Satellite observations show sea levels rising, and climate change is accelerating

Satellite observations show sea levels rising, and climate change is accelerating it (Source CNN)

Sea level rise is happening now, and the rate at which it is rising is increasing every year, according to a study released Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Researchers, led by University of Colorado-Boulder professor of aerospace engineering sciences Steve Nerem, used satellite data dating to 1993 to observe the levels of the world’s oceans. Changes in sea level observed between 1992 and 2014. Orange/red colors represent higher sea levels, while blue colors show where sea levels are lower. Using satellite data rather than tide-gauge data that is normally used to measure sea levels allows for more precise estimates of global sea level, since it provides measurements of the open ocean. Sea level rise of 65 centimeters, or roughly 2 feet, would cause significant problems for coastal cities around the world. Extreme water levels, such as high tides and surges from strong storms, would be made exponentially worse. Consider the record set in Boston Harbor during January’s “bomb cyclone” or the inundation regularly experienced in Miami during the King tides; these are occurring with sea levels that have risen about a foot in the past 100 years.

Florida suspect said he heard voices telling him to carry out massacre

Florida suspect said he heard voices telling him to carry out massacre, law enforcement sources say (Source ABC News)

The 19-year-old who is accused of killing 17 people and injuring dozens more when he opened fire on a South Florida high school Wednesday afternoon told investigators that he heard voices in his head, giving him instructions on what to do to conduct the attack, law enforcement sources told ABC News. The voices were described as “demons” by law enforcement sources. An attorney for the family who had taken Cruz in after his adoptive mother died said he was “depressed” following her death but had been going to therapy, while a student who participated in Junior ROTC with Cruz described him as a “psycho” who was enthusiastic about weapons. Cruz was apprehended by police more than an hour after he was dropped off on campus by an Uber, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said in a press conference. Cruz attended Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school from Jan. 13, 2016, to Feb. 8, 2017, according to school records obtained by ABC Miami affiliate WPLG. Cruz had bought the weapon allegedly used on the crime just three days after his last day attending the school, on Feb. 11, and picked it up one week later on Feb. 18, 2017, following a background check, an attorney for the gun store owner said in a statement. An assault involving Cruz occurred on Jan. 19, 2017, the records show. On that same day, he was suspended for one day and a threat assessment was ordered for him. He had been suspended for two days one month earlier. It is unclear what the result of the threat assessment was or whether one was even conducted. School officials declined to answer questions about Cruz’s record, citing privacy rules.

Cash or custody: Israel kicks off deportation of African migrants

Cash or custody: Israel kicks off deportation of African migrants (Source Reuters) Israel has started handing out notices to 20,000 male African migrants giving them two months to leave the country or risk being thrown in jail. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is offering the migrants, most of whom are from Sudan and Eritrea, $3,500 and a plane ticket to what it says is a safe destination in another country in sub-Saharan Africa. The fate of some 37,000 Africans in Israel is posing a moral dilemma for a state founded as haven for Jews from persecution and a national home. The right-wing government is under pressure from its nationalist voter base to expel the migrants, while others are calling for them to be taken in.

The government says the migrants are “infiltrators” looking for work rather than asylum, but there is a growing liberal backlash against the plan, including from rabbis, a small group of survivors of the Nazi Holocaust and ordinary people who say Israel should show greater compassion to the migrants. The first eviction notices were handed out on Sunday and job advertisements for immigration inspectors to implement the deportation plan have been posted on government websites. Rights groups advocating on behalf of the migrants say many fled abuse and war and their expulsion, even to a different country in Africa, would endanger them further. “I don’t know what to do. Rwanda, Uganda are not my countries, what will a third country help me?” said Eritrean Berihu Ainom, after receiving an eviction notice on Sunday. The deportation notices do not name the country migrants will be flown to but Netanyahu has said it will be a safe destination. Rights groups have named Uganda and Rwanda as possible host countries. In a poor neighborhood in the south of Tel Aviv that has attracted thousands of African migrants, shops are dotted with signs in Tigrinya and other African languages while abandoned warehouses have been converted into churches.

“I came to Israel to save my life,” said Eritrean Afoworki Kidane, sitting on a street bench. He said he would rather go to jail than take the cash and plane ticket on offer to leave the country that has been his home for nine years.



Slave owner compensation was still being paid off by British taxpayers in “15

Slave owner compensation was still being paid off by British taxpayers in 2015 (Source RT)

Bristol taxpayers in 2015 were still paying off debt borrowed by the government to “compensate” slave owners in 1833, the Treasury has revealed. The revelations show that the £20 million (US$28 million) the government spent to reimburse the owners of slaves – who themselves were some of Britain’s richest businessmen – took the taxpayer 182 years to pay off. The descendants of slaves were never compensated, but it appears some would have been paying to compensation slave owners. The information was revealed by the Treasury under a Freedom of Information (FoI) request, the Bristol Post reports. It added an infographic which said: “Did you know? In 1833, Britain used £20 million, 40 percent of its national budget, to buy freedom for all slaves in the Empire. “The amount of money borrowed for the Slavery Abolition Act was so large that it wasn’t paid off until 2015. Which means living British citizens helped pay to end the slave trade.” The tweet was quickly deleted after it sparked a backlash. Historian David Olusoga, who has written about Bristol’s role in the slave trade, was one of several experts who questioned the tone of the Treasury’s tweet. “The real question is why anyone thought this was ok?” he said, according to the newspaper. “I really do think we’re getting better at accepting the UK’s role in slavery and the slave trade, but things like this make me question my optimism. “Also, just to compound the general level of ignorance, when HM Treasury reduce the complex story of the abolition of slavery to one of their fun ‘Friday Facts’ they use an irrelevant image of the slave trade – which was abolished three decades earlier.” Bristol City councilor Cleo Lake said she was outraged. “I want my money back,” she tweeted. “I’m outraged. This messaging is so loaded.” When the UK government abolished slavery and banned people from owning slaves in Britain and on Britain’s colonies anywhere in the world, those slave owners received compensation. Bristol had the highest concentration of people in Britain who owned slaves in 1833 outside of London. The slaves themselves received nothing, and had to continue working for their masters for a number of years before they could consider being free.

China and Russia ‘preparing for war with West’

China and Russia ‘preparing for war with West’ (Source China and Russia could soon match the military might of the US and her allies – and the decline of western supremacy could lead to all-out war. Those are the conclusions of a report by the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS), which says that although war between the great powers is not inevitable, Washington, Moscow and Beijing are now preparing for the possibility. The IISS’s annual Military Balance 2018 report sets out at length how China’s leadership has stepped up its military programme in recent years, with huge spending on new technology that could give it an advantage on land, sea and air.

The opening of China’s first overseas military base in Djibouti will enable it to carry out missions over vast distances, and has been viewed as a major statement of intent.

While the pace of militarisation is slower in Russia, partly due to a shortage of funding and industrial capacity, the country is “benefiting from experience of real life combat in Syria and Ukraine and has shown extensive capabilities in the field of hybrid warfare including cyber attacks”, says The Independent. The Foreign Office said last night that the Russian military was reponsible for the NotPetya cyber attack on Ukraine last year. In a bid to combat the growing threat posed by Russia and China, reports CNN, the US Pentagon is asking for a boost in military spending for 2019, requesting Congress approve a budget of $686bn – one of the largest in US history.

Van Jones: ‘Black Panther’ is a revelation

Van Jones: ‘Black Panther’ is a revelation (Source CNN)

Every once in a while, a movie arrives right on time.

Earlier this year President Trump insulted people of African heritage when he referred to Haiti and African nations as “shithole countries.” His words were an affront to countless Americans and people across the world; they flew in the face of American values of respect for diversity and opening doors of opportunity to all. But while the White House is putting down people of African descent, Hollywood is lifting us up — most spectacularly through the release of Disney-Marvel’s new movie, “Black Panther.” “Black Panther” is a long-awaited film. It brings to life a technologically advanced, culturally rich mecca of black excellence. It takes place in Wakanda — a fictional, fully autonomous African nation, rich in resources and innovation. The nation is home to a brilliant ecosystem of black technologists. It is a sight to behold. A cinematic vision of black genius, accomplishment and prosperity that is rarely portrayed. And one I am so excited to witness. I had the privilege of watching the film while seated in front of Denzel Washington, beside Whoopi Goldberg and in the company of almost every major black actor and celebrity on the east coast: Chris Rock, Gayle King, Tyra Banks, Robin Roberts and more. Denzel was moved to tears by the movie, said he felt like a proud father, and predicted it would make a billion dollars.

This film is a godsend that will lift the self-esteem of black children in the US and around the world for a long time. It shifts the understanding of where the power of African-descended people can come from. It underscores the fact that such power, in the new century, will come from access to technology more than any other source, and will inspire young people of color to pursue technology as a possible career path. The film also manages to be radically pro-woman without being in the least bit anti-male. And will therefore give young women and men a reason to believe in themselves and their own capacity.


Proposed bill would make marijuana legal in entire state of Georgia

Proposed bill would make marijuana legal in entire state of Georgia (Source

There is a new proposal to legalize marijuana in Georgia for the entire state. Right now, the bill is going through the State Senate. When it comes to marijuana, we know attitudes are changing. In October, Atlanta decriminalized small amounts of marijuana in the city, and DeKalb County commissioners announced in January that they are doing the same.

We spoke to a State Senator about the need legalize it statewide. “To get rid of the gangs, to get rid of the organized crime unit, that is the only way to do it is to do it state +96wide,” said State Senator Curt Thompson of Norcross. Thompson and five other Democratic Senators from across the state are backing Senate Bill 614. It would legalize marijuana in the state of Georgia, and regulate the proceeds from its sale, allowing anyone over the age of 21 to purchase small amounts for personal use. “That is real money that we are simply leaving on the table,” said Thompson. The potential economic impact would be huge.


A Houston Company Dumped Cancer-Causing Chemicals into a Hood

A HOUSTON COMPANY DUMPED CANCER-CAUSING CHEMICALS INTO A NEIGHBORHOOD STORM DRAIN (Source QUARTZ) Houston is home to the largest petrochemical complex in the US. Often nestled within residential neighborhoods, chemical plants, oil refineries, and the myriad businesses that support them often operate with little oversight. Now one, Wright Containers—a company that deals in used industrial plastic containers meant to hold 330 gallons of hazardous liquid at a time—is facing felony charges that could land its managers in prison for 10 years. Prosecutors say they hope the case will spark a new era of making companies accountable for environmental crimes in a city where that’s unusual, the Houston Chronicle reports. Wright Containers is accused of instructing employees to dump the residual toxic chemicals they routinely handled down a storm drain. The company stacked their large plastic containers, known as “totes,” around the storm drain to conceal it from public view, prosecutors said. It went unnoticed for months. But employees who were injured by exposure to the chemicals became whistleblowers, alerting authorities. The site is a half-mile from an elementary school, three-quarters of a mile from a second elementary school, and a mile from a junior high. The Chronicle notes that it is also in close proximity to hundreds of homes. When police showed up, they smelled noxious fumes and “felt more nauseous the closer they got to the drain,” Alex Forrest, chief of the environmental crimes division of the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, told the Chronicle. “Some of the chemicals would burn the skin off your bones,” he said. On Feb. 2, the company was indicted on felony charges in a county court. The Chronicle called the indictment “rare” in a city in which “materials facilities have been allowed to flourish in the city’s unzoned sprawl,” where “catching chemical waste dumpers — or merely getting an inventory of all the haz-mat sites around town — has proven difficult for the Houston Fire Department.” The chemicals dumped included benzene—which causes cancer in humans—along with dichloromethaneethylbenzene and toluene, which are all either respiratory irritants, hormone disruptors, or probable carcinogens. The storm drain was connected to Simms Bayou, which flows into Galveston Bay.

Houston is notorious for its many toxic, federal Superfund sites, oil refineries, and industrial complexes, many of which are clustered near Latino or low-income neighborhoods. Those neighborhoods were in the spotlight when Hurricane Harvey hit, flooding waste sites and causing refineries to far exceed their permitted air pollution limits, releasing millions of pounds of pollutants into the air and water. And those communities have long faced “more exposure to air toxics than almost anywhere in the country,” according to Daniel Cohan, associate professor of environmental engineering at Rice University, who specializes in air pollution.

Earth’s Poles Could Be’ About To Flip’

Earth’s Poles Could Be ‘About To Flip’ (Source The Earth’s magnetic poles could be about to flip, sparking chaos and making large parts of the planet uninhabitable, a new study claims. Science author Alanna Mitchell has delivered the stark warning in an article that declares the Earth is “under attack from within” and that a shift in poles could have dire consequences. Ms Mitchell warned that a shift means the important shield surrounding the Earth called a magnetic field could be “compromised for centuries”. She wrote: “Because grids are so tightly coupled with each other, failure would race across the globe, causing a domino run of blackouts that could last for decades.

“The shield could be compromised for centuries while the poles move, allowing malevolent radiation closer to the surface of the planet for that whole time. Already, changes within the Earth have weakened the field over the South Atlantic so much that satellites exposed to the resulting radiation have experienced memory failure.

“It turns out that the dipole — the orderly two-pole magnetic field our compasses respond to — is under attack from within. “The Earth’s magnetic field protects our planet from dangerous solar and cosmic rays, like a giant shield. As the poles switch places (or try to), that shield is weakened; scientists estimate that it could waste away to as little as a tenth of its usual force.”

China and the Vatican are close to a groundbreaking agreement

China and the Vatican are close to a groundbreaking agreement (Source

An accord between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China “is almost made” and could be signed in the coming months, thereby opening a new phase in the relations between them, according to a senior Vatican source informed on the secret negotiations between the two sides.

The source, who requested anonymity, told America Magazine that the negotiations have reached this crucial stage following the visit by a Holy See delegation to Beijing last December when, for the first time since the Chinese communist government expelled the papal nuncio from China in 1951, Vatican officials were able to meet and speak with two bishops from the underground church community.

The Holy See’s five-person delegation, led by Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, who has been involved in Sino-Vatican relations since 1983, traveled to Beijing just before Christmas for another meeting of the Joint Working Group that was established in 2014. The J.W.G. was set up after the two sides signed a framework document of intent regarding the nomination of bishops. It was tasked with resolving the various problematic elements in that text. Since then, it has met around 12 times, alternately in Beijing and the Vatican. In previous sessions, it reached agreement on most of the key issues in the framework text, including the most important one for the Holy See: that the pope shall have the final say in the nomination of bishops.