Wednesday, July 31, 2013

136 Years Versus Life in Prison

credit: Michael Daly
Even if Bradley Manning gets every break in the book he will not exit military prison until he is an old man, probably never. Spared a sentence of life in prison without parole for "aiding the enemy"--and corporatist America is never without an enemy because having one or more is good for business--Manning still faces sentencing on espionage and numerous related charges. He is expected to receive 136 years in prison! That is very high price to pay for informing your fellow citizens of the nefarious dealings of their supposed democratic government. Potential whistleblowers throughout the security state will take notice of Manning's harsh treatment at the hands of a vindictive government. Persons responsible for formulating an official policy of torture have not received a single day in prison. To be fair, the government did allow Manning 122 days credit for being tortured while in military detention awaiting trial. The Current Occupant has prosecuted seven whistleblowers since occupying the White House, four more than his security state predecessor. Is it any wonder Edward Snowden chose Russia over prosecution in the United States for his revelations about massive spying? US Person conjectures what President Putin thought of Attorney General Eric Holder's letter assuring Snowden would not be tortured, receive a fair trial and not be punished with the death penalty if Russia surrendered him to US authorities. Surely, a thin smile crossed the face of the ex-KGB agent. It will be a cold day in Siberia before Russia reneges on the biggest propaganda victory over the United States since Francis Gary Powers.

Obama Administration Weakens New Rules

In April, EPA drew up some new rules for steam power plant water pollution. The rulemaking was in response to lawsuit by the Sierra Club and Defenders of Wildlife. Nevertheless it was welcomed by environmentalists because many legacy plants are operating with expired permits and have become the largest source of toxic water pollution in the United States. According to the EPA, 160 water bodies are not meeting usually lax state quality standards and another 185 have fish consumption advisories.  EPA's study was based on data collected by the power plants themselves to meet permit requirements. Of the 274 coal fired plants that discharge ash or scrubber waste, 102 had no requirement to report discharges of toxic metals such as arsenic, boron, lead, and mercury to a government agency or the public. Fifty-seven plants are operating with permits that expired five or more years ago. The rules updated those in place since 1982, accounting for improvements in the steam electric power industry. The new rules were to be phased in between 2017 and 2022, and the EPA estimated fewer than half of existing plants would incur additional costs under any of the proposed regulatory options.

Despite these well-considered proposals, the Office of Management and Budget, which is notoriously corporate friendly, kicked the proposals back to the EPA by virtue of its authority to analyze proposed regulations from a cost-benefit and regulatory impact viewpoint. Businesses' best friend in government went so far as to rewrite portions of the proposed rules. According to environmentalists who have seen OMB revisions, the agency has seriously weakened EPA's regulations by giving industry the option of continuing to dump toxic wastes into the nation's waters.  One example of the seriousness of the problem is the Bruce Mansfield coal plant in Shippingport, PA.  The 2740 MW plant has three scrubbers to clean air emissions but the pollutants in the scrubber waste water is dumped into streams that join the Ohio River. Pennsylvania has issued an advisory to limit consumption of fish from the Ohio due to high levels of mercury. Bruce mansfield operates under an expired federal permit that imposes no discharge limits for heavy metals or that requires monitoring of pollutant levels. Mother Jones described the Shippingport plant[photo]as one of the twelve dirtiest plants in the nation based on the 17.4 million tons of CO₂ emitted each year.

EPA proposed two options in its rule making: Option 5 requires the elimination of all dumping of toxic wastes into water bodies.  Option 4 would eliminate ash contaminated discharges and apply rigorous treatment for scrubber waste water.  EPA has extended the public comment period for forty five days until September 20th in response to numerous requests.  Show you care about your health and the health of the nation at large. Send in a comment support EPA's attempt to protect us from power plant waste.  The docket number is EPA-HQ-OW-2009-0819

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Wildlife Reduced to Road Kill In US Parks

Grand Teton mother & cubs, AP
Even in areas set aside for their protection and enjoyment by visitors, animals are suffering increasingly fatal encounters with vehicles. Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) released road-kill records from Yellowstone, Yosemite and Grand Teton national parks, the most visited US parks in the nation. The records show wild animals are dying by the hundreds in collisions with visitors' cars, yet the National Park Service does not have a policy to address the problem. Individual parks are left to their own devices when collisions, which are usually fatal for the animal, occur. Yellowstone National Park takes no preventive measures whatsoever. The Park is famous for its grizzly bears and many tourists travel there in the hopes of seeing the impressive creatures. The average number of grizzly bear deaths from vehicle collisions has doubled in the decade since 2000. Collisions with bison and black bears has increased 50% during the same period.  Five Yellowstone wolves were killed in 2011 alone.

Grand Teton National Park tracks vehicle-wildlife collisions for twenty-four species as well as the circumstances in each collision. Park officials found a quarter of the collisions involved locals commuting through the park. Grand Teton implemented and tested mitigation measures including reducing speed limits at night. Yosemite began erecting red signs where a bear was killed in a collision to raise consciousness of the problem. Data collected at Grand Teton show collisions increase with increases in traffic density. Yellowstone Park, the busiest park in America, has done nothing to mitigate wildlife deaths. PEER's director Jeff Ruch called the increasing number of wildlife deaths due to vehicle collisions in national parks, "a conservation failure". The organization is developing a best practices guide for park superintendents and wildlife managers that details techniques which have successfully reduced road-kills.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

True America: State Terror

Terrorism has a long history in the United States going back to the nation's founding when westerner farmers used terror to intimidate federal tax officials attempting to collect an excise tax on whiskey during President Washington's administration. Terror has not always been perpetrated by dissendents, some of it is state sponsored. Consider the events at Kent State University on May 4, 1970 when Ohio National Guardsman fired 67 rounds in 13 seconds on unarmed students. Four students were killed, nine wounded, including one student paralyzed for life. There was an order to fire, but the civil rights case against individual guardsmen was dismissed.  This is an amateur video:


If you believe the Vietnam war protests are too far in the past to be relevant to a discussion of increasing authoritarianism in the United States then look at this brief compilation of footage by Whispered Media from the November, 1999 protests around the WTO meeting in Seattle:

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Iceland Resumes Whaling


Update: Mr. Kristjan Loftsson, the lone whaler, has run into trouble selling his whale meat.  When six containers of whale meat representing between five and six fin whales were found on board a vessel in Rotterdam harbor, Avaaz mounted a email campaign that convinced port officials to announce no further whale meat would be allowed to pass through. Attention turned to the exporter Samskip, which promised not to handle any more whale meat bound for Japan. The meat was returned to Mr. Loftsson. Whaling activists were on hand to great the meat in Reykjavik with signs asking, "What is the point whaling?" US Person, along with your shareholders would also like to know, just what are you doing, Mr. Loftsson?

{19.06.13}After a two year hiatus, Iceland resumed commercial hunting of fin whales. The limit is set for 180 whales and the first whale was taken by the vessel Hvalur 8. Greenpeace undercover photos show a harpooned whale being butchered [right]. The meat will likely go to Japan. Fin whales are the Earth's second largest whale and is listed as threatened by the Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The International Fund for Animal Welfare condemned Iceland's only active whaler Kristjan Loftsson, for resuming commercial whaling; the organization called whaling a "dying industry" that should meet a faster death than that suffered by harpooned whales.

Iceland cancelled fin whale hunts in 2011 and 2012 partly due to lack of demand from Japan, then recovering from the megaquake and tsunami in March, 2011. As whale meat consumption by humans in Japan drops, some whale meat from Iceland has ended up in dog food products. A Japanese company, Michinoku Farm, stopped making an upscale whale jerky snack for dogs after a campaign against it by conservation groups. The company also makes dog food products from kangaroo and Mongolian horse. Whale meat products for pets are still available on the internet through Rakuten, Japan's largest on-line retailer. One whale advocate said it was "grotesque" that Iceland flouts two international conventions in order to feed endangered whale to pampered Japanese pets.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Toontime: Naked City

[credit: Cal Grondahl, Utah Standard Examiner]

Congressmen voted against an amendment to defund NSA's dragnet snooping operations, but the 12 vote margin was closer than US Person expected with both conservatives and liberals voting for the Amash admendment. Just how many more years the security state can be justified on the basis of "fighting terrorism" is anybody's guess. Predictably, the Current Occupant whose authoritarian policies on terror are essentialy a continuation of the Charlatan's minus "enhanced interrogation" lobbied against the amendment.

[credit: Gary Markstein, Copley News Service]
Wackydoodle axes:  Why ain't you smiling, boy?

Detroit Pensioners on the Block

When Detroit filed bankruptcy this week, one of the first questions asked by thousands of city employees was: how will this affect my pension? The short answer is: not well. City pensioners will almost certainly be asked to accept less than their full benefits because the gap between pension assets and obligations in $700 million according to a June 20th statement. The underfunding could be as large as $3.5 billion. Secured creditors are being asked to accept just 20 cents on the dollar. The pensions funds suffered from an unrealistic investment return projection of 8% which caused the city to borrow $1.4 billion from Wall Street. Financial fees make a significant line item in the city's list of debts. Bad investment decisions in real estate also played a role in the pensions' inability to meet pension obligations. Real estate made up 17% of the police and fire pension and 15% of the general employee fund. Some pension board members point the finger at former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick who did prison time for perjury and is now awaiting sentencing for federal racketeering and corruption charges.  Detroit has lost 61% of its population since 1950.
credit: Detroit News

The city's General Retirement System lost $16 million in fiscal 2011 when it wrote off a housing development near Sarasota, Florida that collapsed when the real estate bubble burst. The Police and Fire Retirement System lost $15million on vacant land east of Dallas that was to be sold to homebuilders. The funds also lost large amounts on other investments including a telecommunications company started by a Detroit businessman and a cargo airline. By far the biggest lost was the purchase of collateralized debt obligations sold to the city by financiers. Detroit lost $70 million on those derivative securities alone. Losses on derivative securities played a prominent role in the second largest municipal bankruptcy on record, that of Jefferson County, Alabama. The $1.4 billion in financing from the sale of debt to Wall Street fostered speculation by Detroit officials said one fire chief still on his fund's board. Some of the investment deals involved alleged kickbacks and gifts to city insiders, or were promoted by individuals with a good sales pitch and local high school athletic honors, but little financial acumen. City employees will now pay for the mismanagement of their pension contributions.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Alberta Tar Sands Operation Leaks for Six Weeks

Oil spills at a major tar sands extraction operation in Cold Lake, Alberta have been occurring for six weeks, contaminating a lake, forest, muskeg and killing beavers and loons. Canadian Natural Resources has been unable to stop the underground blowout. Documents indicate 26,000 barrels of bitumen and water have been removed since cleanup began in May. The company says it is effectively managing the four spill zones. 30,600 kgs of oily vegetation has been removed. A government scientist who has visited the site said the spills cast doubt on the safety of a in situ operation "in chaos", and "everybody is freaking out about this" since no one apparently understands how to stop the spills. The government scientist asked not to be named for fear of unemployment [photo credit]. Underground extraction of bitumen involves the injection of high-pressure steam underground to melt the hard bitumen deposit which then flows to the surface through cracks and a drill pipe. In the course of injecting steam the company apparently created fissures through to the surface they did not expect.

Although in situ extraction does not require damaging strip mining, it uses more energy and water. Underground extraction may account for as much as 40% of Alberta's future bitumen production. Potentially, the leaks might not stop until the formation becomes de-pressurized which could take months. Environmentalists are concerned that underground extraction presents more difficult mitigation and cleanup problems if operations go awry. Media has been unable to access the site because the operations are on the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range, an active test range used by the Canadian military. Canadian Natural Resources' operations are also in the traditional territory of the Beaver Lake Cree tribe which is pursuing a constitutional challenge to oil sands development they say infringes on their treaty rights to hunt, fish and trap.

WWF Creature Feature: Polar Bear Mother & Cub

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

COTW: Virtual Recovery Revisted II

Before the Current Occupant gets too giddy about the number of 'macjobs' added to the economy he ought to look hard at this chart and ask himself, Why? Four years out and still not the same number of jobs prior to the crisis. All previous recoveries returned Americans to the same level of employment or created even more jobs. Will higher unemployment and underemployment remain a feature of America's post-industrial economy? Stay tuned.


He can however be happy about one economic circumstance: he is not the president of the Spain:


US Person thinks the Hawaiian guy should channel Hjalmar Schacht between golf rounds instead of Grover Cleveland.  As pointed out by several leading economists, Fed QE operations increase bank reserve balances because the assets purchased by the Fed are payed for by increasing the banks' reserve balances at the Fed. This is the so-called electronic money printing. The key point is that banks cannot from a bookkeeping standpoint, or do not, create consumer loans using reserve funds. They are largely used for settling accounts between banks. Thus, increasing the banks' reserve balances does nothing to expand the economy at large but is psychologically soothing for Wall Street, as demonstrated by the recent $3 trillion dollar sell-off in the global equity markets when it was rumored QE3 was ending.


In the view of some experts Fed buying of treasury securities may be "squeezing" the shadow banking system (unregulated hedge funds, money market funds, investment banks and other firms creating non-deposit based credit) by depriving it of preferred treasury debt collateral which is repo-ed and re-hypothecated to a multiplier of about 3. It is the modern way to make money not covered in Samuelson's textbook. At the end of 2007 about $3.4 trillion in collateral was turned into about $10 trillion in pledged collateral, compared to the traditional fractional reserve method of lending to create about $7 trillion of M2.[chart, above] Here is the danger: there are no reserves in this daisy chain of paper. If a run started the shadow system could be as much as $11.2 trillion short of collateral.  No wonder the Fed wants to keep the big guys happy!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Navy Changes Story on Reef Bombing

The US Navy has so far offered two different justifications of why its carrier jets bombed the Great Barrier Reef, a treasured World Heritage site. The inconsistencies lead US Person to think the reason is actually boredom, but that explanation would not play well with the public either in Australia or the United States. When first reported the Navy said two Harrier attack bombers [photo] on a training run Tuesday released their four bombs on the Reef because they could not return to their carrier with the ordinance for lack of fuel. Apparently that explanation was not satisfactory from a public relations standpoint, so the story became they released their bombs on the Reef because the pilots tried to avoid boats in the practice area. Either way the Reef, already endangered by mining, increased ship traffic, and climate change, got unnecessarily bombarded by our naval 'zoomies'. The park authority in charge of the marine preserve wants the ordinance removed even though it says the inert bombs pose little risk to wildlife. The unarmed bombs are lying in 50 meters of seawater on a
sandy bottom south of Bell Cay. The real question is: why does the United States waste so much money on repetitive war games like Talisman Sabre in a relative peaceful region of the world during a time of fiscal austerity? These exercises are conducted every two years at Shoalwater Bay right next to a marine reserve visited by hundreds of private boats, not to mention home to protected wildlife. Earlier this year a US Navy frigate grounded on a protected reef in the Coral Sea. A global force for good? Greed is more accurate.

Congo Basin Deforestation Rate Falls

new issue of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B presenting an amalgamation of 18 studies says the rate of deforestation in the Congo Basin has fallen over the past decade despite an increased in the rate of clearing in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Congo Basin is second to the Amazon Basin in extent covering about 178 million hectares (687,262 square miles). Analysis of satellite data by Phillipe Mayaux et al shows the Congo Basin has the lowest deforestation rate of the planet's major tropical forests at about 0.3% annually. Deforestation is also less in absolute terms, falling about 36% from the 1990s to the last decade. The absence of industrialized agriculture such as that taking place in Southeast Asia seems to be the reason for the Basin's lower clearances. Commercial plantations and ranching account for half the world's forest loss. Also, mineral wealth has spurred urban migration.

One of the studies looked specifically at the effects of logging on Congo rainforests. Sylvie Gourlet-Fleury et al found Congo tress are bigger and occur at lower densities than elsewhere probably due to the role elephants, gorillas and bongos play in shaping the forests. The crush and eat small trees, keeping density low. Elephants in particular play a role as seed dispersers. Killing off large mammals has a definite long term effect on forest structure.

Gabon logs, credit: monogabay.com
The role of the Congo Basin in global climate change is not well understood at present. Computer models indicate the Basin will experience a rise of 4°C this century. How the vegetation and wildlife will respond to the increase is not known. Geological records indicate Congo forests have waxed and waned over millennia with changes in climate. There was a substantial retreat of forests 3,000 years ago. The Basin does play a substantial role in atmospheric circulation and has the highest lightening strike frequencies on the planet. Most climatologists agree denuding the planet through uncontrolled clearences for minerals, timber, and land is not condusive to planetary health. $550 million has already been committed to the REDD+ program that compensates tropical nations which protect their forests from overexploitation.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

True America: Chemical Warfare in Vietnam

As far as US Person knows the United States has not crossed its supposed 'red line' and used chemical weapons directly against enemies in the field. However, it has used chemical weapons, most extensively in Vietnam. A mixture of chemical defoliates code-named Agent Orange contained possibly the most carcinogenic chemical known to man, dioxin. Nearly two million gallons was sprayed on the rainforests and crop lands of Vietnam with the delusional intention of depriving the Viet Cong of their jungle refuges and food crops*. With typical macabre bravado of the era, participants of the aerial spraying operations (Operation Ranch Hand) from 1967 to 1970 adopted the motto, "Only you can prevent forests!". An estimated 39,000 square miles of agricultural land was destroyed, and about 20% of Vietnam's forests were sprayed at least once over a nine year period. Without a doubt, "Operation Trail Dust", the US chemical warfare program in Southeast Asia, is a war crime as this graphic Australian video documents:

The Vietnamese victims lawsuit against American chemical companies that manufactured the chemical defoliates was dismissed and the dismissal upheld by the US Second Circuit Court of Appeals in June, 2007. The Appeals Court ruled that despite the herbicides containing a known poison, they were not intended to be used against humans, therefore were not chemical weapons under international law. The Supreme Court denied certiorari.

*RAND Corporation Memo 5446-ISA/ARPA: "the fact that the VC [Viet Cong] obtain most of their food from the neutral rural population dictates the destruction of civilian crops....it will be necessary to destroy large portions of the rural economy--probably 50% or more." The assertion that the rural population is neutral was wishful thinking.  In order to save the country from communism, it was necessary to destroy most of it. The Geneva Conventions and protocols thereto prohibit waging war against civilian populations, and using chemical or biological agents to destroy plants in a time of war.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Detroit's Bankrupt!

It was an inevitable decision. The city's tax base had eroded so severely that it could not even support a slashed budget. Michigan's Republican governor raised the white flag and authorized a petition in bankruptcy for Detroit, once America's showcase of industrial prowess. The governor said the sixteen page petition could put an end to Detroit's sixty years of declining fortune. US Person applauds succinct brevity, but many question remain about what is probably the biggest bankruptcy case in American history.  It dwarfs the previous municipal record set by Jefferson County, Alabama. Creditors are already objecting to the city's plan to pay them pennies on the dollar. City pensioners are also up in arms over the decision to file.

The city's emergency manager filed the voluntary petition for municipal reorganization (Chapter 9) on Thursday.  The Detroit Free Press reported that he had reached a deal for $255 million in short term financing for a DIP, or debtor in possession, to pay for the restructuring of the city's tangled finances. There was even questions about whether the emergency manager had the legal authority to file on behalf of the city, but since the bankruptcy was approved by the governor there seems little doubt it will go ahead. Detroit has $18.5 billion in long term debt. The city has assets of course, and many prized ones may appear on the auction block, such as the city's art work housed in the Detroit Institute of Arts. It is already selling vacant fire houses, often converted into townhouses by the trendy. Belle Isle, Detroit's famous island park, is also a potential sale item, but will probably be transferred to the state in return for consideration. The path through the legal process will be long and contentious.

What the bankruptcy means for private business is another unknown at this early date. Detroit is no longer the hub of the motor industry. Most jobs are provided by the public sector and the health industry. Chrysler has a major plant there and ranks 10th in employer size, while GM ranks 11th even with its headquarters located there. Detroit companies trying to recruit executives may have difficulty convincing them to relocate to a city that has the stigma of bankruptcy hanging over it. See this haunting slide show of abandoned Detroit.

'Toontime: Surrender and Declare Victory

The Democrats are declaring victory over the filibuster rule, but anybody with two cents in their pocket knows the difference between a temporary political victory and actual reform of the Senate's archaic rules. The Current Occupant may get his political appointments approved, but the filibuster rule is till with us, guaranteeing no legislation will pass Congress without Repugnant support:

[credit: Mike Keefe]
Senators are primarily interested in maintaining there own prerogatives and Democrats were looking down the road to a time when they may be the minority in a chamber that allows majority votes to govern.  Senate Majority Leader Henry Reid had the chance to pass real filibuster reform by majority vote at the beginning of the new Congress but declined to do so. "Kabuki theatre' for the folks at home is a lot safer:

[credit: Pat Bagley]

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Lions on the Edge

US Person: Zambia lions
Each time US Person travels to Africa he considers his safari a success if he is able to photograph and observe lions (Panthera leo) in the wild. Each time you see a wild lion is the first time and the sublime of meeting a predator so beautiful and so potentially deadly never fades. Lions have long disappeared from Europe and the Middle East. They once lived on the edge of ancient Babylon, if the Book of Daniel is an accurate indication. Lions are becoming less and less common on the African landscape. Perhaps as many as 100,000 lived free in Africa as late as the 1960s. Now, only 35,000 or fewer live in 67 distinct areas only ten of which are large and secure enough to be properly called strongholds. They only occupy about 20% of their former African range. Despite the precipitous decline in population, continued loss of habitat, and increased persecution by humans, lioins still have no protected status.

US Person: Kenya lions
A recent controversial paper concluded that if lions were to survive in Africa, they needed to be put behind fences. This was a conclusion that upset many conservationists committed to preserving Africa's king of beasts in the wild because it seemed to be throwing in the towel on the lion's future. A newer study by a Montana State University researcher and others published in Ecology Letters concludes what is needed is more money to preserve the African lions remaining habitat and protect the species from the effects of burgeoning human populations, not spending money on fencing it in. The study argues that low density populations over a landscape has greater conservation values than high density populations in smaller fenced reserves that are often intensively managed. Fences may reduce lion-human conflict, but come at a high environmental costs such as fragmentation of habitat, severing of animal migration routes, and genetic isolation. Fences require continual maintenance to be effective, and provide material for snare construction by illegal hunters as well.
US Person: Tanzania male

Turning the rural areas of Africa into an outdoor zoo seems to US Person to be a dystopian vision. African reserves in which lions live are dreadfully underfunded and therefore inadequately protected. Spending international funds on more effective law enforcement, public education about wildlife's rightful place in the world, improved conservation management including an end to trophy hunting, and international legal recognition of the lion's threatened survival is the best way to preserve Earth's greatest living terrestrial carnivore for future generations to encounter in the wild. The way forward is being shown by young Maasai men who once killed lions as a rite of passage--olamayio. Now they are trained and paid to be lion guardians at Amboseli National Park, Kenya, a position of prestige within the community. The guardians track lions and prevent livestock attacks. Since 2007 they have succeeded in decreasing the killing of lions. Most lions are killed by other lions for their society is fierce as well as cooperative, and that is the way it should be.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

COTW: Pushing the String

This chart shows without doubt that the Fed has massively increased the money supply [yellow], but money velocity [M2V] is beyond fifty year lows:


$2 trillion in QE money is going into the coffers of the big banks and very little is getting into the economy. If it were velocity would be rising not dropping like a stone because consumers make up 70% of the economy. Bernanke is like Frankenstein shooting his slag with loads of high voltage and not even getting a twitch in response.

source: ZeroHedge

With a 10% reserve requirement banks could potentially lend out $20 trillion, but they are NOT, as the $2 trillion gap between deposits and loans since the crisis year of 2008 clearly shows. Instead, the plutocrats are sitting on a comfy $4 trillion float (2+2=4) for which the government will charge our descendants.


During another financial panic long ago and not so far away, in fact in 1895, JP Morgan [above] convinced hard-money Democratic President Grover Cleveland and the US government to buy 3.5 million ounces of gold from the House of Rothschild and himself.  The administration used funds from a then massive 30 year bond issue without Congress' approval on the authority of an archaic Civil War era law. Then, gold was really money (apologies to Max Keiser) and there was a run on the government's gold supply. Of course the man who passed for Zeus in those days profited from the bond syndication, as well as he profited from the sale of gold and the end of the Panic of 1893. It was William Jennings Bryan's "cross of gold". Cleveland loss the ensuing election to Republican McKinley. The moral of this tale is that plutocrats like Morgan, aka James Dimond, never loose because they rig the game.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Havard Gives Up Primate Torture

a victim of abuse
After two years of pressure from physicians, Harvard University announced in April that it will close its New England Primate Research Center. Numerous monkeys have been seriously injured or killed at the facility in recent in years. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine issued a report in 2011 in which it detailed violations of the Animal Welfare Act at ivy league universities. One horrendous incident uncovered by the Committee was the death of an endangered cotton top tamarin in a cage washed by a machine using near boiling water and caustic chemicals. Obviously this type of severe abuse and neglect has absolutely nothing to do with necessary medical research. After the report was released other stories of animal torture emerged. The Committee took this evidence of animal cruelty to the National Institute of Health's Laboratory Animal Welfare Office and asked that Harvard's lab practices be investigated.

The organization also sued Harvard for violating the Endangered Species Act in July, 2012 for negligently harming and killing cotton top tamarins (Saguinus oedipus). The new world monkey is a favorite target of animal researchers because it is small--an adult weighs about a pound--and is very social. They show characteristics of grammatical communication and emotional behavior such as spite and altruism. It is believed that 40,000 cotton tops were caught and exported from northwest Columbia for biomedical research. In 1976 CITES gave them the highest category of protection. All international trade was banned. Their lowland forest habitat is being destroyed by man, only about 5% of the forests remaining. About 6,000 individuals survive in the wild. Harvard responded to the endangered species compliant by claiming it would relocate its 170 tamarins in captivity to preserves or sanctuaries. The suit is still pending.

Princeton University ranked second worst in the Physicians Committee report for  non-human primate torture. When information about the death of a baby marmoset [photo] in a Princeton laboratory was requested under the Freedom of Information Act, a whistleblower's complaint was provided among the unredacted material. It said the dead newborn was confiscated and veterinarians were not allowed to examine the body. Other incidents of torture included the denial of water for prolonged periods and failure to treat post-surgical pain. Despite these and numerous other failures to properly care for the captives Princeton received $36 million in federal funding.

Monday, July 15, 2013

What Price Glory?

The Vietnam War was a neo-colonial failure, as most fair historians admit: Vietnam is a united country under a communist government in Hanoi and Saigon is renamed after Vietnam's version of Abraham Lincoln, Ho Chi Minh. Historians and the public will know what exactly happened on the ground because the US military kept records of events. However, the history of the failed wars of global military hegemony in Iraq and Afghanistan will contain large redactions. Commanders in these wars did not keep required field records, perhaps because they knew in their hearts they were participating in a disaster better left unremembered in its distasteful details. After the Seattle Times and Pro Publica conducted an investigation, journalists found dozens of Army and National Guard units lost or failed to keep required battlefield records, in some cases impeding the award of benefits to veterans. Among the missing records were almost all of those belonging to the 82nd Airborne Division, a supposedly elite unit that deployed multiple times to the war zones. The Army had to admit a "records gap"* exists in response to congressional inquiry, and Army Secretary John McHugh ordered a global search to recover and consolidate battlefield records. Computerization of Army records has not enhanced its ability to keep track of events; rather, computerization has contributed to records being treated as nuisance ephemera. When a reporter embedded with the 2nd Combat Brigade of the 82nd wanted to write a history about their week-long battle at As Samawah, Iraq, he could not find any records of the engagement. He contacted the father of a soldier killed in the action who told him, "None of them exist". Like it or not, history is written based on field reports, and if there is no record, then history is whatever a person cares to write, truth be damned.

That the United States government will propagandize its own citizens is a reality. On July 2nd the implementation of a 'reform' measure passed in January will allow government funded radio and TV programs to be broadcast for domestic consumptions. The Smith-Mundt Act prohibited the broadcast of propaganda thanks to the efforts of Arkansas Senator William Fullbright. He moved to restrict Voice of America and Radio Free Europe from domestic distribution, saying these essentially propaganda organs, "should be given the opportunity to take their rightful place in the graveyard of Cold War relics". His position was followed by Edward Zorinsky of Nebraska who wanted to maintain a distinction between American propaganda policy and the Soviet Union's where propaganda was a major government activity at home and abroad. So it is that that distinction is also history. The Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012 passed as part of an omnibus defense bill allows the US government to broadcast propaganda programs in the US. US Person thinks PBS is biased in favor of the United States! Is it any wonder sales of Orwell's 1984 are brisk?

*very similar to the "mineshaft gap" Mineshafts are necessary to store the volatile bodily fluids containing the race's pure essence.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

True America: When the Tanks Rolled

The image of the single Chinese protestor standing against Chinese tanks in Tiananmen Square is etched into Americans' collective memory, a symbol of democratic resistance. Their famously selective version of their own history omits the deplorable scenes of American tanks rolling in the streets of Washington, DC against its own veterans in 1932. The Bonus Army's Anacostia encampment--they were the original "Occupiers"-- was burned to the ground by General MacArthur and his troops. America could not spare a dime even for those who fought the "war to end war" until the next war was on the horizon. This video is in three parts:

Friday, July 12, 2013

'Toontime: More Fog of War

[credit: John Darkow, Columbia Daily Tribune]
Wackdoodle sez:  Count yur toes, Barry!
The latest slip on the slippery slope that is the Syrian civil war is Russia's announcement that its UN-approved chemical munitions experts concluded the rebels used sarin gas on more than one occasion in the Syrian conflict. Their eighty page technical report said a tell-tale indication the nerve agent was not regular munitions was the "cottage industry" casings seen before in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The report was submitted to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and a copy given to the United States. Russian experts had direct access to the Aleppo suburb where sarin was allegedly used. The Assad regime refused entry to U.N investigators after French journalists reported that Damascus used chemical weapons at Khan al-Assal and elsewhere. The attack at Khan al-Assa killed 26 people and injured 86 others.

A sarin gas without chemical stabilizers was found embedded in an unguided Basha'ir 3 rocket by Russian investigators invited by Syrian dictator Bashar Assad. Stabilizers are used in industrial manufacture to allow stockpiling. Basha'ir rocket manufacture began in February by a group affiliated with the rebel Free Syrian Army. The United States responded to the Russian technical study by saying it would examine the report, but a White House spokesperson said later it would not alter its assertion that the Assad regime crossed the "red line" by using chemical weapons. This assertion is the basis of the Current Occupant's decision to provide direct military aid to rebel forces. Al-Qaeda affiliated groups such the Al-Nursra Front are fighting in the Syrian resistance. MI-6, the British intelligence agency, said the "consequences could be catastrophic" if terrorists accessed chemical weapons. According to The Hill Congress members have moved to block funding of rebel groups in Syria by the United States for fear of inadvertently arming terrorist groups that could attack the US or its allies with weapons of mass destruction.
[credit: Steve Breen, San Diego Union-Tribune]
Wackydoodle axes: Can y'all read the last line?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

US Navy Hates Blue Whales

remains after a propeller collision
Critically endangered right whales (E. glacialis) were being harrassed and killed at an
unsustainable rate by ship traffic off the busy northeastern coast. In 1997 NOAA developed the Atlantic Large Whale Take [Kill] Reduction Plan in response to 25 of 71 right whale deaths since 1970 caused by ship strikes. Sensible steps were taken such as rerouting traffic lanes and imposing speed limits to limit the number of collisions and avoid interference in breeding and feeding areas. But the Navy is once again threatening their survival by establishing an undersea training area [submarine warfare] adjacent to northern right whale calving grounds in the shallow waters off the Florida-Georgia border. Legal challenges by NRDC and other environmental organizations to the project have so far been unsuccessful. Right whales had a poor calving season last year with only six calves spotted, down from the customary twenty per year for the last decade. About 400 are estimated to survive off the America's east coast.

noise may cause blue whales to sing in lower key
A similar threat exists to the world's largest mammal some of man's largest machines, container ships on the west coast. During the summer months blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus) feed on krill that bloom in the waters off the busy ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. The ancient feeding ground is today crisscrossed by ship traffic. The two thousand or so whales, despite their huge size, are rammed or sliced to pieces by propellers. Common sense protections, similar to what was done for the right whale in the northeast Atlantic, is being held up by--wait for it--the United States Navy. Citing the usual prerogative of "national security", the Navy refuses to open the waters off Point Magu Naval Airstation to ship traffic during the migration season, thus allowing heavy ships to avoid the blue's feeding grounds. The Coast Guard has acknowledged the need to move traffic lanes. The Navy has been inconsistent with its interpretation of national security since it allows oil tankers to use the waters in question, but perhaps this position is actually consistent since it uses enormous amounts of fossil fuels to run its ships and planes. US Person thinks its is time for the Navy to get over its intractable egotism and live on the same planet as the rest of us Earthlings. Tell them blue whales have a right to survive too, by taking action at: www.nrdc.org/savebluewhales.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Sumatrans Kill Tiger Cub, Surrounded by Relatives

Five human primates were treed on Thursday of last week by the adult relatives of a cub killed in a trap. The men were gathering incense wood in Mount Leuser National Park and set traps for food, but killed a tiger cub instead. Fragrant agar wood can bring $260 per pound. Sumatran tigers are the rarest in the world with an estimated 400 clinging to life in the wild on the Indonesian island. They are a genetically distinct subspecies of Tigris and are the smallest. The tigers are listed on ICUN's "red list". The tigers retaliated for the cub's death and killed a twenty-eight year old man, but five others took refuge in a tree. The tigers kept them trapped for four days until rescuers contacted by cell phone arrived to save them. With the arrival of other humans, the tigers left the scene. Human-tiger conflicts are escalating in Sumatra as habitat shrinks and tiger food becomes more scarce. Sumatran tigers are very sensitive to human disturbance and will not inhabit suitable forest when humans are around. Consequently they live in very low densities--as low as one cat per forty square miles. The remote reaches of Gunung Leuser National Park is home to orangutans, elephants and tigers. The death of a cub was a significant event which brought together five tigers who were no doubt related. Tigers can climb trees [photo], but apparently did not attempt to bring down the treed men. The survivors drank rainwater and were weak from hunger when they were finally saved on Monday. The man who died also climbed a tree, but a branch broke and he fell.

New Shrew Discovered in Vietnam

credit: Alexei V. Abramov,
Russian Academy of Scientists
A new species of shrew (Crocidura sapaensis) has been located and described by scientists in the forests of Vietnam. The-white toothed is genetically different from three other closely-related shrews found in Vietnam. Shrews are unique for several reasons. They are the smallest non-flying mammals in the world, and the only mammal to possess venom. Crocidura is the largest of any mammal genus. Shrews are omnivores, feeding on seeds, fruit and invertebrates. They were small mammals similar to shrews that survived the Cretaceous extermination event. Vietnam had one of the highest deforestation rates in the world from the 60's to the early 1990s, but the forest canopy has come back in some areas as the result of reforestation programs and commercial tree plantations. However, old-growth forest continues to decline rapidly. The loss of habitat has put many of Vietnam's larger mammals at risk. The study of the newly discovered shrew was published in ZooKeys, July 2nd.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Fukushima Leaks More Radiation into the Sea

The disaster at Fukushima is now a festering sore on the face of Earth.  The partially destroyed facility is leaking radioactive cesium into the sea at a rate 90 times higher in the past three days, indicating yet again that radioactivity is contaminating the surrounding environment.  Other products of radioactive  beta decay have been detected, such as strontium 90.  TEPCo, the inept owner of the plant, is unsure of the new source of the contamination or if it is reaching the nearby Pacific Ocean.  Elevated levels of contamination have also been measured in the sea next to the facility.

COTW: The Virtual Recovery Revisited

It does not take much to goose the stock market these days. When you are high on federal jack, the smallest bit of positive news is enough to get an investor to call his broker. The latest feel good news is the increase in the number of jobs. What they don't tell you, but blogs like ZeroHedge.com will is that the replacement jobs are not of the hamburger flipping, latte pouring variety:


This is a cheap labor only recovery as part-time jobs reached an all time high:


Is it remarkable that Kelly Services, a temporary employee provider, is the second largest employer in America?  NOT! Part time jobs are replacing full time jobs, and just to make sure the news is good the government job statistics are cooked as this chart shows:

all charts courtesy: ZeroHedge.com

Monday, July 08, 2013

Pacific Ocean Floor Becoming Garbage Dump

Most people who care about the planet's health know about the North Pacific Gyre that is collecting a vast amount of plastic debris and other
discarded tire at 868m, credit: MBARI
man-made detritus, but video footage brought back by deep sea remotely controlled vehicles over the last twenty-two years shows garbage everywhere on the Pacific seafloor. Particularly hard hit is Monterey Canyon, off the California coast according to a study done by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI). Submersibles reached as deep as 4,000 meters. Researchers counted 1500 observations of deep water trash from Vancouver Island to the Gulf of California and as far west as Hawaii. Most of the trash consists of plastic debris, more than half of which were plastic bags. Metal objects were the second most common type of trash. Often, when this junk is floating at or near the surface, is ingested by marine life and is potentially fatal. Once it sinks, either immediately or eventually, it collects on the ocean's steep, rocky slopes such as the edges of the Monterey Canyon. Debris is also more common in the Canyon's deeper parts, below 2,000 meters, but the scientists were surprised most of all by the amount.

Researchers found in 2011 a shipping container on the bottom filled with 1,159 steel belted radials that rolled off the container ship Med Taipei, during heavy seas in the winter of 2004. Two dozen containers were lost overboard due to improper stacking. There is no legal requirement for shipping companies to report such losses at sea. The upside-down container resting on the bottom at 1300m was identified by Aquarium scientists on a marine biology study using a robot submersible. US customs identified the container's serial number. After considerable legal effort the shipping company agreed to pay NOAA $3.25 million to settle claims related to the lost containers. The number of containers lost at sea will increase as container ships get larger, and lax monitoring of ship loading continues. About 10% of containers carry industrial and household chemicals that are toxic to marine life.

While old fishing gear is not the most prevalent form of junk, it is probably the
plastic shrouds deep coral, credit: MBARI
most dangerous to marine life. Researchers saw several cases of animals trapped in discarded gear. There is currently no way for regulators to trace dumped commerical gear to individuals boats or fishermen, so it is disposed of indiscriminately. Sometimes the environmental effect of trash is more benign; on muddy bottoms where cover is at a premium, organisms huddle in discarding items like a shoe. The impacts of discarded gear and other forms of trash can last for years at depth due to near freezing water temperatures, lack of sunlight and low oxygen concentrations. There are few natural organisms present that can break down even small debris. A plastic bag or soda therefore persist for decades. No effort on a large scale is being made to clean up human debris from the oceans because it is prohibitively expensive. Experts think that public awareness and recycling remains the most expedient solution to a growing problem. But a bill to ban plastic bags in California supermarkets failed to pass by three votesdespite Hollywood celebrity support. One can safely admit results of this indirect approach are not very impressive as the junk continues to pile up on land and sea.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

True America: Chicago '68

For you dear reader on this Fourth of July weekend, a patriotic video of unarmed demonstrators in peaceful assembly outside the Democratic Convention in 1968, where the "police state"--a term used by a convention delegate to describe events in Chicago--temporarily lost control. Inside on the convention floor, away from the chaos of "unrestrained police violence", delegates debated the Vietnam War. The whole world was indeed watching and drawing their own conclusions. In comparison to the Democratic Party convention the Repugnant convention appeared on TV screens as a lilly-white tea party of conformists. Americans reacted to the disorder in Chicago by installing seven Repugnant regimes out of the next ten.

Friday, July 05, 2013

'Toontime: Love In an Age of Repression

[credit: Jim Darcy, Cleveland Plain Dealer]
Wackydoodle sez:  Bubba was always there for me!

Obamacare is not working out as planned so the Current Occupant delayed implementation of the employer mandate until next year to satisfy business owners and Democrats who are running in 2014. Perhaps he could turn his attention to passing voter legislation that will reinstate federal oversight for those states with a history of voter discrimination. He could do worse for a piece of "signature" lawmaking.
[credit: Jimmy Margulies, The Record]
Wackydoodle sez: An' yur marriage license too!

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Chimpanzees Given Life without Torture

The extreme suffering of chimpanzees held captive for the tortures of biomedical research may be coming to an ignominious end in the United States. The National Institutes of Health said it will use fewer chimpanzees in its sponsored research and retire the several hundred primates it currently owns or controls. It left open the possibility of resuming such research if a new disease or other future affliction requires it. The Director said in her announcement that "their likeness to humans made them uniquely valuable for certain types of research, but also demands greater justification for their use." Her capacity for understatement is grotesquely inadequate to describe the horrors inflicted on these intelligent and sensitive animals in the name of science. The decision comes as the US Fish & Wildlife Service prepares to declare captive and wild chimpanzees endangered. The proposed rule was published June 12th and is open for comment. The Service determined that the Endangered Species Act does not allow for captive animals to be assigned a separate legal status from wild ones. Dr. Jane Goodall, who has championed the interests of chimpanzees for decades, expressed her satisfaction with the proposed rule as belated as it is because indicates man may be finally ready to "understand that our attitudes toward treatment of our closest living relatives must change."

A the turn of the 20th century, an estimated 2 million chimpanzees lived in the forests of 25 African nations. Today only the population is only 150,000 to 300,000 according to the Jane Goodall Institute. Their distribution is discontinuous across Equatorial Africa as their forests homes are being destroyed and fragmented by man. Widespread poaching, capture for illegal trade, and outbreaks of disease cause wild populations to dwindle.
credit: Project R&R

Despite this bleak picture for the chimpanzee's survival NIH plans to keep 50unfortunate captives for future research. It is a life sentence a human could not survive. The fortunate will be sent to the Federal Sanctuary System established in 2002. Currently there are 150 residents of the sanctuary system. Captives for research are confined in medical cages too small to allow a human to stand erect [photo]. NIH's own advisory council on chimpanzee research stated that a minimum space of 1000 square feet per chimpanzee is necessary for humane enclosure. NIH rejected this finding on the grounds of a "lack of scientific consensus."  Perhaps NIH thinks it is also humane to force feed captured islamic militants facing indefinite imprisonment ?

Rising Ocean Temperatures Threaten Puffin

Puffins (g: Fraterculia) never fail to entertain an observer. Their harlequin markings make them distinctive, but the pudgy marine birds are also sensitive to environmental changes. Puffin populations are in decline around the world. During a recent trip to Kodiak, Alaska, US Person found only one puffin hanging out [center] with a flock of kittywakes on rocks popular as a nesting site for sea birds in the area.
             
Scientists have recorded declining survival rates for puffin fledglings in the Gulf of Maine's two largest colonies.  On Machias Seal Island near the Canadian border, puffin body weights are declining and breeding begins later, another sign of distress. Emaciated birds are washing ashore from Massachusetts to Bermuda.  Puffins in these colonies are not getting enough to eat because increasing ocean temperature is disrupting distribution of fish.   The "clown of the sea" feeds primarily on herring, but a marked decline of 5% annually in herring has been observed in the diets of puffins.  Adults are attempting to feed their pufflings larger butterfish coming up from the south, but the small offspring are often unable to swallow these and starve.  Piles of uneaten butterfish were found next to dead pufflings on Seal Island and Mantinicus Rock.  Extreme ocean conditions are washing away puffin burrows on Seal Island, a national wildlife refuge.  Die-offs are occurring elsewhere too.  More than 2500 dead puffins were found washed ashore in Scotland and some in Bermuda.  For every dead puffin found, hundreds died without a trace.

US Fish & Wildlife
A new report by the National Wildlife Federation details the effect climate change is having on migratory birds.  Species ranges are shifting northward and in some cases contracting.  Coastal habitats are disappearing due to rising sea levels.  Higher temperatures affects food supplies and exacerbates pests and diseases.  More arid conditions in the interior are drying up ponds, and destroying forests.


Wednesday, July 03, 2013

EU Sets New Sustainable Agricultural Policies

The EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) establishes standards and subsidies for all of EU farmers and represents 40% of the EU budget. After three years of negotiations and a three day marathon of talks EU announced that for the first time CAP payments to EU members will be conditioned on specific environmental practices. 30% of direct payments will be linked to three sustainable practices: crop diversification, maintaining permanent grassland and conserving up to 7% areas of ecological interest such as wetlands and woods. After a transition period greening requirements become compulsory. Offenders will lose up to 125% of their EU subsidies. Environmentalists were not all pleased by the agreement which they say was weakened by exempting 35.5% of farmland from the greening requirement and the deletion of water quality and pesticide provisions.

Electric Car Sets New International Speed Record

Lord Paul Drayson set a new land speed record for an electric vehicle at Elvington Airfield, Yorkshire traveling over a 3,000 meter course at 204 mph on June 25th. The record for the sub 1000kg class was set in an adapted Lola B12 LeMans Prototype that has competed around the world in endurance racing with a Judd V10 engine using biofuel. Drayson Racing Technologies and Michelin tire company announced a racing partnership that began with the assault on the FIA world electric speed record. The first Formula E racing season using fully electric racers begins in 2014. FIA is the governing body for motor sports worldwide. The Electric World Championship is intended to promote interest and investment in electric vehicles and sustainable motoring by bringing formula racing to the people in city centers. The run smashed the old record by 29 mph set by Battery Box General Electric in the United States in 1974.

Monday, July 01, 2013

COTW: Roberts Court Marches Rightward

Homosexuals of all types must be dancing this Fourth of July celebrating the invalidation of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in a 5-4 decision of the usual justices. Swing Justice Kennedy wrote the Court's decision which is tinted with the conservative majority's states' rights views. But this decision is not very significant when one considers the corporatist line the court continues to uphold in several decisions handed down at the end of this term. Over the past two terms the Court has sided with the Chamber of Commerce in 88% of its cases since 2006 (21-3) (70% before Alito joined). The Roberts court is the most pro-corporate in six decades, and the Chamber of Commerce was the most litigious private organization before the Court during a three year study period of May 2009 to August 2012.

In a series of decisions the Court has restricted the rights of individuals to sue corporations and restricted the ability of the federal government to regulate their economic activities. In a case with significant impact on all class action suits against corporations, Comcast v. Behrend, the Court denied consumers the opportunity to sue against alleged monopolistic practices. The Court, based on its new precedent wiped out an appeals court ruling in favor of consumers who bought smelly Whirlpool front-load washing machines.  Legal observers say the Behrend decision is as destructive of the class action mechanism as the 2011 decision in the Wall-Mart gender discrimination case. Workers faced with discriminatory employers or on the job harassment will also face more difficulties bringing lawsuits because of conservative majority decisions handed down this term.

The Court closed the door on a 200 year old law, the Alien Tort Statute, that permitted aliens to seek redress of human rights violations committed abroad against "the laws of nations" in US courts. Nigerian plaintiffs sought to hold Royal Dutch Shell responsible for aiding and abetting torture, arbitrary killings and indefinite detention. Roberts' decison in this case effectively limits the statute's application to modern piracy or "a handful of heinous actions" by restoring the presumption of extraterritoriality especially as applied to the activities of international corporations, American or otherwise.

AP: Justice Alito
Finally, the Court ruled unconstitutional a key provision of the historic Voting Rights Act of 1965 that allowed the federal government to pre-approve changes in voting laws in states that have a history of voter discrimination.  Six states are already moving to make changes restricting the right to vote by imposing onerous identification regulations. Clearly, the unelected Court has a corporatist agenda it is pushing into place as Congress watches, helplessly deadlocked. And if you can't vote while being "gay", who will stop them?

'Toontime: Where in the World Is Edward Snowden?

Update: The walls of the transit lounge began to close in on Edward Snowden, Sunday. After applying to 15 countries for political asylum, he finally asked America's Cold War adversary, Russia, for refuge. His application was hand delivered to a Russian consulate in Terminal F of Sheremyetevo Airport. President Putin indicated previously that an application for asylum from Snowden would be considered. A prominent member of the President's party said in regard to Snowden's status, "It seems to me that Snowden is the greatest pacifist. This person has done no less to win the Nobel Peace Prize than Barack Obama."  Clearly, he will have more information of value to share with Russian officials than Lee Harvey Oswald did. President Putin has put only one public qualifier on Snowden remaining: "If he wants to stay here, there is one condition--he must stop his work aimed at bringing harm to our American partners, as strange as that sounds coming from my mouth." Strange indeed, Comrade President, since most of the damage has already been done by the United States government.
[credit: Christopher Weyant, The Hill]
Wackydoodle sez: Buba Putin says "Nyet" for the ring.
{28.06.13} Rusty the red panda returned home to the National Zoo where he is reported to be having normal bowel movements, but Edward is stranded in the transit lounge limbo of Sheremetyevo Airport, Moscow as Ecuador weighs the pros and cons of his request for refugee status. Ecuadorian officials indicated it could take them months to decide on his request; it took two months to give Julian Assange asylum. However, the Ecuadorian government has decided to annul the preferred trade status agreement with the US to prevent "blackmail" to discourage granting Snowden's request for political asylum. Moscow has given the leaker temporary protection since Russia does not have a formal extradition treaty with the United States. President Putin implausibly denied Russia's security services have been in contact with the American, and called accusations that Russia is harboring a fugitive from justice, "nonsense and rubbish".

Snowden's passport was revoked by the US State Department after he flew to Hong Kong last week. According to Wikileaks' Julian Assange, who is himself ensconced in Ecuador's London embassy, Ecuador issued Snowden temporary travel papers, but Ecuadorian officials have denied their validity, indicating a split of opinion over Snowden's status. Is he an espionage agent as the US charges, or is he a human rights activist who ripped the cover off vast domestic spying in the United States? An anonymous Russian source told the Guardian that Snowden has no valid travel documents in hand.

Barry Dos publicly indicated he does not intend to deal with the Russians for Snowden's return. Snowden may be forced to do his own dealing for legal status, if Ecuador decides against him. However, resorting to a trade for security secrets would damage his public image as a whistle blowing hero and confirm him in the close-mindedas arat fink "traitor". Some hot-headed reactionaries in Congress have already soframed him. Snowden is believed to have extensive knowledge of the inner workings of NSA domestic surveillance activities. An American official insulted the governments of China and Russia while attempting to coax them into arresting the asylum seeker, saying Snowden has belied his claim to be protecting individual rights and democracy by seeking protections from China, Russia, Cuba, Venezuela and Ecuador. China shot back by praising Snowden for "tearing off Washington's sanctimonious mask". US Person thinks it is all warmed-over Cold War rhetoric, but his empathy goes out to Edward wherever he may be. US Person's advice: mind the dirty beds in old Florentine pensions.

[credit: J.D. Crowe, Mobile Register]
Wackydoodle: Y'all got change for the Coke machine?