Author Archive | Good German

Is Earth Heading For Another Mass Extinction?

PIC: InSapphoWeTrust (CC_

PIC: InSapphoWeTrust (CC_

John Feffer writes at Foreign Policy in Focus:

Video games usually provide you with multiple lives. If you step on a landmine or get hit by an assassin, you get another chance. Even if such virtual reincarnation is not built into the rules of the game, you can always reboot and start over again. You can try again hundreds of times until you get it right. This formula applies to first-person shooter games as well as simulation exercises like SimEarth.

The real Earth offers a similar kind of reboot. Catastrophe has hit our planet at least five times, as Elizabeth Kolbert explains in her new book, The Sixth Extinction. During each of these preceding wipeouts, the planet recovered, though many of the life forms residing in the seas or on land were not so fortunate (“many” is actually an understatement—more than 99 percent of all species died out in these cataclysms).

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Chelsea Manning’s Statement on Her Legal Name Change

PIC: How Chelsea Manning sees herself. Portrait by Alicia Neal, commissioned by the Chelsea Manning Support (C)

PIC: How Chelsea Manning sees herself. Portrait by Alicia Neal, commissioned by the Chelsea Manning Support (C)

Chelsea Manning writes:

Today is an exciting day. A judge in the state of Kansas has officially ordered my name to be changed from “Bradley Edward Manning” to “Chelsea Elizabeth Manning.” I’ve been working for months for this change, and waiting for years.

It’s worth noting that in both mail and in-person, I’ve often been asked, “Why are you changing your name?” The answer couldn’t be simpler: because it’s a far better, richer, and more honest reflection of who I am and always have been –a woman named Chelsea.

But there is another question I’ve been asked nearly as much, “why are you making this request of the Leavenworth district court?” This is a more complicated question, but the short answer is simple: because I have to.

Unfortunately, the trans* community faces three major obstacles to living a normal life in America: identity documentation, gender segregated institutions, and access to healthcare.

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‘Cowboy Indian Alliance’ Steps Forward in Earth’s Time of Need

PIC: Reject and Protect (C)

PIC: Reject and Protect (C)

Jon Queally writes at Common Dreams:

In the week ahead, a coalition of tribal communities, ranchers, farmers and allies calling itself the ‘Cowboy Indian Alliance‘ plans to lead a series of protests, ceremonies, and direct actions in the heart of Washington, DC in order to drive home their united opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline and the destructive expansion of tar sands mining and fossil fuel dependence it represents.

Under the banner ‘Reject and Project,’ the five-day long event will kick off on this year’s Earth Day—Tuesday, April 23—and culminate on Saturday with a ceremony and procession expected to draw thousands.

“We are writing a new history by standing on common ground by preventing the black snake of Keystone XL from risking our land and water,” said Faith Spotted Eagle of the Yankton Sioux tribe and a spokesperson for the Cowboy Indian Alliance (C.I.A.).

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Global Extinction Within One Lifetime?

Picture: Victor Korniyenko (CC)

Picture: Victor Korniyenko (CC)

From 2012, Michael Brown writing at the Ecologist:

It is now widely accepted that human-induced climate change is a potentially dangerous issue. In a  year (2012) when 15,000 temperature records were set in March alone and many freak weather patterns continued to cause drought and flooding across the globe the danger seems increasingly real and undeniable.

The latest addition to these concerns is the release of methane gas from the Arctic permafrost. Recently it was announced that the Russian research vessel Academician Lavrentiev had made discoveries of hundreds of methane gas eruptions in a 10,000 square mile area of the Arctic Ocean. Russian researcher Dr Igor Semiletov stated:  “These are methane fields on a scale not seen before. We found more than 100 fountains, some more than a kilometre across. The emissions went directly into the atmosphere.”

Methane is a greenhouse gas that is estimated to be about 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2).

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Edward Snowden: Vladimir Putin Must Be Called to Account on Surveillance Just Like Obama

Photo: www.kremlin.ru (CC)

Photo: www.kremlin.ru (CC)

Edward Snowden writes at the Guardian:

On Thursday, I questioned Russia’s involvement in mass surveillance on live television. I asked Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, a question that cannot credibly be answered in the negative by any leader who runs a modern, intrusive surveillance program: “Does [your country] intercept, analyse or store millions of individuals’ communications?”

I went on to challenge whether, even if such a mass surveillance program were effective and technically legal, it could ever be morally justified.

The question was intended to mirror the now infamous exchange in US Senate intelligence committee hearings between senator Ron Wyden and the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, about whether the NSA collected records on millions of Americans, and to invite either an important concession or a clear evasion. (See a side-by-side comparison of Wyden’s question and mine here.)

Clapper’s lie – to the Senate and to the public – was a major motivating force behind my decision to go public, and a historic example of the importance of official accountability.

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Harvard Fossil Fuel Divestment Smackdown: The Faculty vs. President Faust

PIC: Harvard (CC)

PIC: Harvard (CC)

Faust was the guy who sold his soul to the Devil, wasn’t he?  Wen Stephenson at the Nation

…a large and distinguished group of faculty at Harvard University released an open letter to President Drew Gilpin Faust and the Harvard Corporation. It calls, in striking terms, for divestment of the university’s endowment—the largest university endowment in the world—from fossil-fuel corporations. Perhaps most striking, it responds forcefully, and at times bluntly, to Faust’s public statements opposing divestment. The letter begins:

Our University invests in the fossil fuel industry: this is for us the central issue. We now know that fossil fuels cause climate change of unprecedented destructive potential. We also know that many in this industry spend large sums of money to mislead the public, deny climate science, control legislation and regulation, and suppress alternative energy sources.

We are therefore disappointed in the statements on divestment made by President Faust on October 3, 2013 and April 7, 2014.

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Surprising Material Could Play Role in Saving Energy

PIC: JURII (CC)

PIC: JURII (CC)

Megan Fellman writes for Northwestern University:

One strategy for addressing the world’s energy crisis is to stop wasting so much energy when producing and using it, which can happen in coal-fired power plants or transportation. Nearly two-thirds of energy input is lost as waste heat.

Now Northwestern University scientists have discovered a surprising material that is the best in the world at converting waste heat to useful electricity. This outstanding property could be exploited in solid-state thermoelectric devices in a variety of industries, with potentially enormous energy savings.

An interdisciplinary team led by inorganic chemist Mercouri G. Kanatzidis found the crystal form of the chemical compound tin selenide conducts heat so poorly through its lattice structure that it is the most efficient thermoelectric material known. Unlike most thermoelectric materials, tin selenide has a simple structure, much like that of an accordion, which provides the key to its exceptional properties.

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BP Decides to Stop Cleaning Up the Gulf

PIC: USCG (PD)

PIC: USCG (PD)

It was mainly a PR exercise anyway.  Andrea Germanos writes at Common Dreams:

BP announced on Tuesday it was ending “active shoreline cleanup” from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, which killed 11 people, spewed millions of gallons of oil, contaminated beaches and ecosystems, and unleashed ongoing threats to marine life.

“Immediately following the Deepwater Horizon accident, BP committed to cleaning the shoreline and supporting the Gulf’s economic and environmental recovery. Completing active cleanup is further indication that we are keeping that commitment,” the oil giant said in a statement.

Yet the response from the U.S. Cocast Guard paints quite a different picture, indicating the response to the disaster is far from over.

Coast Guard Captain Thomas Sparks, the Federal On-Scene Commander for the Deepwater Horizon Response, issued a statement saying, “Our response posture has evolved to target re-oiling events on coastline segments that were previously cleaned.”

“But let me be absolutely clear: This response is not over — not by a long shot.

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