Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Fukushima's "Hail Mary"

credit: NYT
It has been some time since US Person wrote about the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, {17.05.11} but that certainly does not mean the crisis is fully under control.  After the triple meltdown caused by a large earthquake and subsequent tsunami five years ago, Japan's government still struggles to contain the threat of huge amounts of radioactive wastewater reaching the ocean or permeating into the earth.  The reactor site is now covered with a thousand 95 foot tall tanks containing 800 tons of radioactive waste water. [photo]  The chosen solution to the problem is a high-tech one that is costing the government $320 million.  A network of underground pipes will freeze the earth around the reactors to prevent leaks and form a dam to stop groundwater from reaching the radioactive hulks.
The alleged solution seems appropriate for a country that has completely embraced technological wizardry as a cultural modus operandi.  But the so-called "ice wall" has been criticized as an overly complex project that might not even work.  Those concerns were justified when plant owner TEPCo switched on a portion of the barrier four months ago and the earth around the pipes has yet to freeze solid.  Since the wall is electrically powered it is potentially as vulnerable as the reactors proved to a forty-five foot tsunami that caused a complete loss of station power.  Super-cooled brine circulates in the pipes that are intended to freeze the earth solid for a foot and half around each pipe. The wall consists of over 1500 pipes that are cooled by thirteen giant refrigerators that consume enough electric energy to light 13,000 Japanese homes every year.

Groundwater infiltration is a difficult problem at Fukushima because of local geology and how the company cut into bedrock in order to site the plant close to the sea, its source of cooling water.  The bedrock is permeable and collects snow and rain runoff from the nearby Abukuma Mountians.  Reactor explosions have apparently cracked the containment building foundations, allowing forty thousand gallons of water a day to infiltrate and become contaminated.  The flooding prevents engineers from locating massive lumps of melted fuel rods and their assemblies believed to have penetrated steel reactor floors when it was super hot from uncontrolled fission.  Five robots have been lost searching the highly radioactive ruins.

Critics of the construction call it a "flashy" solution to a problem that TEPCo underestimated from the beginning of the disaster.  The technique of freezing the earth has been used before in mines and tunnels, but never on this scale.  Buried obstacles make the ice wall more of sieve than a barrier say critics, so this massive technical virtuosity may be more of a "hail Mary play" than a real fix.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Dark Side of Ecotourism: The Batwa of Uganda

Mount Muhabura, credit: T. Trenchard
Uganda can now boast of a thriving tourism industry as animal lovers from all over the world flock to the Virunga volcanoes [photo] to catch a glimpse of the iconic mountain gorillas that live there.  The trade amounts to $34 million a year, no small change in a country still recovering from the effects of a devastating genocide and the insanity of Idi Amin.  Of the $800 a foreign tourist pays for the privilege of trekking to the gorillas' home forest, only $8 of that goes to local development, but nothing directly to the Batwa, the famous "pygmy" tribe of the central African rainforest.  An elder interviewed by the BBC said he thinks the Ugandan government cares more about the gorillas than helping his displaced people, forced to abandon their traditional forest homes to make space for the gorillas.  Gorillas, since they are intelligent primates, are extremely sensitive to man's presence, and Uganda wildlife authorities says the Batwa's eviction two decades ago has resulted in increased gorilla population.  Although the Batwa did not hunt the gorillas, their snares and traps posed a danger.

a Batwa hut on the volcanic plains, credit: A. D'Unienville
To the Batwa, first evicted by British colonial authorities from forest reserves they established, the forest is everything.  It provided them with plentiful and various foods--meat, honey, fruits--skins to keep them warm in the cold, rainy climate, and medicines to treat their illnesses and wounds.  The spirits of their ancestors protected them in their forest homes.  That culture has disappeared.

Batwa child lives in squalor, credit A. D'Unienville
The Batwa were moved out without compensation to cleared lands and villages where they feel completely lost.  As hunter-gatherers in a rich ecosystem, Batwas know little about cultivation or stock herding.  They have a deep desire to return to their ancestral forest home.  A UN aid worker says their cultural disruption, has made them completely dependent on the state for aid.  The three to seven thousand remaining Batwa live in abject poverty and their child mortality rate is very high.  Some try to scrape a living from agricultural labor which is poorly paid; others attempt to live off the booming tourist trade by dressing in fake skins and dancing for tourists.  It is a demeaning spectacle that has very little authentic content.  This story line is a familiar path trod by animal species marginalized by man' greed, but now it his happening to his own in Uganda.  The Batwa, their homes taken away for a good purpose, deserve help from their government and they should get it.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Frigatebirds Sleep While Flying

Scientists have recently determined that frigatebirds (Frigata magnificens), those acrobatic thieves of the tropical oceans, actually sleep while flying.  This explains in part how these birds are able to fly over vast expanses of water without landing.  Their feathers are not waterproof, so resting on the ocean's surface is not an option.  Frigatebirds can stay aloft for up to two months!  That is an impressive feat in itself, but hardly the record for avian aviation.  The Alpine Swift holds the record for longest recorded time in the air, an amazing 200 days as it hunts insects over West Africa, its winter range.  The albatross is also an accomplished long distance flyer, able to circle the globe in just forty-six days.  How these birds managed to accomplish such energetic feats of endurance was a mystery, but scientists suspected the birds are somehow able to sleep on the wing.  A study published this month in Nature Communications provides the hard data to support this hypothesis.

The frigatebirds on the Galapogos Islands are habituated to humans by now, so they are easy to capture for study.  Neils Rattenborg of the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology and his colleagues went there and captured fifteen birds in the interests of science.  Miniature electroencephalographs were implanted in the birds skulls that relayed brainwave activity to recorders.  From this data researchers could determine if the birds was asleep or fully awake.  An implanted accelerometer also told the researchers if the bird was moving or at rest.  What they found is even more stunning than the old lore about albatrosses being able to eat, drink and mate on the wing, landing only to lay their eggs

Frigatebirds sleep in short bursts of ten seconds throughout a day for a total of only 45 minutes while airborne over water.  On land they sleep an average of 12 hours each day.  While sleeping on the wing, frigatebirds do not completely shut down their brains.  Just as dolphins do, they keep half of their brains active apparently to avoid mid-air collisions.  Frigates are also careful to confine their sleep patterns to ascents on warm air thermals.  When descending they are wide awake.   Humans experience something similar when they have difficulty sleeping in unfamiliar surroundings like hotel rooms.  The brain does not completely shut off as an evolutionary adaptation against predators.  What research such as this shows is the importance and necessity of sleeping in general.  Even the great polymath Leonardo DaVinci allegedly slept 90 minutes a day in fifteen minute bursts every four hours.

Friday, August 26, 2016

'Toontime: Influence R Us

credit: Michael Ramirez
BC Idonwanna sez: You get'em fries at meeting, too!

As US Person, aka 'the Lawyer from Hell', predicted earlier, the national political discourse has degenerated into a nasty intramural exchange of "gotchas"and tweets from the twit. There is precious little sober debate of policy issues. This week a Repugnant legislator named Hillary Clinton a "serial liar". The latest email drip from them shows Madam Secretary exchanging meetings for donations to the Clinton Foundation. AP reports its review of email records shows more than half of non-government people, 85 out of 154, meeting in person or telephone conferencing with the Secretary of State donated to the Clinton charity, a remarkable percentage. This revelation is reminiscent of her husband peddling the White House's Lincoln bedroom in return for political donations.  Where there is smoke, there is indication of a fire, Madam Secretary.

This extreme, and probably unethical, level of influence peddling is nothing new for the Clintons. But it does demonstrate how skewed toward the rich and corporate American national politics has become.  Clinton will make two public appearances between August 20th and August 31st, but will make 54 fundraising appearances where the minimum donation is $27,000 for many of the events.  She will jet to such wealthy enclaves as East Hampton, Long Island and Martha's Vineyard, MA to meet and greet. In return, the Money Power is showering the Clinton campaign with cash, substantially out-fundraising her opponent.  Trump spent only $18.4 million in July, while Clinton spent a whopping $38 million. Clinton outspent Trump four to one in June.  Her list of contributors is a who's who of plutocratic America: George Soros, Michael Bloomberg, Meg Whitman, Tim Cook, "Magic" Johnson, Tom Steyer and Halm Saban to name only a few.  Democracy is dead in 21st century 'Merica, and Wall Street done hauled it away;  its too far, far away to Proxima Centuri.

 credit: Clay Bennett
Wackydoodle sez:  I hear he twits Putin regular like!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Sarawak Preserves More Habitat

The Malaysian island state of Sarawak is fulfilling its promise to establish new protected areas including all of its remaining orangutan habitat. {12.11.09, The Terrible Cost} As readers know, the orangutan is under severe pressure from habitat destruction and fragmentation.  The state announced it will open a Department of Parks and Wildlife by January and designate 1.1 million acres of new protected areas to add to its collection of 2.2 million acres of parks, reserves and sanctuaries.  Green kudos go to the state of Sarawak for its actions!

credit: AFP
Wildlife Conservation Society reports that Sarawak's population of orangutans has increased.  Some 1600 orangutans are living in Lanjak Etimau Wildlife Reserve, Ulu Sabuyua National Park and Sedilu National Park.  The new department will be responsible for stopping illegal hunting to supply the bush meat trade as well as administering the protected areas.  Palm Oil plantations also pose a threat to the survival of remaining primates.  Currently about 3.7 million acres of former rain forest have been brought under cultivation.  Plans are to limit new permits to established areas, land that has been logged or designated indigenous lands.  To aid in conservation efforts a research center has been established at Batang Ai National Park.


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Preditors Targeted in Colorado

Once again wild predators, such as cougars and bears, are being targeted by the state wildlife agency because they do not have the political courage to take on the Money Power that is the real cause of a decline in mule deer numbers.  Mule deer are far from threatened in Colorado with numbers exceeding 400,000.  But that level is below what the Parks and Wildlife Department has set as a exploitable goal.  Of course the state agency depends on generating revenue from the sale of hunting licenses and deer tags, and to tolerate a less than an optimum level demands a response.  Unable to take on agriculture, sprawl and energy development that gobbles up habitat, the agency is willing to scapegoat wild predators.   This is a cultural predilection that goes back to the 1800s when predators were exterminated as a consequence of human western migration.  Colorado is not alone in this misguided approach to conservation.  Oregon is killing sea lions and cormorants to save declining salmon populations, all the while ignoring the real causes of the salmon's demise--hydroelectric development and pollution.

Inevitably energy development harms mule deer populations.  Each well drilled requires roads, dump sites, pipelines, transmission lines, and clearance for operations all of which infrastructure fragments deer habitat.  In Colorado in 1989 there were 5000 oil and gas wells that number has boomed to 32,000 in 2014.  Much of the state's energy boom is concentrated in the northwest where the remaining habitat for large predators exists.  Study upon study has demonstrated that wild predators are rarely the cause of a species extinction because their numbers are controlled by a bio-feedback relationship with their prey.  When prey numbers decline, so do predator numbers.   It is the uncompensated externalities of man that upsets nature's delicate equilibrium.  No amount of artificial 'management'--such as killing predators--can ultimately solve the perceived problem.  Cougars and bears do not have lobbyists, but they should, because they are getting blamed for a problem they did not create.  Ultimately, it is man himself not predators that will put wildlife agencies out of business.

Monday, August 22, 2016

West and Central Lions Distinct Subspecies

Scientists at Leiden University, Netherlands have determined that lions in West and Central Africa are genetically distinct from their relatives in Eastern and Southern Africa.  The split between the three major populations [map] is estimated to have occurred 300,000 years ago.  To explain the genetic differences, scientists have reconstructed the climatological history in Africa.  Expanding and contracting periods of suitable savannah habitat drove lions into isolated pockets where the genetic lineages were established and persist to the present day.  The identification of distinct genetic lineage in these lions increases the concern that they may be extiquished due to unsustainable losses from poaching, fewer prey animals, and habitat destruction. A delegation from Leiden will lead a "side show" at the IUCN congress in September to discuss its findings and contribute to the coordination funding of conservation projects.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Green Party Platform

The Greens are never going to be a national 'mainstream' party, but they can play an important role in national politics by moving center candidates towards more Earth-first policies; unless of course your name is The Donald, who is so committed to exploitative laissez-faire capitalism he thinks his clothing made in Asian sweatshops is making 'Merica great again. I mean the goon cannot speak a grammatically correct sentence--one Daily Kos commentator called his rambling utterances "word salads"--but US Person digresses. So just what do the Greens stand for, the reader may be wondering if he cannot bear to give his vote to the Wall Street Women's Front or the Fascistic Wharton School Nativist?  A brief run down:

  •  Global Warming--The Greens consider global climate change the "gravest peril" humanity has faced to date.  Not entirely an overstatement, if the worst scientific predictions of catastrophe come to be. The party platform calls for a forty percent reduction in CO₂ emissions by 2020 and a ninety-five percent reduction by 2050 in 1990 levels.  These are very stringent standards that are bound to have negative economic impacts.  Consider that California's goals, the most stringent in the nation, are a return to 1990 levels by 2020 and an eighty percent reduction in 1990 levels by 2050.   Jill Stein, the party's presidential candidate, calls for a WWII scale mobilization to convert the nation's economy to 100% alternative power by 2030.  That war mobilization consumed about 40% of the nation's GDP at its peak.  
  • Carbon Dioxide--A form of carbon taxation is supported by the most environmental party.  A fee, initially about $90 a ton, would be attached to each ton of carbon emitted; that price would go up based on global CO₂ emissions. The fee would double for using foreign sources of fossil fuels.  The party also supports a range of incentives for renewable energy use.
  • Nuclear Energy--Existing nuclear plants nearing their end of the design lives would be retired without replacement and within five years.  Nuclear wastes are to be stored above ground and constantly monitored.  About twenty percent of US power is produced by nuclear facilities.
  • Preserving Nature--Greens recognize that preserving natural landscapes is perhaps the best way to reduce the negative effects of global warming.  It supports the international Convention on Biodiversity which the US does not currently support over concerns about intellectual property rights in genetic engineering.  The Party wants more wildlife habitat to be protected and prohibits the economic exploitation of existing parks and refuges.  There would be no offshore drilling for oil.
Sound extreme? US Person, aka 'Injun Joe', thinks that in some details and deadlines the proposals are a bit extravagant from an economic perspective, but given the current direction of US environmental policy and the existential threat posed by climate change, Green Party policies are headed in the right direction.  The reader should know The Donald is definitely not green, but orange.

Friday, August 19, 2016

'Toontime: The New Debtor's Prison

credit: Jeff Stahler 
BC Idonwanna sez:  White man make slaves of everyone!
Consumer debt is now at an all-time post-war high as a percent of GDP. Non-mortgage debt is rising after the burst of the last economic bubble and non-mortgage debt that includes credit cards, medical bills, student loans and auto loans is also going up. The average credit card debt per household that owes is $16,000.  They also owe $27,000 for auto loans, and $169,000 for mortgages.  This chart shows the rise of the new debtor class:

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Machli, Queen of Rathambore, Dies

credit: Sandhip Sharma
India's most famous tigress, Machli, died at the age of 19 report Indian officials.  Machli was the icon of Rathambore National Park, attracting thousands of tourists every year.  She was famous for her strength; her struggle to the death with a 14 foot crocodile was caught on video.  As a dominant female she engaged in many ferocious tiger battles.  She apparently died of starvation after she stopped eating for several days.  Her body was found on the Park's border in northern Rajasthan State.  Tiger conservationists tried to assist her, but her death was deemed natural due to her advanced age.  She had slowed down in recent years and had lost most of her teeth.  Machli's death is headline news in India where her many admirers have taken to social media to express their sadness at her passing.

World tiger day last month celebrated some good news.  India's tiger population, half the world's remaining tigers, increased by 30%.  Machli contributed to that population increase in her advanced age, birthing nine cubs at age 17.  More than half of the tigers in Rathambore and Sariska Tiger Reserve are thought to be of her lineage.  Two of her cubs were airlifted to Sariska in 2008 to repopulate the reserve.  Machli was awarded a lifetime achievement award for her contribution to the local economy which benefited from a $10 million per year increase in tourist revenue for ten years.  She also received her own postal cover issued in September 2013.  Goodbye, great tiger, peerless in fight who burned so bright!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

33 States Have Polluted Drinking Water

A new study from Harvard says 33 states have public drinking water polluted with a class of toxic chemicals named polyfluoroakyl and perfluoroakyl or PFAS.  The study by two researchers from the Schools of Public Health and Applied Engineering shows levels of the two class of compounds exceed US EPA standards for drinking water (70ppt) in 194 of 4864 samples.  Exposure may be more widespread than the study indicates because government data on public drinking water contamination by PFAS is lacking for a third of the US population.  PFAS have been used in food wrapping and other consumer and industrial products because they impart fire, stain and water resistance properties for sixty years.  Long-chain PFAS are particularly resistant to degradation in the environment and bio-accumulate in wildlife and humans.  No surprise to US Person, these chemicals have been linked to cancer and their use stopped in manufacturing, yet the chemicals persist in the environment.  Another study showed that children chronically exposed to PFAS had lower that expected levels of antibodies against diphtheria and tetanus, diseases they had been immunized against. Wastewater treatment plants are unable to remove PFAS.  EPA has proposed a new rule requiring manufacturers to notify it ninety days before use of the compounds in resumed.  The study was published August 9th in Environmental and Technology Letters.

COTW: Ocean Plastic Is a Real Problem

This map shows the ocean gyres that concentrate collecting plastic waste in massive ocean dumping grounds. The waste is a threat to marine life and water quality. In some cases it can even pose a problem for navigation. In 2005 an entire Russian submarine was reported entangled in discarded fishing net off the Kamchatka coast.

Plastic pollution is estimated to increase six-fold in the future with single-use plastic items such as food packaging being the largest contributor to the waste steams which include nearly indestructible construction materials and durable consumer items such as appliances. Greenpeace says 267 marine species have suffered from entanglement or ingestion of plastic. Fifty to eighty percent of sea turtles found dead are known to have ingested plastic.

credits: GRID/Arendal
There is an international treaty to prevent dumping of plastic waste from ships at sea (MARPOL), but it does not cover the 80% of waste littering coast lines from onshore waste streams. Indonesia is the worst coastline litterbug; litter there covers 90% of the upper shore and strand in highly populated areas. WWF states that five countries in Asia are the worst plastic waste offenders.  If twenty countries would improve their mismanagement of solid waste, forty percent of the plastic waste stream entering the world's oceans could be stopped. The solution to this growing problem is to impose zero tolerance for ocean dumping and the conversion of consumer products away from non-degradable contents such as microbeads.  Clean-up of known collection sites around the world is also important.  The Northwest Hawaiian Islands, now a protected national monument, suffers contamination from derelict fishing gears deposited by the North Pacific Gyre.  Efforts to clean up the affected islands and associated waters have been made since the 1980's.  Research published in 2003 found 195 tons of derelict gear had been removed.

Friday, August 12, 2016

"Toontime: The New Normal

credit: Tim Campbell
BC Idonwanna sez: Me have rubber teepee for sale, cheap!

Presidential elections are not called 'silly season' for nothing, but honestly folks, this is ridiculous. Between the toxic fumes coming from Donald's orifice and Hillary's e-mail "short circuits" the 'Merican electorate is ready to don their hazmat suits!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

'Toontime: The Not So Healthy Economy

After six and a half years since the Great Recession, the country has recovered the jobs lost, but those gains are not enough to keep up with population growth as this chart from the Economic Policy Institute shows:

Only about sixty percent of the adult population is now employed, four percentage points below the January 2008 level. According to the conservative Hoover Institution the Great Recession did permanent damage to the US economy. Economic output is estimated to be 13% below its long-term trend, about 3.9% of which is due to a shortage of business capital. As Reinhart & Rogart have demonstrated with empirical data from around the world, advanced economies are heavily dependent on sophisticated financial systems and when they freeze up as they did in 2008 prolonged recessions and impaired economic growth are often associated*. You can thank Wall Street plutocrats for the new, substandard economy that not even his opulence, 'The Donald' can fix.

*This Time Is Different, 2009 p.173. 

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Nepal's Extinct Bird, Not

It took 178 years, but a group of bird-watchers discovered a Nepalese bird considered extinct. The bird was embarrassed about his absence because it is the red-faced liochichla (Liochichla phoenicea) declared by Australian Geographic to be locally extinct in the wild.  The birders responsible for the find were on ten day tour to Nepal.  The bird is widely distributed throughout Southeast Asia. These lesser 'resurrections' of species once considered extinct are not uncommon. About a third of mammals thought to be extinct have been rediscovered, thirteen of which are Australian natives.  For example a small population of Gilbert's potoroo, a marsupial that looks like a guinea pig with a long nose, was rediscovered in in Western Australia in 1994 after a hundred year absence.  Nevertheless, rediscoveries are important because they give scientists an opportunity to study a poorly known species, and perhaps intervene to help it survive in the wild. Nepal is home to 878 species of birds about twenty percent of which are threatened with extinction according to the London Zoological Society.

End of Death From the Air

Is 'Merica finally overcoming its more primitive impulses in the 21st century?  US Person doubts it, but some marginal indications are encouraging.  The US Fish Wildlife has banned the inhumane practice of hunting predators from the air on Alaska wildlife "refuges" it manages.  That rules change affects some 75 million acres of Alaska wild country, but not all of it.  The new rules also prevent killers from targeting mother bears denning with their cubs as well as trapping wolves and their pups.  Of course the killers are distraught about these animals increasing in number because they also prey on their favorite victims, moose and elk. Large carnivores play an important, scientifically established role in maintaining the balance of a healthy ecosystem.  Therefore in any conservation scheme that makes ethical sense, wild predators should always have priority over man's depredations for sport.  Despite the predictable resistance from the brave nimrods of Alaska, the FWS passed the rule changes in belated recognition that such brutal practices should never have been allowed on land designated a refuge for wildlife and that the state game commission is hopelessly captured by hunting interests and their economic dependents.  Opposition in Congress will continue, no doubt because of the Money Power. 

Saturday, August 06, 2016

'Toontime: Humpty Trumpty

The Donald's campaign for the oval room is as dysfunctional as the candidate.  Some prominent GOPers are so disgusted with his spontaneous antics that they are giving their support to the flip side, Clinton, Inc.  But is that a solution for anyone except the plutocrats?  US Person thinks not.  Only a viable third party can save 'Merica from its endless round of cartoon-like musical chairs that takes place between the major parties every four years.  Outsider Jill Stein running with the Green Party gets it:  "Its time to reject the lesser evil and fight for the greater good like our lives depended on it.  Because they do."--Kakistocracy, indeed!

credit RJ Matson, Roll Call
BC Idonwanna sez:  Me fix'em big omelette for Putin!

Friday, August 05, 2016

Earth Makes New Bad Records

The American Meterological Society, in its 26th peer-reviewed state of the climate report, says Earth has shattered records that indicate global warming is happening now.  Records for the temperature of the air and the upper ocean, sea levels, and extreme weather have all been shattered in 2015 according to a team of international climate scientists led by NOAA.

credit: UK Guardian
Last year's average surface temperature exceeded the 2014 record by 0.1℃.  The UN has already predicted 2016 will be even hotter with an intense El NiƱo event underway.  The oceans absorb 90% of atmospheric CO₂, but the oceans are also warming up and the expanding seawater has elevated sea levels to new highs.  The Arctic Ocean hit a crazy 8℃ above average temperature in August.  Oceans are rising 3.3mm per year with the greatest increases seen in the western Pacific.  Elevated sea levels contributed to the recorded extinction of an Australian rat when its Barrier Reef island home was inundated by seawater {27.06.16}.

The atmosphere hit the landmark 400ppm level of carbon dioxide in 2015 at the Mauna Loa research station in Hawaii.  The number of extreme weather events are also rising.  A severe heat wave in June 2015 killed over a thousand people in Karachi, Pakistan, and drought in Ethiopia caused threatening food shortages.  Intense bush fires in Indonesia filled the atmosphere with heat-trapping gases and particulates.  An algae bloom on the eastern coast of the US harmed wildlife and fisheries. Ellicott City, MD was nearly wiped out by a 1000 year flood event this year.  Greenland's annual ice cap melt started two weeks earlier; the cap is now melting over 50% of its surface adding to sea level elevation.  These symptoms of Earth's fever are too numerous to mention here, and the prognosis is clearly negative.   This conclusion is especially cogent when one considers 63% of 'Mericans are represented in Congress by 182 persons who are climate change deniers. Climate change denial is now the moral equivalent of denying the Holocaust.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Russia Rejects DNC Hack Accusations

Labeling it "unworthy" the Russian foreign ministry said the accusations against Russia by Clinton, Inc. that it hacked the DNC database were "empty election rhetoric" intended to cover-up domestic political intrigue.  The ministry spokesman said such demonizing was wrong and that Russia continues to want normal relations with the United States; it denies that official Russia agencies carryout cyber attacks.  The United States, however, stands accused of carrying out the first known cyber attack against a foreign nation with its Stuxnet computer worm intended to disrupt Iranian enrichment operations.  US Person thinks a nation has to be  normal first to have normal relations, and there is nothing normal about this US election cycle.  Kremlin backed television has tilted toward the narcissistic billionaire, however; President Putin apparently considers the Donald, "very talented". Birds of a feather, flock together of course.

COTW: Smell That Smell

When US Person supported marijuana law liberalization he did so to achieve three goals: one, reduce the number of citizens going to jail for marijuana violations; two, suppress the illegal market in a relatively harmless drug compared to opiates and alcohol; and three, provide a lucrative source of tax income for states. Now that several major states have rationalized their marijuana policies, the data is in. Cannabis is becoming big business. Here are two charts that tell the tale:

Marijuana is still on the federal hit list of controlled substances, so banks have been reluctant to transact business with marijuana growers, distributors and retailers less they endanger their federal certifications and eligibilities. But that is changing as more banks step up to provide banking services to a new and lucrative industry.

It is estimated by an industry paper that by 2020 cannabis could pump $44 billion annually into the US economy.  Fourteen more states are expected to either legalize recreational use or medicinal use in the near future.  California, Nevada and Massachusetts are expected to legalize recreational use in the upcoming November election.  To demonstrate how pervasive marijuana could become, cannabis plants will be displayed and judged at the Oregon State Fair along with the Pinot Noir grapes and grass seeds.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

New Species of Whale Confirmed

a drawing of the "raven" whale; AP
Japanese fishermen call them "ravens". They report seeing a black whale with a bulbous head and beaked jaw similar to a dolphin roaming the northern Pacific.  Scientists recently confirmed the existence of a new species of whale previously unknown. A paper was published by NOAA scientists describing the creature in the journal Marine Mammal Science.

Japanese researchers sampled the tissue of three beaked whales washed ashore on the northern coast of Hokkaido in 2013. After analyzing the samples and comparing them with 178 beaked whale specimens in NOAA's collection, the NOAA scientists determined the Japanese samples were genetically unique based on their mtDNA haplotype, backing the claim about the mysterious ravens uniqueness. A few examples of the raven whale were found in NOAA's search among the remains. A skull was found in 1948 in the Aleutians. Los Angeles County Museum has a specimen. A tissue sample was taken in 2004 from a beached whale in Unalaska before local students and teachers put the skeleton on display at the high school. An intact carcass was found on St. George's beach in Alaska's Pribilof Islands in 2014 prompting US scientists to undertake the molecular analysis.

The yet unnamed creature ( US thinks it should include the original Japanese name of karasu, or raven) is two-thirds the size of Baird's beaked whale which it resembles most. Karasu is a member of the genus Berardius which includes giant beaked whales. It travels in small groups, rarely surfaces, and is hard to locate. Japanese scientists are in the process of formally describing the creature and naming it for science.