"PETA to SeaWorld: Let My People Go," by Alpha Unit

Don’t believe for a minute that slavery isn’t an ongoing scourge in America. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California on behalf of five slaves being held in California and Florida.
The slaves in San Diego are Corky, Kasatka, and Ulises. The slaves in Orlando are Tilikum and Katina. All five are members of Orcinus orca, the largest species of the dolphin family – also known as killer whales.
PETA says that all five are being held at SeaWorld parks in violation of the 13th Amendment, which prohibits involuntary servitude and abolished slavery. According to PETA general counsel Jeffrey Kerr:

Slavery is slavery, and it does not depend on the species of the slave any more than it depends on gender, race, or religion.

The lawsuit maintains that the orcas were taken from their families and denied their natural environment. The males have their sperm collected, while the females are artificially inseminated and forced to bear young, which are sometimes shipped away. In addition:

Deprived of the opportunity to make conscious choices and to practice their cultural vocal, social, and foraging traditions, they are compelled to perform meaningless tricks for a reward of dead fish.

Animal law experts say that the court must first agree that PETA has the ability and right to represent the whales. Then PETA would have to persuade the court that the 13th Amendment applies to whales.

"Occupy Wall Street Inspiring Workers and Organizers," by Alpha Unit

Working America is the affiliate of the AFL-CIO that organizes workers from non-union workplaces. The group is now reporting that they’ve signed up about 25,000 new recruits in the last week alone, largely due to the Occupy Wall Street protests. The protests have been taking place all over the country, of course.
This is more people than they recruited in a month during labor protests in Wisconsin earlier this year, according to the executive director of Working America, Karen Nussbaum.
Occupy Wall Street seems to be inspiring a lot of people who are said to have little in common with those out protesting. “Beltway wisdom would have it that Occupy Wall Street protesters are pierced, pot-smoking hippies reviled by heartland Americans,” says Greg Sargent, who blogs at the Washington Post. (It’s actually not just inside the Beltway where you’ll hear people saying this.) But many of those signing up for Working America express support for the protests.
Working America reports that among the people who join:

  • 88% are White
  • 12% are people of color
  • 33% own guns
  • 33% are weekly churchgoers
  • 60% are moderate or conservative

“Our members are often not part of the progressive movement until they join Working America,” as they put it.
And according to Greg Sargent:

The cultural fault line and tensions between blue collar Whites and liberal activists is a well established storyline in American history. But Working America – which organizes in industrial battlegrounds like Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania and other swing states – is having a new burst of success among precisely the sort of working class voters who are supposed to be culturally alienated by the excesses of the Occupy Wall Street protesters.

Laura Clawson, who writes for Working America, says that Occupy Wall Street is just expressing anger the majority of Americans share at how unequal and imbalanced our economy is – and how our economy and politics seem to work for Wall Street no matter what damage Wall Street inflicts on the rest of us.

"Update to Comments Policy," by Alpha Unit

The Comments Policy has been updated. As stated in the policy:

No threatening commenters with physical violence; no threats of any sort. No attempts to violate the civil rights of other commenters.

We try to keep the policy as minimal as possible, and we don’t anticipate any problems of this kind. But we decided to make it a rule that it’s not okay for people to threaten each other on the site. That’s going over the line.
We don’t want you to worry about it, though. Just relax and keep commenting.

"Three Million Shipwrecks, Billions of Dollars," by Alpha Unit

In February of 1941, the SS Gairsoppa, a British steamer, was returning from a voyage to India. It left its convoy to sail for the Bay of Galway, on the west coast of Ireland, according to author C. Michael Hogan. Unarmed and unescorted, the Gairsoppa was fired upon by the German U-101 boat commanded by Korvettenkapitän Ernst Mengersen, now known for sinking over 67,000 tons of Allied shipping during the War.
The last reported position of the Gairsoppa was slightly to the west of the Celtic Sea shelf, southwest of the Irish coast. Last month the shipwreck was found by Odyssey Marine Exploration, based in Tampa, Florida. There were about 240 tons of silver aboard the Gairsoppa, worth $200 million in today’s prices. Contracted by the British government to recover the wreckage, Odyssey will get 80% of the silver’s value.
According to a news report:

In recent years, cash-strapped governments have started looking to lost cargoes as a way to raise money. They do so because the latest generation of robots, lights, cameras, and claws can withstand the deep sea’s crushing pressure and have opened up a new world of shipwreck recovery.

The United Nations estimates that there are about 3 million shipwrecks on the ocean floor. There are billions and billions of dollars worth of treasure that have yet to be hauled up.
Odyssey Marine is the company that just found the shipwreck of another British steamer, the SS Mantola. It was sunk off the coast of Ireland in 1917 by a German submarine. The Mantola had been carrying 20 tons of silver. Like the Gairsoppa, the Mantola had been owned by the British Indian Steam Navigation Company.
In 1917, the British Ministry of War Transport paid a War Risk Insurance Claim for £110,000 (in 1917 value). Today we are looking at approximately $18 million, most of which will go to Odyssey.
Private companies like Odyssey put their own money at risk to recover these treasures. But what they do is controversial. They’ve come in for some heavy criticism from archaeological societies and charities, and are accused of “ransacking” these shipwrecks for their own gain while pretending to be engaged in archaeological research.
The case of the famous “Black Swan” discovery back in 2007 illustrates the controversy. Odyssey Marine found the wreck of a ship which sank in the North Atlantic. Which ship and its exact location have been in dispute, though. The company discovered an estimated $500 million worth of silver and gold coins, along with worked gold and other artifacts.
Some say this particular shipwreck may be that of the British merchant ship Merchant Royal, which sank while returning to England in 1641.
The Spanish government filed a claim that the silver and gold came from a Spanish vessel, the Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes, a frigate that sank off the coast of Portugal in 1804.
The government of Peru laid claim to the treasure since some of the coins were minted in Lima. (That claim was later dismissed; Peru was a Spanish territory when the coins were minted.)
Descendants of some of the people onboard the different ships have filed claims, as well.
Spain ratified the UNESCO 2001 Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage, and asserts that these ancient shipwrecks should be protected and placed in museums, not bartered or sold.
In a case that made it to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a lower court ruling was affirmed that the U.S. federal court lacked jurisdiction over property recovered in the Black Swan Project. The court found that the recovery was the sovereign immune shipwreck Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes and ordered Odyssey to turn everything over to the Spanish government.
Nothing has to be handed over, though, until all appeals have been exhausted. And you know they will be.

"No Rainwater in Tokelau," by Alpha Unit

There’s not enough water in Texas. There’s not enough in East Africa and some other places, too.
Climate change is being blamed for some of it. La Niña, specifically, is being blamed for what’s happening in Texas – and for what’s happening in the South Pacific. Several island nations in the region are having water shortages and trying to fend off a crisis.
Tuvalu and parts of Samoa have begun water rationing. And the tiny nation of Tokelau, a territory of New Zealand, has only a week’s worth of fresh drinking water left. The people who live there collect rainwater for drinking, but because of La Niña, there hasn’t been much rain.
New Zealand is now in a joint humanitarian effort with the US government. A US Coast Guard vessel stationed in Honolulu met up with a New Zealand Defence Force aircraft on American Samoa to get water to Tokelau.
The US Coast Guard cutter Walnut has used its onboard desalination plant to produce 136,000 liters of drinking water. International seagoing vessels typically have onboard desalination plants. Naval vessels, cruise ships, and privately owned vessels have them. Most US Navy ships use reverse osmosis (RO) desalination plants.
In the RO process, pressurized seawater is filtered through a specialized semi-permeable membrane, which can remove about 99% of the impurities in water. After desalination, water is remineralized since desalination removes some of the important minerals normally found in drinking water. Then they check it for impurities, make sure there are no pathogens, and adjust the pH. Now it’s ready for delivery.
By the way, governments and private concerns have been examining the prospect of offshore desalination vessels for years. (Everything’s on the table. There’s a lot of people – and people use a lot of water.) There’s much to consider, cost (including energy costs) and what to do with that brine you get from desalination being major questions.
But there are people figuring it out.

"Starbucks Wants Your Help," by Alpha Unit

Starbucks wants to add jobs to the economy, and help a lot of other people hold on to their jobs, they say.
Today they launched their Jobs for USA program, an alliance with the Opportunity Finance Network. Opportunity Finance Network is a non-profit that works with banks, credit unions, loan funds, and venture capital funds to lend money to small businesses and community groups.
Starbucks will ask each customer for a $5 donation to contribute to the program, beginning November 1. In exchange, you get a red, white, and blue wristband that says, “Indivisible.”
Howard Schultz is the CEO of Starbucks. He has been outspoken on behalf of small businesses during this economic downturn, even asking his fellow CEOs to stop contributing to all political campaigns until our representatives in Washington find a way to get us out of this recession – the Great Recession, as some people call it.
A lot of people aren’t buying it. Some think it’s some kind of publicity stunt. Others are raking Starbucks over the coals for the way it deals with its employees. Or for their high prices. Others are completely cynical about Schultz’s motives, seeing it as a self-serving move on his part. Someone wondered if the wristbands were made in America.
One commenter’s response, however, was, “I would like a job anywhere.”


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