Text 19 Feb "Reverse Peace Corps Volunteer" from Poland Builds Starter Kit for Civilization in Missouri

As one commentator said, McGyver w/out the mullet working on real world solutions.

Photo 17 Feb Mobile protected areasBack in 1997 at the AAAS meeting in Seattle, where I organized a workshop on large marine ecoystems in Africa with NOAA’s Dr. Ken Sherman and UNIDO’s Dr. Chide Ibe, I had a conversation at a reception with Elliott Norse, the founder and President of the Marine Conservation Biology Institute, where he left me gob-smacked when he suggested that we needed to have marine protected areas that moved with the eddies or “rings" spinning off major ocean currents.  These rings are meanders in the major ocean currents (e.g. the Gulf Stream, the Agulhas Current) that pinch and separate (in my mind, a bit like smoke rings, but I don’t know if that’s a fair analogy).  The rings, he said (as well as I can recall) created micro-habitats important for spawning aggregations of some pelagic fish species.  Trawlers would seek out these rings to capture the fish attracted to spawn [fry] or to prey (forgive me if I got this wrong - by this time I am sure I’d had several glasses of wine).  Anyway, I had a good laugh.  Spinning marine protected areas on the high seas outside national jurisdiction. Hoo boy.  

(image courtesy of NASA)

Well well well.  Today I read that there is a concrete proposal for doing just that at the 2012 AAAS meeting, in Vancouver.  The Province of Vancouver is reporting that the technology is in place and the time is right to precisely such a thing, according to scientists presenting at the Vancouver meeting.  The impossible future is around the corner.  So Elliott, if you ever read this, I want the world to know that you’re an even bigger visionary than I thought; stay crazy.  And convince governments to support a regime to manage marine resources in areas outside national jurisdiction! Because there’s an app for that.

 

Mobile protected areas

Back in 1997 at the AAAS meeting in Seattle, where I organized a workshop on large marine ecoystems in Africa with NOAA’s Dr. Ken Sherman and UNIDO’s Dr. Chide Ibe, I had a conversation at a reception with Elliott Norse, the founder and President of the Marine Conservation Biology Institute, where he left me gob-smacked when he suggested that we needed to have marine protected areas that moved with the eddies or “rings" spinning off major ocean currents.  These rings are meanders in the major ocean currents (e.g. the Gulf Stream, the Agulhas Current) that pinch and separate (in my mind, a bit like smoke rings, but I don’t know if that’s a fair analogy).  The rings, he said (as well as I can recall) created micro-habitats important for spawning aggregations of some pelagic fish species.  Trawlers would seek out these rings to capture the fish attracted to spawn [fry] or to prey (forgive me if I got this wrong - by this time I am sure I’d had several glasses of wine).  Anyway, I had a good laugh.  Spinning marine protected areas on the high seas outside national jurisdiction. Hoo boy.  

(image courtesy of NASA)

Well well well.  Today I read that there is a concrete proposal for doing just that at the 2012 AAAS meeting, in Vancouver.  The Province of Vancouver is reporting that the technology is in place and the time is right to precisely such a thing, according to scientists presenting at the Vancouver meeting.  The impossible future is around the corner.  So Elliott, if you ever read this, I want the world to know that you’re an even bigger visionary than I thought; stay crazy.  And convince governments to support a regime to manage marine resources in areas outside national jurisdiction! Because there’s an app for that.

 

Text 29 Sep BBC News - Police respond to Onion’s Capitol hostage spoof

The Onion’s fake story follows a standoff in Congress over a spending bill to avert government shutdown.


US police are investigating tweets by a satirical news website about a fake security alert at Washington DC’s Capitol building.

The Onion said on its Twitter account that “screams and gunfire” had been heard inside the Capitol. It later said schoolchildren had been taken hostage. ….

The website posted a tweet on Thursday morning which said: “BREAKING: Witnesses reporting screams and gunfire heard inside Capitol building.”

It later posted another tweet promoting a spoof news article, headlined Congress Takes Group Of Schoolchildren Hostage.

In one of a series of tweets that followed, it said Congress was demanding a $12tn (£7.7tn) ransom “or all the kids die”.

The article - apparently poking fun at recent congressional budget showdowns - featured a mocked-up photo of Republican House Speaker John Boehner holding a gun to a girl’s head….

The Onion’s posts prompted a blizzard of responses on Twitter.

"@TheOnion You people are despicable", one tweeter wrote.

Another said: “@TheOnion Very poor taste.”

For satire to work, half the target audience must be too dense to detect satire. And, there has to be just a tiny bit of plausibility. Where’s Mencken when you need him?

Text 7 Sep fwd: Jesus Christ, Pirate

Things have gotten so bad that anarchists are beginning sound reasonable, or at least wickedly funny.  The allusion to Rome is not entirely inappropriate, either.

Lifted from the anarchist blog Center for a Stateless Society.

After reportedly feeding a crowd of five thousand with five loaves and two fishes, Jesus Christ of Nazareth was recently served with formal legal notice from industry trade associations, demanding that he cease and desist from what they charge is an illegal food-sharing operation under the terms of the Miracle Millennium Anti-Replication Act (MMAA).

Miracle-working rabbis like Mr. Christ, and their alleged property rights infringements, have been the center of controversy in recent years.  They’re the subject of a public education campaign by the Foodstuffs Producers Association of Galilee and Judea.  Loaves and fishes producers argue that unauthorized replication of food, since it deprives them of revenues to which they are entitled, amounts to stealing. Sympathetic rabbis in synagogues throughout Palestine are reading FPAGJ public service announcements, aimed at countering public perceptions that “everybody does it” and “it’s just a little thing,” to their flocks:  “Don’t bakers and fishermen deserve to be paid?”  Many Torah schools have adopted FPAGJ “anti-foodlifting” curricula.

In related news, the Wine Industry Association of Palestine has complained amid surfacing reports that Jesus, in another alleged act of illegal sharing, also replicated wine at a wedding feast in Cana of Galilee.

Physicians’ licensing boards, likewise, point to alleged eyewitness accounts of Jesus practicing medicine without a license.  This unauthorized medical practice, according to widespread reports, has extended to lepers, the lame, the halt, the blind, a man with a palsied hand, a woman with an issue of blood, and assorted victims of demonic possession.  The medical industry denounces Jesus’ actions as unfair competition.  According to a spokesman for the Galilean Medical Association, “it’s unfair to expect a licensed physician who spent years as an apprentice and who has to cover the overhead from office space to compete with some carpenter who just waves his hands around and heals people for free.”

Although the Embalmers’ Guild has also complained of rumored resurrections of the dead, legal experts say there is no actual statute defining that particular activity as a criminal offense.

On the other side, a small but growing movement of gustatory property opponents takes issue with the “piracy” label. They argue that copying food, as an inherently non-rivalrous activity, isn’t theft; because the newly replicated food is created ex nihilo, nobody else’s stock of food is diminished.  Fisherman Simon Bar Jonah of Galilee and his brother Andrew agree. “Instead of trying to suppress competition, the fishing industry should replace its archaic business model. Opportunities are out there for anyone willing to innovate. We haven’t lost a denarius because of Jesus’ food-sharing.”

But authorities aren’t buying it. Pontius Pilate, Procurator of Judea, recently announced plans to crack down on gustatory property pirates like Jesus. “If you think I’m going to wash my hands of this Jesus guy, God love him, think again. Replicating loaves, fishes and wine is stealing, just the same as a smash-and-grab at Macy’s. This is a big effing deal.”

Text 7 Sep Strange behavior and earthquakes

 

Well, a short while after a week bracketed by an earthquake and a hurricane that broke the record heat wave and drought of this summer, people are beginning to reflect a bit on what just happened. Lesson 1- tweets are faster than tremors! People in NYC were actually getting tweets about the earthquake BEFORE the tremors hit. (Are apes and birds on Twitter?)  Lesson 2 - social networking trumps common sense! I was at the top of one of the “tall” buildings in Washington when the earthquake hit, and I have to say, tweeting was about the last thing on my mind.  What’s up with that anyway - has social networking eroded any sense of self-preservation?

"The proper response to an earthquake? Run, scream, take cover?… no wait, Tweet!

"On Tuesday, the denizens of the East Coast had exactly this choice, and they responded by flooding the interwebz with messages: startled, mundane, humorous, informational. And it happened fast. Seismic waves travel at 3-5 km/s, communication signals in fiber optic cables move at a speed of 200,000 km/s [as this XKCD cartoon brilliantly notes]. Tweets do take time to compose, but significantly less when you’re tweeting “EARTHQUAKE”!

"We thought you’d like to see some of the data behind it. The visualization below replays the spread of earthquake related Tweets across North America, from the moment the epicenter hit Mineral Virginia (1:51PM) on August 23rd through its spread across the East coast and the South."

 

 

Photo 29 Jul Whitebark pine tree faces extinction threat, agency says - The Washington Post
      via washingtonpost.com
    [I posted this a week ago but Amplify didn’t autopost it to Posterous.  So I’m reposting].
The Fish and Wildlife Service determined Monday that whitebark pine, a tree found atop mountains across the American West, faces an “imminent” risk of extinction because of factors including climate change.
The Post also reports that the FWS can’t list the species in the Endangered Species List because it could not afford it. The House Appropriations Committee has eliminated funds for ESA listing from the budget. 
File under “decline and fall”.

Whitebark pine tree faces extinction threat, agency says - The Washington Post

[I posted this a week ago but Amplify didn’t autopost it to Posterous. So I’m reposting].

The Fish and Wildlife Service determined Monday that whitebark pine, a tree found atop mountains across the American West, faces an “imminent” risk of extinction because of factors including climate change.

The Post also reports that the FWS can’t list the species in the Endangered Species List because it could not afford it. The House Appropriations Committee has eliminated funds for ESA listing from the budget.

File under “decline and fall”.

Text 29 Jul Does the Arab Spring portend a hot African Summer?
Ty McCormick, writing in Foreign Policy online, sees growing signs of unrest in Sub-Saharan Africa:

Driving south from central Cairo along the corniche that hugs the east bank of the Nile, there’s a giant billboard for Mercedes-Benz’s newest toy. A gleaming, red, gullwing sports car — which hovers ostentatiously above the dustyroad, not a quarter mile from where beggars and street children mingle with haggard vendors hoping to pull in a few Egyptian pounds — is framed by a simple, penetrating message: “Have it all or nothing.” While many more Egyptians still have nothing today than have it all, things get substantially worse as you travel further south along the Nile, from the iconic heart of the Arab Spring into the heart of Africa.

In the last decade, give or take, the African continent has experienced tremendous economic expansion, clocking in at an average 5 percent annual growth in the 10 years before the 2008 economic meltdown. But as growth has accelerated, bestowing tremendous wealth on the fortunate — and more often, the corrupt — so has the gulf between those that drive fancy sports cars and those that must walk beneath them.

….

But robust growth and the conspicuous consumption that inevitably follows can be risky when there are few political safety valves. The result, as we have seen in Egypt and elsewhere, is that authoritarian regimes that have allowed their economies to open up have become ripe for revolution. As John Githongo, chief executive of Inuka Kenya Trust,argues in theNew York Times,"inequality, unlike poverty, is far more easily politicized, ethnicized and militarized…. It is also far more combustible because it creates an identifiable enemy — a class that benefits disproportionately because of its unfair access to those who wield power."

There are always signs of unrest in Sub-Saharan Africa - is this time different? Where else are there clouds on the horizon?

Anthropologist Daniel Hoffman has studied the diamond miners of Liberia and Sierra Leone for the past decade and documents how casual labor can be exploited for political unrest. With elections looming in Liberia, the availability of cheap young underemployed muscle for campaign staff is a worry. (Check out Hoffman’s new book The War Machines: Young Men and Violence in Sierra Leone and Liberia, coming in late August from Duke University Press).

In Mozambique, historic tensions between north (where the resources are) and the south (where the power is) continues to smolder. Some argue that the question is “when” rather than “if” an eruption will take place. For a nation that lost perhaps as much as 10% of its population in a brutal civil war, and displaced much of the remainder, one hopes that the national appetite for civil strife is small and that the answer to the question is “never”. But could instability in Zimbabwe or South Africa tip the balance?

From a historic perspective, free Africa is still in the throws of a violent birth. Economic growth is not necessarily anodyne, as McCormick demonstrates.

Prof Calestous Juma, also writing in Foreign Policy online, takes a countervailing view. The conflicts described are evolutionary, not revolutionary, “offshoots of internal processes that have been underway for decades” and presumably part of the historical process leading to an African renaissance. Juma sees positive signs - “The prospect of joining larger economic trade areas already seems to be influencing the way countries resolve long-standing internal conflicts and embark on democratic transitions. In Burundi, for example, a decades-long civil war fueled by ethnic tension has been ended in part due to the country’s aspirations to join an emerging East African Community (EAC) and embark on a new path of economic reconstruction. South Sudan, which has its own internal conflicts, plans to join the EAC as well, hopefully a move that will have a positive influence on political conduct in the new country.”

The economic growth of Africa requires two contrary forces - order and freedom. Will African leaders be able to strike a balance between security and political freedom, or will the drive for security throttle both political opposition and political growth? The answer - yes.

Text 23 Apr The Vicious Circle

John Norris writes in Foreign Policy on April 13 about a Pentagon report on budget priorities, apparently written by two members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  The report says, in part:

By investing energy, talent, and dollars now in the education and training of young Americans — the scientists, statesmen, industrialists, farmers, inventors, educators, clergy, artists, service members, and parents, of tomorrow — we are truly investing in our ability to successfully compete in, and influence, the strategic environment of the future. Our first investment priority, then, is intellectual capital and a sustainable infrastructure of education, health and social services to provide for the continuing development and growth of America’s youth.

To which Norris observes:  ”Yet, it is investments in America’s long-term human resources that have come under the fiercest attack in the current budget environment. As the United States tries to compete with China, India, and the European Union, does it make sense to have almost doubled the Pentagon budget in the last decade while slashing education budgets across the country? …. The United States has established an incentive system that just doesn’t make any sense. It continues to pour tens of billions of dollars into agricultural and oil subsidies every single year even as these subsidies make the gravity of the environmental, health, and land-use problems the country faces in the future ever graver. As the report argues, America cannot truly practice the use of “smart power” until it practices “smart growth” at home. While some may be quick to argue that the Pentagon should not be considering issues like smart growth and investments in America’s youth, this goes to another key point from the authors: America won’t get its approach to policy right if it leaves foreign policy and domestic policy in tidy little silos that ignore the interconnection between the two.”

The report goes on to say:
And yet with globalization, we seem to have developed a strange apprehension about the efficacy of our ability to apply the innovation and hard work necessary to successfully compete in a complex security and economic environment. Further, we have misunderstood interdependence as a weakness rather than recognizing it as a strength. The key to sustaining our competitive edge, at home or on the world stage, is credibility — and credibility is a difficult capital to foster. It cannot be won through intimidation and threat, it cannot be sustained through protectionism or exclusion. Credibility requires engagement, strength, and reliability — imaginatively applied through the national tools of development, diplomacy, and defense.

I’m reminded of Walter Lippmann’s admonition in the New York Herald Tribune in 1944:
“If we fix our minds upon the fact that the capacity to produce is the nation’s wealth, and upon the dislocation of that capacity as the supreme evil to be avoided, we shall, I believe, have hold of the saving truth.”
If, in this globalized world, our intellectual resources constitute the true wealth of the nation, and if servicing our debt means chronic underinvestment in human capital, then we are well and truly circling closer to the drain.  I predict the pundits to begin writing about the brain drain from America any day now.

Norris adds that the budget deal concluded a few days after this came out cut 8 billion dollars from diplomacy and international development, while leaving the defense budget intact.
Text 3 Apr Heat Stress Could Make Parts of the Planet Uninhabitable
I learned this week that according to some plausible scenarios, that half the inhabitable Earth could become uninhabitable in 300 years.  A sometimes overlooked aspect of climate change is the potential for heat stress on humans and other living things.  According to a new report*, heat stress imposes an “upper limit to adaptation”, one that we will reach under some scenarios.  Temperatures in excess of 35 degrees Celsius induce hyperthermia in mammals. “While this never happens now, it would begin to occur with global-mean warming of about 7 °C, calling the habitability of some regions into question. With 11–12 °C warming, such regions would spread to encompass the majority of the human population as currently distributed. Eventual warmings of 12 °C are possible from fossil fuel burning. One implication is that recent estimates of the costs of unmitigated climate change are too low unless the range of possible warming can somehow be narrowed….a global-mean warming of roughly 7 °C would create small zones where metabolic heat dissipation would for the first time become impossible, calling into question their suitability for human habitation. A warming of 11–12 °C would expand these zones to encompass most of today’s human population.’
Of course when we all run to the other side of the boat we will encounter another tipping point.  

A number of questions arise relating to freedom and responsibility that will need to be addressed soon.  Left unchecked, could climate change mark the end of the American experiment with liberty?  At a minimum humanity  may be challenged to reframe ideas about liberty and progress.  

*Stephen Sherwood and Matthew Huber, writing in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (http://www.pnas.org/content/107/21/9552.full?sid=d38fdf62-80df-4419-9ca7-01773e9a0827)

Text 24 Mar Removing tragedy from our lives infantilizes us
Ben Kingsley speaks on tragedy in an interview on portraying Holocaust
history with National Public Radio’s Scott Simon (aired March 19, 2011
on Weekend Edition Saturday:
http://www.npr.org/2011/03/19/134682388/Ben-Kingsley-On-Portraying-Holocaust-History) “I think that the role of the actor  perhaps at its simplest and its
purest, is one of the tribal story teller, and if you were to
transport me back maybe 3000 years, I’d be sitting around the fire at
night with the little tribe, reassuring them about their past, hoping
that they will sleep through the night, comforting them about their
future, and trying to build those bridges of empathy, particularly
[about] those aspects of life that are baffling and frightening.

“It is important to embrace tragedy as a real part of our lives.  David
Mamet … in his book Writing in Restaurants, defined ( let me
slightly paraphrase it and say western civilization ) “as a
civilization determined to outlaw tragedy.” If you remove the
interpretation and presentation of tragedy from the shaman sitting by
the bonfire, you’re telling the tribe nothing of real life.  And  It
doesn’t prepare us as adults. It infantilizes us. And it dodges an
enormous responsibility. All great mythology  that we love and respect
has included loss and tragedy as well as great moments of salvation.
It’s braided in.  … Through knowing each other, and holding onto
that tribal bonfire we’ll be okay.”

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