My FDL
User Picture

Thursday Watercooler

By: Kit OConnell Thursday April 24, 2014 7:29 pm

 

Tonight’s music video is “The Song of Limejuice and Despair” by Shinyribs. Shinyribs performed last night for the 15th anniversary party of my friend James and his wife Hannah. You may know James better as Santa Claus. The band left a definite impression on me, and I’ll be looking out for more from them in the future. So did the happy couple — many more happy returns!

A massive stick bug, the tree lobster

The world’s cuddliest insect?

The Lord Howe Island stick insect (Dryococelus australis, also known as a “tree lobster”) was believed extinct for decades, after the introduction of invasive black rats to their island obliterated the population. But in 2012, NPR reported on the fascinating story of how they were rediscovered on the neighboring island, a precarious outcropping called Balls’ Pyramid:

The Lord Howe Island version was so large — as big as a human hand — that the Europeans labeled it a ‘tree lobster’ because of its size and hard, lobsterlike exoskeleton. It was 12 centimeters long and the heaviest flightless stick insect in the world. Local fishermen used to put them on fishing hooks and use them as bait. Then one day in 1918, a supply ship, the S.S. Makambo from Britain, ran aground at Lord Howe Island and had to be evacuated. One passenger drowned. The rest were put ashore. It took nine days to repair the Makambo, and during that time, some black rats managed to get from the ship to the island, where they instantly discovered a delicious new rat food: giant stick insects. Two years later, the rats were everywhere and the tree lobsters were gone.

… There was a rumor, though. Some climbers scaling Ball’s Pyramid in the 1960s said they’d seen a few stick insect corpses lying on the rocks that looked ‘recently dead.’ But the species is nocturnal, and nobody wanted to scale the spire hunting for bugs in the dark.

Fast forward to 2001, when two Australian scientists, David Priddel and Nicholas Carlile, with two assistants, decided to take a closer look. From the water, they’d seen a few patches of vegetation that just might support walking sticks. So, they boated over. (‘Swimming would have been much easier,” Carlile said, “but there are too many sharks.’) They crawled up the vertical rock face to about 500 feet, where they found a few crickets, nothing special. But on their way down, on a precarious, unstable rock surface, they saw a single melaleuca bush peeping out of a crack and, underneath, what looked like fresh droppings of some large insect.

Where, they wondered, did that poop come from? The only thing to do was to go back up after dark, with flashlights and cameras, to see if the pooper would be out taking a nighttime walk. Nick Carlile and a local ranger, Dean Hiscox, agreed to make the climb. And with flashlights, they scaled the wall till they reached the plant, and there, spread out on the bushy surface, were two enormous, shiny, black-looking bodies. And below those two, slithering into the muck, were more, and more … 24 in all. All gathered near this one plant.

They were alive and, to Nick Carlile’s eye, enormous. Looking at them, he said, ‘It felt like stepping back into the Jurassic age, when insects ruled the world.’

From the tiny population of 24 insects, over 9,000 of the creatures have been bred, with a small population reintroduced to Lord Howe Island. Thanks to FDL’s Lisa Derrick for this link!

Housekeeping notes:

  • Please review our About Us page if you need a refresher on site rules, and
  • We encourage you to use our flag system — if you see an abusive comment, user or post, please flag it rather than replying. We review every flag and take the best action available to us.
  • If you have questions or concerns about Firedoglake-specific issues, please limit their discussion to Watercooler posts rather than starting new posts or making off-topic comments in others. But remember,
  • Firedoglake editors and staff are not allowed to comment on any moderation decisions.

The Watercooler is an open conversation! Ask Firedoglake questions or share your thoughts and links.

Ukraine: It’s all about the shale

By: Nat Parry Thursday April 24, 2014 7:48 am

The crisis gripping Ukraine has plunged transatlantic relations to their lowest point since the Cold War and threatens to send Ukraine into an armed conflict with potentially dire consequences for the country and the wider region.

The Exxon logo

Shale Gas & Big Energy: Another trigger of Ukrainian unrest?

Moscow’s alleged meddling in eastern Ukraine and its earlier annexation of Crimea spurred worldwide rebukes and much international commentary regarding the growing East-West divide. But one aspect that we have heard less about is the corporate struggle for Ukraine’s oil and natural gas. By some accounts, it is this struggle that is as much to blame for the current crisis as any geopolitical tug-of-war between East and West.

Ukraine has Europe’s third-largest shale gas reserves at 42 trillion cubic feet, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. While for years U.S. oil companies have been pressing for shale gas development in countries such as Britain, Poland, France and Bulgaria only to be rebuffed by significant opposition from citizens and local legislators concerned about the environmental impacts of shale gas extraction – including earthquakes and groundwater contamination caused by hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” – there has been considerably less opposition in Ukraine, a country that has been embroiled in numerous gas disputes with the Russian Federation in recent years.

Russia’s state-owned Gazprom, controlling nearly one-fifth of the world’s gas reserves, supplies more than half of Ukraine’s gas annually, and about 30 percent of Europe’s. It has often used this as political and economic leverage over Kiev and Brussels, cutting gas supplies repeatedly over the past decade (in the winters of 2005-2006, 2007-2008, and again in 2008-2009), leading to energy shortages not only in Ukraine, but Western European countries as well. This leverage, however, came under challenge in 2013 as Ukraine took steps towards breaking its dependence on Russian gas.

On November 5, 2013 (just a few weeks before the Maidan demonstrations began in Kiev), Chevron signed a 50-year agreement with the Ukrainian government to develop oil and gas in western Ukraine. According to the New York Times, “The government said that Chevron would spend $350 million on the exploratory phase of the project and that the total investment could reach $10 billion.”

In announcing the deal, President Viktor Yanukovych said that it “will let Ukraine satisfy its gas needs completely and, under the optimistic scenario, export energy resources by 2020.” Reuters characterized the deal as ”another step in a drive for more energy independence from Russia.”

The United States offered its diplomatic support, with Geoffrey Pyatt, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, saying, “I’m very determined to cooperate with the Ukrainian government in strengthening Ukraine’s energy independence.”

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Europe Victoria Nuland spoke at an international business conference sponsored by Chevron on December 13, 2013, after just returning from Kiev where she handed out cookies and sandwiches to demonstrators on the Maidan. In her speech, she urged Ukraine to sign a new deal with the IMF which would “send a positive signal to private markets and would increase foreign direct investment that is so urgently needed in Ukraine.” This is important for putting Ukraine “on the path to strengthening the sort of stable and predictable business environment that investors require,” she said.

Although stability and predictability are not exactly the words that people would associate with Ukraine these days, Western energy companies have continued to maneuver for corporate rights over Ukraine’s shale gas deposits. Last fall, officials were in negotiations with an ExxonMobil-led consortium to explore for hydrocarbons off Ukraine’s western Black Sea coast.

Cannabis brain study finds measurable inaccuracies

By: patrick devlin Wednesday April 23, 2014 9:06 pm

cross posted at mLaw

Today, while tweeting our weekday twitter #cannabis headline blasts (@mLaw_news), we found an article that piqued our interest.

Brain image

More criticisms emerge of a faulty cannabis study.

Last week mLaw published a parody critique of the fawning and uncritical media reportage of a medical study of cannabis users and the pop-psychological puffery that the doctors who performed the research engaged in while engaging the press, all of which was presented with baited breath by the ‘oh so concerned for the kids’ MSM worldwide (our article focused on reports in the Washington Post and the Boston Globe).

Our parody took the form of a report on an analytic study that purported to demonstrate that scientists who receive moneys to perform studies from America’s “drug warring law enforcement/scientific agencies” have problems with emotion and decision making that were revealed in the doctor’s decisions to make claims that are not born out of their research study and are instead emotional appeals for ‘protecting our youth’ (which, obviously no one disagrees with) that are of the distinct character of those which have been made over the past 80 years by prohibitionists to help sustain the unfair and anti-science prohibition on the substance cannabis.

Today we find an analysis of the national reportage of the study and what its authors told credulous media the study demonstrates: “Does Researching Casual Marijuana Use Cause Brain Abnormalities?” wherein the author Lior Pachter, the Raymond and Beverly Sackler professor of computational biology at UC Berkeley and professor of mathematics and molecular and cellular biology with a joint appointment in computer science, in a causal effort – as opposed to a rigorous study, slammed the cannabis brain research as “quite possibly the worst paper I’ve read all year.”

Dr. Pachter breaks down his critique into 3 categories; flaws in the design of the study, flaws with regard presenting data, and that the researchers suggest correlation in their study amounts to causation.

The study’s design flaws, as analyzed by Pachter, include; the small sample size of the study from which the authors intuit the results that they reported to the press, and Pachter also questions the definition in the study of “casual user” stating that, for him an acknowledged non-cannabis user, smoking 30 joints a week (as one of the study’s participants admitted) seemed to be more than a casual cannabis user.

But beyond these criticisms, Pachter advised (as our parody analysts found) that the media statements of the researchers did not accurately describe the results of the research. One of the researchers (Dr. Hans Breiter, of Northwestern University) told the media in unequivocal terms; “People think a little recreational use shouldn’t cause a problem; if someone is doing OK with work or school. Our data directly says that is not the case.” After reviewing the research paper Pachter found that, “Breiter’s statement in the press is a lie.” Pachter states, “There is no evidence in the paper whatsoever, not even a tiny shred, that the users who were getting high once or twice a week were having any problems.”

Going deeper into the science behind the study, Pachter discovered that the findings reported by the researchers were not corrected to take into account data recorded in multiple tests. The study measured different aspects of the brains of the test subjects, including grey matter density, volume and shape. Multiple tests were taken by the researchers and brain volumes of the test subjects were estimated. Pachter says that the researchers “should have…correct(ed) the p-values computed for each type of analysis,” and not doing this led the researchers to report findings where “the extent of the testing was not properly accounted for.”

Additionally, and importantly, Pachter found that “many of the (study’s) results were not significant.” An example Pachter points to is a “volume analysis (that) showed no significant associations for any of the other four tested regions.” Pachter says that, in one of the brain volume tests, for the left nucleus accumbens, if the researchers removed the “outlier at a volume of over 800 mm3” the study would have possibly revealed no effect whatsoever (“flatten the line altogether”) in the brains of cannabis users…a theory that would be of interest to test, but, as Pachter points out in frustration, “the authors did not release any of their data.” (bold in original)

Further – and even more bizarre in an academic study, is that for some of the charts that the researchers use as examples in the study, “the authors did not report the p-values at all” or only reported them where “they were significant or not” and even in these instances “without correlation.” (italics in original)

Peter Van Buren: I’m a Whistleblower, Want Fries with That?

By: Tom Engelhardt Sunday June 19, 2011 10:34 am

NOTE: Peter Van Buren and his Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99Percent will be featured on the Saturday, May 24th FDL Book Salon

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

A row of cashier's stations at Target

Whistleblower and author Peter Van Buren shares his experiences in minimum wage work.

Before November 2012, fast-food workers in America had never gone on strike. There was a good reason for that. Many burger-flippers were teenagers in need of a few extra bucks, and thanks to high turnover in the industry, most workers didn’t have to stay long in those poverty-wage jobs.

After the economic meltdown of 2007-2008 and the Great Recession, things changed. A disproportionate share of job gains during the “recovery” turned up in the low-wage service sector of the workforce.  The result: a growing contingent of adult fast-food workers who can’t find other work. And fast-food wages, which average $8.69 an hour, have dropped by 36 cents an hour since 2010. More than half of the families of fast-food workers are forced to rely on public programs like food stamps and Medicaid to get by.

In November 2012, fed-up workers at franchises like McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and KFC went on strike for the first time, demanding a $15 minimum wage and the right to join unions without retaliation. In the months that followed, these worker protests spread across the country faster than organizers expected. As Naquasia LeGrand, a KFC employee, told me late last year, she joined the first strike in New York City because workers hadn’t seen a dime of the record profits fast food chains are reaping. “We don’t get enough respect” was the way she put it.

Low-wage workers face terrible odds. The other NRA, the National Restaurant Association, which lobbies on behalf of the $600 billion industry, has been fighting minimum wage hikes for decades. In recent years, the group, whose members include KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut, has more than doubled its lobbying heft on Capitol Hill. Between 2008 and 2013, NRA lobbyists pushing the industry’s interests in Washington shot up from 15 to 37. And don’t forget the 127 lobbyists who represented nine of the association’s biggest members in 2013, up from 56 in 1998. The NRA alone has spent $2.2 million on lobbying since November 2012, and handed out more than $400,000 in campaign contributions as well.

President Obama can call on Congress to increase the minimum wage till hell freezes over, but don’t expect even the modest hike he backs to happen any time soon given the opposition of congressional Republicans, who just happen to have gotten the lion’s share of the NRA’s campaign contributions over the years. In the meantime, folks will keep working three jobs to not get by.

State Department whistleblower and TomDispatch regular Peter Van Buren took an unlikely fall into the minimum-wage world when he lost his job in 2012. Today, he gives us a first-hand look at what it’s like to subsist in poverty-wage America (as he does in his vivid new novel about the hollowing out of the American workforce, Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99Percent). Erika Eichelberger

An Apartheid of Dollars
Life in the New American Minimum-Wage Economy
By Peter Van Buren

There are many sides to whistleblowing. The one that most people don’t know about is the very personal cost, prison aside, including the high cost of lawyers and the strain on family relations, that follows the decision to risk it all in an act of conscience. Here’s a part of my own story I’ve not talked about much before.

At age 53, everything changed. Following my whistleblowing first book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People, I was run out of the good job I had held for more than 20 years with the U.S. Department of State. As one of its threats, State also took aim at the pension and benefits I’d earned, even as it forced me into retirement. Would my family and I lose everything I’d worked for as part of the retaliation campaign State was waging? I was worried. That pension was the thing I’d counted on to provide for us and it remained in jeopardy for many months. I was scared.

My skill set was pretty specific to my old job. The market was tough in the Washington, D.C. area for someone with a suspended security clearance. Nobody with a salaried job to offer seemed interested in an old guy, and I needed some money. All the signs pointed one way — toward the retail economy and a minimum-wage job.

And soon enough, I did indeed find myself working in exactly that economy and, worse yet, trying to live on the money I made. But it wasn’t just the money. There’s this American thing in which jobs define us, and those definitions tell us what our individual futures and the future of our society is likely to be. And believe me, rock bottom is a miserable base for any future.

Old World/New World

MENA Mashup: Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi

By: CTuttle Sunday December 1, 2013 12:04 pm

I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!- Cpt. Renault

Several recent articles had caught my eye, and prodded me to look back on the real Benghazi clusterf*ck…! Here’s the first, from last week…

‘Arms smuggling to Syria’ From Benghazi When US Ambassador Was Killed

America has done its best to keep secret its role in supplying the Syrian rebels (terrorists of al-Qaeda), operating through proxies and front companies. It is this which makes Seymour Hersh’s article ‘The Red Line and The Rat Line: Obama, Erdogan and the Syrian rebels’ published last week in the London Review of Books, so interesting, The Independent reported on Sunday April 13.

A little-regarded theme of Hersh’s article is what the CIA called the rat line, the supply chain for the Syrian militants overseen by the US in covert cooperation with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The information about this comes from a highly classified and hitherto secret annex to the report by the US Senate Intelligence Committee on the attack by Libyan militiamen on the US consulate in Benghazi on 11 September 2012 in which US ambassador Christopher Stevens was killed.

The CIA has been subjecting operatives to monthly polygraph tests in an attempt to suppress details of a reported US arms smuggling operation in Benghazi that was in progress when American ambassador was killed by a mob in the city 2 year ago, according to reports.

Up to 35 CIA operatives were working in the city of Benghazi during the attack in September 2012 on the US consulate that resulted in the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, according to CNN. {…}

Furthermore, the US’s Secretary of State John Kerry and its UN ambassador, Samantha Power had been pushing for more assistance to be given to the Syrian militants. This is despite strong evidence that the so called ‘Syrian rebels’ or ‘Syrian opposition’ are, more than ever, dominated by extremists similar in their beliefs and methods to al-Qaeda. The recent attack by militant forces on Armenian and Alawites villages in Lattakia, northern Syria, which initially had a measure of success, was led by Chechen and Moroccan extremist groups.

Here’s another one from yesterday…

Benghazi attack could have been prevented if US hadn’t ‘switched sides in the War on Terror’ and allowed $500 MILLION of weapons to reach al-Qaeda militants, reveals damning report

The Citizens Commission on Benghazi, a self-selected group of former top military officers, CIA insiders and think-tankers, declared Tuesday in Washington that a seven-month review of the deadly 2012 terrorist attack has determined that it could have been prevented – if the U.S. hadn’t been helping to arm al-Qaeda militias throughout Libya a year earlier…

‘The United States switched sides in the war on terror with what we did in Libya, knowingly facilitating the provision of weapons to known al-Qaeda militias and figures,’ Clare Lopez, a member of the commission and a former CIA officer, told MailOnline.

‘Remember, these weapons that came into Benghazi were permitted to enter by our armed forces who were blockading the approaches from air and sea,’ Lopez claimed. ‘They were permitted to come in. … [They] knew these weapons were coming in, and that was allowed..

‘The intelligence community was part of that, the Department of State was part of that, and certainly that means that the top leadership of the United States, our national security leadership, and potentially Congress – if they were briefed on this – also knew about this.’ {…}

‘The White House and senior Congressional members,’
the group wrote in an interim report released Tuesday, ‘deliberately and knowingly pursued a policy that provided material support to terrorist organizations in order to topple a ruler [Muammar Gaddafi] who had been working closely with the West actively to suppress al-Qaeda.’

‘Some look at it as treason,’ said Wayne Simmons, a former CIA officer who participated in the commission’s research.

Retired Rear Admiral Chuck Kubic, another commission member, told reporters Tuesday that those weapons are now ‘all in Syria.’

‘Gaddafi wasn’t a good guy, but he was being marginalized,’ Kubic recalled. ‘Gaddafi actually offered to abdicate’ shortly after the beginning of a 2011 rebellion.

‘But the U.S. ignored his calls for a truce,’ the commission wrote, ultimately backing the horse that would later help kill a U.S. ambassador.

Kubic said that the effort at truce talks fell apart when the White House declined to let the Pentagon pursue it seriously.

‘We had a leader who had won the Nobel Peace Prize,’ Kubic said, ‘but who was unwilling to give peace a chance for 72 hours.’

And then today, Philip Giraldi wrote this excellent exposé…

Changes in Census Survey Generate Misguided Criticism

By: WI Budget Project Wednesday April 23, 2014 2:14 pm

Larger Census Bureau Survey Will Be Unchanged

For more, go to www.wisconsinbudgetproject.org

The U.S. Census Bureau is making a long-overdue improvement in the questions they ask about health insurance in their annual Current Population Survey (CPS). Contrary to some recent news reports and commentary, the change in the survey is not going to be a significant impediment to understanding the effects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on the percentage of Americans who are insured.

Although I think the redesigned survey is a big improvement, any time that significant changes are made in survey questions, there’s a risk that it will be difficult to make good comparisons of the data for the years before and after the changes were made. However, the commentators who have expressed alarm that this will interfere with analysis of the ACA’s effects appear to be unaware of some key facts about when the changes take effect and the full range of Census Bureau products. I appreciate their concerns, but they can rest assured that we will have plenty of good Census Bureau data to use as we analyze and debate the effects of the ACA.

Much of the news coverage last week regarding the CPS changes created an erroneous impression that is summed up in this headline: “Major Changes to U.S. Census Will Make It Nearly Impossible to Track How Obamacare Is Doing.” Not all of the stories went quite that far in criticizing the CPS revisions, but most of the news stories missed the two key reasons why the revised survey questions are not a major problem:

  • The Census Bureau isn’t changing its much larger survey of households, the American Community Survey (ACS), which yields far more reliable data about health insurance coverage, especially at the state level. (The ACS is based on a sample of households that is 30 times larger than the one used for the CPS!)
  • The data being released this fall, based on the new CPS questions, isn’t for calendar year 2014, it’s for 2013, which means that we will have comparable 2013 and 2014 CPS survey results – before and after the major ACA changes took effect.

In contrast to the ACS, the health questions that have long been used in the CPS ask people whether they have been uninsured for all of the last 12 months. But research has shown that the answers people give are often about their current insurance status, not their status over the prior year. The redesigned CPS addresses that problem by asking about coverage at the time of the survey and by looking back to January of the prior calendar year – capturing monthly insurance coverage information up through the month of the survey. The new survey will provide information about marketplace participation, employer coverage offers and worker take-up, and the ability to track monthly transitions over a 15-month period – all welcome improvements on the prior survey. (A summary of the advantages and drawbacks of the changes can be found here.)

I’m not suggesting that there isn’t a downside to changing survey questions. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services has occasionally made changes to its annual Family Health Survey, and when those types of revisions disrupt the comparability of the data across years, it’s a significant source of heartburn for researchers and policy analysts like me. However, the Census Bureau’s latest changes are made far less problematic by the fact that the much larger health survey remains the same.

Although I was disappointed that much of the press coverage last week missed a couple of key points that cast a much different light on this story, I was happy to hear commentators arguing for the importance of using good, comparable Census Bureau data. Let’s hope that interest continues. Health care policymaking will be improved if lawmakers from across the political spectrum can set aside their preconceived notions about the ACA and use objective analysis of data to guide their policy choices.

VIDEO: Saying ‘Hell No’ To Obamacare

By: Dennis Trainor Jr Wednesday April 23, 2014 7:15 pm

Originally posted at PopularResistance.org

Recently, Dr. Margaret Flowers initiated an online petition declaring herself a conscientious objector to the Affordable Care Act and asking others to send a message to President Obama that the ACA is a scam.

In this short clip (above), Dr. Flowers states:

The most important question we should be having right now, knowing that insurgence is not protective, is do we want to continue to treat health care as a commodity and people only get what they can afford, or do we want to join the rest of the industrialized nations in the world and treat health care as a public good and create a system where people can get what they need.

You can watch the full interview below:

Dr. Margaret Flowers (@MFlowers8) is a pediatrician from Baltimore who is an organizer at PopularResistance.org, co-directs ItsOurEconomy.us and co-hosts Clearing the FOG on We Act Radio. She is adviser to the board of Physicians for a National Health Program and is on the steering committee of the Maryland Health Care is a Human Right campaign.

Over Easy

By: Ruth Calvo

Over Easy

The community that began with Southern Dragon’s Lakeside Diner continues. Today we collect news from outside the usual, and renew the discussion.

Brazil is hosting a discussion of the future of the internet, NetMundial, and the U.S. has committed to handing over its dominant position to a community of shareholders. Some problems have been anticipated for that future by some concerned organizations.

‘The real nightmare situation would be the Balkanisation of the internet with governments changing technical standards to suit commercial interests, to remove interoperability between different countries or regions of the world, and to give them the ability to perform things like mass surveillance and the control of content.’ … the US, Australia and several European nations have previously resisted the UN taking on management of the internet, saying responsibility should instead pass to a group that is not dominated by governments.

Hopefully some use of new technology that produces a bubble that then has an image projected onto it, that will finally burst, leaving a chosen scent behind, will help put this together. (I vote for scent of coriander, a favorite of mine.)

Hundreds of deaths in South Sudan have shown ethnic hatred breaking out in the power struggle there. The U.N. has sought to keep peace, and been overpowered in its attempts.

More than 200 civilians were reportedly killed and more than 400 wounded while sheltering in a Mosque on 15 April after rebels retook Unity state capital Bentiu from government forces, in what the chairperson of the AU Commission, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, described as a ‘dastardly act.’

This was followed by an attack two days later on civilians sheltering inside a UN base camp in Jonglei state capital Bor, which left more than 40 dead and scores wounded.

Further north in Darfur, efforts by the African Union have failed to ease violence against the population there.

The peacekeepers, though, have been bullied by government security forces and rebels, stymied by American and Western neglect, and left without the weapons necessary to fight in a region where more peacekeepers have been killed than in any other U.N. mission in the world. The violence that once consumed Darfur, meanwhile, has returned with a vengeance, resulting in civilian casualties and the large-scale flight of terrified men, women, and children.

(snip)

Some officials say the mission’s failings are beyond repair, but that the political leadership in African capitals and on the U.N. Security Council is unlikely to shut it down while violence is surging in Darfur. ‘That would require them to do something about it,’ one U.N.-based diplomat said.

Reconciliation in Palestine between Hamas and Fatah gives new angles to ongoing peace negotiations with Israel, including ‘some easing of the blockade that Cairo has imposed on the group and on the Gaza Strip’.

The Palestinian public and its two rival factions – Hamas and Fatah – understand that the internal rift serves Israel first and foremost, and that the disconnect between Gaza and the West Bank is congruent with Israeli policies. The vast majority in Fatah and all the other PLO member groups are convinced that a fair agreement signed by Israel of its own free will is no longer possible. Only Abbas and some of his close associates continue to believe in negotiating.

The reconciliation, therefore, is a way to strengthen the Palestinians internally in preparation for the next confrontations with Israel (popular, diplomatic, political, and perhaps even military, if and when Israel chooses the military escalation option).

Reconciliation is also consistent with the increasing demands to hold public elections for the PLO’s legislature.

Pirates in the Malacca Strait have stolen a large oil cargo and removed crew from a tanker engaged in shipping there. Some evidence indicates the theft may have been abetted by members of the crew.

Eight Indonesian pirates in a fishing vessel boarded the Naniwa Maru No. 1 at about 1 a.m. local time on Tuesday off the coast of western Malaysia, the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) said.

The pirates pumped about 800,000 gallons of the 1.18 million gallons of diesel carried by the tanker into two waiting vessels and made off with three Indonesian crew members, including the captain and chief engineer, the agency said.

Enjoy Take Your Kids To Work Day.

Never.Give.Up.