Friday, December 23, 2016

Happy Holidaze From Persona Non Grata!

US Person will take a well deserved break from PNG for the holidaze season.  Come back in the New Year for more high-impact blog in this space!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Rising Seas Are Killing Southern Forests

Saltwater intrusions into low-lying fresh water ecosystems are killing stands of hardwood trees like red cedar, live oak and wax myrtles turning once vibrant, diverse fresh water ecosystems into salt-water "ghost forests".  A visit into the Withlacoochee Gulf Preserve in the Big Bend region of Florida's Gulf Coast by journalist Roger Drouhin is reported at Environment360.edu. He viewed hummock islands that once were populated by hardwood trees, that are now infested with salt-water tolerant plants and dead or dying trees.  The US Geological Survey is studying dying Cypress trees in the swampland along the Savannah River. Besides killing trees, species that depend on hardwood stands such as woodpeckers are also affected. The same phenomenon is occurring throughout the coastal floodplains in the south and as far north as New Jersey and Delaware, as sea levels rise due to global warming.

NOAA estimates that since 1992 sea levels are rising 1.2 inches per decade, caused by the waters' thermal expansion, and the loss of land-based ice to the oceans.  The oceans are absorbing more than 90% of increased atmospheric heat due to emissions from human activity.

Albemarle Sound, North Carolina
Low levels of salt penetrating the soil slows down hardwood growth and fewer seeds are produced.  Salt also breaks down peat, partially decomposed vegetation which builds up over time to create a viable growing medium at a rate of about a tenth of an inch per year.  Loss of peat causes land to subside which allows salt water to penetrate further inland. Once forest habitat transitions to salt marsh and eventually to open salt water.  Ecologists see these changes taking place now, providing an early warning of what will be in the future [photo credit: M. Ardon] The death of native species allow salt tolerant invasive species to take their place such as the salt marsh reed, Phragmites.  Scientists say the toll on freshwater marshes and bottom land hardwood forests will be severe.  An important function of coastal wetlands is the buffering of storm surges which will be lost if these lowlands eventually become open water.  When one considers that 40% of the US population lives near a coast, this is a drastic impact for the worse; see the charts below for just two southern populated regions that will be affected the most.



Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Emolument, Not?

Not yet ensconced in the room without corners, the Donald has probably committed a constitutional offense that in the opinion of constitutional experts constitutes an "impeachable offense".  Face it palefaces: you elected a man that comes pre-loaded with conflicts of interests because of his global business dealings.  And sure enough, he has already run afoul of the Constitution's Emoluments Clause.  US Person knows you know practically nothing about the Constitution or its contents, so pay attention: Article I, Section 9 says that payments to the President by foreign governments or dignitaries without consent of Congress are prohibited.  The reason for this provision is obvious:  the Founders did not want the nation's chief executive to be bribed by foreign powers in return for favors.

That is exactly what Trump's organization has allegedly done.  They pressured the Kuwaiti government to move its National Day celebration scheduled to take place before the election from the Four Seasons Hotel to Trump's International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue in February.  The Electoral College just recently voted to install Trump in power.  Before his inauguration on January 20th, Trump's actions could only be considered tortuous interference in contract relations, but after January 20th it could be a criminal collusion to influence the President.  This evaluation of the situation is shared by ethics experts on the both sides of the divide in Washington.  Trump promised the media to explain how he would handle his myriad conflicts while in office, but he postponed that December 15th press conference, indefinitely.  This is why that unpatriotic scofflaw, US Person says: the chap is a train wreck waiting to happen.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Obama Steps Up to Protect Arctic

Seattle activists surround Shell's Polar Pioneer, credit Getty Images
Using a law passed in 1953 (Section 12a of the Outer-Continental Shelf Lands Act), the still President Obama acted decisively to protect the Arctic from oil exploration. His announcement was joined by Canada's that also protects its Arctic waters from exploration. Canada's decision is subject to review every five years, but administration officials insist the President's decision is "permanent". Undoubtedly the Trump regime will move soon to overturn his executive action. The American Petroleum Institute insisted there is no such thing as a permanent withdrawal of public lands from oil leasing on the continental shelf, and called the decision "short-sighted". Rex Tillerson, CEO of the Earth's biggest oil company, and now the President-elect's choice for Secretary of State will play a large role in attempting to reverse the decision. An NRDC spokesman vowed his organization would legally challenge Trump's effort to reverse the decision to withdraw Arctic waters from oil leasing.  Shell's attempt this year to exploit leases it owns in the Chukchi Sea largely failed and the company called off further exploration efforts. An estimated 27 billion barrels of oil and 132 trillion cubic feet of gas remain untapped in the Arctic.

Monday, December 19, 2016

NRDC: An Organization Worth Supporting

US Person does not usually make endorsements, but given the new reality of the neo-fascist government in Washington, DC supporting effective environmental action groups like the Natural Resources Defense Counsel is more important than ever. This message is from the NRDC:

Friday, December 16, 2016

'Toontime: Will the Real Politican Please Stand Up?

credit: Gary Varvel
BC Idonwanna sez: These grapes real sour!
Unable to admit the scale of their loss and the disaffection of the 'Merican middle class with 'Crooked' Hillary and her husband 'Liar' Bill, the Democrats have resorted to laying the blame for the election results at the feet of their favorite boogey-man, Vladimir Putin.  Of course the Russians are outraged at this latest slander and their Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has called the obvious propaganda campaign, "silly rhetoric".  What is known is that hackers allegedly connected to the FSB, Russia's intelligence agency, penetrated the Democratic National Committee and John Podesta's email servers and turned over some embarrassing communications to Wikileaks. Ms. Clinton says the Mr. Putin's involvement is due to a "grudge" the Russian president holds against her from when she was Secretary of State, during which tenure she criticized the fairness of Russian elections. The soon to be Former Occupant has vowed retaliation, although how he will accomplish his revenge before he leaves office in a few weeks is murky.  Could it be the defeat of US-backed rebels in Aleppo is weighing heavily on his mind?  Mr. Putin is telling the Washington illusionists to prove Russia's direct participation in hacking efforts intended to sway the US electorate or shut up. Once again US Person finds himself in agreement with the man from Moscow.
S novvim goddahm!

COTW: Bakken Field Pipe (Dream)

 
The Dakota Access pipeline, which has suffered a perhaps temporary setback at the hands of "hostiles", does not make dollars and cents, and in the era of neo-facisism  that is the only bottom line.  Bakken field wells are already reaching their production peak [chart above].  Wells that produced 220bpd in 2005 are now producing only 20bpd. The usual formula that cheap transportation equals more production no longer holds true because nowadays global demand controls oil prices which in turn influence production levels.  It may be true that Bakken crude shipped by rail costs about $15 per barrel while transporting by pipeline costs about $8, that margin is a difference with substantial impact because it costs $5-15 million to spud a producing well into the tight shale of the Bakken. Only a global price increase could induce more production from an already declining field.  This chart shows that most domestic crude supply is shipped by rail:

source: EIA
North Dakota is now the second largest producer of oil in the US, producing about one of every eight barrels of crude [chart below], and nearly 60 to 70% of that has been shipped by rail.

source: EIA
So the Dakota Access pipeline is an expensive luxury not worth the environmental damage a rupture will cause.  Then why is it being built, you ask?  The answer is relatively simple: Energy Transfer Partners of which the Current Occupant-to-be is a shareholder, stands to gross $1.37 billion a year. .  CEO Kelcy Warren contributed more than $100,000 to install Trump in office.  So there you have it in dollars and cents. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Thousands of Snow Geese Die on Toxic Lake.

Exhausted by their long distance migration, thousands of snow geese (Chen caerulescens) settled to rest and recuperate on a 700 acre former open pit copper mine near Butte, Montana.  They ignored efforts by humans to shoo them off the poisonous water.  Thousands of geese died.  It is estimated 3000 to 4000 geese pass the pit on their annual trip south from breeding grounds in Canada.  Company officials say the artificial lake was snow white with resting geese. The sick water rarely freezes, so the geese naturally see it as a welcomed rest stop.  A late start on the journey induced by climate change, and a cold period in Montana froze their usual rest stops.  Some birds escaped the poisonous pit only to die later, thwarting human attempts to rescue and treat the suffering birds, and upsetting local residents.  Snow geese are protected under federal law and a fine of $5000 could be assessed for each dead goose.

BP, the same company that brought you Deepwater Horizon, is open to suggestions of how to prevent the tragedy from occurring again.   Efforts to frighten the goose off the pit with sound and a battery powered, remote controlled boat with a scary face failed in the harsh cold.  Predictably, a resort to more technology--lasers--is being considered.  Apparently cleaning up the mess is too expensive for Anaconda Company which began consuming the mountain of copper ore called the "richest hill on Earth" in 1955, creating the 1780 foot deep, Berkeley Pit.  ARCO bought the property from Anaconda in 1977 and allowed the pit to fill with water since mining operations had ceased on a large scale.  The water is acidic as vinegar and filled with toxins.  It is part of a Superfund site which so far has cost $2 billion to remediate.

The pit is not going to go away; it has become something of a local tourist attraction, but BP will have to start pumping out the bad water and treating it before it reaches Butte's groundwater supply estimated to occur by 2023.  Local officials believe the previous mass death of geese at the pit in 1995 should have been an alarm bell signaling action. But when money is involved and corporate profits at stake, NOT.


Monday, December 12, 2016

Toontime: Trump Cries "Conspiracy''

This is what happens when an already paranoid government is to be led by a minority president that does not have a mandate from the masses.  Political insiders are attempting to discredit the Trump administration before it begins by claiming Russia manipulated the election.  Even if there were hacking incidents by quasi-Russian intelligence nerds, to claim that the election was steered to Trump by Russia discounts all the worthless rubes in Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, etc. that voted for the one-time TV star.  He's less qualified than Ronnie Ray-gun, and they voted for him too.  The system is rigged, but it is not the Russians rigging it.  (Hint: Just ask James Madison!)

Frankly, US Person is encouraged that Trump has enough sense not to let the hot-house atmosphere of Washington overly sway his political evaluations.  The intelligence establishment has only one real client: itself.  If it cannot sow fear and loathing among the people, what is its raison d'être?   Trump is good a one thing: making business deals.  He allegedly wrote a book about the subject*.  It is past time to make a geopolitical deal with the Russians for peaceful cooperation in all realms of bilateral relations including security matters before this destructive competition ends in perpetual radioactive winter.  Trump has the right business instinct to deal with Mr. Putin, an eminently practical guy, no matter he is a KGB man.  Even Ronnie went to Reykjavik. The naysayers and Chicken-littles at the CIA have been wrong before (Cuba, Vietnam, Iraq, Iran, etc.) and they are wrong now. Of course, it all depends on who is doing the rigging. 


credit: John Darkow, Columbia Daily Tribune
Wackydoodle sez: Houston, We have a problem!

*US Person is solely responsible for his content.

New Effort to Help Bees

The Xerces Society, a non-profit that specializes in the conservation of invertebrates, announced recently that it is a partner with General Mills in a program to reestablish healthy habitat for pollinators on American farms.  The certification program will allow farmers to tout their bee friendly operations upon completing the program.  General Mills and the Department of Agriculture have agreed to fund the $4million initiative.  The program will provide technical assistance to farmers who plant and protect flowering field edges and hedgerows.  Modern industrialized agriculture has all but eliminated these natural oasis from producing farmland.  Two-thirds of America's land is privately owned, so it is essential that owners play a prominent role in pollinator protection.  Even more so when their contribution to the agricultural bottom line is considered; pollinators contribute an estimated $25 billion in agricultural production annually.  The partnership has an initial goal of planting 100,000 acres of pollinator habitat.  It will provide teams of biologists from Xerces and the Natural Resources Conservation Service based in the various regions it serves to evaluate habitat, consult on restoration and compatible farm practices.

This is important work.  Last year the nation lost about a third of its honeybee population which alone contribute $15 annually in pollination services for flowering crops.  Mass die offs of honeybee and wild bee populations are under investigation by science.  Most informed observers think that the overuse and abuse of pesticides in commercial agriculture is to blame.  Chronic use of these substances for over a century has weakened and degraded bee health to the point they can no longer resist natural diseases and pests.  In turn, their genetic code has been altered from the wild state making them less robust.  Restoration of natural, healthy habitat is an effective means of assisting bee population to flourish.  The Current Occupant established a task force in 2014 that committed to restoring 7 million acres of habitat. With restoration comes unwanted species of course.  Part of the Xerces-USDA project will be to identify plants that do not attract "pests" and accordingly advise farmers engaged in restoration projects.  Insects are often genetically adapted to feed on a limited number of plant species.  Tolerance of natural processes that may inflict some commercial losses but increase pollinator health will also assist sustainability.  Restoration is not an inexpensive effort.  Dense flowering areas with a variety of wild plants can cost $1000 to $2000 an acre. Preparing the soil and planting the right plants and shrubs in the right place is labor intensive which surprises modern farmers: you just don't hook up the disc and blaze down the ruler strait rows in your air-conditioned tractor.

Xerces has planted about 400,000 acres of habitat since its restoration efforts began in 2008.  It will measure success of the program based on the total area of land restored.  The biologists will also, at some point, walk the fields and count the variety and number of bees.  A good mix in nature, as always, is a good indicator of a healthy ecosystem.

Friday, December 09, 2016

COTW: A Correlation That Cannot Be Denied

This chart courtesy of the US Geological Survey and the University of Idaho shows the unmistakable correlation between human population growth and the extinction of other species on Earth.  As the global population of humans reaches 15 billion in this century, animals will be forced to exist in smaller and smaller pockets of still wild land where the will face eventual starvation and disease.  Only if man has the compassion to set aside enough intact habitat for his fellow creatures will they have a chance to co-exist.  US Person is not optimistic given the profit-driven economic systems which depend on unlimited exploitation of the natural world human's are willing to tolerate for their own increasingly uncomfortable survival.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Lions On the Brink

Cecil, credit: Oxford U.
The killing of Cecil the Lion King near Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park brought international attention to a long standing crisis: Africa's most prominent big cat is running out of living space.  Experts estimate that only 20,000 African lions remain in the wild and their decline has not been halted.  The outrage over the merciless killing of an iconic male who was collared for research purposes on the edge of a protected zone focused debate on how to preserve lions from extinction.  A scientist was recently publicly derided for his suggestion that continued trophy hunting could be the lions unexpected salvation.  NOT.  It is a profit motivated commercial masquerading as a conservation policy.  What is needed is more law enforcement against poaching and an expansion of protected areas for lions and other iconic species to naturally multiply unmolested.  Repeated research has shown that if a species is given a chance to survive in the wild, it will respond by increasing its population given enough food and water supplies.  The buffalo, the tiger, the whale, the eagle and the wolf are all examples of iconic species that have made a resurgence after legal protection was granted them.

Tanzania male, credit: US Person
The situation around Hwange is a good example of human encroachment on areas protected for wildlife.  Hwange is the only remaining protected area for lions in Zimbabwe, explains The Standard, but it is bounded by private farms such as the Antoinette owned by Honest Ndlovu, a beneficiary of Robert Mugabe's controversial policy of land acquisition in the Lower Dete Valley.  Cecil died on this farm, adjacent to the park boundary.  Residents say about fifty lions a year meet the same fate as Cecil did.  Another controversial hunt occurred on Railway Farm 31, because it had no lion quota for the entire 2015 season.  Once again a rich American bow-hunting doctor, this time a gynecologist, was escorted to his prey by a professional hunter and former warden, Headman Sibanda.  Sibanda lost his license over the episode, but he has filed an appeal in Bulawayo High Court where it is still pending. Sibanda spends much of his time these days hanging around the Bulawayo hotel hustling for business.  Theo Bronkhorst, who led dentist Walter Palmer to Cecil was recently acquitted of any wrongdoing during his hunt.  They hung Cecil's collar in a nearby tree after dispatching the suffering lion with a gunshot.  Some sport. 

Etosha couple, credit: US Person
A hunting ban imposed after these two infamous episodes lasted two weeks.  It collapsed under political pressure from newly created farmers with connections to the Mugabe regime.  But it did create the public impression that the Zimbabwe government was doing something about rampant poaching.  NOT.  Business is not booming because of the lack of suitable mature lions for killing.  Leopards have also disappeared from the valley.  Hunters resort to baiting lions to lure them outside the Park's boundaries, to satisfy the blood thirst of their rich, foreign clients.  Baiting is effective since lions move in prides so entire family can be lured to a sure death in a single operation.  Lions who lack prey and are starving resort to livestock raiding.  This is also a sure means to meet death prematurely since lions suspected of cattle raids are summarily shot.

Marsh Pride members, credit: US Person
Despite Cecil's apparently meaningless persecution at the hands of unscrupulous profit seekers, his passing has spurred renewed efforts to protect remaining wild lions.  Oxford University's Conservation Research Unit, which is monitoring Cecil's pride, convened a summit in September and produced a five point declaration for African lion conservation that calls for restoration of range land that was given over to settlers by Mugabe.  Combined lion range has shrunk to just over 1 million square kilometers over the last century.  Conservation can be done in a way the restores local people's pride in their natural heritage by ensuring social and economic value in protected lands.  Hopefully such programs will ensure the king of beasts still lives on planet Earth.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Mexico Acts to Protect Coasts

The President of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, declared at the UN's conference of parties to the Biological Diversity Convention much of Mexico's Caribbean, Baja coasts and deep ocean will become protected areas.  The meeting is being held in Cancun this week.  He also signed a decree creating three new marine biosphere reserves.  One of these areas encompasses almost half of the Mezoamerican Reef that stretches from the northern tip of the Yucatan through Belize to Honduras and Guatemala and includes reefs and coastal lagoons that are inhabited by 500 species of fish and over 1900 species of plants and animals.

The two Pacific reserves cover both near shore islands inhabited by sea birds and marine mammals and the deep sea water column below 800 meters down to the seabed.  In the core areas, sea bed trawling is prohibited to protect fragile ecosystems that live there.  Mexico's Navy will enforce the protected reserves and Germany is helping Mexico with funding the new reserves estimated to cost 130 million pesos annually.  The new reserves help Mexico meet its commitment under the Aichi Target 11 of the Convention to preserve  at least 17% of terrestrial and inland waters and 10% of coastal and marine areas.  The new reserves brings Mexico's total to 22% of its entire coastal and marine area.

In contrast to Mexico's demonstrated commitment to biological diversity, critics of the outgoing Obama administration are urging Trump to rescind the several National Monument declarations he has made in the closing days of his administration. No president has rescinded declarations made by his predecessor in office, so such a move will definitely trigger a legal battle to determine the extent of a President's authority to make such declarations permanent law.  Critics say Obama has abused his power under the 1906 Antiquities Act.  At one time Congress took an active role in creating national monuments, but its authority has fallen into disuse during a decades-long political gridlock in Washington.  It has also abolished over the years several  monuments designated by a President.  Resource extraction is the primary motivation behind the move to have Trump rescind the designations.  No new resource extraction may take place in a National Monument and existing, valid claims may only be exploited to the extent Monument lands are not degraded in the process.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Indians 1, Dakota Access 0

Breaking: In a rare environmental victory for Native Americans, the United States Army denied a permit to Energy Transfer Partners for drilling a pipeline right of way under Lake Oahe and the Missouri River. The Corps of Engineers control the piece of land needed for the current route. The twelve hundred mile pipeline is nearly complete except for the lake section. The Corps will conduct another environmental impact assessment to identify an alternate route for the pipeline. Native Americans led by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe have been protesting in sometimes violent demonstrations against the pipeline, saying "the black snake" poses a health threat to the tribe and other users of the Missouri River watershed. Hundreds of veterans have joined the protest in bitterly cold weather as of late as opposition escalated and more public attention was focused on the dispute. President-elect Trump supports building the pipeline; he also owns stock in the Dallas-based company.  The companies behind the project are confident they will have their way under the new fascist government. North Dakota's governor, who said he supported police action against the Native Americans, said it is now time to talk of a peaceful resolution to the problem of who owns the land.  Watch this BBC video:

Friday, December 02, 2016

Newly Discovered Tiny Crab

A pea-sized crab described as a parasite has been discovered living inside a large mussel collected from the Solomon Islands.  The crab, named Serenotheres janus, lives on the food filtered by the golden date mussel and also relies on it for protection.  The newly described crab is only the second species in the genus that is parasitic to rock boring mussels.  US Person thinks that the relationship between the crab and mussel will prove to be more symbiotic than parasitic, with the tiny housekeeper providing cleaning services for its host.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Chernobyl Reactor Confined

A new 36,000 ton arch, the largest mobile construction on Earth, was finally moved over the ruins of Chernobyl's Reactor #4 and its temporary concrete sarcophagus.  A ceremony Tuesday marked the historic event.   The arch with a span of 257m was moved two tenths of a mile into position.  The structure will make the destroyed reactor site safe and is designed to remain in use for a hundred years.  This time will be used to slowly dismantle the makeshift concrete containment and dispose of its contaminated remains.  The containment was built by a consortium of French firms which started work in 2010. 

Thirty years ago Chernobyl #4 burnt to the ground during an ill-planned stress test during which power to the reactor was shut down.  The graphite fire produced updrafts that lasted nine days and heaved tons of radioactive material into the atmosphere that spread over Europe.  The disaster was classified a level 7 event, and that has only been equaled by the Fukushima disaster in March 2011.  It is the costliest nuclear accident in history in terms of money and casualties.  Hundreds of "liquidators" died fighting the flames and removing intensely radioactive debris. The Director General of Chernobyl Nuclear Power said the arch was constructed not only to protect the present generation, but  "for our children, our grandchildren and for our great grandchildren.  This is our contribution to the future, in line with our responsibility to those who will come after us."

Worst Bleaching Event on Record

The northern Great Barrier Reef suffered the worst bleaching event in its recorded history in 2015-16 due to elevated water temperatures.  About 26% of corals died in this region of the reef according to Australian scientists at James Cook University, Queensland.  The southern reaches of the Reef south of Mackay fared better with a 1% or less loss of coral.  Corals can recover from brief periods of warming, but prolonged elevation of water temperatures is fatal. In warmer water, corals eject the symbiotic algae that provide them with nutrients turning their skeletal structures white.  It will take 10-15 years for the coral to regrow, but in the interim another warming event, often associated with El Niño, could cause more devastation.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Viva Fidel!, Viva La Revolución!

Hero of the Revolution, Fidel Castro (1926-2016) enters Batista's Havana with his comrades, January 1959

CUBA BEFORE                                                     CUBA AFTER
Infant Mortality: 60%                                                   6.33%
Access to health care: limited by income                      100.0%
Literacy: >1 million illiterate, more semi-literate        99.8%
Higher Education: limited by social class                           34%
Telephone service:  limited availability                              Free
Housing units built since 1959:                            >2 million
Life expectancy:  59                                                       71.9

Friday, November 25, 2016

Green Candidate Finances Recount in 3 States


Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein has raised enough money to require a manual recount in three states that hold the margin of victory in the Electoral College.  That a recount would deny Trump a victory in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin is unlikely. Trump won those states by significant margins.  Stein said the reason for the recount effort was to insure the integrity of the US voting system.  There are reports that some of the automated voting machines used in Wisconsin are vulnerable to hacking and malicious reprogramming.  Manual recounts are not trivial undertakings because the cost is staggering.  Beside the million dollar filing fees, recount expenses are estimated to bring the total cost to $6-7 million.  Stein came in fourth in the election behind the libertarian candidate.  Clinton won the popular vote by about 2 million votes, but lost the official Electoral College count, 306 to 232* [map].

*Want some idea of what 'Merica is in for under Trump?  Just read what he did in a small town in Scotland while loosing $1.36 million!

Wild Turkeys Return to New England

credit: L. Manowitz
Wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) have not inhabited New England since the 19th century, but thanks to conservation efforts the birds number in the tens of thousands and are a common sight in farm fields and roadsides.  The turkey's revival is a major conservation success story.  In Vermont efforts began with the release of 31 birds in Rutland County in 1970-71; they now occupy the entire state with an estimated population of 45-50,000.  Vermont officials have helped neighboring states restore their populations, sending birds to Maine, New Jersey and Rhode Island.  Maine now has turkeys all over the state.  New Hampshire began turkey restoration in the 70's and also enjoys a large population.

credit: AP
Habitat loss due to agriculture was the primary reason for their disappearance in addition to hunting. Turkeys prefer mature forests where they feed on nuts, berries and insects, but have adapted well to harsher suburban environments [photo].  It is not clear from the historical record whether turkey was part of the harvest feast enjoyed by the Pilgrims at Plymouth, MA.  Turkeys are still hunted today.  Want to hear their iconic gobble and the turkey's lesser known calls?
Click here.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

COTW: Facist Adventure

'Merica is rapidly moving down the road to fascism.  For your consideration is the chart below that shows how indebted our political system is to corporate funding:

Surprisingly Donald Trump spent the least of all candidates and funded most of his campaign himself with loans. However super PACs contributed heavily to the campaigns with $188 million going to Hillary Clinton and 60 million to Donald Trump as of October.  Of all money going to Democratic candidates in this election cycle, 20% is from super pacs, while Republicans received 57% from super pacs. Only Bernie Sanders distinguished himself from the domination of the Money Power by raising the most money from small donors.

The military spending accounts for 57% of all federal discretionary spending.  Coupled with Trump's nativist tendencies and support, it is not hard to understand why hot-headed US Person says that it is not 'creeping' socialism we have to worry about, but creeping fascism. Not only are our national politics owned by the corporate plutocracy, but the military establishment spends most of the money the government collects from taxpayers. Trump has revealed the domination of government by the military-corporate axis by turning to retired generals to fill important posts in his administration.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

One Hundred Forty-one Arrested at Standing Rock

Dakota Access Right of Way, credit: T. Sylvester
Update:  The law, as it is euphemistically known, dialed up the violence against Native Americans protesting the exploitation of their water resources by Energy Transfer Partners of Dallas, TX on Sunday night.  They sprayed protesters with water cannons for more than six hours in subfreezing temperatures.  According to native media at the site 167 people were injured including an elder who suffered a cardiac arrest. Morton County Sheriff officials claim they were putting out fires started by the protesters, but video shows the fires were started by police using concussion grenades, mace and tear gas.  Observers described the use of non-lethal weapons against peaceful protesters by a militarized police force as "indiscriminate".

The company still lacks a permit to drill under the Missouri River, but has initiated legal action to force the federal government to allow drilling to begin immediately; activists say the drilling rig is already operational.  One native water protector told reporters, "We refuse to be Trumped."

{31.10.16} On Thursday, in the latest confrontation in a history of
confrontations since the founding, law enforcement officials in full riot armor arrested one hundred and forty-one Native Americans protesting the desecration and usurpation of their resources by the European immigrants who now hold dominion over the land. It was the preeminent founder, George Washington, who foresaw, according to his biographer Joseph Ellis, that the flaws in federalism would eventually cause endless misery for the American Indian because in the final analysis what the country claimed it stood for--individual liberty--was at odds with what was politically necessary for it to survive. In 1787 America was a small, solitary nation surrounded by hundreds of other sovereign Indian nations that were not even mention in its founding documents let alone accounted for in policy or law.  The treaty became the implement with which foreign settlers progressed across the Indian landscape to subdue the 'new Edens' of the West.

The Crows last hereditary chieftain, Plenty Coups, survived three decades into the 20th century.  He was born at the time of the first treaty with his people.  He had personally taken part in many treaty councils, and he lived to see all of them broken by the white man.  It was all part of relentless covetousness by the European for what was not theirs, and it was innocuously named "Manifest Destiny", which is when you think about a lot like "Inalienable Rights"--concepts so ethnocentricly obvious that no white man could rationally question their existence.  Emphasis is placed on the racial term "white man". Plenty Coups had this to say about the white man's use of law and religion for his own, often commercial purposes, based on his many years of dealing with him:

“We have seen that the white man does not take his religion any more seriously than his laws, that he keeps both of them just behind him, like Helpers, to use when they might do him good. … These are not our ways. We kept the laws we made and lived by our religion. We have never understood the white man, who fools no one but himself.” 

Chief Justice Marshall formulated the legal doctrine that would guarantee white predominance over Indian territorial rights in Worchester v. Georgia (1832) by relying on the 16th century concept known as the "Doctrine of Discovery"  which basically held that European arrival in the New World, i.e. "discovery", constituted dominion over native peoples and their lands still in a state of nature. Of course no one asked the Indians if they wanted or needed to be "discovered". Despite the Marshall's rationalization of European dominion, he found Georgia's dispossession of Cherokee Indians from their homeland to be unconstitutional since they were a sovereign nation and the relationship between the United States and the Cherokee Nation was governed by federal treaty, not state law. No one asked President Jackson if he agreed with the decision. H is actions clearly indicate he did not, for he forged ahead with the forced removal of Indians from eastern forests. When asked what a Indian reservation represented to him, General Sherman replied, "a parcel of land set aside for the exclusive use of Indians, surrounded by thieves." It took a civil war and the Fourteenth Amendment to finally decide the supremacy of federal law and its treaty obligations over state's rights.

Originally the Bakken Field pipeline was planned to cross the Missouri River on its way to Illinois north of Bismark, North Dakota. [map credit: Dakota Access Pipeline]   When concern arose over what a pipe rupture might do to that city's water supply it was re-routed. The pipeline would now cross the river near the Sioux Tribe's reservation at Standing Rock at the confluence of the Cannonball and Missouri. Once the re-rerouting was publicized by a Bismark newspaper, the Sioux nation began to protest the plan.  The concern was and still is the same one that caused the initial re-routing--fear that a major leak will pollute the Missouri, the major source of the tribe's water supply.

The Indians of today see themselves not an inconvenient revenants standing in the way of inevitable progress, but as protectors of the waters.  One of their leaders says it his belief that the American Indian will one day fight for the survival of Earth in the 21st century, just as their ancestors did in the 19th.  Five hundred and sixty two sovereign nations are staking their new claim.  It is based on over three hundred treaties the national government agreed to in the 18th and 19th centuries, but it is also based on something even more important than sovereign treaties: natural resources.  Indian lands hold 40% of America's remaining coal reserves; 65% of its uranium; untold amounts of valuable metals; millions of barrels of oil; millions of cubic feet of natural gas; and last but not least, 20% of the nation's fresh water. If we are lucky, the fights will take place in the nation's federal courts and not on the battlefields of Little Big Horn or Wounded Knee. Indians have learned from their history of white betrayal.  They are forming their own legal departments to fight the good fights.

It took 300 heavily armed officers of the law to take down the Standing Rock protesters that came from over 300 Indian nations.  The protesters set up camp on pipeline company land they say was illegally taken from the tribe in 1851. Most of those arrested were charged with maintaining a public nuisance--a fire on a state highway. Two medics giving first aid to protesters were hit with batons and roughly handled.  The chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux, Dave Archambault II invited UN officials to observe and investigate the increasing violence and intimidation by state and company agents against protesters. The UN's Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues has been following developments and issued a statement of concern on August 31, 2016.  The eyes of the world are upon you.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Indian Bustard Nearing Extinction

A large bird resembling a miniature ostrich, the Indian bustard (Ardeotis nigriceps) is nearing extinction.  Only 250 of these birds remain in the wild, with an estimated 150 living in the Thar Desert.  Once common to Indian's dry plains, it has suffered from habitat loss and hunting. Rathjastan's dry plains have been transformed by irrigated agriculture and are crisscrossed by canals. The bustard has been protected under Indian's wildlife laws since 1972, but the ICUN lists the bustard as one of the world's 100 most endangered species in the world.

Indian bustards are among the heaviest of flying birds.  A fully grown male can weigh forty pounds or more.  During the colonial occupation of India, British soldiers considered the flesh delicious and enthusiastically hunted the bird.  The Mugal emperor Babur, noted that "every part of the Kharchal is delicious" The bird proved to be a wary target.  Males could be located by their booming call that carries long distances.  The jeep allowed hunters to chase down bustards across their open, semi-arid habitat.  The bustard's flesh is also alleged to have aphrodisiac qualities, yet one more unjustifiable reason for man to exterminate another of the creatures he has a moral obligation to protect.

There are conservation efforts to protect the dwindling bird, especially in its last stronghold, the Thar Desert in Rathjastan [photo]Yale's Environment360, published a dispatch about the efforts of Dr. Pramod Patil to save the bustard.  He exchanges medical aid to local herders for their help in protecting bustards from poachers.  With the help of his local allies, Dr. Patil has managed to halt their population decline, identify breeding areas, and accurately document sightings.  The herders were first very skeptical of Dr. Patil's efforts, but his medical skills and supplies won them to his cause.  The doctor turned conservationist has received international recognition for his work helping the bustard survive.

Nevertheless, their situation is dire; bustards are slow breeders producing just one egg a season, and it is susceptible to predation by a host of other local species besides man.  Setting aside protected habitat with local stakeholders will help their survival chances tremendously.  UNESCO has proposed designating the Thar a world heritage site.  Managed by Rathjastan's forest department, its undisturbed scrub land is ideal bustard habitat.  There is also hope for a fledgling ecotourism business that could economically benefit local people.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Cecil the Lion's Killer Cleared

credit: US Person
The Zimbabwean high court threw out charges against Theo Bronkhorst, the professional hunter who helped an American dentist kill a beloved lion king living in Hwange National Park.  The killing cause a worldwide outpouring of protest. {07.09.15} Bronkhurst was charged with failing to prevent an illegal hunt, but the high court decided his permit to hunt an elderly lion on the borders of the park was valid.  Cecil was wearing a research collar at the time he suffered a slow death from an arrow wound.  The American trophy hunter paid $55,000 to kill Cecil using a bow and arrow in July of last year.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Facist Shoots Protestor in Oregon

Stumptown has distinguished itself again by being the site of continuing protests against TrumpMerica.  A brave demonstrator exercising his constitutional right of free speech and assembly was shot by an unknown gunman on the Morrison Bridge Saturday night.  Despite massive police presence the extremist hot-head got off six shots and sped away in a car.  He is still at large.  Fortunately for the victim his injuries were classified by as non-life threatening by a local hospital where he was treated.

Portland is but one city of several where shocked and angry Americans have displayed their displeasure with the election results. So far, the demonstrations have been overwhelmingly peaceful despite provocations and disparagement by corporate media and the police.  Candidate Hillary Clinton explained her loss to her big money donors by blaming the FBI Director for his last minute review of more cached e-mails.  Hardly.  Her loss is better explained by the increasing disconnect between working people and the party that claims to represent them.  Democrats sealed their fate when they failed to select Bernie Sanders as their candidate.  Once again the so-called political "elites" have led the people to failure.  One positive aspect of Trump' win: he is prepared to make a deal with Putin's Russia.  Perhaps we will not vanish in a radioactive fireball after all.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

COTW: Sixteen Years of War

credit: AP
Update:  Just in time for Veterans Day, a bomber penetrated the Baghram air base, Afghanistan early Saturday morning and blew himself to bits taking four US personnel with him.  Sixteen others were injured in the attack as they gathered for a "fun run" in celebration of Veterans Day.  The Taliban claimed credit for the attack and told AP they were looking to do the most damage they could.  The giant base has several layers of security including retinal scans.

{4.11.16} The war in Afghanistan is entering its sixteenth year, but it earned only one passing mention by the two allowed candidates for President during their staged debates.  The anniversary of 'Merica's longest war was marked by another ghastly killing in Kunduz, the site of US strafing of a charity hospital run by Doctors Without Boarders in October, 2015.  This time thirty civilians were killed by US airstrikes, called in after heavy fighting erupted between Taliban and government forces on Thursday three miles from the city center.  Two US personnel were also killed.  Despite the Nobel laureate's promises, eight thousand US soldiers remain in the country.The chart below shows the increasing number of civilians killed in the fighting:

credit: UN

Friday, November 11, 2016

World's Tallest Tropical Tree Located

credit: Carnegie Institution for Science
It rises along with two of its siblings to an astounding 309 feet above the rain forest floor of Sabah, Borneo.  It is the world's tallest tropical tree, measured by LIDAR overflights.  The Shorea faguetiani or Yellow Meranti (provisional) was located by Gregory Asner of the Carnegie Institution for Science at Stanford University during a mapping survey of the relatively undisturbed Danum Valley. He also located 49 other trees taller than the previously announced record holder at 294 feet.  Film director James Cameron, who directed the Avatar science fiction film about the industrial exploitation of an extraterrestrial forest world appropriately funded the helicopter flight.  Asner told an audience that the location was extremely moving to him and provides yet another example of the power of nature that can inspire man to protect other forms of life on his home planet.  He noted that trees of this immense size and age do not exist outside of undisturbed, primary forest.  This tree is six times the average length of a sperm whale*.  The LIDAR mapping technique [image] uses 500,000 laser beams per second shot from a helicopter to produce a three dimensional image of the forest canopy to ground level.

*The tallest coast redwood tree living in Redwood National Park, California is 379.1 feet tall.  Hyperion is said to be the world's largest living tree.  Park officials should be extremely vigilant in protecting this magnificent living creature from insane attacks by vandals, thrill seekers, extremists of various sorts, or just plain idiots.  Hyperion was not located until 2006.  It is named after one of the Titans of Greek mythology, a child of the Earth and Sky.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Death of Democracy

Roughly half of 'Mericans woke up after election day to find their democracy had died overnight. For the second time in sixteen years a presidential candidate wins the popular vote but looses the only vote that counts in the Electoral College. (Clinton 59.79 million, Trump 59.5 million according to AP) Thousands took the streets last night to express their displeasure with the anachronistic process that disenfranchises a majority of the people. The fact is that American politics has devolved into a contest between two well-defined voting blocs divided by geography, economics and culture: one is working class and embraces diversity, the other is presumptively privileged and clings to conformity. Three states whose electorate is divided between these two blocs and voters who view themselves as independent control the outcome of contested presidential elections. Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida together control 67 electoral votes. Today, a presidential candidate cannot win an election without carrying at least one or two of these states. Hillary Clinton lost all three. The custom is--and it is just a custom because only thirty states have made it law--that the result of the popular vote in a state controls to whom its electoral votes are awarded.

Because this undemocratic process is not truly representative of the people's will, there is discussion on how to fix it. Frankly only a constitutional amendment will solve the problem, and that process would require Herculean resolve that a few transitory demonstrations will not provide. Nevertheless, people in populous states that are reliably part of one bloc such as California or Texas justifiably believe their votes do not count. The proposed Interstate Popular Vote Compact, which would not take effect until states controlling 270 electoral votes have signed, is an attempt to short-cut the amendment route but it is probably unconstitutional since it violates the equal protection doctrine of one person, one vote. It preserves the Electoral College, but awards electors based on the result of the national popular vote. The compact would substitute the current domination of "battleground states" for those "spectator" states who agree to elect a president by national popular vote. So far eleven states controlling 165 electoral votes have passed the agreement. There is nothing sacred about the Electoral College. In 1789 only three states used the winner-take-all rule to award its electoral votes for president; the Constitution does not require this (Article II, Section 1). It is time to scrap a system intended for a different, less educated age, or risk being equated with Russia among the world's republics.

Friday, November 04, 2016

COTW: Sixteen Years of War

credit: AP
Update:  Just in time for Veterans Day, a bomber penetrated the Baghram air base, Afghanistan and blew himself to bits taking four US personnel with him.

{4.11.16} The war in Afghanistan is entering its sixteenth year, but it earned only one passing mention by the two allowed candidates for President during their staged debates.  The anniversary of 'Merica's longest war was marked by another ghastly killing in Kunduz, the site of US strafing of a charity hospital run by Doctors Without Boarders in October, 2015.  This time thirty civilians were killed by US airstrikes, called in after heavy fighting erupted between Taliban and government forces on Thursday three miles from the city center.  Two US personnel were also killed.  Despite the Nobel laureate's promises, eight thousand US soldiers remain in the country.The chart below shows the increasing number of civilians killed in the fighting:

credit: UN

'Toontime: The Choice?

credit: JD Crowe
BC Idonwanna sez: Me vote for sovereignty!

Yes, there you have it 'Mericans: a misogynistic, spoiled rich kid versus a hypocritical, feminist plutocrat. Too bad the whole campaign could not have been reduced to 140 words and save US a lot of angst. Notice the small hands and defensive body posture!

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

COTW: Wildlife Services Told to Get Real

credit: High Country News
The federal agency that is in the business of killing wildlife at the whim of agricultural interests, Wildlife Services (a misnomer if there ever was one) was ordered by a federal court to update its twenty-two year old nationwide environmental impact statement on which it relies to kill wolves among a long list of other species labeled "vermin" or "predator" [see chart above]. The agency rarely uses non-lethal means to control wildlife populations because half of its budget is controlled by contracts with state and local agencies and businesses. Research on non-lethal alternatives is therefore stalled. The agency has been "studying" non-lethal controls since 1972! It killed a sickening and shocking 2.7 million animals in 2014, including 796 bobcats, 322 wolves, 580 black bears, 305 cougars and 61,702 coyotes. As a former agency biologist said, “Until Wildlife Services is told differently by the people who pay the bills, it’s hard to imagine real change. Managing animals is easy. Managing people is really hard.”

The court order came as part of a settlement with Wild Guardians, a non-profit conservation group and Wildlife Services in Nevada. The agency agreed to stop its operations in that state until the assessment is updated to properly address the impacts of predator removal in Nevada. Cultural predispositions are difficult to change. Predators in the west have been summarily shot since Meriwether Lewis killed a grizzly bear in Montana in 1805. Given that fact that in the 21st century many North American mammals are dying off due to habitat loss, its past time for man to change his behavior towards his fellow creatures. Non lethal control means work. Fifty-eight percent of sheep ranchers in Montana now use deterrence methods including guard dogs and lamb sheds. The backward state of Idaho paid $4600 per wolf in 2014 to gun down wolves. Developing a habit of tolerance is what is needed, not more genocide.

New Low: CO₂ Will Hit 400ppm All Year

The Mauna Loa Observatory predicts that global carbon dioxide levels will exceed 400ppm all year for the first time in recorded history and not recede for many generations into the future This is the recognized red line for disastrous climate change. The World Meteorological Organization said its annual "Greenhouse Gas Bulletin" that the strong El Nino event of 2015-16 has reduced the ability of natural sinks such as oceans and forests to absorb CO₂. These sinks absorb about half of the global carbon dioxide emissions. Those emissions have increased 37% in the period 1990 to 2015. The organization calls for implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement on a fast track.

In related news, Chinese environmental officials including the local bureau chief were arrested recently for their involvement in a scheme to alter air quality readings by stuffing cotton gauze into detection equipment in the industrial city of Xi'an. The head of the monitoring station made a copy of a key and provided a password to allow workers to stuff the detection equipment and report fraudulent readings to the government. Video surveillance tapes were also deleted. An insider told reporters the sabotage was accomplished to avoid paying penalties for high readings; air quality officials must shut down local industry if air quality becomes too impaired.  Last year the government discovered that another monitoring station altered its particulate readings by spraying samplers with a fire hose.

Friday, October 28, 2016

'Toontime: It Is No Joke

credit Mike Luckovich


This election cycle, full of rudeness, scandal and distraction, is causing disquiet among 'Mericans because the dysfunction of their political system is so obvious to see.  US Person hopes that the lesson learned will be to begin the system's reform.  Proposition 59 in California is a very modest start, proposing to eliminate dark money from election campaigns made possible by the errant Citizens United  Supreme Court decision.  Beyond that, citizens must work to create a viable reform party that can challenge the major parties' duopoly.  Now some pundits blame the duopoly on the archaic voting systems 'Merica has been saddled with since its founding, namely single member districts and plurality voting.  They argue that it is a symptom, not a conspiracy.  But you do not have to wear a tin-hat to think the status quo is more than just a coincidence or a symptom.  Bernie Sanders tried to create a reform movement from within the Democratic Party, but soon discovered what other left-of-center candidates from Gary Hart, Jerry Brown to Howard Dean and Dennis Kucinich confronted--the Money Power's intramural predominance.  This situation was engineered by the party's apparatchik in the aftermath of Mayor Daley's police riot at the Chicago Convention of 1968.  So that is why we are left with the narcissistic demagogue  on the right to carry the banner of making hay in Washington.  NOT.

credit: Matt Wuerker
BC Idonwanna sez:  Once again, white man speak from side of face!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

UNESCO Tells Bangladesh to Protect Tigers

The UN's world heritage body, UNESCO, reported that the poor nation of Bangladesh must stop a coal development project to protect the remaining tigers living in the Sundarbans, one of the last existing tiger habitats. The huge mangrove delta which straddles the Ganges, Irrawaddy and Brahmaputra Rivers is a protected world heritage site and home to an estimated 450 Bengal tigers [photos: AFP, AP] The Rampal coal power plant is located sixty-five kms to the north and would expose the delta to water pollution and acidic rain. The forest is already stressed by agricultural water use, and huge coal ships would ply the delta's waterways. Dredging to safely accommodate these ships would generate 32.1 million cubic meters of fill, further endangering the protected Irrawaddy and Ganges river dolphins. The government estimates a coal shipment a day would be required to supply the 1320MW plant. UNESCO recommended that the project be cancelled and relocated to a more suitable site. India is financing the Rampal project.

Thousands have marched against building the Rampal station, but the government remains unmoved.  Many Bangladeshis rely on the Sundarbans for their livelihood from fishing and honey gathering.  Some 40 million people are protected from the worse ravages of annual cyclones by the vast mangrove delta.  Despite its stand on international platforms in support of greenhouse gas reductions, the country is planning an aggressive development of its coal reserves for energy production.  It plans to install by 2030 15,000 MW of coal-powered generation increasing the share of coal powered generation from 1% to 50%; currently most of Bangladesh's electricity come from natural gas burning.  An activist called the Rampal project a "shallow idea of development which is based merely on growth, consumption driven, and energy obsessed. Bangladesh as a range nation has also pledged to help double the world's number of tigers by 2022.  Welcome to the ball game, Bangladesh.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

COTW: Health Care Costs Continue Climb

Despite the promises of the Current Occupant about cost reduction under the so-called Affordable Health Care Act (aka Obamacare) which US Person knew to be false because he capitulated to the insurance lobby by eliminating a competitive single-payer option, (aka socialized medicine) this chart from Forbes shows healthcare cost continue to climb in excess of inflation:

The ever-opportunistic Trump is now seizing on the issue of health care costs in the waning moments of his campaign to further undermine the slim lead of Hillary Clinton who is identified with the administration responsible for the ineffective health care kluge.  Health care in 'Merica is a problem that cannot be denied, and will only get worse over time.  It is time to bite the bullet and implement what other civilized societies have already achieved: socialized health care for all citizens.  This chart shows the the US far outspends other advanced societies for health care, yet it has worse health outcomes:


Trump promises to repeal Obamacare in his first hundred days in office. That is even less of a solution than the current mess. US Person is not in the business of telling people how to vote, but he does have a recommendation. Vote your conscience, and do not submit to a demonic dilemma presented to you by the Plutocracy, Inc.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Kigali Amendment Cuts Use of HFCs

One hundred ninety-seven countries attended the Kigali, Rwanda summit to amend the Montreal Protocol cutting the use of hydrofluorocarbons commonly used in refrigeration and that significantly contribute to global warming. HFCs are the fastest growing greenhouse gas, growing at a rate of 10% per year.  Miraculously on October 15, 2016 they agreed to phase out the use of these damaging chemicals after seven years of negotiations. Some legal experts say the amendment will require Senate ratification because the Montreal Protocol that went into effect in 1989 is legally binding on signatories.  That may prove problematical for the next Occupant unless control of the Senate flips to the other side of the aisle.  The amendment is expected to take effect on January 1. 2019.  India led the negotiations on this landmark international accord.

China and India, as developing economies in hot climates, are the leading producers of HFCs.  China agreed to cut its use by 85% over the baseline of 2020-22 by 2045.  India will reduce its use by 85% over a baseline established during 2024-26.  The negotiated arrangement will give these countries time to develop alternatives to a gas that is many times more powerful in trapping heat than carbon dioxide.  HFCs were created as a substitue for florocarbons found to be depleting Earth's ozone layer that protects it from harmful cosmic radiation.  The UN called the agreement the single largest contribution (estimated at 0.5 degree) towards meeting the world's goal of keeping average temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius agreed upon at the Paris climate summit last year.

Friday, October 21, 2016

'Toontime: When Hillary Goes Oz

credit: Sean Delonas
Wackydoodle sez: She's jus follerin' the yellow brick road!

The debates were so devoid of substantive content that US Person heard an eighteen year old adult complain he had anxiously waited to vote and this was all the choice he got. He commiserated and suggested the youngster light up a joint before he watched the next one.  It's more fun! Oh, US forgot, there were only three debates.