Native American Rights Fund: Stop the Forced Removal of Baby Veronica

Suzette Brewer, Indian Country Today Media Network

Echoing the loud thunder of voices from Native communities and organizations across the U.S. and Canada in outcry over yesterday’s decision to return Veronica Brown to South Carolina, the Native American Rights Fund yesterday issued the strongest statement yet in a call to action to join the fight in protecting the girl’s right to be raised by her biological father, Dusten Brown.

“The Native American Rights Fund joins with the Brown family, the Cherokee Nation, the National Congress of American Indians, the National Indian Child Welfare Association, and many others inside and outside of Indian country who are expressing their outrage over the South Carolina Supreme Court’s imprudent order effectively granting the adoption of Veronica without due process of law or a hearing to determine what is in her best interest,” said the statement from the country’s oldest Native legal rights organization.

The Native American Rights Fund encourages all of the state attorneys general, adoption and child welfare organizations, past and present members of Congress, religious organizations, and others who submitted briefs in the case to express their concern and join with Indian country to take all necessary steps to stop the forced removal of this Indian child from her Indian father, her Indian family, and her Indian community.”

As rage over the decision began to take shape on Thursday, Native leaders, community members and legal experts were unanimous in their solidarity toward what they feel is a rubber stamp of approval from the court by taking Veronica from her home. In short, they feel that the Capobiancos “won ugly,” and have been rewarded by removing the child from a fit parent and a community in which she has thrived.

“This is Indian country’s Trayvon Martin moment; we cannot pass on this,” said a Native legal scholar in Washington, D.C., who asked not to be identified because of the ongoing litigation. “The message is clear: They are continuing to take our land, they’re taking our children, they’re taking our identity and now the courts have endorsed this whole pattern of white settler mentality.

This man and his daughter have been denied due process all the way down and he did not even get a hearing to determine what’s in his own daughter’s best interest, which in itself represents the destruction of tribes. He needs to have a fair hearing and we in Indian country support him 100 percent in retaining a child that never should have been put up for adoption in the first place.”

National native organizations and tribes have begun gathering and collaborating in mobilizing support for a case that has struck at the heart of tribal existence perhaps more so than any time since the Termination Era of the 1950s. Advocates say that the course this case has taken has forced many in Indian country from the sidelines to take a public stand and who are willing to take to the streets, if necessary.

“They don’t get it,” says A. Gay Kingman, executive director of the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association. “Who is thinking and representing the best interests of this child? Like many of our American Indian children in South Dakota, she is being removed from her birth father, her Indian family and her tribe. Shouldn’t the child have due process?”

Whatever shape this case takes over the coming days, grassroots activism and legal mobilization are gaining momentum by the minute.

“This is not over,” said the legal scholar. “It’s not over by a longshot.”

 

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/07/19/native-american-rights-fund-stop-forced-removal-baby-veronica-150489

Attacking Sovereignty: 2nd Circuit Rules to Tax Slots at Tribal Casino

Gale Courey Toensing, Indian Country Today Media Nework

A federal appeals court has ruled that the slot machines leased by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe from non-tribal businesses can be taxed.

The ruling by the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals on July 15 reversed a decision by a federal district court judge that said states and their subdivisions cannot tax property on Indian land regardless of who owns it. (Related story: Mashantucket Court Ruling Reaffirms Non-taxable Status of Reservations)

The Nation has the option of asking for a rehearing or filing a petition with the United States Supreme Court to review the appeals court ruling but no such decision has yet been made. “’We just received the decision today and continue to review it,” William L. Satti, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation’s (MPTN) Director of Public Affairs, said on July 16. “We are disappointed that the Court of Appeals reversed the District Court’s decision, which ruled in favor of the tribe.”

The town of Ledyard called the ruling “a precedent-setting decision in favor of state and local governments,” according to The Day. “With this decision, the town of Ledyard will be able to collect taxes that are critically important to providing government services, including those that result from being a host community for the Foxwoods casino,” said Ledyard Mayor John Rodolico. “This case was just the tip of the iceberg, and our tax revenues would have taken a huge hit if we had not persevered throughout this eight-year legal battle to achieve this victory,” he said.

The ruling notes that the town expends $652,158 annually on services to the Nation offset by around $415,900 in federal aid, leaving the town with $236,258 in non-reimbursed costs. It also notes the MPTN employs 10,000 people and has reimbursed the state more than $56 million for law enforcement services since it opened in 1992. The Nation has contributed almost $3.3 billion from slot revenues to the state and around $85 million in donations to local organizations.

Michael Willis, an attorney with the firm Hobbs, Strauss, Dean & Walker who specializes in Indian tax issues, called the 2nd Circuit ruling “very controversial” because it concerns Indian gaming activities. “I think the shocking part of the 2nd Circuit Decision is there are specific provisions in IGRA that indicate that states are not allowed to tax Indian gaming activities and in order to get around that the 2nd Circuit says owning a slot machine is not in itself a gaming activity,” Willis told Indian Country Today Media Network. “But the reality is if slot machines were not engaged in Class III gaming activity on behalf of the tribe, they’d be illegal in the State of Connecticut so, really, it’s hard to fathom how the 2nd Circuit comes up with the view that slot machines are not engaged in gaming activity. It’s absurd. It overturns what was a fairly reasoned opinion in the lower court.”

In March 2012, a federal court granted the Nation’s motion for summary judgment in complaints it had filed against the town in August 2006 and September 2008 on behalf of two vendors – New Jersey-based Atlantic City Coin & Slot Co. and WMS Gaming – who lease slot machines to the tribe for use at Foxwoods Resort Casino. The Nation had argued that imposition of the tax by the town was preempted by the federal Indian Trader Statutes and the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) and cited White Mountain Apache Tribe v. Bracker, which balances federal, state and tribal interests, federal district court Judge Warren W. Eginton upheld the Nation’s position and wrote in his ruling, “Indian tribes are distinct sovereign entities that are ‘distinct, independent political communities retaining their original natural rights.’” Worcester is one of the Marshall Trilogy cases from 1823 to 1832 that set the foundation for Indian law. The trilogy paradoxically asserts the sovereignty of Indian nations while denying them land rights other than occupancy. “States do not have authority to regulate Indian tribes where a state law is preempted by federal law or infringes upon the ‘right of reservation Indians to make their own laws and be ruled by them,’” Eginton said.

But the appeals court said the federal court had erred and none of MPTN’s arguments bars the town from taxing a non-tribal entity. The panel called it a “close case” but ultimately ruled in favor of the state and town of Ledyard. “[T]he tribe’s generalized interests in sovereignty and economic development are not significantly impeded by the state’s generally-applicable tax; neither are the federal interests protected in IGRA,” the ruling says. “The town has moderate economic and administrative interests at stake, and the affront to the state’s sovereignty on one hand approximates the affront to the tribe’s sovereignty on the other. The balance of equities here favors the town and state.

The town spent more than $900,000 on legal fees in the case, according to The Day. The 2nd Circuit ruling notes that the slot machines leased by the two companies combined generate $20,000 in annual property taxes.

 

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/07/22/attacking-sovereignty-2nd-circuit-rules-tax-slots-tribal-casino-150526

Berg sworn in as superintendent

Kirk BoxleitnerDr. Becky Berg is sworn in as superintendent of the Marysville School District by Marysville School Board President Chris Nation on July 8

Kirk Boxleitner
Dr. Becky Berg is sworn in as superintendent of the Marysville School District by Marysville School Board President Chris Nation on July 8

Kirk Boxleitner, Marysville Globe

MARYSVILLE — Dr. Becky Berg was sworn in and presided over her first Marysville School Board meeting as superintendent of the school district on Monday, July 8, and as she took the seat of her new role, she was acutely conscious of the legacy that she has to live up to.

“From where the Board and superintendent sit in the Board room, we face a wall with the names of former Board members and superintendents dating back to the early 1960s,” Berg said. “I’ve read those names, and I’m struck by those who have gone before, who have dedicated their lives and careers to public service, and more importantly to the children of the Marysville and Tulalip communities. I am humbled and challenged to take the symbolic baton from those in our past, and to help lead our fine district into the future.”

Although Berg has already interacted with members of those communities on several occasions, including the Marysville School District’s strategic leadership transitioning meeting on June 18, she remains reticent to draw more than general conclusions.

“At this point, I’ve officially been on the job just a few weeks,” Berg said. “In this short amount of time in the position, I would be remiss to make profound judgements about the community that I now call home. I will say, however, that those whom I have met have a deep commitment to children and their futures. They also have a deep local pride and great optimism about the future of Marysville and Tulalip.”

Berg shares that sense of optimism, and echoed Marysville School Board President Chris Nation’s frequent refrain that the community needs to know the district’s success stories.

“Marysville and Tulalip have so much to be proud of, and are second to none in relation to other communities and school districts,” Berg said. “We do have far to go, however, until we reach our mission of each child, every day, as well as 100 percent graduation, but there is simply no reason we cannot reach our goals. I so look forward to coming together to envision the next few years for our school district.”

Berg repeated the quote attributed to Chief Sitting Bull, “Let us put our heads to together and see what life we will make for our children.”

To that end, Berg explained that she and the Board are committed to listening to the community members, families and employees of the district, to understand its history and complexities, while still managing its day-to-day operations and preparing for the reopening of school in September. In the long term, the district is approaching the end of the Board’s four-year goals, as well as the sunsetting of the current maintenance and operations levy.

“[That levy] is vital funding for school districts such as ours,” Berg said. “We will follow the lead of our Board of Directors, as we discuss initiating the next stage of strategic planning, and consideration of renewal of our maintenance and operations levy, which our community has supported for years.”

On Monday, July 15, Berg began a week-long vacation, but far from relaxing on a beach, she’ll be working in Washington, D.C., with the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, a nonprofit group with 140,000 members worldwide that’s concerned with issues of learning, teaching and leading. Berg currently volunteers as the president of ASCD.

“I find this kind of working vacation so exhilarating, because when we come together from across the globe, to learn from each other and to advance the mission of success for each and every child, there is no stopping us,” Berg said. “An additional bonus from this kind of volunteer work is that I come home with new ideas and solutions that directly benefit the students of Marysville and Tulalip. I am so energized and thrilled to be a part of the Marysville School District. If anyone has ideas, or would like to meet and discuss the future of our students, just give me a call.”

Some Volcanoes ‘Scream’ at Ever-Higher Pitches until They Blow their Tops

It is not unusual for swarms of small earthquakes to precede a volcanic eruption. They can reach a point of such rapid succession that they create a signal called harmonic tremor that resembles sound made by various types of musical instruments, though at frequencies much lower than humans can hear.

By Vince Stricherz | University of Washington 07/15/2013

 

Redoubt Volcano’s active lava dome as it appeared on May 8, 2009. The volcano is in the Aleutian Range about 110 miles south-southwest of Anchorage, Alaska.Image-Chris Waythomas, Alaska Volcano Observatory

Redoubt Volcano’s active lava dome as it appeared on May 8, 2009. The volcano is in the Aleutian Range about 110 miles south-southwest of Anchorage, Alaska.Image-Chris Waythomas, Alaska Volcano Observatory

A new analysis of an eruption sequence at Alaska’s Redoubt Volcano in March 2009 shows that the harmonic tremor glided to substantially higher frequencies and then stopped abruptly just before six of the eruptions, five of them coming in succession.

“The frequency of this tremor is unusually high for a volcano, and it’s not easily explained by many of the accepted theories,” said Alicia Hotovec-Ellis, a University of Washington doctoral student in Earth and space sciences.

Documenting the activity gives clues to a volcano’s pressurization right before an explosion. That could help refine models and allow scientists to better understand what happens during eruptive cycles in volcanoes like Redoubt, she said.

The source of the earthquakes and harmonic tremor isn’t known precisely. Some volcanoes emit sound when magma – a mixture of molten rock, suspended solids and gas bubbles – resonates as it pushes up through thin cracks in the Earth’s crust.

But Hotovec-Ellis believes in this case the earthquakes and harmonic tremor happen as magma is forced through a narrow conduit under great pressure into the heart of the mountain. The thick magma sticks to the rock surface inside the conduit until the pressure is enough to move it higher, where it sticks until the pressure moves it again.

Each of these sudden movements results in a small earthquake, ranging in magnitude from about 0.5 to 1.5, she said. As the pressure builds, the quakes get smaller and happen in such rapid succession that they blend into a continuous harmonic tremor.

“Because there’s less time between each earthquake, there’s not enough time to build up enough pressure for a bigger one,” Hotovec-Ellis said. “After the frequency glides up to a ridiculously high frequency, it pauses and then it explodes.”

She is the lead author of a forthcoming paper in the Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research that describes the research. Co-authors are John Vidale of the UW and Stephanie Prejean and Joan Gomberg of the U.S. Geological Survey.

Hotovec-Ellis is a co-author of a second paper, published online July 14 in Nature Geoscience, that introduces a new “frictional faulting” model as a tool to evaluate the tremor mechanism observed at Redoubt in 2009. The lead author of that paper is Ksenia Dmitrieva of Stanford University, and other co-authors are Prejean and Eric Dunham of Stanford.

The pause in the harmonic tremor frequency increase just before the volcanic explosion is the main focus of the Nature Geoscience paper. “We think the pause is when even the earthquakes can’t keep up anymore and the two sides of the fault slide smoothly against each other,” Hotovec-Ellis said.

She documented the rising tremor frequency, starting at about 1 hertz (or cycle per second) and gliding upward to about 30 hertz. In humans, the audible frequency range starts at about 20 hertz, but a person lying on the ground directly above the magma conduit might be able to hear the harmonic tremor when it reaches its highest point (it is not an activity she would advise, since the tremor is closely followed by an explosion).

Scientists at the USGS Alaska Volcano Observatory have dubbed the highest-frequency harmonic tremor at Redoubt Volcano “the screams” because they reach such high pitch compared with a 1-to-5 hertz starting point. Hotovec-Ellis created two recordings of the seismic activity. A 10-second recording covers about 10 minutes of seismic sound and harmonic tremor, sped up 60 times. Aone-minute recording condenses about an hour of activity that includes more than 1,600 small earthquakes that preceded the first explosion with harmonic tremor.

Upward-gliding tremor immediately before a volcanic explosion also has been documented at the Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica and Soufrière Hills volcano on the Caribbean island of Montserrat.

“Redoubt is unique in that it is much clearer that that is what’s going on,” Hotovec-Ellis said. “I think the next step is understanding why the stresses are so high.”

The work was funded in part by the USGS and the National Science Foundation.

Source: University of Washington

Oregon Considers Tuition-Free Program for College Students

Source: Indian Country Today Media Network

As the student-debt crisis looms, Oregon is considering a solution of its own, a plan called “Pay it Forward, Pay it Back.”

The plan would allow students to attend state schools without taking out any loans or paying anything up front, as long as they agree to pay up to three percent of their future salaries into a fund annually for 24 years.

“We have to get way out of the box if we’re going to get serious about getting young people into college and out of college without burdening them with a lifetime of debt,” Mark Hass, a Democratic state senator from Beaverton, Oregon, told the Wall Street Journal.

Hass championed a bill that creates a study committee charged with created the pilot program, which was passed unanimously in the state’s Senate on July 8 and had already gained House approval.

The legislature will now decide in 2015 whether to implement the pilot program or not.

According to the Journal, the idea came from the Economic Opportunity Institute, a nonpartisan group out of Washington state. Oregon is the first to take action on the idea.

“If it’s done correctly it’s essentially creating a social insurance vehicle for enabling access to higher education,” John Burbank, the institute’s executive director said.

The plan comes at a pivotal time. Public funding for higher education has plunged, tuitions are high, and total student-loan debt in the United States is more than copy trillion. And, on July 1, interest rates on government tuition loans doubled to 6.8 percent because the Senate didn’t block the increase.

Oregon has 10 federally recognized tribes and according to the 2012 Census, an American Indian population of 1.8 percent.

 

Read more at https://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/07/09/oregon-considers-tuition-free-program-college-students-150345

Brown Recluse Spiders May Invade Northern U.S. as Planet Warms

Venomous brown recluses exist within a smaller range than many realize, and their existence may be threatened by climate change.CREDIT: Rick Vetter

Venomous brown recluses exist within a smaller range than many realize, and their existence may be threatened by climate change.
CREDIT: Rick Vetter

Wynne Parry, LiveScience Senior Writer

Date: 27 April 2011 Time: 03:24 PM ET

Climate change may give America’s venomous brown recluse spiders a choice: Move to a more northern state or face dramatic losses in range and possible extinction, a new theoretical study suggests.

Currently, brown recluse spiders are found in the interior of roughly the southeastern quarter of the continental United States. Researcher Erin Saupe used two ecological computer models to predict the extent of the spider’s range in 2020, 2050 and 2080 given theeffects of global warming.

“The actual amount of suitable habitat of the brown recluse doesn’t change dramatically in the future time slices, but what is changing is where that area is located,” said Saupe, who was pursuing a master’s degree at the University of Kansas when she did the work. She is now a doctoral student there.

If the projections are correct, by 2080, perhaps only 5 percent of the spider’s current range — which extends from Kansas across to Kentucky and from Texas across to Georgia, including the states in between  — would remain suitable for it. However, climate change could make portions of Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Nebraska and South Dakota habitable to the spiders.

The shaded region represents the current distribution of the brown recluse.CREDIT: Erin Saupe/PLoS ONE

The shaded region represents the current distribution of the brown recluse.
CREDIT: Erin Saupe/PLoS ONE

Arachnophobia

This may come as a surprise to some residents of these states. In many minds, brown recluse spiders – with their outsized reputation for bringing death, amputations and paralysis – already occupy most of the country, Rick Vetter, a research associate at the University of California, Riverside contends.

Vetter, one of the study authors, created the Brown Recluse Challenge, a 4½-year project. “I got tired of people telling me that brown recluses are all over the U.S and Canada, and I said, ‘Send them to me and I will identify them,'” Vetter said.

One thousand, seven hundred and seventy three spiders later, it was clear that any brown, eight-legged arachnid was at risk of misidentification as a brown recluse – 79 percent of the specimens he received from people across the country were not of the species Loxosceles reclusa, Vetter told LiveScience.

“People fear the unknown. … They like to tell scary stories, they are willing to believe bad things about things they don’t like anyway, so there is a lot of human psychology that is wrapped around the brown recluse,” he said. [Top 10 Phobias]

The challenge has since been picked up by the University of Florida.

In nature, brown recluses live underneath bark or logs in dry areas or underneath hanging rocks. But humans also create a good habitat for them in cellars, attics and garages, according to Vetter.

Their venom contains a toxin that causes skin to die, resulting in what are known as necrotic lesions. In about 90 percent of cases, the bite of a brown recluse has virtually no effect. The other 10 percent cause severe symptoms with potentially life-threatening complications. There are no solid statistics available, but Vetter estimates that one or two bite-induced deaths occur each year, typically in small children.

Homebody spiders

In spite of their affinity for human-created habitats, these spiders have little success establishing and spreading outside their native range. They may be transported when people move outside the spider’s native range, and they can infest a new house, but they won’t spread from there, Vetter said.

“Think about the Dust Bowl era,” he said. “How many thousands of people came to California, how many tens of thousands of boxes of possessions they brought with them, and how many hundreds of thousands of brown recluses came with them? And they didn’t establish a population in California.”

Brown recluses cannot travel on air currents, unlike some other spiders, which limits their means for transport. [How Spiders Fly Hundreds of Miles]

It is possible the spiders may be unable to move north quickly enough to establish in new habitat as parts of their current range become inhospitable, although it is conceivable that by hitching a ride with humans, the spiders may make the migration, the researchers write in a study published online March 25 in the journal PLoS ONE.

The study used two greenhouse gas emissions scenarios, one more dramatic than the other, derived from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The two modeling programs took seven environmental variables related to temperature and precipitation into account.

Both of the emissions scenarios indicated new states could be invaded as far north as parts of Minnesota, Michigan and South Dakota. Both scenarios were run using the two ecological models, resulting in divergent trends. One model showed that the spiders’ habitable area would decrease with time, while the other showed an increase in habitable area.

The predictions should not be taken as gospel; the models aren’t perfect. Saupe used them to predict the current range of the brown recluse and found that it included the Atlantic coast states, farther east than where the spiders actually are. The discrepancy may be due to an error in the model, or it may be that spiders are being kept from the habitable territory closer to the coast by a barrier, perhaps the Appalachian Mountains, Saupe said.

Of course, brown recluse spiders aren’t the only living thingswhose habitat is affected by climate change.

“It is scary to think that if this much change could happen in one species, what could happen in the myriad species that exist all over the Earth?” Saupe said.

 

Two ecological models, named GARP and Maxtent, were used to project the range of the brown recluse, shown in blue, under two different greenhouse gas emissions scenarios: a2a and b2a from the IPCC. A2a assumed more dramatic climate change than b2a. CREDIT: Erin Saupe/PLoS ONE

Two ecological models, named GARP and Maxtent, were used to project the range of the brown recluse, shown in blue, under two different greenhouse gas emissions scenarios: a2a and b2a from the IPCC. A2a assumed more dramatic climate change than b2a.
CREDIT: Erin Saupe/PLoS ONE

You can follow LiveScience senior writer Wynne Parry on Twitter @Wynne_Parry. Follow LiveScience for the latest in science news and discoveries on Twitter @livescience and onFacebook.

Military Sonar Can Alter Blue Whale Behavior

Blue whales. Image-NOAA

Blue whales. Image-NOAA

By Duke Today July 14, 2013

DURHAM, NC – Some blue whales off the coast of California change their behavior when exposed to the sort of underwater sounds used during U.S. military exercises. The whales may alter diving behavior or temporarily avoid important feeding areas, according to new research.

The Southern California Behavioral Response Study exposed tagged blue whales in the California Bight to simulated mid-frequency (3.5-4 kHz) sonar sounds significantly less intense than the military uses.

“Whales clearly respond in some conditions by modifying diving behavior and temporarily avoiding areas where sounds were produced,” said lead author Jeremy Goldbogen of Cascadia Research. “But overall the responses are complex and depend on a number of interacting factors,” including whether the whales were feeding deep, shallow or not at all.

The study, funded by the U.S. Navy Chief of Naval Operations Environmental Readiness Division and the U.S. Office of Naval Research, appears July 3 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

The scientists tagged the whales with non-invasive suction cups, which recorded acoustic data and high-resolution movements as the animals were exposed to the controlled sounds.

“The tag technology we use offers a unique glimpse into the underwater behavior of whales that otherwise would not be possible,” said Ari Friedlaender, a research scientist at the Duke Marine Laboratory.

The scientists found that some of the whales engaged in deep feeding stopped eating and either sped up or moved away from the source of the noise. Not all of the whales responded to the noise, and not all in the same way.

“Blue whales are the largest animals that have ever lived. Populations globally remain at a fraction of their former numbers prior to whaling, and they appear regularly off the southern California coast, where they feed,” said John Calambokidis, one of the project’s lead investigators of Cascadia Research.

That area of the ocean is also the site of military training and testing exercises that involve loud mid-frequency sonar signals. Such sonar exercises have been associated with several unusual strandings of other marine mammal species (typically beaked whales) in the past. Until this study, almost no information was available about whether and how blue whales respond to sonar.

“These are the first direct measurements of individual responses for any baleen whale species to these kinds of mid-frequency sonar signals,” said Brandon Southall, SOCAL-BRS chief scientist from SEA, Inc., and an adjunct researcher at both Duke and the University of California Santa Cruz. “These findings help us understand risks to these animals from human sound and inform timely conservation and management decisions.”

A related paper published July 3 by the same research team in Biology Letters has shown clear and even stronger responses of Cuvier’s beaked whales to simulated mid-frequency sonar exposures. Beaked whales showed a variety of responses to both real, military sonar in the distance and nearby simulated sonar. What the beaked whales were doing at the time appeared to be a key factor affecting their reactions.

Source: Duke Today

US Navy’s “Green Fleet” sparks praise and cynicism

U.S. President Barack Obama with the Navy’s F/A-18 Green Hornet. Photo: Official U.S. Navy Imagery/ CC by 2.0

U.S. President Barack Obama with the Navy’s F/A-18 Green Hornet. Photo: Official U.S. Navy Imagery/ CC by 2.0

By Lucy Wescott, Inter Press Service

The United States military, an organisation that consumes 90 percent of the country’s federal oil allowance, is trying to become a greener institution.

The U.S. Navy has said that by 2016 it will run one of its 11 carrier strike groups using biofuel. In a test run of the new approach in the Pacific Ocean, a novel mixture of jet fuel, algae and cooking grease powered FA-18 Super Hornets, a type of fighter aircraft.

Within a decade, half of the Air Force and Navy’s fuel needs will be met by alternative energy sources, according to Christopher Merrill, director of the International Writer’s Program at the University of Iowa.

Merrill, who penned an essay for Orion Magazine titled ‘The Future of War‘, suggested that with climate change posing an increasing threat to U.S. national security, another name for this pioneering strike group could be the Great Green Fleet.

The military also believes that the threat of climate change to U.S. security is not simply a temporary trend, Merrill said.

“I don’t view this as a one-off thing, I view this as somebody trying to look into the future, trying to figure out what (we) are going to have to do to defend the country,” Merrill said.

Climate change and security

In 2010, the Department of Defence recognised in its Quadrennial Defence Review (QDR) that climate change and energy will both play “significant roles in the future security environment”.

The military’s look towards a more sustainable future was confirmed by a report released by the Executive Office of the President last month, which affirmed U.S. President Barack Obama’s commitment to lower U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent of 2005 levels by 2020.

The report rendered the effect of climate disasters difficult to ignore: last year was the second most expensive year on record for the United States, with 11 weather-related natural disasters costing over 110 billion dollars in damages.

Marcus King, associate research professor of international affairs at the George Washington University, believes that threats from climate change would affect not only the United States through phenomena such as sea-level rise and droughts but the rest of the world as well.

The United States ought to be concerned that other nations, including U.S. allies, “could be constrained because they don’t have (the) adaptive capacity (to deal with climate change),” King told IPS.

Some, such as journalist Thomas Friedman, believe that issues around food security in Syria were the catalyst for the uprising there that began two years ago. And as climate change causes more humanitarian crises, the U.S. Navy will continue to assist in disaster relief and recovery, King pointed out.

“Once you look at global climate change as a threat, Africa has the least resistance…(and) it’s of strategic importance to the U.S.,” King said.

The Department of Defence recognised the potential increase in the Navy’s response to disasters abroad, reporting in the QDR that climate change is one factor “whose complex interplay may spark or exacerbate future conflicts”, along with cultural tensions and new strains of diseases.

Good PR?

But Leah Bolger, formerly with the U.S. Navy and now a peace activist, believes the green move to be more a publicity stunt than a progressive statement signalling changing times.

“I spent my (twenty) years in the military ambivalent about what the military policies were in foreign policy. It was a job…I didn’t really question my part in the military machine,” Bolger told IPS.

Now, however, Bolger called the Navy’s decision to make one carrier strike group green by 2016 “laughable”.

“(The green move is) like a page out of a PR book – something they can put out in their public affairs office to say, ‘We’re so mindful of the environment,’” Bolger said.

Still, one additional advantage of the green move is that the potential demand for alternative fuels could create a new market, Merrill told IPS. Already tax credits are being granted to wind farms, according to him.

“Once that market gets established, it’s likely that you’ll see the kind of innovations that came in the wake of the invention of the Internet,” he predicted.

Nevertheless, a change in the military’s energy consumption doesn’t necessarily mean a change in the behaviour of Americans, who consumed 19 percent of the world’s total energy resources in 2010, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, despite comprising around five percent of the global population.

Even if Americans knew about the Great Green Fleet, Bolger said, it wouldn’t do much to change their habits.

While the Great Green Fleet doesn’t necessarily improve the operational abilities of the Navy, the impetus is noble, King said. “If they have the ability to create demand (for alternative fuels)… I think that’s great, as long as it’s consistent with national security, which it is.”

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Early Warning Signs of Injection-Well Earthquakes Found

Earthquakes equal to or bigger than magnitude 3.0 in the United States between 2009 and 2012. The background colors indicating earthquake risk are from the U.S. National Seismic Hazard Map.CREDIT: Science/AAAS

Earthquakes equal to or bigger than magnitude 3.0 in the United States between 2009 and 2012. The background colors indicating earthquake risk are from the U.S. National Seismic Hazard Map.
CREDIT: Science/AAAS

By Becky Oskin, Staff Writer

July 11, 2013

 

Two new studies of earthquakes near injection wells have seismologists using words rarely heard these days in earthquake science: prediction and warning.

The research has also renewed calls for better seismic monitoring and reporting in regions experiencing man-made earthquakes.

Shale gas operations have completely changed our energy policy and people are injecting in places they’ve never injected before. If we’re going to do this safely, we need to address the environmental issues, including protecting water supplies and earthquake risk,” said Cliff Frohlich, a seismologist at the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics who was not involved in the new studies.

The two reports appear in today’s (July 11) issue of the journal Science.

Links between injection and earthquakes

In the Midwest, researchers discovered a warning signal that moderate-sized earthquakes may strike near injection wells, where mining companies dispose of waste fluids. At three sites in Oklahoma, Colorado and Texas, passing seismic waves from faraway earthquakes — the recent massive temblors in Japan, Sumatra and Chile — triggered swarms of small earthquakes. The seismic activity continued until magnitude-4 and magnitude-5 earthquakes struck, such as the large earthquakes near Prague, Okla., in November 2011. [7 Craziest Ways Japan’s Earthquake Affected Earth]

“We’ve been telling our operators for some time that this is one of the warning signs to look for,” said Austin Holland, a seismologist with the Oklahoma Geological Survey who was not involved in the study. “If you see remote triggering of your wells, it’s a clear indication that your faults are right at the failure point. It just took a little tickle, if you will, to trigger the earthquakes.”

In a separate study, researchers documented a clear link between earthquakes and production, or removing and injecting underground fluid, at Southern California’s Salton Sea Geothermal Field power plant. Every 500 million gallons of water pumped out of the ground caused one detectable earthquake per 11 days, according to the report.

“The thing that best predicted the earthquake rate was the net amount of water extracted from the ground,” said Emily Brodsky, lead study author and a seismologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Scientists have long known that geothermal projects can trigger earthquakes, but some communities are wary of the seismic risk. Construction on a geothermal energy plant in Basel, Switzerland, was shut down in 2009 after fluid injection triggered earthquakes up to magnitude 3.4. Brodsky’s study offers a new statistical model for predicting how many earthquakes to expect at a geothermal plant, based on the amount of fluid going in and out of the ground.

“This paper has made a very direct and compelling correlation between the net of fluid out and fluid in and the rate at which these small earthquakes are happening,” said William Ellsworth, a seismologist at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Earthquake Science Center, who was not involved in the study. “This seems like a very promising way of applying this particular statistical model.”

Remotely triggered warnings

Many scientists also suspect a link between mining-related wastewater injection wells and a barrage of earthquakes in the central and eastern United States in the past decade. The surge outpaced natural background trends starting in 2001, according to a review by Ellsworth also published today in Science. But proving a cause-and-effect has been difficult for researchers, who lack the evidence for a slam-dunk case. Outside of California, there are few dense seismic networks to precisely locate small earthquakes, and injection well data is not immediately available.

Discovering earthquake warning signals in the Midwest, before the larger, more damaging temblors, was possible only through a temporary, massive seismic monitoring network called the USArray. The explosion in shale gas exploration also helped, because remote triggering is most common in places with high fluid pressure, such as geothermal fields, hot springs and the estimated 100,000 injection wells in the United States. [Top 10 Alternative Energy Bets]

A quick reminder: Fracking itself doesn’t cause felt earthquakes. Injecting fluids into the ground (as happens with the wastewater from fracking) spawns man-made earthquakes. The added fluids increase pore pressure on a fault’s surface, unclamping the fault and making it easier to slip.

“The fluids are weakening the fault,” said Nicholas van der Elst, a seismologist at Columbia University’s Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory in New York and lead author of the remote-triggering study. More than 50 years of controlled and unintentional experiments have proved the link.

But even with a better seismic network, remotely triggered earthquakes are of limited use as warning signals. First, not all regions with possible man-made earthquakes also had remotely triggered earthquake swarms. Second, only one earthquake every year, on average, is big enough to send seismic waves rippling across Earth’s surface.

“The trouble with using this for forecasting is that the huge earthquakes that are triggering earthquakes are extremely rare,” Frohlich said. “We’ve had three in the last few years, but that’s an unusual rate. In the last 50 years, we’ve only had maybe a dozen earthquakes that big.”

The three sites with earthquake “sirens” were Prague, Okla., Synder, Tex., and Trinidad, Colo. Each saw a spike in seismic activity near injection wells within 24 hours of huge earthquakes in Chile in 2010, Japan in 2011 or Sumatra in 2012. The number of quakes increased until a magnitude-4 or magnitude-5 earthquake hit, includingOklahoma’s strongest recorded earthquake.

“I think this [study] shows that fluid pressure is really driving these earthquakes,” Van der Elst said. “Stress has been increased by the injection of all this fluid in these regions where people have suggested a connection between wells and earthquakes.

“The big implication in this is that remote triggering could act as a stress probe. You could look for remote triggering to anticipate large induced earthquakes,” Van der Elst said.

Better seismic monitoring needed

But well operators are already aware that upticks in seismicity near their injection sites are a warning sign that a larger quake could strike, Holland said. Some companies operate their own seismic networks to monitor wells, he added. “The idea of controlling your injection parameters based on the seismicity you’re observing has been around for 30 or 40 years,” he said.

In his Science review, Ellsworth recommends seismic monitoring of wells to improve understanding of man-made earthquakes and help regulators set seismic activity thresholds that limit injection if there are too many small quakes.

“We need better seismic monitoring so we can see the small earthquakes, and I would also like to have more information about the actual disposal process,” Ellsworth said. “Right now, all that’s required is monthly reporting, and that’s not adequate to build geophysical and geological models of the [earthquake] process.” Regulators developing new laws and reporting requirements also need much more timely and better information, Ellsworth said.

In response to Oklahoma’s recent uptick in earthquakes, the Oklahoma Geological Survey is doubling and modernizing its seismic monitoring network, Holland said.

Email Becky Oskin or follow her @beckyoskin. Follow us @OAPlanetFacebook & Google+. Original article on LiveScience’s OurAmazingPlanet.

Evo Morales: The colonialist attitude prevails in some European countries

Evo Morales

Evo Morales

July 12, 2013 HAVANA TIMES

Bolivian President Evo Morales thanked the Organization of American States (OAS) member countries this Wednesday for the severe criticisms they leveled at the governments of four European countries, PULSAR reported.

Last week, France, Portugal, Italy and Spain closed their airspaces to Morales’ presidential plane, giving rise to a serious diplomatic incident.

The Bolivian leader welcomed the OAS resolution and stressed that such a show of support entailed not only “defending Evo Morales, but the people of Latin America and the Caribbean as well.”

On Tuesday, the OAS condemned the mistreatment of Morales by the governments of several European countries. The international association called the actions of these countries a “clear violation of the basic norms and principles of international law, such as the inviolability of Heads of State.”

Referring to the mistreatment he experienced days ago when his plane was denied permission to cross the airspace of these countries and was forced to land in Vienna, Austria, Morales stated he could not “conceive that some European countries insist on causing us harm.”

“It seems some countries in Europe continue to think as they did 500 years ago,” Morales charged.

The indigenous Bolivian leader underscored that Latin American peoples are ready to confront “these types of impositions and decisions that do so much damage to human rights.”