We're slowly getting back on track around here. I will be going to Calistoga this week to continue to bear witness along with other friends of Mike. Police and coroner's reports will be posted as soon as I receive them.
I apologize for being light on comments and snippets this week. I am trying to keep Mike's stories on the Home Page, so other postings on the HP will be light in the short term. Look for daily news postings on the World News Desk.
Thanks for your patience.
From Jenna Orkin:
“The crisis surrounding Ukraine shows that global governance is in a mess, but events there are merely a symptom of something larger.
My visit to Washington for the spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank set me wondering whether western democracies are much guiltier than we are prepared to admit.
These meetings took place against the surreal background of the US Congress having failed to pass a bill allowing the IMF to reform in the way that was agreed back in 2010 – a strange decision, as the planned changes to the fund were led by the then-US Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner.
Those proposals were to increase the IMF’s lending capability as well as to boost the voting share and seats of the major so-called “emerging economic powers” at the expense of others, including Europe.
Without the additional firepower, it makes it more difficult for the fund to intervene in economic crises, including the one engulfing Ukraine…”
“YONAGUNI, Japan (Reuters) - Japan began its first military expansion at the western end of its island chain in more than 40 years on Saturday, breaking ground on a radar station on a tropical island off Taiwan.
The move risks angering China, locked in a dispute with Japan over nearby islands which they both claim.
Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera, who attended a ceremony on Yonaguni island to mark the start of construction, suggested the military presence could be enlarged to other islands in the seas southwest of Japan's main islands.
"This is the first deployment since the U.S. returned Okinawa (1972) and calls for us to be more on guard are growing," Onodera told reporters. "I want to build an operation able to properly defend islands that are part of Japan's territory."
The military radar station on Yonaguni, part of a longstanding plan to improve defense and surveillance, gives Japan a lookout just 150 km (93 miles) from the Japanese-held islands claimed by China…”
“Venezuela’s political system is based on three foreign imports: socialist rhetoric from Cuba, weapons from Russia and money from China.
The formula, established by the late President Hugo Chávez, has been followed religiously by his successor, Nicolás Maduro. And now, China’s involvement in Venezuelan affairs might go beyond funding.
“We owe it to our Comandante Chávez to deepen our strategic relationship with our beloved China,” said Maduro, who held talks with Chinese officials as early as a week after Chávez’s passing in early 2013.
The feeling was mutual, as evidenced by Zhang Ping, chairman of China’s National Development and Reform Commission…”
I thought it was only the Lannisters who shit gold. - Wes
“Food prices at the grocery store are up, following an increase in production costs and wholesale prices. In March, retail food prices rose 0.4% from the preceding month, matching February’s increase. These marked the largest monthly gains in food prices since September 2011, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Food prices are often volatile and are affected by a number of factors. While certain factors reflect human decision — such as the changing tastes of consumers and farmers’ planting choices — others are forces over which farmers have very little control. Issues such as weather conditions and diseases can cause severe supply shortages that cause the price of products to rise.
In recent years, drought in the western U.S. has driven up the prices of meat, dairy, fruit and vegetables. Parts of California, the Southwest, and the Great Plains have suffered from three consecutive years of drought, according to Brad Rippey, meteorologist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). More than two-thirds of California is currently covered by extreme drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
Of course, drought directly impacts crops. “Agriculture uses about 80% of California’s water,” Rippey told 24/7 Wall St., and, because of cutbacks in water delivery, “a lot of fields may have to lay fallow.”
“In today's day and age it's pretty much become a standard practice to equate dream homes with McMansions and sprawling estates. However, one California couple's dream home suggests an alternative to this dream -- both in size and in price tag.
For just $30,000, 31-year-old web designer Alek Lisefski built a tiny house for himself and his girlfriend Anjali on an 8-by-12 foot flatbed trailer. (The cost includes money spent on the trailer, tools, supplies and appliances.) And the best part? Not only does it have plenty of room for their dog, Anya, but it's portable as well so Lisefski could avoid the minimum square footage requirements most municipalities have for permanent structures…”
9 Hyperinflation Horror Stories
“Hyperinflationary episodes have appeared several times over the past century — 55, to be exact — as the world's nations have experimented with fiat currencies backed by the full faith and credit of the governments that issue them.
At times, that full faith and credit has been misplaced — and holders of unstable currencies have been caught empty-handed in countries all over the world.
Often, this is can be a recurring theme among developing nations like those in Latin America during the debt crisis that struck the region in the 1980s.
Even some of the largest economies in the world today, though — like China, Germany, and France — have suffered devastating hyperinflationary episodes…”
“Rescuers recovered the body of one mountain guide on Saturday after an ice avalanche swept the lower slopes of Mount Everest, bringing the death toll to at least 13 in the deadliest accident on the world's highest mountain.
The avalanche struck a perilous passage called the Khumbu Icefall, which is riddled with crevasses and piled with serac - or huge chunks of ice - that can break free without warning.
"We were tied on a rope and carrying gas to camp when there was a sudden hrrrr sound," saidAng Kami Sherpa, 25, one of at least three survivors flown by helicopter to Kathmandu. "We knew it was an avalanche but we couldn't run away or do anything.
"There was a big chunk of snow that fell over us and swept us away. It looked like clouds, all white," he said in a hospital intensive care unit where he was being treated for a blood clot on his leg and facial injuries…”
“Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) had a close call with a passing Amtrak train on Friday during a press conference dedicated to commuter rail safety.
As Blumenthal stood behind Milford Mayor Ben Blake while he spoke, he narrowly dodged an oncoming train himself — inadvertently demonstrating the importance of, you know, staying behind that yellow line.
Interestingly, Blake was saying "safety as you know, is paramount" right as the train zipped by…”
“Monsanto and other companies making food with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are in the habit of winning, of having states and entire countries not require mandatory labeling of GMOs. But not this time, not in Vermont.
On Wednesday, the state's senate passed a bill requiring mandatory food labels on foods that have been made with genetically modified crops, a bill that would make Vermont the first state in the U.S. to do so.
"We are really excited that Vermont is going to be leading on this," Falko Schilling of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group said. Mr. Schilling's group was a strong supporter of the bill, which passed by a 28-2 vote. The bill now heads back to the Vermont House of Representatives, which had already passed it, to see if the house will alter any of the changes the senate made to the bill. It goes into effect on July 1…”
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention today released their annual survey of foodborne illnesses in the United States, and the news is, well, not great. In the words of the press announcement they sent out to announce the data release: “limited progress.”
The survey — technically the Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network, but usually known as FoodNet — doesn’t cover the entire US; it’s a representative sample drawn from 10 sites in nine states where the CDC already has arrangements with epidemiologists and laboratory personnel. Those 10 sites, most of them at state health departments, cover 48 million people, or about 15 percent of the US population. So among that slice, in 2013, there were:
- 19,056 lab-confirmed foodborne illnesses,
- 4,200 of which were severe enough to cause the person to be hospitalized,
- and 80 of which caused the person’s death.
(For context, the CDC’s extrapolation of foodborne illness nationwide, made in 2011, was 48 million illnesses, 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths.)…”
“LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — Islamic extremists Saturday claimed responsibility for the massive rush-hour explosion earlier this week that ripped through a busy bus station in Nigeria's capital, Abuja, killing at least 75 people and wounding 141.
"We are in your city, but you don't know where we are," Abubakar Shekau, leader of the Boko Haram terrorist network, says in a new video that threatens more attacks.
"Yes, we are the ones who carried out the attack in Abuja," he says in Nigeria's Hausa language in the video, which was received through the same channels as previous ones.
Shekau makes no mention of the abductions of more than 100 girls and young women from a remote northeastern school hours after the bomb blast, also blamed on his fighters…”
“This video of Air Canada baggage handlers tossing gate checked bags was uploaded on Thursday. It was taken before a flight from Toronto to Vancouver. Air Canada is investigating.
“The gate check, unfortunately, turned into a gate toss,” Stewart said.
The video runs a little over a minute and shows a baggage handler dropping items from the top of a movable staircase into a bin, which a second handler then moves into a nearby vehicle…”
“Some Syrian rebel groups are being armed with advanced American-made antitank missiles in a test run to judge whether the arms end up in the hands of extremist groups in the region, The Wall Street Journal reports.
With Saudi assistance, the U.S. has delivered about a dozen BGM-71 TOW (Tube-launched, Optically-tracked, Wire-guided) missile systems to at least one rebel group.
"To make it clear, our allies are only delivering these missiles to trusted groups that are moderate," one senior leader of rebel group Harakat Hazm told WSJ. "The first step is showing that we can effectively use the TOWs, and hopefully the second one will be using antiaircraft missiles."
The TOW, first introduced in 1970, is a very effective weapon system that can take out tanks, other heavily-armored vehicles, and bunkers…”
“Google-owned robotics company Boston Dynamics makes a number of stunning robots, perhaps most notably its Atlas humanoid and the "Big Dog" cargo-carrying robot.
But the "Sand Flea," weighing in at a mere 11 pounds (compared to Atlas' 330 pounds) can do something that none of these others can. It can jump, and it can jump high.
It moves along the ground like a remote control car, but when the operator wants to get airborne, the Sand Flea props itself up at an angle and fires a piston into the ground that sends the robot hurtling forward through the air at heights of up to 30 feet. That's high enough to jump onto the roof of an average house from the ground…”