Archive for September, 2007

Gore challenged on global warming

September 30, 2007

Despite the attempts to demonize the global warming skeptics, they continue to argue their case.

As over 150 heads of state and government gather at UN headquarters in New York to discuss climate change, former Vice President Al Gore, the most prominent proponent of the theory of the human-induced, catastrophic global warming, continues to refuse repeated challenges to debate the issue.

Czech President Vaclav Klaus, who addressed the General Assembly on climate change September 24, is but the latest global warming skeptic to receive the cold shoulder from Gore. In ads appearing in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Washington Times, Klaus has called on Gore to face him in a one-on-one debate on the proposition: “Global Warming Is Not a Crisis.” Earlier in the year, similar challenges to Gore were issued by Dennis Avery, director of the Center for Global Food Issues and senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, and Lord Monckton of Brenchley, a former adviser to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. All calls on the former vice president to face his critics have fallen on deaf ears.

There was even an offer to make it a sporting proposition.

In June, Professor Scott Armstrong of the University of Pennsylvania urged Gore to put his global warming money where his mouth is. Armstrong, one of the world’s leading experts on forecasting, has studied the forecasts made by Gore and such organizations as the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) and found their methodology wanting.

Convinced that Gore and the IPCC are overstating how much temperatures will rise in the years to come, Armstrong has challenged Gore to the following wager: Each man bets $10,000 on how much temperatures will go up in the next ten years. The money will stay in escrow until 2017. The one whose forecast come closer to the actual change in temperature will be declared the winner and be allowed to donate the $20,000 plus accumulated interest to the charity of his choice. But despite being flush with cash from his movie, “An Inconvenient Truth,” and from lucrative speaking engagements around the world, Gore has not taken Armstrong up on the bet.

Gore is above debates now: He’s a celebrity.

Again, thanks to Instapundit for this link.


More negativity on biofuels

September 30, 2007

Another concern arising from the promotion of biofuels is the potential for grain production in third world countries being diverted from food production to biofuel production. 

According to this article the high market price for corn has already affected the U.S. food aid program.

Soaring food prices, driven in part by demand for ethanol made from corn, have helped slash the amount of food aid the government buys to its lowest level in a decade, possibly resulting in more hungry people around the world this year.

The United States, the world’s dominant donor, has purchased less than half the amount of food aid this year that it did in 2000, according to new data from the Department of Agriculture.

“The people who are starving and have to rely on food aid, they will suffer,” Jean Ziegler, who reports to the United Nations on hunger and food issues, said in an interview this week.

Read the whole article. 

Thanks to Instapundit for the pointer.

Suzuki and others back away from biofuels

September 30, 2007

Although biofuels have been hyped as the alternative to fossil fuels that will save the world, there has always been the negative opinion that the amount of fossil fuel energy used to produce biofuels is almost equal to what is actually produced, making it an inefficient process at best.

That may be optimistic as this 2005 article from Cornell University points out.

“There is just no energy benefit to using plant biomass for liquid fuel,” says David Pimentel, professor of ecology and agriculture at Cornell. “These strategies are not sustainable.”

Pimentel and Tad W. Patzek, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Berkeley, conducted a detailed analysis of the energy input-yield ratios of producing ethanol from corn, switch grass and wood biomass as well as for producing biodiesel from soybean and sunflower plants. Their report is published in Natural Resources Research (Vol. 14:1, 65-76).

It took him a while, but now it seems that even environmentalist David Suzuki has figured out that biofuels may not be the answer to our problems.

Proponents of biofuels, which are often made from plants such as corn or sugar cane, often point to their many advantages over fossil fuels like gasoline. Biofuels are less toxic or non-toxic in comparison to fossil fuels. They are a renewable resource, whereas once fossil fuels are gone, they’re gone. And biofuels can be grown just about anywhere you can grow crops, reducing the need for giant pipelines or oil tankers, and potentially helping to reduce conflicts in areas like the Middle East.

So far so good. But things start to get complicated when you look more closely. Much has already been debated about the energy requirements to produce some biofuels, especially corn-based ethanol. Ethanol made from corn only contains marginally more energy than what is needed to produce it. In fact, we use about a litre’s worth of fossil fuels to grow, harvest, process, and transport a litre of corn-based ethanol. Many people argue that making corn-based ethanol is more of an agricultural subsidy for farmers than it is a sound environmental policy.

Things get even dodgier for biofuels when you look at the land area that would be needed to grow fuel crops. We use a lot of fossil fuels. Switching to biofuels would not reduce the demand for fuel, just change the way we get it. And that would require a lot of land. In fact, substituting just 10 per cent of fossil fuels to biofuels for all our vehicles would require about 40 per cent of the entire cropland in Europe and North America. That is simply not sustainable.

But Dr. Suzuki’s figures are more optimistic that those produced by the Cornell study. In fact, according the Cornell research it would seem that with reference to biofuels we may be going entirely in the wrong direction.

In terms of energy output compared with energy input for ethanol production, the study found that:

* corn requires 29 percent more fossil energy than the fuel produced;
* switch grass requires 45 percent more fossil energy than the fuel produced; and
* wood biomass requires 57 percent more fossil energy than the fuel produced.
In terms of energy output compared with the energy input for biodiesel production, the study found that:* soybean plants requires 27 percent more fossil energy than the fuel produced, and
* sunflower plants requires 118 percent more fossil energy than the fuel produced.

 What we are now doing in our rush to embrace the ethanol fad is growing food to make fuel. It’s a bonanza for many farmers as the demand for their crops to make biofuels is driving up grain prices, but it is already starting to drive up food prices to the consumer.

China has apparently already figured this out but it may take a lot more to derail the biofuel train in North America.

China’s communist rulers announced a moratorium on the production of ethanol from corn and other food crops yesterday at the very time that Western leaders are rushing to embrace alternative food-based fuel technology.

Beijing’s move underlines concerns that ethanol production is driving up rapidly the costs of corn and grain. It appears to reflect a growing reality about food-based alternative fuel: it is far more expensive both economically and environmentally, than Western politicians are likely to admit.

Calls for biofuels are politically attractive for European and US politicians, amid rising petrol prices and concerns about global warming and an overreliance on Middle Eastern oil.

Communist officials in Beijing, however, who do not have the political concerns of democratically elected leaders in the West, have reacted to a rapid rise in food prices and an intense demand on farm land that threatens to make ethanol production unsustainable.

President Bush, who with Britain wants to see a huge increase in corn-based ethanol, called in January for the annual production of 35 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol in the US.

Although that is a hugely popular rhetoric in the Mid-west wheat belt states — the heart of America’s political battleground — environmentalists soon pointed out that such a goal would require an additional 129,000 square miles of farmland, an area the size of Kansas and Iowa combined.

The rush to corn-based ethanol is causing food-price inflation in the US, as it increases the cost of corn grain feedstock and the availability of the crop for such staples as cereal and corn syrup. The ethanol boom has created mass planting of corn at the expense of other crops, which helps to drive up prices, too. Futures prices for corn in the US have nearly doubled in eight months.

There are never simple answers. Just more questions.

More on the enforcement of non-existent firearm laws

September 18, 2007


One of the gentlemen who was threatened with being charged for improperly transporting a non-restricted firearm has written a detailed explanation of the incident. The letter has been posted in a number of places but needs to be circulated as widely as possible to educate firearm owners – whether they be hunters or recreational shooters – about the law as it applies to them and the problems that they may face simply by participating in their firearms related activities.


This is not an isolated case. Many firearm owners have experienced similar confrontations. At best you can walk away from it with nothing but a few wasted hours and a lot frustration. At worst you can end up in court, with mounting legal fees, trying to get your firearms back.


The story is a follows:


On Friday, August 24, 2007, I had an experience with a few members of the Dawson Creek detachment of the RCMP that I believe the public should be aware of.  It had to do with their incorrect knowledge of the laws regarding the transportation of unrestricted firearms (hunting rifles) and the potential illegal treatment of legitimate law abiding citizens who legally use and own firearms. I have reason to believe that others who are not thoroughly familiar with the appropriate legislation may have been unfairly charged and may have lost their personal property and need to be aware of that.


To set the scene, Jim Kassen and I were heading from Jim’s residence east of Pouce Coupe to hunt moose for the afternoon and evening off the Wangler Road approximately 40 miles west of Dawson Creek. Our plan was to go hunting as soon as we finished some business in town. (We both had a valid hunting licence and a valid Moose Species Licence.) I am retired after some 32 years with the federal government, most of which were in management, and Jim Kassen is the recently retired President of Northern Lights College. While completing our business in town, we were pulled over by two RCMP constables in a cruiser with lights flashing. Jim had inadvertently driven straight ahead on 103rd Ave from the left hand turn lane in front of the Co-op during the very busy pre-noon traffic rush which was exacerbated by the closure of the traffic circle. As soon as Jim saw the lights of the police cruiser in the rear view mirror,  he pulled into the first available parking spot while the cruiser pulled in behind. The cruiser blocked Jim’s truck as well as blocked west bound traffic flow on 103rd which was extremely busy. Jim got out of his truck but was ordered back into his vehicle by one of the constables who approached the driver’s side window and advised Jim of the reasons for the pull over, i.e., he didn’t turn left from the left turn only lane. The constable then noticed that there were two hunting rifles (non-restricted firearms) between the passenger and driver’s seats. Both rifles were unloaded with the actions open and the officer could clearly see this. Her manner changed immediately, she ordered Jim out of and to the back of his truck while I remained in the passenger seat with my seat belt on. The constable inspected both rifles asking where the locking mechanisms were and I advised that they were not required as both Jim and I had valid Possession and Acquisition Licences (PAL) and at least one of us was in the vehicle at all times. She then proceeded to take the firearms from the vehicle. At that point I asked what she was doing. She advised that she was seizing the firearms as they were not properly locked up for transportation and that Jim and I would be charged under the criminal code for not meeting safe transportation requirements. At this point I introduced myself advising that I was a federally certified Master Firearms Instructor fully knowledgeable in the legislation and regulations regarding the transport, storage and use of all firearms. I explained that our two non-restricted firearms met all legal requirements for transportation in an attended vehicle and that if she took the firearms it would be and is in fact theft of private property that was being transported legally. Furthermore to take the firearms without a lawful reason was an abuse of her authority.


In order to meet all legal requirements for transportation of non-restricted firearms in this case:

1. The firearms must be unloaded – both of our firearms were unloaded and as additional safety features, but not required by law,

a) the actions were open so any third party who knew anything about firearms could see they were unloaded and not in the battery or ready-to-fire position.

b) the firearms were kept below the dash and out of view so anyone walking or driving by would not be alarmed. The firearms could only be seen if someone came up to the vehicle and looked down. This, by the way, is a common method for local firearms owners and hunters to transport their firearms.

2.  The vehicle must be attended by at least one individual who has a valid PAL or POL – in our case both of us had valid PALs and were in attendance. If we left the vehicle which was a pick-up truck, the firearms would have to be placed out of sight and the area they are in must be locked (for example covering the firearms with a blanket or jacket and locking the cab of the pick-up.) It is not a legal requirement that a non-restricted firearm be disabled by a locking mechanism while it is being transported.

3. The firearms should be registered even though the time frame legally requiring registration of non-restricted firearms has been extended by the current government until May, 2008. – Regardless both our firearms were registered.

  The constable stated that she knew the firearms laws and had several charges pending for firearms offences of the same nature. Neither Jim nor I offered any resistance with the exception of my request that she return the firearms to us, that we did not authorize her to take them, and that the firearms met all legal requirements for transportation. Regardless, she took both firearms to her vehicle. She verified the firearms registration, our PALs, our driver’s licenses along with the fact that both Jim and I had no criminal record (either serious or misdemeanor) and had been law abiding our whole lives. After confirming this she also called a back up squad car even though there were two constables present and we were following all direction given and were not involved in any illegal activity. While this was occurring, traffic was delayed on 103rd and the general public had to assume there was a major police take down of what must be a couple of dangerous criminals.  Meanwhile I remained in the passenger seat of the truck with my seat belt on.

After the back-up car arrived, the constable came back to our vehicle and advised Jim she was letting him go on the traffic violation but would not release the firearms because she was charging us with unsafe transportation under the criminal code and that her immediate superior had confirmed the charge. I again advised she was incorrect and that the firearms must be returned. At this time I removed my seat belt and went over to her and the other two constables and advised her once more that she was mistaken and that she should return our firearms.  She asked for proof of the legislation and regulations which I had at my home in Vernon but not with me. I suggested that we go to her office and pull up the Canadian Firearms web site which was set up and is maintained by the RCMP. I advised that the legislation and regulations are accessible there. While she seemed to be unaware of this site she agreed to try this.


Jim and I drove to the RCMP station where we were confronted by the seizing constable’s immediate supervisor who proceeded to berate us for telling his constable that she was wrong and abusing her authority. He also reiterated that we would not get our firearms back and that we would be charged under Section 87 of the Criminal Code of Canada. I again stated my experience and background as well as certification and that we had done nothing wrong and wanted our firearms returned. I also asked to bring up the RCMP’s Canadian Firearm’s website. He refused, dismissed us, and was closing the reception window when I requested a meeting with his superior.


10 minutes later I was ushered in alone (Jim was directed to remain in the reception area) to meet with the Senior Officer in Charge who’s first position, based on information from his subordinates, was that we were going to be charged. However, he was open to my describing the circumstances of the firearms and the legal requirements for transportation. He also had a brochure in his possession from the RCMP’s Firearms Centre which identified the transportation requirements for both restricted and non-restricted firearms – the Dawson Creek detachment in error was applying the restricted requirements to non-restricted firearms. Restricted firearms (handguns etc.) must meet a much higher level of security for their transportation such as disabling by a locking mechanism and be in a locked opaque case, not to mention additional paper work requirements. With the brochure in his possession as well as confirmation from the police help line it was confirmed that I was right and that neither Jim nor I had done anything illegal regarding the transportation of our firearms. The Senior Officer in Charge advised that our firearms would be immediately released and he apologized for the mix-up. I went out to the reception area and waited with Jim for the return of our firearms. I felt we all learned something: – justice can be obtained by standing your ground, persevering, and being assertive when your rights have been violated; the Dawson Creek RCMP now have a clearer understanding of what constitutes safe transportation and law abiding citizens will have nothing to fear; and most importantly, a senior member of the force have proven that he was open to protecting the rights of honest law abiding citizens – after all we are human and errors do occur.

Everything had been resolved and the matter was finished to everyone’s satisfaction or so I thought. The supervisor brought our firearms out to us and I thanked him. You can imagine my shock when he bluntly stated to Jim and I that we would have been treated a lot worse than we were had he been present at the time our firearms where confiscated. Apparently in his mind citizens are not allowed to advise RCMP or object when their rights are being violated and/or the RCMP actions are wrong or illegal, and anyone who questions them will be treated severely. This belief is so ingrained that he made the statement to Jim and me together in the RCMP reception area which has a security camera that monitors and records. At the end of the day, nothing was learned and nothing was gained! I am gravely concerned that this kind of behavior and treatment of honest citizens will continue if these attitudes are not addressed.

What occurred was wrong on so many levels:

The role of the RCMP is to enforce the laws of the land, not to create their own laws. If they don’t know the firearms laws that have been in place for 15 years and slightly updated 9 years ago in a community with a significant number of firearms owners and hunters, what other laws are they ignoring or applying inappropriately or illegally?

  1. This is an area that attracts hunters from all over the province as well as all over the world. The activities of firearms owners and hunters contribute substantially to the local economy. Mistreatment, false charges and harassment will all have a negative affect. Ignorance of the law is no excuse for citizens in a court of law and therefore should not  be an excuse for the RCMP. It’s a fine line between being ignorant and acting ignorantly – in this case the seizing constable and immediate supervisor crossed the line which leads me to believe that this occurs as a matter of habit, not as a very rare or once in a life-time situation.
  1. By the constable’s own statement she has seized firearms from several other owners for the same reasons. Many people do not have the knowledge, the will or the communication skills to defend themselves and may have lost or will lose their property even though they have done nothing wrong. In our case the replacement value of the 2 firearms is approximately $3,000.00.
  1. When did it become illegal for a law abiding citizen to advise the RCMP that they are wrong and that their actions are wrong? When pointing out an error, omission, illegal action, etc. why should honest law abiding citizens be openly intimidated?  At the time of the threat the supervising officer had admitted that a mistake in interpretation had occurred, been ordered to return the firearms, but at the last moment added his intimidating comment.
  1. At least 7 to 8 person hours of RCMP time and equipment was spent trying to prove that Jim and I had done something wrong instead of simply applying the law as it stands. A simple look at the RCMP’s Canadian Firearms website, either the “legislation and regulation” section or “brochure” section would have provided concrete proof of Jim and my innocence (a 5 to 10 minute exercise at most). Surely this time could have been better spent on highway patrol or investigating criminal activities such as break-ins or drug gang activity.  But then of course law abiding citizens, especially seniors who can’t move very fast, are much easier targets.
  1. How can the RCMP earn and maintain respect when they treat two retired seniors the way they did even though we posed no threat and were involved in no illegal activity?  If they can treat us the way they did, I believe this can happen to anyone and probably has happened many times to law abiding citizens in the Dawson Creek area. What right does the RCMP have to treat two retired seniors as criminals in an active public place (seizing their firearms, calling for back-up, impeding traffic) when they have done nothing wrong or illegal with their firearms. Our only fault was to state our innocence and to advise the RCMP officer that her actions and information were wrong. I was raised to respect the RCMP, and I call many active and retired members friends. When I conduct a course (CORE or Firearms Safety) I always stress respect for enforcement as they have a legitimate job to do. At this stage I can only say that my respect for the RCMP was severely shaken on the 24th of August, 2007 and it is only people like the Senior Officer in Charge that allow me to believe there is still some hope.

I wrote this letter hoping that it will be a catalyst that prevents others from being treated as we were, or at the very least residents of Dawson Creek will be better prepared to defend themselves when dealing with the institution that is responsible to protect law abiding citizens. 

Respectfully yours,

J.C. (Jim) Parfrey
7044 Nakiska Drive
Vernon, B.C. V1B 3M5
Telephone: (250) 275-6316
Cell: (250) 306-9460

It is in your best interests to learn what the transportation rules are. Read the info sheet on the Canadian Firearms Centre website. It was suggested in a comment to the previous posting on this incident that you carry a copy of this info in your vehicle at all times. Not a bad idea.

The continuing story on Ian Bush

September 16, 2007

The long drawn-out investigation of the shooting of Ian Bush by an RCMP officer in Houston, B.C. is back in the news.

The BC Civil Liberties Association has just won a victory in the Federal Court of Canada which will enable it to proceed in its complaint against the RCMP with reference to the shooting of Mr. Bush in 2005.

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association had filed a complaint against the RCMP shortly after Mr. Bush’s death, but the RCMP had terminated that complaint on the basis that it was not necessary nor practical. 

The BCCLA then applied for a review of the RCMP’s decision from the Commission for Complaints Against the RCMP, which is the civilian oversight body of the RCMP, however that body upheld the RCMP’s decision.

The BCCLA explained their position in their Summer 2007 newsletter:

Ian Bush died in an RCMP cell in October 2005 in Houston, B.C. The BCCLA lodged a complaint to ensure police accountability. The RCMP terminated the complaint on the basis that there were other procedures to review the case including a criminal investigation and coroner’s inquest. Unsatisfied because neither process deals with professional misconduct, the BCCLA asked Paul Kennedy, the Chair of the Commission for Complaints Against the RCMP, to review the decision to terminate. Mr. Kennedy upheld the RCMP decision and lodged his own  complaint.  

The BCCLA launched a judicial review of Mr. Kennedy’s decision in Federal Court of Canada. We believe that public confidence in the police demands timely and independent review of the conduct of  officers involved in a death-in-custody. We could not let the decision of Mr. Kennedy go unchallenged. The BCCLA was in the Federal Court in March to fend off a preliminary challenge by the Attorney General of Canada to strike our claim as moot. We argued that the case raises an important issue that is not being considered elsewhere and that we wish to retain our   right as a complainant. We await the decision of the court. David Harris, Q.C., Michael Stevens and Jasmine MacAdam from Hunter Litigation Chambers represent the BCCLA.

 So the story continues. Personally I have never been able to see the rationale behind letting police forces investigate complaints made against them. Or even one police force investigating another. There needs to be an independent civilian oversight.

Parrots are people

September 13, 2007

A great read on Michael Bane’s blog on the passing of Alex an African Grey Parrot who worked with avian intelligence researcher Irene Pepperberg at Brandeis University and then Bane’s stories of his own African Grey.

RCMP officers enforcing non-existent firearm laws

September 12, 2007

An interesting story out of Dawson Creek where RCMP officers stopped two local hunters and threatened to confiscate their rifles and charge the two with a criminal offense.

I am unable to download a link for the time being so I will post the whole article and re-do the post when the link becomes available.

Mounties Get Lesson On Gun Regulations 
Northeast News
By: Joei Warm
September 5, 2007
DAWSON CREEK – Local RCMP have been enforcing firearm regulations incorrectly. Thanks to an incident with a knowledgeable citizen, they learned they have been applying the transportation regulations for ‘restricted’ firearms to even ‘non-restricted’ ones.  

They discovered their mistake when they pulled two hunters over for a routine traffic stop Aug. 24 and tried to seize two hunting rifles sitting unloaded between the seats in the truck. Fortunately the passenger, Jim Parfrey, is a federally-certified master firearms instructor. His knowledge of the correct regulations led him to insist RCMP investigate the way they handle these situations. In the end, he got the firearms back with an acknowledgement from police that he was right. 

 “The law is nebulous,” said S/Sgt. Steve Grant. As soon as the error was recognized the correct information was circulated to all members. But “If it’s that complex that they don’t understand them (the regulations), then how will that help them?” asked Parfrey.  

Ironically, the Canadian Firearms website, which clearly states that the requirement for safe transportation of nonrestricted firearms is “unload your weapon”, was set up and is operated by the RCMP. “They didn’t even seem to know they had a website,” said Parfrey.  

 “There is no vagueness about the regulations,” said BC Wildlife Federation executive director Paul Adams. “I receive a couple of complaints like this every year. There is a definite need for education within the RCMP, especially with the younger officers.”  

“We can both appreciate that officers place themselves in more danger than we do but I’m not sure that two old fogies are that much of a threat,” said Pouce Coupe resident and former Northern Lights College president Jim Kassen, the truck’s driver. The men were told their firearms would be confiscated and that they would be charged with a criminal offense even after it was seen that the rifles were unloaded. 

“It was extremely frustrating being ridiculed and ordered around,” said Parfrey. He maintains the officers were angry and treated the men like criminals. “If she had just said she was uncomfortable with the firearms and wanted to put them in her  car until the matter was finished with I would have understood and handed them over,” said Parfrey. 

“There is a difference in the interpretation of events,” said Grant. “I’m satisfied the officer acted appropriately.”  

After the matter was resolved Parfrey said the RCMP shift supervisor, a “very big, well-muscled man”, told him he didn’t like the way his officers had been treated and said if he had been the one to stop them things would have gone worse. Parfrey took exception to what he saw as intimidation by the supervisor.  

Kassen thought the officer was threatening and said, “I had the feeling his superior overruled him and that he might be feeling vindictive.” He remains concerned that there may be negative consequences for the duo for standing up for their rights.  

Grant doesn’t see the situation in the same light but wants to tell those who feel their rights have been ignored or who feel they’ve been mistreated in some way that they’re welcome to talk to him. “Come in and see me.”

To begin with, the law on the transportation of non-restricted firearms is not “nebulous”. It might be if you don’t know the laws you are enforcing, but the law is actually quite clear.The regulations state in part:

Transportation of Non-Restricted Firearms
10(1) An individual may transport a non-restricted firearm only if
(a) ……………., it is unloaded;

That’s it. Period. There are further rules if the firearm is in an unattended vehicle, but this was not the case in this particular incident. So the only rule for non-restricted firearms is that they must be unloaded. (plus there are additional stipulations for muzzle loaders).

The Staff Sargeant in charge of the detachment said that he was satisfied that the officer had acted appropriately. She didn’t know the law so she made up one of her own which I guess is now considered to be appropriate behaviour. It is hard to believe that officers working in Northern B.C. where hunting is a way of life wouldn’t be familiar with even the most basic firearm laws.

Also a bit scary to hear the comments from the RCMP shift supervisor. If he had been the officer in the field “things would have gone worse”? It sounds as though it could only have gone worse if he had tasered them or done something equally violent.

Of course their big mistake was telling the police officer that she was mistaken in her knowledge of the law. That just stiffens their backs and you are immediately in trouble.

It has really gotten to the point where if you are a firearm owner you should avoid contact with the police whenever humanly possible. Unfortunate.

Guns I wish I still owned

September 12, 2007

Every once in a while I think back on various firearms that I have owned over the years and wonder why I ever let them leave my possession.

Today I was thinking of a sweet little heavy barreled Sako .223 which I traded off for something (I can’t even remember what) that at the time I obviously thought I needed. I would love to have it in my rack today.

Others include a Mannlicher Schoenauer 30/06 with a full stock and rotary magazine as well as a lovely little FN Mauser in 250/3000 which I used  in centerfire hunting rifle matches back over 40 years ago when I lived in Fort St. John. I parted with the 30/06 because the stock was starting to split in a couple of spots due to a lot of use at the rifle range. I let the FN go because I was an idiot.

Then there was the gorgeous little AYA 20 gauge side x side and a Smith & Wesson Model 19 Combat Magnum with a 4 inch barrel that was one of the sweetest shooting handguns I ever owned. As well as the pre-64 Winchester Model 70 in .375 H&H that had a G&H quarter rib installed.

Of course there are the ones that I should have bought such as the original Colt Bisley with an asking price of $75 and the Mauser Broomhandle owned by an old trapper who wanted somewhere in the area of $50. Brain dead is the word that comes to mind.

My only comfort comes from the fact that a few years ago our house was burglarized and most of my guns went out the door, never to return. So I rationalize that even had I kept those guns, in the end some low-life would have used them to finance his drug habit. It gives me some comfort, however irrational.

Polar bears are DOOMED! DOOMED I tell you!

September 11, 2007

A study done by oceanographer James Overland and meteorologist Muyin Wang, researchers for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), projects that at the current melting rate, the polar ice cap will by reduced by 40% by 2050.

The Arctic ice cap is melting faster than scientists had expected and will shrink 40 percent by 2050 in most regions, with grim consequences for polar bears, walruses and other marine animals, according to government researchers.

The Arctic sea ice will retreat hundreds of miles farther from the coast of Alaska in the summer, the scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration concluded. That will open up vast waters for fishermen and give easier access to new areas for oil and gas exploration. It is also likely to mean an upheaval in species, bringing new predators to warmer waters and endangering those that depend on ice.

The study, by NOAA oceanographer James Overland and meteorologist Muyin Wang, adds to the increasingly urgent predictions of major ice loss in the Arctic.

Their study and predictions do not extend any hope to reverse the trend.

But Overland’s calculations are based largely on the carbon dioxide that already has been pumped into the atmosphere. That pollution will greatly diminish the ice by 2050, regardless of future curbs on emissions, he said yesterday.

“The amount of emissions we have already put out in the last 20 years will stay around for 40 to 50 years,” Overland said. “I’m afraid to say that a lot of impacts we will see in the next 30 to 40 years are pretty much already established.”

Another study, done by the U.S. Geological Survey, predicts that even with more modest shrinking of the polar ice cap Polar bear populations will drop by 2/3 by 2050.

Two-thirds of the world’s polar bears will disappear by 2050, even under moderate projections for shrinking summer sea ice caused by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, government scientists reported yesterday.

The finding is part of a year-long review of the effects of climate and ice changes on polar bears to help determine whether they should be protected under the Endangered Species Act. Scientists estimate the current polar bear population at 22,000.

The report, which the U.S. Geological Survey released here, concludes that under middle-of-the road projections for warming the bears will by mid-century be largely relegated to Arctic archipelago of Canada and spots off the northern Greenland coast. The bears would disappear entirely from Alaska, the study said.

The report pessimistically assumes that as the ice cap recedes and traditional habitat is reduced that the bears will not adapt and will disappear. I suspect that is a simplistic scenario.

As the north warms new prey will enter the area and if the bear’s traditional prey becomes available I would think that they would move inland to find new sources of food. Maybe they’ll eat the grizzly and black bears that will begin to expand their territories into a greening north.

To keep things in perspective regarding Polar bears one needs to remember that in the 1950s their population was estimated at 5,000, increased to 8,000 – 10,000 between 1965/70 then to 25,000 in 1984 and then settled on a range of between 20 – 25,000 in 2005. Some of the increase in number can certainly be attributed to better counting techniques in recent years but it certainly shows a healthy bear population at this time and place.

I would be more concerned with the walrus and seal populations but as the first article says:

“This will have a profound effect on the animals that use sea ice all the time, including walrus and polar bears and ringed seals,” he said. “You will actually have a change in the whole ecosystem. You will have winners and losers. Crabs, clams, walrus and bears will not do well. Salmon, pollock and other fisheries that live higher up in the water column will extend their range.”

So if fisheries increase maybe the seal populations will do better than expected.

As the NOAA researchers state:

“We really don’t have a clue how that will look,” Overland said of the species changes. Pollock already moving into the Bering Sea were expected to thrive, for example, but there has been an unexpected loss in species on which the fish feed and an unexpected increase in predator species, he said.

And therein lies the crux of the problem. We know there are changes coming but we don’t really know how severe they will be nor do we know how various species will react and adapt. Hell we can’t predict the local weather accurately a week ahead.

But to be safe you predict the worst case scenario and hope that it scares the government and the public into some kind of an action mode. Although in the case of the NOAA study they have told us that it is too late to do anything anyway. Just get out your fishing rod and head north.

Conflicting information on microchipping

September 11, 2007

A press release from the US Department of Agriculture endorses the use of microchips to identify pets.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has endorsed the use of microchips to identify American pets and has advocated educating the public about microchip technology as stated in its report to Congress, released late last week. The report, which was requested by Congress in 2005, is applauded by animal care providers tasked with reuniting lost and displaced pets with their families.

The American Microship Advisory for Animals is even more positive about the practice.

Dan Knox, D.V.M., Task Force Member of the American MicroChip Advisory Council for Animals (AMACA) declared: It is undisputed that microchips save pets lives. I expect that countless pets that are lost or displaced by hurricanes and other natural disasters will be saved over the years because the USDA supports and encourages the use of microchips.

But it turns out that there have been concerns about problems with microchipping that go back to the 1990s.

When the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved implanting microchips in humans, the manufacturer said it would save lives, letting doctors scan the tiny transponders to access patients’ medical records almost instantly. The FDA found “reasonable assurance” the device was safe, and a sub-agency even called it one of 2005’s top “innovative technologies.”

But neither the company nor the regulators publicly mentioned this: A series of veterinary and toxicology studies, dating to the mid-1990s, stated that chip implants had “induced” malignant tumors in some lab mice and rats.

“The transponders were the cause of the tumors,” said Keith Johnson, a retired toxicologic pathologist, explaining in a phone interview the findings of a 1996 study he led at the Dow Chemical Co. in Midland, Mich.

Leading cancer specialists reviewed the research for The Associated Press and, while cautioning that animal test results do not necessarily apply to humans, said the findings troubled them. Some said they would not allow family members to receive implants, and all urged further research before the glass-encased transponders are widely implanted in people.

I do like this statement:

Dr. Cheryl London, a veterinarian oncologist at Ohio State University, noted: “It’s much easier to cause cancer in mice than it is in people. So it may be that what you’re seeing in mice represents an exaggerated phenomenon of what may occur in people.”

That argument would seem to be a bit weak, as I recall it was lab tests in mice that drove the attack against the tobacco industry for its cancer inducing effects.

As the article points out, there have been tens of thousands dogs microchipped to date and there has been no reported epidemic of cancer that could be related to the practice. But then again no one has really been looking.

Nonetheless, London saw a need for a 20-year study of chipped canines “to see if you have a biological effect.” Dr. Chand Khanna, a veterinary oncologist at the National Cancer Institute, also backed such a study, saying current evidence “does suggest some reason to be concerned about tumor formations.”

That would make sense. If such a study showed no link between implants and cancer it would give some measure of comfort to dog owners and would go a long way to relieving fears of microchipping in humans as well.