Saturday Snippets is a regular weekend Daily Kos feature.

Scientists raising fresh alarms about possible surge of greenhouse gas emissions from melting permafrost: In their study published Thursday in Science Advances, the scientists concluded that merely a few degrees of Arctic warming is enough “to abruptly activate large-scale permafrost thawing,” which means there is a “sensitive trigger” for greenhouse gas emissions from the thaw. Permafrost has been gradually melting on a global scale for some time, but “abruptly” is a major concern.

What the researchers found synchs with climate models showing “large injections of CO2 into the atmosphere” when glaciers melted along with the frozen lands beneath them. The researchers dug 27,000 years into layers of previously frozen sediment at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean. They found that rapid warming had occurred at the end of the last ice age. This caused the permafrost to thaw, become mud, and flow into the sea, releasing huge amounts of carbon dioxide and methane. Today the Arctic’s 9 million square miles of permafrost contain more carbon than the Earth’s entire atmosphere. As Bob Berwyn at Inside Climate News points out, a large, rapid release of CO2 beyond what is currently projected would accelerate global warming. The researchers scrutinized three warming phases. One occurred about 14,700 years ago, when temperatures in the Arctic rose suddenly by 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit, said lead author Jannik Martens of the University of Stockholm. More study is required since, among other things, the researchers only sampled the sea bottom in a limited area of the Siberia. 

Said Merritt Turetsky director of the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research at the University of Colorado, Boulder: “There is momentum in the climate system and also in permafrost thaw trajectories. Once permafrost begins to thaw in some settings, a number of self-organizing feedbacks kick in and that means that thaw may continue to occur even if the climate cooled again. We need to aim as a society to keep permafrost carbon in the ground and out of the atmosphere by keeping it frozen.” 

• Bernard Cohen dies at 86: He was the ACLU lawyer who took on Virginia’s long-standing ban against interracial marriage, arguing the case—Loving v. Virginia—all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled unanimously to strike the law. The Lovings were Mildred, of African American and Native heritage, and Richard, a white man. The ruling ended anti-miscegenation laws in the 16 Southern states that still had them on the books in 1967. In the 20 years before Loving was decided, 14 other states, including Colorado, California, and Oregon, had ended their own bans on interracial marriage. Depending on the state, these laws barred marriage by whites of Blacks most commonly, as well as Asians, Filipinos, American Indians, Native Hawaiians, or in the case of Georgia and South Carolina, all nonwhites. Cohen was born in 1934 in Brooklyn, N.Y., to Jewish immigrants from Latvia and Romania. His specialty was environmental and employment law until he retired in 2006. From 1980 to 1996, he served in the Virginia House of Delegates, where he introduced a bill to decriminalize homosexuality. It failed, but in 2003 the state did finally decriminalize sex acts between people of the same sex. The 2015 Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which guaranteed same-sex couples the right to marry, cited Loving v. Virginia. The Lovings, the court case, and Bernard Cohen are commemorated in two Virginia historical markers—one in Richmond, dedicated in 2017, and one in Caroline County, dedicated in 2018.


Mitch McConnell blocking coronavirus relief legislation for 155 days, legislation to restore Voting Rights Act for 315 days & legislation to prevent foreign election interference for 359 days while rushing to confirm Barrett 17 days before Nov 3 when 25 MILLION already voted

— Ari Berman (@AriBerman) October 17, 2020

California GOP says it will remove unofficial ballot drop-off boxes. But not all Republican leaders agree: The drop-off boxes placed in Fresno, Los Angeles, and Orange counties, were legal Republicans said, citing a 2016 law allowing people to give their ballot to someone they trust to deliver it to the proper authorities. How dropping a ballot into a box with nobody around seems a pretty big stretch of the meaning of trust. Moreover, the person who takes such a ballot is legally required to sign the envelope it’s in. The drop-off boxes, some labeled “official,” were deceptive, according to California Secretary of State Alex and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. They sent the state GOP a cease and desist letter Monday demanding that any ballots dropped into the unofficial boxes be recorded and returned to county election officials. They gave the party until Thursday to comply. In a virtual press conference Friday, Padilla and Becerra said attorneys for the California GOP had agreed to “concessions” on their ballot collection program. But some Republicans are saying otherwise: Said Rep. Ken Calvert, a Republican representing the 42nd congressional district “Instead of working with us to fix an error that was already quickly resolved, the Democrats that run our state tried to intimidate people of faith and Republicans and suppress their vote,” Calvert tweeted. “We have stood our ground and our legal ballot collections WILL continue.” Just chest-thumping in Padilla’s view. “What we hear in terms of rhetoric is one thing, what we see in practice is another,” Padilla said. 

For Howler monkeys it’s calls vs. balls when it comes to sex: Male Howlers can really roar, but there’s a price. If you’ve never heard a howler, here’s your chance. Capable of putting out 140 decibels, the level of a firecracker or a gunshot from a small pistol, courting males use that powerful voice box to show off for the females while everyone else hunts for ear protectors. Bigger voice, bigger virility, right? As it turns out, however, Cambridge University researchers in a study published this week in the journal Current Biology found a surprising correlation. Vice reporter Becky Ferreira wrote, “the louder the monkey’s calls, the smaller the monkey’s balls.” The researchers sized up dozens of monkeys’ testes and compared them to the hyoid bones in their throats. There was a negative correlation between decibel levels and testicular heft. “We found that males with larger hyoids, who can make lower-pitch vocalizations, have smaller testes and live in single-male groups with a harem of a few females,” anthropologist Leslie Knapp, a senior author of the study, said in a statement. “Males with smaller hyoids live in multimale groups and have larger testes.” The small-balled monkeys have sole breeding access to females in their harem while the better-endowed monkeys live in groups of many males and females that freely copulate with each other.

Suppliers say stockpiling survival goods, including firearms, has been rising all year: Companies that make their living from selling “prepper” foods packaged for stockpiling are having a hard time keeping up, with one claiming sales are five times higher than at this time last year. 

Canadian military forges letter falsely warning residents of roaming wolf pack: The letter, headed with a fake logo of the Wildlife Division of Nova Scotia’s Department of Lands and Forestry, was part of a training of propaganda skills. It was created by information warfare specialists with the Halifax Rifles, a reserve unit of the Canadian Armed Forces that performs armored reconnaissance.  Howver, it was just an exercise, a Defense spokesman said, and the letter wasn’t supposed to be released to the public. He added that it was unknown how the mistake occurred. Emma Briant, a professor at Bard College in the U.S. specializes in researching military propaganda. She told reporter David Pugliese at the Ottawa Citizen that what had happened was an ethical violation. “This is way over the top,” Briant said. “It’s a very dangerous path when you start targeting your own public with false information and trying to manipulate them. […] You start a rumor about wolves on the loose and then you see how the public reacts.”

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Saturday Snippets: Lawyer who beat interracial marriage ban dies; the menace of thawing permafrost 1