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Friday, August 29, 2003

Freed Mink Attack Sultan Farms

There is no question that releasing thousands of mink into a local area amounts to a natural catastrophe -- the same would be true if you released just about a thousand of anything: 1000 gypsy moths could wipe out a forest, 1000 people could decimate LA. Systems -- even highly unnatural and pathological systems like American townships tend mainly toward equilibrium, though there are always important sub-vectors which throw even the most stable systems towards catastrophe...this is the thinking of what is called chaos mathematics. A great release of weasels into an area means a radicalization of the status-quo in both suburb and forest alike.

The argument is being made by pro-operation thinkers that this is a temporary alteration and whatever its consequences it is justified because of the ending of suffering. There is some credence to this, certainly. Firstly, one must remember that the mink have not been released into a happy harmonious community but into a community that is built upon the uneartly horrors of decades of bloodshed -- for in order to found such communities, an entire process of colonization of the eco-system by people was necessitated, with consequences like the eradication of many mammals such as mink which lived wildly. So, the idea of mink introduction is not altogether hostile -- hostile goes, at least, both directions.

On the other hand, what has happened here does point to a place in which the ALF and other a-synchronous organizations are going to have to rethink their strategy if in the name of saving animals they don't want to entail secondary damage against ecosystems and even other animals such as domestic cats and neighboring birds, etc. Ideally, before large scale introductions of a species were permitted in an area, a bevy of discussion and analysis by experts would take place and communities warned of what was happening as it occurred. Of course, political reality prevents most ALF groups from engaging in anything resembling this sort of wide democratic process and instead there are only general rules and the call upon whatever group wants to act in the name of ALF to follow them.

Those who are trying to parade this as a horrible event with terrible consequences are misleading people quite profoundly in my opinion, but the ALF must also look deeply at what transpires in this case (now that it has happened) and center it for a broad discussion about the ecological mandates that the group must make charter policy if it really has all animal interests at heart.

Via: Seattle Times

Sultan police have taken several reports this week from local farmers who are missing chickens, other fowl and cats since the Monday release. State biologists warn that the situation could likely get worse. If a few of the farm-raised mink survive the winter, they could breed with each other or with wild mink native to the area. If that happens, expect a decline in local populations of small mammals, waterfowl, birds and farm-raised ducks and chickens, said Ruth Milner, a district biologist with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

And: Freed minks feeding on farm animals Seattle P-I

Posted by Richard
8/29/2003 10:38:05 AM | PermaLink

 
Thursday, August 28, 2003

New York's Pataki Stands for Shooting Exotic Game in a Barrel

I liked the Vegas idea of paying thousands of bucks to shoot naked strippers with paint balls better...this world is so deranged.

Via: Psychologist for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

STATEMENT BY ASSEMBLY MEMBER SCOTT STRINGER

I am shocked to report that on August 26th, Governor Pataki vetoed A.4609a/S.2735a to remove acreage requirements on the current law prohibiting canned shoots on fenced areas of 10 acres or less. As you know, a canned shoot is a “farm” within which people “hunt” animals, such as wild boar and exotic animals, in small enclosed spaces where the animal has no means of escape. With this legislation, animals would have been protected from this horrible act no matter the acreage of a canned shoot.

This practice is nothing more than a thinly-disguised form of animal slaughter. It is appalling that the Governor would put profits over protecting animals from such outrageous abuse.

Thank you all for your support in this battle to end such a vicious act - your dedication was instrumental in the passage of the bill in the Assembly and the Senate. While this veto is a disappointment, I fully intend to press ahead to ensure that a full ban of canned shoots will become law in New York State. I will keep you informed as this campaign moves forward.

Posted by Richard
8/28/2003 10:14:02 AM | PermaLink

 
Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Judge Limits Navy's Use of New Sonar!  

This is a victory. Cheers to Judge Laporte for following through on her previous hearing last October when she noted that anti-sonar advocates should likely prevail -- it was the Navy's sheer idiocy that would allow them, while the decision was in process, to attack whales off the Washington coast in plain sight of tourists and other citizens, thereby forcing the Judge's hand and giving her no reason but to find that the sonar could not be used effectively with any real margin of safety for marine mammals and other species. In this respect, the NRDC and other groups fighting the Navy both won the case on sound legal and ethical reasoning, even as the military lost the case through bumbling immoral and illegal behavior during the injunction's stay. Now, with the ruling in place, however, people must make a show of force to the NRDC that they expect that the negotiated settlement will be tough and uncompromising. Without this, the Natural Resources Defense Council and others will be more willing to trade wiggle room for sonar in return for other naval promises...which, in my opinion, would be a mistake. Let's not confuse the issues here by over-compicating them -- SURTASS sonar and other high-intensity sound systems are bad for ocean life period and the people have the right to expect that these protections will be upheld strictly.

Via: Bremerton Sun

Navy sonar experts have been ordered to work with environmental advocates to reduce harm to marine life that could result from a new breed of sonar. In a 73-page ruling Tuesday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Laporte said she is convinced that the Navy's new long-range sonar -- known as LFA for low-frequency active -- could harm marine mammals and other sea life if it is not used with care. Laporte of San Francisco said she will issue a permanent injunction limiting the Navy's testing and deployment of the system, but she wants the Navy and environmental groups to negotiate conditions of the injunction. "Endangered species -- including whales, listed salmon and sea turtles -- will be in LFA sonar's path," the judge wrote in her opinion. "There is little margin for error without threatening their survival."

Also see:
Judge silences Navy's plan to use new sonar devices San Francisco Chronicle
Judge Stops Deployment of Navy Sonar Washington Post

Posted by Richard
8/27/2003 10:05:08 AM | PermaLink

Four Billion Dollar Nuke Plant Proposed by Bush Cartel Would Make US the World's Supreme Nuclear Dictator

Meanwhile, as the federal government prepares to move nuclear waste out of the various state facilities it is presently housed at, through communities near you (or your community!), and out to Yucca Mountain (so the Western Shoshone people can live with it -- heck, after illegally occupying it, we've already blown their land up with above and below ground nuclear testing, so why not store the nation's most toxic waste there too!), Energy Sec. Spencer Abraham is attempting to rewrite the guidelines for state involvement in the process. In other words, he's kicking them out of it and centralizing the information flow -- which will result in unspecified amounts of radioactive waste, of unspecified levels of toxicity, travelling unspecifically by rail and highway transit more or less surreptiously. The writing is on the wall -- the plan of this administration, and of many in government and the energy/weapons sector generally, is to streamline the start to finish process, deregulate wherever possible, and make classified every important nuance of an industry that more than any other threatens all life on earth. We should be completely disarming and making sure that nuclear jargon and esoteric science is understood at a decision making level by the majority of the people, such that the military/industrial complex is no longer able to tyrannize democracy and make it kow-tow to its cosmic might. This affects everyone and so should even be a part of every single-issue platform imaginable as a result.

Via: Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Bush's "Modern Pit Facility" will crank out as many plutonium "pits" for WMDs EACH YEAR as China has in its entire nuclear arsenal. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists writes that "such bomb-making abilities don't just knock the moral-political props out from under efforts to stem bomb programs in North Korea, Iran, India, and Pakistan. They're a felonious frontal assault on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty itself. 33 years after that treaty's entry into force, U.S. conventional and nuclear forces vastly outstrip those of any other nation, and there is simply no way to reconcile a 17-year plan to build a 50-year nuclear bomb factory with the obligation to negotiate 'in good faith' on the 'cessation of the arms race' and 'nuclear disarmament.' Instead, the Bush team wants such nuclear superiority that, in Rumsfeld's words, 'would-be peer competitors' will realize 'the futility of trying to sprint toward parity with us.'" Heil Bushfeld!

Posted by Richard
8/27/2003 08:51:06 AM | PermaLink

 
Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Out for Whales

A twofold problem in Iceland -- on the one hand, there appears to be a battle for the throne between the scientific industry (which has alliances here with the whaling/fishing industry) and the tourist industry. Already, people have begun cancelling trips to Iceland, upset that the whale-watching trip they had planned on is now tainted with blood and harpoon residue. And yet, the science and whaling bloc apparently has enough power not to care about the damages. This power is also drawn from the "the people" -- with apparently around 75% of Icelanders in favor of renewed whaling. However, as we know quite expertly in America, manufacturing consent in mass publics in order to claim democratic approval is easily done in the 21st century and is in fact status quo in modern state politics. In other words, its not clear by any means that Icelanders truly know or understand the intricacies and the interests involved in stepping up whale killing. Additionally, to the degree that they do, whales appear here to have taken on the political meaning of national pride and autonomy for the small island nationality. In an age of Bush & Blair neoliberal imperialism, there are many fallouts and unexpected twists -- it may be that standing up to these interests, even when they act progressively as the heads of International Whaling Commissions, becomes more important for a time than whether one acts rightfully or wrongfully, kills or does not kill.

Via: Globe and Mail

When Gunnar Johannsson, captain of the Icelandic whaling vessel Sigurbjorg, set sail a week ago, slipping out of port at 1 a.m. in an attempt to avoid attention, he put a brave face on a mission fraught with economic and environmental danger.

"I haven't been whaling for 18 years. We are happy to start again," he said as he headed out to relaunch Iceland's whaling activities in the face of growing protests.

Others may not be as happy about the political storm over Iceland's decision to end the whaling moratorium it had instituted in 1989. The Icelandic government, which has issued permits to three ships to kill 38 minke whales, is clearly aware that it has a lot at stake. In an effort to restrict news coverage, it has refused media requests to monitor the hunt and has ordered its ships not to fire harpoons if other vessels are near.

But the damage can't be contained. Sooner or later, pictures of dying whales will make it into the media, reminding the world that whaling is a brutal business. Conservation groups are warning of boycotts of Icelandic fish products and tourism. Some nations, notably the United States, have already threatened trade sanctions.

It may seem a lot of fuss over 38 whales, but this hunt is just the start. Iceland plans to kill 100 minkes, 100 fin whales and 50 sei whales next year. Like Japan and Norway before it, it claims the hunt is needed to gather scientific information as it struggles with dwindling fish stocks. But this operation is a poorly disguised commercial hunt, and can't be justified.

Sei (numbers unknown) and fin whales (13,600 in the North Atlantic) are rated vulnerable, which is one ranking above endangered, which precedes extinction.

Minke whales appear healthy, with the North Atlantic population estimated at 85,000 animals. But because the pre-whaling population of this species isn't known, scientists can't yet categorize it. They suspect it is rare, vulnerable or endangered.

These are not the kinds of whales that should be hunted. Iceland should spike its harpoon guns. If it won't consider the risks to the environment, let it consider the risks to its economy and its international image. After all, it was an international consumer boycott that forced the country to impose its moratorium 14 years ago.

Posted by Richard
8/26/2003 08:10:57 AM | PermaLink

 
Monday, August 25, 2003

Avg. American Eats 30 Lbs. Cheese a Year

Thirty pounds of cheese is a lot -- and this article points out the industry effects of this kind of consumption, which is predicated on cheap supply, and so therefore milk production needs to skyrocket -- leading to mass-production houses and the sort of dairy factory farms that provide for anything but happy cows. The article also glosses over rennet, which it alludes is simply a protein added to cheese in the production process. Rennet, most vegetarians and vegans know, is actually a substance which is generally taken from the fourth stomach lining of baby calves -- so any cheese made with rennet is technically not even meat-free.

Via: Newsday

Shredded cheddar or Parmesan adds zest to salads. Soft, gooey mozzarella is a must for pizza. Burgers are blanketed with melting slices of American, Swiss or Monterey Jack.

Cheese is everywhere, and Americans are eating more of it than ever before -- a trend that has been on the rise since the mid-1940s, the Agriculture Department says. A typical consumer now eats 30 pounds (13.5 kilograms) of cheese a year, far more than the 6-pound (2.7-kilogram) annual average of 1944.

Don Blayney, a department economist, said people are eating more cheese mostly because many restaurants and eateries are putting it on all sorts of dishes.

"That 30 pounds includes all of the cheese that you would get on a pizza and all of the cheese you would get on a burger," he said. "And if you look at cheese consumption, only about 20 percent or 35 percent is through grocery stores, so the rest of the cheese is going into different outlets -- the hotels, the restaurants, the fast food outlets."

Pizza is largely to behind the jump in cheese consumption, Blayney said.

In 1990, pizzerias bought $1.4 billion worth of pizza cheese. By last year, they bought $2.5 billion worth, according to the National Association of Pizzeria Operators. They account for more than half of all cheese sales.

Pizza Hut, owned by Yum! Brands, is the largest pizza chain and the largest buyer of cheese. It uses more than 300 million pounds (135 million kilograms) of cheese for its pizzas every year.

Although consumers are eating all sorts of cheese, mozzarella, the common pizza topping, and cheddar are the most popular. Consumers gobbled as much as 9 pounds (4.05 kilograms) of each in 2001, the Agriculture Department said.

Cheesemakers clearly are profiting from the craze. Joan Behr, a spokeswoman for the farmer-owned cooperative Foremost Farms USA, said production is gradually increasing with the rise in demand. The cheese cooperative is making $1 billion in annual sales.

The Wisconsin-based manufacturer turned out 347 million pounds (156 million kilograms) of cheese in 1995. Last year, the cooperative made 496 million pounds (223 million kilograms). It makes all types of cheese -- Muenster, Colby, cheddar, provolone and Monterey Jack, among others. Much of it is sold to restaurants.

To make cheese, processors add a protein called rennet to milk to make it curdle. As curd forms, workers stir it, heat it and drain the liquid whey. They then collect or press the curd to make cheese.

Processors create a flavor by curing the cheese at certain temperatures and storing it at different moisture levels. Manufacturers in the United States produce over 300 different kinds, according to the National Dairy Council.

Cheese is cheap, partly because of high milk production. Farm prices for cheddar are about $1.50 per pound 0.45 kilograms) -- 10 cents below the price of a few years ago. Consumers pay about $3.70 per pound for cheddar at the supermarket.

Cheese is a source of calcium and protein, but the watchdog group Center for Science in the Public Interest worries that people are eating too much of it. Margo Wootan, director of nutrition at the center, said cheese is one of the fatty products contributing to the nation's obesity problem.

"People think of (cheese) as a health food when really it's quite calorically dense, and it's just loaded with fat," Wootan said.

Posted by Richard
8/25/2003 11:40:10 AM | PermaLink

 
Sunday, August 24, 2003

2003 Ozone Hole May Be Record Size, Australia Says

Earlier in the year a number of scientists and international bodies came out with the great news that the ozone hole was shrinking and would be a great (un)natural wonder of the recent past within only a few more decades. While measures put in place to reduce CFCs and other ozone-depleters in highly industrialized nations have certainly helped to alleviate the stress and put us on a road toward recovery, this new finding goes to show that science is neither infallible nor impartial. Many of the large science foundations that are involved in studying these issues depend in part (sometimes in large part) on corporate and federal grant monies -- which (whether stated or not in the underwriting process) have strings attached. More so, even to the degree that science aims at objective data, measures of long-term effects like the ozone hole and global warming involve highly sophisticated statistical projections, which can easily go wrong once a more chaotic factor is introduced that was not included in the "everything else being equal" formula. Thus, extreme weather this year -- which may be related to large-scale industrial processes on Earth -- may now be the cause of stratospheric reactions that are affecting ozone...the result being that the old idea that ozone and global warming are separate issues may now be less and less true.

Via: Reuters

The ozone hole over the Antarctic is growing at a rate that suggests it could be headed for a record size this year, Australian scientists said on Friday.

A study by Australian Antarctic bases attributed the development to colder temperatures in the stratosphere where the ozone hole forms.

"The growth at the moment is similar to 2000 when the hole was a record size," Australian Antarctic Division scientist Andrew Klekociuk told Reuters on Friday.

Ozone is a protective layer in the atmosphere that shields the Earth from the sun's rays, in particular ultraviolet-B radiation that can cause skin cancer, cataracts and can harm marine life. In 2000, NASA said the ozone hole expanded to a record 10.9 million square miles, three times the size of Australia or the United States, excluding Alaska.

"This is in contrast to the situation in 2002 when unusually warm conditions produced the smallest ozone hole since 1988," Klekociuk said.

The ozone hole in 2003 presently covers all of the Antarctic.

Klekociuk said scientists at Australia's Davis Antarctic base saw the first signs of cooling of the lower stratosphere, 15 to 25 km (nine to 15 miles) up, about six weeks earlier than usual.

In a visual sign the ozone hole would grow rapidly this year, scientists at Australia's Mawson base have reported the early appearance of stratospheric clouds, which create a spectacular lightshow by defracting sunlight around sunset.

Chemical reactions in these clouds convert normally inert man-made chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) into ozone destroyers. CFCs are commonly used as propellants in spray cans.

The 1997 Kyoto treaty set in place a global process to reduce greenhouse gases which deplete the ozone layer, but the world's biggest polluter the United States has yet to sign.

Clouds do not usually form in the stratosphere due to its extreme dryness, but during some winters temperatures become low enough to allow their formation.

"In 2000 we didn't see the stratospheric clouds until the beginning of July. This year we saw them about the middle of May which is the earliest we have seen them," Klekociuk said.

The full extent of the 2003 ozone hole will not be known until the end of September, as August and September are the coldest months for the South Pole. Temperatures begin to warm by early October and the ozone layer will then start to recover.

Posted by Richard
8/24/2003 09:58:36 AM | PermaLink