Saturday, December 31, 2011

Why Cynthia Lummis Hates the Environment, Wildlife and Americans!


The Top 10 Anti-Environmental Things Congress Did in 2011 Or 

("Why Cynthia Lummis Hates the Environment, Wildlife and Americans!")

Posted: 31 Dec 2011 08:00 AM PST

By Miles Grant, cross-posted from the National Wildlife Federation

How bad was 2011 for America's wildlife, air, water, land and public health? After taking 191 anti-conservation votes, even the House of Representatives' own members called it "the most anti-environment House in the history of Congress."

That's not to say the last year hasn't been without progress in Washington. The Environmental Protection Agency set long-overdue limits on mercury pollution that will prevent 11,000 premature deaths a year. The EPA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration set new fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks that will cut our oil addiction by billions of barrels. And the EPA is ready to establish landmark global warming pollution limits on power plants.

But those actions represent the Obama administration implementing past acts of Congress, often in the face of opposition from one or both parties in the current Congress. Inside the Capitol, many members of Congress spent 2011 attacking wildlife, trying to roll back public health protections, and doing the bidding of its Big Oil donors.

10. The Dirty Water Act

Yes, 2011 will be remembered as the year Congress decided America's water was just too darn clean, attacking the Clean Water Act and investment in clean water programs. The Dirty Water Act passed the House and now Senators Dean Heller (R-NV) and John Barasso (R-WY)  (Barrasshole has excepted more dirty oil & energy money then any senator. He truly is a money grubbing whore with NO morals whatsoever, and with everyday he further validates he has reserved his spot in HELL next to the likes of Dick Cheney, Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.) have been working to sneak it through the Senate by trying to attach it as a political rider to must-pass budget legislation. Get Smart: Tell Congress to protect river otters' streams from pollution.

9. Banning Imaginary Regulations

The Environmental Protection Agency has no plans to regulate farm dust, but that didn't stop a bipartisan majority in the House from passing the Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act. "Since I am sure that many little girls all over America care about this deeply, can you commit to me that EPA will never try to regulate fairy dust?" Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) jokingly asked EPA assistant administrator Gina McCarthy. The Senate has no plans to take up the bill and President Obama has promised to veto it. Get Smart: Learn what pollutants are real threats to America's wildlife and public health.

8. Lunch Special: Meat Loaf with Styrene Oligomers

When she served as House Speaker, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) led an effort to green the Capitol that cut energy use 23%, water use 32% and used some of the savings to convert Congressional cafeterias to composting.  But when Republicans took charge of the House in 2011, they eliminated the composting program, diverted cafeteria waste back to a landfill, and brought back petroleum-based Styrofoam that can leech toxic styrene oligomers into the food it holds, increasing thyroid hormone levels. Get Smart: Use your own reusable container.

7. Politics Superseding Wildlife Biology

Just two of many examples: The U.S. Forest Service had closed much of Idaho's Payette National Forest to domestic sheep grazing where conflicts with bighorns exist, hoping to protect bighorns from disease, but the budget bill that cleared Congress in December included a political rider reversing that decision. And the House GOP budget (H.R. 1) included language aimed at blocking implementation of two biological opinions intended to ensure the recovery of threatened and endangered salmon, steelhead, green sturgeon, and other species in the San Francisco Bay-Delta ecosystem. Get Smart: Support wildlife protections through NWF's Choose Your Cause.

6. Targeting Smokey Bear

Who could want to kill Smokey Bear? Answer: Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-TN), who included the U.S. Forest Service's conservation education program in its list of possible targets for the House GOP's YouCut voting. Voters spared Smokey, but the incident spoke volumes about how little this Congress valued investments in conservation education. Get Smart: Take Smokey's pledge to be smart whenever you go outdoors.

5. Gulf Coast: Still Not Made Whole

We're just a few months from the 2nd anniversary of start of the Gulf oil disaster, yet Congress still has not acted on legislation to make sure BP's fines and penalties are reinvested in Mississippi River Delta restoration. Get Smart: Ask your members of Congress to support the RESTORE Act.

4. War on Next-Generation Light Bulbs

(This alone shows how fucked up the right is, especially our own WY Delegation of Congressional "Lame-Asses" & "Money Grubbing Whores.)

Just a few years ago, President George W. Bush signed bipartisan legislation to encourage energy-efficient light bulbs. Industry gets certainty, consumers save money, America cuts its carbon footprint: Everybody wins! But extremists attacked the standards and when they couldn't win votes, they snuck the Dim Bulb Act into must-pass budget legislation. "Big companies like General Electric, Philips and Osram Sylvania spent big bucks preparing for the standards, and the industry is fuming over the GOP bid to undercut them," reported Politico. Everybody loses! Get Smart: Check out NWF's Cool It! tips for greening your home, office and garden.

3. Push Pipeline First, Ask Safety Questions Later

Facing concerns from conservationists concerned about protecting critical wildlife habitat, landowners concerned about getting their land seized, and public health advocates worried about water supplies, the Obama administration delayed a decision on the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline from the Canadian border to Texas. But before a revised route could even be drawn up, Big Oil's Congressional allies tacked a political rider onto the payroll tax cut extension moving through Congress right now that would force a decision on the pipeline within 60 days. Get Smart: Ask our elected officials to keep dirty oil out of whooping crane habitat.

2. Protecting Tax Giveaways for Big Oil

Big Oil has already banked a staggering $101 billion in profits in 2011,  and as NWF detailed in Conservation Works, Congress can save more than $100 billion by closing tax loopholes for special interests like the oil and gas industries. But time after time, purported Congressional concern about the deficit came in a distant second to catering to Big Oil donors and lobbyists. Get Smart: Stand up for new vehicle fuel efficiency standards to reduce America's dependence on dirty oil.

1. Fiddling While Our Climate Burns

Our world has now seen 321 consecutive months with a global temperature above the 20th century average, meaning we haven't seen a below-average temperature month since before The Goonies came out in 1985. Extreme weather records fell, with NOAA reporting 12 disasters of at least $1 billion in damage here in the U.S. Through November, 2011 has been the 11th-hottest year on record. If the pace keeps up, it will mean each of the last 11 years (2001–2011) will have been one of the 12 hottest on record. The Arctic continues to warm, melting sea ice and pushing several polar bear populations to the brink.

How has Congress reacted? Sen. John Barasso introduced legislation to not only prohibit the EPA from regulating carbon pollution, but ban the federal government even from observing what is happening with our climate. The House GOP's H.R. 1 tried to cut programs to invest in clean energy innovation and to help people and wildlife adapt to our warming climate. Get Smart: Tell your members of Congress you support limits on carbon pollution under the Clean Air Act.

Do you have any dishonorable mentions to add to the list? Leave your comments below.

With your help, the National Wildlife Federation worked to keep many of these dumb ideas from becoming law. But with the same Congress returning in 2012, you can bet we'll see even more attacks on our wildlife, air, land, water and public health in the year ahead.

Miles Grant is the online communications manager for the National Wildlife Fund. This piece was originally published at the NWF website.  (Stuff in parenthesis's are my thoughts.)


Cartoon of the Week

Posted: 31 Dec 2011 05:00 AM PST

A cyber-penny for your thoughts.

Something about this New Yorker cartoon seems strangely apt….

http://www.newyorker.com/images/2012/01/02/cartoons/120102_cartoon_046_a16298_p465.gif

 

 


 

Top 10 States Hit by Extreme Weather in 2011

Posted: 30 Dec 2011 10:12 AM PST

by Andrew Freedman, Alyson Kenward and Mike Lemonick, cross-posted from Climate Central

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 2011 set a record for the most billion dollar disasters in a single year. There were 12, breaking the old record of nine set in 2009. The aggregate damage from these 12 events totals at least $52 billion, NOAA found.

While extreme weather knows no boundaries, and the impact of those events was felt coast to coast, Climate Central looked at the number of extreme events that affected each state to determine the 10 states that were clobbered the worst. According to Climate Central's analysis, Texas tops that list of hardest hit, with a costly — and deadly — combination of intense drought, a punishing heat wave, the worst wildfires in state history, and plenty of tornadoes. Rounding out the top 10 was Alabama, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Kansas, Connecticut, Vermont and New Jersey.

Climate Central's analysis factored the death toll in each state, damage costs, the disruption caused to daily life, and how unusual the events were compared with what transpires in an average year.

But for these 10 states, little of what transpired was average as extreme weather rewrote the record books in 2011.

1. Texas

Texas was hit by eight of the nation's billion dollar disasters — the most of any state in the country. Of the eight, the three most devastating were drought, heat, and wildfires. The drought still grips the state, and it is the most intense one-year drought on record. Unlike past dry periods, the damage to the state has been aggravated by record-breaking heat. Groundwater levels in much of the state have fallen to their lowest levels in more than 60 years, according to observations from NASA satellites.

The heat during the summer of 2011 was relentless, with many cities smashing records for the longest stretch of 100-degree days, including Dallas with a record 70 straight days with 100-degree heat, and San Angelo with a whopping 98 days above 100. July 2011 was the hottest month ever recorded statewide, and Amarillo, Texas, reached 111 degrees F on June 26, an all-time record high for that location where records date back to 1892.

The combination of drought and unusually hot conditions during this summer helped fuel massive wildfires, and the 2011 wildfire season was the worst in Texas' history, with about 4 million acres burned from November 2010 through November 2011, causing $750 million in damage and killing 10 people, including four firefighters.

Lake and reservoir levels have fallen so low that they are revealing entire towns flooded decades ago at the bottom of lakes and reservoirs. Ranchers have been forced to sell off large portions of their herds early, which is likely to raise beef prices by reducing future beef supplies.

2. Alabama

Alabama was ground zero for the largest tornado outbreak in American history, when more than 100 twisters gouged paths across the state in late April, killing 240 people.

Some of the most intense tornadoes flattened heavily populated areas. One twister, shown nationally on live TV, tore through downtown Tuscaloosa and went on to destroy parts of Birmingham. Another monster EF-5 twister, with winds stronger than 200 mph, tracked across northern Alabama, killing 78 people, becoming one of the deadliest single tornadoes in modern American history.

According to the Storm Prediction Center, Alabama saw the most tornadoes of any state this year, with 170. The staggering death toll and damage these storms caused led to a wave of Alabama state pride, with the mantra "We are Alabama" spreading throughout social media networks in the storms' wake.

3. Missouri

Missouri was the site of America's worst tornado disaster since 1950, when a massive tornado, nearly a mile wide, wiped large portions of the city of Joplin off the map on May 22. With winds greater than 200 mph, that tornado killed nearly 160 people, making it the seventh deadliest in U.S. history.

Tornadoes were just one prong of the deadly onslaught of extreme weather in Missouri, as a combination of heavy spring rains and upstream snowmelt sent the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers surging over their banks. According to NOAA, in an average year, the Missouri River channels 24.8 million acre feet of water. This year, it carried 24.3 million acre feet in May and June alone. When the Army Corps of Engineers essentially blew up the levees to save the small town of Cairo, Ill., floodwaters inundated around 130,000 acres of Missouri farmland.

4. North Carolina

April 2011 was the most active tornado month in U.S. history with 753 tornadoes. North Carolina was among the states worst hit. On April 16, multiple tornadoes ripped through Raleigh and nearby towns, leaving a trail of destruction behind them. Thirty-eight people died in a two-day April tornado outbreak that spread through 10 states; 22 were in North Carolina.

North Carolina was also one of the first states walloped by Hurricane Irene in August. With its immense 450-mile span, the storm battered the North Carolina coast with rain and driving 60-80 mph winds for nearly 12 hours. Half a million people lost power during the storm, and the gusting winds generated waves high enough to demolish piers and damage homes along the coastline. All told, the cost to North Carolina from tornadoes and Irene is estimated at $3.2 billion.

5. Oklahoma

In 2011, Oklahomans suffered through a brutal combination of severe drought and intense heat, the likes of which have not been seen since the infamous Dust Bowl era of the 1930s. The Sooner State had the hottest summer of any state in U.S. history, narrowly beating neighboring Texas, and eclipsing a record that dated to 1934. Oklahoma's average day and nighttime temperature during July was a scorching 88.9 degrees F, the warmest in any state during any month on record.

For an idea of how hot it was in Oklahoma last summer, consider this: In Grandfield, the temperature reached or exceeded 100 degrees on a record-setting 97 days from mid-April to Sept. 1.

On top of record heat, last February, the state froze its way through the coldest temperature on record: -31 degrees F, and the state's heaviest 24-hour snowfall on record, when 27 inches fell in the town of Spavinaw.

And if that wasn't enough, Oklahomans also struggled with other weather hazards, including the largest hailstone in state history, some of which measured half a foot in diameter.

6. Tennessee

The good news for Tennessee this year was that the drought that plagued states to the southwest — Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas — didn't make it up this far. But for the Volunteer State, a little more drought might have been a good thing. On April 30, Nashville was drenched with more than six inches of rain, followed the next day by more than seven inches — the third heaviest and worst single-day rainfall, and the worst two-day rainfall, in the city's history. It was even worse in Camden and Brownsville, Tenn., with more than 17 inches of rain over the same period. By May 2, it was already the rainiest May on record.

Not surprisingly, the record rains led to massive flooding on the Cumberland, Harpeth, and Duck rivers, killing 23 people. The estimated property damage in Nashville alone topped $1.5 billion.

Deadly as they were, the floods weren't the only lethal weather to strike Tennessee during the spring. Just a week or so before the deluge came, the state was hit with an EF-5 tornado — the most powerful rating there is — smashing through Apison, killing 13. It was part of a wider outbreak that killed more than 300 people across the southeast. When you add in the heat wave that blasted most of the eastern half of the U.S. in July, the total damage from weather and climate-related disasters added up to nearly $4 billion.

7. Kansas

The massive heat wave and drought that devastated Texas and Oklahoma didn't hit Kansas quite as hard, but it was bad enough to help push the Jayhawk State into the top 10 this year. By midsummer, much of the southwestern part of the state was suffering under "exceptional drought" conditions — it ended up being the ninth driest year ever recorded — and by year's end, there was still no relief in sight. Wichita had more 100-degree-plus days than any year on record, beating out even the Dust Bowl summer of 1936.

As of May, the state had seen unusually few tornadoes, but that didn't last: powerful thunderstorms, tornadoes, and punishing hail swept the state in June, July, and August. To top it all off, a 5.6-intensity earthquake struck on Nov. 5. The quake didn't cause much damage, but combined agricultural losses from the heat and drought topped $4 billion.

8. Connecticut

Snowstorms aren't usually news in Connecticut — but 2011 was hardly usual. Hartford was buried under a record-setting 57 inches of snow in January, making it the all-time snowiest month in state history. Then, nearly two months before the next winter began, Connecticut was blasted by the worst October snowstorm in 200 years. The heavy wet snow, which cost the state more than $500 million, sent trees and tree limbs falling onto power lines, leaving more than 700,000 people without heat or lights. In the worst power failure in state history, many didn't get their electricity back for more than a week.

In August, tropical storm Irene pummeled the state with heavy rains and gale-force winds that caused devastating floods and turned the lights out on more than 650,000 people. Some areas were pounded with as much as eight inches of rain in just 24 hours.

9. Vermont

Just as most of the Northeast thought they had escaped the worst of Irene's wrath, the super-saturated tropical storm ravaged Vermont. The furious rains battered more than 2,000 roads spanning 500 miles in the state, paralyzing commerce, stranding people, and demolishing thousands of homes and businesses. More than 175 roads were completely destroyed and have only been rebuilt months later in what has been described as a model of fast-paced recovery from a disaster.

This all came after one of the snowiest winters on record, which produced record snowmelt. In May, heavy rain and all that melting snow drove Lake Champlain to its highest level on record, flooding several nearby towns. Record-setting rains helped set the stage for Irene's damage by saturating the ground and putting streams and rivers at unusually high levels when the storm arrived.

Vermont officials say the total damage costs from Irene will be between $175 and $250 million.

10. New Jersey

Hurricane Irene roared into New Jersey to become one of the state's deadliest and costliest storms, as well as the state's wettest storm in more than a century. Tropical downpours sent rivers and streams overflowing, with nine rivers rising to their highest level ever. The flooding closed 300 roads and highways and interrupted train service for days.

The bill for hurricane damage in New Jersey stands at $1.4 billion already, and at least seven people died during the storm. Then, two weeks later, a second round of drenching rain — the remains of Tropical Storm Lee — swept across the state, triggering even more flooding. All told, it was the wettest August and September New Jersey has seen in 117 years.

Just as the Garden State began to dry out, a freak autumn snowstorm hit over the Halloween weekend. The wet, heavy snow stuck to leaves that hadn't fallen from the trees. The result: falling branches that blocked roads and downed power lines, leaving half a million people without electricity, some of them for a week.

Climate Central is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is comprised of journalists and climate scientists dedicated to communicating accurate and compelling climate science information.

This piece was originally published at Climate Central, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is comprised of journalists and climate scientists dedicated to communicating accurate and compelling climate science information.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Official BullShit from Congressman Cynthia Lummis- When I am home in Wyoming, the top concern I hear about is out-of-control federal spending.

Official BullShit from Congressman Cynthia Lummis-
When I am home in Wyoming, the top concern I hear about is out-of-control federal spending.
 

December 27, 2011

 

 

William Harasym

200 Smith Street, Apt. 410

Sheridan, Wyoming 82801-3842


 

Dear William:

 

Thank you for contacting me regarding the federal budget.  It is good to hear from you.

 

With $15 trillion in national debt hanging over the future of our children and grandchildren, President Obama and the Democrats in Congress have failed to take meaningful action to control government spending.  Past Republican Congresses and Administrations did their fair share of overspending.  But this does not excuse Democrat leaders for making a bad fiscal situation demonstrably worse.  Since President Obama took office, he and the Democrats in the House and Senate have presided over a failed $1.1 trillion economic stimulus bill, the release of $350 billion in Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) funds, and annual trillion dollar deficits.

I really am an idiot and have no clue about economics, but just parrot what my

masters tell me to say, even if it's false---just sayin'! 

 

My Republican colleagues in the new Republican Majority in the House have selected me to serve on the House Appropriations Committee, which sets specific federal expenditures for government agencies and departments. Specific expenditures of our government must stay within the confines of allocations set by the budget resolution. This is a blueprint of government spending for the current year, as well as a projection for the decades to come.

 

The President's budget proposal submitted to Congress in February would spend $3.8 trillion this year, the highest percentage of Gross Domestic Product since World War II. Over ten years it includes $8.7 trillion in new spending; nearly doubling the size of government since the day he took office. It would also collect $1.6 trillion in new taxes and add $13 trillion to the nation's debt over 10 years.

 

This propels our country on a path to bankruptcy and I plan to stand with my Republican colleagues in demanding spending reductions or other budgetary concessions whenever possible. Raising the debt ceiling before August 2nd provided the Republicans with the leverage to demand immediate cuts instead of handing over a blank check. The Budget Control Act ensures Congress cuts government spending more than any increases in the debt limit. The first $900 billion increase in the debt limit was accompanied by $917 billion in cuts over 10 years.

 

The Budget Control Act also set up a Joint Committee of Members of Congress to recommend at least $1.2 trillion in spending cuts before any additional increases to the debt limit. Since this Committee was ultimately not successful, we now face an automatic sequestration process which will enforce across-the-board cuts to lower our government's spending. Overall, the Congressional Budget Office projects the measure to save $2.117 trillion over 10 years, which puts us on a path to reversing the current spending trajectory and making progress towards greater fiscal responsibility.

 

House passage of the Fiscal Year 2012 Republican budget, "The Path to Prosperity," is a good framework for the fiscal path I will insist on moving forward. This blueprint preserves and strengthens health and retirement programs. It streamlines the tax code, halts Washington's sprawl in favor of a smaller, leaner federal government, and it empowers America's job creators to start hiring and to grow the economy. Additionally, 'The Path to Prosperity' cuts $6.2 trillion in government spending over the next decade alone. This historic proposal is a clean cut from the reckless budget policies of the past.

 

When I am home in Wyoming, the top concern I hear about is out-of-control federal spending.  I will use my seat on the Appropriations Committee to ensure the people of Wyoming's concerns will be expressed loud and clear.  I have not requested a single earmark since taking office and I am happy to say that my Republican colleagues in the House have decided to follow suit by banning earmarks in the next budget cycle.  I support legislation putting an end to the automatic pay raises given to Members of Congress every year. 

 

These are all important steps towards changing the culture of spending in Washington, but tinkering around the edges of our spending addiction will not solve the problem. Achieving lasting budget balance will not be possible unless Congress is forced to make tough decisions, including reform of our unsustainable entitlement programs.  Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid are plagued with trillions in unfunded liabilities and will eventually collapse under their own weight if they are left unchanged.  Action must be taken sooner rather than later if we are to preserve these programs for future generations and avoid impacting current retirees that have planned their retirement around a promise of government benefits.

 

Under the new Republican Majority, I am committed to advancing budget alternatives that put faith in individuals, small businesses and private sector investment to get us out of the recession, not big government spending.  I will continue working to restore fiscal sanity to a federal budget that, if set on the trajectory proposed by President Obama, will bankrupt the Treasury for our children and grandchildren. 

 

Thank you again for taking the time to write to me.  I value your input.  If you haven't done so already, I would like to encourage you to visit my website at www.lummis.house.gov.  There you can sign up to receive my newsletter, and have access to a wealth of other information.  I won't flood your email box, but I will provide you with updates once in a while about activities in Washington that affect our lives in Wyoming.  I hope you will sign up so that we can stay in close touch, and I look forward to seeing you in Wyoming.

Sincerely,

Lady- Z

Cynthia M. Lummis

Member of Congress


 

The GOP’s 10 Most Extreme Attacks On A Woman’s Right To Choose An Abortion!

The GOP’s 10 Most Extreme Attacks On A Woman’s Right To Choose An Abortion:

By Tanya Somanader on Dec 27, 2011 at 9:25 am

2011 marked a banner year in the Republican war on woman’s health. Close to 1,000 anti-abortion bills sped through state legislatures as the GOP-led House led a “comprehensive and radical assault” on a federal level. But in surveying their arsenal this year, 10 bills stood out as particularly perturbing and far-reaching efforts to stymie women’s access to abortion services, birth control, and vital health services like breast cancer screenings. Here are ThinkProgress’s nominations for the most extreme attacks on a woman’s right to choose:
– Redefining Rape: Last May, every House Republican and 16 anti-choice Democrats passed H.R. 3, the No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act. Anti-choice activists Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) tried to narrow the definition of rape to “forcible rape,” which meant that women who say no but do not physically fight off the assault; women who are drugged or verbally threatened and raped; and minors impregnated by adults would not qualify for the rape and incest exception in the Hyde Amendment. Smith promised to remove the language but used “a sly legislative maneuver” that essentially informs the courts that statutory rape cases will not be covered by Medicaid should the law pass and be challenged in court.
– Abortion Audits: The No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act also bans using tax credits or deductions to pay for abortions or insurance. Thus, a woman who used such a benefit would have to prove, if audited, that her abortion “fell under the rape/incest/life-of-the-mother exception, or that the health insurance she had purchased did not cover abortions.” This requirement turns the Internal Revenue Service into “abortion cops” who, agents noted, would have to force women to give “contemporaneous written documentation” that it was “incest, or rape, or [her] life was in danger” which made an abortion necessary.
– Let Women Die: This October, House Republicans also passed the “Protect Life Act”, known by women’s health advocates as the “Let Women Die” bill. The measure allows hospitals that receive federal funds to reject any woman in need of an abortion procedure, even if it is necessary to save her life. Though federal law already prohibits federal funding of abortions, the GOP insisted that the health care law “contains a loophole that allows those receiving federal subsidies to use the money to enroll in health care plans that allow abortion services.”
– Personhood: Mississippi entertained the idea of passing a “personhood” amendment to its constitution this year, one that defines a person as “every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the functional equivalent thereof.” The measure’s “profoundly ambiguous” language regarding the definition of fertilization not only would ban all abortions, it could potentially outlaw birth control, stem cell research, and in vitro fertilization for couples struggling to conceive. Mississippians rejected the amendment but personhood activists are making headway with versions for other states and GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich is championing a national personhood amendment.
– Race/Sex Abortions: Taking their queue from Arizona, House Republicans introduced the Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA) — a so-called “civil rights” bill that bans physicians from performing abortions based on the fetus’s race or sex. The problem of selective abortion is virtually non-existent, as not one state official or independent research offered any evidence of race-based abortions. Only 5 percent of abortions occur after the point when a fetus’s sex can be determined. Arizona’s measure, now law, sends doctors and clinicians to jailfor three years if they knowingly provide such abortions. The federal bill PRENDA allows for civil suits against the physicians.
– Forced Ultrasounds: Several states pushed bills that force doctors to show a woman seeking abortion services an ultrasound of the fetus, and in some cases, describe the image to her. The Kentucky bill, for instance, required doctors to describe the image if the woman chose to avert her eyes or face a $250,000 fine for disobeying the law. The bills are designed to dissuade women from undergoing the procedure, and in Michigan’s case, provide a “gift to the medical device industry” by forcing doctors to use “the most advanced ultrasound equipment available” to get the most “distinct” image of the fetus possible. North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue (D-NC) vetoed her state’s version of the bill, viewing it as “a dangerous intrusion into the confidential relationship that exists between women and their doctors.”
– Fetal Pain: This year, multiple states pushed legislation limiting or banning abortions past 20 – 22 weeks “based on disputed research that fetuses an feel pain at that point of development.” The idea is widely panned by many in the medical field, with the Journal of the American Medical Associationdetermining that “pain perception probably does not function before the third trimester.” Regardless of the science, Republican lawmakers and even presidential candidate Rick Perry endorsed the fetal pain concept in order to challenge the Roe v. Wade ruling and push an earlier ban on abortions. So discredited is the concept of fetal pain that even a Kansas Republican slammed the “false research,” adding “I would be embarrassed to be a state that bases its laws on untruths.”
– Heartbeat Bill: Ohio Republicans are leading other states on the path to pass the “heartbeat bill,” which, if enacted, will be “the most restrictive anti-abortion law in the nation.” The bill outlaws abortions if a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which can occur as early as “six to seven weeks into pregnancy” or before a woman even knows she is pregnant. There is no exception in the bill for rape, incest, or mental health of a woman. What’s more, the bill forces doctors to wait until a woman is actually in danger of dying to ensure the abortion falls under the “threat to life” exception.
– Government Shutdown: The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is an international development agency that promotes universal access to reproductive health services. UNFPA does not, nor has it ever, funded abortions — as dictated by its steering document and by its members. But as Matt Yglesias reported, Republicans were determined to believe that UNFPA funds abortion and thus held up negotiations to fund the government with a policy rider eliminating funding for UNFPA. U.S. law also forbids foreign funding to any entity that supports abortion, but House Republicans were so committed to their unfounded belief that the U.S. might be doing so that they threatened to shut down the entire government over it.
– Attack On Planned Parenthood: While simultaneously trying to ban abortions outright, GOP lawmakers on a state and federal level launched a full-scale effort to defund Planned ParenthoodOnly 3 percent of the women’s health organization’s services are related to abortion, but it’s association with abortion compelled Republicans to enact legislation cutting or completely defunding Planned Parenthood clinics. Without the funds, many clinics across the country were forced to close, leaving hundreds of thousands of women without vital services like breast cancer screenings, STD testing, and contraception. Texas, the largest stateto defund the organizations, may alsoshut down the entire Women’s Health Program that served 125,000 Texas women in 2012 because some of the family planning clinics in the program are affiliated with Planned Parenthood. Arizona even passed a law banning charity contributions to any organization that is related to abortions or even donates to an organization that is related to abortions. Indeed, this year’s Republican war on Planned Parenthood left thousands of low-income women and children who benefit from tangential health programs as collateral damage.

The Debunking Handbook Part 1: The First Myth About Debunking

The Debunking Handbook Part 1: The First Myth About Debunking

Posted: 26 Dec 2011 09:00 AM PST

The Debunking Handbook is a guide to debunking myths, by John Cook and Stephan Lewandowsky. Although there is a great deal of psychological research on misinformation, unfortunately there is no summary of the literature that offers practical guidelines on the most effective ways of reducing the influence of misinformation. This Handbook boils down the research into a short, simple summary, intended as a guide for communicators in all areas (not just climate) who encounter misinformation

This is part one in a five-part series by John Cook originally published at Skeptical Science.

Introduction

Debunking myths is problematic. Unless great care is taken, any effort to debunk misinformation can inadvertently reinforce the very myths one seeks to correct. To avoid these "backfire effects", an effective debunking requires three major elements. First, the refutation must focus on core facts rather than the myth to avoid the misinformation becoming more familiar. Second, any mention of a myth should be preceded by explicit warnings to notify the reader that the upcoming information is false. Finally, the refutation should include an alternative explanation that accounts for important qualities in the original misinformation.

Debunking the first myth about debunking

It's self-evident that democratic societies should base their decisions on accurate information. On many issues, however, misinformation can become entrenched in parts of the community, particularly when vested interests are involved.1,2 Reducing the influence of misinformation is a difficult and complex challenge.

A common misconception about myths is the notion that removing its influence is as simple as packing more information into people's heads. This approach assumes that public misperceptions are due to a lack of knowledge and that the solution is more information – in science communication, it's known as  the "information deficit model". But that model is wrong: people don't process information as simply as a hard drive downloading data.

Refuting misinformation involves dealing with complex cognitive processes. To successfully impart knowledge, communicators need to understand how people process information, how they modify their existing knowledge and how worldviews affect their ability to think rationally. It's not just what people think that matters, but how they think.

First, let's be clear about what we mean by the label "misinformation" – we use it to refer to any information that people have acquired that turns out to be incorrect, irrespective of why and how that information was acquired in the first place. We are concerned with the cognitive processes that govern how people process corrections to information they have already acquired – if you find out that something you believe is wrong, how do you update your knowledge and memory?

Once people receive misinformation, it's quite difficult to remove its influence. This was demonstrated in a 1994 experiment where people were exposed to misinformation about a fictitious warehouse fire, then given a correction clarifying the parts of the story that were incorrect.3 Despite remembering and accepting the correction, people still showed a lingering effect, referring to the misinformation when answering questions about the story.

Is it possible to completely eliminate the influence of misinformation? The evidence indicates that no matter how vigorously and repeatedly we correct the misinformation, for example by repeating the correction over and over again, the influence remains detectable.4 The old saying got it right – mud sticks.

There is also an added complication. Not only is misinformation difficult to remove, debunking a myth can actually strengthen it in people's minds. Several different "backfire effects" have been observed, arising from making myths more familiar,5,6 from providing too many arguments,7 or from providing evidence that threatens one's worldview.8

The last thing you want to do when debunking misinformation is blunder in and make matters worse. So this handbook has a specific focus – providing practical tips to effectively debunk misinformation and avoid the various backfire effects. To achieve this, an understanding of the relevant cognitive processes is necessary. We explain some of the interesting psychological research in this area and finish with an example of an effective rebuttal of a common myth.

– John Cook

The Debunking Handbook, a guide to debunking misinformation, is now freely available to download. Although there is a great deal of psychological research on misinformation, there's no summary of the literature that offers practical guidelines on the most effective ways of reducing the influence of myths. The Debunking Handbook boils the research down into a short, simple summary, intended as a guide for communicators in all areas (not just climate) who encounter misinformation.

References

  1. Jacques, P. J., & Dunlap, R. E. (2008). The organisation of denial: Conservative think tanks and environmental skepticism. Environmental Politics, 17, 349-385.
  2. Oreskes, N., & Conway, E. M. (2010). Merchants of doubt. Bloomsbury Publishing.
  3. Johnson, H. M., & Seifert, C. M. (1994). Sources of the continued influence effect: When discredited information in memory affects later inferences. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 20 (6), 1420-1436.
  4. Ecker, U. K., Lewandowsky, S., Swire, B., & Chang, D. (2011). Correcting false information in memory: Manipulating the strength of misinformation encoding and its retraction. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 18, 570-578.
  5. Skurnik, I., Yoon, C., Park, D., & Schwarz, N. (2005). How warnings about false claims become recommendations. Journal of Consumer Research, 31, 713-724.
  6. Weaver, K., Garcia, S. M., Schwarz, N., & Miller, D. T. (2007). Inferring the popularity of an opinion from its familiarity: A repetitive voice sounds like a chorus. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92, 821-833.
  7. Schwarz, N., Sanna, L., Skurnik, I., & Yoon, C. (2007). Metacognitive experiences and the intricacies of setting people straight:Implications for debiasing and public information campaigns. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 39, 127-161.
  8. Nyhan, B., & Reifler, J. (2010). When Corrections Fail: The Persistence of Political Misperceptions. Political Behavior, 32, 303-330.

NASA: Climate Change May Flip 40% of Earth's Major Ecosystems This Century

Posted: 26 Dec 2011 07:00 AM PST

by Rolf Schuttenhelm, cross-posted from Bits of Science

The results of studies that try to quantify the effects of climate change on biodiversity loss — which include damage to the micro scale level of subspecies and genetic variation — are perhaps most shocking.

When, however, you focus on the response to climate change at the macro level, the ecosystem level, you get a better understanding of what is one of the major drivers of that biodiversity loss: forced migrations. And even here, the numbers may be larger than one would expect, as a new assessment by NASA and Caltech published in the journal Climatic Change shows that by 2100 some 40 percent of "major ecological community types" – that is biomes like forest, grassland, tundra – will have switched to a different such state.

According to the same study most of the land on Earth that is not currently desert or under an icecap will undergo at least a 30 percent change in vegetation cover.

Ecological damage is the real climate problem

Based on IPCC temperature projections for 2100 [which are probably on the conservative side] of 2-4 degrees Celsius warming scientists of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology ran special computer models to calculate the most probable ecosystem responses across the planet. This average temperature rise is of similar magnitude to the warming that occurred between the Last Glacial Maximum and the onset of the (milder) Holocene – with the big exception that the current warming is happening about 100 times faster – and for ecology that makes a huge difference, the authors stress.

"While warnings of melting glaciers, rising sea levels and other environmental changes are illustrative and important, ultimately, it's the ecological consequences that matter most," says John Bergengren from Caltech, who led the study.

It is not just species that have slowly evolved around specific climatic values, the same goes for ecosystems. As another study, recently published in Science, shows tropical biomes like rainforest, savanna and desert are tied to specific climate tipping points. When certain climatic thresholds are crossed the one ecosystem can suddenly switch to the other, as intermediate states somehow prove to be non-existent.

Migrations will crisscross

As ecosystems shift on a timescale of centuries or less, species cannot adapt [because the required structural evolution takes millions of years] so they have to start moving to find other suited habitat, resembling their original climate and vegetation zones. For most species this requires migration towards the poles – but of course our planet's many features, from mountain ranges, rivers and coastlines, to areas with high human population density and anything from agricultural plains to highways, industries and parking lots, greatly increases the extinction risk for individual species.

Perhaps somewhat harder to envision for us is that [as other new research shows] under continued climate change marine species face similar migratory distances – as the complexity of that blue world below the waterline is not limited to the presence of salty water, and finding replacement ecosystems may be equally challenging for a coral fish as it is for an orangutan.

The fact that some species are much better capable of migrating than others will likely only increase ecological imbalances and the risk of dangerous ecosystem plague damage.

Most sensitive climate hotspots

The new study by NASA and Caltech defines as ecologically sensitive hotspots – areas projected to undergo the greatest degree of species turnover – regions in the Himalayas and the Tibetan Plateau [as this 'third pole' is in fact to be considered a climatic island], eastern equatorial Africa [which has an unstable drought-sensitive climate], Madagascar, the Mediterranean region, southern South America, and North America's Great Lakes and Great Plains areas. The largest areas of ecological sensitivity and biome changes predicted for this century are found in areas with the most dramatic climate change: in the Northern Hemisphere high latitudes, particularly along the northern and southern boundaries of taiga or boreal forests.

Rolf Schuttenhelm is a climate analyst at MeteoVista and a Science Writer for Bits of Science, where this piece was originally published.

Related Posts:

Top 5 Fisheries Stories of 2011: It's Not All Bad News

Posted: 26 Dec 2011 05:00 AM PST

by Michael Conathan

This year was a big one for fisheries. If you're into fishery legislation and important milestones, you already know that it was the 35th anniversary of the Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the law that first ejected foreign fishing fleets from the United States' exclusive economic zone and provided the foundation for how we manage our fisheries. It was also the 15th anniversary of the Sustainable Fisheries Act and the fifth anniversary of passage of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act, the last two major updates to our fisheries statute.

But there were also many significant developments this year that will benefit our fishing industries and our marine environment for generations to come. Here's a quick rundown of the top five stories in fishery management from 2011.

1. Ending overfishing in America

By far the biggest story of the year in fisheries management was the successful implementation of annual catch limits in our fisheries. This effectively ended overfishing in America. In March, National Marine Fisheries Service Administrator Eric Schwaab announced that his agency was on track to implement science-based catch limits on all 528 federally managed species of fish, thereby preventing overfishing—the act of catching more fish than science dictates can be sustainably harvested—from occurring in U.S. fisheries.

Of course, fisheries science remains an elusive discipline, and our estimates of fish stock populations are rife with variables. This means that as more data are collected, our perceptions of the health of fish populations may change, and we may realize that what we thought were sustainable harvest levels may have been overly optimistic.

Still, given that fisheries scientists don't have a crystal ball showing what the future holds for fish populations, operating within limits that reflect the best science we have still gives the United States worldwide bragging rights to say our fisheries are the most sustainably managed on the planet. And that's no small feat. So whether you're putting a piece of Alaskan salmon or Atlantic swordfish on your plate, you can end 2011 with the assurance that if it's U.S.-caught, it's sustainable.

2. Cracking down on pirate fishing

Illegal fishing activities, more colorfully known as "pirate fishing," are carried out by vessels that are either unregulated or operating in direct violation of the laws of their home countries. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, pirate fishermen are responsible for catching as much as 26 million tons of seafood annually with a value possibly as high as $23 billion worldwide. These fishermen represent a significant threat to the future sustainability of global fisheries.

Two important steps were taken this year to rein in this harmful activity. The first was a recent U.S.-EU agreement that Jane Lubchenco, administration of NOAA, referred to as a "down payment" on future efforts to stop pirate fishing.

EU Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki traveled to the United States in September for a series of meetings. The European Union is developing its Common Fisheries Policy, the governing statute for EU fisheries, which is roughly analogous to our Magnuson-Stevens Act. As the Europeans attempt to hammer out a compromise on the intricate details of fishery management, Commissioner Damanaki joined Lubchenco to announce that the European Union and the United States had established a bilateral cooperation to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.

And second, on the domestic front, just last week Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI) introduced legislation supported by the Obama administration that would implement an international agreement preventing vessels that engage in pirate fishing from entering their ports.

3. The little fish that could

No smaller fish made bigger headlines in 2011 than the 12-inch-long menhaden, a species that scientists and conservationists say is fundamental to the ocean food web as prey for larger species of fish, such as striped bass, and seabirds like osprey and bald eagles. Menhaden don't end up in fish markets but are more typically processed into fishmeal and fish oil because they are so rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which have tremendous health benefits. They're also often used as bait in other fisheries.

In November the Atlantic States Fishery Management Coalition—the interstate body charged with managing fishing that occurs primarily in state waters along the Atlantic coastal—voted 14-3 to reduce the catch limit for menhaden by 37 percent after scientific recommendations and more than 90,000 public comments urged them to take such action.

This action was particularly noteworthy both for the volume of interest it generated from recreational fishermen and the general public, and for the fact that the action was taken despite a stock assessment completed in 2010 that said the resource was not overfished and overfishing was not occurring.

Thus, catch in the menhaden fishery was not limited primarily to benefit the species itself but rather to benefit its predators.

This decision was a prime example of ecosystem-based management, a concept conservationists have been preaching for years: that we should manage a species according to its role in the ecosystem rather than simply looking at each as an individual. The menhaden decision was a step forward for such big-picture analysis.

Besides, a big reduction in its catch limit must have been a welcome consolation prize for a species that in February lost a bid to be named the Virginia state fish. The winner of that vote? Menhaden's biggest predator: the striped bass. Gulp.

4. The farmer in the delta

Aquaculture, perhaps better known as fish farming, is certain to be a part of our future with the world population on the rise and wild fish stocks under increasing stress from fishing pressure as well as rising ocean temperatures and increasing acidification as a result of global climate change. In June, NOAA announced a new aquaculture policy that recognized the need to develop this industry domestically in a manner that addresses environmental concerns.

Aquaculture certainly has its detractors, however, who fear further industrialization of our ocean space, the potential for increased water pollution from fish food and waste, and that escapes of farmed fish could affect wild populations. In October, for example, some British Colombian scientists reported discovering a highly infectious Atlantic salmon virus in some wild Pacific salmon, which are an entirely different species. To date, Canadian officials have yet to replicate these findings, but a hearing is currently ongoing before a provincial justice of Canada's Supreme Court to get to the bottom of the allegations.

Still, as I discussed in June, if we take domestic aquaculture off the table, our options for seafood become extremely unpalatable. Foreign farmed fish is filthier than anything we would ever allow here, our domestic wild fisheries are already stressed, and the environmental impacts of additional beef, chicken, and pork production make aquaculture look positively pristine.

Thinking we should eat more vegetables and less fish? Try selling vegetarianism as a wide-scale solution to Americans' omnivorous ways and see how far you get. Especially with my 4-year-old. NOAA's policy represents an excellent step toward a future that includes domestic, sustainable seafood.

5. Sharks are friends, not soup

2011 was a banner year for sharks, particularly when it came to combating the practice of shark finning. Because shark fins have such a high market value relative to the value of the meat, some fishermen engage in finning—slashing the fins off sharks and tossing the rest of their carcasses overboard.

The fins are mainly prized as the signature element in the Asian delicacy shark fin soup, which can sell for more than $1,000 per serving in some high-end restaurants despite the insistence by epicures that the fin itself adds nothing to the actual taste of the dish.

In addition to being inherently cruel—a finless shark cannot swim and will die slowly—this practice also allows fishermen to catch far more sharks. And increased harvest can put entire species at risk since sharks are slow to reproduce.

To combat finning, President Obama signed the Shark Conservation Act in January, which strengthened the law banning the practice in U.S. waters. Then in October, California passed a law banning the sale of shark fins throughout the state, joining Washington, Oregon, Hawaii, and Guam. And in November, a high-end chain of hotels in Asia announced it was taking shark fin soup off its menus.

A public service announcement from NBA superstar Yao Ming and a CNN "Planet in Peril" report featuring actress Lisa Ling may have helped the cause as well.

In the film "Finding Nemo," Pixar portrayed three frightening sharks claiming "fish are friends not food." It's nice to be able to return the sentiment.

Michael Conathan is the Director of Ocean Policy at the Center for American Progress. This piece was originally published at the Center for American Progress website.

Gadget

This content is not yet available over encrypted connections.

LEAP