Saturday, February 27, 2010

Wilderness On The Border?

Why would any reasonable person want to create a haven for human and drug traffickers along our border with Mexico?

For background see my previous posts here, here, here and here

See the articles linked to below and rest assured I will continue to post on this issue.

Al Qaeda eyes bio attack from Mexico

U.S. counterterrorism officials have authenticated a video by an al Qaeda recruiter threatening to smuggle a biological weapon into the United States via tunnels under the Mexico border, the latest sign of the terrorist group's determination to stage another mass-casualty attack on the U.S. homeland. The video aired earlier this year as a recruitment tool makes clear that al Qaeda is looking to exploit weaknesses in U.S. border security and also is willing to ally itself with white militia groups or other anti-government entities interested in carrying out an attack inside the United States, according to counterterrorism officials interviewed by The Washington Times. "Four pounds of anthrax -- in a suitcase this big -- carried by a fighter through tunnels from Mexico into the U.S. are guaranteed to kill 330,000 Americans within a single hour if it is properly spread in population centers there," the recruiter said. "What a horrifying idea; 9/11 will be small change in comparison. Am I right? There is no need for airplanes, conspiracies, timings and so on. One person, with the courage to carry 4 pounds of anthrax, will go to the White House lawn, and will spread this 'confetti' all over them, and then we'll do these cries of joy. It will turn into a real celebration." Drug Enforcement Administration and Defense Department officials have been paying close attention to links between various terrorist organizations, such as Hezbollah, and drug cartels in South America, Central America and Mexico. "It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that terrorist organizations would utilize the border to enter the U.S.," said a DEA official who also asked not to be named because of his involvement in ongoing intelligence operations. The Times first reported in March that Hezbollah -- an Iran-backed group based in Lebanon -- is using routes that Mexican drug lords control to smuggle contraband and people into the United States to finance more

Go to the link provided to view the 9 minute video.

270 Somalis Illegaly Enter Across Mexican Border

Authorities are searching for 270 Somalis believed to have entered the U.S. illegally with the help of a Virginia man who admitted contacts with an Islamic terrorist group. An Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent said his agency had yet to locate any of the suspected illegal immigrants. According to an affidavit filed in Alexandria's federal court, Anthony Joseph Tracy told authorities that he came in contact with the Somali terrorist organization Al-Shabaab, which announced an alliance with al Qaeda earlier this year. ICE Agent Thomas Eyre testified during a hearing that authorities are "concerned" about the 35-year-old's dealings with the group. According to an affidavit filed in Alexandria's federal court, Anthony Joseph Tracy told authorities that he came in contact with the Somali terrorist organization Al-Shabaab, which announced an alliance with al Qaeda earlier this year. ICE Agent Thomas Eyre testified during a hearing that authorities are "concerned" about the 35-year-old's dealings with the group. The Somalis are believed to have entered the United States through the border with Mexico after making a circuitous trip from Kenya to Dubai to Moscow to Cuba to South America to Mexico and then the U.S., Eyre more

Al-Shabab joins forces with al-Qaeda

Somali insurgent group al-Shabab has confirmed they have joined forces with al-Qaeda’s worldwide campaign. The group issued a statement today that also confirms they have made an alliance with a smaller group known as Kamboni. Much of southern and Central Somalia is controlled by Islamist insurgents who seek to overthrow the ruling government and impose a strict form of Sharia law. In the nation’s capitol, Mogadishu, the struggle claimed another eight civilians last night.

Mexican Police Capture 18 Tons of Stolen Explosives Headed To U.S. Border

Federal police found 18 tons of explosives that had been stolen hours earlier in northern Mexico, the federal Public Safety Secretariat said. The industrial-use explosives were stolen by a group of unknown assailants from a tractor-trailer on a highway near the border between the states of Nuevo Leon and Coahuila, prompting federal police and army soldiers to launch an operation to relocate the material. The shipment was later recovered on a highway leading to the industrial city of Monterrey, Nuevo Leon’s capital. Security forces across that region of the country, which borders the United States, had been put on alert after Friday’s more

The Battle Against Mexico's Drug Lords Could Threaten America

The media is barely covering the bloody situation in Mexico, but the war against the drug lords there should be of the utmost concern to Americans. As high levels of violence and corruption continue to plague Mexican society, the U.S. needs to brace for a flood of narcotics, arms, and people seeking refuge crossing the border. A quick look at the resume of Teodoro Eduardo Garcia Simental, a top drug lord captured this month responsible for horrendous amounts of barbaric violence in and around Tijuana, shows the brutal nature of the conflict. He and his partners destroyed the bodies of hundreds of their victims by submersing them in tubs of acid, many of whom were kidnapped and held for ransom. The New York Times describes the conflict as follows: "When it comes to gore, Mexico’s drug traffickers seem to compete among themselves for the title of most depraved. One will chop off the heads of victims. Another will string dead rivals from bridges or burn their genitals. Recently, hit men removed the face from a dead man and sewed it onto a soccer ball.” People from countries known to be strongholds for extremist groups are being caught entering Latin America in order to reach the United States. Four Somalis have been found hiding in a tractor trailer in Honduras. In Colombia, 71 illegal aliens from Somalia and Eritrea were intercepted by the authorities in early January. The smuggling business, instability and poor control of America’s southwestern border provides an open opportunity for those wishing to do us more

Thousands of Mexicans Come to El Paso Fleeing Violence in Mexico

Some 30,000 residents of nearby Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, have settled in El Paso in recent years because of the drug trafficking violence that is blamed for more than 4,000 deaths in the Mexican city in a little more than two years. That influx has generated concern in the El Paso Police Department, City Councilman Beto O’Rourke said in an interview with Efe. “The Police Department released that estimate because they’re seeking authorization to buy 1,100 M4 assault rifles for (their) personnel, claiming that they don’t know who the people are who are establishing themselves in the city coming from Mexico or from whom they are fleeing,” he said. Police say that although there has only been one kidnapping in the El Paso area reported in the past year, that one of a man who then turned up dead in Juarez, there have been attempted abductions that have not been successful. “It’s necessary to be prepared to respond to these incidents with the necessary tools, and the criminals are armed with high-powered rifles,” one officer told Efe on condition of more

Friday, February 26, 2010

NM Attorney General's Senior Counsel Doubles as President of Law Firm Pushing CO2 Emissions Cap

Stuart Bluestone wears two hats. He is Senior Counsel to Attorney General Gary King. He is also president of the board of directors of the New Mexico Environmental Law Center, the law firm representing petitioners pressing the Environmental Improvement Board to impose an unprecedented statewide cap on emissions of carbon dioxide and gases they claim are causing global warming. Bluestone has served as a director of the New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC) since 2007. During that time, he has also served as Senior Counsel to Attorney General Gary King. In January 2010 he was named as president of the board of the NMELC. NMELC is a law firm that represents private individuals and organizations in a wide range of environmental matters across the state. It sues private and public entities, participates in appeals, intervenes in lawsuits and administrative proceedings, and seeks to influence and persuade administrative agencies in adjudications and rule-making. It is the legal counsel representing the petitioners who are pressing the EIB to impose a cap on gases they claim are causing global warming. The cap they seek would cut carbon dioxide and other emissions by 25% below 1990 levels, the most drastic such emissions cap in the country. Electric power utilities, representatives of manufacturing, mining and agricultural industries, chambers of commerce and others fear this cap will have a devastating impact on New Mexico’s economy and tax more

Another Member of Environmental Improvement Board with Conflict of Interest

Gay Dillingham is yet another member of the Environmental Improvement Board suffering from a serious conflict of interest in hearing the petition to cap CO2 emissions in New Mexico. Dillingham is a director of an organization that is part of an alliance to promote the very same sort of emissions caps she is being asked to consider as a member of the EIB. Moreover, New Energy Economy, the group which has brought the petition before the EIB, belongs to the same global warming activism alliance as the group which Dillingham helps direct. Dillingham has was appointed to the EIB in 2003 and served as its chair until recently, when Gregory Green, a lobbyist and consultant for environmental groups, assumed the role. We have previously reported on Green’s conflicts of interest in hearing the New Energy Economy petition, including the fact that he has been hired as a lobbyist by an organization, the Coalition for Clean Affordable Energy, that includes at least two organizations that have joined the petition pending before the EIB. [Two other members of the Coalition for Clean Affordable Energy have entered appearances in the case. But as of this posting, we lack confirmation that they have become parties to the proceeding by signing onto the New Energy Economy petititon]. Dillingham is a founder of and serves on the New Mexico Board of Directors of an organization called New Voice of Business. New Voice of Business is a formal ally of 1Sky, a nationwide group advocating emissions caps and other measures it claims are needed to counter man-made global more

Is Hunting Good for Bad Kids?

Is hunting good for bad kids? Does it teach violence or does it teach empathy and compassion? Would it be a more peaceful world if more kids grew up hunting? These are some of the questions addressed in a recent book entitled From Boys to Men of Heart: Hunting as Rite of Passage. The book’s award-winning author is Randall L. Eaton, Ph.D., a behavioral scientist with an international reputation in wildlife conservation who has been studying hunting for 35 years. While producing “The Sacred Hunt” in the mid-1990s, a documentary that received 11 awards, Eaton interviewed scores of recreational and Native American hunters all of whom used the word “respect” to describe how they feel about animals they hunt. That prompted Eaton to conduct questionnaire surveys on 2,500 mature hunters who described their attitude toward animals they hunt as, “respect, admiration and reverence.” The book interviews Dr. Wade Brackenbury, who for 13 years led groups of delinquent boys into the wilderness for two weeks where they had to survive off what they could forage. Brackenbury is convinced that it was hunting small animals for food that had the greatest transformative influence. Surveys conducted a year later indicated that 85% of the boys had not got into trouble after their survival experience. A best-selling authority on how to raise boys, Michael Gurian, also is interviewed in Eaton’s book. He agrees that hunting does teach males compassion, and that it would be a more peaceful world if more boys more

State vet pushes for brucellosis vaccinations

Montana’s state veterinarian is pushing for brucellosis vaccinations for all sexually intact female calves, arguing that the move is necessary to control disease and keep Big Sky cattle marketable. Veterinarian Marty Zaluski told producers gathered at Billings’ Public Auction Yards that mandatory statewide vaccination would bring Montana in line with measures already taken in Wyoming and Idaho. Ranchers in the three states have been harmed by instances of brucellosis in cattle in recent years. The disease is carried by elk and bison in the Greater Yellowstone Area and can cause cows to miscarry. The federal government is now crafting a new brucellosis management policy. Ranchers have balked at vaccinating all heifers between the ages of 4 months to a year, arguing the $5 shot isn’t needed for young females raised for food. Members of two of Montana’s largest livestock groups, the Montana Stockgrowers Association and Montana Farm Bureau Federation, have formalized policies officially opposing the vaccination of all sexually intact female calves because they think it’s unnecessary. The Farm Bureau supports vaccinating only breeding heifers and heifers imported to Montana for that more

Controversial UTEP prof risks much in fight for animal rights

People have judged Steve Best many ways during his 30 years in academia. Some have called him a troublemaker, a radical, and even a domestic and international terrorist because of his vocal and often confrontational stance on animal rights. He said it is his tenured position that has kept him on the payroll as a philosophy professor at the University of Texas at El Paso. But even Best knows he is gambling with his career when he protests against the school's environmental policies with a bullhorn outside UTEP President Diana Natalicio's office, or when he openly supports a movement that undertakes criminal activities to save animals from research laboratories and slaughterhouses. "Hey, if Martin Luther King was not afraid to lose his life, I shouldn't be afraid to lose my job," Best said. Best travels around the country and as far away as South Africa to speak about animal abuse. The United Kingdom in 2005 banned Best from its four countries for his views on the use of violence to defend animal more

Song Of The Day #248

Sorry about yesterday, I'm having a tough battle with the flu.

Ranch Radio will wrap up Will's week with Goodbye, Liza Jane from 1946 and Stay A Little Longer recorded in 1949.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

’Hoppers in Wyo., Vilsack sends money for moths

Grasshopper infestations this year probably will be twice as bad as in 2009 throughout much of Wyoming, the local manager of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management said Tuesday. So the BLM is working with other federal, state and local agencies to fight the voracious bugs that eat grass and hay to the ground, leaving nothing for livestock, Joe Meyer told the Natrona County commissioners at a work session. The BLM owns much of the public lands in Wyoming and leases much of it for grazing. Public lands are roughly half of all land in the state. Grasshoppers infested about 15 million acres of private, federal, tribal and state lands last year, according to a survey compiled by the Cheyenne office of the U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and shown to the commissioners. The BLM probably will be able to treat large areas, but mixed lands owned federally and privately may not receive much help, largely because of funding issues, he said. That also depends on how much APHIS receives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Meyer said. “We’re looking at in excess of $1 million to treat public lands.” more


Read the whole article and you will find Senators Enzi and Barrasco, and Rep. Lummis have sent a letter to Secretary Vilsack asking for some "flexibility". Seems as how the all-knowing ones at USDA have allocated $54,294 to Wyoming to fight the European grapevine moth, WHICH DOESN'T EVEN EXIST IN THE STATE.

In Obama's rush to "spread the wealth around" he can't even get his bugs right.

Not to worry though, I'm sure they'll handle our health care just fine. You just might have to travel around a bit to find where in the hell it's been allocated. Make sure you're driving a Prius, as you may have to go to New Jersey to get that little medical procedure done.

Utah House votes to curb stream access

The Utah House has voted to restrict public access to streams that cross private property except where anglers and others can prove a continuous use has existed for at least 10 years. The bill, a substitute version of HB141, responds to a 2008 Utah Supreme Court ruling that said state law gives access to public waters. Representatives who supported it Tuesday said the bill reasserts constitutional protections for private property as the nation's and state's founders intended. "The pilgrims came here not to go fishing, but to own land," said Rep. Steve Mascaro, R-West Jordan. Recreationists who lost this legislative round viewed the issue very differently, saying the bill cuts into public rights to public more

COMMENT: State Rep. Mascaro certainly wins our quote of the day with:

"The pilgrims came here not to go fishing, but to own land"

Besides, the King owned all the fish where they came from, and if we're not careful we'll revert back to that system here. And if that happens, who knows where Vilsack will allocate the fish?

Local officials concerned about Monument issue

Some local officials have been left confused and upset by a document leaked Thursday from the Bureau of Land Management, which lists the Vermillion Basin as a potential site for “special management or congressional designation.” In response to the leaked information, the Moffat County Commission approved a letter to be sent to U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar at its Tuesday meeting. The letter, drafted by Jeff Comstock, director of the Moffat County Natural Resources Department, said the commission is “deeply discouraged” by the potential designation. Local officials are concerned they were not involved in any decisions regarding local land. “What is most offensive is an executive order telling you how to manage your land,” Comstock said. “Involve your local people before you start doing a ‘top-down’ approach.” Opponents of potential designation contend that the Antiquities Act could be used to designate the 77,000-acre area a national monument. Such a decision likely would limit public access and use of the land. “I’m pretty upset over this,” Moffat County commissioner Tom Mathers said. “You’ve got someone in upper government saying ‘this is what we think we need’ without consulting the people that it affects. It’s wrong and not democratic.” more

COMMENT: It may not be democratic, but it's damn sure Democratic.

Face-to-face with a lion

Rancher Dale Wellnitz trailed fresh mountain lion tracks across his northwest Nebraska ranchstead before they seemed to vanish near the barn. “Where in the devil did he go?” Wellnitz said he wondered. Perplexed, Wellnitz leaned down and looked under a horse trailer parked in a lean-to shed on the side of the barn. Wellnitz got his answer. Peering straight back at him was a mountain lion lying about 10 feet away under the trailer. “So I eased back out of there, went to the house and had my wife call the game warden,’’ Wellnitz said. Less than an hour later, the cougar was dead, shot after Heath Packett, a Nebraska Game and Parks Commission conservation officer, flushed it out of the shed. The cat was killed because Packett determined that its proximity to the house and the people on the ranch made it a safety more

Fearing Obama Agenda, States Push to Loosen Gun Laws

When President Obama took office, gun rights advocates sounded the alarm, warning that he intended to strip them of their arms and ammunition. And yet the opposite is happening. Mr. Obama has been largely silent on the issue while states are engaged in a new and largely successful push for expanded gun rights, even passing measures that have been rejected in the past. In Virginia, the General Assembly approved a bill last week that allows people to carry concealed weapons in bars and restaurants that serve alcohol, and the House of Delegates voted to repeal a 17-year-old ban on buying more than one handgun a month. Arizona and Wyoming lawmakers are considering nearly a half dozen pro-gun measures, including one that would allow residents to carry concealed weapons without a permit. And lawmakers in Montana and Tennessee passed measures last year — the first of their kind — to exempt their states from federal regulation of firearms and ammunition that are made, sold and used in state. Similar bills have been proposed in at least three other states. In the meantime, gun control advocates say, Mr. Obama has failed to deliver on campaign promises to close a loophole that allows unlicensed dealers at gun shows to sell firearms without background checks; to revive the assault weapons ban; and to push states to release data about guns used in more

NM carbon capture, storage bill runs out of time

Long days roaming the halls of the New Mexico Legislature, shaking hands with lawmakers and sitting through hours of committee meetings never deterred Jack Chatfield in his quest to clarify a property right that could someday prove valuable in reducing carbon dioxide emissions. The northeastern New Mexico rancher and his legislation simply ran out of time. The bill would have established ownership rights for empty spaces deep underground. Supporters of the measure say the so-called pore space will be valuable as technology advances to capture and store emissions from fossil-fuel power plants and other industries. The bill needed to be considered one last time by the full Senate so it could be sent to the governor. However, it was lost in the frenzied crunch just before more

Portales jury: Watson not guilty in Chunn slaying

A Roosevelt County jury has found farmer William “Billy Joe” Watson not guilty of hiring an Aryan Brotherhood member to murder Causey rancher Jimmie Bo Chunn and not guilty of attempting to manufacture methamphetamine. The verdict came about noon Tuesday. Watson was accused of hiring Rogers native Donald Taylor to kill Chunn in 2005 in exchange for anhydrous ammonia for methamphetamine manufacture and then providing the chemical to undercover agents after Chunn’s death. Last year, Taylor pleaded guilty to shooting Chunn in a deal to avoid the death penalty. Defense attorney Gary Mitchell said he appreciated the fair trial and attentive more

Cecily, the chicken?

Trail-toughened ranchers seldom spare a nod to chickens, except when eating eggs. We had a few chickens, though we never bragged much about it. Though I realize there are lots of folks who show fowl and are deeply involved, all I'm saying here is that most ranchers, as a group, tend not to shed much admiration in the direction of chickens. And, as creatures go, chickens aren't typically thought of as possessing a deep richness of personality. Now that I've said all that, I have to mention Cecily, a Rhode Island Red hen we had for several years until she disappeared. Born to a squawky hen who insisted on laying her eggs anywhere but the egg boxes (and who finally managed to hatch a clutch of seven chicks which she raised somewhat feral) Cecily roamed and scratched with her chicklings over a wide range, but always came back to the barnyard to get a peck of the fine goat milk that we put out for the other hens, and the three roosters, all named Walter. From the original clutch of seven, all the feral chicks eventually came into the fold except Cecily, who stayed outside, never daring to enter the chicken house. She perched atop a long, skinny fence post, safe from most terrestrial predators, and stayed there even in wicked weather. I once saw her flap off a hawk descending on her for dinner. Cecily laid her eggs in one, predictable location which we habitually harvested, a fact that never caused her to trick us by laying in another feral nest. She always laid in the same place, and we always gathered them, which might explain why Cecily bore an expression of being perpetually more

Song Of The Day #247

Ranch Radio continues with Wills Week. Today we feature Bring It On Down To My House Honey recorded in 1937, followed by one of my favorites Dusty Skies recorded in 1941.

All selections this week are from the Bear Family collection San Antonio Rose.

Let's hope the first song gets the Crayola Cowboy's heart started and the second one gets him settled back down.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Utah monuments

The feds say they aren't sneaking around behind our backs, plotting a land grab of epic proportions. However, the Interior Department is considering two areas in Utah as future national monuments. Since they are already mostly public lands, managed by the federal government, that's hardly a land grab. But setting aside these starkly beautiful areas as national monuments would have a huge impact on Utahns. With the exception of some parcels owned by the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration, they are not state-owned. But they are used for grazing and are popular recreation sites. Since a department memo listing the two Utah sites as possible monuments surfaced last week, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Gov. Gary Herbert have talked. Herbert says he is confident Interior won't move ahead without first laying some groundwork with locals. Salazar says he will meet with the governor's Balanced Resources Council, and the governor plans to have conversations with Salazar's top deputy and the head of the Bureau of Land Management, which now oversees the two more

Also see:

In the West, ‘Monument’ Is a Fighting Word

Obama to create new national monuments?

Hatch calls White House to complain about monument plan

My original post disclosing this plan is here.

COMMENT: Neither the NY Times, the Salt Lake Tribune, nor Senator Hatch or Governor Herbert mention the other part of this program disclosed in my original post - the acquisition of 26 million acres of private land. The Tribune says the program is "hardly a land grab." Twenty-six million acres transferred to the feds is not a land grab? I wonder if they've even read the document. One also has to ask why Hatch & Herbert, both Republicans, aren't raising this as an issue. At least the public will have some say in that phase of the program - the funds must be appropriated by Congress.

CORRECTION: That should be 2.6 million acres, not 26.

Interior Department faulted for preservation lapses

Inspectors say it is just one too-typical example of how Interior Department agencies care for — or don't — the artifacts in their museums and research. At the Boston National Historic Park, "antique furniture, carts and bicycles were stacked on top of each other or were leaning against each other without protection" in a storage area, a new inspector general report says. At California's Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, pests threatened displays of historic furniture. But "pest management controls were removed from the site due to the large volume of pests being trapped and they were unable to keep up with removing the pests being caught," the report says. "Countless artwork, artifacts and other museum objects are in jeopardy" because proper preservation and protection has been neglected at sites nationwide, according to reports on five separate Interior agencies released by the department's inspector general last week. The new reports follow up a report issued in December that said the department largely doesn't know what is in its collections, often doesn't know if items were obtained legally and didn't appear to care for many items more

COMMENT: And this is who they demand keep these artifacts, to protect them from the public and the private sector. Looks to me like someone needs to protect them from the oink sector.

Obama Climate Agency Head Tried to Suppress Data

The scientist who has been put in charge of the Commerce Department's new climate change office is coming under attack from both sides of the global warming debate over his handling of what they say is contradictory scientific data related to the subject. Thomas Karl, 58, was appointed to oversee the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Climatic Data Center, an ambitious new office that will collect climate change data and disseminate it to businesses and communities. But Roger Pielke Sr., a climatologist affiliated with the University of Colorado who has crossed horns with Karl in the past, says his appointment was a mistake. He accused Karl of suppressing data he submitted for the IPCC's most recent report on climate change and having a very narrow view of its causes. The IPCC is charged with reviewing scientific data on climate change and providing policy makers and others with an assessment of current knowledge. Pielke said he agrees that global warming is happening and that man plays a significant role in it, but he said there are many factors in addition to the release of carbon into the atmosphere that need to be studied to fully understand the phenomenon. He said he resigned from the IPCC in August 2005 because his data, and the work of numerous other scientists, were not included in its most recent report. In his resignation letter, Pielke wrote that he had completed the assessment of current knowledge for his chapter of the report, when Karl abruptly took control of the final draft. He said the chapter he had nearly completed was then rewritten with a too-narrow more

Climate Change to Receive More Attention under NEPA

Climate change will receive more attention in the analysis of environmental impacts under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), according to a Draft Guidance issued on Feb. 18 by the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). Charged with advising federal agencies on the implementation of NEPA, CEQ proposes that the environmental analysis of major projects consider the effect on climate change of greenhouse gases (GHGs) that would be emitted by the proposed project, as well as the potential impact of climate change on the project itself. Although some courts have come to the conclusion that NEPA requires such analysis, this is the first time that CEQ has spoken out on the issue, sparking a debate over the role that climate change should play when the federal government makes major decisions affecting the environment. Because those decisions include a vast array of essential permits and other approvals, the stakes for private developers of major projects are potentially high. CEQ is receiving public comment on the Draft Guidance for 90 days after its publication in the Federal Register, which should occur more

BLM proposes wild horse roundups

Federal officials are proposing to round up hundreds of excess wild horses in southwest Wyoming later this year in a continuing effort to reduce the animal's numbers to more manageable levels, according to Bureau of Land Management administrators. The agency plans to use a combination of helicopter roundups and fertility control methods to reduce wild horse numbers in the Adobe Town and Salt Wells Creek herd management areas. The proposed roundup is part of a larger agency effort to remove thousands of wild horses that now roam public rangelands across the West. In 2003, after wild horse populations in Wyoming soared upwards of 7,000 animals, the state and the BLM signed a "consent decree" dictating that the BLM meet the state's wild horse population objective with roundups. Under the decree, when data is gathered that indicates a herd management area is determined to be over its population objective, the BLM has one year from discovery to remove wild horses to the low range of the management area. Population surveys conducted in July 2009 revealed approximately 1,950 wild horses were within the two herd management areas. The appropriate management range for the Adobe Town unit is 610 to 800 wild horses, according to agency data. The appropriate range for the Salt Wells Creek management area is between 251 and more

Solar project gets OK for $1.4 billion in US loan guarantees

The Obama administration on Monday gave preliminary approval for $1.4 billion in federal loan guarantees for a sprawling solar-energy project in California's Mojave Desert. The offer from the U.S. Energy Department for Oakland-based BrightSource Energy would support the construction of three solar-energy plants capable of powering 140,000 homes. The project must clear state and federal environmental reviews, and BrightSource must meet other financial requirements before the loan deal can close, the department said. It is the sixth conditional loan guarantee issued by the department for renewable energy development, and the largest so far for more

Legal action is underway to ban OHV traffic in forest

The center for Sierra Nevada conservation, and center for biological diversity, plaintiffs, are asking the court to order the Eldorado National Forest Service (FS) closed to all OHV use until each route has gone through site specific analysis with public comment to determine its environmental acceptability before designation. It has taken the FS 15 years to get this far without site specific analysis and it took the FS 15 years to complete the Rock Creek EA & EIS. The forest service doesn’t have the funds to undertake site specific analysis. There are provisions in the travel management plan stating that if adequate funds are not available to manage OHV routes they shall be closed. We cannot let the FS be the sole defendants of our interests. Our legal interests in the action are not identical, and on many issues are contrary to the FS defendants’ interests, and we anticipate a need to present different information and legal arguments that might be presented by some or all defendants. We are particularly concerned about the prospect of settlement negotiation and wish to have a role in any possible settlement discussions. In settlement or formal litigation CERA and the OHV community typically presents different issues, arguments, and evidence than that presented by governmental agencies’ legal more

Hot debate: Clean air vs. jobs

A coalition of environmental advocacy groups this week petitioned federal agencies to join its efforts in pressuring the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to require the strictest of pollution control upgrades at Four Corners Power Plant. EPA is in the process of drafting regulations requiring plant operator Arizona Public Service Co. to install equipment that reduces the facility's emissions of regional haze-causing pollutants, including nitrogen oxides and particulate matter. At question is the balance between total upgrade costs and potential air quality. The proposed technological improvements range between a $500 million upgrade capable of removing at least 30 percent of the pollution and a $1.06 billion upgrade that would eliminate as much as 90 percent of the haze-causing materials, according to APS. That, plant officials say, could affect jobs. The company has warned if EPA requires the most expensive improvements, the high costs could force a shutdown of a portion of the Fruitland power plant, laying off more than 300 area plant workers and affecting hundreds of additional coal mining jobs at the neighboring San Juan Mine. A petition to the U.S. National Park Service, Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Forest Service requests the federal agencies certify to EPA impairment-of-visibility issues. The concern includes at least 16 neighboring national parks and wilderness areas and is "reasonably attributable to air pollutant emissions for Arizona Public Service Company's coal-fired Four Corners Power Plant," according to documents filed this week in more

Song Of The Day #246

Ranch Radio is still in the mood for western swing. In fact we're still cravin' Bob Wills, so we will just make this a Wills Week.

Today we feature two of Will's fiddle tunes: Bob Wills Stomp from 1941 and Lone Star Rag from 1940.

Yesterday I gave you a link to all of his music, but the tunes we will feature this week are from his 12 disk box set San Antonio Rose from Bear Family Records. This collection covers all his studio recordings during his strongest period, 1932 through the 40's.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Rabies in a Raccoon, Fox from Sierra County

For Immediate release:
February 22, 2010

Department of Health Confirms Rabies in a Raccoon, Fox from Sierra County
Owners Urged to Vaccinate Their Pets, Horses

(Santa Fe) – A raccoon and a fox found dead on ranchland in Sierra County have tested positive for rabies. No known human or pet exposures were reported. The New Mexico Department of Health and the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish are urging pet and livestock owners in Sierra County and surrounding areas to protect their dogs, cats, horses and other valuable livestock by getting them vaccinated against rabies.

The raccoon was submitted by a private veterinarian, and a New Mexico Department of Game and Fish officer picked up the fox last week. Both animals were found on ranchland about 15 miles southwest of Truth or Consequences and tested positive at the Department of Health’s Scientific Laboratory in Albuquerque. Testing done at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta confirmed that both animals had the Arizona gray fox rabies strain. Fox rabies has been a problem for several decades in Arizona and spread into western New Mexico and was first detected in the Glenwood area in 2007.

“Since first finding fox rabies in Catron County in 2007 there has been steady animal-to-animal movement of the virus into Grant, Hidalgo, and Sierra counties,” said Paul Ettestad, public health veterinarian with the health department. “These latest cases demonstrate a significant eastward movement of the fox rabies strain past the Gila and Black Range and closer to human and animal populations in the Rio Grande valley.”

Pet dogs and cats that roam and hunt can come into contact with rabid animals and potentially transmit it to people, it is very important to make sure all dogs and cats are up-to-date on their rabies vaccinations. Several pet dogs have been euthanized because they were not vaccinated against rabies and were bitten by a rabid fox.

If you see a sick or dead wild animal or a wild animal that is acting abnormally in this area, report it to New Mexico Department of Game and Fish at (505) 532-2100. Rabid animals may show no fear of people and may even seem friendly or become aggressive.

Sam Hamilton, USFWS Director, Is Dead at 54

Sam D. Hamilton, who turned a Southern youth’s love of fish and waterfowl into a 30-year career with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, becoming the service’s director last year, died Saturday on a ski trip in Colorado. He was 54. His death was confirmed by the coroner’s office in Frisco, Colo. According to a statement from the coroner, Mr. Hamilton was pronounced dead after being transported off a mountain at the Keystone ski area suffering from chest pains. “The circumstances are consistent with an underlying heart-related medical issue,” the statement said. Mr. Hamilton was nominated in June by President Obama to be the service’s 15th director. He was sworn in three months later, after promising in his confirmation hearings before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee that he would deliver a “science-driven, strategic, big-picture approach” to address the “overarching threat posed by climate change” and other issues, including habitat fragmentation, invasive species, limited water supplies and the illicit trade in more

Climate scientists withdraw journal claims of rising sea levels

Scientists have been forced to withdraw a study on projected sea level rise due to global warming after finding mistakes that undermined the findings. The study, published in 2009 in Nature Geoscience, one of the top journals in its field, confirmed the conclusions of the 2007 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It used data over the last 22,000 years to predict that sea level would rise by between 7cm and 82cm by the end of the century. At the time, Mark Siddall, from the Earth Sciences Department at the University of Bristol, said the study "strengthens the confidence with which one may interpret the IPCC results". The IPCC said that sea level would probably rise by 18cm-59cm by 2100, though stressed this was based on incomplete information about ice sheet melting and that the true rise could be higher. Announcing the formal retraction of the paper from the journal, Siddall said: "It's one of those things that happens. People make mistakes and mistakes happen in science." He said there were two separate technical mistakes in the paper, which were pointed out by other scientists after it was published. A formal retraction was required, rather than a correction, because the errors undermined the study's conclusion. "Retraction is a regular part of the publication process," he said. "Science is a complicated game and there are set procedures in place that act as checks and balances." Nature Publishing Group, which publishes Nature Geoscience, said this was the first paper retracted from the journal since it was launched in more

Climate-Change Fervor Cools Amid Disputed Science, Defections

Three years after former Vice President Gore won a Nobel Prize for sounding the alarm on climate change and GE joined a coalition of companies pushing for a cap on greenhouse gases, public concern is flagging, along with U.S. and global efforts to mount government responses. Polls find more Americans questioning whether human activity is leading to climate change, or whether the trend is so dire as to justify reshaping U.S. energy use during an economic slump, as President Barack Obama has proposed. Record snowfalls in the U.S. also are fueling doubts. “The consensus of anybody who studies American opinion has to be that there’s less concern, rather than more, on global warming,” said Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of the Gallup Organization Inc., a Washington-based polling company. The latest blow to those urging action against global warming came last week, when Yvo de Boer said he would step down as United Nations climate chief, two months after 193 countries meeting in Copenhagen failed to reach a binding agreement on curbing greenhouse gases. The resignation may reduce the possibility that a worldwide market aimed at reducing carbon emissions is within reach, said Trevor Sikorski, an emissions analyst for Barclays Capital in more

Obama decisions on wildlife raising environmentalists' ire

During his first year in office, President Barack Obama won praise from environmental groups for a wide range of decisions, from toughening gas mileage rules to spending billions on renewable energy projects. But now there's grumbling on his green flank. A growing number of environmentalists are clashing with the administration over its management of America's struggling wildlife populations and what they call its reluctance to use the nation's most powerful environmental law, the Endangered Species Act, to stand up to industry. Last week, five conservation groups, led by the Sierra Club, sued the federal government after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service refused to draw up critical habitat maps for the Florida panther. Florida's state animal, the iconic panther once widely roamed the South, but today numbers 100 or fewer. Protecting its habitat would limit development in parts of South Florida, an explosive political issue. Two weeks earlier, the administration sparked controversy when it announced it would not add the American pika to the endangered species list. In its first year, Obama's administration added only two new species to the endangered list, the fewest in any president's first year since Ronald Reagan in more

Rangelands could go off the sick list

Western history is replete with bloody chapters about the battle for control of vast stretches of rangelands. The legacy from countless land disputes with murky resolutions is polluted streams, noxious weeds, grasslands depleted from overgrazing and record wildfires. But in a rare display of cooperation, several government agencies and ranchers in northern Utah are working together to prove that the landscape can be healed and those ills combatted on a grand scale. A project has been proposed to improve 136,000 acres of rangeland in Rich County that's nearly twice the area of Salt Lake City. Livestock are an integral part of the plan, which would combine a patchwork of Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service and state grazing areas into a single management unit. The number of cattle and sheep on public lands would remain the same. But under so-called, time-controlled grazing, livestock would be rotated across the range throughout the season. Only 20 percent of the land would be open for grazing at any given time, and herds would be frequently moved so that plants would be bitten once, rather than multiple times. Pastures also would be opened at different times each season, allowing a diversity of plant life to reseed. "No one agency, industry or individual is to blame for poor rangelands," said Bill Hopkin, who is director of the state's Grazing Improvement Program and is also spearheading the project. "It's going to take a cooperative effort to improve the landscape." more

EPA plans to spend $2.2B to protect Great Lakes

The federal government plans to spend $2.2 billion to clean up pollution in the Great Lakes and halt the spread of invasive species over the next five years. That plan, announced Sunday, marks a "significant investment" in fighting some of the biggest environmental threats to the nation's largest freshwater lakes, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson said. The EPA will use the money to prevent beach pollution, clean up toxic hot spots, and fight Asian carp and other invasive species. That effort "will leave the Great Lakes better for the next generation than the condition in which we inherited them," Jackson said. Among the EPA's priorities is cleaning up long-polluted sections of the lakes. In the 1980s, the U.S. and Canadian governments identified 31 toxic hot spots on the U.S. side; since then, only one has been fully cleaned up. The EPA now plans to finish work at four others by 2014, though spokesman Brendan Gilfillan said the agency hasn't figured out which. The plan also takes a "zero tolerance" approach to invasive species such as Asian carp, which could crowd out native fish and imperil the Great Lakes fishing industry if they reach Lake more

Parks open to holders of concealed guns

U.S. national parks will open Monday to holders of concealed firearms as a hard-fought law passed last year takes effect, but both sides expect more battles over exactly what the legislation means in practice. The law - probably the biggest legislative achievement for conservatives in what was otherwise a year dominated by President Obama's agenda - says national parks will be governed by the same rules as the states in which they are located. That means about 370 of the country's 392 National Park Service properties will permit visitors to carry firearms. But the Park Service says exceptions are in place and that another federal law requires guns to be kept out of federal facilities. That means firearms are still prohibited at any building where park employees regularly work, including office buildings, maintenance sheds and, most contentious of all, visitor centers. "I think you're going to have people on both sides of the issue test this in what is or is not a federal facility," said David Barna, a spokesman for the National Park Service. Gun rights advocates said they are pleased that weapons will no longer be off limits but that the Park Service should not poke exemptions into the more

NM panel mulls Arizona Water Settlement Act

A panel discussion on the basics of the Arizona Water Settlement Act revealed that opinions on the topic are as fluid as the Gila River itself. The discussion, held Thursday at Western New Mexico University's Global Resource Center Auditorium, featured panelists Peter White, staff attorney for the New Mexico State Engineer's Office for 27 years; Charles "Tink" Jackson, district manager for the State Engineer's Office in Deming; Allyson Siwik, executive director of the Gila Conservation Coalition; Hugh B. McKeen, Catron County rancher and commissioner; and Anthony Gutierrez, Grant County planner. The Arizona Water Settlement Act is the culmination of legislative battles that have raged for more than 50 years between California, Arizona and New Mexico over water rights and entitlements. It also will impact how and how much water southwestern New Mexico could use in the future. The Act allocates some $66 million for any water utilization project that meets a water supply demand in southwest New Mexico. The spectrum for proposed projects, according to the Act, runs the gamut from infrastructure, conservation/water demand management projects to educational campaigns. There is another $128 million available for construction of a water development project to divert and consume 14,000 acre-feet of water per year from the Gila River and its tributary, the San Francisco. A "stakeholders" group that includes a number of representatives from local, state and federal agencies as well as private interests will make the decision on what projects might be more

Helicopter warfare: Feral hogs in their sights

Early on a cold morning in northern Haskell County, two helicopters set off to find feral hogs. Next to the pilot in each two-seater helicopter is a gunner, armed with an assortment of laser-sighted rifles and shotguns to shoot the hogs they find. When a sounder — or group of hogs — is spotted, the pilot follows the fleeing hogs, which can run as fast as 30 miles per hour. The hogs generally run in a straight line, allowing the gunman to pick them off one by one from the helicopter flying only about 20 feet above the ground. Feral hogs have caused so much land and crop damage that Haskell County farmers turned to aerial management as the best way to effectively bring down their population. Over three days last week, about 300 hogs were killed by the hunters in the helicopters. Previously, the hunters reported, they killed as many as 125 in one hour in Haskell County. But there are still thousands more hogs in the area — and millions in the more

NY Times Article On NM Spaceport

Take Highway 51 east out of Truth or Consequences, a small city that years ago assumed the name of a game show on a dare. Drive through miles and miles of desert, then turn right at an old train depot whose bustle has long since pulled out. Keep going. After eight miles, turn left on a dirt road that leads deeper into the sage and yucca vastness of New Mexico, past a ranch that used to be a stage stop on an ancient trade route called El Camino Real. Soon after, you will come to your destination: the future. Here, where rattlesnakes hibernate and rabbits scurry, there unfolds a two-mile runway designed to accommodate spaceships. And right beside it, past those giant rumbling tractors of sci-fi design, the groundwork is being laid for a hangar large enough to store spaceships between launchings. This is not a secret government project, or some NASA reception hall for alien dignitaries. This is Spaceport America, a $198 million endeavor by the State of New Mexico to plumb the commercial potential of the suborbital heavens — a place once known only to astronauts, dreamers and the occasional chimp...Read more

COMMENT: Never thought I'd see a NY Times article datelined Upham, NM.

Film chronicles end of sheep operation

The aluminum-walled sheep wagon hasn’t moved for years. Elaine and Lawrence Allestad used to use it when they took their sheep up into the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness. Now it is parked in front of a two-story house in a subdivided cow pasture. The Allestads sold their 5,000-acre ranch near Rapelje and their grazing allotments in the wilderness in 2006, marking the end of an era for sheep grazing in Sweet Grass County. Lawrence Allestad’s family had run sheep in the area since the early 1900s, and as many as 30 bands of sheep once grazed in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness at one time. Now, a documentary following the Allestads’ sheep operation in those final years entitled “Sweetgrass,” by Ilisa Barbash and Lucien Castaing-Taylor, is making waves in cinematic circles nationwide. The New York Times called it “essential,” “graceful” and “astonishingly beautiful.” “Impressive,” the New Yorker review said. Castaing-Taylor spent three summers with the Allestads, filming and helping with the sheep drives. In all, the film took eight years to complete. When he began filming in 2001, he did not know 2003 would be the last summer sheep would be grazed in the wilderness area. But Castaing-Taylor, an anthropology professor at Harvard University, did know he was capturing a disappearing the way of more

It's All Trew: Law and order used to be so very different

History tells of a time in early Donley County, Texas, when the rustlers and ne'er-do-wells became so numerous, they threatened the outcome of a trial of one of their peers. Rancher Charles Goodnight, tired of suffering cattle losses to the thieves, heard of the threat. He rode into Clarendon with a tough-looking bunch of cowboys wearing sidearms and carrying rifles across their saddles. They took up positions around the courthouse during the night. The next day's trial went off without a hitch, with the thief convicted and sent to prison. One citizen observer commented later as how "the population of Donley County 'dropped considerably' thereafter in a short period of time." A big-time feud between competing free-range ranchers in South Texas once threatened a small community. A plea for help was sent to the Texas Ranger camp located about 100 miles distant. Help came as fast as a horse could travel as one scrawny, big-hatted Ranger rode in and placed his jaded mount in the livery stable. The community groaned as the skinny runt sat down on the courthouse veranda, believing their plea would be in more

Song Of The Day #245

Ranch Radio will get your heart started and your foot stompin' this Monday morning with Bob Will's 1942 recording of Cherokee Maiden.

It's available on several of his collections, which you can view here.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

The perils of counting cattle

Julie Carter

The probability factor for knock-down drag-out fight in corrals zooms to 100 percent when him-and-her cattle counting is involved.

"Differing slightly" is a smooth term for what happens when he expects her to count and she expects him to help or accept her count as correct. Neither of which ever happens.

Counting cattle appears to be a simple process of pointing and starting with the number one and progressing to a finally tally. Nothing could be further from the truth.

First, let me say that of all the skills required to work cattle, counting is one that is always taken for granted.

No one ever asks if you can count, they just expect that you will. And it's never an issue, until of course, you've done it wrong.

In every counting situation, it helps to know how many there are supposed to be. It's been suggested by better cowboys than me that the best way is to count at least twice and get an average. You might end up with 37-1/2 but that's a number.

A couple of broke cowboys bought a huge roan saddle horse at a horse sale in Amarillo.

Because neither had enough money to individually pay for Roanie, they partnered on him.

The day Jess got his turn with the new purchase, he was supposed to help his bride count a big string of wheat pasture cattle.

There were about 450 head on three sections of undivided wheat pasture and when they got them pushed to one side, they headed them down the fence.

The cowgirl was counting them at the corner and her able partner was supposed to keep them coming and count anything that went behind her.

When she finished her count, she turned to ask for his to add to the total.

What she saw indicated he'd never even started his job.

The cowboy and his new roan horse had ridden off and were doing little turns, circles, stopping and other assorted horse training maneuvers.

After the fight, the cowgirl hired some reliable help and the next day got a good count on the herd.

Another time, they were riding through a big string of cattle on a couple sections of wheat. He was to count one side and she the other.

Her horse had to stop and water the ground, so she got a ways behind.

When she caught up, he managed to take the time out of his busy schedule to raise hell with her, but in doing so, lost his count.

They managed to settle on a plan. One day she counted and the next it was his turn.
Florida cattle are treasure to count. When they arrive in the West, most of them have never seen men or horses.

Often described as wilder than "outhouse rats," getting them to slow down enough to count them was a feat and if that happened, then they wad up in a ball, all looking at the rider with no intention of stringing out for the count.

Darrell always had a lot of Florida cattle and would gather up everybody within a million miles to come help receive them.

The trucker would turn out the first bottom compartment of the trailer and it was pretty standard that they all had to be roped and tied down because they simply would not stop running.

The theory was that the next compartment would stop to see what was tied down.
Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't.

One cowboy suggested that the words women use that don't really mean what they say were created in the corrals during counting.

The definitive use of "Whatever!" "Fine!" and "Never mind!" suggest a few rocky days ahead.

When the boss asked me that dreaded question, "How many did you get?" I categorically always answered with all the sincerity I could muster, "All of them."

Julie, never good at counting, can be reached for comment at

Song Of The Day #244

Our Gospel tune for this Sunday morning is Jesus Will Save Your Soul by the great bluegrass due Don Reno & Red Smiley.

Holder admits nine Obama DOJ officials worked for terrorist detainees

Attorney General Eric Holder says nine Obama appointees in the Justice Department have represented or advocated for terrorist detainees before joining the Justice Department. But he does not reveal any names beyond the two officials whose work has already been publicly reported. And all the lawyers, according to Holder, are eligible to work on general detainee matters, even if there are specific parts of some cases they cannot be involved in. Holder's admission comes in the form of an answer to a question posed last November by Republican Sen. Charles Grassley. Noting that one Obama appointee, Principal Deputy Solicitor General Neal Katyal, formerly represented Osama bin Laden's driver, and another appointee, Jennifer Daskal, previously advocated for detainees at Human Rights Watch, Grassley asked Holder to give the Senate Judiciary Committee "the names of political appointees in your department who represent detainees or who work for organizations advocating on their behalf…the cases or projects that these appointees work with respect to detainee prior to joining the Justice Department…and the cases or projects relating to detainees that have worked on since joining the Justice Department." In his response, Holder has given Grassley almost nothing. He says nine Obama political appointees at the Justice Department have advocated on behalf of detainees, but did not identify any of the nine other than the two, Katyal and Daskal, whose names Grassley already more

TSA makes disabled boy, 4, take off leg braces

Did you hear about the Camden cop whose disabled son wasn't allowed to pass through airport security unless he took off his leg braces? Unfortunately, it's no joke. This happened to Bob Thomas, a 53-year-old officer in Camden's emergency crime suppression team, who was flying to Orlando in March with his wife, Leona, and their son, Ryan. Ryan was taking his first flight, to Walt Disney World, for his fourth birthday. The boy is developmentally delayed, one of the effects of being born 16 weeks prematurely. His ankles are malformed and his legs have low muscle tone. In March he was just starting to walk. Mid-morning on March 19, his parents wheeled his stroller to the TSA security point, a couple of hours before their Southwest Airlines flight was to depart. The boy's father broke down the stroller and put it on the conveyor belt as Leona Thomas walked Ryan through the metal detector. The alarm went off. The screener told them to take off the boy's braces. The Thomases were dumbfounded. "I told them he can't walk without them on his own," Bob Thomas said. "He said, 'He'll need to take them off.' " Ryan's mother offered to walk him through the detector after they removed the braces, which are custom-made of metal and hardened plastic. No, the screener replied. The boy had to walk on his more

TSA to swab airline passengers' hands in search for explosives

To the list of instructions you hear at airport checkpoints, add this: "Put your palms forward, please." The Transportation Security Administration soon will begin randomly swabbing passengers' hands at checkpoints and airport gates to test them for traces of explosives. Previously, screeners swabbed some carry-on luggage and other objects as they searched for the needle in the security haystack -- components of terrorist bombs in an endless stream of luggage. But after the Christmas Day attempted bombing of Northwest Flight 253 over Detroit, Michigan, the TSA began a program of swabbing passengers' hands, which could be contaminated by explosive materials, experts say. The TSA will greatly expand the swabbing in the coming weeks, the agency more

Officers lose 243 Homeland Security guns

Nearly 180 Department of Homeland Security weapons were lost -- some falling into the hands of criminals -- after officers left them in restrooms, vehicles and other public places, according to an inspector general report. The officers, with Customs and Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, "did not always sufficiently safeguard their firearms and, as a result, lost a significant number of firearms" between fiscal year 2006 and fiscal year 2008, the report said. In all, 243 firearms were lost in both agencies during that period, according to the January report from Inspector General Richard Skinner. Of those, 36 were lost because of circumstances beyond officers' control -- for instance, ICE lost a firearm during an assault on an officer. Another 28 were lost even though officers had stored them in lockboxes or safes. But 74 percent, or 179 guns, were lost "because officers did not properly secure them," the report more

Police push for warrantless searches of cell phones

This is an important legal question that remains unresolved: as our gadgets store more and more information about us, including our appointments, correspondence, and personal photos and videos, what rules should police investigators be required to follow? The Obama administration and many local prosecutors' answer is that warrantless searches are perfectly constitutional during arrests. "There are very, very few cases involving smartphones," Chris Feasel, deputy district attorney for San Mateo County, said in an interview on Wednesday. "The law has not necessarily caught up to the technology." Feasel said the county's position is that a search of a handheld device that takes place soon after an arrest is lawful. "It's an interesting issue that may decide the future of how courts handle these kinds of cases, especially smartphones and iPhones," he said. Attorneys for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the San Francisco civil liberties group that's representing Taylor, have asked the court to suppress any evidence obtained from the search of his iPhone. They say the search was "unconstitutional" because it was done without a warrant--and they say it also may have violated a 1986 federal law designed to protect the privacy of e-mail messages. Privacy advocates say that long-standing legal rules allowing police to search suspects during an arrest--including looking through their wallets and pockets--should not apply to smartphones because the amount of material they store is so much greater and the risks of intrusive searches are so much more

School used webcams to spy on students

A suburban Philadelphia school district used the webcams in school-issued laptops to spy on students at home, potentially catching them and their families in compromising situations, a family claims in a federal lawsuit. Lower Merion School District officials said the laptops "contain a security feature intended to track lost, stolen and missing laptops," and that the feature was deactivated Thursday. Angry students had already responded by putting tape on their laptop cameras and microphones. Sophomore Tom Halpern described students as "pretty disgusted," and noted that his class recently read "1984," the George Orwell classic that coined the term "Big Brother." "This is just bogus," said Halpern, 15, of Wynnewood, as he left Harriton High School on Thursday with his taped-up computer. "I just think it's really despicable that they have the ability to just watch me all the time." The school district can activate the webcams without students' knowledge or permission, the suit said. Plaintiffs Michael and Holly Robbins suspect the cameras captured students and family members as they undressed and in other embarrassing situations, according to the more

Deep secrets: Former cold war agent gagged by the CIA

HE remembers the women sunbathing naked on the deck of a passing yacht. He remembers, too, the lurking menace of a Russian intelligence-gathering trawler, watching from afar as one of the most audacious American coups of the cold war unfolded on the ocean floor, 16,500ft beneath the Pacific surface. David Sharp recalls every detail of the 1974 mission known as Project Azorian, one of the most ambitious, expensive and politically volatile clandestine operations launched by the CIA. As one of the CIA’s agents in charge of recovering a sunken Soviet submarine and its cargo of nuclear-tipped missiles, Sharp spent 63 days at sea on what he described last week as a “marvellous engineering effort and a marvellous security effort to keep it under wraps”. The broad outlines of the historic intelligence feat have been written about and debated for decades, have been publicly acknowledged by governments in both Washington and Moscow and have inspired countless conspiracy theories and malevolent accusations. Yet the man who knows most about the Hughes Glomar Explorer recovery ship and its effort to retrieve the Soviet Golf-II submarine K-129 is still being gagged by the more

Is Joe Stack a Wake-Up Call to America?

"In my lifetime I can say with a great degree of certainty that there has never been a politician cast a vote on any matter with the likes of me or my interests in mind. Nor, for that matter, are they the least bit interested in me or anything I have to say." ~ Joe Stack On Thursday, Feb. 18, 2010, 53-year-old, financially strapped software engineer Joseph Stack crashed a small plane into an IRS office building in Austin, Texas. He left behind a wife, a stepdaughter and a suicide note he had posted on his software company’s website. By the following day, the various media pundits on the right and left had already dismissed Stack as a fringe lunatic, and anyone who agreed with Stack’s diatribe against an unjust government was labeled a crackpot. However, while you can – and should – disagree with the method of Stack’s madness, Americans shouldn’t be too quick to discount the source of his frustrations. Stack is representative of a burgeoning class of disaffected Americans who are waking up to the reality that the American governmental system no longer works as it was intended – that is, it no longer works for them. In its place, a government of elites comprised of politicians and unelected bureaucrats has emerged that views the average American as little more than a source of tax funds and labor to keep the massive machinery of government operating. We have shifted from having a government that is "of the people, by the people, for the people" to one that is largely seen as predatory, a "government of wolves." more

Brady Campaign State Scorecards: Most States Have Weak Gun Laws

Most states have weak or non-existent gun laws, helping feed the illegal gun market and allowing the sale of guns without background checks including at gun shows, according to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Forty-three states fail to close the loophole that allows criminals to buy guns at gun shows without Brady background checks. Scores range from the first-ever “zero,” earned by Utah, to 79 for California. “Most states, unfortunately, are doing very little to protect citizens from gun violence. Most states are allowing dangerous people to have easy access to guns,” said Paul Helmke, President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Few states have laws addressing the critical issue of gun trafficking such as requiring background checks on all gun purchases at gun shows. The Brady Campaign is advocating for legislation to close the gun show loophole at the national more

Go here to see how your state ranks.

COMMENT: Congratulations Utah for having the best gun laws in the nation! New Mexico is right up there with a 4.

The Chemist's War

Doctors were accustomed to alcohol poisoning by then, the routine of life in the Prohibition era. The bootlegged whiskies and so-called gins often made people sick. The liquor produced in hidden stills frequently came tainted with metals and other impurities. But this outbreak was bizarrely different. The deaths, as investigators would shortly realize, came courtesy of the U.S. government. Frustrated that people continued to consume so much alcohol even after it was banned, federal officials had decided to try a different kind of enforcement. They ordered the poisoning of industrial alcohols manufactured in the United States, products regularly stolen by bootleggers and resold as drinkable spirits. The idea was to scare people into giving up illicit drinking. Instead, by the time Prohibition ended in 1933, the federal poisoning program, by some estimates, had killed at least 10,000 people. Although mostly forgotten today, the "chemist's war of Prohibition" remains one of the strangest and most deadly decisions in American law-enforcement history. As one of its most outspoken opponents, Charles Norris, the chief medical examiner of New York City during the 1920s, liked to say, it was "our national experiment in extermination." more