The Northwest Passage after decades of so-called global warming has a dramatic 60% more Arctic ice this year than at the same time last year. The future dreams of dozens of adventurous sailors are now threatened. A scattering of yachts attempting the legendary Passage are caught by the ice, which has now become blocked at both ends and the transit season may be ending early. Douglas Pohl tells the story[emphasis in original]:
The Passage has become blocked with 5/10 concentrated drifting sea ice at both the eastern and at the western ends of Canada’s Arctic Archipelago. At least 22 yachts and other vessels are in the Arctic at the moment. Some who were less advanced have retreated and others have abandoned their vessels along the way. Still others are caught in the ice in an unfolding, unresolved drama.
So where's this report with the evidence about that Syrian chemical weapons attack? It was supposed to be out yesterday and they apparently briefed members of Congress on it last night, so why hasn't it been given to the rest of us? Are they counting on a standard late Friday afternoon document dump to hide bad news?
What I want to see is proof that we know what happened, that any attack makes sense given those facts, and that we really know enough about what is happening on the ground in real time to know what we are attacking.
One thing I don't want to hear about is trust. Not from an administration that is still covering up what the CIA and State Department were really doing in Benghazi a year ago.
Show us the evidence or stay the hell out of the Syria mess, which probably we should stay out of regardless.
It is a collection of assessments and assertions with only a few details offered here and there to back them up. It unfortunately does not lay out a seamless and detailed chain of events that clearly prove what happened that night. For example, we have this:
Syrian chemical weapons personnel were operating in the Damascus suburb of ‘Adra from Sunday, August 18 until early in the morning on Wednesday, August 21 near an area that the regime uses to mix chemical weapons, including sarin. On August 21, a Syrian regime element prepared for a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus area, including through the utilization of gas masks. Our intelligence sources in the Damascus area did not detect any indications in the days prior to the attack that opposition affiliates were planning to use chemical weapons.
Followed by this:
Multiple streams of intelligence indicate that the regime executed a rocket and artillery attack against the Damascus suburbs in the early hours of August 21. Satellite detections corroborate that attacks from a regime-controlled area struck neighborhoods where the chemical attacks reportedly occurred – including Kafr Batna, Jawbar, ‘Ayn Tarma, Darayya, and Mu’addamiyah. This includes the detection of rocket launches from regime controlled territory early in the morning, approximately 90 minutes before the first report of a chemical attack appeared in social media. The lack of flight activity or missile launches also leads us to conclude that the regime used rockets in the attack.
Okay, so we have Syrian chemical weapons personnel "operating in the Damascus suburb of ‘Adra." Then we have "a Syrian regime element prepared for a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus area." What area? That same suberb? What regime element?
Then we have two mentions of attacks being launched from "regime controlled territory." What territory? The suburb of 'Adra? The "Damascus area"? Why the coyness about all of that? Why are they not clearly tying these things together?
Anadolu Agency (AA) reached detailed list including information about the chemical attack as well as the names of Syrian army troops who were on duty during the attack in Damascus.
According to the list of names of the Syrian regime troops who participated in the chemical attack, 155th Missile Brigade: 51,52,577,578,579 and 1097th Missile Row and technical support row to support them were resposible for the chemical attack.
The attack directly organized by Syrian regime forces was done on 21 August, 2013 at 02.45 a.m. targeting Zamelka, Douma-Harasta regions in East and West Ghouta.
The chemical weapon attacks by Assad regime were carried out by two separate centers simultaneously.
The attack was carried out with about 15-20 chemical warheads missile-rockets by the troops between 155th Missile Brigade in Qutayfa, 35 km to the north of Damascus and 4th Armored Division in Qasyoun Mountain. In the attack in Qutayfa, it is estimated that the regime used the missiles of FROG-7/Luna and/or M600. In Qasyoun, 220 mm rockets with 15-70 km-range were estimated to be used in the attack.
Does such detailed intelligence really exist? If it does, why can't we see it too?
The answer I'm afraid, lies with the most transparent administration in history being unable to keep the culture of secrets in the intelligence community in check to a reasonable degree.
I have some more thoughts, but I'm going to put them in another post.
As the president mounts the podium at the Lincoln Memorial today to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Dr. King's speech, we are reminded (ceaselessly) about one thing that Dr. King said in his address:
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
There it is. That's the great loophole. It is an otherwise unremarkable sentiment given the context of the entire address, but, for the people who almost certainly would have lined up on the other side of the movement in 1963, it subsequently has been used as an opening through which all manner of historically backsliding mischief has come a'wandering in, from "reverse discrimination" to Allan Bakke, to what is going on today with the franchise in too many places, to the reaction to the killing of Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of George Zimmerman.
And so a dream that his children will be treated with basic human dignity, simple but astoundingly and eloquently presented, and today overwhelmingly embraced by all but a very small fringe of Americans, is turned into another craven racial narrative in the service of Democratic politicians.
Goddamn me for believing in King's vision and taking it to heart, I guess. Somehow I doubt that Pierce and his thoroughly corrupt views on race are going to lead us to the Promised Land.
Here's one of several annoying statements at that link:
If you’re going to enjoy a whiskey and ginger ale, it shouldn’t be scotch. Jack and Ginger is fine! Antique Weller and Ginger? Great! But scotch is too smoky; it doesn’t go well with the ginger ale at all. Again: If you’re ordering a scotch and ginger, you’re doing it wrong.
Hey, if somebody wants to offer some free advice based on experience, more power to them. But when they start proclaiming themselves judge and jury over something as individual as taste they have crossed the line from helpful to obnoxious. They've become a snob.
People have every right to be snobs, of course, I just have less and less time for them.
The attacks, which are expected to involve scores of Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from American destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, would not be focused on chemical weapons storage sites, which would risk an environmental and humanitarian catastrophe and could open up the sites to raids by militants, officials said.
The strikes would instead be aimed at military units that have carried out chemical attacks, the headquarters overseeing the effort and the rockets and artillery that have launched the attacks, according to the options being reviewed within the administration.
I see the wisdom of not attacking the chemical weapon storage sites, but how do we know that chemical weapons have not already been distributed to the military units on the target list?
From what I've read, the US and Israel have a pretty good handle on where Syria's chemical weapons are stored and they keep a close watch on those facilities. Can they really keep such a close watch that they can tell which Syrian army units have been armed with chemical weapons from those facilities and which have not? Did they detect the arming of the units that apparently fired the weapons on August 21? If not, how do we know if we are risking uncontrolled chemical releases by attacking those units?
Perhaps we do have that level of detailed intelligence but we just can't admit it. I'm skeptical.
Foreign Policy is reporting that intercepted calls are part of the evidence against the Assad regime:
Last Wednesday, in the hours after a horrific chemical attack east of Damascus, an official at the Syrian Ministry of Defense exchanged panicked phone calls with a leader of a chemical weapons unit, demanding answers for a nerve agent strike that killed more than 1,000 people. Those conversations were overheard by U.S. intelligence services, The Cable has learned. And that is the major reason why American officials now say they're certain that the attacks were the work of the Bashar al-Assad regime -- and why the U.S. military is likely to attack that regime in a matter of days.
I'd like to see the details of those calls and whatever intercepts occurred earlier, because that description above makes it sound like it was something other than a regime-approved operation. If that's the case, do punitive measures against the regime make sense anymore or is there another approach to take? It might sound funny, given how the civil war so far has been basically one giant war crime, but if we know the units and commanders that carried out the attack, should we instead demand that they be turned over to the ICC to be tried for war crimes?
No, what the Obama administration appears to want is a limited, finite series of strikes that will be carefully calibrated to send a message and cause the just-right amount of pain. It wants to set Assad back but it doesn’t want to cause death and mayhem. So the most likely option is probably to destroy a bunch of government or military infrastructure — much of which will probably be empty.
Essentially a repeat of Clinton's Operation Desert Fox against Iraq in 1998.
Well, it's not 1998, we're not dealing with an isolated Iraq, and I'm skeptical that anything can be "carefully calibrated" when it comes to Syria right now.
Perhaps I would be more at ease if I could see the intelligence and the planning that Obama can, but I can't. So I'm not at ease with what's happening, not at all.
It sounds like some sort of US military strike against Syria is inevitable:
President Barack Obama called his national security team together Saturday to talk about the next move in Syria. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper led off the three-hour White House meeting with detailed analysis of the evidence about the chemical weapons attack, the disposition of victims and what the administration now believes is a near air-tight circumstantial case that the Syrian regime was behind it.
Obama ordered a declassified report be prepared for public release before any military strike commences. That report, top advisers tell CBS News, is due to be released in a day or two.
I think it's clear that some sort of chemical incident happened last Wednesday that killed 300 people at a minimum. And I agree that the Syrian government is the most likely culprit, even though it really makes no sense that they would cross that line since they seem to have been winning lately. However, I want to see the evidence first. Not out of any sympathy to the Syrian regime, which I despise, but as assurance that we have correctly assigned the blame.
After the blame comes the punishment and Obama is going to try to thread this needle:
Administration and defense officials described the potential strikes as limited in scope, saying the goal would be to send a message to Mr. Assad without attempting to remove him.
If that message is too weak it will earn Obama even more scorn in the region. If it's too strong it risks tipping the war in favor of the rebels, quite a few of whom are rather nasty people in their own right. Assuming the US military and Obama get that right, what then?
How much collateral damage and civilian casualties are we willing to inflict? Have we thought about what kind of propaganda openings we will create?
How will Syria and Iran respond? Will they release even more chemical weapons and claim that US airstrikes set them off(assuming we have the knowledge to avoid accidentally striking them in the first place)? Will they retaliate with terrorist attacks against Israel, Europe, or even here in the US?
Here's a scary thought: If Assad really was crazy enough to use chemical weapons on such a scale, knowing that would pretty much demand a US/NATO response, how crazy is he willing to get with his own response to the US/NATO strikes? If he escalates, will we escalate in turn? Where and how would that end?
I can see the argument that a US/NATO response to the regime's actions(given they have proved the case) is required, but I also have a queasy feeling about how this is going to turn out. Lebanon and Iraq are already smoldering and ripe for their own tit-for-tat escalations. Rather than squashing any Syrian willingness to use chemical weapons, we might just set the whole region fully ablaze.
The DNR says it happened early Saturday morning at the West Winnie Campground on Lake Winnibigoshish in north-central Minnesota.
The boy, who is from northern Minnesota, was lying on his stomach at about 4:30 a.m. when the wolf approached him and bit him on the head.
"It sounds like he was in a head-down type of position," DNR Regional Manager Tom Provost. "He did not hear anything, and the first indication was when he had jaws clamped down on his head."
The 16-year-old boy suffered multiple puncture wounds and a laceration about 4 inches long. The wolf ran into the woods after the boy kicked it away.
The boy was treated for a serious but non-life threatening scalp laceration and a wolf that was trapped in the campground after it was closed is being tested for rabies.
Wolf attacks on humans in Minnesota have basically been non-existent until now, however livestock and pet attacks are a different story. In fiscal year 2012 Minnesota paid compensation on 111 verified incidents of wolf depredation on farm animals and pets.
Pet attacks are pretty much on local animals on their owner's property in the northern half of the state, but at least one last year was on a hunting dog working in the forest.
I am sympathetic to compensating farmers and residents for wolf depredation losses on their land, but that's where it stops for me. I know a handful of people up north who would love to see the wolf driven to extinction and have talked big about SSS—"shoot, shovel and shut up"—but I know for a fact that they've never actually followed through with it. I empathize with their losses, but wolves are every bit a part of the northern half of the state as black flies and harsh winters. Deal with them or move.
Hopefully I haven't made wolves out as more dangerous to humans, pets, or livestock than they really are. Sammy the Wonder Dog and I tramped through the woods of northern Minnesota in the fall for almost all of her life and we never saw a wolf, though I bet a few saw us at some points. I've never seen one during any canoe or camping trips either. The truth is the closest I've come to seeing a wolf in Minnesota is this.
My guess is that the wolf that attacked that boy was fed multiple times, either deliberately or through sloppy food security at that campground. The same thing happens with bears on occasion. The pity is that when people do those things, it's the animals and the next campers who end up suffering, not the irresponsible idiots.
The first rule to avoiding dangerous human/animal contact in a campsite is one that has been repeated over and over for decades: Please don't feed the animals. Three more rules for campsites are not guaranteed to prevent problems with hungry animals, but make that far less likely:
Keep a very clean campsite. Don't leave food scraps lying about and don't leave partially burned food or grease in the fire pit/grate. Wash all dishes at least 100 feet away from the campsite and leave as little food debris as possible.
Never leave food unattended on the ground. If you have a car, secure your cooler and other foods inside it. Ditto for garbage unless there's a provided dumpster. In remote areas, bring some tough cloth bags to put your food and garbage in and enough rope to hang them from a tree(s).
Never, NEVER!, eat in the tent that you will be sleeping in(or really any tent for that matter) and never sleep right next to the cooking area of your campsite, particularly out in the open.
It's possible that the boy who was attacked violated that last rule, but I'm not certain of that.
I've lived by those rules for more than thirty years and I have never had a problem with bears, wolves, or lesser pain in the butt creatures. It takes a little more work, but not that much, and it's a heck of a lot better to go through that than wake up to a bear sniffing at your tent or coming back to find a chipmunk has chewed a hole in it. Or finding that food supply that you were counting on for the next few days has been completely ravaged.
We'll see what the Minnesota DNR and the Forest Service find in the next few days, but I'll be surprised if this is not a one-off that we won't see again for a long time. However, I think it would be good to check into how well the campground is being monitored and managed as part of the investigation as well. There apparently have been other reports of tents being damaged at that same campground. If that's the case, it might be time to shut down that campground for the rest of this year.
With condolences to his family and friends, from the article it is pretty apparent that this was profoundly unwise:
A 24-year-old man was snatched by a crocodile in front of at least 15 onlookers as he swam across a northern Australian river with a friend, police said Sunday.
Northern Territory police said the man was with a group celebrating a birthday at the Mary River Wilderness Retreat, about 110 kilometres (70 miles) from Darwin, on Saturday when he decided to plunge into the water.
"They were watching him swim across," senior sergeant Geoff Bahnert told AFP of the group.
"And they just saw a crocodile with him in its jaws."
Police conducted a search for the man, but were unsuccessful.
No kidding. Trying to search a crocodile's digestive tract would be right up there when it comes to really futile and stupid gestures, so obviously they went with the lesser of really futile and stupid gestures, searching the river, and shockingly failed.
And it's not like he wasn't warned:
"We say to everybody it's full of crocs. It's one of the most populated rivers in the Territory, every couple of kilometres there is a large croc."
Nice place to take a swim.
If you want to swim outdoors, I suggest Minnesota: Guaranteed Croc-Free Since Last Winter.