Saturday, September 30, 2017

'Toontime: We Do'in Nee' No Stinkin' Regulations!

credit: Monte Wolverton
BC Idonwanna sez: Build wall 'round New Orleans first!

This is the obvious problem with an anti-government demagogue like Trump: they refuse regulation of a socially outmoded economy until a natural disaster, war, or some other public emergency forces them to confront the fact that corporations only exist for their private profit. Then, it is largely too late. That is unless you can make money off another neocolonial war!

Chief Little Finger hustling votes in the Big Easy

Friday, September 29, 2017

Cholera In Puerto Rico?

A cholera outbreak after Hurricane Maria blew away Puerto Rico's infrastructure--an estimated 90% are without power and 44% without clean water--is a distinct possibility according to a study published in 2008.  Nontoxic strains of Vibrio cholerae bacteria [photo] are endemic in some Puerto Rican waterways.  The island suffered a major outbreak of cholera in 1855-56. The paper predicted that cholera could become a disease epidemic given the "perfect storm".  The Dean of Tropical Medicine at Baylor University said this week hurricanes Irma and Marie were those perfect storms.  Marie came ashore as category 4 and flattened the island with 155 mph winds and massive storm surge.

A breakdown of sanitation services and other infrastructure increases the likelihood that the viral pathogen could be transmitted to non-toxic cholera strains.  The disease, which causes uncontrolled diarrhea, can be treated with re-hydration and antibiotics, but that  prolonged course is problematic in disaster zones.  Significantly, a cholera vaccine is not part of the United States strategic stockpile of vaccines since cholera is considered a "third world" disease.  Hot weather and stagnant storm waters contribute to other diseases like Zika and dengue feverA 77 year-old woman in Miami died of flesh-eating bacteria after she fell into contaminated flood waters left by Harvey.

The distracted and befuddled Trump, who is obsessed with hard hits, flattery, and NFL players who refuse to stand for the national anthem in protest of endemic racism, took eight days to dispatch a US Navy hospital ship to aid 3.4 million American citizens who are without water, electricity, food and shelter.  The same ship was dispatched in four days when Haiti was devastated by the 2010 earthquake.  There was no cholera on Haiti either, until a Nepalese aid worker brought it to the island.  The sad truth is Puerto Rico is a territory, not a state, that mean-spirited politicians like Trump can afford to ignore*, and even blame them, for a natural disaster that has disrupted their lives.

a third world island: Puerto Rico after Maria

*Trump initially denied full federal assistance to the island and refused to suspend the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, or Jones Act, that has for nearly a century strangled commerce to and from Puerto Rico. That act is a vintage piece of colonial administration wherein the territorial possession is expected to return a profit to the colonial master, not cost the home country money.  President Roosevelt I, an imperialist to the core, presided over the heyday of America's overseas empire.  He observed, "Puerto Rico is not large enough to stand alone. We must govern it wisely and well, primarily in the interest of its own people".

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Rhino Horn Traffickers Use New Tricks

Smuggling rings of Chinese origin are resorting to new methods to get rhino horn out of Africa.  Instead of transporting horns and pieces of horn that are more easily detected, the criminals are manufacturing jewelry and trinkets in southern Africa. A new report by the NGO, Traffic, which monitors the illegal trade says the new practice makes detection much more difficult. It also may mark a change in the consumer demand for rhino horn.  Instead of its perceived value for medicinal purposes (aphrodisiac) wearing it is a social status symbol. 

Only a fraction of horn traffickers are caught.  Traffic says that between 2010 and 2016 about five tons of horn was seized by authorities, yet 6,661 rhinos were officially reported dead due to poaching during the same time period which represents 37 tons reaching the black market.  Seizures are regarded as a tax or cost of doing business by smugglers who adapt quickly to enforcement efforts.  Only 25,000 rhinos remain in the African wild.  Time is running out for the "good guys" to adapt too by eliminating red tape and increasing inter-agency cooperation.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

COTW: Merkel Still in Power, Barely

The xenophobic Alternative for Germany Party made substantial inroads into Angela Merkel's ruling majority after Germany's parliamentary election on Monday. Like the Conservative Party in England, Merkel's CDU/CSU will be forced to cobble a coalition government as its rival major party, Social Democrats (SPD), chose opposition over renewing a coalition with the Christian Democrats. Her party is far apart from the potential partners, the Greens and Free Democrats, on several major issues. The charts shows Germany's swing to the populist right:

Two of Germany's major corporations, Siemens and Volkswagen, expressed concern with the election results through their CEOs. Merkle's immediate task is to shore up confidence in the German economy as the euro dropped on news of the election results. Coalition building will take months and the alt-right party, which ran primarily on the issue of immigration, promises to be difficult to handle. No other German party will work with the fractious new-comers to the Bundestag.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

'Toontime: Ave, Ave Emperator!

credit Adam Zyglis, Buffalo News
BC Idonwanna sez: Him called Chief Little Finger.
Once again the bombastic White House occupant proves why he is unfit for the world's most powerful office. In his United Nations speech, he insulted the dictator of now nuclear North Korea, known to be sensitive to personal attacks, calling him a "suicidal rocket man". Kim Jung Un riposted with a few choice words, calling Trump a "deranged dotard". The world expects more of the leader of the 'free world' and they certainly did not get it from Trump; he has, in fact, brought it much closer to nuclear war. Trump's threat to "totally destroy" North Korea in a forum dedicated to world peace is beyond ironic it is revealingly criminal. As one commentator wrote, "It is the American Way." Vietnam was prologue to that fact, regardless of any and all revisionist propaganda peddled as "history" on television¹.

It is only a matter of time (six to eight months) before the North Korean regime is technically able to deliver a nuclear warhead to mainland USA. If a pre-emptive strike is made by the United States, it is unreasonable to expect China to simply sit by as its client state is reduced to radioactive ashes. When war broke out on the peninsula in 1950 after military incursions by the US-supplied South², China joined the conflict. Both sides will "pay dearly" if war reignites on the peninsula.

The exchange of derogatory personal remarks has made diplomacy all the more difficult. Trump was warned by his aides to refrain from such personal attacks in his speech; the vetted version did not contain ad-lib vile name-calling. As President Putin succinctly put it, "they would rather eat grass" than give up their weapons now. There may not be any grass to eat, if the Emperor continues to pander to his white supremacist base.

1.The US waged imperial war on Southeast Asia for thirteen years killing upwards of 5 million in an futile effort to exterminate a popular movement of national liberation from colonial oppression. The means were often atrociously cruel and included massacre, carpet bombing, assassination, free-fire zones, and chemical weapons. It was a monumental crucifixion of an impoverished peasantry that had little more than the will to resist their foreign overlords. They won the war, but largely lost their economic independence since they now supply a source of cheap labor and resources to the global capitalist "core". As Upton Sinclair accurately, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” 

2. On the morning of June 26, 1950 South Korean leaders announced that their forces had captured the North Korean town of Haeju. What they don't say is that the invasion and capture of Haeju occurred on the 25th in a surprise invasion by the South across the 38th parallel. That attack occurred two days before North Korean troops crossed the line of demarcation. ; According to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, in 2004 South Korea admitted to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that South Korean scientists had secretly been enriching uranium. In the early 1970s, fearing the effect of US reductions of forces in South Korea, the Weapons Exploitation Committee of the South Korean government made the decision to begin developing nuclear weapons. The South Korean weapons program seems to have continued until October 1979. The North Koreans may possess as many as twenty nuclear warheads, but they have no operational system with which to deliver them against the United States' mainland. Delivering them to Seoul is an entirely different matter. The North was blasted with more explosive tonnage than was dropped during the entire Pacific Theater of WWII. Pongyang, a city of a half-million then, only had two buildings standing in 1953. Gen. MacArthur testified to Congress in 1951, “The [conventional] war in Korea has already almost destroyed that nation of 20 million people. I have never seen such devastation. I have seen, I guess, as much blood and disaster as any living man, and it just curdled my stomach, the last time I was there. After I looked at that wreckage and those thousands of women and children … I vomited.” Casualties in the north amounted to 2 million, including about 1 million civilians. Nuclear war will be much, much worse and the dying will go on for decades. Just ask the Japanese.

Friday, September 22, 2017

CAT 5 Hurricanes Are the Real Monsters

The most dangerous of these immense tropical storms are those classified as "CAT 5" meaning they contain winds in excess of 157 mph.  Those winds produce catastrophic damage to structures on land, and produce tremendous storm surges which add to their destructive power.  The 1935 category 5 hurricane was unnamed, referred to as the 'Labor Day' hurricane, it struck the Florida Keys with sustained 185 mph winds.  It is the strongest hurricane to make landfall on record.  The storm killed 423 people including veterans living in tents while building a road in the islands.  So powerful, its 15 feet storm surge swept people out to sea off the low-lying keys, and knocked a relief train off the rails.

Although it was the strongest, it was not the deadliest.  That dubious honor goes to another anonymous hurricane that flattened Galveston, TX killing an estimated six to eight thousand people in 1900. Hurricane Allen in 1980 produced winds of an astonishing 190 mph, but did not make landfall as a category 5; its amazing winds were exceed by a Pacific cyclone, Patricia, that clocked winds at 215 mph!  The categorization of hurricane power by wind speed (Saffir-Simpson scale) alone is somewhat misleading.  The amount of rainfall associated with the storm also contributes to damage.  Katrina, which came ashore as a category 3, was considered the costliest storm in US history after it flooded the city of New Orleans causing $108 billion in damage and killing 1200 people.  Harvey now holds that record of costliest.

 Hurricane Irma's distinct eye--one of the strongest storms ever in the Atlantic

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Is It the End for Atwater's Prairie Chicken?

Port Arthur, TX, credit: AP
The end-of-the-world weather the US is experiencing has been impressive to say the least.   Hurricane Harvey, officially the largest and most destructive rainfall event in the country's history, dumped over 51 inches of rain on metropolitan Houston, displaced thirty thousand people, and killed seventy so far.  Hurricane Maria has devastated Puerto Rico with 110 mph sustained winds. (Cat4) Scientists will not categorically state that global warming caused Harvey.  Attributing causes to something as chaotic as weather is problematic.  They will say, however, that global warming causes the atmosphere to hold a lot more water vapor, and elevates sea temperatures which leads to more intense precipitation events.

Then there is plight of Atwater's prairie chicken. Just southwest of Houston is the Atwater Prairie Chicken Reserve, home to the last forty-two birds of this species known to survive in the wild.  When a species population is that low, a single extreme event like Harvey could cause an extinction.  The exact state of the refuge is not known because flood waters have made it inaccessible and refuge personnel are dealing with their own flood damage.  Prairie chickens are small and nest on the ground, so they are particularly susceptible to floods.  When the last major storm poured 8-12 inches of rain on the refuge, it nearly washed them away forever.

a hatchling, courtesy USFWS
Fortune smiled on the species.  All twenty adult birds being held in pens pending release into the refuge on September 1st were gathered up and sent to the Houston Zoo for safekeeping.  At last report the birds were doing fine and gaining weight. Every year conservationists release about 300 captive bred birds into the coastal plain of southeast Texas. For these birds to see their second birthday is noteworthy, for they must survive predators like skunks and snakes who eat their young, and even vicious fire ants, which in a flood survive by rafting their bodies together by the thousands to float to new territory. 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Oregon Kills Mecham Pack Wolf

The Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife killed a member of the Mecham pack that lives in the northeast corner of the state. The female wolf was shot dead on September 7th in Umatilla County.  The wolf allegedly predated four times on a cattle herd grazing a 4,000 acre private ranch.  The killing is the fifth wolf to be legally exterminated in August.  The agency killed four wolves of the Harl Butte Pack, effectively eliminating the entire pack.  According to the agency the Harl Butte wolves had attacked livestock eight times in August.  The owner requested ODFW to exterminate the entire Mecham pack, but the agency choose to take an incremental approach in hopes the lethal action will dissuade the pack from predation on livestock. ODFW in defense of its lethal action said the livestock owner had taken proper precautions to deter the wolves, including hiring a range rider five days a week to maintain a human presence on the range. 

Oregon joins its neighboring state of Washington in using lethal control methods against re-colonizing wolves.  Washington authorized lethal action against the newly formed Sherman wolf pack in Ferry County.  Two wolves from the Smackout pack were killed earlier this summer.  The continued removal of wolves is raising concerns among activists about how committed both states are to a policy of allowing wolves to reestablish themselves in the northwest.

Washington recently adopted a new wolf management plan that recognized the wolf's right to exist in the state.  Oregon is in the process of adopting a new wolf policy.  An unexplained pause in this process allowed the lethal actions in August to go forward under the old rules skewed in favor of agricultural interests. Fears are that the "update" will be the same old policy that favors economic "producers" over wildlife.  The Oregon governor has been petitioned by 18 conservation groups to intervene to protect wolves, so far without a response.  Interestingly, the long-time manager of Oregon's wolf "management" program has decided not to wait to retire [photo above].

Washington has experienced a 30% increase in the number of wolves living in the state.  Oregon's population is estimated at 112 concentrated mostly in the northeast corner.  The department has documented four pairs raising new pups in northeast Oregon this summer. So despite the lethal control efforts these populations are expected to increase and therefore conflicts with humans will also increase.  Wolves are more likely to kill or attack livestock in late summer and early fall, as they prepare for winter and teach their pups to hunt.  So the question really comes down to not what to do with the wolves, but the intolerant humans who seem viscerally incapable of co-existing with another carnivore.

Friday, September 15, 2017

'Toontime: The Donald is His Own Party

credit: David Fitzsimmons, Arizona Daily Star

The truth is Donald is above parties because he is the leader of a mob. The more he appears to be above partisan politics, more more the mob cheers for him, waves their $40 golf hats, and chants "USA, USA!" Another truth is that Washington is a company town. In order to get legislation passed, you have got to have allies, but Der Donald goes out of his way to bash Repugnants. They were never very keen on him, anyway.  Only their own ineffectual bumbling allowed him to seize their party's nomination. They were especially annoyed with him this week after 'the artisan of the deal' finally cut a deal with Democrats to keep the government running temporarily for three months. His erstwhile colleagues in Congress argued for a longer period, but he sided with the opposition in a meeting Wednesday. On Thursday he appeared to reach a compromise on an Obama immigration order that conservatives wanted overturned. No surprise at PNG, since Trump was for most of his adult life a registered Democrat, even if only for business convenience in a heavily Democratic New York City. Another truth: a narcissist has few real friends, just people he can manipulate*.

*Social critic C. Wright Mills wrote in The Power Elite, "Those who are on high are not suitable as models of conservative excellence. Nor do they themselves uphold any ideology truly suitable for public use. The very rich in America have been culturally among the very poor; the only kinds of experience for which they have been models are the material ones for money-getting and money-keeping. Material success is their sole basis of authority". If that observation was true in 1956, how much more so is it true of the nouveau-riche Donald in 2016?

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

COTW: Medicare for All Act

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont has introduced into the Senate, as promised, a bill to establish Medicare as the nation's single payer for health insurance. He made the announcement today in Washington, DC He has the support of one-third of Democratic Senators. But because that chamber is controlled by Repugnants, it has no chance of being signed into law during Trump's tenure. For their part, the laissez-faire handmaidens of corporate America, introduced more legislation to gut the progress so far under the Affordable Care Act. The desire to give states block grants for their own programs using the money for expanding Medicaid is consistent with their small-government ideology for everthing except the Defense Department which they consider the reason d'etre of the national government. Although consistent it would, if passed, certainly lead to migratory health care. Some states would inevitably be more generous with their health benefits than others. Desperate people, unable to recieve sufficient benefits in their own state would move to establish residence in more generous jurisdictions. Sixteen Democratic senators are co-sponsoring his bill compared to almost no support in 2013 when introduced a previous iteration. About 60 percent of House Democrats have endorsed a “Medicare for all” bill introduced by Representative John Conyers Jr., (D-MI). The change in attitude among his caucus colleagues is indication of the increasing public support for a government solution to the problem of out-of-control healthcare costs. This chart shows the shift:

More importantly than liberal support for Medicare for All is public support for the idea that the federal government owes its citizens some form of healthcare. FDR brought attention to this social policy in a 1944 speech. The idea was also endorse by President Harry Truman.  President Lyndon Johnson signed the Medicare program into law in 1966. The name "Medicare" comes originally from the name given the medical care program established for military dependents in 1956. Regrettably, due to insurance industry opposition, President Obama refused to support a single-payer option in his Affordable Care program.  Progressives have been struggling for decades to get some form of universal social medicine past conservatives who are willing to waste billions on weapons, but hardly a dime on healthcare for Americans besides themselves:

Under the proposal universal coverage would roll out over four years. Virtually all expenses would be paid with no copays or deductables by an enhanced Medicare program that now covers Americans over 65. No source of new funding for the expansion is contained in the bill, but Sanders has offered a white paper with the bill that outlines some new tax options for financing it. Importantly, the bill de-couples health insurance from employment. Employers would no longer be responsible for health benefits, but would probably have to pay higher taxes. Other advance countries experiments have shown that a single payment source with sufficient market leverage can reduce health costs. Consequently both doctors, insurance companies, drug companies and hospitals will vehemently oppose the legislation because they all get paid less than private insurance with Medicare.  Sanders and his supporters are prepared for a long fight, potentially making the legislation a key plank of the next presidential campaign.

Sanders emphasized the simplicity of the single-payer arrangement: "I think the American people are sick and tired of filling out forms,” Sanders said. “Your income went up — you can’t get this. Your income went down — you can’t get that. You’ve got to argue with insurance companies about what you thought you were getting. Doctors are spending an enormous amount of time arguing with insurers.” Sanders admits the plan will be expensive, but points out that while an American pays a few thousand less in income taxes per year compared to a Canadian, his health care costs are twice that of his northern neighbor*.

Medicare is one of America's most popular entitlements.  Because it basically works.  The program would be enhanced to include vision, hearing and dental care.  It would also cover reproductive treatments, maternity and newborn care and abortions.  The federal government would establish a national formulary for covered prescription drugs.  The Secretary of HHS would be responsible for negotiating prices with drug companies, and have the authority to require co-pays for non-generic medications.  Three trillion is a lot money, but a inefficient hodgepodge of private health insurance is a system America cannot afford any longer.

*Similar disparities exist between the United States and every other nation in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) -- all 33 of which have public, universal health care systems. The United States is the lone member of the OECD without universal coverage. As of 2012, the average OECD country spends $3,268 per capita on health care and 9.5 percent of its GDP on health expenses, or about half of what the US spends.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Kazakhstan to Bring Back Tigers

In a long range plan that may take until 2025 the central Asian nation of Kazakhstan in partnership with World Wildlife Fund will re-introduce tigers to the landscape.  Tigers have been extinct in Kazakhstan for nearly half a century. If the project is successful, it will be a first. Previous re-introduction programs have involved existing tiger habitat. The region of Ili-Balkhash has been identified as suitable habitat for tigers. Before tigers can call this place home, prey species like the kulkan, or wild donkey, and bactrain deer must first be established. Tigers went extinct in Kazakhstan in the 1940s due to poaching and habitat loss, part of the 90% decline in their historic range. Tigers once roamed central Asia from modern Turkey and Iran to northwest China.

Kazakhstan minister of agriculture said his nation is "moving along the path of green development" and is proud to be the first central Asian nation to bring back the tiger to its ancestral home.  The project will require a great deal of hard work: a dedicated protection force must be established, thriving populations of prey species created and cooperation of local communities obtained.  Efforts like Kazakhstan will insure the tiger has future on planet Earth.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Syrian War May be Over

Perhaps the apogee of US imperial power can be seen in the end of the Syrian civil conflict which has taken six years and nearly half a million lives.  The US halfheartedly backs rebels attempting to dispose the dictator, Bashir Assad. A UN special envoy joined by a former US ambassador to Syria said this week the rebels have lost that struggle.  The ambassador said Assad may never be brought to account for his war crimes, notably the use of chemical weapons against his own citizens. {28.09.13} Syria's civil war has certainly been prolonged by great power involvement and regional sectarian rivalry.

Recently the city of Deir al-Zor was liberated from a three year siege by the so-called Islamic State; it is the latest in a string of territorial gains by government forces. The second city of Aleppo is now completely in government hands.  Fierce fighting there included close air support from Russia which proved instrumental in recapturing the city and also killed a significant number of civilians.  The US-led coalition concentrated its air support on positions held by the so-called Islamic State (Daesh).  Assad's forces were also enhanced by Iranian militia and Hezbollah.  Raqqa, the nominal capital of IS, is expected to fall within the coming weeks.  Only the province of Idlib remains under rebel control.

The US was joined by Turkey and Qatar in supporting rebels that numbered elements of Islamic extremism.  Al-Nousra front received covert aid from the CIA before the new administration took office¹.  It was once affiliated with Al-Qaeda before it broke ranks to make western support politically more palatable. None of these extremists are interested in creating a secular state after Assad in which political power is shared with other factions. Therefore, the question of what to do with Assad quickly became sidelined.

Russia played the Great Game correctly: even though the Assad regime is a brutal dictatorship, Moscow's support gave the world a choice between a relatively cohesive, modernizing state at peace with Israel, or a destabilizing, fragmented territory controlled by extremists factions.  Libya, after the removal of Qaddafi, was a plausible precursor.  Russia supports a political process to let Syrians decide their future. The west can only hope it does not include Assad.  Moscow, after its decisive two year intervention, is now in the driver's seat much to the consternation of the Deep State in Washington².

1. Sixteen years after the event we now know that it was a Cold War imperative to provide military support for the Mujaheddin fighting the Soviet army in Afghanistan.  It was that cadre of trained fighters which including Osama Bin Laden that was the genesis of Al Qaeda.  The presence of infidel troops in the Wahhabi kingdom of Saudi Arabia after the decapitation of Saddam Hussein provided a reason for striking at the 'great satan's' homeland.  It was the chaotic US military occupation of Iraq that led to the formation of ISIS.  The US is still paying the price of its policy errors.

2. C.Wright Mills in The Power Elite, describing the military ascendancy in policy making observed, "When virtually all negotiation aimed at peaceful agreement is likely to be seen as 'appeasement', if not treason, the active role of the diplomat becomes meaningless; for diplomacy becomes merely a prelude to war or an interlude between wars, and in such context the diplomat is replaced by the warlord."  This observation made over 50 years ago explains why there is no peace treaty governing relations on the Korean peninsula. 

COTW: Crossing Red

credit: Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune
BC Idonwanna sez:  He have bad haircut and big bomb.

Trump's hot-headed rhetoric has had the opposite effect on the North Koreans. Instead of deterring their march toward a viable nuclear arsenal, it has only increased their determination to succeed. Last week the retro-regime announced it had successfully tested underground an H-bomb that triggered a 6.3 earthquake. There is a report from a Chinese expert that the explosion has destabilized the mountain in which the device was tested. [photo] The bomb is powerful enough to wipe out a small city, and makes North Korea a qualified nuclear threat. Warmongering with conventional weapons is affordable, risking a city or national annihilation is NOT. Instead of being "locked and loaded", the Deep State needs a new approach to resolving the Korean War.  Fortunately in this tense situation, Der Donald's short attention has been diverted by the Hurricane Harvey disaster in Texas, and the disaster coming soon to Florida delivered by Hurricane Irma, another 'cat 5' monster.  Welcome to the world of global warming and unqualified leadership*.

*a former aide said the White House, "was like a fraternity house the first six months and now it’s a military compound -- it’s a fort,” At least no toga parties were held in the West Wing. US Person hopes it is not F Troop that is stationed there now.

Friday, September 08, 2017

Creature Feature: the Okapi

A complete specimen of the rare Okapi (Okapia johnstoni) which lives in the Ituri rain forest of the Congo Republic (DRC) was not obtained until 1901.  Many believed the animal to be mythical, but science determined it to be the closest living relative of the giraffe.  Although protected under Congolese law, it is threatened by habitat destruction, and is listed on the IUCN Red List.  Rough estimates are that about ten to fifteen thousand still live in the forest. In 2012 an attack on Epulu Station, a conservation headquarters, by Congolese rebels fourteen habituated okapis were killed [photo courtesy OCP]. {04.07.12} The Okapi Conservation Project manages a 13,700 sq. km reserve that is home not only to okapis, but forest elephants, chimpanzees and the Mbuti pygmy tribe.  It is a UNESCO world heritage site.

OCP values its dedicated ranger force as one of its most important accomplishments in its thirty years of existence.  Protection of the reserve continued unabated through six years of devastating civil war (1997-2993).  After the attack of 2012, OCP has the Congolese army as its partner to provide greater security and remove illegal development from the the reserve.  Okapi are sensitive to human activity. The can withstand low-level human encroachment, but intense activity causes them to disappear from the area.  It is the rangers' dedication and the financial support received from outside Congo that gives "the ghost of the forest" a chance to survive into the next century.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

COTW: The Markets are Nervous

The possibility of nuclear war in Asia is having a depressing effect on stock markets.  Look at this chart:

Metals and commodities are outperforming the S&P 500 in August.  Precious metals are considered a 'safe haven' for investors in times of turmoil. Their flight to safety is reflected in the chart.  Worries over whether the extreme right will attempt another government shutdown to ransom their deluded demand to build an ineffectual wall against Mexican immigrants are creating a perception of increased risk.  Add to that an overvalued stock market, and a President who is unable to govern with consensus.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

The Children of God?

Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.  Of course Christians should recognize this verse from Christ's Sermon on the Mount.  Our conservative political leaders like to think of the United States as a Christian nation, but they are the same leaders who say peace making is equated with "appeasement".  The sad fact is that the United States wants to maintain the status quo on the Korean peninsula--a tense military standoff--because it benefits the warfare state.  The US has over thirty thousand heavily armed soldiers in South Korea poised to invade the North.  Of course they would not be need if Washington decided to seriously pursue peace along the lines set forth in the Agreed Framework negotiated during the Clinton Administration.  Instead, they let their incendiary front man, Der Donald, make provocative threats.  Then totalitarian North Korean regime engages in similar over-heated rhetoric in response.  Apparently the United States reserves the right to threaten the existence of other nations whenever threats suit it geopolitical policies.  This sabre-rattling is making the world nervous.

Yes, the North Koreans fired missiles over Japan's northern most island of Hokkaido which crashed harmlessly in the ocean. What the warmongering corporate media will not mention is that the US and Japanese troops engaged in a provocative war game entitled "Viper-17" in August.  This war game had one end: simulate a "decapitation operation" to remove Kim Jung-un and his regime.  The fly-over of North Korean missiles--similar to the fly-bys of B-1B nuclear bombers [below]--occurred just after the offensive war game ended.  Clearly it is a message that the regime will defend itself, and with nuclear force if necessary.  If one thinks carefully about North Korea's behavior, it is less 'mad dog' and more understandable in the context of half a century of belligerence, following a war in which civilians were carpet bombed and starvation used as a military tactic. Another annual military operation recently took place south of the demilitarized zone (a complete misnomer) in which 75,000 US and South Korean troops and all manner of offensive heavy armament participated.  Peace has never been concluded in Korea since the shooting stopped in 1953.

One parameter is certain, Kim Jung-un has no intention of ending up like Qaddafi or Saddam, and he has the nuclear button to prove it.[above]  So it is time for the Christian nation to end the "military hysteria" by re-taking the initiative to make peace in Korea.  That does not mean forcing the North Koreans and South Koreans to live as one nation.  Only Koreans can decide that for themselves.  But the military stalemate has to end and the peninsula de-nuclearized before millions loose their lives. The North has indicated its willingness to negotiate before.  In fact, according to one western intelligence official, it was ready to give time to the new administration to come up with new peace proposals instead of a repeat of the annual military exercise with the South.   Washington ignored those signals because it benefits from the hostile stalemate. South Korea, under its quisling government, serves as a giant military base from which the Empire can project force against China and Russia in Asia.  And that is the truth 'Mericans cannot handle.

Saturday, September 02, 2017

'Toontime: Harvey Unleashes Toxic Wave

More: Two explosions shocked a flooded chemical plant twenty miles north of ravaged Houston, TX. The corporate owner of the plant said more explosions could occur since the chemicals it produces, liquid organic peroxides used in plastics and resins, are stabilized using refrigeration. The plant is without power and will be for five to seven days; it is currently submerged under six feet of water. No fatalities have been reported most likely due to the plant's location in a rural area. The explosions have released more toxic chemicals into the already heavily contaminated flood. Hurricane Harvey has been downgraded to a tropical depression but heavy rains are expected from Southeast Texas to Kentucky. Harvey is estimated to be largest and costliest natural disaster in US history.

{02.01.17} Because Houston is the petrochemical capital of 'Merica, many refineries and industry-related chemical plants are located in the vicinity.Hurricane Harvey has flooded many of these industrial plants.  The flood waters have unleashed a wave of toxicity ranging from heavy metals to raw sewage. Included in the damage are thirteen superfunds sites created by decades of unregulated dumping, discharges and industrial waste. EPA examined aerial surveys and found them inundated with many feet of flood water.  One site of special concern is the San Jacinto Waste Pits. Once located on the banks of the San Jacinto River, they now lie below it and are contained by concrete bunkers.  Residents are worried that the raging river may erode the concrete caps and release tons of cancer-causing toxins from a defunct paper mill. EPA has promised to inspect the pits as soon as the flood waters recede enough for personnel to gain access. AP reporters have already visited the sites on foot and in boats to bring news of the potential dangers to readers.  Trump’s proposed 2018 budget seeks to cut money for the Superfund program by 30 percent.

Damaged refineries and other oil facilities have already released more than two million pounds of hazardous substances into the air this week, including nitrogen oxide as well as carcinogenic benzene and other volatile organic compounds, according to a tally by the Environmental Defense Fund of company filings to Texas state environmental regulators.
even the rubber ducks are bigger in Texas

Besides the dangers of chemical pollutants, raw sewage from overflowing drains has entered the flood waters.  Microbe counts are off the charts, and residents are advised to avoid immersion in the witches brewing surrounding them and their homes. [photo]. So far the city's drinking water system seems to be intact, but many residents in the outlying areas rely on private wells for their water supplies.  These are especially susceptible to contamination as toxic flood water seeps into the ground.  Epidemics caused by severe flooding are rare in the United States.  However, contaminated water is a source of typhoid and cholera, diseases usually confined to developing countries without adequate infrastructure.

But don't worry Houstonians, you can buy $40 campaign golf-hats from the President's shops and feel a lot better about your predicament while you wear his USA! headgear.  Making America Great Again one golf-hat at a time, you betcha!

credit: Adam Zyglis
BC Idonwanna sez:  Big time crazy chief!+
+ Journalist Matt Taibibi labels Trump the "insane clown president" in his new book about the presidential campaign.  He does not spare invective: "Trump is the perfect modern American. He's a human consumption machine with no attention span, no self-control, no beliefs and no hobbies outside of sex, spending, eating and talking about himself. Nixon at least played the piano and read classics. He was an intellectual with a pig's heart. Trump is just the pig part." He is, in short, the "mass man" predicted by Marx and described by Hannah Arendt in her classic work, "Origins of Totalitarianism".

Friday, September 01, 2017

Brazil Rejects Total's Bid to Drill the Amazon Reef

Brazil's environmental agency has rejected Total SA's environmental impact statement for its plans to drill for oil at the mouth of the Amazon. [photo courtesy: NASA ] Ibama said the international oil company had not answered questions about how drilling operations would impact marine wildlife, so its application for permits could not go forward. The agency gave Total a third chance for it to provide "adequate information" about the environmental impact of its project. The agency head warned that if Total does not address the outstanding concerns of the technical team evaluating the statement, "the licensing process would be finally archived".

The area to be explored, Fox do Amazonas basin could contain more oil than the proven reserves of the entire Gulf of Mexico or an estimated 14 billion barrels. Exploration plans have become entangled in controversy as conservation organizations including Greenpeace have launched campaigns to raise awareness of a massive, unspoiled coral reef just 28 kilometers away from proposed drilling sites. [photo courtesy: Greenpeace] Total purchased exploration blocks with BP and Petrobras in 2013. The agency wants the company to address how to limit the impact of drilling on marine mammals and turtles, clarify models for how oil in the water would disperse itself, as well as address Ibama’s initial rejection of Total’s proposals for environmental monitoring and other projects.