Bloom County is back, but maybe so is 1990

July 28, 2015

Surely you fans of Opus and the cast of Bloom County have heard that cartoonist Berkeley Breathed revived his comic-strip-before last in an on-line format. It’s available on Facebook. I’ve not found other venues, if there are any.

This one from July 17 is just so . . . so . . . apt. Perfectly adequate.

Bloom County, July 17, 2015. Yes, Opus and the crew are back.

How much of our current fascination with penguins can be traced back to this old strip?

This strip also reminds me of that old pro-Reagan story that circulated in 1980, about the senator stopping off at Roosevelt Island on the way home, and Teddy Roosevelt’s statue coming to life to ask how things were.  Anybody got a good copy of that story?

Tip of the old scrub brush to Mary Almanza.


Are those flames? Is that fiddle music I hear? Greenland is melting faster (Annals of Global Warming)

July 28, 2015

Discover Magazine caption: Greenland as seen by NASA’s Aqua satellite on June 29, 2015. (Source: NASA Worldview)

Discover Magazine caption: Greenland as seen by NASA’s Aqua satellite on June 29, 2015. (Source: NASA Worldview)

What is the price of our delay?

Greenland’s ice is melting faster than scientists predicted a few years ago. Incredibly, a sizable bloc of people work to stop action against climate change, claiming that it’s not occurring, or that it’s natural and shouldn’t be stopped, or that we can’t afford to save the planet this time.

Polar oceanographer Mark Brandon calls our attention to a good lay article in Discover Magazine’s .blog Imageo, by Tom Yulsman:

As brutal heat grips parts of Europe, Asia, North America and South America, another place is also experiencing a spike in temperatures — one that you may not have heard about.

It’s happening in Greenland, and high temperatures there over the past two weeks have caused a sudden jump in melting at the surface of the vast ice sheet (seen in that great expanse of white in the satellite image above).

Science critics argue the warming is slowing down, and will soon stop. Wish they were right. 18 years of their being wrong makes me skeptical.

Caption from ImaGeo: In the graph above, the red line traces a sudden increase in the extent of surface melting in Greenland. (Source: National Snow and Ice Data Center)

Caption from ImaGeo: In the graph above, the red line traces a sudden increase in the extent of surface melting in Greenland. (Source: National Snow and Ice Data Center)

In the meantime, as Galileo might have said, “Eppure, lei si scalda!”still, she warms.

More:

Greenland is Melting, band graphic

Greenland is Melting, band graphic


Today in history memory: Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, July 28, 1914

July 28, 2015

101 years ago today. Let us remember, and never forget.

Wikipedia photo and caption: Austro-Hungarian troops executing captured Serbians, 1917. Serbia lost about 850,000 people during the war, a quarter of its pre-war population.

Wikipedia photo and caption: Austro-Hungarian troops executing captured Serbians, 1917. Serbia lost about 850,000 people during the war, a quarter of its pre-war population.

According to the Associated Press, today is the anniversary of the declaration of war that really got World War I started: Austria declared war on Serbia on July 28, 1914.

Serbian South slav nationalists assassinated Austrian Crown Prince Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sofie in Sarajevo, the traditional a Serbian capital then held by Austria, the previous June. After a summer of demands on Serbia by Austria, which Serbia could not or would not meet, Austria declared war.

As more nations declared war on each other through August and the rest of 1914, most people expected it to be a “short” war.

Peace is difficult. It must be worked on every day. But war is disaster.

More:

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.


National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day, 2015 – fly your flag if you want to

July 27, 2015

Commemoration in 2013: President Barack Obama delivers remarks to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that ended the Korean War, at the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., Saturday, July 27, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

Commemoration in 2013: President Barack Obama delivers remarks to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that ended the Korean War, at the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., Saturday, July 27, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

President Obama issued a proclamation for National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day in 2015, though the law Congress passed specified it should run only until 2003. There was no proclamation to urge flag flying, however.

Presidential Proclamation — National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day, 2015

NATIONAL KOREAN WAR VETERANS ARMISTICE DAY, 2015

– – – – – – –

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA A PROCLAMATION

Throughout history, the United States has stood as a powerful force for freedom and democracy around the world.  In the face of tyranny and oppression, generations of patriots have fought to secure peace and prosperity far from home.  And in 1950, as Communist armies crossed the 38th parallel just 5 years after the end of World War II, courageous Americans deployed overseas once again to stand with a people they had never met in defense of a cause in which they both believed.  On National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day, we honor all those who sacrificed for freedom’s cause throughout 3 long years of war, and we reaffirm our commitment to the security of the Republic of Korea and the values that unite our nations.

Often outnumbered and outgunned, nearly 1.8 million Americans fought through searing heat and piercing cold to roll back the tide of Communism.  The members of our Armed Forces endured some of the most brutal combat in modern history; many experienced unimaginable torment in POW camps, and nearly 37,000 gave their last full measure of devotion.  Their sacrifice pushed invading armies back across the line they had dared to cross and secured a hard-earned victory.

The Korean War reminds us that when we send our troops into battle, they deserve the support and gratitude of the American people — especially once they come home.  We must make it our mission to serve all our veterans as well as they have served us, always giving them the respect, care, and opportunities they have earned.  And we will never stop working to fulfill our obligations to our fallen heroes and their families.  To this day, more than 7,800 Americans are still missing from the Korean War, and the United States will not rest until we give these families a full accounting of their loved ones.

Today, the Republic of Korea enjoys a thriving democracy and a bustling economy, and the legacy of our Korean War veterans continues on in the 50 million South Koreans who live with liberty and opportunity.  The United States is proud to stand with our partner in Asian security and stability, and our commitment to our friend and ally will never waver — a promise embodied by our servicemen and women who fought from the Chosin Reservoir to Heartbreak Ridge and Pork Chop Hill, and by every American since who has stood sentinel on freedom’s frontier.

No war should ever be forgotten, and no veteran should ever be overlooked.  Today, on the anniversary of the Military Armistice Agreement that ended the Korean War, let us remember how liberty held its ground in the face of tyranny and how free peoples refused to yield.  And most of all, let us give thanks to all those whose service and sacrifice helped to secure the blessings of freedom.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim July 27, 2015, as National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day.  I call upon all Americans to observe this day with appropriate ceremonies and activities that honor our distinguished Korean War veterans.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-fourth day of July, in the year of our Lord two thousand fifteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and fortieth.

BARACK OBAMA

At this blog, we urge you to remember what is often called “the forgotten war,” and the veterans of the war, and the sacrifices of those veterans and those who did not return. You may fly your flag if you wish.


Catching the Subway, in Zion National Park, Utah

July 25, 2015

US Department of Interior Tweet: Simply stunning: That's the only way we can describe @ZionNPS's Subway. Pic by Tiffany Nguyen #Utah

US Department of Interior Tweet: Simply stunning: That’s the only way we can describe @ZionNPS’s Subway. Pic by Tiffany Nguyen #Utah

Gotta get back there.

James and Michelle made a trek there in 2013.

Subway in Zion Canyon National Park, photo by Michelle Xiang Li, 2013 (some rights reserved)

Subway in Zion Canyon National Park, photo by Michelle Xiang Li, 2013 (some rights reserved)

I wonder if it’s possible to take a dozen photos there without a few that take your breath away.

Rock, water and leaves. Photo from the Subway trip, by Michelle Xiang Li, 2013

Rock, water and leaves. Photo from the Subway trip, by Michelle Xiang Li, 2013


July 24 – Arrival Day: Journey’s not over until you get there; we are not there yet

July 24, 2015

There’s a lot of encore material here — I think about this in the middle of the summer, and July 24 is a good day to commemorate arrivals: It’s Arrival Day. It’s Touchdown Day.

July 24 – almost the end of the month, but not quite.

  • July 24, 1847: A larger contingent of Mormons, refugees from a literal religious war in Illinois and Missouri, entered into the Salt Lake Valley under the leadership of Brigham Young, who famously said from his wagon sick-bed, “This is the place; drive on!”

In Utah, July 24 is a state holiday, to celebrate the date in 1847 that the Mormon refugees arrived in Salt Lake Valley and began to set up their agriculture and schools.  In Salt Lake City, bands from across the state and floats from many entities form the Days of ’47 Parade.  When I marched with the Pleasant Grove High School Viking Band, the route was  5 miles.  We had only one band uniform, for winter — I lost nearly 10 pounds carrying a Sousaphone.

When the Mormons got to Salt Lake, after a couple of months’ trekking across the plains (then known as “The Great American Desert,” the Great Basin and the Mojave being little known), and after being on the run for well over a year, they got right down to priorities.  Summer was nearly gone, and crops had to be planted quick.  Within a couple of weeks, the Mormons dammed local streams to create irrigation systems to grow what they could before fall (this is, popularly, the first major crop irrigation set up in America); they’d started to lay out plans for settlements, with straight streets based on Cartesian-plane grids:  The first serious community planning?  And they began construction of schools, knowing education to be one of the most important attributes in the foundation of free societies, a position Mormons have reneged on recently in Utah.  Water, communities, schools.

Heck, that’s a good campaign platform today. It’s with sadness I note few people run on such a platform, instead begging voters to be afraid of others who are different in some fashion. Fear quenches no thirst, makes no place for families, nor educates any curious child. Utah’s Mormon pioneers were on the right track. We’ve run out of the ruts, and we are not there yet.

Utahns will be flying their U.S. flags today.  (Remember, President Obama proclaimed this a period of mourning, through July 25; flags should fly half-staff where possible.)

Maybe spending a few weeks struggling across a prairie and risking your life focuses you on the important stuff.  How would it improve America if we put more people on a bus to Omaha, put them out there, and said, “Hike to Salt Lake City from here.”

They’d focus.  Can we start with Paul Ryan, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell? Ted Cruz couldn’t make the journey. Donald Trump would die of sunburn. Wisconsin Gov. Ahab Walker would find no one to swindle, and talking down teachers and community builders wouldn’t be popular among fellow trekkers.

Ah, the good old days!

July 24 features a number 0f other arrivals, too.

From various “Today in History” features, AP, New York Times, and others, not in chronological order:

Buzz Aldrin walks on the moon, July 20, 1969

Buzz Aldrin walks on the moon, July 20, 1969 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • July 24, 1969: Apollo 11 returned to the Earth, and splashed down in the Pacific Ocean, Michael Collins, Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong — Aldrin and Armstrong having landed on the Moon.  In our celebrations of Apollo 11, and in our remembrances of President Kennedy, we may forget, though young kids rarely miss it, that Kennedy didn’t just say ‘Let’s put a guy on the Moon by 1970.’  Getting back safely was a key part of the challenge.

    First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.

    On July 24, 1969, the crew of Apollo 11 returned, safely.

Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and organ

Would there be a Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and organ, had the Mormons settled somewhere other than Utah? Wikipedia photo

  • July 24, 1866: Tennessee became the first of the Confederate States, the former “state in rebellion,” to be readmitted fully to the Union, following the end of the American Civil War. (Does Tennessee celebrate this anniversary in any way?)
  • July 24, 1911:  On July 24, 1911, American archeologist Hiram Bingham arrived at Machu Picchu in Peru.  We still don’t know all the reaons the Incas built that city on the top of very high mountains.  Cell service was not a factor.
  • July 24, 2005: Lance Armstrong won his seventh consecutive Tour de France bicycle race. Little did we know then, the journey wasn’t over. (Lance Armstrong is no relation to Neil Armstrong.  Did I need to point that out?)
English: Cropped image of Richard Nixon and Ni...

Nixon advance man William Safire claimed later than he’d set up the famous “debate” between Eisenhower’s Vice President Richard Nixon and Soviet Communist Party Premier Nikita Khrushchev, at the American National Exhibition in Moscow, 1959. Nixon argued that the technology on display made better the lives of average Americans, not just the wealthiest. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • July 24, 1959: Visiting Moscow, USSR, to support an exhibit of U.S. technology and know-how, Vice President Richard Nixon engaged Soviet Communist Party Secretary and Premier Nikita Khrushchev in a volley of points about which nation was doing better, at a display of the “typical” American kitchen, featuring an electric stove, a refrigerator, and a dishwasher.  Khrushchev said the Soviet Union produced similar products; Nixon barbed  back that even Communist Party leaders didn’t have such things in their homes, typically, but such appliances were within the reach of every American family.  It was the “Kitchen Debate.”Try explaining this to high school U.S. history students.  The textbooks tend to avoid this story, because it stops the class.  That’s a sign it should be used more, I think.  Does the Common Core even touch it?Nixon’s arrival as a major political force in the Cold War grew clear from this event.  The pragmatic stakes of the Cold War were drawn in stark contrast, too.  It’s interesting to ponder that microwave ovens were not part of the exhibit.

Cover of Time Magazine, July 22, 1974, explaining the showdown between President Richard Nixon and the Special Prosecutor, playing out in the U.S. Supreme Court. Image copyright by Time Magazine.

  • July 24, 1974: In U.S. vs. Nixon, The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that President Richard Nixon had to turn over previously-secret recordings made of conversations in the White House between Nixon and his aides, to the special prosecutor appointed to investigate the Watergate affair and cover-up.  Nixon would resign the presidency within two weeks, the only president to leave office by resignation.
  • July 24, 1975: An Apollo spacecraft splashed down after a mission that included the first link-up of American and Soviet spacecraft.  (The Apollo mission was not officially numbered, but is sometimes called “Apollo 18″ — after Apollo 17, the last trip to the Moon.)

More:

Salt Lake City, Utah, L. Hollard, photographer, 1912. Taking the Long View: Panoramic Photographs, 1851-1991

Library of Congress image caption: Mormon Temple Grounds, Salt Lake City, Utah, L. Hollard, photographer, 1912. Taking the Long View: Panoramic Photographs, 1851-1991 [The building on the far right? That’s the old Hotel Utah, where Kathryn and I had a great wedding reception with plenty of champagne considering our many Mormon family and friends — some of whom may have sampled a little to see what they usually missed. It was such a great reception that the owners of the hotel, the LDS Church, stopped holding wedding receptions there and shortly closed it as a hotel; now it’s an office building with a fantastic lobby that makes any sensible person wistful for what used to be.]

Hoping not to arrive painfully on touchdown:

Ogden, Utah, Pioneer Days Rodeo Friday, July 19, 2013.  Photo by Brian Nicholson

Bareback rider Jerad Schlegel of Burns, Colorado, clings to his horse as it falls to the dirt during a re-ride at the Ogden Pioneer Days Rodeo Friday, July 19, 2013. Photo by Brian Nicholson (go see his blog)

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

 


India, world’s top DDT user, socked with malaria increase

July 22, 2015

Were it true that DDT is a magic solution to malaria, by all measures India should be malaria free.

Not only is India not malaria-free, but the disease increases in infections, deaths, and perhaps, in virulence.

Map showing location of Odisha, or Orissa, state, in India. Wikipedia image

Map showing location of Odisha, or Orissa, state, in India. Wikipedia image

Since the late 1990s a small, well-funded band of chemical and tobacco industry propagandists conducted a campaign of calumny against Rachel Carson, environmentalists in general, scientists and health care workers, claiming that an unholy and wrongly-informed conspiracy took DDT off the market just as great strides were beginning to be made against malaria.

As a consequence, this group argues, malaria infections and deaths exploded, and tens of millions of people died unnecessarily.

That’s a crock, to be sure. Rachel Carson’s 1962 book, Silent Spring, inspired an already-established campaign against DDT. But the malaria eradication program begun with high hopes by the World Health Organization in 1955, foundered in 1963 when the campaign turned to central, tropical Africa. Overuse of DDT in agriculture and minor pest control had bred DDT-resistant and immune mosquitoes.  Malaria fighters could not knock down local populations of mosquitoes well enough to let medical care cure infected humans.  (The campaign was not helped by political instability in some of the African nations; 80% of houses in an affected area need to be sprayed inside to stop malaria, and that requires government organizational skills, manpower and money that those nations could not muster.)

Detail map of Odisha state, India; map by Jayanta Nath, Wikipedia image

Detail map of Odisha state, India; map by Jayanta Nath, Wikipedia image

That was just a year after Carson’s book hit the shelves. DDT had been banned nowhere. WHO’s workers tried to get a campaign going, but complete failures stopped the program in 1965; in 1969 WHO’s board met and officially killed the malaria eradication program, in favor of control.

Malaria infections and deaths did not expand with the end of WHO’s campaign.  At peak DDT use, roughly 1958 to 1963, malaria deaths are estimated by WHO to have been as high as 5 million per year, 4 million by 1963. Total malaria infections, worldwide, were 500 million.

The first bans on DDT use came in Europe. When the U.S. banned DDT use on crops in 1972, okaying use to fight malaria, malaria deaths had fallen to more than 2 million annually by optimistic estimates.  Death rates and infection rates continued to fall without a formal eradication campaign. By the late 1980s, malaria killed about 1.5 million each year, a great improvement over the DDT go-go days, but still troubling.

Beating malaria is a multi-step program.  Malaria parasites must complete a life cycle in a human host, and then when jumping to a mosquito, another cycle of about two weeks in the mosquito’s gut, before being transmissible back to humans. Knocking down mosquito populations helps prevent transmission temporarily, but that is only useful if in that period the human hosts can be cured of the parasites.

In the late 1980s, malaria parasites developed strong resistance and immunity to pharmaceuticals given to humans to cure them.  Regardless mosquito populations, human hosts were always infected, ready to transmit the parasite to any mosquito and send drug-resistant malaria on to dozens more.

From about 1990 to about 2002, malaria deaths rose modestly to more than 1.5 million annually.

New pharmaceuticals, and new regimens of administration of pharmaceuticals, increased the effectiveness of human treatments; coupled with much better understanding of malaria vectors, the insects that transmit the disease, and geographical data and other technological advances to speed diagnosis and treatment of humans, and increase prevention measures, WHO and private foundations started a series of programs in malaria-endemic nations to reduce infections and deaths. Insecticide-impregnated bednets proved to be less-expensive and more effective than Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS) featuring DDT or any of the other 11 pesticides WHO authorizes for home spraying.  (Home spraying targets mosquitoes that carry malaria, and limits expensive overuse of pesticides, plus limits and prevents environmental damage.)

Health care workers and most nations made dramatic progress in controlling and eliminating malaria, between 2000 and 2015, mostly without using DDT which proved increasingly ineffective at controlling mosquitoes, and which also proved unpopular among malaria-affected peoples whose cooperation is necessary to fight the disease.

By 2014, fewer than 220 million people got malaria infections, worldwide, a reduction of about 55% over DDT’s peak-use years. This is remarkable considering the population of the planet more than doubled in that time, and population in malaria-endemic areas rose even more. Malaria deaths were reduced to fewer than 600,000 annually, a reduction of more than 80% over peak DDT years. By 2015, malaria-fighters once again spoke of eradicating malaria from the planet.

In contrast, India assumed the position of top producer of DDT in the world, still making it even after China and North Korea stopped making it. But malaria control in India weakened, despite greater application of DDT.  The world watches as DDT, once the miracle pesticide used in anti-malaria campaigns, became instead a depleted tool, unable to stop malaria’s spread despite increasing application.

Were DDT the magic powder, or even “excellent powder” its advocates claim, India should be free of malaria, totally. Instead, Indians debate how best to get control of the disease again, and start reducing infections and deaths, again. Below is one story, rather typical of many that crop up from time to time in India news; this is from the Odisha Sun Times. (Note: Lakh is a unit in the Indian number system equal to 100,000; crore is a unit equal to 10,000,000.)

Odisha has 36% of malaria cases in India; ranks third in deaths

Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Mar 15:

Odisha has earned the dubious distinction of having a hopping 36% share of all malaria cases in India and ranking third in the list of states with the most number of deaths leaving most of its neighbours way behind.

Malaria Mosquito

These startling revelations have been made in a report tabled by the Union Health and Family Welfare department in the Parliament.

What is more disturbing is that the number of persons getting afflicted with the disease in the state is rising every year despite the state government spending crores of rupees to arrest the spread of the disease.

The state government has been spending crores of rupees on a scheme christened ‘Mo Masari’ (“My Mosquito Net’) and has been claiming that the number of afflicted has been falling in the state. But the Central government report has exposed the hollowness of the claim.

According to the report, out of the 10.70 lakh people who were afflicted with malaria in India in the year 2014, about 3.88 lakh (36.26%) were from Odisha. In 2010, around 3.95 lakh were afflicted with the disease. The number had come down to 3.08 lakh in 2011 and had further scaled down to around 2.62 lakh in 2012, the report says.

But the number of malaria patients in Odisha is again rising at a faster pace since then, according to the Health Ministry report.

Even though the neighbouring states of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh are identified as malaria prone states, much less people are afflicted with malaria in these states as compared to Odisha. In 2014, only 1.22lakh people were affected with the disease in Chhattisgarh while only 96,140 persons were affected by malaria in Jharkhand in the same year.

Statistics cited in the report also reveal that Odisha has left many states behind and has marched ahead of others in the matter of number of deaths due to malaria. It ranks third on this count in the country.

In the year 2014, a total of 535 persons had died of malaria across the country. Out of them 73 (13.64%) were from Odish while Tripura had the maximum number of deaths in terms of percentage at 96 (17.94%) followed by Meghalaya, another hilly state, with a toll count of 78 (14.58%).

Another disturbing fact that has emerged from the report is that out of those who have died of malaria in Odisha, 80 percent are from tribal dominated areas.

The districts of Gajapati , Kalahandi , Kandhamal, Keonjhar, Koraput, Malkangiri, Mayurbhanj, Nabarangpur, Nuapada, Rayagada and Sundargarh account for both the maximum number of deaths due to malaria and maximum number of persons afflicted with the disease.


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