Monday, May 28, 2007

Elephant toll booth

He may be shoving his weight around - (though, please note, without harming anyone) but this is what happens when human beings rob wildlife of their habitat.

Elephant roadblock irks motorists
Reuters | Tuesday, 29 May 2007

NEW DELHI: An elephant in eastern India has sparked complaints from motorists who accuse it of blocking traffic and refusing to allow vehicles to pass unless drivers give it food, a newspaper reported.

The Hindustan Times said the elephant was scouting for food on a highway in the eastern state of Orissa, forcing motorists to roll down their windows and get out of the car.

"The tusker then inserts its trunk inside the vehicle and sniffs for food," local resident Prabodh Mohanty, who has come across the elephant twice, was quoted as saying.

"If you are carrying vegetables and banana inside your vehicle, then it will gulp them and allow you to go."

If a commuter does not wind down his window or resists opening the vehicle door, the elephant stands in front of the car until the driver allows him to carry out his routine inspection.

Forestry officials told the newspaper that the elephant is old and is therefore looking for easy food.

"So far, it has not harmed anybody," said Sirish Mohanty, a forest ranger working in the state.

"We are telling commuters regularly not to tease the elephant. But if people don't heed to our advice and harass the tusker, then it can retaliate."

Elephants are a protected and endangered species in India, which has nearly half of the world's 60,000 Asian elephants.

But conservationists say its population has fallen rapidly in recent years because of loss of habitat as a result of human encroachment into forest areas.

Almost summer

Some fleurs near my place. (This is kinda spectacular when clicked on.)

Temperatures are expected to rise to 26 degrees Celsius, or 79 Fahrenheit tomorrow. No excuse now for not taking the camera with me where ever I go.

And here's an aw3esom3ly c001! discovery.

Reuters WASHINGTON -- Army ants tired of potholes will throw their bodies into rough spots to make a smoother road for their sisters, British researchers reported Sunday.

They found that army ants of Central and South America match their own bodies to the size of the hole they want to plug. Several may plunge together to fill in bigger holes, they report in the journal Animal Behaviour.

Scott Powell and Nigel Franks of the University of Bristol studied an army ant species called Eciton burchellii, which march across the forests of Central and South America in swarms of up to 200,000.

These raiders always remain connected to the nest by a trail of other ants. But this highway of living ants can be extremely uneven as it passes over leaves and branches on the forest floor. So a few of the ants climb into the dips to make a smooth road. "When it comes to rapid road repairs, the ants have their own do-it-yourself highways agency,'' Franks said in a statement.

"When the traffic has passed, the down-trodden ants climb out of the potholes and follow their nest mates home,'' Powell added.

"Broadly, our research demonstrates that a simple but highly specialized behavior performed by a minority of ant workers can improve the performance of the majority, resulting in a clear benefit for the society as a whole.''

Powell and Franks conducted experiments in the lab to demonstrate this behavior. "We inserted planks drilled with different sizes of hole into the army ants' trails to see how well different sizes of ant matched different sizes of pot hole. Indeed, they fit beautifully,'' said Franks.

"I think every road user who has ever inwardly cursed as their vehicle bounced across a pothole -- jarring every bone in their body -- will identify with this story,'' said Franks.

Most ant species are believed to live in large colonies of sisters, all with the same mothers. Males are also sometimes produced, but only under certain circumstances.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

So why are we not treating sewage?

Estrogen that goes down Canadian toilets -- some naturally from women, some from the Pill -- is enough to make entire fish species too feminine to reproduce, a seven-year Canadian study shows.

Fish scientist Karen Kidd dripped small amounts of estrogen into a clean lake in northwestern Ontario over several years, just as if urine with the female hormone were running in via sewage from a nearby municipality.

This constant hormone bath made male minnows produce eggs in unnatural, part-female sex organs.

And even after she stopped adding estrogen and the water turned clean again, the minnows almost completely disappeared for several years.

Even small concentrations of estrogen can decimate wild fish populations, the University of New Brunswick biology professor concludes, even at levels found in some Canadian waters. She wouldn't name individual rivers. (link)

Monday, May 21, 2007

Best critterblogger.

Now to the most boring subject in the universe: exercise.

Who wants a body? Not me. (If I had my druthers I'd be a gourmet-food-snarfing, video-watching sloth.) But since I can't exist without one and I can't bear to live in a body that's out of shape and unhealthy, I make an effort to stay in shape. In the past year this has involved power walking a few times a week. Lately I've wanted more definition in my muscles and walking doesn't fulfill that bill. I briefly considered joining a gym, but a quick recall of my loathesome experience with Fitness World nixed that idea. (The sweat smell, the hiphop music, the lineups for equipment, having to wipe other people's sweat off the equipment, having to drag myself there and home, the monthly $30 fee - the gym experience is not for me.) After reading Linda's review of Turbo Jam, I decided to invest in some DVDs.

Chalene Johnson's Turbo Jam workouts are invigorating, particularly Punch, Kick, and Jam and Lower Body Jam. (LBJ hardened up my legs in less than two weeks.) She combines Brazilian dance and martial arts moves into an interesting and challenging workout. It takes some time to learn the steps, but once you've mastered them the workout is rather enjoyable and the time flies.

I'm also doing the boring but highly effective Burn it Up by Debbie Siebert. It's part of her "Slim in Six (Weeks)" package that comes with three workouts, from mild to advanced, and two "bonus" videos: a 12 minute ab routine and an 11 minute stretch and relax. Burn it Up is the advanced segment. Each workout features cardio, strength, and endurance, an ab workout, pushups, and stretch and relax.

TurboJam and Slim in Six are sold by a site called beachbody-dot-com (which has a reputation for ripping people off). I recommend buying them from eBay or Amazon.

You need light weights, resistance bands, and a mat, but these are best bought from a local store, not beachbody-dot-com.

I just ordered Get Moving - Walking for Weight Loss. A video sample can be found here. Her AM/PM Stretch video looks good, too. What appeals to me about these videos are the natural settings - she's always outdoors in a beautiful landscape - and the easy going personality of the trainer.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Deryk Schlessinger is either as mean as his mother, or someone's out to get him

Dr. Laura son linked to lurid Web page

Site contained violent, sex-oriented images one official called 'repulsive'
Seems the little munchkin, a rabid Republican like his ma, enjoys beating up protesters.

More about the apple of his mother's eye on Wonkette.

Laura's sordid history.

Human beings are destroying bees - surprised?

Pesticides, antibiotics, and forced migrations have wiped out bee colonies across North America.

Honey bee crisis tied to farming, expert says

Explanations for the crisis range from the plausible -- over-use of pesticides and the infestation of different kinds of fungus and mites -- to the far-fetched -- that cellphone frequencies are somehow interfering with bees' homing instincts.

Especially when the answer, says Simon Fraser University bee expert Mark Winston, is probably as simple -- and as complex -- as farming itself.

What's to blame, Winston says, is what's wrong with Western agriculture everywhere -- a system that relies on chemicals and over-managed monocultures at the same time as it eschews natural systems and biodiversity.

Or in a nutshell, "it's agriculture practices in general that are at fault," Winston says.

Even the bees used to pollinate most crops in the U.S. -- and to an extent in Canada as well -- aren't even native to North America. Honey bees were imported here in the 15th century by European settlers who missed honey on their toast. Never mind that North America was home to tens of thousands of native bees that had been pollinating native plants for centuries.

They were, in the minds of those settlers, the wrong sorts of bees, so the artificial cultivation of honey bees took over and eventually overtook the wholesale pollination of crops everywhere.

And as soon as you become dependent on one species for anything, you become vulnerable.

But it was the intensification of farming in the mid-20th century, says Winston -- when it ceased to be farming at all, and became agribusiness -- that exacerbated and focused the problem.

Antibiotics were given recklessly to beehives to prevent the onset of disease. And that, says Winston, has led to widespread antibiotic resistance.

(The same system applies in other forms of livestock cultivation, from beef to pork to chicken. In fact, more than two-thirds of all the antibiotics produced in North American today are given to livestock.)

Added to that, chemical pesticides were introduced to beehives to control the spread of mites, says Winston, but with that wholesale use came more resistance.


Since so many native species have been displaced both by a lack of diversity and honey bees imported from Europe, we now live in a world where bees are trucked like migrant workers from one part of North America to another to pollinate crops as they grow. Thus, explains Winston, the same colony of bees might be in Florida in March, California in April and Maine in May.

What's more, this is how most large-scale beekeepers make their money -- by charging farmers "pollination fees" that earn them four or five times as much money as producing honey does.

But the danger of this system, Winston says, is two-fold. First, because bees are allowed to pollinate only a certain kind of crop at a certain time -- first almonds, then apples, then alfalfa, for example -- they don't get the nutrients they would from eating a more varied diet while they pollinate, and that can make them sick and more vulnerable to parasites and other forms of disease.

"A bee will only live 30 to 40 days, so each generation of bee may only be receiving one kind of major pollen source," Winston says.

And finally, there is climate change. When it gets warmer, bees stay active longer.

The problem with that is the longer they're active, the more sugar they consume -- sugar that should be set aside for winter when there is no pollen for them to gather. So they starve to death

Add it all up, Winston says, and is it any wonder bee colonies are collapsing? An agricultural system that turns its back on nature and natural systems is bound to harm the very natural processes it depends on.
We are dandy little creatures, aren't we?

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Dog love

Doesn't this just melt your heart?

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Meet the antithesis of the Bush Administration: the inventor of Mother's Day

Mothers Day was NOT invented by Hallmark. Or by 1-800-FLOWERS or even Sees Candies. In fact, Julia Ward Howe, the woman credited with initiating Mothers Day in 1870, would have been appalled by its crass commercialism. Were she alive today, Julia probably would have told her kids to dispense with the roses and chocolates, and instead join her in an anti-war rally. Yes, Julia Ward Howe was a peacenik.

While best known for writing the Battle Hymn of the Republic and her stance against slavery, Julia was horrified by the carnage and suffering during the Civil War and the economic devastation that followed. She was also heart-broken by the outbreak of war between France and Germany in 1870, with its ominous display of German military might and imperial designs. She used her poetic gift to pen a proclamation against war, a proclamation that birthed Mothers Day.

“Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause,” Julia wrote. “Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs. ” Her solution? Women should gather together to “promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.”

This year on Mothers Day weekend, May 13-14, CODEPINK: Women for Peace is organizing a gathering in Washington DC in the spirit of Julia’s original proclamation. Recognizing that our nation and our world is in crisis and that we, the women, must intervene, we will be gathering for a 24-hour vigil in front of the White House.

We’ll be calling for an end to the occupation of Iraq and for stopping an attack on Iran. We’ll spend our time strategizing about how to promote citywide resolutions, state orders to bring home the National Guard, legislation to cut off funds for the war, campaigns to support disaffected soldiers, global efforts to stop the next war, and people-to-people ties with Iraqis and Iranians. Our weekend plans also include a performance of the historic antiwar play Lysistrata, an evening concert, antiwar films, writing letters to Laura Bush, a pink pajama party, an interfaith service on Sunday morning, and a visit to Walter Reed Hospital to deliver roses to mothers/wives of injured soldiers.

This Mothers Day, we’ll be echoing Julia Ward Howe’s plea: “Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.” Instead of trinkets and breakfast in bed, we’ll be giving our mothers and the mothers around the world the greatest gift: our energy, our passion, our commitment and our determination to stop the violence and build a world without war. (link)

Friday, May 11, 2007

It's the little things that make a gal happy

Like this Trailer Park Boys clip.

Contrary to mythes populaires

Dr. Gabe Mirkin's Fitness and Health e-Zine May 13, 2007

Most Exercisers Do Not Raise Metabolism

Many people believe that exercise controls weight by increasing your metabolism so you burn extra calories all day long. A review of the world's literature from the University of South Australia in Adelaide shows that you have to be in very good shape to exercise vigorously enough to increase your metabolism (Journal of Sports Science, December 2006). This means that most exercisers are not able to exercise hard enough to burn extra calories for a significant time after they finish exercising, so increased post-exercise metabolism does not cause most exercisers to lose weight.

Researchers monitor changes in metabolism by measuring how much oxygen your body uses over a period of time. The maximum amount of oxygen that you can use during exercise in a given time is called VO2max. To increase the amount of oxygen that your body uses after exercising, you must exercise at an intensity of at least 50 percent of your VO2max, which is too much for casual exercisers. You have to exercise very vigorously to increase your oxygen consumption and body temperature for more than a few minutes

This study shows that if a person wants to increase his metabolism for from 3 to 24 hours, he must exercise for more than 50 minutes at 70 percent of his VO2max, or more than 6 minutes at 100 percent of his VO2max. You need to be very fit to be able to exercise at these levels. For most people, weight control depends on more on how long you exercise, and far less on the extra calories that you burn after you finish exercising.
There's no time like now to get started.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Jane Fonda, rockin' at 70. You go girl!

"Jane Fonda...insists [her new] beau is very different from the alpha males she has been attracted to her whole life. Taking a swipe at her ex-husbands Roger Vadim, Tom Hayden and Ted Turner, she adds,"

"Unlike some of my other husbands who will remain nameless, he doesn't suck up all of the oxygen in the room. Like a lot of women, all of my life, I never felt that I could kind of hold my own space. I always thought I had to be with an alpha male that, you know, that would sort of validate me. I could never be validated on my own."

"And I outgrew that. It took me a long time. Into my 60s. But I don't need a man to validate me anymore. I could be with just a really nice guy who is capable of showing up and loving me and that feels really good. It's a nice thing for me to be able to feel this when I will be 70 in December, and, you know, the wisdom is that after a certain age, you can't have a really fulsome sexy, loving relationship. And hey, I'm here to prove that's not true. It just can get better." [link]

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Blaring from the front page of today's paper, a headline too ludicrous to be real

May 8, 2007
Canada boosts pesticide limit
More residue to be allowed on fruit, vegetables to match U.S. levels; current strict rules pose a 'trade irritant'

OTTAWA -- Canada is set to raise its limits on pesticide residues on fruit and vegetables for hundreds of products.

The move is part of an effort to harmonize Canadian pesticide rules with those of the United States, which allows higher residue levels for 40 per cent of the pesticides it regulates.

Differences in residue limits, which apply both to domestic and imported food, pose a potential "trade irritant," said Richard Aucoin, chief registrar of the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, which sets Canada's pesticide rules.
EVEN THOUGH science suspects pesticides are contributing to the decline in bee and songbird populations.

Oh, but do read on and weep as you go, for even Indonesia has a better track record than Canada and the EU is way ahead in banning pesticides.
Comparing 40 U.S. limits with those set by Canada, the European Union, Australia and the World Health Organization, [David Boyd, an environmental lawyer and author of a 2006 study of international pesticide regulations] found the U.S. had the weakest rules for more than half of the pesticide uses studied.

In some cases the differences were dramatic: The U.S. allows 50 times more vinclozolin on cherries as the E.U., and 100 times as much lindane on pineapples.

Canada fared no better: For permethrin on leaf lettuce and spinach, the Canadian and U.S. limit was 400 times higher than in Europe, and the Canadian cap on methoxychlor was 1,400 times the European limit.

Both countries also allow pesticides that have been banned not only in Europe but also in some developing countries, Boyd noted.

Methamidophos, for example, is permitted in Canada but banned in Indonesia and other developing nations, he found.
(We must be well and truly mad. But what else is new?)

A Pennsylvania bee farmer has a theory that genetically modified crops engineered to produce a naturally occurring pesticide are either killing off the bees or negatively affecting their immune systems.

Anything's possible because, really, Big-Agri doesn't know what the hell it's doing when it messes with Mother Nature, except that what it does increases profits in the short term. Ooops, there go the insects we depend on to have crops....oh well.

(God couldn't have created man, it would have been counterintuitive.)

I love Heather Mallick, but I think this may be a false nostalgia

Resigned to stay
Whither the principle of ministerial responsibility?
May 7, 2007

"I resign. I did my job badly. I take responsibility for my shortcomings."

I only have it in quotes out of a mad hope that one day someone might actually say such a thing. But they won't.

As of this writing (I include this qualifying phrase because my middle name is Pollyanna), I await the resignation of the following:
  • Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor for his professed ignorance that prisoners handed over to Afghan forces by Canadians were being tortured.

  • Gen. Rick Hillier for his rush to sign the handover agreement in the first place.

  • U.S. Attorney-General Alberto Gonzalez for politically wringing-out federal attorneys and then forgetting about it while under oath.

  • World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz for twisting bank rules to pay the one woman on the planet willing to sleep with him.

  • Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for defying his nation's contempt (a banner in a huge demonstration reads "You failed, go home") over the Lebanon disaster.

  • Former CIA director George Tenet, who won't even give back his Medal of Freedom for puffing up a war that he knew at the time was based on false intelligence.
The list goes on.


Nora Ephron wrote in the Huffington Post last week that she could not remember anyone resigning over a point of principle since Attorney General Elliot Richardson quit 33 years ago rather than fire a prosecutor at Nixon's request.

I admire Ephron, but it saddens me to see how the myth of American exceptionalism infects even their cleverest citizens. In 1982, after the Argentinian invasion of the Falklands, Lord Carrington quit over the failure of the Foreign Office to foresee the event. So there.

Still, I take her point. People stopped quitting. They hung in there. They stayed if they thought they could get away with it, weathered the storm, and embraced the passive tense, as in the eternal "mistakes were made."

And, amazingly, from the Bonfire of the Vanities 1980s through the late '80s era of mass layoffs (to raise stock prices and CEOs' salaries) to the current era of the hedge fund, neither politicians nor businessmen quit because they were incompetent or venal, or, dare I say it, sufficiently rich.

Nobody resigned over anything, ever.

Why should this be?
You get the point, but read on if the post is still up. I can't think of a time when a politician or CEO or anyone up to his neck in lies, deceit and avarice owned up at the first opportunity. They resign the moment they realize it's the only viable option available.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Mud Spa

Dulary gets down!

Yes, Dulary appears to be enjoying Sanctuary life.

Dulary's old life documented here. Not a pretty picture.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Made in China? I think I'll pass

First it was melamine in pet food, then melamine in the feed given to chickens being bred for human consumption, and now it's contaminated pharmaceuticals.

The syrupy poison, diethylene glycol, is an indispensable part of the modern world, an industrial solvent and prime ingredient in some antifreeze.

It is also a killer. And the deaths, if not intentional, are often no accident.

Over the years, the poison has been loaded into all varieties of medicine — cough syrup, fever medication, injectable drugs — a result of counterfeiters who profit by substituting the sweet-tasting solvent for a safe, more expensive syrup, usually glycerin, commonly used in drugs, food, toothpaste and other products.

Toxic syrup has figured in at least eight mass poisonings around the world in the past two decades. Researchers estimate that thousands have died. In many cases, the precise origin of the poison has never been determined. But records and interviews show that in three of the last four cases it was made in China, a major source of counterfeit drugs.

Panama is the most recent victim. Last year, government officials there unwittingly mixed diethylene glycol into 260,000 bottles of cold medicine — with devastating results. Families have reported 365 deaths from the poison, 100 of which have been confirmed so far. With the onset of the rainy season, investigators are racing to exhume as many potential victims as possible before bodies decompose even more.

Panama’s death toll leads directly to Chinese companies that made and exported the poison as 99.5 percent pure glycerin. (New York Times)
Here's the problem with unrestricted, unregulated global capitalism: people will do anything to make or save a dollar and they don't give a rat's ass if the planet is polluted beyond all recognition in the process or if the ingredients disable or kill people. China's safety regulations are lax beyond belief and countries importing ingredients aren't testing them for quality or safety.
Forty-six barrels of the toxic syrup arrived via a poison pipeline stretching halfway around the world. Through shipping records and interviews with government officials, The New York Times traced this pipeline from the Panamanian port of Col√≥n, back through trading companies in Barcelona, Spain, and Beijing, to its beginning near the Yangtze Delta in a place local people call “chemical country.”

The counterfeit glycerin passed through three trading companies on three continents, yet not one of them tested the syrup to confirm what was on the label. Along the way, a certificate falsely attesting to the purity of the shipment was repeatedly altered, eliminating the name of the manufacturer and previous owner. As a result, traders bought the syrup without knowing where it came from, or who made it. With this information, the traders might have discovered — as The Times did — that the manufacturer was not certified to make pharmaceutical ingredients. (New York Times)

An examination of the two poisoning cases last year — in Panama and earlier in China — shows how China’s safety regulations have lagged behind its growing role as low-cost supplier to the world. It also demonstrates how a poorly policed chain of traders in country after country allows counterfeit medicine to contaminate the global market.
Libertarians and conservatives who advocate free unrestricted trade and believe corporations will regulate themselves, are idiots. The market can't be fucking trusted, ever. Our safety depends on strict incorruptible regulation. If don't have that, we will end up with this.

Can't wait to see this little gem.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Elephant sandwich

Rough and tumble Misty (center left) stands protectively close to Dulary (center right). They are fast becoming best friends. After all Misty's been through in the dreadful circus industry I could hug her to pieces. She's constantly joyful. Winkie and Sissy, another bonded pair, stand on either side.

It must be amazing to work and live with these animals.
All the news here.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Another pachyderm arrives in paradise

Asian elephant Dulary (left) is befriended by Tarra, the Elephant Sanctuary's first resident and official greeter of all newcomers, and the first Asian elephant Dulary has seen in over 40 years. The heartwarming story of Dulary's journey from zoo to sanctuary can be read here.

Dulary explores a fraction of her new 2700-acre world.

Here she'll find forest, pastures, hills, and a 25-acre lake where catfish jump and one beaver nests. She'll share this land with wild deer, coyotes and turkeys, rescued dogs and cats, and human caregivers whose sole purpose is looking after the animals who live here. She'll have access to a spacious, solar-heated barn filled with natural light whenever she decides she needs it. But for now, it seems, Dulary is content to sleep under the stars with her new family.

Kudos and then some to the Philadelphia zoo who listened and put the needs of their elephants first.

All Chuck needs is a pill box hat and he’ll look like JFK’s girlfriend

Demure eyes and lady-like.

Another photo of the day:

An octopus named Octi attempts to open a bottle using its tentacles to get to the food inside at the National Aquarium of New Zealand in the town of Napier.