Quesnel Lake [photo]. The mine is an open pit copper and gold operation in south central British Columbia. The area is sparsely populated, but its natural beauty is enjoyed by recreational users. Campers near the area have been evacuated and there are no reports of injuries. A water advisory is in place. Spilled waste water failed health guidelines for both humans and wildlife.

Imperial Metals is building a temporary dike to stop the waste flow from the 4km long pond. The company is also pumping water out of the Polley Lake into two open pits on its property. The cause of the breach is not yet known, but the company was warned previously by experts who designed the containment system in February, 2011 that the tailing pond was becoming dangerously large. Mining is a key plank of Canadian Premier Chris Clark's exploitation based political platform. Imperial's new Red Chris copper-gold mine in the remote northwest is slated to be open later this year. The Mount Polley disaster has given pause to First Nation leaders about control of mine wastes. Imperial must sign an impact agreement with the Tahltan Central Council for the Red Chris mine. A recent Canadian Supreme Court decision concerning aboriginal title to land has strengthen First Nation's position in negotiations with government and industry over land use. The Tsilhqot'in decision says any consultation with First Nations over development must end in aboriginal consent.

COTW: Income Inequality--Bad for Business

So even Wall Street is waking up to the fact that a consumer-driven economy is partly gauged by the amount of fuel (cash) in the hand of Joe O. Consumer. Standard & Poors recent report said at extreme levels of income disparity, the economy could "capsize" and that the US is approaching that threshold:

The company expected an economic expansion of 2.8% but that expansion is reduced to 2.5% by the "drag on long-run economic growth" caused by extreme income inequality. So tell those loose cigarette sellers to follow the example of Wall Street bankers: run out and buy stocks and bonds with their ill-gotten gains.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Police Homicide: Another Black Teenager Killed

An undeniable fact of American life is that black males have the lowest life expectancy of any other sector of the populace. Poor health and poor health care is responsible for a large part of lower life expectancy, but black men also have more violent deaths. All too often that death comes at the end of a gun in the hands of police. An unarmed St. Louis teenager was shot to death under suspicious circumstances by a suburban St. Louis cop. A riot occurred in reaction to the shooting of Michael Brown, 18, Sunday night. The FBI will investigation the violation of Michael Brown's civil rights at the request of St. Louis County. Allegedly Brown engaged in struggle with the a Ferguson police officer seated in his patrol car. A shot was fired and Brown began to run away. Brown was shot dead at a distance of about 35 feet after the officer fired multiple shots. Witnesses say Brown threw his hands in the air when the officer began firing. His body remained unattended in the street for several hours.

In New York City an illegal police chokehold was determined to be the cause of death of a man allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes near the Staten Island ferry terminal. The chokehold was banned by the NYPD in 1993. Despite the ban there has been no punishment in nine case under review by the Citizen's Review Board. In each the NY police commissioner declined to take formal administrative action other than department discipline which may amount to no more than re-reading the rules. The seller arrested by police was grabbed from behind and put into chokehold and forced to the ground the the arresting officer kneed the victim's back while choking him[video frame, right]. Eric Garner, 43, repeatedly told officers he could not breath. Although he was in poor health according to autopsy officials, it was not the primary cause of death; Eric Garner died while extra-large and black. Another man who videoed [above] the entire incident was arrested later and charged with possession of a conceal gun.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

True America: Class Boundaries

Discussion is taking place in the media about the widening social gap between the very rich and the rest of US. It is interesting to understand how the sensitive subject of social class in a country supposedly egalitarian in its values was handled at the beginning of the Baby Boom in the 1950s. The video claims that the US has more "vertical mobility" than other nations, but it also candidly admits that important class boundaries exist. Achieved status does not always trump ascribed status. The video reinforces the reality, perhaps unintentionally, that we never one great middle class:

A more recent look at class consciousness in New York's Hamptons:

Friday, August 08, 2014

'Toontime: Connecting the Dots

credit: Michael Ramirez
Wackydoodle sez: Let Boner sue ISIS and Nouri, get me cup of Joe!
The American military's return to Iraqiville epitomizes the profligate waste of men and material in the Middle East oil wars which four presidents have authorized. ISIS has been empowered by America's unwarranted invasion and occupation of the country for nearly a decade, and by the authoritarian government it left behind to police the sectarian chasm making the arbitrary borders memorialized on paper by imperial powers irrelevant. One need not be reminded that Sadam was holding the country together until he was wrongly accused of harboring terrorists and weapons of mass destruction. That statement is not intended to be an endorsement of his methods. But it difficult for the US to pose self-righteous when it too resorted to immoral, criminal methods when confronted with the chaos of Iraq. Now there really are terrorists operating in each of the countries the United States has attacked ostensibly to make them "safe for democracy". There is no democracy in Iraq, just as there is no democracy in Afghanistan or Libya. Now there is chaos, and these days that is apparently good enough for the corporate militarists that run our central government.

credit: David Fitzsimmons, Arizona Star
BC Idonwanna sez: Fool for client, bad for bidness!


Update: It was inevitable that the US would become engaged in Iraq again to prevent ISIS from toppling what remains of the Baghdad government. Carrier aircraft from the George H.W. Bush struck artillery units attacking Kurdish troops near Erbil today. Help for Iraq included humanitarian air drops of food and medical supplies. The administration became alarmed when ISIS succeeded in defeat Kurdish troops and seized a strategic dam on the Tigris.  Kurdish officials pointed out they were outgunned by the militants who are making effective use of American weapons left behind by retreating Iraqi security forces. The Mosul dam is the country's largest providing electricity for Mosul and controls water supply for a large area of northern Iraq. The dam could be used as a weapon, unleashing a 65 foot tidal wave down the Tigris River if it is breached. Undoubtably the dam is more valuable to ISIS as a means of generating revenue from water and electricity sales. The US spent $30m refurbishing the Mosul dam. Militants are also fighting to capture the second-largest Haditha dam in Anbar Province; it is still under control of government forces. There are US troops on the ground in training and security functions, but it will not be long before they begin fighting a war against ISIS if it continues to make progress towards overthrowing the US supported central government. Those readers old enough to remember Vietnam will recall that this is exactly how American soldiers got mired in another civl war, far away and not so long ago.

28.07.14 Yes, readers we are witnessing the end of American Empire in the Middle East; not that it was ever firmly established there. A decade and more of fighting has revealed just how out-of-bounds the neocons and warmongers were when they drove the United States onto the road of dubious global hegemony based on oil-fueled military might. The latest writing on the wall: US persons are fleeing the shores of Tripoli as fighting between rival factions in the Libyan capital renders it too dangerous for them to remain. Marines protected the convoys of fleeing hacks on the ground while F-16s flew shotgun in the sky. Two US warships were stationed offshore to support the marine force if necessary. The Tripoli airport has been shut down by fierce combat between the two most powerful militias of the many contending for the spoils of what once was a developing nation with an intact infrastructure if not a completely rational national leader. So the evacuation on Saturday proceed overland to Tunisia, a five hour drive.

The phrase "civil war" is applied with alarming frequency to Central Asia. The de facto Islamic State in Iraq is expelling Christians from it's territory a few highway exits away from the hapless central government in Baghdad. The group formerly known as ISIS may be planning a hit-and-run offensive on Baghdad itself according to US military experts.  Ukraine is fighting desperately against Russian-armed separatists to hang on to two populous eastern provinces; that war has claimed its first international casualties in the shoot down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17*. Hamas and Israel are again engaged in their favorite pastime of killing each other (1000+ Gazans dead). Syria's full-blown civil war is in its third year with no end in sight. Even the once defeated Taliban is re-asserting its military power in Afghanistan as US forces leave that zone. Now, Libya is descending into the chaos amid continuous violence since NATO assisted Benghazi rebels in overthrowing Muammar Gaddafi. Libya has no noticeable national security force remaining, leaving the country subject to whichever rebel militia is strong enough to hold it. One group with ties to Al-Qaeda (Ansar al-Sharia) managed to attack and kill the American ambassador/resident CIA agent in 2012.

American political influence in the region has been radically reduced despite expenditure of tens of billions of dollars and several thousand lives. Disregarding the reflexive support of dependent Israel floating in a sea of hostile Mohammedans and NATO member Turkey only the tiny, rich oil sheikdom of Qatar is unequivocally in the US camp. Secretary Kerry put a brave face on the retreat to Tunis by claiming a willingness to re-establish formal relations on a "permanent basis" after the situation stabilizes. That is not going to be soon since entire cities like Derna are considered "no-go zones" by the US military. After the ouster of it's nationalist dictator, Libya was slated to become a safe haven for corporatists syphoning natural resources to the West. With the departure of the last symbols of American power, Libya is only safe for jihadists. Or as one insulting American exploiter in country put it, Libya has become "scumbag Woodstock"--from America, with love.

*One slight problem to pinning this tragic mistake on Russia.  Both sides in the Ukrainian civil war possess Buk mobile surface-to-air missiles.  The Pentagon claims it has a missile radar track originating in rebel held territory.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Room to Roam for Jaguar

US Person missed this story, but a positive development for wildlife is worth repeating. In March this year the US Fish & Wildlife under litigation pressure from the "bullies" at the Center for Biological Diversity reversed their previous findings and set aside critical habitat under the Endangered Species act for the jaguar (Panthera onca), America's largest wild cat. Previously reported here was the story of "Macho B" {06.04.06, The Last of His Breed} then the only known jaguar to be inhabiting the borderlands of Arizona. He was euthanized in 2009 after yahoos working for the Arizona Department of Game & Fish captured him illegally and injured him. Macho lived in the Atascosa and Pajarito mountains for at least 16 years. But no documented breeding pairs have been found in the US for over 50 years. The last known female jaguar was shot in 1963 on Arizona's Mogollon Rim. According to Fish & Wildlife only six or seven males have been spotted in the United States since 1982. The cat was placed on the Endangered Species list in 1997. Currently, there is a male jaguar living in the Santa Rita Mountains outside Tuscon on the proposed site of the Rosemont copper mine.

The endangered spotted cat now has 1,194 square miles with which to reestablish itself in this country. Jaguars travel great distances and they still live in Mexico where they are seen forty miles south of the border. Research shows that a species with a designated critical habitat is twice as likely to make progress towards recovery than one without the benefit of a designation. The Service will prepare and release for comment a draft recovery plan for the cat to fulfill its obligations under the Act. Previously the Service had concluded that designation of habitat was "not prudent", but in 2009 the Center for Biological Diversity and Defenders of Wildlife sued the agency in US District Court for Arizona. The federal court set aside the agency's determination and told it to reconsider. It took the Service four years to come up with a designation. It does not include the prime habitat of the Chiricahua Mountains in Arizona and the forested Mogollon Rim in New Mexico; historically these areas were occupied by jaguars and are still suitable habitat. The new designation does include the Santa Rita Mountains. Critical habitat means no federal agency can take actions such as issuing mining permits or commercial licenses that would make the habitat unsuitable for jaguars.

An executive of Augusta Resource Corporation, a Canadian business, says his company's copper mine project will not interfere with the recovery of the jaguar, but that the agency should not include the northern Santa Rita Mountains in its designation [photo: proposed site]. He also said his company's legal adversary, the Center of Biological Diversity, engaged in "faux science and bullying tactics" to achieve the designation. In reality, it required 17 years of persistent litigation and dedicated effort to force the federal government to help the endangered jaguar survive in America. US Person says, now Panthera, go forth and be fruitful!

Lake Erie Algae Bloom Turns Toledo Taps Off

The city of Toledo, Ohio has warned residents not to use its tap water because of the toxin Microcystin in the water system. A state of emergency was declared by the state governor on Saturday. Microcystin is produced by algae living in Lake Erie and is a liver toxin. Boiling the water will not destroy it and residents were advised to avoid contact with lake water since mycrocystin can cause skin rashes. Pets are particularly vulnerable to the toxin. A severe algae bloom is affecting the Lake Erie this summer; The New York Timesdeclared Lake Erie "sick" from eutrophication. Scientists think algae blooms are caused by agricultural runoff that is high in phosphorus content. Indeed, algae blooms occur each summer after spring rains wash heavily fertilized fields into the Erie's waters. The heavier the rains, the worse the bloom will be. 2011 was a particularly bad year [NOAA photos show beginning and largest extent, 2011].

Lake Erie suffered from runoff and industrial pollution in the 60's earning it the nickname, "the Dead Sea", but once dumping was cleaned-up and reduced, Erie recovered. Thanks to a multi-million dollar effort by the US and Canada, the lake became an environmental success story. Anglers enjoyed a rejuvenated sport fishery, catching five million walleye a year. However, the algae blooms have returned, bigger than ever. The fish catch is one-fifth its previous size. Algae thrive on phosphorous and eventhough the chemical was reduced by limiting sewage and industrial dumping in the 70s and 80s, the levels of phosphorous are rising again. When algae die and sink to the lake bed, they are consumed by bacteria which in turn consumes most of the oxygen in the water column leaving a dead zone. Lake Erie's dead zone now covers a third of the lake bottom in bad years.

To mitigate algae blooms, 70,000 farmers along the lake shore have to alter their use of fertilizers containing phosphorus. Most of the algae affecting the lake originates near Toledo where the Maumee River empties into the shallow western basin. The Maumee drains Ohio's intensive agricultural land where mostly corn and soybeans are raised. Fertilzer pellets, about 48 lbs per acre used to be plowed under, but now stay on top of soil in no-till fields (no- till practices are intended to reduce erosion and loss of topsoil). Increased rains and snows caused by global climate change are washing 1lb of the fertilizer into the Maumee which is then delivered to Lake Erie. High summer temperatures also contribute to accelerated toxic algae growth. Agricultural experts think fertilizer application can be improved, and leaving fallow land besides stream will reduce fertilzer run-off.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

No Greater Love Than This

The ultimate goal of all life on Earth is to procreate. Mammals are generally regarded as good parents in comparison to lower life forms that lay eggs and depart the scene. However, no greater devotion to raising offspring has ever been witnessed by humans than that of a deep sea octopus with no common name. A female Graneledone boreopacifica was observed brooding her young for fifty-three months! During that incredible period of 4½ years she did not eat, slowly turning white from her usual red color [photo]. She starved herself to death giving her young a chance to survive in the deep ocean. According to the scientists who wrote of her extraordinary maternal care in PLoS ONE this is the longest brooding period every reported for any animal species. The researchers returned to the brooding site 18 times using a remotely controlled submersible and each time they food the mother octopus clinging to a vertical rock face in the Monterey Submarine Canyon, covering her brood with curled arms [photo below]. They observed continuous growth of her clutch, evidence that it was the same one. Observers said many octopus females do not feed while brooding and they saw this female push away crustaceans from her eggs. She even refused food when offered to her by the submersible. Most octopus mothers brood for a few months, not four-and-a-half years.

credit: Robinson et al
This species' hatchlings are the most well developed known to man. Growing eggs require constant influxes of oxygen provided by their mother repeatedly squirting water over her brood. Clearly the extreme length of the developmental state is an evolutionary adaptation intended to increase the survival of offspring in the extreme environment of the cold, deep ocean. Only about 155 eggs hatched which is a small number compared to other octopus species that lay tens-of-thousands of eggs. Denigrate this selfless behavior as only animal instinct, but the tenacity in all its forms of life often despite man's work is always marvelous to behold. US Person believes a common name should be given to this octopus species to honor its dedication to preserving life: St.Mary's octopus.

COTW: Map of the Rich and Spiking Russia

More: President Putin is upping the ante in the tense standoff over Ukraine. Russia announced it will ban all food imports from the EU and other western countries. And in another snub at the US, Putin granted whistleblower Edward Snowden another three years on his temporary visa to reside in Russia. Snowden's presence in Russia is a considerable irritant to the US intelligence establishment. He is arguably number one on the list of wanted fugitives from "justice". Snowden has not yet been granted political asylum in Russia and it is not clear he is seeking that status. Snowden has said in an interview that he would like to return home eventually.  He is reportedly working in the information technology field and has a private bodyguard service. The Kremlin is reportedly also considering banning airlines from overflying Siberia, a move that would considerably increase the cost of Asia destinations from Europe.  Vladimirovich enjoys an 87% popularity rating, just one point below when the Russian president took on Georgia.  The Current Occupant is at 42%, below Tricky Dick at 67%

{05.08.14} This chart from MOVOTOblog shows the wealthiest resident of each of the fifty states just in case you want to move there and rub elbows:

About half of these plutocrats "earned" their wealth by founding companies. Those are well known names like Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Larry Ellison. Another common route to fabulous riches is inheritance, the Waltons of Arkansas, Texas and Wyoming and the Koch Brothers of Kansas being the most well known examples.

Perhaps a more relevant chart to current events is this one showing the trade with a re-emergent Russia. A key factor fueling the current crisis is the amount of EU imports from Russia mostly in the form of energy:

Monday, August 04, 2014

Arctic Permafrost Melts Releasing Methane

Scientist are increasingly concerned about the levels of methane gas escaping to the atmosphere from melting Arctic permafrost. Methane is 33 times more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. In July a helicopter pilot working for the gas industry spotted a large crater in the Yamal Pennisula 50 meters wide that seemed bottomless. Speculation immediately erupted about what could have caused such an unusually large sinkhole ranging from a meteor impact to extraterrestrial activity. Scientists journeyed to the remote location and found very high concentrations of methane at the bottom of the crater (9.6%). The investigators now think the crater is linked to the unusually warm summers of 2012 and 2013 that melted permafrost that collapsed the icy overlay and allowed methane to escape. Over the last twenty years permafrost up to a depth of 20 meters has warmed about 2℃. Researchers lead by Florida State University found that permafrost melting is accelerating decomposition of plantsthat is also releasing more carbon to the atmosphere. If all the world's permafrost melts as global temperatures climb, there would be five times the amount of carbon in the atmosphere than there is now.

Methane gas pressure was apparently high enough at the Yamal site to push overlaying soils away, forming the crater. Methane hydrates, in which methane is trapped in ice, occur in Arctic soils usually at a depth of 100 meters. The depth of the Yamal crater is estimated to exceed 70 meters at which depth a pool of water was viewed by a video camera lowered on a fifty meter rope. Since the discovery local herders have found similar but smaller holes in the vicinity. If a methane blow-out is responsible for the crater it could pose a safety issue to a natural gas plant 30kms away as well as villages in the area. Researchers have suggested releasing built up gas pressure by drilling holes into the permafrost, as difficult task given the remote location and danger. The crater's rim is meting and unstable, falling into the cavity

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Has Merkle Found A Way Out?

Latest: There are reports that Russia is massing amour and troops just the other side of the Ukrainian border. It is already obvious that Russian military personnel are in Ukraine aiding Ukrainian separatists. There is even speculation that the Buk mobile SAM unit which brought down MH17 was crewed by Russians. However, the official line of invasion has not been crossed yet. The head of Russian airborne units has previously stated operations will expand outside of the Russian Federation.  One website claims to show conclusively Russian Grad rockets fired from Russia (near Gukovo) into Ukraine [video].  The Pentagon is asking Congress for $19 million to train Ukraine national guard units.  Equipment valued at $7 million was sent to Ukraine in April and another $8 million including armored vehicles is being rushed to the civl war.  The Pentagon's senator, Carl Levin (D-MI), demanded the Current Occupant approve the request. He said the materiel request was "not provocative".

credit: Getty
31.07.14 With the standoff over Ukraine becoming increasingly acrimonious and the US resorting to blunt instruments of economic sanction to correct Russia's "uncivilized" behavior, German Prime Minister Merkle and President Putin are reported to be negotiating a secret deal to trade strategic Crimea, which Russia annexed and wants to keep, for energy security and financial aid to Ukraine. The deal may not be particularly palatable to hard-liners in the US, but it would end a repeat of the Cold War and the threat of nuclear confrontation between East and West. Only grandiose imperialists want that.  The UK's Independent reports from sources close to the negotiations that in return for withdrawal of Russian support for separatists, disputed eastern provinces would be allowed more devolved powers and Ukraine would have to agree not to join the western military alliance, NATO. Ukraine would get a long-term gas agreement with Russia's Gazprom just in time to avoid a deep freeze of its economy this winter. Russia would also grant an aid package to Ukraine in consideration of lost rents paid by Russia for its naval base at Sevastopol, and agree not to interfere in Kiev's desire to have closer trade ties to the EU. A deal with the Russians would be in the interest of the EU since Russia is its third largest trading partner. Sector sanctions insisted upon by the relatively insulated United States will hurt Germany and the City of London the most.

The Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 disaster interrupted negotiations, but Merkle's plan is still on the table and it is the only one in play according to insiders. If an acceptable conclusion to investigation of the crash can be achieved, negotiations could be resumed. At issue there is the identity of the forces which shot down the airliner, presumably by mistake. Central to the success of the negotiations is one of Ukraine's wealthiest businessmen, gas broker Dmitry Firtash. Firtash negotiated the first major gas deal between Russia and Ukraine, and he supported current Ukraine President Poroschenko in the recent election. Currently he is living in Vienna fighting extradition charges from the US. Firtash is acting as a confidential, high-level middleman in the discussions.

Friday, August 01, 2014

'Toontime: How Low Can You Go?

A little too course for your taste? US Person says it is historically accurate:

credit: Milt Priggee
Wackydoodle sez: Strange fruit, ain't nothing different here!

Some spectators would argue it is the Current Occupant's own fault 'they's hatin' again. If he were more popular the mad Tea Partiers would have a harder time selling their snake oil. Still, he is only second sickest President since WWII. Tricky still takes the cake for his perversion of the Constitution, war crimes, and the institutionalization of the police state:

credit: Taylor Jones
BC Idonwanna sez: Buffalo soldier very brave--no parachute!