News Some New, Some Old:
U.S. drought grows to cover widest area since 1956
“Only in the 1930s and the 1950s has a drought covered more land, according to federal figures released Monday. So far, there's little risk of a Dust Bowl-type catastrophe, but crop losses could mount if rain doesn't come soon. Topsoil has turned dry while "crops, pastures and rangeland have deteriorated at a rate rarely seen in the last 18 years," the report said. The percentage of affected land is the largest since December 1956, when 58 percent of the country was covered by drought, and it rivals even some years in the Dust Bowl era of the 1930s, though experts point out that this year's weather has been milder than that period, and farming practices have been vastly improved since then.” Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/news/articles/2012/07/16/20120716american-drought-grows-cover-widest-area-.html#ixzz21COSG3NS
'Gob-smacking' scale of Petermann Glacier break-up
“These photos of the Petermann Glacier were taken two years apart, the latest one in July 2011 (top) and in the summer of 2009
New pictures have revealed the extent to which part of a huge glacier in northern Greenland has broken up in just two years,
claims a glaciologist.
Dr Alun Hubbard on a previous trip to Greenland
Dr Alun Hubbard of Aberystwyth University said he was "gob-smacked" by the scale of the Petermann Glacier's break-up since he last visited in 2009.” Continue reading the main story
Black market New York City ivory traders plead guilty.
“ Earlier this year in New York City, investigators discovered something horrifying for sale: close to one ton of illegal ivory products... worth more than $2 million. Last week, the criminal traders faced justice. They pled guilty.
Whether it's here on American shores or deep in the Congo, we will continue to fight back against the criminals who profit from poaching – and protect majestic elephants from brutal deaths. Celebrating this victory against illegal wildlife traders strengthens our resolve to keep forging ahead.
Since the guilty plea, the government confiscated 70 boxes full of ivory rings, bracelets, carved figures of elephants, and other decorations. In a move that recognizes our leadership in stopping elephant poachers in their tracks, officials ordered the jewelers to pay fines to WCS. Bringing down these two jewelers took time, patience, and cooperation. The Manhattan District Attorney's Office, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and United States Fish and Wildlife Service worked together to catch the local businessmen in the act. Together, they're helping stop ivory traders fueling an unprecedented poaching crisis for elephants – by curbing demand here at home.
"Poachers should not have a market in Manhattan," said District Attorney Cyrus Vance. Big win for elephant lovers!” Join us in sending thanks to the people who stopped ivory trafficking right here at home.
Super weeds no easy fix for US agriculture-experts
(Reuters) - “A fast-spreading plague of "super weeds" taking over U.S. farmland will not be stopped easily, and farmers and government officials need to change existing practices if food production is to be protected, industry experts said.
A joint report from the USDA and the Weed Science Society of America said "a significant proportion of growers are not practicing adequate proactive herbicide resistance management." Such "indiscriminate" use of herbicides is effectively making the problem worse, year after year.
Many weed experts recommended at least a partial return to limited tillage, which is largely frowned upon because it encourages soil erosion. Some experts recommended use of "cover" crops, planted to cover a field after harvest to stymie weed development while adding nutrients to the soil.” More at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/05/10/us-agriculture-weeds-idUSBRE8491JZ20120510
Inventor turns plastic trash into liquid gold
July 15 - “A Filipino inventor has found a way to turn plastic waste into fuel for vehicles. Jayme Navarro is not claiming to have invented the process but he says, in the Philippines where landfills are the size of large hills, it's a practical solution to a major problem. Elly Park reports.”
Class Says Merck Lied About Mumps Vaccine
PHILADELPHIA (CN) - “Merck has known for a decade that its mumps vaccine is "far less effective" than it tells the government, and it falsified test results and sold millions of doses of "questionable efficacy," flooding and monopolizing the market, a primary caregiver claims in a federal antitrust class action.
Alabama-based Chatom Primary Care sued Merck on Monday, the week after the unsealing of a False Claims Act complaint two relators filed in 2010.
Those relators, Stephen Krahling and Joan Wlochowski, were Merck virologists who claim in their unsealed complaint that they "witnessed firsthand the improper testing and data falsification in which Merck engaged to artificially inflate the vaccine's efficacy findings."
Krahling and Wlochowski claimed Merck's scheme caused the United States to pay "hundreds of millions of dollars for a vaccine that does not provide adequate immunization."
"As the largest single purchaser of childhood vaccines (accounting for more than 50 percent of all vaccine purchases), the United States is by far the largest financial victim of Merck's fraud," according to the 2010 False Claims Act complaint. "But the ultimate victims here are the millions of children who every year are being injected with a mumps vaccine that is not providing them with an adequate level of protection. And while this is a disease that, according to the Centers for Disease Control ('CDC'), was supposed to be eradicated by now, the failure in Merck's vaccine has allowed this disease to linger, with significant outbreaks continuing to occur."” From: http://www.courthousenews.com/2012/06/27/47851.htm
Animal rights spark new cultural war in ChinaInfluential Chinese artists such as Ai Weiwei are lending a voice to the animal-rights movement. Ai Weiwei and dog.
BEIJING—”Amid the clamour of a hectic outdoor farmer’s market, a German shepherd puppy stares through the wires of his filthy cage, a rusted coop he shares with three other dogs. Hidden deep in the mountains about 90 kilometres north of Nanning near China’s border with Vietnam, the market rattles with the squawk of chickens, the drone of motorcycles and the quiet whine of caged dogs.
Oblivious to the mayhem, the puppy sits obediently still. Just three or four months old, the tiny black-and-tan dog has the trusting calm of an animal that had once been a pet. Perhaps he ran away one night only to be abducted and trafficked into China’s dog meat industry. Maybe there was a little boy or girl still hoping he would come home.
It didn’t matter now. Today he’d be slaughtered — butchered and sold for about 80 yuan, or $12. As a pretty young dog he’d be doubly valued — for his flesh and his fur. “The level of animal abuse and exploitation by individuals and industries is accelerating in China.” She calls these growing industries — from bear bile farming to the enormous dog slaughter industry — “inhumane and unacceptable.”” More at: http://www.thestar.com/news/world/article/1218582--animal-rights-sparks-new-cultural-war-in-china
Fear the fever, not the Frankenbug
The science of dengue and mosquitoes:
“Male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are harmless. They don't bite and simply feed on plants. Female mosquitoes do bite, but the only way a female mosquito can acquire the dengue virus is to get it from a human with dengue. Activists seem to be more concerned about the "what if" of a female genetically modified mosquito biting someone as opposed to the real threat of a disease that impacts 100 million people in 100 countries. There is little reason for concern, for three reasons.
First, female genetically modified mosquitoes aren't being released; only the harmless males are. What if a female is accidentally released and bites someone? If you have a choice, you should hope you are bitten by a genetically-modified female rather than a "natural" one. There is no chance the genetically modified mosquito is infecting you.
Second, what about the genetic modification risk? Even if an accidentally released female were to bite someone, the Oxitec Aedes aegypti proteins are not expressed in mosquito salivary glands. It can't transmit its genetic modification.
Finally, the proteins are not toxic to humans. In other words, concern about the mosquitoes that prevent the disease, compared to the dangers of the disease or even the pesticides used to kill mosquitoes, is unwarranted. Believing otherwise requires a kind of "precautionary principle" paranoia that would prevent anyone from ever driving a car or taking any medicine.
These mosquitoes can save lives without harmful chemicals, and they can't harm us. This is a win for everyone.” From: http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/opinion-la/la-ol-mosquitoes-dengue-blowback-20120719,0,3543505.story
America's National Debt
July 16, 2012 - Understanding the national debt at the individual level.
On This Day:
Tsunami hits Alexandria, Egypt, Jul 21, 365:
“On this day in the year 365, a powerful earthquake off the coast of Greece causes a tsunami that devastates the city of Alexandria, Egypt. Although there were no measuring tools at the time, scientists now estimate that the quake was actually two tremors in succession, the largest of which is thought to have had a magnitude of 8.0.
The quake was centered near the plate boundary called the Hellenic Arc and quickly sent a wall of water across the Mediterranean Sea toward the Egyptian coast. Ships in the harbor at Alexandria were overturned as the water near the coast receded suddenly. Reports indicate that many people rushed out to loot the hapless ships. The tsunami wave then rushed in and carried the ships over the sea walls, landing many on top of buildings. In Alexandria, approximately 5,000 people lost their lives and 50,000 homes were destroyed.
The surrounding villages and towns suffered even greater destruction. Many were virtually wiped off the map. Outside the city, 45,000 people were killed. In addition, the inundation of saltwater rendered farmland useless for years to come. Evidence indicates that the area's shoreline was permanently changed by the disaster. Slowly, but steadily, the buildings of Alexandria's Royal Quarter were overtaken by the sea following the tsunami. It was not until 1995 that archaeologists discovered the ruins of the old city off the coast of present-day Alexandria.
Today, the anniversary of the tsunami is celebrated annually with the residents saying prayers and marking the evening by illuminating the city.”
This is why I was so upset - It was June 2011 that I first heard about Stella and Amber:
“Amber and Stella were found by Theresa Eatherly, a Houston good Samaritan and animal shelter volunteer. Stella's ears have been butchered and she needs further medical care. According to the finder, “They were found tied to a chain link fence with only their feet barely touching the ground. Their huge leads were double wrapped around their necks.”” More at: http://www.examiner.com/article/amber-and-stella-found-butchered-and-noosed-the-hot-houston-texas-heat
Look how skinny they are, but still smiling like Pitties do.
Then this: “Reunion Rescue and Spindletop Rescue are working together to save Stella and Amber. Both dogs will be boarded at Spindletop Refuge where they will receive vet care, training, socialization, lots of love and then adopted to qualified appropriate homes…..make a donation, specify that your donation is for Stella and Amber.” SO I DID.
Almost $9,000 was raised and sent to Spindletop for the care and boarding of Stella, Amber and two other dogs. I kind of bonded to Stella in my mind, as she had suffered so much with her ears cut off so brutally, and still bleeding when she was found.
Then: “According to a former employee, Stella was one of 38 dogs who died of heat suffocation and were buried on the property. The young man confirmed her death and added, “Stella was an amazing dog. She was one of many that I looked forward to working with every day when I came to work.” From: http://www.examiner.com/article/mass-death-at-spindletop-refuge-the-story-of-stella-2 Little did I know that darling, gentle Stella was to die at Spindletop. I didn’t even know that Spindletop was down the street from me, as there was never a sign on the property.
The news reports of the conditions of the dogs at Spindletop upset me enough, but then to find out the other horrors poor Stella went through, just got to me. No, I didn’t sleep well that night.
No Decision Yet on Dog Seizure, Filed Fri, Jul 20, 2012 by Scott Engle
“The hearing has not yet started on the seizure of the dogs from Spindletop. The attorney and county officials are still talking. Many showed for court today some holding photos of their dogs which they say they left in Spindletop care. Some of those claims say $500 to $1000 was also given to Spindletop for their care. A Facebook page “Victims of Spindletop Raid” has been started.
Many this morning explained they had a long relationship with Purcel and Spindletop. Most were paying $750 a quarter to board and evaluate the dogs. Most said when they viewed the property it was very nice and clean. But they also said they were restricted to the area of the front of the house and nowhere else on the property. They said one of the buildings was closed as they were told it housed aggressive animals. We will update on any new developments.”
Filed Fri, Jul 20, 2012 by Scott Engle, 430pm
“Moments ago an agreement was made between Montgomery County and Spindletop. Ms. Purcel will be allowed to keep eleven of the non-pit bulls that she has proven as her own. As vets continue to evaluate the dogs Constable Holifield will start the process of locating owners and begin a process or returning them to the rightful owners. He said no dog will be destroyed and asked people to be patient.”
I spoke to my SPCA boss, she had visited Spindletop about 18 months ago, and she was even taken inside the two dog buildings at the back. She said everything was fine then, so they must have got overloaded with animals, and that Ms. Purcell couldn’t find enough people to work there.
As I drove by, all I ever saw was horses there, I didn’t know about the dogs. Often there would be a big sign outside saying “Help Wanted”, and I had heard that they didn’t pay very well.
I have offered to temporarily foster a couple of small dogs, as my fence is not that tall. I will do that in memory of Stella.
To take my mind off it all, I vacuumed up the mess of loose insulation that Jay left on the porch when he cut the holes in the soffit, then I listed some stuff for sale, laundered some clothes, and prepared for the Sabbath today.