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Gender: Male
Hometown: Detroit, MI
Member since: Fri Oct 29, 2004, 12:18 AM
Number of posts: 73,015

Journal Archives

U.S. Southwest, already parched, sees 'virtual water' drain abroad

U.S. Southwest, already parched, sees ‘virtual water’ drain abroad
As the Colorado River Basin enters yet another year of drought, global companies are worsening the water crisis.

Driving into Southern California’s Palo Verde Valley from the Arizona border, fields of vibrant green appear out of the desert like a mirage. Near the town of Blythe, water from the Colorado River turns the dry earth into verdant farmland, much of it to grow a single crop — alfalfa, a type of plant used mainly to feed dairy cows.

For decades, a significant portion of alfalfa grown here and elsewhere in the western United States — as much as 17 percent in 2017 — has been loaded onto trucks, driven hundreds of miles to ports on the west coast, and shipped around the world, mainly to China, Japan, and Saudi Arabia. A little over five years ago, one company decided it made more sense to own the land, and the water that came with it, outright.

The company, a Saudi Arabian dairy firm called Almarai, purchased 1,790 acres in the Palo Verde Valley to secure a supply of alfalfa for its dairy cows. Soon after, Saudi Arabia began phasing out domestic alfalfa production to preserve its water supplies, which were dwindling after years of overuse for agriculture. The purchase made headlines as critics including local politicians and environmentalists questioned whether it was fair for a foreign entity to use up valuable groundwater resources for products that wouldn’t ultimately benefit Americans.

But the company is far from alone. Foreign corporations are increasingly purchasing land in the U.S.; in the Southwest, thanks to longstanding laws on water rights, these purchases often come with unlimited access to the valuable water underneath the soil. Combined with nearly year-round sunshine, this has made the area a magnet for companies looking to grow water-intensive crops and raise livestock. Over the last 20 years, foreign companies have purchased more than 250,000 acres of land in six Southwestern states to raise cattle and pigs, as well as to grow everything from almonds to alfalfa, according to an analysis of purchase data that Undark obtained from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. .............(more)


In California's Drier Future, What's the Best Investment for Securing Water?

In California’s Drier Future, What’s the Best Investment for Securing Water?
Experts agree that cities need diverse water supplies, but desalination plants remain controversial.


(YES! Magazine) Once again, California is in a drought. Much of Northern California and the Central Valley are experiencing “acute water supply shortfalls,” and the Sierra Nevada snowpack, a critical water source for Californians up and down the state during the dry season, is all but gone already—just 6% of normal for this time of year.

California’s water system, already stressed by the dueling needs of massive urban centers and its agricultural sector, is crumbling in the face of climate change. The state’s climate is becoming increasingly unstable, oscillating between periods of drought and deluge, which is making the water supply hard to predict. To make sure they can deliver enough water to California’s farms and cities going forward, water managers are focusing on shoring up local supplies.

But not everyone agrees on the best way to do that. Nowhere is this clearer than in Orange County’s Huntington Beach, the site of a proposed desalination plant.

First proposed in the late 1990s by Poseidon Water, which has developed several large-scale desalination facilities around the world, including one just down the coast in Carlsbad, the Huntington Beach project has been beset by shifting permitting regulations, legal challenges, and political turmoil for decades.

The plant inched closer to reality last month with the approval of a key permit from the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board, after a set of marathon hearings that showcased the controversy surrounding the plant. The sessions began with the board discussing calls for three members to recuse themselves after they privately communicated about the project with California EPA chief Jared Blumenfeld, a supporter of the plant, and they ended with the vice chair visibly sipping from a wine glass just before the vote. .............(more)


Millions of Americans view being anti-vaccination as a part of their social identity

(Salon) In a new paper published for the journal Politics, Groups, and Identities, researchers found that 22 percent of Americans actively identify themselves as anti-vaccination, with 14 percent saying they are "sometimes" part of the movement and 8 percent saying this is "always" the case.

These self-described anti-vaxxers "embrace" the label of anti-vaxxer "as a form of social identity," the authors write.

"We also find that people who score highly on our [anti-vaxx social identification] measure tend to be less trusting of scientific experts and more individualistic," they noted.

The study is a stark reminder that vaccine-hostile attitudes are not a fringe view, but are possessed by a substantial portion of the US population, many of whom have come to consider the label a formative part of their identity. As daily COVID-19 vaccination rates have begun to decline, the cohort of self-identified anti-vaccination Americans are contributing to the delayed march towards herd immunity in the United States. ...............(more)


'Greenway Stimulus' Could Bring Boom in Bike and Walking Trails

‘Greenway Stimulus’ Could Bring Boom in Bike and Walking Trails
Active-transportation advocates are campaigning for $10 billion in infrastructure funding to connect cities with paths and create an interstate system for cyclists and walkers.

By John Surico
June 4, 2021, 1:13 PM EDT

(Bloomberg CityLab) If you’ve ridden a bike in New York City, you’ve likely found yourself, perhaps unknowingly, on one of its designated “greenways.”

The Hudson River Greenway, the most heavily frequented bike path in the U.S., runs up and down Manhattan’s western waterfront. The nearly complete Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway is a 26-mile ride past some of the borough’s most popular destinations, like Coney Island and the Brooklyn Bridge. Parks in Queens, Staten Island and the Bronx are also traversed by greenways.

Thanks to the persistent pandemic-era bike boom, these routes are seeing a surge in use: Bike traffic on the Hudson River Greenway often appears to match the paralleling West Side Highway. Last summer, around 150,000 cyclists a month — or about 5,000 a day — passed through Kent Avenue, in Williamsburg. This year is on track to surpass that. (Now there are calls to widen it, as a recent video captured more two-wheelers than four.)

But New York City’s greenway system is more a collection of fragments than a cohesive network. There are gaps where riders must dismount or ride in mixed traffic; some stretches lack protection from speeding cars and trucks, much less any “green.” And the five boroughs aren’t fully linked. ............(more)


Canadian man charged with murder after allegedly driving into Muslim family

(Guardian UK) A 20-year-old Canadian man has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one of attempted murder after driving his pickup truck into a Muslim family in what police described as “a premeditated attack”.

Two women, aged 74 and 44, a 46-year-old man and a 15-year-old girl – a grandmother, mother, father and their teenage daughter – were killed on Sunday night when Nathaniel Veltman ploughed his black pickup truck into a group of pedestrians in the city of London, Ontario, police said.

The lone survivor, a nine-year-old boy, remains in hospital with serious but non-life-threatening injuries. The victims’ family has requested the names not be released.

The London police service chief, Steve Williams, said on Monday that investigators “believe this was an intentional act” and that “the victims of this horrific incident were targeted because of their Islamic faith”. ..............(more)


Whitmer plot suspect accuses FBI agents, informant of entrapment

(Detroit Free Press) One man charged in connection with the plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is arguing entrapment by the federal agents and confidential informant in his case.

Pete Musico, 43, of Munith, in a May motion in Jackson County’s 4th District Court called for his case to be dismissed because he says he wouldn’t have associated with Adam Fox, the federal defendant said to have been the ringleader in the plot, if not for police interference.

“If they’re saying that behavior was criminal, you instigated it,” his public defender, Kareem Johnson, said of the accusations against his client.

The FBI directed questions to the Michigan Attorney General’s Office, which declined to comment on the ongoing court matter. .............(more)


How the New Atheists merged with the far right

Godless grifters: How the New Atheists merged with the far right
What once seemed like a bracing intellectual movement has degenerated into a pack of abusive, small-minded bigots

PUBLISHED JUNE 5, 2021 12:00PM

It was inspiring — really inspiring. I remember watching clip after clip of Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens debating Christians, Muslims and "purveyors of woo," exposing the fatuity of their faith-based beliefs in superstitious nonsense unsupported by empirical evidence, often delivered to self-proclaimed prophets by supernatural beings via the epistemically suspicious channel of private revelation. Not that Harris, Dawkins and Hitchens were saying anything particularly novel — the inconsistencies and contradictions of religious dogma are apparent even to small children. Why did God have to sacrifice his son for our sins? Does Satan have free will? And how can the Father, Son and Holy Spirit be completely separate entities but also one and the same?

The "New Atheist" movement, which emerged from the bestselling books of the aforementioned authors, was the intellectual community that many of us 15 or so years ago were desperately looking for — especially after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which seemed to confirm Samuel P. Huntington's infamous "clash of civilizations" thesis. As Harris once put it, with many of us naively agreeing, "We are at war with Islam." (Note: This was a dangerous and xenophobic lie that helped get Donald Trump elected. As Harris said in 2006, anticipating how his brand of Islamophobia would enable Trump's rise, "the people who speak most sensibly about the threat that Islam poses to Europe are actually fascists." )

New Atheism appeared to offer moral clarity, it emphasized intellectual honesty and it embraced scientific truths about the nature and workings of reality. It gave me immense hope to know that in a world overflowing with irrationality, there were clear-thinking individuals with sizable public platforms willing to stand up for what's right and true — to stand up for sanity in the face of stupidity.

Fast-forward to the present: What a grift that was! Many of the most prominent New Atheists turned out to be nothing more than self-aggrandizing, dogmatic, irascible, censorious, morally compromised people who, at every opportunity, have propped up the powerful over the powerless, the privileged over the marginalized. This may sound hyperbolic, but it's not when, well, you look at the evidence. So I thought it might be illuminating to take a look at where some of the heavy hitters in the atheist and "skeptic" communities are today. What do their legacies look like? In what direction have they taken their cultural quest to secularize the world? .............(more)


Illinois had a chance to pass one of the most progressive clean energy bills. It failed.

(Grist) After two years of negotiations, it seemed likely that Illinois was finally going to pass ambitious clean energy legislation during its latest legislative session. There were over five bills on the table that included decarbonization goals, expanded renewable energy programs, equity measures, improved energy efficiency standards, and job creation strategies. Even Governor J.B. Pritzker had submitted a bill into the mix. And then, nothing happened.

The Illinois legislature managed to officially declare a state microbe and mandate that Illinois and U.S. flags be purchased from U.S. suppliers, but it couldn’t pass much needed — and much wanted — energy legislation before the end of its session.

The failure to approve a clean energy package hinged on debate over nuclear subsidies for controversial energy giant Exelon and the closure date for one of the most polluting coal-fired power plants in the United States. The situation demonstrates how even with strong support for climate action from the White House, the battle for clean energy at the state level is still far from over.

“We’re one of the last two states with Democratic legislators and Democratic governors that have not passed legislation on 100 percent [decarbonization or renewable energy],” said Jennifer Walling, executive director of the Illinois Environmental Council. ............(more)


The Anthony Bourdain Documentary Trailer Just Dropped And 'There's No Happy Ending'


“You’re probably going to find out about it anyway so here’s a little preemptive truth-telling: There’s no happy ending.”

That’s how the voice of the late Anthony Bourdain greets viewers in the official trailer for “Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain.”

The upcoming documentary about the renowned chef, restaurateur and author is billed as “an intimate, behind-the-scenes look at how an anonymous chef became a world-renowned cultural icon.” Made by Oscar-winning filmmaker Morgan Neville, who previously was behind the Mister Rogers biopic, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor,” the film appears to unpack Bourdain’s life as a food and travel lover searching for deeper meaning.

Bourdain was found dead by suicide in June 2018 while working on an episode of his hit CNN series, “Parts Unknown.” His death sent shock waves throughout the globe as his impact stretched far beyond just the food world. ...........(more)


Florida man attacked by alligator while diving for megalodon teeth in river

SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) – A Florida man is recovering after surviving an alligator attack over the weekend.

Jeffrey Heim was diving in the Myakka River on Sunday looking for megalodon teeth when he was attacked from behind by an alligator.

“I thought it was a boat it hit me so fast or it felt like it was so fast,” the 25-year-old said.

He told our sister station WFLA he wasn’t in the water for very long when the attack happened. He thinks the alligator was about 9 feet long and possibly a female. It’s currently alligator mating season in Florida.

“I look up and the gator is right in front of me and we are looking at each other and we are both confused,” added Heim. ............(more)


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