Storms of My Grandchildren by Dr. James Hansen

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 11:34 PM GMT on July 26, 2010

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"Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity" is NASA climate change scientist Dr. James Hansen's first book. Dr. Hansen is arguably the most visible and well-respected climate change scientist in the world, and has headed the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City since 1981. He is also an adjunct professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University. Dr. Hansen greatly raised awareness of the threat of global warming during his Congressional testimony during the record hot summer of 1988, and issued one of the first-ever climate model predictions of global warming (see an analysis here to see how his 1988 prediction did.) In 2009, Dr. Hansen was awarded the Carl-Gustaf Rossby Research Medal, the highest honor bestowed by the American Meteorological Society, for his "outstanding contributions to climate modeling, understanding climate change forcings and sensitivity, and for clear communication of climate science in the public arena."

Storms of My Grandchildren focuses on the key concepts of the science of climate change, told through Hansen's personal experiences as a key player in field's scientific advancements and political dramas over the past 40 years. Dr. Hansen's writing style is very straight-forward and understandable, and he clearly explains the scientific concepts involved in a friendly way that anyone with a high school level science education can understand. I did not find any scientific errors in his book. However, some of his explanations are too long-winded, and the book is probably too long, at 274 pages. Nevertheless, Storms of My Grandchildren is a must-read, due to the importance of the subject matter and who is writing it. Hansen is not a fancy writer. He comes across as a plain Iowan who happened to stumble into the field of climate change and discovered things he had to speak out about. And he does plenty of speaking out in his book.

James Hansen vs. Richard Lindzen
Dr. Hansen's book opens with an interesting chapter on his participation in four meetings of Vice President Dick Cheney's cabinet-level Climate Task Force in 2001. It seems that the Bush Administration was prepared to let Dr. Hansen's views on climate change influence policy. However, Dr. Richard Lindzen, whom Hansen describes as "the dean of of global warming contrarians", was also present at the meetings. Dr.Lindzen was able to confuse the task force members enough so that they never took Dr. Hansen's views seriously. Hansen observes that "U.S. policies regarding carbon dioxide during the Bush-Cheney administration seem to have been based on, or at a minimum, congruent with, Lindzen's perspective." Hansen asserts that Lindzen was able to do this by acting more like a lawyer than a scientist: "He and other contrarians tend to act like lawyers defending a client, presenting only arguments that favor their client. This is in direct contradiction to...the scientific method." Hansen also comments that he asked Lindzen what he thought of the link between smoking and cancer, since Lindzen had been a witness for the tobacco industry decades earlier. Lindzen "began rattling off all the problems with the data relating smoking to health problems, which was closely analogous to his views of climate data."

Alarmism
Global warming contrarians often dismiss scientists such a Dr. Hansen as "alarmists" who concoct fearsome stories about climate change in order to get research funding. Dr. Lindzen made this accusation at Cheney's Climate Task Force in 2001. However, Dr. Hansen notes that "in 1981 I lost funding for research on the climate effects of carbon dioxide because the Energy Department was displeased with a paper, 'Climate Impact of Increasing Carbon Dioxide,' I had published in Science magazine. The paper made a number of predictions for the 21st century, including 'opening of the fabled Northwest Passage', which the Energy Department considered to be alarmist but which have since proven to be accurate." If you read Dr. Hansen's book and listen to his lectures, it is clear that he is not an alarmist out to get more research funding by hyping the dangers of global warming. Hansen says in his book that "my basic nature nature is very placid, even comfortably stolid", and that nature comes through very clearly in Storms of My Grandchildren. Hansen's writings express a quiet determination to plainly set forth the scientific truth on climate change. He has surprisingly few angry words towards the politicians, lobbyists, and scientists intent on distorting the scientific truth.

The science of climate change
The bulk of Storms of My Grandchildren is devoted to explanations of the science of climate change. Hansen's greatest concern is disintegration of the gerat ice sheets in Greenland and West Antarctica causing sea level rise: "Once the ice sheets begin to rapidly disintegrate, sea level would be continuously changing for centuries. Coastal cities would become impractical to maintain." Hansen is concerned that evidence from past climate periods show that the massive ice sheets that cover Greenland and Antarctica can melt quickly, with large changes within a century. For example, sea level at the end of the most recent Ice Age, 13,000 - 14,000 years ago, rose at a rate of 3 - 5 meters (10 - 17 feet) per century for several centuries. Hansen is convinced that just a 1.7 -2°C warming, which would likely result if we stabilize CO2 at 450 ppm, would be a "disaster scenario" that would trigger rapid disintegration of the ice sheets and disastrous rises in sea level. Hansen advocates stabilizing CO2 at 350 ppm (we are currently at 390 ppm, with a rate of increase of 2 ppm per year.)

Another of Hansen's main concerns is the extinction of species. He notes that studies of more than 1,000 species of plants, animals, and insects have found an average migration rate towards the poles due to climate warming in the last half of the 20th century to be four miles per decade. "That is not fast enough. During the past thirty years the lines marking the regions in which a given average temperature prevails (isotherms) have been moving poleward at a rate of about thirty-five miles per decade. If greenhouse gases continue to increase at business-as-usual rates, then the rate of isotherm movement will double in this century to at least seventy miles per decade."

Hansen's other main concern is the release of large amounts of methane gas stored in sea-floor sediments in the form of methane hydrates. If ocean temperatures warm according to predictions, the higher temperatures at the sea floor may be enough to destabilize the methane hydrate sediments and release huge quantities of methane into the atmosphere. Methane is a greenhouse gas 20 - 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Solutions to the climate change problem
Dr. Hansen is a controversial figure, since he has stepped outside his field of expertise and become an activist in promoting solutions to the climate change problem. He devotes a chapter called "An Honest, Effective Path" in the book to this. His main theme is that we need to tax fossil fuels using a "fee-and-dividend" approach. All of the tax money collected would be distributed uniformly to the public. This carbon tax would gradually rise, giving people time to adjust their lifestyle, choice of vehicle, home insulation, etc. Those who do better at reducing their fossil fuel use will receive more in the dividend than they will pay in the added costs of the products they buy. The approach is straightforward and does not require a large bureaucracy, but currently has little political support. Hansen is vehemently opposed to the approach that has the most political support, "Cap-and-trade": "Cap-and-trade is what governments and the people in alligator shoes (the lobbyists for special interests) are trying to foist on you. Whoops. As an objective scientist I should delete such personal opinions, to at least flag them. But I am sixty-eight years old, and I am fed up with the way things work in Washington." Hansen also promotes an overlooked type of nuclear power, "fast" reactors with liquid metal coolant that produce far less nuclear waste and are much more efficient than conventional nuclear reactors.

Quotes from the book
"Humanity treads today on a slippery slope. As we continue to pump greenhouse gases into the air, we move onto a steeper, even more slippery incline. We seem oblivious to the danger--unaware how close we may be to a situation in which a catastrophic slip becomes practically unavoidable, a slip where we suddenly lose all control and are pulled into a torrential stream that hurls us over a precipice to our demise."

"In order for a democracy to function well, the public needs to be honestly informed. But the undue influence of special interests and government greenwash pose formidable barriers to a well-informed public. Without a well-informed public, humanity itself and all species on the planet are threatened."

"Of course by 2005 I was well aware that the NASA Office of Public Affairs had become an office of propaganda. In 2004, I learned that NASA press releases related to global warming were sent to the White House, where they were edited to appear less serious or discarded entirely."

"If we let special interests rule, my grandchildren and yours will pay the price."

"The role of money in our capitals is the biggest problem for democracy and for the planet."

"The problem with asking people to pledge to reduce their fossil fuel use is that even if lots of people do, one effect is reduced demand for fossil fuel and thus a lower price--making it easier for someone else to burn...it is necessary for people to reduce their emissions, but it is not sufficient if the government does not adopt policies that cause much of the fossil fuels to be left in the ground permanently."

"I have argued that it is time to 'draw a line in the sand' and demand no new coal plants."

"The present situation is analogous to that faced by Lincoln with slavery and Churchill with Nazism--the time for compromises and appeasement is over."

"Humans are beginning to hammer the climate system with a forcing more than an order of magnitude more powerful than the forcings that nature employed."

"Once ice sheet disintegration begins in earnest, our grandchildren will live the rest of their lives in a chaotic transition period."

"After the ice is gone, would Earth proceed to the Venus syndrome, a runaway greenhouse effect that would destroy all life on the planet, perhaps permanently? While that is difficult to say based on present information, I've come to conclude that if we burn all reserves of oil, gas, and coal, there is a substantial chance we will initiate the runaway greenhouse. If we also burn the tar sands and tar shale, I believe the Venus syndrome is a dead certainty."

"One suggestion I have for now: Support Bill McKibben and his organization 350.org. It is the most effective and responsible leadership in the public struggle for climate justice."

Commentary
James Hansen understands the Earth's climate as well as any person alive, and his concern about where our climate is headed makes Storms of My Grandchildren a must-read for everyone who cares about the world their grandchildren will inherit. Storms of My Grandchildren retails for $16.50 at Amazon.com. Dr. Hansen's web site is http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/.

Jeff Masters

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I have to continuously add ice cubes to my aquarium in order to stave off algae blooms and loss of oxygen during warm summer months.
My fish get lethargic and sick when the tank gets too warm.
We are dumping pollutants into the atmosphere that is scientifically proven to warm the planet. The answer is to stop dumping pollutants into the atmosphere at the rate we've been spewing.
It will still take a very long time to correct the damage we've already done.
Simple as that.
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WOW.....serious on here today....
Levi - Islanders Have a bit tougher if the ocean moves closer each year....
Member Since: July 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 518
Got it!
Riehl’s classical model – Applies mainly to Caribbean waves.

Frank’s inverted “V” model – Applies to eastern and mid-Atlantic waves.

Theirs' a 3rd model also called

African wave model – Applies to waves over Equatorial Africa and the
western coast of Africa.

Intresting to see the differance's between these three types of tropical waves though the NHC just refers to all three as just tropical waves to avoid public confusion.
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nothing going on in the tropics for the next few days, people need to take this time to prepare for the next couple of months, which will be active.
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about this "Venus Syndrome" I'm for preventing global warming, do I have any expectation that humanity will quit acting like frogs in warming water? Will we jump out of the pot? It's anyone's guess. Fortunately for Humans if we were to trigger such a doomsday scenario we also have the ability to counteract it giving a few of us the ability to survive, and hopefully those few would have learned their lesson.

Nuke Yellowstone.
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Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
But I have helped make sure we have a good global warming section in the library---put several good global warming books on the purchase list, and they all have been approved.

Way to go.
I will buy this book and donate it to my local library :)
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SSIG: Any author who calls for me to kill myself (to save the planet), but won't do it himself has lost all credibility. I have far better things to do with my time and money.
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Quoting CybrTeddy:
Found a great video here that shows all the storms in 2008 (author has 2009 as well if your interested) from invest to named system, it really helps you understand what processes invests go through to become named.

Link

Pretty cool. I just zoned out for 8 straight minutes.
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"...He (Lindzen) and other contrarians tend to act like lawyers defending a client, presenting only arguments that favor their client. This is in direct contradiction to...the scientific method." (Hansen)

Hansen also comments that he asked Lindzen what he thought of the link between smoking and cancer, since Lindzen had been a witness for the tobacco industry decades earlier. Lindzen "began rattling off all the problems with the data relating smoking to health problems, which was closely analogous to his views of climate data."

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Quoting angiest:


How arrogant to think that we live in a roughly optimal climate. How equally arrogant to think that we can or should attempt to control what the earth does naturally. Man's attempts to control nature have always had unintended and perhaps disastrous consequences. Go read up on the Old River in Louisiana some time, and how we unwittingly are speeding up the return of the Mississippi River to a more westerly delta.

I have a degree in geophysics with a minor in geology, so unlike probably most people taking part in this debate, I actually have a little education in climate history. We live in a decidedly frigid period of earth's history. Maybe, just maybe, trying to keep temperatures where they are is not a good thing?
It's not scientifically valid to consider the topic of climate without considering the effect that our relatively advanced species has and will do, be it something that effects both adding or subtracting CO2. One could argue that we add through burning fossil fuels that wouldn't be burnt if we didn't exist, and we subtract by mitigating factors like pollution control scrubbers in smokestacks, that wouldn't exist if our species hadn't grown smart enough to invent them. It's arrogant to avoid the topic of homo sapiens alltogether. All species are involved in the climate.
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320. SLU
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Mosquito-borne dengue fever is reaching epidemic stages across the Caribbean, with dozens of deaths reported and health authorities concerned it could get much worse as the rainy season advances.

The increase in cases is being blamed on warm weather and an unusually early rainy season, which has produced an explosion of mosquitoes. Health officials say the flood of cases is straining the region's hospitals.

In the Dominican Republic, where at least 27 deaths have been reported, hundreds of health workers and soldiers went door-to-door Saturday to warn about the virus and destroy mosquito breeding areas.

Hospitals in Trinidad are running out of beds, and Puerto Rico is facing what officials say could be its worst dengue outbreak in more than a decade.

"We are having a really large epidemic," said Kay Tomashek, epidemiology section chief of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's dengue branch in Puerto Rico.

At least five people have died in the U.S. Caribbean territory, and another 6,300 suspected cases have been reported as of mid-July, she told The Associated Press.

Only 100 more cases were reported during the same period in 1998, which marked the island's worst dengue outbreak. By the end of that year, the virus had sickened 17,000 and killed 19 people.

In Trinidad, officials added 15 beds to the San Fernando General Hospital on Friday. They also opened a dengue clinic to follow up on patients who are being discharged quickly to free up more beds. At least one death has been reported.

Dr. Anton Cumberbatch, chief medical officer of the island's health ministry, said he is worried that the number of deaths and cases of the more severe hemorrhagic dengue will increase this year.

The more people are repeatedly infected, the greater the chance they will develop the hemorrhagic form, which can be fatal, he told a recent news conference.

And since Trinidad had a severe dengue bout just two years ago, that means it is likely people who had the virus will get it again, he added.

"The risk and the severity of the dengue situation is apparently rearing its head at a really rapid rate," Cumberbatch said.

The Dominican Republic is grappling with the same problem.

Nurses at a children's hospital in Santiago, which has one of the highest dengue incidences this year, demanded more resources and personnel. Four children died this week in Santiago, located northwest of the capital of Santo Domingo.

Health Minister Bautista Rojas says more than 5,000 people have been diagnosed with dengue, but Senen Caba, president of the Dominican Medical Association, disputed those numbers and said doctors have reported more than 7,000 cases.

"Hospitals are flooded with fever cases," Caba said. "Emergency rooms are overflowing."

Caba said the last time the country experienced a similar dengue epidemic was a decade ago.

"There has been a kind of explosion when it comes to mosquitoes," he said of this year.

French Guiana, Guadeloupe and St. Martin also have registered a high number of dengue cases, and more than 16,700 total cases had been reported across the Caribbean through early June, according to the latest statistics available from the Pan American Health Organization.

There are four types of dengue, and all cause fever, headaches and extreme joint and muscle pain. Most victims recover within a week, and while they become immune to the specific type of dengue they caught, they are still vulnerable to other types, Tomashek said.

Health officials fear the virus, which had once disappeared from the United States, also could gain a foothold there.

While test results for a suspected dengue case in the Miami area came back negative this week, a recent study found five percent of Key West residents show evidence they have been exposed to the virus.

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Quoting StormGoddess:

Congratulations, you have earned the status of the very first person on here for me to go utterly and completely, POOF.


Huh? What did I say? :)
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Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
Actually we do live in a roughly optimal climate. It's the stability and duration of this optimal climate that made our civilization possible.

How possible will our current civilization be with our breadbaskets dried up (if too warm) or frozen (if too cold)

Our current climate determines our sea level. Is the flooding of 2 billion people if all ice sheets melt suboptimal?


Well true such a change would kill a lot of the human population but what if that particular kind of climate had been around as long as this one had? The 2 billion living near the shore would be farther inland and in all likelyhood the human civilization would have thrived as much as now. Who's to say what the earth's optimal temperature is? Really? How can we know that? A typical human is roughly comfortable between 65 and 80 degrees with the ability to adapt to temperatures even outside of that range. The earth's average temperature is 59 and I guess pushing 60 with the current warming. Huh....big deal right? Sure the extreme ends like the deserts and rainforests get even more deadly hot as the earth's overall temperature rises, but so what? We simply will shrink our existence in the equatorial latitudes and increase our presence in the arctic regions.

And honestly, if the ocean was getting an inch closer to my house every year.....I'd move inland before it got too close. Wouldn't you?
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26548
SSIG: A "Global warming 'section' in the library"! LOL! ROFLOL!!! A whole 'section' just for AGW.

I hope you cataloged it fairly with similar books in it's proper place: 'Religious fiction', or perhaps 'fairy tales'.
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Quoting Halyn:
I recently read an article that an area in Ethiopia is in the process of becoming a "new sea". The Ethiopian Rift .. 35 miles long and 20 ft. wide opened in just days .. anyway .. I was sitting here wondering what, if any, effect that will have on the development of the storms we get coming off Africa. Sheesh .. that is what happens when old minds are allowed to wander. Anyone else read that article ?


You may be referring to the East African Rift. Here, assuming current motions continue (which is not a given) the African Plate is slowly pulling apart, and two new subplates are in the process of forming. Off the top of my head, I believe they are called the Somali (east) and Nubian (west) plate. Over the next several to tens of millions of years, the gap between the two subplates may eventually become wide enough and subside deeply enough to allow the ocean to spill in, forming a new ocean similar to the way the Atlantic opened in the Mesozoic. We don't need to worry about this in the foreseeable future, though. :)
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angiest
"We live in a decidedly frigid period of earth's history. Maybe, just maybe, trying to keep temperatures where they are is not a good thing?"

I agree with this. I do believe we can and will cope with a warmer earth and might actually thrive ( some species wont but others will evolve as they always do :)
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Quoting angiest:


At various times during the current ice age, the coast of Texas extended very much further than it does today. However, several tens of millions of years ago (~70), much of Texas, and indeed the west central US, lay under a shallow sea. Earth at that time was very much warmer than it is now, perhaps by some 10 degrees and there were no polar ice caps at all (as seen from stratigraphy). Put it another way, we inhabit one of the coldest times in the last half billion years of earth's history, polar ice caps are a rarity.

How arrogant to think that we live in a roughly optimal climate. How equally arrogant to think that we can or should attempt to control what the earth does naturally. Man's attempts to control nature have always had unintended and perhaps disastrous consequences. Go read up on the Old River in Louisiana some time, and how we unwittingly are speeding up the return of the Mississippi River to a more westerly delta.

I have a degree in geophysics with a minor in geology, so unlike probably most people taking part in this debate, I actually have a little education in climate history. We live in a decidedly frigid period of earth's history. Maybe, just maybe, trying to keep temperatures where they are is not a good thing?

Congratulations, you have earned the status of the very first person on here for me to go utterly and completely, POOF.
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306. Halyn
I recently read an article that an area in Ethiopia is in the process of becoming a "new sea". The Ethiopian Rift .. 35 miles long and 20 ft. wide opened in just days .. anyway .. I was sitting here wondering what, if any, effect that will have on the development of the storms we get coming off Africa. Sheesh .. that is what happens when old minds are allowed to wander. Anyone else read that article ?
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Quoting FLdewey:


Interesting, I'll have to read up on the OS. I'm an Apple developer, so I work inside "the jail". If the code is out there it will be stolen no matter what OS is in question. In the end people who are intent on stealing your work, will steal your work.


If you are in the command line you can CD to the real location where the files are located and read them. Again, it is not fool-proof but it does strike a balance between protecting code and allowing an open platform.
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Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
But I have helped make sure we have a good global warming section in the library---put several good global warming books on the purchase list, and they all have been approved.


Have u purchased any that give the other side of the debate?
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296 Ossqss: Do tell...
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Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
Actually we do live in a roughly optimal climate. It's the stability and duration of this optimal climate that made our civilization possible.

How possible will our current civilization be with our breadbaskets dried up (if too warm) or frozen (if too cold)

Our current climate determines our sea level. Is the flooding of 2 billion people if all ice sheets melt suboptimal?


The "current" climate has only been in place for about 10-12000 years (the Holocene period). In geologic time it won't even be detectable (unless, in the unlikely event it continues as-is for some time).
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Quoting FLdewey:


LOL, and how is that a "solution?"


User installed applications are stored in an encrypted filesystem, not visible when mounted as a USB drive. Developer code is protected from all but the most intent of prying eyes, while allowing everyone to access their phone to its full potential via "jailbreaking"* it.


*webOS is not run inside a jail, and Palm provides clear documentation for how to access to underlying Linux's root account.
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The Texas school book controversy
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Quoting bappit:

Actually, Riehl was a bit confused.

i need to read up on both to form an opion on this anyway thanks
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Quoting bappit:

No, not that one. He was referring more to the [cynical] success of people in the info/entertainment business.

I'm thinking more of the unwitting stupidity of successful people. Or is that unwitting success of stupid people?



You'll never go broke underestimating the taste of the American public...Thats the one.



And it was P.T. Barnum
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SSIG: As a taxpayer I'm offended that some of my money was spent on that piece of AGW fiction. Is a 'thank you' too much to ask?

If you like buying fiction consider purchasing some Ayn Rand. I'd hazard to say she is far better at predicting the future than the AGW crowd.
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thats not a good system, where are the peoples votes.
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Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:


Spending public money to buy books is part of my job. I spend taxpayer money on all sorts of books. Get federal grants too.


Ya gonna tell us how much you boasted about spending on books for kids who's subject matter most of us would be offended by? Please expand upon that so we know who we really are dealing with...........Please feel free to let us know!
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Quoting RuBRNded:


Exactly, politics dominate the extent of what an "emergency" is.


Hurricane Dolly was declared by FEMA was politically driven during the election year. Damages were minimal.
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Quoting FLdewey:
In totally unrelated news the US "legalized" jail breaking phones... well that sucks for developers.

US citizens can legally jailbreak and unlock their smartphones %u2014 notably Apple's iPhone %u2014 and videographers circumvent copy protection to use short movie snippets for "criticism or comment".


Full Article



Well the solution is just to use a totally open platform, such as HP/Palm's webOS. :)
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About

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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