Sunday, September 30, 2012

Fast and Furious back in headlines as Univision reportedly finds more victims

Spanish-language television network Univision plans to air a television special that it said reveals more violence than previously known, as well as the stories of how many more Operation Fast and Furious victims were killed, the network announced in a Friday release. “The consequences of the controversial ‘Fast and Furious’ undercover operation put in place by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in 2009 have been deadlier than what has been made public to date,” the network said. “The exclusive, in-depth investigation by Univision News’ award-winning Investigative Unit — Univision Investiga — has found that the guns that crossed the border as part of Operation Fast and Furious caused dozens of deaths inside Mexico.” Among other groups of Fast and Furious victim stories Univision says it will tell in the special to air Sunday evening at 7 p.m., is one about how “16 young people attending a party in a residential area of Ciudad Juárez in January of 2010″ were gunned down with weapons the Obama administration gave to drug cartel criminals through Fast and Furious. “Univision News’ Investigative Unit was also able to identify additional guns that escaped the control of ATF agents and were used in different types of crimes throughout Mexico,” the network added. “Furthermore, some of these guns — none of which were reported by congressional investigators — were put in the hands of drug traffickers in Honduras, Puerto Rico, and Colombia. A person familiar with the recent congressional hearings called Univision’s findings ‘the holy grail’ that Congress had been searching for.” A video preview published on Friday shows a number of the bodies of people killed with Fast and Furious weapons, as well as victims’ family members pleading with outgoing Mexican President Felipe Calderon for justice...more

Song Of The Day #940

Ranch Radio's gospel tune today is End Of The Row by the Cross Point String Band.

The tune is on their 2008, 13 track CD End Of The Row.

A red — as in tomato — state pushes tougher trade rules for Mexico

Depending on who you believe, Thursday was either a bad day for lovers of both free trade and vine-ripened romas — a prelude to higher prices — or the first step in the renaissance of a U.S. tomato industry that has been in decline. At issue: an agreement that has long set a minimum price on Mexican tomatoes imported into the United States. At the time that the deal was reached in 1996, Florida farmers had feared being undercut by cheap produce entering the American market under the terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Florida growers say the agreement is no longer relevant, and asked the Commerce Department to set it aside so they can pursue an “anti-dumping” case against Mexico. If they are successful, and show that Mexican tomatoes are unfairly priced, Commerce would then impose import duties on the Mexican fruit. The Obama administration — caught between the Florida growers, U.S. retailers such as Wal-Mart that rely heavily on Mexican produce and the diplomatic intricacies of U.S.-Mexican relations — said Thursday that the agreement had to be set aside. The Commerce Department said in a preliminary decision that Florida growers, who voluntarily accepted the 1996 agreement, should be free to pursue their complaint now if they want to...more

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Boycott Beef to Save America's Wolves and Wild Horses

Petition published by Kelly Schueman on Jul 28, 2012
  1485 Signatures 

Petition Background (Preamble):

The Cattlemens Association has become so powerful with a Rancher as head of the US Interior Department, that laws that protect our wildlife are being arrogantly trampled. Wolves are still endangered, however the Cattlemen and hunting interests have bought this beloved animals delisting.

Mustangs have land set aside for them by law. This Interior Department is cruely rounding them up with helicopters , injuring many in the process, some that have to be killed afterward. They are then filling the Mustangs land with cattle herds.

Please stop giving the cattle industry lobby money. Please Boycott American Beef!


We the undersigned will no longer fund the Cattlemens Associations lobbiests. If the Cattlemens Association wants our business, they will allow room for American wildlife, including OUR wolves, and Mustangs.

The Interior Department will end this boycott, when they relist the Grey Wolf, and end their abusive, cruel, Mustang round ups.

Check out the whole page here.

She spelled lobbyists wrong, so The Westerner won't be signing.

HT:  Dennis Baxter

Spaceport is Built, but Who Will Come?

New Mexico Tourism Secretary Monique Jacobson says it will be New Mexico's Sydney Opera House. Virgin Galactic Chairman Richard Branson has hinted it will host the first of his new brand of lifestyle hotels. And the eclectic hot springs town of Truth or Consequences has been anxiously awaiting all the economic development the nearly quarter-of-a-billion-dollar project is supposed to bring to this largely rural part of southern New Mexico.
But as phase one of Spaceport America, the world's first commercial port built specifically for sending tourists and payloads into space, is nearing completion, the only new hotel project that has been finalized is a Holiday Inn Express here in Truth or Consequences, about 25 miles away. And three key companies with millions of dollars in payroll have passed on developing operations in the state.
    The lagging development, along with competition from heavy hitters like Florida and Texas, is raising new questions about the viability of the $209 billion taxpayer-funded project — as well as the rush by so many states to grab a piece of the commercial spaceport pie. To date, nine spaceports are planned around the United States, mostly at existing airports, and another 10 have been proposed, according to a recent report from the New Mexico Spaceport Authority.
    "Right now, the industry is not there to support it," Alex Ignatiev, a University of Houston physics professor and adviser to space companies, said of the list of planned and proposed spaceports across America.
    Andrew Nelson, COO of XCOR Aerospace, disagrees, saying "in the next couple to three years, there's going to be a demonstrative reduction in the cost to launch stuff ... so we are going to have a lot more people coming out of the woodwork."
   Currently, the Spaceport can count on two rocket companies that send vertical payloads into space and Virgin Galactic, the Branson space tourism venture that says it has signed up more than 500 wealthy adventurers for $200,000-per-person spaceflights. Other leaders in the race to commercialize the business and send tourists into space have been passing on New Mexico.
    For example, XCOR Aerospace, which manufactures reusable rocket engines for major aerospace contractors and is designing a two-person space vehicle called the Lynx, has twice passed over New Mexico in favor of Texas and Florida. Most recently, it announced plans to locate its new Commercial Space Research and Development Center Headquarters in Midland, Texas.
    Another company, RocketCrafters, Inc., passed over New Mexico for Titusville, Fla. And the space tourism company of SpaceX, is looking at basing a plant with $50 million in annual salaries to Brownsville, Texas.

The Westerner's Radio Theater #48

Today Ranch Radio brings you the 10/20/1946 broadcast of the All Star Western Theater with special guest star Johnny Mack Brown.  There's a volume change about 47 seconds into the program.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Obama Blocks Chinese Ownership of Wind Farms

Citing national security risks, President Barack Obama on Friday blocked a Chinese company from owning four wind farm projects in northern Oregon near a Navy base where the U.S. military flies unmanned drones and electronic-warfare planes on training missions. It was the first time in 22 years that a U.S. president has blocked such a foreign business deal. Obama's decision was likely to be another irritant in the increasingly tense economic relationship between the U.S. and China. It also comes against an election-year backdrop of intense criticism from Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney, who accuses Obama of not being tough enough with China. In his decision, Obama ordered Ralls Corp., a company owned by Chinese nationals, to divest its interest in the wind farms it purchased earlier this year near the Naval Weapons Systems Training Facility in Boardman, Ore. The case reached the president's desk after the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States, known as CFIUS, determined there was no way to address the national security risks posed by the Chinese company's purchases. Only the president has final authority to prohibit a transaction...more

Ranchers for Romney launch grassroots campaign

A small group of cattle producers has initiated a campaign called “Ranchers for Romney,” intending to mobilize their fellow farmers and livestock producers through the final weeks of the presidential campaign. A source associated with the group says they believe this election is one of the most critical in recent memory, and that Romney best represents the interests of farmers, ranchers and other agribusinesses. The group plans to promote their program nationally through advertising in trade media and word of mouth, with their focus on individual, grassroots efforts. Organizers first are asking farmers, ranchers, allied industry and all stakeholders in agriculture to join them by donating what they can to the Romney campaign. Then they ask supporters to reach out to at least 20 friends, neighbors and relatives, encouraging them to do the same. The group emphasizes that this type of individual action can generate surprising sums of money for the campaign. If one individual contacts 20 people who each agree to donate and contact 20 more, participation jumps to 400, they say. If each of those 400 successfully contact and solicit donations from 20 people, the total rises to 8,000. If donations from 8,000 people average $100, the person making the initial calls has, in essence, raised $800,000 for the campaign. The group encourages participants to send their donations directly to the Romney Victory Fund, using tracking number 8603 for Ranchers for

Interior announces $43 million agreement for Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly today announced a $43 million financial assistance agreement for design and construction of a portion of the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project. The leaders broke ground in June on the historic project, which, when completed, will have the capacity to deliver clean running water to a potential future population of approximately 250,000. Today's milestone is one in a series of steps that are part of the larger Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project. Under the terms of today's agreement, the Navajo Nation will be responsible for the design, construction, and oversight of Reaches 24.1, 25, and 26 of the Cutter Lateral, which consists of approximately 43.4 miles of water pipeline, a pumping station, and four storage tanks. Construction will be located on the Navajo Reservation along the U.S. Highway 550 corridor south of Farmington, N.M. The project participants already have begun design and other pre-construction work, and water delivery to communities along the Cutter Lateral could occur as soon as 2015...more

Matt Damon’s Anti-Fracking Movie Financed by Oil-Rich Arab Nation

A new film starring Matt Damon presents American oil and natural gas producers as money-grubbing villains purportedly poisoning rural American towns. It is therefore of particular note that it is financed in part by the royal family of the oil-rich United Arab Emirates. The creators of Promised Land have gone to absurd lengths to vilify oil and gas companies, as Scribe’s Michael Sandoval noted Wednesday. Since recent events have demonstrated the relative environmental soundness of hydraulic fracturing – a technique for extracting oil and gas from shale formations – Promised Land’s script has been altered to make doom-saying environmentalists the tools of oil companies attempting to discredit legitimate “fracking” concerns. While left-leaning Hollywood often targets supposed environmental evildoers, Promised Land was also produced “in association with” Image Media Abu Dhabi, a subsidiary of Abu Dhabi Media, according to the preview’s list of credits. A spokesperson with DDA Public Relations, which runs PR for Participant Media, the company that developed the film fund backing Promised Land, confirmed that AD Media is a financier. The company is wholly owned by the government of the UAE...more

Inspector General's New Asset Forfeiture Report Reveals DOJ Is Now Just Robbing Americans

by Mike Riggs

The Office of Inspector General for the Justice Department released an audit yesterday reviewing the DEA's use of asset forfeiture, which is the policy that allows federal law enforcement agencies to confiscate the savings and property of Americans suspected of a crime. The report highlights no illegal or improper behavior on the DEA's part, but it does reveal a massive shift away from due process toward blatant thuggery.
According to a chart provided by the OIG, 86 percent of asset forfeitures that occurred between 2001 and 2011 were either administrative or civil, and only 14 percent were criminal. That means roughly 86 percent of the instances in which the government took cash, computers, cars, homes, life savings, investments, property or other assets, it did so without approval from a judge, a verdict from a jury, or any meaningful form of due process.
This is not just bad policy, it is theft. The OIG's chart is below:

Here's some clarification on the three types of asset forfeiture, courtesy of the Justice Department:
Administrative forfeiture is the process by which property may be forfeited to the United States without judicial involvement. Federal seizing agencies perform administrative forfeitures. Seizures must be based on probable cause. The authority for a seizing agency to start an administrative forfeiture action is found in 19 U.S.C. § 1607.
"Administrative forfeiture can be used to seize and forfeit the following:
• any amount of currency;
• personal property valued at $500,000 or less, including cars, guns, and boats;
• hauling conveyances of unlimited value.
"Real property cannot be forfeited administratively.
Criminal forfeiture is an action brought as part of the criminal prosecution of a defendant that includes the forfeiture of property used or derived from the crime. If the defendant is convicted, the judge or the jury may find that the property is forfeitable. Forfeiture is limited to the property interests of the defendant and only to property involved in the particular counts on which the defendant is convicted. Only the defendant’s interest can be forfeited in a criminal case because criminal forfeiture is part of the sentence in the criminal case.
Civil forfeiture is a proceeding brought against the property rather than against the person who committed the offense. Civil forfeiture does not require either criminal charges against the owner of the property or a criminal conviction.
Originally posted at Hit & Run.

A Third of Americans Worry About Police Getting Drones

According to an Associated Press-National Constitution Center poll, 36 percent of Americans are “opposed” or “strongly opposed” to police use of unmanned drones in their law enforcement kit. Privacy concerns contribute:
When asked if they were concerned that police departments' use of drones for surveillance might cause them to lose privacy, 35 percent of respondents said they were "extremely concerned" or "very concerned." An almost identical share, 36 percent, said they were "not too concerned" or "not concerned at all."
Twenty-four percent fell in the middle, saying they were "somewhat concerned" about a potential loss of personal privacy.
Read More

Drones in U.S. Airspace: Principles for Governance

Flying drones—unmanned aerial vehicles—have been made famous by their use in the war on terrorism, notably in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, but such military drones are a small fraction of those used by the United States today. Thousands of drones are used for a wide variety of purposes, from scientific research to military operations. Both government and the private sector use drones mostly without weapons capabilities. Because of their wide-reaching surveillance capabilities, however, even unarmed drones could threaten personal privacy and civil liberties. As the Federal Aviation Administration develops regulations for the operation of drones in domestic skies, it should consider constitutional concerns and privacy rights...

Any guidelines must ensure appropriate protections of the freedoms guaranteed to U.S. citizens under the Constitution. The general rule balancing security and freedom is to be found, in large part, in the structure of American constitutional government itself. The protections codified in the Bill of Rights are an additional firewall against any intrusions on liberty that would unravel the checks in the Constitution. The Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unlawful search and seizure is the right most directly implicated by unbounded and unrestrained use of domestic drones.
Now is the time to return to first principles of individual liberty in a free society and assess their interaction with technology and governance in an age of domestic drones. There are basic first principles that underlie any use of new technology and the existing constitutional limitations that might apply to drones. An assessment of these principles suggests that there are:
  • Substantial liberty interests;
  • Acceptable domestic uses of drone technology that should be permitted and in fact fostered, such as the use of drones to search for survivors after a disaster; and
  • Prohibited uses of drone technology that raise significant questions of law and policy—such as the deployment of drones operated by the military within U.S. borders in a manner that violates existing rules (such as Posse Comitatus) on the use of military force domestically.
Beyond these uses, the challenge for the Administration and Congress is to define strict, appropriate implementation policies and oversight structures that can protect individual liberties while allowing appropriate uses of domestic drones with appropriate oversight.

Drones are Elwha Dam researchers' eyes in sky

Electronic “Ravens” join hungry raptors, their eyes fixed on the flowing water below, as they swoop over the Elwha River this week. The 4½-foot-wide aircraft, resembling radio-controlled airplanes, are steered by researchers on the ground. They took flight Monday, continued Tuesday and will be in the air today. The hands behind the controls and the eyes watching the video streaming from cameras on the craft to a laptop computer will belong to researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey, the federal Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service. It's the second series of flights over the Elwha for the Ravens, as their California manufacturer has christened them. The first flights were in June, when the small aircraft glided almost silently about 500 feet above the river, just south of what was at one point Lake Aldwell. The researchers' mission: to determine how best these coffee-table-sized aircraft can be used to study not just the $315 million Elwha River project but also other such projects. Biologists and other researchers watching the dam-removal process are using this information, roughly 15 hours' worth, to help estimate how much sediment has spilled into the Strait of Juan de Fuca and how much is yet to come. In addition, researchers are using the video to watch the recovery of riverside habitat and the creation of sandbars and other geographic features, Hutt said. The flights over the Elwha are the latest example of the myriad research-minded uses that have emerged for technology originally designed for wartime operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. With biologists leading the way, other agencies have sent these unmanned craft skyward to scope out wildfires, detect underground coal seam fires and hunt down invasive boa constrictors and pythons in the Florida Everglades. “A new [use] comes out about every day,” Hutt said...more

Today it's boa constrictors, tomorrow they will be counting cows, measuring forage, etc.

Drones Subject to GPS Spoofing, Privacy ‘Abuses,’ GAO Report Warns

The Government Accountability Office is warning Congress that its push for drones to become commonplace in U.S. airspace fails to take into account concerns surrounding privacy, security and even GPS jamming and spoofing. The GAO, Congress’ research arm, was responding to the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, signed by President Barack Obama in February, which among other things requires the Federal Aviation Administration to accelerate drone flights in U.S. airspace. Drones, known in the report as “unmanned aerial systems,” are currently limited in the United States to law enforcement activities, search and rescue, forensic photography, monitoring or fighting forest fires, border security, weather research, and, among other things, scientific data collection and for hobby. But there’s a concerted push to expand the commercial use of drones for pipeline, utility, and farm fence inspections; vehicular traffic monitoring; real-estate and construction-site photography; relaying telecommunication signals; fishery protection and monitoring; and crop dusting, according to the report (.pdf), which was distributed to lawmakers earlier this month. That’s despite the fact that many drones don’t have “elaborate on-board detection systems to help them avoid crashes in the air,” which could cause complications when and if drones share airspace with private aircraft...more

Justice Department’s Warrantless Spying Increased 600 Percent in Decade

The Justice Department use of warrantless internet and telephone surveillance methods known as pen register and trap-and-trace has exploded in the last decade, according to government documents the American Civil Liberties obtained via a Freedom of Information Act claim. Pen registers obtain, in real time, non-content information of outbound telephone and internet communications, such as phone numbers dialed, and the sender and recipient (and sometimes subject line) of an e-mail message. A trap-and-trace acquires the same information, but for inbound communications to a target. No probable-cause warrant is needed to obtain the data. Judges are required to sign off on these orders when the authorities say the information is relevant to an investigation. In 2001, the DoJ issued only 5,683 reported “original orders.” (.pdf) Fast forward to 2011, the latest year for which data is available, the number skyrocketed to 37,616 — a more than sixfold increase. Though these can be used to track e-mail, the vast majority are used to get information on mobile phone users’ phone calls and texts. Even more alarming, the latest figures — which were for years 2010 and 2011 — open only a tiny window into the U.S. surveillance society. Consider that last year mobile carriers responded to a staggering 1.3 million law enforcement requests — which come from federal, state and local police, as well as from administrative offices – for subscriber information, including text messages and phone location data. That’s according to data provided to Congress that was released in July...more

Broad Range of Organizations Support Challenge to Warrantless Wiretapping at Supreme Court

Last week, the ACLU filed a brief with the Supreme Court in a long-running constitutional challenge to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments Act of 2008 (FAA), a statute that gives the National Security Agency (NSA) expansive power to conduct dragnet surveillance of Americans’ international communications. The ACLU’s lawsuit is before the Supreme Court on the question of whether the plaintiffs—a coalition of professionals whose work requires confidential or sensitive international communications—have “standing” to challenge the law. We argued in our brief that the plaintiffs have standing because the FAA forces them to take costly and burdensome measures to avoid surveillance of such communications. The appeals court agreed, and on October 29, the Supreme Court will hear oral argument to consider the issue. This week, a wide range of organizations filed friend-of-the-court briefs in support of the ACLU’s clients. The nine briefs include submissions from lawyersjournalistscivil liberties organizations, and even a gun owners’ association. Many of the briefs point out that the FAA lacks safeguards that are essential to protecting Americans’ privacy rights...more

Meat packer in Alberta loses license over E. coli contamination

Canada’s food inspection agency temporarily suspended XL Foods’ licence to operate a meat processing plant in Brooks late Thursday because it had failed to correct problems that led to tainted beef ending up on grocery shelves and restaurant tables across the continent. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s decision came as the U.S expanded its recall of beef from XL Foods Inc. to 30 states and questions about the slowness of authorities to react to evidence of a food safety crisis were raised on both sides of the border. The agency said in a release that information provide by the company on Sept. 26 and gathered through inspector oversight showed the company — one of the country’s largest meat packers — had not corrected deficiencies identified during a recent on-site review. Until the problems are fixed and management presents acceptable plans to fix longer-term issues, the food inspection agency said the plant will not be allowed to resume operations...more

XL Foods beef recall extended in U.S. to stores in 30 states, including Walmart

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has extended its public health alert about beef from an Alberta plant to stores in 30 states, including retail giant Walmart. The alert means XL Foods Inc. is voluntarily recalling beef products from these stores over concerns about possible E. coli contamination. The U.S. Food Safety Inspection Service says it is monitoring the effectiveness of the recall. XL Foods officials were not immediately available for comment. Canada revoked the plant’s permit to export beef to the U.S. on Sept. 13 at the request of the U.S.D.A. Since Sept. 16, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has issued at least seven recall alerts for XL Foods Inc. ground beef products from its Lakeside plant over E. coli concerns. There are no reported cases of people getting sick from eating the ground beef. link

Song Of The Day #939

On Ranch Radio today is Hank Snow & Anita Carter with their beautiful duet Let's Pretend.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Romney plan for handing drill permit decisions to states stirs debate in West

One of the primary planks of Mitt Romney's energy plan is re-igniting a decades-old debate in the West about who should control access to fossil fuels on federal lands. In a campaign speech in Hobbs, N.M., a few weeks ago, the GOP presidential nominee told the crowd, "I will set a national goal of North American independence by 2020. That means we produce all the energy we use in North America." In addition to opening up new areas for offshore drilling, Romney says his energy independence goal can be accomplished by speeding up the time it takes to get permits to drill on federal lands. The way to do that, he says, is by putting state regulators in charge of the federal process just as they already are on state and private lands. "On federal lands the permitting process to actually get anything done is extraordinarily slow. In North Dakota, it takes 10 days to get a permit for a new well. In Colorado, it takes 27 days. But do you know how long it takes the federal regulators to get you a permit to get on government land? On average, 307 days." The energy industry quickly applauded idea of taking the permitting process out of federal hands. "It makes sense to have wildlife biologists, people that are air and water experts that live and work around the land where it's going to be produced to be the ones that are making those decisions as opposed to some unaccountable government bureaucrat back in Washington, D.C.," said Tim Wigley, president of the nonprofit Western Energy Alliance. But environmental groups and others were just as quick to attack the idea...more

Utah conservationists ask Interior Secretary not to de-list wolves

More than a dozen Utah conservation groups are asking Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to keep protections in place that would allow "natural re-introduction" of wolves into the Beehive State. In a letter to Salazar, the conservationists say they are concerned with a planned de-listing of the gray wolf from the Endangered Species list across the lower 48 states. In addition, they fear for the health of the Mexican gray wolf population that straddles the line between northern Arizona and New Mexico. In a related matter that is independent of the gray wolf, portions of southern Utah were being considered for an extension of the Mexican gray wolf recovery area. But according to the conservationists’ letter to Salazar, behind-the-scenes maneuvering may have been successful in removing southern Utah from consideration. One of the letter’s authors, Kirk Robinson, Western Wildlife Conservancy, said in a Thursday interview that there are fewer than 100 surviving Mexican gray wolves and without a larger recovery area they likely will become extinct. The complete de-listing of gray wolves across the lower 48 states had been scheduled for this Sunday but has been postponed for several months, Robinson said. "We want Salazar to know there is a growing constituency of Utahns who know what’s going on," Robinson said. "We want to bring a groundswell of opposition [to the de-listing of the lower 48 states]." Conservationists would like to see gray wolves migrate into Utah from the north and Mexican gray wolves from the south in what Robinson called "natural re-introduction."...more

Cattle grazing vs. sagebrush species: Conservationists seek monetary compromise

The Oregon Natural Desert Association three-day conference, which concluded over the weekend, was sponsored by several like-minded environmental groups and attended by upward of a hundred scientists, activists and other participants from all around the country. Sage-grouse Management and Conservation was one of six panel discussions on the first day, with speakers from the Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service and two conservation groups. WildEarth Guardians was represented by Mark Salvo, Director of the Sagebrush Sea Campaign and ecologist David Dobkin, spoke on behalf of the Greater Hart-Sheldon Conservation Fund. Salvo started things off with a lively presentation that condensed the complex subjects of sage-grouse management, cattle grazing impacts on sagebrush habitat, the monolithic part that a highly flammable invasive species is playing in the proliferation of hotter, more intensive and more prevalent wildfires—into a fifteen minute overview. The debate between conservationists, cattle ranchers, land managers and federal agencies has raged on for over a dozen decades. Grazing is seen as the single most damaging factor in the devastation of water resources, natural systems, native plants and sagebrush-dependent species. Additionally, barbed wire, which impales flying sage-grouse and other species, leaving them to die slow, torturous deaths, is a highly undesirable impediment across thousands of remaining fenced acres on public lands. Conservation groups like WildEarth Guardians supports sustainable, land grazing reform and legislation that would allow recovery organizations to buy out grazing permits for a fair price to the rancher. It couldn’t happen soon enough, because full recovery of such delicate habitats could take up to 100 years. In November 2011, Congressman Adam Smith (WA-D) introduced HR 3432; the Rural Economic Vitalization Act (REVA). It would allow third-parties to compensate ranchers, who permanently withdraw their grazing permits...more

US Forest Service Uses Old Land Deeds to See Forests of Long Ago

Forest restoration would be a lot easier if people who lived a couple of centuries ago could just tell us about the forest as they knew it. For Melissa Thomas-Van Gundy, a U.S. Forest Service scientist, using original land deeds from colonial America is as close as you can get to actually being there. Based in Parsons, W.Va., Thomas-Van Grundy is using a unique digitized dataset built with original land deeds to determine what a West Virginia forest looked like before European settlement. Two hundred years ago, “metes and bounds” surveys used distances from trees, posts, rock piles or natural features to describe corners where property line directions changed. Trees were used as markers for the corners of a parcel, and these descriptions were included in deeds. “At the time, these trees ‘witnessed’ corners,” says Thomas-Van Grundy. “Today they are telling us even more.” The use of old deeds is not a new technique in forest research, but Thomas-Van Gundy based her study of what is today the Monongahela National Forest on a larger number of points than has been used previously and used a different approach in analyzing the data. In addition to bringing pre-settlement forests into better focus, the study also yielded a small detail on the surveyors themselves: Colonial Americans really knew their trees...more

Court rejects woodpecker habitat appeal

Rejecting conservationists' bid to defend habitat for a rare woodpecker at Lake Tahoe, a federal appeals court ruled that the U.S. Forest Service is not required to protect animals not covered by the Endangered Species Act. The decision from a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco will allow logging in an area of burned forest, angering environmentalists who say it overturns decades of policy. The judges upheld a District Court ruling that dismissed a lawsuit against the Forest Service brought by the Earth Island Institute and the Center for Biological Diversity challenging the logging. The appellate court found the Forest Service had the authority to conclude the blackbacked woodpecker would not be threatened by a project intended to ease fire threats at the site of the 2007 Angora Fire, which burned 250 homes near South Lake Tahoe, Calif. Environmentalists said the ruling grants the federal agency a troubling amount of discretion in interpreting its own regulations and undermines wildlife protections in place under the National Forest Management Act since 1982...more

Government land swaps: A bad deal for the rest of us?

For Western Pacific Timber and its then-President and CEO Tim Blixseth, the spring of 2006 promised big business. The company had recently purchased 39,371 acres in the Clearwater National Forest in the Upper Lochsa, on the Idaho-Montana border. The Lewis and Clark trail winds through here. The rivers and woods are home to threatened steelhead, bull trout and Canada lynx. Foresters and conservationists had wanted to consolidate ownership of the checker-boarded territory for years, and Blixseth knew it. So he gathered a handful of U.S. Forest Service managers in a corner office of Western Pacific's Boise high-rise and offered to exchange the newly purchased Upper Lochsa land for part of the Payette National Forest around McCall, a popular Idaho ski town. In the '80s and '90s, the Forest Service and the federal Bureau of Land Management lost money and crucial habitat in major land exchanges that favored private parties. Agencies are required to ensure that transactions "serve the public interest," with the new land's value at least equal to that of the land exchanged...more

Secretary Salazar Dedicates Two National Wildlife Refuges in New Mexico

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today dedicated the Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge in Albuquerque, making it the first urban refuge in the Southwest and one of a handful across the nation. Salazar was joined by Senator Jeff Bingaman, Representative Martin Heinrich, Bernalillo County Commissioner Art De La Cruz, and other local stakeholders and partners, including the Trust for Public Land. Later today, Salazar will travel to Wind River Ranch near Mora, N.M. for a signing ceremony establishing the Rio Mora National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area on over 4,200 acres donated by the Thaw Charitable Trust. “Today we celebrate two new jewels in the National Wildlife Refuge System -- Valle de Oro, an urban oasis for people and wildlife just five miles from downtown Albuquerque, and Rio Mora, which will serve as an anchor for cooperative conservation efforts in the Rio Mora watershed,” Salazar said. “Both refuges exemplify the goals of President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative to establish a 21st century conservation ethic built on partnerships and to fuel economic growth in local communities.”...more

T. C. Boyle's 'San Miguel' looks at the grinding drudgery of sheep ranching

San Miguel is a remote part of the Channel Islands off the coast of California, west of Santa Barbara. In his historical novel, "San Miguel," T.C. Boyle delves deeply into the lives of two families of sheep ranchers -- the Waterses and the Lesters -- who inhabited the island in different centuries. Marantha and Will Waters make their home on San Miguel in the 1880s, when an eight-hour ship passage across rough seas was the only way to reach it. Marantha, 38 and embarking on her second marriage, this one to a Civil War veteran, has tuberculosis and has agreed to the move in an effort to improve her health. Her adopted daughter, Edith, just 14, and their cook, Ida, not much older, approach the relocation as an adventure. But the house turns out to be little better than a drafty shack, the road too narrow to allow carts and the weather generally abysmal: windy, foggy and rainy. Marantha is so sick, she can barely set up house, but Will, focused completely on making a go of the sheep business, barely notices. From the beginning, Marantha senses doom...more

Cows vs. coal: Asian energy boom threatens Montana ranchers

ROUNDUP, Mont. - — The big mining companies first came knocking on Ellen Pfister's door in the 1970s, ready to tap the huge coal deposits beneath her family's eastern Montana ranch. Pfister and others successfully fended them off, and as the coal industry retreated domestically, it appeared their battle might be won. But now, a fast-growing market in exporting coal to Asia has Pfister and other ranchers seeing their long-held fears become reality. With the once-shuttered Bull Mountain Mine under new ownership, mining activity beneath Pfister's 300-head cattle ranch is in full swing, on target to produce more than 9 million tons of coal this year. At least once a day on average a coal train more than a mile long pulls out of the mine that sits atop an estimated one billion tons of the fuel. Sixty percent is destined for overseas markets, including Asia. Pfister's biggest worry is that mining could permanently damage her water supplies — a crucial necessity on a ranch set in central Montana's arid landscape of sandstone, sage brush and ponderosa pine trees stunted by drought. Trucks rumble along access roads to the mine carved into the rocky coulees that lace through the ranch, which Pfister inherited from her mother and runs with husband, Don Golder. Giant fissures have appeared where portions of the mine collapsed after coal was removed. U.S. coal exports hit their highest level in two decades last year, with 107 million tons of coal sent primarily to Asia and Europe...more

IRS grants tax extension due to drought

Farmers and ranchers who were forced by severe drought to sell more livestock than normal will get some tax relief. The Internal Revenue Service announced this week that producers making forced livestock sales due to drought can defer tax payments on any extra financial gains. Farmers and ranchers generally have four years to replace their livestock. Due to this extension, producers whose replacement period was scheduled to end Dec. 31, in most cases, will have another year to pay any taxes. The extension immediately impacts forced sales that occurred four years ago, in 2008. This extension affects all or parts of 43 states, reflecting the near nationwide drought conditions this year...more

Police Dog Only Member Left in Small New Mexico Town's Police Force

A drug-sniffing dog now is the only certified member of the police force in the small eastern New Mexico town of Vaughn. Police Chief Ernest "Chris" Armijo decided to step down Wednesday after news stories reported that he wasn't allowed to carry a gun because of his criminal background. "He decided the attention was distracting," said Dave Romero, an attorney for the town. State officials said Armijo couldn't carry a gun since acknowledging that he owed tens of thousands of dollars in delinquent child support payments in Texas. Armijo also faces new felony charges after being accused of selling a town-owned rifle and pocketing the cash. According to records, the only qualified member of the Vaughn Police Department is Nikka, a drug-sniffing dog. Vaughn's other officer isn't certified and pleaded guilty to charges of assault and battery last year. Noncertified officers can't make arrests and can't carry firearms...more

Presidential candidates respond to AFBF questionnaire

During each presidential campaign season, the American Farm Bureau Federation asks the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees to address issues that concern the farming and ranching communities. On Sept. 24, the AFBF released results of its annual questionnaire, which details each candidate’s positions on agricultural issues. The AFBF’s questionnaire also addressed issues related to environmental policy, fiscal policy, labor, taxes and trade. A full transcript of each candidate’s responses can be downloaded from the AFBF website...more

Worse Than Solyndra: Obama Admin Buying Maine Senate Seat with Crony Energy Loans

The Obama administration is famous for its crony capitalism. It’s famous for wasting money on disastrous investments like Solyndra to pay off its political allies. It now appears, however, that they go a step further: they put public funds in bad investment loans, then double down on their bad loans with free cash grants. Here’s the short story: Angus King, former governor of Maine, Obama supporter, and front-running independent Senate candidate, owned a wind company. Obama’s Department of Energy handed over a deeply questionable $102 million loan to that company. It appears that as that company was coming under investigation, King quickly divested himself of his interests, hoping he was doing so just in time to escape scrutiny, and as he was preparing to announce his candidacy for Senate. But that's not where the story ends. It seems that before he left the company, King helped apply for a Department of Energy grant worth some $33 million. Which means one of two things: either the company was thriving, in which case King was helping bilk taxpayers for an additional $33 million; or the company was having financial difficulties, in which case the $33 million grant was designed to help cover the cost of the loans, $23 million of which was coming due with a maturity date of April 27, 2012. Either way, the situation doesn’t look good for King, or the Obama Administration. Either the two were working to ensure that King’s company got paid millions so that King could reap the benefits, or they were working to cover up a troubled company and highly questionable investment subsidized with federal tax money...more

Feds deny request for NM transmission project

A $350 million transmission project aimed at funneling renewable energy from eastern and central New Mexico to other Western markets could be in jeopardy due to a decision by federal regulators. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has denied a request by New Mexico's Renewable Energy Transmission Authority and others that sought a one-time change in the way requests for transmission access are processed so the Power Network Project could be expedited. The commission said it had concerns about the waiver opening up the potential for discrimination when it comes to customers accessing the proposed transmission line. Other critics, including developers who are in line for transmission access, questioned whether the project is commercially viable and ready to move forward...more

Texas ranchers call on EPA to lift RFS standard

The Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA) called on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Wednesday to waive the current Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) in light of corn shortages and soaring feed costs across the U.S. According to TSCRA, the government mandates that 40 percent of the U.S. annual corn crop go directly toward ethanol production; however, federal law does allow the EPA administrator to waive this requirement for up to 1 year if the implementation would severely harm the economy or environment of a state, a region or the U.S. “As record drought conditions throughout the U.S. continue to push corn yields lower and prices upward, the economic ramifications for consumers, livestock and animal agriculture producers will become even more severe,” said Joe Parker Jr., rancher and TSCRA president, in comments submitted to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. “These ramifications are particularly severe in Texas, the leading cattle producing state in the nation.” Parker says that last year was the first year ever that ethanol production used more corn than all animal agriculture combined. With corn supplies continuing to tighten across the U.S., the current RFS standard is only compounding the situation by reducing the already extremely limited amount of corn available for feed...more

EPA: Bee reviews will not be rushed

In response to a letter from several senators, Jim Jones, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, said that although the agency is concerned about potential pesticides’ impacts on bees, it does not intend to further accelerate its review of neonicotinoid pesticides which some beekeepers and environmental groups are blaming for bee kills. In a July 26 letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, Sens. Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Leahy (D-Va.), and Whitehouse (D-R.I.) asked EPA to expedite its review of the neonicotinoid insecticides. "I want to assure you that the EPA is focused on addressing the potential effects of pesticides on pollinators and is engaged in national and international efforts to address those concerns," Jones wrote in the Aug. 21 response. Jones stated that these reviews will take time. "As part of advancing our understanding in the context of reevaluation, the EPA has already required six specific studies to address uncertainties related to potential honey bee exposure, and effects from imidacloprid alone,” Jones wrote. “Additional, similar studies will be required of other neonicotinoid insecticides in the near future. These studies, while underway or anticipated, will require time to complete. For example, based on current workplan schedules for the neonicotinoids, the registrants are generating exposure and effects data to be submitted to EPA by the end of 2015."...more

Song Of The Day #938

The selection on Ranch Radio today is Governor Jimmie Davis and his 1945 recording of I'm Happy I Can Ride The Open Range.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Zetas gang threatens Mexico’s shale gas near border

The brutal Zetas gang poses one of the most daunting challenges to the development of Mexico’s abundant shale gas reserves near the Texas border. The gas fields extend from the booming Eagle Ford play of South Texas deep into the ranch and coal country stretching inland from this violent border city. This is Zetas country, among the most fearsome of Mexico’s criminal badlands. U.S. and Mexican energy companies long have been besieged by the gangsters here – their workers assaulted, extorted or murdered – despite a heavy military and federal police presence. Now, with feuding Zetas factions bloodying one another and fending off outside rivals, what has been a bad situation threatens to get much worse. Northern Mexico’s gas production has suffered for years as gangland threats or attacks have kept workers from servicing the wellheads, pipelines and drilling rigs in the Burgos Basin, the territory between the Rio Grande and the city of Monterrey, which now provides up to 20 percent of Mexico’s natural gas. “Petroleos Mexicanos has problems with security … principally in Burgos,” Guillermo Dominguez, a senior member of the National Hydrocarbons Commission, told the Mexico City newspaper Reforma. And now the surging Zetas bloodletting pits the gang’s top bosses – Heriberto Lazcano and Miguel Angel Treviño – against Ivan Velazquez, a former underling known as “El Taliban.” From his base in the western state of Zaca­tecas, Velazquez reportedly has allied with the remnants of other gangs to launch a challenge for control of Coahuila state, which holds most of the shale gas reserves...more

Obama's Electric Car Future Gets Zapped

This week, the world's largest carmaker said electric cars are a joke, and a congressional report said federal subsidies are a waste. You'd think that would shock President Obama out of his electric car fantasy .
Back in March 2009, Obama announced plans to pour billions of taxpayer dollars into the development of electric cars in the form of grants, federal loans and tax credits. "This investment will not only reduce our dependence on foreign oil, it will put Americans back to work," Obama promised.
"It positions American manufacturers on the cutting edge of innovation and solving our energy challenges." Plus, it would help meet Obama's goal of getting a million plug-in cars on the road by 2015.
Fast forward to this week, and take a look at how Obama's grand vision is paying off.
First, the Congressional Budget Office released a detailed report on Obama's massive electric car program. Its conclusion: The money "will have little or no impact on the total gasoline use and greenhouse gas emissions of the nation's vehicle fleet over the next several years."
It also found that, even with the $7,500 tax credits, electric cars are a bad buy, costing owners far more over the life of the car than traditional gas-powered vehicles.
Translation: Obama's electric car subsidies are a complete and total waste of money.
A few days later, the biggest carmaker on the planet pulled the plug on its Toyota iQ, a car it once talked about mass marketing but now says will be limited to just 100. No doubt Toyota noticed Nissan's Leaf and Chevy's Volt aren't exactly flying off showroom floors.
As Toyota Vice Chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada ever so politely put it: "The current capabilities of electric vehicles do not meet society's needs, whether it may be the distance the cars run or the costs or how it takes a long time to charge."
Translation: Electric cars suck.
Then, to complete Obama's industrial policy failure trifecta, Tesla Motors, which got a $465 million Energy Department loan, announced it had cut its revenue forecast and is now trying to get a waiver on the terms of that loan if it can't raise enough money from investors. The Energy Department already amended the Tesla loan once.
But Tesla actually looks good compared with Obama's other most-favored electric car startup — Fisker Automotive. Three years ago, Vice President Biden and Energy Secretary Steven Chu stood in front of a shuttered GM plant in Wilmington, Del., and announced that Fisker Automotive would soon be cranking out 100,000 plug-ins a year after getting $529 million in taxpayer subsidized loans.
"This is proof positive," Chu said, "that our efforts to create jobs, invest in a clean energy economy and reduce carbon pollution are working."
Three years later, that plant is empty and a local news outlet reported this week that "the idea that at least 1,000 people would be put back to work building cars for Fisker is fading."
Translation: This is shaping up to be Solyndra 2.0.
If you expect any of this to matter to Obama, think again. Even now, he's boasting about how he's imposed tough new fuel economy mandates on the industry, forcing carmakers to sell cars and trucks that get an overall average of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. It's a mandate that can't possibly be met without shoving more electric cars onto the market.
When it comes to being tragically, expensively and unwaveringly wrong, it doesn't get much worse than this.

Originally posted at IBD.

Feds ignore rules and use stimulus cash to buy Chinese solar panels

Government officials blame unfair competition from China for the collapse of solar panel manufacturer Solyndra, but such concerns didn’t stop the federal government from breaking stimulus program rules to use Chinese solar panels atop a federal building housing the offices of a senator, congressman and several agencies. Even the contractor questioned whether Chinese-made panels could be used under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the stimulus program that mandated use of U.S.-made products. His query in early 2010 was dismissed and the General Services Administration moved forward with using the Chinese panels on the Sen. Paul Simon Federal Building in Carbondale, Ill., records show. Dan Cruz, a GSA spokesman, said an agency review found no other instances of GSA projects using solar panels made outside of the U.S...more

Military’s new mission—bailing out GM (again)

The Department of Defense has a new mission — to purchase and integrate 1,500 new Chevy Volts into its fleet.  Who gave this order to begin “Operation Inefficient”?   That’s what ALG would like to find out. Why exactly?  The military line is that this past summer, the Department of Defense’s began purchasing Chevy Volts and other electric cars as part of an initiative to “green up” the military.  And the prettier version — they are just doing their part to reduce the country’s dependence on foreign energy.  I’m not buying it!  Again I ask, why?!   Why, when our defense budget is in the targets of a fiscally irresponsible, do-nothing-Congress, are we wasting money on the most unimpressive inefficient vehicle on the market?!  Do you really think the military is taking its own initiative to spend money on the most unintimidating vehicle on the market?  Somewhere up the line an order was given. According to Air Force spokeswoman Tonya Racasner, over the next few years it will add 1,500 “non-tactical” (thank goodness!) road-capable, plug-in electric vehicles.  To date, the military has purchased 168. As the leading branch in overseeing this initiative, the Air Force is preparing for the arrival 41 new electric vehicles reporting to Los Angeles Air Force Base.  In addition, the Army alone plans to place green-cars at more than 40 of its installations.  The other military branches are also following suit, with purchases and adding more charging stations on and off military bases. This Administration has championed the Chevy Volt as a symbol of the government bailout of General Motors.  It couldn’t have picked a better candidate to represent itself!...more

Burning a Forest to Save It

Controlled burning of grasslands and forests has been used for thousands of years to stimulate plant germination, replenish the ground with valuable nutrients, thin out trees and burn dry pine needles and tree limbs on the ground. When humans were not intentionally setting fires, lightning strikes completed the job. Early in the 20th century, concerns over a dwindling wood supply led to fire suppression. Such efforts, combined with the displacement of Native Americans who had often conducted controlled burns, caused the trees to gain the upper hand and create canopies that blocked sunlight, sometimes causing shifts in plant and animal life. Thickening stands of trees became a combustible danger. Forest fires have also become more frequent and severe elsewhere around the globe as a result of climate change and drought. In New Mexico’s Santa Fe National Forest and Jemez Mountains, Jeremy Bailey of the Nature Conservancy is spending this week as he did last week: showing a dozen bilingual forest experts from Mexico, Argentina, Costa Rica and Spain and another dozen domestic firefighters how to set the woods on fire to save them. As the coordinator of the Fire Learning Network, Mr. Bailey is supervising scientifically based controlled burns in New Mexico’s ponderosa pine forest. The training program brings Spanish-speaking and bilingual forest experts together to discuss prescribed burns, fire management and grassland and forest conservation practices. The Fire Learning Network, a cooperative program of the Forest Service, the Interior Department and the Nature Conservancy, began the exchange programs in 2008 to address a shortage of qualified burners. It has since played host to 19 exchanges resulting in the treatment of more than 65,000 acres of forestland in the United States...more

Song Of The Day #937

Whew! Ranch Radio needs something to get over the hump this week, so here's Jim Boyd & His Men Of The West with their 1949 recording of The Square Dance Boogie.

Still working on my project, hope to get back to posting this evening.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

I'm working on a presentation so there will be no The Westerner today.

Monday, September 24, 2012

FBI renews broad Internet surveillance push

The FBI is renewing its request for new Internet surveillance laws, saying technological advances hinder surveillance and warning that companies should be required to build in back doors for police. "We must ensure that our ability to obtain communications pursuant to court order is not eroded," FBI director Robert Mueller told a U.S. Senate committee this week. Currently, he said, many communications providers "are not required to build or maintain intercept capabilities." Mueller's prepared remarks reignite a long-simmering debate pitting the values of privacy, limited government, and freedom to innovate against law enforcement requests that often find a receptive audience on Capitol Hill. Two days ago, for instance, senators delayed voting on a privacy bill that would require search warrants for e-mail after sheriffs and district attorneys objected. In May, CNET disclosed that the FBI is asking Internet companies not to oppose a proposed law that would require firms, including Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, and Google, to build in back doors for government surveillance. The bureau's draft proposal would require that social-networking Web sites and providers of VoIP, instant messaging, and Web e-mail alter their code to ensure their products are wiretap-friendly. The draft legislation is one component of what the FBI has internally called the "National Electronic Surveillance Strategy" and has publicly described as its "Going Dark" problem. Going Dark has emerged as a serious effort inside the bureau, which employed 107 full-time equivalent people on the project as of 2009, commissioned a RAND study, and sought extensive technical input from its secretive Operational Technology Division in Quantico, Va. The division boasts of developing the "latest and greatest investigative technologies to catch terrorists and criminals."The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group in San Francisco, says there's no need to expand wiretapping law for the Internet...more

Wildfires: Environmentalism-driven policy endangers forests — and lives

Last year, the U.S. Forest Service abruptly canceled its contract for six of Aero Union’s air tankers. This left the Forest Service short of tankers just as last year’s fire season was getting under way. Only a few weeks later, fires swept through Texas burning 100,000 acres and leaving four dead. The administration apparently learned nothing from the tragedy. In the intervening year, it did little to address its tanker shortage, and Colorado paid the price for it. The administration says it canceled the contract due to aircraft safety concerns. That doesn’t explain why it dithered in replacing the aircraft. But something else may: Obama’s allegiance to his green allies. Environmentalists have long opposed the use of slurry, the fire retardant dropped from air tankers, due to its potential for polluting streams. After an accidental drop of slurry into Oregon’s Fall River in 2002 and a subsequent environmentalist lawsuit, the Forest Service issued new rules barring drops of retardants within 300 feet of waterways except when fire threatens human life and property. Make no mistake: The rule inhibits firefighters’ ability to control blazes. Think about a football defensive line that isn’t allowed to do anything until the opposing team reaches the 5-yard line and you get the idea. Now the agency is implementing even more stringent regulations prohibiting drops within 600 feet of waterways. Little wonder it was in no hurry to line up replacement tankers. Hampering fire control efforts is only one way federal policy driven by greens contributes to wildfires. One of the main culprits for the Colorado fires is believed to be pine beetles. The beetles carry a blue stain fungus that pulls moisture from trees. In sufficient numbers, these insects can cause whole forests to die of dehydration, creating a tinderbox. What forests are most susceptible to beetle infestations? According to the Forest Service, they are forests with “large-diameter trees and dense stands.” Environmentalists have blocked logging operations that could thin these stands at every turn. In 2003, the General Accounting Office estimated that 190 million acres of federal land were at high risk of wildfire due to “excess fuels buildup in forests.”...more

USDA's School Lunch Reforms Earn an "F" from Students

January 2012 saw the release of new USDA school lunch rules, crafted in the wake of the passage of the Healthy and Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. The new rules were meant to do everything from combating obesity to educating kids about healthier food choices. The rules add more fruits and vegetables to USDA-provided school lunches in public schools; cap salt, fat, and calories; and replace white flour with whole wheat flour. The new rules also added to the cost of school lunch. Supporters heaped praises on the new rules after their release. First Lady Michelle Obama, who "championed" the rule changes, claimed they would make sure “our hard work [as parents is not] undone each day in the school cafeteria.” Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, gushed the new rules were the “best ever.” The headline to New York University Prof. Marion Nestle’s Atlantic column on the new rules, which she claimed had been met with “near-universal applause”? “The USDA’s New School Nutrition Standards Are Worth Celebrating.” Earlier this month, the start of the school year around the country gave the new rules their first test. Results have not been pretty. Seventy percent of students at one Wisconsin high school boycotted USDA school lunches. As one student at the school told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the changes have meant the food is “worse tasting, smaller sized and higher priced.” Across the country in Connecticut, a student petition protesting the smaller portion sizes resulted in the school district abandoning the rules after “only a few days.” Even in schools where this sort of open insurrection isn’t yet evident, some reports show students are voting against the new USDA rules with their parent-provided dollars...more

Wish these kids could vote.


The End of International Environmentalism

by Ronald Bailey

    Twenty years ago, the first Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro marked the arrival of environmentalism as a potent force in international affairs. That 1992 conference produced the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which aims to set limits on global emissions of greenhouse gases, and the Convention on Biological Diversity, which promotes ecosystem conservation. At the time, Chris Flavin of the Worldwatch Institute crowed, “You cannot go to any corner of the globe and not find some degree of environmental awareness and some amount of environmental politics.” With socialism in disrepute, Flavin said, environmentalism had become the “most powerful political ideal today.”
    Two decades later, that ideal is in disarray. A 20th anniversary conference in Brazil last June, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development—nicknamed Rio +20—was an undisguised flop. Greenpeace spokesperson Kumi Naidoo judged Rio +20 a “failure,” while Oxfam Chief Executive Barbara Stocking called it a “hoax.” More than 1,000 environmentalist and leftist groups signed a post-conference petition entitled “The Future We Don’t Want,” a play on The Future We Want, the platitudinous document that diplomats from 188 nations agreed on there. Naidoo lamely vowed that disappointed environmentalists would engage in acts of civil disobedience.
    Should the people of the world share the greens’ despair over the “failure” of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development? No. First of all, “sustainable development” is a Rorschach blot. The United Nations defines it this way: “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” That fuzzy concept can be used by anyone to mean anything he likes. So it is not at all surprising that the representatives from rich and poor nations meeting in Rio could not agree on anything substantive under this heading.
    Since that first Earth Summit, the world has experienced a lot of beneficial development. In 1992, 46 percent of the planet’s population lived in absolute poverty (defined as income equivalent to less than $1.25 per day). Today that number is down to 27 percent, in inflation-adjusted terms. During the same period, average life expectancy has increased by three and a half years.
    At Rio +20 environmentalists and the leaders of poor countries were hoping to shake down the rich countries for hundreds of billions of dollars in annual development assistance. But most of the development achieved during the last two decades was not the result of official assistance (a.k.a. taxpayer dollars) from the rich to the poor. In fact, a study published in the February 2012 issue of the Canadian Journal of Economics by a team of German development economists found that aid often retards economic growth, having “an insignificant or minute negative significant impact on per-capita income.” Most of the aid is stolen by the kleptocrats who run many poor countries, while the rest is “invested” in projects that are not profitable.
    Activists, frustrated at their inability to effect wealth transfers, are now fixated on a particularly puzzling and disturbing goal: to maintain and expand open-access commons, which are unowned properties available to be exploited by anyone. Many participants at the People’s Summit for Social and Environmental Justice, a parallel Rio gathering of 200 environmentalist groups, advocated a green twist on an old red ideology, even postulating that property is theft...

Ranchers object to V-22s flying low over cattle, homes

Low-flying Marine V-22 Osprey aircraft are scaring cattle and even "buzzing" ranch houses at night around the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site, several ranchers complained this week. About 200 Marines with eight tilt-rotor Ospreys are training on the 238,000-acre Army range northeast of Trinidad this month but low-flying Ospreys, which can fly both as airplanes or helicopters, have bothered several neighboring ranchers. Tony Hass, owner of the Walking Y Ranch, which abuts the training range, said a V-22 was hovering low over his cattle on Wednesday, scaring the animals and endangering recently born calves. One of Hass' employees photographed the Osprey as it moved away, throwing up a cloud of dust around the cattle...more

Navajo Nation ranchers wary of Grazing Act fees

The Navajo Grazing Act last was discussed in 2004, but it since has gathered dust. While the act was meant to set the guidelines for regulating agricultural resources across the reservation, disputed tidbits of the act prevented the passage of the most significant portions. While the passed portions called for spotty enforcement of proper grazing practices, the act needed to, and now needs to be, passed in its entirety, the Navajo Nation Department of Agriculture said Friday. Willed by the growing tensions over few resources and a continuing drought, the act resurfaced this summer and is being revisited in an effort to reduce the hardships of those with grazing livestock on the reservation. Roberta Atcitty knows the struggle all too well. She recalls when her family used to have both horses and sheep grazing on her family's land outside of Shiprock, though now they have no livestock. "There's nothing," Atcitty said of the land, and she's uncertain that anything besides rains can resolve the issue. The Department of Agriculture, however, hopes to try. It will attempt to lessen the demand for resources long into the future by restructuring the grazing permit process. The Navajo Grazing Act, passed in full, would establish three components to help restructure the process: --Establish a full time employee to oversee grazing practices on the Navajo Nation. --Create a branding office to keep track of grazing livestock on the Navajo Nation. --Enforce a grazing permit fee for all those on the Navajo Nation who are in possession of a grazing permit.  Many ranchers were wary of the suggestions, especially the one about the fees. In most areas of the Navajo Nation, except for the Eastern Agency, there is no fee for a grazing permit, and grazing permits in all areas have been loosely regulated since issued to Navajo ranchers in the 1950s. Currently, about 10,000 grazing permits exist on the more than 27,000 square-mile swath of land that makes up the Navajo Nation. Only about 3,000 of those permits are in use, though that's not to say they are in compliance.  Probably about 2,000 of those 3,000 in-use permits are in compliance, said Leo Watchman, director of the Navajo Nation Department of Agriculture...more

Time for an Alternative to Mexico's Drug War

by Jorge Castaneda

    If we do not ask why Mexico got into an aggressive fight against the drug cartels, it will be very difficult to understand how to get out of it. A lot of my colleagues in Mexico and the United States say, "Well okay, whatever reasons President Felipe Calderón had for getting into this war, the fact is now we are in it and we have to do something about it." Yes, but it is not an idle exercise to go back and see to what extent this war was declared, more than five years ago, on false premises.

False Premises for Launching the Drug War

    First false premise: violence in Mexico had been increasing, and something had to be done about it. Absolutely false. Violence in Mexico had been declining by any indicator, mainly the most important and reliable one: willful homicides per hundred thousand inhabitants. From the early 1990s through 2007, violence in Mexico declined from around 20-odd willful homicides per hundred thousand a year to about 8 per year in 2006 and 2007. That is still higher than the rate in United States, but it is one-third the rate in Brazil, one-tenth of what Colombia saw in its worst years, and one-third of what we have in Mexico today. Violence in Mexico had been declining for 20 years, but then spiked from 2007 onward. The year 2011 saw violence in Mexico reach Brazilian levels.
     Second false premise: drug consumption in Mexico had been rising to an alarming level. Mexico had shifted from being a transit country to a country of consumption. Something had to be done about this. Absolutely false. Mexico has among the lowest rates of consumption of drugs in Latin America—much lower than those of Central America, Brazil, or Colombia—and even lower than those rates of places such as Chile and Uruguay. And the increases, while very significant in purely statistical terms, were from such a low baseline that they were insignificant.
    Mexico is not a market for drugs for a very simple reason: you have to be crazy if you are a trafficker selling in Mexico. You've got the biggest, richest market in the world right next door where you can sell your junk. In Mexico, the drug traffickers are not crazy, they are very intelligent, sophisticated businessmen. This is not the case in Bolivia. In Bolivia, you have Brazil, you have Chile, you have other places. If you already got the stuff into Mexico, why in the world would you want to peddle it there if you can peddle it across the border for 10 to 15 times the price? There is no sign of any significant increase in drug consumption in Mexico over the past 15 years. It has remained stable and at very low levels...

 Jorge Castañeda was foreign minister of Mexico during the administration of President Vicente Fox.

Sportsmen's bill passes Senate test

On its last day in session before the election, the Senate tied itself in knots over 41 polar bear carcasses that hunters want to bring home from Canada as big game trophies. After punting tough decisions on far weightier issues like raising taxes and cutting spending, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., insisted that the Senate address the wide-ranging sportsmen's bill. Following the Senate's post-midnight approval of a bill funding federal agencies for six more months, senators voted 84-7 early Saturday for a motion that simply allows the sportsmen's bill to be taken up at a later time. Republicans resisted for a while Friday, contending the only reason Reid wanted the vote now on the bill long sought by hunters and sport fishermen was to benefit Democratic incumbent Jon Tester `s re-election prospects in a tossup race in Montana that could determine which party runs the Senate next year. "This isn't a campaign studio, It's the Senate," Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., complained on the Senate floor Friday. "We've got responsibilities to meet. Let's meet them. And leave the politics out of it for once." The House had passed a similar bill in April that was co-sponsored by Rep. Denny Rehberg, Tester's Republican opponent in the Montana Senate race. In the end, Tester would get only a test vote as the Senate, yet again, punted another issue until after the election. Tester's bill combines 19 measures favorable to outdoorsmen. In addition to dealing with the polar bear hides, it would allow more hunting and fishing on federal lands, let bow hunters cross federal land where hunting isn't allowed, encourage federal land agencies to cooperate with state and local authorities to maintain shooting ranges, exclude ammunition and tackle from federal environmental laws that regulate lead, boost fish populations and protect animal habitat...more