Category Archives: Human behavior

Two Napa earthquakes: A video and a story


First up, some footage of Sunday morning’s disastrous Napa Valley earthquake, now estimated to has caused at least a billion dollars in damage to one of the planet’s most scenic places.

The dramatic footage was shot by videographer Evan Kilkus using a quadropter drone as a demonstration of the potential of drones to document damage from natural disasters. Pay close attention to those shots of parking shelter roof collapses at an apartment building, especially the very last ones.

We’ll explain after the video.

From Evan Kilkus:

Napa Earthquake 2014 Quadcopter Test Video

Program notes:

These are aerial clips showing a unique look at the major damage in downtown Napa caused by the earthquake on August 24, 2014.

Pretty impressive, no?

The quake sent scores to the emergency and critically injured three people, one a small child.

We were living in Napa when the last significant quake hit the valley.

It hit just after 1:30 a.m. one September 2000, and we were sitting in a recliner in a second floor apartment in the building with those collapsed parking roofs, and our own car used the last structure shown in the video.

Fortunately for us, the roof held in that 2000 quake, a 5.2. shaker compared to last weekend’s 6.0.

But less fortunately, we found ourselves suddenly alone in the dark, and feeling damn sore as we’d been struck repeatedly the instant the lights went out. Fortunately, we always keep a flashlight within reach, and once we managed to locate it in our chairside table, we discovered that the assault had been the result of books hurled across the room from our 140-year-old walnut wardrobe, the sharp end of which had come to rest on the elevated leg rest of our recliner. Just a few minutes earlier, we’d crossed our legs in our lap. Otherwise we’d have had two broken femurs to contend with [it’s a heavy wardrobe].

Since the phones were out and we lacked a cell phone [ah, blissful days], once we cleared a path through the detritus [stereo compents and our 32-include tube television also took a dive when the earth moved] me made our way to our car and headed up the road to the house where the ex and our two daughters lived.

They and the house were fine, so we headed back to the apartment, and found ourselves profoundly shaken because our ever-so-carefully arranged library had been scattered across the floors of three bedrooms, while most of our bookcases [made of plastic-connector-fused reinforced wire square grids] had collapsed into their components.

For a depressed and jobless writer and bibliophile who had read each of those thousand-plus volumes, the sudden and profound disorder [plus breakage of some antiques and antiquities held in trust for progeny] simultaneously shocked and dismayed.

Restoring order would take weeks, possibly months.

On 20 October, seven weeks after the earthquake, we were sitting in the same chair in the same room, when the second blow came, in the form of a painful cramping sensation in the neck and jaw. It’ll pass, we decided. But it didn’t, and the pain wasn’t just a cramp, but a wholly different thing altogether. Could it be a heart attack? No, we thought, that’s when you feel something similar, but in the left arm.

Then we got up.

Promptly falling to the floor.

We got up on knees, painfully making our way two knee-moves to the phone to punch in 911.

When the operator asked the nature of the emergency, we said we were probably having a heart attack. Three minutes later, paramedics were at the door. Minutes later we were in the same emergency room that handled this weekend’s earthquake victims.

We got a stent in the left anterior descending artery, the one the paramedics had called “The Widowmaker,” then spent two or three days in the ICU before heading home with prescriptions we’ve been swallowing since.

Subsequent research directly links earthquakes with increased heart attacks in a 16-week period after the temblor itself [with a major spike on the day of the quake itself as well], and we were convinced ourselves that the lingering effects of the quake-caused disorder in our physical environment had significantly prolonged the quake’s impact.

So when we see the impact of the weekend Napa quake, including the devastating caused at the apartment where we’d once lived, we feel a particular sense of empathy with those whose lives where literally and psychologically profoundly shaken by a reminder of the fundamentally contingent nature of our carefully ordered personal universes.

Chart of the day II: Low trust in American cops


From the Pew Research Center, dramatic evidence of the collapse of trust in America’s police forces, with African-Americans displaying lower levels of trust than whites:

BLOG Cops

Chart of the day: For Americans, you are your job


And the more education you have and the more money you make,m the more you’re likely to derive your sense of identity from your work, rather than home or family.

From Gallup:

BLOG JobsAnd just what was it  that happened in 1998 or thereabouts to create that momentary shift?

EnviroWatch: Ebola, global woes, toxins, nukes


Another hefty compendium of alarms and alerts about the increasingly destruction relationship betwixt people and planet, starting with that most urgent of events, the continuing Ebola catastrophe in Africa.

International Business Times covers one deadly consequence:

Ebola Outbreak: Liberian Army Ordered to ‘Shoot on Sight’ Anyone Crossing Sierra Leone Border

Liberia’s armed forces have been given orders to shoot people on sight who are attempting to illegally cross the border from Ebola-stricken Sierra Leone, according to local media reports.

The order was given to soldiers stationed in Bomi and Grand Cape Mount counties on the border with Sierra Leone in hope of preventing the spread of the deadly virus, deputy chief of staff, Colonel Eric Dennis said.

Liberia has the highest death toll from the disease with approximately 400 citizens killed. So far, more than 1,200 people have died from the disease, which has been described as the worst ever outbreak of the virus.

And an earlier omnibus report from Deutsche Welle:

African governments take isolation measures

  • African governments are sealing their ports and airports in an attempt to halt the spread of Ebola. But will fever checks and entry bans really make any difference?

With more than 1,100 dead and 2,100 suspected cases of Ebola, authorities in many African countries are holding their breath. Many are nervous, and some have begun to isolate themselves.

From Tuesday onwards, Kenya Airways has suspended flights to Liberia and Sierra Leone. Ivory Coast is no longer allowing ships from Ebola-hit countries to pass through its waters. In Nigeria, no one is allowed to board a plane unless their temperature is normal and they have passed the airport’s “fever check.”

“I think the restriction of air traffic is an expression of the helplessness of the authorities there when it comes to containing the disease,” said Dieter Häussinger, director of the Hirsch Institute of Tropical Medicine. He thinks that monitoring people’s temperature is a questionable method, because it’s impossible to separate those infected with Ebola from people who’ve got the flu.

United Press International ups the aid ante:

Food distribution to Ebola quarantine sites scaled up as death toll hits 1,200

  • The World Health Organization and the U.N.’s World Food Program have teamed up to provide needed food to quarantine sites in Ebola-affected countries in West Africa. “Providing regular food supplies is a potent means of limiting unnecessary movement,” WHO noted.

The World Health Organization issued an update Tuesday regarding the deadly outbreak of Ebola in West Africa.

As of August 16, WHO recorded 2,240 cases of confirmed, probable and suspected cases of Ebola in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, including 1,229 deaths.

The distribution and classification of the cases are as follows:

  • Guinea, 543 cases (396 confirmed, 140 probable, and 7 suspected), including 394 deaths;
  • Liberia, 834 cases (200 confirmed, 444 probable, and 190 suspected), including 466 deaths;
  • Nigeria, 15 cases (12 confirmed, 0 probable, and 3 suspected), including 4 deaths;
  • Sierra Leone, 848 cases (775 confirmed, 34 probable, and 39 suspected), including 365 deaths.

From the Associated Press, a hopeful sign in a disease that kills 90 percent of its victims:

Liberia: 3 receiving untested Ebola drug improving

Three Liberian health workers receiving an experimental drug for Ebola are showing signs of recovery, officials said Tuesday, though medical experts caution it is not certain if the drug is effective.

The World Health Organization said that the death toll for West Africa’s Ebola outbreak has climbed past 1,200 but that there are tentative signs that progress is being made in containing the disease.

The three Liberians are being treated with the last known doses of ZMapp, a drug that had earlier been given to two infected Americans and a Spaniard. The Americans are also improving, but the Spaniard died.

CBC News makes a critical note about a continent where Africans have all been treated as Big Pharma lab rats:

Ebola outbreak: Africans understandably wary about promised cures

  • Past drug trials likely affecting public suspicion in West Africa today

New concerns that the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is much worse than reported are adding to the global pressure to find a solution – even if that means testing unproven drugs on desperate Africans. But medical ethicists and others in the drug-testing business say the focus on miracle cures for Ebola is misplaced.

And, in any event, Western nations owe Africans a huge debt of gratitude for even considering being the ones to try these experimental medications.

Untested drugs and vaccines are now in the spotlight after reports that three Westerners received the experimental Canadian drug ZMapp, and about the Canadian government announcing it would donate up to 1,000 doses of a potential Ebola vaccine that is in the development stage.

The Japan Times rounds up:

Liberia says all 17 runaway Ebola patients have been located

Liberia has found all 17 suspected Ebola patients who fled a quarantine center in Monrovia at the weekend and transferred them to another clinic, the information minister said on Tuesday.

“We are glad to confirm that all of the 17 individuals have been accounted for and have now been transferred to JFK Ebola specialist treatment center,” said Lewis Brown.

He also said that three infected African doctors who had received the experimental Ebola drug Zmapp were showing “remarkable signs of improvement,” quoting an assessment by the doctor overseeing their treatment.

TheLocal.fr raises aerial objections:

Air France staff object to flying to Ebola countries

Air France cabin crew are so concerned about the threat of the Ebola epidemic that unions have started a petition calling for flights to be stopped to those West African countries most affected by the disease.

A union representing Air France staff has launched a petition to try to persuade company chiefs to stop flying to Guinea and Sierra Leone until the Ebola crisis is under control.

The two countries are heavily affected by the epidemic, that has killed over 1,200 people, and staff fear their lives are in danger each time they touch down in those countries.

Latin American Herald Tribune makes ready across the Atlantic:

Mexico City Airport Prepares to Deal with Ebola

The Mexico City International Airport is ready to deal with any possible cases of Ebola, a viral disease that is spreading through West Africa, aviation officials said.

Posters informing travelers about the disease and the measures to take to avoid spreading it are being put up around the airport.

The airport “is fully complying with the regulations established by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) regarding the outbreak affecting Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, countries where people have been infected with the virus,” airport management said in a statement.

And from the Los Angeles Times, a photojournalist covers the crisis:

Ebola crisis: Photographer John Moore chronicles the outbreak in Liberia

Program notes:

Getty Images photographer John Moore travels to Liberia to cover the burgeoning Ebola outbreak in the West African country, and he describes the scene and precautions he and health workers have taken.

From TheLocal.de, a false alarm:

Stomach bug behind Berlin ‘Ebola’ scare

Around 600 people were held for several hours in emergency quarantine at a Berlin Job Centre on Tuesday after a West African woman collapsed with Ebola-like symptoms.

The emergency services cordoned off the premises in the city’s northeastern Prenzlauer Berg district after the 30-year-old collapsed. The woman then told medics she had had contact with victims of the deadly disease in her homeland.

She was immediately taken for hospital testing along with several other people who had been with her in the building.

However, doctors said that Ebola was unlikely and that the woman was probably suffering from an acute stomach bug.

TheLocal.at covers another false alarm:

All-clear given on suspected Ebola cases

Austria’s health ministry gave the all-clear Tuesday evening after regional authorities earlier reported two suspected cases of Ebola in two men recently returned from Nigeria.

“The test results in both cases were negative,” the health ministry said.

The news came hours after the governor of Upper Austria province, Josef Pühringer, said two men who returned last Wednesday from Lagos had been hospitalised on suspicion of carrying the deadly disease.

Blood samples were sent to a laboratory in Germany, which announced late Tuesday that the results were negative, Pühringer later said.

On to another environmental front with Newswise:

World’s Primary Forests on the Brink

An international team of conservationist scientists and practitioners has published new research showing the precarious state of the world’s primary forests.

The global analysis and map are featured in a paper appearing in the esteemed journal Conservation Letters and reveals that only five percent of the world’s pre-agricultural primary forest cover is now found in protected areas.

Led by Professor Brendan Mackey, Director of the Climate Change Response Program at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia, the authors are experts in forest ecology, conservation biology, international policy and practical forest conservation issues.

Representing organisations such as the US-based Wildlife Conservation Society, the Zoological Society of London, the Geos Institute and Australian National University, they conclude that primary forest protection is the joint responsibility of developed as well as developing countries and is a matter of global concern.

Primary forests – largely ignored by policy makers and under increasing land use threats – are forests where there are no visible indications of human activities, especially industrial-scale land use, and ecological processes have not been significantly disrupted.

From the Guardian, another global alarm:

Earth sliding into ‘ecological debt’ earlier and earlier, campaigners warn

  • World has already exhausted a year’s supply of natural resources in less than eight months, Global Footprint Network says

Humans have used up the natural resources the world can supply in a year in less than eight months, campaigners have warned.

The world has now reached “Earth overshoot day”, the point in the year when humans have exhausted supplies such as land, trees and fish and outstripped the planet’s annual capacity to absorb waste products including carbon dioxide.

The problem is worsening, with the planet sliding into “ecological debt” earlier and earlier, so that the day on which the world has used up all the natural resources available for the year has shifted from early October in 2000 to August 19 in 2014.

Al Jazeera America covers a consequence of perverted appetites:

Ivory poachers killing elephants faster than they are being born

  • Study says tipping point reached as poachers kill 7 percent of African elephants annually; birth rate is 5 percent

African elephants are being pushed over the tipping point, a new study said, with more being killed by poachers for their ivory than are born each year.

“We are shredding the fabric of elephant society and exterminating populations across the continent,” said the study’s lead author, George Wittemye of Colorado State University. The peer-reviewed report was published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Poaching has killed 7 percent of the continent’s elephant population annually from 2010-2013, but their birth rate is just 5 percent, according to the report. At those rates the animals could be wiped out within 100 years, and conservationists are worried.

After jump, tainted food, metallic toxins, catastrophic mine leaks, fracking protests, the latest chapter of Fukushimapocalypse Now!, and one for the birds. . . Continue reading

The reason for riots in one single sentence


From a New York Times account of the shooting of Michael Brown, the event that led to rioting in Ferguson, Missouri. Emphasis added:

Devin Stone, 28, a friend of Mr. Brown’s, was home in his apartment at the time, across the street from the place where the men were confronted by the police.

Sitting outside his building, Mr. Stone said he was jolted by the sound of two gunshots, followed by several more in rapid succession. The second series of shots “sounded automatic,” he said. “They let it rip.”

Mr. Stone ran outside and saw two police officers, both white men, standing near Mr. Brown, who was lying on his stomach, his arms at his sides, blood seeping from his head. Another neighbor, a woman who identified herself as a nurse, was begging the officers to let her perform CPR.

They refused, Mr. Stone said, adding, “They didn’t even check to see if he was breathing.”

Chart of the day: Americans can’t get no. . .


Satisfaction.

From Gallup:

BLOG Satisfied

And the obligatory coda, via the Rolling Stones:

Poll: Major changes in views toward LGBT folks


While the American racial crisis remains very much alive, one very where national attitudes have shifted profoundly in recent years has been in the arna of sexual orientation, as results from a new Mc Clatchy-Marist Poll reveal.

Among other things, the percentage of Americans favoring same-sex marriage has doubled in the last 18 years, rising from 27 percent in 1996 to 54 percent today.

Some of the other findings from the poll:

  • 71% of Americans know someone who is gay, and 52% of adults nationally say the number of gay and lesbian people they know has grown over the past ten years.  This is especially true for younger Americans.  When the Pew Research Center asked a similar question in 1999, only 39% of Americans said they had a friend, colleague, or family member who was gay.
  • More than eight in ten adults, 83%, say knowledge that a congressional candidate is gay or lesbian would make no difference in how they vote.  14% would be less likely to cast their ballot for a gay or lesbian candidate.  The Los Angeles Times Poll asked this question of Americans in 1985.  At that time, 49% said a candidate’s sexual orientation would not make any difference in deciding their vote, and 47% reported they were less likely to cast their ballot if a candidate was gay.
  • 62% of Americans would not be upset if their child were gay, including 48% who would not be upset at all and 14% who describe their reaction as not very upset.  35% of adults nationally would be upset if their child came out to them.  This includes 13% of residents who would be very upset and 22% who would be somewhat upset.  Age matters.  21% of Americans under 30 would be upset if their child shared this with them compared with about one-third of adults between 30 and 59 years of age and nearly half, 48%, of Americans 60 or older.
  • But, attitudes are significantly different than they were in 1985.  In a Los Angeles Times Poll, conducted nearly thirty years ago, 89% of Americans said they would be troubled if their child was gay.  In that earlier poll, 64% of Americans characterized their reaction as very upset and 25% were somewhat upset.  Five percent said they would not be very upset, and only 4%, then, said they would not be upset at all.