Thursday, February 16, 2017

The nightmare is real

I was hoping it wouldn't happen so fast, but the emboldened Congressional Republicans are planning to go after the Endangered Species Act -- one of the most important, if not THE most important, pieces of enviromental legislation ever passed.  The powerful ESA could keep nearly-extinct species from being extinct, and preserve necessary habitat, and stop development in its tracks.  Literally.

Hence, since it interferes with the march of the economy and environmental exploitation, Republicans hate it, even while a majority of Americans support it.  (From Huffington Post: "A 2015 poll found that 90 percent of registered voters support the law. And late last year, another poll found that 70 percent of voters opposed eliminating protections “for some at-risk wildlife species such as the gray wolf or the greater sage grouse,” that would prevent them from being safeguarded by the ESA.") That level of support doesn't matter to the cool, cool conservative old geriatric dodderheads in Congress.  They've hated the ESA for a long time, and they see this as their chance to rewrite it.  Not do away with it, mind you -- that would be too obviously drastic -- but to gut its powers.

What GOP lawmakers mean when they talk about modernizing the Endangered Species Act

"Patrick Parenteau, an environmental law specialist at the University of Vermont Law School, said that rather than “modernizing” the Act, so far all he’s seen is “weakening” in the form of making it harder to list species, designate critical habitat, prevent habitat loss, and even base decisions on sound science.

He said Republican leaders have come out so strongly in favor of changing the ESA because “it gets in the way of development and activities that destroy habitat and frustrates narrow but politically powerful economic interests.”

The panel talking about "modernizing" (i.e., weakening) the ESA is now headed by John Barrasso, who has been a long-time enemy of it.   He said this in his opening statement:
“States, counties, wildlife managers, home builders, construction companies, farmers, ranchers and other stakeholders are all making it clear that the Endangered Species Act is not working today.”
I wonder what he defines as not working?  Well, let's look at what the reformers want to do, and then interpret.   From Planet Experts:

"The reform agenda is focused on delisting endangered species and effectively removing restrictions on their habitats, capping the number of species listed, making it harder for citizens and civil society to file suits supporting conservation, and decentralizing decision authority so states and private entities– rather than the federal government – have rights over public lands."
So, to make the ESA "work", the Republicans would likely:

  • take species off the endangered species list, perhaps by changing the classification criteria;
  • allow economic activity in, on, or around endangered species habitats;
  • allow home building, construction, farming and ranching on land currently classified as endangered species habitat;
  • put a limit on how many species can be listed as endangered;
  • make it more difficult for lawsuits to either get a species listed for preserve/conserve habitat for endangered species;  and
  • give the states and private owners control of land where endangered species live.

To make it simpler, the Republicans want to create a scenario where basically the Endangered Species Act doesn't protect endangered species.


But real.

Now just WIN, baby

We know that Eugenie Bouchard and Caroline Wozniacki are very pretty, athletic women.  And we also know that between them, they haven't won a single Grand Slam tournament.  On the other hand, Serena Williams has won more Grand Slam tournaments than any other woman in the Open era.

The one thing that they have in common is that they are all swimsuit models in the just-released Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.  And they all look good in the swimsuits (from both sides).  Caroline, sadly, doesn't reprise her painted-on suit like last year (see below) but still showed plenty of Caroline.

But still... now that they've shown their look in SI, they need to establish their athletic credentials by winning a Slam or two.  It won't be easy (never is), but I like to see more champions in swimsuits.  That's just me.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

A change in captaincy

Cricketeer Joe Root has taken over the captainship (captaincy, captainhood, I don't know) of England's Test cricket team.   The previous captain was Alastair Cook.   Apparently they like last names with two o's in the middle.

Here's a two-minute interview with the new captain:  Root promises exciting brand of cricket

The first Test series that will test the new captain is scheduled for April - July 2017, against the West Indies, hosted by England, and there will also be a World Test Championship in England in June.

So he's got a couple of months to get used to his new position.  At least it's called "Captain" and not "silly mid-on" or something like that.  Cricket has several weird names for positions in the field.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Lighthouse of the Week, February 12-18, 2017: Nagasakibana, Japan

This wasn't a difficult find;  I traveled mentally to the small southernmost main island of the Japanese archipelago, Kyushu, and looked for lighthouses.  The one I found was the southernmost, and also notable because it has a symmetrical volcano nearby (Kaimondake, last erupted in 885 AD) that shows up in some of the pictures.

The short name of the lighthouse is Nagasakibana;  the long name is Satsuma Nagasaki Hana.  It isn't a very big lighthouse, and it's not one that is accessible from the inside.  What it lacks in size it makes up for in a picturesque location, as you'll see.

Here's a short descriptive excerpt from The Lighthouse Directory:

"1957. Active; focal plane 21 m (69 ft); white light, 3 s on, 3 s off. 11 m (36 ft) round concrete tower attached to a square 1-story concrete equipment room. Entire lighthouse is white. The base of the lighthouse has been developed as a public observation deck, with a circular roof to provide shelter and a broad stairway leading down to the beach."

And the pictures I found.  There are a lot of stock (professional) pictures available of this lighthouse too, but I don't feature those.

Kaimondake volcano on the horizon

The BEST news of the day

I read happily today that Playboy is going to stop its non-nude format, and return to that which made it famous -- lovely nude women.

It was a mistake, anyway.  The Playmate is an American symbol, icon, ambassador, and representative of the best America has to offer.  Without the Playmate, the Playboy Bunny is just another rabbit.  A nude Playmate is special.  A non-nude Playmate is just a pretty model.

And the thing about the Playmate that set her apart from other formats and venues was that usually she wasn't particularly famous or noteworthy before the centerfold appearance.  (There have been a couple of exceptions, but Playboy was fairly famous for finding their girls young, so they had their careers ahead of them.)  And of course, some Playmates went on to more conventional show business success, some did something entirely different, some married or partnered well, some got into various kinds of trouble, some just did the conventional route of getting married and having kids -- and some of them did ALL of that.  Just like life -- even though Playmates set a rarely-equaled beauty standard that was not like normal life at all.  Which made them special, desirable, and almost (but not quite) untouchable.  Playmates were the girl-next-door who was also the captain of the cheerleading squad.  Few of us could play in that league, but boys could dream. (And did, frequently.)

So this is happy news, at least for this loyal reader.  Now, if they could just bring back pubic hair...

Cooper Hefner Tries to Make Playboy Great Again by Bringing Nudity Back

And to celebrate, here's a non-nude (but she was, in a lot of others) picture of cutaceous Dorothy Mays, Miss July 1979.

I wish I could spin this ... but I can't

Bad financial news about Toshiba today, which owns Westinghouse, which was/is building the first new nuclear power plants in the United States in a long time (in Georgia).

Toshiba is writing down their investment to the tune of $6.3 billion dollars.  That's a lot.  Toshiba is potentially facing bankruptcy.  And because Westinghouse has been the main builder of new plants other than Areva, and has plans with other countries, this affects those plans, too.

Not good.

Uncertainty at Toshiba puts Westinghouse in limbo

Monday, February 13, 2017

Unique lava, unforgettable pictures

For a brief time a few days ago, Hawaii's Kilauea volcano created an amazing geological event.

You see, Kilauea has been pumping out lava for quite awhile, and one of these lava flows recently entered the ocean.  Lots of fun things happen when lava meets the ocean;  explosions, steam, acidic water vapor, shards of lava, Pele's Hair, and notably, the formation of cooled lava that builds up as the lava pours in can suddenly collapse and fall into the ocean waters, which is Not Safe (and people have died when it happened).

Well, it did happen, and fortunately this time nobody died.  But after the fume cleared, there was a single massive flow of lava pouring powerfully into the ocean -- a "firehose flow".  It was a remarkable and short-lived phase of an eruption that has been going on for decades.  Well, that's what these kind of volcanoes do, they keep erupting fast-flowing basaltic lava.  That's why the Hawaiian islands look like they do.

So, below is a link to the Daily Mail article about it, which has videos, too, and I borrowed a picture. I don't think the photographer was in a save place when he took these shots, but they are great.

Now that's one brave photographer! Stunning new images taken just METRES away show a firehose of lava pouring from Hawaii's Kilauea volcano