Lubricated earthquakes

It’s well known that tectonic plates can slip underneath another plate in subduction zones and that violent earthquakes occur when the plates stick and release. Research is revealing the frequency of potential earthquakes. If it weren’t for ‘lubricated’ sliding, British Columbia would have a major earthquake every fourteen months and Japan every six. I’m not sure whether the lubrication is from melting rock or from seawater or a bit of both.

A map of British Columbia's seacoast shows where earthquakes occur

Cascadia subduction zone

Canadian government muzzles federal researchers

Canadian scientists are being muzzled by the Conservative Reform Alliance Party  government, which refuses to let them talk about their research without vetting all statements first. This has a chilling effect on  research, as the free exchange of information is crucial to coming to the correct conclusions. It also deprives Canadians of knowing what their tax dollars are paying for and the verified facts that they could use to make decisions with.

By Petti Fong Western Bureau

VANCOUVER—As thousands of researchers gather in Vancouver for an international conference, focus has turned to the Canadian government and concerns that federal scientists are being muzzled from talking about their work.

A panel discussion at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting heard that federal scientists — including those at Environment Canada, the Canadian Food and Inspection Agency and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans — are doing top-line research that’s being published in some of the most prestigious journals. But the Canadian public isn’t aware of this work because scientists have been told not to talk without getting clearance through layers of bureaucracy in Ottawa.

“Scientists are first and foremost a public servant, not a servant for the ministry,” said Andrew Weaver, a climatologist at the University of Victoria.

Weaver said he gets frequent emails from public-sector colleagues looking to leave the federal government. “When you control people, morale is bad.”

A policy change in 2008 said federal scientists must direct all media inquiries to national headquarters and not respond to requests to talk about their work.

Claire Dansereau, the deputy minister of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, was listed as a participant in the panel discussion. But Dansereau did not appear and a chair was left symbolically empty at the table. Department spokeswoman Mélanie Carkner said that organizers knew on Jan. 6 that the deputy minister “would have to respectfully decline the invitation to participate.”

Francesca Grifo, director of the scientific integrity program with the New York-based Union of Concerned Scientists, said scientists must be allowed to speak about their work so that the public can stay informed about research being done to safeguard water, protect the environment and ensure pharmaceuticals are regulated.

“We can’t manage without information,” she said Friday.

Last year, Kristina Miller, a Department of Fisheries and Oceans scientist who had her research published in Science, was told not to talk to the media.

On Friday, seven groups including the World Federation of Science Journalists and the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression sent an open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper citing another example of an Environment Canada scientist being prevented from talking about his ozone layer research.

“Clearly Canadians have the right to learn more about the science they support and to have unfettered access to the expertise of publicly funded scientist,” said the letter.

Faced with staffing cuts, the 23,000 federal scientists are operating in a culture of fear, said Johanne Fillion, a spokeswoman with the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada.

Sex abuse in Scouts Canada

Yet another organization proves to have feet of clay. The CBC’s Fifth Estate found 340 children abused by active scout leaders. There are many fine leaders in Scouts Canada. But child abusers go where the children are.

Posted in people. Tags: , , . 1 Comment »

Spotted bats are at risk in British Columbia

A few scattered specimens of spotted bats have been found in B.C., north of where they were previously found. They are at risk, of course!

Religious nut charged with two counts of threatening death

A religious (not pseudo-religious, as some newspapers would have it) crank has finally been charged for his threats:

  • A deranged spammer of religiously based death threats has been charged with two counts–perhaps the most recent and local of his offences? Or perhaps the most vicious? Those with the youngest victims? Who know? At least the Montreal Police were shamed off their duffs by the blaze of publicity shone on them by an online petition.
  • He wasn’t lured into threatening the police. I don’t think anyone expected that he would start threatening them, but he started signing the petition himself in order to place threats against other signers in the comments. Which sent his threats straight to the police. Then his habit of choosing “Reply All” for anything that mentioned him meant that his Tweeted threats against people discussing him also went to @SPVM, the Montreal Police.

Police finally launch an investigation of Dennis Markuze

The Montreal Gazette reports that Montreal Police have finally been motivated to start an investigation into tens of thousands of death threats sent by one man who calls himself David Mabus and who uses hundreds of e-mail accounts, twitter accounts, and forum IDs to send pre-written death threats to skeptics and atheists. Hate speech, anyone? International death threats, anyone?

The petition points out

“Anyone who associates with scientifically and skeptically minded people,” it adds, “is likely to become a target for unsettling rants and threats to their life and well-being,” with recipients including “scientists, writers, public figures, atheists, and their friends.”

“Mabus” apparently takes religion as his excuse to issue threats of torture and decapitation.

Many people have filed format complaints:

Tim Farley, a computer-security expert in Atlanta, Ga., told The Gazette that, “as instructed” by Montreal police, “I filed a report with the Atlanta police on this person in January [2011] when he first started sending me direct death threats.” Farley said he also faxed that report – on Feb. 10 at 3:43 p.m. – to Station 7 in St. Laurent, the station nearest to where the man apparently lives and works.

“Today (Wednesday [Aug. 10]) was the first time anyone from the police has ever called me,” Farley added.

In  a typical excuse, police claim never to have heard of the problem:

…Monday afternoon, following an inquiry by The Gazette, a Montreal police public-relations official said: “We haven’t received any complaints” about ‘Mabus.’

[Montreal police spokesperson Lt. Ian] Lafrenière said he was not aware of earlier complaints to police about the man’s activities…. Lafrenière said he wasn’t aware of any complaint from [UMM Prof. PZ] Myers.

Prof. Myers filed at least one formal complaint in 2009.

Montrealer threatens to murder science journalists

Rutherford Mansfield says Police pontificate as Montrealer threatens to murder science journalists — I don’t think so. “Police drag their heels” is more like it. Mansfield has a succinct summary of the problem:

A Montreal man who uses the name David Mabus, and who has been identified as Dennis Markuze of Saint-Laurent, Qué., has allegedly been issuing death threats to American science journalists and bloggers over the course of the past three years, first by email and lately via twitter. However, despite repeated complaints to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and Montreal City Police (SVPM), no action has been taken.

“I’ve been getting emails from him for about 3 years or so, ever since I started my website and James Randi mentioned it in a blog post,” said Tim Farley, whose blog challenges people to think critically. “I have almost 60 screen shots of DIRECT death threats he sent to me.  Stuff like “I am going to execute you, fucker… The police will not save you… we’re going to beat the fuck out of you, u lying little sack of shit…. and so on.”

Markuze appears, ironically, to be on some kind of extremist Christian bent, attacking the journalists for their defence of science against creationism or their beliefs in the separation of Church and State. One blogger who prefers to remain anonymous provided the following quote, which was left on a July 2010 article about Galileo: “We have orders to EXTERMINATE you and your entire family if continue to talk about GOD and RELIGION the way *you do* do you got the msg, you stupid little fucker?”

Read the rest at Rutherfield Mansfield’s site .

Happy Canada Day!

“Quoth Pierre Berton:

“We are a nation of canoeists, and have been since the earliest days, paddling our way up the St. Lawrence, across the lakes, over the portages of the shield, west along the North Saskatchewan through the Yellowhead gap and thence southwest by the Columbia and Fraser rivers to the sea. When someone asks you how Canada could exist as a horizontal country with its plains and mountains running vertically, tell him about the paddlers. —Why We Act Like Canadians, 1982

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