Over Easy: Monday Science


Hope everybody is psyched up for July 4th. We should have good weather here for the fireworks, we’re fortunate enough to have the Rozzi’s running the major displays in the area.

Fukushima update:

Major newspapers are finally asking the question “Where is the corium?”. The current official position is “we don’t know, but we’re SURE it’s all still in containment”. Simulations show that it must have melted through containment, but differ on if it’s actually through the floor and into the groundwater. Personal guess: #1 is on the floor, #2 is in the pedestal, #3 is at the bottom of Fuku bay.

Plume models show 1MBq/M**2 on US west coast after explosion. It appears that despite Government concern, the Nuke industry was able to spike additional studies.

Somebody noticed the Polonium. Polonium is a alpha emitter, so is usually ignored with a statement like “Alpha radiation doesn’t even penetrate the skin”. True that, HOWEVER if ingested in microgram quantities it can be fatal. And it has been used in assassination(s) before.

An NPG that hosts Japanese reports that “every single person” has health problems and their beds are generally bloodstained after use. Yet the JG feels that the evacuated areas are safe for people to return.

They are concerned enough about the Torus in the reactors that they’ve issued a call for proposals to reinforce them. How they will get close enough to do the work is going to have to be part of the proposals.

TEPCO’s original plan to remove fuel debris was to flood the reactor containment and work under water. They have finally admitted that won’t work as the containment areas don’t hold water.

How TEPCO plans to remove the temporary bolt together tanks and replace them with welded tanks. Almost all of the major leaks are from the bolted tanks, which were only supposed to last for two years or so.

Toshiba, supplier of two of the reactors at Fukushima, is also hurting because of the disaster.

Japan is building a wind farm to make up for some of the lost Nuke generation. They are still publicly committed to Nuclear Power, but citizen opposition to restarting is becoming a real concern to politicians running for re-election.

And one of the companies responsible for waste disposal has caught a computer virus.

New Horizons is on final approach to Pluto. When I was a kid, they expected that probe to launch in 1989. It only launched 27 years late. I’m oddly excited to see what it will see.

The Dawn probe is finding out neat things about Ceres. There’s water. There are two bright spots they can’t explain. And there’s a pyramid shaped mountain in the middle of nowhere.

Rosetta has been given an extension until Sept 2016. And the lander is awake and transmitting still!

Don’t eat porcupines.

Boxturtle (Poor Python!)

Late, Late Night FDL: I’ve Seen All Good People

Yes – I’ve Seen All Good People

R.I.P. Chris Squires…!

Chris Squire, the influential rock bassist who was a founding member of the celebrated British band Yes, died on Saturday in Phoenix. He was 67.

His death was confirmed by the band’s keyboardist, Geoffrey Downes. Mr. Squire, the only member to have played on every one of Yes’s albums and participated in every one of its tours, was being treated for acute erythroid leukemia and said last month that he would not be with Yes for its summer and fall tour, scheduled to begin on Aug. 7.

“I’m in pieces over it,” Mr. Downes said in a phone interview from his home in Wales. “The guy was a total legend.”

Yes, formed in 1968, was known for its blend of rock, jazz, folk and classical influences and also for its complex time signatures and pristine vocal harmonies. One of the first of the so-called progressive (or prog) rock bands — among the others were King Crimson and Emerson, Lake & Palmer — it went on to become the most successful and longest-lasting.

The first Yes albums to reach a wide international audience were the group’s third and fourth, “The Yes Album” (1971) and “Fragile” (1972), both released in the United States on Atlantic. The group’s most recent studio album, “Heaven & Earth,” was released by Frontiers Records last year.

Mr. Squire’s propulsive and often melodic bass playing was a key element of the Yes sound. A self-taught virtuoso, he has been cited as an influence by many other rock bassists.

What’s on your mind…?

New Evidence on CIA Medical Torture: Injection “to the Bone” on Former Black Site Prisoner Majid Khan

Countries that articipated in CIA torture & rendition program - via Wikimedia Commons
Countries involved in the CIA Extraordinary Rendition and Detention Program according to a 2013 Open Society Foundation – Image by opensocietyfoundations.org via transcend.org [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Quite recently, U.S. authorities allowed the declassification of notes from Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) attorney Wells Dixon that described what his client, high-value detainee Majid Khan, told him about his torture at the hands of the CIA. Khan, a Pakistan citizen, is currently at Guantanamo, and awaits trial by military commission.

Dixon has described the hideous torture of his client, which comes on the heels of revelations in the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence executive summary of their report on the CIA’s torture program.

According to a June 2 Reuters report, Dixon described from interview notes with Khan, CIA use of solitary confinement; sexual abuse, including frequent touching of “private parts”; threats of physical harm; being hung naked from a pole for days; so-called “rectal feeding” (a form of anal rape); denial of food; water immersion and waterboarding, among other atrocities.

According to a CCR press release on Khan’s torture, CIA doctors onsite were among the “worst torturers.” Both Reuters and CCR have noted how doctors would check Khan’s condition, ignore his appeals for help, and send him back into extreme forms of torture.

In a June 10 phone interview with Wells Dixon, Khan’s attorney revealed there was more unreported material left out of the Reuters and CCR reports. In particular, Dixon revealed that Khan told him he was “also injected with a needle to the bone, and screamed in pain, then lost consciousness.”

According to my research, an injection that just happens to hit a bone does not usually cause great pain. But an injection that enters the bone can. The latter is called an intraosseous or IO injection, and is used to quickly infuse drugs, particularly in instances where a person’s life is at stake. It is usual medical procedure to insert lidocaine, a pain reliever, with or prior to injection because of the great pain associated with IO injections. Certain kinds of drugs can also cause great pain upon injection.

Did the CIA have medical need to make an IO injection, and withhold lidocaine or other pain reliever? Did CIA use the IO injection specifically to cause pain? Was a drug injected into Khan that specifically, or as side effect, caused great pain, in order to further torture him?

We don’t know exactly what the CIA did with this, or any other injection, but the evidence of such forms of medical torture cannot be denied, despite recent attempts by the CIA to minimize allegations of such medical torture, such as the use of drugs in interrogation. In fact, a recent FOIA release from CIA obtained by Jason Leopold at VICE News showed that the CIA used blood thinners to prolong certain forms of torture.

It has not been easy to obtain this information. As Dixon noted in a June 22 op-ed at Al Jazeera, “The CIA has long tried to bury evidence of its crimes. When we filed a legal case challenging Majid’s detention after his arrival at Guantanamo, the government prevented us from meeting with him for a year so that we would not learn about his torture.”

UN Special Rapporteurs’ “Letter of Allegation” to U.S. on Medical Torture and Experimentation

A new article by Adam Goldman at the Washington Post revealed that hundreds of photos from the CIA black sites exist. The fact they may be evidence at any future military commissions trial is currently being determined, as military prosecutors review the photos, which are said to include pictures of naked detainees, CIA personnel, and “photographs of confinement boxes where detainees such as Abu Zubaydah… were forced into for hours.”

But it seems highly unlikely the public will see these photos, and we will have to rely on detainee testimony, and other various attempts by journalists, domestic and international bodies and organizations to pry out the information from the U.S. government. Along those lines, CCR has called for the full Senate CIA torture report and the Panetta Review to be released. A letter initiated by ACLU and signed by approximately 100 national and international rights groups on the need to ensure accountability for the U.S. CIA Torture Program was delivered to the most recent session of the UN Human Rights Council. (more…)

Pope Francis Calls Attention to Climate Change as Moral Issue of Our Time

Pope Francis

In the encyclical Pope Francis released on June 18, he called on the world to create “a new and universal solidarity” in response to climate change and stressed the need for the world to immediately act.

“It is remarkable how weak international political responses have been. The failure of global summits on the environment make it plain that our politics are subject to technology and finance,” Francis stated. “There are too many special interests, and economic interests easily end up trumping the common good and manipulating information so that their own plans will not be affected.”

Francis highlighted problems that will happen—and already are happening—because of climate change. “The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth,” he declared.

The encyclical, found here, is a letter usually written to members of the Catholic Church by the pope. Famous encyclicals in history include Rerum novarum, written by Pope Leo XIII in 1891 supporting both unions and private property, and Humanae vitae, written by Pope Paul VI in 1968 to denounce birth control and affirm the sanctity of life.

Daniel Blackman is a managing partner at Social Karma and worked with the interfaith community for the past decade on the issue of climate change. The Vatican invited him, along with other leaders, to Rome later this month for a series of events for the world to act on global warming. He told Firedoglake he agreed with the intentions of the encyclical as climate change is “the moral issue of our time.”

“The reality is climate change is real and it’s getting worse.” Blackman said. “There are vast arrays of environmental, social, economic and political challenges facing humanity. One fact that must be addressed is the disproportionate effects of global warming on the poor. Climate change’s worst impact, as Pope Francis says, ‘will probably be felt by developing countries in coming decades.'”


Blackman noted how he hoped people, not just Catholics, would take a “shared moral responsibility to address climate change.”

“I believe the protection of our planet, our home, is essential and not an option. Living harmoniously on the planet is our sacred right; protecting it is our moral obligation,” Blackman said.

The release of the encyclical, noted Blackman, would help in ensuring a strong deal at the U.N. conference in Paris later this year featuring nearly 200 nations coming together and creating an agreement.

“Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment will have a major impact in encouraging U.N. negotiations on global warming. In my lifetime, Pope Francis’ personal commitment to this issue is like no other pope before him and other faith leaders around the world should follow his lead. The biggest effect on the Paris negotiations will be the addition of a ‘moral element,’ a moral responsibility to climate change for many believers, and activists to hold on to,” Blackman said.

Blackman emphasized the importance of mobilizing to prevent global warming’s worst effects.

“As my colleague, the Reverend Gerald Durley, puts it, if we can’t breathe, if we have no planet, there are no human rights or environmental issues to resolve.  The organizing must begin with leaders with massive audiences and effective means of communication—the pope, President Barack Obama, interfaith leaders, heads of state and especially non-governmental organizations with active memberships,” Blackman said.

Reverend Durley recommended Blackman to be a part of a cohort to Rome. (more…)

Young Turks: “Epic Setback in Marijuana Legalization Movement” (VIDEO)

In Colorado, where marijuana is now legal, a quadriplegic employee of Dish Network was fired from his job for using medical marijuana- not at work- but during his off-hours. When he challenged his termination from his job by filing a lawsuit, the Supreme Court in Colorado sided with the employer. Cenk Uygur (host of The Young Turks) discusses this ruling and poses the question:

Do you think your employer should be able to fire you if you smoke marijuana?

Dish Network attorney Meghan Martinez made the following incomprehensible statement defending the firing of this employee (see video at 2:49):

He smoked marijuana while at home, but he crossed the threshold [to his office] with THC in his system. The use is the effects, it’s the THC, it’s the whole point of marijuana. So, when he came to work, he was using.

Babbling nonsense.

As an aside, I’ll say this much: If Dish Network spent more time on providing even marginal services to its paying customers and less time stalking its employees with junk science and nonsensical arguments that have nothing to do with actual impairment, maybe Dish wouldn’t suck so much. Since we no other choices, we are unfortunately reduced to being customers of Dish, where we have, hands-down, the worst internet service we have ever had. Ever.

What do you think of a company firing someone for having marijuana metabolites in urine, in a state where marijuana, and its use, is legal?

Camera Work: Two Moons That Weren’t There.

Moonrise Hood River_1

Camera Work: Two Moons That Weren’t There

Well, they were, but not in those positions.

There are considerable concerns today, in photojournalism, that the images represent an event is as it actually happened, that is the image was not manipulated, re-arranging the elements in the frame, for instance, to make a more pleasing composition.

Or to Lie.

There is the rub. And a question: Do photographs lie? More to the point: Do photographs ever tell the truth?

From my perspective and others as well, truth cannot be told, only pointed to. So yes, no, photographs tell the truth. Photographs lie. (Getting a bit self-referential here).

Events happen in the real world. All around us, time running on. The photographer puts a frame around an event, plucking it from the undivided whole. So immediately, it isn’t telling the truth. It is pointing to a truth. A truth in which any additional information would not add to the truth as the photographer perceived it. It is, however, that the final image presented as pointing to a truth be not manipulated. But that’s impossible. An important detail is too bright or to dark and can’t be read “properly”. The print is manipulated to adjust for this. The manipulation has begun.

I’m not going to go into this element any further, because I am not representing any particular image as journalistic truth. I am presenting images that represent a truth I saw at the moment of conception, and brought to the viewer with, hopefully, with a particular essence that recreates for me a truth important. That can be anything. A kaleidoscope of feelings, color, tone or any number of concepts, like music to take one example.

The First image above, Moonrise Hood River. We spent the fine autumn day cruising the upper hillside above Hood River, stopping to photograph as we went along. As we dropped down a long hillside road, we came across this scene viewed between power lines, trees, other buildings blocking part of the view, all the while attempting to find a spot clear of all obstructions. We finally did, but where is the moon? Off to a side an too high. Groan! Gorgeous light, rich color, romantic to the core, but no moon. Hmm, that can be fixed. I made the necessary exposures of the farm scene with no concern for the moon. Noting the exposure and the focal length of the zoom setting, I found a clearing for a moon shot and made those exposures. Now since it is no longer “journalistic” who needs to be concerned about how big the moon actually would have appeared as a complete image, so I made enlarged versions at different telephoto settings.

Getting back on the computer I made a composite setup allowing me to pick a moon frame, manipulate it’s position for a moon to scale and another moon giant in proportion. I’m sure many of you have seen such presentations. Big an juicy, full of detail. I made two versions, and for days I wrestled with the decision, which one? My partner felt the big version departed from an already departed reality too far. I disagreed. Nevertheless, as time went on, and I queried myself “which one” I settled on the scaled correctly version, which is presented here.

Over the next few years, I made big departures from reality with the brightness and color values as well, even up to today, where with some new tools in Photoshop cc2015, the most recent upgrade offered by Adobe. You are seeing it here first.

Moonrise, Mt hood_1 copy

Christmas eve, mid 1980’s. I have an assignment: Moonrise over Mt Hood. They really wanted it over Mt. Rainier, but couldn’t find a suitable image. Actually, they wanted “Moonrise Over Hernandez New Mexico” but the Ansel Adams Trust would have nothing to do with that. I said (with considerable bravado I might add) I’ll do one over Mt Hood.

It took considerable planning. For openers, it wasn’t full moon, but the day before, because I needed late afternoon light on the peak while a fullish moon was present. Next, where is the moon’s position with respect to Mt Hood to be found. Consulting a moon chart giving compass positions, I set up a map with co-ordinates which showed the moon to be to the left of the peak from an exact place at an overlook north of Sandy Oregon, Known as Johnsrud Point. What unbelievable luck! Nice, cold atmosphere allowing details all the way to the snow fields. I set up my camera on a tripod and waited, shooting a series of images as time went on and the light changed as an image with no moon had some value as well. Looking at my watch, the moon should be up. I’m squinting in the viewfinder. No moon. Impossible. I looked up and there it was!

Way off to the left.

Uh oh! I gave it a moment’s thought, made a couple of more shots of the mountain then carefully swung the camera’s position to the left and shot the moon as it rose through the sky. I would have to make a montage.

In the darkroom, my troubles multiplied. I had to make a sandwich using two glass plates giving me a total of eight surfaces, all of them dust collectors, keeping them all microscopically clean. Didn’t happen. A retouch session was going to be needed.

I was able to use moon frames clear of any foreground and could re-position the moon to some degree to get what I wanted.

The finished product delighted the client. (Boeing)

After digital became the mainstay, I revisited the montage using scanned negatives. The process was entirely different in digital than analog, way different. I new learning curve. The image shown here is the version from the scanned negs.

I don’t think I’ll be doing this kind of project again!


Podcast: Recent FBI Sting, White Terrorism Threat, Transgender Activist Interrupts Obama & Marriage Equality

udlogoThis week on the “Unauthorized Disclosure” podcast:

Hosts Rania Khalek and Kevin Gosztola discuss the major Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage in the United States; an undocumented transgender activist who interrupted President Barack Obama’s remarks at the LGBT Pride Reception at the White House and was booed; the threat of white terrorism, which the US government largely ignores; a recent elaborate FBI sting against a poor black felon that shows where the agency is putting its resources; and how the FBI monitored live streams of Ferguson protests.

No guest this week.

The podcast is available on iTunes for download. For a link (and also to download the episode), go here. Click on “go here” and a page will load with the audio file of the podcast. The file will automatically start playing so you can listen to the episode.

Also, below is a player for listening to the podcast. You can listen to the podcast this way by clicking on the player. And please follow the show on Twitter at @UnauthorizedDis.

Sunday Food: Visit to Neal’s Yard Dairy Farm Cheeses from the British Isles

Cheeses at Neal's Yard
Cheeses at Neal’s Yard

(Picture courtesy of Kalina Wilson at flickr.com.)

Some posts come out to get you, and this is one.  Last Saturday I was strolling around the Covent Garden area, just enjoying the ancient cobblestone streets and the bric-a-brac of stonework and sculpture on the buildings.   Then I happened onto a lady out in front of a shop giving out cheese samples.  Now I don’t usually do a plug for particular businesses, but this time I don’t think you will fly to London to visit the shop, anyway.

Never could I say no to a cheese.   So I sampled, oh, my!   This was every kind of nice, and creamy and tasty so I stopped into the shop and walked through their display of more beautiful rounds of cheese than you want to think about.   At the very back, I found the Stilton.  Some people, I hear, don’t like the stipling of green/blue in their cheese.  I crave it.   This was simply gorgeous, with a creamy rind, looked wonderful.   So I caught the eye of one of the servers and asked for a sample.

\There are no words./

I took some back with me, not a lot since I was traveling by the Underground/Tube and it was warm.   The Stilton came back to the home where I’m staying, while the friend there is having radiation treatments and needs help traveling to them.   It sat in the refrigerator, on top of the clotted cream, and waited until evening.   Then I offered it to the friends, who just happen not to have a taste for those blue/green stippled sorts of cheese.   It was mine, all mine.   I lightly toasted a piece of bakery bread, and applied thick slices of Stilton on top, and munched through one of the delectable pleasures of enjoyment.   If you get the pleasure, I wish you all the wonderful moments, yourself.

The shop itself is a wonder, has a few branches and spreads joy to the cheese lovers in these parts with great refinement.   I’ve become a fan, and will visit again.

In going online to learn more, I find that there is a prohibition now on the Stichelton cheeses from England as they are made from raw milk and regulations demand milk be pasteurized for consumption, for safety’s sake.

The reason the Stichelton cheese is in demand of course is taste and texture, and pasteurization makes changes that aren’t part of the qualities the cheese presents.   The Dairy production knowledgeable want the regulation changed because:

To produce the best cheese, all aspects of the process need be exceptional: the inputs, the skill of the cheesemaker, and the talent of the maturer. Excellent raw milk provides a better ingredient for the cheesemaker then pasteurised milk. It doesn’t guarantee a better cheese, but great raw milk cheese trumps pasteurised milk cheese for flavour. We sell cheese on flavour and provide accurate, transparent and honest information to our customers. It is a prerequisite that the cheese be safe.

As a devotee of great cheese, I agree.   Sometimes safety measures interfere with reality.    Cheese is made by something we consider spoilage, frankly.    To make a good cheese, milk has to go beyond the stage that we drink, and anyone who eats cheese knows that.   We ought to be sensible and make sure the product is safe, not interfere with the way it’s achieved.



Bernie Sanders will benefit from Pope Francis’s encyclical on climate change

The Republican Party and its clown car candidates are over the hill and irrelevant to most voters. With the exception of Bernie Sanders, the Democratic Party and its candidates are not much better. Pope Francis’s encyclical, Laudate Si, has made it so. He reminds us that we are a part of the earth’s biosphere and our survival is inextricably intertwined with its survival. He teaches us that we are its caretaker. We have a moral and ethical duty to respect and preserve it for its own sake because it is inherently worthy and deserves our love, attention and care. As it goes, so too do we.

Climate change and global warming are a reality caused by human activity. No amount of denial and wishing it were not so will change that reality. Pope Francis calls on us to accept it and stop exploiting the earth, its biosystems, the poor, the mentally ill and the marginalized for financial gain. Heather Taylor-Miesle, Director of the NRDC Action Fund writes,

Pope Francis stands above this scrum of climate denial and obstruction. He embodies a spirit of hope, humility and service that many are hungry for. A full 70 percent of all Americans — including 68 percent of the nonreligious — view the pope favorably, and 90 percent of American Catholics do, according to the Pew Research Center.

A person who is this admired, who is calling on our better angels and emphasizing our duty to protect creation and the poor who will be most adversely affected by climate change impacts, has the power to shake things up . . .

She reminds us that “Mitt Romney lost young voters by 26 percentage points in the last race, and in the 2014 midterms, voters under 30 favored Democrats by a 13-point margin. Young Catholics who have rallied around conservative social issues may now be throwing their energy behind climate justice and carbon limits. GOP candidates who refute the very existence of global warming will look like dinosaurs to them.”

Pope Francis is coming to visit us this fall and will be addressing both houses of Congress.

Dare we hope Bernie Sanders emerges as the people’s choice?

The stars appear to be aligning.

Let’s do everything we can to make it so.

No one ever knows what they can accomplish until they try.

The latest incarceration scam: Video-only visits…for a hefty fee, of course

inmate visitation room
inmate visitation room
The booming jail and prison industry has invented another way to fleece inmate families: eliminate in-person family visits all together, and replace them with video ‘visits’- for a fee. Jefferson County Jail in Missouri joins Washington DC Jail and others in a growing list of jails to deprive families of any face-to-face contact with their locked up loved one. The Jefferson County jail inked a contract with Dallas-based Securus Technologies to install the video system, at no cost to the jail…the families will pick up the tab for not being able to see their loved one in person.

The visits must be scheduled online in advance, and the jail will charge $6.99 for 25 minutes in an initial “introductory offer” period. After that, the rates will go up.

Instead, those who wish to visit with inmates at the jail in Jefferson County, Missouri, must do so by video. The online visits must be scheduled in advance, and they cost $6.99 for 25 minutes, an introductory fee that is expected to go up before the summer is over, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Jail visitors in St. Clair County, Missouri, paid $20 for 20 minutes or $40 for 40 minutes, plus additional fees and taxes, the newspaper notes.

Those who come to the jail in person can participate in free video visits, but the inmate is limited to two per week. There is no limit to the number of paid remote video visits.

For one thing, a video ‘visit’ is not a substitute for a face-to-face, even when the in-person visit takes place across bullet proof glass. Also, what if the family is indigent? Many people do not have a computer, and likewise many people cannot afford the monthly recurring internet connection fee, or the requisite ‘video streaming’ upgrade. Many cannot afford the cost of the visit, and have no credit cards to set up an online account. Are these people expected to take an inmate’s children to the local public library to conduct a jail visit in full view of the passing public? It is likely that indigent families will be deprived of visits all together.

Add this to the list of incarceration straight-up gangster egregiousness where the name of the game is to extort money from hostage families. Naming a few practices off the top of my head, that list includes:

1. Jailhouse phone cards. The cost of telephone calls is astronomical. Even if (and that’s a big ‘if’) an inmate is lucky enough to have a job while in jail, the wage- at sixty-seven cents to one dollar per day- is insufficient to cover the cost of a single phone call. Phone time starts at dollar per minute and goes up from there, in addition a flat charge of something in the neighborhood of five dollars, even if the call reaches an answering machine.

2. Occupancy quotas.

3. Charging inmates a daily rate for their time in jail- and this applies to people who have not been convicted of anything.

4. Turning jails into prisons where state final-sentenced inmates are warehoused indefinitely in the county jails- and the county collects the money from the state- money that is supposed to be for housing state inmates in state penitentiaries, but not county jails.

5. Commissary. Jail and prison commissary prices are higher than God, and since the inmate does not make a meaningful wage, the burden of commissary purchases falls on the inmate families.

6. Captive labor, ie: “Sell Block”

7. Charging inmates ungodly fees for visits to the nurse, where the nurse does nothing. For example, charging an inmate $45.00 for a simple ice pack, or a single dose of Tylenol (I witnessed this personally.)


The Caging of America