Friday, September 30, 2011
TORONTO (AP) — Two ice shelves that existed before Canada was settled by Europeans diminished significantly this summer, one nearly disappearing altogether, Canadian scientists say in newly published research.
The loss is important as a marker of global warming, returning the Canadian Arctic to conditions that date back thousands of years, scientists say. Floating icebergs that have broken free as a result pose a risk to offshore oil facilities and potentially to shipping lanes. The breaking apart of the ice shelves also reduces the environment that supports microbial life and changes the look of Canada's coastline.
Luke Copland is an associate professor in the geography department at the University of Ottawa who co-authored the research published on Carleton University's website. He said the Serson Ice Shelf shrank from 79.15 square miles (205 square kilometers) to two remnant sections five years ago, and was further diminished this past summer.
Copland said the shelf went from a 16-square-mile (42-square-kilometer) floating glacier tongue to 9.65 square miles (25 square kilometers), and the second section from 13.51 square miles (35 square kilometers) to 2 square miles (7 square kilometers), offEllesmere Island's northern coastline.
This past summer, Ward Hunt Ice Shelf's central area disintegrated into drifting ice masses, leaving two separate ice shelves measuring 87.65 and 28.75 square miles (227 and 74 square kilometers) respectively, reduced from 131.7 square miles (340 square kilometers) the previous year.
"It has dramatically broken apart in two separate areas and there's nothing in between now but water," said Copland.
Copland said those two losses are significant, especially since the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf has always been the biggest, the farthest north and the one scientists thought might have been the most stable.
"Recent (ice shelf) loss has been very rapid, and goes hand-in-hand with the rapid sea ice decline we have seen in this decade and the increasing warmth and extensive melt in the Arctic regions," said Ted Scambos, lead scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado, remarking on the research.
Copland, who uses satellite imagery and who has conducted field work in the Arctic every May for the past five years, said since the end of July, pieces equaling one and a half times the size of Manhattan Island have broken off. Co-researcher Derek Mueller, an assistant professor at Carleton University's geography and environmental studies department, said the loss this past summer equals up to three billion tons. Copland said their findings have not yet been peer reviewed since the research is new, but a number of scientists contacted by The Associated Press reviewed the findings, agreeing the loss in volume of ice shelves is significant.
Scambos said the loss of the Arctic shelves is significant because they are old and their rapid loss underscores the severity of the warming trend scientists see now relative to past fluctuations such as the Medieval Warm Period or the warmer times in the pre-Current Era (B.C.).
Ice shelves, which began forming at least 4,500 years ago, are much thicker than sea ice, which is typically less than a few feet (meters) thick and survives up to several years.
Canada has the most extensive ice shelves in the Arctic along the northern coast of Ellesmere Island. These floating ice masses are typically 131 feet (40 meters) thick (equivalent to a 10-story building), but can be as much as 328 feet (100 meters) thick. They thickened over time via snow and sea ice accumulation, along with glacier inflow in certain places.
The northern coast of Ellesmere Island contains the last remaining ice shelves in Canada, with an estimated area of 402 square miles (1,043 square kilometers), said Mueller.
Between 1906 and 1982, there has been a 90 percent reduction in the areal extent of ice shelves along the entire coastline, according to data published by W.F. Vincent at Quebec's Laval University. The former extensive "Ellesmere Island Ice Sheet" was reduced to six smaller, separate ice shelves: Serson, Petersen, Milne, Ayles, Ward Hunt and Markham. In 2005, the Ayles Ice Shelf whittled almost completely away, as did the Markham Ice Shelf in 2008 and the Serson this year.
"The impact is significant and yet only a piece of the ongoing and accelerating response to warming of the Arctic," said Dr. Robert Bindschadler, emeritus scientist at the Hydrospheric and Biospheric Sciences Laboratory at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.
Bindschadler said the loss is an indication of another threshold being passed, as well as the likely acceleration of buttressed glaciers able to flow faster into the ocean, which accelerates their contribution to global sea level.
Copland said mean winter temperatures have risen by about 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) per decade for the past five to six decades on northern Ellesmere Island.
Thursday, September 29, 2011
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Most experts agree that to get out of the economic slump, we need more jobs.
But another problem is that millions of Americans already have jobs that don't pay very much.
Getting the economy going will require more than just creating a large number of low-wage positions, said Paul Osterman, economics professor at MIT. Raising the minimum wage to get more cash to the working poor is just as crucial, he said.
About 20% of American adults who have jobs are earning only $10.65 an hour or less, according to Osterman's analysis. Even at 40 hours a week, that amounts to less than $22,314, the poverty level for a family of four.
The federal minimum wage currently stands at $7.25 an hour (18 states set their own rates above the federal level, maxing out at $8.67 an hour in Washington State). But increases have not kept up with inflation. When adjusted for inflation, the highest federal minimum wage was in 1968, when it was the equivalent of $10.38 in today's dollars.
Osterman, who has written a new book called "Good Jobs America," said gradually raising the federal minimum wage to something close to that level over the next few years would be an important first step to helping the working poor climb out of poverty, while injecting more money into the economy.
"If you give someone making $15,000 a year a $3,000 increase, that's going to make a tremendous difference in their life," he said.
With a greater percentage of the nation's income going to corporate profits than ever before, Osterman argues that businesses can afford a higher minimum wage.
"There needs to be standards in the job market," he said. "If the object is simply to minimize costs, we can use slaves again."
A 'job-killing' policy?
Many economists and small business owners fear that increasing the minimum wage would end up hurting the working poor rather than helping them, because employers who couldn't afford to pay more would be forced to cut staff.
But there's little empirical evidence to suggest that raising the minimum wage causes companies to cut back on hiring, according to Heidi Shierholz, labor economist for the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank. In fact, one study conducted by Alan Krueger, President Obama's pick for his next chief economic adviser, found little difference in employment levels of fast food industries in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, which have different minimum wages.
"When you look at surveys of businesses, they consistently list weak demand as the key problem holding hiring back. Wages are nowhere near the major concern for employers," Paul Sonn, legal co-director of the National Employment Law Project Action Fund. "They may not realize it but raising the minimum wage would help sales and help them increase their hiring."
Still, in the current political climate, there is strong opposition to anything that might cost companies money and deter them from adding to their payrolls.
"If you raise the price of anything, people take less of it. That includes labor," said William Dunkelberg, chief economist for the National Federation of Independent Businesses. "That's why you can't raise wages during bad times. If you raise the price of labor, and the economy is growing, maybe I'll still hire people. But not now."
This video went viral, showing how hungry people are for truth .....
Monday, September 26, 2011
Why did Obama give bunker-buster bombs to Israel?
In late 2009, the Obama administration transferred 55 so-called bunker-buster bombs to Israel. The 5,000-pound bombs conceivably put Israel in the position to attack Iran's buried nuclear facilities--or to target Hezbollah's buried bunkers in Lebanon.
The revelation, first reported by Newsweek's Eli Lake Friday, received independent confirmation via a sensitive U.S. diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks last month.
In a November 2009 meeting among senior American and Israeli military and diplomatic officials, "both sides . . . discussed the upcoming delivery of GBU-28 bunker busting bombs to Israel, noting that the transfer should be handled quietly to avoid any allegations that the USG [U.S. government] is helping Israel prepare for a strike against Iran," the leaked Nov. 18, 2009 U.S. cable states. ThinkProgress's Ali Ghraib first reported on the U.S. cable.
Israel had earlier requested the deep-penetrating bombs from the Bush administration, Lake reported. But according to Lake's report, Bush had deferred the Israeli request, not wanting to give Israel a "green light" to bomb Iran. (However, another leaked U.S. cable discusses Israeli media reports suggesting the Bush administration transferred an earlier shipment of GBU-28 bombs to Israel, in 2005. "All media continued coverage of the forthcoming arms sale by the U.S. of GBU-28 bombs to Israel," an unclassified April 2005 U.S. diplomatic states.)
American policymakers had--and indeed have--many reasons to be wary of Israel initiating a confrontation with Iran--chief among them the roughly 150,000 American troops the United States currently has deployed on either side of Iran in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as other forces and assets assigned to bases in Qatar, Bahrain and elsewhere in the Persian Gulf region.
So why has the Obama administration seemingly reversed that call? After all, the Obama White House has sought to curtail Iran's nuclear program through diplomatic and economic measures--and the export of 5,000-pound bunker buster bombs to Israel would seem to severely test Israeli patience for that slow and frustrating effort. And, secondly, why is the information emerging now--nearly two years after the administration carried out the deal?
Some policy observers suggest that the U.S. military under Obama was trying to "hug Israel close," in order to increase its feeling of security and thus hopefully stave off the prospect that Israel might launch a surprise strike on Iran on its own, thereby wreaking all sorts of havoc with U.S. military and diplomatic initiatives in the region.
The reported transfer may have been a "gesture" by the Obama White House "to assure the Israelis we love them," one Washington Iran expert who insisted on anonymity told The Envoy via email. (Still, he confessed that he found the ultimate motivation behind the transfer mystifying.)
It's also worth noting that the pending U.S. transfer of the 5,000-lb. bunker buster bombs was discussed at a Nov. 18, 2009 meeting--approximately a week before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a ten-month partial freeze on Jewish settlement building in the West Bank that the Obama administration had sought. But there is no insinuation in the Nov. 18, 2009 cable of any sort of quid pro quo for the bunker buster deal. Rather, it was mentioned in the context of U.S.-Israeli discussions on approaches for dealing with Iran's nuclear program.
As to the timing of the revelation, while some observers have suggested that American officials may have leaked it in order to burnish Obama's pro-Israel credentials as he faces a tough 2012 presidential campaign, Lake himself, in an interview with NPR Saturday, discounted such a political motivation by his initial sources. Lake also said on Twitter that Obama White House officials were not among the U.S. and Israeli sources for his story. (Nevertheless, some Democratic Congressional staffers have eagerly circulated the Lake report, seemingly seeking to beat back the Republican narrative that Obama has not demonstrated sufficient support for the Jewish state.)
The simpler explanation may in this case be the more compelling one: American and Israeli officials initiated the disclosure of the information now to send a potent warning to Iran.
Such a message would be well timed, in view of other recent developments in the Iranian nuclear effort. Last month, Tehran announced that it had started moving nuclear centrifuges to a buried underground facility in Qom. American officials have been concerned that as Iran proceeds with transferring its enrichment program from its current Natanz facility to the underground Qom facility, Israel might choose to launch a preventive strike aimed at thwarting Iran's nuclear initiative before it becomes harder to target at the buried Fordo facility near Qom.
The Obama "administration is interested in sending message to the Iranians that we have lots of things we can do that are tougher, ... [that it] can ratchet up the pressure on Iran," suggested Patrick Clawson, an Iran expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, in an interview with The Envoy Monday. "The administration may be lifting its skirt a little bit to show some ankle."
(And in actuality, Israel has received earlier shipments of U.S. bunker buster bombs, analysts said. For instance, the Bush Defense Department announced in 2008 plans to sell 1,000 GBU-39 smart bunker buster bombs to Israel, "to develop and maintain a strong and ready self-defense capability," according to an Associated Press report. However, Israeli analysts said at the time that the smaller, 250-pound, precision GBU-39 bombs were more useful against buried arsenals in Lebanon and Gaza--not Iran: "You would need something a lot heavier" for Iran, former Israeli military strategic planner Shlomo Brom told the AP. "The GBU-39 can penetrate 6 feet of concrete, and 6 feet is not enough" for targeting Iran's buried nuclear facilities, he said. By contrast, analysts note that the bunker busters reportedly transferred in the 2009 Obama deal are 5,000-pound bombs--e.g. twenty times heavier than the ones the Bush administration shipped in 2008.)
Could the disclosure now that Israel has the means to strike Iran's underground nuclear facilities change Iran's nuclear decision-making calculus? It's hard to know with any certainty, given that so many factors that might influence such a decision are still very much in play.
But in a meeting with journalists in New York last week, attended by The Envoy, Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad did not discount the possibility of an Israeli strike--and he warned harshly against it.
"The Zionists are quite eager to be able to damage the security of Iran," Ahmadinejad said through a translator at the Sept. 22 lunch with journalists, using "Zionists" to refer to the Israeli government. "It's their ultimate dream to be able to transgress against Iran. Certainly know Iran's response will be quite hard and it will be regretful for them. We assure everyone we will defend ourselves. I hope they avoid that fatal mistake."
Message delivered--and received?
Sunday, September 25, 2011
CIA Relocating To Denver: http://coupmedia.org/intelligence-leaks/the-cia-is-relocating-to-denver-0908
Friday, September 23, 2011
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Monday, September 12, 2011
NEW YORK (AP) -- Food prices could rise next year because an unseasonably hot summer likely damaged much of this year's corn crop.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated Monday that a surplus of 672 million bushels of corn will be left over at the end of next summer. The estimated surplus is down from last month's forecast and well below levels that are considered healthy.
This spring, farmers planted the second-largest crop since World War II. But high temperatures stunted the plants.
"We just didn't have a good growing year," said Jason Ward, an analyst with Northstar Commodity in Minneapolis. "It was too hot, too warm, too dry at the wrong time."
The price of corn was relatively unchanged at $7.33 a bushel on Monday. While that's down from its peak of $7.99 reached in June, it's still nearly twice the price paid last summer.
More expensive corn drives food prices higher because corn is an ingredient in everything from animal feed to cereal to soft drinks. It takes about six months for corn prices to trickle down to products at the grocery store.
But many food producers are already being squeezed by the higher prices. Chicken producer Sanderson Farms Inc. reported its third straight quarterly loss late last month, in part, because of increased costs for feed. Smithfield Foods Inc., the world's largest hog producer, said last week that high feed costs would remain a problem this year.
"Ingredient prices are going to stay high for a while," Ward said.
Traders also worry that grain shortages could return next year because of the damaged crops.
Farmers are expected to have a surplus of 920 million bushels when the harvest begins this month, the USDA said. That's roughly a 26-day supply of corn, slightly less than the previous month's estimate.
But the USDA said the corn surplus could dwindle next fall to about a 19-day supply. A 30-day supply is considered healthy.
When crop reserves are low, market prices can jump quickly, said Scott Irwin, an agriculture economics professor at the University of Illinois. When reserves are at adequate levels, a decline in grain supplies tends to cause prices to rise modestly. But when reserves are unusually low relative to demand, short-term supply disruptions can cause prices to jump exponentially, Irwin said.
In part, that's because unlike with other goods, rising food prices generally don't cause people to buy less food. Rather, they typically cut spending on other things so they can keep the diets they're accustomed to. Prices tend to stay high until demand finally slackens.
A smaller surplus drove corn prices higher earlier this year. Global demand for corn, soybeans and wheat has outstripped production for the last 10 years. Surpluses, vital to a stable food supply, have shrunk.
Cutter reported from New York. Leonard reported from St. Louis.