Delingpole: Only Gullible Fools Believe that the Great Barrier Reef Is Dying

The Great Barrier Reef is dead. It has ceased to be, expired and gone to meet its maker, kicked the bucket, shuffled off its mortal coil, run down the curtain and gone to join the bleedin’ choir invisible. It is an Ex Great Barrier Reef.

Well, at least it is if you believe the left-wing media such as the Guardian, which claims today that the reef is at “terminal stage” because of damage allegedly caused by “climate change”.

Lots of eco loons have been rending their garments and throwing their (recyclable, organic, gluten-free) toys out of the pram in horror at this hideous disaster.

But it’s OK. As I keep trying to explain here to anyone who’ll listen – and obviously, also, to annoy the greenies – is that the Great Barrier Reef isn’t in the remotest danger. Yes, it has experienced bleaching, but this is normal – especially in dramatic El Ninos like the one we’ve just had – and there is no reason to suspect that the GBR won’t recover. Nor is there any particular reason to blame man’s-selfishness-and-greed-and-refusal-to-amend-his-lifestyle for the temporary damage the reef has suffered. Even if we’d done as the greenies want and bombed our economies into the dark ages, replaced all cars with bicycles and retired to caves illuminated by tallow candles – even then, the GBR would be in exactly the same condition as it is now because El Ninos are a natural phenomenon not a man-made one.

For chapter and verse on this I recommend this most excellent essay by ecologist Jim Steele, who puts the scaremongering in its proper scientific context.

The problem is that the main man behind the scare – Professor Terry Hughes of an impressive-sounding organisation called the National Coral Bleaching Task Force – appears to have been more interested in generating headlines than pursuing the scientific method.

His scary aerial shots of bleached Great Barrier Reef may look like damning evidence of the effects of climate change on the reef. But here’s the rub:

Aerial surveys, on which Hughes 2017 based their analyses, cannot discriminate between the various causes of bleaching. To determine the cause of coral mortality, careful examination of bleached coral by divers is required to distinguish whether bleached coral were the result of storms, crown-of-thorns attacks, disease, aerial exposure during low tides, or anomalously warmer ocean waters. Crown-of-thorns leave diagnostic gnawing marks, while storms produce anomalous rubble. Furthermore aerial surveys only measure the areal extent of bleaching, but cannot determine the depth to which most bleaching was restricted due to sea level fall. To distinguish bleaching and mortality caused by low tide exposure, divers must measure the extent of tissue mortality and compare it with changes in sea level. For example, the Indonesian researchers found the extent of dead coral tissue was mostly relegated to the upper 15 cm of coral, which correlated with the degree of increased aerial exposure by recent low tides. Unfortunately Hughes et al never carried out, or never reported, such critical measurements.

And no, bleaching isn’t the same as dying. Not in the slightest.

Hughes reported the various proportions of areal bleaching as degrees of severity. But that frightened many in the public who confused bleaching with mortality, leading some misguided souls to blog the GBR was dead.  However bleaching without mortality is not a worrisome event no matter how extensive. Rates of mortality and recovery are more important indices of reef health. As discussed in the article “The Coral Bleaching Debate: Is Bleaching the Legacy of a Marvelous Adaptation Mechanism or A Prelude to Extirpation?“, all coral retain greater densities of symbiotic algae (symbionts) in the winter but reduce that density in the summer, which often leads to minor seasonal bleaching episodes that are usually temporary. Under those circumstances coral typically return to normal within weeks or months. Furthermore by ejecting their current symbionts, coral can acquire new symbionts that can promote greater resilience to changing environmental conditions. Although symbiont shifting and shuffling promotes adaptation to shifting ocean temperatures, symbiont shuffling cannot protect against extreme low tide desiccation, and dead desiccated coral can no longer adapt. Humans have little control over El Niños or low tides.

Why does anyone seriously imagine the Great Barrier Reef is dying? For the same reason some idiots seriously imagine that the polar bear is an endangered species. For the same reason these same pillocks think that there’s a man-made climate change problem.

Because Greenies don’t do science. They do propaganda.

Poetry Action Network Mobilizes Against Campus Carry in Georgia

The Poetry Action Network is mobilizing against campus carry in Georgia, asking others to join its efforts to dissuade Gov. Nathan Deal (R) from signing the legislation into law.

Georgia lawmakers passed campus carry last week, sending it to Deal’s desk for a signature. Lawmakers passed similar legislation in 2016, at Deal’s urging, only to watch him do an about-face under pressure from Bloomberg gun control groups and veto the bill. The veto was widely believed to be based on the lack of an exemption for on-campus daycare facilities, so this year’s bill has such an exemption.

Tthe Poetry Action Network is fighting to persuade Deal not to sign legislation allowing law-abiding students to carry guns for self-defense. Flagpole reports that the Poetry Action Network, led by “Magdalena Zurawaski, Laura Solomon and Jenny Gropp,” is asking others to join in by downloading a sign emblazoned with a gun, taking a photo with the sign, and emailing the photo to the Poetry Action Network so the group can “Twitter bomb” Deal.

Official: Russia Knew in Advance of Syrian Chemical Attack

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States has concluded Russia knew in advance of Syria’s chemical weapons attack last week, a senior U.S. official said Monday.

The official said a drone operated by Russians was flying over a hospital as victims of the attack were rushing to get treatment. Hours after the drone left, a Russian-made fighter jet bombed the hospital in what American officials believe was an attempt to cover up the usage of chemical weapons.

The senior official said the U.S. has no proof of Russian involvement in the actual chemical attack in northern Syria.

But the official said the presence of the surveillance drone over the hospital couldn’t have been a coincidence, and that Russia must have known the chemical weapons attack was coming and that victims were seeking treatment.

The official, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly on intelligence matters and demanded anonymity, didn’t give precise timing for when the drone was in the area, where more than 80 people were killed. The official also didn’t provide details for the military and intelligence information that form the basis of what the Pentagon now believes.

Another U.S. official cautioned that no final American determination has been made that Russia knew ahead of time that chemical weapons would be used. That official wasn’t authorized to speak about internal administration deliberations and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The allegation of Russian foreknowledge is grave, even by the standards of the currently dismal U.S.-Russian relations.

Although Russia has steadfastly supported Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government, and they’ve coordinated military attacks together, Washington has never previously accused Moscow of complicity in any attack that involved the gassing of innocent civilians, including children. The former Cold War foes even worked together in 2013 to remove and destroy more than 1,300 tons of Syrian chemical weapons and agents.

Until Monday, U.S. officials had said they weren’t sure whether Russia or Syria operated the drone. The official said the U.S. is now convinced Russia controlled the drone. The official said it still isn’t clear who was flying the jet that bombed the hospital, because the Syrians also fly Russian-made aircraft.

U.S. officials previously have said Russians routinely work with Syrians at the Shayrat air base where the attack is supposed to have originated. U.S. officials say the chemical weapons were stored there and that those elements add to the conclusion that Russia was complicit in the attack.

Last Thursday 59 Tomahawk missiles were fired on the government-controlled base in the United States’ first direct military action against Assad’s forces.

The U.S. has been focusing its military action in Syria on defeating the Islamic State group.

On Monday, Col. John J. Thomas, a U.S. military spokesman, said the U.S. has taken extra defensive precautions in Syria in case of possible retaliation against American forces for the cruise missile attack.

Thomas told reporters at the Pentagon that the increased emphasis on defensive measures to protect U.S. troops on the ground in Syria led to a slight and temporary decline in offensive U.S. airstrikes against IS in Syria.

There has been no Syrian retaliation so far for the cruise missile attack, which destroyed or rendered inoperable more than 20 Syria air force planes, he said.

Thomas said the U.S. intends to return to full offensive air operations against IS as soon as possible.

Arkansas: 7 Executions in 11 Days to Use Lethal Injection Drugs Before they Expire

The state of Arkansas plans to carry out seven executions over 11 days amid pressure to use up their lethal injection drugs before they expire.

The number of executions in a short period of time is unprecedented for the state, which has not carried out executions in 12 years, the Washington Post reported.

But the scheduling of these executions so close together has caused unease for Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R), lawsuits from the condemned inmates, and complaints from corrections officers who say the schedule will take a toll on them.

Capital punishment advocates in the state argue that delaying the executions denies justice to the families of the victims, while civil liberties advocates say that rushing to execute the condemned inmates is a form of “torture and injustice”— not just for the inmates, but for the corrections officers who have to deal with up to two executions per day.

Hutchinson said he is caught in a difficult situation having to not only schedule the executions, but do so before the state’s supply of the sedative midazolam runs out.

“It’s not my choice,” Hutchinson said at a news conference. “I would love to have those extended over a period of multiple months and years, but that’s not the circumstances that I find myself in.”

Officials say the state’s supply of midazolam will expire by the end of April.

“It is uncertain as to whether another drug can be obtained, and the families of the victims do not need to live with continued uncertainty after decades of review,” Hutchinson said in a statement.

Officials blame the back-to-back executions on the drug shortage, which has sent states scrambling for replacement drugs, and has even prompted some states to consider other methods of execution.

Russia Freezes Coordination with U.S. in Syria Following American Airstrikes

(AP) MOSCOW – Russia reacted to U.S. military strikes on its ally Syria Friday by cutting a hotline intended to prevent midair incidents, a response that demonstrates Moscow’s readiness to defy Washington and could even put the two nuclear superpowers on a course toward military confrontation.

President Vladimir Putin signaled he was ready to risk a clash with the U.S. and abandon hopes for mending ties with the U.S. under President Donald Trump, rather than accept the humiliation of standing by while his ally is bombed.

Russia’s decision to suspend the hotline established after the launch of the Russian air campaign in Syria in September 2015 effectively means that Russian and U.S. planes could fly dangerously close to each other during combat missions, raising the risk of inadvertent or deliberate clashes in the crowded skies over Syria.

By freezing the information channel between the two potent militaries, Russia is signaling to Washington that it will tolerate no further strikes on Syrian government facilities.

Syria has aging Soviet-built aircraft and air defense missile systems, while Russia has deployed dozens of its cutting edge warplanes and air defense batteries at its base in Syria’s coastal province of Latakia. It also has a strategically important naval outpost in the Syrian port of Tartus, which is protected by air defense assets.

Further upping the ante, the Russian Defense Ministry said it will now help strengthen Syrian air defenses.

U.S. officials accused Russia of failing to ensure Syrian President Bashar Assad’s commitment to a 2013 deal for the destruction of Assad’s chemical weapons arsenal. The U.S. says that arsenal was tapped for a chemical attack that killed dozens of civilians in the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province.

Trump cited the chemical attack as justification for the missile strike on a Syrian air base. But the Kremlin insists Assad’s government wasn’t responsible for the attack, saying civilians in Khan Sheikhoun were exposed to toxic agents from a rebel arsenal that was hit by Syrian warplanes.

“President Putin believes that the U.S. strikes on Syria represent an aggression against a sovereign state in violation of international law under a far-fetched pretext,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a statement. “Washington’s move deals a significant blow to Russia-U.S. relations, which are already in deplorable shape.”

Until the attack on the Syrian air base, the U.S. had avoided striking Assad’s forces for fear of provoking a clash with the Russian military.

The action comes ahead of U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s trip to Moscow next week.

The Kremlin initially had been encouraged by Trump’s goal of repairing ties with Moscow, which plunged to post-Cold War lows under President Barack Obama, but hopes for a thaw have withered amid the congressional investigation of possible links between Trump campaign officials and Russia. The U.S. missile strike could make it all but impossible to improve relations.

“Some people here thought that it would be easy to deal with Trump,” Yelena Suponina, a Moscow-based Mideast expert, said in televised remarks. “No, it will be very difficult. He’s not only ready to make tough decisions, he is unpredictable.”

Mikhail Yemelyanov, a senior member of the lower house of parliament, warned that the U.S. action raised the threat of a direct clash between Russia and the U.S.

“Consequences could be grave, up to military confrontation and exchange of blows, nothing can be excluded,” he said, according to the Interfax news agency.

Tillerson said Russia had “failed in its responsibility” to deliver on a 2013 deal it helped broker to destroy Syria’s chemical arsenal.

“So either Russia has been complicit, or Russia has been simply incompetent on its ability to deliver,” he said.

By ordering the strike, Trump threatened the military assets of Assad, who has enjoyed Russia’s support throughout the six-year conflict. Russia’s military has helped turn the war in Assad’s favor and Moscow has used its U.N. Security Council veto to protect Damascus from censure.

Russia also has important military facilities in Syria that could be put at risk if Assad is removed from power, a goal of Western powers that had recently been put on the back burner because of the focus on fighting Islamic State extremists in Syria and Iraq.

Peskov said the U.S. gave Russia advance notice about the strike. He added that Moscow believes it makes no sense to maintain the hotline.

Asked if the decision to freeze the information exchange could raise the risk of midair incidents, Peskov said it was the U.S. attack that increased such danger.

Peskov wouldn’t say if Russia could use its military assets to protect Syrian facilities from future U.S. strikes.

Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Russia will quickly “strengthen the Syrian air defense system and increase its efficiency in order to protect Syria’s most sensitive infrastructure facilities.”

Passover: A Celebration of Liberty, Long Before Freedom

The Jewish holiday of Passover begins Monday evening, commemorating the Exodus from Egypt, and from slavery to freedom, thousands of years ago.

The festival begins with the seder meal, which features a retelling of the story, along with the presentation of the paschal lamb (pesach), the eating of unleavened bread (matzah), and the tasting of bitter herbs (maror). The holiday lasts seven days (eight, outside Israel), during which leavened bread is forbidden.

From our contemporary perspective, in which Jews have enjoyed freedom in the United States for more than two centuries, and when the State of Israel has been established for nearly seventy years, it is too easy to overlook the fact that Jews celebrated freedom on Passover for millennia before we (or anyone) enjoyed anything remotely like political freedom. Moreover, there are some Jews still living today who can recall the deadly slave labor of Nazi concentration camps.

How ironic it must have seemed to Jews within the walls of the medieval ghetto, or trapped in its brutal 20th century reincarnations, to celebrate freedom!

And yet they still recited the Passover Haggadah: “In every generation a person is obligated to regard himself as if he had come out of Egypt, as it is said: ‘You shall tell your child on that day, it is because of this that the L-rd did for me when I left Egypt.’”

In every generation, whether in freedom or oppression.

What freedom could Jews possibly have celebrated in such circumstances, before the United States existed, before the emancipation of Europe, or before the State of Israel was born? Were their lives any better than those of the Hebrew slaves?

One answer is that the slavery of Egypt was of a particularly evil kind, because Pharaoh not only sought to make the people work, but to wipe them out through infanticide — an experience not repeated until the Holocaust.

But another answer is found within the Passover story itself. As the “Dayenu” song indicates, freedom from slavery would have been enough, but God also brought the people to Mount Sinai to receive the Torah, and brought them to the Land of Israel to build the Holy Temple.

In other words, what gave greater value to freedom was not merely the end of slavery, but also the acceptance of a moral code, and the fulfillment of a spiritual mission, which we hope to renew.

For Jews living under conditions of persecution and political repression, and even under the threat of extermination, what made Passover meaningful was not just the aspiration to achieve freedom and independence again one day, but also the enduring moral precepts of the Torah, which are to be observed regardless of the circumstances. At Passover every Jew is to regard himself or herself as if he or she personally left Egypt — as if he or she were, in reality, free.

There is a profound moral lesson in that commandment, which resonates far beyond the Passover holiday — and, indeed, beyond the peculiar Jewish experience.

To regard yourself as free, even when you are not, is to accept that you are still morally accountable for your behavior. Put differently: the oppressed and the oppressor are bound by a common moral code. The oppressed cannot excuse themselves from ethics, morals, or the law. Indeed, those are the keys to liberation.

That lesson resonates with the principles of America’s founding. The Framers of the Constitution did not embrace a simplistic, unrestrained freedom, but the idea of “liberty,” which implies self-government, both in the personal and civic sense.

Liberty, in that sense, is moral virtue applied to freedom. It is the kind of freedom Jews described on Passover even in oppression, and the kind of freedom American Jews have savored since arriving on these shores.

Prosecutors Ask for 7.5 Years for Corrupt Former Chicago Schools Chief

Federal prosecutors have recommended a seven and a half year jail sentence for former Chicago Public Schools chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett who pleaded guilty to corruption charges in 2015.

Prosecutors said that Byrd-Bennett was fully aware that the city’s school system was in a financial meltdown long before she became head of the schools; she worked a scam to receive kickbacks for steering up to $23 million in no-bid contracts to a consulting firm where she once worked, WGN TV reports.

Prosecutors criticized the former educrat for working to “enrich herself and her co-schemers at the expense” of the city, the taxpayers, and the students of Chicago.

While admitting to the “extraordinary breach of trust,” Byrd-Bennett’s defense team asked for only a three and a half year sentence.

Once hailed by city leaders as the woman who would reform the troubled Chicago Public School System, only a few years into her tenure Byrd-Bennett was indicted on 23 counts of corruption.

By October of 2015, the former schools chief pleaded guilty to the charges and now faces a sentencing hearing.

The trial was further complicated by former Obama chief of staff and current Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel who refused to supply the court with documents detailing Byrd-Bennett’s relationship with the mayor’s office.