American Elephants


A Somali Wild Ass Filly, Born at Zoo Basel in Switzerland by The Elephant's Child

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This charming young foal is a Somali Wild Ass named Lakisha. She was born at Zoo Basel in Switzerland. Zoo Basel is a world leader in the conservation of this Critically Endangered Species. She is the forty-first Somali Ass to be born and raised at this zoo since 1972.  Here she is with Mom, and as you can see, she’s full of energy!

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The Somali Wild Ass is a subspecies of the African Wild Ass. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, there are fewer than 1,000 African Wild Asses remaining in the wild. They are hunted for food and medicinal purposes, and compete with livestock for forage and sources of water. The Somali subspecies occurs in small populations in Somalia, Eritrea and Ethiopia.

 



A Thirteen-Year-Old Girl Hunting With Her Golden Eagle by The Elephant's Child

Here is a remarkable look at a thirteen-year-old Mongolian girl hunting with a golden eagle, from the BBC.  Beautiful photography, beautiful young Mongolian girl, and a glimpse of her school, and the beauty of Mongolia. Enjoy.



The Shame of Brandeis University by The Elephant's Child

Brandeis University invited Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-born activist to speak at their upcoming graduation ceremonies and receive an honorary degree. Well deserved. She has focused on the brutal treatment of women and girls rampant in Islamic societies like the one in which she was raised. Her efforts to call attention to them as a legislator in the Netherlands led to fear for her life and her eventual flight to the United States.

Since they thought her brave advocacy deserved the recognition of an honorary degree, it was somewhat startling that the controversial aspect of her views was new and surprising information that led to Brandeis President Fred Lawrence to claim that he had to withdraw the degree because of information he had only lately discovered. Ayaan Hirsi Ali was not surprised that she came under attack from the Council on Islamic Relations.  Such attacks are not new.

One might think that she had given $1,000 some six years ago to the campaign to recognize marriage as a contract between a man and a woman, as it has been for several thousand years. At Rutgers University, faculty and students objected to Condoleezza Rice’s selection as graduation speaker, based on her association with the Iraq War, but so far Rutgers seems to have more character than Brandeis.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali said:

 I assumed that Brandeis intended to honor me for my work as a defender of the rights of women against abuses that are often religious in origin. For over a decade, I have spoken out against such practices as female genital mutilation, so-called “honor killings,” and applications of Sharia Law that justify such forms of domestic abuse as wife-beating or child-beating. Part of my work has been to question the role of Islam in legitimizing such abhorrent practices. So I was not surprised when my usual critics, notably the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), protested against my being honored in this way.

Our academic institutions are in bad shape. They are bastions of political correctness, conformed speech, and Leftist theology. Free speech is neither understood nor observed. You must conform. Dissent is not allowed. In such an atmosphere, it’s no wonder that graduates are having trouble finding jobs. Critical thinking, though much celebrated, doesn’t often happen. Is one to believe that Brandeis University favors genital mutilation and prepubescent little girls married off to old men, and honor killings?

Here’s Ayaan Hirsi Ali giving an earlier speech, in 2013 in Australia. We fear our activists because they might prove to be controversial. Someone might object. But then we might still be burning dissenters at the stake.

 



Have You Noticed Rising Food Prices? Here’s why: by The Elephant's Child

Food prices are up, and manufacturers are trying hard to keep you from noticing. Cereal boxes remain the same height, but they are thinner. Baker’s chocolate, formerly in 8 oz. boxes, now comes in boxes that are about ¼” smaller in every direction, contains half as much chocolate “NEW! 4 oz. Easy Break Bar, Same great chocolate. ” Still the same great price, for half as much. Sugar packages have lost a pound of content. I don’t like seeing food prices climb, but I object even more to manufacturers’ attempts to fool me.

If we insist, as a nation, on putting most of our corn crop into our gas tanks — the result is food price inflation. Food prices are rising faster than overall inflation. Core inflation is running around 2%, but the USDA said food prices would be up 3% to 4% last year. Corn ethanol does nothing for the climate, and it contains less energy than gasoline.  You’re just paying farmers to grow fuel instead of food. A rise in the price of corn affects the price of other farm commodities such as meat, poultry, dairy and soy products. Congress ended the direct ethanol subsidies in 2011, but the renewables standard remains, and it is the biggest factor. Food prices hit the poor the hardest, and the ethanol mandate is essentially a tax on the poor.

“Organic” foods have been heavily promoted. They cost about 30% more than non-organic foods, but the label “organic” means only that growers used “natural” fertilizers and “natural” pesticides, but pesticide residue does not cross the conservative safety thresholds set by regulators. Natural fertilizer refers to animal manure —pathogen-laden animal excreta. “Organic” is supposed to be better for the natural environment, but it isn’t so, it just uses more land. The term “organic” refers to the practices and procedures a farmer intends to use. It does not indicate superior nutrition, flavor, or healthful qualities. It’s not better for  you, just more expensive.

And for sheer silliness, consider the locavores. Now that with modern transportation we can have summer foods in the winter, plentiful vegetables when it’s snowing out, and strawberries all year around, the purists insist on locally grown food, with the suggestion that it is much fresher. But there’s not much local in the winter, and it may be flown in faster anyway.

Environmentalists are the loons who care more about the environment than about people. Fringe anti-biotechnology activists are hell-bent on banning anything containing a chemical.  Chemicals are bad. A current interest is genetically modified food. Modify people’s genes as much as you want, select the desired sex and attributes of your potential baby, but don’t modify plants to be more resistant to disease, or insert a gene for Vitamin A to prevent blindness, as in “golden rice,”— an incalculable benefit to parts of the world dependent on rice, yet lacking the essential vitamin in their food supply. Better to have blind kids than mess with their food. The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) are not GMO skeptics, as they like to portray themselves,  but fringe anti-chemical activists operating on the “precautionary principle” or the theory that if something is ‘suspected’ of potentially causing harm, you have to prove that it will not.

We are growing more food on less land, the green revolution, that will help to feed a hungry world. Food for the Poor is asking for help to feed starving Guatemalan children. Egypt is having trouble feeding their own people. We have over 17 years of successful GMO cultivation, millions of acres, hundreds of millions of servings and not one instance of adverse health or environmental effects. It is a remarkable achievement, and there are far more achievements in the pipeline.

Biotechnology offers an unparalleled safety record and demonstrated commercial success. Remarkably, however, biotechnology might not reach its full potential. In part, that’s because outspoken opponents of GM crops in the U.S. have spearheaded a “labeling” movement that would distinguish modified food from other food on grocery store shelves. Never mind that 60%-70% of processed food on the market contains genetically modified ingredients. In much of Europe, farmers are barred from growing genetically modified crops. Even in Africa, anti-biotechnology sentiment has blocked its application. In Zambia, for example, the government refused donations of GM corn in 2002, even as its people starved.

Opponents of GM crops have been extremely effective at spreading misinformation. GM crops don’t, as one discredited study claimed recently, cause cancer or other diseases. GM cotton isn’t responsible for suicides among Indian farmers—a 2008 study by an alliance of 64 governments and nongovernmental organizations debunked that myth completely. And GM crops don’t harm bees or monarch butterflies.

Anyone who cares about alleviating hunger and protecting the environment should work quickly to remove the bias against GM crops. A good first step is for educated, scientifically literate people to avoid being taken in by the myths about genetically modified food. These innovations have too much potential to empower individuals and feed the world to be thwarted by falsehoods and fear-mongering.



40 Maps That Help You Understand the World: by The Elephant's Child

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A Visual Representation of World Population Distribution.  (click to enlarge)

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U.S Map of the Highest Paid Public Employees by State. (click to enlarge)

Here are the entire 40 maps. They make you think a little differently about the world from the distribution of McDonald’s across the world to which side of the road the world drives on.



The Planet Will Boil Over if Young Africans Are Allowed Cars by The Elephant's Child

President Obama speaking to young Africans, on his vacation trip to Africa.



The Optics of the Africa Trip — Not so Good. by The Elephant's Child

President Barack Obama told a town hall in Johannesburg, South Africa on Saturday that “Ultimately, if you think about all of the youth that everybody has mentioned here in Africa, if everybody is raising living standards to the point where everybody has got a car and everybody has got air conditioning and everybody has got a big house, well the planet will boil over — unless we find new ways of producing energy.”

According to Obama global warming constitutes “the biggest challenge we have environmentally,” one greater than all other environmental calamities like “dirty water, dirty air.” Sorry, not true. The World health Organization estimates the “global warming” is responsible for approximately 140,000 deaths each year.

The greatest problem that we can actually do something about is unclean drinking water. According to UNESCO, unsanitized water causes billions of preventable diseases annually: from diarrhea (4 billion), cholera (120,000), malaria (300-500 million), intestinal parasites (25% of world’s population) typhoid (12 million), trachoma (6 million), and schistosomeisis (200 million) — listed from the highest to the least affected. We know how to treat water to make it safe, even in the far abroad. There is absolutely nothing that we can do that will affect global warming in the slightest.

Somehow that just doesn’t come across too well. The president flies in on Air Force One, with a bunch of cargo planes in tow to carry the 12 limousines, and that already puts the trip over $25 million, and he tells the Africans that they can’t have air conditioning and cars and big houses, because he’s still stuck in AlGore fantasy land. He implied several times that the U.S. would only encourage growth in Africa if it is grounded in “clean energy strategies.” I imagine there are a lot of places in Africa where solar energy could provide some energy in a place where none has been obtainable, and the cost of solar panels has been dropping. Some energy is preferable to none at all. But the president apparently has in mind some big investment like Solyndra. Uh huh.

George W. Bush and Laura are in Africa too, but they are quietly helping to renovate a women’s clinic in Zambia, U2 frontman Bono, who is an activist for the poor and sick in Africa is crediting evangelical Christians and former President George W. Bush for saving 9 million from the ravages of AIDS, a campaign the musician says is blessed by God.  Barack Obama cut back on the AIDS funds, last year and this. Priorities.

Ultimately, if you think about all the youth that everybody has mentioned here in Africa, if everybody is raising living standards to the point where everybody has got a car and everybody has got air conditioning, and everybody has got a big house, well, the planet will boil over — unless we find new ways of producing energy.” – See more at: http://cnsnews.com/news/article/obama-planet-will-boil-over-if-young-africans-are-allowed-cars-air-conditioning-big#sthash.mfG2Krs7.dpuf
Ultimately, if you think about all the youth that everybody has mentioned here in Africa, if everybody is raising living standards to the point where everybody has got a car and everybody has got air conditioning, and everybody has got a big house, well, the planet will boil over — unless we find new ways of producing energy.” – See more at: http://cnsnews.com/news/article/obama-planet-will-boil-over-if-young-africans-are-allowed-cars-air-conditioning-big#sthash.mfG2Krs7.dpuf
Ultimately, if you think about all the youth that everybody has mentioned here in Africa, if everybody is raising living standards to the point where everybody has got a car and everybody has got air conditioning, and everybody has got a big house, well, the planet will boil over — unless we find new ways of producing energy.” – See more at: http://cnsnews.com/news/article/obama-planet-will-boil-over-if-young-africans-are-allowed-cars-air-conditioning-big#sthash.mfG2Krs7.dpuf
Ultimately, if you think about all the youth that everybody has mentioned here in Africa, if everybody is raising living standards to the point where everybody has got a car and everybody has got air conditioning, and everybody has got a big house, well, the planet will boil over — unless we find new ways of producing energy.” – See more at: http://cnsnews.com/news/article/obama-planet-will-boil-over-if-young-africans-are-allowed-cars-air-conditioning-big#sthash.mfG2Krs7.dpuf


The Greening of Planet Earth Continues by The Elephant's Child

The true story of “Carbon Pollution.” Somebody tell Mr. Obama.



Animals You Didn’t Know Existed by The Elephant's Child

Markhor

This handsome fellow with the spectacular horns and amazing beard is a Markhor, a large species of wild goat found in Northeastern Afghanistan and Pakistan. The species is classed by the IUCN as Endangered, as there are fewer than 2,500 mature individuals. The Markhor is the national animal of Pakistan. When it chews its cud, a foam-like substance comes out of its mouth which drops on the ground and dries. This dried foam-like substance is sought after by the local people, who believe it is useful in extracting the poison from snake bites.

This collection of 22 animals that most of us didn’t know existed simply accentuates Dr. Tim Ball’s column in the previous post.

We don’t know how many species there are. We don’t have even crude estimates of populations. We don’t know how much population numbers vary.

Animal populations and distributions vary considerable over time. Every report of decline or discovery in a new location is now attributed to human induced climate change or other human activity. Perhaps the most outrageous is the claim of humans hunting Ice Age species to extinction. All ignore natural variability, but that is the pattern of anti-humanity environmental hysteria.

I’ve posted articles before on newly discovered species that no one knew existed, as well as on species that were supposed to be extinct, except that we found some more.

The Endangered Species Act doesn’t have a very good record of success. Some stopped being endangered when we stopped shooting them, some were never endangered in the first place, some stopped being endangered when numbers of their predators were reduced, and some—like the wolf, beloved by the environmentalists, have returned in such numbers that they are a threat to ranchers and other wildlife. People aren’t very good at establishing the balance of Nature.

(via @MeredithDake. And thanks to Seriously for Real/Amazing World for the fascinating article)



Nearly One Billion People Have Escaped Extreme Poverty in 20 Years, Thanks to Free-Market Capitalism by The Elephant's Child

From Economist Mark Perry at AEI, an excerpt from The Economist:

The world’s achievement in the field of poverty reduction is, by almost any measure, impressive. Although many of the original Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) —such as cutting maternal mortality by three-quarters and child mortality by two-thirds—will not be met, the aim of halving global poverty between 1990 and 2015 was achieved five years early.

The MDGs may have helped marginally, by creating a yardstick for measuring progress, and by focusing minds on the evil of poverty. Most of the credit, however, must go to capitalism and free trade, for they enable economies to grow—and it was growth, principally, that has eased destitution.

The world now knows how to reduce poverty. A lot of targeted policies—basic social safety nets and cash-transfer schemes help. So does binning policies like fuel subsidies to Indonesia’s middle class and China’s hukou household-registration system that boost inequality. But the biggest poverty-reduction measure of all is liberalizing markets to let poor people get richer. That means freeing trade between countries (Africa is still cruelly punished by tariffs) and within them (China’s real great leap forward occurred because it allowed private business to grow). Both India and Africa are crowded with monopolies and restrictive practices.

Many Westerners have reacted to recession by seeking to constrain markets and roll globalization back in their own countries, and they want to export these ideas to the developing world, too. It does not need such advice. It is doing quite nicely, largely thanks to the same economic principles that helped the developed world grow rich and could pull the poorest of the poor out of destitution.



The World Needs Genetically Modified Food! by The Elephant's Child

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For most people last weekend was the observance of Memorial Day, a time to remember the fallen. For the easily aroused, it was a time to march in a global protest against Monsanto and genetically modified seeds. Well, the global warming thingy is in freefall as a protest message, since most people are noticing that it is significantly cooling (where is summer anyway?), with late snow to emphasize the fact. Are the protesters always just the same people? The pictures look like it. Is there a certain type who just loves to march and wave signs?

Organizers said  “March Against Monsanto” demonstrations were being held in some 300 cities in more than 44 countries that weekend.  It was described as a social media-generated call to action against genetically modified foods and the multinational corporations that produce them. Goodness, you alter a gene to include vitamin A in rice, creating “golden rice,”which will save millions from blindness, and the perennially suspicious go bonkers.

Genetically modified seeds help farmers to grow more on less land, and to conserve resources such as water and energy. Some supporters just want any foods grown from GMO seeds to be so labeled, others want to prohibit the process. Proposition 37, a ballot measure that would have made California the first state to require labels on fresh produce and processed foods whose DNA had been modified by scientists, was defeated at the polls.

Unsurprisingly, much of the misinformation on GMO crops comes from promoters of Organic Food. “Organic” is merely a marketing campaign. Multiple studies have shown no benefits of any kind from organic food, other than the higher prices it brings to marketers, and Whole Foods.

Demographers expect world population to keep growing until about 2050, and then start declining. The industrialized nations , for the most part, have declining birth rates, and as prosperity increases, that seems to be the natural tendency. Until 2050, we need to produce more food to feed the world. If the world continues to cool, we might desperately need GMO foods that are more adapted to cold. Varieties of  grains adapted to particular soils or climates can dramatically increase production. Reducing the cost of weed control, or reducing susceptibility to a virus, can be a very big deal. Reducing pesticide use makes food healthier. Adding beta carotene to golden rice could prevent millions of cases of blindness. Do people not recognize that countries like Egypt cannot feed their own population?

Growers and marketers are sensitive to the protests of activist groups. They have seen foolish scares do tremendous damage to their businesses. Remember the cranberry scare, Alar, and activists attempting to destroy crops? Here’s some information on genetically modified food:

The World Needs Genetically Modified Food” WSJ, April 14, 2013

The  Top 5 Lies About Biotech Crops” Reason, Feb. 22, 2013

Organic industry’s credibility eroded by misinformation about GE foods”  American Enterprise Institute, May 20, 2013



At Least 10,000 New Crocodiles in the Limpopo River. by The Elephant's Child

An African Safari

South Africa has called out the police to join the hunt for as many as 10,000 crocodiles that have escaped from a crocodile farm during floods and been washed into one of Southern Africa’s biggest rivers. Do not go swimming in the Limpopo River.

Heavy rains and flooding have claimed at least 20 lives in Mozambique and South Africa and led to evacuations. The flood gates at the Rakwena Crocodile farm close to the Botswana and Zimbabwe borders ere opened on Sunday because it was feared that rising flood waters would crush the reptiles, releasing some 15,000 crocodiles. Most are less than 78 inches long.

Crocodile farmers, locals and police have trapped thousands of the reptiles, using plastic bands to tie their legs behind their backs and piling them into pick-up trucks. They have more success at night, because it is easier to see them. Huh.

I have never lived where crocodiles are common, nor alligators, nor do I want to. Someone once sent us a baby crocodile as a  joke. Not funny. Fortunately, a worker at the Humane Society had a husband who was a Herpetologist who was delighted to have the chance to raise one. Took me a long time to get over being angry about that.




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