10 million scallops are dead; Qualicum company lays off staff

Island Scallops in Qualicum Bay said it has suffered $10 million in losses because of high acidity levels in the Georgia Strait.
— image credit: JOHN HARDING PHOTO

High acid levels in the waters around Parksville Qualicum Beach have killed 10 million scallops and forced a local shellfish producer to scale operations back considerably.

Island Scallops CEO Rob Saunders said the company has lost three years worth of scallops and $10 million.

“I’m not sure we are going to stay alive and I’m not sure the oyster industry is going to stay alive,” Saunders told The NEWS. “It’s that dramatic.”

Saunders said the carbon dioxide levels have increased dramatically in the waters of the Georgia Strait, forcing the PH levels to 7.3 from their norm of 8.1 or 8.2. Island Scallops seeds its animals at its hatchery in Qualicum Bay and they are reared in the ocean in small net cages attached to horizontal “longlines,” according to the company’s website. The longlines are submerged about 10 metres below the surface in water about 30 metres deep. From hatchery to harvest takes about three years. Saunders said the company has lost all the scallops put in the ocean in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

“(The high acidity level means the scallops) can’t make their shells and they are less robust and they are suseptible to infection,” said Saunders, who also said this level of PH in the water is not something he’s seen in his 35 years of shellfish farming.

Read more at The Parksville Qualicum Beach News

One of the most serious consequences of rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels due to the burning of fossil fuels is acidification of the Earth’s oceans. Most scientists believe that it is already too late to reverse the trend.

There is an interesting and worthwhile discussion in the commentary section following the article. I recommend it.

Michelle Obama Expands Program That Gives All Students Free Meals

CREDIT: AP

On Tuesday, First Lady Michelle Obama and U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will announce the expansion of a pilot program that gives all students, regardless of income, free school meals, including breakfast and lunch.

The original program targeted students in 11 states, but as of July 1, it will be expanded to 22,000 schools across the country where 40 percent or more of the students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches, a sign of a high concentration of poverty. The administration says this will reach 9 million children and help them “eat health meals at school, especially breakfast, which can have profound impacts on educational achievement.”

Programs that give all students free meals come with a variety of benefits. It eliminates the stigma children on free or reduced-price meals can experience, particularly when schools throw out their lunches and stamp their hands when their balances run low.

Read more at ThinkProgress

Support quality journalism. Subscribe to ThinkProgress.

New Study Reveals Background Checks Really DO Prevent Gun Deaths

A new study by researchers at Johns Hopkins finds that the gun homicide rate in Missouri increased after the state repealed its background check law. Gun-O-Rama cartoon by Steve Benson via the Cagle Post.

In the ongoing dialog about guns and gun violence in America, one thing consistently comes out: Americans favor background checks for gun purchases. A 2013 Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 91 percent of all Americans, and 71 percent of NRA members support expanded background checks. Yet, congress has done nothing. A likely reason is that the NRA, which used to support background checks, now opposes them. They offer reasons ranging from “they’re an invasion of privacy,” to “they don’t work because criminals don’t submit to background checks.” However, a new study suggests that background checks are a reasonable, effective method of keeping guns out of the wrong hands.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University’s Center For Gun Policy and Research did a study of Missouri, where a background check law was repealed in 2007. They found that since the repeal, there was an increase of between 55 to 63 murders by gun per year from 2008 to 2012. Daniel Webster, lead author of the study, says:

This study provides compelling confirmation that weaknesses in firearm laws lead to deaths from gun violence.There is strong evidence to support the idea that the repeal of Missouri’s handgun purchaser licensing law contributed to dozens of additional murders in Missouri each year since the law was changed.

Missouri’s background check law was effective.

Until 2007, Missouri had a “permit to purchase” background check law. Under the law, someone who wanted to purchase a firearm would visit a local sheriff for a background check. The sheriff would do the check, then issue a “permit to purchase,” which the person could take to the gun dealer of his or her choice to purchase a weapon. This law had been in place since the 1920′s. After the law was repealed, unlicensed sellers no longer needed proof of a background check before a sale.

Read more at Addicting Info

Support quality journalism.

Is the U.S. Backing Neo-Nazis in Ukraine?

Exposing troubling ties in the U.S. to overt Nazi and fascist protesters in Ukraine.

U.S. Senator John McCain, right, meets Ukrainian opposition leaders Arseniy Yatsenyuk, left, and Oleh Tyahnybok in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013.
Image via Business Insider

As the Euromaidan protests in the Ukrainian capitol of Kiev culminated this week, displays of open fascism and neo-Nazi extremism became too glaring to ignore. Since demonstrators filled the downtown square to battle Ukrainian riot police and demand the ouster of the corruption-stained, pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovich, it has been filled with far-right streetfighting men pledging to defend their country’s ethnic purity.

White supremacist banners and Confederate flags were draped inside Kiev’s occupied City Hall, and demonstrators have hoisted Nazi SS and white power symbols over a toppled memorial to V.I. Lenin. After Yanukovich fled his palatial estate by helicopter, EuroMaidan protesters destroyed a memorial to Ukrainians who died battling German occupation during World War II. Sieg heil salutes and the Nazi Wolfsangel symbol have become an increasingly common site in Maidan Square, and neo-Nazi forces have established “autonomous zones” in and around Kiev.

An Anarchist group called AntiFascist Union Ukraine attempted to join the Euromaidan demonstrations but found it difficult to avoid threats of violence and imprecations from the gangs of neo-Nazis roving the square. “They called the Anarchists things like Jews, blacks, Communists,” one of its members said. “There weren’t even any Communists, that was just an insult.”

“There are lots of Nationalists here, including Nazis,” the anti-fascist continued. “They came from all over Ukraine, and they make up about 30% of protesters.”

One of the “Big Three” political parties behind the protests is the ultra-nationalist Svoboda, whose leader, Oleh Tyahnybok, has called for the liberation of his country from the “Muscovite-Jewish mafia.” After the 2010 conviction of the Nazi death camp guard John Demjanjuk for his supporting role in the death of nearly 30,000 people at the Sobibor camp, Tyahnybok rushed to Germany to declare him a hero who was “fighting for truth.” In the Ukrainian parliament, where Svoboda holds an unprecedented 37 seats, Tyahnybok’s deputy Yuriy Mykhalchyshyn is fond of quoting Joseph Goebbels – he has even founded a think tank originally called “the Joseph Goebbels Political Research Center.” According to Per Anders Rudling, a leading academic expert on European neo-fascism, the self-described “socialist nationalist” Mykhalchyshyn is the main link between Svoboda’s official wing and neo-Nazi militias like Right Sector.

Read more at AlterNet

This is outstanding reporting by Max Blumenthal.

Support quality journalism. Donate to AlterNet.

The Russian Stronghold in Ukraine Preparing to Fight the Revolution

Lawmakers and worried citizens in the pro-Russia Crimea consider their options

A Ukrainian woman holds a Soviet flag during a rally in the industrial city of Donetsk, in eastern Ukraine, on Feb. 22, 2014

The busload of officers only began to feel safe when they entered the Crimean peninsula. Through the night on Friday, they drove the length of Ukraine from north to south, having abandoned the capital city of Kiev to the revolution. Along the way the protesters in several towns pelted their bus with eggs, rocks and, at one point, what looked to be blood before the retreating officers realized it was only ketchup. “People were screaming, cursing at us,” recalls one of the policemen, Vlad Roditelev.

Finally, on Saturday morning, the bus reached the refuge of Crimea, the only chunk of Ukraine where the revolution has failed to take hold. Connected to the mainland by two narrow passes, this huge peninsula on the Black Sea has long been a land apart, an island of Russian nationalism in a nation drifting toward Europe. One of its biggest cities, Sevastopol, is home to a Russian naval base that houses around 25,000 troops, and most Crimean residents identify themselves as Russians, not Ukrainians.

So when the forces of the revolution took over the national parliament on Friday, pledging to rid Ukraine of Russian influence and integrate with Europe, the people of Crimea panicked. Some began to form militias, others sent distress calls to the Kremlin. And if the officers of the Berkut riot police are now despised throughout the rest of the country for killing dozens of protesters in Kiev this week, they were welcomed in Crimea as heroes.

For Ukraine’s revolutionary leaders, that presents an urgent problem. In a matter of days, their sympathizers managed to seize nearly the entire country, including some of the most staunchly pro-Russian regions of eastern Ukraine. But they have made barely any headway on the Crimean peninsula. On the contrary, the revolution has given the ethnic Russian majority in Crimea their best chance ever to break away from Kiev’s rule and come back under the control of Russia. “An opportunity like this has never come along,” says Tatyana Yermakova, the head of the Russian Community of Sevastopol, a civil-society group in Crimea.

On Wednesday, just as the violence in Kiev was reaching its cadence, Yermakova sent an appeal to the Kremlin asking Russia to send in troops to “prevent a genocide of the Russian population of Crimea.” The revolution, she wrote in a missive to Russian President Vladimir Putin, is being carried out by mercenaries with funding from Europe and the United States “with only one goal in mind: the destruction of the Russian world.”

Read more at TIME

Support quality journalism. Subscribe to TIME magazine.

Ukraine’s Leader Flees the Capital; Elections Are Called

In Kiev on Saturday, opposition members, including Vitaly Klitschko, top right, celebrated as Ukraine’s Parliament voted to remove President Viktor F. Yanukovych from office hours after he abandoned his office to protesters and denounced what he described as a coup. Reuters

KIEV, Ukraine — Abandoned by his own guards and reviled across the Ukrainian capital but still determined to recover his shredded authority, President Viktor F. Yanukovych fled Kiev on Saturday to denounce what he called a violent coup, as his official residence, his vast, colonnaded office complex and other once impregnable centers of power fell without a fight to throngs of joyous citizens stunned by their triumph.

As President Yanukovych’s nemesis, former Prime Minister Yulia V. Tymoshenko, was released from a penitentiary hospital, Parliament found the president unable to fulfill his duties and exercised its constitutional powers to set an election for May 25 to select his replacement. But with both President Yanukovych and his Russian patrons speaking of a “coup” carried out by “bandits” and “hooligans,” it was far from clear that the day’s lightning-quick events were the last act in a struggle that has not just convulsed Ukraine but expanded into an East-West confrontation reminiscent of the Cold War.

In the capital, protesters carrying clubs and some wearing masks were in control of the entryways to the presidential palace Saturday morning, and watched as thousands of citizens strolled through the grounds, gazing in wonder at the mansions, zoo, golf course and enclosure for rare pheasants, set in a birch forest on a bluff soaring above the Dnieper River.

“This commences a new life for Ukraine,” said Roman Dakus, a protester-turned-guard, who was wearing a ski helmet and carrying a length of pipe as he blocked a doorway at the palace. “This is only a start,” he added. “We need now to make a new structure and a new system, a foundation for our future, with rights for everybody, and we need to investigate who ordered the violence.”

Read more at The New York Times

Support quality journalism. Subscribe to The New York Times.

Catholic activists want Pope Francis to match words with actions

Sister Teresa Forcades and other left-leaning religious leaders welcome new papal rhetoric but wonder about substance

From her small convent in the mountains near Barcelona, Harvard-educated Sister Teresa Forcades has emerged as a leading advocate of Spain’s “Indignant” protest movement. Lluis Gene/AFP/Getty Images

Spanish revolutionary, Harvard-educated public health specialist, abortion rights advocate and Roman Catholic nun.

These four labels seldom apply to the same person, but Sister Teresa Forcades, a 48-year-old woman from Barcelona, straddles many worlds.

In Europe she is the star of televised debates on feminism and religion, a leader of the Occupy movement in Spain who has taken on big corporate interests and a fierce critic of modern capitalism.

She pulls no punches with her views. “I don’t think it is possible to have democracy and capitalism. They go against each other because the way we live capitalism is that we allow some corporations to have such power that they are able to influence government. And that’s the problem,” she told Al Jazeera in an interview.

Until recently, these controversial opinions might have led to her being reprimanded by the Vatican. But now, with a new leader in power apparently committed to fundamentally changing the church’s approach on social justice issues, she believes she’s merely taking some of Pope Francis’ ideas and running with them.

The new pope has invigorated the previously isolated social justice wing of the church, a change that many leading activists have welcomed. But at the same time, others are warning that his papacy has so far been more about a shift in tone than about substantive change on key issues such as abortion, women’s ordination and gay rights.

In a much-publicized manifesto for his papacy, Francis lamented the misguided priorities of a world obsessed with money. “How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses 2 points?” he asked.

Francis drives an old Renault, refuses to live in luxurious papal suites, invites homeless people over for dinner and expelled a German bishop for his exorbitant lifestyle. His focus on social justice represents a stark departure from his predecessors’ focus on doctrine and propelled grassroots activism back into the spotlight.

Forcades said his words hinted at a possible revival of liberation theology, a branch of religious philosophy that “has been where the poor have been” and looks at the imperative “to lose fear to be like Jesus was, entangled in political matters.”

In the 1980s, liberation theologists in Latin America worked with local activists against poverty as part of a political movement for the rights of the oppressed. Accused of professing Marxism under the guise of social justice theories, many priests were driven out of countries such as Nicaragua and Mexico, where they assisted local activists in combating poverty and authoritarian governments.

Read more at Al Jazeera

Oldest Sea Monster Babies Found; Fossil Shows Reptiles Had Live Birth

Mother ichthyosaur died while giving birth, scientist says.

Fossil of Chaohusaurus reveals a baby inside its mother (orange) and another stuck in her pelvis (yellow).

The oldest embryos of a Mesozoic marine reptile have been unearthed in China, pre-dating the previous record by ten million years, a new study says.

The 248-million-year-old fossil from the Mesozoic era (252 to 66 million years ago) reveals an ichthyosaur baby inside its mother (orange) and another stuck in her pelvis (yellow). A third embryo discovered nearby suggests it was stillborn; scientists believe the mother died during a difficult labor.

The narrow, eel-like ichthyosaur belongs to the genus Chaohusaurus and is the oldest known species of the group. (Also see “Pictures: Oldest Dinosaur Embryos Show ‘Big Surprises.'”)

The findings were published February 12 in the journal PLOS ONE.

Read more at the National Geographic

Why the United States Is Getting Tough With Turkey

Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Barack Obama in the White House Rose Garden, May 16, 2013. (Kevin Lamarque / Courtesy Reuters)

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu did something extraordinary when they emerged from a January 12 bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the Friends of Syria conference in Paris. Such occasions are usually marked by predictable boilerplate rhetoric about how productive the talk was and how closely both countries are working to solve pressing global issues, and Davutoğlu’s comments followed the standard script. What happened next was more unusual. After Davutoğlu finished speaking, Kerry took the opportunity to chide his Turkish counterpart for neglecting to mention an important component of the talks: Kerry’s emphatic rejection of Turkish claims that the United States had been meddling in Turkish politics and trying to influence the Turkish elections. As Davutoğlu sheepishly looked at the floor, Kerry continued that Davutoğlu now understood the score, and said that the two countries “need to calm the waters and move forward.”

Kerry’s addendum came in response to what has become a familiar Turkish government strategy of shifting the blame to outside powers, and particularly to the United States, when faced with any sort of internal opposition. During the Gezi Park protests in June, for example, Turkish government figures blamed Washington, CNN, and “foreign powers” for inciting unrest. More recently, when an ongoing corruption scandal exploded into the open in late December, Turkish ministers were quick to insinuate that the United States was the hidden hand behind the graft probe. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to expel U.S. ambassador Francis Ricciardone for allegedly provoking Turkey and “exceeding limits,” a reference to allegations that the ambassador was somehow meddling in Turkish affairs and prodding the investigation of government officials.

It isn’t surprising that the Turkish government has blamed the United States for self-inflicted wounds. But it is surprising that the United States has finally responded forcefully. And, if Turkey’s behavior after the flap is any indication (it made a quick about-face on a number of issues that have been particularly angering the United States), the Obama administration should make getting tougher with Turkey a priority.

PROBLEM PARTNER

Turkey voted in the UN Security Council against additional sanctions on Iran; helped Iran get around the international sanctions regime; and even hinted at Iran’s natural right to a nuclear program.

Turkish officials like to describe the last few years as a golden age in bilateral relations. Davutoğlu, in particular, likes to wax on about the “model partnership” between the two countries. What he is responding to is the United States’ decision early in Obama’s first term to treat Turkey with kid gloves despite an increasingly long track record of troubling Turkish behavior. The United States had two main motivations. The first was the hope that Turkey could serve as a democratic example for other Muslim countries. For a variety of reasons, including Turkey’s unique history and its distinctive combination of structural pressures, it was never going to be a good model, but that did not prevent Washington from pushing it wholeheartedly.

The second motivation was a conviction that Turkey could serve as an interlocutor between the West and the Middle East. With its ties to groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and its relationship with Iran, Turkey was seen as irreplaceable, and Washington was reluctant to alienate it. Even when the United States instituted a policy directly intended to counter problematic Turkish behavior, Turkey was still given an inordinate amount of leeway. For example, in January 2013, when Congress passed legislation specifically outlawing trade in gas for gold to stem Turkish sanctions-busting in Iran, Turkey was granted a six-month buffer period. The only thing the backpedaling did was enable ever-bolder Turkish probing of U.S. red lines.

And probe it has. As has been documented repeatedly, Turkish democracy has been off the rails for some time. Since winning re-election in 2007, the AKP has systematically squeezed political opponents, consolidated state power, and done all it can to marginalize the feckless opposition. It has jailed journalists in unprecedented numbers, prosecuted citizens for insulting the prime minister, subjected companies that have run afoul of the government to crushing fines, and convicted military officers on charges based on forged evidence. All the while, the United States has largely sat on the sidelines with its mouth shut. State Department officials repeat the mantra that Turkey is more democratic now than it has ever been, and in 2012, President Barack Obama listed Erdogan as one of the five world leaders with whom he has the closest and most trusting relationship.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

Be advised that access to this article is free with nominal registration. It’s how modern internet media entices us to check out their stuff. Foreign Affairs is quality journalism. I think that just about everyone understands that old fashioned print media is in its death throes, and that is why it is now more important than ever to support quality online journalism. A free press is absolutely indispensable to any free and democratic society. It’s why I so vigorously promote sites that I myself have no financial interest in–because, as recent history has amply demonstrated over and over again–they are so very, very important to our future as free, well informed, and self-determined human beings.

The GOP’s health crisis – Eugene Robinson, The Washington Post

Oh dear. The Republican Party’s worst nightmare is coming true. Obamacare is working.

The news that nearly 1.2 million people signed up last month for insurance through the Affordable Care Act exchanges is highly inconvenient for GOP candidates nationwide. It looks as if the party’s two-word strategy for the fall election — bash Obamacare — will need to be revised.

Wednesday’s status report on the health-insurance reforms was by far the best news for Democrats and the Obama administration since the program’s incompetent launch. January was the first month when new enrollments surpassed expectations, as the balky HealthCare.gov Web site began functioning more or less as intended.

Cumulatively, 3.3 million people had chosen insurance plans through the state and federal exchanges by the end of January. That is fewer than the administration had originally hoped but well above the predictions of critics who believed — or hoped — that the program would never succeed. The Congressional Budget Office projects that 6 million people will have chosen plans through Obamacare when the initial enrollment period ends March 31, down from a pre-launch estimate of 7 million. Not bad at all.

The numbers are even more encouraging when you look more closely. The proportion of young people — from 18 and 34 — who chose insurance plans through the exchanges increased slightly to 27 percent, compared with an average of 24 percent in previous months. This is important because premiums would have to rise if not enough young, healthy people enrolled.

Read more at The Washington Post

Eugene Robinson won the Pulitzer Prize in 2009 for Distinguished Commentary.