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100 Years Ago This Week: The Battle of the Marne Changed the World

By: Ohio Barbarian Monday September 1, 2014 8:40 am
Photo shows a 17 cm SK L/40 i.R.L. (on wheeled carriage) in action : a 17 cm naval gun mounted on a wheeled carriage, used as a heavy field gun by Germany in World War I.

The Battle of the Marne: A world-changing conflict.

On this Labor Day of 2014 I’d like to reflect on something that happened across the Atlantic almost exactly 100 years ago which caused repercussions which shaped the world into which all of us were born. Most Americans nowadays haven’t even heard of it, perhaps because no American soldiers and few civilians were anywhere near it at the time, but I find such an attitude ignorant at best and pure hubris at worst.

Anyway, a hundred years ago this week, just four weeks after World War I began, six massive German armies had conquered all of Luxembourg, all of Belgium except for a tiny corner of it on the English channel, and most of France northeast of Paris. German troops in fact had crossed the Marne River in force and their lead elements could even see the Eiffel Tower. In spite of heretofore unprecedented casualties inflicted by the relatively new war technologies of accurate rifles, mobile artillery(usually pulled by horses), and rapid-firing machine guns, 100 years ago today the German Empire seemed poised to capture Paris and dictate terms to a bloodied and humiliated French nation, hold off the slowly mobilizing British Empire, and turn east to crush the Russians who had gone to war to defend their beleaguered Serbian allies in the Balkans.

I don’t have the space, and I’m sure most readers don’t have the time, to go over every little military historical detail that has been written and argued over by historians ever since. I recently read The Marne, 1914, by Holger Herwig, a Canadian of German descent who studied German records made available to Western historians after the collapse of the German Democratic Republic(East Germany) in 1989. I disagree with many of his conclusions about the quality of the decisions made by German, French, and British commanders, but he does seem to get most of his facts straight.

The Germans had been consistently shocked by two things since they launched their great crusade to knock France out of the war quickly. First, Belgian soldiers and then Belgian civilians had refused to meekly submit to superior German arms and had fought them tooth and nail. The sniping of civilians behind the lines led to fierce German reprisals where several thousand Belgian civilians were summarily executed and even more were deported by train to Germany. Those events fed Allied propaganda that would, three years later, help persuade President Woodrow Wilson to send America into the war on their side. Had it not been for the Battle of the Marne in 1914, however, there would have been no France to go to the aid of.

Basically, generals on both sides were totally surprised by the huge number of casualties suffered by both the Germans and the French. There is no exact count, but it is safe to say that both had already lost over a hundred thousand dead each and twice that many wounded or captured before the Battle of the Marne even began. It makes American losses in Indochina, some 58,000 dead, seem almost like pocket change. And there was worse to come.

Both Germans and French had marched hundreds of miles, on foot, over the previous four weeks, sometimes fighting major engagements every day for over a week at a time. The soldiers on both sides still capable of fighting were exhausted, sick, hungry, and yet somehow still determined. In fact, German officers, so confident in their detailed war plans and in the fighting superiority of the Teutonic Germans over the decadent wine-and-cheese-loving French, seemed to have a hard time believing that the ordinary French soldier still had any fight left in him. After all, the French really have no stomach for a fight. Everybody knew that. We even hear that today.

The Germans were wrong. The French leadership had totally miscalculated the German avenue of attack through Belgium and refused to even acknowledge the possibility until Brussels fell after a couple of weeks. They did, however, eventually realize their mistake and made a more-or-less orderly retreat which avoided encirclement and annihilation over about 300 miles from the Belgian border to the gates of Paris. Then, the French Army, only desultorily and maybe even reluctantly supported by a British Expeditionary Force which regarded its own survival as all-important, turned and made a stand.

The stand took place over a front several hundred miles long. German communications in particular were confused, slow, and incomplete, though the French had more than their share of the same. The French went all out. They mobilized another army and threw it into a gap between two of the exhausted French armies that had made the fighting retreat from Belgium. Several thousand Parisian taxi cabs were used to ferry reinforcements to the front, less than 20 miles away from Paris itself in places, and wounded back to hospitals, though most of the movements were in fact made by rail. While many of the wealthy and the government itself fled, most Parisians prepared to fight grimly on in a siege.


Occupy Movement Gets Its Own TV Station

By: Daniel Marks Tuesday September 2, 2014 2:03 am

Creating “TV for the 99%”, the movement that galvanized the world has partnered with FilmOn Networks to create a free 24/7 online television outlet for news, evidence, and commentary online at

In partnership with FilmOn Networks, the National Convention PBC and a new union of the groups Occupy Television,, and the National General Assembly, have launched Occupy Television, a free 24/7 online television channel. The new outlet consolidates media throughout the Occupy movement in order to provide access to the maximum amount of people around the world.

There is no more visceral demonstration of the importance of the principles behind Occupy—and the need for independent control of the movement’s own messages—then the complete failure of the police state in Ferguson, Missouri and its violent behavior toward the media.

Occupy Television’s goal is to circumvent mainstream media, with its multitude of conflicts of interests, in order to break out of the echo chambers of conventional political discussion. The station is based on the work of Occupy community members and citizen journalists—it is TV for the 99%, by the 99%. 

The channel will air documentaries including Internets Own Boy about the death of Aaron Swartz; Occupy Love; Pots, Pans and other Solutions, about the Icelandic pots and pans rebellion; TPB AFK about copyright laws. It will also transmit shows such as Politics Done Right, Occupy Radio, Acronym TV, DC Media Group, Global Revolution Live TV, Occupy Toronto and others.

The Occupy movement began with the famous occupation of Wall Street and its ability to get images and video showing police activity out was key to grabbing the attention in the media and creating understanding in the media. The ability to reach’s 40 million monthly users worldwide will consolidate Occupy’s efforts and become an even stronger opportunity to “occupy the media”.

“FilmOn has always existed to give voice to views and lifestyles that aren’t heard on mainstream television. We’ve built up a huge vertical of news networks from all over the world—over 100 channels, all available for free–so that the public can get messages their own governments, or the big media conglomerates, may be hiding,” says Alki David, Founder of FilmOn Networks. “As a proponent of free speech and reform in media, I’m very proud to provide a home to Occupy TV.”

A representative of the leaderless Occupy movement says, “Today we can see the media obstruction in our own streets. Occupy is best used as a verb than as a brand. Therefore we, the 99%, occupy television to provide an outlet for our many voices. The media united will never be defeated. The natural formation of ideologies within the partisan divide works against a common goal. This new effort allows We the People to identify the root cause of problems with an objective focus and various approaches.”

FIlmOn has been at the forefront of the push for reform in media—with its battle to loosen the stranglehold the big media conglomerates being fought in courts from coast to coast. The fight to support the public’s right to legally mandated free over-the-air broadcast signals wound up in the Supreme Court, and the dispute continues in Congress and with the United States Copyright Office as a fight for consumers rights, small business, and technological innovation against greed and the status quo of outdated laws.

Update on “Suicide” of Handcuffed Man in LA

By: OldFatGuy

“Houdini Handcuff Suicide”

Benjamin Crump, the attorney representing the families of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, is calling for the Feds to investigate the “suicide” of Victor White.

Saying the explanation by the Louisiana authorities “fundamentally defies all logic” he asked:

… why police initially said White was shot in the back but the coroner’s report found he was shot in the chest; how a left-handed man could have shot himself in the right side; how police managed to find drugs on the suspect’s body but not a .25 caliber handgun; and why the deceased’s hands were not tested for gunshot residue.

I suspect many are wondering about those same questions, as I know I am. And I’m sure the family is as well.

The reason the Feds should get involved, beyond the obvious, was well laid out as well.

… the White case is part of a troubling pattern of what he called “Houdini handcuff suicides” — including the 2012 death of Chavis Carter, 21, in Arkansas and the 2013 death of Jesus Huerta, 17, in North Carolina. “This is why we believe this is bigger than just a state issue,” he said. “This is a federal issue.”

The Louisiana State Police, who leads the current investigation, has said it is nearly complete and that investigators will be handing over their results to the District Attorney this week. Spokesperson Capt. Doug Cain said they would not be swayed by any calls for federal involvement, saying “We’re strictly interested in finding the facts.”

So am I. But somehow I fear that not only will the Louisiana State Police treat this as a cover up, so too will the Feds if they were to get involved. No Capt. Cain, you personally have done nothing to make me distrust you. But the local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies have provided more than enough reasons for any rational person to question your true motives. Sorry, but that’s how it works when governments lie.

I’ll update this post if there is some news this week from the District Attorney and if it’s not covered elsewhere here.

Mining the Earth: 1 Sep 2014

By: KateCA Monday September 1, 2014 4:58 pm

Mining the Earth: 1 Sep 2014

*US.  Not specific to mining or fracking, but it does illustrate the deadly absurdities humans have created:  “Federal officials are looking for train cars to haul nuclear waste towards its final resting place.  Too bad they have no idea where that train will actually go.”

And now, we return to our regular programming.

*IA. Up in northeast IA, Allamakee County  has adopted “a countywide ordinance restricting mining the silica sand used in other states to extract natural gas and oil” through fracking.   Next door, Winneshiek County  has imposed  “a moratorium on large-scale sand mining and are considering a countywide ordinance to restrict it.”  There is also concern about the impact of sand mining on “wildlife habitats in the hills, forests and bluffs”.   Not everyone in nearby counties agrees, but activities in Allamakee and Winneshiek  are stimulating discussion.

*NM.  The US Environmental Protection Agency has ordered Homestake Mining to cough up $500,000 to “clean-up at its four abandoned uranium mines in the Mariano Lake and Smith Lake on the Navajo Nation’s lands.”  Homestake is required to undertake an “extensive radiation survey” of its mines, “backfill open holes”,  repair the surface so there are no physical risks to humans and other creatures and perform some other tasks.  Will half a million dollars actually be enough to clean up damage done in the Four Corners region?

*PA.  The state has dedicated $1.4 million to extinguish one long-burning underground coal fire near the Pittsburgh International Airport.  The thing has gotten so bad that it “threatens to disrupt air travel and cause an explosion at a major gas pipeline.”  During PA’s coal mining heyday “the coal industry operated largely without oversight” and, as a result, nobody is even sure how many long-closed mines are there.

*Canada.  Imperial Metals Corp and the Tahitan First Nation Central Council have signed an agreement “that will see an independent engineering firm review a taillings facility” at Mount Polley Mine, site of the terrible disaster in early August.  Following the disaster, Tahitan elders, The Klabona Keepers, set up a blockade at Imperial Metals’ Red Chris mine in northern BC.   Under the agreement they’ve reached thus far, the Klabona Keepers will lift the blockade while a “benefit agreement” continues to be negotiated between the Tahitan Central Council and Imperial Metals.

*Canada.  Uranium mining company Cameco and United Steelworkers have not been able to reach agreement on “pensions, benefits and compensation for working in remote regions”—such as the McArthur River mine and Key Lake mill in northern Saskatchewan.  The Steelworkers claim Cameco “cares about production first, second and third and their employees are an afterthought.”  Work stoppage could affect some 535 unionized workers.

*Dominican Republic.  In a clever work-around, the Dominican Republic’s legislature has opened the door for the territory surrounding Glencore’s  ferro-nickel Falcondo Mine to become a national park, thus avoiding outright seizure of the property, but definitely hampering any plans to expand the mine.  The final decision is now up to DR’s President.

*Mexico.  It’s called “North America’s largest jungle preserve” and its being threatened because it contains basalt rock.  Dynamite and mining threaten this place that is home to “565 species of birds, 140 species of mammals, 117 species of reptiles and about 100 species of butterflies.”  The project will also lead to a huge expansion of the Port of Veracruz.

*Guatemala.  In a triumph for earth and indigenous people, a  “Guatemalan [Protection Tributal of the Appeals] court has ordered that the Mayan community of Sipacapa has the right to be consulted for any mining or energy project and that the Los Chocoyos mining permit, issued to the Entre Mares Company in 2012 by the Energy and Mining Ministry, is illegal.”  Entre Mares, by the way, is a subsidiary of Goldcorp Inc.

*Nicaragua.  An unlicensed gold mine near Bonanza collapsed, leaving “at least 20 workers trapped deep underground”.  Two others were able to scratch their way out since they weren’t buried too deep.  The missing are some 2,600 feet underground.  There are around 6,000 workers involved in getting gold out of old, dangerous, and abandoned mines in the area.  Update: Some 27 – 29 miners were trapped, but 20 have been rescued.  Update: “no signs of life, but rescue efforts continue for eight missing miners.

*Germany.  Numbering “thousands”, protestors joined hands across five miles and sang together on the Poland-Germany border from Kerkwitz, Germany to Grabice, Poland.  They even stood in the Lusatian Neisse River.  At issue is the “giant lignite coal mining operations”—and expansion plans.  Eminent domain?  Pffffft.  These miners are simply going to eradicate entire villages (affecting around 6,000 Germans and 3,000 Poles).  Who’s behind this?  The Swedish government through its Vattenfall and the Polish government through its PGE.

*Australia. Government assets such as ports and highways are being sold off “as they scramble to raise as much as $300 billion to upgrade the nation’s infrastructure.”  Demise of mining is blamed, leaving Western Australia, New South Wales and Queensland in heavy debt.

*Australia.  A “mining mogul apologizes to China over ‘mongrels’ remarks”.  Yes, gentle readers, Clive Palmer not only is a mining mogul but also a Member of Parliament and head (naturally) of the Palmer United Party in Australia.  He not only referred to the Chinese people as ‘mongrels’ but also said they “shoot their own people” (video at link).  He’s since apologized.

*Good movie for this Labor Day:  Harlan County USA.

Over Easy: How Coffee Works

By: yellowsnapdragon Saturday May 21, 2011 7:03 pm

So many important topics I’d like to write about, too little time. Sigh. In Lieu of a proper post, here is a video explaining how coffee works.

How’s everyone doing today? Gracie did well in surgery, although she has been drugged up all weekend. She has to go back to the vet on Wednesday to have her dressing changed and get a post-surgery once over by the vet. We expect the results of the biopsy over the next couple days, so think good thoughts for us.

Monday Watercooler

By: Kit OConnell Monday September 1, 2014 8:40 pm


A microscopic glimpse of a tiny arachnid

Sleep tight!

Tonight’s music video is “Dangerous Days” by Zola Jesus, from the album Taiga.

Don’t look now — there’s tiny arachnids on your face. They’re on my face too. In fact, scientists have proven tiny arachnids live on everyone’s face. From NC State News:

You are not alone. Your body is a collection of microbes, fungi, viruses…and even other animals. In fact, you aren’t even the only animal using your face. Right now, in the general vicinity of your nose, there are at least two species of microscopic mites living in your pores. You would expect scientists to know quite a lot about these animals (given that we share our faces with them), but we don’t.

Here is what we do know: Demodex mites are microscopic arachnids (relatives of spiders and ticks) that live in and on the skin of mammals – including humans. They have been found on every mammal species where we’ve looked for them, except the platypus and their odd egg-laying relatives.

Often mammals appear to host more than one species, with some poor field mouse species housing four mite species on its face alone. Generally, these mites live out a benign coexistence with their hosts. But if that fine balance is disrupted, they are known to cause mange amongst our furry friends, and skin ailments like rosacea and blepharitis in humans. Most of us are simply content – if unaware – carriers of these spindly, eight-legged pore-dwellers.

[...] One of our most exciting discoveries is that these mites are living on everyone. Yes everyone (even you). [...] Dan Fergus, a mite molecular biologist at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, discovered that mite DNA could be sequenced from face scrapings regardless of whether a mite could be found under the microscope. And mite DNA was sequenced from every adult we sampled. Meaning that if you let us scrape your face, we’d find mite DNA on you as well. And where mite DNA is found, you’ll find mites.

[...]One of the most intriguing (and unsolved) face mite mysteries is how humans acquired these beasties. Perhaps these mites are a model system of co-evolution. It’s possible that as every species of mammal evolved, so did their mites – each one particularly adapted to its changed environs. In such a case, we would expect that we acquired our mites from our ape ancestors, and that the two species of human mites would be more closely related to each other than to any other mite species. However, we’ve learned that the two mite species on our faces [...] are actually not very close relatives to each other at all. Our analyses actually show that brevis is more closely related to dog mites than to folliculorum, the other human mite. This is interesting because it shows us that humans have acquired each of these mite species in different ways, and that there are two separate histories of how each of these mite species came to be on our face.

Bonus: A Tense Visit to Burning Man’s Billionaire’s Row, via re/code

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Labor Day News Dump: FERC Hands Enbridge Permit for Tar Sands by Rail Facility

By: Steve Horn Monday September 1, 2014 4:07 pm

Syncrude’s base mine

On the Friday before Labor Day — in the form of an age-old “Friday News Dump“ — the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) handed a permit to Enbridge, the tar sands-carrying corporate pipeline giant, to open a tar sands-by-rail facility in Flanagan, Ill. by early-2016.

With the capacity to accept 140,000 barrels of tar sands product per day, the company’s rail facility serves as another step in the direction towards Enbridge’s quiet creation of a “Keystone XL Clone.” That is, like TransCanada’s Keystone Pipeline System sets out to do, sending Alberta’s tar sands all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico’s refinery row — and perhaps to the global export market.

Flanagan sits as the starting point of Enbridge’s Flanagan South pipeline, which will take tar sands diluted bitumen (“dilbit”) from Flanagan to Cushing, Okla. beginning in October, according to a recent company earnings call. From there, Enbridge’s Seaway Twin pipeline will bring dilbit to Port Arthur, Texas near the Gulf.

Enbridge made the prospect of a tar sands-by-rail terminal public for the first time during its quarter two investor call.

“In terms of the rail facility, one of the things we’re looking at is – and the rail facility is really in relation to the situation in western Canada where there is growing crude oil volumes and not enough pipeline capacity to get it out of Alberta for a two or three year period,” Guy Jarvis, president of liquids pipelines for Enbridge, said on the call.

“So, one of the things we’re looking at doing is constructing a rail unloading facility that would allow western Canadian crudes to go by rail to Flanagan, be offloaded, and then flow down the Flanagan South pipeline further into Seaway and to the Gulf.”

FERC has given Enbridge the permit it needs to make that happen.

Enbridge “Scheme” Receives MN Permit

The announcement comes just days after the U.S. Department of State handed Enbridge a controversial permit to move an additional 350,000 barrels of tar sands per day across the U.S.-Canada border without the legally conventional Presidential Permit, public hearings or an environmental review conducted by the State Department.

Enbridge also received a permit from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MPUC) the day before FERC’s “Friday News Dump,” locking in the State Department’s legal ruling at the state-level. MPUC voted 4-1 to permit the pipeline after a meeting lasting nearly eight hours.

The Commission did so even though the staffer analyzing comments and legal submissions acknowledged he reviewed far more climate and environmental concerns than vice versa, according to MPUC staff briefing papers reviewed by DeSmogBlog.

“Clearly there exists much public opposition to the increased consumption of fossil fuels and diluted bitumen sources in particular,” wrote Michael Kaluzniak, planning director for energy facilities permitting for MPUC.

“Additionally, the Commission received numerous comments expressing genuine concern regarding the potential impact of the project on water quality and overall dissatisfaction with Enbridge’s public safety and spill response actions.”

TransCanada and Tar Sands by Rail

With the combination of its Alberta Clipper expansion “illegal scheme” (referred to as such by the National Wildlife Federation), Flanagan South and Seaway Twin pipelines, as well as the FERC-approved rail facility, Enbridge now has the capacity to bring roughly 960,000 barrels per day of tar sands product to the Gulf.

For sake of comparison, Keystone XL has the capacity to bring 830,000 barrels per day of tar sands to the Gulf. But TransCanada has also brokered its own deals and made its own chess moves.

As reported on DeSmogBlog, TransCanada may build its own tar sands-by-rail facility while it waits for Keystone XL’s northern leg to receive — or not receive — a State Department permit and accompanying Presidential Permit.

“It is something…that we can move on relatively quickly,” TransCanada CEO Russ Girling stated on his company’s quarter one earnings call. “We’ve done a pretty substantial amount of work at the terminal end and mostly at the receipt and delivery points and that’s really what our key role in here would be.”

Since that call, TransCanada has not discussed its tar sands by rail business plans.

“Keystone? Who needs it?”

In July, Global Partners and Kansas City Southern announced plans to develop a tar sands by rail facility in Port Arthur, Texas with 340,000 barrels of storage capacity.

If TransCanada opens up its own tar sands by rail facility, the combination of that and Enbridge’s latest tar sands by rail move could feed the Global Partners-Kansas City Southern beast.

With tar sands now “Texas Bound and Flyin” in a major way, and both Enbridge and TransCanada finding a way to get tar sands to the Gulf, the seemingly hyperbolic headline published on July 10 by the Houston Business Journal seems to ring true more now than ever: “Keystone? Who needs it?

Solar Roadways: The Amtrak Commission and Other News

By: Phoenix Woman Friday August 26, 2011 6:47 am

The Solar Roadways project keeps chugging along. One of the many commissions it’s set to undertake in the next year will involve taking part in the renovation of the local Amtrak depot in Sandpoint, Idaho. From the Bonner County Daily Bee:

Brusaw said the solar panels, protected by industrial-strength glass and equipped with LED lights, could be programmed to warn nearby individuals about incoming trains. The heating elements in the panels would also keep the platform clear of snow and ice.

According to Brusaw, the platform could be installed as early as next spring.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: This could be what saves us.

Meanwhile, some interesting information has come to light about the infamous “Thunderf00t” video troller. It seem that Mister Video troll set out to attack a feminist videogame industry critic, Anita Sarkeesian, using the same sleazy methods as he used to attack Solar Roadways — and with conclusions that were just as easily debunked.