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A Rapidly Warming Arctic Could Loose a Methane Climate Bomb Causing Mass Extinction in Nine Years

Looming climate catastrophe?

A methane hydrate deposit erupts suddenly from the sea floor off the northern coast of NorwayA methane hydrate deposit erupts suddenly from the sea floor off the northern coast of Norway
 

Reports from the Arctic are getting pretty grim.

The latest, from a blog called Arctic News, warns that by 2026 -- that’s just nine years from now -- warming above the Arctic Circle could be so extreme that a massively disrupted and weakened jet stream could lead to global temperature rises so severe that a massive extinction event, including humans, could result.

This latest blog post, written by Arctic News editor Sam Carana, draws on research by a number of scientists (linked in his article), who report on various feedback loops that will result from a dramatically warmer north polar region, even in winter. But the critical concern, he says, is methane already starting to be released in huge quantities from the shallow sea floor of the continental shelves north of Siberia and North America. That methane, produced by bacteria acting on biological material that sinks to the sea floor, for the most part, is currently lying frozen in a form of ice that is naturally created over millions of years by a mixing of methane and water, called a methane hydrate. Methane hydrate is a type of molecular structure called a clathrate. Clathrates are a kind of cage, in this case made of water ice, which traps another chemical, in this case methane. At normal temperatures, above the freezing temperature of water, these clathrates can only form under high pressures, such as a 500 meters or more under the ocean, and indeed such clathrates can be found under the sea floor even in places like the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, where the temperature is 8-10 degrees above freezing. But in colder waters, they can exist and remain stable at much shallower levels, such as a in a few hundred feet of water off the coast of Alaska or Siberia.

The concern is that if the Arctic Ocean waters, particularly nearer to shore, were to warm even slightly, as they will do as the ice cap vanishes in summer and becomes much thinner in winter, at some point the clathrates there will suddenly dissolve releasing tens of thousands of gigatons of methane in huge bursts. Already, scientists are reporting that portions of the ocean, as well as shallow lakes in the far north, look as though they are boiling, as released methane bubbles to the surface, sometimes in such concentrations that they can be lit on fire with a match as they surface.

As Carana writes:
 

“As the temperature of the Arctic Ocean keeps rising, it seems inevitable that more and more methane will rise from its seafloor and enter the atmosphere, at first strongly warming up the atmosphere over the Arctic Ocean itself -- thus causing further methane eruptions -- and eventually warming up the atmosphere across the globe.”
 

The Whatsapp Scandal

The house with the built-in backdoor

Since adding the feature in April, 2016, the Whatsapp app (or really its parent, Facebook) has paraded its "end to end encryption" as the reason to use it above all other smartphone message applications. It can handle calls, messages, video, files and just about everything any computer can and, because it's encrypted end to end, nobody can read, see or hear any of it unless you want them to.

The pitch has worked; over a billion people now use the app and it is particularly prominent among people who need encryption -- the computer protocol that makes reading your message impossible for anyone but the person you're sending it to.

Activists, particularly, use Whatsapp to communicate everything from places for emergency demonstrations to important announcements to the latest information about their personal lives. Whatsapp is, in effect, a universe of communications for a billion people. It does everything and everything it does is encrypted. With Whatsapp, they've been saying, you are safe from intrusion and spying.

 safety or vulnerability?Whatsapp: safety or vulnerability?

The problem is, you're not safe at all; the encryption can easily be broken. That news, first made public in the Guardian, has provoked a public gasp and a joust between developers and activists covered by journalists who, anxious to provide both "sides", cloud the issue more than clarify.

Unlike many other debates, there aren't two sides to this story. Whatsapp is not safe because its encryption has a huge exploit (or weakness): a product of what the company says is an attempt to make life a lot simpler for its users. Basically, it rewrites the keys used for encryption without telling you and that means a third party (like the government) can decrypt what you've written.

Repeal of Affordable Care Act is Politics Playing with the Wellbeing of Americans

Three clear ways the Affordable Care Act has made healthcare better

 

It’s the weekend after Thanksgiving and, for once, I’m not scheduled to work at the hospital. Yet, on Friday evening I found myself fastening my badge to my clothes and walking into the Intensive Care Unit.

One of my most beloved patients, Ms. Chhem is passing away. I’ve come to say goodbye. It’s not a complete surprise as she’s had serious chronic medical issues for years, but after being part of her care team for a countless number of prior hospitalizations, it’s hard to believe that this will be her last.

When I first met her five years ago, I was shocked at the number of hospitalizations she had survived. Her chart identified her as a refugee from Cambodia with significant psychological trauma, two kinds of hepatitis from poor healthcare, and end-stage kidney disease requiring dialysis three times a week. She had low health literacy, few resources and didn’t speak English. I was terrified to be the young doctor in charge of coordinating her care and keeping track of all the pieces that inevitably get lost in our complex medical system.

Of course, in real life, she was nothing like the chronically ill patient her chart suggested. Despite the physical and emotional trauma her life had brought, she was always upbeat, laughing, and ready to experience life’s next moment. Or perhaps it was because of that trauma that she learned that this was the only way to cope.

During our visits her delightful pragmatism grounded me in what otherwise seemed like an impossibly chaotic healthcare plan. Our last visit had only been only 72 hours ago. As I walked into the exam room she had erupted into laughter, jumped up, and grabbed my hands with both of hers in greeting. It was a relaxed visit. Ironically, for once I was feeling good about her medical care. All of the loose ends I had been trying to resolve had recently been tied up.

Protestors in Washington the first time the ACA was challengedProtestors in Washington the first time the ACA was challenged

So despite being familiar with intubated patients, it was jarring to see Ms. Chhem, the same woman who just a few days ago was relating to me the hilarity of coping with recently misplaced dentures, as a patient, intubated, sedated, and surrounded by machines and IV drips. Death doesn’t impact me the way it used to when I first became a doctor, but I still choked up as I held her hand and said goodbye.

As I walked home, I reflected on how, despite all the obstacles, she had received top quality medical care in her lifetime. For Ms. Chhem, medicine did exactly what it was supposed to do: prolong and improve health to allow patients to lead more fulfilling lives.

And then my thoughts darkened. What would happen to my patients if the Affordable Care Act is repealed?

I fear its repeal. As a queer person, I fear its repeal even more than a repeal of same-sex marriage.

Fidel's Death Brings Forth Great and Sad Memories

Fidel Castro: 1926-2016

¤ Fidel defied the monster and got away with it all these years, something cherished by billions in a hundred countries. He even brought a warmongering US president to his land, sporting his fine talk. For the first time, the perennial enemy pretends to be a friend hoping to stab Cuba in the back.
 

Brexit-Trump Comparisons Miss Key Points

Trans-Atlantic bigotry

 

"Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful."
-- George Orwell, author of "1984."
 

The election of Donald Trump as U.S. president, upending projections of pollsters and pundits that predicted his defeat, has triggered comparisons with Brexit, the vote earlier this summer where British citizens voted to leave the European Union, also catching the pollsters and pundits by surprise.

And yes, the campaigns for Brexit and the Trump presidency each employed similarities. Each campaign utilized ‘make our country great again’ slogans.

Further, each campaign also targeted immigrants as the source of deep-seated societal problems, particularly in the employment arena. Trump targeted Mexican immigrants while Brexit targeted Eastern European immigrants in Britain, primarily those coming from Poland as well as Muslims and blacks.

Brexit support sign in former home of author George Orwell. LinnWashingtonPhotoBrexit support sign in former home of author George Orwell. LinnWashingtonPhoto
 

Despite accurately citing some similarities, too many of the news media comparisons of Brexit and Trump on both sides of ‘The Pond’ have been simplistic, infused with failures to sufficiently contextualize the array of forces entangled in those stunning votes.

Comparisons on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, for example, have downplayed the upsurge in racist attacks, primarily targeting blacks and Muslims during the immediate aftermaths of both the Brexit and Trump victories.

Obama Has a Small Window to Go Out with Some Flair and Excitement

About that legacy, Mr. President

 

There is a lot of talk going on among the pundits about how President Obama is leaving no enduring legacy -- that his progressive actions as president, few and small that they may have been, were written in the sand of executive orders, which can and likely will be erased within days of Donald Trump’s inauguration.

In fact though, while there is truth to that observation, there is a legacy of President Obama that will last. It’s just that it’s a terrible one: His failure to prosecute and put an end to the many crimes and constitutional violations of the prior George W. Bush/Dick Cheney administration, like torture, the horrific and unconstitutional war-crime prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; the Tuesday morning White House drone murder-planning sessions (which he actually institutionalized); the continuation of a program of mass incarceration (mostly of males of color); the expansion of the NSA’s domestic and international surveillance program, aimed at monitoring all electronic communications domestically and eventually globally; his signing instead of vetoing of a renewal of the wretched USA PATRIOT Act and related constitutional atrocities; and of course the decision to authorize a trillion-dollar upgrade of the US nuclear force, including the development of “useable” tactical nukes, coupled with the emplacement of nuclear missiles along Russia’s western border. I could go on, but in the interest of brevity I’ll let the reader finish this list of horrors.

Trump has vowed to cancel most of Obama's legacy of executive orders, but he still can act to leave an immutable legacyTrump has vowed to cancel most of Obama's legacy of executive orders, but he still can act to leave an immutable legacy
 

It’s too late now to undo most of this legacy of horrors, but there are still some things that our ill-deserving Nobel Peace Prize Laureate president could yet do as a lame-duck and largely powerless president before Trump’s move into the White House to at least do penance for his failures, and to perhaps salvage some measure of integrity as a legacy. Here’s my list:
 

1. At this point, with Trump waiting in the wings ready to reverse them, any new executive orders would be a waste of time, without even any symbolic value. But there is one power conferred specifically in the Constitution which Obama owns until the minute Trump finishes taking the presidential oath, and that is the power to commute sentences and to pardon. To date, Obama has been one of the most stingy presidents in history in his application of this awesome power. He should start wielding it like a saber, cutting the chains of all those languishing in jails around the country who are non-violent offenders, primarily for possession of drugs, all those sentenced to lengthy terms or to life in prison for minor crimes because of harsh mandatory sentencing guidelines and especially “three-strikes” laws, all those sentenced to life in prison for crimes they committed as minors or even young kids, all those sentenced to death in a system that we all, including this president, know were tried, conficted and sentenced by a wholly unfair and corrupted judicial system that excludes from capital juries anyone who opposes the death penalty, all those young people in juvenile detention who were sentenced without a lawyer, and all those jailed because of unpaid debts. Obama could go further: He could pardon all those in prison who have served, say, five years of their sentence and who are over 60, or perhaps 50 years old. Statistics show that older people do not commit much violent crimes. If rehabilitation is to mean anything, then keeping such older prisoners in jail any longer is simply a self-destructive, incredibly costly act of national vengeance, not intelligent and humane justice.

Here and There

 
 
We worship the moon here;
we sing her songs.
She charms us,
she heals us.
There they bow deep to the sun.
 
Here we plant our dreams
and harvest visions.
There they plant periods,
and harvest silence.
 
Here we intuit.
There they know.
 
Here we weave stories out of dreams and grief.
There they weave cities of blood and sand.
 
Here the tide ebbs
and rises and when it rises
the barnacles open and wave little ferns.
There the coral reefs are dying;
the bottle with their message
never reaches shore.
 
Here we call out names
in celebration of the family of life.
Here a name holds power.
There a name is lost and found,
cemented to a building
printed on the sky.
 
Here a fish leaps and the river sings.
There a river
is a million drinks of water,
a million sad stories of once upon a time.
 
Here the land is alive,
and the wind
and the stones are alive.
There the land is thirsty
and confused.
The wind is hungry,
the stones, asleep.
If you disturb them
they will begin to whisper
to the minerals in your bones
and they will gently ask you to return
the diamonds in your necklace.
 
 
--Gary Lindorff

Trump’s First Presidential Act Should Reward the Man Who Handed Him the Election

Free Julian Assange!

 

Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential race is probably bad news for Edward Snowden if he was hoping for a chance to leave Russia for a warmer climate or a more open political environment. Trump, in his typically over-the-top blustery manner has more than once called the man who exposed the NSA’s massive program for monitoring the electronic communications of Americans and even of the leaders of our purported foreign allies, a “spy” who should be “executed.”

But his election should be good news for Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks. It was the Wikileaks disclosure of hacked copies of Hilllary Clinton’s secret speeches to the country’s big banks, and of the emails to and from Clinton campaign chair John Pedesta, describing among other things her campaign’s, and the Democratic National Committee’s sabotage of Bernie Sanders’ insurgent primary campaign, which almost certainly handed the presidency to Trump. (In one leaked email, Hillary Clinton asks if Assange could be "droned.")

Julian Assange peers from his place of asylum in Ecuador's London Embassy, from which he directed leaks of Clinton bank speeches and DNC emails that helped Trump win the presidencyJulian Assange peers from his place of asylum in Ecuador's London Embassy, from which he directed leaks of Clinton bank speeches and DNC emails that helped Trump win the presidency
 

Snowden is fine and safe living in asylum in Russia, but Assange has for four years been trapped in the Ecuadoran Embassy in London, which is really just a large apartment in a ritzy section of the city. There London Metropolitan Police stand guard round the clock ready to grab him if he tries to leave. Assange is being sought by an Ahab-like right-wing Swedish prosecutor with links to US intelligence for questioning about a trumped up pair of dodgy “rape” complaints long since debunked and withdrawn by two Swedish women, but because of the continued extradition demand from Sweden and a British arrest warrant issued on orders of a complicit right-wing British government, he is trapped. His understandable fear is that, with a sealed warrant for his arrest on espionage charges which is being held at the ready by the US Justice Department, the whole Swedish case is really about getting him delivered to Sweden, from which country he could be extradited to the US. (Assange has offered to voluntarily go to Sweden to be questioned by prosecutors if the Swedish government would promise not to extradite him to the US, but the Swedish government has refused such a guarantee, making the whole scheme apparent.)

Clearly, what Trump should do is announce that he intends to have his Justice Department drop all charges against Assange and Wikileaks.

Trump’s Presidency, the Demise of the Major Parties, and the Need for a New Progressive Movement

Of silver tongues and silver linings

 

Let’s look on the bright side.

Donald J. Trump is the next president of the United States. His stunning victory over Hillary Clinton came after he had first crushed the Republican Party establishment, steamrollering all the candidates it put forward and defeating party leaders’ concerted efforts to deny him the nomination as he rolled up victory after victory in that party’s primaries.

But Trump did more than that. He also, along with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, smashed the Democratic Party establishment too.

 President-Elect Donald TrumpGet used to it: President-Elect Donald Trump
 

Trump’s win in traditionally Democratic strongholds like New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, and his near win in Minnesota, not to mention his victories and near wins in states like Florida, Ohio, Michigan, North Carolina and Virginia, all a result of the Democratic Party’s failure to energize its critical base in black and Latino communities, have exposed the total bankruptcy of a party whose leadership long ago abandoned the poor, the working class, African Americans, Latinos and organized labor, working on a now thoroughly discredited assumption that it would automatically win those votes anyhow because those “little people” would have no place to turn but to the Democrats.

The Democratic Party establishment this election cycle threw any shred of principle to the wind in orchestrating the nomination of Hillary Clinton, surely the most disliked candidate to run on a major party ticket in history. The party did this knowing that it was promoting a candidate who had a tin ear for the issues of ordinary people, who was demonstrably corrupt and dismissive of laws and ethical standards, and who was actually under investigation by the FBI the whole time she was running in the primaries.

We know, thanks to principled Democratic Party leaders who quit like Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, the vice chair of the Democratic National Committee, and to emails leaked by Wikileaks, that the DNC worked assiduously throughout the primary season to undermine Bernie Sanders’ insurgent primary campaign. The DNC and the Clinton campaign -- actually facets of the same malignant organization -- did this by scheduling early debates at times, like during the Superbowl, when few people would be paying attention, by working with corrupt mainstream journalists to plant hit pieces on Sanders, resorting to cheap red-baiting, lying about his history of civil rights activism, and questioning his mental abilities, and even resorting to voter suppression -- usually a tactic favored more by Republican Party operatives.

Christie and Trump: Two G-O-Ps in a Rotten Pod

Joined at the lip

 

For a quick glimpse of life within a "Trump Nation" look no further than New Jersey, the east coast state led by Trump booster Gov. Chris Christie, the man who heads the transition team assembling top personnel for the administration of a possible President Donald Trump.

A snapshot of Christie’s ruinous reign as governor since taking the helm of the Garden State in 2010 is found in the headline of an editorial published in mid-September by New Jersey’s largest daily newspaper, the Newark Star Ledger:

“Chris Christie’s state is an economic cripple.”

Christie has practiced the economic policies that Trump has promised to pursue: massive tax cuts for corporations plus tax breaks for wealthy individuals.

“What tax cuts have surely given us is a big revenue hole – with no real economic boost to show for it,” that Star Ledger editorial noted.

Trump will improve their lot? Not!  LBW PhotoTrump will improve their lot? Not! LBW Photo
 

Christie push $2-billion in business tax reductions through the Democrat-dominated legislature and opposed modest tax increases on the wealthy.

“In short, the magical thinking that Gov. Chris Christie has relied on to steer the economy is simply not working. Like many Republicans, he clings to the notion that lower taxes are the key to economic growth, despite all the hard evidence to the contrary,” that editorial declared.

Like Trump’s current campaign trail promises for America, gubernatorial candidate Christie pledged to get New Jersey’s fiscal house in order – a pledge he failed to deliver.

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Here's the link to prairie radio radical Mike Caddell's Radio Free Kansas program, where you can hear the podcast of the whole group interview that was conducted on Saturday, May 8.

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by Dr. Radut