• open panel

Archive for August, 2010

Open Whatever Thread

“Smells Like Teen Spirit,” done by a choir.


h/t to Dbug



What Happens When You Put The Cops On YouTube

Facing prison for filming US police

A US man may face 16 years in prison for posting a video of his arrest on Youtube.


Aug 28

…Graber, a sergeant with the Maryland Air National Guard, is now facing 16 years in prison, not for dangerous driving, but for a Youtube video he posted after receiving a speeding ticket.

The video, filmed with a camera mounted on Graber’s motorcycle helmet designed to record biking stunts rather than police abuse, shows a plain clothes officer jumping out of an unmarked car and pointing a pistol at the motorcyclist.

After he posted the video on Youtube, police raided Graber’s home, seized computers and put him in jail.

(h/t to Lefty Coaster at Daily Kos)


A couple other useful links:


Photography Is Not A Crime

July NPR piece:

The Rules And Your Rights For Recording Arrests


You Are What You Use

Or maybe not. Many people who care about environmentalism, get caught up a great deal in thinking about how they consume, and changing their consumer habits.

That’s good, but it’s not enough.

(crossposted from a bunch of places)

It’s good, not just because you’re doing your infinitisimal part to slow down entropy, but for some other reasons, too.

1. It can get you to thinking about being creative.

2. It can get you into a frame of mind where you work out how to spend less money.

3. It gives you more free time.

4. All of the above lend themselves to working more with other people in your community.

These are all sort of revolutionary activities.

What *can* be good about working on how you consume, is that it can lead to above ways of operating and thinking.

What *doesn’t* work as well, is just changing how you spend money, and trying to remember to recycle your trash.

Sure, every little bit helps.

But it’s taking too long.

So, instead of thinking about consuming differently, you might think about consuming less.

You might think about redefining the word “need.”

You might think about how the less involved you are in our current corporate economic system, the easier it makes it to think about inventing an alternative one.

It takes a long time to change. Big fast changes are often dangerous, and may easily lead to outcomes that aren’t really improvements.

Real change happens slowly, but real change doesn’t just do it on a schedule, either. It’s an ongoing commitment.

And if we’re really going to change, we have to get honest and serious about everything that’s wrong with our economic system, how it has perverted our political system, and how it is poisoning all of our lives on a daily basis.

I don’t know how to throw off the beast. I don’t know whether anybody does, though there are people who write well about possibilities.

But this isn’t working. It is no one person’s fault. The fault lies in all of us, for refusing to come to grips with the extent to which this isn’t working.

For saying that it’s a good economic system, it just needs tweaking.

That seems, to me, like saying your abusive boyfriend is really a good guy, and that if you were just more understanding, he’d get healed.

Bullshit, in both cases.

Neither will change until there is no other choice.

The ultimate question with our lives, is how do we make there not be any other choice?

(Edit) What I’m trying to say here, is that the more you’re in the middle of something, the more difficult it is to think about what’s wrong with it, and how one can work to fix that.


Behind Enemy Lines

h/t to MmeVoltaire, DK


Latest on White-nose Syndrome

Bureau of Land Management Moves to Protect Western Bats From Deadly Disease,
But Bat Advocates Say Stricter Measures Needed

Center for Biological Diversity

Aug 23

RICHMOND, Vt.— The Bureau of Land Management is recommending targeted cave closures and other measures to stem the spread of a bat-killing disease, after a petition by the Center for Biological Diversity earlier this year sought closure of all bat caves on federal lands in the lower 48 states. The Center applauded the BLM’s new national policy to deal with the lethal malady, known as white-nose syndrome, but said it doesn’t go far enough to protect bats from the fast-spreading disease, which scientists believe may drive several bat species to extinction within a few years.

“Western land managers are finally waking up to the overwhelming threat of white-nose syndrome to bats, but this devastating disease simply will not allow the luxury of half measures,” said Mollie Matteson, conservation advocate with the Center. “If the BLM is serious about protecting bats, then it needs to restrict access in all caves with bats.”

The BLM’s action comes a month after the U.S. Forest Service ordered the closure of all caves on national forests and grasslands in Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, and most of Wyoming and South Dakota. The Forest Service acted after the fungus associated with white-nose syndrome was found on a bat in western Oklahoma this spring. The BLM has jurisdiction over 253 million acres of federal land, almost all of it in the West, and manages thousands of caves and mines, many of which are used by bats for hibernation and roosting.

The little brown bat and the big white problem

NRDC blog, Aug 12

Sylvia Fallon

Last week a new study came out that predicts the regional extinction of the little brown bat from the eastern United States due to the emerging fungal pathogen called white-nose syndrome. As we have detailed here in the past, white-nose syndrome is a mysterious disease that has caused the loss of well over a million bats in the northeastern US and is continuing to spread across the country being discovered this summer as far south as Tennessee and as far west as Oklahoma. The little brown bat is one of the most common bat species whose range covers most of North America, but the new study estimates there is a 99% chance that the bat will be gone from the eastern US within 16 years. Those are some pretty big odds.

These findings are striking because the fungus not only continues to colonize new geographic locations, but new host species as well – recently having been discovered on the 9th species of bat in the US. While the new study only looked at the little brown bat, white-nose syndrome is likely to have similarly devastating effects on the other species that it infects. Collectively, this loss of bats is almost certain to have a noticeable effect on the region’s insect populations – including agricultral and forestry pests.

Because these effects carry with them broad economic and environmental consequences, and because the scope of this problem is quickly becoming national rather than regional, we believe that the federal government should have a vested interest in addressing white-nose syndrome quickly and effectively. While the study’s authors suggest erecting bat boxes may help somewhat, there is as yet no easy solution to the white-nose syndrome problem.

In the dark about white-nose syndrome

Aug 8

Since it first appeared in eastern New York in 2006 and in Vermont soon after, this strange syndrome has killed almost all the bats in the caves where it has settled. It may be the most abrupt decline of wildlife in American history. More than a million hibernating bats have succumbed, and it’s sweeping with terrifying speed down the East Coast and toward bat strongholds in the Midwest.

Before white-nose hit, Darling and another biologist counted 1,080 bats in the mine adjacent to where we stand. After white-nose, they found 33. Here at Greely Mine 2, in 1997, a caver in a wetsuit plunged deep inside and counted 2,000 bats. Last year, fewer than 200 were detected in the main chamber. Today, Darling, his research technician Ryan Smith, and wildlife researcher Kristen Watrous have returned to find any survivors: compared to zero, they’re pleased to find 103 bats hanging silently from the gritty walls, alive.

But not the one that fell. Darling holds up a damp dead bat. It looks like a shiny rubber toy. “You can see all the bones. It’s emaciated,” Darling says, splaying out one wing. “I’m going to get this in a bag; we’ll take it back to the lab.” Then he sighs deeply and clucks. “It’s sad,” he says, “It’s sad.”

part two of the article above

Bats have been hibernating in Aeolus Cave for 10,000 years, since the end of the last ice age. A mighty portion of Vermont’s bats once lived here, around 300,000. It was the largest bat cave in New England. Now only hundreds remain.

Soon after the fungus was detected at Aeolus in 2008, Darling and Smith visited to count bats but were stopped short. “There were 20,000 dead on the floor,” Smith says. “It was hard to climb around.” Tonight they’ve caught just a few. Outside, bat bones, like wispy twigs, line the crevices in the rocks.


The Belo Monte Dam

Lifted from eKos’ “Earthship Friday” tonight, editor PatrickZ.

Hey, pagesource *does* work.

Dams suck, though.

The Belo Monte Dam

Hydroelectric power, though renewable, is not necessarily ‘green’. Destruction and isolation of wildlife habitat is the most obvious side effect of these dams. The initial flooding can also create large quantities of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, due to the anaerobic decomposition of organic matter in the bed of a new reservoir.


In the Amazon, large dams are particularly damaging due to the high concentration of endemic species and plant matter, as well as the presence of indigenous tribes. Also, while the dam is touted as providing enough electricity to power 23 million homes, there is speculation that some of the energy will go into expansion of mining operations in the Amazon.

Over the protests of both scientists and activists, the government of Brazil has officially signed off on the multi-billion dollar project:

Brazil’s government has given the formal go-ahead for the building on a tributary of the Amazon of the world’s third biggest hydroelectric dam.

After several failed legal challenges, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva signed the contract for the Belo Monte dam with the Norte Energia consortium.

The Hypancistrus zebra, a species endemic to the Big Bend area of the Xingu River by Birger A

Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva attempted to reassure those in opposition:

At the contract signing ceremony in Brasilia on Thursday, President Lula said he himself had criticised the dam before he learnt more about it.

“You cannot imagine how many times I spoke against Belo Monte without even knowing what it was about, and it is precisely during my government that Belo Monte is being unveiled,” he said.

“I think this is a victory for Brazil’s energy sector.

“We will persuade them that we took seriously into account the environmental and social issues,” he added.

We will see if those concerns were truly taken into consideration. Indigenous leaders remain unconvinced:

“The government has signed a death warrant for the Xingu river and condemned thousands of residents to expulsion,” local Indian leaders said on Thursday.



Bizarre NYT Sludge Article

Biosolids Tracking Efforts a Jumble of Research With No Clear Answers

Nearly all scientists agree that sewage sludge can be beneficial if it is uncontaminated, as it is a rich source of phosphorus and nitrogen. It has two components — bacteria naturally present in organic matter, which can be somewhat removed depending on how the sludge is processed; and heavy metals and chemicals such as any of the 11 flame retardants, 72 pharmaceuticals, 28 metals, 25 steroids and hormones, and others that EPA tested for in its 2009 national sludge survey. It can also contain chemicals that no one is looking for, any one of the 80,000 that are made in the United States.

h/t to Jill Richardson at La Vida Locavore for bringing this to my attention.

In Decatur, Ala., chemical companies released perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) — the stuff that makes up nonstick cookware and has been linked to thyroid defects in pregnant women and to cancer in wastewater treatment plant workers — into the sewage system over a period of decades.

About 55 percent of sludge is applied in the United States on primarily grazing land. It is a multimillion-dollar industry in which utilities pay applier companies like Synagro to take the stuff and spray it on farmland as a potent fertilizer. They save money by avoiding costs of land filling or incineration. The farmer pays little or nothing.

Otherwise, ummm…we should be studying this more…but if there were problems surely somebody would have noticed?

And it’s so convenient…and people are just being fussy because it’s sewage.

And actually we are kind of collecting data, but nobody has any plans to do anything especial with it.

“A lot of this is just gathering information to find out what this is going to say,” said Connie Roberts, special assistant to the director of the water protection division for EPA’s Region 4, which covers Alabama.

And just what exactly is *that* supposed to mean?

Oh, and people have been reporting problems for years, but no one can say for sure that there really are risks.

And, um; we should really study this more.

And you’re all just making stuff up because you think sewage is icky.

Oh, and there are people working on soliciting phone calls from people worried about this, and using “tools” to, er, well, not encourage them to think sludge is the cause of their problems (shocked! Shocked!)

Oh, and there’s no funding to do sludge-related work. Well, of course not. That would be silly. Frivolous, even!


Trader Joe’s; How Idols Do Crumble

Inside the secret world of Trader Joe’s – Full Version


Aug 23

h/t Jay in Portland

You’d think Trader Joe’s would be eager to trumpet its success, but management is obsessively secretive. There are no signs with the company’s name or logo at headquarters in Monrovia, about 25 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. Few customers realize the chain is owned by Germany’s ultra-private Albrecht family, the people behind the Aldi Nord supermarket empire. (A different branch of the family controls Aldi Süd, parent of the U.S. Aldi grocery chain.) Famous in Germany for not talking to the press, the Albrechts have passed their tightlipped ways on to their U.S. business: Trader Joe’s and its CEO, Dan Bane, declined repeated requests to speak to Fortune, and the company has never participated in a major story about its business operations.

Some of that may be because Trader Joe’s business tactics are often very much at odds with its image as the funky shop around the corner that sources its wares from local farms and food artisans. Sometimes it does, but big, well-known companies also make many of Trader Joe’s products. Those Trader Joe’s pita chips? Made by Stacy’s, a division of PepsiCo’s (PEP, Fortune 500) Frito-Lay. On the East Coast much of its yogurt is supplied by Danone’s Stonyfield Farm. And finicky foodies probably don’t like to think about how Trader Joe’s scale enables the chain to sell a pound of organic lemons for $2.

To get inside the mysterious world of Trader Joe’s, Fortune spent two months speaking with former executives, competitors, industry analysts, and suppliers, most of whom asked not to be named. What emerged is a picture of a business at a crossroads: As the company expands into new markets and adds stores — analysts say the grocer could easily triple its size in the coming years — it must find a way to maintain its small-store vibe with customers. “They see themselves as a national chain of neighborhood specialty grocery stores,” says Mark Mallinger, a Pepperdine University professor who has done research for the company. “It means you want to create an image of mom and pop as you grow.” That’s no easy task. Just ask Starbucks (SBUX, Fortune 500) CEO Howard Schultz, whose expansion has been a huge success but has come at the expense of credibility with some coffee aficionados. The alternative is to remain a small brand with unflagging devotees, like outdoor clothier Patagonia. If it can get the balance right, Trader Joe’s may be one of the few retailers to marry cult appeal with scale. Just don’t expect anyone from the company to talk about it.


People resisting climate change shut down Royal Bank HQ

Camp for Climate Action 2010
Break the Bank!

Indymedia, Scotland

People resisting climate change closed down the Royal Bank of Scotland’s Global HQ at Gogarburn near Edinburgh and took direct action at numerous sites throughout Edinburgh today 23rd August.

The Camp for Climate Action said: “We are celebrating a successful day targeting various climate criminals – holding direct actions, demonstrations and street theatre confronting the role of financial institutions like RBS in bankrolling climate change.”

Harry Reynolds who took part in the actions said:
“No one came to work today at the RBS Gogarburn headquarters. Since we had already effectively shut that down, we decided to concentrate our energies targeting RBS and its fossil fuel affiliates in the Edinburgh city centre. We’ve done a lot to disrupt RBS dirty energy operations today, but we are committed to keeping up the pressure until we manage to cut off the flow of capital from the banks to the fossil fuel industry.”

Occupy and set up the basecamp: 19th–20th August
Four days of training and direct action: 21st–24th August
Day of action against RBS and the fossil fuel industry: 23rd August
Return basecamp to nature: 25th August

The Camp for Climate Action is a grassroots movement taking direct action against the root causes of climate change. After mobilising and helping stop the proposed third runway at Heathrow and a new coal fired power station at Kingsnorth, we’re growing into a mass movement reclaiming our future from government and profit-hungry corporations.

This year we’re targeting the Royal Bank of Scotland.

Last year RBS were bailed out with £50 billion of public money. This bank is one of the world’s largest investor in oil, gas and coal. From tar sands extraction in Canada to coal infrastructure here in the UK, we’re paying to trash our future. These projects are not just causing catastrophic climate change, but destroying the lives and livelihoods of people across the globe. Meanwhile, we’re told there is no money left and we should be braced for decades of public sectors cuts.



Hoard Mentality


Who’s to say, really, where eccentricity turns into pathology? A 2008 survey found that 1 in 10 American households rented a storage unit—a purgatory for belongings that’s less visible, but often no more valuable, than a home hoard. “The show has kind of opened the closet doors,” Andy Berg, an executive producer at A&E, told me. “People say, ‘My neighbor was a hoarder. My dad is a hoarder. You should come to my sister’s house!’ I’m shocked by how many people know a hoarder.”

Wisconsin’s Allan Roach in court for hoarding 178 cats, keeping them in fridge

Allan and Scott Roach lived with 178 cats and kept several dead kitties in the freezer of a home that stank so badly of urine it was hard to breathe.

Cleaning up after hoarders is a booming business


“When I have to use my shoulder to push the door in, that probably means we’re going to take the job,” said Todd Reese, co-owner of Georgia Clean and Associates, which helps hoarders reclaim their homes from collectibles, debris and worse. The niche service has become a booming business for Reese and his associate, Gordy Powell, who recently combined their two companies to deal with demand.

They’ve overseen some well-publicized clean-ups, including the Sandy Springs home belonging to Mary Minter, who had to be rescued from chest-high debris in late June. She died two weeks later.

38 animals killed in Solon hoarding situation: Only a misdemeanor


Imagine you hear a news report about an animal hoarding situation in your community. The report states that 39 animals were found in a urine-stained and feces-filled home, in the middle of August with no air conditioning or open windows, with daily temperatures in the high 80s, and whereby the animals were neglected, starving and infested with fleas.

Meanwhile you come to find that the family is vacationing in Florida. You try to wrap your mind around the kind of family that could do this to their animals. And then you learn that the hoarder is a physician, a podiatrist, living in a “nice” community in Solon, Ohio. You don’t have to imagine anything – the news report is real.