Thursday, February 28, 2013

No Medicine for You!

International pharmaceutical companies are cutting back on supplying Greece with popular medications because the country's insurance funds and hospitals owe the companies about $2.5bn. The debt goes back to 2011 and companies are expecting payments of $652 million this month. In a separate announcement the Swiss Red Cross said it was halting blood supplies to Greece because of its poor payment record. The Greek pharmacists association said supplies of certain drugs are down by 90%. The drugs affected include treatment for arthritis, hepatitis C, hypertension, high cholesterol, mental disease, bowel disease, infection and anesthetics. Around 300 drugs are in short supply. The Greek government regulator has identified eight internationals for fines out of a list of 50 it says are halting or slowing deliveries due to low prices and non-payment of debt. Pharmacists in Athens describe chaotic often angry scenes in their dispensaries as desperate consumers go from store to store searching for their favorite remedies that hospitals can no longer dispense. Pfizer admits to withholding some medications because of the resale trade in drugs which cashes in on higher prices in other European nations. At present Greek prices are 20% below the lowest in EU countries; EU trade rules permit the free movement of goods and services within the Union. Two products Pfizer is withholding are for leukemia, Zavedos and Aracytin. The company took the analgesic Neurontin and the epilepsy drug Epanutin off the Greek market last month. The international pharmacuetical industry wants Greece to bring in a new pricing system. Until it does, no drugs for you socialist Greek person!

BP Trial Begins

Witnesses began testifying in the British Petroleum trial this week to determine whether the company acted with gross negligence or willful misconduct that resulted in the largest oil spill in US history, the death of eleven oil platform workers, and destruction of uncounted numbers of protected wildlife. The outcome of the case will determine the size of the company's financial liability for the accident. The admiralty trial is to federal district Judge Carl Barbier sitting without a jury. BP has already admitted it was negligent in the guilty plea made in January to violations of environmental protection statutes, but liability for the contamination under the Clean Water Act are based upon size of the spill and the degree of culpability. BP faces a potential fine of $17 billion or $4,300 per barrel spilled if found grossly negligent or engaging in willful misconduct. Part of BP's defense will be to blame the company's drilling contractor, Transocean for a negative pressure test that was misinterpreted. The test was intended to determine whether the temporary abandonment procedure had successfully sealed the well from seawater outside it. Cameron International, the maker of the blowout preventer which failed, also received a share of the blame for the disaster in opening statements. But Alabama's Attorney General said that BP's "culture of corporate callousness towards the Gulf" was primarily to blame and that "greed devastated the Gulf." Louisiana Attorney General told the judge 212 miles of Louisiana coastline are still being polluted as result of the spill that began April 20,2010.

While the trial is underway, a $16 billion settlement of all liability has been proposed; however only a mere $6 billion of that would be fines for violating the Clean Water Act. Fines for criminal or wanton behavior unlike penalties or other payments are not tax deductible since they are intended to punish. Assuming the judge accepts an estimate of about 4.7 million barrels spilled, a figure BP disputes, the proposed $6 billion in fines represents the low end of possible fines under the Act. A negligence finding would imply a fine of about $4.7 billion or $1,000 per barrel spilled. A second trial will determine how much oil officially leaked into the Gulf of Mexico. The company has already received credit for the oil recovered from the well in a separate decision. It has made a contingency provision of $42 billion for damages arising from the disaster.

BP's internal investigation known as the Bly Report did not extend to possible systemic causes for the disaster. A Berkeley engineering professor said on the witness stand that the omission made the report incomplete from a safety management standpoint.

In a related development, a Louisiana woman defrauded resident Southeast Asian fisherfolk who wanted employment as spill clean-up workers. Large areas of the Gulf were closed to commercial fishing as a result of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. The woman created false identification documents and impersonated a federal hazardous waste official to collect money for "training seminars". Connie M. Knight held fake OSHA seminars and promised work to attendees once they paid for and completed the course. She had no connection to official spill contractors. Price of the course varied between $150 and $400 and lasted a few hours. Actual hazardous waste training takes at least six days of classroom work and three days of on-site training. Knight pleaded guilty to three felony charges and one misdemeanor. She faces a maximum of 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Whale Wars, Continued

credit: AFP/Getty Images
More: Reversing a federal district court decision, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has labeled the anti-whaling organization Sea Shepherds "pirates" commenting that eye patches and peg legs were not necessary to fit into that category. The appeals court was critical of the district court judge's refusal to grant the Japanese appellants an injunction agianst harassing Japanese vessels hunting whales, calling into question his impartiality. However, the Japanese plaintiff came into an American court of equity with unclean hands since it routinely violates Australia's ban on whale hunting within its jurisdiction. Japan faces legal action from Australia for the violations. A Sea Shepard spokesperson was unimpressed with the legal decision calling the pirate label "ludicrous" since no profit motive is involved with their actions. The American chapter of the organization was ordered to severe ties with the Australian branch that is conducting the anti-whaling campaign on the high seas.

{20.2.13}Sea Shepherds are again in the news as they continue their improbable and dangerous campaign against Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean. The whaling factory ship Nissan Maru collided with its own tanker ship Sun Laurel and struck the Shepherd ships Bob Barker and Steve Irwin. The collisions came as the factory ship was attempting to maneuver close to the tanker for refueling. Bob Barker was hit multiple times according to Shepherd founder Paul Watson who was aboard the Steve Irwin as an observer. Watson jumped bail in Germany last summer where he was being held for extradition to Costa Rica; he claimed the Costa Rican warrant was a maneuver to deliver him to Japanese authorities. Watson told interviewers that the refueling was illegal under Australian and international law (MARPOL) prohibiting marine pollution from ships. Despite Sea Shepherd attempts to interfere with refueling operations, it was accomplished.

The US chapter of the Shepherd organization is restrained by the US Ninth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals from coming within 500 feet of a Japanese whaling vessel. Watson had to resign all positions within Sea Shepherds as a result of the US court order. So the Australian branch is running the "Zero Tolerance" anti-whaling campaign this season; according to the Shepherds' Australian counsel, the US injunction has no application to the Australian chapter. An Australian federal court has enjoined the Institute for Cetacean Research, the Japanese government agency running the whaling operation, from whaling in Australian waters declared a marine sanctuary. It repeatedly violates that injunction. A cold war of nerves continues on two fronts, in the courtroom and on the high seas.

The Shepherds seem to have the upper hand for now. They have succeeded in drastically reducing the Japanese catch. January, a prime month for whale catching, passed without the death of a single individual. That result is credited to the fleet of four ships, a helicopter, and 120 volunteers which keep the whaling fleet on the run. Their goal is to make Southern Ocean whaling so uneconomic for the Japanese that they will call it quits. Japan is not ready to give up, however; it has sent in the Shonan Maru No.2, a fast security vessel equipped with armed members of Japan's Coast Guard. Japan has set a quota of 1,000 minke and 50 fin whales for the 2012/13 season.

Shell Gives Up 2013 Plans to Drill in Arctic

Breaking: Unable to meet stiffened government requirements for air pollution in the pristine arctic atmosphere, Shell has abandoned plans to drill this season in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. Shell has been plagued with equipment problems, not the least of which was the grounding of the Kulluk drilling platform near Kodiak Island earlier this year {January, 2013}. The grounding and problems with an oil containment system caused Shell to re-think its arctic operations which did not progress beyond a few exploratory holes. It will use its self-imposed pause to retool and repair for future operations. The arctic exploratory program has already cost the company $5 billion. There are no indications Shell intends to permanently halt its activities calling the operations a "long-term program that we are pursuing in a safe and measured way." Conservationists would like to see the government re-think its decision to allow offshore arctic oil production because the inability of oil companyies' to demonstrate an ability to effectively respond to a major oil spill in frigid conditions. A major review of Shell's first year of operation is being reviewed at the Interior Department to determine how best to proceed. Recently the Department of Interior decided to allow exploration and production onshore in the National Petroleum Reserve to the west of Prudhoe Bay.

Gold Up, Italy Still Confused

The response of the markets to the Italian election on February 25 was clearer than the political results. Gold was up after sliding and European stocks fell--thumbs down from capitalism. A coalition of the left under Luigi Bersani controls the lower chamber but did not receive a clear majority (123 seats of the needed 158) in the Senate making Italy increasingly ungovernable in some observers' eyes. Italy has had sixty coalition governments since WWII. The situation is a distorted mirror image of the current partisan standoff in Congress. With characteristic Italian insouciance Father Luigi Bersani termed the risky deadlock "a dramatic situation". The government installed by the ECB and IMF led by Mario Monti was the loser (18 seats), so the Italian bond market must think it worse than merely dramatic. Even Italian comic Beppe Grillio leading the "Five Star Movement" against austerity and the EU got fifty-four Senate seats and 125 seats in the Chamber of Deputies, but so far he has been unwilling to join a parliamentary coalition proclaiming moral bankruptcy on both the right and the left. That other major Italian comic, 'Bunga-bunga Boy', Silvio Berlusconi [photo], also ruled out a coalition with the outgoing Eurocrats. Regardless of being subjected to numerous lawsuits including one for prostitution of a minor and a conviction for tax evasion, Berlusconi's party, PDL, gained representation. What can be said of the decidedly mixed election results is that Italians prefer la dolce vida to austerity in their headlines. Un type de revenue, n'est pas?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Build A Road Through It

credit: Washington Post
Izembek National Wildlife Refuge is a place you never heard of, but nearly every Pacific black brant on its way to Mexico for the winter stops there to feed. So it is an important place for the geese as well as endangered Steller's eiders, tundra swans, brown bears, and foxes. But Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AS) and residents of the village of King Cove want to build a road through it. Senator Murkowski is willing to block the nomination of Sally Jewell as Interior Secretary to get it done. Alaskans have been lobbying the federal government for twenty years to allow building a gravel road across the Izembek isthmus from King Cove to Cold Bay which has an all-weather airport. Residents say its necessary for safety reasons since the village has no real medical facilities of its own and their airport is a dirt strip hemmed in by sea and mountains. Since 1980 when the 315,000 acre refuge was designated wilderness there have been eleven deaths in plane crashes from King Cove that supporters say could have been avoided if a road existed. Flying across Cold Bay is not always viable since the weather in the Aleutian Chain is often too severe for safe air or even boat travel. King Cove officials want to exchange 13,000 acres of native land and 43,000 acres of state land for 206 acres from the Refuge and 1600 more from the Alaska Maritime NWR. The Interior Department has repeatedly rejected efforts to build the road on grounds that it would disturb an area otherwise off-limits to vehicle traffic and fragment habitat of endangered species. US Fish & Wildlife Service rejected the exchange idea in a final environmental impact statement on February 5th. USF&W Director Dan Ashe wrote in a statement that, "building a road through the refuge would damage the ecological functions of the refuge and impair its ability to provide vital support for native wildlife."

Murkowski told residents she will "use every tool in [her] toolbox" to get a road. She said she would be willing to block the nomination of the new Interior Secretary in letters to Salazar, Obama and Biden. Outgoing Secretary Ken Salazar has agreed to meet with villagers as he has the final departmental decision on the matter. The federal government has tried to help the 750 residents with medical services providing a $37.5 million telemedicine center that links to Anchorage, and transportation with a $9 million hovercraft connection to Cold Bay. The hovercraft stopped operating because the $1 million operating budget made it unaffordable for the Aleutians East Borough. The Borough maintains lousy Aluetian weather made it unreliable. A former medical director for the region said traveling an icy road in darkness and avalanche conditions would also be "foolish beyond any reason". Although villagers promise the road would only be used for medical emergencies, the idea had its genesis in a 1994 King Cove resolution calling for a road, "to link together two communities having one of the State's premier fishing port...with one of the State's premier airport at Cold Bay." The resolution did not mention safety as a justification for construction. Perhaps Ms. Murkowski should put away her toolbox and leave Izembek to the geese and ducks who do not mind the weather.

Monday, February 25, 2013

More Tanks Leaking at Hanford

More tanks are leaking at Hanford Nuclear Reservation than first disclosed said Washington State governor Jay Inslee on Friday. Last week the US Energy Department said only one tank was leaking, now there are six tanks said to be discharging radioactive waste liquid with a distinct possibility that more of the 177 underground tanks are infirm. One hundred forty-nine of these are single shell. An estimated 1 million gallons of waste has seeped into the groundwater and will eventually reach the Columbia River about five miles away. Hanford manufactured plutonium for the US nuclear arsenal before production stopped in 1988 and is considered to be one of the most contaminated locations on Earth. It represents two-thirds of the United State's high-level radioactive waste by volume. A clean-up of the site has been underway for years, but only ten tanks have been emptied [photo]. A planned facility to dispose of radioactive wastes at the site by vitrification is years behind schedule with operation starting not until 2019.

salmon spawning near Hanford 
Officials are quick to blame the possible sequester of federal money beginning in March as hampering containment efforts. However, Hanford's clean-up has a marred record of delay going back decades. Hanford Site was established in 1943 as part of the Manhattan Project. Plutonium was manufactured in the "B Reactor" at Hanford for use in the "Fat Man" bomb that destroyed Nagasaki. The Department of Energy identified tank T-111 with a capacity of 530,000 gallons and built in 1943-44 as an "assumed leaker" in 1979. The designed life of these older tanks is twenty years. T-111 still contains 447,000 gallons of radioactive sludge. An estimated 27 million gallons of salt cake and sludge remain in single shell tanks. In August of last year a leak from a double shell tank, AY-102 was detected. The waste was originally scheduled to be removed by 2018, but now the revised schedule is 2040. Over the years about of a third of the underground storage tanks have leaked waste into the soil and groundwater. If the clean-up does not proceed on schedule, the waste is expected to reach the river in 12 to 50 years.

Squestration, A Good Thing?

Apparently more charts are needed concerning the question: sequestration, is it a good thing? Washington has resorted to issuing usual scary stories to get its way on spending more happy money far into the future. In the absence of a functional Congress that can actually agree on a budget instead of passing a continuing resolution and deux ex machina spending cuts, US Person said yes. Why? One reason is the law exempts a significant portion of mandatory spending on Social Security and Medicaid from sequestration (automatic cancellation of budgetary resources). Medicare cuts are limited to 2% per year. The Act's mandatory caps on discretionary federal spending keep appropriations for 2012 and 2013, except for war spending, below that provided for in 2011. The caps limit growth of, not actually cut, federal appropriations to 2% a year from 2014 to 2021. [dotted line, chart] Discretionary spending, that spending controlled by Congress in annual appropriations, accounted for nearly 40% of federal spending in 2010. The amount was $1.3 trillion of which over half ($689 billion) was spent on defense programs. Granted, the capped growth in federal funding will be less than the Congressional Budget Office's projection for the economy's growth rate, so total federal discretionary funding will fall relative to GDP and by 2021 reach levels not seen in a long time. Liberals are screaming bloody murder and gay bashing as horror stories of their social programs being brutalized and pillaged by pointy-headed tax avoiders are trotted out for the press to repeat into their screens and microphones. But the Budget Control Act does not specify how the discretionary budget authority is be allocated among various federal programs, it only caps total spending. So don't fall for the scary sounds emanating from behind the beltway, its just the lobbyists farting!

Fact is according to CBO statutory caps on discretionary spending were imposed in 1990, extended twice, and did not expire until 2002. The limits helped control discretionary spending. According to CBO all of the required reductions in appropriations could be met by cutting appropriations for defense programs--not directly related to war fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan--from 3.7 of GDP in 2011 to 2.4% GDP in 2021! Budget authorities could even be allowed to grow for non-defense programs at the rate of inflation under this scenario. Even with the Budget Control Act mandates limiting growth in spending, the amount of outstanding pubic debt will continue to grow. By 2023, assuming current laws remain in place, debt will equal 77% of GDP on an upward path (the chart understates the problem since it does not include federal debt held by the Fed or other government entitites). No, we cannot cut our way to prosperity but we may be able to avoid becoming another Greece:
[charts source: Congressional Budget Office]

COTW: More Severe Storms in Our Future

One consequence of global warming is the intensification of winter storms in the northern hemisphere. The phenomenon known as "arctic amplification" is thought to be responsible. This winter the northeast and midwest are experiencing large amounts of snowfall. The chart shows the increasing number of natural catastrophes over the past three decades in North America. Of course each disaster costs the federal government billions in emergency services and insurance payments.  In 2011 there were 14 extreme weather events that each caused $1 billion in damages. 2012 contained 11 such disasters.  Pay particular attention to the green bars showing meteorological events as compared to geophysical events:

A new study by Munich Re, a top reinsurer, concludes that "climate-driven changes are already evident over the last few decades for severe thunderstorms, heavy precipitation, and flash flooding..." The study also says that North America is ground zero for climate disasters with the largest increase  in the number of disasters.  NOAA has come to a similar conclusion in its Climate Extremes Index:

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Arctic Reserve Opened to Oil Production

A farewell gift to the oil industry* from departing Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is his decision to open up three-quarters of the recoverable oil in the National Petroleum Reserve on Alaska's Chukchi and Beaufort Sea coast to production. He signed the Record of Decision on Thursday. Secretary Salazar made an effort to protect the abundant wildlife living in the 23 million acre Reserve saying the "balanced approach under this plan is the result of extensive local input and will help guide production and transport" of the estimated 9.3 billion barrels of oil that are economically recoverable. Only 11 million acres of the Reserve is designated protected for wildlife, while almost all the coastline is opened to energy development. The Audubon Society opposed energy exploration of Lake Teshekpuk in 2006 under the Charlatan's "drill, baby, drill" government, but expressed approval of Secretary Salazar's final decision since it was based on a preferred alternative development plan supported by the organization. The critical Teshekpuk Lake Area [map, upper right] and Utukok River Uplands [lower left] were both preserved from oil and gas development under the decision. Teshekpuk Lake [video]at the center of the Arctic's largest wetland is a prolific waterfowl and migratory bird nursery. Large populations of geese from Canada, Siberia and other parts of Alaska travel to the wetlands for their annual molt before heading south. They are unable to fly during this time and are particularly vulnerable to disturbance. NPR-A also is home to Alaska's largest caribou herd comprised of about 325,000 individuals. Some forty native villages rely on the Western Arctic caribou herd for sustenance.

A lease sale of NRP-A blocks was conducted last December generating 17 winning bids covering 140,000 acres. Another lease sale will be conducted in November. Conoco-Phillips got production permits for the Reserve issued to it last year.

*for statistical evidence that lobbying works, i.e. a positive correlation exists between lobbying expense and corporate performance, see the study by Chen, Parsley & Yang (2010).

Friday, February 22, 2013

'Toontime: 2nd Term Tilt?

[credit: Daryl Cagle]
Wackedoodle sez: Don't bogart that chronic splif my friend!
Released from the political exigencies of winning office, presidents appear to turn toward policies supported by their party's alienated ideologues in their final term. Whether the perception spoofed above matches reality is another question. While tens of thousands were protesting against the XL pipeline on the Washington Mall, B. O'Drama was golfing in Florida with oil and pipeline executives. Either perception or reality, the Repugnants are having none of it. They will do their dead level best to alter any course the President might wish to follow. The Hagel nomination is their first shot across his bow, filibuster or no.  The iceberg of sequestration lies dead ahead.
[credit: Steve Sack, Minneapolis Star-Tribune]
Wackydoodle sez:  Po' workin'man blames his tools.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

On the Edge: Bactrian Camel

credit: WCPF
Only 600 or so wild Bactrian Camels cling to existence in the extremity of the Great Gobi Desert, and the population is declining. Two British conservations decided fifteen years ago to attempt to preserve this keystone species of the cold desert by establishing the Wild Camel Protection Foundation. Progress has been made in since then, thanks to the perseverance of conservationists and funds from concerned organizations. China established a wild camel reserve in the heart of the Lop Nur nuclear testing area and Mongolia established the Great Gobi Protected Area. Both governments signed a mutual cooperation agreement to protect the remaining wild camels in 2001. In 2004 a breeding center was established [photo] adjacent to the Great Gobi Protected Area with the cooperation of the Mongolian government. Genetic testing by the Veterinary University of Vienna show a consistent variation from domestic camel stock, therefore a wild breeding program is vital to maintaining a separate species officially recognized since 2010 and known as the wild camel. Wild camel habitat is extremely fragile since it exists in extremes of temperature and drought. It is threatened by human exploitation such as mining. By protecting the critically endangered wild camel, many other endangered flora and fauna benefit.

Vaticangate: the Pope's Season of Discontent

More: The UK's Guardian now reports that Italian newspaper La Republica has a dossier prepared by three cardinals whom Benedict assigned to investigate Vaticangate. Factions within the church's Vatican leadership are described including one "united by sexual orientation". Apparently quoting from the secret report, the Italian daily says some officials had been subjected to "external influence" by lay persons with whom they had contact of a "worldly nature" that violated the sixth and seventh commandments according to an inside source. The paper calls it simply, blackmail. The cardinals' report describes private meeting places in and around Rome including a villa outside Rome, a sauna in a Rome suburb, a beauty parlor in city center, and a residence used by a provincial Archbishop. The Vatican refuses to officially confirm or deny the existence of the report, but says the news reports about its content are creating "a tension opposite of what the Church wants" prior to the conclave of cardinals who will elect a successor. Pope Benedict resigned on the day he received the two volume report from Cardinals Julián Herranz, Salvatore De Giorgi, and Jozef Tomko. Rumors of a gay network within the Vatican have circulated for years, but this is the first time the existence of a homosexual cabal has been linked to the resignation of a pope.

{19.2.13}Like any big bureaucracy despite its lofty connections to the spiritual realm the Vatican is riven by serious internal disputes. Pope Benedict alluded to these with his statement that, "...hypocrisy disfigures the face of the Church". Many thought he was referring to the sex abuse scandals that have wounded the universal Church, and which he did little to root out when Cardinal John Ratzinger was the Vatican's dogmatic enforcer as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Actually, the rivalries and hypocrisy are much more mundane than individual priests' violations of sacred trust, and probably contributed to the aging Pope's decision to resign an office normally held until death. He is the first pope to resign in 600 years.

When Benedict's personal butler, Paolo Gabriele stole boxes of correspondence and documents from the Pope's desk, he put his hands on correspondence from Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò who was tasked with budgetary reform in Vatican City. Viganò was locked in a battle with the Pope's second-in-command, Cardinal Tarciscio Bertone. Archbishop Viganò asked the Pope for help, claiming Bertone was blocking financial overhaul. Bertone wanted to remove Viganò because he was receiving bad reviews in the press for his management style. Pope Benedict sided with the powerful Bertone and Viganò was sent to the ambassadorship in Washington, DC.

Gabriele's leaks, for which he was prosecuted, provide the public with unprecedented insight into the workings of an institution that is both religious and big business. The light cast into the shadows is not flattering to the Holy See. Vatican City is a hermetic bureau staffed with fusty, turf protecting bureaucrats seemingly obsessed with byzantine Italian politics. In the correspondence there are allegations of corruption and systemic dysfunction similar to those plaguing secular governments. Viganò complained of contracts awarded at double the cost charged on the outside, and he attempted cost cutting measures, but was only rebuffed by the powerful Cardinal Bertone. Bertone also thwarted papal efforts to make the Vatican's books accessible to outside auditors, an unprecedented step towards transparency. Cardinal Bertone, considered an outsider by senior denizens of the Italian city-state, worked diligently to consolidate his powers as the Vatican's Secretary of State. Benedict is not revealed as the reformer he hoped to be, but rather as a weak manager with little media or leadership skills. He will be remembered for his resignation, leaving his successor to struggle with a seemingly endless and damaging sex abuse scandal of global proportions.

Apparently Gabriele's theft was a misguided effort to get the Pope's attention to the serious "degeneration" he saw confronting the Holy See. The investigative reporter who received the documents wrote a bestselling book based on the information, "His Holiness: The Secret Papers of Benedict XVI". Gabriele was tried and convicted, but the pope pardoned him in December. The Vatican's response to the leaks was to augment its public relations operation by hiring a former Fox News correspondent and member of Opus Dei, an ultra-conservative Catholic cult. Their pitch was to portray Gabriele as a grandiose simpleton and use his public trial as evidence of the Vatican's new openness. The pope now has a Twitter account, but Cardinal Bertone who presides over the Vatican Bank, is still in power despite the unorthodox revelations.

Where's the Money--in the Pipes!

Think the Second Great Contraction is a figment of US Person's imagination? Check this recent story from Bloomberg. Theft of plumbing for the value of the metal is reaching new highs, cutting the number of US homes with complete plumbing by about 10.4% This figure was complied from US census data. Collapsing Detroit his behind only Gary, Indiana which leads the list of cities experiencing urban devolution. Cleveland, Dayton, Camden and Buffalo are also being affected by blight. Detroit's population peaked at 1.85 million in 1950. The 2010 Census counts a population of 714,000. Twenty-two thousand properties may go on sale for deliquent taxes this year, but about 19% of Detroit's real estate units lack complete plumbing.  Roaming gangs of vandals are responsible for stripping the units of their plumbing and wiring.

Between 2002 and 2007 reported metal thefts in Dallas spiked almost 1000%. Thieves using power tools were dismantling the city, even taking bronze vases from graves. Metal theft is a difficult crime to combat because the loot is easily disposed of and untraceable once it is melted down. If a cop is lucky, he may spot a casting mark that can be investigated before the metal is recycled, but record keeping in the scrap metal business is notoriously lax. The Dallas metal theft unit cracks only 10% of reported cases. Phoenix has experienced a rise in metal thefts by more than 400% since 2003, causing damages of more than $7.2 million in 2008. In August 2007, thieves removing copper pipes from a vacant Iowa farmhouse accidentally cut the propane gas line. When the 80 year-old homeowner and retired plumber plugged in a fan to blow out lingering gas in the basement the house exploded killing him. The stolen copper was worth about $20. When inflation kills, its serious.

Why is this happening, not only in Detroit, but all over the country? The high price of metals motivates people. Copper climbed to a peak of $4.62/lb on the London metal exchange in 2011 up from 75¢. An average single-family home uses 439 lbs of copper that yields about $1000 to $1200. The damage done to property while mining for metal usually far exceeds the value of the commodity. The Electrical Safety Foundation International calculated an estimated $60.4 million in damage from 50,193 incidents of copper theft nationwide.

Monday, February 18, 2013

COTW: The Price of 'Fiscal Stability'

Greece has not fallen off US Person's radar. So far, the EU has propped up the country's failed economy with 149 billions of Euros. But the quid pro quo of fiscal austerity has inflicted a high price on Greeks, as this chart shows:

Greece's unemployment now matches Spain's in severity at 26.6%, double the EU average of 11.7%. Sixty percent of young people are unemployed. The Greek economy has undergone a contraction of €70 billion according to opposition leader Alexis Tsipras, and the social consequences are serious. Middle class citizens making more than $26,000 a year now have to pay up to 42% of their annual salary in taxes to keep revenue commitments to creditors. There is unrest on both ends of the political spectrum. Labor has called national strikes. The latest metrorail strike shut down Athens. Neo-fascist gangs roam the streets expressing their displeasure with a coalition government that has complied with international financiers demands for 'fiscal stability'. Their hate violence towards immigrants is growing. Greece is proving to be the acid test for the survival of the European Union. Many economists, among them Alan Greenspan, predicted the Union would breakup when an asymmetrical crisis affected economies not fully integrated with a common fiscal policy. Europeans, notably Germany, have had to grudgingly write checks to rescue debt ridden Greece. Nonetheless, there are reasons to want the EU to put its fiscal house in order. As a Turkish minister recently put it, Turkey wants to be a full member despite its problems because the European Union "is the world's biggest peace project".

Friday, February 15, 2013

Meteor Explodes above Chelyabinsk

So the cogent question is, why did humans not detect this morning meteor the size of a bus before it exploded over Chelyabinsk [link to photos]with the force equivalent to 30 Hiroshima bombs? The shock waves blew out windows and rattled buildings injuring 1100. NASA is actively scanning the heavens for objects in near Earth orbits, but the short answer is, the object was too small to register on any of our near-Earth surveys. Congress mandated in 1998 that NASA identify potentially hazardous objects a full 1km in diameter, or big enough to alter the course of civilization. That threshold was lowered in 2005 to 140 meters in diameter, or regionally devastating. This meteoroid's trajectory took it behind the moon and approached Earth from the direction of the Sun making it difficult to detect, if instruments were watching for it. Europe's near-Earth survey said current information indicates the meteor was a small asteroid one-third the size and traveling in an opposite direction from asteroid DA14 which passed 17,000 miles above Earth as expected. A survey scientist also said, "there is no way the meteor could have been detected with the technical means available today." Even a smaller object traveling 65,000kms/h can be catastrophic if a city suffers a direct hit because F=Ma. Chelyabinsk is a city of 1 million and home to nuclear facilities. The meteor broke up in the atmosphere about 30-35kms high, but some fragments or meteorites struck the ground, one making a 20 foot hole in the ice of a nearby lake.[photo, right] It is a stroke of good fortune that Russia's military did not mistake the meteor for an incoming ballistic missile.

'Toontime: Name that Lobby

[credit: R.J. Matson, St.Louis Post Dispatch]
Wackydoodle axes: But can y'all handle them snakes?

One would think that a former Senator, decorated Vietnam combat veteran, and friend of the newly appointed Secretary of State and a Republican to boot is a natural pick for the office of Secretary of Defense. But not in today's snake pit of a Senate chamber. All Chuck Hegel had to do was use a politically incorrect term for a known fact--Israel has a highly influential Washington lobby--and dare to oppose the Iraq adventure to garner a filibuster by his own party members. Majority leader Henry Reid, who failed to reform the filibuster rule at the beginning of the new Congress, also failed to garner the 60 votes needed to approve Hegel's nomination against Senator Lindsey Graham's (R-SC) opposition. The vote to end debate was 58 to 40. That is the first ever filibuster of a nominee for Secretary of Defense; only twice before since 1917 has a cabinet-level nominee been subjected to a supermajority vote. Another vote on the nomination is expected after the Senate returns from a recess that Democrats expect to win, but it gives Zionist fanatics another ten days to derail Hagel's nomination.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Australian Windpower Now Cheapest

Alternative energy sources were once derided by energy experts as too expensive to replace fossil fuels anytime soon. However, a new study by Bloomberg says wind generated costs per megawatt-hour for wind generated electricity are AU$80 compared to AU$143 for a new coal plant or AU$116 for a new baseload gas plant. The prices include the cost of emissions under Australia's carbon pricing system, but even without the carbon taxes, wind is 14% cheaper than coal and 18% cheaper than natural gas. This is real news in a country that is the world's second largest coal exporter. Michael Liebreich, chief of Bloomberg New Energy Finance says, "The view that fossil fuels are cheap and renewables are expensive is now out of date." Since 2011 the cost of wind generation has fallen by 10% and the cost of solar photovoltaics by 29%, while the cost of new energy from fossil-fueled plants is high and rising. Part of that cost increase is due to financing costs. A survey of major Australian banks show that lenders would require a risk premium due to "reputational damage" from greenhouse gas emissions. The results of the study suggest that Australia may be joining Germany in a renewable energy future. By 2020 solar will be cheaper than new coal or gas. Currently, over 75% of Australia's electricity is generated by coal. Older fossil fuel plants that have been depreciated over the years still produce the cheapest energy, but the game has changed for new energy generation in Australia.

Nellis AFB, NV solar array
Another type of renewable energy, solar, is producing good news too. The world's installed solar capacity has hit 101GW (gigawatts) according to the European Photovoltaic Industry Association, exceeding predictions from only ten years ago. Europe is the solar leader despite regulatory uncertainties. Last year Europe installed nearly 17GW while the US only installed 3.2GW [photo] . Currently, Germany is the world leader in total installed solar energy followed by Italy and China. In fact, Germany now produces 20.8% of its electricity from renewable sources, up 15% from 2000 according to Der Spiegel.  The increase is no doubt driven by the German government's announced policy of 35% renewables by 2020. The country's renewable energy act has provided investors and manufacturers an assured market for their products. Photovoltaic solar power has increased more than 76% in the past year, surpassing hydroelectric power, despite the fact Germany receives about the same amount of sunshine as Alaska. Chancellor Merkel's market-oriented government recently increased incentives for the production of wind, biomass, and geothermal fuels. Germany plans to be nuke-free by 2022.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Ivory Poachers are Winning

The news for elephants and rhinos is catastrophic.  Gabon in central Africa reported this month that poachers have killed 11,000 elephants since 2004. The National Parks Agency said organized, heavily armed bandits are making the Congo Basin a prime target for poaching activities. They are supplying the ivory to lucrative black markets in Asia. In one park alone, Minkébé, poachers have killed off 77% of the forest elephant population. Gabon is believed to contain the world's largest forest elephant population. The Democratic Republic of Congo has less than 10% of its population of twenty years ago when it elephant population was estimated at 80,000. In the Central African Republic, poachers are headed to the Dzanga-Sangha Protected Areas, the last elephant stronghold there. Villagers are reporting elephant slaughter throughout the country. This month poachers killed 17 elephants around the Ngotto forest. Cameroon, Chad and Gabon are recruiting more rangers and using their armies to fight poachers, but their efforts are not enough. WWF says the situation is out of control as the world witnesses the systematic slaughter of the world's largest land mammal. Stopping the slaughter will require direct international intervention. If no such emergency action is taken the wild elephant in central Africa will be extirpated in our lifetime. Massive amounts of elephant ivory are being laundered through Thailand, a Buddhist nation that reveres the elephant. You can help by signing WWF's petition addressed to Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to ban all ivory trade in Thailand.

Central African governments are often viewed as weak and corrupted but even in countries with better protection of their natural heritage, ivory poaching is reaching alarming levels.  In South Africa, 668 rhinos were slaughtered in 2012, a 50% increase in since 2007. The demand for rhino horn is driven by its alleged medicinal properties. Rhino horn is made of the same substance as human fingernails, so rhino horn containing any cancer curing or other healing properties is complete superstition. But its superstition for which rich Asians are willing to pay big money. In December Vietnam and South Africa signed an agreement aimed at fighting the booming illegal trade in wildlife. Hopefully the agreement will allow the two governments to suppress the international syndicates behind the smugglers.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Camp Lemonnier: Drone Central

Legionnaire Eugene Bullard
Once it was the marching grounds of the French Foreign Legion, but the desert outpost is now drone central in America's secret war in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian peninsula. The operations are so secret that even the drone flyers use noms de guerre with the other marines and soldiers stationed in the back of beyond. A glimpse into the murky world of drone warfare, increasingly America's weapon of choice against an enemy that wears no uniform and crosses state boundaries at will, was obtained by the Washington Post which examined unclassified procurement documents and crash reports. Apparently the drones crash frequently; five drones have crashed while returning to base since January 2011. The Camp located in Djibouti has grown to a 500 acre facility with 3200 troops exclusively dedicated to counterterriorism, making it unique in the Pentagon's globe spanning empire. Three hundred Special Operations personnel ensconced in buildings sprouting satellite dishes behind concertina wire plan and execute raids in the failed state of Somalia and civil-war torn Yemen where Al Qaeda is active. Both the CIA and increasingly the Pentagon's Joint Special Operations Command are conducting sorties. Camp Leonnier is no longer just a Marine expeditionary camp, it is becoming a hardened US military base. About $1.4 billion in construction projects are planned over the next twenty-five years including facilities that could house up to 1,100 Special Operations forces.

Of course the Navy is not to be outdone in the drone war race. It is currently testing a drone for aircraft carrier landings that can cary 4,000 pounds of munitions (XB-47B).  It is also testing a drone helicopter. If these tests are successful, then the United States could carry out remote controlled air strikes anywhere in the world without seeking permission to use airbases on foreign soil or risking pilots' lives. Not quite Zeus hurling lightning bolts, but a reasonable facsimile. The ethical questions of remote controlled killing of enemies that may include US citizens* have been thrust aside in the search for efficient weapons that are relatively riskless for their operators. A Harvard law professor said Obama's brutal embrace of a legal theory that allows the assassination of citizens anywhere in the world "a repudiation of the Magna Carta". Divine right of the emperor, anyone?

*Obama ordered the killing of US citizen and Al Qaeda propagandist Anwar Awlaki in 2009 using a ship launched Tomahawk cruise missile armed with cluster bombs, The cruise missle missed Awlaki but 52 Yemenis were killed, more than half of which were women and children. The United States is not a signatory to the international convention against cluster munitions. Awlaki was killed by a drone strike in September 2011. Two weeks later Obama killed his 16 year old son in another drone strike. Abdel-Rahman Awlaki was born in Denver.  His father was born in New Mexico.  Regardless if Anwar Awlaki was a bad actor who deserved death, the slippery slope has been institutionalized in the course of two administrations making a mockery of the Bill of Rights.

COTW: Too Expensive to Build

credit: Union of Concerned Scientists
The controlling theme for the US nuclear power industry is one of aging plants becoming obsolete and too expensive to replace [chart above]. The once touted "nuclear renaissance" is but a figment of the overwrought imagination of capitalists lusting for profit akin to their earlier claim that nuclear generated electricity would be "too cheap to meter". Case in point: Duke Energy's Crystal River plant. Crystal River 3 began operation in 1977. The 860MW reactor has been shut since 2009 because cracks in the walls of the reactor containment building were caused by replacement of its steam generators. Repairs caused other cracks or delaminations in 2011. Duke's own cost study said the repair bill might exceed $300 billion and take as long as eight years to complete. In comparison, a similar capacity natural gas combined cycle plant would cost about $1 billion and take only three years to build. Natural gas prices are at decade lows due to record production from fracking shale formations. The company delayed its project to build a new nuclear power plant in Levy County, Florida near the Crystal River facility until an in service date of 2024. It also revised cost estimates upwards for the 2200 MW facility to between $19 and $24 billion.

Dominion Resources which owns the 566MW Kewaunee reactor in Wisconsin announced it will retire the reactor over the next few months because continued operation of Kewaunee is uneconomic. The company bought the Green Bay area plant in 2005 for about $220 million and invested more while pursuing renewal of its operating license. According to rate filings, Dominion lost $20 million operating the plant in 2010, $39 million in 2011, and $303 million in 2012. Dominion has been trying to sell the plant, but has found no takers. The predicament has prompted local pro-nuclear legislators to propose subsidies for the reactor to stay in operation by changing the state's renewable energy mandate to include nuclear fission. The company said the proposed subsidies would not alter its decision to close Kewaunee, now scheduled between April and June of this year, since it is dictated by market economics. Decommissioning costs are expected to be about $281 million.

When gas prices soared in the mid 2000s, nuclear plants were more economic causing boosters to declare a "nuclear renaissance" was at hand {"nuclear power"}. Recently however, UBS Securities, the Swiss financial services company, has identified other aging US nuclear facilities that are uneconomic to operate. These include Vermont Yankee, Ginna and FitzPatrick in New York, and Clinton in Illinois. Expensive upgrades, stricter discharge regulations and low natural gas prices are all cited by UBS as reasons for possible decommissioning which is itself an expensive and lengthy process. It considers the 605MW Vermont Yankee facility as the "most tenuously positioned". A protracted legal dispute has evolved over the state of Vermont's authority to refuse necessary operating permits. At one point, the state Senate voted to shut the nuclear facility down. From too cheap to meter to too expensive to replace in fifty years--nuclear, US Person hardly missed you.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

'Toontime: Triangulating the Gunners

[credit: Bruce Plante, Tulsa World]
Wackydoodle sez: Dint furgit a mess a collards too!
B. O'Drama learned wingshooting on the streets of the lower eastside while attending Columbia Law; or perhaps it was in Hawaii when he and his cool buds took a break from hoops and tokin' jays in the restroom; or even at a southside Chicago rod and gun club between organizing events? Whatever works, but in this case the photo-op mis-fired.
[credit: Joe Heller, Green Bay Press-Gazette]

Thursday, February 07, 2013

COTW: Sequestration in Pictures

This graph shows why America has a deficit spending problem:
Federal revenue as a result of the Charlatan's windfall for the rich has essentially leveled off while the government continues to spend more. Of course, some of the spending was to allow the banksters to pass GO, collect their obscene pay packets, and keep them from going directly to JAIL. Barak O'Drama and Friends now face the automatic spending cuts (sequestration) mandated by the Budget Control Act. Both sides are scrambling to protect the Defense Department. According to the conservative Heritage Institute cuts hit the Pentagon the hardest, which of course is exactly why US Person supports sequestration. As our tanned friend across the isle said, "Time's Up!":

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Climate Change Bad for Wolverines

The US Fish & Wildlife Service has come to the inescapable conclusion that global warming is fragmenting the high altitude habitat of the wolverine. The largest member of the weasel family (Mustelidae) is dependent upon snow and cold temperatures near tree line for birthing dens. A persistent, stable snowpack greater than five feet in depth appears to be required by the fierce, solitary hunter. Although able to kill prey many times its size, it is not adapted to warm climates, but is well adapted to cold weather year round with a thick, double layer of fur, wide padded paws, and small extremities.   It prefers to disperse only across suitable high altitude (4500-8500 ft) habitat and avoids hot summer weather by inhabiting environments with persistent spring snowpack. They almost never reproduce in lower altitude forests.   The Service said, "extensive modeling indicates that the wolverine's snowpack habitat will be greatly reduced and fragmented in the coming years due to climate warming" and is thus threatened as defined in the Endangered Species Act. 78 FR 7886. The agency was under a court imposed deadline to reach a decision on listing this fiscal year. Wolverines were nearly killed off at the turn of the 20th century, but have increased their numbers with the end of widespread predator poisoning and trapping. The agency proposal covers the discrete wolverine population of the contiguous Untied States.

The polar bear is in a similar situation as the wolverine. It needs ice pack to cover the Arctic Ocean so it can hunt seals effectively. However, the agency and the current administration have so far side-stepped the issue of declaring the polar bear endangered by global warming because of the consequences for potential resource development in a melting Arctic. The same considerations played a role in the wolverine listing decision. The Service went so far as to propose a special exception for human use of backcountry areas such as timber harvesting and recreational activities which it does not consider "significant threats" to the survival of the wolverine. Intentional killing or harming of wolverines would still be prohibited. The surviving 250-300 wolverines are now restricted to remote mountain tops in the Cascades and Northern Rockies of the lower 48 states and Alaska. Ninety-four percent of wolverine habitat is on federal land. It once ranged over the entire Rocky Mountain and the Sierra Nevada ranges. A reintroduction proposal is also made to re-establish the wolverine to its historic range in Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming. A ninety day comment period on the proposed listing has begun. The public may submit comments at by entering the docket number FWS-R6-ES-2012-0107   A final decision on listing the wolverine is expected in a year.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Palmyra Cleared of Rats, Now to Clear Plastic

Fairy tern, credit: Erik Oberg
The remote central Pacific atoll of Palmyra has one less species living in paradise. Black rats were an invader responsible for damaging native species until man took action to remove them from the shreds of palm covered land floating in a vast blue ocean. Twenty-five islets only cover 580 acres, but the seas surrounding contain thousands of acres of healthy coral reefs. In 2009 Palmyra was included in the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument. Rats could probably not have reached Palmyra without man's intervention so removing them artificially was an ecologically appropriate action. Around 30,000 rats were exterminated to protect ten seabird species which use the US administered atoll for nesting. The agency used a rodenticide with a proven track record in similar island clearances. The rare flowering tree Pisonia grandis is also expected to benefit from the extermination. Rats eat eggs and chicks of ground nesting birds as well as land crabs, seeds, and tree seedlings. Black rats made there way to Palmyra during WWII, most likely aboard US Navy and merchant marine ships. The clearing of rats is the first step in a ecological project intended to restore the atoll's natural balance. Last summer conservationists associated with University of California Santa Cruz found a 367% increase in arthropods, a 130% increase in native tree seedlings including the first recorded seedlings of Pisonia, and no change in the number of bristled thigh curlews, a threatened bird species for which special care was taken to prevent harm from the rat removal.

Wisdom feeds her latest chick
Now that Palmyra is being restored, perhaps our attention should turn to cleaning up another man-made killer of Pacific wildlife, plastic. Some species are heavily impacted by visible plastic debris that are washed up and accumulated on islands in the central Pacific gyre. An example is the Laysan Albatross (Phoebastria immmutabilis) nesting on Midway Atoll. {"Midway Island"} Chicks pecking for food ingest plastic junk to such as extent that reduced their food intake which leads to dehydration and death. Parent birds unknowing feed as much as 5 tons of plastic debris to their chicks. Lead poisoning from paint chipping off abandoned buildings is also a source of toxicity. Despite the man-made hazards these impressive flyers cling tenaciously to life. Recently the oldest recorded albatross of 62 years, appropriately named "Wisdom" hatched a healthy chick for the sixth consecutive year. The bird has probably raised 30 to 35 chicks in her life, but the figure may be more since experienced birds make better parents. Wisdom has worn out five bands over the last six decades, making her the oldest known bird in the world. The albatross is a source of inspiration to staff and volunteers tasked with monitoring the health of seabirds that arrive in the hundreds of thousands to nest in the Midway Refuge. The survey is one of the oldest of tropical seabirds in the world.

credit: Emma Teuten
Visible plastic debris such as those despoiling Midway and other Pacific islands are not the only ocean pollution problem. Plastic trash has bee around long enough that it has degraded in seawater. Microplastics or particles of plastic the size of plankton or smaller enter the food chain of marine organisms. [photo] Bivalves--clams, mollusks and oysters--which filter the water for food are especially affected. Clams can be turned into hermaphrodites by ingesting microplastics because they mimic hormones like estrogen. They also act as sponges soaking up toxins such as tributyltin used in marine paint. Of 504 fish taken from the English Channel and examined, more than a third was found to contain microplastics in their guts. The contamination could pose serious physical consequences for fish, creating digestive blockages or causing a false sense of satiation. The study was published in Marine Pollution Bulletin. Plastic pollution can be relatively easy to correct by conscienciouly recycling plastic products and eliminating products that are potentially hazardous if disposed of improperly. But man must also clean up the mess he has made with more than a half century of using and dumping plastic.

Company Agrees to Halt Deforestation

The few Sumatran tigers still alive would be roaring if they knew Asia Pulp & Paper Group, the company turing Indonesia's rainforests into toilet paper has agreed to immediately halt any further deforestation and develop a conservation policy according to Greenpeace. The high profile international conservation organization has been campaigning against the company for more than ten years. Greenpeace began asking commodity purchasers to stop buying unless Asia Pulp & Paper agreed to stop deforestation. Of course the devil is in the details of implementation and the company has made and broken promises before. APPG missed three self-imposed targets for phasing out logging in Sumatra. It defaulted on $13.9 billion in debt in 2001, and currently has plans to construct the world's largest paper mill costing $1.5 billion or more in South Sumatra. How it will abide by its latest environmental policy commitments given revenue demands is not clear. For now, APPG has publicly stated it will impose a moratorium on clearance of natural forests and peatlands. In addition it has agreed to independent monitoring of its compliance. Greenpeace will suspend its market-oriented campaign that has cost the company millions of dollars in lost business since 2009. The implications of APPG's policy reversal are considerable in Indonesia. APPG is owned by Sinar Mas a powerful force in that nation's politics Sinar Mas also owns Golden Agri Resources, Indonesia's largest palm oil company. The move puts pressure on other environmental offenders such as Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings Ltd. to adopt similar sustainable policies.

Monday, February 04, 2013

EU Prepares Ban on Bee Killing Pesticides

After several scientific studies concluded that {"neonicotinoids"} harm and kill bees, the EU Commission has proposed to ban three pesticides in that class from application to flowering crops starting July 1. The proposal is a major step toward eliminating a source of bee mortality at a time when the valuable pollinators are in decline. Eighty-four percent of European crops and 80% of wildflowers need insect pollination. An array of causes contributing to sudden colony collapse have been suggested. Only until recently scientists have demonstrated the lethality of neonicotinoids on Apis mellifera, the honeybee. On January 16th the European Food Safety Authority published three risk assessments on clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam, among the most widely used pesticides in the world. The agency concluded these pesticides should not be used on crops that attract honeybees such as flowers, oilseed rape, and sunflowers. The next step is a meeting of advisors including agricultural and industrial concerns leading to a vote on February 25th by committee of experts from all twenty-seven EU countries.

There has been considerable input from concerned citizens requesting protection for European bees from pesticides. Conservation groups say the proposal to only restrict the professional use of neonicotinoids did not go far enough to protect the environment but should contribute to improving the health of honeybees. Conservationists also pointed out that the proposals do not protect bumblebees which are also affected by the pesticides. Bumblebees feed on potato flower pollen and potato crops can be treated under the proposed restrictions. Soils, water and wildflowers may become contaminated with treated seed dust causing unknown impacts on bees. A full ban on neonictinoids is needed to protect Europe's 2500 species of bees as well as other beneficial insects.

Friday, February 01, 2013

'Toontime: Hillarious Hillary

[credit: Kirk Walters, Toledo Blade]
She managed to put off her appearance before conservative Senators seeking to score points off the Benghazi charade until just before her resignation. By then she could afford to excoriate her inquisitors. Her single most significant act as Secretary of State was to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline despite the EPA criticizing her State Department's draft EIS as insufficient. One flinty lady is Hillary Clinton--no wonder Bubba wandered! Environmentalists will be dismayed, but a little bird tells US Person they will be seeing more of "tough guy" Hillary in the future.