Everything you hear about the Mexican Drug War is crap!

An interview with Mexican investigative journalist Anabel Hernández

What are the biggest misconceptions that you see in the media about the drug war?

When I started to work on that book about Chapo Guzmán back in 2005, I had the same misconceptions that most of the media and journalists had in Mexico, the U.S. and the rest of the world. I had swallowed the story that Chapo Guzmán was just a brilliant criminal — a man so intelligent that he was capable of subjecting the governments of Mexico and the United States to his will. The Mexican government constantly said they couldn’t catch him because he lived in a cave in a mountain in the Sierra Sinaloa surrounded by people who protected him.

And those of us in the media had only concentrated on the legend of Chapo Guzmán, based on his violence, on the tons of drugs he trafficked, without asking ourselves, “How does he do it? How can this man be so powerful?” And the only way of explaining how the Sinaloa cartel and Chapo Guzmán became so powerful is with the complicity of the government…

I starting doing public information requests in Mexico to see if these things being said in [the U.S.] courts were true. What I found was that during Felipe Calderón’s so-called drug war, the cartel that was attacked the least, that had the fewest arrests, was the Sinaloa cartel. And in government statistics, throughout the Felipe Calderón administration’s six years, there were increases in marijuana production, increases in opium production, increases in amphetamine production, increases in drug consumption in Mexico. What kind of drug war is this where a cartel gets stronger, becomes the most powerful cartel in the world, and on the other hand, drug production reaches historic levels in Mexico?…

What’s the United States’ role in all of this?

For me, one of the truly pressing questions is: What does the government of the United States want? What is really its objective? To end drug production in Mexico? To destroy the drug cartels? Or to control them and administer the business? I’ve found, for example, that in the case of the Sinaloa cartel, there have been agreements between the DEA [U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency] and the Sinaloa cartel where they gave the cartel immunity — You guys traffic what you want, and in exchange, give me the names of the leaders of your enemy cartels. And that was how the DEA and the Mexican government went about capturing many of Chapo Guzmán’s enemies during the Felipe Calderón administration.

RTFA for more details – including Hernandez’ opinion about the abduction and murder of 43 students in Iguala.

What comes home to me is the failed War on Drugs continues a death spiral throughout every nation we infect with this stupidity, this incompetent, moralistic, absolutely backwards approach to the question of drug abuse.

Will the woman who recycled late hubbie’s junk please pick up her check for $100K

A $100,000 check is waiting for a mystery woman who donated a rare Apple 1 computer to a Silicon Valley recycling firm.

CleanBayArea in Milpitas, California, said on its website that a woman in her 60s dropped off some electronic goods in April, when she was cleaning out the garage after her husband died.

The boxes of computer parts contained a 1976 Apple 1, which the recycling firm sold for $200,000 in a private auction. The recycler’s policy is to split the proceeds 50-50 with the person who donated the equipment.

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak built the computers in 1976 and sold them for $666.66 each. Only a few dozen of the groundbreaking home computers are known to still exist.

We thought it was fake. It was real,” CleanBayArea Vice president Victor Gichun told NBC news. He said he remembers what the donor looked like and all she had to do is show up.

“Tell this lady to please come over to our warehouse in Milpitas again,” Gichun said. “And we’ll give her a check for $100,000.”

Nothing leftover from my life will ever be worth $100K. And that’s OK.

Religious folks who bring guns and flags to demonstrate their hatred

Some of the hundreds of protesters arriving at a Phoenix mosque on Friday evening to demonstrate their first amendment protections carried firearms, American flags and shouted expletives.

As the protesters arrived, they were met by hundreds of members of various religious and community groups, who had already gathered along the sidewalk opposite the entrance to the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix.

“I think this is the real story, not the bigotry,” said community center president Usama Shami, of those who offered support. “They’re standing against bigotry.”

Phoenix police had blocked off most streets in the residential area near the center, where the protest, its two sides separated by a two-way street lined with officers in riot gear, lasted nearly four hours…

“I understand the fears and I understand the hostility,” said pastor Bob Hake of the nearby Orangewood Nazarene Church, on Friday. “I think there’s a better way to resolve those fears than intimidation and weapons and fear.”

The hatred organizer, Jon Ritzheimer wore a bulletproof vest underneath a black T-shirt bearing the phrase “fuck Islam”…Hake said, Ritzheimer had chosen the wrong weapons when he encouraged his protesters to bring firearms on the event’s Facebook page.

This is not a battlefield, this a neighborhood,” Hake said.

Yes, there also were the kind of Christians and non-Christians I wouldn’t mind as next-door neighbors. They came to stand up in opposition to bigotry.

Daniel Barenboim introduces radical new piano design

“I’ve fallen in love with it,” beamed Daniel Barenboim as he unveiled what he believes is a groundbreaking new piano, one which he conceived and commissioned, and has been dreaming about since 2011. “I want to spend as much time with it as possible.”

To a small audience of journalists, Barenboim played 30 seconds from the slow movement of Beethoven’s Appassionata Sonata on his traditional Steinway before playing the same notes on his new piano.

Some were thrilled by the difference. Others furrowed their brows at the similarity. What no one could disagree on was the maestro’s passion for his new instrument.

Barenboim declared it a “sound alternative”. One piano was not better than the other but: “There is a difference in the quality of the sound … it has more transparency, more clarity and by itself less blend but it gives you the opportunity to create a blend yourself as a player – and I like that.”

The exterior looks much the same as any other modern concert grand piano but inside there are some dramatic differences.

Designed by the Belgian instrument maker Chris Maene, the Barenboim has straight parallel strings instead of the diagonal-crossed ones of a contemporary piano. The wooden soundboard veins go in different directions. The bridges, ribs and bracings are specially-designed and the hammers and strings (yellow brass rather than red brass) have been repositioned.

All of this creates a piano which has a different sound and one which he has to play in a different way, he said. “It is a different relationship between the tip of the fingers and the key. And the pedalling … the transparency of the sound makes you rethink the use of the pedals.”

I spent much of the first half of my life as a performing artist. In my childhood – as a classical pianist. I understand what the maestro is talking about. Though I think it may be difficult to perceive from recordings.

I’d love to hear him and his new piano in a live performance.

Solar Impulse begins Pacific crossing

Swiss pilot Andre Borschberg has begun his bid to cross the Pacific, from China to Hawaii, in the zero-fuel Solar Impulse aeroplane.

The experimental aircraft, which has a wingspan bigger than a jumbo but weighs little more than a large car, left Nanjing at about 18:40 GMT.

It is likely to take Mr Borschberg five to six days of continuous flight to reach his central Pacific destination.

He will try to stay awake for much of that time, taking only short catnaps.

His progress will be monitored the entire way from a control room in Monaco…

The journey is the seventh leg in the single-seat, propeller-driven aircraft’s quest to circumnavigate the globe using just the energy of the Sun…

Solar Impulse needs not only favourable winds to help push it forward, but also clear skies to enable its 17,000 wing-mounted photovoltaic cells to achieve peak performance.

These cells must have the vehicle’s lithium-ion batteries fully topped up at dusk to sustain flying through to dawn the next day.

Mr Borschberg is a highly experienced pilot, and as a trained engineer is completely familiar with the plane’s systems…Nonetheless, he is in no doubt how tough the mission will be.

“It’s more in the end about myself; it’s going to be an inner voyage,” he told the BBC before departure.

“It’s going to be a discovery about how I feel and how I sustain myself during these five or six days in the air.”…

If he succeeds in reaching Kalaeloa airport, he will set several aviation records – not least the longest-duration journey for a single-seater plane.

And then – he will carry on to North America, to Europe, and back to AbuDhabi.

Bacon busted for fighting over the last sausage

A New Jersey man with the surname Bacon found himself under arrest following a breakfast dispute over the last piece of sausage.

Madison police said Officer Lisa Esposito responded to a home about 3:30 a.m. May 12 on a report of a dispute and arrived to find Thomas Bacon, 19, had allegedly assaulted another person in the home for eating the last piece of sausage.

I wonder if folks who believe in things like karma feel it can be affected by pork products.

Population benefits of sexual selection confirm that males are useful

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Biologists have long puzzled about how evolutionary selection, known for its ruthless requirement for efficiency, allows the existence of males — when in so many species their only contribution to reproduction are spermatozoa.

But research published…in Nature shows that sexual selection — when males compete and females choose over reproduction — improves population health and protects against extinction, even in the face of genetic stress from high levels of inbreeding.

The findings help explain why sex persists as a dominant mechanism for reproducing offspring.

Lead researcher Prof Matt Gage, from UEA’s School of Biological Sciences, said: “Sexual selection was Darwin’s second great idea, explaining the evolution of a fascinating array of sights, sounds and smells that help in the struggle to reproduce — sometimes at the expense of survival.

“Sexual selection operates when males compete for reproduction and females choose, and the existence of two different sexes encourages these processes. It ultimately dictates who gets to reproduce their genes into the next generation — so it’s a widespread and very powerful evolutionary force.

“Almost all multicellular species on earth reproduce using sex, but its existence isn’t easy to explain because sex carries big burdens, the most obvious of which is that only half of your offspring — daughters — will actually produce offspring. Why should any species waste all that effort on sons?

“We wanted to understand how Darwinian selection can allow this widespread and seemingly wasteful reproductive system to persist, when a system where all individuals produce offspring without sex — as in all-female asexual populations — would be a far more effective route to reproduce greater numbers of offspring.

“Our research shows that competition among males for reproduction provides a really important benefit, because it improves the genetic health of populations. Sexual selection achieves this by acting as a filter to remove harmful genetic mutations, helping populations to flourish and avoid extinction in the long-term.”

Phew! Had me worried for a while. 🙂

RTFA for details of the analysis.

Coal-fired electricity being killed in the US — the war on coal is being won


This photo is from Sweden – from a worldwide series on coal

The war on coal is not just political rhetoric, or a paranoid fantasy concocted by rapacious polluters. It’s real and it’s relentless. Over the past five years, it has killed a coal-fired power plant every 10 days. It has quietly transformed the US electric grid and the global climate debate.

The industry and its supporters use “war on coal” as shorthand for a ferocious assault by a hostile White House, but the real war on coal is not primarily an Obama war, or even a Washington war. It’s a guerrilla war. The front lines are not at the Environmental Protection Agency or the Supreme Court. If you want to see how the fossil fuel that once powered most of the country is being battered by enemy forces, you have to watch state and local hearings where utility commissions and other obscure governing bodies debate individual coal plants. You probably won’t find much drama. You’ll definitely find lawyers from the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, the boots on the ground in the war on coal.

Beyond Coal is the most extensive, expensive and effective campaign in the Club’s 123-year history, and maybe the history of the environmental movement. It’s gone largely unnoticed amid the furor over the Keystone pipeline and President Barack Obama’s efforts to regulate carbon, but it’s helped retire more than one third of America’s coal plants since its launch in 2010, one dull hearing at a time. With a vast war chest donated by Michael Bloomberg, unlikely allies from the business world, and a strategy that relies more on economics than ecology, its team of nearly 200 litigators and organizers has won battles in the Midwestern and Appalachian coal belts, in the reddest of red states, in almost every state that burns coal…

Coal still helps keep our lights on, generating nearly 40 percent of US power. But it generated more than 50 percent just over a decade ago, and the big question now is how rapidly its decline will continue. Almost every watt of new generating capacity is coming from natural gas, wind or solar; the coal industry now employs fewer workers than the solar industry, which barely existed in 2010. Utilities no longer even bother to propose new coal plants to replace the old ones they retire. Coal industry stocks are tanking, and analysts are predicting a new wave of coal bankruptcies…

This is a big deal, because coal is America’s top source of greenhouse gases, and coal retirements are the main reason US carbon emissions have declined 10 percent in a decade. Coal is also America’s top source of mercury, sulfur dioxide and other toxic air pollutants, so fewer coal plants also means less asthma and lung disease — not to mention fewer coal-ash spills and coal-mining disasters. The shift toward cleaner-burning gas and zero-emissions renewables is the most important change in our electricity mix in decades, and while Obama has been an ally in the war on coal — not always as aggressive an ally as the industry claims — the Sierra Club is in the trenches. The US had 523 coal-fired power plants when Beyond Coal began targeting them; just last week, it celebrated the 190th retirement of its campaign in Asheville, N.C., culminating a three-year fight that had been featured in the climate documentary “Years of Living Dangerously.”

RTFA. Long, detailed, about as close to neutral as Politico ever gets. You won’t find any greedy, corporate Republicans; but, they shy away from defining the Sierra Club as the radical organization the Koch Bros think it is.

Recognition of success [and continuing] you’ll rarely see inside the Beltway.