Monday, December 30, 2013

Monday Post

The last Monday Post of the year...

I know, Sad Cat. I know....

Two separate bombings in Russia have claimed thirty-one lives:

Two suicide bombings in as many days have killed 31 people and raised concerns that Islamic militants have begun a terrorist campaign in Russia that could stretch into the Sochi Olympics in February. Russian and international Olympic officials insisted the site of the games, protected by layers of security, is completely safe.

The attacks in Volgograd, about 400 miles (650 kilometers) from Sochi, reflected the Kremlin's inability to uproot Islamist insurgents in the Caucasus who have vowed to derail the games, the pet project of President Vladimir Putin.

No one has claimed responsibility for Sunday's blast at the Volgograd railway station or Monday's bus explosion in the city, but they came only months after Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov threatened new attacks on civilian targets in Russia, including the Olympics.

In addition to the dead, the bombings wounded 104 people, according to Russia's Health Ministry. As of late Monday, 58 remained hospitalized, many in grave condition.

It is purported that these bombings are a distraction by Chechen "black widow" bombers.  Also a distraction, the scorched earth policy Putin no doubt intends to enact. One must keep in mind that one is speaking of a former KGB agent, not a useless empty-suit whose willing shills in the popular press STILL deny Benghazi was an organised attack.

Maybe in the new year...

3.3 million hectares of China's farmland is unusable due to pollution:

China's pollution woes have been in the news fairly often lately, with reports of post-apocalyptic levels of smog and water quality so bad that locals won't even trust the bottled water. However, the latest news from China's government raises even more concerns, as millions of hectares of the country's farmland has been found to be far too polluted to safely grow crops.

This new information was presented at a news conference on Monday by Wang Shiyuan, a deputy minister of China's Ministry of Land and Resources. It was taken from a 2006-2009 soil survey published earlier this year, but kept out of the public eye as a state secret until now.

According to Shanghai Daily, Wang said that around 3.33 million hectares — which is roughly 2.5 per cent of China's more than 135 million hectares of arable farmland — was identified as being too badly contaminated by heavy metals and chemicals to be used for farming. However, according to the Associated Press, some scientists have said the contaminated area could be much larger, closer to 24 million hectares.

Wang said in the news conference that much of this polluted land is located in developed regions of eastern and central China, "such as the Yangtze River Delta, the Pearl River Delta, the old industrial base in northeast China and central China’s Hunan Province."

One of the main concerns comes from the heavy metal cadmium, which is naturally-occurring, but gets concentrated in the environment from sources like smelting and industrial waste. Cadmium that gets into the water and soil is readily absorbed by plants and can end up in our food supply. When cadmium-contaminated food or water is consumed, high levels can cause vomiting and diarrhea, and in some cases can lead to death. Low levels collect in the liver and kidneys and can remain there for a very long time. This can possibly result in kidney damage. Cadmium has also been identified as a human carcinogen.

High levels of cadmium, in excess of China's environmental standards, were found in rice being sold in Guangzhou, northeast of Hong Kong, from samples taken from restaurants and canteens in January, February and March of this year. According to the Guangzhou Food and Drug Administration, eight of the 18 samples taken during that time tested higher than the standard.

It's a good thing people are singling Canada out for reclamation.

Damn you, global warming:

Three icebreaker ships have tried to reach the Akademik Shokalskiy so far, after it became stuck in thick Antarctic sea ice on December 24th. The French ship L'Astrolabe and the Chinese vessel Snow Dragon made the first two attempts, but were both forced to break off their efforts on Saturday, when the ice became too thick. A third, the Australian icebreaker Aurora Australis, which apparently had the best chances of reaching the stranded ship, was expected to arrive on Sunday. However, they were forced to turn back to open waters after the weather took a turn that threatened to trap them as well.

A fast-moving Alberta clipper storm is spreading dangerous winter conditions through southern parts of Manitoba today. Roughly 10 centimetres of snow fell, with a heavier band of snowfall stretching from Dauphin to Selkirk and Whiteshell National Park, but it's the strong winds and extreme cold that are the biggest concerns from this storm.

Power crews are arriving in big numbers to New Brunswick, from all over the Maritimes and south of the border.

A trio of power trucks from Prince Edward Island took the ferry to the Kingston Peninsula Monday morning.

The rural area north of Saint John is one of the hardest hit, where hundreds are without electricity ...

Many people in the area have been without power for more than a week.

Crews have been racing against the weather forecast that says temperatures are expected to get much colder as this week goes on.

But... but... science-y stuff!

Concerned by the unreliability of scientific research in the field of psychology, an international group, the Many Labs Replication Project, began fact-checking major research. Of the thirteen studies it reviewed, only two were proven completely unreliable – and both had to do with conservative political behavior.

Both studies concerned “social priming,” a phenomenon by which people are made more likely to endorse a view or act in a particular way by first being exposed to certain stimuli.

The first study, published in May 2013, was thought to show that exposure to money influenced one to become friendlier to free-market capitalism. According to the study's abstract, this exposure made subjects more likely to endorse the current American social structure and to assert that “victims deserve their fate.”
The second study alleged that exposure to the American flag leads to “a shift toward Republican beliefs, attitudes, and voting behavior” for up to eight months afterward.

Neither study's results could be replicated.


The only Palin worth giving a damn about these days is the American one:

Michael Palin of the Monty Python comedy troupe was interviewed by London's Daily Mail as the Python gang plans a lucrative reunion, and he announced that there's no way Islam could be mocked today in the way Python ripped into Catholicism and Christianity in their heyday in films like "The Life of Brian" and "The Meaning of Life" (with its "Every Sperm Is Sacred" satire).

He said: ‘Religion is more difficult to talk about. I don’t think we could do 'Life of Brian' any more. A parody of Islam would be even harder."

"We all saw what happened to Salman Rushdie and none of us want to get into all that. It’s a pity but that’s the way it is. There are people out there without a sense of humour and they’re heavily armed." Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa in 1989 insisting on a death sentence for Rushdie, who wrote a novel titled "The Satanic Verses."

Palin tried to dismiss the idea that they had an animus or an agenda when it mocked religion: "Python has always been about dealing with things you’re not meant to deal with. It’s like being at school - as soon as the teacher said ‘it’s not funny’ you started laughing."

Were you ever edgy, Michael? Were you?

And now, a somewhat happy story:

Tinsel the bear was struggling to survive in the area of Midway, B.C., and wound up sharing a coop with chickens to subsist on their feed. The Charles family transported the cub to Smithers to be rehabilitated at the Northern Lights Wildlife Shelter.

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