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 31 
 on: Aug 29, 2016, 08:17 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Putin’s stooge: Trump is part of a longstanding strategy to sow disruption and discord

Newsweek
August 29, 2016
Owen Matthews

Not since the beginning of the Cold War has a U.S. politician been as fervently pro-Russian as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Just four years after his predecessor Mitt Romney declared Russia to be Washington’s greatest geopolitical threat, Trump has praised President Vladimir Putin as a real leader, “unlike what we have in this country.” Trump has also dismissed reports that Putin has murdered political enemies (“Our country does plenty of killing also,” he told MSNBC), suggested that he would “look into” recognizing Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula and questioned whether the United States should defend NATO allies who don’t pay their way. When Russian hackers stole a cache of emails in July from the Democratic National Committee’s servers, as security analysts have shown, Trump called on “Russia, if you’re listening,” to hack some more.

“Trump is breaking with Republican foreign doctrine and almost every Republican foreign thinker I know,” says Michael McFaul, U.S. ambassador to Russia from 2012 to 2014. “He is departing radically from Ronald Reagan, something never done by any Republican Party presidential candidate.”

It’s easy to see why Putin views Trump’s ascendancy as a godsend—and why he mobilized his cyberspies and media assets to his aid, according to security analysts. “Trump advocates isolationist policies and an abdication of U.S. leadership in the world. He cares little about promoting democracy and human rights,” continues McFaul. “A U.S. retreat from global affairs fits precisely with Putin’s international interests.” Putin has been relatively reserved in his public support for Trump—calling him “colorful and talented,” which in Russian comes across as faint praise—but Kremlin-sponsored propaganda outlets like Sputnik and RT (formerly Russia Today) have lavishly praised Trump, tweeted #CrookedHillary memes and supported Trump’s assertion that Barack Obama “founded ISIS,” and Russia’s world-class army of state-sponsored hackers has targeted Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party.

What’s more, it’s increasingly clear that after the DNC hack the Kremlin is relishing, even quietly flaunting, its newfound role as a meddler in U.S. politics. After years of U.S. influence over Russian affairs, especially in the chaotic 1990s, it is sweet revenge for the Kremlin to be cast once again as global puppet master. And most fundamentally, the Kremlin’s support for Trump is part of a longstanding strategy to sow disruption and discord in the West. Whether it’s by backing French ultra-nationalists, Catalan separatists or the Brexit campaign, or boosting Donald Trump’s chances by blackening the Democrats, the Kremlin believes Russia benefits every time the Western establishment is embarrassed.

Russia's brazen cyberattack on the DNC servers was “a cyber psy-op,” according to Brian Whitmore of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. “At least one of Moscow's goals is apparently to force the United States to treat it as an equal superpower,” Whitmore wrote in the influential Power Vertical blog. “Suddenly, for the first time since the Cold War, Russia occupies center stage in a U.S. election. Suddenly, there are global headlines about the threat of Russian hackers.”

The forensics of the DNC hack point to two things—first, that two well-known Russian hacker groups with connections to that country’s intelligence services were responsible for the break-in, and second, that when the material was released through WikiLeaks, the Russians made little effort to disguise their hand in the heist. A detailed report in July by the hacker-watcher collective CrowdStrike stated that one group, Fancy Bear (or APT 28), gained access to the DNC database in April. The other, Cozy Bear (or APT 29), broke in as early as June 2015. According to Alexander Klimburg, a cybersecurity expert at the Hague Center for Strategic Studies and author of the forthcoming book Dark Web, APT 28 is associated with Russia’s GRU military intelligence and APT 29 with its Federal Security Service, or FSB. “Our team considers them some of the best adversaries out of all the numerous nation-state, criminal and hacktivist/terrorist groups we encounter on a daily basis,” blogged CrowdStrike’s chief technology officer, Dmitri Alperovitch. “Their tradecraft is superb, operational security second to none.”

Last year, APT 28 hacked the State Department, the White House and the civilian email of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It was also involved in hacks of French TV and the 2014 meltdown of a German steel foundry after malware infected its systems, an attack known in cyberwar circles by the chilling clinical term “cyber-to-physical effect.” The DNC hack, then, was just one of several “very forward-leaning attempts to signal to the West Russia’s cyber capabilities,” says Klimburg. “They often don’t care about being discovered. Indicating that you are behind something is part of the operation.”

When CrowdStrike first fingered the Russians, an internet user calling himself Guccifer 2.0 claimed that he, not the Russian government, was the culprit. Guccifer attempted to signal his non-Russianness by using an ordinary French Hotmail account—the cyber equivalent of disguising yourself in a Groucho Marx false nose—but the metadata on the documents he provided were found to contain Russian signatures, including “Felix Edmundovich,” the first names of Soviet secret police founder Felix Dzerzhinsky.

Foreign intelligence agencies have been found snooping on American political campaigns before. In 2014, Chinese hackers broke into Romney’s servers, for instance. But the DNC hack has elevated such interference in politics to a frightening extent. “I just want to underscore how unprecedented this is—using espionage to influence an American presidential election crossed a new level of intervention,” says McFaul.

Don’t Bad-Mouth the Boss

What’s in Project Trump for Putin is clear. But the more puzzling question is how Trump became Putin’s man in Washington. Former CIA Director Mike Morell wrote in The New York Times that Putin “recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation” with flattery. But the truth is more nuanced. Trump’s pro-Putinism goes back to at least 2007, when he told CNN that the Russian strongman was doing “a great job” rebuilding Russia. Trump was pushing real estate deals in Moscow at the time and, according to one Moscow-based American businessman who negotiated with him, Trump’s admiration for Putin was rooted in “pure self-interest…. He was looking to make friends and business partners” among Russia’s politically connected elite. “Oligarchs aren't going to do business with anyone who bad-mouths the boss,” explains the real estate developer, who requested anonymity because of his ongoing Russian investments.

Trump’s affinity for the Kremlin deepened after he launched his political career in 2014. Trump has surrounded himself with advisers with deep connections to the Putin regime. Trump’s chief foreign policy adviser, Carter Page, once ran the Moscow office of Merrill Lynch and advised the Russian energy giant Gazprom (in which he still owns shares, Page said in March). Page’s company, Global Energy Capital, continues to work with Russian investments—and Sergey Yatsenko, Gazprom’s former deputy chief financial officer, works for GEC as an adviser. Since both companies have suffered grievously from the sanctions the U.S. and EU imposed against Russia over its annexation of Crimea, Page is a passionate advocate of lifting them—something Trump has said he will consider.

On July 7, Page took time off from the Trump campaign to give a speech at Moscow’s New Economic School, where he slammed America’s “often hypocritical focus on democratization” and praised Russia’s policy of “noninterference” and “respect” for its neighbors. “Page toed the [Kremlin] party line,” says one senior Moscow expatriate professional who attended Page’s talk. “He’s a believer…. It’s common among Western businesspeople in Russia to be pro-Putin. But it’s rare to hear it from someone at the top of Republican politics.”

Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, a Trump adviser and former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, is a regular guest on RT, the Kremlin’s conspiracy-theory-minded English-language propaganda channel. He has refused to say if he’s on RT’s payroll, but last year Flynn flew to Moscow to attend the station’s 10th anniversary gala, where he sat two chairs away from Putin. Michael Caputo, a public relations adviser who helped run Trump’s New York primary campaign, lived in Russia in the 1990s, and Gazprom’s media arm contracted him to improve Putin’s image in the United States. Richard Burt, a former U.S. ambassador to Germany during the 1980s who is known for his strong skepticism of the U.S.’s commitment to its NATO allies (Burt appeared in a panel discussion in April on the topic “Does America Need Allies?”), reportedly helped draft at least one Trump speech where the candidate blasted NATO’s “free rider problem,” according to Politico.

Burt is chairman of the advisory council of The National Interest, a publication of the Center for the National Interest, a strongly pro-Russian think tank based in Washington. The CNI has long partnered with the Kremlin-backed Institute for Democracy and Cooperation, a think tank in New York devoted to promoting Moscow’s interests. In May 2014, the two institutions held a joint press conference defending Russia’s position in Ukraine. In April, Trump chose the CNI as the venue for his first major foreign policy speech, and the audience included Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak.

Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort has longstanding ties to Ukraine’s Kremlin-backed former President Viktor Yanukovych, advising on campaigning for his Party of Regions in the 2006 parliamentary elections and paving the way for Yanukovych’s ascent to prime minister and then the presidency, from which he was ousted in 2014 amid massive pro-EU protests. Ukrainian parliamentarian Serhiy Leshchenko wrote in The Guardian that he had seen “so-called ‘shadow accounting’ documents” that show “a total of $12.7m of payments made to Manafort” by the Party of the Regions, at least $2.2 million of which, according to the AP, was channeled to two prominent Washington lobbying firms in 2012. Manafort denies any wrongdoing, though the very public discussion of his Ukrainian business connections certainly played a part in his being sidelined as Trump’s campaign manager in mid-August.

During his time at the helm of the Trump campaign, Manafort played a crucial role in hauling the Republican Party’s official position away from its traditionally anti-Russian stance. According to The Washington Post, Trump campaign staffers gutted a proposed amendment to the Republican Party platform that called for the U.S. to provide “lethal defensive weapons” for Ukraine to defend itself against Russian aggression, defying a strong GOP consensus on the issue.

Trump has business ties in Russia that go back to 1987, when he and his then-wife, Ivana, visited Moscow to scope out a luxury hotel joint venture with the USSR’s state tourism agency Intourist, according to his memoir The Art of the Deal. That deal came to nothing, but Trump returned in 1996 to negotiate a high-end condominium project with U.S. tobacco giant Liggett-Ducat. Trump “talked a big game,” recalls the American real estate developer, who has direct knowledge of the negotiations. “But what was needed was not New York real estate connections but Moscow political connections…. Trump didn’t have those.” In 2005, Trump took another crack at a now-booming Russia, hoping to build a Trump Tower on the site of a former pencil factory. He partnered with Bayrock Group, a New York–based developer that had co-developed the Trump SoHo and Trump International Hotel and Tower in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to pull together financing. Bayrock’s CEO was Tevfik Arif, a Kazakhstan-born former deputy head of the Soviet Ministry of Commerce’s hotel department, who had made money running high-end tourist hotels in Turkey. The deal failed—in part because of Arif’s choice of Soviet-born Felix Sater (later Satter) to run Bayrock’s Moscow operation. Sater had served prison time for slashing a man’s face in a 1991 Manhattan brawl—“He got into trouble because he got into a barroom fight which a lot of people do,” Trump once said in a court deposition—and in 1998 was convicted for fraud over associations with White Rock Partners, a Mafia-connected New York stock brokerage. (Arif was detained in Turkey in October 2010 on suspicion of organizing sex parties for wealthy businessmen and Eastern European models aboard a $60 million yacht once used by the nation’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, according to charges filed by prosecutor Yusuf Hakki Dogan. Arif was cleared of all charges the following year.)

After the Bayrock debacle, Trump had better luck selling high-end real estate to wealthy Russians in the West. “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” Donald Trump Jr. told a real estate conference in 2008. “We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.” Among those deals was the sale of a mansion in Palm Beach, Florida, to Russian fertilizer billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev for $95 million in 2008, according to Florida property records. In the wake of several bankruptcies, Trump found it hard to raise money in the West, so he gathered money from Russian and Kazakh investors for his Trump SoHo and three other Bayrock projects. Salvatore Lauria, a partner of Sater’s in White Rock Partners, helped gather $50 million in investments for Trump SoHo that included, according to a lawsuit against Bayrock, “unexplained infusions of cash from accounts in Kazakhstan and Russia.”

Trump’s latest set of Russian partners are the most high-rolling—Aras Agalarov and Emin Agalarov, real estate developers born in Baku, Azerbaijan, who paid Trump to organize the 2013 Miss Universe competition in Moscow. They also signed a deal to build a Trump Tower in the Russian capital, though the building has not yet got off the ground. The Agalarovs have received several contracts for state-funded construction projects, and Putin personally awarded Aras Agalarov the Order of Honor of the Russian Federation soon after the Miss Universe pageant. Trump told a National Press Club lunch in Washington in 2014 that during his trip to Moscow the previous year he had spoken “indirectly and directly” with Putin, “who could not have been nicer.” In fact, Putin never showed up at the gala, and the two have never met.

But even the Agalarovs are far from Russia’s big leagues of power and money. “It’s bizarre that people are talking about Trump’s Russian business interests, because he never made it in Russia,” says the Moscow-based American real estate developer. “He tried to become a player, but he didn’t know the right people.”

Despite Trump’s lack of significant business success in Russia, his political career has made him an important part of Putin’s wider strategy to weaken the West and court conservatives around the world into a grand anti-liberal alliance headed by Russia. In August, Moscow hosted a gathering of nationalist and separatist activists from all over Europe and the U.S.—part of an ongoing effort to encourage anti-EU and anti-NATO political groups, including Greece’s Golden Dawn, Bulgaria’s Ataka and Hungary’s Jobbik. As Vice President Joe Biden warned in a speech in Washington last year, “Putin sees such political forces as useful tools to be manipulated, to create cracks in the European body politic which he can then exploit.”

To Putin’s mind, the campaign is a way of pushing back against what he sees as meddling by Washington and Brussels in his backyard, from allegedly encouraging anti-Putin protests in Moscow in 2011 to fomenting the pro-European Maidan uprising in Kiev in 2013 that led to the ousting of President Yanukovych (and put Paul Manafort temporarily out of a job). Putin “honestly believes that the U.S. is trying to overthrow him,” says Kremlin-connected political technologist Gleb Pavlovsky, who advised Putin until 2011.

“In the eyes of Russian elites, Western aggression must be met with a response,” argues Eugene Rumer, director of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace's Russia and Eurasia Program and a former national intelligence officer for Russia and Eurasia at the U.S. National Intelligence Council. “Hacking into DNC computers…is simply payback for Western media reports about elite corruption in Russia. It helps boost the Russian narrative that money and politics go hand in hand everywhere, and that Russia is no different from the United States or other Western countries whose governments are critical of Russia.”

The Billionaire Stooge

Temperamentally, Putin and Trump don’t have much in common. Putin is a steely, shy, highly controlled career KGB man who has spent his life in disciplined institutions and got his break not through public politics but by being a perfect courtier to Boris Yeltsin. The other is a freewheeling dealmaker with a taste for the trappings of wealth, beautiful women, publicity of any sort and a deep need for the acclaim of crowds. But both are brilliant opportunist tacticians with a cynical attitude about the truth, willing to cherry-pick facts to build narratives that suit their purpose. Trump more closely resembles Russian or Ukrainian oligarchs—though he is much poorer than most of them—insofar as he has hijacked a political movement to fuel his personal ambition and boost his business interests.

The Kremlin’s support of Trump—offered in the form of backing from propaganda channels like RT and Sputnik—is electorally insignificant. Even the covert revelations of the DNC hack didn’t make much of a dent in Clinton’s ratings (though WikiLeaks founder and RT contributor Julian Assange promises devastating new findings in October). What’s truly disturbing is the cyberwar methods used by the Kremlin to disrupt the election—and the wider and more sinister political program that the Kremlin is pursuing.

“The target of the hacks wasn’t just Clinton,” Eerik-Niiles Kross, the former head of Estonian intelligence, wrote in a recent essay in Politico. “Nor is Moscow much interested in supporting Trump (willing useful idiot though he may be). What the Russians have in their sights is nothing less than the democratic fabric of American society and the integrity of the system of Western liberal values…. The political warfare of the Cold War is back—in updated form, with meaner, more modern tools, including a vast state media empire in Western languages, hackers, spies, agents, useful idiots, compatriot groups, and hordes of internet trolls.”

In other words, Trump is merely a useful stooge in the Kremlin’s grand design to encourage NATO disunity, U.S. isolationism and the breakup of Europe. In practice, all the effort of Russian-sponsored hackers, think tankers and propaganda channels is unlikely to have much real effect and on balance have probably harmed Trump’s chances of getting into the White House. But the effort is real. As Kross put it, “Russia is effectively using our democracies and our systems of rule of law against us…. America, welcome to the war.”

 32 
 on: Aug 29, 2016, 06:54 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
The Killing Of The Profanity Peak Wolf Pack

By shelleyp
8/29/2016

By the time you read this, the Profanity Peak wolf pack in Washington State will be no more.

At last count, six wolves of the 11 member pack have been destroyed. All that remains is one adult and four cubs. And if the last remaining adult is killed, the cubs will most likely starve to death.

What's left of the pack will either survive long enough to join another pack, or they won't. Regardless, the Profanity Peak wolf pack is gone.

Washington State Proud

Washington State prides itself on not being the same as its neighbors to the east and north. It doesn't immediately issue a shoot-to-kill order for endangered wolves when one head of cattle is killed or injured. No, Washington State has a Wolf Advisory Board. On this Board are wolf conservation groups, like Defenders of Wildlife, Humane Society of the United States, Conservation Northwest, and Wolf Haven International.

This Board has helped Washington State develop a protocol for when wolves are killed; a set of non-lethal actions that must be followed before the kill order is given.

The reality is, though, the wolves in the Profanity Peak pack are being killed. Just like the wolves are being killed in Idaho, Wyoming, Alaska, and other states. But we're not supposed to feel outrage at such an action because Washington State has a Wolf Advisory Board, and it has guidelines.
The Animal Welfare Group Statement

Four of the animal welfare organizations on the Advisory Board issued a statement about the Profanity Peak wolves:

    The authorized removal of wolves in the Profanity Peak wolf pack in northeast Washington is deeply regrettable. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is however following the protocol developed by Washington State’s Wolf Advisory Group (WAG) - a diverse group of stakeholders. The WAG and WDFW have committed to evaluate how the protocol worked on the ground this season in order to improve it for next year. In addition, we intend to conduct a thorough and open-minded assessment of the issues raised for all stakeholders involved.

    We remain steadfast that our important goals remain the long-term recovery and public acceptance of wolves in our state alongside thriving rural communities. In the meantime, we ask our community and the citizens of Washington State and beyond to engage in respectful and civil dialogue as we work through these challenging events. We believe that ultimately we can create conditions where everyone’s values are respected and the needs of wildlife, wildlife advocates, and rural communities are met.

The organizations don't want us to be outraged. They want us to accept that, "Eh, these things happen." They want us to treat the destruction of an entire pack of endangered wolves, as if it's just another Sunday, and here's a cookie. We're to engage in a respectful and civil dialogue.

An entire pack of endangered wolves is being killed, and they want us to be respectful and civil?

OK, then. Let's engage in a respectful and civil dialogue.

Grazing Permits and National Forests

The cattle are on public land in the Colville National Forest. They are on this land because the rancher has a grazing permit. His cattle join with approximately 32,000 or so other privately held cattle allowed to graze on public land in Washington State. Graze at a taxpayer-subsidized rate—grazing permit holders don't pay full value for the true cost of grazing on public land.

The rancher is Len McIver, of the Diamond M Ranch. He's a multi-generation rancher who uses grazing permits to raise his cattle. You might say, since grazing permits are subsidized, he's the fourth generation rancher benefiting from taxpayer support. A common term used for this type of rancher is "welfare rancher".

Oh. I'm sorry. Was that not respectful? I'll try to do better.

The Diamond M Ranch Connection

This isn't the first time Len McIrvin has been involved in the destruction of a wolf pack. In 2012, it was his cattle that led to the decision to kill off the Wedge wolf pack, in the same area as the profanity Peak pack. In a 2012 interview, his son, Bill McIrvin, claimed that wolves are the worst predator:

    Bill tells me that the first confirmed wolf kill on the Diamond M was in 2007, and probably from the same pack accused of livestock depredation now, the Wedge pack. When I ask about other predators, Bill says lots of predators go after their cattle, including black bear and cougar, although he is unable to tell me how many cattle succumb to these animals yearly. But wolves, he says, are the worse. Why? I ask. Because they are killing but not eating–for fun, not merely for food, he responds.

Wolves kill for fun. It's an odd thing, but of all the reasons given why wolves kill, not one wolf expert has stated that wolves kill for fun.

One could say that Bill McIrvin is a lying sack of cow poop, if one wasn't attempting to remain civil.
The Anti-Wolf Message

What's interesting about Bill and Len McIrvin is how dedicated they've been about spreading the message that wolves are killers, wolves and cattle don't mix, and how all wolves need to be killed. I contrast this with the assurances we've been given that any and all non-lethal measures were taken, first, by these same individuals before the decision was made to kill both Wedge pack in 20012, and the Profanity Peak pack this month.

I hope I won't seem disrespectful if I happen to believe that two people passionate about removing wolves won't do everything in their power to ensure wolves can remain.

Evidently, the McIrvins do support some wolves. I'm not sure what the definition of some is. I mean, it isn't as if people are tripping over the wolves on a daily basis in Washington state: there are less than 90 wolves now, and it's a big state. Decrease the wolves much more, and you don't have wolves.

Contrary to the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife diagram, wolf packs in Washington aren't growing. In fact, they've shrunk by two. And I suspect the Ranchers McIrvin believe this is still too many.

I also suspect that some wolves the McIrvins want, is more about geography than numbers. Some wolves are OK. Those wolves over there (and not here) are some wolves. Those wolves are OK.
Let's Not Overly Impact the Ranchers

In 2012, Mitch Friedman from Conservation Northwest, discussed the McIrvin's motives and processes.

    Mitch Friedman, Conservation Northwest executive director, said he remains unconvinced about McIrvin's efforts to manage his herd to reduce conflicts with wolves. He does not agree that there are no options for better herd management.

    "We want to see more clarity, certainty, that wolves are responsible for these past incidences," he said. "We're aware there are experts raising questions and the field biologists are themselves not convinced that all, or perhaps even any, of these incidents are conclusively wolves."

    Friedman believes the state is under pressure and needs to take more time. He accused McIrvin of alerting the media first, then the local sheriff's office, then the wildlife department while reaching out to county and state legislators to turn up the heat.

    "Generally, when wolves are in the neighborhood, everything gets blamed on them," he said. "But when the evidence is in, it's a small portion of incidents that actually ends up involving wolves."

    If it's not a wolf, Friedman isn't certain what would be the cause. While he admitted to hemorrhaging on the rear flanks and groin in one of the recent calf attacks, there were no puncture wounds in the hide.

    "We want to work collaboratively, we want to make this work so ranchers are not overly impacted by the presence of wolves," he said.

How nice. Let's ensure that the ranchers aren't inconvenienced. That should be top priority for an animal welfare group.

By the way, this is the same Mitch Friedman who now exhorts us all to be respectful and civil about the killing of the Profanity Peak pack.

About Those Non-Lethal Measures

A couple of days after the decision to kill the Profanity Peak wolf pack was made, Robert Wielgus, of the Large Carnivore Lab at Washington State University, provided some surprising revelations.

    “This livestock operator elected to put his livestock directly on top of their den site; we have pictures of cows swamping it, I just want people to know,” Wielgus said in an interview Thursday.

Evidently, the McIrvins deliberately introduced cattle directly into the den area for the Profanity Peak wolf pack.

The thing with cattle is they drive out most other animals in the area where they graze—they are inherently destructive of their surroundings. They decimate the plant life, damage the trees, churn up and damage the soil, and they muddy creeks and streams, as well as damage stream banks. Animals native to the land have no other choice but to leave.

Cause and effect: If all other prey animals are driven out, a wolf pack has little recourse but to hunt what animals remain. Though of course, they only do so for fun...not because they're desperately trying to survive, and feed their young.

The Judas Wolves

The decision was made to kill the entire Profanity Peak wolf pack. All 6 adults and 5 cubs.

You know, wolves are hard to hunt. They're intelligent and cunning. They know how to avoid hunters, even hunters using high-powered rifles from helicopters.

But the Profanity Peak pack was operating under a handicap: members of the pack were equipped with radio collars, allowing them to be tracked.

Such wolves are called "Judas wolves", because their presence is a threat to the entire pack. I don't know what's more disturbing: that we allow hunting of a species that's so rare, we actually equip them with tracking collars that cost thousands of dollars; or that wolves with such collars have been hunted so much, we actually have a term for them.

Thanks to the radio collars, the 11 member Profanity Peak pack is down to five remaining members. And the hunt still continues.

No, Washington State is Not "Better"

The four animal welfare organizations mentioned earlier have been receiving a great deal of heat in their Facebook posts related to the Profanity Peak pack.

If HSUS had a post with the Profanity Peak statement, it's since removed it. But a post still remains in Conservation Northwest, Defenders of Wildlife, and Wolf Haven International.  In one comment to their post, Defenders of Wildlife stated:

    Washington state has made it a requirement that ranchers use multiple nonlethal methods to deter wolves before the state will even consider a lethal option. Once a depredation has occurred, the state also steps in to help ramp up the nonlethal measures, with the goal of exhausting every possible nonlethal option. It is certainly not a perfect plan, but far better than the "shoot first" approach some other states have. As a member of the Wolf Advisory Group, we hope to continue to help revise the state's protocols to better protect wolves. (emph. added)

The consensus among these groups is that, while its sad that the Profanity Peak pack is being killed, Washington State is still better than other states that have no advisory board. Animal welfare and conservation groups have a seat at the table. They have a hand in the decisions. This is better.

It's an intellectual response to an emotional event...and it's dead wrong.

We should be reacting emotionally to this event. We should be outraged. All those who support wolves should be speaking with one voice.

This isn't a few animals killed among many: this is the deliberate extermination of 11 members of a group of 90, in the entire state. The number of wolves in Washington is so low, claiming they've recovered borders on the ludicrous. The State pontificates about "recovery" of the wolves, and how they're no longer endangered, but we're only talking about 90 wolves.

No. Now we're only talking about 80. Well, unless those four cubs survive, which is doubtful.

Washington State allows 32,000 heads of cattle to graze on public land, and it won't cut even a small break for the 90 wolves currently in its borders. It isn't "better" than Idaho or Wyoming. Its process isn't superior, or more humane. The only difference between the states, is optics.

Never Lose the Outrage

I had a strong scorched earth initial reaction to all of the animal welfare groups that issued such a passive, capitulating statement about the Profanity Peak wolves. I think there were some feelings of sowing salt into the ground at their feet, too.

I am calm enough today to know that ripping these organizations to shreds, while momentarily satisfying, doesn't really address the problem. The problems is that our government doesn't value us.

They value ranchers. They value farmers. They value hunters. They value people with guns. But they don't value people who care about the animals just because the animals exist. In the great scheme of things, we're expendable.  And so are the wolves.

Six cattle were supposedly killed and that's enough to wipe out an entire wolf pack. By all that's sane, this isn't equitable, balanced, decent, humane, or right. Washington State, for all of its high mindedness, is no better than Idaho or Alaska or any other state that advocates killing off wolves so ranchers, hunters, and farmers aren't inconvenienced. Let's lose this feel-good facade.

What also wasn't right was the statement the Humane Society of the US, Conservation Northwest, Wolf Haven International, and Defenders of Wildlife made. They were profoundly wrong to urge restraint. They have allowed their participation in the Advisory Board to file down their teeth, blunt their claws, and to remove the only weapons they have to fight for real change.

Membership on the Board or not, they should have howled, as loud as the wolves howled before death. They should have said to all of us, "Don't accept this! Fight this!"

They should have embraced outrage, instead of trying to damp it down. If they can't be outraged and serve on the Board, then they have no place on this board. Or they have no place in the animal welfare movement.

Or they have no place in the animal welfare movement.

I'm not ready to abandon the groups, but I'm not ready to embrace them, either. They screwed up.

Don't accept this. Get in people's faces. Be mad. Be vocal. Be loud. And if being loud means to hell with respectful and civil discourse, so be it.

 33 
 on: Aug 29, 2016, 06:22 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
U.S. Elections

In Stunning Move, RNC Chair Reince Priebus Admits That Trump Lacks Humanity And Decency

By Jason Easley on Sun, Aug 28th, 2016 at 4:06 pm
PoliticusUSA

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus admitted on Meet The Press that Republican nominee Donald Trump lacks humanity and decency.

Transcript via Meet The Press:

CHUCK TODD:

All right, but let me ask you this, in the infamous 2013 autopsy, this is what was written in it. “If Hispanic-Americans perceive that a GOP nominee or candidate does not want them in the United States, i.e. self deportation, they will not pay attention to our next sentence.” Do you think Donald Trump understands this analysis?

REINCE PRIEBUS:

I think he understands it completely.

CHUCK TODD:

And is that what this evolution is about?

REINCE PRIEBUS:

No, you know what? I don’t know what when you say “what the evolution is all about.” What I think is that Donald Trump understands that with every position that is taken and as you get closer to the White House, a degree of humanity and decency is part of every decision that needs to be made.

And I know Donald Trump. I know Donald Trump in private, I talk to him every day. I know what he’s thinking about a lot of these issues and this is a good and decent man that wants to do the right thing and wants to take every position that he’s talking about and pepper it with decency, dignity and humanity.

In case you didn’t catch what Priebus was saying, the RNC Chair admitted to Chuck Todd that Donald Trump won the Republican nomination by exhibiting a lack of decency and humanity.

Beyond Donald Trump, what does it say about millions of Republican primary voters that they supported a candidate who lacks basic decency and humanity?

Priebus’s statement revealed the underlying problem for the Republican Party. Donald Trump is the symptom, not the disease. The climate among many, not all, Republicans is one of intolerance for others.

It doesn’t matter if Trump loses by a large margin in November, as long as the same voters continue to pick the party’s nominee and send extremists to Congress, the problems will remain the same.

Admitting that your nominee lacks humanity and decency is a stunning move that makes one wonder if RNC Chair Reince Priebus is trying to discourage voters from supporting Donald Trump.

*************

Trump Prepares To Debate Clinton By Getting Help From Alleged Sexual Predator Roger Ailes

By Sarah Jones on Sun, Aug 28th, 2016 at 3:23 pm
PoliticusUSA

Losing ground with suburban white women, Donald Trump reaches for help from an alleged serial sexual predator.

Knowing he needs to do some work to start getting back the suburban white women who should have been his bread and butter, Donald Trump decided to get debate help from Roger Ailes — the alleged serial sexual predator who was recently ousted from Fox News based on an internal investigation into numerous sexual harassment claims against him.

    Trump doing debate prep today w help from Roger Ailes and Laura Ingraham per @KellyO

    — Katy Tur (@KatyTurNBC) August 28, 2016

Nothing says “surrounding himself with the best people” like bringing on yet another low brow person in deep legal trouble.

Donald Trump is polling down with white women. NPR reported on a NBC/Wall Street Journal Poll that while “Romney won white women by 14 points — 56-42 percent, according to national exit polls”, Donald trump “is down a point with the group, 43-42 percent. That’s a 15-point shift. No Republican can afford that.”

So what does he do… He brings in Roger Ailes.

While Trump has been speaking to his mostly white audiences about African Americans to offer his supporters some kind of plausible denial of his racism to hang their hats on in public, he hasn’t done anything about his problem with women. He just keeps on digging the political misogyny grave.

Even with his new hire of Kellyanne Conway, who was touted as the person who could fix his problem with women (based on her past comments and positions, I never understood this reasoning and it seems for good reason), Trump doesn’t have a clue how to appeal to women. And he’s running against a woman, and continuing to say really insulting things like she doesn’t “look” like a president.

Many of Ailes’ alleged victims were conservative women too, reportedly including Fox News star Megyn Kelly. And at least one of them is reported to have a very damaging recording of Ailes.

This is not the sort of person a presidential candidate should be standing next to, let alone a person from whom a presidential candidate should be seeking debate advice.

For a debate against a woman, no less.

The media has drastically lowered their standards for Trump, perhaps in a sign of exhaustion, but it’s a dangerous road to go down. The man is running to be president. Standards matter.

This is the new “presidential”, Republican style — pallin’ around with an alleged serial sexual predator.

*************

Former Senior Obama Adviser Says Trump Is Basically A Psychopath Running For President

By Jason Easley on Sun, Aug 28th, 2016 at 11:43 am
PoliticusUSA

Democrats are delivering the blunt truth about Trump. On Meet The Press former Obama senior adviser David Plouffe said that Trump is basically a psychopath running for president.

David Plouffe was asked by Chuck Todd why he thought that Clinton would struggle in Virginia and Colorado.

Plouffe answered, “Those are two tough states. I think they were uniquely suited to Barack Obama. When we had that conversation, I think the assessment was that Donald Trump would do some things to appeal to the middle of the electorate, to appeal to suburban college educated women. He’s not. Basically, you have a psychopath running for president.”

Todd asked if it was fair to diagnose people on the air?

Plouffe continued, “Well, listen, he – the grandiose notion of self-worth, pathological lying, lack of empathy and remorse. So my point was I think he does. I don’t have a degree in psychology…Here’s where the race sits today. I think Hillary Clinton is guaranteed two hundred and sixty-nine Electoral votes because Virginia and Colorado I think both campaigns believe are put away.”

Plouffe may not have a degree in psychology, but my colleague Sarah Jones does, and she is of the opinion that the Republican nominee has some issues.

Polling consistently demonstrates that Donald Trump doesn’t pass the eye test for what voters want in a fit and competent president. It doesn’t take a psychologist to see that Donald Trump lacks the mental and emotional tools needed to lead the United States of America.

Plouffe’s main point was that the mistake election experts made when they assessed Trump’s chances was that they assumed he would behave rationally, and that Donald Trump’s irrational behavior has likely left Republicans with minimal odds of winning back the White House.

Trump may not be a clinically diagnosed psychopath, but his unstable behavior has cost Republicans dearly in 2016.

**************

Trump Is So Terrified Of Hillary Clinton That He Just Attacked Her For Being A Woman

By Sarah Jones on Sat, Aug 27th, 2016 at 5:21 pm
PoliticusUSA

During his speech at Joni Ernst’s Roast and Ride Event in Iowa, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said of Hillary Clinton, "She doesn't even look presidential to me. She certainly doesn't."

Donald Trump is fixated on Hillary Clinton’s appearance and gender.

During his speech at Joni Ernst’s Roast and Ride Event in Iowa, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said of Hillary Clinton, “She doesn’t even look presidential to me. She certainly doesn’t.”

Right, because:

A) She’s not a man, which is why Clinton winning the White House would make history. Welcome to 2016.

B) Hillary Clinton is not a cheerleader for whatever self-described alpha male is in the room, and Donald Trump holds women who don’t worship him in deep contempt. (Much evidence of this.)

C) Hillary Clinton won’t dress herself up like a doll to please men like Donald Trump and this seems to offend him and the entire alt-right movement, which loves to criticize Clinton for the clothes she wears. Apparently, women should only be “allowed” (fake) power if they are dressed in a way that pleases men. Which means the men are still in power and the women are subservient helpers/cheerleaders/agreeable dolls.

And on that note, we’ve come full circle.

The bottom line is that Hillary Clinton makes Donald Trump nervous. In his world, he is above her because he’s the Big Man and she, like all women, should seek his approval. But Clinton seeks no one’s approval.

And soon Donald Trump will be up against Hillary Clinton’s brain and experience. He will not be a match for her, and so he will take refuge in mocking her appearance, showing contempt for her daring to be someone without his approval. His contempt will go over with the people who are already supporting him, but it’s not going to fly as a response to Clinton’s intelligence during a debate.

Donald Trump’s knuckles might as well graze the floor, he’s that far regressed.

Just like Trump’s racist dog whistles are actually screaming sirens, so too his misogyny is a screaming siren to women everywhere. He doesn’t get it, and that’s half the problem. He’s so clueless, he expects people to agree with him when he knocks Hillary Clinton for being a woman and running for president.

It’s 2016. I never thought I’d say this, but Donald Trump makes Mitt Romney’s 1950s version of women look progressive.

************

Trump, Who Is Under Fraud Investigation, Promises To Restore Honesty To US

By Jason Easley on Sat, Aug 27th, 2016 at 4:33 pm
PoliticusUSA

Donald Trump, who is under fraud investigation in two states promised a gathering of Iowa Republicans that he would restore honesty to the US government if he is elected president.

Early in his speech at Joni Ernst’s Roast and Ride Event in Iowa, Trump said, “This is a campaign about big ideas designed to help everyday people. Everyone. It’s going to help everyone. These are the people who work hard, but who don’t have a voice. Their voice has been taken away. It’s also a campaign about restoring honesty and accountability to government.”

Trump is talking about honesty and accountability while he refuses to release his medical records and tax returns. Donald Trump is speaking about honesty while under investigation for fraud in multiple states.
Donald Trump has proven himself to be the exact opposite of honest and accountable. An accountable person does not run up mountains of debt and then file for bankruptcy.

Trump can’t run on the issues because he knows nothing about policy. The Republican nominee can’t run on his character because he has a lifetime record of discrimination and dishonesty. Trump can’t run on values because the only thing he has ever valued in his life is making money for Donald Trump.

There has not been a less honest presidential nominee in the modern political era than Donald Trump. The honesty argument is one that Trump is destined to lose, as only a fool would trust Donald Trump.

***************

Hillary Clinton Destroys Trump’s Phony Appeal To Minority Voters In 45 Seconds

By Sean Colarossi on Wed, Aug 24th, 2016 at 10:08 pm
PoliticusUSA

"He is taking a hate movement mainstream; he's brought it into his campaign. He's bringing it to our communities and our country."

Hillary Clinton phoned into AC360 on Wednesday night and wasted no time in demolishing Donald Trump’s new favorite talking point – that she is a “bigot.”

When Anderson Cooper asked her about it, Clinton laughed off the ridiculous attack and explained to voters, specifically those in the minority community, just how phony the Republican nominee’s recent minority outreach is.

    Hillary Clinton responds to Donald Trump calling her a bigot by saying Trump is “taking a hate movement mainstream” https://t.co/8ilwBAhFQ8

    — CNN (@CNN) August 25, 2016

Clinton said:

    He is taking a hate movement mainstream; he’s brought it into his campaign. He’s bringing it to our communities and our country. Someone who has questioned the citizenship of the first African-American president; who has courted white supremacists; who has been sued for housing discrimination against communities of color; who’s attacked a judge for his Mexican heritage and promised a mass deportation force, is someone who is very much peddling bigotry and prejudice and paranoia. I will have more to say about this tomorrow when I give a speech in Reno.

Donald Trump’s record when it comes to minority voters – whether it’s his comments throughout the course of this campaign or his actions during his business career – is very clear.

All Clinton had to do was rattle off a list of things the Republican nominee has actually said and done – no exaggeration necessary. He may spend the next 75 days pivoting, but the Democratic nominee will make sure voters don’t forget who Trump really is.

Clinton will likely address this and many other aspects of Trump’s disturbing campaign in a major speech in Nevada on Thursday.

 34 
 on: Aug 29, 2016, 06:06 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Topless protesters bare breasts in push for women's rights

    Marches in New York City and elsewhere around the world
    ‘Push for women to go topless is as strong as women wanting to vote’

Associated Press in New York
Sunday 28 August 2016 23.16 BST

Women around the US were taking off their tops on Sunday to mark GoTopless Day, a day that seeks to promote gender equality and a woman’s right to bare her breasts in public.

GoTopless Day is celebrated annually on the Sunday closest to Women’s Equality Day, which marks the day American women earned the right to vote.

A few dozen women and some men went topless on Sunday afternoon as they walked down Broadway in New York City. The march was led by women carrying a banner, followed by others in a convertible – with the top down. A pair of giant inflatable breasts brought up the rear. Onlookers gawked and took photos.

The event was one of several planned across the globe. In the US, gatherings were planned in New Hampshire, Denver, Los Angeles and more.

Nadine Gray, president of GoTopless, said she hoped the events would take away the shock and awe of seeing female breasts.

“In New York City, we are really celebrating our right to be freely topless without getting a ticket or going to jail for it,” she said. “In other places, it will be more like a protest because the discrimination is still happening.

“This push for women to go topless in the 21st century is as strong as women wanting to vote in the 20th century. It may be sensual, but it’s not illegal to be sensual. This is not Saudi Arabia.”

It has been legal to be bare-breasted in New York since 1992. The legality of women going topless varies by state. Kia Sinclair is an event organizer for GoTopless Day at Hampton Beach in New Hampshire.

“It’s in hopes to show people that it can be normal, that it’s really not a big deal and it’s not about getting attention or protesting,” she said.

Sinclair was part of a group of women who last year helped beat back an effort to criminalize toplessness in New Hampshire.

 35 
 on: Aug 29, 2016, 06:03 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Giving birth in Guinea: a life or death lottery bereft of midwives and medicine

Inaccessible clinics, untrained and overstretched midwives and lack of medicine are among the challenges facing mothers and newborn babies in Guinea

Ruth Maclean in Kankan
AFP
Monday 29 August 2016 10.15 BST

A baby was born, took one breath, then left the world again. No amount of the midwife pumping his legs up to his ribcage and back, or poking a finger hard and fast at his chest, would bring him back.

His 17-year-old mother lay in pain on the delivery table as her son was wrapped up in a yellow cloth. There was no time even for her to hold him, as another woman was about to give birth. The midwives quickly changed their bloodied robes and gloves. Because there was no other table, the second woman gave birth lying on the floor.

This time, the baby yelled as soon as she came out. She was healthy. While the midwives moved on to the next urgent case, their small delivery room filling up, she spent her first few minutes screaming on the concrete slab.

Welcome to life in Guinea, baby Katherine.

The situation for newborn babies and their mothers in this west African country is dire. Of every 1,000 babies born in Guinea, 123 die before their fifth birthday. For every 100,000 live births, 724 women die. Guinea has the world’s second-highest rate of female genital mutilation (FGM), after Somalia – 97% of women between 15 and 49 have been cut. Women who have had FGM are twice as likely to haemorrhage during childbirth, and haemorrhage is the leading cause of mothers dying in Africa.

Medicine is in short supply, and health workers’ salaries rely on selling enough of it. This leads to staff shortages; most health centres have one or two health workers when they should have eight.

The Ebola outbreak, which killed more than 2,500 people in Guinea, revealed how little access to medical care rural Guineans had. The health situation has improved slightly post-Ebola, but without donor money, the system would grind to a halt.

“The needs are identified, but the money is just not coming from the government,” says Guy Yogo, Unicef’s deputy representative in Guinea. After Ebola, the government increased its contribution to health from 2.66% to 4.66% of GDP, and has committed to 7% for next year. According to Yogo, however: “The minimum is 11-15% if you really want to have an impact.”

Katherine is one of nearly 5,000 babies officially born each year at Doko health centre in the Kankan region of north-eastern Guinea, but about 2,000 more are born to unregistered mothers who come to the area to search for gold in artisanal mines.

Births take place in one small room, with its single delivery table presided over by two midwives.

“Lots of women come, and there’s nowhere to put them all. They often have their babies on the floor. Better there than next to sick people – at least it’s clean,” says Bernadette Mansaré, a midwife.
Sayon Keita, who is pregnant with her seventh child, is examined by a midwife at a health post near Doko, Siguiri

When there is a moment between deliveries, she lectures the dozen pregnant women waiting outside on the importance of coming in for checkups.

Doko’s midwives have not had any training in 20 years. If they had, they might have known how to give the baby who died mouth to mouth resuscitation or proper compressions. Thousands of babies die from preventable causes each year.

One of the things that the response to Ebola brought was medical supplies, the like of which had not been seen in a generation.

Kondiadou health centre is near Kissidougou, one of the towns to which the UN started regular flights during Ebola. Before, reaching south-east Guinea from the capital involved a bumpy car journey lasting several days. Now, because of the flights, it is easier to get supplies and staff in, although the UN is expected to cancel the flight as soon as the threat of Ebola is completely over.

“It’s the first time we’ve got equipment like this since the centre was built in 1990,” says Therese Soropogui, a community health worker at Kondiadou, as she pulls out standard latex gloves and yellow washing-up ones and explains the difference.

A small camping stove, some sterilising kit, bandages and a few hundred pairs of gloves have been donated by the Spanish government and Unicef. And a red plastic bucket. It does not take much to save lives in remote Guinea.

“Before, we burned tools in the fire, and that took too long,” Soropogui says. “And if you had two women giving birth at the same time, you had to use our one set of tools for both women, one after the other. That was very difficult. Now we have three or four sets of tools and, at the end, you can sterilise them.”

Not all of the equipment seems to have been used, however, showing up what many see as an endemic problem with the UN’s approach.

“They give out supplies like sweets,” says Yolande Hyjazi, the country director of Jhpiego, an international health organisation. “The UN system is: what the government asks for, they buy, and that’s it. We’ve seen a lot of vacuum extraction equipment, but if you ask the staff about it they say: ‘I don’t know what it is, the UNFPA [UN population fund] sent it.’ They give equipment without training.”

Even when staff do know how to use it, obstetric equipment does not solve a problem many women have – getting to a clinic.

Harriet Somadouno, a 20-year-old farmer in her third trimester, walked 17km to Kondiadou for a checkup, carrying 10kg of peanuts on her head to sell at the market en route.

“I walked with my friends, but I carried the peanuts myself,” she says. “It took me six hours. I’m going home tonight but I think it’ll be a quicker journey as I sold all the peanuts – perhaps four hours.”

Somadouno, exhausted after her walk, barely seemed to take in the information given by the nurse.

One scheme to help women involves what looks like a giant old-fashioned pram, which is attached as a sidecar to a motorbike. Spain has given 15 of them to health centres in Guinea.

Mamady Berete doubles up as Doko health centre’s broken bones specialist and the moto-ambulance driver. Dressed in high-vis from head to toe, he bumps up and down bush tracks and through enormous puddles, picking up pregnant women, strapping them in his sidecar and taking them to Doko.

The giant pram turns heads, but brings fresh problems, such as how to pay for petrol or maintenance.

“We have someone here who can fix it but, if a tyre breaks, we have to send to Conakry for a new one. It’s a bit difficult,” Berete says.

On his trips to the villages, Berete spreads the word about the health centre and encourages more people to use it.

Trust in Guinea’s health system was in short supply during Ebola, when clinics closed their doors, doctors and nurses died, and infected people seemed to disappear into hospitals never to return.

“People were afraid of our health centre – they said if you came here you’d catch Ebola. So people avoided coming,” says Berete. Because nobody came, salaries could not be paid, so the clinic had to shut, leading to even less trust in the service.

According to Yogo, the lack of working health systems meant the death toll from “collateral” diseases and health complications outpaced that of Ebola.

“More people died from malaria, diarrhoea and in childbirth than of Ebola,” he says. “The country did not have enough ambulances. They were all used for Ebola patients – nobody else.”

Sierra Leone resumes long battle to save mothers and children – in pictures: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/gallery/2016/apr/15/sierra-leone-saving-lives-mothers-babies-maternal-mortality-in-pictures


Now, people are trying to take advantage of the supplies and attention that Ebola brought, and keep people coming through the doors so staff can afford to keep those doors open.

Berete and his colleagues are succeeding: several health centres, including Doko, are recording pregnant women coming in greater numbers than before Ebola.

Somadouno, who left school aged nine and had her first child at 16, plans to repeat her gruelling 17km journey to give birth.

“I gave birth to my first child here and, because it went well, I’m coming back for this one,” she says. “My mother-in-law will come with me, but we’ll be on foot then too. My plan is to try to catch it early.”

 36 
 on: Aug 29, 2016, 05:58 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
'We have nothing but our reindeer': conservation threatens ruination for Mongolia's Dukha

One of the world’s smallest ethnic groups is finding its cultural traditions on the wrong side of Mongolian law, putting its very existence in peril

by Marine Gauthier and Riccardo Pravettoni in Tengis Shishged national park
Guardian
Sunday 28 August 2016 12.30 BST

In the Mongolian taiga, or snow forest, a few kilometres from the Russian border, a group of 250 reindeer herders preserve their traditions with care. They dwell, as their ancestors did, in the forest, where they live by hunting, gathering and drinking the milk of their animals. But the creation of a protected area to preserve the wild environment may threaten their survival.

Two men, one battle

Ganbat and Tumursukh were born in the same village in the middle of the taiga, about 50 years ago. Reaching the snow-covered forest region in the country’s north-east takes two days by car from the nearest city, Murun, and then a journey by horse or reindeer – including passage across Khovsgol lake – all without encountering a soul beyond the odd elk or lynx. The two men, now fathers and respected elders in their communities, have dedicated their lives to this vast expanse of boreal forest. Their eyes light up when they speak of it.

“I’m proud to have been born in this region,” says Tumursukh. “My father took me to the forest as a child, and I learned to know it and to love it. When I had the opportunity to leave and study in Ulaanbaatar Mongolia’s capital, I wanted to come back. I waited several years before realising my dream: being named manager of the regional protection of Khovsgol by the ministry of the environment.

“In 1987, I was able to establish the first protected area in the region and save a part of it from mining exploitation. In the 80s, industrial outfits began to come into the region. The companies mined the mountain [Urandush in the Jankal range] for phosphorus. We fight to preserve our environment again these threats. The taiga is precious and fragile. It’s home to rare and endangered species of flower, to snow leopards, elk, ibex … The government has understood and has begun to preserve it.”

Sitting beside his wife in his ortz, a felt-lined tipi made of wood, Ganbat says: “The taiga is our life. We don’t know how to do anything other than live with it. We have always taken care of nature – this is what our ancestors taught us. Our role is to testify to our love and respect for the taiga. We’ve taken care of our reindeer since before Mongolia existed, they are our pride.”

The taiga is fragile. Ganbat and Tumursukh are aware of this and fight daily for its survival. Despite this common cause, the two men have different backgrounds and their approach to conserving the taiga is bringing them into conflict.

Tumursukh, who is an ethnic Mongol, is responsible for the natural reserves of the region and is a fervent opponent of mining in the area. Mining has driven Mongolia’s recent economic boom, which has propelled the country to middle-income status. But mining the rich subsoil has also caused environmental degradation and ravaged the land.

Ganbat is a Dukha, one of the smallest ethnic groups in the world, comprising about 250 people. A reindeer herder, hunter and protector of the traditions of his people, he watches over his community and their traditional lands. He is the oldest man in the Dukha camp, a respected sage to whom the group listens.

Originally from Russia, the Dukha (who are also called Tsataan in Mongolian) are closer in traditions and way of life to Laplanders, the reindeer herders of the Arctic, than to Mongols of the steppe, as they are nomadic.

These Dukha nomads move their ortz according to the migrations of the reindeer in these wild mountains – the only environment favourable to their animals. They don’t grow crops, or raise animals other than reindeer. They don’t eat the reindeer, using them only for their milk and for transhumance.

It was only after the second world war that the Dukha established themselves definitively in Mongolia. “Our fathers were accustomed to migrating where they wanted to within the taiga,” says Buyantogtoh, Ganbat’s sister and the group’s doyen. “We knew no frontiers, and went wherever our reindeer had sufficient pasture. Then the war broke out, and the Russian soldiers wanted to recruit our men to go and fight far away from us. We fled to the south. Then they closed the borders, and we stayed on this side, in Mongolia.”

From state hunters to poachers

Initially, relations with the Mongolian state were positive, according to the Dukha, who have rarely mixed with the people living in the valleys. Known for their vast knowledge of the taiga and their capability as hunters, they were hired as “state hunters” by Mongolia’s communist government.

Oltsen is one of the best hunters in the group, and is capable of confronting the bears that menace the reindeer herds. “My father was a state hunter,” says Oltsen, proudly. “He hunted, would go down to the villages to bring the meat, and would return with vegetables and flour. This became more difficult after the fall of the communist government: he lost his job. But we have pursued commercial activity, selling furs and meat when we can. Tourists came as well, and we began to do crafts. They liked that.”

The situation has worsened: without a place in society, regarded as merely reindeer herders, the Dukha have become marginalised. In 2011, their lives changed radically.

“People came and told us that they had studied the taiga for 10 years,” says Oltsen, bitterly. “We had never seen them. They explained to us that this territory had become a national reserve and that new laws had been put in place. They had decided that we couldn’t hunt any more and that only three areas were authorised for the pasturing of our reindeer. We were no longer permitted to take them beyond the Tengis river and the Gugned Valley. But how would we live if we weren’t able to hunt any more?

“To make sure that we didn’t hunt, they forbade us from bringing our dogs to guard the reindeer. But there are wolves here. Our herds were decimated. We don’t have anything but our reindeer. It’s our right to take care of them.”

Under Mongolian law, hunting is forbidden in the Tengis Shishged national reserve, as are fishing and chopping wood, and only limited migrations are allowed, in order to preserve biodiversity. Recently, rangers have been deployed to protect the area. Itn is easy to imagine how relations between these rangers – mainly young, urban newcomers – and the Dukha, who have dwelled in these lands for hundreds of years, rapidly became strained.

“They don’t let us live any more. They track us, breathing down our necks to make sure our sons aren’t hunting,” says Buyantogtoh, who cooks bread in his ortz, while the wind blows at -20°C outside. “We need to hunt to live, to cut wood to warm ourselves, to access pasture to feed our reindeer. If these things are outlawed, we’re no longer free.”

“Do they want to make us Mongols of the steppe,” asks Oltsen. “I don’t know how to do anything other than live here. But I know the taiga better than anyone. I know every corner of this mountain. I know the animals and we show them respect, just as our fathers taught us. We communicate with nature. If I go hunting and don’t see many animals, it means that nature isn’t ready to give them to me and I go home. We lose our culture if we can’t hunt any longer or can’t keep our reindeer. We’re scared.”

A few months ago, five Dukha hunters were arrested for poaching while searching for food. Ganbat’s son was among them.

“They were taken to the police station in town. But we don’t have vehicles, or the means to let them stay in town,” Ganbat says. “We’re all afraid. We don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Police headquarters and the courts are in far-off Murun. The young men have returned to the Dukha camp but (risk up to five years in prison, and fines of up to £7,500, for breaking the laws of the reserve.

The manager of the Murun police investigations department said: “The reserve has brought a complaint against them for poaching. They were caught red-handed hunting. Here in Mongolia, the law applies to everybody. The Dukha are not above Mongolian law.”

“The Dukha don’t understand our work,” laments Tumursukh. “Our goal is to preserve the taiga and to create strictly protected areas in which humans will not be able to destroy nature. These resources must be preserved for future generations. If we don’t create this reserve, these resources will disappear. We can’t let that happen.”

He has just returned from a trip to the US, where he has raised funding from private donors and signed an official partnership with Yosemite national park, known for being the first protected park in history – and for having been created on the territories of indigenous people, who have all but disappeared.

US donors are raising funds to buy motorbikes for Tengis Shishged park rangers, making it easier for them to cover the region more efficiently. Their website, Rally for Rangers, says: “The Tengis Shishged park is one of the rare places in the world where this ancient pastoral religious form survives.” Not for long, if the Dukha are no longer allowed to carry on their traditional activities.

The Dukha are sceptical about the initiative: “They [rangers] spend their time riding up and down the mountain, frightening the animals. And they follow us even more aggressively now,” says Ganbat. “We want our message to be heard. We want to remain in our home and live freely.”

In 2014, the Mongolian government heard the pleas of the Dukha and a salary of £50 a person is now provided each month. It is meagre compensation for being deprived of food from hunting, wood to build their homes, pasture for their reindeer and the sacred sites where they honour their ancestors.

For the Dukha, the message is clear. “They don’t want us to hunt, they want to make us sedentary, live close to the villages, so that we buy their food,” says Buyantogtoh. The Dukha aren’t complaining about their new source of revenue, which allows them access to resources and luxuries they wouldn’t otherwise have, yet they remain defiant when it comes to their tradition of preserving, in their own way, the land on which they live.

“I’m not afraid of them, even with their motorbikes and their park,” Buyantogtoh says. “With or without them, we will conserve our forest.”

“Why don’t they come and talk with us?” asks Ganbat. “We would tell them what to protect and where the animals are. But also which lands we need for our reindeer. Why couldn’t we work together?”

Worldwide, that question echoes in many indigenous communities. The Dukha aren’t alone: there are about 370 million indigenous people, spread across five continents. They live in regions threatened by exploitation, conservation of which nonetheless sometimes comes at the expense of those who reside within them.

In 2014, Mongolia passed a law to create protected cultural areas, which would be managed by local communities and help to preserve their cultural heritage. Oyungerel Tsedevdamba, a former Mongolian MP and minister of culture who campaigned for the new law, says: “Mongolia must preserve its cultural heritage and help people who want to maintain their lifestyles. In a protected cultural area, hunting would be allowed, for example – even if regulated – as a cultural practice.”

On paper, this appears promising. But Oyungerel, who was a prominent spokeswoman for Dukha rights, is no longer in government. The law is legally in force but has not yet been implemented, and the Dukha aren’t even aware of it. Challenges lie ahead for this tiny group of nomads, trying to survive in their corner of taiga.

• The travel for this reporting was supported by the European Journalism Centre’s Innovation in Development Reporting Grant Programme (www.journalismgrants.org)

 37 
 on: Aug 29, 2016, 05:50 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Record tourism in national parks comes with increasing threats – antsy humans

Yellowstone and other major parks grapple with illegal camping, vandalism, theft of resources, wildlife harassment and other misbehavior from visitors

Associated Press in Yellowstone national park, Wyoming
Sunday 28 August 2016 17.31 BST

On the edge of a meadow in Yellowstone national park, tourist John Gleason crept through the grass, four small children close behind, inching toward a bull elk with antlers like small trees.

“They’re going to give me a heart attack,” said Gleason’s mother-in-law, Barbara Henry, as the group came within about a dozen yards of the massive animal.

The elk’s ears pricked up, and it eyed the children and Washington state man before leaping up a hillside. Other tourists – likewise ignoring rules to keep 25 yards from wildlife – picked up the pursuit, snapping pictures and forcing the animal into headlong retreat.

Record visitor numbers at the nation’s first national park have transformed its annual summer rush into a sometimes dangerous frenzy, with selfie-taking tourists routinely breaking park rules and getting too close to Yellowstone’s storied elk herds, grizzly bears, wolves and bison.

Law enforcement records obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request suggest such problems are on the rise, offering a stark illustration of the pressures facing some of America’s most treasured lands as the National Park Service marks its 100th anniversary.

From Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains to the Grand Canyon of Arizona, major parks are grappling with illegal camping, vandalism, theft of resources, wildlife harassment and other misbehavior, according to the records. In July alone, law enforcement rangers handled more than 11,000 incidents at the 10 most-visited national parks.

In Yellowstone, rangers are recording more wildlife violations, more people treading on sensitive thermal areas and more camping in off-limit areas. The rule-breaking puts visitors in harm’s way and can damage resources and displace wildlife, officials said.

Often the incidents go unaddressed, as when Gleason and the children approached the bull elk with no park personnel around. Gleason said he was “maybe” too close but felt comfortable in the situation as an experienced hunter who has spent lots of time outdoors.

These transgressions add to rangers’ growing workload, which includes traffic violations, searches for missing hikers and pets running off-leash in parks intended to be refuges of untrammeled nature.

“It’s more like going to a carnival,” said Susan Clark, a Yale University professor of wildlife ecology who has been conducting research in the Yellowstone area for 48 years. “If you look at the cumulative impacts, the trends are not good.

“The basic question is, ‘What is the appropriate relationship with humans and nature?’ We as a society have not been clear about what that ought to be, and so it’s really, really messy and nasty.”

Recent events at Yellowstone that grabbed national headlines include a Canadian tourist putting a bison calf in his SUV, hoping to save it, causing wildlife workers to euthanise the animal when they could not reunite it with its herd; three visitors from Asia being cited on separate occasions for illegally collecting water from the park’s thermal features; and the death of a Washington state man who left a designated boardwalk and fell into a near-boiling hot spring.

The flouting of park rules stems from disbelief among visitors that they will get hurt, said Yellowstone superintendent Dan Wenk. “I can’t tell you how many times I have to talk to people and say, ‘Step back. There’s a dangerous animal,’ and they look at me like I have three heads,” he said.

Inconsistent record-keeping, including a recent switch to a new criminal offenses reporting system, makes it difficult to identify trends that apply uniformly across the major parks. But the records reviewed by the AP reveal the scope of visitor misbehavior.

In Yellowstone, administrators and outside observers including Clark say the park’s problems have become more acute. That threatens its mission to manage its lands and wildlife “unimpaired” for future generations. Beyond incidents that lead to citations are many more that result in warnings. More than 52,000 warnings were issued in 2015, up almost 20% from the year before.

Washington state resident Lisa Morrow’s son was among the children Gleason led toward the elk. Despite safety advisories – and numerous examples of visitors being gored by bison, mauled by bears or chased by elk – Morrow declared herself unafraid of the park’s wildlife. She said she was eager to see a grizzly up close.

“I want to see one right there,” Morrow said, pointing to a spot just feet away. “I’d throw it a cookie.”

The top 10 parks by visitation collectively hosted almost 44 million people last year, according to National Park Service figures. That’s a 26% increase from a decade earlier, or more than 9.1 million new visitors combined at Great Smoky Mountains, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Yosemite and the other national parks on the list.

Yellowstone has the most large, dangerous carnivores among those parks, but each has its risks. In Rocky Mountain national park, elk become more aggressive during mating season. Yosemite has towering waterfalls where visitors insist on swimming near the edge. In the Grand Canyon, squirrels habituated to humans are sometimes quick to bite an outstretched hand.

Wenk said the rise in popularity of social media has complicated the task of keeping visitors safe.

“You take a picture of yourself standing 10ft in front of a bison, and all of a sudden a few hundred people see it, and it’s reposted – at the same time we’re telling everybody wildlife is dangerous,” Wenk said.

“They get incongruous messages and then it happens. They get too close, and the bison charges.”

 38 
 on: Aug 29, 2016, 05:46 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
The greatest jumper on Earth is probably not a flea

Many animals could lay claim to the title of the natural world's greatest jumper, but the real record-holder comes as a surprise to most people
   
By Ella Davies
BBC
29 August 2016

At the 2016 Rio Olympics, Canada's Derek Drouin took the gold in the high jump, with a leap of 2.38 m (7ft 10in). It was a stunning jump, but it fell 7cm short of the world record of 2.45m (8ft), set by Cuba's Javier Sotomayor way back in 1993.

As ever with our athletic feats, there are plenty of wild animals that leap far higher, reaching dizzying heights in a single bound.

There are two ways you can measure the highest jumps. The first is the absolute height an animal reaches. However, that tends to favour the largest animals, so the second option is to consider how high an animal jumps relative to its own size.

Depending which you choose, the title of highest jumper could go to several different species.

Let's start with the absolute highest jumps. Unsurprisingly, many of the bounciest species have the word "spring" in their names.

One such species is the springbok, a medium-sized antelope found in southern Africa. Hunted by big cats, eagles and wild dogs, these animals often leap for safety.

    Hares jump further than rabbits, because they are bigger

They also engage in bouts of "pronking". This involves a series of stiff-legged jumps that can reach 6.5ft (2m) in height. Scientists have suggested that this helps males display their strength and watch for predators.

The impala is arguably the highest jumper among antelope, out-leaping any human athlete. It can soar up to 9ft 10in (3m) over obstacles, including other impalas and savannah vegetation. This is a life-saving adaptation when you are on something else's lunch menu.

Another antelope species named for its jumping ability is the klipspringer. It is a relatively dainty species found in mountainous areas of southern and eastern Africa. They have strong back legs to help them climb across rocks, and a distinctive habit of walking on tiptoes.

There is an oft-quoted statistic about klipspringers: that they can jump an extraordinary 25ft (7.6m). However, it is probably a tall tale.

According to Craig Roberts of the University of Stirling in the UK, who has studied the animals, klipspringers' specialised hooves allow them to traverse near-vertical slopes. Thanks to a rotated digit, the hooves are effectively cylindrical, enhancing the antelope's grip.

Sticking with mammals, there is another familiar group renowned for hopping and bounding: rabbits and hares. Hares jump further than rabbits, because they are bigger, says ecologist John Flux.

    The red kangaroo is one of the biggest animals to leap

He points to data collected in the early 1900s by the epically-named naturalist Gerald Edwin Hamilton Barrett-Hamilton. He recorded brown hares reaching heights of 15ft (4.5m), while white-tailed jackrabbits travelled an astonishing 21ft (6.4m)

Flux says hares are "finely adapted for long-distance running at high speed". They have light skulls, large hearts and dark red flesh in their muscles to carry plenty of oxygen. "This makes hares very good athletes, and hence great jumpers."

On top of their athletic ability, hares' long hind legs have extended tendons. These store the elastic energy needed to power remarkable jumps.

The same is true of kangaroo rats, whose elongated back legs reportedly allow them to leap up to 9ft (2.75m) high. That is not bad for a rodent that weighs less than 4.5oz (128g).

    Spinner dolphins achieve similar maximum heights to kangaroos, but under very different conditions

Living in the deserts of North America, kangaroo rats are not related to Australia's famous hopping marsupials. The rats have independently evolved a similar method of propulsion, using their long tails as a counter-balance.

Speaking of kangaroos, the red kangaroo is one of the biggest animals to leap. Powered by stretchy tendons rather than muscles that demand oxygen, the leap is an efficient way to travel long distances through the Australian bush in search of food and water.

Red kangaroos regularly leap 5ft (1.5m), and their highest jumps are said to be around 10ft (3m). That is about on a par with impalas, but not as high as the bounciest hares and jackrabbits.

There are also jumping animals in the sea.

Spinner dolphins achieve similar maximum heights to kangaroos, but under very different conditions. They are named for their corkscrewing leaps above water, and have been recorded 10ft (3m) above the ocean's surface at the peak of their jumps.

    The serval of southern Africa can reach a height of 5ft (1.5m) to catch birds in flight

Because the mechanics of jumping from water are so different, it is hard to compare this to the land-based leapers.

To understand how the dolphins spin, scientists studied video footage of them for a study published in 2006. They found that the dolphins twist beneath the water, generating torque. Once they emerge from the water there is less drag force on their body, resulting in an accelerated spin that powers them through the air.

It is not clear why the dolphins jump so much. Researchers have suggested that it plays a role in communication, and that it dislodges parasitic remoras that treat the dolphins as a travelling buffet.

While some species use jumping to avoid predators, others employ it to catch their prey.

Anyone with a pet cat knows that they can jump for toy mice, luckless garden birds and even laser pointers. Their wild ancestors are just as good at it.

    A slightly smaller cat seems to be the highest leaper of them all

For instance, the serval of southern Africa can reach a height of 5ft (1.5m) to catch birds in flight.

We know that bigger animals can jump higher, so it is reasonable to guess that the biggest cats will be the best jumpers. The biggest cats alive today are Siberian tigers, which are thought to be able to clear 13ft (4m) in one bound.

One certainly did in 2007 when it attacked visitors to San Francisco Zoo, one fatally. However, it is not clear whether the tiger scaled the enclosure's 12.5ft (3.8m) wall in one jump, or whether it had a run up and climbed part of the structure.

However, a slightly smaller cat seems to be the highest leaper of them all.

    Among insects, the species that do serious jumping are often known as "hoppers"

Cougars, also known as pumas, mountain lions and catamounts, are not technically "big cats" because they do not roar like lions, tigers, leopards or jaguars. Yet in sheer size they are clearly big cats: mature male cougars will stand up to 3ft (90cm) tall at the shoulder and weigh as much as 136lb (62kg).

They also have powerful back legs and can reach 18ft (5.5m) in a single upward leap, according to a 1960 report by researcher Claude Barnes­. If true, that is further than any other cat. Nevertheless, those pesky white-tailed jackrabbits with their 21-feet jumps still seem to be the champions.

However, these are all absolute jump heights. What about jumps in proportion to body size? To explore this, we need to look at some much smaller creatures.

Among insects, the species that do serious jumping are often known as "hoppers".

    Fleas can launch themselves up to 200 times their body length

For instance, grasshoppers use muscles in their knee joints to effectively catapult themselves upwards. The infamous desert locust can leap as high as 10in (25cm).

Similarly, froghoppers are tiny 6mm-long bugs, which you might know best from the "cuckoo spit" that their nymphs secrete on garden plants. The adults are the jumpers: they can spring 27.5in (70cm) into the air, thanks to their specialised back legs.

However, achieving great heights does not necessarily require legwork, as springtails prove. Each of these minute hexapods has a two-pronged lever tucked beneath its abdomen with which it can flip itself through the leaf litter, reaching heights of 6in (15cm).

At this point you may be wondering if we are ever going to talk about the record-breaking jumps performed by fleas. Well, yes we are.

Fleas can launch themselves up to 200 times their body length.

    The real champions seem to be dog fleas, which can reach heights of 10in (25cm)

To do so, they use their hind legs as multi-jointed levers. They grip the ground for traction before crouching down, using their muscles to store energy in a special protein. When this energy is released, it acts like a coiled spring to fling them upwards.

Cat fleas were once said to achieve 13in (34cm). However, this has been revised down to 8in (20cm) after direct observations.

The real champions seem to be dog fleas, which can reach heights of 10in (25cm). That is a huge leap for a wingless insect you can barely see with the naked eye.

However, there is another group of tiny animals that arguably has the jump on fleas.

Planktonic copepods are found throughout the world's oceans. Rather like fleas, they are typically less than 0.1in (3mm) long.

    Within a few milliseconds, copepods accelerate to a velocity of nearly 1000 body lengths per second

Copepods jump through the water, both to escape predators and to hunt their own prey. They do so by throwing their four to five pairs of swimming legs backwards in sequence.

In 2011, researchers discovered that copepods' leg muscles produce 10 times more force than any other animal studied. They have to, because at their tiny scale water is incredibly viscous, and they must overcome that to perform their jumps. Within a few milliseconds, copepods accelerate to a velocity of nearly 1000 body lengths per second.

You will not see that repeated in an athletics stadium any time soon.

 39 
 on: Aug 29, 2016, 05:40 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
The most electric place on Earth

At one lake in Venezuela, lightning flashes 28 times a minute

29 August 2015
BBC

You know the saying “lightning never strikes the same place twice”? Forget it. On a good night, one lake in Venezuela hosts thousands of lightning strikes every hour.

The phenomenon is known variously as the Beacon of Maracaibo, Catatumbo lightning or – cue dramatic roll of thunder - the “everlasting storm”. That last one might be a slight exaggeration but where the Catatumbo River meets Lake Maracaibo there is an average of 260 storm days per year.

Here the night sky is regularly illuminated for nine hours with thousands of flashes of naturally produced electricity.

Summer storms are familiar to many of us but along the equator, where temperatures are higher, skies rumble throughout the year. DR Congo in Central Africa is known as the thunderstorm capital of the world where the mountain village of Kifuka, with 158 lightning flashes per square kilometre each year, was thought to be the most electric place on Earth. That was until more detailed data was analysed.

    Did you know: lightning almost never strikes the north or south poles

In 2014, official figures from NASA revealed that the Brahmaputra Valley of far eastern India had the highest monthly lightning flash rate between April and May when thunderous activity ushers in the annual monsoon.

But Venezuela’s Lake Maracaibo earned a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for “highest concentration of lightning” with 250 lightning flashes per square kilometre each year. The storms ease off in the dryer months of January and February and are most spectacular at the peak of the wet season around October. At this time of year, you can see an average of 28 lightning flashes each minute.

Experts have sought reasons for the area’s uniquely intense storms for decades. In the 1960s it was thought uranium deposits in the bedrock attracted more lightning strikes. More recently, scientists suggested the conductivity of the air above the lake was boosted by the abundance of methane from oil fields below.

Neither theory has been proved though, so for now this record-breaking light show is attributed to a potent combination of topography and wind patterns.

“A lot of the lightning hotspots are tied to features in the terrain - slopes of mountain ranges, curved coastlines, combinations of those,” explains Dr Daniel Cecil from the Global Hydrology and Climate Centre’s lightning team.

“Having irregularities like that in the terrain can help generate wind patterns and heating or cooling patterns that would boost the likelihood of thunderstorms.”

In North West Venezuela, South America’s largest lake flows past the city of Maracaibo to join the Caribbean Sea. It lies in a fork of the Andes, so is surrounded on the other three sides by high mountain ridges. During the day, the hot tropical sun evaporates water from the lake and surrounding wetland. As night approaches, trade winds from the sea push this warm air into cold air cascading from the mountains. The hot air rises and dense cumulonimbus clouds form as towering plumes reaching up to 12 km (39,000 ft) high.

These distinctive storm clouds might look fluffy on the outside but inside a battle is raging. Where water droplets in the rising humid air collide with ice crystals in the cold air, static charges are produced and an electrical storm is unleashed.

The static electricity discharges in zig-zags of lightning that strike the ground, pass between clouds or flash inside them. The thunder itself is the shock wave of sound created when the heat of the lightning, which can be three times hotter than the surface of the sun, suddenly compresses the surrounding air. Alongside the sound and visuals are the special effects of heavy rain and hail.

The Catatumbo lightning is bright enough that it can be seen 400 km (250 miles) away and colonial sailors were said to use it for navigation. The force and duration of the storms have inspired many tales but eyewitness claims the lightning is multi-coloured are a trick of the light.

As it passes through dust or moisture, portions of the white light are absorbed or diffracted making it appear a different colour. There are also reports of it being silent but this is another perspective trick. The sluggish speed of sound compared to light means thunder may not reach distant spectators.

If you’re wondering how scientists record all of their lightning data you can put the idea of kites and keys out of your mind. Benjamin Franklin might have famously proved the electrical nature of lightning with that equipment but in the modern age more sophisticated technology has allowed us to observe from a safe distance – an altitude of 402.5km (250 miles) to be exact.

For 17 years, instruments on board the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM), a joint project between NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, collected a wealth of meteorological data as the satellite orbited the Earth. This included the Lightning Image Sensor which recorded flashes of light in tropical skies. With this data scientists were able to produce a map of the world’s lightning hotspots.

“To me the next generation of weather satellites is especially exciting,” says Dr Cecil, as TRMM finally runs out of fuel and returns to Earth.

“In the next few years, there are plans for lightning mapping instruments on a few different geostationary satellites placed over different parts of the globe.  These will give us continuous measurements of lightning activity, instead of the brief snapshots we have seen from previous satellites in low-earth orbit.”

The ability to predict storms is becoming increasingly important as the global population grows, particularly in developing countries where people are more likely to work outdoors and lack sufficient lightning protection. To help us understand where in the world lightning strikes, storms are also analysed from below.

The World Wide Lightning Location Network (WWLLN) comprises sensors based at 70 universities and research institutions that pick up the very high frequency signals emitted by lightning. Prof Robert H. Holzworth, who leads the network from the University of Washington, says the ground based observations compliment the satellite data.

“The ground based systems can see the whole world instantaneously, and continuously, something no satellite system past, present or future can do. On the other hand, to be recorded electrically using VLF radio waves requires the more powerful lightning stroke energies. So, the global ground based systems do not see all the little strokes in the clouds, which can be seen by the satellites.”

For any aspiring storm chasers that can’t quite give up the mug of cocoa and cosy blanket, the WWLLN produce a real-time map of lightning strokes around the globe.

 40 
 on: Aug 29, 2016, 05:34 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Small tortoiseshell butterfly numbers have plummeted across UK

Conservationists fear this year’s cool spring and slow start to summer have taken their toll on one of UK’s best-loved butterflies

Press Association
Monday 29 August 2016 10.54 BST   

Conservationists are warning of the decline of one of the UK’s best-loved butterflies.

Numbers of the small tortoiseshell – which is one of the most recognisable and widespread in the country – appear to have plummeted this summer.

This year numbers have been worryingly low as the cool spring and slow start to the summer appear to have taken their toll on the butterfly’s attempts to breed and feed.

Sightings of the small tortoiseshell are significantly down across the UK and gardeners are being asked to look out for it by joining the garden butterfly survey to help build a picture of what is happening.

Conservationists said the butterfly has endured a tumultuous recent history with its population plummeting by 73% since the 1970s.

Its numbers had risen over the past few years though and hopes were high that it was on the path to recovery, but this summer’s poor showing could mean the small tortoiseshell is set for yet more years of decline.

Richard Fox, Butterfly Conservation’s head of recording, is appealing for members of the public to report sightings.

“We don’t understand what is causing the drastic long-term decline of this familiar and much-loved butterfly,” he said.

“Theories involve climate change, pollution and parasitic flies that kill the butterfly’s caterpillars, but we need more information.

“If you see small tortoiseshells or any other butterflies in your garden, the garden butterfly survey provides an easy way to enter your sightings, contribute to citizen science and store your records for posterity.”

Conservationists say butterflies are important indicators of the health of the environment.

By helping them, gardeners can help create a better home for wildlife, especially beneficial insects such as bees that play a vital role in pollinating wildflowers and many crops.

Gardeners are being encouraged to plant butterfly and pollinator-friendly plants and help record the butterflies they see.

The UK’s estimated 22 million gardens represent an area roughly the size of Somerset and, at a time when butterflies are in severe decline, offer a potentially huge and vitally important habitat.

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