Giant crack in the Earth in Mexico

A giant crack has appeared in the ground in a rural part of Mexico, sparking concerns of seismic activity in the area.

Footage of the mile-long crack was captured by drones from the Hermosillo Sonora Mexico Emergency Management…It is over a mile long, three metres deep and five metres wide in some places. Locals from a rural area of Sonora, northern Mexico, discovered the crack running through a rural road connecting the area to a highway.

Rafael Pacheco Rodríguez, from the University of Sonora, said the crack could be the result of seismic activity or underground streams, but added geologists will have to investigate to determine the cause.

Martin Moreno Valencia, from the Institute of Geology at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, told Mexican news website Excelsior that there is no cause for alarm.

Uh-huh.

He said initial indications suggest the trench was caused by ditch flows from rainwater that had infiltrated the ground.

What if Ferguson was in a province named Missouri in a foreign country?

Chinese and Russian officials are warning of a potential humanitarian crisis in the restive American province of Missouri, where ancient communal tensions have boiled over into full-blown violence.

“We must use all means at our disposal to end the violence and restore calm to the region,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in comments to an emergency United Nations Security Council session on the America crisis.

The crisis began a week ago in Ferguson, a remote Missouri village that has been a hotbed of sectarian tension. State security forces shot and killed an unarmed man, which regional analysts say has angered the local population by surfacing deep-seated sectarian grievances. Regime security forces cracked down brutally on largely peaceful protests, worsening the crisis…

America has been roiled by political instability and protests in recent years, which analysts warn can create fertile ground for extremists.

Missouri, far-removed from the glistening capital city of Washington, is ostensibly ruled by a charismatic but troubled official named Jay Nixon, who has appeared unable to successfully intervene and has resisted efforts at mediation from central government officials. Complicating matters, President Obama is himself a member of the minority sect protesting in Ferguson, which is ruled overwhelmingly by members of America’s majority “white people” sect.

Analysts who study the opaque American political system, in which all provinces are granted semi-autonomous self-rule, warned that Nixon may seize the opportunity to move against weakened municipal rulers in Ferguson. Missouri’s provincial legislature, a traditional “shura council,” is dominated by the opposition faction. Though fears of a military coup remain low, it is still unknown how Nixon’s allies within the capital will respond should the crisis continue.

“The only lasting solution is reconciliation among American communities and stronger Missouri security forces,” Chinese President Xi Jinping said in a speech from his vacation home in Hainan. “However, we can and should support moderate forces who can bring stability to America. So we will continue to pursue a broader strategy that empowers Americans to confront this crisis.”

That’s the first half of Max Fisher’s satirical posting at VOX, this morning. Click the link to read the rest and enjoy the chuckle.

Reflect upon the mediocrity our tame Fourth Estate has become.

Mirroring press releases from the White House or the Koch Brothers phony public interest groups is not how you revive the independence of the American press.

Paul Krugman lectures the hawks who persist in crying wolf

According to a recent report in The Times, there is dissent at the Fed: “An increasingly vocal minority of Federal Reserve officials want the central bank to retreat more quickly” from its easy-money policies, which they warn run the risk of causing inflation. And this debate, we are told, is likely to dominate the big economic symposium currently underway in Jackson Hole, Wyo.

That may well be the case. But there’s something you should know: That “vocal minority” has been warning about soaring inflation more or less nonstop for six years. And the persistence of that obsession seems, to me, to be a more interesting and important story than the fact that the usual suspects are saying the usual things…

The Times article singles out for special mention Charles Plosser of the Philadelphia Fed, who is, indeed, warning about inflation risks. But you should know that he warned about the danger of rising inflation in 2008. He warned about it in 2009. He did the same in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. He was wrong each time, but, undaunted, he’s now doing it again…

The point is that when you see people clinging to a view of the world in the teeth of the evidence, failing to reconsider their beliefs despite repeated prediction failures, you have to suspect that there are ulterior motives involved. So the interesting question is: What is it about crying “Inflation!” that makes it so appealing that people keep doing it despite having been wrong again and again?

Well, when economic myths persist, the explanation usually lies in politics — and, in particular, in class interests. There is not a shred of evidence that cutting tax rates on the wealthy boosts the economy, but there’s no mystery about why leading Republicans like Representative Paul Ryan keep claiming that lower taxes on the rich are the secret to growth. Claims that we face an imminent fiscal crisis, that America will turn into Greece any day now, similarly serve a useful purpose for those seeking to dismantle social programs…

But while easy money may in principle have mixed effects on the fortunes (literally) of the wealthy, in practice demands for tighter money despite high unemployment always come from the right. Eight decades ago, Friedrich Hayek warned against any attempt to mitigate the Great Depression via “the creation of artificial demand”; three years ago, Mr. Ryan all but accused Ben Bernanke, the Fed chairman at the time, of seeking to “debase” the dollar. Inflation obsession is as closely associated with conservative politics as demands for lower taxes on capital gains.

It’s less clear why. But faith in the inability of government to do anything positive is a central tenet of the conservative creed. Carving out an exception for monetary policy — “Government is always the problem, not the solution, unless we’re talking about the Fed cutting interest rates to fight unemployment” — may just be too subtle a distinction to draw in an era when Republican politicians draw their economic ideas from Ayn Rand novels.

Which brings me back to the Fed, and the question of when to end easy-money policies…

But the last people you want to ask about appropriate policy are people who have been warning about inflation year after year. Not only have they been consistently wrong, they’ve staked out a position that, whether they know it or not, is essentially political rather than based on analysis. They should be listened to politely — good manners are always a virtue — then ignored.

Freshly-educated, modern economists completely ignore, wholly reject the crap that is economic dogma for Republicans. Whether they are social moderates or the more fascist-minded.

Another organic tie between modernists like Krugman and political progressives is dedication to the needs of the mass of American workers and their families. We are the real source of value created to make a cushy life for the one-percenters. We deserve more than a minimal safety net or education barely-sufficient to moderate an obedient class of producers.

Our cities are starting to spawn gigantic spiders


They’re not as big, yet, as this spider pictured in Liverpool

File this one under: Oh HELL no. While we know that our ever-industrializing lifestyles make survival tough for animals like birds and mountain lions, in at least one case urbanization is helping a species to thrive. Thanks to the artificial conditions we create, our cities are growing ultrafertile megaspiders.

A study by University of Sydney that’s featured on CityLab today tracks a particular arachnid named Nephila plumipes, which is famous for spinning giant webs, hence its common name, the golden orb-weaver. The team measured both city and country spiders for a variety of biometric indicators including tibia length and ovary weight, and found that the urban spiders were larger in size, had more fat reserves, and indeed had heavier ovaries. Heavier ovaries = lots and lots of eggs…

Nephila plumipes is just one (terrifying-looking) type of orb-weaving spider, but Lowe thinks you’d see the same pattern in most cities. Now remember, spiders are good — we like them because they eat insects we consider to be pests. But too many extra-large spiders lounging around in their warm urban webs, chowing down on flies, and birthing thousands of giant spider babies is probably not healthy for the natural balance of our cities. And it’s also not something I want to start confronting on the sidewalk on a daily basis.

I’m more OK with big spiders – than some of the other critters liable to drop on your shoulder when you’re sitting in a darkened living room watching a sci-fi movie with headphones on so you don’t wake your wife. Either way I might scream loud enough to wake up her and the dog.

Thanks, Mike