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Environmental Scientist

Journal Archives

Look at this chart and then try to say global warming doesn’t exist

By Roberto A. Ferdman

The World Meteorological Organization just released its Global Climate Report (pdf), which wastes no time in announcing a stark truth. The report’s first sentence: “The first decade of the 21st century was the warmest decade recorded since modern measurements began around 1850.”

Nine out of ten years between 2001 and 2010 were among the ten warmest in recorded history, according to the report, and the warmest year to date was 2010. For those worried about glacier melting, the heat spike wasn’t isolated to land. The decade was warmest for both land and ocean surface temperatures.

In case anyone still doubts the existence of global warming, take a gander at this chart:


‘The New Cool’: How These Sharp Space Pictures Were Snapped From A Ground Telescope


A near-infrared view of NGC 4038 (one of the Antenna Galaxies) obtained with the Gemini Observatory’s new adaptive optics system. Credit: Gemini Observatory/AURA (Image data from Rodrigo Carrasco, GeMS System Verification Team, Gemini Observatory. Color composite image by Travis Rector, University of Alaska Anchorage.)

Rise above Earth with a telescope, and one huge obstacle to astronomy is removed: the atmosphere. We love breathing that oxygen-nitrogen mix, but it’s sure not fun to peer through it. Ground-based telescopes have to deal with air turbulence and other side effects of the air we need to breathe.

Enter adaptive optics — laser-based systems that can track the distortions in the air and tell computers in powerful telescopes how to flex their mirrors. That sparkling picture above came due to a new system at the Gemini South telescope in Chile.

It’s one of only a handful pictures released, but astronomers are already rolling out the superlatives.

“GeMS sets the new cool in adaptive optics,” stated Tim Davidge, an astronomer at Canada’s Dominion Astrophysical Observatory.

Read more: http://www.universetoday.com/103269/the-new-cool-how-these-sharp-space-pictures-were-snapped-from-a-ground-telescope/

Review of Mark Leibovich’s ‘This Town’

Carlos Lozada is Outlook editor of The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter: @carloslozadaWP

Mark Leibovich toyed with several titles for his new book on self-interest, self-importance and self-perpetuation in the nation’s capital. “Suck-Up City” was one. “The Club” was another. Finally, he settled on “This Town,” a nod, he explains, to the “faux disgust” with which people here refer to their natural habitat. ¶ It’s not bad, but the longer I roamed around “This Town,” the more I thought Leibovich should have borrowed Newsweek’s memorable post-Sept. 11, 2001, cover line: “Why They Hate Us.” His tour through Washington only feeds the worst suspicions anyone can have about the place — a land driven by insecurity, hypocrisy and cable hits, where friendships are transactional, blind-copying is rampant and acts of public service appear largely accidental. ¶ Only two things keep you turning pages between gulps of Pepto: First, in Leibovich’s hands, this state of affairs is not just depressing, it’s also kind of funny. Second, you want to know whether the author thinks anyone in Washington — anyone at all? — is worthy of redemption.

Leibovich, chief national correspondent for the New York Times Magazine and a former reporter at The Washington Post (where we overlapped briefly but never met), is a master of the political profile, with his subjects revealing themselves in the most unflattering light. That talent becomes something of a crutch in “This Town,” which offers more a collection of profiles and scenes than a rich narrative. Still, his characters reveal essential archetypes of Washington power.

First, there is longtime NBC news reporter Andrea Mitchell — a conflict of interest in human form. Married to former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, Mitchell has specialized in covering administrations and campaigns that “overlapped considerably with her social and personal habitat,” as Leibovich puts it.

There are those weekend getaways at George Shultz’s home. And dinner with Tipper and Al. And that surprise 50th-birthday party for Condi. And what do you do when you’re reporting on the 2008 financial crisis and many people are pointing at your husband as a chief culprit? NBC tossed up a fig leaf: allowing Mitchell to cover the politics of dealing with the financial crisis, but not the conditions that gave rise to it. Such hair-splitting becomes inevitable, Leibovich writes, because Mitchell trying to avoid conflicts of interest is “like an owl trying to avoid trees.”



When states monitored their citizens we used to call them authoritarian.

Now we think this is what keeps us safe
The internet is being snooped on and CCTV is everywhere. How did we come to accept that this is just the way things are?

Suzanne Moore
The Guardian, Wednesday 3 July 2013 15.00 EDT

America controls the sky. Fear of what America might do can make countries divert planes – all because Edward Snowden might be on one.

Owning the sky has somehow got to me more than controlling the internet. Maybe because I am a simpleton and sometimes can only process what I can see – the actual sky, rather than invisible cyberspace in which data blips through fibre-optic cables.

Thus the everyday internet remains opaque to all but geeks. And that's where I think I have got it wrong. My first reaction to the Prism leaks was to make stupid jokes: Spies spy? Who knew? The fact that Snowden looked as if he came from central casting didn't help. Nor did the involvement of Julian Assange, a cult leader who should be in Sweden instead of a cupboard in an embassy.

What I failed to grasp, though, was quite how much I had already surrendered my liberty, not just personally but my political ideals about what liberty means. I simply took for granted that everyone can see everything and laughed at the idea that Obama will be looking at my pictures of a cat dressed as a lobster. I was resigned to the fact that some random FBI merchant will wonder at the inane and profane nature of my drunken tweets.

Slowly but surely, The Lives of Others have become ours. CCTV cameras everywhere watch us, so we no longer watch out for each other. Public space is controlled. Of course, much CCTV footage is never seen and often useless. But we don't need the panopticon once we have built one in our own minds. We are all suspects.


Chicago Rising!

Rick Perlstein July 2, 2013

Karen Lewis, center, president of the CTU is joined by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, left, and United States Representative Bobby Rush, right, during a demonstration and march over the a plan to close fifty-four Chicago Public Schools through Chicago's downtown Wednesday, March 27, 2013. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

On a sunny saturday this past May, far down on the city’s black South Side where corner stores house their cashiers behind bulletproof plexiglass, about 150 activists assembled at Jesse Owens Community Academy. In just a few days, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s appointed Board of Education would vote on the largest simultaneous school closing in recent history. Owens, along with fifty-three other public schools, was on the chopping block. A recent Chicago Tribune/WGN poll found that more than 60 percent of Chicago citizens opposed the closings, and a healthy cross section of them had turned out for the first of three straight days of marches in protest.

Women in red Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) T-shirts registered participants; a vanload of purple-shirted SEIU marchers lingered in excited anticipation; an activist from the city’s Anti-Eviction Campaign, which breaks into and takes over foreclosed houses, donned a parade marshal’s orange vest; two street medics from the Occupy-associated Chicago Action Medical checked on some elderly marchers who arrived in a church bus. The music teacher at Owens, a former minister, asked rhetorically, “Will I have a job on Monday?” She answers her own question: “That’s OK.” A white, middle-class mother with two kids in the system, who traveled almost 100 blocks to be here, told me that she is a Republican but that “people on the right don’t like being pushed around by overbearing government.”

There were signs representing Jobs With Justice and the community-labor umbrella group Grassroots Collaborative. Another sign snarked: if rahm and his unelected school board ever set foot in a CPS school perhaps their math wouldn’t be so bad. The president of Michigan’s American Federation of Teachers spoke. Then a parent mocked public schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett’s recent invocation of Martin Luther King at a City Club of Chicago speech: “How can you call this a civil rights movement when you resegregate our schools, decimate our teacher corps and destabilize our neighborhoods?”

The march stepped off, passing boarded-up houses and auction signs; a CTU staffer called cadence (“I don’t know but it’s been said/ Billionaires on the Board of Ed”). Supporters shouted out in solidarity from front porches. When we passed the first of five closing schools along our seven-mile route, a clutch of 10-year-olds bearing handmade signs joined in and got turns at the bullhorn. I noticed something striking: again and again, when the CTU yell-leader barked out the first half of a new chant (“We need teachers, we need books”), everybody already knew the second line: “We need the money that Rahhhhhhm took!”

Read more:http://www.thenation.com/article/175085/chicago-rising

Watch Chicago. Watch it this September, when the school year is set to open with fifty fewer schools in operation. “So let me tell you what you’re gonna do,” shouted CTU president Karen Lewis in a rally last March. “On the first day of school, you show up at your real school! Don’t let these people take your schools!” The conditions are ripe for such civil disobedience: the bonds of trust within a variegated activist community; a growing culture of militancy extending all the way down to formerly quiescent middle-class parents; strategic smarts, passion, momentum. Brazil, Bulgaria, Taksim Square… Chicago. The next battle in the global war against austerity, privatization and corruption just might spark off right here.

Outbreak Traced To Pomegranates Reveals Flaws In Global Food Chain

July 03, 2013 2:18 PM

Disease detectives have traced the continuing outbreak of hepatitis A that has so far sickened 136 people in the U.S. to a shipment of pomegranate seeds from the Anatolian region of Turkey.

As a result, the Food and Drug Administration has ordered any new shipments from the company that shipped the suspect fruit, Goknur Foodstuffs Import Export Trading, to be seized at American ports.

That should be enough to end this outbreak. Hepatitis A is commonly spread when food workers don't wash their hands after using the bathroom. But in the current outbreak, there are slight variations in the virus among the people who have fallen ill. That suggests that the pomegranate may have become contaminated with sewage carrying the virus from more than one person.

It's unsettling to think that a few people in Turkey could cause a serious disease outbreak halfway around the world. It makes global food safety seem like a high-stakes version of the 1980s children's game Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?

All of the people who have fallen ill bought the organic frozen berry mix at Costco, a company renowned for its food safety efforts. Given that the U.S. gets 50 percent of its fresh fruit, 20 percent of its fresh vegetables and 80 percent of its seafood from other countries, are we doomed to more outbreaks like this?



The Koch Brothers' FreedomWorks PAC Lays Plans to Keep Texas Red

By Patrick Williams Wed., Jul. 3 2013 at 11:16 AM

We'd basically forgotten about Battleground Texas, that voter-registration effort by former Obama campaigners trying to turn the state blue. Despair will do funny things to the brain, and despite all the talk of shifting demographics this and majority-minority that, we don't see Texas becoming a people's republic anytime in the next 30 centuries.
"But what about Senator Wendy Davis' filibuster over abortion rights and the thousands of people at the grrl power rallies in Austin?" you ask, lacing up your new pink Mizunos. Well sure, that was nice, but call us when the Legislature's vote is in. If there are more than four abortion clinics left when this is finished, maybe we'll celebrate.

In Texas, progressives hold rallies. Conservatives hold power. And unless you really like clever T-shirts and yelling, power is better.

Still, hope lives on like a tiny mustard seed, ready to sprout at the oddest times. So when Politico revealed last week that FreedomWorks, the conservative, Koch Bros.-founded, Tea Party-bankrolling PAC, was preparing to spend $8 million to counter Battleground Texas, we found the news cheering. If FreedomWorks thinks it needs to spend its money in Texas of all places, maybe Battleground Texas is doing something right after all.

Also delightful, in a schadenfreude-y kinda way: Eight million bucks is roughly what FreedomWorks reportedly paid former Texas representative and conservative stalwart Dick Armey in going-away money during a highly publicized bit of infighting last year. Plus, the name of FreedomWorks' project is "Come and Take It," a slogan borrowed from Texas' split from Mexico. One imagines hearing angry white conservative Texans say "come and take it" will do wonders for the GOP's Latino voter outreach. "Hey, immigrant! Come and take it! Our campaign literature, we mean."


Dems are going to have to rip power out of their cold claws.

Another Mr. Fish toon guaranteed to piss off Security State supporters

Toon- if the NSA had been around back in 1776...

Robert Reich: Ayn Rand could have learned from the Arizona firefighters

It’s worth pondering that the 19 firefighters who died Sunday battling a huge wildfire near Prescott, Arizona, presumably were motivated by something other than rational self-interest. Like the first-responders to 9/11 and other emergencies, and members of the armed forces, they put themselves in harm’s way (or chose a job that did so) because they wanted to serve.

Economics, and much of public policy and political strategy, assume that people are motivated by self-interest, that the definition of acting rationally is to maximize what you want for yourself, and that other values – service, duty, allegiance to others, morality, and shared ideals – are either irrelevant or negligible.

Ayn Rand, the philosophical guru of the modern Republican Party, popularized this view of human nature. In her world, selfishness is the only honest and justifiable motive. By looking out for Number One, we accomplish everything that’s necessary. Economist Milton Friedman extended the logic: The magic of the marketplace can be relied on to allocate resources to their highest and best uses. Anything “public” is suspect.

The titans of Wall Street and the CEOs of our major corporations have put this narrow principle into everyday practice. In their view, the aggregation of great wealth and maximization of profit is the only justifiable motive. Greed is good. Eight-figure compensation packages are their due. People are paid according to their economic worth.

This crimped perspective misses what’s most important. Shared values are the essence of a society. They fuel not only acts of valor, such as those of these 19 young firefighters, but they also motivate people to become teachers and social workers, police officers and soldiers, librarians and city councilors.


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