Saturday, October 18, 2014

Site highlights haunted places in NM

As Halloween approaches, haunted houses pop up for people looking for a thrill. But, there are reportedly haunted places all throughout New Mexico, where there’s no need for actors or fake zombies to scare you. A web site that specializes in haunted places, named several haunted spots in New Mexico. Whether it be hallways of old buildings, or out in the open, According to, there are ghosts scattered throughout New Mexico. “Theaters are very spooky places, and this place has a lot of history,” explained Larry Parker, Manager of the KiMo Theater downtown. One of Albuquerque’s hot spots for seekers of the supernatural, is the KiMo theater. “The story goes that Bobby’s spirit haunts the KiMo theater,” said Parker. Bobby Darnell was a young boy when he was killed in a theater explosion in the 1950s. His mischievous ghost is said to haunt the building. Behind the stage, is a Bobby Darnell shrine. Legend has it that performers can leave mementos there for Bobby, as sort of a bribe to his ghost to allow their shows to run smoothly. “There are a lot of people who are firm believers that without giving a gift to Bobby, their show will not go well,” explained Parker. Then, down the street is the old Bernalillo County courthouse. “The basement of the courthouse is the old, there’s a jail,” described Jesse Herron, Co-Owner of ABQ Trolley Co. Herron runs the “Trolley of Terror” tour. You won’t find fake zombies popping out to scare you. But historically, he said the old courthouse is their creepiest stop...more

Friday, October 17, 2014

Jewell In New Mexico, If Congress Won't Act, The President Will

ALBUQUERQUE – U.S Interior Secretary Sally Jewell vowed Thursday that the Obama administration will continue to use its executive powers to protect public lands until Congress takes action on a number of stalled conservation measures. Jewell renewed the administration’s threat while speaking to a few hundred wilderness advocates at a national conference in Albuquerque celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. “There are dozens of bills in Congress, and they need to be passed – dozens of bipartisan bills, bills with wide support, broad support – but no one has the courage to pass them,” she said. “We need to encourage this Congress to get on with it and to move forward. Otherwise, we will take action.” The administration has been criticized in recent years after President Barack Obama used his authority under the Antiquities Act to designate a series of national monuments, most recently the San Gabriel Mountains northeast of Los Angeles. Since taking office, Obama has created or expanded 13 national monuments across the country. While the president does not have the power to designate wilderness, critics have voiced concerns that the preservation efforts being carried out administratively amount to federal land and water grabs, particularly in the West. Jewell dismissed those allegations Thursday, saying the administration has acted only when local communities have spoken up...more

“There are dozens of bills in Congress, and they need to be passed – dozens of bipartisan bills, bills with wide support, broad support – but no one has the courage to pass them,” she said. 

If the bills were truly "bipartisan", with "wide" and "broad" support, then they would have passed. Either she is purposely mischaracterizing the bills or she is receiving some very bad info from staff.  Besides, if the bills did have such support then it takes "courage" to bottle them up, not pass them.

Jewell dismissed those allegations Thursday, saying the administration has acted only when local communities have spoken up.

This statement is again inaccurate with reference to the Udall-Heinrich national monument in Dona Ana County.  Or perhaps she is being Clintonesque ( "It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is") in her definition of local community.  If she means enviros and local politicians, her statement is correct.  However, since the legislation and the national monument were opposed by the Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce, the Hispano Chamber of Commerce, the County Sheriff, the Mesilla Valley Sportsmen's Alliance, the Elephant Butte Irrigation District and the local soil & water conservation district, she either doesn't consider them to be part of the local community, or she is once again misstating the facts.

Grazing Wars: Grass March Cowboys Ride to Capitol Hill

A Prius driver pulled up next to the horse trailer parked on Maryland Avenue midday Thursday, a block southwest of the Capitol, and asked Nevada ranch hand George Martin what issue brought him to Washington. “Regulation without representation,” responded Martin, 69, who was keeping a watchful eye on a dozen horses and three of his great-granddaughters, while the rest of the crew that rode with him for nearly 2,800 miles paid a visit to the Hill. Capitol Police rules ban the Grass March Cowboy Express from saddling up on Capitol grounds, so the two horse trailers and a chuck wagon stayed parked outside the National Museum of the American Indian. Sparked by a conflict over grazing rights in central Nevada, the caravan originally rode from Elko to Carson City to get the attention of Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval. The ranchers reject the Bureau of Land Management’s drought-inspired restrictions on grazing, and want the man in charge of the Battle Mountain field office in central Nevada removed. On Sept. 26, they started a second ride from Bodega Bay, Calif., to deliver petitions to Western lawmakers on Capitol Hill about land and environmental issues. They’ve found at least one ally in Congress: Nevada Republican Rep. Mark Amodei. He hasn’t gone so far as to call for anyone’s ouster, but he did write a letter to BLM Director Neil Kornze questioning some of the state-level management practices. Amodei said in his letter that bordering districts in California, Oregon, Utah and Idaho — states where the federal government owns far less land — do not get similar treatment from BLM on grazing in the context of drought conditions. He was meeting with BLM officials this week to talk about those issues. About a dozen congressional staffers milled around eating barbecue sandwiches and slaw off disposable plates, listening to the ranchers talk about their problem. Organizers said the House Natural Resources Committee and Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, were among the congressional offices that paid the Grass March some attention during their visit. Organizer Katie Jones told CQ Roll Call the group didn’t get any promises during their brief visit to Capitol Hill, but “we have gained ground.” After a few hours in D.C., the Grass March Cowboy Express rode on. They pinpointed Annapolis, Md., for the final stop in their long trek. The cowboys wanted to end near water, just like they began...more

Top U.S. officials say Wyo. wolf rule shouldn’t have been nixed

U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Dan Ashe, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, both indicated Wednesday that a federal judge should not have relinquished Wyoming’s management rights for gray wolves. “It’s a shame really,” Ashe told the Business Report, adding that Wyoming since the 2012 inception of state control has over-performed on the area for which Judge Amy Berman Jackson vacated the entire rule. The rule was vacated in its entirety because, Jackson said, that the state wasn’t legally bound to its goals of maintaining a certain amount of wolves and breeding pairs within the state. “The court concludes that it was arbitrary and capricious for the [Fish and Wildlife] Service to rely on the state’s nonbinding promises to maintain a particular number of wolves when the availability of that specific numerical buffer was such a critical aspect of the delisting decision,” Jackson wrote in her opinion. She agreed, however, with scientists who said the population had recovered and that she wouldn’t argue with the science behind Wyoming’s management. Even so, when Wyoming passed an emergency rule “establishing that Wyoming’s commitment under its management plan is legally enforceable,” Jackson stuck to her decision, undoing years of work on the management shift in one fell swoop of her pen. Ashe said the rule now has to be reconstructed from the ground up, including the time-intensive public comment period. He said it will likely take between tens of thousands of dollars and hundreds of thousands to get Wyoming back in control. He said instead of a complete throwing out of the rule, it should have been remanded to deal with the one problem as Jackson saw it, something that “certainly would’ve saved a lot of taxpayer dollars.” “The judge took a small defect to make a large decision of vacating the rule,” Ashe said, indicating the service will move to delist the gray wolf again. Ashe’s boss, Interior Secretary Jewell, said she was also “very frustrated” with Jackson’s decision, saying the delisting in Wyoming was justified and the state exhibited strong cooperation with federal agencies in the process...more

Big Green groups have self-serving bargain with government

By Randy T. Simmons and Jordan Lofthouse

In 1980, Congress passed the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA) to protect the "little man" from government agencies that break their own rules. Under EAJA, if the courts find that the government violated its own policies, the government pays the litigation costs to the winners.

A loophole in the law has enabled "Big Green" environmental groups to broker a self-serving bargain with the government. Wealthy nonprofits receive millions in EAJA reimbursements, no matter how much money those organizations are worth, completely defeating the original intention of the law.
This law promotes widespread injustice and is harming the very people it was intended to help.

After Congress passed the Sunset Act in 1995, reporting provisions for EAJA payouts disappeared. Currently, EAJA lacks any sort of recordkeeping, which means no government agency knows which organizations are receiving payouts or how much they are receiving. With no records, nonprofit groups are taking advantage of the fact that no one would know how much money the groups are making by suing federal agencies.

Politicians from both parties are trying to combat EAJA's shortcomings. Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) is spearheading legislation to address the lack of recordkeeping and place limits on reimbursements...

The multimillion-dollar Sierra Club Foundation is one of many organizations using the EAJA loophole. In the 55 trials linked between the Sierra Club and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), $2.4 million was given to cover lawyer fees and court costs. From 2000 to 2009, the Sierra Club requested fees in 194 cases and was awarded more than $19 million. No one knows the exact amount because in two of the cases, the reimbursement amount remains totally unreported.

EAJA is also hurting average Americans. Tim Lequerica is a full-time rancher living on his 320-acre ranch in Malheur County, Ore. His company holds a permit to graze 444 cattle on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land and uses water from the protected Owyhee River. In 1998, two environmental groups found a BLM paperwork error and sued the BLM to review the grazing practices on Lequerica's allotment. They also sued the BLM for "fail[ing] to protect streams, fish, sage grouse, and other Owyhee resources" by allowing ranchers to use the river to water their cattle. The groups ultimately won their case, and Lequerica had to stop watering his cattle at the Owyhee, where his family had grazed and watered their cattle for nearly a century.

In the end, Lequerica paid over $42,000 of his own money in legal fees fighting to protect his business. Those environmental groups, however, had their legal fees, totaling $128,000, voluntarily paid for by the government under EAJA.

Lequerica said, "My tax money paid for every part of the litigation. I paid my personal attorneys to represent me. My tax dollars paid the federal government who failed to do all the paperwork correctly; and my tax dollars paid [the environmental groups] to sue the federal government."

Oregon On Track To Begin Wolf Delisting Process

Oregon's wolf population is on track to reach a key milestone. If current trends in Eastern Oregon continue, the state can relax protections and consider removing wolves from its endangered species list next year. Russ Morgan, wolf coordinator for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, said state rules call for launching a delisting process for wolves when Eastern Oregon has four breeding pairs for three consecutive years. A breeding pair is an adult male, adult female and at least two pups surviving to the end of the calendar year. The state has documented at least three breeding pairs the past two years, and the three-year mark is coming up at the end of 2014. At this month's Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting, Morgan proposed starting the delisting process in April, 2015. He said starting the process does not mean wolves will definitely be delisted. "I don't want to preclude that wolves will be delisted next year," he said. "Before wolves can be delisted there has to be public involvement and a commission decision." Morgan said delisting wolves won't really change how they're managed by the state. However, the same population threshold that triggers the delisting process also ushers in a new phase of wolf management that lowers the bar for killing problem wolves. Under the new rules that will likely kick in next year, Morgan said, the state will be allowed to lethally remove wolves after two confirmed attacks on livestock. Current rules only allow the legal killing of wolves after four incidents within six months. The new rules also allow ranchers to kill wolves that are chasing livestock, whereas the current rules only allow ranchers to use lethal control in cases where wolves are biting, wounding or killing livestock...more

Feds drop charges against man who shot charging grizzly bear

Federal prosecutors have dismissed a misdemeanor charge filed against a 57-year-old Texas man who shot at a grizzly bear that was charging him on a trail in Glacier National Park. Attorney Jason T. Holden of Great Falls tells the Missoulian the U.S. Attorney’s Office was right to dismiss the charge of illegally discharging a firearm in a national park because his client was defending himself. He says Brian D. Murphy didn’t fire his gun until after he tried pepper spray. The shooting happened on July 26 on Mount Brown Lookout Trail. The wounded bear was never located. Holden says Murphy saw the bear running down a hill toward other hikers. When he yelled to warn them, the bear turned around and came at him. AP

RANCH TALES: Greaves tries to corner the cattle market

Joseph Blackbourne Greaves (pronounced Graves) was born in Pudsey, England and came to B.C. in 1864. After successfully driving cattle from Oregon to the goldfields, he settled near Savona’s ferry on the Thompson River( so-named by the English drovers pronunciation of Francois Saveneau ‘s name). During the 1870s, when markets for cattle were few in B.C., Greaves regularly drove cattle down the Cariboo road to the head of steamboat navigation at Yale and then to the cities of New Westminster, Victoria and Nanaimo. Victoria’s British Colonist newspaper extoled the cattle as, “fine specimens of that section of the mainland for stock raising.” But Greaves was looking for greater success. He watched with interest as the Canadian Pacific Railway was being constructed through the Fraser Canyon. Railway contractor Andrew Onderdonk employed 5,000 men during the summer of 1881 and to feed them, invited tenders for a large and steady supply of fresh beef for the work crews. Their requirements were so great that only the largest ranches could hope to answer their needs. Not surprisingly, Thaddeus Harper, who, with his brother Jerome, had been a cattleman since the early gold rush years, won the contract. Harper sold off all his surplus cattle from his massive herds on the Gang Ranch and set about purchasing all the cattle he could from Cariboo and Chilcotin ranchers. Prices for cattle began to move upwards to more than $20 a head and the market for 1882 looked even more promising as railway construction reached its peak. As the 1882 construction season approached, Greaves saw the potential for controlling the market...more

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Jewell, Mead, laud ranchers’ grouse conservation

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Gov. Matt Mead on Wednesday signed agreements with nine Wyoming ranching families aimed at preserving sage grouse and the ranch operations on 39,000 acres. Overlooking thousands of acres of BLM sagebrush and private ranches at Trappers’ Point near Pinedale, Jewell and Mead said the agreements would ensure ranching would continue — in a manner that safeguards the imperiled bird — even if the greater sage grouse becomes protected next year under the Endangered Species Act. The ceremony, which began with Jewell and Mead hugging, contrasted with recent critical rhetoric from Western governors regarding potential protection of the grouse by Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service next year. The “candidate conservation agreements with assurances,” require ranchers to follow practices that protect grouse. Those can include limiting grazing near grouse mating grounds and flagging fences so grouse don’t collide with them, among other measures. In exchange, if grouse are protected by the federal government by a September, 2015, deadline, those ranchers’ operations would not be curtailed by additional restrictions. The nine agreements signed Wednesday — the first in Wyoming, Jewell said — cover more than 39,000 acres in Sublette, Johnson and Campbell counties. Mead praised former Gov. Dave Freudenthal for beginning the process of protecting sage grouse in Wyoming. “But none of it happens without the ranchers,” he said...more

Locals have mountains of questions on new monument

It’s been four days since President Barack Obama flew into Southern California to establish the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, but federal officials are still unclear on exactly where it is. Is the Mount Baldy ski resort included within its 346,177 acres? What about Mount Baldy Village? Officials with the U.S. Forest Service, which will manage the monument, don’t know for sure. Neither does staff at the office of Rep. Judy Chu, D-Monterey Park, who pushed for the designation. The Department of the Interior referred inquiries to the folks at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, who didn’t return a phone call or email. Officials at the Angeles National Forest, where most of the monument is located, may be able to answer the question. But it will take a couple more days, spokesman Andrew Mitchell said Tuesday. “We don’t have a good detailed map ourselves. We have a generic one. We can’t say for certain the ski resort and village are excluded,” he said. Officials at the Angeles National Forest office and Pacific Southwest Region headquarters in Vallejo are using geographic information system data provided by the USDA and the Obama administration to create the map that will answer the questions once and for all. Local authorities did not have a say in the final decision, Mitchell said. The jagged eastern edge of the monument boundary wasn’t clear in a final map released last week by the White House. San Bernardino County officials asked to be excluded from the monument because they objected to the lack of local input on the proposal and its possible effect on property rights, access and economic development. Many mountain residents and business owners have objected to their inclusion in the monument because they fear new restrictions that could change the way they live and work...more

The Presidential Proclamation says:

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by the authority vested in me by section 2 of the Antiquities Act, hereby proclaim the objects identified above that are situated upon lands and interests in lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States to be the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument (monument) and, for the purpose of preserving those objects, reserve as a part thereof all lands and interests in lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States within the boundaries described on the accompanying map entitled, "San Gabriel Mountains National Monument" and the accompanying legal description, which are attached to and form a part of this proclamation. 

The local Forest Service spokesman says: 

Local authorities did not have a say in the final decision, Mitchell said.

The President said he had a map and accompanying legal descriptions and they were attached to the Proclamation.  If the local forest officials don't know where the boundaries are, and neither does Congress or Interior, then the logical question would be who made the map and listed the legal descriptions the President supposedly attached to the Proclamation?  Was it Forest Service HQ, the Sec. of Ag, a White House official or some outside group? And if they were attached why haven't they been given to the local Forest Service employees so they can answer questions?

Groundwater experts, water law experts, and conservation groups tell the Forest Service to do more to protect groundwater

Responding to a proposed agency-wide U.S. Forest Service groundwater policy, more than 125 groundwater scientists, legal experts, and conservation groups call on the Forest Service’s Chief Tidwell and U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Secretary Vilsack to protect groundwater as a public national resource. These letters urge the Forest Service to embrace its role and duty to protect and sustainably manage water originating in and passing through National Forest lands. For instance a letter from a group of prominent natural resources and water law professors states “The Forest Service is a key player in watershed management; over 66 million people depend on National Forests for clean drinking water from surface and groundwater resources. Waters originating on Forest Service lands are vital to farmers and ranchers, and are also critical to fish, wildlife and wetland resources nation-wide.” As detailed in the comments, the Forest Service has the authority to and should lead the management of groundwater resources on National Forest lands. Further the agency should take the policy a step further to ensure it establishes consistent and comprehensive strategies for groundwater management across the country so that these resources remain available for generations to come. One of the arguments lobbed against this new policy is the assertion that it infringes on state water law, particularly in the western U.S. where prior-appropriation is the standard system also known as “first in time, first in right.” In particular, the Western Governors Association believes that the Directive will violate such state water rights. But this is really an argument for the unworkable status quo, rather than a valid legal concern.  In their letter to the U.S. Forest Service, a group of prominent natural resources and water law professors explain that the proposed policy is well within the existing legal structure of western water law. They explain that:  “It is well-settled that the Forest Service has broad legal authority and responsibility to manage federal lands and resources. Based on the government’s plenary authority to manage federal land and resources under the Property Clause, authority that has been long-recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court, Congress has passed a number of laws that require the Forest Service to protect water resources, including groundwater.”...more

Obstruction or obligation? The case for and against environmental litigation

Federal land management has become one of the hottest political issues this election season, and front and center in the debate are lawsuits filed by environmental groups challenging timber sales as well as listing decisions under the Endangered Species Act. Yet it is another law, the Equal Access to Justice Act, which opponents of the lawsuits say is unfairly rewarding lawyers of environmental groups by often awarding attorney fees paid for with tax dollars. Environmental groups say the law holds the federal government accountable, and that attorney fees play a critical role in their efforts to protect wildlife and habitat. The Alliance for the Wild Rockies, the Montana Ecosystems Defense Council and the Native Ecosystems Council are the three conservation groups that have been the most litigious in recent years in the Helena region. The groups have been involved in more than 200 court cases nationwide as plaintiffs or co-plaintiffs against federal agencies like the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The alliance leads the way as a plaintiff on 212 lawsuits dating back to 1989, while the Native Ecosystems Council participated in 101 and the Montana Ecosystems Defense Council in 18, according to court records. The numbers are not a grand total, but include many of the same cases in which the groups filed as co-plaintiffs. In the last five fiscal years, $617,058.40 in attorney fees has been awarded to the three groups and their co-plaintiffs in lawsuits against the Forest Service. Of that total, $572,058.40 came under the EAJA, according to Forest Service records. Some $45,000 of it went to attorneys for the alliance under the Endangered Species Act judgment fund...more

Lawmakers vent to feds, assert forest fire inaction

Dozens of Utah communities and thousands of state residents are a "spark away" from the danger of catastrophic wildfires, restrained in reducing their risk by federal agencies that aren't managing forests. That charge — repeated multiple times in a legislative committee discussion Wednesday — underscored the plea made by lawmakers that the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service step up oversight of the land the entities control in Utah. "If you are going to be the landowner, the landlord, we look to you to for the responsibility in taking the lead," said Rep. Roger Barrus, R-Centerville. On wildfires, the tone was one of frustration, especially from lawmakers such as Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, who said entire landscapes are devastated because local entities are barred from responding. "It is stupidity," Noel said, describing a decision that kept bulldozers in Iron and Kane counties at bay from extinguishing a wildfire over fear of the machines' impacts to the watershed. "You burn a whole stinking forest down, you are not going to have a watershed," he said. Rep. Jerry Anderson, R-Price, described impacts that continue to unfold from the 2012 Seeley that took out a blue ribbon fishery in Emery County's Huntington Creek and vanquished in an entire watershed. Flooding last month helped along from the wildfire's burn scar displaced 45 families, he added. "There were resources available in the air less than 15 minutes away that could have put that (wildfire) out immediately," Anderson said. "Instead, we went on and caused millions of dollars of damage and even some deaths. … That is what happens when things like that go on and we don’t get the cooperation and the response that is needed."...more

Jewell Surveys Idaho Sage Grouse Conservation Efforts

With less than a year to go before the feds decide whether to list sage grouse as an endangered species, U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell visited the bird’s habitat Tuesday to learn about conservation and fire prevention efforts. Jewell was given a tour by state and federal land managers, area landowners, U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo and representatives of other state and federal politicians. Bureau of Land Management staff gave presentations using many maps, showing how wildfires are becoming more frequent and bigger, destroying the grouse’s sagebrush habitat. Southern Idaho and northern Nevada are “kind of the poster child for what’s going on,” said Brandon Brown, BLM supervisory fire management specialist. Brown spoke as the group stood on China Mountain, overlooking the site of the 2007 Murphy Complex Fire, which scorched 650,000 acres along the Idaho-Nevada border. Many in the West worry about the ensuing restrictions on land use if the sage grouse is listed. “All depends on the strictures that come with the listing,” said Jared Brackett, head of the Idaho Cattle Association, when asked how it could affect cattle ranchers. Brackett comes from a prominent area ranching family and has had a grazing permit at nearby Antelope Springs for about 25 years. If the grouse is listed as endangered, he said, grazing on public land would be more restricted, and his operation would have to graze more cattle on private land — meaning replacing sagebrush with grass. Although the grouse’s problems have been identified and solutions are being implemented, “I worry that the sage grouse listing will be a political issue and not a species issue,” Brackett said...more

Sorry Mr. Brackett, the decision will be political because the whole process is political.  The ESA was passed by a body of politicians, signed into law by a politician, individuals collecting or analyzing the data report to politicians and the authority to sign off on a decision is held by a politician.

Plan to save endangered frog hopping along

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed Wednesday as part of a lawsuit settlement to establish a recovery plan for the endangered mountain yellow-legged frog. The agreement is the latest development in an ongoing dispute between the agency and the Center for Biological Diversity over protections for the frog. The Center for Biological Diversity, based in Tucson, sued the government in February for failing to develop the recovery plan in a timely manner after the species was listed as endangered in 2002. A recovery plan identifies actions necessary to save endangered species, such as habitat restoration and reintroduction of the species into the wild. A Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman, Jane Hendron, said lack of a recovery plan has not stopped the agency from moving forward with recovery actions. Fish and Wildlife has partnered with zoos and other government agencies on improving the species’ survival, she said. For example, the San Diego Zoo's Institute for Conservation Research has been breeding the frogs in its laboratory since shortly after they were captured from a drying stream in the San Jacinto Mountains in 2006. Juvenile froglets and tadpoles have been released into a stream at the James San Jacinto Mountains Reserve near Idyllwild and a nearby stream on U.S. Forest Service land...more

 Its a good thing Smokey wasn't there.  He'd of made short work of those froglets & tadpoles. 

BLM wild horse roundup nets more than expected

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has rounded up several hundred more wild horses in southern Wyoming over the past few weeks than agency officials had estimated would be captured. The BLM captured 1,263 wild horses in the Great Divide Basin, Adobe Town and Salt Wells Creek herd management areas before the roundup ended Thursday. The figure sparked anger in an animal group that had challenged the roundup. Members of the Friends of Animals group came to Rock Springs last month to protest the roundup. "We've gotten tremendous feedback of outrage from people in Wyoming and all over the country that the BLM is completely out of control," group campaigns director Edita Birnkrant said. Kristen Lenhardt, chief of communications for the BLM in Wyoming, said the agency was obligated to remove all the horses from so-called checkerboard lands where alternating parcels are in federal ownership. The agency is bound by a legal settlement agreement with area ranchers to remove the horses, she said...more

Artesia - More immigrant families freed than deported

One of three centers used for detaining Central American families who have entered the U.S. illegally this year has started releasing many more detainees than it deports, a New Mexico city official said. Federal immigration authorities reported 61 releases and no deportations last week at the Artesia Family Residential Center in southeastern New Mexico, Artesia Mayor Phillip Burch said. It was at least the second week in a row that Immigrations and Customs Enforcement authorities reported to Artesia officials that more detainees were released than deported. The numbers show a dramatic change from the center's first two weeks, when 135 people were deported and 12 were released, according to figures provided to Burch by ICE officials. The center opened in late June and is one of three in the U.S. used to detain migrant families, mostly Central American mothers and children fleeing violence and poverty in their countries...more

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Risks of Cheap Water

This summer, California’s water authority declared that wasting water — hosing a sidewalk, for example — was a crime. Next door, in Nevada, Las Vegas has paid out $200 million over the last decade for homes and businesses to pull out their lawns.  It will get worse. As climate change and population growth further stress the water supply from the drought-plagued West to the seemingly bottomless Great Lakes, states and municipalities are likely to impose increasingly draconian restrictions on water use. Such efforts may be more effective than simply exhorting people to conserve. In August, for example, cities and towns in California consumed much less water — 27 billion gallons less —than in August last year. But the proliferation of limits on water use will not solve the problem because regulations do nothing to address the main driver of the nation’s wanton consumption of water: its price. “Most water problems are readily addressed with innovation,” said David G. Victor of the University of California, San Diego. “Getting the water price right to signal scarcity is crucially important.” The signals today are way off. Water is far too cheap across most American cities and towns. But what’s worse is the way the United States quenches the thirst of farmers, who account for 80 percent of the nation’s water consumption and for whom water costs virtually nothing. Adding to the challenges are the obstacles placed in the way of water trading. “Markets are essential to ensuring that water, when it’s scarce, can go to the most valuable uses,” said Barton H. Thompson, an expert on environmental resources at Stanford Law School. Without them, “the allocation of water is certainly arbitrary.” Two studies to be presented at a forum next week organized by the Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution and the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment make the case that markets and prices are an indispensable part of the tool kit to combat scarcity. They are essential to induce both conservation and investment in water-saving technology, and to steer water to where it is valued most...more

My, my the NY Times is discovering water markets, even though the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC) has been writing about them since 1983.  Check out this list of their water publications. 

Feds install fences to protect endangered mouse, but the fight continues

Photo by Rob Nikolewski

In reaction to the listing of the meadow jumping mouse as an endangered species, the U.S. Forest Service just completed erecting fences along a creek in New Mexico’s Jemez Mountains. It has become ground zero in a battle between ranchers who have grazed cattle in the meadow for generations and environmentalists who insist the mouse’s habitat must be zealously protected. “I’m encouraged,” said Bryan Bird, program director at WildEarth Guardians. “I think it’s the right thing to do. I think it’s the reasonable thing to do.” “We’re not crazy about it but, for now, we can live with it,” said Mike Lucero, a rancher with the San Diego Cattleman’s Association, pointing out his family’s cattle will have access to water above and below the area that’s fenced off. “We can manage around it because we can still get to water.” But that doesn’t mean the mouse war — that started when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in June listed the tiny rodent as endangered — is over. First, the fencing is listed as temporary.  Second, each side has filed lawsuits against the Forest Service. WildEarth Guardians wants to make sure the feds permanently protect the 0.7-ounce mouse, which has a long tail and hind legs that allow it to hop up to three feet. The ranchers have filed their own suit, asserting they have taken good care of the creek, called the Rio Cebolla, and that the federal government has overreached and is not following its own environmental policies....more

Photo by Rob Nikolewski

Groups say Idaho grazing decision will translate to other states

Most of U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill's 21-page decision late last month involved his ruling that the agency violated environmental laws in issuing permits on four grazing allotments in south-central Idaho, considered test cases for about 600 other permits. But he used three pages near the end of his decision to rule on a separate matter that the agency incorrectly used a congressional budget rider to issue additional grazing permits in south-central Idaho with no environmental analysis at all. "This is a clear shot across the bow of the BLM," said Todd Tucci, an attorney for Advocates for the West that represented Western Watersheds Project in the lawsuit. "I will bring this argument to any federal court in the country and feel very comfortable about my likelihood of success." Ken Cole of Western Watersheds Project said the BLM has used the rider to issue hundreds of grazing permits across the West. Winmill's decision only pertains to Idaho, but conservation groups in other states are viewing the winning lawsuit as a possible template. "This is a legal victory that is certainly going to get a lot of scrutiny from environmental groups moving forward," said Erik Molvar of WildEarth Guardians. Idaho BLM spokeswoman Jessica Gardetto said the agency would do the environmental assessments on the four allotments as instructed by Winmill. But attorneys with the BLM said that because the ruling didn't address the other 600 permits, there was no final judgment. Lawmakers in 2003 through a congressional budget rider gave the BLM permission to approve grazing permit requests without conducting a National Environmental Policy Act review when the agency lacked sufficient resources. In 2008, the federal court rejected the BLM's argument that the rider allowed the agency to renew grazing permits without adhering to the Federal Land Policy and Management Act. In the most recent case, the BLM argued the rider allowed permits to be renewed while delaying environmental reviews to a later date. Winmill ruled that reasoning applies to the National Environmental Policy Act, but not the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, which he said must be completed before renewals...more

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Jewell to visit New Mexico for wilderness meeting

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell will be among the dozens of officials and conservation experts gathering in Albuquerque this week for a conference aimed at celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. Jewell is scheduled to deliver the keynote address at the conference Thursday. Organizers say the conference is the first national gathering of wilderness advocates, educators, students and researchers in 25 years. Other speakers include astronaut Joseph Acaba, Native American educator Greg Cajete and author Terry Tempest Williams...more

Wildlife Groups Sue for Wolverine Protections

A coalition of advocacy groups on Monday challenged the government’s denial of federal protections for the snow-loving wolverine, arguing in a lawsuit that officials disregarded evidence a warming climate will eliminate denning areas for the so-called “mountain devil.” An estimated 250 to 300 wolverines survive in the Lower 48 states. The elusive but ferocious members of the weasel family give birth to their young in deep mountain snowfields that scientists say could be at risk of disappearing as the climate changes. After proposing protections for the species last year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in August abruptly reversed course. Fish and Wildlife Director Dan Ashe said at the time there was too much uncertainty in computer climate change models to justify protections, an issue first raised by two members of a scientific peer-review panel. Monday’s lawsuit argues the agency acted illegally by ignoring the best available science on wolverines after some of its own scientists said protections were needed. Attorneys for Earthjustice representing eight wildlife advocacy groups filed the complaint in U.S. District Court in Missoula...more

Michelle Obama’s school lunch rules leading to healthy, hunger-free trash cans

The National School Boards Association reported Monday that 83.7 percent of school districts around the country have seen an increase in wasted school lunch food since a 2010 law was passed mandating new nutrition rules. The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act was aimed at creating healthier school lunches, but several schools have rebelled against the new rules. Many school districts have reported that while the law requires kids to be served a certain amount of fruits and vegetables, much of that food is being thrown in the trash, resulting in a more costly program that’s not getting results. The NSBA survey seems to confirm that, with its finding that more than four-fifths of school districts are seeing an increase in “plate waste.” The survey said 81.8 percent of schools saw cost increases, and 76.5 percent saw a reduction in participation by students. Other formal reports about the law have found similar problems. Earlier this year, the Government Accountability Office reported that 48 out of 50 states were having trouble implementing the law. The law was championed by First Lady Michelle Obama and the Obama administration broadly as a way to improve the nutritional content of food. But complaints around the nation have led to calls for the repeal of the law, or giving schools more flexibility in how they implement it...more

Supreme Court won't touch foie gras ban

The Supreme Court is allowing California to continue enforcing a law that bans the sale of foie gras.
The justices on Tuesday rejected a challenge to the law from producers of the delicacy in New York and Canada. Foie gras is the fatty liver of a force-fed duck. The California law bars state farmers from force-feeding birds with a tube, the way foie gras is made. The law also bans the sale of foie gras in California...more

Jumbo squids attack Greenpeace submarine - video

A pair of Greenpeace submariners have had their own "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" experience on an expedition in the Bering Sea -- in a scaled down sort of way. Rather than the Nautilus and a giant squid, the pair were in a Dual Deep Worker submersible when the encounter occurred. And their attackers weren't a squid of the giant variety, but a pair of Humboldt squids, nicknamed "jumbo squid" or "red devil" for their famed aggression and the red colour the squids turn when in hunting or attack mode.  The Humboldt squid's tentacle suckers are lined with tiny, sharp teeth that can do some serious damage, so the Greenpeace divers were lucky to be protected by the submarine...more

"Vampire Grave" in Bulgaria Holds a Skeleton With a Stake Through Its Heart

Archeologists in Bulgaria haved uncovered a 13th century staked "vampire" at Perperikon, an ancient Thracian site in the south of the country, Archaeology reports. The remains once belonged to a man who was likely in his 40s. An iron rod had been hammered through his chest "to keep the corpse from rising from the dead and disturbing the living," Archaeology continues, and his left leg had also been removed and placed beside the corpse.  Clearly, this man's neighbors did not trust his remains to stay put. As Nikolai Ovcharov, the archeologist in charge of the dig, told the Telegraph: "We have no doubts that once again we’re seeing an anti-vampire ritual being carried out." At the time of the man's death, vampires were perceived as a real threat in many Eastern European communities. People who died unusually—from suicide, for example—were sometimes staked to prevent them from coming back from the dead...more

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


My mother, Wanda DuBois, passed away Monday evening.  She would have been 95 on December 10.  She will be dearly missed.

Massive Methane ‘Hotspot’ Confirmed in 4 Corners Region

From 2002 to 2012, European satellite data consistently showed a “hotspot” of methane being emitted in the U.S. Southwest, but the amount was so large that scientists thought it was a phantom discovery and didn’t rush to explore the area. “We didn’t focus on it because we weren’t sure if it was a true signal or an instrument error,” Christian Frankenberg from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said. The European Space Agency’s Scanning Imaging Absorption Spectrometer for Atmospheric Chartography consistently showed a bright red patch in the Four Corners region of the country, where Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah meet. But eventually, Frankenberg and colleagues from NASA and the University of Michigan spent a year making measurements at ground level. Their findings validated satellite data from 2003-09 that showed concentrations of methane of about 1.3 million pounds of emissions per year, nearly 80 percent greater than U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates. The Four Corners hotspot released 590,000 tons of methane emissions into the atmosphere every year from 2003 to 2009, on average. That’s the equivalent of almost 15 million tons of carbon dioxide, or adding 3.1 million cars to the road every year. The report says the source of the gas probably isn’t hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, because the data was gathered before the controversial practice became widespread. Rather, it says the methane probably is leaking from methane extraction from underground coal deposits...more

OPEC Split as Oil Prices Fall Sharply

Oil prices sank again on Monday, giving consumers more of a break and causing a split among OPEC leaders about what action should be taken, if any, to halt the slide. The price drop has led to a near free fall in gasoline prices in the United States. On Monday, the national average price for regular gasoline was $3.20, 9 cents lower than it was a week ago and 14 cents below the price a year ago, according to the AAA motor club. The price at the pump generally follows oil after a few days, leading energy experts to predict lower prices for the rest of the month at least. “This is not your garden variety autumn price decline,” said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at, which reports fuel prices from filling stations across the country. “Clearly there is a rift in OPEC, and that means we are more likely to see a price war over the next six months. Crude oil is teetering on the brink of collapse.” Mr. Kloza predicted that the national average for regular gasoline was headed to between $2.95 and $3.10 a gallon. The average household consumes 1,200 gallons of gasoline a year, translating into an annual savings of $120 for every 10-cent drop in the price of gasoline. With the number of rigs working in the United States at or near record levels, some oil executives are beginning to express concern about investment decisions next year. In recent days several members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, Iran and the United Arab Emirates — have cut prices to European and Asian buyers as competition for global market share has grown fierce. With the price of the global benchmark, Brent crude oil, falling 1.5 percent on Monday to $88.89 a barrel, many analysts said Saudi Arabia, OPEC’s dominant member, might be rethinking its strategy. “Saudi comments indicate that it may have shifted from a strategy of holding prices at around $100 a barrel to a focus on market share,” said Jeff A. Dietert, head of research at Simmons & Company, an independent investment bank. “That means there is not an immediate floor on oil prices.” He said he thought that Saudi Arabia was trying to slow production growth in the United States...more

Dairy industry is creating a super cow

Walt Moore’s 850 cows lounge on beds of soft sand. They are cooled by spritzes of water and breezes generated by fans. They eat a custom-blended diet of gourmet grains that a computer tells Moore will suit them best. Moore orders sophisticated analyses of their rations and manure, getting the results on his iPhone, synced to his watch. Each cow wears a collar with a computer chip that keeps track of her milk production, nearly four times that of the cows his father once tended, not to mention those his great-grandfather started the family farm with in 1909. Moore’s Chester County, Pa., farm is so markedly different from the operation he took over from his father, Bill, that the elder Moore jokes: “Oh, my goodness, I don’t know if I’ll live long enough to learn how to farm or not.” All this is not so much to coddle the cows as it is to make them better citizens of the planet. Cows have long been castigated for their methane-belching, manure-producing ways, one of agriculture’s top contributors to climate change...After analyzing the dairy production chain, farm to fridge—or, as some like to say, grass to glass—they zeroed in on the cow’s gut, launching a massive effort involving farms and universities. They call it the Cow of the Future project. The aim is a super-cow, a star athlete of the bovine world that produces far less methane and, while she’s at it, far more milk. “We want it to be more productive. We want it to be healthier. We want it to be a problem-free cow,” said Juan Tricarico, director of the project...As of 2007, the nation had about a third of the dairy cows it had in 1944, yet they produced more than half again as much milk. And they did it using 90 percent less cropland and 65 percent less water. They also made 75 percent less manure and 63 percent less emissions, a Cornell University study found. There’s still room for improvement...more

Navajo ranching in the Chuska Mountains - Keeping a tradition alive in western New Mexico

Up a winding mountain road in western New Mexico, following clear streams and green meadows, 56-year-old Irene Bennalley helps keep Navajo agricultural traditions alive. Once a prevalent way of life, ranching is now fairly rare in the Navajo Nation. Bennalley grew up in Two Gray Hills, New Mexico and inherited a family ranch from her father, where she still rears hundreds of animals, including Navajo Churro sheep, goats, cattle and horses. Her children, who are now grown and live in cities, have little intention of taking over the property in the Chuska Mountains. As Bennalley gets older, the ranch and her way of life face an uncertain future. Los Angeles-based photographer Diego James Robles visited Bennalley at her ranch over a few years to create the images shown here.

Country Times: Modern bluegrass gets a warm welcome from legends of old

It’s difficult not to compare the growing pains of country music as it shifts from traditional into a form of country rock with the ongoing transformation of bluegrass. Watching banjoist Noam Pikelny and fiddler Stuart Duncan — two of modern bluegrass music’s brightest stars — perform last week at The Barns at Wolf Trap in Vienna, Virginia, underscored why bluegrass’ maturation is so heartily embraced while country music performers and fans are engaged in something akin to a civil war. “Del McCoury’s willingness to collaborate outside of the bluegrass world and his dedication to the Punch Brothers and DelFest, that definitely reads as a voucher,” said Mr. Pikelny, a member of the Punch Brothers, of the wide spectrum of performers Mr. McCoury invites to enjoy the annual music festival he hosts in Cumberland, Maryland. “The first time I got to meet him, he was so welcoming to me. I remember getting to play tunes backstage with Del and I taught him my song ‘For Pete’s Sake.’ Playing that song with him and the impact that had meant so much. I had assumed there would never be a way to break into that world.” The respect that flows between younger performers, such as Mr. Pikelny, 33, and veteran bluegrass icons, including the much honored and celebrated Mr. McCoury, 75, is palpable not just in words but music. Earlier this month Mr. Pikelny won the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Banjo Player of the Year and Album of the Year for “Noam Pikelny Plays Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe.” Although Mr. Pikelny and Mr. Stuart, 50, who played on the album, included some of those songs in their set, they clearly delighted in playing a host of classic bluegrass songs. “One of the things we have been playing is the ‘Kentucky Waltz,’ ” said Mr. Duncan, whose awards include a Grammy. “We had said ‘Let’s do something we have never done before,’ and we have been doing it ever since. It’s a good melody people recognize and it’s a good vocal range for me.” As were all the other songs in the set. The Wolf Trap audience’s exuberant cheers were punctuated with animated whispers of praise as they worked their way through a set that included renditions of ‘Lonesome Moonlight Waltz’ and ‘Wheel Hoss’ from Mr. Pikelny’s latest album, to Southern string band classic ‘Lee Highway Blues’ to Merle Haggard’s ‘Loneliness is Eating Me Alive,’ which Mr. Duncan rediscovered on a classic 45 record he bought at a flea market. Mr. Pikelny and Mr. Stuart wound stories about their admiration for Bill Monroe, Earl Scruggs, and other traditional performers throughout the set. Although Mr. Monroe was overtly critical of performers who moved away from traditional bluegrass arrangements and instrumentation, the duo was nothing short of reverent toward the masters...more

Monday, October 13, 2014

Heading to El Paso today, to have repairs and other work done on two wheelchairs and my posts will be sparse.

Oh No!! Hawaii Officials Drop Plan To Name Park For Obama

Two Honolulu city councilmen have dropped plans to rename a popular beach for President Barack Obama. The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports Councilman Stanley Chang and Council Chairman Ernie Martin decided to withdraw the proposal after hearing from the public. Martin says in a statement that he heard historic and cultural sensitivity concerns from the community about the name change. He says there may be other public facilities more appropriate to honor the president...more

Newsweek - Why Environmentalists Want Us to All Eat Bugs

AUSTIN, Texas—Why aren’t you eating bugs? They’re tiny terrors to some, but to a large percentage of the world, including many countries in Africa and Asia, they’re nutritious delicacies and environmentally-friendly to raise. This is according to a gathering of people who are passionate about entomophagy, or insect eating, who advertised their cause this week at the SXSW Eco meeting in Austin. Insects are a common source of food throughout the world, including much of Latin America, Africa and Asia. One could say that those of us in the Western world, where bug binging isn’t common, are the odd ones out, said Robert Allen, founder of the nonprofit Little Herds, which encourages insect ingestion. Consider the common house cricket, Acheta domesticus. Their bodies contain every essential amino acid, several times more calcium than beef or pork and nine times more iron than chicken, Allen said. Crickets can be fed on waste products like brewer’s yeast (a byproduct of beer making), and cricket farming produces 2,800 times less greenhouse gas emissions than cattle raising, he added. Insects also require very little land to raise and do well in small cages...more

Roach Roast?  Cricket Cookies?  PETA will soon be mounting a bugs brigade or insect infantry to protect the crunchy critters.  And schoolkids, you better hope Michelle O doesn't hear about this.

Navajo Nation president wears Redskins hat and sits with Dan Snyder at Cardinals game

Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly is a Washington Redskins supporter and not afraid to show it. Shelly spent part of Sunday’s game between the Redskins and Arizona Cardinals sitting next to Washington owner Daniel Snyder while wearing a Redskins hat. Native American and other groups have pressured Snyder to change the team’s name, calling it a racial slur. Some tribal groups have supported Snyder's attempts to hold onto the name...more

AP photo

Surveillance video captures mountain lion on CA homeowner's car

A San Jose homeowner captured a mountain lion in front of his home with a surveillance camera Tuesday morning. After the motion detector alarm on his surveillance camera went off, David Tang reviewed his video and saw the animal standing on his car. "People walk around here at night time and walk with their dogs, so it's dangerous for the people if they don't know," Tang said. The incident happened around 3 a.m. on Echo Ridge Drive in the Almaden Valley Country Club neighborhood. Shawn and Steve Stuck, Tang's neighbors saw the video and were stunned. "That's a big cat," they said. Mr. Tang's neighbors believe the cat came out of Almaden County Quicksilver Park which has open space and trails nearby. "I've never seen one. Coyotes, turkey, deer. Not mountain lions," Shawn and Steve Stuck said...more

Reintroduced tule elk compete with cattle on Point Reyes

The 700-pound tule elk’s antlers jutted upward against the backdrop of the sloping, grassy hills and brilliant blue sea along the Point Reyes National Seashore, a magnificent symbol of both conservation success and human-wildlife conflict. The bull was one of dozens of free-roaming tule elk spotted one recent day enjoying the bucolic Point Reyes peninsula. Their presence on the sweeping hillside pastures represents the convergence of two great Marin County success stories — the preservation of historic agricultural land and the reintroduction of a native species once thought to be extinct. But there isn’t much celebrating going on in the picturesque hills, where elk can regularly be seen loping proudly through pastures that seven organic dairies use for their cattle. The wild elk and domestic cows simply do not mix, according to the ranchers who lease the fields from the National Park Service, which administers 28,000 acres of agricultural land in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and Point Reyes seashore. The ranchers say the competition from the elk for scarce vegetation threatens their very existence after three years of drought. “There is plenty of room for elk, but not on the pastoral land,” said Stacy Carlsen, the Marin County agricultural commissioner who is urging the Park Service to capture and remove the 76 elk that were recently counted in the area and build a large fence to keep them out. “Elk and livestock are just not compatible. The ranchers don't want elk to compete with livestock on their property.” It is a conflict that pits two almost sacred Bay Area environmental concepts — sustainable organic farming and native wildlife conservation — against one another...more

Pig farms rebound from virus; meat prices may drop

A virus that killed millions of baby pigs in the last year and led to higher pork prices has waned thanks to warmer weather and farmers' efforts to sterilize their operations. And as pigs' numbers increase, sticker shock on things like bacon should ease. Already, hog supplies are on the rise, with 5.46 million baby pigs born between June and August in Iowa, the nation's leading producer - the highest quarterly total in 20 years and a record 10.7 surviving pigs per litter, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report. It's a significant turnaround from a year ago when the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus was wiping out entire litters. Since the virus first showed up, the federal government rushed to give conditional approval for a vaccine and those in the industry began taking precautions, such as disinfecting trucks, equipment and clothing...more

5-Year-Old Shooting a Crayon 'Gun' Forced to Sign No-Kill Contract

An elementary school in Mobile, Alabama forced a 5-year-old student to sign a "safety contract" promising not to kill herself or anyone else because the girl allegedly pointed a crayon at another student and said, "pew pew."  The girl's mother was summoned to E.R. Dickson Elementary school and told that her daughter had drawn something that resembled a gun and pretended to shoot with the crayon. The mother told Local 15 News that while she waited in the lobby and without her consent, the school gave her daughter a questionnaire evaluating her for depression and suicidal thoughts, and finally forced her to sign a "Mobile County School Safety Contract" promising she wouldn't kill herself or others. "While I was in the lobby waiting they had my 5-year-old sign a contract about suicide and homicide," the mother said. "This isn't right. She's 5 years old. Most of these words on here, she's never heard in her life." The mother, who did not want to be identified, said her daughter was confused asking, "Mommy, daddy, what is suicide?" "I'm the one that should be able to talk to my child and not have someone else mention words like this in front of her at all," said the mother...more

Forbes: Experts warn of ‘Ebola suicide bombers’

ISIS may already be thinking of using Ebola as a low-tech weapon of bio-terror, says a national security expert, who notes that the “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria” and terror groups like it wouldn’t even have to weaponize the virus to attempt to wreak strategic global infection. Such groups could simply use human carriers to intentionally infect themselves in West Africa, then disseminate the deadly virus via the world’s air transportation system. Or so says Capt. Al Shimkus, Ret., a Professor of National Security Affairs at the U.S. Naval War College. “The individual exposed to the Ebola Virus would be the carrier,” Shimkus told Forbes. “In the context of terrorist activity, it doesn’t take much sophistication to go to that next step to use a human being as a carrier.” The idea of using human carriers to intentionally spread deadly pathogens has been around for centuries. As Shimkus points out, in the Middle Ages, adversaries threw infected corpses over their enemy’s city walls in order to spread the deadly Bubonic Plague. Even in the event of terrorists using carriers to spread Ebola in western countries like the U.S., Shimkus doesn’t think the virus would spread exponentially simply because, in theory, advanced health care systems would be equipped to identify, isolate and stop the virus. In the May 2013 issue of the journal Global Policy, however, Amanda Teckman, author of the paper “The Bioterrorist Threat of Ebola in East Africa and Implications for Global Health and Security” concluded that “the threat of an Ebola bioterrorist attack in East Africa is a global health and security concern, and should not be ignored.”...more

Liberia health workers' strike on Monday could hurt Ebola efforts

Thousands of Liberian healthcare workers are set to begin an indefinite strike at midnight on Monday which could undermine the country's effort to stop the spread of the deadly Ebola virus and leave several hundred patients without care. Health workers in the West African nation threatened to abandon hundreds of patients in Ebola treatment units, clinics and hospitals if demands for better incentives, working conditions and protective equipment were not met. A meeting to resolve their grievances on Oct. 10 ended in a deadlock with the government refusing the meet their demands, said George Williams, secretary general of the National Health Workers Association of Liberia...more

Feds order review of security at all facilities holding illegal immigrant children after two Guatemalan teens escape and carjack a 91-year-old

Two teenage asylum seekers from Guatemala have escaped a detention center in Illinois and carjacked a 91-year-old Navy veteran. The incident has prompted the federal government to order a security review at all 139 shelters across the country that house illegal immigrant minors, MailOnline can exclusively reveal. The boys, age 16 and 17, were able to walk away unchallenged from Maryville Academy in Des Plaines, Illinois, outside Chicago, on Wednesday morning and carjack two victims before they were arrested more than 225 miles away outside Iowa City, Iowa, according to authorities. More than 60,000 unaccompanied minors from Central America have poured across the US-Mexico border in recent months and claimed asylum, saying they were fleeing the drug cartel violence in their impoverished home countries. The federal government is spending $868million this year to house and resettle them. Currently, there are more than 2,400 children being held at 139 facilities across the country while they await hearings in front of an immigration judge, according to Kenneth J. Wolfe, a spokesman for the US Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the programs. Mr Wolfe, the HHS spokesman, told MailOnline that the escape has prompted the Office of Refugee Resettlement to take 'immediate steps to ensure that all (refugee resettlement) programs continue to provide a safe and secure environment.'...more

Mexican Gangs Could Be Making Up To $250 Million A Year By Abusing And Extorting Migrants

Tens of thousands of Central American migrants are being kidnapped, abused and extorted by Mexican gangs just yards from the United States in a growing racket that may be worth up to $250 million a year. Arriving in ragtag border towns like Reynosa, Mexico's migrant kidnapping capital where police in armored vehicles patrol the streets and daytime shootouts are commonplace, migrants are picked off buses by gangs who federal authorities say are in cahoots with local officials. They are then held captive in small houses packed with dozens of fellow migrants, where they are ransomed for up to $5,000 a head. Women who cannot pay face rape, while men risk beatings and conscription into gang ranks, police say. The kidnapping of Central American migrants, some of the poorest people in the Americas, is not new. But a recent surge in the number of Central American migrants heading for the United States - coupled with successful operations by Mexican security forces to disrupt cartels' drug business - has turned a former sideline into an increasingly important revenue stream for rank and file cartel members...more

As Mexico cracks down, drug money comes to US

For a company that booked $12 million in annual sales importing snacks like chile- and lime-flavored chips from Mexico, Baja Distributors Inc.'s offices were oddly quiet. There were no signs outside. Its small warehouse was almost empty. Phones went unanswered. Investigators say there was a reason for the anonymity: The business was laundering money from Mexican drug traffickers. Baja Distributors, whose executives denied laundering drug money, brought more than $17 million from Mexico in 18 months. U.S. front companies for cartels aren't new, but U.S. officials say they took a more prominent role after Mexico capped dollar deposits in cash at $7,000 a month for businesses in 2010, later raised to $14,000. As a result, they say, cartels sought companies to deposit money in American banks and wire it back in pesos under the guise of international trade...more

Mexican Gov't Paying to Help Shield Illegal Immigrants in the U.S. from Deportation

According to a report from National Public Radio, the Mexican government through its 50 consulates around the United States has been helping to fund low-income illegal immigrants to apply for President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA — which shields illegal immigrants from deportation and allows them to work in the U.S. NPR’s report details the story of Tania Guzman, an illegal immigrant who said the cost of applying for DACA worried her, but she was able to afford it after her pro-bono lawyer from Public Counsel told her she could access financial help from the Mexican Consulate in Los Angeles. Mexico paid for all Guzman’s attorney fees and application fees, according to NPR. In the end Guzman told NPR she paid just $50. The report explains that since 2012, the year DACA began, the Mexican Consulate in Los Angeles has assisted more then 260 Mexican illegal immigrants apply for protections under DACA. Julian Escutia, an official with the Mexican Embassy in Washington, told NPR that it does not keep track of how many illegal immigrants’ DACA applications they fund...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1315

Its Swingin' Monday and from her 2007 CD Swing, this is Carolyn Martin - Put Yourself In My Blues

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

Lessons in the quakies

by Julie Carter

I let my cowpony pick his own path through the deadfall as we worked our way down a steep slope toward the cattle at the bottom of the canyon.

It was Indian summer at the ranch, and in this high mountain pasture signs of fall were already creeping through the aspens. Their heart-shaped leaves were wearing tones of gold as they shimmered and fluttered (quaked) in the afternoon breeze giving them the name called them: quakies.

The incline became arduous, and if I’d been older or wiser, I might have thought I should be fearful. The loose leaves that had fallen on the ground and the slick black soil still wet from a rain the night before complicated the already precarious descent.

The downed timber lay every which way like a game of Pick-up Sticks gone bad. In my youthful oblivion, I whistled a tune while the big bay methodically navigated his way through the quakies.

When the angle of the terrain forced him to slide, he worked athletically to keep his butt up under him in an equine sort of squat. He never wavered in his determination to get where we needed to go. Like me, he knew there were cattle at the bottom. Sometimes the “cow” in cowhorse is more powerful that self-preservation.

Gathering yearlings for fall shipping was always an adventure with my Dad. Especially so in this pasture, as it involved some overnight camping in an old log cabin complete with lanterns, wood-stove cooking and fresh trout from the creek. Waking early to saddle when the dew was still heavy and the sun making it’s first shadows in the long canyon was the stuff of Zane Grey and old Western movies.

On this day, I was to learn a lesson that would serve me all my life. Before I realized what had happened, Bay and I were at the bottom of small crater-like hole near the base of a ridge. We had literally traversed our way right into a trap. The steep sides of the crater were littered with fallen aspen trees, an undergrowth of shrubbery and turf that was slick and nothing short of treacherous. Coming down that maze of obstacles was one thing, going back up looked impossible.

Immediately, I realized  two things. No one knew exactly where I was, so help may not come anytime soon. And, I could walk out of there, but that meant leaving my horse, an option I wasn’t ready to consider. For a while, I hollered for help, feeling more than just a little foolish. I sat quietly for another long while, hoping to hear any noise that would indicate that maybe Dad had found me, if he was looking. I wasn’t even sure about that.

It was several hours later before my horse’s head snapped to attention, his ears forward and he rumbled out a low nicker of a greeting. I could hear timber cracking and brush popping as someone hollered at the cattle I could hear running through the trees. So I gave another holler and in response, my brother and my dad were soon peering at me over the edge of the hole.

My Dad quickly assessed my dilemma while my brother started to offer some smart-alecky comment before my Dad sent him on after the cattle. It was obvious my Dad was trying not to laugh at me but knowing I was already feeling pretty stupid.

Looking back, I know there were days we were more trouble to him than we were help, and this was quite possibly one of them. Not one for explaining much, he told me to get off my horse and tie his reins around his neck. I did, and then he told me to climb on out of the hole. Begrudgingly I did, thinking I was leaving Bay there to die and it was my fault.

When I got to the top, my dad turned his horse and began to ride away. He told me to follow him afoot. I was mortified that he’d just ride off like that, but knew better than to argue.

My gelding decided there was no way he was going to get left behind. He began an Olympian effort to pull himself up the slope and over the logs in spite of the mud. There were dreadful noises of grunts, groans and crashes. I turned to see what was happening just as he appeared at the rim of the hole, apparently just like Dad knew he would.

The lesson? What seems hopeless isn’t remedied by trying to holler up a solution. Some well-placed wisdom flavored with a touch of obedience will often offer a simple, successful resolution.  Dad’s are pretty smart that way.

Julie can be reached for comment at