An Apple a day…. Is the war in Afghanistan finally over?… Don’t mention the other war!… The madness of King Donald… GW: means Grotty Weather, of course.

Quote of the Week:

“At 6.25am, I catch the first bus back into town and begin a day of intensive shoplifting. Such is my life for as long as it lasts.” – Writer and broadcaster Wilfred De’Ath, who has died, aged 82. From his final column.

De’Ath spent the last many years of his life wandering the byways and alleyways of England and France as a persistent and always triumphantly annoying homeless man, a diabetic amputee, camping (though not always welcome) in often freezing churches and hospitals where sleep is discouraged, writing a wry monthly column for The Oldie magazine. Nurses especially were never safe from his clutches; his picaresque accounts of a life of boozy sexual conquests and his feeble defence of Jimmy Savile are unreliably awful.

A true English eccentric, he leaves one son, Charles.

 

“More than 80% of patients have mild disease and will recover, 14% have severe disease including pneumonia and shortness of breath, 5% have critical disease including respiratory failure, septic shock and multi-organ failure, and 2% of cases are fatal.

“The risk of death increases the older you are.” – WHO official.

Yes folks, it’s the Baby Boomer Plague!

Only avocado toast can save us.

 

British Home Secretary Priti Patel looks on as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson chairs a cabinet meeting. (Paul Ellis/Reuters)

“We’re only taking the brightest and the best. And you weren’t born here, BoZo, so you’re on the next charter flight to Patagonia.”

An Apple a day….

Poor Apple, thanks to Covid-19 unable to get any more iPhones and stuff made in and exported from China, their shares are down 4% today, 18 Feb. 4% of a trillion dollar market cap is a pretty big lot of money to you and me.

(Although, happy day, I’ve provisionally managed to sell one of my guitars over the weekend!)

No wonder so many Republican Senators and Steve Bannon are convinced it’s all a Chinese plot to destroy the US economy; claiming that a military-grade virus was deliberately let loose from a top secret government facility disguised as a fish market in Wuhan, or something.

Not going to win many wars with a 2% kill-rate and a 14-day incubation period, are they, these Chinese? Not going to defeat America with, what, 29 cases in three months, all of them caught abroad? When they’ve already killed off 2,000 of their own people?

What mysterious plague has infected these Republicans, I wonder?

They all seem to be utter cretins.

 

Corona v. Us

As 150 million Chinese remain in lockdown to try to contain what seems for most to be no worse than the usual seasonal ‘flu outbreaks everywhere gets this time of year – deaths from ‘flu in the USA are running well over 12 thousand and nobody seems in the slightest bit concerned – the Financial Times is speaking of the world economy in fretful terms: “Global outlook darkening.”

Except that reports of a tiny fall in the rate of infection in Wuhan pushed world markets up by 1% in overnight trading. They are nothing if not optimists, the men who bet on flies.

18 Feb., the number of cases on ‘death cruise’ ship, Diamond Princess, in Yokohama harbor has risen to 542, another 66 being confirmed overnight – including the Abels, a plucky British couple who have been bogling about it from their cabin and say they were frogmarched off to a hostel with no wi-fi or phone signal, protesting that they don’t have the disease and if they really do, why aren’t they in proper hospital? (Update: they are now. It pays to complain.)

The British government has finally made vague waffling noises about arranging an evacuation flight for the trapped Brits, and has booked-out the Holiday Inn at Heathrow as a provisional holding tank. I’m not sure which would be worse?

Dr Sylvie Briand, head of the WHO’s endemic diseases division put the plight of the passengers – many of whom have since been repatriated – into some kind of perspective: “We need to make sure that we focus on our objective, our public health objective, which is to contain the virus, not to contain the people,” she said, pointedly.

Lawyers are now getting involved as it has dawned on some people that trapping 3,700 passengers and crew together in the confined space of a ship was more likely to spread than to contain a highly infectious disease.

New cases are increasing in Japan, with the infection now being transmitted locally, according to Japan Times. Singapore has slashed its GDP growth forecast for 2020 by a percentage point as cases there pass 75.

Premier Xi reportedly learned of the outbreak two weeks before any official announcements were made, according to the FT. China’s Central Bank has lowered interest rates to prop up the stockmarket. Farmers are having to slaughter millions of chickens owing to a shortage of feed.

In Wuhan, Liu Zhiming, the senior medical physician fighting the outbreak, has died, age 51. Snatch squads are making door-to-door searches for possible hidden victims, police are reportedly barricading people in their homes.

Two citizen journalists who reported on the situation in Wuhan have disappeared under the guise of “quarantine”. The Chinese internet, too, is in virtual lockdown, with freedom of information protestors being threatened with severe punishments for spreading ‘rumors’; while ID checks have been brought in for anyone buying cough medicine.

Two men were arrested in Hong Kong, charged with stealing $100-worth of toilet rolls at knifepoint.

Update: 18 Feb., cases 73,438; deaths 1,875. Deffo slowing down, but early days, say boffins.

Update revised: 19 Feb., cases 75,227; deaths 2,012. Diamond Princess 621 – Brits told ‘you can’t leave’.

Revised update updated: 20 Feb., cases 75,761; deaths 2,130. Hubei has changed its reporting criteria again. A sudden spike in cases in S Korea is reportedly due to a ‘superspreader’ who has infected at least 37 members of her church congregation, having never even been abroad. The city of Daegu, pop. 2.5m, is on lockdown.

Japanese authorities have begun evacuating the healthy passengers from the Diamond Princess. Four Britons who tested positive have been removed. Other Brits have been told by the FO that if they leave the ship, they won’t be allowed on any evacuation flights.

Chinese epidemiologists have published figures showing that the vast majority of patients who have died are over 60. Odds on the likelihood of dying are highest at 14.8% among the Over 80s and about 3.4% for the Over 60s. Very few deaths have been reported in the Under-50s demographic, and none in children under 9.

So you could call this the Baby Boomer Killer or, as most deaths have been in elderly patients with pre-existing heart and respiratory conditions, probably from smoking and living in a heavily polluted industrial environment – Wuhan is the manufacturing capital of China – in our own case, you might say the Leave Voter Virus.

(Reporting/Stats: Worldometer, Guardian, Aljazeera, Japan Times, FT, BBC News)

 

Is the war in Afghanistan finally over?

Buried in the news today is a report in the Washington Post that an agreement has been reached in Doha between US negotiators and Taleban leaders for a 7-day ‘cooling-off’ of hostilities, followed by the official signing in Kabul of a peace accord.

Such an outcome, with the withdrawal of thousands of US troops, is calculated to be a vote-winner in the upcoming US elections, and Trump will take full credit for it; regardless of whatever actual terms the accord may be based on and its implications for the Afghan government and people.

Because we don’t yet know, if any side has, who has actually won.

America’s longest-running conflict began in 2001 after the 9/11 terror attack on New York, with the US blaming Afghanistan for hosting rebel al-Qaeda units and protecting the man they declared was responsible, Osama bin-Laden; although it was later confirmed that 15 of the 19 attackers had had Saudi nationality, as did bin-Laden, by then being protected by the Pakistan security services.

Since then, over two-and-a-half thousand US military personnel and 1,750 civilian contractors have died, along with 850 troops from allied nations. A figure from Wikipedia of 111,000 Afghan civilian and military casualties combined seems absurdly low. President Ashraf Ghani was recorded in 2019 as saying 45,000 service personnel, including police, had died since he came to power in 2014. Numbers of Taleban and other fighters killed are impossible to estimate.

The Pumpkin is betting that a deal will be easily spun into an American victory, but less easily justified as it will not result in any serious shift in the balance of power in the country. With no-one holding the ring, and Afghan government forces as weak and corrupt as ever, hostilities might very well resume between the Northern Alliance – a squabbling tentful of drug-dealing warlords – and the ascetic, extreme Muslim Talebani, who regard the regime in Kabul as nothing more than a corrupt US puppet.

Will the accord, if it does get signed, halt the relentless infiltration of Taleban insurgents, who already control much of the country? Are they likely to back off now, sensing victory, with the inviting prospect of having driven all the foreigners out – for the umpteenth time in 300 years?

And then there is the question of who, if anyone, will be able to resist the likely return of Russian influence as Putin continues to fill the vacuums created by Western withdrawals; and how will that play with Beijing, also vying for influence in the region?

 

Don’t mention the other war!

In case you were wondering why Messrs Parnas and Frumin are still being prosecuted for campaign finance irregularities involving laundered Ukrainian money, but the guy who hired them, the president’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, isn’t even under investigation, Rachel Maddow at MSNBC has a possible answer.

She reports, 19 Feb., that Barr’s Justice Department – should that be Trump’s Justice Department, we wonder? – issued a memorandum in January, only now released, ordering all federal courts under its jurisdiction to funnel any open cases involving matters pertinent to Ukraine through a single official.

No new cases involving anything to do with Ukraine may be opened without first consulting the department, says the memo.

The story follows on from the revelation that Trump is no longer being investigated by New York prosecutors for campaign finance violations involving payoffs to inconvenient women, in the case where he was named as an unindicted co-conspirator with his lieutenant, Michael Cohen – whom the President is gleefully leaving to rot in jail, obviously, as punishment for co-operating with the Mueller investigation, while trying to get his other cronies who aren’t considered ‘rats’ off the hook.

The 17 cases against Trump and his dodgy children appear to have been quietly dropped, it’s reported, following a visit to the Southern District court last year by Barr – on the day after Trump appointed him Attorney-General.

At the weekend, having controversially attempted to interfere in the sentencing of another of his soldiers, Roger Stone, Trump announced he had commuted the sentences handed down to two corrupt politicians, as well as to his fellow billionaire fraudster, the ‘Junk Bond King’ Michael Milken, referring to himself with breathtaking insouciance as “America’s chief law-enforcement officer”.

That’s actually supposed to be the Attorney-General, it’s not in the job description of the president. But when you have committed so many crimes it helps to be in charge of the investigations and to have the FBI broken and the Justice Department in your pocket.

Eleven-hundred current and former federal prosecutors have called for Barr’s resignation.

We keep reading Comments from apparently sensible political experts that, no, America is not Weimar Germany, don’t we.

Indeed, it’s looking more like 1920s Chicago.

 

The madness of King Donald

Remember when he threw paper towels at hurricane survivors in Puerto Rico? Well, now he’s gone one better, in a bid to peel off a few black votes.

At a recent, quite small rally of a hundred or so seriously deluded African Americans, organisers called the audience up on stage one by one and, praising all that Trump has done for the black community,  handed out $thousands of free money in the form of ‘cash prizes’.

The money came from a donation of a quarter of a million dollars from Trump SuperPAC, America First!, to the Urban Revitalization Coalition of America, a non-profit run by Trump ally, Darrell Scott.

Mr Scott was handpicked in 2016 to improve Trump’s image with black voters by Michael Cohen, who has since branded Trump a ‘racist’. (Reporting: New York Times)

People have been wondering why Trump has pardoned or commuted the sentences of several corrupt former officials. It seems his choices were crafted to send a message to his opponents, as each of them was convicted of criminal acts of which Mr Trump has himself been accused.

Flamboyant former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, for instance, the man who tried to sell President Obama’s vacant Senate seat to the highest bidder, was impeached before being found guilty of 17 charges, including wire fraud, attempted extortion and conspiracy to solicit bribes.

He left a Colorado jail today, claiming loudly that he had been held as a political prisoner.

 

seviri_nat_airmass_20200219_1845

Earth is beginnoing to look more like Jupiter… new storm to follow Dennis midweek. Image: Meteosat.

GW: means Grotty Weather, of course

North Atlantic: “… a new, potentially explosive development of an extra-tropical cyclone is expected tonight”(18 Feb.), following on the heels of Storm Dennis, that left extensive flooding across the British Isles at the weekend. (Severe-weather.eu) The storm is passing between Scotland and Iceland on the 20th. A remarkable central pressure drop of 44mb in 18 hours was recorded on the 19th, to bring hurricane-force winds over southern Iceland.

Another deepening cyclone is being monitored behind that, organizing out of Canada across the Labrador Sea, and inspires a BBC forecast of a third weekend deluge in 3 weeks for already saturated areas of the British Isles.

USA: states of emergency have been declared across Mississippi and Tennessee, reports Floodlist. “Days of heavy rain caused rivers and dams to rise, prompting evacuations and some flood rescues. Among the worst hit areas is Jackson, Mississippi, where the Pearl River reached 36.67 feet on 17 Feb., its third highest level on record.” Governor Tate Reeves described it as ‘historic; unprecedented’.

Australia: Another powerful storm front “pushed through Sydney, Australia, on Tuesday night, bringing with it an intense lightning show and powerful winds. Power was cut to many throughout the city as gusty winds brought down trees and power lines”, disrupting transport. (Accuweather) Local video showed big hailstones thumping down as the storms broke over NSW and Victoria states.

Indonesia: “authorities report that at least 2 people have died and hundreds of homes damaged after flooding and landslides in 4 provinces of the country.” in West Java’s Bandung regency, thousands of people have been affected by flooding for the second time in a month. There’s also been severe flooding in Borneo. (Floodlist)

Argentina: floods have followed days of heavy rain in the north of the country. In Chaco, 192mm of rain fell in a single day. In Tucuman a storm on 18 Feb. has left communities cut off and caused wind damage to properties. Hundreds of people have been evacuated and the army is delivering relief supplies. (From: Floodlist)

Peru: “Landslides and flooding in southern Peru have damaged homes leaving dozens of families displaced and at least 2 people dead. 1 person is missing and over 200 families displaced after heavy rain triggered a landslide in Ayacucho , south-central Peru.” (Floodlist)

United Kingdom Weather Radar

This is us today! Nobody wants Britain anymore – we’ve been painted out! (Accuweather rain map, 19 Feb.)

Tunnel approaching….

Some positive news from America, legislators in the state of Utah have approved plans for a funded program to move to renewable energy, electric vehicles and carbon reductions over the next decade, flying in the face of Trump’s rebarbative policies. What’s unusual about the Utah Roadmap, as it’s being called, is that Utah is a rock-solid Republican state. Ironically, voters will be going all-out in November to re-elect the environmental vandal and criminal ecocide, Trump. (Reporting: Guardian Green Light)

Methane: “A single blowout at a natural gas well in Ohio in 2018 discharged more methane over three weeks than the oil and gas industries of France, Norway and the Netherlands released in an entire year.” A new report examining the more-than doubling of atmospheric methane in the modern era claims that the volume of human-induced methane emissions from oil and gas operations – especially fracking – has been underestimated by 40 per cent; ‘experts’ concluding therefrom that industry measures to reduce or even capture and store emissions will be a major step forward in reversing climate change.

Where do they get these people from?

The Guardian report of the report fails to make the obvious point that global heating is the single greatest cause of methane emissions from thawing deposits under the sea and permafrost on land. It’s known as a feedback loop, Guardian people. I’d also defy you to distinguish between ‘natural’ and ‘man-made’ sources of methane when man-made CO2 is causing the heating that is releasing methane naturally from ‘sinks’ where it has remained frozen in vast quantities since the end of the last glacial period, 12 thousand years ago.

Arctic: “On February 18, 2020, the Arctic was as much as 3.6°C or 6.48°F warmer than 1979-2000.” The extent of sea ice is marginally greater currently than the 2010-20 average, however it is very thin and there is virtually no ice more than 2 years old to melt below the surface and thus provide a buffer to prevent heat reaching the lower depths where volatile hydratic methane clathrates are found in large numbers on the shallow sea bed. (From: Arctic News)

 

Wild is the wind… Building bridges… The madness of King Donald… GW: I’ll take a little water in that… Gotland dammerung.

QotW

“What is the cost of lies? It’s not that we’ll mistake them for the truth, The real danger is that if we hear enough lies, then we no longer recognize the truth at all.” – From the script of TV miniseries, Chernobyl.

Boris Johnson’s £60m Thames cable car, delivered when he was London mayor, reportedly turned out to have just four regular users.

“Pwafle-whaffle…, this shiny toy car is turning left. Who’s with me?”

Wild is the wind

This could be difficult to explain, because as your Old Granny W. has said before, there is so much intense cyclone activity in the North Atlantic currently that it is becoming difficult to differentiate one storm from another. However, on the heels of Storm Ciaro, Severe-weather.eu reports, there is another cyclone heading into the British Isles tonight, 12 Feb., with central pressure falling to about 960 mb – windy and rainy.

Then there is Storm Dennis, due on Saturday

Only, forming off the coast of Newfoundland, maybe behind that or part of it is a potential monster of a storm, that we think should be christened Stormy Daniels. It is, they say, very possibly destined to be the most intense storm ever recorded in the region, with central pressure plummeting by 50 to 60 mb in 24 hours, to an impossibly low 915 to 920 mb, producing tremendous winds and waves up to 18m, 60 ft in height.

Is that Dennis? No-one is making it clear.

Severe-weather.eu says: “What we are seeing on the weather models through the remainder of this week is beyond exceptional – an incredibly large, extremely deep and violent system, with central pressure potentially even shooting towards the lowest pressure readings ever observed, will be possible.” The BBC Weather service merely describes things as ‘wet and windy’. Is that classic British understatement or is Severe-weather getting overexcited?

Below is a map of projected peak wind gusts on Thursday,13th. The outline of the British Isles can just be seen in the centre. It’s pretty messy: hung on your wall, it might be worth millions:

gustkph_20200212_00_024

Where are these cyclones obtaining their formidable energy, over the cold waters of the North Atlantic in winter? Please, do not tell me that everything is normal and this is just the natural cycle-stroke-solar minimum!

And, OMG as they say, as a brutally cold weatherbomb deposits Arctic gales and snow over the northeastern states of the US, and with two intense cyclones already out in the North Atlantic, now there is another matching pair of huge, powerful cyclones presenting an even more perfect picture from space, forming across the North Pacific and heading for Alaska with hurricane-force winds via the Aleutian Islands.

This is unprecedented, Day After Tomorrow stuff.

We are fucked, no question.

 

Corona v. Us

Update: 13 Feb. 00.00 hrs, 45,222 cases; deaths 1,118. 4,888 ‘recovered’. First case reported in London; Hove ‘spreader’ Steve Walsh leaves hospital, clear. All quarantined travellers in UK testing negative. Experts warn of an outbreak in the UK lasting into the summer.

Reset: 13 Feb., Beijing has fired officials in Hubei province and recalculated: cases 60,376; deaths 1,369. Authorities in Wuhan impose 24-hour curfew on all but health workers.

USA: An estimated 22 million people have experienced ‘flu-like illnesses in the U.S. this season, with 210,000 hospitalizations and 12,000 deaths from the ‘flu, according to the CDC. The second peak of the season, which still has weeks to go, has seen a major rise in hospital visits described by epidemiologists as “hard to believe”. (Accuweather)

An extended outbreak that limits the volume of … (prescription) drugs available for export from China could lead to shortages and price increases, particularly in the United States, according to ratings agency Moody’s.

New update: 14 Feb., it appears no figures can be trusted as Beijing first revised the numbers upward but has now admitted that over 100 deaths were double-counted. ‘Over 60,000’ cases is a best guess estimate this morning, with close to 1,500 deaths. Wuhan says 1,700 patients are health workers.

A report in The Sun newspaper says the Chinese woman patient who tested positive in London a few days ago attended a conference at which a number of MPs were present.

 

Sleep tight

Zero Waste Scotland has estimated that if the 600,000 mattresses Scotland throws away every year were stacked on top of each other, the pile would be more than 100 times taller than Ben Nevis.

Yes, but safer to climb, I should have thought, in your ordinary day clothes and trainers in the middle of winter with Storm Ciaro bearing down, as most people do.

 

Building bridges #1

The Queensferry crossing, the bridge that connects Edinburgh and Fife, remained closed on Wednesday morning in the wake of Storm Ciara, resulting in commuter chaos and lengthy tailbacks on the 35-mile diversion necessary for drivers.

The £1.35bn bridge, which opened to traffic in August 2017 and had been hailed as a crossing that would remain open in all weathers, has been closed since Monday night owing to excessive ice forming on the superstructure…. A lesson there possibly for Vanishing Johnson and his bridge to Northern Ireland?

Building bridges #2

Mr David Ross, a just-about billionaire and massive Tory-party-donating schmoozer, ousted as deputy chair of Carphone Warehouse over a dodgy loan guarantee, who was listed on the Prime Minister’s latest sexpenses declaration as having provided Baris and Carrie with a free £15k holiday in the West Indies at Christmas, has denied it was he who paid for the relaxing jaunt away from the turmoil of assassinated Iranian generals, but says he merely supplied a contact with a fellow villa owner.

The hunt is now on to find out who did pay, before the Commons Standards Committee gets involved. (£15 grand is not such a lot of money, you would imagine Baris on his new PM’s salary could have afforded to pay for his own fucking holiday? Carrie’s not that hard-up either. Poor chap, must have been exhausted after toasting his election victory with his Russian friends.)

According to The Guardian report, Mr Ross was certainly in the habit of currying favor with one of Baris’ predecessors, David Cameron – like him, a fellow ‘tax exile’ – to whom he gave free helicopter rides, and sucking up to a litany of tired old A-listers with jollies at his “huge villa” on Mustique. In best Cliveden style, it is said, “prominent Tories are known to have been visitors to shooting parties at his sprawling country estate in Leicestershire”.

A Number 10 spokesmouth commented: “All transparency requirements have been followed…” Yes, you certainly can see right through them.

These are just the sort of chaps we want running New Britain.

 

Zombie genes

Paleontologists are excited over the discovery of an entire set of chromosomes dating back to our time in Africa, that have no known corresponding fossil relics to prove that the bearers ever existed. They’re calling it the ‘ghost population” – an unknown species of human that must have lived half a million years ago, and cross-bred with known populations, passing its genetic inheritance down to modern people.

All West Africans tested so far have up to 20 per cent of this mysterious hinterland coursing through their veins. Given their geographical location, muses The Pumpkin, it must surely have spread through slavery “comforts” to white Americans. He suggests US geneticists should have a look. Maybe it’s that mythical “stupid gene” Trump voters have inherited.

 

Suffer little children

Anyone who disbelieves in the Millennium Bug should read the following tale.

“A 101-year-old Italian man who has been in London since 1966 was asked to get his parents to confirm his identity by the Home Office after he applied to stay in the country post-Brexit.

“In what appears to be a computer glitch (his birthdate of 1919 came up as 2019) the Home Office thought he was a one-year-old child.”

Yet they STILL WROTE TO HIM! Demanding 5 years’ tax records to show qualifying continuous residency.

This cowboy bunch are not fit for purpose and must be disbanded.

(Reporting: Guardian)

 

The madness of King Donald

After reminding his cheering, swivel-eyed dumbfucks at a spoiler rally on the other side of town from the Democrats’ New Hampshire primary that public healthcare and social security had never been safer than in his tiny hands, after a chilling remark about how he’s not allowed to say how beautiful Ivanka is because she’s his daughter, Trump unveiled his 2021 budget.

It contains a trillion dollars in cuts to public healthcare and social security programs to pay for yet more military spending, more of his border wall and other immigration controls, and bigger tax breaks for the wealthy.

He also outlined a further massive cut in the budget of the organization that’s struggling to contain the coronavirus and a major ‘flu epidemic, the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, and proposed to slash the US contribution to the World Health Organization by 50 per cent.

He sure hates America.

 

Yet another book about the insanity in the White House recounts how, when Reince Priebus, who comes from Wisconsin, was Trump’s first Chief of Staff, Trump would get into a weird riff over the state’s official mascot, the badger, about which he appeared to know little. “Are badgers mean to people?” he asked. “How do badgers work?”

 

GW: I’ll take a little water in that

Antarctic: “has registered a temperature of more than 20C (68F) for the first time in history, prompting fears of climate instability in the world’s greatest repository of ice. The 20.75C logged by Brazilian scientists at Seymour Island on 9 February was almost a full degree higher than the previous record of 19.8C, taken on Signy Island in January 1982.” (Guardian)

Brazil: “Heavy rain has affected wider areas of the state of São Paulo, 11 Feb., with severe flooding reported in the city of Botucatu, where 1 person has died and 2 are missing. 3 have been killed elsewhere in 88 reported mudslides. Some places recorded more rain in 3 hours than normally seen in the entire month of February.”

Bolivia: floods, 1 dead.

Indonesia: Jakarta, hit again. Several rivers overflowed, 1.7 meters of floodwater in places. No casualties. Up to 150 mm of rain fell in 24 hours, in the north of the province.

Australia: “Torrential rain has been falling in parts of New South Wales (NSW), Australia, since 07 February, 2020, causing rivers to rise and flash flooding. Strong winds have also caused damage and thousands of homes have been without power. Sydney received 391.6 mm of rain between 07 and 10 February, more than three times the average for the whole of February.” Narcoola, Queensland, had more than 230 mm in 24 hours to 11. Feb. Waves more than 5 metres high have lashed the coast, but the rain has at least replenished the city’s near-empty water reserves.

Accuweather reports: “drenching rains across NSW have extinguished 30 fires, including the Gospers Mountain “mega-blaze” (outside Sydney) which burned more than 500,000 hectares (1.24 million acres).

The industry has declared an official ‘catastrophe’ for the 6th time in 5 months after insurers received 10,000-plus claims for storm damage, with a value estimated at AUS$45 million, on top of thousands of claims for fire damage in the last 3 months.

Burundi: the flood situation has worsened. Initial reports indicate 3 dead and over 1,000 people displaced.

(All above, Floodlist reports, 12 Feb.)

Russia: Minus 25°C temperatures by day, minus 45 at night, 65 mph winds and huge snowfalls have buried the Siberian city of Norilsk in several meters of the white stuff. Videos show residents digging down from 1st-floor height to find their garage doors and clear driveways. A local bus terminal is sheltering people who can’t get back to their homes in the city. (Siberian Times)

USA: “Heavy rain that caused flooding from Louisiana to the Carolinas continued Tuesday, 11 Feb.  Many rivers and creeks were at or above flood stage. Tennessee Valley Authority said some of its rivers and lakes had received as much as 400% of their normal rainfall for this time of year. In Mississippi, emergency management officials were keeping a watch on the Oktibbeha County Lake Dam. In Jan., the dam was in imminent danger of breaching before pumping lowered the water level in the lake. Officials said the dam has again risen to the same dangerous level.” More heavy rain, wind, thunderstorms, possible tornadoes and snow are forecast this week, on the usual track. (Accuweather)

Update: 12 Feb., northern and eastern states experienced the coldest spell of the winter so far, hit by “a fierce winter storm that produced ‘near impossible’ travel conditions with near-zero visibility and strong, biting winds.” In North Dakota, Accuweather‘s own patented temperature index (basically I think it’s got something to do with how hot or cold it feels, rather than the true figure – no-one does facts anymore) plummeted overnight to minus 60 whatever. Accus?

Despite the wintry plunges, more than 5,500 new warm weather records for both highest daytime and nighttime temperatures have been set in the USA already, just in the first 40 days of 2020. Only 307 daily record lows were recorded. On 3 Feb, Atwood, Kansas posted 84°F, 29°C. (The Weather Channel)

Britain: as we prepare for Storm Dennis later in the week, around 8 thousand homes in Cumbria, in the northwest, are still without water after a main burst during Storm Ciara on 9 Feb. Updates to follow….

Tunnel approaching….

Insectaggeddon: A survey of insects hitting car windscreens in rural Denmark used data collected every summer from 1997 to 2017 and found an 80% decline in abundance. It also found a parallel decline in the number of swallows and martins, birds that live on insects. A second survey, in the UK county of Kent in 2019, examined splats in a grid placed over car registration plates, known as a “splatometer”. This revealed 50% fewer impacts than in 2004. (Guardian)

Envirocide: Trump has signed an order approving plans to open up the world-famous Utah national monument land known as Grand Staircase Escalante to drilling, opencast mining and grazing, over the objections of environmental groups and residents. Over 1 million tourists visited the site last year.

He really hates America. You have no idea.

Global weather

You think this is normal? Of course you don’t. It’s just choreography. Synchronized extinction. 140 mph winds forecast over Iceland. (Photo: probaby NOAA from Severe-weather.eu)

 

Gotland dammerung

“Taking in all stages of production, concrete is said to be responsible for 4—8% of the world’s CO2.”Guardian special report, Feb. 2019.

“Experts” have come up with an interesting idea to construct two huge dams: one between Scotland and Norway, another across the Dover strait, to seal off the southern part of the North Sea from sea-level rise and protect coastal infrastructure in the UK, Denmark and the Netherlands. The cost of this “North Sea Enclosure Dyke” is estimated at between €250bn and €500bn which, judging by the ever-multiplying cost of HS2, looks pretty conservative. Your Old Gran would suggest budgeting about £1.5 trillion, currently the entire annual GDP of the UK.

But the North Sea is mostly only 100 meters deep, having flooded relatively recently in geological time, inundating a huge area of low-lying countryside known as ‘Doggerland’. So the feasibility is looking promising, and motorway or high-speed railway lines or even a Baris-style airport “runway” across the tops; maybe the odd island tax shelter, would create a bridge between Europe and the UK that would… Oh, yes. Right. Anyway….

Your Old Gran has a somewhat jaundiced eye, sadly, and wonders how much additional sea-level rise might be occasioned by the vast volume of CO2 emissions that would be created in the production of enough concrete to build a wall 120 meters high by 635 kilometers long by, probably, 40 meters thick, given that concrete is a major known source of greenhouse gas emissions. (The 3.05 billion cu. m. needed is 9 months’ worth of total global cement production. A cubic meter of concrete weighs roughly three tonnes. 907 kg of CO2 is emitted per tonne of cement produced.)

Thanks to China’s race to modernize, concrete – made from finely ground Portland stone, a finite resource –  is also in quite short supply. We would also need to remove, grind, transport and tip, literally, whole mountains of granulated stone just for ballast. Billions of tonnes of fresh water would be needed for the mix – salt water would corrode the reinforcing bars. Perhaps desalination plants could be constructed near the sites, requiring further materials, along with the service bases and personnel housing and transport facilities. Steel reinforcement would require a major manufacturing effort, again pouring vast quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere from the furnaces, as steel-making is majorly energy-intensive. Again, we would be competing with China, the world’s Number One steel-making country, for supply.

So, to avoid busting the UK and EU’s 2030 target to achieve zero emissions, project-wide carbon capture and storage would have to be designed first, assuming the bedrock will take it. Nothing on this scale has been tested before.

Shipping traffic would need to be channeled through, somehow, during and after construction, one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, traversed by ever-larger container ships. An environmental impact survey might show, such a project might not be too conducive to the happiness of marine life. The barrier would have possibly unknown effects in transferring tidal and wave energy to other contiguous coastlines, for instance the Baltic sea, even possibly affecting the weather.

I suppose we should consider, too, the possibility that, like the Mediterranean has at times in the past, without throughflow such an enclosed body of water might eventually dry up, creating miles of festering, malaria-ridden swamplands. And then the sheer weight of the thing – what would be the geomorphic effects? On the plus side, we might, I suppose, incorporate tidal energy generation as a bonus.

It would, frankly, be easier and cheaper to move London to the Chilterns, and Amsterdam to the Caucasus.

So, who is going to build this supermassive project?

It’s, er, projected to run on for 20 years, from 2030 up to 2050. By that time, constructors will be battling with half a meter of sea level rise and may need to divert resources to other, short-term flood protection measures, such as raising the height of the Thames barrier. They will be competing on price and supply for raw materials with other parts of the world equally or more affected by rising sea level, where skilled labor will be in great demand; but where violent nativism may erupt against the import of foreign labor. It’s already being predicted, probably conservatively, that barring socio-economic collapse, demand for concrete will have increased by 2 billion tonnes annually by 2050. It would, frankly, be easier and cheaper to move London to the Chilterns, and Amsterdam to the Caucasus.

What will the period of construction look like?

If this winter’s activity in the North Atlantic is anything to go by, in the 20 years after 2030 an immigrant labor force (for such it will have to be) of maybe 20 to 30 thousand workers, especially on the more difficult northern phase, will have to contend with frequent cyclonic storms: 180 mph sustained winds, with gusts over 240 mph and 90-ft waves (windspeeds in the Faroe Islands reached 140 mph during one storm this January). Daytime temperatures might veer by as much as 100 degrees Celsius, from plus 50 in summer on the southerly phase, to minus 50 in dark winter in the north. Additional resources will have to be devoted to healthcare, as the workforce are likely to be riddled with tropical diseases; and to the production of artificial, nutrient-rich foods.

Of course, human labor is unlikely to be the solution by then. The bulk of the work will have to be undertaken by robots, armed with at least some degree of expensive, autonomous AI requiring a large number of skilled programmers, operators and maintenance crews; the advantage being, these specialists could work from anywhere in the world.

Is it worth all that, just to protect a couple of hundred miles of vulnerable coastline? I suppose the infrastructure along those coasts is economically very valuable, but what might its role be, by the time we find ourselves in the Mad Max, dog-eat-cat, scarcity-driven geopolitics of the late 2030s? Will the project be sustainable by then? We are not going to stop global heating this century, if ever.

Anyway, it certainly dwarfs Donald Trump’s manic obsession with his wall to keep out a few drug mules and abused children from crossing along the entire 2,000-mile southern frontier of the USA.

Plus, we have nothing much else to think about. (Insert Orange Mussolini face.)

But for God’s sake, don’t suggest it to Baris. He’s a sucker for big, shiny toys.

(Original reporting: Guardian)

The Pumpkin – Issue 114: It’s Chaos, Jim, but not as we knew it, Parts 1 and 2… GW: Blow, thou Winter wind…

A pangolin

The Chinese with their revolting dietary habits – to us in the West – eat endangered Pangolins and imagine they have medicinal properties. Just so you know where the coronavirus is now thought to have originated, with a 99% probability, it started in bats driven to seek refuge in cities as their forest habitat vanishes, and is passed on via carrier species like the harmless, bumbling little Pangolin, sold alive in ‘wet’ markets.

QotW:

“When justice stops being effective (or when crimes of corruption stop being punished) and when political vio­lence is no longer a threat, there is nothing left to cause fear in those who govern shamelessly, that is, buoyed by a mood they aren’t in control of and that no one is on hand to countervail. What will then happen to the repub­lic?” – Patrick Boucheron: Machiavelli: The Art of Teaching People What to Fear.

 

It’s Chaos, Jim, but not as we knew it

1

“Anyone else want to speak up? Anyone else want to testify truthfully under oath what they saw, what they know?”

Thus, Rachel Maddow at MSNBC reports with rue on the fate of the witnesses who dared to testify against Trump in Congressional hearings on Quid-pro-quo-gate; and, by inference, on the fate of democracy and the rule of law in America.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSPpcKn759Q

As Trump exacts his revenge, a monster without a shred of honesty or magnanimity, it is getting more like 1930s Germany by the day.

The greasy Senator from Texas, Ted Cruz, who originally opposed Trump’s nomination; who had to put up with Trump accusing his father of being involved in the Kennedy assassination, and maligning his ‘ugly’ wife, yet who adoringly votes with him every time, has owned up that every GOP Senator who voted to acquit knew Trump was lying.

Meanwhile, Ohio Democrat Senator Sherrod Brown has written in an op-ed in the NYT that his private conversations with Republican colleagues have revealed a startling admission: it was fear, that led them to deny the nation justice.

Among themselves, murmuring in dark corridors and down holes, they admit it: they are scared witless of this thuggish, uneducated braggart in the White House. You know, the mob boss who boasted on TV that they wouldn’t vote to expel him because he had succeeded in burying the evidence. Why, because he will have them killed, or kidnap their grandchildren – if he hasn’t already?

No. They are, literally, frightened almost to death that if they go against him, he will insult them with a nasty nickname in a tweet, and their voters in November will scorn them.

And for that, as their underwear turned yellow and brown and began to mightily stink out the Senate, accompanied by the mumbled lies and fanciful theories of the president’s well-paid horde of crooked deceivers, they perjured themselves and one another and dragged the USA deeper and down into the cloaca of history.

Flying in the face of all the admitted facts and lying themselves stupid on matters of constitutional law, after a ‘trial’ at which no witnesses were allowed and none of the evidence was examined, under the experienced judicial eye – closed – of a complaisant shill from the Supreme Court, Mr Justice ‘Dishonorable’ Roberts, another fearful coward, they voted en bloc to acquit, to absolve and exonerate the most criminal and traitorous president ever to take a dump on the Oval Office carpet.

And admit publicly to no shame.

(Coming to a polity near you.)

Promises, promises

From Norquist, Deputy Secretary of Defense, writing on behalf of Secretary Esper – who had previously given flowery guarantees of protection for DoD whistleblowers:

“Let me assure you, the Department will not tolerate any act of retaliation or reprisal against them (i.e. Lt Col Vindman and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Laura Cooper, both of whom gave evidence in the Congressional hearings.) … Please know, we take our responsibility to protect our people very seriously.”

Both were subjected to an intense campaign of vilification led by the defendant during the impeachment phase. Yesterday, Trump fired them; the super-loyal Purple Heart veteran Vindman being humiliatingly removed from the building by Trump’s goons and dismissed the service. Just for luck, Vindman’s twin brother, White House lawyer Evgeny was also escorted out, even though he had not given evidence against the orange – what do we call him now, King? Emperor? Tinpot Dictator? Tsar?

Welcome to your fascist state, America.

 

2

Meanwhile, in the world

There are so many reports of rapidly intensifying cyclonic storms in the north Atlantic and Pacific currently, that your Old Granny Weatherwax is  thoroughly discombobulated and confused as to which is which.

Just as Storm Ciara, which left the NE coast of the USA a couple of days ago, is set to batter Ireland and western Britain with 75-80 mph winds on 9 Feb., and an even fiercer cyclone is pushing on past Iceland into northern Europe and Scandinavia, Severe-weather.eu is reporting on yet another cyclone currently undergoing an astonishing drop in pressure – bombogenesis – heading for a hurricane-like central pressure of just 929 mb south of Greenland, and yet another that is bringing up to 18-inches of snowfall to northeastern states of the USA, up into Quebec.

Or is that Ciara? They all seem to be joined up together.

Further south in the US, there have been forecasts and some reports of life-threatening tornadoes in S Carolina, also in Mississippi where hurricane-force winds have caused damage and injuries, and thunderstorms bringing intense, record-breaking rainfall and flooding further to the SW affecting Missouri, Texas and Louisiana. 200 thousand homes were without power across a swathe of the southland, through into Florida, 6 Feb. (Accuweather)

This has been going on about once a week for months and months and months, yet it is apparently not a news story in itself: only individual events and tragedies make headlines for a day. And where is all that storm energy going, the wind and the waves – the warm air and water? Why, on up into the high Arctic, screwing with the jetstream and preventing ice formation.

Were it not for the worldwide panic over the Chinese coronavirus, and the extreme wildfires that have affected half of the entire population of Australia in the past three months, Trump’s impeachment and his disgusting ‘victory’ speeches, I imagine the sheer mayhem this extreme weather is unleashing on us would be making more of a … er… splash. Yet we have seen no joined-up journalism even attempting an overview of what has been going on; even when places as far apart as the Faroe Islands and Croatia have been experiencing 140-mph winds, between spells of record winter warmth, and record snowfall in places like southeastern Turkey, where dozens have died.

My last collection of tales from the leading edge of climate change reported on two dozen severe rainfall events and floods, all around the world from New Zealand to East Africa to Central and South America to Alaska. There can absolutely no denying that the weather in many regions is becoming persistently wetter and more violent, certainly as the result of warming oceans and the climate.

It’s frankly chaos out there, but we all carry on, frowning at our little phones, looking for meaning that never comes.

 

Update on coronavirus: 8 Feb 00.00 hrs: 34,000 cases, 719 deaths – all but 2 in China. Death rate in Hunan city is 4%, twice the national average.

Update on the update: 9 Feb., 10.00 hrs., 37, 594 cases, 814 deaths – overtakes SARS. Still just 2 deaths outside Chinese-speaking territories. Ratio increases to 47:1.

Sunday night update: 9 Feb., 22.00., cases 40, 234; deaths 906. Over 6,000 ‘Severe’. Worsening ratio 44.3:1.

Tuesday morning, 11 Feb., 43,106; 1,018. (Data: Worldometer) About 4,000 cases are listed as ‘recovered’.

 

The madness of King Donald

Trump has lashed out at an anonymous leaker after a photo of him with his hair blowing back in the wind, showing an alarming color contrast between the pallor of his skin at the hairline and his bright orange face, went viral, claiming it was ‘fake news’ and obviously Photoshopped. “Anything to demean!”, he commented.

Then he retweeted an obviously fake news, potoshopped image of Nancy Pelosi and Senate leader, the Jewish Chuck Schumer, wearing Islamic dress, with an Iranian flag in the background.

Anything to demean, for this filthy, lying old slopbucket.

 

GW: Blow, thou Winter wind

Warmest January on record – and still no El Niño. See below.

USA: At least 5 people have died and hundreds have evacuated their homes after a powerful winter storm swept through southeastern USA from 4 Feb. Severe flash flooding has been reported in parts of Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky. Tornado watches have been issued for areas from Florida to North Carolina. 1 person died and another was injured after strong winds destroyed two mobile homes near Demopolis, Alabama. Another fatality was reported near Sevierville, Tennessee, when a tree fell on a vehicle. A state of emergency was declared in Virginia. (From Floodlist)

Meanwhile, storms, heavy rain and rapid snowmelt in the Northwest of USA have prompted the governors of Washington and Oregon states to declare emergencies. Flooding has closed roads and led to evacuations in both states.

Both Severe-weather.eu and Accuweather anticipate heavy snowfall with accumulations up to 18 inches in Northeastern states going up into Canada as a cyclone undergoes rapid bombogenesis overland.

Australia: “Rain and floods have hit the eastern states of New South Wales and Queensland, and some drought-affected regions have received their heaviest rainfall in two years. Although it’s welcome, more sustained rainfall over months is needed to break the drought.” (BBC Weather) Roughly a third of the wildfires still burning in NSW have been reportedly extinguished by the rain, but there are further fears of ash from fires turning to river-polluting slurry, killing millions of fish and threatening extinction for Red Book species.

The Mail reports that panic buying has set in in townships along the northwest Australian coast, supermarket shelves stripped bare as Cyclone Damien at Cat 4 threatens to be one of the most dangerous storms to hit the Pilbara region in years, continuous windspeeds of 140 km/h leading to widespread disruption.

Update: 9 Feb., Damien is delivering violent and destructive winds with gusts above 240 km/h, torrential rains with flooding and major storm surge on the coast. (Severe-weather.eu ) Text exchange reported between neighbors: : “Your roof is gone”… “I know. Am under kitchen table.”

Another update: on the other side of the country, Sydney has been hammered for three days by the most powerful rainstorm in over 20 years, measured at Cat 1. 1 person is missing. Trees and power lines were down and streets flooded. Power has been cut and transport impacted from Katoomba to Kurnell – winds were so strong, waterfalls were videoed flowing uphill – but “the wild weather isn’t over yet”. (7 News)

Zambia: Hundreds of people have fled their homes as parts of the country have flooded for the third time since late December. There are no reports of casualties. (From Floodlist) “Torrential downpours in South Africa have caused havoc on roads around Johannesburg. In some areas flooding has prompted residents to evacuate their homes.” Heavy rain and flooding has continued in Tanzania. Media report at least 40 fatalities, 1,750 houses destroyed and 15,000 people displaced.

Turkey: Up to one meter of new snow is anticipated over northeastern Turkey and up into the Caucasus mountains as an intense cold zone forms again over southeastern central Europe, the Balkans and the Black Sea region in the next few days. These are among areas that were enjoying record warm winter temperatures only a few days ago. Instead, that heat is transferring up into northern Europe and Scandinavia. (Severe-weather.eu )

Spain: eastern Spain has experienced its highest ever temperatures in a series of winter heatwaves this past month – 4 Feb., Valencia airport hit +29.6 °C (80.2 °F) and set a new all-time February record, Javea / Xabia reached +28.9 °C while the city of Alicante hit +28.6 °C. On 3 Feb., temperatures topped 27°C in northern Italy. (Severe-weather.eu )

Britain: Storm Ciara with recorded wind gusts of up to 97 mph brought travel chaos, 9 Feb., as over 170 Amber flood warnings and warnings of ‘possibly life threatening’ coastal conditions were issued, bridges closed, rail and ferry services and flights cancelled and sports fixtures called off. Blizzards brought up to 20cm of snow in the north. 20 thousand homes in the south were without power. In Ireland, around 10 thousand homes lost power as an Orange warning covered the country and western coastal promenades were closed. (BBC, RTE) Temperatures in the mid-teens °C were around twice the February average.

viirs_nat_overview_20200207_1433North Atlantic: “An impressive rapid intensification of a new cyclone is already ongoing into the far North Atlantic, south of Greenland and west of Iceland – central pressure should drop more than 30 mbar in 24 hours and push below 930 mbar early Saturday, 8 Feb. Violent hurricane-force winds are (already) developing around the center” (Severe-weather.eu) Waves in excess of 40-ft have been observed, driven by 140 km/h Storm Ciara towards the Irish coast.

World: last month globally was the warmest January on record, 0.77C above the 1981-2010 average. January in Europe was an astonishing 3.1C above the 1981-2010 average. In parts of Russia, January 2020 was over 10°C above the 1981-2010 average. Scandinavia too has been exceptionally warm. Overall, the winter period so far is 0.6°C warmer than average, although some places were surprisingly cooler – East Africa, for instance. (Copernicus)

The following graphs are pinched from Severe-weather.eu, which is part of the European Copernicus Earth Observation program. Any politician looking at this and not seeing a pattern should realize what a totally useless, moronic cunt they are, and go run a whelk stall – if they can find one.

ts_1month_anomaly_Global_ea_2t_202001_v01-1

 

Tunnel approaching….

Bees: A University of Ottawa study suggests the likelihood of a bumblebee population surviving in any given place has declined by 30% in the course of a single human generation. The researchers say the rates of decline appear to be “consistent with a mass extinction”. Populations are declining fastest where the normal climate is heating most rapidly.

 

It’s a Pumpkin! Issue 113: Panic stations… About the author… Honey, did the markets move for you?… GW: come into the kitchen and dry yourself off… The weather, a brief rumination…Plagiarism corner.

QotW

“The 2015 Infrastructure Act introduced a legal duty to “maximise the economic recovery” of petroleum in the UK. If drilling companies fail to maximise their extraction of fossil fuel from an oilfield, they will be forced to surrender their licence to operate. In other words, while the government observes a legal minimum (the CCC’s target) for reducing greenhouse gases, it observes a legal maximum for increasing them.” – from a piece by Geoge Monbiot, 29 Jan., arguing against the absurdities of environmental quotas.

Approached for comment, Granny Weatherwax awakens with a start from her afternoon nap, the copy of Take a Break! falls from her lap, and she adds: “Does anyone seriously imagine record levels of carbon dioxide are not impairing the cognitive functions of those in whom we place our trust?”

 

Panic stations

If the authorities let the plane leave the runway (what happened to the good old days when the Captain, played by Sir John Mills, would cheerfully have stuck two British fingers up at the faffing local police, set his cap and decisively pushed the throttle forward, eh?), Britons returning from coronavirus-hit Wuhan will be placed in quarantine for 14 days.

“Officials are considering taking passengers to a military base once they arrive home, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said.” (Guardian)

If I were you, mateys, I’d stay in China, you’ll be safer there.

Less chance of a suicide verdict.

Going viral….

Poor Aussies! You’ve got to feel sorry for them.

After a couple of nightmare months assailed by brutal heat, howling gales, huge dust storms you normally only see on Mars, floods, raging wildfires, rains of ash, poisoned rivers – choked in smoke and battered by hailstones, Open favorite Ashleigh Barty knocked out in the Semis – comes the Wuhan Fish ‘Flu virus, and the ultimate irony for possibly hundreds of being told that if they try to flee back from China now they will be exiled for days in quarantine on Christmas Island, 1,600 miles off the coast.

Still, they’ll be company for the one refugee family still stuck there after years while their case drags through the courts.

Meanwhile, a Chinese tourist who reported feeling unwell aboard the bloody ginormous cruise ship, Costa Crociere led to 6 thousand passengers being detained off the Italian coast at Civitavecchia while all of them were checked for the virus.

The Chinese passenger checked out negative.

A teenager severely disabled with cerebral palsy has died after his entire family were taken away and put into quarantine. The village authority in Hubei province gave him food at first but were too busy to go back for 6 days.

66% of screening tests at stations, ports and airports are failing to detect people incubating the virus, according to the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

161 people with suspected Wuhan virus have been tested in the UK, all turned out negative. A case has shown positive in Italy.

Let it rip: I must ask this. Should we not let this disease out into the global population and concentrate on curing patients, rather than trying with increasing futility to contain the virus in one terrified Chinese province? At between 2% and 3% the death rate is acceptably low, barely more than background; symptoms for the vast majority are no less manageable than any other ‘flu or cold virus, and once it spreads far enough the population will develop natural immunity, making any mutation less, rather than more lethal in the future?

(Ed. Note: it’s reckoned that over a million people die every week around the world, from all the usual causes.)

Update: 30 Jan., 7,700 cases. 170 dead – 162 in Wuhan.

Update update: 31 Jan., 01.00 hrs, 9,300 cases, 98 outside China. 212 dead.

Further update: 31 Jan. morning news, first 2 cases confirmed in Britain. Location secret. (Newcastle)

Updatiest: 01 Feb., 01.00 hrs: 11,000 cases, 258 dead. US bars entry to arrivals from China, despite having 15 million ‘flu cases of its own.

 

A BBC News website info page on the coronavirus as based on analysis of 99 cases shows:

“Most of the 99 patients were middle-aged, with an average age of 56 – and 67 of them were men.”

Yes ladies, man-flu! And you never believed us.

 

“About the Author

“Edward Russo is committed to preserving and protecting the environment. He acted as an environmental consultant for Donald J. Trump and the Trump Organization for fifteen years.

“Edward is on the board of directors for Reef Relief (reefrelief.org) and the Florida Keys Community College Foundation (FKCC.org). He is president of the Florida Keys Environmental Coalition (FKEC.org). Edward serves on the Monroe County Climate Change Advisory Committee (monroecounty-fl.gov).

“Edward is the former president of the Township Council of Chester Township, New Jersey, and a member of Chester’s Environmental Commission and Board of Health. He founded the organization Help Avoid a Landfill Tragedy (HALT) in Morris County, New Jersey. He served as the chairman of the planning board for Bedminster Township, New Jersey, and acted as cochairman of the town’s environmental commission.”

– Amazon books intro.

Edward drinks his milk at night. Edward loves his mom, and sometimes his sister too. Clever Edward has written an e-book. It’s about his green friend, the Orange President.

It’s titled ‘Donald Trump; an environmental hero’, and it basically argues that landscaping golf courses is, like, tidying up all that messy countryside. It’s even got a two-and-a-half star review on Amazon.

I don’t suppose ‘You have to be kidding, or crazy, or maybe you have a tremendous gift for irony’ counts as a review?

Abrogating America’s commitment to the now redundant Paris Accord while revoking, to date, 95 federal ordinances providing statutory controls on air and water quality, consumer and wildlife protections, greenhouse gas emissions, waste disposal and product standards on grounds that they cost the extractive and manufacturing industries (and any other entities that have paid their million bucks entry fee to his Inaugural Fund) too much money to comply with doesn’t seem to this reviewer like the actions of an “environmental hero”.

Rather, it looks like a frenzied assault on an unwelcoming America by a Marvel Comics villain. Donald Trump clearly resents and despises the country; hoping his legacy will be a shithole, awash with toxic waste and the corpses of benefit scroungers, brown folks, insolent TV satirists, baby grizzlies, women, Democrats and other immigrants, Greta Thunberg, and anyone who can’t afford to move to Mars.

Gizmodo reported, 9 Jan.:

“On Thursday, Trump announced revisions to one of the most consequential environmental laws in U.S. history known as the National Environmental Policy Act. The changes would essentially gut parts of the act, making it so regulators can’t consider the climate impacts of oil, gas, and other harmful projects and ensuring some projects are exempt from environmental review altogether.”

The one “landfill tragedy” this author won’t regret is when they bury fucking Trump, preferably in a biodegradable bin-bag, next to Edward the Environmental Adviser (clue: it’s got the word ‘mental’ in it….).

His rotting corpse, stuffed with cheeseburgers, embalmed in Diet Coke, will go on emitting methane for centuries.

Sadly, we won’t be here for that.

And Sleepy Joe, the Seniors’ delight

Lest we imagined the Democratic hopefuls have anything more enlightened to say on the subject, Gizmodo also reports:

“Over 55 scientists have signed an open letter rebuking Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden’s claim that the climate plan rival contender Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders supports, the Green New Deal, isn’t supported by anyone in the scientific field.”

Climate change may be about to undo all Trump’s environmentally sound plans to keep migrants out of the USA. A 30-ft high section of his border “wall” in California running between Calexico and Mexicali (r u sure about those names? They sound like brands of canned beans. Ed.) was blown over in exceptionally high winds, 30 Jan.

 

Honey, did the markets move for you?

“…When volume goes from 1,000 every 10 minutes and jumps to as high as almost 17,000 in 10 minutes, something is going on.”

That Something, according to Andrew Harnik, business reporter for The Hive, Vanity Fair magazine’s newsletter, was in a few minutes to net traders on the Chicago stock exchange a cool $190 million in profits.

Barely 90 minutes before the Pentagon announced that the Iranian military leader, Qassem Soleimani had been taken out in a drone strike on his convoy as it left the airport at Baghdad, the volume of trades in what are known as ‘March 2020 E-mini futures contracts’ suddenly ramped up like a startled gerbil, as if traders had been expecting a development and couldn’t wait to sell.

If I knew the first thing about the esoterica of markets I would comment wisely on this. But I don’t think a fumbling attempt to explain how you can make money when stocks fall off a cliff, or what an E-mini futures contract is, really matters.

Just think: a) bored men with money to burn, and b) two flies on a window pane.

What I gather from the article is that for many months the dedicated Mr Harnik among other financial journalists has been following the twists and turns of trading patterns in the market and their links to policy announcements emanating from this White House. Despite many hot-faced denials from many quarters, he seems pretty convinced that Something has been going on.

We have learned, for instance, that over the Christmas holiday Mr Trump was wandering the halls of Xanadu – Mar-a-Lago, of course – chuckling maniacally and braying to all and sundry, heedless of their total lack of security clearances, that he was going to do something really beastly to Iran when he got back to the office.

Trump is a security nightmare. He still refuses to have his personal iPhones swept for bugs, uses open communication channels and declared three years ago that he was the president so he could tell the Russians whatever secrets he liked; a statement that resulted in at least one highly placed CIA agent having to be clandestinely extracted from that estimable country; while the Mossad, Israel’s terrifyingly persuasive intelligence service, had to abandon an operation against the Islamic State and refused for months to speak to the CIA.

Nevertheless, he is currently protesting loudly that his canned former national security advisor, John Bolton’s forthcoming memoir, ominously titled “The Room Where It Happened”, contains Top Secret information and must not be published. As it’s not due out until next month, from my experience as a production editor it seems unlikely that anyone outside Simon & Schuster has actually read it, but the talk is of the bit where Bolton, in a sweet act of revenge, confirms that Trump actually told him “several times” that he was witholding the $391 million in aid to Ukraine precisely to push his fellow TV B-lister into announcing an investigation into the Bidens.

Be that as it may, the financial sleuths noticed that stocks in the big defense contractors like Raytheon, General Dynamics and Boeing had also spiked on January 2nd, hours before all hell broke loose over the Iran-Iraq border and we nearly ended up in World War Three (actually that’s been going on for years. we’re about up to WW9 by now. Oh, Trump says six. Okay, you’re the boss.).

Harnik quotes several fellow hacks and financial PROs of his acquaintance around the world suggesting archly that a few people might qualify for jail time over the affair, should the Securities and Exchange Commission ever be sufficiently uncorrupted to look into it. Insider trading is illegal, after all, and two Republican congressmen were recently convicted of it; while Trump’s spawn, Moron Jr, the Little Nazi and Ivanka are reportedly under investigation for market manipulation on their own account.

As you may kno’, The Pumpkin is full of conspiracy theories. A good bet has been that Trump insiders have been able to count for some time on the easily manipulated child-man to make the right noises in public about policy shifts, that will move markets in favorable directions for players to cash in. It’s just too sweet an opportunity to pass up, once you realize that owning your own president means the world will throw money at you whenever he, er, tweets.

How are Huawei shares doing, I wonder? Can anything now be believed?

 

GW: come into the kitchen and dry yourself off

Chile: government declares a state of emergency after days of heavy rain in Atacama – you know, the one place on earth Wikipedia tells you it never rains. 16mm in one day is slightly more than the average annual total. 1 person is thought to have died in floods and mudslides, although several missing have been located safe. (Floodlist)

Malaysia: over 200 people were evacuated to temporary flood relief centers after 0.8m deep floods hit Johor and parts of the peninsula, Jan 29. !n Indonesia, 6 people are dead, 3 missing and 22 injured after flooding broke bridges in North Sumatra. “Sibolga City, around 50km south of Barus, recorded 315mm (1 ft) of rain in 24 hours to 29 January. (Floodlist) More heavy rain is forecast.

East Africa: “Flooding in western Kenya has displaced hundreds of people and paralysed transport in Turkana after a period of heavy rain that began around 26 January, 2020. Homes and crops have been damaged and a bridge over the Oyombe river destroyed.” … 200km away, “Flood waters from the overflowing Talek river have left tourist areas of the Maasai Mara National Reserve isolated.” (Floodlist)

Europe: Severe-weather.eu continues its polar vortex theme – models are showing development of two huge blobs of weather, one exceptionally warm, the other exceptionally cold, dancing around one another over the next week, bringing starkly contrasting conditions to northern and central-southern Europe as far down as the Med. The cold stuff may extend as far as North Africa while the hot air wheels up across Greenland into the high Arctic. The vortex is located right over the British Isles.

Tunnel approaching….

Antarctica: the huge Thwaites glacier has been in the news recently as it’s been discovered it’s sitting on a pool of warm water and being rapidly hollowed-out from the underside. Fully melted, on its own it would result in 3.5 meters of global sea-level rise.

Turkey: Over 90 per cent of 11m saplings triumphally planted in a government tree-planting program personally endorsed by President Erdogan to re-green the countryside and meet carbon reduction targets have probably died from lack of water and being inexpertly planted at the wrong time of year, according to the agriculture and forestry workers’ union, who weren’t consulted, obviously.

Africa: According to the UN, more than 500,000 people – a quarter of Lesotho’s population – face severe hunger due to droughts that caused a 60% fall in cereal production last year, compared with 2018.

(All from Guardian)

 

The weather, a brief rumination

“…the matter-of-factness of being rescued in canoes.”

Past BogPo Posts wot people have been brunching on overnight are listed on the Dashboard stats section here in rainy Boglington. Sometimes I don’t recognise the titles and pop back in time just to remind myself of what idiocies I was maundering on about with much fruity swearing, back in the old days. My, but I was a much better writer then.

Anyway, this morning, one called There Must be a Reason cropped up, dating from about this time, February last year. Riffling through Granny Weatherwax’s meticulously researched backpage column listing extreme weather events from around the world, most of them in wearisomely familiar places – did they really have 5 feet of snow in Washington state that week? Like, wow! – it occurred to me that there’s a missing dimension to our reporting.

Everyday life.

Week after week there have been reports on the various weather sites of major flooding in this or that country; of record snowfalls and heatwaves in a warming world. The same names crop up all the time: Peru seems to be in a permanent underwater state, parts of the Indonesian archipelago, east Africa – as is the American midwest, where there was a peculiar anomaly that week, a 90 degrees heatwave in one state, feet of snow in just the next.

According to the reports we turn up regularly on sites like Accuweather in the US, severe-weather.eu – part of the Copernicus satellite program – or the UN-sponsored Floodlist site, people are dying in droves. We go to lengths to list the numbers, evacuees too, hectares of crops lost, but you never get any sense of how the others, the ones who haven’t died, are coping – if they even notice any difference to their normal routine!

You rarely encounter any coverage in any other section of the media from people actually living in those areas where rainfall and its frozen counterparts, snow and hail, seem to be increasing disastrously. No-one Commenting in news threads from their Mom’s sofa seems to have noticed anything amiss outside the window, other than whatever doings of the left or the right they happen to be railing about.

Foreign correspondents don’t seem to take any interest in the weather in war zones, either. Life appears to go on as normal. When hundreds of thousands of people are marching in protest at something or other, being gunned down for their pains by the police – in Iran, for instance, where parts of the country this winter have been extensively flooded, again, and across the border into southern Iraq, in the flooded deserts of Yemen and Saudi Barbaria, even in dusty old Israel; when, yet again, Spain is battered by horrendous storms or roasting and on fire, the oddness of the weather in the background has held no special interest for editors.

Are these events even real?

Seldom if ever do we read news features on how ordinary people in low-lying Houston, Texas are coping with their three severe flooding episodes a year – only when Hurricane Harvey dumped a spectacular 5 feet of water on them in 72 hours did we take any notice of their everyday lives, the matter-of-factness of being rescued in canoes.

Is there, in fact, any real sense of disruption, any real awareness of the looming crisis we are told by Extinction Rebellion and others – not to mention The BogPo’s own alarmist GW column – that we are facing now? Are people really suffering, or are they just going about their daily lives with a shrug and a hey-de-ho, as the cars wash by, spinning in the tide?

Gazing out of the window here in Boglington-on-Sea, the rain spaffing down outside, I wondered if anyone, somewhere on the other side of the world, might be bogling about us, here, as I am about them; and wondering in turn what I’m on about?

Because my impression is, it’s hardly stopped raining here since the beginning of October. As measured in the little pots and tubs carelessly left out in the garden, there’ve been many days when we’ve been getting far more rain than the few paltry millimeters we report have been causing devastating “floods and landslides” in some faroff country. My largest bucket, empty after last summer, has held more than a foot of water and has been overflowing for weeks.

Yet it’s all perfectly normal. Tedious, inconvenient, but normal. it’s just rain. We’ll live. This is Britain! And besides, it mostly seems to rain at night.

Is there really a global crisis? We hear terrible things from SE Australia this winter – or summer as it is there. Last year, and the year before that, it sounds terrifying: reports of 49 degrees heat, floods and raging fires and violent storms; of approaching species extinctions and economic collapse.

My friend, Harry’s granddaughter emigrated to Melbourne just last year to take up a spectacularly well-paid job – one of several she’d been offered. I asked him with some trepidation the other day how she was coping with the apocalyptic fires and smoke, the hail and duststorms and the funnel-web spider plague we’ve all been hearing about.

Oh, he said, she’s loving it out there.

 

Plagiarism corner

John Crace, The Guardian, 30 Jan.:

“…one journalist did ask whether the two men would consider swapping Prince Andrew for Anne Sacoolas.”

Uncle Bogler, The BogPo, edited 27 Jan.:

“Prince Andrew has provided “zero” cooperation with the Jeffrey Epstein sex trafficking inquiry, US prosecutors said on Monday, despite earlier promises to help investigations in any way possible. Could we perhaps arrange a swap with Anne Sacoolas, the American service wife wanted for further questioning over the death in the UK of teenage motorcyclist, Harry Dunn, by careless driving? She too is being extremely unco-operative.”

 

Made in China… Royal Exchange… Jury duty… Return of the Exiles… Hoops-a-daisy… GW: water, water everywhere.

QotW

“We haven’t disclosed information in a timely manner and also did not use effective information to improve our work.”

– Filmed wearing an antiviral mask, presumably to show the citizenry how it’s correctly done rather than by reason of self-preservation, Zhou Xianwang, mayor of Wuhan, epicentre of the “fish ‘flu” coronavirus outbreak, was speaking to Chinese state TV. No doubt it will be taken at the trial as his confession.

But it’s your Uncle Bogler who should be feeling guilty….

 

Made in China

Reasoning that university towns in the UK such as Boglington-on-Sea are a hotbed of Chinese intellectual activity, with the Chinese authorities still owning up to only 50 cases early last week, nevertheless having a suspicious and paranoid nature, thinking there might be a run on them shortly, he rowed rapidly right up the Amazon and ordered a ‘flu mask.

Later, though, he read of a shortage of masks in China, where 50 million people are effectively quarantined in their teeming metropolises while elderly patients, mostly with pre-existing conditions – Chinese cities have some of the worst air quality in the world, and everyone smokes – drop off the perch like frozen iguanas.

Duly this morning his mask arrived, prominently labeled “Made in China”.

Oh.

Nevertheless, at the age of 70, with lungs ruined by the childhood years of smoking and, currently, having spent eight years living beside a thundering main road, sucking in asbestos dust and 2.5 micron particles and nitrogen oxide gas from the huge diesel trucks as they brake into the bend, he feels perfectly justified in robbing a Chinese person of the chance at an extended life.

Said Bogler: “I ain’t never ‘ad fish ‘flu before, and I doesn’t intend to start now. There’s more of them Chinese than what there is of me.”

He has also invested in gallons of antiseptic hand-gel, and trudged round to the GP for a ‘flu shot this morning, only to be asked: “Are you over 65?”

Thinking that must be a qualification, I proudly announced, because I don’t look it, that I am in fact over 70, hoping for the usual amazed reaction. “Well we’re very sorry”, said the cocky receptionist, after double-checking with an invisible “my GP”, “but you can’t have one. We’ve run out of the Over 65s vaccine and we won’t be getting any more. You should have come in last September.”

Turns out there are different shots for each of the 7 ages of Man. Who knew?

Not bothering to mention that the major ‘flu epidemics had broken out only in late December, as it would have come as news obviously to a doctor’s receptionist, I surmised that the age-related cutoff must have something to do with how many, and which viruses you would have been historically exposed to.

“I see”, I replied, waspishly. “So the Tories want to get rid of all the pensioners?” The receptionist was obviously pleased at the remark, as he didn’t reply, but his secret smile told me all I wanted to know about euthanasia. “Never mind,” said I, “I’ve had a good life. Enjoy yours.”

And trudged off home.

Actually, it’s my ex-wife I’m more worried about. A sinophile, she works for a cultural exchange quango with loads of Chinese students in schools and universities around the region and tells me, half of them have recently escaped from Wuhan where, they’ve been telling her, the situation is a lot worse than is being reported.

It might not help either that 3 million people had already left the stricken city for their New Year trek to visit family before Mayor Zhou ordered a lockdown last week.

QotW #2

Le Keqiang, China’s prime minister, visited Wuhan at the weekend, telling local media:

“I’m here to cheer you up!”

He could, I suppose, have cheerfully mentioned the current outbreak of Ebola in Congo, where, as of WHO figures from 19 Jan., out of a total caseload of 3,416 known and probable patients, 2,238 have died, a 68% mortality rate compared with the unknown, as yet unmutated Wuhan virus’ toll of 81 – just 3% of those infected.

Worse, you could catch measles. Over 6 thousand cases in Congo have died, many children, in what’s being described as the world’s worst measles outbreak – entirely the responsibility of lunatic American conspiracy theorists and local witch doctors lying about vaccines. No-one seems unduly exercised, either, about the 2019-20 winter ‘flu season in the USA, where probably thanks to the early onset of wintry conditions there have been 15 MILLION cases, leading to 6,600 deaths.

World markets have been spiralizing since news of the China syndrome has been emerging. The powerhouse economy had only last week announced that its surging GDP growth had dropped catastrophically to “only” 6%.

Not good for business.

 

Speed bumps

Authorities in Wuhan have been proudly releasing video footage of their brand-new hospital for coronavirus patients, under construction. One building is said to be open for business already… three days after they started it last week. A schedule of just 6 days has been allocated for the entire 1,000-bed project, starting from scratch.

Well, not quite scratch – the site had already been cleared, purposed for a new leisure center; and eagle-eyed Twitterers have been pointing out that the official photo of the first new building unveiled on the site seems to have been published before, as another building somewhere else.

Nevertheless, even if construction were to go a day over schedule, it’s still a 1,000-bed hospital, built in a week; as was one in Beijing at the height of the SARS virus epidemic. Drone video shows a site crawling impressively with men and machines, all resembling busy ants.

By contrast, the usual British apathy and dithering when it comes to “abroad” are well to the fore. Around 300 Britons, many long-time residents, are trapped in Hubei province, where the advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth office is to stay put – or leave. One or the other. Oh, and to phone an acupuncturist  if you think you might have the disease.

Home secretary, Priti Patel, said on Sunday the government was “looking at all the options”. Other countries have been arranging evacuation flights for their nationals. Get them the fuck away. That seems to be the option.

The UK’s hot new “high-speed” railway, running 110 miles over flat terrain from London to Birmingham and then someday possibly northward on to Manchester and Leeds, where it’s a bit more of a strategic necessity, was begun in 2009, when the cost estimate was £35 billion. It’s now £106 billion.

Ten years. And still not an inch of track has been laid.

“Forty new hospitals”? In your lifetime, Baris.

 

Harry while stocks last

i have a friend called Harry. I just emailed him about an hour ago. Hi Harry, I wrote. Already, I have an ad at the top of my Google mail inbox, for a company calling itself “Harry’s Razors’.

With idiots like these, masquerading as algorithms, what do we have to fear from the future?

 

Royal Exchange

Prince Andrew has provided “zero” cooperation with the Jeffrey Epstein sex trafficking inquiry, US prosecutors said on Monday, despite earlier promises to help investigations in any way possible.

Could we perhaps arrange a swap with Anne Sacoolas, the American service wife wanted for further questioning over the death in the UK of teenage motorcyclist, Harry Dunn, by dangerous driving? She too is being extremely unco-operative, for an ex-CIA agent.

(Reporting: Guardian)

 

Jury duty

Republican senators involved in the impeachment trial of one Donald John Trump were startled yesterday, 26 Jan., to receive a message threatening them – possibly metaphorically – that if they did not vote to acquit him, they would find their ‘heads will be on a pike’.

The senators, who as members of the jury have sworn an oath of impartiality, were not in any case expected to break ranks with the White House, whose legal team are just in the process of mounting their defense, basically consisting of the argument that “he did it, so what?”, while claiming at the same time that he didn’t do it, whatever it was. The transcript of the 25 July phone call to President Zelinskiy was indeed “perfect”, as Trump has said – frequently.

In other words, he didn’t commit a crime, nor did he abuse his power to cover up the crime he didn’t commit. Except that 17 credible witnesses have already testified in earlier hearings that he did – as the madman himself has already confirmed, and boasted at Davos that the reason he won’t be found guilty is because of the success of the White House at witholding the evidence that he did it, in face of many legal Congressional subpoenas to release the proof.

Of course, there is no “transcript” of the call available for anyone to judge, only a redacted summary. The full and unbowdlerized original is still locked in a Top Secret intelligence file, from where only history will prise it loose. But we know, because Colonel Vindman overheard the call and has testified to what the transcript should actually have said. You know, the Purple Heart-decorated marine whose courage, loyalty and reputation have been so viciously traduced by filthy, inept senatorial co-conspirators involved up to their hairweaves in Mr Trump’s criminal enterprise to obstruct justice at all costs, that he is under police guard.

The astonishing thing being that Trump’s crimes, and those of his lawyer, Giuliani, their corrupt conspiracy to coerce the Ukrainian government into helping him fix the 2020 election, are out in the open for all to see; along with their denials. Gaslighting is the modern way: you didn’t see what you saw, you need help. Yet it’s the corruption formerly endemic in Ukraine that has apparently set Trump on the path to virtue. He illegally witheld the aid to fight the bad corruption, see?

If it had been the case that it was a policy matter, why did he not explain at the time, seek Congressional approval? Why did he continue to lie until his lawyers thought up the excuse? And why has he continued his obvious efforts with Giuliani to manufacture alibi evidence after the accusations were made?

We recall, don’t we, the early exhortations from Miller and others, Conway, Fuckabee Sanders, that we should not believe anything we are told, unless it is Trump himself telling us – because the president is the fount of truth and his enormous power is all the law you need.

It’s all, basically, down the rabbit-hole.

ABC News was unable to confirm who had sent the threat to the jurors (it sounds like a Stephen Miller special) or what medium was used to convey it. But I think we can add this to the list of Trump’s crimes. Intimidating jurors, witness tampering, witness intimidation, lying to Congress and withholding evidence are normally considered to be serious offences. It’s no excuse to say, oh, well, he’s the president, it’s just his way, he’s inexperienced, he’ll learn.

This is a 73-year-old man who has been committing crimes and despicable moral outrages, bullying and gaslighting and lying and bribing and blackmailing; buying his way out of and back into trouble for so long, he can’t remember how to do it any other way. Ever since he robbed his first cookie jar, he’s been a Little Caesar, spoiled rotten by disinterested parents who loathed him for the lying, self-justifying, junkfood-guzzling  playground bully he still is, and just paid him off.

He’s never going to change. Indeed, the power-shower of the flawed democracy he affects to despise has made him ten times worse.

Welcome to your new fascist state, guys. If it stops raining long enough you can grow bananas.

 

Hoops-a-daisy

The BBC has apologized for running a clip of basketball star, LeBron James, on its 10 o’clock News show, 26 Jan. It was the even bigger basketball star, Kobe Bryant they were hoping to commemorate, following his death at 41 and that of his 13-year-old daughter Gianna in a helicopter crash in southern California.

Perhaps they thought no-one would notice. Hey, all these freakishly tall guys casually spinning balls on their index fingers and dropping them from a great height into nets look pretty much the same. And basketball? Who cares about girly old basketball when Our Lads are out there, winning a Test series?

It’s far from the first time BBC News has got the wrong black guy. Nelson who? You’d think they would by now have appointed a special black-guys editor just to make sure this never happens, or at least employed face recognition technology, like the Metropolitan police, although apparently they have trouble too.

Critics perhaps ought to be more aware, though, that the more money you cut from the BBC’s public funding, the more social costs you impose on them. Like on top of taking World Service radio back from the Foreign Office, having now to pay for the law that says drooling, grasping Over 75s get a free annual license, just as the Over 75s are threatening to become the largest demographic in Britain, the worse their service is going to get.

Word is that key BBC news shows and current affairs segments are already under threat from Vanishing Johnson’s plan to decriminalize non-payment of the license (it’s about £3, $5 a week). Even, it’s said, the flagship Today program. (If I thought that would be replaced with anything better, I’d say ‘bring it on’…) Threatening the loss of the Corporation’s most popular and influential programs might just be a bluff to defang the bloodied teeth of far-right Tory vengeance, but if politicians are refusing to appear in case anyone asks them a question, there seems little point in carrying on broadcasting

Certainly though, more staff cuts and cost-saving recruitment policies with lower training and experience standards are self-defeating and can only result in more execrable mistakes. It’s a vicious cycle that’s going to destroy the Corporation.

Just as Carrie has been lobbying on the inside track to save the badgers, someone needs to whisper in the Golden Wonder’s ear that Murdoch is no longer all he’s cracked up to be. Voters value the widest range of services from our national broadcaster, as long as it remains viable – and credible. Interviewing your political opponents is a tradition, not a heresy.

To quote Joni Mitchell: “You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.”

 

Return of the exiles

“…The unveiling of Trump’s plan (his “Deal of the Century!)  presents a dead end for Abbas …. The archipelago of Palestinian enclaves proposed by Trump — subordinate to Israeli security concerns and more akin to the “bantustans” of apartheid-era South Africa — is emphatically not that. … Netanyahu’s government plans to vote on annexation of some 30 percent of the West Bank as early as this weekend.” – The Washington Post

The full majesty of the UK arm of the Israeli government-sponsored “outrage” machine has wheeled itself out to condemn BBC journalist Orla Guerin for introducing an element of balance, normally the Holy Grail of BBC reporting, into a piece on Holocaust Memorial Day.

Levelling the tiresome old smear of “antisemitism” that generally accompanies any attempt to reference the immiserating treatment of Israel’s illegitimately dispossessed Palestinian minority, slinging stinking mud in the face of whatever remains of the world’s horror at what went before, the prominent liberal Jewish members of the British establishment have exploded into collective outrage at Guerin’s closing remark:

“The state of Israel is now a regional power. For decades, it has occupied Palestinian territories. But some here will always see their nation through the prism of persecution and survival.”

What, they don’t occupy Palestinian territories? Some people there don’t see themselves as favored survivors? It seems like a pretty mild wrap-up to me; maybe the ‘but’ word is a little tendentious, but hey. Reporters are human.

It might be remembered that Guerin is Irish, which would give her a certain historical perspective on high-minded, moralistic colonialism; on persecution and survival. She has her own tragedies: her equally courageous journalist sister was murdered by powerful drug lords linked to the IRA. She has bravely reported for many years from places in the world where soft-handed metropolitans like Michael Grade and ‘former director of television, Danny Cohen’ would crumple, gibbering and pissing themselves in terror.

Her colleague, Fergal Keane, a brilliant, brave and empathetic communicator whom nobody would accuse of being a soft-handed metropolitan, the BBC’s Africa editor, although he too has seen service all over the world, has just thrown up his hands in despair: no more war, he needs space to recover from the horrors of stories like the Rwanda genocide. Guerin hasn’t, yet; she’s been out in the Middle East and other killing fields for years, telling it like it is. Who would blame her if she hung up her flak jacket after this thankless, thoughtless assault on her professional reputation?

Do the Grades and the Cohens murmuring politely among themselves at their fucking agreeable Knightsbridge cocktail parties think she’s just a tool of the far-right?

Shame on them.

Commenting on the incidence of PTSD among war correspondents, another brave man, Middle East editor, Jeremy Bowen retold on Today this morning how he watched a colleague burn to death when soldiers deliberately fired a rocket into a car he himself had got out of only moments earlier, and then shot at him with a heavy machine-gun when he tried to go back to help. Yes, Mr Grade, Mr Cohen, Israeli soldiers. They can murder innocent people too. They daily commit war crimes along the laughably named Peace Wall, while in the rear, the PR machine churns out the nauseating excuses.

And before anyone accuses me of antisemitism, a) I don’t care, you can think what you like, and b) I’m not going to stop arguing that truth should always come before denial. If it’s a bad thing to deny the reality of the Holocaust, which Guerin most definitely did not do, then it’s an equally bad thing to deny the reality of the history of Israel’s oppression of the indigenous people of the country they took through forcible colonization and – yes, by terrorism and ethnic cleansing – in and after 1947.

Two wrongs never make a right.

The moral high ground the pioneers dug on the kibbutz with their sweat was surrendered decades ago, except in the imaginations of the well-heeled diaspora, egged on by paid apologists like the now-Ambassador, Regev (not his real name). Let’s remind ourselves how in 2017, Mr Regev disgracefully no-platformed a Holocaust survivor who dared to invoke the lingering specter of Nazism, by uttering threats against Manchester University. Let us remind ourselves of the weaselly backsliding of former Director-General, Thompson – now ruining the once-reputable New York Times – and his cowardice in pushing his deputy out to explain his decision, when in 2011 Regev bullied the BBC to censor a charity appeal on behalf of the survivors of a brutal Israeli reprisal on Gaza city – Operation Cast Lead speaks to its bluntness and toxicity.

Let us remind ourselves of the abuse the former chief rabbi, Lord Sachs heaped on our premier political cartoonist, Scarfe, for depicting the corrupt Netanyahu perched atop a pile of Palestinian corpses, claiming this was an echo of the notorious ‘blood libel’ – when what it was, was a pretty fair comment, not on what Jews were persecuted for in the fifteenth century, ludicrously for eating Christian babies, but for what the Israeli government is doing now to its dispossessed people.

The outcome of this continual, misplaced conflation of opposition to the worse policies of the Israeli regime with the historical persecutions of the Jewish people is the creation of a lofty, moralistic bully-pulpit that cannot be doing anything to ameliorate the actual antisemitism non-Israeli Jews are increasingly fearful of. The more the Deputies attack politicians and the media over misperceived slights, the worse it gets in the real world.

Let us remind ourselves then, of the words of the founder, David Ben-Gurion, declaring the establishment of the state of Israel in May, 1948, to the United Nations:

“THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations….”

Should I repeat that for you, Mr Grade, Mr Cohen? How does that stack up against your feeble metropolitan handwashing; the “Deal of the Century”?

I don’t hear the Founder throwing revolting slurs about like a drunken football fan, accusing of ‘antisemitism’ those who from time to time try to point out that the government of Israel is occasionally bang out of order, and how it appears to have fallen into the clutches of an unholy alliance of corrupt criminal oligarchs and sanctimonious religious lunatics, encouraged by the “Jews for Jesus” American Right and their new Messiah from Queen’s. Oh, it’s fine to criticize other regimes in strongly worded language, as we do frequently. But the fundamental Jewishness of the Israeli state, the lingering monstrousness of the Shoah guarantees what, their immunity forever? Their permanent elevation over the rest of suffering Humanity?

I don’t hear him advocating walling the natives up and visiting condign punishment on them, smiting them with amytol and phosphorus from the air, whenever they annoyingly object, with acts of pretty futile violence, to their own Holy Places – supposedly protected by the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, their olive groves, their mosques – East Jerusalem – being culturally diminished, bulldozed, obliterated and replaced with miles of ugly condominiums reserved for Settlers. When they annoyingly demand their rights under the constitution, being remorselessly taken away by arbitrary decrees and religious courts’ vaporings backed by overwhelming force of arms and an embattled US president chasing the Evangelical vote.

I don’t hear him proposing that a new culture of muscular Zionism should be encouraged to override and deny the essential humanity of the Jewish people, who have to suffer all over again because of it, squandering any respect and goodwill built up in the early years. I don’t hear him recommending that tens of thousands of men, women and children whose only crime was to be born in a place their mutual God of Abraham allegedly said was reserved for Jews Only after two thousand years should themselves be forced into exile across the borders, to rot for three generations in squalid camps – and not thereby to acquire the same moral rights as the “returning exiles” of Roman-period Judaism.

(I have never heard a Palestinian interviewed, who told us blatantly that “God” had promised them the land they were born in. I heard that three times this morning from Israeli settlers in Jerusalem praising the criminal, Trump – a man made, to date, of 16 thousand lies.)

Yes, I’m fairly well aware of the history, thank you.

Don’t need reminding.

http://www.ushmm.org/m/pdfs/20000831-resistance-bklt.pdf

Postscriptum: A few hours after this was written, BBC World Service news was reporting on more reprisal raids on Gaza, bombing from the air in retaliation for kids sending up fire balloons. It didn’t make the mainstream news. Two more days have passed, and just as a) the Knesset is voting on impeaching Netanyahu for corruption and b) Trump’s lawyers are winding up for the big vote to acquit in his own impachment trial, Donald John Trump reveals his historic peace plan for the Middle East, you know, the one Kushner was supposed to be masterminding, which basically involves taking away whatever hope for self-determination and whatever territory the Palestinians have left.

Sure it’s just coincidence. Mix-up in the diary. Could happen to anyone.

Global weather

Cyclone forming over the North Pacific, 29 Jan.

GW: water, water everywhere

Brazil: “At least 30 (now 47 – 28 Jan.) people have died during severe rainstorms in Minas Gerais state, the country’s emergency services have said. Many of the victims were buried in landslides or washed away in floods after intense rain on Friday and Saturday. More than 2,500 people were evacuated” after 7 inches of rain fell in one 24 hour period. (BBC)

Indonesia: “Thousands of houses have been inundated after flooding in Bandung Regency, West Java.” Floodwaters up to 1.7 meters deep forced hundreds to evacuate, with almost 4 thousand homes, schools and official buildings and roads flooded out. (Floodlist). Al Jazeera reports that 31 people have died, with at least 15 missing after a week of heavy rains. The bureau of risk management has warned that flooding in lowland and rice-growing areas also posed a risk of “food insecurity and malnutrition”. Over 100 thousand people have been displaced.

Australia: and they’re off again… an out-of-control bushfire burning in the mountainous Namadgi National Park, south of Canberra, has almost quadrupled in size in a single day, threatening the small village of Tharwa, and prompting warnings to residents of the city’s southernmost suburbs. The fire was about 8,106 hectares in size by Day 2, reports Guardian Australia, and was started by a military helicopter using hot landing lights to see through smoke from other fires. Exceptionally heavy rainfall is flooding parts of Queensland as a tropical storm firehoses water out of the Gulf of Carpentaria in the north. (Floodlist)

In Madagascar, as many as 31 people have now died as a result of the recent severe weather, with 15 people reported missing. Almost 93,000 people have now been affected as over 10 thousand properties were flooded out. (Floodlist)  Tropical Storm Diane is impacting the island state of Mauritius with severe winds, heavy rain and flash floods. (Severe-weather.eu). Implications across the channel for nearby Mozambique, trashed last year by Cyclone Idai, are not yet known. 3 people have died and 300 are homeless after floods in Tanzania (Floodlist).

A huge extra-tropical cyclone is growing and undergoing explosive cyclogenesis (a drop of 23 mb in 12 hours!) in the North Pacific and expected to deliver hurricane-force winds to the coast of Alaska, 29 Jan., with a large storm surge and blizzard conditions. Another huge extra-tropical storm showing ‘impressive’ and even ‘textbook’ organization in the North Atlantic is rapidly intensifying, directly on course for Iceland, bringing a broad, severe wind field with high seas towards the northern British Isles, Scandinavia and northern Europe. (Severe-weather.eu) By the 26th the cyclone was said to be covering the entire North Atlantic region with pressures as low as 955 mb.

USA: “Wave after wave” of storm cells will continue to move inland across the Pacific northwest of the United States in the coming days, says Accuweather. “Relentless” rain falling on heavy snowpack and warmer temperatures will increase the risk of flooding on already saturated ground. An unseasonal tornado sucked out windows in Manzanita, Oregon – only the fifth to touch down in the state in January since 1876.

British Isles: Severe-weather.eu is reporting on signs that heating of the stratosphere could allow the polar vortex to slip down across northern Europe bringing a period of intense cold in early February; while much warmer air moves northwards across Greenland.

Russia: Temperatures in the Yakutia region fell to as low as -57.2 °C on the night of 25 Jan., still far from the -67.8°C recorded in Verkhoyansk in 1892.

Water from burst pipes froze over this Soviet-era apartment block in Irkutsk, giving it a spectral appearance.

Tunnel approaching….

“Falling iguanas, killer spiders and unprecedented locust swarms — all fueled by weather extremes. Not to mention an epic blizzard in Canada, a deadly, days-long storm in Europe and a rare January tornado in the Pacific Northwest. You’d be forgiven for thinking these are signs of the apocalypse. As far as we can tell, it was just the week in weather — a very wild one”Accuweather

Many of the falling iguanas in Florida sadly will have ended up on barbecues and in cooking pots as recipe suggestions have filled the cookery columns during the recent cold spell. It’s illegal to sell iguana meat but whole ones – humanely killed, of course, while in their semi-frozen hibernative state – fetch $80 a kilo in neighboring states. Iguanas are generally regarded in Florida as invasive pests and are known as ‘tree-chicken’.

Australians have been warned to be on the lookout for killer spiders. As if 49-degree heatwaves, a 7-year drought, raging forest fires, roiling dust storms, ash rain, poisoned rivers, choking smoke, flash floods, batterings from golfball-sized hail, near-extinctions of whole species of wildlife and visits from an impotent Prime Minister in denial in just the last month aren’t enough, experts say conditions are just right for a massive outburst of funnel-web spiders, whose bite can kill.

Global weatherMeanwhile; “Unusually heavy rain is being cited as a factor in one of the worst outbreaks of desert locusts in decades across parts of East Africa and posing what officials say is an ‘unprecedented’ threat to crops.” 7 decades, in fact. One especially large swarm in northeastern Kenya measured 60km long by 40km wide, containng “hundreds of billions” of the hungry critters. Even a ‘small swarm’ can consume enough plant material in a day to feed 35 thousand people. (Photo from tweet)

That’s presumably to go with the other Biblical plague emerging from China, where the new coronavirus has claimed over 1,400 patients at the time of writing, 25 Jan., causing 42 deaths (including a 61-year-old doctor treating patients, although she seems to have died from a stress-related heart attack). 50 million Chinese are unable to leave their cities for the annual New Year migration.

Update: 27 Jan., 2,700 confirmed cases (30 outside China), 81 deaths. Epidemiologists at Imperial College, London however calculate that probably 100 thousand people will have been infected by now.

Update update: 28 Jan., cases now “4.5 thousand. Deaths 106”.

Latest update: 29 Jan., cases now “over 6 thousand”. Deaths 132″. British Airways suspends all flights to mainland China.

Too darn hot: Customs officials in Vladivostock had to order a Toyota Prius to be returned to Japan, 22 Jan., as it was too radioactive to be allowed into the country. Since three of the reactors at the Fukushima nuclear power station melted down following the earthquake and tsunami of 2011, Russian authorities have prevented 875 items from coming into the country (Siberian Times). Russia has one of the worst records in the world for home-grown radiation releases.

La terra trema: a huge, magnitude M7.7 quake with M5.9 aftershocks was recorded at only 10km depth off the coast of Cuba, 27 Jan. Amazingly, little damage was reported, no-one was harmed and an early tsunami warnig was rescinded soon after.

A total waste: Psst, wanna know how much stuff we get through? A report launched at Davos by the the Circle Economy thinktank calculates the average human consumes 13 tonnes of raw materials every year, amounting to over 100 billion tonnes of finished products, food and energy services worldwide – completely unsustainable. 32 per cent of everything we consume ends up as waste, less than 9 per cent of it gets recycled. (Guardian Green Light)

And I just bought new hairclippers only moments ago. Well, the old ones have got a bit blunt…..

 

The Pumpkin – Issue 112: The greatest locked-room mystery… The madness of King Donald… After the ball… GW: Lawd, didn’ it rain!

QotW

“Our government is helping propel us towards a catastrophe on a scale humankind has never encountered before: the collapse of our life-support systems. It does so in support of certain ideologies – consumerism, neoliberalism, capitalism – and on behalf of powerful industries. This, apparently, meets the definition of moderation.” – George Monbiot, Commenting in The Guardian, 22 Jan. on the inclusion of Extinction Rebellion and Greenpeace on a police list, approved by the Home Secretary, of dangerous extremists.

Meanwhile, in Davos the world’s movers and shakers have been indulging in dangerous extremism as the top five items on the agenda, scorned in a surprisingly well-written speech from Donald John Trump, concerned just that very catastrophe and what the billionaires should be doing about it. A bit more self-interest might not go amiss.

 

“Success in the coming days will guarantee their immortality in the annals of legal jurisprudence.”

The greatest locked-room mystery

The impeachment ‘trial’ of one Donald John (Don Juan?) Trump begins in the Senate today, 21 January, 2020.

It’s unlikely to last long, just six days having been finally conceded to hear and refute a mass of evidence that has already been thoroughly examined twice in the lower House and resulted in a vote to impeach the criminal president. So compelling was the testimony, so conclusive the documentation, that only the most partisan of mindsets could imagine voting not to continue on, to expel the monster from the White House.

Unfortunately, that is precisely what the Republican majority is intending. They love their monster. They smell his power. They smell what they imagine to be his money. They love the smell of rotting democracy in the morning.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had hung on to the articles of impeachment until last week, insisting she would only deliver them for trial when her Senate counterpart, Kentucky Fried Senator Mitch McConnell explained the rules of the proceedings, which were up to him to invent. Would he allow witnesses to testify? The crux of the matter being that the ousted former national security advisor, John Bolton, had indicated his readiness to do so; and was already on record saying he thought the President’s actions on Ukraine amounted to ‘a drug deal’ in which he wanted no part.

Fatally, just as even more damning evidence was emerging, Pelosi cracked under the pressure of optimistic expectation and allowed the charges to go forward. Two more weeks wouldn’t have hurt, but there was, arguably, a problem in that three of her Presidential hopefuls would be tied up in the Senate, ahead of the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary. So she blinked.

The profoundly corrupt McConnell, who benefits politically – so it’s reported – from the hundreds of millions of dollars in government contracts placed in his home state by his wife, the Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, and who has earned the nickname ‘Moscow Mitch’ for his bullish refusal to allow debate on measures to counter the anticipated Russian interference in the 2020 elections, for whatever reason – possibly his other relationship with the influential Putin ‘silovik’ oligarch, Oleg Deripaska – had already gone public to say he was not interested in hearing witnesses, reading evidence or giving the case a fair trial: he and his Republican colleagues would vote to throw it out in as short a time as possible. Now, he’s proposing, outrageously, to hold hearings in the middle of the night.

In the meantime, Trump announced his ‘legal team’ for the hearing.

Imagine if you will, a Hollywood summer blockbuster featuring seven Marvel Comics supervillains teaming up to banish truth, honesty, decency, civility and the rule of law from Planet Earth.

Their slogan: ‘Abuse of power is not impeachable’.

Power is law.

That’s right! Their defense of Donald John Trump is to rest on an argument that he is obviously guilty of:

  • extorting political favors from a foreign government; which is two crimes in statute law, extortion/bribery and soliciting foreign influence in a US election
  • withholding an approved aid package to a qualifying foreign government without a mandate from Congress, which is another crime in statute law (incidentally, people are still looking for $35 million missing from the package he finally released)
  • abusing the power of his office (a High Crime and Misdeameanor well within the accepted meaning of the Constitution) to cover up the other crimes by wilfully committing three more statutory crimes:
  • obstruction of justice: ordering subordinates to defy lawful subpoenas, withholding of evidence and witness intimidation.

So, okay, hands-up, he did those things. However, the supervillains’ argument goes, as President of the United States he is covered on all bases by his own Executive Privilege and can do, frankly, whatever he bleedin’ well likes, without these pathetic Democrats with their popular votes ‘n’ all colluding on a partisan basis in what is obviously an attempt to fix the November elections, which honest Republicans would never do.

And there is no doubt whatsoever that he will be acquitted, and will then go about whining like a three-year-old that despite having been impeached – an irrevocable verdict – he is totally exonerated; that those who impeached him have no legitimacy and must be arrested; that he has defeated a Deep State conspiracy by Barack Obama in league with Hillary Clinton, Bob Mueller and George Soros to deligitimize his monumentally historic presidency, bring down his booming economy and flood the place with Mexican rapists, thus saving the Nation from Communism; and that millions of dumbfucks will believe it.

Surely, no-one but the real Messiah could get away with so much, so often?

“He’s not the Messiah, he’s a very naughty boy.” (RIP, Terry Jones)

The Pumpkin observes that his legal team itself consists almost entirely of felons who ought themselves, on the face of it, and if the allegations against them were ever to be tried in court, to be locked up.

Endlessly replaying clips of what some of them said in the past, notably during the impeachment of President Clinton, showing that they are hypocrites dishonestly performing 180-degree reverse-ferrets on their previously unshakeable moralistic beliefs about constitutional matters, the liberal media is forgetting one thing; they’re lawyers.

Pam Bondi is the former Florida Attorney General and petite blonde who, a few years ago, accepted into her re-election PAC fund (Political Action Committee) a check for $25 thousand from Donald John Trump, and immediately thereafter shut down an investigation by her office into the ‘Trump University’ scam, in which he defrauded hundreds of desperate people hoping to become accredited Real Estate agents on the basis of his questionable reputation as the great dealmaker who built and sold New York. Bondi has denied any connection, as she probably now realizes how cheap she came at the price.

The check had been drawn on Trump’s charity foundation, such bodies being forbidden by law from political engagement, and he was ordered in 2018 to repay $25 million to his victims. In 2019, he was banned from owning a charity foundation and ordered to donate another $2 million to charity; his co-trustees, his three older children were ordered to undergo formal training in company law.

Jay Sekulow is the high-minded Christian gentleman, actually Jewish, with a patrician manner who, according to a Guardian report from June 2017, swindled thousands of persuadably religious folk on low incomes out of over $60 million in 20 dollar charitable donations wrung from them in the name of Jesus by a team of rapacious call-centre operatives, money that somehow ended up refinancing Sekulow’s decidedly secular, financially troubled family’s businesses and paying for his private jet. Or, as he puts it; “We are dependent on God and the resources He provides through the gifts of people who share our vision.” Parasites, in a word.

The call-centre, known by its initials as CASE, is part-owned by Sekulow, like Trump a former bankrupt; also, a patron and advocate for the weird organization known as ‘Jews for Jesus’.

Rudy Giuliani. Oh, God, where to start? Where to stop? Oh, sorry, he’s not on the team anymore, Trump doesn’t know him. Carry on….

Kenneth Starr, according to Buzzflash, “was an Independent Counsel who spent tens of millions of dollars investigating the Clintons, ostensibly over Whitewater, but when they were cleared of wrongdoing with that land deal (they actually lost $40,000 on the transaction), Starr pursued Bill Clinton into entrapment over a sexual peccadillo. Along the way he used unchecked prosecutorial power and brute intimidation.” Tactics which allegedly included the unlawful imprisonment of the key witness, Monica Lewinsky, locked for days in a hotel room without a lawyer in an effort to force her to confess that she had given the president a blowjob in the Oval Office, thus exposing his impeachable perfidy.

Starr went on as a defense attorney to broker the 2007 deal that allowed Trump’s friend Jeffrey Epstein leeway to go on abusing girls as young as eleven. (buzzflash.com/articles/donald-trump-once-called-kenneth-starr-a-lunatic-just-the-guy-for-his-reality-tv-defense)

Another Epstein defender, law perfesser Alan Dershowitz is an indescribably filthy-looking old roué who has admitted to attending sex sessions at his client’s $77 million townhouse on the impossibly fashionable Lower East Side of Manhattan; a ‘gift’ from Les Wexner, billionaire founder and CEO of the company that bought the Victoria’s Secret underwear brand, that relies on Size Zero models for its teen appeal.  Dershowitz famously swore that all he did was accept massages from ‘some 50-year-old Russian woman’ – now, presumably, a Ukrainian citizen – and that he chastely ‘kept his underpants on’. A more disturbing image it would be hard to envisage, so we won’t try.

Dershowitz, who famously got the wife-beater O.J. ‘Juice’ Simpson off a charge of battering Nicole to death by dramatically producing a bloodied glove in court that, surprise, didn’t fit, votes Democrat and recently suggested on the BBC that there were grounds for doubting the Epstein suicide verdict. In which case, The Pumpkin idly wonders, who might have been rich, powerful and compromised enough to order the millionaire pedo pimp killed, while the CCTV was temporarily down? Surely not his other client?

He it is who has ventured the highly contestable legal opinion the Republicans will back, that what Trump has done isn’t covered in the Constitution in so many words and therefore isn’t impeachable conduct. If he can pull it off, it will be the greatest denouement to a locked-room mystery the world has ever seen.

White House counsel, Pat Cipolloni is the Mr Clean of the Trump team – except, of course, he has sold his soul to the Devil and will one day be dragged down to Hell with him. No-one who jumps into the Klargester with this criminal president is going to emerge smelling of anything other than cheeseberder-flavored shit; especially if he holds to the William Barr view (he used to work for him) that the President’s powers are legally unlimited. Much to the chagrin, one imagines, of his TEN children (he’s a devout Catholic). Cipolloni is said by former colleagues faintly appalled at his willingness to serve The Master to be very smart and a nice guy for a conservative, and a possible contender one day for a Supreme Court seat.

Why the hell he chooses to defend The Beast is a question for future historians, if there are any. Trump seems comfortable around Italians. Despite his cleverness, Cippoloni’s opening remarks at the hearing have been comprehensively demolished by Intelligence Committee chair, Adam Schiff. Not that it will do the Forces of Light any good.

In all, records Buzzflash, Trump’s dream team have made over 350 panel appearances on Fox News in the past year, which is presumably why they’ve been chosen, for their audience appeal and grandstanding ability to prove that water flows uphill. And because Trump saw them on TV.

Success in the coming days will guarantee their immortality in the annals of legal jurisprudence.

 

The madness of King Donald

On the eve of delivery to the Senate of articles of impeachment, Trump told a rally of his pet dumbfucks in Toledo, Ohio that he had topped a poll to see who was the greater president in history, Abraham Lincoln or Donald John Trump?

No evidence of such a poll can be found in our world, but: “So who do you like better? Trump or Abraham Lincoln? I said ‘Abraham Lincoln’.” (Would he really have said ‘Trump’? Really?) “And they did a poll on this. I think I remember the numbers. All I know is, we won, against Abraham – Honest Abe! We won. 53 to 47, can you believe that? I went back to the First Lady, I said ‘First Lady (presumably he can’t remember her name, only the numbers. Ed.) I just beat Abraham Lincoln in a poll!'”

He went on to complain yet again that he had made a deal and “saved a country” but he had “just heard” the Nobel Peace Prize committee had awarded the prize to the leader of that country instead of him (he was referring to Ethiopia and the prize was awarded to the Prime Minister last October, for signing a peace accord with Eritrea after 40 years of hostilities, which Trump wasn’t involved with); while he also took credit for cancer death rates in America having fallen by a record annual 2.2% during the year 2016/17, when he wasn’t in office; and for the nation’s wonderful airline safety record – not a good idea considering what’s happened at Boeing.

In fact, wasn’t one of those an Ethiopian Airlines plane?

Paying tribute to Dr Martin Luther King on MLK Day, Trump began his generous commemorative tweet: “It was exactly three years ago today, January 20, 2017, that I was sworn into office. So it is also appropriate that today is MLK Jr. Day….”. and proceeded to trumpet his own economic achievements on behalf of the African-American community. “Great!”

A new book claims Trump early on in his nightmare presidency took a briefing from Defense Secretary Mattis, Secretary Tillerson and other Top Brass at which they showed him pictures and colorful maps to try to explain the importance of America’s alliances and its role overseas. Arriving at A for Afghanistan, he rounded on the generals, including the highly bemedalled chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and letting loose an abusive tirade yelled at them that they were all ‘a bunch of dopes and babies’ he ‘wouldn’t go to war with’.

More projection, I fear, from the nation’s Number One draft dodger.

In Davos this week, Trump told a press conference he wouldn’t be convicted in the Senate because the White House has been really successful in holding back all the evidence, and praised Rudy Giuliani. The “greatest mayor in the history of New York”, said Trump, Rudy “knows corruption better than anybody.” ‘Nuff said.

In a further revelation, the book’s authors relate the story of how Trump, asked to take part in an HBO documentary, was required to read out a passage from the Constitution. After stumbling through several takes where he had to ask what some of the more archaic words meant, he started yelling at his staff that it was like trying to read a foreign language, he was being put off by all the people in the room and it was all their fault for making him agree to do the scene in the first place.

Very droll, ‘Donnie Read can’t read’! And an excerpt in the Guardian today describes at length his unpleasant bullying of Homeland Secretary, Kirjsten Nielsen – she was too short, at only 5’4″ – in his mad obsession with preventing all immigration at the Mexican border. (At one stage he ordered her to create a human wall of marshalls, national guardsmen and vigilantes standing shoulder to shoulder along the entire 1,800 miles of unfenced territory. He is, of course, barking mad.)

But wouldn’t it be great if all these well-paid Pulitzer prizewinning journalists could get over their patronizing sneering at the stories of how crazy dumb he is, how vindictive and self-obsessed, how megalomaniacal, which we already know, and put their supposed investigative powers to work exposing his actual criminal wrongdoings?

I’m personally just about done with the below-stairs gossip.

(Okay, just one more… in an interview yesterday, Trump credited Edison – who ‘we have to protect’ – with inventing the lightbulb… and the wheel!)

Dumbfucks United

Trump-supporting gun rights activists have proposed to kill a Virginia Democrat State legislator and start the civil war on Monday, 20 Jan., after rightwing social media networks assumed, as any total moron with advanced opioid-induced paranoia, a fat ass and a tiny penis would, that a bill he had introduced to reverse previous Republican legislation banning teachers and other groups (but not the cops) from taking strike action was a threat to take away their AR-15s.

Governor Ralph Northam has declared a state of emergency. (From Guardian) In the event, 25 thousand marched, protesting the death of 2nd Amendment gun rights – which give you the right to own a muzzle-loading musket if you’re a member of a formal militia, but hey, automatic assault weapon, sniper rifle, Abrams tank, why not? There’s a lot of bad guys out there.

 

23 Jan. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announced its symbolic “doomsday clock” has moved forward to 100 seconds to midnight, the closest to catastrophe that the scientists have judged the world to be at any point since its creation in 1947, at the outset of the cold war.

 

After the ball

A civil suit has been filed by the Washington DC Attorney General, alleging gross overcharging by the Trumps for the use of their own ballroom and side rooms at the Trump International hotel to host official events over a four-day period during the inauguration of Donald John Trump as president in January, 2017.

The inaugural committee, a registered nonprofit, allegedly paid $175 thousand a day for use of the facility, the profits going straight back to the Trump family, who have denied any wrongdoing. Their initial defense was that they had no involvement in planning the event. Their lawyers have now however justified the enormous bill on grounds that it was a perfectly normal fee for any hotel to charge for such a historically important occasion.

So either it was normal, or it was abnormal. Which is it, lawyers?

The committee raised over $107 million to cover the cost of the inauguration, twice what the previous Obama administration raised for a much larger event. The courts are still trying to find around half the money, which remains unaccounted for; although the Trumps said at the time they had given it to a friend of Melania Trump’s to “look after”. Strangely, wealthy people and needy corporations are still being invited to contribute to it.

Maybe for next time….

(Reporting: ProPublica)

 

GW: Lawd, didn’ it rain!

(Can we squeeze any more in? Ed.)

Spain: 10 people have died and others are missing after Storm Gloria continued to batter southeastern Spain and the Balearic islands with devastating winds, heavy rain, snowfall and huge waves up to 13.5 metres (44 ft) high. The storm left 220,000 people in the Tarragona region without electricity on Tuesday, 21 Jan. (Guardian) The storm surge penetrated 3km inland up the river Ebro, flooding 30 sq km of the fertile delta and its economically important rice paddies, before moving on to SW France. (Floodlist/BBC. See also, below.)

Brazil: “Heavy rain from 17 to 18 Jan. triggered flooding and landslides in the state of Espirito Santo. Almost 250mm of rain fell in 24 hours in the town of Alfredo Chaves, more than it would normally see during the whole of January. The rain triggered flooding up to 2 metres deep in some areas. Raging flood waters caused severe damaged to buildings, infrastructure and vehicles. The state’s fire service confirmed 6 deaths, with more feared missing.”

Guatemala: widespread flooding is reported after days of heavy rain. 1600 families have been evacuated. 200 families were evacuated from flooding in Famailla, northern Argentina, over 15 and 16 Jan., where 132mm of rain fell in 24 hours. Hardly worth mentioning, several regions of Peru have yet again been deluged for days, with resulting floods and landslides wrecking communities. A record 152mm fell on Tarapoto.

Indonesia: “at least 7 people have died and 3 are missing after flash floods caused a bridge to collapse in Bengkulu Province. The disaster was reportedly triggered by three days of heavy rainfall.” Families were evacuated in central Java when torrential rain caused rivers to overflow and 1 metre of floodwater to pour through vlllages. Flooding and landslides were reported in western Sumatra.

Fiji: it’s been reported that 2 people died, swept away when Cat 1 Cyclone Tino passed by the island last Friday, 17 Jan., bringing strong winds and flash floods. “Flights, power and water supply were disrupted.” Tino unexpectedly intensified to a Cat 3 over warm waters before colliding with Tonga at the weekend.

Mozambique: “at least 28 people have died and more than 58,800 have been affected by heavy rains and flooding. More than 10,200 houses have been damaged or destroyed, including 2,589 completely destroyed, and at least 47 schools have been affected. Thousands of hectares of crops have been damaged or destroyed, less than two months before the March harvest. The Chipembe Dam in Cabo Delgado is now at 100 per cent capacity” (Floodlist) This is all in the area of Beira, the city badly affected last year by Cyclone Idai, which killed 1300 people. Neighboring Zambia is also affected.

These heavy East African rains are thought by GW to be connected with one of three extra-tropical ‘waves’ organizing as cyclonic storms currently in the SW Indian Ocean, Invest 95S, as reported by the Copernicus Severe-weather.eu site, 22 Jan.

Zimbabwe: “flooding struck after a storm brought heavy rain 17 to 19 Jan. Flood waters were reportedly up to 1.5 metres deep in some areas” after 140mm fell in just a few hours. “Houses, property and livestock have been damaged or destroyed and roads blocked”. Power outages were also reported after a powerplant flooded out. Heavy rain is continuing to cause problems in Madagascar, where several people died earlier in the month. The current death toll is 13, with 18 still missing. Around 8 thousand homes have been flooded.

(Above 11 country reports: Floodlist)

USA: yet another epic storm system is expected over the central midwest this week. The Weather Channel reports: “Multiple disturbances in a southward plunge of the jet stream will track into the West through Tuesday. When that energy arrives in the nation’s midsection, it will trigger the development of a low-pressure system, which will move through the central and eastern states in the second half of this week.”

The National Weather Service has issued a warning for frozen iguanas falling out of trees in Florida as temperatures plunge unseasonably overnight. (Guardian)

North Pacific: Severe-weather.eu reports, a twinned pair of conjoined cyclones has formed in the north-central Pacific. The more easterly half of the system is due to slam into the western coast of Canada with strong winds and a high swell on the morning of 21 Jan. A similar twinning was observed in the north Atlantic on Christmas Day, and last summer in the Indian Ocean a pair of contra-rotating storms formed on either side of the equator, but twinning is not all that common.

Update: in the wake of the twin cyclones a new ‘monster’ extra-tropical system is undergoing exposive bombogenesis and threatens the Aleutian islands of Alaska with hurricane-force winds.

North Atlantic: “After a quiet week, a new cyclone is developing just east of Newfoundland and deepening. Satellite imagery indicates it is developing an organized system. Cyclone will track across the North Atlantic on Friday, deepening well below 950 mbar and expand in size – dominating much of the region this weekend. A broad wind field will also develop high swell towards western Europe.” (Severe-weather.eu)

Canada: the record, more than three-quarters of a meter of snow that fell overnight on Gander airport in Newfoundland as a result of a cyclone undergoing bombogenesis in the western North Atlantic before the weekend produced, in a 60 mph gale, drifts ‘several meters’ deep. And now there’s a heatwave over most of the country, with temperatures 10-15 °C above long-term average.

Meanwhile, on roughly the same northerly latitude, over western Norway temperatures climbed to 16.9 Celsius yesterday. Three weeks ago, the same weather station at Sunddalsora set a new January record of 19C. The average July temperature in Norway is 18C. (Severe-weather.eu. Iceland too is experiencing a major temperature anomaly, 22 Jan. Skjaldþingsstaðir, in the far northwest of the island, reported a daytime value of plus 13 °C.

Iberian peninsula: (latest, see above) “excessive rainfall, dangerous winds and major waves will bring threats towards the coast of east-southeastern Spain until Thursday”, predicts Severe-weather.eu., with possibly major flooding as a deep cyclonic system develops over land. Heavy deposits of snow are also forecast over higher ground, as the peninsula becomes a battleground between a cold front off one of several cyclones affecting the north Atlantic and the high pressure that’s hung over much of Europe for many days. That’s moved northwards, and a near-record 1050.5 mb was logged over south Wales, UK today, 20 Jan. (The UK record is held at 1053.6 mbar in Aberdeen (Scotland) on Jan 31st, 1902.)

Tunnel approaching….

Fish ‘flu: The ‘mystery’ virus as it’s been labelled, that’s been rapidly identified as a coronavirus of the same family that causes the common cold and akin to other respiratory viruses like SARS and MERS, has been confirmed as one that is able to be transmitted from Hunan to human. Sorry about the bad pun. A case has been identified in Australia, the patient has already been sent home to recover. A fourth patient in China has died. The WHO is debating whether it needs to declare a global emergency yet.

Update, 22 Jan. 6 p.m.: the WHO has decided to wait and see. Meanwhile the number of patients in Hubei province has risen to over 570, with 17 reported deaths and 60 ‘critical’ cases. Chinese authorities are struggling to limit travel on the eve of the New Year rush. In Wuhan itself – a city bigger than London – all public transport out of the city has been suspended and 11 million citizens have been told to stay home. Supermarkets have been ransacked of food supplies. Animal markets are closed, and thousands of contacts are being monitored. There are fears that the huge pool of potential cases could give rise to more deadly mutations. Thailand has four new cases. The first case has been reported in the USA, a 30-year-old man in Washington DC who had returned from Wuhan.

Update updated, 23 Jan.: 4 possible cases under review in Scotland and Northern Ireland. 24 Jan: make that 14 – all clear. One more in Chicago, 2 confirmed in France. China total 830 cases, 26 dead, 10 cities on lockdown. British universities have warned students travelling home  for Chinese new year they may face quarantine on their return.

Postscriptum: various news outlets are describing the coronavirus as ‘deadly’, which is pretty irresponsible. Morbidity is less than 3 per cent, mostly among older patents with pre-existing respiratory conditions – which if it trends on a big enough global scale could add up. However, it’s worth remembering that there have been 13 MILLION confirmed cases of winter ‘flu in the USA alone this year, with 6,600 resultant deaths.

Sea soars: The heat in the world’s oceans reached a new record level in 2019, showing “irrefutable and accelerating” heating of the planet. Oceans absorb more than 90% of the heat trapped by the greenhouse gases emitted by fossil fuel burning. The past ten years are the top ten warmest years for sea temperature recorded – adding heat year-on-year equivalent to every person on the planet running 100 microwave ovens all day and all night. The rate (of acceleration) from 1987 to 2019 is four and a half times faster than that from 1955 to 1986. (Reporting: Guardian Green Light, 20 Jan.)

Frigid air: a paper published in the journal Nature Communications says concentrations of the ozone-eating greenhouse gas HFC-23 – used in fridges, inhalers and air conditioners – have been increasing at a record rate. India and China, two of the main sources, reported in 2017 that they had almost completely eliminated emissions under the 1987 Montreal Protocol, that took action to halt the dangerous depletion of the ozone layer. A tonne of HFC-23 emissions is equivalent to the release of more than 12,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide. The source of the increasing emissions is not known. (Reporting: Guardian Green Light)

The Pumpkin – Issue 111: Look out behind you!… Going by default… The madness of King Donald… So long, suckers… Reader appeal… Formula won… GW: Skyfall…

QotW:

“The problem with a revolt against imaginary oppression is that you end up with imaginary freedom.” Fintan O’Toole, he of the Irish Times, on Johnson’s fizzled-out campaign to get people to pay half a million pounds to have the Big Ben bongs working for just one night to celebrate leaving the EU on 31 January.

Look out behind you!

Speaker Nancy Pelosi may have jumped the gun in bowing to pressure to release the articles of impeachment to the Senate today, 15 Jan., for trial next week, knowing that “Moscow Mitch” McConnell is not going to allow any witness testimony, as more damning evidence against Trump continues to pour out from the courts.

A tranche of documents released by the New York court trying the case of money laundering and illegal foreign Trump campaign donations allegedly made using a fugitive Ukrainian oligarch’s money by the Russian-born associates of Rudy Giuliani, Lev Parnas and Igor Frumin, shows a series of text messages between Parnas and an unknown associate* who appeared to be tracking the movements of the former US ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovych, on the day before she got a 1 a.m. call from an unknown person at the State Department warning her to flee the country immediately as her life was in danger.

(Yes, of course the possibility of a set-up has crossed the omniscient mind of The Pumpkin.)

Trump has denied knowing or ever having met Parnas, with whom he has been photographed and videoed on at least nine occasions. But we know that the smear campaign to remove Yovanovych, who was seen as a possible block to attempts to portray Ukraine and not Russia in a dystopian reversal of reality as a rogue state that had interfered with the 2016 election on the side of Hillary Clinton, started with exchanges between Giuliani and Pompeo on the very day of Trump’s inauguration in 2017.

(Trump has not yet successfully explained why Ukraine, which did not anyway have the capacity to do it, would in that case have hacked the Democrats’ servers and not the Republicans’, especially as he was eventually elected and Clinton wasn’t. Don’t expect any of this to make sense.)

And Parnas, out on bail, but clearly nervous given the number of potential witnesses against the president who seem to have been found dead in odd circumstances, has been doing the rounds of the cable news channels making sure as many people as possible are aware that he has shovelfuls of dirt to throw at Trump, whom he accused on Rachel Maddow among others, bluntly, of lying when he says he knew nothing about what he, Parnas, and Giuliani were doing in Ukraine to get rid of the ambassador and smear the Bidens: as a nobody, he argues, he only had leverage over local officials and crime bosses because of his Trump accreditation.

None of this material would have been available during November and December’s congressional hearings into Trump’s attempts to extort political favors from Ukraine last July, which largely focused on the evidence relating to the full content of the 25 July phone call with president Zelezniy, the ‘quid pro quo’, ‘we’d like a favor, though’ stuff, that has remained buried in a Top Secret intelligence server in the basement of the White House while a fluffy version was put out.

How Pelosi expects to get any helpful new evidence or testimony introduced at this late stage we can’t think, unless she and Schiff are  considering a new round of hearings on additional impeachment charges, of which there could be… well, hundreds.

 

*Going by default

Reveling in the limelight, although he is almost certainly jail-bound, Parnas has also introduced the American public to a new character in the Carry On Trumping farce: the previously unknown Republican congressional candidate for somewhere in Connecticut, Robert Hyde.

Some overweight sleazeball he met occasionally, propping up the bar in what he calls the ‘cesspit’, Trump International Hotel in Washington, where apparently any lobbyist or politician on the make who wants to bend the ear of the President can just check in at $500 a night and hang around, hoping for a dinner invitation in one of the private rooms, Parnas says Hyde – who has also been informally photographed alongside Trump, Giuliani, Parnas, Pence, etc. – is the guy on the other end of the texts.

You know, the sequence of texts apparently sent to Parnas from Kyiv, detailing the closely observed movements of Ambassador Yovanovych the day before she was warned to get out of town quick, that were released by Adam Schiff after being extracted from Parnas by the New York court and forwarded to the House Intelligence committee overseeing the impeachment.

Parnas has also described a direct conversation he had with Trump, who swears he’s never even heard of him, in which he told Trump the ambassador had disrespected him, and Trump ordered him in a rage to get rid of her by any means.

Republican stooges echoed by Trump have glibly accused Parnas of lying to get a shorter sentence, ignorant of the fact that going on MSNBC or CNN doesn’t get your sentence reduced, that only happens as a complex negotiation involving lawyers, the FBI and the court.

But then, accusing solid witnesses of lying seems to be the first and only defense these pathetic Trump shills can put up, given the increasing weight of evidence that the president who has verifiably lied in public more than 15 thousand times in three years and been reliably accused by investigators of at least a dozen instances of obstruction of justice, a federal crime and Trump’s default position in all matters, is as guilty as hell.

One-man shitshow

And did Trump gleefully boast about his Iran plans over the holiday with his $200 thousand-a-year members at Mar-a-Lago, as The Daily Beast reported, before he ever consulted the Pentagon, his Defense Secretary or his country’s allies in Iraq?

An egregious breach of security, bordering on the kind of treason he accuses whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden of, as none of his golfing and business buddies so far as anyone knows has any formal government position or clearance?

Vanity Fair records that: (Democratic) “…senators wrote that the president’s Florida resort guests may have obtained “confidential market-moving information and had the opportunity to trade defense industry stocks or commodities or make other trades based on this information.”

Should someone perhaps investigate his holdings in washing-machines, too?

“The senators noted that defense stocks rose precipitously between the announcement of the attack and the close of trade on January 3.” Unusual trading patterns were observed beforehand.

Can there really be anybody out there who still doesn’t understand that this administration is a one-man walking shitshow of corruption, sleaze and insider-dealing?

About 50 million, apparently.

Wake up, you credulous boobies. We get that you wanted a change, but this is definitely not it.

 

The madness of King Donald

An oblique reference no doubt to his progressive energy policy, and to the greatest presidency maybe the world will or has ever known, Trump proudly reminded a screaming, gurning rally of his pet dumbfucks in Wisconsin that he had personally “brought back the old lightbulbs” (he has previously complained that the low-wattage kind make him look orange!).

In a major policy announcement, he continued:

“I’m also approving new dishwashers that give you more water, so that you can actually wash and rinse your dishes without having to do it ten times, or five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten….” (enumeration of wasteful rinses accompanied with frenetic jabbing of one tiny index finger).

More waste. It’s a real vote-grabber.

The Great Dishwasher (who will never have contemplated a dish in 73 years) then went on to complain that every time he says something that maybe is only a little bit not true, the press calls him out for lying. He had, he said, been a victim all his life.

So unfair!

So long, suckers

I’ve been bingeing a very funny show on the iPlayer about three 400-year-old vampires in a house-share on low-class Staten Island, What We Do in the Shadows.

The joke is, not all vampires live on blood. A fourth sharer, Colin Robinson is an energy vampire, who thrives on the life he sucks out of a room by being paralysingly boring. In one episode, he meets at work Evie, a name he rapidly realises stands for emotional vampire, who kills people by compulsively sharing all the awful things she pretends have happened to her and her family.

Just like He Who Must be Approved?

 

Reader appeal

An independent bookshop in Petersfield, Hampshire has been inundated with orders from around the world, just a day after posting a despairing tweet lamenting “possibly” the first day in their long history when they sold not one book.

The store specializing in antiquarian and secondhand books and maps has been owned by the Westwood family for 100 years.

(Actually, I feel a bit guilty as another book arrived by mail order from the Amazon this afternoon, of which more anon.)

Family member and shop manager, Robert Sansom’s sad tweet was picked up and retweeted by sci fi author Neil Gaiman to his enormous fanbase, who rallied round. The store took more than £1,000 overnight, compensating for a day when Sansom admits, people might have been put off going out by the hurricane-force winds and the deluge of Storm Brendan. (Reporting: Guardian) No shit, Sherlock.

Neil, mate, hashtag whatever, if you’re reading this, I’ll have been bogling this stuff for eight years next month and haven’t ever had a penny donated from anyone sympathetic to my lack of funding. Nor have I descended into the moshpit of Twitter, Instagram or even Facebook, which probably explains why I’m not inundated with donations. My Followers are mostly either religious maniacs or hippies hoping to sell me more dream-catchers. Yesterday I got a ping from a lady posting cat photos. Not very cute ones, either.

If you’re out there, Gaiman fans, this dead caps Shift key is driving me insane, something has disabled the volume control, my ad blocker won’t block and I can’t afford a new machine. Only £800 and I can keep up the good work for as long as I have breath. Wouldn’t you all like that?

I have, to my surgeon’s credit, managed to start reading books again, although the print looks rather strange, letters all different shapes and sizes, the lines wonky. I managed a short chapter last night of Rachel Maddow’s new one, Blowout, about the corrosive effect of Putin’s Big Oil and Gas strategy on the Trump mob.

i read it with annoyance, I confess, as I’ve only just acquired at vast expense and after some delay, a digital magnifier device for the nearly blind, that puts any printed text up big on your TV screen. It’s very clever, with voice activation and a 32x zoom and 15 selectable background colors – it even plays your favorite music. I was a bit annoyed, to be honest, that my sight seems to be recovering, to the point where I can probably soon live without “5.0 Inch Portable Digital Magnifier” altogether.

For, the one thing it doesn’t do is enable you to read cursively, as the larger you make the print, obviously, duh, the less it can display. Also, you mustn’t try it with shaky hands, or expect to be able to maintain focus on the curving print as it falls into the ‘gutter’ between pages. It lacks a proper stand to hold it firmly at the right height above the page.

So I cast it aside and focussed manually – optically? – on the task, squinting, with adequate results.

Yes, okay, I should have thought of that maybe before parting with my last £150 only a week before I regained enough vision to read 11 pt bookprint – although not quite yet the tiny 8 pt type employed in the accompanying instruction manual, wherein might lie the possibilities of transcending some poorly translated misapprehensions that might one day be correctable when my scathing technological helpmeet and son next visits.

More effort required, Chinese design drones. A website would be helpful, but you don’t put a corporate brand, the maker’s name or any contact details in the booklet or on the box.

None that I can see.

 

Formula won

After several years of waiting for something to happen to a tank of marine sludge, a team of scientists in Japan has succeeded in artificially breeding a primitive cellular lifeform that may show how the original single-celled bacteria and archaea lacking mitochondria might have merged to create the more versatile eukaryotic cells that eventually evolved after another billion years into complex living structures.

They fed their test samples on powdered baby milk.

 

GW: Skyfall

Saudi Barbaria: “A powerful storm tracked from southern Europe and the Mediterranean into the Middle East last week, pulling cold air into the region and resulting in snowfall,” writes Accuweather, reporting that up to 2 inches of snow had blanketed the desert at the weekend. “This same storm system then tracked farther east caused deadly flooding and heavy snow with avalanches from Iran into Pakistan and Afghanistan.”

Canada: Meghan, duchess of Sussex’s chilly exit from the British Royal Family has met with an even frostier reception in Canada, where thanks to a weakening polar vortex temperatures in the midwest have plunged to abnormal lows even for January. CTV News reports: “Residents in some areas of Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia are facing bone-chillingly cold temperatures Tuesday as the thermometer dips well below -30 C with wind chill making it feel closer to -40 to -50 C, prompting extreme cold warnings for many cities.”

Very cold air moving south meeting warmer air – in some places in the USA it’s been 80 deg. F – is likely to cause heavy snow and whiteout conditions in Ohio midweek. (Severe-weather.eu)

Mississippi goddam: Further to the southwest it’s been raining again in record quantities. Floodlist reports: “The Oktibbeha County Lake Dam in eastern Mississippi is in ‘imminent danger’ of failing”, threatening over 100 homes and over 17 thousand acres potentially of farmland. Many rivers are full. Moving up from the Gulf, more storms are forecast midweek. 11 people died in last week’s catastrophic thunderstorms in the south.

Indonesia: The city of Samarinda in East Kilimantan has been flooded for the second time in 6 months, after days of heavy rain. Around 6 thousand people have been displaced. There were flash floods too in South Sulawesi on 12 Jan., where 1 person died; and in North Sulawesi, where 2 people died at the beginning of the month. (From Floodlist)

Oman: 56mm of rain was recorded in the capital, Muscat, 14 to 15 Jan. People were rescued from stranded cars and flooded homes around the city. No deaths were reported, dozens were treated for injuries. Neighboring United Arab Emirates saw heavy rain and flooding from 09 Jan. One person died on 11 Jan, and 3 are reported dead from widespread floods in Iran. (From Floodlist) (You never hear about this background stuff in political and business coverage, do you? GW.)

Peru: 2 more people have drowned in floods as rivers broke their banks in several areas of the country, forcing evacuations, blocking roads and damaging crops. (From Floodlist)

Fiji: a new early-season western Pacific cyclone is developing fast. As yet disorganized, Invest 93P is deeply intensifying near Vanuatu and expected to head off in the direction of Fiji in the coming days. It’s reported the cloud-height is so vast, the top is sitting in the stratosphere at a temperature of minus 90C! Tropical Cyclone Farai caused severe damage to the islands on Boxing Day. (Severe-weather.eu)

World: BBC weather channel reports: “The 10 years to the end of 2019 have been confirmed as the warmest decade on record by three global agencies. According to Nasa, Noaa and the UK Met Office, last year was the second warmest in a record dating back to 1850 (the hottest remains 2016, the last full-on El Niño year). The past five years were the hottest in the 170-year series, with each one more than 1C warmer than pre-industrial. The Met Office says that 2020 is likely to continue this warming trend.”

Tunnel approaching….

Philippines: the huge Taal volcano eruption 100 km from the capital, Manila, has lessened since lava was seen emanating from the crater on Monday, 13 Jan. but the experts are still mindful of a cataclysmic explosion as the area continues to be shaken by earth tremors and huge cracks appear in the ground. Thousands remain in rescue centers, with some 50 thousand people now evacuated from the zone, that has become a dead landscape of gray ash that has also fallen on towns and cities, interrupting normal life, although the wind is now blowing away from main population centers. Many livestock animals have died, while visiting president Duterte has chosen the occasion to lambast the regional authorities for not doing more to stamp out illegal drugs, possibly by killing more users.

Fish ‘flu: the first case of the new pneumonic coronavirus that appeared in China’s Wuhan province two months ago, where a patient among 41 known cases died last week, has been reported in Japan. The patient, who was later discharged, is believed to have visited Wuhan, where the virus has been strongly connected with a local fish market. With the annual mass migration looming of workers on the Chinese New Year holiday raising fears of spreading the contagion, the US and Thailand are among countries that are helpfully warning their tourists to steer clear of crowds and markets where animal products may be on sale – which is pretty much all of them.