Tuesday, August 21, 2012

He who pays the fiddler calls the tuna

Japan, fisheries revenue help Marshalls power company
The Japan Embassy in Majuro announced Friday that Ebeye Island’s power utility is benefiting from $827,455 in Japan funding provided to the Marshall Islands government through a “Counterpart Fund.”

The Counterpart Fund was established between the two nations in January 2009. When the agreement was signed in 2009, the government of Japan extended 200 million Japanese Yen (approximately $2.2 million at that time) as a non-project grant for the rescue of the energy sector to respond to the economic crisis affecting Marshall Islands.

The Marshalls Energy Co. is using the grant funding to purchase fuel that will be used to generate electricity for Ebeye Island, the second largest urban center in the country. The government’s Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority earlier in the week extended a $2 million loan to the MEC that has solved the utility company’s urgent need for funding to pay for fuel for the power plants.

Marshall Islands revenue from fisheries has escalated in the past two years because the price of fishing days for purse seiners has doubled because of action by the Parties to the Nauru Agreement, the eight nations, including the Marshall Islands, that control waters where the bulk of skipjack tuna is caught. Joint venture ownership with Taiwan’s Koo’s Fishing Company of a purse seine fishing boat is now generating multi-million dollar returns to the fisheries department.

Chinese subsidies damaging Pacific tuna sector
The Pacific Islands tuna industry maintains that fishing pressure on southern albacore tuna is in truth much worse than the figures suggested by scientific studies.
Moreover, the Pacific Islands Tuna Industry Association stated that a fleet of new Chinese boats has made it impossible for local fishers to make a living as part of the industry.

In the last two years, between 200-250 new Chinese vessels have arrived in the fishery, the association estimates, and there is now a total of about 590 Chinese and Taiwanese vessels actively fishing.

The group’s chairman, Charles Hufflett, said the big fuel subsidies the Chinese pay their fleet are having a damaging effect because they make it impossible for the Pacific Industry to compete with them.


Monday, August 20, 2012


The dandy little dandelion propagates, as do many living creatures, by successfully exploiting the power of big numbers. Like the plucky little turtles who dash to the sea, only a few of the many fertilized seeds make it. And no one knows which fertilized seed will find root.

Guambat joined the hoards of other young guambats and other folk who, as kids, couldn't resist the thrill of helping the soft dandelion puffballs send their potential on the way, with a good hardy puff.

Guambat wonders if the puffing and chuffing going on in the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands will take root in violent confrontation. With relations is both gene pools, he truly hopes not.

Territorial tensions flare between China and Japan
Angry Chinese youths on Sunday overturned cars and smashed shop windows in anti-Japanese protests across the country stemming from a long-standing dispute over uninhabited islands claimed by both countries.

Meanwhile, 150 Japanese activists tried to land on the islands by boat Sunday to commemorate World War II deaths. When that failed, 10 of them swam to one of the rocky islands and tried to plant a Japanese flag.

The demonstrations in China were the largest since 2010 when a Chinese fishing captain who had rammed a Japanese coast guard vessel was arrested, leading to a protracted standoff.

The largest street protest was in Shenzhen, where thousands of people, mostly students, overturned Japanese-made police cars and smashed the windows of Japanese restaurants. Demonstrations also took place over the weekend in Chengdu, Xian and Jinan, among other Chinese cities, as well as in Hong Kong. Japanese chain stores like Uniqlo, which are wildly popular among young Chinese, were forced to close for the day.

“Japanese, get off of our Diaoyu Islands," read most of the banners, while others exhorted Chinese to “kill all the Japanese.”

Japanese nationalists land on disputed island, tensions with China intensify
Japanese nationalists landed on an island at the heart of a corrosive territorial row with China on Sunday in a move likely to further inflame tensions with Beijing.

Around a dozen members of the right wing Gambare Nippon (Hang In There Japan) went ashore, an AFP journalist witnessed, saying they intended to plant a Japanese flag at the island’s highest point. A Japanese coastguard ship 100 metres from the moored vessels regularly sounded its siren, with loudspeakers telling activists: “Do not moor. Leave the island.”

Japan's growing rashness
To escalate tension with China over Diaoyu Islands, Japan has chosen to play the same game twice this month. According to the Japanese media, Japan's Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba said on Tuesday that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton "had confirmed" that the "Senkaku" (Diaoyu) Islands fall within the scope of the US-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security.

Whether Clinton and other US officials have actually said so is not important because neither Japanese nor US claims will alter the fact that the Diaoyu Islands have been part of Chinese territory since ancient times. Neither Japan nor the US is in a position to impose a bilateral security pact on or infringe upon the interests of a third party.

The 1960 US-Japan security treaty requires the US to defend Japan in the event of an armed conflict. Should the current dispute continue to escalate into a major conflict, Japan would be "justified" in evoking the treaty and asking for direct US involvement or even military intervention.

What chance does reason stand to play given all this Tea Party Diplomacy?



Thursday, August 16, 2012

Senkaku or Diaoyu

From the cerebral:

Can International Law Help the Resolution of the Senkaku/Daioyu Dispute?
The Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, eight inhabited islets/rocks, have been often reported as a hot button issue that could escalate into a military conflict between Japan and China. I will argue that the international customary law regulating the territorial acquisition and the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) does not offer enough clear, precise and equally applied rules to persuade the parties to submit the fate of their national interest into the hands of an international institution.

In the dispute, two modes of acquisition could be observed – discovery and occupation and acquisitive prescription. One crucial criteria distinguishes them – whether the territory was terra nullius (no man's land) or it has already been into a possession (lawful or not) of another country. The discovery does not confer permanent title over the territory, it requires the effective occupation to become valid. The latter must be peaceful with no-competing claims of other States, actual with real displays of State authority, sufficient in intensity and continuous. For prescription, acquiescence of other States (express or tacit) and higher publicity are required to wipe the original defect of territory (seized illegally). The intention and will to act like a sovereign (animus occupandi) is important for both cases.

The islands are referred to as known and used in different contexts by China in its historical documents from 1372 to 1893. China could probably be considered as discoverer whose “effective occupation” established a sovereignty title over the islands. China's animus occupandi examples can be found in the use of islands as navigation aids by investiture missions, their inclusion into defense system against pirates and the fact they were granted by Dowager Empress to a private Chinese for collecting herbs for medical purposes. More symbolic acts such as the official ceremony of occupying the territory, posing the symbolic markers and notifying other States about it was not required as essential in relevant decisions.

Japan incorporated the islands belonging to China in 1985, but over time it could be argued that it exercised the effective control and wiped the original defect of the territory. Subsequent treaties referring to territories Japan “has stolen from China” remain silent on the Senkaku/Daioyu (though inhabited Pescadores were mentioned) and shed no light on their previous status. China did not express any claim or its animus occupandi concerning the islands until the UN Report about oil and gas reserves around the island was released in 1969. Could China's silence for 70 years be regarded as tacit acquiescence of Japanese sovereignty over the islands? Did Japan establish a valid title over the islands by the time of first Chinese protest? No unanimous answer exists about the lap of time required for title establishment. Japan has acted as a sovereign for 117 years now and fully administrated the islands for almost 90 years (except the US administration period). Its occupation is actual, the islands are under authority of Okinawa Prefecture and patrolled by Japan's Coast Guard. Japanese symbols on the islands, disembarkation of its government and payment of lease to the owners of 3 of the islands could be satisfying as sufficient control in case of scarce and inhabited islands. Nevertheless, the peaceful character of occupation could be challenged by Chinese and Taiwanese violent protests since the late 60s. The requirement of express protest against another country's territorial possession in international law haven't contributed to resolving the conflict, quite the contrary. Judicial decisions are highly unpredictable and in this case the Court could give preeminence to actual administration of the islands which would benefit Japan.

To the online:

Chinese gamers fight for the Diaoyu islands on new app
A domestic iPad app game in China entered the top 10 list for free downloads six days after its release but was later shelved for reasons unknown. Defending the Diaoyu Islands can no longer be downloaded, but still survives on the internet and has spawned a number of online versions.

The game is similar to the hugely popular game Plants vs Zombies, where the player defends their lawn from marauding undead, except this time incorporating the very real territorial dispute over the Diaoyu or Senkaku islands in the East China Sea. The players can defend the islands as the Chinese side, while the invaders are Japanese samurais and sumo wrestlers.
With further reading:

Both China and Japan claim the fish-rich and potentially-oil-rich islands—known to the Japanese as the Senkaku Islands, to the Chinese as the Diaoyu Islands and to the Taiwanese as the Tiaoyutai Islands— between Okinawa and Taiwan in the East China Sea..

There are five Senkaku islands. Together they cover about 5.6 square kilometers. About 250 people live on Uotsurijima. In the 1940s one of the islands contained a Japanese fish processing plant. The Japanese claim on the Senkaku islands dates back 1895 when the Meiji government incorporated the islands into Okinawa prefecture. The Japanese say no counter claims or protests were made. Under the Francisco Peace Treaty signed in 1951 the islands were included in the territories of Japan.

Chinese claims that Japan stole the islands during the Sino-Japanese war of 1894-95. In their readings of San Francisco Peace Treaty Japan formally lost all of the territories it acquired after 1895.

Maps published in China and Taiwan in the 1960s clearly show the islands as Japanese territory. There was little interest in the islands until a geological surveys released in 1968 and 1972 reported their might be oil and minerals around the islands. Also at stake are the fishing rights.

In 1971, Taiwan and China both officially claimed the Senkaku Islands as theirs. During the U.S. occupation of Okinawa, the Senkaku Islands were used for military drills by U.S. forces. When the U.S. returned Okinawa to Japan in 1972, the Japanese also claimed the Senkaku Islands.

When Japan and China signed a joint communique in 1972, the issues of the islands was not raised. When China and Japan signed a peace treaty in 1978, vice-premier Deng Xiaoping said the dispute over the islands "will be shelved until the next generation comes up with a solution." Also in 1978, the ultra-rightist group Nihon Seinen Sha (Japan Youth Federation) set up a makeshift lighthouse on the largest of the islands. After of period of time the same group returned to the island to rebuild the lighthouse and seek official recognition.

China enacted a law in 1992 claiming the East China Sea as its territory. It also claims the continental shelf off its shores, which stretch to near the Okinawa island chain, as its territory.

Senkaku Islands map In 1996, ultra-nationalists erected on a lighthouse (actually a thin aluminum beacon about 15 feet high) on the main Senkaku island. By this time four of the five islands were technically the private property of two Tokyo businessmen active in ultra-nationalist politics. Beijing was upset by Tokyo's tolerance of the actions by the ultra-rightists.

The people of China, Taiwan and Hong Kong were all unified in their disgust with Japan. In Hong Kong in 1996, protestors took to the streets and burned a Japanese flag. One Hong Kong teacher told Newsweek, "Our dream is that the Beijing navy would sail in from the left, the Taiwan navy would sail in from the right and we would take the Japanese together as a strong national force."

In September 1996, a freighter with 18 protestors from Hong Kong and Taiwan was turned back from the islands with the lighthouse by Japanese coast guard ships. Four protestors jumped into the water to symbolically claim the seas around the island for China. One of the protesters, 45-year-old David Chan, drowned in the choppy seas.

In March 2004, seven Chinese nationalists land on Senkaku. They were arrested by Japanese police and coast guard personnel that arrived by helicopter. The seven were detained for a couple days and deported. The incident got quite a bit of press coverage in Japan and stirred up nationalist sentiments. In Beijing, a few dozen people held ani-Japanese demonstrations outside the Japanese embassy.

There have been many “encounter” between Chinese fishing boats and Japan Coast Guard ships around the islands. Japan’s forces regularly board many China vessels they deem to have entered Japanese territorial waters.

In the minds of Chinese, the Japanese never adequately apologized for the atrocities before and during World War II and they view the Japanese assertiveness in military matters as a threat and a reminder of the World War II era. Textbooks, newspapers and government-sponsored films in China emphasize China’s suffering after the 1935 Japanese invasion but mention little about how relations have improved and Japan has given China billions of dollars in aid.

Chinese President Jiang Zemin had personal memories of Japanese atrocities in the World War II era and was not bashful about lecturing the Japanese about them. His successor Hu Jintao seemed to be more intent on establishing better relations with Japan. His efforts were shot down by Koizumi and nationalist Japanese but have been welcomed with more open arms by recent Japanese prime ministers.

A poll conducted by the Pew Research Center before the 2008 Olympics found that 70 percent of the Chinese interviewed had an unfavorable impression of Japan.

In a poll by a Japanese newspaper, 57 percent of Chinese asked said they considered Japan "untrustworthy." Even so the Chinese seem to love Japanese commercial pop culture. Chinese children walk around with Hello Kitty and Pokeman bags. Young girls wear platform shoes and Casio G-Skok watches.

The number of Japanese that said they warm feelings toward China declined from 69 percent in 1988 to 32.4 percent in 2004. In a December 2004 Gallup survey, 71 percent of Japanese said they distrusted China. Even so China became very fashionable. Shanghai became a popular tourist destination. Food and fashion have clear Chinese influences. Four million people travel between China and Japan every year. After English, Chinese is the second most popular foreign language. Mandarin language classes had waiting lists.

Small Islands – Big Problem: Senkaku/Diaoyu and the Weight of History and Geography in China-Japan Relations
In December 2010, the Okinawan city of Ishigaki (within which Japanese administrative law incorporates these islands) adopted a resolution to declare 14 January to be “Senkaku Islands Colonization Day.” The “Colonization Day” is intended to commemorate the incorporation of the islands by cabinet decision 116 years earlier. China immediately protested.

Ishigaki was following the model of the Shimane Prefectural Assembly, which in 2005 declared a “Takeshima Day” in commemoration of the Japanese state’s incorporation 100 years earlier of the islands known in Japan as Takeshima but in South Korea (which occupies and administers them) as Tokdo. That Shimane decision prompted fierce protests in South Korea. The Ishigaki decision seems likely to do no less in China. Why should these barren rocks, inhabited only by endangered short-tailed albatross, be of such importance to otherwise great powers? Whose islands are they? How should the contest over them be resolved?

Read more at the link.

Activists to fly flag for Diaoyu Islands
A group of activists from Hong Kong and Macau set sail for the Diaoyu Islands in East China Sea yesterday. The 14 left for the islands on a Chinese-flagged fishing boat from Hong Kong.

The activists, who belong to a group called the Action Committee for Defending the Diaoyu Islands, will be joined at sea by two other vessels tomorrow - from Taiwan and Xiamen City in southern China.

The activists have made repeated attempts to reach the islands, but apart from one successful foray in 1996 they have been blocked by Japanese patrol vessels.

Also yesterday, Taiwan coastguards said they will next month stage a live-firing exercise in the Xisha Islands in the South China Sea with new, longer-range artillery and mortars.

The drill will take place on Taiping Island in the sprawling group of islands. The coastguard said it would take place in September but did not give an exact date.

CE summons Japan Consul
The Chief Executive, C Y Leung, has stepped into the dispute over the Diaoyu Islands by summoning the Japanese Consul General to protest against the arrest of activists who sailed there to assert China's claim of soverignty.

Mr Leung told Yuji Kumamaru that the Diaoyus had been China's territory "since ancient times" and that local people had strong feelings on the issue.

He said the SAR government was "extremely concerned" about the incident, and did not want to see any action by the Japanese that would be regarded as provocative by the people of Hong Kong.

Mr Leung urged the Japanese government to release the 14 people being held as soon as possible. In Beijing, the Foreign Ministry also demanded their immediate release.

The activists, from the Action Comittee for Defending the Diaoyu Islands, left Hong Kong on Sunday in a Chinese-flagged fishing boat. They said their action was intended to counter a plan by a group of Japanese politicians to visit the islands this weekend.

A commentary published by Xinhua said the dispute had raised tensions over territory to a new high and said the activists were "flagrantly arrested" while trying to set foot on Chinese territory. "The tensions are fully due to irresponsible clamouring and attempts by some Japanese politicians and activists to claim the islands, which are in the East China Sea and indisputably belong to China," the commentary said.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Humans are from Africa, Neanderthals are from Europe: get over it

But which one said "no means no"?

Humans didn't breed with Neanderthals
Neanderthals and modern humans share a common ancestor who is thought to have spanned Africa and Europe about half a million years ago.

About 350-300 million years ago, though, the two populations became separated. The Europeans evolved into Neanderthals, and the Africans into modern humans.

However, as today, populations wouldn't have been completely mixed across continents: closer populations would have been more genetically similar to each other than those further apart. And because of this, the amount of ancestral DNA shared with Neanderthals would vary.

Neanderthals and modern humans share a common ancestor who is thought to have spanned Africa and Europe about half a million years ago.

About 350-300 million years ago, though, the two populations became separated. The Europeans evolved into Neanderthals, and the Africans into modern humans.

However, as today, populations wouldn't have been completely mixed across continents: closer populations would have been more genetically similar to each other than those further apart. And because of this, the amount of ancestral DNA shared with Neanderthals would vary.

By examining the different genetic makeup among modern human populations, the scientists attempted to quantify this variation. They simulated a large number of populations representing Africa and Eurasia over the last half-million years, and estimated how much similarity would be expected between a random Neanderthal individual and modern humans in Africa and Eurasia. The resuts were pretty much what we see today.

"Thus, based on common ancestry and geographic differences among populations within each continent, we would predict out of Africa populations to be more similar to Neanderthals than their African counterparts - exactly the patterns that were observed when the Neanderthal genome was sequenced; but this pattern was attributed to hybridisation," says Manica.

"Hopefully, everyone will become more cautious before invoking hybridisation, and start taking into account that ancient populations differed from each other probably as much as modern populations do."

By the bye, in the picture above, the European Neanderthal is on the left. He insisted all Neanderthals should have the god-given right to be armed, and should be careful of not being caught wading in gene pool.

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Just a link in its Second Chain

Chain, chain, chain, chain of fools
Five long years I thought you were my man
But I found out I'm just a link in your chain
-- Aretha Franklin, Chain of Fools

Guambat has previously invoked the legendary Aretha to musically frame China's ambitious Pacific chains threat. Since China's "Second" Island Chain plants a fencepost squarely on Guambat's burrow, he takes notice.

Guambat has also illustrated that not all of China's movements to move beyond its chains are overtly militaristic. Especially now, with the world's largest and richest consumer having become China's Golden Goose, China often deploys dollars to insinuate itself in its self-defines spheres of influence.

China is now exercising the latter tactic to strengthen its Second Island Chain, right here in Guambat's backyard. Yap State, in the Federated States of Micronesia, is Guambat's immediate
neighbour to the south.

Yap government, Chinese firm ink major investment agreement
An investment agreement was signed Saturday between the Yap State government and Chengdu Century City New International Convention and Exhibition Center Company Ltd. (ETG) during a signing ceremony held at the Pacific Dive Resorts.

The agreement was signed by Yap Gov. Sebastian Anefal and Deng Hong, chairman of the ETG, who were accompanied by the governor’s Cabinet, chairman and vice chairman; members of the Traditional Council of Pilung; the chairman of the 8th Legislature Standing Committee on Government, Health and Welfare; and other members of the public.

In his brief statement, Anefal said: “The year 2023 brings an end to the economic provision of the Compact between the Federated States of Micronesia and the United States, and to me that would be the funeral for the Federated States of Micronesia. If you want to prolong and postpone this funeral ceremony, then I think we have to take a bold step and this is the right time to do so. During the remaining 10 to 11 years before 2023, I think Yap has to do something.”

The governor hopes the relationship ETG and Yap have established by signing the investment agreement will create and provide the way forward so the "funeral" in 2023 could be delayed further.

Hong thanked the government and the people of Yap for accepting the investment proposal. He said this visit has opened a new page of close relations between Yap and ETG. He also said that by working together, ETG will build Yap to become one of the main tourist destinations in the Pacific region. The ETG chairman mentioned that ETG would be able to complete the construction of all the facilities in Yap within the next five years from the day of signing, if things move forward according to plan.

After the State Legislature concluded the series of oversight hearings with the administration regarding the investment agreement, the state government returned back to ETG to discuss the issue with their legal counsels before the signing of the agreement.

Prior to the signing, the Council of Pilung had taken the matter into its own hands and requested both the executive and legislative branches of government to expedite their work on the agreement so the project could start to move forward.

Hong and members of his delegation left Yap for Chengdu on Sunday, Aug. 12 aboard their private aircraft.

Rolling the Chinese dice
Yap is the closest to Guam of any of the Federated States of Micronesia, just a couple of hours away. Officials there have been discussing and negotiating with developers out of Chengdu in mainland China for more than a year. The agreement signed on Saturday is the fifth version of the contract, which is called a “cooperative investment agreement.”

The pact could bring billions of dollars of infrastructure and commercial development to the state.

The impact of all of this on Yap is a worry. The land of stone money is the most traditional of the Micronesian states, and things haven’t really changed very much there for the past 50 years. It’s a small, tightly knit community where traditional leadership is more highly respected than the elected leadership. Although Gov. Sebastian Anefal signed the agreement on behalf of the state, he would not have been able to do so without the acquiescence of the Council of Pilung, the traditional chiefs of Yap, who were present at the signing.

As originally envisioned, the plan was to bring as many as 10,000 hotel rooms to various locations in Yap, along with golf courses, spas, restaurants and all the other amenities of an intensive visitor industry development. “The objective of this project is to develop the State of Yap into a world renowned tourism destination,”the agreement states.

The parties also agree that “the local culture and environment shall be preserved during the whole term of the project.” The company, ETG, agrees it will not engage or invest in any industrial or mining activities. “Such activities are inconsistent with the principle of self-sustainability underpinning the project concept,” the agreement states.

The scope of the planned development is mind-boggling. ETG agrees to upgrade the airport and seaport facilities to accommodate the requirements of what will be the largest investment and development in the entire FSM, by far, since the founding of the nation. ETG will also fund the creation of a new public park and a new state capitol.

Yap is part of the FSM, which is included geographically, and culturally, to Micronesia. Politically, the FSM, The Republic of the Marshalls, Palau and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands all were carved out of the old Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands.

The area includes three major archipelagoes with over twenty-one hundred islands scattered across a vast expanse of water as wide as the continental United States. It is a time and place out of National Geographic Magazine.

Guambat had the privilege to cruise to a couple Yap State islands, Satawal and Ifaluk, a couple of years ago, and brought back these doctored photos.

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Saturday, August 11, 2012

Silly season signals

Yes, it's election time in the US. Time to roll out the voter fraud stories. Some stories are reported, others made up, but Guambat is sorely confused which is witch.

Yes, vote fraud’s real; Likely gave us Sen. Franken
And one way, historically, that Democrats have been able to swing close elections is through fraud.

Voter Fraud: 4 GOP Staffers Indicted in “Blatant and Disgraceful” Election Fraud
Four congressional staffers of former Republican Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI), who resigned from Congress on July 6, will face criminal felony charges for voter and election fraud in Michigan.

“The approach taken was disgraceful,” said Michigan’s Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette, who announced the charges today. According to a report by the Attorney General’s office, McCotter’s staff had “completely lost its moral compass.”

The election fraud, described as “blatant,” includes forgery and faking petition signatures including using old signatures from past election forms. The voting fraud listed in the indictment report would appear to be the type of criminal activity that various voter ID laws recently passed would not have prevented.

Iowa agent hired to chase voter fraud
An Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation agent has been assigned to a two-year term in Secretary of State Matt Schultz’s office to look into allegations of voter fraud, the Republican election chief’s top cause, The Associated Press has learned.

County auditors, who run local elections, told the AP they were surprised when they were introduced to Special Agent Daniel Dawson and informed of his new role during a training meeting Wednesday in Cedar Rapids. Auditors said they also were taken aback when Dawson and another state official told them that he was looking into between 2,000 and 3,000 voters already.

“I don’t know ever of a DCI investigation into county auditors’ business. I’ve been here since 2008, but I don’t think it’s probably ever happened before,” said Scott County Auditor Roxanna Moritz, who was told Dawson is looking into 180 voters in her county.

D.A. to present evidence in Councilman Alarcon's voter fraud case
Prosecution evidence that Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alarcon lied about where he was living to run for office will get its first public airing at a preliminary hearing scheduled to get underway today.

Alarcon and his wife, Flora Montes De Oca Alarcon, face perjury and voter fraud charges alleging that they falsely claimed a home on Nordhoff Street in Panorama City as their residence so that Richard Alarcon could run for the council seat representing the 7th District.

Mooneyham: The voter-fraud shuffle
That point is that there is little evidence to support the occurrence of widespread, organized voter fraud in North Carolina.

As I’ve pointed out previously in this column, the few instances of concerted, organized voter fraud that have occurred in this state in recent years have primarily involved the collection and use of absentee ballots.

That’s not to suggest that no one has ever claimed someone else’s identity and voted under that person’s name. But there is a huge difference between an individual deciding that he or she is going to vote under an assumed identity, and an organized effort to engage many individuals voting under assumed identities in order to throw an election.

Let’s play voter fraud whack-a-mole!
Remember the bottom line here: no one has found convincing evidence of any recent, significant level of voter fraud. The cases that have been alleged often turn out to be phony. And the voter suppression “remedies” Republicans like don’t have anything to do with whatever fraud is generally alleged.

So: the latest conservative talking point is the claim that there were a bunch of felons who voted improperly in Minnesota in 2008 — perhaps enough to have flipped the very close Senate race in that cycle from Democratic Al Franken to Republican Norm Coleman. Conservative columnist Byron York points out correctly that flipping that seat would have been hugely consequential; the Affordable Care Act, Dodd-Frank, and other legislation might well have failed if Dems had lost just one more Senate seat.

But the accusations are old and long ago debunked. Regardless: suppose, for a minute, that a few hundred felons who were ineligible to vote nevertheless did vote in Minnesota in 2008.

First: clearly, making voters show a photo ID would do nothing whatsoever about preventing more of this. No one was impersonating anyone.

Second: the other main remedy, purging the voter rolls, might or might not catch these (supposed) improper voters, but it would also knock off plenty of eligible voters too — which would be at least as big a problem as allowing the ineligible through. It’s pretty clear that some of the Minnesota voters targeted as “frauds” were perfectly legitimate people whose only crime was sharing a name with an ex-felon — and living in precincts with Democratic majorities.

Nassau voter wants to know why he received 2 extra absentee ballot apps
A few days ago Haftel, a federal retiree, automatically received his application for an absentee ballot. "It just showed up," he said.

It wasn't a problem until a few days later when his Supervisor of Elections Office sent two more applications for absentee ballots, for two different people, to his address. "Who made the decision to mail these things out when it was not done in the past?" Haftel asked. "How many times do people like me get to vote three," he said, "if you choose to be a fraudulent signer."

Nassau County Supervisor of Elections Vicki Cannon said due to new district boundaries this year, the office mailed out absentee ballot request forms with new voting information. Unfortunately, when a person receives someone else's mail and does not return, said Cannon, it is difficult to correct the address.

As for voter fraud, Cannon said an absentee ballot signature is compared to the voter's signature on record. If the it does not match, the ballot is referred to the Canvassing Board for consideration as to whether to reject or accept the ballot.

Voting fraud allegations in E. Longmeadow
The Town of East Longmeadow is at the center of an investigation involving allegations of voting fraud. Some registered democrats told the 22News I-Team they got letters about voting in the Republican primary.

Secretary of State William Galvin's office told 22News the state became suspicious when they discovered an unusual number of party shifts. Turns out a number of registered Democrats got letters about voting in the Republican primary.

No suspects have been accused of wrongdoing but letter recipients are happy they caught the error now before they lost their right to vote at all.

"What if I threw this away and I go to vote in November and someone would tell me that I can't vote because someone already voted in my places, because somebody applied for this, I didn't," East Longmeadow's Douglas Howie said.


New database of US voter fraud finds no evidence that photo ID laws are needed
A new nationwide analysis of 2,068 alleged election-fraud cases since 2000 shows that while fraud has occurred, the rate is infinitesimal, and in-person voter impersonation on Election Day, which prompted 37 state legislatures to enact or consider tough voter ID laws, is virtually non-existent.

With 146 million registered voters in the United States during that time, those 10 cases represent one out of about every 15 million prospective voters.

Read more>


Will New Zealand enter faux-fray for South China Sea

New Zealand has discovered an "island" of pumice floating in the South Pacific.

Might it then tow the island to the South China/Western Philippine/What-have-you Sea and claim 200 miles of EEZ mineral rights?

Gigantic floating island the size of New Jersey spotted in south Pacific
Yesterday, the Royal New Zealand Air Force spotted a gigantic mass made from volcanic pumice rocks floating in the south Pacific. The total area of the "island" is about 9,000 square miles, or about the same size as New Jersey (and larger than Connecticut, Delaware, Rhode Island or the entire nation of Israel).

New Zealand Navy scientists believe this 300-by-30-mile floating mass, which reaches about two feet above sea level, dribbled out from a huge underwater volcanic eruption. These "pumice rafts" are thought play an important role in the Earth's biological evolution as they can ferry animals across large bodies of water and may have even been homes to the earliest microscopic lifeforms.

And who knows, should this new floating island be found to be a nice place, it may be just what the anxious inhabitants of rapidly disappearing The Maldives are looking for.
Whilst obviously tongue in Guambat's cheek, creating a new South China Sea pumice island is no more farfetched a claim than most of the ones being made over long uninhabited rocks floating above the mineral rich sea floor of the Pacific Asian sea shelf.

Japan and South Korea Lock Horns Over Islands, China Steers Clear
This Friday, Japan recalled its ambassador to South Korea after South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak paid an official visit to a small group of islands located smack-dab in the middle of the Sea of Japan. Or the East Sea of Korea, as the South Koreans call it.

The islands, called the Dokdo Islands in Korean, the Takeshima Islands in Japanese, and Liancourt Rocks in English, have been part of a territorial dispute between South Korea and Japan since Korea gained its independence from Japan after World War Two.

South Koreans are reportedly passionate about the issue, and claim the islands have always been part of their motherland. The only current residents of the island are an old woman, her husband, and the South Korean Coast Guard. But the islands are also home to an abundance of fish, in which Japan is extremely interested, and to recently discovered reserves of natural gas, which would be worth billions of dollars.

Territorial disputes are common in this region, given the vast number of tiny islands, according to Harvard Professor of Japanese History David Howell. "These disputes are more visible now that China is exerting a naval influence," he said. "For most Japanese people, the status of some islands in the southern Okinawa is a much more powerful issue [than the Takeshima islands]."

Howell also said China might be staying out of this spat strategically: "Getting involved one way or the other would highlight the ambiguity of these territorial claims in general," he said, "and that might undermine some of China's other claims to other islands."
US-Japan intervention biggest threat: analyst
A Chinese military strategist has warned that a US-Japan joint military intervention in the Taiwan question would be the biggest threat to China, in the wake of a proposed revision of the Guidelines for Japan-US Defense Cooperation.

Rear Admiral Yin Zhuo, director of the Chinese Navy Advisory Committee for Informatization, made the warnings Wednesday while exchanging views with Web users on China's national security at people.com.cn.

The US has incited tensions surrounding the Nansha Islands in the South China Sea and the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea to tighten military ties with its allies, and take China's attention away from such issues in order to contain China, Yin said.

"If the US fails to contain China with such issues, it may make big moves in the Taiwan Straits. We should seriously and psychologically prepare for that," warned Yin.

The US and Japan last week agreed to consider revising the Guidelines for Japan-US Defense Cooperation, which stipulate methods of cooperation between Japan's Self-Defense Forces and the US military during times of emergency, reported the Yomiuri Shimbun paper.

The guidelines, which were first created in 1978, were drastically revised in 1997 to respond to possible contingencies on the Korean Peninsula. Tokyo and Washington both found it necessary to review the guidelines afresh, as 15 years have passed since the previous revisions.

Yin warned that the biggest threat of a revised guideline would be a joint military intervention in the Taiwan question by Japan and the US, which would have a subversive impact on China's period of strategic opportunity.

Though China has been taking a defensive strategy in national defense, Yin noted that it is not afraid of wars and has the confidence to beat any rivals on its soil and in its coastal waters.

According to the Rear Admiral, China has set up marine corps in its three fleets, namely the North Sea Fleet, East Sea Fleet and South Sea Fleet. However, only two marine brigades are deployed to the South Sea Fleet due to limited numbers of troops.
The Bully of the South China Sea
China's broad territorial claims have no legal merit, and the U.S. is the only power strong enough to push back.

In a 2000 white paper, Beijing claimed that the source of its "indisputable sovereignty" over the Spratly Islands, the most important features in the South China Sea, is imperial China's historical record as "the first to discover and name the islands as the Nansha Islands and the first to exercise sovereign jurisdiction over them."

This basis is disputed. China may have some of the oldest surviving maps of the area, but aboriginal, Malay, Indian and Arab traders traversed these seas before Han Chinese began their explorations. And the maps produced by China and other countries from ancient times through the 20th century show the islands as uninhabited dangers to navigation, not destinations under anyone's sovereignty.

Militarist Japan, ironically, is the true origin of China's claims. As the great scholar of the Chinese diaspora Wang Gungwu noted recently, World War II-era Japanese maps that showed the entire South China Sea as a Japanese lake were the first serious claim to sovereignty over the islands.

A second irony is that the People's Republic's current claims date to a 1947 map issued by the nationalist government of Chiang Kai-Shek, which drew a u-shaped line of 11 dashes around more than 90% of the South China Sea. Mao's regime republished that map with a simplified nine-dashed line after it routed the nationalists, claiming the sea as China's "historic waters."

Beijing continues to use this map to justify its claims, although it alternates between arguing that its claims rest on the U.N.'s Law of the Sea treaty, which it signed and ratified in 1996, or otherwise on territorial rights that predate the treaty. Whatever the case, Beijing acts as if it owns all of the sea within the line, last year condemning Vietnamese exploration of areas that fall both within the "territorial" line and Vietnam's coastal exclusive economic zone, or EEZ.

Even if all the disputed islands belong to China, the area of water they control under maritime law would be relatively small. Only a handful of the islands are capable of sustaining human habitation, which is required to claim a 200-mile EEZ, and some of those would be circumscribed where they overlapped with the EEZs generated by other countries' coastline. Rocks and shoals only generate a 12-mile radius of territorial waters at most.

This raises another demonstrably false claim made by Beijing—that Southeast Asian nations accepted its rights to the islands until the 1970s, when potential oil and gas reserves were discovered. Not so: The 1947 map was a matter of international dispute at the time.

It was only after the hydrocarbon discoveries that China began bullying its way into the islands. In 1974, the People's Liberation Army launched a surprise attack and ejected (South) Vietnamese forces stationed on the Paracel Islands. In 1988, the PLA again surprised the Vietnamese on Johnson Atoll in the Spratlys. Beijing seized Mischief Reef from the Philippines in 1994 without a fight.
China gets its catch, hook, line and sinker
ASEAN is the 10-nation grouping of the countries of south-east Asia - Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

In recent years it has insisted on being the central mechanism for mediating regional disputes.

The US decided to take ASEAN seriously. The Obama administration coached ASEAN to stand up to China en bloc by crafting a code of conduct for dealing with disputes in the South China Sea.

Beijing split ASEAN spectacularly last Thursday. A meeting of its foreign ministers not only failed to agree on the code of conduct, but also failed for the first time in ASEAN's 45-year history to agree on a standard communique to record its discussion.

Using its considerable influence over the host country, Cambodia, China effectively wielded a veto on ASEAN. By blocking even a communique, it censored any official record that the South China Sea disputes were even discussed.

Beijing pushed through the central diplomatic defence against its assertiveness as easily as if it were wet rice paper.

The chairman, Cambodia's Foreign Affairs Minister, Hor Namhong, told reporters after the meeting that he ruled out a communique because ''I have told my colleagues that the meeting of the ASEAN foreign ministers is not a court, a place to give a verdict about the dispute''. The Philippines' Foreign Affairs Secretary, Albert Del Rosario, said he had ''simply wanted the fact that we discussed the issue and it should be reflected in the joint communique, no more, no less. It would have just been a simple sentence or paragraph in the communique.''
Cambodia as divide and rule pawn
Chinese state banks today bankroll the construction of roads, bridges, hydropower dams, real estate developments and tourist resorts in Cambodia. Over the past decade, these loans and grants have run into the billions of US dollars, and official delegations shuttle back and forth between the two countries each year.

Beijing's offers of hefty amounts of loans and investment dollars unconstrained by human-rights or good governance concerns has been eagerly taken up by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who resents the conditions often attached to Western aid.

in December 2009 Cambodia deported 20 ethnic Uyghur asylum seekers to China. The timing of the deportation - a day before the arrival of a Chinese official carrying a $1.2 billion package of grants and loan agreements - left few in doubt that extreme pressure was brought to bear on Phnom Penh.

This unspoken quid pro quo arrangement extends back as far as July 1997, when Hun Sen ousted his rival, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, in a bloody factional coup. Unlike many Western countries, which balked at the bloodshed in Phnom Penh, China immediately recognized the status quo and offered military aid. Hun Sen reciprocated by shuttering the Taiwanese representative's office in Phnom Penh after accusing Taiwanese elements of providing support to his rivals, and in the years since has frequently voiced support for the One-China policy.

"Cambodia's single act of obstinacy is a reflection of China's influence and not Cambodian interests," said Carlyle Thayer, an analyst at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Sydney, adding that it would likely "poison" ASEAN proceedings until the next round of summits in November.

The bloc was founded in 1967 as a bulwark against the expansion of communism in Southeast Asia, with Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand as members. The end of the Cold War brought an end to the overt anti-communist posture of ASEAN, which was eventually expanded to include Vietnam (1995), Laos and Myanmar (1997), and Cambodia (1999).

But tensions have remained between the old and new members. In 2007, Singapore's founding father, Lee Kuan Yew, identified a division between ASEAN's original member states and the poorer nations that joined in the 1990s. According to a leaked cable from the US Embassy in Singapore, Lee told US officials that ASEAN should not have admitted Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam as members, fearful that some might act as a pro-Chinese fifth column within ASEAN.

"The older members of ASEAN shared common values and an antipathy to communism," the cable states, quoting Lee's views. "Those values had been 'muddied' by the new members, and their economic and social problems made it doubtful they would ever behave like the older ASEAN members."

Lee particularly focused on Laos, describing it as an "outpost" of China that reported back to Beijing on the content of all ASEAN meetings - but he could easily have mentioned Cambodia, which is quickly becoming China's most dependable ally in the region.

Thayer said last week's imbroglio, after years of pro-unity rhetoric, was "the first major breach of the dyke of regional autonomy" created by ASEAN. "China has now reached into ASEAN's inner sanctum and played on intra-ASEAN divisions," he said.
SBY to Demand China Respect Asean Road Map
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is expected to tell visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi to respect a road map taken by members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to resolve conflicts in the South China Sea.

Yang will meet with Yudhoyono today after discussing bilateral and regional issues, including the tensions in the South China Sea, with his Indonesian counterpart, Marty Natalegawa. Indonesia is trying to persuade China to agree on Asean’s proposal of creating a legally binding code of conduct for the disputed area.

Marty said bilateral cooperation was high on the agenda but added that Yudhoyono was not afraid to bring up the South China Sea issue.

“Why should he be afraid? There’s no problem,” Marty said after a Cabinet meeting on defense affairs at the Armed Forces headquarters in Cilangkap, East Jakarta. “This is something that is in China’s interest as well. Any obstruction or disruption in the diplomatic channels between Asean and China, including the South China Sea problem, may greatly affect China-Asean relations.

“[The meeting] will discuss the Asean-China partnership, including possibly the South China Sea problem."

Asean members were divided in their views on the maritime dispute during a meeting of foreign ministers last month in Phnom Penh. For the first time in its 45-year history, the group failed to deliver a joint communique following one of its meetings.

Marty embarked on a 36-hour “shuttle diplomacy tour” to the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia and Singapore that resulted in the member states agreeing on a joint statement about the ongoing disputes. Asean reaffirmed “the non-use of force by parties” in the sea.

Indonesia has warned of a “risk of further tension” between nations with overlapping claims to swathes of the South China Sea if a “collective and common approach” is not agreed upon soon.

“This is an issue that demands Asean’s and China’s collective and common approach and action. Otherwise, the risk of further tensions are very much ahead of us,” Marty said on Wednesday. “In the absence of a code of conduct, we may be risking more incidents in the future.”
Myanmar’s Leader Invites US Businesses to Return
President Thein Sein of Myanmar addressed a dinner of US business executives in this city near the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat on Friday, inviting them to invest in his impoverished country after an absence of 25 years.

The appearance of Thein Sein, who traveled to Cambodia from his nearby country for the occasion, was the latest sign of a significant warming of relations between the United States and Myanmar, a Southeast Asian country that had been firmly in China’s orbit.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton welcomed Thein Sein to the gathering on the last full day of her Asia trip, one intended to show that Washington’s commitment to the region reached beyond a strengthening of military alliances to economic ties. Across the region, most countries — the Philippines being an exception — do more trade with China than with the United States.

The meeting followed President Barack Obama’s announcement Wednesday of the easing of sanctions on US investments in Myanmar, a decision reached after two months of debate within the administration over how much and how quickly to reward the Myanmar government for the reforms it has undertaken so far.

The administration placed some conditions on investments, including the requirement that US companies investing more than $500,000 must report to Washington on their human rights policies and anti-corruption efforts. US energy companies that conclude deals with the state-owned Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise — which the opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, wanted to be kept under sanctions — will be required to report their investments to Washington within 60 days.

Clinton told Thein Sein that the United States was concerned about the treatment of the Rohingya Muslim ethnic group, which has suffered killings at the hands of Buddhists, the State Department official said.

Western business executives say they are aware of the opportunities in Myanmar, but that there are also big hurdles. A modern banking system does not exist, communications are spotty and ingrained corruption linked to military officers is widespread.


Monday, August 06, 2012

China demands US kowtow

Commentary: U.S. should refrain from sending wrong signals over South China Sea BEIJING, Aug. 5 (Xinhua)
A recent U.S. statement on the South China Sea sent wrong signals and did not help with the peace and stability in the region and Asia-Pacific at large.

The U.S. State Department on Friday accused China of taking unconstructive moves in the South China Sea.

"China's upgrading of the administrative level of Sansha City and establishment of a new military garrison there covering disputed areas of the South China Sea run counter to collaborative diplomatic efforts to resolve differences and risk further escalating tensions in the region," said the State Department in a statement.

The statement, which ignores facts and deliberately confuses right and wrong, is an apparent interference in the internal affairs of China, and reflects the U.S. ambition of manipulating Asian affairs.

China calls in U.S. diplomat over South China Sea
The State Department on Friday said it was monitoring the situation in the seas closely, adding that China's establishment of a military garrison for the area runs "counter to collaborative diplomatic efforts to resolve differences and risk further escalating tensions in the region".

n a statement released late on Saturday, China's Foreign Ministry said Assistant Foreign Minister Zhang Kunsheng summoned the U.S. Embassy's Deputy Chief of Mission Robert Wang to make "serious representations" about the issue.

Zhang said the U.S. statement "disregarded the facts, confused right with wrong, sent a seriously wrong signal and did not help with efforts by relevant parties to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea or the Asia Pacific."

"China expresses its strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition, urges the U.S. side to immediately to mend the error of its ways, earnestly respect China's sovereignty and territorial integrity and do more to genuinely benefit stability and prosperity in the Asia Pacific," he added.

A separate statement by ministry spokesman Qin Gang repeated that China had absolute sovereignty over the sea and its myriad islands and had every right to formally set up a city to administer the region, which it did last month.

"Why does the U.S. turn a blind eye to the facts that certain countries opened a number of oil and gas blocks, and issued domestic laws illegally appropriating Chinese islands and waters?" Qin said.

"Why does the U.S. avoid talking about the threats of military vessels to Chinese fishermen by certain countries and their unjustified claims of sovereignty rights over Chinese islands?" he added.

The official Xinhua news agency said the United States was trying to present itself as an honest broker in the dispute, but that its real intent was to stir up trouble and drive a wedge between China and its neighbors for its own gain.

Washington should "thoroughly abandon it plot to seek advantage from the chaos so the South China Sea can resume its role as a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation", Xinhua said in an angry commentary.

South China Sea feud: Beijing rebukes Washington's 'biased' stance (Russia)
But the Philippines has also claimed the territory.

And it’s no wonder that the sea is coveted by both nations, as its waters and islands are rich in oil and gas. According to China's Ministry of Geological Resources and Mining, the South China Sea may contain up to 17.7 billion tons of crude oil.

According to CBS News, the United States has consistently said that it refuses to take sides, although it is obliged to defend the Philippines from outside aggression, under an existing mutual defense treaty.

But America’s actions have angered China, and Beijing isn’t keeping quiet.

In July 2010, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said her country had a "national interest" in the South China Sea. Since then, Washington has taken a series of unilateral actions in the region, according to Xinhua.

Earlier this year, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced that he would raise the Navy's Pacific Ocean deployment by 10 per cent.

China has made it clear that it is uninterested in American intervention.

China National Offshore Oil Corp-Nexen deal to help South China sea thrust
The $15 billion bid by China National Offshore Oil Corp (CNOOC) to buy Canada's Nexen, Inc will help the Chinese state giant gain the expertise to drill in deep, disputed waters of the South China Sea without relying on risk-averse foreign firms.

CNOOC has emerged as a key component of China's strategy to bolster its claims to nearly the entire South China Sea.

China's policy has also included diplomatic pressure aimed at keeping the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations ( ASEAN) divided over the sea dispute; the establishment of a city government and military garrison at Sansha city in the Paracel Islands; and more assertive patrols of contested seas.

The intensifying squabble in waters that carry $5 trillion in annual trade drew a statement of concern on Thursday from Washington, which officially is neutral on the dispute.

US: China garrison raises tension in disputed sea
The Senate on Thursday also urged restraint among China and five of its neighbors and said the U.S. was committed to assisting Southeast Asian nations remaining "strong and independent."

The U.S. statement also follows an acrimonious annual meeting of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations last month, where for the first time in its 45-year history, the bloc failed to issue a communique. The host country, Cambodia, viewed as pro-Beijing, rejected a proposal by the Philippines and Vietnam to mention their separate territorial disputes with China.

The United States, which has tens of thousands of forces based in the Asia-Pacific, views itself as a stabilizing influence in the region, and its diplomacy on the South China Sea, where it says it holds no position on the competing sovereignty claims, has helped boost its standing in Southeast Asia. But criticism of China risks straining ties with Beijing that the U.S. also sees as crucial for regional stability.

China opposes intervention in South China Sea
China has indisputable sovereign rights over the South China Sea islands and their adjacent waters, and the country opposes any military intervention in this area, a spokesman for China's Ministry of Defense said Tuesday.

According to relevant rules, a regular combat-readiness patrol system has been established in sea waters under China's jurisdiction, Geng Yansheng, the spokesman, said in response to a question at a press conference.

"The Chinese navy is justified in protecting the country's interests, and it is groundless to equate such a justified action with tough foreign policy," he said.

Geng also said the establishment of the city of Sansha is a readjustment by the Chinese government to existing administrative bodies, which is an issue within China's sovereignty and unrelated to other countries.

"China will continue to seek appropriate solutions through bilateral negotiations and consultations with the parties directly involved in the concerned disputes," Geng said.

China is also willing to cooperate with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in all fields, including the defense security relationship, in order to boost regional peace, stability and prosperity, Geng added.

Follow this South China Seas row here.

For background on the basis for claims to the area, see this and this and this and this for starters.



Friday, August 03, 2012

Greenland ice not melting as once thawed

The ice shelf of Greenland is melting in a binary fashion: on, off, on, off.

But melting, yes.

Northern ice study defies theories: Greenland survey shows runaway melt is unlikely
“It is too early to proclaim the ice sheet’s future doom” caused by climate change, lead author Kurt Kjaer of the University of Copenhagen wrote in a statement of the findings in Friday’s edition of the journal Science.

An examination of old photos taken from planes revealed a sharp thinning of glaciers in northwest Greenland from 1985 to 1993, the experts in Denmark, Britain and the Netherlands wrote. Another pulse of ice loss in the area lasted from 2005 to 2010.

The discovery of fluctuations casts doubt on projections that Greenland could be headed for an unstoppable meltdown

“It starts and then it stops,” Kjaer told Reuters of the ice losses.

“This is a break from thinking that it is something that starts, accelerates and will consume Greenland all at once.”

However, Kjaer noted that the ice sheet did not get bigger in the pause between the pulses of ice loss.

Read more of the article at the link above.


Wednesday, August 01, 2012

It's a date

Guambat time travels. Most people do these days. It's no longer a "wow" event to arrive in Hawaii before Guambat departed Guam. But still an oddity.

Here's some teasers to get you to read a short but interesting history of the "phenomenon" in:

The Border That Stole 500 Birthdays
The date line is the logical consequence of the so-called Circumnavigator’s Paradox, which was known to scientists before it was witnessed for the first time by Antonio Pigafetta in the early 16th century.

But there is no reason it should run across the Pacific, except the convenience of avoiding populated areas. As it happens, its course was determined more or less by default. The I.D.L. is a byproduct of the International Meridian Conference of 1844.

but neither the International Meridian Conference, nor any other subsequent global committee, ever sanctioned its “official” use. As the English-American geographer George Davidson said at the end of the 19th century: “There is no International Date Line; the theoretical line is 180 degrees from Greenwich, but the line actually used is the result of agreement among the commercial steamships of the principal maritime countries.”

The International Date Line may not be an officially sanctioned border, and its raison d’être rather counter-intuitive, but it is essential for good, global time-keeping. Its unofficial nature allows its bordering nations to switch sides according to political and economic expedience. And its genesis as an afterthought to the Prime Meridian recalls a time when Europe was at the center of the world. In fact, Greenwich and the International Date Line can be seen as carbon copies to the meridians of Tordesillas and Zaragoza, which divided the world between Spain and Portugal in the 16th century.

Pigafetta also penned the first European observations of Guambat's little island burrow, back in 1521:
[W]e discovered, on Wednesday, 6 March a small island to the northwest, and two others toward the southwest, one of which was higher and larger than the other two. The captain-general [Magellan] wished to stop at the large island and get some fresh food, but he was unable to do so because the inhabitants of that island entered the ships and stole whatever they could lay their hands on, so that we could not protect ourselves. The men were about to strike their sails so that we could go ashore, but the natives very deftly stole from us the small boat that was fastened to the poop of the flagship. Thereupon, the captain-general in wrath went ashore with forty armed men, who burned some forty or fifty houses together with many boats, and killed seven men. He recovered the small boat, and we departed immediately....


Each one of these people lives lives according to his own will, for they have no Seignior. They go naked, and some are bearded and have black hair that reaches to the waist. They wear small palm leaf hats, as do the Albanians. They are as tall as we, and well built. They have no worship. They are tawny, but are born white. Their teeth are red and black, for they think that is most beautiful. The women go naked except that they wear a narrow strip of bark as thin a paper which grows between the tree and the bark of the palm, before their privies. They are good-looking and delicately formed, and lighter complexioned than the men, and we their hair, which is exceedingly black, loose and hanging quite down to the ground.


Their amusement, men and women, is to plough the seas with those small boats of theirs. Tese boats resemble fucelere, but are narrower, and some are black, some white, others red. At the side opposite the sail, they have a large piece of wood pointed at the top, with poles laid across it and resting on the water, in order that the boats may sail more safely. The sail is made from palm leaves sewn together and is shaped like a lateen sail. For rudders, they use a certain blade resembling a hearth shovel that has a piece of wood at the end. They can change stern and bow at will, and those boats resemble the dolphins that leap in the water from wave to wave. Those Ladroni thought, according to the signs which they made, that there were no other people in the world but themselves.

[From the translation provided in The Chamorros of the Mariana Islands, Early European Records, 1521 - 1721, Glynn Barratt, Occasional Historical Papers Series, No. 10, CNMI Division of Historic Preservation, 2003.]

So what was that infamous day in March 1521?

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