Sunday, June 30, 2013

True America: When America Did Business With Hitler

Large American corporations have a comfortable relationship with fascism. Despite a world war to save Europe from Nazi conquest American based international corporations did business with the Nazis:
Large American companies such as GM, Ford, and IBM not only survived the war but profited from it. The CEOs who led these corporations during the war years were without doubt fascist sympathizers, and in the documented case of Henry Ford, also anti-Semitic. They all put profits ahead of patriotism.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

New Bird Species Found in Cambodia

credit: James Eaton
Sometimes a biologist does not have to journey to the ends of the earth to discover a new species. In the case of the Cambodian tailorbird (Orthotonmus chaktomuk) it was discovered hiding in plain sight at a construction site on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. It is one of only two species endemic to Cambodia according to the Wildlife Conservation Society. Of course, a half century of intense human conflicts in Cambodia have prevented biologists from searching remote habitats for new species.

Attractive male tailorbirds have a distinctive rufous crown, white cheeks, and white on grey throat speckling [photo] with grey underparts and wings.  For their small size they are prodigious singers; male songs often last for one minute and consist of several phrases.  Chaktomuk means "four faces" in Khmer and refers to the confluence of three rivers to form an "X" at Phnom Penh, historically known as Krong Chaktomuk (City of Four Faces). To find a previously undescribed bird within the limits of a large city is unusual, but its habitat of dense scrub helped to conceal its presence until now. Cambodian taylorbirds had to be coaxed into the open for study with recorded vocalizations. The authors of the formal description in the Oriental Bird Club's journal Forktail recommend the Cambodian tailorbird be listed as near-threatened on the ICUN Red List due to declining, fragmented habitat. The fact that a new bird was found so close to man's constructions offer hope that some species will survive if given half a chance. In fact, O. chaktomuk might now be dependent on human activity to keep suitable floodplain scrub habitat from reverting to denser forest.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

NOAA Predicts Larger Dead Zone in Gulf of Mexico

NOAA predicts a possible record size dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico this summer based on computer modeling it supports at the Universities of Michigan and Louisiana State. The hypoxic, or very low levels of oxygen, zone will be between 7,286 and 8,561 sq. miles placing it among the largest ten recorded. Hypoxia is caused by excess nutrient pollution arising mostly from agricultural runoff carried into the Gulf. Due to drought conditions, last years dead zone in the Gulf was the fourth smallest, about the size of Delaware. Stream flows into the Gulf from the Mississippi and Atchafalya Rivers were above normal in May resulting in a 16% increase for the nutrient load. The size of the dead zone, so named because the lack of oxygen on the sea bottom prohibits marine life, will be confirmed during an August survey cruise. Should the hypoxic zone extend to the higher end of the predicted range, it would exceed the record size of 2002. NOAA predicts a smaller than average hypoxia zone for the Chesapeake Bay. Hypoxia zones in the Chesapeake threaten a multi-year effort to restore the Bay's water quality and increase populations of crab and oysters, both commercially important species. Dead zones are proliferating around the world in an age of chemical intensive agriculture.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

COTW: Take Two, Global Flooding

In case you missed last week's COTW or are still in denial like Senator Mark Rubio (R) here is another dealing with the same subject, rising sea levels. It is worth a second look:

credit ClimateProgress
The latest research indicates sea levels could rise by as much as six feet; planners are suggesting prudence dictates a level of two meters (7 feet) for infrastructure building purposes. Forget New Orleans, at six feet Miami will be reduced to an offshore archipelago or an Atlantis-like fantasy land depending on your politics. Miami is already flood prone with an antiquated and inadequate drainage system All of South Florida sits atop a low plateau of sponge-like limestone, totally unable to prevent sea water incursions. Ordinary flood barriers will not work here.  The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development lists Miami as the most vulnerable city in the world in terms of property damage from flooding with more than $416 billion in assets at risk. The attitude adopted by Florida's goofy right-wing politicians is to deny global warming is even occurring.  US Person's advice: give the politicians the leaky life jackets.

Don't like to get wet? More advice--move to Colorado which just experienced its worst wildfire ever in the Black Hills north of Colorado Springs. June broke or tied 3,125 high-temperature records across the United States. May was no slouch either, as it was the warmest in the Northern Hemisphere on record. The old record for a warm spring in the United States was crushed with the largest deviation from average ever recorded. Despite the unmistakable writing on the wall for which you do not need a problem employee like Daniel to decipher, humans continue to increasly dump CO₂ into the atmosphere. Last year global emissions rose to 31.6 gigatons on an upward trend line of about 3% per year. Continuing that trajectory will result in a six degree centigrade increase in global temperature by mid-century and a planet from hell. A non-catastrophic 2 degree rise is consistent with pouring 565 gigatons of CO₂ into the air by mid-century*. Humans are set to burn, wait for it, 2,795 gigatons of carbon worth an estimated $27 trillion in existing fossil fuel inventories, or five times the survival limit. The Alberta tar sand deposits alone account for as much as 240 gigatons of the 565 limit. We do not have to wait until the dying sun melts Earth billions of years in the future to meet our end, for we will kill ourselves first.  Ask the executives of Exxon or Lukoil if they care as they pull out from Miami-Atlantis in their luxury yatchs headed for the Himalayas.

*this "carbon budget" number has been derived by scientists using a consensus of data from about 40 of the latest climate simulation computer programs. The data is becoming more and more consistent as the models are refined. Exxon CEO told Wall Street analysts the company plans to spend $37 billion a year through 2016 searching for more oil and gas.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Montana Supreme Court Says Bison Move OK

Relocation of Yellowstone National Park buffalo to tribal lands in Montana does not violate private property rights says the state Supreme Court. The decision revitalizes conservation efforts to restore the iconic mammal of the American West to some of its former ranges. Ranchers have opposed the reintroduction of buffalo on grounds that the effort violated their private property rights arguing bison damage fences, eat hay meant for cattle, and spread disease to livestock. Predictably, a state court judge agreed with the influential pressure groups, and enjoined the transfer of more buffalo after the first sixty were transferred to Fort Peck Indian Reservation. Eleven bills were introduced into the state legislature against wild buffalo returning to Montana. These bills were defeated by conservationists.

The state Chief Justice said in the court's decision that relocation was a viable alternative to past practices involving Yellowstone bison that included slaughter of thousands of bison. The ruling allows for the immediate transfer of several dozen bison to the Fort Belknap Reservation. The return of "Tatanka" to the Indians' modern culture is very welcomed according to Robert Magnan, Fish and Game director for the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes. Bison meat is a healthier source of protein than beef which could help reduce high rates of obesity and diabetes on the reservation. The animals have spent several years in quarantine on a Ted Turner ranch to ensure they are free from brucellosis. Other lands in Montana are suitable for bison relocation such as the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge. More relocation to non-Indian land will not occur until the state wildlife agency completes a bison management plan due by the end of 2015, but "communistic planning" for restoring the buffalo to its proper place in the American West continues.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

True America: The First Red Scare

The United States has faced domestic radicalism in its past. In a pattern, beginning with Lincoln's suppression of the press and suspension of habeas corpus, it has responded by curtailing civil liberties. Despite massive domestic counter-terror programs terrorist acts continue to occur. The Boston Marathon bombing is the most recent example. This amateur video, Red Scare: American Reaction to Communism" shows the extremes --"willingness to bend laws" in the young narrator's terms--which American law enforcement used to suppress leftist radicals and anarchists after World War I. The Espionage Act of 1917 mentioned therein has been invoked more times by the Current Occupant than before in the struggle against global jihad which began with the attacks of September 11, 2001

Friday, June 21, 2013

'Toontime: When Words Fail

This photo from the recently past G-8 summit confirms the ability of a good photograph to compress reality, or as commonly said "to be worth a thousand words". Two of the mortal world's most powerful men are clearly unable to come to terms on ending the bloodshed in Syria, but seem are willing to continiue the killing by supplying arms to both sides:

Pop quiz: Which one above is the Nobel Peace Prize recipient?

[credit: Randy Jones]
Just a few weeks ago the fortunes of war appeared to be turning against Assad, but after Hezbollah allied with him and won a victory in Qusayr the regime now has the upper hand and is moving on the rebel stronghold of Aleppo. Exigencies of the proxy conflict has allowed the Current Occupant to send more arms to a side that is fragmented and dominated by jihadists who are enemies of the West in other countries, i.e Mali. The longer the civil war continues the more it aggravates the Sunni-Shia sectarian divide throughout the Middle East. Already, Iran is spiraling downward into a renewal of its own sectarian conflict within two years of US troops leaving the country. Since April 2,000 people have died in bombing attacks there. Thirty-seven were killed when bombers attacked a Shia mosque in northern Baghdad on Tuesday.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Flying Rainbows Return to Mexico

The gorgeous Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao) is returning to southern Mexico as part of a massive reintroduction project in the preserved forests of Palenque. The species has been extinct in this region for close to 70 years due to a combination of factors including the illegal pet trade. The latest release is the result of years of coordination between the ecoparks Auxes and Xcaret, the Institute of Biology of the Univesity of Mexico, and the Mexican government's environmental agency and army. The Macaw is not immediately in danger but exists in 2% of its former range. Only 250 or so are thought to survive near Mexico's Guatemalan border in protected areas. The number of protected areas are sufficient to allow long-lived macaws which are able to fly over distance to thrive, biologists believe, and connect the remnant populations with newly released birds.

Ecopark Xcaret is the only known place where captive breeding of an appropriate sub species, Ara macao cyanoptera, successfully takes place on a large scale. It provides the birds for release. So far all 17 released macaws seem to be adapting well to their wild surroundings. They are often found hanging about the park's manatee lagoons. A second flock of 10 is supposed to be released this month with further releases taking place in small groups until the planned 60-70 are given freedom this year. The intelligent parrots are trained intensively before release to insure their survival in the wild. The training covers flock formation, food recognition, and predator--including poacher--avoidance. Previously released flocks can act as tutors for newcomers. Breeding boxes have been built for them and a food supply is available if they cannot find enough to eat in the wild. The parrots will be tracked for years to assess reintroduction success. The program, if completely successful, will double the number of macaws in the wild by 2015. The people of Palenque are captivated by the culturally significant bird's return to this cradle of ancient Mayan civilization. A sense of pride in the human community for their birds is reported by program managers. The Mexican government is implementing a yearly Scarlet Macaw Festival to support the parrots' return. Once again streaks of living color in the sky may become an admired commonplace in Palenque.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Another Pipeline Spill In Canada

The largest of three major leaks in Alberta was first detected June 1st but the Houston-based Apache Energy Company did not release a size estimate until last week. The 2.5 million gallon spill of "produced water" killed everything in its path over 42 hectares according to the Dene Tha First Nation that hunts and fish in the area, 100 miles from the Northwest Territories border. The duration of the spill is not known yet, but the waste water contains hydrocarbons, high levels of salt, sulfurous compounds, metals. solvents and naturally occurring radioactive materials. The spill took place in a wetlands area, but it has not reached the Zama River yet. Neither Apache or the Alberta government reported the spill but it came to public attention after a citizen reported it to a TV station. The pipe that leaked was only five years old and designed to last for thirty according to company spokesmen.

Meanwhile, The Current Occupant is laying the groundwork with deep pocket Democrat supporters for approval of the Keystone Pipeline by more promises of action on curbing greenhouse gas emissions. Environmental activists are not buying the trade off of Keystone for regulation of new and existing power plant emissions, for example. The pipeline is designed to carry 830,000 of diluted bitumen a day. Processing and burning that amount of fossil fuel will release enormous amounts of greenhouse gases into the global atmosphere. Global emmission have already reached record levels in 2012 says the International Energy Agency.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

British Economy Worse Than Great Depression

This chart is from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, a British think tank:

The yellow line for the period 1930-34 should be compared to the black line of the current Second Great Depression. Sixty months out from the beginning of the contraction, Britain's economy is still not recovered. During the First Great Depression, Great Britain recovered its previous peak in four years. Austerians not only made glaring mathematical mistakes in theory, but their polices as applied in the real world are in one word, a bust. Yet the Tory government refuses to back off on the myth of expansionary austerity. Its austerity measures are clearly prolonging the suffering of Britons, like a medieval doctor bleeding his dying patient. The country narrowly missed a triple dip recession this year thanks in part to tiny growth in public sector spending

In Stockport near Manchester so many homeless people are seeking shelter that Eastern European immigrants have begun sleeping in sandstone caves dugout in the 17th century. The warren is perched on a 20ft precipice over the Mersey. There has been a 42% increase in homelessness in the Manchester area. Austerity was supposed to spark economic growth and reduce deficits; it has done neither:
Britain does not have a debt crises because its borrowing costs are at historic lows.  It does have an unemployment and growth problem [chart below]. The IMF says that fiscal austerity reduces incomes and raises unemployment for about five years after the policy is instigated. Five years of Tory economic policy has achieved one thing: the dismembering of Great Britain's social welfare state. For Tories that may not be a bad thing because admitting their economic mismanagement would be political suicide.

Monday, June 17, 2013

COTW: Sea Level Rise Fastest in 2000 Years

This chart is PNG's chart of the week for obvious reasons and comes from Mother Jones:
Proxy reconstructions are necessary because tide gauge observation data does not go back beyond 100 years or so. The reconstructions are based on salt marsh microfossils records from North Carolina that show sea level changes correspond to global temperature increases. When the world started to warm up with the industrial revolution, sea levels began to rise quickly. During the "Little Ice Age" sea levels dropped. As the Current Occupant prepares to release the enormous additional amount of greenhouse gases that will come with the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, ask yourself: who's national interest is he representing?

The boarded up South Ferry subway station in Manhattan's Battery Park displays an ominous mark. Rust and salt trace the level reached by floodwaters in the Sandy hurricane disaster at 13.88 feet above low-tide. That's a record bettering all historical floods by four feet. Its going to get worse. Melting in Greenland and Antarctica will push sea levels up by more than three feet by the end of the century. Storms now considered 100 year events will occur more frequently; predictions range from every 3 to 20 years. If seaside megalopolises like New York and Tokyo want to stay where they are, billions will have to be spent on infrastructure to combat flooding.

Friday, June 14, 2013

'Toontime: "Government You Can Trust"

[credit: Rick McKee, Augusta Chronicle]
Wackydoodle axes:  How yo'all know that fur shure?
Now that the despot-in-chief, Valdimir Putin, has given his seal of approval to the United States spying on its citizens without probable cause you can all relax and go back to enjoying porn on your computer screens!
[credit: John Cole, The Times-Tribune]
Wackydoodle sez: NSA stands fur "Nobody's Secure Anymore"

Nazi Commander Lives in US

Michael Karkoc, 94, is living quietly in Minneapolis after lying to immigration officials about his Nazi past.  AP says Karkoc was a founding member of the Ukrainian Self Defense Legion (31 SD Schutzmannschafts Battalion), commanded by the SS, and later a company officer in the 14th SS-Volunteer Galician Division [right, shoulder emblem] into which the Legion was merged. AP obtained records about Karkoc's Nazi past through a Freedom of Information Act request. Both of these military units were on a secret US immigration blacklist. Former members were forbidden from entering the United States. The records do not show that Karkoc had a direct hand in the massacre of civilians on the Eastern Front, but the Ukrainian company he commanded committed atrocities. SS files also indicate he was present at the 1944 Warsaw Uprising in which Polish people rebelled against Nazi occupation and were brutally liquidated. One of Karkoc's men, Vasyl Malazhenski, told Soviet investigators that in 1944 the unit was directed to liquidate the village of Chlaniow in reprisal for the killing of SS Major Siegfried Assmuss, commander of the battalion. Malazhenski testified to seeing the bodies of men, women and children as he passed in file out of the destroyed village. Another soldier under Karkoc's command according to SS files, Teodozy Dak, was convicted of war crimes in Poland in 1972. He died in prison.

German prosecutors are obligated to bring cases against former Nazi commanders even if their personal involvement cannot be proven at this late date, if there is enough "initial suspicion" of war crimes. Josef Scheungraber was convicted in 2009 of murder based on evidence that placed the former lieutenant at the scene of a civilian massacre in Italy. The US Army was responsible for processing visa applications after the war under the Displaced Persons Act, but did not, or could not check his bona fides. Karkoc lied in a 1949 background questionnaire saying he worked for his father until 1944 and then in a labor camp until 1945. However, in a Ukrainian language newspaper published in 1995 and which AP found on-line, Karkoc stated he helped form the Self Defense League in 1943 in collaboration with the SD (Sicherheitdienst), the SS's own intelligence agency.  AP was tipped to Karkoc's past by a retired British pharmacologist amusing himself by looking into the background of former members of the SS Galician Division. He found Karkoc's name and an address in Minnesota. Karkoc was contacted by reporters but refused comment saying, "I don't think I can explain." Ukrainian units attached to German forces on the Eastern Front were often used to suppress or kill local populations deemed to be problematic by their German commanders.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Supreme Court Rejects Torture Suit

Two US citizens tortured by US forces in Iraq sued former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in federal court for damages. The suit was rejected by the Seventh Circuit which found that the "military authority exception" to the Administrative Procedure Act bars suit against the government for actions by military authorities exercised in the field during war time or in occupied territory. The Supreme Court denied certiorari in the case. Repeated efforts to hold former high US officials responsible for violations of human rights have met with little success in courts of law. The Charlatan cancelled a trip to Switzerland in 2011 when two criminal complaints were filed against him for violating the UN Convention Against Torture. Under Swiss law, a defendent must be in the country before a criminal investigation can be opened. In his memoirs, The Charlatan admits he personally authorized waterboarding and other "enhanced interrogation techniques". Donald Rumsfeld was charged with war crimes in a complaint filed in Germany in 2006.  He was also forced to cancel his travel plans.  The case was later dismissed by Germany's federal prosecutor.

True America: When Uncle Sam Read your Snail Mail

Many readers probably never heard of the Church Committee hearings. It was the one time in US Person's memory that Congress stood up to the spys. Watch those "little red riding hoods" like Hubert Humphrey, Walter Mondale, Frank Church and even Ted Kennedy ask the right questions. The news piece is reported by Daniel Shorr who ran into career trouble at CBS when he reported leaked information from the secret Pike Committee report on illegal FBI and CIA activities, and took the 5th when called to testify to his source. Rare guest appearance by a medicated James Jesus Angleton, superspy. (Yes, that really was his middle name!):

In an age when citizens can be tracked by their smart phones, and speech they thought was protected by law perhaps from decades ago can be electronically perused for possible violation of more than 27,000 pages of federal crimes alone, "having nothing to hide" is not a good defense against being on a somebody's politically motivated black list. We no longer live in a democracy, but a corporatist police state and "Big Brother" is definitely not friendly!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Big Brother is Watching YOU!

Update: The FBI has launched a criminal investigation of Snowden, the agency announced Thursday.
Before the corporate mass media goes to work on the character of Edward Snowden--he is already been called a "grandiose narcissist"--here is his own statement about his motivation for leaking information about PRISM from his  Hong Kong hotel room:

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

COTW: Greenback Bonanza

Wall Street continues to pound the austerity drum. S&P's upgraded America's credit rating from negative to stable, provided of course there is no "deliberate relaxation of fiscal policy without countervailing measures". Austerity has not encouraged private sector investment and has undermined economic growth. What is driving the stock market to new highs is cheap money courtesy of the Fed. Corporate profitability has less to do with stock performance than anytime in recent history. Of the 116 previews of second quarter earnings 93 are negative. Corporations are hoarding their cash not investing it as the chart of the ratio of corporate profits to GDP shows. American companies are now holding a record $1.73 trillion on the sidelines. Government spending dropped at an annual rate of 4.9% for the first quarter reflecting the effects of sequestration. The lack of spending will reduce overall GDP about 2.6% to 2%, while America's growth rate will slow to below 2%.

Some economic commentators are asking if the recovery touted in the corporate mass media is real or another bubble created by the Federal Reserve Bank at the behest of Wall Street. Consider two pieces of evidence that the American economy is in recovery: consumer confidence and housing prices. Consumer confidence on the Conference Boards index hit 76.2, the highest level since February 2008. You may recall if you are not affected by ADD that 2008 will go down in history as the year the global economy melted down. However, the average consumer confidence level during a recession is about 79. Americans are obviously not economically clairvoyant.

Housing prices seem to be another false signal that our economy is mending. They are rising at the fastest rate in seven years. One would think that the increase in housing demand would be reflected in more loan originations. Look at the chart and think again. Loan originations are well below the bubble years and even below post bust 2009. The number of loan originations are at the same levels of the mid '90s. The reason for this logical incongruity is the demand in the housing market is mostly from financial institutions and speculators, while the supply is being constricted by lenders, thus driving up prices. One investment firm alone, Blackstone Group, has bought 26,000 homes in nine states. JP Morgan-Chase says institutional buyers have amassed $10 billion for buying distressed single family homes to renovate and rent to Americans. In California house flipping has reached 2005 levels. Three major banks halted their foreclosure sales last month to prop-up house prices. US Person's advice: sit tight and conserve cash just like the "big fellas" are doing because the Second Great Depression isn't over:

Monday, June 10, 2013

Uncle Sam's New Neighbor?

The announcement could be the begining of the end of America's two-centuries old dominance of Central America or it could be the beginning of a colossal swindle, either way the proposal to award a Chinese-based company a 100 year concession to build an alternative to the Panama Canal has raised some eyebrows. President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua has boosted approval of the concession to HK Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Co. Ltd. He hopes to submit the proposal to an initial assembly vote today with final approval by the end of the week according to AP. The Chinese are no strangers to massive earth moving and construction projects. Even so, this canal project is large by international standards. Experts think it could take eleven years to build, requiring digging about 130 miles of waterway through mountainous jungle. If built, it will be bigger than the Panama Canal in all its critical dimensions and be able to carry container ships double the size of ships able to pass even the expanded Panama Canal. The cost is estimated now to be $40 billion. he Sandinistas who split away from Ortega in 1995 want more information about the developers while questioning Ortega's rush to approve the project. The Sandinistas said it a statement, "we can assume this is a swindle, a deal with a front company to get a concession, and then sell the rights to someone else."  The Hong Kong company director, Wang Jing, is also listed as the director in 12 other existing or dissolved Hong Kong companies.   There are also sensitive environmental issues to consider. Costa Rica and Nicaragua almost resorted to armed conflict in 2011 over Nicaragua's dredging of the San Juan River to improve navigation. Still, Ortega and his allies control the national legislature, so project approval is expected.

About 42% of the work is completed on massive new locks that upgrade the Panama Canal to allow modern ships too large to use that waterway now. The Canal has also been deepened with the dredging of the trans-divide Culebra Cut finished in March. The $5.25 billion project is behind schedule and needs to be completed soon if a larger competitor is on the drawing boards. A ship pays about $400,000 to cross the Panama isthmus. Maersk Line, the world's largest container shipping line, stopped using the Panama Canal and switched to the Suez Canal for Asian sailings bound to the east coast of the United States. Some shipping experts do not think there is enough traffic to justify two canal crossings. The Nicaraguan Canal has a projected opening date of 2019.

proposed route, 1902
The Nicaraguan canal idea has a history dating to New Spain. Nicaragua granted industrial baron Cornelius Vanderbilt a twelve year canal concession in 1846, but a Nicaraguan civil war prevented construction. Only a temporary rail and stagecoach trade route operated successfully. The route though Lake Nicaragua lost out to the Panama isthmus because the United States was able to purchase the existing French Panama project cheaply. An extensive hydrological study was completed in 1899 which concluded the water route via canal up the San Juan River to Lake Nicaragua and another canal across the narrow Rivas isthmus was feasible at a total cost $138 million. An interesting sidelight to the debate over which route to use was the lobbying efforts of William Nelson Cromwell on behalf of the French Canal Syndicate. Cromwell littered the Senate with leaflets showing the Momotombo volcano erupting. But it was the Saint-Pierre eruption in Martinique which killed 30,000 that convinced Congressmen to vote for a Panama canal over a Nicaraguan one. Nevertheless, Cromwell was paid $800,000 for his efforts.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Creature Feature: Tenkile

credit: Peter Schouten
You may have never heard of Scott's tree kangaroo (Dendrolagus scottae) that is one of the most endangered animals on Earth and has loads of cuteness to boot. The small kangaroo looks like a crossbreed of koala bear and dingo with dark fuzzy fur, long tail and snout, and small ears. It has one problem in the charism department: it smells bad and the odor lingers. The reason for the tenkile's endangerment is human encroachment on its Torricelli Mountain home in Papua, New Guinea. Once isolated, the tenkile now struggles to avoid human settlements and is restricted to three isolated pockets along the summit of the Torricelli Range. The Tenkile Conservation Alliance (TCA) estimates there are about 300 tenkils left. Some local hunters remember killing as many as six tenkile a day less than thirty years ago. Modern hygiene and medicines have increased the human population as well as diluted local taboos associated with conservation areas known as "ples masalai" Modernity also introduced the gun. Although the tenkile has been described in the scientific literature since 1989, not a lot is known about its habits and preferred foods. An expedition is underway to place camera traps in their range to allow a more accurate count. Locals are being consulted about the "olos" foraging and breeding behavior. TCA has developed an outreach program to educate villagers about wildlife conservation. It has provided 320 water tanks to the fifty villages (~10,000 inhabitants) covered by the program. As a consequence, local people have vowed not to hunt the remaining tenkiles and help scientists study them. To see photographs of this endangered cutie and read an interview with a researcher go to

San Onofre Faces Full License Hearing

Further: More evidence that the capital intensive, heavily subsidized nuclear power industry is loosing the economic battle to alternative fuels and natural gas comes from Iowa. Iowa has one small boiling water reactor that generates about 600MW, Duane Arnold, located near Cedar Rapids. Mid-American Energy had plans to build the state's second reactor, but on Monday it announced it intended to scrap its plans and refund ratepayers $8.8 million unspent for a feasibility study. The company envisioned a modular nuclear plant, touted by industry boosters as the magic bullet against huge up-front capital expenditures and escalating costs. Only one problem with that: there is no approved design for a modular plant. The feasibility study started in 2010 which identified two potential 700 acre sites for building a modular plant expected to cost $1 billion. The study claimed the plant would be safe, cost-effective, bring in a $75 million payroll, and contribute another $1.2 billion in spending over the eleven year construction period. It was the usual rosy scenario of a $135 million annual boost to the Iowa economy. Then, reality got in the way. Iowans became concerned about the environmental issues associated with nuclear power such as water consumption, groundwater contamination, radioactivity leaks, and thermal pollution. Financing became an issue because ratepayers and not investors were expected to bear the risk of construction. Even AARP, the retired Americans' lobby group, helped kill legislation that would have allowed MidAmerican to charge customers for planning and construction of the plant before it was built, the same front running strategy used in Georgia to finance its new Vogtle nuclear plant. A poll of Iowans found 77% opposed putting ratepayers on the hook upfront. Now that the "too cheap to meter" dream of the nuclear power industry has been dispelled as an unhealthy obsession, Warren Buffett's Mid-American Energy can focus on its $1.9 billion project to build 656 wind turbines across Iowa so the wind can move more than just the corn. The company expects rates to go down by $10 million when all the turbines are completed by 2017.

courtesy: Southern California Edison
Update:{07.06.13}Southern California Edison has reluctantly decided to decommission Units 2 & 3 of its San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. The station sits on top of an active geological fault, but the company only said in its statement that "continuing uncertainty about when or if [it] would return to service is not good for our customers, our investors..." SoCalEd intends to pursue a damage claim against Mitusbishi Heavy Industries, the designer and manufacturer of steam generating units that deteriorated much sooner than expected. Deterioration of steam tubes resulted in leaks of radioactive steam. The steam generators were replaced in Unit 2 in 2009 and two more in Unit 3 in 2010. Not being allowed to operate the facility at full power would be uneconomic for the company, and the requirement of a full evidentiary hearing on a restart by the Atomic Licensing Board did not presage well for a rapid return to normal operations. Petitioner Friends of the Earth said the company's decision was, "very good news for the people of Southern California. We have long said that these reactors are too dangerous to operate and now Edison has agreed. The people of California now have the opportunity to move away from the failed promise of dirty and dangerous nuclear power and replace it with the safe and clean energy provided by the sun and the wind."

{30.05.13} Faced with the prospect of an evidentiary hearing concerning San Onofre's continuing problems, Senator Babara Boxer (D) is asking for a criminal probe concerning statements made by the nuclear generating stations owners to regulators. She released a letter by an Edison executive to Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, designer of the plant, that she characterized as "major new evidence of misrepresentation and safety lapses". Edison replaced the steam generators in 2009 without review by NRC because the company represented the replacements as the same parts. In the letter a company vice-president said the parts "aren't like for like replacements", and the executive was concerned that the design of the "anti-vibration bar represented the most significant task facing the industry" which could introduce potential design flaws that will "lead to unacceptable consequences (e.g. tube wear and eventual tube plugging)." That is exactly the condition that caused the plant to shut down in 2012. Southern California Edison is unimpressed with Boxer's assertions, claiming the improvement of its steam generators was in accord with the NRC's section 50.59 which does not require identical equipment if enumerated criteria are met. San Onofre is located on the seacoast, 55 miles north of San Diego, population 1.3 million. The plant is forty years old.

{29.5.13} US Person reported previously about the nuclear power plant that is California's own Fukushima. {12.01.13,"San Onofre NGS, Waiting to Close"} San Onofre has the dubious distinction of being located on both an active earthquake fault and on the Pacific coastline. It has been closed for repairs since January 2012, due to premature deterioration of steam tubes. Owner Southern California Edison wanted to restart the plant without the pain of a formal re-licensing hearing but an administrative three-judge panel of the Atomic Safety Licensing Board ruled on May 14th that a formal evidentiary hearing with public participation is necessary for issues related to the steam generator units at the facility. The ruling grants a petition for a formal hearing filed by the environmental organization, Friends of the Earth. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission previously indicated it would grant Southern California Edison permission to partially restart Unit 2 at less than full power without a public hearing. The safety board said a partial restart would be an "experiment" since the tube degradation at San Onofre is "unprecedented". Unexpected tube vibration caused excessive wear in the generators which contain highly radioactive steam during operation. Under the Commission's own rules an experiment would allow the reactor to operate beyond the scope of the current license and without complying with applicable technical specifications. Both Units 2 & 3 are currently not producing electricity, yet the company continues to collect rates based on the plant being in service. Edison admitted it is unlikely Unit 3, which is the more severely damaged, would be operating in the near future. Readers will recall that a 9.0 megaquake on March 11, 2011 caused a tsunami that wrecked a similar seaside facility, Fukushima Daiichi, in Japan. There all four reactors' cooling systems failed resulting in the largest accidental release of radioactivity ever recorded.

Friday, June 07, 2013

'Toontime: In the Shadow of Old Dick

[credit: J.D. Crowe, Mobile Register]
Wackydoodle sez: He ain't named Hold'er for nutin!
The press scandal continues to simmer in the increasing Washington humidity (its not the heat) much to the delight of Repugnants. Democrats are ripping Attorney General Holder for putting B. O'Drama in range of the scandal mongers. Holder is himself under investigation for perjury during his testimony last month about the subpoenaing of news media phone records. He said under oath he was never involved in a subpoena of news media phone records. But later reports revealed Holder did sign off on a decision to approve a search warrant for Fox News reporter James Rosen. Video of May 29, 2013 testimony.

Meanwhile back at the fundraiser, high-maintenance Michelle 'FLOTUS' O'Drama backed down an irate lesbian heckler "looking for federal equality before I die" with intimidating power poses and an ultimatum to the crowd. US Person thinks with dysfunctional associates like these the Current Occupant will need another war to survive his second term! The shadow of Nixon looms ever larger*:

[credit: Nate Beeler, Columbus Dispatch]
Wackydoodle axes: Where's the gap?

*Just as in the days of Tricky Dick, there is massive domestic surveillance being conducted in the name of national security.  The difference is that this time Congress has ostensibly authorized the spying by virtue of its ill-conisdered license to the executive branch to conduct a "War on Terror" by any means necessary (the so-called Patriot Act). Verizon was ordered by the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to turnover on a "daily on-going basis" the records of all landline and mobile telephone calls of its customers.  This order was disclosed by the British newspaper, The Guardian, not an American paper. It is likely that similar orders are in place for other major phone companies. The Current Occupant defends the program saying the spying is necessary to protect American lives and that the intrusion is minimal since private conversations are not monitored unless there are indications of terrorist "communities of interest" in which case a wiretap would be requested. Verizon has 121 million customers according to its first quarter report. Civil libertarians say the program is destroying Americans' constitutionally protected right to privacy. That's because amassing telephony "metadata" on an individual can enable a spy service to construct an accurate and intrusive picture of a person's private life without warrant or notice. And that's not all! The NSA has direct access to supposedly private information on Google, Facebook, Apple and other major internet service companies. The program code-named "Prism" allow spys to collect material including search histories, e-mail contents, file transfers and live chats. Uncle Sam may not be listening to your phone calls, but he is reading your e-mail!

Thursday, June 06, 2013

WalMart Fined for Pesticides

Wal-Mart Stores plead guilty to illegally disposing of pesticides returned by consumers by placing pesticide containers in municipal trash or pouring liquids into municipal sewer systems.  The guilty pleas to six counts of violating the Clean Water Act were in cases filed by federal prosecutors in Los Angeles and San Francisco. The company paid a $40 million criminal fine and and another $20 million to fund community service projects such as the new Retail Compliance Assistance Center that will assist retail stores with hazardous waste disposal regulations. Wal-Mart also plead guilty to violating the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act in Kansas City. More than 2 million pounds of pesticides were improperly handled by Wal-Mart's disposal contractor near Neosho, MO between July 2006 and February 2008 according to the US Attorney for the Western District of Missouri. As a result of these criminal cases and a related civil case filed by EPA, Wall-Mart will pay a total of $81.6 million in federal penalties. Wall-Mart Stores Inc. posted a gross income of $116.67 billion for 2013.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Turtle Guardian Murdered in Costa Rica

AP: Mora, center
The latest crime in a disturbing trend of violence against wildlife and conservation activists comes from Costa Rica, ostensibly a very Green nation. Jairo Mora Sandoval a paid leatherback turtle guardian on the beach near Limon was kidnapped with four female foreigners, three from the US and one from Spain. Only Sandoval was killed last Friday. The four women were tied up and robbed. Costa Rica depends heavily on eco-tourism; already the killing has scared away potential volunteers who flock to the country to help preserve its environment. Protecting Costa Rica's nesting beaches and turtles is basically done with volunteer labor and resources. Mora and the four women volunteers finished their Morin beach patrol about 3 am, Friday. They approached a downed palm tree across the road. When Mora got out to move the tree, a group of masked men assaulted him. They took Mora and the women to an abandoned house and robbed them. Mora was chosen for special treatment intended to send a message. Stripped naked he was tied to the car bumper, he was dragged up the beach, and then shot in the face. According to a Costa Rican newspaper, Mora died of blunt force trauma, not the gunshot. The family breadwinner was not paid a lot to do the work of protecting leatherbacks, rain or shine at night, but according to his mother he loved the turtles. The assailants are believed to be poachers, but could also be drug traffickers since often they are connected in a lucrative black market. Eggs bring $1 each. This is the first time a conservation worker has been killed in local memory. Costa Rica prides itself on being different from its Central American neighbors mired in drug trade crime and political corruption. So the government needs to address safety issues if it hopes to continue to benefit from what has been a largely successful policy of conservation and economic sustainability.

More: Greenpeacetells us that leatherback turtles on the California coast are threatened by National Marine Fisheries Service efforts to shrink their sanctuary. As fish stocks rapidly decrease, NMFS is under pressure from the fishing industry to reduce conservation areas where tackle such as gill nets are prohibited. Known as "walls of death" for good reason these are deployed to ensnare swordfish but they also drown marine turtles, whales and dolphins. For every pound of swordfish caught, 27 pounds of other marine life--callously termed "bycatch"--is wasted. As marine life populations plummet because of over-exploitation and climate change, conservation areas should be expanded to allow species to recover. The leatherback family of turtles has survived for millions of years, yet if humans do not act to protect them scientists estimate the species will not survive another twenty years. You can help Greenpeace and all of us who care about our fellow Earth creatures by sending your message to the NMFS to stop jeopardizing leatherbacks.

COTW: Water Everywhere and Not a Drop to Drink

USGS puts this chart up for kids, but adults can learn something too. From space Earth looks like a blue marble because of its vast oceans that make up 96+% of water on Earth. But the tiny amount of freshwater available (blue silver, left bar) is what supports life, and not even all of that is available to drink (right bar)  Earth's perilous web of life, totally dependent on water, is facing yet another crisis. Recently water experts meeting in Bonn warned that 4.5 billion people are living within 50 kms of an impaired water resource meaning the source is running out or is polluted. The scientists fault governments for treating water as an endlessly available resource to be exploited continuously. The Colorado River is a world-class example. It is over appropriated the extent that it no longer reaches the Gulf of California, its last drops evaporating in the Sonoran Desert. 210 million Americans live within 10 miles of an impaired water source and that number is expected to increase. Polanski's Chinatown,while a scintillating tribute to film noir,also packs a subplot concerning the value of scarce water in the American southwest, and is loosely based on the massive 1913 water grab by the City of the Angels from Owens Valley farmers. Today, the city pumps a staggering 30 billion gallons a year out of the valley via the Los Angeles Aqueduct. Owens Lake is now an alkali dust bowl which dried up in 1926. View the video, "Water in the Anthropocene" which depicts the global impace of humans on the global water cycle.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Cook Inlet Belugas Get Temporary Reprieve

The last 300 surviving Beluga whales living in Cook Inlet are under duress due to increasing industrialization around nearby Anchorage, Alaska. Last Tuesday a federal judge ruled that a permit issued to Apache Alaska Corporation by the National Marine Fisheries Service allowing seismic surveys in search of oil and gas was based on flawed mathematics. The ruling is not final and the judge has asked for more briefing on associated issues. The court found that the issued permit was arbitrary and capricious because it was based on erroneous mathematical calculations that consistently understated beluga whale "takes" or fatalities. The Fisheries service would have allowed Apache to kill up to 30 whales or 10% of the existing population. The issued permit expired in April pending litigation. There may have been as many a 1300 Cook Inlet belugas, but the number has fallen dramatically during the 1990's reflecting man's increasing encroachment on their habitat. In 2011 the population was estimated at 284. The numbers have not rebounded despite a hunting ban. If Apache is allowed to go ahead, it will use high-powered air guns to send sonic blasts through the water column for days on end. These hypersonic blasts are known to be potentially fatal to marine mammals, as well as disruptive of normal breeding and foraging behavior. The suit was brought by the NRDC, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Chickaloon Native Village. A chief of the village said that his people no longer hunt the sacred belugas because there are so few of them. The Cook Inlet population is genetically distinct and the smallest of Alaska's five distinct populations.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Digging Up Keystone XL, Already!

The southern leg of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline was laid last year, but already landowners are noticing that pipeline builders are back digging up the pipe just laid. The reason reported by Public Citizen is dozens of faults, including bad welds have been identified along a sixty-mile stretch of pipeline north of the Sabine River in Texas. TransCanada and its contractor, Michels, are digging up pipe that has been in the ground for six months in the vicinity of Winnsboro. An independent inspector and a right of way representative reported problems to landowners and Public Citizen. The southern segment of the international pipeline is supposed to carry tar sands oil from Cushing Oklahoma to the Gulf Coast for export. Keystone I, the predecessor to the controversial Keystone XL project, has spilled more oil in its first year of operation than any new pipeline in US history, springing twelve leaks. Stakes along the Keystone XL southern leg mark problem areas--"anomalies"--with words such as "dent", "weld" and "cut out". Company digging is clearly visible from a public right of way along the sixty mile segment. Repair work for such a new pipe does to bode well for the pipeline's safety when in operation carrying hot, high pressure and abrasive dilbit. Landowners concerned for the safety[video] of their land and water are asking the US Department of Transportation to investigate.

More: The British Columbia provincial government has rejected plans to build a pipeline over the Rockies to the Alberta tar sands submitted by the Canadian company, Enbridge. In its final submission to the Northern Gateway Pipeline Joint Review Board BC said it cannot support the application because the company "has been unable to address British Columbian' environmental concerns". The finding apparently cuts off one route being proposed by oil producers to get tar sands crude to a coast for processing and export. The Northern Gateway project is a twin pipeline between Edmonton, Alberta and a new marine terminal at Kitmat, BC. First Nations opposition to the project has been strong and united. The pipeline could not be built without breaking First Nation unity through financial bribes or land seizures. The province has also maintained some high hurdles during the review process, requiring "world leading" oil spill response and prevention. An Enbridge owned pipeline crossing a tributary of the Kalamazoo River in Michigan ruptured in July 2010 spilling 877,000 gallons of toxic dilbit. It was one of the costliest spill on land in the US and cleanup is still ongoing three years later. Enbridge was fined $3.7 million for the Kalamazoo spill. British Columbia's rejection places pressure on the United States government to give Canadian oil producers an outlet in the form of the Keystone XL project pending approval by the Current Occupant. Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion is still under consideration by BC. As it stands now, new high capacity bitumen pipelines do not meet Canadian environmental standards, but according to the US State Department they are alright for 'Merica because the business of it is, 'bidness'. Bitumen oil production would increase by 30% if the Keystone XL project is approved by the O'Drama administration, adding significantly to greenhouse gas emissions.