Thursday Alternative

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People who oppose a global shift to renewable energy sure have some funny ways of trying to make their case. Just last night, for example, someone emailed me to defend Sarah Palin’s comparison of climate change to eugenics, and to, in turn, accuse environmentalists of endorsing … genocide. His logic? Climate policy necessitates denying developing countries access to electricity, that electricity consumption is directly correlated with life expectancy. Take away fossil fuels, and you’ll have blood on your hands.

The accusation of genocide was a nice flourish, but this is actually a fairly common argument: Those wedded to fossil fuels often call upon a concern for the poor (a concern that, strangely enough, tends to disappear when the conversation turns to, say, food stamps). Media Matters has compiled some of those so-called crocodile tears for the poor in conservative media, from Fox News calling climate politics a way for “rich people” to “deny” resources to others to Rush Limbaugh suddenly caring about the economic growth of third-world countries.

The rub, of course, is that these countries are often at the highest risk of suffering the consequences of climate change: of seeing their low-lying homes engulfed by rising sea levels; of changing temperatures and weather patterns threatening food security and harming agriculture-dependent economics. The costs of both mitigating their contribution to climate change and preparing for its inevitable impacts, according to an Overseas Development Institute report, threatens some of these countries’ very ability to pull themselves out of poverty.

@ SALON

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Wednesday’s Societal Fractures

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Across the globe, a new historical conjuncture is emerging in which the attacks on higher education as a democratic institution and on dissident public voices in general – whether journalists, whistleblowers or academics – are intensifying with sobering consequences. The attempts to punish prominent academics such as Ward Churchill, Steven Salaita and others are matched by an equally vicious assault on whistleblowers such as Chelsea Manning, Jeremy Hammond and Edward Snowden, and journalists such as James Risen. (1) Under the aegis of the national surveillance-security-secrecy state, it becomes difficult to separate the war on whistleblowers and journalists from the war on higher education – the institutions responsible for safeguarding and sustaining critical theory and engaged citizenship.

Marina Warner has rightly called these assaults on higher education, “the new brutalism in academia.” (2) It may be worse than she suggests. In fact, the right-wing defense of the neoliberal dismantling of the university as a site of critical inquiry in many countries is more brazen and arrogant than anything we have seen in the past and its presence is now felt in a diverse number of repressive regimes. For instance, the authoritarian nature of neoliberalism and its threat to higher education as a democratic public sphere was on full display recently when the multi-millionaire and Beijing-appointed leader of Hong Kong, Leung Chun-ying, told pro-democracy protesters that “allowing his successors to be chosen in open elections based on who won the greatest number of votes was unacceptable in part because it risked giving poorer residents a dominant voice in politics.”

Henry Giroux @ TRUTHOUT

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Tough to Breath Tuesday

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Researchers said that over a dozen infant deaths in one Utah basin over the last year may be related to a recent increase in oil drilling.

In a Sunday report, the Denver Post talked to scientists about the possibilities that the dead babies were “victims of air pollution fed by the nearly 12,000 oil and gas wells in one of the most energy-rich areas in the country.”

“I suspect it is real — that there is a relationship,” University of Missouri School of Medicine researcher Susan Nagel, Ph.D, told the Post.

“Scads of medical studies have concluded that air pollution can harm embryos. Drilling is a documented contributor to that pollution. It is a given that some of the harmful chemicals released in drilling, like benzene, toluene and xylenes, can cross the placental barrier and cause heart, brain and spinal defects,” the paper points out.

@ RAWSTORY

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Monday Money Grubbing

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A controversial area of law known as civil asset forfeiture empowers the IRS to confiscate significant sums of money from “run-of-the-mill business owners and wage earners without so much as an allegation” and “without ever filing a criminal complaint,” leaving the owners “to prove they are innocent,” The New York Times reports.

The law’s stated purpose is to catch drug traffickers, racketeers and terrorists by tracking their finances, the paper explains. But enforcement officers have instead “swept up dairy farmers in Maryland, an Army sergeant in Virginia saving for his children’s college education,” and other guiltless Americans of modest incomes.

One victim has strained her credit cards and taken out a second mortgage to keep her restaurant in business.

The Times quotes David Smith, a former federal prosecutor who is now a lawyer in Virginia and an expert on these cases, as saying: “They’re going after people who are really not criminals. … They’re middle-class citizens who have never had any trouble with the law.”

@ TRUTHDIG

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Sunny Sunday

RAPID FIRE X-FLARES: Flares have been predicted, sunspot AR2192 has complied. In the past 24 hours, the giant active region has produced two X-class solar flares: X3 (Oct. 24 @ 2140 UT) and X1 (Oct 25 @ 1709 UT). Using a backyard solar telescope, Sergio Castillo of Corona, California, was monitoring the sunspot on Oct. 24th when it exploded, and he snapped this picture:

“This flare was so intense that it almost shorted out my computer! Well … not really,” says Castillo, “but I knew right away that it was an X-class eruption.”

Both X-flares produced brief but strong HF radio blackouts over the dayside of Earth. Communications were disturbed over a wide area for appeoximately one hour after the peak of each explosion. Such blackouts may be noticed by amateur radio operators, aviators, and mariners.

Interestingly, none of the X-flares from this active region has so far produced a major CME. The latest eruptions on Oct. 24-25 appear to be no exception. As a result, Earth-effects may be limited to the radio blackouts. However, stay tuned for updates as analysts look more carefully at coronagraph data for signs of an incoming CME.

@ Spaceweather

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Saturday Reading

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Drought is taking its toll on the water system that quenches the thirst of Brazil’s largest city, Sao Paulo, to such a degree that it is visible to orbiting satellites.

Sao Paulo is facing water rationing as the worst drought to hit the region in decades reduces reservoirs to muddy waters surrounded by cracked earth.

The Cantareira Reservoir System provides about half of the overall water to the city’s 20 million residents. But a series of months with below average rainfall have seen water levels plummet. NASA Landsat 8 images published by the NASA Earth Observatory show the precipitous decline of the Jaguari Reservoir, one of a handful that make up the system, from mid-August last year to early August this year.

Since the images were acquired, the water levels have only dropped further. As of Thursday, Sabesp, Sao Paulo’s water utility, reported that the Cantareira system was operating at only 3 percent of its capacity. That’s essentially considered “dead water,” which Sabesp has only been able to tap after building an extra 2 miles of pipeline to the reservoir’s center.

@ CLIMATE CENTRAL

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PHRYdae PHUNeeZ

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No Smoking!

No Smoking!

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