Feb 082016
 

Well, it seems that after a 2 day rest, my DVD player works again.  I had tried quite a few DVDs and all were "bad disc".  Right now, only one of those discs is not coöperating.  Go figure.  I arrived home earlier than normal as they put mum to bed at 18:30, right after dinner.  She was out cold before the aid left the room, but I went and sat by her bed for about an hour anyway.  She looks so at peace, relaxed, and thankfully in no pain when she is sleeping.

Short Takes

Alternet — In 2015, Young released his 36th studio album, The Monsanto Years, a concept-based criticism of multinational agrochemical and biotechnology giant Monsanto, the world’s biggest seed company. A collaboration with Willie Nelson's sons Lukas and Micah, the album also condemns other industrial agriculture giants like Syngenta, Dow, Dupont and Bayer — corporations that, like Monsanto, have garnered control of global seed production.

By creating patents for genetically engineered seed, these firms have taken away farmers’ right to save their own seeds.

“Monsanto wants to sell the farmers the seeds and they want to license the seeds,” said Bob McFarland of the California State Grange. “So the farmers can only use those seeds for one cycle, then they have to go back to Monsanto and buy the seeds again.”

Click through for the complete article.  Following are 2 petitions for your signatures.  Of course there are many, many more out there.

Help STOP GMO's from being produced    U.S. GMO Foods Petition

Common Dreams — 

Warren’s timing, judgment and courage are all now being challenged.  It’s not enough to be independent, articulate, and passionate from the bully pulpit.  Achieving leadership’s full capacity inevitably involves taking a stand that is by nature risky, but all the more necessary because one’s deepest convictions will not allow any other course of action.  One feels compelled within to seize the moment.  Whatever the risks of taking a stand, the risks of letting the moment pass are greater.  However, unconventional the action required is, that action remains the most obviously impactful.

sanders-warren

If destiny offers someone like Warren the opportunity to swing the tide of the nation toward a more honest and just governance and they hesitate, well then ultimately they weren’t the leader we hoped for.  Warren has had this opportunity served up to her by Bernie Sanders in the most admirable way.  There is no room for her to pretend the moment of decision is not upon her.

Click through for this opinion piece.  I agree that Bernie and Elizabeth Warren are a good fit.  I also think that she should take a stand on just who she supports.  However, I didn't think that decisions about VP candidates were made until after the nominees were chosen.

Mother Jones — At a campaign stop in Henniker, New Hampshire, last week, Ted Cruz was asked what he'd do as president to combat climate change. Cruz's answer—an eight-minute rant that you can watch below—was essentially that he would do nothing. Because global warming isn't happening. It's "the perfect pseudoscientific theory" to justify liberal politicians' quest to expand "government power over the American citizenry," he said.

Like Cruz, the two GOP front-runners in the state—Donald Trump and Marco Rubioreject mainstream climate science. Trump has repeatedly called global warming a "hoax," and Rubio has said, "I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it." John Kasich, who's been rising in the New Hampshire polls in recent weeks, has made a number of contradictory comments about climate change.

Barf Bag Alert!!!      Barf Bag Alert!!!      Barf Bag Alert!!!      Barf Bag Alert!!!      Barf Bag Alert!!!    

Listen to Cruz's rant.  I had to laugh when he tried to make the point that liberals changed the wording from global warming to climate change when they realised that the globe isn't warming.  As head of the senate science committee he called scientists to testify about climate change and the anthropogenic effects.  What he doesn't say is that he cherry-picked the scientists so that he got what he wanted.  Republicans are such idiots when it comes to climate change.

Alternet myths are built on half-truths, white lies and downright fabrications. So it is with the American presidency. Presidents lie, even our most admired ones. Some of them were really good at it, like Franklin Roosevelt. Others, like shifty-eyed Richard Nixon, were just pathological.

richard m nixon

When we got a president who promised never to lie to us, as Jimmy Carter did in 1976, many thought he was not particularly effective and voters tossed him out on his ear in 1980, for a master Machiavellian prince named Ronald Reagan. Republicans pounced on President Obama when, pushing the Affordable Healthcare Act, he promised Americans that if we wanted to keep our current health insurance, we could. That turned out to be not completely true, and surely Obama knew it even as the words were coming out of his lips. Still, for President Obama, the end—a broader, fairer healthcare system—justified the means. His signature accomplishment in office, Obamacare, might not have passed had he been totally forthright.

Click through to see who the biggest liars were.  It has always bugged me that one of my family names is Nixon.  In the past I'd always add "no relationship to Tricky Dicky".

My Universe — 

5271c5b42ac8a0ae3edfbaf06fd7989a

Pillow talk in the animal kingdomPillow talk!

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Feb 042016
 

I have spent a good part of the day reading up about climate change and climate change denial.  That is when I wasn't watching and rewatching "The Littlest Husky".  Tomorrow is a teaching day so I'll have to remain strong to stick to my limits.

Short Takes

Alternet — And in the book the name of the chapter is “The Right is Right” because they’re not right about the science but I believe that they understand the implications of the science better than most liberals in the sense that they absolutely understand that if climate change is real, it is the end of their ideological project. The entire scaffolding on which their attack on regulations, attacks on collective action rests falls apart. Because of course you need collective action, of course you need to regulate corporations, it’s over, it’s game over for them. So they have to do everything possible to deny the science. And what’s amazing to me is how many liberal think tanks devote almost no energy to talking about climate change.

So the issue is how hard it is to change people’s minds when they’re as invested in these ideas ideologically but also funding-wise. Jim Inhofe gets a lot of money from the coal industry. So he was supposed to be the keynote speaker of this particular Heartland conference. It was advertised, people were extremely excited to hear from him. And Joe Bast announced in the morning that James Inhofe was sick and he was not going to be regaling them that morning. People were very disappointed. It came out later — we didn’t know this at the time — I looked into it after, what was wrong with Jim Inhofe because I wasn’t sure, was he really sick or did he just for some reason think it wasn’t a good idea to hang out with these crazies?

And it turns out he really was sick and he was sick because — and he explained this — he’d gone swimming in a lake in Oklahoma and it was in the middle of a heatwave and there was an outbreak of blue-green algae, which is linked to climate change. He basically had a climate change illness. [laughter] And this is why he could not speak at the climate denial conference.

We talk about climate change — rising sea levels, vicious storms, food scarcity, water scarcity — but rarely have I heard mention of health related issues.  They are there and they are manifest.

Foreign PolicyWith an estimated 3 to 4 million people having come down with Zika virus ailments since infected mosquitoes reached the Americas some nine months ago, 23 countries and territories have reported cases, and there are some 4,000 babies that have been born with the skull-misshaping microcephaly, according to the World Health Organization.

“Last year, the virus was detected in the Americas, where it is now spreading explosively,” WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said in a speech Thursday to the organization’s Executive Board. “The level of alarm is extremely high.”  

BRAZIL-SENEGAL-SCIENCE-HEALTH-ZIKA-VIRUSAedes aegypti mosquitos are seen in containers at a lab of the Institute of Biomedical Sciences of the Sao Paulo University, on January 8, 2016 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. 

My conclusion is that public health leaders and politicians had better brace for a very long haul on Zika. The virus will hide, infecting a range of insects, perhaps monkeys, even birds. And it will return in seasonal cycles, as have other mosquito-carried viruses, such as yellow fever, West Nile virus, chikungunya, and dengue. Because so many “foreign” viruses carried by mosquitoes are now spreading across the Western Hemisphere at the same time, there will be misdiagnosis, mystery, and perhaps acute illnesses due to co-infections. Until we have an effective vaccine and have executed mammoth immunization campaigns in all of the nations of the Americas, Zika will haunt us, sicken some of us, and endanger our babies.

A long but interesting article.  On the news, I heard a tidbit that provoked more thought . . . the mosquitoes carrying the zyka virus require a warm, damp environment in which to survive.  Right now, it cannot thrive in Canada and northern Europe because it is too cool.  But it can thrive in the southern US in areas like the Louisiana Bayou or the Florida Everglades.  What will happen as the planet heats up and traditionally cooler climes start to meet the needs of these mosquitoes?

Scientific American — But experts are still piecing together Exxon’s misconception puzzle. Last summer the Union of Concerned Scientists released a complementary investigation to the one by InsideClimate News, known as the Climate Deception Dossiers (pdf). “We included a memo of a coalition of fossil-fuel companies where they pledge basically to launch a big communications effort to sow doubt,” says union president Kenneth Kimmel. “There’s even a quote in it that says something like ‘Victory will be achieved when the average person is uncertain about climate science.’ So it’s pretty stark.”

Since then, Exxon has spent more than $30 million on think tanks that promote climate denial, according to Greenpeace. Although experts will never be able to quantify the damage Exxon’s misinformation has caused, “one thing for certain is we’ve lost a lot of ground,” Kimmell says. Half of the greenhouse gas emissions in our atmosphere were released after 1988. “I have to think if the fossil-fuel companies had been upfront about this and had been part of the solution instead of the problem, we would have made a lot of progress [today] instead of doubling our greenhouse gas emissions.”

Experts agree that the damage is huge, which is why they are likening Exxon’s deception to the lies spread by the tobacco industry. “I think there are a lot of parallels,” Kimmell says. Both sowed doubt about the science for their own means, and both worked with the same consultants to help develop a communications strategy.

This article dates to 26/10/2015 but is just as relevant since investigations are ongoing.  You might also be interested in reading Could a Legal Case Save Humanity From Climate Disaster? Exxon Could Face a Big Comeuppance​ in Alternet which is a discussion about Exxon Mobil's corporate accountability and New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's investigation of Exxon Mobil.

This from the study by the Union of Concerned Scientists called The Climate Deception Dossiers​, page 22:

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a group that purports to stand for free-market principles, provides a venue for industry groups to influence policy makers behind closed doors. Leaked internal documents show that ALEC, backed by many industry groups including many major fossil fuel companies such as Chevron, ExxonMobil, Peabody Energy, and Shell, continues to serve as an important conduit for climate misinformation and policy proposals designed to block climate action today. 

    The Littlest Husky

    rosie-lilo-huskies.jpg.653x0_q80_crop-smartRosie the kitten now feels right at home with Lilo (far right) and her other husky friends.    (Photo: Lilothehusky/Facebook)

    When a husky-loving family discovered a tiny, sickly kitten, they weren't sure if the sweet little thing would make it through the night. They took their chances and introduced the kitty to Lilo, one of the most nurturing dogs in their pack.

    "A little kitten update! Her name is Rosie. She has been with us for about 5 days. She almost did not make it through the first night… Even with round the clock care. She was lethargic and limp," the owners wrote on Instagram.

    Share
    Feb 022016
     

    Yesterday I said "I shant be lingering to do extra tutoring or Costco runs."  OK, I admit it, I lied. . . sort of.  We did our English lesson and then the kids started arriving home from school.  I ended up checking some math homework for Jonathan, filling out some school related forms for 2 of the kids, and snuggling Regina who got hit by a flying truck thrown by Simon (the baby) and was in tears.  When I scolded Simon, he went into tears and lay claim to the other knee and arm!  JD, I guess God is splitting a gut laughing!

    Tomorrow is less busy, or should I say, less stressful.

    Short Takes

    Huffington Post — This is an interactive automaticupdateat the site where you can see in which precints a candidate leads or trails.

    Iowa Democratic Caucus

    Bernie Sanders was nearly tied with Hillary Clinton in the Democratic race, while O’Malley suspended his campaign before all results were counted.

    Des MoinesCedar RapidsDavenportDes MoinesCedar RapidsDavenport

    Candidate SDEs Delegates
    Clinton 667 28

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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    Sanders 664 21

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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    O'Malley 8

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    ∗ The Iowa Democratic Party doesn't report vote counts. It reports State Delegate Equivalents (SDEs), predictions of who will attend the state-wide party convention.

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    3 of 52 delegates in play in Iowa.

    HuffPost counts unpledged delegates who have publicly stated their intent to vote for a candidate.

    1,604 of 1,681 precincts reporting

    Last updated: 

    Iowa Republican Caucus

    Republican voters in Iowa turned out in record numbers for the GOP caucus, showing strong support for Ted Cruz. Marco Rubio finished a close third despite lagging well behind Donald Trump in the polls. Other candidates, like Jeb Bush, failed to gain traction with voters.

    Des MoinesCedar RapidsDavenportDes MoinesCedar RapidsDavenport

    Candidate Votes Delegates
    Cruz ✓ 51,047 8

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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    Trump 44,837 7

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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    Rubio 42,577 6

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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    Carson 17,173 2

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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    Paul 8,361 1

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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    Bush 5,165

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    Fiorina 3,442

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    Kasich 3,441

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    Huckabee 3,305

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    Christie 3,247

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    Santorum 1,768

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    Gilmore 12

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    6 of 30 delegates in play in Iowa.

    HuffPost counts unpledged delegates who have publicly stated their intent to vote for a candidate.

    1,655 of 1,681 precincts reporting

    Last updated: 

    Mike Huckabee annouced that he has suspended his campaign.  With Upchuck Huck out of the race, it remains to be seen who else will bow out, if any, before the next round of primaries.  If you ask me, Gilmore, Santorum, and Fiorina should be bowing out next.

    I won't go into an analysis as I am sure that TC will have the final results and his expert indepth analysis tomorrow.

    BTW, a pollster here in Canada was asking people today about what they thought of Trump in the White House. Nationally, 65% of Canadians fear that, while 80% of British Columbians don't want Trump in the White House.  He sure isn't making many friends north of the 49th!

    CBC — The protection of B.C.'s Great Bear Rainforest is now assured, after a decade of complex negotiations between the province, First Nations and industry. 

    Under terms of the agreement announced Monday morning by Premier Christy Clark, 85 per cent (3.1 million hectares) of the forested area of the northern wilderness will be completely — and permanently — protected from industrial logging.  

    Great Bear Rainforest

    Spirit bears are the best known part of the unique flora and fauna of the Great Bear Rainforest that will be protected under an agreement finalized in B.C. Monday. Spirit bears, also known as Kermode bears, are black bears with a unique genetic variation that gives them their cream-coloured fur. (Ian McAllister)

    The Great Bear Rainforest stretches from B.C.'s Discovery Islands, north to Alaska's Tongass Rainforest. Along with Haida Gwaii, parts of which are protected under other agreements, it represents the largest tracts of intact temperate rainforest on Earth. It is home to numerous species of plant and animals, including old growth trees, orcas, grizzlies and spirit bears.

    Moss-covered trees stand the test of time. (Photo: National Geographic)

    From Common Dreams:

    It is "one of the most visionary forest conservation plans on Earth," said Valerie Langer, solutions director at ForestEthics, one of the groups that signed on to the deal. "It is a principled approach that sets a new legal and science-based standard for sustaining healthy forests and maintains intact, old-growth that will keep millions of tonnes of carbon out of the atmosphere."

    As old growth tropical rainforests in the Philipines and Indonesia have been decimated to provided space for palm plantations, so has the old growth temperate rainforest in Canada been decimated for its lumber.  These are not replacable.  I am very happy with this agreement and the process of inclusion that struck the agreement.

    Raw Story — The New York Daily News wasted no time ripping Donald Trump’s surprise loss in Monday’s Iowa Republican caucus.

    trump

    If a picture is worth a thousand words, then this is a full political science essay from the New York Daily News!  Do you think that the paper is not sold on Trump?

    The New Yorker —  Democrats have some messy internal business to deal with: Bernie Sanders, promoting an American version of People Power, has confirmed his capture of the Party’s under-forty wing, which means trouble for Hillary Clinton.  

    Speaking on CNN as it got late, David Axelrod, President Obama’s former campaign manager, made an acute point. One of Hillary’s problems is that her campaign is largely about herself—her experience, her electability, and her toughness. “I will keep doing what I have done my entire life,” she said in her non-victory speech. “I will keep standing up for you. I will keep fighting for you.” Sanders, on the other hand, rarely mentions himself in his speeches. His campaign is all about his message of taking American back from the billionaires. And as Axelrod pointed out, it is often easier to inspire people, particularly young people, with an uplifting theme than with a resumé.

    Bernie might be older than Clinton, but he is younger!

    My Universe

    9d6ad78d-dc00-48d3-8aca-5162bc4a9fe7Celebrate the Great Bear Rainforest agreement!

     

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    Jan 262016
     

    Today was one of those days!  I missed my alarm and awoke 5 minutes before physio.  I was going to be very late so we rescheduled to 14:30.  I promptly fell back asleep for 2 hours.  So much for getting some chores done.  Over 2.5 hours of physio, which included 40 minutes of peddling my sasquatch butt on the recumbent bicycle, I was done. Tomorrow I take the furbabes for their annual checkups and vaccinations.  I am guaranteed to be tired after corraling the beasts and transporting them.  Their godfather (the vet) will be very glad to see them!  When I saw my mother Sunday, I told her that her grandcats said "meow, meow, meow!" and she gave me a big smile.

    Short Takes

    Alternet — … William J. Kruvant described the process in a 1975 journal article:

    “Disadvantaged people are largely victims of middle- and upper-class pollution because they usually live closest to the sources of pollution—power plants, industrial installations, and in central cities where vehicle traffic is heaviest. Usually they have no choice. Discrimination created the situation, and those with wealth and influence have political power to keep polluting facilities away from their homes. Living in poverty areas is bad enough. High pollution makes it worse.”

    Environmental racism.  I had not heard the term before, but it certainly makes sense.  And that same idea also extends to poor people.  I remember as a small child living in a small house in a very working class neighbourhood. Next to the house (within 20 feet) was a railroad line that carried industrial supplies so trains were heavy and rattling. On the other side of the tracks was a canal, heavily polluted with industrial waste. Directly across the street was a hydro-electricity plant, and just across the canal on the same side as the plant, was the Massey Ferguson plant (manufactured farm implements) and all it's spewing of pollution.  As soon as they could afford it, my parents moved us to a neighbourhood away from the pollution.  Click through to see 7 US communities of colour subjected to a toxic assault.  Here is the report mentioned in the article: Toxic Wastes and Race at Twenty 1987—2007 .  Look at pages 124-133 to see New Orleans, post Katrina, and pages 134-151 to view Dickson County, Tennessee.

    Huffington Post — A Texas grand jury has indicted two anti-abortion activists in a case involving covert videos on fetal tissue procurement talks with Planned Parenthood and found there was no wrongdoing on the part of the health group, a district attorney said on Monday.

    The grand jury decision was a result of a probe launched last year under Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, who accused Planned Parenthood of the "gruesome harvesting of baby body parts." No evidence was provided by Texas to back the claim.

    Good news!  Now will there be a conviction when the case goes to trial?

    Mother Jones — On Monday, the US Supreme Court permanently laid to rest North Dakota's controversial "fetal heartbeat" law that would have banned abortions as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.

    After a series of appeals, a federal judge again ruled the law unconstitutional in July. Once more the state appealed the ruling and it went to the Supreme Court. But the court on Monday refused to review the lower court's ruling, effectively overturning the ban.

    More good news!  

    My Universe — 

    ATT530861

    Brody in the powder roomAnd that's not all the dog blocked!

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    Jan 222016
     

    I have another busy day today.  My shower-aide just left, leaving me smelling like a rose.  PT is coming at 9:00 and OT at 10:00, so they will have come and gone by the time I get this posted.  Arvilla (PT) is bringing a cane to see if it will give me sufficient stability to aid in transfers, when I’m out and don’t have my walker for transfers.

    Jig Zone Puzzle:

    Today;s took me 3:24 (average 5:10).  To do it, click here.  How did you do?

    Short Takes:

    From Daily Kos: Ted Nugent may have totally broken the law and called for the lynching of a sitting president and (possible) future sitting president. [Fascist criminal delinked]

    Our unholy rotten soulless criminal America destroying government killed 4 Americans in Banghazi. Period! What sort of chimpass punk would deny security, turn down 61 requests for security, then tell US forces to STAND DOWN when they were ready to kickass on the allapukes & save American lives! Obama & Clinton, thats who. They should be tried for treason & hung. Our entire fkdup gvt must be cleansed asap.

    Can’t you feel what Republicans call love?!!?

    From Media Matters: Fox News has devoted roughly three hours to promoting the release of Michael Bay’s 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, a movie about the 2012 attacks on diplomatic facilities in Libya, praising the film, repeatedly characterizing the movie as a threat to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, and hyping several debunked myths about the Benghazi terror attacks. More than half of the network’s 32 segments focused on falsehoods about the State Department and Obama administration’s responses to the attacks, and nearly 60 percent of the segments linked the movie to Clinton’s 2016 bid for the White House.

    012213hours-foxnews

    No matter how many times the lies are debunked, The Republican Reichsministry of Propaganda, Faux Noise, refuses to let this go.

    From NY Times: In a significant victory for President Obama, a federal appeals panel on Thursday rejected an effort by 27 states and dozens of corporations and industry groups to block the administration’s signature regulation on emissions from coal-fired power plants while a lawsuit moves through the courts.

    The rule, issued last summer by the Environmental Protection Agency, is at the heart of Mr. Obama’s efforts to tackle climate change. It would require each state to significantly cut greenhouse gas pollution from electric power plants, the nation’s largest source of such emissions.

    Once fully in place, the regulation — which would cut emissions from existing power plants by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030 — could transform the electricity system, closing hundreds of heavily polluting coal-fired plants and sharply increasing production of wind and solar powers.

    But the 27 states, many of which have economies that rely on coal mining or coal-fired power, have sued the administration to kill the plan. The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit set June 2 to hear arguments in that case, although it is widely expected to be ultimately decided by the Supreme Court, most likely in 2017.

    Won’t it be wonderful, if a Democratic President can replace a Republican Injustice on SCROTUS by 2017?

    Cartoon:

    0122Cartoon

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    Jan 212016
     

    Yesterday stayed busy.  After my shower-aide left, Safeway.com delivered groceries, which I put away.  Then my helper friend came.  We did laundry, and I tried on everything in my closet to determine what to keep and what to throw away.  The goal is to make the clothes I wear more accessible.  This morning I spent a couple hours doing volunteer work, researching two potential appointees to the Parole Board.  We want thee board to diversify.  A Board consisting only of Prosecutors, Parole Officers, and Victims’ Rights Advocates insures bias against prisoners, rather than a fair hearing.

    Jig Zone Puzzle:

    Today’s took me 3:00 (average 4:44).  To do it, click here.  How did you do.

    Short Takes:

    From Upworthy: In a clip from her upcoming special "Marriage Material," Esposito tackles gun culture.

     

    This is a big take-down of Republican Ammosexuals.

    From Daily Kos: Rachel Maddow points out the inconvenient truths about Ronald Reagan as GOP candidates attempt to live vicariously through a misremembered idol. It has been the modus operandi of Republican candidates as they wrap themselves in their parties icon. It is no different than Hillary Clinton wrapping herself in President Obama during the 4th Democratic Debate.

    Recently GOP candidates have been attacking President Obama on the deal he made to bring the hostages home from Iran. Marco Rubio told Chuck Todd he would be like Ronald Reagan in dealing with Iran. Unfortunately Rubio is severely misremembering a Ronald Reagan who traded arms for hostages in Iran. He admitted it on national TV. Many of his National Security team were indicted. It was known as the Iran Contra scandal.

     

    This is Rachel’s original video, as the clip included with the article did not embed. Today’s Republicans prefer not to remember either the crimes or the “librul” tax increases perpetrated by Saint Ronnie Ray Gun.

    From NY Times: Scientists reported Wednesday that 2015 was the hottest year in the historical record by far, breaking a mark set only the year before — a burst of heat that has continued into the new year and is roiling weather patterns all over the world.

    In the contiguous United States, the year was the second-warmest on record, punctuated by a December that was both the hottest and the wettest since record-keeping began. One result has been a wave of unusual winter floods coursing down the Mississippi River watershed.

    Scientists started predicting a global temperature record months ago, in part because an El Niño weather pattern, one of the largest in a century, is releasing an immense amount of heat from the Pacific Ocean into the atmosphere. But the bulk of the record-setting heat, they say, is a consequence of the long-term planetary warming caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases.

    “The whole system is warming up, relentlessly,” said Gerald A. Meehl, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo.

    The faster we convert top green energy, the less catastrophic the effects will be.

    The faster we convert top green energy, the less catastrophic the effects will be.

    Cartoon:

    0121Cartoon

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    Jan 182016
     

    Today was an uneventful day . . . church, lunch, snuggling with the furbabes, short nap, snuggling with the furbabes, reading and preparing this post, snuggling with the furbabes, and so on.  This coming week will be busy with various appointments/commitments as was last week, so relaxing was the order of the day.  I hope you all did some relaxing too!

    Short Takes

    The Nation — The whole mess has also cost Planned Parenthood millions of dollars—so the organization claims in a major lawsuit filed Thursday against CMP and affiliated individuals. The 65-page complaint accuses the group of racketeering, fraud, and a variety of other charges. It seeks compensation for financial losses due to the videos and the public backlash, as well as other damages. Although Planned Parenthood has sued a handful of states that sought to revoke public funding in the wake of the videos, this is the first legal challenge the organization has made directly to the makers of the videos. Planned Parenthood waited months to file the suit because it was a “very complex conspiracy,” according to Executive Vice President Dawn Laguens, who spoke with reporters Thursday. “It really has taken some time to investigate the network of people who perpetrated this fraud and the multiple laws that they broke in the process.”

    I for one am extremely happy that Planned Parenthood is taking this step.  It should not be necessary, but extremists have made it so.  As to the first amendment rights of CMP, surely those rights do not extend to the fabrication of erroneous claims!

    Washington Post — Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders would raise income taxes across the board — and by substantially more on high earners — to pay for an ambitious single-payer health-care plan, under details released Sunday night.

    The senator from Vermont said the $1.38-trillion-a-year plan, which was outlined before a Democratic debate here, would ultimately save most families thousands of dollars a year on out-of-pocket health-care costs.

    Sanders would pay for it largely through higher income taxes. Those making more than $250,000 a year would pay a marginal tax rate of 37 percent, up a few percentage points from what they now pay.

    Sanders would add three more tax brackets, with marginal rates topping out at 52 percent for those making $10 million a year — significantly more than the current top rate of 39.6 percent.

    Do I like the idea of universal health care? . . . absolutely!  Assuming that Sanders' numbers are correct, go for it.  However, I also know that the Congress as it stands, will never approve it.  There has to be a wholesale political revolution that says 'No' to the party of 'No' before universal health care can rise.

    Foreign Policy — It has been more than a decade since warring parties signed a deal to end Liberia’s bloody conflict. Fueled by the pillaging of the country’s rich natural resources — diamonds, gold, iron, and timber — the two civil wars that raged across 14 years left more than 250,000 people dead and displaced more than 1 million others. When the final peace deal was signedin 2003, however, the resources that had sustained the war for so long were not mentioned at all. The oversight, though common, has often proved disastrous for countries trying to break free from years of violence.

    According to a new report by the international nonprofit Forest Trends, which analyzed more than 800 peace agreements signed since 1945, fewer than 15 percent mentioned natural resources. Even fewer take the necessary steps to prevent these resources from being used to sustain — or even restart — fighting. It is a glaring omission considering that the U.N. Environment Program estimates that at least 40 percent of conflicts have a link to natural resources. About half of all peace agreements fail within five years, often because the warring factions exploit resources in order to fuel the return to conflict.

    As globalization drives growing markets for more commodities and a changing climate upsets existing patterns of resource use, the international community must take the governance of natural resources much more seriously — simply as a matter of peace and security. Restarting resource extraction post-conflict before rebuilding broken governments not only fails to deliver on promises of a revitalized national economy — often a primary goal in rebuilding war-torn countries — but also threatens the peace. And without the safeguards of governance, unregulated extraction risks returning countries to conflict by reviving the unsustainable and inequitable practices that fueled grievance in the first place.

    What are most, if not all, wars about? . . . power . . . the acquiring of and maintaining of power.  To do that requires money for manpower and  materiel.  And money is generated by exploiting natural resources.  Natural resources must be acknowledged in the peace process.

    My Universe

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    Who needs Brauny papertowel when you have a toddler and 3 cats?

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    Jan 172016
     

    Here in BC, the provincial Liberal government (no relation to the federal Liberals), has hitched their wagon to the development of liquified natural gas (LNG), some of it with PetroChina and other foreign corporations.  But much of the northeast LNG fields lie on Aboriginal lands, making access "difficult" fortunately.  Some of the foreign nationals are pulling out, or at least have threatened to because they want the drilling now, not after negotiations with First Nations.

    China has joined the fracking revolution to meet some of its energy needs and to try to decrease their pollution.  I remember images of pollution in Beijing prior to the 2008 Summer Olympics.  The air pollution was so thick that one could cut it with a knife.  So now China is fracking to feed the economy and deal with pollution.  Not surprisingly, the Chinese are running into the same problems as everywhere else, problems that threaten its very survival.

    From Mother Jones

    The US-China Oil and Gas Industry Forum, sponsored by the US departments of Commerce and Energy, as well as China's National Energy Administration, has convened for the last 13 years. But the focus turned to shale gas in 2009, when President Obama and then-President Hu Jintao announced an agreement to develop China's immense resources. The partnership set the stage for companies in both countries to forge deals worth tens of billions of dollars.

    Here at the 2013 conference, the first American to take the podium was Gary Locke, the US ambassador to China at the time.

     underlying all the talk of new energy was an urgency to wean China from its decades-long addiction to coal. Locke promised that shale gas would do just that: "We can make further strides to improve energy efficiency, produce cleaner energy, increase renewables, and increase supply," he asserted. "Unconventional gas, especially shale gas, is just the start."

    Constituting a whopping 70 percent of China's energy supply, coal has allowed the country to become the world's second-largest economy in just a few decades. But burning coal has also caused irreparable damage to the environment and the health of China's citizens.  

    Scientists wrote in the medical journal The Lancet that ambient particulate matter, generated mostly by cars and the country's 3,000 coal-fired power plantskilled 1.2 million Chinese people in 2010. In late 2013, an eight-year-old girl in Jiangsu Province was diagnosed with lung cancer; her doctor attributed it to air pollution. And earlier this year, scientists found that up to 24 percent of sulfate air pollutants—which contribute to smog and acid rain—in the western United States originated from Chinese factories manufacturing for export.  

    But China's push to wean itself from coal has also triggered a rush to develop alternative power sources.  

    By the time of our trip, villagers living near fracking wells had already complained about the deafening noise of drilling machinery, the smell of gas fumes, and strange substances in their water. 

    The clouds faded as we climbed, revealing a quilt of farmland dotted withpingfang, or flattop houses. We drove down a road lined with new hotels, small restaurants, and hardware stores—the markings of a boomtown. Roughly the size of Minnesota, the Sichuan Basin—where many of China's experimental fracking wells are located—is home to some 100 million people, many of them farmers. It's not the only part of China with shale gas, butfracking requires a lot of water, and with a subtropical climate and proximity to the mighty Yangtze River, Sichuan has that, too, making it the nation's first fracking frontier.  

    China's early fracking operations face many risks, but the incentives to keep drilling are too good to pass up. Based on early sampling, Bloomberg New Energy Finance's Liebreich estimates that China is currently extracting shale gas at roughly twice the cost of the United States. Analysts expect those costs to fall as China gains experience, but even at current levels, shale gas production has been up to 40 percent cheaper—and geopolitically more desirable—than importing gas.

    "You've got this 'damn the torpedoes' development strategy that sets out all sorts of quotas, expectations, and productivity targets that are not constrained or balanced in any way by environmental protection or public participation to hold people to account," says Sophie Richardson, director of Human Rights Watch's China program. Throw in corruption, she adds, and you see a toxic mix, one that has contributed to an unprecedented level of social unrest.

    Fracking may soon join that list. Protests have already stymied drilling operations in Sichuan. From 2010 to March 2013, the Wall Street Journalreported, Shell had lost 535 days of work at 19 of its shale gas wells due to villager blockades or government requests to halt operations. "There are a lot of people in China who don't want to take political risks—they have too much at stake," Osnos says. "But when it comes to something as elemental as their health, and that's what pollution really is about, then they're willing to take a risk."

    The country's shale gas lies deeper underground and in more complex geologic formations than those deposits in the flatlands of Pennsylvania, North Dakota, or Texas. As a result, researchers estimated that the Chinese wells will require up to twice the amount of water used at American sites to crack open the reserves.  

    In addition to his concerns about fracking's enormous appetite for water, Tian also worries about its waste: the chemical-laden water that comes back out of the rock with the natural gas. In the United States, it is typically stored in steel containers or open pits and later injected underground in oil and gas waste wells. In China's early wells, wastewater is often dumped directly into streams and rivers. If fracking—most of which takes place in China's breadbasket—contaminates water or soil, Tian argues, it could jeopardize the nation's food supply. In a seismically active area like Sichuan, leaks are a major concern: Even a small earthquake—which, emerging evidence suggests, wastewater injection could trigger—might compromise a well's anti-leak system, causing more pollution. In the past year alone, more than 30 earthquakes were recorded in the Sichuan area.  

    As aJPMorgan research memo stated, "Unless the popular environmental concerns are so extreme, most countries with the resources will not ignore the [shale gas] opportunity."

    As the drilling continued, Dai said, her groundwater started to run dry, and now only rain replenished it. She doubted the water was fit for drinking. "After you use it, there's a layer of white scum clinging to the pot," she said. They couldn't even use it to cook rice anymore. "You tell me if there's been an impact!".

    Taken from Mother Jones, this article is from late 2014 but just as relevant.

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    Jan 162016
     

    Today has been a very quiet day fortunately because it has rained all day and I really didn't want to get wet.  The furbabes are snuggled together on my bed, Annie with her arms around Winnie.  I relaxed today, all day, and took time to watch part of the movie AVATAR so I could keep my knee elevated for a while.  I'll watch the rest when I retire for the night, that is I stay awake long enough.

    Short Takes

    Take Part — Hong Kong chief executive Leung Chun-ying announced Wednesday [13/01/2016] that his government will end its legal ivory trade.

    That market is considered a facilitator of illegal ivory transport into mainland China, the world’s largest consumer of smuggled ivory.  

    Hong Kong’s move comes as the price of elephant ivory plummets. In a report by conservation group Save the Elephants, the cost of raw ivory on the black market has fallen by almost half over the past 18 months. HK-ivory

    “If the trade closes, the value of ivory as an investment depreciates,” Knights said. “We see Hong Kong prices going down because of the public backlash against ivory, and that should have an impact on poaching. Couple that with stepped-up efforts in Africa to deter poachers, and the ivory trade ends up getting squeezed at both ends.”

    In a BBC article almost a year ago, word came that China instituted a one year ban on the importation of ivory.  Now China is taking the next step.  This is an issue that Obama and the Chinese President, Xi Jinping, spoke about during a visit in 2015.

    Upworthy — What are the chances a 6th-grader from the biggest slum in Kenya ends up on stage in New York City, speaking to thousands of people?

    Not very great, but Eunice Akoth did it. She's living her dream.

    Eunice's dreams aren't exactly uncommon for a girl her age: to travel the world and to become a doctor. But the possibility of seeing them through is extra difficult simply because of where she was born.

    Between unemployment rates, gender discrimination, and violence in her slum of Kibera — it's a long road out for girls like her.

    My student faced the same type of childhood as many of the girls in Kibera . . . no education, beaten, married very young, raising babies when she was still a child herself.  Her dream is to see her children, all of them, get an education, the education she never had.  And to remind her of this, she has a painted rock in the garden that says "Dream".

    Mother Jones — During his State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Barack Obama reiterated his call to eliminate federal subsidies for fossil fuels in an effort to speed up the transition to cleaner energy sources. It's something he's asked for nearly every year of his presidency, and it hasn't happened yet. But this year, he added something new: a plan to charge oil and coal companies more for leases on federal land, to offset the damage their products do to the climate.  

    The onslaught started at the end of December, when China announced plans to close 1,000 coal mines as part of its campaign to reduce crippling air pollution and the world's highest greenhouse gas emissions.  

    Coal's future doesn't seem much brighter. More than two dozen coal-reliant states are suing the Obama administration over its climate plan.

    coal_7

    As reported in another article by the same author in Mother Jones on 15 January 2016,

    Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced on Friday that she was placing a moratorium on new coal-mining leases on public land and that her department would begin a multiyear review of how those lease contracts are awarded. The policy change is likely to make the leases more expensive for mining companies, to generate increased royalties for the government, and to offset the damage coal production and consumption do to the environment.

    "We haven't done a top-to-bottom review of the coal program in 30 years," Jewell told reporters. She added that her department will search for ways "to manage [coal] in a way that is consistent with the climate change agenda."

    Coal has had its day and no amount of interference from the Republicans should change that course, but if they win the White House in November, look out!  There is no reason why a small percentage of Americans, relatively speaking, should override the concerns of all Americans.  Although Republicans will appear to agitate for coal workers, really they are in bed with the coal companies.  With coal producing high green house gas levels, the planet can't afford to keep burning dirty coal.  I had to chuckle at the author's comment,

    But he [Lee-Ashley] said the financial overhaul should enjoy bipartisan support, since it boils down to giving the American people a fair price for their natural resources.

    "When you look at the money being lost to taxpayers through these loopholes, anybody who believes in good business should be able to carry it forward," he said.

    "Fair price" to a Republican does not meet our standards.  Republicans are in the coal bin with the coal companies.  Have a look at the article I presented back in October 2015, The Fall of King Coal.

    My UniverseThe third kitten, a liitle grey and white furball, has the longest meow I have ever heard . . . and all in one tiny body!

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    Jan 162016
     

    It was a busy day today, much of it spent teaching English or tutoring mathematics.  I was slowed down by 2 blood sugar lows this afternoon (cannot drive during those), but after a short shop, arrived home.for dinner and a nap. Sitting here, two of my furbabes are cuddled up together under the desk and purring away.  There is nothing like a purring cat, except maybe two or three purring cats.  It seemed that everywhere I turned today in the news, there were articles about fracking and coal.

    Short Takes

    Alternet — Five years ago, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was commissioned by Congress to undertake a study on the impacts of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) on drinking water. This newer method of oil and gas extraction involves the pumping of highly pressurized water, sand and chemicals into underground rock formations.

    Fracking has driven the boom in U.S. oil production and contributed to the steep drop in gasoline prices, but the environmental impacts of this relatively new technique are not well understood.

    The EPA’s draft study—released in June to solicit input from advisers and the public—found  that fracking has already contaminated drinking water, stating in the report:

    “We found specific instances where one or more mechanisms led to impacts on drinking water resources, including contamination of drinking water wells…

    The first time I read and saw coverage of fracking and its affects on drinking water, maybe 4 years ago, there were flames coming out of kitchen faucets!  Flames!  Wells were being contaminated.  Water from contaminated wells could not be used for any purpose.  The EPA has landed squarely on both sides of the issue at various times. Potable water is a necessity for humans and animals alike.  Potable water is a human right.  The EPA must take a cautious approach . . . fracking is a problem for water quality.

    CBC — Tremors caused by industrial activity will become more frequent and large enough to cause significant damage in the future, warns an expert on human-caused earthquakes.

    "As we generate more and more earthquakes, we expect that some of them are going to be larger," said Gail Atkinson, who studies induced seismic activity at Western University in London, Ontario.

    "So this is another example of the potential for oil and gas activity to generate some larger earthquakes which could become damaging."

    The Alberta Energy Regulator has not definitively linked fracturing, or fracking, with seismic activity in Alberta, but it is researching the link.

    Induced earthquakes are closer to the surface, so the shaking is more intense than a natural earthquake which happens many kilometres further below, said Gail Atkinson, who studies induced seismic activity at Western University in London, Ontario.

    An induced earthquake that registers 4.0 on the Richter scale can shake the ground more than a natural 5.0 magnitude quake, she said.

    Another issue with fracking is earthquakes.  Alberta has been hit with earthquakes, something not normally seen there, as a result of fracking.  Back in 2014, Jeff Gu, a seismologist at the University of Alberta, commented that "The study [a peer reviewed published study in the Journal of Geophysical Research] concludes that waste-water injection into the ground is highly correlated with spikes in earthquake activity in the area."  When will we learn?

    Huffington Post — Unfortunately, Chelsea Clinton misrepresented Senator Sanders' position, and her premiere performance on the stump backfired, producing a flood of political donations to Sanders.

    Here's what she said: "Senator Sanders wants to dismantle Obamacare, dismantle the [Children’s Health Insurance Program], dismantle Medicare, and dismantle private insurance." Whew! She would have us believe that the Vermont senator is a one-man wrecking crew, an enraged King Kong — or, to be modern about it, a mendacious Darth Vader — proposing "to go back to an era — before we had the Affordable Care Act — that would strip millions and millions and millions of people off their health insurance."

    When I first saw this comment elsewhere, I said "Say what?".  There is absolutely no way that Bernie said, or even implied such a position.  Could it be that the Clinton camoaign, or at least Chelsea Clinton, is worried about Bernie's poll numbers, especially as the first of the primaries and caucuses approaches?

    My Universe

    This first picture is very common here on the Pacific coast.  There is something very special about watching these giants of the oceans cruising along.

     

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    And I have always wanted to swim with dolphins . . . to feel their freedom in the water and watch their playful antics.

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    Jan 122016
     

    I enjoyed time with my mother on Sunday afternoon and evening.  It was great to see her eat so well.  Seeing my mother often leaves me exhausted, and last night was no exception.  As a result, I was late getting up for physio, even though I set my alarm.  I think I set a record for speediness today as I was out the door in 30 minutes, and that included a shower!  Tomorrow, I have to take my mother to a specialist so that will be a bit of work, and then there is a meeting at her care home.  There is always something going on.

    Short Takes

    BBC — India's greatest leader had moved to a village called Segaon two years earlier. He had renamed it Sevagram or a village of service. He built an ashram, a commune which was home to "many a fateful decision which affected the destiny of India". Gandhi had moved in with his wife, Kasturba, and some followers. There was also a steady stream of guests.

    Mahatma Gandhi

    Kanu Gandhi, a callow young man in his 20s and a grand nephew of the Mahatma, was also there. Armed with a Rolleiflex camera, he was taking pictures of the leader.

    He had wanted to become a doctor, but his parents had goaded him to join Gandhi's personal staff doing clerical work, looking after accounts and writing letters at the ashram.

    Kanu Gandhi had developed an interest in photography, but Gandhi had told him there was no money to buy him a camera.

    The nephew did not relent. Finally, Gandhi asked businessman Ghanshyam Das Birla to gift 100 rupees ($1.49; £1.00) to Kanu so that he could buy the camera and a roll of film.

    But the leader imposed three conditions on the photographer: he forbade him from using flash and asking him to pose; and made it clear that the ashram would not pay for his photography.

    Click through for some of these photographs and the stories behind them.  I have been influenced by Mahatma Gandhi like so many others.  I have always said that he is the most Christ like person I know of, and he was not Christian.  This is one of my favourite attributions: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

    Globe and Mail — ‘That,” we tell ourselves, “is just the way the Americans are.” We say it every time some firearms horror strikes a movie theatre or school or workplace. We say it when the U.S. President, reduced to tears, tries to use his limited powers to make minimal changes to laws that allow almost anyone to purchase and use an assault rifle.

    After all, hasn’t it always been this way? Americans have always believed that they have a right to own and carry guns, we think. Strict gun control has never been an American option. That’s just the way they are.

    Except that it isn’t. The American gun crisis, and the attitudes and laws that make it possible, are very new. The broad idea of a right to own firearms, along with the phenomenon of mass shootings, did not exist a generation ago; the legal basis for this right did not exist a decade ago.

    Until 2002, every U.S. president and government had declared that the Constitution’s Second Amendment did not provide any individual right for ordinary citizens to own firearms. Rather, it meant what its text clearly states: that firearms shall be held by “the People” – a collective, not individual right – insofar as they are in the service of “a well-regulated militia.”

    In another Globe and Mail article, the author says "In a prime-time, televised town hall meeting, Obama defended his support for the constitutional right to gun ownership while arguing it was consistent with his efforts to curb violence and mass shootings. "  Even constitutional lawyers can disagree as to whether the individual has the right to bear arms.  How is it that after 230+ years, with one stroke of the pen, Scalia can render the majority decision changing legal presedence of 230+ years?

    Alternet — The air was hazy from distant wildfires on August 29 when a gift arrived on the Northern Cheyenne reservation in southeast Montana. Carvers from the Lummi Tribe in Washington state brought a totem pole as a sign of support for those fighting the Otter Creek project, a proposed strip mine and rail spur on the Northern Cheyenne Tribe’s traditional lands. 

    At a ceremony marking the pole’s arrival, ranchers, whose families have been on the land for generations, and tribal members, whose families go back even further, joined together to speak of the sacredness of the land and water, and of their duty to protect this inheritance for generations to come.

    The new mine would extract around 1.3 billion tons of coal. Arch Coal and its partners would blast a new rail spur through hills, across ranches, and along the Tongue River to connect the mine to the Burlington Northern main line. Open train cars would carry coal to a proposed export terminal to be built on the Lummi Tribe’s traditional lands. From there, the coal could be shipped to Asia; burning it would emit billions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

    These are the power grabs of corporations as they act like petulant children when they don't get their way.  Don't get me wrong, contaminated water and air, the degradation of forests and oceans, crops spoiled by unusual weather . . . these are all very serious.  But corporations that put profits before people will be the death of us all.

    My Universe — 0028_zps8d769739

     

     

     

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    Jan 102016
     

    How many times each day do we go to the water tap, run cold water, fill a glass, and then quench our thirst?  I drink about 4 litres of water every day, about 16 cups.  Do I even think about whether the water is fit to drink?  Not usually. But what happens when the water becomes unfit to drink , , , like in Flint, Michigan?

    Flintwater

    Democracy Now — In Flint, Michigan, a growing number of residents are demanding the arrest of Governor Rick Snyder over the ongoing water contamination crisis. Snyder declared a state of emergency for Flint Wednesday, after learning federal prosecutors had opened an investigation into lead contamination in the drinking water. The poisoning began after an unelected emergency manager appointed by Governor Snyder switched the city’s water source to the long-polluted Flint River in a bid to save money. Lead can cause permanent health impacts including memory loss and developmental impairment. Researchers at Virginia Tech who have been testing Flint water say the city could have corrected the problem by better treating the water at a cost of as little as $100 a day. On Thursday, the mayor of Flint revealed it could now cost as much as $1.5 billion to fix the city’s water infrastructure. We speak to Curt Guyette, investigative reporter for the ACLU of Michigan, who has closely covered the story.

    YouTube

    Common Dreams — The Republican governor appointed Flint emergency manager Darnell Earley who enforced the April 2014 decision to switch from the Detroit system to the Flint River to source water. In an angry letter to Snyder, filmmaker and Flint native Michael Moore wrote:

    Your staff and others knew that the water in the Flint River was poison — but you decided that taking over the city and "cutting costs" to "balance the budget" was more important than the people's health (not to mention their democratic rights to elect their own leaders.) So you cut off the clean, fresh glacial lake water of Lake Huron that the citizens of Flint (including myself) had been drinking for decades and, instead, made them drink water from the industrial cesspool we call the Flint River — a body of "water" where toxins from a dozen General Motors and DuPont factories have been dumped for over a hundred years. And then you decided to put a chemical in this water to "clean" it — which only ended up stripping the lead off of Flint's aging water pipes, placing that lead in the water and sending it straight into people's taps.

    Moore, in fact, is circulating a petition calling on U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to arrest Snyder for "corruption and assault."

    Michael Moore's Arrest Governor Snyder Petition

    Al Jazeera — This emergency goes beyond simply a public health problem. (Lead is a potent neurotoxin, which can cause irreversible brain damage in children.) It is something much worse: a human rights abuse in an American city. In 2010, the United Nations declared that “ … clean drinking water … [is] essential to the realization of all human rights.” Flint’s contaminated water will prevent children from realizing their human right to health, enumerated in Article 25 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

    Public reaction is understandably very heated.  This crisis is totally man made — Republican man made — and the result of Republican ineptitude, greed, and bigotry.  In Flint, 40% of the people live in poverty.  Many of the people are African American.  The old lead city water distribution pipes were corroded by the Flint River toxic water, so much so that a return to getting water from Lake Huron through Detroit is not working.  The pipes were corroded and continue to leach lead into the water.  The only solution is the replacement of the city water pipes at a cost of $1.5 – $2 BILLION.  On top of that, I would expect a class action lawsuit against the state, Snyder and a whole spate of other administrative persons who failed in their fiduciary responsibility to the people.

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