Why is the USPS on the verge of shutting down?

Thom Hartmann gives an interesting explanation.

The United States Post Office is on the verge of shutting down. According to the New York Times – the Post Office is quickly running out of cash and may be forced to shut down this winter. While the media story line is that the Post Office is dealing with the problem of trying to remain profitable in a world of decreasing paper mail – the real cause is actually something much, much different. Consider that this year – like every year since 2006 – the Post Office is legally required to make a $5 billion annual contribution to a retirement account to pay for future retirees who aren’t even born yet. For more on this Thom Hartmann is joined by Chuck Zlatkin – Legislative and Political Director of the New York Metro Area Postal Union.

This is just another rung on the ladder to gut and then ‘privatize’ everything in this country. Thom talked about this on his radio show a couple of days ago. Congress voted to do this (under GW Bush five years ago). This legislation was passed by a voice vote with no record of how anyone voted. The legislation was sponsored by Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA11). It was H.R.6407 [109th]: Postal Accountability And Enhancement Act. When I listened to Thom Hartmann on his radio show discussing this a couple of days ago, he mentioned this piece of that legislation was slipped in during the dead of night—”the poison pill”—the piece that would kill the USPS.

There is a solution in Congress right now (HR1351), but it is likely to meet great resistance beings the Republicans want to knock out out the USPS, the unionized workers, and privatize it. Choke, destroy, dismantle, privatize. It’s once again the “Shock Doctrine“.

Thom urges everyone at the end of this video to contact their Congressman or Congresswoman and urge them to vote in favor of HR 1351: United States Postal Service Pension Obligation Recalculation and Restoration Act of 2011.

.

Heavy Flooding Forecast for Harrisburg PA. As in “Three Mile Island” Harrisburg?

Flooding in 1972 from Hurricane "Agnes" (source: United States Coastguard)

Rampaging rivers, rock slides, torrents of rain and mass evacuations. The generation that grew up on tales of eastern Pennsylvania’s Agnes catastrophe of 1972 is getting its own story now, with rain-weary cities and towns along the Susquehanna and Delaware rivers hunkered down in anticipation of record-threatening crests.

The remnants of Tropical Storm Lee led to what one AccuWeather meteorologist called a “fire hose” of tropical downpours falling on land and water already overcharged by August’s record soaking. (read more)

This scares me quite a bit. I wonder what the Three Mile Island safety measures are for flooding. They are not worried, however. It is not as if the rains will stop any time soon. La Nina conditions are forecast, which will make extreme weather conditions more likely and there is TS Maria out there, which is about to come up on a very similar track as Irene did.

Stay safe and monitor what is going on closely, all you who are close to the area.

Looks like a gigantic oil slick to me..

This video was taken two days ago by OnWingsOfCare.org founder and pilot Dr. Bonny Schumaker near the area of the original Deepwater Horizon spill..

From Raw Story:

A California nonprofit organization dedicated to the protection and preservation of wildlife has discovered what seems to be a massive oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico near the area of the original Deepwater Horizon spill.

In a flight over the Gulf Tuesday, OnWingsOfCare.org founder and pilot Dr. Bonny Schumakerspotted an oil slick that stretched for nearly 10 miles.

Last week, two Louisiana State University men took a boat into the Gulf and returned with video evidence of large blooms of crude oil swelling up to the water’s surface where the doomed oil rig once hovered.

BP had firmly denied that the well is continuing to leak.

“None of this is true,” they said in a statement.

Yeah. Right…
Why isn’t this being reported on in the MSM? Why isn’t it on the news??

The Watering Hole: Tuesday August 9th – What goes down outside the economy

FUKUSHIMA, Japan — The day after a giant tsunami set off the continuing disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, thousands of residents at the nearby town of Namie gathered to evacuate. (read full story at the NYT)

This comes as no surprise at all. While we have lost track of the story during the turbulent times of non-existing governmental due diligence and the ensuing market meltdown, this story will stick with us. For hundreds, if not thousands of years. What really happened comes to light in bits and pieces now. Radiation is sky high, high enough to be lethal in the broken reactors. The goal is: Avoid making the Headline. Fact is: Great parts of Japan, including the Tokyo area have become hazardous to live in. Psssht just don’t tell the people.

If you have the time, just listen into this: There is no safe level of radiation.

This is our open thread. What’s on your mind outside of the markets today?

Norwegian Muslish Gunman’s Islam-Esque Atrocity

Stephen Colbert NAILS this story.

From Raw Story:

In the wake of the twin tragedies in Norway late last week, many news outlets jumped to conclusions before suspect Anders Behring Breivik — a white Norwegian man — admitted to the crimes and was arrested. Many outlets underlined a jihadist connection and immediately jumped to conclusions that of course the attacker would be Muslim.

Way to “scoop reality,” Stephen Colbert congratulated those outlets on Monday’s “Colbert Report,” amongst clips of anchors expressing confidence that the attacks could be traced back to the Middle East, then confusion that a white man had been arrested.

“Even if there was a rush to judgement, we must not repeat that mistake by rushing to accuracy,” Colbert mocked. “Just because the confessed murderer is a blonde, blue-eyed Norwegian born anti-Muslim crusader does not mean that he’s not a swarthy ulalating Middle Eastern madman!”

“Which is more plausible: That a non-Muslim did this, or that al-Qaeda has developed Polyjuice Potion?” he asked.

The Watering Hole: Tuesday July 19, DWS

D(ead)W(histleblower)S(yndrome):

The acronym DWS describes sudden death occurences related to persons, who have, shortly before their untimely demise, contributed to the surfacing of news affecting the well-being of influential people and or institutions. Prominent victims of DWS are:

Dr. Kelly

Sean Hoare

Matt Simmons

Wolfgang U.

Rest in Peace and thank you for the service you have, by your courage and determination to do the right thing, provided to us the powerless.

This is our Open Thread, feel free to add just anything you feel like adding. It’s hopefully safe to do it here.

The Watering Hole: Tuesday July 12, 2011 – Media Moguls

This has not been a good week for media moguls. On a small scale Silvio Berlusconi had to suffer a defeat if you can call EUR 530 million small scale. Anyhow it is the first time in years he wasn’t able to ward off the consequences of his doings. He announced by the way, he won’t run for another four years when the next elections come up in 2013. I wish, however, there’s more than only four years in store for him, though not in office, but in jail. He’s done enough damage as it is.

Much worse, and I am grinning here, is the fate of Rupert Murdoch. He seems to have helped himself to a corporate meltdown. Just have a look at the latest revelations on how his media empire acts:

Gordon Brown
9/11 victims
Royalty
Crime Victims
War casualties
And look who was in bed with them 

It would be totally naive to think Murdoch’s US flagship FOX wasn’t using the same tactics of intimidation and blackmail. So lets keep the stories coming in, FOX News may be in the news before long and ultimately damaged enough, so their influence on your politics will be greatly diminished, too. Wishful thinking?

This is our Open Thread. What do you wish for? And go see, there may be new stories coming up during the day below this and we don’t do hacking just thinking.

Did someone hack the Fox News building in New York?

This is pretty clever really.. At the very least, creative.

My guess is that this is a faked video, but regardless, it is still pretty funny. As one commenter put it, “A fake story about Fake News? Impossible!!!!”

The story goes (from Raw Story):

In a video published to YouTube, a hacker appears to have changed the text scrolling along the side of the News Corporation building in New York City.

“I accessed the Fox ticker basically to get your attention,” YouTube user hiropro999 wrote. “Also because Fox deserves it: they’re the 24/7 mouthpiece of the right wing. They are huge perpetuators of the big lie.

“This country isn’t broke. Question is: where is the money going?”

The message goes on to blame corporations and tax breaks for wealthy Americans, and it specifically said the individual behind the stunt was not from any hacker group like Anonymous or others.

I still like the message. It would be the closest FOX has come to printing anything resembling the truth in a very long time (if ever..)

Tornados of April 2011

What a crazy, terribly tragic month for weather.

This was a fascinating video. From the NOAA site:

The U.S. experienced unprecedented tornado activity throughout the month of April 2011. The NOAA Storm Prediction Center received 875 tornado reports during that month alone; 625 have been confirmed as tornadoes, so far. Many of these storms were concentrated during 7 different major outbreaks, mostly in the Southern U.S. The largest of these outbreaks occurred during April 27-28, leaving over 300 people dead as over 180 storms were reported from Texas to Virginia.

This animation shows the GOES-East infrared imagery from April 1-30, along with the locations of each tornado that formed during the time (symbolized as red dots). Though tornadoes cannot actually be seen by GOES, these satellites are instrumental in being able to detect the conditions associated with their formation. As the resolution of GOES has increased with each successive satellite series, so have the warning times for tornadoes. The future GOES-R satellite will provide even higher resolution and storm prediction capability, especially with the use of the Geostationary Lightning Mapper sensor. The actual tornado locations are acquired from the Storm Prediction Center, which uses both NEXRAD radar and ground reports to generate a detailed database of tornadoes in the U.S.

And we are only about halfway through tornado season.

Read this post today by Chris Hedges at Truthdig:

The Sky Really Is Falling

The Watering Hole: March 31, Wherever you look

These days I don’t know where to turn to look for good news. I look here and here and there, nothing good. But wait..here’s one:

A national survey has recorded an encouraging rise in small bird populations in the UK.

In January, over 600,000 people took part in the Big Garden Birdwatch run by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).

The results, published this week, show a promising increase in garden bird populations since last year. (read all)

This is our daily open thread. Just fly in and make yourself at home.

The Watering Hole: March 29 – Forfeiting the Future

Picture found at educationaltechnologyguy.blogspot.com

 

The BBC:

China is on course to overtake the US in scientific output possibly as soon as 2013 – far earlier than expected.

That is the conclusion of a major new study by the Royal Society, the UK’s national science academy.

The country that invented the compass, gunpowder, paper and printing is set for a globally important comeback.

What a shame. I remember perfectly when “American scientists say…” as an introduction to any discussion about science  invariably lent credibility to what you were saying. We looked up to America as the country of progress and scientific prowess. Then came creationism and reason went down the drain, along with education as an asset.

This is our daily open thread. What do you think of this and other stuff that’s going on?

The Watering Hole: March 15, 2011 – Prometheus

Prometheus

Prometheus stole fire and power from the gods. The hubris of humans made us think we could control the forces of nature. We can not. My generation and our way of life have finally managed to bring unheard of destruction to our own planet and steal our own childrens’ future. The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is out of our daily news for a while now, but the destruction is still ongoing. Now Japan and the meltdown of up to four nuclear reactors. A catastrophic event, which will be ongoing for generations to come. We have to change our way of life today, if only to show nature her due respect. The damage done cannot be undone by us anymore. We are chained to this planet as much as Prometheus was to the rock in the mountains of Caucasus and will suffer for ages to come.  I doubt, however, that we will change.

Folks, I totally broke down crying this morning, when I read on a newsbanner on tv that 400 times the acceptable amount of radiation per year  is spilling from the reactors per hour now. I really have no more to say.

This is our daily open thread.

Unrest in the Middle East

Picture Source: harleyk.com

We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.

[...]

The leaders of governments with long habits of control need to know: To serve your people you must learn to trust them.

George W. Bush: Second Inaugural Address 2005

Nice.

Now the people in the Maghreb and the Middle East are demanding their liberty. Is George W. Bush’s professed agenda for bringing democracy to the region working out after all?

Tunisia:

For decades, Tunisia has promoted itself as an Arab world success story, a place where the economy is stronger than in neighboring countries, women’s rights are respected, unrest is rare and European tourists can take stress-free vacations at beach resorts.

But the recent protests have exposed a side of Tunisia that the country has long tried to hide: the poverty of the countryside, poor job prospects for youths and seething resentment at the government of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who has ruled Tunisia with an iron fist since 1987. (read more)

Egypt:

Weeks of unrest in Tunisia eventually toppled President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali earlier this month.

Egypt has many of the same social and political problems that brought about the unrest in Tunisia – rising food prices, high unemployment and anger at official corruption. (read more)

Yemen:

“We will not accept anything less than the president leaving,” said independent parliamentarian Ahmed Hashid. “We’ll only be happy when we hear the words ‘I understand you’ from the president,” invoking a statement issued by Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali before he fled the country.

Nearly half of Yemen’s population lives below the poverty line of $2 a day and doesn’t have access to proper sanitation. Less than a tenth of the roads are paved. Tens of thousands have been displaced from their homes by conflict, flooding the cities. (read more)

Algeria:

The riots are widely seen as drawing on deep frustrations with the ruling elite and a lack of political freedom, as well as more immediate concerns about the cost of living, housing, and jobs.

The prices of flour, cooking oil and sugar have doubled in the past few months.
(read more)

Jordan:

Demonstrators in Jordan say they are preparing for more protests. Massive demonstrations inspired by unrest in Tunisia have shaken what historically has been one of the most stable nations in the Middle East and raised questions about the future role of the country’s popular monarch.

Some protesters in last Friday’s demonstration waved pieces of bread. (read more)

Oman, has had some bouts of protestestation, really unusual for the country. The Saudi King has issued a statement today about the situation in Egypt:

“No Arab or Muslim can tolerate any meddling in the security and stability of Arab and Muslim Egypt by those who infiltrated the people in the name of freedom of expression, exploiting it to inject their destructive hatred.”[...]
“As they condemn this, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its people and government declares it stands with all its resources with the government of Egypt and its people,”

The Saudis and most of our other “friends” in the region are none too happy, of course, to see what was basically widespread food revolts turn into a movement for democracy across the region.  The words of G.W. Bush may have inadvertently come true. Not as a result of  his  “Freedom Agenda”, but because his administration’s disastrous economic policies, which have triggered the latest economic crisis, which has triggered the social unrest and which may well trigger the fall of the former President’s Middle East pet despots.

But will they really be replaced by democratic  governments? I have my doubts. The Middle East is not a monolithic cultural area. Yemen and Tunisia are worlds apart. There  are marked differences in the societies of Egypt and Algeria. Just look at the pictures in the news. While in Tunisia you could see many young women joining in the protests, you see mostly men in Egypt and a still more marked difference in Yemen. In the end there may be just more bloodshed and instability in the region and no marked improvement for the people of the countries involved.

Want to read more on this? See:

Rupert Cornwell

Robert Fisk

Soumaya Ghanousshi

The Guardian: Live Updates on Egypt

 

The Watering Hole: November 23, War Games

North Korea shot dozens of rounds of artillery onto a populated South Korean island near their disputed western border today, military officials said, setting buildings on fire and prompting South Korea to return fire and scramble fighter jets. (read more)

It is more or less business as usual up to now, WW3 is not yet around the corner. The trouble seems obvious: The US are backing the South, China is backing the North and both China and the US are economically far too interdependent to really make a move there. I don’t believe for a minute there is real danger from the alleged NK nuke program. But we all know the Koreans in the North are suffering badly under whichever Kim is currently munching popcorn and watching porn as their beloved “leader”. Again, for the sake of economic interests millions are suffering.

(You can tell I’m seething, can’t you?)

The second bit of not so new, but new to me news that got my goat this morning was Murdoch’s plans to get out a cheap iPAD newspaper:

Rupert Murdoch is a professed believer in the healing power of the iPad. “We’ll have young people reading newspapers,” Rupert Murdoch said during a recent earnings call. “It’s a real game changer in the presentation of news.” The paper will be available only as paid content, at an as yet undetermined price. ( source: Newser)

Now the deal is all but fixed. The publication will be called “The Daily” and cost 99¢ per week. I consider shelving my decision to buy an iPAD indefinitely. But, honestly, why are progressive media always coming in second when it comes to get out the message? We all know the manipulative ways of Murdoch “news”-media, why hand the field to him? I do think progressive media are far too complacent and too busy feeling superior to the great unwashed. This brand of intellectual arrogance has caused trouble before.

This is our Open Thread. Feel free to comment on this, or anything else that’s on your mind.

Good News: Sometimes, the System Works

California has adopted an Alert System to aggressively post information about suspects vehicles when a child is kidnapped. That system was put to use today when an 8 year-old girl was kidnapped in Fresno. Signs on the freeways alerted drivers to the description of the suspect vehicle, and TV stations included it in their broadcasts. Today, it paid off:

An 8-year-old girl who was abducted by a stranger while playing outside a Fresno home escaped from her captor Tuesday morning after a driver recognized the suspect’s vehicle and cut it off, police said. … Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said the driver recognized the red pickup truck from media reports that showed surveillance video of the kidnapper’s vehicle.

So, Kudos to the driver, Victor Perez, for taking action. He may well have saved the girl’s life.

Court freezes Obama’s funding of embryonic stem cell research

The Raw Story:

A US court on Monday issued a temporary halt to federal funding of embryonic stem cell research which President Barack Obama had authorized, saying it involved the destruction of human embryos.

US District Court Judge Royce Lamberth ruled in favor of a Christian group that opposes the research, issuing a temporary injunction that will allow plaintiffs to bring their lawsuit before the court.

“ESC (embryonic stem cell) research is clearly research in which an embryo is destroyed,” the judge said.

“To conduct ESC research, ESCs must be derived from an embryo. The process of deriving ESCs from an embryo results in the destruction of the embryo. Thus ESC research necessarily depends upon the destruction of a human embryo,” he added.

In March, Obama lifted a ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, lauding potential medical breakthroughs and a new era for US science shorn of political ideology.

The president’s executive order reversed predecessor George W. Bush’s ban, which critics say hampered the fight to find treatments for grave diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and diabetes.

Let me get this straight.. The Religious Right won’t allow embryos, that by the way are already slated to be discarded from fertility clinics, to instead be used for good in the research to find cures that will very likely save many lives.. AND YET, they have absolutely NO problem whatsoever with starting wars that kill hundreds of thousands of lives (many who are innocent), flying manless drones over countries we aren’t even at war with that drop bombs killing so many innocent lives, or even denying medical care in THIS country to those who can’t afford it.. Those lives don’t have any value I guess.. Or is it just that once the embryo becomes a live, breathing human being, their responsibility to ‘value’ life ends?? Or is it that they only value lives they consider valuable?

It seems to me that if the Right applied this fervancy to ‘preserve life’ at all costs, and to ‘do no harm’ across the board, wars would end and we as a nation would take care of all our citizens, the living, breathing ones who are the most vulnerable or at risk.

Hmmm, while I’m at it..

Is the way they ‘value’ life the same way they ‘value’ marriage between one man and one woman (well, one at a time I guess.., with others on the side)? I just can’t follow this logic..

The Watering Hole: August 12 – Chernobyl reloaded

It never stops. For thousands of years still nature will have to cope with the effects of mankind’s hubris. The Chernobyl accident left thousands of humans dead and maimed and nature virtually uninhabitable in the vicinity of the accident site. Now the (man made?) Russian heat wave has caused massive forest- and even worse – peat fires that ravage the country and the crops and have stretched into the most badly contaminated area of Chernobyl and not Chernobyl only. Now what happens? The fires cause material from the scorched earth to be displaced, the extent and range depends on temperature and wind.

As a result of failure on the Chernobyl nuclear power plant a total of six million hectares (ha) of forest lands were polluted by radionuclides. The most polluted forest area covers over 2 million ha in Gomel and Mogilev regions of Byelorussia (Belarus), in Kiev region of the Ukraine and in Bryansk region of the Russian Federation. The main contaminator is caesium-137 (137Cs); in the core zones of contamination strontium-90 (90Sr) and plutonium-239 (239Pu) are found in high concentrations. Radioactive emissions from wildfires occurring in contaminated vegetation represent a high risk for firefighters. In addition populations are affected by radioactive smoke particles transported over long distances.(read more)

The new catastrophe is a stark reminder that a technology which will have detrimental lingering effects for thousands of years, is hardly a good idea to solve immediate military or energy needs.

This is our open thread. Go ahead and tell it like it is.

Former Senator Ted Stevens dies in plane crash

Former Alaskan Senator Ted Steven has died today in a plane crash in Alaska, has been confirmed.

Former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, 86, has died in a plane crash in Alaska, according to his former chief of staff Mitch Rose.

Former Nasa chief Sean O’Keefe was confirmed also to have been aboard the small plane, officials say.

The aircraft is believed to have been carrying nine people.

The National Transportation Safety Board says five people were killed and four survived, with two badly hurt. It remains unclear who the survivors are. (read all)

Also on board was the current director of EADS America O’Keefe. Allegedly Mr O’Keefe and his son have survived the accident. Former Senator Stevens leaves a wife and six children. I am truly sorry for his family as well as for the families of the passengers and crew on board of that plane, who all suffered a terrible loss.

Afghanistan is Lost!

source:www.defense.gov

This is one major scoop of investigative journalism, just right next to The Pentagon Papers.

Wikileaks has produced over 90’000 partly classified documents covering a six year stretch of the Afghan mission. The Guardian in the UK, Der Spiegel in Germany and The New York Times have each received the documents a while ago for review and released their findings today. As I am writing this I cannot reach the wikileaks webpage, which must be overwhelmed with traffic, I suspect, so I give you a gist of what the three news outlets are making of the documents.

Der Spiegel:

The documents offer a window into the war in the Hindu Kush — one which promises to change the way we think about the ongoing violence in Afghanistan. They will also be indispensible for anyone seeking to inform themselves about the war in the future. (read article)

The newspaper then highlights five issues, one of them the situation in the North where German forces are stationed:

The Germans thought that the northern provinces where their soldiers are stationed would be more peaceful compared to other provinces and that the situation would remain that way.

They were wrong. (read more)

In an interview with the weekly Julian Assange, founder of Wikipedia, says:

Assange: These files are the most comprehensive description of a war to be published during the course of a war — in other words, at a time when they still have a chance of doing some good. They cover more than 90,000 different incidents, together with precise geographical locations. They cover the small and the large. A single body of information, they eclipse all that has been previously said about Afghanistan. They will change our perspective on not only the war in Afghanistan, but on all modern wars. (read full interview)

The Guardian obviously eyes the British side of the conflict:

Questionable shootings of civilians by UK troops also figure. The US compilers detail an unusual cluster of four British shootings in Kabul in the space of barely a month, in October/November 2007, culminating in the death of the son of an Afghan general. Of one shooting, they wrote: “Investigation controlled by the British. We are not able to get [sic] complete story.” (read all)

and more here

The US army’s archives contain descriptions of at least 21 separate occasions in which British troops are said to have shot or bombed Afghan civilians, including women and children.

The logs identify at least 26 people killed and another 20 wounded as a result. Some casualties were accidentally caused by air strikes, but many also are said to involve British troops firing on unarmed drivers or motorcyclists who come “too close” to convoys or patrols. Their injuries result from what are described as “warning shots” or “disabling shots” fired into the engine block, as required by the military’s “escalation of force” regulations.

They explain how they came by the data:

The Afghanistan war logs series of reports on the war in Afghanistan published by the Guardian is based on the US military’s internal logs of the conflict between January 2004 and December 2009. The material, largely classified by the US as secret, was obtained by the whistleblower website Wikileaks, which has published the full archive. The Guardian, along with the New York Times and the German weekly Der Spiegel, was given access to the logs before publication to verify their authenticity and assess their significance. (read all and watch video)

The New York Times explains to its readers:

Deciding whether to publish secret information is always difficult, and after weighing the risks and public interest, we sometimes chose not to publish. But there are times when the information is of significant public interest, and this is one of those times. The documents illuminate the extraordinary difficulty of what the United States and its allies have undertaken in a way that other accounts have not. (read more)

The role of Pakistan in the Afghan war is of special interest to the NYT:

Some of the reports describe Pakistani intelligence working alongside Al Qaeda to plan attacks. Experts cautioned that although Pakistan’s militant groups and Al Qaeda work together, directly linking the Pakistani spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, with Al Qaeda is difficult.

[...]

Such accusations are usually met with angry denials, particularly by the Pakistani military, which insists that the ISI severed its remaining ties to the groups years ago. An ISI spokesman in Islamabad said Sunday that the agency would have no comment until it saw the documents. Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, said, “The documents circulated by WikiLeaks do not reflect the current on-ground realities.”

[...]

On June 19, 2006, ISI operatives allegedly met with the Taliban leaders in Quetta, the city in southern Pakistan where American and other Western officials have long believed top Taliban leaders have been given refuge by the Pakistani authorities. At the meeting, according to the report, they pressed the Taliban to mount attacks on Maruf, a district of Kandahar that lies along the Pakistani border. (read more)

There is heaps more in all three newspapers and this story is going to be hot for weeks to come, due to the vast expanse of the information made available. This may well be the final nail into the coffin of the Afghanistan war. There already is growing opposition against the mission and seeing the stark truth will further convince people, that the fight is not worth it. The documents cover the time from January 2004 to December 2009 after Iraq has been attacked on March 20th 2003 and the focus shifted away from the Afghan mission. The leaked documents don’t say anything about the time between October 2001 and 2004. I do hold on to the belief, however, that the Afghanistan mission wasn’t doomed from the beginning. But absolutely after the decision was made to attack Iraq. And again, as it is with most conflicts, the people of Afghanistan have suffered before the war, during the war and will continue to suffer after the international troops have long left.

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Across the Pond – What we are up to over here.

This post is far too late for morning coffee, but a nice afternoon tea maybe?

What is going on over here in Europe? Not really much, politically, most parliaments are in recess and backbenchers crowd to the microphones to get their 15 minutes until business as usual in politics resumes again. So both major news are not from politics, but from the Love Parade in Germany and, what else, BP.

Germans are looking in horror at reports of the stampede that happened during yesterday’s Love Parade in Essen.

Der Spiegel: (for those who rather not torment themselves with details, I copied only the mere facts below, so please read on at your own discretion)

By early afternoon, the techno party was already “desperately overcrowded,” Tim says. “The only entrance was through the tunnel, there was no other way to get to the site.” At the beginning, he said, the shoving “was almost fun.” Everyone was singing and chanting together, it was a friendly and relaxed atmosphere,” he reports. “That’s the point of the Love Parade, isn’t it?”

But then, things began to get more aggressive. “It was tight, hot, unbearable. Everyone wanted to get to the party, or just out of the crowd.” Some tried to find their own way out, slithering up poles or climbing a narrow staircase out of the crowd. Dehydrated, exhausted partiers where handed out over the heads of the masses. Some of those trying to climb out fell back into the crowd. When that happened, say police, mass panic broke out. (read more)

The Love Parade is the biggest techno party worldwide, the Zurich Street Parade, scheduled for August 14th, is competing for the title of the biggest techno event. There are concerns about the safety of the partygoers here, too. Increased of course by yesterday’s events. The Love Parade has been cancelled for good after the tragedy. It makes me unspeakably sad to think about all those young people who were setting out for a night of fun and had to witness or even get hurt or died in that horror.

Other headlines include the F1 Grand Prix in Hockenheim and Ferrari (spoiler alert), Franck Ribéry’s return to Munich after the dismal French World Cup adventure and the hooker scandal and Bayreuth greets the Rich, the Powerful and the Ugly for their annual Wagner opera festival. I would love to have tickets for Jonas Kaufmann‘s debut in Bayreuth, but the great unwashed must stand in line, or better not show their faces in any case.

The BBC has today’s story for the UK:

BP’s chief executive Tony Hayward has been negotiating the terms of his exit, with a formal announcement likely within 24 hours, the BBC has learned.

Mr Hayward has been widely criticised over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

BBC business editor Robert Peston said it was likely he would be replaced by his US colleague Bob Dudley, now in charge of the clean-up operation. (read more)

Now, what does “negotiate” mean? Huh? We’re not talking golden parachutes, are we? What? A measly £ 10 millions ($ 15 million) package? Poor sod.

Hayward, 52, is today locked in meetings with the rest of the BP board about the final details of his financial leaving package, but he is expected to go under basic contractual terms. That means a one year’s £1m pay package but a giant pension pot of over £10m, capable of paying out more than half a million pounds a year from the formal retirement age of 60. (read more)

And, while we are talking about BP, the environment comes to mind. The Independent reports on the British water industry and what privatization means really:

Ofwat, the water industry watchdog, faces calls for it to be overhauled amid accusations that it is not doing enough to remedy leaking drinking water while privatised water companies enjoy soaring profits and consumers face high bills (read more)

So, enjoy your reading and have a nice Sunday all of you!

Why is it the skeptics always have to be right?

source: NASA

I so wished this was over. The containment cap on the Deepwater Horizon well had stopped the leak finally and I was thinking about researching on what could be done to speed along the clean up process and help nature come into some kind of balance again. “Not so quick”, said some, they only say they plugged it. “Wait and see”. And now, instead of posting about the clean up efforts necessary, I am posting about the oil spill and yet another failure.

The Oildrum (who else?) were the first to report it.

Admiral Allen’s letter via The Oildrum:

Dear Mr. Dudley,

My letter to you on July 16, 2010 extended the Well Integrity Test period contingent upon the completion of seismic surveys, robust monitoring for indications of leakage, and acoustic testing by the NOAA vessel PISCES in the immediate vicinity of the well head. Given the current observations from the test, including the detected seep a distance from the well and undetermined anomalies at the well head, monitoring of the seabed is of paramount importance during the test period. As a continued condition of the test, you are required to provide as a top priority access and coordination for the monitoring systems, which include seismic and sonar surface ships and subsea ROV and acoustic systems. When seeps are detected, you are directed to marshal resources, quickly investigate, and report findings to the government in no more than four hours. I direct you to provide me a written procedure for opening the choke valve as quickly as possible without damaging the well should hydrocarbon seepage near the well head be confirmed. (read more)

AP reports:

NEW ORLEANS — A federal official says scientists are concerned about a seep and possible methane near BP’s busted oil well in the Gulf of Mexico

Both could be signs there are leaks in the well that’s been capped off for three days.

The official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Sunday because an announcement about the next steps had not been made yet.

The official is familiar with the spill oversight but would not clarify what is seeping near the well. The official says BP is not complying with the government’s demand for more monitoring.

So it is not over yet and BP is obstructing again on the issue. Washington’s Blog has a post up on this. And read this discussion about the obstruction by BP , too:

There are 4 alternative explanations for the unexpectedly low oil pressure in the BP well: (1) A leak in the pipe in the well bore; (2) flow under the well between sand layers; (3) a blockage in the well; or (4) depletion of the oil reservoir.

This essay focuses on the fourth possibility: depletion of the oil reservoir. Specifically, BP claims that the oil well pressure is perhaps 1,200 pounds per square inch less than expected because the oil reservoir has been depleted.

The size of the reservoir is crucial in testing BP’s theory. While there are other factors which determine oil pressure, the size of the reservoir is probably the most important. (read more)

What makes me really nervous is the obvious unwillingness of BP to answer Congress’ questions about the geology at the drilling site. As one of our Zoosters (please forgive me, I can’t quite remember who it was) has pointed out a while ago, no drilling will even be considered without a doing geological survey first. So why is BP keeping mum about the findings of this survey? The geology is key to any efforts to shut down the well permanently and compromising the geological structures at the well site would finally make the spill permanent, if it isn’t permanent already.

For those of you, who don’t have the time to read all of the above, I’m reposting the video of Anderson Cooper’s interview with Ed Markey found at Washington’s blog:

Bring out the handcuffs for the BP management and jail them until they comply and then some!

The Watering Hole: July 16 – Has the oil spill been stopped?

Picture source:Yahoo

BP has announced yesterday that the oil spill from the Deepwater Horizon well has been stopped for the first time since the accident.

Video feeds from the floor of the Gulf of Mexico continue to show no leaking oil

Oil firm BP is awaiting test results from the blown-out well in the Gulf of Mexico, a day after staunching the flow of oil for the first time since April.

The firm is checking how much pressure the well can withstand while the valves on its new capping device are closed. (read more)

This is, of course, good news. But there is scepticism, too:

We will need to wait another 24 hours or so – and engineers will have to continue monitoring sonar and visual images (both help determine if any oil is leaking from the seafloor), and seismic data (to determine if there are any new leaks below the seafloor) – before engineers can determine how stable the well is. (read full story)

Admiral Allan says (via The Oildrum):

“We’re encouraged by this development, but this isn’t over. Over the next several hours we will continue to collect data and work with the federal science team to analyze this information and perform additional seismic mapping runs in the hopes of gaining a better understanding on the condition of the well bore and options for temporary shut in of the well during a hurricane. It remains likely that we will return to the containment process using this new stacking cap connected to the risers to attempt to collect up to 80,000 barrels of oil per day until the relief well is completed.” (read post)

The video from the oil well shows no obvious spill right now. Yesterday, however, I thought I saw something spilling in the background. My eyesight sucks so don’t take my word for it. If, God forbid, I really saw it, it would mean the entire well is compromised and this would be disastrous.

The relief wells  are generally seen as the sure-fire solution to the oil spill. If, that is, those wells are up to standard.

HOUSTON, July 13 (Reuters) – U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a memorandum that problems were identified “in recent weeks” with blowout preventers on BP Plc’s (BP.L: Quote) (BP.N: Quote) relief wells, which are seen as the only proven way to kill the Gulf of Mexico oil leak.

In a 29-page memo to Michael Bromwich, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) dated Monday, Salazar said “performance problems” with the blowout preventers were found when new testing requirements were imposed after the April 20 blowout that preceded the gushing leak. (read full story)

I am not surprised at all. Not at BP’s producing yet another blunder, neither, I must say, at the watchfulness of your government, who found out before yet another blowout preventer failed. There are many voices out there, who claim the government’s response was inadequate. I beg to differ. The Obama administration made sure there were live cams down there, so the claims “only” 1’000 barrels/day flowed from the well were quickly and obviously debunked. The Obama administration insisted on two relief wells being drilled, so there was a second shot, if the first failed to hit target. The Obama administration has delayed the testing of the new cap, because increasing the pressure was a dangerous proposition and needed to be done in the best possible way, not hurriedly. I still believe this is not over yet and I still believe this catastrophe is mostly unmanageable by us humans who caused it. But everybody who thinks the government should do more ought to sit back, think and go back in time only three years. And then honestly assess, what the Bush administration would have done.

Never mind my lengthy post, this is still our open thread so feel free to comment on this or on anything else  on your mind.

Support Bernard Rappaz

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Hemp pioneer and rebel  Bernard Rappaz is on hunger strike for more than 100 days now  and in seriously weakened condition.

Rappaz has been sentenced to 5 years and 8 months in jail for the production of hemp and on other charges. Swiss Authorities have now decided to transfer Rappaz to Berne’s Inselspital (sorry no english link available)  in order to “persuade him to stop his hunger strike”. Releasing him and finally stopping this ridiculous judicial farce seems, however, out of the question.

Hemp is not just THC and not only used to do a little recreational smoking, but one of the oldest cultivated plants mainly used for its durable fibre. It has been cultivated since the stone age. Why it is of the utmost importance to Switzerland to keep Rappaz in jail, even at the risk of his losing his life, just totally escapes me. Especially since the use of cannabis is more of a misdemeanor here in Switzerland than a crime and gets you a fine instead of a sentencing. (again sorry no english link found)

Obviously child abuse is a far less serious crime than growing weed. Director Roman Polanski was released in Switzerland yesterday.