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Tuesday, April 28

What American descendants of African slaves need to know to set them free

From Sven Beckert's summary of his magnum opus, Empire of Cotton: A Global History, for The Atlantic, December 12, 2014:
Considering these fears, it was the more remarkable that 4 million slaves in the United States—among them the world’s most important cotton growers—gained their freedom during or immediately after the war. 
Encouraged by their perception of their masters’ weakness in the face of a national government bent on subduing the rebels, slaves embarked upon an agrarian insurrection. By deserting plantations, withdrawing their labor power, giving intelligence to federal troops, and eventually taking up arms as Union soldiers, American slaves pressed to make a sectional war into a war of emancipation. And they succeeded. 
Never before and never thereafter did cotton growers revolt with similar success, their strength fortuitously amplified by a deep and irreconcilable split within the nation’s elite. 
Many white Americans have a very odd attitude toward American descendants of African slaves. They unconsciously treat them as if they suffer from a severe permanent physical handicap.

This has entrenched the idea among these blacks that their chief identity is that of the victim. The way Antebellum and Civil War history are taught in the United States supports the idea and moreover the idea that African slaves were by and large helpless victims rescued by white Northerners.

With just a few words, Sven Beckert dispels the entire myth.

Yet the myth made it easy for generations of Democratic Party operatives to persuade millions of American blacks that their only route to getting ahead was to play their natural state of victimhood to the hilt. But they never told them the price for traveling the route.

So here we are today.

Same as where we were yesterday, and the day before and before. And nothing's going to move off the dime until all American schoolchildren are taught the truth, which is that slaves of African descent in the southern states were as much responsible for their emancipation as Union troops and Abraham Lincoln. 

American descendants of African slaves who don't know the history are living under a kind of spell. It's the spell that has to be broken before they can really be free.

Baltimore Riots: I smell a rat

"BALTIMORE (WJZ) – Governor Larry Hogan has declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard to address the growing violence and unrest in Baltimore City. “I have not made this decision lightly. The National Guard represents a last resort in order to restore order,” Hogan said during a news conference Monday night."

The Guard arrived in Baltimore shortly after midnight.

I'll assume readers outside Maryland and the Greater Washington DC area don't know anything about Maryland politics and so can't imagine how ticked off the Democratic Party machine is that Larry Hogan is the governor. These quotes from a Washington Post report dated November 5, 2014, are a fast way to get a feel for the situation:

Republican businessman Larry Hogan pulled off a stunning upset in heavily Democratic Maryland on Tuesday, winning the governor's race against Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown by relentlessly promising to roll back tax increases and chart a new direction for the state.
Shortly after midnight, Brown conceded a race that he lost despite the strong support of the state’s Democratic establishment and visits to Maryland in the closing weeks of the campaign by President Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Hogan’s victory — a repudiation of the eight-year tenure of Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) — means that Annapolis will return to divided government for the first time since 2006. It remains to be seen how much Hogan and his running mate, Lt. Gov.-elect Boyd Rutherford, will be able to accomplish with a Democratic-controlled legislature. Their victory sent a strong message that Marylanders had grown weary of the tax increases enacted under O’Malley ...
Brown, the son of a Jamaican father and a Swiss mother, was attempting to become the first African American governor of Maryland and only the third elected anywhere in the nation. ...
The White House sent these members of the administration to Freddie Gray's funeral, in a move that given the high tension surrounding Gray's death and his funeral yesterday was bound to pour fuel on the flames.
The White House sent Cabinet Secretary Broderick Johnson, chair of the Obama administration's My Brother's Keeper Task Force; Heather Foster, an adviser in the White House Office of Public Engagement; and Elias Alcantara from the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs.
See also Days of Protest Days After Freddie Gray's Death; Baltimore Sun, April 25


Baltimore Riots: Congratulations to President Obama for making a Republican the next President

It's not just the Baltimore riots; that city is only the latest in the USA to see rioting that is so obviously anti-white, charges of police brutality are just a peg on which to hang the real spirit of the riots. And the presence of white agitators among the black mobs only underscores the racialist nature of the political agenda that draws those agitators.

In an effort to save the DNC's skin Obama will inflict another of his Teachable Moments on the American populace. And CNN and other of his media sycophants will try to shift all the blame for Baltimore onto Al Sharpton and other black demagogues.  But Obama has done everything to encourage race-baiters and he's done it well.

All the race baiting in the world can't cover up the fact that many moons ago black American leaders, in league with white Democratic Party bosses, made a horrifically bad strategic mistake. Not for themselves, of course. They cleaned up, although they were the only ones who did among their target audience.  They sold American blacks on the idea that before they could climb the economic ladder, first they had to gain political power in the USA.

In 2012 Jason Riley, at the time a member of the Wall Street Editorial Board -- and a black American, I might add -- put paid to the myth.  So this is a good time to pull the editorial from the WSJ archive and feature it here, in full.  I hope the DNC chokes on it.

But before turning over the floor to Riley I have one criticism of his editorial. I was going to write him at the time of its publication to alert him that he missed a group of black Americans, perhaps because the history of the Nation of Islam has been so greatly distorted and he would be too young to have personally observed the group at the time I did.

I don't know how it was with the Chicago branch of the sect but I saw with my own eyes what NOI members in New York City were like in the early 1970s.  I'm sorry to offend the Christian crusaders among my readers but those Muslims were Norman Rockwell's America in blackface.  They embodied the small town values that are the backbone of this country

But they took one listen to the New York Democratic Party bosses and reminded each other, 'Never believe a word the white man tells you and especially never believe what a Yankee says.'

So instead of buying into the rap that politics was the route, they looked at how the Jewish immigrants did it. Then they taught themselves the rudiments of business and started small businesses.  I can still remember Shabazz bean pies; they were delicious.

There were a lot of business failures; it was a steep learning curve for people who'd come from farms.  But they kept at it and again, did what the Jews did; they pooled their money and supported each other. They also refused welfare.

 In that way they pulled themselves up out of grinding poverty.

Moreover, you couldn't find better neighbors, no matter what your color. They kept to themselves but they were unfailingly polite. And there was no such thing as a NOI teen on drugs, getting pregnant out of wedlock, or commiting a crime. Or failing in school.

That also meant the NOI children were saved from the drug plague that swept New York City. It was downright Biblical.

But the DNC doesn't like to talk about that history.  Neither does the RNC, by the way. When it came to dealing with the Black Problem, Republican politicians preferred to get along and go along with the Democratic machine in New York. And of course neither party liked Muslims in those days.
For Blacks, the Pyrrhic Victory of the Obama Era
Minorities do better to focus on economic gains, not political success.
November 4, 2012 - 6:43 p.m. EST
The Wall Street Journal

There has been much dispute in recent weeks about the accuracy of the presidential polls, but you don't need a political scientist to tell you that Barack Obama can count on strong black support come Nov. 6.

Four years ago, 95% of black voters went for Mr. Obama, and he is likely to win something approaching that percentage in his re-election bid, notwithstanding economic data showing that blacks have lost ground on his watch.

When the president assumed office, unemployment was 12.7% for blacks and 7.1% for whites. Today it is 14.3% for blacks and 7% for whites, which means that the black-white employment gap has not merely persisted under Mr. Obama but widened.

No matter. The president's approval rating among African-Americans is pushing 90%, and a Washington Post/ABC News tracking poll last week found that 97% of blacks plan to double down on him in this election. Racial pride surely plays some part in these attitudes, as does traditional black support of Democratic presidential candidates over the past four decades.

But another factor is the abiding belief among civil-rights leaders that political activity is essential for black upward mobility.

Long after the passage of landmark civil-rights legislation, black leaders have continued to focus on integrating political institutions to redress social and economic problems. Demands for black access to the ballot have morphed into demands for "safe" black seats in Congress and "proportionate" representation among elected officials. Mr. Obama's victory in 2008 was the ultimate realization of this thinking.

The Rev. C.T. Vivian, a close associate of Martin Luther King Jr., told Obama biographer David Remnick that King was a "prophet," and the "politician of our age, who comes along to follow that prophet, is Barack Obama. Martin laid the moral and spiritual base for the political reality to follow."

But the historical reality for other racial and ethnic groups in the U.S. is that political success has not been necessary for economic advancement. Germans were a third of the population in colonial Pennsylvania yet studiously avoided public office. Only after Germans had risen economically did they begin to distinguish themselves in politics. The impoverished Eastern European Jews who began arriving here in large numbers in the 1880s made little impact politically until well after they had established themselves economically.

Conversely, the Irish enjoyed tremendous political success in the latter part of the 19th century, yet they experienced a slower rise from poverty than Germans, Jews, Italians and other groups. "The Irish were fiercely loyal to each other," notes economist Thomas Sowell, who has spent decades tracing the history of racial and ethnic populations.

"This had little effect on the average Irish-American, who began to reach economic prosperity in the 20th century at about the same time when the Irish political machines began to decline."

Today, Asian-Americans are the nation's best-educated and highest-earning racial group. According to a Pew study released earlier this year, 49% of Asians age 25 and older hold bachelor's degrees, compared with 31% of whites and 18% of blacks. The median household income for Asians is $66,000, which is $12,000 more than white households and double that of black households.

As with other groups, political clout has not been a precondition of Asian socioeconomic advancement.

There are a handful of prominent Asian-American politicians today, including Govs. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Nikki Haley of South Carolina, but Asians have tended to avoid politics compared with other groups. Between 1990 and 2000, for example, the number of elected officials grew by 23% for blacks but only by 4% for Asians. In 2008, Asians were significantly less likely than both blacks and whites to have voted.

The election of Barack Obama four years ago gave blacks bragging rights, but bragging rights can't close the black-white achievement gap in education or increase black labor-force participation or reduce black incarceration rates. A civil-rights leadership that encourages blacks to look to politicians to solve these problems is doing a disservice to the people they claim to represent.

Asians, for their part, can point to an out-of-wedlock birthrate of just 16%, the lowest of any major group and a significant factor in Asian success. The black illegitimacy rate last year was 72%. Might it be that having a black man in the Oval Office is less important for black advancement than having one in the home?

The political scientists tell us that Mr. Obama will almost certainly need every black vote he can muster on Election Day. Less certain is whether blacks need him.


Cold-blooded Earthquake Politics: Nepal's regime rejects help from Taiwan's excellent search and rescue team (UPDATED 2X)

Have a heart, President Yadav

The excuse Nepal's government gave was that it was prioritizing assistance it accepted according to a country's nearness to Nepal, ostensibly to avoid a chaotic situation on the ground. The excuse doesn't hold water because the regime accepted a search and rescue team from Japan, which is 1,500 kilometers farther from Nepal than Taiwan.

Australia's Sky News report on the incident mentions that Nepal doesn't recognize Taiwan, "considered by China as part of its territory awaiting to be reunited since their split in 1949 at the end of a civil war."

That too doesn't hold water -- not in this kind of situation and especially in this particular situation.   The Taiwanese have something the Chinese don't have in Nepal:  an extensive network of Buddhist contacts.  And many Taiwanese Buddhists are well heeled.

That makes a big difference in getting fast help to many Nepali victims of the earthquake -- especially those outside Kathmandu proper.  That's because the G2G way of disbursing funds, even with disaster aid, is ponderous.

That I suspect that is why Beijing would want to discourage Taiwan from providing on-the-ground earthquake assistance in Nepal -- and hang the fate of the earthquake survivors.

The Australian report also mentions that Taiwan's foreign minister has downplayed speculation in Taiwan that the Nepali regime's decision is political.  It's understandable that Taipei doesn't want to start a skirmish with Beijing over this, and one that would give a lot of trouble to Nepal's President Ram Baran Yadav at the time he least needs it.

Okay. but that doesn't prevent others from speaking out. Under ordinary conditions I prefer to wait for people to have the chance to mourn their dead before starting a firefight. But in this case, making a big noise right now might prompt President Yadav to get his own priorities in order.  He needs to realize that the whole world is watching his every decision.

Granted, that's a first for him, but he needs to give a little less attention to what Beijing thinks, and a little more attention to what everyone else thinks -- and to the fact that the financial aid he's going to get from everyone else will dwarf China's aid.

And as Gordon Chang mentioned when he reported on the incident to John Batchelor's audience Monday night (podcast, 32 minute mark), this incident is going to fester and grow in the coming months, once the immediate crisis in Kathmandu settles down.  It's going to make Yadav look cold-blooded.

A little more can be gleaned on the incident from a Channel News Asia report, which picked up on a Reuters/CNA report on the incident. (See how many legs this story is already growing): (Nepal turns down Taiwan's offer of quake assistance (April  27):

TAIPEI: Nepal has turned down Taiwan’s offer to help in search and rescue efforts following a 7.8-magnitude earthquake, Taiwanese Vice Foreign Minister Andrew Kao confirmed on Monday (Apr 27).

Mr Kao said Taiwan will still send an advanced team to Nepal to assess the need for medical assistance, which the island will provide if needed.

Several government and charity groups in Taiwan have already joined forces to organise rescue missions to Nepal. Public fundraising campaigns are also underway for the Himalayan nation.

So far, the island has pledged about US$300,000 in aid.

Following an official message of condolence by President Ma Ying-jeou, a 20-member rescue team with tracking dogs is ready to fly to Kathmandu.

The Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation has tapped on its global network to set up a relief centre in Nepal to distribute supplies and join in the rescue effort, while Taiwan’s Red Cross has started a fundraising drive to collect US$1 million for Nepal’s post-disaster reconstruction.

According to the foreign ministry, 167 Taiwanese are currently in Nepal. Among them, 26 are still missing. [Latest from AFP: reportedly 21 are now unaccounted for] However, there were no immediate reports of Taiwanese casualties. Officials said they would do their best to locate those still missing.

Following Saturday's earthquake that killed more than 3,200 people, thousands of residents remain huddled in tents and sought scarce food and medical supplies, as overwhelmed authorities struggle to care for the wounded and homeless.

With so many people sleeping in the open with no power or water and downpours forecast, fears of major food and water shortages are mounting.

- Reuters/CNA/xq/al


1:30 AM:  Speaking of ponderously slow disbursements from governments: Reuters April 28 12:40 AM EDT:  Angry Nepalis dig in rubble themselves as quake toll passes 4,000
Hundreds of Nepalis, angered and frustrated by the government's slow response, were digging through rubble themselves on Tuesday to find remains of their loved ones after a devastating earthquake three days ago killed more than 4,000 people. 
International aid has finally begun arriving in the Himalayan nation of 28 million people but disbursement is slow. ...]

7:45 AM:  My goodness; who knew how many close neighbors Nepal turned out to have?


Monday, April 27

Real Power Talks About Keeping U.S. Dollar Peg -- for now

Hong Kong Special Administrative Region chief executive Leung Chun-ying 
US dollar peg to remain, says HK chief executive
Monday, 27 April 2015
The Star (Malaysia)

KUALA LUMPUR: The policy to keep the Hong Kong dollar pegged against the US dollar will remain although the Asian currencies have come under increasing pressure due to the volatility in the dollar.

Hong Kong chief executive Leung Chun-ying said that the policy of pegging the Hong Kong dollar to the US dollar has been operating well and he was not going to change it.

“Yes we had to sell Hong Kong dollars (in recent weeks) to maintain the peg but the amount deployed is quite small relative to the inflows. We have the capacity to handle it (the inflows of funds),” he told a group of reporters yesterday.

The Hong Kong dollar has been pegged to the US dollar when capital started to flow out prior to the handover of the special administrative region by the United Kingdom back to China in July 1997. In 2005 the policy makers committed to limit the currency’s decline to HK$7.85 per dollar and appreciation at HK7.75 per dollar.

According to reports last week, in the months of April the Hong Kong Monetary Authority intervened into the market to maintain the peg amidst rising demand for the Hong Kong dollar. The amount spent to buy up the US dollar in the month of April to maintain the peg was estimated at US$6.8bil.

Since the start of the year, at least two countries have dismantled their currency peg. In January this year, Switzerland did away with the Swiss francs being pegged to the euro. This came about due to the European Central Bank (ECB) undertaking a quantitative easing programme that caused the euro to go on a depreciating trend.

This sent a huge amount of capital into the more stable franc, something that forced the government to lift the peg.

As for the Hong Kong dollar, the demand picked up largely due to two reasons. Investors sought the Hong Kong dollar to take up positions in undervalued China mainland stocks that are traded on the Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect. The other reason is the appreciating yuan against the US dollar.

The yuan has appreciated against the US dollar on expectations of a recovery in China’s economy next year. Another reason is currency investors are now resigned to the fact that the Federal Reserve will only raise interest rates in the United States much [later] in the year instead of the earlier prediction that it would happen in the first half.

This has caused the inflows of funds back into Asia, especially markets that are relatively undervalued such as China.

Leung expected the uncertainty towards the US dollar to continue for a few more months and that a decision to increase rates would not be an easy one.

“The uncertainty will hang around for a few months because the recovery in the US economy is patchy,” he said.

Leung’s bigger concern was the occurrences of single incidences in Europe such as sovereigns not meeting their obligations.

“The impact can be big … it could have a knock-on effect because the world financial markets are all joined up,” said Leung.

The biggest concern in Europe is that Greece is running out of money and has debt obligations to meet. It has to pay the International Monetary Fund in May and the ECB in July.

The situation is in a deadlock now as members of the European Union want to see more reforms from Greece before they release financial aid of 7.2 billion euros.

On the Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect getting off to a slow start:  Leung said that volumes had started to pick up due to investors seeing a gap in valuations in stocks with exposure to mainland China.

The Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect, launched on Nov 17, 2014, allows investors including foreigners with accounts in Hong Kong brokerages to purchase certain classes of shares listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange through local brokers. Conversely, investors in mainland China can purchase shares listed on the Hong Kong Exchange through their local brokers.

Initially, volume was low in the Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect. However it has picked up significantly over the past one month making the Hong Kong Stock Exchange as one of the best performing in the region.

Leung said that they hoped to get the Shenzen-Hong Kong Stock Connect up and running in the second half of this year.

“This is all part of the efforts to make Hong Kong the global financial centre for China,” he said.

Investors wary of investing in mainland China have always looked to Hong Kong as the best alternative because it has the characteristics of the Western world with a huge gateway to China. Hong Kong practices an open financial system, a set of laws that is similar to the British system, has a large pool of English-speaking population and a deep talent pool especially in the area of finance.

“There are 7,600 companies overseas that has based their headquarters for China in Hong Kong. Among them are 16 from Malaysia. The big four accounting firms have their China office based in Hong Kong,” said Leung.

Apart from the language and the depth of talent, Hong Kong’s infrastructure is far better than that found in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzen. Telecommunication systems are far superior while connectivity to the mainland is not a problem.

“There are numerous flights daily to various parts of mainland China. By land it is only 45 minutes to the boundary,” he said.


Sunday, April 26

A Tree Grows in Sumatra: beyond the Shoot Yourself in the Foot model of global trade


April 11, 2014, Financial Times:  
Yet in spite of Singapore’s progress towards self-sufficiency in water, it remains dependent on Malaysia. A reminder of that dependency came only last month when reports surfaced in the Malaysian media that Kuala Lumpur might be considering charging its neighbour more for the water it supplies. That prompted Singapore’s foreign minister to remind the Singapore parliament that “neither party can unilaterally change any of the terms of the 1962 water agreement”.


Patch of peat forest habitat isolated in a landscape cleared for an industrial plantation in Indonesia's Riau Province on the island of Sumatra. Photo: Rhett A. Butler, Founder, Monga Bay

Note that the following report is from 2014.  And while the reporter is very thorough about informing Bloomberg readers on the eimportance of industrial palm agriculture for Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia economies, for now I'm skipping those several paragraphs to highlight only certain parts in her extensive report.  I'm also highlighting certain passages in the following two reports:
“February is the driest month for Singapore. What’s not normal is the length of the dry spell.”

Drought Threatens S.E. Asia Food Price Gains Amid Haze
by Jasmine Ng in Singapore
February 28, 2014
Bloomberg Business

The drought parching Singapore and swaths of Malaysia and Indonesia threatens to raise food prices, slow economic growth and disrupt water supply in the region, home to the world’s oldest tropical rain forests.

Areas around Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital, started water rationing this month. Neighboring Singapore, which had a record 27 days without rain from Jan. 13, is preparing for the dry spell to persist into the first half of March. In Indonesia’s Riau province, officials declared a state of emergency as forest fires blanketed the region in haze.
Southeast Asia is under the influence of the Northeast Monsoon, which brings dry and stable air from the South China Sea and lessens the likelihood of rainfall, said Winston Chow, an assistant professor of geography at the National University of Singapore.

“February is the driest month for Singapore,” Chow said. “What’s not normal is the length of the dry spell.”

The countries join Australia, Brazil, Kosovo and parts of Thailand and the U.S. as among those battling drought.[...]

[Pundita aside: Kosovo had a drought last year?  Isn't Kosovo in Europe? I must read Bloomberg Business more often] 

In Malaysia, the government is preparing funding to help Selangor state nationalize water assets in the region surrounding the capital. Water rationing began in parts of Selangor this week after the drought drained reservoirs, and will extend to 431,617 households, the Star reported on its website, citing Malaysia’s water services commission.

“The supply of raw water in Selangor state is in a critical condition,” Khalid Ibrahim, the chief minister of Selangor state, said in a faxed statement on Feb. 24. “The water levels at a few dams have been shrinking to reach an alarming stage.”

Malaysia supplies water to Singapore, which consumes about 480 million U.S. gallons a day. The nation gets about 60 percent of its water from the Malaysian state of Johor and draws on local reservoirs and streams, its national water agency said.

Recycling Wastewater

Singapore plans to triple its wastewater recycling and increase desalination capacity almost tenfold to meet as much as 80 percent of water demand in 2060, according to the agency’s report. The push to develop the industry has drawn businesses including General Electric Co. and Siemens AG to invest, and created local water companies such as Hyflux Ltd.

Khon Kaen has growing water shortages as supplies drop in dams and rivers, with the most recent rainfall in the Thai province in December, the National News Bureau said. Farmers in the area have been urged by the Royal Irrigation Department to help by stopping any off-season rice growing, according to NNT.

Water Bombing

In Riau, the second-biggest province on Sumatra, an emergency was declared through March 12 because of smoke from fires, said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman at Indonesia’s disaster management agency. Extinguishing the fires will require water bombing, according to local officials.

Satellite images showed 11 fire hot spots in Riau on Feb. 24 compared with as many as 243 on Feb. 11, according to Indonesia’s Forestry Ministry.

“It’s very likely that the lack of rain so far does promote conditions in which these hot spots can form,” said Chow at National University of Singapore.

Disputes over haze flare up regularly between Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. The latest was in June, when smog in Singapore reached a record because of Indonesian forest fires.

While the drought is blamed for forest fires in Riau province, other parts of the country are grappling with floods.

Rhett Butler at Monga Bay and the scientists he cited last year would have a problem on more than one count with the unequivocal statement that the drought caused forest fires in Riau:

Light haze over a drained and deforested peat forest in Riau, Sumatra in February 2014
Photo by Rhett A. Butler

Indonesia's forests so damaged they burn whether or not there's drought
Rhett A. Butler
August 21, 2014

Air pollution caused by fires set for land-clearing on Sumatra has become a regularly occurrence in Southeast Asia, spurring hand-wringing in Singapore and Malaysia over health effects and worries among environmentalists over the climate impacts. While these fires are often termed "forest fires", the reality is much of the area that burns each year has already been deforested and today mostly consists of grass, scrub, and remnants of what was once forest. But the impacts are nonetheless very substantial, finds a new study published in the journal Scientific Reports.

The research, led by David Gaveau of the Center for International Forestry Research in Indonesia, assessed greenhouse gas emissions from fires that burned for a week in June 2013. While the fires were short-lived and almost entirely (82 percent) concentrated on already deforested lands representing less than 2 percent of Indonesia's land mass they released 172 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, or up to 10 percent of the country's annual greenhouse gas emissions. The reason for the large emissions was 84 percent of the burning occurred on peatlands, which store massive amounts of carbon in their soils.

Worryingly, the study notes that the fires occurred in a wetter-than-average year, suggesting that severe forest degradation in Sumatra due to years of clearing and peat drainage for industrial plantation development has set the stage for problem to worsen.

[Graph - Daily time series of fire hotspots from 01 Apr to 15 Aug  2013]

"Our results demonstrate that the Indonesian fires of 2013 behind the record air pollution episode in Singapore were triggered by a seasonal two month dry spell in an otherwise rainy year. These fires were short-lived and confined to recently deforested peatlands in a localized area in Central Sumatra (in Riau Province), reflecting ongoing conversion to oil palm plantations" the authors write. "The area affected was much smaller than the 9.7–11.7 million ha that burned in 1997. However, the emissions of GHG and smoke during this brief localized event (one week and 1.6% of Indonesia’s land) were disproportionately large because of the peat.

[Graph - Vegetation cover of the burned areas]

"Our observations show that extreme air pollution episodes in Southeast Asia are no longer restricted to drought years," they continue. "We expect major haze events to be increasingly frequent because of ongoing deforestation of Indonesian peatlands."
The issue isn't limited to Sumatra — vast areas of what was dense rainforest and peatlands in Indonesian Borneo are also now degraded scrub and burn regularly.

Indonesia has experienced rapid destruction and degradation of its forests in recent decades, even surpassing the Amazon in terms of annual forest loss, according to a separate study published in Nature Climate Change.

[Now we arrive at a group of graphics in the report. Take particular note of Graphic D]

CAPTION: The three-million ha study area in Riau province, Sumatra. (a), Fire hotspots. MODIS daily hotspots distribution for June 2013 (yellow dots) overlaid on a post-fire LANDSAT OLI imagery (12 August 2013) displayed in false colors (RGB: 6-5-4). 

(b), Burned areas. An estimated 163,336 ha burned in the study area: red (non-forest), green (forest), orange (Acacia plantation) and cyan (cloud). Peatlands are shown in darkest shade of grey; superimposed are the seven locations of the UAV transects. The bottom inset is a UAV snapshot over peatlands deforested 3 years prior to the June 2013 fire, where dead carbonized tree trunks and an excavator preparing land for oil palm are clearly visible. 

(c), Pre-fire Deforestation. Loss of species-rich Dipterocarp forest from 1990 until May 2013. Light brown: non forest in 1990. Orange: deforested between 1990-2008. Purple: deforested between 2008 and May 2013. The study area lost 1.72 million ha (78%) of forest between 1990 and May 2013 (including 1 million ha on peat).

(d), Pre-fire land-ownership map. Industrial oil palm and Acacia plantations developed by companies in concessions are shown in yellow, and in khaki, respectively. Concessions (for both oil palm and Acacia) occupied by communities are shown in black. Lands outside concessions are in white. Forest cover (unoccupied land) one month before fire is shown in dark green. Maps created using ArcMap v10.0 geospatial processing program. The data used to generate the maps presented in this figure are made available online at http://www.cifor.org/map/fire/

Image and caption courtesy of the [study] authors. 

CITATION: David Gaveau et al. Major atmospheric emissions from peat fires in Southeast Asia during non-drought years: evidence from the 2013 Sumatran fires. SCIENTIFIC REPORTS | 4 : 6112 | DOI: 10.1038/srep06112 

Now it's time to bring in a few of the passages from Jasmine Ng's report for Bloomberg I'd skipped earlier:
Palm oil, the world’s most-used edible oil, is heading for the biggest monthly advance since October. Southeast Asia’s dry weather is spurring speculation of lower output growth, according to Michael Coleman, a hedge-fund manager.
Malaysia and Indonesia account for 86 percent of palm output, according to the U.S.
Agriculture Department. Futures may advance to 3,000 ringgit ($915) a metric ton within four months, the highest price since 2012, said Coleman, who helps to manage the $143 million Merchant Commodity Fund from Singapore. The price settled at 2,779 ringgit yesterday.
Investors are also betting that an El Nino weather pattern will return in 2014, potentially cutting palm output, Coleman said. El Nino affects weather worldwide and can parch Indonesia and Malaysia.
Dry weather may limit Indonesia’s increase in palm production in the first half, Martua Sitorus, the executive deputy chairman at Wilmar International Ltd., said Feb. 21. The Singapore-based company is the largest palm oil processor.
I'll concede that it is not given to our race to see around corners.  So at the time palm oil became a big-ticket global trade commodity, nobody had heard of flying rivers except maybe some Brazilian scientists nobody listened to.  The fancy GRACE satellite system, now giving back readings on how much groundwater the world has left, was still far off as were fancy satellite systems that now peer into the world's forests to see how much of them are left.

It was all about carbon emissions back then.  If a palm producing country and palm oil processors managed to at least partly mollify the carbon emissions swap crowd, they could go on doing business as usual.

Then, just within the past two years data from the fancy satellites, computer programs, math, and, uh, geospatial engineering began to converge. People in governments and boardrooms at global corporations like PepsiCo sat up straight and asked, 'Now what was that Brazilian rattling on about with these flying rivers?'

It was a little late in the day to be asking such questions.

So we find an ngo called Sum of Us getting up an online petition to pressure PepsiCo to "Commit to buying responsible, rainforest-healthy palm oil."

And there's Rhett Butler hanging out of a prop plane, snapping photographs of what's left of the rainforests in palm oil country.

For more on Indonesia's peat fires, which can race quickly underground then burst to the surface, see Lim Chia Ying's April 20 report for The Star (Malaysia), So long as peatlands are cleared for agriculture, there will be haze.  From the report:
Despite laws and policies in Indonesia limiting the opening of peatlands, the prevalent culture of patronage and decentralisation see companies getting logging concessions.
“The Indonesian law states that any peatland exceeding 3m in depth should be protected, and no concessions should be issued for areas where more than 30% is made up of peat with a thickness of at least 3m. Yet, the law hasn’t had much of an effect, as many firms have so-called ‘functional directors’ appointed to perform ‘extra-economic’ functions.
These individuals are usually retired bureaucrats who act as intermediaries with the state and perform advisory and brokerage functions on behalf of the company, and are able to secure choice parcels of land,” says [Dr Helena] Varkkey who has studied Indonesia’s peatland politics and its complexities.
Also, the location of peatlands far from cities deters effective monitoring by enforcement authorities.
This despite the fact that the pollutants from the haze are particularly deadly (see report for details) and affect populations in Brunei and Thailand in addition to Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore.

Yet while Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesian squabble over toxic peat smog they cooperate in an industrial agricultural export model that can only be described as "Shoot Yourself in the Head."


Nepal: torrential rains halt rescue operations

Heavy rainfall puts a halt to rescue operations in earthquake-hit Nepal
Heavy rains in Kathamandu have put a halt to rescue operations in earthquake-hit Nepal even as the death toll has crossed to more than 2,350.
According to Headlines Today, the rainfall has also sparked fears of an avalanche and landslide.
The MET department had earlier said that there would be heavy rainfalls in Nepal for the next 48 hours. 
-- from Firstpost India Live Updates 

This could explain much about Beijing's more curious policies

A new study carried out at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Boston University School of Medicine reveals that the polluted air we inhale can affect our brain and lead to cognitive loss. Experts say that our brain could decrease in size and people who are most exposed are more likely to suffer from strokes or dementia. [...]
Yellow dust storm carries Chinese pollutants to Korea; 2/24; Blouin News:
On Sunday, South Korea’s meteorological service issued the year’s first yellow dust warnings for several of its major cities, calling for people to remain indoors and use masks and goggles when outside. The yellow dust comes from deserts in western China and southern Mongolia, and then becomes toxic as it passes through China’s heavily-polluting industrial areas to the east before drifting over Korea and Japan.
Exposure to high levels of “PM-10” pollutants (particles that are 10 micrometers or less in diameter) increases the likelihood of developing cardiac and respiratory problems.According to the Korea Times, “a yellow dust advisory is issued when an hourly average dust concentration of more than 400 micrograms per cubic meter is expected to last for more than two hours. More than 800 micrograms leads to a yellow dust warning.” As of 4 a.m. local time on Monday, Seoul had 1,044 micrograms per cubic meter of PM-10, making it the worst ...
China faces huge environmental and air-cleanup challenges and costs, which it is undertaking on its own. The country estimates that pollution cost it roughly 3.5% of GDP in 2010, according to a study by the Council on Foreign Relations, and life expectancy in the north has decreased about 5.5 years due to air pollution. Meanwhile, China’s investment in renewable energy has risen from $55 billion in 2004 to $310 billion in 2014.
Environment ministers from China, South Korea, and Japan meet at least once per year and have established working groups devoted to air pollution, but these don’t result in much beyond expanding tree-planting projects in inner desert regions. China’s neighbors complain about toxic yellow dust but ultimately they must make do with Beijing’s decisions, which place Chinese economic growth above all else.

That said, there are business opportunities throughout the region for air purifiers, filters, renewable energy, and vacation travel to escape cities.[...]
All right, Pundita, that's enough; there's nothing funny about this. But the other day I watched video footage featuring a BBC correspondent get through an entire explanation about China's toxic yellow dust storms without once mentioning pollutants and that the dust is toxic. Sand, he explained.  Sand from the Gobi.

Maybe someone should give PM Narendra Modi a copy of James Buckley's book

I've deleted my specific address to "Americans" from the title of my 4/25 post (Americans: Tired of baloney instead of a workable plan to roll back federal government?), which references a book by James L. Buckley, Saving Congress from Itself: Emancipating the States and Empowering Their People. I did this because from what Shadow Warrior says, obviously Americans are not the only ones with the same basic problem Buckley writes about,

Shadow Warrior post from 4/23, which starts:
Land Bill Being Shelved
The Modi govt is shelving the Land Acquisition Bill after political opponents have pounced upon the issue and raised increasing outcry over it.
I feel that the Modi govt should have taken the approach of handing over more control of land policy to the states. Then states with a more forward and progressive outlook could move to develop themselves faster, while states with a more regressive outlook (bimarus) could be left to lag behind. The states more amenable to change would reap the rewards sooner, while the laggard states would suffer the consequences and feel more pressure to catch up.
Modi has often spoken of empowering the states and involving the states, but on the land issue he seems to have conspicuously ignored his own advice. Maybe his rock-concert-tours abroad have misled him into believing that he can change India purely through the force of personal charisma, but he is now receiving a rude dose of reality. He does not have the personal force to just hoist up the entire country and raise the Titanic in one heave.
I don't know whether any or part of the mechanics of Buckley's plan could be applied to India's government. Yet I'll bet that federal overreach in India happened at least in part in the same way it did in the USA.  As Buckley explained during his conversation with John Batchelor on Friday, the feds made an offer to state and local governments they couldn't refuse: free money from Washington in the form of what's called "federal grants-in-aid."

However, there is a string attached in that Washington controls the programs run by the federal aid grants.

So it turned out that free money was hideously expensive for the states -- and American taxpayers in general. This is because it's really, really costly to fix a flat tire in Kansas City from a garage in Washington. DC. That's not even talking about how expensive long-distance administration is for the kind of programs the feds actually fund.

And when people are getting money for free, they're not prudent with the way they manage it.  This too turned into a huge problem for the states' taxpayers.

So why don't states just refuse the handouts from Washington?  Here we find a tangled ball of yarn.   State governments and the taxpayers in the state are in a serious bind if they want to refuse federal money for grant programs that the feds have already funded.  That's because the programs have state employees working on them. Shut down the program, throw many people in your state out of work.

Plus, people in the state collecting checks from the federally-funded program suddenly lose the check.

Plus, Washington says to a state, 'Okay, if you don't want your share of the pot of federal aid money -- which by the way taxpayers in your state have contributed to -- we'll just give it to another state.'

But what if the state applying for the 'extra' money is rich, and the state trying to withdraw from the government's free money is poor?

Now it's possible to address the dilemma on a case-by-case basis. But the only viable solution for all the U.S. states is a remedy that finally tackles the roots of the problem.  Yet despite bright minds in Washington (they do exist) wrangling over this problem for decades, proposals for a remedy always get hung up on the sticking point of rich states v. poor states.

The upshot is that taxpayers say to heck with it; we'll just keep paying for these federal aid programs because at least we'll get some of the money.

After listening to Buckley detail the situation for John Batchelor's radio audience, I was reminded of people who start using credit cards to make ends meet from month to month.  They know they're ruining themselves with the interest payments but they don't see any way out.  
Libertarians and Conservatives have had no workable answer for the states' dilemma. And Liberals ask, 'What're you gonna do if the well runs dry?'

Watch Ken Burns' Dust Bowl to understand why Liberals have a point.  What happens if there's a perfect storm of events affecting several low-income states for years, and there are no federal aid grant programs?

Actually, ways other than the federal aid grant programs can be found for the federal government to deal with real disasters in states that are overwhelmed.

And I think Conservatives would charge that the whole of the Liberal agenda since Lyndon Johnson's presidency has been to brand everything a disaster, from being poor to requiring a college education to needing medical care to being a minority, to not having the right kind of protein in public school lunches.

It's a tribute to the large hearts of Americans that this perversion of the concept of disaster hasn't destroyed volunteerism in the United States.

Yet the world changed in the wake of the 2008 financial crash.  Even many Liberals now concede that the federal aid grant program is out of control -- a disaster in itself, by their interpretation of the term. From the introduction to Buckley's book:
Saving Congress from Itself proposes a single reform: eliminate all federal grants-in-aid to state and local governments. This action would reduce federal spending by over [$641] billion a year and have a profound effect on how we govern ourselves.
The proliferation of federal grants-in-aid programs is of recent vintage: only about 100 such grants existed before Lyndon Johnson took office, and now they number more than 1,100.
Eliminating grants to the states will result in enormous savings in federal and state administrative costs; free states to set their own priorities; and improve the design and implementation of programs now subsidized by Washington by eliminating federal regulations that attend the grants.
In short, it will free states and their subdivisions to resume full responsibility for all activities that fall within their competence, such as education, welfare, and highway construction and maintenance.
And because members of Congress spend major portions of their time creating grants and allocating funds assigned to them (think earmarks), eliminating grants will enable Congress to devote its time to responsibilities that are uniquely national in character.
But that's just the introduction.  Again, the sticking point about the 'block grant' remedy has been rich states v poor ones if the grant program is ended. The rich states can survive the immediate shock when the programs are ended; poor states can't necessarily.  So it's at this point Buckley proposes a stepwise solution.

I transcribed part of his conversation with Batchelor on the John Batchelor Show about the steps. I stress there's additional steps so you want to listen to the podcast of the conversation to perceive the staircase. The entire segment for their conversation begins around the 19 minute mark. The part I'm quoting starts around the 34 minute mark.

(As I mentioned in the earlier post, James L. Buckley is a retired Senior Judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and former U.S. Senator.)
My proposal is to kill all these [aid grant] programs -- just abolish them all. But because they've grown to the point where about 30 percent of the average state income is in the form of these grants, you have to fill in the gap.

My specific proposal is to immediately have Congress give each state 'block grants.' meaning grants with no strings attached, which equal the amount [states] were expecting from all the various programs and grants that had been approved. And then phase those out.

But there is an alternative that I think Congress might find more attractive and that is to convert those sums of money into what was called "revenue sharing" in the 1970s.  In other words, a return of money to the states with no strings, but in a manner that would allow a certain amount of redistribution from the wealthy states to the poor states.
[This] on the assumption there are certain levels of service that we should expect citizens to receive whether they live in a poor state or rich one.
Again, there are a couple more steps after that, as you will learn from the rest of the 39 minute conversation, but they form an integrated remedy.  The additional steps are necessary because working out a fair resolution to the rich-poor states conundrum, in the way the federal government would do it, is so incredibly complicated, as Buckley explains, it would be well into the mid-century before they had it sorted out.

Buckley is saying, 'Here's how to do it more simply.'

Now of course this doesn't solve all America's problems.  But it does solve a huge problem that seemed intractable until a 90+ year old American with vast experience in Washington, and whose mind is sharp as a tack, sat down and wrote a book. Another book, that is; Saving Congress From Itself is not the first one James Buckley has written.


Powerful aftershocks continue to shake Nepal's earthquake-affected regions UPDATED 7:53 AM EDT

UPDATE adds photo and Boston Herald report
"Day two is just day as bad as day one — we get the aftershocks every five minutes," said Basanta Adhikari, of Biratnagar, in eastern Nepal.

Volunteers remove debris from a collapsed building in Kathmandu’s historic Dunbar Square after yesterday's earthquake. PHOTO:  AP via Boston Herald

Experts: Powerful aftershocks to come
Owen Boss
April 25, 2015
Boston Herald

The magnitude-7.8 earthquake that rocked Nepal yesterday will likely be followed by a series of powerful aftershocks, experts warned, that could last weeks or months.

“The aftershocks from this will continue I’m sure, but the number and magnitude will decrease over time,” said Alan L. Kafka, associate professor of Earth and Environmental Science at Boston College. “We’re looking at something like a few magnitude-6 aftershocks, maybe one or two in the high sixes ... Once these spots light up, it takes a long time for the energy to die back down.”

John Bellini, a geophysicist at the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Earthquake Information Center in Golden, Colo., agreed.

“So far, we’ve recorded about 27 aftershocks over the magnitude 4.0 — one of them being a magnitude 6.6 — so we expect to see that continue over the next few weeks and months,” Bellini said.

The region has a history of damaging earthquakes. Nepal suffered its worst recorded quake in 1934. That quake measured 8.0 and all but destroyed the cities of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Patan. Yesterday’s quake, with the same magnitude as the one that hit San Francisco in 1906, was about 16 times more powerful than the 7.0 quake that decimated Haiti in 2010, leaving some 150,000 dead.

Bellini said the shallow depth of the massive “thrust fault” quake led to widespread devastation.

“Because it was such a large magnitude quake and it was relatively shallow beneath the surface and relatively close to populated areas like Kathmandu,” he said, “there has been quite a bit of extensive damage.”[END REPORT]

See also Why Nepal is so vulnerable to quakes; BBC April 25

The death toll is currently 2,000 but the number will continue to climb as aid workers make it to villages that were flattened by yesterday's quake.  Nepal's international airport was opened briefly then closed again today because of an aftershock.  As of the time the following USA TODAY report was published the airport is again open. But communications are still spotty and road conditions are very poor or roads are impassable because of yesterday's quake. From what I've read India's military seems to have done the best so far at getting aid into the country.  See the USA TODAY website for video of the relief efforts.

Nepal hit by major aftershock as search for quake survivors intensifies

Kim Hjelmgaard, USA TODAY
6:53 a.m. EDT April 26, 2015

The Kathmandu area of Nepal was struck by a magnitude 6.7 aftershock Sunday, just a day after a massive earthquake in the region killed over 2,000 people and devastated a large swathe of the capital city's buildings and infrastructure.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the aftershock was very likely within a radius of 31 miles of Kathmandu. The aftershock sent people in the city running for open ground. It was not clear what damage was sustained.
The aftershock came as rescuers aided by international teams intensified their efforts on Sunday to clear rubble and search for survivors in Nepal after Saturday's magnitude 7.8 earthquake — also centered outside Kathmandu. That quake was the worst to hit the poor South Asian nation in over 80 years.
In that earlier quake, at least 721 people died in Kathmandu alone. Around 5,000 people were injured across the country and among the dead are 17 people who were struck by a quake-triggered avalanche on Mount Everest. Evacuations from the Earth's highest mountain were still ongoing. Tremors from the aftershock were also felt in India.
Laxmi Dhakal, an official from Nepal's Home Ministry, said Sunday that the number of casualties was expected to climb. At least 2,152 people are confirmed dead according to officials.
City hospitals remained overwhelmed and tens of thousands of people, fearful of aftershocks bringing down more buildings, spent Saturday night outside. The United Nations said emergency supplies were running out, as was space to store corpses.
"Day two is just day as bad as day one — we get the aftershocks every five minutes," said Basanta Adhikari, of Biratnagar, in eastern Nepal.
The world reacted quickly to the disaster, offering money, relief materials, equipment, expertise and rescue teams to the country of 28 million people that relies heavily on tourism, principally trekking and Himalayan mountain climbing.
Among the first to move in was Nepal's giant neighbor India, with which it has close political, cultural and religious ties. Indian air force planes landed Sunday with 43 tons of relief material, including tents and food, and nearly 200 rescuers.
The U.S. Mission in Nepal released an initial $1 million for immediate assistance. Australia pledged $5 million in aid. Pakistan, China, France and Britain said they would assist in the relief effort. The humanitarian aid group Oxfam said it was sending a team of technical experts from Britain to provide clean water, sanitation and food supplies.
Most areas were without power and water Sunday, but Kathmandu airport reopened briefly before closing again due to the aftershock. It has since reopened.
Rescuers were continuing to dig through the rubble of concrete, bricks, wood and iron to hunt for survivors.
 Contributing: Naila Inayat in Lahore, Pakistan; Doyle Rice, McLean, Va.; Donna Leinwand Leger and Doug Stanglin in Washington, D.C.; the Associated Press


For readers who already saw the last post, whichi I've now corrected, James L. Buckley retired from the bench in 2000.

As long as I'm making corrections I forgot to publish a correction by AP regarding the California court decision about water rates, so here it is:
Correction: California Drought-Water Rates Story
LOS ANGELES — Apr 23, 2015, 2:22 PM ET
AP via ABC News
In stories April 20-21 about a court ruling that found San Juan Capistrano's tiered water rates unconstitutional, The Associated Press reported erroneously that the decision by the 4th District Court of Appeal was only binding in Orange County. The ruling is binding statewide. However, appellate courts outside Orange County could rule differently and the state Supreme Court may ultimately decide the issue.
A corrected version of the story is below: [...]
Many news outlets picked up the original AP report as did this blog because the topic is so important. As the title of my original post noted, every water agency in the state was waiting on the court decision.  And of course Sacramento was also waiting.  Factual errors happen in the best of news-gathering organizations, which Associated Press is, but this incident is a reminder to me that the more important the news, the more I should take care to check the local reporting on it.

Maybe in this case everyone got it wrong -- I haven't looked back to check the original local reports -- but given that it was a court ruling, it's more likely the locals got it right.

Here's a passage from the corrected AP report, which I don't remember seeing in the original, but which ties in a bow the current impact of the court ruling:
Water departments are being pulled in different directions by Brown's administration that demanded hitting residents in the pocketbook to save water and the legal uncertainty of charging guzzlers higher rates.
"If you have courts telling you one thing and the governor telling you something else, maybe that's a reason to sit tight," [said Ken Baerenklau, an associate professor at the University of California, Riverside who's studied tiered water rates]
Sounds like gridlock to me. All the judge for the 4th Dist. Appeal Court did was kick the can up the road to the state's Supreme Court.


Saturday, April 25

Tired of baloney instead of a workable plan to roll back federal government? UPDATED

A simple, workable plan does exist and what's more it has been gathering support from conservatives and liberals -- the kind who know this society is being killed by the size of the federal budget and feds' attempts to play long-distance savior to the American populace.    

The plan is found in the book Saving Congress from Itself: Emancipating the States and Empowering Their People (December 2014) by James L. Buckley, a 92 year old retired Senior Judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and former U.S. Senator.

The best introduction to the plan is not found in reviews but in Judge Buckley's conversation last night with John Batchelor.  Buckley is so clear, concise, and simple in his exposition that I'm going to start wishing friends, "May you have Judge Buckley's clarity of thought in your 90s "

Buckley breaks it down for Bachelor's radio audience to explain the real reasons for fed and congressional overkill. Then he shows in paint-by-numbers style that the remedy is simpler than the uninformed would imagine.

And that's been the problem all along: over the decades hundreds of thousands of plans have been shouted at Americans by people who don't know what they're talking about.  So then it becomes a political food fight, then nobody can make heads or tails of what anybody is talking about.

Sweep aside the accumulated clutter and listen to someone with vast knowledge of exactly how the government system in the USA works.  Here's the link to the podcast of the conversation, which takes up the last two segments in the second hour of the show, starting around the 19 minute mark:


Then, if you want to confine the federal government to its actual intended purpose, contact your representatives in Congress and tell them you want Buckley's plan.

For the doomsayers who say "They" will never let it happen -- before the financial crash I might have agreed.  But to cut through the argument, what'll it cost you to try?

I deleted the title's specific address to "Americans" after I read a post at a blog in India, which made me realize Americans aren't the only ones with the same basic problem described in the title.  See the next Pundita post for details.


Mother Earth is grumbling again. Tighten it up, people

A general view of Calbuco Volcano spewing ash and smoke is seen during sunset from Alerce town, April 24, 2015.

Yes yes I know she's always grumbling somewhere. But just as in 2010 with the 7.0 mag earthquake that devastated Port au Prince followed two weeks later by the whopper that struck Chile, the human race has once again gotten in the way of a double whammy:  

First with the eruption of a very dangerous volanco in Chile on April 22, then on April 25 with a 7.8 - 8.1 mag earthquake that struck across a wide swath of South Asia (parts of Nepal, Tibet, Bangladesh, Pakistan, India) and with devastating force in Nepal's capital.  Note that this week's grumbling was out of the blue on both counts -- no warning.

If you say Wednesday's eruption was in a sparsely inhabited region of Chile, yes, but there is the little problem of the winds.  From Reuters, April 25, 10:56 AM EDT:
Chile volcano ash cloud reaches Brazil, flights canceled
(Reuters) - Ash from the Chilean volcano Calbuco, which erupted without warning this week, reached as far as southern Brazil on Saturday and prompted some airlines to cancel flights to the capitals of Chile, Argentina and Uruguay.
Calbuco, considered one of the most dangerous along Chile's chain of around 2,000 volcanoes, erupted twice in 24 hours on Wednesday and Thursday, sending up a spectacular 17-km-high (11 miles) cloud and coating nearby towns in a thick layer of gray ash.
Authorities have set up a 20-km (12 mile) cordon around Calbuco, in the scenic Los Lagos region, around 1,000 km (620 miles) south of the capital Santiago, evacuating more than 6,500 locals.
"The dangerous nature of volcanic activity like this plus the volcano's current instability that could lead to more intense activity in the short term indicates we should maintain the perimeter," Chile's national office of emergency said in its latest report.
Authorities allowed people who had been evacuated to briefly enter the perimeter on Saturday to check their houses, animals and medication.
Some houses and schools located close to the volcano have collapsed under the weight of the ash.
The ash also presents a threat to air traffic, as particles in the atmosphere can cause problems for planes.
With winds blowing the ash cloud northeast into Argentina, Argentine air traffic has been the worst affected so far. But a spokesman for Argentina's National Civil Aeronautic Administration said the situation was "much better than yesterday".
"The airports (of Buenos Aires) are operating normally. The first ash cloud has already passed by and the second is on the move. American Airlines is not operating on their own accord, nor are Delta Air Lines, or United. They are evaluating the situation on a day-to-day basis."
The head of Chile's mining and geological service said on Friday the volcanic process could last for weeks.
(Reporting by Felipe Iturrieta in Santiago, Additional reporting by Malena Castaldi in Montevideo and Brian Winnter in Sao Paolo, Writing by Sarah Marsh; Editing by Janet Lawrence)[END REPORT]
So I repeat the warning I gave in 2010 and I think also 2009. Get it together. Focus on the basics.  

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