Saturday, December 31, 2011

Iowa Caucus Special: Ron Paul, Racist?

US Person is still on holiday, but he has agreed to post for the benefit of Iowa Caucus participants. It is apparent that Congressman Ron Paul is anti-fascist, anti-war, pro-civil liberties, and an adherent of the Austrian School. If he wins the Iowa Caucuses, he will emerge from the periphery of American politics to present a viable option to the duopoly of the major parties. Not since Ross Perot have Americans been so willing to endorse a third-party candidate to break the moribund strangle hold of the two-party system. Consequently, Paul is being attacked by the corporate mass media and rival campaigners as the latest alternative to the plutocrats' front man, Mitt Romney.

The attackers have seized on newsletters from the 8o's and 90's published under Paul's name, allegedly revealing his racist attitudes. Paul has publicly disavowed the newsletters as not his own writing. Calculated to appeal to red state fringe voters, the publications did generate income for the candidate. More revealing is the "politically correct" thinking of his current critics. Quotes often cited as showing his bigotry are more correctly characterized as harsh or blunt assessments of American reality. His newsletter described Martin Luther King as "a world class adulterer", a character flaw Hoover's FBI took pains in verifying. Later, Paul's "Survival Report" worried about the "disappearing white majority", an undeniable demographic fact that will affect the social and political life of the United States. While it may be weak to fear all black men, it is not irrational for some to react with fear to the fact that the majority of criminal defendants in urban centers are black. That condition may be the result of economic oppression and police profiling, but it is reality, as is the fact that most fleet NFL running backs are black. Other examples of calculated political overreaction to Paul's provocative prose can be offered. What can be gleaned from all this falderal is that politicians confined to the shadows of fringe party politics often resort to extreme rhetoric to gain a following. The very nature of the political duopoly makes unorthodoxy a necessity. Ron Paul is no exception. As he moved away from libertarian politics to rejoin the Republican party, he disavowed the crank rhetoric. He took responsibility for the newsletters' content in his run for Congress in 1996.

US Person is not a Repugnant or a Libertarian, but Ron Paul is bringing to the forefront issues such as the failed war on drugs, the domination of American politics by the Federal Reserve, the undue influence of the Israel lobby in foreign policy, the deleterious effect of the anti-terror war on our civil rights, and the draining of our national wealth by our military empire that are deliberately ignored or understated by the so-called "mainstream" politicians. US Person for one is glad Ron Paul is in the presidential race, and so are a lot of Iowans who are looking at conditions in their nation from ground level, not 40,000 feet.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Happy Holidays from Persona Non Grata

US PERSON is taking a break for the holidays. Return to this cyberspace for more high impact blog in the new year.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Snow Leopards In Siberia

For the first time snow leopards (Panthera uncia) have been photographed in Siberia. Ten camera traps were set up by researchers studying Argali sheep, the world's largest wild sheep and a favorite target of trophy hunters. Fresh scat and scrapes were found that is evidence of snow leopard presence so cameras traps were emplaced. Photos were taken in October at the Chikhachyova Ridge in the Altai Republic of Southern Russia. The NPO, Panthera, granted $20,000 to supply the high tech cameras. Cameras also caught images of the rare Pallas' cat, a domestic cat sized feline with thick fur similar to a Persian cat. The researchers were accompanied by staff from the Arkhar and Altalsky State Biosphere Reserve. Plans are to track the snow leopards during the winter to evaluate the health and size of the population. Snow leopards like most big wild cats are threatened by habitat loss and human predation. They live mostly solitary, crepuscular lives above tree line, so sightings are truly noteworthy.

Chart of the Week: Why Daivd Cameron Told Europe, 'Forgetabboutit'

Prime Minister David Cameron refused to join a greater Europe, and some Tory backbenchers are heralding him as a British version of Joan d'Arc. But here is the real reason the Prime Minister said "Non":
His decision to set sail alone may backfire if the euro does not collapse and some financial observers think the euro may be "to big to fail". The British have paid the most in Europe for rescuing profligate banks in 2008, £1.8 trillion, and their ruling plutocrats have responded accordingly. "The City" is now the Conservative Party's largest donor.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Iranian Hacks Down US Spy Drone

The top secret, high-tech RQ-170 Sentinel spy drone that made an unscheduled landing in Iran earlier this month was downed by Iranian cyber specialists exploiting a known navigational weakness. In an exclusive interview with the Christian Science Monitor[video], an engineer now working to reverse engineer the US drone said electronic warfare specialists were able to cut off communications to the aircraft and guide it to a landing in Iran. Using information gleaned from less sophisticated US drones shot down, the engineers confused the GPS system with jamming causing the 'bird' to go into autopilot mode, then communicated alternative navigational information. The craft landed safely in Iran rather than Afghanistan at about the same altitude. A few meters difference in altitude at the landing location caused damage to the drone's undercarriage. A US Navy electronic warfare specialist interviewed said even combat grade GPS systems are susceptible to manipulation. A general in the Revolutionary Guard Corps said that Iran has gone beyond mere jamming of signals to deception of "aggressive systems" including guided missiles flying at much greater speed than a drone. European intelligence sources say Iran shocked the West when it blinded a CIA spy satellite with an accurately aimed laser burst. Iran called the capture of the equipment "a great epic", and it indeed is a propaganda coup against the technological prestige of the United States. It is not Francis Gary Powers, but it is close. By the way,US Person thinks that as soon as the Iranians are done recreating "the beast", you can have the original back, Mr. Obama.

Are the United States and its allies the only nations on Earth legitimately allowed to defend themselves with advance technology? Apparently so, as this timeline of saber rattling against Iran's "unacceptable" nuclear program since 1979 shows.

Weekend Edition: Fukushima+9

Cherenkov Radiation, v>.75c
Nine months after a tsunami crippled the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power station, the Japanese government claims it has achieved a "cold shut-down" of the station's badly damaged reactors. Experts are not sanguine about the claim. Hiroaki Koide, a professor at Kyoto University's Research Reactor Institute, says there is no such condition at Fukushima and that the battle to contain radiation from the plant will be "a long battle of epic proportions, and by the time it is really over, most of us will be long dead." Kyodo News says the demolition of the reactors could take 40 years. The warning comes amid fears of re-criticality in some of the reactor cores where melted fuel could threaten groundwater. A water sample from reactor No. 1 reportedly contained high levels of Cl38. Tepco later denied the reading saying it was due to an error. A blue light beam was also reported. Spent fuel rods in No.4 reactor building are believed to have damaged the reactor building, the foundation of which is the last barrier before the slag hits earth. The Japanese government announcement is seen as a public relations effort to pacify the public.

A former senior operator of US nuclear plants says the situation at Fukushima is no better than in June. It took thirty months for officials at Three Mile Island to get inside the single reactor that partially melted down. At Fukushima, hydrogen explosions blew apart the No.1, and 3 reactor housings, and damaged No.2. Fires in No. 4 spent fuel pool damaged the reactor building. Fairwinds chief nuclear engineer, Arnie Gunderson, said in a video interview that the industry use of the term "cold shutdown" is misleading. Molten fuel is still above 100℃, steam is coming from inside Nos. 2 and 3 indicating a breach of containment, and there are radioactive hotspots in the area. Gunderson also said the exaggeration by the Japanese government would "blow up in their face" and further erode public confidence in government's ability to regulate the nuclear power industry.

Friday, December 16, 2011

'Toontime: Europe United, Inc.

[credit: Martyn Turner, Irish Times]
Doubts about the political settlement of the European Union's financial crisis are already beginning to remerge only one week after the summit in which all the nations except the UK agreed in principle to closer fiscal coordination. Moody's said the summit "offers few new measures, and does not change our view that risks to cohesion of the euro area continue to rise". Those risks were reflected in the bond market, as the cost of borrowing continued to rise. The ECB is apparently willing to use its cruel leverage to force austerity on the so-called profligate Mediterranean countries by slashing bond purchases. The hard money policies of the Anglo-saxons means the end of the euro zone, eventually.  Some observers see the beginning of a bank run in Europe as investors remove their funds to safer ground, and banks begin paying "through the nose" for dollars from corporate sources.

Killing Wolves in Idaho

"Killer Bee":
This is one service for which you pay your federal taxes: aerial extermination of wolves. The photo of the "Killer Bee" was first posted on The Wildlife News blog and the story expanded in the LA Times. Look closely and you will see the number of "kills" pasted--fifty-eight--on the plane's engine cowling. You think these Department of Agriculture employees were fighter aces, not akin to the the guy who comes over to kill your cockroaches. The stickers were removed in 2009 in response to complaints about the attitude they represent. That year the misnamed Wildlife Service, an agency of the US Department of Agriculture, removed 480 wolves. Because elk numbers are down in the Lolo region of Idaho, state officials are considering calling in the federal exterminators again. But conservationists insist that wolves are not totally to blame for fewer elk. Elk populations were declining due to lost habitat before wolves were reintroduced. Idahoans are unapologetic about their hatred of the wolf and say no apology from the agency was necessary. They just want the wolves dead.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Ecuador's Antisana Volcano Preserved

A private foundation, World Land Trust, has purchased 264,000 acres of land around the Antisana volcano for preservation. The Equadorian government created an ecological reserve there in 1993 but it was mostly privately owned and managed for cattle ranching, resulting in conflicts between use and conservation of species such as the Andean condor and spectacled bear []  The area features a succession of habitats from high altitude grasslands to cloud forests on the slopes descending into the Amazon basin. World Land Trust was joined by the Environmental Ministry and Quito's municipal water authority which purchased two haciendas, representing the largest land purchase for conservation by the Ecuadorian government. Because of the long history of cattle grazing, Antisana's habitats are significantly degraded, but the preservation purchases create an opportunity to restore the natural systems. Andean cloud forests are considered one of the richest habitats on the planet for biodiversity with many endemic species from rare orchids to endangered frogs. The paramo, or steppe region, is home to migratory shorebirds, waterfowl, puma and wolf.

Congress Passes Indefinite Detention

Update: Did you really think Obamatron would stiff the Pentagon? He signed indefinite detention into law, as expected.  Regarding Ron Paul's rise in the Iowa polls:  Fox Spews is so blatantly partisan that the moderator of the next "debate", Chris Wallace suggested "Iowa won't count" if Ron Paul should win the state caucuses in January because "most of the Republican establishment thinks he's not going to end up as the nominee".  Perhaps we should simply forego the preliminaries and proceed by anointing?

{14.12.11}The Obamatron has threatened to veto the defense appropriation bill that contains the most significant abridgement of civil rights since Lincoln suspended habeus corpus during the Civil War. Whether he has the courage to actually strike at the sacred bull looming across the river in its five-sided temple of doom remains to be seen because Congress passed the appropriations bill without deleting the provision that makes indefinite detention in military custody of merely suspected terrorists legal. Congressman Ron Paul, running 1 point behind Newt Gringrich in Iowa, said on the Alex Jones show that the defense bill literally "legalizes martial law" in America and is an example of the administration's "arrogance". Paul said at one point the administration tried to push through a provision that even if a detainee were found innocent, the government could still detain the captive indefinitely. Fortunately that provision was voted down on a voice vote. Commentators have said that the opposition of the adminsitration to indefinite military detention is not grounded on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, but is based on practical considerations and protecting presidential authority in the 'war on terror'. This latest example of the erosion of civil rights begun under the last regime is perhaps the worst. As Ron Paul said in his interview, "This is big."

The President marked the formal end of American military operations in Iraq with a visit from the Iraqi Prime Minister this week. He had the good taste not to claim victory in his remarks or mention the phantom WMDs foisted on the American people so they would accept an unnecessary war of executive choice. Only history will judge the correctness of the original decision to invade Iraq, intoned the President. But most Americans do not need to await the judgement of history. The toppling of a distant dictator was not the worth the dead and maimed or the money wasted. The war is over, but the assault on our civil liberties in the name of national security goes on.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Atlantic Sturgeon, Victim of Good Taste

It looks like a fish caught in a time warp at the bottom of the sea, but its antediluvian form does not put off gourmets from enjoying its flesh and eggs. Few fish are more ancient than the sturgeon. A throwback to the Triassic when dinosaurs were just gettting started, the sturgeon of today looks much as it did 85 million years ago. Evolutionary prowess does not guarantee survival in the age of the naked ape. Sturgeon is critically endangered by pollution in rivers, lakes, and estuaries, and by the deliciousness of its roe. The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists 18 species worldwide as endangered, 16 critically. One of those is the Atlantic sturgeon, Acipenser oyxrinchus oxyrinchus, but when the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) proposed adding the species to the endangered list in 2010, it did not include the Atlantic sturgeon. Despite a 1998 ban on sport and commercial fishing, many populations have not shown appreciable recovery according to NMFS. There is little dispute the Atlantic sturgeon is suffering from intense pollution of coastal waters. The Delaware Bay and River were once the venue for great aggregations of spawning sturgeon, now sightings of juveniles or spawning adults are rare. Nevertheless, there is not a lot of consensus among ichthyologists about an inscrutable fish that lives most of its life in the dark depths out of the sight of man, and the lack of data is hindering legal protection of the fish.

Atlantic sturgeon can live for more than sixty years and weigh 600 pounds. It is superbly adapted to survive on bottom-dwelling mollusks, worms, crustaceans and insects. It breeds slowly however, not reaching maturity until 11 to 24 years old, depending on the population. Younger females carry fewer eggs. Sturgeon migrate between fresh and salt water like salmon, but unlike salmon, sturgeon may stay at sea for a decade where they often travel great distances. A tagged Delaware River sturgeon was tracked to Cabot Strait between Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, a journey of 1,000 miles in 53 days. Until more sturgeon are implanted with telemetry, their aquatic wanderings will confound scientists trying to help them avoid extinction. Sturgeon flesh was not considered a tasty consumable by European settlers. For native Americans it was an important source of food and oil. Sturgeon eggs, processed as caviar, became a delicacy after the Civil War when railroad shipment of preserved roe was possible. Within twenty years there were thousands of fishermen seeking sturgeon on the east coast and the harvest was more than 7 million pounds. By 1899 a keg of roe cost $105, reflecting the carnage that depleted the prey. The great sturgeon migrations up the major east coast rivers ceased, probably for all time.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Canada Quits Kyoto Protocol

The conservative premier of Canada announced that his country will withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol the only international agreement so far reached to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Admittedly the Kyoto agreement is adequate to reduce global warming by 2℃, a goal climate scientists say is necessary to avoid catastrophic climate change, but it represents the only legal contract to actually reduced emissions since 1997 when it was signed by Canada. The Canadian environment minister justified the decision saying Canada would risk $14 billion in penalties if it remained a signatory to the Protocol. Premier Stephen Harper said the accord was "an obstacle", not a solution to global climate change since it does not cover the two largest polluters, the United States and China, and it was an error for the liberal government at the time to have signed. Under the terms of agreement Canada would had to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 6% of its 1990 levels. When Harper became premier in 2006, he rejected those goals as unattainable and substituted a reduction of 17% of 2005 emissions by 2020. None of these goals are enough to avoid catastrophic climate change according to ecologists. At the Durban, South Africa conference which ended Sunday, delegates from 190 nations agreed to extend the effect of the Kyoto accord to 2017 in the absence of a new international agreement. But Harper's government claims a new agreement covering all countries that permits some economic growth is the way forward. Canada is an economy that relies heavily on exploitation of natural resources, such as the ecologically disastrous mining of the Alberta tar sands. Harper's decision to exit Kyoto was denounced by his parliamentary opposition.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Chart of the Week: Russian Politics, American Style

This scatter chart shows an interesting relationship which would not be unusual for an American political party where a Congress members performance is often judged by how many federal projects the member brings home.
This election in Russia was a troubling one for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his United Russia party. A relationship between the number of votes for United Russia and the amount of government subsidies an area receives still holds for the 2011 election, but the vote totals for his bloc is down. The consensus of election observers is there were widespread irregularities including ballot stuffing, but the fraud was not enough to give Putin's party more than half of the parliamentary seats, down from its previous 70% ruling majority. The Communist Party was the surprise winner in the election filling 92 seats in the Duma; some Russians believe "grandma" would have beaten United Russia but for the tampering.

Election fraud on December 4th has brought middle-class Russians out into Moscow's streets in a cold version of the Arab Spring demonstrations [photo: Le Monde]. On Saturday, 50 to 80 thousand demonstrated their displeasure with the Putin regime by four hours of critical speeches, capping a week of street demonstrations. The BBC reports 600 arrests in Moscow alone including the well known political blogger Alexey Navalny. Uncharacteristically, state controlled mass media covered the protests in a neutral manner. Protesters are upset with the election process and want the results investigated by the Central Electoral Commission, but its final report on the election was signed last Friday and is unlikely to be changed. Since the end of Soviet rule, Russians have been politically quiescent except for widespread approval of Vladimir Putin. During his previous time in office he consolidated state control and curbed civil rights. That unquestioning love affair seems to be at an end now, but it is unlikely Prime Minister Putin will be defeated for his third six year term as president of Russia.

Nevertheless, Mr. Putin seems perturbed about the unexpected flowering of grass roots democracy. He resorted to blaming US Secretary of State Clinton for stirring up trouble by her critical comments on parliamentary politics, saying "she set the tone for some act[ivists] and gave them a signal. They heard the signal and with the support of the US State Department began active work." Secretary Clinton in Lithuania last week said the Russian elections were "neither free nor fair". Protesters derided Putin's allegation of US intrigue as ridiculous. The United States does fund programs which it claims are only intended to support a more transparent and fair Russian electoral process. Russia does not actively fund similar programs in the US, for example, to improve the voting process in Florida or Wisconsin or discourage the passage of onerous voter eligibility laws. The blogosphere, as it has in the Arab protests, played a central role in disseminating information and mobilizing young voters. Many young Russians acted as unofficial election observers, some posting videos of authorities bribing or cajoling subordinates to vote for United Russia.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Weekend Edition: Durbin Disappoints

This time around the countries of planet Earth agreed to do something about anthropogenic climate change, but what it was can be categorized as "too little, too late". The Durbin climate talks ended with an agreement to do very little to reduce global warming until 2020. The text adopted Sunday by 190 nations does not contain binding obligations or new promises to reduce the levels of greenhouse gas emissions. Le Monde calls it an "accord minimal". After ten days of round the clock disscussions the participants agreed to establish a global accord for the reduction of emissions beginning in 2015, but which does go into full effect until 2020. Despite the lead up time given for compliance the proposed document will not have the effect of a binding contract on signatories, a demand made by Europeans at Durban. In the end the EU settled for language that gives the proposed pact legal force, but what exact form the agreement will take was deliberately left vague. In the interim the nations agreed to extend the only international agreement on climate, the Kyoto Protocol, until 2017, bridging a legal gap left open when the Cancun conference failed to reach accord on a replacement treaty. Small island states who are in danger of begin swamped by rising sea levels and extreme storms are alarmed by the meager results of the conference. South Africa's leadership of the summit was criticized by small and large countries alike, but that didn't stop madam chairperson [photo] from claiming "history has been made" as she gaveled the proceedings to a close. Perhaps the UN should issue life jackets.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Chart of the Week: Greece's Impossible Debt

Update: The United Kingdom is the only country among the 27 nations of the European Union not to accept a Franco-German proposal for closer fiscal coordination and budget discipline. Prime Minister David Cameron is widely seen as adhering to the demands of his Conservative party anti-unionists, and the City of London financial district. According to President Sarkozy, "David Cameron a demandé, ce que nous avons considéré tous comme inacceptable, un protocle dans le traité permettant d'exonérer le Royaume-Uni certain nombre de réglementations sur les services financiers". Although Germany succeeded in gaining concessions from the the other countries of the Union for tighter fiscal control, it still refused to allow the ECB to issue euro-obligations to pay off some of the debt of nations in crisis. The proposed treaty changes came after a marathon negotiating session that began Thursday evening. If the treaty is signed into law, and that is not a done deal since some governments will require parliamentary approval and even referendums, member nations will have to submit their budgets to the European Commission for review and bring their budgets into balance. Deficits above 0.5 of national GDPs will automatically engage an unspecified "correction mechanism". The European leaders also agreed to bolster the IMF which is making emergency loans to ailing countries by €200 billion. Markets reacted positively to the outcome of the summit that saw twenty-six sovereign nations agree to give up some control over their fiscal policy to continue the union. What is not yet clear is how the UK will be treated by a European Union it has excluded itself from for the sake of lax financial regulation.

{9.05.11}It all started with Greece, the European financial meltdown, that is. When traders began to notice the size of Greece's sovereign debt compared to its tax base they began to flee the Greek market. This chart courtesy of Gary Dorsch at Market Oracle sums up the impossible:
With a shrinking economy and dissolving tax revenues, any Greek government will find it impossible to pay back its creditors in full. Nevermind that Greeks were not overly enthusiastic about paying their taxes to a corrupt government to begin with. No private lenders want to lend Greece more money. The EU is keeping the country from defaulting with emergency loans that the rest of Europe's taxpayers will pay for eventually. Greece's unemployment rate hit 18.4% in August, and the economy contracted at an annual rate of 5.5%. The country cannot survive financially under current debt terms. A write off of some debt (default) is necessary and that is what Athens is demanding now. Otherwise, it will be forced to drop out of the eurozone, and return to the drachma which will certainly cause hyperinflation because the national currency is so devalued. That in turn will bankrupt Greek banks and pension funds which have loaned the government about €75 billion. It is European fiscal union or bust, and that is what Ms. Merkle will be peddling at the upcoming summit on December 9th.

Friday, December 09, 2011

CIA's Secret Dungeon Uncovered

credit: AP
In a shady residential side street of Bucharest there is an ordinary government building beside a train track. The building serves as storage space for NATO and EU classified information. Anonymous on the outside, but in the basement the CIA ran a secret prison. The AP and German public television in an exclusive story tells the known details of the dungeon codenamed BRIGHT LIGHT. From 2003 to 2006 the facility was used for detention and interrogation of high value suspected terrorists before they being sent to the Cuban gulag of Guantanamo Bay. What horrors took place there in the name of national security are not fully known, but one weird detail emerged from anonymous interviews of US officials with knowledge. The six cells were mounted on springs so that they swayed. It is a method to keep a captive disoriented for long periods of time. Truly the dungeon is something out of the mind of Reinhard Heydrich, or someone who read too much Edgar Allen Poe as a child. Maybe Jack was right when his crazy Marine colonel character said, "You can't handle the truth."

'Toontime: Tongue of Snake

[credit: Michael Ramirez, Business Daily]
Wackydoodle axes: Any hair of th' Donald in that thar pond?
Obamatron did his TR imitation this week, but the show has been stolen by the return of the Newt. Anyone who knows anything about US history knows TR, a card carrying 1%er, carried a big rhetorical stick but favored big business. On second thought perhaps Obama's impression is not so bad:
[credit: Bob Gorrell]

Thursday, December 08, 2011

The Other Carbon Problem

One of the positive assets of the American northwest is the availability of fresh seafood. US Person's favorite watery delicacy are raw oysters on the half shell with a piquant salsa perhaps made of habanero chilies. Not too much! A gourmet does not want to obscure the wonderful freshness of the sea inherent in oysters. Oysters are raised on the Pacific coast from Washington to Oregon. Netarts Bay, Oregon is one locus of the oyster business. The natural Netart oysters craved by San Francisco dinners of the 19th century are gone, but oysters are now farmed in the Bay. Netarts Bay provides oyster seed to other West Coast farmers. The industry is valued at $73million a year. with a larger economic impact estimated at $207 million and 3,000. That is a big deal in economically depressed coastal communities. But Oyster farmers are confronting a new problem. Larvae are dying at alarming rates of 70 to 80%. The first suspected culprit were bacteria in the water, but testing of the bay water by Oregon State University showed high amounts of dissolved CO₂ making the sea water acidic. For the past six years wild oysters in Willapa Bay, Washington have failed to produce successfully because acidic seawater have prevented larvae from forming their carboniferous shells Other wild beds on the coast have also experienced losses attributed to the acidification of the ocean.

Ocean acidification is the other carbon emissions problem that does not get as much attention as climate change. It is, however, an equally serious symptom of greenhouse effect. Researchers affiliated with NOAA have been studying the problem for more than three decades. The world's oceans have absorbed about 50% of the CO₂ released from the burning of fossil fuels. This absorption results in lower seawater pH due to 30% more hydrogen ions.[chart]. Acidic seawater slows the rate at which corals build their carboniferous skeletons as well as retarding shell growth in shellfish and zooplankton, a major food source for many marine species. Reefs are the most prolific life zone of the ocean providing habitat and sustenance for fish, shellfish and crustacean. Reef building rates could diminish to a point in the future (2100 CE) that no reefs exist in any of the world's oceans. The United States is the third largest seafood consumer in the world, spending $60 billion per year on fish and shellfish.

The acidic water at Netarts Bay is old, cold, deep water brought to the Pacific shallows by long period ocean circulation patterns and prevailing winds. It absorbed CO₂ from the atmosphere fifty to sixty years ago. Ocean acidification is a phenomenon as old as man's industrial revolution. But carbon emissions have been rising dramatically in recent decades. Last year contained the highest level of global carbon emissions recorded to date. If current emission rates continue the oceans could be 150% more acidic by 2100 or more acidic than they have been for 20 million years. The marine food chain would undoubtably collapse and some humans will starve as a consequence. The oyster farmers at Netarts Bay are now monitoring seawater acidity and buffering it with chemistry. Federal funds are helping the industry to adapt (another example of the free market at work), but it would make more cents and more oysters to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Peruvian Indigenous Win Victory for Rainforest

Brazilian construction company Odebrecht is withdrawing plans for a dam that threatened 73,000 hectares of Peruvian rainforest and farmland to "respect the opinion of local populations". To convince the developer to call off the plans, the tribal people invited officials of Odebrecht to meet in traditional community assemblies. Fourteen thousand indigenous people of the Asháninka communities opposed the dams on the Tambo and Ene Rivers. Three other companies confirmed the suspension of the Tambo 60, Mainique 1 and Paquitzapango projects. One of the dams planned by Electrobras, the Brazilian electrical utility company, Inambari, is in development stages and has the support of Peru's government. The dams are being built to supply Brazil burgeoning industrial economy. The four cancelled or suspended dams would have produced about 6,000 megawatts of electricity as part of an energy export agreement between Peru and Brazil signed in June 2010. Most of the energy is expected to come from hydroelectric projects located in the Peruvian Amazon, a region of huge biodiversity.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Will the Mammoth Live Again?

Ever since the smash movie "Jurassic Park" implanted the idea of genetic resurrection of extinct species in the modern popular consciousness--the gothic novel Frankenstein was the first popular treatment of the subject of reanimation--efforts to find sufficient DNA material to allow an attempt at cloning an extinct animal back into existence have accelerated. The once science fiction feat is closer to reality as more well-preserved mammoth carcasses (Mammuthus primigenius) are being found in Siberia because of melting perma-frost. The last wooly mammoths survived as a dwarf race into the 1700s BC, but most of the kind were extinct by the end of the Pleistocene Era, 10,000 BC. Scientists think that the mammoth succumbed to a combination of climate change and early human predation. It is closely related to the Indian elephant according to studies of the complete mitochondrial genome sequence of Mammuthus primigenius One possible way to clone a mammoth would be to implant intact mammoth DNA into an unfertilized Indian elephant egg, and then implant the egg into a female elephant for development.
Mammoth gravé de La Grotte des Combarelles
Scientific teams from Sakha Republic's mammoth museum and Japan's Kirki University will launch a project to create a mammoth after a well preserved thigh bone was discovered in August. Well preserved bone marrow cells are necessary for the nuclei implantation technique to work. Japanese scientists have found vital DNA in mice that have been frozen for 16 years. In 2009 Spanish researchers succeeded in cloning an extinct Pyrenean ibex, but the animal died shortly after birth. American and Australian researchers are making progress on sequencing the genome of the thylacine or Tasmanian tiger, a carnivorous marsupial that was hunted into extinction in the 1930s. Scientists say it is only a matter of time before an extinct animal is brought back from the dead, and most likely it will be a wooly mammoth not a T. Rex. However, the ethics of reincarnating an extinct animal are not as well developed as the bioengineering.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Cook Inlet's Beluga Whales Still Protected

Last month the chief judge for the US District Court for DC, Judge Lamberth, decided that Alaska's Cook Inlet beluga whales should remain endangered citing a spree of native subsistence hunting that nearly wiped them out between 1994 and 1998. He rejected the state of Alaska's bid to overturn the endangered listing by the National Marine Fisheries Service. Conservation organizations intervened in the suit on the federal government's side. More than a decade after the legislative moratorium on hunting the whales, the population has not shown any appreciable recovery.

Native hunters killed half of the remaining population of 650 whales in only four years, using modern technology. Thirty years ago the population exceeded 1300. Cook Inlet belugas were listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act in 2008. Then Governor Sarah Palin promised she would sue to remove the whales from protection but left office in mid-term to run for the presidency. Her replacement carried out the stated intent to block the endangered designation and the designation of 3,016 square miles of Cook Inlet as critical habitat for the whales [map]. The Cook Inlet whales are genetically unique from other belugas and face a 70% chance of extinction in the next 300 years according to the most realistic population model. Beluga whales are also protected under the US Marine Mammal Act and are listed on the "Red List" of the International Union for Conservation of Nature. An Alaskan wildlife conservationist called the state's "war on wildlife" a loosing battle that is "wasting taxpayer money on frivolous [legal] challenges".

Saturday, December 03, 2011

It Isn't Over Yet in Iraq

Vice President Joe Biden was in Iraq for 'grip and grin' ceremonies this week to mark the end of US occupation. But busy little war elves (or are they gnomes?) deep in the Washington swamp are working their little hands to the bone trying to find a way to keep some US troops in a nation ripped by factional violence. Instead of US troops these neoimperialists are attempting to negotiate NATO troops to stay behind, ostensibly for training purposes. Regardless of the label one attaches to the military presence, the problem remains one of legal immunity under Iraqi law for foreign military personnel. This is a highly unpopular demand with Iraqi politicians, as well it should be. Civilian deaths at the hands of US forces were enormous during the ten years of operations. Some of those deaths, the exact number will probably never be known, constitute war crimes. The most flagrant examples were the massacre at Hadditha, the massacre at Nisoor Square, and the deaths during interrogation at the infamous prison of Abu Ghraib. According to the US ambassador to NATO, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki wants military trainers to remain until 2013. There are members of the Iraq Council of Representatives, which must give approval for such immunity, who oppose the concession of sovereignty. In addition, all 28 members of NATO must agree to terms. Time is running out for the western militarists as December 31st is the drop dead date. Peace lovers can hope the game whistle blows first.

Friday, December 02, 2011

'Toontme: "Dirty Hippies" Loose Again

[credit: Cameron Cardow, Ottawa Citizen]
Wackydoodle axes: Didn't I see that flyin' monkey before?
Its up to the the 99%ers to try and figure out an effective alternative means of protest now that they have been evicted and public parks surrounded with chain link fence in the name of sanitation. Rest assured that the guys in the towers have not missed a beat as their game continues.  Worldwide central banks released more dollar liquidity to prop up crumbling European banks and their interconnected US counterparts. Moody's was ready to downgrade 87 European banks, and Germany was proving to be unbearably recalcitrant in bailing out Europe when Bernanke unleashed the flood of cheap dollars (interbank dollar loans were reduced by 50 basis points and foreign currencyswap lines extended into February 2013 to stave off another liquidity crisis) that flushed the Ponzi (stock) market to its biggest rally of the year. It is interesting to note that Goldman Sachs, Secretary Timothy Geitner's former employer, has 537 times more in derivatives exposure than assets. And if that is not enough to demonstrate the power of the Plutocracy, the US Senate just voted to allow suspected terrorists including those captured inside the United States to be held indefinitely without trial in the custody of the US military. Damn the Constitution and full speed ahead, Mr. Mussolini.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Jaguar Encounter Confirmed in AZ

via LA Times on-line
US Person posted previously on the death of "Macho B", the last known jaguar inhabiting the United States in 2009. There have been five confirmed sightings of jaguars along the desert border with Mexico, but this latest sighting is the first since Macho B was euthanized. The sighting in Cochise County by a responsible hunting guide was of an adult male in good condition, weighing approximately 200 lbs. The New World's biggest cat was temporarily treed by the hunter's dogs. He was able to photograph and video the jaguar, after which he removed his dogs and himself from the immediate area. He reported the sighting to authorities by telephone. The guide reportedly found the annoyed jaguar's roaring to be "quite unreal"; it is the only American feline that roars. Later Arizona Fish & Game collected hair samples for testing. Biologists will attempt to compare the cat's fur rosettes with others that have been photographed in the past to determine his identity. The rare jaguar is protected under the Endangered Species Act, and once ranged from South America into the southern United States. Biologists believe jaguars spotted in Arizona are occasional visitors from a resident population living in Sonora, Mexico. A 2006 US Fish & Wildlife report says there is regular, intermittent use of borderlands by wide ranging males, but no evidence of females or cubs.