Yesterday it was reported widely—and briefly—that over 700 Muslim pilgrims were massacred when human stampedes erupted on a ritual journey to Mecca. I stress “briefly” because every few years we hear of such semi-suicidal, lemming-like massacres among the Hajj-driven faithful, yet journalists, always afraid to trespass into sociology, never offer any rational account for civilians trampling one another. The reports are conveniently brief, relieving us of the responsibility of an explanation. Usually, some clueless middle-manager is blamed, and the story ends. One Saudi official proclaimed the tragedy was a sign of “God’s will”, a rather unsatisfactory explanation of urban planning so poor that it spurred rampant manslaughter. The tragicomedy thus seems inscrutable and exotic: when overpopulation and religious delusion merge, the faithful will be smothered by their own faith, the masses crushed under their own mass.
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“It’s difficult to put an economic value on a resource that can be mined forever,” says David Montgomery. He’s describing the sockeye salmon run in Alaska’s Bristol Bay, an annual run that has provided sustenance and an economy for generations of native fishermen. His phrasing might also apply to the project now threatening that ecosystem, the Pebble Mine. As it is planned by the companies Anglo-American and Northern Dynasty, the open-pit mine will produce an estimated half a trillion dollars’ worth of copper and gold. The cost for these rewards is currently under debate.
This debate forms the focus of Frontline: Alaska Gold, premiering on 24 July on PBS. The sides are embodied primarily by Pebble Park CEO John Shively (who insists that the mine will not upset the local environment) and Rick Halford, former Alaska Senate president and advocate for multiple previous mining projects. “This is an area of experimentation,” says Halford, “And I don’t believe that it’s the place to experiment.” Other mines of the type the Pebble Project proposes use technologies—ground tailings and empilements—that turn area water toxic. This even if, according to planners, they would be able to treat some waste and store the other 10 billion tons… forever.
Glenn Beck has certainly picked some odd fights in his day.
While the Fox News anchor has made targets out of the likes of Van Jones and George Soros to much media commotion, sometimes he does the exact opposite, instead responding to criticism by only criticizing back, whether it be responding to Rep. Anthony Weiner’s allegations of Beck supporting Goldline’s shady business practices by establishing the juvenile WeinerFacts.com or calling Avatar a “Smurf-murdering” movie following James Cameron’s criticisms against him (these latter two attempts are not considered his most successful).
On the eve of the budget deadline, a newly reinvigorated Republican congress holds a Democratic president hostage, demanding stringent cuts to the federal budget. His legislative capital spent on a series of contentious and difficult measures, the president seems to have no choice but to concede. Yet when the moment comes, looking coolly into the eyes of the Speaker of the House, the President gets up from the table and walks out. The Federal Government of the United States of America is shut down.
// Notes from the Road
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