While politicians continue to push for wars in places like Syria to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction, they tend to ignore the much greater amounts of radioactive material available in this and neighboring countries at hospitals and other institutions. This week we saw just how easy it is to acquire such material capable of being used as a weapon. Thieves simply hijacked a truck with medical waste that would have allowed them to create a potent radioactive dirty bomb. It was a mistake and they likely paid for the mistake with their lives.
Archive for the 'Environment' Category
Many people who have been to Rio de Janeiro (including myself) were surprised when the city was selected for the 2016 Olympics due to the rampant crime and pollution in the city. Now, as expected, experts are warning that efforts to curtail both are well behind schedule and could present dangers for athletes and visitors alike. The danger is most acute for athletes who will compete in the waters around the city. The average fecal pollution is 78 times about the permissible level of the Brazilian government. Currently, Coxless Pair may be breathless as well.
Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger
In recent years many studies have come out that have made the case that a high proportion of CEO’s of major companies are sociopaths. At the end of this blog I’ll provide a number of links that discuss this, some from major conservative business magazines. We do know that from 1% to 3% of humans are sociopaths sharing all of these 10 characteristics:
#1) Sociopaths are charming. #2) Sociopaths are more spontaneous and intense than other people. #3) Sociopaths are incapable of feeling shame, guilt or remorse. #4) Sociopaths invent outrageous lies about their experiences. #5) Sociopaths seek to dominate others and “win” at all costs. #6) Sociopaths tend to be highly intelligent #7) Sociopaths are incapable of love #8) Sociopaths speak poetically. #9) Sociopaths never apologize. #10) Sociopaths are delusional and literally believe that what they say becomes truth.” http://www.naturalnews.com/036112_sociopaths_cults_influence.html
Now the problem with the definition of Sociopathy is that there can be a good deal of subjectivity in making the diagnosis, absent a clinician interviewing the subject. After all many people are charming, spontaneous, invent lies, try to dominate others and speak “poetically” and that doesn’t make them sociopaths. The subjectivity comes in trying to determine whether a given person is incapable of feeling guilt, shame, remorse and is delusional. A trained clinician may be able to do this via an intensive interview, but the nature of this disorder is such that even a trained clinician can be fooled by a sociopath. Rather than argue back and forth about the negative effects of CEO sociopaths on this society as the root of so much dysfunction, my readings this week suggest another theory that would provide a simpler explanation of why it seems that so many in this country have so little compassion and empathy for the less fortunate among us. We need not deem them sociopaths, but people who are simply removed from the misery that they inflict. The apocryphal story of Marie Antoinette’s “let them eat cake” may well characterize those who control most of this country’s wealth. It may be why some are sincere philanthropists, yet show such disdain and lack a sense of responsibility for the suffering that they cause. Let’s explore this further. Continue reading ‘Selfish or Sociopath, Does It Make a Difference?’
Indian Railway Officials Refuse To Slow Trains Through Elephant Reserve . . . Train Strikes And Kills Seven Elephants and Injuries Ten Others In Single AccidentPublished 1, November 14, 2013 Animals , Environment , International 13 Comments
Indian railway officials have refused requests for years that it slow its trains moving through the famed corridor for elephant migration in the Chapramari forest in eastern India. Now, in a single accident, a train has killed seven elephants (including two calves) and injured ten others. The railway officials have yet to agree to the slower speeds even as workers try to clean up from the carnage.
We previously discussed the outrageous act of Harvey Updyke who poisoned the famous “Toomer’s Oaks” because he is an Alabama fan. He has now been ordered to pay $796,731.98 in restitution to the university. He will be allowed to pay $500 a month . . . for 132 years.
What is interesting to me is the concern of one of the Elk with the trapped animal. The others do not seem particularly bothered.
The insatiable appetite of Chinese for consuming endangered species has been previously discussed on this blog as fueling the black market for such products. This week, however, the scope of such crimes was on full display after police in Tanzania arrested three Chinese living in Dar es Salaam in a house filled with a reported 1.9 tons of blood ivory. At least 200 elephants were slaughtered for the ivory. Seven tons in all have been seized in recent weeks.
The Dallas Safari Club has come up with its own version of the Gourmet Club featured in the hilarious comedy The Freshman. However, rather than pay to eat one of the last animals of an endangered species, the Dallas Safari Club is auctioning off the right to shoot one of the most endangered animals in the world: a black rhino. The auction is being done in conjunction with the Republic of Namibia to sacrifice one of 5,055 remaining rhinos to raise money. Thus, ostensibly to raise money to protect the rhinos from continued illegal hunting, Namibia and the Club are advertising the thrill of shooting of an endangered rhino.
Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger
We have had a lot of discussions here about the ever growing private prison system in the United States, where our country has become the world leader in imprisoning its citizens. Many blogs have been written discussing our world prison leadership and the fact that it stems from the failed “War on Drugs”, which has tended to focus on people in poverty and/or people of color. The for-profit prison industry has had a growth spurt that can be directly traced to that aspect of the conservative movement that has disparaged government services and at the same time pushed for privatization of government services using the false concept that private industry can do it better and cheaper. It is an ideas that to me seems nonsensical on its face because of the absolute need that private industry turns a profit and in today’s economic scheme that profit has to continually rise as time passes. Business strategy, which by definition, must focus on profit has focused on cutting costs as a means of building profit. Cutting costs then devolves into hiring less skilled workers, cutting down on services provided and in a business like private prisons reducing the quality of care. When ot comes to reduction of services and diminishing of quality of care when it comes to the prison industry, I’m sure that the majority of public opinion would approve of even more draconian measures. After all those convicted of a crime are generally scorned and feared. Muscular fundamentalist philosophy has discarded the Jesus of turn the other cheek into a Jesus of vengeance and so there is even in some circles moral approval of treating prison inmates harshly. There is now a widespread use of solitary confinement as a tool of prison punishment and that confinement has stretched from weeks, too months and too years. We are after all, a society that has a majority of Americans for torture in our post 9/11 era.
In 2008 we saw the opening of a scandal in Pennsylvania where it was discovered that juvenile court judges were sentencing youths to prison for minor offenses because they had received money from sources in the private prison industry. Two judges were convicted in this case and it was seen that many youths were adversely affected and are now suing for unlawful imprisonment. It is this profiting on the imprisonment of youth that I would like to address broadly in this blog. For the most part my reference links will appear at its conclusion. This is a very disturbing problem that I think cuts to the heart of what kind of society we want to live in and I would hope that others find this as disturbing as I do. Continue reading ‘The Private Prisons Profit on Youth’
We have followed the environmental meltdown in China which only recently moved to deal with a myriad of pollutants that have created cancer spikes and suffocating health conditions. Air pollution is the most obvious area of neglect and average Chinese are beginning to complain about pollution that continues to set records for unhealthy levels. I have previously discussed how my trips to China through the years have found horrendous levels of pollution where one is unable to see beyond half a block on some days in cities like Beijing. For decades, the authoritarian government posted false readings that became increasing comical, but sites like the one at the U.S. embassy has forced officials to admit to the alarming levels — as if the lack of line of sight vision did not already confirm the prior misrepresentations. This week, one regional capital, Harbin, has effectively shutdown due to levels of particulate pollution that would be considered unimaginable in many areas. Parts of Harbin are reporting levels of more than 1,000 PM2.5 — the level considered hazardous is 300. Thus, the city is over 300 percent higher than the hazardous level for human health.
Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)- Guest Blogger
Back in July of this year, we discussed a successful request by oil giant Chevron to subpoena 9 years of metadata from countless defendants and non-defendants. This was arguably an attempt to attack a $19 Billion dollar judgment handed down by an Ecuadorian court against Chevron by going after the parties involved in the lawsuit.
Chevron was not deterred when the United States Supreme Court refused to review the judgment. It merely went on the attack and found an allegedly friendly judge in New York to assist in refusing to pay the judgment owed to various indigenous communities that were devastated by Chevron’s predecessor’s actions in the rainforests where it was drilling for oil. We need to revisit this issue now that the RICO action filed by Chevron started this week in New York. Continue reading ‘Chevron Owes $19 Billion and Doesn’t Want to Pay!’
by Gene Howington, Guest Blogger
Public parks and protected lands belong to us all as our collective natural heritage. By preserving and acting as stewards of these natural treasures, we aim to preserve them for the enjoyment their majesty and beauty brings for us and for our children’s children. One of these parks is Goblin Valley State Park in Utah. Since 1974, the unusual rock formations there known as goblins or hoodoos have enriched the lives of many thousands of visitors. These formations of sandstone, siltstone and shale are caused by differential rates of erosion and are a great example of the stark beauty of the high desert. Some of these formations are 200 million years old.
So naturally, it would be fun to push one down.
Even a young one that’s only about 20 million years old.
Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger
It has always seemed to me that the use of nuclear energy is a bad idea given the current technology. My opinion is perhaps formed because I was in school during the 1950’s and due to the “Cold War” and the bomb tests, there developed in most of us, a deep fear of nuclear annihilation. I can remember watching in fascinated fear, in 1952, as they exploded a Hydrogen Bomb at Eniwetok, one of the Marshall Islands. The blast was covered on TV as I guess a reassurance to the American People of the power and might of our government and to give us a feeling of safety from those “Commies” in the USSR. Being eight years old at the time this demonstration of US power was not comforting in the slightest. We had “duck and cover” exercises in Elementary School, where we would go under our desks and cover our eyes in case of a nuclear attack. Given the actual nuclear explosions I had witnessed on TV, the idea that “duck and cover” would save me cast a skeptical suspicion in my eight year old mind.
As I grew I learned that beyond the immediate effect of a nuclear blast, the subsequent radiation was even more dangerous. Radiation poisoning could maim you and it could kill you in a slow, lingering death. The Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings did more than just kill many people. Beyond the maiming of the immediate victims who survived, we learned about the rates of cancer which were off the charts, especially in the infants of pregnant women. As the threat of nuclear destruction faded, the idea of radiation poisoning was nevertheless present as the United States began using nuclear power and a large industry sprang up around it. The industry was fostered by the then named Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), which was soon in thrall of the industry it was supposed to regulate. As with cigarette smoking the stories of rising cancer rates were downplayed by the AEC and the “nuclear industry. The AEC has now become the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) because the AEC had developed the reputation as an industry shill, rather than regulator. This is hardly a surprise because it seems that all government regulation today is in the hands of industry lobbyists and an exchange program where the regulators find jobs with the industry they regulate. The “revolving door”. Continue reading ‘Nuclear Musings’
There is a bizarre story out of Portsmouth that raises questions concerning the handling of feral cats. The Portsmouth Humane Society fired its executive director Jenn Austin over the no-kill shelter’s policy for feral cats. The shelter has been having staff members adopt feral cats, sterilize them, and then release them back into the woods. Over 300 cats are believed to have been released in violation of state law under what is called a “trap, neuter and release” program. The shelter was fined for the violations by state officials and promised to discontinue the practice.
Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger
As a Jew who is familiar with “The Gospels” there is something perplexing about some Christians in America who have risen to power in our political process within the last four decades. Much of Jesus message, as detailed in “The Gospels” has been one of sympathy to the poor, enmity to the rich and love for humanity. I can give you the time tested quotes but just about everyone is familiar with them. Indeed through my childhood and formative teen years Christmastime every year would yield endless repetition of “Peace on Earth, Good Will to All Men”. Sometime in the 1970’s people like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell gained prominence and political power preaching their version of Christianity. These Christians became Kingmakers as it was assumed and actually true that their millions of followers would vote as a bloc. The Christianity that they preached had little to do with the American Christianity that I grew up with. To be sure their teachings on sexuality differed little from Christian thought for the previous 1,700 years and so abortion was evil, virginity was prized and sexuality was to be performed in subscribed methodology. What was different was that this version of Christian belief was a far more muscular and mach one. War was good when fought for American principles of capitalism and self interest. The wealthy needn’t worry about the “eye of the camel.” Poverty was seen as the result of moral failure. Rendering unto Caesar (the Government) was no longer the moral thing to do.
Now knowing history there were always periods where certain Christian leaders were in favor of warfare, favored the wealthy and sought to kill non-believers. Nevertheless, all through those era’s the same message of peace and love was preached as doctrine, whilst the religious leadership ignored the dichotomy of their own works. However, hypocrisies have always existed in every religious belief. The overriding principles always remained static, even if logic had to be twisted to ignore the obvious dichotomy. This is certainly true of the religions Judaism, Christianity and Islam, that each give their own interpretation of the “Torah.” The most glaring example of this is the entire Chapter of Genesis, which is literally riddled with dichotomy. Who did Cain, Abel and Seth marry and where did their brides come from? The standard method of dismissing these dichotomies was to ignore them and censor the questioner. Today though, in certain Christian circles these overarching principles derived from the teachings of Jesus have become ignored, to be replaced by a new “Dominionist” view, which would turn Jesus into a warlike, wealthy Republican that hated government and taxes. That is the subject of this guest blog. Continue reading ‘Ted Cruz, Dominionism and Jesus’
Submitted by: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger
A lynchpin of the idea of America has been the meme “freedom of the press”. It is specifically mentioned in the First Amendment and many have declared it essential as a bulwark against tyranny. The Constitution, however, was written at the time when it took little expense to produce a newspaper or a one sheet broadside informing the people about one’s point of view. It was a time that had no media except for the print media and so “the press” as it existed then played a central role in informing the citizenry about the important issues of the time. From 1704 on the regular newspapers and magazines in the colonies had begun to charge for advertising, but the price of a paper still was the most significant revenue stream. While press freedom always was impacted by the major advertisers a paper had, the impact was quite minimal for more than 150 years, most importantly because each newspaper reflected its publisher’s point of view and that was the raison d’etre for the publishers. Then too, one could publish independent leaflets (broadsides) that could also sway the public discourse. Print media, which mainly included newspapers and magazines held sway as the conduit through which most Americans learned of the doings of the world and from which they formed their opinions politically. This “monopoly” last until the late 1930’s when the CBS and NBC radio networks started developing correspondents to go overseas and cover the world descending into war.
Depending on which side you were on the tradition of American journalism was a long and proud one. It played a significant role in the American Revolution and continued to do so for long afterward. The “free press” almost always took sides in that certain publications were known for their views and from what point on the political spectrum they saw the world. Investigative reporting was a proud American tradition, protected in the main by our Constitution and exposing the dark underside of America’s dream. The reader either is aware of, or can easily find instances where such reporting made a difference in the “people’s view” of a given issue and so I won’t detail the history except broadly. Sometimes, such as in William Randolph Hearst’s manufacture of the “The Spanish American War”, this press freedom was used in service of private interests. At other times with journalists like Lincoln Steffens; Ida B. Wells; Ambrose Bierce; Upton Sinclair; and Jacob Riis; to name a few, the public was informed of corruption both public and private in a long tradition dating back to the founding of this country. Whether one agreed, or disagreed with the information source, one could depend on the fact that given the already obvious point of view of the journalist/reporter, what they were reading was indeed a nuanced version of the facts that at least properly developed one side of the issue. The advent of first Radio and then Television supplanting the print media as the source of information for most Americans led to a trend in so-called “objective journalism” that has resulted in reporters/journalists/newsreaders presenting “both” sides of a dispute, without insight or context. Its’ my contention, as I’ll explain, that this has become very dangerous to the idea of an informed electorate and has resulted in sensationalistic bombast on a given issue, rather than intelligent debate allowing the public to make informed judgments as to where they stand. Continue reading ‘The Decline of Journalism’
We recently saw NBC air an outdoors program showing a NRA lobbyist shooting an elephant in the face and then celebrating with champagne. Given the outcry over the show, he may want to check out Montana where hunters can make a real killing with a $19 license to kill up to five wolves. That is slightly above $3 a wolf. The problem is that the state has issued 6000 permits which would allow the killing of 30,000 wolves. The entire wolf population however is down to 625 in the entire state.
The Equal Opportunity Slayer? NRA Lobbyist Reportedly Compares Critics Of Shooting Elephants For Fun to Racists and HitlerPublished 1, September 30, 2013 Animals , Environment , Politics , Society 45 Comments
If you recall, last week we discussed how NBC Sports Network was airing an episode of “Under Wild Skies” that showed NRA lobbyist Tony Makris shooting an elephant in the face and then celebrating with champagne. NBC has issued a convoluted statement that promises not to air the episode but the far more interesting statement came from Makris who reportedly condemned those who object to shooting elephants for fun.
Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger
Given the story today about the poaching of elephants, this video on Reddit caught my eye. It part of a show called Under Wild Skies What is this shit? For some reason, NBC Sports Network has been airing an NRA-sponsored hunting show called Under Wild Skies, which apparently airs on NBC. This video shows a lobbyist named Tony Makris shooting an elephant in the face. I am surprised to see NBC airing the scene. It shows that, while one cannot swear on television or show certain types of intimate scenes, you can still shoot a elephant in the face. [WARNING The video contains graphic and disturbing images]
The reason why elephants are going extinct may have something to do with a trial in Cameroon against twin brothers accused of killing more than 100 elephants in Central Africa. What is most striking about this story is that these brothers — Symphorien Sangha and Rene Sangha — have been arrested before and never served a day in jail. Now, with over 100 dead elephants to their credit, they are only looking at a maximum of three years in jail. Indeed, Symphorien Sangha was found guilty of killing elephants and wounding a forest ranger. He will receive 10 years for wounding the ranger but no more than three years for killing a huge number of elephants and a long record of poaching. With a deterrent level of that kind, it is astonishing that any elephants remain alive.
Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger
I’m an easy mark for those who want to approach me emotionally. My own life, with the normal tragedies of living seven decades has let me be attuned to others pain and to view that pain with an empathy born of my own suffering. Working out my own problems via years of therapy in my twenties and thirties, allowed me to finally let myself cry at the early death of my parent’s years before. I had put a “bottleneck” on tears since a teenager, choking sad emotions by constricting my throat and being in intellectual denial of the mourning I felt at their loss. This is not to say that I had no emotional outlets in my years prior to therapy, but they were limited to events far outside the ken of my life. Thus I could identify with wronged characters in movies and could cry at the death of Marin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy. In my personal life though, I acted out the role ascribed to me in my High School Yearbook “Mike thinks that life is just a snap of his fingers”. Therapy changed that and allowed me to let myself be aware of and be guided by my emotions.
Emotionally, I am as patriotic an American as you might find. I love this country and I love the fact that I’m a citizen of it. My tears well up at the playing of our National Anthem. The Constitution is a sacred document to me and the aspirations of our “Founding Fathers” seem noble and just. In sports I often find myself moved to tears when athletes or teams overcome adversity and triumph. My family knows this emotional side of me since I cry at movies like “The Little Mermaid”. In personal relationships I am also ruled by emotion. People who treat me with kindness are not only repaid in kind, but I find myself rooting for their happiness and sad at their sadness. It is therefore quite easy to become someone I consider to be a friend and difficult for me to note imperfections in the friendships I’ve made. However, that is on an emotional level and as all humans, I am far more than just my emotions. Intellect and experience play important roles in shaping who we are. On a personal level I have experienced betrayal by “friends” and lovers. In my career I’ve experienced betrayal by those I thought of as friends and co-workers. However, I think those “let downs” are merely a normal part of the human experience. We humans learn and grow from our social interactions, allowing them to inform our interactions with each other.
We humans co-exist though in a larger context than mere personal interactions and that is a society known as “country”. Through the norms and mores of that society we find that our emotions are stimulated by the commonality of our existence as part of a whole. We rely on that society to protect us from predators and from those from other society’s that would do us harm. We unite emotionally in times of crisis and we feel warmth and comfort from being part of the whole. The most emotionally jarring event of the past five decades was the attack on 9/11 that galvanized this country almost as one entity. We commemorated the twelfth anniversary of this overwhelmingly sad event this past week. I need not describe the effect of this event on all of us, since I know that we all have sharp personal memories of that day and the days of anger, fear and confusion that followed. The reactions politically that followed 9/11 has personally scarred those who lived through it and have done great harm to our country. People from all sides of the political spectrum feel betrayed by the events that followed 9/11. Some feel betrayed because the majority of the country no longer supports the military interventions that ensued. Others feel betrayed because there is clear evidence that our government “lied” us into a costly war against a country that had nothing to do with the 9/11 attack. We have become then a nation of cynics when it comes to our government and I will explore why this can be either good or bad for the future of our country. Continue reading ‘In Defense of Being a Political Cynic’
Exxon Contaminates Pennsylvania Stream With Illegal Discharge But Warns That Charges May Trigger Anti-Environmental BacklashPublished 1, September 12, 2013 Criminal law , Environment 25 Comments
Exxon has long been viewed by many environmentalists as one of the most hostile companies on environmental protection. Indeed, many environmentalists continue to boycott the company’s gas stations. This is not simply because of the Exxon Valdez disaster but a long record of environmental violations. We can now add the illegal dumping of shale-gas drilling waste water in Pennsylvania. Exxon employees found a plug had been removed on a massive tank that allowed the wastewater to drain out and contaminate a nearby stream with chlorides, barium, strontium and aluminum. The company has warned the public that the charges against Exxon could produce an anti-environmental backlash from other companies.
Tags: aviation, Black Forest Gliderport, FAI, Jim Foreman, Sabrina Jackintell, soaring, Soaring Society of America
Submitted by Charlton Stanley, Guest Blogger
Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways…Chardonnay in one hand…chocolate in the other…body thoroughly used up, totally worn out, screaming “WOO HOO, What a Ride!”
- author unknown, but often attributed to Hunter S. Thompson
Lately the news seems to be nothing but a non-stop stream of woe, outrage, tragedy and lawlessness. Instead of focusing on the latest outrage of the day, I decided to do a series of stories about people who inspire. This is the first installment of a series of stories about people who inspired me (and many others) in one way or another. I hope the reader will find them fascinating and inspiring as well. Not necessarily stories about celebrities, although some may be familiar names, but real people who led extraordinary lives.
Women do not get the recognition they deserve, and to compete in a male dominated world, have to be twice as good at everything. Barbara Jordan once said, “Life is too large to hang out a sign: For Men Only.” I am an admirer of women who are smart, strong, competent and accomplished. I was married to a woman like that for 55 years, but lost her two years ago.
This story is about one of those women. Sabrina “Sib” Jackintell died last year at the age of 71, just two weeks before her 72nd birthday.
Stripping Rosia Montana: Canadian Company Set To Wipe Out Four Mountain Tops And Ancient Villages In Cyanide Mining Agreement With RomaniaPublished 1, September 3, 2013 Environment , International , Politics , Society 28 Comments
There are large protests in Romania against a plan to turn over a historic area to a Canadian company which will destroy four mountains tops, ancient Romanian sites, and use cyanide to extract gold and silver. It is a plan to devastate the environment, but the Canadians have promised local and national politicians a cut of the open-cast mine in the Rosia Montana.
Tags: Assumption Parish, Bobby Jindal, Buyou Corne, Lake Peigneur, Louisana, Salt Dome, Salt Mine, Texas Brine
Submitted by Charlton Stanley (aka Otteray Scribe), Guest Blogger
There are gigantic salt deposits under the state of Louisiana. Geologists tell us the salt dome under Assumption Parish is about the same size as Mt. Everest. Some of the deposits are as deep as 35,000 feet as shown in this not-to-scale drawing. In fact, huge salt deposits are under large patches of the North American continent along the Mississippi River valley all the way up to Lake Erie. The city of Cleveland is sitting on top of a large salt deposit.
Salt settled out of the water when these areas were part of the ocean as the continent of North America was forming. We have all seen what happens if you dissolve salt in water. It reaches a saturation point, where no more salt can be dissolved. At that point, the excess salt settles to the bottom. That process is still going on at the surface in places like the Great Salt Lake and the Dead Sea. Once the water evaporates, it leaves behind places like the famed Bonneville Salt Flats. The excess salt in the water in those formative years of this continent settled out into enormous deposits. The primary deposits of salt are deep underground, as far as ten thousand feet or more. However, like glacier ice, solid crystal salt becomes somewhat plastic under great pressure. At ten thousand feet, the overburden of rock and sediment creates pressures of thousands of pounds per square inch. Salt deposits find weak places in the rock, and start squeezing upward in plumes, called “salt domes.” These extrusions come nearer the surface, making the salt more accessible so it can be mined. When I lived in Louisiana as a kid, I remember the salt mines being an everyday topic of conversation. The salt is not only used for food, but has many industrial uses as well. During World War Two, the salt mines provided essential minerals used in the manufacture of ammunition and high explosives. Salt mining in Louisiana has been going on since before the Civil War. Some of the mine shafts go down as much as ten thousand feet, and some of the salt caverns that have been mined are enormous.
Government officials and environmentalists have been struggling to deal with a crisis in the loss of honeybees in the United States — a loss that threatens a major part of our economy. Pesticides are believed to be the culprit and companies have been under closer scrutiny as the crisis over the massive loss of bees worsens. Now, Ben Hill Griffin Inc., one of the largest citrus growers, has been found to have violated rules on the use of pesticides that resulted in the killing of millions of bees. However, the fine for the violation is just $1,500. By the way, that is not the maximum fine.
There is an investigation afoot in England where someone felled one of the Queen’s swans, plucked it, and barbecued it on the riverbank near Windsor Castle. In a throwback to the age of Robin Hood, all swans in England remain the property of the Crown and, until 1988, killing a swan was an act of treason. The Mute Swans remain protected under law.
New York Department Of Environmental Conservation Refuses To Comment On Toxic Tide . . . Because It Is Being Sued For Toxic TidePublished 1, August 22, 2013 Environment , Politics , Society 22 Comments
There is an interesting story out of Southhampton, New York where a toxic tide of brown water has come in — killing fish and turning the ocean into a disgusting mix of dead fish and rust colored water. While people have raised questions about the water, it was the response of the state of New York that caught my eye: “The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation said it cannot comment on claims that it is not doing enough to protect Long Island waterways, because of a pending lawsuit.”
Below is my column today in the Los Angeles Times. The column follows the recognition of the name for Area 51, which produced a great deal of media coverage.
The Louhe City Zoo in People’s Park advertized a real African lion to pull in visitors. However, when the lion had to be sent off for breeding, the zoo was short an attraction. So, the operators went and got a large Tibetan mastiff and told people it was a lion. They did the same with wolf exhibit where a dog played the role of a white fox. In the leopard exhibit visitors were actually watching a common white fox. It all worked swimmingly well until the lion started to bark.
You know those Democratic members who are encouraging citizens to forget about warrantless surveillance (with the help of media allies who are calling for the country to simply “move on”). They seem to be struggling to find ways to change the story as President Obama proposes a facially meaningless set of “reforms” to lull the public back to a comfortable sleep. For civil libertarians, it seemed like Sen. Charles Schmuer was adding this week to the effort to get citizens to stop thinking about government bugs and start thinking about nature’s ticks. Schumer is calling on New Yorkers to check themselves and be vigilant in the face of the threat of ticks.
A Whale of a Decision: The Obama Administration Turns Down Georgia Aquarium’s Permit On Whale ImportationPublished 1, August 6, 2013 Animals , Congress , Environment , International , Science , Society 33 Comments
It is with great joy that I can report the decision of the Obama Administration to turn down the controversial permit application of the Georiga Aquarium to import 18 beluga whales captured and held in Russia. I have had the honor of serving as lead counsel with the J.B. and Maurice C. Shapiro Environmental Law Clinic of The George Washington University Law School in representing an international consortium of scientists, environmentalists, and organizations in challenging the permit application and preparing for litigation to block any permit issuance. My colleague GW Law Professor Joan Schaffner, Director of the GW Law Animal Welfare Project, has joined me in this representation with a team of GW law students, including Tyler Sniff, one of our Shapiro Fellows and a recent graduate. The Administration and specifically the National Marine Fisheries Service (“NMFS”) deserves to be commended for this decision to protect the whale population from continued depletion by these live capture operations. Here is the press release from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Tags: global warming, NASA, NOAA, weather
Submitted by Charlton Stanley (aka Otteray Scribe), Guest Blogger
Approximately 1,000 weather reporting stations all over the world have been monitoring local temperatures for decades. Temperature data have been compiled and analyzed by NASA scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York.
Nine of the 10 warmest years on record have occurred since the year 2000. The tenth? From the 20th Century, that was 1998. Temperature rise is not completely steady and consistent from one year to the next. That is due to factors such as volcanic eruptions and other natural causes; however, trends are the important thing.
We can see from the short video below the flip that Earth continues to experience warmer temperatures than several decades ago. The average temperature around the globe in 2011 was 0.92 degrees F (0.51 C) warmer than the mid-20th century baseline. Weather experts warn that a consistent global average change of even a half-degree Fahrenheit can have catastrophic effects on global weather patterns. Anyone recall April and May 2011?
We’re Here For Giggles: Family Finds Fawn And Brings It To Shelter . . . Wisconsin Officials Raid Shelter And Kill FawnPublished 1, August 2, 2013 Animals , Bizarre , Environment , Society , Uncategorized 85 Comments
A family and animal shelter in Wisconsin is raising questions about the response of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to a fawn being dropped off at the shelter. An Illinois family found the fawn and brought it to the the Society of St. Francis shelter a couple weeks ago. The shelter planned to take the fawn named Giggles to a wildlife shelter. However, the DNR learned of the plan and, according to the shelter, raided the facility and killed the fawn.
We have previously seen how Christian leaders like Pat Robertson routinely attributed natural disasters like Katrina to God’s revenge for everything from gay rights to abortion to secularism. Not to be outdone, according to various sites, Colorado pastors Kevin Swanson and Dave Buehner have informed the faithful that the recent deadly forest fires were punishment for gay rights and abortion even though they struck the conservative areas of Colorado Springs rather than places like Boulder. Presumably, God also wanted 19 fire fighters killed in Arizona under the same theory.
Continue reading ‘Christian Pastors: Colorado Fires Were God’s Retribution For Gay Rights and Abortion’
We have discussed cases of the use of tasers or pepper spray as first responses by police when alternatives seem obvious. This video shows a confrontation between an officer and a squirrel where the officer pepper sprays the squirrel over the objections of onlookers.
Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger
President Obama has admitted that while in school he was a frequent marijuana smoker. George W. Bush also alluded to smoking marijuana and possibly to using cocaine. Bill Clinton claimed to have smoked it but not inhaled it, which is the type of ridiculous statement Clinton is capable of asserting for political gain. Thus the last three Presidents of the United States have admitted that one time or another they have broken the law and used a banned substance. While each of those Presidents presided over the continued witch hunt and prosecution of the “War On Drugs” I believe that Barack Obama has been the most hypocritical.
Had either G.W. Bush, or Bill Clinton been arrested for smoking marijuana there is no doubt in my mind that they would have neither served jail time, nor would they have had their careers stained by a criminal record. Bush, as the scion of a great political family would have had his record expunged, or possibly have had the police back off when they discovered who he was. Bill Clinton was a student at a prestigious University and while not rich, came from a politically connected family in Arkansas. What they also had in common was that they were White men. Barack Obama on the other hand would have likely been arrested, despite his status as a Harvard student and while he probably would have escaped jail time he would have been forced to take a plea which would remain on his record. If such a thing had occurred it is highly probable that Barack Obama would never have been elected Senator, much less President. There is a likelihood that he might never even have been allowed to enter the Bar as an attorney, since that entrance requires extensive background checks. Whatever you might think of him Barack Obama is a very intelligent man. Surely he must realize how fortunate he was to not get caught smoking grass and yet as President he has stepped up the War On Drugs and has allowed egregious prosecutions in States that have passed medical marijuana laws. To my mind this is blatant hypocrisy, but beyond that political position lies a destructiveness that can only rationally be seen as the continuance of the oppression of Americans of color, particularly Blacks, by our Federal Government. I will deal with our President’s hypocrisy and use it as the basis of my condemnation of the War On Drugs. Continue reading ‘Obama and the War on Drugs: Hypocrisy in Action’
Australia has called Japan to account for its openly fraudulent claims of scientific research as an exception to the moratorium on whaling. Australia accused Japan in the International Court of Justice in The Hague of commercial whaling in using the claim of research to kill hundreds of whales every year in the Southern Ocean.
Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger
The election of Barack Obama, a Black Man, was certainly a landmark for this country with its history of slavery and of oppression of those considered non-Whites. That history includes the treatment of Native Americans which was replete with deception, broken treaties and examples of outright genocidal behavior. The history is also one of ethnic and religious prejudice that was heaped upon the waves of immigrants “welcomed” to our shores. The American heritage of bigotry in thought and language was never limited to the vile epithets of “Nigger”, “Spic”, “Savage” and “Chink” commonplace and accepted through the 18th, 19th and 20th Centuries. We also had “Mick”, “Polack”, “Heinie”, “Kike”, and “Wop” considered acceptable, common parlance. Many dismissed the use of these derogatory terms as being merely good natured banter and descriptive terminology. For those to which these terms were directed though, they stung deeply. These were people trying to become accepted in a new land and who had for the most part fled their native countries to escape poverty and oppression. They came to America seeking “freedom” and financial stability. These immigrants yearned for acceptance and each instance of others characterizing them by their ethnicity, or religion, came as a blow to their self-esteem.
While the majority of Americans no doubt look back upon the prejudices of those times with discomfort and embarrassment, it is human nature to try to diminish these histories and the unpleasant picture they paint of this country. My grandparents immigrated to America before the turn of the 20th Century. They came from Hungary or Poland depending on where the borders were set in different eras. They were Jews, born to poverty and oppression in Eastern Europe coming here to build a better life for themselves and for their children. My paternal grandfather was a tailor and came to this country with some children and with a marketable skill. I never met him, since he died before I was born, but was honored to be his first male namesake in the Jewish tradition of only naming after the dead. All the stories I heard about him told that he was intelligent, warm and gentle. My maternal grandfather was an orphan, who came to America at age 11. He was in the dry goods business at that age. He described to me how he had to literally fight his way towards success, which he achieved. Both my Maternal and Paternal families each had 9 children so I had a total of 16 Aunts and Uncles. Unlike some of his older siblings, my father was born in America. He described to me life in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn and the ethnic warfare that took place between the various neighborhoods. My father was a large man and a brawler in his youth, which from his perspective was a necessity of his times. I was born near the end of World War Two into an America where the ongoing hatred of Jews was decreasing, nevertheless I did experience some of that prejudice even in Junior High School, where I was called a “Christ Killer” and subjected to various jokes ridiculing Jews.
pNo doubt many among our readers can relate similar histories of the tribulations suffered because of their heritage ethnicity and religion. Stories handed down to them by their families. This is a fact of the history of America and no euphemistic retelling of history can erase it. This was the true “melting pot” of our country. For the most part though, whether the ethnicity was Irish, Italian, Polish, Jewish, etc. there was one saving grace and that was the color of our skin. When I was younger I had blond hair, I still have blue eyes and my last name has little ethnic identity. Many people who’ve met me in my life have been surprised that I was Jewish, taking me for Irish or Scandinavian, which had become acceptable ethnicities. Those of European Heritage, born of immigrants, they were able to eventually escape that initial prejudice because they were White and they could further escape their ethnicity by changing their last names if they desired. This fluidity has never been available to non-Whites and to my mind it still isn’t fully available, despite those who would hold up our President as proof that such bigotry is a thing of the past and that non-Whites face life in our country on an equal footing. Continue reading ‘Post Racial America?’
by Gene Howington, Guest Blogger
Since the last story on additive manufacturing and plastic guns, there have been a few developments. On June 12 in New York City, Council Member Lewis Fidler (D-Brooklyn) submitted a bill to amend the New York administrative code to make it illegal to use a 3D printer to create any part of a firearm unless the person is a licensed gunsmith and requiring gunsmiths to notify the NYPD and register said firearm within 72 hours. There is additional language in the bill applying to systems to feed bullets, serial number requirements, and regulations against destroying weapons. Also on June 12, a second piece of legislation was also announced by State Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan), which would make it a felony for anyone to manufacture, sell, or use guns or ammunition magazines made with a 3D printer. Naturally this did not sit well with Defense Distributed’s Cody Wilson whose response to Fidler’s bill in an email interview was “[s]uch legislation is a deprivation of equal protection and works in clear ignorance of Title I and II of U.S. gun laws.” At federal law, it is legal for individuals to manufacture certain types of firearms as long as the guns are not resold, are not fully automatic, and comply with set limits such as barrel length. In addition, in order for a homemade gun to be legal under Federal law, the person who builds their own gun must make at least 20 percent of the receiver (the operative part of the gun containing the trigger mechanism, etc.). The purpose of this is to prevent people from buying the gun parts separately and then putting them together but it allows for prototyping. A recent story out of Santa Monica, California illustrates a problem not only with the 20 percent requirement but laws restricting guns in general. John Zawahri, 23, went on a rampage using a modified AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle during an attack that started at his father’s home and ended at Santa Monica College where police fatally wounded him. He killed five people before he was stopped. Relevant to the laws at hand though, anonymous sources in the Santa Monica Police Department have indicated that Zawahari probably assembled the modified AR-15 himself from purchased components. This shows the inherent problem with this kind of gun regulation (as well as illustrating that guns are a simple technology). Criminals don’t care about laws. They are lawbreakers by definition. Rules of society mean nothing to them. If they are willing to commit crimes involving victims, as the saying goes, in for a penny, in for a pound. Consider the following in light of what is going on in the New York City Council and the events in Santa Monica.
Making plastic guns is the tip of the iceberg that is additive manufacturing. You can print with far more than plastics. Think of the possibilities of printing biological materials. This isn’t a question for science fiction. Bioprinting is right around the corner.
Submitted by: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger
It’s been so long that I can’t really remember when I first started thinking about and supporting freedom of speech. Perhaps it was when I was eight and went to the local library to borrow Sir Walter Scott’s “Ivanhoe”. I was told I could only borrow books from the children’s section. At the time I didn’t see that as a First Amendment Issue, because I still hadn’t learned about the Constitution. However, as the “Fifties” progressed and the issue of banning books and movies heated up, my social studies education caught up with my natural predilections and I became a full supporter of the idea of the rights of free speech, free press and everyone’s right to access information. During the “Fifties” movies were regularly cut down so as not to offend groups such as The Catholic League. The novels of some of the great authors of the Twentieth Century, such as James Joyce, D.H. Lawrence, William Burroughs and Henry Miller were banned in the U.S. as pornography and their shipments confiscated at our borders. Those of us, like myself, who are old enough to have lived through those times understand that the meaning we give to the First Amendment now, was not the same as it was for the first 160 years (or so) of our country. The lesson of this is that in the courts and with the ever changing political scene , we must ever be vigilant to protect our right as a people to say, read and write what we please, providing it doesn’t cause real danger to others. The catch of course in my last sentence, is what exactly “real danger” is and then what too should be the limits of using freedom of speech as a defense? Continue reading ‘The First Amendment and Catch 22′
Submitted by: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger
When I started as a college student about 50 years ago I took the Sociology I course as a required subject. There is little I remember from that course and less I remember about the instructor, except for his introductory words on the first day of class. To paraphrase him he said: “You will be taking a lot of courses in what are called the Social Sciences. Approach them all, including mine, with skepticism because they really aren’t science courses like those you’ve learned as a high school student. They will spend a lot of lecture time though trying to prove they are truly scientific, don’t believe them”. His clear meaning was that although the Social Sciences try to operate as if they are using the scientific method of experiments/research to prove theories, most of the work done is skewed to prove the theory of choice by those doing the research. In the five decades since that lecture my own experience and reading has taught me how true the advice from that long forgotten Sociology instructor is.
The social science that has my attention at the moment is Economics. I’ve read many an economist, from all points on the political spectrum and frankly while I favor those such as Krugman and Baker, I take most of what they say as opinion, rather than scientifically determined truth. Yes I’ve even read “Freakonomics” by Levitt and Dubner and the follow-up “Superfreakonomics” and while they were good reads I see them as not only bad science, but a conflation of economics with other social sciences that is superficial at best. This is really the problem with many economists and their theories. They presume to divine human behavior via the prism of economic theory. In the end their proofs are merely retrofitting their pre-judgments. That brings me to the “Austerity” movement which has hampered the recovery from the economic “depression” brought on by the wars and tax reductions of the Bush years, while it has also caused a crisis worldwide through its imposition upon many nations. The foundation research that has justified this “Austerity” movement came from two Harvard Professors: Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff. A University of Massachusetts student Thomas Herndon found that their work was filled with mathematical errors in their research spreadsheets. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/16/reinhart-rogoff-austerity-research-errors_n_3094015.html Their spreadsheets were their “proofs” that economic austerity promotes economic recovery and this theory, long held by many economists, is the basis for the imposition of austerity onto so many Nation’s economies and is the source of bitter national debate in our own. Though I will present some overview and links amplifying “austerity’s” false assumptions, my interest is in presenting my view on why the powers that be have imposed this doctrine, whose effects fall squarely upon 99% of the people of these nations, leaving the wealthiest unscathed. Continue reading ‘The Austerity Conspiracy’
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is famous for its public displays designed to shock and sometimes disgust people (here and here and here). However, PETA appears a bit thin skinned this week with legal attacks on critics who accused the organization of killing animals in a Virginia shelter. PETA reportedly is asking a court to give it the personal information, email addresses, phone numbers, and other data for three bloggers who reacted to an April 2 posting by a no-kill shelter advocate. One of the bloggers called PETA “animal Kevorkians.”
This is a fascinating video from Minnesota of what the family is calling an “ice Tsunami.” It is remarkably slow moving but does cause damage to the house.
While I hardly relish the death of any person, this is a story that represents a rare victory of an elephant versus a poacher. Solomon Manjoro was one of many poachers who are killing off whole species to sell ivory or animal parts to willing buyers. Police say that he and accomplice Noluck Tafuruka, 29, went to the protected Charara safari area in Zimbabwe to kill an elephant but Manjoro ended up being trampled by his prey.
Submitted by: Mike Spindell, guest blogger
Sometimes I’ll be watching something and a thought will occur to me and it will stick in my mind and lead me into a meditation on a more global idea that remains with me as I try to puzzle it out. A train of thought set off this week was a TV program in which a person had to deal with aging and it was clear that their fear of their own mortality that controlled their actions. The program is forgotten and unimportant in this piece, but it did start me spending much time extrapolating the implications from that situation. This represents the rude beginnings of a theory I’ve developed, sans research, on why many people respond the way they do to the world, especially in a sociopolitical sense. Feel free to attack it, because it is merely a product of my tangled thought processes and in truth I don’t even know if it is particularly original, or the result of my synthesis of much I’ve learned and read through the years.
Noticeable human development began at least a million years ago in an apelike creature that was small and relatively weak, considering the predatory creatures that surrounded it. Life was a tricky proposition for that creature and the act of merely staying alive consumed its time. I would think that almost all of its day was spent in a state of fear, causing adrenalin rushes and hyper sensitivity to its environment. Those with the most fear, sensitivity and intelligence survived enough to pass on their genes to the coming generations, thus continuing the evolutionary cycle. As time and evolution passed enormous changes in brain size and other factors turned this fragile being into an omnivore predator that mastered the food chain. Yet still remaining were the instincts of fear and hyper-vigilance, since life even at the top of the food chain remained brutal and short. Those instincts protected us well until a next evolutionary step that took us to a whole new level, leaving us as unquestioned masters of life on this planet. That step is what some are calling a social evolutionary process. When humans began to band together into larger groups their place in the world increased exponentially. This “social evolution” changed the Earth and continues today, but nevertheless we are still primarily ruled by fear and by hyper-vigilance. Let me take you where this thought has led me and perhaps you can show me the flaws in my nascent “theory” and provide me with respite from its repetition in my brain. Continue reading ‘A Meditation on Fear’
China’s runaway pollution is close to forcing one of the most beautiful creatures into extinction. The Hong Kong Dolphin Society is reporting that the population of rare Chinese white dolphins (known as pink dolphins for their unique color) are almost wiped out. A tragic picture was captured recently of one of the few remaining mothers trying to support her dead calf in the waters outside of Hong Kong — the victim of extreme pollution in the Pearl River Delta.
We have previously discussed the unhealthy pollution in China, particularly air pollution that has set records in the last couple years in Beijing. The situation is little better in Taipei, where a recent report found that more than 20 percent of first-graders suffer from asthma and 50 percent have allergic rhinitis, the inflammation of the mucous membrane inside the nose. The findings of the Taiwan Association of Asthma Education reflect the human cost — particularly among children — of pollution — a cost often ignored even in this country by politicians who espouse economic over environmental values.