Wednesday, November 30, 2011

609. Cuban Government to Contract With Private Sector

A private market in Havana 

By Marc Frank, Reuters, November 28, 2011 
The Cuban government will begin contracting out some services to the private sector next year in a break from the state-dominated past aimed at helping small business develop, government insiders said on Monday.
They said food and cleaning, construction and some transportation services, all of which are currently done by government workers, were among those that would be contracted out in the future as Cuban leaders push ahead with more than 300 reforms to modernize the island's Soviet-style economy.
President Raul Castro is encouraging private sector growth to create jobs for the one million employees he hopes to slash from bloated government payrolls over the next few years. His goal is to strengthen Cuban communism to assure its future.
More than 350,000 people are now self-employed, more than double the number of two years ago, although most are small operations based in homes.
Their ability to grow has been hindered partly by a lack of capital and access to government business, which is significant because the state controls most of the economy.
But new credit and banking regulations that take effect December 20 will allow small businesses for the first time to obtain loans and, along with private farmers, to open commercial accounts, a prerequisite for doing business with the state.
The measures also lift a 100 peso- (roughly $4-) cap on business between state enterprises and private individuals.
"It is very positive for the development of the non-state sector that it now has at its disposal new financial instruments that before were available only to state companies and joint ventures with foreign companies," said a local economist, requesting anonymity due to a ban on talking with foreign journalists.
"It paves the way for business between the new non-state sector and the state."
Cuba expert Phil Peters at the Lexington Institute think tank in Arlington, Virginia, said the measures, in addition to helping the private sector, should make the government more efficient and were indicative of a larger change.
"It is another sign that the socialist state is shedding longstanding prejudice against private enterprise," he said.

608. Lynn Margulis, Evolutionary Theorist, Dies

Lynn Margulis

By Bruce Weber, The New York Times, November 26, 2011

Lynn Margulis, a biologist whose work on the origin of cells helped transform the study of evolution, died on Tuesday at her home in Amherst, Mass. She was 73.

She died five days after suffering a hemorrhagic stroke, said Dorion Sagan, a son she had with her first husband, the cosmologist Carl Sagan.
Dr. Margulis had the title of distinguished university professor of geosciences at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, since 1988. She drew upon earlier, ridiculed ideas when she first promulgated her theory, in the late 1960s, that cells with nuclei, which are known as eukaryotes and include all the cells in the human body except mature red blood cells, evolved as a result of symbiotic relationships among bacteria.
The hypothesis was a direct challenge to the prevailing neo-Darwinist belief that the primary evolutionary mechanism was random mutation.
Rather, Dr. Margulis argued that a more important mechanism was symbiosis; that is, evolution is a function of organisms that are mutually beneficial growing together to become one and reproducing. The theory undermined significant precepts of the study of evolution, underscoring the idea that evolution began at the level of micro-organisms long before it would be visible at the level of species.
“She talked a lot about the importance of micro-organisms,” said her daughter, Jennifer Margulis. “She called herself a spokesperson for the microcosm.”
The manuscript in which Dr. Margulis first presented her findings was rejected by 15 journals before being published in 1967 by the Journal of Theoretical Biology. An expanded version, with additional evidence to support the theory — which was known as the serial endosymbiotic theory — became her first book, “Origin of Eukaryotic Cells.”
A revised version, “Symbiosis in Cell Evolution,” followed in 1981, and though it challenged the presumptions of many prominent scientists, it has since become accepted evolutionary doctrine.
“Evolutionists have been preoccupied with the history of animal life in the last 500 million years,” Dr. Margulis wrote in 1995. “But we now know that life itself evolved much earlier than that. The fossil record begins nearly 4,000 million years ago! Until the 1960s, scientists ignored fossil evidence for the evolution of life, because it was uninterpretable.
“I work in evolutionary biology, but with cells and micro-organisms. Richard Dawkins, John Maynard Smith, George Williams, Richard Lewontin, Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould all come out of the zoological tradition, which suggests to me that, in the words of our colleague Simon Robson, they deal with a data set some three billion years out of date.”
Lynn Petra Alexander was born on March 5, 1938, in Chicago, where she grew up in a tough neighborhood on the South Side. Her father was a lawyer and a businessman. Precocious, she graduated at 18 from the University of Chicago, where she met Dr. Sagan as they passed each other on a stairway.
She earned a master’s degree in genetics and zoology from the University of Wisconsin and a Ph.D. in genetics from the University of California, Berkeley. Before joining the faculty at Massachusetts, she taught for 22 years at Boston University.
Dr. Margulis was also known, somewhat controversially, as a collaborator with and supporter of James E. Lovelock, whose Gaia theory states that Earth itself — its atmosphere, the geology and the organisms that inhabit it — is a self-regulating system, maintaining the conditions that allow its perpetuation. In other words, it is something of a living organism in and of itself.
Dr. Margulis’s marriage to Dr. Sagan ended in divorce, as did a marriage to Thomas N. Margulis, a chemist. Dr. Sagan died in 1996.
In addition to her daughter and her son Dorion, a science writer with whom she sometimes collaborated, she is survived by two other sons, Jeremy Sagan and Zachary Margulis-Ohnuma; three sisters, Joan Glashow, Sharon Kleitman and Diane Alexander; three half-brothers, Robert, Michael and Mark Alexander; a half-sister, Sara Alexander; and nine grandchildren.
“More than 99.99 percent of the species that have ever existed have become extinct,” Dr. Margulis and Dorion Sagan wrote in “Microcosmos,” a 1986 book that traced, in readable language, the history of evolution over four billion years, “but the planetary patina, with its army of cells, has continued for more than three billion years. And the basis of the patina, past, present and future, is the microcosm — trillions of communicating, evolving microbes.”

607. Cuba Extends Loans to Small Businesses: Interview with President of the Central Bank

Ernesto Medina Villaveirán
By, November 29, 2011

Communist Party daily Granma interviewed Ernesto Medina Villaveirán, president of the Banco Central de Cuba (BCC), about the intention behind Decreto-Ley 289 and three additional resolutions, under which private business owners can soon obtain loans from three Cuban state banks. Following is a translation by Cuba Standard of the verbatim interview.
What do the new regulations change?
M. The old norms established several limitations for natural persons in their financial operations: Obtaining loans for amounts not exceeding 3,000 pesos (CUP), impossibility to open a checking account in the case of small farmers and self-employed workers, and a very low maximum payment the latter  may receive from state entities when those receive a service or good. Based on the approval of Decreto-Ley 289, the Banco Central de Cuba published the resolutions No. 99, 100 and 101 regarding obtaining loans, the opening and operations of checking accounts, and bank norms for charges and payments, which broaden the possibilities in each of these services. Because credit policy is, due to its complexity, the area that demands most attention to detail, the dialogue begins with the other two topics I mentioned.
What changes in charges and payments does Resolution 101 introduce?
M. This norm repeals a previous one that limited to 100 pesos cash the payments of state enterprises to self-employed workers when they have commercial interactions. The price will be defined by the parties, depending on the services or goods traded, for which the state entities must take into account their approved spending. This relation will be established by way of contracts. In this case, several payment instruments can be used that avoid the circulation of cash and provide more protection: Checks or cashiers’ checks and bank transfers, which are the two most practical methods, and furthermore the magnetic card, when it will become possible as this service will expand.
What are checking accounts, and what advantages do they provide?
M. Checking accounts are used in function of an economic activity, where income is deposited and from which payments — such as tax payments — are made, without the need to handle cash. When the new regulations become effective, the Banco Metropolitano, the Banco de Crédito y Comercio, and Banco Popular de Ahorro will be able to open checking accounts for private farmers, licensed self-employed workers, and other natural persons authorized to exercise other non-state activities, in Cuban Pesos (CUP) or convertible Pesos (CUC). These accounts have the advantage of making operations more agile. They particularly facilitate commercial relations between government entities and non-state workers when it comes to making payments. They also help the financial institution to check on the progress of productive activities, thus evaluating loan applications. In fact, the opening of a checking account could be a prerequisite to applying for a loan, and its cash flow could be granted as a guarantee. The opening of a checking account is obligatory for any self-employed person with gross annual income of 50,000 pesos (CUP) and more. I want to clarify that checking accounts differ from savings accounts, in which persons deposit resources that are temporarily free, that won’t be used in the short term, and for which they obtain interests.
Who will be eligible for loans?
M. According to the new regulations, small farmers, licensed self-employed workers, people who want to buy construction material and pay authorized construction workers, and those who want to build or renovate their home by themselves. Although the regulations also allow the granting of loans to persons in general to buy goods and satisfy other necessities, initially the financing offers will be for the development of the non-state economic sector, to increase agricultural production, and to promote renovation and repairs to homes by their owners. These are the three most pressing necessities in the country. As economic and financial conditions improve, the offerings will expand.
How are the credit offerings to farmers different from those that existed previously?
M. In effect, credit for farmers is a policy that has been used for several years, incorporating land tenants with Decreto-Ley 259 of 2008. These tenants of state land will continue to benefit from financing for the purchase and repair of equipment, the protection and rehabilitation of plantations, and other actions that contribute to increasing agricultural production. When the new regulations become effective, they will also be allowed to use financing to buy goods and supplies in the network of domestic trade stores that are sold as part of the Programa Campesino.  The new norms establish minimum loan amounts, but no maximums. In the case of farmers, the loans start at 500 pesos (CUP), according to Resolution 99. The total amount depends on the capacity of payment of the applicant and the guarantees provided, among others. Farmers who receive financing to build their own homes can buy construction materials in the network of domestic trade stores. These loans begin at 1,000 pesos (CUP). If the construction materials are only available in hard-currency stores, they can obtain CUP loans for the equivalent of CUC prices. The construction loans can also be used to buy construction materials from self-employed persons or to contract construction workers. Self-employed workers will be able to receive loans starting at 3,000 pesos (CUP) for the purchase of supplies and goods that guarantee a better work performance. The duration must not exceed 18 months if the credit is used for work capital, such as supplies and labor, or five years when it is used for investment such as in equipment or construction.
What aspects determine the approval of a loan?
M. As a rule, applicants must demonstrate they can obtain future income that will be used to pay the loan, demonstrating their capacity to return the borrowed money within the agreed time with the financial institution. They will also offer guarantees that will assure the contracted obligations. To grant a loan, which will always be in Cuban pesos (CUP), the banks will perform a risk analysis that takes into account these elements, as well as the amount applied for, among others. Also, the planned economic activity will be evaluated, the merit of the operation and the feasibility of the business. Applicants must convince the bank that they have the conditions to receive the loan; furthermore, they must contractually agree to assume the obligation to respect the commitments of return, and provide the guarantees that compensate the bank in situations that entail the non-compliance of the agreement.
What mechanisms do the banks have to assure repayment of the loans?
M. A first step in that sense is accomplished by performing an appropriate evaluation of the economic and financial circumstance of the applicant. But it is essential to get guarantees. These are legal mechanisms that assure the repayment of the loans in case of non-compliance on behalf of the debtor; they are alternative sources of payment. Depending on the loan amount, they could consist of bank deposits of the applicant or third parties that agree to offer them. Any savings account can be granted as total or partial guaranty, without any loss of interest income for the owner. It will also be possible to formalize, by agreements with the bank, support bonds by third people to pay the loan amount if the applicant is unable to do so. In this case at least two guarantors, which can be a person, bank or insurance company, are needed. Also, the bank can accept present or future personal retribution or income. Likewise, the forfeit of a vacation home or undeveloped land could be considered guarantees. Finally, agricultural Credit and Service Cooperatives (CCS) that want to support their members can act as guarantors, as can (state) entities that rent commercial space or other goods to self-employed workers, when the tenants want to use a loan to improve them.
What consequences can the use of a loan for a different purpose have?
M. When obtaining a loan, the applicant signs a contract with the financial institution in which the use, amortization and guarantees are stipulated. This contract has legal validity. Generally, the loan is granted in tranches, not in its entirety. This allows the bank to observe, with visits to the place where the activity is performed or other mechanisms, the results of the use of the funds. That is the bank’s right. If the client shows a favorable financial performance, the bank can grant a new facility or increase the original loan. But if the bank determines that the information offered by the applicant is inadequate, that his economic and financial situation doesn’t assure repayment, or violates contract stipulations, it can cancel the credit and execute the guarantees, or reduce the loan amount.
Who determines the granting of loans, interest rates, amounts and duration?
M. The credit committees at the subsidiary level, provincial level and headquarters that have decision power within the loan amount. It’s important to point out that the persons who tend to loan applicants in the financial institutions, the bank officials, are not the ones who have the decision-making power. The amount and duration are agreed between the applicant and the financial institution, according to the terms and conditions of the bank. It’s necessary to clarify that maybe the client hopes to receive the full amount for a business startup, but if he doesn’t totally convince the bank regarding the feasibility or his payment capacity, he will be advised to start with a simpler activity, one that requires less capital. Each case will require a different analysis. That is why we talk about taylor-made suits; a sense of pragmatism must prevail. It will be necessary to thoroughly check the feasibility of a business, to investigate the possible guarantees that maybe even the client doesn’t recognize he might have. All this will be done in the fastest possible time, but without neglecting the detailed study the process requires. The process may even include more than one meeting with the client to obtain the necessary data and documentation. In that sense, it is important that applicants come to the interview prepared, with all documentation that might be relevant, even with an projection on how the business may evolve, how much it will need to undertake a certain activity, expenses and revenues, and more. The Banco Central de Cuba is charged with establishing the minimum and maximum interest rates to be used by financial institutions. As a principle, rates cannot be lower than those paid by the bank to depositors.
Which banks will work with loan applicants?
M. In each precinct of Havana there will be at least one Banco Metropolitano office to perform loan operations. In the other provinces, this service will be offered by the Banco Popular de Ahorro and Banco de Crédito y Comercio. In order for everything to operate smoothly, a general training was performed and instructions about procedures were written. Loan specialists will play an important role, but we also emphasize the role of head managers, who will have to make sure that everything is done according to the rules. Equally to familiarizing a new generation of bankers with this topic, it will be a challenge for the loan specialists to increase the knowledge among the public.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

606. On She-Male Western Marsh Harriers

A female Western Marsh Harrier

By James Gorman, The New York Times, November 14, 2011

The Western marsh harrier is a typical hawk. It has a sharp beak and talons, which it uses to kill other creatures for food and to defend its territory. It’s the kind of bird that exemplifies military virtues, and it’s no wonder that it has a fighter jet, the British-made Harrier, named after it. Recent science, however, has discovered another side to the harrier that may not fit as well with the rather macho military image. Some harriers have evolved an alternative lifestyle — cross-dressing.

Hawks don’t wear clothes, of course, or makeup or stiletto heels, so they can’t dress at all, strictly speaking. But they do depend on appearance, in their case plumage, to advertise their sex. The males have light gray wings and the females dark wings. Usually. In one population in western France, however, about 40 percent of the males have permanent female plumage, according to a report in Biology Letters, a publication of the Royal Society (that’s British, not French royalty).

Audrey Sternalski, and her colleagues who contributed to the report, uncovered the extent of this deception and also studied the hawk she-males. I didn’t just grab that word from the Internet, by the way. It came from a paper in Nature on garter snakes published quite a while ago. The authors referred to snakes, in which female mimicry is common, as she-males and he-males, so I figure those are scientific terms.

Many different creatures — particularly fish and reptiles and insects — engage in female mimicry. Garter snake males may emit chemicals called pheromones to suggest that they are female, but they do this for only a couple of days after they emerge from winter dens. Apparently, their goal is to get warm. Garter snakes form mating balls of 100 males or more around real females. She-males attract enough males to give them a snake-hug, and once they’ve warmed up, turn off the pheromones.

Among birds, only two species are known in which adult males may have permanent female plumage. The first one to be studied is the ruff, a shorebird that gathers in large groups during mating season. The ruff she-males sneak around, pretending to be female, avoiding competition with he-males and stealing kisses, or as scientists call them, extra-pair copulations. Humans do the same thing, at least in movies (Tony Curtis, “Some Like It Hot”) and short-lived television sitcoms featuring future megastars (Tom Hanks, “Bosom Buddies”).

Dr. Sternalski, of the Institute for the Study of Hunting Resources in Ciudad Real, Spain, and her Spanish and French colleagues used decoys to see if the she-male hawks were attacked by other males as often as the he-males were. As they suspected, the she-males flew under the he-male radar. They were not attacked or challenged by the other males. They also behaved like real females, directing their aggression toward females, not males. One surprise was that when it came to outside threats they were more actively aggressive than the he-males. When predators (or predator decoys) threaten the winter roost, Dr. Sternalski said, the “typical males manipulate the others to defend the roost.” The he-males recruit the she-males to attack the apparent intruder while they do the hawk equivalent of sitting on the stoop shouting encouragement: “Look out for the fox!”
For all this work, there has to be some payoff for the she-males other than simply avoiding challenges from other males. The best guess so far is that the she-males are going for those prized extra-pair copulations, and Dr. Sternalski is testing that idea now.

Research into bird behavior does not usually have an immediate effect on society. But hawks have a long history as military symbols, and I wonder how this news will be greeted by the folks who wear eagles on their epaulets, and those who give military aircraft names like Nighthawk, Jayhawk, Hawk and Black Hawk.

The armed forces in the United States have come around to the idea that men and women, heterosexuals and homosexuals, can be soldiers, but they are still sticklers about plumage. Hot pink lipstick is not included in battle gear. Could the discovery that some of those symbols of bravery and battle toughness are the bird equivalent of transvestites mean the uniform code will loosen up?

The comedian Eddie Izzard, who describes himself as an action transvestite — “running, jumping, climbing trees, putting on makeup while you’re up there” — once described his crushed childhood ambition to join the army. He suggested that the military could be more flexible about fashion, and capitalize on the element of surprise in its attacks. “What,” he asked, “could be more surprising than the First Battalion Transvestite Brigade?”

Just a joke, of course, a little poke in the ribs to conventional masculinity, a suggestion that hot pink lipstick and fabulous lashes don’t mean you can’t shoot or punch, or attack predators when they come near the nest. There will never be such a brigade, but if there were, I have an insignia in mind: a she-male marsh harrier on a field of earth tones with eyeliner in one talon and lipstick in the other.

Monday, November 28, 2011

605. Progress of Agroecology in Cuba

Venezuelan students are trained by Cubans in
agroecology in Caracas

By, November 28, 2011

Orlando Lugo, president of the National Association of Small Farmers (ANAP), said more than 400 000 Cuban farmers using agroecological and that this practice is being extended to all the country, in order to achieve sustainable development.

Decree-Law 259, established several years ago and given land in usufruct to exploit, benefiting over 150 000 men and women.
This helped to reinforce the agroecology movement in the country, added the peasant leader.

This made the conclusions of the Third International Conference on Agroecology and Sustainable Agriculture, in which 238 delegates took part from 26 nations.
According to the final resolution in the meeting exchanged views and assessed the implementation of the experiences of agroecological practices and methodology from farmer to farmer.

Also deepened the search for alternatives to favor populations of the world with an agriculture that ensures food sovereignty and sustainability
Participants expressed a programmatic set of definitions, including the certainty of the environmental value, social and economic production of agro-ecology for present and future generations.

It also reaffirmed the importance of genuine agrarian reform, which in addition to access and right to work the land, implement public policies and investment programs, based on a sustainable rural environment.

The president of the National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC) United States and a member of Via Campesina, Ben Burkett, read a special resolution of support for the Cuban Five imprisoned in that country.

It expresses the agreement of peasant organizations, indigenous and rural workers involved, to join the Cuban people claim they are released immediately.
They also call for allowing the immediate return of Rene Gonzalez, who finished his cruel imprisonment must serve three years of supervised release in their own Miami where he was tried, risking their personal safety.

604. More of Us, Fewer of Them: Top 10 U.S. Endangered Species Threatened by Over-Population

Suburban sprawl, Florida

By Center for Biological Diversity, November 25, 2011

As the human population grows and the rich countries continue to consume resources at voracious rates, we are crowding out, poisoning and eating all other species into extinction. With the world population hitting 7 billion, the Center is marking this milestone by releasing a list of species in the United States facing extinction caused by the growing human population. The 10 species represent a range of geography, as well as species diversity — but all are critically threatened by the effects of overpopulation. Some, like the Florida panther and Mississippi gopher frog, are rapidly losing habitat as the human population expands. Others are seeing their habitat dangerously altered — like the small flowering sandplain gerardia in New England — or, like the bluefin tuna, are buckling under the weight of massive overfishing. Still others, like the polar bear, are facing extinction because of fossil fuels driving catastrophic global warming.

Here are a few highlights:

Florida panther: The Florida panther once ranged throughout the southeastern United States, but now survives in a tiny area of South Florida representing just 5 percent of its former range. It was listed as an endangered species in 1967 because of habitat destruction and fragmentation through urban sprawl. Large numbers of panthers died as the expanding network of roads connecting Florida’s rapidly growing human population spread throughout its range. As of 2011, there are only 100 to 120 panthers left.
As Florida’s panther numbers plummeted, the state’s human population nearly doubled over the past 30 years. Recent development patterns pose extreme threats to panthers. As the Florida coasts approach full buildout and have become unaffordable to most people, development has moved inland to the same places panthers retreated to as safe havens decades ago.

Atlantic bluefin tuna: Marine fish provide 15 percent of all animal protein consumed by human beings. Fisheries management, however, has been outpaced by our population growth, causing global fisheries to collapse under the unsustainable pressure. A 2009 assessment found that 80 percent of global fish stocks are either overly and fully exploited or have collapsed. Though a catch reduction of 20-50 percent is needed to make global fisheries sustainable, the demand for fish is expected to increase by 35 million tons by 2030.
Of greatest concern is the western Atlantic bluefin tuna that spawns in the Gulf of Mexico and has declined by more than 80 percent since 1970 due to overharvesting. Prized as a sushi fish around the world, it has become more valuable as it has become rare. One fish in 2011 sold for $396,000. The large, warm-blooded bluefin tuna is a common, upscale sushi menu item and has been severely overfished. The Atlantic bluefin, like so many other ocean species, is threatened by humans’ ravenous appetites: Demand far exceeds sustainable fishing levels.

Loggerhead sea turtle More than half the world’s 7 billion people live within 150 miles of the coast, putting tremendous pressure on species trying to find space to live and reproduce among the crowds. Among them is the loggerhead sea turtle, which was listed as a federally threatened species in 1978 owing to destruction of its beach nesting habitat, harassment while nesting, overharvesting of its eggs, and bycatch death via commercial fishing gear.
Ninety-five percent of the U.S. breeding population of loggerheads nests in Florida, whose human population has doubled in the past 30 years. Thanks to careful management, the species’ population increased 24 percent from 1989 to 1998, but under intense pressure from development and recreational beach use, it declined dramatically thereafter, raising concerns it should be uplisted to “endangered” status. The population has increased in recent years, but is still highly vulnerable to nesting habitat destruction and disruption. Just 42,000 nesting attempts were made on Florida beaches in 2011.

Sandplain gerardia: As the human population has increased, it has consumed remote landscapes with houses and other structures. The natural disturbances caused by fire, flood, drought and storm patterns, are suppressed despite playing essential roles in ecosystem health. In conflict with the permanence of human development, these disturbances create an ever-changing blend of meadow and forest, young and mature vegetation patterns. By controlling, limiting and often stopping these essential natural processes, we have changed ecosystems across America, eliminating habitat for rare and endangered species that depend on open habitats.
In New England and the Atlantic coast, brush fires once thinned out dense pine forests and created a constantly moving mosaic of grasslands and prairies. The fires have been suppressed to protect human structures, causing open habitats to be permanently replaced by forest and brush. This nearly caused the extinction of the sandplain gerardia, a coastal plant in the snapdragon family.

Lange’s metalmark butterfly: Many endangered species are endemics, meaning they naturally have very small ranges and populations sizes, and usually require very particular soil, vegetation or climate conditions to survive. These species are especially vulnerable to human encroachment. Among them is Lange’s metalmark butterfly, protected as endangered in 1976.
Lange’s metalmark lives only in the Antioch Dunes at the southern end of San Francisco Bay. This unique ecosystem harbored many unique species, and many species have gone extinct as its dunes were hauled away in massive increments. After the 1906 fires, the city of San Francisco was rebuilt using brick-building material removed from the dunes.
Lange’s metalmark is one of the most endangered species in the United States. It declined from some 250,000 in historic times to just 154 in 1986. It improved a bit, but then declined to just 45 butterflies in 2006. Today the species is still on the knife edge of extinction, with about 150 individuals remaining.

Mississippi gopher frogThe Mississippi gopher frog lives in stump holes and burrows dug by other animals, laying its eggs in ponds so shallow they dry up for several months of the year, keeping them free of fish that would eat frog eggs. It was placed on the endangered species list in 2001.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to designate 7,015 acres as protected critical habitat for the Mississippi gopher frog in Mississippi and Louisiana in 2011.
Reduced to approximately 100 individuals in the wild, the Mississippi gopher frog exists in just three small ponds just outside the proposed “town” of Tradition, Mississippi. Planned development would have a devastating effect on this rare frog.
White River spinedaceThe human population of Nevada grew by 35 percent between 2000 and 2010, nearly four times faster than the national average. Las Vegas was one of the fastest-growing areas of the state. But the city is in the middle of a desert, so accommodating that explosive growth requires securing more water from nonlocal supplies.
The Southern Nevada Water Authority has proposed a massive project to pump billions of gallons of groundwater a year from eastern Nevada and western Utah through a 300-mile pipeline to supply rapidly growing urban areas like Las Vegas. The project will have a disastrous effect on dozens of imperiled species, including the White River spinedace, which was protected as an endangered species in 1985. One population of this rare fish was extirpated in 1991 because of irrigation diversion, and fewer than 50 fish remained in a single population in northeast Nevada.

Polar bear: A polar bear is fit to swim 100 miles for food, in search of mates or, more recently, just some ice to stand on. With five inches of blubber keeping this enormous bear prepared for subzero temperatures, the largest member of the bear family has adapted to remarkable Arctic conditions. The fat stored in a polar bear carcass becomes essential food for other Arctic species, like the Arctic fox. However, the extreme impacts that human-caused climate change has had on the Arctic is pushing the polar bear closer to extinction.
The rapid growth of the global human population — which has doubled since 1970 — has fed a massive push for more and more polluting fossil fuels and dramatically altered the planet’s atmosphere. A 2009 study on the relationship between population growth and global warming found that the “carbon legacy” of just one person can produce 20 times more greenhouse gases than one person saves by carbon-reducing steps such as driving high-mileage, using energy-efficient applicants and light bulbs. Few animals are bearing more of the brunt of the global climate crisis than the polar bear.

Gulf sturgeonLake Lanier, a manmade reservoir in Georgia, feeds several important river systems in the southeastern United States and has been the site of a longstanding conflict between Georgia, Florida and Alabama over water-use rights.
The gulf sturgeon, an anadromous fish, was placed on the threatened species list in 1991. Its most imperiled populations occur in the Apalachicola River, fed by rivers from Lake Lanier. Gulf sturgeon lay eggs on the waterlines along the banks of rivers, and maintaining the right level of water is critical to their breeding success.
Population growth has strained the capacity of Lake Lanier to supply water to Atlanta and other urban areas. A 2009 study explicitly identified explosive population growth as the cause of the ensuing water war between Georgia, Alabama and Florida following a regionwide drought: “…Nineteenth-century droughts, which are perhaps better thought of as a single multi-decadal dry period, are well within the range of historical records and could potentially have had an agricultural effect but probably would not have had an effect on water availability for people given the generally wet climate of the Southwest and the much smaller population then as opposed to now.”

San Joaquin kit fox: The San Joaquin kit fox was relatively common until the 1930s, when people began to convert grasslands to farms, orchards and cities. By 1958, 50 percent of its habitat in California’s Central Valley had been lost, due to extensive land conversions for agriculture, intensive land uses and pesticides. By 1979, less than 7 percent of the San Joaquin Valley's original wildlands south of Stanislaus County remained untilled and undeveloped.
The kit fox was listed as endangered in 1967. Today there are fewer than 7,000 scattered among fragmented populations. The four counties with known San Joaquin kit foxes have grown by 60 percent — by another 1.5 million people — since 1983.
Besides habitat loss, the San Joaquin kit fox is threatened by pesticides and rodenticides associated with intensive agricultural use, industrial activities and residential areas in the Central Valley. Kit foxes’ small-mammal prey base has been significantly reduced by rodenticides, which not only kill life-sustaining prey but can also kill kit foxes when they build up in the foxes’ bodies. Kit foxes have adapted to get their water from the prey they eat making them even more dependent on their food source. They also often burrow in other animals’ dens, leaving them vulnerable to other human activities such as fumigants used to kill coyotes.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

603. Statement by Occupy Los Angeles General Assembly in Response to Mayor's Office and L.A.P.D.

By Occupy Los Angels, November 24, 2011
Para Todos Todo, Para Nosotros Nada: For Everyone, Everything, For Us, Nothing
History: passed with full consensus at GA on Wednesday 11/23/2011. The language, ideas and grievances contained herein were culled from the minutes of 2 special City Liaison Committee Meetings, 2 General Assemblies devoted to the issue, one meeting with the Demands & Objectives Committee, consultation with Media and PR, and widely circulated and amended by the online community of occupiers, and adapted into its current form by the General Assembly on 11/23/2011.
As a collective, Occupy Los Angeles would like to express their rejection of the City of Los Angeles’ alleged proposal that we leave City Hall by November 28th, 2011, in exchange for an apparently now rescinded offer of a 10,000 square foot building, farmland and 100 SRO beds for the homeless.
Occupy Los Angeles believes that as part of a global movement advocating direct, participatory democracy, and challenging economic and social injustices, our position is such that we cannot, in all good faith, accept further material benefit from City Hall at the taxpayer’s expense without seriously compromising our beliefs, our desire for global change, and our commitment to our inherent human rights to free speech and assembly protected in this country by First Amendment Rights. The 1 percent should be paying for any services used by the Occupy Movement, not taxpayers.
In the spirit of inclusivity and transparency which is so dear to our movement, Occupy Los Angeles extends an invitation to Mayor Villaraigosa and the City Council to attend our General Assemblies at the City Hall Occupation if he wishes to discuss these and other matters in a direct, democratic and horizontal way. Mayor Villaraigosa must speak out against the violent actions towards our brothers and sisters, declare the actions of other cities to be unjust, and stand before us equally at a General Assembly. Occupy Los Angeles believes that until this happens, we should have no more closed-door discussions regarding our continuing occupation of City Hall.

The City Council – in line with government in general – is an authority which is more accountable to developers and corporations than the public. The very act of the Los Angeles City Council requesting the physical removal of Los Angeles Occupiers without redressing the grievances which were specifically referenced in the inclusion of our adopted ‘Declaration of the Occupation of New York City’, and in the City Council’s ’1st Amendment Rights / Occupy Los Angeles / Responsible Banking Resolution’ — is in effect supporting the removal of all Occupations from public space by any means. We cannot negotiate with such an institution without undermining our sister occupations across the globe who are suffering from oppressive force and attacks upon their inherent human rights to free speech and assembly, protected in this country under the First Amendment. We refer here to episodes in Oakland, Boston, New York, Portland, UC Davis and San Francisco, to name but a few. We refer to those further afield, in Tahrir Square in Egypt, in Madrid, Greece, London and more. Teargas, pepper spray, beatings, jail, suppression and intimidation have been used as a coercive method of silencing our movement and our desire for global change.
We reject outright the City’s attempts to lure us out of City Hall and into negotiations by offering us nebulous, non-transparent and unconfirmed offers which fail to even begin to address our local grievances. We will continue to occupy this space, in solidarity with our global movement, until the forces of the few are forced to capitulate to the power of the people.
When the following grievances have been addressed – grievances which we have agreed upon as a movement through our General Assembly as advancing our cause and providing for the people of Los Angeles – we as a movement will be happy to initiate dialogue with the Mayor and Los Angeles City Council. An office space of 10,000 square feet would not have addressed these grievances. While the grievances listed below are localized, we believe that they promote the underlying foundations and principles of our movement, which include, but are not limited to: providing for basic, fundamental and inalienable human rights such as shelter, food, healthcare, freedom of choice, sexual orientation, gender equality and education — and the right most paramount to a free and democratic society — the right to self-govern. Detailed demands which encompass our greater world view will be released at a later date by our Demands and Objectives Committee through the General Assembly.

1.              A moratorium on all foreclosures in the City of Los Angeles. The City of Los Angeles to divest from all major banks, and money to be removed from politics.
2.             A citywide effort undertaken to solve the homelessness problem which has led to 18,000 homeless people sleeping on Skid Row every night. Rehabilitation and housing must be provided for all homeless people.
3.             South Central Farm to be returned to the same LA community from which it was taken, and all other vacant and distressed land be open for the community use, and money to the tune of 1 million dollars – taken from Skid Row and given to the multi million dollar NFL firm – to be returned to Skid Row.
4.             Los Angeles to be declared a sanctuary city for the undocumented, deportations to be discontinued and cooperation with immigration authorities be ended – including the turning in of arrestees’ names to immigration authorities.
5.              All forms of weaponry used by multiple law enforcement officials – including, but not limited, to rubber bullets, pepper spray, verbal abuse, arrest, foam batons, long-range acoustic devices and more – are not to be used on those exercising their First Amendment Rights to petition our government for redress of grievances. We do not accept interference with freedom of the press and the public to document police actions in public spaces. We will not tolerate brutality.
6.             We assert our right to an open plaza on the South Side of City Hall for people to peacefully assemble, voice grievances, speak freely, hold our General Assembly and come to the people’s consensus 24 hours a day if needed.
7.              The City of Los Angeles to pressure the State to start a convention, as provided for in the Constitution, to remove corporate personhood and money from politics at a national level.
8.             The City of Los Angeles to begin a dialogue at the State and Federal level on the issues of student debt and tuition hikes.
9.             No cutbacks in city services or attacks on the wages, work conditions and pensions of city employees.
10.           A world class transit system which addresses our debilitating traffic problem and restores the quality of life in Los Angeles.
We conclude, as a General Assembly, by hereby renaming City Hall Park -