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Member since: Tue Feb 10, 2004, 12:08 PM
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Environmental Scientist

Journal Archives

US Marines declare F-35 squadron ready for combat, $1 trillion later

U.S. Marine Corps Commandant General Joseph Dunford has declared an initial squadron of 10 Lockheed Martin Corp F-35B fighter jets ready for combat, marking a key milestone for the Pentagon's biggest weapons program, the Pentagon said Friday.

The decision makes the Marines the first U.S. military service to declare an "initial operational capability" for the stealth supersonic F-35 fighter under the arms program that first kicked off in 2001. Although the official price tag for the program is $391 billion, recent reports have estimated that the total cost to the Pentagon will be closer to $1.4 trillion, making it the most expensive weapons program in American history.

"It is an incredibly advanced aircraft, arguably the most advanced in the world," Peter W. Singer, a strategist at the New America Foundation and co-author of the recent book Ghost Fleet, told Al Jazeera over email. "It is also incredibly expensive, arguably the most expensive weapons program in all of human history."

Early technical challenges delayed the Marines' move by three years from its original target. But U.S. officials say the F-35 program has been meeting its schedule and lowering costs for the past five years.


Imagine the good those dollars could have done….

Scientists fear toxic algae bloom spreading on Pacific coast

Stretching from southern California to Alaska, this year’s blooms thought to be the largest ever recorded

by Ryan Schuessler

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The toxic algae blooms in the Pacific Ocean stretching from southern California to Alaska — already the largest ever recorded — appear to have reached as far as the Aleutian Islands, scientists say.

“The anecdotal evidence suggests we’re having a major event,” said Bruce Wright, a scientist with the Aleutian Pribilof Island Association, the federally recognized tribal organization of Alaska’s native Aleuts. “All the populations are way down in the Aleutians.”

While algal blooms are not uncommon in the Pacific, 2015’s blooms appear to be the largest on record, scientists say. Stretching from Southern California to Alaska, the blooms are responsible for unprecedented closures of fisheries and unusual deaths of marine life up and down the Pacific coast.

Pseudo-nitzchia is one species of algae that produces domoic acid, a neurotoxin that can be lethal to humans and wildlife. The toxin is ingested by shellfish and krill that, when consumed, pass the toxin onto the predator — in some cases, people.



Weekend Toon Roundup






What Make America great again really means






Former Gov. Bob McDonnell must lose his state pension under legislation that he himself signed

RICHMOND – Former Gov. Bob McDonnell must lose his state pension under legislation that he himself signed into law, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring said in an opinion released Friday.

The law's intent was always clear: Government officials convicted of a felony for misconduct in office would lose their state pensions. It passed after former Newport News Del. Phil Hamilton was indicted in 2011.

But there was a potential catch in McDonnell's case: The law leaves it to the employer to determine that the misconduct occurred after the law passed, and to inform the Virginia Retirement System.

Who, some wondered, employs a former governor?

Gov. Terry McAuliffe asked Herring to weigh in, and Herring's office determined that it's the sitting governor, whom the Virginia General Assembly has previously identified as the "chief personnel officer of the Commonwealth."

Now McAuliffe will inform McDonnell, grant him a hearing required by law and move to cancel his pension, spokesman Brian Coy said. The formal notice will come within a few days, Coy said.



Tony Norman: Bernie Sanders for president: Yes, he could

By Tony Norman / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has more than a few fans in Pittsburgh, judging by the turnout for his first televised meet-up since his poll numbers began shifting in a positive direction nationally. The muggy Wednesday evening air did its best to discourage a line from forming outside the Spirit Lounge on 51st Street in Lawrenceville, but 350 supporters squeezed into the former Moose Lodge that had once been the home to many a studio ’rasslin’ night.

After ponying up the suggested $5 donation at the door, the cross-generational crowd of Democrats and fellow travelers jockeyed for the best vantage point in front of a projection screen on the east end of the hall. Mr. Sanders would televise his remarks to 3,100 similar gatherings across the country from an apartment in Washington, D.C., shortly after 7 p.m. Eastern time.

According to organizers, Mr. Sanders would be addressing as many as 100,000 supporters nationwide — a number that should concern the complacent Democratic establishment, even though the insurgent candidate trails former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton by as much as 40 points in some polls.

Still, Bernie Sanders has roughly the same level of name recognition that Sen. Barack Obama had at this point in his underdog campaign against Mrs. Clinton. Unlike Mr. Obama, who was still trying to justify his candidacy to skeptical black leaders already committed to Mrs. Clinton in the summer of 2007, Mr. Sanders is drawing more energetic and enthusiastic crowds than Mrs. Clinton — a sign that the party’s progressive and liberal base is hungry for something it isn’t getting from its presumptive front-runner.



Australia walks away from Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal talks

Source: The Guardian

The world’s biggest regional trade deal – Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – is still within reach despite Australia walking away empty-handed from the latest talks, the federal government says.

The trade minister, Andrew Robb, confirmed that a conclusion was not be reached on the $200bn deal during the latest round of negotiations in Hawaii.

“Australia had made some excellent progress but unfortunately some difficult issues were not resolved,” he said on Saturday.

Robb has laid the blame for the failure to come to an agreement with the “big four” economies of the US, Canada, Japan and Mexico. “The sad thing is, 98% is concluded,” he said.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/aug/01/australia-walks-away-from-trans-pacific-partnership-trade-deal-talks?CMP=soc_567

Quarterly Increase in U.S. Worker Pay Smallest on Record

Wages and salaries in the U.S. rose in the second quarter at the slowest pace on record, dashing projections that an improving labor market would boost pay.

The 0.2 percent advance was the smallest since records began in 1982 and followed a 0.7 percent increase in the first quarter, the Labor Department said Friday. The agency’s employment cost index, which also includes benefits, also rose 0.2 percent in the second quarter from the prior three months.

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen and her colleagues are counting on rising wages to boost the economy and bring inflation closer to their 2 percent goal. The setback may prompt some officials to call for a delay in raising interest rates for the first time since 2006.

“You’re really not building up the tightness that everyone says,” said Steven Ricchiuto, chief economist at Mizuho Securities USA Inc. in New York, who projected the overall ECI would rise 0.5 percent, among the lowest estimates. “For the people who were saying the Fed’s got to raise rates in September, this is a shock.”


The foreign minister of Burlington, Vt.

In addition to filling potholes, Bernie Sanders focused on the Soviet Union, Cuba and the Sandinistas.
By Michael Crowley and Michael Kruse

In June 1986, the House of Representatives voted to send $100 million in U.S. military aid to Nicaragua’s contra rebels. It was a major victory for Ronald Reagan’s hardline anti-communist foreign policy.

In Burlington, Vermont, Mayor Bernie Sanders sprang into action. Sanders quickly called an emergency board of aldermen meeting to discuss how the lakeside college town should respond.

This was not a surprising or unprecedented move for the young socialist mayor, who considered it his small city’s responsibility to craft a foreign policy in opposition to the Reagan administration’s. The previous summer, for instance, Sanders had presided over a local meeting to protest Reagan’s invasion of Grenada.

But even in lefty Vermont, his foreign policy activism provoked eye rolling. The Grenada episode led the Burlington Free Press to complain that the city’s leaders were debating foreign issues “while legitimate city business was ignored.” Seven of the city’s 13 aldermen skipped the Nicaragua meeting, with many complaining that Sanders was, once again, wasting time on a far-flung cause.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2015/07/the-foreign-minister-of-burlington-vt-120839.html

Read the whole thing, it is an interesting bit of history and not bad.

Bees and Banned Pesticide: Die-Off in Portland, Ore.

More than 400 bees--most of them bumblebees--were found dead in Portland, Ore. in mid-to-late June. The four bee die-offs that occurred in the Portland area that month were among several major bee die-offs to occur in the past two years, as The Oregonian reported.

A state probe by the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) recently released results that lethal levels of the pesticide imidacloprid, which the ODA banned in February, as reported by The Oregonian. Imidacloprid is a type of neonicotinoid--a class of systemic insecticides implemented in colony collapse disorder.

All of the bees were found near linden trees--a type of tree often sprayed with chemicals to control aphids, as The Oregonian article noted.

Investigators with the ODA have determined, by interviewing owners and managers of the property on which the bees died, that chemical applications to the trees took place before the ban went into effect, The Oregonian reported.


Newly found Hunter S. Thompson audio a rare, candid look at the legend

Forty-eight years ago, legendary writer Hunter S. Thompson was interviewed about the brutal ass-kicking he received while traveling with an infamous motorcycle gang. The rare audio from one of the 20th century's most cutting voices has been unearthed—and you don't need to be a fan to get hooked.

After all this was a journalist who said, at the time of the interview, “I keep my mouth shut now. I’ve turned into a professional coward," before going on to become the King of Gonzo only two years later. Thompson had a reputation so strong that it ultimately interfered with his ability to cover stories in the way he preferred to: quietly in the back, with a tape recorder in his hand and a brain swimming in whiskey.

But ending your case study of the Hells Angels with an expected savage beating will make words like that come out of you. That reporting went on to become the watershed Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga.

This nearly hour-long interview has been edited down to just more than five minutes by PBS Digital Studios, with animation added over it as a part of series Blank on Blank, which is all released via YouTube.


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