Friday, July 02, 2010

Damning report on oil spill response

The Democratic congressional majority has had little stomach for its duty of overseeing the Obama administration. Unfortunately, this has resulted in strictly partisan oversight as Republicans on the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee step into the vacuum. But at least there’s someone keeping an eye on this administration, because the press hasn’t always been so hot on it. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the committee’s ranking member, has announced he will release a report later today on the oil spill response. It appears to bolster criticisms from both the Left and the Right that have rained down on the administration since this disaster began. Here is part of the preview he provides: Phantom Assets “The number of assets claimed [by the White House], however, does not appear to match what is actually in the field. This is corroborated by Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser, who shared a similar story with investigators. BP and Coast Guard provided Mr. Nungesser with a map of the Gulf allegedly pinpointing the exact locations of 140 skimmers cleaning up oil. Sensing that the chart may have been somewhat inaccurate, Mr. Nungesser requested a flyover of the assets for verification. After three cancelled trips, officials admitted to Mr. Nungesser that only 31 of the 140 skimmers were ever deployed. The rest were sitting at the docks. According to Mr. Nungesser, the chart appeared to have been fabricated.”...more

You can view the report here.

Volunteers ready but left out of oil spill cleanup

The Coast Guard said there have been 107 offers of help from 44 nations, ranging from technical advice to skimmer boats and booms. But many of those offers are weeks old, and only a small number have been accepted, with the vast majority still under review, according to a list kept by the State Department. A report prepared by investigators with the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform for Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., detailed one case in which the Dutch government offered April 30 to provide four oil skimmers that collectively could process more than 6 million gallons of oily water a day. It took seven weeks for the U.S. to approve the offer. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs on Thursday scorned the idea that "somehow it took the command 70 days to accept international help."...more

Investigation of fatal bear mauling could take months

If history is any guide, it could be months before wildlife officials finish their investigation into the June 17 death of a man near Yellowstone Park killed by a grizzly that had just been trapped, tranquilized and released. Seventy year-old botanist Ewrin Evert of Park Ridge, IL was killed near his cabin on Kitty Creek, about seven miles from the East Entrance of Yellowstone National Park. There were no witnesses. On June 29, Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team leader Chuck Schwartz told the Associated Press, "federal wildlife authorities outside the team will conduct the investigation." How long can Evert's widow, daughter, and friends expect to wait before the investigation is completed? On October 30, 2001 a hunter field dressing an elk was killed by a grizzly on the Blackfoot-Clearwater Wildlife Management Area northeast of Missoula, Mont. There were no witnesses to the incident. The report was released on December 14, 2001. The investigation of Evert's death promises to be contentious. Wildlife officials claim a trail leading to the bear trapping site, and the trap site itself, were closed. Evert's family strongly disagrees. It's not known if the Park County Sheriff's Department will verify claims the area was closed, or investigate Evert's death...more

Forests of red tape

Some $30 million in federal funds authorized by Congress to clear beetle-killed trees in Colorado’s high country has been bollixed up by a federal planning process and, as a result, isn’t getting into the forests to do the work it’s meant to do. Udall worked hard to ensure the $30 million was authorized in the federal budget for the 2010 fiscal year. Once it was, affected communities expected the money would be put to work by now — the heart of the summer fire season — clearing beetle-killed trees near towns and rural residential areas. After all, a major reason for allocating the money was to protect communities from fire danger. Instead, it has been bogged down in a planning process involving three federal agencies that are supposedly trying to identify where the top priorities are for tree removal. Setting priorities for spending the money and removing trees is definitely important. But it shouldn’t be an excuse for doing nothing, nine months after the fiscal year began. Planning is not an end in itself. At least it shouldn’t be. The Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service obviously need to pick up the pace...more

Forest Service, Ad Council launch integrated 'Smokey the Bear' campaign

The US Forest Service and the nonprofit National Association of State Foresters (NASF) have partnered with The Ad Council to launch this year's “Smokey the Bear” forest fire-prevention campaign. The effort launched June 30. This year's version of the 66-year-old campaign is an integrated effort that includes TV spots, static and rich media banner ads, e-mail, mobile and social media. Draftfcb, the pro bono agency on the account since 1944, created the campaign, while creative agency Animax worked on the social media components. “Smokey the Bear's message has evolved from just a prevention message to an intervention message,” said Ellyn Fisher, VP of PR and social media at The Ad Council. “It is not only telling people to take precautions, but to act like Smokey and intervene when you see someone acting irresponsibly.”...more

From prevention to intervention - sounds like the story of our government.

Song Of The Day #349

Here is Patsy Montana's 1938 recording of My Dear Old Arizona Home.

21 Die in Gun Battle Near U.S. Border

Nearly two dozen people were killed in a Mexican border area on Thursday during a fierce gun battle between suspected members of rival drug gangs, Mexican authorities said. The bloodshed took place only 12 miles from the U.S. border, in Sonora, a state that is a popular tourist destination famed for its beaches but whose interior has increasingly been consumed by drug violence. Prosecutors said the battle was a showdown between two rival drug and migrant-trafficking gangs, who sprayed gunfire at one another in a sparsely populated area near a dirt road between the hamlets of Tubutama and Saric, an area frequented by traffickers, the Associated Press reported. The shooting culminated in the deaths of 21 people, with Mexican authorities taking another nine people into custody, including six with bullet wounds. The Sonora state Attorney General’s Office said in a statement that nine people were captured by police at the scene of the shootings, six of whom had been wounded in the confrontation, according to the A.P. Eight vehicles and seven weapons were also seized. All of the victims were believed to be members of the gangs...more

Prosecutor Shot Dead in Mexican Border City

The prosecutor in charge of internal affairs at the Attorney General’s Office of the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua and one of her bodyguards were shot dead in the border city of Juarez, state officials told Efe on Thursday. Sandra Ivonne Salas was killed around 9:30 p.m. Wednesday in the northwestern section of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico’s murder capital. Salas’s slaying pushed the number of murders in Juarez, located across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas, to 303 in June, making it the deadliest month of the year, state officials said. The prosecutor, who was in charge of internal affairs, analysis and evaluation of operations at the AG’s office, was traveling with two bodyguards when she was attacked. One of the bodyguards escaped unharmed. Salas was responsible for evaluating the performance of AG’s office employees assigned to the special investigation units in the northern section of Ciudad Juarez. She was also heading up the investigation of Maximo Miranda Figueroa, a former AG’s office agent arrested in Costa Rica and accused of stealing public funds, dereliction of duty and obstruction of justice. Salas, moreover, was involved in the probe into the Feb. 4 killing of Carlos Soltero Cano, a 33-year-old AG’s office employee in charge of an anti-kidnapping unit...more

Five Mexican Governors Have Received Death Threats

The governors of five Mexican states have received death threats from organized crime groups, Tabasco Gov. Andres Granier Melo said. Granier Melo said he and the governors of Veracruz, Fidel Herrera; Tamaulipas, Eugenio Hernandez; Sinaloa, Jesus Alberto Aguilar; and Chihuahua, Jose Reyes Baeza, all members of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, “have (received) threats from criminals.” “The federal government has full knowledge” of the threats, Granier Melo said in a statement. The Tabasco governor attended the funeral Tuesday of Rodolfo Torre Cantu, who was running for the governorship of the northeastern state of Tamaulipas at the head of a coalition led by the PRI and was killed along with four other people by gunmen...more

Ballistics tests run: Workers at City Hall unfazed by shots that hit building

The bullets that hit El Paso City Hall on Tuesday -- apparently from an AK-47 rifle -- could have easily come from a shooting about half a mile away in Juárez, officials and experts said. El Paso police would not disclose anything on the shooting Wednesday, but said ballistics tests are being conducted on two bullets found at City Hall. Five bullets hit the west side walls, one hit the north end of the building and another went into an office. Police spokesman Darrel Petry would not offer any new information on the shooting, but Mexican police said the bullets might have come from an AK-47 rifle, which fires a bullet capable of traveling more than half a mile. Petry said the trajectory of the bullets indicate to police that they were losing some of their velocity when they struck the building and might have come from a fatal shooting that occurred about half a mile away in Juárez. City Manager Joyce Wilson said the group of employees who were meeting in the office where a bullet pierced through "hit the floor and crawled out of the office."...more

Gunfire from Juarez usually heard, not seen

The gunfire from Juarez that struck El Paso City Hall on Tuesday was unusual. But it is not uncommon for U.S. Border Patrol agents to hear the sound of gunshots from Mexico. Border Patrol agents posted along the Rio Grande have reported hearing shots as the violence has boiled in Juarez, though officials said it is uncommon for bullets to cross the border and strike in the U.S. "Typically, agents hear gunshots south of the border but as far as an incident like this (City Hall shooting) no," said Agent Ramiro Cordero, a spokesman for the Border Patrol. Cordero said agents are vigilant, especially because of the drug violence in Juarez that has killed more than 5,000 people since 2008. El Paso police said they believe the seven shots that hit City Hall were rounds from a shooting in which a Mexican federal police officer was killed on a Juarez street near the Rio Grande. For residents near the border, the sound of guns can be surreal. The City Hall shooting is not without historical precedent. About 100 years ago during the Mexican Revolution, El Paso buildings and El Pasoans were hit by shots fired from Juarez. The brick walls on the south side of the old laundry building on South Santa Fe Street still have the pockmarks of revolutionary bullets. In 1919, things got so bad that 3,600 U.S. troops rolled into Juarez to stop the fighting and help protect U.S. lives after three soldiers were hit by stray bullets, according to El Paso Times archives...more

Unfortunately, you can't believe a thing Cordero says.

The Southern Border Could Get Much Worse

Police Chief Jeff Kirkham of the border town Nogales, Arizona, told Tucson Channel 9 (ABC) news that he has received threats that the Mexican drug cartels will start using snipers to target on- and off-duty police officers from across the border. Given the fact that Nogales sits right on the border with the town of Heroica Nogales on the other side, the threat is entirely credible and feasible. Heroica Nogales would provide ample places to hide within sniper range of many parts of Nogales. With an effective range of over one mile, modern rifles could easily target U.S. citizens and police in an eerie echo of the siege of Sarajevo in the Bosnian war. If snipers start setting up shop in Heroica Nogales, we certainly won't be able to count on the Mexican military to take care of the problem. The cartels clearly don't fear the Mexican military, given the enormous intimidation and bribery that they are able to bring to the table. Leaked stories of massive Mexican military corruption and intimidation are commonplace in the border regions. Given that the Mexican military would be of dubious worth, what options are left for the Obama administration to deal with the problem? Would Obama fire predator missiles into Mexico from drones to take out snipers, or would the risk of a real military conflict with the regular Mexican army and civilian casualties make that option out of the question? Would counter-snipers be employed to take out drug cartel snipers? Given Obama's reluctance to deploy anything more than logistic personnel from the National Guard to the border, the answer is likely "no." If Obama will not authorize return fire, what is the game plan for the police and civilians being shot at from across the border? If Obama did authorize return fire across the border, how would Mexico react to military snipers from our side shooting drug cartel snipers from theirs? Finally, what would the rules of engagement be? Would American military snipers be authorized to take out anyone deemed a threat, or would the life of a police officer or civilian have to be taken before they can fire back? Even the military will admit that counter-sniper operations are complex and fraught with risk...more

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Deepwater Disaster

Washington is finally accepting international help for dealing with the crude spill in the Gulf. It took only 70 days of gushing for the White House to agree to the aid. The delay is inexcusable. On Day 3 of the Katrina wreckage, the Bush administration waived coastal laws, including the Jones Act, to keep oil production and shipping moving. The White House, widely condemned for its handling of the hurricane's aftermath, didn't go begging for a waiver, wring its hands or consult with union leaders. Michael Chertoff simply said "I am exercising my discretion and authority to waive the coastwise laws" because "such waivers are necessary in the interest of national defense." As director of Homeland Security, Chertoff had the authority — and the backing of an executive office that was hustling to prevent the Katrina problems from spreading. On Wednesday, after as much as 137 million gallons have flowed from the broken BP well, the plodding Obama White House announced it was accepting help from 12 countries — of the 27 that offered — in cleaning up the mess. What took so long? This White House has been scolded for refusing to waive the Jones Act, a union-backed protectionist law that says the vessels that carry merchandise between U.S. ports must be built and owned by U.S. citizens, and flagged in this country...more

Fort Carson, critics fight over heavier Pinon use

Fort Carson will be sending two battalions of the 4th Infantry Division to the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site in August for several weeks of training — signaling an Army effort to increase its use of the 238,000-acre training ground, even as critics argue that effort defies a U.S. federal court ruling last year. Col. Robert McLaughlin, garrison commander at the Mountain Post, candidly acknowledged in a recent interview that the Army has made little use of Pinon Canyon for the past five years or longer, but intends to change that starting this summer. "Our plan is not to go above historical levels of training at Pinon Canyon," McLaughlin said. "We have not conducted brigade level training there in the past five years. On an annual basis, you'll be seeing more battalion rotations down to Pinon Canyon." For opponents, such as the Not 1 More Acre! group which sued the Army, the court ruling meant the Army is sharply restricted in what it can do at Pinon Canyon today, never mind expansion. In an e-mail response last week, the group said Matsch's decision means the Army cannot conduct more than four months of training per year on Pinon Canyon, as spelled out in the Army's original environmental analysis dating back to the 1980s when Pinon Canyon was established. "Historically, the Army has never used Pinon Canyon more than once or twice a year," the statement said. That was based on the Army's own records of its use of the 238,000-acre site...more

They haven't used what they have for 5 years and still claim they need an expansion?

The non-use for 5 years has apparently become an embarrassment and an impediment to their expansion plans, so they are now going to make sure it gets used.

The department of defense owns 30 million acres, 52% of which the Army controls.

They don't need more land. In fact, they probably don't need all the land they currently own. What they should do is bring better management to current holdings.

Johnson wants to meet with upset ranchers

Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., said he is willing to meet with ranchers to discuss their concerns about their grazing activities on federal grasslands that would be part of a 48,000 wilderness area near the Badlands National Park. Johnson said during a conference call with reporters Wednesday morning that his bill to create the federal wilderness -- the first on national grasslands -- will protect the land without infringing on the existing rights of landowners to graze livestock and control noxious weeds and prairie dogs. Most of the land already is managed as an area without roads, he said, so the wilderness designation will extend that protection in law. "It is managed as wilderness country now, and this does not take away from that," Johnson said. "If anything, the rights ranchers have now will be improved under this wilderness bill."...more

Senator, grazing was an after thought in the Wilderness Act; a compromise to get the bill passed. It is stuck under the Special Provisions section of the bill and is considered by many to be a nonconforming use.

There is no grazing occurring on the original allotments in the Gila Wilderness. Come on Senator, look what wilderness has done to ranchers all over the west.

And I'm sick and tired of having politicians, environmentalists and the media tell me grazing, border security, etc. "will be improved" under wilderness. It's a distortion of the facts used to bamboozle the local folks and get them to agree to wilderness designations.

Well, the local folks are catching on and you're going to need a new ruse to fool them.

Shooter at BLM employees pleads not guilty

A man who allegedly shot at two Bureau of Land Management agents pleaded not guilty during an arraignment in Cochise County Superior Court Monday. Tracy Levi Thibodeaux, 69, is charged with two counts of attempted murder and two counts of aggravated assault with a rifle against Tim Rinehart and Mark Brunk on June 5. Sheriff's deputies had apprehended Thibodeaux on Thursday, June 10. He had evaded arrest until that Thursday morning when Cochise County Sheriff's deputies took him into custody without incident near the post office in Bowie. Thibodeaux was booked into the Cochise County Jail on two counts of attempted murder and two counts of aggravated assault, said Carol Capas, spokesperson for the sheriff's office. On June 5, Thibodeaux reportedly opened fire on two BLM law enforcement rangers after they followed his white pickup in the area of Happy Camp Canyon and Apache Pass Road near Bowie. The rangers, unhurt by the rifle shots, continued to follow Thibodeaux until he eventually returned down the same road, at which point the two rangers in pursuit opened fire on him and the truck, Capas said. Thibodeaux continued down Happy Camp Canyon to his residence, where multiple law enforcement agencies, including the Department of Public Safety, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and U. S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement eventually gathered and an armed standoff ensued with a woman, 48-year-old Kimberly Adgurson...more

Bears attack camper, goat at Philmont Scout Ranch

One bear was killed and conservation officers were looking for another bear Wednesday following separate incidents in which bears scratched a camper and injured a goat at Philmont Scout Ranch. The Department of Game and Fish set a trap for a bear that ran off after it jumped on a tent and took a swipe at a camper at about 5:40 a.m. Wednesday. The adult camper received a deep scratch to his face and was treated at the Philmont health facility. Another man in the tent was not injured. The men had secured their garbage and food by suspending it in a tree and had stored their toiletries and clothes they wore while cooking away from the tent. At about 6 a.m., another bear attacked a goat near the Philmont museum and had the animal in its mouth when a staff member heard the commotion and was able to chase the bear off. Another staff member tracked down the bear and killed it. The bear attack on the camper was the second bear-human attack in the past four days. Monday, a bear pulled a young woman from her tent while she was sleeping with two companions in a tent in the Sandia Mountains. That bear was trapped and subsequent tests for rabies were negative.The bear that attacked the Philmont camper also will be killed and tested for rabies, as required by state law...Press Release

English trail riders make it to northern New Mexico

Last weekend, James Locke and his crew were staying at Conchas Lake in northeastern New Mexico. By this weekend, they hope to be near the New Mexico-Colorado state line. They took off in early April from Fort Belknap, a couple of hours west of Dallas-Fort Worth. They plan to finish in Montana in early October. About a dozen riders, almost all English, are rotating in and out throughout the expedition. Locke and company – they call their trek the Long Ride – are following in the footsteps of two Western pioneers, Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving. The duo blazed a cattle trail nearly 150 years ago through Texas, New Mexico and points north. Locke, who has led expeditions around the world for nearly 30 years, was intrigued about the Goodnight-Loving Trail after reading about the trailblazers and watching the Lonesome Dove miniseries. A driver of a supply vehicle quit after just a few days. "It wasn't his cup of tea," Locke said. One horse, suffering an injured hock, was sent back to its owner. A few riders have suffered heatstroke as temperatures have climbed as high as 115 degrees. Last week, a hail and sheets of rain pounded the riders. A nearby rancher rescued the riders and horses, but tents and photo equipment were damaged...more

Song Of The Day #349

Staying out west, Ranch Radio presents Louise Massey & Her Westerners performing Bunkhouse Jamboree.

I've written before about Louise Massey and her two brothers who were raised on a ranch near Roswell, NM. Go here for that.

The tune is available on their 22 track CD Louise Massey and the Westerners, Ridin' High 1933-1941.

'Cross-border gunfire' raises Texas security fears

A deadly shootout between gunmen and Mexican police that left seven bullet holes in El Paso City Hall has renewed calls for tighter border security, even as local authorities say little can be done to stop stray bullets from crossing the U.S.-Mexican border. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott wrote President Barack Obama on Wednesday to say Tuesday's "cross-border gunfire" was more proof that the state "is under constant assault from illegal activity threatening a porous border." Mexican authorities said the shootout began between police and armed suspects in Ciudad Juarez — a city plagued by drug violence just across the Rio Grande from El Paso — as officers were trying to investigate a vehicle with no license plates in a border-area parking lot within view of El Paso City Hall. Police and the suspects exchanged at least 40 shots, and El Paso police believe seven of those bullets flew over the border — traveling more than a half-mile — and hit city hall. No one was injured in El Paso, but a Mexican federal police officer and a bystander in Juarez were killed. In his letter to Obama, Abbott said "good fortune" prevented any injuries when a single bullet crashed through a ninth-floor office window but insisted the incident was evidence of the need for more border security. "Luck and good fortune are not effective border enforcement policies," Abbott wrote. "The shocking reality of cross-border gunfire proves the cold reality: American lives are at risk."...more

Official says 'gamble' on 'virtual' fence didn't pay off

The U.S. official in charge of the troubled effort to seal the U.S.-Mexico border said Wednesday that the recent wave of deadly violence in the region is a sign that his efforts are bearing fruit. "I would not say it is a sign of success," said Mark Borkowski, executive director of the Secure Border Initiative (SBI) at the Department of Homeland Security. "The increase in violence is a symptom that the border is more secure, because it is a reaction to it."...more

Following his logic, would we conclude that if the violence subsided the border would be less secure?

The article continues:

Speaking at the Aspen Security Forum, Mr. Borkowski sought to explain the delays and cost overruns that have beset his office's highest- profile program, dubbed "SBInet" — a $1.1 billion "virtual fence" that would use remote sensors, radar and other technology to monitor and secure the southwest border. He said that SBInet was "a put all your eggs in one basket kind of a move" and a "reasonable gamble," given the urgency of the problem. "We did not do our due diligence on what the right answer was" to the challenge of using technology to monitor the most remote and inhospitable stretches of the border, he said. Instead, "We decided to use the power of competition" to try to identify those answers. "The gamble didn't pay off," he said.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Power lines top western governors’ agenda

New transmission lines are critical to developing the alternative electricity production needed to meet demand in the coming years, governors of states in the West said Monday. The need for new energy development and dangers of climate change topped the agenda at the annual meeting of the Western Governors Association, where participants recognized that more renewable energy is a priority that will require considerable private investment. About half of the governors in the West are participating in the event. The governors want to find a way to fast-track the construction of expensive, lengthy transmission lines to carry wind and solar power from rural to large urban areas. But a conflict exists over the placement of such lines. Environmentalists don’t want the lines dissecting national forests, and many private landowners are also resistant. Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, who chairs the association, said without new lines there won’t be much more new energy development. The lines must be placed on federal public land that dominates much of the region, and traditional delays in permits and other disputes must end, he said...more

Protecting wildlife will require collaboration, Western governors told

he challenge for state leaders, said Idaho wildlife professor Michael Scott, is to protect landscapes large enough to be ecologically significant while at the same time keeping those lands economically viable. The task will require transboundary partnerships, he said, because local solutions fail in a world of global problems. Within this century, he said, the country's population is expected to balloon to half a billion - and managing for wildlife will be a tremendous challenge in that world. Scott, who also is a research scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey, recommends finding ways to generate public support for wild corridors. Large landowners will be necessary partners with government, he said, because "this is a changing landscape; it's moving from ‘wildlife friendly' to ‘wildlife challenged.' " Down in Colorado and New Mexico, the governors already have signed an agreement creating corridors for elk along their shared border. Canada and the Pacific states have joined in a collaborative effort to protect their shared ocean. Up in Montana and British Columbia, leaders have crafted plans to protect the transboundary wilds around Glacier and Waterton national parks. Future agreements must focus on the best habitat, Scott said, rather than on the high mountain scenery usually associated with protected places. "We have done a heck of a job protecting rocks and ice," Scott said, but in the process have left our parks isolated - too small and too fragmented to sustain natural systems...more

These articles should tell you who is calling the shots at the WGA. Unemployment is up, economy is down and state sovereignty is being trampled each day, and they are worrying about wildlife corridors.

Besides, what happens when one of those renewable energy pipelines needs to go through one of their wildlife corridors? Will they still be calling for environmental short cuts?

The Windsurfer's Windfall - Kerry Cashes In

Last year, in his ongoing struggle to remain relevant, Senator John Kerry (D-Mass) took the legislative reins on the contentious issue of climate change. Now Kerry, against the backdrop of an oil-soaked Gulf, is hoping to ride the current crisis to push his American Power Act to the top of the Democrats' legislative agenda and propel himself back into the national spotlight. Kerry has campaigned unusually hard for the bill, berating Senate colleagues on both sides of the aisle, often cornering and lecturing them on the imminent perils of climate change and the necessity of his bill...According to Senator Kerry's statements for the last fiscal year, as of December 31, 2009, he and his wife owned large stakes in numerous prominent energy companies, many of which are currently lobbying Congress for legislation aimed at energy reform and stand the most to gain from passage of the APA. Yeatman and Lott singled out GE, BP, ConocoPhillips, Dupont, and Exelon as among the big winners in the APA scheme. GE in particular has been a staunch advocate of the APA. Surprisingly, or not, Kerry holds about $20 million worth of investments in all of these companies, among a slew of other energy sector giants...From these investments Kerry accrued anywhere from $753,000 to roughly $5 million in unearned income from dividends and capital gains in the last year alone. In one instance, Senator Kerry sold his stake in Apache Corp. for a nifty dividend of up to $1 million...more

Settlement reached in large N.D. saltwater spill

A settlement has been reached in a federal lawsuit by two ranchers over damages from a million-gallon saltwater spill in what has been called the worst oil patch environmental accident in North Dakota history. Attorneys for both sides said Tuesday they finished details on the settlement and would file documents in federal court to have the case dismissed. Terms of the settlement are confidential, the attorneys said. The 2008 lawsuit against Zenergy stems from an early 2006 spill of nearly 1 million gallons of saltwater, a byproduct of drilling for oil, from a pipeline. While most of the saltwater was quickly captured, enough of it spilled into a stock pond, a beaver dam and Charbonneau Creek southwest of Williston, N.D., to kill fish and turtles for miles and make the fresh water unfit for cattle or people...more

Groups Speak Out on FDA’s Antibiotic Proposal

The Food and Drug Administration's proposal to limit antibiotic use in food-animal production is drawing more fire. The basic premise of the proposed guidelines is to limit the use of antibiotics deemed “medically important antibiotics for humans”. The reasoning, which is highly debated, relates to the prospect of trying to address antibiotic resistance. "Top scientists with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health recently told a U.S. House committee that there is no scientific study linking antibiotic use in food-animal production with antibiotic resistance," cites the National Pork Producers Council. Among the FDA provisions is a significant increase in prescriptions and veterinarian oversight or consultation required for antibiotic use on the farm. But there is serious concern as to whether there are even enough veterinarians available for such oversight, as the shortage of food-animal veterinarians is well known and growing. The National Cattlemen's Beef Association also defended current producer practices, noting the industry's Beef Quality Assurance program has been training cattle ranchers about the safe and appropriate use of antibiotics for more than two decades. The U.S. pork industry has a similar program called Pork Quality Assurance Plus, which the FDA has reviewed and approved. "Producers work with their veterinarians to develop animal health plans that include the judicious use of antibiotics," says NPPC President Sam Carney...more

Boxing: Rickard brought famous fight to Reno

Tex Rickard dreamt big and did big things. He chased gold in the Klondike and Nevada, sought diamonds in South Africa, built a cattle empire in South America and brought boxing out of the back alleys and smoky saloons and into the mainstream of American society. In his heyday, he promoted fights so big that even he remarked, "I ain't seen anything like it," when more than 100,000 people, including an estimated 2,000 millionaires, attended one of his fights. Most of all, the man who got his start in Nevada was a leader, the man who would step forward when others held back and be willing to let the chips fall as they may. Former heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey, a principal in Rickard's greatest successes, called him "the greatest fight promoter of all time" and "as great a man as I ever met." He was born George Lewis Rickard in 1871 to Bob and Lucretia Rickard in Clay County, Mo. His family's nearest neighbor was Mrs. Zerelda Samuels, whose sons were Jesse and Frank James, the notorious outlaws...more

Baxter Black - Food Deserts

Many of us in the food producing business are watching with a suspicious eye, Mrs. Obama’s pending federally funded efforts to combat obesity in children. Our skepticism is justified because every special interest group from global warming to UFO conspirators somehow wind up casting blame on modern agriculture. Nevertheless, obesity apparently is a serious problem and worthy of attention. Her “Let’s Move!” web page states that “6.5 million children (live) more than a mile away from a supermarket. These communities are now called “Food Deserts.” More than a mile! It is obvious that Mrs. Obama and I live in different realities. I would guess many who read this column live more than a mile from a supermarket. I can picture a rancher’s wife twenty miles north of Ekalaka, MT, a farmer’s wife in Oyen, Alberta who gets snowed in for 3 days, or a family riding out a hurricane, flood and 5-day power outage on the South Carolina coast. Food Desert? I guess what is most unsettling for me, is the helplessness Mrs. Obama ascribes to the urban parents of obese children. She assumes they are incapable of planning a trip to the store, teaching their children discipline, managing a budget and, God forbid, having to walk, drive or bus more than a mile of couple times a week to shop. Truthfully, no one expects them to grow a garden or can their own food. But I would bet that if these helpless parents had a grocery store right next door it still wouldn’t decrease children’s obesity...more

The real aridity is in the minds of these DC do gooders.

Song Of The Day #348

Staying out west this week Ranch Radio brings you Saddle Serenade by Johnny Bond & The Red River Valley Boys. I sure like the way they handle the yodel break.

You will find the tune on his 31 track CD Country & Western: Standard Trascriptions.

Gunfire from Mexico pelts El Paso City Hall, enters office

Several gunshots apparently fired from Juárez hit El Paso City Hall on Tuesday afternoon. No one was hurt, but nerves were rattled at City Hall in what is thought to be the first cross-border gunfire during a drug war that has engulfed Juárez since 2008. El Paso police spokesman Darrel Petry said investigators do not think City Hall was intentionally targeted but rather was struck by stray shots. "It does appear the rounds may have come from an incident in Juárez," Petry said. City Hall, whose east and west sides are covered by glass windows, sits on a hill about a half-mile north of the Rio Grande. About 4:50 p.m., city workers were going about a regular day when a bullet penetrated a ninth-floor west side window of the office of Assistant City Manager Pat Adauto. Police said the bullet flew through the window, then through an interior wall before hitting a picture frame and stopping. Petry said an inspection by police and city staff found that City Hall was hit by seven gunshots, which appeared to be losing velocity when they struck. Six of the rounds hit stucco walls on the north and south sides of the building. Two bullets were recovered -- the one that went through the window and one that bounced off an exterior wall. The size of the bullets was not disclosed...more

Mexico: Where Bullets Are Intimidating the Ballot

Last Friday, June 25, gubernatorial candidate Rodolfo Torre raised both his arms to the sky in front of 15,000 cheering white-shirted supporters in a baseball stadium minutes from the Rio Grande. After he promised security in his violence-ridden border state of Tamaulipas, the crowd erupted to his campaign anthem, sung to the catchy tune of the smash hit "I Gotta Feeling" by U.S. pop band Black Eyed Peas. They had reason for celebration. Opinion polls all concurred that the mustachioed physician would win the July 4 election by a landslide of more than 30 points. But on Monday, as Torre left the state capital to conclude his campaign, assailants showered his convoy with gunfire from automatic rifles and heavy-caliber weapons, killing him instantly. Army commanders said the attack bore all the signs of the Zetas, a paramilitary drug gang that was born in the state. Mexico's highest-profile political assassination since the 1994 murder of presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio was a blow not only to Torre's supporters but to the nation's entire ailing democracy. A key problem is that many of the polls are in the states hardest hit by the relentless drug war, including Chihuahua, home to Ciudad Juárez, which has a reputation for being one of the most dangerous cities in the world, and Sinaloa, the cradle of Mexican organized crime. Tamaulipas, a state that shares a border with Texas and has three of the busiest land cargo-crossing points into the U.S., has this year been engulfed by bloody battles between the Zetas and their old masters in the Gulf cartel...more

Fewer troops coming to NM border than in previous deployment

The increase in troops to protect New Mexico's border with Mexico will only be a fraction of what it was during Operation Jump Start. During the height of Operation Jump Start, which was conducted from June 2006 until August 2008, there were about 1,000 National Guard soldiers in New Mexico. They built bollards to try to deter illegal immigrants from coming into the U.S. from Mexico, they built portions of a border fence near Columbus, and they provided surveillance and patrol along the border. But this time, only 72 National Guard soldiers - all coming from the New Mexico National Guard - will be added at the border. Currently, there are as many as 100 state National Guard troops at the border on a daily basis. The soldiers to be assigned to the New Mexico border will account for only six percent of the 1,200 National Guard soldiers that President Obama has ordered to patrol the 1,954 miles of shared border the U.S. has with Mexico. But Bingaman said the additional troops, combined with added National Guard troops that Gov. Bill Richardson sent to the border in early April, could make New Mexico's border safer. "While we have made important strides in reducing the number of people illegally entering our country, we still have some more work to do when it comes to addressing drug-related criminal activity along the border," Bingaman said. "This increased National Guard presence will be helpful as we continue to find permanent solutions to securing our border communities." But Bingaman added he and other members of New Mexico's congressional delegation will be keeping close watch on the border to ensure that there is no increase in activity as a result of stepped-up enforcement in neighboring states. "We want to make sure there is no more shift of illegal activity," McCartin said...more

Let's see, Arizona gets 524 agents and NM get 72.

Bingaman wants to designate a quarter of a million acres near the border as wilderness where the Border Patrol can't use motorized vehicles.

Increased enforcement in Arizona, when combined with Bingaman's wilderness designations, will definitely lead to a "shift of illegal activity" and the Senator knows it.

I continue to hope he will drop the band-aide changes he's offered so far, and instead adopt the compromise proposed by the Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce which has been endorsed by many important groups and entities.

Inside the tunnel: Boys used in drug-smuggling route

Mexican drug cartels used boys and small adults to dig a tunnel crawling the width of the Rio Grande. Through it, smugglers would bring contraband to the United States, officials said. Border Patrol agents thought the river would be an obstacle to building tunnels in El Paso and east of the city. They were wrong. Agents were surprised Friday to find a cross-border tunnel extending underneath the Rio Grande from the Mexican side to a maze of storm drains on the U.S. side. "El Paso sector hasn't seen anything like this before," said Joe Perez, a Border Patrol agent at the site. The El Paso sector covers all of New Mexico and West Texas. The Border Patrol has discovered more than 100 tunnels along the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona and California. The man-made tunnel is the first of its kind in the El Paso sector. Smugglers dug the tunnel two feet under the Rio Grande, Border Patrol agents said. Because the riverbed is covered in concrete, water did not enter the tunnel, which allowed smugglers to continue excavating dirt. Perez said the Border Patrol had not noticed the man-made tunnel before because smugglers would not come out of it near the border. Instead, they would navigate the arteries of the storm-drain system of El Paso. These spacious tunnels lead to places such as Paisano Drive and the University of Texas at El Paso. ..more


570 F. 3d 1130, reversed and remanded.


No. 09–475. Argued April 27, 2010—Decided June 21, 2010 _______________________________________

The Plant Protection Act (PPA) provides that the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture may issue regulations “to prevent the introduction of plant pests into the United States or the dissemination of plant pests within the United States.” 7 U. S. C. §7711(a). Pursuant to that grant of authority, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) promulgated regulations that presume genetically engineered plants to be “plant pests”—and thus “regulated articles” under the PPA—until APHIS determines otherwise. However, any person may petition APHIS for a determination that a regulated article does not present a plant pest risk and therefore should not be subject to the applicable regulations. APHIS may grant such a petition in whole or in part.
In determining whether to grant nonregulated status to a genetically engineered plant variety, APHIS must comply with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), which requires federal agencies “to the fullest extent possible” to prepare a detailed environmental impact statement (EIS) for “every … major Federal actio[n] significantly affecting the quality of the human environment.” 42 U. S. C. §4332(2)(C). The agency need not complete an EIS if it finds, based on a shorter statement known as an environmental assessment (EA), that the proposed action will not have a significant environmental impact.
This case involves a challenge to APHIS’s decision to approve the unconditional deregulation of Roundup Ready Alfalfa (RRA), a variety of alfalfa that has been genetically engineered to tolerate the herbicide Roundup. Petitioners are the owner and the licensee of the intellectual property rights to RRA. In response to petitioners’ deregulation request, APHIS prepared a draft EA and solicited public comments on its proposed course of action. Based on its EA and the comments submitted, the agency determined that the introduction of RRA would not have any significant adverse impact on the environment. Accordingly, APHIS decided to deregulate RRA unconditionally and without preparing an EIS. Respondents, conventional alfalfa growers and environmental groups, filed this action challenging that decision on the ground that it violated NEPA and other federal laws. The District Court held, inter alia, that APHIS violated NEPA when it deregulated RRA without first completing a detailed EIS. To remedy that violation, the court vacated the agency’s decision completely deregulating RRA; enjoined APHIS from deregulating RRA, in whole or in part, pending completion of the EIS; and entered a nationwide permanent injunction prohibiting almost all future planting of RRA during the pendency of the EIS process. Petitioners and the Government appealed, challenging the scope of the relief granted but not disputing that APHIS’s deregulation decision violated NEPA. The Ninth Circuit affirmed, concluding, among other things, that the District Court had not abused its discretion in rejecting APHIS’s proposed mitigation measures in favor of a broader injunction.
1. Respondents have standing to seek injunctive relief, and petitioners have standing to seek this Court’s review of the Ninth Circuit’s judgment affirming the entry of such relief. Pp. 7–14.
(a) Petitioners have constitutional standing to seek review here. Article III standing requires an injury that is (i) concrete, particularized, and actual or imminent, (ii) fairly traceable to the challenged action, and (iii) redressable by a favorable ruling. See Horne v. Flores , 557 U. S. ___, ___. Petitioners satisfy all three criteria. Petitioners are injured by their inability to sell or license RRA to prospective customers until APHIS completes the EIS. Because that injury is caused by the very remedial order that petitioners challenge on appeal, it would be redressed by a favorable ruling from this Court. Respondents nevertheless contend that petitioners lack standing because their complained-of injury is independently caused by a part of the District Court’s order that petitioners failed to challenge, the vacatur of APHIS’s deregulation decision. That argument fails for two independent reasons. First, one of the main disputes between the parties throughout this litigation has been whether the District Court should have adopted APHIS’s proposed judgment, which would have replaced the vacated deregulation decision with an order expressly authorizing the continued sale and planting of RRA. Accordingly, if the District Court had adopted APHIS’s proposed judgment, there would still be authority for the continued sale of RRA notwithstanding the District Court’s vacatur, because there would, in effect, be a new deregulation decision. Second, petitioners in any case have standing to challenge the part of the District Court’s order enjoining a partial deregulation. Respondents focus their argument on the part of the judgment that enjoins planting, but the judgment also states that before granting the deregulation petition, even in part, the agency must prepare an EIS. That part of the judgment inflicts an injury not also caused by the vacatur. Pp. 7–11.
(b) Respondents have constitutional standing to seek injunctive relief from the complete deregulation order at issue here. The Court disagrees with petitioners’ argument that respondents have failed to show that any of them is likely to suffer a constitutionally cognizable injury absent injunctive relief. The District Court found that respondent farmers had established a reasonable probability that their conventional alfalfa crops would be infected with the engineered Roundup Ready gene if RRA were completely deregulated. A substantial risk of such gene flow injures respondents in several ways that are sufficiently concrete to satisfy the injury-in-fact prong of the constitutional standing analysis. Moreover, those harms are readily attributable to APHIS’s deregulation decision, which gives rise to a significant risk of gene flow to non-genetically-engineered alfalfa varieties. Finally, a judicial order prohibiting the planting or deregulation of all or some genetically engineered alfalfa would redress respondents’ injuries by eliminating or minimizing the risk of gene flow to their crops. Pp. 11–14.
2. The District Court abused its discretion in enjoining APHIS from effecting a partial deregulation and in prohibiting the planting of RRA pending the agency’s completion of its detailed environmental review. Pp. 14–22.
(a) Because petitioners and the Government do not argue otherwise, the Court assumes without deciding that the District Court acted lawfully in vacating the agency’s decision to completely deregulate RRA. The Court therefore addresses only the injunction prohibiting APHIS from deregulating RRA pending completion of the EIS, and the nationwide injunction prohibiting almost all RRA planting during the pendency of the EIS process. P. 14.
(b) Before a court may grant a permanent injunction, the plaintiff must satisfy a four-factor test, demonstrating: “(1) that it has suffered an irreparable injury; (2) that remedies available at law, such as monetary damages, are inadequate to compensate for that injury; (3) that, considering the balance of hardships between the plaintiff and defendant, a remedy in equity is warranted; and (4) that the public interest would not be disserved by a permanent injunction.” eBay Inc. v. MercExchange, L. L. C. , 547 U. S. 388 . This test fully applies in NEPA cases. See Winter v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 555 U. S. ___, ___. Thus, the existence of a NEPA violation does not create a presumption that injunctive relief is available and should be granted absent unusual circumstances. Pp. 15–16.
(c) None of the four factors supports the District Court’s order enjoining APHIS from partially deregulating RRA during the pendency of the EIS process. Most importantly, respondents cannot show that they will suffer irreparable injury if APHIS is allowed to proceed with any partial deregulation, for at least two reasons. First, if and when APHIS pursues a partial deregulation that arguably runs afoul of NEPA, respondents may file a new suit challenging such action and seeking appropriate preliminary relief. Accordingly, a permanent injunction is not now needed to guard against any present or imminent risk of likely irreparable harm. Second, a partial deregulation need not cause respondents any injury at all; if its scope is sufficiently limited, the risk of gene flow could be virtually nonexistent. Indeed, the broad injunction entered below essentially pre-empts the very procedure by which APHIS could determine, independently of the pending EIS process for assessing the effects of a complete deregulation, that a limited deregulation would not pose any appreciable risk of environmental harm. Pp. 16–23.
(d) The District Court also erred in entering the nationwide injunction against planting RRA, for two independent reasons. First, because it was inappropriate for the District Court to foreclose even the possibility of a partial and temporary deregulation, it follows that it was inappropriate to enjoin planting in accordance with such a deregulation decision. Second, an injunction is a drastic and extraordinary remedy, which should not be granted as a matter of course. See, e.g. , Weinberger v. Romero-Barcelo , 456 U. S. 305 . If, as respondents now concede, a less drastic remedy (such as partial or complete vacatur of APHIS’s deregulation decision) was sufficient to redress their injury, no recourse to the additional and extraordinary relief of an injunction was warranted. Pp. 23–24.
(e) Given the District Court’s errors, this Court need not address whether injunctive relief of some kind was available to respondents on the record below. Pp. 24–25.
570 F. 3d 1130, reversed and remanded.
ALITO, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and SCALIA, KENNEDY, THOMAS, GINSBURG, and SOTOMAYOR, JJ., joined. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion. BREYER, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Harry Reid's high-stakes climate bill gamble

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is planning a high-risk, high-stakes strategy for bringing climate and energy legislation to the floor ahead of the August recess. The gamble: yoking a bipartisan, fast-track measure to overhaul offshore drilling rules with a broad, contentious bill capping greenhouse gas emissions that otherwise would have almost no chance of passage on its own. Reid’s own Democrats are mixed on the strategy for notching 60 votes. Some argue that public perception of fossil fuels in the wake of the BP oil spill will sway enough of the party’s swing votes and open Republicans to attack if they oppose the measure as their reelection campaigns head into the homestretch. Thus far, Reid can’t count on all Democrats coalescing around this approach. Several say they are fearful that hitching a popular oil reform bill to a big, unwieldy climate plan will just sink legislation that could otherwise serve as a quick, easy and politically popular win...more

Ban begins this week on sale of phosphate-laden dishwasher soap in Oregon, Washington

Oregon and Washington are banning the sale of phosphate-laden dishwasher detergent starting Thursday. Familiar brands are still available but they will have lower levels of phosphates. Experts say phosphates promote plant growth and may degrade water quality in lakes and streams. "It's more effective and less expensive to decrease what goes down the drain than it is to treat it at the plant. This way, we're all part of the solution," said Washington Rep. Timm Ormsby, D-Spokane, to the the Kitsap Sun. Ormbsy sponsored the 2006 bill to limit phosphates in dishwasher detergents. The ban has already been in place in Spokane and Whatcom counties in Washington state since 2008. The Oregon Legislature passed a law in 2009 that lowered the phosphorous limit for automatic dishwasher detergents from 8.7 percent to 0.5 percent. Dennis Griesing, vice president of government affairs for the American Cleaning Institute, said low-phosphate formulas available in 2008 did not work as well in hard water, so some shoppers in Spokane had been crossing into Idaho to buy dishwasher soap with phosphates...more some shoppers in Spokane had been crossing into Idaho to buy dishwasher soap with phosphates...

So you can cross state lines with phosphates but you can't cross state lines with raw milk.

You can use a phosphate detergent to wash your milk glass, but you can't put raw milk in your milk glass.

I'm sure this makes sense to government officials.

Here's what makes sense to me: This November, the strongest detergent available to man should be applied to these idiots.

Group seeks endangered listing for bumblebee from southern Oregon and northern California

The Society for Invertebrate Conservation and University of California at Davis entomologist Robbin Thorp formally petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the insect -- called a Franklin's bumblebee -- under the Endangered Species Act. Scott Hoffman Black, executive director of the of the Xerces Society in Portland, said the petition is part of an effort to reverse the decline of bumblebees and other native bees around the world due to habitat loss, pesticides and diseases spilling out of commercial greenhouses. The group is preparing petitions to protect other bumblebee species as well. The Franklin's bee was chosen for this petition because documentation of its decline is more detailed than for other species...more

Justices Extend Gun Owner Rights Nationwide

The Supreme Court held Monday that the Constitution's Second Amendment restrains government's ability to significantly limit "the right to keep and bear arms," advancing a recent trend by the John Roberts-led bench to embrace gun rights. By a narrow, 5-4 vote, the justices also signaled, however, that some limitations on the right could survive legal challenges. Writing for the court in a case involving restrictive laws in Chicago and one of its suburbs, Justice Samuel Alito said that the Second Amendment right "applies equally to the federal government and the states." The court was split along familiar ideological lines, with five conservative-moderate justices in favor of gun rights and four liberals opposed. Chief Justice Roberts voted with the majority...more

So, you can take your gun across state lines, but you better leave that raw milk at home.

You can view the opinion here.

NM game officers kill bear after attack

A 250-pound black bear was captured and killed Monday after the animal ate a dog and dragged a camper from her tent in the middle of the night at a picnic area. The male bear believed to be about 5 years old was shot after it was caught in a trap that officers set at the picnic area in the Sandia Mountains east of Albuquerque. Officers said the 20-year-old woman was camping Sunday with two male companions when the bear pulled her from the tent to get to food stored inside. The woman told authorities the bear released her after she punched it in the nose. She and the two men then ran for their truck, climbed on the roof and called for help. The woman sustained minor injuries to her hip and calves and was treated at University of New Mexico Hospital, authorities said. She was expected to recover...more

An eco-friendly floor finish – from cows

Andrew Meyer believes that he's found a "whey" to help Vermont's dairy farms by turning a cheesemaking byproduct into an eco-friendly wood finish. Like other water-based substitutes for traditional (oil-based) polyurethane, Vermont Natural Coatings' (VNC) PolyWhey dries fast and emits no toxic fumes. It releases very low levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), about one-quarter the amount released by some polyurethanes. Unlike other waterborne finishes, its hardness makes it a viable option for professional-grade work, experts say. Building Green, a private publisher that researches green building products and practices for contractors and policymakers, named PolyWhey one of its Top 10 products in 2008...more

FDA urging limited antibiotics in meat

The Food and Drug Administration is urging meat producers to limit the amount of antibiotics they give animals in response to public health concerns about the drugs. The FDA said the use of antibiotics in meat poses a "serious public health threat" because they create antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can infect humans who eat the meat. The agency is recommending that producers use the drugs judiciously, limiting their use unless they are medically necessary and only using them with the oversight of a veterinarian. "Developing strategies for reducing (antibiotic) resistance is critically important for protecting both public and animal health," the agency said in draft guidelines printed in the Federal Register on Monday. The agency said misuse and overuse of the drugs has led to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Antibiotics have been used in meat to kill pathogens for more than 50 years, and the FDA acknowledged that practice has had "tremendous benefits" to animal and human health. Of greater concern, the agency said, is when producers use antibiotics on healthy animals to speed growth and reduce feed costs. The agency is also concerned about antibiotics that are given continuously through feed or water to entire herds or flocks of animals. The agency said it is expecting to issue more specific guidelines in the near future. AP

Song Of The Day #347

Ranch Radio will head out west this week.

We'll begin with Gene Autry and his recording of Gallivantin' Galveston Gal.

This tune is from his 40 track, 2 CD collection The Essential Gene Autry.

Mexican governor candidate killed by gunmen, Calderon says assassination tied to drug gang violence

Just two days after singer Sergio Vega's murder rocked Mexico, the country reeled again Monday with the news that gunmen had assassinated Rodolfo Torre, the leading candidate for governor of a Mexican border state. Torre was ambushed by attackers as he headed to the airport in Tamaulipas, the Associated Press reported, a state ravaged by violent drug gangs. At least four people traveling with him were also killed. President Felipe Calderon condemned the murders in a televised press conference, warning against the efforts of organized crime to affect the country's elections...more

Killing Escalates Mexico Drug War

Although lower-level politicians have been killed by drug gangs, the killing of a gubernatorial candidate is a sign that cartels are increasingly willing to fight back against the government. The assassination was seen by many as evidence that Mexico could be going down the same road as Colombia, where drug cartels challenged the state through bombings and assassinations during the 1980s and 1990s in order to get the government to back off. Such a development would increase political instability in a nation of 105 million that shares a 2,000-mile border with the U.S. and is a top trade partner...more

524 Guard Soldiers Headed to Arizona-Mexico Border

Federal officials told Arizona's attorney general and a congresswoman on Monday that 524 of the 1,200 National Guard troops headed to the U.S. Mexican border will be deployed in the state by August or September. U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and Attorney General Terry Goddard, both Democrats, met with Obama administration officials in Tucson along with dozens of law enforcement officials and community leaders. The federal officials included John Brennan, deputy national security adviser for homeland security. Giffords spokesman C.J. Karamargin said the 524 troops are now being trained for deployment in August, and Goddard said two drone aircraft also will be used in Arizona...more

Decision on Guard troops criticized - 72 for NM

Fewer than half the National Guard soldiers the president is planning to put along the border will end up in Arizona...And even the 524 number is misleading, Brewer said Monday, noting that she was told in the 90-minute briefing there would be a "ramp up" period, and all 524 would only be here at the same time for about 120 days. Speaking for the Defense Department, Lt. Col. Robert Ditchey II confirmed the full deployment will be in place for only about four months. He said there will be a "steep ramp-up" early next month, peaking at 524 by October. But at the end of January there will be "a gradual ramp-down to mission completion on June 30, 2011." C.J. Karamargin, spokesman for U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., said Giffords was told 250 of the troops will be sent to Texas, 224 to California and 72 to New Mexico, and 130 have yet to be allocated...more

Monday, June 28, 2010

Plans for Colorado's new-energy economy get tangled in "green tape"

Politicians have been quick to pledge increasing use of clean energy and set ambitious production goals for solar, wind, biomass, geothermal and nuclear. Colorado lawmakers last spring upped the state's goal for renewable energy to 30 percent by 2020. Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff promises 50 percent by 2030. But when land managers and investors float plans for building wind farms or tapping geothermal energy or stringing new transmission lines or processing uranium for nuclear power, the potential impacts to neighbors stir passionate resistance, the regulatory maze lengthens, lawsuits stack up and the lofty talk of a brave new economy falls flat. Karen Alderman Harbert, president and chief executive of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for 21st Century Energy, says the layers of federal, state and local "green tape" hindering new energy projects are "a plague on our economy and our energy security and our environment." Harbert recently surveyed all the U.S. energy projects seeking licensing and siting approval and found 380 stalled or canceled "as a result of the abuse of the environmental permitting process." More than 40 percent of those are renewable-energy projects...more

Why wasn't Schultz Pass thinned?

The same area where the Schultz fire ignited and began burning heavily was due to be thinned three years ago, from Schultz Pass to the forest west of Timberline. But after an appeal from an environmental group delayed the project, the economy went into a tailspin, closing the window on starting the project. A similar project on the west side of the Peaks on Hart Prairie also has been appealed and will be delayed. The idea at Schultz Pass was to protect residents living near the Coconino National Forest from wildfires by thinning and starting low-intensity prescribed burns across a total of 9,660 acres. The Center for Biological Diversity appealed the project planned for Schultz Pass in 2007...more

Big Brother eyes your freedom to drink milk

A legal brief filed in a federal court dispute over the purchase and use of raw milk contends the court ultimately will determine "whether the people control the government, or whether the government controls the people." "The decision of this court will either ensure that people have fundamental rights endowed to them by their Creator, or that the people have no rights except those that are conferred upon them bygovernment," attorneys for the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund have argued in their newest brief, which opposes the government's demand that the case be dismissed. "Our research shows that this nation has a long history of consuming raw dairy products and that FDA's prohibition against taking raw dairy for human consumption across state lines runs counter to that national history," said fund President Pete Kennedy. The brief argues, contrary to allegations by the FDA, everyone has the right to travel across state lines with raw dairy products in their possession, that everyone has the right to consume the foods of their choice, that parents have the right to feed their children the foods of their choice and that all have the right to be responsible for their own health...more

Not so say the feds. In their brief they assert:

"There is no 'deeply rooted' historical tradition of unfettered access to foods of all kinds," states the document signed by U.S. Attorney Stephanie Rose, assistant Martha Fagg and Roger Gural, trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice. "Plaintiffs' assertion of a 'fundamental right to their own bodily and physical health, which includes what foods they do and do not choose to consume for themselves and their families' is similarly unavailing because plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to obtain any food they wish," thegovernment has argued.
Current FDA regulations basically ban taking raw milk across state lines, even for your own consumption.

Salted Popcorn Soon to Be a Federal Offense?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is planning an assault on salt. The government intends to set regulations to limit the use of salt intake by Americans. The regulations would set “legal limits on the amount of salt allowed in food products.” Of course, the excuse is “protection” of the health of the American people. Say the feds, limiting salt would prevent thousands of deaths from hypertension and heart disease. In a complicated process, the FDA would analyze the salt in spaghetti sauces, breads, and thousands of other products that make up the $600 billion food and beverage market. The main culprits behind the effort to have the FDA regulate salt is the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), which has led a fight against salt for 30 years. CSPI wants the FDA to revoke salt’s GRAS statue (Generally Recognized As Safe). CSPI is the undisputed leader among the food police. It has launched an all out campaign against the eating habits of Americans, attacking Italian, Chinese, fast foods, soft drinks, French fries, extra cheese pizza, and almost anything else that tastes good. You might guess that Michael Jacobson, the head of CSPI, is a rabid Vegetarian, horrified by nearly anything man chooses to eat. CSPI calls for taxes on foods with fat, sugar, and sodium (called the “Twinkie Tax”). They want government-mandated warning labels on high-fat, high-calorie menu items. They advocate that broadcasters be required to give free “equal time” to government-advertisements of “healthy” foods every time Burger King runs an ad. They want warning labels of contamination from fresh, unpasteurized juices. And they constantly threaten restaurants with legal action over nutritional labeling. CSPI opposed consumption of animals (no meat or fish) and all of their byproducts, including cheese, milk, and ice cream...more

Property case shows mining power in 1875 Nevada

An attempt by a Canada-based mining company to use eminent domain to obtain Elko-area ranch land is dividing northern Nevada miners and ranchers, and prompting reconsideration of 19th-century mining-friendly provisions in state law. In a legal case filed in Elko County District Court, Fronteer Development Inc. seeks to compel a property owner to sell about 12.5 square miles of the Big Springs Ranch, a spread of more than 59 square miles at the eastern flank of the Pequop Mountains. The land about 30 miles southeast of Wells is currently leased to Dixie Valley Cattle for grazing. The case highlights laws dating back some 135 years that make mining a “paramount interest” to the state and gives mining companies eminent domain rights similar to governments seeking to take land for public use. The case pits the pro-mining provisions of the state’s eminent domain statutes against legal restrictions adopted in 2008 due to the People’s Initiative to Stop the Taking of Our Land. Kermitt Waters, a prominent Las Vegas lawyer who backed the PISTOL initiative, is representing owners of Big Springs Ranch, including southern Nevada businessmen Ray Koroghli...more

Court tosses $1.25 million award in ranching feud

Some fences make good neighbors, but others lead to ranching feuds that grow so bitter, the Texas Supreme Court has to step in. This legal issue harkens to the 2000 drought, when the Colorado River slowed to a trickle, allowing 13 head of Randy Reynolds' cattle to walk along the dry riverbed and onto an adjacent San Saba County ranch, where they were rounded up and sold for $5,327 without Reynolds' knowledge. His neighbor, Thomas Bennett Jr., avoided spending up to 10 years in jail when he was acquitted of felony theft charges. But a civil jury found that Bennett's actions amounted to cattle theft and ordered him to pay his neighbor $5,327 for the sold cattle. The jury also slapped Bennett with $1.25 million in punitive damages for "reprehensible" behavior that included allegations of attempted blackmail, bribery, witness tampering and doctored evidence by Bennett or associates, according to testimony and court documents. The 3rd Court of Appeals in Austin later approved the huge punitive damages award, concluding that "Texans know better than to steal cattle and then attempt to subvert the legal system to cover their tracks, and can fairly expect...severe penalties for such acts."...more

Two Census Bureau managers fired for creating at least 10,000 bogus questionnaires

Two Census Bureau managers from a Brooklyn field office were fired after their bosses found they faked household surveys to meet deadlines, the Daily News learned. Instead of pounding the pavement and knocking on doors, the corner-cutting people-counters mined the phone book and Internet to make up answers to questionnaires, regional director Tony Farthing said. Census officials in Washington only admitted to a string of incomplete forms and poor tracking in disclosing the firings Friday afternoon. But Farthing corroborated worker accounts to the Daily News that managers Alvin Aviles and Sonya Merritt began dummying up responses in the final crush to finish the surveys, which field workers are supposed to compile from in-person household visits...more

Man struck by lightning is attacked by bear

Some guys have all the luck. And then there’s Rick Oliver, who might be one of the unluckiest men in North Carolina, if not the world. Oliver was mauled by a bear in his otherwise peaceful front yard a few weeks ago. “It was like getting struck by lightning,” he said. Turns out, Oliver might be one of the few people in the world capable of accurately making the that analogy. And for Oliver, 51, the two incidents seem to go hand in hand. Oliver was struck by lightning in 2006. Ever since then, he’s had trouble sleeping, he says. On restless nights, he tends to putter about his farm, checking on his chickens, working on his tractors and, as he was in the wee hours of June 3, fixing up his Chevy Malibu. About 2 a.m., he heard a distant rustling on his 17-acre spread in an unincorporated sliver of Wake County between Cary and Raleigh. As he turned to investigate, he was dealt a heavy blow. “I heard this strange huffing,” Oliver said. “And the next thing I know I had been run over and stepped on by a bear.”...more

Maybe my luck isn't so bad after all.

Song Of The Day #346

It's Swingin' Monday on Ranch Radio, where we try to get your heart pumping and your blood flowing for the week.

Today's selection is by Pirates of the Mississippi, where for once they reached back for that traditional sound and swing out on Too Much.

You will find the tune on their 12 track Best Of CD.

MEXICO MAYHEM: Drug Violence Claims 20

Gunmen murdered nine people at a drug rehabilitation center in northern Mexico, while 10 other people were reported killed in drug-related violence in the country, officials said. The gunmen entered the Fuerza Para Vivir drug treatment center in Gomez Palacio, a city in the northern state of Durango, around 1:40 p.m. on Saturday and opened fire, killing nine people and wounding five others, police spokesmen told Efe. The drug rehabilitation center's owner, Roberto Mayoral, was among those killed, the Reforma newspaper reported. Gunmen employed by Mexico's drug cartels have attacked several drug treatment centers in recent months. Durango ranked third among Mexico's states last year in terms of homicides, with 734. A woman and four men were gunned down early Saturday at the Habana bar in Ciudad Juarez, a border city in the northern state of Chihuahua, prosecutors said. Gunmen opened fire on the table where the victims were sitting, a Chihuahua state Attorney General's Office spokesman told Efe. The gunmen managed to carry out the attack even though the bar is on El Trigal Plaza, one of the areas most watched by military and state police patrols. Ciudad Juarez, Mexico's murder capital, is located across the border from El Paso, Texas...more

Congresswoman Raises Red Flag on Hezbollah-Cartel Nexus on U.S. Border

Iran-tied terror group Hezbollah may be colluding with drug cartels along the U.S.-Mexico border, a Republican congresswoman warned, calling on Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to establish a special task force to figure out how to "clamp down" on this "national security" threat. The Lebanon-based group has long-standing and documented ties to South America and its drug gangs, but reports have recently surfaced that it may be expanding its influence to Mexico and the U.S. border. In her letter to Napolitano, Rep. Sue Myrick, R-N.C., called on Homeland Security to find out and report more on the extent of the problem. She cited several troubling developments that would point to Hezbollah creeping closer to and inside the United States, with the help of Mexican drug gangs. Myrick outlined a complex set of potential threats and evidence of their existence. She said "Iranian agents and members of Hezbollah" are thought to be learning Spanish in Hugo Chavez-run Venezuela before trying to obtain false documents to enter the United States as purported Mexicans. She said Hezbollah, known for its tunnel-digging skill, could be receiving drug money from cartel operations in exchange for help forging better tunnels across the U.S. border for trafficking. She said gang members in prisons in the American southwest are starting to show up with tattoos in Farsi, implying a "Persian influence that can likely be traced back to Iran and its proxy army, Hezbollah."...more

You can read Myrick's letter here.

Five gunmen killed near border in Ciudad Mier battle

Authorities are reporting that five gunmen were killed in a gun battle south of the border in Ciudad Mier. Mexico's Ministry of National Defense (SEDENA) reported that the deadly shootout took place around 11:50 a.m. Thursday. In a statement released over the weekend, SEDENA officials said soldiers were patrolling an area near a PEMEX facility when they came under fire. SEDENA officials reported that five of the attacking gunmen were killed in the battle. Authorities seized nine high-powered rifles, more than 11,000 rounds of ammunition and two vehicles that had been reported stolen. Ciudad Mier is located in an area across the border from the Zapata and Starr County lines...more

Armed Assailants Fire Shots at Televisa Offices in Northern Mexico

A group of men armed with automatic rifles fired shots at the offices of Mexican TV network Televisa in the northern state of Coahuila, in what was the second attack on media outlet in that state in less than a week, officials said. The Coahuila state Attorney General’s Office said a group of gunmen fired more than 160 rounds with AR-15 assault rifles and 9mm pistols Friday afternoon at the antenna and offices of Mexico’s main TV network in the city of Torreon. The AG office said the attack occurred when the employees were having their lunch break and that therefore no personnel were killed or injured by the gunshots, which caused only material damage. The prosecutors added that because the gunmen fired at the antenna, bullets also struck the top floors of a luxury apartment building located behind the installations...more

Famed Mexican Singer Gunned Down In Border State

Singer Sergio Vega ‘El Shaka’ was killed Saturday, while heading toward the San Miguel toll booth in Sinaloa, Mexico. Martin Gastelum, a spokesperson for the state Attorney General’s Office told the Associated Press that Vega was driving a red Cadillac when he and his translator were ambushed by a group of men in another vehicle. Vega was scheduled to perform Sunday night. His representative, Ana Luisa Gomez Vega told El Debate that a memorial for the singer will be held in Ciudad Obregon in the state of Sonora, where the Banda La Carbonera will perform the songs he loved...more

AZ Gov Jan Brewer’s Smart New Border Ad

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, who is up for election this November, is throwing her hat in YouTube campaign commercial ring. Brewer, perhaps taking a page from John McCain, filmed her new spot 80 miles from the AZ border in front of new signs erected by the Federal government this month warning visitors that traveling in the desert is not safe because it is a “active drug and human smuggling area” and that visitors may encounter armed vehicles. Says Brewer: Two weeks ago I met with President Obama, he promised that we would get word from his administration on what he would do to secure the border, well, we finally got the message…these signs…These signs warning people of danger and telling them to stay away…I’m 80 miles away from the border and only 30 miles away from Arizona’s capital. This is an outrage! Washington says our border is as safe as it’s ever been. Does this look safe to you?

Here's the video ad:

It’s your land ...

There is another land grab currently taking place in our country and our own citizens, who own this piece of federal land, are forbidden to enter it because the United States government has essentially handed control to criminals from another nation. There is nothing comical about this turf war. This fairly sizeable piece of land (3,500 acres) situated in taxpayer-funded Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge in southern Arizona, has officially been off-base to U.S. citizens since 2006. The reason? Marauding gangs of Mexican thugs have taken over and have essentially claimed their stake to a piece of land our government cannot control. Signs surrounding the area offer this grim warning: “Visitors may encounter armed criminals and smuggling vehicles travelling at a high rate of speed. Stay away from trash, clothing, backpacks and abandoned vehicles.” Compounding the issue is the difficulty U.S. Border Patrol and other agencies have had in policing the area due to environmental restrictions imposed by the federal government. These restrictions prohibit the Border Patrol from using vehicles to patrol the area, leaving agents to use horses and other arcane methods...more

Dem lawmakers feel the heat on border security

As the White House bolsters security along the U.S.-Mexico border while declaring that the region has never been safer, Democratic lawmakers are demanding further action, saying that they are feeling the heat from dissatisfied voters. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano this week laid out several new initiatives aimed at strengthening the federal government’s partnership with local law enforcement, and President Barack Obama requested $600 million in emergency border funds from Congress. But Arizona Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D) pointed to recent drug cartel threats against local law enforcement officials in her home state as evidence that the ongoing drug cartels are escalating the levels of violence along the border. If the U.S. fails to tighten border security, it could pay the price, said Kirkpatrick -- one of roughly a dozen lawmakers who, over the July Fourth recess, will likely face voters who are not satisfied with the status quo...more

Mexican cops retreat as violence rages on

Police are increasingly fleeing their posts in rural communities in the Mexican border state of Nuevo Leon after the killings of more than 60 officers in the area so far this year. Authorities blame warring drug traffickers for growing violence in the northern state which has registered more than 250 violent deaths so far in 2010, including 61 police officers, according to the Public Security Ministry. Agualeguas Mayor Guadalupe Garcia, said that state police had requested volunteers to be sent for training in Monterrey. "But they're all afraid, no one wants to be a police officer," he said...more

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

Class reunions -- aging gracefully

by Julie Carter

Summer - when class reunions reign and people travel great distances to reunite with former classmates they hope they recognize after decades.

Not unlike family reunions, alumni gatherings bring together all ages of people from all demographics with one sure thing in common - time spent in a classroom in a land and time far away from present "life" in progress.

This year was my daughter's 20th class reunion and my 40th. The differences are as comical as the similarities are notable.

When my class stepped off the bus at the conclusion of our senior trip in June 1970, we had nothing on our minds except this perfect, exciting, dynamic future ahead of us. We were sure of it.

It didn't even remotely occur to us then that we might never see each other again or at best, rarely. At 18, we had no appreciation for the relationships we'd forged through years of school and related events.

And yet, placed in the same room 40 years later, it all so easily and quickly came flooding back. However, this time, it was through the eyes and emotions of adults who had seen enough of life, good and bad, to know how special each of us is in our own way.

The 20-year "youngsters" at 38 years of age were surprised at their lack of ability to "party like they used to." The 40-year crowd, fast approaching the new decade of 60- years-old, were well aware of their limitations and without mention of it, moved quickly to coffee and ice water after one drink.

The 20-year kids were scrutinizing each others' aging with comments such as "Remember Jan House? Well she fits her name now." Or "Remember how pretty Sissy Ahrens was? Well, she now paints her eyebrows on and in the wrong color, and Missy Little, the homely high school girl, she moved to Texas and came back a beauty queen."

The 40-year "kids" were, first, happy to be alive, and then very proud of how great we all looked. No one thought any differently, and all of us knew we are better now than we will be in 10 more years. So it's all good.

We didn't have to mention that we whitened our teeth, scheduled manicures, sorted through what to wear, got new hair cuts and fresh hair color, plucked chin hairs, and took our medications including ache-and-pain minimizers hoping for at least one good day.

Our class was always a little on the rowdy side with strong personalities and plenty of drive to be the best at whatever we were doing. Our class sponsor told us at the reunion that the reason he took us to Moab, Utah, and the Canyonlands National Park for our senior trip was because it was a place he knew we couldn't tear up.

It was refreshing to see that, even now, we are still a strong and determined group and oh so much fun. We are the same, except better. As one classmate noted, "Now, we are all grown up."

I liked being all grown up and I liked being with my classmates more now than ever. It was my first time to attend a class reunion or alumni event but it certainly won't be my last.

In a gymnasium full of 300 former Custer County High School alumni, I have to say, name tags are an excellent idea. While we are all aging well, we aren't necessarily aging recognizably.

I would like to remind people to use large letters when writing their name, we're old you know. See you next year, one year older.

Julie can be reached for comment at