Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Wild Horse Advocates Win Reprieve

source: EIS
They shoot wild horses don't they? The government also feeds wild horses pesticide as a form of birth control. Wild horse advocates in Nevada won an injunction to stop the Bureau of Land Management from rounding-up 330 members of the famous "The Misfits" herd featured in the Gable-Monroe movie. Federal district judge Larry Hicks ruled that the Bureau could not rely on a five-year-old environmental impact statement that ignores allegations the herd would be harmed by administering Porcine Zona Pellucida, PZP, to sixty-six mares. The round-up in the Pine Nut Mountains was to begin February 20th. The preliminary injunction gives the court time to consider the advocate's claims concerning the pesticide. The Bureau alleges that increases in herd size is damaging the fragile desert mountain habitat and endagering the wild horse herd. The court recognized the intertwined problems of drought conditions and overgrazing but the scope of the gathering exceeds what was proposed in 2010. BLM says there are twice as many horses in the Pine Nut Range as the high desert can support. In some situations the US government classifies wild horses as pests. Advocates say the wild horses belong on the West's open ranges and should not be managed as if they were living in an open-air zoo.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Monsanto Lobbyist Caught in Bluff

This video is from French television (Canal+) where a Monsanto science hack is challenged to drink first a quart, then a glass of Roundup.  Of course he refuses, and terminates the interview, calling the interviewer, "a complete jerk".  US Person thinks the interviewer was rather clever to call Dr. Patrick Moore's bluff:

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Tru'Merica: The Final Betrayal

Admit it readers, the Obamatron has become more than a mere disappointment to the millions of Americans that voted for him. He promised change to people fed up with the business of America being business and not it's citizens. We asked for socialized medicine and we got another complex and expensive subsidization of the insurance industry. We asked for an end to foreign wars and we got an invasion of Libya, two wars in the Near East that seem to never end, and high-tech terror from the skies that creates more enemies than it kills. We asked that Wall Street be held accountable for its rampant fraud and we got more bureaucracy. But he is not done yet. The last blow to our crumbling democracy is yet to come--in the form of a "trade" agreement with eleven Pacific Rim countries being negotiated in secret and nearing completion. The sensitivity of the proposed treaty is so great that it contains a clause keeping negotiations secret until four years after agreement is reached or negotiations end.

Fortunately for the rest of us, a draft chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has been leaked on-line.  It is worse than what was feared would come out of an agreement written for multi-national corporations by their attorneys. What has been agreed to already by negotiators is truly stunning in its scope. The leaked text of the investment chapter would allow foreign corporations to sue governments which have signed the treaty in extra-judicial tribunals over domestic policy that the companies claim damage their "expected future profits". This agreement elevates private companies to the status of sovereign states enable to enforce a public treaty without resort to the United States' legal system. In essence TPP would circumvent the US Constitution, our fundamental law. Incredibly this treaty has been negotiated in secret because even the people involved in the negotiations know that public knowledge of its contents would create a huge amount of adverse reaction, making its ratification by Congress much more difficult.

Image a foreign company, say Chinese, mining minerals adjacent to an Alaskan wilderness area that is to be protected under US environmental laws. The foreign company could challenge the legal protection of the nearby wilderness area as impinging on it's "expected profits" from it's mining interests. The foreign corporation would not do this in US federal or state courts but before a tribunal staffed by corporate lawyers unaccountable to any electorate, system of legal precedent, or substantive appeal. These private corporate lawyers would rotate between acting as tribunal members and representing corporations with claims against a government. Obviously this incestuous arrangement poses severe conflicts of interest. No tribunal member is required to disclose the inevitable conflicts. This new, corporate, star chamber of commerce would have the power to order cash compensation paid by US taxpayers to foreign investors for profits they expect. The agreement reaches new heights of extra-judicial power in the unrestrained hands of an international corporate elite.

Previous trade tribunals have been established in other "trade" treaties, but they usually involve developing countries whose firms have few investments in the United States. TPP involves developed nations like China, Japan, and Canada which have very large companies operating in the United States. So far, other tribunals already established in 51 trade agreements (including NAFTA) have cost the United States $3.6 billion in compensation to foreign investors, and another $38 billion in claims remain pending. Almost all of these claims relate to domestic environmental, energy, finance, public health, transportation regulations and laws. Just defending against one of these claims cost on average $8 million. A NAFTA case from 1999 provides an actual, albeit smaller example, of what will occur under TPP. California banned the gasoline additive MTBE, saying it was damaging its water supplies. Mexico's Methanex Corporation sued under NAFTA for $970 million claiming damages to future profits. It took until 2005 for the tribunal to dismiss the claim. So far the United States has been successful in 13 tribunal cases since NAFTA went into effect. That record is admirable, but our civil courts are also open to foreign investors and companies. Over 9,000 foreign companies would have the power to haul the US into a corporate-dominated, secret trade tribunal and circumvent federal courts under TPP.

TPP is the betrayal of what remains of "American Democracy". When even the laws passed by a government ostensibly representing the consent of the governed can be overturned by a few wealthy plutocrats from another country, it can hardly be termed democratic any longer. If you learned one thing about the War of Independence from the British Crown, it was that Americans wanted a say in the laws to which they were subjected. Is the new Crown to be the Chinese Communist Party? Apparently, if the Obamtron achieves his final betrayal.

Friday, March 27, 2015

'Toontime: Springtime in Washington

credit: Lisa Benson
Wackydoodle sez: Y'all outta idears too!
US Person thinks it is a refreshing change of pace to allow the Muslims to fight among themselves, even if they are vassals of an imperial power. Egypt and Saudi Arabia announced they would invade the chaos that is Yemen in order to restore some order and prevent ISIS from creating another zone of immunity. Calling anything the terrorists set up a state is too grandiose. But the development indicates just how out of stock the would be hegemons in Washington are these spring days. Of course they will save some face by providing a "planning cell", whatever that is, and intelligence capability to the combatants. The Pentagon is even helping Iran's Shia militias trying to take Tikrit from ISIS with air raids. Less than a decade ago, these militias were fighting US soldiers for control of Iraq. The Obamanator's drone war against terror--prominently operating in Yemen--has proved insufficient to defeat transnational organizations of religious extremists bent on re-creating the Caliphate. Drones have also killed a significant number of civilians, earning the US nothing but hatred and a relative handful of dead terrorists out of a seemingly endless supply. Arguably by supporting repressive regimes in the Near East for nearly a century to protect oil supplies, and by invading and occupying a marginal Muslim state held together by a strongman it deposed, the United States sowed the seeds of regional political collapse. It even was on the wrong side of the largely failed "Arab Spring", a genuine popular uprising against tyranny in its beginning. Now, 'Merica is reaping the whirlwind for its misadventures in "the sandbox".
credit: Mike Lukovich
BC Idonnwana sez: ...from tribe of Custer.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

COTW: Bakken Beyond Break Even?

We are here: the boom in domestic shale oil typlified by North Dakota's Bakken play has hit bottom. Bakken shale oil is selling for around $37 a barrel as shown by this chart [sic]:

courtesy: James Quinn@marketoracle.co.uk 

The Wall Street shills would have you believe that Bakken crude can be produced profitably even at this low, low price. Don't believe them. How will  small producers pay-off their junk bond debt when every barrel costs them as much as $40 more than the sale price? A rhetorical question that has an obvious answer: they can't. Shale and tar sand oil was not previously exploited for two major reasons: one, the technologies were not yet available and the costs of production were too high. In 2012 a barrel of oil was selling at over $100. Production costs are still significantly higher than producing lighter crude using conventional drilling methods. So, layoffs have started in the Canadian tar sands patch. Alberta, the Saudi Arabia of tar sands, has lost about 13,000 jobs since September of last year. Globally, energy sector job losses exceed 100,000  Boom times have turned to bust one more time.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

EPA Will Be Sued for Insecticide Approval

The Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Center for Food Safety sent EPA Administrator McCarthy a notice of intent to sue the agency for approving the insecticide flupyradifurone in violation of the Endangered Species Act. The groups allege that the chemical will likely jeopardize listed species and adversely modify the critical habitat of the protected species. EPA failed to consult with the US Fish & Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service as required by the Endangered Species Act according to the groups' notice. The EPA found that the pesticide did not result in any adverse effects on honeybee colonies in 38 tests it reviewed. The number of those test sponsored either by the maker, Bayer, or other chemical industry groups was not revealed. A Ohio State University entomologist consulted said he did not know of any independent research conducted on the compound.

The agency has 60 days to respond before the matter goes to federal court. EPA approved Sivanto, as it is commercially known, as a substitute for neonicotinoids which have been repeatedly implicated in the alarming decline of honeybee populations. {10.04.12; Bees Suffer from Neonicotinoids} While it may be less toxic on honeybee colonies, the EPA completely ignored the 4,000 solitary bee species it its consideration of toxicity. The approved insecticide works in the same way as neonicotinoids do by permeating all plant tissues. It is intended to control problematic insects such as aphids, whiteflies and thrips.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Serial Rhino Poacher Caught

Is it finally possible that the world is finally taking wildlife crimes seriously?  As a wildlife advocate, US Person hopes the capture of Rajkumar Praja, one of Nepal's most wanted poachers, marks a new era of international cooperation to stop the slaughter for profit of remaining animal populations. Praja has spent years on the run from authorities before he was arrested by INTERPOL in Malaysia and extradited to Nepal where he faces a lengthy prison term for rhino poaching and trafficking in rhino horns. In 2013 more than a dozen of his gang and Praja were arrested by Nepalese authorities.  Praja confessed to killing more than 20 rhinos in Chitwan National Park; he was sentenced to 15 years in prison. But he escaped and fled the country.

INTERPOL issued an international arrest warrant at the request of Nepal. The fugitive was a target of INTERPOL's Infra Terera Operation, its first global operation focused on environmental criminals. 139 fugitives were on its list of criminals wanted by 36 countries for crimes ranging from illegal fishing to trafficking in ivory and horn Investigators were told Praja was living in Malaysia and living under an assumed name in January, 2015. Through cooperation between Nepal and Malaysia via INTERPOL, Praja was taken in Malaysia and subsequently extradited to face justice at home. The successful capture of a major wildlife criminal shows that international cooperation among countries committed to zero poaching can work. You can help in this important international effort by backing a wildlife ranger through World Wildlife Fund.

Department of Interior Expected to Approve Arctic Drilling

The Guardian reports the US government is expected to give approval to Shell's plant to restart drilling for oil in the Arctic. The company observed a self-imposed moratorium since 2012 after repeated problems with equipment and legal challenges, including a near disaster when its "state-of-the-art" conical drilling platform Kulluk grounded near Kodiak Island after breaking away from a tow. Shell's contractor, Noble Drilling was official criticized for the incident and assessed $12 million in fines and payments. Shell's oil leases are in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. Secretary Jewel will rubber-stamp the go-ahead as soon as this week, since the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which supposedly regulates offshore exploration, gave its approval last month despite a finding in the EIS that there is a 75% chance of more large oil spills.  Russia already produces hydrocarbons in Arctic waters and about thirty Greenpeace protestors were held in Murmansk after their ship, Arctic Sunrise, was boarded in international waters by Russian paramilitary. {06.06.14}

No company has yet successfully demonstrated how it will cope with a major oil spill in frigid, ice-clogged water. Previous containment demonstrations have failed. Experts fear that the slump in oil prices will cause oil companies to cut costs and reduce safety precautions. One of the underlying causes of the Deepwater Horizon disaster was a lack of prudence on the part of the offshore lease owner, British Petroleum. The approval will come in advance of the Paris climate talks where nations are expected to reach an agreement on limiting greenhouse gas emissions. In light of the scientific consensus about catastrophic climate change, it makes little sense to drilling for more oil in an ecologically sensitive region of Earth under extreme weather conditions. But then, politicians do not operate using logic.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Kings No More?

Further: Australia announced an immediate ban on the importation of lion carcasses as trophies. It is the first country to do so. The action came in response to public outrage over 'canned' hunts in South Africa in which lions are bred to be killed in small enclosures with no chance of escape. How a person could consider such brutality 'sport' is beyond the understanding of this writer. Australia's Minister for the Environment said, canned hunts are "appaling acts" and anyone participating in them will be unable to bring back a dead lion to Australia. About 1,000 unfortunate lions meet this disgusting and tragic end. Between 2010 and 2013, ninety-one lion carcasses and parts were imported into Australia compared to the 400 per year into the United States. The new law increases the penalty for wildlife trade offenses to 10 years imprisonment and fines up $170,000 for individuals and $850,000 for corporations.

Serengeti male
More: {09.03.15}The EU headquartered in Brussels closed a loophole in European law that allowed the importation of hunting trophies last month. The move was welcomed by conservationists. Permits are now required for six species: African lion, polar bear, African elephant, Southern white rhinoceros, hippopotamus and argali sheep. The measure is intened to insure the hunting trophies come from sustainable sources and is aimed at criminal groups trafficking in endangered or theatened species. Permittees must convince EU authorities that sustainability criteria are met. Of course any law is only as good as its enforcement, but prior to this development the EU had no systematic scrutiny of hunting trophy importation. The loophole was abused by traffickers according to Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella. Several countries may be banned from exportation of lion carcasses including Benin, Burkina Faso and Cameroon. Between 2008 and 2012, 1,438 trophies were imported; sixty-three came from highly endangered populations in West Africa the home of a critically endangered lion subspecies. The vast majority of lion trophies come from South Africa where the unethical practice of breeding lions for hunting purposes is a profitable business.

Etosha male
Under CITES, the global treaty that regulates wildlife trade, stuffed animals considered trophies are regulated as "household and personal effects" and thus receive a trade exemption. Imports of wildlife products into the EU are governed by its own trade regulations and the Union is therefore free to impose stricter provsions than CITES to ensure the trade is sustainable. Conservationists want a hunting ban throughout Africa until lion numbers increase, a position endorsed by US Person.  Currently three countries: Tanzania, Namibia and South Africa are cleared under EU rules to export stuffed lions.

{09.03.15}Seeing a lion up-close in the wild is a lifetime experience. Seeing a lion (Panthera leo) languishing behind the bars of a zoo can never equal it. Despite being an iconic carnivore at the top of the food chain, the lion is facing hard times in its native Africa, the African Wildlife Foundation tells US Person. Five to six hundred thousand lions were believed to inhabit Africa at the beginning of the 20th century. In the past twenty years, Africa's lion population has dwindled to only about 23,000 now. Lions suffer from their fierce reputation. Humans retaliate against lions even before livestock is taken as prey or a villager attacked. Their habitat is shrinking and fragmenting as development in Africa continues at a rate to meet the needs of an expanding human population. The threat of extinction is very real. Lions are already extinct in North Africa and severely depleted in West and Central Africa. They are loosing ground in their strongholds of East and South Africa.

Recognizing the danger, the US Fish & Wildlife Service gave the lion a helping hand in October of last year, listing the species as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. This legal status allows more restrictions to be placed on the importation of lion carcasses as sport trophies. The AWF has recommended that all hunting of lions cease until their populations stabilize. Lions are a key component of healthy ecosystems. Their predation regulates and improves the condition of wildlife populations, especially hoofed herbivores. Lions, wild dogs and cheetahs are the most impacted by external threats preditors says AWF while being the most closely monitored and researched. The organization is focusing its conservation efforts in the Selous and Ruaha regions of southern Tanzania, the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem in Kenya, and the Kazungula and Limpopo regions of South Africa. These populations make up about 60% of the remaining wild population. Unsurprizingly, the sponsored projects target human-lion conflict resolution. In Ruaha, villages can receive rewards such as schoolbooks and veteranary medicines for turning in photographs, not carcasses, of local carnivores. In the Mara, lions are being individualized by naming, cataloging and monitoring them. So far 506 individual lions are recognized. Traditional acacia bomas (corrals) are being lion-proofed with the addition chain-link fencing. Herders who loose livestock to lions can recieve compensation for their loss. Educating children in the value of wildlife is an important component of changing the lion-human dynamic.

credit: US Person
Perhaps the most impressive change in the difficult relationship between the two predators is that exhibited by the Massai.  Young warriors or morans killed lions in a ritual passage of manhood. Now, they compete in a Massai Olympics were young men can demostrate their physical prowess in races, high-jumping, spear throwing, and rungu (club) throwing. The competition provides a year long education program that allows conservationists to engage young men about the value of protecting wildlife. Tourism is a significant economic contributor in sub-Saharan Africa. It earned $36 billion for the region in 2012 according to the World Bank. In 2011, one in twenty jobs was directly or indirectly tied to tourism. Like US Person these tourists come to see what is uniquely African--the king of the jungle. Long live the king!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Killing the Oceans With Plastic

Our plasticized, disposable culture is killing the oceans. And when the oceans die, we eventually parish too. This video from Australia's Journeyman Pictures tells us what is happening to marine life because profit blinds most humans the deep connections:

Saturday, March 21, 2015

US Withdrawing from Yemen

Due to increased conflict between the government and northern Shia rebels known as Houthis, the United States is withdrawing its special operations forces from the al-Anad airbase in Yemen. The conflict is seen by observers as a proxy war between Shia Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia. The southern city of al-Houta was stormed by al-Qaeda fighters on Friday but beaten back by government troops. The day before al-Qaeda affiliated terrorists bombed a mosque in Sanaa killing 137 people. The US had been training Yemenis to fight al-Qaeda in the Arabian Pennisula, but given the "significant deterioration" in security the mission could no longer be carried out in relative safety. The American embassy in the capital of Sanaa was closed in February after Houthi rebel forces took the city in four days. This setback is the latest string to unravel in the misguided American attempt to militarily dominate the region, and reveals the increasingly sectarian nature of the essential conflict that is spillng over secular boundaries in the region.

Friday, March 20, 2015

'Toontime: The Israeli Threat to US Security

credit: Jeff Danziger

Perhaps international leaders can chalk up Netanyahu's irresponsible rhetoric to the exigencies of an apparently close parliamentary election. But US Person thinks Netanyahu's retraction of his 'no Palestinian state' pledge is disingenuous and that no land settlement with the Palestinians actually represents his personal policy. There can be no Middle East peace unless the Palestinians are given a state guaranteed by the world's powers. What the oppressed Palestinians have right now is little more than a Jewish run gulag. Netanyahu may please racist Zionists and their political enablers in the US, but he is a stumbling block to peace, and entangles United States' policy in the world's most volatile region. Moreover, he threatens his own state's fantastic democracy. His election is nothing but a victory for an unacceptable status quo.

On another front of the near permanent battlefield that is the Middle East, the Pentagon told reporters that the touted, imminent retaking of Tikrit from ISIS will now take more time. The Iraqi advance has stalled. Somehow this news is not surprising to US Person. The Iraqi military is corrupt and dysfunctional as Iraqi leaders readily admit. Only the incorporation of Shia militia has gotten it this far in resting strategic Tikrit from the extremists. One has to keep in mind that Tikrit is a Sunni-dominated city, so Shia motivation to fight hard for the city is limited. ISIS is conducting a determined defense, blowing up access routes and bridges. US advisors estimate between 400 and 1,000 fighters are facing 23,000 Iraqi troops. The Washington Post reported that everyday 60 Iraqis were dying in the seige. Everyday of stalemate is a propaganda victory for ISIS.

credit: Lisa Benson

Ebola Epidemic Not Over in Sierra Leon

Authorities in Sierra Leone will confine 2.5 million citizens in their home in Freetown, the nation's capital, to combat an increase in Ebola cases. The 72 hour quarantine is a repeat of the one conducted in September, 2014. The government and advising NGOs are hoping it will flush out latent and unreported cases of the lethal infection. The World Health Organization reports 10,200 people have died of the disease. Sierra Leone was on course to meet an April goal of eradicating Ebola cases, but complacency and ignorance of how the disease spreads has contributed to the increase in cases in according to health officials. WHO reported 150 new confirmed cases this week compared to 116 the previous week. Liberia is performing the best of the three infected countries with no new cases reported for the third consecutive week. Guinea is considered to be making "tremendous progress". An American health worker who was transported back to the US after contracting the disease in Sierra Leone remains in critical condition. Ten colleagues are being monitored for symptoms.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Antarctica is Melting Too

source: Nature Geoscience
You thought it was only the Arctic that was melting! Well it is, and this winter's ice coverage set a new record low. We now find out thanks to a new study published in Nature Geoscience that East Antarctica is melting too. Last year it was West Antarctica's ice sheet melting that caused concern among scientists. Unlike the Arctic where ice rests mostly on ocean, Antarctica's ice is mostly land bound and when it melts it will cause sealevel to rise as much as eleven feet. And because gravity actually works, the rise will head to North America. East Antarctica's Totten Glacier is melting due to contact with warmer ocean water. The floating ice shelf that is 90x22 miles in area, and is part of the world's largest ice sheet, is losing 100 times the volume of Sydney Harbor each year, say the scientists of the Australian Antarctic Division. It holds back a even more vast area of ice on the continent itself. If the glacier edge gives way, the melt could produce an eleven foot ocean rise, an estimated increase at the conservative lower limit.

credit: Jamin Greenbaum
Scientists measured the ice sheet using lasers, radar and gravitational instruments during overflights.  The glacier's ice shelfs [photo] are more than 1600 feet thick in places, but they also discovered two undersea troughs beneath the shelfs that could contain warmer water that accelerates glacial melting. One of the canyons is three miles wide in an area thought to be solid ground beneath the glacier. Confirmation of the observations must come from coean temperature measurements beneath Totten. The new data provides a plausible explanation for what occurred during the Pliocene epoch 5.3 million years ago when sea levels were forty meters higher than they are now. Sedimentary records and computer modeling show a substantial amount of ice melt came from East Antarctica into the ocean. The important difference is that the current melting is caused by man. The United States, which has caused more global warming than any other country, could experience 25% more sea level rise than the global average.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

New Marine Reserve for Pitcairn Island

Titan triggerfish, Nat Geo
One of the most isolated islands in the world is Pitcairn Island in the eastern Pacific. Exactly what Mr. Christian wanted, so he and his fellow mutineers could escape the wrath of the British Navy.  The United Kingdom will establish the world's largest continuous marine reserve around Pitcarn, Oeno, Henderson and Ducie islands according to the new budget just released. The protected zone is expected to ban commerical fishing and will cover 322,000 square miles. The waters around remote Pitcairn and neighboring islands are still pristine. Underwater visibility is up to 75 meters and coral lives at depths of up to 100 meters. Compared to the havoc visited by man on most of the ocean and its depths, Pitcairn Island Marine Reserve is an oasis of healthy normality. Just fifty-three people live on Pitcairn,   many direct decedents of the sailors who took HMS Bounty in 1790. The islanders backed the plan to declare a protected zone.

Lemonpeel angelfish, Guardian
National Geographic Society explored the ocean around the islands in 2012 and found a treasure trove of fish and invertebrate species including some 80 species of fish, coral and algae never seen before. Sharks, fished out elsewhere, are in abundance. Intact coral reefs inhabit the shallows and the depths down to 1600 meters are home to rare species like the false cat shark. Declaring marine reserves to preserve remaining marine life is politically a good idea, but not without difficulties. The United Kingdom has run into difficulties with its reserve declaration for the Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean.

The unilateral Chagos declaration was fraught with political overtones when UK severed the islands from Mauritius in 1965.  Diego Garcia island was given over to the United States as a military base.  Inhabitants were deported between 1967 and 1973 to make way for the installation. Chagossians, most of whom now live in poverty on Mauritius, are challenging the designation in the UN that they say will prevent them from returning to their homes. About 4,000 islanders have been waging a legal battle for nearly twenty years to return from exile. These refugees think the Chagos Marine Reserve is a grossly transparent ruse despite the presence of increasingly rare intact marine habitats.  Under an exemption not allowed the original islanders, people from Diego Garcia are allowed to fish in the zone. They caught more than 28 tons of fish for consumption by base personnel in 2010. The UN court for the law of the sea is expected to rule on their claims to the 545,000 sq. mile reserve within the month.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

COTW: Dummer and Dummest Work Part-Time

One key aspect of the plutocracy's plan for 'Merica is to dumb down the populace by making higher education more expensive, thus more difficult to obtain. Reactionary thinkers have concluded that the anti-war and civil rights movements of the 60-70's were driven by a radicalized intelligencia based in universities and colleges. Less education therefore should result in less political dissent. People trying to get a college education are going deeper and deeper into debt to obtain a diploma. Here are the charts:

Just 60% of undergraduates complete a bachelor's degree program within six years. If they succeed, they have a credential to obtain a living wage job but there are no guarantees; an estimated twenty-five percent of graduates are unemployed, which pushes up the delinquency rate to twenty-seven percent of loans. The forty percent who do not get their degree still have to pay back their loans while working part-time in burger land if at all. Three-quarters of past due loans ($85bn) are owned by people over thirty.

When US Person walked into his first professional job his college loans were paid. No wonder his boss, who was paying college expenses for two daughters, turned red when he found that out!  Of course when people are paying off debt, they have less to spend on consumer goods and there dear readers the story of middle class demise begins. Checked your 401(k) lately?

Monday, March 16, 2015

How Warm Is It?

It is so warm that snow had to be trucked in to run the Iditarod dog sled race in Alaska and that was after race officials moved the start 300 miles north from Anchorage to Fairbanks [photo credit: David Hulen].  When the Chena River failed to freeze over, the course had to be moved yet again. The Department of Energy concluded in a new report that the rate of warming has increased in recent decades and will increase even more in the 2020s as the warming feedback loop develops due to the loss of snow and ice. The rate of warming exceeds any in the last 1000 years. While shallow-thinking Alaska legislators are twiting about "making it work", the rest of the world wonders at the real news: Alaska is melting! Several Inuit villages are sinking into the melting permafrost and the Corps of Engineers says a seaside village will have to be evacuated in twenty years due to rising seawater.

This past February was truly weird in terms of weather. The eastern seaboard froze under record lows and heavy snowfalls while the western United States experienced a very warm winter and continued drought conditions. Climatologists attribute the schizophrenic weather pattern to a polar jet stream that is meandering for the past two winters. In the west it bulges northwards bringing warm air from the south while it the east it veers south to bring frigid air from Canada down onto the Middle West and Northeast. This unusual meandering is thought to be caused by a radically warming Arctic.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Creature Feature: Higher than Everest

Bar-headed geese and Demoiselle cranes are able to fly over the Himalayas at altitudes over 20,000 feet.  The geese are the super-athletes of the bird world who suffer severe hypoxia to fly higher than Everest. Sir David Attenborough tells how they do it:

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Irrawaddy Dolphins Imperiled by Dam

The mirror surface of Anlung Cheutal pool is disturbed in the yellow morning light. A blunt snout of the Irrawaddy dolphin breaks the surface in a round of ripples. A boat guide points and tells his guests, "There, over there, a dolphin!" Soon more eddies appear as some of the eighty-five remaining dolphins begin their morning activites of feeding and socializing. Anlung Cheutal is a remote stretch of the mighty Mekong River at the border of Cambodia and Laos, yet thousands of tourists come each year to see Orcaella brevirostris, bringing much needed income to supplement fishing. One of seven species of river-dwelling dolphins, "Lăbaing", as it is named in Burmese, is declining in numbers due to human development and exploitation.

Gill nets used by fishermen to capture tiny edible fish are most to blame for the decline of this highly intelligent and sociable creature say experts. Dolphins use their echo-location sense to detect struggling fish in the murky water, but the fine synthetic nets are invisible to them. They become entangled while hunting and drown. A disrespectful end for a mammal that can cooperate with man in hunting the same prey. In Myanmar, fishermen persuade, not train, wild dolphins to help them catch fish. If the intelligent mammals decides to help out, they respond to sound cues made by the men. Taking time out from their own business they herd fish by swiming in semi-circles. When an acceptable amount (the dolphins decide the catch size) has been cornered, they issue a tail wave the men in boats to throw out their nets. When the nets are thrown the dolphins move out quickly to avoid entanglement, and to scoop up fleeing fish. Cooperation can triple the size of a catch. River dolphins are more wary of helping fishermen now because many have been injured or killed by electric shocks used to kill fish. Electro-fishing is illegal, but still used by some greedy humans. The criminals threaten traditional fishermen who are afraid to inform on them. The shockers operate under the cover of darkness and flee in high-powered boats when detected.

Unsustainable fishing is not the only threat to river dolphins. The Mekong river basin sustains 60 million people. A growing human population and its industries demand electical power.  The demand expected to grow by 6-7% a year. Hydropower in a largely untapped river basin is an expedient answer. The Don Sahong Dam in southern Laos is a proposal that would inundate the Anlung Cheutal dolphin. Earth moving explosions will certainly kill or blind them. According to one knowledgeble observer in the area, 34% of the dolpins current remaining range would be eliminated. Informed locals refer to the dam project in one word, "disaster". For the Mekong is their mother. She provides the fish and the rich soils for growing rice. The Irrawady dolphins bring the tourists and their money. All of that will be wiped out by the dam. There are other ways to bring electricity to a region that is still off the grid--enough power to run small industry, light homes, and still allow dolphins to live in the river pool. Join US Person in supporting WWF's ten year moratorium on dam building in the lower Mekong basin until better solutions are put forward because an enitre sustainable way of life is at stake.

Friday, March 13, 2015

'Toontime: The Incredible

credit: Michael Ramirez, Investor's Business Daily
Wackydoodle sez: I know a warm grate y'al can sleep on.
The former Secretary of State was compelled to explain this week why she conducted official business on her private e-mail account. In a fifteen minute press conference at the UN she basically said she made a mistake. US Person finds that non-explanation explanation somewhat incredible. 'Poor Ma' Clinton has two decades of experience in Washington, DC so she knows the difference between personal and offical business. Her actions are better explained by the ruling elites' penchant for conducting official business in secret and the Clintons' overwhelming sense of entitlement.  An official email account might have been subject to disclosure. As it its, before offering to disclose all official business e-mails, MS. Clinton deleted 30,000 so-called "personal e-mails". We only have her word for the distinction, as well as her claim no classified information was disclosed. To be frank, that is a rather a too convenient dodge. In the world of the international oligarchy, business is pleasure and vice-versa.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Lynx Reintroduction in Great Britain

The lynx (Lynx lynx) was exterminated by 500AD in Great Britain, but the Lynx Trust is entering the final stages to formally request reintroduction of the predator to England and Scotland. It is believed that the feline is a natural control for species such as dear, and because of its smaller size and elusiveness may make it a better choice than the wolf. Three sites have been chosen in consultation with landowners, one in Scotland and two in England. Lynx have been reintroduced in other parts of Europe successfully. Andalusia has 309 Iberian lynx living in the wild after an intensive effort to save it from extinction. The cats offer opportunities for forest preservation as habitat, reduction of pests, and economic opportunities for rural communities to host eco-tourism. Forests in the UK suffer from an over-abundance of deer that browse incessantly on the forest in the absence of an apex predator. Wild cats and foxes are too small to control deer while roe dear is the favorite prey of the Eurasian lynx [photo].

Of course plans to reintroduce a predator immediately raises concern among agriculturalists. Part of the concern is due to a misunderstanding of the ecological niche occupied by lynx. Primarily a woodland hunter, it rarely encounter livestock. And if there is sufficient natural prey about, it has no need to take a sheep or cow. Predation by lynx in the rest of Europe as been rare according to experts. Nevertheless a reimbursement program will be put into place to reassure farmers near the reintroduction sites. The organizers are also conducting a survey to gauge public opinion about bringing lynx back to Great Britain. The first lynx to be reintroduced on private land will be monitored to collect data on their adjustment to a new environment. The information will be used to inform a decision on further re-introductions.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

COTW: A Real Economic Indicator

Perhaps you could call this a leading indicator? Anyway it is more revealing than a stock chart because it's not rigged by the casino's owners:

source: Zerohedge.com
The shelter figure for January was the highest on record and it is still climbing. Every night in the citadel of capitalism about 60,000 people including 26,000 children sleep in shelters, an increase of about 20,000 in three years.  In 2014 3,357 homeless slept on the streets or in parks, an increase of 6% over the previous year.  The labor participation rate is at 37 year lows.  U-6, a broader measure of unemployment than the offical figure but which still leaves out those not counted in the labor force, stands at 11%, down from over 17% at the official end of the Great Panic of 2008.  Meanwhile, US tanks and equipment roll into Latvia.  And while you are at it, screw Iran too!  Nothing like a good nuclear war to distract the plebs.

Captain Buffeting Goes Electric

Update: That powerful bore whose mouth runs on fossil fuel got his comeuppance after becoming physical with a BBC producer on location for failing to cater his favorite bangers or fish and chips or scones. He has been suspended pending inquiry and BBC will not air the remaining episodes of the current season. Mr. Clarkson was on "his final warning" from the corporation. Anybody can be replaced, anybody. He joked lamely to reporters, "I am just off to the job center." Yes, Mr. Clarkson you may need to be off despite 400,000 twits desperate for entertainment. And get a wombat to keep company.

{21.01.15}US Person considered inaugurating a semi-regular feature about developments in personal transportation, titled "Ask Captain Buffeting", but then decided not, since the reference to televised buffoonery was too obscure. By the way Helsinki and Reykjavik are both farther north than St. Petersburg. US Person knows "many things" more than some powerful TV bores!

Now the news. What is not obscure is that low gas prices are changing the math for potential buyers of electric vehicles. Significantly the Current Occupant made no mention of the previously announced (2011) goal of 1 million electric cars by 2015. The US is nowhere near that level. Given a manipulated price for fossil fuels, that parameter is not surprising to US, but then he only eats nuts, right? According to the latest market statistics there are about 280,000 electric cars sold here. At 1980 prices for gas and no new subsidies coming from an oil-soaked Congress the relief our Earth needs from combusting fossil fuels is receding farther into the future. One market association estimates that each 10¢ drop in gas price equates to a 1% decrease in the number of consumers willing to consider alternative-fuel vehicles. At least policy makers can insist that fossil fuel vehicles get much better mileage than they do now. The potential for even more efficiency than 54.5mpg is possible given new technologies.

Limited electric vehicle range is still perceived as a problem by consumers. One reason for that perception is consumers are acustomed to owning one personal vehicle that can be driven short distances in town and long distances on the highway. The flexibility of the combustion engine is undeniable, but so is its effect on the Earth's atmosphere. A more robust network of electrical charge stations is needed to make electric vehicles less worrysome for absent-minded mainstreamers. Perhaps a program to install a charging station at highly subsidized cost in every existing service station in the nation could be an answer. If you believe Elon Musk of Tesla, "The need to transition to electric cars is urgent." And gas prices will not stay low forever. One former executive in the patch told the media $5 gas is on the horizon. Less expensive EVs, like Chevy's Bolt--that costs $30K and has a touted range of 200 miles--will change the math again for electric vehicles. The question is: do we have the time to wait?

Friday, March 06, 2015

Selon l'UNESCO, ISIS A Engagé Une Nouvelle Barbarie

credit: Le Monde
L'ISIS a committé encore un crime de guerre en Irak, jeudi. L'organization de terreur a distuit au bulldozer les ruines de Nimroud [recreation], une anciene cité assyrienne, fondee au XIIIe siècle de Jésus Christ. [graphique de l'ordinateur]  Et aussi membres de ISIS destruisant des oeuvres dans le Musee de Mossoul. La terreur organisation mene une guerre contra la culture du Iraq selon antiquities iraquiennes responsables. L'ISIS considere les ancienes cutural objets d'art favorisent l'idôlatrie, une vue absurde et rejeteé par les musulmans orthodoxes*

*C'est une ironie de l'histoire, les Assyriens etaient consideres comme le fléau du Moyen-orient antique. En particulier L'Ancien Testament témoigne leur cruauté envers leur adversaires.

'Toontime: Netanyahu's Big Blow

credit: Jeff Darcy, Cleveland Plain Dealer
BC Idonwana axes: But can he beat Hillary?
Repugnants are so desperate to discredit the Obamatron's foreign policy that they imported a Jewish incendiary to give them a pep talk in Congress this week. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has always been a neocon darling as the cartoon above demonstrates. Big power talks with the Iranians are making progress, and that is something the Zionists do not want at any cost, less their nuclear monopoly be disturbed. 'Bibi' even implied in his speech to Congress that Israel would act alone to prevent Iran from going nuclear. The Iranian foreign minister accused Netanyahu of attempting to create "hysteria" and "fear mongering". The trophy of peace in the Middle East rests on three pillars: settlement of the protracted Israel-Palestine partition, an end to the Syrian civil war that includes disarmament of the militias, and a peaceful nuclear deal with Iran. Netanyahu is attempting to knock that one over before it gets erected. Iran has not committed aggression against a neighbor in living memory. (Saddam Hussein attacked Iran in the 80's) One cannot say the same for the state of Israel!

credit: Rob Rogers
Wackydoodle axes: Y'all got the bomb, Bibi?

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Florida County Home of Primate Gulag

credit: UK Guardian
Some humans have amazing capacity for cruelty to other creatures. Often Nazi-like tortures are justified by claims of "scientific research". No legitimate science US Person is familiar with requires the torture of animals. A horrifying gulag for macaques and other primates held captive for laboratory exploitation has drawn international attention and outrage. Hendry County in Florida is sparsely populated so it is an ideal location to hide unspeakable mistreatment. Both the Animal Legal Defense Fund of California and the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection have filed suits to stop Primate "Products", Mannheimer Foundation, and PreLabs from breeding and selling macaques for research. An Ohio based group, Stop Animal Exploitation Now, has asked the US Department of Agriculture to take away Primate Product's license after a researcher reported three macaques died of electrocution. The complain is the second in the last year. A new facility holding up to 3200 macaques is planned to be constructed in addition to the three existing facilities. If built the county would have more captive monkeys than humans. Animal Legal Defense has sued to halt construction alleging the county's approval was given secretly in violation of Florida's sunshine law.

There is a movement among the scientific community to move away from primate sacrifice for research. Besides the obvious ethical issues, macaques carry diseases that are transmitable to humans including Ebola. Ebola outbreaks in US research facilities have been traced to captive macaques. Primates have escaped from labs and breeding facilities resulting in bites and other injuries to nearby humans. There have been protests at the facilities in which animal rights activists were arrested for trespassing. They get a day in court.  What recourse do the suffering monkeys have?

COTW: The Bust to Come

The deepest recession in the last half-century was caused by the "irrational exhuberance" of sub-prime debt creation. To correct the crisis, economies were expected to deflate. That was the rational expectation, but plutocrats being irrational animals despite their oversized brains, deflation has not occured. Look at this chart:

source: James Quinn @ marketoracle.co.uk
Most of the increase in global debt has been in the government sector because central banks have been monetizing private debt to prevent a total collapse of the world financial system. World debt as a percentage of world GDP is about 300% or three times the world's econmic capacity. It can never be paid back, so the plutocrats who control capital are looking for ways to screw the relatively impoverished. Ludwig von Mises, founder of the "Austrian School" of economics, wrote that an economic boom brought about by credit expansion will inevitably collapse if deleveraging is not sooner implemented. The charts shows credit expansion accross all sectors of finance. Households, which have attempted to pay off some of their debt has a decrease in debt growth over the pre-crisis level.

This chart shows the relationship between US GDP and net worth over the past forty-five years. It was fairly steady prior to the dot.com mania and Federal Reserve bubble creation. After each boom, a correction (read recession) took place. Absent a massive increase in GDP (unlikely) the unsustainable ratio will once again revert to the norm.

source: zerohedge.com

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Creature Feature: The Real "Teddy Bear" We All Love

Perhaps no other mammal has been the beneficiary of such intense conservation efforts as the Giant Panda bear. Ailuropoda melanoleuca has become a world symbol of wildlife conservation, and China has expended considerable effort and money to recover the species. Of course a country that has been ecologically devastated by mega development projects and that has tolerated an obscene trade in endangered animal parts has extracted considerable positive propaganda from its panda recovery program. Nevertheless, thirty years of effort are meeting with success in the wild. Chinese authorities report in their fourth giant panda survey supported by World Wildlife Fund there are now 1,864 pandas living in the wild. That is a 16.8% increase over the decade. The population gains are made possible by an 11.8% increase in the panda's geographic range since 2003. There are currently 67 panda reserves in China, the only home of the black and white bear. The reserves benefit other endangered species such as the golden snub-nosed monkey, the red panda and serow; they also provide major freshwater conservation which benefits China's huge human population. WWF's senior vice-president for wildlife conservation said the panda increase is a victory worth celebrating. The Giant Panda has been WWF's logo since its founding in 1961.

courtesy: WWF

Monday, March 02, 2015

Shellfish Threatened by Ocean Acidification

One effect of global warming that is not given enough reportage is ocean acidification. The effect of oceans absorbing more carbon dixoide is potentially more damaging than sea level rise because it impacts the bottom of the marine food chain. Acidification is responsible for mass die-offs of corals. Both corals and shellfish need carbonates in seawater to build their protective shells; higher acid levels dissolve carbonates. A recent study examined the effect on the long-term impact of acidification on the shellfish industry, a $1bn business in the United States. Shelled mollusks-oysters, clams and scallops--are extremely sensitive to changes in ocean pH.  Increased absorbtion of atmospheric CO₂ and waste dumping in the ocean that feeds algae blooms lower the ocean's acid-base balance measured by its pH level.

Mollusk harvests will decline in 15 of 23 coastal states studied. Massachusetts' Cape Cod region will be hit the hardest. Shellfishery there is a $300m a year business; in economically depressed New Bedford, 80% of its fishing revenue come from the harvest of sea scallop [photo]. The state allows 1,350 commercial fishing licenses annually. The states of Washington and Oregon only produce about $100m in direct sales of shellfish. State officials are aware of the economic ramafication of a decline in shellfish harvests, but little has been done to study the problem. Former Washington governor Christine Gregoire signed an executive order aimed at protecting the state's $270m industry. The recent study concludes that the economic impacts of acidification will be severe and broader than peviously thought.  Global warming: it's bad for business!

Red Fox Returns to Yosemite

The rare Sierra red fox (Vulpes vulpes necator)has apparently returned to Yosemite National Park. The first confirmed sighting in 100 years was captured by a motion-sensitive camera on December 12, 2014. It is believed that fewer than 50 of this fox species survive in the wild. Park officials are delighted that the red fox may be reclaiming lost territory. Biologists are monitoring a small population of foxes in the Sonora Pass area north of the Park. The first verified sighiting of that group came 2010, twenty years after the last sighting. It is possible a male left the Sonora group to establish a territory of his own. More data needs to be collected to make a definitive assessment. Researchers are deploying more cameras and snagging hair samples to determine its genome and compare it with the Sonora population. Yosemite is a vast park, first protected in 1864 and is home to 400 species of vertebrates, but many of once native carnivores such as the fox exist in depleted numbers because of man's persecution, trapping and hunting. The red fox is protected by the state of California since 1980 and is being considered for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act. Trapping was banned in 1974, but the animal suffered near extinction because of their luxurious fur. Historically, the red fox ranged throughout the Sierra Nevada mountains, but perhaps not in large numbers due to competition with larger preditors.