Monthly Archives: January 2013

Cats: Great Killing Machines

I would have never expected this — very interesting reading:

Cats kill billions of birds every year and even more tiny rodents and other mammals in the United States, a new study finds.

According to the research, published on Jan. 29 in the journal Nature Communications, cats kill between 1.4 billion and 3.7 billion birds and between 6.9 billion and 20.7 billion small mammals, such as meadow voles and chipmunks.

Though it’s hard to know exactly how many birds live in the United States, the staggering number of bird deaths may account for as much as 15 percent of the total bird population, said study co-author Pete Marra, an animal ecologist with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.

Staggering toll

Marra and his colleagues are looking at human-related causes for bird and wildlife deaths in the country, from windmills and glass windows to pesticides.

But first, Marra and his team looked at the impact of the feline population, one of the biggest putative causes of bird demise in the country.

While past studies had used critter cams or owner reports to estimate the number of birds killed by cats, those studies were usually small and not applicable to the entire country, Marra told LiveScience.

For this broader analysis, the team first looked at all prior studies on bird deaths and estimated that around 84 million owned-cats live in the country, many of which are allowed outdoors. [In Photos: America’s Favorite Pets]

“A lot of these cats may go outside and go to 10 different houses, but they go back to their house and cuddle up on Mr. Smith’s lap at night,” Marra said.

Based on an analysis of past studies, the researchers estimated that each of those felines killed between four and 18 birds a year, and between eight and 21 small mammals per year.

But the major scourges for wildlife were not those free-ranging, owned-cats, but instead feral and un-owned cats that survive on the streets. Each of those kitties — and the team estimates between 30 million and 80 million of them live in the United States — kills between 23 and 46 birds a year, and between 129 and 338 small mammals, Marra said.

And, it seems, the small rodents taken by felines aren’t Norway rats or apartment vermin, but native rodent species such as meadow voles and chipmunks, he added.

Mother Nature Network

I’d never suspect that this was the case.

Mobsters Benefit From Environmentalist Subsidies

Apparently, the largest Italian mafia syndicate invested greatly into renewable energy — this would also undoubtedly be because there are guaranteed profits when you have governments set on investing in the future:

The still-emerging links of the mafia to the once-booming wind and solar sector here are raising fresh questions about the use of government subsidies to fuel a shift toward cleaner energies, with critics claiming that huge state incentives created excessive profits for companies and a market bubble ripe for fraud. China-based Suntech, the world’s largest solar panel maker, last month said it would need to restate more than two years of financial results because of allegedly fake capital put up to finance new plants in Italy. The discoveries here also follow “eco-corruption” cases in Spain, where a number of companies stand accused of illegally tapping state aid.

Washington Post

I cannot fault governments with an interest in developing solar and windpower but naturally without oversight these things just become huge fiascoes.

Chicago Professional Gets 14 Years For Terrorism

The scariest part about the whole thing is that the fellow is not a common laborer with no education to speak of that was sucked into some terror plot… He was a veritable professional and a doctor who has demonstrated that he clearly has allied himself with the extreme Islamist groups that have it in their interest to carry out terror plots on foreign lands:

Throughout Thursday’s sentencing, Tahawwur Rana’s children appeared nervous, his college student son bouncing his leg rapidly and his daughter, a high schooler, leaning forward with her hands clasped tightly.

After all, their father, a former doctor and businessman who was convicted in one of Chicago’s most significant terrorism cases, now faced up to 30 years in prison for aiding and abetting a plot to slay and behead Danish newspaper staffers because of cartoons the paper published of the Prophet Muhammad. Rana also had been convicted of providing support to Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistani terrorist organization.

But at the end of the 90-minute hearing, the brother and sister left the crowded courtroom appearing much relieved — their faces visibly softened — after U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber sentenced Rana to 14 years in prison, a little less than half of the maximum.

David Coleman Headley, Rana’s childhood friend who pleaded guilty in both the Danish and Mumbai cases, was the government’s star witness at the three-week trial. Headley’s testimony about the inner workings of Lashkar provided a rare insight into an international terrorist network. He faces up to life in prison when he is sentenced next week.

At trial, evidence showed that Rana supported the Danish plot by letting Headley pose as an employee of Rana’s Far North Side immigration business while Headley scouted the Jyllands-Posten newspaper in Copenhagen in advance of the attack. The plot was never carried out.

Rana, a Pakistan native, immigrated to the United States from Canada. He worked as a doctor before settling into Chicago, where he set up several businesses and raised three children with his wife. She did not attend Thursday’s sentencing because immigration officials stopped her earlier this month when she tried to re-enter the U.S. after a family trip to Canada, according to Rana’s lawyers.

Chicago Tribune

Just so we are all on the same page: David Coleman Headley was born  Daood Gilani and while he has an American mother he has not really lived that American of a life. He changed his name to that later. Although he was in and out of the US, he persistently had cultural conflicts with Americans leading to a number of issues (source).

It is intriguing how these things seem to come all together — and how the Chicago Tribune has decided to call Gilani as Coleman, perhaps in some attempt to make the accused sound less guilty and more like a normal person who was just caught with his pants down while trying to merely help a childhood friend, and not a hot headed, cold hearted supporter of international terrorism.

Soda Companies Addressing Fatness

I love articles like this where it shows that the major corporations that provide us with food products are somehow trying to enter the dialog on fatness (obesity):

Fizzy-drink giant Coca-Cola is set to launch a new advert addressing obesity for the first time on television.

The two-minute commercial highlights the firm’s record of making low-calorie drinks and reminds viewers all foods contain calories.

The ad, which airs on US cable networks on Monday, follows mounting pressure on the soft drinks industry.

New York City is preparing to ban large sugary drinks in restaurants, cinemas and stadiums.

Coca-Cola has said the video was not made in response to criticism of the soft drink industry, but is an effort to raise awareness.

It is not the first time the Atlanta-based firm has used advertising to address this issue, but it is a first for television.

‘Damage control’“There’s an important conversation going on about obesity out there, and we want to be a part of the conversation,” Stuart Kronauge, general manager of sparkling beverages for Coca-Cola North America, told the Associated Press.

BBC

Frankly, this has little to do with Coca Cola and more to do with the choices that Americans and Westerners have been making as a whole — we are not exercising and eating enough of the right foods. I do not think we can place the blame squarely at Coca-Cola’s feet and it is almost as if they are admitting that they have been overly successful in winning over the market and, apparently, turning you into a fatty.

The nanny state is trying to kick in and even ban these sugary sodas but I doubt this will stay because at the end of the day we all do have some sense of personal responsibility…. don’t we?

A Shift In The South Korean Economy?

An interesting article — economics is  not my strong suit but I particularly found President elect Park Geun-hye’s words at the end to be of interest and worthy of me to archive away here as well as share with all of you who may have an interest in the South Korean economy:

(Reuters) – Japan’s drive to weaken the yen poses a threat to big South Korean exporters such as Hyundai Motor, but the new government in Seoul may not want to do too much about it – a firming won could actually make the economy stronger.

The yen tumbled by some 10 percent against the dollar in the December quarter as the won was rising, depressing the shares of big Korean exporters, a swing in the exchange rate that traditionally set off alarm bells in Seoul over worries about the potential impact on sales to the rest of the world.

However, Korean officials have signaled a new willingness to tolerate a higher won, partly to reflect a record current account surplus but also to help the economy shift away from a reliance on exports.

President-elect Park Geun-hye, who takes office late next month, has said Korea’s export-led economic model was now outdated. Exporters no longer provide sufficient jobs, so she will focus on building up domestic industries.

Reuters

I can see that theoretically the manufacturing sector of South Korea is shifting greatly away from the ‘cheap export’ days of old. I am thinking that the success which they have had in manufacturing more high end products and electronics could have contributed greatly to this (potential) shift in policy we will see.

중국의 대기오염 문제가 악화하고 있다

내 생각보다 훨씬 더 나쁘다:

[타이베이 연합뉴스] 베이징을 비롯한 중국 중부를 뒤덮은 극심한 스모그 현상이 나흘째 계속되면서 호흡기 및 심혈관 질환 환자가 급증하고 마스크 품귀현상이 나타나는 등 파장이 확산되고 있다.

베이징대(大) 병원 심장과 부과장인 딩룽징은 “대기 오염이 극심해진 지난 11일부터 병원 응급실에 오는 심장발작 환자 수가 대략 두 배가 됐다”고 밝혔다고 블룸버그 통신 등이 14일 전했다.

베이징 아동병원에서는 지난주 외래 환자의 30%가 호흡기 질환 환자였으며, 허베이·허난·장시성 등 스모그로 시달리는 여타 중부 지방에서도 어린이 호흡기 환자가 대폭 늘었다고 관영 인민일보가 보도했다.

베이징 시내의 지름 2.5㎛ 이하 초미세먼지(PM2.5) 농도는 12일 한때 세계보건기구(WHO) 기준치의 약 40배인 993㎍/㎥까지 치솟았다. 이날 오전 6시 현재도 500㎍/㎥의 극히 높은 수준을 유지했다.

그린피스 동아시아 기후·에너지 캠페인 책임자인 리얀은 “베이징에서도 이 정도로 높은 대기오염 수준은 심한 것”이라고 말했다.

영남일보

지금 많은 사람들이 지구온난화에 대해 논의하고 있지만 보통 오염에도 큰 문제가 있다.

조금 재미있는 점은: 미국의 미디어에 나오지 않은 시사이다. 내가 보통 구글뉴스 웹사이트로 새로운 뉴스를 읽어보지만 이 이야기가 미국-영어 페이지에 나오지 않았다. 아마도 미국의 미디어가 이런 심각한 문제에 관심이 없는 것 같다. 아직도 그냥 센디 후크 학교 대학살에 대한 뉴스가 많이 나오고 있다.

Military Suicides Top Combat Deaths

A remarkably sad story in the sense that military suicides are quite a tragedy we have to tackle. We have to get to the center of the idea as to why the soldiers are killing themselves in such large numbers — enough so that the mental health issues of the US military itself are more deadly than the terrorists and insurgents which they fight in Iraq:

The U.S. military lost more service members to suicide than combat last year as the number of troops who took their lives rose to a record high.

The 349 active-duty suicides in 2012 underscored the toll a decade of wars has taken on the all-volunteer force and the extent to which the Pentagon continues to grapple with an issue senior leaders have called an epidemic. Comparatively, 229 troops were killed in combat in Afghanistan last year, according to a Washington Post tally.

The Pentagon has been tracking active-duty suicides since 2001. The military began expressing acute concern when deaths began rising in 2006, and it has rolled out numerous initiatives to encourage service members battling depression or post-traumatic stress to seek help.

The number of suicides had peaked at 310 in 2009 but hit a new record last year, according to end-of-year figures military officials provided Monday. Military officials said the numbers might be slightly revised when 2012 deaths are fully investigated later this year.

Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta expressed frustration last summer as the military started seeing roughly one suicide per day. The rate of service members taking their lives remains slightly lower than that of the general population, but officials say it is nonetheless unacceptably high.

In an effort to curb the trend, the military has hired more behavioral health-care providers, embarked on a long-term study of mental health for uniformed personnel and expanded the reach of a crisis line.

“We are deeply concerned about suicide in the military, which is one of the most urgent problems facing the department,” Pentagon spokeswoman Cynthia O. Smith said. “We are committed to taking care of our people, and that includes doing everything possible to prevent suicides in the military.”

The Marine Corps, which had notable success lowering its suicide rate over the past two years, saw its 2012 number rise by 50 percent to 48 suicides, the steepest percentage increase among the services. The force’s number of attempted suicides last year, 179, also marked a record high.

The Washington Post

It is hard to know where to begin with the issues of the military’s suicide rate more and more representing the civilian population’s. It could be correlated with a lowering of military standards — in order to have more troops in for the GWOT (Global War On Terror) conflicts many standards were lowered.  It seems like it might be  more likely for this to be an issue, because:

While researchers suggest that the stresses caused by deployments to Iraq or Afghanistan have contributed to increased risk, 90 percent of suicides occurred among troops who had no combat history — and nearly one-third of suicides in the military occurred among those who had not deployed even once.

Huffington Post

Not being able to create a clear link between this rise of suicides and combat in GWOT puts us all in a tough situation of not really knowing if there could be a direct cause.

I am guessing this has to only be chocked up to those unknowable fluctuations in military culture in particular and the American culture as a whole.

I’ll be sure to continue following the story in 2013.

Rare Strike At Chinese Newspaper

It is quite amazing to think that the Chinese journalists are striking against censorship. I am assuming that with the new leadership in China there is an effort to theoretically test their willingness to crackdown on those who desire the free press:

China newspaper journalists stage rare strike

Journalists at a major Chinese paper, Southern Weekly, have gone on strike in a rare protest against censorship.

The row was sparked last week when the paper’s New Year message calling for reform was changed by propaganda officials.

Staff wrote two letters calling for the provincial propaganda chief to step down. Another row then erupted over control of the paper’s microblog.

Supporters of the paper have gathered outside its office, reports say.

The row erupted after a New Year message which had called for guaranteed constitutional rights was changed by censors into a piece that praised the Communist Party.

In response, the newspaper’s journalists called for the Guangdong propaganda chief’s resignation, accusing him of being “dictatorial” in an era of “growing openness”.

BBC (special thanks to Siberian Fox for finding this on PoFo)

It sounds like people are extremely hopeful that the Chinese government will be changing for the better. I will try to keep following this story as much as I possibly can.  However, it is hard to always follow stories like these. Sometimes they just sort of disappear from the news as things have a way of doing in China.

Obama Tries To Reel In Hollywood

Usually we hear about how the Christian far right is obsessed with censorship but here you have it — Obama, while not moving to censor anything, is strongly suggesting that violence in film be stopped:

Film, TV and cable sector lobbyists met with Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday night to discuss efforts to curb gun violence, but it was unclear what more Washington could do to force the entertainment industry to temper the blood and guts.

The 2 ½-hour meeting included presentations from companies and trade associations about how they already self-regulate or provide parents the tools to protect children from violent or racy content — such as voluntary ratings systems for movies and TV shows.

“The entertainment community appreciates being included in the dialogue around the Administration’s efforts to confront the complex challenge of gun violence in America,” the attendees said in a joint statement late Thursday. “This industry has a longstanding commitment to provide parents the tools necessary to make the right viewing decisions for their families. We welcome the opportunity to share that history and look forward to doing our part to seek meaningful solutions.”

Politico

I love how Hollywood is acting like they are all ready to… do something?

I like how everyone thinks that they are going to… do something?

Heh.