Category Archives: Human behavior

Chart of the day: How Californians see police


From the Los Angeles Times:

BLOG Cops

Quote of the day: Naomi Klein on climate change


From an essay she wrote for the Guardian:

If we continue on our current path of allowing emissions to rise year after year, major cities will drown, ancient cultures will be swallowed by the seas; our children will spend much of their lives fleeing and recovering from vicious storms and extreme droughts. Yet we continue all the same.

What is wrong with us? I think the answer is far more simple than many have led us to believe: we have not done the things needed to cut emissions because those things fundamentally conflict with deregulated capitalism, the reigning ideology for the entire period we have struggled to find a way out of this crisis. We are stuck, because the actions that would give us the best chance of averting catastrophe – and benefit the vast majority – are threatening to an elite minority with a stranglehold over our economy, political process and media.

That problem might not have been insurmountable had it presented itself at another point in our history. But it is our collective misfortune that governments and scientists began talking seriously about radical cuts to greenhouse gas emissions in 1988 – the exact year that marked the dawning of “globalisation”. The numbers are striking: in the 1990s, as the market integration project ramped up, global emissions were going up an average of 1% a year; by the 2000s, with “emerging markets” such as China fully integrated into the world economy, emissions growth had sped up disastrously, reaching 3.4% a year.

That rapid growth rate has continued, interrupted only briefly, in 2009, by the world financial crisis. What the climate needs now is a contraction in humanity’s use of resources; what our economic model demands is unfettered expansion. Only one of these sets of rules can be changed, and it’s not the laws of nature.

Read the rest.

UPDATE: The latest from Tom Toles, editorial cartoonist for the Washington Post:

BLOG Toles

Chart of the day: Americans, more disatisfied


From Gallup, evidence that Americans are growing increasingly unhappy with the direction with the direction the country is headed:

BLOG Satisfied

And now for something completely different. . .


And that would be magic.

For dogs.

In Finland.

From Deutsche Welle:

Doggie Magician Jose Ahonen

Program notes:

Ahonen recently had some dogs in the audience watching him do tricks which then inspried him to come up with an act to confound pooches, too. He put it on YouTube and it went viral overnight. Now many millions have watched it. We meet magic man Ahonen and find out about another project he has in cooperation with man’s best friend.

And from Jose Ahonen, those videos:

Taikuutta koirille – Magic for dogs

Program note:

Do dogs react to magic? Watch as magician & mentalist Jose Ahonen vanished some dog treats under their noses. By the way, all the dogs got treats before and after the trick :)

Magic for Dogs part 2 – Taikuutta Koirille osa 2

EnviroWatch: Water, fracking, forests, nukes


We begin with the latest on that other outbreak, the one in Asia, via Jiji Press:

Dengue Infections in Japan Surpass 100

Nine more people in Japan have been confirmed to have dengue fever, raising the total number of cases to 105, the health ministry said Thursday.

All nine are likely to have been bitten by dengue virus-carrying mosquitoes in Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park or nearby areas, where most of the recent infections are believed to have originated, the ministry said.

The 105 infected people come from 16 prefectures across Japan. The nine people developed symptoms between Aug. 30 and Tuesday, according to the ministry. The first domestic case of dengue fever in nearly 70 years was reported late last month.

From Mother Jones, Hillary’s other legacy:

How Hillary Clinton’s State Department Sold Fracking to the World

  • A trove of secret documents details the US government’s global push for shale gas

Under her leadership, the State Department worked closely with energy companies to spread fracking around the globe—part of a broader push to fight climate change, boost global energy supply, and undercut the power of adversaries such as Russia that use their energy resources as a cudgel. But environmental groups fear that exporting fracking, which has been linked to drinking-water contamination and earthquakes at home, could wreak havoc in countries with scant environmental regulation. And according to interviews, diplomatic cables, and other documents obtained by Mother Jones, American officials—some with deep ties to industry—also helped US firms clinch potentially lucrative shale concessions overseas, raising troubling questions about whose interests the programme actually serves.

Geologists have long known that there were huge quantities of natural gas locked in shale rock. But tapping it wasn’t economically viable until the late 1990s, when a Texas wildcatter named George Mitchell hit on a novel extraction method that involved drilling wells sideways from the initial borehole, then blasting them full of water, chemicals, and sand to break up the shale—a variation of a technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Besides dislodging a bounty of natural gas, Mitchell’s breakthrough ignited an energy revolution. Between 2006 and 2008, domestic gas reserves jumped 35%. The United States later vaulted past Russia to become the world’s largest natural gas producer. As a result, prices dropped to record lows, and America began to wean itself from coal, along with oil and gas imports, which lessened its dependence on the Middle East. The surging global gas supply also helped shrink Russia’s economic clout: profits for Russia’s state-owned gas company, Gazprom, plummeted by more than 60% between 2008 and 2009 alone.

Clinton, who was sworn in as secretary of state in early 2009, believed that shale gas could help rewrite global energy politics. “This is a moment of profound change,” she later told a crowd at Georgetown University. “Countries that used to depend on others for their energy are now producers. How will this shape world events? Who will benefit, and who will not? … The answers to these questions are being written right now, and we intend to play a major role.” Clinton tapped a lawyer named David Goldwyn as her special envoy for international energy affairs; his charge was “to elevate energy diplomacy as a key function of US foreign policy.”

From the Japan Times, another tragedy:

Police in Indian Kashmir collect bodies floating in worst floods in years

Authorities in Indian Kashmir collected the bodies of women and children floating in the streets on Thursday as anger mounted over what many survivors said was a bungled operation to help those caught in the region’s worst flooding in 50 years.

Both the Indian and Pakistan sides of the disputed Himalayan region have been hit by extensive flooding in recent days, and about 450 people have been killed, with Indian Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar particularly hard hit.

“Some air force officials have reported that they have seen bodies of women and children floating. We are making every effort to collect the bodies as soon as we can,” said Srinagar police officer Faizal Wani.

Some aerial footage from RT:

Sub(merged)-Continent: Aerial footage of India’s fatal floods

Program notes:

Indian Air Force helicopters continue rescue efforts on to evacuate people stranded in flooded areas in Indian Kashmir. The flooding began earlier this month, causing landslides. More than a million people have been affected, with thousands losing their homes to the rising water.

And from the U.S. Drought Monitor, a look at the grievous condition in the American West, where water shortage is the rule [click on the image to enlarge]:

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BBC News covers another tragedy:

Amazon rainforest destruction in Brazil rises again

The rate of destruction of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil has increased for a second year running.

Brazilian government figures show deforestation was up by 29% in the 12 months up to the end of July 2013. Satellite data showed that almost 6,000 sq km (2,315 sq miles) of forest were cleared during that period.

The largest increases in deforestation were seen in the states of Para and Mato Grosso, where most of Brazil’s agricultural expansion is taking place.

From the New York Times, tragedy within tragedy:

Peru Investigates the Killing of an Environmental Advocate

The authorities here are investigating the killing of an environmental advocate and indigenous leader who died along with three other men in a remote region of the Amazon jungle that he had sought to protect from illegal logging.

The advocate, Edwin Chota, 54, was a leader of the Ashaninka Indian village of Saweto, near the Brazilian border. Mr. Chota was killed after leaving Saweto on Aug. 31, while on his way to meet with leaders from another Ashaninka village some days walk away, according to his widow, Julia Pérez, and media reports.

Three other Saweto leaders accompanying him were also killed, officials said.

It took several days for villagers to discover the killings and make the trip by river to the regional capital, Pucallpa, to report the crime. Environmental and indigenous advocates announced the deaths over the weekend.

From the Guardian, motivation for rapacity:

Tropical forests illegally destroyed for commercial agriculture

  • Forest Trends warns that demand for palm oil, beef, soy and wood has fuelled rapid deforestation, especially in Indonesia

Increasing international demand for palm oil, beef, soy and wood is fuelling the illegal destruction of tropical forests at an alarming rate, according to new analysis that suggests nearly half of all recent tropical deforestation is the result of unlawful clearing for commercial agriculture.

The report, by the Washington-based NGO Forest Trends, concludes that 71% of tropical deforestation between 2000 and 2012 was due to commercial cultivation. Of that deforestation, 49% was caused by illegal clearing to make way for agricultural products whose largest buyers include the EU, China, India, Russia and the US.

The global market for beef, leather, soy, palm oil, tropical timbers, pulp and paper – worth an estimated $61bn (£38bn) a year – resulted in the clearance of more than 200,000 square kilometres of tropical forest in the first decade of the 21st century, the report says. Put another way, an average of five football fields of tropical forest were lost every minute over that period.

Guardian Professional covers another failure:

Monoculture is failing Nicaragua’s farmers

  • NGOs must acknowledge the risks to livelihoods and food security and teach smallholders to diversify for higher profits

For the farmers on western Nicaragua’s volcanic range, who tend to favour beans over almost all other crops making a living from just beans is far from stable, despite the fertile soils.

As farmers fell trees to make space for land, deforestation has a negative effect on crop yields as increased erosion and surface run-off wash the nutrients from the once-rich volcanic soils. Similarly, environmental pressures such as meteorological variation leads to a high fall in yields.

Marginalised communities with limited access to water for even basic needs have no capacity to irrigate in a dry year. They also rely on the rains relenting between July and August. If there is no dry spell, they cannot dry their beans which then spoil quicker. In some areas, should the winds change and the volcanoes’ acidic smoke billow over farmland, acid rain can destroy an entire harvest.

While the Christian Science Monitor covers tragic dispossession:

Kenya conundrum: Kick out Maasai herders to develop geothermal energy?

  • In East Africa, a clash of two virtues: ancient homelands and clean energy. Kenya has incredible geothermal potential, but much of it sits below indigenous people’s land near volcanic Mt. Suswa.

lready, Kenya is Africa’s largest producer of geothermal and the ninth-largest worldwide. But the 424 megawatts currently generated represent less than 1/20th of the energy locked beneath a string of volcanic fields in the Rift Valley. Suswa alone has an estimated 600 untapped megawatts.

Realizing Kenya’s geothermal potential would cut energy costs and power economic expansion. But it could come at a high price: displacing thousands of indigenous Maasai people who, after a century of losing land rights, are upset at being moved again.

“We don’t like it,” says [Maasai herdsman Daudi] Maisiodo of the budding geothermal exploration at Suswa. “We fear many people will come and take our land.”

After the jump, the latest chapter of Fukushimapocalypse Now!, including a disaster for a Japanese newspaper, questions for the ruling party in Japan, more revelations about the nuclear disaster, and a refusal to shut down a California nuclear power plant built on the coast near another fault. . . Continue reading

EbolaWatch: Dire warnings, campaigns, a song


We begin today’s coverage of the plague now stalking Africa with a dire prediction from Deutsche Welle:

Virologist: Fight against Ebola in Sierra Leone and Liberia is lost

  • The killer virus is spreading like wildfire, Liberia’s defense minister said on Tuesdayas he pleaded for UN assistance. A German Ebola expert tells DW the virus must “burn itself out” in that part of the world.

Jonas Schmidt-Chanasit of the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine in Hamburg told DW that he and his colleagues are losing hope for Sierra Leone and Liberia, two of the countries worst hit by the recent Ebola epidemic.

“The right time to get this epidemic under control in these countries has been missed,” he said. That time was May and June. “Now it is too late.”

Schmidt-Chanasit expects the virus will “burn itself out” in this part of the world. With other words: It will more or less infect everybody and half of the population – in total about five million people – could die.

Another apocalyptic warning, via Punch Nigeria:

2.1m Nigerians at risk —Report

A new research study by Britain’s University of Oxford has revealed that 2.1 million Nigerians are at risk of contracting the Ebola Virus Disease.

According to the latest study published on Monday, the Ebola virus can spread to at least 15 more countries in West and Central Africa, pushing up overall number of people at risk of infection to 70 million.

The research titled, ‘Mapping the zoonotic niche of Ebola virus disease in Africa,’ compared historic outbreaks to the virus’s possible transmission in bats and chimpanzees to project how the virus could spread through its animal reservoir.

The Associated Press tallies:

35 deaths attributed to Ebola outbreak in Congo

The World Health Organization says that an Ebola outbreak in Congo is thought to have killed 35 people of the more than 60 sickened.

Congo, the site of the world’s first recorded Ebola outbreak, has had several flare-ups of the disease over the years. Officials say the current outbreak is not related to another taking place in West Africa blamed for the deaths of more than 2,200 people.

The U.N. health agency said Thursday that the Congo outbreak is concentrated in one county, and all of the 62 people believed to have contracted Ebola so far have been linked to one initial case. It said isolation units have been set up in each of the four affected villages, in a remote area of the Central African country’s northwest.

From France 24, World Health Organization Ebola specialist Dr. Zabulon Yoti discusses measures needed to contain the outbreak [despite the title, that’s the focus]:

Ebola Epidemic – West African economies overwhelmed

From Punch Nigeria, enlisting support:

Yero meets religious leaders on anti-Ebola plans

Governor Mukhtar Yero of Kaduna State  on Thursday  held a meeting with Christian and Muslim  leaders to sensitise them  on the Ebola virus disease.

Yero, who noted that it was  part of efforts to curtail  the spread of the deadly virus to the state, also told the religious leaders that the government would train 13,000 teachers in both private and public schools in the state before the September 22 resumption date for schools on how to handle the Ebola issue.

Speaking further on the Ebola virus, the governor said since the virus was a “special disease”, government would also place special emphasis on tackling its spread to the state.

Yero cautioned the media against sensationalising the disease in their reportage, noting that rather, the media should be in the vanguard of  educating and enlightening residents of the state on the virus.

Liberian Observer conveys a recommendation:

‘Include Ebola Survivors on Task Forces’

  • WHO Consultant Suggests

A health consultant to the World Health Organization (WHO) assigned in Grand Cape Mount County, Dr. Akpaka Kalu, has called for the inclusion of Ebola survivors on the National Ebola Taskforce to educate citizens about the danger and prevention of the disease.

Dr. Kalu made the recommendation during the county’s Ebola Taskforce coordination meeting held on Wednesday in Sinje Town, Garwula District.

According to him, the inclusion of survivors on the taskforce was important, “because the survivors should be used as psycho-social counselors in the fight against the deadly epidemic.”

“Instead of bringing survivors on the taskforce,” Dr. Kalu lamented that unfortunately, the survivors are being stigmatized by Liberians rather than looking at them as resourced persons to educate others about the danger of the virus.

The Monrovia Inquirer covers an assessment:

Samukai Outlines Effects Of Ebola…Wants Support To Lift Travel Ban

Defense Minisrer, Brownie Samukai has outlined the effects of the deadly Ebola virus in Liberia.

Delivering a special statement at the United Nations Security Council, on Tuesday Minister Samukai said this “health emergency is affecting every sector of the Liberian society.”

Min. Samukai added that the nation’s economy has been very seriously disrupted. He said Local economic activities such as domestic food production, mining, and transport services have been undermined.

“Moreover, the slowdown in domestic food production, particularly in affected areas of the country, has negatively impacted food supply, thus triggering increasing demand for imported commodities, at higher prices, minister Samukai said.

From the Liberian Observer, some good news:

Firestone Medical Center Discharges 6 Ebola Survivors

The Firestone Medical Center in Duside on September 2 and 9, discharged six survivors from its Ebola Treatment Unit. The first patient, Madam Jenneh Farsue, the wife of a Firestone Liberia employee, contracted the deadly Ebola virus in July/August. She was discharged following several weeks of intensive medical care at the Firestone Hospital and after testing negative of the virus. Five more persons were discharged and reintegrated from Isolation into the communities on the 9th of September.

In addition to the hospital and Ebola Treatment Unit, Firestone Liberia also runs a reintegration program to help those returning to the community following isolation or treatment for Ebola. Speaking at the reintegration program for Mrs. Farsue in Division 28, Cubitts Community, Dr. Lyndon G. Mabande, the Medical Director of the Firestone Health Services, called on residents of the community to interact with Mrs. Farsue as they used to do and accept her back into the community because she is healthy. He described her recovery as “a true success story in the fight against the deadly Ebola virus.”

He called on his fellow teammates, residents and the general public to adhere to the preventive measures stipulated by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and the World Health Organization (WHO). Mabande further appealed to Liberians to stop the denial syndrome so people can be treated early, a key in the fight against Ebola. “Come to the hospital soon. If you come soon, with all we can put together, you may come home saved,” Dr. Mabande said. He also commended the medical staff for their work in the fight against this disease. “Let us continue to cooperate. If we work in isolation, we are not going to succeed, and it requires team work,” he told the gathering.

Punch Nigeria covers anger over austerity on the front lines:

Ebola outbreak: Anger in Lagos infectious diseases hospital

Members of staff of the Infectious Disease Hospital, Yaba, Lagos, have expressed anger over the impending removal of the hazard allowance component of their September salary. Sources within the hospital told our correspondent that the Lagos State government has excised the allowance, which has been paid for years in the September payroll.

“We have sighted the payroll for September already and there is no provision for this allowance which has been paid to us for more than four years. This is really terrible. If government wants to remove anybody’s allowance, should it be from us workers at the IDH? What kind of problem is this?” one of the workers of the hospital lamented.

Earlier, volunteers at the isolation ward had protested the non-payment of their daily allowance since August 30.

New Europe lends a hand:

UN allocates $3.8 million to support a UN air service operating in Ebola-struck West Africa

The United Nations humanitarian chief has allocated $3.8 million from an emergency fund to support a U.N. air service operating in the Ebola-struck West African region.

Valerie Amos said Wednesday that a reduction in commercial air flights as a result of the Ebola outbreak has hindered the urgent deployment of health workers and supplies.

She said the $3.8 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund will assist the U.N. Humanitarian Air Service, run by the World Food Program, to move humanitarian personnel, medical supplies and equipment and aid rapidly to remote locations in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.

After the jump, a call for a military-like response from the North, anxieties over U.S. military “help,” a warning about corruption, Ebola fears Down Under, and another musical response. . . Continue reading

Looking for compassion? Then go to the poor


One might reasonably expect that when looking for a little bit of help, one should seek it among those who could most afford to give it.

But one would be wrong.

Years ago, an old friend who had gone through some rough times told us this: “If you’re looking for help, then ass the poorest people you know, because they know what it’s like to go without.”

New proof of the old maxim can be found in a remarkable video from Sweden [and don’t worry, you need speak nor read Swedish to get the message].

But first, some context from TheLocal.se:

Swedish ‘begging experiment’ goes viral

  • A “social experiment” has gone viral in Sweden after organizers filmed the results of begging in Stockholm’s wealthiest and poorest suburbs

The video begins in Stockholm’s rich Stureplan area and shows a man named Konrad approaching strangers and asking for one kronor (14 cents).

Each stranger walks by without stopping.

Text over the video explains:

“We wanted to thank the people who care about others. We planned to give back double the money to people who offered cash to Konrad. The problem was that no one gave him anything.”

The “beggar” spent almost two hours in Stureplan but failed to get a single donation.

Down but not defeated, the crew then tried the same tactic in Rinkeby – one of Stockholm’s poorest areas – where around 90 percent of the population is a first or second generation immigrant.

Over a 40-minute period, the actor was given money by 34 people, all of whom were eventually given back twice the amount of their donation.

And now, the video: