Giant invasive snakes settling into the United States

Burmese python on her nest with eggs

Five giant non-native snake species would pose high risks to the health of ecosystems in the United States should they become established here, according to a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) report.

The USGS report details the risks of nine non-native boa, anaconda and python species that are invasive or potentially invasive in the United States. Because all nine species share characteristics associated with greater risks, none was found to be a low ecological risk. Two of these species are documented as reproducing in the wild in South Florida, with population estimates for Burmese pythons in the tens of thousands.

Based on the biology and known natural history of the giant constrictors, individuals of some species may also pose a small risk to people, although most snakes would not be large enough to consider a person as suitable prey. Mature individuals of the largest species—Burmese, reticulated, and northern and southern African pythons—have been documented as attacking and killing people in the wild in their native range, though such unprovoked attacks appear to be quite rare, the report authors wrote. The snake most associated with unprovoked human fatalities in the wild is the reticulated python. The situation with human risk is similar to that experienced with alligators: attacks in the wild are improbable but possible.

“This report clearly reveals that these giant snakes threaten to destabilize some of our most precious ecosystems and parks, primarily through predation on vulnerable native species,” said Dr. Robert Reed, a coauthor of the report and a USGS invasive species scientist and herpetologist…

The USGS scientists who authored the report emphasized that native U.S. birds, mammals, and reptiles in areas of potential invasion have never had to deal with huge predatory snakes before—individuals of the largest three species reach lengths of more than 20 feet and upwards of 200 pounds. The reticulated python is the world’s longest snake, and the green anaconda is the heaviest snake. Both species have been found in the wild in South Florida, although breeding populations are not yet confirmed for either.

Breeding populations have been confirmed in South Florida for Burmese pythons and the boa constrictor, and there is strong evidence that the northern African python may have a breeding population in the wild as well.

Profit-based regulations along with officials who ignore the inherent thoughtlessness of “pet” owners is delivering the expected result. Non-native species capable of wiping out everything in their path.

Including small children.

Republicans want undocumentados kept off census

A controversial amendment that would require the Census Bureau to ask for the first time whether people are in the USA illegally is headed for a Senate vote.

Proposed last week by Republican Sens. David Vitter of Louisiana and Bob Bennett of Utah, the amendment would exclude illegal immigrants from the population count used to allocate congressional seats after the 2010 Census. It also would require the Census to ask people whether they are citizens…

The amendment comes less than six months before 2010 Census questionnaires are mailed to 135 million households. About 425 million forms have already been printed, according to the bureau. Some are in different languages; others are duplicates that will go to houses that do not respond to the first mailing.

The Census Bureau is launching an outreach campaign to persuade Americans that next year’s national head count will be a simple, painless process.

Well, it would have been painless if it wasn’t for the xenophobia and hopes at vote-getting by Republicans. I guess they’re giving up on getting any Hispanic votes at all – the way they’re going about it.

Since the first Census in 1790, the bureau has routinely asked in various surveys whether people are native-born or foreign-born, but it has never asked about legal status.

Immigrants often are the hardest to count because many mistrust government, especially if they are in the USA illegally. Crackdowns on illegal immigration at the border and at work sites have made outreach for next year’s Census even more challenging.

Republicans whine about the Census being too intrusive – unless their own needs are the root cause of the intrusion.

Louisiana has lost lots of Black folks since Katrina and the FEMA disaster that followed. Enough so the state might lose a Congress-critter. That’s scary because redistricting might sort gerrymandered districts invented to keep Republicans in office.

Meanwhile, Federal funds allocated to policing, schools and hospital emergency rooms are based on population – not bigoted bickering.

Ford hybrid sales have risen 73 percent in the last year

Last year at this time, Ford Motor Company was not yet selling the Ford Fusion or Mercury Milan hybrids. These two models have proven to be quite popular, and are a regular bright spot in Ford’s sales reports. In fact, compared to the hybrids that Ford was offering 12 months ago (like the Escape), sales of the company’s gas-electric vehicles are up 73 percent, thanks to the Fusion and Milan models. So far this year, through September, Ford has sold 26,016 hybrids.

Ford says that over 60 percent of the people who bought a Fusion hybrid were, before the sale, not Ford owners. In fact, Ford says that 52 percent of Fusion buyers had previously owned an import vehicle. Considering the good reviews that the Fusion hybrid has received thus far, having this particular model be someone’s introduction to the Blue Oval is a darn good thing for the team in Dearborn.

This article includes the entire PR release from Ford detailing lots more info. Their Fleet Program is especially interesting.

I don’t doubt there still are state government and corporations who will purchase SUV’s and lead sleds for their staff just to demonstrate their religious faith in voodoo economics and outdated design standards. They are ethically and fiscally bankrupt. The latter follows the former.

Brit Tabloids suckered by cosmetic surgery hoax

Three tabloid newspapers have been secretly filmed at meetings they thought were concerned with the possible purchase of private medical information about public figures who had undergone cosmetic surgery.

The Sunday Mirror, News of the World and People were caught in the sting after they were approached by an undercover documentary-maker. He claimed to have a contact working as an administrative nurse in what was in fact a fictitious cosmetic surgery clinic.

The newspapers were offered the chance to obtain confidential medical information about famous clients of the clinic, including actors Hugh Grant, Gemma Arterton, Rhys Ifans and Ricky Gervais. There is no evidence any of the celebrities received consultations for surgery, and the filmmaker, Chris Atkins, said he came up with the hoax to test “how far tabloid journalists are prepared to go” in pursuit of intrusive information.

The response of three tabloids, which sent journalists to meet the undercover documentary-maker, ranged from cautious expressions of interest to an offer of £3,000 for every story printed and a request for the nurse to obtain a “document on everything” held at the clinic.

A fourth Sunday tabloid, the Sunday Express, refused to meet Atkins, telling him his proposal breached the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) code, could be deemed illegal and constituted “a gross breach of ethics”.

The documentary, Starsuckers, will open at the London Film Festival this month before going on show at independent cinemas across the country.

Always a heartwarming treat to see thugs and hustlers trapped in their own slime.

Financial services regulation coming – lobbyists get wedgie

Bachus [R] and Frank [D] receive the most million$ from financial sector
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Kicking off the latest chapter of this year’s Full Employment Act for K Street Lobbyists, representatives from a surfeit of industries descended on an influential Congressional committee as it began writing law overhauling the nation’s regulatory system.

In a lobbying season already booming with business from battles over health care, firms are also closely monitoring the debate over Washington’s response to the market crisis. The financial services industry has poured more than $220 million into lobbying in 2009, much of it in anticipation of this Congressional effort now beginning. As usual for major financial services legislation, lawmakers have heard an earful from small community banks and large Wall Street banks, as well as from insurance companies, credit card companies, credit unions, mutual funds and hedge funds…

Gazing across a hearing room jammed Wednesday morning with lobbyists and lawyers, Representative Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts and the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, made an observation about a proposed amendment that some lobbyists interpreted as a comment about the keen interest of their clients.

Watching sausage being made and watching legislation being made isn’t always attractive,” Mr. Frank said.

Even though President Obama vowed to change the culture of corporate influence on Washington, the administration has contributed, albeit inadvertently, to making this a banner year for lobbyists. As the White House has awakened the alphabet soup of federal agencies from their deregulatory slumber of the previous eight years, lobbying shops have emerged to fight for their clients’ newfound interests.

In the case of financial overhaul legislation, the corporate interests have particular sway with moderate and conservative Democrats, whose votes are essential for the legislation to progress through Congress. So far the lobbyists have been moderately successful in influencing the contours of the legislation, judging by the ever-growing list of exemptions from tougher oversight of derivatives and from supervision by the proposed consumer financial protection agency.

In other words, as much as we hope to have gained by electing someone to clean house, we still have to remove the rest of the vermin from the nest.

Business as usual in Congress – since the 1994 Contract on America – is how we received the extra dose of “screw the citizens of America” from the lawyers and professional corporate pimps sitting in control of our government. Everyone from the Chamber of Commerce to your friendly neighborhood realtor is trying to prevent oversight of fraudulent practices.

What’s in a corpse? Ask the three countries fighting over Mother Theresa’s.

India has rejected a demand by the Albanian government for the return of the remains of Nobel laureate Mother Teresa, buried in the city of Calcutta.

“Mother Teresa was an Indian citizen and she is resting in her own country, her own land,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Vishnu Prakash said.

A spokeswoman for the nun’s Missionaries of Charity described the Albanian request as “absurd”.

Mother Teresa, an ethnic Albanian, was born in Skopje, now part of Macedonia.

Correspondents say that the row over her resting place could develop into an ugly three-way squabble between India, where she worked most of her life, Albania where her parents came from and Macedonia where she lived the first 18 years of her life.

The row is expected to intensify by August next year – the 100th anniversary of Mother Teresa’s birth – by which time many commentators expect her to have been canonised as a saint.

The ethnic Albanian nun, who was known as the “Saint of the Gutters” for her work among the poor of Calcutta, was given Indian citizenship in 1951….

After her death in September 1997, Mother Teresa was buried at the Calcutta headquarters of the Missionaries of Charity (MoC), which is now a pilgrimage site.

Maybe they could bring her to Memphis to co-star with Elvis?

Is California getting ready to ban big-screen TV’s?

150″ Panasonic “Life Wall”

The influential lobby group Consumer Electronics Assn. is fighting what appears to be a losing battle to dissuade California regulators from passing the nation’s first ban on energy-hungry big-screen televisions…

“Voluntary efforts are succeeding without regulations,” said Doug Johnson, the association’s senior director for technology policy. Too much government interference could hamstring industry innovation and prove expensive to manufacturers and consumers, he warned…

The association’s views weren’t shared by everyone in the TV business. Representatives of some TV makers, including top-seller Vizio Inc. of Irvine, said they would have little trouble complying with tighter state standards without substantially increasing prices…

“We would not propose TV efficiency standards if we thought there was any evidence in the record that they will hurt the economy,” said Commissioner Julia Levin, who has been in charge of the two-year rule-making procedure. “This will actually save consumers money and help the California economy grow and create new clean, sustainable jobs…”

California’s estimated 35 million TVs and related electronic devices account for about 10% of all household electricity consumption, the Energy Commission staff reported. But manufacturers quickly are coming up with new technologies that are making even 50-inch-screen models much more economical to operate.

New features, such as light-emitting diodes that consume tiny amounts of power, special reflective films and sensors that automatically adjust TV brightness to a room’s viewing conditions, are driving down electricity consumption, experts said.

I’m saving my pennies, now, waiting for LED-full backlit LCD’s to get down to affordable – for me. I’m not an early adopter on TV sets. But, the set I have in mind will use about 30% less electricity than the critter currently inhabiting the entertainment corner of our living room.

Oh, the Panasonic “Life Wall” up top? I could fit it into one end of the living room if I took out the woodburning stove. And I probably wouldn’t need the stove, anymore – after that.