Report from Europe: People Here Think Trump Is a Laughingstock

❝ “Chaos.”
“Circus.”
“Laughingstock.”

Those were just a few of the comments I heard in Berlin this week from senior European officials trying to make sense of the meltdown in Washington at just the moment when a politically imploding President Trump embarks on what he called “my big foreign trip” in the morning’s kickoff tweet…

❝ Many I spoke with said they had made a fundamental mistake of viewing Trump primarily as an ideologue with whom they disagreed rather than what he increasingly appears to be: an ill-prepared newcomer to the world stage, with uninformed views and a largely untested team that will now be sorely tried by a 9-day, 5-stop world tour that would be wildly ambitious even for a seasoned global leader…

❝ “People are less worried than they were six weeks ago, less afraid,” a senior German government official with extensive experience in the United States told me. “Now they see the clownish nature.” Or, as another German said on the sidelines of a meeting here devoted to taking stock of 70 years of U.S.-German relations, “People here think Trump is a laughingstock.”

“The dominant reaction to Trump right now is mockery,” Jacob Heilbrunn, the editor of the conservative journal the National Interest, told the meeting at the German Foreign Office here while moderating a panel on Trump’s foreign policy…Michael Werz, a German expert from the liberal U.S. think tank Center for American Progress, agreed, adding he was struck by “how rapidly the American brand is depreciating over the last 20 weeks.”…

❝ Some of the reported preparations for the NATO session in Brussels this week suggest just how much the volatile-clown theory of the American president has now taken hold.

RTFA for the details. If you have an ongoing interest, an educated understanding of the history of US-Euro relations – you will find the clown prince of the White House even more of a handicap to balance and comprehensive progress than the typical conservative’s Ugly American.

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Keep it simple for stupid!

❝ For foreign leaders trying to figure out the best way to approach an American president unlike any they have known, it is a time of experimentation. Embassies in Washington trade tips and ambassadors send cables to presidents and ministers back home suggesting how to handle a mercurial, strong-willed leader with no real experience on the world stage, a preference for personal diplomacy and a taste for glitz.

❝ After four months of interactions between Mr. Trump and his counterparts, foreign officials and their Washington consultants say certain rules have emerged: Keep it short — no 30-minute monologue for a 30-second attention span. Do not assume he knows the history of the country or its major points of contention. Compliment him on his Electoral College victory. Contrast him favorably with President Barack Obama. Do not get hung up on whatever was said during the campaign. Stay in regular touch. Do not go in with a shopping list but bring some sort of deal he can call a victory.

Read on! There’s a chunk of local, recent history to pad out the story. Some is interesting. We all await a week or so of the Ugly American so-called President on his first field trip.

Foeign leaders are advised to hold it down to no more than 3 syllables to a word, please, folks.

Texas ‘Baby Jails’ Can Ignore Regulations Protecting Children — Senate Republicans Say So


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❝ …The state Senate has passed SB 1018, which would license immigrant family detention centers — also called ‘baby jail — as child care facilities. The bill would allow prison firms to ignore regulations that other child care facilities must follow, and was written by GEO Group, Inc., the nation’s second-largest for-profit prison corporation.

❝ Currently, mothers and children such as the ones fleeing violence in Central America and seeking asylum are only held in “baby jails” for weeks at a time, but the new bill would allow facilities to detain mothers and children for the duration of their asylum cases. It would also give the Department of Family and Protective Services broad authority to waive any minimum standards necessary in order to license the facilities…

❝ In the last month, dozens of people have testified against the legislation — while only four spoke in favor, and three of those four were employees of the GEO Group. The bill’s author, Bryan Hughes, admitted that he’s never been to a family detention center and had only “seen pictures”.

Texas Republicans prove, once again, they’re ready, willing and able to pass corrupt regulations that benefit sleazy corporations – as long as it pays.

Our plastic crap ends up in the Arctic


BURP! — Wildest Arctic

❝ Of course, all our plastic crap ends up in the Arctic.

It isn’t freaking Narnia!

❝ The Arctic, in our popular imagination, is a frozen expanse teetering figuratively and literally on the edges of human culture. It remains primal and wild and unsullied by human contagions…

The Arctic, as a physical place, is directly connected to the same ecosystems that we humans are polluting closer to home. It’s foolish to think that harming one part of a connected ecosystem doesn’t harm the others, as a study released on Wednesday in the journal Science Advances makes clear. The study found that even in the remote Arctic we can’t escape the megatons of plastic waste humanity unleashes upon the world…

❝ Plastic in the world’s oceans has been a growing concern since at least 1997 when Charles Moore stumbled across the Great Pacific Garbage patch as he crossed the Pacific after competing in the Transpacific Yacht Race. Today we know that there are at least six main garbage patches filled with plastic plaguing the seas. By some estimates as much as 300,000 tons of plastics are in the world’s oceans…

❝ Plastic in the ocean isn’t just unsightly. In fact, the plastic debris that we see is less of a problem than the plastic that is too small to see easily. That’s because plastic never biodegrades. It doesn’t revert back to its molecular elements the way other materials do.

Given enough time a leaf laying on the soil floor will be eaten by bugs and microbes to become soil that once again provides the tree with nourishment. Given enough time plastic will become a smaller piece of plastic. That’s it – this stuff never goes away. Eventually, after being buffeted about by sun and salt water, it becomes small enough that sea animals confuse it with morsels of food such as seaweed, or plankton. A 2015 study found that roughly 20 percent of small fish have plastic in their bellies. Researchers have also found that some northern fulmar’s, a sea bird that hangs out mostly in the subarctic, have elevated levels of ingested plastic. Plastic it seems, is not just an occasional snack, but a steady part of their diets. Tasty.

Most societies, most governments – which you might think would know better – still think of oceans as an open sewer. You can throw any of your society’s debris in and it will somehow disappear.

Wrong.

This week’s leading stupid airline’s mistreatment of a passenger

This machine kills fascists

…A musician was booted off an American Airlines flight after the crew said his cello posed a safety risk.

John Kaboff says he was removed from his flight on Tuesday from Reagan National Airport to Chicago O’Hare International Airport after the crew said his cello touched the floor and couldn’t be strapped into the extra seat he brought for it. He says he asked for a seatbelt extension to better cradle the $100,000 cello, but was denied.

The 46-year-old Kaboff of Vienna, Virginia says ground personnel acknowledged the error and booked him on the next American Airlines flight to Chicago.

Only then –

…American Airlines apologized to Kaboff for “the inconvenience” that he experienced.

Since the advent of the crazy quilt of absurd procedures fear-stricken bureaucrats at the Department of Homeland Insecurity have introduced – I no longer fly. I’m not going anywhere I can’t drive to in my 23-year-old pickup truck. Tales like this one point out the amplification of stupidity that has become an ordinary part of any American’s attempt at air travel.

Blackwater top thug in secret meeting to establish back channel for Trump-Putin communications

❝ The United Arab Emirates arranged a secret meeting in January between Blackwater founder Erik Prince and a Russian close to President Vladi­mir Putin as part of an apparent effort to establish a back-channel line of communication between Moscow and President-elect Donald Trump, according to U.S., European and Arab officials.

The meeting took place around Jan. 11 — nine days before Trump’s inauguration — in the Seychelles islands in the Indian Ocean, officials said. Though the full agenda remains unclear, the UAE agreed to broker the meeting in part to explore whether Russia could be persuaded to curtail its relationship with Iran, including in Syria, a Trump administration objective that would be likely to require major concessions to Moscow on U.S. sanctions.

❝ Though Prince had no formal role with the Trump campaign or transition team, he presented himself as an unofficial envoy for Trump to high-ranking Emiratis involved in setting up his meeting with the Putin confidant, according to the officials, who did not identify the Russian.

❝ Prince was an avid supporter of Trump. After the Republican convention, he contributed $250,000 to Trump’s campaign, the national party and a pro-Trump super PAC led by GOP mega-donor Rebekah Mercer, records show. He has ties to people in Trump’s circle, including Stephen K. Bannon, now serving as the president’s chief strategist and senior counselor. Prince’s sister Betsy DeVos serves as education secretary in the Trump administration. And Prince was seen in the Trump transition offices in New York in December.

U.S. officials said the FBI has been scrutinizing the Seychelles meeting as part of a broader probe of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election and alleged contacts between associates of Putin and Trump…

Click the link to the article. Read through the whole sordid affair. Just the sort of tabloid reality you’d expect creeps like Prince to engage on behalf of Trump.

All Earth’s spiders could eat every human on Earth — in one year


Click to enlarge – if you must

Spiders are quite literally all around us. A recent entomological survey of North Carolina homes turned up spiders in 100 percent of them, including 68 percent of bathrooms and more than three-quarters of bedrooms. There’s a good chance at least one spider is staring at you right now, sizing you up from a darkened corner of the room, eight eyes glistening in the shadows.

❝ Spiders mostly eat insects, although some of the larger species have been known to snack on lizards, birds and even small mammals. Given their abundance and the voraciousness of their appetites, two European biologists recently wondered: If you were to tally up all the food eaten by the world’s entire spider population in a single year, how much would it be?

❝ Martin Nyffeler and Klaus Birkhofer published their estimate in the journal the Science of Nature earlier this month, and the number they arrived at is frankly shocking: The world’s spiders consume somewhere between 400 million and 800 million tons of prey in any given year. That means that spiders eat at least as much meat as all 7 billion humans on the planet combined, who the authors note consume about 400 million tons of meat and fish each year.

Or, for a slightly more disturbing comparison: The total biomass of all adult humans on Earth is estimated to be 287 million tons. Even if you tack on another 70 million-ish tons to account for the weight of kids, it’s still not equal to the total amount of food eaten by spiders in a given year, exceeding the total weight of humanity.

In other words, spiders could eat all of us and still be hungry.

RTFA more even more info aimed at making it harder to fall asleep at night. In a nice, warm, dark room.

NM Senator offers bill to see who flies south for the winter with Trump


One month of Trump’s R&R cost taxpayers more than a year of Obama

❝ New Mexico’s Senator Tom Udall just introduced an important bill with a funny name: the MAR-A-LAGO Act, or the, Making Access Records Available to Lead American Government Openness Act.

❝ Mar-A-Lago is President Trump’s self-described “Winter White House,” and it’s been the focus of a lot of attention since Trump took office. His weekly trips cost taxpayers $3 million each weekend he attends and he’s not just going alone. Trump infamously held an open air situation room meeting in front of his club members and the press as he monitored a North Korea missile test while dining on the patio…

So…Sen. Tom Udall, along with other members of Congress, introduced the well-named MAR-A-LAGO Act to require Trump’s White House to disclose who is meeting with Trump behind the closed doors of Trump’s secretive Winter White House.

❝ “It’s simple: the American people have a right to know who has access to the president and who has leverage over this administration,” said Udall.

No doubt True Believers in Trumpism will maintain their habit of ignorance, following every statement, every order as direction from a primitive god. The rest of us – the majority of those who voted, the majority of the whole nation IMHO, want to know what is going on? Especially since we’re picking up the tab.

How do you feed the Whole Earth After the Apocalypse?

❝ How might government prepare for a worst-case scenario?

This is a question Joshua Pearce, an associate professor of materials science and engineering, and electrical and computer engineering at Michigan Technological University, began to think about while working on providing low-cost drinking water to the developing world. He found the prospect of disaster terrifying. “This would make us no better off than the dinosaurs, despite all of our technical progress,” he told me. “Humanity is too smart for that.”…

❝ Pearce partnered with David Denkenberger, a research associate at the Global Catastrophic Risk Institute. They looked around for detailed existing solutions and found just one: storing lots of food. But that, the two engineers realized, would probably feed the global population for a year or less.

So they developed a set of solutions that they believe would provide five years of food for the Earth’s population, and published a book about it called Feeding Everyone No Matter What. I spoke to Pearce to find out some of the very gooey ways we might survive the apocalypse.

What kinds of disasters do you think about?

❝ Let me take the most likely one: the nuclear winter case…As the world went dark, you’d have a couple of the more hearty crops survive — the trees would last a little while. But our standard crops? Your wheat, your rice, your corn? That’s all dead…As those crops fail, you’ll start to get hungry; you’ll start going into your stored food supplies…There’s no good outcome there. That darkness will basically stay for around five years, until it starts to rain out of the atmosphere and then we’ll slowly but surely get more and more sunlight and start to rejuvenate agriculture again.

❝ There are many things that you can eat that we don’t normally consider food, particularly in the west. Leaves are one of them. You can eat leaves. You just have to be careful about how you do it. Leaves are high in fiber and we can’t digest any more than half of it, but if you chew the leaves and spit out the fiber you can draw out nutrients from it. Or you can make teas…and it goes from there.

From mushrooms to insects, stuff living in the oceans to bacteria, all get their share of providing subsistence for us superior mammals. An interesting read. Especially the bits about items already accepted as food – just not in Dallas.