Milestone: – Companies abandoning Alberta oilsands exploration leases

❝ In another sign the bloom is off the boom for the oilsands, the industry has returned almost one million hectares of northern Alberta exploration leases to the province over the past two years — abandoning an area far bigger than P.E.I.

The total area covered by oilsands leases remained constant at about nine million hectares between 2011 and 2014. But it fell to 8.5 million hectares in 2015 and 8.1 million in 2016, following the crash in world oil prices from over US$100 to under $60 per barrel in 2014.

Most of the returned acreage either represents expired or surrendered leases, according to Alberta Energy, which provided the statistics at the request of The Canadian Press.

❝ Observers were surprised by the size of the lease returns which they attributed to industry cost-cutting and disinterest in spending to develop new prospects when there’s no money to build projects already on the books.

“It costs money to maintain these lands,” said Brad Hayes, president of Petrel Robertson Consulting in Calgary. “You can’t convince shareholders to continue to put that money out if there’s no prospect for success.”

Maybe he should follow the ExxonMobil model and go to work for the Canadian government as Foreign Minister.

Easier to demolish vacant house than to convince vultures to leave

If this keeps up, Philadelphians might want to consider renaming their football team.

The city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections was set to demolish a long-vacant home that residents say has become home to a committee of turkey vultures. Yes, a group of the birds — sometimes also called buzzards — is known as a “committee.”

Christina Ali-Bey says she lives next door to the home and can hear the vultures scratching and walking around all night long, “like a horror movie.”

She’s even afraid the birds will scoop up her tiny dog, Rocco, a teacup Yorkie. Other residents see the birds regularly picking through their trash.

The birds are a protected species, so it’s illegal to harm or kill them.

Perhaps this will serve as a lesson to the city about boarding up – checking to maintain access closed – abandoned housing. Or better yet, put it to temporary use housing the homeless.

Vietnam: 100,000 killed, maimed by American landmines

More than 100,000 Vietnamese have been killed or injured by land mines or other abandoned explosives since the Vietnam War ended nearly 40 years ago, and clearing all of the country will take decades more.

“The war’s painful legacy, which includes hundreds of thousands of tons of bombs and unexploded ordnance, continues to cause painful casualties every day,” Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung told a U.N.-sponsored conference on ways to deal with the problem.

Dung said 42,132 people have been killed and 62,163 others wounded by land mines, bombs and other explosives since the war ended in 1975. The United States used about 16 million tons of bombs and ammunition while allied with the former South Vietnam government, which was defeated by northern communist fighters who reunified the country.

U.S. Ambassador David Shear told the conference that the United States has provided $62 million to help Vietnam cope with “this painful legacy…”

Bui Hong Linh, vice minister of labor, war invalids and social affairs, said explosives remain on about 16 million acres of land, or more than one-fifth of the country.

He said only 740,000 acres or 5 percent of the contaminated area has been cleared and a recently approved government plan calls for clearance of an additional 1.2 million acres that would cost $595 million in the next five years.

Anyone actually expect the government of the United States to assume responsibility for the violence we have wrought upon so many nations? Think a bill offering to aid further in the removal of our munitions from VietNam would get through a Congress that reeks of gold-plated Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats?

Responsible and humane decision-making is an alien concept in Washington politics.

Woman who abandoned newborn now wants custody

Redbelly the dog receiving award from local coppers

A mother imprisoned for lying to police about her pregnancy is battling for custody of the child she left in the yard of a neighbor shortly after his birth.

Nunu Sung is scheduled for parole in January after serving some of a three-year prison term imposed after she pleaded guilty in October 2010 to felony obstruction of justice. In exchange, prosecutors agreed they would not seek to terminate the woman’s parental rights.

However, prosecutors are now involved in terminating Sung’s parental rights to 2-year-old Joshua in favor of a Wheaton couple who are the child’s foster parents.

DuPage Circuit Judge Blanche Hill Fawell said…prosecutors may have erred in making the promise but were legally obligated to get involved in the parental termination proceedings. The judge said Sung’s only option is to file a post-conviction request to reopen her plea and sentence…

Sung’s attorneys said she hid her pregnancy because she was afraid she would be punished and scorned by her family…

A civil attorney appointed by Fawell as Joshua’s guardian filed paperwork to terminate Sung’s parental rights based largely on her abandoning the child…

The newborn was found in June 2009 by a Wheaton man who noticed the baby with its umbilical cord still attached after his dog spotted the child under a tree and barked. Prosecutors alleged the child might have died if he hadn’t been found.

“The baby, who was left outside on the cold, hard ground, had a body temperature in the low 80s and was hypothermic,” Assistant State’s Attorney Anne Therieau wrote earlier this year in court records. “But for a dog, who was let out in the morning hours, this baby would have died.”

Tough decision for lot of folks. I’d come down on the side of the wee’un who’s been living with folks who loved him from the gitgo. It’s nice that Joshua’s natural mother wants to retake the responsibility of raising him – but, she was equally ready to leave him to die.

Madonna’s charity wasted millions – none on the kids

The managers of Madonna’s charity in Malawi have been ousted after they squandered $3.8m on a school that will never be built…The damning audit came as Raising Malawi confirmed that it has scrapped plans for a $15m elite academy for girls.

The charity’s executive director, Philippe van den Bossche, the partner of Madonna’s former personal trainer, left in October after criticism of his management style and spending at the school, according to the New York Times.

“These included what auditors described as outlandish expenditures on salaries, cars, office space and golf course membership, free housing and a car and driver for the school’s director,” the paper said.

In a shakeup at the charity, the board of directors has been removed and replaced by a caretaker board that includes the 52-year-old singer and her manager, it added.

The abandonment of the Raising Malawi Academy for Girls – backed by prominent Hollywood figures and Madonna’s associates in Kabbalah – was announced in January. This caught the Malawian government by surprise and caused anger among villagers who had surrendered their homes to make way for a 117-acre construction site near the capital, Lilongwe…

Trevor Neilson, a founder of the group, said $3.8m had been spent on the unbuilt school, much of it on architects, salaries and two cars for employees who had not yet been appointed.

“Despite [this outlay], the project has not broken ground, there was no title to the land and there was, overall, a startling lack of accountability on the part of the management team in Malawi and the management team in the United States,” he was quoted as saying.

RTFA for a cautionary tale about trophy charities and celebrities who seem to need more attention than the “beneficiaries” of the charity.

Continue reading

Parts of Kiwi earthquake city must be abandoned

Christchurch was so badly damaged in last month’s deadly earthquake that parts of New Zealand’s second largest city will have to be abandoned, Prime Minister John Key has said.

Key confirmed 10,000 homes faced demolition after the 6.3-magnitude tremor which is believed to have claimed more than 200 lives, warning that rebuilding would not be possible in some areas.

“We simply don’t know,” he told Radio New Zealand when asked which parts of the city would be deserted. “We know there’s been substantial liquefaction damage.

“It’s a statement of fact that there will be some properties that can’t be rebuilt… the question is whether it (rebuilding) is possible for certain parts of the city, certain streets or houses.”

Key said geotechnical engineers were working urgently to clarify the areas worst affected by liquefaction, caused when the quake’s shaking loosened the bonds between soil particles, turning the ground into a quagmire.

Community worker Tom McBrearty said the prime minister’s comments had increased anxiety among residents still reeling from the February 22 quake. “They interpreted… it as being that the riverside communities would not be allowed to be rebuilt, which is at this stage is incorrect. We don’t know, we’re still waiting for final analysis.”

Key said the government would provide financial assistance to those who were forced to move and was in talks with developers about releasing new subdivisions to cope with the demand for housing in the stricken city.

Christchurch mayor Bob Parker said speculation on the fate of entire suburbs was “alarmist” and urged residents to wait until geotechnical reports were complete.

Sad, sad tale. Although this earthquake technically was an aftershock of last year’s quake, it blasted along a new fault and being closer to the surface and in a populous area – just did an enormous amount of damage. More than anyone had foreseen.

Devin Westenskow dies alone

A father of five children has died after falling into a mine shaft so deep and treacherous that rescuers had to abandon efforts to reach him while he was still alive.

Devin Westenskow, 28, of Evanston, Wyo., worked at a geothermal drilling operation in Nevada and had gone exploring Wednesday with two friends during his off-hours when he fell 190 feet into the open shaft northeast of Reno.

His family thanked rescue workers in a statement that also identified Westenskow.

“We feel they did everything possible to rescue Devin, but that there was no way to get him out alive given the extent of his injuries and instability of the mine shaft,” the statement said. “We are forever grateful for their efforts.”

The decision to end the rescue came after two unsuccessful attempts by search teams to descend into the shaft, where Westenskow was trapped in debris, said Doran Sanchez, a U.S. Bureau of Land Management spokesman…

Westenskow was given his last rites Friday. He was pronounced dead at 12:30 p.m. that day, after the Pershing County coroner’s office determined he had stopped breathing by reviewing images from a video camera they had lowered into shaft, Sanchez said.

Word of the death was not released until Saturday because there was no cell phone service in the remote area for authorities to stay in contact…

About 50,000 abandoned mine shafts have been identified as the most hazardous in Nevada, but the shaft where the man fell wasn’t among them, BLM officials said.

The agency plans to permanently seal the shaft and several other openings in the area by Monday, Sanchez said.

Probably the saddest story of the weekend. RTFA to know a little more about it.

My first take on the story had only the too-brief wire story and the equally useless articles from the newspapers that copied it. I’m glad I found this much more complete tale from the AP in the Tacoma News-Tribune. I know now that people tried very hard to save this man’s life – risking their own – until it was proved certain to be fruitless.

As I put this to bed [me too] – I can see journalists around the world picking up the AP story online. Some of them credit Martin Griffith of the AP. Some don’t. Hard copy life ain’t much different from life online.