Canada’s Harper forced to address death of refugees like Aylan Kurdi


Click to enlargeThe body of Aylan Kurdi on a Turkish beach

This is an image that must not be forgotten. Like the image of a young VietNamese girl fleeing the napalm that burned her body, like the image of an infant alone in the rubble of Nanjing, terrible moments in an uncaring world are critical to history.

I apologize if I have offended anyone.

Canada’s prime minister, Stephen Harper, has been forced to defend his government’s record on refugees after it emerged that a Syrian boy whose body washed ashore in Turkey this week had family in Canada.

Shocking images of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi’s s body lying face down in the surf not far from Turkey’s fashionable resort town of Bodrum captured the world’s attention and appeared on the front pages of newspapers worldwide.

His older brother Galip, five, and mother also died while trying to reach Europe.

Reports that Canada had rejected an asylum application by members of the boy’s family quickly made the tragedy a major issue in the country’s federal election campaign and forced the Conservative leader to change his schedule to address the controversy.

In a tearful news conference in British Columbia on Thursday, Aylan’s aunt, Tima Kurdi, described their father Abdullah’s desperate struggle to keep his young sons from drowning after their boat capsized.

Seeing Aylan was no longer alive “he closed his eyes and let him go”, she said, sobbing. “They didn’t deserve to die. They wanted a better life.”

Contrary to earlier reports, Tima, who has been in Canada for 20 years, said she had not sponsored Abdullah and his family as refugee claimants but instead had tried to bring in another brother, Mohammed, and his children.

She said he is currently in Germany after his bid was rejected…

At a campaign stop, Harper…addressed the Kurdi family’s tragedy, calling it blah, blah, blah…

According to the department of citizenship and immigration, Canada has resettled a total 2,374 Syrian refugees, the majority of them through private sponsorship.

The Conservative Canadian government hasn’t done enough. Which is what most thoughtful human beings expected.

Our own government, between a White House consumed with election tactics and a Congress ruled by bigots and white nativists only concerned with turning the clock back to the 18th or 19th Century, will only offer solutions profitable to our own arms industry. Every question must be answered with a gun. Every problem can be solved with a bomb.

Experiment sees neutrinos change — and, meanwhile, at the Ice Cube Observatory…

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Click to enlargeIce Cube Collaboration

From where do these neutrinos come? The IceCube Neutrino Observatory near the South Pole of the Earth has begun to detect nearly invisible particles of very high energy. Although these rarely-interacting neutrinos pass through much of the Earth just before being detected, where they started remains a mystery. Pictured here is IceCube’s Antarctic lab accompanied by a cartoon depicting long strands of detectors frozen into the crystal clear ice below. Candidate origins for these cosmic neutrinos include the violent surroundings of supermassive black holes at the centers of distant galaxies, and tremendous stellar explosions culminating in supernovas and gamma ray bursts far across the universe. As IceCube detects increasingly more high energy neutrinos, correlations with known objects may resolve this cosmic conundrum — or we may never know.

Ursarodinia kicks off this week’s PAWS and CLAWS newsletter featuring the Ice Cube Observatory. Which reminded me that I’ve had the article below sitting in the hopper for a month. It’s very interesting to me – as is her find on the same topic. Time to offer up both together.

NOvA is on a quest to learn more about the abundant yet mysterious particles called neutrinos, which flit through ordinary matter as though it weren’t there. The first NOvA results, released…at the American Physical Society’s Division of Particles and Fields conference in Ann Arbor, Michigan, verify that the experiment’s massive particle detector — 50 feet tall, 50 feet wide and 200 feet long — is sitting in the sweet spot and detecting neutrinos fired from 500 miles away. Scientists have sorted through millions of cosmic ray strikes and zeroed in on neutrino interactions…

The neutrino beam generated at Fermilab passes through an underground near detector, which measures the beam’s neutrino composition before it leaves the Fermilab site. The particles then travel more than 500 miles straight through Earth, no tunnel required, oscillating (or changing types) along the way. About once per second, Fermilab’s accelerator sends trillions of neutrinos to Minnesota, but the elusive neutrinos interact so rarely that only a few will register at the far detector.

When a neutrino bumps into an atom in the NOvA detector, it releases a signature trail of particles and light depending on which type it is: an electron, muon or tau neutrino. The beam originating at Fermilab is made almost entirely of one type — muon neutrinos — and scientists can measure how many of those muon neutrinos disappear over their journey and reappear as electron neutrinos.

If oscillations did not occur, experimenters predicted they would see 201 muon neutrinos arrive at the NOvA far detector in the data collected; instead, they saw a mere 33, proof that the muon neutrinos were disappearing as they transformed into the two other flavors. Similarly, if oscillations did not occur, scientists expected to see only one electron neutrino appearance (due to background interactions). But the collaboration saw six such events, evidence that some of the missing muon neutrinos had turned into electron neutrinos…

Neutrinos are the most abundant massive particle in the universe but are still poorly understood. While researchers know that neutrinos come in three types, they don’t know which is the heaviest and which is the lightest. Figuring out this ordering — one of the goals of the NOvA experiment — would be a great litmus test for theories about how the neutrino gets its mass. While the famed Higgs boson helps explain how some particles obtain their masses, scientists don’t know yet how it is connected to neutrinos, if at all. The measurement of the neutrino mass hierarchy is also crucial information for neutrino experiments trying to see if the neutrino is its own antiparticle.

You know, I figure I’m good for another 10 or 20 years. I guess I could consider starting out, once again, on a new career. And that would be computational analysis in one or another scientific field – or multiple fields. My wife is already expert enough in some of the computing fields I’ve managed to avoid. We would be a helluva pair. But, we’re both happy at how we live here at Lot 4. Now.

We get a fair piece of individual intellectual inquiry started through this blog and others – and more. It’s just a tempting thought and I figured I’d note it.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Poster of the day


Click to enlarge

Is there truly a new normal? Not just the one that Mohammed El-Erian writes about. A slower economy – even in the largest of those beasts roaming the world?

I’m almost as bored hearing the word “millenial” as an excuse on Bloomberg News as I am hearing about liquidiity. Though that last characteristic is measurable. Millenials – supposedly – have learned the foolishness of big cars, big houses, maybe even big jobs.

Have they learned enough about our crap politics to jump into grassroots participation to rid our nation of Citizens United SCOTUS decisions, an electoral college system designed to keep gentlemen farmers [slave owners] safe and happy, finish the job started after WW2 and remove religion not only from interference with democracy but require “sacred” trusts to pay their fair share of taxes, and thoroughly reform and simplify our tax code to require sacred cows to pay their fair share of taxes.

Lots more out there. Like protecting this small ball of mud we live upon and guaranteeing a healthy planet for future generations. No shortage of tasks demanding only grassroots participation. That’s above and beyond whining on social media BTW.

And speaking of that war and its aftermath, the countries that suffered most through that war went on to make many of the changes I find myself still suggesting 70 years later. Oh, they were under consideration here in the United States; but, I guess not having had to fight an occupying army in Los Angeles or Boston was sufficient to have our focus turned by an agglomeration of sleazy politicians into “defending” our two-party system from dangerous radicalism, the thoughts of new ways of ordering our politics.

Scumbags won that ideological war and the victories since then have been in spite of our political superstructure – not because of our Constitution.

Thanks, SmartAlix

At least federal judges are willing to serve the public good in Kentucky

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April Miller and Karen Roberts

A county clerk in Kentucky who refuses to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples on religious grounds was held in contempt of court by a U.S. federal judge on Thursday and sent to jail.

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis was led away by U.S. marshals who confirmed she was under arrest.

“The court doesn’t do this lightly,” District Court Judge David Bunning said in ordering that she be taken into custody.

Bunning also said his earlier injunction ordering Davis to issue marriage licenses applied to everyone and not just the four couples whose suit in July had accused Davis of not doing her job.

Davis has refused to issue licenses to any couples, gay or straight, since the U.S. Supreme Court in June ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry under the U.S. Constitution, citing her Christian beliefs.

Before and during the hearing, about 200 demonstrators on both sides of the issue gathered outside the courthouse, some chanting slogans and many holding signs. As word of the ruling emerged, supporters of same-sex marriage erupted in cheers.

Davis’ seven deputies still face their own reckoning as Bunning assigned each of them attorneys and said their fate would be determined at a 1:45 pm EDT hearing, warning them they could face fines or jail…

The hearing in Ashland, Kentucky, lasted just over two hours. Crying at times, Davis maintained that a marriage can only be between a man and a woman and she was unable to recognize same-sex marriages…

Also testifying was April Miller, who along with her partner Karen Jacobs had three times tried to get a marriage license from Davis’ office. They were one of four couples who sued Davis in July.

Throw away the key!

I have no sympathy for someone who runs for elective office and then refuses to obey the law of the land.

This is an individual who individually and as a member of her religion claims that violating the civil rights of other Americans is somehow godly. Just plain old-fashioned crap. The same lies used to hinder normal lives for people of color, of minority religions, of nationalities somehow unacceptable to this year’s favorite flavor of bigot.

She gets no sympathy from this jailbird who willingly entered cells in a half-dozen states because local law decided whether or not someone could go to school or sit down and have a crappy soft drink – based on the color of their skin.

I never expected to see anyone like Ms. Davis sitting-in alongside me. And never did. That’s not condemnation of all religious folk. You should know that, by now. Second-best time I ever had in a jail cell was discussing religious history with a Catholic priest busted in the same demonstration in Chicago.

She adds to the number of people who reject her kind of religious beliefs out-of-hand because of her denial of civil rights, civil liberties, for all Americans.

UPDATE: 5 of 6 deputy clerks say they will start issuing kicenses tomorrow. Davis wants to be released, then – but, the judge rightfully doesn’t trust her to keep from interfering. Not so incidentally, the one deputy who wouldn’t obey the law is her son. Not enough she’s paid $80K/year – she puts her kin on the payroll, too.

Nuclear cleanup project is a world-class failure

The largest and most costly U.S. environmental cleanup project has been dogged for years by worries about an accidental nuclear reaction or a spill of toxic materials that could endanger residents nearby, as well as a history of contractor retaliation against workers who voice worries about persistent safety risks.

But it hasn’t fully turned the corner yet, according to recent comments by the federal officials now overseeing its operation.

“Changing the culture takes time,” said Mark Whitney, the Department of Energy’s assistant secretary for environmental management, at a special hearing last week before members of an independent federal watchdog group that monitors safety problems at federal nuclear facilities. “I’m not going to sit here today and tell you we have everything solved.”

Whitney spoke inside a ballroom at the Three Rivers Convention Center in Kennewick, Washington, 17 miles from the Hanford Site where generators churned out plutonium, the lifeblood of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, for a half-century during the Cold War. More than 55 million gallons of pasty waste now lie in decomposing barrels beneath the ground at Hanford, posing a potential safety hazard to thousands of people who rely on the nearby Columbia River for drinking water.

The Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant project there, known as WTP, is meant to exhume the waste, freeze it in glass, and give it a proper burial. But it’s been plagued by delays. It was expected to cost $4.3 billion and be built by 2011. Instead, the cost has swelled past $12 billion to date, with an estimated $7 billion in work left to be done. So far, not a drop of waste has been processed.

Read on. The worst-case result seems to be the easiest for any of these clowns to achieve.

Meanwhile —


Measuring radioactive tumbleweed

Um, which photo did I send in with my job application?


NTRD – but, you get the idea

An Illinois job applicant texted his way out of an offered position when he accidentally sent the human resources manager a nude selfie, police said.

Elmhurst police said the human resources manager at a St. Charles company contacted authorities Aug. 14 to report receiving two nude pictures via text message Aug. 11 and 13 from a man who had been offered a position with the company.

“There was a conditional offer of employment made to this particular applicant,” Elmhurst Police Chief Michael Ruth told the Chicago Tribune. “He texted the HR director and sent a nude photo of himself.”

Police said the man who sent the pictures told investigators the nude selfies were sent accidentally.

I hope it was a mistake. Otherwise, the dude is truly demented.

“[Police] contacted the offender who admitted to sending the photographs, explaining they were actually meant for another individual and were sent to the victim in error,” the police report of the incident states. “[Police] advised the offender to cease any contact with the victim.”

The victim decided not to press charges, but police said the man’s actions were not free from consequences.

“My understanding is they’ve rescinded the offer of employment,” Ruth said.

Har. I must admit I’ve done things just as dumb in the world of job-hunting. No, I won’t give you an example. :)

Will monster wildfire seasons become the new normal?


Harley looks just like our Sheila

In the end, Ira and Carolyn Hodge drove out with some photos, their clothes, their horse and their dog, Harley.

Their home took seven years for them to build and contained everything they owned – vehicles, mementos from their parents, memories. All of it was reduced to fine ash when the fire swept down the high sides of the densely forested gorge that bottoms out at Canyon Creek in Grant County, Oregon, six hours’ drive east of Portland.

“It was a monster,” Ira says. “A beast.”

He and Carolyn were helping a neighbour hose down their house when it became clear the fire was moving with astonishing speed towards them. “We had five minutes to get out,” Ira recalls. They tossed the few things they had gathered in their car, rounded up their frightened horse and fled over a wooden bridge that burned behind them.

Ira has since talked to experts who came up to survey the damage. They said that the flames may have reached 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit – hot enough to melt copper and aluminium. They sifted through the rubble and there was almost nothing left.

Harley recovered just one possession: a charred bone he had buried somewhere in the yard.

When you drive south out of John Day, up into the canyon towards the Malheur national forest, the flattened homes and the blackened Douglas firs and ponderosas tell this summer’s story.

Wildfires are capricious, and some houses are untouched. But those that the fire found were razed, and the forest it burned will take decades to recover.

Thirty-six homes were destroyed in Grant County on 14 August. That night, the Canyon Creek Complex fire became the most destructive in Oregon for 80 years. The national media glanced and moved on, but the fire is still burning on just over 105,000 acres. That’s about 10 times the size of Manhattan.

In Oregon as a whole, there are 11 large fires burning on 435,799 acres. In Washington there are 14 burning on 900,000 acres. This season – which is still in full swing – has seen 1,422,880 acres burned in the two states, or 2,223 square miles, an area just a little smaller than the state of Delaware.

More than 11,000 firefighters are still in the field. Firefighting resources in the American west are completely committed, and both states have called out their national guardsmen to help contain the blazes. Firefighters have come from as far away as Australia and New Zealand to pitch in, and three firefighters died while in duty.

RTFA. These fires have become an annual national emergency. People are to blame, habits and carelessness are to blame, short-term weather is often to blame and, yes, climate change plays a significant role.

That may be hard to understand for someone who has never had their home or community threatened by a wildfire; but, it is true.

I do not count climate change deniers as relevant. It’s hard to count them as useful citizens of Earth.

Whale whisperers


Click to enlargeAnuar Patjane

Diving with a humpback whale and her newborn calf while they cruise around Roca Partida … in the Revillagigedo Islands, Mexico. This is an outstanding and unique place full of pelagic life, so we need to accelerate the incorporation of the islands into UNESCO as a natural heritage site in order to increase the protection of the islands against the prevailing illegal fishing corporations and big-game fishing.

Amazing photos – at the gallery containing this, the 1st Place winner in NatGeo’s Traveler Competition. And also click on the link just under the photo above to go to Anuar Patjane’s photos.

Thanks, Ursarodinia