Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

200px-Coat_of_arms_of_Saudi_Arabia.svg220px-Houbara035We have yet another story of a Saudi prince achieving a new level of debauchery or excess. Prince Fahd bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud reportedly went on a little hunting trip in Pakistan but he did not want to hunt the same game as just anyone. He is a Saudi Prince and needed something that others could not have. So he obtained a permit from the Pakistani government to hunt an internationally protected bird — the houbara bustard. He was given the right to hunt for 2 days and kill up to 100 houbara bustards so he hunted for 21 days and killed some 2,100 of the protected birds. If you are wondering what type of person who relish such destruction, you might want to ask what type of government would issue a permit to such a person. The answer is two of our closest allies.

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We only recently passed the 20,000,000 mark last February but we just hit 21,000,000, according to WordPress. Congratulations everyone. This has been a banner year for the site with a continuing increase in traffic, links on other sites, and new voices on the blog. These milestones are coming faster and they give us a chance to look at the spread of our regular readers and commentators. As always, I want to offer special thanks for our weekend contributors: Mark Esposito, Eliane Magliaro, Mike Appleton, Larry Rafferty, Charlton Stanley and Darren Smith. The increasing traffic on the site is gratifying and reaffirms that there are many people looking for mature and civil debate. Even among the top ten sites, I believe that we offer a unique forum of different views and backgrounds in the discussion of law and politics (and a few quirky items).

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This is a rather bizarre video that I saw on Reddit. As part of Easter, I had to post it.

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220px-Factory_in_China220px-Dszpics1Various countries, including the United States, have been choking under China’s air pollution which is circling the globe. While China has steadily diminished the health of its own people with a disastrous priority on production at any cost, it is now affecting not just the pollution levels of other countries but, according to a new report, weather in the United States. New data released on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that Chinese pollution is altering weather patterns in North America and causing the recently intense weather patterns from cyclones, heavy rains, and other erratic weather events.

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by Charlton “Chuck” Stanley, Weekend Contributor

On Sunday morning, October 12, 2012, Felix Baumgartner climbed into the gondola of a gigantic helium balloon. The balloon carried him to 128,100 feet (39,045 meters, or 24.26 miles) altitude. Then he opened the door and stepped out.

This jump made him the highest skydiver ever, breaking the record set by his mentor, Joe Kittinger, in 1960. During his free fall through the thin outer layers of the atmosphere, Felix reached a speed of Mach 1.25, making him the first person ever to exceed the speed of sound without equipment.

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200px-Tony_Abbott_-_2010220px-Daintree_RainforestWe have been discussing the horrific rollback of environmental protections in Australia under Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Now, Abbott’s government and industry allies are pushing for a change in competition laws to ban on campaigns against companies on the grounds that they are selling products that damage the environment.

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By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

Flag of JapanRadioactive SymbolThe promise to reduce Fissile Material and Weapons Grade Plutonium made a good step from Japan in a recent agreement between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Barrack Obama duing a meeting in The Hague.

CNN reports Japan and the United States have co-signed an agreement to remove and dispose of hundreds of kilograms of highly enriched uranium (HEU) and separated plutonium from the Asian nation.

The fissile material will be transported from the Fast Critical Assembly (FCA) at the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) in Japan to a “secure facility” in the United States, according to a statement released by the White House, and “fully converted into less sensitive forms.”

“This pledge complements the significant role that both Japan and the United States are playing in finding new ways to continue improving global nuclear security … Japan has demonstrated its leadership by resolving to remove all special nuclear material from the FCA.

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By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

Columbian Newspaper Logo

Washington Senator Don Benton

Senator Don Benton

In what many see as a sign of attempting to control the press through legislative penalties a Washington state newspaper is crying foul after a state senator singled out a local newspaper by making it pay a $150,000-a-year fine for being “one of the top polluters in the county.” It just so happens that the lawmaker, state Senator Don Benton, had been the subject of a series of critical articles in the same newspaper.

The editor of The Columbian newspaper is now accusing Benton of playing hardball. Editor Lou Brancaccio said it is clear Benton’s “nonsensical” proposal is “silly on its face and in our view, retaliatory.”

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By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

Biodiesel Fueled BusAccording The Telegraph the United Nations will officially warn that growing crops to make “green” biofuel harms the environment and drives up food prices, The Telegraph can disclose. A leaked draft of a UN report condemns the widespread use of biofuels made from crops as a replacement for petrol and diesel. It says that biofuels, rather than combating the effects of global warming, could make them worse.

The draft report represents a dramatic about-turn for the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Its previous assessment on climate change, in 2007, was widely condemned by environmentalists for giving the green light to large-scale biofuel production. The latest report instead puts pressure on world leaders to scrap policies promoting the use of biofuel for transport. The summary for policy makers states: “Increasing bioenergy crop cultivation poses risks to ecosystems and biodiversity.”

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220px-Factory_in_China250px-Surveillance_quevaalA new report from the World Health Organization details how 7 million people are dying from air pollution every year and 40 percent of those are dying from China’s pollution. Too often, politicians treat pollution as just some trade off for jobs, but it has a more lethal cost that most people do not appreciate. China is the nightmare scenario of that environmental meltdown as we have previously discussed. At the same time, China is exported its surveillance technology to help nations like Ethiopia suppressed dissent and free speech.

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250px-Male_Lion_on_Rock200px-Zoo-kbh-2005We previously discussed the disturbing video of employees at the Copenhagen Zoo euthanizing and then dissecting a healthy young giraffe in front of children. Now the zoo is again under fire after killing two older lions and two young lions to make way for a new breeding male. As before, it is part of the zoo’s diversity in breeding program. Notably, the dead giraffe was fed to the lions previously. They were then themselves put on the block.

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Defy Expectations

EY69YtISome trees, like some people, refuse to be boxed in. If you are one of those independent seekers, this picture spotted on Reddit shows that you are not alone.

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250px-Rimpac_battlegroup_2006220px-DiegogarciaLocated in the Chagos Islands, Diego Garcia is one of the most pristine areas of the world. When the British allowed the United States to use the base in the early 1980s, the authorization came with clear environmental controls to prevent the deterioration of the natural surroundings. Four years ago, the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) were declared the world’s largest marine reserve. However, its greatest danger appears to be the United States Navy. For decades, in direct violation of governing standards, the U.S. Navy has dumped hundreds of tons of human waste into the lagoon. In the meantime, while 5000 U.S. service personnel are dumping waste into the waters and coral reefs, Chagossians are being kept from returning to their home because of the delicate environmental conditions of the area.

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By Charlton “Chuck” Stanley, Weekend Contributor

EPALogoA few days ago, there was some good-natured banter in the comments about Chicken, Alaska. Since I have relatives who do gold mining there during the summer months, I followed up with some reading about Chicken. This old gold mining town was founded in 1886. We often hear of something being “in the middle of nowhere.” In this case it’s true. Chicken is a six hour drive northeast of Fairbanks on the Taylor Highway, which goes to Dawson, Yukon.

This is one of the most isolated and difficult to reach communities on the North American continent. The only way in and out is either by the Taylor Highway or a small airstrip. I was surprised to learn that this town of 17 people (6 households and 4 families) was the subject of a raid last fall. The raid was carried out by a black-clad SWAT team in full body armor and armed to the teeth. The eight agents appeared out of nowhere in the tiny town. They were from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), on a mission to inspect the water associated with gold mining.

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photoAs many on this blog know, I am a fanatical dog lover and I love virtually everything about my hometown of Chicago (particularly a certain football team). However, I have some serious legal qualms over a new law passed by the Chicago City Council. The City Council has a worthy goal of combating “puppy mills” where dogs are bred in crowded and cruel conditions. The city also wants to increase the adoption of dogs over commercially bred or pure breed dogs. As a result, it has now banned by a vote of 49-1 the sale of commercially bred dogs. (If nothing else, it gives me a chance to run another photo of my dog, Luna.)

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300px-Biogradska_suma200px-Tony_Abbott_-_2010We recently discussed the disturbing allegations directed against an Australian MP who dumped pollutants into the Great Barrier Reef with impunity. The case raised questions over how powerful mining interests are overwhelming environmental concerns, even in the iconic Great Barrier Reef. Now, Prime Minister Tony Abbott has shocked many around the world with a speech to the lumber industry that not only promises to stop the establishment of any new national parks but commits his government to advancing the interests of the industry.

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apple-logoSubmitted by Elaine Magliaro, Weekend Contributor

The National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR), a “self-described” conservative think tank based in Washington, D.C., happens to be a shareholder in Apple. NCPPR has not been happy with Apple’s environmental initiatives. According to Chris Taylor (Mashable), Apple has made great improvements “in its use of renewable energy” since Tim Cook took over as CEO. Taylor said, “More than three-quarters of the company’s facilities worldwide, including all of its data centers and its Cupertino HQ, now run on solar, wind, geothermal or hydro power, up from about a quarter under Jobs.” Just last year, Cook hired former EPA head Lisa Jackson “to lead the company’s sustainability efforts.”

In a written statement prior to Apple’s recent annual shareholder meeting, NCPPR’s general counsel Justin Danhof said, “We object to increased government control over company products and operations, and likewise mandatory environmental standards. This is something [Apple] should be actively fighting, not preparing surrender.” According to Fortune, NCPPR “was pushing a shareholder proposal that would have required Apple to disclose the costs of its sustainability programs and to be more transparent about its participation in ‘certain trade associations and business organizations promoting the amorphous concept of environmental sustainability’…” Bryan Chaffin (The Mac Observer) said that the NCPPR proposal was “rooted in the premise that humanity plays no role in climate change.” He also noted that there was language in the proposal that “advanced the idea that profits should be the only thing corporations consider.” During the shareholder meeting, NCPPR urged Apple CEO Tim Cook and the board “to pledge that Apple wouldn’t pursue any more environmental initiatives that didn’t improve its bottom line.”

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220px-Clive_Palmer,_December_2012,_cropped220px-Blue_Linckia_StarfishThere are few areas as beautiful or as fragile as the Great Barrier Reef. however, Queensland Nickel refinery, owned by MP Clive Palmer, wanted to discharge huge amounts of toxic wastewater into the Great Barrier Reef marine park. Two interesting additional factoids: first, they were repeatedly told not to and second, when they did it anyway, government officials decided not to bring any civil or criminal charges against the company.

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1381566_244373695712868_2025785586_n220px-Baby_wolphin_by_pinholeThe senior official associated with the annual and notorious dolphin hunt in Japan assured U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy that the harpooning of the cetaceans in entirely painless. Yoshifumi Kai of the Taiji Fishermen’s Cooperative wants to correct the odd impression that the dolphins writhing in the blood infused slaughter are actually experiencing pain when a giant spear-like weapon is thrust through their bodies. If so, we may have a solution for the shortage of lethal drugs for executions: we could just harpoon death row inmates. Indeed, in euthanasia countries like the Netherlands could switch over to harpooning for the terminally ill.

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200px-Zoo-kbh-2005220px-Giraffe_feeding,_TanzaniaRemind me not to take the kids to the Copenhagan petting zoo. Animal activists are appalled this week after the Copenhagan Zoo killed a young giraffe even though there was an offer from another zoo to take the animal. The zoo decided to slaughter and autopsy Marius, 2, in front of school children and then throw the meat to lions to eat.

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28sino-shark01-tmagArticleSmithsonian Magazine is running disturbing pictures from China over the slaughtering of whale sharks, an endangered species. Other publications have clearly equally disturbing images. The Chinese market has long been identified as the greatest threat to endangered species other than development. Chinese continue to demand exotic or endangered products for folk medicine or just the cache of eating rare foods. The result is disastrous for the world environment and continued unabated. The story this week offers another glimpse into China’s insatiable appetite and also shows the appalling health and sanitary conditions for such Chinese companies.

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bildethThis horrendous abuse is the work of Russell Seese, 27, in Pennsylvania. Seese was reportedly planning to kill the dog, Lexi, when his abuse was discovered. Now he has served his relatively brief sentence and Pike County Judge Joseph Kameen had confirmed that he cannot own another dog.

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hartRiver_juriIn a devastating reversal for environmentalists, Canada’s Yukon Territory announced last week that it has decided to reverse an earlier promise to protect undeveloped Yukon territory. The reversal came after mining interests reportedly financed the Yukon Party, which came into power in the last election. The earlier plan with indigenous and environmental leaders would have protected 80 percent of the area known as the Peel watershed region which features some of Canada’s highest peaks and greatest glaciers as well as breathtaking tundra and forests.

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300px-Made_in_chinaWe have been following the worsening pollution crisis in China, but a new report shows how the Chinese government’s rejection of basic environmental protections is degrading the environment of the world. Western states, particularly California, are finding their air quality reduced dramatically by Chinese pollution. A recent study documents adds an interesting twist: calculating the percentage of Chinese pollution tied to exports to the United States. It suggests that we are outsourcing industrial productions and getting the resulting pollution from the Western side of the country.

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Last available picture of David from 2012

Last available picture of David from 2012

It is with the greatest personal sadness that I have to report the death of a cherished member of our blog family. David Blair Drumm passed away on December 18, 2013 in Austin, Texas. David was there at the very beginning of this blog and remained one of its staunchest supporters. Through the years, David was a rock who not only brought reasoned and calm analysis to posts but also to the management of the blog. He started as a regular commentator under the name “Nal” and I then invited him to write on the weekends. He played the role of editor as well as writer. (Indeed, I am worried about this memorial since David often caught the many typos that I would leave in early morning postings). I came to trust him absolutely in his judgment and analysis. I considered him a good friend and one of the most important influences on this blog. David wrote as a Weekend Blogger for years, sharing his insights into religion, politics, and his always popular “Find the Kitteh” contest. Our success is due in no small part to David Drumm and this blog, I hope, will remain a testament to his work and his memory. To that end, we are dedicating the entire blog today to David and his work. He was a brilliant electrical engineer, a profound writer, a passionate civil libertarian, and most importantly a fierce and loyal friend to our blogging community. (more…)

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Submitted by Charlton Stanley, Guest Blogger

LA Dept of Natural ResourcesI wrote about the Bayou Corne sinkhole in Assumption Parish, Louisiana last September.  This update is to fill our readers in on the latest developments in this ongoing environmental—and human—disaster. Residents have moved away from the area since this monster was discovered on August 3, 2012. At that time it was relatively small, but the 350 people living closest to it were evacuated. At that time, no one knew how big it would grow, but based on the Lake Peigneur experience, the Assumption Parish authorities were taking no chances. From what I am told, the local people did not have to be told twice to leave. They left, because they knew what happened at Lake Peigneur in 1980. Their homes near the sinkhole stand vacant. Those families are environmental refugees. So far, 45 of the 65 families who live there have agreed to sell their properties to Texas Brine.

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220px-Kompas_Sofia220px-German_shepherd_footballThis may be a bit too scatological for the morning, so you might want to skip this for your afternoon reading. There are a couple of studies out that I found rather surprising. Indeed, one was surprising enough to get me out in below zero temperatures in the last few days to test with my own dog, Luna. One study in the journal Frontiers of Zoology found “axial orientation” in urination among canines. In other words, they pee in the same direction. That’s right, canines preferred to “excrete with the body being aligned along the north-south axis” under “calm magnetic field conditions.” The nearly 37 breeds of dogs studied were found to completely avoid urination or defecation along an east-west direction. That was so bizarre it prompted me to take out my iPhone with its compass and load up Luna. The results? North – South. I kid you not.

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Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger

NEW YEARSFor the many decades now, since my childhood, there have been two underlying ideas about life that have guided me as I’ve journeyed through the years. The first is that life for all of us is at best bittersweet. This blog is about the first of these ideas and the second will be expressed in a companion piece. (more…)

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280px-SoilcontamFlag_of_the_People's_Republic_of_ChinaChina has released a shocking admission that at least 3.3 million hectares of farmland is now so polluted that it is effectively dead for purposes of growing crops. To put that into perspective, it is an area the size of Belgium. It is the latest statistical insight into the costs of the continued industrial output that reaches roughly 10 percent a year. That is two percent of China’s arable land and there is a concern about whether the per capita land allocation for food production has fallen below the communist regime’s own “red line” calculation. The country now has 135 million hectares of arable land, which translates to about 1.52 mu, or about a quarter of an acre, per capita. The world average is half of an acre, or 3.38 mu per capita.

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eurocuptrophy80mm2008Well, the results are in and we have another distinction to crow about at the blog. We have been selected as the 2013 top News/Analysis site among the competing world blogs in the annual ABA Journal survey. The success of this blog is due entirely to our unique community around the world, which have maintained a site where the issues of our day can be discussed with passion but civility. Thanks to all of our regulars and particularly our our talented and popular weekend team of guest bloggers: Mike Appleton, David Drumm, Mark Esposito, Gene Howington, Elaine Magliaro, Larry Rafferty, Darren Smith, Mike Spindell, and Charlton Stanley. While we created and maintain this site to allow us to share our thoughts, it is always gratifying to receive such recognitions. It is always my hope that the selection will bring new people to our site to further expand the voices and views on legal, political, and sometimes just plain bizarre stories.

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Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger

Hunger_games“The Hunger Games” represents a wildly popular trilogy of science fictions books aimed at first toward the Teen and young adult market, but then becoming popular with the “adult” market as well. It has become a very popular movie trilogy; the second installment was released in November, with the final film next year.  A synopsis is a dystopian North America of the future and a country named “Panem”.  The narrator is a 16 year old girl named Katniss Everdeen, living in District 12. Panem consists of twelve districts, rigidly controlled by a central government located “The Capital”, a city of wealth and great technological advancement. Each of the other districts are dedicated to particular industry’s and the people of each are kept at a subsistence level of life. There is little hope for the future and brutal retribution for disobeying the “The Capital’s” edicts. We are told that there had been a revolution some 70 years before that was brutally repressed and ultimately failed. As a reminder of the futility of revolution, each year there is a lavish production made for TV of a gladiatorial conflict and called “The Hunger Games.” From each of the 12 districts two young people are chosen randomly to fight to the death. Each district sends a male and a female. The ultimate winner (survivor) is gives a life of wealth, luxury and status. The “Game” is set up in such a way that each of the contestants tries to compete for the affections of those privileged to be citizens of “The Capital”. These elite citizens can spend exorbitant sums of money to send aid to the contestants of their choice to try to ensure their survival. The “Game” is further rigged by the “Gamekeeper” in ways that tend to favor some contestants, so ultimately the contests are deadly shams. Their purpose is to show the 12 districts the punishment that will be meted out should they ever again disobey “The Capital”, the futility of resistance and also to supply hope that one could survive the games to attain the benefits of a privileged citizen. (more…)

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131218100141There is a fascinating new breakthrough out of Utah where engineers at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) have invented a machine that can convert algae and into crude oil in minutes — skipping the usual millions of years of natural development. The invention could offer a unique and plentiful biofuel.

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220px-Process_of_mixing_water_with_fracking_fluids_to_be_injected_into_the_groundEnvironmentalists have been fighting the expanding use of fracking operations in the United States as a harmful practice, particularly for water contamination. The practice involves injecting millions of gallons of chemical-laced water and sand deep underground to crack shale formations to extract oil and gas. Not only does it use a huge amount of water in areas of water shortage but the chemicals contaminate both surface and underground water resources. Now a study in the journal Endocrinology has found a linkage to chemicals that have been linked to infertility, birth defects and cancer as well as elevated levels of the hormone-disrupting chemicals in the Colorado River.

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Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger

104248208I believe that it is impossible to deal with any problem until one understands the underlying nature of that problem. The analogy of a Physician treating the symptoms of a patient, but ignoring the cause of those symptoms, comes to mind. We have the medicine to deal with the specific manifestation of an illness like a headache and a fever, but in ameliorating the discomfort of the symptoms, we may miss the underlying pathology. This happened to me last March when shortly after being prescribed a change in the anti-rejection medicines that keep me alive after my heart transplant, I began to get so sick that I needed hospitalization in intensive care. I won’t bore you with the grimy details of this sudden downturn in health, but I must note that my most important bodily functions began to shut down. What is curious about this incident is that my wife, who is internet savvy, immediately began to suggest to my Doctors that I was having a bad reaction to the medicinal change. At first they ignored her as they had Department Heads in Cardiology, Immunology, Infectious Diseases, Neurology, Proctology, Urology and even Dermatology come in to examine me and pore over my medical charts. Finally, in response to my wife’s unfailing advocacy, they returned me to my prior anti-rejection medication. To my Physician’s surprise and possible chagrin the symptoms almost immediately began to abate and within in days I was home from the hospital and on the mend. (more…)

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220px-Beijing_smog_comparison_August_2005It appears that China’s runaway pollution may be good for the nation’s defense but is less helpful for airplanes trying to find cities like Beijing. As a result, the country is demanding special training for pilots to land in pollution, or so-called low-visibility landings.

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220px-Beijing_smog_comparison_August_2005We have been following the lethal pollution gripping Chinese cities, including now cities like Shanghai, with stories of children developing lung cancer and other medical problems.  One benefit is that the rising levels of pollution have actually made it harder for Chinese police to use the country’s extensive surveillance system to monitor citizens.  That is not something that the authoritarian government is likely to celebrate however.  Now, the official media has come up with one benefit to offer its choking readers:  the thick blanket of unhealthy air could make it more difficult for countries to bomb Chinese cities if they have a hard time finding them.

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220px-Cobalt-60_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.

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220px-GB_Pair_at_Henley_2004220px-Jacuecanga_Angra_dos_Reis_Rio_de_Janeiro_Brazil_BrasfelsMany 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.

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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

495px-Donald_Trump_by_Gage_SkidmorePaul_Ryan--113th_Congress--Mitt_Romney_by_Gage_Skidmore_7Now 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. (more…)

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220px-Tanzanian_Elephant220px-Narrow_Gauge_Train_at_RajimIndian 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.

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UpdykeWe 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.

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What is interesting to me is the concern of one of the Elk with the trapped animal. The others do not seem particularly bothered.

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220px-Tanzanian_ElephantThe 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.

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220px-Sniperscope300px-Doué_21_06_2010_14_Diceros_bicornisThe 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.

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Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger

287px-Sing_SingWe 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. (more…)

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220px-beijing_smog_comparison_august_2005We 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.

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Flag_of_Ecuador_svg

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.  (more…)

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Goblins or Hoodoos

Goblins or Hoodoos
at Goblin Valley State Park

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.

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Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger

75px-AbombOperationSandstoneApril1948It 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.

120px-Atombombentest_Greenhouse-GeorgeAs 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”. (more…)

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220px-Cat_eyes_2007-2There 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.

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