Saturday, July 23, 2011

Via Climate Progress: Obama: House GOP Would Rather Destroy the U.S. Economy Than “Ask Anything of Corporate Jet Owners, Oil & Gas Companies” and the Rich

Last night, House Speaker John Boehner bailed on negotiations with President Obama on a debt ceiling deal.  In a hastily-arranged news conference, Obama angrily explained the problem:
“If you do not have any revenues, if you have no revenues at all, what that means is more of a burden on seniors, more drastic cuts to education, more drastic cuts to research, bigger cuts to services for the middle class. It doesn’t ask anything of corporate jet owners, oil and gas companies, and people like me, who’ve done very well.” Republicans, he said, were demanding “a package that would effectively require massive cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and domestic spending, while not asking anything from the wealthiest of this country.”
“If that’s their only answer it’s going to be pretty difficult to figure out where to go.”
Obama was willing to go too far, but Boenher wouldn’t budge.  We knew the GOP would rather destroy a livable climate than let their pollutocrat backers suffer any reduction in profits — but  at least in that case  you could argue that some in the GOP were so anti-science they didn’t know what they were doing (see John Boehner says on ABC: “The idea that carbon dioxide is a carcinogen that is harmful to our environment is almost comical”).

But the GOP has been told by their Wall Street backers that  failure to raise the debt ceiling would be an economic catastrophe.  The House GOP is too enthralled to the Tea Party extremists — backed by the  billionaire polluting Kochs — to care.

Os Paralamas do Sucesso - Mariana

Os Paralamas do Sucesso

False Balance

Victory for evolution in Texas | NCSE

Pop the champagne corks. The Texas Board of Education has unanimously come down on the side of evolution. In an 8-0 vote, the board today approved scientifically accurate high school biology textbook supplements from established mainstream publishers--and did not approve the creationist-backed supplements from International Databases, LLC.

"This is a huge victory for Texas students and teachers," said Josh Rosenau, NCSE programs and policy director, who testified at the hearings this week. In his testimony, Rosenau urged the board to approve the supplements--recommended by a review panel largely composed of scientists and science educators--without amendments, and to reject International Database's creationist submission. The board did just that, and asked for only minimal changes to the approved supplements.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Via BBC: Década de 2020 deve consolidar poder dos BRICs

Os anos 20 deste século podem marcar a consolidação do fortalecimento de países emergentes como potências econômicas e políticas, em um mundo cada vez mais multipolar. Segundo acadêmicos e instituições de pesquisa, os chamados BRICs (Brasil, Rússia, Índia e China) serão peças-chave dessa nova ordem.

Para investigar que desafios cada país do BRIC terá pela frente, no caminho para se tornar uma potência em 2020, a BBC Brasil produziu uma série especial que começa a ser publicada nesta segunda-feira, reunido reportagens multimídia de nossos repórteres no Brasil e enviados especiais a Rússia, Índia e China.

Em 2020, com 3,14 bilhões de habitantes (40% da população mundial naquele ano, segundo projeções da ONU), eles devem chegar mais perto das economias do G-7, após terem crescido a taxas muito superiores às de nações ricas.

O National Intelligence Council, entidade do governo americano ligada a agências de inteligência, prevê que já em 2025 todo o sistema internacional - como foi construído após a Segunda Guerra Mundial - terá sido totalmente transformado.

"Novos atores - Brasil, Rússia, Índia e China - não apenas terão um assento à mesa da comunidade internacional, mas também trarão novos interesses e regras do jogo", afirma a instituição

"Muito provavelmente, por volta de 2020 vamos nos dar conta de que existe um equilíbrio muito maior no mundo em termos econômicos e políticos com o fortalecimento de países emergentes como China, Índia, Brasil e Rússia. Com um maior poder econômico, virá também um maior poder político e uma participação ativa desses países em organismos internacionais", disse à BBC Brasil Stepháne Garelli, professor da Universidade de Lausanne, na Suíça, e autor de um estudo que traça cenários para 2050.

leiam o resto do artigo aqui

Via Buzzflash: The Revolution Against Greed: An Idea Whose Time Has Come


Rioters surged through the city, breaking windows and damaging the homes of the very rich:

"Catching the chief justice and his family at the dinner table, the crowd smashed in the doors with axes...reduced the furniture to splinters...destroyed the formal gardens in the rear of the mansion, drank the wine...

"Meanwhile, in the high-fashion districts, overtaxed and unemployed citizens raided the shops where patrons spent hundreds of dollars on 'frivolities' while poor people starved."

Evicted tenants around the city stormed the properties of their landlords, and prevented anyone else from taking possession. Their collective action, "chipped away at the notion that a few men of prestige and privilege could exploit those beneath them with impunity."

This all happened because a small percentage of the population had increased their share of the wealth from 30% to 50%, while the poorest half of the population had seen their share of the wealth cut in half.

In response, the wealthiest citizens rose up, offered satisfaction to the protest leaders, and spread the word that a battle should be waged instead against the foreign menace, our true enemies.
Who were the wealthy citizens that tried to calm the protest leaders? The Sons of Liberty. The year was 1765.

Now, almost 250 years later, we have more reasons than ever for "collective action against the rich." Here are some of them:

-- $1 trillion a year to the richest 1% because of tax cuts and deregulated financial instruments.
-- 0% taxes paid by many corporations.
-- 6% tax on a pair of shoes, no tax on the purchase of financial transactions.
-- $2 trillion held by corporations, no jobs for our college graduate children.
-- Planned cuts in Social Security, Medicare, education and environmental protection.

And perhaps the greatest insult to mainstream America is the Republican admission that their top goal is to defeat President Obama in 2012. Their main objective is not to ease the pain of recession, but to win a personal political battle.

It's time once again for a revolution.

Ray Raphael, "A People's History of the American Revolution" (The New Press, 2001)
Gary B. Nash, "The Urban Crucible" (Harvard University Press, 1979)

Via Buzzflash: Praising the Hostage Takers: Will Obama Ever Hold the Republicans Accountable?

Will Obama ever hold the Republicans accountable for their reckless and destructive actions? No matter how outrageous their demands, he keeps giving them legitimacy, first resisting, then compromising, then praising the result as bipartisanship. He's forgotten the basic lesson of negotiation - you don't hand everything over before you start, particularly to people who have utter contempt for your values and goals. He's also forgotten the importance of fighting for your principles, so people have a reason to support you.

Obama's almost pathological devotion to compromise started early in his presidency. Republicans and a handful of corporate-funded Democrats used the Senate filibuster to block action on issue after critical issue. Instead of calling them to account and marshaling public pressure against them, Obama responded as if their intransigence was reasonable, giving them instant political cover. He did this on health care, financial regulation, and attempts to pass a sufficiently large economic stimulus. On climate change, he tried to prove his reasonableness by allowing offshore oil drilling (just before the BP oil disaster) while securing not a single vote in return. Republican Lindsay Graham was planning to offer precisely this enticement to convince borderline Senators to support at least some price on carbon, and said Obama effectively killed the bill by leaving him with nothing to offer people. Obama similarly refused to take a firm stand on ending the Bush tax cuts, which he could have simply let expire. He's now retreating on the debt ceiling battle, saying he might have to sign off on a deal that cuts spending now a vague promise of reforming taxes later.

Each retreat has left him in more difficult circumstances for the next round. The deficit would be $70 billion a year smaller, had Obama not agreed to extend the Bush cuts last December, after the demoralized withdrawal of once engaged Democratic voters and volunteers allowed the Republicans to sweep to victory. Obama briefly condemned those who threatened to block routine unemployment extensions unless the top-bracket tax cuts were renewed, saying, accurately enough, that they were holding unemployed Americans "hostage." Then he caved and renewed the cuts in return for extending unemployment benefits and giving some modest tax breaks to middle-class citizens. Had he stood firm, Republican talk of an urgent deficit crisis would have rung far more hollow.

make the jump here to read the full article

Rachel Maddow - Santorum Uses Google Problem To Raise Campaign Money

The Outrageous Tale of the Tortoise & the Smartass Hare (original narration by Randall)

The Crazyass Gunnery Sergeant of the USMC (original narration by Randall)

Via ClimateChange: GOP Votes to Ban Funding to Help Poor Countries Adapt to or Mitigate Climate Change

Republicans in the House Foreign Affairs Committee voted yesterday to stop all funding for climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts in developing countries. The amendment to a State Department Authorization bill, introduced by Florida Republican Connie Mack, would block any funding of the Global Climate Change Initiative – causing the U.S. to back down on its global commitments to the poorest countries impacted by climate change and further damaging the country’s credibility in climate negotiations.
Yesterday’s vote is far from the last word, however. The Senate will still have a say on the matter, and it’s less likely that such an amendment would pass.
Related Post:  Gingrich sums up conservative ethos: “I am not a citizen of the world! I think the entire concept is intellectual nonsense and stunningly dangerous.”
Posted: 22 Jul 2011 07:07 AM PDT

Many factors contribute to rising prices of food: Demand from rapidly-growing developing countries; droughts; energy prices; the value of the dollar; and, as a new report from Purdue University concludes, ethanol production.
While the Purdue researchers are careful to explain the phenomenon is caused by a combination of all these factors, the report targets two main culprits:  Chinese demand for soybeans and American ethanol. In 2010 and into this year, 27% of the U.S. corn crop went toward ethanol — up from 10% in 2005 and 2006.
[T]he demand surges from biofuels and Chinese soybean purchases appear to be persistent. While the demand shifts to date are expected to persist, the rate of increase in demand growth is expected to slow as corn biofuels mandates are reached and as China has built adequate soybeans stocks levels. This slowing of the demand surges may give world supply a better opportunity to catch up in coming years. Other events—such as additional demand growth, the degree of supply response, and macroeconomic variables—will all be important in determining how this cycle plays out.
[T]aking up around 27% of the corn crop (net of the by-product credit), there is little doubt that biofuels play a role in the corn price level and variability, and this has spilled over into other commodity markets. The RFS2 has been important in establishing ethanol production capacity and the minimum biofuels demand for corn realized today.
The researchers found, “Market inelasticity—a reduction in the responsiveness of prices to demand and supply forces—is one of the key mechanisms in today’s commodity markets.” They offer this remarkable chart of the  soaring amount of US crop acreage required to produce ethanol and soybeans for China:

Land adjustments highlight the impact of the two demand shocks. In 2005, 16.1 million acres of land in the United States were required to meet the demand for biofuels production and U.S. soybean exports to China. In 2010, it took 46.5 million acres—an increase of 189%—to satisfy these demands, or 29% of total U.S. corn and soybean harvested acreage. Globally, 70% of the expanded acres used to grow high-demand crops were new land being brought into production; 30% resulted from shifting acres out of other crops. In the United States, where land area has been fairly stable, the new demands caused land to be reallocated from other crops….
Low stocks are an important contributor to market inelasticity. When stocks are abundant, much of the adjustment to supply or demand shocks is through changes in expected carry-over stocks. If stocks are low, this adjustment mechanism is no longer available, contributing to inelasticity and higher prices.
While the report authors see a possible easing of prices in the future, the short-term will still be tight: ‘”We don’t think these prices are going to come down in a year,” said a co-author of the report, Wallace Tyner, speaking to the Guardian. “It’s going to take at least a couple of years to see a significant reduction in price.”
— Tyce Herrman
Related Stories:

Via ClimateChange: False Balance Exposed

Posted: 22 Jul 2011 09:41 AM PDT

The BBC is to revamp its science coverage after an independent review highlighted weaknesses and concluded that journalists boosted the apparent controversy of scientific news stories such as climate change, GM crops and the MMR vaccine by giving too much weight to fringe scientific viewpoints….

Commissioned last year to assess impartiality and accuracy in BBC science coverage across television, radio and the internet, the review said the network was at times so determined to be impartial that it put fringe views on a par with well-established fact: a strategy that made some scientific debates appear more controversial than they were.
The criticism was particularly relevant to stories on issues such as global warming, GM and the MMR vaccine, where minority views were sometimes given equal weighting to broad scientific consensus, creating what the report describes as “false balance”.

Let’s file this Guardian story under,”Duh”!

The BBC’s coverage of climate change has deteriorated noticeably (see “Exclusive: Former correspondent and editor explains the drop in quality of BBC’s climate coverage” and links below).

Still, it is remarkable that one of the most highly regarded news organizations in the world would conduct this review in the first place.  In this country, the media coverage has also dropped in quantity and quality (see Silence of the Lambs: Media herd’s coverage of climate change “fell off the map” in 2010).  But there’s very little introspection here — and what there is often ends up as circular benchmarking (“we’re as good as everyone else”) or self congratulation (“we ran a couple of global warming stories”).

Every major media outlet in this country should do what the BBC did:
The review comprised an independent report by Professor Steve Jones, emeritus professor of genetics at University College London, and an in-depth analysis by researchers at Imperial College London of science coverage across the BBC in May, June and July of 2009 and 2010.
Jones likened the BBC’s approach to oppositional debates to asking a mathematician and maverick biologist what two plus two equals. When the mathematician says four and the maverick says five, the public are left to conclude the answer is somewhere in between.
The extensive BBC review and content analysis, BBC Trust – Review of impartiality and accuracy of the BBC’s coverage of science, can be found here.  It is particularly impressive that Jones lays out
the mind‐set, and the tactics, of some (but not all) proponents of the idea that global warming is a myth into context.

They, with many others, practise denialism: the use of rhetoric to give the appearance of debate. This is not the same as scepticism, for a sceptic is willing to change his or her mind when provided with evidence. A denialist is not.
Precisely.  It is time for the media to stop pretending that the fringe deniers they keep citing are in any way part of the scientific process.  These deniers are pure rejectionists who have mastered rhetoric to twist the debate, but they have never been open to the actual evidence.

Here are the key parts of the BBC report on “false impartiality” and “false balance”:

A frequent comment received during this review is that elements of the BBC – particularly in the area of news and current affairs – do
not fully understand the nature of scientific discourse and, as a result, is often guilty of “false impartiality”; of presenting the views of tiny and unqualified minorities as if they have the same weight as the scientific consensus. That approach has for some (but not all) topics become widespread. Conflictual reporting of this kind has the ability to distort public perception. It arises in part because news and current affairs presenters, who have to think on their feet in a live interview, may have little insight into the topic being discussed and hence find it more difficult to establish balance than when dealing with politics, the media or finance.
That problem is certainly endemic in the U.S. media.
Man‐made global warming: a microcosm of “false balance”?
A belief in alternative medicine or in astrology and a fear of vaccines or of GM food are symptoms of a deep mistrust in conventional wisdom. Such scepticism should be part of every scientist’s, every journalist’s or every politician’s, armoury. However, mistrust can harden into denial. That faces the media with a problem for, in their desire to give an objective account of what appears to be an emerging controversy, they face the danger of being trapped into false balance; into giving equal coverage to the views of a determined but deluded minority and to those of a united but less insistent majority. Nowhere is the struggle to find the correct position better seen than in the issue of global warming22.

The topic illuminates some of the weaknesses – and of the real strengths – of the BBC’s attempts to report science. News of the Trust’s decision to commission this Review was greeted by some anti‐global warming enthusiasts as a statement of its desire to haul the Corporation over the coals for supposed failings around this topic. Nothing could be further from the truth: this is one of a regular series of evaluations of its output. I have had a number of communications from the public on this issue and the BBC has received many complaints about alleged weaknesses in its treatment of the subject. Many emerge from an organised response by determined climate‐change deniers rather than being objective disagreements with particular programmes. Thus, Climate Wars (broadcast on 14th    September 2008) had 88, the news coverage of the East Anglia e‐mail “scandal” at around that time got 122, Panorama’s “What’s up with the Weather?” of 28th June 2010, just 45; Horizon on “Science under Attack” (24th Jan 2011) 101, and the Storyville documentary of 31st Jan 2011 “Meet the Climate Sceptics” stimulated 67 written complaints. There has in addition been a drizzle of criticism of BBC coverage of the topic in some newspapers, much of it arising from a handful of journalists who have taken it upon themselves to keep disbelief alive. This barrage of criticism by one side of the argument (matched, to a lesser degree, by complaints from those who believe that man‐ made global warming is real) shows that the BBC is at least annoying both parties to the debate and is achieving a measure of impartiality by so doing.

Even so, the coverage of this topic, and the tone of some reports, has led to many comments during my Review. In some ways global warming shows how hard it is reach due impartiality in the treatment of science and how the BBC in its attempts to do so may inadvertently achieve almost the opposite….

Before discussing the subject in detail it may be worth putting the mind‐set, and the tactics, of some (but not all) proponents of the idea that global warming is a myth into context….
The tale is told of a vast conspiracy to hide the truth and of dissent quashed by secret forces. People with strong opinions should be given equal weight with experts. Any evidence that contradicts their ideas must be publicised and the rest ignored, while any statement of doubt about conventional wisdom is trumpeted from the rooftops. Standards of proof should be set so high as to be impossible to attain. Personal attacks (Hitler was against smoking) are acceptable and absolutism is useful (one ninety year old smoker proves that tobacco is harmless). Doubt shades into certainty: a scientist can never be sure that a vaccine is always safe – which means that it never is. Often, the proponents unite into a movement that can, in these electronic days, bombard its enemies and give the impression of being far larger than it really is.

Most important in the context of this Report, any concession by the establishment that it is less than certain of the accuracy of its claims – that there is, in other words, room for discussion – is taken as a statement of surrender. Because so much of science involves uncertainty, it is open to attack from those who have never experienced that sensation. Purity of belief makes it easy for denialists to attract the attention of news organisations but hard for them to balance their ideas against those of the majority. This can lead to undue publicity for views supported by no factual information at all.
In its early days, two decades ago, there was a genuine scientific debate about the reality of climate change (although that attracted rather little attention). Now, there is general agreement that warming is a fact even if there remain uncertainties about how fast, and how much, the temperature might rise. At present, the pessimists are in the ascendant and today’s increase in floods and snow (as predicted for a warmer atmosphere which can take up more water) is on their side. A debate remains, and it deserves to be reported with as much objectivity as would any other unresolved issue….

Where policy is concerned, the argument is far from resolved. Science can inform the debate, but policy implications of global warming remain a legitimate part of the news agenda. In its submission to this Report, the Global Warming Policy Foundation (active in casting doubt on the truth of man‐made climate change) told me that they are producing a review with a focus on climate science and science policy. As they say, “… it is one thing to get basic science facts right yet quite another to promote (or criticise) particular science policies”. That is a reasonable point and they should, no doubt, have a voice in this debate. All of us involved in this debate need to remember that we are entitled to our own opinions but none of us are entitled to our own facts.

That is not the case for warming itself, for the evidence is overwhelming. Starting in 1959 with measurements on Hawaii it is clear that the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is rising. Ice cores shows that for half a million years before the Industrial Revolution its level fluctuated between 180 and 300 parts per million. Since around 1800 it has risen from 280 to 390 parts per million; a 40% increase. Basic physics shows that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. There have been many computer models of what may happen in future, and although there remains controversy as to how much the feedbacks – melting ice, rising seas, dying plants – will multiply the direct effect of the gas, almost every climatologist predicts a period of rising temperature. Three independent sets of records of global temperature agree that 2010 was one of the three hottest years since figures were first collected and that nine of the ten warmest years on record have been since 2000. To bring matters up to date, 2011 saw the warmest April in Central England for 350 years.
This goes on for a few pages, which are well worth reading.
The Guardian story adds several quote from independent experts:
Sir Mark Walport, director of the Wellcome Trust, said the report “highlights the issue that, from time to time, a drive for ‘impartiality at any cost’ by the BBC can lead to a highly misleading presentation of science in situations where the evidence points overwhelmingly in one direction rather than another. It is encouraging that the BBC executive and BBC Trust accept this criticism and will work with programme makers to improve their understanding of this issue.”

Sir Paul Nurse, president of the Royal Society, said: “The BBC has played a significant part in creating the current surge of interest in science. The way in which it covers science is generally of a very high quality. It is, however, important that the need to separate opinion from evidence in coverage of some topics has been recognised. It is important to have debate, but marginal opinion – prominently expressed but not well based on evidence – can mislead the audience. The BBC usually respects this but the challenge is to get it right all of the time.”
Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics, said it was crucial for the BBC to “challenge inaccurate and misleading claims made by bloggers, campaigners and politicians who ‘reject and deny the findings of mainstream science for ideological reasons.’

“The BBC is required by law not to sacrifice accuracy for impartiality in the coverage of controversial scientific issues such as climate change. Yet it is well known that there are particular BBC presenters and editors who allow self-proclaimed climate change ‘sceptics’ to mislead the public with unsubstantiated and inaccurate statements,” he said.
What major U.S. news outlet would be willing to allow an independent scientific review of its coverage?  Sadly, none, I expect.

It will be interesting to see just how much the BBC fixes the flaws in its climate and science coverage that have been identified by this important report.
Related Posts:


Tente montar o mapa do Brasil sem olhar para um mapa já pronto.
Um bom teste para sua memória geográfica.
Preste bem atenção, pois eventuais erros no encaixe das peças
também ocasionarão perda de pontos

                            Clique na palavra Brasil e monte o mapa!!!

Our law makers need to feel what we feel!!

Note 7.23.2011

Dang... an amigo sent me this link from snopes:

its still a good idea!

I have totally cleaned this e-mail from all  other names, sending it to you in hopes you will keep it going and keep it clean.  This is something I will fight for and  I hope you all read it all the way through.  You will be glad you did.

The 26th amendment (granting the right to vote for 18 year-olds) took only 3 months & 8 days to be ratified!  Why?  Simple!  The people  demanded it.  That was in 1971...before computers, before e-mail, before cell phones, etc.

Of  the 27 amendments to the Constitution, seven (7) took 1 year or less to become the law of the  land...all because of public pressure.

I'm asking each addressee to forward this email to a minimum of twenty people on their address list;  in turn ask each of those to do likewise.

In three days, most people in The United States of America will have the message.  This is one idea that really should be passed around.

Congressional Reform Act of  2011

1.   No Tenure / No Pension.
A  Congressman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they are out of office.

2.   Congress (past, present & future) participates in Social Security.
All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system immediately.  All  future funds flow into the Social Security system, and Congress participates with the American people.  It may not be used for any other purpose.

3. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all Americans do.

4. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise.  Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.

5. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.

6. Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.

7. All contracts with past and present Congress are void effective 1/1/12.  The American people did not make this contract with Congress.  Congress made all these contracts for themselves.   Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career.  The  Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, so ours should serve their term(s), then go home and back to work.

If each person contacts a minimum of twenty people then it will only take three days for most people (in the  U.S. ) to receive the message.  Maybe it is time.


If  you agree with the above, pass it on.   If not, just delete.

You are one of my 20+.  Please keep it going.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Thom Hartmann - The Biggest Balanced Budget Hypocrisy

That's me in the dark in the bottom right corner of the foto...

Festival de Inverno de Ouro Preto e Mariana 2011's buddy icon


Pipas / kites

Working on a few things from home this afternoon before I go out for the Festival de Inverno  and the kids in the open space by our house are flying kites... its a bright sunny, breezy winter day, that promises to be cold tonight... perfect for kite flying!

Via Climate Change: Poll: 59% Of Americans Support Repealing Fossil-Energy Subsidies To Reduce Deficit

Reducing America’s debt will require a combination of spending cuts and tax increases. And a majority of Americans agree: According to a new ABC News/Washington Post Poll, 62% of Americans believe that reducing the deficit cannot be solved with a one-policy strategy.

The poll also shows that reducing tax incentives for the legacy oil and gas industries is one of the top-five most popular options for helping reduce the deficit, with 59% of Americans saying they supported the option.

Eliminating certain tax subsidies for the mature oil and gas industries could bring in about $45 billion over the next ten years. By comparison, the top five oil companies brought in over $76 billion in profits in 2010 alone.
In response to the calls for reducing oil and gas tax subsidies to help close the budget gap, the American Energy Alliance funded a study showing that such a move would have a net-negative budget impact of $53 billion.

However, the Congressional Budget Office, the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, and the Congressional Research Service all separately found that the move would bring in billions of dollars in revenue.

Via Climate Change: It’s Not the Heat, It’s the Stupidity: Limbaugh Calls Heat Index a Liberal Government Conspiracy

Wikipedia:  “The heat index … combines air temperature and relative humidity in an attempt to determine the human-perceived equivalent temperature — how hot it feels….  The heat index was developed in 1978 … and was adopted by the National Weather Service a year later.”

Rush Limbaugh:  They’re playing games with us on this heat wave, again. Even Drudge, drudge getting sucked in here.  Gonna be a 116 in Washington. No, it’s not.  It’s going to be a 100, maybe 99.  The heat index, manufactured by the government, they tell you what it feels like when you add the humidity in there.  116 -  When’s the last time the heat index was reported as an actual temperature?  It hasn’t been.  But it looks like they’re trying to get away with doing that now.
Yes, the black helicopters are after Limbaugh and the whole country now.  Well, actually if there were UN helicopters, I’m sure they’d be white, since the black ones would just get too damn hot in this weather!

In the real world, the heat index adds to the actual temperature the effect of humidity, which interferes with the body’s ability to perspire and carry away heat:  “When the relative humidity is high, the evaporation rate is reduced, so heat is removed from the body at a lower rate causing it to retain more heat than it would in dry air.”

Now it just so happens we’ve had record rainfall and flooding in the spring — precisely what you would expect from human-caused global warming (see “Two seminal Nature papers join growing body of evidence that human emissions fuel extreme weather, flooding that harm humans and the environment“). That helps boost the heat index, as one meteorologist explained today:

We are into a very dangerous heat wave this week that will last until the weekend.  Millions of people are affected, and with heat indices forecast above 100 degrees for dozens of states, the warnings are dire.   Here’s a list of the peak heat index numbers for Tuesday.  One of the reasons we’re seeing such high values is because of the record flooding that we saw this spring across the Midwest and Mississippi Valley.   There is plenty of available moisture that is evaporating and combined with the soaring temperatures, this is causing a “sauna effect” for dozens of states.
That is Janice Dean, a Fox News Channel meteorologist!  I guess she would be part of the conspiracy Limbaugh is warning us about.
For those who don’t believe Limbaugh would actually say something this inane — I know there’s a couple of you out there — here’s the video and full transcript:

The tropics and much of the Northern Hemisphere are likely to experience an irreversible rise in summer temperatures within the next 20 to 60 years if atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations continue to increase, according to a new climate study by Stanford University scientists….
… there is a systematic influence on all of these weather events now-a-days because of the fact that there is this extra water vapor lurking around in the atmosphere than there used to be say 30 years ago. It’s about a 4% extra amount, it invigorates the storms, it provides plenty of moisture for these storms and it’s unfortunate that the public is not associating these with the fact that this is one manifestation of climate change. And the prospects are that these kinds of things will only get bigger and worse in the future.

Via Climate Change: The ‘Feeble’ US Response to the “Enormous Security Threat”

Posted: 21 Jul 2011 05:10 AM PDT
Francesco Femia, Christine Parthemore, and Caitlin Werrell, in a Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists cross-post

Article Highlights

  • The United States has expended enormous resources in response to the security threats posed by WMDs, terrorism, and the economic crisis.
  • The Defense Department and CIA consider climate change a significant national security threat.
  • Other American policymakers have not matched the security establishment’s assessment with the appropriate resources or political will, leaving the United States with a relatively feeble response to an enormous security threat.
Over recent decades, the United States has dedicated enormous resources — in terms of money, manpower and national credibility — to reducing the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, and the global economic crisis. These commitments have been made not necessarily because the potential dangers are expected to materialize often — many of them are low-probability risks — but because the consequences if they do are so large as to be considered unacceptable. There’s another threat that’s both potentially devastating on a global scale and highly likely to become reality, but it has not received anything like the same attention or response from our civilian policymakers: climate change.

The US military and much of the broader national security community have actually recognized the seriousness of the threat posed by global climate change. The US Defense Department, for example, included the climate threat as a key pillar of its most recent Quadrennial Defense Review, conducted wargames to plan for climate impacts, and, in its most recent Unified Command Plan, designated Northern Command to lead activities in the Arctic region.

Even the CIA has established a Center for the Study of Climate Change.

But US policymakers have failed to follow the security establishment’s lead. As a result, the US response to climate change has been relatively feeble, even though increasing global temperatures pose an enormous threat to national and global security. The inadequacy of the US climate change effort is perhaps best illustrated by direct comparison to the country’s responses to arguably less likely or smaller scale risks.

The risk: WMD proliferation. A survey of experts PDF conducted by US Sen. Richard Lugar in 2005 produced a median response of a 10 percent likelihood of “an attack involving a nuclear explosion” in five years and a 20 percent likelihood in 10 years. But these percentages were calculated in a haze of uncertainty. Governments and independent analysts cannot be entirely sure who may be planning an attack, who has the ability to acquire materials for, build, and use such a weapon,  and who the intended target might be (see the  Harvard Belfer Center’s Nuclear Threat Assessment).

The response: Trillions on weapons, billions on non-proliferation. The US government has poured trillions of dollars into maintaining a nuclear deterrent and billions into fighting the global proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. In fiscal 2010 alone, the Defense Department requested about $19.1 billion PDF for programs specifically related to combating WMDs.  The United States is party to and helps fund a web of legally binding multilateral and bilateral arms control treaties, collectively known as the non-proliferation regime, that aim to control the spread of weapons of mass destruction. And the US has committed enormous resources and many lives to pressuring governments thought to be developing nuclear weapons, the most famous example being the US invasion of Iraq.

The risk: International terrorism: Although acts of terrorism are highly likely to occur, the targeted nature of the phenomenon usually limits the scale of destruction (with some of Al Qaeda’s successful operations standing out as counter examples). As argued by Michael Chertoff, former Secretary of Homeland Security, and even by President Barack Obama, the threat is not existential at a national or global level.

The response: A trillion-dollar global “war on terror.” The US responded with vigor to the attack of September 11, 2001, spending about $1.12 trillion on overseas efforts alone through September 2010 and promoting no less than 16 legally binding universal instruments against international terrorism at the United Nations. This massively funded counterterrorism policy PDF involves government efforts that range from the CIA to local post offices and a large cast of front-line actors, including everyone from urban police officers to US special forces operating around the world. The billions of dollars spent and hundreds of thousands of American soldiers deployed have generated many tangible successes, recently capped off by the elimination of Osama bin Laden. Yet the character and scale of future terrorist threats remain open questions.

The risk: Systemic economic crisis. In February 2009, Adm. Dennis Blair, then-director of national intelligence, and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, described the global financial crisis as one of the greatest security threats facing the US.  Just the same, the root causes of economic crises remain unclear. Considering that furious debates still continue about the origins of the Great Depression and the ultimate causes of the most recent recession, there remains a high degree of uncertainty as to what events might cause the next panic.
The response: Massive stimulus spending, increased financial regulation. The US unleashed a huge response to the 2008 financial panic, much of it aimed at preventing future financial crises. In 2009, Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a $789 billion economic stimulus package. The US has instituted an expansive and robust financial regulatory regime, supported a deployment of the International Monetary Fund’s Special Drawing Rights, equivalent to $250 billion, to provide liquidity to the global economy, and participated in the creation of a robust international financial-stability architecture at the G20, with the little-understood but powerful Financial Stability Board at its core. Indeed, with US encouragement, the agendas of the G8, G20, and numerous other high-profile global economic fora have almost exclusively revolved around how to minimize the risks of another financial crisis. Policy makers acted swiftly even though, at the time, economists were vigorously debating potential solutions to the crisis.

The risk: Rapid climate change. There is a comparatively high degree of certainty about the likelihood, global scale, and severity of climate change impacts (see “Degrees of Risk” by the sustainable development nonprofit E3G). The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, established by the UN and the World Meteorological Organization and including some of the world’s top scientists, places the likelihood that the global climate is warming because of human activities — chiefly the burning of fossil fuels that release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere — at 90 percent or greater, an incredibly rare degree of certainty on any subject in the scientific world. There is also great certainty about the severe impacts those changes will have, should they go unaddressed.

The IPCC is very certain, for example, that sea-levels will rise — by a meter or more — just as experts expect the current 50 percent of the Earth’s population living in coastal areas to climb to 75 percent by 2025. Various impacts will infringe on state boundaries (and in some cases, state existence) as land is lost to the sea. Global agriculture production will be decreased by floods and droughts, severely diminishing the world’s ability to feed a population expected to reach 9 billion by 2050. Authoritative scientific reports project that climate change will also affect the availability of resources, including fresh water, compelling people to migrate within and across national boundaries to survive. The past has shown that such dynamics can often result PDF in conflict and violence.

The response: Relative to the risk, feeble. In fiscal 2010, the US spent just $1.7 billion on international climate change financing, a figure that pales in comparison to the financial responses to the aforementioned threats. Thanks largely to a recalcitrant Congress, the US has slowed the negotiations on the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to a crawl. The agreements the US has entered, including the Copenhagen Accord, rely on an unenforceable international honor system to combat emissions. Although the Supreme Court has ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions, the EPA is under attack, and the federal government has no legally-binding cap on the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global climate change.

The US government has invested trillions of dollars in efforts to prevent and mitigate the risks of weapons of mass destruction, global terrorism and systemic economic crises, because the consequences of inaction are considered unacceptable. These investments were made despite significant uncertainty about the frequency with which these catastrophic events might occur. When it comes to climate change, the consequences of failing to appropriately manage risks are also unacceptable. Meanwhile, the scientific community is as close to certain as humanly possible about the prospects for global crisis. Without action, the overwhelming scientific consensus asserts, a climate catastrophe that threatens billions of lives will almost surely occur. Such a dire and certain security threat calls for an urgent and financially significant response from US policymakers. Simply put, climate change is a serious threat to the United States and the world. Military leaders understand it, the national security community understands it, and it’s time our civilian leaders responded accordingly.

Francesco Femia, Christine Parthemore, and Caitlin Werrell, in a Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists cross-post

JMG Photo Of The Day - Final Shuttle Landing


reposted from Joe

Lua sobre Parador // Moon over Parador


Atlantis lands for final time, marking end to 30-year program

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Love Formula:

Via Americans United for Change:

Via ClimateProgress: The Real Lessons of Carmageddon: How Small Behavior Changes Come with Big Payouts

This past weekend Los Angeles residents survived “Carmageddon” – a closure of 10 miles of highway on interstate 405 in southern California between the “101” and the “10” freeways. But the real story about the lessons we can draw from last weekend’s glimpse into a less car-dependant metropolitan mega-city.

CAP’s Jorge Madrid and Brennan Alvarez have the story.

Hailed by the media as a disaster-level disruption in weekend mobility, the closure of a major traffic artery that links two sides of the country’s second-largest city went off without much incident at all.

In fact, according to numerous twitter and facebook updates, real-time online Google traffic monitoring, and round-the-clock coverage by the LA Times, roads and highways throughout the city were uncharacteristically clear throughout most of the weekend.

LA mayor Antonio Villaraigosa declared “mission accomplished” on Sunday afternoon after the massive 2-day, 11-lane, repair and improvement project was completed 17 hours ahead of schedule – without so much as one major traffic jam, worker injury, reported road rage incident, or disruption in hospital, emergency, or airport operations.

“A lot is said about the fact that this is the car capital of the United States,” Villaraigosa said. “Everybody has seen we can get out of our cars every once in a while and survive.”

While all this could make for an amusing “only in LA” punch line, the real story is far more important to our national dialogue about mobility in America’s metropolitan centers. It also highlights the importance of crucial infrastructure investments, especially during challenging economic times.

The first thing to consider is that car-dependent metropolitan centers like Los Angeles are completely vulnerable to shocks in their primary transportation arteries – unlike their more transit friendly counterparts San Francisco, New York, and DC. This kind of vulnerability does not usually rear its head in the wider public domain until we are faced with a crisis, both real and/or anticipated. But when it does surface the problem usually becomes quite clear, as one editorial in the LA Times describes:
It hurts to lose the 405 even for a weekend not because freeways are so valuable or because we love them so much but because we’ve painted ourselves in a corner in terms of mobility. We have left ourselves no escape hatches or viable alternatives.
Secondly, many experts credit the success of this particular closure to an information and outreach blitz from the media, public officials, and social networking websites like facebook and twitter, asking “Angelinos” to stay out of their cars and enjoy local recreation in their own immediate neighborhoods via walking, biking, and public transit (a breakthrough idea to be certain).

The city’s official marketing website launched a campaign (405 things to do in LA) that promised “tweeting 405 fun and iconic things to do in Los Angeles … without a car.”  It turns out with enough information and a little bit of coaxing even the most car-dependent city in America can change its commuting behaviors.
Granted, this was one weekend out of the year and many residents likely chose to simply delay their driving instead of re-aligning their transit priorities altogether. However, this experience could serve as a real example to residents that altering their normal commuting behaviors – if only just a bit – could have exponential impacts across the city when aggregated over a large swath of the population.

For example, harmful pollution and smog levels dropped, according to air quality monitors stationed across the city – not an easy accomplishment in the peak summertime heat. Likewise, public transit ridership increased 15 percent to weekend highs, and many residents found their carless weekend was a welcomed reprieve from the stress of driving and anxiety of needing to traverse the city on their day off.
These kinds of small-time behavior changes (and big-time payouts) should not be taken lightly. According to a recent study by the University of California at Irvine, there is a strong correlation between long vehicle commutes and severe mental and physical health problems, including high blood pressure, increased bouts of anger and depression, and even obesity and heart disease.  This could be increasingly dangerous for the 1 in 6 Americans who spend an hour and a half commuting to and from work each day.
Another study by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) found that households that use public transportation and live with one less car can save $9,000 on average every year, and reduce driving by 4,400 miles each year per household. The same APTA study found that one person switching to public transit can reduce their contribution to harmful daily pollution by 20 pounds per day or more than 4,800 pounds in a single year.

A third takeaway is that all metro areas should invest in the kind of transit infrastructure that could prevent another Carmageddon-like panic, while at the same time provide the kind of quality-of-life payouts that residents enjoyed during their weekend reprieve from gridlock. And it’s not just about our enhanced leisure; this issue has serious implications for our economy, public health, and safety.

We already know that investments in public transit create nearly twice as many jobs as investments in new highway construction. We also know that if we want to get serious about mitigating the dangerous effects of vehicle pollution and smog, particularly public health impacts like asthma and respiratory disease, then we need to reduce exhaust from vehicles. Finally, we must address the fact that the transportation sector accounts for approximately 33 percent of total carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion.
A step in the right direction is Mayor Villaraigosa’s 30/10 initiative, which aims to accomplish 30 years worth of transit projects at an accelerated 10 year pace.  Back in Nov of 2008, LA voters agreed to tax themselves a half-cent sales tax for traffic relief and transportation upgrades throughout the county (68 percent of voters approved this during the height of the recession); the fund is projected to raise $40 billion over the next 30 years.

The 30/10 initiative will leverage the funds raised through this sales tax to secure long-term bonds and loans from the federal government, which will allow LA Metro to build 12 key mass transit projects in 10 years, rather than 30. The initiative is expected to create 160,000 new jobs, as well as reduce pollution emissions by 521,000 pounds, and save 10.3 million gallons of gas and 191 million fewer vehicle miles traveled per year.  The LA Times describes the project as:
The most important initiative ever proposed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. If, as seems increasingly likely, it’s embraced by Congress, it will become one of the nation’s most significant public infrastructure projects.
When the would-be disaster that was Carmageddon passed without incident, residents and city officials released a collective sigh of relief.  It turns out that some Southern Californians can live without their cars for a weekend, enjoy their neighborhood on a bike or on foot, and get to work on a train or bus once or twice a week.  This may seem miniscule, but aggregated across millions of people, the results can be exponential.  Carmageddon was a sort of litmus test for the possibility of a car free weekend in the city, one that could have ended very badly, and LA passed without incident.

It should be noted that not all folks who live in LA are fortunate enough to have adequate transit to get to the places they need to be.  Additionally, we must acknowledge that not all residents can enjoy a breath of fresh air on their bikes – LA is also home to some of the worst air quality in the nation.  Finally, we know that one weekend will not magically change the culture of a city that was built for the automobile.

However, with projects like the Mayor’s 30/10 initiative and other commitments to invest in public transit, along with some slight behavior modifications in the way Angelinos commute, more residents will be able to experience the simple pleasure of enjoying their city with less gridlock, less smog, and less stress.
Jorge Madrid is a Research Associate with the CAP energy team; Brenanna Alvarez is an intern with the energy team.  Jorge and Brennan are both Southern California natives.

Via ClimateProgress: Does Romney Believe Global Warming Harms Humans? Depends on What the Meaning of the Word “And” Is — And What BS Means, Too.

Mitt Romney makes George W. Bush seem like Harry Truman.

Back in June, Climate Progress correctly reported that Mitt Romney said:
I don’t speak for the scientific community, of course, but I believe the world’s getting warmer. I can’t prove that, but I believe based on what I read that the world is getting warmer. And number two, I believe that humans contribute to that….  And so I think it’s important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants AND greenhouse gases that may well be significant contributors to the climate change and the global warming that you’re seeing.
These words seems straightforward.   But apparently only for straight talkers.
You see, Politico misreported the quote very slightly, but just enough to upset team Romney aka the Twisted Talk Express.  Their pro-pollution parsing is so convoluted that paraphrasing it would not do them justice.  The Politico explains:

How much is the Mitt Romney campaign sweating the candidate’s stance on global warming?
This much: Late Monday, after enduring a blog-inflamed kerfuffle over the GOP presidential contender’s view on EPA climate regulations, the campaign reached out to POLITICO to ask for a change in a Romney quote — an “of” to an “and” — that had been published several times since early June without objection.
The offending quote: “I think it’s important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants, of greenhouse gases, that may well be significant contributors to the climate change and global warming that you’re seeing.”
Romney’s campaign said that rather than “of,” the candidate had said “and.”
So the full quote reads like this: “I think it’s important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases that may well be significant contributors to the climate change and global warming that you’re seeing.”
Upon reviewing a clip of Romney’s June 3 remarks at a town hall event in Manchester, N.H., POLITICO concluded that the campaign is correct. It is correcting the stories in question….
The video is here.  Romney clearly said “and” — not that it should matter one whit.
Romney campaign officials said the corrected quote — distinguishing between “greenhouse gases” and “pollutants” — represents an “important distinction” in his views on climate change and EPA regulation.
“Gov. Romney does not think greenhouse gases are pollutants within the meaning of the Clean Air Act, and he does not believe that the EPA should be regulating them,” said Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul. “CO2 is a naturally occurring gas. Humans emit it every time they exhale.”
Talk about someone who doesn’t say what they mean and mean what they say.
But notwithstanding this attempt to waterboard the English language, Romney’s original statement does not depend on the meaning of the word “of.”  First, as an aside, many people distinguish between urban air pollutants (that have previously been regulated) and greenhouse gases when speaking just for clarity’s sake, but  that doesn’t mean they don’t consider GHGs pollutants.  Not that Mitt has never said anything for clarity’s sake.
Second, Romney’s “clarification” has no bearing on whether greenhouse gases are pollutants within the meaning of the Clean Air Act.  The Supreme Court made clear in 2007 that if GHGs endangered public health and welfare, then the EPA needed to regulate them.  Obviously GHGs do (see finding here).

Indeed, why would Romney have said in June, “it’s important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases” if GHGs didn’t endanger either our health and welfare?  Romney ain’t a “save the polar bear” guy.
I know you’ll be shocked, shocked to learn that Romney has changed his mind in a period of weeks.  [In Romney time, a week is like a year for the rest of us -- in terms of how quickly (or slowly) his thinking 'evolves'.]
As TP Green reports, Romney said this week:
I believe we should keep our air and our water clean. And that we don’t want to have pollutants that are interfering with our health and damaging the ability of our children to enjoy good health. So no question we have to have standards that improve the quality of our air. And I support reasonable standards. … Do I support the EPA? In much of its mission yes, but in some of its mission no. The EPA getting into carbon footprints, and… [APPLAUSE] I think we may have made a mistake, we have made a mistake is what I believe, in saying that the EPA should regulate carbon emissions. I don’t think that was the intent of the original legislation, and I don’t think carbon is a pollutant in the sense of harming our bodies. We can agree to disagree … My view is that the EPA getting into carbon and regulating carbon has gone beyond the original intent of the legislation. I do believe we should reduce the pollutants that harm our health.
Romney has little understanding of the Clean Air Act:  A pollutant doesn’t have to directly harm your body to be a danger to public health and welfare and thus covered by the CAA.
Romney apparently has little understanding of the harm that global warming causes humans now — and how much worse that will be on our current path of unrestricted emissions.  It is also worth noting research by Stanford’s Mark Jacobsen, “The enhancement of local air pollution by urban CO2 domes,” that shows how carbon dioxide quite directly harms humans.
Finally, Romney has little understanding of what the Supreme Court has been saying.  In June, NRDC’s David Doniger explained:

Today’s decision in Connecticut v. American Electric Power throws out the lawsuit brought directly against the five upwind carbon polluters on the basis that it’s EPA’s job under the Clean Air Act to curb power plants’ dangerous carbon pollution.  The Court’s decision expands on the four-year-old Massachusetts decision by setting forth the specific authority EPA has over power plant pollution.
The Court’s decision puts the spotlight squarely on EPA.  The Court noted that the environmental agency has in fact begun to act since Massachusetts by making the scientific determination that carbon pollution is dangerous to public health and welfare, and has set standards to cut carbon pollution from new automobiles by 30 percent over the next five years.
The Court also noted that the EPA is finally moving towards action on power plants, noting the settlement of another case (New York v. EPA, see here and here) under which proposed carbon pollution standards are due in September and final standards next May.  The agency has been meeting with stakeholders from industry, environmentalists, states, and others and is undertaking the technical and economic analyses to support standards.
Is Romney qualified to be President of the United States?  That depends on your definition of the word “qualified.”
Related Post:
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