Thursday, October 31, 2013

Syrian Chemical Weapons Equipment Destroyed

So says the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)
BBC: 330mm chemical rocket
which recently won the Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts to control chemical weapons. The announcement was a day before the deadline set by a UN Security Council resolution.  The weapons themselves have been placed under seal. Syria has until mid 2014 to destroy the weapons that are believed to include more than 1,000 tons of sarin nerve gas, VX nerve gas, and mustard gas. Syrian has lost the capability to produce more chemical agents Jerry Smith, head of field operations, told BBC. OPCW has inspected 21 of the 23 chemical weapons sites in Syria; the last two were two dangerous to visit because of fighting but the equipment was already moved to other sites.

After a large barrage on August 21st killed upwards of 1400 people in the outskirts of Damascus, the United States threatened to use force against the Syrian government that it blamed for the attack [photo]. Russia, which supports Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad reached a last-minute agreement on September 14th with the US to disarm Syria of chemical weapons. The agreement lead to a unanimous Security Council resolution approving the US-Russian plan. Syria began acquiring the capacity to produce chemical weapons in the 1980's with the help of the Soviet Union. Some of the artillery and rocket canisters found by UN inspectors after the Ghouta attack bore Cyrillic markings indicating Soviet manufacture. The process of destroying all of those chemicals under civil war conditions will be a difficult and delicate task.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

World vs. the National Security Agency

Twenty-one nations in the UN have lined up behind Germany and Brazil to draft a General Resolution on Internet privacy after revelations, sourced to political exile Edward Snowden, about America eavesdropping on three dozen foreign leaders, friends and adversaries alike. NSA may have begun intercepting German Chancellor Angela Merkel's communications as early as 2002.  When Merkel called the Obamanation last week to complain about US spying among friends, he said he did not know of the German intercepts but White House records show he was informed of the foreign leader intercepts  this summer.  The spying agency attempted to push back against the fallout in congressional testimony by saying European governments provided the information necessary to carryout the electronic surveillance. However, the NSA is loosing congressional support. Senator Diane Feinstein, usually the agency's biggest supporter, said the spying was unacceptable calling it a "big problem" and announcing that her committee will initiate a review into all intelligence collection programs. Whether her surprise at the extent of the spying operations was real or a political feint is hard to judge, but one former intelligence official said "it's an absolute joke to think she [Chairman Feinstein] hasn't been reading the signals intelligence intercepts". Either way, the worm has turned as opponents of NSA are scrambling to introduce a bill in Congress to limit the massive data collection under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. Even perpetual hawk, John McCain, is calling for a special select committee to investigate U.S. spying. But the Current Occupant is having none of it. The administration, supposedly a progressive one that is concerned about human rights including privacy, has consistently maintained that the huge spying program which is metastasizing beyond oversight is legal, effective and necessary more than ten years after the terror incident which gave birth to the American fascist security state.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Canadian Arctic Warmest in 44,000 Years

New research from the Canadian Arctic over the last century shows that temperatures there are the highest in 44,000 years. In a joint statement from the University of Colorado and the journal, Geophysical Research Letters, a new study shows for the first time that current Arctic warming exceeds the early Holocene, the previous warm period Gifford Miller et al analyzed gas bubbles trapped in ice cores from the region. Miller described the warming signal coming from the Baffin Island icecap in the last twenty years, "stunning". He expects all the ice caps to disappear eventually even if there is no additional warming.

On the opposite side of the globe, an Australian Green Party leader got into political hot water by linking the early bushfires raging in New South Wales to global warming. Adam Bandt was admonished by the Federal Environment Minister for connecting the two events, who said it was "politicizing these bushfires". Some climate scientists have backed up the deputy Greens leader. Australia has had an unprecedented warm winter, so conditions are very dry and conducive to wildfires. The recent UN climate report predicts Australia will experience dryer winters as a result of global warming. UN climate change chief Christiana Figueres says these heatwaves "will continue in their intensity and and in their frequency." The current Australian federal government has cut back funds for studying climate change.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

True America: The Secret War Against Dissent

Official repression of dissident voices in American society is endemic and began as soon as the nation was founded. (Known Tories were expelled from the former colonies). The recent revelations of blanket electronic surveillance of American citizens is, in essence, a continuation by other means of the secret surveillance, infiltration, and intimidation program of the civil rights movement as early as the fifties and later the anti-war movement of the sixties and seventies. This six-part video shows the extent of official involvement in a "near-fascist" conspiracy to suppress progressive dissent in the United States that became known by its FBI acronym, "COINTELPRO" for Counter Intelligence Program:

The allegations of connections between the US government and international drug cartels is not news. (Senator John Kerry: "There is a complicity in the flow of drugs into this country, period.") The latest information about a federal connection is the UNODC report that the Sinaloa Cartel headed by Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzmán is responsible for 80% of the methamphetamine entering the US. The amount of cash generated by these operations is so large that the Mexican cartels are credited with triggering the financial Panic of 2008 by withholding their narco-dollars from international exchange as a protest against a change in US government money laundering policy. Guzmán has been ranked by Forbes magazine as one of the world's most powerful people every year since 2009. Guzmán is also reported to be a paid CIA informant.

Friday, October 25, 2013

'Toontime: 'Tis the Season to Be Scary

And the Repugnants have got their act together:
[credit: Adam Zyglis, Buffalo News]
While the Demos are, well, having problems with their demo:

[Keivin Siers, Charlotte Observer]
Wackydoodle sez: He looks like Vincent Price!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Fukushima: The Real End Time

US Person posted previously about the global threat perched 100 feet in the air atop a collapsing Unit #4 reactor building at Fukushima {24.09.13, Fukushima Now More Dangerous that Ever}. The technologically challenged owner, TEPCo wants to remove extremely radioactive fuel rods from the elevated pool of the Mark I GE reactor beginning in November, but it does not have the means or expertise for such a precarious engineering feat, nor does the Japanese government which has only belatedly take over the ineffective containment of the disaster. A mistake could unleash 13 times more radioactive fallout than was released by the Hiroshima bomb and it will encircle the globe. That is why veteran anti-nuclear activist Harvey Wasserman is asking citizens of the world to sign a petition asking the United Nations to undertake this task. The task must be done because the chance of another major earthquake that could finish Unit #4 is almost a certainty within the next three years. It is global mission that must be undertaken on a global scale--the survival stakes are that high. Wasserman explains further:

English Badger Cull a Balls Up

credit: Getty Images
More: Inevitably, a corrupt government faced with an embarrassing policy gone terribly wrong resorts to even more outrageous conduct in an attempt to set the matter right. So it is with England's misdirected badger cull. In the face of public and expert demands that the culls be stopped immediately, the Tory government "double downs" by extending the cull periods. To turn an unscientific disaster into a plausible claim for success, the government resorts to drastically reducing the estimate of the badger population in the kill zones. What was a inhumane operation to begin with has become even more monstrous. The English public have made twenty seven reports of illegal shooting, poisoning and gassing of badgers in Gloucestershire, one of the target counties. The UK's leading badger experts say that population declines of up two thirds because of natural variation would be unprecedented. Humane organizations are concerned that DEFRA's "green light" for killing badgers has increased the continuing problem of illegal baiting, snaring and gassing. Accurate population estimates are essential in setting cull levels in hopes of reducing the incidence of bovine TB currently spreading throughout the country. Not killing enough badgers increases the likelihood that TB will be spread further afield by badgers that escape death. Both culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire have failed to meet initial kill quotas; the Gloucestershire cull only reached a 30% kill in the period originally set. Somerset's cull has been extended three weeks and Gloucestershire authorities have been granted an eight week extension. However, the Badger Trust launched a legal challenge on Saturday seeking an injunction against extending the Gloucestershire cull. A director of the Trust said the resort to legal action is to protect the badger from exterpation but also an attempt to thwart the government's "return to the Middle Ages" because of its "feudal attitude towards wildlife and "an unbelievable lack of transparency". England's largest landowner, The National Trust has written to the environment secretary questioning the scientific basis for the culls. The Trust's preferred approach to the TB problem is vaccination and it has experimented with badger vaccination on its Killerton Estate in Devon.

Latest: {16.10.13}The failed Somerset badger cull is to be extended because the cull has not killed enough badgers to be effective in curtailing bovine tuberculosis infections. The government's own 10 year trial showed that inadequate culls cause a 25% increase in bovine TB in affected areas due to badger perturbation. So far, the cull has cost an estimated £1000 per badger including policing costs, more expensive than what it would cost to vaccinate badgers. East Sussex may be next on the government's badger hit list, but farmers there will have the option of vaccinating badgers living on their farms thanks to a private project to train volunteers at the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) in Glouscestershire. The first volunteers were put through a four day course in which they learned about bovine TB and the procedures for vaccinating badgers successfully. Vaccinating badgers requires the setting of live traps, but studies show badger vaccination lowers TB rates by 74%. The AHVLA is working on an oral badger vaccine to make the task easier and less expensive. The Sussex vaccination project plans to contact landowners and tenants in East Sussex to inform them of a humane alternative to killing badgers.
credit: Birchall/PA
{7.10.13}The Tory government's controversial badger cull is a failure. Fewer than half the number of badgers considered necessary to control bovine TB have been killed. The Somerset trial is set to end on Tuesday and the Gloucestershire cull will end next week. About 750-800 badgers were killed in Somerset, but officials resorted to using traps. Shooting free roaming badgers at night as planned "would have been a total disaster" according to one former official associated with the cull. Of course one of the knocks against vaccination of badgers instead of shooting them was the higher cost of trapping.  Also, the environment secretary, Owen Paterson, was warned in advance by wildlife experts that attempting to shoot badgers would only perturb populations, potentially increasing the spread of the bovine disease.  A badger expert at the Zoological Society of London told the UK Guardian that a cull of only 800 badgers in Somerset "would be in the region where I would expect cattle TB incidence to be elevated rather than reduced by culling".  Another source said, "this [the cull] is a spectacular own goal." Most bovine TB is spread not from wild animals but from other cows which is the result of improper livestock handling. The most recent European Commission inspection of England's biosecurity found a catalogue full of fails including poor disinfection of farm, vehicle, market and slaughterhouse facilities. In contrast to England's traditional muddle, Wales opted to begin vaccination of badgers. EU regulations prohibit the vaccination of cows. 28,000 English cows were killed in 2012 to curb the rise of bovine TB at a public cost £100 million. Clearly, the disease is a major problem in England, but equally clearly, a political decision to kill badgers is not the answer.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

COTW: Reading the Writing on the Wall

Some presidential campaign past US Person told a public audience gathered in a union hall that it has been downhill since Nixon. This chart proves it:

Only the rich are getting a larger share of the total income pie in the United States. Dmitry Orlov, in his popular book "The Five Stages of Collapse" identified the symptoms of a declining society based upon his own experience in the collapse of the Soviet Empire. Stage One sounds eerily prescient as "faith in business as usual is lost and financial institutions become insolvent". But Stage Three, political collapse, in which faith that the government will assist you is lost, also appears in today's headlines as the government shuts down for three weeks because of political gamesmanship at tremendous cost to taxpayers, the federal legal department (aka 'Justice' Department) cuts a friendly deal ($13 billion fine versus $700 billion in taxpayer money handed out to Wall Street) with JP Morgan's CEO Jamie Diamond, and the feeble attempt at virtual health care reform melts down to a malfunctioning website. The United States is well on the road to decline and fall unless the way we run the country is significantly changed for the better. This chart showing increase in real GDP per dollar of incremental debt, may be the signpost to the country's eventual ruin:
“The truly unique power of a central bank, after all, is the power to create money, and ultimately the power to create is the power to destroy.” --Paul Volcker, US FED Chairman 1979 – 1987
How much longer can Rothschild's private central bank (aka the Federal Reserve) print new, improved $100 bills and keep the bubble from bursting for good?  You decide.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Dead Zones in Pacific?

trash from the N. Pacific Gyre
Yes, its anecdotal but so was evidence of climate change before scientists "the ocean was dead". began to computer model what people were observing in Nature. An Australian yachtsman back from a 23,000 mile voyage around the Pacific, Ivan MacFadyen, says that between Melbourne and Osaka, Japan he witnessed shocking amounts of rubbish floating in the Pacific and an equally shocking lack of fish. MacFadyen made the same trip ten years ago and he caught fish every day. The barren waters started at the edge of the Great Barrier Reef and by the time he reached Japan he concludedOverfishing and uncontrolled by-catch in the relentless search for target species is responsible. A passing fishing vessel offered him a bag of containing 100 large fish which the fishermen considered disposable because it did contain any tuna. Experts think that overfishing is a global problem affecting 90% of the world's fisheries. The Australian Marine Conservation Society places 26 species on a "red list" consumers should avoid because of their fragile state in Nature. Australia has made some improvements in its fisheries policy, but just increased the bluefin tuna quota by 10% without any biological evidence to increase it.

MacFadyen estimates 7,000 of his voyage was in garbage so thick he would not motor at night for fear of damaging his propeller. During the day a lookout was posted to avoid collisions. Despite these precautions he still had to un-foul his prop at night, risking haul damage. Some floating rubbish clumps were as large as a house. Other debris were below the surface, but close enough to prove a hazard to navigation. Undoubtably, some of the floating debris he encountered are from the 2011 tsunami that inundated the coast of northeastern Japan. (perhaps as much as 25 million tons of debris) MacFadyen said the horrible condition of the ocean "made him very cranky". Plastic concentrations in the North Pacific Gyre have increased two orders of magnitude or 100 time worse since measurements were first made in 1972.   MacFayden termed humans a "blight on the planet".

Some humans are trying to do something about the huge amounts of trash collecting in the world's ocean gyres (two in the Atlantic, one in the Indian ocean and two in the Pacific).  A young aerospace engineering student from the Netherlands has conceptualized an array of ocean booms and collectors that utilizes the oceans' own circular currents to collect and trap debris [computer simulation by Fabrique Computer Graphics]. Boyan Slat thinks his ocean-going garbage can idea will clean one third of the ocean surface within five years using only solar power and ocean currents.  The collection station is anchored to the ocean bottom outside of traffic lanes, so it could be declared an artificial island under the Law of the Sea, but it will have no emssions  The idea is undergoing a feasibility study at Delft University of Technology, Netherlands.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

True America: Witness to a Hit

This brief video of an interview with Officer Roger Craig of the Dallas Police Department is startling. The former officer directly contradicts the established story that "the lone gunman" used a mail-order Mannlicher-Carcano rifle to assassinate JFK. Contemporaneous film footage corroborates what Craig describes occurred on the six floor of the Texas School Book Depository building immediately after the assassination. The rifle found by a deputy sheriff in the presence of Craig was a 7.65mm Mauser with the name and caliber stamped into its barrel. The three empty cartridges found in a row by the southeast six floor window ("the sniper's nest") belonged to a 6.5mm rifle.  News reports repeated this same rifle identification dispensed by Dallas Police. But you will see Walter Cronkite, "the most trusted man in America" correct himself and previous news reports to change the positive identification to a 6.5mm Mannlicher-Carcano (Model 1938 carbine) mispronounced by Cronkite and the same type owned by Lee Harvey Oswald. Within two days of the assassination, the cover-up had begun. Craig died in 1975 of a gunshot to the chest that a coroner ruled suicide. [The rolling credits are the original poster's, not PNG's]

Friday, October 18, 2013

"Toontime: Washington Follies

[credit: Tony Auth]

All the psychodrama within the Beltway only resulted in a decision to kick the economy down the road until January 15th (budget) and February 7th (debt limit) when the follies which politicos seem to relish because it brings in money can begin again. Ordinary Americans largely blame the Repugnants for holding the US economy hostage to "tea party" demands for repeal of the Affordable Health Care Act. Like clockwork, after a last minute deal was reached, the stock market hit a new high, but there will be hell to pay if the rest of the world finally gets fed up with Washington's stunts and decides the dollar is no longer the indispensable currency.

[credit: Glenn McCoy]
Wackydoodle sez:  They say he can dance too!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Elwah Flows Free Again

the problem
The Northwest's worst kept secret is the decline of salmon populations in its rivers and streams. Nevertheless salmon culture has persisted down the ages into the 21st century. How to save the salmon from extinction in the wild is a perennial debating topic contested by interests with conflicting goals. When dams were first constructed for irrigation and later power on the region's waterways, fish ladders were required to allow salmon to spawn upstream. But ladders proved repulsive to salmon, so they gave way to hatcheries. Hatcheries have also proved to be a poor solution as wild populations have continued to decline. Biologists note hatchery raised salmon to be less robust, an observation seconded by sport fishers. Hatchery fish are also suspected of spreading disease to wild stocks. Now, when all else has produced disappointing results, Northwestern states are turing to what was perhaps an obvious, from a biological standpoint, but unprofitable solution--dam removal. US Person advocated for this action with Oregon's former Republican Senator Gordon Smith in Washington, DC.

Oregon has removed several smaller water control dams recently but the dam removal project on the Elwah River in Washington state's Olympic Peninsula is certainly the largest, and one of the most ecologically ambitious ecological restoration projects in the Northwest. Demolition of two dams blocking salmon runs began in 2011 and is now nearing completion. Before the dams were built, the Elwha River hosted all five of the Northwest's Pacific salmon species: sockeye, coho, chum, pink, and chinook. Elwha's chinooks were monsters, commonly reaching 100 pounds. The runs of the various species took place a different times all year, so the river was full of migrating salmon, perhaps 400,000 annually. Soon the salmon stopped returning to their ancestral river because the Elwah dam without a ladder blocked their run. By 1990's the native sockeye were extinct, and the chinook and chum nearly so. The dams also deprived the Klallam tribe of a major food source and cultural icon. The benefit for all of this habitat destruction was power for a single Port Angeles paper mill.

a solution
After their fishing rights were restored in the 70's the tribe fought a protracted legal battle with the aid of conservation groups to remove the Elwah River dams. After a heated political battle, Congress authorized the Interior Department to buy the dams for $29.5 million and remove them if necessary. Destroying the structures is just part of a complicated effort to re-create an entire watershed that has been altered by unnatural impoundments of large amounts of water. Sediment has built up over more than a century. Getting it moved downstream and out into the Strait of Juan de Fuca has been problematic. The upper dam, Gilnes Canyon [photo], had to be removed slowly in stages to allow an estimated 34 million cubic yards of sediment to be moved downstream by the river, and also to allow remaining salmon opportunities to spawn without choking on the silt, sand and gravel. 700 acres of forest has to be replanted with native species in a nutrient poor lake bed. Fish repopulation relies on hatchery fish, a method conservationists are suing to stop since they think it threatens endangered wild fish. Hatchery fish are transported around the lower reaches of the river to clearer channels above the former lower Elwah dam. About half of these have spawned successfully. In 2012 500 wild fish churned up the Elwah and natural gravel bars are re-forming, a good sign that the river is on the road to a full recovery. Most the Elwah watershed is protected in Olympic National Park. But whether the Elwah success story will be enough to convince policy makers to remove the big dams on the upper Columbia River and Idaho's Rogue River that block more than a third of the salmon's former spawning grounds is a policy question yet unanswered and sure to be controversial.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Fracked Citizens Demand Renewed EPA Investigation

Fracking, shorthand for hydraulic fracturing, of one oil and gas well uses about 40,000 gallons of chemicals that include known carcinogens and toxins. Fracturing fluids are injected into a well under high pressure to create fractures in the source shale strata and hold them open while lubricating the flow of oil or gas through the well bore to the surface. The United States is producing a lot more oil and gas that it has in recent years because of the widespread use of this enhanced recovery technique, and horizontal drilling that allows exploitation of deposits not previously accessible, or not depleted by conventional recovery. About 90% of new wells use fracking to enhance recovery.  The United States is  on track to become the world's largest producer of oil and gas by the end of 2013 according to the Energy Information Administration. But fracking is not without adverse impacts on the environment. A 2011 study by the Environmental Protection Agency found a link between fracking and ground water contamination before it was prematurely shut down under political pressure. In August, 2013 a study sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found that the Uintah Basin, one of the largest in the US, leaks methane into the atmosphere at a rate of 3.6 to 7.9% of the natural gas produced, significantly above the 2% rate at which gas becomes more climate warming than coal! Then there are the indications that fracking operations can cause earth tremors, and the horror stories of individuals living near these operations.
a fractured landscape

Some of these affected residents gathered outside the White House in late September and held a press conference to demand that the government reopen investigations on drinking water pollution in Pennsylvania, Wyoming and Texas apparently caused by fracking. The group delivered 250,00 signatures on a petition asking newly installed Administrator Gina McCarthy to restart the investigations abandoned by the agency under industry pressure. The Los Angeles Times reported EPA officials in Washington closed the agency's inquiry into drinking water contamination at Dimrock, Pennsylvania despite evidence of water contamination likely caused by fracking. Agency investigators gathered scientific evidence linking a drilling company, Range Resources, with drinking water contamination in Parker County, Pennsylvania. A Parker County resident reported that methane levels at her home were "18 times the explosive level."
Nevertheless, the agency EPA abandoned another fracking investigation in Pavilion, Wyoming that found benzene levels at 50 times the level considered safe exposure to the carcinogen. It handed over the investigation to the state of Wyoming which will be funded by EnCana, the same drilling company which caused the contamination, for the study.

The American public is becoming increasingly concern about the environmental damage caused by fracking. One million comments were delivered to the Current Occupant objecting to fracking on public lands during the public comment period of BLM's rulemaking for fracturing operations on federal and native lands. The rule will apply to more than 750 million acres of public land and minerals. More than 60 municipalities in the US have passed measures against fracking. Vermont banned fracking in 2012 while both Maryland and New York have imposed moratoriums on permits pending further study of fracking's environmental and health impacts. France passed a nationwide ban on fracking in 2011 that continues under socialist President Francois Hollande The ban was immediately contested by the oil and gas industry, but last Friday France's Constitutional Council upheld the ban's constitutionality. The decision is major victory for environmentalists concerned about fracking's adverse effects on the environment and public health. The US Energy Information Agency thinks France may has as much as 137 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas in shale formations.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

COTW: Iraq Count is Up

US Person is not talking about its stock market either. The US occupation of Iraq did not bring peace to a country that was apparently only held together by a brutal dictator's grip on power. The sectarian schism between Sunni and Shia Muslims is producing a body count not reached since the bloody civil war of 2006-07 when US occupation troops were caught in the middle. Not only is Iraq not peaceful, but its islamist insurrection is spreading to other parts of the Middle East. The predominately Shiite Iraqi government supports the Syrian dictator Bashir al-Assad while Sunni jihadists from Iraq fight with the Syrian rebels:
On Monday, 45 more people were killed in attacks across Iraq, the third day of large scale suicide bombings. The Al Qaeda affiliate, The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant claims responsibility for most of the attacks. The death toll has reached 6,000 this year, the highest in nearly five years. There are reports that Shiite militia groups are rearming. Yet despite its lack of success in creating centralized sectarian states out of tribal nations the United States still refuses to accept the reality that its military presence is not appreciated in most Muslim countries. It is attempting to require Afghanistan's weak central government to accept a US garrison after its combat troops are scheduled to leave in 2014.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Zvláštní Oznámení

Šťastné narozeniny chtějí někoho výjimečného, Láska, "Woody"!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

True America: Austerity Need Not Apply

While the politicos in Washington stage the second week of the shutdown psychodrama, the Temple of Mammon known as the Pentagon chugs merrily along wasting yet more taxpayer dollars; no aid for the huddled masses, but plenty for the warmongers' free lunch. Case in point: the new C-27J cargo plane which will join the $35 billion worth of other military aircraft rotting in the Arizona desert at Davis-Monthon. At least jobs repairing bridges, constructing high speed rail between urban megaplexes, and creating 21st electric grid among other needed infrastructure projects would leave a useful legacy. Nothing useful about an newly-built aircraft that will never fulfill its intended military mission:

Friday, October 11, 2013

'Toontime: Creepy Socialism

Yes, its that time of year when we try to scare the pants off each other:

[credit: Ben Sargent]
The GOP's favorite boogeyman is of course, "Creepy Socialism" an insidious, stealth creature that steals your profits when you least expect it! Don't let those you hold dear become infected by its alluring but poisonous doctrine. Send in the SUPERPATRIOTS, they will save US!

[credit: Matt Bors]
Wackydoodle sez:  I listen to them "Soggy Bottom Boys" ma'self!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Medical Schools End Vivisection

The Pentagon's own medical school, Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences, has ended the use of live animals to train medical students. The announcement came last month after a decade long lobbying effort by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). The military medical school made headlines in the 1980s when it suggested shooting beagles to train students in emergency treatment. Public outcry against the abuse derailed the proposal, but the school continued to use animals for training purposes. Students protested to PCRM, but because of their military obligations could do little else to end the practice. Congressional leaders wrote to the school administrators and asked that they find alternatives to animal vivisection without success. The school operated three animal labs according to a 2007 FOIA request. The Medical College of Wisconsin also announced this June that it had ended live animal use in its training program in favor of human based instruction, but four institutions still use live animals: the University of Mississippi, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, John Hopkins University and OREGON HEALTH AND SCIENCE UNIVERSITY.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

COTW: Old Age Insecurity

One of the major contributors to Detroit's bankruptcy is the increasing cost of its municipal pensions. Detroit's predicament is merely symptomatic of a larger problem in the United States of underfunded pension schemes. Look at the chart:

States cannot create money with a computer entry like the federal government. But decades of insufficient funding and unrealistic projections of investment performance have created a huge overhang of benefit obligations over income. Illinois at the bottom of the chart has accrued liabilities of $146 billion but has only set aside $63 billion to cover it.. One solution of a limited range of options is to reduce public employee retirement benefits. Detroit's bankruptcy referee is already asking for larger cuts than retirees objected to a few years ago. But states shown in red cannot constitutionally reduce public employee pension plans, including Illinois. There lies the rub. It is only a matter of time before radical Repugnants in Congress get around to demanding cuts in Social Security before they allow the federal government to borrow more money. The sixty-four-thousand-dollar question is: will the Current Occupant cave?

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Creature Feature: 10,000 Walruses

This picture [courtesy of NOAA] is remarkable for several reasons. It shows 10,000 or more walruses jammed onto a narrow beach of an Alaskan barrier island. A variation of the chicken and road question is: why would 10,000 walruses haul out on the same island and risk death from stampede, aggression, and suffocation? The answer is simple as it is tragic. They have no where else to go. Without ice floes to use for resting and escaping predators, they are forced to use a shoreline isolated from humans.  The photograph is also another piece of documentary evidence of global warming.  Don't believe your eyes?  Click to enlarge.

Monday, October 07, 2013

China Tells US to Put it Right

American pundits sneered at President Valdimir Putin for suggesting America was not the world's exceptional nation. China, the United State's biggest creditor, has put it more bluntly: end the partisan deadlock over the budget and credit limit. Chinese vice-foreign minister, Zhu Guangyao, said the "clock is ticking" on extending the federal government's credit limit before it runs out of cash on October 17th. He publicly urged Congress to put its fiscal house in order to prevent a technical US default and endangering the safety of Chinese investments in the United States. The US lost its AAA bond rating after a similar deadlock in 2011.  China became the United States number one creditor, surpassing Japan, in 2008. It holds an estimated $1.3 trillion in US government bonds and $3.5 trillion in dollar denominated assets. Whether House Speaker John Boehner will pay attention to the Chinese is doubtful since he said on Sunday, it is "time for us to stand and fight" over the budget. The latest budget deadlock has entered its seventh day.  The Current Occupant was forced to cancel his appearance at the Asian economic summit over the impasse leaving the stage free for China to dominate. The old saying, money talks and BS walks, is applicable in this situation.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

True America: Shutdown Deja Vue

In case you forgot what happen last time the federal government shutdown, here are the seven and a half minute remarks of President Clinton that seem too disgustingly appropriate almost twenty years later. The out-of-bounds tactics of a reactionary minority are the same, and it is still a pathetic sight:

Does the United States have to conduct commando operations abroad to convince the world it is not the poster child of political collapse?

Friday, October 04, 2013

'Toontime: Extortion

[credit: Christopher Weyant, The Hill]
That is what US Person calls the extreme faction in the House holding the federal government hostage to its ideological goals. One of the poison pills Speaker Boehner wants the Current Occupant to swallow, besides defunding the new healthcare legislation now undergoing implementation after a review by the Supreme Court for constitutionality and becoming an issue in Obama's reelection, is approval of the Keystone XL pipeline project, a controversial environmental disaster waiting to happen. Most rational Americans want a deal soon because the shutdown hurts the most vulnerable in society, but as long as the creepy "tea party's" demands are reckless and even contrary to law, the shutdown will go on. The last one in 1995 engineered by then Speaker Newt Gingrich lasted a month and involved a similar budget dispute. This time there is a double-whammy involved, the United States' credit limit will be reached on October 17th.

[credit: David Fitzsimmons, Arizona Star]

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Mohave Sheep Threatened by Pneumonia

credit: Riverside Press-Enterprise
The herd of big horn sheep (Ovis canadensis nelsoni) living on Old Dad Mountain in the National Mohave Desert Preserve is being decimated by pneumonia. Half of the herd of 200 to 300 sheep may have died. The disease is transmitted by a variety of bacteria usually found in domestic sheep and goats. Wildlife officials say half the herd has been killed by the infectious disease. Bighorns do not tolerate domestic sheep, but merely the presence of infectious animals in the same area is enough to spread the usually fatal disease to big horns. There is no vaccine for pneumonia in bighorn and infected animals are usually shot to prevent disease transmission. Bighorns have not developed immunity. A herd near Yakima, Washington was recently wiped out by the disease. Four sick sheep were dumped in the desert off a truck en route on I-15 to alfalfa fields in the Imperial Valley, federal land managers told reporters. Officials fear the disease will spread to other herds as rams migrate. Several sick bighorns were found in the Marble Mountains, thirty-five miles to the south of the Old Dad area. Before the outbreak in the Mohave there were an estimated 425 to 750 bighorn in five herds. There were state and federal plans to capture and collar some bighorns and monitor their movements by GPS, but those plans are no doubt on hold now that the federal government has shut down most of its non-essential operations. A decision on whether to allow the annual bighorn hunting season starting December 1st has not been made.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

EU and Indonesia Agree to Cut Illegal Logging

credit: NRDC
A significant conservation agreement was signed yesterday between The European Union and Indonesia
to end all trade in illegal wood products between Asia's largest timber exporter to the European market. The Voluntary Partnership Agreement took six years to negotiate and requires all exported timber products to be certified as harvested in accordance with Indonesian law. The EU banned the sale of illegally harvested timber in March, but the ban required importers to do due diligence to determine if the imports were legally harvested. The new agreement puts the onus on Indonesia to enforce its forest conservation laws since EU importers may now rely on the certification process. Conservationists have expressed guarded optimism that a deal was reached, but note Indonesia has had problems with corruption and lack of effective enforcement of its conservation laws. A spokesman for Greenpeace says as long as companies like Asia Pacific Resources International is allowed to destroy forests rich in biodiversity, Indonesian's green credentials will not be taken seriously. The high profile case of Labora Sitorus, a former cop turned timber smuggler, is testing Indonesian commitment to the rule of law when it comes to a highly profitable black market in timber products. Sitorus is under investigation for involvement with illegal logging in Papua, New Guinea. Without clean enforcement efforts the agreement reached between the EU and Indonesia will not have the intended effect of curbing forest destruction. Ghana, Cameroon, Republic of Congo, Liberia and Central African Republic have also signed similar partnership agreements with the EU, but Indonesia is the largest wood producer to enter into such an agreement so far. Rapid deforestation and peatland destruction have made the country the world's third largest greenhouse gas emitter.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Spain Saving the Iberian Lynx

Even a government facing financial crisis on a scale not seen since the 1930s can do something remarkable if it makes a concerted effort as Spain has proved to save the world's most critically endangered cat, the Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus). Down to the mid-19th century this beautiful and distinctive wild cat was distributed all over the Iberian Penninsula, now its wild reproduction is restricted to two small areas in Andalucia. There have been confirmed reports of lynx in southern Portugal, but no confirmation of reproduction there; a conservation group also reported the presence of a wild litter in Extremadura. The future conservation of the lynx is therefore highly dependent on captive breeding programs.

The Olivilla captive breeding center has been very successful in breeding dozens of lynx that have been released into the wild to supplement declining populations in the nearby hills. Ten years ago there were perhaps only 100 of these cats remaining. The usual anthropogenic causes were driving the lynx towards extinction; the first extinction of a large cat since the days of the sabre-tooth tiger, 10,000 years ago. Now thanks to government sponsored, intense conservation there are 300 and the numbers are rising. In 2013 breeding centers in Spain and Portugal reported a total of 44 surviving captive bred kittens. Around $50 million has been spent rescuing the feline from an unnatural fate, mostly by the Andalucian regional government. The lynx is a conservation success story of which Spain can be proud. Scotland has a similar extinction problem with it own endemic wildcat, but whether it will decide to foot a considerable conservation bill like Andalucia did to save its lynx is not decided.