Saturday, October 06, 2007

I am creating artificial life, declares US gene pioneer Craig Venter, the controversial DNA researcher involved in the race to decipher the human genetic code, has built a synthetic chromosome out of laboratory chemicals and is poised to announce the creation of the first new artificial life form on Earth. The announcement, which is expected within weeks and could come as early as Monday at the annual meeting of his scientific institute in San Diego, California, will herald a giant leap forward in the development of designer genomes. It is certain to provoke heated debate about the ethics of creating new species and could unlock the door to new energy sources and techniques to combat global warming. Mr Venter told the Guardian he thought this landmark would be "a very important philosophical step in the history of our species. We are going from reading our genetic code to the ability to write it. That gives us the hypothetical ability to do things never contemplated before"....
EPA approves 1-year use of pesticide The Environmental Protection Agency gave the go-ahead for one-year use of a new agricultural pesticide Friday, saying its own scientific review overrides health concerns expressed by more than 50 chemists and other scientists. Methyl iodide, also known as iodomethane, will be allowed to control soil pests "under highly restrictive provisions governing its use," the EPA said in a statement. "When used according to EPA's strict procedures, iodomethane is not only an effective pesticide, but also meets the health and safety standards for registering pesticides," the agency said. Methyl iodide was developed by Tokyo-based Arysta LifeScience Corp. as an alternative to the widely used fumigant methyl bromide, which has been banned under an international treaty because it depletes the ozone layer. Like methyl bromide, the new product, to be sold under the name MIDAS, kills off weeds and soil pests before planting a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. The EPA said its decision was based on four years of risk assessment studies, constituting "one of the most thorough analyses ever completed by the agency for a pesticide registration action."....
After Extensive Beef Recall, Topps Goes Out of Business Topps Meat Company, one of the country’s largest manufacturers of frozen hamburgers, said yesterday that it was going out of business a week after it pulled back more than 21.7 million pounds of ground beef products in one of the largest meat recalls in recent years. In a statement, Anthony D’Urso, the chief operating officer at Topps, in Elizabeth, N.J., said that the company “cannot overcome the reality of a recall this large.” He added, “This has been a shocking and sobering experience for everyone.” Executives at Topps, which made frozen hamburgers and other meat products for supermarkets and mass merchandisers, declined to discuss how and why the company collapsed so quickly, or whether they could have taken steps earlier to protect consumers or to head off the plant’s closure. But Amanda Eamich, a spokeswoman for the United States Department of Agriculture, said yesterday that on Thursday the department had served Topps with a “notice of intended enforcement,” a move just short of suspending the rest of the company’s meat production. Topps had stopped producing ground meat as of Sept. 26, but had continued to produce meat products like steaks....
Sam's Club recalls Cargill-made hamburgers in U.S. Sam's Club is pulling frozen hamburgers made by agribusiness giant Cargill Inc. from its stores shelves across the United States as Minnesota health officials investigate four cases of E. coli associated with the burgers. In a statement dated Friday, Sam's Club owner Wal-Mart Stores Inc said the warehouse club is removing the American Chef's Selection Angus Beef patties from U.S. locations and giving refunds to customers who already purchased the burgers. All four cases of E. coli being investigated occurred in children, the Minnesota Department of Health said in a statement. The cases are associated with eating ground beef patties purchased from Sam's Club stores in late August and September. Sam's Club customers should return or destroy any American Chef's Selection Angus Beef purchased from Sam's Club since August 26, the department of health said. Cargill said the hamburgers were manufactured at its plant in Butler, Wisconsin....
Where’s the beef? Ag groups push to end restriction on meat, poultry Laws from the 1960s banning sales and shipment of state-inspected meat and poultry across state lines have long been a source of grief for producers; but in this new farm bill year, the issue is back on the front burner in Washington. Leading the charge to abandon the restriction is the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture. Roger Johnson, president of the organization and the North Dakota ag commissioner, said the restriction is outdated, punitive and senseless. In the first place, state inspections, by law, must meet or exceed federal inspection standards, he said. And imported meat and poultry from 38 foreign countries with far less rigorous safety inspection standards than state inspection programs can be freely shipped and sold anywhere in the United States....

Friday, October 05, 2007

NASA Examines Arctic Sea Ice Changes Leading to Record Low in 2007 A new NASA-led study found a 23-percent loss in the extent of the Arctic's thick, year-round sea ice cover during the past two winters. This drastic reduction of perennial winter sea ice is the primary cause of this summer's fastest-ever sea ice retreat on record and subsequent smallest-ever extent of total Arctic coverage. Between winter 2005 and winter 2007, the perennial ice shrunk by an area the size of Texas and California combined. This severe loss continues a trend of rapid decreases in perennial ice extent in this decade. Study results will be published Oct. 4 in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. Nghiem said the rapid decline in winter perennial ice the past two years was caused by unusual winds. "Unusual atmospheric conditions set up wind patterns that compressed the sea ice, loaded it into the Transpolar Drift Stream and then sped its flow out of the Arctic," he said. When that sea ice reached lower latitudes, it rapidly melted in the warmer waters. "The winds causing this trend in ice reduction were set up by an unusual pattern of atmospheric pressure that began at the beginning of this century," Nghiem said....Hmmmm, I thought all this melting was caused by global warming. Have you seen news coverage of this NASA report? Hat tip to newsbusters.

Scientists See Politics in Spotted Owl Plan More than 100 independent scientists suggested yesterday that political pressure may have led federal officials to water down protections for the northern spotted owl in a recently revised recovery plan for the threatened bird. Six separate peer reviews, five of them funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, all suggest that the agency's revised plan downplayed the importance of protecting old-growth forest in the plan to manage a species that ranges from the Canadian border in Washington state to Northern California. Yesterday, 113 scientists sent a letter urging the Interior Department to redo its draft recovery plan, while 23 congressional Democrats sent a similar missive questioning whether political appointees altered the plan. House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick J. Rahall II (D-W.Va.) also asked the Government Accountability Office to explore the matter. "We are greatly concerned that, according to scientific peer review recently conducted by owl experts and three of the nation's leading scientific societies, much of this science was ignored," the scientists wrote to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne. The question of how to protect the northern spotted owl, which makes its home in commercially valuable forests and has been listed as threatened since 1990, has dogged policymakers for nearly two decades. The Fish and Wildlife Service first designated critical habitat for the bird in 1992, and in 1994 the Clinton administration protected more than 7 million acres of federal land for the owl and roughly 400 other species....

The power was out here yesterday evening and last night.
I participate in the ASMS newsgroup for folks with multiple sclerosis. They had many questions about what had happened and how I was doing, as have many of you. I'm known as Cowboy there, and here is what I posted to the newsgroup.


First, thanks to everyone for your kind comments, thoughts and prayers.

My spasticity and clonus had slowly worsened over the years. It had almost pulled me out of my wheelchair a coupla times, it had thrown me out of bed, and it had put me on the floor when transferring from the bed to the wheelchair.

So, I was given two choices. Either I got a baclofen pump or sweet Sharon was gonna put me out to pasture and put a new stud in the barn.

I had the test procedure done in August. They measure your spasticity, give you an epidural of baclofen, and then test your spasticity at 30 minutes, and at 1, 2 and four hours. It worked.

The epidural was no fun. First, they weren't set up for a handicapped person (and this was at a hospital in El Paso) so they had to get two guys from the ER to lift me from the wc to the gurney. The doc tried to do it with me sitting up and he couldn't do it, mumbling something about me having a "boney" back.

They then wheeled the gurney into another room, put me on another apparatus and flipped me on my stomach. The doc had some kind of x-ray device they put over my back and the doc finally got it in (sweet Sharon counted the holes, it took six tries). I guess the local anesthetic had started to wear off, because I felt a nice hot, searing pain shoot up my back and down my right leg. The doc is lucky I didn't take my "boney" right fist and apply it six times to some appropriate places.

Went back to El Paso on Sept. 18th to have the baclofen pump surgery. For those of you who don't know, they cut you open, make a pouch on the inside of your stomach skin where they place the pump, then run a catheter to the spinal cord. I really didn't like the place in El Paso, so arranged to have it done outpatient, and was then transported by ambulance to the Rehab Hospital of Southern NM in Las Cruces. It's a classy place, was released on Saturday.

On Monday I started getting the neurological headache. Then laid flat for 80 hours and with the doctor's permission got up. Three days later here came the headache again. So, this last Tuesday it was back to El Paso for a blood patch.

Now get this. The nurse who checked me in at pre-op said I should lay flat for 24 hours after the procedure. When I asked the doc, he said they would lay me flat for 30 minutes after the procedure, then I could go about my normal activites. He said there was something in the spinal fluid that caused the blood to clot very quickly, and 30 minutes flat was plenty. When the ambulance arrived to take me home, my discharge orders from that nurse was "take it easy for a couple of days." Perhaps that will give you an inkling why I don't care for El Paso. If that doesn't, the next will.

If you are wondering about the ambulance, my pickup is set up with a lift that gets me in on the driver's side. I can't get in on the passenger side. The doc's office said I would have an IV sedative so I couldn't drive home. I called BCBS, who is aware of my situation (my caseworkder used to raise and train quarter horses) and they said they would pay for the ambulance if the doc would sign the orders. I called the doc's office to tell them about the orders and they said this was strictly an outpatient facility and that facility refused to deal with the ambulance companies. I then inquired about how the hell did they think I was gonna get home. The doc's office then said if I would agree to a local anesthetic, I could drive home. I then called BCBS and told them I wouldn't need the ambulance. BCBS was adamant that I should not drive home the 50 plus miles after the procedure. So here I was, with a doc and a medical facility denying me a medical service an insurance company insisted on and was willing to pay for. Now what kind of switcheroo is that?

Well, about this time sweet Sharon entered the fray and for some unknown reason the doc's office had a change of attitude and I rode home in an ambulance. I had such an interesting conversation with one of the EMTs that I forgot something. It was my intention to ask them, when they turned off the highway and down the road to my place, to turn on the flashing lights and siren. Thought I would give the neighbors a little thrill.

Since it was a slow leak, I probably won't know till this weekend if the procedure worked.

End of saga....hopefully.

P.S. The baclofen pump is working beautifully. Hope I can keep it.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

After almost 40 years, some Utah waterways may get federal recognition, protection From wide, chocolate-colored rivers flowing through redrock deserts to pristine bubbling creeks in high-elevation meadows, Utah's moving waters provide thrills, spills and an ability to quench all kinds of thirsts. When it comes to wild and scenic settings, Utah rivers are second to none. Federal recognition and accompanying protection of those rivers is another story. More than 11,400 miles of rivers in the United States have been designated as part of the Wild and Scenic Rivers (WSR) system since an act of Congress in 1968, but not 1 inch of Utah water is on the list. That could change in the coming years. As as part of updating their management plans, the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management have identified more than 200 segments of Utah waterways for possible designation in the WSR system. Water is important in Utah - the second driest state in the nation - and that may partially explain why no waterways in the state have made the list during the 39 years since the act became law. Everyone from anglers and recreationalists to farmers and ranchers and local, state and federal governments have a vested interest in water....
Should Forest Service ease restrictions on recreational use at Mount St. Helens? Mark Smith owns a lodge and campsite about 20 miles from Mount St. Helens, but he says it's not always the volcano that draws his guests. Some, in fact, never go up to see the mountain or the several visitor centers. Instead, Eco Park Resort visitors come to enjoy nature in a breathtaking setting. As Smith calls it, they want "to commune with nature." For decades people throughout the Northwest did the same, but that changed when Mount St. Helens erupted on May 18, 1980. Since then, safety and scientific restrictions in the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument have limited the access that Smith and thousands of Southwest Washington residents once enjoyed. While researchers and conservationists call the monument a priceless scientific gift to the nation, Smith and others say they're tired of a gift they can look at but can't touch. Roughly one-third of the 110,000-acre monument is restricted for research, meaning visitors can't venture off established trails or camp overnight. And while hunting is permitted on about half the land, motorized vehicles in some areas are forbidden....
S.D. Stockgrowers Meet Under Secretary Mark Rey Stockgrowers and guests alike were able to present the frustrations they have in trying to encourage management of the prairie dog’s explosive population on government owned land which then extends over to private lands. The statement was made that although the state management plan calls for 199,000 acres of prairie dog populated land, in South Dakota we now have 625,000 acres and that the 2010 goal for the nation is 1.6 million acres. South Dakota is nearing the halfway mark for the entire nation. Secretary Rey discussed a plan to utilize a combination of the United States Forest Service (USFS) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) explaining that it could help reduce the number of prairie dogs while at the same time repairing the damaged soil. Regarding national forests and timber management, Secretary Rey explained that timber sales and fire management are still serious problems, but that they are making headway. He feels that they have accomplished approximately one third of their goal for fuel reduction and that they should reach it in about 7 or 8 years....
Lake poisoning seems to have worked to kill invasive pike There may be something that is still alive in Lake Davis, but crews with the state Department of Fish and Game have not yet found it. Game wardens in an armada of 25 boats poured 16,000 gallons of the fish poison rotenone into the scenic Sierra reservoir a week ago in an attempt to exterminate a voracious invader known as the northern pike. Some 41,000 pounds of dead fish have since been scooped from the lake at the northern headwaters of the Feather River in Plumas County. The carefully hatched plan was to kill virtually every living thing in the high Sierra lake and its tributaries, assuring that the pike would be exterminated. "No one wants chemicals dumped in their lake to kill fish and we don't like doing it, but you have to look at the big picture," said Steve Martarano, a spokesman for the Department of Fish and Game. "It's something we needed to do and we gave it our best shot." Drastic measures were the only surefire way to get rid of the pike, which had wiped out the area's famous trout, destroying the local tourist economy....
Four-wheelers should be part of forest solution No sooner had everyone settled into their seats at the Foothill Middle School cafeteria when somebody in the back lobbed this barb in the direction of Sierra National Forest supervisor Ed Cole: "How come you're kicking us out of the forest?" Cole calmly denied the accusation, but it was too late. The confrontational tone of Thursday's public forum regarding the forest's controversial Off-Highway Vehicle Route Designation Plan had already been set. Local four-wheel drive enthusiasts are livid because they believe trails they've enjoyed for decades are being taken away for no good reason. Forest officials insist they're not taking anything away. They contend they're doing everything they can to include as many trails as possible to the designated system, albeit through a complex, mind-numbing bureaucratic process. Which side is right? It depends which side of the roll bar you sit on....
Court decision likely to slow project Opponents of a major real estate play next to the Wolf Creek Ski Area in southern Colorado have won a court ruling. A Colorado Court of Appeals ruled that Mineral County commissioners wrongly approved the project, called the Village at Wolf Creek, because the road that was then the sole means of access is unsuitable for year-round use. The road is covered by as much as 10 feet of snow. Because of that faulty premise for approval, Mineral County must review the project again, but this time with the proper information. Colorado Wild, one of the two environmental groups that filed the lawsuit, described the court decision as a "small step in the right decision," according to Ryan Demmy Bidwell, the group's executive director. While there is no reason to believe Mineral County won't approve the project again, the decision still is "quite important in its larger implications," Bidwell added. He explained that Mineral County's approval was then cited by the U.S. Forest Service as the grounds for permitting another road across Forest Service land to the private inholding. By treating the real-estate development as a foregone conclusion, the Forest Service argued that it therefore did not have to address the impact of the real estate development on surrounding federal lands. Colorado Wild argues that it does....
Brown sentenced An Alton woman who tried to hire someone to kill her husband was sentenced Sept. 25 to seven years and three months in federal prison. According to a press release issued by the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, Kari J. Brown, 37, will not be eligible for parole under the sentence. She pleaded guilty to crossing state lines to hire a man to kill her husband, or murder-for-hire. Brown admitted contacting a man, who in reality was an undercover U.S. Forest Service agent on Feb. 25, 2006, about killing Randy Brown, her husband. She met with the undercover officer several days later and gave him a picture of her husband offering him $10,000 to do the killing....The FS is always crying they don't have enough law enforcement personnel. What does being an undercover agent in a murder for hire case have to do with protecting Federal lands?
Judge Rules Against Gore Climate Film Only in England. Here, where there are no standards for the truth, a case like this could never happen. In England truth is justiciable. The verdict is still to come. But this from judge Mr. Justice Burton "said he would be saying that Gore's Oscar-winning film does promote 'partisan political views'." "The case arises from a decision in February by the then Education Secretary Alan Johnson that DVDs of the film would be sent to all secondary schools in England, along with a multimedia CD produced by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs containing two short films about climate change and an animation about the carbon cycle." "David Miliband, who was Environment-Secretary when the school packs were announced, said at the time: 'The debate over the science of climate change is well and truly over.' "But during the three-day hearing, the court heard that the critically-acclaimed film contains a number of inaccuracies, exaggerations and statements about global warming for which there is currently insufficient scientific evidence."....
Lawsuit challenges move to ban powerboats Raising a banner of states' rights and access for the disabled, Lane County resident Steve Stewart on Tuesday announced that he is suing to overturn the federal government's ban on gas-powered boats at Waldo Lake. The U.S. Forest Service, which instituted the ban, "appears to have an elitist view of who should have the opportunity to use and enjoy Waldo Lake," Stewart said at a news conference at the Hilton Eugene. For nearly two decades, the Forest Service considered a ban on gas engines at the pristine lake that's high in the Cascades near Oakridge. The agency surveyed hundreds of people who flock to the pristine lake each summer for recreation. Local Forest Service managers decided in favor of a ban in April. The regional forester reviewed and upheld the ban in July. The Forest Service designated the lake "semiprimitive, nonmotorized" where the public can experience peace and tranquillity. The ban is to take effect in 2009....
Editorial - Court confirms that the public has a voice in road dispute Not only governments, but groups interested in the environment and even ordinary people have a right to join in lawsuits that will decide ownership of roads on public lands. Seems like a no-brainer, but it took a ruling of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to explain to San Juan County and the state of Utah that the public has a legitimate interest in how land owned by all Americans is used, and often abused. The state and county are suing the National Park Service because it closed Salt Creek Road in Canyonlands National Park to four-wheelers that were damaging park land. The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance tried to join the lawsuit, but government lawyers argued that only the two parties laying claim to the road had that right. Excuse us, but to imply that ordinary citizens, the taxpayers who fund the federal and local agencies, have no legal interest is patently ludicrous. The public, and, by extension, the advocacy groups that go to court to protect the public's land, should not be excluded from seeking judicial redress.We understand why some rural Utah counties see SUWA as the enemy in their fight to control the federal land that comprises so much of central and southern Utah. For its part, the environmental advocacy group rightly worries about overuse by motorized recreationists and overgrazing by ranchers. Too often, the battle is fought at the expense of a fragile desert landscape that is a national treasure....
Herd gone, ranchers turn to governor On a single terrible day last July, Jim and Sandy Morgan sold off their entire Bridger-area ranch's stock of nearly 600 cows, calves and bulls, liquidating them, they say, at a fire-sale price to be slaughtered. They did so, the young couple told Gov. Brian Schweitzer Tuesday, because they had the bad luck to be the first Montanans in decades to find a case of the dreaded cattle disease brucellosis in their herd. They thought if they eradicated all their animals, they would spare Montana from losing its hard-earned brucellosis-free status. The couple, along with Sandy Morgan's parents, state Rep. Bruce Malcolm, R-Emigrant, and his wife, Connie, told Schweitzer they felt they paid a dear price for the state and appealed to the governor to help them stay in ranching, which has been the family business for three generations. "We have a ranch mortgage we've got absolutely no way to pay for," Jim Morgan said. "We don't want to point fingers; we just want to get help."....
Judge halts cattle plan To graze or not to graze? That's the issue a federal administrative judge confronted Monday when he halted a plan by the federal Bureau of Land Management to increase the number of cattle allowed to graze on thousands of acres near here. The BLM wants to increase cattle-grazing to a former level on land recognized as critical habitat for the desert tortoise. The land is located south of the 15 Freeway. The plaintiffs - the Center for Biological Diversity and other California conservation groups - say the decision is a small victory. But the lawsuit is still undecided, and bureau officials are confident they'll eventually prevail. At issue is whether 130 more cows and a few horses should be allowed to graze on about 152,000 acres of private, state and federal land. The terms are part of the BLM's 10-year lease contract that was renewed in September with private ranchers and other lessees. More than 100,000 acres in that land area is designated as the bureau's Desert Wildlife Management Area and lies within the California Desert Conservation Area. The current allotment is 172 cows and a few horses. Only 25 head of cattle are grazing the land, according to Anthony Chavez, rangeland management specialist at the BLM's Barstow field office....
City of Laguna Beach Retains Local Control over Coastal Development Permit for St. Catherine of Siena Parish School Orange County Superior Court Judge Ronald L. Bauer ruled late Monday that the California Coastal Commission does not have authority over the proposed remodeling plans of the Laguna Beach Catholic school, St. Catherine of Siena Parish School. “This ruling keeps decision making over local land use in Laguna Beach where it belongs: with local, community and civic leaders,” said Pacific Legal Foundation attorney Paul J. Beard II, who represents St. Catherine of Siena Parish School in this case. “This ruling recognizes that the Coastal Commission doesn’t have the legal authority to interfere in these local matters. The school is now able to proceed with presenting its environmentally responsible reconstruction plans to city officials, without intrusion from a state bureaucracy.” Last year, after the school first put forward reconstruction plans to city officials for the 50-year-old landmark school, the Coastal Commission suddenly declared that it had authority to hear an appeal of the City’s decision. In challenging the Commission’s attempt to intrude, PLF attorneys noted that the California Coastal Act recognizes that local coastal permitting decisions should, whenever possible, be left to local governments. Although the Commission attempted to classify two drainage ditches on the school’s property as “streams” giving it jurisdiction, PLF attorneys pointed out that the City’s Commission-certified local coastal program and map clearly show no drainage ditch or stream within 100 feet of the school project....
National Property Rights Organization Launches Lawsuit Under Arizona’s Proposition 207 In a lawsuit invoking Proposition 207, Arizona’s new property rights initiative, Flagstaff firefighter Jon Regner and three other residents are asking for compensation for new City rules that restrict them from upgrading their homes and property. Jon Regner, Paul Turner, Bob Richards, and Margaret Allen are represented by attorneys with Sacramento-based Pacific Legal Foundation, the nation’s premiere legal organization dedicated to property rights and limited government. They’re suing under a new state law, Proposition 207, approved in November, 2006, by almost 2/3 of the voters of Arizona. The new law requires just compensation for people whose property value is decreased due to government restrictions on their property rights. “Arizona voters spoke with a united voice last November in enacting Proposition 207,” said Timothy Sandefur, one of the attorneys representing Regner and the other property owners. “They said property owners should not be exploited in this way by bureaucrats. If the government takes away your property rights, it should compensate you for that taking. Unfortunately, the City of Flagstaff doesn’t think it’s necessary to comply with state law.” Regner planned to renovate his home, and to add a second story to the smaller house behind his, so that he could rent it out. But under the City’s new “Historic Overlay Ordinance,” property owners in his Flagstaff neighborhood are not allowed to refurbish their property without permission from a special government board. The ordinance also sets severe height and size restrictions on homes: landowners may not have structures higher than 25-feet tall or roofs at less than a 45-degree angle. The new restrictions mean Regner cannot go through with his plans. But the City refused to answer Regner’s requests for compensation....

Informants, Bombs and Lessons In a case built largely on the use of a planted informant, a federal jury in Sacramento, Calif., on Sept. 27 found environmental activist Eric McDavid guilty of conspiring to damage property by using explosives. McDavid, 29, was accused of planning to use improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to damage the U.S. Forest Service Institute of Forest Genetics, the Nimbus Dam, cellular telephone towers and electric power stations, among other targets. Some of the group's plans -- such as bombing the Nimbus Dam -- seem idealistic and far beyond what it could possibly achieve with its rudimentary capabilities and limited resources. Members had also discussed fantastical plans such as attacking a ball bearing factory in an effort to halt the production of automobiles, spilling a tractor-trailer of jam on a highway to interrupt the transportation of goods and storming into a bank and burning all the money instead of robbing it. That said, the testimony of Weiner, Jenson and Anna in this case illustrates a couple of emerging trends in the radical environmental and animal rights movements: the increasing use of violence -- specifically the use of explosives and timed incendiary devices -- and the growing disregard for human life. Not surprisingly, law enforcement and security officers are not the only ones who have learned from this case. As they did in "The Family" case earlier in 2007, activists on the radical fringe followed the McDavid case closely to study how law enforcement uses confidential informants. Information of this nature is then used to provide instruction on how to detect confidential informants, and thus thwart law enforcement efforts to penetrate radical groups....
Some border cities block access to border-fence land Mayors along the Texas-Mexico border have begun a quiet protest of the federal government's plans to build a fence along the border: Some are refusing access to their land. Mayors in Brownsville, Del Rio and El Paso have denied or limited access to some parts of their city property to Department of Homeland Security workers assigned to begin surveys or other preliminary work on the fence Congress has authorized to keep out illegal immigrants. Eagle Pass has denied a request from federal officials to build a portion of the wall within its city limits. Brownsville Mayor Pat Ahumada said Tuesday that he refused two weeks ago to sign documents granting federal workers permission to begin work if it was to be on city property. Del Rio granted limited access and El Paso allowed workers only on its outskirts, said Monica Weisberg Stewart of the Texas Border Coalition, a group that represents local officials. "This is exercising our rights. This is our property," Ahumada said. "We are not going to make it easy for them." In Eagle Pass, Mayor Chad Foster said his city has refused the U.S. Border Patrol's request to build 1 1/4 miles of fencing as part of a project that includes light towers and a new road for border patrols....

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


Procedure went ok, will take several days to see if it worked.
Should be more extensive posting tomorrow.

Rancher Kills Wolf to Save Cattle, Violates Endangered Species Act
A Montana rancher killed a wolf to protect his cattle herd, and now federal officials say he violated the Endangered Species Act. This apparently extreme instance led one conservative analyst to claim that the act is doing more harm than good, because it forces landowners to "shoot, shovel and shut up." Roger Lang is a California entrepreneur who owns the 18,000-acre Sun Ranch, south of Ennis, Mont. Over the last 10 years he has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to help ensure that his ranch is set up and operates legally, especially in conformity with the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Lang has experimented with fences, herders, and other nonfatal means to prevent his livestock from being killed by wolves, which had virtually been wiped out in the area during the 1970s but were reintroduced by federal officials in 1994. After five yearling heifers were killed this summer, Lang decided to become more aggressive in dealing with the pack, which numbered 13 wolves, including seven pups. "That's a lot of mouths to feed," the ranch owner, who obtained a permit to kill two adult wolves on his property, told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. Instead, Lang's employees, shooting from a distance, killed a pup in July and wounded the pack's alpha female. As a result of those injuries, the female was unable to run with the pack and spent the next two weeks hovering near the rancher's cattle, seeking easy prey. But an employee on an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) saw the wounded animal and began chasing it. After hitting the wolf several times, the employee pinned it under the vehicle, Lang said....
Water Markets & Ideologies of the West
The Bozeman-based Property and Environmental Research Center (PERC), a non-profit think tank at the forefront of “free-market environmentalism,” held their annual conference for journalists this past weekend in Big Sky. Sixteen of us—folks from Maine to Seattle—convened to consider worldwide water scarcity and contamination problems and how markets can inject incentives to help solve them. There were a dozen or so presenters, their topics ranging from big-picture issues such as global water supply, climate change, and domestic water quality to the very specific: payments-for-environmental-services schemes in Bolivia, removing dilapidated dams to turn a profit, a market to reduce agricultural nutrient pollution. It’s intriguing stuff for any conservationist, no matter your stance on the reach or limits of markets. What piqued my interest most, and perhaps most relevant to conservation in Montana, was the discussion of water markets in the West—the idea of selling, leasing or donating water rights for instream use. It’s not a new idea, but it’s one gaining momentum....
Feds, state at odds over California-Arizona transmission line The U.S. Department of Energy opened the door Tuesday for an electricity transmission line between California and Arizona one month after it was denied by state officials. At issue is what is called a "congested corridor," where energy transmission is lower than the necessary amount between states. The DOE designated the area a National Interest Electric Transmission Corridor. The U.S. Energy Policy Act of 2005 states that Federal Energy Regulatory Commission decisions on transmission corridors designated by DOE supersede those of state government. By deeming the area a congested corridor, FERC has the power to overturn the Arizona Corporation Commission's decision against the 230-mile transmission line that would connect Palo Verde Nuclear Generating station to Devers, Calif. The $545 million line would supply the Los Angles area with 1,200 megawatts of power. Southern California Edison Co. would partner with Arizona Public Service Co. to build the line....
Feathers fly over pollution legislation Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson is raising a stink over manure. Fed up with manure runoff from farms polluting his state’s waterways, Edmondson is suing a batch of upstream poultry farms, including several owned by Tyson Foods, which he says have been irresponsible with their waste management and should be prosecuted under the Superfund law. The suit, which has been ongoing since 2005, has set off a panic in the agriculture community and a lobbying frenzy on Capitol Hill, where many fear the case will open the door for other large-scale or factory farms to be penalized with hefty pollution taxes. Edmondson, a Democrat, testified at a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee meeting last month, where lawmakers considered whether massive quantities of manure from confined animal feeding operations should be considered toxic waste under Superfund laws....
Meat recalls point to possibility threat is growing Last week's recall of 21.7 million pounds of frozen hamburger because of potential E. coli contamination is bound to fuel concern that E. coli outbreaks may be on the rise in the USA's meat industry for the first time this decade. The ground beef recall by Topps Meat is second in size only to Hudson Foods' 1997 recall of 25 million pounds of ground beef. And it comes just three months after a recall of 5.7 million pounds of ground beef tied to E. coli. The Topps recall has been linked to 27 reported illnesses, three confirmed, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says. The beef industry suffered its E. coli crisis in the early 1990s. But it tightened food-safety standards and reduced outbreaks so successfully that even critics held it up as a model of what industry could do. But the American Meat Institute (AMI) says it noticed a slight rise in positive E. coli tests by the government this summer and so met with industry leaders. "It's caused us to pause," says Randy Huffman, vice president of the AMI Foundation. "We've redoubled our efforts and focused on the things that work." The USDA sample-tests about 8,000 products a year for the deadly E. coli O157:H7 strain identified in the Topps recall. The rate of positive tests has shrunk about 73% since 2000 but trended up in 2007 compared with the past three years. Huffman says the rise could simply be a "random event." But Bill Marler, the nation's leading E. coli plaintiff's attorney, says, "Something has changed, and it has not changed for the better."....
Ranch-Raised and Arena-Savvy Mike Major of Fowler, Colorado, the source for "Make a Major Improvement," our September print feature on shoulder control, has spent his entire life horseback and working cattle. The ranch-raised horseman brings all that riding experience to the competitive arena and has since he was a youngster. Mike broke his first colt at age 7 and by 9 was starting many colts for use on the family's New Mexico ranch. He also jockeyed his father's horses in match races, but by 13 had outgrown that occupation. That's when he went to work for cattleman and cutter Bob Lee. A few short years later, Mike was running another ranch his father had purchased, and had begun showing cutting horses and attending junior and high-school rodeos. Buddy Major, Mike's father and a top professional calf roper and rancher, shared his skills with his son. Mike, who still team ropes today, roped professionally for a few years and spent 14 years riding bulls and saddle broncs. Throughout the 1990s, he competed in ranch rodeos and by 2002 had focused on working cow-horse competition, followed by ranch-horse versatility events. "But I've always ridden cow horses and always bred horses for ranch work and cutting," Mike says. "In a sense, I've been working toward cow-horse and versatility competition all my life, although I really got serious about it seven years ago." In 1990, Mike purchased the old Flying A Ranch, which Gene Autry once owned and Harry Knight operated. There, Mike and wife Holly operate Major Cattle Company, which includes about 1,000 yearlings and a horse-breeding operation, as well as the mother-cow herd on their Belen, New Mexico, ranch....
No Horsing Around for Students at Cowboy College Jim German has wanted to be a cowboy since he was a little boy. And for six days last month he became one. For his vacation, the 59-year-old San Francisco man enrolled himself in the Arizona Cowboy College - a small ranch at the edge of Scottsdale that gives ordinary people the chance to experience the true cowboy lifestyle. ``I've dreamed about this all the time, but I never had the opportunity,'' says German, covered in a thin layer of dust from a 20-mile horse ride. ``Here, for one week, I get to live out my dreams.'' German is one of 2,000 students who have attended the college since it opened in 1989. Unlike a typical dude ranch, the one-of-a-kind college markets itself as the true cowboy experience _ students sleep under the stars and learn horsemanship skills including riding, roping and shoeing. ``We don't play cowboy here,'' says Rocco Wachman, senior instructor at the school. `We do an old-fashioned day's job. I really show them how life was like 100 years ago.'' And amid the changing landscape of the Sonoran Desert, the college is helping keep a small part of the cowboy lifestyle alive....
School in the saddles at Colorado's Chico Basin Ranch
The first sound a city slicker hears at 5:30 a.m. at Chico Basin Ranch is ... nothing. No television. No traffic whizzing by. Then, a thousand sounds. Insects dance. Songbirds call, and then their calls fracture into at least 10 distinct voices, like a feathery cocktail party. Geese honk. Cattle bleat. A horse sighs. The wind howls a long way off, as it gathers force across the prairie, like a wave. Only 35 miles southeast of Colorado Springs, this ranch resides in an odd place between the city and the Old West. Brian Wyka and his teenage daughter, Lauren, of Sarasota, Fla., begin to stir in the Holmes Bunkhouse. Once a family home, it now hosts visitors from all over the world. Chico Basin, an 87,000-acre working ranch, flings open its gates to visitors who come to play cowboy, to meet the mythical West, to ride horses and to earn calluses....Bleating cattle?

Monday, October 01, 2007


Still experiencing leakage from the spinal cord, so tomorrow I'm off to El Paso to have a blood patch procedure done.

Let's hope it works.

Sunday, September 30, 2007


Still experiencing some problems, but doing better. Will see the Dr. Tuesday, and hope to spend more time blogging tomorrow.
Back Door Bureaucrats

by Lee Pitts

Reprinted with permission from the publisher of Livestock Market Digest, P.O. Box 7458, Albuquerque, NM 87194, 505-243-9515 ext 23.

I love my country as much as any man but sometimes I think she cheats on me.

You’ll recall that in April 2005 the USDA called for mandatory registration of livestock premises and individual animal identification. The plan, known as NAIS, required that the movement of any animal must be reported within 48 hours. That plan caused such a backlash that in November 2006 the USDA backtracked and said, “We must emphasize that NAIS is a voluntary program at the Federal level, and USDA has no plans to make participation in any component of the program mandatory.”

So why is the USDA using innocent kids to implement its pipe dream?

Mandatory Volunteers

In the fall of 2005, Morgan County Colorado Extension Agent Marlin Eisenach summoned a meeting of the fair board in which the State Veterinarian and CSU professors extolled the virtues of NAIS. After hearing the presentations the fair board members decided to require mandatory enrollment in USDA’s ID scheme if a kid wanted to show at the Morgan County Fair. In the 2006 Morgan County Fair all 79 market beef animals, 117 market goats, 169 market pigs, and 149 market lambs were identified with 15-digit individual ID numbers.
In September 2006, the Colorado 4-H Livestock Task Force, composed of 15-20 extension agents, recommended to the state 4-H Director, Dr. Jeff Goodwin, that Colorado 4-H encourage premise registration. On March 28, 2007, Dr. Goodwin issued a directive to Colorado extension agents that all 4-H livestock project animals MUST HAVE a premises registration for participation in 4-H and FFA projects after October 1, 2007. An eight-page list of talking points was sent out to extension agents to help sell the new policy. David Morris, a USDA vet said at the time that showing in 4-H was no different than Little League or joining the ballet company. “If one doesn’t accept the rules, one doesn’t have to participate.” The Colorado Cattlemen's Association, Colorado Livestock Association, National Pork Board and Colorado's dairy farmers leant their support to the new policy.

Keep in mind that the NAIS has not been mandated by Congress and the USDA is on public record assuring livestock producers that the program remains VOLUNTARY!

Let The Backlash Begin

Besides mandatory ID for fair animals, there was another bad joke going around the fair circuit this summer in Colorado: Do you know the difference between a mad grizzly bear and a 4-H mom fighting mandatory premises registration? The lipstick.

When Dr. Goodwin issued the directive he assured the county agents that if they stayed the course, in two years this will be a non-issue. Quicker than you can say “railroad job” The Colorado Coalition Opposing Mandatory 4H Premises Registration was formed and letters to the editor began appearing in newspapers all over Colorado.

"I will not teach my children to bow down to big government. I will no longer put money into a program that mandates to our children. It is not fair to our children," said Kimmi Lewis, a 16 year 4-H mother and rancher from Kim, Colorado.

Richard Kipp of Pleasant View said, “Their denial of the mounting resistance to this mandate across the state is problematic in itself. I suggest that these folks get out of their air-conditioned offices and into the country to visit with real producers where they'll get a clear understanding of just how unpopular their policy mandate is."

Kenny Fox wrote, “Children should not be forced to register their parents’ property in order to show livestock, and national organizations should not be trading their membership lists for cash.”

In yet another misjudgment, Dr. Goodwin seems to have underestimated the opposition to his mandate. He called the coalition a “fringe group.” If they are, they certainly are a well organized one. Thirteen Boards of County Commissioners in Colorado have now taken action in opposition to mandatory premises registration.

The Fair Ultimatum

Many 4-H members do not have the facilities at home to house an animal, so they find a landowner willing to help. During an April 9 meeting of the Lincoln County Fair Board, Dr. Goodwin was asked what a kid should do when their animal is kept at a location different from their own. Goodwin’s alleged response was to find another location or register the landowner’s premises without his knowledge or consent. John Reid, President of the Coalition says that “advising children to lie and sign up for a premises registration when they don’t own the premises defies the imagination, particularly when the advice comes from a director of a state youth development program.”

The ID issue came to a head at this year’s Colorado State Fair. The fair decided to make premise registration in NAIS a requirement to sell at the junior livestock auction. Initially, a dozen youngsters who had qualified for the sale were told they would not be able to sell their animals because they failed to get a number. On the eve of the sale, families were given a last-minute choice: either enroll their property in the premises registration system on site, leave the fairgrounds within 24 hours or be escorted off the grounds by the Sheriff’s Department. After being threatened 10 of the 12 kids went ahead and registered their premises but two refused to do so. They were bought off and their animals were purchased outside of the auction environment.

“Needless to say,” said John Reid, “This is not a proud moment for Colorado State Fair, 4-H and the Colorado Department of Agriculture.”

The incident raised several flags. According to Reid, two of the families had submitted the premise ID number for their county fairgrounds. Both families say they received permission from state fair officials to do so. Keep in mind that the reason the USDA says we need national ID is for animal traceback in case of a health issue. The numbers are only supposed to be accessed by the state veterinarian and only in the event of an animal health crisis. No one else was to have access. Clearly this was not a health issue, so how did officials at the Colorado State Fair access the NAIS database to verify the identification numbers of the two kids? Also, fair officials claim it took 30 days for them to identify and weed out the alleged offenders of their ruling. How is a 30 day response time going to assure a 48 hour traceback in a health crises? And since when don’t breeding animals get sick? Premises registration was not required at the 2007 state fair for breeding animals; only terminal animals.

“4-H and FFA animals are tracked and recorded in more ways than any other livestock in this nation,” says Kimmi Lewis. “Why are they using these children? I believe that these children are being “picked on” because of the numbers and because of money. Over 2 million dollars have come into the state of Colorado from our very own USDA to push premises registration and the NAIS these last two years. This money has funneled through our own Extension offices and the Colorado Farm Bureau as well as the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association. This money is used to pressure people into a premises registration whether they want it or not.”

Take A Number

The NAIS is a Trojan Horse and inside the bowels of the pony are all sorts of bureaucrats ready and willing to control your life and further their goal of a centrally planned farm policy. Thus far NAIS has been a big dud. Less than 25% of livestock production operations nation wide have registered for premises registration. The most current information we could find shows that 408,500 premises have been registered. (We don’t know how many of that number have been registered without the owner’s knowledge or coerced into registering, like the kids in Colorado.) The USDA has stated that it wants every single person who owns even one animal to be involved by 2009. Clearly they could not achieve this goal through voluntary registration so the USDA instead is trying to sneak in through the back door and what better way to do it than tie premises registration in with federal programs? Don’t forget that the 4-H program is a part of USDA and that the FFA is also overseen by the feds.

Between the 4-H and FFA it is estimated that there are 1,700,000 members enrolled in beef and dairy cattle, sheep, swine, goat, poultry and horse projects. The USDA simply decided to fund mandatory and coercive programs in these programs to pad the numbers. The bureaucrats have other ways to coerce too.

It is estimated that the USDA has spent $100 million the last four years on animal ID. Just recently the USDA announced the availability of $6 million more for more cooperative agreements. In addition to funding programs on Indian reservations the USDA gave the National Milk Producers Federation a grant of up to $1 million, cut a deal with the National Pork Board and gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to the American Angus Association to facilitate the registration of up to 15,400 new Angus premises. It is not just some accident that most cattle marketing programs and ALL animal health programs require a mandatory NAIS premise number. Want to participate in Angus Source or Pfizer vac? Get a premise number.

The Big Business Exception

Are we just being paranoid? What’s not to like about animal identification?

To find the answer you have to look at who is pushing the idea. It all started in 2002 when the National Institute of Animal Agriculture initiated meetings that led to the development of the ID plan. The NIAA is a private organization whose membership reads like a who's who of big agribusiness: Cargill, Monsanto, the National Livestock Producers Association, the National Pork Producers Council, drug companies such as Pfizer and Schering Plough and manufacturers of tracking systems.

These people are pushing mandatory ID to protect the agricultural export business and to strengthen factory farming. The USDA says mandatory ID is necessary to control disease but Charles Sylvester, who knows about livestock shows, (he was CEO of Denver’s National Western for many years) thinks that’s a bunch of hooey. “Running cattle in two states that have brand laws, I’ve had opportunity to visit with brand inspectors and state vets about such things as tracking and vaccine. It’s very clear that they’ve had a solid hundred plus year history of being able to handle crisis just by simply “communicating” with one another and using the brands. Having an additional step of “federal” would slow down and encumber the entire process. The federal government does not have a first responder (within 48 hours) vaccine plan in place. There's absolutely, positively, no need for a federal data base.”

The real issue is not health as USDA Undersecretary Bruce Knight accidentally admitted in a press interview years ago when he said that “the government needs this information as the United States slides into economic integration with the rest of North, Central and South America.”

Now here’s the real slap in the face to those 4-H and FFA kids and smaller ranchers: While they have to tag each and every animal factory farmers don’t have to! You read that right. The USDA says that when animals "stay together" as they do in a factory farm, individual identification of each animal in the group is not necessary.
The NAIS has the potential to drive small and medium-size farmers and ranchers out of business and increase the consolidation of our food supply into fewer hands. If you still doubt that it’s a ploy to aid factory farmers consider that the National Pork Producers Council and the National Pork Board, huge advocates of factory farming, have a goal to register 100% of swine producers’ premises by December 31, 2007. It’s estimated that 60% of swine premises are already registered.

Passports For Hogs

The USDA says your identity will be protected but please keep in mind that this is the same USDA who told us for years that the beef checkoff was a producer-run organization and then years later told the Supreme Court that it is a government program. Things change. When we all voted for the checkoff the NCBA didn’t even exist. Now they get the lion’s share of the money! Likewise, down the road we’d guess you’ll pay an inventory tax based on ID numbers and have to get approval every time you need to move an animal. The factory farms won’t have to. And we can easily see the USDA demanding premises registration to participate in any federal aid programs.

The most bizarre aspect of this whole mess is how does our government reconcile pushing individual ID when they are opposed to country of origin labeling? They want to know about a 4-H hog in Colorado but not one of the Chinese variety!

It’s a joke. The USDA thinks it can trace the whereabouts at any minute of 63 million hogs, 97 million cattle, 300 million laying hens and 9 billion chickens. And this is only three of the 29 species covered by NAIS. We are talking here of the same government that currently takes three months to process a passport and can’t even keep track of this nation’s illegal aliens. If 75% of the people haven’t voluntarily gotten a number by now how many do you think will flatly refuse? As Darol Dickinson says, “You will have to build incarceration facilities in every county to house the offenders.”

As one critic said, “the NAIS is a program that somewhat resembles an expensive plan to use baseball bats to kill mosquitoes . . . when we haven't found the mosquito---and the plan was proposed by a bat manufacturer.”
Sally is a good ole girl
Cowgirl Sass And Savvy

By Julie Carter

Cowboying isn't just about riding a horse, swinging a rope or looking fine in Cinch jeans and a new George Strait straw hat

Sally is a good ole girl. She's the kind you just like having around. Besides being beautiful, she is fun, rides well, and can sometimes catch both feet. She is also a favorite heeler for a number of headers in the team roping game because of those attributes.

She has an honest job and a little acreage of good grass for her practice cattle. Roping is her hobby and her cattle business has always been limited to however many cattle she needed for practice.
Last week, she was one head short when she did a cursory count of her holdings. She rode all the fences, rode the neighbors' country, called around and then finally rode her grassland again. All this handled on her high-dollar blue roan heeling horse.

She finally found the heifer hiding in an grove of oaks, head down and slobbering.

Any cowboy would have immediately diagnosed this condition as the ingestion of some weed that gave her a bellyache, put her in the pen, given her some hay and wished her well.

Sally hit the panic button. She called her favorite vet, a fun-spirited guy, who told her to give the heifer 30 cc of penicillin.

His phone diagnosis was that she probably had rabies and would be dead within the week and then they could send her head to the vet college. Additionally, everyone in the family and surrounding country would have to get rabies shots and likely quarantined. Not thinking she would really believe him, he went on his innocent way.

Sally believed him. She went back to the pasture to get the heifer and bring her to the pens but couldn't get her to move. Finally she roped her, thinking this would be incentive to head the right direction. No luck.

She drug the heifer until the roan got tired. Then she tried again to tail her up and then had to drag her a little more. Finally, they got to the pens - the horse, the heifer and Sally were worn smooth out.

At this critical point in exhaustion, Sally's smart 12-year-old son shows up, looks over the situation and falls in with the vet. "Mama, I touched her. I have mad cow disease. I'm going to die."

After 30 cc of penicillin plus 15 cc of B12 just because, Sally had done all she could do for this poor, terminally ill heifer. By morning the medication has worked, the heifer is up, eating and walking the fence. Her neck was a little sore and she had a few grass stains on her sides, but otherwise, her life has been saved.

After such a successful doctoring event, Sally decided to worm all her practice cattle. Counting is also a critical cowboy skill, one that seems to have eluded her.

As she is telling her favorite team roping header about the event, she related that she had brought either 12 or 14 head in from a lease pasture, 7 or 8 from the roping catch pen and another couple from the trap at the house.

She wormed them, gave them all a B12 shot since that worked so good on the heifer and put them all out to winter grass.

As the tale is related, the cowboy listening does the mental math and comes up with 22-24 head of roping cattle, which Sally confirms to be "about right."

Wanting to check the numbers he says, "How many are left in the catch pen?"

She thinks, about 11.

"How many are in the house trap?"

She thinks, about 15.

"How many are in the lease pasture?"

She is sure she took back the ones that were there in the first place and this either 14 or 16.

She is beautiful and she is a good heeler. However, just not everybody is cut out to handle the "cowboy" part of the job.

Visit Julie’s Web site at She is a new member of Western Writers of America and her book is getting rave review across the West. It is being offered by such prestigious places as the Hubbard Museum of the America West and the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in OKC, Oklahoma.


By Welda McKinley Grider

The newest among us ranchers are those who buy a part of the old American West and come out to shoot, root and toot on their own piece of Glory in a subdivision. I’ve had many amusing stories about the “new ones”. The one who thought a bull had a belly ache cuz he was bellering, the one who thought the calf couldn’t get milk because he was nudging his mother in the belly but a couple of weeks ago….I got one that takes the cake or the pie in this instance (as in cow pie).

The gal who called me is one of the most intelligent people I’ve met and retired from a very prestigious job. She has come to our area and has fit in very well.

But she called and said some of our cattle “broke into her house”. Damaged a door and some stuff. We didn’t deny this could happen but cattle seldom will get on a porch and hang out if the house is occupied. But as any rancher knows….it could happen. Cows are known for eating electric wire off trailers and various other obnoxious things so it could happen.

She called back and wondered if it might have been horses? I said that makes better sense to me. Horses, certainly pet horses have no qualms about porches and the people who might live there.

She asked if I could tell by the poop? I said certainly. She said well I swept off the porch so it’s lost its integrity. I grinned to myself. I had never heard poop had “integrity” much less “lost integrity”.

I went to her house and on the way to the door could tell by the tracks it was horses. At least two horses, one shod and one not. I could easily tell the poop was horse droppings.

I showed her the tracks and how they differ from cow tracks. I said this is horse manure by the way it’s made. We didn’t have to go far out in the pasture to find a dried up cow patty and then as luck would have it I showed her where a bull had passed. She asked how I could tell bull manure from cow manure? I said something BAD happens in a bull digestive track and the end result is usually propelled out.

I explained horse poop is hard and round. Cow pop is usually wet and flat. I said you obviously don’t know poop. She had to agree. I said from now on – in meetings when you talk, I can honestly say she doesn’t know poop – don’t listen to her. I found it amusing that with her level of education and my lack thereof – I was educating her in poop. I asked her if she wanted to know the moral of this little story?

If you don’t know poop, don’t talk poop.

A pretty good moral for all of us to live by.

Welda McKinley Grider – local rancher who knows her poop.

It’s The Pitts: Tool Fool

My name is Lee and I’m a tool-a-holic. I admit it. Going into a tool store for me is like a woman making a pilgrimage to Nordstroms. I belong to the Tool of the Month Club, the Craftsman Club and own gadgets whose purpose is still unknown to me. This more than qualifies me to answer the question... “What does every rancher need in a well stocked tool box?”

First of all, you don’t need a tool box, that is what the bed of the pickup is for. Unless you own a flat bed truck, in which case you are considered upper management and won’t be using tools. For the rest of us, here is a list of the tools of the trade and their intended purpose.

Tape Measure- For social climbing ranchers to wear on their belt when they go to the hardware store in hopes someone will mistake them for a carpenter.

Crescent Wrench- Primary use is for nailing nails, staples and small screws.

Pipe Wrench- For pounding larger screws, lag bolts and spikes. If they still won’t budge, don’t force it, just get a bigger wrench. That’s why they come in all sizes.

Fence Stretcher- On rainy days she can ride in the cab of the truck with you.

Shovel- To lean on as you supervise the fence stretcher.

Claw Hammer- For tightening and splicing barbed wire fence.

Vise Grips- For attaching your truck’s battery cable to the battery.

Level- To settle arguments at the pool hall on whether the table is level or not.

Punch- Will add holes in your belt as you grow older and wider.

Pocket Knife- For whittling, scraping rust, cutting calves or picking teeth when a hoof pick is not available.

Hoof Rasp- A versatile kitchen tool that will peel potatoes, grate cheese and remove baked-on grease.

Paint Brush- I’m told they’re good for dusting furniture.

Hay Hooks- Used to break metal wires on hay bales when wire cutters are someplace you can’t find them. Like, attached to your belt.

Box End Adjustable Wench- The lady at the tool store who won’t extend me any more credit and kicks me out at closing time.

Bald Pein Hammerhead- Her husband.

Bolt Cutters- For opening locks and cutting chain when accidentally locked out.

Horn Scoops- For pruning small shrubbery.

Hack Saw- Will saw horns off cattle if your horn scoops are dull.

Socket Set- For tractor repair and reminding you that you never learned fractions in school.

Hatchet- Alternate tool for working on tractor if you don’t have a socket set.

Allen Wrenches- Wrenches that belonged to your wife’s first husband, Allen.

Digging Bar- A misnomer. Real job is to stop animals from backing up in a chute.

Screw Driver- Good for stirring paint, chiseling or as a small pry bar.

Chisel- Used on screws in place of a screwdriver which probably has wet paint all over it.

Pick Ax- I have no idea what it’s used for and don’t want to find out.

Fence Pliers- For opening bottles and cans.

Extension Cord- To plug in your electric drill. Should be at least a mile long.

Brace and Bit- You’ll need this when the extension cord isn’t long enough and the rechargeable batteries are dead in your portable drill. Which is always.

All In One Tool- Ads on TV claim that this tool will perform all the functions of every tool found in a tool box, allowing you to lose all your tools at one time.

Baling Wire- An acceptable substitute for screws, clamps, bolts and glue.

Duct Tape- Used when baling wire is not available.

The Next Wave in Superhighways, or A Big, Fat Texas Boondoggle?

To see the future of transportation in Texas, you have to drive out to the prairie north of Austin, past the sprawling plants of Dell and Samsung, to the farthest suburbs, where wild grass and cornfields nuzzle up to McMansions with their perfect green lawns. There, giant earthmovers, their wheels taller than a Texan in his boots, are ripping up the gummy, black soil to lay a 49-mile stretch of concrete tollway. State Highway 130, at a cost of $1.5 billion, is the biggest highway project under way in the U.S. today. It is also the first test in concrete for the Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC)--a radical rethinking of the nation's Eisenhower-era roadways. The brainchild of Texas' Republican Governor, Rick Perry, the TTC would, if built, completely transform the state's highways over the next 50 years, creating a 4,000-mile network of multimodal corridors for transporting goods and people by car, truck, rail and utility line. Each corridor would have six lanes for cars, four additional lanes for 18-wheel trucks, half a dozen rail lines and a utility zone for moving oil and water, gas and electricity, even broadband data. The corridors could measure up to a quarter of a mile across. The projected cost, at least $183 billion, is more than the original price tag for the entire U.S. interstate system. But Texas, going it alone, is seeking private companies to take on the mammoth job of constructing, financing, operating and maintaining the network. To pay for the roads, developers will rely on a familiar but long-neglected method of financing: tollbooths. Opponents of the corridor range from environmentalists (the Sierra Club has called it "evil") to the Texas Republican Party, which has urged the legislature to repeal it. Texas, which is losing more land to sprawl than any other state, would need more than 9,000 sq. mi. of right-of-way for the corridors, affecting critical wetlands and pristine prairie lands. The Big Thicket National Preserve, considered "the biological crossroads of North America" for its mix of habitats, was put on the list of most-endangered parks by the National Parks Conservation Association this year, in part because of the threat from the Perry plan. Environmentalists have found an unlikely ally in traditionally conservative landowners worried about property rights. David Langford, an activist for the Texas Wildlife Association, is organizing farmers and ranchers whose land could be cut in half or condemned by the Trans-Texas Corridor. An early plan for central Texas showed a corridor passing near the homestead Langford's family settled in 1851. With the state's new "quick claim" ability — granted under TTC legislation — his family homestead could be gone in 90 days, he says, transferred to private investors operating the corridor. Though he would be compensated financially, he's still steamed. "I can't believe Rick Perry's grandfather would want his house and ranch taken and turned over to Paris Hilton's family to build a hotel on one of these roads," he says....

1 mile equals $595,625, jury decides

When Canal Winchester offered Richard "Pete" Stebelton $9,249 for a 1-mile strip of his property, Stebelton thought the payment was too low. Boy, was it ever. This month, a Franklin County Common Pleas jury decided the village should pay the farmer and used-car dealer $595,625. Canal Winchester wants the land to link a bike path between Rager Road and the village swimming pool. It used eminent domain to take a strip of Stebelton's 80-acre property and hired an appraiser who determined that the $9,249 would be enough compensation. "It wasn't fair at all," Stebelton, 75, remembers thinking. Stebelton was the only one of eight property owners who didn't agree to sell his land to the village for the path. Instead, he went to court to challenge the village's valuation. The jury decided Sept. 20 that the land the village wants, along the northern edge of his property, is worth $37,000. But the jury also decided that by taking it, the village was closing off a back entrance to the property and damaging the value of the rest of Stebelton's land by $558,625. "I was thrilled. I would have to be," Stebelton said of the victory, adding that the trial "put me through one hell of a miserable week." Stebelton lives in a home built in 1825. He grows hay and raises horses on the land he bought 21 years ago for $300,000....

Landowners' options for challenging pipeline limited

South Dakota law appears to give TransCanada the right to exercise eminent domain in building the Keystone crude oil pipeline from its proposed entrance in the state at the North Dakota border to where it would exit across the Missouri River near Yankton. If TransCanada is indeed free to compel easements from landowners, the only way it might be prevented from using them for a pipeline is if the federal government or the state Public Utilities Commission refuses to issue permits for Keystone. The South Dakota statute on energy transmission facilities requires "that a facility may not be constructed or operated in this state without first obtaining a permit from the commission." The PUC is holding public hearings on the pipeline in December, and the U.S. State Department also expects to decide late this year whether to issue a permit to allow Keystone to cross the U.S. border. TransCanada officials say they hope to begin construction in South Dakota next year. The proposed pipeline has become a contentious project for several reasons. Among them: Environmental concerns are associated with building it across wetlands, and it proposes to carry as many as 590,000 barrels of crude oil per day beneath the state to oil refineries in Illinois and Oklahoma. Also, TransCanada's plan to use eminent domain has infuriated some landowners and others who question whether a Canadian company should be able to condemn land in the U.S....