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Posted by Alex Rudewell

As you may have heard, actress Amber Heard recently filed for divorce from almost-Reason Rally speaker & dear friend of Lawrence Krauss, Johnny Depp. Since news of the divorce hit, a litany of character smears have come out against Heard, in an attempt to paint Heard as a gold digger, greedy bisexual, and uncaring harpy.

In response, Heard’s legal team has released the following statement about her ongoing legal battles and divorce from Johnny Depp:

“As the result of Amber’s decision to decline giving an initial statement to the LAPD, her silence has been used against her by Johnny’s team. Amber did not provide a statement to the LAPD in an attempt to protect her privacy and Johnny’s career. Johnny’s team has forced Amber to give a statement to the LAPD to set the record straight as to the true facts, as she cannot continue to leave herself open to the vicious false and malicious allegations that have infected the media. Amber has suffered through years of physical and psychological abuse at the hands of Johnny.”

“In domestic violence cases, it is not unusual for the perpetrator’s playbook to include miscasting the victim as the villain. In reality, Amber acted no differently than many victims of domestic violence, who think first of the harm that might come to the abuser, rather than the abuse they have already suffered. Amber can no longer endure the relentless attacks and outright lies launched against her character in the Court of Public Opinion since the tragic events of May 21st. With her statement Amber hopes to give the LAPD the opportunity to conduct an accurate and complete investigation into the events of that evening and before. If that occurs, and the truth is revealed, there is no doubt that Amber’s claims will be substantiated beyond any doubt, and hopefully Johnny will get the help that he so desperately needs.”

“From the beginning it has been Amber’s desire to keep this matter as private as possible, even though LAPD officers responded to a 911 call made by a third-party. The LAPD officers viewed not only the disarray that Johnny had caused in the apartment but also the physical injuries to Amber’s face. We filed the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage at the very end of the day on Monday May 23rd and we did not serve Johnny with the Petition at the premiere of Alice Through the Looking Glass that evening. We sent a letter to Johnny’s counsel team the next morning making it clear we wanted to keep this matter out of the media. We then held off requesting a domestic violence restraining order as we knew that Johnny was out of the country.”

“We took the high road. Unfortunately, Johnny’s team immediately went to the press and began viciously attacking Amber’s character. Amber is simply a victim of domestic violence, and none of her actions are motivated by money. Amber is a brave and financially independent woman who is showing the courage of her convictions by doing the right thing against Johnny’s relentless army of lawyers and surrogates.”

“The Family Law Court is not going to be influenced by misinformation placed in the social media based on anonymous sources. Amber is the victim. Amber is a hero.”

Featured Image by Kamillo Kluth

SF/F Being Awesome: Con or Bust

May. 31st, 2016 01:38 pm
jimhines: (Snoopy Writing)
[personal profile] jimhines

In 2009, a LiveJournal post called “The Wild Unicorn Herd Check-in” in the Deadbrowalking community asked people who “identify as a POC/nonwhite person and … read or watch scifi or fantasy” to check in. There are more than 1000 comments on that post. And yet, I still run into people who believe people of color aren’t into science fiction and fantasy.

Looking at those 1000+ comments, it seems less that PoC don’t like SF/F, and more like the SF/F community as a whole has been less than welcoming to fans of color.

Con or Bust LogoIt’s one thing to say we want our community to be more welcoming and inclusive. It’s another to do something about it. Enter Con or Bust, an organization dedicated to helping people of color to attend science fiction and fantasy conventions. I spoke with Kate Nepveu, the secretary and treasurer of Con or Bust.

“Con or Bust was born out of RaceFail ’09, when some people of color I knew said, ‘We should help each other attend WisCon, so we can meet in person and be awesome together.’ I volunteered to organize a fundraiser in the fannish tradition of online LiveJournal auctions (such as livelongnmarry) because WisCon wasn’t in the cards for me that year, meaning there was no conflict of interest, and because I’d recently run a small-scale private fundraiser and so thought I could handle the work. We were doing this on extremely short notice — I announced the fundraiser on March 10, and WisCon is at the end of May — but we managed to raise enough money to send nine people, or everyone who’d requested assistance, to WisCon.

In late 2009, the Carl Brandon Society began acting as Con or Bust’s fiscal agent. That lasted through early 2016, when Con or Bust became a separate tax-exempt not-for-profit corporation.

All total, Con or Bust has raised almost $90,000 and helped fans of color attend conventions 329 times.

This year’s auction is going on through June 5, at 4 p.m. Eastern. According to their spreadsheet, the auction has more than 170 items up for bidding. This includes autographed books, critiques, clothes, art prints, character naming rights for various stories, and more. The spreadsheet includes direct links to each auction item, or you can look at the 2016 auction tags.

Requests for assistance are being accepted through the end of the day on Monday, June 6.


Goblin: Keep Being Awesome!!!

Do you have a suggestion for a SF/F group, individual, or event to be featured on the blog for general awesomeness? Email me at jchines -at- sff.net, or through my Contact Form.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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Posted by Mark Valladares

I've already noted that, in the heat of a campaign, when everyone is trying to do a whole bunch of things at once, there is room for error. Using an out leaflet which, whilst it has a nice picture of you on it, doesn't actually say who you are, is the sort of thing that can go wrong, which is why proof-reading is so important.

It was that moment when one of my work colleagues noted the typo in our leaflet when your heart sinks slightly, and you wonder who else noticed. Apparently, if they did, they've been kind enough not to say anything.

There but for the grace of God...
take a close look at the contact details...
My Conservative opponent, however, has not been quite so fortunate...

My guess is that the leaflet is a recycled one, in that it is based on one used previously with some personalized content dropped in. I also don't know how much campaign experience Jemma has, or how actively engaged in the leaflet design she is. In that sense, I'm lucky. As a Liberal Democrat, I don't have access to paid staff to help run my campaign, and I've had to learn all sorts of new things in order to make sure that things happen - leaflet design, database management, for example - and whilst I have help, it is best to be as self-sufficient as possible in the medium and long term.

Let's just say though that my proof-reading has become a bit more rigorous as polling day approaches...
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Posted by Tim Worstall

It’s a standard part of the US political and economic conversation that if we raise wages then we will increase employment. This forms part of the argument for increasing the minimum wage for example. That people will buy less of something which is more expensive is rejected by those like Nick Hanauer. Instead, if workers have more money then they will spend more, such increased demand leading to more employment. Fortunately, over here in Europe we’ve got a rather more interesting example of how you do actually beat unemployment. Back 15 years Germany was rather the sick man of Europe. A disastrous exchange rate for the merger with East Germany plus a remarkable scleroticism in the economy in general were leading to something pretty indistinguishable from stagflation. Even with that euro which was meant to solve all economic problems. If we were to go with the American analysis then they should have raised wages to cure this. Instead, they lowered them:

German unemployment fell more than expected in May and the jobless rate sank to its lowest level in more than 25 years, boosting expectations that private consumption will continue to drive growth in Europe’s biggest economy this year.

And note that the path to that reduced unemployment was through the same path predicted for the US: private consumption. But it is lowering wages so that more people are employed which does this, not raising them so that the fewer employed have more money:

The unadjusted rate in Germany declined to 6% from 6.3% in April, the Federal Labour Office said.
That was the lowest level since German reunification in 1990.
Differences remain between the formerly divided country: it was just 5.5% in what was West Germany, but 8.4% in the once-Communist east.
The fall reflected the strength of the labour market in Europe’s largest economy.
The eurozone jobless rate was down from 11% in April last year and the lowest figure for the 19 countries using the euro since August 2011, Eurostat said.

Germany is doing significantly better than the other countries in the eurozone. And all of this happened because of the labour market reforms earlier:

The Hartz IV reforms – so widely praised as the foundation of German competitiveness, and now being foisted on southern Europe – did not raise productivity, the proper measure of labour reform. Data from the OECD show that German productivity growth slumped to 0.3pc a year in the period from 2007 to 2012, compared with 0.5pc in Denmark, 0.7pc in Austria, 0.9pc in Japan, 1.3pc in Australia, 1.5pc in the US and 3.2pc in Korea. Britain has been negative, of course, but that is no benchmark.
Prof Fratzscher says the chief effect was to let companies compress wages through labour arbitrage. Real pay has fallen back to the levels of the late 1990s.

They really did lower the price of labour and as a result unemployment has fallen significantly. And that’s a lesson we really might want to take to heart. The conventional story economics tells about labour and wages is correct. People buy less labour at higher prices, more at lower. And if you want to boost the economy, and who doesn’t, then lowering wages in order to increase employment and thus aggregate demand is the way to do it. Not, absolutely not, raising the price of labour and then wondering where all the jobs have gone.

[syndicated profile] political_betting_feed

Posted by TSE

Both the ICM phone and online polls show Leave winning by 4%. The phone poll sees a 7% swing from Remain to Leave, the online poll sees no swing.

Like last night’s ORB phone poll, there’s been a significant shift to Leave, this time a 7% swing from Remain to Leave. What makes this poll very interesting is that ICM online poll has seen no movement whatsoever.

Whether this is a genuine shift, we need to see more polling, there’s a danger of repeating the mistake of the last general election and assume today is the day the polls turned. In the past there’s been some outliers produced when polls have been conducted during the Bank Holiday period, but nothing on a scale of a 7% swing.

For David Cameron and the Remain campaign, this is squeaky bum time. Whilst correlation doesn’t imply causation, both phone polls have seen major shifts to Leave after Vote Leave decided to focus heavily on immigration. I’d expect Remain to focus heavily on their strongest asset, the economy.

For punters, Martin Boon of ICM says the ‘polling also suggested a healthy turnout in the referendum. Asked how likely they were to vote on 23 June, more than 60% of respondents on both methods gave a score of 10 out of 10, which he said pointed to a turnout of 60-62%.’

You can access the ICM data tables here.

Unsurprisingly this has seen movement towards Leave on Betfair.


‘Strategic patience’ in Tbilisi

May. 31st, 2016 03:08 pm
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Posted by Jonathan Fryer

For the first time ever, Liberal International has held its Executive Committee in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, at the invitation of the Republican Party of Georgia. Regional and global security were at the top of the agenda, with a strong presentation by Georgia’s Defence Minister, Tinatin ‘Tina’ Khidasheli on the challenges facing former Soviet republics now finding themselves on the periphery of an expansionist Russia.

To drive the point home, we participants were all bussed out of the city to the ‘occupation line’, which marks the current limit of Russian encroachment into Georgian territory just south of South Ossetia (which the Russians have already effectively annexed, as they did with Ukraine’s Crimea). Just days before, the Russians had rolled a giant barbed wire fence further into Georgian territory, leaving some Georgian farmers cut off from their land and families divided. Tens of thousands of Georgians have already fled South Ossetia and have been resettled or temporarily rehoused.

The trouble is, a tiny country like Georgia cannot stand up to a giant like Putin’s Russia, and so has to adopt a policy of what the Tbilisi government calls ‘strategic patience’. However, one can quite see why the Georgians are keen to join both the EU and NATO. Poignantly, Slovenia’s former Defence Minister, Roman Jakič, appealed to the LI Executive, ‘You can’t say you have an open-door policy and then turn people away’.

Other sessions included a debate on whether the world can unite against ISIS/Daesh – a conflict in which Vladimir Putin and the West ought in principle to be on the same side. There was also a very lively discussion about the implications of the Iran nuclear deal, with the former junior Foreign Minister of Belgium, Annemie Neyts, arguing strongly that we must engage with Tehran, while others urged caution.

However, it was the spectre of the Russian bear that stuck in the minds of many delegates, including myself, and this will doubtless also be the subject of discussion at the ALDE (European Liberal Democrats) Party Council meeting in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, in a few days’ time.

* Jonathan Fryer is a former Chair of London Liberal Democrats and currently a member of the Party’s Federal Executive

Pod Together signups are open

May. 31st, 2016 04:13 pm
miss_s_b: (Who: SixAppeal)
[personal profile] miss_s_b
For a couple of years now I've done Pod Together, where someone writes a fic and someone else turns it into audio, and the resulting thing is put up for all to see. Here are my previous ones; as you can see, I tend to record other people's writing.

Anyway, having glanced through this year's sign-ups, we seem to have a glut of recorders and fewer writers this year, so I thought I'd publicise the sign-ups to see if anyone else might want to join in, especially as a writer? You can sign up on tumblr, dreamwidth or livejournal. I'm totally not doing this in the hopes that someone will write me some nice Six/Evelyn Fluff to record or anything, honest...


May. 31st, 2016 11:14 am
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
Taken with my phone's camera. Turned out much better than I expected, given the camera didn't want to snap a shot at all when it was aimed at the sky.
Read more... )

May 2016 in Review

May. 31st, 2016 11:08 am
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
23 books reviewed. 12 by women, 11 by men. F/T = 0.52

4 books by POC, or 17%

Year to date

105 books read. 63 by women (0.6), 40 by men (0.38), 2 by authors who identifies as neither (0.02). 25 by POC (0.24).
[syndicated profile] skepchick_feed

Posted by Amanda

The View, and the Plan

May. 31st, 2016 02:19 pm
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posted by Neil Gaiman
In a friend's old old house today, as Amanda records in the basement studio and I write in a corner, while Ash sleeps in his seat beside me. Rain lashes the windows and the wind shakes the shutters, and it seems like a proper English Summer as far as I'm concerned.

Today is the publication date for THE VIEW FROM THE CHEAP SEATS, my collection of non-fiction, of essays and speeches and introductions. It's out. it looks like this:

Or it looks like this:

Depending on whether you are in the UK or the US. There are independent bookshops in the US with signed-and-embossed copies. (Here's a link to all the shops which have ordered them: https://www.facebook.com/WmMorrowbks/posts/1017987604950366)  There are bookshops in the UK that have signed copies (I don't have a list. Lots of Blackwells and Waterstones shops for a start.)

Tonight UK time -- in a few hours -- I'll be talking to Audrey Niffenegger about the book at Union Chapel. It's very sold out, but you can watch it online via this. Click and it should take you to the livestream.

And you can get it online at places like Amazon (http://bit.ly/VfCheapSeats) and Indiebound.

Maria Popova at Brainpickings wrote a beautiful piece on one of the essays in the book, the introduction to the 60th anniversary edition of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451.

It's been reviewed elsewhere, as well. Here's a bit of the NPR review:
What View accomplishes, though, is considerable. Broken up into sections — "What I Believe," "Music and the People Who Make It," "Some People I Have Known," "Make Good Art," and so on — his musings shine with wit, understatement, and a warm lack of pretention. He speaks of "backing awkwardly away from journalism" in his youth, the first step of his eventual metamorphosis into an award-winning fantasy author with a fanatical following, and reflects on the patterns that arise in our lives: "Events rhyme."
Accordingly, View draws order out of the seeming chaos of Gaiman's scattershot career, from journalism to comics to novels to children's books to screen adaptations. He talks about his life, but always through the lens of an external subject, usually on object of passion: the superhero comics of the legendary Jack Kirby, the transgressive songs of Lou Reed, the way "the shape of reality — the way I perceive the world — exists only because of Doctor Who." That was written in 2003, before Gaiman actually wrote for Doctor Who; similarly, his many ruminations onAmerican Gods, his greatest work of prose, take on a deeper resonance now that the book is well on its way to becoming a cable TV series.
Gaiman is a writer above all, though, and his entries about writing and reading make up the meat of View. They range from the deeply personal, eerily poignant "Ghosts in the Machines: Some Hallowe'en Thoughts," first published in the New York Times, to an appreciation of the element of dreams in H. P. Lovecraft's work — a particularly illuminating topic, as one of Gaiman's most beloved characters, Morpheus of The Sandman, is the deity of dreams himself. Even more intriguing is "All Books Have Genders," a meditation on the making of American Gods — as well as a humble assessment of his authorial flaws — in which he offers the succinct slogan "Novels accrete," an entire master class on the creative process summed up gracefully in two words.
It's a relief that it's published: I don't think I've ever been as nervous about a book coming out as I have been about this one. You can hide behind fiction. You can't hide behind things that are about what you think and believe.

Over at Powells, I wrote a playlist for the book:  http://www.powells.com/post/playlist/wheres-neil-when-you-need-him-neil-gaimans-playlist-for-the-view-from-the-cheap-seats- which I'm currently listening to on Spotify, with a lot of pleasure.

Over on Sky Arts, the first two of the four episodes of Neil Gaiman's Likely Stories have aired. (Here's a review of them.) If you have a Sky subscription, you can watch them online or download https://www.sky.com/watch/channel/sky-arts/neil-gaimans-likely-stories. No, I don't know how you can watch them legally elsewhere in the world, yet. I will tell you when I find out.

And it's halfway through the year.  I'm about to dial down my online presence a lot, which normally means I blog more and tweet/facebook/tumblr etc much less. One by one the things I had to do are getting done, and I'm getting ready to write a novel. It's there in my head, a huge thing...

And if I'm not writing a novel, I'll probably be playing with him:

(Photo of Ash NOT smiling as a bonus, because people keep asking if he ever stops being happy. He's happy pretty much all of the time, but here's one of him looking pensive.)

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[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_forbes_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

Good economic news just out from India. The country’s GDP rose by 7.9% in the final quarter of the last fiscal year and 7.6% for the whole of that fiscal year. The reason that this is all being reported in May is not that it takes them that long to compile the figures. India runs on something very similar to the British fiscal year, ending on 31 March each year*. So the first three months of India’s calendar year are the last three months of its fiscal year.

The performance is of course welcome: who cannot be cheered by the idea of a poor country getting richer? And getting richer about as fast as any place ever has done. In terms of economic performance this is about as good as it gets. Sure, it will take decades of this sort of growth to achieve the goal (that being the end of poverty) but we’ve all got to start somewhere, don’t we?

The new data on the Indian economy released by the government on Tuesday provides further evidence that India is seeing a strengthening economic recovery led by consumption. The story of improved momentum fits well with other recent private sector data on passenger car sales, cement dispatches, corporate profit margins and power production. The advance estimates of crop production too have been surprisingly strong.

Headline economic growth has accelerated in the three months to March to 7.9%. In fact, it is one of the highest rates of quarterly growth in recent years. Only the growth performance in the second quarter of fiscal 2015 was better.

The past 30 years have seen the biggest fall in absolute poverty in the entire history of our species. Part of that story was that China had this sort of rate of growth for a couple of decades. If India can manage the same feat, and outside politics there’s no reason why it cannot, then we really will be well on the way to that goal of abolishing absolute poverty:

Modi, leader of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, has generated huge amounts of buzz around India’s economy. As prime minister, he has spent huge amounts of political capital trying to push common sense economic reforms through parliament.
Modi has also packed his schedule with foreign trips, during which he exhorts global companies to “Make in India.”

If we’re honest about this Modi is not the cause here. There’s not a huge amount that government can do to create growth. There is however a huge amount that government can do to prevent growth. And the real secret of India’s growth is that they’ve spent, however slowly, a couple of decades now dismantling the Licence Raj. Yes, the right policy and so on but not solely or even directly Modi.

Tuesday’s data from the Central Statistics Office is in line with the government’s earlier estimate in February. The economy grew 7.2 percent in the previous fiscal year.

Things are getting better, the trick now will to keep the show on the road. And continued deregulation is very much going to be part of that trick.

*It gets a little weirder. The British fiscal year used to be until Lady Day, one of the quarter days, March 25. Then came the change from the Julian to Gregorian calendar, meaning April 4th. I assume India has rationalised this since.

james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
Come play with Alison Gothard in Breithaupt Park! Ali missed the first Happening so this time, Evelyn and I thought we'd bring the Happening to Ali! Or at least to a location convenient for her!

More details here (Facebook warning)

Read more... )
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Posted by Alex Minin


President Lukashenko of Belarus has enjoyed twenty-two years in power, achieved through a specific method of counting of votes, and has often been referred to as the last dictator in Europe.

Following his annual state-of-the-union address 2015, President Lukashenko has said that Jews in Belarus should be taken “under control”. All this occurred in the presence of foreign ambassadors, including the Ambassador of Britain, but excluding the US ambassador, because the Belarusian dictator expelled the US ambassador from the country many years ago.

The reaction of the Conservative government on this Belarusian leader’s statement was not long in coming. At the beginning of 2016 the Foreign & Commonwealth Office called for the lifting of EU sanctions against the Belarusian dictator, with “full compliance” of the 2010 Conservative statement on the basic values of foreign policy:

We cannot have a foreign policy without a conscience. Human rights are not the only issue that informs the making of foreign policy, but they are indivisible from it, not least because the consequences of foreign policy failure are human.

In such a situation, much depends on the personal position of every British politician and every member of society.

I myself as far as possible try  to contribute to the strengthening of Civil Society in Belarus. Over the past five years the Belarusian opposition media had published several of my articles relating to violations of Human rights.  Besides, in 2012 the Organization for Security & Co-operation in Europe and the European Parliament considered my petition regarding Human rights in Belarus.  Moreover, I recently registered on the UK parliamentary website e-petition “Stop the violations of the British nationals’ human rights abroad”.

I asked my Labour MP to request the FCO about the violations of the British nationals’ human rights in Belarus and what the UK Government is doing to urge the Belarusian authorities to improve the level of human rights. Unfortunately,  my Labour MP refused to do the parliamentary inquiry.

On the same request I turned to the Conservative MP, Minister of State for Justice and Civil Liberties. Then I received an official response that the Minister has redirected my letter to the FCO. Unfortunately, I have not received a reply from the FCO and I have the impression that my letter was not forwarded anywhere.

It was only after my letter to a Liberal Democrat MP that the case moved forward. Mr Tom Brake MP immediately made his request to the FCO regarding the violations of the British nationals’ human rights in Belarus. Then the British ambassador to Belarus put the issue of human rights violations to the Belarusian authorities.

It seems that the Conservative slogan “We cannot have a foreign policy without a conscience” is more suitable for the Liberal Democrats.

* Alex Minin is not a member of any political party, although he shares the liberal values of Freedom of Speech and Human Rights in any country of the world.

Mammatus Mia!

May. 31st, 2016 01:30 pm
[syndicated profile] badastronomy_feed

Posted by Phil Plait

Here in the Boulder, Colorado area, we get odd weather. In the summer the wind blows mostly from the west, and in the afternoon moisture-laden clouds stream over the Rocky Mountains and toward the plains to our east. Mornings in the summer are typically clear, but then a few hours later the skies turn ominous and we can get some pretty rollicking storms.

Usually the clouds clear out, and the low afternoon Sun then creates fantastic rainbows to the east. Over this past weekend we had a pretty good cumulonimbus cloud blow over us, heading east. I kept my eye out, hoping for a rainbow, but it never cleared up enough to get one while the rain was coming down.

But I’m OK with that, because what I did get was way, way better: mammatus clouds.

Mammatus clouds are bulb-like appendages that sometimes hang down from the bottoms of clouds. The name comes from the Latin mamma which means udder or breast, and when you see a field of them stretched across the sky you can see why they’re named that. They are very peculiar looking, and relatively rare. I commonly see them trying to form sometimes on the western edges of storms, but they generally don’t organize themselves well. I’ve only well-defined examples of them maybe three or four times in my life, and I look up at clouds a lot.

I’m fascinated by clouds, and how they form. And given their unusual shape, you’d think mammatus clouds would be well-understood… but they’re not. At all. It’s unclear how and why they form, and the wikipedia page for them has a list of ten possible formation mechanisms.

The first time I saw them I was living in Maryland, and a hurricane south of us had a wide-flung feeder band (the spiral arms of the system around the outside), and it left behind a field of mammatus lit red by the setting Sun. It was astonishing, and may have been what cemented my passion for weird clouds.

But this time it was different. The bulbs weren’t just scattered around; in two different spots there were clear linear features, the bulbs lined up. To the north of me the lines continued westward in the cloud even when the mammatus bulbs faded out. My first thought was that these were from gravity waves; ripples in the air flow as a stream of air bobs up and down like waves on the ocean surface. But the pattern didn’t look sinusoidal so much as like rolls, something like cloud streets. The lines looked like where the rolls were pushed together, like two paper towel rolls lying side by side, touching along their edge. It was very peculiar. Wikipedia has an excellent example of what I mean, with mammatus clouds seen in Nepal. It’s hard to say from the photos what’s happening, especially when three-dimensional structure is difficult to tease out.

The mammatus clouds hung out for quite some time, over an hour. I had enough time to go outside and take the photos you see here, and also do a live Periscope of them. If I see more (or a good rainbow) I’ll probably do another quick livestream.

With these, iridescent clouds, lenticulars, a tornado, and other weird things, to my knowledge I now have only three more cloud formations I need to see for myself: undulatus asperatusroll (or arcus) clouds, and noctilucent clouds. None of those is common here in Colorado, so I just hope they’ll appear someday when I’m on travel.

There’s so much to see, so much to experience on our planet! I’ll never ever get tired of it.

We need to talk to Yanis

May. 31st, 2016 12:55 pm
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Posted by James Baillie


We’re fighting hard to stay in the EU in this campaign, and we’ve got a good fighting chance of winning it. But it’s important to remember that this has been the campaign that never should have happened. What we’re fighting against isn’t just the lacklustre waffling of a Tory-led Vote Leave campaign that’s largely been hijacked by a fluffy-headed careerist Etonian. That would have been no problem. The real enemy is a drip-feed of decades of anti-EU propaganda and domestic politicians deflecting blame to Brussels – which is in turn made possible by the catastrophic scale of voter disengagement with European politics.

And that’s at the heart of why we should take the leftist reformers of Another Europe is Possible seriously.

The EU needs reform. This oughtn’t be a controversial statement to make; it’s self-evident that in most European elections voters have been wholly disengaged from the issues upon which they were electing their MEPs, and that’s not largely the fault of the voters. It doesn’t help that the appointed commission wields a great deal of authority with little direct accountability, and the tendency of national politicians to use European elections as mid-term referenda on national governments compounds the problem.

We, as Liberal Democrats, must not only defend the EU and its achievements in international cooperation, peace, and economic strength; we must seize the moment to build a stronger, more democratic, more liberal union. Establishment political forces are weak across Europe – this brings danger in the form of the populist right, but it also brings opportunity if we have the courage and strength to throw ourselves into grasping it. We have a unique chance to topple vested interests, to engage people with a pan-European democratic process, to build a more egalitarian economic status quo; this will, if we can achieve it, strengthen the European project for the long term.

In this fight, we must look to the left for allies, for two reasons. Firstly, we have no others; Europe’s centre-right is too wedded to the interests of the already powerful, and in the forms of Merkel or Cameron it is digging itself into trenches to defend an indefensible status quo. Secondly, we need the left to believe in reform in order to build a wide enough coalition across the continent. Leftist isolationism is a very real issue and something we should fear if we want to maintain and build upon an internationalist Europe that seeks to collaborate rather than to tear itself apart.

Constitutionally we can collaborate on building a programme to shift the EU towards more direct accountability and transparency.  We can agree to shift to fighting European elections more properly on European platforms (perhaps even as European parties), so voters actually know what they are voting for. Electorally, this will help us to regain ground at the European level and differentiate us post-coalition from the constitutional stasis and corporate economics of Cameron’s Tories, letting us stand as a party of a Europe-wide localist and decentralised social economy in an informed and reformed European Union.

If we cannot reform Europe, then in the long run eventually the nationalists will manage to take advantage of a disengaged, disaffected public and will break it apart. The consequences of this would be grave. Our differences with the emerging leftist reform movement will of course remain on some issues, but that must not stop us working together. Europe, and the potential for its liberal future, is too important for that.

* James Baillie joined the party in 2015 and is a postgraduate historian at the University of Birmingham, originally hailing from East Anglia

[syndicated profile] liberal_bureaucracy_feed

Posted by Mark Valladares

Saturday morning found me in Barking, looking to meet more voters, when I knocked on a door. The door opened and I was told that they had received their postal ballot. This was not necessarily a welcome surprise, because the plan was to deliver letters to all postal voters the next day - we had been told by Mid Suffolk District Council's Electoral Services team that they would be going out the next day.

It would be fair to say that this candidate wasn't impressed.

There was nothing to be done but to accelerate the schedule somewhat, so I arranged for my allocation of letters to be brought to me by the ever patient Ros.

A hard working, local stoat...
As I headed to the agreed rendezvous, I noticed a movement on the footpath ahead of me. A closer examination indicated a weasel-like creature, carrying a baby rabbit in its mouth. It was a stoat, and the baby rabbit was somewhat bigger than it was. As I caught up with it, it headed into the undergrowth and, not wanting to disturb it, I kept walking, until I reached the entrance to the care home at Barking Hall.

A few moments later, the stoat appeared again, still with its prey in its mouth, crossed the B1078, and ran along the curb until it darted back across the road and into the long grass.

It wasn't long before the stoat, minus baby rabbit, darted back out and up the street. It was my first stoat, and I was surprised by how small they actually are, much smaller than a ferret, for example.

But I now had envelopes to deliver, and it was clear that I wasn't going to have any trouble hitting my 12,500 step target for the day...


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Mat Bowles

October 2015


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I'm the Chair of the Brighouse branch of the Liberal Democrats & the membership secretary for Calderdale Lib Dems and run the web campaign for the local candidates. I have a job, a stepdaughter and a life.

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