Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Alaska Offshore Production Approved

The Interior Department approved last week the first production facility in federally administered offshore Alaska.  Hilcorp Energy plans to build a gravel island six miles off the Alaskan north coast in the Beaufort Sea.  The site is twenty miles east of Prudhoe Bay near the Arctic Wildlife Refuge.  A reservoir of oil there is expected to contain as much as 150 million barrels of oil.  The project is expected to produce 70,000 barrels a day at peak production.

So-called Project Liberty is part of the Trump regime's misguided effort to drill its way to energy independence.  The scientific consensus is that producing and consuming more fossil fuel will only exacerbate the serious consequences of global warming.  The Interior Department's decision to open up 90% of the outer-continental shelf to oil exploration and development ignores the environmental costs associated with the oil and gas industry.

Louisiana's offshore industrial zone
Of course that is nothing new.  A production platform that sank in the Gulf is leaking 300-700 barrels a day for fourteen years.  The spill is rapidly becoming the worst spill in US history, eclipsing the disaster caused by the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig.  Taylor Energy, the owner of the platform attempted, somewhat successfully, to keep the on-going spill secret. Itl was hidden for six years before environmental groups monitoring the BP disaster stumbled upon the slick caused the sunken platform. [map]  The company is attempting to walk away from the spill; it sued the Interior Department for return of $450 million in a trust created to pay for wreckage recovery and site remediation. The company says there is no evidence that the wells are leaking.  Independent analysis submitted by the Justice Department in the suit says otherwise. Rather than 55 barrels a day reported by the Coast Guard using company data, the wells are leaking at ten times that rate. The abandoned wells are covered under 100 feet of mud deposited by an undersea avalanche that knocked the platform downslope 170 meters after Hurricane Ivan hurled 70 foot waves and 145 mph winds at the installation.

The fact is that many of the smaller, independent companies operating in the Gulf cannot afford a major spill incident. The company made an unpublicized deal with the federal government to establish a $666 million trust fund for containment. To give Taylor Energy credit, its spent a fortune plugging some of the 28 wells, salvaging the platform's deck, and building a barrier to contain rising crude. But its efforts were ultimately unsuccessful. Six years later satellite imagery confirmed oil slicks in the area were not coming from the destroyed Deepwater Horizon platform. In 2015 AP reported that the spill had been shrouded in secrecy, and its extent about 20 times worse than the company ever reported pursuant to its legal obligation. There are 2000 platforms off the coast of Louisiana alone. Another 2000 are situated off the coasts of Texas and Mississippi. 50,000 miles of pipe carry product to shore.  So its understandable that there are 20 blowouts a year, and fires erupt offshore every three days. It is all part of the dirty business as usual in the Gulf of Mexico. Coming soon to a coastline near you.

Washington State to Kill Last of Wolf Pack

The Old Profanity wolf pack is headed for extinction at the hands of man.  The state Washington has issued an order on October 26th to kill the last remaining wolves, a breeding male and pup, of the pack in Ferry County.  The cows allegedly killed by the wolves were grazing on public land after a removal order  and calves with prior injuries were not removed to avoid attracting predators.  The state's wildlife agency is clearly acting at the behest of the livestock industry despite public opinion in favor of protecting wolves.   Since 2012 the state has killed 21 endangered wolves.  Seventeen of those were killed to satisfy one livestock owner.  That owner is a vocal opponent of wolf recovery who has historically refused to implement meaningful nonlethal measures designed to protect his livestock from wolves.  This record demonstrates the out sized influence of agribusiness over state governments. “Washington residents are fed up with wolf-management policies that reward livestock owners for irresponsible business practices,” said a wolf advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity. “The wildlife department’s mission is to preserve and protect the state’s wildlife, not slaughter endangered wolves to keep the livestock industry happy.”

Monday, October 29, 2018

The New and Improved Missle Gap

Rand Corp's concept of a SCRAMJET cruise missile
Are you wondering why Mr Yuge invited Mr. Putin to Washington for a visit?  US Person was too, until he found the answer in one Russian word: kinzhal, which means dagger.  It is a dagger against which the US has no effective defense and it alters the delicate balance of terror between the two superpowers.  Mr. Putin recently bragged about the effectiveness of Russian weapons to the press.  What he had in mind was the successful testing of Russia's new hypersonic missile named Kinzhal.  The third known test of the air to ground device was carried out in July on a target five hundred miles away.  It will probably be operational by 2020 according to US intelligence estimates.  Mr. Putin said in a speech to his people, "We have run ahead of the competition. No one has precision hypersonic weapons; others are planning to start testing them within the next 1 to 2 years, and we already have them on duty."
SA 40N6 range: 236 miles, speed: 1190m/s

US intelligence also says a hypersonic missile system has been launched twelve times from a MIG-31, and work is underway to mount it on a strategic bomber.  If successful, it will give the Russian a strategic edge comparable to that which the United States exploited in the 1950's.  According to Gen. John Hyten of Strategic Command who testified before the Senate Armed Services committee in March, "We don't have any defense that could deny the employment of such a weapon against us."  Hypersonic weapons use speed in excess of Mach 5 to avoid detection and interception. Conventional jet engines can operate up to Mach 3 or 4, but not in excess of that due to airflow problems.  A supersonic combustion ramjet (SCRAMJET) can operate between Mach 5 and 15.  The weapons are also highly maneuverable--they do not follow a ballistic path like conventional ICBMs, thus making them extremely difficult to intercept and destroy. The US and China are testing such systems, but are apparently far behind Russian development.

Of the two types of SCRAMJET weapons, Russia's glide vehicle called Avangard will be ready for deployment by 2020. Development has been underway for three decades. The cruise missile version, which uses powered flight all the way to its target, has previously crashed each time it was tested.  The glide vehicle is carried by an ICBM into space and uses gravitational potential energy to reach its target.  It was successfully tested in 2016, and can carry a nuclear warhead--in addition to the destructive power of its kinetic energy--at one mile per second.  These weapons will ignite another expensive arms race unless they are controlled by mutual agreement.  Even the $11.5 billion already allocated for the Missile Defense Agency, the largest amount ever, may not be enough to fully modernize U.S. missile defense systems.  The Empire R US*.

*Turkey, an ostensible NATO ally, recently purchased Russian state-of-the-art mobile air defense system, the SA-400, in a deal worth more than ₤1.8 billion.  Reputedly the system can hit a soccer ball traveling more than the speed of sound, but it cannot be integrated into NATO military architecture, which is a key feature of the western military alliance..

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Jim Crow By Postcard

Repugnants are constantly complaining about almost non-existent voter fraud.
Their complaining is a symptom of their paranoid insecurity about become a minority in the previously white-dominated 'Merica.  What they never talk about is their highly developed voter suppression tactics aimed at voters who are unlikely to vote for a Repugant, namely the young, ethnic and poor.

A prime example of what voter suppression means has come to light in Georgia.  An analysis of the voter roles in that red state show that the 340,134 voters purged from the voter rolls for moving out of state or to another county in the state by Secretary of State Brian Kemp, never actually moved.  These voters were purged for failing to return a postcard that looks like junk mail. If you miss an election in Georgia you get a card, and you must return it with an address filed in or loose your right to vote in the next election.  Kemp not only wrongly purged voters who did not move, but voters that moved inside their county of registration.

A careful review of other address records shows that these wrongly purged voters never moved.  But a careful review is not what Kemp, who is now a candidate for Governor, is interested in.  His interest is in reducing the possibility that his minority white base would be outvoted in the election.  Consultants for companies that do a lot of mailing such as American Express and EBay, say that post cards are the weakest form of eliciting a response from an addressee, and people of color are the least likely to respond. Call Kemp's rules a more subtle form of Jim Crow.

'Toontime: Unleash the Kracken!

credit: Dario Castillejos
As you know in Trumpland, up is down and green is red, so it was no surprise to US Person that a minion of Trump stood up last spring and declared to a shocked room-full of pollution scientists that air pollution does not cause fatalities from pulmonary problems. Tony Cox might be just another denier, but he heads Der Leader's panel of air quality science advisors, and is typical of his Huxlian assault on science and the truth.

The EPA is poised to review this year the health standards associated with fine particulates known as PM2.5 and ozone, the principle components of smog. The science panel he leads is responsible for advising the agency on what what levels of air pollution can be tolerated. Typical of other Trumpian appointees, Cox was recommended by a pro-business lobby group, the US Chamber of Commerce. Powerful industries are against tighter health standards because they would require further cuts in emissions. Cox has a background in statistical analysis, not atmospheric chemistry or physics. His forte is manufacturing uncertainty in statistical studies. Causal analysis is open to interpretation by emphasizing other possible factors such as temperature. But he cannot deny correlations like the one between the shutdown of a Utah steel mill release soot into the air for thirteen month. The number of children admitted to hospitals for asthma attacks and bronchitis dropped, according to one study. Once the mill reopened and the emissions returned, admissions nearly doubled.

Cox has made a living fronting for industry. He has worked as a consultant for more than a dozen industry and lobby groups opposing cleaner air including the American Petroleum Institute and the Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association. Numerous scientific studies around the world have reported the same results for two decades: Fine particles and ozone raise the risk of people dying from asthma, heart attacks, pneumonia and other serious lung and heart ailments. The scientific evidence means nothing to people like Cox because they are wearing glasses that have 'yuge' dollar signs pasted to the lenses. Profit is what matters, not people. So if you have a loved one suffering from asthma or other serious lung problems, you can thank people like Cox, not Jackson, Jacobsen or Rodriquez for allowing the air you breath to be dangerous to their health.

Friday, October 26, 2018

It Is Good to be a New England Squirrel

It is a great time to be a squirrel in New England. In the fall, squirrels are busy gathering foodstuffs for their winter larder, and last year there was a bumper crop of mast (nuts, fruits and seeds).  Now there are farmers' delectables such as apples, peaches, blueberries, pumpkins, and corn to feast upon. The fury, frenetic rodents are booming in population as a result of the plenty. Wildlife rescuers are seeing two distinct breeding cycles instead of the usual one.  New England is home to both red and grey squirrels; their bushy tails seem to be everywhere this fall.

Evidence of the explosion can be seen on the side of the road littered with roadkill. This summer there was not as much food, so squirrels are looking for food wherever they can find it, mostly in farm fields, orchards and gardens.  Sometimes they take only a single bite, but one bite is enough to ruin good fruit.  Farmers can look forward with hope though because it is unusual to have a boom year in nuts and squirrels coincide.  Normal attrition--including those squirrels who die in traffic collisions--will reduce population to a normal level.  The high squirrel population will benefit their predators--owls, hawks and foxes.  Farmers learn to have patience if they are not born with it.  They are constantly coping with natural events.  It is what makes farming challenging, and rewarding.  So. it will not cost you anything to give a New England squirrel a break on your way.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Extinction for Profit

lesser prairie chicken
As part of his effort to maximize extraction of remaining natural resource in order to "make 'Merica great again" the Trump regime has failed to make decisions for protecting 57 species, or failed to designate critical habitat for 21 more under a seven year work plan developed under the Obama government.  In order to make his pro-extinction bias clear, Hair Further nominated a former Monsanto--the maker of the infamously pervasive and toxic pesticide Roundup--head the Fish & Wildlife Service, the lead agency in administering the Endangered Species Act.  Auerila Skipwith has been employed by the Department of Interior since 2017, but has no education or training credentials in fishery or wildlife management.  Under law an appointee must, “by reason of scientific education and experience, knowledgeable in the principles of fisheries and wildlife management.”

Hermes copper butterfly
Notably, the failure to act has left iconic species like the wolverine with critical habitat in which to survive the onslaught of global warming that is melting their high altitude homes where they raise their offspring.  The work plan addressed the backlog of 500 species awaiting protection decisions. [photos]  The agency only managed to make 18 decisions in 2018 resulting in protection for only 8 species.  Another six were denied protection, one of which has gone extinct.  Delays in regulatory action have real-world consequences.  Since the Act was passed in 1973, 46 species have left the Earth forever.  Under previous Democratic administrations, 37 species a year were protected under Clinton, and 64 per year under Obama.  So far Hair Further has protected a paltry 14.  The extinction train just keeps on rolling.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

New Orchid Species Found

The mountainous rain forests of Peru contain many of the world's orchid species.  About 240 species occur in one national park alone, Tingo Maria in central Peru.  The Peruvian national park service, SERNANP, announced that a new species has been located on Bella Durmiente mountain.  Named Andinia tingomariana, the plant was found growing epiphytically at about 1285 meters of elevation attached to a tree trunk. The species was formally described last month in the journal Phytotaxa [photo credit: Phytotaxa]  The orchid's vulnerability to extinction has not yet been determined due to a lack of data.

The news about another newly described plant species is not good.  It may already be extinct.  Nearly seventy years ago a researcher Edwin Ujor of the Nigerian Forestry Service collected a specimen of a tree found high in the Bamenda highlands of Cameroon. [drawing below credit H. Wilks]  The identity of the specimens has been unresolved until recently when scientists from the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew and University of Yaounde I in Cameroon categorized it as a new species, Vepris bali, known only to occur in protected cloud forest close to the town of Bali.

Searches for more specimens of the tree have failed to locate any.  Much of the original forest cover in Barmenda is now lost to agricultural clearances.  So the species may be extinct.  The forest reserve where the specimen was collected is only 3 square miles in area and represents one of the last remnants of what was once uninterrupted cloud forest.  The region is so denuded, that it is locally known as "the grasslands" of Cameroon.  Bali Ngemba Forest Reserve  contains 12 species of plants known to exists nowhere else.  Certainly a natural treasure worth saving.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

COTW: Thermohaline Shut Down

US Person has posted often about the effects of global warming and it the dire effect the phenomenon is having on the world's climate system. One of the most worrisome possibilities is the attenuaition or even shutdown of thermohaline circulation. You may know part of that globe girding system as the Gulf Stream which flows northward from the equator and crosses the North Atlantic. Ben Franklin was aware of it, and even drew a somewhat inaccurate map. Basically the thermohaline circulation mixes the globe's ocean waters distributing energy in the form of heat and salt content, Warm surface currents like the Gulf Stream flow poleward where the seawater cools, becomes more dense, and sinks. Deep subsurface currents flow into the ocean's basins and upwells in the Southern Ocean. Some of the oldest water, with a transit time of 1000 years, up wells in the North Pacific:

south polar view
This circulation pattern of cooler and warmer ocean water has significant effects on climate. In 2005 British researchers discovered that the northern Gulf Stream surface current had declined by about 30% since 1957. Scientists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute have measured freshening of North Atlantic seawater as the polar ice cap melts. These events, could in theory, alter the course of the Gulf Stream from its current path past the British Isles and Norway towards the Equator much in the way Benjamin Franklin depicted it in his map. An event like this would seriously impact the climate of Europe since it is generally thought that the Gulf Stream keeps norther Europe more temperate than its latitude would indicate. Lessening of the Atlantic's currents has been correlated with extreme sea level rise.  This chart demonstrates that global sea levels have been rising since measurements began in the 1880's and the trend is expected to accelerate due to anthropomorphic warming driving seawater expansion and ice sheet melting:

Sunday, October 21, 2018

"Toontime: What the Little Boy Shot At?

The amount of time younger 'Mericans spend bent over their tiny screens continues to appall the unfriendly US Person.  But the showman full of "male energy" at 1600 Pennsylvania got it correct when he chose to conduct his legal defense by tweet:
credit: John  Darkow, Columbia Missourian
BC Idonwanna sez;  Me Luddite!, like big picture!

After two years of build-up Mueller's report on the existence of a conspiracy between Hair Further and the Russian government to influence the 2016 election may never see the light of day. That's right, readers. Millions of taxpayer money has been expended to find the truth about Mr. Yuge's "collusion", but the investigative report is and may remain, confidential. Mueller's charge is to turn in when he is finished a “confidential report explaining the prosecution or declination decisions”. Which means to explain why he chose to indict some and not others, including the POTUS.

Not only this, but the White House is maintaining it has the right to sign off on the final report because, after all, Robert Mueller is working for the Department of Justice, an Executive Branch organization. This end game including whether to publish some of the report's contents not redacted for security reasons, is complicated and could be influenced by a number of power centers in Washington, as well as additional evidence produced by cooperating witnesses. The Iran-Contra investigation lasted seven years with a final report issued long after Reagan went back to Hollywood. It is all standard procedure in the hall of smoke and mirrors that is the seat of government in 'Merica. As the parasitical billionaire himself observed during an interview, "This is the most deceptive, vicious world. It is vicious, it's full of lies, deceit and deception. You make a deal with somebody and it's like making a deal with that table."  He ought to know--its all been done before in 1930's Germany*.

*What more can be said about a US President that defends a brutal, totalitarian monarchy which used a fifteen man hit-squad to torture and then behead a journalist critical of the regime inside their own consulate because "they buy our weapons"?  Hair Further has already labeled US journalists, "enemies of the people."  Recrudesce of white nationalism in 'Merica--endemic since the founding--is detected by sociologists and political scientists. Will it take another Night of the Long Knives in the supposed world's greatest Democracy to change course?

Friday, October 19, 2018

COTW: Hurricanes Cost A Lot

The passage of Hurricane Michael through the Deep South this week inflicted less damage than feared even though the storm came ashore as a Category 4--nearly a 5--with wind gusts of 155 mph.  Estimates of the economic cost are about $30-53 billion. That figure is exceeded only by Katrina, the most damaging hurricane in modern times:

The point to take away is that damaging storms will be more frequent and intense as the greenhouse effect radically alters the planet's climate system.  In fact, global warming is now viewed as a threat to national security by the military establishment.  Maybe this influential determination will be enough for the politicians to bring the US back to the Paris Climate Accord.  We have just twelve years left to avoid a dying planet.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Australia's Other Reef

If you have been reading this space, then  you know about the bleaching crisis that is killing the Great Barrier Reef off Australia's eastern shore.  Australia is blessed by another great reef off its Indian Ocean coast and it is near pristine because of its remote location.  The Ningaloo Reef is slowly being discovered, however. Today more than 180,000 tourists each year bring over $140m to the Ningaloo region. People still fish but they also bring sea kayaks, snorkelling gear and surfboards. Tourism in the region is continuing to grow significantly and the main draw card is Ningaloo.  The Australian government's attention is also alerted as it develops plans for the exploitation of Commonwealth waters off its coasts. The Ningaloo Marine Reserve was extended by 400 kms in 2004 by the Western Australian provincial government.  But the Abbott government in Canberra has made no secret of giving priority to fishing and mining interests. 

There is a proposal to build a pipeline factory for the oil and gas industry in Exmouth Gulf next door to the world-heritage Ningaloo Reef.  If built pipe bundles destined for offshore platforms and subsea pipelines would be transported across the vast Gulf, endangering coral and hundreds of other species that use the gulf for foraging and nurseries.  The Gulf is virtually undeveloped and home to whales, dugongs, whale sharks, manta rays and extensive mangroves rich in biodiversity.  In 2010 the International Union for the Conservation of Nature recommended the Gulf be considered for inclusion in the proposed Ningaloo world heritage site because of its importance as a marine nursey.  In 2011 Ningaloo Reef, one the world's largest near shore, was listed but the Gulf was excluded. The proposed project is being assessed by the Western Australian Environmental Protection Authority.  One fishing guide said people do not come to wilderness places like Ningaloo to see a factory. Australia is running out of pristine places.  Ningaloo Reef is definitely on US Person's short list of places he wants to see.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Major Donation to Protect African Wildlife

enjoying a bender on Marula fruit, credit R. Couper
It will take a lot of money to protect dwindling wildlife populations from extinction because it is Mammon that is decimating their numbers.  A prominent wildlife conservation group, the African Wildlife Foundation has pledged $25 million to combat illegal wildlife trade across the continent in the next four years.  Turning the tide against the illegal trade in animal parts is at a critical juncture as underdeveloped African nations attempt to modernize their economies to support burgeoning human populations.  The aide provided by the Foundation will help.  Some populations of endangered and threatened species are beginning to stabilize according to Kaddu Sebunya, president of the organization attending a wildlife conference in London last week.  He also emphasized the need for African solutions to the loss of habitat an illegal poaching problems.

Current protection projects include training sniffer dogs to detect illegal shipments.  Training more rangers to patrol and protect is also on the agenda   Perhaps more importantly, AWF is funneling some of the money to judges and prosecutors to give them the capacity to arrest, convict and incarcerate sometimes politically connected and influential poachers and traders.

the boys tie one on, credit R. Couper
A positive development in the war on wildlife trade is that China's ban on ivory trading, in effect for nine months, seems to be having an effect.  The demand for ivory in the biggest market country is dropping according to a survey funded by the World Wildlife Fund.  According to that survey 72 percent of respondents said they would not purchase ivory compared to 80 percent last year before the ban went into effect.  Every year 30,000 African elephants were slaughtered to supply the Chinese demand for ivory.  The clamour grew worldwide for something to be done to prevent the elephants' extinction.   In 2015 the leaders of China and the US signed an agreement to end the illegal sale of ivory in their countries.  It is not clear from the survey what impact the ban is actually having on Chinese attitudes toward purchasing ivory.  Only about 8% of the Chinese know about the ban.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

This Week in the Russian Connection

credit: John Cole
BC Idonwanna sez: He run from dugout too!
The co-foundar of Fusion GPS, the Washington security firm that spawned the now famous Steale Dossier, Glenn Simpson, is refusing to testify to the House Judiciary Committee on the grounds of hisn 1st and 5th Amendment privileges.  He was subpoenaed to appear on October 16th at a private deposition by the Committee's chairman Bob Goodlatte, a Trump ally.  Stimpson's attorney said in a letter his client declined to answer committee questions,  because "This Committee’s inquiry is not designed to discover the truth. The obvious – and at times explicitly stated – goal of this Committee is to discredit and otherwise damage witnesses to Russia’s interference in the 2016 election..."

On another front, George Pappadopoulos, a former Trump aide whose campaign activities triggered an FBI counter-espionage investigation, has agreed to appear before the Committee voluntarily to testify.  His testimony is likely to provide more fodder for Repugnants who have accused former officials at the bureau of letting anti-Trump sentiment fuel the investigation.  To US Person these developments indicate that the Russian Connection has entered a primarily political arena in anticipation that Robert Mueller will issue an investigative memo showing the Rich Kid's culpability for obstruction of justice, and possibly conspiracy with foreign agents to illegally influence the outcome of the 2016 election.  In the words of one prominent Hollywood celebrity, "Our federal government has become a freak show."

Friday, October 12, 2018

COTW: Why You are Overweight

US Person posts this chart that shows by far the United States has the most obese persons than other developed countries:

Obesity is an increasing problem worldwide, but the United States leads in fat.  Why is this?  Several factors stand out as causes.  Modern life is more sedentary now than in the 4 million years man has inhabited the planet.  Most of that history was lived as hunter-gatherers who literally did not know when they would eat the next meal.  Consequently, our bodies evolved to store fat which would be converted to energy when needed.  Sedentary lifestyles are not conducive to burning off stored fat.  To make matters worse, when the body is confronted with a substance it is not programed to digest, such as synthetic ingredients in so-called "diet" foods, its default mechanism is to store the substance as fat tissue.  Exercise and activity is therefore essential to controlling weight gain.

Our bodies are inhabited by millions of microbes, some of which are beneficial and aid body function, while others are detrimental.  One of the bad microbes is Candida, which thrives on sugar. Our diets are loaded with extra sugar.  Most processed foods contain added sugar; carbonated beverages are the worse offenders.  Candida proliferates in our guts, feeding on the high sugar intake, thus imbalancing the operation of our digestive tract which depends on beneficial microbes to breakdown foodstuffs. Candida can cause a person to crave more sugar, similar to the experience of drug addiction.  Reducing sugar intake and ingesting beneficial microbes, or probiotics, can restore the proper operation of our digestive tract.  Processed foods are also loaded with preservatives which make it difficult for beneficial microbes to breakdown ingested foods.  Obviously preservatives prolong a product's shelf life, allowing more time for sale.  But biology dictates fresh food is best for human digestion.

Another supplement worth trying to control weight gain is digestive enzymes, particularly amalayse, lipase, and bromelain.  These enzymes are necessary to the chemical reactions that reduce nutrients to usable molecules that our bodies can convert to energy and muscle, not fat.  Consuming these enzymes can increase the digestive tract's energy conversion efficiency.  To give any benefit the enzymes must survive the stomach's high acidity, so look for enzyme complexes that are formulated to reach the intestines.

For some people,  emotional eating is a difficult problem to overcome.  When our system is stressed by anxiety, depression, or other emotional upset, our body prepares to "fight or flight", a biological reaction that is hardwired into our organism; the body stores fat for potential use in defending itself.  There are natural substances that suppress appetite.  One of the most effective is Caralluma Fimbriata, a succulent plant found in India and northern Africa.  Native hunters would consume the plant to allow them to go without eating for days. Ingesting the plant reduces the production of the hormone, ghrelin, preventing the production of a hunger-inducing molecule.  It is available now as a dietary supplement.

So if you are a couch potato who compulsively consumes sugary beverages and processed foods high in fat and carbohydrates while watching your team lose the big game or the latest plot twist in your favorite soap opera, you should understand why you do not  lose weight.

Monday, October 08, 2018

The CIA Democrats

US Person may have conveyed the impression that he is endorsing the Democratic Party as an alternative to suffering under two and possibly six more years of Hair Further. {27.09.28}  NOT.  Voting for a party that is only marginally less militarist and right-wing than the hopelessly sold-out Repugnants is not a solution to America's problems.  A case on point is what the World Socialist Website calls the "CIA Democrats".

A significant number of Democratic candidates for the House have backgrounds in the military or intelligence community.  If the Democrats capture the House of Representatives more than half of the incoming Democratic representatives will be former military-intelligence apparatchiks.  This does not disqualify them ipso facto from supporting progressive politics, but it does indicate how status-quo oriented the Democratic Party really is.  US Person doubts they would support such policies as slashing the Pentagon bloated budget by 20%, replacing the privately governed Federal Reserve with a centralized system of publicly owned state banks, or a constitutional amendment to overrule the century of horrendous legal precedent creating corporate personhood capped by the atrocious Citizens' United decision.  Even Medicare for all would be a stretch for these establishment politicians.  In other words, the business Democrats who dominate the party are not interested in fundamental reform to revitalize the working middle class.

According to the website, based on their published biographical details, one quarter of the Democratic challengers in competitive House districts have military, NSA, or State Department backgrounds. National security operatives outnumber state and local officials, lawyers, businesspersons, and wealthy individuals; it is the largest subcategory of candidates for Democratic congressional nominations. Ten of the twenty-two districts selected for high-profile support by Democratic donors have candidates with a military-intelligence background.  How being a former assassin in Afghanistan qualifies  a person to be a congressional representative is not immediately apparent, but perhaps politics in Washington is more dangerous these days.

A Democratic favorite is Elissa Slotkin, a former CIA operative who served three times in Iraq and then moved to the Pentagon where she specialized in security matters. Supported by the establishment Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), Slotkin is expected to win a key seat in Michigan's Eighth Congressional District.  The seat is now held by a two-term Repugnant.  Another former spy running for office is Gina Ortiz Jones in the 23rd District of Texas.  She served as an intelligence officer in Iraq and as an advisor in South Sudan and Libya.  The race there can be glibly called "spy vs. spy" since the other Democratic challenger has a national security background, and the Republican incumbent is a former CIA agent.  Abigail Spanberger is running for a House seat n Virginia. She proudly claims her experience as a former CIA agent qualifies her for representing Virginia's Seventh District.  The list goes on.  57 candidates for the Democratic nomination in 44 congressional districts boast as their major credential their years of service in intelligence, in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, at the State Department, or some combination of all three.

This domination of political representation by the military-intelligence establishment is unprecedented in America's history, and is a frightening indication of just how far down the road to fascism the Republic has journeyed.  It is beyond anything written about by C. Wright Mills in his classic social study, The Power Elite*. It also demonstrates that the Democratic Party has lost any legitimate claim to the sobriquet of the 'peoples' party'.  Franklin D. Roosevelt was castigated for his reform policies during the Greatest Recession by his own capitalist class.  Roosevelt contemptuously told his critics that without him, they would be pursued in the streets. Now, the widespread popular disgust with a corrupt, bigoted current occupant has no outlet for authentic expression in the popular vote.   The latest crop of apparatciks represent corporate business, the military-intelligence establishment, and their wealthy donors, not the people.  And they can be counted on to adhere to the party line.

*See particularly Chapter 9, 'The Military Ascendancy"

Federal Judge Stands Up for Grizzlies

courtesy: USFWS
Federal District Court Judge Dana Christensen rendered a decisive opinion last Monday supporting the continued survival of Yellowstone's iconic resident, the grizzly.  His decision stops the cynical trophy hunts planned by Wyoming and Idaho, those bastions of backward hubris. Judge Christensen's decision was based on existing, narrow legal grounds, giving hunt proponents little to challenge on appeal.  He wrote that no de-listing of a sub-population can be taken without considering the impact on the entire endangered or threatened species as a whole.  The Fish & Wildlife Services deeply cynical decision to allow hunting of the remaining 700 bears living in Yellowstone would have done that.  The ruling therefore does not prevent the unthinkably depraved action of hunting grizzly everywhere they survive, but decimating them piecemeal is legally out-of-bounds.

The court found that the isolated Yellowstone population is genetically vulnerable, agreeing with multiple tribal and conservation organizations that filed suits to stop the action to remove their legal protection. Management of the bears now returns to the federal government.  Ominously, the agency said after the ruling that it stands behind its finding that the Yellowstone population has recovered and no longer requires protection under the Endangered Species Act.  Conservatives have relentlessly pushed for revising the Act, or even repealing it; they believe it unnecessarily burdens economic interests while failing to restore listed species to historic levels.

The decision to protect Yellowstone bears from hunting highlights a deeper problem. Grizzlies are endangered because man refuses for reasons of fear and greed to give them room to live.  Grizzly need vast areas of connected wilderness habitat to survive.  This has been an established scientific fact since the Craigheads entered the wilderness to study the great bear.  Legislation based on science intended to preserve and protect connected wilderness has languished in Congress, blocked by corrupt corporate interests.  NREPA, the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act, would protect the grizzly's essential wilderness habitat, thereby insuring its survival.  As the Native Americans knew, the grizzly's survival means, in the end, man's survival since all of Nature is connected.  So while Judge Christensen's decision is the right one, it is by no means the solution to the problem.  Man must live in symbiosis with other creatures, not as objects to be mounted on wall or needlessly consumed.  If he does not, his end, too, will be nearer at hand.

Saturday, October 06, 2018

'Toontime: Follow the Money

credit: Adam Zygliss, Buffalo News
BC Idonwanna sez: Orange man self-made fool.
At a time when the Russian Connection investigation seems to have sailed in to the doldrums, and when Robert Mueller is laying off federal prosecutors, the New York Times investigative journalists have scored an impressive tour de force of forensic accounting implicating Mr. Yuge in numerous tax fraud violations.  Their work explains how a bankrupt businessman came up with $400 billion in cash to buy 44 properties during the Great Recession.  The self-proclaimed "king of debt" is actually the "prince of thieves". The paper accuses him of participating “in dubious tax schemes during the 1990s, including instances of outright fraud.”At least $413 million came from his father's estate.

All told, the senior Trumps transferred well over a billion dollars of wealth to their children.  That amount would have been reduced by $550 million in estate taxes under the rates in effect at the time. Instead, the heirs only paid about $52 million. The paper details Trump's deceptive tax avoidance in 13,000 words--the longest investigative article ever published by the Times. Their reporting virtually guarantees state and federal tax authorities will begin scrutinizing Trump's tax avoidance activities.  The prospect of fighting a major tax fraud prosecution has got to be more unnerving that a politically dubious impeachment.

By age 3, the Donald was earning $200,000 a year in today’s dollars from his father’s empire. He was a millionaire by age 8. In his 40s and 50s, he was receiving more than $5 million a year. Then, Mr. Yuge attempted in 1990 to get his generous father to sign a codicil to his will that would have allowed him to use his father's estate before Fred Trump passed away as collateral for his failing business empire.  He was more than $900 billion in debt at the time.  Fred Trump was angered by the move, telling his daughter to find new lawyers and protect his assets from his son's creditors.

But Fred faced the prospect of paying 55% in estate taxes. So the hard feelings were put aside and the family created a company, All County Supply & Maintenance, to siphon off some of their accumulated wealth. The company was a paper shell, its only apparent function was to mark-up purchases already made by Trump employees. The profits were passed on to Donald and his siblings. Leading tax experts briefed on the arrangement think the method could constitute criminal gift tax fraud. It also appears from the paper's sleuthing that All County used padded invoices to justify rent increases in Trump's rent controlled apartment properties.  The parents also vastly undervalued assets passed to their progeny through a special trust, thus avoiding millions in gift taxes.  The Times says it identified 295 distinct revenue streams Fred created over five decades to aid his "self-made" son.

Mr. Yuge's mantra may change from "no collusion" to "no fraud" by next year, especially if Democrats gain control of Congress.  A harbinger of things to come: Trump fell another eleven rungs on the Forbes 400 list to 259.  When US Person reads stories about the arrogance of the rich, he is reminded of the line spoken by actor Lee Marvin in the film, The Professionals. When the cattle magnet who hired him and his colleagues to free the purportedly kidnapped wife from Mexican revolutionaries calls him a "son of a bitch", Lee phlegmatically replies, "Yes sir, in my case an accident of birth. But you sir, you are a self-made man."

Thursday, October 04, 2018

A Tortuous Death

A young North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis) died off the coast of Martha's Vineyard in August.  The fact that only about 450 of these intelligent whales remain;  every unnatural loss is a tragedy for the species.  Estimates of his age are 1 1/2 years old, only one of five calves born from 2006 to 2017. Sseventeen right whales were lost during that period, enough to classify them as an unusual mortality event by NOAA.  Ship collisions have been a major source of deaths; busy shipping lanes run straight through their feeding grounds.  The agency has asked ships to slow down transiting whale areas.  Scientists surmise the young whale died of entanglement.

For a mammal evolved to live its life in the ocean, drowning is about the most painful death it can experience, as some researcher's have commented, drowning is "a kind of torture".  Perhaps not as bad postmortem disembowelment, but it is right up there on the scale of bad ends.  Named the "right whale" because it floated to the surface after being harpooned to death, the species recovery has been hampered by a slow reproduction rate. Recent research postulates that persistent drag of entanglements in fishing gear-- which ensnares more than 80 percent of North Atlantic right whales at some point in their lifetimes--is hampering females from putting on weight and carrying their calves to term. A consortium of conservationists and fishers are working to develop new gear that is whale friendly.  Progress is slow, and the right whale cannot wait any longer for man to take steps to avoid extinguishing another fellow inhabitant.

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

COTW: The Gap Grows

US Person has posted charts about the widening wealth gap in the US before, but this one from the International Monetary Fund puts an international perspective on the social issue of this century:

The United States is at the left end of this chart. Compared to other advanced economies in the western world, the disparity in wealth accumulation is greatest.  Greece, which has undergoing a brutal austerity program demanded by international finance is at the right end of the chart.  Their difference between income and wealth is very small, within 30 to 40%  In the US, the wealthy command 80% of the total and 30% of the income. America's top !% has not controlled this much wealth since before the Greatest Depression.

US Person understands that the statistics of wealth distribution can be mind-boggling.  But this video helps visualize just how distorted wealth distribution is in the US. (He does not endorse the oversimplified and inaccurate representation of a socialism.) The irony is that in the survey discussed in the video, 'Mericans' ideal of a fair distribution is not even close to what exists in reality. Their toleration of such extreme economic inequity is what is really mind-blowing:

Monday, October 01, 2018

Cruelty-Free Cosmetics Only in California

Untold numbers of animals have suffered cruelly in the testing of cosmetics and other household products for use by humans.  There is a movement to end product testing on animals as unethical and inhumane led by organizations like PETA and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.  California joined the European Union, Switzerland and India in passing legislation prohibiting the testing of cosmetics on animals.  The bill prohibits the sale of cosmetics tested on animals in California after 2020.  California is the the fifth largest economy in the world.  Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 1249 into law last Friday.  The bill was supported by 100 cosmetic companies and tens of thousands of individuals who wrote in support of the legislation.