Reading Around the Internet, January 11, 2016

Good morning — we have a beautiful, cold morning here in Cape Girardeau. It’s a welcome change to the rainy weather we had all weekend.

A few noteworthy items popped up late last week and over the weekend around the Internet that I know various readers may find interesting:

Toxic Torts

There’s an interesting discussion about a toxic tort case in The New York Times Magazine, titled “The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare.” Lawyer Rob Bilott has been working to expose a very long history of chemical pollution. Nathaniel Rich describes the history behind the case as well as some of the legal maneuverings. For those interested in groundwater issues as well as toxic tort litigation, it’s both a fascinating and frustrating read: fascinating, because of the manner in which the case came to Bilott and his commitment to it; frustrating, because there remain so many unresolved issues after years of litigating.

The Mississippi River Flood

As the flood that caused so much damage here in Missouri and in Illinois moves southward, the Army Corps of Engineers continues to activate flood works in various areas. Yesterday, they opened the gates on the Bonnet Carré spillway in Louisiana. This spillway is activated in order to allow waters from the Mississippi River to flow into Lake Pontchartrain. The goal is to keep the river below the 17 feet (the levees in New Orleans protect the city up to 20 feet). If the Morganza spillway needs to be opened, the earliest that will occur is October 13th. They expect the river to crest tomorrow. WeatherUnderground has some great coverage. If you click through, be sure to also check out their discussion of the subtropical storm that appears to be forming in the Atlantic.

Also, NASA has released images of the New Year’s Flood. For those of you particularly interested in flooding along the river the images are very interesting. If you scroll down, you’ll see that they have also provided links to various other sites that may be of interest, including the National Weather Service’s review of the event.

Huge Bushfire Creates Weather System in Western Australia

Finally, this story caught my eye. There’s a huge blaze in Yarloop, Western Australia that has (it appears), created its own weather system. Courtney Bembridge at ABC News ( reports on it, describing the ways in which this weather system is making it more difficult to fight the fire. Because the heat of the fire is rising to meet moisture in the atmosphere, lightning storms have formed. The story explains the process, with graphics and is well worth taking the time to read.

Reading Around the Internet: September 22, 2014

Land Rights and Sustainability

A recent report by Rights and Resources and presented at the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples argues that recognizing the fundamental rights of indigenous peoples living in tropical areas must include securing their rights to their land and thus, to their livelihood, and that this would not only help indigenous peoples economically, but would also help to maintain the forests. As the report states, “Secure local land rights are increasingly recognized as a low-cost strategy to reduce forest carbon emissions; a means to reduce financial risk to investments and secure a sustainable supply of commodities; and a basic human right of the people whose lives and livelihoods rely on local resources.”

Vulnerable Populations and Property Rights

An interesting story from the Asia Foundation discusses various property rights issues that have emerged in Asia. They write that there are key areas that are impacted when land tenure is insecure: “displaced women in conflict and post-conflict countries, urban land tenure for youth, and innovative technologies improving land tenure for vulnerable populations.” This echoes both the report mentioned above written by Rights and Resources and another I had blogged about published by the Open Society Institute a few months ago. Taken all together, there is an emerging consensus among advocates worldwide that property rights matter to a stable and healthy society in part because they protect some of the most vulnerable people in a society.


Yes indeed, here’s my obsession again: The Washington Post had a fascinating story this weekend about volcanologists — no, they are not people who study Vulcans. They study volcanoes…  Sometimes, this involves running and finding cover as hot ash and red-hot rocks fly at them. Sometimes they get to stand back in awe and just watch. No matter what, they have interesting jobs. The story is great and covers some of the current volcanic activity and includes some beautiful and dramatic photos.