Plastic garbage will weigh more than the sum of fish in our oceans by 2050

Click to enlarge — Erik de Castro/Reuters

The study, which drew on multiple sources, proposed setting up a new system to slash the leaking of plastics into nature, especially the oceans, and to find alternatives to crude oil and natural gas as the raw material of plastic production.

At least 8 million tons of plastics find their way into the ocean every year — equal to one garbage truckload every minute, said the report, which included analysis by the McKinsey Center for Business and Environment…

Available research estimates that there are more than 150 million tons of plastics in the ocean today…

A sweeping change in the use of plastic packaging would require cooperation worldwide among consumer goods companies, plastic packaging producers, businesses involved in collection, cities, policymakers and other organizations, said the report. It proposed creating an independent coordinating body for the initiative.

“Plastics are the workhorse material of the modern economy, with unbeaten properties. However, they are also the ultimate single-use material,” said Martin Stuchtey of the McKinsey Center for Business and Environment. “Growing volumes of end-of-use plastics are generating costs and destroying value to the industry.”

Reusable plastics could become a valuable commodity in a “circular economy” that relied on recycling, Stuchtey said. “Our research confirms that applying those circular principles could spark a major wave of innovation, with benefits for the entire supply chain.”

It can be done. The hard part is the politics. Producers never want to change anything that might diminish profits. Politicians never want to change anything without permission from producers profiting from the status quo.

Somewhere in the middle of the process – political cooperation and change needs to happen. If cooperation doesn’t work. Than I suggest intimidation. Nothing wrong with throwing the creeps we’ve elected out of a job. Nothing wrong with boycotting sleazy profiteers.

Over a half-century of crap in space

Almost 20,000 pieces of space debris are currently orbiting the Earth. This visualisation, created by Dr Stuart Grey, lecturer at University College London and part of the Space Geodesy and Navigation Laboratory, shows how the amount of space debris increased from 1957 to 2015, using data on the precise location of each piece of junk.

We are a truly slovenly species.

Sleazy hospital of the week

They haven’t a leg to stand on in their defense. Har!

A south Florida man is suing a hospital for emotional distress, saying his leg was amputated and thrown in the garbage with his name tag still on it.

John Timiriasieff, 56, had his right leg amputated below the knee in October at Doctors Hospital in Coral Gables.

“Rather than properly disposing of the plaintiff’s limb as expected and as required by Florida law, Doctors Hospital threw the Plaintiff’s amputated limb into the garbage, with tags indicating it belonged to the Plaintiff,” according to the lawsuit filed…in Miami-Dade County Circuit Court.

A month later, Timiriasieff said his family was contacted by homicide detectives investigating if he had been the victim of foul play…

Doctors Hospital Inc, part of the Baptist Health South Florida Inc, said it could not discuss the incident in detail because of patient privacy considerations…

Normally, amputated limbs are incinerated by hospitals, said Clay Roberts, a lawyer for Timiriasieff…

The leg was discovered at a waste management facility and reported to police.

The medical-industrial complex has attitudes as disgusting and anti-human as the military-industrial complex.

Landfill park saved lives and property in hurricane Sandy

During Hurricane Sandy, the Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island absorbed a critical part of the storm surge. Its hills and waterways spared nearby neighborhoods like Travis, Bulls Head, New Springville and Arden Heights much worse flooding. The 2,200-acre site, which closed a decade ago and is being turned into a park, was also temporarily reopened as a transfer station, helping officials and relief agencies clear debris from around the city.

If many New Yorkers, Staten Islanders included, still can’t help thinking of the place as a mountain range of stinking trash, that’s understandable. But since its closing, Fresh Kills has become a model for landfill reclamation around the world, having been transformed into a vast green space full of wildlife. Now it is also demonstrating the role of wetland buffers in battling rising waters.

Maybe this will help push officials to ready what is known as Freshkills Park for visitors. James Corner, the landscape architect who helped design the High Line and heads the firm Field Operations, won a competition years ago to transform the site and imagined a decades-long, evolving earthwork of different grasses, grown, cut and replanted, creating a rich new soil and landscape.

It’s a visionary plan. But regulatory and financial hurdles, along with the usual bureaucratic conflicts, have stalled progress. The state environmental agency wants to make sure the site is safe, which makes sense. At the same time, the price tag — by some estimates, hundreds of millions of dollars — has clearly daunted city leaders and led officials to pursue a piecemeal transformation that could undo Mr. Corner’s concept.

Considering the unconscionable $4 billion (or more) that is being squandered on a new PATH station at the World Trade Center site for perhaps 50,000 commuters, the cost of Fresh Kills doesn’t sound quite so crazy. Now there’s word that the Metropolitan Transit Authority may need to spend $600 million to restore the South Ferry subway station, which opened just in 2009 and was flooded by the storm. It’s hard to say which is more scandalous, that the authority’s planners hadn’t anticipated flooding at a station on the water’s edge, or that subway fare increases will partly go to pay for their shortsightedness.

By comparison, Fresh Kills has come out smelling like roses.

Michael Kimmerman has written a lovely intro to the park. If folks manage to get past bureaucrats and beancounters – they may yet have a 21st-century post-industrial landmark worth visiting.

Koran burning triggers Afghan protests — anyone surprised?

About 2,000 Afghans protested outside the main US military base in Afghanistan on Tuesday over a report that foreign soldiers improperly disposed of copies of the Koran. US helicopters fired flares to try to break up as many as 2,000 demonstrators who massed outside several gates to the base, chanting anti-foreigner slogans and throwing stones.

Roshna Khalid, the provincial governor’s spokeswoman, said copies of the Muslim holy book had been burnt inside Bagram airbase, an hour’s drive north of the capital Kabul, citing accounts from local labourers.

“The labourers normally take the garbage outside and they found the remains of Korans” Khalid said. Nato’s top general in Afghanistan attempted to contain fury over the incident, which could be a public relations disaster for the US military as it tries to pacify the country ahead of the withdrawal of foreign combat troops in 2014.

“When we learned of these actions, we immediately intervened and stopped them. The materials recovered will be properly handled by appropriate religious authorities,” said general John Allen, head of the International Security Assistance Force ( ISAF). “This was NOT intentional in any way…”

Is this general an idiot? Is every officer in his command an obedient puppet idiot? Every military force in the West has a book to go by. And doing it “by the book” while stationed abroad is how you do it. Believe me – there already are rules and regulations governing everything from how and why the military acquired copies of the Koran – how they were used by the military – and what was appropriate when that use was completed.

Bagram also houses a prison for Afghans detained by US forces. The centre has caused resentment among Afghans because of reports of torture and ill-treatment of suspected Taliban prisoners, with president Hamid Karzai demanding the transfer of prisoners to Afghan security.

Winning the hearts and minds of Afghans is critical to US efforts to defeating the Taliban but critics say Western forces often fail to grasp Afghanistan’s religious and cultural sensitivities.

American-led forces often fail to grasp the religious and cultural sensitivities of anyone whose kin weren’t on the losing side of the American Civil War. Much less lands outside the territorial boundaries of the 50 states. It doesn’t have to be that way.

There is no shortage of bright, inquisitive, studious, able folks who have joined our military in recent decades. They’re dedicated to bringing our military and our politics into the 21st Century. They just don’t happen to be in charge of a whole helluva lot.

Camorra Mafia arrest proves Italian gangsters still haven’t learned modern investigative techniques

Naples coppers do a perp walk as well as anyone

Languishing in a top-security Italian prison this weekend after 16 years on the run, mob supremo Michele Zagaria has no shortage of time to ponder the reasons for his downfall.

Already convicted in absentia of murder and extortion, the head of the feared Camorra Mafia was arrested last week in his secret underground compound, and now has the rest of his life in prison to work out what led to his capture. Was it a rare informant on his home turf of Casapesenna, just outside Naples, where many townsfolk regard him as a “saint”..?

“…When we finally did surveillance on the house where we thought he was, we checked the rubbish bins and found a very expensive pair of Gallo socks that had been thrown out. I wear Gallo socks myself, but we knew the owner of the house didn’t dress that smartly, so there had to be someone else living there. Someone with plenty money.”

The arrest of Mr Zagaria, 53, whose Casalesi clan was the most powerful of all the Camorristi, could not come at a better time for many Italians, for whom the Mob’s enduring power is a symptom of the same malaise in public life that has also brought the Eurozone crisis and the demise of Mr Berlusconi, who faces court himself over the “bunga bunga” affairs. Interior minister Annamaria Cancellieri hailed it as a “huge success for the state” – not words any Italian politician has had much cause to use recently – while Mario Monti, the newly-installed “technocrat” prime minister, described it as a “beautiful day for all honest people”…

Establishing that he might be in the house was an exhaustive process over many months following his associates and residents of Casapesenna, in which one of the suspicious signs was the amount of electricity the hideout used to keep the bunker properly air-conditioned…

Given that most of Naples’ Flying Squad dress like they might be undercover at a fashion shoot, with narrow-cut jackets, swept-back hair and designer scarves, the discovery of a pair of posh €30 socks was perhaps a more obvious clue than it might have been for their less-style conscious British counterparts. But what clinched it further were empty packets of Merit cigarettes, known as their target’s favoured brand.

RTFA. Nothing unique about the history of the Camorra – including the number of ordinary people who benefitted from portions of the local economy funded and kept useful feeding off gangster businesses. Not especially different from history’s context of villages next to Nazi concentration camps. A steady income is often sufficient to reorganize the morality of “the common man” in a corrupt nation.

Lots of detail – though there are more accurate and detailed histories of this particular subset of Mafia syndicates in Italy and abroad. I think it worth a sneer and a smirk that tossing a pair of expensive socks into the trash turned the key on this chapter of Italy’s criminal class.

Space junk almost clobbers International Space Station

A piece of space debris narrowly missed the International Space Station on Tuesday in a rare incident that forced the six-member crew to scramble to their rescue craft, space agency officials said.

The high-speed object hurtled toward the orbiting lab and likely missed it by just 1,100 feet. The crew moved to shelter inside two Soyuz spacecraft 18 minutes before the debris was expected to pass, NASA said.

“It was probably the closest object that has actually come by the space station,” said the US space agency’s associate administrator for space operations, Bill Gerstenmaier. “We didn’t have any information that it was coming until it was very, very close…”

They spent about half an hour in the Russian space capsules and then went back to their regular day…

Space experts say such events are only becoming more frequent as the amount of waste — from nuts and bolts to rocket parts — is on the rise due to everything from basic wear and tear to controversial military testing.

Millions of chunks of metal, plastic and glass are whirling round Earth, the garbage left from 4,600 launches in 54 years of space exploration.

The collision risk is low, but the junk travels at such high speed that even a tiny shard can cripple a satellite costing tens of millions of dollars…

The ISS is currently manned by three Russians, two Americans and a Japanese astronaut…The crew usually stays for six-month stretches aboard the space station.

Phew! Ultra-high-speed impact even with a small object is worse than being shot. In the vacuum of space it’s easily deadly.