Friday, October 31, 2014

'Toontime: Trick or Treat?

credit: Dave Grandlund
Wackydoodle sez: Do you give guarantees with that?
It is a small price to pay: staying around the house for three weeks, resting and recuperating from what must have been a very grim experience in the epidemic zone. Only politicians incurably addicted to self-aggrandizement would make a political football out of medical procedures intended to save lives and stop a pandemic from occurring. US Person finds it a little incredible that a three week quarantine at home would deter medical workers from helping in West Africa. This statistic would have that effect, however: 375 health care workers have been infected so far and Ebola has killed 211 according to the World Health Organization. This is a high death rate in spite of precautions taken by workers to protect themselves. Few studies have been done on the relative risks of infected blood, urine, vomit and other bodily fluids encountered by medics. In Uganda in 2001 researchers studied samples from 26 Ebola patients. In acute cases Ebola was found most often in saliva, but it was also found in stool, tears, blood and breast milk. One recovered patient had Ebola in his semen forty days after the disease onset! Results like these seem to indicate a fairly hardy organism. Corpses are perhaps the most infectious of all because fluids have a chance to mix and leak out. A single lapse in observing protocols could lead to an infection. In a recent 3 day training session at an Alabama army base, nearly every trainee committed a breach of protocol according to the CDC official in charge of the program.

credit: Michael Ramierz
BC Idonwanna: Buffalo soldier not under control!

The current Ebola epidemic in West Africa has two things in common with the HIV pandemic. Both viruses started out in animals inhabiting the same general region of tropical rainforest in southern Cameroon and neighboring countries. Ebola is thought to be endemic in fruit bats. Chimpanzees have a strain of virus (SIVcpz) that is genetically similar to HIV-1. The transmission of both viruses to humans occurred because human inhabitants hunt, butcher and consume both of these species. Bush meat, as it is commonly referred to, is a prized source of protein and even considered a delicacy. It is also responsible for transmitting disease.

A recent study based on phlyogeographic analysis of strains of HIV-1 DNA reported in Science (3 October 2014, P. Lemey et al) shows that the pandemic group (M) found throughout the world originated in Kinshasa, Zaire (DRG) around 1960. The virus probably arrived from southeast Cameroon via the colonial river trade in ivory and rubber by 1920. These strains first reached other Congo basin urban centers via Zaire's then operating rail network. By 1922 the railroads carried in excess of 300,000 passengers per year, peaking at more than a million in 1948. From these centers it was spread to the rest of sub-Saharan Africa. Subtype (B) commonly found in the Americas, arrived from Kinshasa with returning Haitian professionals who worked in the newly independent nation around 1964. HIV is transmitted through intimate contact with bodily fluids as is Ebola. Yet its spread throughout central Africa followed lines of transportation affecting the largest cities connected by rail first (Brazzaville 1937, Lubumbashi 1937 and Mbuji-Mayi 1939), and from these central African towns through international transport of exposed individuals to the rest of the world. The lesson for man is written in the viral DNA.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

British Petroleum's Enduring Gulf Legacy

Gulf fish skin lesion
The historic BP oil spill of April 2010 just keeps giving bad news. Scientists reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science a coagulated mass of spilled oil has settled on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico. The source of the oil is obvious according to the study author since it has settled directly around the site of the Macondo well. Oil concentrations are as much as 10,000 times higher inside the 1200 square-mile "bathtub ring". BP disputes the report since the researchers did not chemically identify the source of the oil. The degraded mass of oil, underwater for four and half years, is about the size of Rhode Island and composed of an estimated 10 million gallons of coagulated crude. About 2 million barrels of spilled oil from the Macondo blowout were never found.

The company maintains most of the light crude dissolved or evaporated before it reached land. BP's vice president of communications wrote an article, "No, BP Didn't Ruin the Gulf", claiming environmentalists are exaggerating the spill's lasting impact. The company spilled 210 million gallons of crude over a period of 84 days into the Gulf. This event cannot be credibly compared to natural seeps in the Gulf which release a fraction of that amount of hydrocarbons per year. (estimated 96,000 tons annually versus 700,000 tons) Research shows that microbes are not equipped to digest a significant portion of the methane gas released into the Gulf (500,000 metric tons). Researchers from the University of South Florida predicted and later confirmed that oil from the Macondo blowout was swept away by underwater currents across the Gulf and deposited on the West Florida Shelf eighty miles from Tampa Bay were it will remain in the sediment for a long time. The truth is, not that the company is interested in this, not all crude oil spill impacts are acute and easily detected. The chronic exposure of sealife to toxins spilled by BP's gross negligence will take time to become known to man.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Second Badger Cull "Rubbish"

England's controversial trial badger culls have failed round two.  Shooters in Gloucestershire have killed fewer than half the required number of badgers. (253 kills out of 615 targeted).  The culls in Gloucestershire and Somerset were due to end Monday. Killing too few badgers actually causes TB in cattle to increase due to the scattering of badger populations by a cull according to an authoritative ten year study in which 11,000 badgers were killed. The first round last year was declared a failure after an independent review panel determined the cull was neither effective or humane.{21.10.14, English Badger Cull a Balls Up} As a result of the damning report the government dropped plans for a roll out of a national badger cull. However, in this second round of trials the government decided to remove the independent expert panel, and badger advocates lost a legal battle to declare the cull illegal without a review panel in place.

Professor Rosie Woodroffe [photos: Guardian], an expert that worked on the ten-year trial said the cull "targets are all rubbish because they are based on rubbish data". Animal welfare advocates said the kill targets are based on "political convenience, not science." The Labor Party announced it will end the culls if elected to power in the next general elections. Polls indicate 61% of the English oppose the slaughter. More than thirty animal disease experts have signed a letter to the Observer describing the culls a "costly distraction" that makes the problem of tuberculosis in cattle worse. England has the highest rate of bovine TB infection in Europe. Ministers under pressure from agricultural interests are supposed to decide whether to continue based on the results of the latest trials. Lord John Krebs who lead the landmark study in 2007 called the culls, "mindless". But that condition never stopped a politician.

Lions Proposed for Listing as Threatened

Etosha male, courtesy US Person
US Fish & Wildlife Service has proposed listing the African lion (Panthera leo leo) as threatened under the US Endangered Species Act. The petition for listing was filed by several animal protection organizations. Importation of lion trophies is adding to the lion's predicament on the African continent. Unabated lion hunting, mostly by wealthy foreign nationals, cannot be allowed to continue. Lion populations have plummeted by 50% in the last thirty years due to habitat and prey lost, and human persecution. There are an estimated 32,000 or fewer lions remaining in Africa. The West African subspecies is critically endangered. Only about 400 were found in the most recent census of four protected areas. The Service's director said lions face extinction by 2050 if nothing is done to help them survive. The IUCN lists lions as vulnerable to extinction. American hunters import about 400 lion carcasses a year as trophies. The proposed restriction, one level below endangered, would help conservation efforts in Africa and restrict the importation or sale of trophies or body parts into the US.  The proposal is overdue as lion hunting has actually increased between 1999 and 2008 with the number of trophies imported doubling during the period. If the proposal becomes a rule, American hunters would need a permit to import the body. Permits would only be granted if the lion was taken from a proven sustainable hunting program.  US Person thinks all sport hunting of lions should be suspended until lion populations have recovered sufficiently to insure their survival in the wild.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Boohoo for Honey Boo Boo!

Perhaps there is hope for 'merica? When wearing a pink shirt in an airport can get you attacked by a homophobic, overweight inebriate, hope is selling at a premium. But then TLC channel was forced to cancel the white-trash schlock show, "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" last Friday. Was the show a deserved flop? Hardly. In its fourth season, it had bigger audiences than baseball or the Republican National Convention. It garnered an audience of 2.2 million viewers for its first show, a premier that beats the last season premiere of critically acclaimed "Mad Men". Bad behavior on television has a fascination for vicarious participants; it is a type of voyeurism after all. When June Shannon, Honey Boo Boo's mother divorced her husband, 'Sugar Bear' Thompson, nobody batted an eyelid. 'Mama June' has four children, all by different fathers. Since when is divorce risque? When she married a former flame on parole from prison after serving ten years, the eyebrows started to arch. If the offense was moonshinning or marijuana growing or even a convenience store holdup it might have added some extra spice to the story lines that revolved around a sordid phenomenon of white-trash subculture: child beauty pageants. The Thompsons knew no shame and seemed to be enjoying themselves.

What caused the show's cancellation was too much reality. The final straw or hayseed for the show came when it was reported the new man around had served time for forcing himself on an eight-year-old girl described as a "relative of the family". That relative finally turned out to be Honey Boo Boo's older sister, known to aficionados as 'Chicadee'. This revelation was too low, even for reality TV. The show's producers made the usual disclaimers and statements of commitment to child welfare upon announcing the cancellation. Balderdash, because in TV like so much else in America, the bottom line is where it is. Is it too implausible that screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky envisioned a deranged TV host turned prophet being assassinated live on air to improve show ratings? (Network, 1976). Unfortunately, not.

Nazis Я US

Most informed Americans know that the United States got very cozy with ex-Nazis after WWII especially former Nazis like Werner Von Braun or Arthur Rudolph [photo right] who could offer the government technogical and scientific advances (See 'Operation Paperclip'). But the extent of Nazi collaboration including collaboration with known war criminals by US intelligence services has never been fully revealed. Newly disclosed records show that the CIA and other agencies employed at least one thousand Nazis as spies and informants. According to experts that number is an understatement of the scope (See 'Operation Bloodstone'). As recently as the 1990s some former Nazis were still living in America. The declassified records show that the American spymasters considered their intelligence value during a cold war against the Russians outweighed any "moral lapses" during their service to the Third Reich. The recruitment of Nazis runs far deeper than previously known and US officials sought to cover up their collaborations for a half-century after the war to defeat fascism.

One striking example of the moral rot is Baron Otto von Bolschwing [photo right], a former SS officer who was a top aide to Adolf Eichmann, the head of the 'Final Solution' policy of Jewish extermination. Allegedly he was a key 'high priest' of the Nights of the Black Sun, an elite SS society. During the thirties he wrote policy papers on Jewish persecution. One month after the war ended the black baron was serving in the Army's Counter Intelligence Corp (CIC). Not only was he hired as a European spy but he and his family was relocated to New York in 1954 as a "reward for his loyal postwar service". His Nazi party activities were deemed "innocuous". When Israel succeeded in kidnapping and trying Eichmann in 1960, Bolschwing went to his agency in fear he would be next. The CIA reassured him he woiuld be protected and he lived freely in the US for another twenty years. He gave up his citizenship in 1981 after he was discovered by Nazi hunters, but he died before being prosecuted for his war crimes.

When the Justice Department tried to prosecute another top Nazi official, Aleksandras Lileikis [photo right], implicated in the deaths of 60,000 Jews in Lithuania, the CIA tried to intervene. The 'company' had hired him in 1952 to spy in East Germany for $1700 a year plus two cartons of cigarettes a month. He was allowed to immigrate four years later. He lived undetected for nearly forty years before his Nazi past was discovered. Lileikis was deported, but only after the Justice Department agreed to drop the case if the CIA were to be asked for sensitive records. The company also hid Lileikis war crimes from Congress, telling the House Intelligence Committee in 1995 that "there is no evidence that this Agency was aware of his wartime activities", a flat-out lie. In 1980 the FBI also lied to the Justice Department about its knowledge of 16 suspected Nazis living in the US because the men had worked as informants providing leads on suspected Communist sympathizers.

Monday, October 27, 2014

ISIS Blood Bath in Ibdil

ISIS may be stymied by air strikes in Kobane, but it and other rebels of the Nusra Front briefly captured Idlib, a major Syrian city thirty miles from Aleppo. They managed to execute 70 or more Syrian soldiers, many of whom were senior officers, in the governor's office according to the UK's Independent newspaper. Police and security men in the headquarters defected to the militants. The army officers were apparently identified in advance for decapitation.  Too late to prevent the slaughter, militants were pushed out in a government counter-attack.  The stunning near loss of Ibdil caught Damascus off guard after a year long siege of the city and demonstrates just how hard-pressed the Syrian regime is in its desperate fight against what it labels "terrorists".  The eastern city of Raqqa has been in the hands of ISIS for months.  Estimates of government losses in the civil war are in the range of 33,000 to 46,000 men.

COTW: Map of a House Divided

To the extreme right it is axiomatic: the fewer people who vote, especially those of color, the more leverage it has in national politics. And now they have a conservative Supreme Court majority to help them reduce voter turn-out even more. Last week the Fifth Circuit let stand a restrictive voter ID law basically on the grounds that it was too late to change it even though a federal district court judge decided it was intentionally discriminatory against blacks and Hispanics and therefore unconstitutional. The district court found the law could unjustly affect 600,000 poor and minority voters in Texas. If her finding is upheld on appeal, it could trigger reimposition of Department of Justice oversight of Texas' election procedures.  Across the country 92 restrictive bills were introduced in 33 states since the end of 2013. Of those 13 are still pending and and eight states have already passed nine restrictive bills. Those statistics about balance out the 10 states that have expanded voting rights already and seven states that have expansive bills pending.

Friday, October 24, 2014

'Toontime: When the System Stinks

credit: Ben Sargent
Wackydoodle sez: Y'all ain't seen nuthin yet!
Yes, it is that time of year readers when you go through the motions of sustaining democracy. Your only choice is from bad to even worse. So hold your nose and mark your ballots even if you have to write in your own name!

'Toontime: Pants on Fire!

Monvrovia, Liberia
Further: A New York doctor who worked for the humanitarian organization, Medicines Sans Frontières in Guinea has contracted Ebola. He returned home to Harlem and is now in isolation at a Manhattan hospital. The doctor had contact with others on the subway, in taxis, and at a bowling alley before being admitted to Bellevue. His fiancee is under quarantine as well as two friends. Apparently the doctor was self-monitoring for disease symptoms and detected a fever Thursday after being home a week. He flew from Guinea via Brussels to JFK where he passed the screening process since he was then asymptomatic. The Brooklyn bowling alley he visited is temporarily closed for decontamination.  His apartment has also been sealed.  Currently the entire approach of authorities in  combating this outbreak is based on the hypothesis that Ebola is not an airborne infection or one that can be contracted from contaminated surfaces.

Meanwhile, an example of how the epidemic is spreading in Africa is the case of a young girl traveling to Mali from Guinea by bus. Crowded, long-distance buses are an institution in Africa since air travel is too expensive for most Africans. Forty-three people came into contact with the girl who showed symptoms including a bleeding nose while traveling more than 600 miles from Guinea through the capital, Bamako, to Kayes were she is now hospitalized.  The exposed persons have been identified and isolated for observation. The girl was traveling to relatives in Mali after her mother died. Mali is now the sixth African country to be affected by the epidemic. The WHO announced that vaccines will become available in 2015. Two are now being tested in humans and five more will enter clinical trials in January.

Latest:{23.10.14}The Current Occupant finally announced travel restrictions from West Africa this week.   However doctors have characterizing the new rules as "political theater". Is political theater an effective defense against a disease that is extremely fatal with even gruesome symptoms? NOT. An expert in infectious disease at Virginia Tech University said the regulations would be hard to implement since they are not an outright ban on flights, but are more intensive screening operations at five airports to which West African air travelers are restricted entry. Another expert said the screens were due in part to political pressure of an election year. So far, 562 passengers from the infected region have entered the United States with no or very little medical follow up. Passengers coming from Liberia, Sierra Leon, and Guinea will now be monitored for the 21 day incubation period* of the virus. Up until now federal spokespersons maintained travel bans were unnecessary. Officials even dragged out Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary General, in the propaganda push-back. He absurdly characterized travel bans as tantamount to "condemning West Africans to death" on BBC's Newsnight programme. He also had to acknowledge that West African governments have responded miserably to the disease spread.

A new study from Virginia researchers shows Ebola is spreading very fast with each infected person infecting on average 2.22 other persons. The entrenched virus is spreading through everyday activities. In the past 20 epidemics it was transmitted primarily in rural areas, hospitals, and during washing of bodies before burial. Without effective medication or coordinated intervention the researchers say the disease is in its "opening phase rather than near its peak". The current epidemic will cause these poor, fragile and unequipped countries great distress on a scale only exceed by China's nightmare experience with the SARS epidemic (that disease reached 29 other countries). The infected nations may even suffer a functional collapse requiring armed occupation to enforce mandatory, mass quarantines of infected individuals. Sierra Leon shut down for three days of mandatory quarantine, but the effort failed to stop the infection's spread. The three thousand US military personnel in the region have been ordered to help build treatment facilities.

Whatever the reason for the reversal in US policy, the restrictions are easing public fears about the disease entering the United States. PNG, the Internet's high-impact blog will continue to follow the Ebola story for readers. US Person wishes to thank the Current Occupant for reading PNG.

*researchers studying previous Ebola outbreaks have calculated varying incubation periods. In the Congo (1995) and Uganda (2000) epidemics the mean incubation periods were calculated as 5.3 and 3.35 days respectively (Chowell et al)  Eichner et al calculated a mean time of 12.7 days using a different method for the Congo outbreak.  The WHO response team published a incubation time distribution based on nine months of data from the West African epidemic and found a mean time of 11.4.  The conclusion from these disparate distributions is that 21 days is not written in the virus' DNA.  Methodology makes a difference.  In 0 to 12% of the cases an individual can have an incubation period greater than twenty one days.

[credit: Dave Granland]
BC Idonwanna axez: Want 'em trade suit for blanket?
More: {15.10.14}A second health worker in Texas contracted Ebola, a direct result of the inadequate official response to the spread of the disease. Nurse Amber Vinson also cared for 'Patient Zero', Thomas Duncan. A preliminary test performed Tuesday indicates she is infected. Other health care workers are expected to become infected since there were about 100 persons involved in the fatal case. The common areas of the apartment complex where Nurse Nina Pham, the first nurse to become ill is being cleaned. The nurse's union at Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas complained publicly "of confusion and frequently changing protocols." The union's spokesperson went so far as to say, "there were no protocols." CDC is said to be "rethinking" its approach to containing the deadly outbreak. That rethinking should delete the public relations rhetoric and impose air travel restrictions to and from West Africa where the disease is out of control. Seventeen cases of Eobla virus infection have been reported outside of the region.

Latest: US Persondoes not want to appear draconian or be accussed of being a'Charlie' Chicken Little. The onslaught of Ebola appears as unstoppable as ISIS. The second case of infection in the United States has been confirmed after health officials touted new screening procedures at international airports where travellers from West Africa continue to be admitted. Anybody with a motive to enter the United States can lie about their health especially if they are in the asymptomatic incubation period of the disease. A travel embargo must be imposed to eliminate the possibllity of an erroneous or even fradulent clearance. No amount of cliche-filled public pablum will stop a disease that is extremely deadly. Fatality rates now exceed 70%.  The infected health worker cared for "patient zero" Thomas Eric Duncan who died Wednesday of the Ebola virus at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. The worker reported a fever Friday night. CDC said the infection indiciates a breach of an exacting safety protocol. You don't say. What about a breach of protocol at an airport screening? Each new case of infection increases the chance of an epidemic, but apparently the bottom line controls even the safety of the American public.

{10.10.14}To US Person it seems the federal government is playing a game of chicken with the Ebola virus epidemic. The government makes citizens practically publicly undress and stand in an X-ray chamber to check their underwear before boarding a flight, but refuses to impose travel restrictions to prevent the spread to this country of a deadly disease that has already killed over 4000 people in more than 8000 reported cases. The World Health Organization says Ebola is now entrenched in the three capitals of the affected countries. Granted our health facilities are somewhat more robust than Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, but the United States has already chalked up the death of our "patient zero". Perhaps more are to come because that unfortunate man was in close contact with several individuals while he was contagious.

This situation naturally brings up the question: what effective treatments are available and for whom? The short answer is none. The experimental drug (ZMapp) that saved the life of a white doctor and nurse who contracted the disease in Liberia was apparently not administered to Mr. Thomas, or if it was, his infection was too far advanced to recover. Furthermore experimental drugs only exist in very small amounts which explains why the infected cameraman who was brought back from Liberia is being treated with blood serum transfusions from the surviving doctor. The transfusions are an effort to introduce effective antibodies into the patient without an effective vaccine available. If the virus mutates into a disease that is airborne it will spread very rapidly unless all infected individuals are immediately and strictly quarantined. The necessary facilities for strict mass quarantines do not exist.

The AIDS pandemic only killed 28 million.The flu pandemic of 1918-19 killed 50-100 million people worldwide. The old proverb still holds true: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If Ebola is in reality only transmitted by close contact with contagious individuals or their bodily fluids, then regional travel restrictions should be effective, as in the case of the SARS epidemic, in stopping the spread of the disease before it reaches the United States. We have the time and facilities to treat a few special cases, but if Ebola escapes and enters the US population at large--an epidemic--our health facilities will be overwhelmed. Tell that to the pharmaceutical CEOs.

[credit: Randy Bish, Pittsburg Tribune-Review]
Wackydoodle sez, Let me introduce y'all!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

COTW: It Is in the Food

Oregoonians are having sleepless nights deciding on a ballot measure to lable genetically modified food products while corporate Olympians pour out money like wine lighting up their screens with anti-labeling ads. Truth is GMs are already in the food, Americans just don't know it. Salmon will be the next food product to be genetically engineered (already banned by California). It grows twice as fast as the natural fish. Whooho! Look at this chart and turn extra red:

Except for corn, US Person already avoids these food products at his store. And that is the point, consumers should be able to buy what they want, and know what they buy. Nobody is saying corporations cannot use genetically modified crops, which they should not because it plays havoc with natural ecosystems. {28.06.12, "Frankenfood Kills"} The two leading traits of trangenic crops are herbicide tolerance and insect resistence [charts]. Nevertheless, consumers should have a say in what they eat. Otherwise, they might as well be farm animals. "Soylent Green" anyone?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Transnational Wildlife Crossings Work for Tigers

credit: WWF Nepal
India and Nepal share a peaceful border and now tigers are benefiting from wildlife corridors that cross the India-Nepal border. In a report sponsored by WWF, India and Nepal, "Tigers of the Terai Arc Landscape" camera traps revealed 239 separate tigers across an area of more than 2000 square miles during the period November 2012 to June 2013. This pictorial evidence confirms tigers are using three forested wildlife corridors that link important protected areas on both sides of the international border. Individual tigers were matched with Nepal's Chitwan National Park and adjacent Valmiki Tiger Reserve, India, Shuklaphanta Wildlife Reserve, Nepal and adjacent Pilibhit Tiger Reserve in India. The good news was presented at a meeting of tiger range countries working towards doubling the number of wild tigers by 2022. Terai Arc landscape was hailed by WWF as "the best example that landscape-level conservation can result in dramatic recoveries for tigers". The meeting, hosted by Bangladesh, brought together 140 tiger experts from 20 countries to make reccomendations for future conservation action.

Norway and Russia Cooperate to Save Cod Fishing

America's Atlantic cod fisheries have been fished out. The Atlantic cod is a poster child for overfishing and regulatory failure. Cod populations on Georges Bank and other traditional North American cod fishing grounds are near record lows. The cod fishing industry of the Canadian maritime provinces has long since collapsed. In 1992 Canada's Northern Cod fishery was officially closed. The same species lives on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean with the same human demand for consumption, but the outlook for the survival of the codfish is much more positive in Barents Sea fisheries protected by Norway and Russia. These two nations have agreed on a cooperative and far-sighted management strategy for this favorite food fish. The agreement works. There one fishery yields a sustainable annual catch of one million tons while others are in serious decline or failing.

Ever since the late 1400's Europeans sailed across the ocean to reach North American waters to replace their own dwindling cod catches. John Cabot (1497) reported that the fish were so numerous they could be caught with baskets. No more. What was a reliable fishery of about 250,000 tons a year until the 1950s is now down to nothing. The human population of Newfoundland fell by 10% when the fishery closed. It was a $500 million industry and many of the fisherman had no other skills with which to earn a livelihood. The fisherman who stayed behind in hopes the cod fish would recover under severe restrictions are still waiting. Apparently the cod fish ecological niche has been totally replaced by other less edible organisms.

dried cod heads are food in Nigeria
In contrast the migratory stock of Barents Sea cod is still yielding almost three billion cod fish meals per year. This remarkable preservation of a valuable fish resource on a fished out planet is credited to early scientific investigation of their fisheries and cooperation through the formation of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea in 1902. Interrupted by two world wars, regular scientific exchanges between Norway and Russia began in the 1950s. The joint Barents Sea Ecosystem Survey began in 1965, which led to the Joint Fisheries Commission. It sets harvest control rules based on regular scientific stock assessments. Norway and Russia share 80% of the cod catch with the remainder allotted to other nation's with historic fishing rights in the area.

Canada and the United States also share a quota on Georges Bank, but that system is not working. Cod on Georges Bank are in step decline as are their numbers in the Gulf of Maine. Canada's desperate fishermen pressured their government to permit catches in excess of what the nation's scientists recommended. Now the United States is shelling out $32 billion in disaster relief to assist New England fishermen. At Norway Seafoods, a fisherman is caught tossing a single unwanted fish species overboard--bycatch is counted agains the annual quotas--he is terminated.  All parts of the fish are used and very little is wasted: heads go to Nigeria, tongues to Oslo, and waste parts go to mink farms. The North American fishing industry can learn a thing or two from the Russians and Norwegians about international cooperation.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

TrueAmerica: Hemp Wars

The schizophrenic relationship America has with Cannibus sativa is revealed in this government produced video, "Hemp for Victory". Just some of the many uses of hemp in cordage and paper made it a commodity in short supply during wartime. Farmers were encouraged to plant it. Decriminalization of such a versatile plant--Mercedes C Class autos use 20% hemp in their plastic parts for strength--is a long time overdue. Many more lives have been stunted by marijuana penalties than marijuana use:

Friday, October 17, 2014

'Toontime: The Buck Stopped

credit: Tim Campbell
Wackydoodle sez:  Thiz must be DC!
You cannot blame it all on the Current Occupant. He is an elected official not a divinity, and he suffers a reactionary political opposition that is unwilling to compromise. He inherited two wars from his hapless predecessor, and nobody expected the Islamic State of Anarchy. Ebola is so scary even he does not want to think about it breaking out in this country. His approval numbers are in the toilet, so it is no wonder Democrats facing election are running away. Think about it this way Mr. President, you play golf for free!

credit: Steve Sack
BC Idonwanna sez: Maybe Bill give you tips.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Oklahoma Sued for Torture of Prisoner

Convicted killer Clayton Lockett was tortured during his execution his brother claims in a federal civil rights suit filed against the State of Oklahoma. The April 29th execution by injection had to be called off by the attending doctor because Lockett regained consciousness 13 minutes after administration of drugs. He died of heart attack 27 minutes later. Former governor Mark White called the incident the worst chapter thus far in the "human experimentaion of executing prisoners by lethal injection". Oklahoma was forced to set up a new mixture of lehtal chemicals once its supply was cut off by European pharmaceutical companies. The suit seeks monetary damages. Executions in Oklahoma are on hold while authorites continue to review execution procedures. The current governor has issued new protocols to take effect when the state resumes its gruesome facination with judicial murder.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Southern California Pumas Threatened

Santa Monica female P-13 on a kill, courtesy NPS
The intensity of development in the Los Angeles metroplex is affecting the genetic diversity of the region's remaining mountain lions (Puma concolor). UC Davis scientists carried out genetic sampling of 97 cougars across Southern California. Cougars living in the Santa Ana Mountains are living in genetically isolated areas and have lower genetic diversity from every other habitat in the state. The reason for this isolation is the Santa Anas are a green island awash in human urbanization. Twenty million humans surround the mountains linked to the Peninsular Range to the east only by a narrow wildilfe corridor. Unfortunately pumas avoid this corridor because it crosses a ten lane highway, I-15, hardly attractive habitat for mountain lions. Vehicle collisions are the leading cause of death in Santa Ana's cougar population. The samples indicate there has been a genetic bottleneck for the last eighty years or so, corresponding to intensive urbanization of the region. Only one lion in ten years is known to have crossed the I-15 from the east into the Santa Ana mountains. He mated successfully, injecting new DNA into the population. Such audacious crossbreeding occurs too infrequently for continued population viability.

Inbreeding is also threatening the health of lions in the Santa Monica Mountains. A study by National Park Service scientists shows that the 101 Freeway has caused a similar restriction in the movement of these cougars resulting in a higher proportion of pumas dying in conflicts with other pumas. P22 is the most famous lion in the Los Angeles area because he managed to cross two freeways and lives now in Griffth Park, but without available females to mate. He is a genetic deadend. No lion has been known to successfully leave the Santa Monicas and breed. P12 crossed into the Santa Monicas from the north and his bold legacy is reflected in the genetic structure of the isolated population. These two Southern California puma populations have among the lowest genetic diversity of lions studied, approaching that of the highly endangered Florida panthers. The Florida panther population was stabilized by the introduction of females from outside the state at the cost of millions. Such relocation projects are controversial both from a cost and biological standpoint. Caltrans has applied for $2m in federal funds to construct a wildlife bridge across Hwy 101 near Liberty Canyon expected to cost $10m. These puma studies show roads and other human development have definite adverse impacts on wildlife that can be measured in their DNA.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

COTW: Waiting for the Fall

Wall Street is binging and things never look better when you have your own private supply. The supplier is the Fed and the juice is credit as this chart shows:

The correlation is obvious. The expansion in money supply by the Fed taking debt onto its balance sheet is levitating the market like a ghost on Halloween. The twisted thinking is that confidence in the market must be maintained regardless of what cheap money does to rest of the economy. In reality it is a private game rigged for the big banks, the big corporations, the hedge funds and other big investors. It simply cannot go on forever (See Japan and the problem of the zero lower bound). $1 of new debt only buys 8¢ of GDP:

But one would never know this dire situation if corporate mass media was the only news source to which you paid attention. Their job is to flog the market and keep people putting money into it so the real players can steal using high frequency trading, insider information, and corporate stock buybacks. Stocks are floating on a sea of leverage never before seen in US history and the market is bullish based on declining trading volume. In other words, stock prices are high due to economic policy and market manipulation, not underlying economic health, and the smart money knows it.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Turkish Tanks Sit Idle on Border

More: The byzantine nature of the fighting in Syria continues to astound. There are reports that US and German special forces are already operating in the battle zone, putting another lie on the lips of the Current Occupant who promised not to engage in another Middle East ground war. Turkey is revealed to be supporting the Nusra Front, an organization affiliated with al-Qaeda while bombing the Kurdish PPK that is fighting ISIS in Kobane. Israeli intelligence says the FSA, the Free Syrian Army, (the so-called moderate rebels backed by the United States) is completely infiltrated by al-Qaeda, an assessment basically agreed to by the Pentagon. It estimates more than 50% of the FSA is comprised of Islamist extremists. Therefore, it is inevitable that some of the US war material ends up in the hands of ISIS because there is little or no accountability in its distribution. ISIS is funding itself primarily with oil revenues from the Syrian and Iraqi fields it has overrun. Apparently it is able to sell oil refined near the Turkish border and smuggled through Turkey. According to a Turkish MP from the border province of Hatay, the trade is worth $800m. The large extent indicates Turkish official complicity in the MP's opinion. Several EU member states are alleged to have bought oil from ISIS.  The same month al-Qaeda took over control of Syria's Deir al-Zour and Hasaka fields, the EU voted to ease restrictions on Syrian oil sold in international markets. To add to this charade of crosspurposes is the fact that many of the leaders of ISIS including Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi were detained at a US run prison, Camp Bucca, Iraq. There senior extremists were able to recruit other prisoners without interference from their knucleheaded American guards. Former detainees told interviewers the camp was almost an "al-Qaeda school". This "long war" so eagerly envisioned by the neocons at the Pentagon promises to be confusing, chaotic, and perhaps an endless one too. Good news for the warmongers.

Latest:{13.10.14} Heroic Kurd fighers are putting up a last stand against ISIS that is now inside the border town of Kobane. Ominously, US pilots say the are flying blind against the jihadis for lack of usable tactical intelligence. The Current Occupant has rightly assured the public there will be no American ground forces involved in fighting ISIS, but that pledge is hampering the air war according to participants because no JTACs (joint terminal air controllers) are there to guide strikes to the proper targets. GPS guided munitions can be off by as much as 500 feet and are adversely affected by weather or landscape. The argument is a familiar one from a service that has expounded the doctrine--not universally endorsed--that strategic airpower alone can win wars. The dirty secret is that even when this doctrine was formulated during WWII's strategic bombing campaign against Germany, the Eight Air Force failed to reduce Germany's strategic production capacity until late 1944 when the Allies were already on the ground in Europe. Generals will now be trotted out by the always hawkish corporate mass-media to complain gently that the restrictions placed by CENTCOM on target acquisition should be removed and more Americans put on the ground to target air operations. Perhaps training Kurdish fighters to perform this vital function or employing purpose-built A-10s* flying from Iraq or Turkey is out of bounds. It is doubtful the American public is ready to withstand videos of a downed American A-10 'Warthog' driver being beheaded. Kurds certainly have the motivation; right now there is very little cooperation between the 'good' rebel forces and the US military.
*The Nazis were astoundingly talented at designing lethal war machines. A highly decorated and unrepentant Nazi, Luftwaffe Colonel Hans Ulrich Rudel, was consulted for the design of the Air Force's A-10 Thunderbolt II. Rudel wrote Stuka Pilot, a detailed memoir of his combat experiences. He flew both the Ju-87 dive bomber and the FW-190D in over 2500 combat sorties (obviously a true "statistical outlier"). Considering the need for close support aircraft in unconventional warfare and the American army's dependence on such support, the Air Force's desire to rid itself of the subsonic 'Warthog' in favor of the extremely expensive and supersonic F-35 Strike Fighter is both understandable and counterproductive. So far ISIS does not possess advanced surface-to-air missles or radar-guided anti-aircraft guns--so far.

{8.10.14}[A shorter rewrite of a previous post deleted without PNG authorization] Turkish armour sits idle on the hills above Kobane [photo] as ISIS presses home its siege of the Syrian border town. Kurdish defenders say without a coordinated ground attack, the jihadists will eventually take the town because they are out-gunned by ISIS that uses captured American heavy weaponry. Observers say Turkish inaction is due to mistrust of insurgent Kurds and specifically the PPK, the Kurdish Workers Party, that only signed a ceasefire with Turkey last year. Twelve Kurds protesting Turkey's unwillingness to fight ISIS in Kobane were killed in violent demonstrations. It has also prevented Kurds from crossing the Turkish border into Syria to fight the jihadists.

Turkey is said to harbor designs of controling the northeastern region of Iraq to prevent the establishment of an independent Kurdistan on its southern border. According to security analysts with connections to the CIA, Ankara wants to maintain a "sphere of influence" in northeastern Iraq, formerly the Ottaman province of Mosul [map below], by aligning itself with moderate Sunni and Turkmen inhabitants to the detriment of Kurds. Kurds have made significant strides toward independence by taking and holding Kirkuk and its oil fields after the Iraqi national army ran away from the ISIS onslaught earlier this year. That army is equipped and trained at great expense ($40bn) by the United States. ISIS forces have also capture Hit and Ramadi in Iraq's Anbar Province showing that the Iraqi army is still unable to mount a credible counteroffensive. Consequently, US foreign policy in the Middle East is crumbling like the ancient ruins of Nineveh.

Kurdish fighters in Syria (YPG) and Iraq (PPK) are closely connected. The United States officially lists the PPK as a terrorist organization, but it is also credited with saving from annihilation an entire religious sect trapped by ISIS on Sinjar Mountain, Iraq. Increased airstrikes over two nights by the US have slowed down the militants, but they are still making progress against the town's defenders. A black flag of the so-called "Islamic State" has been raised on buildings in the eastern suburbs of Kobane. Elsewhere, the United States has begun using Apache helicopter gunships in a significant escalation of its undeclared air war, and is acknowledgement that limited US airstrikes are failing to halt the militants according to the London Times. A Kurdish representative said it would be "catastrophic" if ISIS seized control of the strategically important town since it would threaten Turkey's national interest by putting a large segment of the Turkish-Syrian border under control of the militants. US weapons have not yet reached the PPK, but France has said it will arm Kurdish militia in Iraq. The Kurds are the world's largest ethnic group without an independent homeland.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Creature Feature: Australian For Fight!

Like two drunken neighbors, these wild male kangaroos squared off in a suburban street of Wyee Point. Posted by Rodney Langham who says the smaller 'roo won, and no worries, bets were made in a sporting country where the flip of coin is of interest:

Thursday, October 09, 2014

COTW: Bread & Circuses

David Stockman has seen the light and is talking the talk. Regan's former bad boy of the budget tells us what many of us already instinctively know: the job numbers are bogus, period. He says the Second Great Depression resulted in the lost of 5.7 million middle-class jobs; those are permanent, 40 hours-per- week jobs on which a person can raise a family. Stockman labels these "breadwinning jobs". New jobs are temporary or part-time because no employer wants to be stuck paying for benefits. These 'McJobs' only pay about 40% of a real job. Consequently the average weekly number of hours worked is still going down, a trend that has continued since Nixon:

Fifteen years of money printing for the rich and connected, causing the Fed balance sheet to explode in size 9 times, has done almost nothing for Mainstreet while further enriching the financial elite of Wall Street:

The part-time economy maybe bustling as we serve each other drinks and tacos while your hotel bed is made and you shop for shoe repairs, but actual goods-producing jobs have yet to recover fully from the Second Great Depression. Only 21% of those jobs have been recovered. Stockman says manufacturing jobs are 22% lower than they were at the turn of this century:

Bottom line: Hope that the radical Keynesians are not smoking legal pot when they claim the US economy can continue indefinitely to borrow from the rest of the world.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Native Americans Sign Buffalo Treaty

Natives met September 22nd in Browning, Montana to sign the Northern Tribes Buffalo Treaty. Members of the Blackfoot, Blood, Siksika, Piikani, Assiniboine, Gros Ventre, Souix, Salish, Kootenai and Tsuu T'ina tribes and nations pledged to restore the buffalo on native territory. It is the first treaty among these peoples since the 1855 Lame Bull Treaty that established a common hunting ground. Collectively they control about 6.3 million acres of northern prarie on both sides of the international border, an area about three times the size of Yellowstone National Park. The treaty intends to restore the buffalo to its rightful place on the northern plains and conserve grasslands, as well as encouraging youth education and cultural restoration among the native peoples. Dr. Leroy Little Bear of the Blood Tribe in Alberta told interviewers the buffalo "brings about an ecological balance" because buffalo have a "very different grazing pattern than beef cattle". Buffalo played a central role in Northern Plains culture before the white man began his genocidal slaughter of the animal and fragmented the vast plains with European notions of legal ownership and agriculture. Bison conservationists herald the treaty as a historic milestone in a grass roots movement to bring the wild buffalo back to the western public landscape. Today, most buffalo live as livestock on private land in stark contrast to the 60 million that once roamed the Great Plains.

Friday, October 03, 2014

'Toontime: A Visitor in the East Room, Mr. President

The Obamadon can't wait to begin collecting those jucy fees from book deals and appearances, not to mention the fat federal retirement stipend. And no wonder, when you live in a neighborhood where intruders lurk on the lawns and peep in the windows:

credit: Tim Campbell
Wackydoodle sez: Can I see your ID card, sir?
Eric Holder, his ineffectual chief cop, already has a sinecure lined up, so why hang around to watch a ghost walk the halls? The administration's entire foreign policy is at the cleaners and his signature domestic program, affordable health care, is an underwealming cop-out to the insurance industry (23 states have yet to implement it). His government began with hope of substantaial social progress (The theme words were hope and change, remember?) and ends eight years later in more of the same--the same wars, the same racism, the same economic stagnation for the rest of us--no hope and the status quo. It is enough to make you immigrate; if you can afford it.

credit Kevin Siers
BC Idonwanna sez: Chief blows big smoke from Bendoozie!

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Malaysian Tiger at the Brink

camera trap photo
Maylasia, a nation with the highest lost of forest in the world and one of the world's largest suppliers of palm oil, is about to loose its tiger subspecies, the Malayan tiger (Panthera tigris jacksonii) The latest data (2010-13) from camera traps set up in three known tiger habitats showed far fewer tigers than expected. The previous estimate was 500, but only 250-340 now remain. Based on these figures the tiger may now be listed as Critically Endangered by the ICUN instead of only Endangered. Maylasian tiger conservation groups blame the insidious illegal trade in tiger body parts for traditional medicine. Loss and fragmentation of forest habitat that causes prey species, especially sambar deer, to decline also causes declining tiger populations.

poaching camp
Range states committed to doubling world tiger populations to 6,000 in the most recent year of the tiger, 2010. {21.01.10, Year of the Tiger} The next year of the tiger occurrs in 2022. Maylasia will be unable to meet its committments if the Maylasian tiger subspecies, which was first recognized as genetically distinct in 2004, continues to struggle to survive. Conservationists hope to perform more surveys to establish a more accurate count and establish patrols to protect tigers in three key habitats including Taman Negara National Park. The world has already lost the Bali, Caspian, and Javan tigers and is close to loosing the China tiger with only 70 of them living in captivity. There are more tigers in captivity in the United States than there are thought to still exist in the wild (3-4,000). About half of Earth's wild tigers live in India.

Japan Defies Internaitonal Whaling Commission

Update: The International Whaling Commission met in Portoroz, Slovenia where a resolution was passed 37 to 15 to allow international bodies such as the UN to be involved in establishing further protections for whales. Japan and other whaling nations opposed the resolution. Japan's alleged scientific whaling program known as JARPA II was ruled illegal and no further permits are authorized by the Commission. Japan responded by asking scientists around the world to help review its plans to resume whaling this season in the Southern Ocean. Unfortunately a resolution to establish a Southern Atlantic whale sancturary was defeated by whaling nations since the measure failed to achieve the three-quarters majority needed for adoption. The proposal has been narrowly defeated at every IWC meeting since 1999, but this year the vote was the closest ever (40-18).

Norway, one of the three remaining whaling countires, has killed 729 northern minke whales as of August. It continues to hunt whales under an objection to the moratorium; Norway's whaling is not camoflaged by the cover of scientific research. Despite a good hunting season, the demand for whale meat is dropping worldwide. Norway's quota is set at 1,286 for the season; fortunately for the species its numbers are estimated at 180,000. Japan's whaling program is not profitable and is heavily subsidized by the government. The Japanese people do not strongly support its continuation. A poll indicates at least 55% of them are indifferent to whaling. 89% of respondents say they have not bought whale meat in the last 12 months. It is time for Japan's officials to stop the slaughter that their citizens do not want.

{29.09.14}Japan has snubbed the International Whaling Commission by announcing it will proceed with whaling plans next year in the Southern Ocean. At one point in 2011 Japan told the international community that it would halt whaling in the Southern Ocean. Sea Shepards and other conservationists declared victory, but Japan resumed its commercial hunt {17.01.14, Sea Shepherds Sweep the Sea} At a meeting the Commission voted to require all "scientific whaling" programs be placed before the Scientific Committee for guidance. It also voted to place strict limits on the number of whales taken for scientific purposes. Nevertheless, Japan will continue the sharade of classifing its commercial whaling as culls for scientific purposes. The International Court Justice found that Japan's extensive use of lethal means to achieve it alleged scientific purpose does not fit with IWC resolutions concerning the whaling moratorium and the scientific purposes exception. Further the sheer size of the minke whale take (853 during the first year) convinced the Court that Japan's "priority was to maintain whaling operations without any pause" [p.48] during a six year long research program. The Court also noted the testimony of Japan's Director General of the Fisheries Agency before a House of Representatives subcommittee: minke whale meat is "prized because it is said to have a very good flavor and aroma when eaten as sashimi and the like." [p.58] Obviously Japan, your drool was too obvious! Hopefully Sea Shepherds will again undertake the periolus duty of opposing the Japanese whaling vessels since legal authorities seem powerless to stop them.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Creature Feature: Walruses Jam Beach Again

If walruses could spell they would form the word "help" with their bodies on this  isolated Alaskan beach near Point Lay, an Inupiat village:

courtesy: NOAA
Thirty-five thousand walruses hauled onto land, something they ordinarily do not do for safety reasons, but sea ice is becoming so scarce they have no choice but to return to the beach. They have been landing on the US side of the Chukchi Sea since 2007. WWF says large haul-outs have also occurred on the Russian shore.  Such huge conglomerations pose a danger to young walruses since stampedes occur, sometimes triggered by hunting polar bears, sometimes by low-flying aircraft. Fifty carcasses in this gathering have been spotted by observers. Arctic sea ice reached is lowest point in mid-September and marked the sixth lowest extent since 1978 when satelite imagery became available. Only a bribed politician could look at this weird natural phenomenon and deny global warming exists. Not just walruses are noticing the change in climate but also polar bears and indeginous peoples of the high Arctic. [more in Guardian photo gallery]

COTW: Middle Class Squeeze

Economist Paul Krugman penned in his New York Times column the economic hegemony of the rich in America is based on a "foundation of ignorance". The people at the bottom do not really understand how concentrated wealth is in this country and that the gap between the rich the rest of us is at an historically high level. Compensation for labor is no longer closely correlated with increases in productivity as it was from 1948-73. After that period of widespread prosperity productivity slowed and compensation became decoupled from productivity:

While real wages have fallen, the net worth of the top 20% has increased by 120% between 1983 and 2010. At the same time, prices for everything the middle class considers necessary for their economic well-being such as houses, cars, health care, child care, college and retirement savings has gone up:

charts source:
The median family experienced an 8% decrease in real income during the period 2000-12 yet the cost of basic security rose dramatically. Basic security cost $10,600 more in 2012 than in 2000.  Of course middle class wealth is responsible for a large segment of consumer demand and without demand, businesses owned by the rich go under.  In other words squeezing the middle class is bad for business.