Sunday, April 19, 2015

Handling of latest naturally recurring California water shortage reveals breakdown of once open society in favor of small group of plutocrats with no political opposition. Lower classes include a third of all US welfare recipients, have no hope of upward mobility-Daily Beast, Joel Kotkin

4/19/15, "Big Idea: California Is So Over," Joel Kotkin, The Daily Beast

"California’s drought and how it’s handled show just what kind of place the Golden State is becoming: feudal, super-affluent and with an impoverished interior.
California has met the future, and it really doesn’t work. As the mounting panic surrounding the drought suggests, the Golden State, once was renown for meeting human and geographic challenges, is losing its ability to cope with crises. As a result, the great American land of opportunity is devolving into something that resembles feudalism, a society dominated by rich and poor, with little opportunity for upward mobility for the state’s middle and working classes

The water situation reflects this breakdown in the starkest way. Everyone who follows California knew it was inevitable we would suffer a long-term drought. Most of the state—including the Bay Area as well as greater Los Angeles—is semi-arid, and could barely support more than a tiny fraction of its current population. California’s response to aridity has always been primarily an engineering one that followed the old Roman model siphoning water from the high country to service cities and farms.

But since the 1970s, California’s water system has become the prisoner of politics and posturing. The great aqueducts connecting the population centers with the great Sierra snowpack are all products of an earlier era—the Los Angeles aqueduct (1913), Hetch-Hetchy (1923) the Central Valley Project (1937) and the California Aqueduct (1974). The primary opposition to expansion has been the green left, which rejects water storage projects as irrelevant. 

Yet at the same time greens and their allies in academia and the mainstream press, are those most likely to see the current drought as part of a climate change induced reduction in snowpack. That many scientists disagree with this assessment is almost beside the point. Whether climate change will make things better or worse is certainly an important concern, but California was going to have problems meeting its water needs under any circumstances.  

Not Meeting the Challenges.

It’s not like we haven’t been around this particular block before. In the 1860s, a severe drought all but destroyed LA’s once flourishing cattle industry. This drought was followed by torrential rains that caused their own havoc. The state has suffered three major droughts since I have lived here—in the mid70s, the mid ’80s and again today—but long ago (even before I got there) also some real whoppers, including dry periods that lasted upwards of 200 years.

This, like the threat of earthquakes, is part of the price we pay to live in this most beautiful and usually temperate of states. The real issue is how to meet this challenge, and here the response has been slow and lacking in vision. Not all of this is to be blamed on the greens, who dominate the state politically. California agriculture, for example, was among the last in the nation to agree to monitoring of groundwater. Farmers have also been slow to adjust their crops towards less water-dependent varieties; they continue to plant alfalfa, cotton and other crops that may be better grown in more water-rich areas.

Many cities, too, have been slow to meet the challenge. Some long resisted metering of water use. Other places have been slow to encourage drought-resistant landscaping, which is already pretty de rigeur in more aridity conscious desert cities like Tucson. This process may take time, but is already showing some value in places like Los Angeles where water agencies provide incentives.

But ultimately the responsibility for California’s future lies with our political leadership, who need to develop the kind of typically bold approaches past generations have embraced. One step would be building new storage capacity, which Gov. Jerry Brown, after opposing it for years, now has begun to admit is necessary. Desalinization, widely used in the even more arid Middle East, notably Israel, has been blocked by environmental interests but could tap a virtually unlimited supply of the wet stuff, and lies close to the state’s most densely populated areas. Essentially the state could build enough desalinization facilities, and the energy plants to run them, for less money than Brown wants to spend on his high-speed choo-choo to nowhere. This piece of infrastructure is so irrelevant to the state’s needs that even many progressives, such as Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum, consider a “ridiculous” waste of money.

And there needs to be, at least for the short term, an end to dumping water into San Francisco Bay for the purpose of restoring a long gone salmon run, or to the Delta, in order to save a bait-fish, the Delta smelt, which may already be close to extinct. This dumping of water has continued even as the state has faced a potentially crippling water shortage; nothing is too good for our fish, or to salve the hyper-heated consciousness of the environmental illuminati.

The Political Equation

The biggest reason California has been so slow, and uncharacteristically feckless, in meeting this existential challenge lies with psychology and ends with political power. The generation that built the sinews of modern California—most notably the late Governor Pat Brown, Sr., the current governor’s father—sprang from the old progressive spirit which saw in infrastructure development a chance not only to create new wealth, but also provide opportunity to working- and middle-class Californians. Indeed if you look at California’s greatest achievements as a society, the Pat Brown legacy stands at the core. The California Aqueduct turned vast stretches of the Central Valley into one of the most productive farming regions in the world. The freeway system, now in often shocking disrepair, allowed for the construction of mass suburbia that offered millions a quality of life never experienced by previous generations. At the same time the development of energy resources—California still boasts the nation’s third largest oil productionhelped create a huge industrial base that included aerospace, semiconductors and a host of specialized industries, from logistics to garment manufacturing.

In contrast, Jerry Brown has waged a kind of Oedipal struggle against his father’s legacy. Like many Californians, he recoiled against the sometimes haphazard and even ugly form of development that plowed through much of the state. Cutting off water is arguably the most effective way to stop all development, and promote Brown’s stated goal of eliminating suburban “sprawl.” It is typical that his first target for cutbacks this year has been the “lawns” of the middle-class suburbanite, a species for which he has shown little interest or tolerance.

But it’s not just water that exemplifies the current “era of limits” psychology. Energy development has always been in green crosshairs and their harassment has all but succeeded in helping drive much of the oil and gas industry, including corporate headquarters, out of the state. Not building roads—arguably to be replaced by trains—has not exactly reduced traffic but given California cities the honor of having eight of the top 20 nationally with poor roads; the percentage of Los Angeles area residents who take transit has, if anything, declined slightly since train-building began. All we are left with are impossible freeways, crumbling streets and ever more difficulty doing anything that requires traveling.

The Road to Feudalism

These policies have had numerous impacts, like weakening California’s industrial sector, which cannot afford energy prices that can be twice as high as in competing states. Some of those who might have worked in the factories, warehouses, and farms of California now help swell the numbers of the welfare recipients, who remarkably make up one-third of the nation’s total. As recently as the 1970s and ’80s, the percentage of people living in poverty in California was below the national average; California today, based on cost of living, has the highest poverty rate in the country.  

Of course, the rich and entitled, particularly in Silicon Valley have achieved unprecedented riches, but those middle class Californians once served by Pat have largely been abandoned by his son. California, long a relative beacon of equality and opportunity, now has the fourth highest rate of inequality in the country. For those, who like me, bought their first home over 30 years ago, high housing prices, exacerbated by regulation, are a personal piggybank. But it’s doubtful either of my daughters will ever be able to buy a house here.

What about “green jobs”? California leads in total number of green jobs, simply by dint of size, but on a per-capita basis, a recent Brookings study notes, California is about average. In wind energy, in fact, California is not even in first place; that honor goes to, of all places, Texas, which boasts twice Californias level of production. Today even the New York Timeshas described Gov. Jerry Brown’s promise about creating a half-million new green jobs as something of a “pipe dream.” Even surviving solar firms, busy in part to meet the state’s strict renewable mandates, acknowledge that they won’t be doing much of the manufacturing here, anyway.

The Cost of Narcissism

Ultimately this is a story of a state that has gotten tired, having lost of its “animal spirits” for the policy equivalent of a vegan diet. Increasingly it’s all about how the elites in the state—who cluster along the expensive coastal areas—feel about themselves. Even Brown knows that his environmental agenda will do little, or nothing, to combat climate change, given the already minimal impact of the state on carbon emissions compared to escalating fossil fuel use in China, India and elsewhere. But the cosmopolitan former Jesuit gives more priority to his spiritual service to Gaia than the needs of his non-affluent constituents.

But progressive narcissism is, as some conservatives assert, not the main problem. California greens are, to be sure, active, articulate, well organized, and well-financed. What they lack is an effective counterpoint from the business class, who would be expected to challenge some of their policies. But the business leadership often seem to be more concerned with how to adjust the status quo to serve privileged large businesses, including some in agriculture, than boosting the overall economy. The greens, and their public sector allies, can dominate

not because they are so effective as that

their potential opposition is weak, intimidated, and self-obsessed.

What we are witnessing the breakdown of a once expansive, open society into one dominated by a small group of plutocrats, largely in Silicon Valley, with an “amen” crew among the low-information donors of Hollywood, the public unions, the green lobby and wealthy real estate developers favored by Brown’s pro-density policies. This coalition backs Brown and helps maintain the state’s essentially one party system. No one is more adamant about reducing people’s carbon footprint than the jet-set of Silicon Valley or the state’s planning elite, even if they choose not to live in a manner that they instruct all others.

This fundamentally hypocritical regime remains in place because it works—for the powerful and well-placed. Less understandable is why many Hispanic politicians, such as Assembly Speaker Kevin de Leon, also prioritize “climate change” as his leading issue, without thinking much about how these policies might worsen the massive poverty in his de-industrializing LA districtuntil you realize that de Leon is bankrolled by Tom Steyer and others from the green uberclass.

So, in the end, we are producing a California that is the polar opposite of Pat Brown’s creation. True, it has some virtues: greener, cleaner, and more “progressive” on social issues. But it’s also becoming increasingly feudal, defined by a super-affluent coastal class and an increasingly impoverished interior. As water prices rise, farms and lawns abandoned, there’s little thought about how to create a better future for the bulk of Californians. Like medieval peasants, millions of Californians have been force to submit to the theology of our elected high priest and his acolytes, leaving behind any aspirations that the Golden State can work for them too."

"Joel Kotkin is the RC Hobbs Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University in Orange California and director of the Houston based Center for Opportunity Urbanism."...


Iran Guard commander rejects inspection of military sites, says 'we will respond with hot lead (bullets) to those who speak of it'-AP

4/19/15, "Iran Guard rejects inspection of military sites," AP, Tehran

"A senior commander in Iran's Revolutionary Guard said Sunday that inspectors would be barred from military sites under any nuclear agreement with world powers.
Gen. Hossein Salami, the Guard's deputy leader, said on state TV that allowing the foreign inspection of military sites is tantamount to "selling out."
"We will respond with hot lead (bullets) to those who speak of it," Salami said. "Iran will not become a paradise for spies. We will not roll out the red carpet for the enemy.".

Iran and six world powers -- the U.S., the U.K., France, Germany, China and Russia -- have reached a framework agreement to curb Tehran's nuclear program in return for lifting sanctions, and hope to strike a final deal by June 30.
A fact sheet on the framework accord issued by the State Department said Iran would be required to grant the U.N. nuclear agency access to any "suspicious sites." Iran has questioned that and other language in the fact sheet, notably that sanctions would only be lifted after the International Atomic Energy Agency has verified Tehran's compliance. Iran's leaders have said the sanctions should be lifted on the first day of the implementation of the accord..

The fact sheet said Iran has agreed to implement the Additional Protocol to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which would grant the IAEA expanded access to both declared and undeclared nuclear facilities.

But Salami said allowing foreign inspectors to visit a military base would amount to "occupation," and expose "military and defense secrets." "It means humiliating a nation," Salami said on state TV. "They will not even be permitted to inspect the most normal military site in their dreams."
Iran allowed IAEA inspectors to visit the Parchin military site in 2005 as a confidence-building measure, but denied further visits, fearing espionage.
Western nations have long suspected Iran of secretly pursuing a nuclear weapons capability alongside its civilian program. Tehran denies such allegations, and insists its nuclear program is entirely peaceful." via Lucianne


'Sanitation is something that is very real,' said Earth Day celebrant in Washington, DC, April 18, 2015

"Sanitation is something that is very real," he said. "I understand and cannot turn a blind eye to what's going on."

Above, 4/18/15, "Scenes from the Earth Day concert on the Mall," CRouselle Twitter

Above, 4/18/15, "Crowds here in DC to fight #ClimateChange! (They're just bahind the piles of trash.)-mao #EarthDay #EcoWarrior, The Quotus Twitter


Above, 4/18/15, "Trash left over from #EarthDay2015 celebrations and concert at National Mall #ironyatitsfinest," TomHebert96 Twitter


4/18/15, "Usher, Gwen Stefani, Mary J. Blige headline Earth Day rally, drawing crowd on National Mall," AP, Brett Zongler, via US News

"A daylong Earth Day concert had R&B star Usher dancing on crutches Saturday on the National Mall to rally thousands for political action to confront climate change and poverty.

Usher, Mary J. Blige, Gwen Stefani, Common, Fall Out Boy and Train all performed during the free Global Citizen 2015 Earth Day rally hosted by and Soledad O'Brien....

"To end poverty, it starts, in my opinion, with an education about it," Usher told the crowd. "I want you to go and investigate for yourself so that you can really understand what's going on."

The rally was a joint initiative of the Global Poverty Project and Earth Day Network. It coincides with meetings at the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Usher joined the poverty project at the White House on Friday for a meeting with officials.

"I felt really good that the issues we are addressing here are on the table," he told The Associated Press. After his performance, Usher said his passion is expanding education to help end poverty. But the impacts of climate change also have severe impacts on the world's poor, he said.

"Global warming is something that obviously will affect all of us. Clean water and sanitation is something that is very real," he said. "I understand and cannot turn a blind eye to what's going on."

For his part, played host and said the huge turnout shows people are concerned.... 

The rally also touched on global health and development needs. The U.S. Agency for International Development announced from the stage that it will commit $126 million [US taxpayer dollars] to rebuild West African health care systems that were broken by the Ebola outbreak. The U.S. government already has spent $1.4 billion [US taxpayer dollars] on the crisis to support 10,000 humanitarian responders and to provide equipment, laboratories and training.

While Earth Day is officially on April 22, the Saturday rally asked participants to commit to making environmentally friendly "acts of green." Organizers also asked attendees to sign petitions for a U.N. conference on climate change planned for Paris in December." 


India extends ban on cow slaughter, forces beef off restaurant menus, makes sale of beef punishable by 5 years in prison-NY Times

4/17/15, "A Ban on Beef in India Is Not the Answer," NY Times, continuing op-ed contributor, Manil Suri

"The sacredness of cows in India might be a clich√©, but it is deeply felt, rooted in the history of Hinduism. In Mumbai, one often encounters women selling grass to feed the cow they have in tow — for a few rupees, the donation affords not only a blessing, but also a chance to feel connected to the country’s farmland roots. The cow is divinely associated with Krishna, the cowherd, and considered a mother figure because of the milk it gives. One doesn’t go into an Indian branch of McDonald’s expecting to order a Big Mac.

And yet, beef has long been available at various Mumbai restaurants — from the burger at the iconic Leopold Cafe to the marrowbone curry popular at eateries in Muslim neighborhoods. This reflects the accommodation necessary in a city — and country — with such extraordinary diversity of religion, culture and wealth.

Last month, however, this changed. Beef dishes were forced off the menu when Maharashtra, the country’s second most populous state, which incorporates Mumbai, extended a ban on cow slaughter to bulls and oxen, and made the sale of beef punishable by up to five years in prison. A few weeks later, the state of Haryana passed similar legislation. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s office has suggested that such bills are models for other states to emulate.

The laws have affected more than just restaurants. Thousands of butchers and vendors, their livelihood abruptly suspended, have protested in Mumbai. The leather industry is in turmoil. Beef is consumed not only by Indian Muslims and Christians, but also by many low-caste Hindus, for whom it is an essential source of affordable protein. The poorest waste nothing, from beef innards to coagulated blood, while their religion pragmatically turns a blind eye. Low-caste Dalit Hindu students, and others, have organized beef-eating festivals to protest the infringement on their culture and identity.

With the recent re-criminalization of gay sex, bans on controversial books and films and even an injunction against the use of the colonial-era name “Bombay” instead of “Mumbai” in a Bollywood song, the new laws join a growing list of restrictions on personal freedom in India. Already, the police in the city of Malegaon have arrested three Muslim men accused of calf slaughter, and ordered livestock owners to submit mug shots of cows and bulls to a cattle registry, to create a record in case any of them go missing. 
The Maharashtra law had been in limbo, awaiting the Indian president’s signature for 20 years, but was resurrected only after the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party came to power last year. This suggests its real purpose is to play to the party’s political base.

Some Hindu hard-liners insist the idea of eating beef was introduced by Muslim invaders, despite references to its consumption in ancient texts like the Vedas, written more than a millennium before the time of Muhammad. By eradicating this “alien” practice, they hope to return the country to values they hold dear as Hindus. “Our dream of ban on cow slaughter becomes a reality now,” Maharashtra’s chief minister tweeted upon passage of the new law.

Another problem with such bans is that aged or unwanted cattle must be looked after at great expense (presumably by the state) if they are not to waste away.

The only practical reason advanced by Maharashtrian officials for their law is that it will help farmers hold on to their cattle in hard times, when they might otherwise be tempted to sell. This motivation actually does have historical standing. In fact, it fits in perfectly with a theory on the origination of the beef taboo that the American anthropologist Marvin Harris proposed almost five decades ago.

Mr. Harris observed that more important than their value as milk producers, cattle in India formed the backbone of small-scale agriculture. They were used to plow fields, provide dung for fuel and fertilizer and produce calves to stock the herd. He noted that a family that consumed its cattle during a time of drought and famine was not able to recover afterward: They had lost the means to work the land. Over the years, farmers who preserved their cattle were the ones who survived, leading to this practice’s being gradually codified into religion.

This drama is still being played out in Maharashtra, which in recent years has experienced persistent and devastating drought. Although religious rules ensured that a farmer would no longer eat his cattle, he could still succumb to the modern equivalent — selling it for slaughter, usually at throwaway prices. The beef ban, then, can be interpreted as an extension of the religious proscription: Thou shalt neither eat nor sell thy cattle.

Unfortunately, the situation in Maharashtra has deteriorated past the point where such a ban will help. Previous governments have squandered billions of dollars on failed irrigation schemes, while encouraging water-intensive crops like sugar cane in drought-prone areas. Farmers are desperate: On average since 2011, there have been four suicides of Maharashtrian farmers every day. Rather than ancient proscriptions, they need a financial safety net and responsible agricultural policies in order to deal with the current situation and probably worse climate change effects to come.
Indian civilization has evolved over the centuries to include multiple diverse communities with competing interests. Despite its secular Constitution, India remains strikingly unequal. The government must make every effort to balance majority sentiments with minority needs. This is what the previous rules that restricted cow, but not bull, slaughter did.

Imposing ideals from a mythic past is not the answer. The true lesson to take away from history is how utilitarian goals can shape religious custom. Hinduism has always been a pragmatic religion; what today’s India needs is accommodation.
Manil Suri is the author of the novel “The City of Devi” and a mathematics professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County."


Saturday, April 18, 2015

Marco Rubio en Espanol in Univision interview says Dreamer Executive Amnesty is important, he wouldn't end it as President, would make it part of new immigration law

4/17/15, "Marco Rubio in Spanish: Obama’s First Executive Amnesty ‘Important,’ People ‘Benefiting from It’," Breitbart, Matthew Boyle

"Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), a 2016 GOP presidential candidate, said he believes that President Barack Obama’s first executive amnesty for so-called DREAMers—the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)—is “important” and he won’t reverse it himself if elected president. He delivered these remarks in a Spanish-language interview he gave to Univision’s Jorge Ramos.
I believe DACA is important. It can’t be terminated from one moment to the next, because there are already people benefiting from it,” Rubio said in Spanish on Ramos’s television program, according to an English translation provided by the media service Grabien. “But yes, it is going to have to end. 

It can’t be the permanent policy of the United States, and I don’t think that’s what they’re asking either. I think everyone prefers immigration reform.

Ramos followed up, according to the translation, by asking: “But then, to clarify, you would put an end to DACA once immigration reform is approved, but what would happen, Senator, if there is no immigration reform; would you cancel DACA anyway?

Rubio answered that DACA will end only when a legislative substitute with the exact same or similar policy prescriptions—a legislative amnesty for illegal alien minors—is implemented. He also said in Spanish that, if elected president, he believes that America cannot deport illegal aliens here in the country right now, and he expects a legislative solution will be implemented that essentially has all the parts of the massively controversial “Gang of Eight” bill that he would pass piece-by-piece.

“Well, at some point it is going to have to end, that is to say, it can’t continue being the permanent policy of the United States,” Rubio said. “I believe, if I become President, it is going to be possible to achieve immigration reform. It is not going to be comprehensive, that is to say, it is not going to all be in one massive bill. We already tried that a few years ago. We’ve seen there isn’t political support for it and I think we’ve wasted a lot of time in this process, when we could have made progress through the steps I’ve advocated.

“Unfortunately, a lot has been spent with that, it’s become an even more controversial subject, more difficult to make progress on, but I’m still saying it’s important to modernize our system and that means improving the way we enforce in the future, modernizing the immigration system so that it isn’t as costly and bureaucratic, and we have to deal with the 12 million human beings who are here and no one, no one is advocating a plan to deport 12 million people, so that topic has to be dealt with as well.”

Rubio’s comment, targeted toward Spanish speakers, that he would keep Obama’s first executive amnesty—enacted outside the purview of Congress—in effect, until passing a legislative substitute with nearly identical policies, puts him at odds with virtually the rest of the Republican field except for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rand Paul (R-KY) and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal have each said that on day one as president, they would immediately undo Obama’s unconstitutional and illegal executive overreaches—including DACA, as it was started without congressional approval—rather than trying to wait for a legislative solution.

Further, Rubio is calling DACA “important,” though it’s widely understood in the political world that this program caused the border crisis last summer and will likely lead to a future border crisis. Rubio’s comments endorse a policy that, in effect, brought tens of thousands of migrant children streaming across the border illegally and risking their lives to get into America with hopes of getting an unlawful amnesty.

The last time Rubio tried to push immigration rhetoric like this—the Gang of Eight bill back in 2013—he saw a significant drop in the polls. As he continues exposing his true beliefs when it comes to immigration matters, his emotional rhetoric as a presidential candidate will be undercut by his support of policies the Republican electorate is vehemently opposed to like Obama’s executive amnesty.

Ann Coulter, the massively influential conservative columnist, has said that Rubio “can’t be serious” in running for president after exposing his wildly unpopular immigration views, and he seems to be angling for a vice presidential slot.

“I think he’s running for a vice presidential slot,” Coulter said of Rubio on Fox News. “This can’t be serious.”

It’s also worth noting that pandering on immigration to the Hispanic community as much as Bush or Rubio have does not mean Republicans have any better chance at gaining support in such communities.

Bush, who along with Rubio is the most liberal on immigration in the 2016 field and thinks of himself as an “honorary Hispanic” and even checked the race as his own on a voter registration card—something he and his campaign have tried to laugh off since the story broke—is polling worse among Hispanics than even Mitt Romney got in 2012.

Romney, who was berated for his “self-deport” line, got by most estimations about 29 percent of the Hispanic vote in the 2012 election against President Barack Obama. Yet Bush, according to two recent ABC News and Washington Post polls, trails former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton among Hispanic voters by an even worse margin than by which Romney lost—71 percent for Clinton to 26 percent for Bush.

Perhaps most importantly, however, is that Rubio’s comments to Ramos in Spanish show that he’s significantly further left than the majority of Republicans in Congress on this issue. Earlier this year, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an amendment–and then passed legislation containing it–from Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) that would have withheld taxpayer funding for Obama’s DACA executive amnesty.

While 26 of the most liberal Republicans in the House voted against that amendment, it passed onto the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funding bill, then passed the House. Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC), who is going to face conservative Frank Roche in a rematch in her primary next year, led the charge among those liberal Republicans to try to derail Blackburn’s amendment. Ellmers failed in the end.

When Rubio announced he was running for president, too, he actually argued he’s done more for illegal aliens than Hillary Clinton has.

“Well, I don’t know about others, but I’ve done more immigration than Hillary Clinton ever did,” Rubio said in an interview with National Public Radio. “I mean, I helped pass an immigration bill in a Senate dominated by Democrats. And that’s more than she’s ever done. She’s given speeches on it, but she’s never done anything on it.”" via Free Rep.


Comment: Mr. Rubio, what's so bad about Mexico and Central America that much of the population is desperate to leave? Why over many decades do these countries continue to be failed, terror states? If these states aren't crimes against humanity what is? If you were even slightly humane or intelligent wouldn't you think this matter needs addressing? There's no sign these countries will get better especially since they have every incentive to get worse. Mr. Rubio and his pals already view Mexico and Central America as their voter base. 


ISIS claims credit for suicide bombing in Afghanistan, at least 33 dead, 100 injured including children-BBC

4/18/15, "Afghanistan suicide bomb in Jalalabad leaves many dead," BBC

"At least 33 people have been killed and 100 injured in a suicide bomb attack in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad.

The blast happened outside a bank where government staff and military personnel were collecting their salaries.

A spokesman for a group claiming to represent Islamic State in Afghanistan said it carried out the attack, though the BBC cannot verify the claim.

The BBC's Shahzheb Jillani in Kabul says it is the largest attack in Jalalabad in many months.

Children are said to be among the victims."...


Tina Fey spotted for first time since suicide of dermatologist who had been mocked on her Netflix show

4/6/15, "Dr. Brandt Reportedly Dead of Suicide After Unflattering Portrayal on ‘Kimmy Schmidt’," Observer, Molly Mulshine

Fey, 4/17/15

"Martin Short's thinly veiled skewering of the famed dermatologist allegedly left him "devastated.""

"Celebrity dermatologist Frederic Brandt died in Miami over the weekend, Page Six reports. His cause of death is unclear at this point and his publicist has refused to comment on specifics, but Miami Herald reporter Lesley Abranavel says her sources pegged his death as a suicide, and said he had been suffering from depression. The Daily Mail and the New York Post report that an apparent parody of him on the Netflix show Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt exacerbated his depression.

The show definitely deeply hurt him, his publicist told the Post. “He was being made fun of because of the way he looks.”

On Kimmy Schmidt, Tina Fey’s much-lauded Netflix series, Martin Short plays a dermatologist who is a doppelganger for Dr. Brandt. The New York Post picked up on the similarities weeks ago. Mr. Short’s character, Dr. Grant, has the same hairstyle as the real-life Dr. Brandt did....

The show’s creators have never confirmed that Dr. Grant was meant to be a send-up of Dr. Brandt, but it’s pretty clear that they had the famed doctor in mind when creating that character....

Of course, if the show’s nasty characterization of him did contribute in any way to Dr. Brandt’s depression, Tina Fey and the writers of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt are not to blame. Depression causes suicide—outside forces and the actions of others do not. 
Still, the situation brings up some questions about whether Kimmy Schmidt‘s thinly veiled portrayal of the doctor was in poor taste. The best kind of satire punches up in an attempt to mock those in power. Was Dr. Brandt really that powerful? He didn’t create the beauty standards that send women to the plastic surgeon’s office to fix their perceived imperfections. His clients were consenting adults who sought out his services because they wanted them. To suggest otherwise is condescending and sexist.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt did not need to name their Dr. brandt character Dr. Grant, and they could have given him a different hairstyle. Such a scathing send-up of plastic surgery culture would have been just as effective without blatantly mocking someone who apparently had mental health issues. Dr. Brandt is only famous to people who are in the know about dermatology and cosmetic treatments. The Dr. Grant character worked whether or not viewers were familiar with Dr. Brandt.

In fact, after watching the show and laughing at the Dr. Grant character, one felt a bit guilty upon learning the character was a spot-on impersonation of a someone who was, by all accounts, a very nice guy. The Dr. Grant character would have worked just as well if his name was Dr. Jones and he had a different hairstyle. Choosing to base the character on an actual person who is not a public figure feels mean-spirited.

Regardless of whether Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt contributed to Dr. Brandt’s depression, perhaps his death is a wake-up call
for the rest of us. Making fun of someone’s face is mean and unnecessary, whether their appearance is the result of cosmetic enhancement or not."

Image: "Tina Fey (above) was spotted for the first time since the suicide of Dr. Fredric Brandt on Friday," by Jae Donnelly

4/17/15, "Solemn Tina Fey spotted for the first time since suicide of Dr. Fredric Brandt who was said to be devastated over his caricature on her show Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt," UK Daily Mail


4/5/15, "Famed dermatologist to the stars hanged himself aged 65 at his Miami mansion after being left 'devastated' by comparisons to Martin Short's doctor character in the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt," UK Daily Mail, By Kelly Mclaughlin For and Louise Boyle For

"Miami Herald columnist Lesley Abravanel told Daily Mail Online exclusively that sources close to Dr Brandt said he had hanged himself.

The City of Miami Police Department confirmed that Dr Brandt's death was a suicide by hanging on Monday.  

Abravanel said Brandt, 65, was 'devastated' recently over rumors comparing him to a character on the Netflix show, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt."... 



Sand and dust storms hit China, Middle East, and Northern Africa in 2015, Northern Sahara dust can be carried by high winds before landing as far away as UK. Greatest effects are closest to major dust sources, number of storms varies over decades-UK Daily Mail, Thornhill

4/17/15, "Mystery of the dust storms sweeping the world: Experts baffled by spate of 'haboobs' which have brought travel chaos and turned day into night in cities thousands of miles from deserts," UK Daily Mail, Ted Thornhill

"This year has seen a rash of massive dust storms around the world that have led to travel chaos and blocked out sunlight - but experts cannot pinpoint the reason behind the spate.

NW China, 2015

This week incredible footage showed the moment an unusual 'apocalyptic' dust storm, known in Arabic as a haboob, struck Belarus, turning day to night, and China has suffered four massive sandstorms since the start of the year.

NW China, 2015

Some experts have said that climate change bringing excessive heat can make some areas more susceptible to dust storms, but one European scientist pointed out that the number of dust storms over the decades has always been variable.
The footage of the dust storm in Belarus, filmed from a high rise apartment, shows traffic moving along a busy street in the province of Salihorsk, south of the capital of Minsk on Monday afternoon. As dark clouds move over the city, the entire area is plunged into darkness - forcing motorists to turn on their lights as they navigate the darkened roads.

Dr Steven Godby, a geographer researching the effects of blown sand and dust at Nottingham Trent University, explained how these events can occur. 

'The dust is produced from source areas in North Africa, incorporated into a northerly airflow and can travel long distances before being desposited as far away as the UK.
'However, the events we experience are small scale compared to those experienced closer to major dust sources

And incredible pictures also taken at the beginning of April showed the moment ferocious red sandstorms devoured a city in China's north west.

Golmud, China, 2015

China's pollution hit cities are now having to cope with a fresh nuisance - the massive sandstorm that struck the north-west of the country being the fourth this year alone.

The images show the city of Golmud, in the country's north west Qinghai Province, as it succumbs to a sweeping half-hour sandstorm which reduced the visibility to as little as 30 metres, according to The People's Daily Online.

China's National Meteorological Centre (NMC) issued a blue alert for the sandstorms.

The red sand swept across the northern part of the country bringing strong winds and floating sand to the regions of Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, Gansu, Ningxia and Shaanxi. 

The organisation advised residents to stay indoors and local authorities to brace for the clean-up operation after the sandstorms.

China's four-tier colour-coded weather warning system signifies red as the most severe followed by orange, yellow and blue.

Photos of the city of Dunhuang in the north-western province of Gansu show the thick orange haze coating the city's atmosphere and the lack of people on the streets gave the area an almost alien planet appearance.

A local meteorologist said visibility was reduced to less than 50metres in downtown areas.

Clouds of dirt engulfed the town of Bedourie, in Queensland's south-west, bringing with it a thick, dusty night for more than 90 minutes. 

And in February raging sandstorms engulfed Israel, Palestine, Lebanon and Egypt causing the worst Israeli air pollution in years and whipping up huge waves in the Mediterranean Sea. 

The storm, made up of accumulated dust carried from the far reaches of the Sahara Desert in North Africa also engulfed Cairo. 

4/4/15, Storm stretches to Paki, India, NASA

Israel's Environmental Protection Ministry said air pollution levels were the country's worst in five years. The sandstorm that engulfed the Arabian Peninsula, meanwhile, wrecked havoc across the area, causing traffic accidents, the cancellation of hundreds of flights and triggering breathing difficulties among residents.

It began on April 1, when high winds whipped up the sandstorm in northern Saudi Arabia before it consolidated and began moving southeastward across the peninsula to eventually cover an area almost as large as the United States, Discover Magazine reported. Along the way it caused chaos across the area's major cities including Riyadh and Dubai, where some locations were reduced to zero visibility, streets turned a shade of orange and schools were forced shut.

The Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies said: 'The blowing sand reduced surface visibility to near zero at some locations, disrupting ground transportation, air traffic, and also closing schools.

'Visibility was reduced to 0.1 mile for several hours at Dubai International Airport, which is one of the world’s busiest in terms of volume of flights.'

More than 450 Saudi Arabian Airlines flights were cancelled between across three days which equalled 33 per cent of the carrier's 1,526 scheduled flights, the Saudi Gazette reported.

On top of this, 678 flights were delayed and another 19 rerouted from airports in Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam. 

Dr Emilio Cuevas-Agulló, director of the Izana Atmospheric Research Center in Tenerife, Spain, told MailOnline that while it was difficult to say if there have been an increase in dust storms generally, population and urban growth in desert regions means an increased risk of people being affected by them.

He said: ‘We are more aware of the problem since we have much better monitoring, mainly from satellites, and forecast systems, in the last five to 10 years, and because the population growth and corresponding infrastructures increase in desert and arid regions, in recent decades, increasing vulnerability to the same dust episodes.’

He added: ‘Our longest dust records over the North Atlantic, downwind from the Sahara desert, which started in late 1970s show a great inter-annual variability and decadal changes, but we don't really see positive trends.’

A Nasa study said: 'Approximately half of the dust in today's atmosphere may be the result of changes to the environment caused by human activity, including agriculture, overgrazing, and the cutting down of forests.'"


Intense red dust storm in Russia "created by a cold front:"

"An “apocalyptical” storm swept through several regions in Belarus, including the capital. But it was in the city of Soligorsk where clouds as black as ink obscured the sun light, while strong winds ushered in a sand storm.

Soligorsk residents, about 120 kilometers from the capital Minsk, were both scared and excited by the weather phenomenon that hit Belarus on Monday. At around 17:00 local time, darkness descended on the city with over 100,000 residents opting to stay indoors. 

People reportedly had to move around several districts with flashlights. The storm’s heavy rains led to electricity being cut off, trees falling down and damage to buildings.  

The country’s Emergency Ministry reported about 46 communities in the Minsk region suffered various kinds of damage. The capital city was also hit by storm force winds and torrential rain, but no emergency situations were reported. 

The epic storm was created by a cold front on the Ukrainian-Belorusian border that later reached the Carpathian Mountains in an event that is quite rare for this time of the year. Meteorologists called the natural phenomenon a “haboob,” which means an intense red dust storm in Arabic." via Drudge


Image captions:

1. "A raging sand storm sweeps in on the city of Golmud in north west China, where 200,000 people live"

2. "The sandstorm was the fourth to hit the area this year as authorities struggle to deal with the natural hazards"

3. "Blurred: The Shard, one of London's most iconic buildings, is pictured shrouded in 'blood rain' earlier this month," image by Geoff Robinson

4. "Golmud (NW China) was left covered in a remarkable red haze when the sand cloud blew across the city"
5. "On April 1 a sandstorm could be seen enveloping much of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates," NASA
6. "By April 4, it was beginning to stretch across the Arabia Sea towards Pakistan and India," NASA