Friday, August 14, 2020

Bison rips off woman’s pants in violent attack at Custer State Park

A female passenger on a motorcycle got off and approached a herd of bison that were blocking the road at Custer State Park in South Dakota and wound up being violently attacked as she got too close while taking photos. A bison charged the woman and caught her belt and jeans with its horn and tossed her around in a circle until the pants came off. The woman fell to the ground unconscious, and the bison ran off with the pants on its horn. Fortunately, the 54-year-old Iowa woman escaped serious injury, according to the Custer County Chronicle. A series of videos posted on Facebook by eyewitness Jo Reed tells the disturbing story. Be warned for strong language, and some might find the footage disturbing...MORE

Bison fight halts traffic on Yellowstone road

Male bison in Yellowstone National Park can weigh 2,000 pounds, so when two of them clash it can be an earth-shaking event. The accompanying silent footage, captured through a vehicle windshield, shows a bison ramming another with such force that it lifts the rival bison off the ground and knocks him off the road. Yellowstone shared the video Wednesday, explaining that mating season is still underway and that male bison are aggressive and all bison should be afforded a wide berth. The clash of titans occurred during a bison jam, with tourists stopped in both directions to wait for the herd to leave the road. Viewers will note that two calves are quick to skitter out of the way...MORE

Federal court throws out California's ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday threw out California's ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines, saying the law violates the U.S. Constitution's protection of the right to bear firearms. "Even well-intentioned laws must pass constitutional muster," appellate Judge Kenneth Lee wrote for the panel's majority. California's ban on magazines holding more than 10 bullets "strikes at the core of the Second Amendment — the right to armed self-defense." He noted that California passed the law "in the wake of heart-wrenching and highly publicized mass shootings," but said that isn't enough to justify a ban whose scope "is so sweeping that half of all magazines in America are now unlawful to own in California."...MORE

Fox News reports:

“It makes unlawful magazines that are commonly used in handguns by law abiding citizens for self-defense. And it substantially burdens the core right of self-defense guaranteed to the people under the Second Amendment,” Judge Kenneth Lee wrote in the majority opinion. “It cannot stand.”...It upholds a 2017 ruling by San Diego-based U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez, who blocked a new law that would have barred gun owners from possessing magazines holding more than 10 bullets.
But he and the appeals court went further by declaring unconstitutional a state law that had prohibited buying or selling such magazines since 2000. That law had let those who had the magazines before then keep them, but barred new sales or imports. California now has the option of asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the decision. It may also seek a delay on implementation of the decision to prevent a surge in purchases

The opinion, Duncan vs. Becerra is embedded below or I've made it available to download here

The Trump Administration Takes a Step toward Better Protecting Endangered Species

Shawn Regan & Tate Watkins

Words have meaning — or at least they should. And a high-profile legal battle over the Endangered Species Act has prompted the federal government to finally define the meaning of a simple word with potentially big consequences: habitat.
Last week, in response to a 2018 Supreme Court decision, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife and National Marine Fisheries Services proposed a definition of habitat that seems long overdue. Despite criticism of the definition, it could reduce conflicts surrounding the far-reaching and controversial law and pave the way for more effective approaches to protecting endangered species.
The new definition would mandate that “critical habitat” for a species — more or less the areas “essential” to the species’s conservation — must actually be habitat for that species, by stipulating that only “areas with existing attributes that have the capacity to support individuals of the species” are eligible for the designation. Until now, lacking a clear definition of habitat, the federal government could declare private lands “critical habitat” for an endangered species even if the species didn’t or couldn’t live on those lands. And once landowners’ property was so designated, they could be saddled with burdensome red tape and land-use restrictions.
That’s essentially what happened to Edward Poitevent when his family’s Louisiana property was declared critical habitat for the endangered dusky gopher frog in 2011. The Fish and Wildlife Service made the designation even though there had been no documented sightings of the frog in the state for half a century and the land was no longer suitable for the species; it had been a dense commercial tree plantation for decades, and the frog needs an open-canopied landscape of longleaf pine to survive.
In its ruling in the resulting lawsuit, the Supreme Court offered up a grammar lesson: “According to the ordinary understanding of how adjectives work,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts in a unanimous opinion, “‘critical habitat’ must also be ‘habitat.’” The Court sent the case back to a lower court, and now the Trump administration is seeking to define the term with that lesson in mind.
Critical-habitat designations on private land have long been controversial and counterproductive. They can burden landowners with restrictions on the way property can be used, and have the potential to decrease property values given the risk and regulatory uncertainty they bring with them. A study published this year by U.C. Berkeley economist Max Auffhammer and his colleagues found that critical-habitat designations in California decreased the value of vacant lands by up to 78 percent. In the dusky-gopher-frog case, the federal government acknowledged the designation could decrease the value of the Poitevents’ land by up to $34 million...MORE

Ex-FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith expected to plead guilty in Durham investigation

Jerry Dunleavy
 
A former lawyer with the FBI plans to plead guilty today for falsifying a key document related to the surveillance against a onetime Trump campaign associate as part of a deal with U.S. Attorney John Durham.
Kevin Clinesmith, who worked on both the Hillary Clinton emails investigation and the Trump-Russia inquiry, will admit that he falsified a document during the bureau’s targeting of Carter Page, according to multiple reports. Clinesmith, 38, claimed in early 2017 that Page was not a source for the CIA when he actually was — a falsehood used to obtain a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act renewal against Page.
...Clinesmith is not directly named in DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz's report, but it is clear he is the "Office of General Counsel attorney" who had been acting in response to a question by an FBI agent that was part of the team investigating the Trump campaign.
"Supervisory Special Agent 2," who swore to an affidavit for all three FISA renewals against Page in 2017, told Horowitz's investigators that on the third renewal he wanted "a definitive answer to whether Page had ever been a source for another U.S. government agency before he signed the final renewal application."
While in contact with what was reportedly the CIA's liaison, Clinesmith was reminded that in August 2016, predating the first Page warrant application in October 2016, the other agency informed the FBI that Page "did, in fact, have a prior relationship with that other agency."
An email from the other government agency's liaison was sent to Clinesmith, who then "altered the liaison's email by inserting the words 'not a source' into it, thus making it appear that the liaison had said that Page was 'not a source' for the other agency" and sent it to "Supervisory Special Agent 2," Horowitz found.
"Relying upon this altered email, SSA 2 signed the third renewal application that again failed to disclose Page's past relationship with the other agency," the inspector general wrote...MORE

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Minneapolis demanded taxes before owners of riot-burned businesses can clean up

The old saying has that the only two inevitables in life are death and taxes. Well, business owners in Minneapolis whose operations were torched during the riots following the death of George Floyd at the hands of city police may have escaped death. The Star Tribune reported the city is demanding that owners prepay any remaining 2020 property taxes before they are allowed to have a demolition permit to clean up. "Minneapolis has not been particularly friendly toward business for some time," said Don Blyly, whose bookstore was burned down. The lot still is filled with debris. He's already prepaid the $8,847 the city demanded, but still is awaiting his permit. Minneapolis officials claim it’s a state law that forbids removing any structure until "all of the taxes assessed against the building have been fully paid," the report said. But the responsibility to enforce is left to counties, and Hennepin County said it would not enforce the requirement for riot-destroyed properties. Officials in St. Paul, adjacent to Minneapolis, have another perspective. "We don’t feel like we have an ability to block these permits, and I don’t see why we would," Derrick Hodge, of Hennepin County’s property tax office, said in the Tribune. "One of our missions in the county is to reduce disparities, and if we took action to block these permits, that would arguably be creating more disparities instead of reducing disparities." A commentary at the Gateway Pundit said, "More than 1,500 businesses and buildings were damaged or destroyed in the George Floyd riots." One of the buildings that was destroyed was a housing complex that was planned to house 189 low-income families. The GP continued, "Now the city of Minneapolis is requiring the owners of businesses destroyed in the riots to pay their remaining taxes for 2020 before they will issue them a permit to clean up the remains of their former businesses." The newspaper report said most property owners have to pay $35,000 to $100,000 to clear their sites. "That doesn’t include the money those owners must pay to get their permits. On average, the owners of properties destroyed or significantly damaged owe $25,000 in taxes for the second half of 2020, which come due in October, according to a Star Tribune review of county property records," the report said...MORE

Fed Cattle Rally Reaches Sixth Week

Cash fed cattle prices are posting significant gains at mid-week as the market rally runs into its sixth consecutive week. Cash trades on the southern plains were reported at $103 to $105 per cwt., $3 to $5 higher. Nebraska and Iowa saw $105 live and $165 to $167 dressed, with many cattle priced higher. Cattle feeders have gained leverage in recent days as the supply of fed cattle tightens due to the drop in spring placements. Overall, the market has moved $10 higher since late June. CME cattle futures are also higher. The August contract was up more than $1 at $106.10 at midday Wednesday. October Live cattle traded above $109 and December was above $112. “Backlogged cattle are still around, though most of them appear to be cattle already committed to a packer, which is why there is quite a bit of difference in how each packer is behaving,” writes Cassie Fish in Wednesday’s The Beef Read. “Cattle slaughter has been reduced this quarter compared to a year ago, a little over 50k head including this week. The smaller kills are the packers’ way of rationing the smaller supply. Expect kills to fall short of a year ago the rest of the quarter, as heavier weights easily cover any shortfall and beef demand is soft relative to a year ago anyway.” Boxed beef cutout prices are also trending higher this week, with Choice at $208.64 on Wednesday. “This cash cattle market rally is a classic example of pressure on packer margins as fewer market-ready cattle increase competition,” Fish wrote. “The facts that carcass weights are enormous and beef demand is sluggish will provide no aid to the packer in a time like this.” DJ

‘The food supply chain is breaking’: How Tyson Foods has tried to survive coronavirus

Despite the buzz around plant-based alternatives and vegan recipes, Americans still love meat.
Americans typically consumed more than 180 pounds of beef, pork and poultry in 2018, 10% more than in 1970. Plant-based meat retail sales were $760 million last year — a fraction of total meat and poultry sales. Whether it’s at your favorite fast-food restaurant or in the grocery aisle, one company that carnivores turn to again and again is Tyson Foods.
Tyson Foods is one of the world’s largest food companies, producing about 20% of the beef, pork and chicken in the U.S. It services restaurants and schools and sells brands like Jimmy Dean and Sara Lee in supermarkets.
In the spring, the 85-year-old food giant faced the perfect storm — higher production costs, lower levels of productivity and softer demand. Restaurants were closed as governments enforced social distancing rules. And in April, thousands of Tyson workers were infected with the coronavirus at processing plants. Facilities were forced to shut down, and meat shortages sprang up at grocery stores across the country.    
“We’ve implemented a wide variety of measures to look after our workers, from measuring temperatures as they come through the door, face coverings, staggered breaks, expanded room and social distancing,” said Stewart Glendinning, CFO of Tyson Foods. “All of these are designed to help keep our workers safe. Keeping our workers safe is what will keep our plants running.” 
In August 2020 Tyson reported fiscal third-quarter profits declined 22% from a year earlier. The company ousted CEO Noel White amid falling sales and named Dean Banks, its president, as his successor. Banks previously worked in Google-parent Alphabet’s experimental research division and has a background in health-care technology...MORE

Chicago Looters Target Ronald McDonald House with the Families of Young Sick Children Inside

When the Chicago rioters and looters attacked a Ronald McDonald House, where the families of sick children are staying, they reached a new low.On Monday morning, rioters in Chicago destroyed large sections of the city for several hours. Looters ran riot and no place was safe, not even the Ronald McDonald House. A local TV station reported on the riots and destruction:  LINK

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Wildfires have destroyed more than 60,000 acres across three states and are spreading rapidly

Firefighters across three states are battling wildfires that have destroyed more than 60,000 acres in the US West. In the rugged hills near California's Lake Hughes in Los Angeles County, the Lake Fire has grown to 10,000 acres and is 0% contained as of Wednesday evening. The fire was first reported at 3:40 p.m. and is spreading at a very rapid rate, according to fire officials. Several structures are threatened and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department has set up an evacuation center at a local high school. More than 400 firefighters have been assigned to control the blaze. "This robust number of resources will be placed strategically to protect homes that may come under fire threat," the Los Angeles County Fire Department said. Cloud cover along with higher humidity levels is expected for Thursday, which could provide a window to help contain the fire, CNN meteorologist Michael Guy said. Friday's forecast is hotter and drier, Guy said, posing more of a risk. Those conditions will likely last well into next week. In neighboring Oregon, the Mosier Creek Fire has prompted evacuations in Wasco County. Several large air tankers are on the way to help control the blaze, which has consumed at least 50 acres Wednesday, according to the Oregon Department of Forestry's Central Oregon District. The heat is just building there and will last into the beginning of next week, Guy said, along with dry conditions. And in Colorado, the Grizzly Creek Fire has destroyed more than 3,200 acres and is 0% contained, according to the US Forest Service. The fire crossed the Colorado River and Interstate 70 on Wednesday, prompting the interstate to shut down east of Glenwood Springs. "This fire is in a really tough spot, and it's really tough to fight," White River National Forest supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams said during a community briefing Wednesday. There is no estimate yet of when the interstate could be fully reopened...MORE
 

Over 60 million across the US under heat advisories

From Texas to the Pacific - more than 60 million Americans will be sweltering as a new heat wave settles into the West. CNN Meteorologist Derek Van Dam has the details.


Tourism collapse puts wildlife conservation in peril

Two decades ago, Rosa MarĂ­a Ruiz purchased 4,000 hectares (9,885 acres) of land along the Beni River, near the small village of Rurrenabaque, with the goal of transforming it from a heavily logged patch of the Bolivian Amazon into a thriving private wildlife reserve. The Bolivian eco-warrior had just had success creating what the Wildlife Conservation Society believes is the most biodiverse protected area on the planet, the nearby Madidi National Park, but her vocal criticism of Madidi's protections under government control got her kicked out. Undeterred, she set up her own private park upriver and named it Serere after a gangly bird with a blue face and punk rock hair. Fast-forward to early 2020, and Serere Eco-Reserve was home to more than 300 species of birds and some of South America's most elusive mammals, including dwarf leopards, night monkeys, jaguars, tapirs and giant anteaters. The revival of this small swath of the Amazon was made possible thanks to the support of foreign eco-tourists who paid around $100 a day for all-inclusive overnight stays filled with hiking, conservation lessons and family-style meals sourced from the onsite garden. Then, of course, the pandemic hit, and Serere hasn't welcomed a single visitor since March 23. With no incoming funds, and little in the way of savings, Ruiz had to cut staff from 40 to just seven rangers who've already chased off poachers and seen around 7 acres of forest pillaged for lumber (a trend echoed across the Amazon Basin)."We can't keep going at the rate we are now without further support," she says, noting a GoFundMe campaign created to tackle the emergency. "It's evident that if we don't have a presence and protection in Serere, especially because of the economic crisis everyone's living now, then those who are hard-up will continue cutting down the trees and selling lumber for easy money."It's a predicament faced by highly respected conservation projects across the developing world, who have spent much of 2020 navigating the new reality of trying to protect wild animals while dealing with the fiscal fallout of Covid-19. Tourism has been the fragile pillar on which thousands of conservation projects stood for decades, helping to protect wild, trafficked and refugee animals, restore vital habitats and educate the public about sustainability. When that pillar crumbled overnight amid global travel bans, the system collapsed...MORE 
 
I wonder if all those who advocate longer and more restrictive lock downs are really aware of all the costs being imposed by those policies. 

Smithfield Foods loses $72 million in second quarter due to COVID-19 expenses

Smithfield Foods, Inc. says it spent $350 million to protect its team members and the American food supply during the COVID-19 pandemic, causing adjusted operating results to swing to a loss in the second quarter of 2020. Smithfield Foods, owned by China-based WH Group, is the largest U.S. pork producer with 930,000 U.S. sows in the 2019 Pork Powerhouses ranking. The first half of 2020 was “a tale of two tapes”: prepandemic and pandemic, said Smithfield in a news release. Prior to the onset of COVID-19 in the U.S., Smithfield delivered record results in the first quarter of 2020, which were 190% higher than 2019. However, the impact of the pandemic weighed heavily on the company’s second quarter, pushing adjusted operating results 140% below a year ago to a $72 million loss. Smithfield incurred both direct and indirect incremental expenses related to COVID-19 totaling $350 million during the second quarter. This included $195 million in people-related costs, $125 million in facility-related costs, and $30 million in community-related costs...MORE

Five Horses Butchered In Texas

At least five horses have been killed and butchered in a community south of Houston since late May. The Pearland, Texas, police department said in a Facebook post officers made the first discovery on June 10, after responding to an animal cruelty report. Police and Pearland Animal Services found a horse that had been killed by what investigators say was a fatal stab wound to the chest. The perpetrators then removed the horse’s backstraps and the front and hind quarters, leading officers to believe the animal was killed for its meat. On August 8, Pearland officers were again called to investigate two missing horses. The owner reported the horses were missing and her property fence had bee cut. The two horses were discovered dead and butchered about a half mile away on adjacent land. Those two horses also had their backstraps and hind quarters removed...MORE