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President Donald Trump has only been president for eight and a half months but he already has a noteworthy record of appointing people to positions in the federal government who will work actively to dismantle them or, at best, are woefully unqualified for the job.

On Friday, the White House announced the president’s intent to nominate Jim Bridensine, a GOP congressman from Oklahoma, to run NASA. Like many of Trump’s nominees, Bridenstine has no scientific or technical credentials to operate in such a position. He is, however, an outspoken climate change denier.

Both political parties have been quick to condemn the appointment, with both of Florida’s senators, Bill Nelson, a Democrat, and Marco Rubio, a Republican, calling Bridenstine a poor choice.

“I just think [his nomination] could be devastating for the space program,” Senator Rubio said in an interview with Politico. Not just that, but appointing a climate change denier to NASA’s top administrative post could prove devastating to climate change research.

Bridenstine’s denial of climate change is hardly surprising, with fossil fuel companies donating large sums of money to his campaign. In 2013, Bridenstone took to the house floor to demand that then-president Barack Obama apologize for funding climate change research.


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KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Two years ago, Cecil the lion was killed by a Minnesota-based dentist in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, sparking international outrage. Earlier this month, Xanda, the son of Cecil the lion, suffered the same fate.

Officials have been following the movements of Xanda the lion via a GPS collar outfitted back in 2015. Lack of movement on July 7th indicated that the lion had died, and sources familiar with the hunt confirmed the kill.

Xanda strayed outside the boundaries of the National Park, where lions have essentially no protection from game hunters who can legally shoot the animals if the proper permit is obtained.

Researchers are mourning the animal’s death.

“He was shot two kilometers from the park boundary in the Ngamo Forest,” Dr. Andrew Loveridge, a project leader and research fellow with Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit said. “As researchers, we are saddened at the death of a well-known study animal we have monitored since birth.”

The circumstances surrounding Xanda’s death are still fuzzy. In 2015 when his father was killed, he was lured outside of the park’s boundary with food before being killed.

Humane Society International has condemned the killing.

“The killing of Xanda just goes to show that trophy hunters have learned nothing from the international outcry that followed Cecil’s death. They continue at a time when lions face a conservation crisis in Africa, with as few as 20,000 lions left in the wild. Xanda was a well-studied lion like this father and critical to conservation efforts in Zimbabwe,” Humane Society’s Masha Kalina said in a statement.


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minnesota mink farm animal rights

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Somewhere in the neighborhood of 40,000 mink were set loose in Sterns County, Minnesota after likely animal rights activists broke into a mink farm and release the animals into the wild.

The sheriff’s office says no arrests have been made in connection with the burglary.

Sheriff Don Gudmundson thinks animal rights activists were responsible for releasing the animals, and in all likeliness, they were simply released into the wild.

“It’s pretty hard to steal 30,000 to 40,000 mink. What are you going to do put them in a trunk? They’d chew your fingers off,” Gudmundson said.

The mink are domesticated, leaving them ill-equipped to survive in the wild. They are not expected to survive. Hundreds of mink have already been found dead around the mink farm.

“If they actually cared about animals they wouldn’t release thousands of mink to die out in the heat. We’ve already got reports of chickens killed. Don’t they care about God’s chickens?” Gudmundson said.

I’m by no means a fan of raising animals for something as useless as their pelts, but you have to be pretty impressively ignorant to think you can just release 40,000 domesticated mink into the wild and expect things to work out okay.


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French president Emmanuel Macron thinks he’s convinced Trump to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement, reversing a decision last month to withdraw the United States from the non-binding agreement on climate change.

When Trump announced plans to withdraw, he said he’d be willing to negotiate a better deal. European leaders have balked at the idea of changing the terms of the agreement after the fact.

Some think the president now realizes the mistake he made.

“I’ve got a feeling that the president is regretting what he did,” said Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin empire and climate action advocate. “Maybe his children and son in law are saying, ‘Look, I told you so.’ Hopefully, there is a positive change of mind.”

That change of mind may be coming, according to the French President. Macron said that Trump now better understands the link between climate change and terrorism, the latter being an enormous concern of the president.

“He understood the sense of my approach, notably the link that exists between global warming and terrorism. He told me he would try to find a solution in the coming months,” Mr Macron said in an interview with le Journal du Dimanche.

“We talked in detail about what could enable him to come back into the Paris accords.”

Even with Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement, renewable energy implementation is on track to meet the goal the United States set for itself – a 28% decrease in 2005-level carbon emissions by 2020.

But time will tell.


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President Trump has been no stranger to cutting the world off from unfavorable data. He even had the USDA remove information about animal abusers to placate the NRA and big ag. Now, Trump’s proposed budget could cut us, and the rest of the world, off from some pretty vital data.

An alert was sent out by a U.S. Geological Survey program coordinator that warned of the Trump administration’s proposed budget cuts, set for 2018. The cuts, if they end up being approved, will undermine the availability of data that’s been gathered on critical areas like geology, climate change, and weather.

The email was sent to more than 500 researchers on June 19th in the hopes that it would give them enough time to react and comment on these proposed changes.

Up to 40 programs are threatened by these cuts, with programs that focus on climate change and the impact of land use being the most severely hindered.

Debra Willard, a coordinator for the USGS Climate Research and Development Program, said that the cuts “would reduce or eliminate the availability of current data and collaborations between the USGS, other agencies and universities.”

“There was a consensus that suspension of the USGS projects would impede ongoing activities in the international research and policy communities,” Willard said after reading responses from her colleagues.

Without this data being readily available, we’ll be flying blind in a number of ways. Weather and climate could be harder to predict and the impact of land use may not be thoroughly studied and understood.

Cutting off this data could imperil lives as well, with critical information about natural hazards like volcanoes and earthquakes being affected.

There is, of course, no guarantee that the Trump budget is going to be passed, but it’s clear as day that the proposed changes benefit his core message: take what you want now, stymie resistance, and make someone else pay the price down the road.


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Don Blankenship, CEO Massey Energy addresses a luncheon at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, July 23, 2010. ©Mannie Garcia

After spending a year in prison for conspiring to commit mine safety violations that lead to the deaths of 29 people, former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship is exploring a run for senate in West Virginia.

“If I could get some momentum, some help, I might have a chance at winning a Republican primary, particularly,” he said in an interview with a West Virginia radio show on Wednesday. “I assume Joe Manchin would love to see me get in the race because he would probably think I would be more easily beatable than the others.”

I mean, probably yeah.

Blankenship, who received an $86 million severance when he left his job (for prison), has been a huge donor to the West Virginia Republican Party and he even paid a crowd of protesters to show up and interrupt Hillary Clinton’s visit to Mingo County, WV in 2016.

There are some complications to Blankenship’s plan for a senate run, including the fact that he doesn’t live in West Virginia anymore. Legal filings before his trial indicated that Blankenship had relocated to Las Vegas, Nevada to start a real-estate business.


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Image by Jon Callas, Flickr Creative Commons

The solar revolution has begun and there’s not much that can stop it. From reducing our need for dirty fossil fuels to allowing people to produce their own energy at home, solar has so many benefits.

In Australia, solar power is well on its way to being ubiquitous. About 25% of the country’s homes are now equipped with solar panels. With the rapidly decreasing price of the solar panel, many of Australia’s residence are rushing to put them on their roofs.

But this isn’t likely to continue at its current pace. It’s expected that the implementation of solar energy on the community level will likely slow some.

According to a report from SunWiz, rooftop solar now accounts for 5.7 gigawatts of energy produced spanning 1.7 million businesses and households. The first 5 months of 2017 saw a record breaking number of installations.

1% of Australian homes (about 94,000) say they have plans to go solar over the next 12 months.


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Featured image by Randy Anderson – Chinese praying mantis with a ruby-throated hummingbird.

Praying mantises are one of my favorite insects. I had a near-obsession with them when I was a kid and continue to think they’re pretty damn neat. But a new study conducted by zoologists in Switzerland in conjunction with a U.S. team discovered something rather alarming – an invasive species of mantis is hunting hummingbirds in the U.S.

“The fact that eating of birds is so widespread in praying mantises, both taxonomically as well as geographically speaking, is a spectacular discovery,” says Martin Nyffeler from the University of Basel and lead author of the study.

But the news was hardly uplifting to many. Of the 147 documented cases of mantises eating birds, 70% occurred inside the United States. Most of those birds were hummingbirds.

Several decades ago, European and Chinese mantises became a popular go-to for pest control in the United States. Using insects to battle insects is absolutely the right idea, but using non-native mantises wasn’t a wise choise.

The authors say these mantises “now constitute a new potential threat to hummingbirds and small passerine birds.”

“Our compilation suggests that praying mantises frequently prey on hummingbirds in gardens in North America; therefore, we suggest caution in use of large-sized mantids, particularly non-native mantids, in gardens for insect pest control.”


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President Donald Trump has been robustly defending his decision to leave the Paris Climate Agreement, a non-binding agreement to reduce carbon emissions and assist developing countries switch to clean energy alternatives. On Thursday, Trump said he was “proud” of the decision to pull out.

“In order to protect American jobs, companies and workers, we’ve withdrawn the United States from the one-sided Paris Climate Accord,” Trump said in a speech focused on the future of energy in the US.

“I will tell you we’re proud of it,” he said. “And when I go around, there are so many people that say thank you. You saved the sovereignty of our country.”

The Paris Climate Agreement was a landmark one – the first time that effectively the entire globe agreed to take steps to mitigate the impacts of man-made climate change. The agreement is non-binding, with each nation establishing at the outset what they were willing to commit to the fight.

One of the loudest voices standing in opposition to Trump’s decision to pull out is German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has publicly declared that the Paris deal is “not negotiable” and intends to hold Trump’s feet to the fire over his disastrous decision.

Even though the science is effectively settled and the United States is the world’s second-largest contributor of greenhouse gases, Trump campaigned on the idea that climate change is a Chinese hoax. Sadly, his ignorance, willing or not, is damning future generations to a horrid life.


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Did you know that energy is so inexpensive in Iceland that it is cheaper to ship aluminum from Australia to Iceland for its final treatment? I don't know much about refining aluminum, but I do know that final process (bauxite scrubbing?) is quite energy-intensive. And it must be worth it to ship something all the way from the other side of the world. I can't imagine there are many ports further apart than Australia to Iceland! I used to play this game on my Amiga called Ports of Call. I may have to boot it up to check! Anyway, this geothermal plant was very interesting and perfect for photography. Asmundur and I spent a bit of time there moving around for cool perspectives. I'd like to thank him again for taking me there! from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.com

Environmental advocates who’ve been working tirelessly to halt the Dakota Access pipeline have been given what some are calling a lifeline. In a ruling on Wednesday, US district judge James Boasberg said that the US Army Corps of Engineers did not perform an adequate environmental survey.

The judge cites the possible impacts of an oil spill affecting “fishing rights, hunting rights, and environmental justice, or the degree to which the pipeline’s effects are likely to be highly controversial.”

The judge is calling on the army to perform a new environmental analysis in key sections of their original survey. The judge has not ruled on whether or not to halt operations in the meantime, but it is a distinct possibility.

It’s “a significant victory” according to chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe Dave Archambault II. The Standing Rock Sioux led the opposition to the pipeline for several months through the dead of winter.

“Until now, the rights of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe have been disregarded by builders of the Dakota Access pipeline and the Trump administration, prompting a well-deserved global outcry,” said Jan Hasselman, attorney for Earthjustice, calling the decision “an important turning point.”

Previously, Judge Boasberg rejected two complaints from tribes in the vicinity of the pipeline. One tribe attempted to divert the path of the pipeline because of threats to sites of cultural and historical significance.

“Now that the court has rejected these two lines of attack, Standing Rock and Cheyenne River here take their third shot, this time zeroing in DAPL’s environmental impact,” Boasberg wrote. “This volley meets with some degree of success.”


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