Humans making Antarctic birds sick


This 2013 video says about itself:

Animals in the Antarctic Ice

The wildlife of Antarctica are extremophiles, having to adapt to the dryness, low temperatures, and high exposure common in Antartica. The extreme weather of the interior contrasts to the relatively mild conditions on the Antarctic Peninsula and the Subantarctic islands, which have warmer temperatures and more liquid water. Much of the ocean around the mainland is covered by sea ice. The oceans themselves are a more stable environment for life, both in the water column and on the seabed.

From the University of Barcelona in Spain:

The fauna in the Antarctica is threatened by pathogens humans spread in polar latitudes

When the human species infects other living beings

December 10, 2018

Summary: The fauna in the Antarctica could be in danger due the pathogens humans spread in places and research stations in the southern ocean.

The new study, which detected bacteria from humans in the genus Salmonella and Campylobacter in Antarctic and Subantarctic marine birds, reveals the fragility of polar ecosystems and warns about the risk of massive deaths and extinctions of local fauna populations due pathogens.

Reverse zoonosis: when the human species infects other living beings

Explorers, whalers, scientists -and lately, tourists-, are examples of human collectives that moved to the furthest regions of the planet. Some studies have claimed for years that there had been cases of reverse zoonosis, that is, infections humans give to other living beings. Despite some previous signs, scientific studies on zoonotic agents in the Antarctic and Subantarctic areas have been fragmented. Therefore, evidence is spread and not completely convincing in this field.

The new study, published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, studies the potential transmission of bacteria from humans to marine bird populations in four areas of the Antarctic and Subantarctic ecosystems. “Chronology and potential pathways for reverse zoonosis in these ecosystems are complex and difficult to study, but it seems they can be clearly related to the proximity of the fauna to inhabited areas and the presence of research stations”, says Professor Jacob González-Solís, from the Department of Evolutionary Biology, Ecology and Environmental Sciences of the UB and IRBio.

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria in polar ecosystems

The study confirms the first evidence of reverse zoonosis related to the presence of human-origin bacteria Salmonella and Campylobacter in polar fauna. One of the warning signs was, in particular, the identification of Campylobacter strains, which are resistant to ciprofloxacin and enrofloxacin (common antibiotics in medicine and veterinary).

“Finding common Campylobacter genotypes in human species or livestock was the definite hint to prove that humans can be introducing pathogens in these regions”, says Marta Cerdà-Cuéllar, researcher at the IRTA-CReSA. “These Salmonella and Campylobacter strains, which are a common cause for infections in humans and livestock, do not usually cause death outbreaks in wild animals. However, the emerging or invasive pathogens that arrive to highly sensitive populations -such as the Antarctic and Subantarctic fauna- could have severe consequences and cause the local collapse and extinction of some populations.”

Northen and Southern Hemisphere: migrating route for marine birds and pathogens

The study shows the risk of reverse zoonosis is higher in areas that are closer to inhabited areas, such as theFalkland Islands, and probably the Tristan da Cunha archipelago. In this situation, the biological connectivity between Antarctic and Subantarctic communities through marine birds is a factor that would speed up the circulation of zoonotic agents among the ecosystems from different latitudes.

“This could be the case, for instance, of the Subantarctic Stercorarius antarcticus: a scavenger marine bird could get the pathogen and spread it from Subantarctic latitudes to the Antarctica,” says González-Solís.

Polar areas: not all the biodiversity is protected

The Antarctic Treaty protocol on Environmental Protection sets a series of principles that can be applied to human activity in Antarctica to reduce the human footprint in the white continent. However, some Subantarctic areas -which are also the habitat of birds such as the brown skua or the giant petrel– are not protected by the protecting regulation and could become the entrance for pathogen agents in polar ecosystems.

“Our results show it is easier for humans to introduce pathogen agents in the pristine areas in the Antarctica. As a result, pathogens entering the furthest ecosystems in the Southern Hemisphere could be a serious threat for the future of wildlife. Therefore, it is essential to adopt biosecurity measures to limit the human impacts in the Antarctica,” notes Jacob González-Solís.

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Ex-US President George H. W. Bush, his AIDS policies, his necrologies


This 3 December 2018 video from the USA says about itself:

Remembering George H.W. Bush’s Inaction on AIDS at Home While Detaining HIV+ Haitians at Guantánamo

George H.W. Bush died on the eve of World AIDS Day, an irony not lost on many HIV/AIDS activists who remember the 41st president of the United States for his lack of action in the 1990s as the HIV/AIDS crisis raged on.

Bush said little about the crisis during his years as vice president under Ronald Reagan, who didn’t even mention AIDS until the penultimate year of his presidency. Despite promises to do more after he was elected president, George H.W. Bush refused to address and fund programs around HIV/AIDS education and prevention, as well as drug treatment.

We speak with Steven Thrasher, journalist and doctoral candidate in American studies at New York University. He was recently appointed Daniel H. Renberg chair of media coverage in sexual and gender minorities at Northwestern University. His recent article for The Nation is titled “It’s a Disgrace to Celebrate George H.W. Bush on World AIDS Day.”

Not so long ago, George H.W Bush was in the news about a #MeToo sexual harassment incident. #MeToo accuser interrupts tributes to revive groping allegations against George H.W. Bush: here.

The Holocaust and the Bush family fortune: here.

By Patrick Martin in the USA:

Media, political establishment laud George H. W. Bush

3 December 2018

Former President George H. W. Bush died late Friday at the age of 94. Born into a ruling class family of wealth and privilege, he lived a life a world away from the struggles and sufferings of the working class.

In his decades as a political representative of American imperialism, the most murderous and reactionary force on the planet, Bush helped insure that millions of people around the world did not have a chance to live the full and comfortable life he led. Instead, they were shot to death, bombed or otherwise annihilated by the armed forces of the United States, or starved, jailed or tortured by governments backed by the CIA and doing the bidding of Washington.

Few people in recent American history have had so long a record of “service” to the US ruling elite and its state machine. Few have participated in the crimes of American imperialism in so many ways: legislator, diplomat, CIA director, commander-in-chief. As a member of Congress for four years, 1967-71, Bush voted repeatedly to fund the war in Vietnam. As US ambassador to the United Nations, 1971-72, he was the public voice of the United States government, defending its crimes in Southeast Asia before a world audience. As US envoy to China in 1974-75, he carried out the Kissinger policy of wooing Chinese Stalinism as a counterweight to the USSR. As CIA director in 1975-76, he oversaw Operation Condor, the joint venture in the assassination of leftists conducted by the CIA and the US-backed military regimes in Chile, Argentina, Brazil and other Latin American countries.

While vice president in the Reagan administration (1981-1989), he was complicit in the terrorist “contra” war against Nicaragua and the death squad operations in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, in which hundreds of thousands died, as well as the dispatch of US troops to Lebanon, the invasion of Grenada and the bombing of Libya. In the first year of his presidency he ordered the invasion of Panama and in the final year the occupation of Somalia. In between came the greatest crime of all, the waging of the first Persian Gulf War, deliberately instigated by the Bush administration, in which hundreds of thousands of Iraqi conscripts were incinerated by US bombs and missiles.

Bush’s political record at home was less openly murderous but equally reactionary. He was a consummate political cynic. While his father Prescott Bush, a Wall Street banker and Republican senator from Connecticut, had been a social moderate, George H. W. Bush tailored his political positions to the reactionary climate of Texas in the period before the dismantling of Jim Crow segregation. In his first campaign for office, as the Republican candidate for US Senate in Texas in 1964, Bush ran as a Goldwaterite, opposing the 1964 Civil Rights Act as an infringement on freedom (to discriminate) and condemning the impending establishment of Medicare as “socialistic”. He later denounced “the militant Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.”

As chairman of the Republican National Committee in 1973-74, Bush defended Richard Nixon throughout the Watergate crisis. After memorably branding the supply-side policies advanced by Ronald Reagan as “voodoo economics”, during the contest for the 1980 Republican presidential nomination, Bush worked assiduously to become Reagan’s running mate. As vice president, he supported all the right-wing domestic measures of the Reagan administration, from the firing of the PATCO air traffic controllers in 1981 to the deregulation of business, cuts in social programs and tax reductions for the wealthy and big business.

In the 1988 presidential campaign, Bush pledged a “kindler, gentler” America, implicitly acknowledging the brutality of the Reagan administration’s onslaught on the poor and the working class. But his campaign unleashed the Willie Horton ad against his Democratic opponent Michael Dukakis, which used the image of a black convict who had committed rape and armed burglary during a weekend furlough from a Massachusetts prison to paint Dukakis as soft on crime. This brazen appeal to racism was part a deliberate effort to cement the gains of the Nixon-Reagan “southern strategy”, which recruited racist elements in that region, formerly dominated by the Democrats, and made it the stronghold of the Republican Party.

The Bush presidency carried forward right-wing policies in both foreign and domestic areas. Bush bailed out the savings & loan industry at taxpayer expense—his son Neil was a prominent executive of a failed S&L—while seeking to slash spending for domestic social programs. He suffered a political embarrassment when he inadvertently revealed his distance from the daily experiences of ordinary Americans by expressing surprise at the use of barcode readers in a supermarket.

In 1991, he nominated the ultra-rightist Clarence Thomas to the US Supreme Court to replace the retiring Thurgood Marshall. As he left office in January 1993, Bush issued pardons for Caspar Weinberger, Reagan’s secretary of defense, and five other officials who had been indicted or convicted for their roles in the Iran-Contra scandal.

But it was in foreign policy that his administration made its mark and established its “legacy” in the eyes of the American ruling elite. The Bush presidency coincided with the collapse of Stalinism, beginning in Eastern Europe in 1989 and culminating in the dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991. Weekend obituaries hailed Bush for adroit management of the crisis, although in truth he had little to do beyond accepting the surrender of Soviet Stalinist leader Mikhail Gorbachev. His one distinctive contribution was the decision to back the reunification of Germany in 1990 over the objections of British Prime Minister Thatcher and French President Mitterrand, both of whom feared the consequences of the reemergence of Germany as a world power in the center of the continent.

The implications of the dissolution of the Soviet Union for world politics were laid bare in the crisis that erupted after Iraq’s invasion and occupation of Kuwait in August 1990. The Reagan administration had backed Saddam Hussein during the bloody Iran-Iraq War of 1980-88, and Bush continued this policy, even hinting in July 1990, through a US envoy, that the US was neutral on Saddam’s border clash with Kuwait, which was siphoning oil from Iraq’s Rumailah oilfield. Saddam seized Kuwait, but soon found himself caught in a trap, as hundreds of thousands of US and allied soldiers were mobilized to the Arabian Peninsula along with hundreds of warplanes and warships armed with cruise missiles.

When the war began in January 1991, it was a one-sided slaughter of the soldiers of a Third World country by the most powerful military force on the planet. But Bush decided not to expand the war by marching on Baghdad, in part because Saddam Hussein was still viewed as a counterweight against Iran, but even more because he was allied to the Soviet Union, whose existence provided a check on US military options that no longer existed by the time Bush’s son entered the White House ten years later.

The atmosphere in the George H. W. Bush White House during this time was one of imperialist triumphalism, summed up in Bush’s pledge to create a “New World Order.” Bush’s former defense secretary Richard Cheney, who was vice president under George W. Bush, gave a glimpse of this mood during an appearance on ABC’s “This Week” program on Sunday. Cheney recalled fondly the budget process of the George H. W. Bush administration when the president and his top aides set spending levels. “When it was time to put the budget together,” he said, “defense came first. We’d decide what the top line was going to be for defense, and I was free to go spend that. Then everybody else got what was left. That’s a great way to operate, if you’re secretary of defense.”

There was little truth about this record of reaction and militarism in the obituary published by the New York Times, which ran to 10,000 words, or the similar 6,000-word tribute in the Washington Post. The two leading US newspapers set the tone for the reverential media coverage, which will continue at full blast on cable television through Wednesday’s national day of mourning. This will be a day off for bankers, stock traders and capitalist politicians, but not for most workers, a class difference that is peculiarly appropriate for this particular dead president.

All sections of the US political establishment joined hands to sing the praises of George H. W. Bush. The Trump White House, whose occupant has made no secret of his hatred of the Bush family, released a statement hailing Bush’s leadership during the “peaceful and victorious conclusion of the Cold War”, adding, “ As president, he set the stage for the decades of prosperity that have followed.” Enrichment for Wall Street, of course, not the working class.

The Democrats were even more fervent in their declarations, in part seeking to contrast Bush with the current president, even as they seek “common ground” with Trump’s fascistic rants.

Former President Bill Clinton said in a statement that he considered Bush’s friendship “one of my life’s greatest gifts.” In an op-ed piece in the Washington Post, Clinton gushed: “He was an honorable, gracious and decent man who believed in the United States, our Constitution, our institutions and our shared future. And he believed in his duty to defend and strengthen them, in victory and defeat.”

Other Democrats chimed in: “He set the standard for decency”, said Thomas A. Daschle, the former Senate majority leader. Former Vice President Joe Biden described Bush as “decent, kind and welcoming.”

Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who entered Congress shortly before Bush became president, called him “a gentleman of the highest integrity and deepest patriotism,” and said it was a privilege to work with him. She added that Bush demonstrated “great humility, unwavering compassion, deep faith, and extraordinary kindness in and out of the political arena.”

The state funeral for George H. W. Bush and the ritual of oligarchy: here.

The lying campaign by the ruling class to mythologize George H.W. Bush reached absurd new heights with the elevation of his service dog, “Sully”, as a symbol of mourning and national unity: here.

Life expectancy in the USA going down


Age-adjusted drug overdose death rates: United States, 1999–2017

By Trévon Austin in the USA:

The US mortality crisis: CDC reports extraordinary drop in life expectancy

30 November 2018

Life expectancy in the United States continued its extraordinary decline in 2017 after stagnating in 2016 and falling in 2015. Not since the combined impact of World War I and the Spanish Flu in 1918 has the country experienced such a prolonged period of decline in life expectancy.

The annual mortality report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) highlights the disastrous impact of the social crisis on the American working class. Suicides and drug overdoses, what have been termed deaths of despair, have been identified as the driving forces behind the continuing decline in how long Americans are expected to live.

In 2017, over 2.8 million Americans died, an increase by approximately 70,000 from the previous year and the most deaths in a single year since the US government began keeping records. From 2016 to 2017, the age-adjusted death rate for the entire population increased by 0.4 percent.

The average life expectancy in the US declined from 78.7 to 78.6 years. Life expectancy dropped for males from 76.2 to 76.1 but remained the same for females at 81.1. Life expectancy for females has consistently been higher than males and the gap continues to widen. In 2017, the difference in life expectancy between females and males increased 0.1 year from 4.9 years in 2016 to 5.0 years in 2017.

Age-specific death rates between 2016 and 2017 increased for age groups 25–34, 35–44, and 85 and over. These statistics indicate a healthcare system failing the elderly and a societal crisis ravaging younger workers. Deaths of despair, including alcoholism, are a leading cause of deaths in younger ages groups.

The US suicide death rate rose to the highest in 50 years last year. Since 2008, it has ranked as the 10th leading cause of death for all ages in the US. In 2016, suicide became the second leading cause of death for ages 10–34 and the fourth leading cause for ages 35–54. From 1999 to 2017, suicide rates have increased for both males and females, with the greatest yearly increases occurring since 2006.

The average annual increase in suicide rates shifted from about one percent per year from 1999 through 2006 to two percent per year from 2006 through 2017. The age-adjusted rate of suicide among females increased from 4.0 per 100,000 in 1999 to 6.1 in 2017, while the rate for males increased from 17.8 to 22.4.

Age-adjusted suicide rates, by sex: United States, 1999–2017

The study also focuses on suicide in depressed rural regions. In 1999, the suicide rate in rural counties was 1.4 times the rate of most urban areas. The rate in rural areas was 13.1 per 100,000 with urban areas having a rate of 9.6 per 100,000. The difference further increased in 2017 with the suicide rate for the most rural counties (20.0 per 100,000) increasing to 1.8 times the rate for the most urban counties (11.1).

The rate in drug overdoses has skyrocketed in the same period. From 1999 to 2017, the overdose rate soared from 6.1 per 100,000 to 21.7 per 100,000. The rate increased by an average of 10 percent per year from 1999 to 2006, by 3 percent per year from 2006 to 2014, and a staggering 16 percent per year from 2014 to 2017. The rise coincides with the opioid crisis ravaging through parts of the US, concentrated in West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

The figures contained in the latest CDC report are a reflection of the diseased nature of American society and the failure of the capitalist system. The last decade has seen a historic rise in social inequality in the aftermath of the economic crash of 2008 and the bailout of Wall Street, overseen by Obama and the Democrats, which saw the greatest transfer of wealth in history from the working class to the rich.

Low-wage, tenuous employment, where it is available, has replaced the jobs that were destroyed in the process. …

Life expectancy at selected ages, by sex: United States, 2016 and 2017

CDC director Robert R. Redfield lamented over the implications of his organization’s report: “The latest CDC data show that the US life expectancy has declined over the past few years. Tragically, this troubling trend is largely driven by deaths from drug overdose and suicide,” he said in a press release.

“Life expectancy gives us a snapshot of the Nation’s overall health and these sobering statistics are a wakeup call that we are losing too many Americans, too early and too often, to conditions that are preventable.”

As indicated by the prevalence of suicide in rural regions, joblessness and social isolation reap a terrible toll. Workers are driven to the very brink of despair under the ruling class assault against the living standards won by the working class in the 20th century.

There is no solution to the continued decline in life expectancy forthcoming from the ruling class. In reality, the increased death rates are seen as the cost of doing business, necessary to funnel ever greater sums of money into the pockets of robber barons like Jeff Bezos and fuel unprecedented spending on the US military.

A socialist response is required to meet the needs of the working class. A direct assault must be launched on the wealth of the corporate and financial elite. The wealth of the one percent must be expropriated to fund universal healthcare and turn the giant pharmaceutical companies into publicly-owned utilities.

The decades-long campaign to strip workers of their social gains must be reversed. Society must be transformed to ensure every person has access to high quality healthcare, education and housing, and ensure the right to a high-paying job and leisure.

One million dead from suicide, drug overdoses since 2007. Casualties of the social counterrevolution in America: here.

Boston, USA flounder health improvement


This 2011 video from the USA says about itself:

A winter flounder (Pseudopleuronectes americanus) posed for the camera at Fort Wetherill, Jamestown, Rhode Island. This was south of the island off the main parking lot peninsula at about 80 feet.

From Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in the USA:

Flounder now tumor-free in Boston Harbor

November 28, 2018

In the late 1980s, more than three-quarters of the winter flounder caught in Boston Harbor — one of the most polluted harbors in America — showed signs of liver disease, many of them with cancerous tumors. But now, a scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) has documented a dramatic rebound in flounder health spurred by decades of remediation efforts, including a $3.8 billion project to construct a sewage treatment plant and a 9.5-mile discharge tunnel with a 6,600-foot-long outfall diffuser. The findings appear in the Nov. 20, 2018 issue of the journal Diseases of Aquatic Organisms.

“The last tumor we’ve seen in a winter flounder from Boston Harbor was back in 2004,” said Michael Moore, a biologist at (WHOI). “The fish aren’t getting liver tumors anymore.”

The turnaround, Moore said, is attributed to a number of major, long-term environmental cleanup efforts to reduce sewage sludge, nutrients, and toxins in the harbor and adjacent waters, including construction of the outflow discharge tunnel completed in 2000. The tunnel is wide enough to fit two semitrailers side by side and channels millions of gallons of effluent each day from the Deer Island Treatment Plant on Boston Harbor into Massachusetts Bay 9.5 miles offshore.

Moore has collaborated with the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA), Battelle Norwell, and most recently, Normandeau Associates, to monitor the health impacts of contaminants on flounder since 1986 through annual fish surveys in and around Boston Harbor. The fish are caught, dissected, and their liver tissues are examined for signs of disease.

When the monitoring program began, the Harbor’s water quality suffered from a persistent buildup of pollutants: nitrogenous wastes, petroleum and pesticide chemicals, metals and nitrates from homes, commercial buildings, and industries were all discharged in millions of gallons of wastewater into the harbor each day. The toxic soup caused a spike in liver disease among flounder, and Boston Harbor, with its brownish tint and choked-off oxygen supply, became regarded as the “dirtiest harbor in America.”

Mounting pressure from local politicians, scientists, and residents to clean up the harbor led to a lawsuit filed by the city of Quincy, Mass., against local agencies responsible for sewage operations in the Greater Boston area. The landmark 1984 Boston Harbor Cleanup Case decision resulted in the creation of a new agency charged with the court-mandated, multibillion-dollar public works project aimed at improving sewage and runoff handling in the harbor.

The harbor’s water quality began responding within months of the first cleanup efforts as organic matter, nutrient and chemical loading into the harbor dropped, and dissolved oxygen levels climbed. During its monitoring, the MWRA noticed other signs that the harbor was starting to breathe easier: Fewer contaminants were penetrating sediments on the ocean floor where flounder live, and the quality of water, harbor bottoms, and beaches all improved.

“In government, you often debate shades of gray,” said MWRA’s executive director Fred Laskey. “But in this case, the empirical data are irrefutable. The clean-up of Boston Harbor is the greatest environmental achievement of this generation.”

Moore said that pesticides and other chemicals of particular significance to the flounder liver disease decreased, resulting in healthier fish. The liver tumor prevalence was also a good indicator that the harbor cleanup reduced human health risk, especially for seafood consumers. Moore said that the goal of cleaning up toxic chemicals in the harbor has been met. Importantly, while the health of flounder in the Harbor has improved, there has been no decline in the health of winter flounder caught near the long outfall. In fact, levels of disease associated with contaminant exposure are lower in flounder caught near the outfall than they were in the early 1990s.

“The amount of human endeavor that went into the project was staggering,” he said. “You don’t often see such a clear justification of the tax-payer cost for a public benefit when it comes to environmental protection, but the results of this study validate the idea that long-term investments in improving regional environmental quality actually work.”

This research was funded by the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority.

California wildfires, over 1,000 people missing


Firefighters taking on the Woolsey Fire in Southern California [photo courtesy Cal Fire]

By Evan Blake in the USA:

Death toll rises to 71, more than 1,000 missing from devastating California wildfires

17 November 2018

The ongoing wildfires in California, including the most deadly and destructive in the state’s history, are a horrific exposure of the collapse of social infrastructure and the consequences of government neglect.

The immense toll is just beginning to be comprehended. On Friday, the official death toll from the Camp Fire in Northern California reached 71, while the number of missing persons skyrocketed from 631 to 1,011.

The Woolsey Fire in Southern California began on November 8 and has destroyed over 98,300 acres, roughly the size of Denver, Colorado. Over 295,000 people have been forced to evacuate the region, and there have been three confirmed deaths as of this writing. The fire is now 69 percent contained.

In Butte County, Northern California, the Camp Fire began on the same day and has caused far greater damage. The fire currently encompasses 146,000 acres, with 50 percent containment, and has forced 52,000 people to evacuate. The fire has destroyed 12,263 structures, including 9,844 single residences and 144 multiple residences.

Another 15,500 structures are still threatened by the Camp Fire, which is not expected to be fully contained until November 30 at the earliest. Statewide, roughly 9,400 firefighters have been deployed to fight the ongoing fires, of whom roughly 1,500 are prison inmates that are paid a meager $1 per hour.

The largely working-class, elderly towns of Paradise and Magalia, as well as multiple smaller census-designated places, have been essentially wiped off the map by the Camp Fire. Each day, an average of eight new bodies have been found in the rubble, as nearly 500 search-and-rescue personnel survey the area.

On Thursday, the number of missing people skyrocketed from 300 to 631, then to 1,011 on Friday evening. Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea has said that officials have finally processed all the 911 calls and missing person reports made over the past week.

A map of the building damage in Paradise, CA and surrounding areas

Officials have not released the names of all 1,011 missing people, but the most recent public list showed that the vast majority are elderly, with 91 percent over the age of 50, and therefore more likely to have perished given the rapidity of the wildfire’s spread and the complete lack of a citywide warning system.

The Camp Fire will likely rank among the top five deadliest wildfires in US history, and the deadliest since the Cloquet Fire in Minnesota killed an estimated 1,000 people in 1918. The fact that such a devastating event could take place in modern America speaks to the immense social crisis of contemporary capitalism, which subordinates all aspects of social life to the pursuit of private profit.

Beyond those killed or made homeless by the Camp Fire, millions more have been impacted across the Northern California region, as toxic particulate matter has fanned out and spread hundreds of miles westward, creating hazardous air for millions of residents in the densely populated Bay Area, as well as large parts of the Central Valley.

According to the air quality-monitoring network Purple Air, Northern California currently has the most polluted air in the world, worse than notoriously smoggy cities in India and China. On Friday afternoon, the air quality reached the highest “hazardous” rating on the Air Quality Index scale in the cities of Chico and Oroville, where most Camp Fire evacuees have fled, as well as the heavily populated Sacramento region, effecting over 600,000 people. At least 25 other cities in Northern California ranked in the highly toxic “Unhealthy” and “Very Unhealthy” range.

The cumulative, long-term health impact of this air pollution may never be fully known. The toxic air can cause asthma attacks and prompt strokes and heart attacks. Due to the fact that school funding is tied to attendance, almost every major school district in the region remained open throughout the week, until conditions became so bad that they were forced to close on Friday. Ambulances were sent to schools in the region Thursday to hospitalize students having severe asthma attacks.

Air quality monitors across Northern California show hazardous conditions for millions [Courtesy wunderground.com]

US President Donald Trump—who has feuded with the state’s Democratic politicians—initially threatened to cut off federal funding to the state. He has since backpedaled slightly, and the White House announced Thursday that Trump will visit “individuals impacted by the wildfires” this Saturday.

Whatever empty platitudes Trump issues during his visit, his administration will do nothing to make survivors whole or address any of the underlying causes of the epidemic of wildfires that have ravaged California in recent years. Nor will the Democratic politicians that run the state, including Governor Jerry Brown or Governor-elect Gavin Newsom.

Both parties are responsible for this catastrophe. Funding for the state agencies that oversee fire prevention and management has been continually cut in recent decades at both the state and federal level, while the energy monopoly Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) has been allowed to subordinate public safety to its private profit.

In a report published last June, Cal Fire found that PG&E equipment caused 16 wildfires last year, 11 of which involved violations of state fire prevention codes, making them potentially liable for $15 billion in damages. Southern California Edison, which provides energy for much of Southern California—including the region impacted by the Woolsey Fire—admitted in late October that its equipment helped spark the massive 2017 Thomas Fire that killed two people and burned over 280,000 acres.

However, in September Governor Brown signed into law SB 901, which limits the potential damages for which utilities are liable. The law also allows regulators to reduce assessed damages when weather exacerbates the disaster, and to take into account the company’s “financial status” to limit the costs to shareholders and allow the utilities to raise rates on the public.

PG&E shares have fallen by as much as 53 percent since the Camp Fire began, as the first ignition point for the fire is reported to have been under PG&E power lines near the Poe Dam. PG&E acknowledged Tuesday that it had submitted an “electric incident report” moments prior to the outbreak of the fire, sending its shares plummeting.

In response, late Thursday California Public Utilities Commission President Michael Picker held a private meeting with Wall Street investors and analysts, in which he reportedly said that he wishes to avoid a PG&E bankruptcy, and that he will allow the company to pass on wildfire-related costs to customers through a bond-purchasing program. After-hours trading caused PG&E stock to surge more than 44 percent, erasing the day’s 30 percent decline.

In an interview with the Chronicle, Picker stated, “If [PG&E] can’t borrow money, if they have liquidity problems and they can’t do vegetation management, that’s a problem. That’s not good policy, to really let them get financially unstable.”

Almost all of California’s electricity is transmitted through wooden aboveground power lines, which are known to cause wildfires due to poor maintenance. Two rational but more expensive solutions are the use of underground lines or steel aboveground lines. Instead, PG&E has since 2013 begun cutting power to entire regions that experience conditions conducive to wildfires. In the days prior to the Camp Fire, PG&E sent warnings to customers in Butte County that they would temporarily cut power, indicating that they knew conditions were ripe for a wildfire. However, no cutoff was made before the fire broke out.

Both the Democrats and Republicans preside over a capitalist system that has proven incapable of addressing climate change, which is responsible for increasingly extreme and unpredictable global weather patterns. The 2011-2017 California drought was the driest period in state history since records began in 1895. Then 2017 brought one of the wettest years in state history, while 2018 has seen a return of drought conditions. The Camp Fire itself began after 210 continuous days without rain in the region.

The experience of the Camp Fire has affected millions of people and will deepen the ongoing radicalization of the working class. As Robert Starling, a restaurant dishwasher who fled the Camp Fire in Magalia, told the World Socialist Web Site, “This country has failed. We need to have an overhaul. I don’t know how it’s going to be done, if it’s going to take another revolution. […] Things like this will make people mad and instill enough drive to do it.”

In a socialist society, the major corporations, including PG&E and Edison International, would be nationalized. Billions would be reallocated from the military and the bank accounts of the super-rich toward the rational planning of cities, including the universal use of underground or metal aboveground electrical infrastructure. Emergency response technology would provide instant notification of any wildfires or other extreme weather events, and fire departments would be fully funded to prevent any future outbreaks. Programs to halt and reverse human-induced climate change would create a stable climate and lay the basis for sustaining future generations of mankind.

Lies on French Polynesia nuclear bombs admitted


Demonstrators against a French nuclear bomb test on Mururoa, in september 1995. AFP photo

This AFP photo shows demonstrators against a French nuclear bomb test on Mururoa island in French Polynesia, in september 1995.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

President of French Polynesia admits lies about nuclear testing

President Fritch of French Polynesia has acknowledged in the parliament in Tahiti that the population has been lied to for 30 years about the dangers of the nuclear tests that were held there. Between 1960 and 1996, France held 193 tests with atomic bombs in the overseas territory in the South Pacific.

The images of the mushroom cloud that rose above the Mururoa atoll were increasingly leading to international protests. In 2010, the French government released hundreds of millions of euros to compensate the residents of French Polynesia. The money was also destined for Algeria, where nuclear tests were also held.

“I can not be surprised that I have been called a liar for thirty years, we lied to the people that the nuclear tests were clean. We lied”, was the statement by President Edouard Fritch. Unknown is what brought Fritch to this confession.

On request, the United States news agency AP received no response from the French government to the statements by Fritch.

Radioactive radiation

The whistleblower Bruno Barrillot, who died last year, revealed that thyroid cancer and leukemia occur excessively among the 280,000 inhabitants of French Polynesia.

President Hollande visited French Polynesia two years ago. He acknowledged on that occasion that the nuclear tests had a harmful effect on human health and the environment. But he also praised the contribution that French Polynesia made to the fact that France became an international nuclear power.

Three years earlier, French newspapers reported on the basis of official documents released that the nuclear tests were much more harmful than the authorities had admitted.

Tahiti, the most famous Polynesian island that is often depicted on the paintings of Paul Gauguin, was exposed to radioactive radiation 500 times as high as the maximum permitted level.

Monsanto glyphosate in food


This 10 November 2018 video from the USA says about itself:

Studies Find Monsanto’s Poison In Food Products

Lawsuits are coming together against some of the biggest food makers in the United States after repeated studies have found unsafe levels of Monsanto’s glyphosate in their products. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup, and it has been shown to cause cancer in studies. Ring of Fire’s Farron Cousins discusses this with Scott Hardy from Top Class Actions.