If you knit or sew, you can help out animal victims of wildfires in Oz

The bushfires affecting Australia in recent weeks have sparked a global crafting effort, as thousands of volunteers unite to knit, crochet and sew shelters for animals affected by the crisis…

Young marsupials including possums, koalas and wombats require pouches to grow. Without their mothers they rely on hand-stitched products from donors. Other animals such as flying foxes also require pouches to help their recovery…

The Australia-based Animal Rescue Craft Guild put out a call for these products on its Facebook group, which amassed more than 120,000 members in the subsequent weeks…

The Rescue Collective, based in Queensland, has partnered with the Animal Rescue Craft Guild to distribute donated items to independent animal carers across the country…

They already have an abundance of mittens for koalas. Your best bet for doing something timely and useful is to go to the Animal Rescue Craft Guild‘s facebook site [I know, I know] and click on their top-of-the-page link to get timely info.

Wall Street executives speaking out about the crisis that gave us the Great Recession

It’s been nearly seven years since a financial meltdown almost destroyed the global economy. Some of Wall Street’s major players reflect on riding out the maelstrom.

Once upon a time, Jimmy Cayne, now 81, had a lot to say about the sad fate that befell Bear Stearns, the Wall Street investment bank he ran for nearly 15 years before its shocking collapse, in March 2008. In more than 20 hours of interviews with me that summer, portions of which later appeared in my book House of Cards, he blamed Wall Street competitors and an amorphous group of hedge funds for conspiring to take down the 85-year-old firm. He was especially angry about then New York Federal Reserve Bank president Tim Geithner’s decision to allow Bear’s competitors access to crucial Federal Reserve funding, permitting them to fight another day, while his firm was denied such funds and faced the choice of either filing for bankruptcy or being sold to JPMorgan Chase for a pittance (which is what happened). Smoking $150 Cuban cigars, obtained through secret sources in Lebanon, he fumed, “The audacity of that prick in front of the American people announcing he was deciding whether or not a firm of this stature was good enough to get a loan…. It’s just that for some clerk to make a decision based on what, your own personal feeling about whether or not they’re a good credit [risk]? Who the fuck asked you? You’re not an elected officer. You’re a clerk. Believe me, you’re a clerk.”

That was then. These days, Cayne isn’t talking. Neither he nor his attorney Melissa Prober, at Kramer Levin, responded to requests to speak about the financial crisis for this article. But Cayne is still around.

That’s just the beginning of the several sketches of the Masters of the World who went through crushing times at the start of the Great Recession. You know. That economic crash that most politicians – mostly Republicans – still either deny or take no responsibility for.

The article is a solid read. Frankly, I’m astounded whenever anyone on Wall Street does interviews with Bill Cohan. Anyone of the regular crooks, that is. Have nothing to hide then you won’t worry about the interview. But, Cohan will let it all out. Including his own critical analysis.

Pic of the Day

Click to enlargeREUTERS/Dado Ruvic

Five workers killed while rescuers pull out 29 miners alive after an earthquake collapsed a tunnel in central Bosnia-Herzegovina coal mine.

Where it’s dark as a dungeon and damp as the dew
Where the danger is double and pleasures are few
Where the rain never falls the sun never shines
It’s a dark as a dungeon way down in the mine

Fish from 2011 tsunami wash up alive in Washington

Five fish stow away on tsunami-tossed boat

Most outrageous fish tales begin with an arching arm gesture and “a fish this big” — but this one starts with “fish that traveled this far.”

Just over two years after the Japan earthquake and tsunami, researchers made a startling discovery in a 20-foot-long Japanese fishing vessel that washed ashore last month near Long Beach, Washington: five tropical fish, alive and well.

They are called striped beakfish, and they are native to warmer waters near Japan, China and the Korean Peninsula.

The five stowaways, roughly the size of your palm, lived in a cozy spot at the back of the boat.

A 20- to 30-gallon containment hold in the boat’s stern lost its cover, and that part of the boat was submerged as the vessel drifted in the ocean, said Allen Pleus, a scientist with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. That “created like a cave they could go in and out of,” Pleus said…

When researchers first explored the boat, they saw just one of the fish in the holding tank. They collected it in a bucket and took it to Long Beach City Hall.

Someone at City Hall called the Seaside Aquarium in Seaside, Oregon, to come and get it. Fish and Wildlife personnel found three more in the tank’s murky water. Finally the boat was towed to a state yard, where the fifth fish came swimming up to Pleus.

The one that went to the aquarium will live out its life there.

The other fishies along with anemones, scallops, crabs that also survived the journey will be dissected and examined in detail at Oregon States University.

U.S. to cover cancer treatment for 9/11 responders

The 70,000 surviving firefighters, police officers and other first responders who raced to the World Trade Center after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 will be entitled to free monitoring and treatment for some 50 forms of cancer.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health announced on Monday that responders as well as survivors exposed to toxic compounds from the wreckage, which smoldered for three months, will be covered for cancer under the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.

The act, which also covers responders and survivors of the 9/11 attacks on the Pentagon outside Washington, was signed into law by President Barack Obama on Jan. 2, 2011.

The decision addresses concerns over the rising health toll for emergency workers in the wake of the attacks, when aircraft slammed into the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers in New York and the U.S. military command center in northern Virginia…

Illnesses related to the Sept. 11 attacks have caused an estimated 1,000 deaths. Last week, the New York City Fire Department etched nine more names into a memorial wall honoring firefighters who died from illnesses after their work at Ground Zero, bringing the total to 64.

Cancers to be covered include lung and colorectal, breast and bladder, leukemias, melanoma and all childhood cancers.

The program had already covered respiratory diseases such as asthma and pulmonary fibrosis, mental disorders including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder as well as musculoskeletal conditions.

But researchers have known that responders and survivors, including local business owners and residents, were exposed to a complex mixture of chemical agents, including human carcinogens…

Pulverized building materials created a toxic pall of cement dust, glass fibers, asbestos, crystalline silica, metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, polychlorinated biphenyls, pesticides and dioxins – “a total of 287 chemicals or chemical groups,” the WTC health program reported in 2011.

…The program’s science advisory committee wrote to Dr. John Howard noting that 15 compounds in the smoke, dust and gas at the WTC site are classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as known to cause cancer in people…They therefore recommended that the program cover cancers that met any of three criteria: cancers caused by any 9/11 compound which the IARC classifies as a human carcinogen, cancers where high levels of inflammation have been documented, and cancers that epidemiology studies suggest that responders are at higher risk for than the general population…

Malignancies caused by compounds in the debris include respiratory system cancers, from the nose to the lungs. They have been linked to arsenic, asbestos, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, nickel and silica dust, all of which were in WTC air.

Cancers of the esophagus, stomach, colon, rectum and liver have been linked to tetrachloroethylene, asbestos, lead or polychlorinated biphenyls, also in the toxic cloud and dust.

The generally dangerous life of firefighters finally aided in developing the information needed to prove the cancer vectors. There already was a definitive, large body of data on the lives of NYC firefighters. This was able to show the spike in cancers compared to firefighters in years past who weren’t exposed to the unique toxins of 9/11.

Joplin tornado survivors starting to die from fungus infection

Photo by Julie Denesha/Getty Images

Health officials say flying debris from the tornado that tore through Joplin, Missouri, last month is to blame for an outbreak of a rare but serious — and in some cases deadly — fungal infection among some of the more than 900 people injured in the disaster.

Soil or plant matter on debris that penetrated the skin of some of the people who survived the twister is believed to have caused them to contract an infection called zygomycosis, said Uwe Schmidt, an infectious diseases physician at Freeman Health System in Joplin.

Schmidt said he knows of at least nine patients who have had the infection in the weeks since the disaster. Three or four of them died and he said zygomycosis was a factor, if not the actual cause.

“It’s definitely quite striking,” Schmidt told Reuters. “To have so many cases of this is rather rare.”

He said he had previously only seen two cases of zygomycosis in his career

Several people have been treated for zygomycosis in neighboring Greene County, said Kendra Williams, administrator of community health and epidemiology for the Springfield-Greene County Health Department. She was unable to release information on whether any of the patients died…

Symptoms of pain, swelling and skin discoloration typically showed up about five to 10 days after the tornado, Williams said. But depending on a person’s age, health and wounds suffered, some cases could still surface, Schmidt said. The infection can spread rapidly and invades the blood supply, he said.

Treatment is with intravenous anti-fungal mediation and removal of damaged skin tissue, Schmidt said. Mold can be seen in some of the wounds, he said.

Cripes. These poor folks can’t win for losing.

One must presume normal aseptic and antiseptic procedures were followed when treating survivors. I guess we have to add one more disease vector to be treated in disasters like this.

German law finally exonerates those ruled “traitors” by Nazis

After a long struggle, on Tuesday, the German parliament revoked the convictions of the last group of victims, those condemned as “war traitors,” more than 60 years after the end of World War II…

According to historians, around 30,000 people were sentenced to death for desertion or treason by Nazi military tribunals during World War II, and some 20,000 were executed.

Ludwig Baumann says the men who were described as “wartime traitors” were not traitors at all.

They behaved humanely. Some hid Jews, others helped prisoners – they followed their moral conscience,” he said.

It is a view backed by experts. “These men were not traitors, they were part of the German resistance movement against Hitler,” said Johannes Tuchel, the Director of the German Resistance Memorial Centre in Berlin.

“This is a great day for Germany – finally the last sentences handed down by Nazi courts will be lifted,” he said.

But the issue of pardoning WWII soldiers has proved to be highly controversial in Germany. For years, many conservative politicians resisted calls for a general rehabilitation, arguing that they did not want to encourage soldiers to betray their comrades.

“We never believed we could achieve this because we had so many opponents. But we got there in the end and I’m very pleased,” Baumann said…

“I’m on my own now, one of the few survivors. But the fight for dignity was worth it,” he says.

I wonder when next we might have an American generation which feels the same. Not since the VietNam War has there been enough courage and spirit in a generation – willing to stand up to deceit and murder by those in charge of this nation.

While the same sort of conservative ideologues invent rationales to prevent justice. RTFA.

Latest war gadget – a robot snake

A robot snake with a camera and microphone in its head is the Israeli military’s latest battlefield weapon, according to an Israeli TV report broadcast this week.

Channel 2 showed video of the snake twisting into caves, tunnels, cracks and buildings, broadcasting pictures and sound back to a soldier controlling it with a laptop computer.

The “snake” appeared to be about two metres long.

Covered by fabric in military camouflage colours, it slithered along the ground and climbed rocks, its segments connected with joints that flexed in several different directions…

The report said no price has been determined for the snake, which is in the experimental stage, but the Israeli military plans to deploy the robot with combat units. No target date was given.

The report suggested another role for the robot – carrying a bomb to blow up militants or a building. In that case, Channel 2 said, it would be a “suicide snake.”

I want one of these. My wife and I are snake fans as it is – especially gopher snakes. If you’ve ever tried to garden somewhere that has pocket gophers you know why.

Arm one of these critters with a custom .22 caliber semi-automatic pistol – not really a difficult task – and “Bingo” – you can hunt pocket gophers underground.

1918 flu survivors still produce protective antibodies

Antibodies from survivors of the 1918 flu pandemic, the worst in human memory, still protect against the highly deadly virus.

The findings by a team of influenza and immune system experts suggest new and better ways to fight viruses — especially new pandemic strains that emerge and spread before a vaccine can be formulated.

These survivors, now aged 91 to 101, all lived through the pandemic as children. Their immune systems still carry a memory of that virus and can produce proteins called antibodies that kill the 1918 flu strain with surprising efficiency, the researchers report in the journal Nature.

“It was very surprising that these subjects would still have cells floating in their blood so long afterward,” said Dr. James Crowe, who helped lead the study…

The antibodies that we isolated are remarkable antibodies. They grab onto the virus very tightly and they virtually never fall off,” Crowe said in a telephone interview. That allows them to kill the 1918 virus with extreme potency, meaning it takes a very small amount of antibody.”

Good read – especially considering what this discovery can mean in building tools to use against potential mutations of the H5N1 avian flu.