Sunday, March 30, 2014

True America: College Scholarship Athletes Are Employees

It could be a fatal blow against one of the last vestiges of slavery, in which college athletes receive no wages but perform services greatly benefiting their schools. A Chicago NLRB board ruled that scholarship football players at Northwestern University qualify as employees and therefore have the right to unionize. The ruling is potentially devastating to the current system of NCAA college athletics and will no doubt be appealed and reversed. The decision does face the facts on the ground however: college grant-in-aid players perform valuable services for the benefit of their schools and receive compensation for their services. The Chicago board used the "degree of control" test to determine grant players' status finding that the school exerted strict control over the players making them employees under the common law definition of that term and as used in the National Labor Relations Act.

If the Northwestern students seeking to unionize are successful at the next level of review, their players union would be the first in the NCAA with massive implication for college athletics around the nation. College athletics has become a big business in the United States and successful athletic programs are a huge source of funding for higher education. Only student-atheletes who are not scholarship players, so-called "walk-ons" remain uncompensated for their valuable services to their institutions.

The new ruling distinguishes previous precedent on the issue of the employment status of college students. In the case of Brown University, graduate student teaching assistants sought to collectively bargain with their university. An NLRB regional director recognized the graduate students as employees. Prior to this 2000 decision graduate students rendering services were considered primarily students. The decision was reversed by the full board in 2004. The Northwestern decision distinquished Brown since the football players duties (playing and practicing football) were completely unrelated to their academic studies unlike the teaching assistants' related duties in Brown.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Desease Dooms Wild Devils

A rare contagious facial cancer will kill off Tasmania's devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) in the wild within twenty-five years. No cure for the disease has been found, but biologists have isolated the cause as cancerous Schwann cells passed from one devil to another. Schwann cells normally insulate nerve fibers. Previously it was thought the facial tumors might be caused by a virus. The bleak news is offset by a precedent setting partnership between the University of Sydney and the San Diego Zoo. A joint project will reintroduce 50 disease free devils onto Maria Island off Tasmania's east coast. The population will be managed to insure genetic diversity and protection from the disease. The rescued devils will be dispersed back into the wild once it is safe to do so. University of Sydney is known for specializing in sequencing the Tasmanian devil's genome. San Diego Zoo contributed $500,000 to project including the funding of a conservation geneticist at the University. Genetic sequencing revealed that devils' have low genetic diversity and also low genetic immunity for thousands of years before the emergence of the contagious facial tumors. Because of their genetic similarity the have no immune response to invading cancer cells. Probably because of these genetic factors, devils have experienced population extinctions and crashes due to disease outbreaks in the past. The population of devils was estimated at 65,000 to 75,000 in the mid 90's. The population is now around 10,000 to 25,000 due to the disease but also habitat destruction and culling. Devils limit the number of foxes, an introduced species, as well as feral cats and dogs because they feed on carrion. Devils also kill young foxes in their dens. Their absence from Tasmania's forests is considered an ecological problem since the exotic red fox will become established in their absence.

'Toontime: Putin's Bracketology

[credit: Gary Varvel, Indianapolis Star]
More: At least they are talking. President Putin called the White House and supposedly told the Current Occupant that Russia had no intention of invading Ukraine. Western intelligence says Russian troops and supplies continue to mass at the border and has warned that an invasion is imminent. Thirty-thousand troops sounds like hardly enough to subjugate a country the size of Ukraine (another twenty-five are already in Crimea). Nevertheless, NATO Commander Breedlove said the Russian forces are capable of crossing Ukraine to link up with forces stationed in restive Moldavia. There is no diplomatic agreement yet on how to defuse the crisis, but Secretary of State Kerry is on his way to meet his counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov for discussions. The US wants Russia to pull its troops back while Russia is concerned with what it calls the rampage of extremists threatening the rights of ethnic Russians in Ukraine.

Ukraine is no prize for the West if elections scheduled for May go its way. Its economy is, in short, a mess. The economy is now smaller than it was when the country declared independence from the Soviet system in 1992. Once smaller, Poland's economy is twice as big as Ukraine's. It has coal resources and aging heavy industries that are highly energy inefficient and highly dependent on subsidized Russian natural gas. A corrupt shadow economy accounts for 44% of GDP according to one Ukrainian academic study. It owes the Russian gas giant Gazprom $1.9bn. Gazprom said it will end Ukraine's one-third discount from April 1st now that Russian forces occupy Sevastopol and the rest of Crimea. The IMF agreed to loan Ukraine $14-18bn, but it has a history of defaulting on previous aid packages in 2008 and 2010. The region's instability has detered western investment. It seems the EU will be getting another basket case to add to its patient roster of economically sick countries. Incidently the 2014 vintage from Crimea's vinyards will be labeled, "Product of Russia".

{28.03.14}The United Nations General Assembly declared in a non-binding vote the Crimean referendum supporting annexation illegal. Of course the Russian ambassador chose to point out that more than half the number of nations that voted for the declaration, voted to abstain. Western politicians have a hard time understanding Vladimir Putin because he is a rare breed of politician who says what he means and does what he says. When he first addressed the Duma after being installed as Prime Minister under President Yeltsin in 1999 one of his first concerns in rebuilding a crumbling nation was Russia's territorial integrity. He said, "Russia has been a great power for centuries, and remains so. It has always had and still has legitimate zones of interest abroad in both the former Soviet land and elsewhere. We should not drop our guard in this respect, neither should we allow our opinion to be ignored." Western influenced political elements in Ukraine clearly were ignoring Russia's wishes in "a zone of interest" when they fomented an uprising against Yanukovych's elected government. So President Putin acted by annexing Crimea with the support of most of its citizens, and to his credit he did so without a pitched military battle of any sort. Putin began his career in the KGB at a time when Soviet world influence was at its zenith. He is not a crypto-communist longing for the reestablishment of the Soviet Union, but he is a nationalist and an authoritarian who wants Russia to be a respected player once again.
[credit: Nate Beeler, Columbus Dispatch]
Wackydoodle sez, Don't tell the folks in Moldavia that!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Oso Slide Did Not "Come From Out of Nowhere"

credit: Ted S. Warren/AP
Mainstream news coverage of the lethal landslide that wiped out the village of Oso, Washington has glossed over the fact that a catastrophic slide was predicted by geologists going back to the 1950s. Even after a major landslide in 2006, new homebuilding permits were issued in the danger zone. The hillside has a history of slides dating back more than sixty years. There were slides in 1949, 1951, and 1967. The '67 slide took out a large revetment installed in 1962 to stabilize the river bank. The scarp was then 70 feet high in places. A 1999 report filed with the US Army Corp of Engineers warned of "the potential of catastrophic failure". Another geologist made a report to the Washington State Department of Ecology and Tulalip Tribes documenting the hill's slide history, but Snohomish County officials claim they did not know about the warnings. Snohomish County's emergency management head dissembled at a news conference Monday, when he said the clay hill know to geologists as "Slide Hill", "was considered very safe. This was a completely unforeseen slide." The County Executive and Public Works Director maintained the official line claiming there was no indication of a possible slide. After the 2006 slide, home construction noise competed with the sound of snapping trees as the landslide moved under the eroding force of the river.

Emergency responders now face treacherous conditions on the mudflow as they try to recover buried victums. A state geologist visiting the site in 1969 noted that aerial photographs as far back as 1932 show the clay hillside had been cut by the river, and that "travel across the slide surface is extremely treacherous because of hidden pockets of saturated material that will not support a man's weight". The newest slide is 30 to 40 feet deep in places; some bodies may never be recovered. The new scarp or cliff left by the slide is almost 600 feet high. An environmental manager of the Stillaguamish Tribe summed up the psychological denial involved in the disaster, "We always thought there was a possibility that a catastrophic event would come. We were hoping that wouldn't happen." Last Saturday, Oso's luck ran out.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Gulf Tuna Have Heart Problems

painting courtesy, National Geographic
Yet another dirty impact of the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico has been discovered. Bluefin and yellowfin tuna (Thunnus thynnus, Thunnus albacares), apex predators, are suffering severe heart problems caused by spilled crude oil. That is the conclusion of a study released by NOAA. Crude oil causes the heartbeat of larvae and embryos to slow down or beat arrhythmically. If they survive contact with oil, their ability to swim fast is impaired. Severely affected tuna are likely to have died of heart failure soon after hatching. The spill occurred during the critical spawning season when fish embryos float near the surface. The threshold for developmental defects are low, approximately 1-15ppb. Because of the difficulty of capturing live embryos near the spill site. Contaminated water was brought to tuna hatcheries in Australia and Panama where scientists emulated conditions in the Gulf of Mexico. NOAA has been researching the effects of crude oil toxicity on fish for more than two decades. Researchers suspect that similar effects have occurred in species of swordfish, marlin, and mackerel.

More: The much abused Gulf took another hit on Saturday when an oil barge collided with another vessel and breached one of its tanks. 168,000 gallons of RMG 380, a particularly viscous marine fuel oil, spilled into Galveston Bay.  Because it is heavy, most of it will sink to the bottom, but because it is sticky it will smother wildlife and persist in the environment for a long time.  The collision occurred in fog when the towboat M/V Miss Susan and her barges hit a bulk tanker, Summer Wind  in the Houston Ship Channel.  Coast Guard records show the Miss Susanhas been involved in twenty collisions in the past twelve years.   The latest mess from the oil industry coincides with peak migration of shorebirds in the region.  Audubon says more than 100 oiled birds have been found, and there are mortalities [photo credit: Houston Chronicle]. Galveston Bay is one of the most biologically productive areas in the nation, second only to Chesapeake Bay. Visitors come from all over the world to view its diverse wildlife. Houston Audubon scientists have found dead birds on the Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary, just two miles from the collision spot. During migration now underway, more than 100 species of birds rest, forage or breed at the sanctuary including the endangered piping plover. Any marine specie that comes to the surface such as dolphins and turtles will also be impacted. Rough weather has defied efforts to skim the surface and remove most of the gunk so more than half of it has swept into the Gulf of Mexico.

COTW: The Amazing Shrinking $

If, like US Person dear reader, you are not afraid of the "thought police" occupying 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, look at this chart:

[source:  Quinn]
The current regime denies there is any significant inflation occurring, but the chart above does not lie. Only through statistical manipulation beginning in 1982 and spanning regimes of both stripes can the federal government deny there is only negligible inflation in the US economy. That lie is like saying "Russia is only a regional power". Sure, a regional power with a full-spectrum nuclear arsenal. You know something is terribly rotten in Denmark when 'der leder' starts to swallow his own cognitive dissonance. The plain fact is the US economy is controlled by a corporate financial elite that uses their private bank, The Federal Reserve, to control the value of money.  Perhaps not since Monsieur John Law has so much money been created out of thin air. Their statistics tell you the United States has had a growing economy 93% of the time over the last fourteen years. This despite the greatest house price collapse in our history; the near implosion of the worldwide financial casino in 2008; and two stock market crashes--deception on such a scale as to make you want to rob a bank! But if you can read, you can see the message in the chart above--more real wealth for the elites, less and less for the masses. Got stock? 90% of the US population owns none. US household income has declined 7.3% from 2000 even when calculated using the officially crooked CPI. So is the manipulated, artificial Dow Jones Index relevant to you? NOT!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Japanese Whalers Leave Southern Ocean

After a six-hour pitched battle with Japanese whalers February 22rd in which the Sea Shepherd ship Bob Barker was repeatedly attacked by harpoon ships at night, Japanese whalers have left the southern ocean. That ends another whaling season according to the whale defense organization, Sea Shepherd Australia. Factory ship Nisshin Maru was recorded crossing 60°S headed north for Japan early Tuesday morning. This was the first time Japanese whalers used their automatic identification system in their self-designated whaling grounds, usually they attempt to keep their location secret while hunting. Thanks to the unrelenting efforts of courageous conservationists, the season was very unsuccessful for the Japanese.

Harpoon ships associated with the Nisshin Maru  repeatedly dragged cables in front of the Barker attempting to foul the ship's propellers and rudders while it blocked the factory ship's slipway to prevent butchering of whales. Whalers used powerful searchlights to blind the Shepard's bridge crew, and repeatedly cut across the Barker's bow in violation of international rules of navigation to prevent collisions. Whalers threw ice chunks at Barker's inflatable boats launched to protect the ship [photos courtesy, Simon Agar/Sea Shepherd] Barker's crew shot 13 flares at the two attacking vessels. Another attack took place February 2nd in which the Bob Barker collided with the Yushin Maru 3. So far Australia and New Zealand, both signatories to the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary treaty, have taken a hands-off approach to the whaling activity of the Japanese despite their obvious circumvention of the global moratorium on whaling. Sea Shepherd Australia said their ships are in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary to defend whales from illegal hunting.  Mission accomplished, the Sea Shepherd fleet is also returning to home ports in Australia and New Zealand.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Monarchs Endangered by Pesticide

The massive rise in the growing of genetically modified crops has led to an increase in the use of pesticides on the resistant plants.  Once again Nature is suffering from industrial agriculture's indiscriminate use.  Glyphosate is killing off milkweed along with the Monarch butterfly.  Native milkweed is the only plant used by the monarch to lay its eggs. Twenty years ago, 1 billion monarchs migrated to Mexico for the winter.  This year, only 33.5 million made the arduous 3,000 journey south and their number will continue to fall if restrictions are not adopted on the use of pesticides like Monsanto's "Roundup".  The NRDC says this is the ninth year in a row that the population of monarchs wintering in Mexico has fallen below its long term average.  This year's migration hit an all time low.  Join US Person and NRDC to ask the EPA to regulate the use of glyphosate to prevent extermination of the beautiful monarch butterfly.

Bisphenol-A Safe--Not So Much

US Person has posted several times about the dangers of chemical compounds in our environment {13.01.14, True America: Better Dead Through Chemistry; 17.02.14, True America: Got Estrogen?} One of the suspect chemicals being investigated is the common plastic additive, bisphenol-A (BPA). In February a group of FDA scientist published a study saying that low-level exposure to BPA was safe. Immediately the business press under the guise of debunking bad science began touting the study as a clean bill of health for BPA. However, Mother Jones tells US that a group of leading academic scientists working on a related project with the FDA were put out by the announcement that BPA is safe for chronic exposure partly because they think the study clearing the chemical was bungled. Researchers conducting the BPA study were told by the NIH that their lab was contaminated with BPA making experimental animal controls useless for comparison purposes. The FDA chose to ignore this basic rule of scientific research by burying the fact of contamination at the end of the study paper. About 1,000 other studies have found low-level exposure to BPA--a synthetic estrogen--can lead to serious health problems. The possibility exists that the effects of BPA which mimics a natural hormone in the body, can be genetically passed to future generations.

The academic scientists are most upset by the FDA's flawed BPA study will impact their $32 million taxpayer-funded project to develop the most effective methods for assessing the effects of BPA. Known as the CLARITY BPA study, it is supposed to shape future regulation of the substance, but the recent FDA finding of harmlessness is preempting CLARITY results and giving mixed messages to the public. The FDA relied in the past on two flawed studies to justify the safe regulatory status of BPA. Both of those studies used a breed of laboratory rat (River Sprague Dawley) that is all but immune to the effects of synthetic estrogen. Industry studies are often prone to flaws because a favorable result is a foregone conclusion, compared to academic studies which have more rigorously objective quality controls. Also, regulatory agencies follow strict guidelines for toxicology studies which are not updated frequently to reflect the latest information or testing methods. These shortcomings are supposed to be addressed by the CLARITY group (Consortium Linking Academic and Regulatory Insights on Toxicity) The Consortium has not been a happy one according to internal communications obtained by Mother Jones: academics and government scientists are disputing study design and methods. The latest FDA study finding BPA safe is another shot across the bow of academia. The agency, no doubt under chemical industry pressure, is sticking to its latest safety finding. It denied a petition from the NRDC asking that BPA be banned from food packaging and containers on the grounds of insufficient data linking the chemical to disease. That decision is not hard to understand given the agency's demonstrated bias in favor of a chemical widely used in commerce.  Bad science indeed!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Right-Wingers Hate National Parks

Extremists in the lower house of the federal government are seeking to block executive authority to create new national parks and monuments. H.R. 1459 is intended to stop a president from using the Antiquities Act of 1906 without congressional approval. The bill sponsor, an extremist from Utah, criticized the Current Occupant's use of the law to create new protected lands near Point Arena in the California Coastal Monument. The new area is the tenth national monument designated by the President. President Clinton created 19 during his two terms in office. The House has effectively shut down legislative efforts to protect wilderness, parks and monuments since the extremists took over in 2010. The bill to protect wilderness in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore was the first since 2009. Fortunately, this new expression of anti-nature sentiment will not reach the Senate floor. Americans, by a three to one margin according to one poll, think Washington should be creating new parks and expanding opportunities for Americans to get outdoors and engage in healthful activity. US Person agrees!

Dingos Have a Place in the Bush

Another study that confirms the role of large predators in an ecosystem comes from Australia where the dingo (Canis lupus dingo), Australia's largest mammalian predator, is being exterminated by farmers using poison. A research group from the Universities of Sydney and Western Sydney concluded that killing dingos has a damaging effect on small native mammals such as bandicoots, marsupial mice, and native rodents. When dingos are eliminated the number of foxes increase which feed on the smaller mammals. Kangaroos and wallabies also increase and more grazing reduces the vegetation in which the ground dwellers live. Dingos are routinely poisoned or shot by farmers concerned about their livestock. The researchers concluded dingos should not be poisoned as a method of control if biological diversity is to be maintained in the bush. Their study was conducted in forested areas of New South Wales and the findings are consistent with the effects of dingo removal in desert areas of Australia.

Once thought to be related to feral dogs, biologists now think that the dingo is related to white-footed Southeast Asian wolves that were transported to Australia between 3500 and 4000 years ago by human seafarers. Dingo's latin name was recently changed to reflect this origin from lupis. Wild dogs, including dingos, have been declared a "pest" species in NSW, but on national park lands they are protected. Poisoning with sodium monofluoroacetate (1080) is the preferred method of extermination.

Friday, March 21, 2014

'Toontime: "Glory to Russia"

[credit: Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune]
Wackdoodle sez: And the Eurolites have none!
And we are not talking age-induced flatulence here. Czar Vladimir knows how to play the resource card, and it is the reason concerted western financial sanctions will eventually fail to convince Russia to give up Crimea which the Kremlin sees as essentially its own territory notwithstanding its sixty-year assignment to a former Soviet republic. Putin, a genuine despot as well as judo master expert in the use of leverage, is determined to restore the global influence of the former superpower, or as he terms it, Russian glory. The violent overthrow of a friendly elected government in Kiev gave him an opening. His bold move to reaffix the peninsula by force is proving popular with his people as the referendum in Crimea demonstrated. The West is left expostulating over legalities while the Ukrainian military in Crimea is disarmed or withdrawn, hopefully without much bloodshed.
[credit: Gary Varvel, Indianapolis Star]
It is clear from his speech to both houses of the Duma at the Kremlin on March 18th, Vladimir Putin is becoming increasingly frustrated with what he considers the West's unwillingness to treat Russia as a full partner in international relations. He pointedly accused the West of deceit: "they [the West] have lied to us many times, made decisions behind our backs, placed us before an accomplished fact. This happen with NATO's expansion to the east, as well as the deployment of military infrastructure [missile defense] at our boarders."  Paradoxically, President Putin reminded freedom-loving Americans to respect the expression of free choice by the majority of Crimeans to return to the Russian fold. Perhaps more important to remember is that Putin controls a vast resource-rich country with the means, military and financial, to act decisively.  Sadly, it seems the world is in for another period of Cold War between East and West.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Creature Feature: Panda Lemurs

US Person likes to feature stories that show how thoughtful conservation measures can bring a species back from extirpation by homo sapiens. The panda lemur (Prolemur simus) is one such story. While our most distant primate relatives are still critically endangered on the island of Madagascar, the panda lemurs in Andriantantely, the island's last lowland rainforest, are reproducing well. The population has doubled in just three years to over 100. They were once considered extinct until unknown populations were located in the 1980s. Twenty lemur infants have arrived at a community conservation project run by the Aspinall Foundation. Panda lemurs are also known as greater bamboo lemurs, one of only three lemurs that survive entirely on bamboo. Consequently, a mature forest is critical for their survival in the wild. Andriantantley has survived relatively in tact to the present because of strong local traditions protecting the forest. Seventeen species of lemur have disappeared from the island of lemurs since humans arrived. Because of their isolation they are an entirely unique species of primate. Scientists want to establish an ambitious plant to keep lemurs from vanishing altogether by setting up community conservation programs in which local people have a stake in protecting wild habitat and the animals that live there. Plans include patrol teams to mitigate poaching in protected forest.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Chart of the Week: Wholesale Collapse

This chart from Bloomberg via shows the collapse in wholesale sales which is the largest in 5 years and the worst since 1993, the 2008 Panic excepted. Auto inventory is at all time record high and growing at the fastest pace in 15 months:

Some financial commentators are calling the current retail conditions the "Great Retail Apocalypse". About a billion square feet of retail space is vacant in the US and major chains like Sears, Radio Shack and Staples are announcing store closures. JCPenney has been dying for years. It lost $586m during the second quarter of 2013 alone. It could be that up to half of all shopping malls in America may shut down within the next 15 to 20 years. Meanwhile the Chinese are hedging the dollar like crazy, buying physical gold in huge amounts. They imported a record 418 metric tons of gold in the first two months of this year.  Why is this happening?  One metric tells a great deal of the story: labor force participation continues to sit at a low not seen in 35 years and a staggering 70% of all consuming units (formerly known as Americans) are below the age of 55:

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

NASA Study Warns of Collapse

Forget planet-busting asteroids, earth-frying supernovas and assorted other doomsday scenarios, predicted or not. A study funded by NASA from Goddard Space Flight Center says that industrial civilization could collapse from within. The causes will probably be unsustainable resource exploitation and increasingly inequitable wealth distribution. Goddard is hardly on the fringe of the US science establishment, so its study predicting collapse deserves more than dismissal with a wave of the hand. Any person with a passing familiarity of human history knows that civilization has cycled through the past in a series of rise and fall. The study attempts to quantify this historical data using a cross-disciplinary computer model. The model identifies the most salient interrelated factors contributing to a civilization's decline: population, climate, water, agriculture, and energy. The influence of these factors can converge to produced two social features present when civilizations enter a stage of decline: severe economic stratification into elites and masses, and exceeding the ecological carrying capacity by overexploitation of natural resources. Currently, over consumption is primarily by elites who dribble out a disproportionately small portion to the masses who produce the accumulated surplus. Sound familiar?

The mathematicians and social scientists using the HANDY computer model are not too impressed with the argument that technological advances will rescue modern man by increasing his efficiency. They say that to a point technological improvements can raise the efficiency of resource use, but it in turn also raises the per capita rate of consumption and resource extraction. Under the current parameters in the world today the scientists "find that collapse is difficult to avoid" in a range of scenarios. Elite wealth monopoly protects them from the first detrimental symptoms of demise, but eventually because of mass famine, violent social upheaval, or resource depletion the elites follow the masses into the dust of history like the Romans and Mayans before them. 'Business as usual' is no way to conduct business if you want civilization to survive into the next century.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Unfriendly Lights in the Sky

New information about animal vision shows that animals sensitive to the ultraviolet spectrum are scared by suspended high voltage power lines which appear as flashing lights in the sky. Animals generally avoid overhead power lines, sometimes by several kilometers. Now there is an explanation for their puzzling behavior. While avoidance of dangerous artificial conditions is a life-saving strategy, it also interferes with normal grazing, reproduction, and migration. Researchers at University College of London Eye Hospital, The Arctic University of Norway, and the University of Oslo carried out the studies. Their findings were published in the peer journal, Conservation Biology. UV light is caused by ionization of the air surrounding transmission cables and is a major source of transmission inefficiency. In dark Arctic winters, a high-voltage power line which does not appear to be a barrier to man can appear as lines of flashing lights reflected and scattered by snow stretching across the entire horizon. Barriers that fragment habitat can affect the growth, viability and genetic diversity of entire animal populations. A plan is proposed to build a 186 mile long power line in northern Norway where the traditional Sami people herd some 220,000 reindeer [photo]. There are now 23 distinct populations of wild reindeer in Norway as a result of human infrastructure such as roads and overhead electricity cables.

In 2011 and reported by US Person scientists discovered ultraviolet vision in reindeer that they use to locate food and navigate in a blindingly white landscape. Recently ultraviolet vision has been detected in a wide range of species from household cats to reindeers, and scientists now think such vision may be widespread in the animal world. So far 35 species have been found to be sensitive to UV radiation and many of those are suffering from fragmentation of their habitat by human infrastructure. While burying electrical cables would be wildly expensive and probably unnecessary to reduce adverse environmental impacts, shielding cables with nonconductive material could be a possible solution to the newly discovered animal superpower.

Friday, March 14, 2014

EPA Allows British Petroleum to Return to Gulf

Conservationists are still awaiting a ruling from the federal district court in New Orleans on the question of BP's gross negligence in the Deepwater Horizon disaster.  In a move to restore operations in the Gulf of Mexico and allow it to resume federal leasing, the company agreed to drop a lawsuit against the EPA in return for abiding by monitoring arrangements for five years. The agreement was reached yesterday. The Gulf Restoration Network was not pleased by the agencies decision, calling it "outrageous". BP will be allowed to bid as early as next Wednesday despite the pending decision on the degree of the company's culpability for the disaster which killed eleven platform workers and permanently damaged a large area of the Gulf Coast. Four years after the spill, oil still washes up in places particularly in storms. Public Citizens said the settlement allows a "corporate felon" and repeat offender off the hook for its crimes against people and the environment." An Oppenheimer oil analyst called the agreement a "moral victory for BP". When EPA issued the ban against federal contracting it cited the company for lack of integrity and prohibited BP from selling fuel to the Pentagon or expanding production to new leases in the Gulf.

'Toontime: Bare Your Chest and Carry a Big Fish

[credit: Margulies, Newsday]
BC Idonwanna sez: Foul Not, for Providence shines on Cotton-Batts!

Russia is sending a loud signal to Ukraine's interim government that it will not accept its alignment with the West*. Russian forces are massing at the country's eastern border as the occupied Crimea awaits a referendum on succession scheduled for Sunday. Germany's Chancellor Merkle rebuked Russia for the intervention in strong terms Thursday showing the East-West divide is widening over Ukraine's future and perhaps is even a harbinger of return to Cold War statis in relations with Russia. Merkle grew up in communist East Germany and has emerged as the leading European leader willing to talk tough economic sanctions against Russia. President Putin served as a German speaking KGB agent in East Germany. Europe does ten time more business with Russia than the US, mostly in the form of oil and gas imports. The Russian stock market hit a four year low on Thursday and CDS on Russian debt rose to their highest levels in two years. Putin appears unfazed by western threats of economic retaliation, perhaps assuming that western powers are unlikely to respond militarily to Crimea's annexation. Secretary of State Kerry is scheduled to meet his counterpart Sergey Lavrov today in London for talks to try to de-escalate the mounting crisis. The US administration has so far not granted a request from Ukraine to grant it military aid. The idea of Ukraine defeating a full-blown Russia invasion is far-fetched. So far, Russia has not made the necessary preparations for such an invasion.  However, units totaling tens of thousands of soldiers and their equipment is engaging in exercises in Kursk, Belgorod and Rostov bordering on Ukraine. Some of the units appear to be part of Russia's military elite.

[credit David Horsey, LA Times]
Wackydoodle sez: Wanna see the one where he holds his big fish?

*bailing out the indebted Ukrainian government is an expensive proposition. A $1bn aid package has stalled in the House primarily because the source of the funds will come from the Pentagon's budget and is linked to International Monetary Fund reforms. Ukraine's government told Washington it was close to default and asked for $35bn over two years. The EU has offered only $15bn.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Both the Kettle and Pot Are Black

What American politicos seem to conveniently ignore in the posturing over the Crimean separation is the simple truth that an elected Ukrainian president--regardless of how unpopular he is with a segment of the population--formally requested the aid of Russia in restoring his government that was deposed February 22nd after months of violent street protests. Russian intervention could then hardly be said to be inconsistent with international law, unless American officials are making a preposterous claim that Yanukovich made the request for intervention under duress. No doubt Viktor Yanukovich is Moscow's client, but he was put into power after an election that was internationally monitored and declared to be fair. To ignore his claim of legitimacy is twisting the facts to fit your own political agenda, something the Unites States does with alacrity.

Further complicating the issues, Crimea, which is ethnically Russian, is determined to succeed from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation. Of course, the Kremlin welcomes the Crimean Parliament's effort to succeed. On Tuesday Crimea's parliament voted overwhelmingly to succeed and declare itself independent. Of the 81 deputies of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, 78 approved. Crimean citizens vote Sunday in a referendum to decide whether Crimea should succeed and be annexed by Russia. Ukraine has told Crimea it would face dissolution if it held a referendum that violates the nation's constitution, but Crimean officials do not recognize the new leadership in Kiev. Crimean legislators point to a 2010 ruling by the International Court of Justice that affirmed Kosovo's right to declare independence from Serbia as precedence for their vote. Western powers are also calling the upcoming plebiscite illegitimate. Russia supports the referendum saying it is "completely legal", but international monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said it would not monitor the referendum since it would not be conducted in accordance with Ukraine's constitutional procedures. The real question remains just how far each power bloc is willing to go to bring an irretrievably divided nation into its sphere of influence. That calculus must take into account Vladimir Putin's resentment of the West's deceit about the creep of NATO eastward toward Russia's borders, the true nature of the Libyan intervention*, and most recently the West's poorly disguised lust to make Kiev a western capital.

*Prior to the bombing campaign conducted by NATO, supposedly to defend the population from retaliation by a crazed, struggling dictator, Libya was on the doorstep of meeting infrastructure development goals set by the UN. Now, it has returned to the ranks of what was formerly known as the third world and suffers political chaos. How is that for nation building?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

UK Honors WWI Dead With Trees

Most Americans have forgotten about a war that was fought a century ago this August. Our role in WWI was short compared to the experience of Great Britain, France and Germany. The "war to end all wars" was the first mechanized war and the slaughter caused by it was truly horrendous. It devastated a large landscape of northeastern France and Belgium including the destruction of entire forests [Belleau Wood, above]. The UK has chosen to honor its generation of WWl dead with an appropriate living monument by replanting forests lost in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.  The £12m will provide a memorial that should last hundreds of years and provide benefits to the people that a stone and metal memorial could never give. More than 3 million trees will be given to schools, communities and youth groups for planting. The English memorial woods will be planted on a 640 acre site in Epsom, Surrey and at Langley Vale to link up existing pockets of woodland. The public will be allowed to dedicate individual trees in memory of loved ones lost in the Great War. A thousand acres will be planted in the four memorial woods with hopes than many more landowners will be inspired to create there own commemorative forests containing millions of trees. The planting will continue until the autumn of 2018.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Elephants Console Other Elephants

More and more scientific evidence is being collected of elephant intelligence and sophisticated emotional life, which makes their slaughter for ivory morally equivalent to genocide.  We already know that elephants care for their young for an extended period just as humans do, and visit the bones of their dead relatives, just as humans go to graveyards to visit their dead. A study from Thailand shows elephants are capable of extending consolation to other elephants experiencing stress. Up until now, empirical evidence of consolation behavior has only been observed in great apes, canines and some birds in the crow family.

The study focused on 26 captive Asian elephants living in a work camp in  northern Thailand where elephants are still used in the timber industry.
Researchers observed and recorded incidences of an elephant displaying a stress reaction and the response from other elephants to that display for a year. An elephant will push out its ears, emit a low frequency rumble or loud trumpet and stand its tail erect when disturbed by a potentially dangerous animal such as a dog, snake or unfriendly elephant. A nearby elephant will respond to these signals by touching the distressed other with its trunk on the face or even insert the tip of its trunk in the other's mouth. The trunk is extremely sensitive, so using it in this way is an indication of trust since it put put the consoler in a vulnerable position.  Consolers also may emit a high, chirping call, or display what is termed "emotional contagion" by adopting a similar body or emotional state.

Noted behaviorist Franz de Waal provided evidence for the first time of reconciliation behavior in chimpanzees at Emory University's Yerkes National Primate Research Center. He and Joshua Plotnik, author of the Thai elephant study, also provided evidence that elephants are self-aware, a trait of high intelligence shared with homo sapiens.  Many more species demonstrate reconciliation behavior than consolation which Plotnik thinks maybe because a more complex cognition underlying consolation since it may require the ability to empathize with another creature. Plotnik is the CEO of Think Elephants International, a non-profit dedicated to educating children about elephants in order to protect elephants in the wild.  His behavioral study will be published in the on-line peer reviewed journal "PeerJ".

Saturday, March 08, 2014

USGS Confirms Waste-Water Injection Caused Quake

The US Geological Survey issued a press release on Thursday confirming the 5.7 earthquake that struck Prague, Oklahoma in 2011 was induced by human activity. Waste water injections from fracking and conventional oil operations pressured the fault and caused it to slip. According to the journal Geology, the explosion of domestic oil production in the central United States has led to an eleven-fold increase in the number of earthquakes occurring in previously tectonically silent areas including Arkansas, Texas, Ohio, and Colorado. The Prague quake followed waste water injection approximately 650 feet away from the Wilzetta fault zone.  All three tremors exhibited slip-strike motion at three different location along the 124 mile fault. Despite the confirmation of the effect, Oklahoma, a state dominated by the oil business, will continue to allow injections near the Wilzetta fault. Checked your home owners insurance lately?

Friday, March 07, 2014

'Toontime: Biblical Weather

[credit: David Horsey, LA Times]
Wackydoodle sez: Look at the birds in the sky, they neither sow nor reap...
Close readers of this space will recall that US Person discussed the impact global warming would have on the severity of this winter's weather last fall. Late season snow storms have disrupted transportation in the Midwest and Atlantic coast. Winter storm Titan dumped more snow on the mid-Atlantic states Monday closing federal offices in Washington, DC. That storm killed at least 12 people, caused hundreds of accidents on icy roads, and left tens of thousands without power. From December 1st through February, 108,600 airline flights were cancelled nationwide almost double the average of previous winters. Eighteen states report record cold March temperatures.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Frankenvirus Revived

credit: NatGeo
It is a story that would make Dr. Frankenstein green with professional envy: French scientists have revived an ancient form of giant virus frozen in the Siberian tundra for 30,000 years. The feat has given new impetus to those scientists who want to use ancient DNA to reanimate long lost species like the Wooly Mammoth. Pithovirus sibericum was found fourteen feet down in Siberian permafrost carefully defrosted in the lab at Aix-Marseille University. Not only is the virus a lot larger than modern viruses-- 1.5 micron long by 0.5 microns wide, about the size of a bacterium--it retained its ability to infect amoebae. Retaining infectious properties for so long gave the researchers pause for concern since Arctic permafrost is undergoing rapid melting due to global warming; others suggest the possibility that a thawed ancient virus could pose a health threat to humans stretches credulity since humans breath in and ingest thousands of viruses every day. Fortunately Pithovirus cannot infect human cells.

Russian scientists are credited with reviving a wild flower from frozen seeds buried by ground squirrels in the banks of Siberia's Kolyma River 38 meters below the surface. Silene stenophylia [photo credit:] was germinated from plant placental tissue cultivated in vitro. The plant has produced second generation seeds which in turn have produced fertile plants. It is thought to be the oldest multicellular organism on Earth at 31,000 years old (31,800± 800). This plant was once part of the mammoth steppe ecosystem which disappeared about 13,000 years ago and has no modern counterpart.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Javan Rhino Population Increases

A new count from Jujung Kulon National Park indicates the the Javan rhino population is increasing. Rangers counted a total of 58 rhinos appearing in camera traps, up from 51 in 2012. This is important news because the species is restricted to the Park in western Java, although it once roamed throughout most of Southeast Asia. The Javan rhino (Rhinocerous sondaicus) is considered the most imperiled mammal on the planet. The ecosystem in which it now hangs on to survival cannot support many more rhinos, and a major volcanic eruption could wipe the entire population. Discussions about moving part of the population to give it more living space have been taken, but nothing has been done yet. Park officials identified 50 young and adult rhinos, twenty females and 30 males, and eight calves, three female and five male. They plan to set up a rhino health unit to look after the calves. During 2012-2013 two rhinos were found dead in the Park. A 3% growth rate is targeted by the Indonesian government for the rhinos.

Another rare rhino was spotted in the photos, the Sumatran rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis), the last of the two-horned species in Asia. About 100 survive in forest remnants across Indonesia and Sabah, Malaysia.  Its numbers have been halved by poaching in the last twenty years. The Sumatran rhino is being bred in Way Kambas National Park, Sumatra [photo credit:]. Malaysia has asked for rhinos from Way Kambas since its population maybe as few as five. A sad end for a mammal that has survived on mother Earth for twenty million years.

NOAA Video Shows Old Ice Melting Away

New ice is more vulnerable to melting in the relatively warm Arctic summer, so loss of older, thicker ice amplifies the impact of warming. This video show the circulation normally present in the Arctic Ocean with ice forming in the Beaufort Gyre and exiting through the Fram Strait between Greenland and the Svalbard Archipelago. Now, less ice survives its trip through the warm arm of the Gyre.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

New Tailpipe Emissions Approved

The Union of Concerned Scientists tells US the current administration approved a new rule to clean clean gasoline and reduce harmful emissions from passenger vehicles. The regulations will reduce sulfur in gasoline from 30ppm to 10ppm and smog forming emissions from new passenger vehicles. The changes will improve public health by reducing asthma attacks, respiratory illness, and premature deaths. These conditions cost billions in extra health care expense. Although widely supported among interest groups, the recalcitrant oil industry remains vocally opposed to the standards and relies on psuedo-science and propaganda to block their adoption. Such anti-social behavior from an industry heavily subsidized by the taxpayer is baffling and only possible because it heavily subsidizes politicians on the Washington gravy boat. The cost of the new standards are expected to be less than a penny a gallon. Go figure, but there is no accounting for bad attitude.

An ironic policy juxtaposition only Washington, DC is capable of: 370 young protesters were arrested on March 2nd for chaining themselves to the White House fence in protest against the Keystone XL pipeline which is pending the Current Occupant's approval. The protesters represented over 50 colleges and universities taking action against the pipeline that is intended to transport 830,000 barrels a day of high-sulphur bitumen to Gulf Coast refineries. James Hansen a retired NASA scientist told a law conference on Saturday that for "them [the State Department] to rule there's no environmental impact is pure scientific garbage."

COTW: The Long Perspective on Global Warming

A new report on global warming produced by American and British science academies provides a revealing perspective on global temperature rise:

The 'noise' of annual temperature averages masks the significant upward trend in temperature change when a running average is used over longer timescales. Corroborating evidence of anthropomorphic warming is apparent when other Earth observations are charted:

source:  Climate Changes: Evidence & Causes

Monday, March 03, 2014

English Badger Kill NOT Humane

Martin Ridley, "Rough and Tumble"
An expert panel reviewing the results of England's controversial badger cull found that a significant number of badgers did not die a humane death. Shooting as a humane killing method was suspected by wildlife advocates from the beginning, and the government panel confirms their concerns. The Tory government favored shooting as a low-cost alternative to trapping or vaccinating the mostly nocturnal animals. A third of the badgers were shot in a non-fatal part of their anatomy and two out of nine (22%) had to be shot twice. Head of the Badger Trust said the policy was implemented for political, not practical reasons and was carried out in "an arrogant and careless fashion which has now been officially declared a failure." Both the Gloucestershire and Somerset kills failed to reach the desired 70% effectiveness even after the badger population was revised sharply downward and the culls extended for weeks. 58% of badgers were killed in the Somerset cull and only 30% in the Gloucestershire pilot kill, both numbers lower than considered effective to stop the spread of bovine Tb. About 1700 badgers died in total. According to information leaked to the BBC between 6.4% and 18% of animals shot took more than five minutes to die. The standard set by the cull authorities was no more than 5%. An analysis of the governments own data shows that a program of vaccinating badgers would be less expensive than culls when the cost of policing highly unpopular culls is added into the cost comparisons. The government estimates badger vaccination would cost £2,250 per km²/yr. The pilot cull was estimated to cost £1000, but policing cost were estimated at £1429 making vaccination cheaper.

Toontime: The Cold Warriors Who Never Give Up

[credit: Nate Beeler, Columbus Post-Dispatch]

Even More: War over possession of the Crimea is now a distinct possibility as Russian commanders have given Ukrainian military units stationed there until dawn Tuesday to surrender or face attack. So far the takeover has been bloodless. The occupation was launched in a low-key manner beginning Friday, taking western powers off-guard. Despite hot-headed rhetoric from Washington, Russia's forceful reclamation of the ethnically Russian and strategically important peninsula is a fait accompli. Russia maintains it is protecting the rights of Russians living in Crimea. The Crimea was taken from the Tartars in the 18th Century and was assigned to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic by Khrushchev. Russian forces already in the Crimea outnumber Ukraine's military and have surrounded at least two major Ukrainian bases and the major airports are occupied. Meanwhile, the ruble has fallen to an all time low against the dollar and euro, and preparations for the G-8 summit in Sochi have been halted.

Breaking: {02.03.14}Russian forces have effectively seized control of the Crimean peninsula according to the New York Times. Weaker Ukrainian forces stationed there put up little resistance to the Russian takeover. Crimea has been part of the Ukraine since 1954, but the pro-Russian Crimean prime minister called for Russian intervention on Friday to protect ethnic Russians in the majority on the pennisula. Sound familiar? It should because its the same formula used by the West to justify its own military incursions on behalf of its security. Interestingly, Ukraine is a Slav word for "borderlands". Does that suggest anything?  What is needed now is for both sides to take a time-out and negotiate an internationally verifiable process for Ukrainians to determine their own future--be it union or divorce--without intrigues by either power except for financial aid to prop up Ukraine's broken economy.

Latest: {01.03.14}The upper house of Russia's parliament quickly approved in special session President Putin's request for the use of Russian forces in Ukraine until the situation in that country is "normalized". The crisis appears to be quickly spinning out of control as former Cold War adversaries square off over the future of Ukraine, once a portion of the old USSR and suffering a horrendous WWII legacy. Washington is giving the interim government moral support, but what it could do militarily against formidable Russian military forces in their home base is only crazy speculation on the part of US hardliners. A so-called "red line" in the Crimea is decidedly too dangerous; the United States refrained from any action when Russian forces responded to the Georgian invasion of South Ossetia by invading Georgia in 2008. Some independent commentators think Georgia's government was given a false sense of security by an imperialist US administration actively seeking defection of eastern European border nations. Any forceful UN action concerning Ukraine will undoubtably be vetoed by the Russia which has a permanent seat on the Security Council. Meanwhile in divided Ukraine, demonstrations broke out for and against the ousted anti-fascist government .

Further: The rhetoric coming out of Washington against Russia's moves in the Crimea are only part of a western diplomatic offensive that is taking place on multiple fronts. A Georgian delegation is currently visiting VIPs in the capital and Georgia's prime minister is scheduled to see the Current Occupant. Moldova's president is schedule to meet the V.P. next week. Both visits are intended to explore ways to integrate these countries more closely into western Europe. Their integration is problematic regardless of Russia's active opposition because they are very poor and the EU already has it hands full with its debtor members disparagingly referred to as "the PIIGS". Once again, talk is cheap and reality is inconvenient.

More: {28.01.14}Russian naval forces appear to be in control of Sevastopol airport near its fleet base in the Crimea; Sevastopol is not a civilian airport. Ukrainian Interior Minister said armed soldiers arrived by truck at the airport on Friday morning backed by armored vehicles. Also, armed men wearing no insignia but thought to be pro-Russian militia arrived at Simferopol airport, the main international terminal, overnight. According to the latest reports the airport is open and operating. Thursday saw armed men forcefully enter the Crimean parliament building to hoist a Russian flag on the roof. The parliament announced it would hold a referendum on May 25th on the question of expanding the peninsula's autonomy from Ukraine. Russia assured the West it would respect the territorial sovereignty of Ukraine under an international agreement signed in 1994 after the US Secretary of Defense warned Russia against incursion.

{28.02.14} Americans are famously disinterested in foreign policy, but a foreign storm is brewing on the flanks of Russia that threatens to engulf US in a 21st century version of the Cuban Missile Crisis. That would be hard even for self-absorbed Americans to ignore. Ukraine is in the process of breaking apart with the western two-thirds of the country wanting closer ties with the EU, while the Russian speaking eastern third remains culturally tied to mother Russia. The Crimea is a Ukrainian appendage already autonomous, but also majority Russian. It is home to key Russian military installations including the Black Sea fleet. The Kremlin wants Ukraine to remain united under its economic domination and fears the West is attempting to lure the coutnry into its sphere of influence. Ukraine's defection could potentially move the NATO military alliance up against Russia's borders, a situation akin to missiles in Cuba. President Putin and his advisors are deeply suspicious of the pro-western opposition, believing it is fascist at heart (Svoboda and Right Sector parties) and manipulated by western intelligence. The former elected president fled the country after the political opposition demanded he face trial for the killing of demonstrators by security forces during violent street riots. Viktor Yanukovitch is now in Russia. EU's foreign policy chief left Kiev this week after failing to set up a government among the opposition parties.

The reality is that Ukraine is a fiscal basket case kept alive on Russian subsidies and trade. It needs $35 billion to refinance debts, but western banks have cut off credit. President Putin suspended an installment of a $15bn loan because of the unrest. The upheaval was triggered by Yanukovych's refusal to accept austerity measures as part of an association agreement with the EU last autumn. Oligarch Yulya Tymoshenko was released from prison last week by the parliament and spoke to the crowd occupying Kiev's Independence Square on Saturday night. She is a darling of western media and European governments since she helped lead the Orange Revolution during the breakup of the Soviet empire, but the former deputy prime minister is widely considered to be corrupt, especially in the Russian-speaking eastern part of the country. She was an unindicted co-conspirator in a money laundering case against political crony, former Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko who was convicted. He is alleged to have steered lucrative natural gas deals her to Tymoshenko. Russian Prime Minister Medvedev denounced what the West is characterizing as a democratic revolution to be a right-wing putsch that jeopardizes the legitimacy of Ukraine's entire government. As much as the US State Department likes to mouth platitudes about spheres of influence having no place in the 21st Century, it better stop poking the Russian bear with a stick over Ukraine because the bear still has plenty of teeth.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

True America: Navy's Radioactive Treasure Island

CVL-22 before,
Treasure Island near Oakland, California holds no buried gold or silver, but it does contain a lot of hidden nuclear waste redevelopment authorities had no idea was there because the former owner, the US Navy, did not tell the public about it. The island was created by landfill in 1936 for the 1939 Golden Gate Exposition by the Army Corp of Engineers. The name Treasure Island came from the fact that fill material dredged from San Francisco Bay originated from mining the Sierra Nevada Mountains. After the exposition the artificial island became a naval air station and dockyard. In the post-war atomic era the 400 acres were used for radiological training schools by the Navy. Declared surplus in 1993, the former base is being turned over to San Francisco authorities who want to use the scarce vacant land for a second downtown. Journalists from the Center for Investigative Reporting found records of Treasure Island's radioactive past in previously classified, dusty archive records stashed in the US National Archives in San Bruno, Ca and elsewhere. The presence of radioactive waste on the island is complicating civilian redevelopment plans.

and after Baker bomb test
The Navy kept its radiological activities on the island largely secret for more than forty years. Its nuclear war training schools used radioactive isotopes including radium, plutonium and cesium 137. The Navy knew the hazardous material was on Treasure island and not always handled in a safe manner. The island's dock and salvage facilities also berthed target ships exposed to atomic testing at Bikini Atoll, and a full scale mockup of a patrol boat named the USS Pandemonium on which students would practice nuclear decontamination. A once secret 1947 Navy memo declared ship decontamination efforts to be insufficient. The wrecked and warped USS Independence (CVL-22) was so dangerously irradiated it was sunk near the Farrallon Islands in 1951 where it contaminates the wildlife refuge to this day. Of course the Navy claims it cleaned up its mess properly during the years since the facility was slated for closure. It denied civilian residents of former Navy housing were at risk from radiation levels. Workers involved in clean up operations repeatedly found radium pieces, some too hot to handle, in former waste pits and in the soil around military housing built in the sixties and seventies. Later it was discovered that some of the Navy housing was built on top of a garbage dump site during a time when it was common practice to simply bury radioactive waste in ordinary dumps. The Navy contracted for a historical review of radiological activities on the island in 2005. The assessment selected 18 out of 542 potential contamination sites for further review. It only identified five "impacted sites" of low residual radioactivity that did not pose a "substantial risk to human health or the environment". Finally in May 2012 the Navy confessed to Treasure Island residents that the former base had housed ship overhaul and salvage operations that were a possible source of radioactive waste.

Baker shot, Bikini 1946
The island's clean up operations have been mismanaged and shrouded in bureaucratic in-fighting between state agencies and the Navy. The formerly secret paper trail makes it clear the Navy did not follow standard clean up procedures now in effect for radioactive wastes such as a through survey of the entire property with sensitive detection instruments. In 1978 the Navy was repeatedly cautioned by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that it was failing to follow radioactive safety standards. Auditors were forced to close down the Navy's training classes pending correction of all safety related deficiencies. California's Department of Toxic Substances Control is charged with monitoring the clean up of Treasure Island, but it had to call in the state's Department of Public Health because of its lack of expertise with radioactive material disposal. This "hairy-chested" attitude toward radioactive waste may have sufficed during the Cold War. Now, it is obviously an inadequate approach to protecting public health.