Gorgeous timelapse, dash of Carl Sagan and musical musings of Canned Heat to cheer you up –
Gorgeous timelapse, dash of Carl Sagan and musical musings of Canned Heat to cheer you up –
Pondering Carl Sagan – a Sunday morning post dedicated to the greatest visionary of our time.
Five Sunday minutes with Carl Sagan puts Monday morning in perspective. A dose of Sunday morning Sagan could be the tonic our world is searching for.
In 2001 declassified CIA documents revealed Operation Acoustic Kitty. The premise – use cats to spy on Soviet embassies and the Kremlin. Launched in 1961, Acoustic Kitty faced considerable challenges – surgically implanting listening devices into a cat’s ear, wiring the tail as an antennae weren’t problematic, training fickle felines to ignore distractions were another matter.
Five years and $20 million tax dollars later, Acoustic Kitty was tasked with eavesdropping on two Soviet agents in a park near the Soviet Embassy on Wisconsin Avenue in Washington D.C. CIA operatives released, then witnessed Acoustic Kitty’s demise when a taxi ran over her. They secured Acoustic Kitty’s remains to prevent Soviet discovery of the mission.
Abandoned in 1967 as “an unadulterated failure”, to this day portions of CIA Acoustic Kitty files remain censored.
Former CIA officer Victor Marchetti said –
“They slit the cat open, put batteries in him, wired him up. The tail was used as an antenna. They made a monstrosity. They tested him and tested him. They found he would walk off the job when he got hungry, so they put another wire in to override that. Finally, they’re ready. They took it out to a park bench and said, “Listen to those two guys. Don’t listen to anything else – not the birds, no cat or dog – just those two guys!”
As of 2010 global population increased by 2 people per second, 200,000 each day, 80,000,000 a year. 80 million additional persons in need of food, water, energy and shelter just to get by, never mind education or employment. If population growth stopped today, there would still be over a billion people without access to clean safe drinking water, and food production would have to double to feed everyone. Spend a moment with the world population clock linked below –
In the past 200 years, global population went from one to over seven and a half billion. Between 1900 and 2000 population growth was three times greater than the entire history of humanity. 6.5 percent of all people ever born are alive today. In the next 40 years Earth’s population will grow by three billion – more than current populations of Europe, Africa, North and South America combined.
Remember that billion alive today without clean water? 70% of our planet is covered in water, of that only 2.5% is fresh water. Of that 2.5%, 1% is accessible, the rest is locked underground or in ice caps and glaciers. Industrial, agricultural and civic demands on available fresh water often result in calamity. In 1960 Aral Sea was the 4th largest lake on Earth, covering 68,000 square kilometers of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Today, the Aral Sea is one of the worst environmental disasters in history. Soviet irrigation projects diverted rivers feeding Aral into cotton field irrigation canals. In 1988 Uzbekistan became the top global exporter of cotton, Aral paid the price. Remnants of the Aral Sea are reduced by 75% of its former glory. Below – the Aral in 1989 and 2014. For the record it takes roughly 3000 liters of water to grow, manufacture and transport a single cotton shirt.
Aral’s once “eastern basin” is known today as the Aralkum Desert
According to http://www.waterencyclopedia.com/St-Ts/Survival-Needs.html every human life requires 50 liters of water a day to meet basic drinking, sanitation and hygiene needs. Remember that billion without reliable sources of water? One cotton shirt would sustain 60 people for a day, but global economies don’t care about thirsty millions in Sub-Saharan Africa. Global economy machines drive on opportunities to accumulate wealth, collateral damage nothing more than the cost of doing business.
What would you give up to accommodate 3 billion more people in the next 40 years? Who’s going to feed them? Where will their water come from? Remember that billion alive today without enough food or water? Should we drain the Great Lakes, mine the ice caps for fresh water? Where would you like them to live?
Ponder a link –
News of Fidel Castro’s death ignited a curious sadness. Politics, propaganda and perception of the Cold War are complicated. It upsets me to ponder how little is remembered of how and why the revolution took hold.
Revolutions aren’t born of prosperity or contentment, they fester in a population oppressed by corruption and greed. Everyone knows of Castro, how many regard his predecessor Fulgencio Batista with contempt? How many Americans schooled on evils of Castro fathom the injustice of Batista’s Cuba, grasp simmering disgust for his roll out the red carpet invitation to organized crime and American profiteering? Batista governed twice under vastly different circumstances – duly elected president in 1940 on a socialist platform, Batista left office in 1944. Eight years in America later he returned as a candidate in the 1952 election, facing certain defeat Batista orchestrated a military coup, seizing power as an unelected dictator.
The U.S. government fawned over Batista, a dictator who suspended the constitution, revoked the right to strike, handed American based corporations exclusive rights to resources and welcomed U.S. mafia into Havana – all with financial/military support of the United States. Obviously America was rattled when Havana lawyer Fidel Castro called bullshit.
Cold War propaganda, a super-power pissing match, threat of nuclear annihilation – vilifying Castro was effortless. Who could blame people for thinking Communism their greatest enemy, the hammer poised to eradicate civilization. America wasn’t bothered by dictator Batista”s Cuba, his Cuba suited them nicely. Batista death squads, torture, state controlled media, suspension of elections and corruption could be overlooked – irrelevant details considered part of doing business.
Pondering sadness over Castro’s passing has nothing to do with pro/con analysis of his legacy. I’m not defending human rights violations, or claiming sunshine and roses for Cubans under his rule. My sentiment comes from the realization so many forget, or never knew why Castro orchestrated the revolution.
America condoned corruption and terror in Batista’s undemocratic Cuba because it suited them. America played a starring role in driving Castro to revolutionary desperation. In my opinion Fidel Castro began as an idealistic young man, a man appalled by greed, brutality and social injustice. Unfortunately 1950s hysteria called poking fat U.S. money bellies in the name of social justice Communism. By virtue of the era, Castro himself had no choice but to profess his ideology Communist. Castro seized power in a world indifferent toward human rights atrocities of a corrupt dictator who played well with American interests.
Remember this when pondering Fidel Castro. Before making broad generalizations, understand the Batista Cuba Castro abhorred. History’s puzzle isn’t complete without all the pieces. Pieces of time, place, circumstance and consequence won’t snap in place until we see the whole picture.
Below, a link to another of my posts on Cuba
December 5, 1952 – residents of London, England woke to cloudless skies characteristic of a prolonged pattern of unusually chilly weather. Shivering citizens fed coal burning fireplaces with earnest, soot belched from thousands of chimneys. Within a few hours thick fog settled over the city, by afternoon fog began to turn “sickly yellow” in hue.
Unaware of temperature inversion caused by a stalled high pressure weather system, Londoners had no way of knowing warm temperatures 1,000 feet above ground blocked noxious soot’s escape. Reeking of rotten eggs, poisonous sulfur rich smog halted air, train, boat and surface transportation. Those who ventured outside reported streets thick with sticky goo and blackened faces of coal miners. Over 5 days an estimated 12,000 succumbed to the killer fog. A government investigation resulted in the Clean Air Act of 1956, restricting burning of coal in urban areas and grants to convert coal heat to gas, oil or electric.
Knowing coal emissions trapped in fog are lethal isn’t the same as understanding chemical interactions at play. It took a trip to China (a coal burning nation, home to 16 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world) by Texas A&M researcher Renyi Zhang to publish findings Oct. 9 2016 in Proceeding of The National Academy of Sciences. Research indicating the same phenomenon takes place today.
“People have known that sulfate was a big contributor to the fog, and sulfuric acid particles were formed from sulfur dioxide released by coal burning for residential use and power plants, and other means.
But how sulfur dioxide was turned into sulfuric acid was unclear. Our results showed that this process was facilitated by nitrogen dioxide, another co-product of coal burning, and occurred initially on natural fog. Another key aspect in the conversion of sulfur dioxide to sulfate is that it produces acidic particles, which subsequently inhibits this process. Natural fog contained larger particles of several tens of micrometers in size, and the acid formed was sufficiently diluted. Evaporation of those fog particles then left smaller acidic haze particles that covered the city.”
Pumpkin bin supermarket sentinels, cob web fluff, fold out spiders, broom stick witches. Pumpkin patch, amusement park Fright Night, haunted house tours, behemoth inflatable yard ghosts, pop-up fireworks outlets – it must be Halloween.
This year, take a moment to ponder astronomical Halloween, one of four “cross- quarter days” in a year – a cross-quarter day falls midway between a equinox (sun sets due west) and the solstice (sun sets at most northern or southern point on the horizon). March and September equinoxes, June and December solstices plus one cross-quarter between each, makes eight astronomical sub-divisions in a year.
Astronomical Halloween, rooted in the ancient Celtic festival Samhain https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samhain took cues from the Pleiades star cluster. Cosmically vigilant pagans celebrated Samhain on the night Pleiades reached its highest point in the sky, coincidentally falling at cross-quarter time. Trouble is – the 7th century Catholic church knew nothing of Pleiades or cross-quarter days. They declared November 1 All Saints Day (honoring any saints who didn’t have their own day), October 31 All Hallows Eve (mass for all who are hallowed) – set in stone dates based on a wonky Julian calendar.
Had the Gregorian calendar been applied, Halloween would fall on November 7.
A color-composite image of the Pleiades from the Digitized Sky Survey. Image via NASA/ESA/AURA/Caltech.