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This is the blog for Sean Brennan and London After Midnight. For more information please see the LAM website at londonaftermidnight.com.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Climate Change Real • Fukushima Dangers Were Hidden • Republicans Lie • How Our Wars Help Al Qaeda • Racist Voter ID laws • STUDY: Pot 20 Times More Harmful than Cigarettes • Swine Flu FAR Deadlier than Reported • USA Doesn't Believe in Evolution •

- Japanese Gov't Hid Radiation Information from Public
    The information, showing residents in an area northwest of the Fukushima Daichi nuclear plant were being exposed to their annual permissible dose of radiation within only eight hours, was not made public, and those residents were not evacuated.
- What Is Wrong With Our Education System? Almost Half the Population Doesn't Accept Evolution
    Rejecting evolution expresses more than an inability to think critically; it relies on a fundamentally paranoid worldview. --- Do you know what the worst thing about the recent Gallup poll on evolution is? It isn’t that 46 percent of respondents are creationists (“God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last ten thousand years or so”). Or that 32 percent believe in “theistic evolution” (“Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process”). Or that only 15 percent said humans evolved and “God had no part in this process.” It isn’t even that the percentage of Americans with creationist views has barely budged since 1982, when it was 44 percent, with a small rise in the no-God vote (up from 9 percent) coming at the expense of the divine-help position (down from 38 percent). Or that 58 percent of Republicans are creationists, although that does explain a lot.It’s that the proportion of college graduates who are creationists is exactly the same as for the general public. That’s right: 46 percent of Americans with sixteen long years of education under their belt believe the story of Adam and Eve is literally true.
- Korean scientists hit back at creationist textbook campaign
    A group of 30 South Korean evolutionary scientists and palaeontologists has released a statement condemning a successful campaign by the creationist group Society for Textbook Reform (STR) to remove some examples of evolution from high-school biology textbooks
- Fox Marks UN Earth Summit By Denying Global Warming
    As world leaders gather for the UN's Rio+20 Earth Summit this week in Brazil, Fox is taking the opportunity to once again deny the threat of climate change
- The Evil of Our Interventionist Wars
    Nearly all states in the Middle East have appalling human rights records, some of them with even fewer redeeming features than Gadaffi’s Libya or Assad’s Syria. But then those states, such as Saudi Arabia, are close allies of the West. Only the terminally na├»ve or dishonest argue that the states targeted by the West have been selected for the benefit of their long-suffering citizens. Rather, they have been chosen because they are seen as implacably opposed to American and Israeli interests in the region.
- Statement of Ralph Nader on Supreme Court Pro-Corporate Decision
    In reversing the judgment of the [Republican dominated] Supreme Court of Montana that found corporate independent expenditures in elections to be corrupting, the usual “gang of five” majority on the Supreme Court continued its judicial drive to change the meaning of the preamble to our Constitution from “we the people” to “we the corporations.”
- 2009 swine flu outbreak was 15 times deadlier: study
    The swine flu pandemic of 2009 killed an estimated 284,500 people, some 15 times the number confirmed by laboratory tests at the time, according to a new study by an international group of scientists.
- Eat Less Meat, Save The World
    If you believe that earth’s natural resources are limitless, which maybe was excusable 100 years ago but is the height of ignorance now,  or that “technology will fix it” or that we can simply go mine them in outer space with Newt Gingrich, I guess none of this worries you. But if you believe in reality, and you’d like that to be a place that your kids get to enjoy, this is a big deal.
- How Drones Help Al Qaeda
    Drone strikes are causing more and more Yemenis to hate America and join radical militants; they are not driven by ideology but rather by a sense of revenge and despair. Robert Grenier, the former head of the C.I.A.’s counterterrorism center, has warned that the American drone program in Yemen risks turning the country into a safe haven for Al Qaeda like the tribal areas of Pakistan — “the Arabian equivalent of Waziristan.”
- The Danger of Endless War video
    The United States is engaged in a seemingly endless war against a nebulous enemy. Nation Editor Katrina vanden Heuvel, appearing on Current's Viewpoint with Eliot Spitzer, explains that by using drones and employing the indefinite detention of enemy combatants, the United States is undermining its own democracy and diminishing its stature abroad.
- Study Finds Media Overwhelmingly Repeat GOP "Job Killer" Allegations With No Verification?
    Media have overwhelmingly repeated claims by Republican politicians and corporations that government policies are "job killers" without citing any evidence for this claim according to a new study.
- Americans saw wealth plummet 40 percent from 2007 to 2010, Federal Reserve says
    The recent recession wiped out nearly two decades of Americans’ wealth, according to government data released Monday, with ­middle-class families bearing the brunt of the decline.
- Pennsylvania Voter ID Law Places Expiration Date on Democracy
    Back in April, Pennsylvania Secretary of State Carol Aichele visited the editorial board of the Erie Times-News newspaper to speak with them about the new photo voter ID bill Gov. Tom Corbett had just signed into law. The bill is supposed to fight or prevent voter fraud, but like with every other state that has passed voter ID laws, this fraud is mostly a boogeyman that seems to only haunt Republicans in their dreams (Check this Rolling Stone slideshow for an excellent ride through voter fraud myth debunkment). .... The stakes are high for Pennsylvania, which is a perennial battleground state, and which has a long history of disenfranchising voters, particularly black students.
- Colorado Wildfire: Our Scorching Future?
    Hayhoe, along with an international team of scientists, discovered that climate change will disrupt fire patterns across over 80 percent of the globe by the end of the century. “Scientists found compelling agreement in long term models that more fires would occur at mid-to-high latitude areas like North America
- U.S. completes warmest 12-month period again, smashes spring record
    The period from June 2011 to May 2012 was the warmest 12-months since records began (in 1895) in the continental United States. This unprecedented stretch of warmth bests the previous 12-month record, established just one month ago.
- In North Carolina, a Political Storm over Rising Seas
    Years of coastal flooding seem to argue for climate adaptation, but [Republican] state lawmakers may ban such policies
- Virginia [Republican] Lawmaker Says ‘Sea Level Rise’ Is A ‘Left Wing Term,’ Excises It From State Report On Coastal Flooding
    Virginia’s legislature commissioned a $50,000 study to determine the impacts of climate change on the state’s shores. To greenlight the project, they omitted words like “climate change” and “sea level rise” from the study’s description itself. According to the [Republican] House of Delegates sponsor of the study, these are “liberal code words,” even though they are noncontroversial in the climate science community.
- Thank You Sisters
    Nuns On the Bus, an activist group of nuns on a nine-state tour, stopped in  Republican Representative Paul Ryan's hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin to speak out gently but firmly against his budget cuts, and offer their own faithful budget. Beautiful.
- Is marijuana unhealthier than people think?
    As medical and recreational use of marijuana continues to grow, a dangerous lack of awareness about its health risks could be putting millions of lives at risk. This is the conclusion reached by the British Lung Foundation (BLF), a leading charity that is worried about the "alarming disconnect" between the public perception of the drug as being relatively safe, and mounting evidence indicating that it dramatically increases a person's chance of developing cancer.According to a report issued by the BLF, nearly 9 in 10 people believe that smoking cigarettes is worse than marijuana — but the risk of developing lung cancer is as much as 20 times greater from a cannabis joint than a tobacco cigarette. Researchers contend that smoking one marijuana joint is equivalent to smoking an entire pack of cigarettes.

Climate change deniers blinded by political ideology
By Michael E. Mann
Published Vancouver June 8, 2012 in The Vancouver Sun

A recent commentary by Frank Hilliard of the Individual Rights Party of B.C. that appeared in The Vancouver Sun June 4 misinformed readers when it comes to the reality and seriousness of human-caused climate change. Further, Hilliard's tirade was riddled with fabrications and dishonest personal attacks against me and other climate scientists.

Hilliard demonstrates that he does not understand the so-called "Hockey Stick" graph that my co-authors and I published more than a decade ago, which demonstrated that the nature of recent warming is unprecedented. Our temperature reconstruction was based on hundreds of climate "proxy" records around the world, including tree-ring data from every continent as well as ice cores from polar regions, coral records from the tropical oceans, and other sources of information. Yet, Hillard claims they were based only on "one set of observations of tree rings in Russia." That is simply a blatant fabrication.

Hilliard compounds the problem by citing attacks against our work by two Canadian climate change deniers (Fraser Institute-funded economist Ross McKitrick and energy industry consultant Stephen McIntyre) with-out noting that several independent studies have established fatal flaws in their claims.

Dozens of independent studies have reproduced our original findings and the highest scientific authority in the U.S., the National Academy of Sciences, has reaffirmed our conclusions (see e.g. Science Panel Backs Study on Warming Climate, New York Times, June 22, 2006), confirming that modern temperatures are likely higher than they've been in more than a thousand years.

But all of this is a diversion anyway, as our work is not the central pillar of evidence for human-caused climate change that our detractors would like you to think it is.

Numerous independent lines of evidence, some of it based on basic physical principles that have been known for nearly two centuries, indicate that humans are warming the planet and changing our climate by burning coal and other fossil fuels.

The fact that such falsehoods and fabrications like those put forward by Hilliard could readily appear on the editorial pages of a respected paper like The Vancouver Sun is a perfect example of just how divorced our public discourse about climate change has become from scientific reality.
Indeed, it is the poisoning of the public discourse over climate change that prompted me to write my recent book, The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines, where I describe the circumstances that led to my becoming and accidental and reluctant public figure.

I describe the crescendo of attacks that I have endured as climate change deniers have engaged in a cynical campaign to try to discredit me in the hope that by so doing they might discredit the case for human-caused climate change. I describe how U.S. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) and Sen. James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), among the largest recipients of fossil fuel money in the Congress, have both launched partisan investigations into my work; as has Attorney-General Ken Cuc-cinelli of Virginia, another recipient of oil company largesse.

Thankfully, the scientific community is doing more to stand up for researchers who find themselves targeted by politicians and ideological groups that don't like our findings.

The Climate Science Legal Defense Fund, for instance, is soliciting donations from the general public to help cover legal expenses scientists are incurring. This is an incredible help for scientists, who often lack the resources to defend themselves and face attacks from deep-pocketed groups funded by the fossil fuel industry.

It's unfortunate that people who are ideologically opposed to dealing with climate change feel entitled to not only attack scientists like me for doing our jobs, but to attack us again and again when we try to set the record straight.

We have as much right to speak out as any citizen. But as scientists, we have a special duty to make distinctions between our scientific judgment and our opinions as citizens.

Unfortunately, the people who choose to attack us are often so blinded by their ideology, they can't tell the difference between science and political opinion.

The truth is that regardless of one's ideological position on whether or not we should reduce the emissions that drive climate change, we should be able to base decisions about how to protect ourselves from a changing climate on established science.

When I think of my role as a citizen and a parent, I feel strongly we must also confront the ethical choice we face: Choosing not to reduce emissions is choosing to leave our children the legacy of a planet that will be degraded relative to the one we inherited from our parents.
It's time for us to have a grown-up debate about climate change in this country. And attacks on scientists by political operatives like Hilliard should have no place in it.

Michael E. Mann is a member of the Pennsylvania State University faculty, holding joint positions in the departments of meteorology and geosciences and the Earth and Environmental Systems Institute (EESI). He shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 with other scientists who participated in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Sean

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Poverty • Republican Politics • Fruits/Veggies Help You Live Longer • Right-Wing Myths About Wind Power • Leather • Obama's Kill List • more

- How extremism is normalized
    The Obama administration has converted once unthinkable government claims into permanent political fixtures
- Conservative Media Try to Reverse Racial Reality
    Conservatives must be feeling regretful. After nearly fifty years of using appeals to white racial resentment to take over the South, win presidential elections and control of Congress, conservatives are realizing this might come back to bite them in the ass. As the right wing has become xenophobic and anti-Latino, conservatives have watched young Latinos and young Asian Americans join young African-Americans in being overwhelmingly Democratic. The greater diversity of this younger generation has in turn meant that Democrats, especially Barack Obama, have won handily among young voters in recent elections. All of a sudden, conservatives see being the party of angry white males as a potential liability, and they want to change their image.
- Man Tattoos Leviticus 18:22 That Forbids Homosexuality On His Arm, But Leviticus 19:28 Forbids Tattoos
    Picture says it all.
- Scott Walker Spent 88% of the Money to Get 53% of the Vote
    the real winner in Wisconsin on Tuesday was not Republican Gov. Scott Walker, but Big Money. And the real loser was not Democrat Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, but democracy.In other words, business and billionaires bought this election for Walker.  The money paid for non-stop TV and radio ads as well as mailers.  There's no doubt that if the Barrett campaign had even one-third of the war- chest that Walker had, it would have been able to mount an even more formidable grassroots get-out-the-vote campaign and put more money into the TV and radio air war. Under those circumstances, it is likely that Barrett would have prevailed.
    Pundits can have a field day pontificating about the Wisconsin election, but in the end its about how Big Money hijacked democracy in the Badger State on Tuesday, and how they're trying to do it again in November.
- The plutocrats who bankrolled the Republican primaries--and what they want in return
    Leave it to Bill Moyers, one of America's most useful citizens, to sum up our country's present political plight in a succinct metaphor: "Our elections have replaced horse racing as the sport of kings. These kings are multibillionaire, corporate moguls who by divine right--not of God, but [of the Supreme Court's] Citizens United decision--are now buying politicians like so much pricey horseflesh."
- Fruits and Vegetables Boost Longevity in Women
    New research suggests that eating plant-based foods can lower the risk of death in senior-age women.
- Myths & Facts About Wind Power
    Following relentless attacks on the solar industry in the wake of Solyndra's bankruptcy, wind power has become the latest target of the right-wing campaign against renewable energy. But contrary to the myths propagated by the conservative media, wind power is safe, increasingly affordable, and has the potential to significantly reduce pollution and U.S. reliance on fossil fuels.
- Probability of contamination from severe nuclear reactor accidents is higher than expected: study
    Catastrophic nuclear accidents such as the core meltdowns in Chernobyl and Fukushima are more likely to happen than previously assumed. Based on the operating hours of all civil nuclear reactors and the number of nuclear meltdowns that have occurred, scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz have calculated that such events may occur once every 10 to 20 years (based on the current number of reactors) — some 200 times more often than estimated in the past.
- Tuna contaminated with Fukushima radiation found in California
    Bluefin tuna contaminated with radiation believed to be from Fukushima Daiichi turned up off the coast of California just five months after the Japanese nuclear plant suffered meltdown last March, US scientists said.
- How Estrogens Persist in Dairy Wastewater
    Wastewater from large dairy farms contains significant concentrations of estrogenic hormones that can persist for months or even years, researchers report in a new study. In the absence of oxygen, the estrogens rapidly convert from one form to another; this stalls their biodegradation and complicates efforts to detect them, the researchers found.
- Stella McCartney Takes On the Leather Trade
    Find out why fashion designer Stella McCartney chooses to leave leather out of her collections.

- Another Casualty of War?: The Environment
    War is hell. And that hell involves the environment, whether forests, fish or fowl.There's unexploded ordnance. Fuel spills and fires. Chemical defoliants, polluted water supplies, even the depleted uranium from modern armor-piercing bullets leaching into the land. The bid to build nuclear weapons in recent decades has left a legacy of toxic contamination across the globe, from Rocky Flats, Colorado to Mayak in southern Russia.
    Then there are the conflict driven resource curses, like blood diamonds from West Africa or Congo's coltan, a metallic ore that supplies materials for consumer electronics.
- Glenn Greenwald: Obama’s Secret Kill List "The Most Radical Power a Government Can Seize" video
    The New York Times revealed this week that President Obama personally oversees a "secret kill list" containing the names and photos of individuals targeted for assassination in the U.S. drone war. According to the Times, Obama signs off on every targeted killing in Yemen and Somalia and the more complex or risky strikes in Pakistan. Individuals on the list include U.S. citizens, as well as teenage girls as young as 17 years old. "The president of the United States believes that he has the power to order people killed, assassinated, in total secrecy, without any due process, without transparency or oversight of any kind," says Glenn Greenwald, a constitutional law attorney and political and legal blogger for Salon.com. "I really do believe it’s literally the most radical power that a government and a president can seize, and yet the Obama administration has seized this power and exercised it aggressively with very little controversy."
- This Week in Poverty: Will Janitors Strike in Houston?
    In Houston, more than 3,200 janitors clean the offices of some of the largest and most powerful corporations in the world: JP Morgan Chase, Shell, Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Wells Fargo, KBR and Marathon Oil, to name a few. For their labor, they are paid an hourly wage of $8.35 and earn an average of $8,684 annually. Two janitors together would earn about $17,300 a year—still well below the poverty line of $22,314 for a family of four.Yesterday, the contract between the janitors and the cleaning contractors expired. SEIU Local 1 spent the past month trying to reach an agreement to raise the janitors’ hourly wage to $10 over the next three years. But the contractors countered with an offer of a $0.50 pay raise phased in over five years and—according to SEIU spokesperson Paloma Martinez—said that they “wouldn’t budge.” The contractors claimed that the building owners and tenants—the aforementioned corporations—aren’t willing to pay anything close to a living wage.
- Wage Theft: A Crime Without Punishment?
    Low-wage workers in the United States face many harsh and demeaning circumstances—not being entitled to paid sick days, for instance. But there’s something particularly shocking about wage theft, an element of insult added to injury: not only does your boss pay you as little as he can get away with; he keeps a nice chunk of it for himself, just because he can. How much? According to “Broken Laws, Unprotected Workers,” a 2009 paper written by Milkman, Annette Bernhardt et al., fully 26 percent of the low-wage workers they studied in three cities—New York, Chicago and Los Angeles—had been paid less than the legally required minimum wage in the previous week; 60 percent of these were underpaid by more than $1 an hour. All in all, 68 percent of the sample had had at least one pay-related violation in the previous workweek. That turned out to be an average of $51 a week, or $2,634 a year. If a politician proposed increasing taxes by this amount, he’d be hanged from the nearest lamppost.
- The Gap Between The Rich And The Poor Is So Large, You Can Literally See It From Space
    Below are satellite images from Google Earth that show two neighborhoods from a selection of cities around the world. In case it isn’t obvious, the first image is the less well-off neighborhood, the second the wealthier one. Now even passing aliens can marvel at our regressive fiscal policies!
- The Amazon Effect
    How Amazon is helping to destroy small business, etc.
- Ten Reasons to Avoid Doing Business With Amazon.com
    Read all 10.
- Cocaine Habit Ages Brain Prematurely
    Although cocaine makes people feel more alert and on top of things in the moment, it can leave users vulnerable to a much slower brain in the long run. A new study shows that chronic use ages key parts of the brain at an accelerated rate.

Sean