Thursday, March 30, 2017

COTW: Bomber- in-Chief

Civilian casualties in Iraq have spiked sharply after Trump, the bomber in chief ordered more aggressive air strikes in Mosul to aid the Iraqi forces retaking the city.  According to the New York Times, 200 civilians were killed in the recent round of airstrikes.  In one bombed building alone, 100 civilians perished on March 17th.  The Air Force Times reports over 2000 bombs have been dropped on the city by imperial forces in the past month.  Irony is lost on the civilian victims, of course, but it is worth noting here that the US severely criticized Russia for its aggressive use of air power in Syria's civil war which caused hundreds of civilian casualties, but contributed to the retaking of Aleppo from the rebels.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Trump Promotes Fossil Fuel Burning

In the face of the obvious effect fossil fuel burning is having on the global climate, President Trump signed an executive order rescinding Obama's Clean Power Plan that was intended to bring the United States into compliance with the goals set in Paris for reducing carbon emissions. During his campaign he vowed to take 'Merica out of the Paris climate treaty.  Repeating the false and misleading corporatist claim that carbon regulations "kill jobs" he signed the executive order before a group of white male coal miners.  The Clean Power Plan is unpopular with companies who rely on fossil fuel and Republican states who have challenged the regulations in court.  The conservative Supreme Court has enjoined portions of the regulatory scheme while lower courts decide the cases brought to them.

During the signing ceremony Trump said the previous administration "devalued workers".  In 2015 Trump called climate change a "hoax". It is a fact that more US workers are now employed in alternative energy production than fossil fuel production.  Environmentalists who worked diligently to achieve the Paris climate treaty are enraged and vow legal action of their own.  But that tactic plays into the hands of the climate deniers, whose only goal is to delay all regulations intended to replace fossil fuels for as long as they can.  The man's bombast boggles the rational mind.  US Person understands that politicians prevaricate for a living, but the Trumpster has set new standards of deceit in just his first three months in office.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Ring Tailed Lemur Now on Edge of Extinction

The iconic ring-tailed lemur (Lemur cattus) perhaps the most well-known member of a large genus inhabiting the island nation of Madagascar is living on the edge of extinction in the wild according to a new study of the animal's population.  According to the study published in Primate Conservation, only 2,000 to 2,400 ring-tails now remain in the wild.  The study confirms the catastrophic decline in their numbers observed by other scientists and due mainly to loss of forest habitat and the bush meat trade.  The population crash maybe as high as 95% since 2000.  Fragmentation of their forest homes are isolating small groups which prevents out breeding and contributes to the decline in genetic health of the species. Ring-tails are highly social primates living in female dominated groups averaging 17 members.

This situation is especially alarming since ring-tails are the most adaptable of lemur species.  More specialized lemurs such as the indri and safakas will find it increasingly difficult to survive in what remains of natural Madagascar.  Over 90% of the island natural tree cover is gone, and what hangs on is degraded and fragmented.  Humans have occupied the island since at least the first century CE.  Madagascar separated from mainland Africa millennia ago, so many of its wild creatures are endemic including the 106 species of lemur, 17 of which have gone extinct since the arrival of humans.  The human population of the island is thought to be in excess of 25 million, 85% of which live in poverty and are dependent on subsistence farming.  More and more land is being cleared to support a human population level that is increasingly unsustainable.   The lemur's future on the planet is in the hands of island's human inhabitants.  Fortunately, lemurs do relatively well in captivity, reproduce regularly, and can live to thirty years of age compared to twenty years for wild lemurs.

Friday, March 24, 2017

'Toontime: Explaining President "Twit"

credit: Kevin Siers, Charlotte Observer

Wackydoodle sez: When 'Mericans elected him, they all didn't mean it!

A siren should go off at the Trump Mansion (formerly 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW) when Trump says something he really, really means so 'Mericans can know the difference between his throwaway agitprop and his policy pronouncements.  After four years of this, not even the white supremecists that voted for him will believe anything the White House says.  In the biggest test of his credibility so far, his colleagues in the Congress failed to muster enough votes to repeal Obamacare, a major tenant of their so-called policy reforms.  The fact is that conservative hard-liners (the House Freedom Caucus) refused to support any kind of legislation that involved federal intervention into the dysfunctional profit market for health insurance.  Obamacare with all of its faults will be with us for "the foreseeable future" thanks to deal-maker in chief's failure to make a deal.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

COTW: Historic Spending for EPA

While the Trump administration intends to ramp up defense spending, it also intends to slash spending for environmental protection, revealing once again is corporatist agenda for 'Merica.  This chart shows that EPA's budget as a percentage of total federal spending has been relatively flat since the halcyon days of the late seventies under President Jimmy Carter.

The following pie chart shows the relative amounts of discretionary federal spending in 2012.  Note the lion's share going to defense (57%) compared to the slender blue wedge spent on natural resources and the environment:
Added testament to the Trump government's motto of profits before the planet is his decision to resurrect the environmentally disastrous Keystone XL Pipeline that the previous administration decided to cancel. The pipeline would carry 800,000 barrels a day of climate wrecking tar sands crude from Alberta to US refineries. Insult to injury is his threat to take the United States out of the landmark Paris climate agreement.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Amazon Tree Frog Glows in Dark

Scientists have located the first known fluorescent frog in the Amazon.  Poka-dot tree frogs are an unremarkable brown-green with reddish spots in daylight, but glow a bright blue-green under ultraviolet light. [photo credit: New Scientist]  Researchers at the Natural Science Museum in Buenos Aires discovered the fluorescence while studying the frog's pigmentation. Their discovery is reported in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences10.1073/pnas.1701053114,  Fluorescence increases the frog's visibility at dusk by 30% and is thought to play a role in communication since the fluorescent compounds in the frog's skin emit light frequencies the frogs can detect visually.  This particular characteristic is known in other species  (corals, scorpions and parrots), but no one has thought to look for it before in the world's 5000 frog species.  It's unlikely that the poka-dot is the only one that shines.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Creature Feature: Buffalo Return to Wind River

Watch this sensitive video about the return of buffalo to the Shoshone Wind River Reservation after 131 year absence. Each buffalo returned to rightful place in Nature is a victory for all of us.

'Toontime: Make America Blighted Again

credit: RJ Matson
Wackydoodle sez:  Ol' Watt jis swapped ends!

Remember the Love Canal? It contained so much toxicity it actually turned the nearby plants and grass black, and caused human birth defects and miscarriages among those living in its proximity  It became a symbol of industrial poisoning, and fostered the environmental justice movement. If Trump has his way, America's declining beauty and public health will be degraded once more after several decades of environmental progress under administrations from both parties. Trump's man at the EPA, Scott Pruitt, is a self-confessed polluter and climate change denier.  He wants to role back tailpipe emission standards, and his right-wing constituency wants him to revoke California's authority to set its own, more strict, regulations. Fortunately, the chances of revoking the waiver authority under the Clean Air Act surviving a Democratic filibuster are low. This is just the beginning a renewed onslaught on America's natural heritage and the planet in the name of profit.

Meanwhile, the corporate mass media's attention is being expertly diverted by "The Wacky Trump Horror Show" going on in Washington. The latest: Trump cites a Fox News commentator for the proposition that British intelligence (GCHQ) was responsible for the electronic surveillance allegedly ordered by Obama. The man is a superfund site of trash talk.  

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Second Malheur Trial Over

The second trial of defendants involved in the Malheur Refuge take over ended in a mixed and confusing group of verdicts [see verdict sheet].  The trials of the Bundy brothers and their co-conspirators has been wrapped in the controversial right-wing movement known as the "Sagebrush Rebellion", a loose mob of western state-rightists and white supremacists. The verdicts in the two trials are logically inconsistent, evidence of the politics involved in their prosecution.  Ammon Bundy, a visible leader of the take-over was found not guilty of felony conspiracy by a federal jury in October yet his side-kicks, Darryl Thorn and Jason Patrick, were found guilty of the same charge based on the same evidence. {14.02.17} The certain development from these prosecutions is that the "Rebellion" has found both heroes and martyrs to motivate their continued armed opposition to federal supremacy.

Monday, March 13, 2017

COTW: Oceans Warming Faster Than Expected

This chart shows the alarming rate at which the Earth's oceans are warming.  The researchers said that it is 13% more than estimated by the UN's climate panel and has doubled since 1992.  Thermal expansion accounts for 50% of the rise in sea levels.  The study is published in a peer reviewed journal by NOAA, the Chinese Academy of Science, and St. Thomas University.  Data was obtained from a network of 3,000 floating robotic floats that measure temperature and salinity down to a depth of 2000 meters.  In some areas the increased temperature is causing a dense layer of oxygen-poor surface that affects plankton, which is at the base of the aquatic food chain.  Also, some of the oceans most-consumed human seafood such as tuna inhabits lower depths wear the water was cooler than it is now.  Some species have been detected moving their habitat range an average of fifty miles north since 1960.

Canada's Supreme Court Says Trump Lied

Its becoming increasingly obvious to still sane 'Mericans that their Current Occupant is challenged by the truth.  When the Supreme Court of Canada rules the same conclusion in a case filed by investors against Trump, we should knoq we have a problem.  The high court refused to review a decision by Ontario's Court of Appeal last year that Trump and a real estate development sold two small investors units of Trump International Hotel under false pretenses.  They were promised returns ranging from 7.7% to 20.9%.  They lost a combined C$1.2.  The sixty-five story tower is in the heart of Toronto's financial district and is managed by the Trump Organization.

The review justices found that the cornerstone of the fraud was a document given the investors labeled "estimated return on investment" upon which they relied in making their decision to invest their money, some of which was borrowed from family members.  The justices found that the document was "repleat with misrepresentations of commission, omission, and of half-truth."  

Friday, March 10, 2017

'Toontime: Making Sausage of Healthcare

credit: Rick McKee, Augusta Chronicle
BC Idonwanna sez:  Better to kill patient!
Obamacare, as the Affordable Health Care Act is derisively known was intended by the insurance lobby to head off efforts to finally pass socialized healthcare. It was doomed not to work from the start. Now, the Repugnants, who basically adhere to a modified form of Darwinism, have got their hands on what is admittedly a broken system. Their solution is: more of the same, but not so much. AARP (American Association for Retired Persons) has done some math on what is being proposed to replace Obamacare.  For older and less affluent persons, the cost of health insurance will rise dramatically.  A 55 year old making $25,000 a year would pay $3600 more for coverage.  A 64 living near the poverty level would spend $8400 more  of his meager annual income on health insurance.  The added expense will motivate poor 'Mericans to forego insurance all together since the penalties for not having insurance are reduced.  This situation will increase health costs and risks which will in turn prompt insurance companies to raise insurance premiums. The death spiral resumes.  Watching Washington make mincemeat out of health care is enough to put a person off pay for play government permanently.*

*Trump's Mar-a-Lago golf resort increased member dues from $100,000 to $200,000 per year after Trump ascended to office.  Members are encouraged to give suggestions and comments to the President.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

COTW: US No Longer Land of Free Press

One would think that the United States would be at the top of this chart, but it shows US slipping into a miserable 41st place among the Earth's nations in press freedom behind the UK.  Finland, of all places, tops the chart of relative press freedom.  The NGO, Reporters Without Boarders, publishes a yearly ranking of 180 countries after considering such factors pluralism, transparency, independence, infrastructure and censorship:

A disturbing phenomenon of the decline in respect for reliable journalism is the "fake news" flooding the ether [see below].  Trump is contributing to the confusion with his impulsive early morning twits, such as the one in which he claimed Obama ordered telephone surveillance of him during the election. Obama's director of national intelligence categorically denied there was any such alleged wiretapping.  US Person wonders if Trump composes this stuff while relieving himself on the toilet?

faked news photo circulating on Net

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Rhino Shot Dead in Paris Zoo

Poachers will do anything to obtain rhino horn that is more valuable than gold, including poaching captive zoo animals.  That is exactly what happened in Thoiry, southwest of Paris.  Zookeepers found Vince, a white rhinoceros [photo credit: Domaine de Thoiry] dead from a gunshot wound in his enclosure on Tuesday.  His large horn had been removed with a chain saw.  The poachers forced their way through a grill and two locked doors into his enclosure on Monday night. Vince's smaller horn was also partially cut which leads officials to conclude that his attackers did not have time to remove it.  Horn is valued at 30-40,000 Euros, and there is an established trade network between France and Asia. Two other rhinos, Gracie (37) and Bruno (5) were left unharmed.  Vince was a popular inmate at the Zoo, and his caretaker is extremely upset by the "barbaric" death of his charge.   As the number of wild rhinos continue to decrease, this type of desperate crime by professional criminals will be come more common.  There are only an estimated 21,000 white rhinos remaining, mostly in South Africa and Uganda.  Both countries are facing a plague of poaching atrocities.

Monday, March 06, 2017

UN Lauches Campaign to Reduce Plastic Waste

US Person has told you about the immense amount of plastic waste that is slowly killing marine wildlife and polluting the oceans {17.08.16}.  The UN announced at an ocean conference in Bali a campaign to eliminate some categories of plastic waste in five years. It will focus on single use plastic items such as packaging and micro-plastics used in cosmetics.  Eleven countries including Indonesia, the world's worst litterbug, have signed on to reduce plastic waste.  Indonesia has pledged to slash plastic waste 70% by 2025. Dell Corporation, makers of computer products, will begin using recycled plastic retrieved from the sea around Haiti for packaging.

Most plastics do not break down in seawater, so it is ingested by birds, fish and marine mammals leading to illness and starvation.  Plastic chemicals have entered the marine food chain and are eventually consumed by humans.  Humans produce twenty times more plastics than they did in 1960.  By 2050 plastic production will have to grow 3 to 4 times current levels to keep up with population growth.  About 30% of plastic is used for product packaging according to the UN.  The UN effort is belated and consists for now of public relations and media events.  When humans will get around to collecting their polluting trash remains to be seen, meanwhile Earth suffers from their collective lack of responsibility for their commerce.

Friday, March 03, 2017

Elephant Refugees Face Mob

credit: Aditya Chandra Panda.
A prime example of the plight of elephants in overpopulated India is taking place in the state of Orissa.  A herd of twenty-five [photo] is trapped in small patches of forest in Athgarh, a heavily populated area.  Human mobs gather when the elephants leave the forest patches in the evening to forage for food.   They are force to consume what ever they can find including crops which inevitably  brings them into conflict with homo sapiens.  The mobs harass the elephants and pelt them with stones forcing them back into the trees.  Humans as well as elephants have died in the conflict.  A wildlife official called them "giant refugees" since their forest home has largely been destroyed by human agriculture.  The herd originally lived in the Chandaka-Dampara Wildlife Sanctuary.  The protected area had a population of ninety elephants in 2001, in 2014 there were only eight remaining in the sanctuary.  The Athgarh herd was unforntunate as it did not reach the relative safety of remnant forest.  Migrating elephants have to navigate a confusing and frightening patchwork of roads, settlements, and industry to reach safety.  This situation is occurring all over India.  Mongabay has a video of the  homeless elephants facing an angry mob.

Even more regrettable is that harassing homeless elephants and their calves has become a past-time with bored humans.  Sometimes the torment can go on for hours.  Wildlife advocates want the Chandaka-Dampara sanctuary restored to these intelligent animals who have no where else to go.  Connectivity with other protected areas also needs to be established and improved.  Official response to the problem has been nil until now.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

COTW: Too Sexy For Money

Many times US Person has had to deny he is a goldbug, but the arguments against a fiat money system by those who are, he finds persuasive.  What he actually supports is a system of publicly owned state banks organized into regional reserve centers who collectively, through a committee headed by a presidential appointee, would set monetary policy to replace the privately controlled Federal Reserve system.  In any event, what follows is a chart showing one of the mechanisms the Federal Reserve uses to protect the current fiat system.  When the United States unhooked the dollar from its official gold peg of $35/oz in 1971, central banks feared an insatiable run on gold that would cause its price to explode.  Consequently they began dumping reserves of physical gold on the market and created a number of paper gold investments (gold leasing, gold derivatives, etc.)  In short, gold became too valuable to be used as money.  The IMF estimated in 2008 that 40-50% of gold price moves were related to related to the dollar.

That trend reversed in 2009 indicating that gold is once again undervalued in the market.  Many arrogant investors think gold is an outdated relic unworthy of serious consideration as a source of wealth.  US Person advises you to think again.  If gold is so worthless, why do central bankers spend so much time, effort and dollars manipulating the market?  The chart below shows the strong negative correlation between gold price and dollar value.  Gold is the other money.  If the global, digitized fiat money system ever fails (it came close in 2008-09) you will be glad you have gold in your pocket.