Monday, August 30, 2010

"Corexit’s 2-butoxyethanol in swimming pool" - Homosassa, Florida

EXCLUSIVE: Tests find sickened family has 50.3 ppm of Corexit’s 2-butoxyethanol in swimming pool — JUST ONE HOUR NORTH OF TAMPA (lab report included) -

“Our heads are still swimming,” stated Barbara Schebler of Homosassa, Florida, who received word last Friday that test results on the water from her family’s swimming pool showed 50.3 ppm of 2-butoxyethanol, a marker for the dispersant Corexit 9527A used to break up and sink BP’s oil in the Gulf of Mexico.

The problems began for the Scheblers a few weeks after the April 20 blow-out. “Our first clue were rashes we both got early in May. Both my husband and I couldn’t get rid of the rashes and had to get cream from our doctor,” Schebler noted, “I never had a rash in my life.”

Then, on “July [23], my husband Warren mowed the lawn. It was hot so he got in the pool to cool off afterward. That afternoon he had severe diarrhea and very dark urine. This lasted about 2 days,” she revealed.

Initially, they reasoned this was caused by the heat. The following week Mr. Schebler again mowed the lawn and went in the pool, and again he was sickened with the same severe symptoms.

Suspicious that the pool may be a problem, the family set out to get the water tested. “We have a 15 year old and felt we owed it to him to live in a clean, healthy environment,” said Mrs. Schebler.

The Scheblers found Robert Naman, a Mobile, Alabama chemist who’s performed multiple tests (1, 2, 3) for WKRG Channel 5, also out of Mobile.

“Warren collected a water sample from the pool filter on August 17th… packed the sample according to Mr. Naman’s instructions, and overnighted it to his Mobile, Ala. lab that same day,” she noted.

The results were delivered by Naman over the phone on August 27 at 11:00 a.m. EDT. A copy of the findings were then e-mailed to the Scheblers.

“Naman [said] our pool water sample we sent him contained 50.3 ppm [parts per million] 2-butoxyethanol marker for Corexit,” according to Mrs. Schebler. Tests for arsenic came back at less than .02 ppm.

A July letter from four top scientists noted, “Corexit 9527A contains 2-BTE (2-butoxyethanol), a toxic solvent that ruptures red blood cells, causing hemolysis (bleeding) and liver and kidney damage (Johanson and Bowman, 1991, Nalco, 2010).”

The safety data sheet provided by Nalco, the manufacturer of Corexit 9527A, warns, “Harmful if absorbed through skin. May be harmful if swallowed. May cause liver and kidney effects and/or damage. There may be irritation to the gastro-intestinal tract.”

Saturday, August 28, 2010

"Half a Billion Eggs Recalled for Salmonella Contamination"

It's nice to have lots of local people to get fresh eggs from...

WASHINGTON, DC, August 20, 2010 (ENS) - An outbreak of the bacterium Salmonella enteritidis that has sickened hundreds of people across the country has led to an urgent nationwide recall of eggs that now includes two Iowa farms.
The original recall announced August 13 and expanded Wednesday covers 380 million eggs produced by Wright County Egg of Galt, Iowa. Today a second farm, Hillandale Farms of Iowa, said it will recall 170 million eggs after tests confirmed salmonella.

The more than half a billion eggs affected by the recalls are packaged under different brand names and distributed nationwide.

"Don't eat recalled eggs," warns the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The agency says consumers should throw away the recalled eggs or return the product to the store for a refund.

Salmonella enteritidis can be inside perfectly normal-appearing eggs, and if the eggs are eaten raw or undercooked, the bacterium can cause illness.

Salmonella can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems.

Symptoms of salmonella poisoning such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and fever may appear within 12 hours of eating the eggs, or may take as long as 72 hours to show up. Because the symptoms are like flu symptoms some people may not know they are sick because of what they have eaten.

"Individuals who think they might have become ill from eating recalled eggs should consult their health care providers. If consumers are unsure about the source of their eggs, they are urged not to eat them and to discard them immediately," the FDA says.

First issued August 13 and expanded on Wednesday, the recall of eggs in their shells, or "shell eggs," is part of an ongoing intensive investigation by local, state, and federal officials into what caused the recent cases of salmonella.

The recall affects eggs shipped since May 16, 2010 to food wholesalers, distribution centers and food service companies in 17 states: California, Illinois, Missouri, Colorado, Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Arizona, Texas, Georgia, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Iowa...

On August 13, Wright County Egg conducted a nationwide recall of shell eggs on three of its five farms. Further epidemiologic and traceback information led to Wright County Egg expanding its recall on August 18 to cover all five of its farms.

The FDA has activated its emergency operations command center with scientists, investigators, epidemiologists, and communication experts.

In addition, the FDA deployed an initial team of 10 investigators to Wright County Egg in Iowa to inspect the farms and determine the source of the contamination. More investigators are being deployed to help on-site, looking to find the source of the contamination.

Investigators are performing environmental assessments of farm conditions and practices including pest and rodent controls, biosecurity plans, environmental monitoring, sanitary controls, and feed sources.

The FDA is initiating effectiveness checks of the recall, conducting checks at retail stores, wholesalers and distributors to make sure the recalled shell eggs are being removed from the market.

"Unlike eggborne salmonellosis of past decades, the current epidemic is due to intact and disinfected grade A eggs," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a federal agency. "Salmonella enteritidis silently infects the ovaries of healthy appearing hens and contaminates the eggs before the shells are formed."

"Atrazine Threat to Male Sexual Development Revealed"

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, North Carolina, August 25, 2010 (ENS) - Male rats exposed before birth to low doses of the weedkiller atrazine are more likely to develop prostate inflammation and to go through puberty later than non-exposed animals, finds a new study conducted by federal government scientists.

One of the most common agricultural herbicides in the United States, some 80 million pounds of atrazine are applied across the country every year to control broadleaf and grassy weeds in crops such as corn and sugar cane. It is the main ingredient in about 40 name-brand herbicides.

"Atrazine is a staple product for producers, who use it as a critical tool for weed control in growing the vast majority of corn, sorghum and sugarcane in the United States. Use of atrazine fights weed resistance, reduces soil erosion and increases crop yield," according to the Triazine Network, an association of growers and researchers.

But atrazine and its byproducts are known to be endocrine disrupters that are persistent in the environment, making their way into both surface water and groundwater supplies.

This study on how atrazine affects male rats was led by Suzanne Fenton, PhD, and Jason Stanko, PhD, of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health. The scientists tested male rats using atrazine concentrations close to the regulated levels in drinking water sources.

The current maximum contamination level of atrazine allowed in drinking water is three parts per billion.

"We didn't expect to see these kinds of effects at such low levels," Fenton said, releasing the findings Tuesday.

Dr. Fenton, a reproductive endocrinologist, will be presenting the research findings in September to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, as part of its ongoing reassessment of atrazine.

In 2009, the EPA began a comprehensive new evaluation of atrazine to determine its effects on humans. At the end of this process, in September 2010, the agency has said it will decide whether to revise its current risk assessment of atrazine and whether new restrictions are necessary to better protect public health.

This is the third time since the early 1990s the EPA has evaluated atrazine. In each of the two previous reviews the EPA ruled in atrazine's favor, most recently in 2006 after considering 6,000 studies and 80,000 public comments...

Professor Tyrone Hayes in the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley, who specializes in the study of atrazine, calls the chemical, "a potent endocrine disruptor with ill effects in wildlife, laboratory animals and humans."

"Atrazine chemically castrates and feminizes wildlife and reduces immune function in both wildlife and laboratory rodents," says Hayes, who has published research showing that exposure to atrazine caused male tadpoles to turn into hermaphrodites - frogs with both male and female sexual characteristics.

"Atrazine induces breast and prostate cancer, retards mammary development and induces abortion in laboratory rodents," Hayes warns. "Studies in human populations and cell and tissue studies suggest that atrazine poses similar threats to humans."

Other scientists support the use of atrazine when it is used correctly. Purdue University weed scientist Bill Johnson says, "Farmers need to understand both the rate restrictions of atrazine for different soil types and the setbacks from water sources. Like any chemical, they shouldn't apply atrazine right before a big rain in order to prevent runoff."

...March, 16 communities in six Midwestern states filed a federal lawsuit seeking to force atrazine manufacturer, the Swiss company Syngenta, to pay for removal of the herbicide from their drinking water. The class action lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois by 16 towns and villages in Kansas, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Missouri, and Iowa.

Atrazine has been banned in Europe, even in Switzerland, the home of manufacturer Syngenta.

Monday, August 23, 2010

"Scientists say the toxic blue-green algae will only get worse on Ohio lakes"


The simmering summer of 2010 is coughing up a sickly and unprecedented batch of toxic blue-green algae in western Lake Erie and nearly a dozen of Ohio's shallow, inland lakes.

Many lake scientists are speculating that it's only going to get worse.

"We're going to see a greener and greener lake until changes are made," said John Hageman of Stone Laboratory, Ohio State University's water research station on Gibraltar Island in western Lake Erie. "Everything points to this just getting worse."
That might be hard to imagine.

But it could help to survey the squalid situation at Grand Lake St. Mary's -- a large, inland lake in western Ohio. The 13,000-acre lake near Celina grabbed the attention of both the public and health officials all summer long because of its toxic, pea-soup waters and foamy surface.

"Grand Lake St. Mary's has gone green every summer for decades, that's not new," said EPA spokeswoman Dina Pierce. "But this year, it just exploded -- at times it looked like a science fiction landscape, almost turquoise or swimming pool blue with white foam on top.

"People who have lived there their whole lives had never seen anything like it."

But while the Great Lake and the big lake near Celina have grabbed the headlines, in recent weeks it seems as if almost any shallow body of warmer water in Ohio might be at risk from being tainted by a floating, green bloom of algae.

Simply put, the 2010 algae outbreak is breaking the mold.

"This is first year we've seen blooms like this -- all across the state," said Jen House of the Ohio Department of Health, which is working with the EPA and state Department of Natural Resources to coordinate warnings at the various lakes and Lake Erie beaches. "The problem is that this bacteria loves warm, sunny weather and we've had plenty of that."

State officials have posted warnings about the dangers of coming in contact with blue-green algae at sites from West Branch State Park in Portage County (later found to be free of blue-green algae) to East Harbor State Park on the shores of Lake Erie's warm and shallow western basin.

Ohio health and recreation officials have received about 30 complaints linked to human sickness or irritation from exposure to algae -- more than half from Grand Lake St. Mary's, where officials have long known that runoff from animal feeding operations is providing nutrients for the algae to grow.

At least three dogs have also reportedly been killed by exposure to the blue-green algae in the Ohio lake. Those pet deaths followed similar algae-related dog deaths in recent years in Minnesota, Illinois and Indiana.

Scientists on Lake Erie, where most of the research takes place, blame high concentrations of phosphorus and high water temperatures for algal blooms on course to be the worst in 30 or 40 years. Most say those same factors are playing a role in the algal blooms on the inland lakes.

The dissolved phosphorus count -- fertilizer runoff from farms in Ohio, Indiana and Michigan -- flowing out of the Maumee River is the highest since records began in 1975, according to records at Heidelberg University...

The temperature increase, meanwhile, appears to be merely following a long-term trend that many attribute to a slowly increasing global climate. Water temperatures in Lake Erie and the other Great Lakes have been extraordinarily high since a record warm spring.

Satellite images have shown similar algal growth in each of the last few summers - the largest outbreaks since the blooms reappeared in the mid 1990s, after disappearing for more than 15 years in the wake of the more stringent water quality laws of the early 1970s.

The algae that bloom by midsummer and often stays through September is not only unsightly, but can threaten both fisheries and tourism because the worst strain -- the bacterial microcystin, known as blue-green algae -- can unexpectedly turn toxic about half the time.

"This is a Lake Erie-wide issue, at least," said Gail Hesse of the Ohio EPA's Division of Surface Water and head of the Ohio Lake Erie Phosphoous Task Force. "This lake is water resource for all of Ohio, so we should all have be concerned because the algae can be a public health concern when it goes toxic."

An algal bloom isn't just a natural wonder and contributor to the dead zone. It's potentially fatal.

Blue-green algae -- actually the peptides secreted by certain blue-green algae known as microcystis -- is a known neurotoxin, meaning that at high concentrations it can severely damage the nervous system, including the brain. That makes it especially dangerous to small children or those with weak immune systems.

While there are currently no official health standards for microcystin, state officials are posting warnings based on those recommended by the World Health Organization: No more than 20 parts per billion for recreational water and 1 part per billon for drinking water.

Grand Lake St. Mary's blew those standards out of the water.

"Last year microcystin was already sky high at 84 parts per billion," Hesse said. "Then, early this year, we had readings over 2,000 -- that's on a whole different scale, unimaginable until now."

Tybee sets a jellyfish sting record


Mix throngs of beachgoers with throngs of jellyfish and what do you get?


In fact, Tybee lifeguards have treated more than 10,000 jellyfish stings this season, said Lt. Hunter Robinson of Tybee Island Ocean Rescue.

In part, it's a record year for stings because there have been more potential victims. Tybee has seen healthy numbers of tourists, some who diverted to Georgia to avoid the threat of the Gulf oil spill.

To see what beach-goers have to say about the increase in jellyfish stings this summer, click play in the video box to the left.

The jellyfish have been there to greet those extra tourists in waves, both literally and figuratively. An unusually high population of lion's mane jellyfish plagued Tybee's surf in the spring and early summer.

That species prefers cooler water, so a later than normal warm-up last spring after a cold winter contributed to them overstaying their welcome at Tybee, said Beth Palmer, an educator at the Tybee Island Marine Science Center...

There's good evidence that jellyfish populations are increasing worldwide, said Dick Lee, professor emeritus at Skidaway Institute of Oceanography.

"Some areas that never had them before have them, and ones that had them before have more," he said.

Jellyfish research

Palmer, who's spearheaded a program she believes is the first in Georgia to collect data on jellyfish abundance, has been recording the number of jellies that wash up on a stretch of Tybee's beach.

Even these dead ones can hurt you, she cautioned, because their stingers are released with physical or chemical contact, not by the animal's control.

Jellies are poor swimmers dependent on the winds and currents to transport them. It's tough to know when they've peaked, Robinson said.

Lifeguards treated 400 stings on a recent Saturday, after seeing far fewer stings on the preceding days.

Still, it was about this time last year that Ocean Rescue recorded a sharp decline in stings. Robinson expects the worst is over.

Earlier this summer, Palmer was strolling through a tide pool when a slight current steered a jellyfish into her foot. She got her first-ever sting, one that kept her in pain for about 10 minutes.

But this self-described jelly-loving biologist hasn't turned on them.

"I think they're really pretty and really neat," she said.

Sting data
Number of jellyfish stings Tybee Island Ocean Rescue treated annually:
2010 (to date)............10,792

India Tries Using Cash Bonuses to Slow Birthrates

From the New York Times

SATARA, India — Sunita Laxman Jadhav is a door-to-door saleswoman who sells waiting. She sweeps along muddy village lanes in her nurse’s white sari, calling on newly married couples with an unblushing proposition: Wait two years before getting pregnant, and the government will thank you.

It also will pay you.

“I want to tell you about our honeymoon package,” began Ms. Jadhav, an auxiliary nurse, during a recent house call on a new bride in this farming region in the state of Maharashtra. Ms. Jadhav explained that the district government would pay 5,000 rupees, or about $106, if the couple waited to have children. Waiting, she promised, would allow them time to finish their schooling or to save money.

Waiting also would allow India more time to curb a rapidly growing population that threatens to turn its demography from a prized asset into a crippling burden. With almost 1.2 billion people, India is disproportionately young; roughly half the population is younger than 25. This “demographic dividend” is one reason some economists predict that India could surpass China in economic growth rates within five years. India will have a young, vast work force while a rapidly aging China will face the burden of supporting an older population.

But if youth is India’s advantage, the sheer size of its population poses looming pressures on resources and presents an enormous challenge for an already inefficient government to expand schooling and other services. In coming decades, India is projected to surpass China as the world’s most populous nation, and the critical uncertainty is just how populous it will be. Estimates range from 1.5 billion to 1.9 billion people, and Indian leaders recognize that that must be avoided.

Yet unlike authoritarian China, where the governing Communist Party long ago instituted the world’s strictest population policy, India is an unruly democracy where the central government has set population targets but where state governments carry out separate efforts to limit the birthrate. While some states have reacted to population fears with coercion, forbidding parents with more than two children from holding local office, or disqualifying government workers from certain benefits if they have larger families, other states have done little.

Meanwhile, many national politicians have been wary of promoting population control ever since an angry public backlash against a scandal over forced vasectomies during the 1970s. It was considered a sign of progress that India’s Parliament debated “population stabilization” this month after largely ignoring the issue for years.

“It’s already late,” said Sabu Padmadas, a demographer with the University of Southampton who has worked extensively in India. “It’s definitely high time for India to act.”

The program here in Satara is a pilot program — one of several initiatives across the country that have used a softer approach — trying to slow down population growth by challenging deeply ingrained rural customs. Experts say far too many rural women wed as teenagers, usually in arranged marriages, and then have babies in quick succession — a pattern that exacerbates poverty and spurs what demographers call “population momentum” by bunching children together.

India averages about 2.6 children per family, far below what it was a half century ago, yet still above the rate of 2.1 that would stabilize the population. Many states with higher income and education levels are already near or below an average of two children per family. Yet the poorest and most populous states, notably Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, average almost four children per family and have some of the lowest levels of female literacy.

“An educated girl is your best contraception,” said Dr. Amarjit Singh, executive director of the National Population Stabilization Fund, a quasi-governmental advisory agency. He said that roughly half of India’s future excess population growth was expected to come from its six poorest states....

The Koch Brothers - “The Billionaires Behind the Hate"

"Climate change has become an ideologically polarizing issue. It taps into deep personal identities and causes what Dan Kahan of Yale calls “protective cognition” — we judge things in part on whether we see ourselves as rugged individualists mastering nature or as members of interconnected societies who live in harmony with the environment. Powerful special interests like the coal and oil industries have learned how to halt movement on climate policy by exploiting the fear people feel when their identities are threatened." Thomas Homer-Dixon from Disaster at the Top of the World

Who are THEY who are so intent on exploiting fear and spreading dis-information? I am constantly perplexed by smart people who don't know what's going on. Here are some excerpts from an article "Covert Operations" by Jane Mayer in The New Yorker:

With his brother Charles, who is seventy-four, David Koch owns virtually all of Koch Industries, a conglomerate, headquartered in Wichita, Kansas, whose annual revenues are estimated to be a hundred billion dollars. The company has grown spectacularly since their father, Fred, died, in 1967, and the brothers took charge. The Kochs operate oil refineries in Alaska, Texas, and Minnesota, and control some four thousand miles of pipeline. Koch Industries owns Brawny paper towels, Dixie cups, Georgia-Pacific lumber, Stainmaster carpet, and Lycra, among other products. Forbes ranks it as the second-largest private company in the country, after Cargill, and its consistent profitability has made David and Charles Koch—who, years ago, bought out two other brothers—among the richest men in America. Their combined fortune of thirty-five billion dollars is exceeded only by those of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.

The Kochs are longtime libertarians who believe in drastically lower personal and corporate taxes, minimal social services for the needy, and much less oversight of industry—especially environmental regulation. These views dovetail with the brothers’ corporate interests. In a study released this spring, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst’s Political Economy Research Institute named Koch Industries one of the top ten air polluters in the United States. And Greenpeace issued a report identifying the company as a “kingpin of climate science denial.” The report showed that, from 2005 to 2008, the Kochs vastly outdid ExxonMobil in giving money to organizations fighting legislation related to climate change, underwriting a huge network of foundations, think tanks, and political front groups. Indeed, the brothers have funded opposition campaigns against so many Obama Administration policies—from health-care reform to the economic-stimulus program—that, in political circles, their ideological network is known as the Kochtopus.

Charles Lewis, the founder of the Center for Public Integrity, a nonpartisan watchdog group, said, “The Kochs are on a whole different level. There’s no one else who has spent this much money. The sheer dimension of it is what sets them apart. They have a pattern of lawbreaking, political manipulation, and obfuscation. I’ve been in Washington since Watergate, and I’ve never seen anything like it. They are the Standard Oil of our times.”

Over the July 4th weekend, a summit called Texas Defending the American Dream took place in a chilly hotel ballroom in Austin. Though Koch freely promotes his philanthropic ventures, he did not attend the summit, and his name was not in evidence. And on this occasion the audience was roused not by a dance performance but by a series of speakers denouncing President Barack Obama. Peggy Venable, the organizer of the summit, warned that Administration officials “have a socialist vision for this country.”

Five hundred people attended the summit, which served, in part, as a training session for Tea Party activists in Texas. An advertisement cast the event as a populist uprising against vested corporate power. “Today, the voices of average Americans are being drowned out by lobbyists and special interests,” it said. “But you can do something about it.” The pitch made no mention of its corporate funders. The White House has expressed frustration that such sponsors have largely eluded public notice. David Axelrod, Obama’s senior adviser, said, “What they don’t say is that, in part, this is a grassroots citizens’ movement brought to you by a bunch of oil billionaires.”

David Koch told New York, “I’ve never been to a tea-party event. No one representing the tea party has ever even approached me.”
At the lectern in Austin, however, Venable—a longtime political operative who draws a salary from Americans for Prosperity, and who has worked for Koch-funded political groups since 1994—spoke less warily. “We love what the Tea Parties are doing, because that’s how we’re going to take back America!” she declared, as the crowd cheered. In a subsequent interview, she described herself as an early member of the movement, joking, “I was part of the Tea Party before it was cool!” She explained that the role of Americans for Prosperity was to help “educate” Tea Party activists on policy details, and to give them “next-step training” after their rallies, so that their political energy could be channelled “more effectively.” And she noted that Americans for Prosperity had provided Tea Party activists with lists of elected officials to target. She said of the Kochs, “They’re certainly our people. David’s the chairman of our board. I’ve certainly met with them, and I’m very appreciative of what they do.”

Venable honored several Tea Party “citizen leaders” at the summit. The Texas branch of Americans for Prosperity gave its Blogger of the Year Award to a young woman named Sibyl West. On June 14th, West, writing on her site, described Obama as the “cokehead in chief.” In an online thread, West speculated that the President was exhibiting symptoms of “demonic possession (aka schizophrenia, etc.).” The summit featured several paid speakers, including Janine Turner, the actress best known for her role on the television series “Northern Exposure.” She declared, “They don’t want our children to know about their rights. They don’t want our children to know about a God!”

During a catered lunch, Venable introduced Ted Cruz, a former solicitor general of Texas, who told the crowd that Obama was “the most radical President ever to occupy the Oval Office,” and had hidden from voters a secret agenda—“the government taking over our economy and our lives.” Countering Obama, Cruz proclaimed, was “the epic fight of our generation!” As the crowd rose to its feet and cheered, he quoted the defiant words of a Texan at the Alamo: “Victory, or death!”

Bruce Bartlett, a conservative economist and a historian, who once worked at the National Center for Policy Analysis, a Dallas-based think tank that the Kochs fund, said, “The problem with the whole libertarian movement is that it’s been all chiefs and no Indians. There haven’t been any actual people, like voters, who give a crap about it. So the problem for the Kochs has been trying to create a movement.” With the emergence of the Tea Party, he said, “everyone suddenly sees that for the first time there are Indians out there—people who can provide real ideological power.” The Kochs, he said, are “trying to shape and control and channel the populist uprising into their own policies.”

Another former Koch adviser said, “They’re smart. This right-wing, redneck stuff works for them. They see this as a way to get things done without getting dirty themselves.” Rob Stein, a Democratic political strategist who has studied the conservative movement’s finances, said that the Kochs are “at the epicenter of the anti-Obama movement. But it’s not just about Obama. They would have done the same to Hillary Clinton. They did the same with Bill Clinton. They are out to destroy progressivism.”

DiZerega believes that the Koch brothers have followed a wayward intellectual trajectory, transferring their father’s paranoia about Soviet Communism to a distrust of the U.S. government, and seeing its expansion, beginning with the New Deal, as a tyrannical threat to freedom. In an essay, posted on Beliefnet, diZerega writes, “As state socialism failed . . . the target for many within these organizations shifted to any kind of regulation at all. ‘Socialism’ kept being defined downwards.”

As their fortunes grew, Charles and David Koch became the primary underwriters of hard-line libertarian politics in America. Charles’s goal, as Doherty described it, was to tear the government “out at the root.”

Ed Clark told The Nation that libertarians were getting ready to stage “a very big tea party,” [in 1980] because people were “sick to death” of taxes. The Libertarian Party platform called for the abolition of the F.B.I. and the C.I.A., as well as of federal regulatory agencies, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Energy. The Party wanted to end Social Security, minimum-wage laws, gun control, and all personal and corporate income taxes; it proposed the legalization of prostitution, recreational drugs, and suicide. Government should be reduced to only one function: the protection of individual rights. William F. Buckley, Jr., a more traditional conservative, called the movement “Anarcho-Totalitarianism.”

According to Doherty’s book, the Kochs came to regard elected politicians as merely “actors playing out a script.” A longtime confidant of the Kochs told Doherty that the brothers wanted to “supply the themes and words for the scripts.” In order to alter the direction of America, they had to “influence the areas where policy ideas percolate from: academia and think tanks.”

After the 1980 election, Charles and David Koch receded from the public arena. But they poured more than a hundred million dollars into dozens of seemingly independent organizations. Tax records indicate that in 2008 the three main Koch family foundations gave money to thirty-four political and policy organizations, three of which they founded, and several of which they direct. The Kochs and their company have given additional millions to political campaigns, advocacy groups, and lobbyists. The family’s subterranean financial role has fuelled suspicion on the left; Lee Fang, of the liberal blog ThinkProgress, has called the Kochs “the billionaires behind the hate."

Of course, Democrats give money, too. Their most prominent donor, the financier George Soros, runs a foundation, the Open Society Institute, that has spent as much as a hundred million dollars a year in America. Soros has also made generous private contributions to various Democratic campaigns, including Obama’s. But Michael Vachon, his spokesman, argued that Soros’s giving is transparent, and that “none of his contributions are in the service of his own economic interests.” The Kochs have given millions of dollars to nonprofit groups that criticize environmental regulation and support lower taxes for industry. Gus diZerega, the former friend, suggested that the Kochs’ youthful idealism about libertarianism had largely devolved into a rationale for corporate self-interest. He said of Charles, “Perhaps he has confused making money with freedom.”

Some critics have suggested that the Kochs’ approach has subverted the purpose of tax-exempt giving. By law, charitable foundations must conduct exclusively nonpartisan activities that promote the public welfare. A 2004 report by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, a watchdog group, described the Kochs’ foundations as being self-serving, concluding, “These foundations give money to nonprofit organizations that do research and advocacy on issues that impact the profit margin of Koch Industries.”

The Kochs have gone well beyond their immediate self-interest, however, funding organizations that aim to push the country in a libertarian direction. Among the institutions that they have subsidized are the Institute for Justice, which files lawsuits opposing state and federal regulations; the Institute for Humane Studies, which underwrites libertarian academics; and the Bill of Rights Institute, which promotes a conservative slant on the Constitution. Many of the organizations funded by the Kochs employ specialists who write position papers that are subsequently quoted by politicians and pundits. David Koch has acknowledged that the family exerts tight ideological control. “If we’re going to give a lot of money, we’ll make darn sure they spend it in a way that goes along with our intent,” he told Doherty. “And if they make a wrong turn and start doing things we don’t agree with, we withdraw funding.”

The Kochs’ subsidization of a pro-corporate movement fulfills, in many ways, the vision laid out in a secret 1971 memo that Lewis Powell, then a Virginia attorney, wrote two months before he was nominated to the Supreme Court. The antiwar movement had turned its anger on defense contractors, such as Dow Chemical, and Ralph Nader was leading a public-interest crusade against corporations. Powell, writing a report for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, urged American companies to fight back. The greatest threat to free enterprise, he warned, was not Communism or the New Left but, rather, “respectable elements of society”—intellectuals, journalists, and scientists. To defeat them, he wrote, business leaders needed to wage a long-term, unified campaign to change public opinion.

Charles Koch seems to have approached both business and politics with the deliberation of an engineer. “To bring about social change,” he told Doherty, requires “a strategy” that is “vertically and horizontally integrated,” spanning “from idea creation to policy development to education to grassroots organizations to lobbying to litigation to political action.” The project, he admitted, was extremely ambitious. “We have a radical philosophy,” he said.

In 1977, the Kochs provided the funds to launch the nation’s first libertarian think tank, the Cato Institute. ... It describes itself as nonpartisan, and its scholars have at times been critical of both parties. But it has consistently pushed for corporate tax cuts, reductions in social services, and laissez-faire environmental policies.

When President Obama, in a 2008 speech, described the science on global warming as “beyond dispute,” the Cato Institute took out a full-page ad in the Times to contradict him. Cato’s resident scholars have relentlessly criticized political attempts to stop global warming as expensive, ineffective, and unnecessary. Ed Crane, the Cato Institute’s founder and president, told me that “global-warming theories give the government more control of the economy.”

Cato scholars have been particularly energetic in promoting the Climategate scandal. Last year, private e-mails of climate scientists at the University of East Anglia, in England, were mysteriously leaked, and their exchanges appeared to suggest a willingness to falsify data in order to buttress the idea that global warming is real. In the two weeks after the e-mails went public, one Cato scholar gave more than twenty media interviews trumpeting the alleged scandal. But five independent inquiries have since exonerated the researchers, and nothing was found in their e-mails or data to discredit the scientific consensus on global warming.

Nevertheless, the controversy succeeded in spreading skepticism about climate change. Even though the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently issued a report concluding that the evidence for global warming is unequivocal, more Americans are convinced than at any time since 1997 that scientists have exaggerated the seriousness of global warming. The Kochs promote this statistic on their company’s Web site but do not mention the role that their funding has played in fostering such doubt.

In a 2002 memo, the Republican political consultant Frank Luntz wrote that so long as “voters believe there is no consensus about global warming within the scientific community” the status quo would prevail. The key for opponents of environmental reform, he said, was to question the science—a public-relations strategy that the tobacco industry used effectively for years to forestall regulation. The Kochs have funded many sources of environmental skepticism, such as the Heritage Foundation, which has argued that “scientific facts gathered in the past 10 years do not support the notion of catastrophic human-made warming.” The brothers have given money to more obscure groups, too, such as the Independent Women’s Forum, which opposes the presentation of global warming as a scientific fact in American public schools. Until 2008, the group was run by Nancy Pfotenhauer, a former lobbyist for Koch Industries. Mary Beth Jarvis, a vice-president of a Koch subsidiary, is on the group’s board.

In the mid-eighties, the Kochs provided millions of dollars to George Mason University, in Arlington, Virginia, to set up another think tank...“It’s ground zero for deregulation policy in Washington,” Rob Stein, the Democratic strategist, said. It is an unusual arrangement. “George Mason is a public university, and receives public funds,” Stein noted. “Virginia is hosting an institution that the Kochs practically control.

The Wall Street Journal has called the Mercatus Center “the most important think tank you’ve never heard of,” and noted that fourteen of the twenty-three regulations that President George W. Bush placed on a “hit list” had been suggested first by Mercatus scholars... Thomas McGarity, a law professor at the University of Texas, who specializes in environmental issues, told me that “Koch has been constantly in trouble with the E.P.A., and Mercatus has constantly hammered on the agency.” An environmental lawyer who has clashed with the Mercatus Center called it “a means of laundering economic aims.” The lawyer explained the strategy: “You take corporate money and give it to a neutral-sounding think tank,” which “hires people with pedigrees and academic degrees who put out credible-seeming studies. But they all coincide perfectly with the economic interests of their funders.”

“Ideas don’t happen on their own,” Matt Kibbe, the president of FreedomWorks, a Tea Party advocacy group, told me. “Throughout history, ideas need patrons.” The Koch brothers, after helping to create Cato and Mercatus, concluded that think tanks alone were not enough to effect change. They needed a mechanism to deliver those ideas to the street, and to attract the public’s support. In 1984, David Koch and Richard Fink created yet another organization, and Kibbe joined them. The group, Citizens for a Sound Economy, seemed like a grassroots movement, but according to the Center for Public Integrity it was sponsored principally by the Kochs, who provided $7.9 million between 1986 and 1993. Its mission, Kibbe said, “was to take these heavy ideas and translate them for mass America. . . . We read the same literature Obama did about nonviolent revolutions—Saul Alinsky, Gandhi, Martin Luther King. We studied the idea of the Boston Tea Party as an example of nonviolent social change. We learned we needed boots on the ground to sell ideas, not candidates.” Within a few years, the group had mobilized fifty paid field workers, in twenty-six states, to rally voters behind the Kochs’ agenda. David and Charles, according to one participant, were “very controlling, very top down. You can’t build an organization with them. They run it.”

Around this time, the brothers faced a political crisis. In 1989, the Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs investigated their business and released a scathing report accusing Koch Oil of “a widespread and sophisticated scheme to steal crude oil from Indians and others through fraudulent mismeasuring.” The Kochs admitted that they had improperly taken thirty-one million dollars’ worth of crude oil, but said that it had been accidental. Charles Koch told committee investigators that oil measurement is “a very uncertain art.”

To defend its reputation, Koch Industries hired Robert Strauss, then a premier Washington lobbyist; the company soon opened an office in the city. A grand jury was convened to investigate the allegations, but it eventually disbanded, without issuing criminal charges. According to the Senate report, after the committee hearings Koch operatives delved into the personal lives of committee staffers, even questioning an ex-wife. Senate investigators were upset by the Kochs’ tactics. Kenneth Ballen, the counsel to the Senate committee, said, “These people have amassed such unaccountable power!”

The Kochs continued to disperse their money, creating slippery organizations with generic-sounding names, and this made it difficult to ascertain the extent of their influence in Washington. In 1990, Citizens for a Sound Economy created a spinoff group, Citizens for the Environment, which called acid rain and other environmental problems “myths.” When the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette investigated the matter, it discovered that the spinoff group had “no citizen membership of its own.”

During the 2000 election campaign, Koch Industries spent some nine hundred thousand dollars to support the candidacies of George W. Bush and other Republicans. During the Bush years, Koch Industries and other fossil-fuel companies enjoyed remarkable prosperity. The 2005 energy bill, which Hillary Clinton dubbed the Dick Cheney Lobbyist Energy Bill, offered enormous subsidies and tax breaks for energy companies. The Kochs have cast themselves as deficit hawks, but, according to a study by Media Matters, their companies have benefitted from nearly a hundred million dollars in government contracts since 2000.

In January, 2008, Charles Koch wrote in his company newsletter that America could be on the verge of “the greatest loss of liberty and prosperity since the 1930s.” That October, Americans for Prosperity held a conference of conservative operatives at a Marriott hotel outside Washington. Erick Erickson, the editor-in-chief of the conservative blog, took the lectern, thanked David Koch, and vowed to “unite and fight . . . the armies of the left!” Soon after Obama assumed office, Americans for Prosperity launched “Porkulus” rallies against Obama’s stimulus-spending measures. Then the Mercatus Center released a report claiming that stimulus funds had been directed disproportionately toward Democratic districts; eventually, the author was forced to correct the report, but not before Rush Limbaugh, citing the paper, had labelled Obama’s program “a slush fund,” and Fox News and other conservative outlets had echoed the sentiment. (Phil Kerpen, the vice-president for policy at Americans for Prosperity, is a contributor to the Fox News Web site. Another officer at Americans for Prosperity, Walter Williams, often guest-hosts for Limbaugh.)

Americans for Prosperity also created an offshoot, Patients United Now, which organized what Phillips has estimated to be more than three hundred rallies against health-care reform. At one rally, an effigy of a Democratic congressman was hung; at another, protesters unfurled a banner depicting corpses from Dachau. The group also helped organize the “Kill the Bill” protests outside the Capitol, in March, where Democratic supporters of health-care reform alleged that they were spat on and cursed at. Phillips was a featured speaker.

Grover Norquist, who holds a weekly meeting for conservative leaders in Washington, including representatives from Americans for Prosperity, told me that last summer’s raucous rallies were pivotal in undermining Obama’s agenda. The Republican leadership in Congress, he said, “couldn’t have done it without August, when people went out on the streets. It discouraged deal-makers”—Republicans who might otherwise have worked constructively with Obama. Moreover, the appearance of growing public opposition to Obama affected corporate donors on K Street. “K Street is a three-billion-dollar weathervane,” Norquist said. “When Obama was strong, the Chamber of Commerce said, ‘We can work with the Obama Administration.’ But that changed when thousands of people went into the street and ‘terrorized’ congressmen. August is what changed it. Now that Obama is weak, people are getting tough.”

Charles Koch, in a newsletter sent to his seventy thousand employees, compared the Obama Administration to the regime of the Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chávez. The Kochs’ sense of imperilment is somewhat puzzling. Income inequality in America is greater than it has been since the nineteen-twenties, and since the seventies the tax rates of the wealthiest have fallen more than those of the middle class. Yet the brothers’ message has evidently resonated with voters: a recent poll found that fifty-five per cent of Americans agreed that Obama is a socialist.

In 1991, David Koch was badly injured in a plane crash in Los Angeles. He was the sole passenger in first class to survive. As he was recovering, a routine physical exam led to the discovery of prostate cancer. Koch received treatment, settled down, started a family, and reconsidered his life....Koch began giving spectacularly large donations to the arts and sciences. And he became a patron of cancer research, focussing on prostate cancer...

In response to his generosity, Sloan-Kettering gave Koch its Excellence in Corporate Leadership Award. In 2004, President Bush named him to the National Cancer Advisory Board, which guides the National Cancer Institute. Koch’s corporate and political roles, however, may pose conflicts of interest. For example, at the same time that David Koch has been casting himself as a champion in the fight against cancer, Koch Industries has been lobbying to prevent the E.P.A. from classifying formaldehyde, which the company produces in great quantities, as a “known carcinogen” in humans.

Scientists have long known that formaldehyde causes cancer in rats, and several major scientific studies have concluded that formaldehyde causes cancer in human beings—including one published last year by the National Cancer Institute, on whose advisory board Koch sits. The study tracked twenty-five thousand patients for an average of forty years; subjects exposed to higher amounts of formaldehyde had significantly higher rates of leukemia. These results helped lead an expert panel within the National Institutes of Health to conclude that formaldehyde should be categorized as a known carcinogen, and be strictly controlled by the government. Corporations have resisted regulations on formaldehyde for decades, however, and Koch Industries has been a large funder of members of Congress who have stymied the E.P.A., requiring it to defer new regulations until more studies are completed.

...Koch Industries became a major producer of the chemical in 2005, after it bought Georgia-Pacific, the paper and wood-products company, for twenty-one billion dollars. Georgia-Pacific manufactures formaldehyde in its chemical division, and uses it to produce various wood products, such as plywood and laminates.

James Huff, an associate director at the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences, a division of the N.I.H., told me that it was “disgusting” for Koch to be serving on the National Cancer Advisory Board: “It’s just not good for public health. Vested interests should not be on the board.” He went on, “Those boards are very important. They’re very influential as to whether N.C.I. goes into formaldehyde or not. Billions of dollars are involved in formaldehyde.”

Harold Varmus, the director of the National Cancer Institute, knows David Koch from Memorial Sloan-Kettering, which he used to run. He said that, at Sloan-Kettering, “a lot of people who gave to us had large business interests. The one thing we wouldn’t tolerate in our board members is tobacco.” When told of Koch Industries’ stance on formaldehyde, Varmus said that he was “surprised.”

The Kochs have long depended on the public’s not knowing all the details about them. They have been content to operate what David Koch has called “the largest company that you’ve never heard of.” But with the growing prominence of the Tea Party, and with increased awareness of the Kochs’ ties to the movement, the brothers may find it harder to deflect scrutiny. Recently, President Obama took aim at the Kochs’ political network. Speaking at a Democratic National Committee fund-raiser, in Austin, he warned supporters that the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in the Citizens United case—which struck down laws prohibiting direct corporate spending on campaigns—had made it even easier for big companies to hide behind “groups with harmless-sounding names like Americans for Prosperity.” Obama said, “They don’t have to say who, exactly, Americans for Prosperity are. You don’t know if it’s a foreign-controlled corporation”—or even, he added, “a big oil company.”

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Water Communion

Water from near and far - poured into a bowl. From oceans, lakes, rivers, fountains and memorials, water faucets and rain. From adults and children, young and old. With memories - good, bad and in between. That's the Unitarian Universalist water ritual.

Water flowing clear, oxygen and hydrogen - molecules mingling like people in a crowd. It's about connections, community, experiences and life.

In a bowl of water, the idea that some of the molecules are better, or have been "chosen" is absurd. While we are all a bit more complicated than that with our DNA with it's genes and proteins, the same concept applies. We are app. 60% water, 16% protein, 15% fat.

Thinking of all of humanity, and life on earth, and the water that circulates through all of our systems, and the air we breathe as being one system is a positive thing. Is life a shared experience or a competition? Are you more like a bonobo (flexible about sharing) or a chimpanzee ("where status is paramount and aggression can be severe")? We are more closely related to chimpanzees. Testosterone is king in chimp land. Among bonobos, the female is dominant and cooperation and food sharing is practiced. Bonobos developed communication and stress reduction techniques. Chimps developed tools and weapons, murder and war.

Historically, people have presumed that money could serve some amount of protection. Wealth passed down through generations could help one's surviving genes. Genes apparently have their own selfish mechanisms for survival. Genes on the female side are more interested in ensuring communication, while the genes on the male side are more interested in sex and emotion.

Ridley's 'Genome' book suggests we get our striatum, cortex, and hippocampus (sensory processing, thinking, consciousness) cells from our mothers and that most of our cells in our hypothalamus & amygdala (emotions, stress, hormones) come from our fathers. ‎"In the opinion of one scientist, Robert Trivers, this difference reflects the fact that the cortex has the job of co-operating with maternal relatives while the hypothalamus is an egotistical organ."

The premise of the book "The Chalice and the Blade" is that women and the women's perspective needs to be more influential than it has been the past few centuries - for the good of humanity and the planet. Women have evolved to be more interdependent-minded in order to raise children. An attitude of cooperation is required.

We all need the planet - and a poisoned planet will be a difficult place for all to live, not just those with less means and fewer stored assets. Huffingpost has an article of "9 Surprising Diseases You Can Catch In The Nation's Oceans." Those include: Hepatitis (from red (hospital) waste & ill disposed bodies), Enteric Bacteria (from storm water and sewage), Legionnaire's disease, a form of pneumonia, Gastrointestinal illnesses from cryptosporidium, giardia, shigella, e.coli and norovirus, MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), and oil spill related illness including skin infections and respiratory problems, headaches, etc., Some (MRSA) are spread more in warm waters such as the Mediterranean, California, Florida. Others diseases are more prevalent near large cities with the resultant pollution such as Miami, San Diego, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Lakes and rivers have their pollution problems as well.

While one might think distance from civilization would make for cleaner water, that cannot be assumed, either. People living on the far outskirts of civilization have had problems with mercury and other pollution related substances getting into the water and the food chain.

Hoarding money will not save us - but more regulations would help regarding pollution and pesticides, of food, air and water. One blogger put it like this: "Anti-government sentiment is grounded in the idea that the government will take stuff from you and give it to someone outside your tribe...." Not only is our country our tribe, the world is our tribe. Bonobos are the better model than chimpanzees (and unregulated capitalism).

Encouraging selfishness is not the way to go in this. The more selfish people are, the worse we all are. The more large corporations are allowed to put profit before our health and our lives, the worse we all are. We don't want to ourselves to be polluted (it's not good for our health). We need to be smart about our shared home, food, air and water. We are all connected. The world is smaller than it appears.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

"Why Can’t Scientists Say the Recent Extreme Weather Events Are ‘Proof’ of Climate Change"

From Climate Central:

Massive flooding and extreme heat in Pakistan, devastating heat and wildfires raging across Russia, a giant iceberg calving off Greenland, a wicked hot summer on the U.S. East Coast: this is exactly the stuff scientists such as ourselves have been warning would be a likely consequence of climate change. So, it might seem frustrating when you read a news report saying something along the lines of "while these events are consistent with climate change, no single event can be directly linked to or regarded as proof of climate change."

If that is the case, you may be wondering when we are going to get that definitive proof – the smoking gun, if you will – that links today’s weather events to climate change. The thing is that if we continue to look for proof in those terms, it may take a very long time.

The reason is that the extreme weather events we are seeing today are theoretically possible with or without climate change. That’s why these events don’t prove the existence of human-caused climate change any more than last winter’s snowstorms disproved it. While there’s overwhelming observational evidence showing that humans are affecting climate, this evidence comes from long-term trends, rather than individual events.

Extreme events are related to climate change, however: the odds of them happening are much greater with climate change.

Take the deadly 2003 heat event in Europe that killed an estimated 40,000 people. To explore links between climate change and that heat wave, Dr. Peter Stott of the UK Met Office and colleagues ran two types of climate simulations. One replicated conditions of a natural climate (unmodified by human influences) and the other included both natural influences and the effects of human emissions of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels and other activities. The authors estimated the probability of exceeding an extreme temperature threshold in both simulated climates. In their paper, published in Nature in 2004, they wrote: “According to our calculation, there is a greater than 90% chance that over half the risk of European summer temperatures exceeding a threshold of 1.6K (which is the same as 1.6 degrees Celsius, or 2.9 degrees Fahrenheit) is attributable to human influence on climate.”

In other words, Stott and colleagues asserted with very high confidence that the chances of having a heat wave of a magnitude similar to the 2003 event had doubled because of human-induced warming. But notice what their analysis did not find. It did not conclude that the heat wave would not have occurred, absent human influences on climate. That is because that heat event could still have taken place without human-induced climate change, although with relatively lower likelihood.

We can estimate probabilities, but rarely can it be asserted with 100 percent confidence that there is a causal relationship between variables. That might be how some findings by scientists get interpreted, but scientists don’t tend to talk that way. So we could run computer models today and try to determine how likely the extreme weather of this summer was with and without human influences. And we could estimate by how much human-induced climate change has elevated the odds of these events happening. But we cannot say in a scientifically rigorous way that the event was definitely due to climate change.

The point is that while it is a perfectly reasonable question to ask: “Was this event due to climate change?” it would more useful to ask a related question: “are we putting ourselves at greater risk of experiencing this kind of event?” And to that scientists can answer with high confidence: yes! .....

Cape Cod Waterways Face Pollution Crisis

From the New York Times:

ORLEANS, Mass. — Rising nitrogen levels are suffocating the vegetation and marine life in saltwater ponds and estuaries on Cape Cod, creating an environmental and infrastructure problem that, if left unchecked, will threaten the shellfishing industry, the tourist economy and the beaches that lure so many summer visitors.

More than 60 ponds and estuaries on the cape and a few elsewhere in the region have been choked by algae and seaweed. The culprit is nitrogen, much of it leaching out of septic system wastewater that runs through sandy soil into the estuaries. Faced with a federal mandate to fix their polluted waterways, Cape Cod towns have spent years creating plans to clean up the wastewater, largely through sewers and clustered septic systems.

So far, most of the efforts have been to no avail, stifled by disputes over science and over who should pay for such a sprawling and expensive public works project.

“This is the biggest environmental issue the cape has ever faced,” said Maggie Geist of the Association to Preserve Cape Cod, a nonprofit environmental group. “And for a long time it’s been a hidden problem.”

The root of the problem lies in the popularity and unchecked growth of Cape Cod over the last 30 years. Towns chose not to install sewers when the government helped subsidize them in the 1960s and ’70s, fearing that it would lead to an influx of people. Newcomers arrived anyway and sprawled out, using individual septic systems to get rid of waste.

“We’ve reached capacity for the watershed,” said Lindsey B. Counsell, executive director of Three Bays Preservation, a preservation group in Barnstable. “We’re a victim of our own geology.”

Without remediation, excess nitrogen could decimate shellfish beds and lead to widespread summer fish kills as algae, warm temperatures and cloud cover stifle oxygen in coastal waters, say officials who have examined the problem. Bays will be overtaken with seaweed that rots in the summer, a blow to property values and an environmental concern.

Here in Orleans, wastewater has been a divisive subject for years. Some residents say the town should put in place a $150 million plan that was drafted two years ago and approved at a town meeting, while others are calling for additional review before it is financed by taxpayers.

The problem is not always immediately apparent. From a distance, one saltwater pond here looks pristine, the summer sun bouncing off its placid waters and boats bobbing in the salt breeze.

“It’s deceiving,” said Gussie McKusick, who lives alongside the pond. “It looks beautiful, but it’s all dead underneath.”

Septic systems deposit wastewater, a mixture of urine and water, into a leach field. Because the cape’s soil is so sandy and porous, the wastewater eventually is deposited into bays. Even after septic systems are removed, wastewater already in the soil will still be leaking.

The nitrogen problem is most acute in protected bays and saltwater ponds on the cape’s southern side. The tides coming from Nantucket Sound are not high and forceful enough to flush out the nitrogen, which causes algae and seaweed to flourish, choking out oxygen needed by vegetative and marine species.

In Falmouth, which has long finger-shaped salt ponds, some areas have been closed to shellfishing for years because of elevated nitrogen levels, said Robert Griffin Jr., the assistant harbor master.

The algae and seaweed kill eelgrass, where prized bay scallops grow. Those scallops are gone from the ponds in Falmouth.

In August, the problem is sometimes smelled before it is seen. The algae bakes under the hot sun, creating a foul odor that may already be driving tourists away. Paul Niedzwiecki, the executive director of the Cape Cod Commission, a regional land use agency, said he had heard anecdotally that some people had left because of the smell...

Monday, August 16, 2010

Quakers Vs. Ayn Rand

No, not really. The Quakers aren't against anybody - that's one of the amazing things about them. They are at odds at some of Rand's concepts, however, as I mentioned in a recent note. Notably her idea that altruism is evil (her own words), and that the only good use of taxes is for defense. Quakers don't have any use for any military - and anyway the word "defense" is used even when offense is the plan.

Quakers like to see the light of good (or God, depending on your point of view) in everyone. And it's not always easy - especially with the more challenging people who are determined to justify bad behavior - by themselves or others.

"Wealth is attended with power, by which bargains and oppression, carried on with worldly policy and order, clothes itself with the name of justice and becomes like a seed of discord in the soul. ... So the seeds of war swell and sprout and grow and become strong until much fruit is ripened. ... May we look upon our treasures ... and try whether the seeds of war have nourishment in these our possessions." - John Woolman, American Quaker, c.1764

There are some ideas of Ayn Rand's that I agree with - such as "every purchase is a vote". What we spend our money on supports the creation and the distributors of those things. This is the sort of thing that Quakers embrace.

Ideally - I would have a completely solar home - with no use of electricity except that which was created by wind or solar. While most of the coal that is used to create electricity for my home is from Southern Indiana - the supplier is also involved in mountaintop removal - which I abhor. Same with oil - the only good thing to do is to not use vehicles or airplanes or anything such thing that uses oil. For now I have the most fuel efficient car possible - and many days I don't go anywhere. I nearly always combine errands into as few as trips as I can manage.

One of the concepts of Ayn Rand's that I have a problem with the way in which she justifies selfishness. She does things by including obvious, ordinary things like eating and suggesting that that is selfish. Her idea that love is selfish is similar. Yes - if someone wants they can take the point of view that one's positive connections with others are selfish on our part because of the good effects such relationships have on our life. But I think that miss-uses the term.

Definitions of selfishness:

"Stinginess resulting from a concern for your own welfare and a disregard of others."

"The quality or state of being selfish; exclusive regard to one's own interest or happiness; that supreme self-love or self-preference which leads a person to direct his purposes to the advancement of his own interest, power, or happiness, without regarding those of others."
"A vice utterly at variance with the happiness of him who harbors it, and, as such, condemned by self-love."

Ayn Rand contended... "the exact meaning and dictionary definition of the word “selfishness” is: concern with one’s own interests." “Introduction,” The Virtue of Selfishness, vii.


If Ayn Rand's whole point had been that people need not feel guilty for eating when they were hungry, for taking some time for one's self instead of always taking care of others, etcetera, Rand's ideas would be of a different sort - have a different effect. But where her ideas lead - where she takes them - anad where her followers take them is somewhere completely different.

They want to go beyond doing just basic fulfilling of needs. They want to rail against being a part of a group that takes care of those with special needs. Specifically they don't want to be taxed so that there are roads, fire stations, schools, health care or any other thing - except for the protection of property or against violence. The "free-market" would presumably provide for everything and charity would provide for everything else.

If people who pushed this idea such as Rush Limbaugh, gave to charities all of his $20 million yearly except for what he needed to live on (more like $50,000), and that is what all wealthy Libertarians did AND they had this philosophy - THAT would be a different matter. If Hospitals / Health Care, Schools (University for all), Road, Fire Protection, etc. were all covered, it could be a different story. If there were a charity FDA that worked well (protecting the safety of food), if all industries operated ethically and responsibly and used the best pollution blocking devices possible because those in charge were so rational that they refused to justify the selfishness required to pollute one's own or any other environment - it would be a different story.

Rand wrote: "The Objectivist ethics proudly advocates and upholds rational selfishness—which means: the values required for man’s survival qua man—which means: the values required for human survival—not the values produced by the desires, the emotions, the “aspirations,” the feelings, the whims or the needs of irrational brutes, who have never outgrown the primordial practice of human sacrifices, have never discovered an industrial society and can conceive of no self-interest but that of grabbing the loot of the moment." “The Objectivist Ethics,” The Virtue of Selfishness, 31

The problem is that people are not that rational. People who advocate for less government are not interested in having a plan to ensure "man’s survival qua man". They may present an outward image of rationality - but the policies put in place by pro-free-market, anti-regulatory capitalism are similar to the actions of "irrational brutes, who have never outgrown the primordial practice of human sacrifices". Other people and their livelihoods are sacrificed left and right. The brutes do not recognize the critical human and animal need for a clean and safe environment.

(She also wrote, "For a woman qua woman, the essence of femininity is hero-worship - the desire to look up to man." Some men no doubt love that concept. Yuck.)

On selfishness from (refers to Ayn Rand)
"By what standard does one judge the good from the evil?"
"Man's life is the standard of value. All that supports a man's life is good, and all that destroys man's life is evil.

From that definition - Free-Market Capitalism is evil - as it exploits people and resources and destroys lives and environments. Taxes are not evil by that definition - because a graduated income tax does not destroy lives. Even if people who make $20 million a year were taxed at 90% - so they only got to keep $2 million would not be "destroyed". They would still have $2 million dollars. If the $18 million was used to help others - pay for health care and food - there would be no lives that were "destroyed" - there would be less. (If Bushes tax cuts expire for those making over $200,000 - the 33% bracket would become 36%. And the 35% bracket would rise to 39.6%.)

If Ayn Rand had written a couple of books and that was it - she may have been of little consequence But the fact is that she influenced people who have made huge inpacts on the US economy and government - such as Alan Greenspan, Milton Friedman and Ben Bernancke. (Greenspan was briefly married to artist Joan Mitchell- and met Rand through her.) The whole Neo-con philosophy is essentially Randian.

Following the financial collapse, under Senate questioning about deregulation, Greenspan said that there "a was a flaw in the model that I perceived is the critical functioning structure that defines how the world works, so to speak."

"According to Babiak and Hare, white-collar psychopaths are not apt to become serial rapists or murderers. Rather, they are prone to being ''subcriminal'' psychopaths: smooth-talking, energetic individuals who easily charm their way into jobs and promotions but who are also exceedingly manipulative, narcissistic and ruthless... As Hare put it in one interview, ''If I couldn't study psychopaths in prison, I would go down to the Stock Exchange.'' From "Psychopathic C.E.O.'s" By Michael Steinberger

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sunday Thoughts...

"We believe that the ability to perceive other people's actions as meaningful is critical for altruism"- Dharol Tankersley.

Michael Moore in his "Capitalism-A Love Story" movie - featured Jonas Salk as giving away his polio vaccine (not getting a patent). An awesome act of altruism. Yet Ayn Rand said altruism is evil. Either she is using a different definition from what is commonly in use - or she was completely wrong (about that).

Every now and then I feel led to attend the Quaker Meeting in Bloomington, IN. It's a good Meeting - lots of interesting people. So today I went.

What I like about the Meeting is that there is no preacher - there is silence for an hour except for when people feel moved to speak. It can be very interesting how the messages relate to each other.

Anyway - I had Libertarianism and Ayn Rand on my mind. So it struck me at the Meeting today how polar-ly opposite Ayn Rand's philosophy is from many Quaker concepts. Rand said that people can not be harsh enough of those who push(ed) altruism as a virtue. She said that the Nazis and Russian Communists pushed altruism among their people - that every dictator promoted altruism. And at the same time - she thinks that local and national defense are the only reasonable use of taxes.

Self-sacrifice in the promotion of Nationalism - is often how wars are encouraged by politicians upon citizens. That is not what most people think of as altruism. Yet that seems to be the argument she uses to argue against it. On the one hand she promotes a strong national defense - on the other she doesn't think anyone should sacrifice themselves to take part in it. If anything is sacrifice - it's war. If she was so against the use of self-sacrifice by Nazi Germany, etc. - why would she be for any army?

Quakers are known for their altruism. Quakers were the first to push for the abolition of slavery - and were very involved in the underground railroad. Quakers work for peace, justice and non-violence all over the world. They adopt simple living since ridiculous consumption has many negative consequences. Quakers are known for their pacifism and not only do not join the military but some will withhold that portion of their taxes that support the military - as a form of protest.

Janet Scott, A Quaker wrote, "We know ourselves as individuals but only because we live in community. Love, trust, fellowship, selflessness are all mediated to us through our interdependence."

Ayn Rand said that "being selfish increases self esteem".

Tania Lacomte studying self-esteem found that contributing factors included:
security, identity, belonging, purpose, and competence (An intervention with these goals in mind was developed in Québec, Canada to help those with Schizophrenia). Most of those qualities have little to do with selfishness.

From Wikipedia: (Researchers have found that violence is often linked to high self-esteem.)

"The most hostile group was the one with high but unstable self-esteem. These people think well of themselves in general, but their self-esteem fluctuates. They are especially prone to react defensively to ego threats, and they are also more prone to hostility, anger, and aggression than other people. [...] The bully has a chip on his shoulder because he thinks you might want to deflate his favorable self-image." — Roy Baumeister, Evil: Inside Human Violence and Cruelty, 1997

"Violent criminals often describe themselves as superior to others - as special, elite persons who deserve preferential treatment. Many murders and assaults are committed in response to blows to self-esteem such as insults and humiliation." —Rajbir Singh, Psychology of Wellbeing, 2007

Interestingly - Ayn Rand got rather infatuated with the serial killer, William Edward Hickman. Jennifer Burns quoted Rand as writing, "Other people do not exist for him, and he does not see why they should," and that Hickman had "no regard whatsoever for all that society holds sacred, and with a consciousness all his own. He has the true, innate psychology of a Superman. He can never realize and feel 'other people.'" It were these types of values that Rand gave her hero characters. In her early notes for The Fountainhead: "One puts oneself above all and crushes everything in one's way to get the best for oneself. Fine!"

My issue with Rand is not merely that she admired a serial killer - but that the type of self-esteem that serial killers have is the type she gives to her "Ideal" men. A self-esteem based on selfishness. Rand encourages psychpathic narcissism.

One thing I would have liked to have asked Ayn Rand is if selfishness is so wonderful - why should women (or men) sacrifice themselves raising children? While she has also said that Love is selfish - it seems to me if selfishness is the highest goal - there would be no marriages and definitely no children. The result of a country which adopted her ideas would be a country with no future. End of country and end of story.

Security, identity, belonging, purpose, and competence are reasonable goals. People achieve them be being part of a family, a community, various groups, etc. People base their self-esteem on such.

The selfishness that Ayn Rand so much admires and promotes in the form of her anti-government, anti-tax ideas - is all part of the same thing. I'll write more about that on another day.

Friday, August 13, 2010

An illustrated guide to the latest climate science"

This page from Climate Progress has many useful links and information about the latest understandings and predictions about global warming.

For example:

In two key papers, we learned that the planet is warming from those GHGs just where climate science said it would — the oceans, which is where more than 90% of the warming was projected to end up (see “Skeptical Science explains how we know global warming is happening.“). The key findings in the second study are summed up in this figure:Time series of global mean heat storage (0–2000 m), measured in 108 Jm-2.

M.I.T. doubles its 2095 warming projection to 10°F — with 866 ppm and Arctic warming of 20°F
May 20, 2009

I previously blogged on how the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Climate Change has joined the climate realists — the growing group of scientists who understand that the business as usual emissions path leads to unmitigated catastrophe (see “Hadley Center: “Catastrophic” 5-7°C warming by 2100 on current emissions path” and below).

Back in January, the Program issued a remarkable report in January, by over a dozen leading experts, doubling their 2095 warming projection to 5.2°C. The media mostly ignored it, which is no surprise, since the media generally ignores the realists in general (see U.S. media largely ignores latest warning from climate scientists: “Recent observations confirm … the worst-case IPCC scenario trajectories (or even worse) are being realised” — 1000 ppm).

Now, the MIT study has been published in a peer-reviewed journal — The American Meteorological Society’s Journal of Climate (subs. req’d) — which obviously it makes it much more credible and high-profile. Reuters has a good story on it, “Global warming could be twice as bad as forecast.” The study concludes:

The MIT Integrated Global System Model is used to make probabilistic projections of climate change from 1861 to 2100. Since the model’s first projections were published in 2003 substantial improvements have been made to the model and improved estimates of the probability distributions of uncertain input parameters have become available. The new projections are considerably warmer than the 2003 projections, e.g., the median surface warming in 2091 to 2100 is 5.2°C compared to 2.4°C in the earlier study. Many changes contribute to the stronger warming; among the more important ones are taking into account the cooling in the second half of the 20th century due to volcanic eruptions for input parameter estimation and a more sophisticated method for projecting GDP growth which eliminated many low emission scenarios.

[Note: That rise is compared to 1981-2000 temperature levels. So you can add at least 0.5 °C and 1.0 °F for comparison with pre-industrial temperatures, which I did in the headline -- see "A (Hopefully) Clarifying Note on Temperature."]

The MIT press release calls for “rapid and massive” action to avoid this. Study co-author Ronald Prinn, the co-director of the Joint Program and director of MIT’s Center for Global Change Science, says, it is important “to base our opinions and policies on the peer-reviewed science…. There’s no way the world can or should take these risks.”

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Huge Ice "Island" breaks off of Greenland

AP - STOCKHOLM – An island of ice more than four times the size of Manhattan is drifting across the Arctic Ocean after breaking off from a glacier in Greenland.

Potentially in the path of this unstoppable giant are oil platforms and shipping lanes — and any collision could do untold damage. In a worst case scenario, large chunks could reach the heavily trafficked waters where another Greenland iceberg sank the Titanic in 1912.

It's been a summer of near biblical climatic havoc across the planet, with wildfires, heat and smog in Russia and killer floods in Asia. But the moment the Petermann glacier cracked last week — creating the biggest Arctic ice island in half a century — may symbolize a warming world like no other.

"It's so big that you can't prevent it from drifting. You can't stop it," said Jon-Ove Methlie Hagen, a glaciologist at the University of Oslo.

Few images can capture the world's climate fears like a 100-square- mile (260-sqare-kilometer) chunk of ice breaking off Greenland's vast ice sheet, a reservoir of freshwater that if it collapsed would raise global sea levels by a devastating 20 feet (6 meters).

The world's newest ice island already is being used as a powerful emblem in the global warming debate, with U.S. Rep. Edward Markey of Massachusetts suggesting it could serve as a home for climate change skeptics.

Researchers are in a scramble to plot the trajectory of the floating ice shelf, which is moving toward the Nares Strait separating Greenland's northwestern coast and Canada's Ellsemere Island.

If it makes it into the strait before the winter freeze — due to start next month — it would likely be carried south by ocean currents, hugging Canada's east coast until it enters waters busy with oil activities and shipping off Newfoundland...

Since 1970, temperatures have risen more than 4.5 degrees (2.5 degrees C) in much of the Arctic — much faster than the global average. In June the Arctic sea ice cover was at the lowest level for that month since records began in 1979, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

"Portugal Gives Itself a Clean-Energy Makeover"

From the New York Times:

LISBON — Five years ago, the leaders of this sun-scorched, wind-swept nation made a bet: To reduce Portugal’s dependence on imported fossil fuels, they embarked on an array of ambitious renewable energy projects — primarily harnessing the country’s wind and hydropower, but also its sunlight and ocean waves.

Today, Lisbon’s trendy bars, Porto’s factories and the Algarve’s glamorous resorts are powered substantially by clean energy. Nearly 45 percent of the electricity in Portugal’s grid will come from renewable sources this year, up from 17 percent just five years ago.

Land-based wind power — this year deemed “potentially competitive” with fossil fuels by the International Energy Agency in Paris — has expanded sevenfold in that time. And Portugal expects in 2011 to become the first country to inaugurate a national network of charging stations for electric cars.

“I’ve seen all the smiles — you know: It’s a good dream. It can’t compete. It’s too expensive,” said Prime Minister José Sócrates, recalling the way Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister, mockingly offered to build him an electric Ferrari. Mr. Sócrates added, “The experience of Portugal shows that it is possible to make these changes in a very short time.”

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has renewed questions about the risks and unpredictable costs of America’s unremitting dependence on fossil fuels. President Obama has seized on the opportunity to promote his goal of having 20 to 25 percent of America’s electricity produced from renewable sources by 2025.

While Portugal’s experience shows that rapid progress is achievable, it also highlights the price of such a transition. Portuguese households have long paid about twice what Americans pay for electricity, and prices have risen 15 percent in the last five years, probably partly because of the renewable energy program, the International Energy Agency says.

Although a 2009 report by the agency called Portugal’s renewable energy transition a “remarkable success,” it added, “It is not fully clear that their costs, both financial and economic, as well as their impact on final consumer energy prices, are well understood and appreciated.”

Indeed, complaints about rising electricity rates are a mainstay of pensioners’ gossip here. Mr. Sócrates, who after a landslide victory in 2005 pushed through the major elements of the energy makeover over the objections of the country’s fossil fuel industry, survived last year’s election only as the leader of a weak coalition.

“You cannot imagine the pressure we suffered that first year,” said Manuel Pinho, Portugal’s minister of economy and innovation from 2005 until last year, who largely masterminded the transition, adding, “Politicians must take tough decisions.”

Still, aggressive national policies to accelerate renewable energy use are succeeding in Portugal and some other countries, according to a recent report by IHS Emerging Energy Research of Cambridge, Mass., a leading energy consulting firm. By 2025, the report projected, Ireland, Denmark and Britain will also get 40 percent or more of their electricity from renewable sources; if power from large-scale hydroelectric dams, an older type of renewable energy, is included, countries like Canada and Brazil join the list.

The United States, which last year generated less than 5 percent of its power from newer forms of renewable energy, will lag behind at 16 percent (or just over 20 percent, including hydroelectric power), according to IHS.

To force Portugal’s energy transition, Mr. Sócrates’s government restructured and privatized former state energy utilities to create a grid better suited to renewable power sources. To lure private companies into Portugal’s new market, the government gave them contracts locking in a stable price for 15 years — a subsidy that varied by technology and was initially high but decreased with each new contract round.

Compared with the United States, European countries have powerful incentives to pursue renewable energy. Many, like Portugal, have little fossil fuel of their own, and the European Union’s emissions trading system discourages fossil fuel use by requiring industry to essentially pay for excessive carbon dioxide emissions. (more)

Pesticides Linked To Bee Decline

From the

Environmental groups including the Soil Association and Buglife are making a renewed call for an end to the use of neonicotinoid pesticides, which are among the most commonly used pesticides worldwide, after a new study linked them to a decline in bee in bee populations.

The study, published in the journal Toxicology, says the effects on bees of two particular neonicotinoid pesticides, known as imidacloprid and thiacloprid, have previously been underestimated and may explain the decline in bee populations.

It says even low concentrations of the pesticides may be more deadly then previously thought due to their high persistence in soil and water, supporting claims for the role that pesticides may play in bee deaths.

'The acceptable limits are based mainly on short-term tests. If long-term studies were to be carried out, far lower concentrations may turn out to be hazardous. This explains why minute quantities of imidacloprid may induce bee decline in the long run,' says study author Dr. Henk Tennekes.

Pakistan Floods, African Drought, and more

From the
Villagers surrounded by floodwater rush to pick up relief supplies dropped from an army helicopter in the Mithan Kot area of central Pakistan. Photograph: Khalid Tanveer/AP

Regions across the world have been buffeted by extremes of weather, drought and floods. Sometimes an area is hit by one extreme, followed soon after by another, Niger being a case in point. In the case of floods in Pakistan, the Met Office says high pressure over Russia has forced the jet stream much further south than usual this year and this pattern has remained almost stationary over recent weeks. Therefore low pressure has been sitting over Pakistan longer than normal, intensifying the monsoon rains. "The extremes of rainfall are getting heavier and are entirely consistent with climate change predictions," said Helen Chivers, a spokeswoman with the Met Office.


In China rescuers used shovels and bare hands as they struggled today to save survivors of a major mudslide in the north-west, where blocked roads hindered vehicles trying to reach the disaster scene. At least 337 people were killed and 90 injured when landslides and flood waters engulfed Zhouqu county in Gansu province late on Saturday night. But with more than 1,100 people still missing, the death toll is likely to grow. Flooding across many provinces has killed more than 1,450 people this year and forced 12 million to flee their homes, but the Zhouqu landslide is the worst single incident. Experts had warned of the dangers of soil erosion in the area, known to be prone to mudslides. In spring south-western China was hit by drought, described as the worst in a century. In June south-east China, which had also endured drought, was hit by devastating floods. Southern China experiences flooding almost every summer, but the Beijing climate centre says extreme weather events have increased in recent years, with longer droughts and rain falling in more intense and damaging bursts. Pakistan's floods were caused by monsoon rains, described as the worst since 1929. The Pakistan meteorological department said that at one point 12 inches (300mm) of rain fell over a 36-hour period. Water levels in the river Indus, which cuts down the middle of Pakistan and has most of the population huddled around it, are said to be the highest in 110 years. The torrents, having ravaged the north-west, are now gushing deeper into Pakistan. The authorities have evacuated people living alongside expanding rivers as forecasts predicted further heavy rain that could worsen the country's flood crisis. The UN has raised its forecast of the number of people affected to six million and said the scale of the crisis was similar to the 2005 earthquake that hit northern Pakistan. About 1,600 people have died in the floods.


A severe drought is causing increasing hunger across the Eastern Sahel in west Africa, affecting 10 million people in four countries. In Niger, the worst-affected country, 7.1 million are hungry, with nearly half considered highly food insecure because of the loss of livestock and crops coupled with a surge in prices. Last year exceptionally heavy rainfall destroyed crops and devastated this year's harvest in the region. The resulting fall in production in staples like maize, millet and sorghum has affected much of West Africa's Sahel – fragile in the best of times – including neighbouring Chad and northern Nigeria.

Latin America

In April floods and mudslides struck the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, after the heaviest downpours in four decades, leaving at least 212 people dead. The favelas, the shanty towns built on the hillsides of the city of Rio de Janeiro, were badly hit. Floods struck again in June, this time in the states of Alagoas and Pernambuco, over 1,200 miles north-east of Rio de Janeiro. At least 1,000 people were unaccounted for.


Southern Poland suffered its worst flooding in decades in May after heavy rains engorged rivers sending torrents of water through Bogatynia in south-west Poland and Görlitz in eastern Germany. The UK experienced the driest first six months of the year since 1929, which led to the imposition of a hosepipe ban covering 6.5 million people in north-west England. Russia experienced generally dry and hot weather starting around late May. Temperatures of 35C (95F) first occurred after 12 June, which alone was abnormal for the country, as average mid-June temperatures seldom rise above 30C ). Moscow and St Petersburg both recorded temperatures as high as 42C on 3, 4 and 5 July. Average temperatures in the region increased to over 35C. In early August, President Dmitry Medvedev declared a state of emergency in seven regions as firefighters struggled to contain about 600 blazes covering an estimated 309,000 acres (125,000 hectares).

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Dead Animals in the Gulf of Mexico

It's rather creepy what has happened with information control and all of the dead animals that resulted from the BP Oil Spill Disaster. When Katrina happened - there were dead people all over and thousands of body bags - but the official number did not seem to reflect the catastrophe shown in the news.

In the Gulf - BP, and the Coast Guard along with it, seem to have been working to keep the magnitude of the disaster a secret. Are they worried that people would get more serious about using less oil if they saw the extent of the damage to wildlife? Journalists have been kept far away in many places - with fines if they ventured too close. And there have been reports that a lot of activity happened at night.

The well is capped. Recent reports are that the oil is mostly gone - "evaporated", or something or other.

From Jerry Cope at the Huffingpost:
Dauphin Island was one of the sites where carcasses of sperm whales were destroyed. The operational end of the island was closed to unauthorized personnel and the airspace closed. The U.S. Coast Guard closed off all access from the Gulf. This picture shows the area as it was prepped to receive the whale carcasses for disposal.

In May, Mother Nature Network blogger Karl Burkart received a tip from an anonymous fisherman-turned-BP contractor in the form of a distressed text message, describing a near-apocalyptic sight near the location of the sunken Deepwater Horizon -- fish, dolphins, rays, squid, whales, and thousands of birds -- "as far as the eye can see," dead and dying. According to his statement, which was later confirmed by another report from an individual working in the Gulf, whale carcasses were being shipped to a highly guarded location where they were processed for disposal.

CitizenGlobal Gulf News Desk received photos that matched the report and are being published on Karl's blog today. Local fisherman in Alabama report sighting tremendous numbers of dolphins, sharks, and fish moving in towards shore as the initial waves of oil and dispersant approached in June. Many third- and fourth-generation fisherman declared emphatically that they had never seen or heard of any similar event in the past. Scores of animals were fleeing the leading edge of toxic dispersant mixed with oil. Those not either caught in the toxic mixture and killed out at sea, or fortunate enough to be out in safe water beyond the Source, died as the water closed in, and they were left no safe harbor. The numbers of birds, fish, turtles, and mammals killed by the use of Corexit will never be known as the evidence strongly suggests that BP worked with the Coast Guard, the Department of Homeland Security, the FAA, private security contractors, and local law enforcement, all of which cooperated to conceal the operations disposing of the animals from the media and the public.

The majority of the disposal operations were carried out under cover of darkness. The areas along the beaches and coastal Islands where the dead animals were collected were closed off by the U.S. Coast Guard. On shore, private contractors and local law enforcement officials kept off limits the areas where the remains of the dead animals were dumped, mainly at the Magnolia Springs landfill by Waste Management where armed guards controlled access. The nearby weigh station where the Waste Management trucks passed through with their cargoes was also restricted by at least one Sheriff's deputies in a patrol car, 24/7.

From the

During the height of the oil spill in mid June, the Coast Guard under direction of Ret. Adm. Thad Allen issued a directive to all news media outlets, constituting a large “no-fly” zone over the Gulf.

Major media outlets such as the NYT and scientists with top government clearance were prohibited from accessing or fly over large areas of the Gulf of Mexico.

One of the researchers, Edward E. Clark from the Wildlife Center who had previously been invited to study the impact of the oil spill on wildlife was refused access to conduct his study.

The immediate reaction among journalists and scientists was one of bewilderment and disbelief and raised the question of what could possibly be so bad that the Government would issue a ban on June 10th not only for the media but also their own appointed scientists.

The first sign of a possible but horrific explanation cam through a text message from one of the BP cleanup workers on June 10 (see article above for the complete text message).
The second sign was a firsthand report from an individual working in the Gulf who reported military like staging areas in Shell Beach and Hopedale, Louisiana where sperm whales, whale sharks and blue fin tuna were processed under huge white tents for further disposal by waste trucks.

Two other reports followed suit, one from a rig operator in Alabama and another from Grand Isle, who reported semi-military and highly secured posts that had been converted to processing plants.

Official reports indicate that the BP oil spill has resulted in the death of 4,100 birds,670 turtles, 70 sea mammals and 1 snake, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service report.

The numbers are astonishingly low when compared to the official numbers after the Exxon Valdez disaster in 1989 which killed 200,000 birds, 3,000 sea mammals and 20 whales while this oil disaster pales in comparison to the Macondo BP oil spill.

Whatever the reasons may be to hide the removal or processing of dead maritime wildlife in the Gulf of Mexico or whatever justification BP and/or the US Government has, the reality still remains the same. Maritime wildlife will be affected for at least a decade to come and human life has been impacted to such an extent that it cannot be measured in data, money, compensation or restitution.

What is important to conclude is that if BP would have opted to clean up the oil spill in a more acceptable and readily available way by using non-toxic dispersants that the impact on maritime life would have been far less reaching and far less toxic then what it we witness today and for many years to come.

Hiding the devastating impact from the general public, the media and committed marine biologists and scientists is a crime against humanity in and of itself.