The US Forest Service should change its name to the US Fire Service


Click to enlargeKPCC

Vehicles stopped on Highway 101 in California

This year’s wildfire season has just started, and it’s already bad. The west is still charred from last season’s burns, and hotter weather has been drying out the landscape’s surviving trees. Meanwhile, climate change is making fire season longer. The end result is a monstrous bed of fuel and weather conditions perfect for an apocalyptic season.

And starved of reasonable funding, the agencies charged with staving off the burn are already running into questions of how to pay for fighting the inferno. The problem is simple: Firefighting costs are rising, but funding can’t keep up…

One possible fix? Get really big fires reclassified as natural disasters — which would let the agency dip into bigger pool for the nastiest infernos.

“If you look at all the fires in a year, 1 percent — the big ones — account for 30 percent of suppression costs,” says Robert Bonnie, Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment. “These expenditures can be treated as natural disasters.” At a June 23 meeting, agency leaders kicked that idea through the latest draft of the Wildfire Budgeting, Response, and Forest Management Act. They’ve been trying this for years, but keep getting stymied by a combative Congress.

Instead, the agency has to borrow money from other forest health programs to help keep fires at bay. Normally, that money would be used to fight invasive insects, clear buildups of undergrowth, and monitor disease outbreaks — things that keep the forest from becoming even more of a tinderbox. But as wildfire conditions worsen, the agency keeps on borrowing more from itself. Two decades ago, firefighting burned through about 16 percent of the agency’s budget. Today, that percentage is around half. “Eventually, the US Forest Service will become the US Fire Service,” says Bonnie.

In the meantime, the vicious fire-borrowing cycle is having a disastrous impact on America’s national forest health. Fungal outbreaks, beetle infestations, and other catastrophes weaken the trees. When those trees die, they become fuel.

Like in California. Last week the USFS announced that the southern Sierra Nevada is cluttered with at least 66 million dead trees, which is bad news for the region’s drought-stressed forests. Dead trees create ladders for fire to climb up and spread through the crown. That’s how the 7,500-acre Sherpa Fire near Santa Barbara threatened to take a chunk out of coastal Los Padres National Forest—before fire season even officially got going…

So, forests are dealing with a new millennium’s fire hazards. But the suppression funding structure is still stuck in the ’90s. According to Bonnie, the current wildfire act will need some serious changes before it stands to reverse wildfire trends…He is hopeful that a revised act will have no trouble getting bipartisan support, but he says Congress would have to act quickly to make anything happen by September. And if they don’t start calling catastrophic burns what they are — natural disasters — the only thing left for the Forest Service to manage will be some dry, bare, charred mountains.

Poisonally, I think Robert Bonnie is stuck in a time warp. One where the threat of civilian death and destruction forces bipartisan action in Congress. He’s talking about getting a bill through that combo of Do-Nothing/Know-Nothing political hacks before the election in November.

Congress – especially the House – just proved they’re not capable of bipartisan legislation against the Zika virus. They only offered a Bill with requirements to defund Planned Parenthood, cut Medicare and Obamacare. A zero-sum definition of Public Health.

Trump promised millions to charity — remove half of those zeros!

Washington Post reporter David Fahrenthold is investigating how much Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has given to charity in recent years. Here’s what he found…

In May, under pressure from the news media, Donald Trump made good on a pledge he made four months earlier: He gave $1 million to a nonprofit group helping veterans’ families.

Before that, however, when was the last time that Trump had given any of his own money to a charity?

If Trump stands by his promises, such donations should be occurring all the time. In the 15 years prior to the veterans donation, Trump promised to donate earnings from a wide variety of his moneymaking enterprises: “The Apprentice.” Trump Vodka. Trump University. A book. Another book. If he had honored all those pledges, Trump’s gifts to charity would have topped $8.5 million.

But in the 15 years prior to the veterans’ gift, public records show that Trump donated about $2.8 million through a foundation set up to give his money away — less than a third of the pledged amount — and nothing since 2009. Records show Trump has given nothing to his foundation since 2008…

In recent weeks, The Post tried to answer the question by digging up records going back to the late 1980s and canvassing a wide swath of nonprofits with some connection to Trump.

That research showed that Trump has a long-standing habit of promising to give to charity. But Trump’s follow-through on those promises was middling — even at the beginning, in his early days as a national celebrity.

In the 1980s, Trump pledged to give away royalties from his first book to fight AIDS and multiple sclerosis. But he gave less to those causes than he did to his older daughter’s ballet school.

In recent years, Trump’s ­follow-through on his promises has been seemingly nonexistent.

The Post contacted 188 charities searching for evidence of personal gifts from Trump in the period between 2008 and this May. The Post sought out charities that had some link to Trump, either because he had given them his foundation’s money, appeared at their charity galas or praised them publicly.

The search turned up just one donation in that period — a 2009 gift of between $5,000 and $9,999 to the Police Athletic League of New York City.

There are a number of credible claims that Trump is a pathological liar. It’s compulsive and he makes no attempt to control his obsession with making himself sound larger than his miserly life really is.

Maybe it’s true after all.

The fools content with voting for him don’t care. About Trump’s lies – or the truth.

Cannabis compound removes Alzheimer’s plaque from brain cells

Alzheimer’s disease may now be added to a list of diseases with promising treatment from cannabis compounds, a new study from the Salk Institute says.

While there has been research and trials to use compounds to treat chronic pain, cancers, epilepsy, and other diseases and illnesses, this laboratory study is the first of its kind to test tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a main component in marijuana, against the plaque buildup of the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease…

What they found was that not only did the THC cause a breakdown of the protein buildup, but a reduction in inflammation in the cells. ​Inflammation is bad because it makes it harder for your neurons to communicate with one another correctly…

This study is also novel because the research also provides a stronger link between protein buildup and the inflammation of the neurons. Some past hypotheses had thought that other immune-like cells had been inflamed, and not the neurons themselves…

Much more study must be conducted before a causal link can be suggested between THC and beta amyloid, the researchers say, including human clinical trials. These exploratory laboratory models are just the beginning.

Plus, there will be the usual crap researchers have to go through just to be able to perform this kind of research. Uncle Sugar is still motoring along with laws decades out of date. Never justified by anything other than religious hysteria, cannabis compounds are still listed as dangerous as heroin and numbnuts in Congress are afraid to challenge such silliness.

Motion capture dance – beauty, dance and digital effects

 
Method Design was tapped by production company RSA to concept and create this year’s AICP Sponsor Reel. The AICP awards celebrate global creativity within commercial production. Method Design wanted to create an entertaining piece of design that encapsulates the innovative and prolific nature of this industry. Our aim was to showcase the AICP sponsors as various dancing avatars, which playfully reference the visual effects used throughout production. Motion capture, procedural animation and dynamic simulations combine to create a milieu of iconic pop dance moves that become an explosion of colorful fur, feathers, particles and more.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

California got enough signatures to allow referendum on legalization of marijuana

Californians are set to decide whether to make recreational marijuana use legal, as other Western states have done, after the California Secretary of State’s office said on Tuesday the issue could be put to voters in the November ballot.

The proposed so-called “Adult Use of Marijuana Act,” which is supported by Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom among others, would allow people aged 21 and older to possess as much as an ounce of marijuana for private recreational use and permit personal cultivation of as many as six marijuana plants…

The measure would also establish a system to license, regulate and tax sales of marijuana, while allowing city governments to exercise local control over or disallow commercial distribution within their borders…

Opinion polls show attitudes have shifted more in favor of liberalized marijuana laws since California voters defeated a recreational cannabis initiative in 2010.

California led the way in legalizing marijuana for medical purposes in 1996, with 22 other states and the District of Columbia following suit, although cannabis remains classified as an illegal narcotic under U.S. law.

Voters in four states – Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska – plus the District of Columbia, have gone a step further since 2012 in permitting recreational use for adults. Voters in several more states will consider similar legislation in November as well.

We’ll have to see if the range of stodgy to backwards politicians here in New Mexico will allow such an opportunity. There are few places where hypocrisy so thoroughly rules a question like smoking or otherwise consuming weed. I’ve witnessed coppers chasing a suspect where neither vehicle was going faster than 25 mph! 🙂

CIA does usual quality job of oversight — weapons for Syrian rebels end up on black market

Weapons shipped into Jordan for Syrian rebels by the Central Intelligence Agency and Saudi Arabia were stolen by Jordanian intelligence operatives and sold to arms merchants on the black market, the New York Times reported…

Some of the stolen weapons were used in a shooting in November that killed two Americans and three others at a police training facility in Amman, according to a joint investigation by the New York Times and Al Jazeera.

A Jordanian officer shot dead two U.S. government security contractors, a South African trainer and two Jordanians at a U.S.-funded police training facility near Amman before being killed in a shootout…

The training facility was set up on the outskirts of the capital, Amman, after the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq to help rebuild the shattered country’s postwar security forces and to train Palestinian Authority police officers.

The weapons used in the shooting had originally arrived in Jordan for the Syrian rebel training program…

Theft of the weapons…has led to a flood of new weapons available on the arms black market…

Jordanian officers who were part of the plan “reaped a windfall” from sale of weapons, using the money to buy iPhones, SUVs and other luxury items, according to the NYT…

The CIA could not be immediately reached for comment.

Maybe the Republican Permanent Committee on Benghazi, Benghazi could investigate. Our Confederate Congress-critters could be counted on to spend several million dollar$ if there’s any chance at all of putting the blame on Democrats instead of the scumbag torture-fans infesting our intelligence services.

Railroad will repair tracks they failed to maintain – after the fiery oil train wreck


Chopper 2/KATU

Union Pacific Railroad said it will replace a type of bolt on its track that led to a fiery oil train derailment on the Oregon-Washington border, but the pledge failed to ease concerns in the tiny town where the wreck sparked a massive fire that burned for 14 hours.

Federal investigators in a preliminary report released Thursday blamed the derailment on Union Pacific for failing to properly maintain its track.

The report flagged broken lag bolts as the immediate cause and said better inspections would have caught the issue. The lag bolt is part of a fastening system that attaches the rail to ties. It prevents the rails from moving too far apart, which can lead to derailments.

Union Pacific faces potential penalties for safety violations, according to the Federal Railroad Administration report.

The document, obtained in advance by The Associated Press, came out a day after Union Pacific announced it would resume running oil trains in the Columbia River Gorge later this week.

The combined news shocked and angered residents in Mosier, a town of about 400 where the train went off the tracks. The June 3 derailment released 42,000 gallons of crude and prompted evacuations…

Advanced electronic brakes proposed by regulators but fought by the railroad industry could have made the derailment less severe, Federal Railroad Administrator Sarah Feinberg said. They could have reduced the number of cars that derailed and prevented the one that first burst into flames from being punctured, officials said.

“We’re talking about upgrading a brake system that is from the Civil War era,” Feinberg said. “It’s not too much to ask these companies to improve their braking systems…”

Union Pacific said blah, blah, blah.

Oregon Democratic Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden asked federal rail regulators to use an emergency provision to stop oil train traffic until the derailment was better understood. Gov. Kate Brown also reiterated her call for a halt to oil train traffic.

People Before Profits ain’t exactly a slogan you hear repeated at a meeting of the Board of Directors of Union Pacific Railroad. Unless, of course, it’s shouted by a protestor just before being removed by armed guards.

China tests new rocket before launch of 2nd space station


Republican version of space exploration

China on Sunday recovered an experimental probe launched aboard a new generation rocket, marking another milestone in its increasingly ambitious space program that envisions a mission to Mars by the end of the decade.

Space program authorities said the spaceship’s landing on the vast Inner Mongolian steppe keeps China on schedule to place its second space station into orbit later this year.

The launch of the spaceship aboard the newly developed Long March 7 rocket on Saturday was hailed as a breakthrough in the use of safer, more environmentally friendly fuels. The launch also marked the first use of the massive new Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on the southern island province of Hainan…

A source of enormous national pride, China’s military-backed space program plans a total of 20 space missions this year at a time when the U.S. and other countries’ programs are seeking new roles

China plans to launch a mission to land a rover on Mars by 2020, attempting to recreate the success of the U.S. Viking 1 mission that landed a rover on the planet four decades ago.

The Republican-controlled Congress has called for further United States research on SUVs weighing over 4 tons and using tractor treads instead of tires. They feel this is a cost-effective alternative to actually repairing our crappy highways.

So – no money for real space rangers.

Preservatives won’t harm you — just look at this 40-year-old Twinkie!

In a glass box in a private school in Maine sits a 40-year-old chemistry experiment still going strong: A decades-old Twinkie.

The experiment started in 1976 when Roger Bennatti was teaching a lesson to his high school chemistry class on food additives and shelf life.

After a student wondered about the shelf life of the snack, Bennatti sent the students to the store with some money. When they returned with the treat, Bennatti ate one and placed the still-surviving Twinkie on the blackboard.

Bennatti has since retired, but the snack now resides in the office of George Stevens Academy’s Dean of Students Libby Rosemeier.

Rosemeier told ABC News she isn’t sure who will inherit the Twinkie when she retires, but joked that the Smithsonian hasn’t called yet.

Eeoouugh.

The Supreme Court rejects restrictions on women’s abortion rights

Reverberations from the U.S. Supreme Court’s major ruling backing abortion rights were felt on Tuesday as the justices rejected bids by Mississippi and Wisconsin to revive restrictions on abortion doctors matching those struck down in Texas on Monday.

The laws in Mississippi and Wisconsin required doctors to have “admitting privileges,” a type of difficult-to-obtain formal affiliation, with a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion clinic. Both were put on hold by lower courts.

The Mississippi law would have shut down the only clinic in the state if it had gone into effect…

In addition, Alabama’s attorney general said late on Monday that his state would abandon defense of its own “admitting privileges” requirement for abortion doctors, in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling.

The laws in Texas, Mississippi, Wisconsin and Alabama are among the numerous measures enacted in conservative U.S. states that impose a variety of restrictions on abortion. But the Supreme Court’s ruling on Monday in the Texas case, providing its most stout endorsement of abortion rights since 1992, could imperil a variety of these state laws.

Conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy joined the court’s four liberals in the 5-3 decision…

Once again, sensible modern jurisprudence matches a population moving beyond ignorance. What’s left behind? True Believers and hate-filled conservatives, Republican and otherwise.

Jennifer Dalven, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, said the action in Mississippi, Wisconsin and Alabama is just the start of the fallout from Monday’s ruling.

“States have passed more than 1,000 restrictions on a woman’s ability to get an abortion. This means for many women the constitutional right to an abortion is still more theoretical than real and there is much more work to be done to ensure that every woman who needs an abortion can actually get one,” Dalven added.

The justices decided that the Texas law placed an undue burden on women exercising their right under the U.S. Constitution to end a pregnancy, established in the court’s landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

Reactionary politicians, careerist time-wasters, are just as convinced that delaying opportunities for free choice will suffice when and where they fail at denying individual liberty altogether. It matters not what the rationale. Such politics deserve the contempt they receive from Americans who reject superstition and ignorance.