Conflicts of Interest? NOAA’s Nominees AccuWeather CEO Barry Myers and Dr. Neil Jacobs of Panasonic

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NASA satellite image of California wildfires 10 October 2017

 

Imagine a future scenario in Houston, Texas.

Twelve-year-old Rick arrives home, breathless. “Mom, people are evacuating. The hurricane will be worse than Harvey.”

“You sure, Rick? Your father’s boss gets PanasonicWeather Channel. It’ll just be a tropical storm by the time it reaches us.”

“My friend says it’s all over the news on AccuWeather Channel.”

“Don!” Sarah calls out to her husband, tinkering in the garage. “We’ve gotta evacuate.”

Don emerges from the garage, wiping grease from his hands. “Where did you hear that?”

“I told you we should’ve signed up for AccuWeather.” Sarah glared at her husband. “Your stupid Sports Channel is all that matters.” She turned to Rick. “Get your sister. We’re going to your aunt in Austin.”

“You’re being paranoid,” Don told his wife.

 

Such a future becomes possible when Congress approves the latest nominations to the two top positions at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA’s office of the National Weather Service (NWS) provides us with weather, water, and climate data, forecasts, and warnings vital to the protection of our lives, property, and economy. Six NWS regional offices “manage all operational and scientific meteorological, hydrologic, and oceanographic programs of the region… They monitor these services and adjust resources to provide the most effective weather and warning services possible.”

The nominee for Undersecretary of Commerce for Oceans & Atmosphere and Administrator of NOAA is Barry Myers, the CEO of AccuWeather. Using NOAA’s weather data and products, Barry Myers runs a profitable business of delivering them in a proprietary format attractive to its customers. In 2005, with the assistance of their State Senator Rick Santorum (Pennsylvania), AccuWeather sought to pass legislation that would reduce NOAA’s ability to distribute its weather data directly to the public.

In a statement introducing the bill, Santorum said: “It is not an easy prospect for a business to attract advertisers, subscribers or investors when the government is providing similar products and services for free.”

Map of Weather Alerts across the USA and Territories

More recently in May 2016, Senator Jim Bridenstine (Oklahoma) proposed legislation that would prohibit the National Weather Service from providing any new services that the private commercial weather sector already offers or can potentially offer. At that congressional hearing, AccuWeather CEO Barry Myers joined four other industry representatives to brief Congress on the state of forecasting and technology in the commercial weather sector.

Here enters Panasonic Weather Solutions. Dr. Neil Jacobs—nominee for the second top position as Assistant Secretary for Environmental Observation & Prediction and Assistant Administrator for NOAA Satellite & Information Services—is their Chief Atmospheric Scientist. Like Barry Myers, Jacobs wants a greater role for the private sector in weather forecasting. In November 2015, his company signed an agreement to supply its advanced global aircraft weather data to NOAA with the aim of improving forecasts from models run by the NWS.

Testifying before the House of Science Committee in July 2017, Dr. Jacobs asserted that “a private company like Panasonic can move more quickly than NOAA in improving its models and processes, because it does not have to go through the years of quality and reliability testing that NOAA requires when implementing major model upgrades.”

While we focus on our president’s outrageous tweets and the latest natural disaster or sex abuse scandal, our Negotiator-in-Chief and his corporate-backed team creep forward with their scheme to defund our government, deregulate private industries, and privatize services of our public agencies critical to our health and safety.

To learn more, read the October 12th article “Conflicts of Interest? NOAA’s Nominees AccuWeather CEO Barry Myers and Dr. Neil Jacobs of Panasonic” by Andrew Rosenberg, director of the UCS Center for Science and Democracy and former NOAA scientist and manager.

IMAGES:

NASA satellite image of multiple wildfires raging north of San Francisco, California, October 10, 2017
Source: NOAA Climate.gov

Map of Weather Alerts across the USA & Territories
Source: NOAA National Weather Service

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“Let Me Try Again” – Poem by Immigrant Salvadoran Poet Javier Zamora

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Border Wall Nogales Mexico Arizona USA

U.S. Border Wall at Nogales, Mexico

My Poetry Corner October 2017 features the poem “Let Me Try Again” by Javier Zamora, an immigrant Salvadoran poet and educator who lives in Northern California. Born in 1990 in a small fishing town in El Salvador, he was a year old when his eighteen-year-old father fled the Civil War (1980-1992). Four years later, his mother joined his father, leaving him with his grandparents. At nine years old, unaccompanied by a family member and under the charge of other undocumented immigrants, ‘Javiercito’ made the treacherous journey to reunite with his parents in the United States.

In “The Shatter of Birds,” dedicated to Abuelita (granny), Zamora recalls her pain at losing him.

Javiercito, you’re leaving me tomorrow
when our tortilla-and-milk breaths will whisper
te amo. When I’ll pray the sun won’t devour
your northbound steps. I’m giving you this conch
swallowed with this delta’s waves
and the sound of sand absorbing.

[…]

There’s no autumn here. When you mist
into tomorrow’s dawns, at the shore
of somewhere, listen to this conch.
Don’t lose me. 

Zamora’s abuelos (grandparents) warn him not tell anyone of his departure. In “Kite Flying,” his elation overrides their fears.

I’m going to see my parents.
(I’m going to see my parents!)
On the last day of school, I’ll tell
only my closest friends I’m flying
to where people drink cold milk
and put strawberries in their cereal,
I’ll eat strawberries all the time
and get so tall I’ll start playing basketball. 

In addition to letters and phone calls, Zamoro and his parents kept in touch by exchanging cassette-tapes. Listening to their tapes brought heartbreak. His poem “Cassette-tape” recreates the disjointedness of time and his trauma in crossing into Mexico without them. For two months, he lost touch with them.

To cross México we’re packed in boats
20 aboard, 18 hours straight to Oaxaca.
Throw up and gasoline keep us up. At 5 a.m.
we get to shore, we run to the trucks, cops
rob us down the road—without handcuffs,
our guide gets in their Fords and we know
it’s all been planned. Not one peso left
so we get desperate—Diosito, forgive us
for hiding in trailers. We sleep in Nogales till
our third try when finally, I meet Papá Javi.

In the featured poem, “Let Me Try Again,” Zamora relives their first failed attempt to cross the Sonoran Desert in Arizona. By then, their numbers had dwindled. In the desert, even the animals struggle to survive.

I could bore you with the sunset, the way
water tasted after so many days without it,
the trees, the breed of dogs, but I can’t
say there were forty people when we found

the ranch with the thin white man, his dogs,
and his shotgun. Until this 5 a.m., I hadn’t
or couldn’t remember there were only five,
or seven, people—

not forty. We’d separated by the palo verdes.
We meaning: an eighteen-year-old ex-gangster,
a mom with her thirteen-year-old, and me.
Four people. Not forty. The rest . . . the rest,

I don’t know. They weren’t there when
the thin white man let us drink from a hose
while pointing his shotgun. In Spanish
he told us if run away, dogs trained attack
.

In high school, after a visiting poet introduced him to the work of the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, Zamora found release from his traumatic memories in poetry. By the age of twenty-one, he knew he wanted to be a poet. On completing his BA in history at the University of California, Berkeley, he pursued an MFA at the New York University. A Wallace Stegner Fellowship in Poetry at Stanford University soon followed.

Zamora’s first poetry collection, Unaccompanied, was published this October amid uncertainty about his fate as an alien with Temporary Protected Status which comes up for renewal in 2018. Like the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) “Dreamers,” his future rests in the hands of President Trump.

His status makes it difficult to visit his native land. “It’s traumatic to talk to those left behind,” he confesses in an essay published in Granta Online Edition, December 2016.  “It’s a burden to communicate over the phone. To write. To text. To Facebook message.”

In his poem “El Salvador,” the young poet speaks of the violence that never ended and of his longing to see his grandmother again. 

but if I don’t brush Abuelita’s hair, wash her pots and pans,
I cry. Like tonight, when I wish you made it
easier to love you, Salvador. Make it easier
to never have to risk our lives.

To read the complete featured poem and learn more about Javier Zamora, his work, and honors, go to my Poetry Corner October 2017.

What is Truth? What is Real? — katharineotto

We live in challenging times, bombarded with information from all sides. Our reality can conflict with the “truth” disseminated by our leaders: government, scientific, business, religious, and familial. Fellow blogger Katharine Otto grapples with this dilemma, opening up pathways for our own meanderings in discerning the truth.

Information. Misinformation. Disinformation. News. Fake News. Opinion. Generalization. Prediction. Propaganda. Lies. Advertising. Gossip. Second guesses. Stereotypes. Assumptions. I feel overwhelmed by the glut of demands on attention and allegiance. What to believe? What not to believe? To believe everything and nothing at the same time? To trust my own judgment or to doubt? I long […]

via What is Truth? What is Real? — katharineotto

The Climate Swerve: Reflections on Mind, Hope and Survival with Robert Jay Lifton and Bill Moyers

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Atomic bomb mushroom cloud over Nagasaki - Japan

Dotard & Rocket Man
play nuclear war games
while Frankenstorms rage.

 

Bill Moyers, managing editor of Moyers & Company and BillMoyers.com, recently sat down with 91-year-old Robert Jay Lifton, a renowned American psychiatrist and historian. They talked about his just published book, The Climate Swerve: Reflections of Mind, Hope, and Survival. Lifton borrowed the term “swerve” from Harvard humanities professor Stephen Greenblatt who used the term to describe a major historical change in human consciousness. Lifton has turned his attention to climate change, which, he says, “presents us with what may be the most demanding and unique psychological task ever required of humankind.”

I share with you some excerpts from Lifton’s responses to Moyers during the interview. Continue reading

Under the Cold Stones by Dan McNay

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Book Cover - Under the Cold Stones by Dan McNay

Dan McNay, one of my favorite authors from Los Angeles, has a new novel out: Under the Cold Stones. It’s a dark, suspense thriller. The heroine, Deidre McIntyre, is well versed in men’s secret fantasies and dark desires. At the age of sixteen, she had run away from her small-town home in Paris, Illinois. Her mother, a heavy smoker with a drug habit, had been no role mother for the unloved, self-destructive teenager. Her father, “crazy as a loon,” had disappeared from her life when she was seven. Only he had held the power to save her from herself. She had found refuge and a new life as a hooker in the New Orleans French Quarter, where she became known as Daydee.

Everything changes for Daydee after her mother’s death. As the only surviving member of the family, she inherits everything: a ten-room apartment building (with no tenants), a farm run by a sharecropper, the large house where her great-grandmother and great-aunt had lived, and a cemetery. Her plan on arrival—to “just sneak in [Paris] and get the money from her mother’s estate and leave without getting caught up in anything”—goes awry.

Continue reading

“Sadness has no end” by Brazilian Poet Eli Macuxi

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Cereia by Carmezia Emiliano - Indigenous Macuxi - Roraima - Brazil

My Poetry Corner September 2017 features the poem “Sadness has no end” (Tristeza não tem fim) by Brazilian poet and educator Elisangela Martins, who self-identifies as Eli Macuxi or Elimacuxi. She teaches history and art criticism at the Federal University of Roraima located in Boa Vista, capital of the state.

Fascinated by verse since childhood, Elimacuxi began writing poetry in fifth grade. At fifteen, she dreamed of having her work read and studied by others. “But the desire was totally blunted by the pessimistic awareness of reality,” confides the poet on her blog. “I was a skinny teenager, without luck of getting a job, studying at a night school on the periphery, ‘daughter of a drunkie,’ with lots of younger siblings. To be a writer? Poet? It was laughable.”

While she earned her Bachelor’s degree and then Masters in History, her love for poetry never waned. In 2013, she published her first poetry collection, Love For Those Who Hate (Amor Para Quem Odeia), which portrays love in its various forms of human experience. Continue reading

Working together to sustain life on Planet Earth

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I’m always heartened to come in contact with young people who are pro-active in changing humanity’s path towards a sustainable future for life on our planet. Here’s one such young woman, an undergraduate in Mississippi, who realizes that our success in achieving this aim depends upon collective action and connection with like-minded individuals.

As y’all know, I was selected as an Eco Rep Leader at my university. Yesterday was our official training for the year. We had our training at Strawberry Plains Audubon Center. I had only been there once and it was for their well-known Hummingbird Festival. The center is one of Mississippi’s finest yet lesser known treasures. With […]

via The Importance of Connecting with Like-Minded Individuals — Erdling mit Fernweh

U.S. International Trade Update

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US Total Imports & Exports of Goods & Services 2008-2016

During the past week, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) initiated events that will impact our trade relations with our top three trading partners—China, Canada, and Mexico.

On August 16th, USTR Robert Lighthizer opened the First Round of NAFTA Renegotiations with our Canadian and Mexican counterparts, a promise made by President Trump during his presidential campaign. In his Opening Statement, Ambassador Lighthizer noted:

This is a 23-year-old agreement and our economies are very different than they were in the 1990’s. We need to modernize or create provisions which protect digital trade and services trade, e-commerce, update customs procedures, protect intellectual property, improve energy provisions, enhance transparency rules, and promote science-based agricultural trade.

He pointed out that, while many Americans have benefited from NAFTA, “[w]e cannot ignore the huge trade deficits, the lost manufacturing jobs, the businesses that have closed or moved because of incentives — intended or not — in the current agreement.”

Two days later, on August 18th, the United States formally initiated an investigation into China’s trade practices and policies. In his press release, Ambassador Lighthizer said:

On Monday [08/14/17], President Trump instructed me to look into Chinese laws, policies, and practices which may be harming American intellectual property rights, innovation, or technology development. Continue reading

In Sweltering South, Climate Change Is Now a Workplace Hazard

“For too long, a lot of the climate change and global warming arguments have been looking at melting ice and polar bears and not at the human suffering side of it. They are still pushing out the polar bear as the icon for climate change. The icon should be a kid who is suffering from the negative impacts of climate change and increased air pollution, or a family where rising water is endangering their lives.”
~ Robert D. Bullard, a professor at Texas Southern University who some call the “father of environmental justice.”

We’re feeling the heat here in Los Angeles. I now have to avoid going out until after five in the evenings. For my son, an independent contractor who often works outdoors, it’s hell.

The Secular Jurist

GALVESTON, Tex. — Adolfo Guerra, a landscaper in this port city on the Gulf of Mexico, remembers panicking as his co-worker vomited and convulsed after hours of mowing lawns in stifling heat. Other workers rushed to cover him with ice, and the man recovered.

But, for Mr. Guerra, 24, who spends nine hours a day, six days a week doing yard work the episode was a reminder of the dangers that exist for outdoor workers as the planet warms.

Continue reading:  In Sweltering South, Climate Change Is Now a Workplace Hazard

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“Eyes of Liberty” – Poem by Jamaican Rastafarian Poet Mutabaruka

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Mutabaruka - Jamaican Rastafari Dub Poet

My Poetry Corner August 2017 features the poem “Eyes of Liberty” by Mutabaruka, a Jamaican Rastafarian dub poet, musician, actor, educator, and talk-show host. Born Allan Hope in December 1952, he grew up in Kingston, Jamaica, where he trained as an electrician at the Kingston Technical High School. Marcus Garvey’s son, a teacher at the trade school, influenced his world view and awakened his Black awareness.

As an adolescent, Mutabaruka identified with the Black Power Movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s that swept across the Caribbean. His poems became a means to changing the political system in Jamaica.

“Because they say that the pen is mightier than the sword, in that case it was a gun! So we used the pen instead of turning toward this what dem call revolution that was in we that was fashioned and shaped in us,” Mutabaruka told his audience at a book signing in San Francisco in April 2005. Continue reading