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Over Easy: NASA’s Terra Satellite Documents Aral Sea Disappearance

By: Crane-Station Wednesday October 1, 2014 4:40 am

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite began documenting the decline of the Aral Sea in 2000. NASA now says that eastern basin of the South Aral Sea is completely dried for the first year in modern times.

“This is the first time the eastern basin has completely dried in modern times,” said Philip Micklin, a geographer emeritus from Western Michigan University and an Aral Sea expert. “And it is likely the first time it has completely dried in 600 years, since Medieval desiccation associated with diversion of Amu Darya to the Caspian Sea.”

In the 1950s and 1960s, the government of the former Soviet Union diverted the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya—the region’s two major rivers—to irrigate farmland. The diversion began the lake’s gradual retreat. By the start of the Terra series in 2000, the lake had already separated into the North (Small) Aral Sea in Kazakhstan and the South (Large) Aral Sea in Uzbekistan. The South Aral had further split into western and eastern lobes.

The Aral Sea was actually an immense fresh water lake, located between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. The lake was fed by the region’s two major rivers, the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya. Prior to the early 1960s, the Aral Sea supported a thriving commercial fishing industry. The diversion of the rivers for irrigation depleted the water levels and resulted in increased salinity and mineral deposits in the lake, altering the ecology and killing the fish. By the early 1980s, commercial fishing had been eliminated.

Although the dams, canals, and other water works that were “built in order to transform the desert” into agricultural fields for cotton and other crops did cause the desert to bloom for a time, the price in the end appears to be an ecological disaster. Not only has the once-fourth-largest inland body of water dried up, but as it has diminishes, sandstorms now affect the area.

References and Links to the NASA images:

The Aral Sea Loses Its Eastern Lobe September 26, 2014
NASA Terra-MODIS Image of the Day

World of Change Aral Sea
NASA images showing the progression, from 2000 to 2014.

Guardian:
Satellite images show Aral Sea basin ‘completely dried’

 

When Corporate Sponsors Leave ALEC and Rush, What We Learn

By: spocko Tuesday September 30, 2014 5:07 pm

The other day Google announced it will be leaving ALEC. “Google becomes latest company to abandon right-wing ALEC.”

This is a big deal. It comes on the heels of a number of other corporations like Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Yahoo! having left ALEC.

These things don’t just happen magically. There are a lot of people who have worked very hard to make that happen. Here is a list of just some of them from the letter they sent to the Google folks earlier this month.

I don’t know all the people behind those groups, although I can personally point to my friends at both the Center for Media and Democracy for their steller Alex Exposed work, and my friends at Color of Change, who earlier got corporations to peel off ALEC following the Trayvon Martin shooting.

I think it’s important to acknowledge this success and see what we can learn from it. Like the actions used to get advertisers to leave Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and other RW radio hosts, part of this is educating sponsors and advertisers about the person or entity’s comments and actions so people can decide they don’t want to taint their brand with the association.

We often think that if we just give people the facts they will make the right decision. That does apply in some cases, especially when dealing with Vulcans. Other times we think people only make decisions to maximize revenue, and that’s true when dealing with Ferengi. But humans are more complex, and we need to look at and combine multiple methods to persuade, convince or pressure.

I listened to the Diane Rhem show where Eric Schmitz talked about ALEC. Here is his actual ALEC comment:

Mining the Earth: 30 Sep 2014

By: KateCA Tuesday September 30, 2014 4:12 pm

MINING THE EARTH:

*Everywhere. Last ditch efforts by some utilities around the globe to halt renewables include taxes on “solar energy-equipped houses and offices”, vigorous lobbying to stop governments providing incentives to “green energy”, much heftier “daily connection” fees rather than billing for units of energy used, etc. Will alternative energy users be subsidizing traditional utilities in the future?

*AZ. (See also Mexico). Authorities are testing the water in the San Pedro River (which flows north from Mexico into AZ) to make sure the on-going disaster at Grupo Mexico’s Buenavista mine in Sonora, Mexico has not resulted in contamination of the San Pedro.

*IA. Two towns in IA—Bloomfield and Algona—dependent on coal-fired plants for electricity, could cut their costs [and charges to customers] “substantially . . . if they invest in deep efficiencies and, to a lesser extent, in renewable sources of generation.” The Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities participated in the study.

*NV. Canadian-based Veris Gold will pay a $182,000 penalty to the US Environmental Protection Agency “for failing to correctly report . . . the release of millions of pounds of toxic chemicals—including arsenic and cyanide [and lead, mercury, nickel, zinc, copper, and cobalt]—into the air and ground.” That occurred at the Jerritt Canyon mine, which last year received 49 citations and 12 safety orders.

*WV. 84 years ago this month, 5,000 coal miners confronted some 3,000 company-backed men in “the largest armed labor conflict in the nation’s history”. After five days of intense struggle, then-President Harding sent in federal troops. For decades the Blair Mountain Battlefield was on the National Register of Historic Places—until 2009, when the government removed it. The Sierra Club and local historical associations sued, lost the first round, appealed and have won.

*WV.

Cutting Taxes on Rich, Raising Them for Others Won’t Boost Wisconsin Economy

By: WI Budget Project Tuesday September 30, 2014 3:02 pm

The best way to create jobs and build a broad-based prosperity in Wisconsin is to invest in excellent schools, safe communities, and a solid transportation network.

But a new report released today takes a different approach, claiming that giving big tax cuts to the rich and raising taxes for others would help the Wisconsin economy. The report, released by the conservative Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, repeats the myth that tax cuts create jobs, despite growing evidence to the contrary.

The report advocates changing the state’s tax mix to rely less on the income tax and more on the sales tax, a change the group says would boost the state’s economy. But what the report fails to mention is that the result would be big tax cuts for people with the highest incomes and higher taxes for everyone else. If Wisconsin eliminated the income tax and raised the sales tax to make up for the resulting revenue loss, the top 1% of earners in Wisconsin – a group with an average income of $1.1 million – would get a tax cut of a whopping $44,000 on average. Meanwhile, taxpayers in the bottom 20% would be paying $750 more in taxes on average.

The report urges lawmakers to broaden the base for the sales tax by increasing the number of goods and services subject to tax. While that sounds fairly innocuous, reading the fine print reveals that this includes applying the sales tax to grocery purchases. That’s one of the most damaging tax moves you can make for families with low incomes who are struggling to put food on the table. The report shrugs off the concern, noting that a refundable tax credit could provide tax relief for people with low incomes. That’s fine in theory, but Wisconsin lawmakers have shown little interest in expanding refundable tax credits, choosing to cut them instead.

As for tax cuts, they haven’t been contributing much to job growth in Wisconsin. State lawmakers have passed tax cuts totally nearly $2 billion over four years, but job growth in Wisconsin has been slower than the national average, and the overall size of Wisconsin’s economy has grown slower than the U.S. average as well.

Tax cuts haven’t done much to spur job growth in other states either. Lawmakers in Kansas and North Carolina made deep tax cuts, and both states have experienced disappointing levels of subsequent job growth. And as a result of the tax cuts, these states have fewer resources to support investments in public schools, higher education, and a healthy workforce – investments that, unlike tax cuts, have a proven track record for creating jobs.

To construct a strong economy in Wisconsin, we need to create opportunities for everyone to thrive. That means making the kinds of investments in our schools and communities that create shared prosperity and help make Wisconsin a good place to do business and raise families. We can’t create jobs and prosperity for Wisconsin with additional tax cuts, or by raising taxes on most people to pay for tax cuts to the rich.

From www.wisconsinbudgetproject.org.

How do you fight?

By: joe shikspack Tuesday September 30, 2014 1:09 pm

Lately I’ve been getting deluged with emails from politicians like President Obama, various Democratic Party fundraisers and political organizations that go a little like this:

Dear Joe,

Evil Republicans!

Koch Brothers!

The Senate!

I want to fight for you!

Can you help me out with $3, $5, $10 or more?

Really? These folks want to fight for me?

fight

Look Honey, there’s a fella in a thousand dollar suit who wants to fight for me!

Were these guys fighting for me when they failed to meaningfully address climate change, or when Mr. Obama created and doggedly stuck to his disasterous “all of the above” energy policy? Were these guys fighting for me when they extended yet again the endless war – draining the blood and treasure of America despite the fact that those we are wasting trillions to incinerate pose no imminent threat to the United States? How about when they set up the Catfood Commission and tried to grand bargain away some part of my Social Security benefits? Was “my team” fighting for me when they set up secret trade deals that give corporations vast powers to force their demands on communities and destroy the environment with impunity?

On National Day Of Maize In Mexico, Protecting The Sacred Plant

By: Other Worlds Tuesday September 30, 2014 12:49 pm

Adelita San Vicente Tello speaking at local celebration of Mexico’s first National Holiday of Native and Creole Seeds. Photo courtesy of Adelita San Vicente Tello.

By Adelita San Vicente Tello

September 30, 2014

Mexicans celebrated National Day of Maize yesterday, September 29, 2014, with demonstrations, marches, and expositions. Known as the Land of Maize, Mexico now imports one-third of this sacred icon and staple food, mostly from the US. A fierce battle is being waged over corn that is still grown in Mexico, with small farmers and seed sovereignty activists pitted against Monsanto and other GMO giants, the Mexican government, the US government, and the World Trade Organization.

Adelita San Vicente Tello is an agronomist with a master’s degree in rural development and a doctorate in agroecology. She is director of Seeds of Life (Semillas de Vida), a group promoting agro-biodiversity and protecting native corn. San Vicente is also a convener of the Mexico-wide food sovereignty coalition Without Corn, There Is No Country (Sin Maíz, No Hay País) and a member of the Union of Scientists Committed to Society (Unión de Científicos Comprometidos con la Sociedad).

 

Here we have an opportunity, which is that most corn is still produced by campesinos/as [small farmers]. They still use native seeds, and they use rainwater for sowing – even though they do it in soil that is very degraded and thus produces little. We consider this small-holder production to be an opportunity, because genetic reserves are stored in the native seeds. Traditional knowledge lies within them. This is really where the alternative lies for the food production model, especially when faced with the problem of climate change.

I work with an organization called Seeds of Life

Stupid Stuff on Steroids

By: williamboardman Tuesday September 30, 2014 11:22 am

 – Syria and Comic Book Thinking  –
American hysteria is a wondrous thing to behold. 

By William Boardman – Reader Supported News

                “This president needs to rise to the occasion
                           BEFORE WE ALL GET KILLED!”

Our hysteria is usually obvious in retrospect, whether the freak-out is over witches, labor unions, or communists. Hysteria is not always so easy to perceive as it happens or, in this case, as it is happening right now with ISIS-centric Islamophobia running rampant around the nation’s terror-drenched reptilian brain.

The collective rush to do “stupid stuff” kicked in with the mass-pavlovian response to cleverly-marketed, ISIS-produced infomercials featuring the beheading of two Americans (earlier beheadings of non-Americans failed to have the same effect). But killing Americans in the collective mind’s imaginary Islamistan hits the reflexively violent smack in the patriot-plexus and has them screaming for blood vengeance over an horrific but strategically meaningless bit of savagery. [Funny how the equally savage killing of other Americans with a chokehold in New York or a hail of bullets in Ferguson has so much less impact on rampant public moral outrage.]

That psychic selectivity over what savagery is objectionable and what is tolerable has a long American history, as illustrated by natives receiving blankets full of smallpox and all the other gifts of manifest destiny. Given the American pre-disposition for morally selective high dudgeon, the media manipulation of the mindset of the United States by slick snuff films begins to look savvy, strategic, and morbidly effective. From the perspective of ISIS, this bit of theatrical propaganda has succeeded beyond reasonable expectation: it has inflated the threatening image of ISIS from the reality a relatively small, regionally contained, regional band of pathological fundamentalists and their more numerous allies of convenience (which, from time to time, have included the U.S. and other NATO members).

In little more than a month, ISIS (aka ISIL, or IS, or Islamic State, or Islamic Caliphate) has changed little on the ground, while its image in American minds has morphed into a ginormous, imaginary monster capable of throwing a terrifying shadow of fear across the American continent thousands of miles away. This is not a rational perception, even though the president feeds into it (even if he knows better). This is panic, deeply rooted in comic book thinking.

Comic book thinking: never hard to find, but not always dominant

The Governor of Texas and other fear mongers, like Judicial Watch and Fox News, would have you believe there are agents of ISIS, the Islamic Caliphate, crossing the Rio Grande and making themselves at home in the American homeland undetected – except by these fearless watchdogs.

Engelhardt: Entering the Intelligence Labyrinth

By: Tom Engelhardt Tuesday September 30, 2014 8:36 am

This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

Note for TomDispatch Readers: My new book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World (with an introduction by Glenn Greenwald), is now available everywhere.  If you’ve been a TomDispatch obsessive all these years, it’s your job to make it a success.  I’m counting on you!  If you want to support TomDispatch in an even bigger way, I’ll send you a signed, personalized copy of the book for a $100 donation to this site (which truly does help keep us alive). Check out the offer at our donation page.

About Shadow Government, Adam Hochschild, author most recently of To End All Wars, had this to say: “Tom Engelhardt is an iconoclast, but he also is the latest exemplar of a great American tradition. Like George Seldes and I.F. Stone before him, he has bypassed conventionally minded newspapers and magazines, and with his remarkable website and in books like this, found a way of addressing readers directly about the issues central to our time. Again and again, he goes to the heart of the matter, drawing on his awesomely wide reading, his knowledge of history, and his acute political radar system that uncovers small but deeply revealing nuggets of news and often makes me feel, enviously: how could I have missed that?”  And then there’s the book’s stunning cover photo (as well as the ones inside) by Trevor Paglen whose shots of the headquarters of our various intelligence services make you feel as if you’ve landed on another planet, which in a way you have. Tom]
 

Failure Is Success
How American Intelligence Works in the Twenty-First Century
By Tom Engelhardt

What are the odds? You put about $68 billion annually into a maze of 17 major intelligence outfits. You build them glorious headquarters.  You create a global surveillance state for the ages. You listen in on your citizenry and gather their communications in staggering quantities.  Your employees even morph into avatars and enter video-game landscapes, lest any Americans betray a penchant for evil deeds while in entertainment mode. You collect information on visits to porn sites just in case, one day, blackmail might be useful. You pass around naked photos of them just for… well, the salacious hell of it.  Your employees even use aspects of the system you’ve created to stalk former lovers and, within your arcane world, that act of “spycraft” gains its own name: LOVEINT.