Saturday, May 15, 2021

Science post

NPR has one of their rare science reports. Nell GreenfieldBoyce notes:

Traces of rare forms of iron and plutonium have been found at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, after some kind of cataclysm in outer space created this radioactive stuff and sent it raining down on our planet.
The extraterrestrial debris arrived on Earth within the last 10 million years, according to a report in the journal Science. Once it hit the Pacific Ocean and settled to the bottom, nearly a mile down, the material got incorporated into layers of a rock that was later hauled up by a Japanese oil exploration company and donated to researchers.
"Just knowing that there's plutonium there is amazing," says Brian Fields, an astronomer at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who was not part of the research team. "Now we only have tiny amounts of material — after all, we're talking about hundreds of atoms here. But we should be grateful for that, because they are freshly made from exploding stars."

While I'm noting outlets covering science, let me note Philip Guelpa (WSWS):

Human-induced climate change has caused a substantial reduction in the Gulf Stream’s rate of flow, according to a new study by a team of scientists from Ireland, Britain and Germany published in the journal Nature Geoscience (Caesar et al, 25 February 2021). Furthermore, the researchers predict that should this trend continue, which is likely under current conditions, the degradation of the Gulf Stream will reach a “tipping point” beyond which the change will become irreversible, producing major, negative impacts to weather patterns along the North Atlantic coasts of Europe and North America. The results of this study support previous modeling that predicted the slowing that has now been documented.
The North Atlantic Gulf Stream, also known as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), begins near Florida, flows northward along the east coast of North America, then swings eastward toward Europe, subsequently diverging into a number of separate currents. It is one of the world’s major ocean currents which have a major influence on global climate. In particular, the Gulf Stream acts as a moderating influence on the weather patterns of eastern North America and western Europe. Without it, weather patterns in these areas would be more extreme, including a greater range of temperatures and precipitation, and a marked increase in severe storms, possibly deflecting winter storm tracks over Europe. It would also accelerate sea level rise in both areas.
The moderating effect of the Gulf Stream on weather patterns along the northern hemisphere’s Atlantic coasts is caused by the huge amount of warm water—more than 5.2 billion gallons (20 million cubic meters) per second—it pumps into the North Atlantic, counteracting the colder water from the Arctic region to the north.
The researchers predict that the tipping point could be reached by the year 2100, beyond which the Gulf Stream would be substantially degraded or halted altogether. Once that happens, the change would likely be irreversible, regardless of any efforts to moderate climate change.
Although the recording of precise measurements began only in 2004, the researchers were able to use 11 proxy indicators to reconstruct key characteristics of the Gulf Stream back about 2,000 years. These include atmospheric temperature records, Atlantic silt data from underwater sediment cores, deep-sea coral population records, tree rings and ice cores. These data allowed for estimations of the Gulf Stream’s water temperature and rate of flow. For example, different coral species prefer specific temperature environments. Changes in coral populations thus indicate shifts in water temperature over time. And the greater the rate of water flow the larger the sediment particles that can be moved by the current. The data collected, representing a variety of sources and taken from dispersed locations were, nevertheless, found to present a broadly consistent pattern.

Good article but a complaint. WSWS has tabs at the top of their home page. There is no tab for "science." And to get to the science section you have to scroll down and scroll down and scroll down and . . .

Perspective, Critical Stories, Global Class Struggle, US Politics, Asia and the Pacific, Arts and Culture, May Day 2021, War and Militarism, The Coronavirus Pandemic, Europe North America, The Fight Against School Reopenings, History, Youth and Students, and then finally Science. That's a lot of scrolling to go through just to read the Science section. I'm glad they cover science, I just wish that they made it easier to get to the science section.

Let me wind down with Mars. NASA has rovers Curiosity and Perseverance on Mars, for example. But the US is not the only one exploring the galaxy. AFP reports:


China's "Zhurong" rover, part of its ambitious space programme to send a probe to Mars, is set to attempt the challenging landing on the Red Planet in the next five days, Beijing's space agency said Friday.

The tricky touchdown, if successful, would come a few months behind America's latest probe to Mars, as Beijing presses ahead with its increasingly bold space ambitions.

"Based on current flight conditions, the Tianwen-1 probe intends to choose an opportunity to land ... in the period from early morning Saturday to Wednesday Beijing time," the China National Space Administration said in an online statement.

The launch of the Tianwen-1 Mars probe last July marked a major milestone in China's space programme, which Beijing views as a sign of its rising global stature and technological might.

The spacecraft, which entered Mars' orbit in February, has now reached "crucial touchdown stage", the state-run tabloid Global Times said Friday. It will land in a vast northern lava plain known as the Utopia Planitia.

I would love it if we were all working together but the US has gone out of its way to 'militarize' space over the last decades.




"Iraq snapshot" (THE COMMON ILLS):

 Friday, May 14, 2021.  A US outlet rushes to lie about the Iraq War (its beginnings) and Ihab al-Wazni's death -- part of a wave of assassinations -- continues to generate protests.

SLATE continues to cover the lead up to the Iraq War.  Can't cover the ongoing Iraq War because, well, that would be actual work.  Can't cover the disaster that the US has created in Iraq.  But they can go back now, nearly 20 years later, and 'reflect' on . . . well, reflection really isn't their thing.

They're trying to promote their heavily criticized podcast (not just by us) that's focusing this season on the lead up to the Iraq War.  They'd doing that by also offering text articles about what the podcast is (mis)covering.  Noreen Malone offers a lot of words in an article in which only the following is accurate:

Slate was part of this pro-war consensus, too. 

That's really it.

All those words and that's the only honest part.

It's cute how they note 'liberals' who were in favor of the Iraq War and leave out Judith Miller, by the way.  Judith was a liberal or 'liberal.'  She wrote for THE PROGRESSIVE at one point -- a detail they love to leave out including in that 'anniversary' issue where they looked back on their past.

Why did some 'liberal' support the Iraq War?

That's what the fourth episode of the podcast and Noreen's article (''based on the podcast'') attempts to confuse while they pretend to answer.

One reason is that they wanted their media platforms.  That's a detail Noreen misses.  Phil Donahue was taken off MSNBC despite delivering the cable network's strongest ratings.  Why?  MSNBC honchos were afraid he wouldn't be waving the flag and promoting war and might hurt their brand.

And not just hosts, guests too.  You would lose your media platform if you spoke out against the war.  You weren't part of the cool crowd and you wouldn't be invited on.  The exception to that being you would be invited on Bill O'Reilly's show where he would yell at you for not supporting the war..

So you wanted to protect yourself.

Another was herd mentality.  Stay with the pack.  It's okay if we're all wrong but if I step out and speak out and I'm alone and wrong my career is over!!!!

Third reason?  Some of these people see war as the answer everytime.

Bill Keller?  I was so glad when we stopped covering THE NEW YORK TIMES daily because it was getting harder and harder to hold my tongue about Bill Keller (and we ripped him apart several times here but I'm talking deeply, personal information).  What war hasn't Bill cheered on?

Thomas Friedman?  Squishy sort of 'liberal' who supports all interventions.

THE NEW REPUBLIC has a history, a long history, of cheering on war so why are we not addressing that?

There are all these reasons that are not being addressed and yet they devoted a whole podcast -- and now articles -- to it.  

They're just liars.

The media went along for many reasons.  One reason seldom noted was the waivers and consolidations they wanted.  They got what they wanted from the FCC.  They weren't going to rock the boat and they didn't.

Another reason?  Being right doesn't mean a damn thing in the media landscape.

People who were wrong didn't suffer for it.  People who lied didn't suffer.

And not only were they rewarded by corporate media, they were also rewarded by so-called 'independent' media.  MOTHER JONES chooses to hire a blogger.  Did they go with someone who was right about the Iraq War?

No, they went with Kevin Drum who was a cheerleader for the Iraq War.

Once upon a time, FAIR liked to do pieces and segments (segments on their radio program COUNTERSPIN) about all the people who were wrong about the Iraq War that ended up getting bigger jobs in the media for it.

They loved to ride that high horse until we started slamming them for for failing to note that the same thing was taking place in Beggar Media (outlets that always have their hands in your pocket for money to 'deliver the real news').  (Panhandle Media ditched even the pretense of fairness in 2008, see this piece on KPFA that Ava and I wrote in real time.)

Big media, small media, the racket played out the same.  Be part of the group think and you will be rewarded.  

I love how one (read the crap if you want to, we don't promote that guy) insists that as a Jewish intellectual blah blah blah.  Excuse me, but intellectual implies thought.  And there's no thought being put into going along with breaking international law.  The Iraq War was illegal from the beginning.  Don't try to hide behind the claim that you are an 'intellectual' and don't hide behind being Jewish and trot out the Holocaust.  You embarrass yourself.

There was also the fact that the media would slam you if you spoke out. 

I've noted before one of the nation's top ten papers set out to destroy people who were against the war.  Sheryl Crow was savaged and attacked for her album and I know why because the journalist apologized to me for it and I told them to go f**k off.  The same journalist wanted to interview me for a feature and I do my research and said no because of an attack on Sheryl's music because Sheryl was against going to war on Iraq.  (The attack was so outrageous that they elevated Christian Aguilera saying she should have been nominated for X award and not Sheryl when Christiana's album wasn't even eligible because it came out after the deadline for that year's Grammy nominations.)  After I said no, the journalist continued to e-mail and call.  It was February and I was already speaking out on campuses and I ended up the journalist's city and they show up wanting an interview and I explained no and why.  The journalist wants to whine (and will do in e-mails over the next two days -- e-mails I still have) explaining that they had been ordered -- the entire entertainment beat -- to attack anyone speaking out against the impending war.

Don't give me your b.s. SLATE, I'm not in the mood.

You had a pothead who thought being a pothead meant he was a liberal who wrote a column calling those who protested against the Iraq War traitors and they were committing treason (for a war that hadn't even started?).  That's what the 'intellectual' level was at the time.  

I know too many journalists so don't give me your b.s., SLATE.

It was an organized movement against peace, it was a deliberate choice to push the illegal war.

They can't address any of the above because they're too busy continuing the lies.

Are we really surprised that they can't be honest when they look back?  I mean, these are the same outlets that ignore what's happening in Iraq today.  SLATE's never done any strong work on the war.  They cheerleaded it, they egged it on and attacked those who spoke out and now they offer this mediocre podcast that distorts and lies.  No real surprise.

Iraq Security and Humanitarian Monitor notes:

  • Assassination Sparks Anti-Iran Protests; Political Parties Boycott October Elections; UNAMI Criticizes Baghdad’s Crises Handling – Between May 9-12, thousands of protesters took to the streets in Karbala, Babylon, Najaf and Baghdad to protest the assassination of Ehab al-Wazni, a prominent activist and leader of protests movement in Karbala. Angry protesters chanted anti-Iran slogans, attempted to storm an Iranian Consulate, set ablaze political parties’ branches, and clashed with riot police. On May 9, two political parties declared an election boycott in response to al-Wazi’s slaying. On May 9, the Kurdistan Counter Terrorism Group denied that its agents supported the American operation that killed Qassem Soleimani. On May 11, major political parties accused London’s Ambassador to Baghdad of interfering in internal affairs for saying that  Iraq cannot hold fair elections without protecting activists from armed factions. On May 11, the head of UNAMI gave Baghdad poor marks for its handling of the security situation and closure of IDP camps. UNAMI also highlighted “worrisome” trends in restricting freedoms in Kurdistan. On May 11 and 12, political candidates in Kirkuk and Baghdad said that they received explicit death threats demanding they drop out. more…
  • Gunmen Assassinate Activist Ehab al-Wazni; Explosive-Laden Drone Strikes Ain Al-Assad; Lockheed Martin Pulls Crews Sustaining Iraqi F-16s – On May 8, gunmen assassinated prominent political activist Ehab al-Wazni in Karbala. The next day, attackers shot and severely wounded a TV reporter in Diwaniya. On May 8, an explosive-laden drone struck a hangar in Ain al-Assad air base in Anbar. Between May 6-13, ten IED attacks targeted military targets and civilians in Anbar, Babylon, Basra, Diyala, Kirkuk, Ninewa, Salah ad-Din, and Wasit. Three of those bombs exploded near International Coalition supply convoys. During the same period, ISIS militants attacked at least seven Iraqi army, police, and PMF targets in Diyala, Kirkuk and Salad ad-Din. These attacks killed at least eight Iraqis. On May 10, Lockheed Martin said it was pulling crews responsible for maintaining Iraqi F-16s from Balad air base due to continued secu

  • Ihab's mother is speaking out.  ALHADITH Tweets:

    للميليشيات المسلحة

    5:29 AM · May 14, 2021 

    In the video, use the link if it doesn't show above, she says there is no government, just militias, that it's open season on the Iraqi people and no one is there to protect the people.

    Also speaking out is Ihab's brother:

    As the brother of martyred activist Ehab Al-Wazni was delivering a speech in Karbala’s Al-Ahrar Square, riot police surrounded protesters and injured several in an attempt to suppress the movement. Despite the violence, the revolutionaries of Tishreen persist. #كربلاء_تقمع

    Ali Alsewedy offers this thread:

    The revolutionaries in the city of Karbala were brutally suppressed by the riot forces during a speech by the family of the martyr Ihab Al-Wazni, and many peaceful demonstrators were wounded. #iraq #كربلاء_تقمع

    It seems that the violence practiced by the security services against the demonstrators is an entrenched culture and behavior of some security men. Iraqi governments ignore the issue of human rights, and cannot protect protesters.

    And it's not just Karbala.  Shams Bashir1 Tweets:

    Masses of protestors, who have taken to the streets since the assassination of Karbala activist Ihab al-Wazni on Sunday calling for accountability, were arrested overnight, according to Babil activist Ammar al-Ghazali #Iraq

    And since the western media tends to ignore women and render them invisible let's note this Tweet because, as usual, Iraqi women are part of the protests.

    Iraqi women from #Karabala chant loudly against Iran while holding a protest following the assassination of the civil activist Ehab Al-Wazni.
    Quote Tweet

    Ihab's assassination is not a one-time event.  It's part of a wave of assassinations, a wave of threats and intimidation, an effort to suppress the people.  ASHARQ AL-AWSAT maps it out:

    Targeted assassinations threatening the lives of civil society activists and candidates running in Iraq’s 2021 parliamentary elections, slated for October 10, have fueled fears that the early vote will be delayed until next year. 

    Ihab al-Wazni, who helped organize anti-government protests that swept Iraq in October 2019, was shot dead on Sunday outside his home in Karbala, a city located 100 km south of Baghdad.

    Only a day later, another murder attempt sought to take out journalist Ahmed Hassan in the nearby city of Diwaniyah, located 180 km south of the capital.

    In parallel, a female candidate from Baqubah province, situated northeast of Baghdad, also reported an attempt on her life.

    The heightened risk of assassination has been directly linked to candidates increasingly pulling out from the October race.

    For example, the Bayariq Al-Khair parliamentary bloc revealed on Wednesday that some of its candidates had withdrawn from the upcoming elections after receiving death threats.

    “Some candidates of the Bayariq al-Khair bloc in Baghdad withdrew from the upcoming parliament elections after receiving death threats,” said Muhammad al-Khalidi, who heads the bloc.

    Khalidi held relevant security authorities responsible for the safety of candidates.

    “Security services are aware of what happened and have seen the messages that the candidates received,” he said.   

    We noted THE WASHINGTON POST article yesterday, the one about Ihan.  It was co-written by Louisa Loveluck and here's a Twitter thread from her:

    The killings take place in public & are captured on surveillance footage. The videos are watched by millions. Then no one is prosecuted, & the cycle starts again. Our piece on Iraq's rising tide of activist and journalist murders:

    Accountability for serious crimes & human rights violations, such as targeted killings, abductions & intimidation, is “very, very limited”, UN representative warned yesterday. Impunity erodes trust & emboldens perpetrators, she said.
    “It’s a message to us all,” said a Karbala-based activist, reached by phone after scrambling to move his family to another city overnight. “No matter what we do, the situation will always remain the same. Those death squads will always be in power.”

    Blamed for killings are a host of Iran-backed militias, as well as armed wing of Moqtada al-Sadr's political movement. PM Kadhimi came to power promising justice for slain activists; diplomats & analysts now suggest he may seek alliance with Sadr before upcoming elections.

    The week before activist Ehab al-Wazni’s death, video showed him addressing local police chief w/ a megaphone. He reminded the security official that he'd received death threats. “I’ve already sent you their names,” he shouted. “If I get killed, the police haven’t protected me.”

    "But to do so, they’ll first need to stay alive." Chilling final line in this piece on the targeting of activists across the region who might wish to enter their countries' politics in an attempt to bring change.

    At RUDAW, Sura Ali continues to cover the protests and the protesters.  From Ali's latest:

    Dozens of Iraqi protesters on Friday visited the Najaf grave of Safaa al-Sarai, an activist who was killed by security forces in 2019 and became a symbol of the protest movement. It is traditional to visit the graves of loved ones during the Eid al-Fitr holiday.

    “Protesters gathered from different Iraqi cities, mainly Baghdad and Nasiriyah, and held a ceremony at Sarai’s grave, chanting slogans condemning the killing of activists,” protester Ali Munaf told Rudaw English.

    Sarai participated in protests and published pictures and videos documenting brutal tactics used by security forces to suppress the demonstrations. On October 28, 2019, he was fatally shot in the head with a tear gas canister. He is buried in Najaf’s Wadi al-Salam cemetery.

    Iraq’s security forces are accused of deliberately firing teargas canisters at the heads of protesters, making them lethal weapons. 

    “Security forces have fired tear gas canisters directly at protesters in Baghdad, Iraq on several occasions since the demonstrations resumed on October 25, 2019,” Human Rights Watch reported in November 2019.

    After his death, Sarai became an iconic figure of the October [Tishreen] protest movement. Anti-government demonstrators across southern Iraq still carry his image during protests. 

    A group of activists also visited the grave of Ihab al-Wazni, who was a protest leader in Karbala and was assassinated last Sunday. Protesters lit candles near his grave and chanted slogans calling for a renewal of the protest movement and the dismissal of the government that has failed to arrest those responsible for killing dozens of activists.

    The following sites updated: