Minnesota declares state of emergency over bird flu outbreak

Gov. Mark Dayton has declared a state of emergency over a bird flu outbreak that has killed more than 2.5 million turkeys in Minnesota and has for the first time this week stricken a Minnesota chicken farm.

The governor’s order activates an emergency operations plan to support the state’s response to the epidemic. It also calls for National Guard personnel to be ordered to duty as needed, but the governor is not calling up troops.

He’s now called up the National Guard as support for the whole operation – especially providing water tankers for the foam spray used to kill the birds.

Minnesota is the nation’s largest turkey producer, and 45 commercial farms have now been hit by the highly pathogenic H5N2 virus, including one more announced Thursday. Also, the first Minnesota outbreak in a “back yard flock” of poultry — 151 birds — was reported Thursday in Pipestone County.

And a farmer in northwestern Minnesota said Thursday that his egg-laying operation with 300,000 chickens has been stung by the flu.

“This is a moving target, and the number of farms affected has continued to increase,” Dayton said. “We don’t know what the ceiling will be.”

Dayton said the order will tighten lines of authority in state and local government and allow his office to properly coordinate planning between the Board of Animal Health, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management…

The bird flu poses a low risk to human health and the H5N2 strain currently spreading across North America has not caused any illnesses in people. The 140 people in Minnesota who have worked directly with sick birds have been monitored by the Minnesota Department of Health. None has tested positive for bird flu.

State officials reiterated Thursday that the bird flu is not a food safety risk either. Sickened birds are destroyed, and turkey shipments are tested, said Dave Frederickson, commissioner of the Department of Agriculture. “The poultry on grocery store shelves is safe and will continue to be safe…”

The bird flu has appeared in 16 states, including striking a 3.8 million hen farm in northern Iowa — the largest single outbreak nationwide — and two more egg-laying operations in Wisconsin, which has also declared a state of emergency. Now, Minnesota’s egg industry, the eighth largest in the nation, has become a victim.

Still, pretty scary. Most farmers rely on composting the dead birds to rid infection dangers while providing some cost relief. None are allowed to restock their farms until they can prove the virus is absent.

Obama’s drone program: our death squad in the sky – with no accountability

Of all the reactions to the deaths of two hostages from a missile fired from a US drone, Congressman Adam Schiff provided the deepest insight into the logic underpinning the endless, secret US campaign of global killing.

“To demand a higher standard of proof than they had here could be the end of these types of counter-terrorism operations,” said Schiff, a California Democrat and one of the most senior legislators overseeing those operations.

The standard of proof in the January strike in tribal Pakistan was outlined by the White House press secretary in the aftermath of Barack Obama’s admission about the deaths. An agency that went formally unnamed – likely the CIA, though the military’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) also conducts drone strikes – identified what Josh Earnest called an “al-Qaida compound” and marked the building, rather than particular terrorists, for destruction.

Thanks to Obama’s rare admission on Thursday, the realities of what are commonly known as “signature strikes” are belatedly and partially on display. Signature strikes, a key aspect for years of what the administration likes to call its “targeted killing” program, permit the CIA and JSOC to kill without requiring them to know who they kill

Civilian deaths in signature strikes, accordingly, are not accidental. They are, as Schiff framed it, more like a cost of doing business – only the real cost is shielded from the public.

RTFA. It is detailed, laying out the cogent points for the debate on questions of ethics and morality – if not legality. Questions not likely to be addressed by our Congress of Cowards.

As a legitimate military tactic, I see nothing wrong with the use of unmanned drones as weapons. In a legal war, in legal military action. Without reasoned automatic boundaries, without priorities of military responsibility already in place within treaty obligations, everything our government currently accomplishes with the UAV program is illegal.

Because it is “popular”, acceptable to most Americans filled with Fair and Balanced news-as-entertainment – is no reason to offer my personal acceptance. I’m reminded of the mill workers in England who walked out in illegal strikes against cranking out profits generated from spinning and weaving Confederate cotton – and thereby supporting the cause of slavery. Imperial Britain didn’t especially care where mill owners profits were coming from; but, the bravest workers in Europe did.

Until our government turns these questions into debate and rule of law, I cannot support those who continue secrecy, sanctification based on Bush’s Wars.

Bernie’s petition

At a time of massive wealth inequality, when 99% of all new income generated in this country goes to the top 1%, and when over half of the American people have less than $10,000 in savings, the last thing we should do is cut Social Security.

When the average Social Security benefit is $1,328 a month, and more than one-third of our senior citizens rely on Social Security for virtually all of their income, our job is to expand benefits, not cut them.

Despite what some of my Republican colleagues have said, Social Security is not going broke. It has a $2.8 trillion surplus and can pay every benefit owed to every eligible American for the next 18 years.

The best way to make Social Security solvent for the next 50 years is to scrap the cap on taxable earnings. Join me and my friends at Social Security Works in calling on Congress to scrap the cap and expand, not cut Social Security!

Today, a Wall Street CEO who makes $18 million a year pays the same into Social Security as someone earning $118,500. That’s absurd. If we simply applied the payroll tax on income above $250,000, not only could we extend Social Security’s solvency until 2065, we could also increase benefits to meet the elderly’s higher living expenses.

Despite the logic behind that, some Republicans want to raise the Social Security retirement age to 69 and reduce benefits. I wonder what world these people are living in. To take benefits away from seniors now is simply a continuation of the war being waged by the Republican Party against the elderly, against the children, against the sick and against the poor, in order to benefit millionaires and billionaires…

Stand with me today and call on Congress to scrap the cap and use the increased revenues to expand, not cut Social Security. If we stand together and fight back, we can win this battle.

Sincerely,

Screen Shot 2015-04-25 at 5.17.25 PM

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders

Click on the link in the post. Join the fight.

Tennessee law allows guns everywhere – except near state politicians

Local governments in Tennessee can no longer bar people with handgun carry permits from bringing firearms to parks, playgrounds and sports fields under legislation signed by Republican Gov. Bill Haslam.

The contentious measure was introduced as a welcome gift from gun-friendly Tennessee lawmakers to the more than 70,000 people who attended the National Rifle Association’s annual convention in Nashville earlier this month.

The bill got tied up amid bickering between Republicans who control both the state House and Senate, and only passed once lawmakers agreed to remove the Capitol complex from the areas where permit holders could be armed.

It’s open season on anyone in Tennessee – excepting idjits holding elective office.

As Comcast deal fails, broadband monopolies remain

Critics of the Comcast-Time Warner Cable deal made convincing arguments that it would be bad for consumers, and for the media companies that want to deliver stuff to consumers on the Internet…Astonishingly, Washington listened.

But in the end, killing the Comcast* deal just maintains the status quo. And when it comes to broadband Internet in the U.S., the status quo is pretty lousy: Most people who want high-speed access are stuck with a single provider, with no incentive to provide better speeds, quality or service.

A U.S. Department of Commerce report, produced a few months ago, lays it out clearly. If you define “broadband” as speeds of 25 megabits per second, as federal regulators want to do, only 37 percent of the population has any choice at all when it comes to providers. And most of that group is looking at a duopoly, likely split up between a cable TV company and a telco. Only 9 percent of the country has real choice — 3 options or more…

My family, my community, has only the monopoly of Comcast for a choice. They guarantee me 1 megabit more than the FCC minimum standard of 25mbps. All charges in, I pay almost $80/month. Not so incidentally, I get that through a “deal” which saves me a couple buck$ – and ComCrap then counts us as a cable TV customer as part of their nationwide lie about also providing that service to families in addition to internet access.

I don’t even have their crap TV box plugged in.

…An unintended consequence of the Comcast bid is that it pushed regulators to adopt net neutrality rules, making it harder — at least for now — for the monopolists and dupolists that control our broadband to abuse that control. But that doesn’t mean they’ll work hard to improve service, or their speed, or lower prices.

Peter Kafka concludes that Google’s here-and-there niche installations of Internet fibre are the last best chance we have for affordable, truly fast broadband.

It’s hard to imagine Google actually pushing Fiber through America, and creating real competition city by city. But it’s harder to imagine any other solution. And we need something.

I dunno. FDR made rural electrification work for Americans. Perhaps, if some election in the vaguely distant future gets us a progressive president and a Congress with backbone – simultaneously – we might stand a chance.

Is ISIS on the U.S.-Mexican Border? snopes.com says “FALSE”


Photo from a world-class source of idjit fodder

…Rumors of ISIS members slipping through southern borders escalated significantly on 7 October 2014 when U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter of California told Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren that as many as ten ISIS militants had been apprehended at southern crossings…”I know that at least ten ISIS fighters have been caught coming across the Mexican border in Texas”…

Hunter’s claims seemed to fall directly in line with several made by the disreputable Judicial Watch site, a muckraking organization run by “political activist” Larry Klayman (who issued a press release in October 2014 announcing he was petitioning several federal agencies to deport President Obama, and who has been barred for life by multiple judges for his repetitive misuse of the court system). Since August 2014, Judicial Watch has been claiming that the U.S.-Mexico border is vulnerable to ISIS, stating in a “bulletin” on 10 October 2014 that: There are times when all of us hate to say, “I told you so.” And the latest news from Judicial Watch on the apprehension of ISIS terrorists on the U.S.-Mexico border is certainly one of them…

The claims by Judicial Watch of an “imminent” attack “coming very soon” were made on 31 August 2014, and Hunter’s statements came more than a month later. No such attack or confirmed attempt to cross the border by members of ISIS occurred in the intervening weeks between the “bulletin” and Hunter’s appearance on Fox News to substantiate beliefs that ISIS either had crossed or had intended to cross the U.S.-Mexico border.

The inclusion in the rumor of an “in the last 36 hours” modifier created an impression of urgency without specifying when the event itself occurred (and enabled the rumor to spread ad infinitum.) On 8 October 2014, a senior spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security responded to Hunter’s claim about ISIS fighters captured by Border Patrol: “The suggestion that individuals who have ties to ISIL have been apprehended at the Southwest border is categorically false, and not supported by any credible intelligence or the facts on the ground. DHS continues to have no credible intelligence to suggest terrorist organizations are actively plotting to cross the southwest border”.

RTfA for a compilation of several more governmental sources, political and civic sources, saying the same. Of course, if you’re a stone nutball who believes all governments are part of every fear-driven conspiracy in your demented little gray cells, this means nothing to your catechism.

I love snopes.com. One of the first places I check when someone forwards an email claiming the next hard-to-believe conspiracy has come true.

Celebrating Hubble’s 25th Anniversary

This visualization provides a three-dimensional perspective on Hubble’s 25th anniversary image of the nebula Gum 29 with the star cluster Westerlund 2 at its core. The flight traverses the foreground stars and approaches the lower left rim of the nebula Gum 29. Passing through the wispy darker clouds on the near side, the journey reveals bright gas illuminated by the intense radiation of the newly formed stars of cluster Westerlund 2. Within the nebula, several pillars of dark, dense gas are being shaped by the energetic light and strong stellar winds from the brilliant cluster of thousands of stars.

Happy anniversary, Hub. Waiting patiently for Webb to take over.

Senate finally confirms Loretta Lynch as attorney general


This has nothing to do with being a woman of color. Really?

Loretta Lynch won Senate approval as U.S. attorney general on Thursday, becoming the first black woman to occupy the post at a time when deadly altercations between white police and unarmed black men are making headlines.

The Senate confirmed Lynch by a vote of 56-43 to end a five-month partisan deadlock over her nomination by President Barack Obama. She had waited for a vote longer than the last seven attorneys general combined…

Taking over the Justice Department from Attorney General Eric Holder, Lynch also will face early tests on financial cases alleging some of the world’s largest banks helped clients evade U.S. taxes and manipulated currency markets.

She is expected to start work on Monday.

Ten Republicans voted for Lynch, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The tally in Lynch’s favor was larger than expected, perhaps reflecting political concerns. Of the Republicans who backed her, four are up for reelection next year, three of them from states with big cities that have large African-American populations…

Commentary like this reminds me I’m an old cranky geek. I actually remember when a few Republicans could be counted on for votes like this – because they supported civil rights, opposed racist practices and policies.

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid berated Republicans for delaying the confirmation and said Lynch was “as qualified a candidate” as he had seen in almost 30 years in the Senate…

An accomplished career prosecutor, Lynch has twice served as U.S. attorney in Brooklyn, most recently since 2010. Her office there handled more terrorism prosecutions than most other offices in the United States. For two years, she also led a committee that advised the attorney general on policy.

At a Senate confirmation hearing on Jan. 28, Lynch said her top priorities would include fighting terrorist threats and cyber crime, and improving relations between law enforcement and minority communities.

Most of which is beyond the ken of Congressional Republicans, Blue Dog Democrats and assorted opportunist politicians committed to doing as little as possible to rock the boats of their favorite corporate lobbyists..