Tuesday, September 26, 2017

COTW: Merkel Still in Power, Barely


The xenophobic Alternative for Germany Party made substantial inroads into Angela Merkel's ruling majority after Germany's parliamentary election on Monday. Like the Conservative Party in England, Merkel's CDU/CSU will be forced to cobble a coalition government as its rival major party, Social Democrats (SPD), chose opposition over renewing a coalition with the Christian Democrats. Her party is far apart from the potential partners, the Greens and Free Democrats, on several major issues. The charts shows Germany's swing to the populist right:


Two of Germany's major corporations, Siemens and Volkswagen, expressed concern with the election results through their CEOs. Merkle's immediate task is to shore up confidence in the German economy as the euro dropped on news of the election results. Coalition building will take months and the alt-right party, which ran primarily on the issue of immigration, promises to be difficult to handle. No other German party will work with the fractious new-comers to the Bundestag.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

'Toontime: Ave, Ave Emperator!

credit Adam Zyglis, Buffalo News
BC Idonwanna sez: Him called Chief Little Finger.
Once again the bombastic White House occupant proves why he is unfit for the world's most powerful office. In his United Nations speech, he insulted the dictator of now nuclear North Korea, known to be sensitive to personal attacks, calling him a "suicidal rocket man". Kim Jung Un riposted with a few choice words, calling Trump a "deranged dotard". The world expects more of the leader of the 'free world' and they certainly did not get it from Trump; he has, in fact, brought it much closer to nuclear war. Trump's threat to "totally destroy" North Korea in a forum dedicated to world peace is beyond ironic it is revealingly criminal. As one commentator wrote, "It is the American Way." Vietnam was prologue to that fact, regardless of any and all revisionist propaganda peddled as "history" on television¹.

It is only a matter of time (six to eight months) before the North Korean regime is technically able to deliver a nuclear warhead to mainland USA. If a pre-emptive strike is made by the United States, it is unreasonable to expect China to simply sit by as its client state is reduced to radioactive ashes. When war broke out on the peninsula in 1950 after military incursions by the US-supplied South², China joined the conflict. Both sides will "pay dearly" if war reignites on the peninsula.

The exchange of derogatory personal remarks has made diplomacy all the more difficult. Trump was warned by his aides to refrain from such personal attacks in his speech; the vetted version did not contain ad-lib vile name-calling. As President Putin succinctly put it, "they would rather eat grass" than give up their weapons now. There may not be any grass to eat, if the Emperor continues to pander to his white supremacist base.

1.The US waged imperial war on Southeast Asia for thirteen years killing upwards of 5 million in an futile effort to exterminate a popular movement of national liberation from colonial oppression. The means were often atrociously cruel and included massacre, carpet bombing, assassination, free-fire zones, and chemical weapons. It was a monumental crucifixion of an impoverished peasantry that had little more than the will to resist their foreign overlords. They won the war, but largely lost their economic independence since they now supply a source of cheap labor and resources to the global capitalist "core". As Upton Sinclair accurately, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” 

2. On the morning of June 26, 1950 South Korean leaders announced that their forces had captured the North Korean town of Haeju. What they don't say is that the invasion and capture of Haeju occurred on the 25th in a surprise invasion by the South across the 38th parallel. That attack occurred two days before North Korean troops crossed the line of demarcation. ; According to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, in 2004 South Korea admitted to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that South Korean scientists had secretly been enriching uranium. In the early 1970s, fearing the effect of US reductions of forces in South Korea, the Weapons Exploitation Committee of the South Korean government made the decision to begin developing nuclear weapons. The South Korean weapons program seems to have continued until October 1979. The North Koreans may possess as many as twenty nuclear warheads, but they have no operational system with which to deliver them against the United States' mainland. Delivering them to Seoul is an entirely different matter. The North was blasted with more explosive tonnage than was dropped during the entire Pacific Theater of WWII. Pongyang, a city of a half-million then, only had two buildings standing in 1953. Gen. MacArthur testified to Congress in 1951, “The [conventional] war in Korea has already almost destroyed that nation of 20 million people. I have never seen such devastation. I have seen, I guess, as much blood and disaster as any living man, and it just curdled my stomach, the last time I was there. After I looked at that wreckage and those thousands of women and children … I vomited.” Casualties in the north amounted to 2 million, including about 1 million civilians. Nuclear war will be much, much worse and the dying will go on for decades. Just ask the Japanese.

Friday, September 22, 2017

CAT 5 Hurricanes Are the Real Monsters


The most dangerous of these immense tropical storms are those classified as "CAT 5" meaning they contain winds in excess of 157 mph.  Those winds produce catastrophic damage to structures on land, and produce tremendous storm surges which add to their destructive power.  The 1935 category 5 hurricane was unnamed, referred to as the 'Labor Day' hurricane, it struck the Florida Keys with sustained 185 mph winds.  It is the strongest hurricane to make landfall on record.  The storm killed 423 people including veterans living in tents while building a road in the islands.  So powerful, its 15 feet storm surge swept people out to sea off the low-lying keys, and knocked a relief train off the rails.

Although it was the strongest, it was not the deadliest.  That dubious honor goes to another anonymous hurricane that flattened Galveston, TX killing an estimated six to eight thousand people in 1900. Hurricane Allen in 1980 produced winds of an astonishing 190 mph, but did not make landfall as a category 5; its amazing winds were exceed by a Pacific cyclone, Patricia, that clocked winds at 215 mph!  The categorization of hurricane power by wind speed (Saffir-Simpson scale) alone is somewhat misleading.  The amount of rainfall associated with the storm also contributes to damage.  Katrina, which came ashore as a category 3, was considered the costliest storm in US history after it flooded the city of New Orleans causing $108 billion in damage and killing 1200 people.  Harvey now holds that record of costliest.

 Hurricane Irma's distinct eye--one of the strongest storms ever in the Atlantic

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Is It the End for Atwater's Prairie Chicken?

Port Arthur, TX, credit: AP
The end-of-the-world weather the US is experiencing has been impressive to say the least.   Hurricane Harvey, officially the largest and most destructive rainfall event in the country's history, dumped over 51 inches of rain on metropolitan Houston, displaced thirty thousand people, and killed seventy so far.  Hurricane Maria has devastated Puerto Rico with 110 mph sustained winds. (Cat4) Scientists will not categorically state that global warming caused Harvey.  Attributing causes to something as chaotic as weather is problematic.  They will say, however, that global warming causes the atmosphere to hold a lot more water vapor, and elevates sea temperatures which leads to more intense precipitation events.

Then there is plight of Atwater's prairie chicken. Just southwest of Houston is the Atwater Prairie Chicken Reserve, home to the last forty-two birds of this species known to survive in the wild.  When a species population is that low, a single extreme event like Harvey could cause an extinction.  The exact state of the refuge is not known because flood waters have made it inaccessible and refuge personnel are dealing with their own flood damage.  Prairie chickens are small and nest on the ground, so they are particularly susceptible to floods.  When the last major storm poured 8-12 inches of rain on the refuge, it nearly washed them away forever.

a hatchling, courtesy USFWS
Fortune smiled on the species.  All twenty adult birds being held in pens pending release into the refuge on September 1st were gathered up and sent to the Houston Zoo for safekeeping.  At last report the birds were doing fine and gaining weight. Every year conservationists release about 300 captive bred birds into the coastal plain of southeast Texas. For these birds to see their second birthday is noteworthy, for they must survive predators like skunks and snakes who eat their young, and even vicious fire ants, which in a flood survive by rafting their bodies together by the thousands to float to new territory. 


Monday, September 18, 2017

The Rights of Nature

Pittsburgh today: a destination
Der Donald thought he was being clever when he attempted to justify his withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Climate Accord by saying he represented Pittsburgh, not Paris. The statement was unfair to the city of Pittsburgh, once a very dirty and polluted steel town, that has literally "cleaned up its act" since the days of US Steel and Andrew Carnegie. Significantly Pittsburgh is the first US city to recognize the rights of nature under law. Rather than treating nature as if it were inanimate property and not a living organism, the doctrine of the rights of nature recognizes that nature in all its forms has a right to exist, persist and regenerate. This is a doctrine that is very familiar to indigenous peoples all over the world who understand nature to be a living entity, but is just beginning to receive attention and respect it deserves in western jurisprudence.

Pittsburgh yesterday: what Donald has in mind?
How did a former steel town become a leader in the recognition of the rights of nature? It began with a community based effort to stop hydraulic fracking within the city limits of Pittsburgh. The city sits on top of the Marcellus Shale formation which is being exploited by oil and gas companies. In order to bring the oil and gas to the surface from one mile down, the shale has to be fractured with high pressure water laced with toxic chemicals. The process is very polluting since it releases carcinogens like benzene, heavy metals, and radioactive ores. It has been proven to cause contamination of ground water and earth tremors.

A city councilman, Doug Shields, led the fight to pass an ordinance prohibiting drilling in Pittsburgh when a local Catholic church signed a lease to permit drilling for natural gas beneath their cemetery. Written by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, it elevates the rights of community and nature over corporate rights, challenging the state to pre-empt Pittsburgh's concept of home rule. The ordinance in several of its provisions denies the legal "personhood" of corporations seeking to drill within the city's limits. The ordinance passed the city council unanimously and was signed into law in 2010.

Pittsburgh was not the first US jurisdiction to recognize nature's legal rights. That honor goes to Tamaqua, PA a rural community that was literally being dumped on with toxic sewage sludge. Abandoned coal pits in the area were being used for the disposal of waste solids some of which came from New York and New Jersey and contained hospital and industrial wastes. A spike in diseases such as Alzheimer and cancer were detected. The borough had enough: it passed an ordinance asserting its community and banned the dumping. Under Section 7.6, "natural communities and ecosystems shall be considered persons for the enforcement of civil rights".

The doctrine of nature's legal rights has been recognized and enforced in other countries.  In April 2017 an Indian high court granted legal personhood to the Ganges and Yamuna rivers, both considered sacred by Hindus.  Similarly a New Zealand court recognized the legal personage of the Whanganui river, considered an ancestor by the Maori people. In 2008, Ecuador adopted a constitutional amendment that acknowledged nature’s right to “exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles.” Bolivia followed three years later with a similarly worded law.Both refer to Pachamama, the Quechua and Aymara word for “nature” or “Mother Earth.”

In the United States, legal commentators trace the origin of the doctrine to an influential 1972 law review article by USC professor Christopher Stone, Should Trees Have Standing?, but Native American have held similar sacred beliefs for thousands of years.  Former Chief Justice William O. Douglas was obviously influenced by the concept of nature having legal rights when he wrote that natural 'objects' should have standing to sue through their representatives to preserve their existence when injury is "the subject of public outrage".

Corporations have had their personhood enshrined in US jurisprudence for two centuries.  US Person asks: is it so outrageous or radical to think that living nature--hard pressed by technology and commerce--to have the same rights as an inanimate legal fiction? Clearly, the people of Pittsburgh have come to appreciate and value a clean environment and beautiful environment in which to live, regardless of what Donald Trump has to say.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Oregon Kills Mecham Pack Wolf

The Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife killed a member of the Mecham pack that lives in the northeast corner of the state. The female wolf was shot dead on September 7th in Umatilla County.  The wolf allegedly predated four times on a cattle herd grazing a 4,000 acre private ranch.  The killing is the fifth wolf to be legally exterminated in August.  The agency killed four wolves of the Harl Butte Pack, effectively eliminating the entire pack.  According to the agency the Harl Butte wolves had attacked livestock eight times in August.  The owner requested ODFW to exterminate the entire Mecham pack, but the agency choose to take an incremental approach in hopes the lethal action will dissuade the pack from predation on livestock. ODFW in defense of its lethal action said the livestock owner had taken proper precautions to deter the wolves, including hiring a range rider five days a week to maintain a human presence on the range. 

Oregon joins its neighboring state of Washington in using lethal control methods against re-colonizing wolves.  Washington authorized lethal action against the newly formed Sherman wolf pack in Ferry County.  Two wolves from the Smackout pack were killed earlier this summer.  The continued removal of wolves is raising concerns among activists about how committed both states are to a policy of allowing wolves to reestablish themselves in the northwest.

Washington recently adopted a new wolf management plan that recognized the wolf's right to exist in the state.  Oregon is in the process of adopting a new wolf policy.  An unexplained pause in this process allowed the lethal actions in August to go forward under the old rules skewed in favor of agricultural interests. Fears are that the "update" will be the same old policy that favors economic "producers" over wildlife.  The Oregon governor has been petitioned by 18 conservation groups to intervene to protect wolves, so far without a response.  Interestingly, the long-time manager of Oregon's wolf "management" program has decided not to wait to retire [photo above].


Washington has experienced a 30% increase in the number of wolves living in the state.  Oregon's population is estimated at 112 concentrated mostly in the northeast corner.  The department has documented four pairs raising new pups in northeast Oregon this summer. So despite the lethal control efforts these populations are expected to increase and therefore conflicts with humans will also increase.  Wolves are more likely to kill or attack livestock in late summer and early fall, as they prepare for winter and teach their pups to hunt.  So the question really comes down to not what to do with the wolves, but the intolerant humans who seem viscerally incapable of co-existing with another carnivore.

Friday, September 15, 2017

'Toontime: The Donald is His Own Party

credit: David Fitzsimmons, Arizona Daily Star

The truth is Donald is above parties because he is the leader of a mob. The more he appears to be above partisan politics, more more the mob cheers for him, waves their $40 golf hats, and chants "USA, USA!" Another truth is that Washington is a company town. In order to get legislation passed, you have got to have allies, but Der Donald goes out of his way to bash Repugnants. They were never very keen on him, anyway.  Only their own ineffectual bumbling allowed him to seize their party's nomination. They were especially annoyed with him this week after 'the artisan of the deal' finally cut a deal with Democrats to keep the government running temporarily for three months. His erstwhile colleagues in Congress argued for a longer period, but he sided with the opposition in a meeting Wednesday. On Thursday he appeared to reach a compromise on an Obama immigration order that conservatives wanted overturned. No surprise at PNG, since Trump was for most of his adult life a registered Democrat, even if only for business convenience in a heavily Democratic New York City. Another truth: a narcissist has few real friends, just people he can manipulate*.

*Social critic C. Wright Mills wrote in The Power Elite, "Those who are on high are not suitable as models of conservative excellence. Nor do they themselves uphold any ideology truly suitable for public use. The very rich in America have been culturally among the very poor; the only kinds of experience for which they have been models are the material ones for money-getting and money-keeping. Material success is their sole basis of authority". If that observation was true in 1956, how much more so is it true of the nouveau-riche Donald in 2016?

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

COTW: Medicare for All Act

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont has introduced into the Senate, as promised, a bill to establish Medicare as the nation's single payer for health insurance. He made the announcement today in Washington, DC He has the support of one-third of Democratic Senators. But because that chamber is controlled by Repugnants, it has no chance of being signed into law during Trump's tenure. For their part, the laissez-faire handmaidens of corporate America, introduced more legislation to gut the progress so far under the Affordable Care Act. The desire to give states block grants for their own programs using the money for expanding Medicaid is consistent with their small-government ideology for everthing except the Defense Department which they consider the reason d'etre of the national government. Although consistent it would, if passed, certainly lead to migratory health care. Some states would inevitably be more generous with their health benefits than others. Desperate people, unable to recieve sufficient benefits in their own state would move to establish residence in more generous jurisdictions. Sixteen Democratic senators are co-sponsoring his bill compared to almost no support in 2013 when introduced a previous iteration. About 60 percent of House Democrats have endorsed a “Medicare for all” bill introduced by Representative John Conyers Jr., (D-MI). The change in attitude among his caucus colleagues is indication of the increasing public support for a government solution to the problem of out-of-control healthcare costs. This chart shows the shift:


More importantly than liberal support for Medicare for All is public support for the idea that the federal government owes its citizens some form of healthcare. FDR brought attention to this social policy in a 1944 speech. The idea was also endorse by President Harry Truman.  President Lyndon Johnson signed the Medicare program into law in 1966. The name "Medicare" comes originally from the name given the medical care program established for military dependents in 1956. Regrettably, due to insurance industry opposition, President Obama refused to support a single-payer option in his Affordable Care program.  Progressives have been struggling for decades to get some form of universal social medicine past conservatives who are willing to waste billions on weapons, but hardly a dime on healthcare for Americans besides themselves:

Under the proposal universal coverage would roll out over four years. Virtually all expenses would be paid with no copays or deductables by an enhanced Medicare program that now covers Americans over 65. No source of new funding for the expansion is contained in the bill, but Sanders has offered a white paper with the bill that outlines some new tax options for financing it. Importantly, the bill de-couples health insurance from employment. Employers would no longer be responsible for health benefits, but would probably have to pay higher taxes. Other advance countries experiments have shown that a single payment source with sufficient market leverage can reduce health costs. Consequently both doctors, insurance companies, drug companies and hospitals will vehemently oppose the legislation because they all get paid less than private insurance with Medicare.  Sanders and his supporters are prepared for a long fight, potentially making the legislation a key plank of the next presidential campaign.

Sanders emphasized the simplicity of the single-payer arrangement: "I think the American people are sick and tired of filling out forms,” Sanders said. “Your income went up — you can’t get this. Your income went down — you can’t get that. You’ve got to argue with insurance companies about what you thought you were getting. Doctors are spending an enormous amount of time arguing with insurers.” Sanders admits the plan will be expensive, but points out that while an American pays a few thousand less in income taxes per year compared to a Canadian, his health care costs are twice that of his northern neighbor*.

Medicare is one of America's most popular entitlements.  Because it basically works.  The program would be enhanced to include vision, hearing and dental care.  It would also cover reproductive treatments, maternity and newborn care and abortions.  The federal government would establish a national formulary for covered prescription drugs.  The Secretary of HHS would be responsible for negotiating prices with drug companies, and have the authority to require co-pays for non-generic medications.  Three trillion is a lot money, but a inefficient hodgepodge of private health insurance is a system America cannot afford any longer.

*Similar disparities exist between the United States and every other nation in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) -- all 33 of which have public, universal health care systems. The United States is the lone member of the OECD without universal coverage. As of 2012, the average OECD country spends $3,268 per capita on health care and 9.5 percent of its GDP on health expenses, or about half of what the US spends. truth-out.org/news/item/41941-sanders-s-bill-electrifies-growing-single-payer-movement

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Kazakhstan to Bring Back Tigers

In a long range plan that may take until 2025 the central Asian nation of Kazakhstan in partnership with World Wildlife Fund will re-introduce tigers to the landscape.  Tigers have been extinct in Kazakhstan for nearly half a century. If the project is successful, it will be a first. Previous re-introduction programs have involved existing tiger habitat. The region of Ili-Balkhash has been identified as suitable habitat for tigers. Before tigers can call this place home, prey species like the kulkan, or wild donkey, and bactrain deer must first be established. Tigers went extinct in Kazakhstan in the 1940s due to poaching and habitat loss, part of the 90% decline in their historic range. Tigers once roamed central Asia from modern Turkey and Iran to northwest China.

Kazakhstan minister of agriculture said his nation is "moving along the path of green development" and is proud to be the first central Asian nation to bring back the tiger to its ancestral home.  The project will require a great deal of hard work: a dedicated protection force must be established, thriving populations of prey species created and cooperation of local communities obtained.  Efforts like Kazakhstan will insure the tiger has future on planet Earth.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Syrian War May be Over

Perhaps the apogee of US imperial power can be seen in the end of the Syrian civil conflict which has taken six years and nearly half a million lives.  The US halfheartedly backs rebels attempting to dispose the dictator, Bashir Assad. A UN special envoy joined by a former US ambassador to Syria said this week the rebels have lost that struggle.  The ambassador said Assad may never be brought to account for his war crimes, notably the use of chemical weapons against his own citizens. {28.09.13} Syria's civil war has certainly been prolonged by great power involvement and regional sectarian rivalry.

Recently the city of Deir al-Zor was liberated from a three year siege by the so-called Islamic State; it is the latest in a string of territorial gains by government forces. The second city of Aleppo is now completely in government hands.  Fierce fighting there included close air support from Russia which proved instrumental in recapturing the city and also killed a significant number of civilians.  The US-led coalition concentrated its air support on positions held by the so-called Islamic State (Daesh).  Assad's forces were also enhanced by Iranian militia and Hezbollah.  Raqqa, the nominal capital of IS, is expected to fall within the coming weeks.  Only the province of Idlib remains under rebel control.

The US was joined by Turkey and Qatar in supporting rebels that numbered elements of Islamic extremism.  Al-Nousra front received covert aid from the CIA before the new administration took office¹.  It was once affiliated with Al-Qaeda before it broke ranks to make western support politically more palatable. None of these extremists are interested in creating a secular state after Assad in which political power is shared with other factions. Therefore, the question of what to do with Assad quickly became sidelined.

Russia played the Great Game correctly: even though the Assad regime is a brutal dictatorship, Moscow's support gave the world a choice between a relatively cohesive, modernizing state at peace with Israel, or a destabilizing, fragmented territory controlled by extremists factions.  Libya, after the removal of Qaddafi, was a plausible precursor.  Russia supports a political process to let Syrians decide their future. The west can only hope it does not include Assad.  Moscow, after its decisive two year intervention, is now in the driver's seat much to the consternation of the Deep State in Washington².

1. Sixteen years after the event we now know that it was a Cold War imperative to provide military support for the Mujaheddin fighting the Soviet army in Afghanistan.  It was that cadre of trained fighters which including Osama Bin Laden that was the genesis of Al Qaeda.  The presence of infidel troops in the Wahhabi kingdom of Saudi Arabia after the decapitation of Saddam Hussein provided a reason for striking at the 'great satan's' homeland.  It was the chaotic US military occupation of Iraq that led to the formation of ISIS.  The US is still paying the price of its policy errors.

2. C.Wright Mills in The Power Elite, describing the military ascendancy in policy making observed, "When virtually all negotiation aimed at peaceful agreement is likely to be seen as 'appeasement', if not treason, the active role of the diplomat becomes meaningless; for diplomacy becomes merely a prelude to war or an interlude between wars, and in such context the diplomat is replaced by the warlord."  This observation made over 50 years ago explains why there is no peace treaty governing relations on the Korean peninsula. 


COTW: Crossing Red


credit: Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune
BC Idonwanna sez:  He have bad haircut and big bomb.

Trump's hot-headed rhetoric has had the opposite effect on the North Koreans. Instead of deterring their march toward a viable nuclear arsenal, it has only increased their determination to succeed. Last week the retro-regime announced it had successfully tested underground an H-bomb that triggered a 6.3 earthquake. There is a report from a Chinese expert that the explosion has destabilized the mountain in which the device was tested. [photo] The bomb is powerful enough to wipe out a small city, and makes North Korea a qualified nuclear threat. Warmongering with conventional weapons is affordable, risking a city or national annihilation is NOT. Instead of being "locked and loaded", the Deep State needs a new approach to resolving the Korean War.  Fortunately in this tense situation, Der Donald's short attention has been diverted by the Hurricane Harvey disaster in Texas, and the disaster coming soon to Florida delivered by Hurricane Irma, another 'cat 5' monster.  Welcome to the world of global warming and unqualified leadership*.
 

*a former aide said the White House, "was like a fraternity house the first six months and now it’s a military compound -- it’s a fort,” At least no toga parties were held in the West Wing. US Person hopes it is not F Troop that is stationed there now.

Friday, September 08, 2017

Creature Feature: the Okapi

A complete specimen of the rare Okapi (Okapia johnstoni) which lives in the Ituri rain forest of the Congo Republic (DRC) was not obtained until 1901.  Many believed the animal to be mythical, but science determined it to be the closest living relative of the giraffe.  Although protected under Congolese law, it is threatened by habitat destruction, and is listed on the IUCN Red List.  Rough estimates are that about ten to fifteen thousand still live in the forest. In 2012 an attack on Epulu Station, a conservation headquarters, by Congolese rebels fourteen habituated okapis were killed [photo courtesy OCP]. {04.07.12} The Okapi Conservation Project manages a 13,700 sq. km reserve that is home not only to okapis, but forest elephants, chimpanzees and the Mbuti pygmy tribe.  It is a UNESCO world heritage site.

OCP values its dedicated ranger force as one of its most important accomplishments in its thirty years of existence.  Protection of the reserve continued unabated through six years of devastating civil war (1997-2993).  After the attack of 2012, OCP has the Congolese army as its partner to provide greater security and remove illegal development from the the reserve.  Okapi are sensitive to human activity. The can withstand low-level human encroachment, but intense activity causes them to disappear from the area.  It is the rangers' dedication and the financial support received from outside Congo that gives "the ghost of the forest" a chance to survive into the next century.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

COTW: The Markets are Nervous

The possibility of nuclear war in Asia is having a depressing effect on stock markets.  Look at this chart:


Metals and commodities are outperforming the S&P 500 in August.  Precious metals are considered a 'safe haven' for investors in times of turmoil. Their flight to safety is reflected in the chart.  Worries over whether the extreme right will attempt another government shutdown to ransom their deluded demand to build an ineffectual wall against Mexican immigrants are creating a perception of increased risk.  Add to that an overvalued stock market, and a President who is unable to govern with consensus.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

The Children of God?

Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.  Of course Christians should recognize this verse from Christ's Sermon on the Mount.  Our conservative political leaders like to think of the United States as a Christian nation, but they are the same leaders who say peace making is equated with "appeasement".  The sad fact is that the United States wants to maintain the status quo on the Korean peninsula--a tense military standoff--because it benefits the warfare state.  The US has over thirty thousand heavily armed soldiers in South Korea poised to invade the North.  Of course they would not be need if Washington decided to seriously pursue peace along the lines set forth in the Agreed Framework negotiated during the Clinton Administration.  Instead, they let their incendiary front man, Der Donald, make provocative threats.  Then totalitarian North Korean regime engages in similar over-heated rhetoric in response.  Apparently the United States reserves the right to threaten the existence of other nations whenever threats suit it geopolitical policies.  This sabre-rattling is making the world nervous.

Yes, the North Koreans fired missiles over Japan's northern most island of Hokkaido which crashed harmlessly in the ocean. What the warmongering corporate media will not mention is that the US and Japanese troops engaged in a provocative war game entitled "Viper-17" in August.  This war game had one end: simulate a "decapitation operation" to remove Kim Jung-un and his regime.  The fly-over of North Korean missiles--similar to the fly-bys of B-1B nuclear bombers [below]--occurred just after the offensive war game ended.  Clearly it is a message that the regime will defend itself, and with nuclear force if necessary.  If one thinks carefully about North Korea's behavior, it is less 'mad dog' and more understandable in the context of half a century of belligerence, following a war in which civilians were carpet bombed and starvation used as a military tactic. Another annual military operation recently took place south of the demilitarized zone (a complete misnomer) in which 75,000 US and South Korean troops and all manner of offensive heavy armament participated.  Peace has never been concluded in Korea since the shooting stopped in 1953.

One parameter is certain, Kim Jung-un has no intention of ending up like Qaddafi or Saddam, and he has the nuclear button to prove it.[above]  So it is time for the Christian nation to end the "military hysteria" by re-taking the initiative to make peace in Korea.  That does not mean forcing the North Koreans and South Koreans to live as one nation.  Only Koreans can decide that for themselves.  But the military stalemate has to end and the peninsula de-nuclearized before millions loose their lives. The North has indicated its willingness to negotiate before.  In fact, according to one western intelligence official, it was ready to give time to the new administration to come up with new peace proposals instead of a repeat of the annual military exercise with the South.   Washington ignored those signals because it benefits from the hostile stalemate. South Korea, under its quisling government, serves as a giant military base from which the Empire can project force against China and Russia in Asia.  And that is the truth 'Mericans cannot handle.




Saturday, September 02, 2017

'Toontime: Harvey Unleashes Toxic Wave

More: Two explosions shocked a flooded chemical plant twenty miles north of ravaged Houston, TX. The corporate owner of the plant said more explosions could occur since the chemicals it produces, liquid organic peroxides used in plastics and resins, are stabilized using refrigeration. The plant is without power and will be for five to seven days; it is currently submerged under six feet of water. No fatalities have been reported most likely due to the plant's location in a rural area. The explosions have released more toxic chemicals into the already heavily contaminated flood. Hurricane Harvey has been downgraded to a tropical depression but heavy rains are expected from Southeast Texas to Kentucky. Harvey is estimated to be largest and costliest natural disaster in US history.

{02.01.17} Because Houston is the petrochemical capital of 'Merica, many refineries and industry-related chemical plants are located in the vicinity.Hurricane Harvey has flooded many of these industrial plants.  The flood waters have unleashed a wave of toxicity ranging from heavy metals to raw sewage. Included in the damage are thirteen superfunds sites created by decades of unregulated dumping, discharges and industrial waste. EPA examined aerial surveys and found them inundated with many feet of flood water.  One site of special concern is the San Jacinto Waste Pits. Once located on the banks of the San Jacinto River, they now lie below it and are contained by concrete bunkers.  Residents are worried that the raging river may erode the concrete caps and release tons of cancer-causing toxins from a defunct paper mill. EPA has promised to inspect the pits as soon as the flood waters recede enough for personnel to gain access. AP reporters have already visited the sites on foot and in boats to bring news of the potential dangers to readers.  Trump’s proposed 2018 budget seeks to cut money for the Superfund program by 30 percent.

Damaged refineries and other oil facilities have already released more than two million pounds of hazardous substances into the air this week, including nitrogen oxide as well as carcinogenic benzene and other volatile organic compounds, according to a tally by the Environmental Defense Fund of company filings to Texas state environmental regulators.
even the rubber ducks are bigger in Texas

Besides the dangers of chemical pollutants, raw sewage from overflowing drains has entered the flood waters.  Microbe counts are off the charts, and residents are advised to avoid immersion in the witches brewing surrounding them and their homes. [photo]. So far the city's drinking water system seems to be intact, but many residents in the outlying areas rely on private wells for their water supplies.  These are especially susceptible to contamination as toxic flood water seeps into the ground.  Epidemics caused by severe flooding are rare in the United States.  However, contaminated water is a source of typhoid and cholera, diseases usually confined to developing countries without adequate infrastructure.

But don't worry Houstonians, you can buy $40 campaign golf-hats from the President's shops and feel a lot better about your predicament while you wear his USA! headgear.  Making America Great Again one golf-hat at a time, you betcha!

credit: Adam Zyglis
BC Idonwanna sez:  Big time crazy chief!+
+ Journalist Matt Taibibi labels Trump the "insane clown president" in his new book about the presidential campaign.  He does not spare invective: "Trump is the perfect modern American. He's a human consumption machine with no attention span, no self-control, no beliefs and no hobbies outside of sex, spending, eating and talking about himself. Nixon at least played the piano and read classics. He was an intellectual with a pig's heart. Trump is just the pig part." He is, in short, the "mass man" predicted by Marx and described by Hannah Arendt in her classic work, "Origins of Totalitarianism".

Friday, September 01, 2017

Brazil Rejects Total's Bid to Drill the Amazon Reef

Brazil's environmental agency has rejected Total SA's environmental impact statement for its plans to drill for oil at the mouth of the Amazon. [photo courtesy: NASA ] Ibama said the international oil company had not answered questions about how drilling operations would impact marine wildlife, so its application for permits could not go forward. The agency gave Total a third chance for it to provide "adequate information" about the environmental impact of its project. The agency head warned that if Total does not address the outstanding concerns of the technical team evaluating the statement, "the licensing process would be finally archived".

The area to be explored, Fox do Amazonas basin could contain more oil than the proven reserves of the entire Gulf of Mexico or an estimated 14 billion barrels. Exploration plans have become entangled in controversy as conservation organizations including Greenpeace have launched campaigns to raise awareness of a massive, unspoiled coral reef just 28 kilometers away from proposed drilling sites. [photo courtesy: Greenpeace] Total purchased exploration blocks with BP and Petrobras in 2013. The agency wants the company to address how to limit the impact of drilling on marine mammals and turtles, clarify models for how oil in the water would disperse itself, as well as address Ibama’s initial rejection of Total’s proposals for environmental monitoring and other projects.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

COTW: Still Don't Accept Global Warming?

Some 'Mericans apparently do not!  They elected a President who has taken the United States out of the only global treaty that has a slim chance of adverting the worse consequences of global warming.  So these charts, courtesy of NOAA, have to be posted to remind those people of why they are where they are.  Hurricane Harvey has posted a record amount of rainfall inundating the central Texas coast, transforming the fourth largest city in the US into the coastal marsh land upon which it was built.  Satellite imagery shows 30 inches accumulated in the Houston metro area.  An astounding 49.32 inches was officially collected at Mary's Creek, southeast of the city, besting the previous record set by Hurricane Amelia in 1978. A full-scale of evacuation of such a large city would have been chaotic at best with many vulnerable citizens trapped on roads by flooding. The storm is not over; it is projected to return to the Gulf and head inland towards New Orleans on Wednesday.  An additional 6-12 inches is expected; if that prediction is correct Houston will receive as much rain in a week that it normally receives in a year.  US Person wants to know: is Pittsburgh applauding now?

NOAA: 9 of 10 extreme one-day rainfall events have occurred in the last 10 years

NOAA: The Texas Gulf Coast has experienced a 30% increase in rainfall over the last century

Monday, August 28, 2017

Climate Change Hurting Chinook Salmon

The West Coast's "king of salmon", the chinook, is suffering from the effects of man-induced climate change.  Populations of the favorite of sportsman and commercial fisherman are down, so extremely low in fact, that Alaska has cancelled its chinook season this year.  Warm water temperatures are blamed for the lack of ocean prey species, which of course reduces the number of salmon that survive to return to their home streams for spawning.  The lowest level of surface nutrients on record were seen in 2014 which starved phytoplankton, which starved zooplankton, that starved herring, which Chinook eat.  Conditions have improved since "the Blob" lodged in the Gulf of Alaska in 2013, but salmon populations have yet to rebound.  California, Idaho, British Columbia and Washington have restricted fisheries in response.  Even in salmon-crazed Oregon, a state fish manager admits "This year is bad.  I don't see next year as being any better."

Global warming is gradually heating the surface waters of the Northern Pacific, making extreme events like the Blob more likely.  Surface water temperatures are still elevated a few degrees Fahrenheit above normal. NOAA's recent salmon survey show ocean salmon are still in decline.  The results of the research are scheduled to be released in September.  Climate models do not show the North Pacific heating up this much so soon.  So there is some hope that conditions will improve for the king of salmon.  Meanwhile, the cancellation of Alaska's season is estimated to cost the troll fleet and processors $6 million. 

Saturday, August 26, 2017

'Toontime: The Warfare Line

Trump is only a faux-populist as readers probably realize now; in actuality he is a front man for empire.  And he is reliably maintaining the frontiers despite his campaign rhetoric about withdrawing from Afghanistan.  In 2013 Trump twited: “Let’s get out of Afghanistan. Our troops are being killed by the Afghanis we train and we waste billions there. Nonsense! Rebuild the USA.”  One member of Congress called his decision to send more troops to the benighted wilderness, "the definition of insanity."  Jeffery St. Clair cogently writes at Counterpunch: 
Nothing better illustrates the eclipse of US global power than the fact that Afghanistan refuses to be subjugated or even managed, despite 16 years of hard-core carnage. Since the first US airstrikes hit Kandahar in October 2001, more than 150,000 Afghan civilians have been killed. Still Afghanistan resists imperial dictates....the Taliban now retains almost as much control of the country as it did in 2001.

credit: Adam Zyglis, Buffalo News
Wackydoodle sez:  They're MAGA!
Need you ask US Person why America is hated?  Nero could not have done better.




Thursday, August 24, 2017

Interior Reccomends Shrinking 3 National Monuments

Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke recommended three National Monuments established by previous Democratic administrations be reduced in size in a report submitted to DerTrump:  Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears in Utah and Cascade-Siskiyou in Oregon.   The reduction in size of Bears Ears is said to be significant because its establishment was very controversial and opposed by the entire Utah Congressional delegation.  The report found the twenty-seven monuments reviewed, unique, but also stated the Antiquities Act should not be used to "restrict public access prevent hunting and fishing, burden private land, or eliminate traditional land uses, unless such action is needed to protect the object.”  The Secretary also noted that public support for monuments ran heavily in favor of maintaining existing monuments and "demonstrated a well organized national campaign."  Nearly three million people submitted comments during the review period.

Bears Ears was established in consultation with regional native tribes who consider much of its landscape sacred.  Commercial exploiters of the public lands won key concessions from the rabidly pro-business administration.  A representative of the National Cattlemen Association said "previous [Democratic] administration got a little too greedy".  The irony of that statement is too obvious to dwell on.  Conservation organizations have promised to legally oppose any changes in the designations made by previous Presidents.  Tribal officials have lobbied hard to preserve Bears Ears, which boasts extensive ancestral Pueblo artifacts and rock art. [photo]. Seven tribes in Utah and the Fort Peck Assiniboine & Sioux Tribes of Montana, passed resolutions this month calling for the monument’s boundaries to remain in place.

Siskiyou National Forest
The 48,000 acre expansion of Cascade-Siskiyou by President Obama during his last days in office was adamantly imposed by timber interests who maintain that the designation encroaches on "O&C" lands set aside by Congress during the 1930s for permanent timber production.  The American Forest Resource Council filed suit against the expansion before the current administration took office.  Secretary Zinke visited the area, but spent almost all of his time there talking to business interests.  The Siskiyou Mountains contain rocks that date back 425 million years and are some of the oldest in the state. The area is also home to more than 275 species of flowering plants, according to conservationists.

New Fruit Bat Species

Many people have a phobia for bats, but nevertheless they are important members of their ecosystems.  They are responsible for pollination, insect control and seed transmission.  Fruit bats eat the fruit of a wide variety of shrubs and trees; seeds of these plants are distributed by the bats after digestion.  A new species was located in Papua, New Guinea and described in the scientific journal, Records of the Australian Museum.  Named after a conservationist Deborah Wright, Nyctimene wrightae, it is known as Hamamas by local people for its appearance of a perpetual smile.  Hamamas, or "Happy" has a rounder, broader jaw than most fruit bats giving it "the appearance of a constant smile", says the scientist who formally described the species [photo, with young].  It also has tube nostrils in common with other members of its genus who occupy northern Australia, Philippines and Melanesia.

Classification of the animal was problematic for Nancy Irwin, a research fellow at the University of York, UK.  There are several closely related bats in a group, referred to as the "cyclotis group", that has received different classifications over time.  Irwin says the newly described bat is member of that group.  Taxonomy, or the science of naming species, is often considered obscure, but it is a necessary step in the conservation of species that may be threatened with extinction.  Besides, Hamamas is simply happy for human recognition of its existence.


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Anchors Awry

The US Navy was forced to suspend world-wide operations after the USS John S. McCain collided with a Liberian tanker off Singapore on Monday. The collision put a ten foot hole in the destroyer below the water line. [photo, aft of stern stacks]  Ten sailors are missing.  This was the fourth collision of Navy vessels since August 2016:

  • June 17, 2017: Seven sailors were killed when the Fitzgerald, a destroyer, was broadsided by a Philippines-registered cargo ship, about 60 miles off the coast of Japan. The cargo ship breached the destroyer's hull filling a sleeping compartment with seawater.  The ship's captin, his executive officer and a senior NCO were relieved of their duties;
  • May 9, 2017: A 60-70 foot South Korean fishing boat collided with the Lake Champlain, a guided-missile cruiser, on its port side while the cruiser was conducting routine operations in international waters;
  • Aug. 19, 2016: The Louisiana, a nuclear ballistic-missile submarine, and the Eagleview, a Military Sealift Command support vessel, collided while conducting routine operations in the Strait of Juan de Fuca off the coast of Washington State.  Both ships' hulls were damaged.
Are the collisions a spectacular display of poor seamanship, arrogance, or just a drunken sailor at the helm? Apologists for the empire are claiming, not the first time of course, that the Navy is stretched too thin in view of its globe-girdling duties.  There are not enough ships or enough men. Incredibly the Navy just launched its most expensive aircraft carrier ever.  It has more carrier task forces than both of its nearest competitors, China and Russia.  The Pentagon, it seems, can never get enough.  Adm. Richardson's investigations will attempt to find out if there is a systemic problem causing the collisions.  Perhaps the design of such apparently fragile warships or the maintenance of global military hegemony are systemic problems?  It's your money.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Poland's Primeval Forest to Loose Protection

UK's Guardian newspaper tells us that Poland's conservative government wants the Bialowieza Forest which straddles the border with Belarus to loose its UNESCO World Heritage status since it was granted illegally.  Poland's environment minister has called for the protection to be stripped so logging can continue in the forest.  The forest is one of the last surviving remnants of the primeval forest that covered most of the European continent ten thousand years ago. It is home to many unique life forms including the European bison (Bison bonasus) [photo].   Some of the large oaks (Quercus robur) in the forest are about half a century old.

circa 1955
The forest was protected early in its human history as a private hunting ground for the Polish King.  Sigismund I issued a decree in 1538 imposing the death penalty for poaching a royal bison.  In 1639, all peasants living in the forest were freed from taxes in exchange for their service as royal foresters.  Bialowieza, which takes its name from the central village, remained mostly uninhabited until the late 17th century.  When Russia occupied the area after the Partition of Poland, hunting took place in earnest.  Tsar Alexander II ordered the killing of all forest predators in a misguided effort to protect remaining bison. World wars in Europe also took a heavy toll on the forest. The last bison was shot in 1921.  The core of the forest was declared a national park in 1923 and a small herd of bison, also called wizant, was reintroduced.  They successfully reproduced.  Today, there are about 800 of Europe's biggest land mammal living in Bialowieza.
bison cave art @ Altamira, Spain
Since most of the forest lies outside the boundaries of the national park, logging has continued since the Middle Ages.  Foresters argue that managed logging is necessary to control pests, remove dead wood that poses a fire risk, and allow reestablishment of forest in less time than nature alone would take.  Environmentalists say the ancient forest cannot be managed as a renewable resource if it, and the unique creatures that make it their home are to survive.  Greenpeace activists chained themselves to woodcutting equipment in an attempt to stop logging.  The current Polish minister for the environment wants to triple the amount of logging taking place. (6.6 million ft³).  The increased activity began in May of last year.  He says that the entire forest is not pristine and ancient, but has in fact been replanted by man over the centuries in areas not originally forest.  He wants the designation, which was granted without consultation with local people in 2011, to be changed to allow for mixed use.

The dispute arises before the annual meeting of UNESCO in Krakow.  UNESCO has previously expressed concern over the logging of Bialowieza, and the European Commission said in April it could take legal action to halt the logging.

Friday, August 18, 2017

'Toontime: If It Qacks Like A Duck...

PNG features two cartoons from Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune, suggesting that the cur in the White House is a populist like Mr. Schicklgruber's son was a populist.  The firing of his chief nationalist hate monger, Mr. Steve Bannon, does nothing to change the Occupant's own fascist tendencies. (note the acknowledgement of Pulitzer cartoonist Bill Mauldin, creator of GIs Willie and Joe). General Kelly is doing is level best to remove all the incendiaries from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave since his new boss is volatile enough. The second cartoon featured here provides an accurate picture of the reality behind the populist front of President Mc Donald:



Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The 'Blob' Proved Deadly

US Person posted about "the Blob" in 2015 {15.08.15] . The Blob was a mass of unusually warm water off the northern Pacific coast starting in 2013 that disrupted the usual westerly jet stream pattern and caused unusual weather events in the United States such as ice storms in Texas. More drastically, the Blob interfered with the normal food chain in the ocean. Warm waters are less productive of zooplankton, which thrives in cold water, thus reducing food for fish and other animals farther up the food chain such as marine mammals.  A marine mammal scientist predicted, “I would expect that you’d start to see [lower birth rates] in the next year [2015],”  When food is scarce, “the first thing you do is save yourself,” he says.

Sadly, that prediction proved accurate.  The anchovy fishery collapsed off southern California.  Anchovies are the favorite prey of sea lions.  Sea lions turned to rockfish as a substitute, but it does not have the same nutritional value as oily anchovies.  Consequently nursing sea lion mothers were unable to properly feed their young.  Thousands of sea lion pups died of starvation.  Their emaciated bodies littered the beaches.  The number of strandings exploded in 2015 to 2500, about ten times the usual annual rate.  Fortunately, the California sea lion population is large, about 300,000, so the species can weather the disaster.

Sea lions were not the only species affected by the weird ocean conditions causing a lack of food.  Sea birds living on the Farallons, off San Francisco, did not make an effort to breed.  More whales than usual got ensnared in crabbing equipment in 2016 because they followed the remaining anchovies close to shore.  The Blob phenomenon has passed for now, but scientists say it can happen again with the same disastrous results for marine wildlife  

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Hack That Was NOT

The Democrats, the other half of the neo-liberal, authoritarian political establishment that rules the nation has continually blamed the Russians for the Hillary debacle because they hacked the DNC's email server.  President Putin has patiently denied these allegations with such vehemence that US Person has given his denials some credence.  Now comes a story from former intelligence experts and reported in the Nation that claims the DNC hack was an inside job, not the nefarious work of Russian agents, as alleged by an unreliable and ultimately biased mass media and intelligence apparatus that would have us believe our serious national problems are caused by outside, hostile forces and not our own corrupt, decrepit institutions.

Computer forensics provides support for the following woeful conclusions:
  •  the hack of the DNC mail server was accomplished locally using a portable data storage device (USB-2 thumb drive). No hack from Romania could have achieved the transfer speeds over the Internet revealed in the metadata of the download;
  • time stamps indicate the download took place in the EDT time zone;
  • before Guccifer 2.0 took responsibility for the leak of sensitive documents to Wikileaks they were adulterated by cutting and pasting them into a Russian language template to give the appearance that the hack was related to Russian involvement;
  • no one knows who phished John Podesta's e-mail, or even if it was actually attacked, or conveniently leaked by people with access to the account.
These conclusions were reached through independent investigations by security service professionals who are members of VIPS, which stands for Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.  They wrote Barrack Obama three days before he left office that the hack was much more likely to be an "inside job" as opposed to meddling of Russian intelligence.  Unfortunately, that was an inconvenient truth. The reality is the Russian hacking narrative is a political construction on the same historic level as the "Spanish blew up the Maine". The VIPS forensic work can be seen at consortiumnews.com.

A national intelligence assessment concluding the Russians were responsible is devoid of evidence that proves Russian agents were involved in a hack of DNC computers, but it is full of such categorical assertions.  One former senior official and member of VIPS called the assessment "a disgrace to the intelligence profession."  It was the work of three "hand-picked" agents from three agencies.  In light of the new forensic evidence, one has to ask: were they hand picked for their political reliability?  The FBI has never examined DNC's computer servers. They relied on information provided by the DNC's IT contractor, Crowd Source, which is co-founded by a notoriously anti-Russian emigre, Dimitri Alperovitch.  Crowd Source says that all malware was removed from DNC computers previous to the official investigation.  A convenient, if not revealing fact.


Monday, August 14, 2017

COTW: Brazil's Arc of Deforestation

This satelite imagery shows the massive extent of tree cover loss in the Amazon Basin along an arc that extends from the Amazon River's estuary in the northeast to the Bolivian border in the south:

magenta: tree loss, courtesy Global Forest Watch
A recent comprehensive study of Amazon's tree loss published in Science Advances estimates that more than half of the tree species could qualify for ICUN's Red List as threatened.  These species include some iconic ones such as the brazil nut (Bertholletia excelsa) and wild cacao (Theobroma cacao).  By 2013 Amazonia which once extended over six million square kilometers lost 12% of its tree cover.  Along the arc of deforestation, clearances for cattle ranching pose the greatest threat, followed by logging and slash and burn agriculture near settlements.  Manioc, a staple of the local diet, requires new patches of clear ground every year.

Obviously the forests provide habitat for a myriad of creatures, as well as a vital carbon sink for Earth.  Fortunately nearly 50% of the Amazon is under some form of protection, but enforcing the rules in a such a wild region is difficult and irregular.  Recently an expedition to find a "lost" monkey species, the bald-faced Vanzolini saki [photo], last collected in 1936, was rediscovered on the banks of the Rio Eiru near the arc of deforestation.  The researchers also fond plenty of evidence of habitat destruction caused by logging and agricultural clearances.

credit: C. Selby




Friday, August 11, 2017

Greenland Is Burning

That is a headline guaranteed to open eyes since most people think of
Greenland as a frozen world, but smaller than the other frozen world, Antarctica.  However, satellite images [above] show a wildfire burning in western Greenland.  The fire is big enough, about the size of midtown Manhattan, to be detected by satellite.  Small wildfires are not uncommon in Greenland, but are too small to be seen from above. Experts are not sure what started the fire.   The fire is in an area that is semi-arid, but climate change is increasing the local temperature and more shrubs are growing as the growing season lengthens.  Droughts will be more frequent too, so large wildfires will be a more common occurrence in Greenland.  All across the Arctic boreal forests are burning at a rate not seen in 10,000 years.  Of course this burning will release from storage millions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which will in turn impact global temperature.

'Toontime: Who Is the Loser?

credit: Nate Beeler, Columbus Dispatch
Not Donald Trump, that is for sure. Just ask him. Everybody else is a loser in Washington except Donald Trump.  According to his own count, the guy has won 18 golf club championships, after all!  Of course you will may not find his name on the wall of honor in any club house, but that is a minor detail.  After seven years of trying the Repugnants failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act which is neither affordable, nor very caring.  Their final effort at "skinny repeal" was defeated by their own party members, notably John McCain, whose expensive cancer treatment will be paid by government insurance.  Perhaps his conscience got the better of him, so he could not vote to strip 27 million Americans of their health care.  That is something that rarely bothers Donald Trump.  A conscience is for losers.

To prove he is not a loser, der Trump has ordered six B-1B supersonic bombers designed and built to penetrate air defenses to deliver nuclear weapons on alert in Guam.  The ultimate leader has assured his fans via social media that his plans for an attack on North Korea are "locked and loaded".  North Korean leaders have threatened to launch missiles in the direction of Guam, which is well within their weapons' range, about 2000 miles away.  According to the Daily Mirror, the RAF has been asked to help pinpoint nuclear sites and stockpiles in North Korea as potential targets.