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December 2008

The End Is Near: Russian Professor Predicts Collapse of the United States in 2010

The Wall Street Journal reports that a Russian professor predicts the end of the U.S. as we know it. He states that moral decay, economic decline, and unchecked immigration will lead to massive civil unrest. Eventually, he says, the dollar will fail and the country will break up into protectorates of various other countries. (Editor's Note: I want to live in the United States of France!) Check out the map: THE END IS NEAR

CONAN THE CONTRARIAN


Monarch Butterfly Season

800px-Monarch_Butterfly_Danaus_plexippus_Male_2664px

This is the time of year to get out and see migrating monarch butterflies. These beautiful black-and-orange creatures take refuge in eucalyptus groves to rest awhile on their journeys south. The Greater Bay Area is lucky to have several monarch layover spots: San Leandro (1-510-577-6085 or email butterflynaturalist@earthlink.net); Fremont (1-510-796-0199 or visit ebparks.org/parks/ardenwood); Santa Cruz (1-831-423-4609, 1-831-420-5270, 1-831-429-2850); Pacific Grove (1-831-648-5716, 1-831-648-5730 or pgmuseum.org); Point Lobos (1-831-624-4909). Be sure to go on a mild, calm day. The butterflies do not like wind. It is a truly awesome experience to stand in a eucalyptus grove and look up at thousands and thousands of monarchs fluttering in the sunlight and shade. 


California Sues Bush to Block Midnight Deregulation of Endangered-Species Rules

By Samantha Young
Associated Press
Posted: 12/30/2008 12:36:49 PM PST
SACRAMENTO — California has filed suit against the Bush administration to block last-minute endangered species regulations that are intended to reduce input from federal scientists, Attorney General Jerry Brown announced Tuesday.
Brown said the president is trying to gut the Endangered Species Act before he leaves office next month.
"Unfortunately, the Bush administration has had an antipathy to using sound science," Brown said Tuesday in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "This is the latest assault as Bush goes out the door. It's intolerable."
The state's lawsuit was filed late Monday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.
The Interior Department issued the revised rules earlier this month. They allow federal agencies to issue permits for mining, logging and similar activities without getting a review from federal wildlife biologists.
The changes also block agencies from using the Endangered Species Act to consider the effects of greenhouse gas emissions on ecosystems when reviewing projects such as new roads or coal plants on federal land.
Interior Department spokeswoman Tina Kreisher declined to comment on the California lawsuit. She said the revised rules will continue to protect threatened and endangered species.
"The law says that all federal agencies will ensure that no take occurs of a listed species whatever it is they are doing," she said.
Brown is asking the court to block the new rules, which could give the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama time to review them.





Pacifican Giovanna M. Coto Earns Straight-A Honor Roll Status at Oregon State University

CORVALLIS - Names of students who have made the Scholastic Honor Roll Fall term have been announced by Oregon State  University. A total of  576 students earned straight-A (4.0). Another 2,451 earned a B-plus (3.5) or better to make the listing. To be on the Honor Roll, students must carry at least 12 graded hours of course work. Students on the Honor Roll included: Pacifica, Straight-A Average: Giovanna M. Coto, Post Baccalaureate, Zoology.



Opinion: Questions About Whole Energy Fuels Biodiesel Refinery Design and Approval Process

(We asked Whole Energy Fuels representatives to comment on the following opinion piece, but they say they will issue a public update after the first of the new year and prefer not to comment at this time. The following is the writer's own opinion and not that of Riptide.)

The  structure to house the biodiesel refinery plant has been permitted by the City of Pacifica, but the "machinery" (meaning the various tanks, plumbing, and valves that will be the plant) has yet to be fully designed beyond the basic concept illustrations currently provided. The engineer designing the mechanics of the refinery for Whole Energy Fuels (WEF) told me at a private meeting with the WEF team that he was surprised that he was able to conceptually fit a 3-million-gallon-a-year refinery into only 4,000 square feet of building. The recent permit for the plant's structure did not include any engineered drawing for how this elaborate assemblage of vertical storage tanks, automated computer-controlled switching valves, and grease boilers will be housed within the 4,000-square-foot, metal-sided steel beam structure, but the engineer said he conceptually did it by "pushing the envelope" of mandatory safety regulations of 2-foot clearances for spacing between tanks, pipes, boilers. and valves.

Another interesting development in this saga is the closed-session item on  lease terms. We know the lease is for five years, with an additional five-year option at $65,000 a year or its equivalent in "energy." But because lease terms were placed in closed session, we won't know what the terms are because closed session forbids City Council members from openly talking about them. I could be wrong, but because it's a closed-session item, I can't ask questions and get answers.

Finally, the project's initiators' assertions of process being done right are noble, but the history of this project's lack of process makes their otherwise reassuring promises rather doubtful. But that's all water under the bridge. I hope the city and WEF will insist on bringing final engineering drawings for the plant to a public hearing or an agendized consideration item before it is finally approved by the city.

TODD BRAY


Dan Rather Lawsuit Against CBS May Smoke Out Bush Again

DAN RATHER LAWSUIT

CBS newsman's $70m lawsuit likely to deal Bush legacy a new blow

As George W Bush prepares to leave the White House, at least one unpleasant episode from his unpopular presidency is threatening to follow him into retirement. A $70m lawsuit filed by Dan Rather, the veteran former newsreader for CBS Evening News, against his old network is reopening the debate over alleged favourable treatment that Bush received when he served in the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam war. Bush had hoped that this controversy had been dealt with once and for all during the 2004 election.


Pacifica Motorists, Beware! The Buck Stops Here

Deer_lake

It's sad about the deer that got hit in Linda Mar. No reasonable person wants to see an animal suffer, but the statistics on deer/car collisions put this in perspective. Last year, deer/car crashes resulted in 223 driver fatalities and $1 billion in property damages nationwide. The average cost of a (human) non-injury deer crash is $2,600 per collision and with (human) injuries it's more than $11,000. In Michigan, a deer/car collision occurs approximately every eight minutes. (Insurance Information Institute)

The suburban deer population has exploded far beyond herd sizes that would occur in a true wilderness situation. This is because suburbs have zero predators, and hunting in these locations is not practical. Park officials in several states have said that we're losing huge chunks of precious forest ecosystems due to out-of-control deer herds gobbling up rare and endangered plants in wilderness areas and preventing regeneration of native plants. The only solution proven to work is when expert sharpshooters are tasked during nonbreeding season to remove a portion of the females. That will never happen in our area, so what happened in Linda Mar is likely to become a common event, unfortunately.

I read the comments here on Pacifica Riptide about the injured deer. My observations above about culling suburban deer herds may upset a lot of people who equate hunting with the ultimate animal cruelty. Nothing could be further from the truth, I love these animals. What took me aback and made me want to say something was this consensus that the person who hit the deer is clearly a bad person and ought to be vilified. Whereas it does seem more logically kind and moral to have stopped and tried to help the injured deer, it's actually highly discouraged by wildlife experts. The thing to do is to place a call alerting local authorities, and we have no way of knowing if the driver did that. It's possible.

Also, I checked the California penal code, and hitting wildlife is not a crime and there's no legal requirement to stop and/or report it. But taking possession of the injured animal/carcass is specifically  prohibited by law. Only officials can possess an injured or dead animal. For a private citizen to do so constitutes poaching. Finally, auto insurance frequently goes up when a motorist hits a deer, so many deer collisions go unreported.

I hit a deer myself one time. I was driving very slowly and responsibly, but it was dark and the animal just suddenly bounded smack in front of my car. Before I could apply the brakes, I had bumped him hard at the right rear flank. He fell down, flailed around for a second, and ran straight up a steep embankment. I was on a transition road, and there was nothing prudent to do but keep going. I felt just awful about it, but there was nothing more to be done. If anyone saw it, it probably looked like a heartless hit and run, too.

One final thought is that deer/vehicle collisions occur all the time with police and highway patrol officers. A police officer in Tennessee on his way to work was killed when his motorcycle collided with a deer. If someone as highly trained as a law enforcement official can't avoid these situations, it's not likely that we civilians can somehow prevent them either. This is one of those deals where we have to be responsible for our positions. Collectively, as a city, we Pacificans are highly opposed to guns and hunting, therefore we're inevitably going to wound more of these animals with our autos.

I had AAA deer whistles on my car that hit the deer. Unfortunately these things have been proven to be ineffective and may even be harmful, causing a false sense of security in a driver, so do stay vigilant. AAA now has a bulletin to that effect. There's just no substitute for avoiding highways after dark during rutting season, or driving extremely cautiously and with high beams on as much as possible.

To have trained sharpshooters humanely cull the females in the proper season and give the venison to charities that feed the poor would be much, much more responsible than what we do now, which is to treasure every individual animal and then hit them with our cars. The people who lure these animals into their backyards, name them, and give them table scraps or dog kibble are really doing an inhumane thing. Not only are these folks increasing the size of the herd by adding extra calories to the diets of the fertile females, but they're training the animals to stay closer to inhabited areas and to  cars, losing their natural, protective fear of al things human. 

Summary of data on deer whistle studies at WSU: DEER WHISTLES

More info here: DEER WHISTLES

CONAN THE CONTRARIAN


2008's Worst Idea: Burger King "Flame" Cologne (Do You Really Want to Smell Like a Whopper?)

Believe it or not, Burger King is selling “Flame” body spray: “the scent of seduction with a hint of flame-broiled meat.” Available online from Ricky’s costume store in New York City for $3.99, but the shipping charge is way more than the retail price. Buyer beware. And, do you really want to smell like a Whopper?


Sharks in the Water: Don't Get Madoffed, Get Mad

Beware of smooth-talking fundraisers on the phone and online. The California attorney general’s office reports that commercial fundraisers sent less than half the money they collected from Californians in 2007 to the charities the money was supposed to go to. Fundraisers kept the rest, or 56 percent of the money raised, amounting to about $90 million. If you give money to a charity on the phone or online, ask questions and make sure that most of your money is really going to the charity. Legitimate fundraisers will tell you on the phone and on their Web sites how much they take for administrative costs, and the good ones among them usually boast (and rightfully so) about how low their fees are and how well they manage the charities’ money. That’s what you want to look for. Don’t get Madoffed, just get mad.

JOHN MAYBURY
EDITOR & PUBLISHER
PACIFICA RIPTIDE