Burning Earth

Aug 29 2014 @ 1:52pm
by Bill McKibben

California Drought Dries Up Bay Area Reservoirs

At Burning Man in the desert, where the proprietor of this blog, Grover Norquist, and a lot of other people are gathered this week, they had a rare heavy rainfall, which “intensified the misery of people waiting in the will call lines” at the box office. That soaking in the Mojave Desert meant that the area of California under severe drought conditions fell last week from 97.5 to 95.4%, but the effect of the ongoing record aridity keeps magnifying. On the grossest scale, the region has now lost 63 trillion gallons of groundwater, which weighs about 240 billion tons, which has caused the state’s mountains to grow half an inch taller.

But the drought in California is probably not the worst such crisis underway on the planet at the moment, in part because California is rich. In Central America last week Guatemala became the latest country to declare a state of emergency, as the worst drought in decades wreaks havoc with bean and corn crops. According to the AP:

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The NFL Tackles Domestic Violence

Aug 29 2014 @ 1:29pm
by Dish Staff

The NFL announced (NYT) a new policy yesterday:

N.F.L. Commissioner Roger Goodell said Thursday that he had mishandled the Ray Rice case, in which the Baltimore Ravens running back was suspended for two games after being accused of assaulting his fiancée. … Goodell said that effective immediately any N.F.L. employee — not only a player — who is found to have engaged in assault, battery, domestic violence or sexual assault that involved physical force will be suspended without pay for six games for a first offense. Second-time offenders will be banished from the league for at least one year.

Ian Crouch states, reasonably enough, that “Thursday’s announcement should be the beginning of the N.F.L.’s response to domestic violence, not the end”:

The players need to be involved in the league’s attempts to combat violence against women, not simply as the potential recipients of fines and suspensions but as participants in its prohibition and enforcement.

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Darknet Visible

Aug 29 2014 @ 1:04pm
by Sue Halpern


It turns out the NSA’s ICREACH search engine, the one that may be sharing the intimate details of your life among a thousand analysts, isn’t the only secret, Google-inspired search engine out there. Say you’re interested in buying some of those credit card numbers that Russian hackers are so good at lifting from American banks like J.P. Morgan. Or some meth or heroin or the services of a hitman. All these things have long been available through the Internet’s “darknet,” but tricky to get at. They become much more accessible with the “GRAMS” search engine, which looks just like Google (and ICREACH) (why mess with a winner?), and works essentially the same way. Type in the word “weed” and you will be offered 5 grams of Santa Maria weed from a vendor in Germany, a pound of “chronic outdoor low grade” weed from a seller in the United States, and so on. Type in the word “handguns,” and the first two listings are for “The Terrorist Handbook” and “The Terrorist Encyclopedia” which are all about making explosives from various substances available at the hardware store. The third listing is for the latest CAD files for making 3D printed guns. Like eBay, each listing has a link for other items in the vendor’s virtual store and comments from buyers:

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“We Don’t Have A Strategy Yet”

Aug 29 2014 @ 12:45pm
by Dish Staff

That line from Obama’s address last night is garnering a lot of attention, especially from critics who say it encapsulates the core problem with his foreign policy in general and his approach to ISIS in particular. Ackerman reports on how US officials are interpreting the no-strategy strategy:

Some current and former administration officials, speaking on background, have expressed frustration with Obama for not yet forming a comprehensive approach to Isis, and especially for not attempting to take territory in eastern Syria away from the jihadi group. Others contend that the administration’s options are inherently limited if it seeks not to Americanize yet another Middle Eastern war. Still others have said they expect Obama’s military operations against Isis to eventually expand in scope, mission and geographic reach. Obama was initially reluctant about the Afghanistan surge, the Libya air war and the arming of Syrian rebels, only to eventually embrace all those options.

One reason for the lack of a strategy, Eli Lake And Josh Rogin report, may be that the cabinet can’t agree on one:

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Why Oil Companies Are Rogue Actors

Aug 29 2014 @ 12:18pm
by Bill McKibben

A Greenpeace activist holds a banner dur

A reader writes to complain that fossil fuel divestment is a pointless waste of time:

What divestment does do is make people feel good. That they’re “doing something”, without having to do the thing that they actually need to do: use much less fossil fuel. It’s like a room full of chain smokers advocating tobacco divestment.

This is a reasonable complaint, or at least it would be if having individual people decide to use less fossil fuel could actually cure global warming in the time that physics allows us. But it can’t, because the problem is structural: given that the fossil fuel industry is allowed to pour carbon into the atmosphere for free, they have a huge incentive to keep us on the current path. And since they’re the richest industry on earth, they have the means as well as the motive. (Chevron, for instance, offered the largest corporate campaign contribution post-Citizens United two weeks before the last federal election). If we’re going to do anything about carbon, we’re going to have to break the power of the fossil fuel industry first, which is why divestment from high-profile places is so important (just as it was in the South Africa fight). Nelson Mandela journeyed to the University of California shortly after his release to thank students and faculty there, and by extension at 155 other campuses, for pressing the case so effectively.

Here’s an example from the days news of why oil companies are rogues. You’ll recall that on Monday a leaked draft of a new report from the world’s climate scientists stated that

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Two Beautiful People Wed

Aug 29 2014 @ 12:02pm
by Dish Staff

As the magazines by the supermarket checkout would have told you soon enough, Brangelina just made things official. Brandon Ambrosino notes the same-sex marriage connection to these opposite-sex nuptials:

In 2006, Pitt said he and Jolie would not tie the knot until marriage was allowed for both LGBT and non-LGBT Americans. When DOMA was struck down on June 26, gossip swirled that the power couple would soon begin planning their wedding. … Some opponents of marriage equality argue that same-sex marriage will undermine the integrity of marriage in society overall. But for Brangelina and Krax, marriage equality did just the opposite: for them, gay marriage made them want to enter into a “traditional” marriage.

Brian Moylan, however, accuses Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie of not waiting long enough:

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by Dish Staff


Jason Karaian and Heather Timmons bring us up to speed on the latest developments in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine:

On the ground, Ukraine troops in the southeastern city of Novoazovsk told Vice News that they’re not getting the support they need to repel invading fighters. Russia Today released a video of a separatist flag being raised over a Novoazovsk state building. And Ukraine’s security council distributed a video of what it said was a Russian tank in Novoazovsk[.]

Overnight, Russian president Vladimir Putin issued an appeal to the separatist groups to create a “humanitarian corridor” in order to allow besieged Ukrainian troops to return “to their mothers, wives and children.” But in addressing the rebels as the “Novorossiya militia,” he employed a provocative Czarist era term that implies Russian ownership of a big chunk of modern-day Ukraine. A separatist leader said that his forces would grant safe passage for Ukrainian troops to flee the fighting, on the condition that they left all of their weapons behind.

Max Fisher is perturbed by Putin’s use of the term “Novorossiya” or “New Russia”:

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So Random

Aug 29 2014 @ 11:18am
by Phoebe Maltz Bovy

Jesse Singal laments the decline of the traditional college roommate experience, in which you’re paired with a random classmate:

It’s unlikely a circa-2014 college freshman will ever have to go more than a few hours without having a chance to communicate with distant loved ones. All of which only makes the rando roommate more important.

Just ask Bruce Sacerdote, a Dartmouth economist and one of the leading researchers into the effects college roommates have on each other. Sacerdote is a fan of random roommate assignment. Partially, that’s because it’s exactly the sort of event just about all social scientists love: a predictably timed injection of randomness. In what other situation could a researcher — ethically, at least — say, “Hey, let’s see what happens when you have a white Midwesterner live in close quarters with a Vietnamese immigrant for a year!” Since colleges have loads of data about who kids were before they matriculated — and since it’s easy to keep track of them in the years that follow — random roommate assignment is a unique opportunity to study how humans influence one another.

Singal goes on to cite research showing how beneficial roommates-of-difference can be:

According to Sacerdote, research shows that rooming with someone from a lower socioeconomic class “impacts your attitudes about financial aid, about redistribution,” leading to greater support for policies that help close the wealth game. It’s easy to see why: Rich kids tend to come from rich towns, and as a result don’t have much of a sense of what it means to struggle economically. But if you live with someone who is living financial aid check to financial aid check, things will (hopefully) snap into perspective pretty quickly.

This is well and good, until you consider how it goes for the learning-experience-providing roommate.

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The President And The Fashion Police

Aug 29 2014 @ 10:55am
by Dish Staff

Obama wore a tan suit to a big press conference. Was it a fashion don’t or the height of chic? Danielle Kurtzleben rounds up a bunch of tweets fashion-shaming the President, under a headline deeming the controversy “a promising sign of gender equality.” An example Kurtzleben cites:

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“No. No. No.” Ctd

Aug 29 2014 @ 10:29am
by Dish Staff

A reader writes:

I felt a slow-creeping horror building in the pit of my stomach when I read your reader’s incredibly brave essay “No. No. No.” It wasn’t the same visceral horror the men who wrote to you felt, though I’m grateful the piece could shed some light for them. Instead, my horror came from the fact that all I could summon up from this harrowing story of trauma was a dull, familiar ache.

I know this story.

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