The new Atlantis


Click to enlargeRe-locate Kivalina

Thirty Alaskan native villages on the coast are about to disappear into frigid waters; 12 are considering moving altogether. As sea ice melts earlier and forms later, more open water is left in the Chukchi and Bering Seas and the Arctic Ocean (which surround Alaska). Storms are larger and wreak more damage as a result (because ice protects the shoreline). And thawing permafrost, on which many villages are built, worsens matters by causing homes to sink towards calamity and releasing methane into the atmosphere. “Climate is changing faster than our efforts to address it,” Barack Obama said at a conference on climate change in the Arctic on August 31st. Lee Stephan, president of the Tribal Council of Eklutna, a native village, agreed: “If all the ice on Mother Earth melts we will all live in water,” he said.

Greenhouse gases bear the blame; America alone produces 15% of global carbon-dioxide emissions. Nevertheless, Alaska’s first residents profit from much of the oil and gas drilling in their state, as do others. The oil and gas industry provides a third of Alaskans with jobs and, through taxes, once covered 90% of state expenses. Plunging prices mean Alaska now faces a $3.5 billion deficit.

When America’s biggest oilfield was discovered at Prudhoe Bay in 1968, the federal government had to settle land claims with native communities in order to pipe oil south. They received 44m acres of land, $1 billion and shares in 12 regional corporations and more than 200 village ones under a law signed in 1971. Thirteen regional corporations currently exist, tasked with turning a profit for their shareholders while also safeguarding native Alaskan societies and cultures…

The profits made by native corporations help pay for local health and social services. But corporations cannot afford to support communities affected by flooding, and cannot give their shareholders in places under threat handouts that they do not offer all others. “They aren’t charities,” explains Julie Kitka, president of the Alaska Federation of Natives…

Relocation is expensive, and painful for people who depend on hunting reindeer and catching salmon to survive. As most of America’s largest state cannot be reached by road, getting materials to remote villages requires fine flying weather, too. Newtok’s 400-odd residents will cost about $380,000 each to move. Kivalina needs $123m to up sticks. It has been trying to do so since 1994—but no mechanism for deciding how and when a community should move exist…Where it should go is complicated, too…

When he visited Kotzebue on September 2nd, Mr Obama became the first sitting president to visit Alaska’s Arctic. His travels will encourage efforts to save threatened native villages. But money must be found for federal agencies in Alaska. The president’s budget for 2016 will not cover the re-siting of a single village threatened by storms and floods. As the state’s budget weakens, thanks to cheap oil, federal involvement will become increasingly vital. Offering federal land in trust to those determined to move could speed up the process.

There is no aid from politicians who think they can see Russia from their front porch in Wasilla. Neither will her peers in any organized faction of the Republican Party. Nor will Blue Dog Democrats beholden to fossil fuel profiteers.

The fight for a safe and healthy life for Americans should be the responsibility of all Americans. I think we all know how laughable that is. Between racism and ignorance, between obedience to 19th Century slogans and self-centric morality, we are not a nation given to collective political struggle in the decades since, say, the fight to end our nation’s war upon the people of VietNam.

Just as the dead-end choice of the draft and death on foreign soil forced a national response – the cataclysm of climate change will eventually force unity in struggle against the common enemy. That enemy is a class enemy, ruthless and powerful. They own our elected officials, appointed sheriffs in the broadest use of the word. But, that unity must come. The only question is will it be in time to save anyone in the broadest class of all.

Thanks, Ian Bremmer

What smells like Tuberculosis?

“Smell technology” might improve the diagnosis of pulmonary and extrapulmonary tuberculosis (TB) around the world…

A device that detects a pattern of chemicals in the breath was both sensitive and specific for TB in a small pilot study, according to Amandip Sahota, MD, of the University Hospitals of Leicester in England.

In the study, the device was able to detect both pulmonary and extrapulmonary forms of the disease, Sahota reported at the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (ICAAC).

The idea of using breath samples to detect disease is not new, Sahota noted, but his study employed a technology — Field Asymmetric Ion Mobility Spectrometry (FAIMS) — — that has the potential to be cheaper, faster, and more widely available than earlier methods…

In the U.S., TB incidence continues to fall…but worldwide, the disease still exacts a stunning toll — about 9 million new cases and 1.5 million deaths a year.

Despite the advent of new technologies, Sahota said, most TB diagnosis worldwide is still done using culture methods, which are time-consuming and require significant expertise. A simple rapid point-of-care test would speed treatment, he said…

Shruthi Ravimohan, PhD, of the University of Pennsylvania commented…”The longer patients wait for their results…the more likely is it that they will be lost to follow-up or the test results will be lost in the meantime.”

As well, she noted, delayed treatment is likely to have other adverse consequences, including advancing illness…

…The sensitivity of the test was 93% and the specificity was 94%.

Importantly, Sahota said, the 25 patients had varying forms of TB, with only 11 having pulmonary disease. Also, six had lymph node disease, four had spinal involvement or psoas abscess, two had joint disease, and one patient each had testicular and skin TB.

The method “is not limited to the lung,” he said.

Every little step forward helps the health of the world. Battlefield expedients may result in more lives saved in the developing world. OK with me.

Exxon’s research confirmed fossil fuels’ role in global warming in 1977

At a meeting in Exxon Corporation’s headquarters, a senior company scientist named James F. Black addressed an audience of powerful oilmen. Speaking without a text as he flipped through detailed slides, Black delivered a sobering message: carbon dioxide from the world’s use of fossil fuels would warm the planet and could eventually endanger humanity.

“In the first place, there is general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels,” Black told Exxon’s Management Committee, according to a written version he recorded later.

It was July 1977 when Exxon’s leaders received this blunt assessment, well before most of the world had heard of the looming climate crisis.

A year later, Black, a top technical expert in Exxon’s Research & Engineering division, took an updated version of his presentation to a broader audience. He warned Exxon scientists and managers that independent researchers estimated a doubling of the carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration in the atmosphere would increase average global temperatures by 2 to 3 degrees Celsius (4 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit), and as much as 10 degrees Celsius (18 degrees Fahrenheit) at the poles. Rainfall might get heavier in some regions, and other places might turn to desert.

“Some countries would benefit but others would have their agricultural output reduced or destroyed,” Black said, in the written summary of his 1978 talk…

Exxon responded swiftly. Within months the company launched its own extraordinary research into carbon dioxide from fossil fuels and its impact on the earth. Exxon’s ambitious program included both empirical CO2 sampling and rigorous climate modeling. It assembled a brain trust that would spend more than a decade deepening the company’s understanding of an environmental problem that posed an existential threat to the oil business.

Then, toward the end of the 1980s, Exxon curtailed its carbon dioxide research. In the decades that followed, Exxon worked instead at the forefront of climate denial. It put its muscle behind efforts to manufacture doubt about the reality of global warming its own scientists had once confirmed. It lobbied to block federal and international action to control greenhouse gas emissions. It helped to erect a vast edifice of misinformation that stands to this day.

Read it and weep, folks. Not that anyone who’s wandered intentionally into these pages is surprised by disclosures like this. It doesn’t take the fear-softened intellect of conspiracy nuts to understand how cover-ups work in the bastion of 19th Century capitalist minds.

We witness the same process in the day-to-day machinations of creeps like the Koch Brothers. We get to hear the blather of bought-and-paid-for flunkies in both of the political parties we’re allowed whenever they open their mouths on the topic of climate change.

Science means nothing compared to short-term profits. The lives of innocents have never counted. Why would we expect them to start keeping track of climate death, now?

Just add yourself one more reason to throw your local bum out of office if he or she is butt-kissing some oil company, coal company, taking their catechism from ALEC and legislating on behalf of the thugs who foul the planet we all live on.

Photos stained with the same pollutants as the scenery


Barnegat Bay, NJ

Brandon Seidler…takes photos of historically contaminated sites, then bathes the film in the same chemicals that poisoned the land. Seidler finds it the perfect way to not just talk about pollution, but show it. “I want my work to make people think,” he says. “If this is the effect of these chemicals on a plastic piece of film, what is it doing to the environment we are polluting?”

Same as it ever was.