Glenrothes by-election campaign warning

November 1, 2008

OK – the headline is a bit of a tease. The story is somewhat tangential but stick with it.

Just surfing the net I found this incredible story of a baggage handler in Atlanta opening up the cargo hold of a plane and coming face to face with a live cheetah!

Obviously the flight was delayed (whilst they wrote the sequel to Samuel L. Jackson’s Snakes on a Plane, I imagine):

‘”They told us a large animal had gotten out of a container in the cargo hold and they were having to send someone to tranquilize it,” said one passenger, Lee Sentell of Montgomery, Ala.

‘He said luggage was delayed, but baggage handlers promised to send his bags to him in Alabama.

‘The good news for passengers: The escaped cheetah didn’t damage any of their luggage.’

So I got to thinking? What if this had been Scotland?

Would John Smeaton have wrestled the big cat into submission?

“Aye. Cheetah’s may be fast, but they’re no match for Glaswegians. We’ll just set about ye!”

It prompted a bit more internet surfing.

And here’s where the Glenrothes by-election campaign warning comes in:-

Apparently there is a big cat prowling around the constituency!

Here’s a photograph from an actual sighting in Methil, from ScottishBigCats.co.uk:

Methil Mauler

They say:

‘We revealed in last week’s edition that the organisation Big Cats in Britain was keen to set up webcams around Fife in a bid to prove the existence of big cats once and for all – but for Ms Miller there’s no question.

‘”They definitely exist,” she says, “I think there’s more than one around here to be honest.”‘

So watch out they may be a Big Cat in Glenrothes.

So that’s the reason why the Labour minders operate a ‘shoot to kill’ policy!

And the reason why Gordon Brown hardly ventures far from his campaign headquarters door!

Black fur. No doubt yellow eyes. The cat must be an SNP supporter!

add to del.icio.usadd to Blinkslistadd to furlDigg itadd to ma.gnoliaStumble It!add to simpyseed the vinepost to facebookAdd to Technorati Favoritespost to NowPublicpost to googleadd to Yahoo! add to Live Favourites

Advertisements

Sarah Palin and fruit flies

October 25, 2008

I guess no-one should be surprised by the latest anti-science diatribe by Sarah Palin.

This time she’s picking on the humble fruit fly.

She was giving a speech on promoting the funding of Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA):

“For many parents of children with disabilities, the most valuable thing of all is information. Early identification of a cognitive or other disorder, especially autism, can make a life-changing difference.”

Now given that Sarah Palin has a Down’s Syndrome son, you may have thought have fighting for disability funding would have been a home run for her. You may also have expected her to champion scientific research into disabilities.

So for her to question the earmarked money for scientific research was a bit surprising:

“Where does a lot of that earmark money end up anyway? […] You’ve heard about some of these pet projects they really don’t make a whole lot of sense and sometimes these dollars go to projects that have little or nothing to do with the public good. Things like fruit fly research in Paris, France. I kid you not.”

Fruit fly research.

The fruit fly research that she is talking about must be the Olive fruit fly research. The Olive fruit fly is an invasive pest that threatening California’s multi-million dollar olive crop. In trying to save a chunk of California’s economy in these difficult times, the $211509 French grant probably is a worthwhile investment.

Besides, if you know anything about science, you’ll know that vital findings have resulted from the most tangential experiments. Who knows what benefits might come out this study?

Certainly not Sarah Palin.

If she was only aware of what research of the humble fruit fly has already given to science I bet she wouldn’t have mocked this research in her speech.

For example, progress in birth defects research. That work brought a Nobel Prize.

Progress in autism research. The very condition that Sarah Palin started her talk about. She has a nephew suffering from autism. Fruit fly research may bring vital clues to improve his life.

Diabetes research.

Cancer research. Indeed, fruit fly research has led to critical advances in the treatment of colon cancer and possibly all cancers.

Alzheimer’s research. And scientists have just cured fruit flies from Huntington’s disease, a massive leap to the treatment of humans.

And work on increasing the life-span of fruit flies may have benefits in slowing ageing in humans.

And what makes the fruit fly so ubitiquous in medical research?

Chiang Ann-shyn – director of the Institute of Biotechnology and director of the Brain Research Center at National Tsing Hua University in Hsinchu City, Taiwan – explains in this article:

‘One reason fruit flies were used was the similarities between their genes and human genes, Chiang explained. Although a fruit fly carries only around 135,000 genes, which might seem few in comparison to a human being’s 4 billion genes, a large number of genes that suffer from human genetic disorders can be found in the fruit fly. “Flies are cheap to breed, and their genes can be manipulated quickly,” he declared. Moreover, better understanding of genes would allow scientists to search faster for novel therapeutic drugs for healing diseases like Alzheimer’s, he added.’

I think its clear by now that Sarah Palin has no understanding of science.

Her Young Earth creationist views.
Her disregard for climate change.
Her appalling environmental record.
Her attempt to ban books from the local library in Wasilla.

And now this.

Go back to what she said at the start: “For many parents of children with disabilities, the most valuable thing of all is information.”

What Sarah Palin is promoting with her fruit fly ‘I kid you not’ nonsense is dis-information.

Its just as well it looks like the Republicans look like they are losing the election.

Having Sarah Palin as Vice President with an elderly, poor health John McCain as President just doesn’t bear thinking about.

add to del.icio.us:add to Blinkslist:add to furl:Digg it:add to ma.gnolia:Stumble It!:add to simpy:seed the vine:::Sarah Palin and fruit flies:post to facebook:Add to Technorati Favorites


Sarah Palin and dinosaurs

September 11, 2008

It seems Matt Damon and I have the same concerns about the republican Vice President candidate Sarah Palin.

So does Sarah Palin think dinosaurs roamed the earth 4000 years ago?

Alaska is not normally associated with dinosaurs as its temperature was previously thought to have been too cold for them to survive.

But there have been dinosaur fossils found in Alaska belonging to dinosaurs like this Edmontosaurus:

edmontosaurus

Surely Sarah Palin must have an opinion on whether they existed?

I think we should be told.

Because judging on her creationist ideas, whether she wants Charles Darwin’s books banned and her lack of environmental concern even dinosaurs become a current issue.

add to del.icio.us:add to Blinkslist:add to furl:Digg it:add to ma.gnolia:Stumble It!:add to simpy:seed the vine:::Sarah Palin and dinosaurs:post to facebook:Add to Technorati Favorites


Republicans and Hurricane Gustav

September 1, 2008

Hurricane Gustav makes its way steadily to Louisiana.

As New Orleans is being evacuated and response teams are put in place, it strikes me that this time George Bush is learning from his mistakes over Hurricane Katrina.

But will Hurricane Gustav make the Republicians reassess their stance on climate change?

John McCain has at least made encouraging noises in the direction of tackling the situation. Then he goes and appoints as his Vice Presidental candidate a woman who believes that global warming is not man-made and has an appalling environmental record in her home state in Alaska.

A clear sign that he is pandering to the hard right of the Republican party.

This just smacks of a continuation of the Republican environmental policy instigated under George W. Bush. The defining environmental policy of Bush’s government was a refusal to sign the Kyoto agreement that introduced emission targets.

So do I think the Republicans will reassess their stance? I suspect not directly.

What may make the difference is that these Hurricanes affect the oil price in the United States, as they cut off oil production in the U.S. gulf coast.

Unfortunately, it may take a few of these hurricanes before America finally gets the message on climate change. By that time the global oil price could have sky rocketed and the U.S. may well have made more environmental damage by drilling for oil in environmentally sensitive areas in its lust to keep its oil price low.

As climate change becomes more pronounced, hurricanes and other weather phemonema will get more dangerous.

How many of these extreme hurricanes will New Orleans, Louisiana and the Gulf coast have to endure before Republicans take the environment seriously?

add to del.icio.usadd to Blinkslistadd to furlDigg itadd to ma.gnoliaStumble It!add to simpyseed the vinepost to facebookAdd to Technorati Favoritespost to NowPublicpost to googleadd to Yahoo! add to Live Favourites


Sarah Palin and Charles McKay

August 31, 2008

Anyone who read my previous post on Johann Anton Güldenstädt and his 18th century trip to the Caucaus mountains, at the end of the recent Russian – Georgian War over South Ossetia, would have guessed two things: I am a fan of nature and where politics and nature meet it gives me great incentive to blog.

With all the recent fuss over Sarah Palin, the Governor of Alaska, and now Republican Vice President candidate; that’s all the excuse I need!

Particularly when Sarah Palin is backing destruction of one of the most spectular wildlife areas in North America and that site is intimately linked to a little known naturalist but one of my biggest heroes!

Charles McKay, born in Appleton, Wisconsin in 1855, was the son of a Scottish farmer. He studied Science under David Starr Jordan; a naturalist particularly noted for the study of fish and also a famous peace campaigner he became a president of Indiana University then Stanford University.

When Charles left university he joined the U.S. Army. He was sent to Alaska by Spencer Fullerton Baird as a signal officer. Baird was another naturalist and often used fellow naturalists in the military, sending them to remote places to study the wildlife, whilst carrying out their military duties.

McKay was sent to Bristol Bay in Alaska. He discovered a beautiful, rare and new species of bunting there, now named McKay’s Bunting in his honour.

McKay's bunting

There are only about 6000 McKay’s buntings in the world. They only breed on two islands in the Bering Sea; St. Matthew Island and Hall island. They winter on the coast of Alaska, and can be found in Bristol Bay.

Breeding on two Arctic islands McKay’s buntings could be threatened by global warming as the Bering Sea rises due to melting icebergs and the icecap.

Bristol Bay, the very area where Charles McKay first discovered these buntings, is now under threat from a proposed Gold and Copper mine that would be sited in the area called Pebble Mine.

Bristol Bay is also the site of one of the world’s biggest salmon fisheries. This is also at risk from the proposed mine.

And its this very place that Sarah Palin wants to see the Pebble Mine located.

Its an indication of how right-wing Governor Palin is when you realise that even the American Hunting Organisations are against the proposed mine.

The most worrying thing is that both Sarah Palin and Barack Obama were against Alaska’s Proposition 4 which would have prevented mining companies dumping their chemicals into the state water supply and rivers; it may have even prevented the Pebble Mine being built. It narrowly was defeated recently giving the mining companies a huge boost.

Indeed, it seems Sarah Palin even broke the law to campaign against Proposition 4.

The door is now open for the Pebble Mine.

Sarah Palin won’t stop it. Will Barack Obama?

add to del.icio.usadd to Blinkslistadd to furlDigg itadd to ma.gnoliaStumble It!add to simpyseed the vinepost to facebookAdd to Technorati Favoritespost to NowPublicpost to googleadd to Yahoo! add to Live Favourites


Sarah Palin and the 6000 year old man.

August 30, 2008

OK, John McCain is not that old. But the 6000 years is relevant.

Unlike other commentators I am not going to discuss the fact that Republican Senator John McCain has picked the former beauty queen and hockey-mom Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate.

John McCain and Sarah Palin

Excepting this: it is a risky move, designed to try and pick up the Hillary Clinton women’s vote and give the Republicans a greater appeal by picking someone younger than McCain and a woman. Given her lack of experience it may well give the Democrats the edge. Its a calculated risk by the Republicans though and it remains to be seen if it helps McCain to the Whitehouse.

Place your bets.

What I’d rather discuss is Sarah Palin’s dangerous views:-

What I don’t agree with is Palin’s disregard for the climate change argument and man-made global warming. She wanted to sue the federal government for making polar bears an endangered species.

Trend of sea ice levels in the Arctic

What I don’t agree with is Palin’s policy of teaching both creationism and evolution in Science classes.

Incredibly, Sarah Palin is the daughter of a Science teacher.

McCain also advocates teaching both, but at least he’d only teach evolution in a Science class. He is however linked to groups teaching Intelligent Design, creationism by another name.

It just concerns me that here we have a Vice President candidate that thinks the earth is 6000 years old.

And she’s on the same ticket as a 72 year old running for President in one of the most powerful countries in the world. (A 72 year old who may not be as pro-creationist as Palin but is willing to put the arguments in schools.)

I dread to think what education policies Sarah Palin might put through if she did make President, if McCain stood down with ill-health or whatever.

We might go the same way as the dinosaurs.

add to del.icio.us:add to Blinkslist:add to furl:Digg it:add to ma.gnolia:Stumble It!:add to simpy:seed the vine:::Sarah Palin and the 6000 year old man:post to facebook:Add to Technorati Favorites


Güldenstädt and the Caucauses

August 13, 2008

I hope the current ceasefire between Georgia and Russia holds, so that diplomacy can take hold instead of war.

Certainly its a positive sign.

So I’m going to be positive too and write a small piece on a not so famous naturalist, Johann Anton Güldenstädt.

Güldenstädt was a Latvian naturalist and explorer, born in Riga in 1745. He studied in Germany before making the first scentific expedition to Georgia and the Caucauses.

From 1768 to 1775 he travelled throughout the region observing and noting species, languages and culture.

The Terek River starts in the mountains of Georgia. It runs near South Ossetia to North Ossetia before turning east to run into the Caspian Sea.

Its obviously here that Güldenstädt first collected the Terek Sandpiper, detailed in BWP as in 1775. (I say collected as thats what the old naturalists did. They shot the species to identify it, optics being rudimentary at the time.)

Terek Sandpiper

Its a widespread species across much of Asia, even found on African coasts and Australia. Its breeding range now stretches to Latvia and Finland and it is coincidental that it is called a Terek Sandpiper in view of the fact that the Terek River is only on its migration route southwards.

Its a very rare vagrant to Scotland and the rest of Europe.

Another species collected by Güldenstädt is the Güldenstädt redstart. This large mountainous redstart is found in the high altitudes of the Caucauses and the Himalayas.

Guldenstadt-redstart

It is also known as the White-winged redstart but doesn’t Güldenstädt’s redstart sound a lot better?

Its one of the top reasons for birders to visit Georgia.

Güldenstädt also collected and described the Ferruginous Duck and several freshwater fish.

It was only after his death in 1781 that Peter Simon Pallas – a far more well known naturalist – published an edited version of Güldenstädt’s journal; Travels in Russia and the Mountains of the Caucasus.

Perhaps when Georgia gets back to some sort of normality after this conflict, birders will once again travel to see his enigmatic redstart.