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With the Noose Around My Neck 68

            this was the first time I saw people burning ...

Whenever they pronounced words starting with m, their lips would disappear for a moment then, swollen, reanimate with incredible speed. In the time that’s passed since this encounter, I’ve thought endlessly about that moment, and therefore of the ontological status of values, but also the many different wastelands that we live in. I wish I had a better word than “values.” Beings are pleats or folds, into which all other beings are enfolded, into which, etc. In the past 12 months, in the Mediterranean, according to the latest figures released by the UN’s refugee agency, 4,337 of them are believed to have drowned. We have a problem, Houston ... oh, wait. The slave block is not a manmade creation to honor history; it is history. There is no question over the interpretation of the block — it sits in the precise spot where African arriving in Fredericksburg were sold. The question is what to do with all of this. Those who maintain that the block should stay where it is assert that rather than serving as a blow to racists, removing the block will give them the privilege of forgetting history — a privilege those shitheads do not deserve. I wish I had a better word than “shitheads.” On the other hand, tourists perform mock slave auctions atop this block, or otherwise disrespect it by sitting on it, standing on it, and taking smiling pictures of their family with it. I wish I had a better word than “shitheads.” We have a problem, Rohingya ... oh, wait. We have a problem, Mumbai ... Writing in 1921, Roman Jakobson cites this line, in his essay “On Realism in Art,” writes

        0j)fraff             )       carcen)                later)s flasp



        the forest




        next to the









That same year, I made a plan to take walks in the mornings with my roommate. Then she decided that the walks weren’t enough exercise for her and she joined a gym, telling me that it “became a kind of happy place for her, like Whole Foods.” That’s when my head would fill up with the sound of bees — bees made of wire, and as I concentrated on this sound, it would pull to a filament, an “essential surplus” — and what else is an essential surplus if not another definition of the Sublime? Or not. As Tommy Pico puts it in IRL,

        Kumeyaays knew
        a rounded Earth based
        on the curve of stars
        or didn’t, I’ll never know.
        It’s a dark part inside me.

Which I can relate to, or not, because I drive the Kumeyaay Hwy a lot these days, erupting from within : specks as small as pinheads & as large as peas appear all over his body, swelling more with each hour : these purplish bruises float to the surface of the skin & stay, like floating leaves : with each & every day many patients like him arrive, whose bodies are without wounds but slowly change into canvasses of specks : he has lost so much of his hair already : his eyelids are covered with bleeding specks : the inside of his mouth rots : the dust here is big. In the meantime the tightrope walker had begun his work; he had emerged from a little door and was walking across the rope stretched between two towers, such that it hung suspended over the market place and the people. Just as he was at the midpoint of his way, the little door opened once again and a colorful fellow resembling a jester leaped forth and hurried after the first man with quick steps. “Forward, sloth, smuggler, pale face! Or I’ll tickle you with my heel! What business have you here between the towers? You belong in the tower, you should be locked away in the tower, for you block the way for one who is better than you!” And with each word he came closer and closer to him. But when he was only one step behind him, the terrifying thing occurred that struck every mouth silent and forced all eyes to stare: — he let out a yell and leaped over the man who was in his way. This man, seeing his rival triumph in this manner, lost his head and the rope. He threw away his pole and plunged into the depths even faster than his pole, like a whirlwind of arms and legs. The market place and the people resembled the sea when a storm charges in: everyone fled apart and into one another, and especially in the spot where the body had to impact. But Zarathustra stood still and the body landed right beside him, badly beaten and broken, but not yet dead. After a while the shattered man regained consciousness and saw Zarathustra kneeling beside him. “What are you doing here?” he said finally. “I’ve known for a long time that the devil would trip me up. Now he is going to drag me off to hell: are you going to stop him?” “By my honor, friend!” answered Zarathustra. “All that you are talking about does not exist. There is no devil and no hell. Your soul will be dead even sooner than your body — fear no more!” The man looked up mistrustfully. “If you speak the truth,” he said, “then I lose nothing when I lose my life. I am not much more than an animal that has been taught to dance by blows and little treats.” “Not at all,” said Zarathustra. “You made your vocation out of danger, and there is nothing contemptible about that. Now you perish of your vocation, and for that I will bury you with my own hands.” When Zarathustra said this the dying man answered no more, but he moved his hand as if controlled by the flow of air or gasses that compose an atmosphere resulting from horizontal and vertical differences in pressure, air flowing towards areas of lower pressure. A situation that is, how can one say,

                we need 3-D

                like we need the word fuck

        we are slow moving creatures

                who plant plants backwards

        keep forgetting about the vicodin

        feel great in the morning though

                we have to

                BECAUSE WE HAVE TO

To quote Jessamyn Violet. Stuff like this confuses Z. So he went to work as a volunteer at William Robertson Coe Ornithology Library, which is housed in the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History. This museum has one of the most comprehensive bird collections in North America. On Friday mornings Z would help skin birds for the collection. This is how he learned taxidermy. At some point, as she put it to me, she got interested in animals. This eventually led her to research the red-shanked douc langur, an endangered primate native to a small area of Vietnam near Danang City, and to learn more about the passenger pigeon, which went extinct when the last of its species, named Martha, died in the Cincinnati Zoo on September 1, 1914. Because she died before the age of Freon and refrigerated trucks, Martha was packed in a 300-pound block of ice. This, which is called skyglow, is commonly seen in the night skies of urban areas, where the stars are faint, and the horizon radiates from the city’s electricity. But I was too late. When I arrived, the only remainder of the cicadas were their thousands of skins left behind. I thought that I saw one cicada settled on a branch. When I reached out to touch it, it fell over like a corpse, a weightless carcass, as if to emphasize ... as if to emphasize ... I forgot what I was saying. “All eyeballs go to heaven.” “Geoengineering is sublime.” You can see X-rays of this condition on the Internet. There is a soft and hazy quality to the images: the bones, the dilated loops of bowel, the obstructions in question. I think it was called Pirate Dance. It was one of those dances with talking; Jill talked as she, her body, moved. There was no music. Sometimes Jill would stop talking and dance silently, with a delicate and controlled violence. She would start to talk about what happened to her on that ship, but her words would sort of ... drift off, and she would replace them with the ragged sound of her breathing and the clomping sound made by her feet. Yet reducing a body down to an urnful of ash — you’re still making something.

        And then one day the ship sailed away
        There were no more dreamers just sleepers
        in heavy attitudes on the dock
        moving as if they knew how
        among the trinkets and the souvenirs
        the random shops of modern furniture
        and a gale came and said
        it is time to take all of you away
        from the tops of the trees to the little houses ...

        And when it became time to go
        they none of them would leave without the other
        for they said we are all one here ...

        [And yes]

        The oval portrait 
        of a dog was me at an early age. 

        [And yes]

        Our star was brighter perhaps when it had water in it. 

        [And yes]

        Store clean rags in old pillow cases.

        Defend DACA.

        [This analog answering machine once belonged to Bernardine Dohrn,
        but the voice on the tape is Muhammad Ali.]

Which is to say that there are parts of the urban chimera that you can only really see out the window of a panting intercity train: the fast-coursing rivers of unused rail and mossy gravel, the heaped industrial shacks groping over each other behind barbed wire, the shockingly naked backsides of terraced houses in grimy brick and spiderweb-cracked plaster with their weirdly placed windows ... the buried secret of the nice stucco street. Soon it will be night, and the only thing visible through the train windows will be your own guilty face. I am guilty. I am sitting in someone else’s seat. See how practical questions become moral ones: if you really wanted that seat, you should have been on the platform early instead of wasting five minutes dithering over three types of layered salad at the M&S Simply Food in a drooling microcosm of the delayed-adulthood indecision that is already setting the coordinates for your wasted life and will make sure that your grave is unvisited and unmarked after you die. There are rules; if you can’t play by them then you have nobody else to blame. But trudging through the Gothic infinity of packed carriages, I find an empty seat. Reserved from Milton Keynes Central. And I sit down, knowing that it doesn’t belong to me and I’ll have to give it up, knowing that I am the most worthless creature on this train. In the seat beside me, a navy-suited creature reading the Financial Times will sometimes jab me with his elbow as he lobs himself peanut M&Ms. I hear the flickering neck-snap crackle of candy shells breaking, the damper meatier crunch of masticated peanuts, the slurp and slobber of liquefying chocolate as it gums up the unholy inside of his mouth. He wants me dead too; he knows I don’t belong in that chair, and he hates the fact that to an imaginary observer he might appear to be somehow on the same social plane as me. And me? I hate every one of them, the athletic young couple standing in the aisle nearby, the accusing eyes from the vestibule, my peanut-eating neighbour; they’ve seen my shame, and I want it to sprout tendrils and make them die. Behind me, things are also going badly. A newcomer, who boarded at Milton Keynes, short and brutal in a floral print dress, seems to have been allocated a table seat that’s currently being occupied by a family of four — fat gregarious husband, patient hijabi wife, children sucked face-first into their iPads — who also have a valid reservation. The Miltonian still expects them to move, children be damned. She’ll call a conductor. She’ll tell the authorities. When threats don’t seem to work, she leans down, arse bumping against elbows on the opposite row, to grab one of the small children from his seat. The kid screams and flails for his iPad. The husband roars and stands, swings a big broad wobbling punch, catches the aggressor just under her collarbone, and she staggers. The whole line of patient standing-room travellers tilts; I’m knocked forwards into someone’s sweaty shoulderblade. What happens next seems to coruscate in time. In the chaos of that sudden motion a sleek black camping knife tears through the fabric of the big healthy hiker’s rucksack, waiting, mechanically erect. His girlfriend, standing behind him, is knocked forwards, and it jabs deep just under her chin and comes out again, followed by a halting piss-stream of blood. There’s no sound. ‘Whoa,’ he says, noncommittally, as he rights himself; he still doesn’t know what’s just happened. She crumples dead. This carriage is not safe for me. As the first screams rise, and the panic of people crammed immovably in place spreads, I duck and sidle out back to the vestibule. My voyage begins. This was not, as I discover, the first death. They might have all started like that — accidental — but the killing made too much sense to end that way. In the rubbery intestine between carriages a sprawling clot of people has formed, a pearl around a corpse. The body flails helplessly as the train lurches from side to side, still being kicked and pummelled furiously; it’s already too disfigured to tell what its age was, or its sex. I don’t ask what crime the victim committed. I already know: they didn’t have the proper reservation. I move on, squeezing past. Sorry, I say. Sorry, they mutter in reply. The train is a linear Gormenghast, a succession of reclusive bubble-worlds, each of them with the same decor and the same grisly violence, each brutally different in what can only be called theme-and-variation ways. In the little restaurant car, children run and scream through the burst contents of bags of crisps and other people’s luggage. There’s blood crusting under their nails. They turn dagger-sharp eyes to me, and I move on. In the quiet coach bodies dangle silently from the overhead rail, mouths yawning in wordless screams. I bump my head against one with a barely audible thwock, and a lone impatient tut sounds out from somewhere behind me. I move on. I journey for a very long time, for what feels like years, pushing politely past the killing and the dying, fighting when I have to, fleeing when I can. I’m looking for something. A space where I can catch my breath, just a breath of air that’s not been made humid by sweat and frenzy. No luck. There are, I hear someone whisper, plenty of seats up in first class; you just need to buy a £12 upgrade. Impossible. By this time I’ve seen it myself: the drinks trolleys barricaded against the entrance, the sloping pile of corpses abutting it, every poor mangled idiot still gripping his credit card. I soon realise that this isn’t mere anarchy. This is the train responding creatively to its crisis, in the only way a privatised British rail service knows how. All the normal rules of decorum are still in place, the rules that let thousands of people travel amicably across the country while speaking as few words to each other as possible, the rules that give the reservation ticket its magical power and are inscribed in tiny polite jargon on its back — it’s just that the rules that ensure peace are being enforced by increasingly violent means. We are all good and valued customers, and we all have a right to be on this train. It’s just that there’s not enough room for us all. How else can we process our abstract equality? The marketplace will sort everything. The system is fair, I know it is ... There’s so much I don’t remember. Not the murder and the bloodshed – I will remember that forever — but more basic facts. Why was I going to Crewe? Why did I leave London and its nurturing stink? I paid, I think, twelve hundred pounds for my ticket. Sometimes I can’t help the vague disquieting feeling that there was someone else with me, that I was idly chatting in my stolen seat to someone important, someone that I knew but can’t now remember, until we reached Milton Keynes and everything started to become the same as it had always been. Sometimes, as I edged my way through cacophonous carriages, I’d put a hand against the windowpane and try to look outside, at scenes that felt wrong. Were we moving? Sometimes there seemed to be deserts outside, sloshing dunes in the blue twilight, running like water from vast buried scales, beneath this train gritted still by a million chattering grains of sand. Sometimes I saw the sullen fields of England crisscrossed by tracer fire, paratroopers tumbling strangled from invisible planes, and over the horizon Coventry burning. Sometimes the darkness outside was lit by a tiny pinprick of the noonday sun, burning cold to the faint peripheries of this faraway solar system, where the 19:26 Virgin Trains service from London Euston ploughed through sterile Hadean rock that had glittered lifeless for four and a half billion years, and under constellations unseen by humankind. At one point, I briefly locked myself in the bathroom, shortly before a furious minor tribe ripped out the door. I sat shivering on a toilet seat that pathetically begged with a coprophage’s masochism: ‘Don’t feed me wet wipes or sanitary products — they make me feel very poorly.’ I tried to connect to the onboard WiFi, and instead of a username and password, it asked me for the true name of God. This is not just an aesthetic problem (see Ashbery). There is a “natural impulse toward the bounded boundlessness of closure.” The bell rings, trading stops. But the world is “unfinished” (Hejinian) so trading continues. Both the rivers and their banks are moving. The poem remains incomplete. Even when we think we are at the end, there are decimals. Or do I mean syllables? I mean Aaaahhh! Aaaaahhh! Aaaah. Aaahhh. Aaahh. Aaah. Aah. Ah. a. Namaste. For music is an immigrant that crosses deserts at night and beds down beside the cactus. Speaking of which, the box the slave Henry Brown mailed himself north in was 3 feet long by 2 feet 8 inches deep by 2 feet wide and displayed the words “dry goods” on it. This small world had its own sky, land, people, animals, etc. etc., and although this world was [is] small, if you take the world’s train, you begin to see that the world is vast, because the train travels a meandering route in a hypnotic motion. “Always the beast has a remote heart.” “One of my intimates is covered by a film of strangeness and infused with an obscure breath.”

        Inside the boar’s a hound.

        Inside the hound a rabbit.

        Inside the rabbit a grey dove.

        Inside the dove ...

I pick up the flesh figurine that has emerged from the plastic beast and am amazed by its warm hands, a sign of good circulation. What then of the mountain? Once upon a time in a far-off land, there lived a Louis Vuitton the Third. For a summer job he worked at the Dairy Barn on Broadway, and there, quite by accident, he fell in love.


Something was off. King looked and saw dachshund had ossified, and then walked around the still body, it was just a front, with a stick from behind. Where was Dog? King tore his stole in sadness and started walking.

later still

The clouds raced together to form a pretzel. It pointed to something. The joke was something to laugh about — almost nothing, but the soul was painted over and over, like one of an old house’s electrical outlets, RED, then ORANGE, YELLOW, GREEN, BLUE, PURPLE, WHITE, PURPLE being the transformative, natural pivot, which is born ONLY WHEN the first element of the Zodiac and the last (ADVANCED WATER and (SOMA)TIC MIDGE)) bleed into each other. The videos are short and silent, and all but one are black and white. Some feature an instantly recognizable mushroom cloud. Others are more abstract: a vague bright swell and then nothing, or a huge opaque balloon of light caught between heavy skies and the earth. The aftereffects of these tests have long been a part of our lives — according to the CDC, radioactive materials can be found in the bodies of anyone living in the United States since 1951. To quote Gerry Loose, Virgilius Maro Grammaticus, and someone named Conrad,




























assena, semedia, numeria (nim, dun, tor, quir, quan, ses, sen, onx, amin, ple), metrofia (dicantabat, bora, gcno, sade, teer, rfoph, brops, rihph, gal, fkal, clitps, mrmos, fann, ulioa, gabpal, blaqth, merc, pal, gatrb, biun, spadx), lumbrosa, sincolla, belsavia, presina, militana, spela, polema



Therefore, what is true of the divisions and of the fall is not completely so for turbulence. When the ether was separated from the air by its lesser gravity, it tore itself from the tempests, immutable as the Pontus (which also flows), and seemed to enjoy a certain ataraxy. Now these troubled storms are the place both of turmoil (turbantibus, turbare) and of vortices (turbinibus). There is a distance between turba and turbo. The first designates a multitude, a large population, confusion and tumult. It is disorder: the Greek τυρβη (turbe), is also used of the mad dancing in Bacchic festivals. But the second is a round form in movement like a spinning top, a turning cone or vortical spiral. This is no longer disorder, even if the whirl is of wind, of water or of storms. In fact, the turning shifting movement is that of the stars, of the heavens, now and originally. The world in its globality may be modelled by vortices. The origin of things and the beginning of order consist simply in the narrow space between turba and turbo, an incalculable population tossed by storms, by unrest, speaking of which, landlords are demanding rent tho Houston’s flooded, speaking of which, between Monday and Tuesday American Airlines raised the price of a ticket out of Miami to Hartford in the face of Irma from $159.20 to $1020.00, and Delta raised its Miami-Phoenix price from $547.50 to $3258.50, speaking of which, the US had the world’s highest microplastics in tap water contamination rate, at 94%, with plastic fibres found in tap water sampled at sites including Congress buildings, the US Environmental Protection Agency’s headquarters, and Trump Tower in New York. Lebanon and India had the next highest rates. Which means that shit’s everywhere. I mean, “I have over $87,000 and I’m ready — sorry, I have $83,897 dollars, right now, for Joel Osteen. And I’m ready to pray.” Did you know El Chapo founded HSBC and Wachovia? “Federal and state authorities have chosen not to indict HSBC, the London-based bank, on charges of vast and prolonged money-laundering, for fear that criminal prosecution would topple the bank and, in the process, endanger the world’s financial system.” This practice, by taking place in conditions of extreme mortality and in platforms that vary from paper to the digital screen, is what I start to call necrowriting ... and not in a good way. This distribution of death and wealth is grounded in the hegemonic etc. like who is the hero of this fucking epic? Etc. Do you have any poems about animals / favorite pets? I'm publishing a collection of poems/stories to benefit animals displaced by Harvey / Irma. It would be great to include your work. Thank you, Aileen.

[Note: Sources: Steven J Fowler, Incidents of Anti-Semitism #57, at The Bohemyth; Nicole Brossard, Mauve Desert (tr. Susanne de Lotbinière-Harwood), quoted in Dennis Cooper, “Spotlight on … Nicole Brossard Mauve Desert (1987)”, at DC’s, 30 Aug 017; Levi Bryant, “Wastelands”, at Larval Subjects, 31 Aug 017; Levi Bryant, “[My fall seminar ...]”, at Larval Subjects, 1 Sept 017; JBR; Saeed Kamali Deghan, “8,500 people lost in Mediterranean since death of three-year-old Alan Kurdi”, at Guardian, 1 Sept 017; JBR; David Caprara, “The ‘slave block’ in a town in Virginia: should it stay or should it go?”, at Guardian, 1 Sept 017; JBR; Mia Mullane, "No question: my Virginia town's 'slave block' should be removed from our sight", at Guardian, 9 Sept 017; Ian Dreiblatt, P Inman, quoted in Dreiblatt’s “P. Inman’s Written: 1976–2013”, at BOMB 131; Anna-Sophie Springer, excerpts from Ursula K LeGuin, The Word for World Is Forest, in The Word for World is Still Forest (eds. Anna-Sophie Springer & Etienne Turpin in association with Kirsten Einfeldt & Daniela Wolf); Laura Gill, “Forever Young, A Literacy”, at Entropy, 1 Sept 017; JBR; Joyelle McSweeney, “The Toxic and the Lyric I: On Losing My Hearing; The Infernal; The Sublime and the Virtual; Tuberculosis Bacilli”, at Fanzine, 31 Aug 017; JBR; Tommy Pico, IRL, quoted in Sarah Jean Grimm, “Sit, Scroll, and Fume”, at BOMB, 21 Sept 016; JBR; Mariko Nagai, Irradiated Cities, quoted in Spencer Dew, “A Review of Irradiated Cities by Mariko Nagai”, at decomP magazinE, n.d.; Rebecca Gayle Howell, “It’s Like This”, in American Purgatory, at SPD; Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book For None and All (tr. Adrian del Caro); JBR; Andrea Applebee, “The Diagram Still Sketched on the Wind”, at Ditch, 14 Jun 012; Jessamyn Violet, “by a long shot”, in Organ Thieves, at Gauss PDF; JBR; John Yau, “Portrait of a Young Artist, from New York to Vietnam and Back”, at Hyperallergic, 3 Sept 017 (re Tammy Nguyen); Tammy Nguyen, re various issues of Martha’s Quarterly, at Passenger Pigeon Press; JBR; Tammy Nguyen, painting title, at Tammy Nguyen; “Geoengineering is sublime”: Tammy Nguyen, re Martha’s Quarterly 4, at Passenger Pigeon Press; Alistair McCartney, The Disintegrations: A Novel, quoted in Dennis Cooper, “Please welcome to the world… Alistair McCartney’s The Disintegrations (University of Wisconsin Press)”, at DC’s, 2 Sept 017; John Ashbery (RIP), “How to Continue”, “This Room”, “Soonest Mended”, at Poetry Foundation; JBR; Kyle Schlesinger, Let’s Drift, quoted in James Yeary, “announcing Let’s Drift by Kyle Schlesinger”, email rec’d 1 Sept 017; JBR; Sam Kriss, “Ram-packed: a horror story about rail privatization”, at Idiot Joy Showland, 30 Aug 017; Susan Briante, “Towards a Poetics of the Dow (excerpt)”, quoted in “Susan Briante: from The Market Wonders”, at Lemon Hound 3.0, 1 Sept 017; JBR; Samiya Bashir, Field Theories, quoted in Marcella Durand, “The Physics of Race, History, and Everyday Life”, at Hyperallergic, (2) Sept 017; Susan M Schultz, “4 September 2017”, at Tinfish Editor’s Blog, 4 Sept 017; JBR (see previous note; Brown is mentioned in passing by Durand); “Henry Box Brown”, at Wikipedia; Kim Parko, and Ana Božičević, quoted in Parko’s “Stars of the Night Commute by Ana Božičević”, at HTMLGIANT, 12 Oct 010; CA Conrad, blurb for his (Soma)tic Midge, at SPD; Emma Claire Foley, “Nuclear Renewal: Viewers can now browse footage of Cold War-era nuclear bomb tests on Youtube. What is the value of that access?”, at The New Inquiry, 6 Sept 017; JBR; Gerry Loose, “Gerry Loose: From ‘The Great Book of the Woods’ (with a note on its sources)”, at Poems and Poetics, 1 Sept 017; Conrad, and Virgilius Maro Grammaticus, quoted in “RFOPH, BROPS, RIHPH”, at Languagehat, 16 Dec 016; JBR; Michel Serres, The Birth of Physics (tr. David Webb, and, tho uncredited, Bill Ross), at Parrhesia 27; JBR, tho see Oliver Milman, “‘We don’t have anything’: landlords demand rent on flooded Houston homes”, at Guardian, 4 Sept 017, and Julia La Roche, “Travelers complain of steep airfares as they try to escape Hurricane Irma’s path”, at Yahoo Finance, 5 Sept 017; Damian Carrington, “Plastic fibres found in tap water around the world, study reveals”, at Guardian, 5 Sept 017; JBR; Beckett Mufson, “Rick from ‘Rick and Morty’ Prank Called Joel Osteen’s Church”, at Vice, 6 Sept 017; Ed Vulliamy, “Narcos season three and the lies we tell about the drugs war”, at Guardian, 6 Sept 017; Marco Antonio Huerta,From legalese into nothingness: A review of Hugo García Manríquez’s ‘Anti-Humboldt’”, at Jacket2, 7 Sept 017; JBR; Aileen Cassinetto, email rec’d 7 Sept 017, approx. 8:02am PDT]


San Diego Defends Dreamers (this photo from the San Diego Union-Tribune came out better than my photos did)


Yes, I think we can call it the Anthropocene (reposted from the Guardian)

Microplastic contamination has been found in tap water in countries around the world, leading to calls from scientists for urgent research on the implications for health.

Scores of tap water samples from more than a dozen nations were analysed by scientists for an investigation by Orb Media, who shared the findings with the Guardian. Overall, 83% of the samples were contaminated with plastic fibres.

The US had the highest contamination rate, at 94%, with plastic fibres found in tap water sampled at sites including Congress buildings, the US Environmental Protection Agency’s headquarters, and Trump Tower in New York. Lebanon and India had the next highest rates.

European nations including the UK, Germany and France had the lowest contamination rate, but this was still 72%. The average number of fibres found in each 500ml sample ranged from 4.8 in the US to 1.9 in Europe.

The new analyses indicate the ubiquitous extent of microplastic contamination in the global environment. Previous work has been largely focused on plastic pollution in the oceans, which suggests people are eating microplastics via contaminated seafood.

“We have enough data from looking at wildlife, and the impacts that it’s having on wildlife, to be concerned,” said Dr Sherri Mason, a microplastic expert at the State University of New York in Fredonia, who supervised the analyses for Orb. “If it’s impacting [wildlife], then how do we think that it’s not going to somehow impact us?”

A magnified image of clothing microfibres from washing machine effluent.
 A magnified image of clothing microfibres from washing machine effluent. One study found that a fleece jacket can shed as many as 250,000 fibres per wash. Photograph: Courtesy of Rozalia Project

A separate small study in the Republic of Ireland released in June also found microplastic contamination in a handful of tap water and well samples. “We don’t know what the [health] impact is and for that reason we should follow the precautionary principle and put enough effort into it now, immediately, so we can find out what the real risks are,” said Dr Anne Marie Mahon at the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, who conducted the research.

Microplastics can attract bacteria found in sewage, Mahon said: “Some studies have shown there are more harmful pathogens on microplastics downstream of wastewater treatment plants.”

Microplastics are also known to contain and absorb toxic chemicals and research on wild animals shows they are released in the body. Prof Richard Thompson, at Plymouth University, UK, told Orb: “It became clear very early on that the plastic would release those chemicals and that actually, the conditions in the gut would facilitate really quite rapid release.” His research has shown microplastics are found in a third of fish caught in the UK.

The scale of global microplastic contamination is only starting to become clear, with studies in Germany finding fibres and fragments in all of the 24 beer brandsthey tested, as well as in honey and sugar. In Paris in 2015, researchers discovered microplastic falling from the air, which they estimated deposits three to 10 tonnes of fibres on the city each year, and that it was also present in the air in people’s homes.

This research led Frank Kelly, professor of environmental health at King’s College London, to tell a UK parliamentary inquiry in 2016: “If we breathe them in they could potentially deliver chemicals to the lower parts of our lungs and maybe even across into our circulation.” Having seen the Orb data, Kelly told the Guardian that research is urgently needed to determine whether ingesting plastic particles is a health risk.

The new research tested 159 samples using a standard technique to eliminate contamination from other sources and was performed at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. The samples came from across the world, including from Uganda, Ecuador and Indonesia.

“We really think that the lakes [and other water bodies] can be contaminated by cumulative atmospheric inputs,” said Johnny Gasperi, at the University Paris-Est Créteil, who did the Paris studies. “What we observed in Paris tends to demonstrate that a huge amount of fibres are present in atmospheric fallout.”

Plastic fibres may also be flushed into water systems, with a recent study finding that each cycle of a washing machine could release 700,000 fibres into the environment. Rains could also sweep up microplastic pollution, which could explain why the household wells used in Indonesia were found to be contaminated.

In Beirut, Lebanon, the water supply comes from natural springs but 94% of the samples were contaminated. “This research only scratches the surface, but it seems to be a very itchy one,” said Hussam Hawwa, at the environmental consultancy Difaf, which collected samples for Orb.

This planktonic arrow worm, Sagitta setosa, has eaten a blue plastic fibre about 3mm long.
 This planktonic arrow worm, Sagitta setosa, has eaten a blue plastic fibre about 3mm long. Plankton support the entire marine food chain. Photograph: Richard Kirby/Courtesy of Orb Media

Current standard water treatment systems do not filter out all of the microplastics, Mahon said: “There is nowhere really where you can say these are being trapped 100%. In terms of fibres, the diameter is 10 microns across and it would be very unusual to find that level of filtration in our drinking water systems.”

Bottled water may not provide a microplastic-free alternative to tapwater, as the they were also found in a few samples of commercial bottled water tested in the US for Orb.

Capitalism in action

Yahoo Finance is reporting that airline customers looking to get out of the path of Hurricane Irma have been met with dramatic fare spikes for air travel tickets:

On Monday evening, John Lyons, a 53-year-old father from West Hartford, Connecticut, purchased a one-way American Airlines ticket from Miami to Hartford for $159.20 for his daughter to get out of Hurricane Irma’s path as the storm churns through the Caribbean.

On Tuesday, he was shocked at the spike in airfare prices.

‘I logged in and expected to see $160, and frankly if I had seen $260 I wouldn’t have reacted. And I logged in and saw, $1,020, and I about had a heart attack,’ Lyons told Yahoo Finance in a phone interview on Tuesday afternoon.

Lyons, who describes himself as an “amateur meteorologist,” likes to post weather reports on West Hartford’s Facebook page. Although Hurricane Irma poses no direct threat to where he lives, he has been following the storm’s developments.

‘I’m seeing the direct hit on Florida. My daughter is down at the University of Miami, so I called her and said, ‘I’m going to bring you home. If worst comes to worst, we waste money, and you don’t come home, and this thing misses you, and everything is fine.’ I logged in last night and saw $159.20 to be exact. I said you know what; this ticket is so cheap, I’m just going to buy it.’

The next day, he went back to look for a ticket for his daughter’s roommate, who is also a close family friend’s daughter. Shocked at the price increase, he said he even made sure that he didn’t click first class by accident and he also verified that the flight had pretty much the same number of seats available compared to when he checked last night.

‘American Airlines had the audacity to raise the rate $800. I’m sorry. I posted it. You know, I’m angry. I think it’s horrible what they are doing. I just think it’s horrible. I’ll leave it at that.’

Airlines have countered that they have not changed the algorithms that determine their pricing, and that the surges are a simple matter of supply and demand with scores of people trying to book last minute flight out of the storm’s path.

View image on Twitter

View image on Twitter

Shame on you @delta. Jacking from $547 to over $3200 for people trying to evacute responsibly? 


Ramiro Gomez, "The Custodian Is Present" (as found in a twitter feed) ... Support all immigrants ...


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