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.

Amazing Idea - Solar Roads

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I love the idea of useless heat-producing asphalt replaced by miles of solar panels that can light up the world. I hope I live long enough to see it! In northern climes, the solar panels could melt the snow and ice on the roads, making them safe for travel all year round. And with wires running under the roads, there would be no need for powerlines. Not to mention all the jobs this idea would create. Really the possibilities are endless!

Friday, May 23, 2014

President Obama Takes a Walk - Surprises the Heck Out of People

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President Obama took a Springtime Stroll on the Washington Mall and surprised the heck out of tourists who kept asking him if he was real, and not made of wax, LOL. And now the video has gone viral with almost a million views on YouTube.

"The Bear is Loose!"

Saturday, April 26, 2014

No KXL Pipeline ~ Native Americans and First Nations March on Washington

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Some amazing Native Americans and First Nations from Canada marching on the Washington DC Mall against the Keystone XL Pipeline. My heart is with them, and I hope President Obama is watching (he's traveling in Korea today). According to Rolling Stone, the President has decided to reject the pipeline and is merely waiting for a good time to announce it. I hope and pray that is true. If it is, I'm actually glad he didn't undercut this great show of solidarity by the Cowboy and Indian Alliance and every Native and Conservation Group. There will be other fights and this just brings everyone closer together. There are battles to come because Big Oil never sleeps.

Rolling Stone
. . . the president is likely to announce his decision on the northern leg of the Keystone XL, the hugely controversial 1,179-mile-long pipeline that would bring tar-sands oil down from Alberta to Gulf Coast refineries. Although no final decision has been made, two high-level sources in the Obama administration told me recently that the president has all but decided to deny the permit for the pipeline – a dramatic move that would light up Democratic voters and donors while further provoking the wrath of Big Oil. Finally, Obama is positioning the U.S. to play a key role in negotiations on a new global-climate treaty that will begin next year, establishing American leadership on climate issues and giving him one last chance to lead the world to a cooler future before he leaves the Oval Office.

EDITOR'S NOTE: On Friday April 18th, after the print version of this story had closed, the State Department announced that the decision on the Keystone XL Pipeline would be delayed due to legal challenges to the pipeline's route, effectively putting off resolution of this controversial issue until after the election. The text has been updated to reflect these latest developments.

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Monday, April 7, 2014

Give up, GOP ~ Obamacare is Here to Stay

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Just a few days ago Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell R-Kentucky said that the Fall 2014 elections would circle around the failure of Obama's signature health plan known as Obamacare. Paul Ryan in his most recent scary budget plan calls for a repeal, but strangely also includes ways to amend Obamacare, so citizens can keep what they like but get rid of the rest. Somewhere Ted Cruz and Michele Bachmann and others are mumbling to themselves that the purest of pure Tea Party members still deserve a full repeal, as well as the impeachment of Barack Obama, who was never fit to be President in the first place.

Yep, they can plan, they can chew and re-chew their grumblecake, they can churn out nonsensical budgets with thousands of pages, they can vote to repeal Obamacare for the fifty-fifth time or whatever - but as President Obama said recently, Obamacare is here to stay. End of story. Get off it. Move along. Move Forward in spite of yourselves.

And the best thing ever is this New Yorker Cover, showing Ted Cruz, Bachmann, House Speaker John Boehner, and especially Mitch McConnell lining up as whiny toddlers as grown-up President Obama makes them take their medicine. As a piece of political art, it's sublime. And like Obamacare, it's forever.

From New Yorker artist, Barry Blitt:
“This whole enterprise was just an elaborate excuse,” says Barry Blitt about his cover for this week’s issue. “I enjoyed drawing Ted Cruz, John Boehner, and Michele Bachmann as petulant children—and I especially wanted to draw an open-mouthed Mitch McConnell being spoon-fed his meds.”

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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Understanding the Polar Vortex

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Here's why most of the United States has been in the Deep Freeze this winter:

From the New York Post
“The Big Chill,” NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center post read. “Blistering cold air from the Arctic plunged southward this winter, breaking US temperature records.”
“A persistent pattern of winds spins high above the Arctic in winter. The winds, known as the polar vortex, typically blow in a fairly tight circular formation. But in late December 2013 and early January 2014, the winds loosened and frigid Arctic air spilled farther south than usual, deep into the continental United States.”

NASA Video Explaining the Polar Vortex

Monday, January 20, 2014

Happy Martin Luther King Day!

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Today we celebrate Martin Luther King Day, a floating holiday celebrating the great man's birthday on January 15th. Truly one of the most inspiring human beings ever to walk the earth, and a true humanitarian.

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Monday, January 6, 2014

Ice Cold Polar Vortex Takes Over America

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On the heels of a winter storm named "Hercules" that brought blizzard conditions to the Midwest and New England and caused 16 deaths, we now have a phenomenon called the "Winter Vortex" that could be even more dangerous. Over the next 24 hours the Arctic blast is going to make temperatures plummet to below double digits below zero over the northern states and into the south. Also blizzards are happening again, and several states are under states of emergency just due to ice and cold. Is this extreme weather connected to global warming? Probably, yes. Is there anything we can do about it except bundle up and shake a fist at the sky? No.

From Time Magazine:
Meteorologists attribute the “polar vortex” to freezing air from the North Pole being pushed down to as far as the Gulf Coast of the U.S., the Associated Press reports. In Atlanta, temperatures will be in the mid-20s by Tuesday while a wintry mix of rain and snow are expected in parts of Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, northern Arkansas, southern Ohio and southwestern Pennsylvania late into Sunday. The cold front will likely freeze large bodies of water, like the Great Lakes, meaning freezing temperatures could last through winter.

While still digging out from current snowfall, another winter storm will drop more snow and ice onto the the central Plains to the Great Lakes states this weekend. The biggest hit areas will include St. Louis, Indianapolis, Detroit, Cleveland and Buffalo.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Democratic Mayor Bill De Blasio Takes Office in New York City

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New York has an historic new mayor sworn in by President Bill Clinton.