Saturday, August 17, 2019

'Toontime: Trump the Destroyer

credit: Horsey, Seattle Times
BC Idonwanna: Animal species not rich!
Iowans, bless their bucolic souls, may not want the "Prezdent" impeached, but that does not mean he does not deserve to be held accountable. A majority of 'Mercans did not want "Tricky Dick" Nixon impeached, either. The Judiciary Committee is coming back from recess early to consider gun legislation, which it surely should.  Bottom line there, Mr. Nadler, is reenact the assault weapons ban and start from there.  It makes absolutely no sense for giving a convicted felon the means to stand off police for eight hours in Philadelphia with one hundred rounds fired.  But that urgent policy matter should not divert the committee from an equally urgent task: impeaching Il Douce.

The House Intelligence committee, which did not exist during Watergate, has an important role to play in filling out the bill of particulars against the disloyal occupant of the Very White House.  This impeachment inquiry is different from the one over forty years ago because the is a foreign actor involved.  The Intelligence Committee with its greater access to intelligence information can aid the Judiciary Committee in its deliberations.  Intelligence and counter-intelligence information also cannot be publicly revealed, at least short of a vote on Articles of Impeachment and a trial in the Senate. The full House would have to vote on declassification in the public's interest.

Reportedly Chairman Adam Schiff,  who prosecuted the only convicted FBI agent for espionage, has agreed to support the impeachment inquiry and has suggested approaches to dealing with the unique circumstances of Trump's Moscow Tower project.  Many observers, including US Person, think that Trumpilini's incongruous relations with the Kremlin during his campaign and after are motivated by personal financial concerns, or even worse, the Russian possession of kompromat with which they can leverage favorable treatment from the regime. 

So far Chairman Schiff has remained aligned with Nancy Pelosi's refusal to begin formal impeachment proceedings.  However, his willingness to cooperate with the current inquiry, formal or not, may signal a shift in his thinking.  Significantly the Chairman told reporters that, “If the [subpoena] litigation takes too long — that is, if they are able to legally string this out too long — we will have to make a judgment about whether to go forward with articles of impeachment, even in the absence of being able to bring these witnesses in and obtain these documents, because the obstruction of Congress itself will have risen to that level."  Be sure to include this form of obstruction as one of the several articles of impeachment, Chairman Nadler.  If this 'high crime' was good enough for Dick, its good enough for Il Douche.

credit: Sean Delonas
Wackydoodle sez: He's emotionally unstable!

Friday, August 16, 2019

Fighting the Good Fight

an endangered cactus species
One question US Person was consistently asked when he lived overseas was: why are Americans so litigious?  The short answer is because "they can", but a less flippant answer is provided by the horrendous example of the current regime.  You may have read that Il Douche is gutting the Endangered Species Act by including, for the first time, monetary considerations when deciding weather to list a species under the Act for protection.  This obviously pro-development rule change is contrary to the express provisions of the Act itself.  Jamie Rappaport Clark, former head of the Fish & Wildlife Service and now head of Defenders of Wildlife said the changes will definitely make it harder to designate critical habitat; “This effort to gut protections for endangered and threatened species has the same two features of most Trump administration actions: It’s a gift to industry, and it’s illegal"  The conservation advocacy group Earthjustice as already said it will see the regime in court.  Bad law makes litigation a necessity. Despite being passed in 1973 with strong bi-partisan support, the Act has lately become the favorite target of pro-exploitation conservatives--one indication of the law's effectiveness in protecting species on the path to extinction at the hands of man.

The regime is being sued every ten days on average by National Resources Defense Counsel.  The organization has amassed an impressive win record: of forty-seven cases resolved so far, NRDC has lost only three. Some of the landmark wins for Earth:
  • a federal appeals court reversed the approval of twenty-five drilling permits issued by the BLM in the Greater Chaco region, a landscape considered sacred to native Americans;
  • upheld the permanent ban on offshore drilling against the regime's effort to begin drilling in the Arctic Ocean and Atlantic coastal zone;
  • forced the government to consider protection of giraffes under the Endangered Species Act.  Giraffe populations in Africa have declined by 40% in the last thirty years.  The US is a major importer of giraffe carcasses and bone;
  • forced the National Marine Fisheries Service to grant protection to the highly endangered Bryde's whale in the Gulf of Mexico.  An estimated 22% of the population was exterminated by the Deepwater Horizon disaster.  Only thirty-three of these whales remain;
  • a federal district court stopped an effort to eliminate rules insuring fossil fuel companies paid a fair amount of royalties for operating on federal land. The "valuation rule" was repealed by the regime with no logical justification other than the bare claim that it was “burdensome” to the fossil fuel industry!
So, in order to minimize their extremist agenda of planetary destruction, conservation organizations must keep suing.  That is just the way it is in Trumpilini's 'Merica.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

A Cure for Ebola?

The latest Ebola outbreak in the Congo may be ended soon as a two new treatments have been developed in the decades long fight against the disease.  The antibody-based treatments are working so well that it will be distributed to all Ebola patients in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Scientists said Monday that there is a 90% recovery rate for treated individuals.  The effectiveness offers hope to people infected with the high-mortality virus that causes hemorrhagic fever.  The disease has haunted the African continent for forty years; fear and mistrust have been major obstacles to treating the disease.  In eastern Congo, which has been racked by civil unrest, rumors have spread that the disease is a myth, or that treatment teams are engaged in witchcraft to steal "precious bodily fluids" or body parts.  The latest outbreak in the Congo has infected 2800 known patients, of which 1800 have died. This outbreak is the worst of the ten that Congo has endured.

The treatments are cocktails of monoclonal antibodies infused intravenously into a patient.  The antibodies are created in the laboratory and attach themselves to the virus, preventing it from invading a cell and turning it into a zombie, producing more viruses.  One of the cocktails is produced by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals of Tarrytown, N.Y. and the other by Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, a Miami company. Dr. Jean-Jacques Muyembe, director of Congo’s National Institute for Biomedical Research, joined Dr. Fauci and Dr. Ryan, in announcing the trial results.  Both drugs will be produced to insure a supply if one source is disrupted.

Dr. Muyembe is credited with pioneering work that led to today's effective antibody treatments.  Decades ago he used survivor's blood serum containing antibodies to save dying patients.  Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases called Dr. Muyembe, a "true hero" who has been fighting the disease since 1976 when it first appeared in what was then Zaire.  When contacted about the new treatments based on his research, he said he was "a little sentimental" because he had been waiting for this moment for a long time, but he is "very happy" that a cure has finally been developed.

Regeneron is offering its drug for free based on "compassionate use" according a company spokesperson.  A price for the drug has not been established. Despite the existence of an effective treatment, the outbreak has spiraled out of control due to the adverse political circumstances in the region.  The State Department prohibited Americans from working in the area due to security concerns.  DRG's disease response has been hampered by yet another power struggle within the government. Dr. Muyembi is now heading a panel of experts who control of the government's disease response, and is making efforts to win the trust of residents by offering food, routine medical care, and vaccines against other diseases, like measles.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

COTW: Changing the Face of the Earth

This graphic shows how man has radically impacted the Earth.  US Person notes how little of the surface remains in a natural state (16%).  Industrial agriculture consume most of the planet's surface, producing large amounts of heat trapping gases.  Rice production, on which most of the world's population depends, produces a third of carbon dioxide emissions.  Worse still is the West's dependence on meat production that produces large amount of methane that traps ten times more heat the carbon dioxide.  Obviously not a sustainable business model.

The charts come from a massive report by the Intergovernmental Climate Change Panel.  The Panel's report makes it perfectly clear that the way in which in man uses the Earth's surface has to change drastically.  Sustainable agriculture must replace industrialized production units, and more land (~33%) has to be set aside untouched if the worse effects of climate change are to be avoided.  Since the 1960's there is nearly an eight-fold increase in the use of nitrogen-based fertilizers, and an unprecedented loss of biodiversity. The artificial Anthropocene Era may prove to be as disastrous for the human species as the Cretaceous asteroid impact was for the dinosaurs.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Social Dinosaurs

credit:G. Funston
Dinosaurs are still with us, the archetypal survivors.  Small feathered dinosaurs survived the apocalypse of asteroid impact and catastrophic climate change.  We should be so lucky.  More fossil evidence of the evolutionary connection between modern bird species and dinosaurs has come to light in central Asia, where Mongolian custom seized a very unusual fossil specimen in 2006. [photo].  A vertebrate paleontologist, Fredrico Fanti, at the University of Bologna placed the age of the fossil at 70 million years, and its location in the Gobi Desert, probably the Goblin Tsav site.

credit:M Skrepnick
What makes this seemingly indecipherable jumble of bones special is it represents the first fossil evidence of dinosaurs roosting together like modern birds. [color diagram above] Birds and bats roost in groups to regulate their body temperature while they sleep.  These three oviraptorids from the Cretaceous were young, sleeping close together, perhaps for warmth when they perished. Two of the dinosaurs, more complete than the third, are in a crouched position with their bellies on the ground and their necks extended over their back.  This position is similar to the pose of ostriches and emus when they are in deep sleep.  These are a new species of oviraptorids, which walked upright on two legs and had a crest on their head similar to the cassowary. [artist's impression]  According to the size of the thigh bone they weighed about 45 kg each.  A handful of previous fossil finds catch dinosaurs sleeping when they died, but this fossil is the first to capture a group roosting, suggesting a complex social life. The trio “clearly had a quite close bond”, since they died touching, a researcher says. Oviraptorids browsed for food in groups and probably flashed their crests at rivals or potential mates.