American Elephants

A Terrifying Creature Stalks the Night! by The Elephant's Child

Zoologger is a weekly column at New Scientist that highlights extraordinary animals from around the world.

Onychomys torridus lives in the arid badlands of the Sonoran Desert in the south-western United States and northern Mexico.

In the dark expanses of the Sonoran desert in the US, a terrifying creature stalks the night, searching for fresh meat. Anything will do: crickets, rodents, tarantulas – the nastier the better.

Even the poisonous scorpion cannot escape the savage monster’s little pink paws. It fights bravely, stinging its attacker on the nose. To no avail. The mouse ignores the painful venom and cruelly breaks the scorpion’s tail by pummeling it into the ground, then bites its head and feasts on its flesh. Throwing its head back, the murderous animal howls at the moon.

dn23072-1_300(Image: Michael and Patricia Fogden/Minden/NGS)

This is the southern grasshopper mouse, the only carnivorous mouse in North America. It’s unique biology and resistance to scorpion venom may one day help researchers to treat human pain disorders.

This odd little fellow is a natural-born killer. They take over burrows of other animals and remover any occupants by force. In particularly bad times, they may turn cannibalistic, killing and eating their own species. But they do have unusual resistance to pain. Read the whole article to see how this characteristic may one day help humans.

(purloined from Vanderleun)

Our Irresponsible Media, Irresponsible Again. by The Elephant's Child

Do you remember Polifact’s  “Big Lie of the Year?” Well, of course the fact-checking record of the fact checkers is not exactly pristine. It remains highly tinged with partisan bias, and a distinct lack of self-awareness. This was a big one, though.

It was a lie told in the critical state of Ohio in the final days of a close campaign — that Jeep was moving its U.S. production to China. It originated with a conservative blogger, who twisted an accurate news story into a falsehood. Then it picked up steam when the Drudge Report ran with it. Even though Jeep’s parent company gave a quick and clear denial, Mitt Romney repeated it and his campaign turned it into a TV ad.

And they stood by the claim, even as the media and the public expressed collective outrage against something so obviously false.

The public, of course, did not express collective outrage. That was Polifact pretending more attention that existed. And they did not accurately represent what Mitt Romney said in the ad:

[Mitt Romney] Says Barack Obama “sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China” at the cost of American jobs.

Here’s what Reuters reported on Thursday:” Fiat and its U.S. unit Chrysler expect to roll out at least 100,000 Jeeps in China when production starts in   2014 as they seek to catch up with rivals…”

Mitt Romney was also scoffed at for mentioning dangers in Mali.


Plastic Grocery Bags and Food Borne Illness: by The Elephant's Child
January 19, 2013, 6:15 pm
Filed under: Politics | Tags: , ,

A fad running through city governments has been to ban or impose taxes upon plastic grocery bags. Big pressure from the Greens for reusable cloth bags. This will save us from our addiction to foreign oil and from the need to steal Iraq’s oil or something like that. Who knows what strange mysteries lurk in the minds of the greenest of the greens. This is a long story of green misunderstandings, misguided zealotry, and overblown nannyism.

Here’s an excerpt from a post from April, 2009:

The whole thing began with a misreading of a 1987 Canadian study in Newfoundland, which found that between 1981 and 1984 more than 100,000 marine mammals were killed every year by discarded fishing nets.  The Canadian study did not mention plastic bags. In 2002, a report prepared for the Australian Government by Nolan-ITU said that the Newfoundland study attributed the deaths to “plastic bags.” But according to the Australian Government’s Environment Department website, the report was amended in 2006.

Scientists and environmentalists have questioned the case against the use of plastic shopping bags as based on flawed science and misreporting.  That hasn’t stopped governments everywhere from trying to phase out the plastic bags.  The actual report, later amended, has been widely quoted by environmentalists.  It actually attributed the deaths to all plastic debris, including fishing nets and equipment, and undoubtedly the plastic holders for six-packs.

Regulations really should be required to be accompanied by a cost-benefit analysis. I did my own when my grocery store began to hawk cloth bags, pretty basic ones, at $3.00 each.  I try to shop less often than once a week, and I’m aiming for two weeks. I don’t like shopping, so I probably average at least 20 plastic bags or more. $60 worth of cloth bags? Fat chance. There is also a significant risk of food-borne illness. Food poisoning can be serious, like dead.

The dark, moist, warm interior of a folded, used, reusable bag is an ideal incubator for yeast, mold, and coliforms. Successive trips to the grocery, leaking meat wrappings,  water from moist produce, cracked eggs, or leaking dairy containers, with transfers of microbes from various hands. A Canadian study found that 64% of reusable cloth bags were contaminated, and 30% had higher counts of bacteria than what is considered safe for drinking water.

This is, of course the Seattle area, and that city,(really, really green) has banned plastic bags and put a 5¢ tax on paper bags that applies to all grocery, retail and convenience stores as of July 2012.  I don’t shop in Seattle so I don’t know how it has gone. You should wash cloth bags in soap and water and bleach after every use, to be safe.

Now comes a new study in the Social Science Research Network titled:

Grocery Bag Bans and Foodborne Illness

Recently, many jurisdictions have implemented bans or imposed taxes upon plastic grocery bags on environmental grounds. San Francisco County was the first major US jurisdiction to enact such a regulation, implementing a ban in 2007. There is evidence, however, that reusable grocery bags, a common substitute for plastic bags, contain potentially harmful bacteria. We examine emergency room admissions related to these bacteria in the wake of the San Francisco ban. We find that ER visits spiked when the ban went into effect. Relative to other counties, ER admissions increase by at least one-fourth, and deaths exhibit a similar increase.

Klick, Jonathan and Wright, Joshua D., Grocery Bag Bans and Foodborne Illness (November 2, 2012). Available at SSRN: or

The study can be downloaded at the link above. You might want to pass it on to your city council, if they have banned the bags. If they understand that their misguided ruling can be killing people, they may be interested. Nothing like wrongful death lawsuits to stir action.

Unnecessary Regulation May Devastate the Economy and Your Budget. by The Elephant's Child

Republicans complain about “Big Government” all the time, but I’m not sure that the threat is well understood. We need a government because anarchy is not good. In this country we have assigned certain tasks to government. Making and enforcing a basic framework of laws is necessary to make the country function and become livable. We are a nation of laws.

It is not enough for government to do those certain assigned tasks, they always want to do more. Way more. You might think they would proudly do their assigned functions extremely efficiently, and so well that the citizens would rise up and applaud. Well, no.

Some governments have constitutions that explain what the people are allowed to do but the government can do whatever they darn please, and they do. The government of the European Union isn’t exactly elected as we understand the word, and they don’t really have to report to anyone. So they have gotten all silly about the shape that bananas must have, and requiring farmers to write the hen’s name and address on the eggs they sell, and not paid very much attention to what should be their primary function — efficiently managing the government’s money, and the relations between the states.

Perhaps those folks we elect, and we really have to start looking closely at their qualifications, don’t really understand the process of making laws. The two houses of Congress are inclined to make a big general law of thousands of pages that nobody reads, but here’s the troublesome part. They assign the particulars, figuring out the nasty details and how much it will cost and  how much it will interfere in the lives of the citizens who elected them, to an agency. The government is swarming with agencies, offices, bureaus and whatnot, and the first thing you know there are ten different agencies all doing the same thing, and nobody knows if any of them are doing a good job. And we pay for all the duplication.

Congress does not want to be blamed for regulations. So that’s the part they pass on. But regulation costs — big time. Wayne Crews who investigates regulation for CEI estimates the cost of regulation to the American economy is around $1.8 trillion a year. But the costs come right down to us all at the level of our household budget.

During the first three years of the Obama Administration, 106 new major federal regulations added more than $46 billion a year in new costs for Americans, That is almost four times the number and five times the cost of the major regulations issued by the Bush administration during their first three years. President Obama announced, with the usual fanfare, in January 2011 a new get-tough policy on overregulation. He acknowledged that “rules have gotten out of balance” and “have had a chilling effect on growth and jobs.” He promised a comprehensive review. Thirty-two new major regulations appeared that year, increasing the costs by $10 billion annually along with $6.6 billion in one-time implementation cost.

The White House put a whole slew of regulations on hold during the campaign. There were quite a significant number of things that had to wait until the election was over. No sense letting the public know about things they wouldn’t like. How many new regulations will business have to deal with? Nobody knows. The administration has failed to issue a report, required by law, that would set out Obama’s regulatory agenda — due every April and every October.  Spring and Fall 2012 are still missing.  The reason? There are as many as 4,100 rules in the pipeline, and the administration kept them bottled up for “review” until the president was safely re-elected, because many of them will cost jobs. Couldn’t have that right before the election.

Here’s one example, courtesy of ObamaCare, governing vending machines and restaurants, requiring them to display nutritional information. The regulations were expanded to include grocery stores and virtually all food service chains.  The estimated cost: $1.1 billion with 1.4 million additional paperwork burden hours.

The National Association of Manufacturers has pointed out that new EPA regulations in the pipeline could total up to $1111 billion by govt. estimates and $138 billion by industry estimates. Construction costs could total another $500 billion. Jay Timmons, CEO of the manufacturing group warned of a” devastating ripple effect” that could be felt throughout the economy if federal rules are not relaxed or delayed. Some manufacturers are likely to close their doors for good. Can’t have those Ohio voters finding out about that until after the election.

The Federal Register, published every week day and containing all proposed rules and regulations, most of which govern business activities — the left is very suspicious of business — was 81,000 pages in 2011 alone. Few of these regulations meet the “necessary”criteria, but they can surely have a devastating effect on the economy, and they will raise the cost of everything. Regulations are not free, and not necessarily needed.

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