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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.

Untouchable: Ferguson & the American caste system

By: Jane Stillwater Tuesday October 14, 2008 2:45 pm
Ferguson protest at White House, white woman with sign: America The Beautiful, Who Are You Beautiful For?

Events in Ferguson highlight America’s caste system.

When I was in India several years ago, I learned a lot about its historic caste system and the role of its “untouchables.” But I never put two and two together — that we might have “untouchables” and a caste system here in America too — until I saw photos of what happened in Ferguson, Missouri, this August.

When I was in the Peace Corps in South Africa, I learned all about its grim apartheid practices in the past.  But I never actually figured it out — until Ferguson — that America practiced apartheid too, and that the old apartheid bantustans of South Africa strongly resemble modern African-American bantustans like Ferguson; deliberately kept isolated, controlled and apart from the rest of America until there is almost no hope of ever getting out of them except by doing hard time in prison.

When I visited the slums of Kampala, I was struck by what a third-world country Uganda was, with many of its poorest citizens being jobless, homeless, hopeless and living a bleak hand-to-mouth existence.  But it never occurred to me that parts of America have similar unemployment rates, sparse education systems and the hopelessness of a third-world country too — until Ferguson gave me that new perspective.

In Israel/Palestine, I saw people constantly discriminated against “not by the content of their character but by the color of their skin,” to paraphrase Martin Luther King.  But not until Ferguson, where whites clearly hold all the power and use it corruptly, did I realize how deeply ingrained institutional racial and economic prejudice was in America too.

When I was embedded in Iraq, I saw American tanks and weaponry like you wouldn’t believe, used on Iraqi civilians to keep them in line.  But it wasn’t until I saw videos of Ferguson that I realized that the use of tanks and military weaponry have become standard warfare procedure against civilians here in America too.

When I was in Burma, I saw minorities being labeled as inferior, being called insulting names and constantly being accused of laziness, stupidity, immorality and violence to the point where in some cases the minorities actually started suffering from the Stockholm Syndrome and becoming all the things that they were constantly being labeled as — but I never really brought this connection back home until Ferguson.

When I was in Honduras, I heard tales about how Ronald Reagan funded his brutal death squads there by having the CIA fly whole plane-loads of drugs into secret airfields in Arkansas via “Air America” and then sell all those drugs in the ghettos here at home.

I knew that, back in the 1980s, the sudden availability of cheap crack cocaine had hit America’s Black communities like a ton of bricks — but I hadn’t really realized how much this crack epidemic had hurt these communities, even decades later, until I saw what the results of this evil agenda of deliberately choreographing drug sales in America’s ghettos had done to the societal fabric of American cities and towns like Ferguson back in the 1980s — and how hard, even today, that “authorities” are still fighting to keep the residents of places like Ferguson from ever putting their lives back together again.

When I was in Afghanistan, I constantly heard all kinds of stories about how American military planes would arrive there all loaded up with military supplies and then fly back to America loaded down with heroin, and that the dirty-money made on these ventures would help finance the American military-industrial complex’s Forever Wars.

Worker Solidarity, Eugene Debs and Why Labor Day Isn’t International Workers’ Day

By: patrick devlin Monday September 1, 2014 6:30 am

A salute to working women and men in America on Labor Day!

Even after 50 years of stagnant wages, union-busting, job outsourcing, and the appalling lapdoggery of politicians in both legacy parties who serve the interests of the modern oligarchs – we are obliged to stand with our fellow workers and acknowledge that our work makes our land. And, remember also that it is not to enrich the selfish wealthy that we work…at least that is what Eugene Debs believed.

I am opposing a social order in which it is possible for one man who does absolutely nothing that is useful to amass a fortune of hundreds of millions of dollars, while millions of men and women who work all the days of their lives secure barely enough for a wretched existence.

Eugene Debs-1918

Eugene Debs was one of the reasons that our country’s celebration of labor, unlike the rest of the world’s May Day celebration of International Workers’ Day, is at the end of August. So is Chicago and so is the effort to undermine workers’ solidarity by politicians in thrall of oligarchy that has continued unabated since the Labor Day holiday was first established as a federal holiday in the United States in 1894.

In 1894 the workers at the Pullman train car factory in Chicago had their wages reduced during what was to that point America’s most severe depression, which began in 1893. The Pullman workers’ rents and the cost of food that George Pullman charged his workers who lived in Pullman’s very own Foxconn style labor camp were, however, not lowered and the plant’s 4000 non-unionized workers organized a wildcat strike and walked off the job.

Debs had formed a union in 1893 called the American Railroad Union that organized unskilled rail workers across the country. Debs and ARU organizers came to Pullman and many of the company’s workers became members of the union. The aim of the organized workers was to bring Pullman to the negotiation table to work out a compromise, but Pullman (in a distinctly Koch-ian fashion) refused to recognize the union or negotiate with his workers.

Debs called for a massive boycott of Pullman where over 250,000 ARU workers in solidarity with the Pullman workers refused to work on any trains that included Pullman train cars. Workers from the Railroad brotherhoods, the American Federation of Labor and Pullman Porters themselves did not support the boycott. Even so, the ARU and its new members, the Pullman workers, accomplished the halting of railroad traffic in 27 states, from Detroit to the Pacific Ocean.

Years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind then that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it; and while there is a criminal element, I am of it; and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.

Eugene Debs-1918

The associated owners of 24 rail lines that converged in Chicago attempted to break the strike by bringing in scabs to take the jobs of the Pullman strikers. In June of 1894, Debs held a peaceful rally in Blue Island, IL to attempt to convince railroad workers who did not support the Pullman workers to join the boycott, after which some rallyers rioted, burning buildings. Similar destructive acts were carried out across the country by railroad workers who supported the Pullman workers.

Grover Cleveland instructed his Attorney General, Richard Olney, coincidentally a former railroad attorney, to break the strike. The federal government went to court arguing that Debs’ boycott prevented the government from performing its obligation to deliver the mails and that the boycotters violated the Sherman Anti-Trust Act by participating in a conspiracy. The feds, using the US Army and 12,000 US Marshalls, fanned out from Chicago to Montana and California and eventually the national strike was ended. In the end, 30 workers were killed, 57 were injured, and all who supported the strike were fired and blacklisted from the industry.

Eugene Debs, represented by Clarence Darrow, was convicted of violating a federal injunction and served six months in prison. During the time that Debs was in prison he read Marx and became a socialist and for America and workers everywhere, to the world was born one of our great political leaders. Debs ran for president as the head of the Socialist Party five times beginning in 1900:

Incontrovertible Proof Russia Invaded Ukraine and Putin Stole Crimea

By: wendydavis Wednesday October 3, 2012 9:23 am
Putin Power ( Freakshow , freakingnews entry )

‘Putin Power’, by Vipez. flickr cc

You may be wondering at my about-face on this issue, so please allow me to explain the confluence of events that brought me here.  Recently I was given a whopping prescription for Xanax in aid of my nearly constant anxiety and insomnia. Coincidentally, last night I was visited by the Spirit of Labor Day Yet to Come.  She communicated with me telepathically the message that I had it all wrong, and urged me to reach out to touch her hand, and she would take me on a virtual tour of the blogosphere to prove the point and re-educate me, and erase the many propaganda engrams that had been planted and grown in my brain.

Bemused and rather disdainful of her belief that her mission would be successful, nevertheless, I held her hand, and we whoooshed off on her tour.  In the end, I understood, and hope you will as well, as I put The Evidence before you.  Mind you, I’m unable to reconstruct the order in which she showed me all of this, given that it was easy to be distracted by the rush of images and words she presented for my perusal.

First we stopped by the New Yawk Times and a piece by Michael Gordon; you remember him: he reported on Saddam Hussein’s ‘aluminum tubes for nukes’ in the run-up to the first Gulf War.  He did the story well, and quite professionally.  He says here, quite convincingly:

‘Since mid-August NATO has received multiple reports of the direct involvement of Russian forces, “including Russian airborne, air defense and special operations forces in Eastern Ukraine,” said Oana Lungescu, a spokeswoman for NATO.

NATO’s secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, criticized the Russian moves in a statement issued in Brussels on Friday. “I condemn the entry of a Russian so-called humanitarian convoy into Ukrainian territory without the consent of the Ukrainian authorities and without any involvement of the International Committee of the Red Cross,Mr. Rasmussen’s statement said.” [snip]

“We have also seen transfers of large quantities of advanced weapons, including tanks, armored personnel carriers and artillery to separatist groups in Eastern Ukraine. Moreover, NATO is observing an alarming buildup of Russian ground and air forces in the vicinity of Ukraine.”

Now, we don’t know the authors of those reports, nor does he link to actual evidence, but as he trusts Oana and Foggy, we should, too.  Yes?  Of course, ‘yes’.

Apparently knowing of my regard for Hillary Clinton, we stopped by ‘Hillary Clinton’s comparison of Vladimir Putin and Adolf Hitler checks out’ at ABC’s Fact Check page.  My stars; they not only found the comparison valid, and with maps, they utterly destroyed Putin’s claims that the new government in Kyiv was run by neo-Nazis, anti-Semites, and Russophobes, and was terrorizing citizens in the southeast.  Among myriad facts that they brought to rebut Putin’s claims was this telling one you should consider strongly, imo:

‘Despite Mr Putin’s claims, according to the US State Department, “outside of Russian press and Russian state television, there are no credible reports of any ethnic Russians being under threat” and “Russian military facilities were and remain secure, and the new Ukrainian government has pledged to abide by all existing international agreements, including those covering Russian bases“. Similarly, Canadian foreign minister John Baird told Canadian television “there hasn’t been a single incident [of violence against Russians] that they can point to“.

So, even the human rights organizations got it wrong, tsk, tsk on them.

At some point we stopped by the Kyiv Post, and the Spirit showed me not only the real dope on recent events there, but that they also featured posts by ‘LA Homeland Security Examiner’ journalist Julia Davis, including a five-part series “Russia’s top X lies about Ukraine”, graduating from 20 to 100 by now, and believe me, she blasts their propaganda into smithereens!  Her clickable CV is excellent:

‘Julia Davis is an Investigative Reporter, produced screenwriter of award-winning film and TV productions and a published photographer. She is a member of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (www.Emmys.tv), executive member of Women In Film (www.WIF.org), VP of Fleur De Lis Film Studios. (www.FleurDeLisFilmStudios.com).’  Very cool.

A New Calendar of Holidays

By: David Swanson Wednesday June 22, 2011 5:41 pm
Close Up of a Monthly Calendar, January 1 2014

A new calendar offers peace throughout the year.

A new calendar of peace holidays has just been published. And none too soon, if you’ve noticed the epidemic of military holidays around us.

I can understand that Catholics have a saint for every day of the year. And I’m not shocked that various ancient religions have holidays for a high proportion of the year’s days. But what to make of the United States, which now has a military holiday for at least 66 separate days, including Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and lesser known days like the just-passed Marine Corps Reserve Birthday?

In the coming weeks we have V-J Day, 9/11 Remembrance Day / Patriot Day, the U.S. Air Force Birthday, National POW / MIA Recognition Day, and Gold Star Mother’s Day. There are, in addition, six week-long military holidays and three month-long ones. May, for example, is National Military Appreciation Month.

The military memorializes past war lies (Remember the Maine Day), cultural depravity normalized by eternal war (Month of the Military Child), and past crimes like attacking Cuba and killing a mule (Mantanzas Mule Day). This website even — wonderfully and accidentally — includes the Global Day of Action on Military Spending, which is a day dedicated to opposing militarism. The same website — disgustingly and inappropriately — includes Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday as a military holiday.

Still, the general pattern is this: in the United States there are holidays to celebrate militarism just about every week, and increasingly one hears about them on the radio, at public events, and in corporate advertising that apparently believes militarism sells.

What would a calendar of peace holidays look like? At WorldBeyondWar we believe it would look something like this.

We’re making it available for free as a PDF that you can print out and make use of: PDF, Word.

We’re also displaying on the front page of WorldBeyondWar.org the holiday, if any, to be marked or celebrated on whatever day it happens to be at the time. So you can always just check there.

We think that part of developing a peace culture is marking great peace moments from the past. Knowing what peace holiday any given day is, or what holidays are coming up soon, can be very useful in creating and promoting events, writing op-eds, and interesting the corporate media in something that is otherwise too important and news worthy to be touched.

World peace holidays can build unity among activists. They can be used for education (celebrating the Hague Peace Conference of 1899 on May 18th could cause someone to want to know what that conference was). And they can be used for encouragement and inspiration (on a gloomy March 20th it might be nice to know that “on this day in 1983, 150,000 peace rallies were held in Australia”).

In this initial draft of the World Beyond War Calendar we’ve included 154 holidays, all of them days — no weeks or months. We could have included a significant peace event for 365 days a year but chose to be selective. It’s a tightly held secret, of course, but there has been a lot more peace than war in the world.

Some of the days are also military days re-purposed. For example:

  • September 11. On this day in 1973 the United States backed a coup that overthrew the government of Chile. Also on this day in 2001 terrorists attacked in the United States using hijacked airplanes. This is a good day to oppose violence and nationalism and revenge.

Others are military days the military doesn’t celebrate. For example:

Real Fiscal Responsibility 2: Carter, Stagnation and Unemployment

By: letsgetitdone Saturday January 15, 2011 7:09 am

The economy during the Carter period never operated at full capacity or near full capacity. Deficit and inflation reduction were emphasized above all other domestic concerns, and substantial output gaps were simply accepted as something that it was very difficult for Government to do anything about.

This post continues my series evaluating the fiscal responsibility/irresponsibility of the Governments of the United States (mostly the Congress, the Executive Branch, and the Federal Reserve) by Administration periods beginning in 1977 with the Jimmy Carter period. My first post explained why I chose to start my evaluation with the Carter period, and also laid out my related definitions of fiscal sustainability, and fiscal responsibility.

It explained why fiscal responsibility is closely connected to the idea of public purpose, which I’ve laid out here. I also claimed that the Government of the United States has been fiscally irresponsible in every Administration period since 1977. The remaining posts in this series, and they will be many, will document that claim with analysis.

In this second post, I begin my evaluation of the extent of fiscal responsibility or irresponsibility of the Federal Government during the Carter Administration by covering two of the primary problems reflecting public purpose, and what the Federal Government did or did not do about them with its fiscal and monetary policies. The two are: ending economic stagnation, and creating full employment at a living wage.

Replacing a stagnating economy with one operating at its full potential; closing the current output gap

The economy during the Carter period never operated at full capacity or near full capacity. Deficit and inflation reduction were emphasized above all other domestic concerns, and substantial output gaps were simply accepted as something that it was very difficult for Government to do anything about. This was true during a period in which the presidency and the Congress were both in Democratic hands with substantial majorities.

In addition, the President was able to appoint his choice to head the Federal Reserve on two occasions. During the early part of his Administration he was dealing with a Republican appointee, Arthur F. Burns, who was far from a fiscal hawk on inflation. When Burns resigned, Carter appointed G. William Miller to head the Federal Reserve. Miller was, if anything, more dovish on interest rates than Burns. But later when he moved Miller to Treasury, he appointed the fiscal hawk Paul Volcker as Federal Reserve Chairman, and in doing this shot both himself and the United States economy in the foot; condemning himself to defeat in 1980; and the economy to a multi-year recession with high levels of unemployment from 1980 – 1986.

In spite of his favorable political situation (at least until he appointed Volcker) for active deficit spending-based fiscal policy, President Carter and leaders in the other branches of Government chose to emphasize inflation moderation, rather than facilitating an economy that used its full productive capacity for the public purpose. The outcome of this orientation was characterized as “stagflation” in the popular press, and the term came to stigmatize the Carter period in Government and his Administration, in particular.

Why did the leaders of the Congress, the Executive and the Federal Reserve choose inflation moderation above other goals during the period 1977-1981? Partly because President Carter was very serious about attempting to reduce the Government’s deficit, and eventually balance the Federal budget by 1981, and he implemented a variety of Executive Branch cost-cutting measures across the Federal Government to try to reach his goal, while using the power and bully pulpit of the presidency to bring others along the path of “sacrificing for the public good.”.

Congress both collaborated with and sometimes opposed Carter’s cost-cutting proposals, when they related to infrastructure spending. But generally, they supported him in his broad-based deficit cutting activities, because they bought into the fiscal responsibility as deficit cutting and budget balancing notion, and also accepted that as political virtue in a time of uncertainty and stagflation.