Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Eminent Domain Proposed To Grab Pfizer N.Y. Plant Affordable-housing activists in Brooklyn, N.Y., are proposing eminent domain be used to seize a prime piece of New York real estate from Pfizer Inc. Pfizer is the same company that inspired economic-development plans in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood of New London after the pharmaceutical giant started building its Global Research & Development headquarters there nearly a decade ago. “Ah, irony,” says Scott Bullock, senior attorney with the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Justice, the group that defended Fort Trumbull resident Susette Kelo as the lead plaintiff in Kelo v. City of New London — the property-rights case that went all the way to the Supreme Court. The city won the case three years ago. “It shows that once the power goes to government to take properties on behalf of private parties, the tables can easily be turned on you ... if you're out of favor with the powers that be,” Bullock said....I'm sitting here with multiple sclerosis, and I want all drug companies to do well, make profits, conduct research and find a cure. In this instance, though, I hope Pfizer takes it up the ying-yang.
Mayor Bloomberg Compares Threat of Global Warming to Terrorism While he acknowledged that scientists are unable to predict its consequences, Mayor Bloomberg yesterday compared the scourge of global warming to the threat of terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Although it is a "long-term" fight, he said, reducing gas emissions may save the life of "everybody" on the planet, the same way that fighting terrorism and its proliferation saves lives in shorter terms. Addressing a U.N. climate change conference, the mayor also announced a new plan to reduce the use of tropical hardwoods by New York City and told delegates that the city plans to host a meeting in June of leaders from 20 major world cities to discuss ways for the largest municipalities to reduce global warming. Other participants in the conference called for a "war" against climate change, in which the United Nations would serve as a front-line combatant. Mr. Bloomberg renewed his call, made first late last year, for taxing countries such as America that emit large amounts of carbons, which are believed to cause changes in the planet's climate....
Bombing away in Socorro, New Mexico Folks living in Socorro, in remote, central New Mexico, are regularly jolted by the sounds of car bombs and calculated cave-ins. It’s all cooked up by the Energetic Materials Research and Testing Center, a division of the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, known here simply as “Tech.” “Energetic materials” refers to anything that blows up, and since people exploding bombs are making life miserable for the American military in the Middle East and other places in the world, Tech’s bomb-testing business is booming. Testing activities have gone on for years, but people living in Socorro have been largely silent as new schemes popped up. After all, it’s the town’s biggest employer: At least 40 percent of the economy is tied to Tech, making Socorro almost a company town. And of course, if you moved here, you most likely knew what you were getting into. But what’s the limit? Schoolteacher Loretta Lowman was painting her house last year when a big bomb blast nearly knocked her off her ladder. The window-rattling explosion rolled in from the backside of “M” Mountain, a 7,300-foot volcanic remnant and landmark in this town of about 9,000. For Lowman, the blast lingered, bookmarked in her mind, and quickly recalled when she heard about a new testing venture. Soon, out there on the edge of its 40-square-mile “field laboratory” a few miles behind the mountain, the U.S. Air Force’s 58th Special Operations Wing, based in Albuquerque, would start practicing dropping stuff....
Idaho Conservation League scolds Otter for bighorn sheep policy The state is creating an environment for more lawsuits over bighorn sheep, the Idaho Conservation League said in a letter mailed this week to Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter. The governor is using a "top down approach" to manage Idaho's bighorns, the group wrote, by asking the state departments of Fish and Game and Agricul-ture to develop a plan to keep the species separate. ICL wants the public to have a say in developing a policy. "Instead of telling the public what is best for a few, the state should ask the public to roll up their sleeves and craft a workable solution," wrote John Robison, ICL's public lands director. However, Otter is expected to make an announcement soon on the state's bighorn policy, which state agency officials say is mostly finished. Following a year of lawsuits and political posturing over bighorns, the plan is likely to be contentious. A judge closed grazing allotments last year after environmental groups sued, saying massive bighorn die-offs happened after contact with disease-carrying domestic sheep. The governor quietly asked the state agencies to find short-term solutions before sheep are turned out on grazing allotments this spring - and before more lawsuits are filed....
Ranches Transformed Into Endangered Jaguar Reserve Jaguars in northern Mexico have a newly protected habitat today due to the official establishment of the Northern Jaguar Reserve in the state of Sonora. The 45,000 acre reserve, which provides a sanctuary for the world's northernmost breeding population of jaguars, is the centerpiece of a binational effort by the Northern Jaguar Project and Naturalia to safeguard and restore the jaguar in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. "This land is perfectly suited to support North America's largest wild cat," said Oscar Moctezuma, director of Naturalia, the Mexican conservation organization that will hold title to the property. With assistance from the Northern Jaguar Project, Naturalia purchased the 10,000 acre Rancho Los Pavos in 2003. Located in a region of abundant biodiversity, Los Pavos was the first ranch acquired to establish this jaguar reserve. Next, the Northern Jaguar Project spearheaded the purchase of the adjacent 35,000 acre Rancho Zetasora at a cost of $1.5 million with contributions from more than 600 individual donors and private foundations. The final payment for Zetasora was made at the end of January and completes the 70 square mile reserve....
Senate approves expedition of eminent domain The South Dakota Senate has approved a measure intended to speed up state hearings on the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad's application to acquire land by condemnation for its $6 billion expansion project. An opponent said the bill could hurt landowners who believe DM&E is not treating them fairly, but the Senate sent the measure to the House on a 20-13 vote. The bill's main sponsor, Sen. Tom Hansen, R-Huron, said DM&E applied more than a year ago for state approval to use eminent domain to acquire land for a right of way from people who are unwilling to sell. Opponents have used delaying tactics to prevent a state hearing, he said. "The time has come to let the process move forward," Hansen said. But Sen. Jim Lintz, R-Hermosa, said DM&E has caused as much of the delay as opponents have. He said many of his neighbors own land that would be crossed by the expansion project. They know the project is likely to be built, but they want to be treated fairly, he said. "Their concern was not to stop the railroad. Their concern was to get a decent price for what the railroad was taking," Lintz said....
Parks' gun rules may change A proposal to allow loaded guns in national parks is complicating an otherwise uncontroversial public lands bill now working its way through the U.S. Senate. The plan - crafted by the National Rifle Association - was pushed by Oklahoma Republican Tom Coburn and is endorsed by 47 other senators, including Montana Democrats Max Baucus and Jon Tester. Those lawmakers - 39 Republicans and eight Democrats - penned a Dec. 14 letter to Secretary of Interior Dirk Kempthorne, asking that rules be changed to allow loaded guns in national parks. Currently, guns are allowed, but must be unloaded and properly stored. In the letter, the senators said today's rules “infringe on the rights of law-abiding gun owners who wish to transport and carry firearms on or across these lands.” Coburn's amendment would forbid Interior from enforcing “any regulation that prohibits an individual from possessing a firearm in any unit of the National Park System or the National Wildlife Refuge System.” It would create one uniform law for guns on all federal lands, including U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service lands - because the current system results in inconsistencies that “are confusing, burdensome and unnecessary,” the letter said. Critics argue the change would prove dangerous, for many reasons, and this week Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., drew up an alternative public lands bill without the gun-rule changes....
Weasel-like animal threatens forest plan Federal authorities have delayed a major forest-thinning project -- aimed at reducing fire danger near Shaver Lake -- because new research suggests the work could harm the weasel-like Pacific fisher. By late March, Sierra National Forest officials plan revisions to further protect the sensitive fisher in the Kings River Project, about 13,000 acres east of Fresno. The project plan, which had been approved in 2006 after more than a decade of work, could be ready again this fall. The delay pleased environmentalists but disappointed a Tulare County sawmill executive who says he needs timber from the area to keep his 125 employees working. Kent Duysen, general manager of Sierra Forest Products, said sensitive species have been studied for two decades. "At what point do you say we need to move on?" he asked. Environmentalists, who last year sued to stop the project, said the U.S. Forest Service is correct to move cautiously....
Bush proposal cuts national forest fire prevention budget President Bush's proposal to reduce fire-prevention spending in the nation's forests has some on edge in Inland Southern California, where three of the last five Octobers have brought catastrophic wildfires. The proposed U.S. Forest Service cuts, assailed by local experts and Democratic lawmakers, came under fire during a hearing on the Bush budget proposal held Tuesday by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior Environment and Related Agencies. At the same Capitol Hill hearing, Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey, the Bush administration's official overseeing the Forest Service, said the upcoming fire season is likely to be as bad or worse than the past fire season, particularly in Southern California. Bush's budget calls for a $150 million increase in federal funding for the U.S. Forest Service to extinguish blazes, bringing the agency's total firefighting budget to more than $1.14 billion, according to figures provided to the subcommittee. But the proposal slashes the agency's preparedness funding by $77 million, including a $13 million reduction in money to remove dead trees and overgrown brush that act as kindling for fires in 155 national forests. That amounts to more than an 11 percent decrease from last year's preparedness budget of around $5.9 million....
Forest Service studying loss of U.S. firefighters to Calif. force A top federal official acknowledged Tuesday that the U.S. Forest Service is losing federal firefighters in California to state and county departments that pay more. But Agriculture Department Undersecretary Mark Rey, who directs U.S. forest policy, told concerned lawmakers he's still evaluating how much of a problem that is. "On the one hand you hate to lose trained people. On the other hand they're still fighting fires under a unified command system," Rey told a hearing of the House Appropriations Interior subcommittee. They're going to be on the fire line along with the federal firefighters." Lawmakers convinced there is a problem ordered the Forest Service to come up with a plan by Feb. 1 to increase recruitment and retention for Southern California forests. That deadline has passed but the agency is working on it, officials said....
Rainbow Family warned to leave Forest campsite Hundreds of Rainbow Family members started gathering deep inside the Ocala National Forest last week. Many who found their way down Paisley Road to a sandy path around a little spot called Duck Pond - some 10 miles south of State Road 40 - might have seen a notice posted high on a pine tree. "This is an ILLEGAL gathering of 75 persons or more without a permit," the notice put up by the U.S. Forest Service reads. "The max penalty is six months in prison and/or a $5,000 fine." But Monday came and went, and the Rainbow Family remained, determined not to give up the government land they settled on. "We've met here for 13 years, and now they're treating us like criminals," said a woman who identified herself by her Rainbow name, Indigo. She was keeping an eye out for any Forest Service Law Enforcement vehicles Monday afternoon. Sure enough, three Forest Service sport utility vehicles pulled down the path around 2 p.m. "Six-point-o rolling through the Rainbow land," she yelled out to alert her brethren. Many in the Rainbow Family have no plans of leaving Duck Pond, even if they get ticketed upward of $250 a day. A couple dozen in the family already have been ticketed for assembling illegally this week. Many in the Rainbow Family questioned officers on where the regulations and rules were posted. "It's your responsibility to find out what's legal and what the rules are," Watson answered. "We have all the rules posted in our offices." After Tooley left, Forest Service officers came back to inform everyone that they had been approved to assemble at Syracuse Island, about 20 miles north. All Rainbow Family members must leave Duck Pond by 4 p.m. today and make the pilgrimage to the new location. That news and the officers were met with harmonizing choruses of John Lennon and Bob Marley songs. About 50 members banded together on fallen trees around the Forest Services vehicles, raising their connected hands high as they sang about peace and love....Let's see, the Forest Service threw Kit Laney in the federal pen for having cattle on the Forest without a permit. I guess Kit's problem was he couldn't sing any John Lennon songs.
Citations piling up for sleds off-limits Seventeen snowmobilers have been caught riding illegally in wilderness areas and other Flathead National Forest lands off-limits to the sleds, part of a flurry of out-of-bounds recreation over the past two weekends. “We are disappointed that some snowmobile riders are being disrespectful and irresponsible by entering areas that are closed to snowmobile travel,” said Steve Brady, the forest's Swan Lake district ranger. With nearly 800,000 acres open to the machines on the Flathead, Brady asked sledders to “respect the areas closed to motorized use.” Those areas include all designated wilderness, such as the Bob Marshall, Great Bear and Mission Mountains wildernesses, as well as the Jewel Basin Hiking Area. Those forest lands have been closed to motorized use, including snowmobiles, for several decades, Brady said. Still, eight snowmobilers were caught on Feb. 3 while riding in Sondreson Meadows, an area on the western boundary of Glacier National Park. U.S. Forest Service law enforcement officers said the group - locals from Columbia Falls and Kalispell - knew they were in a nonmotorized area. Then, on Feb. 9, nine more snowmobilers were stopped while sledding in the Mission Mountains Wilderness. Again, all were locals - from West Glacier, Kalispell and Lakeside - and all were cited....Somebody needs to teach these folks how to sing about peace and love.
Logan River cries out for Wild and Scenic River protection What might we have heard? The bass groan of shifting rock as uplift occurred? Before that the sound of inland seas, Paleozoic waters filled with life we know through fossils? What was the sound of mountain water cutting through quartzite over eons, creating the entrenched meander we call the Logan River? Sometimes when I'm in Logan Canyon, I imagine more recent events: the mute snowfall of ice ages, the creep of glaciers, their retreat. I wonder if I might have discerned the scrape of ice and rock, the thump of glacial erratics dropped. Wild, vast forces created these rocks, these mountain rivers. Today beside mountain water live humans, deer, willow. Hermit thrush, yellow warbler, American dipper live above the mountain water, and cutthroat and browns live in it. The Logan River is a thread of dark water, sometimes placid, sometimes rumbling with melt, rapids white as snow, white as a bufflehead's chest in summer. It's also a river that 80 years ago some folks studied for dams, studies that seem to be at the heart of the U.S. Forest Service's baffling refusal to grant the Logan River - most of which runs wild - the status it deserves as a Wild and Scenic River....I sure wish ranchers could write like that. Wish they could sing too.
Plight of the brumbies "This nation is built on the back of horses," says Carter, 67, a petite grandmother with short red hair and deeply tanned skin who drives an old pickup smelling of the hay and earth that covers the soles of her boots. "They should be preserved and protected." Australia is home to an estimated 300,000 wild horses, the largest such population in the world. This abundance is believed to have put so much strain on the habitat that the Australian government has resorted to controversial mass culling campaigns to protect the country's national parks. Images of hunters chasing herds of galloping horses from helicopters and shooting them with semiautomatic rifles have sent shock waves across Australia, where horses are proud symbols of the country's pioneer spirit. The killing first came to public attention in 2000, when 600 horses were killed in the Guy Fawkes River National Park in New South Wales, about an hour-and-a-half drive from here. Public outcry forced the government to halt the helicopter shooting in this part of the country, but it could not stop aerial and ground assaults, often carried out in secret, in other parts of the vast Australian outback. More than 10,000 horses are expected to be shot in Queensland in the next three years, according to an investigation by a newspaper in the state....
PETA Praises Safeway for Adopting New Industry-Leading Animal Welfare Policies Following discussions with PETA about animal welfare and factory farming, supermarket giant Safeway has announced groundbreaking plans to improve conditions for some of the animals who are killed for its stores. Safeway is North America's third-largest grocery chain, with 1,743 stores located throughout the U.S. and Canada. According to the company's new plan, which places it at the forefront of the grocery industry with regard to animal welfare, Safeway will do the following: -- Increase its purchase of chickens and turkeys killed by controlled-atmosphere killing (CAK)--the least cruel method of bird slaughter--and give purchasing preference to suppliers that use or switch to CAK -- Increase the amount of pig meat it purchases from suppliers that don't use gestation crates--restrictive metal enclosures that confine pregnant pigs--by 5 percent over each of the next three years and give purchasing preference to suppliers that don't use gestation crates -- Double the amount of cage-free eggs it sells to more than 6 percent by 2010 and give purchasing preference to producers of cage-free eggs Safeway's new plan also follows PETA's submission of a shareholder resolution--which PETA has now withdrawn--and independent discussions with The Humane Society of the United States on the issue of cage-free eggs. "While we wish that shoppers would stick to the delicious vegetarian options that Safeway has available, the company should be commended for improving the lives and deaths of some of the animals who are killed for its stores," says PETA Vice President Bruce Friedrich....
Machen denies rumored jabs at agriculture Whether or not University of Florida President Bernard Machen called Florida agriculture a dying industry, he faces a political truism: Reality often plays second fiddle to perception. Machen denied Monday that he said "agriculture is a dying industry in the State of Florida" and "not worthy of the investments being made by the Legislature" in the university's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS). Nevertheless, the accusations have generated a storm of reaction among agriculture leaders and their legislative supporters. "He's getting a full-frontal attack from agriculture saying we are important," said Doug Bournique, executive director of the Indian River Citrus League in Vero Beach. "The word's getting very strongly back to the University of Florida that agriculture is very important to this state -- it's the backbone." "Our president, John Hoblick, said he hadn't seen anything galvanize the agriculture industry like this since the penny-a-pound tax," said Rod Hemphill, director of public relations at the Florida Farm Bureau in Gainesville. At issue is how much of a proposed $50 million cut in this year's UF budget IFAS will have to absorb. Stephen Orlando, a UF spokesman, confirmed the university would have to cut that amount from its 2007-08 budget and a similar amount in the next fiscal year....
Livestock tracking delay may put US herd at risk A Bush administration plan to implement a livestock tracking system to prevent the spread of mad cow and other animal diseases is years behind schedule, and further delays could put the nation's herd at risk. The national animal identification program was designed to track the home farm and herdmates of sick animals within 48 hours of an animal disease outbreak. Farmers are not obliged to participate in the program, which was embraced by the U.S. Agriculture Department after discovery of the first U.S. case of mad cow disease in 2003. In its 2009 budget plan released on Monday, the Bush administration proposed $24 million for the program to restore funding to a "sufficient" level. A few weeks ago, Congress allotted $9.75 million in fiscal 2008, a sharp drop from the $33.2 million requested by the administration. Some lawmakers have questioned the effectiveness of the program, which has consumed $120 million in federal funding so far. The USDA is worried Congress will be too stingy. If they come in less than $24 million they will be making a decision to slow down implementation of animal ID and will be jeopardizing our nation's herd," Bruce Knight, USDA's undersecretary for marketing and regulation, told Reuters....
RFID Tattoos to Make a Mark on Cattle Tagging SOMARK Innovations announced it has successfully field tested its chipless RFID technology for cattle identification. SOMARK's permanent animal ID system works by tattooing the animal with dielectric ink. Data is encoded in the tattoo and can be read remotely using a SOMARK reader. The company reported tattoos were applied in less than three seconds and read instantly during the demo. Read range, data capacity, and other technical details were not disclosed. SOMARK called the field test at an undisclosed US location "a giant leap" for the startup company, though president Mark Pydynowski told RFID Update, "From an order of magnitude perspective, SOMARK is months away from commercialization." The technology can be used on a variety of animals, but the company is focusing on the cattle segment, where it promotes its technology as an alternative to RFID ear tags and other identification methods....
NAIS? Oink!! What would lead a group of Amish farmers in Wisconsin to consider moving to Venezuela? Why are dairy farmers and ranchers in Michigan considering selling their herds? Why, NAIS, of course! NAIS stands for National Animal Identification System. It was originally designed to protect exporters of beef from cattle disease by tagging the cattle, and thus, presumably, make outbreaks of animal disease easier to detect earlier. But the idea has been expanded to include all farm animals, including those not part of the food chain, such as horses, for example, kept on farms as pets, or llamas. Critics suggest that even cats and dogs will be included, eventually. NAIS is voluntary, at this point – at least as far as the feds are concerned. However, individual states can make participation compulsory, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture encourages them to do so. Wisconsin, for example, requires dairy farmers to register their farms, thus acquiring an ID number linked to a Global Positional Satellite monitoring system. Failure to register results in denial of a license to produce milk, thus effectively putting the farmer out of business. No wonder the Amish are considering a move to Venezuela! (However, they may be na├»ve to think that government in Venezuela is any less obnoxious than it is here.) The tagging of animals is not a small job. There are about 1.4 million farms in the United States. If – or when – the tagging of animals becomes mandatory, it will mean inserting tags into 95 million cattle, 93 million turkeys, 60 million pigs, 6.3 million sheep, 1.8 billion chickens, and 2.5 million goats. But the really big producers will get a break. (Isn’t that always the case?) Large farms, where the cattle spend their entire lives cooped up, will be able to register their animals as a single lot. Smaller operators, however, must tag each individual animal, at costs ranging as high as $20 per tag. Veterinarians will be required to report non-compliance that comes to their attention....
Misfits and Why We Love Them One of the great strengths of the Mountain West is our propensity to attract and shelter loners. The sparsely populated crags, windswept plains and river bottoms of this region have given refuge over the years to a special brand of misfit. Those oddballs, mostly harmless, have exerted an anti-homogenizing influence on the region’s culture, which is one reason this area has retained its ethic of individualism so attractive to the rest of the nation. This attractiveness, manifesting itself as lifestyle, has joined metals and agriculture products as one of our most valuable commodities, and fed a massive growth industry, growth itself. A commodity, though, is a uniform product – all sheets of plywood are basically identical – and that’s exactly what our cities and towns and mountains and forests are not. For long decades, while the rest of America ordered food from coast-to-coast restaurant chains, local drive-ins in the economic eddies and backwaters of Wyoming and Idaho and Montana and Oregon continued frying fries and serving burgers, blithely unaware of their own obsolescence. Once common, they’ve become jewels you stumble onto sometimes, when driving long hours to visit relatives. The Mountain West, in this respect at least, is now catching up with the country, and there is plenty to be said for that. Roads get upgraded. Big box stores sprout along newly broadened commercial corridors. Upscale retailers reveal themselves in formerly dilapidated downtown storefronts. Incomes are rising. Yet the ethic of idiosyncrasy is one that’s worth preserving, even as we grow....
It's All Trew: Horse-to-tractor switch laborious The big switch from equine horsepower to gasoline power was about over when I became old enough to remember. I can recall as a young boy, helping harness a team of horses to pull a feed wagon down on the Parsell Ranch on the Canadian River. I never had to farm with horses and I probably couldn't harness a team today on a bet. I do remember the changes made in early tractor wheels when we switched from lugs to knobby tires on our tractors. Dad ordered change-over kits from Montgomery Ward, and we had a blacksmith named "Mac" at Perryton to cut the lug wheels off and weld on the new rims to the old spokes. We were proud to be so progressive in this effort. I also remember the efforts made by dad to weigh the tractors down so the new, knobby tires wouldn't slip when pulling. First we mixed concrete and poured the centers of the wheels around the spokes and later added water, filling the big inner-tubes. When "bar" tread tires were introduced most slippage stopped. The most accurate story of why the farmers changed from horses to tractors is best told by comparing the U.S. Census reports of 1930 and 1940. During the years from 1930 to 1940, census records show the horse and mule population dropped from approximately 52,000 to 18,500 head. During the same time, tractor numbers grew from 8,168 to 12,110. The Roosevelt New Deal programs began in 1934 with tractor numbers increasing rapidly after government benefits began to arrive. The rise in commodity prices, as a result of government programs, made livestock feeds more costly thus making the switch to tractors more desirable. One example cited came from tests showing horsepower farming cost $3 per acre while tractor farming costs from $1.75 to $1.88....
Baxter Black - Large animal vets and bronc riders The Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) is making an effort to encourage more young people to participate in the Bareback, Saddle Bronc and Bull Riding events. Simultaneously, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is making an effort to encourage more students to become livestock and equine veterinarians. Does that mean more young people are less interested in riding or doctoring untamed large herbivorous animals? Exactly! In both cases the primary reasons given by the "non-interested" are: the work is too hard and the pay is not enough. American and Canadian young people, as a rule, have become more worldly, resigned to life, and content with the path most frequently traveled, i.e., team roping and pet practice. 'm thinking if you want bronc riders and large animal practitioners, you need to look somewhere other than civilized America. Someplace like Iran, Tierra del Fuego, Mongolia or Louisiana. And there's hope on the horizon. Already, last year's National Finals Rodeo had more roughstock riders from Louisiana than from Rhode Island, Quebec and Kentucky, all together. We should concentrate on luring bullriders from grittier places. Major League Baseball has done a wonderful job seeking hungry talent from countries like Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. There are probably enough baseball players from Mexico and the Caribbean in the major leagues to support their own Low Rider Bus Line....

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