Friday, January 31, 2014

Shell Announces It Will Not Drill in Arctic this Summer

courtesy: USCG
Yesterday the international oil giant announced it would not drill this summer on its Chukchi and Beaufort Sea oil leases. The announcement came after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the Department of Interior violated the National Environmental Protection Act when it sold leases to the oil industry under the Charlatan's administration. Sale 193 held in 2008 offered nearly 30 million acres in the Chukchi Sea for oil exploration. Prior to the sale there were no active offshore oil leases in the sea. A federal district court in Alaska determined the sale violated NEPA because very little was known about nearly every species living there or how they would be impacted by an oil spill. The court required the agency to reassess the environmental impact of the sale. Nevertheless the Obama administration reaffirmed the lease sale and an appeal followed. Once again the federal appeals court said the Department did not fairly consider the potential environmental impacts of development, but "skews the data toward fewer environmental impacts" which prevents a full and fair discussion of the issues of offshore drilling in Arctic extremes. The appellate decision was made in a lawsuit brought by a coalition of native and conservation groups. Shell's drilling program was substantially set back when its state-of-the-art conical drilling rig Kulluk went aground near Kodiak Island [photo] in January 2012. It was towed to safety without a major incident.

'Toontime: When the Love is Gone

[credit: Gary Markstein]
BC Idonwanna sez: White man full of fear and loathing!
The television audience for his State of the Union speech was the smallest since 1993. Obamatron has one circumstance in his favor right now: the public approval rating of Congress is even lower than his. Repugnants are rightly viewed as a party of extremists who do only the bidding of the rich and corporate. But Obamatron is so ideologically compromised and incremental in his policies he is unable to turn that vast unpopularity to his administration's favor. A prime example is his unwillingness to curtail an entrenched security establishment that routinely violates citizens' constitutional right to privacy. He received forty recommendations from a review panel which concluded the NSA's mass collection of communication data is illegal, but he only incrementally addressed three or four of the recommendations in his recent speech on the issue. Nevertheless he has plenty of motivation to meddle in the internal affairs of Ukraine cold-war style while the American middle class suffocates under a mountain of debt. Who is this occupant, a "Manchurian Candidate" constructed by Naval Intelligence and the CIA?

[credit: Jim Morin, The Miami Herald]

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Consider the Sloth

US Person has been uncharitably compared to a sloth presumably because he is not currently a member of the workforce. But dear reader, consider the sloth: the three-toed variety to be exact (Bradypus variegatus). It is a marvel of energy conservation and benevolent mutalism. The sloth is a complete ecosystem in itself and a rather engaging animal with its permanently displayed smile and almost mesmerizing slowness, resembling a dullard TV presenter on opiates. The three-toed (actually fingers) is not closely related to the comparatively frenetic two-toed sloth which is classified in a different family. Sloth spends its apparently lazy days in a favorite tree and only comes down to defecate on a midden pile once a week. This behavior is an adaptation to its low energy diet of leaves and the presence of numerous predators on the ground. Most sloths meet their demise on the ground. Once it was thought that the sloth was risking predation and using 8% of its daily caloric intake to fertilize the home tree with its excrement since two-toeds excrete freely from the trees. But a recent study has exposed the amazingly active inner life of the sloth which on the outside seems solitarily serene.

Farmer sloth
The pyramid moth lays its eggs in sloth dung; it develops to have an even more intimate relationship with sloth. After hatching from the dung cradle, young months fly up into the tree. Some land on the slow moving mammal, loose their wings, and take up housekeeping in the sloth's shaggy coat. Comb a sloth's fur and dozens of moths will fly out. The moths get a warm, safe place to live and reproduce that does not move too fast for their comfort. Even when sloth scratches, it does so in slow motion which the moths easily avoid. Perhaps the moths earn their room and board by consuming other unbeneficial insects inhabiting the microcosm. They do increase the amount of nitrogen in the sloth's coat; when they die, their remains are consumed by bacteria and fungi also living in the furry forest.

The major survival challenge facing the sluggish animal is obtaining enough energy from its leafy diet. Arboreal sloths have the slowest digestion of any mammal. Slow-motion is an evolutionary adaptation to cope with its diet constraint. Koalas are another foliar mammal that has adopted slow living. The sloth has also accomplished a unique, self-contained solution to this energy budget problem. Moss may not grow on slow sloth, but algae does. Why does algae grow in hollow hair fibers on sloth? Because algae uses the nitrogen, water and sunlight in sloth's fur. Following their hypothesis, researchers found algae in the digestive system which is evidence sloth supplements its low-nuitrition diet with a high-nutrient food source growing in its fur. So although the sloth lives in the slow lane, it is actually a self-contained and complex ecosystem--a mobile algae farm--that converts energy into food for its host without any technology at all. Clever sloth!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Honeybees' Larvae Killed by Poisoned Pollen

Scientists say in a new study that pollen loaded with a deadly cocktail of pesticides is killing honeybee larvae in their hives Commonly used pesticides chlorothalonil, fluvalinate, coumaphos and chloropyrifos have statistically significant effects on larvae survival. Chlorothalonil was found to be the most toxic. The research is published in the PLOS One journal. The scientists involved in the study urges the United States EPA to change its pesticide regulations to assess the risk of poisoning honeybee larvae by using these pesticides. Under current regulations only the risks to adult honeybees is considered. Pollen is used by adult bees to feed their offspring and on average six insecticides are present in pollen brought back to the hive. The research team also discovered that an "inert" chemical used as a solvent to pesticides, N-methly-2-pyrrolidone, is highly toxic to larvae at low levels. This chemical is generally considered to be safe, so there is no limit on its use and its residue in the environment is unmonitored. Chronic exposure to toxins in the environment is contributing the decline of honeybees worldwide. Recently, research has revealed a whole class of pesticides, neonicotinoids, causes neurological problems for bees perhaps leading to colony collapse.

TrueAmerica: Reefer Armageddon

This trailer of the original 1936 propaganda film is so over the top it shows why the movie is a cult hit. Marijuana is claimed to be "soul destroying", and a sure road to "inslavement" and end in "hopeless insanity". Even at this late date, when a few pioneering states are taking the first rational steps towards regulation and taxation, marijuana suffers a very strong cultural bias. How else does one explain our society's willingness to tolerate alcohol and nicotine which have greater long term health impairments than marijuana, or its legal classification with much more dangerously addictive drugs: heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine (Controlled Substances Act of 1970). The sad truth is that marijuana was a poor person's escape, originally brought to the attention of law enforcement because of its widespread use among itinerant Mexican workers. Its close association with an alien, socially inferior, non-white culture doomed it to virulent suppression, despite previous government study, including a study of the drug's use in the Canal Zone by the US Army in 1925, which found moderate use to be non-habit forming or dangerous. A recent RAND Corp. study concluded the so-called "gateway drug" effect can be be explained by another theory. The medical use of marijuana in the US dates back to the 19th century, and cannibus appeared in the US Pharmacopeia until 1941. George Washington grew hemp for its fibre, but who knows if some of it also ended up in his pipe at the end of an exhausting day of overseeing his slaves. There are more than 700,000 marijuana related arrests per year in the United States. An arrest record has significant adverse social and economic consequences.†
Big Chief Idowanna sez: when on tribal ground, play own game. Run & gun Johnnies meet big D.

Monday, January 27, 2014

COTW: Wolf Slaughter in West Escalates

This chart [source: The Wildlife] shows the obscene slaughter that is taking place in the Rocky Mountain West as irresponsible state governments persecute the grey wolf now that it has no federal protection from the Endangered Species Act:
Idaho seems particularly bent on total wolf destruction. Its share of the slaughter is seen in the dark purple ban which represents wolves trapped in Idaho and the orange ban represents wolves hunted in Idaho. Montana is also prominently contributing to wolf kills with the blue and light blue bans presenting trapping and hunting in that state. A Ohio State ecologist has publicly stated that the state's wolf policy is headed in the direction of near extirpation leaving only a token population sufficient to discourage federal intervention. He sees Idaho's so-called management policy being driven by a narrow interest group, elk trophy hunters, despite public support for wolf conservation. Since grey wolves were stripped of their federal protection in a political deal the Idaho population has declined by 30%. The state allows arrogant public wolf shooting contests, hired a professional killer to destroy two wolf pacts deep in federal designated wilderness (Frank Church-River of No Return) and authorized shooting wolves from helicopters. This extreme animas against wolves has been noted elsewhere in the US and abroad. The killing derby, which environmentalists failed to stop in court, shows just how twisted some Idahoans are about wolves. They see them as despicable, rabid vermin, not the ecologically beneficial predator they actually are. 464 grey wolves were killed in Idaho in 2013 according to state records. All this "dark ages" slaughter is going on at the time of the fortieth anniversary of the Endangered Species Act.  Under prevailing legal doctrine a state is supposed to manage wildlife for all of a state's citizens. If only one small segment of that population wants wolf extermination a state government is bound not to let that ignorant view to control public policy.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Badgers in England Have Last Laugh

credit: The Guardian
The UK's Tory government has egg on its face or is it badger pooh?  The final statistics show the disastrous culls succeeded in killing less than 24% of the target populations.  The goal was originally set at 70%. According to a new scientific survey, the number of badger setts (dens) has doubled in the last thirty years which accords with anecdotal reports from farmers. The total number of badger clans is estimated to be about 70,000. That is very good news for a species that has been persecuted for centuries and only protected beginning in 1992. The numbers also indicate a healthy rural environment where badgers live. Researchers visited 1600 randomly chosen square kilometer areas during two winters when reduced vegetation made setts easier to locate. One of the scientists involved in the study admitted that the number of setts is a poor predictor of the actual number of badgers. Because the animals are shy, subterranean for a large part of the time, and nocturnal, they are notoriously difficult to count. She also told The Guardian that there is no linear relationship between the number of badgers and the incidence of bovine tuberculosis. The culls, backed by an influential Tory constituency, were heavily criticized by wildlife specialists for making that implicit assumption. More than 27,000 infected cattle were killed in 2013, down 11% from the previous year.

'Toontime: Second Term Curse

Obamatron is well into the political quagmire that is his second term. Recent occupants have found the second term problematical at best. A characteristic of divided government, it is a period when broken promises and fizzled expectations diminish his persuasive powers . It will not be long until the rigor mortis known as "lame duck" sets in for good.

[credit Kevin Siers, Charlotte Observer]

Of course if Obamatron had a Batkid phone, the League of Retired Superheros allowed him to use it, and assuming the Batkid would be well-compensated for his efforts, Obamatron's situation may be beyond political redemption even for Batkid. (See Unreasonable search and seizure, contitutionality of) But nobody thought Creighton would bomb #4Villanova by 28 points, either! So Roseanne Rosannadana it just goes to show, you never know who is ready for the big time:

[credit Bruce Plante, Tulsa World]
Wackydoodle sez: The lid is up! Boxout, B3. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

COTW: "The Land to the Left" in Crisis

Diplomats will gather in Montreux, Switzerland this week in an attempt to end the bloody civil war that is laying waste to Syria. The talks got off to a dubious start when the rebels forced the UN to rescind its invitation to Iran to participate in the talks. The invitation was a nod to the reality that Iran is playing a significant role by aiding Hezbollah which is fighting for the Assad regime. Saudi Arabia is supporting the Sunnis that occupy almost all of the desert interior. A peace deal will be a very difficult accomplishment and this chart shows why:
credit: Stratfor
When the Sykes-Picot mandate ended in 1943 the situation was already ripe for sectarian division. Improbable control of such a diverse population by a relatively small sectarian group put into power by the French, the Alawites, effectively guaranteed the use of force to control restive segments of the Syrian population, and indeed the Assad regime stands accused of systematic torture of its national enemies. However, the regime has a death grip on the capital, Damascus, and is trying to recapture rebel held Aleppo and the surrounding region. The Kurds meanwhile are continuing their efforts to establish autonomous zones in the north and east as they have already done in Iraq's northwest. Both sides in the war have regional and big-power supporters willing to fuel the conflict for their own geopolitical interests and neither side is willing to make power sharing concessions necessary for a settlement. Indeed, the rebel side is in disarray as its fratricidal conflicts and jihadist domination threaten to make any cohesive settlement impossible. History does not provide a raison d'être for the modern nation known as Syria. The region has been a borderland between traditional, regional powers to the north, east and south. Arab traders referred to it merely as "the land to the left" of their holy shrines in Arabia. Only twice in its pre-modern history could the region claim to be a sovereign, independent state: during the Seleucid dynasty (301-141 BC) and the Umayyad Caliphate (661-749 AD). Diplomats will be searching for Syria's missing mythos in Montreaux.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Rhino Poaching Out of Control

South Africa has lost control of rhino poaching.  It is a sad fact reflected in the number of rhinos killed last year.  One thousand and four rhinos died needlessly for their keratin horns. Sometimes the rhinos suffer terribly as their horns are ripped off while they are still alive and dying. 2013 was the worst year yet on record. South Africa is home to more rhinos than any other country in the world, so it is a magnate for rhino poachers. All this because ignorant Asians continue to demand powdered horn as a medicine and aphrodisiac. Science shows that keratin has no curative properties. Horn consumers might as well be chewing their fingernails. Most of the poachers come in from Mozambique according to TRAFFIC, the organization responsible for monitoring the illegal trade in endangered animal parts.  It says law enforcement and penalties must be stiffened considerably if there to be any hope of stopping the immoral decimation of a species that has existed on Earth for hundreds of thousands of years. Deaths from poaching are nearly outnumbering births, a condition mathematically leading to extinction. Trophy hunting for huge fees must also stop since it is a source of horn entering the black market. Life imprisonment should be an option for major poaching criminals.

courtesy: US Person, Masai Mara Rhino
Wealthy countries like the United States with the means to infiltrate and prosecute international traffic rings have to lead the way. The Unites States is helping, but it can do much more. If as much effort was put into suppressing the illegal wildlife trade as it puts into anti-drug operations, there would be a marked drop in the number of animals killed annually. To its credit, the US government seems to be stepping up in small ways. Secretary of State John Kerry recently announced a $1 million bounty leading to the arrest of Vixay Keosavang who is the head of a vast trafficking syndicate. Keosavang is based in Laos where his "Xaysavang" organization enables the killing of elephants and rhinoceros for their valued body parts and smuggles them from Africa through Laos to Vietnam and China. His network has been operating for more than a decade, but was revealed in 2008 when five men were arrested in a sting operation for trying to sell three rhino horns for thousands. Later, Kenyan authorities seized 260 kgs of ivory and 18kgs of horn at Nairobi airport. The shipments were registered to Xaysavang in Laos. A key accomplice, who was imprisoned for only ten years, provided intelligence about the syndicate which is said to have prompted Washington to offer the reward. The realization that wildlife criminals are involved in official corruption, financing terror and armed conflict, as well as robbing nations of their irreplaceable natural heritage is slowingly starting to dawn on officials. Keosavang is said to be "untouchable" in Laos. Nevertheless, Freeland, a wildlife NGO, has constructed a detailed case against him. One 2009 contract alone was worth $860,000 in turtles (20,000), snakes (70,000) and monitor lizards (20,000). Keosavang seems a worthy target of clandestine activity. US Person hopes it is not to late for his innocent victims.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Creature Feature: Real Cat Blogging

World Wildlife Fund sends US these adorable and encouraging photos of snow leopard cubs at play. Much better than zoo pictures, these camera trap photos are ingcognito. Or are they? These two can play "king of the hill" in front of my camera any time they want:

Thanks to increased anti-poaching patrols, the Argut River Valley population has increased from five to eight this year. The pictured cubs are less than a year old, so there is reproduction occurring. Fewer than 7,000 snow leopards are thought to survive in the wild. You can symbolically adopt a snow leopard and contribute to their restoration here.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Sea Shepherds Sweep the Sea

Those perilous "pirates" of preservation, Sea Shepherd, drove the Japanese whale killers from the Southern Ocean on Monday. Outstanding! The factory ship Nisshin Maru was caught processing whales inside the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary but was chased away across 60°S latitude by the Sam Simon, the Steve Irwin and its helicopter. Three other Sea Shepherd vessels will patrol should the factory ship attempt to rendezvous with its harpoon ships. Currently they are not hunting and separated by hundreds of miles. The express goal of Sea Shepherds is to disrupt the whale hunt so effectively as to making whaling economic nonsense. However, the Japanese whalers have demonstrated their stubbornness in defense of a what they claim is a cultural activity, and the government subsidizes their loosing operations.

courtesy: Sea Shepherd Australia
When the Nisshin Maru was located by the sea-going activists, blood covered its decks from the butchering of four minke whales [photo]. Sea Shepherdsays the whalers are poachers since the hunting takes place within the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. The Australian head of the organization said his fleet will continue to do whatever it takes to ensure no more whales suffer a painful death at the hands of the Japanese butchers. Japan engages in whaling under cover of a "scientific research program" permit issued by the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling. Very little, if any research is going on, but the whale meat does end up in Japanese fish markets. Whale is considered a delicacy in Japan. The US branch of the organization was enjoined from interfering with Japanese whaling vessels, so it handed protection operations to Sea Shepherd Australia. None of its vessels sailing in international waters fly a US flag. Sea Shepherd claims to have saved the lives of 4500 whales since it began its Antarctic Whale Defense campaigns. The latest, Operation Relentless, is its tenth campaign.

'Toontime: How Does It Feel?

[credit: Nate Beeler]
Wackydoodle sez:  He used t'be a rollin' stone!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Irreversible Meltdown In Antarctica

A study in the journal Nature Climate Change concludes that one of the largest glaciers in Antarctica has begun to irreversibly melt. The Pine Island glacier has entered a "phase of self-sustained retreat and will irreversibly decline" concludes Gael Durand, a glaciologist from Grenoble Alps University. He was interviewed by Australian Broadcasting Corporation.  The Pine Island glacier is the single biggest Antarctic contributor to sea-level rise and accounts for one-forth of the ice melt from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.  Alone, it could raise sea level one centimeter in the next twenty years; if the entire ice sheet were to retreat from the sea it could raise sea level a catastrophic 10 feet or more, making many coastal cities uninhabitable.  The glacier's grounding line--where it meets the sea--will probably retreat 40 kilometers inland said researchers.  It has been loosing 20 billion tons of ice a year for the last twenty years, but the rate will increase to something nearer 100 billion tons a year in the coming decades.
Emperors nesting inland @ Jason Peninsula
This new study and others show that previous conclusions about Antarctic ice melt were too simplistic, based only on ocean warming. Not an unusual development as more data is collected and analyzed about a particular phenomenon capturing scientific attention; it's how science works. New results are showing the Antarctic ice sheet is more susceptible to climatic conditions occurring elsewhere on Earth. For example during the La Niña event in 2012, the melting ice flows decreased by half. But such a condition is seen as temporary and not something that will halt or reverse the retreat of Pine Island's glacier or other ice shelves around the Antarctic Peninsula. Emperor penguins, those masters of survival, are now seen nesting inland, atop ice shelves which they must climb up tens of meters to reach from the sea [photo].

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

East African Lion Vanishing

credit: Panthera
Ten thousand years ago the lion (Panthera leo) was the most populous land predator not counting man. Its range extended across the Eurasian and African continents and into the New World. Africa alone was home to hundreds of thousands of lions of regional subspecies. The Sahara Desert once harbored the the North African lion but the last Algerian lion was shot in 1891. Once the West African lion ranged continuously from Senegal to Nigeria. Today a new report from Panthera, the organization dedicated to conservation of large felines, concludes this subspecies is dangerously close to extinction. Dr. Phillip Henschel the organization's lion survey head and his team found just 250 adult lions capable of breeding remained in five countries during a exhaustive six year study that covered eleven countries where lions were thought to live: Senegal, Nigeria and a group living in a trans-border area of Benin, Niger and Burkina Faso. The study published in PLOS ONE shows lions are enduring a catastrophic collapse in West Africa. They are genetically distinct from other lions including those few in zoos or other captivity. Whether these unique lions can be save from extinction is problematic. The five East African countries they live in now are desperately poor with no funds for a coherent breeding program or protection from human predation or habitat loss. Lions are under threat across the continent of Africa as human populations expand converting savanna to crop land and expanding livestock herds. Less than 35,000 wild lions are estimated to remain. As large predators disappear from landscapes, cascading ecological effects occur that have been documented by science. The decrease of lions and leopards in some parts of Africa have led to a dramatic increase in olive baboons which raid farm crops and livestock. Predators have a right to co-exist with man on Earth, but not only do they have a moral right they perform valuable ecological functions in the web of life as ecologist Aldo Leopold (A Sand County Almanac) observed decades ago.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

COTW: At the Far End

US Person does not enjoy beating a dead horse, but if other commentators are willing to do so, he is not willing to risk being labeled "Dr. Rude" to refrain from participation. The US Fed has, as you well know, launched a rescue of the financial markets with a policy known as "quantative easing" which is essentially using newly created money to buy US Treasury debt. The deficit has ballooned from $5 trillion before the Panic of 2008 to $16 trillion now. The central bank has a myriad of justifications for this low-interest method of financing the economy, which include job creation. NOT! These Fed charts show the facts:
Because the official unemployment figure is jiggered for propaganda purposes, commentator Graham Summers uses the labor participation rate as more representative of the actual size of the work force compared to the US population. Labor participation has not been this low since the "double dip" recession of the Regan administration in the early 80's [above]. Looking at the far end of the "chart porn" in detail shows that the four QEs launched by the private central bank has done nada for relative employment which hovers around 58.5% of the population despite the recession's official end in mid-2009 (grey shaded):

Monday, January 13, 2014

True America: Better Dead Through Chemistry

When workers at Standard Oil's experimental refinery in New Jersey (Esso) starting to literally go off their rocker in the early 1920s, the state asked New York City's first medical examiner, Charles Norris, then head of one of the leading toxicology labs in the world, to investigate the problem. The company said the workers were simply suffering mental breakdowns from overwork. It was not long before Alexander Gettler, the examiner's chief forensic chemist, isolated the cause of the mental symptoms: lead poisoning. Lead was known to the ancient Romans as a poison. Standard Oil was adding the new miracle chemical, tetraethyl lead (TEL) to its ethyl gasoline product to reduce engine wear and improve performance. The investigation result caused the the medical examiner to call for the banning of the additive to gasoline sold in the city. Both Standard Oil and General Motors, co-owners of Ethyl Corporation, put their political muscle to work and the early call for banning lead additive to Ethyl gasoline was ignored. A superior performing fuel mixture of benzene and alcohol was in use in Europe that did not cause engine knocking, but it was not a proprietary formulation. By the 1970s 200,000 tons of lead was added to gasoline in the US annually. Dupont took over the production of tetra-ethyl lead. Its corporate mottto is "better living through chemistry". Only after more than half a century of exposure was the neurotoxin finally taken out of gasoline.

So it is really no surprise to a unpatriotic, big-mouthed crank like US Person that the coal industry has been posioning West Virginia's water supplies almost unabated for more than a century. Chemical laden waste water is pumped directly into the ground where it leeches into the water table and turns drinkable well water into a poison cocktail. The Elk River spill of coal washing chemical that caused about 300,000 to go without municipal water for five days is just the latest tip of a much bigger toxic plume. Local wells in Boone County were already poisoned, forcing residents to adopt a municipal system that sources water from fifty miles away. A professor of aquatic biology at Wheeling's Jesuit University says the clock is ticking on southern West Virginia's water supplies. In less than two decades the area's water could become undrinkable. To add insulting: the company, code-named "Freedom Industries", that spilled 4-methyl-cyclohexane methanol was founded by a twice-convicted felon, and his premises were not inspected for years. Good news: we will find an "Earth 2.0" in ten to fifteen years. That is good news because humans have already trashed this one almost beyond recovery. Wake US up when you break the light barrier.

Canadian Environmentalists Sue Government over Enbridge Pipeline

credit: WWF-Canada
The "Northern Gateway" pipeline and tanker route proposed by Enbridge is running into legal opposition from environmentalists who allege the Canadian government failed to meet its obligations under the Species at Risk Act intended to protect endangered species. An court initial hearing of the suit was held in Vancouver, BC last week. The long delayed recovery strategies for four protected species--the Pacific Humpback whale, Nechako white sturgeon, marbled murrelet and souther mountain caribou--were released too late for consideration by the federal government panel reviewing the Northern Gateway proposal. The panel recommended approval of the pipeline proposal without reviewing the plans for protected species. Five environmental groups say all of these species would be adversely impacted by the Enbridge proposal which calls for a 1177km pipeline to carry diluted bitumen over the Canadian Rockies to British Columbia's Pacific coast where it would be offloaded onto tankers. Currently there is a moratorium on new tanker traffic in British Columbia's narrow coastal waterways. Some of the recovery strategies were years late arriving. The humpback whale plan which identified oil spills and vessel traffic as two threats to whale survival and recovery was four and half years late and too late to be considered by the National Energy Board's Joint Review Panel. Environmental law firm, Ecojustice, representing the environmentalists argues the delay makes it easier for development projects like the pipeline and tanker terminal at Kitimat to be approved since critical habitats are not scientifically identified beforehand. More than 160 other at-risk species, including the southern mountain caribou [photo] that inhabits the pipeline's route through the Rockies, still have not received their recovery strategies. The pipeline would cross hundreds of streams, rivers and lakes inhabited by fish, disturb previously untouched wilderness, and cross traditional territories of 40 First Nation groups. Many of these indigenous people are standing against the pipeline proposal.

Friday, January 10, 2014

'Toontime: The Humuhumu Nukunuku Apaua'a Swims By

Now that the Current Occupant is back from his taxpayer-subsidized Hawaiian family vacation, can he focus his attention to selling healthcare reform that is a website, or is it the other way around?  In either case the "Affordable Health Care Act" does very little to solve the problem depicted in the lower chart.  So, US Person provides him with another chart, because as we all know, you can't tell the players without a program:

[credit: Michael Ramirez]

Wackydoodle sez: There's a bridge in Ft Lee I'd like to sell ya'll!

Fukushima Fallout Greatest

The Canadian government has confirmed that the Fukushima disaster will release more radioactive fallout than all the previous atmospheric nuclear tests combined. US sailors exposed to radiation from the Fukushima meltdowns are coming down with exposure symptoms. A lawsuit has been filed against TEPCo by attorney Charles Bonner who now represents 51 sailors abroad the USS Ronald Reagan contaminated during disaster relief operations. The ship remained in the disaster zone for almost a month. Western governments continue to claim fallout levels now reaching the Pacific coast do not pose a health threat. Cesium 137, a radioactive isotope, does not exist in nature, only non-radioactive Cesium 133 is natural. The only source is from man-made nuclear reactions. This chart shows the Fukushima disaster and Japan's almost total inability to contain contamination will release more radioactive Cesium that either the Chernobyl meltdown or atmospheric weapons testing. Cesium 137 has a half-life of about thirty years, so it will enter the food chain. The contamination is forecasted based on computer modeling to last ten years off the California coast:

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Izembek Saved From Road

Last year US Person told you of a proposed road in Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. Alaskan politicians were lobbying Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell to ignore the findings of a three-year US Fish & Wildlife study that concluded the road through the middle of the refuge would harm habitat critical to the migration of Black Brant, Steller's Eiders, Golden Plovers and Bar-tailed Godwits. Road supporters claimed the road was needed to connect a tiny Alaskan village to an all-weather airport on the far side of the lagoon. Conservationists including the Audubon Society have been working for two decades to protect Izembek's globally important wetlands. Secretary Jewell visited the refuge in response to the controversy surrounding the road and spend several months reexamining the study. On December 23rd the Secretary signed a final decision to protect Izembek and prohibit building the road. Another victory for wildlife thanks to committed citizens expressing their concern for the preservation of Nature.

COTW: Drought Hangs on in West

You got your F5 hurricanes and tornados, you got your wicked-cold polar vortex, you got your January thaw, and then you got no rain. Take you pick of the perturbations of global warming which have increased the frequency of extreme weather events (don't ask the Donald to explain the effects of global warming because he's got it backwards). This chart from the National Drought Mitigation Center released Monday shows how much of California is experiencing a drought thought to be the worst in four decades.
Even Catholic bishops are praying for rain. California lives on a knife's edge of water supplies for irrigated agriculture and urban centers. Water managers said that snowpack is only 20% of average so they will be able to deliver only 5% of the water needed. Dry vegetation will more easily ignite during the hot summer months to come.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

China Crushes Ivory

courtesy of TRAFFIC
China's symbolic act of crushing 6.15 metric tons of poached ivory is worth mentioning at PNG because China's environmental record is generally deplorable, and China is the world's largest market for illegal ivory. Hopefully, the ceremony held in Dongguan indicates the government's willingness to get tough on the body parts trade that flourishes in China. At least that is the idea expressed by the deputy head of the State Forestry Administration;  why the head of the administration could not be present at the ceremony was not explained by officials. Current Chinese law provides penalties for trading in elephant ivory from six months to life imprisonment. A few weeks ago, eight Chinese citizens were convicted and sentenced to 3 to 15 years for smuggling 3 tons of illegal ivory. The ivory crushed to rubble included raw tusks as well as carved items. Regardless of official Chinese intentions, the elephant slaughter in Africa goes on, fueled by high prices for ivory. China is the destination market for most of the poached ivory. An estimated 22,000 elephants were killed in 2012 or 96 elephants a day. At that rate, local extinctions are not far away. If elephants are to be saved from this terrible fate, all nations must commit to an absolute ban on all trade in ivory which has been irrationally imbued by man with special value beyond its physical properties. US Person believes live elephants are more valuable than dead libation cups.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Ocean Garbage Gets Official Attention

A recent report from UCLA said the plastic waste stream entering the world's oceans has been completely mismanaged. Plastic debris is one of the most significant environmental problems for marine environments. The experts offered a list of ten proposed actions including an international treaty and extended producer responsibility for plastic. In response to the increased public awareness of plastic junk poisoning wildlife the EPA announced it would increase efforts to monitor and assess impacts of marine litter. However, it declined to address plastic pollution under authority of the Clean Water Act. The Ocean Dumping Act of 1972 also gives it authority to regulate some types of pollution such as sewage from entering territorial waters. This modest response comes after decades of neglect. How much plastic waste enters the oceans is not known because of lack of reporting requirements, but environmental scientists think it may be 20 million or more per year. The EPA is not ready to impose limits on plastic pollution despite the fact that it poses a direct and lethal effects on marine life. Curious marine mammals get entangled and drown, seabirds feed small pieces of colorful plastic to their young, and sea turtles eat plastic bags thinking they are jellyfish. Particularly dangerous to marine life are "nurdles", small pellets of plastic used in manufacturing, and microscopic particles of partially degraded plastic that enter the marine food chain via invertebrates and fish. The garbage is present throughout the water column from seabed to surface, and is concentrated by currents in giant ocean eddies. The North Pacific gyre is a well known marine garbage dump, in some cases so thick it poses a navigational hazard.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Reserve for Macaws Doubles in Size

painting by Azidez
Everybody's favorite tropical bird (iconic is worn out from overuse), the macaw, is under severe pressure throughout its habitats in Central and South America. Good news for the blue-throated species come from Bolivia. The government has doubled the size of Barba Azul Nature Reserve which protects forest remains now standing in isolated islands amid wet savanna. Some twenty forest islands are the nesting and roosting sites for Ara glaucogularis. A coalition of conservation groups helped to purchase 14,820 acres of additional savanna and forest in the Beni wetlands. The nature reserve now protects 27,180 acres and half the world's population of blue-throated macaws. One hundred or more macaws have been recorded in the Reserve. Macaw populations have been devastated by habitat loss and the insidious pet trade. Conservationists are assisting the bird's survival with breeding boxes and habitat protection. The combined action of outside conservation groups is credited with the expansion of Barba Azul and is held up as an example for other groups to follow in assisting poorer countries to protect their natural assets from corporate exploitation. The US Fish & Wildlife Service was among the donors.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

America's Dangerous Myths II

Ok, readers, US Person is now bullied into another year of high impact blogging! PNG starts the new year with a continuation of the those "poisonous fairy tales" that caused daddy to lie:
  • Corporations are governed by their shareholders.  In fact shareholders are paid little attention by top corporate executives except when they want to gather proxy votes for the annual meeting.  Shareholder suits to force changes in corporate in policy or structure are not very successful because they are expensive to organize and difficult to win, since most shareholders are only interested in investment return and not governance.  A legally entrenched management has a huge advantage  over stockholders.  Corporations are therefore operated and policy determined by top executives in conjunction with their board of directors who have the power of removing them.  But because of stock investment plans given as compensation, CEOs often dominate their boards too.  In addition boards of directors in major companies are interlocked, meaning only a relatively small elite control corporate policy making and planning across entire sectors of business.  Mega-corporations are definitely not democracies, but private authoritarian states unto themselves; antithetical to democratic governments who ostensibly should regulate their activities for the greater good.  When corporations are so powerful they become the overlords of government and effectively make law, the fascist state rises.
  • Speculation is good for the economy.  Whenever the public begins to demand accountability from Wall Street speculators, the same bromides are applied to deaden their pain.  Hedge fund and big bank executives claim they are providing a public service by "creating liquidity",  "making markets", and providing economic opportunity. Even when the criminal plutocrats admit they are are violating such laws as Section 906 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which requires the executive certify the accuracy of their company's documents submitted to regulators, they go unpunished.  The financial plutocrats are the new "untouchables". Why?  Because they control government regulators by paid political influence.  Speculation, as Marx pointed out, becomes an end in itself leading to the misallocation of capital. It drives up commodity prices.  The Federal Reserve concluded not long ago that speculation in oil has an upward effect on gasoline prices.  Speculation also drives up food prices.  In 2010 there was a record spike in food prices of staple farm products, widely believed to be caused by grain speculation.  Of course financial instruments and their derivatives play a legitimate role in commerce. Companies are able to plan their costs and revenues because of modern financial markets.  When those markets become an end to themselves because of declining ordinary profit rates [chart below], the rest of the nation suffers, not benefits from their "irrational exuberance"  The big four banks are estimated to control 96% of the 3 trillion OTC derivatives traded in 2009!  That is just the known market in derivatives, how much undisclosed derivative trading is taking place is anybody's guess. The fact is it continues unabated and unregulated even after bad debts associated with derivative trading took down Lehman Brothers and almost the entire global economy in 2008. Those fortunate enough to have retirement accounts invested in the stock market casino may ask: my 401K is doing great, why should I care if a few fat cats go scott-free? US Person suggests they ask the pensioners in Detroit that very question.
Dumenil & Levy: US profit rates 1870-2008