Saturday, May 09, 2009

Rabid skunks, bats & foxes in NM

Rabies is being reported in New Mexico with the confirmation that a skunk that bit a Tatum man was rabid, as was a bat found in the Las Cruces area. The man was bitten late last month while working on his car in front of his Tatum home, but has received rabies treatment and is doing well, said the head of Lea County's environmental services, Randy Smith. The state Department of Health confirmed the skunk was rabid Wednesday. It was the second rabid skunk in Lea County this year. Earlier this year, a dog killed a skunk that also tested positive. Two cats that possibly came into contact with the rabid bat in the Las Cruces area had to be destroyed because their rabies vaccinations were not up to date, said state public health veterinarian Dr. Paul Ettestad. Since rabies can be prevented but not cured, the Department of Health has urged people to vaccinate pets and livestock. Rabies is a viral disease that affects the nervous system of mammals, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. It is fatal in humans if left untreated. A Hobbs veterinarian, Dr. Marvin Albright, said cats probably expose humans to rabies more often than does any other animal. "Cats and dogs are out at night more often and come into contact with skunks more frequently. So get your pets vaccinated," he said. "The vaccines do work." The bat in Doña Ana County was the first confirmed case of rabies in that county this year. The last case in the county, also in a bat, was in 2007. Several foxes, two bobcats and a coyote have tested positive for rabies in Grant County this year. Rabies in foxes has been a problem in Arizona for decades and was first detected in New Mexico in the Glenwood area of Catron County in 2007...AP

Calif.'s Harman Rails Against Wiretapping That Ensnared Her

Rep. Jane Harman vowed yesterday to clear her name after the revelation of a wiretapped conversation in which she reportedly agreed to intervene in the federal investigation of two pro-Israel lobbyists in exchange for help in getting a coveted congressional post. The California Democrat noted that she had called on the Justice Department to release all the information it had about secretly monitored conversations that involved her. "I want it all out there. I want it in public. I want everyone to understand, including me, what has happened," Harman said before a packed auditorium...Harman has described the wiretap as an abuse of government power. But sources have told The Washington Post that she was not being surveilled; the tapped phone belonged to the suspected Israeli agent, who happened to talk to her. "I will not quit on this until I am absolutely sure this can never happen to anyone else,"...WPost

Harman had been a strong supporter of the Busheviks spying and wiretapping of U.S. citizens.

Funny how their views change when the law is actually applied to them.

Guess how DHS defines who is a terrorist now

Two weeks before the U.S. Department of Homeland Security penned its controversial report warning against "right-wing extremists" in the United States, it generated a memo defining dozens of additional groups – animal rights activists, black separatists, tax protesters, even worshippers of the Norse god Odin – as potential "threats." Though the "Domestic Extremism Lexicon" was reportedly rescinded almost immediately, Benjamin Sarlin of The Daily Beast recently obtained and published online a copy of the unclassified memo, dated March 26, 2009. While many of the groups listed in the lexicon – such as Aryan prison gangs and neo-Nazis – may indeed be widely considered extremists, others will likely take offense at being described as a potential "threat." The lexicon states its purpose is to provide "definitions for key terms and phrases that often appear in DHS analysis that addresses the nature and scope of the threat that domestic, non-Islamic extremism poses to the United States." Apparently, the DHS analyzes the "threat" level of Internet news websites like WorldNetDaily, for the lexicon defines "alternative media" as "a term used to describe various information sources that provide a forum for interpretations of events and issues that differ radically from those presented in mass media products and outlets."...WorldNetDaily

Teen homeschooler jailed under Patriot Act - Video

UPDATE: It now appears the PATRIOT Act was not involved. US Attorney David Capp issued a press release insisting that the arrest and detention of Ashton Lundeby "is unrelated to the PATRIOT act." For more info go here and here.


From WRAL-TV



Article at WorldNetDaily.

FBI Slow to Update Terror Watchlist, Report Says

The FBI has been slow to update the national terror suspect watchlist -- and the lapses pose real risks to U.S. security, a Justice Department audit has found.
A report by the Justice Department's Inspector General, Glenn Fine, found that 12 terror suspects who were either not watchlisted or were slow to be added to the list may have traveled into or out of the United States during the period when they were not placed on the list. Auditors also found significant delays in taking people off the list once they were no longer considered suspects. The watchlist, which is used to screen people entering the U.S. and by local law enforcement, contains more than 1.1 million names. Of those names, nearly 24,000 were based on outdated information or non-terrorism case designations, auditors concluded. In 15 percent of the cases auditors reviewed, subjects were not nominated to the watchlist, contrary to FBI policy...AP

Who Is Watching the Watchmen?

April was a cruel month indeed for new Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. The weeks before the Swine Flu outbreak found her stumbling through reporters' questions about a DHS threat assessment memo on "Rightwing Extremism." That memo urged law enforcers nationwide to monitor the allegedly gathering danger from Rightist radicals, including pro-lifers, immigration opponents, and those who reject "federal authority in favor of state and local authority." Was this a sinister conspiracy by an administration full of Chard-sipping arugula eaters determined to spy on Red-State patriots? That's quite unlikely: The memo was commissioned during the Bush administration, as was a similar memo focusing on "Leftwing Extremists." But conservatives were nonetheless right to be concerned. The DHS memo suggests that bureaucratic "mission creep" can be as dangerous to liberty as a deliberate campaign of repression...CATO

'Broken gun' conviction upheld by court

What a federal agent did during a testing procedure to result in "automatic" fire from an AR-15 has no bearing on the case of a man convicted of transferring a "machinegun" after he loaned to a prospective buyer the gun he considered a semi-automatic rifle, according to a ruling from a panel of appellate judges. The ruling has come in the case of David Olofson, a Wisconsin man sent to prison for 30 months after a semi-automatic rifle he loaned to a prospective buyer unleashed several bursts of multiple rounds and then jammed. His defense team had explained the case is about nothing more than a malfunctioning gun, and there was evidence to support that. But according to judges Daniel Manion, Michael Kanne and Virginia Kendall of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals the weapon is a machinegun, and government information about the tests that determined that are not pertinent. Constitutional lawyer Herb Titus, who argued at the appellate level on behalf of Olofson, said the government's case was simple: "Olofson's malfunctioning semi-automatic rifle functioned as a machine gun because it fired more than one shot at the single pull of a trigger." However, Titus contended the government's position is contrary to fact, established law and precedent...WorldNetDaily

MA: Illegal possession of a gun is "victimless crime"

The Supreme Judicial Court yesterday ruled that illegal gun possession is a "passive and victimless crime" and that those charged with having illicit firearms cannot be held without bail as a danger to society. In a 4-to-1 ruling, the state's highest court rejected the law enforcement strategy of Bristol District Attorney C. Samuel Sutter to cut down on gun violence by seeking pretrial detention for every person charged with illegal gun possession in his jurisdiction, which includes New Bedford. Writing for the majority, Justice Francis X. Spina said a law known as 58A does not include illegal gun possession on the list of criminal charges that qualify for a dangerousness hearing. The court also rejected Sutter's argument that a catch-all phrase included in the statute gave him the legal authority to demand dangerousness hearings for dozens of criminal defendants in the past several years. "While we are cognizant that unlicensed possessors of firearms may use firearms unlawfully, unlicensed possession of a firearm itself is a regulatory crime," Spina wrote. "It is passive and victimless."...Boston Globe

Life After Heller

In a peculiar but not unprecedented turn of events, an anti-gun control plaintiff lost his case, last month's Nordyke v. King, but nonetheless managed to elicit a groundbreaking pro-gun rights declaration from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In deciding that it was OK for California’s Alameda County to bar the possession of guns on county property—a law that quashed a gun show that had long been held on county fairgrounds—the Ninth Circuit affirmed that the Second Amendment does control state and local actions as well as federal ones. That was a step farther than last year's decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, when Supreme Court declared authoritatively for the first time that the Second Amendment did indeed protect an individual right to bear arms. That decision concerned only federal actions. It’s not unusual for an important gun rights principle to be embedded in a decision upholding a gun law. In fact, that outcome has a positive historical pedigree. The same thing happened in the groundbreaking 2001 Fifth Circuit case, U.S. v. Emerson, where the court declared that the individual right to possess weapons existed in principle (as distinct from some collective right connected with militia membership). But the opinion also said that the particular statute at issue, which barred individuals currently under restraining orders from owning weapons, did not violate the right. What mattered for the future of gun rights was not whether the plaintiff won his challenge (he didn’t). What mattered was that Emerson created a split in judgment over what the Second Amendment meant among the federal judicial circuits. That laid the groundwork for the Supreme Court to take up the question in Heller. Similarly, what’s most important for the future of gun rights jurisprudence with Nordyke is not whether Alameda County will once again see gun shows on its property (it won’t) but that the decision creates a clear circuit split on whether or not the Second Amendment applies, through what’s called “incorporation” via the 14th Amendment, to state and local actions. Thus, even though the particular gun show operators who fought Nordyke lost, they won a great victory for the gun rights cause and almost certainly laid the ground for a future Supreme Court case...Reason

The Second Amendment vs International Law

On March 23, President Obama nominated Harold Koh, former Dean of the Yale Law School, to be Legal Adviser at the U.S. Department of State. As Heritage U.S. Senate Relations Director Brian Darling writes in Human Events, “one of the many concerns [conservatives have] with Koh is his belief that international organizations should be empowered to regulate the Second Amendment right to own a firearm.” Conservatives are concerned with the shift away from reliance on the Constitution as the final legal authority in the U.S. toward transnational jurisprudence favored by liberal activists. When Koh spoke at Fordham University School of Law in 2002, he advocated a U.N.-governed regime to require the U.S. “to submit information about their small arms production.” Koh believes that U.S. should “establish a national firearms control system and a register of manufacturers, traders, importers and exporters” of guns to comply with those international obligations. Specifically, Koh is a supporter of the “Inter-American Convention Against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives, and Other Related Materials.” He argues that the Convention requires states “to standardize national laws,” that “the only meaningful mechanism to regulate illicit transfers is stronger domestic regulation,” and that “supply-side control measures within the United States” are essential. The administration has recently announced it will ask the Senate to ratify the Convention...The Foundry

Feds ready to build virtual fence along border

Federal officials say they're ready to begin building a "virtual fence" along the U.S.-Mexico border. They expect it to cover nearly the entire 2,000-mile boundary within five years. The executive director of the Homeland Security Department's Secure Border Initiative program said that construction could start within weeks. The first towers holding sensors, cameras and communications gear to detect drug smugglers and illegal immigrants will be built along 53 miles of Arizona's border with Mexico. Towers on the remaining 320 miles of the state's southern border will follow. Project director Mark Borkowski says New Mexico will get virtual fencing next, followed by California and most of Texas...AP

Analysis: Border security move has political angle

President Barack Obama has done what many critics of immigration reform wanted , put border security first. Obama sent more investigative agents to the border, poured money into upgrading ports of entry and targeted traffickers who smuggle in people and drugs, then smuggle out guns and cash. Shifting the focus away from those who come to the U.S. illegally in search of work, he planted it squarely on criminals who foment violence in Mexico and kidnap and kill inside the United States. Obama hopes those moves will gain him leverage in dealing with the thorniest part of immigration reform: creating a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. But will his gambit work?...AP

Former Texas Sheriff Pleads Guilty to Helping Mexican Drug Ring

A former south Texas sheriff has pleaded guilty to a federal drug trafficking charge for sharing law enforcement information with a Mexican drug ring. Former Starr County Sheriff Reymundo Guerra entered his plea Friday. He could face as much as life in prison, though that appears unlikely because he reached a plea agreement. Sentencing is scheduled for July. Federal prosecutors said Guerra helped the Mexican Gulf Cartel to operate in his county and endangered fellow law enforcement agents by sharing names of confidential informants. AP

Friday, May 08, 2009

City Forces Property Owner to Give Up Right to Vote

...the case of Griswold v. City of Carlsbad in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena, California. This is an astonishing case in which city officials forced the Griswold family to give up their constitutionally protected right to vote in exchange for a building permit. Hard as that might be to believe, it is actually not unique: it's actually quite common for local governments to abuse permits by forcing property owners to give up money or land or other rights. Here's how the law works. Under the California Constitution, property owners are entitled to vote on whether their property should be assessed for local "improvements"--things like street lights or sidewalks. These are technically not taxes, but "assessments," and the state Constitution prohibits the government from imposing these assessments without giving affected property owners an opportunity to vote on them. But what the city of Carlsbad decided to do was to force people to pay these assessments up-front (which is illegal). And if the owner can't afford this--in the Griswolds' case it was almost $115,000--then the owner must sign an agreement giving up the right to vote on these assessments (large PDF file). And this waiver actually runs with the land, meaning anyone else who buys the property is also not allowed to vote...PLF

U.S. Border Patrol Liable for Placement of Underground Sensors on Private Land Along Border

Today, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims held the U.S. Border Patrol liable for the physical taking of an easement over private property adjacent to the United States/Mexico border in the Otay Mesa area of San Diego County, California. Otay Mesa Property, L.P. v. United States, No.06-167L. Without the owners’ permission, the U.S. Border Patrol buried numerous motion sensors on private land located adjacent to the United States and Mexican border, and entered onto the private property when the sensors indicated movement of potential illegal aliens on the property. “The government should be liable for the taking of an easement for this property since it now uses this property on a daily basis to carry out its important border monitoring activities associated with the placement of these underground sensors,” explained counsel for the landowners, Nancie G. Marzulla. “Now, the government will have to pay for the easement that it has physically taken on this valuable development property.” The court rejected the Government’s argument that the statute of limitations had run on some of the claims because of a 1984 letter from the Border Patrol to the County of San Diego that generally referenced buried sensors in the general Otay Mesa area...Marzulla Law

Running on Empty: Obama Budget Cuts Funding for Hydrogen Car

President Obama’s proposed 2010 budget calls for cutting funding for a program at the Department of Energy that carries out research on hydrogen technology for vehicles by roughly 60%, or $100 million, as part of an effort to shift to technologies “with more immediate promise.” The administration’s proposal illustrates how much has changed in Washington and the wider world of vehicle research in recent years. Six years ago, President Bush called for new federal funding for research into how to produce and distribute hydrogen and then store it in tanks so it can be used in fuel-cell-powered cars. ”Our scientists and engineers will overcome obstacles to taking these cars from laboratory to showroom so that the first car driven by a child born today could be powered by hydrogen and pollution-free,” Mr. Bush said in his 2003 State of the Union address. But lately, enthusiasm among auto makers and politicians has been shifting away from hydrogen toward electric vehicles. One reason: the enormous projected cost of developing an infrastructure of hydrogen filling stations. The National Research Council, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences, said last year that the total cost of deploying a national hydrogen network could be as high as $200 billion, including $55 billion in government aid through 2023. And that amount, the council said, would be enough to put only two million hydrogen cars on the road - a small fraction of the total U.S. vehicle population of about 300 million cars and trucks...WSJ

Bush had proposed a $1.2 billion program - another example of where the Big Government Bushevics went wrong.

NY Times: Who Will Protect the Forests?

During his presidential campaign, Barack Obama strongly supported a regulation enacted near the end of the Clinton administration prohibiting commercial activity in nearly 60 million roadless acres of the national forests. Eager to open those forests to timber and oil companies, the Bush administration spent eight years trying to undermine the rule. It remains at risk, and President Obama should intervene now to save the rule and the forests it is meant to protect. The president or Tom Vilsack, whose duties as agriculture secretary include overseeing the Forest Service, must first issue a directive ordering the service not to approve or propose any action inconsistent with the roadless rule. Traditionally, local and regional officials have had broad power to set policy in national forests. Mr. Vilsack would reserve major decisions for himself until the rule is more firmly established in law. Mr. Obama’s second priority is to get everyone in his administration on the same page. In an unwelcome holdover from the Bush days, Justice Department lawyers are challenging the roadless rule in court even though the president supports it. And while the White House has changed hands, the Forest Service has not. Its top official, Gail Kimbell, is a Bush appointee; Mr. Vilsack and Mr. Obama need their own person in charge. Finally, having called a “time out” and positioned his lawyers and Forest Service on the right side of the issue, Mr. Obama needs to put the power of the White House behind legislation that would codify the roadless rule into law. As a senator, Mr. Obama co-sponsored just such a bill...NYTimes

Drill, Ivan, Drill

Oil prices jumped to nearly $58 a barrel Thursday in Singapore in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Benchmark crude for June delivery was up $1.31 at $57.68 on expectations for a global economic recovery by year's end and rising demand for the fossil fuel. As oil prices rise again, the Guardian reports that Russia is planning a fleet of floating and submersible nuclear reactors to provide power for drilling and exploration for oil and natural gas in Arctic areas that Moscow claims as its own. There is a triple irony here. The first is that it would be the Russians obeying the law of supply and demand. Then there's their "all of the above" approach to domestic energy needs, building nuclear reactors to power oil and gas rigs, neither of which we seem willing to do. Environmentalists, of course, are not in love with either source of power and warn of the dangers of nuclear radiation and oil leaks. Not only might polar bears be killed, but they might glow in the dark afterward. No one considers that the nukes might be considered a "carbon offset" for the oil rigs...IBD

Biodiesel Makers Lash Out at E.P.A. Rule

Like their ethanol counterparts, biodiesel producers are chafing at the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed methods of calculating their fuel’s greenhouse gas emissions. The E.P.A.’s proposed rule, released on Tuesday, finds that biodiesel made from soybeans (the predominant feedstock in this country) produces, under one scenario, 22 percent fewer emissions than petroleum. That is well short of requirements in 2007 energy legislation, which states that biodiesel must produce 50 percent fewer emissions than petroleum (though the rule proposed on Tuesday could nudge that requirement, which allows for some flexibility, down to 40 percent). “It is just inaccurate to call what the E.P.A. is using here as science,” said Joe Jobe, the chief executive of the National Biodiesel Board, an industry body. “It’s a guess, and it’s a bad guess at that because it absolutely defies common sense,” Mr. Jobe added...NYTimes

Farm-Subsidy Cuts Highlight Political Challenge

President Barack Obama's continued push to save $9.8 billion over 10 years by slashing subsidies to large farms, despite fierce criticism from Capitol Hill, illustrates the challenge he faces in paring back long-running government programs. The farm-subsidy cut was one of the 121 government programs the Obama administration proposed to cut on Thursday in its bid to save $17 billion over the next year. The proposed cuts were included in Mr. Obama's $3.6 trillion budget request for fiscal 2010. The farm-subsidy proposal would eliminate direct payments to farmers with more than $500,000 in annual revenue. In total, the president's budget would reduce federal payments in one form or another to farmers by about $15 billion through fiscal 2019. But with several prominent Democratic lawmakers openly questioning the proposed reductions, and the powerful farming lobby geared up to oppose Mr. Obama, it is far from clear whether he will be successful in achieving the savings outlined in his budget. Targeting farms that make more than $500,000 annually wouldn't just affect the wealthy producers it is aimed at, farm groups say. An average soybean farmer that collects $500,000 in sales would make $36,000 in profits, according to calculations made in March by the American Farm Bureau Federation...WSJ

Obama's proposal to cut 121 programs to save $17 billion is really laughable. That would be a cut of less than one-half of one percent of the total budget, and it appears the deep thinkers in Congress will reject even that miniscule number.

Song Of The Day #037

Pee Wee King (Julius Frank Anthony Kuczynski)1914-2000, was born in Wisconsin, the son of a Polish fiddler. He made his professional radio debut when he was 14, he and his band were discovered by Gene Autry in 1933, and he hired them as his backup band. IT Was Autry who gave hin the nickname "Pee Wee." In 1936 King formed The Golden West Cowboys and was asked to join the Grand Ol' Opry in 1937. Two of the vocalists who passed through his band were Eddy Arnold and Cowboy Copas. In 1947, he and Redd Stewart wrote and recorded "Tennessee Waltz" which was a big hit for them. Patti Page recorded the song in 1950 and it went to No. 1 on the pop charts, selling several million records. Other King compositions were "Slowpoke", "Silver and Gold", "Changing Partners", "Bonaparte's Retreat," "You Belong to Me," "Walk By the River," "Busybody," and "Bimbo." King appeared in several western movies and has been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame. The best collection of his music is the Bear Family Records 6 CD Pee Wee King & His Golden West Cowboys. There is also his Country Music Hall of Fame CD.

Here's Tennessee Waltz, recorded in December of 1947.


Thursday, May 07, 2009

Appeals court rules against ranchers

A federal appeals court in Denver has ruled that a group of Wyoming ranchers had no right to formal hearings before the U.S. Bureau of Land Management reduced their livestock grazing under federal permits. Ranchers with the Smithsfork Grazing Association had sued the BLM and various government officials. The lawsuit challenged the federal agency's 2005 order to reduce grazing on the 91,000-acre Smithsfork Allotment located north and east of Cokeville, in southwestern Wyoming. A three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver on Tuesday upheld a Wyoming judge's earlier decision that ruled against the ranchers. Karen Budd-Falen, a Cheyenne lawyer, represented the grazing association. The New Mexico Cattle Growers' Association and New Mexico Federal Lands Council entered an appearance in the lawsuit and filed "friend of the court" briefs supporting the Smithsfork Grazing Association's position. Caren Cowan, executive director of the New Mexico Cattle Growers' Association, said Tuesday that her group is deeply concerned with the appeals court decision and needs to review it further. "We got involved because it had to do with the ability to administratively appeal decisions for grazing allotment owners," Cowan said. "That's a universal issue, whether you're in Wyoming, New Mexico or what state you're in. "Allotment owners need to have the ability to appeal decisions, and feel like they have fairness as they're working with the agency," Cowan said...AP

Feds to reconsider critical habitat for 2 NM fish

A federal judge has ruled the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service can reconsider the critical habitat designation of two threatened fish species in New Mexico and Arizona after a probe found political interference likely affected scientists' findings. Senior U.S. District Judge John Conway ruled Tuesday that the agency's original habitat designation for the spikedace and loach minnow would remain in place while federal biologists determine whether the fish need more habitat. Conway said that it would be "least disruptive" to allow the existing designation to remain in effect pending a review. A coalition of counties in the two states and the New Mexico Cattle Growers' Association had sued over the original designation, saying the Fish and Wildlife Service overstepped its bounds and failed to adhere to requirements of the Endangered Species Act in setting aside the critical habitat. They argued that the original designation should be vacated while the agency reconsiders the matter. In his ruling, Conway said the original designation was likely "not expansive enough."...AP

Feds say Pika warrants listing, blames global warming

A tiny mammal that can't handle warm weather could become the first animal in the lower 48 states to get Endangered Species Act protection primarily because of climate change. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Wednesday that listing the American pika may be warranted because of climate change. Federal officials will now launch an in-depth review of the species and submit findings by Feb. 1, 2010. The pika - a furry, big-eared relative of the rabbit - dwells mostly in high, rocky mountain slopes in 10 Western states. Even brief exposure to temperatures of 78 degrees or warmer can be deadly to the animal. As the West warms, scientists say some pikas have tried to move upslope to find cooler refuges but have run out of room. AP

Obama names nominee to oversee national forests

The Obama administration's pick to be the new agriculture undersecretary in charge of the U.S. Forest Service breaks a long-standing tradition of someone with a forest policy background. Homer Lee Wilkes, the Mississippi state conservationist, was named late Tuesday as the nominee for undersecretary of Agriculture for natural resources and environment. He is the first black nominee for the post. Wilkes is a 28-year veteran of the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service, which focuses on farmland conservation. The undersecretary also oversees the conservation service. Wilkes earned his bachelor's, master's of business administration and doctorate in urban conservation planning degrees from Jackson State University and lives in Madison, Miss., with his wife and three sons. "As far back as anyone cares to recall, the undersecretary position was held by a Forest Service expert," said Andy Stahl, executive director of Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics. Stahl said choosing Wilkes was "an indication of the relatively low priority the Obama administration places on the national forests." The front-runner for the job had been a more traditional candidate, Chris Wood, a former senior policy adviser to Clinton administration Forest Service Chief Mike Dombeck. But Wood was dropped after vetters learned he had been registered as a lobbyist by Trout Unlimited, the conservation group for which he works as chief operating officer...AP

'We're working out the issues,' House Dems say after Obama climate meeting

President Obama urged House Democrats today to reach consensus on global warming and energy legislation during a closed-door White House meeting. After the meeting, Democrats stressed that Obama stayed away from details and urged lawmakers guarding regional interests to work together. Waxman declined to comment when asked if the markup would start this week, saying only that he remains committed to moving the bill by Memorial Day. The Democrats also confirmed a published report that the White House was interested in linking support for a climate change bill with a separate plan to expand domestic energy production...NYTimes

Quiet Sun May Trigger Global Cooling

Could reduced sunspots be tied to temperatures on Earth? That's what has astrophysicists and meteorologists wondering as the sun enters a prolonged "quiet period," a deviation from the usual 11-year sunspot cycle in which the dark blobs on our star's surface ebb and flow, reports National Geographic News. And there may be a link to global warming — or, in this case, cooling. Current theories link an earlier solar quiet time to the "Little Ice Age," a cold snap that lasted from about 1300 to 1800 in Europe and North America. During such "solar minimums," as they're called, the sun dims a bit, magnetic activity is reduced and solar storms are fewer. No one knows how long each will last until it's over...Fox News

Snowmobile groups go to court over lynx designation

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service failed to follow federal rules when it designated thousands of square miles in the West as critical habitat for the Canada lynx, according to a lawsuit filed this week by two snowmobiling groups. The Wyoming State Snowmobile Association and the Washington State Snowmobile Association filed the suit Monday in U.S. District Court in Cheyenne. The 24-page suit asks the court to withdraw the critical habitat designation, and also to force the federal agency to complete an extensive study of impacts the designation could have on recreation, wildfire management and other areas. "The designation will impair the ability of the (Wyoming State Snowmobile Association) to maintain existing snowmobile trails and will make creation of new trails largely impossible," the lawsuit says. ..Casper Star-Tribune

Rules to Limit Emissions in the Making of Ethanol

The Obama administration on Tuesday proposed rules to limit emissions of climate-changing gases from the manufacture of ethanol, a step that would probably curtail the expansion of corn ethanol production. But the Environmental Protection Agency also issued a draft rule Tuesday on a “renewable fuels standard,” including provisions on how much carbon dioxide can be released in the production of ethanol and other biofuels. The rule is intended to force the industry to help meet targets set by Congress in 2007 for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions from ethanol, even as legislators encourage its production as an alternative to gasoline. The proposed rules for calculating the emissions of biofuel producers do not apply to plants that were under construction by December 2007...NYTimes

Eco-sailors rescued by oil tanker

“An expedition team which set sail from Plymouth [England] on a 5,000-mile carbon-emission free trip to Greenland have been rescued by an oil tanker,” BBC News reports. The crew’s solar and wind powered vessel capsized three times in stormy weather (68 mph winds). So far, at least, nobody has blamed global warming for the bad weather. The irony of an oil tanker rescuing anti-fossil fuel crusaders was of course not lost on the BBC. The moral of the story should be obvious. Environmentalism is a luxury made possible by the comparative wealth and safety of a civilization powered predominantly by coal, oil, and natural gas...Open Market

Giant Spiders Invade Australian Outback Town

Australia is known around the world for its large and deadly creepy-crawlies, but even locals have been shocked by the size of the giant venomous spiders that have invaded an Outback town in Queensland. Scores of eastern tarantulas, which are known as "bird-eating spiders" and can grow larger than the palm of a man's hand, have begun crawling out from gardens and venturing into public spaces in Bowen, a coastal town about 700 miles northwest of Brisbane. Earlier this week locals spotted an Australian tarantula wandering towards a public garden in the center of town where people often sit for lunch...Fox News

Song Of The Day #036

I had mucho problems with FileFactory this morning, so will have to tell you about Moon Mullican at a later date. I think some of those giant spiders got in my computer. Here's his "I'll Take Your Hat Right Off My Rack."

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

High-Speed Rail Is No Solution

The facts do not bear out several aspects of President Barack Obama's desire to push high-speed rail projects with federal resources ($8 billion in the economic stimulus package, another $5 billion in his 2010 budget) — chiefly, that the rail projects are more efficient and more environmentally friendly than modes of travel now widely in use. Saving energy and reducing pollution are worthy goals, and if high-speed trains could achieve these goals, the president's plan might be a good one. But since they cannot, it isn't. Obama's proposal should really be called "moderate-speed rail." His $13 billion won't fund 200-mile-per-hour bullet trains. Instead, it is mostly about running Amtrak trains a little faster on existing freight lines. Outside of the Boston-Washington corridor, the fastest Amtrak trains have top speeds of about 80 to 90 miles per hour and average speeds of 40 to 50 miles per hour. Obama proposes to boost top speeds to 110 miles per hour in some places, which means average speeds no greater than 70 to 75 miles per hour. This is not an innovation. The Milwaukee Road, Santa Fe and other railroads routinely ran trains at those speeds 70 years ago — and still couldn't compete against cars and airlines. Moderate-speed trains will be diesel powered. They will consume oil and emit toxic and greenhouse gases, just like cars and planes...CATO

Flex-fuel mandates: throwing bad regulation after bad

Rent-seeking–the whoring after market-rigging rules and subsidies–is a true addiction, an appetite that grows with feeding. For the ethanol lobby, it’s not enough that government props up their product with Soviet-style production quota, protective tariffs, a 45-cent-per-gallon blenders tax credit, R&D handouts, and other support. Like the Johnny Rocco character portrayed by Edward G. Robinson in the Bogart and Becall classic Key Largo, the ethanol lobby always wants “more.” And there are always well-meaning politicians happy to oblige. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) have introduced bipartisan legislation (HR 1476, S. 835) requiring each automaker to ensure that at least 50% of the vehicles it manufactures or sells are flex-fuel by 2012 and at least 80% by 2015. A flex-fuel vehicle is one that can run on either regular gasoline or E-85 (a blend containing 85% ethanol), or anything in between. Supporters acknowledge that flex-fuel technology will add about $100 to the purchase price of a new car. But, they claim, this expense will be more than offset by the reduction in fuel costs. That’s an interesting theory. However, according to www.fueleconomy.gov, a Web site jointly administered by DOE and EPA, it costs hundreds of dollars more annually to fill up a flex-fuel vehicle with E-85 than with regular gasoline. No wonder so few people buy flex fuel vehicles!...OpenMarket

Henry Waxman may fast track climate bill

Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman may fast-track his controversial climate change bill, bypassing the political hurdles of the subcommittee. ”I’m still holding firm on my deadline to get a bill out of committee by the end of May and I believe that will probably require us to go right to the full committee and bypass the subcommittee,” Waxman told reporters. Waxman cautioned that "no final decisions" had been made, but he stressed that skipping the subcommittee might be the only way to keep to his deadline. Waxman’s comments came just hours after the Democrats on the committee met with President Barack Obama in the White House. The president urged the committee to find a compromise on climate and energy legislation that’s been stuck in the subcommittee for weeks. Democrats on the committee said the expedited timeline was necessary to pass a bill out of committee by the Memorial Day recess – a deadline set by Waxman and encouraged by the administration, which wants the committee to be ready to move on to health care reform this summer...Politico

Global Warming On The Rocks

Last week Al Gore said the world must act quickly to slow the melting of the world's polar ice packs and glaciers before it reaches a critical rate for global warming. "We have to act and we have to act quickly because we don't want to cross this tipping point," the Nobel peace laureate and former U.S. vice president told a meeting of foreign ministers, experts and scientists from the most affected countries. But it turns out the world acted very quickly indeed, as Germany's Radio Bremen reports: The research aircraft "Polar 5" concluded its Arctic expedition in Canada. During the flight, researchers measured the current ice thickness at the North Pole and in areas that have never before been surveyed. The sea-ice in the surveyed areas is apparently thicker than scientists had suspected. According to a spokesperson for Bremerhaven's Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research: Normally, newly formed ice measures some two meters in thickness after two years. In the surveyed area, scientists measured ice thickness up to four meters. At present, this result contradicts the warming of the sea water, according to the scientists. Is it possible that global warming is neither a catastrophe waiting to happen nor a fraud but merely the result of confusion induced by the metric system, asks the Wall Street Journal?...NCPA

Experts mull global ban on commercial chemicals

Experts and officials from some 150 countries started talks on Monday on banning production of nine chemicals considered potentially dangerous but still used in farming and for other commercial purposes. If agreement is reached at the week-long meeting, under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the nine will join a list of 12 other so-called persistent organic pollutants, or POPS, long targeted for elimination. "The risks posed by such chemicals are profound, and these toxic substances leave chemical footprints around the globe," said UNEP executive director Achim Steiner, who will be watching over the Geneva gathering. The newly-targeted chemicals include products -- known normally under their scientific names -- that are widely used for pesticides and are also used in the manufacture of flame retardants and similar items...Reuters

What Green Means

An agenda that eviscerates property rights, enlarges the regulatory state, increases taxes and forces egalitarianism isn't an easy sell in a nation with a legacy of liberty and free markets. But some time ago, eco-activists and their allies in Congress understood that they could march the country to the left by small degrees if they disguised socialism as environmentalism. And thus the environmental movement was hijacked. Now, frustrated with their inability to have forced a deeper leftward shift, the environmental activists feel the need to recast the language of the debate. Using polling and focus groups, ecoAmerica, an environmental group that develops marketing and messaging strategies, has forged a list of recommendations. It was obtained by the New York Times, which says it's one of "a number of news organizations" that was accidently e-mailed a "summary of the group's latest findings and recommendations." Rather than talk about "global warming," which is already being replaced by the less-specific "climate change," ecoAmerica suggests that alarmists should discuss "our deteriorating atmosphere." And instead of picking on carbon dioxide per se, it proposes we simply abandon "the dirty fuels of the past." What's clear is eco-activists and their allies will do anything to avoid talking about their real goals, which have less to do with cleaning up the environment than with pulling down capitalism. Every solution they offer to the problems they exaggerate erodes economic freedom, increases regulation or both. Blurring the real meaning of words can't change that...IBD

Klamath Agreement: Part I

J.C. Boyle Dam is one of four hydropower dams along the Klamath River. Starting in Upper Klamath Lake, the river flows over 250 miles through Southern Oregon and Northern California. It is a source of recreation and business for fishermen, water for farmers, and a vital part of the culture for Klamath tribe members. Casey Spinks is a member of the Karuk Tribe, and has lived all 67 years of his life along the Klamath. "About late 70s, early 80s, the fish started to get less and less. I mean, there was still a good number of them. You could go out and catch a lot, but not like the old days, where people go out and catch all the fish they ever wanted, catch them all day long," says Spinks. The Karuk, along with the Hoopa and Yurok Tribes, are working to remove J.C Boyle, Copco 1, Copco 2, and Iron Gate dams from the river to restore the fisheries and help salmon swim upstream to spawn. "The Klamath has several impacts on the fisheries on the river. It blocks over 350 miles of spawning habitat the fish once used," says Karuk Tribe Spokesperson Craig Tucker. The Klamath Tribes have been fishing on the Klamath River for thousands of years. Salmon is the cornerstone of their diet. They also gather plants and wildlife along the banks of the river...KRDV-TV

Klamath Agreement: Part 2

The Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement has brought many groups to the table; tribes, farmers and fishermen, who have battled for years over water. However, not everyone that has a stake in the outcome of the KBRA is involved in its development. Some feel that removing the dams will actually do more harm than good. Copco Dams 1 and 2 were the first of four hydropower dams built along the Klamath River. Copco 1 forms Copco Lake in Northern California. Many homeowners living on the lake do not want the dams out. German Diaz and his wife Jeannie built their dream home on Copco Lake. Now the Diaz's are worried about their property value. "We're concerned that there's going to be a decrease in value. Honestly, with the cost of government, I don't see us getting any benefit of tax reduction," says German Diaz. Copco Lake Resident Herman Spannaus' great grandfather settled here in 1856. His family owned land now under Copco Lake. "When people see where we live, they think we've got the best kept secret in the world," says Spannaus. "There's no economy here. It's just going to destroy what little is left of people's ability to make a living," says Siskiyou County Supervisor Marcia Armstrong...KDRV-TV

Klamath Agreement: Part 3

The Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, aimed at settling decades of water dispute on Oregon and California's Klamath River, is likely entering its final stages. A final draft resolution is set to be reached among parties involved in the KBRA. That document will be made public by June 30th. A large part of the KBRA hinges on what is being called the hydro-agreement, essentially, the 'dam removal' part of the KBRA. PacifiCorp has signed off on an Agreement In Principle, or AIP, which outlines the framework for dam decommissioning. "We understand the passion that is associated with those down in the Klamath Basin. We have a lot of customers, who, this is all they've ever known, are these dams, and especially in the Klamath, where water distribution is so tricky," says PacifiCorp Spokesman Art Sasse. PacifiCorp owns all four hydropower dams on the Klamath River. While tribal members, farmers and fishermen have been working together on the KBRA, they've also committed to supporting the hydro-agreement, outlined as Part Two of the eight-part KBRA. The hydro-agreement calls for "the removal of the lower four Klamath River dams under conditions that protect and advance the public interest"...KDRV-TV

Salmon Salvation

Can the Pacific Northwest -- indeed the nation -- fulfill Van Bergen's dream of wild salmon recovery? For the first time in decades, the answer may be yes. Many biologists have long been clear about the best way to achieve it: Remove four dams on the Lower Snake River so the fish can reach millions of acres of pristine habitat in central Idaho and northeast Oregon. For nearly 20 years, however, the powerful federal agencies now appearing before Redden -- including the Bonneville Power Administration, which markets the region's hydropower, and the Bureau of Reclamation and Army Corps of Engineers, which run some of the region's 200 major dams -- have strenuously avoided dam removal. They've spent $8 billion on almost every conceivable alternative with little consequent improvement in the fortunes of wild fish. And they've cultivated allies among inland ports, utilities, the barging industry, the vanishing aluminum industry and politicians, including Washington state's senior senator, Democrat Patty Murray. Some of those formidable obstacles to dam removal remain, but there are signs that the balance is tipping. President Barack Obama appears dedicated to science and transparency; a well-respected fisheries scientist is now in charge of a key federal agency; and new Northwestern politicians have signaled their willingness to help solve the salmon crisis. Some eastern Washington farmers and other dam beneficiaries appear willing to contemplate a future without the four Snake dams, and renewables in the region already produce as much electricity as these dams provide. A ban on commercial salmon fishing along the Oregon and California coasts for the second consecutive year will cost fishing communities hundreds of millions of dollars, adding urgency to salmon restoration. Most of all, Judge Redden is determined to make government agencies finally follow the Endangered Species Act...High Country News

Protecting grizzlies could close campgrounds, hunting areas

Protecting grizzly bears across a 4,560-square-mile swath of the Selkirk and Cabinet mountains will require closing hundreds of miles of backcountry roads used by hunters and huckleberry pickers, the Forest Service says. Grizzlies need secure areas to avoid contact with people, according to a new agency report. Despite two-inch claws and a fierce reputation – grizzlies’ Latin name is Ursus actos horribilis, or “bear horrible” – bears are typically the losers during encounters with humans. Since 1982, people have killed 87 grizzlies in two grizzly bear recovery zones in the Selkirk and Cabinet-Yaak mountains of northeastern Washington, Idaho and Western Montana. Seventy percent of the human-caused deaths occurred near roads. Poaching, or mistaking a grizzly for a black bear, were two frequent reasons grizzlies were shot and killed on Forest Service lands. Self-defense by hunters was also a factor, particularly during elk season. Over the past decade, environmental groups brought a series of lawsuits against the Forest Service, arguing that the agency needed to do more to keep people and bears apart by restricting motorized access to prime habitat areas. The litigation triggered forest plan revisions on the Idaho Panhandle, Kootenai and Lolo national forests...Spokesman Review

Police shoot bobcat that attacked 13-year-old girl and her mother

Prescott Valley police and a state wildlife officer were able to track and kill a potentially rabid bobcat Monday after it attacked two people in Prescott Valley. Officials hope it was the same bobcat that attacked a dog about an hour earlier, especially since it had blood on it before the second attack. It was the latest in a string of odd rabid wild mammal attacks against people in northern Arizona in recent months. "People should really keep their eyes open and be careful if they're hiking outdoors and take precautions to protect themselves, especially if they see a wild animal," Arizona Game and Fish Department Wildlife Manager Scott Poppenberger said. State lab officials said they will test the bobcat Tuesday for rabies, related Zen Mocarski of the Arizona Game and Fish Department. sisters at a rope swing along Lynx Creek near Stoneridge Drive when the bobcat lunged at her, scratching and biting her lower right leg. Her mother Lisa grabbed the full-grown, 40-pound male bobcat by the neck as it rolled over and bit her on both arms. "I started screaming and I threw rocks at its face," said Christina's sister Talisa, who called 911 as the bobcat ran off. Poppenberger and PV police found the bobcat within 10 minutes, and it continued to be abnormally aggressive...Daily Courier

Fox attacks two hikers

Craig Leicht and Paul Janowski were enjoying their regular stroll along the three-mile loop of Prescott National Forest Trails 347 and 341 when a fox took a deadly interest in them. At 6:45 p.m. Thursday, the Prescott neighbors were ending an otherwise routine hike on a trail near Granite Mountain, a mile west of Prescott's municipal boundary and little more than a mile away from their homes, when the male animal attacked them. Thanks to a quick response, Leicht, who moved here from Texas in February, and Janowski fended off and killed what they think was a rabid fox close to the trails' far junction toward the bottom of a ravine. Neither of the men suffered bites or injuries. "I looked ahead and saw something crouching on the trail, and I thought it was a bobcat in a hunched-down, crouching position," Leicht said Friday about the fox encounter. "It was probably about 100 feet ahead or maybe more, so I bent down and picked up a rock just to scare it. By the time I stood up, this thing was about five feet away from me."...Daily Courier

New, Fast-Evolving Rabies Virus Found -- And Spreading

Evolving faster than any other new rabies virus on record, a northern-Arizona rabies strain has mutated to become contagious among skunks and now foxes, experts believe. The strain looks to be spreading fast, commanding attention from disease researchers across the United States (U.S. map). It's not so unusual for rabid animals to attack people on hiking trails and in driveways, or even in a bar—as happened March 27, when an addled bobcat chased pool players around the billiards table at the Chaparral in Cottonwood. Nor is it odd that rabid skunks and foxes are testing positive for a contagious rabies strain commonly associated with big brown bats. What is unusual is that the strain appears to have mutated so that foxes and skunks are now able to pass the virus on to their kin—not just through biting and scratching but through simple socializing, as humans might spread a flu. Usually the secondary species—in this case, a skunk or fox bitten by a bat—is a dead-end host. The infected animal may become disoriented and even die but is usually unable to spread the virus, except through violent attacks...National Geographic

White House Steps Up Support for Biofuels

The White House made its first major statement on ethanol on Tuesday, mustering three Cabinet members to outline a plan to shield corn ethanol producers from the credit crisis, work with them to cut their use of natural gas and coal in ethanol production, and nudge the auto industry toward production of vehicles that can use ethanol at concentrations of up to 85 percent. In pursuing these goals, the Secretaries of Agriculture and Energy, Tom Vilsack and Steven Chu, along with the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Lisa Jackson, announced during a press conference the formation of a “Biofuels Interagency Working Group,’’ comprised of the three agencies. Through the working group, the federal government announced several goals, including helping to refinance existing ethanol and biodiesel factories whose owners were having trouble obtaining credit, guaranteeing loans for the construction of new biorefineries, and expediting funding to help producers of cellulosic crops...NYTimes

Flu fears prompt 20 countries to ban meat imports

Twenty countries worldwide have banned imports of pork and other meat in response to a flu virus that has infected both people and swine, according to documents from the World Health Organisation. While the new H1N1 strain is not food-borne, fears that it may spread through animal products have prompted restrictions on live pigs, pork, cattle, poultry, livestock, feed and animal semen from countries with reported infections, according to the documents obtained by Reuters on Monday. Most affect products from Mexico and the United States and some block imports from Canada, New Zealand, Spain, France, Israel, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Colombia, Cuba, Nicaragua, Panama, Honduras, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic...Reuters

Editorial from Sec. Vilsack on NAIS

The United States has an incredibly prosperous agricultural industry. Our livestock and poultry are among the healthiest in the world. However, even with all the preventative measures the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) already has in place, animal disease can still strike. A disease event can have far-reaching consequences, impacting more than just farmers with sick animals. A disease event also affects other farmers and the livestock industry through movement and international trade restrictions. Not only do the farmers' communities feel the economic pinch, but so does the entire country. In these times of economic uncertainty, we must do everything in our power to help ensure that any animal disease events that do happen are contained effectively so things can go back to business as usual--as quickly as possible. The best way to do this is through animal disease traceability. While there are costs associated with a traceability system, these costs are far less than the costs of dealing with a major disease outbreak like foot-and-mouth disease without the tools animal health officials need. The U.S. already has a program for animal disease traceability, the National Animal Identification System (NAIS). As the program stands now, around 35 percent of the country's farmers are participating. Much work has been done over the past five years to engage farmers in developing a national system they could support. However, many of the original concerns that were raised-- such as cost, impact on small farmers, privacy/confidentiality and liability--continue to cause debate. In order to provide the level of animal disease traceability we need in the U.S., changes must be made that will increase the level of participation in NAIS. Today, I am asking farmers and stakeholders to engage with USDA in a more productive dialogue about NAIS...

Foreclosure Trouble Spreads to Those Who Bet the Farm

The home-foreclosure crisis, which began in cities and suburbs, has spread to rural America. When the mortgage mess erupted, some economists believed that rural America wouldn't be heavily affected. Farms were prospering. The housing boom largely bypassed small rural towns. And exotic, new mortgages at first were seen as an urban and suburban phenomenon. But rural homeowners, it turns out, were just as susceptible to subprime loans and easy lending as the rest of the country, often refinancing existing mortgages to take out cash or pay off debts. Foreclosure rates remain higher in cities and suburbs than in rural areas, and the change in home values from boom to bust hasn't been as severe. Since the peak, values have dropped 13% in rural areas and 23% in urban areas, according to Moody's Economy.com, while from 2000-2006, home values appreciated 45% in rural areas compared with 84% in urban areas. Still, defaults in rural counties are rising rapidly and setting off concerns that the population in these already sparsely populated towns will decline further...WSJ

Postal Service to Unveil Seabiscuit Stamped Envelope

Walter Mondale, former vice president of the United States and U.S. Ambassador to Japan, and his wife Joan, member of the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee, will lead a special first day of sale ceremony at noon May 11, for the new commemorative U.S. Postal Service (USPS) stamped envelope of legendary racehorse, Seabiscuit. The Mondales will be joined by Winifred Groux, USPS San Francisco District Manager, and a San Francisco Bay Area woman who met and petted Seabiscuit in the winner's circle. Hosted by the Seabiscuit Heritage Foundation in cooperation with the USPS, the by-invitation-only ceremony will take place at the horse's historic home and final resting place at Ridgewood Ranch in Willits, Calif. Champs Lil'Biscuit, a Seabiscuit descendant, will be on hand to apply her personal "stamp of approval," and the Mondales will mail a stamped envelope to Pimlico, Md. for it to be showcased at the racetrack's annual Alibi breakfast for Preakness Stakes jockeys, trainers, owners, and media May 14. The stamped envelope commemorates Seabiscuit's memorable win at Pimlico in 1938 against Triple Crown winner War Admiral, whom the stamp also features. The race drew 40,000 spectators and was broadcast by radio to President Franklin Roosevelt and 40 million other listeners across the country...The Horse

Man ticketed for drunken riding

Police in Colorado said a cowboy who was having trouble staying on his horse was ticketed for riding an animal while under the influence of alcohol. Brian Drone of Arvada was cited for the Class B traffic violation, which carries a $25 fine, after the rider and his horse were pulled over in a strip mall parking lot, KUSA-TV, Denver, reported Monday. Arvada Police Sgt. Jeff Monzingo said it was his first case of drunken riding in 15 years on the job. "This is kind of a tricky call," Monzingo said. "Unlike in a DUI where you can tow a car, we had to do something with the horse." Monzingo said a local stable owner who knows Drone offered to take the rider and his horse home. Drone said he and his horse, Cricket, were out for a "joyride" when they were pulled over. UPI

Tyranny is upon us!

Mad Cow

A woman trampled by an angry cow during a nature walk is entitled to sympathy -- but not compensation -- ruled a San Francisco District Court judge. In October of 2007, hiker Jo Dee Schmidt was mauled by a cow or bull -- she really doesn't know which -- owned by rancher John Hoover while she was hiking in the Acalanes Ridge Recreation Area. The bovine assault put Schmidt in the hospital for 11 days and left her with a case of post-traumatic stress disorder. The hiker filed suit against the City of Walnut Creek and Hoover on Dec. 31, 2008 claiming the rancher knew he had dangerous animals grazing on the public right-of-way, and the city ought to have as well. Last month, however, Federal Judge Phyllis Hamilton took the bull by the horns and dismissed Schmidt's case...SF Weekly

I suffered from cow-caused PTSD many times. I didn't seek compensation, I sought to keep my Dad or Uncle from finding out what happened.

Song Of The Day #035

Milton Brown (1903-1936) was born in Stephenville, Texas. A tobacco salesman and singer, he joined with Bob Wills and Herman Arnspiger to form a group to become known as The Light Crust Doughboys and whose radio show was sponsored by Burris Mills, the makers of Light Crust Flour. Needing money to take care of his parents, Brown left the group, moved to Fort Worth and formed The Musical Brownies. Many consider this group to be the first western swing band. Brown was also the first to introduce the electric steel guitar to this music. He recorded over 100 sides for Victor and Decca during the period 1934-1936. He died shortly after being in a car wreck in April of 1936. For more about Brown see Cary Ginell's excellent book Milton Brown and the Founding of Western Swing. The best collection of his music is Complete Recordings of the Father of Western Swing, a 5 CD box set from Texas Rose Records.

The song I've picked today isn't illustrative of his western swing style, but Little Betty Brown is one I damn sure like. It was recorded in 1935. That's followed by a video/photo presentation of his If You Can't Get Five Take Two.



Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Obama Not Seeking Quick Climate Action Under Ozone Treaty

After a brief but lively internal debate, the Obama administration has decided not to seek an immediate phase-out of hydrofluorocarbons (HFC’s), a potent group of climate-warming gases, under a treaty aimed at protecting the ozone layer. A number of lawmakers, foreign governments and environmental advocates had urged the administration to offer an amendment to the Montreal Protocol, the international treaty on ozone-depleting substances, calling for the rapid elimination of HFC’s. Some officials at the State Department and the Environmental Protection Agency had pushed for such a course, but the White House decided on a more moderate approach to give it negotiating room in upcoming rounds of climate and environmental talks. HFC’s are used as refrigerants in air conditioners, refrigerators and freezers, as well as in some fire-fighting foams. They are sometimes referred to as “super-greenhouse gases” because they are hundreds or even thousands of times more powerful than carbon dioxide, molecule for molecule, in heating the atmosphere...NYTimes

Lobbyists help Dems draft climate change bill

Democratic lawmakers who spent much of the Bush administration blasting officials for letting energy lobbyists write national policy have turned to a coalition of business and environmental groups to help draft their own sweeping climate bill. And one little-noticed provision of the draft bill would give one of the coalition's co-founders a lucrative exemption on a coal-fired project it is building. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman, both of California, were among the Democrats -- then in the minority -- who slammed Vice President Dick Cheney for holding closed-door meetings to draft energy policy early in the Bush administration. But the sweeping climate bill Mr. Waxman and Rep. Edward J. Markey, Massachusetts Democrat and chairman of the panel's key environmental subcommittee, introduced at the end of March includes a provision that benefits Duke Energy Corp., a founding member of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP), whose climate plan released in January the lawmakers have frequently called a "blueprint" for their climate legislation. The exemption would save Duke Energy -- along with other firms now building new coal power plants -- from having to spend millions of dollars outfitting its Cliffside, N.C., power plant currently under construction with "clean coal" technology...Washington Times

Nothing really changes, the model for congressional action is the same. The only difference between the two parties is who gets invited to the drafting table. The outcome is always the same - disastrous

Democrats duel over climate bill

President Barack Obama’s ambitious first-year agenda has some House Democrats fearing a repeat of 1994, when the priorities of a new president collided headfirst with the prerogatives of senior leaders on Capitol Hill and the party lost control of both the House and the Senate. While few leaders would predict a similar collapse at this early stage in his presidency, those fears provided the backdrop for a leadership meeting Thursday in the speaker's Capitol conference room, people present said. In the run-up to the meeting, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) argued in several newspaper interviews that the House should move cautiously on a cap-and-trade bill if it doesn’t look like the Senate will approve it. Van Hollen doesn’t want vulnerable House Democrats — especially the freshmen under his care — to be forced to take difficult votes on the measure if it’s not going to pass anyway. But Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, a 34-year veteran of the House who knocked off his longtime predecessor last fall to push an ambitious climate change bill, took umbrage with Van Hollen’s public stance during Thursday’s leadership meeting, people present said...

Ethanol test for Obama on climate change, science

President Barack Obama's commitment to take on climate change and put science over politics is about to be tested as his administration faces a politically sensitive question about the widespread use of ethanol: Does it help or hurt the fight against global warming? The Environmental Protection Agency is close to proposing ethanol standards. But two years ago, when Congress ordered a huge increase in ethanol use, lawmakers also told the agency to show that ethanol would produce less pollution linked to global warming than would gasoline. So how will the EPA define greenhouse gas emissions from ethanol production and use? Given the political clout of farm interests, will the science conflict with the politics? Environmentalists, citing various studies and scientific papers, say the agency must factor in more than just the direct, heat-trapping pollution from ethanol and its production. They also point to "indirect" impacts on global warming from worldwide changes in land use, including climate-threatening deforestation, as land is cleared to plant corn or other ethanol crops. Ethanol manufacturers and agriculture interests contend the fallout from potential land use changes in the future, especially those outside the United States, have not been adequately proven or even quantified, and should not count when the EPA calculates ethanol's climate impact...WPost

Dueling Ads: Gore Group v. Conservatives on Clean-Energy

The battleground for America’s clean-energy future has a face. More importantly, he has a weather-beaten face, a hat, a plaid workshirt, worn jeans, and drinks his coffee in a diner, not some frapuccino bar. Repower America, the clean-energy advocacy group launched to promote Al Gore’s plan to power the U.S. with renewable energy, is aiming its advertising salvoes mainly at the heartland. The new national ad, “Bellyaching,” comes a week after conservative groups started running radio ads in swing states away from the coasts, arguing that looming energy and climate legislation in Washington will be a back-breaker for many families. Especially in the Midwest, which stands to suffer disproportionately from any cap-and-trade plan that raises the cost of coal-fired electricity and gasoline...WSJ

Preventing a 2-degree C temperature rise = almost no fossil fuel use

As nations look ahead to the December global climate meet in Copenhagen, many have been considering goals to slow global warming/climate change. Now, their deliberations may take on more of a sense of urgency: “Less than a quarter of the proven fossil fuel reserves can be burnt and emitted between now and 2050, if global warming is to be limited to 2 degrees C [3.6 degrees F.],” says a study published in the journal Nature yesterday, which was conducted by researchers at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. Also published in Nature was another study by scientists at England’s Oxford University. Most of the climate goals currently being considered by various countries include slowing carbon dioxide emissions by a certain amount during the next five or six years and a larger amount by 2050. But that isn’t good enough, warns Oxford scientists, who say: “Emitting carbon dioxide slower will not prevent dangerous climate change unless it involves phasing out carbon dioxide emissions altogether. …” “To avoid dangerous climate change, we will have to limit the total amount of carbon we inject into the atmosphere, not just the emission rate in any given year,” explains Dr. Myles Allen of the Oxford physics department. “Climate policy needs an exit strategy: as well as reducing carbon emissions now, we need a plan for phasing out net emissions entirely.”...Christian Science Monitor

'Green' lightbulbs poison workers

WHEN British consumers are compelled to buy energy-efficient lightbulbs from 2012, they will save up to 5m tons of carbon dioxide a year from being pumped into the atmosphere. In China, however, a heavy environmental price is being paid for the production of “green” lightbulbs in cost-cutting factories. Large numbers of Chinese workers have been poisoned by mercury, which forms part of the compact fluorescent lightbulbs. A surge in foreign demand, set off by a European Union directive making these bulbs compulsory within three years, has also led to the reopening of mercury mines that have ruined the environment. Doctors, regulators, lawyers and courts in China - which supplies two thirds of the compact fluorescent bulbs sold in Britain - are increasingly alert to the potential impacts on public health of an industry that promotes itself as a friend of the earth but depends on highly toxic mercury. Making the bulbs requires workers to handle mercury in either solid or liquid form because a small amount of the metal is put into each bulb to start the chemical reaction that creates light...London Times

All we do now to save salmon could mean nothing

The Pacific Northwest has spent two decades retooling dams, rebuilding damaged watersheds and restoring stream flows to keep salmon from disappearing. The United States has invested billions in the effort - $350 million in 2004 alone - by far the most money spent on any endangered species. But a new threat is more devastating than the gill nets that sent dozens of salmon runs into extinction. It is more deadly than the hydroelectric turbines that still kill millions of migrating smolts. In fact, it raises doubts about whether salmon will survive in the Northern Pacific at all. Climate change already has made rivers warmer and spring runoff earlier, disrupting the life cycle of the fish that are an icon of the region. No matter what actions the world takes to reduce greenhouse gases, river temperatures in more than half of the lower-elevation watersheds may exceed 70 degrees by 2040 - too hot for salmon...Idaho Statesman

Finding Space for All in Our Crowded Seas

The ocean is getting crowded: Fishermen are competing with offshore wind projects, oil rigs along with sand miners, recreational boaters, liquefied gas tankers and fish farmers. So a growing number of groups -- including policymakers, academics, activists and industry officials -- now say it's time to divvy up space in the sea. "We've got competition for space in the ocean, just like we have competition for space on land," said Andrew Rosenberg, a natural resources and environment professor at the University of New Hampshire who has advised Massachusetts on the issue. "How are you going to manage it? Is it the people with the most power win? Is it whoever got there first? Is it a free-for-all?" To resolve these conflicts, a handful of states -- including Massachusetts, California and Rhode Island -- have begun essentially zoning the ocean, drawing up rules and procedures to determine which activities can take place and where. The federal government is considering adopting a similar approach, though any coherent effort would involve sorting out the role of 20 agencies that administer roughly 140 ocean-related laws...WPost

Justices Limit Liability Over Toxic Spill Cases

The Supreme Court made it harder on Monday for the government to recover the often enormous costs of environmental cleanups from companies with only minor or limited responsibility for toxic spills. The decision tightened the reach of the Superfund law, known formally as the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, by limiting both the kinds of companies subject to liability and the situations in which partly culpable companies can be made to bear the entire cost of cleanups. The case arose from environmental contamination from a chemical distribution business in Arvin, Calif. The federal government had sought to hold the Shell Oil Company responsible for selling pesticides to the business, where the chemicals routinely leaked and spilled. The distribution business, Brown & Bryant, later became insolvent and ceased operations...NYTimes

Wolves no longer protected in northern Rockies

Wolves in parts of the northern Rockies and the Great Lakes region come off the endangered species list on Monday, opening them to public hunts in some states for the first time in decades. Federal officials say the population of gray wolves in those areas has recovered and is large enough to survive on its own. The animals were listed as endangered in 1974, after they had been wiped out across the lower 48 states by hunting and government-sponsored poisoning. "We've exceeded our recovery goals for nine consecutive years, and we fully expect those trends will continue," said Seth Willey, regional recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Denver. With the delisting, state wildlife agencies will have full control over the animals. States such as Idaho and Montana plan to resume hunting the animals this fall, but no hunting has been proposed in the Great Lakes region. Ranchers and livestock groups, particularly in the Rockies, have pushed to strip the endangered status in hopes that hunting will keep the population in check. About 300 wolves in Wyoming will remain on the list because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rejected the state's plan for a "predator zone" where wolves could be shot on sight. Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal and a coalition of livestock and hunting groups have announced a lawsuit against the federal government over the decision. Freudenthal, a Democrat, claimed "political expediency" was behind the rejection of his state's wolf plan...AP

Wolf blamed for livestock attack radio-collared

A young wolf blamed for the first documented attack on livestock since the predators started moving back into Eastern Oregon has been trapped and released with a radio collar, so that wildlife officials can keep track of it. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife trapped the wolf Sunday in the Keating Valley area of Baker County, a few miles from a ranch where a motion-detector camera captured a photo of two wolves with dead lambs at their feet last month. When biologists drove up to the trapped wolf, a second smaller wolf ran off. Department spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy said Monday in these early stages of wolves moving back into Oregon, the department will not be killing those that attack livestock, though that option remains if attacks persist. Besides allowing biologists to warn ranchers when the wolf gets near livestock, the radio collar will trigger special alarms that can be set up around herds to scare off the wolf, she said. Though two other wolves with radio collars have crossed into Oregon from Idaho, this is the first time a wolf has been trapped in Oregon and fitted with the tracking device...The Olympian

Song Of The Day #034

In my post starting this series I mentioned that in addition to country and bluegrass, I also liked dixieland jazz, which is the type of music for today's selection. To try to ease some of you die-hard country fans into this music, my first dixieland jazz piece will be San Antonio Rose by The Firehouse Five Plus 2. It's available on their 3 CD Story, or you can download the single here.


Monday, May 04, 2009

Swine flu, the lessons of 1918 and your civil liberties

In 1918, when the Spanish flu raged across the word, frightened officials in many communities responded with tough restrictions on public assembly and even personal interactions. Newspapers were censored, whole towns quarantined and beloved pets slaughtered in a pointless effort to stop the spread of illness. As the words "swine flu" begin to dominate headlines, it's worth remembering that nothing fuels restrictions on liberty like fear, and few things are scarier than mass outbreaks of deadly disease. But restrictions went well beyond censorship. In my state of Arizona, the city of Prescott early on closed theaters, saloons and pool halls, with all public gatherings soon forbidden. Nearby Jerome, a mining town which was especially badly hit, was quarantined by armed guards placed along all the roads leading into town. And in Phoenix, police shot dogs and arrested people who ventured outside without wearing gauze masks. Both measures were ineffective (dogs didn't carry the disease and viruses pass right through gauze), rendering the results unjust for the unmasked and tragic for the city's canine population...Examiner

Conservation Refugees: No natives allowed

LAFAYETTE BUNNELL, AMERICAN explorer and wilderness romantic, first rode into the bucolic stillness of Yosemite on March 21, 1851. He was on a voyage of discovery. Once in the valley he thought he had arrived, if not in heaven, in Eden. "I have seen the power and glory of a supreme being," he wrote in his journal, and "the majesty of his handiwork." Bunnell's attitude toward the people who actually lived in the valley was decidedly more ambiguous. At times he romanticized the lifeways of the Miwoks who had settled there some 4,000 years earlier. But he also said there was no room for them in the West, calling them "yelling demons" and "overgrown vicious children." The whole territory, he wrote, should be "swept of any scattered bands that might infest it." Accompanying him that day was one of the most ferocious militias in western American history, the Mariposa Battalion, commanded by James Savage. A veteran of Indian wars, Savage was there with one blunt aim: to rid Yosemite of its natives. Bunnell, who is remembered today largely for his lyrical prose about nature, stood by and watched while Savage and his men burned acorn caches to starve the Miwok out of the valley. Seventy were physically removed. Twenty-three were later slaughtered at the foot of El Capitan, the towering granite obelisk that has become a totem of California wilderness. Although it took some years to complete the task of creating a fictional wilderness in Yosemite, all the valley's residents were eventually evicted, and in 1914 their land became a national park - no natives welcome. This tactic became known as "the Yosemite model" and was replicated around the country, and eventually around the world. At most of the major parks created in America - Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Mesa Verde, Mount Rainier, Zion, Glacier, Everglades, and Olympic - thousands of tribal people were expelled from their homes and hunting grounds so the new parks could remain in an undisturbed "state of nature."...Boston Globe

Seeking to Save the Planet, With a Thesaurus

The problem with global warming, some environmentalists believe, is “global warming.” The term turns people off, fostering images of shaggy-haired liberals, economic sacrifice and complex scientific disputes, according to extensive polling and focus group sessions conducted by ecoAmerica, a nonprofit environmental marketing and messaging firm in Washington. Instead of grim warnings about global warming, the firm advises, talk about “our deteriorating atmosphere.” Drop discussions of carbon dioxide and bring up “moving away from the dirty fuels of the past.” Don’t confuse people with cap and trade; use terms like “cap and cash back” or “pollution reduction refund.” EcoAmerica has been conducting research for the last several years to find new ways to frame environmental issues and so build public support for climate change legislation and other initiatives. A summary of the group’s latest findings and recommendations was accidentally sent by e-mail to a number of news organizations by someone who sat in this week on a briefing intended for government officials and environmental leaders. The answer, Mr. Perkowitz said in his presentation at the briefing, is to reframe the issue using different language. “Energy efficiency” makes people think of shivering in the dark. Instead, it is more effective to speak of “saving money for a more prosperous future.” In fact, the group’s surveys and focus groups found, it is time to drop the term “the environment” and talk about “the air we breathe, the water our children drink.” “Another key finding: remember to speak in TALKING POINTS aspirational language about shared American ideals, like freedom, prosperity, independence and self-sufficiency while avoiding jargon and details about policy, science, economics or technology,” said the e-mail account of the group’s study. Mr. Perkowitz and allies in the environmental movement have been briefing officials in Congress and the administration in the hope of using the findings to change the terms of the debate now under way in Washington...NYTimes

US firms offshore 22,000 green jobs to India

Barack Obama and his green guru, Van Jones, have a green-collar job plan that they believe will solve the two biggest crises of our time: 5 million new green-collar jobs will directly stimulate the economy and will contribute to a more sustainable future in the face of coming climate change. But the 2009 Green Outsourcing Report, an annual industry study conducted by Brown-Wilson Group, found that green technology jobs are being created faster in India than in the US since Obama took office. The report, which was released two weeks ago, surveyed 4,000 businesses around the world, including Xerox, Accenture, IBM Global, CSC, Capgemini, Oracle, HP/ ED S, Aramark, SITEL and Perot. Doug Brown, co-author of the Green Outsourcing Report, told The New Indian Express, “We see the (green job offshoring) trend increasing. There are few suppliers who match credentials and outcomes of Indian firms.” Soaring energy costs and regulatory pressure have put pressure on firms in the US and Europe to embrace green technologies. 84% of companies outsourcing green jobs are doing so because of skyrocketing energy costs, compared to 12% and 18% in the past few years, respectively. Most corporations seeking to outsource a service or product require impeccable green credentials in their suppliers before handing over work, the report says...Raw Story

Black Carbon: Al Gore’s New Crusade

When climate evangelist Al Gore, climate skeptic James Inhofe, and even the National Review agree on something, you know something’s afoot. What’s afoot is soot, also known as “black carbon,” familiar to anybody that owned a diesel-powered car in the 1980s or has ever cleaned a fireplace. Black carbon has suddenly become the new, unaddressed cause behind global warming, melting ice caps, and sundry other ills. The former vice president, fresh off his testimony in Congress last week urging quicker action to limit emissions of carbon dioxide, this week railed against pernicious soot. It’s the reason the air in the Himalayas resembles Los Angeles, he said. For once, Mr. Gore is (slightly) behind the curve. The unlikeliest of bedfellows, Okalahoma Sen. Inhofe and Massachussets Sen. John Kerry, just introduced a bill to prod the Environmental Protection Agency into figuring out what to do about soot. Another bill in the House goes further, calling for “immediate” action to reduce soot emissions...WSJ

Conservationists find eager sellers in new real estate market

Two years ago the 27 acres in Southeast Portland were platted for 65 homes: the Waterleaf subdivision. The patch of cedars might be Southeast Aston Street by now had the housing market not collapsed and the developer decided to sell his still unbuilt parcel to the Trust for Public Land, which conveyed it to the city for a park. It's what Owen Wozniak, who managed the Clatsop Butte project for the trust, calls a "green lining" -- bad times for builders mean more opportunities for conservation. On the fast-growing fringe of Portland and across the nation, property that conservationists have eyed for years is now cheaper, there's less competition from developers and time is plentiful, even if cash is not. "In central California, we're working with an industrial (timber) landowner who wouldn't even talk to us five years ago," said Phillip Wallin, president of Portland-based Western Rivers Conservancy, another group that buys land for conservation. There's precedent for this: During the Great Depression, John D. Rockefeller bought up ranches in Jackson Hole, Wyo., which he later donated to the National Park Service...Oregonian

Ain't this wonderful: Government policy causes a housing/real estate downturn from which the government benefits by being able to acquire more property at cheaper prices.

They put a rattlesnake in your pocket and then ask for a match.

Nevadan vetted as possible BLM nominee

Bob Abbey, a former state director for the Bureau of Land Management in Nevada, is in line to be nominated to head the BLM nationally, Sen. Harry Reid said Thursday. Reid, D-Nev., said he put Abbey's name forward, and he expected the Nevadan to be selected. Other sources confirmed Abbey, who lives in Reno, was being vetted by the Obama administration. A spokeswoman for Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said a couple of months could pass before the Obama administration announces a BLM nominee. "At this point no decisions have been made. Secretary Salazar has cast a wide net," Kendra Barkoff said. Abbey was Nevada state director of the BLM from 1997 until he retired from the government in 2005. He had a 25-year career with the federal land agency...Review-Journal

Strickland confirmed for Interior job

Former two-time U.S. Senate candidate Tom Strickland was confirmed Thursday as the Interior Department's assistant secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, a job he'll add to his current title as the department's chief of staff. The confirmation represents a breakthrough of sorts for Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who has had confirmation of his key lieutenants delayed by Senate Republicans. A hold on Strickland's nomination by Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., was removed Wednesday, and he was confirmed by the Senate on Thursday, 89-2...Denver Post

Jay Jensen named as USDA official over Forest Service

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the appointment of Jay Jensen as USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment (NRE). In this position, Jensen will have responsibility for the U.S. Forest Service (FS), which manages 193 million acres of National Forest System lands and provides assistance to the more than 10 million family-forest landowners in this country. Jay Jensen succeeds Melissa Simpson in the position. The NRE mission area includes the FS and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). NRCS is the federal agency with primary responsibility for working with private landowners in conserving, maintaining and improving their natural resources. Since May 2005, Jensen has been Executive Director of the Council of Western State Foresters/Western Forestry Leadership Coalition. The Coalition is a federal-state governmental partnership. Jensen had served earlier as the Coalition's Government Affairs Director. He has also served as Senior Forestry Advisor for the Western Governors Association, where he was responsible for the biomass energy program. Before that, as lead forestry advisor for the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture, Jensen helped develop programs under the 2002 Farm Bill. He has also served as lead policy analyst for the National Association of State Foresters...Chronicle

Bennett set to block another Obama nominee - Hillary Tompkins

Utah Sen. Bob Bennett vowed to block a second high-profile nominee to the Interior Department on Thursday, ratcheting up pressure on the Obama administration to negotiate on oil and gas drilling in the West. The move comes as Interior Secretary Ken Salazar visits Utah on Friday to highlight projects paid for by the $787 billion economic stimulus bill. But Bennett, a Republican, said Salazar's actions have caused more economic hardship than help. He is infuriated that Salazar pulled back 77 oil and gas leases in Utah, saying the secretary's actions have some oil executives talking about abandoning rural Utah for less controversial drilling locations. "This is a big, big deal with hundreds of millions of dollars for the state at risk," said Bennett, a member of the Senate energy committee. Under Senate rules, Bennett has the right to "put a hold" on the nomination of Hilary Chandler Tompkins, who is President Barack Obama's pick to be the Interior solicitor or chief legal adviser...Salt Lake Tribune

The wolf and the polar bear

Next week brings two milestones in wildlife protection that serve as a lesson in contrasts—examples of what the environmental movement has been and what it’s becoming. On Monday, gray wolves in Montana, Idaho, and parts of other northern states leave the endangered species list, designated as an officially “recovered” species. Once driven nearly to extinction, the wolves will fall under the watch of state management—which includes hunting—following the Obama Interior Department’s decision in March to sign off on a delisting process put in motion on George W. Bush’s watch. Later in the week, the legal status of polar bears will become clearer when the Obama administration must decide whether to overturn a last-minute Bush move that denied the arctic mammals key protections under the Endangered Species Act. Acknowledging that the polar bear is threatened by a melting habitat, Bush officials still ruled that endangered species protections cannot apply to causes originating outside of their habitat (in other words, the greenhouse gas emissions heating up the polar regions). Obama has until May 9 to overturn the decision; otherwise, it stands...Grist