Monday, June 18, 2018

EPA Publishes New Pesticide Rules

It took lawsuits from three states to force the EPA under the demise of hard-core exploiter, Scott Pruitt, to implement new rules to protect farm workers from pesticides they apply to crops everyday.  California, New York and Maryland filed suit against the agency for its failure to issue new regulations governing worker exposure to the toxic chemicals they handle.  The training requirements Pruitt wanted to discard without public notice or hearing, inform workers on how to minimize their exposure from contaminated clothing and footwear; how to access information about the hazards of particular pesticides they come into contact; insure awareness of emergency medical care.  The number of agricultural workers injured each year by pesticides is not known since there is no national reporting of acute pesticide poisonings or chronic illnesses caused by repeated exposure.  Many of America's farm workers are Mexican or Central American immigrants with little education.  Thirty states require reporting of pesticide injuries, but many incidents go unreported.

Combined exposure to three chemicals commonly sprayed on crops to fight pests in California’s Central Valley triples the risk of Parkinson’s disease for people who work near where the pesticides are sprayed, a research team headed by Dr. Beate Ritz, professor of epidemiology at the UCLA School of Public Health, found as far back as 2011.

The Agricultural Worker Protection Standard was first implemented in 1992, but was strengthen with training requirements in 2015.  It was these requirements that were arbitrarily suspended by Pruitt in the name of freeing private enterprise from burdensome government regulations.  So who cares if a few more ignorant farm workers get ill or die, if profit margins can be maintained?  Pruitt has not given up on his effort to weaken the regulations.  His agency plans to publish a new rule making later this year for more revisions to the standards.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

'Toontime: The Stink Still Lingers

credit: Nate Beeler, Columbus Dispatch
He almost called off the date with Lil' Kim, nevertheless Der Leader wants to look his best on the world stage.  The show is,  "All Trump, All the Time".

Meanwhile in the Russian Connection investigation, former campaign manager Paul Manafort's pre-trial release was revoked by a federal judge Friday after Robert Mueller charged he attempted to tamper with a witness.  Manafort was immediately taken into custody following the ruling and then taken to Northern Neck Regional Jail in Warsaw, Va.  Two veteran journalists who previously worked with Manafort offered information to Mueller according to the New York Times.  The former colleagues in Ukrainian PR work are just the latest in a string of betrayals against the embattled former campaign manager.  According to court  filings, Manafort and another of his associates with ties to Russian intelligence, Konstantin Kilimnik, tried to reach journalists Friedman and Sager via phone calls and encrypted texts.  Rather than respond to Manafort's "reaching out"  They reported the contacts to Special Counsel Mueller.  Mueller added obstructing justice to the five charges Manafort already faces.  Will Manafort cave and give up Mr. Yuge?  Only time, or a presidential pardon, will tell.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Baobab Trees Dying

A visitor to the African Savannah landscape cannot help but notice the giant trees that punctuate the plain or standout on the horizon.  Baobabs (Andasonia) are truly giants of the tree world.  Their great height is only match by their impressive girth; they are the largest and longest-living flowering tree (angiosperm) on Earth.  US Person had the privilege of sitting and standing inside a Baobab trunk during one of his safaris.  One Zimbabwean tree's circumference is so large that forty people can fit inside it.  But scientists studying the giants have some sobering news: the oldest Baobabs are dying or are already dead.

Their findings, published in Nature Plants, said that nine of the thirteen oldest and five of the six largest trees died during the research period, 2005-17.  About sixty trees were examined in the study.  The oldest tree that died was 2,500 years old (the Panke tree in Zimbabwe). Baobabs can live up to 3,000 years according to Kruger Park in South Africa, and are very difficult to kill due to their multi-stem growth pattern. The researchers did not conclude that changing climate was to blame for the demise of so many old trees, but did "suspect that the demise of monumental baobabs may be associated at least in part with significant modifications of climate conditions that affect southern Africa in particular."  There was no sign of disease in the dead trees.  The authors called for more study of the shocking die-off.

The most famous baobab is called Chapman, located in central Botswana. [photo]  The initials of explorer David Livingston are carved in its trunk.  Baobabs are important contributors to healthy ecosystems.  They store massive amounts of water, and both animals and humans eat their fruit and leaves.  The bark is used for weaving and rope making. Various baobabs have been used as a shop, a prison, a house, a storage barn, and a bus shelter.  Truly a valuable member of the plant kingdom.


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

European Charities Announce First Circus Elephant Sanctuary

Two animal welfare charities in Europe have announced they plan to open Europe's first sanctuary for former circus elephants.  World Animal Protection and Elephant Haven will open the first facility in Limousin province, central France.  Circuses accross Europe exhibit 100 elephants in shows and they have nowhere to retire in safety.  Visitors will be able to view the elephants from an elevated platform as they roam freely in the sanctuary.  The groups said the idea for the sanctuary came about after the Danish government banned the use of wildlife in circus shows.  Fourteen other European governments have implemented similar ban which will come into effect this year according to the groups.  Elephants undergo intensive and sometimes cruel training to make them "safe" to interact and entertain humans at close range.  The survivors deserve a place to live out their lives at peace in natural surroundings.

In other elephant news:  Bunta, the male patrol elephant, trained to help discourage wild elephants from raiding villager's crops was found dead June 9th with one of his large ivory tusks cut from his cheek.  The cause of death was poisoning, a common tactic of irate villagers and poachers alike.  Bunta was 27 years old.  Bunta's killing is the second elephant death in Sumatra by poachers.  In January another male was found poisoned to death and both tusks hacked off.  Enforcement of laws against harming protected species in Sumatra is lax, and there is little hope that Bunta's killers will be brought to justice for their crime. In the few cases that reach the court system, perpetrators typically receive token sentences or minimal fines.  Bunta lived in the Leuser Ecosystem which is threaten by human encroachment.  Only an estimated 2400 Sumatran elephants, Elephas maximus sumatranus, survive in scattered, fragmented forest habitats across the island.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

COTW: The Central Bank Bubble

We have seen the dot.com bubble and the housing bubble come and go (disastrously) now it is the time of the "central bank bubble" or sometimes called the "everything bubble"  This chart shows what is happening now:
In an effort to keep the economy and the stock market percolating after the the Great Recession, the central bank, aka the private Federal Reserve, has drastically increased its portfolio of assets.  At 4.5 trillion it it comprises 23% of GDP, which is beans compared to the Bank of Japan's 93%.  The pregnant question is, who will bail out the central banks in then next, greater revaluation.  Just ask John Law or Paul Tudor Jones, rock-star hedge fund manager: “You look at prices of stocks, real estate, anything,” we’re going to have to mean revert to a normal real rate of interest with a normal term premium that’s existed for 250 years. We’re going to have to get back to that. We’re going to have to get back to a sustainable fiscal policy and that probably means the price of assets goes down in the very long run.”