Air Force ignored memos about rising seas – including those from island where they’re building

Click to enlargeRob Griffith/AP

❝ The U.S. Air Force is spending nearly $1 billion to build a radar installation that will help keep astronauts and satellites safe by tracking pieces of space junk as small as a baseball. That is, if global warming doesn’t get in the way.

❝ The Space Fence is being constructed on a tiny atoll in the Marshall Islands that scientists say could be regularly swamped by rising seas within a couple of decades as a result of climate change. The salt water could play havoc with the equipment…

The Associated Press found that neither the military nor its contractor, Lockheed Martin, gave serious consideration to that threat when designing the installation and choosing a site, despite warnings from the island nation’s environmental agency.

“The future “does not look good for a lot of these islands,” said Curt Storlazzi, an oceanographer with the U.S. Geological Survey who is leading a study at Kwajalein Atoll, where the Space Fence complex is being built.

Dana Whalley, a civilian who is managing the Space Fence program, said that the radar installation has a projected lifespan of 25 years and that he doesn’t expect sea levels to rise enough over that period to cause a problem. But if necessary, he said, the base could take steps to improve its seawalls.

Still, because of budget pressures, military equipment is often used well beyond its projected lifespan. In fact, a key part of the radar tracking system that the Space Fence replaces was built during the dawn of the space age and was badly outdated by the time it was shut down 50 years later in 2013…

❝ The military chose the Marshall Islands because the Space Fence works best near the equator. But it means the installation is being built just 10 feet above sea level…

RTFA for details and some truly disingenuous excuses from assorted bureaucrats.

The price of patriotism

❝ Nearly 10,000 California National Guard soldiers have been ordered to repay huge enlistment bonuses a decade after signing up to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan…

The Pentagon demanded the money back after audits revealed overpayments by the California Guard under pressure to fill ranks and hit enlistment goals. If soldiers refuse, they could face interest charges, wage garnishments and tax liens…

❝ Faced with a shortage of troops at the height of the two wars, California Guard officials offered bonuses of $15,000 or more for soldiers to reenlist.

A federal investigation in 2010 found thousands of bonuses and student loan payments were improperly doled out to California Guard soldiers. About 9,700 current and retired soldiers received notices to repay some or all of their bonuses with more than $22 million recovered so far.

❝ Soldiers said they feel betrayed at having to repay the money.

“These bonuses were used to keep people in,” said Christopher Van Meter, a 42-year-old former Army captain and Iraq veteran who was awarded a Purple Heart. “People like me just got screwed.”

Van Meter said he refinanced his home mortgage to repay $25,000 in reenlistment bonuses and $21,000 in student loan repayments that the military says was improperly given to him.

❝ The California Guard said it has to follow the law and collect the money.

One of the benefits of serving as mercenary for the last bastion of imperial war.

Flight delayed, plane replaced, because a couple took their seats too soon!

Authorities say a flight from Philadelphia to Boston was delayed and ultimately a different aircraft was used after a couple gained unauthorized access to the plane.

Officials said American Airlines Flight 1655 was slated to depart 8 a.m. Sunday, but two hours earlier, a man and woman walked on board through the doorway to the jet bridge and took their seats. The door should have been locked prior to the formal boarding process.

American Airlines officials said the couple was discovered during boarding. They determined the pair was on the correct flight, but the plane was de-boarded, searched and another aircraft was used “out of caution.”

WCVB-TV reports the couple didn’t speak English.

Well, there you go. Can’t be too careful about furriners, eh?

Pic of the day

Click to enlargeBrett Gundlock/Boreal Collective

Drivers stuck in traffic in Mexico City lately have found themselves being buzzed by a fleet of sign-toting drones. “Driving by yourself?” some scolded in Spanish. “This is why you can never see the volcanoes” — a reference to the smog that often hovers over the mega-city and obscures two nearby peaks.

It wasn’t exactly a plea for environmentalism, though — it was an ad for UberPOOL, part of Uber’s big push into markets across Latin America. As Bloomberg points out, Uber already does more business in Mexico City than any other city it operates in, and Brazil is its third-largest market after the U.S. and India. Uber sees Latin American countries as generally easier targets for expansion than either of its top two markets…And that, apparently, involves accosting drivers in gridlock with a swarm of drones.

In the US, someone would already have been busted for shooting at the critters.

Keep moving, Bozo: clowns are banned in this Mississippi county

A Mississippi county has had enough of the creepy clown craze, at least until after Halloween.

Kemper County supervisors this week banned people from wearing any clown costume, mask or makeup in public. The local law carries a $150 penalty, and it will be lifted Nov. 1.

The Kemper County Messenger reports…that supervisors President Johnny Whitsett says it’s a matter of public safety because people could react badly if they get scared by a clown in their yard.

You know – the same reaction they get if they see 4 or 5 Black folks voting.

Lee Rowland, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney in New York, says the First Amendment protects most clothing choices. She also says it’s “a ridiculous use of government authority …. to dictate which Halloween costumes people can wear.

No surprise. The culture inbred in a great many conservatives simply feels that if something offends you personally, make it illegal. That often includes the whole range of civil rights, civil liberties in the state of mind called Mississippi.

Scientists turn CO2 Into ethanol easier than they ever thought

❝ Scientists at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee have discovered a chemical reaction to turn CO2 into ethanol, potentially creating a new technology to help avert climate change. Their findings were published in the journal ChemistrySelect.

The researchers were attempting to find a series of chemical reactions that could turn CO2 into a useful fuel, when they realized the first step in their process managed to do it all by itself. The reaction turns CO2 into ethanol, which could in turn be used to power generators and vehicles…

“By using common materials, but arranging them with nanotechnology, we figured out how to limit the side reactions and end up with the one thing that we want,” said Adam Rondinone.

This process has several advantages when compared to other methods of converting CO2 into fuel. The reaction uses common materials like copper and carbon, and it converts the CO2 into ethanol, which is already widely used as a fuel.

Perhaps most importantly, it works at room temperature, which means that it can be started and stopped easily and with little energy cost. This means that this conversion process could be used as temporary energy storage during a lull in renewable energy generation, smoothing out fluctuations in a renewable energy grid.

“A process like this would allow you to consume extra electricity when it’s available to make and store as ethanol,” said Rondinone. “This could help to balance a grid supplied by intermittent renewable sources.”

More thought and considerations are at offer in a follow-up interview PM did with the lead scientist, Adam Rondinone. He’s a research scientist on the public payroll at the National Lab in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. You know – doing the kind of scientific work today’s conservatives from penny-ante Republicans to Tea Party know-nothings really want to halt.

Who is poor in the United States — An update

Recently, the Census Bureau released its annual report on poverty. The report showed that the official rate of poverty in 2015 was 13.5%, down 1.2 percentage points from 2014. Using the Current Population Survey March Supplement, the data used for the Census poverty report, we update our recent analysis to describe the characteristics of the poor in 2015 and changes in these characteristics over the last year.

The characteristics of individuals living in poverty did not change substantially from 2014 to 2015. Children still comprise more than a third of those living below poverty and students an additional 7 percent. A quarter of those living below the poverty threshold are in the labor force, either working or searching for work. Senior citizens, early retirees, the disabled, and caregivers constitute the remaining thirty percent of those living in poverty. Only 3 percent of those living in poverty fall outside of the groups just mentioned…

In order to address poverty, we must know who is poor and how the composition of who is poor is changing. This analysis describes who was living in poverty in 2015 and how that changed from the prior year. As with our analysis of poverty in 2014, this update suggests that when poor working-age adults are not employed full-time, they are often disabled, receiving education, or engaged in caregiving.

It takes a well-funded think tank like Brookings to roll out a PR piece like this without noting even though the United States is the wealthiest nation on the planet this is the best we come up with. Not a surprise for a nation which considers healthcare a privilege – instead of a right. But, then, that matches the opinion of many “important” opinion-makers predominant in our press.

Here’s a link to the Census Bureau report.