American Elephants


There Are More Than 50 Million Refugees, For the First Time Since World War II by The Elephant's Child

At the end of 2013, The United Nations Refugee Agency’s report released last Friday says, 51.2 million people were refugees. For the first time since World War II we have more than 50 million people driven from their homes, all too often in fear for their lives. And the numbers can only be increasing exponentially as Iraqis and Syrians flee to neighboring countries.

Of the 51.2 refugees— 12 million are being cared for by the United Nations aid agencies. 6.3 million of those have been displaced for more than five years. The largest numbers of refugees come from Afghanistan, Somalia and Syria. The exodus from Iraq has just started. The countries harboring the most refugees are Iran, Lebanon and Pakistan. At the time the report was released the greatest numbers came from the Syrian civil war, with more than 2.5 million Syrians fleeing to neighboring countries. Lebanon is only a small country of 4.5 million people— one fourth of those are refugees. They are quickly running out of basic necessities. And the chaos in Iraq only erupted this month. It takes a lot of fear to make you grab a little of your stuff and run.



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

May 30, 2013, 7:07 pm | Edit this

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This is re-posted from about this time last year. I don’t know if they are holding protest meetings against Monsanto, but otherwise the beat goes on. They are still trying to force grocery stores to identify any GMO containing foods with labels, by law.

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?  Always new food fads or fears that seem to grow in some mysterious underground.  Is it just word of mouth? I don’t know. They are still protesting fluoride in our water, but brushing their teeth with it.



The Story of Trade: What’s Each Country’s Highest Value Export? by The Elephant's Child

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(Click to enlarge)

Not the only, but the highest value export, although for some countries it could be the only one. A little more geographical knowledge can’t hurt.



It Takes Trey Gowdy Just Three Minutes to Silence the Press. by The Elephant's Child

Apparently American Journalism schools allow their students to graduate without ever learning the true function of the American journalism establishment in a free society.

They think they are there —not to inform the American people and to be vigilant watchdogs of the government— but they blithely have wispy ideas about making this a better world. Not their job. A statement long overdue.

(via CainTV)



Please, Enough Already With The Hashtag Signs by The Elephant's Child

Can we please quit with the celebrities holding up little signs, and the hashtag signs in particular. It is clearly well-meant, but it trivializes serious things.

Tweets can seem memorable if just the right words are chosen, but brevity is not explanatory. It is bumper-sticker sloganeering — mindless and ephemeral.

Boko Haram means literally “books bad,” or “Western education is a sin.” Any education not based and centered upon the Qur’ran and Islam is sinful.

In the first three months of the year, Islamic jihadists in Nigeria have murdered at least 2,596 people. The onslaught by Boko Haram began sometime in 2009. It has come to the attention of the West only in recent savage attacks on schools, with children slaughtered, burned to death, or gathered up to be sold as sex slaves, which is perfectly legal and proper in Islam to prevent men from committing adultery.

Secretary of State John Kerry says it’s because of poverty. You can skirt around the problem of terrorism, refusing to call it by name, but improper designation simply makes the problem worse. The government of Nigeria seems unable to cope, but holding up little signs accomplishes nothing —nothing at all.



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



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