Friday, August 31, 2012

Henri, Oublié Sur La Plancher

This video is so French in temperament yet so amusing as le chat noir Henri reflects on the tedium of life; appropriate for a cat-blogging Friday. Bravo, Will.  

'Toontime: Obama Swan Dive

Before U.S. leaves the subject of sports and political sport this week for well- deserved relaxation in Africa, here is a worthy 'toon:
[credit: Gary Markstein]
Unfortunately, he can only give the Obamanation a 4.0 on this dive. An estimated 8 million Americans entered the Food Stamp program since November, 2008 when he won the national popularity contest by 9.5 million votes. This year eight swing states are more economically stressed than the national average. Two of the three "leaning" Obama are worse off than the national average in terms of unemployment or food stamps.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Gold Miners Massacre Village People

Gold miners in a helicopter massacred eighty indigenous Amazonians according to reports from survivors. Sometime in July a helicopter filled with apparent illegal gold miners massacred Yanomami in their remote village of Irotatheri in Venuzuela [photo]. Three survivors were hunting in the forest when the attack occurred, but heard the machine and gunfire. The reports are only reaching media outlets now because the nearest modern settlement is a five day walk from the village. Record gold prices are driving a gold rush in the Amazon basin. Illegal mining destroys forest, contaminates rivers with mercury, and causes social conflicts such as prostitution and slavery. Often confrontation with indigenous peoples trying to defend their forest ends in death. The Venezuelan government has a very poor record of intervening to stop the miners from their rampage. Last month Brazil arrested 26 linked to an illegal mining ring operating in its Yanomami Indigenous Reserve. On Wednesday Venezuelan authorities said they would investigate the reports of a massacre. The alleged massacre resembles what occurred in 1993 when the Amazonian villiage of Haximú was attacked and 16 inhabitants where killed by Brazilian miners.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Chart of the Week: Cleaner Cars

source: EIA via
Just in time to prick Ann Romney's bubble at the Republican coronation of her husband as the Party's nominee, the Administration announced that it will implement new fuel efficiency standards that double automobile fuel economy to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. Automotive manufacturers endorsed the idea of increased fuel efficiency a year ago while claiming the new rules will be difficult and costly to achieve. The auto makers alliance required a mid-term review in 2017 in return for their participation in a single national program. The new standards could achieve significant reductions in global warming pollution in the United States if they are adopted in full and were got a positive reception from environmental organizations. The rules were criticized by others as making new automobiles too expensive for an estimated 7 million people since the average price of a new vehicle is expected to rise by nearly $3,000.

In related auto news, General Motors said it will again suspend production of its new hybrid electric vehicle, the Volt, due to a lack of demand. The Detroit-Hamtramck plant will close from September 17th through October 15th. Volt sales slowed after an investigation into the car's safety late last year. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration concluded in January that the Volt poses no more fire risk than other cars. Through July, GM sold 10,666 units in the US, far below projected sales. Idled workers will receive unemployment compensation during the month shut-down at about 90% of their normal pay.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

New Record Low for Arctic Sea Ice

NOAA: NW Passage free of ice, August 2012
Despite the lack of interest in global warming in the United States reflected in the issue's absence from the political discourse, the Arctic Sea's ice sheet melting continues to set new records. In September, 2007 the minimum extent of Arctic sea ice shattered records since satellite monitoring began in 1979. Then it receded to 1.61 million square miles or about a million square miles less than the 1979-2000 average coverage. So far ice coverage this year is 186,00 square miles less than the record year for melting. There are several more weeks remaining of the thawing season. An August cyclonic storm help to break up thin ice which is contributing to the rapid rate of melting. Thick multi-year ice is rapidly disappearing in the Arctic being replaced by what one scientist described as a "giant slushie", referring to a popular children's ice refreshment. Many climate scientists consider the melting at the Earth's northern pole to be a strong sign of climate warming brought about by human industrial activity. The accelerating melting rate is decreasing Earth's albedo an indication of the worst case scenario of the future effects of climate change. The warmest 13 years on record have taken place in just the last decade and a half. Paradoxically, only 19% of TV weather reporters think that climate change is mostly anthropomorphic according to a 2011 survey by George Mason University. Only 18% of these purveyors of information know that there is a scientific consensus on climate change. Some prominent weather forecasters such a founder of the Weather Channel, are climate change deniers. Another survey shows that only 11% of Americans report that their forecaster talked about climate change five or more times in the past 12 months. When US Person asked the local Stumptown forecaster about the lack of mention in his nightly weather segments, he replied that talking about climate change on the news would "offend some viewers". In other words, ignorance is still bliss.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Fukushima Children Have Thyroid Cysts

One third of Fukushima children (36%) tested by the government have thyroid cysts, a condition often associated with radiation exposure. The Prefecture conducted thyroid checks on 38,000 children by the end of March. If iodine 131 is taken into the thyroid gland it remains there for long time, damaging adjacent tissues by beta decay. The amount of radioactive iodine detected with 20 km of the plant reached a maximum similar to those experienced at Chernobyl. 6,000 children are thought to suffer from thyroid cancer as a result of the Chernobyl disaster. The Japanese government says none of the lumps found appear to be malignant, but testing of children living near the Fukushima disaster using whole body counters by Minami-Soma Municipal Hospital show 51% were found to have suffered internal exposure to cesium 137. A doctor said some of the children had been eating wild plants picked in the mountains and the clothes of some indicated high gamma radiation exposure. There is little scientific research on the effects of ingested radioactive cesium. Health officials are urging the government to immediately evacuate highly contaminated areas if the lessons of Chernobyl are not to be ignored.
The government has ordered tests on 4500 children in three areas outside the disaster zone
The people of Japan are responding to the Fukushima meltdown by reducing their energy consumption.  Sales by 10 major power utilities in July dropped 6.3% due to a fall in demand despite higher than average summer temperatures. Anti-nuclear activists say the drop shows that Japan can supply enough electricity without nuclear power generation.  The government said rolling blackouts might be necessary this summer if some nuclear power was not put back on line.  It used predicted shortages to justify restarting Kansai Electric Power's two reactors at Oi in Fukui Prefecture.  Even though peak  power demand surpassed supply levels without nuclear generation in the Kansai region, the difference could have been made up by purchasing power from regions with an oversupply.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Former Ambassador Arrested for Hit & Run

A former US Ambassador to Afghanistan, dubbed "America's Lawrence of Arabia" was arrested in his hometown of Spokane, Washington for drunk driving and leaving the scene of an accident. Ryan Crocker was arrested August 14th after an eyewitness took down his plate number and reported Ryan hitting a tractor-trailer with his 2009 Mustang while making an illegal right turn across two lanes of traffic. Crocker registered 0.16 on his first blood alcohol test. He resigned his Kabul post for health reasons. He came out of retirement in 2011 to take the Afghanistan job at the personal request of the Obamanation. Another Obama nominee, Timothy Broas, was removed from consideration for the Netherlands ambassadorship {"lousy ambassadors"} following his arrest for drunk driving and resisting arrest. Seems to US Person the Obamanation is running out of smooth stones.

'Toontime: Sport's Addiction

[credit: Steve Breen, San Diego Union-Tribune]
Lance Armstrong won an unprecedented seven Tour De France races, famous for their grueling test of human endurance. It was inevitable that reasonable people including US Person would wonder if Armstrong was genetically well endowed or using chemical assistance to achieve such an incredible feat of cycling, a sport for which Americans had no previous international reputation. When Armstrong announced this week he would end his decade long fight against allegations of doping, it was tantamount to a confession of guilt. The US Anti-Doping Agency said Thursday night it would strip the cyclist of his titles. Armstrong, now retired, called the USADA investigation an "unconstitutional witch hunt" justifying himself with hundreds of drug tests passed while winning the cycling titles. Nevertheless, his status as a living legend of cycling has been tarnished for good by the label "drug cheat". The agency's allegations are based on the admissions of former US Postal Service team mate Floyd Landis whose e-mails to a USA Cycling official detailed a complex doping program within the team. Landis was stripped of his 2006 Tour title after a positive drug test. According to investigators ten former Armstrong teammates were ready to testify against him. What may be properly inferred from the lack of positives in Armstrong's case is a sophisticated blood doping scheme that ran ahead of available testing protocols used by race officials. The lead ran out in 2006 when Landis was caught. Armstrong will ignominiously join other sport heros, baseball's Pete Rose, track's Marion Jones, in a life long ban from the sports which made them rich and famous.

Here is a humous look at what sports organizers will contend with in the near future, because as you know now, winning is everything in the big time:
[credit: Ingrid Rice]
Wackeydoodle sez:  I thought them mermaids only had one tail!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Wedge Pack Death Sentence

Because a subsidized rancher near the Canadian border lost a few calves recently, an entire wolf pack has been ordered exterminated by the State of Washington. The state government said if the predation is confirmed it will "remove the pack from the area" since its "pattern of predation" makes it a poor candidate for relocation. A female from the pack has already been killed.  The rancher complaining about predation said he lost 11 calves and a bull last year and expects more losses this year. He says compensation is not the answer since there is a limit placed by the state of $5,000 for each of 10 ranches. The entire state budget of $50,000 could be used by his ranch alone he obnoxiously claims, so he wants the wolves eliminated by trapping or poison. The state biologist involved in the case says he realizes the need for more compensation money as the wolf population in Washington state grows.
Defenders of Wildlife, a conservation organization heavily involved in wolf preservation, says the evidence for wolves killing the livestock in question is not solid enough to justify killing the entire pack. The Wedge Pack is the state's eighth wolf pack [map]. Washington has experienced something of a population boom in wolves since the neighboring state, Idaho, declared war on wolves. The Wedge Pack is tracked by GPS collars, so state hunters will have no trouble locating and killing them all. The Pack's four adults and their dependent pups will die unless you call the state Governor, Christine Gregoire, (360-902-4111) or Phil Anderson, Director of Fish &Wildlife, (360-902-2200) and ask that non-lethal means be used first, ifa public review of the predation opinion finds it justified. Make a difference--save a wolf.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Missing Gorillas Located

credit: Volcanoes Safaris
Rangers and trackers looking for gorilla families missing from Congo's Virunga National Park have found four of the seven groups. Fighting between rebels and Congolese forces have prevented rangers from monitoring the endangered mountain gorillas. The resident gorillas have not been seen for 3 months, but eight teams spread throughout the forest with the approval of both sides and managed to find the Humba, Rugendo and Munyaga families and part of the Kabirizi family which apparently split. Innocent Mburanumwe, gorilla warden, said the gorillas were calm and curious when the searchers showed up. The warden said the gorillas greeted them by touching and smelling, always a good sign. The Bukima Patrol Post from which the search was organized became part of the battleground between M23 rebels and the army. M23 currently controls the area. The Post was evacuated on May 8th, and has been damaged during the fighting with heavy weapons. It was the trailhead for tourists trekking to see the famous gorillas of Virunga. Because of the conflict all tourists activity has been closed since April 1st. Rangers will continue the search, conditions permitting, to locate the other gorillas. The forest of the Virunga Massif is home to about 200 mountain gorillas, 25% of the total remaining in the wild.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Chart of the Week: Delinquencies Still High

This chart from Calculated Risk show mortgage delinquencies declining in most states but the total number of deliquencies and foreclosures still exceeds the pre-crisis (Q1,2007) level:

Some commentators conclude that banks are deliberately not foreclosing on loans to prevent over-saturation of the housing market since distress sales depress the market value of their collateral. Banks' collateral value has plunged 32% since the real estate bubble burst in 2006. Maricopa County (Phoenix) in Arizona is held up as an example of a rebounding real estate market, but foreclosure starts (notice of default) fell 14.9% between May and June 2012 and recorded trustee deeds (completed foreclosures) were down 56% from June 2011. Analysts think the banks are looking for the "sweet spot" of market manipulation where REO inventory can be disposed without crashing the value of their collateral. What's that you say? Crude manipulation of a free market? That's capitalism in the 21st Century.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Return of the Lion

Wildlife conservationists will welcome the news that mountain lions (Puma concolor) are returning to their former range in the midwestern United States. A research paper in the June issue of Journal of Wildlife Management says that cougars have been seen in Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas, Illinois and several other states and Canadian provinces. Cougars were exterminated in these agricultural states and have not lived in the midwest since the beginning of the 20th century. However, since states lifted the bounties on pumas and recategorized them as a managed species their numbers have slowly increased. Natural solitary behavior makes most young males seek new territories causing their kind to disperse into former habitat. The study, sponsored by the University of Minnesota, examined 178 sightings from 1990 to 2008. The number of confirmed sightings increased steadily each year from two cats to 34. Researchers estimate there are about 30,000 cougars in North America. Whether the return of the lion will be tolerated by fearful humans not used to living in proximity to a feline predator the size of a large dog remains to be seen. Public education campaigns should help humans avoid unpleasant encounters with the ghost cat.

Friday, August 17, 2012

'Toontime: Biden Rings the Bell

Vice President Joe Biden made a remark about economic chains while campaigning in North Carolina that some politically correct people misinterpreted:
[credit: Kevin Siers, The Charlotte Observer]
But ask the people in Las Vegas, Nevada who woke up to this billboard. Clearly, some Americans understand the import of Joe's remark:
Wackydoodle axes: Was y'all drawn first?
There were two of these alarming displays along I-15 that the owners of the billboards described as vandalism. The Nevada Highway Patrol received 911 calls from rush hour motorists concerned that the dummies were real suicides. Occupy Las Vegas posted photos of the displays on its website.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Julian Assange Saga

Update: Ecuador granted asylum to Julian Assange citing possible violation of his civil rights. The Australian citizen thanked the Embassy staff for a "significant victory", but how Assange can reach the safety of Ecuador from the confines of its London embassy is problematic. Revoking the embassy's diplomatic status is also fraught with undesirable consequences. The standoff continues....

Guido Johnson*
Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, jumped bail in June and sought refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in Knightsbridge to prevent his extradition to Sweden on sexual assault charges. But Her Majesty's government is having none of it. In a letter to embassy officials the UK government said it had the legal authority to revoke the embassy's diplomatic status under the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act of 1987 and capture Assange, by force if necessary, to meet its extradition obligations. Ecuador's Foreign Minister responded by saying, "we are not a colony of Britain" rejecting what he termed "an explicit threat". Mr. Assange's request for political assylum has yet to be decided, but there were reports earlier this week President Rafael Correa was predisposed to grant his request for humanitarian reasons. Ecuador's foreign minister said a decision would be made on Thursday morning local time.

Assange has steadfastly denied the allegations by two female volunteers that he committed sexual offenses against them while he was in Stockholm to give a lecture. For Assange, who views the allegations as politically motivated, the sex charges are secondary, since he justifiably believes Sweden would in turn extradite him to the United States to face more serious charges of espionage that are punishable by the death penalty. His collaborator in the United States Army, Bradley Manning, has been in military prison for more than two years, sometimes in solitary lockdown of 23-24 hours a day awaiting a court martial for his role in the unauthorized release of classified material. The United States government has been serially embarrassed by the slow release of thousands of its diplomatic cables from around the world. The latest batch are from the communications of US diplomats serving in several Latin American countries. They show the reach and breath of US influence in countries whose democracies are fragile or practically non-existent.

In April, 2011 Ecuador declared US Ambassador Heather Hodges persona non grata after a leaked cable from her suggested President Correa was aware of corruption allegations against a senior policeman he elevated to commander of the national police force. Washington responded by expelling the Ecuadorean ambassador, and diplomatic relations have not been re-established. Assange interviewed President Correa in April 2012 for his Russia Today television show. During the interview Mr. Correa repeatedly praised Wikileaks for its work. The decision to grant Assange assylum will not be an easy one for Ecuador's president. He faces reelection in 2013, and although he is popular, his country enjoys preferential trade status with the US on 1300 items. The trade deal is up for renewal in January.

*whose real name was Guy Fawkes, confessed under torture to a plot with twelve co-conspirators to blow up the House of Lords on opening day in 1605. Fawkes, a converted Roman Catholic cavalier, escaped being hung and quartered by jumping off his execution scaffold and breaking his neck.

Belgian Reactor Vessel Cracked; Check it Out Virginia

Westinghouse PWR vessel
Doel 3 near Antwerp, Belgium was closed last Thursday after an inspection found cracks in the steel reactor vessel which holds the radioactive nuclear core [cut-away drawing, vessel in blue]. The power plant is located on the Dutch border where about nine million people live within a 45 mile radius. Preliminary ultrasound results indicate cracks in the steel vessel. The plant operator said the cracking was related to manufacturing issues not age. Some vessel cracking is expected in a plant that generates steam for turbines using fission which emits intense neutron radiation, especially in a reactor nearing the end of its serviceable life. Doel 3 went into service in 1982. Cracking would require the plant be decommissioned immediately. The thirty year old pressurized water reactor uses a vessel forged in the 1970s by Rotterdam Dry Dock Company of the Netherlands, a firm that went bankrupt. The nuclear plant is operated by Electrabel, a subsidiary of France's GDF Suez. Doel 3 was scheduled for decommissioning in 2022 as part of Belgium's decision to phase out its seven nuclear reactors by 2025. Belgium generates about half its electricity needs by nuclear power. But unless the owner can prove the vessel is safe--unlikely, say experts--the end is now for Doel 3. The reactor has been off line since June for maintenance but will remain shut down pending more tests. Other Belgium reactors will also be tested for similar cracking. Belgium officials think there are about 21 nuclear reactors worldwide with the same reactor vessel manufacture. Four of these are known to be in Virginia, operated by Dominion Resources. Regulators from across Europe will examine "the anomalies" at the site. A Dominion Resources spokesman said they were aware of the Belgium problem, but have not been notified by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. US Person's advice : don't wait to be told you have a problem!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Chart of the Week: Hottest July Since '36

The rhyming of history as Mark Twain put it is pretty hard to deny. With the current economic contraction rivaling the Great Depression, Midwesterners now have a taste of the Dust Bowl in their mouths, and it's official: out of the vault of weather records comes this chart showing that the average temperature of 77.6 ℉ to be the hottest ever in the US, besting the previous high set in 1936. More significantly from a climate change standpoint, this July was the fourth time in the past twelve months that temperature records have been broken:
NASA scientists have concluded that heatwaves over the past thirty years are statistically attributable to anthropomorphic climate change. The likelihood of extreme heatwaves has increased 50 to 100 times over a 1951-1980 baseline. Earth has not had a single year since 1975 when the average temperature was below the 20th Century average. 63% of the contiguous US is now in extreme drought conditions.

Sitting In for Old Growth in Tasmania

Reminiscent of the struggle in the United States to save the last old growth redwood forests {redwoods}, activists in Tasmania are fighting logging companies cuttting old growth forests. One of these, Miranda Gibson, is in the eighth month of her Australian record breaking sit-in in a four hundred year old tree. She and other activists of Still Wild, Still Threatened are campaigning to get the Tasmanian government to protect an old growth forest remnant from cutting by a Malaysian company that markets it's veneer product as sustainable plantation and regrowth wood. You can follow Miranda on her blog and show support by sending a message to the logging company, Ta Ann. Via Green Left:

Monday, August 13, 2012

Creature Feature: Kitty Cam

"You are getting sleepy, very sleepy."
University of Georgia researchers were sitting around wondering what kitties do all day or night outside while their human guardians are off earning money to buy their food. So, being researchers, they strapped miniature cameras provided by National Geographic Society on sixty volunteer "fuzzkins" to find out. The results show a lot of wildlife casualties which is not shocking since cats are supreme hunters that never give up their instinct regardless of how caring their humans are. 30% of the study subjects killed an average 2.1 animals per week! These cats are pets with owners who presumably feed them regularly. A University of Nebraska study found that feral cats are responsible for the extinction of 33 bird species worldwide. For those of you who can't take direction, just like Felis catus, US Person offers for your consideration this link that shows the crime scene photos and videos of "itty kitty" in action from ground level. Plenty of interesting, non-violent results to see, particularly the Chex snack video. Please remember to supervise your feline hunter when outside like US Person does (we are proudly a no-kill household), or get "kitteh" a bell.

Friday, August 10, 2012

'Toontime: When Spelling Counts & Policy Fails

[credit: Joseph Heller, Green Bay Press-Gazette]
More: Saturday, Mitt Romney announced the addition of right extremist Paul Ryan to the ticket. The tactics behind the choice is that it will shore up support from the Repugnant base which, incredibly, view the Massachusetts plutocrat Romney as suspiciously "liberal". The Obamanation will no doubt be pleased with a vice-presidental choice who actually has a legislative record they can run against: a low-tax, anti-government, anti-environment, Koch Bros. approved, Ayn Rand-reading corporatist.  The latest political odd couple are off to the battleground state of Wisconsin, scene of a Koch-funded triumph against un-American, lazy unionists who were insulting enough to ask for more.

{12.08.12}What else can the right-wing talk about when their candidate is doing a great imitation of a reactor meltdown? Certainly not the fact that the ten most profitable corporations doing business in America paid a tax rate of just 9%! The respected Pew Center for public opinion released a survey showing Mitt Romney's negative factors increasing. Only 37% of Americans view him favorably compared to 41% in June. The race is seen as relatively stable among various voting blocks. Whites go with Romney while minorities pick Obama as do women by a wide margin. Men are split equally, but young people still support Obama by a wide margin. Another poll by the Washington Post and ABC News shows Obama still ahead of his challenger with an approval/disapproval rating of 53%/43%.

That said, the election is far from over. Polling in individual swing states show a tight race in Colorado and Virginia, with Obama leading in Wisconsin, but not by the double digit margin he won there in 2008. His support among white males in these three states is slipping because of the economy. Romney is also doing better with women in Colorado, where he holds a five point advantage overall and within the poll's margin of error. At the end of the day the only vote totals that count are in the Electoral College, thus the swing states and their respective electoral votes are the key to winning the national election.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Will the Real Barrack Obama Please Stand Up?

Obama with Pakistani roommate Sohale Siddiqi
Most rational people have accepted the fact that President Obama was born in Hawaii. Just ask the bona fide Clintons. However, the controversy generated by the right-wing over his citizenship as a means of attacking his credibility has not subsided this election cycle. If anything, the cynical questioning of his background has taken a new twist. Critics are pointing at a curious artifact located in the electronic archives of the publishing company, Acton & Dystel, that published Obama's first book, Dreams From My Father. The company stated in a publicity booklet Obama was, "born in Kenya to an American anthropologist and Kenyan finance minister." [underline added] Not exactly Indonesia, but certainly not Hawaii. That biographical item was not changed until two months after the Senator declared for the Presidency in 2007.

with his Kenyan grandmother*
If the Kenya birthplace was just a "fact checking error" as claimed by the responsible editor, then it persisted for more than sixteen years, long after Obama was a public figure. When Edward Acton was contacted by non-mainstream journalists, he stated that featured authors did not write their own biographical material, but that they were usually given an opportunity to approve the text. According to biographer David Maraniss, Barack Obama cultivated an international identity well into adulthood. Maybe Obama was just trying to impress 'chicks', or understandably still confused about his identity given his peripatetic life experience. But in the opinion of his critics like Andrew Breitbart the false biographical information fits a pattern in which Obama's pubic persona is manipulated by friends, political supporters, or himself. For a politician this is not particularly unusual behavior, but Obama seems to have a penchant for selective myth-making when politically advantageous. During the 2008 campaign Obama claimed that his dying mother fought with insurance companies over coverage for her cancer treatments because the insurance companies considered her disease a pre-existing condition. Obama repeated this story in a campaign video despite the Washingon Post calling the story misleading. The actual dispute was over disability payments, not coverage. The paper gave Obama "three Pinocchios" for that one. Certainly, there are some uncommitted voters who still want to know the real Barack Obama after four years in the White House. In his memoir, his college girl friend is a composite figure of real women he knew. Perhaps the same can be said of the protagonist.

*More curious than the 16 year factual error is the grandmother's insistence her grandson was born in Kenya. What reason she has for providing grounds to disqualify her grandson from holding the highest public office in the United States is unclear. Reverend Jeremiah Wright has publicly alleged he was offered money by Obama supporters to not make public speeches prior to the election in 2008. "You said you'd never compromise with the mystery tramp; But now you realize, he's not selling any alibis; And ask him do you want to make a deal?...When you got nothin', you got nothin' to loose; you're invisible now, you got no secrets to conceal...How does it feel?"

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Consumption of Cruel Veal is at All Time Low

The New York Times, the newspaper of record, has declared the boycott against consuming veal is the "most successful animal rights boycott in the United States". In 1986 veal slaughter was at 3.6 million calves annually. Today, thanks to the relentless efforts of animal rights organizations like the Humane Farming Association, the unspeakably cruel deaths are below 1 million. The treatment of these sentient animals is almost beyond descriptions or depictions. Their young lives are spent in locked in crates intentionally too small for them to turn around in. Then they are killed for consumption. Think of medieval torture in the iron maiden and you get the idea. US Person suggests to his readers that if you desire to eat a dish made with veal, substitute chicken breast or lean pork tenderloin sliced and pounded flat. Both of these meats taste practically identical to veal in veal dishes that usually made with a sauce. All animals consumed for human food deserve care and consideration in their raising and slaughter since they give their lives for ours without choice. The raising of veal in crates is an abomination akin to the biblical prohibition against boiling a kid in its mother's milk. You can help stop this inexcusable practice by donating to organizations like HFA as does US Person. Only when the last calf dies can we declare victory.

Elephant Slaughter in Africa Continues

credit: SOS Elephants
Armed gangs of poachers continue to exterminate elephants in central Africa for their ivory. In Chad poachers killed 34 elephants during the week of July 23 and in a second attack on August 3, 4 or 5 were killed and two injured including a mother with three calves. Five to ten calves may be alone in the bush. Exact numbers are not available as the terrain is difficult and poachers are still in the area. A rescue team from SOS Elephants plans to perform emergency aid for the injured mother and determine if she has enough milk to feed her calves. The team has rescued one orphan, sleeping with it in the bush and then leading it back to their camp. Elephant calves are emotionally and physically dependent on their mothers until age five or six when they are fully weaned. Another orphan named "Toto" was rescued after the July 24th massacre. After a few days a neighboring elephant family adopted Toto and a foster mother is feeding the young male milk [photo]. SOS Elephants says about 200 elephants live in an unprotected area around Chari Baguirimi and Mayo Lemie. However Chad is so poor it is doubtful even formally protected habitat would be sufficient to protect elephants from slaughter. Elephants are searching for a safe place to hide, seen crossing the Chari River several times. Normally in this rainy season they avoid rain and mud living in small forests around the river, and do not come out until October. The government is searching for the poachers who remain at large. They apparently have the aid among the local population and are heavily armed. Incentives for information are offered to those who cooperate to protect the remaining elephants from what amounts to genocide.  In the 1980s Chad's elephant population was around 20,000.  Today there are less than 3,000.  If the rate of poaching continues, Chad will loose its elephants in three years.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

No Recovery For You!

According to statistical definitions the US economy is recovering. The GDP is 1.7% above its pre-contraction peak. But looking at this chart one could not know that:
source: Mauldin @
What is driving the improvement are credit and government transfer payments shown in these charts:
source: Mauldin @
After plunging during the crisis period, total revolving credit used by consumers is on its way up again. The increase in personal income less transfers such as social security payments, food stamps and unemployment insurance was 4.2% compared to an increase in transfers of 18.9% from pre-contraction peak to June 2012. In an average recovery wages and salaries would have increased 11%. Yet the federal minimum wage remains in a state of frozen animation at $7.25 an hour after being raised from a feudal $5.15/hr. Most economists think that a living family wage is in the neighborhood of $14.00 an hour. Barry O'Bomber promised to lift the wage above $9.00 when he wanted your vote, but has not taken any public action to increase it. So the debt bubble is expanding once again, thanks to your bailed buddies at Wall Street.con.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Feral Pigs Becoming a Major Problem

They have been feral pigs in America since the first domestic stock escaped into the wild in the 1500s, but they now pose a serious concern for wildlife managers. Few indigenous predators are willing to attempt killing adult hogs equipped with large tusks. Their spread has been accelerated since 1989 by nimrods seeking yet another thrill hunting big boars, yet Sus scrofa does an immense amount of damage to sensitive ecosystems. The rooting for food is their most destructive behavior. But perhaps the pigs' most expensive single destructive act was the collision with a $16 million fighter jet on Florida's Jacksonville International Airport's runway. Most control efforts are ineffective because hogs are prolific breeders, very adaptable, and highly intelligent. To stabilize a population, an estimated 70% must be eliminated. Human hunting rarely kills more than 20 to 25%. Hunting rules have been relaxed in some states by allowing hunting year around, day or night, to try and deal with the overpopulation problem. Release of hogs into the wild is illegal in most states. Kentucky has elevated the crime to a felony. Nevertheless, feral hogs have become the second most popular game animal after the white-tailed deer.

reports of urban pig problems
In the Northwest, Washington, Oregon and Idaho have stared a "squeal on pigs" effort intended to eradicate unwanted feral swine. People are being encouraged to report pigs or pig signs they see in the wild. Pigs carry diseases that pose a threat to livestock and humans, such as swine brucellosis and trichinosis. Oregon officials estimate 5,000 wild pigs are living in the state. Washington eliminated a population in the southwest corner of the state in the 1990's that arose from an unsanctioned release. The Bruneau Valley of Idaho contains a small population that Idaho officials are monitoring.

Friday, August 03, 2012

'Toontime: One Nation Under the Gun

[credit: Chris Britt, State Journal-Register
Wackydoodle sez: Don't move while I reload!
It is a measure of the power of the gun lobby that a discussion of gun control cannot be held even in an election year! Not even a common sense measure of limiting ammo sales on the Internet could be favorably endorsed by the Current Occupant who wants to be the Next Occupant. The Aurora 'Joker' bought thousands of rounds on-line in preparation for his murder spree. No dirt-ball wants to be deprived of the right to own firearms, but unless he is planning to fight the US Army in a civil war, does he need semi-automatic weapons designed to kill as many people as his oversized magazine will allow? US Person doesn't think so.
[credit: Paul Zanetti, Sydney, Australia Daily Telegraph]

Thursday, August 02, 2012

EPA Gets Record Number of Public Comments

The Environmental Protection Agency is considering carbon standards for new power plants.The standard under consideration is 1,000 lbs of CO₂ per megawatt-hour. While they may seem not worthy of a post here what is significant is the agency received 2.3 million public comments in support of carbon pollution standards. As evidence of a connection between anthropomorphic global warming and extreme weather continues to mount, Americans are paying attention and want the government to do something [infographic: Union of Concerned Scientists]. The agency conducted hearings in Washington, DC and Chicago at which public health professionals, climate scientists and local politicians  testified in support of the standard. Typically the nattering nabobs of climate denial paid for by the fossil fuel industries are already planning to introduce legislation to block implementation of the ground-breaking rule. Nevertheless, the EPA got the message that Americans want to move forward to a greener, more sustainable way of living.

A Cure for Frogs?

AP: mountain yellow-legged with egg sack
The world's frogs are being decimated by the chytrid fungal disease. It has spread to nearly 600 species of frogs and probably driven 200 species to extinction. A biologist researching the disease said it was responsible for "the worst population crash of animals in history". Scientists are now testing a bacteria they hope will provide frogs with immunity to chytridiomycosis in Kings Canyon National Park. The bacterium Janthinobacterium lividum may be the savior of California's mountain yellow-legged frog (Rana muscosa), now on the IUCN Red List as extremely endangered [photo]. Before 1968 yellow-legged frogs were abundant in every area that had permanent water above 1200 feet. Researchers from San Francisco State University are pouring the bacteria into high Sierra lakes where the frog's tadpoles live. The disease inhibits the flow of electrolytes across the amphibian's skin causing heart failure. The bacteria was first discovered on the red-backed salamander which appears to be protected from chytridiomycosis. The Pacific chorus frog also appears to be immune to the disease and is blamed for spreading it to other frogs.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

The Tanker Formerly Known as "Exxon Valdez"

From the where are they now department: A super tanker once named the Exxon Valdez, now incongruously labeled the Oriental Nicety will be scrapped in India's largest scrapyard. The Supreme Court of India ruled Monday that the 26 year old ship run aground by her incapacitated captain can be broken down in Alang on India's western coast. Activists who attempted to block the scrapping contend the ship contains asbestos and heavy metals. The Gujurat Pollution Control Board denied the ship entry into the Alang scrapyard, but the Court said Gujurat maritime authorities had certified the ship contained no hazardous substances. India has one of the world's largest maritime salvage industries. The ill-fated ship's name changed repeatedly to hide its infamous past. It was converted to an ore carrier a decade ago, but suffered more damage from a collision in the South China Sea in 2010. When named Exxon Valdez the vessel broke open after running aground in Prince William Sound, spilling 11 million gallons of crude oil. That spill has since been surpassed in size by the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Exxon was assessed punative damages for the spill of $5 billion, but that was reduced by a business friendly Supreme Courtto only $500,000 million. The original award was larger than the total of all punitive damage awards affirmed by all federal appellate courts in US history. The herring fishery still has not recovered from the toxic pollution of Prince William Sound over twenty years ago {25.03.12, "Exxon Valdez Twenty Years Later"}

Water and Energy, a Critical Connection

US Person continues the drought theme with a look at the vital if not apparent connection between water and power production. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, of all the ways we use and misuse water in America, power plants use the most at 41% of our freshwater needs. That exceed the obvious agricultural uses at 37%. Of all power generation sources nuclear power plants require the most water to make steam, cool reactors and store spent but still radioactive fuel rods. A lot is lost to the atmosphere, that is what happens in the large towers some people mistake for the reactor itself, but most is returned to rivers and estuaries at elevated temperatures often detrimental to aquatic life. The bottom line is power plants need a continuous supply of clean water to operate near full capacity. Last year's heat wave in Texas caused the the water levels in Martin Creek to fall so low that water had to be pumped from the Sabine River eight miles away so Luminant power company could operate its local coal fired plant. Intake water that is too hot can cause problems for a power plant too. The two unit nuclear plant at Prairie Island, MN had to reduce output by 50% to compensate for the elevated temperature of the Mississippi River during the 2006 heat wave. Browns Ferry nuclear plant has reduced generation output in three of the last five summers because it was producing water too hot to be released to the Tennessee River. TVA is spending hundreds of millions for a new cooling tower, the cost of which will be passed to ratepayers.

The new nuclear units proposed for Southern Company's Vogtle nuclear facility along the Savannah River [photo] are estimated to use 55-88 million gallons of water per day, 50-75% of which will be evaporated. The two existing and two proposed reactors could use enough water to meet the needs of 1.4 to 2.3 million Georgians. If you look at the Drought Monitor map posted below, central Georgia is in the midst of an extended, extreme drought. Thermoelectric plants in Georgia already use the most water of any sector in the state. Profligate use of water resources is not a sustainable practice, even in the United States. Solar and wind power require virtually no water to operate, leaving some for you and me and other Earth creatures to drink.