Friday, February 19, 2010

Urban Women Grow Food in Sacks

Danielle Nierenberg writing at Nourishing The Planet about Nairobi’s Kibera slums:

Anywhere from 700,000 to one million people live in what is likely the largest slum in sub-Saharan Africa. And despite the challenges people here face – lack of water and sanitation services, space and lack of land ownership are the big ones – they are thriving and living...We met a “self-help” group of female farmers in Kibera who are growing food for their families and selling the surplus to their neighbours. Such groups are present all over Kenya – giving youth, women and vulnerable people the opportunity to organize, share information and skills and ultimately improve their well-being while giving them a voice that otherwise would not be heard. The women we met were growing vegetables on what they call “vertical farms or gardens.” But instead of skyscrapers, these farms are in tall recycled sacks filled with soil, and the women grow crops in them on different levels by poking holes in the bags and mainly planting seeds and seedlings of spinach, kale, sweet pepper and spring onions...The women told us that more than 1,000 women in their neighborhood are growing food in a similar way...These small gardens could produce big benefits in terms of nutrition, food security and income. All the women told us that they saved money because they no longer had to buy vegetables from the markets or kiosks, and they claimed that the vegetables were fresh and tasted better because they were organically grown – but that sentiment also might come from the pride of growing something themselves...

COMMENT: It always amazes me what people can accomplish using a little help and a great deal of ingenuity.

Obama Eyes Western Land for National Monuments, Angering Some

More than a dozen pristine landscapes, wildlife habitats and scenic rivers in 11 Western states, some larger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined, are under consideration by the Obama administration to become America's newest National Monuments -- a decision the administration can make unilaterally without local input or congressional approval. According to internal Department of Interior documents leaked to a Utah congressman and obtained exclusively by Fox News, the mostly public lands include Arizona deserts, California mountains, Montana prairies, New Mexico forests, Washington islands and the Great Basins of Nevada and Colorado -- totaling more than 13 million acres. Sources say President Obama is likely to choose two or three sites from the list, depending on their size, conservation value and the development threat to each one's environment. Presidential use of the Antiquities Act is highly controversial because the White House, with the stroke of a pen, can lock up thousands of square miles of federal lands used for timber, ranching, mining and energy development without local input or congressional approval. The Act is generally interpreted to commemorate or protect a specific historical landmark, not prohibit development or deprive local communities of jobs and tax revenues. "Any federal action that could lead to limited access should be done in an open and public manner using extraordinary caution," said Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., upon seeing the leaked report. "The fact that this administration is already circulating internal memos to bypass Congress and the public process is troubling." more

My original post on these documents is here.

Two more monuments planned in Utah?

Rep. Rob Bishop says he has unearthed plans by the Obama administration to wield its power to designate multiple new national monuments in the West, including two that would snatch up thousands of acres in Utah. That revelation by the Utah Republican set off a firestorm of criticism Thursday from congressional and state leaders in the Beehive State -- although the Interior Department insists the document on which Bishop bases his allegation is simply a draft memo outlining lands that may, in the future, deserve protection. Interior spokeswoman Kendra Barkoff says Secretary Ken Salazar asked the department's bureaus to identify areas that might be worth further study as possible management areas or spots for Congress to step in and designate as protected. "The preliminary internal discussion draft reflects some brainstorming discussions within [Bureau of Land Management], but no decisions have been made about which areas, if any, might merit more serious review and consideration," Barkoff said. "Secretary Salazar believes new designations and conservation initiatives work best when they build on local efforts to better manage places that are important to nearby communities." The seven-page document states that "further evaluations should be completed prior to any final decision," including gauging congressional and public more

The West Wants Out of the Western Climate Initiative

The Western Climate Initiative’s cap and trade market may soon need to be renamed The Canada Climate Initiative. Until this week, the Western Climate Initiative boasted seven U.S. states and four Canadian provinces who were working toward the launch of a regional cap and trade system on Jan 1, 2012. On Thursday, Arizona formally announced it was backing out of cap and trade. As the state with the fastest rate of emission growth -- 61% between 1990 and 2007 – many feared a body blow to Arizona’s economy if it tried to meet the initiative’s carbon reduction goals. The following morning neighbouring Utah indicated it might follow suit. By a 6 to 2 vote, its House Committee on Public Utilities and Technology passed a nonbinding resolution to urge Governor Gary Herbert to pull out of the Western Climate Initiative. Earlier in the week, the full Utah House voted resoundingly – 56 to 17 – to curb any carbon-curbing attempts by the federal government’s Environmental Protection Agency. Specifically, the resolution “urges the United States Environmental Protection Agency to halt its carbon dioxide reduction policies and programs and with its ‘Endangerment Finding’ and related regulations until a full and independent investigation of the climate data conspiracy and global warming science can be substantiated.” To date, only four of the 11 jurisdictions have adopted legislation that would allow them to participate in the cap-trade-market: California, British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec, with Manitoba appearing close to more

Arizona quits Western climate endeavor

Arizona will no longer participate in a groundbreaking attempt to limit greenhouse-gas emissions across the West, a change in policy by Gov. Jan Brewer that will include a review of all the state's efforts to combat climate change. Brewer stopped short of pulling Arizona out of the multistate coalition that plans to regulate greenhouse gases starting in 2012. But she made it clear in an executive order that Arizona will not endorse the emission-control plan or any program that could raise costs for consumers and businesses. State officials said the policy shift was rooted in concerns that the controversial emissions plan would slow the state's economic recovery. Brewer says the state should focus less on regulations and more on renewable energy and investments by businesses that can create green jobs. The governor also ordered the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality to take another look at stricter vehicle-emissions rules set to take effect in 2012. Automakers said the rules, based on those adopted by California, would raise the cost of a new car significantly. The governor's order is another blow to the Western Climate Initiative, a group of seven states and four Canadian provinces that joined forces in 2007 after growing impatient with the federal government to address climate more

Critics of secret BLM meetings share diverse backgrounds

U.S. Bureau of Land Management officials have said that they only recently became aware of the desire by many local and state cooperating agencies to open land-use planning meetings to the public. But it cannot be a surprise to the BLM that there has been a wide and diverse range of critics who have long sought greater access to meetings and documents, as many have written to the agency and complained loudly to their elected officials. “We have been beating our heads against the wall with the BLM in the Pinedale area about public access to meetings and materials and documents that should be public,” said Steff Kessler, Wyoming program manager in Lander for The Wilderness Society. Kathleen Jachowski, executive director of the Worland-based Guardians of the Range rancher advocacy group, said BLM staffers had expressed concerns to her about unruly attendees causing cooperator meetings to “deteriorate into bedlam.” “I told them I expected my BLM folks to know how to handle those situations, have the courage to do so, and to not hide behind such an unprofessional barrier,” Jachowski wrote in an more

Wolf pack to be reduced

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks has determined that four of the seven wolves in the Fishtrap Pack should be killed to reduce livestock depredation at McGinnis Meadows. The pack is believed to be responsible for killing a cow last month and then injuring a calf at a neighboring ranch two weeks ago. “This is atypical from what we’ve been seeing in the past,” said Kent Laudon, FWP wolf management specialist. Before the two recent incidences, the pack had been attributed to three confirmed livestock kills and one livestock injury since 2005, a relatively low number, according to Laudon. The Fishtrap Pack’s territory covers about 250 square miles roughly bordered by Silver Butte and Thompson River, Highway 2 and Fishtrap River. Shortly after the pack killed a Dexter cow at a small McGinnis Meadows ranch last month, a neighboring rancher reported wolves harassing his yearling calves, Laudon more

Food needs 'dramatic' new path

An international panel of scientists writing in the Feb. 12 edition of the journal Science is urging world leaders to "dramatically alter their notions about sustainable agriculture to prevent a major starvation catastrophe" by the end of the century. Specifically, they are urging world leaders to "get beyond popular biases against the use of agricultural biotechnology," particularly crops that are genetically modified to produce greater yields in harsher conditions, and to base the regulation of such crops on the best-available science. "You're looking at a 20-30% decline in production yields in the next 50 years for major crops between the latitudes of southern California or Southern Europe to South Africa," said David Battisti, a University of Washington atmospheric sciences professor. He is a co-author of a Perspectives article in Science that urges food production experts, scientists and world leaders to "begin thinking in dramatically different ways to meet food needs in a significantly warmer world." "I grow increasingly concerned that we have not yet understood what it will take to feed a growing population on a warming planet," said lead author Nina Federoff, science and technology adviser to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and a biology professor at Pennsylvania State University. The authors advocate developing systems that have the potential to decrease the land, energy and fresh water needed for agriculture and at the same time reduce the pollution associated with agricultural chemicals and animal waste. Battisti noted that the so-called Green Revolution in agriculture in the 1970s produced a 2% increase in yields per year for 20 years, primarily through the development of new grain varieties and the use of fertilizer and irrigation. However, there is little, if any, new land available for farming, and "such yield increases cannot be sustained without further innovation," he pointed more

Backers of meat labeling law hail court ruling

A federal court ruling from eastern Washington earlier this month could shore up the legal foundation under country of origin meat labeling, or COOL, which faces a challenge from Mexico and Canada at the World Trade Organization. That's the opinion of the cattle industry group R-Calf and Sen. Tim Johnson, a longtime COOL proponent. However, a meat industry spokesman insisted the ruling from the Washington Easterday Ranches case has no effect on the WTO complaint against COOL. "It's a completely separate legal process," National Meat Association spokesman Jeremy Russell said. Johnson and other proponents got COOL into the 2008 federal farm bill after more than a decade of trying. Opponents have tried to circumvent COOL since it was implemented in March 2009 and almost immediately challenged its legality. While COOL requires meat sold in the U.S. to be labeled as to its source, a loophole allows packers to affix a multicountry of origin label, such as listing meat as a product of Canada and the U.S, according to Bill Bullard of Billings, Mont., the CEO of R-Calf. Also, packers "provided labeling so small you about need a pair of magnifying glasses to read it," he more

Buying organic to save planet? Not so fast

For food, the carbon footprint measures the GHG emitted due to the energy consumed for production, storage and transportation processes. This includes the rations livestock eat, emissions from fertilizer manufacture and application and livestock digestion, use of tractors and refining processes, as well as transportation from the farm to the supermarket. The massive amount of energy that can go into food production should make the carbon footprint an influential factor in consumers' buying decisions. Since the temperature of the Earth is steadily increasing, the organic versus conventional dilemma is going to similarly increase. Extensive research spanning both the nutritional content and environmental implications of organic versus conventional product provides an answer to which product is better. Conventional farming methods produce the best balance between environmental friendliness and nutritional health for a number of reasons. Conventional farming methods produce food that is equally nutritious to food produced by organic methods (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2008). Nutritional studies that span the food pyramid have shown no success in claiming one or the other to be nutritiously superior. In addition, conventional methods are more energy efficient than organic methods, and the result is a lower carbon footprint for conventional more

Aussie winemaker rattled by donation backlash

A major Australian wine exporter facing a backlash in the United States for donating to a key animal rights group says it will take its support elsewhere in the future. The $100,000 donation by Yellow Tail Wines to the Humane Society of the United States' (HSUS) animal rescue program has prompted a flurry of angry online postings in the US calling for people to boycott the wine. The HSUS describes itself as the United States' largest and most effective animal protection organisation and it sponsors workshops that teach people how to lobby for animal protection laws. In response to the donation, a page called Yellow Fail has been set up on the Facebook social networking site and has attracted more than 3,000 fans. A rancher from South Dakota has posted an online video of himself pouring the wine onto the snow in front of his cattle and urging others to do the more

I've embedded the rancher's video Yellow Tail Is Now Yellow Fail below. Please note every time I've tried to play it I get an error please try back later message. Can't help but wonder if it's been disabled by You Tube, but in case this is a temporary situation here it is.

Song Of The Day #243

Billy Walker's 1962 recording of Charlie's Shoes and the George Jones-Melba Montgomery duet Flame In My Heart are Ranch Radio's 60's offerings today.

For the Walker tune see his 20 track CD Columbia Hits.

The Jones-Montgomery duet is on their 20 track CD Vintage Collections which has become rare.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

U.N. climate chief Yvo de Boer to step down in July

The U.N. climate chief Yvo de Boer has resigned to join a consultancy group as an adviser, the U.N. climate secretariat said on Thursday, two months after a disappointing Copenhagen summit. De Boer will step down on July 1 to join KPMG, the U.N. framework convention on climate change (UNFCCC) said in a statement. He has led the agency since 2006. "It was a difficult decision to make, but I believe the time is ripe for me to take on a new challenge, working on climate and sustainability with the private sector and academia," de Boer said in the more

Texas challenges EPA's global warming findings

Texas on Tuesday became the first state to challenge the Environmental Protection Agency's finding that gases blamed for global warming threaten public health. Gov. Rick Perry and other Texas officials said the federal finding is based on flawed science and would harm the state's economy. The EPA issued the finding two months ago in an attempt to regulate carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases as pollutants under the Clean Air Act. Such rules would have a profound impact on Texas, which pumps more carbon dioxide into the air than any other state because of its scores of coal-fired power plants, refineries and other industrial facilities. “The EPA's misguided plan paints a big target on the backs of Texas agriculture and energy producers and the hundreds of thousands of Texans they employ,” Perry said in a statement. “This legal action is being taken to protect the Texas economy and the jobs that go with it, as well as defend Texas' freedom to continue our successful environmental strategies free from federal overreach.” more

Virginia challenges U.S. greenhouse gas curbs

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R) on Tuesday filed paperwork attacking the legal underpinnings of an Obama administration effort to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, joining a crowd of political conservatives and business groups with similar objections. Cuccinelli sent a petition to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, asking the agency to reconsider its finding in December that greenhouse gases pose a danger to public health by contributing to climate change. That finding is a legal trigger, which would allow the EPA to regulate those gases under the Clean Air Act, the same way it regulates the pollutants that cause smog. Rutgers University law professor Craig Oren said it could be a difficult effort. For it to succeed, Oren said it could require proving that the EPA willfully disregarded available science, its own rules or precedent. "You have to show EPA was arbitrary," he said. "I give them less than 50-50" more

BLM looks to Audubon to map sage grouse habitat

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is looking to the Audubon Society to map sage grouse habitat across the 11 states where the bird is found. Sage grouse have been losing their sagebrush habitat for decades and now face possible listing under the Endangered Species Act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to announce a listing decision next week. BLM officials expect to award a contract for mapping sage grouse habitat to the Audubon Society, saying Audubon already works with the state agencies that compile habitat data. Existing maps show the chicken-sized bird inhabiting large portions of Wyoming, Nevada, Montana, Oregon and Idaho, and smaller areas in Colorado, Utah, California, Washington and the more

Judge overturns W.Va. Rainbow Family convictions

A federal judge has overturned the nearly 5-year-old illegal assembly convictions of eight members of the Rainbow Family of Living Light, ruling a magistrate’s makeshift courtroom in the Monongahela National Forest inadvertently denied the defendants the ability to effectively appeal. U.S. District Judge Robert Maxwell said it’s clear U.S. Magistrate John Kaull “was sincerely trying to help” by holding onsite hearings in the summer of 2005, sparing the itinerant campers the need to hitchhike 70 miles to a federal courtroom in Elkins. But the lack of a transcriptionist and decent sound recording produced an incomplete record of what transpired, and that “had the unintended effect of denying each of the defendant’s right to a meaningful appeal,” Maxwell ruled last week. “The court simply cannot imagine a case where a better argument could be made that counsel’s ability to identify issues for their clients’ appeals was significantly prejudiced,” he more

Industry loses lawsuit over Alaska forest logging

A federal judge has thrown out an industry lawsuit that could have led to more logging and road building in Alaska's Tongass National Forest, the nation's largest federal forest. U.S. District Judge John Bates Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit filed by a timber group and an organization of Southeast Alaska civic and business leaders. The Southeast Conference and Alaska Forest Association had challenged a 2008 management plan for the Tongass developed by the Bush administration. Environmental groups hailed the ruling as a small victory, saying the judge had prevented what they consider a bad forest plan from becoming even worse. Those groups say the Bush plan does not do enough to protect old-growth reserves and sites that are sacred to Alaska Native tribes. At more than 26,000 square miles, the Tongass is about the same size as West Virginia and is often labeled the "crown jewel" in the national forest more

Oregon environmental group comes out against Wyden old growth bill

An eastern Oregon environmental group said today it opposes a compromise bill intended to limit old growth logging and increase thinning in national forests east of the Cascades. The La Grande-based Hells Canyon Preservation Council said in an 11-page letter to Sen. Ron Wyden that though his bill would result in positive changes to federal forest management on the dry side of Oregon, parts of the the legislation run counter to that goal. The bill is the result of months of negotiations between a handful of environmental groups and timber industry more

Request to clean up Four Corners timely

A collection of environmentally minded organizations led by the National Parks Conservation Association has petitioned two federal cabinet departments to declare northwest New Mexico's Four Corners Power Plant to be in violation of the Clean Air Act and thereby force it to be cleaned up. It is an effort that should be joined by area governments, greens and business interests. Whether driven by concern for nature, the local economy or sales-tax revenue, clean air is in all of our interests. The petitioners include Earthjustice, the Sierra Club, the San Juan Citizens Alliance, the Center for Biological Diversity, Dooda Desert Rock, Diné CARE, WildEarth Guardians and the Grand Canyon Trust. They should be joined, however, by anyone with a concern for Southwest Colorado's economic health. This is not only an environmental issue. The petition was directed at the Department of Interior, which oversees the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management, and the Department of Agriculture, which includes the Forest Service. Together, those agencies are responsible for most of America's public lands. The focus of the request was on protecting the national parks, forests and monuments affected by pollution from the Four Corners plant. The petitioners say records kept by the plant's operator, Arizona Public Service, show the Four Corners plant - one of the largest coal-fired plants in the country - is also the largest source of air pollution in New more

Sporting ranch sells for $12.5M

An 8,150-acre ranch east of Salina, known as a breeding ground for the Fishlake National Forest elk herd, has been sold to a California businessman for $12.5 million. Mirr Ranch Group, a Denver company that brokers "legacy ranches and fine sporting properties" across the West and in the Patagonia area of South America, announced it had sold the ranch late last fall for its owner, Fishlake Wildlife Reserve. "This sale is a great example of how demand for extraordinary sporting properties remains strong in spite of current economic conditions," said Jeff Hubbard, listing broker for the property about 18 miles east of Salina on the southern Wasatch Plateau. David Kavanagh, a vice president with Fishlake Wildlife Reserve, identified the buyer as Bob Thomas, a businessman who also owns ranch properties in California and Colorado. Hubbard described Thomas as "a hunting enthusiast who recognized how special the property is." The ranch is part of the 13,200-acre Johnson Mountain Cooperative Wildlife Management Unit. These nonprofit business organizations, whose creation was authorized by the Legislature in 1996, are hunting areas consisting largely of private lands dedicated to the management of big-game more

Horse owners try to corral Oklahoma lawmakers on dental care

About 100 horse owners and ranchers fanned out through the state Capitol halls Tuesday to urge legislators to support legislation that would allow them to choose who provides dental care to their horses. "We think your animals or horses are your property, and you have the right to choose who works on them,” Rep. Don Armes told them after they jammed into a committee room. "These are not people, these are horses. There’s a difference.” Armes, R-Faxon, told the horse owners to tell legislators to support his bill, House Bill 3202, and a companion bill, Senate Bill 1999, by Sen. Mike Schulz, R-Altus. Both bills would allow equine dentists, or horse teeth floaters, to practice in the state without facing criminal charges. Legislation approved last year made it a misdemeanor for equine dentists to work on horses unless under supervision of a veterinarian. A law passed two years ago made the offense a felony; an equine dentist was arrested and charged last year, and horse owners during last year’s session successfully led efforts to change the law. The Oklahoma Farm Bureau states it supports a livestock owner’s right to lawfully perform traditional animal husbandry practices, including using equine dentists, chiropractors and farriers. Producers do not want to be charged higher prices for having a veterinarian supervise the person they choose to hire to work on their livestock, the Oklahoma Farm Bureau’s literature more

Historic Forts Days this Saturday

El Camino Real International Heritage Center will host its fifth annual Historic Forts Day on Saturday, Feb. 20, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Shuttle service from Socorro will be available, call 575-835-1501. Ongoing events throughout the day include living history reenactments of soldier camp activities including bulletmaking, black powder demonstration, treadle sewing, open fire and horno cooking as well as the center's demonstration by Gary Williams as he works on building a carreta (wagon). Also featured is a special lecture series about forts in New Mexico, courtesy of the New Mexico Historical Society. A slideshow lecture on Fort Stanton starts off the events at 10 a.m. The presentation is by Gwendolyn Rogers, courtesy of Lincoln State Monument, includes information on the history of Fort Stanton as well as current preservation efforts at the fort. At 11 a.m., the Socorro Back Country Horsemen will conduct a talk and demonstration on mule packing. Members of the New Mexico Historical Society will present a short lecture series on the role of forts in New more

Song Of The Day #242

Ranch Radio will stay in the 60's this week. First up is Warner Mack and his 1964 recording Sittin' In An All Night Cafe, followed by Faron Young's 1963 recording about a sad tale in New Mexico, Yellow Bandana. Hope this double dose from the 60's will make up for missing Sunday and Monday.

The Mack tune is from his 20 track CD Bridge Washed Out-20 Country Hits , and the Young recording is from his LP Aims At The West.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Global Warming in Last 15 Years Insignificant, U.K.'s Top Climate Scientist Admits

The embattled ex-head of the research center at the heart of the Climate-gate scandal dropped a bombshell over the weekend, admitting in an interview with the BBC that there has been no global warming over the past 15 years. Phil Jones, former head of the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia, made a number of eye-popping statements to the BBC's climate reporter on Sunday. Data from CRU, where Jones was the chief scientist, is key evidence behind the claim that the growth of cities (which are warmer than countryside) isn't a factor in global warming and was cited by the U.N.'s climate science body to bolster statements about rapid global warming in recent decades. Jones's latest statements seemed to contradict the CRU's data. In response to the question, "do you agree that from 1995 to the present there has been no statistically significant global warming?", Jones said yes, adding that the average increase of 0.12C per year over that time period "is quite close to the significance level. Achieving statistical significance in scientific terms is much more likely for longer periods, and much less likely for shorter periods." Jones is nevertheless 100% confident that the climate has warmed, he stated, admitting that the Climate-gate scandal has undermined public confidence in science. The scandal has worn down Jones as well: Since the e-mails emerged -- and were subsequently posted online at -- Jones has stepped down from his position, been forced to admit that he “misjudged” the handling of requests for information, and even acknowledged contemplating suicide. Jones also allowed for the possibility that the world as a whole was warmer in medieval times than it is today -- a concession that may also undermine theories that global warming is caused by man. In addition, Jones admitted that an overall lack of organization, and his poor record keeping and office-tidying skills, had contributed to his reluctance to share data with critics, which he more

Three Major Companies Quit Climate Change Coalition

In a blow to the legislative effort to cap U.S. emissions of greenhouse gas, three influential companies have resigned from the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, a coalition of business and environmental groups spearheading the movement in Washington. Energy companies BP PLC and ConocoPhillips were joined by machine giant Caterpillar in announcing that they would not be renewing their memberships in the group, according to statements issued by each of the companies Tuesday. Gas giant ConocoPhillips’ statement said acting independently of USCAP would allow it to focus its efforts on increasing the use of natural gas. Congressional efforts to cap greenhouse gases so far have “disadvantaged the transportation sector and its consumers, left domestic refineries unfairly penalized versus international competition, and ignored the critical role that natural gas can play in reducing GHG emissions," said Jim Mulva, ConocoPhillips chairman and chief executive officer. Myron Bell, with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, an advocacy group that opposes legislative efforts to cap greenhouse gases, welcomed the announcement. “In dropping out of the U. S. Climate Action Partnership, BP America, Conoco Phillips, and Caterpillar are recognizing that cap-and-trade legislation is dead in the U. S. Congress and that global warming alarmism is collapsing rapidly. We hope that other major corporations will soon see the light and drop their support for cap-and-trade and other energy-rationing legislation,” he said in a more

Cap-and-Tax Escape

Yesterday's corporate defections from the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP) won't be greeted with the same hosannas as last year's departures of Nike and Apple from the Chamber of Commerce over its global warming stance, but they're undoubtedly more important. This scales-from-eyes moment shows that some big American businesses are putting shareholders and consumers ahead of politics. The departing are BP America, Conoco Phillips and Caterpillar, which were among the original members of USCAP, a coalition of green pressure groups and Fortune 500 businesses that tried to drive a cap-and-trade program into law. Some corporate members concluded that climate legislation was inevitable and hoped to tip it in a more business-friendly direction. Others—ahem, General Electric—are in our view engaged in little more than old-fashioned rent-seeking. Through regulatory gaming, Congress would choose business winners and losers, dispensing billions of dollars in carbon permits to the politically connected. The climate bills the House passed in August and Senate liberals are contemplating have stripped away that illusion. Carbon tariffs and other regulations would have damaged heavy manufacturing against global competitors, which explains Caterpillar's exit, while oil companies would suffer as transportation, refining and power generation via natural gas were punished. Then there's the harm to long-run growth, which would slow under the economy-wide drag of new taxes and federal more

Rare wild jaguar spotted just south of the border

The Sky Island Alliance (SIA) released today its first photographs of a northern jaguar in the Mexican State of Sonora. Three years into a conservationist-rancher partnership, a jaguar was photographed by a remote camera placed along an isolated canyon of the Sonoran Sky Islands. These are SIA's first photographs of this elusive cat, and were taken only thirty miles south of the US/Mexico border. "Northern jaguars are a reality and they want to stay" said Sky Island Alliance biologist Sergio Avila. "Jaguars don't recognize political boundaries; instead they choose robust prey populations, open space and safe corridors. This healthy feline represents our chance to recover this species in the region." Working in partnership with Mexican ranchers, the group seeks to protect wild felid habitat, allowing species to roam free in a network of conservation more

Colorado House sends 
rafting bill to the Senate

The Colorado House of Representatives on Tuesday approved HB 10-1188, clarifying the rights of commercial rafters, by a vote of 40 to 25. The bill will now go on to the Colorado Senate for review. “Today’s vote shows that 1188 is a bipartisan solution,” said Ben Davis, spokesman for the Colorado River Outfitters Association, who noted that the House Minority Leader, Republican Mike May, voted for the bill. “Everyone wants to see Colorado’s rivers stay open for business.” But certainly not everyone thinks HB 10-1188 is a good idea. The bill has attracted the attention and opposition of private-property advocates, including the Colorado Farm Bureau and the Colorado Cattleman’s Association because it gives commercial rafting companies the right to portage across private land to avoid hazards in the river, such as a low bridge or a tree across the river. “It’s not about floating the river, it is about trespassing outside of the river,” Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, a Republican and a rancher, said on the House floor while urging a “no” vote on the bill. The bill also gives commercial rafting companies the right to continue to run stretches of river that have been run the last two years on a commercial basis, and it prevents private landowners from blocking their passage down the river, as a landowner along the Taylor River near Gunnison has threatened to do this summer to two rafting more

US Attorney Says Agro-Terrorism A Threat To South Dakota

U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson is urging farmers and ranchers to be alert for agro-terrorism and the threat it poses to South Dakota's economy. His comments came Friday during the South Dakota Farmers Union's annual convention. Johnson says agriculture is South Dakota's lifeblood and one attack could cripple the entire state. He says all sectors of agriculture are vulnerable to attack, but livestock and meat production are most at risk. He suggests that terrorists could try to sicken livestock. Johnson is among eight U.S. attorneys on the Terrorism and National Security Committee formed by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. AP

Ranchers' ranks thinnest since the Depression

The number of cattle farms in Canada has fallen to an 80-year low as ranchers struggle to manage high grain costs and tightening export rules. Statistics Canada said Tuesday fewer than 100,000 farms reported beef or dairy cattle in their operations as of Jan. 1, with cattle herds in Alberta shrinking to seven-year lows. Across the country only 99,265 farms had cattle on-site, numbers not seen since the census of 1931, said Robert Plourde of Statistics Canada. "Canadian producers had no incentive to increase their herds," Plourde said. "Grain prices have skyrocketed, there were less American buyers in the fall auction and at the same time the Canadian dollar was stronger, so prices were lower." more

Juan Corona: Crime of the century

Nearly 40 years have passed since the day a Sutter County sheriff's deputy dug into what he thought would be an illegal garbage dump on a ranch off Larkin Road — and came up with a corpse. The discovery kicked off searches that would eventually uncover 24 more bodies. Yuba City resident and soon-to-be accused killer Juan Corona would be a household name for years. For the first two weeks, photographers, film crews and reporters were held at bay while meticulously kept rows of peach and prune orchards were transformed into messy and macabre crime scenes. Corona was described in news and magazine stories as a handsome, middle-class homeowner, father and church-goer. He was a licensed farm labor contractor and was known to hundreds of ranchers, braceros and business owners in the region. Those who prosecuted him believe the 25 bodies they linked to Corona are only the tip of the iceberg, and that many more lie beneath orchards in Colusa, Tehama and Butte counties. To this day, the identities of four recovered Corona victims, and the reasons behind his ritualistic killings, remain a more

It's All Trew: Like Grandpa said, 'Where there's a will, there's a way'

No better examples exist than the problems of the old-time freighter. Limited by size of wagons and teams, facing rough trails and terrain, hauling every size, type, weight and fragility of items, he continued to deliver the western-bound goods to plains, valleys and mountaintops. Maybe the fact of traveling only 15 miles per day allowed time to think out his problems. For example, with limited braking equipment, how did he get his loaded wagons down steep hills? Common sense told him to chain his rear wheels so they could not turn and let them slide down the hill, providing braking. Many freighters used six-horse teams pulling two loaded wagons in tandem. Six horses could easily pull the two wagons out on level ground until they came to a creek crossing with embankments on each side. Instead of unhooking the rear wagon and pulling the front wagon up the embankment, then going for the second wagon, they pulled a hitch pin leaving the rear wagon sitting at the foot of the embankment but still attached by a long chain or heavy rope playing out its length. When the first wagon reached level ground, the teams were unhitched from that wagon and attached to the long chain. They were urged forward pulling the second wagon up the embankment to be re-hooked to the front wagon. The teams were then backed up to where they could be re-hooked to the front wagon tongue, and the train continued its more

Song Of The Day #241

Ranch Radio will be moving up to the 60's this week, with Carl Smith performing Cut Across Shorty.

Don't know this Shorty feller, but he's a man to admire and he's still around 50 years later. Check him out in I'm Gonna Strangle You Shorty by The Flatlanders.

The Smith tune is on his Sixties Hits and The Flatlanders song is on their 14 track CD Wheels of Fortune.

New National Monument designations around the corner?‏

As the Obama Administration’s legislative agenda seems to have been stalled in Congress, it is looking increasingly likely that it will start looking to exercise its executive power to advance its agenda. See this article from the Friday edition of the New York Times as an example.

Along these same lines, a document recently obtained from the Department of Interior indicates the Obama Administration is in the process of considering a flurry of new national monument designations throughout the West (the document is a 5meg pdf file available upon request). This document mentions designations and land acquisitions in 11 different western states: Utah, Montana, New Mexico, California, Nevada, Arizona, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Alaska, and Wyoming. According to our quick review, as many as 13 million acres of land (possibly more) are at risk for potential designation. Nearly every one of these proposed designations involve areas with energy potential.

National monument designations of this scope could have significant impact on many western-based businesses, ranchers, HOV enthusiasts, property rights activists, and rural citizens. Sadly, this effort to lock up millions of acres of land is just one more example of a renewed War on the West undertaken by an Administration determined to limit public access, reduce domestic energy production, ignore basic property rights, and impede real job creation.

As someone who has fought this fight before or who represents interests that may be impacted by these new designations, I wanted to give you a heads up as well as solicit your input as we consider ways to aggressively push back on this new attack. Please feel free to spread the news around as well as to contact me if you have any questions or suggestions.

Cody Stewart
Executive Director
Congressional Western Caucus
Chairman Rob Bishop (UT-01)
202 225-0453

See my post Internal DOI Document; Secret Plan To Create 14 Nat'l Monuments? $Billions For Land Acquisition

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Wilderness Hearing

Meant to post this before the hearing.

Hundreds attend congressional field hearing about wilderness areas

In all, about 600 people showed up for the three-hour hearing, hosted by New Mexico Sens. Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall, both Democrats. The unexpectedly high turnout forced New Mexico State University officials to open an additional room at the Corbett Center Student Union to accommodate the crowd. The two lawmakers last year introduced Senate Bill 1689, which would create 259,000 acres of wilderness - the most-restrictive land-use designation - along with 100,850 acres of national conservation area, a more flexible designation,in Doña Ana County. U.S. Rep. Harry Teague, D-N.M., also attended Monday. Only invited panelists from the community were allowed to testify in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing. Backers of the legislation say it's needed to give the highest level of protection to scenic areas and enhance quality of life in the region. Opponents say they're concerned it would curtail access to the lands and hinder ranchers' livelihoods. The crowd's opinions Monday were split. Proponents, many of whom were rallied by the local New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, wore stickers indicating their backing of the measure, while a number opponents sported Las Cruces TEA Party more

The two big issues were border security and flood control. Here are some excerpts:

John Hummer, Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce

Throughout this debate, the reference to the 2006 MOU has been held out to solve access problems for the Border Patrol. In testimony to Congress this past summer, none other than Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, discounted that contention. In Napolitano’s letter dated October 2, 2009 to the Ranking Member of the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, two major points were revealed. First, Ms. Napolitano wrote, “While the USBP recognized the importance and value of wilderness area designations, they can have a significant impact on USBP operations . . .” Secondly, her report revealed the failings of the 2006 MOU in practice in the field. She wrote in reference to the document, “. . . along the southwest border it (the MOU) can be detrimental to the most effective accomplishment of the (USBP) mission.” The fact remains, that when Federal Wilderness is designated, full Border Patrol authority and access is terminated. That is unacceptable in this county.

Jim Switzer, National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers

The presence of any wilderness on the Mexican border is a danger to the security of the United States. The Arizona border history is finally being acknowledged and investigated. The mission demands of land management agencies of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Department of Interior (DOI) and those of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Protection (CBP) are in direct conflict. The goals of the former are natural resource and environmental protection and those of the latter are Homeland Security and border protection. The former requires the limitation of human presence while the latter requires the same presence without restriction or condition. The juxtaposition the agencies find themselves in when their duties overlap is a diminishment of success for both. Designated Federal Wilderness is not causative in the intent of illegals to enter the United States, but it is causative in the establishment and expansion of entry corridors. The lessons of Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, and Pajarita Wilderness must not be ignored. Once established, corridors similar to those in place in those Federal Wilderness areas are guarded with the most barbaric means imaginable.

Gary Esslinger, Elephant Butte Irrigation District

The settlement allows us to capture and put flood waters to beneficial use, but we must handle the onslaught and contain it in our delivery system. Our canal and drainage system provides the massive infrastructure for transporting that water, but we need to perfect a system to adequately capture and introduce such waters into that infrastructure. S.1689 jeopardizes our ability to install such a system if we are not allowed access to our watersheds...S.1689 must be modified to assure access and construction of flood water facilities up and down watershed slopes for the full and safe capture of future flood events similar to those the Village of Hatch has endured. This is a matter of public safety and community interest, and, prior to a full assessment of what is needed, all areas slated for Federal Wilderness and NCA that drain into the Rio Grande must be more closely studied. Our organization and all other organizations that are charged with flood control and public safety matters must be at that planning table. This matter cannot be directed from afar by interests that have other political agendas.

Joe Delk, Dona Ana Soil & Water Conservation District

Included in the footprint of the proposal are scores of reclamation dams that are now in excess of 40 years of age. Many of those dams have had no maintenance in years. The DASWCD has taken an aggressive stance in addressing that problem, and if NCA and /or federal Wilderness designation hinders our ability or the ability of this community to perform maintenance and improvement strategies, a growing risk to residents downstream form those structures is imminent. What happened to Hatch, NM starting in 2005, will eventually occur in the entirety of the watershed expanse to the north and south...

More tomorrow, and now that I have this hearing behind me, I'll try to get back to my regular posting.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

Cabin fever and tater tots
by Julie Carter

Like the roads across the West, winter has gone on forever.

For those of us living here in the usually balmy Southwest, we are like spoiled children whining and sighing over the extended length of an extraordinary snow season that ushered out October and has every intention of using up February.

The roads are rutted in mud created in those few warmer days between storms.

Everything that could conceivably break has done so, be it a pipeline, a vehicle, a storm door or the drain on the washing machine. Cold inevitably brings on streaks of "breaking" luck.

In spite of the discomfort and inconvenience, a rancher won't ever turn down moisture or a live baby calf.

The horses are haired up like bears and the cattle are eyeballing the portable hand warmers that a few well-outfitted cowboys got for Christmas and thought they'd never use.

Electric and gas bills, feed bills, firewood bills ... the meters spin and the check book balance plunges.

The little woman looks for every opportunity to not have to gear up for ice breaking and outdoor chores. Cabin fever, while only a temporary inconvenience, is sometimes preferable to freezing one's back pockets off.

In her solitude she is bombarded with thoughts that she jots on paper in some hope of making sense of her fleeting flashes of philosophy.

Deep thoughts along the lines of: Is there a resemblance between our lives and the creation of tater tots?

Most everyone generally loves tater tots. They are dependable, easy to cook and a familiar source of sustenance. Like our friends, they are crusty on the outside, tender on the inside and seasoned to preference.

And while I'm always happy to find them in cafes, stored in my freezer and in dishes cooked up for the cattle working crews, I've never devoted much deep thought to wondering how they became that perfect little cylindrical shape that makes them uniquely identifiable.

Hang with me here.

Potatoes are pulled from their earthen womb looking dirty and misshapen. They are handled down an assembly line where they are pressure washed, sorted for size and then peeled, sliced and diced according to the plans for their end use.

The scraps from this process - the bits and shreds that are left from the slices and cuts - are made into tater tots. They are cleaned, seasoned and pressure-shaped along yet another assembly line. We accept them in that form without question. They are what they are.

The tater tots depend on me to bring them from the freezer to the table in a cooking plan of some sort. However, I appreciate them more now that I know how they came to be.

The same philosophy is surely applicable with people.

As with tater tots, I have accepted the people in my life at face value. I have found those that endured to be dependable, encouraging, nurturing and great a comfort to me because their substance never changes.

In taking the time to look beneath the shredded crust - perhaps a bit freezer burned and toasted by life's heat - I believe that inside, their substance will be as presented and their imperfections will mirror mine. After all, we all started in the same place.

Maybe they too will have buried deep the bruises of being cast off from the prime of the crop only to be pressure-washed by society and recreated into a unique version of the same thing.

And maybe, just maybe, if they should happen to recognize the same in me, our friendships will be enriched with a new level of appreciation.

After all, a lot happened along life's assembly line to bring us to where we are today.

Julie can be reached for comment at .

Mexican wolf end of year counts mislead the public

by Laura Schneberger

Are Mexican wolves really being destroyed by humans in the reintroduction area?

That is the question behind what is becoming an annual failure of the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to increase their wolf population. Slipping from 52 in 2009 down to 42 in 2010 the program consistently fails to gain ground.

Since the FWS are so “determined to identify the reasons for this decline”, let’s examine what they might be missing. In 2008 18 foxes attacked people in Silver City NM, not isolated incidents, yet rabies is completely ignored by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, in New Mexico and Arizona. This is odd considering FWS regional director; the man responsible for the Mexican wolf program, Dr. Benjamin Tuggle, is an expert in wildlife diseases.

Fact, there is a major rabies outbreak destroying wild canine and cat populations throughout the (BRWRA) Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area, and has been for several years. The FWS cites 31 pups they know were born last spring. However they didn’t vaccinate or collar all of those pups according to the Final Rule governing the program.

31 new pups should have boosted numbers beyond 80 in the wild? If 50% did survive that would be 67 give or take, on the ground now. There could very well be that large an increase but since FWS annual count occurs only after young wolves begin dispersing, their numbers aren’t going to reflect much in the way of an increase.

FWS imply in media reports that they believe more than 2 of the 8 wolves found dead last year were illegally shot. Fact, one of those shootings was done in a front yard. FWS were notified of the shooting when it occurred they found a collared but offline dead wolf. One not counted in last year’s tally. Currently an investigation is ongoing into what may be yet be a legal wolf shooting. FWS know this but continue to insinuate there is something shady and sneaky going on in the backwoods of the BRWRA.

At least two wolves were killed by FWS manipulation of the San Mateo pack, FWS know this as well, but still appear to insinuate that ranchers or someone else killed the animals by shooting them. How is misleading the media and public about dead wolves found, but not confirmed as illegally killed, going to contribute to a self sustaining wild wolf population?

The decline is “tremendously disconcerting and very disturbing,” said Benjamin Tuggle, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s regional director for the Southwest.

Officials thought this would be a good year for wolf pups. Also, the service didn’t permanently remove any wolves from the wild last year, as it usually does after ranchers complain the wolves are eating cattle, he said. “I am determined to identify the reasons for this decline and turn the situation around so we can see more Mexican wolves in the wild during 2010,” Tuggle said in a news conference by telephone Friday. Two wolves were confirmed to have been shot to death last year.

Tuggle said he is not ruling out the possibility that the other six dead wolves were shot. Those deaths are under law enforcement investigation. “I don’t think we can make any assumptions,” Tuggle said. “It has a lot to do with the condition of carcasses. I think the two that we can clearly say were shot were fresh enough” carcasses to make such a determination, he said. { Mexican wolf population dipping Tony Davis and Tim Steller Arizona Daily Star}

Fact two wolves, far fewer than in previous years were indeed shot in 2009 and one of those may have been legally shot. This number is far less than the number predicted to die suspiciously on an annual basis by the EIS and Final Rule. Rabies on the other hand cannot be tested for if the carcass is too old, allowing the agency to sidestep their own complicity in the program’s failures.

As usual the annual counts are done by getting into a plane or helicopter, circling the few collared animals out there and counting what is standing around the animals that have telemetry collars. If livestock producers ran their ranches that way, they wouldn’t know where their cows were either and would soon be out of business. Perhaps it is harder to count wolves on the ground than cows, but obviously this method isn’t working well.

Why are wolves avoiding wilderness in favor of livestock operations? That alone should set off alarm bells. Does the habitat exist for any more than a small number of wolves without destruction of the human element, a completely immoral solution to the problem?

Science has confirmed there is inbreeding repression in these wolves, something the agency claimed was not occurring until 2007 when they finally admitted it was occurring. Is it surprising there is fluctuation in the wild considering that in captivity, these wolves have killed and eaten their newborn pups, birthed consistently small litters, abandoned and starved pups? If it is happening in captivity, then logically these things are also happening in the wild.

Even FWS’s decision to invoke non removal of depredating wolves failed. A decision that kept at least 2 large packs on the ground and killed more than 2 dozen cows calves and yearlings in 2010, did nothing to help raise the numbers of wolves in the wild. What it did do was further burden and hardened the ranching and community stand against the program management methods.

Since they aren’t born with telemetry collars, FWS likely do not know where literally dozens of wolves are at. There is at least one known full and fairly large pack outside the recovery area in New Mexico. The agency’s relationship with the rural residents, including small townspeople, has seriously deteriorated to the point that nobody is reporting wolf presence any longer. It is simply easier to deal with wolves in their lives, than wolf managers and wolf advocates. It appears FWS feels, what they don’t know about doesn’t hurt them if they can just keep their cushy relationship with the wolf advocates and keep the media focused on ranchers as the reason for population decline.

Craig Miller, who works with Defenders of Wildlife, a national conservation organization, blamed poaching as the likely culprit. “Mexican wolves are in big trouble. With numbers so perilously low, every single wolf in the wild counts toward the animal’s survival. Turning this dire situation around will require every effort by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to craft a science-based recovery plan that pays careful attention to genetic issues. The service must also make a renewed commitment to keep wolves on the ground,” said Miller, Defenders’ Southwest representative. { Mexican wolf population dipping Tony Davis and Tim Steller Arizona Daily Star}

Between 2003 and 2007, a large portion of, $4,716,264,730.00 (that is billion with a “b”) in total payments were paid too many environmental organizations in taxpayer dollars from the Judgment Fund. This included attorney fees and costs in cases against the federal government often even when cases were deemed frivolous or just lost on the merits. Groups, who are right now, attempting to portray ranchers as being overly subsidized by the federal government, filed dozens of lawsuits over Mexican wolf management and other endangered species issues in the southwest and paid themselves well for it. {}

As one national reporter said “That’s good work if you can get it.”

FWS and wolf advocacy groups use strong arm tactics against the communities this has become a disaster for the public, the local communities, livestock producers and the entire program. FWS allow media and non government organizations, to spread of false premises on what is going on in the program. This certainly isn’t going to win over the trust of people in the rural parts of Arizona and New Mexico. Only science, truth and good faith can do that. Thus far this FWS has failed miserably at those requirements.

If they want success next year, the agency needs to go back to implementing the Final Rule. They should train their team on what the Environmental Impact Statement, managing the program, and the Federal Register Rule actually say. They should replace staffers who refuse to follow the Rule. They should stop bending the management of the program to meet wolf advocates, ridiculous demands. The program did better back in the days before the agency got into bed with extremists. They should collar and vaccinate pups early, remove and replace depredating animals, work with the communities and ranchers, not wolf advocates.

Fact, hysterical reports by wolf advocates, FWS and even by several news outlets, that there is a mass slaughter on Mexican wolves by ranchers and rednecks is far from truthful. Slandering ranchers as the Arizona Republic recently did in its editorial. Time For Ranchers To Stop The Slaughter, isn’t going to help this program succeed. Ranchers have been implicated in killing Mexican wolves. The public deserves the truth; it is just too much of a stretch to expect it from wolf advocates including those in media. But it should be a requirement of the Agency behind this program.

Feds push for tracking cell phones

Even though police are tapping into the locations of mobile phones thousands of times a year, the legal ground rules remain unclear, and federal privacy laws written a generation ago are ambiguous at best. On Friday, the first federal appeals court to consider the topic will hear oral arguments (PDF) in a case that could establish new standards for locating wireless devices. In that case, the Obama administration has argued that warrantless tracking is permitted because Americans enjoy no "reasonable expectation of privacy" in their--or at least their cell phones'--whereabouts. U.S. Department of Justice lawyers say that "a customer's Fourth Amendment rights are not violated when the phone company reveals to the government its own records" that show where a mobile device placed and received calls. Those claims have alarmed the ACLU and other civil liberties groups, which have opposed the Justice Department's request and plan to tell the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia that Americans' privacy deserves more protection and judicial oversight than what the administration has proposed. "This is a critical question for privacy in the 21st century," says Kevin Bankston, an attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation who will be arguing on Friday. "If the courts do side with the government, that means that everywhere we go, in the real world and online, will be an open book to the government unprotected by the Fourth Amendment." more

10,000 TSA staff to get secret intel

About 10,000 airport security workers will get access to secret intelligence that could help stop terrorist attacks on planes. The Transportation Security Administration plan aims to help its officers spot terrorists by giving them more detailed information about tactics and threats, TSA officials and security experts said. The agency, viewed by some as throngs of workers pawing through luggage at checkpoints, hopes to empower its higher-level workers as part of an effort to professionalize airport security. The 10,000 people in line to get classified information are managers, supervisors and "behavior detection officers" who roam airports looking for suspicious people. They represent about 20% of the TSA's airport workforce and exclude screeners who scan passengers and bags. The information will give workers details about terrorist "tactics, planning, operations and threats," TSA spokeswoman Sterling Payne said. Those details "give context to things they see every day which may otherwise not appear unusual" and let workers "exercise discretion" in dealing with travelers, Payne added. She would not elaborate on specific intelligence the workers will get. All TSA airport workers now get daily intelligence briefings that include less sensitive information. So far, 750 people have been cleared to get classified information, Payne said, adding that it will take two more years to get all 10,000 workers more

Does the Government Have Your Baby's DNA?

Imagine giving birth to a baby, only to find out that a sample of his or her DNA was taken without your permission. Immediately you begin to think about possible scenarios – is the government keeping your child’s personal data on file for future use? Could outside companies buy your baby’s DNA for research purposes? Might you wake up one day to find out that little Emily or Jacob has been cloned? Unfortunately, this is not the stuff of science fiction. And while there haven’t been any reported cases of cloning, in many states a baby’s DNA could be taken unbeknownst to the parents. It’s exactly what happened to Annie Brown from Mankato, Minnesota, CNN reported. When her daughter, Isabel, was one month old she was told by the pediatrician that her baby girl carried a gene that put her at risk for cystic fibrosis. And although Annie and her husband were relieved to find out that their daughter did not have the disease, they couldn’t help but wonder – how had the hospital gotten Isabel’s DNA in the first place? more

Western Union settles in border wire-transfers case

Western Union will pay $94 million to settle a long-running legal battle with the state of Arizona over whether the company allowed its money transfers to be used to send proceeds from human trafficking and drug smuggling to Mexico, officials announced Thursday. The settlement includes $50 million that will help law enforcement operations in border states fight money laundering. Western Union has also agreed to beef up its internal procedures to stop its wire transfers from being exploited. The settlement resolves a legal battle that started in 2006. Goddard's office was in the midst of a years-long investigation of human traffickers when it filed papers to seize all transfers of more than $500 headed to the Mexican state of Sonora, Arizona's southern neighbor. Western Union sued to prevent the state from getting the transfers and the information on who was sending and receiving the money. In an interview Thursday, Goddard said that his office found tantalizing leads when it seized the first round of transfers and that, as part of the settlement, it would again have access to that more