Ann’s Garden: The Transition from Cool to Warm Weather Plants

On April 21, the collards and kale are tall and flowering. They've been nutritious and tasty.

On April 29, the collards and kale have been removed and the trellises are ready for tomato plants to climb.

I'm the trellis "engineer." These custom trellises are not decorative but they can be reused each year and can withstand severe thunderstorms with hundreds of pounds of tomatoes on board.

Free Solo Climbing in Yosemite – No Ropes

Yosemite Climbing

Photograph by Mikey Schaefer for National Geographic magazine

On a bright Saturday morning in September a young man is clinging to the face of Half Dome, a sheer 2,130-foot wall of granite in the heart of Yosemite Valley. He's alone, so high off the ground that perhaps only the eagles take notice. Hanging on by his fingertips to an edge of rock as thin as a dime, shoes smeared on mere ripples in the rock, Eminem blasting on his iPod, Alex Honnold is attempting something no one has ever tried before: to climb the Regular Northwest Face route on Half Dome without a rope. He's less than a hundred feet from the summit when something potentially disastrous occurs—he loses the smallest measure of confidence.

Continue reading at  http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/05/yosemite-climbing/jenkins-text

By Mark Jenkins

A Man Who Really Loves Golf

Manuel de los Santos grew up in the Dominican Republic, where he played baseball from a young age and was planning to turn professional. But a motorcycle accident changed his life forever when he lost his left leg above the knee.

Following this accident, he moved to France and on seeing the film, ‘The Legend of Bagger Vance’, he was inspired to take up golf. Now 26 years old, Manuel lives in Paris and plays to a handicap of just three, competing in high profile tournaments all around the world. His extraordinary golf swing has become instantly recognisable.

Peter Montgomery read about Manuel at the end of 2009 and had the idea of making a film about him. This short documentary portrait is the result.

Are Big Banks Above the Law?

  Why do we find out about this from a foreign news source?

On 10 April 2006, a DC-9 jet landed in the port city of Ciudad del Carmen, on the Gulf of Mexico, as the sun was setting. Mexican soldiers, waiting to intercept it, found 128 cases packed with 5.7 tons of cocaine, valued at $100m. But something else – more important and far-reaching – was discovered in the paper trail behind the purchase of the plane by the Sinaloa narco-trafficking cartel.

During a 22-month investigation by agents from the US Drug Enforcement Administration, the Internal Revenue Service and others, it emerged that the cocaine smugglers had bought the plane with money they had laundered through one of the biggest banks in the United States: Wachovia, now part of the giant Wells Fargo.

The authorities uncovered billions of dollars in wire transfers, traveller's cheques and cash shipments through Mexican exchanges into Wachovia accounts. Wachovia was put under immediate investigation for failing to maintain an effective anti-money laundering programme. Of special significance was that the period concerned began in 2004, which coincided with the first escalation of violence along the US-Mexico border that ignited the current drugs war.

Criminal proceedings were brought against Wachovia, though not against any individual, but the case never came to court. In March 2010, Wachovia settled the biggest action brought under the US bank secrecy act, through the US district court in Miami. Now that the year's "deferred prosecution" has expired, the bank is in effect in the clear. It paid federal authorities $110m in forfeiture, for allowing transactions later proved to be connected to drug smuggling, and incurred a $50m fine for failing to monitor cash used to ship 22 tons of cocaine.

More shocking, and more important, the bank was sanctioned for failing to apply the proper anti-laundering strictures to the transfer of $378.4bn – a sum equivalent to one-third of Mexico's gross national product – into dollar accounts from so-called casas de cambio (CDCs) in Mexico, currency exchange houses with which the bank did business.

"Wachovia's blatant disregard for our banking laws gave international cocaine cartels a virtual carte blanche to finance their operations," said Jeffrey Sloman, the federal prosecutor. Yet the total fine was less than 2% of the bank's $12.3bn profit for 2009. On 24 March 2010, Wells Fargo stock traded at $30.86 – up 1% on the week of the court settlement.

The conclusion to the case was only the tip of an iceberg, demonstrating the role of the "legal" banking sector in swilling hundreds of billions of dollars – the blood money from the murderous drug trade in Mexico and other places in the world – around their global operations, now bailed out by the taxpayer.

Link: How a big US bank laundered billions from Mexico's murderous drug gangs 

Even in a time when it is easy to be cynical, some revelations still surprise me.