Sergio Tapiro Velasco — Travel Photographer of the Year 2017

Click to enlarge

❝ This image by Sergio Tapiro Velasco has won the 2017 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year contest. He has been photographing Mexico’s Colima volcano for more than a decade. To take this image, he carefully tracked increases in its activity. “When I looked on the camera display, all I could do was stare,” said Velasco. “It’s an impossible photograph and my once in a lifetime shot that shows the power of nature.”

Awe-inspiring. I’ve been taking photographs since I was 8 years old. Mostly capturing what I see and saving them for myself, sometimes for others, rarely for publication. Velasco is a master worth learning from. Here’s a link to his own site.

A week of top AP photos

Click to get to slide showAP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky

Photographers capture the liftoff of the Soyuz-FG rocket booster with the Soyuz TMA-11M spaceship carrying new crew members to the International Space Station from the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan…

The rocket also carried the Olympic flame in preparation for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games.

I’ve been a photo bug since before most of y’all were born. I have a special feeling about photo journalists – growing up when B&W news photos were the most striking element of news coverage. AP is pretty good.

Evaluating the risk of corruption in your state government

The State Integrity Investigation, a partnership between the Center for Public Integrity, Global Integrity and Public Radio International to measure the risk of corruption in every state, released full state report cards today. They include letter grades, reporter comments and research details, as well as each state’s rank among all 50 states.

See How Your State Ranks

The State Integrity Investigation is an unprecedented, data-driven analysis of each state’s laws and practices that deter corruption and promote accountability and openness. Experienced journalists graded each state government on its corruption risk using 330 specific integrity indicators. The Investigation ranked every state from one to 50. Each state received a report card with letter grades in 14 categories, including campaign finance, ethics laws, lobbying regulations, and management of state pension funds.

I’ve been a supporter of the Center for Public Integrity since it started over two decades ago. A source for serious research and journalist reports on the state of ethics in the United States and – the matching half of the equation – corruption.

Got this report in the morning’s block of emails and feel it should be up on every blog. Just as all politics is local, trying to change politics in this nation starts at the local level – if you want to take an active part in the process.

Read ’em and weep – or cheer. New Mexico surprised me by being 12th from the bottom. I wouldn’t have assumed we’d do that well. 🙂

Skeptical physicist completes review of climate change data — ends up confirming climate change

Back in 2010, Richard Muller, a Berkeley physicist and self-proclaimed climate skeptic, decided to launch the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project to review the temperature data that underpinned global-warming claims…

Muller’s stated aims were simple. He and his team would scour and re-analyze the climate data, putting all their calculations and methods online. Skeptics cheered the effort. “I’m prepared to accept whatever result they produce, even if it proves my premise wrong,” wrote Anthony Watts, a blogger who has criticized the quality of the weather stations in the United States that provide temperature data. The Charles G. Koch Foundation even gave Muller’s project $150,000 — and the Koch brothers, recall, are hardly fans of mainstream climate science.

So what are the end results? Muller’s team appears to have confirmed the basic tenets of climate science. Back in March, Muller told the House Science and Technology Committee that, contrary to what he expected, the existing temperature data was “excellent.” He went on: “We see a global warming trend that is very similar to that previously reported by the other groups.” And, today, the BEST team has released a flurry of new papers that confirm that the planet is getting hotter. As the team’s two-page summary flatly concludes, “Global warming is real.”Here’s a chart comparing their findings with existing data…


Peer review must have, will have, its day. That’s a right and proper part of scientific research.

Still, I have to chuckle over the know-nothings who supported the BEST research project. I’ll bet they’ll be spending the peer review time working like busy little ants to construct new rationales to avoid anything like responsible decision-making to combat the obvious causes of climate change.

Which airline has worst food? Rude staff?

Southwest turns out to be the best – again
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Overall, air travelers’ level of contentment with carriers is on the rise, according to the University of Michigan’s latest American Customer Satisfaction Index for the airline industry. The findings are similar to the J.D. Power and Associates 2010 North America Airline Satisfaction Study released last week…

“Airlines are creating more satisfied passengers, but the… data suggest this won’t last for long,” said Claes Fornell, founder of the satisfaction index, in a statement.

“Airlines are already beginning to charge higher fares. Flights are becoming more crowded, and the increasing number of carry-ons could lead to cabin congestion and delays.”

When it comes to individual airline satisfaction rankings, Southwest Airlines leads the pack for the 17th straight year, followed by Continental and American, according to the index, which uses customer interviews to come up with a score on scale of 0 to 100. United Airlines was at the bottom of the list…

Southwest’s flight attendants were also voted as the friendliest in the industry, followed by Delta/Northwest, JetBlue and American.

But the staff at Delta/Northwest seems to have as many foes as fans, because the airline was also ranked as the carrier with the least-friendly flight attendants in the survey. United and American were ranked second and third in that category…

As for which airline has served the worst food over the past 12 months, Delta/Northwest led the pack, followed by United and American.

Paranoid politicians and chickenshit voters have solved the whole question of air travel for me. As long as DHS and TSA are in charge of air travel – I won’t go anywhere I can’t drive in my pickup truck.

Motherhood in Norway vs. Motherhood in the U.S.A vs. Motherhood in Afghanistan

This is NOT Norway

Norway is the best country in the world in which to be a new mother, followed by Australia, according to Save the Children’s annual State of the World’s Mothers report, issued this month.

Afghanistan was at the bottom of the 160 countries listed.

The United States did not fare well; it was 28th, below Greece, Portugal and virtually all of Western Europe. It ranked just above Poland and most of the former Soviet bloc.

The chief reason for the low American ranking, the authors said, was that despite advanced medical technology, more young mothers die, either in childbirth or in the years after, than in most rich countries. The United States also lost points because American working mothers get less maternity leave and lower benefits…

After Norway and Australia, the top-rated countries were Iceland, Sweden, Denmark, New Zealand, Finland and the Netherlands.

The truly low-rated countries achieve their status as you would expect – from treating women as something between a new pair of sandals and a baby-vending machine.

More to the point is a wealthy nation like the United States that reinstates a sex-based mirror of class society whenever words like healthcare enter the equation. Don’t forget – American conservative politicians still think the best politics comes from the 19th Century or earlier.

25 best cities to find a job

Job seekers with no ties to any particular location often seek jobs in big cities like New York, Chicago, Illinois, Los Angeles, California, or San Francisco, California. But are these the places where they’re most likely to find a job?

Not according to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Job seekers are better off looking in such cities as Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Idaho Falls, Idaho; and Rapid City, South Dakota. All of these cities registered the lowest unemployment rates in July 2008.

There are several cities with low unemployment rates and sizeable job growth. Here are 25 cities with the lowest unemployment rates and the job growth they’re experiencing, according to the BLS.

Oh, uh – before you jump in your car ready to move to Midland or Odessa, Texas. Go there for a few days in the middle of a summer week.

They have something there they call the smell of money – that ain’t really a good excuse for air.