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Archive for July, 2011

Fighting the Water Hyacinth

State releases insect to combat invasive weed

AP/San Jose Mercury News


SACRAMENTO — California officials have deployed thousands of insects native to South America in the San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta to combat an invasive weed that has clogged the waterway.

Scientists released more than 5,000 water hyacinth plant hoppers at several locations in San Joaquin and Sacramento counties this month, the state Department of Food and Agriculture announced on Thursday.

Officials hope the insects will establish self-sustaining colonies and begin chomping down on water hyacinth. The invasive plant forms a dense carpet on the surface of waterways, impeding boat access and clogging water intake systems.

Historically, importing animals to control other animals has backfired substantially at times, especially with mammals. Insects that are specialized to attack only one other species are more ideal, but it’s still a gamble when bringing them to someplace far away. Hopefully the water hyacinth plant hoppers (these are presumably leafhoppers of some kind) won’t take a liking to some native, non-invasive plant species.

California Department of Food and Agriculture news release from two days ago:



Initial releases of 750 water hyacinth plant hoppers were made earlier this month in three locations: Whiskey Slough in San Joaquin County, Willow Creek in eastern Sacramento County, and Seven Mile Slough in western Sacramento County. Secondary releases have since been made in Whiskey Slough (1,500 insects) and Willow Creek (3,000 insects). Scientists hope the plant hoppers will thrive in their new home, eventually resulting in self-sustaining colonies. This project shows CDFA’s ongoing commitment to the principles of integrated pest management – considering physical and biological approaches and using them whenever possible.

Before a biological control agent like the water hyacinth plant hopper can be released in California, the organism must be cleared by both federal and state regulatory officials through an exhaustive analysis that weighs risks. Biological control agents from outside the U.S. are shipped to a domestic quarantine facility where they are subjected to a series of tests. Only those organisms with high specificity to the target weed are approved for use as biological control agents. The results of the pre-release tests are summarized into a petition requesting permission to release the organism into the field. Once approved, the permitted biological control organism can be mass-reared to high numbers and released at field sites established by biologists.

The water hyacinth plant hopper, known to scientists as Megamelus scutellaris, is approximately 1/8 inch in length as an adult. It feeds only on water hyacinth, making it an ideal candidate for release as a biological control agent. The insects feed on water hyacinth leaves by siphoning plant juices into their mouths, much like an aphid on a rose bush. The damage caused by their feeding kills the small area where their siphons are inserted; high densities of plant hoppers and high levels of feeding can cause whole leaves to wilt and die, reducing the infestation and relieving pressure on the waterways.

You can see pictures of them here.


Water In The Bank

Storing Water for a Dry Day Leads to Suits


Interesting article about people in California pumping out groundwater and storing it in their own private underground reservoirs, for later resale, as water availability becomes more erratic.


Bird Fishing


We Fails

Ongoing global biodiversity loss unstoppable with protected areas alone: Study

United Nations Press Release, 7/28

Continued reliance on a strategy of setting aside land and marine territories as “protected areas” is insufficient to stem global biodiversity loss, according to a comprehensive assessment published today in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series.

Despite impressively rapid growth of protected land and marine areas worldwide – today totalling over 100,000 in number and covering 17 million square kilometers of land and 2 million square kilometers of oceans – biodiversity is in steep decline.

Expected scenarios of human population growth and consumption levels indicate that cumulative human demands will impose an unsustainable toll on the Earth’s ecological resources and services accelerating the rate at which biodiversity is being loss.

If this isn’t good enough (and I expect that is true), it’s hard to imagine another, better, plan; aside from a huge number of humans who are chewing through the place the fastest, suddenly disappearing.


First Nations Beauty

h/t to rebel ga

Cherokee Morning Song


Little Kids Tased in Schools, etc.

Common Dreams


If you’re going to be six years old at some point in your life (and most of my readers have probably moved beyond that point) it is important to (a) carefully select where you choose to live and (b) behave. This is all brought to mind by a recent mailing from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) describing a lawsuit it has filed on behalf of a 6-year old called J.W.

Fuck. This is a horribly disturbing article. Is this what we are going to become, as a species?

Can I opt out and become something more benevolently predatory?

J.W. attends the Sarah T. Reed Elementary School in New Orleans, is four feet tall and weighs 60 pounds. He is not unfailingly polite. Indeed, on two occasions in May he was downright rude. On the first occasion he talked back to a teacher. Realizing that such activity could lead to a full-scale insurrection by 6-year olds if permitted to go unpunished, J.W. was arrested, handcuffed and shackled to a chair. (Nothing was stuffed in his mouth so he could, in theory at least, have continued talking back.) J.W. did not learn from this episode. In less than a week, he was involved in an argument with another 6-year old over who could sit in a given chair in the lunchroom. J.W. was on the losing side of that argument and was once again handcuffed and shackled to a chair.

The effect on J.W. has not been what school officials had hoped. Being trained educators they had been taught that using those techniques on six-year olds would not only help the 6-year olds see the errors of their ways but would eliminate the need for water boarding or other forms of discipline when the children were older. They were wrong. His parents say that he is now afraid of school, the police and teachers and is completely withdrawn. School officials explained that the arrest and restraints imposed were required under school rules. The educators may have help in changing the rules. The Southern Poverty Law Center, has filed a class action lawsuit alleging that the school principal and other officials had “provided a clear directive to all employees. . . that students were to be arrested and handcuffed if they failed to comply with school rules.” There’s no way of knowing how that suit will turn out but thanks to the behavior of a student and school officials in a school in Dade County, Florida, we may have a clue.



Yo-Yo Ma and Alison Krauss. The Wexford Carol. Yes, I know this is the wrong time of year; I don’t care.


Bush Stole the 2004 Election? Who Knew?

Forget Anonymous: Evidence Suggests GOP Hacked, Stole 2004 Election

From Benzinga, 7/21

by John Thorpe

“A new filing in the King Lincoln Bronzeville v. Blackwell case includes a copy of the Ohio Secretary of State election production system configuration that was in use in Ohio’s 2004 presidential election when there was a sudden and unexpected shift in votes for George W. Bush,” according to Bob Fitrakis, columnist at http://www.freepress.org and co-counsel in the litigation and investigation.

Read the whole thing. Oh, and this story *also* involves a whistleblower who died “by accident,” this time in a plane crash.


Gould, Arkansas, Looks To Ban Civil Rights

Town Moves To Ban Free Speech in Private Homes, Group Meetings

This is about people trying to pass an ordinance forbidding groups to be formed without city approval.

For those of you who do not care to watch Fox News videos, here is a NYT article on the same subject.

That is a clear violation of the Constitution, legal scholars agree. But it is also a sign of just how nasty politics has gotten in Gould, a farming town of 1,100 some 70 miles southeast of Little Rock, where members of the Council have struggled with a local political group that seeks to influence how the town is governed. The mayor, Earnest Nash Jr., also happens to be a member of the political group, the Gould Citizens Advisory Council.

Even by the standards of small-town dramas, Gould’s situation is bleak. The town faces nearly $300,000 in unpaid taxes, and there have been frequent clashes among the mayor, the advisory group and the City Council over how to repay it. Those clashes — and a perception by the City Council that the citizens’ group is seeking too much influence — led to the ban on new organizations.


The Cynic and Senator Obama


The cynic wants to believe. But far too much has happened, and inspiration is no longer enough. The cynic will need to be convinced.

This article was originally published in the June 2008 issue of Esquire, before Barack Obama was elected president.

Interesting article. Read it.

The cynic knows he’ll never make Oshkosh. He took the wrong exit and went too far north, and now he has to double back. He gives up, finally, and turns down County Road S in central Wisconsin, looking for a place where he can park and listen to the speech on the radio. It has warmed up well into the double digits, and the snow is sliding slowly off the roofs of the barns along the way.

The speech is not going to be anything the cynic hasn’t heard over the past week, in four or five different places all over the state, on the last really good week Barack Obama will have in his campaign to be president of the United States. He’s running up the score in Wisconsin, the campaign of Hillary Rodham Clinton having virtually abandoned its efforts when the polls went sour.

The country is not yet familiar with the words of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Tony Rezko isn’t on trial in Chicago yet. Obama has not yet collided with the bitter small-town gunmen of Pennsylvania. There’s a brief, silly dustup about whether Obama has lifted one of his applause lines — “Don’t tell me words don’t matter!” — from the campaign of Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, who happens to be one of his best friends and most enthusiastic supporters. But it dies aborning, and he rolls through Wisconsin on golden wheels, talking about hope and an America free from rancor and bitterness and partisan strife. The cynic drives deeper into the farm-quilted countryside and thinks to himself, Yeah, sure, absolutely. In a place like this, the cynic knows, you can see trouble coming from miles off.