Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Clintons Welcome First Grandchild

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Chelsea Clinton gave birth to her first child this weekend, so President Clinton and Hillary are now proud grandparents! And the baby's name is Charlotte - which happens to be my own daughter's name, and not that common. My girl was always the only Charlotte in her school, so they will enjoy that distinction too. Although this may start a new Age of Charlottes, which can only be good.

Congratulations to the Clintons and the Mezvinskys!

Volcanoes in the News: From Bardarbunga to Ontakesan

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Ontakesan Volcano

There are so many active volcanoes around the world right now it is hard to keep track of them.

Yesterday, Mt. Ontakesan in Japan blew up without warning, and it has been a tragedy for hikers and climbers who were on the mountain. Searchers have rushed to the area to try and rescue people in the area, now covered in volcanic ash. But the volcano remains dangerous and is still erupting. I hope they find some survivors, but it's a grim situation.

Ontakesan Live Webcam

The past few months, I've become addicted to the Iceland livecam for Bardarbunga, a significant volcano that is close enough to Europe to really cause trouble if it were to blow up suddenly. Bardarbunga is still significant for it's immense cloud of deadly sulfur dioxide that is already causing health concerns there in Iceland. And the Holuhraun lava field is growing by leaps and bounds. At night you can see the hot lava glowing as it streams away towards the sea. The main caldera of Bardarbunga seems to be sinking with every earthquake, and at night glows like the Eye of Sauron from Tolkien's tales - inspired by the old Icelandic sagas.

Bardarbunga Cam 1
Bardarbunga Cam 2

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This video shows a volcano called Mt. Tavurvur that recently exploded in Papua New Guinea. Brace yourself for the boom! You can almost see the sound wave, and certainly can see the large boulders hitting the water. The people who caught this on camera were lucky not to be closer.

A report came out this weekend that Mt. Saint Helens in Washington State is possibly coming back to life. In fact, scientists don't really know why it ever stopped erupting.

From King5 News
Geologists were surprised that the mountain stopped erupting in 1986. "Many of us were expecting it to continue a while," said USGS seismologist Seth Moran.

The second lava dome, which started appearing in 2004, appeared at a different spot in the crater. Lava that appeared from 2004-08 was much more solid than during the earlier phase.

Even though the lava dome hasn't erupted since 2008, its shape still is changing.

"As it cools, it fractures and settles and falls apart," said Dan Dzurisin, a USGS geologist. Rockfall has also been changing the shape of the crater rim.

And 5 miles below the volcano, there are signs that the magma chamber that fueled both eruptions is recharging. Dzurisin said the USGS is focusing on the rate of recharging and whether the magma can compress in the chamber, rather than flowing toward an outlet to the earth's surface.
Mt. Saint Helens in Washington
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Then there was an earthquake swarm this weekend under Mammoth Lakes, an ancient dormant volcano near the California/Nevada border. The USGS put out a warning that the movement had volcanic traits, while other experts believe it is merely shaking due to pressure from hot springs. (Of course hot springs go along with volcanoes, so....)

From UPI
The quakes struck the region between 9 a.m. Thursday and 1:49 a.m. Friday.
The USGS said it's because Mammoth Mountain, a lava-dome complex, lies along the rim of the Long Valley Caldera.
"Recent volcanic unrest, including seismicity, gas emission, and tree kill, is thought to be related to a dike intrusion beneath Mammoth Mountain in 1989," the USGS website said. "Both Long Valley Caldera and Mammoth Mountain have experienced episodes of heightened unrest over the last few decades (earthquakes, ground uplift, and/or volcanic gas emissions). As a result, the USGS manages a dense array of field sensors providing the real-time data needed to track unrest and assess hazards."

LA Times
The earthquakes may have been triggered by water pressure from area hot springs shifting through the ground surface, stressing tectonic plates. Scientists, Shelly said, are closely watching the earthquake swarm, but don’t believe it's connected to any magmatic activity.
Shelly said seismic analysts plan to review the swarm and update locations and magnitudes of the quakes, but the activity is not nearly on the size and scale of what was measured in the 1980s and 1990s.
. . . The Long Valley caldera is one of the most seismically active regions in the state, and is part of a quiet network of 17 volcanoes throughout California. Many of the older volcanoes haven't been active for thousands of years.
The last time the Long Valley caldera erupted was 50,000 years ago.

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The People's Climate March Makes History

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The People's Climate March on September 21, 2014, was one of the best days for the environmental movement in history. Thousands turned out to march all over the world, including over 400,000 marchers in New York City.

Listen to the roar of the crowd after the moment of silence! We are the future, hear us roar! :)

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Saturday, June 14, 2014

The NRA's "Open Carry" Movement Doesn't Work in Civilization

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President Obama has been in office for six years and in all that time he has never implemented the dreaded "Gun Grab" that rightwing nutjobs obsess about. In spite of all the school shootings and mass public shootings, people have more guns than ever, and Congress is owned by the Gun Lobby so they do NOTHING about it. And the school shootings continue.

Last Week President Obama once again spoke out on the issue in an interview with Tumblr, trying to get through to Congress that something must be done:

Full Transcript on WhiteHouse.Gov

I have to say that people often ask me how has it been being President, and what am I proudest of and what are my biggest disappointments. And I’ve got two and a half years left. My biggest frustration so far is the fact that this society has not been willing to take some basic steps to keep guns out of the hands of people who can do just unbelievable damage.

We’re the only developed country on Earth where this happens. And it happens now once a week. And it’s a one-day story. There’s no place else like this. A couple of decades ago, Australia had a mass shooting similar to Columbine or Newtown. And Australia just said, well, that's it -- we’re not seeing that again. And basically imposed very severe, tough gun laws. And they haven’t had a mass shooting since.

Our levels of gun violence are off the charts. There’s no advanced, developed country on Earth that would put up with this. Now, we have a different tradition. We have a Second Amendment. We have historically respected gun rights. I respect gun rights. But the idea that, for example, we couldn’t even get a background check bill in to make sure that if you’re going to buy a weapon you have to actually go through a fairly rigorous process so that we know who you are, so you can't just walk up to a store and buy a semiautomatic weapon -- it makes no sense.

And I don't know if anybody saw the brief press conference from the father of the young man who had been killed at Santa Barbara. And as a father myself, I just could not understand the pain he must be going through and just the primal scream that he gave out -- why aren’t we doing something about this?

And I will tell you, I have been in Washington for a while now and most things don’t surprise me. The fact that 20 six-year-olds were gunned down in the most violent fashion possible and this town couldn’t do anything about it was stunning to me. And so the question then becomes what can we do about it. The only thing that is going to change is public opinion. If public opinion does not demand change in Congress, it will not change.

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I’ve initiated over 20 executive actions to try to tighten up some of the rules in the laws, but the bottom line is, is that we don’t have enough tools right now to really make as big of a dent as we need to.

And most members of Congress -- and I have to say, to some degree, this is bipartisan -- are terrified of the NRA.
. . . The last thing I’ll say: A lot of people will say that, well, this is a mental health problem, it’s not a gun problem. The United States does not have a monopoly on crazy people. (Laughter.) It’s not the only country that has psychosis. And yet, we kill each other in these mass shootings at rates that are exponentially higher than anyplace else. Well, what’s the difference? The difference is, is that these guys can stack up a bunch of ammunition in their houses and that’s sort of par for the course.

So the country has to do some soul searching about this. This is becoming the norm, and we take it for granted in ways that, as a parent, are terrifying to me. And I am prepared to work with anybody, including responsible sportsmen and gun owners, to craft some solutions. But right now, it’s not even possible to get even the mildest restrictions through Congress, and we should be ashamed of that.

The President is telling the truth. If he wanted to confiscate weapons he would do that, but the reality is that anyone can buy a gun any day of the week. It is easy in America. You can buy guns at Gun Shows and Swap Meets. You can buy them at sporting goods stores. You can buy them online. You can buy guns at Walmart. You can buy guns at Target down the aisle from the diapers and baby food.

And now gun nuts want to parade around with loaded guns in the restaurants and stores! And far-right conservative state legislatures have helped them with their Old West Fantasy by passing "Guns Everywhere" laws.

But what about the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for those who don't want to see guns, especially while they are eating or shopping? Why do we have to live in a world where everyone is armed to the teeth?

Well, the NRA says "good guys" should be armed to stop the "bad guys" with guns. But as we often see, even trained policemen are shot, as they were recently in Las Vegas - shot in the head while eating lunch at a Cici's Pizza. And a person with a concealed weapon who tried to stop the shooters was shot dead by the the same two sociopaths.

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Fallen Las Vegas Officers
Alyn Beck and Igor Soldo

The man who shot the cops, Jerad Miller, was a convicted felon who wasn't supposed to have guns, but he asked his friends and family for guns on Facebook. Then he bragged about going to Bundy Ranch where he paraded around with an assault rifle. In fact, he was told to leave Bundy ranch BECAUSE he was a felon! His wife legally bought the guns they used in the attack, but she gave them to her husband, which is a crime. These two thugs weren't patriots, but criminals who wanted to "Start the Revolution." They bragged to all the neighbors what they were going to do, but either no one believed them, or were too intimidated to call 911.

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More About Jerad and Amanda Miller:
Snark Amendment: Vegas Shooting
Inspired by Alex Jones and Bundy Ranch

A small faction of our populace has an obsession with guns and perceived glory as they fight against the very government that has held this country together for 250 years. Why do they want another Civil War? Why are they so hell-bent on everyone being just as bloodthirsty as they are? How can we possibly know when a person with a gun walks towards us in a store or restaurant whether they are a "good guy" just proud of the 2nd Amendment or a horrible monster who want's to mow us down to make a point?

A friend of one of the dead policemen wrote this essay:

Killing Cops Doesn't Make You a Revolutionary
Two wackos walked into a fast food restaurant, ambushed my friend Alyn and his partner, Igor Soldo, shooting them point blank as they ate their lunch. They then turned and yelled something about it being the “start of the revolution”, killed one other person and then themselves.

These two idiots didn’t start a revolution. They just ripped the life from two heroes as they ate. They took fathers from their children. They brought darkness into the lives of those who loved these two men. They traumatized people who witnessed the tragedy, probably for the rest of their lives. They left a horrific scene for dozens of police workers to have to process emotionally and mentally. And the greatest irony of this infuriating act of horrific stupidity and delusion is that if they were truly acting out of some kind of perverse revolutionary intent, they only hurt their own cause — whatever that is.

. . . These weren’t policy makers. They weren’t “Obama’s henchmen.” They weren’t hired drones of the “evil Koch Brothers.” These were two of the good guys.

. . . If you’re frustrated with government, if you’re worried about the republic, if you’re convinced black helicopters are watching you in the night, if you think Obama is a reptile alien sent to destroy the human race, or whatever is under your skin, do us all a favor: start a blog, write a book, go to a protest, join a cause, call a senator, call a talk show, run for office, do what people in a free society do, not what people in the Lord of the Flies would. And if you just can’t restrain yourself from going on a murderous rampage followed by your own cowardly suicide, do the rest of us a favor and do it in reverse order.
Shooting a cop doesn’t make you a revolutionary. It just makes things worse…for everyone.