"The Last Trip From Jacksonville to San Juan," by Alpha Unit

A US Navy salvage unit is headed to the debris fields near the last known location of the SS El Faro, a US-flagged cargo ship that sank last week during Hurricane Joaquin. What they want to recover immediately is the voyage data recorder, which captured the ship’s course and speed as well as onboard audio from the bridge. Once submerged, the recorder would have begun pinging. It has a battery life of 30 days.
The El Faro is a “roll-on/roll-off” cargo vessel designed to carry vehicles that are driven on and off the ship. It left Jacksonville, Florida, last Tuesday on its weekly run from Jacksonville to San Juan, Puerto Rico. It held 294 cars, trucks, and trailers below deck and 391 containers topside carrying groceries and other retail products.
There were 33 crew members, including Captain Michael Davidson, a veteran mariner of over 25 years’ experience. Twenty-eight of the crew members were from the United States and five were from Poland.
TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico operated the El Faro and says the 40-year-old vessel was sound and well-maintained and that it had passed its annual Coast Guard inspection in March. The question that has been floating around for the past week is “Why did the captain set sail in the face of a hurricane?”
Experienced mariners say that it isn’t at all unusual for a captain to head out under those conditions. One Merchant Marine captain, Laurence Wade, told the Portland Press Herald that sailing in bad weather, even in hurricanes, is part of the way of life for mariners.

You do the best you can. You ride it out. If the [El Faro] hadn’t lost power it would have been in San Juan by Friday and back in Jacksonville today.

Others remind us that the decision to sail rests with the captain, not with the company, and that no captain would take a ship and its crew into harm’s way. Wade says that he never likes to see people questioning a captain’s decision, particularly those with no experience at sea.
A former merchant mariner and current maritime lawyer named Rod Sullivan told the South Florida Business Journal that the El Faro probably sailed due to routine.

People get wedded to their schedule. There are vendors, stevedores, truckers who are all expecting the ship to arrive. There’s pressure to keep on schedule.

That’s putting it charitably. Other mariners say that pressure from the shipping office is intense. On all kinds of forums where people are discussing this disaster, you’ll find sea veterans making comments like this:

To answer your question, the most likely reason that the El Faro sailed when and where she did was because she had a schedule to keep at San Juan’s container port, and that was paramount over the concern of risking the ship and the lives of those serving on her…
Some flunky at a desk in an office building somewhere scheduled a particular vessel to be at a certain place within a specified time window, and that’s pretty much it…details like war or weather or other such things are treated as just another thing that the crew is expected to “deal with.”

Executives at the parent company of TOTE Maritime acknowledged on Monday that the company could have vetoed the captain’s decision to set sail but say that Captain Davidson had a sound plan that would have enabled him to pass clearly ahead of the storm. Had the El Faro not lost propulsion, Davidson would most likely have succeeded.
Why the ship lost propulsion is still unknown. The ship left Jacksonville on Tuesday, September 29. At 7:15 AM on Thursday, October 1, the Coast Guard received distress alerts from the El Faro. Just before the alerts went out, Captain Davidson had notified TOTE Maritime that the ship had lost propulsion and was listing 15 degrees in the midst of Hurricane Joaquin. The captain also noted that the ship had taken on some flooding but that the crew had the situation under control. This was the last contact anyone had with the ship.
According to Rick Spilman of The Old Salt Blog, these vehicle carriers have an inherent weakness that might have doomed the El Faro.

Ro/ros have wide vehicle decks. They are essentially parking lots at sea. The wide and open decks are necessary for efficiently driving vehicles on and off ships. The problem is that even moderate flooding of the vehicle deck can dramatically destabilize a ro/ro. The sloshing of water on the vehicle deck, referred to as the “free surface effect,” can cause the ship to capsize rapidly and without warning.

In addition to the sloshing water in the vehicle deck, vehicles can become unsecured in heavy seas and slide to one side, causing a ship to list even more. That is what happened when the Korean ferry Sewol capsized in 2014.
The El Faro‘s emergency beacon sent out a signal briefly and then stopped. The beacon is designed to float away from the ship and continue sending a signal. If the El Faro capsized, the beacon could have been trapped underneath the ship, says Spilman.
In the estimation of Captain Joseph Murphy of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, two essential things to the survival of the ship were its ability to maintain propulsion and its power. He explains:

Propulsion so they can maneuver it and power so they can maintain communication. The other one is watertight integrity so that the ship is able to float. By all reports, she had a 15-degree list, which would have made it difficult for them to launch lifeboats. And she had lost power and communication so my suspicion is that they did not have either propulsion or power.
My personal belief – and I don’t have anything to go on other than experience, years of going to sea – is that the ship actually did capsize and sank very, very quickly.

Most people don’t think that much about mariners or the vessels they work on until tragedies like these occur. The fact is, almost everything we use and consume every day arrives to us by ship. The goods flow day and night, but transporting them is a risky enterprise. In addition to the grueling work schedules and battles over pay, there is the fact that mariners work in a wilderness as deadly as any other on Earth.
“Mother Nature is merciless and more powerful than we give her credit,” says a former maritime instructor to those who wonder why this happened. In a discussion at the Service Academy Forums, he says there is an evolution you go through.

Stage 1 is, I’m a little scared, but I trust you guys. Stage 2 is, I’m strong, I’m invincible, I can handle anything, BRING IT. A lot of people stop there. A lot of people LIVE under the illusion that because they can turn up a thermostat, turn on a faucet, flip a switch and cook a meal, that they have bested nature. Technology only takes you so far.
Forty-foot seas, 140-knot winds, no port to enter, no way off the ship, no one to negotiate with, no alternatives. Human beings can adapt to and overcome a lot of things, but sometimes there is a confluence of nature that makes it NOT POSSIBLE. And those people get to Stage 3: I am strong, I am trained, I am clever, and I have my wits – but I am a speck of dust on a capricious planet, and I am at its mercy.

“The Last Trip From Jacksonville to San Juan,” by Alpha Unit

A US Navy salvage unit is headed to the debris fields near the last known location of the SS El Faro, a US-flagged cargo ship that sank last week during Hurricane Joaquin. What they want to recover immediately is the voyage data recorder, which captured the ship’s course and speed as well as onboard audio from the bridge. Once submerged, the recorder would have begun pinging. It has a battery life of 30 days.

The El Faro is a “roll-on/roll-off” cargo vessel designed to carry vehicles that are driven on and off the ship. It left Jacksonville, Florida, last Tuesday on its weekly run from Jacksonville to San Juan, Puerto Rico. It held 294 cars, trucks, and trailers below deck and 391 containers topside carrying groceries and other retail products.

There were 33 crew members, including Captain Michael Davidson, a veteran mariner of over 25 years’ experience. Twenty-eight of the crew members were from the United States and five were from Poland.

TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico operated the El Faro and says the 40-year-old vessel was sound and well-maintained and that it had passed its annual Coast Guard inspection in March. The question that has been floating around for the past week is “Why did the captain set sail in the face of a hurricane?”

Experienced mariners say that it isn’t at all unusual for a captain to head out under those conditions. One Merchant Marine captain, Laurence Wade, told the Portland Press Herald that sailing in bad weather, even in hurricanes, is part of the way of life for mariners.

You do the best you can. You ride it out. If the [El Faro] hadn’t lost power it would have been in San Juan by Friday and back in Jacksonville today.

Others remind us that the decision to sail rests with the captain, not with the company, and that no captain would take a ship and its crew into harm’s way. Wade says that he never likes to see people questioning a captain’s decision, particularly those with no experience at sea.

A former merchant mariner and current maritime lawyer named Rod Sullivan told the South Florida Business Journal that the El Faro probably sailed due to routine.

People get wedded to their schedule. There are vendors, stevedores, truckers who are all expecting the ship to arrive. There’s pressure to keep on schedule.

That’s putting it charitably. Other mariners say that pressure from the shipping office is intense. On all kinds of forums where people are discussing this disaster, you’ll find sea veterans making comments like this:

To answer your question, the most likely reason that the El Faro sailed when and where she did was because she had a schedule to keep at San Juan’s container port, and that was paramount over the concern of risking the ship and the lives of those serving on her…

Some flunky at a desk in an office building somewhere scheduled a particular vessel to be at a certain place within a specified time window, and that’s pretty much it…details like war or weather or other such things are treated as just another thing that the crew is expected to “deal with.”

Executives at the parent company of TOTE Maritime acknowledged on Monday that the company could have vetoed the captain’s decision to set sail but say that Captain Davidson had a sound plan that would have enabled him to pass clearly ahead of the storm. Had the El Faro not lost propulsion, Davidson would most likely have succeeded.

Why the ship lost propulsion is still unknown. The ship left Jacksonville on Tuesday, September 29. At 7:15 AM on Thursday, October 1, the Coast Guard received distress alerts from the El Faro. Just before the alerts went out, Captain Davidson had notified TOTE Maritime that the ship had lost propulsion and was listing 15 degrees in the midst of Hurricane Joaquin. The captain also noted that the ship had taken on some flooding but that the crew had the situation under control. This was the last contact anyone had with the ship.

According to Rick Spilman of The Old Salt Blog, these vehicle carriers have an inherent weakness that might have doomed the El Faro.

Ro/ros have wide vehicle decks. They are essentially parking lots at sea. The wide and open decks are necessary for efficiently driving vehicles on and off ships. The problem is that even moderate flooding of the vehicle deck can dramatically destabilize a ro/ro. The sloshing of water on the vehicle deck, referred to as the “free surface effect,” can cause the ship to capsize rapidly and without warning.

In addition to the sloshing water in the vehicle deck, vehicles can become unsecured in heavy seas and slide to one side, causing a ship to list even more. That is what happened when the Korean ferry Sewol capsized in 2014.

The El Faro‘s emergency beacon sent out a signal briefly and then stopped. The beacon is designed to float away from the ship and continue sending a signal. If the El Faro capsized, the beacon could have been trapped underneath the ship, says Spilman.

In the estimation of Captain Joseph Murphy of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, two essential things to the survival of the ship were its ability to maintain propulsion and its power. He explains:

Propulsion so they can maneuver it and power so they can maintain communication. The other one is watertight integrity so that the ship is able to float. By all reports, she had a 15-degree list, which would have made it difficult for them to launch lifeboats. And she had lost power and communication so my suspicion is that they did not have either propulsion or power.

My personal belief – and I don’t have anything to go on other than experience, years of going to sea – is that the ship actually did capsize and sank very, very quickly.

Most people don’t think that much about mariners or the vessels they work on until tragedies like these occur. The fact is, almost everything we use and consume every day arrives to us by ship. The goods flow day and night, but transporting them is a risky enterprise. In addition to the grueling work schedules and battles over pay, there is the fact that mariners work in a wilderness as deadly as any other on Earth.

“Mother Nature is merciless and more powerful than we give her credit,” says a former maritime instructor to those who wonder why this happened. In a discussion at the Service Academy Forums, he says there is an evolution you go through.

Stage 1 is, I’m a little scared, but I trust you guys. Stage 2 is, I’m strong, I’m invincible, I can handle anything, BRING IT. A lot of people stop there. A lot of people LIVE under the illusion that because they can turn up a thermostat, turn on a faucet, flip a switch and cook a meal, that they have bested nature. Technology only takes you so far.

Forty-foot seas, 140-knot winds, no port to enter, no way off the ship, no one to negotiate with, no alternatives. Human beings can adapt to and overcome a lot of things, but sometimes there is a confluence of nature that makes it NOT POSSIBLE. And those people get to Stage 3: I am strong, I am trained, I am clever, and I have my wits – but I am a speck of dust on a capricious planet, and I am at its mercy.

Mass Floods in India Bring Out the True Character of Indian Hindus

Mass floods have hit northern India. I don’t know a lot about what happened, but many homes were washed away and apparently a number of people have died. In addition, quite a few people are without food and shelter.
Here India Land of Rapes, one of our finest commenters, lays out the real deal on Indian morality, or the lack of it as such.

Only in a crisis can the real character of people and society can be understood. When the earthquake and tsunami hit Japan, the people who survived stood in queue and took whatever their government gave them to eat and remained disciplined and organized without any violent incidents.
The true culture of Hinduism is getting exposed in the recent Himalayan floods.
Politicians rushing to save their own kith and kin. Traders selling food for 2000% high cost during the tragedy. The so-called spiritual Hindus taking whatever gold ornaments left on dead bodies. People fighting with each other for food. Women becoming prostitutes after losing their bead winners and hoteliers using these women prostitutes as a easy trade for hotel booking and necessary massage facilities in town.
This is a true opportunistic culture folks. You wonder why India, despite all its fake spirituality, is such a shithole?
It is because everything in India is a lie.
You have to lie, stab each other and be a hypocrite to survive in that filthy place. Everyone in that nation is a crook; to be honest you have to be a worst crook and hypocrite to survive in India.
Read the great story of Hindu morality. All the idiot trolls who spend their time spamming this blog and bullshitting their nonsense about glorious Hinduism, read the fucking comments on that article.
This is a reminder to all those who believe in Hindu spiritual nonsense. Spirituality is for sale in India. It has always been up for sale, and morality is the last thing you will find in these people. Don’t let their fake smiles, cries and obedience fool you. As long as you have something they need, they will respect you. The moment you end up with nothing, these people stab you and move on to next host without any guilt or shame.
Hindu culture at its best for you. It’s far worse than the USA in many ways. That’s why to most hypocrite Hindus, the USA is paradise.
No wonder USA is turning into a shithole like India. Once Hindus entered US Companies and started their nepotistic work ethic, the entire business culture became corrupt. One wonders if there is a pattern here.

Tulio on Black Crime and Feminism and What to Do About Them

Tulio, a Black man in his 30’s, is a regular commenter on the site. It was nice to see him move out defensive mode on the subject and write a deep and heartfelt post about these matters which are so painfully dear to his heart. He said that he thinks about this stuff constantly, as he is a young Black man. That’s sad, but if you care, it’s understandable.
Tulio notes that the problem is now so entrenched that it seems to be intractable. He also notes the corrosive effect of a lot of the new Black music.
Even White prison gang members have remarked on how detrimental they feel this music has been to White youth in recent years. They say young White man come to prison after listening to hip hop for years and think they are tough badass gangsters going to live it up in paradise in a maximum security prison. And boy do they have another thing coming!
I would like to thank Tulio for this post. Even if these problems seem intractable, we should at least be discussing them, as the human and societal damage is of epic proportions.

Black Crime

As for Black crime, it’s a confluence of a lot of different things and not an easy problem to solve.
Single motherhood. You have a lot of fatherless homes and single mothers. While not all single mothers raise bad sons (I personally know great guys raised by single moms), most guys in prison never had a strong father in their life. Women’s role is nurture; men’s role is discipline. Boys aren’t afraid of their moms. They’re afraid of their dads. Boys need fathers first and foremost.
I don’t know what the high cause of single motherhood is in the Black underclass. I truly have no idea, and I think about this stuff all the time since I’m a Black man. It wasn’t always like this. There was a time that Blacks were known for having strong families. The explosion seems to have happened in the 60s.
I don’t think there’s anything genetic about it. This doesn’t seem to be the case in Africa, especially traditional African society. It seems to be something unique to Black Americans. I don’t know what it looks like amongst Black Latins or Caribbeans. But family in Africa seems pretty strong, so I know it’s not genetic.
Dead zones. Secondly you have a large cultural vacuum in certain parts of the country.
Do you ever read about how there are dead zones in the ocean? Certain areas where there is not enough oxygen and that part of the ocean is devoid of life?
The inner cities of America are dead zones. They are islands of misery, hopelessness, broken schools, high unemployment, drugs, urban decay. There’s very little there to give people inspiration and hope. The church is often the only thing. The people living there have just enough so as not to revolt, yet not enough for them to be functional players in the economy.
The origin of such ghettos can be traced back to segregation. Some of these communities thrived at a time and were fairly self-sufficient. The Black middle class fled these places. And all that was left behind were the poor and a crumbling society. The middle class Blacks might have served as role models to those less fortunate. The Whites didn’t care about them either. Everyone that could afford to get out, got out.
So what can be done about it? I don’t know. The problem seems almost intractable. So I guess the only real solution here would be some sort of gentrification. Concentrated poverty is a very dangerous thing. As I’ve shown before, it can turn White people violent as well like it did in NYC tenements or as it currently does in Glasgow.
Spreading the poor out a bit should help. And it should also make their behavior better through cultural osmosis.
I can imagine no worse situation than being a Black kid raised by a poor single mother where the only male role models are thuggish rappers and drug dealers. They need to see other things and get out of that box. They need something positive to aspire to.
High unemployment. When unemployment is high, it makes working in the dark side of the economy more seductive. I’m sure many of these kids coming up would like to be able to make a decent living and not have to worry about ending up in jail or getting gunned down. But the fewer jobs there are, the more it makes the risk of selling drugs seem worth it. Even fairly decent people will start acting shady if that’s the only way they have to survive.
Well one major problem is that many blue collar jobs that Blacks used to do for a living wage either went to China or went to illegal aliens. It wasn’t uncommon to see Black carpenters, drywallers, construction workers, meatpackers, etc.
Now these jobs are almost all entirely done by Mexicans illegally in the country. This was a huge issue in the rebuilding of New Orleans after Katrina. There were a lot of Blacks out of work that wanted those construction jobs, and they were livid that they were going to Mexicans who aren’t even citizens and don’t even have any roots in the city. How can anyone not feel their pain?
The gutting of solid blue collar work has had a huge effect on Rust Belt White America but it has been an utter disaster for Black America. I see no easy solution here either.
Music. I also thing the music is a problem. Now maybe it’s an issue of art imitating life, or it’s the other way around, I don’t know. But I do think it has something of a feedback loop effect. A lot or rap music, even if not explicitly advocating violence, tends to reinforce a lot of selfish attitudes, hyper-materialism, fast money, fast women, party hard, a lot of Machiavellianism. It’s pervasive, even in the more lukewarm hiphop music.
Sometimes it’s just the attitude. The anger. One rarely sees rappers smiling or seeming happy unless surrounded by money, bling and sexy women. This stuff has to stop, and if I had a kid, I’d be very careful about what they listen to.
That said, not all rap music is like that, a lot of it is positive and life affirming. Some of it is great to dance too or just enjoy in the background if you have the smarts to not get caught up in the Machiavellian stuff.
It should also be noted that not all “Black music” is like this. The majority of Black music is not rap and does not contain violent lyrics. Unfortunately though, most of the music young Black males of the inner city listen to will be rap and often with terrible messages. What can anyone do about this? Not much, as long as there’s a first amendment, rappers can pretty much talk about whatever they want sell their music to whomever they want, most of which is bought by Whites anyway.
Sorry I don’t have any easy solutions, but these are just a few things that contribute to the issue.

Feminism

As for feminism, and I assume we’re talking about feminism of the more militant variety, the Pandora’s Box is open on that one. I wish things had stayed with equity feminism, and we could’ve left it there. But it then evolved into an assault on gender roles and gender as some sort of social construct rather than biological reality. That’s what happens when people with PhD’s take over the movement.
I know it’s not realistic for every American man to find a foreign woman, but for those that can, I think that’s the best solution. Foreign women are much more enjoyable to be around.

"Things I Never Knew About Surfers," by Alpha Unit

The Banzai Pipeline, or simply Pipeline, is a surf reef break in Hawaii, on Oahu’s North Shore. At Pipeline, open-ocean swells meet a patch of lava rock just offshore that slows the base of the waves, creating a wall of water with a hollow curl that’s great for tube riding: surfers can ride inside the barrel or curve of these breaking waves.
During the winter, swells from storms off the Alaskan coast travel across the Pacific toward Hawaii. With no continental shelf around the Hawaiian islands, ocean swells are unimpeded as they approach the shore. At Pipeline, these waves meet a flat tabletop coral reef about 500 yards from land – and this reef, with its caverns and underwater lava spires, is what creates those barreling, powerful waves that surfers can’t resist.
It’s also what makes Pipeline one of the most dangerous reef breaks in the world. A number of surfers have died at Pipeline, and numerous others have suffered injuries – sometimes catastrophic injuries. Laird Hamilton, once described as the world’s preeminent big-wave surfer, calls Pipeline a “bone crusher.” He explains:

I saw guys carried out of Pipeline daily. I saw one guy who had the top of his scalp torn off like a boiled egg after it’s been cut with a knife. I’ve seen guys with broken arms, broken backs, and even broken necks. I once went over [the falls] and landed on my board and split my head open like it was tomahawked.

No matter. Another surfer, Phil Edwards, in talking about his days surfing the Pipeline, describes it this way:

The Pipeline is a geographic anomaly. It’s a spectacle of nature. That reef is radical. Those waves haven’t seen a thing shallower than a mile deep for 2,000 miles, and they come blasting into that coral wall and the top of the ocean just flops off. The result is a beautiful, beautiful wave. If God designed a wave for surfers, he couldn’t do any better than the Pipeline.

And so the surfers come. Every year. Things began to change after Edwards quit surfing Pipeline, though. By one account:

In the late 70s Australians, New Zealanders, and South Africans arrived and went crazy at the Pipeline, surfing with an aggressiveness some regulars resented. And with the trepidation barrier broken, the Pipeline was being surfed in droves. Because there isn’t room for two surfers on any one pipe, competition for the waves was intense and often unfriendly. Intimidation, both psychological and physical, became a part of surfing the Pipeline.

As a New York Times article put it:

In 1975, a brash group of surfers from South Africa and Australia swept the North Shore contests and monopolized news media coverage. The Australians even boasted of their superiority to their Hawaiian counterparts.
Some Hawaiians, feeling disrespected at home in a sport their ancestors invented, threatened and thrashed the outsiders when they returned the next winter.

Local surfers banded together to enforce a code of respect. In 1976 there were the Da Hui, or the Black Shorts (for their uniform surf trunks). And then there is the Wolfpak, also known as “the boys.”
Wolfpak is said to use fear and their fists to command respect on Oahu’s North Shore. They determine which waves go to whom and punish outsiders who cross the line with locals. Zev Borow explains.

During winter months, when the waves are biggest, Pipeline is likely the most crowded break in the world, and the most dangerous. In ideal conditions, the waves roll off a shallow coral reef to form perfect barrels. And because these barrels break close to shore, they somehow seem less intimidating, enticing many surfers who aren’t prepared for reality.
As a result, on a good day, as many as 80 surfers will paddle into a lineup that can be safely surfed by maybe 20. The combination of huge waves, shallow reef and an aggressive and jammed lineup creates a surfing environment that can be treacherous.

Kala Alexander, leader of Wolfpak, says that’s where they step in.

We make sure there’s order, that people aren’t taking off on top of each other. On a wave like Pipe, something stupid isn’t just not having surfing etiquette. It’s attempted murder. Getting dropped in on at Pipe is like pointing a gun at your head. And you know, if you point a gun at one of us, well, there are gonna be consequences.

Such as?

I wouldn’t say much. Maybe I’d paddle up to you, tell you to go in, or take off your leash [a cord used to keep the board from being washed away from the surfer]. But later I’d find you, or a few of the other guys would, and you’d be taught a lesson.

Localism – surfers making sure their home break’s waves go to them, as Borow puts it – exists on some level on all beaches. Good surf spots are rare and a good surf break will become a coveted commodity. Regular surfers who live near the surf break will take over, proclaiming “locals only.” Verbal and occasional physical threats are used to deter outsiders from surfing at certain spots. Some of the tactics used:

  • posting warning signs for outsiders or blocking access to the beach
  • insults and shouting, bullying tactics to intimidate surfers they don’t recognize
  • aggressive behavior toward non-locals, including disrupting surfing maneuvers
  • vandalism, such as damaging surfboards and vehicles
  • in extreme cases, physical attack, including a few that have resulted in death

Some veteran surfers downplay the aggression and violence that sometimes get picked up by media outlets. Doug Ancey, who’s been surfing for about twelve years now, objects to the term “surf gangs” to describe groups of locals, saying there is no comparison between these “cliques” and criminal gangs. He says that at issue is the notion of respect.

The thing that we are really looking for on the water is respect. There is etiquette to surfing that few people outside of the surfing crowd understand. The aggression on the water comes out when someone exhibits a lack of respect to the other surfers around them…As far as the etiquette between surfers goes, I’ll try not to drown you in surfing terminology, but it’s about waiting your turn in the lineup and respecting other surfers’ waves. In all actuality, we are all out there for the same experience and the same passion.

He goes on to talk about how surfers get stereotyped negatively.

Usually the more you say about surfing to someone who doesn’t surf, the worse off you are. Surfing is something that is very personal and deep, and it’s hard for an outsider to fully grasp that concept. That is why surfers can talk about surfing for hours, especially with other surfers.

And once you become immersed in surfing culture, he says, you’re in for good.

"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.

India: Hell on Earth

Here is an excellent piece about India that I got from an internet site. The author is unknown, but he may be a Dalit or low caste Indian. It sums up why India is such a Hellhole – Indians created it that way.

We have a commenter on here called Dota, an Indian Muslim, who hates India way more than I do. He fled to Canada. He recently said that India is Hell and it’s people are the scum of humanity. That’s a hard-hitting thing to say, but is it true? He lived there for many years and I did not.

It does appear that Indian society and culture itself is at the core of India’s problems, and I can’t help but think that the religion of Hinduism is a big part of the country’s problems. As Dota says, of all religions, Hinduism cares about people the least. A shocking statement, but is it true?

In another comment, I talked about the hundreds of millions starving, diseased, shitting outdoors and living in the streets or fetid slums of India. According to Dota, Indian elites feel that the Indian poor living and dying in Hell deserve everything they get, up to and including death. That’s why there’s so little effort to fix up the mess – the poor deserve their fate. They even deserve to die. A shocking statement again, but what if it is true?

And once again, this belief seems to circle back around to Hinduism once again. The Hindu religion seems to be at the very heart and core of India’s Hell on Earth.

Why Do 1 Million Indians Flee India Every Year?

Any crackdowns on illegal immigrants abroad or restricting quotas to Indians are a major concern to India’s politicians. The latest statistics from the US Department of Homeland Security shows that the number of Indian illegal migrants jumped 125% since 2000! Ever wonder why Indians migrate to another countries but no one comes to India?

Here are some Indian facts:

Poverty Graph

According to the WFP, India accounts around 50% of the world’s hungry (more than in all of Africa) and its fiscal deficit is one of the highest in the world. India’s Global Hunger Index (GHI) score is 23.7, a rank of 66 out of 88 countries. India’s rating is slightly above Bangladesh but below all other South Asian nations, and India is listed under the “alarming” category. [IFPRI Country Report on India].

Around six out of 10 Indians live in the countryside, where abject poverty is widespread. 34.7% of the Indian population has an income below $1 a day, and 79.9% lives on less than $2 a day. According to the India’s Planning Commission report, 26.1% of the population lives below the poverty line. The World Bank’s poverty line is $1 a day, but the Indian poverty line is Rs 360 a month, or 30 cents a day.

The Current Account Balance of India

“A major area of vulnerability for us is the high consolidated public-debt to GDP ratio of over 70 percent…(and) consolidated fiscal deficit,” says the Governor of Reserve Bank of India (RBI), Mr. Yaga Venugopal Reddy.

According to the CIA World Factbook, the current account balance of India is -$37,510,000,000 (minus) while China is the wealthiest country in the world with $426,100,000,000 (plus). India listed as 182 and China as 1 [CIA: The World Factbook].

Human Development vs GDP growth

The Human Development Report for 2009 released by the UNDP ranked India 134 out of 182 countries, based on measures of life expectancy, education and income. India has an emigration rate of 0.8%. The major continent of destination for migrants from India is Asia with 72.0% of emigrants living there. The report found that India’s GDP per capita (purchasing power parity) is $2,753, far below Malaysia’s $13,518. China listed as 92 with PPP of $5,383.

Population

According to the Indian census of 2001, the total population was 1.028 billion. Hindus numbered 827 million or 80.5%. About 25 per cent (24 million) of those Hindus belong to Scheduled Castes and Tribes. About 40 per cent (400 million) are “Other Backward Castes”. The 15 per cent Hindu upper castes inherited the majority of India’s civil service, economy and active politics from their British colonial masters.

Thus the caste system virtually leaves lower caste Hindus as an oppressed majority in India’s power structure. Going by figures quoted by the Backward Classes Commission, Brahmins alone account for 37.17 per cent of the bureaucracy [Who is Really Ruling India?].

The 2004 World Development Report mentions that more than 25% of India’s primary school teachers and 43% of its primary health care workers are absent on any given day!

Living Conditions of Indians

89 percent of rural households do not own telephones; 52 percent do not have any domestic power connection. There are daily power cuts even in the nation’s capital. The average brownout in India is three hours per day during non-monsoon months and 17 hours daily during the monsoon. The average village is 2 kilometers away from an all-weather road, and 20 percent of rural habitations have partial or no access to a safe drinking water supply. [Tarun Khanna, Yale Center for the Study of Globalization].

According to National Family Health Survey data (2005-06), only 45 per cent of households in the country had access to improved sanitation.

Education

India has over 35 per cent of the world’s total illiterate population [UNESCO Education for All Report 2008]. Only 66 per cent of people are literate in India (76 per cent men and 54 per cent women).

About 40 million primary school-age children in India are not in school. More than 92% children do not go beyond secondary school. According to reports, 35 per cent schools don’t have infrastructure such as blackboards and furniture. And close to 90 per cent have no functional toilets. Half of India’s schools still have leaking roofs or no water supply.

While Japan has 4,000 universities for its 127 million people, and the US has 3,650 universities for its 301 million, India has only 348 universities for its 1.2 billion people. In the prestigious Academic Ranking of World Universities by Institute of Higher Education published by, Shanghai Jiao Tong, only two Indian Universities are included.

Even those two IIT’s in India found only a lower slot (203-304) in the 2007 report. Although Indian universities churn out three million graduates a year, only 15% of them are suitable employees for blue-chip companies. Only 1 million among them are IT professionals.

Health

India today allocates lower than one per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP) to health. According to United Nations calculations, India’s spending on public health as a share of GDP is the 18th lowest in the world. 150 million Indians are blind. 2.13 per cent of the total population (21.9 million) live with disabilities in India. Yet, only 34 per cent of the disabled are employed [Census 2001]. India has the single highest share of neonatal deaths in the world, 2.1 million.

107,000 leprosy patients live in India. 15.3% of the population do not live past age forty. Serpent attacks kill as many as 50,000 Indians while the cobra occupies a hallowed place in the Hindu religion. Heart disease, strokes and diabetes cost India an estimated $9 billion in lost productivity in 2005. The losses could grow to a staggering $200 billion over the next 10 years if corrective action is not taken quickly, says a study by the New Delhi-based Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations.

There are only 585 rural hospitals compared to 985 urban hospitals in the country. Out of the 6,39,729 doctors registered in India, only 67,576 are in the public sector and the rest are either in the private sector or abroad. According to a survey by NSSO (National Sample Survey Organization), 40 per cent of the people hospitalized have either had to borrow money or sell assets to cover their medical expenses. Over 85 per cent of the Indian population does not have any form of health coverage.

Tuberculosis (TB) is a major public health problem in India. India accounts for one-fifth of the global TB incident cases. Each year about 1.8 million people in India develop TB, of which 0.8 million are infectious cases. It is estimated that annually around 330,000 Indians die from TB every year [WHO India].

Economy under Siege by Elite Hindus

In India, the wealth of 36 families amounts to $191 billion, which is one fourth of India’s GDP. In other words, 35 elite Hindu families own one quarter of India’s GDP by leaving 85% of ordinary Hindus poor!

The dominant group of Hindu nationalists come from the three upper castes (Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas) that constitute only 10 per cent of the total Indian population. But, they claim perhaps 80% of the jobs in the new economy in sectors such as software, biotechnology, and hotel management.

India is also one of the most under-banked major markets in the world with only 6 bank branches per 1,000 sq kms, according to the World Bank, and less than 31% of the population has access to a bank account. According to India’s national agency (NABARD), around 60 per cent of people do not having access to financial institutions in India. The figure is less than 15 per cent in developed countries.

Corruption

According to TI, 25% of Indians have paid bribes to obtain a service. 68% believe that governmental efforts to stop corruption are ineffective. More than 90% consider the police and the political parties as the most corrupt institutions. 90% of Indians believe that corruption will increase within the next 3 years.

“Corruption is a large tax on Indian growth; it delays execution, raises costs and destroys the moral fiber,” says Prof. Rama Murthi. Transparency International estimates that Indian truckers pay something in the neighborhood of $5 billion annually in bribes to keep freight flowing. According to Rahul Gandhi, only 5 per cent of development funds reach their intended recipients due to hierarchical corruption in the country [Financial Times].

Discrimination Against Dalits

Crime against Dalits occur every 20 minutes in India. Every day 3 Dalit women are raped, 2 Dalits are murdered and 2 Dalit houses are burnt down! These figures represent only a fraction of the actual number of incidents since many Dalits do not register cases for fear of retaliation by the police and upper caste Hindu individuals. Official figures show that there are still 343,000 million manual scavengers in India from the Dalit community. More than 165 million Dalits in India are simply abused by their Hindu upper castes due to their birth [HRW Report 2007].

Human Rights

When it comes to human rights issues in India, it has not ratified the UN Convention against Torture, and its citizens do not have the opportunity to find recourse in remedies that are available under international law. The victims are trapped in the local Hindu caste system, which in every aspect militates against their rights.

India has a very poor record of protecting the privacy of its citizens, according to the latest report from Privacy International (PI). India scored 1.9 points, which makes it an ‘extensive surveillance society’. A score between 4.1 and 5.0 (the highest score) would mean a country “consistently upholds human rights standards.” PI is a watchdog on surveillance and privacy invasions by governments and corporations.

Fake encounter killings are rampant in India. These extrajudicial killings are inspired by the theological texts of the Brahmins such as Artha Shastra and Manusmriti which teach espionage and torture methods. Every such killing of an innocent person, branded a terrorist, has encouraged the killer cops to target socially excluded communities like dalits, tribals and minorities.

India’s intelligence agencies like IB, RAW, etc. seem to be thoroughly infiltrated by foreign secret services which support powerful weapon producing nations. Formed in 1947, IB is engaged in wiretapping, spying on political opponents and sometimes indicting people on false criminal charges. The IB also has files on numerous authors, bloggers and media persons.

According to the National Human Rights Commission, as of 30th June 2004, there were 3,32,112 prisoners in Indian jails out of which 2,39,146 were awaiting trial. That’s more than 70% who had not yet seen a judge. India’s jails hold a disproportionate number of the country’s minority Muslims, a sign of discrimination and alienation from the Hindu majority.

The bar association in India’s largest state, Uttar Pradesh, has refused to represent 13 Muslim suspects accused of bombing courthouses in 2005. A large percentage of Indian police officers, attorneys and judges appear regularly at events organized by notorious Hindu militant groups.

India is a parliamentary democracy, but nevertheless, it is not exactly a fully free society. The human rights group Freedom House ranks India as a 2 (on a scale of 1 to 7, with 1 the highest) for political rights and 3 for civil liberties. Elections are generally free, but, notes Freedom House, “Government effectiveness and accountability are also undermined by pervasive criminality in politics, decrepit state institutions, and widespread corruption.”

The State Department observes: “There were numerous reports that the government and its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings, including extrajudicial killings of suspected criminals and insurgents, or staged encounter deaths.”

Minorities

About 20%, or 200 million Indians, are religious minorities. Muslims constitute 138 million or 13.4%, Christians, 24 million or 2.3%, Sikhs, 19 million or 2%, Buddhists, 8 million or 0.8% and Jains, 4 million or 0.4%. “Others” numbered 6.6 million or 0.6%. According to Mr. Tahir Mahmood, an Indian Muslim journalist, “The 2.3% Christians in the Indian population cater to 20% of all primary education in India, 10% of all the literacy and community health care, 25% of all existing care of destitute and orphans, 30% of all the handicapped, lepers and AIDS patients, etc.”

Discrimination Against Minority Muslims

Recently, Justice Rajinder Sachar Committee report admitted that 138 million Muslims across India are severely underrepresented in government employment, including Public Sector Units. Ironically, West Bengal, a communist ruled state, reported 0 (zero) percent Muslims in higher positions in its PSU’s! The share of Muslims in government jobs and in the lower judiciary in any state simply does not come anywhere close to their population share.

The only place where Muslims can claim a share in proportion to their population is in prison! Muslim convicts in India is 19.1%, while the number of under trials is 22.5%, which exceed their population ratio. A note sent on January 9 by the army to the Defence Ministry in 2004 said that there were only 29,093 Muslims among a total of 1.1 million military personnel — a ratio of 2.6%, which compares poorly with the Muslims’ 13.8% share in the Indian population. Officially, the Indian Army doesn’t allow head counts based on religion.

A Muslim child attends school for three years and four months, compared to the national average of four years. Less than two percent of the students at the elite Indian Institutes of Technology come from the Muslim community. According to National Knowledge Commission member Jayathi Ghosh, “There is a need to re-orient official strategies for ensuring better access of Muslim children to schooling outside the madrassas which cater to only four per cent of children from the community.”

Discrimination in Media

Hindu upper caste men, who constitute just eight per cent of the total population of India, hold over 70% of the key posts in newsrooms in the country. Including the so-called twice-born Hindu castes, the number rises to 85% of key posts despite constituting just 16% of the total population, while the intermediary castes represent a meager 3%.

The Hindu Other Backward Class groups, who are 34% of the total population, have a share of just 4% in Indian newsrooms. Muslims, who constitute about 13% of the population, control just 4% of top media posts while Christians and Sikhs have a slightly better representation. But the worst scenario emerges in the case of Scheduled Castes (SC’s) and Scheduled Tribes /Aborgines (ST’s), whose representation is nearly nil. [CSDS Study, 2006, The Hindu, June 05, 2006]

Discrimination in the Judiciary

India’s subordinate courts have a backlog of over 22 million cases while the 21 high courts and the Supreme Court have 3.5 million and 32,000 pending cases (2006). In subordinate courts, over 15 million cases are filed and an equal number disposed of annually by about 14,000 judges! Every year a million or more cases are added to the arrears. At the current speed, the lower courts will need 124 years to clear the backlog. There were only 13 judges for every million people.

Recently a parliamentary committee blamed the judiciary for keeping out competent persons of downtrodden communities “through a shrewd process of manipulation.” Between 1950 to 2000, 47% of chief justices and 40% of judges were of Brahmin origin!

Dalits and Indian aborigines make up less than 20 out of 610 judges working in Supreme Court and state high courts. “This nexus and manipulative judicial appointments have to be broken”, the report urged. [Parliamentary Standing Committee Report on Constitutional Review, Sudarshan Nachiappan]. Among 12 states with high Muslim populations, Muslim representation in the judicial sector was limited to 7.8% [Justice Sachar Report].

According to the National Crime Records Bureau, only 31 per cent of criminal trials are completed in less than a year. Some even take more than 10 years. According to its study, Crime in India 2002, nearly 220,000 cases took more than 3 years to reach court, and about 25,600 exhausted 10 years before they were completed. The term of the Liberhan Commission, formed 14 years ago to probe the demolition of the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya and originally given a mandate of three months, has been extended again!

Discrimination Against Children

According to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, India has the highest number of street children in the world. There are no exact numbers, but conservative estimates suggest that about 18 million children live and labor in the streets of India’s urban centers. Mumbai, Delhi and Calcutta each have an estimated street children population of over 100,000. The total number of child laborers in India is estimated to be 60 million.

The level of child malnutrition in India is among the highest in the world, higher even than some countries in sub-Saharan Africa, says the report Extent of Chronic Hunger and Malnutrition in India by the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food. While around 25 percent of children globally are underweight, in India the number is 43 percent.

A quarter of all neonatal deaths in the world (2.1 million) occurred in India, says the UNICEF Report 2007 . More than one in five children who die within four weeks of birth is an Indian. Nearly fifty percent of Indian children who die before the age of five do not survive beyond the first 28 days.

Discrimination Against Women

According to the 2001 census, female literacy in India is 54.16% versus male literacy of 75.85%. Most working women remain outside the organized sector. A mere 2.3% are administrators and managers, and only 20.5% of professional and technical workers are women.

There are an estimated 40 million Hindu widows in India, the least fortunate of them shunned and stripped of the life they lived when they were married. It’s believed that 15,000 widows live on the streets of Vrindavan, a Hindu holy city of about 55,000 population in northern India.

Many widows – at least 40 per cent are said to be under 50 – are dumped by their relatives in religious towns and left to live off charity or beg on the streets. Their plight was highlighted in Deepa Mehta’s award-winning film Water, which had to be shot mainly outside India because of Hindu extremist opposition to its production.

Nearly 9 out of 10 pregnant women between ages 15 and 49 years suffer from malnutrition, about half of all children (47%) under five are underweight, and 21% of the populations are undernourished. India alone has more undernourished people (204 million) than all of Sub-Saharan Africa combined.

Nearly 20% of women dying in childbirth around the globe are Indians. Six out of every 10 births take place at home, and untrained people attend more than half of those births. 44% of Indian girls are married before age of 18. 16% of girls from age 15-19 are already mothers or expecting their first child, and pregnancy is the leading cause of mortality in this age group.

On average, one Indian woman commits suicide every four hours over a dowry dispute. In an Indian marriage, the woman should bring jewelery, cash and even consumer durables as part of dowry to the in-laws. If they fail bring enough valuables, the victims are burnt to death – doused in kerosene and set on fire. The in-laws routinely claim that the death happened simply due to an accident.

Rape is the fastest growing crime in India. Every hour Indian women suffer two rapes, two kidnappings, four molestations and seven incidents of cruelty from husbands and relatives [National Crime Records Bureau Report 2006].

Fetus Killing

The female to male birth ratio was feared to reach 20:80 by the year 2020 as female fetus killing is rampant. Ten million girls have been killed by their parents in India in the past 20 years, either just before they were born or immediately after, the Indian Minister for Women and Child Development Renuka Chowdhury related to Reuters.

According to the 2001 census, the national sex ratio was 933 girls to 1,000 boys, while in the worst-affected northern state of Punjab, it was 798 girls to 1,000 boys. The availability of ultrasound sex determination tests leads to mass abortions in India.

Around 11 million abortions are carried out in India every year, and nearly 80,000 women die during the process, says a report from the Federation of Obstetrics and Gynecological Societies of India (FOGSI).

Human Trafficking

Out of the 593 districts in India, 378 or 62.5% are affected by human trafficking. In 2006, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) sponsored a study conducted by Shakti Vahini, which found that domestic violence, illiteracy, unemployment, poverty, unsafe migration and child marriage are the major reasons for the increasing rate of illegal human trafficking.

95% of the women in Madhya Pradesh involved in commercial sex are there due to family traditions. So are 51.79% in Bihar. While 43% of the total women trafficked are minors, 44 percent of the women involved in the flesh trade are there due to poverty.

Of the total women who are into sex work in the country, 60% are from the lower and backward classes, which indicates the pathetic living conditions of these communities. In Madhya Pradesh, a political bastion of Hindu right wing parties, 96.7% of women sex workers are from Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

India has 4 million prostitutes nationwide, and 60% of the prostitutes are from the Scheduled Castes and Tribes or other backward castes. UNAIDS says over 38% of those living with HIV in India are women.

High Crime Rate and Communal Riots

India reported 32,481 murders, 19,348 rapes, 7,618 dowry deaths and 36,617 molestation cases in 2006. NCRB found that Madhya Pradesh recorded the highest number of crimes (1,94,711), followed by Maharashtra (1,91,788), Andhra Pradesh (1,73,909), Tamil Nadu (1,48,972) and Rajasthan (1,41,992) during 2006. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, there were 1,822,602 riots in 2005 alone [Incidence Of Cognizable Crimes (IPC) Under Different Crime Heads,  Page 2, NCRB website].

On average there are more than 2,000 cases of kidnappings per year in India. Under India’s notorious caste system, upper caste Hindus inherited key positions and control all the governmental branches. Violence against victims largely goes unpunished due to the support of upper caste crooks.

Economic Crimes

Economic crime continues to be pervasive threat for Indian companies, with 35% of them having experienced fraud in the past two years according to the PWC Global Economic Crime Survey 2007. Many incidents of fraud  go unreported. According to Price Waterhouse Coopers’ India findings:

* Corruption and bribery continue to be the most common type of fraud, reported by 20% of the respondents
* The average direct financial loss to companies was INR 60 Million (US $1.5 million) during the two year period. In addition, the average cost to deal with economic crime in India is INR 40 Million (US $1 Million), which is close to double that of the global and Asia Pacific average
* In 36% of cases, companies took no action against the perpetrators of fraud;
* In 50% of cases, fraud was detected by chance. [PWC Report 2007]

Armed Conflicts in India

Almost every state has separatist movements, many of them armed. A large number of Muslims were killed in the past few years across the country and the numbers are on a steady rise. On top of that, India has become a pariah for its neighbors. None of its neighbors appreciate their closeness to India, and they all blame it for meddling in their affairs.

63 per cent of India’s new budget will go to the military, police, administration and debt service (2008-09). The military might of centric Hindu elites in Delhi led to isolated feelings for the people of Jammu & Kashmir and the northeastern states. It is difficult for any community to feel part of a larger country when the armed forces of the country are deployed to silence them.

According to an Indian official report, 165 of India’s 602 districts — mostly in states like Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Orissa, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh — are “badly affected” by tribal and dalit violence, which the government termed “Maoist terror”. India’s military spending was recorded at US $21.7 billion in 2006, and it planned to spend $26.5 billion during 2008/09 financial year. 85 percent of the Army’s budget is spent on the enormous manpower of 1,316,000, which is the fourth largest in the world.

India experienced a rapid increase in demand for security in the period following the Mumbai attacks. Thanks to terrorism imports by world’s weapon industry! India is now one of the world’s most terror-prone countries, with a death toll second only to Iraq, says a report from the National Counterterrorism Center in Washington.

India’s crime rates, already some of the highest in the world, are also rising, as is the incidence of corporate espionage. Approximately 5.5 million private security guards are employed by about 15,000 security companies in India. As an industry, it is now the country’s largest corporate taxpayer [CAPSI report].

In 2005, Business Week reported that India became Israel’s largest importer of weapons, accounting for about half of the $3.6 billion worth of weapons exported by the Jewish state.

“Do remember that 34 years ago, NSG was created by Americans. Hence it has been their onus to convince the group to grant the waiver to India to carry out the multi-billion dollar business as India is a large market,” said former Atomic Energy Commission chairman, Mr P K Iyengar.

The Booming Industry of Terrorism Experts and Security Research Institutes in India

With the emergence of Hindutva fascist forces and their alliance with neocons and Zionists, India witnessed a sharp increase in the number of research institutes, media houses and lobbying groups. According to a study by the Think Tanks & Civil Societies Program at the University of Pennsylvania, India has 422 think tanks, second only to the US, which has over 2,000 such institutions.

Out of 422 recognized Indian think tanks, around 63 are engaged in security research and foreign policy matters, which are heavily funded by global weapons industry. India’s retired spies, police officers, military personnel, diplomats and journalists are hired by these national security and foreign policy research institutes which get enormous funds from global weapon industry.

These dreaded institutions in fact have a hidden agenda. Behind the veil, they work as the public relations arm of weapon industry. They create fake terror stories with the help of their media and intelligence wings and manipulate explosions through criminals in the areas of tribals, dalits or minorities in order to get public acceptance for weapon contracts.

By creating conflicts in this poor country, Brahmin spin masters get huge commissions from the sale of weapons to government forces. To these corrupt bureaucrats, India’s ‘national interest‘ simply means ‘their self interest’. Their lobbying power bring more wealth to their families as lucrative jobs, citizenship in rich countries and educational opportunities abroad.

India is one of the world’s largest weapons importers. Between 2000 and 2007, India ranked the world’s second largest arms importer, accounting for 7.5% of all major weapons transfers. It was fourth in military spending  in terms of purchasing power in 2007, followed by US, China and Russia.

Over 1,130 companies in 98 countries manufacture arms, ammunition and components. 90% of Conventional arms exports in the world are from the permanent five members of the United Nations Security Council, namely USA, UK, Russia, China & France. The regions of Africa, Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East hold 51 per cent of the world’s heavy weapons.

The Defense Offset Facilitation Agency estimated the expenditure on the sector of  $100 billion for next five years. At least 38 court cases relating to arms agreements are still pending against bureaucrats and military officers. Hindu fascist forces currently enjoy the upper hand in the media, the civil service, the judiciary, defense and the educational sectors of Indian society.

Sooner or later, the 25,000 strong democratic institutions in India will  collapse, and the country will be transformed into a limited democracy under the rule of a security regime like Turkey or Israel. The Hindutvas’ security centric nationalism was never capable of bringing peace and protection to ordinary citizens.

According to Global Peace Index, India currently ranked on bottom, (122 with 2.422 score). Interestingly, our favorite arms supplier, Israel is among the worst performer when it comes to peace ranking (141). It reminds a simple fact that peace cannot be attained by a sophisticated security apparatus.

Furthermore, India topped Asian Risk Prospects 2009 with the highest political and social risk, scoring 6.87, mainly because of internal and external instability (PERC).

Suicides of Farmers and the Collapse of the Agricultural Sector

In the last two years, more than 218,000 people across India committed suicide, mainly due to poverty, family feuds, strained relationships with loved ones, dowry harassment and health problems. In research by the Indian National Crime Records Bureau, there were 118,112 and over 100,000 suicides in 2005 and 2006 respectively.

Most of those who committed suicide were farmers, and the victims took their lives either by hanging or consuming poison. Aside from farmers, women also have a high suicide rate. Since 1998, about 25,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide because they could not repay their debts. These debts, however, have largely accumulated because these farmers were severely overcharged by moneylenders, who demand up to 32% interest.

76 per cent of the nation’s land is owned by to 23 per cent of population. More than 15 million rural households in India are landless. Another 45 million rural families own only small plots of land, less than .1 acre each, which is hardly enough to make them self- sufficient, let alone generate a profit. 340 million people in India are largely dependent on agricultural wage labor and make $1 or less a day [Rural Development Institute (RDI), Washington].

70 per cent of the Indian population still depends directly on agriculture, but growth in this sector declined from a lackluster 3.8 per cent to an even more anemic 2.6 per cent last year.

Unemployment

Recently, a national report on the employment situation in India warned that nearly 30 percent of the country’s 716 million-strong workforce will be without jobs by 2020. The government of India doesn’t have the resources or political will to find jobs for such a large population.

Retail trade employs 8 percent of India’s population, the largest employer after agriculture. There are more than 12 million small retailers in India, 96 percent of whom are small mom-and-pop stores, each occupying less than 500 square feet, creating the highest retail outlet density per capita in the world. [Tarun Khanna, Yale, op cit.].

Call centers and other outsourced businesses — such as software coding, medical transcription and back-office tasks — employ more than 1.6 million people in India, mostly in their 20s and 30s. Heart disease is projected to account for 35% of deaths among India’s working-age population between 2000 and 2030, according to a World Health Organization study. The figure is about 12% for the United States, 22% for China and 25% for Russia.

Internal Migration and Influx to the Cities

Mumbai, the commercial capital of India, is projected to grow into a city of about 21.9 million by the year 2015 and is currently plagued by vast poverty due to mass influx from villages. “There are 5 million living on the street every night, covered only in newspaper, ” says Dr. Werner Fornos, president of the Global Population Education think tank and the former head of the Population Institute in Washington, D.C.

India is spending more than $400 million (£200m) to polish Delhi’s image as a first-rate capital, a difficult task for a city that seems to exist between the first and third worlds. A third of the capital’s 14 million-plus people live in teeming slums. According to crime statistics, in 2006, Delhi continued to be the undisputed ‘crime capital’ of the country, a position it held for the previous 5 years in a row. 35 mega cities in India collectively reported a total of 3,26,363 crimes in 2006, an increase of 3.7% over 2005.

Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore together accounted for more than one third of all crimes reported in Indian cities having a population of over a million people for the second year in a row.

India, a Closed Country

India’s share in world tourism map, has hovered between .38% to .39% for a number of years. Irrespective of its huge area and beauty, foreign exchange earned from tourism is merely $2.61 billion (2006). India, scored only 4.14 out of 7 in the WEF’s recently released Travel and Tourism Competitive Index (TTCI 2007). Among 124 countries listed, Switzerland ranked highest while India was 65th, which is far below even Malaysia (ranked 31). India was also listed at the bottom of ‘developing and threshold countries’, which put Tunisia at 34th place.

Indian immigration policies do not welcome tourists. On VISA requirements and T&T index, India ranked 106 while Malaysia ranked 15. VOA facilities are not available to anyone. The easiest entry to India is typically limited to countries with considerable Hindu populations like Mauritius or Nepal. The Hindu elite leaders of the country are always more concerned about India’s physical boundaries and its holy cows rather than the life of its poor, 85% of the population. To them, the national interest means their own economical or political interests.

Indian Embassies are rated as the worst on Earth. They are notorious for ‘red tape‘ and ‘ corruption friendly service,‘ a complaint repeatedly quoted even by Non Resident Indians themselves. 90% of Indian businessmen believe that India has yet to emerge as a “hospitable country” [ASSOCHAM].

Global Warming Effects on India

Water tables are dropping where farmers are lucky enough to have wells, and rainfall has become increasingly unpredictable. Economic losses due to global warming in India are projected at between 9-25%. GDP loss may be to the tune of .67% per year. Wheat losses will be serious. The rabi crop will be hit even worse, which will threaten food security. Drought and flood intensity will increase. A 100-cm sea level rise can lead to a  loss of $1.259 billion to India equivalent to 0.36% of GNP.

Frequencies and intensities of tropical cyclones in the Bay of Bengal will increase. Malaria will be worsened to the point where it is endemic in many more sates. There will be a 20% rise in summer monsoon rainfall. Extreme temperatures and precipitations are expected to increase [Sir Nicholas Stern Report].

India got the most foreign aid for natural disaster relief in two decades, obtaining 43 such loans totaling $8.257 billion from World Bank alone, beating even Bangladesh and now has the 2nd highest loan in the world.

Transportation

Despite the much touted economic boom, only .8 percent of Indians own a car; most are on foot, motorbikes, or carts. And of all the vehicles sold in India from April to November of last year, 77 percent were two-wheelers – motorcycles, mopeds, or scooters. India has less than 1% of the world’s vehicle population.

China has built over 34,000 km of expressways, compared to less than 8,000 km in India.

According to Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry (ASSOCHAM), nearly 42o million man-hours are lost every month by the 7 million-odd working population of Delhi and NCR who take the public transport to travel to work because of traffic congestion during the peak morning and evening hours.

Road Safety

India accounts for about 10 percent of road accident fatalities worldwide,  and the totals are the highest in the world. Indian roads are poorly constructed, and traffic signals, sidewalks and proper signage are almost nonexistent. Other reasons for the high rates are encroachments, lack of parking facilities, ill-equipped and untrained traffic police, corruption and poor traffic culture.

An estimated 1,275,000 persons are badly hurt on the road every year. The social cost of annual accidents in India has been estimated at $11,000. The Government of India’s Planning Commission has estimated there are 15 hospitalized injuries and 70 minor injuries for every road death.

According to NATPAC, the number of accidents per 1,000 vehicles in India is as high as 35, while the figure ranges from 4 to 10 in developed countries. An estimated 270 people die each day from road accidents, and specialists predict that will increase by roughly 5 percent a year. Accidents also cause an estimated loss of Rs 8000 million to the country’s economy. About 80 per cent of the fatalities and severe injuries occurred due to driving error.

According to World Bank forecasts, India’s road death rate will continue to rise until 2042 if no remedial action being taken. In contrast, the number of road accidents in China dropped by an annual average 10.8 per cent for four consecutive years from 2003, despite continuous growth in the number of privately owned cars.

Doing Business in India

It takes 50 days to register a property in India, as compared to less than 30 days in China and less than 10 days in the United States and Thailand. Average cost of a business start-up is over 60 percent of per capita income, much higher than any of the comparable countries.

India has the highest cost of electricity among major industrialized and emerging economies ($.8 per kwh for industry as against $.1 kwh in China), or in other words a quarter of the gross electricity output, the result being the highest transmission and distribution losses in the world .

Transport costs are very high in India. It accounts for 25% of total import costs as against only 10% in comparative countries [World Bank Report on India].

Foreign Remittance from Non Resident Indians

In 2006, India received the highest amount of remittances globally from national overseas workers, $27 billion. Around $20 billion of this came from the Gulf expatriate workforce. Together, GCC countries are the largest trading partner of India, and home to 5 million members of India’s overseas workforce. The Indian government expects overseas Indians to pump in about US $500 billion into the FOREX reserves of the country in the next 10 years, making them the single largest source of foreign receipts.

Nearly three million people in Africa are of Indian ancestry. The top three countries with the largest population of Indians are South Africa, Mauritius and the Reunion Islands. Indians also have a sizable presence in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania in the east of Africa and Nigeria in the west.

Foreigners Living in India

Historically, about 72% of the current Indian population originated from the Aryan race. Prominent historians and Dravidians consider Aryans to be foreign invaders to India. The Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT) was postulated by eminent Oxford scholar Max Muller in 1882 and later advanced by several western and Indian historians.

Under the current scenario, potential migrants or ‘invaders’ to India include a few ‘hired or weird’ Pakistani bombers, villagers from around India’s border with Bangladesh, Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka and prostitutes from Nepal.

The 92 year old Indian painter Maqbool Fida Hussain lives in Dubai after receiving death threats from Hindu militants.

According to Hindu extremists, Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasrin has passed all the tests for Indian citizenship. On the other hand, Italian-born Sonia Gandhi, the Christian widow of Rajiv Gandhi, is still considered to be a foreigner by Hindu elites, while Pakistan-born Hindu Lal Krishna Advani is ‘legally and morally fit’ to become India’s next Prime Minister.

Leave India!

Sixty years ago Indians asked the British to get out of India. Now they are doing it themselves. To live with dignity and enjoy relative freedom, one has to leave India! With this massive exodus, what will be left behind will be a violently charged and polarized society.

The Hindutvadis’ Fake National Pride in India

A 2006 opinion poll by Outlook-AC Nielsen indicated that 46% of India’s urban class wants to move to the US. Interestingly, in the Hindutva heartland of Gujarat, 54% of people want to move to US.

Even Parliament members of the Hindutva party are involved in human trafficking from India. Recently police arrested Babubhai Katara, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP, who was part of such a racket. He received $20,000 per person to move his victims to the US.

When Indians are fleeing all over the world to just to find a job, how can these Hindutva idiots claim any “National Pride of India”?

India is the World Bank’s largest borrower. In June 2007, it provided $3.7bn in new loans to India. Due to the fake ‘India Shining’ propaganda launched by Hindutva idiots, foreign donors are reluctant to help the poor people in this country. According to figures provided by Britain’s aid agency, the total aid to India, from all sources, is only $1.50 a head, compared with an average of $17 per head for low-income countries [Financial Times].

Gridlocked in corruption, greed, inhumanity and absolute inequality – of class, caste, wealth, religion – this is the real India. Hindutva idiots, your false pride and antics embarrass us.

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Owen the Hippo and Tortoise Mr. Mom

Repost from the old site.

I bet you did not know that the horrible Tsunami that hit South and Southeast Asia a while back, killing 275,000 humans, also hit Kenya. It did. There are lots of critters still running around in Africa that the increasingly advanced Africans have not yet killed off.

There are hippopotamuses and giant tortoises. These tortoises are really giant, not like our desert tortoises here in California that are about as big as a football.

During the tsunami, the baby hippo, Owen, 350 pounds, and its hippo Mommy (name and weight unknown) got swept down the Sabaki River into the Indian Ocean. Though hippos can swim ok, they don’t like floods and tend to die in them. Owen’s Mom got killed, and Owen landed in the Indian Ocean. Then the tsunami waves swept him ashore with lots of other critters.

Somewhere in all this mess, Owen landed on top of a giant tortoise, male, age 100, name unknown. He probably landed on his shell and they both rode the tsunami waves onto the beach where they both kicked back and caught some rays of exhaustion until they were rescued.

Even though the tortoise is a dude, Owen either could not figure that out or didn’t care. He decided that Tortoise was his new Mom. They bonded well, and Tortoise, though being a guy and all, does not mind being Mr. Mom. They eat, swim and sleep together.

Owen follows Tortoise just like he followed his Mom, and he growls at anyone who tries to approach Tortoise. Hippos stay with Mom for four years, so Owen will probably live at home for another few years before moving out.

I thought it was interesting that Owen showed so many advanced emotions in these photos. He shows tenderness, love and kindness, and appears to be trying to kiss Tortoise, though I can’t see how any animal could kiss a tortoise. Tortoise either also has advanced emotions, or has undecipherable reptilian emotions, or I’m hallucinating. But some tortoises do mate for life, which is awfully advanced behavior for a mere reptile.

Photos at the link.

Peak Runoff in Streams and Rivers

Around these parts, in the Central Valley, low foothills and the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, peak runoff in streams and rivers is generally around the first week of spring. This year, it was the last week of March, about March 22-28. This is because most of the runoff from streams and rivers in this area is from rainfall. We have little snow in the Valley and foothills, and for some reason, snow runoff from the Sierras is generally not enough to cause flooding in the foothills and valleys below.

What is the peak runoff for rivers and streams in your region of wherever? Chime in.

Best Explanation Yet For the Holodomor

Repost from the old site.
First of all, we really ought to note that there was no “Holodomor” as the Ukrainian nationalists and Ukrainian Nazis have it. According to them, there was a man-made famine in the Ukraine in 1932 and 1933 that led to 6 million Ukrainians dying.
The harvest was excellent, but the evil Stalinists confiscated all of the grain to starve the people due to their resistance to collectivization. This is the view that Americans have been fed their entire lives by the controlled US propaganda media (There is no free press of any consequence in the USA).
Most historians now completely reject the notion that the USSR intentionally starved anyone to death in order to punish them for resisting the state’s directives. There was a famine in 1933, and it continued for a few years afterward, but it extended over most of the USSR and was not confined to the Ukraine. The government was not happy about the famine and took severe measures to curtail it.
Most died of disease after being weakened by famine, not of starvation itself. Poor decisions were made by the state, but historically, this is often the case during famines. One can argue that the famine was caused by state policies, in particular an effort to jump-start collectivization and do it very rapidly.
A similar effort in China in 1959-1962 also caused a famine and led to 15 million deaths, again, mostly from disease. There seems to be a pattern of too-rapid collectivization of agriculture causing disastrous famines in Communist countries (something similar happened during Pol Pot’s reign).
There was also an armed struggle going on, with bands of kulaks taking up arms against party officials, collective farms and farmers, etc. In the course of this armed struggle, the state killed 390,000 people, mostly Ukrainians. If you want to call this mass murder or genocide or whatever, you’re entitled to do that, but that’s not what the Holodomor crowd is arguing.
Also, there was widespread sabotage in the USSR around this time, mostly in the Ukraine again, whereby those resisting cultivation destroyed 50% of the livestock in the USSR and a good part of the grain crop too.
The reasons for the famine and the story of the famine itself are quite complex and go beyond the scope of this post. For now, this review by Mark Tauger of a recent book by Davies and Wheatcroft perhaps sums up the famine in the USSR during this period to the best of our knowledge. Instead of summarizing this complicated review, I will just link to it and let you go read it yourself.
On a related note, it appears that the Ukrainian Nazis (Holodomor crowd) have taken over an article called “Holodomor Denial” and pretty much ruined it. Most of the people accused of being Holodomor Deniers do acknowledge that there was a famine in the USSR during this period that killed at least 1 million people.
Walter Duranty, the famous New York Times columnist, acknowledged at least 3 million deaths from famine. Douglas Tottle, Mario Sousa and Jeff Conlon, all supposedly Holodomor Deniers according to this outrageously biased article, all agreed that from 1-2 million died of a famine in the USSR during this period.
The reason the Ukrainian Nazis have even come up with the phrase Holodomor Denial is to parrot the Jews’ Holocaust Denial. The Holodomor was given that name in the late 1980’s by Ukrainian nationalists in Canada, most of whom supported the Nazis and often fought beside them in WW2. Anti-Semitism and Holocaust Denial are rampant amongst these fascist supporters.
Just to show you how wicked Wikipedia is, take a look at the talk page for the article. The talk page was taken over by Ukrainian Nazis, I mean Holodomorists. Check out this entry.
The person who wrote that, Jeff Peters, was subsequently permanently banned from working on Wikipedia merely for opposing the Ukrainian Nazis’ Holodomor lies. Here is his talk page with all the dirty details. Looks like he was also a supporter of Hezbollah and the Palestinians and ran afoul of the Wikipedia Jews.
This is par for the course on Wikipedia. Most articles on Communism are seriously ruined by the Wikipedia Cabal. The Cabal, which takes orders from Jimmy Wales himself, is heavily loaded with libertarians who are quite hostile to any kind of socialism or social justice.
Jimmy Wales himself is a wild and extreme libertarian who argued that the federal government should not have lifted one finger to help the Hurricane Katrina victims in any way.
It’s amazing that not one single article in the “US free press” about Wikipedia or its corrupt founder has ever mentioned the extreme corruption and intellectual dishonesty at Wikipedia, the propaganda cabals that are allowed to run amok, or even Wales’ own extreme political views themselves. A free press in the US? It would be a great idea!
Was there famine? Yes. Was there a Holodomor? No.
The most responsible estimate of deaths due to the famine range from 1.5-6 million over a few years across much of the USSR.
It is interesting that in private correspondence, Robert Conquest, who for decades insisted that the famine was intentional (his view is now the received wisdom on the subject in the West) admitted in private correspondence with Davies and Wheatcroft that the famine was not intentional.
It’s truly sad that what is now regarded as settled fact among responsible historians is still regarded as wild, unheard-of propaganda in much of the West. But then we get back to that wonderful American “free press” again, right?

References

Coplon, Jeff. January 12, 1988. In Search of a Soviet Holocaust. The Village Voice. Douglas Furr’s website.
Coplon, Jeff. March 1988. Rewriting History – How Ukrainian Nationalists Imposed Their Doctored History on High School Students CAPITAL Region. Douglas Furr’s website.
Davies, R. W. and Wheatcroft, Steven G. 2004. The Years of Hunger: Soviet Agriculture, 1931-1933. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Souza, Mario. Lies Concerning the History of the Soviet Union. North Star Compass website.
Tauger, Mark B. 1991. The 1932 Harvest and the Famine of 1933. Slavic Review 50:1, pp. 70-89.
Tottle, Douglas. 1987. Fraud, Famine, and Fascism: the Ukrainian Genocide Myth from Hitler to Harvard. Toronto: Progress Books.

Wikipedia on Mao

Repost from the old site.
Granted, he’s a controversial fellow all right, but this hit piece is just an outrageous travesty of anti-Communist propaganda. The discussion page shows the details of the travesty, including the banning of anyone promoting an opposite point of view (a typical smarmy Wikipedia “Neutral Point of View” practice).
My 1990 World Book article on China< and my Time-Life book, China, from 1962 (height of the Cold War) are vastly more fair than this. World Book is hardly pro-Communist and Time-Life was always fanatically anti-Communist.
Fact is, Wikipedia is run by a bunch of little libertarian shits. Jimmy Wales is a wild-eyed, fanatical libertarian crazy person, and he’s using his evil website to try to poison the mind of a planet in favor of his libertarian nightmare.
That’s his right, but the US “free press” (there is no free press in the US) really ought to call him on it. I’ve seen all sorts of MSM bullshit about Jimmy and his jerk-off webcyclopedia, and every single one of them has been a fawning valentine (as we call such pieces in the journalism field).
Never once has even one article hinted that Wikipedia is grossly unfair, or that it is run by various cabals that are all tied in with the super-cabal of ultra-right libertarian Hindutva-Zionists around Wales. It might be nice to let the world know exactly what the politics of him and his creepy followers really are.
Let them know that Wales was furious that the federal government had done anything whatsoever to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina before, during and after the storm in any way whatsoever. Can you imagine?
In Wales World, there is no role for a government to play in a world-class hurricane. Need to be rescued? Call your friend who obviously has a helicopter, or pay $1000’s for some Israeli-cum-Halliburton mercenaries to come rescue your ass.
No government help to put up victims afterwards, to clean up the mess, or even to collect the fucking bodies. Let the epidemics come. No government help to rebuild the city afterwards. Let it stay underwater oozing gators, toxic waste, mold, decaying flesh and ruined structures. All of this is the proper domain of the private sector! Can you imagine how many people would have died?
I mean, this is what we got anyway under Libertarian Lite George Bush, but in Jimmy World, things would have been incalculably worse.
Look. If that’s Jimmy’s worldview, no problem. Hell, there are still dedicated Pol Potists out there. But the world really ought to know what Jimmy Wales’ fanatical ultra political views are so they can decide whether or not they agree. They should also be told how he uses his fake unbiased Webcyclopedia like Rupert Murdoch uses his media empire, to push reactionary politics in the name of “fair and balanced” bullshit.
That the “liberal media” MSM refuses to do this is worrying. It makes me wonder how reactionary they really are. Is the MSM as ultra-right as Wales, or are they just scared to talk about it? What’s up?

Notes

1. Here is some text from my World Book article on China. Note how the very rightwing World Book encyclopedia is able to acknowledge that Mao did many great things:
The Communist government has achieved an impressive record of economic growth. The Communists have provided widespread job opportunities, job security and a more even income distribution to the workers…China’s farm output has expanded greatly under the Communists…Production of chickens and livestock has improved significantly since 1950…
Under the Communists, industrial production has grown at an average rate of 12% per year…Since 1950, China has made great progress in educating its children. The number of children in both elementary and secondary school has increased sharply…Communist have conducted mass literacy campaigns so that now 75% of the population is literate…
All of the Communists’ health programs have resulted in a population that is much healthier than before. The Communists have almost wiped out cholera, typhoid and many other horrible diseases that used to kill millions of Chinese every year.

“Facing the Next Fifty Years: Global Warming,” by Abiezer Coppe

Climate change is killing 150,000 people a year now. That is the estimate of the World Health Organization for the year 2000, and now it is ten years out of date. So let us double that:

The once in a thousand year 2010 Moscow Heatwave caused an estimated 15,000 deaths.

For the “we have nothing to do with it” global warming deniers, here is a little primer on the current state of the science.

The science is already in.

There are metacommentaries on Russia’s heatwave here and here.

Climate records are being broken all over the world this year.

This is the actuality. It does matter. We can, all of us as individuals, do something.

Stopping global warming is actually a dream from which some of us still have to awake: it is more realistic to prepare ourselves and our society for the shocks that will inevitably come by practicing bioresilience. Our extraordinary adaptability as a species will be tested to the utmost in the next one hundred years. We have never had a challenge like it in the history of mankind.

Slowing the rate of growth of human carbon emissions (the global economic recession did so last year, although I see no real evidence at the level of political leaderships to cut carbon emissions) is one goal for the political elites, with eventual cuts at some unspecified date in the future, but a reduction of carbon emissions by 90% is actually what we must aim at as a society, which involves almost inconceivable transformations in the way we live, work, eat, travel and generate energy. A worldwide citizens’ movement is our tool.

We shall still move to a hotter world, but one that we shall survive, with far more modest and local lifestyles. We/I will also make the spiritual shift in our/my consciousness, and create new ways for ourselves/myself and our/my children to connect with and appreciate the beauties of nature in our over-informatized and mediatized world. Spiritual shift has now become a categorical imperative. Be the change you want to see. May I be the change I want to see…in me and in my world.

We have the luxury, in the privileged West, of having a little bit of potential space in our lives to accomplish this. If you are starving, drowning (as in Bangladesh and Pakistan), living at the edge of subsistence (Mali, Niger and Southern Sudan) and walking 12 miles a day simply to fetch water, there is much less space.

And the very poor are not producing the carbon emissions. It is us, in the developed world. I am not asking for guilt or a hair shirt: I am asking for awareness. And action. From myself, and from you!

Too much information, especially about such an explosive topic, actually creates anxiety and depression: have you noticed? I did in 2006, when I studied global warming nonstop for months. Too much (usually poor quality) information is actually the curse of our world: paying it too much attention creates a state of no peace.

Therefore we/I need to learn new ways to care for ourselves/myself, as we/I reconnect with the warp and weft of our ineffably beautiful and breathtaking living planet.

In time, perhaps, too, biodiversity will start to return to a planet currently in the sixth great extinction crisis of its long geological history. We need not be a plague on the planet. It is not our purpose here.

Once we come from a place of deeper peace and connection in ourselves, we rule out fear and chase it from our bodily abode: we then inspire others to seek that as well. Our activism has a more transformational quality on all around us. I have much to learn, much to heal, and much to change in myself.

Most campaigners, and part of the scientific community (James Hansen in particular), think that emissions cuts should begin at the latest by 2015. With the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition in power until then, we certainly have our work cut out.

“Business as usual” = civilizational collapse, sooner or later. And unimaginable human suffering. The suffering of Pakistan at the moment, but multiplied a million fold…

If you do not care, do not have children. They may not forgive you. Consciousness is rising about the scale of the challenge we face.

If you wish to be up to date on the subject of global warming, read the scientists! I suggest here and the NOAA, plus the climate progress website mentioned above.

I read them, and I am not a scientist.

The human race currently emits 29 billion tons (29 gigatons – more here) of carbon a year. And we do not do it by breathing or farting alone!

We have multiplied our biological carbon emissions as a species many fold through the development of technology, which required the burning of fossil fuels, the ancient sunlight of antiquity. Thus we become our own Nemesis.

It is difficult to point to any aspect of our current material lives that is not dependent on fossil fuels in some way, from plastic bags to cheap food.

We are changing the climate, and without global carbon emission reductions there is a point of no return, where positive feedbacks kick in and carbon emissions from natural processes such as the melting of the subarctic tundra, the loss of arctic sea ice in summer, and the burning of the world’s forests, start to render annual human emissions almost insignificant, kicking global warming into high gear.

We have – perhaps – a little window of opportunity now. It is human to hope. Nobody knows how long we have. It seems, from my many years of reading on the subject of global warming, that the window will certainly close by 2030.

And that date is based on the most optimistic of all projections.

When the climate “tipping points” are passed (the scientific consensus – but no one really knows – is that this starts to happen at 1.5 to 2 degrees centigrade above preindustrial global temperatures: we are currently 0.8 degrees Centigrade above), we are in for a very rough ride indeed.

That article is from yesterday’s UK newspaper, The Independent.

Given the current levels of urgency regarding this issue on the part of the global elites, runaway global warming is currently more likely than not.

Anthropogenic global warming has the potential to be the new global genocide. A genocide of the poor by the richest countries, with the highest per capita output of carbon emissions. Ask a Pakistani farmer in Sindh province how he is doing at the moment, and what his prospects are for 2011.

With runaway climate change, civilization will collapse, and there will – at some point after 2050 – be a catastrophic collapse in the global human population in the “business as usual” scenario (I do not like James Lovelock’s politics at all, but in that sense he is hard to contradict). For more on this, see Anatoly Karlin’s review of Six Degrees, by Mark Lynas.

It is a very graphic and a very detailed description, degree by degree of global warming above pre-industrial levels, of how human-induced global warming is changing the world we live in. And the précis saves you reading the book.

By 2020, at the current 0.2 degrees Centigrade of global warming per decade, we shall have passed the threshold of 1 degree of global warming globally since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

Here is Anatoly Karlin’s summary of one degree of global warming.

One Degree

Though the Great Plains are one of the world’s great agricultural breadbaskets, a desert slumbers underneath. Increased dessication and pummeling storms will erode away the thin topsoil, recreating the Dust Bowl on a giant scale and re-awakening the sand dunes. More irrigation will only postpone the inevitable. There will be large-scale migration to the wetter Mid-West and Great Lakes regions. AK: actually called the Great American Desert during the 19th century!, and is now dependent on depleting Oglalla Aquifer.

Higher rainfall, glacial melt and strengthening Siberian rivers may interrupt the Gulf Stream (part of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation system), drying western Europe and cooling it by as much as 2 C – recreating the conditions of the Little Ice Age during the worst winters. However, most models predict this will be a slow death. AK: If not, expect increased European dependency on Russian gas during the 2010′s and 2020′s.

In Africa, Kilimanjaro will lose its remaining ice by 2020 – causing wildfires, fish stock declines and problems with hydroelectricity production. Based on paleoclimate, in the long term, there will be a greening of the Sahara (into a savanna) and an enlarged Lake Chad…however, models say that there will only be a short interlude of heavier rains in the Sahel and on the West African coast, followed by even fiercer drought.

Coral reefs around the world will be increasingly bleached and taken over by seaweed; polar bears are pushed off the top of the world and creatures like pikas are shoved off the planet, accelerating the Anthropocene Mass Extinction event. Hurricanes will become stronger and more ubiquitous, spreading to the South Atlantic. More rockfalls in the Alps. Increased incidence of drought in the Amazon, pushing it to the brink. Atolls become doomed worlds, fated to submerge amidst the rising waves.

It will have taken around 250 years for a one degree rise in the mean global temperature to occur. However, climate dynamics are like a slumbering beast. There is a great deal of inertia locked into the system. First, there is very good evidence that the level of greenhouse gases being added to the atmosphere is itself rising. Secondly, the rate of global warming has been speeding up. Therefore we can, optimistically, expect the second degree of global warming after 2050, even with a concerted scaleback in emissions. That is within my children’s lifetime.

Now read Karlin’s summary of two degrees. Many of us will live to see this. At 0.3 degrees centigrade of increase in the global mean temperature per decade, two degrees arrives in 2053. A “climatic flip” is also possible: a sudden, dramatic acceleration, leading to climate collapse, from our perspective. The British Meteorological Office considers four degrees of global warming a possibility by 2060:

Now read Karlin on four degrees of global change. Are we not living through a planetary emergency?

Please read Anatoly Karlin’s review of Lynas if you read nothing else I reference. It is a glimpse into the uncertain future toward which we are headed, with no stars to steer by.

Global capitalism requires 3% compound growth to continue in existence, as David Harvey explains here in 3 parts. Capitalism must expand, or die. Both natural and institutional limits to the self-reproduction of Capital are a mortal threat to its very being. 3% compound growth, and our additional numbers, explain why the human species has moved from using 62% of planetary biocapacity in 1961 to 144% of planetary biocapacity in 2006. Is your country living within the mercy of its ecological means? Check the ecological footprint network atlas.

Not sustainable, and not a good outlook for the species. “No future, no future, no future for me,” as the Sex Pistols once sang.

I suspect, therefore, that the answer to human survival in this century and the next, and a civilizational level higher than that described in the visionary and beautiful written novel of our potential future in a much warmer world, Far North by Marcel Theroux, lies in a re-visioning and implementation of communism.

Read it and see what you think; then comment.

Despite the 20th century deviation of Communism from its original envisioning by Marx and Engels and the ecological disasters of the Eastern Bloc, Mao’s China and the Soviet Union, Marx’s vision of post-scarcity communism was profoundly ecological.

Cuba is the only country in the world today that lives within its ecological limits (page 14).

I find it very heartening that there remains one country in the world that has, largely by default, found a sustainable way to live, and that it is, with all its human rights and politico-economic flaws, a non-capitalist country.

Cuba is a glimmer of hope in a world ruled by the mantras of greed and growth. But not the only one by any means. People are waking up all over the world. Morales’ Bolivia, one of poorest countries in the world, and heavily dependent on extractive mining, has produced one of the most visionary ecological statements of the last year (to find it go to the Climate and Capitalism website).

Hope was the last thing left in the Greek myth of Pandora’s box, which we have, in the course of industrial civilization, unknowingly thrown open wide.

May we not let hope fly away altogether: this is my prayer for my children and yours, their children and your grandchildren.

Worries About Starving Pets In New Orleans May be Exaggerated

Repost from the old site. This is a famous post. It got tons of hits on the old site, but it’s an old post.



As you can see from these pics here, the widespread worries about all the lost pets, especially dogs and cats, starving to death in NOLA after Hurricane Katrina are somewhat overdrawn. Clearly, some pets, such as the enterprising hungry stray dog above, are finding plenty of food on their own, although it’s not exactly Alpo.

Some folks asked me why the MSM (mainstream media) doesn’t show these pics, and I said I did not know.

Clearly, the MSM have been carrying water for Bush for much of this disaster, though at the start, segments of the media demonstrated some rarely-seen backbone and stood up to Bush for once, as demonstrated in my previous post, New Orleans Is Gone.

Does the media not like to show disgusting pics like this, out of ethics (sic) or worry over being criticized for pandering (as if they don’t pander enough as it is)?

Not sure what the answer is. Feel free to weigh in.

Pics from Postman Patel, a fine British blog.

One more thing: alligators. Initial posts noted that rumors of alligators in NOLA after Katrina were unfounded. However, we now have verification, via Juan Cole’s blog, that alligators have in fact been lunching on folks in NOLA. Sorry folks, no pics yet. But I’m working on it.

What about other hungry critters? Anderson Cooper on CNN noted here that he observed rats eating corpses in NOLA. Sorry, no photos of that either.

I have received numerous complaints and comments about this post:

  1. The dog (there is only one dog in both pics) is not eating people but is instead a cadaver dog – dogs that work with police to locate corpses.
  2. Those are not corpses, but “dummies“.
  3. These photos and “sensationalistic captions” are a reflection of the “poor journalistic standards” of National Geographic and put it on a par with National Inquirer.
  4. They can’t be stray dogs because strays always operate in packs.
  5. This post is amateur, yellow-journalistic tripe, and its credibility is further weakened by appearing on a “random blog”.
  6. The dog is only interested in hands and feet and therefore must be a cadaver dog and cannot be a stray dog.
  7. I am not honest, and the MSM is objectively more honest than I am. (Now that’s insulting!)

In order to try to resolve these questions, I somehow tracked down the freelance photographer who took the second photo (I still can’t figure out who took the first photo).

Allen Frederickson is a freelance photographer from Milwaukee who was in NOLA after the flood to cover it as a photojournalist. I communicated with Fredrickson via email and phone to try to resolve some of the questions posed above about his photo. Here is his abridged email correspondence:

Robert, you present some interesting questions. I work for Reuters as a contact photographer, and have since August 1990. Faking or manipulating photos is not a smart practice, and something I do not engage in. Corbis [where one of the photos was found on the web] does some of the secondary sales for Reuters .

The photo in question was taken in New Orleans on at 3:39 PM (according to digital info on my camera) on September 5, not September 6, as National Geographic states on their website.

The photo was taken as I flew as an embedded photographer in a U.S. Army Chinook helicopter piloted by National Guard aviators. The Guard was engaged in repair of a levee wall very close to the south side of Lake Pontchartrain.

The dog in the photo appeared to be a stray, and the corpse was about 50 yards from the spot where 16,000 pound bags of sand (actually crushed limestone) were being dropped. On two separate runs, about 15 minutes apart, the dog appeared to be eating this poor man’s leg.

I cannot imagine the dog was simply licking his master, but that’s an outside possibility. The pilot of the Chinook told me he’d seen two dogs, a black one and this brown [or yellow] one, near the cadaver for the past three days, (September 3-5), as he helped drop bags. There were no live persons on the ground in the area, and no indications that either of the two dogs near this man would be cadaver dogs.

In his phone conversation with me, Allen basically reiterated these points. He said that cadaver dogs operate with police close by, and there were no police or any live humans period anywhere near this site for days on end. Furthermore, the dogs in question had been running wild and hanging around the corpses for three days prior, once again under no human supervision.

I think we can put this matter to rest and assume that this yellow dog was actually eating a human corpse in NOLA at 3:39 PM on September 5, 2005 on the south side of Lake Pontchartrain. Further, we can suspect that the same dog may have eaten another corpse around the same time frame (note the first pic from an unknown source).

We can also assume that the yellow dog and a black dog had possibly been eating at least the body in the second pic above for the prior three days.

Let us deal with the questions above. The dog in the pics is a stray dog, not a cadaver dog. The bodies were real bodies, not dummies. The fact that the what may be the same dog is eating two bodies is not relevant and does not prove he is a cadaver dog.

Dogs who eat people eat extremities, not just central areas, and cadaver dogs are not the only dogs who investigate extremities of corpses. Stray dogs do not always operate in packs, maybe especially after major disasters like this one.

Based on Fredrickson’s statements, National Geographic is not exercising poor, National Enquirer-style judgment in its photos or captions, nor am I dishonest.

The notion that blogs are an inherently dishonest medium is a common prejudice against us poor unpaid bloggers, and it seems to be without substance. Some bloggers are principled and fact-check (ahem), well while others are pretty atrocious and don’t check sources.

In contrast, the MSM has been demonstrably dishonest for a long time, as Noam Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent and other works make clear.

The second photo above (Fredrickson’s photo) has appeared in a number of other places on the Net. The original National Geographic site where the photo appeared is here. It also appeared on the Corbis site, where some posters nabbed it.

The first photo mysteriously appeared only on this strange site here. The site is accessible only through it’s uploads folder; the main page is blank. In the past, this odd page has been used to upload controversial photos to the web. Fredrickson says he did not take that shot, and he knows nothing about it. The page with the photo may be affiliated with the Indymedia Pittsburgh site here, based on its partial web address.

The Significance of the Refoundation of the Maoist Movement in Pakistan

This is an interesting document outlining the prospects for revolution in Pakistan.

If not for Islam, Pakistan would probably already be in a revolutionary situation right now.

Bangladesh, where objective conditions are just as bad as in India, if not worse, has seen little progress in an actual armed struggle by Maoist forces, mostly due to the presence of Islam. Islamic Bangladesh has recently seen a large movement towards Islamism, though the nation’s elites are still secular. The Islamic parties are very large and popular.

Your average poor, starving peasant, who ought to be on board with revolution, is instead wasting his time jerking off with Islamist reactinaries. The Islamist militias have attacked the Maoists many times, killing many cadres. The state is probably using them for this purpose. This is reminiscent of the situtation in Indonesia in 1965, when Islamist militias were used to kill 1 million Communists in less than a year, a massacre that the CIA was involved in from start to finish.

Every time revolution rears its head in the Islamic World, the Islamists immediately condemn them as “atheists” and slaughter them. I assume that your average religious Muslim supports this massacre of the apostates.

Since Islam is so embedded in the population, I am dubious at the prospects for revolution in Pakistan. The Islamists will quickly condemn the Maoists as “atheists” and will be free to slaughter them. Further, the state will use the Islamist militias, as it already does. For instance, the Pakistani state used the Islamist militias to kill Benazir Bhutto recently. Further, getting pegged as atheists will make it hard for the Maoists to get support.

The revolutionary situation in Hindu countries is much better for some reason. Maoism went over great in Nepal, and the Maoists are doing well in India. In Nepal, the Maoists simply asked, “What’s Hinduism done for you lately?” The answer in general was nothing. Hinduism was used via the caste system by local elites to repress the peasants in a feudal to semi-feudal manner. In India, most of the Hindu Maoists have not really given up Hinduism. I suspect that Hinduism is not as deeply embedded in your average peasant’s psyche as Islam is.

Nevertheless, I understand that the PMKP is already quite popular among peasants oppressed by semi-feudalism. They hold large rallies in favor of land rights and lots of peasants show up. I assume that they don’t directly attack Islam – that would be idiotic in Pakistan. I have a Pakistani friend who comes from a feudal landlord family, and even she supported the PMKP, saying they were good for the peasants.

At any rate, I don’t think a revolutionary situation exists in Pakistan right now, and it will be a while before one starts up. And that’s almost all due to Islam.

The Significance of the Refoundation of the Maoist Movement in Pakistan

August 12, 2010

A Statement to the Seventh National Congress of the Pakistan Mazdoor Kissan Party

From the General Secretary of Revolutionary Initiative

With our fists raised as high as our hopes for the future of the
Pakistani revolution, Revolutionary Initiative, a
Marxist-Leninist-Maoist pre-party formation in Canada, offers a red salute to the comrades convening the August 2010 7th National Congress of the Pakistan Mazdoor Kissan Party (Pakistan Workers and Peasants Party).

We understand that the 7th Congress will mark a return of the PMKP to the Maoist origins of the party, as established by its founders Major Ishaq Mohammed, Afzal Bungish, Eric Sperian, and Ghulam Nabi Kaloo in the 1960s.

The new program of the PMKP will effect a decisive break with the pseudo-alternatives currently being presented to the people of Pakistan: the perpetuation of a backward semi-colonial, semi-feudal society maintained by the pro-imperialist military and civil bureaucracy, comprador bourgeoisie, and feudal ruling elite; versus the equally backward social program offered up by the Taliban of
Pakistan. By breaking with the revisionist Left, which looks to U.S. imperialism for enlightenment through its brutal “War on Terror”, the PMKP is setting a course to truly rally the peasants, proletarians, and the progressive petty-bourgeois elements to the anti-imperialist cause.

Further, by exposing the program of the Taliban as fascism in a different form, the PMKP has truly placed itself at the vanguard of all the toiling masses in Pakistan.

Pakistan’s lackeys to the imperialists and the Taliban only appear to be irreconcilably opposing forces, but in practice they are two sides of the same coin. The world will never forget that it was U.S. imperialism, during the course of the Cold War, which helped create the Taliban with the unwavering support of the Pakistani state.

Due to the Pakistani ruling classes’ subservience to U.S. imperialism, the vast majority paid a steep price for the maintenance of the country’s incredible state of economic backwardness. Today, this relationship
has brought only new sufferings, with U.S. imperialism raining down drone attacks upon the heads of Pakistani civilians.

With a population of 170 million people, 48% of Pakistan’s labour force is involved in agricultural production. About 55% of the country’s population possesses no land at all. The vast majority of people in the countryside are exploited by landlords, usurers, merchants, and the religious institutions.

As the PMKP’s new draft program reads, it is the semi-colonial aspect of Pakistan’s countryside that remains the “main obstacle to the release of productive forces and the progress of our country”. This is what makes the heavily exploited and oppressed peasantry the “main force in the peoples democratic revolution carried out under the leadership of the proletariat.”

It is these conditions that make Pakistan ripe for People’s War. If the Maoists do not lead the struggle of the people, the Islamic forces will continue to prevail in their reactionary mobilization of the masses in their pseudo-opposition to U.S. imperialism.

The floods that are currently ravaging Pakistan, bringing great misery and dislocation to as much as 10% of the population and claiming thousands of lives, could be easily mitigated by a socialist society which places all the productive forces of society in the hands of the workers and peasants.

It is our hope that the floods do not derail the plans for the 7th Congress, but if they do, we know it will be because of the urgent need for the revolutionary vanguard to serve and guide the people in a time of great hardship. It is inevitable that the imperialists and the reactionaries in Pakistan will use the catastrophes to strengthen their legitimacy and order, just as the imperialists and reactionaries have done in Haiti with the great earthquake there in January 2010.

In addition to the great consequences that the rise of the Pakistani Maoist movement will have at the domestic level, the Pakistani revolution would also affect historic transformations at the regional and world levels.

Regionally, the revolution in Pakistan would carry the revolutionary tide sweeping South Asia deeper into the Muslim world, breaking the monopoly of the clerical fascists in the struggle against imperialism, which they do not fundamentally oppose and do so in appearance only for their own opportunistic and self-aggrandizing purposes.

At the world level, the rise of a revolutionary communist tide in Pakistan would deal a blow to the ideological basis of the imperialist ‘War on Terror’. In the Western imperialist countries, Muslims are being scapegoated to divert the rest of the masses from the true geopolitical and economic interests of the NATO bloc of imperialists: to plunder the world, exploit the toiling masses, and gain the upper hand in the inter-imperialist competition with the other imperialists and regional geopolitical rivals, especially Russia and China.

The masses in the West are blackmailed into supporting the imperialist war of aggression in Afghanistan through the specter of Taliban rule. But we know that the war against the Taliban, a war on domestic reactionaries and exploiting classes, can only be the class war of the toiling masses, not the imperialists. The world was reminded of this on May 1st, 2010 when the PMKP rallied and marched in North-West Frontier Province for the support of the revolution in Nepal.

We look forward, comrades, to the great feats that the people of Pakistan will achieve under the leadership of genuine communists guided by Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, and we will show the masses in our country that the people of Pakistan are our friends and comrades, and that they strive for genuine democracy, for socialism and for communism, just like ourselves.

If the PMKP, alongside our comrades of the Shola Jawid (Communist Party Maoist of Afghanistan) and Sarbederan (Communist Party of Iran-Maoist), successfully organize and arouse the masses for national democratic revolution by way of anti-imperialist People’s Wars in Central and South Asia, genuine communists all around the world will rally to your cause, learn important lessons from your struggle, and promote them amongst the proletarians of their home countries.

If the PMKP holds fast to Marxism-Leninism-Maoism after the convention of the 7th National Congress, deeply uprooting the revisionism of the past decades, and boldly applies MLM to the conditions of Pakistan, then a glorious future lays ahead for the people of Pakistan and South and Central Asia. The era of imperialism is the era of world proletarian revolution. In this phase imperialism’s strategic decline, the phase of the second great crisis of capitalist imperialism that has plagued the world since the early 1970s, the conditions for proletarian revolution are inexorably improving.

Finally, this message of solidarity would not be complete without our own organization clearly identifying Canadian imperialism as a leading enemy of the people of the world, including the people of your country. A leading player in the occupation of Afghanistan and NATO is Canadian imperialism, the basis of which is Canadian monopoly-finance capital. As the imperialist war in Afghanistan more and more spills over into your country, your connection to the Canadian proletariat’s revolutionary struggle deepens more and more.

The proletarian youth who are being sent to Afghanistan only to return to Canada in body bags are also the victims of imperialist war, but they must be driven from Afghanistan just the same. The ruinous war in Afghanistan sets the basis for revolutionary agitation amongst the soldiers, no less than the Korean War and the Vietnam War radicalized whole generations of youth and soldiers in the West.

Together, let us hasten the movement towards socialism and communism on a world scale before the imperialists drag us further into a hellish world of war, avertable disasters, ecological catastrophe, and the day-to-day grinding exploitation and oppression of capitalism.

Red salute to the PMKP for taking up the banner of Marxism-Leninism- Maoism!

Onwards with the People’s War in Pakistan!

From Canada to Pakistan, long live the international proletarian revolution.

Awesome Pics of October 2007 California Fires

Repost from the old site.

The fires in California last October 2007 were historic. 1,500 homes, 500,000 acres were burned, 9 people died, and 85 more were injured, including 85 firefighters. Here are some of the more spectacular pictures of the fires.

An incredible photo of Mount San Miguel burning during the Harris Fire on October 23, 2007. I was following all of these fires closely and I remember as this wall of flame charged down Mt. San Miguel towards the homes below. This horrible fire burned 206 homes and 252 outbuildings and damaged 253 structures. It killed 5 people and injured 55 more, 34 firefighters and 21 civilians. What an incredible fire. Those flames must be 100-200 feet high.

This photo still creeps me out. It reminds me of some popular horror movie like Friday the 13th. I keep expecting Freddy to pop out and start roaming the streets. This photo was taken in Irvine, California, and the fire is the Santiago Fire. The wall of smoke is so vast it seems to have blotted out the sun altogether. Awesome photo. I’m not sure when this was taken.

Another strange and very creepy photo. A number of fires were burning in and around Santa Clarita northeast of Los Angeles at the time that this photo was taken on October 21, 2007. The fires with the halos around them almost look like UFO’s. The homes in front lit up by street lights adds to the creepy effect.


A strange photo of the Santiago Fire taken on October 23, 2007. The Hellish-appearing flames of the fire seem to loom in the background, while another strange line that looks like headlights on a distant freeway burn closer to town. The photo was taken from Aliso Viejo, with Lake Forest in the foreground.

"On The Ground in Haiti," by Alpha Unit

New Alpha Unit on the Haiti catastrophe. I like Doctors Without Borders. A great organization.
Fractures. Burns. Open wounds. Amputations. These are some of the injuries and surgical necessities being dealt with in Haiti by Doctors Without Borders. They are reporting that they are now treating gunshot wounds. Understandably, violence has been on the increase in the aftermath of the earthquake that struck on January 12.
Not only has Doctors Without Borders set up hospitals in Port-au-Prince, they have paid special attention to western Haiti, location of the quake’s epicenter, where the devastation has resulted in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps. People are sleeping in the streets. So far there is very little help for them.
It’s all over the news that Doctors Without Borders, which already had a presence in Haiti, has had difficulty landing some of their cargo planes carrying surgical equipment and surgical teams. Apparently there is great confusion in giving planes the necessary clearance. According to Benoit Leduc, operations manager for Haiti, there isn’t a “smooth liaison” in decision making between the United States military and the United Nations.
Doctors Without Borders has been in the middle of humanitarian crises like this one since its founding in 1971. A group of French doctors created it after the Nigerian Civil War of 1967 to 1970. The southeastern region of Nigeria had broken off to form the independent nation of Biafra.
France had been the only major country to support Biafra (France wasn’t exactly neutral in all this; it had its own interests in the conflict.) Some French doctors had volunteered with the Red Cross to work in hospitals in the region. But the volunteers found themselves under attack by the Nigerian army, and also saw abuses against civilians.
A principle dear to the Red Cross was neutrality. It did not allow itself to take sides in any hostilities or inject itself into religious, political, or ideological disputes. These doctors wanted to focus solely on the needs of victims, without being beholden to appearances of “not taking sides.”
The group, in fact, does not take sides. But as they learned long ago, unfortunately, humanitarian groups have been attacked if ruling powers perceived them to be doing so.
Of course, Haiti is a different story. The enemy here seems to be the chaos following the devastation of last week’s earthquake. Life-saving endeavors proceed in spite of it.

“On The Ground in Haiti,” by Alpha Unit

New Alpha Unit on the Haiti catastrophe. I like Doctors Without Borders. A great organization.

Fractures. Burns. Open wounds. Amputations. These are some of the injuries and surgical necessities being dealt with in Haiti by Doctors Without Borders. They are reporting that they are now treating gunshot wounds. Understandably, violence has been on the increase in the aftermath of the earthquake that struck on January 12.

Not only has Doctors Without Borders set up hospitals in Port-au-Prince, they have paid special attention to western Haiti, location of the quake’s epicenter, where the devastation has resulted in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps. People are sleeping in the streets. So far there is very little help for them.

It’s all over the news that Doctors Without Borders, which already had a presence in Haiti, has had difficulty landing some of their cargo planes carrying surgical equipment and surgical teams. Apparently there is great confusion in giving planes the necessary clearance. According to Benoit Leduc, operations manager for Haiti, there isn’t a “smooth liaison” in decision making between the United States military and the United Nations.

Doctors Without Borders has been in the middle of humanitarian crises like this one since its founding in 1971. A group of French doctors created it after the Nigerian Civil War of 1967 to 1970. The southeastern region of Nigeria had broken off to form the independent nation of Biafra.

France had been the only major country to support Biafra (France wasn’t exactly neutral in all this; it had its own interests in the conflict.) Some French doctors had volunteered with the Red Cross to work in hospitals in the region. But the volunteers found themselves under attack by the Nigerian army, and also saw abuses against civilians.

A principle dear to the Red Cross was neutrality. It did not allow itself to take sides in any hostilities or inject itself into religious, political, or ideological disputes. These doctors wanted to focus solely on the needs of victims, without being beholden to appearances of “not taking sides.”

The group, in fact, does not take sides. But as they learned long ago, unfortunately, humanitarian groups have been attacked if ruling powers perceived them to be doing so.

Of course, Haiti is a different story. The enemy here seems to be the chaos following the devastation of last week’s earthquake. Life-saving endeavors proceed in spite of it.

Mountain Yellow-Legged Frogs in the Sierra Nevada

Repost from the old site.

I don’t write much about amphibians on here, but I am amphibian nut, in addition to being a mammal, reptile and bird nut. I would be a plant and insect nut too if I could only figure out how to identify them. I’m interested in fish, but they are a little harder to observe in the wild unless they are at the end of your hook.

Anyway, I have long taken an interest in amphibians here in California and to a much lesser extent, throughout the entire West. I am particularly interested in threatened and endangered amphibians here in the state.

The mountain yellow-legged frog has declined disastrously here in the state, starting with heavy fish stocking in the Sierras by pack mules, and then declining wildly with arial stocking of high country lakes via airplane that began after World War 2. This arial stocking has since proven to be one of the stupidest things that the California Department of Fish and Game has ever done.

Every year, countless fingerlings were dropped into lakes all up and down the Sierras, even though after a while almost all of these lakes had completely self-sustaining populations and many lakes saw few if any fishermen in a given year. Furthermore, the populations grew so high that the fish became stunted and malnourished.

In addition, they caused serious problems to the entire ecosystem of the Sierra. This is because in general, fish were absent from much of the high country in the Sierra. The exception was in the Southern Sierra, where the golden trout was native. In the North, Paiute Cutthroats and Lahontan Cutthroats were native to some streams.

Rainbow trout were present, but mostly at the lower elevations. Apparently the streams were so steep that trout were not able to climb up the rivers and creeks to even get into the high country. When men first came in numbers to the High Sierras in the late 1800’s, they found most waterways devoid of fish.

However, there were vast populations of amphibians, in particular mountain yellow-legged frogs. They were so numerous at many high country lakes that you could almost hardly walk around without almost stepping on them.

Before World War 2, limited fish stocking began in the Sierras. Stocking was done in the high country via mule trains and was not particularly effective. However, the stocking was already starting to cause declines in the mountain yellow-legged frog population.

After WW2, arial stocking began and soon turned into a comedy routine and a massive waste of taxpayer money. The CDFG was addicted to fish stocking in the Sierras and refused to stop it or even study it even when environmental groups demanded that they do so.

CDFG claimed that the fish stocking program was somehow exempt from CEQA, California’s landmark environmental law and probably the one law that California’s business class hates more than anything else. Business interests have been trying to get rid of CEQA for decades now, but it’s not going anywhere.

The reason environmental groups wanted the stocking stopped was because studies began to show that fish were having a devastating effect on the mountain yellow-legged frog (MYLF) populations. This is because the MYLF did not evolve in the presence of fish and hence had adopted no defenses against them. Wherever fish were present, MYLF was either not present or there in only reduced numbers.

The fact that CDFG dragged their heels on protecting the MYLF for ages shows that CDFG hardly has an environmentalist agenda at all. They almost never propose any species for threatened or endangered (T & E) status anymore, and usually reject almost all petitions by environmental groups to list anything. They hardly protect anything once it does get listed anyway, so one wonders what good the listing even does.

The CDFG screams that budget cuts means they can’t do anything at all, and another problem is that much of their budget is funded out of fishing and hunting licenses. I have met quite a few individual biologists who work for the agency and by and large they are good folks. I think that there are political appointees at the top that thwart just about anything reasonable getting done though.

It’s not well understood that California is not really a very liberal state in many ways. The voters are still mostly White and older and they are much more conservative than the population as a whole.

Despite blatherings by White Nationalists that Euro Whites are the only race that bother to protect any nonhuman life that lacks utilitarian use for man, since 1980 and US Whites voting rightwing, there has been no greater enemy of the environment and nonhuman life in the US than Whites.

These Whites have solidly supported a pro-business and pro-corporate agenda that has declared war on the environment and every living thing in it. If we let capitalists have their way, they will exterminate all nonutilitarian nonhuman life on this planet, all because those living things get in the way of making a buck.

Hence we have a state run by Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger that is almost totally beholden to corporate and business interests. This has been the case for every California governor since Jerry Brown.

Anyway, various hypotheses have been proposed for the decline of the MYLF. The non-native fish hypothesis has born out well. Pesticides from the Central Valley drifting up the mountains have also been suspected in the decline, along with the ozone hole.

There is some evidence that pesticides are related to MYLF declines, but testing the ozone hole hypothesis has shown that a thinning ozone layer is not frying frog eggs, even at high elevations. However, the thinning ozone layer has been having a bad effect on other frog and toad species. It seems that different species are variably effected by the thinning ozone layer.

Another hypothesis has been that a fungus called chytrid has been killing MYLF’s. This seems to be the case, and the killings are accelerating. Chytrid has been devastating frog and toad populations in various distant parts of the world, especially North, Central and South America and Australia.

An article was recently published in the journal Nature claiming that global warming was causing chytrid to spread. However, a subsequent article was published in another journal that seemed to indicate that global warming had not been proven to be behind chytrid’s spread. A cautious analysis seems to indicate that neither side has proven its case yet.

This particular type of chytrid seems to have escaped from a lab in Australia and has since been devastating frog and toad populations. First it pounded populations in Australia, then it moved to the Americas. Frogs and toads may not have evolved with this fungus, so it’s been hammering them hard. If any frogs and toads can survive the fungus, they may be able to pass on an immunity to it and enable the species to survive.

There have been widespread chytrid outbreaks in the Sierras in recent years. Just when some recent efforts to eliminate fish from some national park waters in the Sierra seemed to be bearing fruit, the fungus has been nailing the MYLF but hard. There have been 25-30% reductions of all types of frog populations in the Sierra over the past five years due to the fungus.

One theory is that the fungus has always been there but that recent environmental changes such as industrial and agricultural contaminants in the air, the frogs’ immune systems have been compromised, making them susceptible to the fungus.

However, some populations get hit very hard by the fungus for a while and then bounce back. The theory is that they have some sort of genetic resistance to the fungus. If this is true, then maybe the MYLF can survive in the Sierra after all.

As usual, the Bush Administration, the most anti-environmental President in recent history, refused to list the MYLF although it has been petitioned repeatedly. The most recent designation is “warranted but precluded “.

This is a sickening game that the Fish and Wildlife Service has been playing for some time now, dating back the “liberal” Clinton Era. The game says that the species qualifies for listing, but there are no funds to list it. It’s just a despicable bureaucratic game. How much does it cost to publish a listing notice in the Federal Register? Very little.

At the same time that the Administration pricks whine that there is no money to list any new species, they cynically and dishonestly cut the budget for listing new species! “Liberal” Bill Clinton started this bullshit, but Bush took it to overdrive. Sometimes, there is no lower life form than a politician.

Anyway, there are all sorts of species sitting on this idiotic warranted but precluded crap list for ages now. As the MYLF has declined by 93.3% in the last 100 years, that’s an endangered listing right there, and I’m not even a biologist. I know the listing criteria.

The Southern California population, which may be a separate species, is virtually extinct. It has declined by 99%. The Bush Administration did list this frog, but it’s almost gone anyway, as there are only 79 frogs left.

Probably no man has done more to save the MYLF than Roland Knapp, a Research Biologist at the University of California Sierra Nevada Aquatic Research Laboratory.

These guys associated with universities are usually pretty honest and non-corrupted, while the fisheries and wildlife biologists and botanists I met working for the local National Forest were some of the most awful, corrupted and dishonest people I have ever met. If you don’t care about species and whether they go extinct or not, don’t take a job with the feds dedicated to protecting them.

The local national forest, the Sierra National Forest, is doing absolutely nothing to my knowledge to protect MYLF and MYLF is almost gone from Sierra National Forests anyway. Truth is that even USFS wildlife and fisheries biologists are ecstatic if a rare species of extirpated or nearly extirpated from their forest. Now we don’t have to save it! Less paperwork! I’m not kidding.

It was Knapp’s research a while back that conclusively proved that it was nonnative fish that were driving the MYLF extinct.

Knapp’s MYLF blog. Knapp’s MYLF page.

Fishermen are understandably upset about fish removal projects in the Sierras. To date, these projects have been very limited. It is probable that the main reason that the Feds are not listing the frog is that a listing would mandate fish removal from many or most Sierra waters. Those fish were not even there to begin with, and the MYLF is only present at high elevations anyway. There are plenty of low elevations to fish in.

I’ve done fishing in the High Sierras myself, but if you are so shallow that you can’t hike into the High Sierras and just dig it for what it is without wetting a line, I don’t even think you should even be back there.

Even better, fish removal would probably reduce the number of humans in the backcountry. It’s mostly wilderness anyway, so why do we need tons of people back there? They can remove the fish from most of those waters for all I care. If there are no fish in the lakes, just bring a book or lie on your back or explore around all day.

Recent research indicates that there are three separate genetic units of the MYLF in the Sierras, a Northern, Central and Southern genetic unit. At present, these have been split off into a new species, the Sierra Yellow-Legged Frog , or Rana Sierrae.

The Southern California population and some southern Sierra populations have been split into a whole new species, the Southern Mountain Yellow-Legged Frog. Distribution maps for Rana Sierrae and Rana Muscosa. Rationale for the split. The two species are estimated to have split 2.4 million (!) years ago. Hence, the Mountain Yellow-Legged Frog, the subject of this post, no longer exists in its former form.

This split was done on the basis of an article last year (Vredenburg et al 2007). Whether the three separate genetic clades of the Sierra Yellow-Legged Frog warrant splits into subspecies has not yet been determined. In order to split into subspecies, usually a certain X genetic distance must be shown.

In February of this year, the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned again to list Rana Sierrae as endangered. Surely it qualifies.

Lots of cool frog, tadpole and terrain photos at the links.

References

Lips, Karen R., Diffendorfer, Jay, Mendelson III, Joseph R., Sears, Michael W. 2008. Riding the Wave: Reconciling the Roles of Disease and Climate Change in Amphibian Declines. PLoS Biology Vol. 6, No. 3.Pounds JA, Bustamante MR, Coloma LA, Consuegra JA, Fogden MPL, et al. 2006. Widespread Amphibian Extinctions From Epidemic Disease Driven by Global Warming. Nature 39: 161–167.

Vredenburg, V. T., R. Bingham, R. Knapp, J. A. T. Morgan, C. Moritz, and D. Wake. 2007. Concordant Molecular And Phenotypic Data Delineate New Taxonomy And Conservation Priorities For The Endangered Mountain Yellow-Legged Frog. Journal of Zoology 271:361-374.

Tsunami Kills 134 People in Samoa

An incredibly huge 7.9-8.3 magnitude earthquake hit the South Pacific early on Tuesday.
The tsunami caused some waves that were 5 feet above height, and there were deaths from the tsunami in both American Samoa and Western Samoa, over 100 deaths in Western Samoa and 34 deaths in American Samoa. 1 New Zealander, 3 Koreans and 1 Australian were among the victims. 6 Australians and 1 Koreans were still missing. 5% of the Australians living in Samoa were either killed or missing. Another 145 people were injured and whole villages were wiped out.
Fautasi was one village that was completely obliterated. There were at least 5 dead in the village, and the death toll there could go into the 100’s in that village alone. The village of Salesatele was destroyed, and 37 bodies have been found there.
A reporter saw at least 20 bodies in the southeastern town of Lalomanu. The town and surrounding region were flattened. There were 7-8 dead in Malaela, and many are missing. There were also many dead in Vailoa and Aleipata.
The village of Sau Sau Beach Fale was wiped out. There were also an unknown number of deaths in Talamoa. 40 bodies had been brought to the local hospital in Apia. 20 bodies were seen in a hospital in the city of Upolu. 100 bodies were reported from the southern coast alone and the total was rising all the time.
Tsunamis were recorded at Apia and Pago Pago in American Samoa. Tsunami waves 15-20 feet high struck Tutuila Island, where Pago Pago is, and moved up to 1.6 miles inland. The National Park Service office on the island was completely obliterated. 80% of the park workers are volunteers are missing.
Hawaii was spared by the tsunami, but waves 1-2 feet higher than normal hit the California coast a couple of hours ago.

Awesome Pics of October 2007 California Fires

Repost from the old site.
The fires in California last October 2007 were historic. 1,500 homes and 500,000 acres were burned, 9 people died, and 85 more were injured, including 85 firefighters. Here are some of the more spectacular pictures of the fires.

An incredible photo of Mount San Miguel burning during the Harris Fire on October 23, 2007. I was following all of these fires closely and I remember as this wall of flame charged down Mt. San Miguel towards the homes below. This horrible fire burned 206 homes and 252 outbuildings and damaged 253 structures. It killed 5 people and injured 55 more, 34 firefighters and 21 civilians. What an incredible fire. Those flames must be 100-200 feet high.This photo still creeps me out. It reminds me of some popular horror movie like Friday the 13th. I keep expecting Freddy to pop out and start roaming the streets. This photo was taken in Irvine, California, and the fire is the Santiago Fire. The wall of smoke is so vast it seems to have blotted out the sun altogether. Awesome photo. I’m not sure when this was taken.
Another strange and very creepy photo. A number of fires were burning in and around Santa Clarita northeast of Los Angeles at the time that this photo was taken on October 21, 2007. The fires with the halos around them almost look like UFO’s. The homes in front lit up by street lights adds to the creepy effect.
A strange photo of the Santiago Fire taken on October 23, 2007. The Hellish-appearing flames of the fire seem to loom in the background, while another strange line that looks like headlights on a distant freeway burn closer to town. The photo was taken from Aliso Viejo, with Lake Forest in the foreground.

Final Katrina Death Toll at 4,081

Repost from the old blog. I received a lot of criticism for this, but this is still probably the best death toll for direct and indirect deaths for Hurricane Katrina out there.
I used my own total of 1,723 direct deaths combined with testimony about a study done after the hurricane that showed a huge increase in excess deaths in the period after the hurricane was over. The resulting total of 4,081 is probably the most accurate total out there for direct and indirect deaths from the storm so far, unless someone has added in some more indirect deaths. This figure came under some criticism, but it is based on the solid epidemiological theory of excess mortality.
My official death toll of 1,723, representing deaths due to immediate and direct effects of the storm, has not changed since August 22, 2006. However, we now have a fascinating document that comes from testimony delivered to Congress, which has caused me to raise the total deaths from Katrina due to direct and immediate plus delayed effects to 4,081.
For those who are interested, a list of 1,195 people who were killed in the hurricane is available here.
The testimony was part of a hearing titled Post Katrina Health Care: Continuing Concerns and Immediate Needs in the New Orleans Region given before the House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations on March 13, 2007.
The list of speakers is here. Of particular interest in terms of the Katrina death toll was the testimony given by a physician, Dr. Kevin Stephens, Sr., Director pf the New Orleans Health Department.
In his testimony (pdf), Stephens points out that New Orleans already had serious public health problems before the hurricane, including large numbers of poor and uninsured people. The number of doctors has been reduced by 70% and the number of hospital beds in Orleans Parish has been reduced by 75%.
In some areas such as the Lower Ninth Ward and New Orleans East in Orleans Parish and Chalmette and other places in St. Bernard Parish, residents have no access to health care whatsoever. Mental health is another serious problem: even last year, 20% of residents reported suffering from severe stress and depression.
Yet the number of mental health inpatient beds has been reduced by 83% and the number of psychiatrists has dropped by 90%. Residents reported observing a larger than usual number of death notices in the newspaper, even long after Katrina and into 2006. At the same time, even months after the storm, residents reported going to more funerals than they ever had.
These anecdotal reports caused Stephens and a team to undertake a study to count the number of death notices in the New Orleans Times-Picayune and compare it to a reference year which would serve as a baseline. 2003 was chosen as a reference year. The data can be seen on page nine of the testimony linked above.
In the first six months of 2003, 5,544 deaths were counted. In the first six months of 2006, 7,902 were counted, an increase of 2,358 deaths over baseline in the post-Katrina period. Based on this, we will assign 2,358 deaths as caused by the accelerated death rates that occurred in New Orleans even long after the storm.
Although the population of New Orleans is only 1/2 what it was prior to the storm, the obituaries covered not only New Orleans but also included many of the refugees tossed about to various parts of the country.
Based on this new information, we can add the previous toll of 1,723 to the new post-Katrina figure of 2,358 to posit a new unofficial death toll of 4,081. Possible causes of the excess deaths in 2006 include stress, suicide, pollution, contamination, impoverishment and the devastation of the heath sector after Katrina. For instance, the suicide rate tripled in the first 10 months after Katrina.
Thanks to Ezra Boyd of Louisiana State University for sending me this information.

Louisiana 20061: Tue., Mar. 13, 2007: 2,358
Louisiana:       Mon., Aug. 2, 2006:  1,464
Mississippi:     Tue., Jan. 24, 2006:   238
Florida:         Mon., Jan. 9, 2006:     14
Georgia:         Mon., Jan. 9, 2006:      2
Alabama:         Mon., Jan. 9, 2006:      2
Ohio2:           Wed., Aug. 31, 2005:     2
Kentucky3:       Wed., Aug. 31, 2005:     1
Total:                                4,081

Footnoted totals are controversial. Explanations for controversial totals follows:
1The explanation for the 2,358 excess deaths in the first six months of 2006 as compared to the baseline of the first six months of 2003, presumably due to various effects of Hurricane Katrina, is above. This total reflects deaths due to delayed effects, whereas the other figures all represent more immediate and direct effects of the storm.
2The two Ohio victims are Cassondra Ground, 19, of Monroeville, Ohio, and Thelma Niedzinski, 84, of Norwalk, Ohio. Both were killed in a car accident near Monroeville, Ohio on August 30, 2005. The Ohio State Highway Patrol felt that a wet road caused by Hurricane Katrina caused the car accident. See Ohioans Focus on Helping Katrina Victims, Jay Cohen, Associated Press, August 31, 2005.
3The Kentucky victim was Deanna Petsch, 10, of Hopkinsville, Kentucky. On August 29, 2005, she fell into a Hurricane Katrina-swollen ditch in Hopkinsville and drowned. See Storm Surge: State Gets Soaked, City Avoids Major Flooding, Homes, Life Lost in Hopkinsville, Sheldon S. Shafer and James Malone, The Louisville (Kentucky) Courier-Journal, August 31, 2005.
Update: This post has been linked on the always-excellent blog Majikthise and criticized in the comments there. The comments question how the 2,368 excess deaths after Katrina can possibly be attributed to Hurricane Katrina. Answer: They cannot.
But using that number is perfectly in accord with the Theory of Excess Mortality. That theory is widely used by epidemiologists, and was used by Les Roberts’ team to come up with the figure of 655,000 excess deaths in Iraq since the US invasion.
Dr. Gideon Polya has done a lot of work in the area of excess mortality and avoidable mortality, some of which has been published in peer-reviewed journals. Examples of his work are here, here and here.
Can we prove that anything in particular is causing excess mortality in any particular place, absent disaster or war? Nope. But something is killing people in various places at various times at an excessive rate. Anecdotal evidence indicated that many more people than normal were dying in New Orleans in the three to nine months post-Hurricane Katrina. Something was killing them.
They just didn’t up and decide that 2006 was a nice year for dying. Barring other reasonable factors, we may assume that Hurricane Katrina had something to do with the excess deaths in New Orleans. The theory and methodology used in my Katrina excess deaths post in no less rigorous than that used by Roberts, Polya and epidemiologists everywhere.
This comment in the same thread on Majikthise backs up my comments quite well.
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Final Katrina Direct Death Toll At 1,723

Repost from the old blog. This is my tally of the final death toll from Hurricane Katrina from a number of sources. I am not sure if it differs a bit from the official toll, but if it does, I am confident that my total if the better one. It was quoted as the official toll on Wikipedia for a long time.
Update: The indirect Katrina death toll has risen from 1,723 to 4,098 as of March 13, 2007. See my post, Final Katrina Death Toll at 4,081 for details. A list of 1,195 people who were killed in Hurricane Katrina is available on this website here.
For what it’s worth, Seth Abramson, an attorney/poet blogger, has been hammering away at the discrepancies in Mississippi’s death toll for some time now, making various allegations that Haley Barbour is hiding the real death toll in Mississippi.
It is true that the suicide rate in New Orleans went up after Hurricane Katrina for a number of months, but the only figures available are per 1000,000 population figures, and until we can determine the population of New Orleans month by month post-Katrina, there is no way to figure out what that number is.
It is helpful to look at a couple of overviews of what Hurricane Katrina actually was. First, a timeline, and then a fact sheet (both the timeline and the fact sheet are from the producers of Surviving Katrina, a promising documentary directed by Phil Craig and produced by the Discovery Channel. This film will be showing on August 27 at 9 PM across the US:

Timeline

Tuesday, August 23, 2005
Hurricane Katrina starts forming over the Bahamas and is identified by the National Hurricane Centre at 5 PM as Tropical Depression 12.
Wednesday, August 24
Tropical Depression 12 strengthens into a tropical storm and is named Katrina.
Thursday, August 25
Katrina strikes Florida as a Category 1 hurricane with winds of 80 MPH.
Long-range forecasting predicts Katrina will make landfall in the Florida Panhandle, well to the East of New Orleans. It is expected that Katrina will move immediately in a northward direction.
Friday, August 26
At 5 PM, Hurricane Katrina moves into the Gulf of Mexico and quickly grows into a category 2 hurricane with 100 MPH winds. As Hurricane Katrina enters the Gulf of Mexico conditions are perfect for a hurricane to rapidly intensify:
1) Warm ocean temperatures
2) Moist atmospheric conditions
3) A lack of wind sheer (winds that disrupt the motion of a storm)
High pressures over the Gulf drive Katrina further west. Katrina is moving in a westerly direction and the National Hurricane Center forecast track shifts towards New Orleans. The Florida Panhandle is no longer in Katrina’s sights and landfall is now expected somewhere in Mississippi or Louisiana.
Saturday, August 27
At 4 AM, Katrina is now a Category 3 storm and continues to move in a westerly direction. Katrina also continues to rapidly intensify due to the sustained conditions for hurricane growth in the Gulf of Mexico.
The hurricane forecast track has Katrina moving northwest over the next 24 hours towards New Orleans at a speed of 7 MPH. Katrina is roughly 435 miles south of the Mississippi River.
A Category 5 hurricane is a very rare occurrence; typically we only see one every two years in the Atlantic. Conditions in recent years, however, have been ideal for the fueling of massive Category 5 hurricanes.
Sunday, August 28
At 1 AM, Katrina is upgraded to a Category 4 hurricane with winds of 145 MPH. Six hours later, Katrina is upgraded to a Category 5 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 160 MPH.
The National Weather Service issues this Advisory at 7 AM:

A Hurricane Warning is in effect for the north central gulf coast from Morgan City, Louisiana eastward to the Alabama/Florida border – including the City of New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain – preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion.

At 4 PM, the National Weather Service continues to update on the potential threat to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast from storm surge:

Coastal storm surge flooding of 18 to 22 feet above normal tide levels – locally as high as 28 feet – along with large and dangerous battering waves – can be expected near and to the east of where the center makes landfall. Some levees in New Orleans area could be overtopped. Significant storm surge will occur elsewhere along the central and northeastern Gulf of Mexico Coast.

Monday, August 29
In the early hours of Monday morning, Katrina begins to weaken and by 2 AM is already classed by the National Weather Service as a Category 4 storm.
At 5 AM, one hour before Katrina’s first landfall, Katrina’s associated storm surge begins to cross Lake Borgne from the Gulf of Mexico and starts to batter the eastern flood defenses of Greater New Orleans. The storm surge is also carried towards the city’s Industrial Canal and Lake Pontchartrain along the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway.
Storm surge heights at landfall peaked at around 25 feet as they came ashore – the largest recorded in U.S. history – breaking the previous record set by Hurricane Camille in 1969. Storm surges can be the most devastating part of a hurricane and in Katrina’s case, the storm surges proved much more destructive than the hurricane winds.
Hurricane Katrina makes landfall over the Mississippi Delta as a near Category 4 storm and then makes another landfall on the Mississippi-Louisiana border as a Category 3 hurricane. Hurricane Katrina’s core winds hit the Mississippi Coast and New Orleans experiences the weaker winds on the western side of Katrina.
These winds, moving from the North to the South, create a second storm surge on Lake Pontchartrain – about 11 feet high – which races towards the northern flood defenses of the city, ultimately leading to the breaches in the 17th Street and London Avenue drainage canals that flood Metropolitan New Orleans.
By 2 PM Katrina has weakened to a Category 2 storm as it continues to move inland. By Tuesday, Katrina weakens to a tropical depression.

Hurricane Katrina Fact Sheet

Hurricane Katrina was one of the deadliest hurricanes in the history of the United States, killing over 1,700 people.

  • The confirmed death toll (total of direct and indirect deaths) stood at 1,723, mainly from Louisiana (1,464) and Mississippi (238). However, 135 people remain categorized as missing in Louisiana, so this number is not final. Many of the deaths are indirect. It is almost impossible to determine the exact cause of some of the fatalities.
  • Katrina was the largest hurricane of its strength to approach the United States in recorded history; its sheer size caused devastation over 100 miles (160 km) from the center. The storm surge caused major or catastrophic damage along the coastlines of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, including the cities of Mobile, Alabama, Biloxi and Gulfport, Mississippi, and Slidell, Louisiana.
  • Katrina was the eleventh named storm, the fifth hurricane, the third major hurricane, and the second category 5 hurricane of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season. It was also the sixth strongest hurricane ever recorded, and the third strongest landfalling U.S. hurricane ever recorded.
  • New Orleans’ levee failures were found to be primarily the result of system design flaws, combined with the lack of adequate maintenance. According to an investigation by the National Science Foundation, those responsible for the conception, design, construction, and maintenance of the region’s flood-control system apparently failed to pay sufficient attention to public safety.
  • Hurricane Katrina was the costliest hurricane in U.S. history, with estimated damages resulting in $75 billion (in 2005 US dollars).
  • > As of April 2006, the Bush Administration has sought $105 billion for repairs and reconstruction in the region. This does not account for damage to the economy caused by potential interruption of the oil supply and exports of commodities such as grain.
  • More than seventy countries pledged monetary donations or other assistance. Kuwait made the largest single pledge, $500 million; other large donations were made by Qatar ($100 million), India, China (both $5 million), Pakistan ($1.5 million), and Bangladesh ($1 million).
  • The total shut-in oil production from the Gulf of Mexico in the six-month period following the hurricane was approximately 24% of the annual production and the shut-in gas production for the same period was about 18%.
  • The forestry industry in Mississippi was also affected, as 1.3 million acres of forest lands were destroyed. The total loss to the forestry industry due to Katrina is calculated to rise to about $5 billion.
  • Hundreds of thousands of local residents were left unemployed, which will have a trickle-down effect as lower taxes are paid to local governments. Before the hurricane, the region supported approximately one million non-farm jobs, with 600,000 of them in New Orleans. It is estimated that the total economic impact in Louisiana and Mississippi may exceed $150 billion.
  • The American Red Cross, Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, Common Ground Collective, Emergency Communities, and many other charitable organizations provided housing, food, and water to victims of the storm. These organizations also provided an infrastructure for shelters throughout Louisiana and other states that held thousands of refugees.
Louisiana:   Mon., Aug. 2, 2006:   1,464
Mississippi: Tue., Jan. 24, 2006:  238
Florida:     Mon., Jan. 9, 2006:   14
Georgia:     Mon., Jan. 9, 2006:   2
Alabama:     Mon., Jan. 9, 2006:   2
Ohio1:       Wed., Aug. 31, 2005:  2
Kentucky2:   Wed., Aug. 31, 2005:  1
Total:                             1,723

Footnoted totals are controversial. Explanations for controversial totals follows:
1The two Ohio victims are Cassondra Ground, 19, of Monroeville, Ohio, and Thelma Niedzinski, 84, of Norwalk, Ohio. Both were killed in a car accident near Monroeville, Ohio on August 30, 2005. The Ohio State Highway Patrol felt that a wet road caused by Hurricane Katrina caused the car accident. See Ohioans Focus on Helping Katrina Victims, Jay Cohen, Associated Press, August 31, 2005.
2The Kentucky victim was Deanna Petsch, 10, of Hopkinsville, Kentucky. On August 29, 2005, she fell into a Hurricane Katrina-swollen ditch in Hopkinsville and drowned. See Storm Surge: State Gets Soaked, City Avoids Major Flooding, Homes, Life Lost in Hopkinsville, Sheldon S. Shafer and James Malone, The Louisville (Kentucky) Courier-Journal, August 31, 2005.
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List of Hurricane Katrina Victims

Repost from the old blog. This is to the best of my knowledge, the best and most up to date list of the victims of Hurricane Katrina that available. It was very hard to find, hidden in an obscure corner of the Net, and soon after I grabbed it, the professor who put it up there took it down. To my knowledge, he has not reposted it. If there is a better one out there, let me know.
Finally, at long last, we have an accessible list of victims of Hurricane Katrina. It’s not complete at all, as it only lists 1,195 victims, but it’s a start anyway. The Louisiana Health Department has released a list of 828 victims, but I don’t know where to find that list, and it’s incomplete anyway.
Listing of victims has been quite haphazard. Mississippi listed those directly killed by the storm, while Louisiana chose to list indirect deaths. John Mutter, a professor of geophysics at Colombia University’s Earth Institute, was frustrated by the seeming lack of an accurate death toll, so he decided to try to tally up his own.
Mutter wants a complete list of everyone killed by the storm, directly and indirectly. His list is now pretty much hidden and very hard to find, but in March 2007 I did manage to track it down to an obscure website on Mutter’s homepage. However, he has now removed the list and is not responding to emails about it. I have placed the file here.
The file is an Excel spreadsheet and you need to have a program capable of reading Excel spreadsheets in order to read the document.
I also have a large and detailed report in pdf that breaks the deaths down into all sorts of categories. It is available here.
The list has 1,195 victims listed on it, with a few facts about each victim included in their entry. Mutter’s list is dated October 26, 2006 and there does not seem to be a more updated list. Mutter’s list contains names that are not on the official state tallies. Here is the website for Mutter’s project at Colombia. You can also send him data on any hurricane deaths that may not appear on the list from a form on the site.
As this article makes clear, it seems there are storm victims who have not made it onto either list. Some are well-known, such as Sgt. Paul Accardo of the New Orleans Police Department, who committed suicide a mere six days after the storm.
Others include Jerome “Slim Rome” Spears and his fiance Rachel Harris. Spears shot Harris to death and then killed himself in a rental home in Atlanta, where they had moved as unemployed refugees after the storm.
Some are elderly, such as Dorothy and Sam Cerniglia and Yvonne Aubry. All three saw their health begin a rapid slide to death after the storm hit, dying of conditions that previously had been well-managed.
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The Recrudescence of Lake Aggasiz

Why is Fargo, North Dakota flooding?
I’m not happy with the current explanation, that a massive snow melt combined with ice jams in the Red River have combined to put the river 22 feet above flood level in a frighteningly flat and painfully wide flood plain. The result is bizarre – a huge prairie lake with with sunken civilization islands here and there, dotted with towns and cities somehow barely spared behind towering dikes. But historically speaking, such a vast lake of the prairies is something the land knows too well.
Hence, my preferred explanation. Not meteorology and hydrolics, but instead, a haunting.
From 8,400 years ago, the ghost of the greatest lake that ever existed returning to stalk the frozen plains.

How To Drive In Rain, Snow and Sleet

I visit and used to live in a part of California that gets lots of all three. For the past several days up here, it has been raining (mostly), sleeting (a lot less) and snowing (just some). Go up the hill a bit, and it starts sleeting and then snowing a lot more. I have front wheel drive (really necessary for driving in that crap) but I hate putting on chains. Here, we don’t salt the roads and no one has snow tires.
People put on snow chains or snow cables instead. I think that’s a royal PITA, so generally I refuse to do it. I’ll just stay home and wait until the snow melts. At this elevation, the snow never lasts long anyway.
I had to drive a bit in the snow on Friday in order to get home. They had a sign saying “Chains Required” at around 1,900 feet, but there were no cops around, so I kept going. The snow was very wet and slushy, you could pretty much drive in it, and there were road tracks cleared in the snow by car tires. I drove very slowly though, and I was pretty scared.
Later, driving into the housing development, you were driving on pure snow, and that was more of a mess. One thing I noticed was that 15 mph was about the proper speed for driving in pure snow with no chains. When I slowed down to 10 mph, I started to bog down in the snow. Heading up more towards 15 mph was better because then I could sort of smash through the stuff. So it looks like it is possible to drive too slow in the snow.
A similar theory must hold for driving in mud, which I do as little of as possible, as it is very easy to get stuck in mud. Drive too slow, and you may just get mud-stuck. You may need to speed up a bit in the mud to smash right through it.
I’ve already run my car off the road three times in the snow in Oakhurst over 15 years. You get hit with a sudden snowstorm out of the blue and you are just stuck in the mess. Or it starts snowing and you think you can make it to where you want to go but you can’t. Both times caused me some monetary damage to my vehicle.
I meet folks down in the Central Valley who say, “Wow, you were up in the snow! That must be so cool!” The Hell it’s cool. I lived in the snow for 16 years. I’ve had enough of the snow for a lifetime. Snow means I can’t drive my car. Snow means I have to be careful walking around or I might slip and fall on my ass. And around here, snow usually means the power goes out, over and over. Snow has caused me $100’s in car repairs. Who needs the snow? What’s so good about it?
Around here, sleet is nothing. You just drive slower than in the rain but not as slow as in the snow. I haven’t crashed yet in sleet. It’s scary, but it’s drivable.
I also drove in some hail the other day. That was pretty weird. After it hails for a while, the road and scenery starts looking white like it just snowed. I slid on a hail-slicked road once, but I didn’t crash. I’ve never crashed in hail either. Hail means really slow down. On Monday, I was driving about 35-40 mph in that messy hail, and the speed limit was 55 mph. Still I got idiot after idiot piling up behind me.
What about ice? Ice is truly horrible. I crashed once on ice, in January 1976 in Snoqualmie Pass in the state of Washington. You couldn’t even see it, and there wasn’t any snow along the road. I guess the road looked sort of shiny, but it wasn’t obvious. The car just turned into an amusement park ride, and next thing I knew, my buddy and I were in a ditch. We were really stoned on Thai weed, so we thought it was hilarious.
Truthfully, it wasn’t all that funny. On the other side of the road, there wasn’t any ditch. There was a mountain slope. We would have headed down that thing and probably run into a tree. Ever run into a tree in a car? You don’t want to do that. No matter how fast you’re going, you’re going zero miles an hour after you hit that tree. No fun.
Rain is interesting. A friend of mine said the other day, “It’s really not possible to drive too slow in the (hard) rain.” That was one of the smartest things I’ve heard in a while! How can you drive too slow in the rain? You can’t. If it’s raining, slow down, idiots!
Here in California, no one knows how to drive in the rain. Californians always speed in the rain. If you drive slow and sensibly in the hard rain (that means driving about 35-40 mph), you get endless trains of clowns piling up behind you, and you have to keep pulling over to let them pass.
I’ve never crashed a car in the rain, and I’ve been driving in the rain my whole life. How do you crash a car in the rain? By being an idiot. Almost everyone who crashes in the rain is driving too fast. That’s all there is to it.
What if there is a puddle or a pool in the road? Shouldn’t you speed up to go through the water so you won’t get stuck in it? If it’s not that deep, probably not. Why not? Because if you drive fast through puddles, the water can splash all over your windshield,  blinding you. Much worse, it can splash all over your engine and get in your distributor cap, stalling your car. And if it’s not that deep, you won’t get stuck anyway.
What if the pool is really deep? Hey, if it’s that deep, you probably shouldn’t even try to drive through it!