Jonathan M. Katz reported on the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake for the AP. What he saw there ran contrary to the prevailing narrative of violence, looting and lawlessness in the streets. Instead, what he found was another example of "Elite Panic", the UN's "relief" forces landing heavily armed people all around the island who treated everyone as a bestial looter. Katz's piece on the experience draws comparisons with the way that the aftermath of Katrina, Sandy and other disasters were reported -- a stilted, evidence-free narrative that demanded that life be like the movies, where the slightest faltering of the state is immediately attended by a descent into savagery.
Yet authorities themselves showed an equal — and often far more dangerous — tendency to overreact. Trymaine Lee, part of a team that won the Pulitzer Prize for Katrina coverage at the New Orleans Times-Picayune, wrote a scathing report from New Orleans five years later for The New York Times. Having taken time to investigate and reflect, he reported that despite a popular belief that the storm zone had been an inherently violent place, “Today, a clearer picture is emerging … including white vigilante violence, police killings, official cover-ups and a suffering population far more brutalized than many were willing to believe...."
That pacific posture wasn’t deployed in Haiti. Paratroopers landed, rifles in hand, on the lawn of the destroyed National Palace, while thousands more troops waited aboard warships in the bay of Port-au-Prince, never to disembark. The U.S. Southern Command cited “serious concerns within the (U.S. government) and international community that the security situation could sharply deteriorate, and that the U.S. military might have to provide security broadly in the affected areas and beyond.” (Anderson, who was not in Haiti, said he agreed with that posture, noting: “The Haitians are very demonstrative people, loud, and there’s insecurity there on a good day much less a bad day.”)
UN peacekeepers, whose ranks also swelled after the quake, organized food distributions with a defensive posture, herding thousands of Haitians into open squares under the sun’s apogee, then standing in front of food with riot shields, clubs and rifles at the ready, pepper-spraying and beating people as they came to get the food, with no clear provocation. News accounts often referred to these scenes as “riots.”
Finding peace in post-disaster Haiti [Jonathan M. Katz/Ochberg Society]
Back in November, I blogged the Tsarina of Tsock's wonderful shark socks, noting that they were not yet articles of commerce and hoping that they would become such soon. Now, Tsarina writes and says,
You asked me to let you know when my Shark Week sock was released to the general public, so I thought this might be of interest. I'm not actually doing the full-on release yet, as such, but I've made the pattern available for a limited time as part of a fund-raiser for hurricane Sandy relief. If you're a real glutton for punishment you can read the whole tale of woe on my blog here:
World Without End (Thanks, Tsarina!)
(Video link) So, it did happen, and it rocked! At last night's 12-12-12 Concert for Sandy Relief, Sir Paul McCartney performed with Nirvana last night, backed up by Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic, and Pat Smear. It was just as excellent as you'd hope it would be. Here is their new song, "Cut Me Some Slack." The show might be over, but you can still donate to the Robin Hood Foundation at the concert's site. (via Slate)
Dan Nguyen sez, "During the Hurricane Sandy aftermath, I was luckily spared any real hardship except for the power and heat being out. Everyday I walked to work and back in pitch darkness and I brought my camera to document what the city looks like when the only illumination is headlights and emergency lights. All the photos are available as Creative Commons."
These are beautiful and striking shots.
A documentary about Occupy Sandy was screened at a secret location in NYC last night; it made the connection between Sandy and climate change. People wanting to see the movie were directed to a building whose wall was used as a screen for the premiere.
Now, in what may be the quickest turnaround for a movie in recent memory, the group, Occupy Sandy, will show a documentary Wednesday about its efforts and the contention that the storm was tied to climate change and the fossil fuel industry. In classic Occupy fashion, the screening will not be in a traditional theater, but rather on the side of a yet-to-be-disclosed building in the East Village.
The screening of the film, “Occupy Sandy: A Human Response to the New Realities of Climate Change” (see trailer above or click here), will be at 6:30 p.m.
The more accurate version of this question would really be something like, "Why do some trees fall over in a storm while others stay standing?" The answer is more complex than a simple distinction between old, rotted, and weak vs. young, healthy, and strong. Instead, writes Mary Knudson at Scientific American blogs, trees fall because of their size, their species, and even the history of the human communities around them.
“Trees most at risk are those whose environment has recently changed (say in the last 5 – 10 years),” Smith says. When trees that were living in the midst of a forest lose the protection of a rim of trees and become stand-alones in new housing lots or become the edge trees of the forest, they are made more vulnerable to strong weather elements such as wind.
They also lose the physical protection of surrounding trees that had kept them from bending very far and breaking. Land clearing may wound a tree’s trunk or roots, “providing an opportunity for infection by wood decay fungi. Decay usually proceeds slowly, but can be significant 5-10 years after basal or root injury.” What humans do to the ground around trees — compacting soil, changing gradation and drainage “can kill roots and increase infection,” Smith warns.
Winds from approaching Hurricane Sandy turned 1 WTC (previously known as the Freedom Tower) into an æolian harp. (via Doubtful News)
The ocean has not always met the land at the same place it does today. In fact, during Ice Ages, when more of Earth's water was trapped in glaciers, large swaths of what is now the Atlantic Ocean were dry ground. Things died there. In some cases, they fossilized. And when a big storm like Sandy hits, those bits of fossils can get broken out of the stones they're embedded in and washed up on our modern shores.
In this video, paleontologist Carl Mehling wanders Long Island's Rockaway Beach looking for fossils unearthed by Superstorm Sandy. It's a great video — and a handy "how to" as Mehling explains the basics of beach-based fossil hunting and how to tell the really old dead things from the simply dead things.
Via Mindy Weisberger
Kate Black has been volunteering in post-Sandy recovery efforts in the Rockaways and other areas surrounding NYC where people lost power, homes, and belongings in the storm. She has also been photographing the people and places she encounters. Above, one of many images captured on Election Day.
Limor and Phil at Adafruit are still baling out their lower Manhattan factory and living space after Sandy, but they're also using the Adafruit site to pass on information about relief efforts to public-spirited makers. Here's one: Voltaic systems (makers of solar chargers) are offering deep discounts and donations to people who are struggling with no/intermittent power.
Glad to hear you guys are back up and running. If you come across any specific individuals that have need for small-scale solar and/or battery power, we are happy to help with deep discounts and or direct donations. Our warehouse in NJ got power back Friday and we are trying to be helpful where we can. Jeff Crystal http://www.voltaicsystems.com/
Phil adds: "They have deep discounts they can do direct donation as it makes sense. Please write to email@example.com for details if you’re still in need of power."
Mary Robinette Kowal sez,
At the World Fantasy Convention in Toronto this weekend, as much as we were talking about fantasy, we were talking about our friends and colleagues who had been hit by the storm. Some of them had to evacuate and had no idea when they'd be able to go home. One editor joked barely -- that his slush pile was actual slush now since his office flooded.
A lot of authors and editors could not make it because they live in New York. Many of those who did make it headed straight for their rooms and had their first hot shower in a week. A lot of them said that they had been unable to see images of the storm damage because they had been without power and so were seeing some things for the first time.
To help raise funds for relief, I'm auctioning off a manuscript of my novel WITHOUT A SUMMER. This is book 3 in my series and isn't out until April 2, 2012. I'll mail the winner a signed manuscript of the book five months before it's in the stores. If the fundraiser goes over $500, I'll also include book 4, VALOUR AND VANITY, which won't be out until 2013. If it goes over $1000, I'll tuckerize the winner into the series. Note: depending on your name, you may or may not be a character but your name will be there. The books are set between 1814-1818 so I do have to be cautious about committing to character names.
Over $1500, and I'll include a manuscript of a book that we haven't even announced yet. All I can tell you is that it is also historical fantasy. If it goes over $2000, I'll think of something cool. All the proceeds will go to American Red Cross in Greater New York.
A Q&A piece on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration begins with this incredibly disconcerting sentence: "During each hurricane season, there always appear suggestions that one should simply use nuclear weapons to try and destroy the storms."
Really? Seriously, America?
Anyway, the entire piece ends up being pretty fascinating, as research meteorologist Chris Landsea explains why nuking a hurricane would be a bad idea ... besides, you know, the obvious reasons.
... an explosive, even a nuclear explosive, produces a shock wave, or pulse of high pressure, that propagates away from the site of the explosion somewhat faster than the speed of sound. Such an event doesn't raise the barometric pressure after the shock has passed because barometric pressure in the atmosphere reflects the weight of the air above the ground. For normal atmospheric pressure, there are about ten metric tons (1000 kilograms per ton) of air bearing down on each square meter of surface. In the strongest hurricanes there are nine. To change a Category 5 hurricane into a Category 2 hurricane you would have to add about a half ton of air for each square meter inside the eye, or a total of a bit more than half a billion (500,000,000) tons for a 20 km radius eye. It's difficult to envision a practical way of moving that much air around.
Attacking weak tropical waves or depressions before they have a chance to grow into hurricanes isn't promising either. About 80 of these disturbances form every year in the Atlantic basin, but only about 5 become hurricanes in a typical year. There is no way to tell in advance which ones will develop. If the energy released in a tropical disturbance were only 10% of that released in a hurricane, it's still a lot of power, so that the hurricane police would need to dim the whole world's lights many times a year.
Via Mark Strauss
Image: NASA/GSFC/Jeff Schmaltz/MODIS Land Rapid Response Team