Ticks Rising ~ Lyme, the first epidemic of climate change

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Mary Beth Pfeiffer, an investigative journalist for three decades, began reporting on Lyme disease in 2012 for the Poughkeepsie Journal. Her latest book is Lyme: The First Epidemic of Climate

Evolution has endowed the big-footed snowshoe hare with a particularly nifty skill. Over a period of about 10 weeks, as autumn days shorten in the high peaks and boreal forests, the nimble nocturnal hare transforms itself. Where it was once a tawny brown to match the pine needles and twigs amid which it forages, the hare turns silvery white, just in time for the falling of winter snow. This transformation is no inconsequential feat. Lepus americanus, as it is formally known, is able to jump 10 feet and run at a speed of 27 miles per hour, propelled by powerful hind legs and a fierce instinct to live. But it nonetheless ends up, 86 per cent of the time by one study, as a meal for a lynx, red fox, coyote, or even a goshawk or great horned owl. The change of coat is a way to remain invisible, to hide in the brush or fly over the snow unseen, long enough at least to keep the species going.

Snowshoe hares are widely spread throughout the colder, higher reaches of North America – in the wilderness of western Montana, on the coniferous slopes of Alaska, and in the forbidding reaches of the Canadian Yukon. The Yukon is part of the Beringia, an ancient swathe of territory that linked Siberia and North America by a land bridge that, with the passing of the last Ice Age 11,000 years ago, gave way to the Bering Strait. All manner of mammals, plants and insects ferried east and west across that bridge, creating, over thousands of years, the rich boreal forest. But in this place, north of the 60-degree latitude, the axiom of life coloured by stinging cold, early snow and concrete ribbons of ice has been upended in the cosmic blink of an eye. The average temperature has increased by 2 degrees Celsius in the past half century, and by 4 degrees Celsius in the winter. Glaciers are rapidly receding, releasing ancient torrents of water into Kluane Lake, a 150-square-mile reflecting pool that has been called a crown jewel of the Yukon. Lightning storms, ice jams, forest fires, rain – these things are suddenly more common. Permafrost is disappearing.

Such rapid-fire changes across a broad swathe of northern latitudes are testing the adaptive abilities of the snowshoe hare, however swift and nimble it might be. Snow arrives later. Snow melts earlier. But the hare changes its coat according to a long-set schedule, which is to say that the snowshoe is sometimes snowy white when its element is still robustly brown. And that makes it an easier target for prey. In 2016, wildlife biologists who tracked the hares in a rugged wilderness in Montana gave this phenomenon a name: ‘climate change-induced camouflage mismatch’. The hares moulted as they always had. It’s just that the snow didn’t come. Survival rates dropped by 7 per cent as predation increased.

In order to outwit its newest enemy – warmer winters – snowshoe hares would need something in the order of a natural miracle, what the biologists, writing in the journal Ecology Letters, called an ‘evolutionary rescue’. Like the Yukon, this pristine corner of Montana was projected to lose yet more snow cover; there would be perhaps an additional month of bare forest floor by the middle of this century, on which snowshoe hares would stand out like bright white balloons.

~~~  CONTINUE  ~~~

In Cuba, the Castro era ends this week as Raúl steps down as ruler ~ An end of an era for many of us … The Washington Post

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Through the Space Age, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Internet era, Cubans held one constant: A Castro ruled the nation.

That is about to change.

Raúl Castro, 86, is expected to step aside as Cuba’s president this week, ending the epochal run of two brothers who sent shock waves through 20th-century politics. Nearly two decades into this century, and less than two years after Fidel Castro’s death, his brother’s exit from Cuba’s top job leaves this insular island at a crossroads, weighing how fast, if at all, to embrace change.

“This is an important moment for Cuba, but the truth is, nobody knows what to expect,” said Camilo Condis, general manager of Artecorte, a community project in Havana. “I mean, other than Fidel and Raúl, who is there? You didn’t really know anyone else.”

 

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“It’s about Raúl Castro saying, ‘I am president, but I have a term, and then someone else is going to lead . . . . If you are someone who really wants the regime to endure, it’s what Raúl needs to do.”

The transition is happening at a time when a decade-long opening under Castro has already begun to alter the fabric of Cuban life. Access to the Internet is still subpar, but hotspots are more widely available than ever before. There are now more than 5 million cellphones in this nation of 11.5 million people. More than 550,000 Cubans work in the private sector. After years in which Cubans were forced to obtain permission to leave the country, Cubans these days can travel freely. It is now possible to buy and sell real estate.

Yet in a country where streets are still swimming in 1950s Chevys and Fords, Cuban life can feel stuck in time, and plagued with problems that never really went away. Locals talk of periodic shortages — eggs, potatoes, toilet paper. In a potential sign of discontent, turnout in recent municipal elections stood at 82.5 percent — the lowest in four decades, and a stunningly low number in a country where citizens face high pressure to vote.

Sean Hannity’s idea of ‘attorney-client privilege’ was right out of ‘Breaking Bad

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Sean Hannity of Fox News Channel, left (Getty); actor Bob Odenkirk of “Better Call Saul.”

On Monday, Sean Hannity walked himself right into an awkward comparison.

It happened after the bombshell revelation in a Manhattan courtroom that Trump attorney Michael Cohen’s client list included the Fox News Channel host. On his afternoon radio show, Hannity explained that his relationship with Cohen was limited to a few “brief discussions” about business matters.

“I might have handed him 10 bucks [and said,] ‘I definitely want your attorney-client privilege on this,’ ” Hannity told listeners Monday afternoon. “Something like that.”

Online, the “handed him 10 bucks” line immediately launched comparisons to an infamous scene from AMC’s smash hit “Breaking Bad.”

In a memorable exchange, one of the shadiest lawyers in television history, Saul Goodman, played by Bob Odenkirk, tells the show’s meth-dealing main characters to “put a dollar in my pocket” to ensure that their conversations about criminal misdeeds remain protected.

And if you are trying to steer clear of a scandal, it’s best if your legal thinking does not echo the “Breaking Bad” lawyer, who later became the protagonist of the prequel, “Better Call Saul.”

But both “Breaking Bad” and Hannity’s conception of attorney-client privilege seem to rest on a faulty understanding of the legal concept. In a 2015 article in the New Mexico Law Review, Armen Adzhemyan and Susan M. Marcella compared the popular show’s presentation of the law with the reality of federal court, including what the pair called the “myth of the dollar bill.”

“Saul has a habit of grossly overstating the reach of the attorney-client privilege,” the two authors wrote.

The famous scene between Goodman, Walter White and Jesse Pinkman appears in the show’s second season, in the eighth episode, titled “Better Call Saul.” Hoping to intimidate one of the attorney’s clients, White and Pinkman kidnap Goodman at gunpoint, bind his wrists and take him out into the desert.

But in true sleazy lawyer fashion, Goodman flips the script, instead offering advice on the pair’s criminal enterprise.

“First things first, you’re gonna put a dollar in my pocket, both of you,” Goodman tells them. “You want attorney-client privilege, don’t you? So that everything you say is strictly between us? I mean it, put a dollar in my pocket, make it official.”

~~ READ/WATCH ~ A GOOD STORY  ~~~

 

The New Yorker, Daily Cartoon: Tuesday, April 17th

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Lights. Camera. Fiction!”

Down ‘The River Of Lost Souls’ With Jonathan Thompson ~ An Interview with CPR radio

~~~  LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW  ~~~

 

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River of Lost Souls: The Science, Politics, and Greed Behind the Gold King Mine Disaster

Award–winning investigative environmental journalist Jonathan P. Thompson digs into the science, politics, and greed behind the 2015 Gold King Mine disaster, and unearths a litany of impacts wrought by a century and a half of mining, energy development, and fracking in southwestern Colorado. Amid these harsh realities, Thompson explores how a new generation is setting out to make amends.

As shocking and heartbreaking as the Gold King spill and its aftermath may be, it’s merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg. The disaster itself was the climax of the long and troubled story of the Gold King mine, staked by a Swedish immigrant back in 1887. And it was only the most visible manifestation of a slow–moving, multi–faceted environmental catastrophe that had been unfolding here long before the events of August 5, 2015.

Jonathan Thompson is a native Westerner with deep roots in southwestern Colorado. He has been an environmental journalist focusing on the American West since he signed on as reporter and photographer at the Silverton Standard & the Miner newspaper in 1996. He has worked and written for High Country News for over a decade, serving as editor-in-chief from 2007 to 2010. He was a Ted Scripps fellow in environmental journalism at the University of Colorado in Boulder, and in 2016 he was awarded the Society of Environmental Journalists’ Outstanding Beat Reporting, Small Market. He currently lives in Bulgaria with his wife Wendy and daughters Lydia and Elena.

Michael Cohen and the End Stage of the Trump Presidency ~ The New Yorker

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There is no longer one major investigation into Donald Trump, focussed solely on collusion with Russia. There are now at least two, including a thorough review of Cohen’s correspondence. The information in his office and hotel room will likely make clear precisely how much the Trump family knew. What we already know is disturbing, and it is hard to imagine that the information prosecutors will soon learn will do anything but worsen the picture.

Of course Trump is raging and furious and terrified. Prosecutors are now looking at his core. Cohen was the key intermediary between the Trump family and its partners around the world; he was chief consigliere and dealmaker throughout its period of expansion into global partnerships with sketchy oligarchs. He wasn’t a slick politico who showed up for a few months. He knows everything, he recorded much of it, and now prosecutors will know it, too. It seems inevitable that much will be made public. We don’t know when. We don’t know the precise path the next few months will take. There will be resistance and denial and counterattacks. But it seems likely that, when we look back on this week, we will see it as a turning point. We are now in the end stages of the Trump Presidency.

  ~~~  READ THE ARTICLE  ~~~

Who Was That Masked Man? A Wrestling Priest

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Fray Tormenta was a heroin addict when he was young. After getting clean, he enrolled at the seminary to became a priest and started wrestling to make money for the orphanage he founded. Credit Seila Montes

When it comes to professional wrestling, there are the famous American federations with slick promotion, well-paid stars and merchandise-mad, free-spending fans.

This story is not about that.

In Mexico, generations have grown up admiring the masked luchadoreswho, for a $50 prize, will flip and body slam opponents in epic fights in modest arenas packed to the rafters with screaming fans. Theirs is a world where nothing comes easily, and the struggle to support their families is often a never-ending battle. There must be an easier way to survive beyond the world of lucha libre, but don’t tell them that.

“What I saw was a love for the lucha,” said Seila Montes, a Spanish photographer based in Mexico who spent more than two years photographing the masked men (and women) outside the ring. “They’re not doing it for the money. The ones I photographed were not famous, and they only earned a little. But they transformed when they put on their mask and costume. That’s when the actor and showman comes out.”

India Sioux is married to Hombre Bala. She is now retired and works at home. Credit Seila Montes
Ray Mendoza Jr., formerly Villano V, is part of the Mendoza dynasty. Four of his brothers were fighters and he is the son of the famous Ray Mendoza. He is a dentist and also does acupuncture consultation. Credit Seila Montes

Those of us who grew up in New York still recall when these masked matches were a staple of Spanish television, as we gathered around the crate-sized Sears television and futzed with the circular UHF antenna to pull in a grainy broadcast of Mil Mascaras taking on all comers. And then there was El Santo — The Saint — who crossed over from the ring to movie stardom, becoming a pop culture phenomenon. With their colorful costumes and personalities, luchadores have long sparked the interest of photographers, too. None has been as prolific as Lourdes Grobet, who has spent decades chronicling these masked athletes who have become cultural avatars.

~~~ CONTINUE THE OFFBEAT STORY  ~~~

Watergate Lawyer Richard Ben- Veniste: Trump Is Going Full Nixon on Mueller

Like his predecessor, Trump appears eager to fire the man investigating the White House—and he seems one false move away from following through.

A 1973 political cartoon by Jean-Claude Suares depicts a huge reel of audio tape crashing into the White House.
A 1973 political cartoon by Jean-Claude Suares depicts a huge reel of audio tape crashing into the White House.Corbis Historical / Getty Images

The oceans’ circulation hasn’t been this sluggish in 1,000 years. That’s bad news.

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The Atlantic Ocean circulation that carries warmth into the Northern Hemisphere’s high latitudes is slowing down because of climate change, a team of scientists asserted Wednesday, suggesting one of the most feared consequences is already coming to pass.

The Atlantic meridional overturning circulation has declined in strength by 15 percent since the mid-20th century to a “new record low,” the scientists conclude in a peer-reviewed study published in the journal Nature. That’s a decrease of 3 million cubic meters of water per second, the equivalent of nearly 15 Amazon rivers.

The AMOC brings warm water from the equator up toward the Atlantic’s northern reaches and cold water back down through the deep ocean. The current is partly why Western Europe enjoys temperate weather, and meteorologists are linking changes in North Atlantic Ocean temperatures to recent summer heat waves.

The circulation is also critical for fisheries off the U.S. Atlantic coast, a key part of New England’s economy that have seen changes in recent years, with the cod fishery collapsing as lobster populations have boomed off the Maine coast.

Some of the AMOC’s disruption may be driven by the melting ice sheet of Greenland, another consequence of climate change that is altering the region’s water composition and interrupts the natural processes.

This is “something that climate models have predicted for a long time, but we weren’t sure it was really happening. I think it is happening,” said one of the study’s authors, Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. “And I think it’s bad news.”

But the full role of climate change in the slowing ocean current is not fully understood, and another study released Wednesday drew somewhat different conclusions.

This study, which was also published in the journal Nature, found that the AMOC has slowed over the past 150 years and similarly found that it is now weaker than at any time in more than a millennium.

“The last 100 years has been its lowest point for the last few thousand years,” said Jon Robson, a researcher at the University of Reading and one of the study’s authors. (The study’s lead author was David Thornalley of the University College London.)

The two studies have their differences: The second suggests the slowdown probably began for natural reasons around the time of the Industrial Revolution in 1850, rather than being spurred by human-caused climate change, which fully kicked in later.

But like the first study, the second finds that the circulation has remained weak, or even weakened further, through the present era of warming.

“These two new papers do point strongly to the fact that the overturning has probably weakened over the last 150 years,” Robson said. “There’s uncertainty about when, but the analogy between what happened 150 years ago and today is quite strong.”

CONTINUE

He Was a Crook ~ HST ~ RollingStone/Atlantic

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MEMO FROM THE NATIONAL AFFAIRS DESK

DATE: MAY 1, 1994
FROM: DR. HUNTER S. THOMPSON
SUBJECT: THE DEATH OF RICHARD NIXON: NOTES ON THE PASSING OF AN AMERICAN MONSTER…. HE WAS A LIAR AND A QUITTER, AND HE SHOULD HAVE BEEN BURIED AT SEA…. BUT HE WAS, AFTER ALL, THE PRESIDENT.

“And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.”
—Revelation 18:2

Richard Nixon is gone now, and I am poorer for it. He was the real thing — a political monster straight out of Grendel and a very dangerous enemy. He could shake your hand and stab you in the back at the same time. He lied to his friends and betrayed the trust of his family. Not even Gerald Ford, the unhappy ex-president who pardoned Nixon and kept him out of prison, was immune to the evil fallout. Ford, who believes strongly in Heaven and Hell, has told more than one of his celebrity golf partners that “I know I will go to hell, because I pardoned Richard Nixon.”

I have had my own bloody relationship with Nixon for many years, but I am not worried about it landing me in hell with him. I have already been there with that bastard, and I am a better person for it. Nixon had the unique ability to make his enemies seem honorable, and we developed a keen sense of fraternity. Some of my best friends have hated Nixon all their lives. My mother hates Nixon, my son hates Nixon, I hate Nixon, and this hatred has brought us together.

Nixon laughed when I told him this. “Don’t worry,” he said, “I, too, am a family man, and we feel the same way about you.”

It was Richard Nixon who got me into politics, and now that he’s gone, I feel lonely. He was a giant in his way. As long as Nixon was politically alive — and he was, all the way to the end — we could always be sure of finding the enemy on the Low Road. There was no need to look anywhere else for the evil bastard. He had the fighting instincts of a badger trapped by hounds. The badger will roll over on its back and emit a smell of death, which confuses the dogs and lures them in for the traditional ripping and tearing action. But it is usually the badger who does the ripping and tearing. It is a beast that fights best on its back: rolling under the throat of the enemy and seizing it by the head with all four claws.

That was Nixon’s style — and if you forgot, he would kill you as a lesson to the others. Badgers don’t fight fair, bubba. That’s why God made dachshunds.

These come in at least two styles, however, and Nixon’s immediate family strongly opposed both of them. In the traditionalist style, the dead president’s body would be wrapped and sewn loosely in canvas sailcloth and dumped off the stern of a frigate at least 100 miles off the coast and at least 1,000 miles south of San Diego, so the corpse could never wash up on American soil in any recognizable form.

~~~  FINISH, IT’S A GREAT STORY  ~~~

The train was moving mournful slow’: Exhibit shows haunting photos of Bobby Kennedy’s final journey ~ The Washington Post

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Using two Leicas and a Nikon, Paul Fusco shot nearly 1,000 slides from the train that transported Bobby Kennedy’s body to Washington. (Paul Fusco/Magnum Photos)

— When Robert F. Kennedy died in a Los Angeles hospital after being shot in a hotel kitchen by a young Palestinian, the presidential candidate’s body was flown back to New York, where it lay in repose at St. Patrick’s Cathedral for two days. A funeral Mass was held June 8.

The body was then placed in the last carriage of a 21-car train headed for Washington, where Kennedy was to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery beside his assassinated brother, John. Beside the casket, wearing a veil, sat Ethel, Bobby’s widow, pregnant with their 11th child.

When the train burst into the light after leaving Penn Station, the photographer Paul Fusco, on assignment for Look magazine, was astonished: “There were hundreds of mourners crowding together on platforms almost leaning into the train to get close to Bobby.”

Thousands of coins had been strewn on the tracks (people wanted something tangible by which to remember the day) so that there was a continuous crunching sound — one flattened presidential face after another — as the wheels turned over them.

No one will ever know the exact number, but somewhere between 1 million and 2 million people lined the tracks all the way to the District, slowing what should have been a four-hour journey to twice that time. “The train was moving mournful slow,” Michael Scott told the Baltimore Sun. He was 15 on that day.
A photo from “The Train: RFK’s Last Journey” shows mourners holding a sign. (Paul Fusco/Magnum Photos)

 

There were other photographers on the train. But none managed to take images as beautiful, as haunting, as uncanny as Fusco’s. A selection of them makes up one part of an intense, tripartite show called “The Train: RFK’s Last Journey” at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Using two Leicas and a Nikon, Fusco took nearly 1,000 slides that day. He shot mainly in Kodachrome 64, a discontinued film noted for its dense blacks, strong contrasts and saturated colors. The images show some of the mourners — black and white, young and old, nuns, sportsmen, schoolchildren — who, on a humid summer Saturday, came out to see a train pass by.

They stood, pointing or praying. They perched on fence posts, on the roofs of vans, in tatterdemalion back yards. Bare-chested boys, shorts hitched high, stood and saluted. Couples perched with sober expressions on stationary motorcycles. Families emerged from bosky banks, baseball fields behind.

Fusco embalmed these summer scenes in an amber, liquid light. But somehow the photographs also capture a submarine disturbance. They accumulate into a portrait of a nation untethered from normality.

Just two months earlier, Martin Luther King Jr. had been murdered in Memphis. His assassination, by a racist, petty crook, triggered unrest all over the country (and the long-awaited passage of the Civil Rights Act). In Vietnam, the Tet offensive had begun. The ensuing casualties set off widespread protests. Public support for the war was beginning to collapse.

Fusco’s photographs don’t show any of this tumult. Quite the contrary. They seem, on the surface, almost Edenic. The brightly colored summer clothes of the mourners emerging from houses and standing in meadows suggest the festive mood of the Fourth of July. Instead of the dead body of a popular candidate, it could be the circus coming to town. Except that folks are weirdly still.

Their stillness is in tension with the dirgelike motion of the train, which accounts for some of the blurring that occurs in the photos, particularly around the edges. As the light dimmed over the course of that day, Fusco lengthened his exposure times accordingly, and the blur increased.

A photo from the exhibit shows people saluting the passing train. (Paul Fusco/Magnum Photos)

 

But it’s not all blur. Fusco had served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps during the Korean War, often taking photographs of the positions of enemy troops behind Chinese lines from reconnaissance aircraft. He knew how to take photographs while in motion.

On June 8, each time he clicked he made a subtle counter-motion with the camera, which helped create a pocket of focus, a bulwark against the surrounding blur. That stillness and focus feel like correlatives of the stillness, the “standing sentry,” that marks mourning all over the world.

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Screen Shot 2018-04-08 at 11.05.21 AM~~~  LOOK  ~~~

USA. 1968.  Robert KENNEDY funeral train.