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Monday, September 18, 2017

A Norwegian Returns Home

This is the incredible story of a man and his ship wanting to prove the nearly impossible. It is also the story of his ship going home after having spent 80 years in a foreign country on the bottom of the sea.

The man’s name was Roald Amundson, a Norwegian, obsessed with exploring the polar region.

As the leader of the Antarctic expedition of 1910–12, which was the first to reach the South Pole, on 14 December 1911, he was a key expedition leader during the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. In 1926, he was the first expedition leader for the air expedition to the North Pole, making him the first person, without dispute, to reach both poles. He is also known as having the first expedition to traverse the Northwest Passage(1903–06) in the Arctic.

In 1918 Amundsen began another expedition. This time the plan was to try the North-East Passage. The goal of the expedition was to explore the unknown areas of the Arctic Ocean, strongly inspired by Fridtjof Nansen's earlier expedition with Fram. The plan was to sail along the coast of Siberia and go into the ice farther to the north and east than Nansen had.


Amundsen planned to freeze the Maud into the polar ice cap and drift towards the North Pole (as Nansen had done with the Fram), and he did so off Cape Chelyuskin. But, the ice became so thick that the ship was unable to break free, although it was designed for such a journey in heavy ice. In September 1919, the crew got the ship loose from the ice, but it froze again after eleven days somewhere between the New Siberian Islands and Wrangel Island.

After two winters frozen in the ice, without having achieved the goal of drifting over the North Pole, Amundsen decided to go to Nome to repair the ship and buy provisions.

During the third winter, Maud was frozen in the western Bering Strait. She finally became free and the expedition sailed south, reaching Seattle, Washington, in the US Pacific Northwest in 1921 for repairs. Amundsen returned to Norway, needing to put his finances in order.

In June 1922, Amundsen returned to Maud, which had been sailed to Nome. He decided to shift from the planned naval expedition to aerial ones, and arranged to charter a plane. He divided the expedition team in two: one part was to survive the winter and prepare for an attempt to fly over the pole. This part was led by Amundsen. The second team on Maud, under the command of Wisting, was to resume the original plan to drift over the North Pole in the ice. The ship drifted in the ice for three years east of the New Siberian Islands, never reaching the North Pole. Maud was seized by creditors in Seattle and sold at an auction. The Hudson's Bay Company purchased the ship to supply its Arctic outposts. After refitting in Vancouver, and with a new name, Baymaud sailed for the Western Arctic in June 1926. It never returned. After freezing in for the winter of 1926-1927, the ship was moored close to shore and used by the Hudson's Bay Company as a floating machine shop, warehouse and wireless station.

Baymaud developed a leak and sank at its anchorage in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, Northern Canada, in the winter of 1930. A small portion of the ship remained above the ice and water, and the masts, rigging and cabins were stripped from the hull. The rest of the ship was allowed to settle into the water.

An Idea Is Born

The idea of bringing “Maud” home took hold in 2011, during a 3 weeks visit to Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, in August 2011 when “Maud” was surveyed extensively over and under the water both with still photographs as well as film. Maud was still in a satisfying technical state to be saved, despite having spent the last 80 years at the seabed.


But the removal of Maud from it’s icy location was not to happen without a fight against the Federal Government of Canada which at first denied the Norwegians the removal of the ship, citing polar region’s cultural interests, but the Norwegians were holding the title to the ship and finally the action lifting the ship got underway, starting preparations in 2014.


         Maud submerged at Cambridge Bay, Nunavut


A float is brought into position to lift Maud




    Maud resurfaced after 80 years

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Yesterday, the expedition posted the following on their Facebook page:   

After 3 weeks of sailing MAUD and the tug Tandberg Polar has reached Aasiaat, Greenland, safe and sound. We are extremely tired but happy to have arrived here in Aasiaat where Maud will stay this winter before continuing to Norway next summer.
Tricky ice conditions in the Northwest Passage and stormy weather across to Greenland gave us a good challenge, but Maud and Jensen as well as our crew stood the test. The old Queen of the ice is on her way home. We are full of joy and gratitude to be part of Maud´s journey back to her home country, after 100 years


Sunday, September 17, 2017

Forget Trump. The U.S. Storms Ahead on Climate Change Like Never Before

Months after President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris climate accord, states and cities are offering their own forecast for reducing global warming: We got this.

While leaders outside Washington have been implementing measures for decades when it comes to combating carbon emissions and promoting green energy, the Trump administration’s rolling back of federal environmental protections has spurred localities around the country to step up in what experts say is an unprecedented effort.

Since Trump took office, there's been a downpour of legislation, amendments and resolutions aimed at curbing carbon emissions that are in line with key tenets of the Paris climate pact, the landmark global coalition meant to curb emissions that cause climate change.

"We’re really seeing a groundswell of activity," Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune told NBC News.

Image: Protest Trump Decision on Paris Accord

Environmental activists hold placards during a demonstration to protest President Donald Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord deal on June 1.

"The U.S. is moving strongly and irreversibly forward to transition to clean energy and to take on the climate crisis seriously, even if there is an absence of leadership coming from the White House," Brune added. "Because of the president’s and Congress’ intransigence when it comes to climate change, local governments are looking to do more."

To date, 377 mayors have joined together in a group called Climate Mayors, pledging to honor carbon emissions goals set by the Paris deal in their own cities. Under Paris, the U.S. had committed to cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent to 28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025.

Another group, America’s Pledge, was created in July by California Gov. Jerry Brown and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to help organize states, cities and businesses in their efforts to bring down greenhouse gas emissions. Their group now includes officials from 200 cities and counties and nine states.

Actions supporting those goals have emanated from state capitals and city halls with rocket speed.

More than 370 bills of varying scope — all related to climate change, emissions reductions, carbon capture and green jobs — have sprung up in 41 states and Puerto Rico, proposed by Democrats and Republicans alike.

At least 50 of the measures have been enacted, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, and 200 are still pending.

Some states have tackled the issue comprehensively.

In Hawaii, for example, the state’s Democratic-controlled legislature adopted or passed a series of measures, including making chunks of the Paris pact state law, allocating millions of dollars for emission reductions programs, and taking a step toward mandating climate change education in the state’s public schools.

In California, Brown extended in July his state’s cap-and-trade program, which makes businesses in the Golden State pay for their carbon dioxide emissions to 2030. It had been due to expire in 2020.

Under the program, limits are set on the amount of carbon dioxide a company is allowed to emit and auctions are held in which companies bid against each other for permits that allow a specific amount of emission. The cash from the auctions goes to a state greenhouse gas reduction fund.

Other states have taken a narrower approach.

In Maine, for example, the politically divided Legislature worked across party lines to issue $5 million in bonds to pay for prediction models for the state’s coastal zones that will help monitor "sea level changes in order to mitigate the impact of help prepare for rising sea levels" caused by climate change.

Maryland’s Democratic-controlled state Legislature passed a bill to incentivize farming practices that reduce runoff and emissions.

Even more action is taking place at the city level.

"There’s literally nothing more important than saving the planet, and now it’s cities leading the effort," Long Beach, Calif., Mayor Robert Garcia told NBC News. "That’s the world we live in with Trump having withdrawn from Paris."

A new survey of more than 100 American cities with at least 30,000 people, released exclusively Sunday to NBC News by the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, found that nearly two-thirds of the cities are procuring green-fleet vehicles for city use and public transportation.

About two-thirds of the cities have also made commitments to require energy efficiency in all government buildings, and 63 percent have installed public charging stations for electric vehicles. Another 23 percent said they’re considering programs that would result in the installation.

The survey’s results "indicate the desire of cities of all sizes to do more to meet the challenges of clean energy and sustainable development," Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales and Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski said in a joint statement.

And innovation keeps coming.

Last week, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who’d committed in 2014 to cutting the city’s emissions by 80 percent by 2050, announced a first-of-its-kind proposal that would require owners of all aging buildings over 25,000 square feet, including apartments, to meet new greenhouse gas emission standards.

While climate experts have celebrated the progress, they've also been quick to point out that states and cities had been active on the issue long before Trump took office.

"They weren’t just sitting on their hands," said Jackson Morris, who manages on climate-mitigation policies for the eastern U.S. for the National Resources Defense Council. "(Trump) lit a fire under them, it added another layer of urgency."

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Ravaged Island

For the first time in 300 years, there’s not a person on Barbuda

Barbuda has been left completely devastated by Hurricane Irma. An estimated 95% of Barbuda’s structures are damaged, and the entire island of around 1,800 people has been evacuated.

“The damage is complete,” says Ambassador Ronald Sanders, who has served as Antigua and Barbuda’s ambassador to the U.S. since 2015. “For the first time in 300 years, there’s not a single living person on the island of Barbuda — a civilization that has existed on that island for over 300 years has now been extinguished.”

According to Sanders, Irma was “the most ferocious, cruel and merciless storm” in the island’s history. The hurricane was 378 miles wide when it descended on Barbuda, which is just 62 square miles.

“This was a huge monster,” he says. “The island and the people on the island had absolutely no chance.”

Evacuees from Barbuda were sent to Antigua, which did not suffer the same level of damage from Irma.

“We’ve had most of the people we’ve brought over to Antigua in shelters,” says Sanders. “We’ve tried to make living accommodations as good as humanly possible in these circumstances. Fortunately, we had planned ahead for this hurricane, and we had ordered supplies in from Miami and the United States before the hurricane hit.”


Though Barbudan evacuees are safe, Sanders says the situation is not ideal — people are living in cramped quarters in government facilities and nursing homes, including some 500 school-aged children. Now that school is back in session, Antigua must find room for these students.

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“The situation is unacceptable, and it’s costly,” he says. “We’re going to have to keep this going for sometime because Barbuda’s not going to be rebuilt in a hurry, and when we do rebuild it, we’re going to have to rebuild to massive hurricane standards. This is going to take a while. There is no electricity there, there is no potable water anymore, there is no structure in which people can survive. We have a mammoth task on our hands.”

Sanders says the world must step up and help Barbuda.

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“We are a small island community — the gross domestic product of Antigua is $1 billion a year,” he says. “We cannot afford to take on this responsibility by ourselves. Barbuda is not just a disaster, it’s a humanitarian crisis. We are hopeful that the international community will come to our aid, not because we’re begging for something we want, but because we’re begging for something that is needed.”

Right now, initial estimates suggest that Barbuda will need about $200 million to recover. Antigua and Barbuda will create a sustainable development plan for rebuilding Barbuda, Sanders says, adding that he hopes the global community will provide humanitarian recovery aid.

“We have declared a state of emergency in Barbuda because it is a complete disaster and uninhabitable,” he says. “We cannot cope with our own resources alone.”

In addition to financial aid, Sanders says the global community must also stand up to climate change.

“We believe climate change is here to stay — it’s a reality, despite all of the naysayers,” he says. “We know that these things have occurred as a result of the profligacy of the countries that are rich, and have abused the system. We, unfortunately, who contribute less than naught point naught percent of pollution of the world’s atmosphere, are the world’s greatest victims.”

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Harvey Is What Climate Change Looks Like


August 28, 2017

In all of U.S. history, there’s never been a storm like Hurricane Harvey. That fact is increasingly clear, even though the rains are still falling and the water levels in Houston are still rising.

But there’s an uncomfortable point that, so far, everyone is skating around: We knew this would happen, decades ago. We knew this would happen, and we didn’t care. Now is the time to say it as loudly as possible: Harvey is what climate change looks like. More specifically, Harvey is what climate change looks like in a world that has decided, over and over, that it doesn’t want to take climate change seriously.

Houston has been sprawling out into the swamp for decades, largely unplanned and unzoned. Now, all that pavement has transformed the bayous into surging torrents and shunted Harvey’s floodwaters toward homes and businesses. Individually, each of these subdivisions or strip malls might have seemed like a good idea at the time, but in aggregate, they’ve converted the metro area into a flood factory. Houston, as it was before Harvey, will never be the same again.

Harvey is the third 500-year flood to hit the Houston area in the past three years, but Harvey is in a class by itself. By the time the storm leaves the region on Wednesday, an estimated 40 to 60 inches of rain will have fallen on parts of Houston. So much rain has fallen already that the National Weather Service had to add additional colorsto its maps to account for the extreme totals.

Harvey is infusing new meaning into meteorologists’ favorite superlatives: There are simply no words to describe what has happened in the past few days. In just the first three days since landfall, Harvey has already doubled Houston’s previous record for the wettest month in city history, set during the previous benchmark flood, Tropical Storm Allison in June 2001. For most of the Houston area, in a stable climate, a rainstorm like Harvey is not expected to happen more than once in a millennium.

In fact, Harvey is likely already the worst rainstorm in U.S. history. An initial analysis by John Nielsen-Gammon, the Texas state climatologist, compared Harvey’s rainfall intensity to the worst storms in the most downpour-prone region of the United States, the Gulf Coast. Harvey ranks at the top of the list, with a total rainwater output equivalent to 3.6 times the flow of the Mississippi River. (And this is likely an underestimate, because there are still two days of rains left.) That much water—20 trillion gallons over five days—is about one-sixth the volume of Lake Erie. According to a preliminary and informal estimate by disaster economist Kevin Simmons of Austin College, Harvey’s economic toll “will likely exceed Katrina”—the most expensive disaster in U.S. history. Harvey is now the benchmark disaster of record in the United States.

As with Katrina, Harvey gives us an opportunity for an inflection point as a society. The people of Houston didn’t choose this to happen to them, but what happens next is critically important for all of us.


Climate change is making rainstorms everywhere worse, but particularly on the Gulf Coast. Since the 1950s, Houston has seen a 167 percent increase in the frequency of the most intense downpours. Climate scientist Kevin Trenberth thinks that as much as 30 percent of the rainfall from Harvey is attributable to human-caused global warming. That means Harvey is a storm decades in the making.

While Harvey’s rains are unique in U.S. history, heavy rainstorms are increasing in frequency and intensity worldwide. One recent study showed that by mid-century, up to 450 million people worldwide will be exposed to a doubling of flood frequency. This isn’t just a Houston problem. This is happening all over.
A warmer atmosphere enhances evaporation rates and increases the carrying capacity of rainstorms. Harvey drew its energy from a warmer-than-usual Gulf of Mexico, which will only grow warmer in the decades to come. At its peak, on Saturday night, Harvey produced rainfall rates
exceeding six inches per hour in Houston, and its multiday rainfall total is close to the theoretical maximum expected for anywhere in the United States.

Weather patterns are also getting “stuck” more often, boosting the chances that a storm like Harvey would stall out. Some scientists have linked this to melting Arctic sea ice, which reduces the strength of the polar jet stream and weakens atmospheric steering currents that can otherwise dip down and kick a storm like Harvey on its way. To be sure, a storm like Harvey might have been possible in the absence of climate change, but there are many factors at play that almost assuredly made it more likely.


Adapting to a future in which a millennium-scale flood can wipe out a major city is much harder than preventing that flood in the first place. By and large, the built world we have right now wasn’t constructed with climate change in mind. By continuing to pretend that we can engineer our way out of the worsening flooding problem with bigger dams, more levees and higher-powered pumping equipment, we’re fooling ourselves into a more dangerous future.

It’s possible to imagine something else: a hopeful future that diverges from climate dystopia and embraces the scenario in which our culture inevitably shifts toward building cities that work with the storms that are coming, instead of Sisyphean efforts to hold them back. That will require abandoning buildings and concepts we currently hold dear, but we’ll be rewarded with a safer, richer, more enduring world in the end. There were many people in Houston already working on making that world a reality even before Harvey came.

If we don’t talk about the climate context of Harvey, we won’t be able to prevent future disasters and get to work on that better future. Those of us who know this need to say it loudly. As long as our leaders, in words, and the rest of us, in actions, are OK with incremental solutions to a civilization-defining, global-scale problem, we will continue to stumble toward future catastrophes. Climate change requires us to rethink old systems that we’ve assumed will last forever. Putting off radical change—what futurist Alex Steffen calls “predatory delay”—just adds inevitable risk to the system. It’s up to the rest of us to identify this behavior and make it morally repugnant.

Insisting on a world that doesn’t knowingly condemn entire cities to a watery, terrifying future isn’t “politicizing” a tragedy—it’s our moral duty. The weather has always been political. If random whims of atmospheric turbulence devastate one neighborhood and spare another, it’s our job as a civilized society to equalize that burden. The choices of how to do that, by definition, are political ones.


Climate change hits the vulnerable in a community hardest. It is no different in Houston with Hurricane Harvey, where even if an evacuation would have been ordered, countless thousands of people wouldn’t have had the means or ability to act. There is simply no way to safely evacuate a metro area the size of Houston—6.5 million people spread across an area roughly the size of Massachusetts.

The symbolism of the worst flooding disaster in U.S. history hitting the sprawled-out capital city of America’s oil industry is likely not lost on many. Institutionalized climate denial in our political system and climate denial by inaction by the rest of us have real consequences. They look like Houston.

Once Harvey’s floodwaters recede, the process will begin to imagine a New Houston, and that city will inevitably endure future mega-rainstorms as the world warms. The rebuilding process provides an opportunity to chart a new path. The choice isn’t between left and right, or denier and believer. The choice is between success and failure.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Screwing The Working Class: The False Promises in President Trump’s Tax Plan

CreditChristopher DeLorenzo

As they return to Washington this week from their August recess, House Republicans on the Ways and Means Committee have their work cut out for them. Their job is to draft a major tax-cut bill for Congress to pass, ideally by year-end, to avoid closing out 2017 without a single big legislative win. The policy objective is to steeply cut tax rates for businesses and wealthy individuals. The political aim, and the point of President Trump’s speech last Wednesday, is to persuade the men and women in the Trump working-class base that a tax cut for the wealthy would be good for them, too.

It would not be, and to pretend otherwise, as Mr. Trump did, is to substitute propaganda for discourse. Mr. Trump’s claim that tax cuts will propel economic growth and lift wages ignores the consensus view of economists, which is that multitrillion-dollar tax cuts, as envisioned by Mr. Trump, are not a stable or reliable way to do either.

The president’s claim also defies history. Wages have long stagnated, despite tax cuts in the 1980s and 2000s, while profits, shareholder returns and executive pay have soared. Profits, whether lifted by favorable economic conditions, by tax cuts or by both, have not translated into employee raises and have instead been used for other purposes. One is to buy back stock, which lifts share prices and, by extension, executive compensation. Following a huge one-off corporate tax cut in 2004, big piles of corporate cash were also used to pay dividends to shareholders, settle legal issues and finance severance packages for layoffs.

Of all the ways that corporations have spent their profits recently, business investment has generally been low on the list. Higher wages have been even lower, if they make the list at all. It would be foolish to expect anything different if a new set of tax cuts increased corporations’ already healthy profits. Any advantages for middle-class Americans would amount to crumbs from the banquet table.

Then, too, there is the budget issue. Mr. Trump has proposed cutting the top corporate rate from 35 percent to 15 percent, a point he emphasized on Wednesday despite warnings from his economic advisers that a cut that sizable would cause the deficit to explode. Separately, he and his advisers have also proposed ending taxation on the foreign profits of American corporations, even though such profits are often actually earned in the United States and simply relabeled as foreign through the use of complex accounting maneuvers.


Proposed tax breaks for working people, in contrast, include relatively modest reductions in tax rates, a more generous standard deduction and tax relief for child care expenses. A recent analysis of Mr. Trump’s proposals by the nonpartisan Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center generously assumed that policy makers would end popular write-offs, including the deduction for state taxes, to offset the cost of the cuts. Even then, the analysis showed that the proposed Trump tax cuts would lift after-tax income for the top 1 percent of taxpayers by at least 11.5 percent (or an average annual tax cut of $175,000), compared with a barely perceptible 1.3 percent for taxpayers in the middle (or $760 in average tax savings).

Over all, the cuts, paired with loophole closers, would cost at least $3.4 trillion in revenue in the first 10 years and $5.9 trillion over the following decade. The question is how House Republicans will deal with those potential deficits. Many of them have built their reputations as fiscal hawks. Even if they were inclined to set aside their professed aversion to deficits to pass a big tax cut, their scope for deficit financing has now been narrowed by the floods in Houston, which will force them to borrow and spend for relief and recovery efforts. That is a responsible thing to do in an emergency. Borrowing to cut taxes — akin to taking cash advances on a credit card — is not responsible, in good times or bad.

The fixation on tax cuts is regrettable, because corporate tax reform is a worthy goal. Done right, it would lower the top corporate tax rate to 25 percent or so, bringing it more in line with the rates of other developed nations. It would also raise revenue by eliminating special-interest loopholes and enacting a small per-trade tax on financial transactions to account for the growth of financial markets in the nation’s economy. As yet, there is no sign that Republicans are prepared to take that sensible path.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Pardon Me?

Arpaio Pardon May Be Opening Act of a Constitutional Crisis

Trump's move Friday night shows the same disregard for the rule of law with which he’s trying to quash the Russia probe.

By Charles Kaiser

This morning, I received an email from an old friend — one of the country’s top trial lawyers: “I have underestimated Trump. He knows what is coming, including a variety of criminal charges and other impeachable offenses. He is not just arousing his base to anger but to arms, some of them. There is no other way to explain the transgender ban, the Arpaio pardon, his Charlottesville remarks…

“I would think he will pardon himself, family members, Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort, among others, and if he is angry enough, Mrs. O’Leary, who, you must admit, got kind of a raw deal.” (Note: Myth has it that one Kate O’Leary’s cow kicked over a lantern in the barn and started the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. She was widely blamed but never charged.)

And the following came from the journalist and author Charles Kaiser. His books include Gay Metropolis, 1968 in America, and The Cost of Courage, a riveting account of one family that joined the French resistance against the Nazi occupation.

— Bill Moyers

Donald Trump’s pardon of Sheriff Joe Arpaio marks the real beginning of the coming constitutional crisis in America.

Trump started tweeting trial balloons about this a month ago — “all agree the US president has the complete power to pardon” — and he has even asserted the unlitigated idea that he can pardon himself. But what he did yesterday puts his presidency on a whole new plane: a Category 5 political hurricane. By pardoning a man convicted of criminal contempt for direct violation of a federal order, Trump is now flaunting his eagerness to overturn the rule of law in America.

I have never seen anyone who has acted more obviously guilty than Donald Trump has almost every single day since he became president. From his tête-à-tête with James Comey, in which he asked the FBI director to end his investigation of Michael Flynn, to his firing of the same man when he failed to heed that warning, to his newly reported phone call to Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) to complain about a bill that would protect special counsel Robert Mueller’s independence, the president has engaged in one blatant attempt to obstruct justice after another.

Here is the most logical way to view his pardon of Sheriff Arpaio: It is the latest and gravest step he has taken in his continuing efforts to undermine the rule of law. Obviously Trump delighted in fueling the racism of Arpaio’s supporters by pardoning this convicted criminal — he made that clear earlier this week during his repellent speech in Phoenix. But I am certain that is not the main reason for this heinous act.

For many weeks, Washington has been swirling with rumors that Mueller already has secured the cooperation of Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort in his investigation of the president. And Trump undoubtedly is more vulnerable to the testimony of these two men than he is to that of any other players in this fearful drama. Therefore, Trump must feel compelled to send this message through Arpaio’s pardon: The president is eager and willing to do the same thing for anyone who might be pressured into testifying against him.

I have written a book about France under fascism, and what we are now experiencing is exactly what incipient fascism looks like. The combination of Trump’s relentless assaults on the free press, his open encouragement of Nazis — which is the only honest description of his initial refusal to condemn them — and now a pardon without even pretending to go through the normal channels of the Justice Department: These are all the acts of man who is blatantly defying his sacred pledge to uphold the Constitution of the United States.

Like the men and women of Vichy France who began their collaboration with the Nazis 77 years ago, from now on, every senator and House member of either party who continues to remain silent about this president’s unconstitutional acts is directly complicit in the high crimes and misdemeanors of Donald Trump.

I know very serious students of American justice who already were convinced last night that the pardon of Arpaio has fatally undermined Robert Mueller’s investigation by killing the incentive for anyone to testify against this president. Personally, I am not yet that pessimistic. I still believe that any pardon of Flynn or Manafort or Jared Kushner will produce a large enough firestorm to end Donald Trump’s presidency, either through impeachment or the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, which would allow for his removal by a majority vote of his cabinet.

But if there is a majority of Republican senators and House members who wish to avoid a full-blown constitutional crisis worse than anything we have seen since the secession of the Confederate states, they must speak loudly and act clearly right now. They must immediately pass the bill introduced by Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware and Republican Senator Tillis of North Carolina that would shore up the independence of the special prosecutor, and they must pass it with veto-proof majorities.

Senator Lindsay Graham already has said that the firing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions would mean the beginning of the end of Trump’s presidency. It is long past time for all of Graham’s colleagues in both houses to declare that the same thing will be true if the president dares to repeat the horrific abuse of his pardon power that we witnessed last night. Otherwise, America is destined for an era of violence and darkness unlike any we have ever witnessed since the end of the Civil War, 152 years ago.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Anything To Declare? A Horror Story On Toothache

Many Canadians (and Americans likewise), have a pronounced anxiety when crossing the border. Rules could have changed and some times vehicles are searched. That all being true, I never had felt such anxiety. We have always been giving truthfull answers when asked about whether or not we had anything to declare.
When the familiar question was asked while crossing into Lubec,ME yesterday, I had my answer ready.  I told the officer that I would leave something in the U.S. Of course, he wanted to know what that was and I said “MY TOOTH”.

Yes, yesterday I left a tooth in the U.S. I was on the way to the Lubec Medical Center where a dentist lady from Louisiana would take out a tooth which almost brought me to insanity last Friday.

The whole story had begun on Tuesday last week when I had felt that I had a hot/cold sensitivity on a tooth. So on Wednesday I checked in with the Lubec dentist and she confirmed an inflammation under the tooth. I received an antibiotic prescription and was released. I was still doing OK through Thursday, even though I still could feel the tooth aching a bit.
But the story took a dramatic turn on Friday when pain shot up my gum and into the side of my head.
I made many phone calls to dentists in the entire area, but none was available. Actually, the dental offices were either closed or the doctor not on site.

When my pain increased further on Friday afternoon, I was writhing and rolling on the couch. I was crying and holding my head which felt like it would explode any moment. Watching me in horror, Bea got scared and asked what to do. Finally, she called 911.  Only minutes later, the local ambulance appeared on our lawn. It was decided that they would take me to the emergency room in St.Stephen.

Arriving there an hour later I was checked in and sent to the waiting area.
This could all have ended good if a doctor had seen me giving me a numb on my pain, but after 2.5hrs I had not been called up, and none of the other patients either. After Bea came into town to pick me up for a ride home (she had been on a tour with tourists) we had waited another 40 minutes when a nurse came out announcing that whoever was there to see a physician would need to wait another 4 hours. That’s when most people got up and left the ER.

We went home as well and like a miracle, my pain subsided, probably because the antibiotics had finally killed the inflammation.

Saturday ran up with me leaving my breakfast in the toilet…. the enormous amount of toxic painkillers had finally upset my stomach. But I was almost painfree. I was totally exhausted and for hours I rested on the couch drifting in and out of sleep. Sunday I was still painfree but I knew that tooth would have to go before it caused more trouble.
The Lubec dentist has the weekend and Mondays off, so I had to wait until Tuesday to get it out.

And when it finally happened it was all over within 30 minutes, anesthesia included.
1-20170814_1657401-20170814_170118I am considering a trip to Mexico in October for getting a bridge over the gaping hole.
        Flower pictures taken in Roosevelt Campobello International Park

Sunday, August 20, 2017

A professor of German history explains the true horror of Trump’s response to Charlottesville


As a scholar of modern German history, I’ve been working on a study of antisemitism in Germany and the United States in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. What I saw unfold over the weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia and then at Bedminster, New Jersey gave me the horrible, sinking feeling that my book is going to need a new chapter.


On Saturday, August 12, 2017, thousands of young Americans marched through the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia chanting hate-filled slogans like, “Blood and soil,” and “Jews will not replace us,” and carrying the swastika flag. They clashed with protesters and caused dozens of injuries. A car plowed into a crowd of people protesting the white supremacist demonstration, killing one person and injuring many more.

Later that day, President Donald Trump issued a statement:

We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides. It has been going on for a long time in our country — not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. It has been going on for a long, long time. It has no place in America.

The “hatred, bigotry and violence” he said, came from “many sides” (a point he apparently felt he needed to stress). He did not mention the fact that one side was carrying swastika flags, the flag of Adolf Hitler’s National Socialist Party, the flag of Nazi Germany. He did not specifically condemn those who carried that flag. They were, according to the president, all equally responsible: those who marched under the Nazi banner, and those who opposed them. All equal. Nazis and anti-Nazis. But how is that possible? How can it be that in 2017, the President of the United States, a country that fought Hitler’s Germany and sacrificed hundreds of thousands of its young men in order to ensure its ultimate defeat, could not or would not bring himself to condemn Americans who marched under the flag of the Third Reich?

What does it mean to march under the swastika flag? What does the swastika flag symbolize? What did it mean to the people who hoisted it in Germany—the people who inspired the Americans who marched this weekend in Charlottesville?

Those who inspired the marchers in Charlottesville marched through the streets of Germany, provoking violence, and singing “when Jewish blood spurts from the knife.”

Those who inspired the marchers destroyed democracy and eliminated all civil liberties in Germany.

Those who inspired the marchers demonized Jewish citizens, physically assaulted them, removed them from all aspects of public life, stripped them of their rights, their property, their very ability to survive in the only country they had ever called home.

Those who inspired the marchers carried out the biggest pogrom in modern German history, destroying 267 synagogues, vandalizing Jewish businesses, attacking Jews in their homes, and killing hundreds, all in a single night in November 1938.

They demonized and physically attacked political opponents, homosexuals, Roma and Sinti, the handicapped, and any others they considered outside the boundaries of the German racial community.

They murdered more than 70,000 men, women, and children—German citizens!—who had been diagnosed with mental and physical disabilities in just two years between 1939 and 1941.

They started the most destructive war in the history of the world, causing the deaths of tens of millions of people, mostly innocent civilians.

They murdered more than 33,000 Jews in just two days at Babi Yar, outside Kiev, Ukraine in 1941.

They shot one million unarmed Jewish civilians—men, women, and children—across Eastern Europe in just the last six months of 1941.

They murdered close to three million Jews in the gas chambers of Chelmno, Treblinka, Sobibor, Belzec, Majdanek, and Auschwitz.

They enslaved millions of people—Jews and non-Jews—from across Europe to work for their war of conquest.

They fought to destroy the most basic values that America has claimed to stand for over more than two centuries: the fundamental dignity and equality of all people.

The world is a complicated place. There are rarely simple, black and white answers to the problems that confront us. But sometimes, every once in a while, there are. And this is one such moment. If the President of the United States cannot condemn individuals who march under the flag of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany, how can he possibly claim to represent America, its values, and all of its citizens? In perhaps the easiest test of his young presidency, Donald Trump has failed, and failed miserably.

It isn’t often that historians get to see their work gain such relevance in the present. And for those of us who study the history of hatred, bigotry, and the evils of Nazi Germany, the prospect of such relevance is most uncomfortable. If my work has taught me anything, it’s the importance of keeping the boundaries of one’s moral universe as wide as possible. In the early twentieth century, too many Germans pushed too many others beyond the boundaries of their moral universe—beyond the borders of the German racial community—where their fate was at best no longer of any concern to them, at worst, they represented an existential threat.

When that happens, the horrors committed under the swastika flag become possible. How safe are we today? How extensive are the boundaries of our own moral universe—each and every one of us? Those who marched in Charlottesville under Hitler’s flag and the President who chose not to condemn them revealed the boundaries of their moral universe to be sadly and frighteningly small. The flag that flew on that horrible day—with that symbol of ultimate evil at its heart—should remind us all just where such a limited sense of fellow feeling can lead.

Richard E. Frankel is an Associate Professor of Modern German History at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

This article was originally published at History News Network

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Damaged Beyond Repair. America In Crisis And Mourning.

“I’d like to punch him in the face”.
We all remember Trump’s rhetoric under his campaign rallies and we have not seen any moderation since Trump disgraced the Oval Office with his presence. His riling up white supremacists and nazis has now resulted in a new low in the “Land of the Free”.
The tragic Charlottesville event has led to the death of a young woman.

Is America at the verge of a new civil war?

The role of a president is to unify and lead the country with a cool and calm mind. Trump has failed to do that and his approval ratings are at a record low. Yet, his core base, around one third of the American people, are still supporting this abomination of a president and it is them who are to blame for putting America’s democracy at risk.

Trump’s failure to condemn white supremacists and nazis shows that he is afraid of losing his supporting base. But Mr Trump's failure to unambiguously and repeatedly condemn those far-right, racist groups gives them oxygen and strikes a blow at the heart of American identity. And it becomes crystal clear that one third of the American population is either too stupid to understand or that they are consciously supporting vile racism and violence. The country is so mired in political division that even Nazi symbols have become political symbols some can live with if they feel that condemning them would give succor to their opposition.

Yet, fhe overwhelming majority of Americans are appalled by all that the hideous scenes in Charlottesville represent.

America is in a knee-deep crisis and if this president is allowed to continue to lead the country, America will soon be mired in a civil war and possibly even face a nuclear confrontation with North Korea.

Friday, August 4, 2017

When The Bee Stings Thrice

It was about a most normal morning today, except that I had a little repair job at the lighthouse parking lot, where local vandals had demolished a picnic bench. So I had been out there doing the necessary repairs. With the sun out it was already pretty hot when I was on my way back home riding down the road with an open side window. Suddenly something hit me in my face really hard, an insect, no doubt, and it was big.
Almost expecting a sting, I was surprised when nothing happened so I continued driving thinking that whatever it had been, was knocked unconscious on the floor. When going through the village of Wilsons Beach, I suddenly felt a sting at my throat. I hit it with my hand, and I felt the insect falling down the inside of my T-shirt, where it stung twice. By now, I had my foot heavily on the brakes, coming to a screeching emergency stop right in front of a storefront, where I exited the van banging on my chest and ripping and tearing off my shirt. I was in a panic.
Image result for paper wasp
And there….I saw a huge paper vasp falling to the pavement, where it was crushed by my foot. Indeed, I was stomping on it.
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Ouch, my chest and my throat were hurting, but had somebody seen my involuntary strip-show? 
Looking around I couldn’t see anybody, so I got back behind the wheel.

When approaching the next bend I noticed that my brakes were gone.  The brake pedal was soft like a balloon with half the pressure. Later, I found that a brake line on a rear wheel had ruptured when I did the sudden brake-up.

So, Monday I have an appointment at the local repair shop.

Like I said initially: It was about a normal morning…well, almost.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Sunny Sunday Thoughts

And again it is Sunday, a sunny day on Campobello. The mugginess of the past days is gone, the wind direction has changed from south to north, making sitting outside pleasant. So here I am, on our delightful porch, reminiscing and pondering. I have just consumed 2 big mugs of coffee and ditto portions of icecream.
Yesterday, I was just about leaving our driveway when I saw Bruce and his dog coming up the street. I waited for him to come up to the vehicle. Bruce lives in Maine and has a house on the island. We have never hung out together, but met in various places around the island. His house is just up the street and it’s for sale.
As he was standing beside the van, our conversation quickly turned to the current events on the political stage in the U.S.  I know that Bruce is disgusted with the Trump administration, so we rehashed what had happened and why there still seems to be a a third of the American people supporting an insane president. Bruce said the folks he had spoken to always brought up that the alternative would have been Hillary and that so many people hate Hillary’s guts. I don’t doubt that Hillary was the wrong choice for the Dems and that her personal bagage was too heavy to lead to victory, even though she in fact got 3 million more votes than “the Donald”. But it should have been more and her support should have been in more states.

But I think history will run its course. At the end of the day, the overall damage will be huge and it will take many years and maybe several presidents and governments to get the political stage repaired again. Both parties will have to change. The GOP must quit their ultra conservative ways and turn towards modern times, and the Dems must relinquish their “eliterian” thinking and actions increasing their appeal towards the lower income population. Meanwhile, the toll to pay will be remarkable, but every country has lived through problematic times. The U.S. has relinquished its role in world leadership and China is ready to take over. It is the analogy to the Roman Empire, and it puzzles me that the same historic mistakes  are being done over and over and over again, without any sign of learning from the past. The mistakes being that a ruling class is guilty of extortion thus creating inequality. It is human nature to revolt against their rulers after decades of being taken advantage of.

Yet, sitting on our porch, I am satisfied that so many Americans have come to me expressing their horrors and disgust with what is going on in their country. It gives me hope that the majority of Americans have the power to change the direction of their social-political fate. America has always been a beacon of freedom in a world of dictatorships. The bi-elections of 2018 will show whether the will to correct the political course is gonna be strong enough.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Why, Just Why Would God Bless This….?

It’s not so long ago that someone commenting on this blog “excused” the election of Trump as the president of the U.S. by saying that it was God’s will. Besides of the fact that God does not interfere in elections, we can today be pretty confident that God would most certainly have a really bad time today, IF he had interfered in the election of Trump. Instead, we are learning that the Russians have interfered in the election and I just can’t imagine that God wanted that to happen. After all, the Russians have lived as Atheists and had banned all churches during the time of the soviet rule.

But read here what a New Yorker has to say about Trump”:

America in Crisis

July 21, 2017


Nat Levine

I've been to Russia 25 times, I've worked for Trump's partners Alex Schnaider and Sam Kislin. I've met Trump 6 times at his charity events and have known him for 30 years. He lost the primaries in New York by 30% percentage points where we know his cons best, he's absolutely clueless.

He fails at everything he does and then he quits with many bankruptcies and frauds. Personally, I would not let him manage a shoe shine stand. Who borrows money at 18% borrowing junk bonds and expects to make a profit ??? Only a thief and an imbecile.

Putting people of color in the back of the casinos and screwing his contractors and employees was the last straw for me. If you don't think that this administration is the most corrupt in the History of U.S. politics, you are a special kind of Stupid. Remember, crocodiles have no friends and they will all go down!!!!!

Russiagate will make Watergate seem like a tea party. Remember, Trump ran as a ruse and not a serious candidate initially as his closet was filled with skeletons. He truly is a Narcissist, a Sociopath and a Pathological liar. The time to Impeach is now. Put pressure on your representatives!!!!! The TRUMPTANIC is sinking and the Rats all want a deal. Things are pretty bad when your lawyers need lawyers​.

The thing I'm most familiar with is the money laundering by taking dirty Russian blood money and buying Trump properties as Trump knew all along. Not only will no contractor do any business with him as he doesn't pay his bills, he also stiffs his attorneys and no bank in the Western hemisphere will loan him even one dollar.

He also stiffs hotels, bankrupts families​ and tips poorly at restaurants. He is the lowest form of human life. He's even charging the Republican party 3 times the actual rent and stealing from his cancer charities. Think about that as pigs get fat and hogs get slaughtered. That's only Russia, what about his shady partners in Turkey, Saudi Arabia and many more countries. We need to see those taxes or him to resign.

He has accomplished absolutely nothing during his time in office and his approval rating will continue to fall. Putting a well known scam artist in the oval office was unfathomable to us New Yorkers who know him well. If a candidate loses his own state by 30% percentage points, why would anyone vote for such a con artist filled with empty promises and more baggage than United Airlines.

Not only does Bob Mueller have access to Donald Trump Jr.'s incriminating emails, he also has intercepted text messages from Paul Manafort's daughters implicating their Father for taking $10 million USD in blood money where Russians are always winding up dead whenever he's there. I'm not saying I know how this will unfold, but with bank accounts being subpoenaed plus all texts, emails and taxes, more than 70-80 FISA warrants went out.

Trump can be impeached on Amendment 25 which is the Emoluments clause, but with Mueller hiring special prosecutors to go after Trump personally, it's going to be a shit storm of epic proportions. Keep in mind that Putin is worth $85 Billion Dollars and has a piece of everything of value in Russia and nothing goes on without his approval or you wind up dead. Trump owes the Russian owned Blackstone group an awful lot of money and if he can't deliver by lifting the sanctions, it's not going to be a pretty picture for he and his evil spawn.

We have an illegitimate President who was proven to collude with the Russians to steal the election and in my opinion, the blatant skullduggery and complicity should nullify the election making Hillary Clinton our legitimate President. The lies will end up doing them all in like Flynn but the widespread cover up will bring the whole house of cards down as Mueller is gathering enough data for an airtight case that will tie them all together. It's not if they are going down, it's only a matter of when. Trump's own family will eventually lead to his demise.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

100 Years Ago: The Halifax Explosion

A Newly Discovered Diary Tells the Harrowing Story of the Deadly Halifax Explosion

On the eve of the disaster’s centennial, a sailor’s 1917 journal details a rare eyewitness account of the massive harbor blast.



Halifax aftermath        The aftermath of the explosion. (Library and Archives Canada)

By Marc Wortman

We turn out of our hammocks at 6.30am and lash up and stow in the usual way,” a Royal Navy sailor named Frank Baker wrote in his diary on December 6, 1917. “We fall in on the upper deck at 7am and disperse to cleaning stations, busying ourselves scrubbing decks etc. until 8am when we ‘cease fire’ for breakfast.” Baker was pulling wartime duty as a ship inspector in the harbor of Halifax, Nova Scotia, on the lookout for spies, contraband and saboteurs.

But there were no ships to be inspected that day, so after breakfast he and his crewmates aboard HMCS Acadia went back to their cleaning stations. “We...had just drawn soap and powder and the necessary utensils for cleaning paint work,” he wrote, “when the most awful explosion I ever heard or want to hear again occurred.”

What Frank Baker heard was the biggest explosion of the pre-atomic age, a catastrophe of almost biblical proportions. The 918 words he wrote for December 6 make up the only eyewitness account known to be written on the day of what is now called the Halifax Explosion. After World War I, his diary sat unread for decades. Now, it has been included in an exhibit on the explosion’s centennial at the Dartmouth Heritage Museum, across the harbor from Halifax. It is published here for the first time.

“The first thud shook the ship from stem to stern and the second one seemed to spin us all around, landing some [crew members] under the gun carriage and others flying in all directions all over the deck,” Baker wrote. Sailors 150 miles out to sea heard the blast. On land, people felt the jolt 300 miles away. The shock wave demolished almost everything within a half-mile. “Our first impression was that we were being attacked by submarines, and we all rushed for the upper deck, where we saw a veritable mountain of smoke of a yellowish hue and huge pieces of iron were flying all around us.”

Unseen by Baker, two ships had collided in the Narrows, a strait linking a wide basin with the harbor proper, which opens into the Atlantic to the southeast. An outbound Belgian relief ship, the Imo, had strayed off course. An inbound French freighter, the Mont-Blanc, couldn’t get out of its way. The Imo speared the Mont-Blanc at an angle near its bow. The freighter carried 2,925 tons of high explosives, including 246 tons of benzol, a highly flammable motor fuel, in drums lashed to its deck. Some of the drums toppled and ruptured. Spilled benzol caught fire. The Mont-Blanc’s crew, unable to contain the flames, abandoned ship.

The ghost vessel burned and drifted for about 15 minutes, coming to rest against a pier along the Halifax shore. Thousands of people on their way to work, already working at harborside jobs, or at home in Halifax and Dartmouth, stopped in their tracks to watch.

Then the Mont-Blanc blew.

“A shower of shrapnel passed over the Forecastle, shattering the glass in the engine room and chart room to smithereens, which came crashing down into the alleyways,” Baker wrote. “...The fires all burst out on to the floor of the stokehold [the engine room’s coal storage] and it was a marvel that the stokers were not burned to death, but all of them escaped injury as did all the other of the ship’s company.

“A tug was alongside us at the time and part of her side was torn completely out and three of the crew were injured, one of them getting a piece of flesh weighing nearly 2 pounds torn off his leg. A hail of shrapnel descended about 20 yards from the ship, this came with such force that had it struck us we should certainly have all been lost.”

The Mont-Blanc had disintegrated, showering iron fragments and black tar across Halifax; the shaft of its anchor, weighing 1,140 pounds, spiked into the earth more than two miles away. The explosion tore a hole in the harbor bottom, unleashing a tidal wave that tossed ships as if they were bathtub toys and washed away a Mi’kmaq fishing settlement that had been at the northwestern end of the basin for centuries. A volcanic plume of gray smoke, sparkling fragments and flame rose miles into the sky before billowing outward.

“This was the last of the explosion, the whole of which had taken place inside of five minutes,...” Baker wrote. “Then came a lull of a few minutes and when the smoke had cleared sufficiently, we saw clearly what had happened....One ship had been hurled wholesale for a distance of about 400 yards, dashing it close to the shore, a total wreck with dead bodies battered and smashed lying all around in disorder.

“Fires broke out on ships all around and hundreds of small crafts had been blown to hell and the sea presented an awful scene of debris and wreckage. Our doctor attended to the wounded men on the tug as quickly as possible and we laid them on stretchers in a motor boat and took them to hospital. The scene ashore was even worse.

“The N.W. part of Halifax was in total ruins and fires were springing up all over the city. Part of the railway was completely demolished and everywhere were dead and dying among the ruins. When we arrived at the hospital, the windows were all blown out and the wards were two feet deep in water owing to all the pipes having burst. We had to return to our ship as quickly as possible, as we are Guard Ship and responsible for the safety of the other vessels in harbour.”

Halifax explosion 001Halifax Explosion 002Halifax Explosion 003

Back on the Acadia, Baker beheld a desolate scene: “What a few hours before had been beautiful vessels, were now terrible wrecks, their crews all dead and bodies, arms, etc. were floating around in the water.” That afternoon the Acadia’s crew was called upon to quell a mutiny aboard the Eole, a French ship running relief for the Belgians. After doing so, they returned to their ship. “We quickly got hurried tea and proceeded ashore,” Baker wrote. “Here the scene was absolutely indescribable.

“The town was literally ablaze, the dry dock and dockyard buildings completely demolished and everywhere wounded and dead. The theatres and suitable buildings were all turned into hospitals or shelters for the accommodation of the homeless. Naval and Military pickets were patrolling the streets endeavouring to keep order. Poor little kiddies homeless, their parents having perished, were crying piteously and anxious relatives were inquiring for their dear ones.”

Virtually no family was untouched. By then, most of the nearly 2,000 known fatalities from the blast had occurred—though many bodies were unidentifiable. Some 9,000 were injured, many of them children—wounded in the face and eyes as they gazed out windows at the burning Mont-Blanc. Some 6,000 people were left homeless, and many thousands had to bed down in badly damaged houses. The coming morning would bring a blizzard and deep cold.

Ashore, “we visited the part where the fires were at their worst, and it is beyond me to describe the absolute terror of the situation,” Baker wrote. “For miles around nothing but a flaming inferno, charred bodies being dragged from the debris and those poor devils who were left still lingering were piled into motor wagons and conveyed to one of the improvised hospitals. We returned to our ship at 11pm sick at heart with the appalling misery with which the city abounded. The glare from the fires lighting the harbour up like day, on the other side of the bay, the little town of Dartmouth was also in flames on sea and land nothing but misery, death and destruction....I cannot help but marvel that we escaped.”

But Baker survived, and he served until March 1919. Then he settled in Kettering, about 80 miles north of London, with his diary, October 9, 1917, to January 14, 1918. In 1924, he married Jessie Liddington, from the nearby village of Pytchley; they had four sons. Eventually, he became head of a chain of butcher shops and meat-supply facilities. After retiring, in 1973, he moved to Australia, where two of his sons and many of his grandchildren were living. Two years later, he learned he had cancer.

At that point, he passed the diary and some photographs from his time aboard the Acadia to his son “without any explanation,” the son, Rex, told me. After his father died, in 1977, “I put them away and forgot about them for over 30 years.”

Only after Rex retired—he’s 72 now, and living in Busselton, a seaside town south of Perth—did he pull the diary from the bureau drawer where he’d stowed it. Once he read it, he suspected that it might have historical significance, so in January 2016 he contacted Bonnie Elliott, director of the Dartmouth Heritage Museum. When she read it, she says, “I fell off a log. I knew this diary was really important.”

Rex Baker carried the diary himself to Canada. While there, he boarded the Acadia, which is now a floating museum in Halifax Harbor, for the first time. Elliott met him as he stepped off the ship. “There were tears in his eyes,” she recalls.

Baker says his father “spoke to no one in the family about that experience at all.” After reading the diary, though, he says that as he walked about the Acadia, “I felt almost a presence. Like he was standing behind me.”


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

He Lost His Life By Saving A Whale

Man killed trying to rescue whale in Gulf of St. Lawrence

The Campobello Island community is mourning Joe Howlett, the man who was killed Monday while trying to rescue a whale in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

“There’s only 850 people here on Campobello Island now and Joe was a very lively character, he had a great sense of humour. Everybody knew Joe Howlett and everybody respected Joe Howlett,” said Stephen Smart, mayor of Campobello Island, which is located in southwestern New Brunswick near the U.S. border.

“It’s a big blow.”

Fisheries and Oceans Canada confirmed there was a fatal incident on July 10 involving an individual aboard one of its vessels.

“The department is deeply saddened by this incident and sends its thoughts and condolences to the individual’s family,” spokesperson Krista Petersen wrote in an email.

‘He was a very brave man’

Smart said Howlett, a father and husband, had been working to rescue a whale at the time he died.

“He did it for years, he was good at it and had a lot of successes. I’m sure for him, I sure it was just another day at work … he was a very brave man, a very good man and was doing something he believed in,” said Smart.

“If there’s any silver lining, he was helping, right? It’s a very, very steep price to pay.”

CBC News contacted the Canadian Whale Institute, a marine life conservation group that had worked with Howlett in the past, on Monday night. 

Howlett was in the boat when the suddenly liberated whale did something that led to the 59-year-old's death, although the details were not yet clear.

"The whale apparently swam away free from the gear," Jerry Conway, an adviser with the Campobello Whale Rescue Team, said Tuesday.

"The whale responded in a way that ultimately killed Joe."

Typically, a vessel will back off immediately after a rescue because whales do respond in seconds to being set free, Conway said.

Conway said it can take hours to disentangle some of the whales. While they are entangled they can't move very much, which makes it easy to work with them.

Rescuers are faced with all kinds of dangers, he said, including getting entangled in rope themselves, being dragged over the side of the boat, or being tipped into the water if a whale throws itself around and upsets the boat.

But Howlett, who co-founded the Campobello rescue team in 2002, felt a responsibility to save whales and was always thrilled when he could disentangle one from ropes.

"Once he finished the cut, and the rope fell away, you couldn't find a man more excited and happy than Joe for having  accomplished this, and seeing the whale swim away free," said Conway, a friend for 18 years.

British Columbia Is Burning

With the summer came thunderstorms and bone-dry weather conditions to British Columbia. Aggressive wildfires have burned more than 236 square kilometres of B.C. so far this year. Of the more than 550 fires the province has seen since April, nearly half were ignited in the last two weeks.

Fire ecologist Robert Gray says moisture in March in April combined with warmer temperatures to create more vegetation.

In the B.C. Interior, that means mostly shrubs and long grasses that quickly dry into kindling. And then there are all the dead pine trees ravaged by years of pine beetle infestation.

"Now we have the kind of fuel that makes fires grow very, very fast and very, very big," Gray said.

'Nothing really we can offer'

Warmer temperatures in the past two weeks alone were enough to dry the grassland out.

And then came the dry lightning and winds. An estimated 14,000 residents have already been evacuated.

BC burning

Over 10,000 residents of Williams Lake and its surrounding areas are under an evacuation alert late Monday with fires burning up large chunks of B.C.

It is the largest city currently facing such a threat after weeks of hot weather, followed by strong wind and lightning ignited the bone-dry forest of B.C.'s Interior on Friday, leading to a weekend of wildfires, road closures, evacuations and a provincial state of emergency.