The Watering Hole, Monday, November 23rd, 2015: NatGeo, Take Me Away!

I can’t deal with “Ugly Americans” [of course, “Ugly Americans” = “Republican Presidential Candidates and their Fans/Supporters”] anymore; we keep thinking, “How can these guys sink so low?”, then, the next hour or day or week, one or two or several of them come out with such outrageous shit that we really need a new word to define what circle of hell lies beyond “outrageous” or “horrific” or “despicable” or “abhorrent” or “inhuman” – sorry, I need more words!

And I’ve had it up to HERE with the holidays being turned into meaningless “shop-’til-you-drop” commercialism [how about if “Black Friday” could be turned into “Black Lives Matter Friday” – hell, make every day of the entire Thanksgiving/Christmas holiday shopping season a day of protests]. So I’m going with some beautiful photos from National Geographic to start the week.

Here’s some pretty birds, from “A Flight of Birds”, a section of NatGeo’s Photo Ark, including a photo capturing the iridescent plumage of the Purple Glossy Starling, such as seen below,
purple_glossy_starling
and a more close-up shot of the Javan Rhinoceros Hornbill, like the one seen below:
javan rhinoceros Hornbill

And if you prefer a larger gallery for leisurely viewing, here’s more from NatGeo’s 2015 Photo Contest. The “Week 10” group includes a brooding sunset photo of Godafoss Waterfall in Iceland – here’s a chilly winter shot of the falls, just to start the calming process:
waterfall-godafoss-iceland

This is our daily Open Thread – enjoy the views or rant away – or you can do both!

The Watering Hole, Monday, November 18th, 2013: Profit Contest to Photo Contest

Even though most of the people who need Obamacare have not yet taken advantage of it, other interests are poised to board the Obamacare money train. The Wall Street Journal’s Howard Gold is encouraging investment in the health care industry. A few snippets:

“This diverse sector, which includes red-hot biotechnology, Big Pharma, medical device makers, hospitals, health insurers, and other services, is profiting from structural shifts far beyond the changes brought in by the Affordable Care Act…In fact, health care stocks may have entered a new secular bull market, which is why you should take some profits on cyclicals and other market-sensitive stocks and reinvest the money into this group.”

“We’re clearly in a favorable environment,” said Andy Acker, manager of Janus Global Life Sciences fund since 2007. “I think this is a question of when this gets resolved, not if,” Acker said. “Millions of people will sign up for health care.”

In an earlier (March 2013) article from conservative moneynews.com, entitled “How Companies are Cashing in on Obamacare”, author Michael Kling wrote:

“Although its critics say Obamacare will increase business costs, some companies are cashing in on the healthcare reform law…CNNMoney reviewed six companies that might reap huge benefits from Obamacare.

Take, for instance, Health Recovery Solutions, a New York City-based start-up that helps hospitals avoid Medicare penalties for readmitting patients. To decrease preventable return visits by Medicare patients, Obamacare levies high cuts to Medicare reimbursements to hospitals that have a certain percentage of these return visits.

Health Recovery Solutions furnishes tablets full of educational videos and information patients can use to care for themselves. Using the tablet, patients send information, such as medications they are taking, to the hospital care team for review.

Eligible, another start-up, takes care of the complex wiring insurers need to quickly answer customer questions about coverage and eligibility, one of the many Obamacare requirements.

GoHealth offers an online tool that enables people to compare health care insurance plans. Consumers can use the platform to enroll in plans or just compare plans before contacting an insurance broker.

QuantiaMD offers a website where doctors can offer presentations, hold private discussions with each other and hold virtual consultations. Pharmaceutical and insurance companies and hospitals sponsor the content on the site.

Obamacare limits the proportion of premium revenue insurers can spend on salaries, overhead and marketing. That’s where Connecture comes in. The Brookfield, Wisc., company provides software that helps insurance companies cut costs through automation. It also helps states with technology needed to create insurance exchanges, another Obamacare requirement.

Another company getting involved with the state exchanges is hCentive, which has built a platform the exchanges can use.

Many of the companies saw their sales jump after the elections. Healthcare companies were not sure Obamacare would be enacted, and state officials were not sure they would still be required to create exchanges by this October…“Many states were waiting to decide to set up their own exchanges — they kept thinking maybe this wouldn’t happen,” Sanjay Singh, an hCentive partner, told CNNMoney.

“they kept thinking maybe this wouldn’t happen” No, they kept HOPING this wouldn’t happen. Because despite their hatred of all things Obama-related, despite all of the conservative hyperbole about “job-killing”, “bankrupting businesses”, “the end of freedom as we know it”, “it’s socialist Obama’s anti-capitalism agenda”, etc., ad nauseum; and despite the 40+ failed efforts by Congressional Republicans to kill Obamacare, every single one of those nay-sayers HAD to realize, deep down, that Obamacare is a boon to the private, capitalistic, for-profit healthcare “industry.” (spit!)

Okay, since you were all good enough to put up with the above drivel, here’s your justly-deserved palate-cleanser…

It’s that time of year again: the National Geographic Photo Contest is open, but only ’til the end of November. I know quite a few of our Critters and Zoosters who should submit a few entries! Here’s last year’s “Nature” category winner, photographed by Ashley Vincent:
busaba-indochinese-tiger_62797_600x450
Here’s two ways to view some or all of the current entries: The Atlantic picked 39 of the photos, and you can just scroll through them. Note that you can also switch from 1024 pixels to 1280 (I chose 1280.) Or you can go directly to the National Geographic 2013 Photo Contest webpage, where there are links to the photos entered to date, as well as links to 2012 winners and other photo galleries. Here’s one of the 2013 entries, by Sam Morris:

Photo Copyright Sam Morris, 2013 National Geographic Photo Contest entry

Photo Copyright Sam Morris, 2013 National Geographic Photo Contest entry

This is our daily open thread, what do you have to say today?

The Watering Hole, Monday, May 27th, 2013: Untitled*

*I could not possibly honor the day anywhere near as well as frugalchariot’s Memorial Day post does, so I will not even try. To anyone who missed it, take the time, it’s a must-read.

Instead, I thought that I would check the local on-line newspapers in the hopes of finding some fodder. I went to the Opinion page of the Poughkeepsie Journal. One title looks promising: “Energy Policy is National Security Issue: Column” “by Merrill Matthews, USA Today.” As I read it I noted the author’s right-wing point of view, and wondered where he was going with it. After some discussion of Russia, Iran and Venezuela, with their “totalitarian regimes” and great big gobs of oil and natural gas, Mr. Matthews came closer to his point. An excerpt:

“Many energy-dependent countries would like to be free of that oil and gas stranglehold to pursue their on[sic] foreign policy interests and alignments. The good news is that the old paradigm is shifting; the better news is that we can accelerate those changes. [emphasis mine]

For one thing, the oil and gas production boom, especially in the U.S., has dramatically increased energy supplies and pushed down prices. That means that some of the “energy captives” now have options available to them, including coal, they may not have had in the past, helping to break the stranglehold.

But this shift is not necessarily permanent; much of it depends on expanded U.S. production, made possible by hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” and the ability to export some of that energy.

Which takes us to the better news: how to accelerate the current trend. The U.S. must move forward with plans that will turn cheap and abundant natural gas into liquefied natural gas (LNG) for export. We are only now building the liquefaction facilities to undertake this venture on a large scale, and the private sector is investing the money to make it happen — as long as the Obama administration will allow it. [emphasis mine]

The ability for the U.S. to extract and export energy is a national security issue. Energy self-sufficiency, which could be attainable in a decade or so, would mean that U.S. foreign policy wasn’t held hostage to energy policy.”

Not one word about wind, solar, hydroelectric, nothing about renewables at all. Still oil and gas, with a side of coal. At this point I’m wondering who this dinosaur is and, more to the point, who’s paying him. At the end of the “Column”, there it is:”Merrill Matthews is a resident scholar at the Institute for Policy Innovation.” Hmmm, that name rings a bell, IPI, yup, ding-ding-ding! The conservative think-tank and member of ALEC which was, as per sourcewatch, “founded in 1987 by Congressman Dick Armey to “research, develop and promote innovative and non-partisan solutions to today’s public policy problems.”” Yeah, right. Dick Armey is as slimy and partisan as they come, and cannot help but leave his oily fingerprints on everything he touches.

Moving on…I guess I should have known better than to try the “Online Extra: Obama Scandals Overlap and Drain his Authority” – it turned out to be a rancid piece of pink slime meat by George Will. I couldn’t read the whole thing, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t subject you to some of it:

“Liberalism’s agenda has been constant since long before liberals, having given their name a bad name, stopped calling themselves liberals and resumed calling themselves progressives, which they will call themselves until they finish giving that name a bad name.”

[Fuck you, George, I’m still proud to call myself a liberal.]

“The agenda always is: Concentrate more power in Washington, more Washington power in the executive branch and more executive power in agencies run by experts. Then trust the experts to be disinterested and prudent with their myriad intrusions into, and minute regulations of, Americans’ lives. Obama’s presidency may yet be, on balance, a net plus for the public good if it shatters American’s trust in the regulatory state’s motives.”

It gets worse after that, and should only be read by someone with an iron stomach.

After noting that John Stossel was another featured columnist, and that other links were to pieces such as “Michelle Malkin: Top Obama donor a fox in health records hen house”, “Slippery slope to accepting atheist Boy Scouts”, and “Punchlines: Prom Season for Obama”, I gave up entirely on the Poughkeepsie Journal.

Palate cleanser: here’s a Blue-Footed Booby (one of my all-time favorite bird names) from National Geographic:

Blue-Footed Booby, photo by Tim Laman, courtesy of National Geographic

Blue-Footed Booby, photo by Tim Laman, courtesy of National Geographic

This is our Open Thread. Go ahead, talk amongst yourselves!

Sunday Roast: 11 Sacred and Iconic Trees

National Geographic

A car drives through the so-called Chandelier Tree in California’s Underwood Park in the 1930s. An iconic giant, this 315-foot-tall redwood was tunneled out as a novelty during the early days of gas-powered cars.

I remember driving through this tree with my family when I was 12 or 13.  We had a great big Dodge van at the time, and the door handles barely missed the sides of the tree tunnel.  It was so cool, but I remember thinking that it was too bad that whoever hollowed out that tree had no respect for such a lovely Redwood giant.  Thank goodness the tree managed to stay alive.

Check out the other ten sacred and iconic trees, such as the baobab,  the dance tree, and the Bohdi tree, at National Geographic.

This is our daily open thread — Enjoy the trees!

The Watering Hole: August 17 — Phoenix Cluster

In an artist’s conception, cooler, star-forming gas flows from the Phoenix Cluster’s central galaxy.
Illustration courtesy M. Weiss, CXC/NASA

Data being gathered by telescopes all over Earth and in space indicates that there’s an absolutely amazing galaxy cluster in the universe — the first we’ve discovered anyway.  It’s made up of thousands of galaxies, and lives about 5.7 billion light years away from us.  Isn’t that cool?

It seemed too good to be true: a superbright newfound galaxy cluster possibly more massive than any other known, forging fresh stars nearly a thousand times faster than normal.

Science is just neato.  Go here to read the whole article.

This is our daily open thread — Happy Friday!

Hunted Almost To Extinction – Blue Whales

National Geographic looks at Blue Whales.  The Blue Whale use to number around 300,000, now whalers have reduced that number to around 10,000 today.

Globeandmail.com is reporting today that Blue Whales are returning to the British Columbia coast.

Tiny shrimp are luring some massive and rarely seen creatures back to the waters off B.C.’s coast.

Research soon to be published in the journal Marine Mammal Science shows blue whales are following their main food source, krill – a type of shrimp – back to the coasts of B.C., Alaska and Mexico’s Baja.

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