Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Come speak out in favor of national park and seashore at December 10, 2010 County Legislative Delegation meeting
Legislators, let community be your eyes and ears
State Rep. Bill Proctor and Sen. John Thrasher have brought key legislative posts to St. Johns County and Northeast Florida, a sign that leadership has great confidence in each of them. We hope it is to come up with the best ways to keep Florida and St. Johns County moving forward.
Proctor was named House Education Committee Chairman by House Speaker Dean Cannon earlier this month and Thrasher was named Senate Rules Chairman by Senate President Mike Haridopolus.
The Senate Rules Committee Chairman controls the flow of legislation to the Senate floor for debate and a vote. House Education Chair leads the committee's oversight of education policy for kindergarten through college, hence the acronym K-20.
Obviously each legislator that gets tapped for a leadership post has been vetted by the leader and his allies. It's no fluke that Thrasher and Proctor are where they are because of their past leadership. Proctor has served on almost every education related committee in the House in his first six years. Thrasher is a former Speaker of the House, already proven as a key figure in making laws.
So what does this mean to St. Johns County?
We hope it means that when the two lawmakers are doing their jobs that they will ask: How would this benefit St. Johns County? And we hope that they would hold town meetings here to get the public's pulse on the tough issues.
We are serious about those lines of communication because they did not work last year when the controversial teacher reform bill SB 6, sponsored by Thrasher, did not make an appearance at home before it was rushed through the Legislature. Fortunately Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed it for a lot of reasons, including a lack of face time with the constituents, particularly teachers.
As we move forward, we want Thrasher and Proctor to know that before they file big idea bills, to let The Record help them float those ideas beyond your their allies. It's the home voters that got each their decision-making seats.
If the public wants to have an impact, here are some tips, tried and true.
Get to know the county's legislators. It's not too early. Go to www.myflorida.com and look for House of Representatives and State Senate. Every legislator is on those lists and has an e-mail address, phone number and office address. Call, e-mail or write them your suggestions and concerns. In addition to Proctor and Thrasher, ours are: Sen. Tony Hill, D-Jacksonville; Sen. Steve Wise, R-Jacksonville; Rep. Ron Renuart, R-Ponte Vedra Beach, and Rep. Mike Weinstein, R-Jacksonville.
Then attend the St. Johns County Legislative Delegation's annual meeting on Dec. 10, 2 p.m. at the County Auditorium, 500 San Sebastian View. The delegation will hear public testimony on general issues and local bills.
This is probably the closest many people will get to all six of our members at one time all year. It is worth the time. To get on the agenda, contact Sandy Matthews in Weinstein's office by Dec. 6 at (904) 213-3005.
Go. Listen, Meet. Speak.
Washington (CNN) -- Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Tuesday the long awaited Pentagon report on the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy indicates that over two-thirds of service members do not object to gays and lesbians serving openly in the U.S. armed forces.
Putting an end to "don't ask, don't tell" would have "some limited and isolated disruption to unit cohesion and retention," the year-long study found, but the effects would not be long-lasting or widespread.
There will be some strong minority opposition, particularly in the Marines and some combat arms specialist units, said the chairs of the study, Defense Department General Counsel Jeh C. Johnson and Army Gen. Carter F. Ham.
As many as 40 to 60 percent of troops in those units were against changing the 17-year-old policy that lets gay and lesbian troops serve as long as their sexual orientation is secret.
Overall opposition throughout the military was about 30 percent -- roughly the same as it is in America as a whole, according to recent findings from CNN/Opinion Research Corp. and the Pew Forum.
Top administration and military officials are briefing the Senate on Tuesday on the results of the Pentagon review.
Johnson told members of Congress on Tuesday that he thought "don't ask, don't tell" could be repealed even while the United States is at war, sources said.
The Pentagon believes that the study is "the largest, most comprehensive review of a personnel policy matter which the Department of Defense has ever undertaken," a defense official close to the process said.
More than nine out of 10 troops said their unit's ability to work with someone they thought was gay or lesbian was very good, good, or neither good nor bad.
The authors of the report say gay and lesbian troops would continue to be discreet about their personal lives, even with a repeal, based on observations of workplaces in civilian society.
The authors said they did hear a large number of religious and morally based objections to homosexuality.
Troops would not be asked to change their beliefs, and their the views should not be downplayed, the authors said in their remarks to Congress, even as they pointed out that troops already work and fight alongside people with other faiths and beliefs.
The authors outlined a number of recommendations for effectively handling the repeal, including leaders making clear what is expected of troops in the field. Although the report will say it is not necessary to change standards of conduct extensively, some new guidance on conduct will be necessary.
The authors will also recommend that those previously removed from the military under "don't ask, don't tell" be allowed to reapply under the same criteria as anyone else seeking to rejoin the military.
Even with a repeal, not all benefits will be available to gay service members and their partners because of the Defense of Marriage Act.
The recommendations are based on surveys, focus groups and face-to-face meetings at bases around the world and even a carefully controlled effort to communicate anonymously with homosexuals serving in the military.
The Pentagon sent surveys to 400,000 troops and got about 115,000 responses. It sent separate questionnaires to 150,000 military spouses and got 44,000 back.
The Defense Department also set up a website for service members who wanted to comment. That effort elicited 72,000 responses.
And the Pentagon held meetings at 51 U.S. military bases around the world where 24,000 more troops discussed the issue.
Officials preparing the report also went to the service academies to hear from staff, faculty and students.
Key senators fired the warning shots for what could be a bitter debate in the chamber as the week began.
"The system is working," Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, said on CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday. "The military is at its highest point in recruitment, in retention, in professionalism, in capability. So to somehow allege that this policy has been damaging the military is simply false."
Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, shot back on "Fox News Sunday," saying that "gay members of the military have served for decades, and there hasn't been a problem with our military being the finest in the world. ... We should move forward to make sure that any person who stands up and says, 'I'm willing to die for our country' can do so with honor."
On Thursday, the committee heard from Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. On Friday, it will hear from the top brass of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.
McCain, the ranking Republican on the committee, will undoubtedly ask why a survey of active duty military and families -- a central part of the report -- did not directly ask whether they supported changing the present policy but focused instead on how it should be changed.
The former presidential contender wrote a letter to Gates about this in September. In a response in October, Gates told McCain that it was not part of the charter of the Pentagon's so-called working group to poll the troops on whether the "don't ask, don't tell" policy should be repealed.
"I do not believe that military policy decisions should -- on this or any other subject -- be subject to referendum of service members," Gates wrote.
His letter to McCain has not been released, but a Pentagon source confirmed the accuracy of the quote.
Gates said the survey will allow him, Mullen and the chiefs of the individual services to understand how a policy change may affect "unit cohesion, military readiness and effectiveness, recruiting and retention and family readiness."
Outside the military, Americans are overwhelmingly in favor of repealing the Clinton-era law.
A Pew survey released Monday indicated that a majority of Americans say they favor allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the armed forces.
According to the poll, 58 percent of the public approves of allowing homosexuals to serve openly, with 27 percent saying they are opposed.
A CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll conducted earlier in November indicated that more than seven in 10 Americans said that people who are openly gay or lesbian should be allowed to serve in the military, with 23 percent opposed.
Despite public opinion on the side of repeal supporters, the heads of the four military branches have either directly opposed or been unenthusiastic about the policy change, at least until the Pentagon report was finished and released.
Marine Commandant James Amos has said that he opposes the change while the U.S. is fighting in Afghanistan because of its potential negative effect on unit cohesion. He will be joined on the second day of hearings by another Marine, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright.
Gen. George Casey, the Army chief of staff, has said he is on board with Gates in considering the effect of the repeal. But committee members may remind him of something he told them earlier.
"I do have serious concerns about the impact of the repeal of the law on a force that's fully engaged in two wars and has been at war for eight and a half years," Casey said this year.
Once the hearings are over, the spotlight will turn to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. He will decide how the issue will move forward, whether to keep it part of the Defense Authorization Bill or whether to strip it off for a separate vote.
But the calendar could be the biggest factor weighing on whether the law is repealed or upheld. With just weeks left for this Congress with its significant Democratic majority, the leadership will need to decide whether it has the time, amid other priorities it wants considered, to mire the Senate in debate about "don't ask, don't tell."
CNN's Larry Shaughnessy, Ed Hornick, Gabriella Schwarz and Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.
Monday, November 29, 2010
A bad mix: alcohol and nuke couriers
One of true high-security jobs in America is transporting nuclear weapons parts and special nuclear materials around the nation, and it's obviously a job that doesn't mix well with alcohol. That's why the Department of Energy's Office of Inspector General recently took a look at allegations of alcohol abuse by Special Agents who transport the nuclear cargoes and related issues.
While investigators were unable to confirm some of the allegations -- such as violations of the Human Reliability Program not being reported or otherwise being administered inconsistently or unfairly -- they did substantiate 16 alcohol-related incidents from 2007 through 2009. The incidents involved Agents, Agent Candidates or other personnel in the Office of Secure Transportation, which runs the government's weapons transportation program.
Although the alcohol incidents were relatively infrequent, the IG report concluded that
they "indicate a potential vulnerability in OST's critical national security mission."
The report noted, "While OST appeared to have been proactive in addressing the use of alcohol, concerns expressed by some OST managers and the number of alcohol-related incidents occurring over the last three years suggests that further action may be needed."
The letter report, titled, "Inspection of Allegations Relating to Irregularities in the Human Reliability Program and Alcohol Abuse within the Office of Secure Transportation," is available here.
Here's an excerpt from the report:
"To put this situation in some perspective, the 16 alcohol-related incidents experienced by OST from 2007 through 2009 were from a total population of approximately 597 OST Agents, Agent Candidates (at the OST training facility in Fort Chaffee, Arkansas) and other personnel. Of the 16 incidents, 2 were of the greatest concern because they occurred during secure transportation missions while the Agents were in Rest Overnight Status, which occurs during extended missions where convoy vehicles are placed in a safe harbor and Agents check into local area hotels. In 2007, an Agent was arrested for public intoxication, and, in 2009, two Agents were handcuffed and temporarily detained by police officers after an incident at a local bar."
The inspectors found that OST management took what appeared to be appropriate action in these cases, but the situation still indicated a potential vulnerability.
A regional hub for the Office of Secure Transportation is based in Oak Ridge.
Linda Young: Myths about the EPA's new water rules
By Linda Young
Special to The Sun
Last Modified: Friday, November 5, 2010 at 6:44 p.m.
( page all of 3 )
Confusion and name-calling continue to find fertile ground around the issue of Florida's polluted waters and what to do about them.
Recently 46 business groups, mostly agricultural and heavy industries, sent a letter to Congress urging more delays in EPA's proposed new water quality standards for Florida's waters. Our two U.S. senators are also voicing strong support for the delay.
As someone who has worked to strengthen Florida's water protections for the past 20 years, I think it is fair to say that there is mass confusion over what EPA's proposed new standards will and will not do for Florida's waters.
The business groups claim the rules will cost them too much money.
Some of my friends in the environmental community have made suggestions that imply that the rules will cure our water pollution problems.
I think that both of these claims are misleading and need further discussion and clarification. The citizens of Florida have a right to know the truth.
Polluted water is a big problem in Florida for many reasons. It becomes very expensive when we let our springs, rivers, lakes and coastal waters get polluted to the point that they are full of algae, dead fish and toxins. Sadly, many of Florida's waters reached that point quite some time ago.
Polluted water is also a health issue, it's a property value issue and it has lasting adverse effects on our wildlife. There are many, many good reasons that we should all care about water quality.
Here are a few facts about EPA's proposed new standards that will surprise many people:
Agriculture will not be affected, except possibly large dairies and chicken houses that have pipes that discharge.
Local governments with stormwater permits will not be affected (at least not for a very long time).
Big polluting industries with discharge pipes could be affected, except that the rule creates new loopholes for them and expands current free-passes around the Clean Water Act.
It would be nice if these statements were not true, but they are. State and federal laws largely exempt agriculture from compliance with these clean water rules. State law has massive loopholes that make it difficult to force a local government to do any more than they choose/volunteer to do about stormwater pollution.
Unfortunately, our own taxpayer-funded Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has helped to create much of the hysteria and confusion over this rule. Three former DEP heads have joined the 46 business groups in opposing the new standards. Our most recent past DEP secretary, Mike Sole, is now working for one of the companies that is represented by one of the business groups.
Florida's DEP has enabled the excess pollution in our waters for decades. Now, at a time when Florida's environmental protector should be calming the waters and guiding our communities and businesses into a new era of more responsible use of our resources, they spread division and fear.
There should not be further delay and the rules should be written so that they actually improve water quality and save the health of Florida residents and businesses.
EPA's proposed rule has potential to help Florida's waters and our economic prosperity. As currently drafted, the rule will not accomplish this goal and certainly will not cost as much as the business-driven hysteria claims.
EPA should adopt rules that will move us forward and begin to address at least the most serious water pollution problems. Then, in the future we can move on to those issues that the rules do not sufficiently address.
Linda Young is the director of the Clean Water Network of Florida.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Persistence of citizens prevails in dumping order
I am proud to live in our Nation's Oldest (European-founded) City because of our citizens' character and diversity. Thanks to you, on May 12, City Commissioners unanimously approved a consent decree with Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP): It guarantees that solid waste illegally dumped in our Old City Reservoir will be disposed of properly in a Class I landfill -- it will not be returned to our historic African-American community of Lincolnville. Commissioners unanimously voted Nov. 13 to support Commissioner Errol Jones' ill-advised motion to send waste back to Lincolnville.
On May 12, commissioners heard and heeded hundreds who turned out at the St. Paul's A.M.E. Church on Dec. 13 and January 10, supporting the seven community activists who asked FDEP to stop Lincolnville dumping (Judith and Anthony Seraphin, Diane and Gerald Mills, Dr. Dwight Hines, David Thundershield Queen and me).
The people have won yet another round against City Hall. Your victory bodes well for what our community can do to observe 11,000 years of history (450th anniversary of St. Augustine and 500th anniversary of Spanish Florida).
As Dana Ste. Claire rightly urged, we must celebrate diversity. We need a St. Augustine National Historical Park, National Seashore and National Scenic Coastal Highway, about which County Commissioners may schedule a straw ballot vote.
I agree with former Mayor George Gardner, who rightly blasted the lack of energy and creativity in our city's Heritage Tourism Department.
Our City Hall needs a clean sweep.
Anthropologist Margaret Mead said it best, "A city is a place where there is no need to wait for next week to get the answer to a question, to taste the food of any country, to find new voices to listen to and familiar ones to listen to again."
Mead also said, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
Margaret Mead visited Oak Ridge, Tenn., and exposed its provincialism, not knowing secrecy perpetrated a massive environmental crime.
Twenty-five years ago, on May 17, 1983, our small weekly newspaper (Appalachian Observer) won declassification of the largest mercury pollution event in world history. Our federal government in Oak Ridge, emitted 4.2 million pounds of mercury into creeks, groundwater and workers' lungs and brains -- more than was dumped in Minimata, Japan.
Oak Ridge's pollution scandal started scrutiny of the entire U.S. nuclear weapons complex -- a cleanup still ongoing.
Then-Rep. Al Gore held an investigative hearing in Oak Ridge on July 11, 1983, swearing in witnesses (a nuclear complex first). I called for criminal prosecution of mercury-dumping Union Carbide and Department of Energy officials.
For decades, Oak Ridge residents were afraid to speak out. As a result, government environmental crimes were never punished.
Contrast that with the free, independent spirit of today's St. Augustinians, who swiftly achieved significant results against one of the worst abuses of power anywhere.
Like Oak Ridge's mindless, maniacal mercury-dumpers, St. Augustine's city manager was never reprimanded for dumping solid waste in the Old City Reservoir -- William Harriss got a pass (and a plaque) in the midst of a pending criminal investigation.
Unanswered questions remain 27 months after St. Augustine dumping was reported. Other local dumps await investigation/cleanup. (To report pollution, call the National Response Center, 1-800-424-8802). The illegal city dump at the south end of Riberia Street awaits a consent decree and cleanup. Our search for truth continues.
With your help and prayers, our city will become a much better place for all of our citizens.
As we sang at St. Paul's on Jan. 10, "we shall overcome."
Ed Slavin earned a degree in diplomacy from Georgetown University and a law degree from Memphis State University; he was recommended for a Pulitzer Prize by Oak Ridge District Attorney Jim Ramsey in 1983.
Guest Column: Giving thanks for people who speak out
At Thanksgiving, I give thanks for:
1. St. Augustine's civil rights "foot soldiers," who changed history. They deserve a prominent museum.
2. Our American Founding Fathers and those who work for democracy and transparency everywhere.
3. Nature and those who work to protect it everywhere be especially thankful whenever Congress enacts a St. Augustine National Historical Park, National Seashore and National Scenic Coastal Highway Act, including electric trolley-cars.
4. People of faith for speaking out for global environmental protection and against war and poverty.
5. Veterans for defending our liberties.
6. Flagler College for recognizing student rights (Club Unity and Gargoyle newspaper).
7. St. Johns County Commissioners, better listeners than St. Augustine City Commissioners (whose antics rightly earn Folio Weekly "brickbats" and improved St. Augustine Record coverage).
8. Anastasia Mosquito Control District commissioners for canceling its $1.8 million luxury jet helicopter and ending risks to people, pets, butterflies, frogs and other "non-target organisms" from spraying organophosphates. Thanks to three AMCD Commissioners (Emily Hummel, Barbara Bosanko, Linda Wampler) for changing their minds and two others (Jeanne Moeller and John Sundeman) for persisting in speaking their truths. Courage.
9. The Burrell, Mills, Ponce and other local families for standing up to land speculators like Robert Michael Graubard. Expose "developers" (a/k/a land-raping, tree-killing, wetland-destroying speculators, whom County Commission Chairman Ben Rich calls "worse than any carpetbagger").
10. FBI for investigating/prosecuting political corruption, including convicting two Miami PBS&J engineering chief executive officers for illegal campaign contributions/bribery/embezzlement. Follow the money.
11. Congress and investigative reporters for uncovering corruption. Be thankful whenever the House Judiciary Committee finally begins impeachment hearings.
12. Our city of St. Augustine for admitting wrongdoing in its illegally:
a. polluting Lincolnville for decades with illegal dumps;
b. moving illegal dumps' contaminants into our Old City Reservoir 2005-2006. No thanks to Florida Department of Environmental Protection (a/k/a "Don't Expect Protection") for allowing our city to move 20,000 cubic yards of contaminants back to Lincolnville. Environmental racism? No thanks to St. Augustine City Manager William Harriss, who blamed former subordinates, recently yelling "I've done nothing wrong." Be thankful when sworn witnesses testify about environmental crimes.
13. John and Elizabeth Edwards, for running a clean lobbyist-free presidential campaign and exposing Ann Coulter's bigotry.
14. Al Gore for winning Nobel Peace Prize and Oscar for "An Inconvenient Truth." Florida proudly voted for Gore in 2000, with recounts wrongfully ordered halted.
15. My parents, family, teachers, professors, friends and mentors for teaching me to question large organizations and how they mistreat people. Always ask, "why" (and "why not?"). Uncovering uncaring governments' massive, secretive pollution in Oak Ridge, Tenn., mercury (1983) and St. Augustine Old City Reservoir confirmed my mother's wisdom: "Trust your mother, but cut the cards." "The truth will set you free."
16. Congressional Democrats for raising the minimum wage (first time in nine years), while voting to protect whistleblowers and our environment.
17. Progressives, activists, performers, whistleblowers, artists, scientists, reporters/writers and truth-tellers. They've enriched our lives.
18. People willing to work for new leadership in Washington. Our U.S. Rep. John Mica voted against whistleblowers and against raising federal minimum wages. In 2004, 72 percent of Floridians voted to raise our minimum wage. Mica sought to halt investigations of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Mica defends Big Oil company price-gouging and offshore oil drilling demands. Enough.
Be thankful we get to overthrow our governments every two years. We need new leaders, including a "humble" president who "restores honor and dignity to the White House" (as Bush falsely promised). Too many politicians are arrogant, waste money and won't admit mistakes.
As Mosquito Control Commissioner Jeanne Moeller says, "there are more people like us than there are people like them."
Thank you for working to improve our future.
Robert Kennedy said, "it is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a [person] stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, [s]he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."
Ed Slavin is a Georgetown University School of Foreign Service graduate, journalist, advocate/activist who first proposed a St. Augustine National Historical Park, Seashore and Scenic Coastal Highway on Nov. 13, 2006.
Teh Nation/Oldspeak Journal re: JOHN LUIGI MICA -- TSAstroturf: The Washington Lobbyists And Koch-Funded Libertarians Behind The TSA Scandal
From Mark Ames & Yasha Levine @ The Nation:
Does anyone else sense something strange is going on with the apparently spontaneous revolt against the TSA? This past week, the media turned an “ordinary guy,” 31-year-old Californian John Tyner who blogs under the pseudonym “Johnny Edge,” into a national hero after he posted a cell phone video of himself defending his liberty against the evil government oppressors in charge of airport security.
While this issue is certainly important—and offensive—to Americans, we are nonetheless skeptical about how and why this story turned into a national movement. In fact, this whole campaign feels a bit like déjà-vu: As the first reporters to expose the Tea Party as an Astroturf PR campaign  funded by FreedomWorks and Koch-related front groups back in February, 2009, we see many of the same elements driving the current “rebellion” against the TSA: Koch-related libertarians, Washington lobbyists and PR operatives posing as “ordinary citizens,” and suspicious fake-grassroots outrage relentlessly promoted in the same old right-wing echo chamber.
So far, all we know about “ordinary guy” John Tyner III, the freedom fighter who took on the TSA agents, is that, according to a friendly hometown profile in the San Diego Union-Tribune, “he leans strongly libertarian and doesn’t believe in voting. TSA security policy, he asserts ‘isn’t Republican and it isn’t Democratic.’” [emphasis added]
Tyner attended private Christian schools in Southern California and lives in Oceanside, a Republican stronghold next to Camp Pendleton, the largest Marine Corps base on the West Coast.
At least one local TSA administrator wondered if Tyner hadn’t come to the airport prepared to create a scandal. Tyner switched on his recording device before even entering the checkpoint—and recorded himself as he refused to go through the body scanner. Most importantly, Tyner recorded himself saying “If you touch my junk, I’m gonna have you arrested!”—which quickly morphed on blogs into the more media-savvy tagline, “Don’t touch my junk!”
According to the Union-Tribune, when asked if the TSA was set up by Tyner, the local administrator coyly replied, “I don’t know that it was an actual set up—but we are concerned that this passenger did have his recording (on) prior to entering the checkpoint so there is some concern that it was an intentional behavior on his part.”
Tyner scoffs at the suggestion of a set up. “I can’t set up the TSA side of this action,” he said. In an interview with The Nation, Tyner said he doesn’t belong to any libertarian organizations and did not have any contact with anyone mentioned in this article until after he posted his encounter with TSA agents.
Strangely enough, just a few days before Tyner’s episode, another self-described “libertarian,” Meg McLain, went online telling almost the exact same story of oppression and attempted sexual molestation at the hands of TSA agents. McLain is an occasional co-host of a libertarian radio show out of a libertarian quasi-commune located in Keene, New Hampshire. As reported in the Washington City Paper , the libertarian “Free Keene” movement where McLain makes her home is yet another libertarian project tied to the billionaire Koch brothers, the prime backers of the Tea Party campaign, through the Koch-funded Mercatus Center at George Mason University.
Meg McLain almost became a national celebrity as the first victim of the body scanner/TSA molesters. On November 8, McLain was preparing to fly out of the Ft. Lauderdale, Florida airport, when she claimed to have been the victim of invasive TSA molestation. According to McLain, when she refused to have her body scanned, the TSA agents supposedly started screaming “Opt Out! Opt Out!”, pulled her aside and “molested” her—specifically, they “squeezed and twisted” her breasts so hard that “it hurt.” (“OptOut” is the name of a “grassroots” protest movement designed to tie up airports during the holidays—more on that later.) As she described it, “It’s getting to the point where I feel more physically molested [by the TSA agents] than if some random guy actually came up and molested me. It’s more intrusive than that.” McLain also claimed that she was made to stand in an open area next to the metal detector, where every passenger could look at her while a TSA agent “screamed” at her, until, finally, she was handcuffed to a chair by a “dozen cops.” McLain immediately called into the Keene libertarian radio show to tell her awful story, which was posted on YouTube, and spread virally after it was promoted on Drudge Report.
There was only one problem with McLain’s story: She made it up. The TSA released video evidence showing that McLain wasn’t molested, wasn’t screamed at and wasn’t attacked by a dozen cops and half a dozen TSA agents. In fact, other passengers don’t seem to notice her, although a TSA agent does seem to be trying to comfort McLain, offering her tissues as the libertarian rebel breaks out crying.
By her own account, McLain was down in Florida visiting a pair of traveling libertarians  who were spreading the word of libertarianism in what they billed as “Liberty On Tour,” funded at least partly by Koch-backed organizations like “Students for Liberty.” One of the libertarians that McLain met with, Peter Eyre, has spent much of the past five years on a variety of Koch payrolls: as an intern at the Koch-founded Cato Institute, a “Koch Fellow” at the Drug Policy Alliance, and nearly three years as director for the Koch-funded Institute for Humane Studies at George Mason University, home also to the Koch-funded Mercatus Center.
George Donnelly, a libertarian colleague of McLain’s who writes that he “loves” her traveling libertarian friends in Florida and “learned a lot”  from them, also happens to be one of two men behind the WeWontFly.com , one of the main websites pushing the “National Opt-Out Day” movement. The domain was registered on November 3, 2010, five days before McLain’s fake airport incident. Donnelly provided McLain with the funds  to return back to her libertarian commune in Keene, New Hampshire, after the (fake) incident.
McLain wasn’t the only questionable libertarian “victim” of the TSA turned into a freedom-hero on the Drudge Report. In fact, according to the TSA’s account, the 6-year-old who was allegedly “strip-searched” by evil TSA agents had his shirt removed by his own father —and not at the TSA’s request. And the latest “hero” of the Drudge Report, Samuel Wolanyk—who stripped down to his underwear in alleged anger at TSA agents in San Diego, earning himself top billing on Drudge—is also a libertarian activist  in the San Diego area, home of the self-described “libertarian” hero John Tyner, III. (According to an SEC lawsuit that dates back to 2002, a Samuel Wolanyk from San Diego, roughly the same age as the TSA libertarian hero, was charged with securities fraud for engaging in illegal “pump and dump” stock schemes that ripped off investors for millions of dollars.)
Then there’s Brian Sodergren, founder of the “National Opt-Out Day,” when “ordinary citizens standup for their rights.” But Sodergren is no “ordinary citizen.” Cached and scrubbed online LinkedIn records show that Brian Sodergren is a Washington lobbyist specializing in “grassroots education” for the American Dental Association and ADPAC, the American Dental Association Political Action Committee. No wonder that Sodergren has gone out of his way to scrub his employment record.
So now let’s take one more look at the TSA hysteria, and re-evaluate if we should continue to simply accept the surface narrative, or consider what we might learn by looking beneath the surface. Because everywhere you look, the alleged victims’ stories often turn out to be false or highly suspicious, promoted by lobbyists posing as “ordinary guys,” and everywhere the cast of characters is always the same: drawn from the cult-ish fringes of the libertarian movement, with trails leading straight to the billionaire Koch brothers’ network of libertarian think-tanks and advocacy groups.
We could take it all at face value and just trust that they’re all “ordinary guys.” Or we could ask, “Who profits?”
One person who seems to have the answer is Rep. John Mica, the Florida Republican who is set to chair the Transportation Committee. Mica co-wrote the bill establishing the TSA in 2001, just over a month after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, DC. A little-known provision in that bill allowed airports to “opt out” from the federal agency’s security umbrella and to instead hire private contractors. As Media Matters pointed out recently, the whole reason why the TSA was formed was because private contractors paying airport security minimum wages were considered a big part of the reason why the 9/11 terror attacks were allowed to happen. Since the formation of the TSA, not a single terror attack originating from an American airport has taken place. But apparently that’s not nearly as relevant as the complaints of a few libertarians.
The links between Mica, the libertarians, the Kochs, and the TSA scandal are only now emerging, and we hope more journalists will dig deeper. So far, we have learned:
- Mica’s longtime chief of staff, Russell Roberts, lists the Koch-backed Mercatus Center as the top sponsor of Roberts’ privately-financed travel expenses, according to Congressional travel disclosure forms. Roberts stated in his form that he participated in discussions related to “transportation policy.”
- In 2005, Mica reportedly came out in favor of backscatter X-Ray machines , or “porn scan” body scanners, which he now opposes.
- Immediately after the launching of the “National Opt-Out Campaign” by Washington grassroots lobbyist and “ordinary citizen” Brian Sodergren, Rep. Mica sent out letters to the heads of at least 100 airports across America advising them to “opt out” of the government-funded TSA program and hand over the job to private contractors. One of the first airports to sign on to Rep. Mica’s privatization program, Orlando’s Sanford Airport, happens to lie in Rep. Mica’s district. The airport also happens to be a client of Rep. Mica’s daughter, D’Anne Mica, who is listed as a partner in two lobbying/PR firms consulted by Sanford Airport. One of Ms. Mica’s PR firms,“Grasshopper Media,”  boasts of its “history of success in organizing strategic and comprehensive grassroots campaigns.” In other words: Astroturfing.
- According to a recent AP article , “Companies that could gain business if airports heed Mica’s call have helped fill his campaign coffers. In the past 13 years, Mica has received almost $81,000 in campaign donations from political action committees and executives connected to some of the private contractors already at 16 U.S. airports.” (“Airports Consider Congressman’s Call to Ditch the TSA”)
While so far there is no “smoking gun” linking Rep. Mica to the anti-TSA campaign, there is clearly enough evidence to call into question the official version of events as a “spontaneous” outbreak of anti-TSA hysteria carried out by “ordinary guys” that it claims to be. Instead, there is plenty of evidence of a coordinated campaign for purposes that are only just beginning to emerge—a campaign with a profit motive and a political objective. What we should not do is assume that, in the midst of the worst recession in decades, when untold thousands of families are being thrown out of their homes in fraudulent foreclosures, that the biggest most pressing issue facing Americans is the “porn scan” at airports.
But don’t ask us, ask Americans themselves: a recent CBS poll  found that less than 1 in 5 Americans object to the TSA’s use of scans and pat-downs. Nevertheless, like the Tea Party libertarian protests that “erupted” “spontaneously” in February 2009, the protests against the TSA, and the media coverage of the spectacle, grips the nation.
For 400 Endangered Right Whales, St. Augustine is The Heart of Their Winter Calving Grounds -- They Give Birth Off Our Historic Shores
A female North Atlantic Right Whale with her calf in the ocean.
Range of the Eubalaena species.
* Halibalaena Gray, 1873
* Hunterius Gray, 1866
Right whales are four species of large baleen whales consisting of two genera in the family Balaenidae of order Cetacea. Their bodies are very dark gray or black and rotund.
They are called "right whales" because whalers thought the whales were the "right" ones to hunt, as they float when killed and often swim within sight of shore. As such, they were nearly hunted to extinction during the active years of the whaling industry. Today, instead of hunting them, people often watch these acrobatic animals for pleasure.
Genetic evidence appears to have settled a long-standing question about whether to include the largest, the Arctic-dwelling bowhead whale, with the rest. All four are included in the taxonomic family Balaenidae, and all four are generally referred to as right whales. This article focuses on the three species of the genus Eubalaena.
* 1 Taxonomy
o 1.1 Three Eubalaena species theory
o 1.2 Balaena fossil record
o 1.3 Synonyms and common names
* 2 Description
* 3 Anatomy
* 4 Life History
o 4.1 Reproduction
o 4.2 Lifespan
o 4.3 Swimming
o 4.4 Parasitism
* 5 Ecology
o 5.1 Feeding
o 5.2 Predation
o 5.3 Range and habitat
+ 5.3.1 North Atlantic
+ 5.3.2 North Pacific
+ 5.3.3 Southern
o 5.4 Vocalization and hearing
* 6 Relationship to humans
o 6.1 Whaling
o 6.2 Whale watching
* 7 Threats
o 7.1 Ship strikes
o 7.2 Fishing gear
* 8 Conservation
o 8.1 NOAA speed limit
o 8.2 Southern Right Whale protections
* 9 Notes
* 10 References
* 11 External links
The bowhead whale is currently considered a separate species and was given its own genus 'Balaena' by Gray in 1821. The other three species occupy genus Eubalaena. Scientists see greater differences among the three Balaenoptera species than between them and the Bowhead Whale. A future review will likely place all four species in one genus. Little genetic evidence supports the historic two-genera view.
Authorities have repeatedly recategorized the three populations of Eubalaena right whales, in one, two or three species. In the whaling era, there was thought to be a single species. Later, morphological factors such as differences in the skull shape of northern and southern animals indicated that there were at least two species—one in the northern hemisphere, the other in the Southern Ocean. Right whales do not cross equatorial waters to make contact with the other (sub)species and (inter)breed: thick layers of insulating blubber make it impossible for them to dissipate their internal body heat in tropical waters.
 Three Eubalaena species theory
Genetic evidence demonstrates that the northern and southern populations have not interbred for between 3 million and 12 million years, confirming that the southern right whale is a distinct species. More surprising was the discovery that the northern hemisphere Pacific and Atlantic populations are also distinct, and that the Pacific species (now known as the North Pacific right whale) is more closely related to the southern right whale than to the North Atlantic right whale. While Rice continued to list two species in his 1998 classification, Rosenbaum et al. disagreed in 2000 and Brownell et al. in 2001. In 2005, Mammal Species of the World listed three species, indicating a shift to this conclusion.
Whale lice, parasitic cyamid crustaceans that live off skin debris, offer further information through their own genetics. Because these lice reproduce much more quickly than whales, their genetic diversity is greater. Marine biologists at the University of Utah examined these louse genes and determined that their hosts split into three species 5–6 million years ago, and that these species were all equally abundant before whaling began in the 11th century. The communities first split because of the joining of North and South America. The heat of the equator then created a second split, into northern and southern groups. "This puts an end to the long debate about whether there are three [Eubalaena] species of right whale. They really are separate beyond a doubt", Jon Seger, the project's leader, told BBC News.
 Balaena fossil record
See also: Evolution of cetaceans
A total of five Balaena fossils have been found in Europe and North America in deposits ranging from the late Miocene (about 10 mya) to early Pleistocene (about 1.5 mya). These five specimens each have their own species status—B. affinis, B. etrusca, B. montalionis, B. primigenius and B. prisca. The last of these may prove to be the modern bowhead. Prior to these there is a long gap before reaching the next related cetacean in the fossil record—Morenocetus was found in a South American deposit dating back 23 million years.
 Synonyms and common names
Due to their familiarity to whalers over a number of centuries the right whales have had many names. These names were used throughout the world, reflecting the fact that only one species was recognized at the time. In his novel Moby-Dick, Herman Melville writes:
"Among the fishermen, the whale regularly hunted for oil is indiscriminately designated by all the following titles: The Whale; the Greenland whale; the black whale; the great whale; the true whale; the right whale."
Halibalaena (Gray, 1873) and Hunterius (Gray, 1866) are junior synonyms for the genus Eubalaena. E. australis is the type species.
The species-level synonyms are:
* For E. australis: antarctica (Lesson, 1828), antipodarum (Gray, 1843), temminckii (Gray, 1864)
* For E. glacialis: biscayensis (Eschricht, 1860), nordcaper (Lacepede, 1804)
* For E. japonica: sieboldii (Gray, 1864)
The pygmy right whale (Capera marginata), a much smaller whale of the southern hemisphere, was also included in the Balaenidae family, but has recently been found to warrant a separate family, Neobalaenidae.
Photo of whaler at surface
North Atlantic Right Whale, clearly showing the distinctive callosities and curved mouth
Photo of whale at surface
Southern Right Whale in the breeding grounds at Peninsula Valdés in Patagonia
Drawing of a North Pacific Right Whale
North Atlantic Right Whale on a Faroese stamp
Unlike other whales, right whales have distinctive callosities (roughened patches of skin) on their heads, along with a broad back without a dorsal fin, occasionally with white belly patches, and a long arching mouth that begins above the eye. The callosities appear white due to large colonies of cyamids (whale lice). They can grow up to 18 m (59 ft) long and weigh up to 100 short tons (91 t), significantly larger than humpbacks or grays, but smaller than blues.
An unusually large forty percent of body weight is blubber, which is of relatively low density. Consequently, unlike many other species of whale, dead right whales float.
Photo of two plumes of spray coming from a whale at the surface
The distinctive V-shaped blow of a right whale.
Adults may be between 11–18 m (36–59 ft) in length and typically weigh 60–80 short tons (54–73 t). The most typical lengths are 13–16 m (43–52 ft). The body is extremely thick with girth as much as 60% of total body length in some cases. The tail fluke is broad (up to 40% of body length). The North Pacific species is on average the largest of the three species. The largest specimens may weigh 100 short tons (91 t).
Right whales have a distinctive wide V-shaped blow, caused by the widely spaced blowholes on the top of the head. The blow rises 5 m (16 ft) above the surface.
Right whales have between 200 and 300 baleen plates on each side of the mouth. These are narrow and approximately 2 m (6.6 ft) long, and are covered in very thin hairs. The plates enable the whale to filter feed.
The testicles appear to be the largest of any animal, each weighing around 500 kg (1,100 lb). The relative size is also large, at 1% of the whale's total body weight. This suggests that sperm competition is important in mating.
 Life History
Females reach sexual maturity at 6–12 years and breed every 3–5 years. Both reproduction and calving take place during the winter months. Calves are approximately 1 short ton (0.91 t) in weight and 4–6 m (13–20 ft) in length at birth following a gestation period of 1 year. The right whale grows rapidly in its first year, typically doubling in length. Weaning occurs after eight months to one year and the growth rate in later years is not well understood—it may be highly dependent on whether a calf stays with its mother for a second year.
Very little is known about the life span of right whales because they are so scarce scientists cannot readily study them. One of the few well-documented cases is of a female North Atlantic right whale that was photographed with a baby in 1935, then photographed again in 1959, 1980, 1985, and 1992. Consistent callosity patterns ensured that it was the same animal. She was last photographed in 1995 with a seemingly fatal head wound presumably from a ship strike. The animal died at around 70 years of age. Research on the bowhead whale suggests this lifespan is not uncommon and may even be exceeded.
Right whales swim slowly, reaching only 5 kn (9.3 km/h) at top speed, but are highly acrobatic and frequently breach (jump clear of the sea surface), tail-slap and lobtail. Like other baleen whales, the species is not gregarious and the typical group size is only two. Groups of up to twelve have been reported, but these were not close-knit and may have been transitory.
Right whales are often marked by large scaly gray-white patches on their skin, whose patterns are unique from animal to animal. These patches, called callosities, are colonies of crustaceans known as whale lice which can exist in the tens of thousands upon each whale. The parasitic creatures subsist on algae and dead skin, and while they are irritants, they do not cause significant harm to the whale.
The right whales' diet consists primarily of zooplankton, primarily the tiny crustaceans called copepods, as well as krill, and pteropods, although they are occasionally opportunistic feeders.
As with other baleens, they feed by filtering prey from the water. They swim with an open mouth, filling it with water and prey. The whale then expels the water, using its baleen plates to retain the prey. Prey must occur in sufficient numbers to trigger the whale's interest; be large enough that the baleen plates can filter it; and be slow enough that it cannot escape. The "skimming" may take place on the surface, underwater, or even at the ocean's bottom, indicated by mud occasionally observed on right whales' bodies.
The right whales' only predators are Orcas and humans. When danger lurks, a group of right whales may form a circle, with their tails pointing outwards. This defense is not always successful and calves are occasionally lost.
 Range and habitat
The three Eubalaena species inhabit three distinct areas of the globe: the North Atlantic in the western Atlantic Ocean, the North Pacific in a band from Japan to Alaska and all areas of the Southern Ocean. The whales can only cope with the moderate temperatures found between 20 and 60 degrees in latitude. The warm equatorial waters form a barrier that prevents mixing between the northern and southern groups. Although the Southern species in particular must travel across open ocean to reach its feeding grounds, the species is not considered to be pelagic. In general, they prefer to stay close to peninsulas and bays and on continental shelves, as these areas offer greater shelter and an abundance of their preferred foods.
Because the oceans are so large, it is very difficult to accurately gauge whale population sizes. Approximate figures:
* 400 to 450 North Atlantic right whales (Eubalaena glacialis) live in the North Atlantic;
* 30-50 North Pacific right whales live in the eastern North Pacific (Eubalaena japonica) and perhaps 100-200 more in the Sea of Okhotsk;
* 12,000 Southern right whales (Eubalaena australis) are spread throughout the southern part of the Southern Hemisphere; and
* 9,000–10,000 bowhead whales are distributed entirely in the Arctic Ocean and sub-polar seas.
 North Atlantic
Almost all of the 400 North Atlantic right whales, live in the western North Atlantic Ocean. In spring, summer and autumn, they feed in areas off the Canadian and north-east U.S. coasts in a range stretching from New York to Nova Scotia. Particularly popular feeding areas are the Bay of Fundy and Cape Cod Bay. In winter, they head south towards Georgia and Florida to give birth.
There have been a smattering of sightings further east over the past few decades—several sightings were made close to Iceland in 2003. It is possible that these are the remains of a virtually extinct eastern Atlantic stock, but examination of old whalers' records suggest that they are more likely to be strays. However, a few sightings are regular between Norway, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, the Canary Islands and even Italy and Sicily and at least the Norway individuals come from the Western stock.
 North Pacific
The North Pacific right whale appears to occur in two populations. The population in the eastern North Pacific/Bering Sea is extremely low, numbering about 30 individuals. A larger western population of 400-900 appears to be surviving in the Sea of Okhotsk, but very little is known about this population. Thus, the two northern right whale species are the most endangered of all large whales and two of the most endangered animals in the world. Based on current population density trends, both species are predicted to become extinct within 200 years. The Pacific species was historically found in summer from the Sea of Okhotsk in the west to the Gulf of Alaska in the east, generally north of 50°N in large numbers and was heavily hunted, particularly in the period 1938-1948. Today, sightings are very rare and generally occur in the mouth of the Sea of Okhotsk and in the eastern Bering Sea. Although this species is very likely to be migratory like the other two species, its movement patterns are not known.
The estimate of 7,000 southern right whales came about following an IWC workshop held in Cape Town in March 1998. Researchers used data about adult female populations from three surveys (one in each of Argentina, South Africa and Australia collected during the 1990s) and extrapolated to include unsurveyed areas, number of males and calves using available male:female and adult:calf ratios to give an estimated 1999 figure of 7,000 animals.
The southern right whale spends the summer months in the far Southern Ocean feeding, probably close to Antarctica. It migrates north in winter for breeding and can be seen around the coasts of Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile, Mozambique, New Zealand and South Africa.
Since hunting of the southern right whale ceased, stocks are estimated to have grown by 7% a year. It appears that the South American, South African and Australasian groups intermix very little, if at all, because of the strong fidelity of mothers to their feeding and calving grounds. The mother passes these instincts to her calves.
In Brazil, more than 300 individuals have been cataloged through photo identification (using their distinctive head callosities) by the Brazilian Right Whale Project, maintained jointly by Petrobras (the Brazilian state-owned oil company) and the International Wildlife Coalition. The State of Santa Catarina hosts a concentration of breeding and calving right whales from June to November, and females from this population are also known to calve off Argentinian Patagonia.
 Vocalization and hearing
See also: Whale song
Vocalizations made by right whales are not elaborate compared to those made by other whale species. The whales make groans, pops and belches that are typically at frequencies around 500 Hertz. The purpose of the sounds is not known but may be a form of communication between whales within the same group.
Northern right whales responded to sounds similar to police sirens—sounds of much higher frequency than their own. On hearing the sounds they moved rapidly to the surface. The research was of particular interest because northern rights ignore most sounds, including those of approaching boats. Researchers speculate that this information may be useful in attempts to reduce the number of ship-whale collisions or to encourage the whales to surface for ease of harvesting.
 Relationship to humans
Painting of small, flame-engulfed boat with men clinging to wreckage next to spouting whale, with second small boat and larger three-masted ship in background.
Whaling in small wooden boats with hand harpoons was a hazardous enterprise, even when hunting the "right" whale.
Main article: History of whaling
Right whales were so named because early whalers considered them the "right" whale to hunt. In the early centuries of shore-based whaling prior to 1712, right whales were virtually the only catchable large whales, for three reasons:
* They often swam close to shore where they could be spotted by beach lookouts, and hunted from beach-based whaleboats
* They are relatively slow swimmers, allowing whalers to catch up to them in their whaleboats
* Once killed by harpoons, they were more likely to float, and thus could be retrieved. However, many did sink when killed (10-30% in the North Pacific) and were lost unless they later stranded or surfaced.
Basque people were the first to commercially hunt right whales. They began as early as the 11th century in the Bay of Biscay. They initially sought oil, but as meat preservation technology improved the animal was also used for food. Basque whalers reached eastern Canada by 1530 and the shores of Todos os Santos Bay (in Bahia, Brazil) by 1602. The last Basque voyages were made prior to the Seven Year's War (1756–1763). All attempts to revive the trade post-war failed. Basque shore whaling continued sporadically into the 19th century.
"Yankee whalers" from the new American colonies replaced the Basques. Setting out from Nantucket, Massachusetts and Long Island, New York, they took up to 100 animals in good years. By 1750 the commercial hunt of the North Atlantic right whale was basically over. The Yankee whalers moved into the South Atlantic before the end of the 18th century. The southernmost Brazilian whaling station was established in 1796, in Imbituba. Over the next one hundred years, Yankee whaling spread into the Southern and Pacific Oceans, where the Americans were joined by fleets from several European nations. The beginning of the 20th century saw much greater industrialization of whaling, and the harvest grew rapidly. By 1937, there had been, according to whalers' records, 38,000 takes in the South Atlantic, 39,000 in the South Pacific, 1,300 in the Indian Ocean, and 15,000 in the north Pacific. The incompleteness of these records means that the actual take was somewhat higher.
As it became clear that stocks were nearly depleted, the world banned right whaling in 1937. The ban was largely successful, although violations continued for several decades. Madeira took its last two right whales in 1968. Japan took 23 Pacific right whales in the 1940s and more under scientific permit in the 1960s. Illegal whaling continued off the coast of Brazil for many years and the Imbituba land station processed right whales until 1973. The Soviet Union illegally took at least 3,212 Southern right whales during the 1950s and '60s, although it only reported taking 4.
 Whale watching
A southern right whale approaches close to whale watchers near Península Valdés in Patagonia.
See also: Whale watching
The southern right whale has made Hermanus, South Africa one of the world centers for whale watching. During the winter months (July–October), southern right whales come so close to the shoreline that visitors can watch whales from strategically placed hotels. The town employs a "whale crier" (cf. town crier) to walk through the town announcing where whales have been seen. Southern Right Whales can also be watched at other winter breeding grounds.
In Brazil, Imbituba in Santa Catarina has been recognized as the National Right Whale Capital and holds annual Right Whale Week celebrations in September, when mothers and calves are more often seen. The old whaling station there has been converted to a museum documenting the history of right whales in Brazil. In winter in Argentina, Península Valdés in Patagonia hosts the largest breeding population of the species, with more than 2,000 animals catalogued by the Whale Conservation Institute and Ocean Alliance.
 Ship strikes
The leading cause of death among the North Atlantic right whale, which migrates through some of the world's busiest shipping lanes whilst journeying off the east coast of the United States and Canada, is from being struck by ships. At least 16 ship strike deaths were reported between 1970 and 1999, and probably more remain unreported. According to NOAA, 25 of the 71 right whale deaths reported since 1970 resulted from ship strikes. Recognizing that this toll could tip the delicately balanced species towards extinction, in July 1997, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) introduced Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan. A key part of the plan was the introduction of mandatory reporting of large whale sightings by ships using U.S. ports.
 Fishing gear
A second major cause of morbidity and mortality in the North Atlantic right whale is entanglement in fishing gear. Right whales ingest plankton with wide open mouths, risking entanglement in any rope or net fixed in the water column. Rope wraps around upper jaws, flippers and tails. Most manage to escape with minor scarring, but some are seriously and persistently entangled. If observers notice, they can be successfully disentangled, but others die over a period of months. Animal welfare and extinction concerns align in emphasizing the harm of such entanglements.
Photo of dead whale, floating on surface
The remains of a North Atlantic Right Whale after it collided with a ship propeller
Both the North Atlantic and North Pacific species are listed as a "species threatened with extinction which [is] or may be affected by trade" (Appendix I) by CITES, and as Conservation Dependent by the IUCN Red List, and as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
The U.S. and Brazil added new protections for right whales in the 00's to address the two primary hazards. While environmental campaigners were, as reported in 2001, pleased about the plan's positive effects, they attempted to force the U.S. government to do more. In particular, they advocated 12 knots (22 km/h) speed limits for ships within 40 km (25 mi) of U.S. ports in times of high right whale presence. Citing concerns about excessive trade disruption, it did not comply. The Defenders of Wildlife, the Humane Society of the United States and the Ocean Conservancy sued the National Marine Fisheries Service (a NOAA sub-agency) in September 2005 for "failing to protect the critically endangered North Atlantic Right Whale, which the agency acknowledges is 'the rarest of all large whale species' and which federal agencies are required to protect by both the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act", demanding emergency protection measures. According to NOAA researchers, about 83 percent of right whale sightings in the mid-Atlantic region occur within 20 nautical miles (37 km) of shore.
 NOAA speed limit
On February 6, 2006, NOAA proposed its Strategy to Reduce Ship Strikes to North Atlantic Right Whales. The proposal, opposed by some shipping interests, limited ship speeds during calving season. The proposal was implemented in 2008. On December 8, 2008, NOAA issued a press release that included the following:
* Effective January, 2009 ships 65 feet (20 m) or longer are limited to 10 knots (19 km/h) in waters off New England when whales begin gathering in this area as part of their annual migration. The restriction extends to 20 nautical miles (37 km) around major mid-Atlantic ports.
* The speed restriction applies in waters off New England and the southeastern U.S., where whales gather seasonally.
o Southeastern U.S. from St. Augustine, Fla. to Brunswick, Ga. from Nov. 15 to April 15
o Mid-Atlantic U.S. areas from Rhode Island to Georgia from Nov. 1 to April 30.
o Cape Cod Bay from Jan. 1 to May 15
o Off Race Point at northern end of Cape Cod from March 1 to April 30
o Great South Channel of New England from April 1 to July 31
* Temporary voluntary speed limits in other areas or times when a group of three or more right whales is confirmed.
* Scientists will assess the rule's effectiveness before the rule expires in 2013."
The Stellwagen Bank area has implemented an autobuoy program to acoustically detect right whales in the Boston Approaches and notify mariners via the Right Whale Listening Network website.
 Southern Right Whale protections
The southern right whale, listed as "endangered" by CITES and "lower risk - conservation dependent" by the IUCN, is protected in the jurisdictional waters of all countries with known breeding populations (Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile, New Zealand, South Africa and Uruguay). In Brazil, a federal Environmental Protection Area encompassing some 1,560 km2 (600 sq mi) and 130 km (81 mi) of coastline in Santa Catarina State was established in 2000 to protect the species' main breeding grounds in Brazil and promote whale watching.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Balaenidae
Sperm whale fluke.jpg Cetaceans portal
1. ^ a b c d Mead, James G.; Brownell, Robert L., Jr. (16 November 2005). "Order Cetacea (pp. 723-743)". In Wilson, Don E., and Reeder, DeeAnn M., eds. Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2 vols. (2142 pp.). ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494. http://www.bucknell.edu/msw3/browse.asp?id=14300006.
2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Kenney, Robert D. (2002). "North Atlantic, North Pacific and Southern Right Whales". In William F. Perrin, Bernd Wursig and J. G. M. Thewissen. The Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals. Academic Press. pp. 806–813. ISBN 0-12-551340-2.
3. ^ J. Müller (1954). "Observations of the orbital region of the skull of the Mystacoceti". Zoologische Mededelingen 32: 239–290. 
4. ^ Rice, Dale W. (1998). "Marine mammals of the world: systematics and distribution". Society of Marine Mammalogy Special Publication Number 4: 231pp.
5. ^ Rosenbaum, H. C., R. L. Brownell Jr., M. W. Brown, C. Schaeff, V. Portway, B. N. White, S. Malik, L. A. Pastene, N. J. Patenaude, C. S. Baker, M. Goto, P. Best, P. J. Clapham, P. Hamilton, M. Moore, R. Payne, V. Rowntree, C. T. Tynan, J. L. Bannister and R. Desalle (2000). "World-wide genetic differentiation of Eubalaena: Questioning the number of right whale species" (PDF). Molecular Ecology 9 (11): 1793. doi:10.1046/j.1365-294x.2000.01066.x. PMID 11091315. http://www.nefsc.noaa.gov/psb/pubs/rosenbaummolecol.pdf.
6. ^ Brownell, R. L. Jr., P.J. Clapham, T. Miyashita and T. Kasuya (2001). "Conservation status of North Pacific right whales". Journal of Cetacean Research and Management (Special Issue) 2: 269–286.
7. ^ Kaliszewska, Z. A., J. Seger, S. G. Barco, R. Benegas, P. B. Best, M. W. Brown, R. L. Brownell Jr., A. Carribero, R. Harcourt, A. R. Knowlton, K. Marshalltilas, N. J. Patenaude, M. Rivarola, C. M. Schaeff, M. Sironi, W. A. Smith & T. K. Yamada (2005). "Population histories of right whales (Cetacea: Eubalaena) inferred from mitochondrial sequence diversities and divergences of their whale lice (Amphipoda: Cyamus)". Molecular Ecology 14 (11): 3439–3456. doi:10.1111/j.1365-294X.2005.02664.x. PMID 16156814.
8. ^ Ross, Alison (September 20, 2005). "Whale riders' reveal evolution". BBC News. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/4260498.stm.
9. ^ Carwardine MH, Hoyt E (1998). Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises. Surry Hills, NSW: Reader's Digest. ISBN 0-86449-096-8.
10. ^ J. Müller (1954). "Observations of the orbital region of the skull of the Mystacoceti". Zoologische Mededelingen 32: 239–290. http://www.repository.naturalis.nl/record/318263.
11. ^ Right Whales http://www.enchantedlearning.com/subjects/whales/species/Rightwhale.shtml
12. ^ a b Crane, J. and R. Scott. (2002). "Eubalaena glacialis". Animal Diversity Web. http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Eubalaena_glacialis.html. Retrieved 2006-04-30.
13. ^ Katona, S. K. and S. D. Kraus (1999). "Efforts to conserve the North Atlantic right whale". In J. R. Twiss and R. R. Reeves. Conservation and Management of Marine Mammals. Smithsonian Press. pp. 311–331.
14. ^ Notarbartolo di Sciara, G., E. Politi, A. Bayed, P.-C. Beaubrun and A. Knowlton (1998). "A winter cetacean survey off Southern Morocco, with a special emphasis on suitable habitats for wintering right whales". Sci. Rep. Int. Whaling Commission, SC/49/O3, 48: 547–550.
15. ^ Martin AR, Walker FJ (1996-05-16). "SIGHTING OF A RIGHT WHALE (EUBALAENA GLACIALIS) WITH CALF OFF S. W. PORTUGAL". Marine Mammal Science 13 (1): 139. doi:10.1111/j.1748-7692.1997.tb00617.x. http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/119947961/abstract?CRETRY=1&SRETRY=0. Retrieved 2006-10-26.
16. ^ Jacobsen KO, Marx M, Øien N (2003-05-21). "TWO-WAY TRANS-ATLANTIC MIGRATION OF A NORTH ATLANTIC RIGHT WHALE (EUBALAENA GLACIALIS)". Marine Mammal Science 20 (1): 161. doi:10.1111/j.1748-7692.2004.tb01147.x. http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/119922229/abstract. Retrieved 2006-10-26.
17. ^ "Smallest whale population identified". http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/38016305/ns/technology_and_science/?gt1=43001.
18. ^ a b Northern Right Whales respond to emergency sirens
19. ^ May 1998 edition of "Right Whale News" available online.
20. ^ Gaines CA, Hare MP, Beck SE, Rosenbaum HC (2005-03-07). "Nuclear markers confirm taxonomic status and relationships among highly endangered and closely related right whale species". Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B 272 (1562): 533–542. doi:10.1098/rspb.2004.2895. PMID 15846869.
21. ^ Scarff, JE (2001). "Preliminary estimates of whaling-induced mortality in the 19th century Pacific northern right whale (Eubalaena glacialis) fishery, adjusting for struck-but-lost whales and non-American whaling". J. Cetacean Res. Manage (Special Issue 2): 261–268.
22. ^ Tonnessen, J. N. and A. O. Johnsen (1982). The History of Modern Whaling. United Kingdom: C. Hurst & Co.. ISBN 0-905838-23-8.
23. ^ Reeves, Randall R., Brent S. Stewart, Phillip J. Clapham and James. A Powell (2002). National Audubon Society: Guide to Marine Mammals of the World. United States: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.. ISBN 0-375-41141-0.
24. ^ Ocean Alliance website
25. ^ Vanderlaan & Taggart (2007). "Vessel collisions with whales: the probability of lethal injury based on vessel speed" (PDF). Mar. Mam. Sci. http://www.phys.ocean.dal.ca/~taggart/Publications/Vanderlaan_Taggart_MarMamSci-23_2007.pdf. Retrieved 2008-05-10.
26. ^ a b NOAA (2008-12-08). "Press Release on Effective Date of Speed Regulations" (PDF). http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/pdfs/shipstrike/pressrelease_effective.pdf. Retrieved 2008-12-21.
27. ^ Author not specified (1997). "Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan". NOAA. NOAA. http://www.nero.noaa.gov/whaletrp/. Retrieved May 2, 2006.
28. ^ Author not specified (2001-11-28). "Right whales need extra protection". BBC News. BBC News. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/1681532.stm. Retrieved 2006-05-02.
29. ^ The Southeast United States Right Whale Recovery Plan Implementation Team and the Northeast Implementation Team (November 2005). "NMFS and Coast Guard Inactions Bring Litigation" (PDF). Right Whale News 12 (4). http://www.graysreef.nos.noaa.gov/rtwh/rwnov05.pdf. Retrieved 2006-05-02.
30. ^ NOAA. Proposed Strategy to Reduce Ship Strikes to North Atlantic Right Whales.
31. ^ Petrobras, Projeto Baleia Franca. More information on Brazilian right whales is available in Portuguese.
* Collins Gem : Whales and Dolphins, ISBN 0-00-472273-6.
* Carwardine, Mark. Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises, ISBN 0-7513-2781-6.
* Congressional Research Service (CRS).Northern Right Whale
 External links
* Right whale information from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
* List of sightings of North Pacific Right Whales and annotated scientific bibliography
* IUCN Red List entry
* Whale & Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS)
* Right Whale Lesson Plan from Smithsonian Education
* North Atlantic Right Whale Conservation
* Success in protecting right whale population
* World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) - species profile for Right whales: Bowhead whale & North Atlantic right whale
Still plenty of wildlife around, deserving of protection in St. Augustine National Historical Park and Seashore
Posted: November 24, 2010 - 12:23am
A bear crossing Interstate 95 about five miles south of International Golf Parkway was killed early Tuesday when it was hit by a southbound pickup truck.
Camille Henderson Poirier III, 37, of Hastings was not hurt in the 12:45 a.m. collision with the bear that was crossing the highway from the west, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.
The bear continued across the road and about 400 feet into the woods, where it died. Poirier's Chevrolet truck had to be towed from the scene, said Highway Patrol Lt. Bill Leeper.
-- From Staff
Kudos to the FBI and U.S. Justice Department for Indicting LYDIA CLADEK For $100 million Ponzi Scheme
Our local State’s Attorney may not prosecute white collar crimes, but the Justice Department will.
Thanks to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, the FBI, and United States Attorney for doing their jobs without fear or favor.
We look forward to the Justice Department being more active here in St. Augustine and St. Johns County – including more public corruption and environmental cases. As President Jimmy Carter said, “I see no reason why big-shot crooks should go free and the poor ones go to jail.”
Lee Cisar of St. Augustine, a close friend of Lydia Cladek's for 16 years and an employee of Lydia Cladek Inc. for 10 years, said Tuesday that she lost an investment of several hundred thousand dollars when Cladek's business empire crumbled in March.
"This girl has completely devastated me," Cisar, 75, said. "I've been destitute before, but I was a lot younger then, and healthier."
Cladek was indicted Tuesday on 14 counts of mail and wire fraud as well as conspiracy charges.
Cisar was forced to turn in her car, lost her home to foreclosure and is applying for an apartment in a federally subsidized project.
Federal investigators have complied lists of thousands of bilked investors in what they call a classic Ponzi scheme type operation.
Cisar was there at the beginning of Lydia Cladek Inc., working on insurance issues from Cladek's home first, then from offices on Old Mission Avenue and finally from tony new offices at Sea Grove in St. Augustine Beach.
"I never thought there was anything wrong," she said. "I felt that the slowdown was due to the economy. But at the end, when I asked for my money, she wouldn't even see me. Investors waited for her, screaming and yelling and banging on doors, while she was running out the back. I was a friend of hers and I couldn't see her."
Lydia Cladek Inc. was a sub-prime automobile investment company that financed and bought car loans from auto dealers at a discount. The mostly low-income customers paid 29.5 percent interest on those contracts.
Cladek offered returns of 15 to 18 percent on investments.
One Ponte Vedra Beach businessman who lost more than $60,000 asked that he not be identified.
He said, "I'm ecstatic. She's finally getting indicted. Some of her victims had worked hard for every dollar they'd earned. But they lost all their savings to Lydia."
Previous news reports on the Cladek case said investors poured into her offices almost too quickly, offering her checks as small as $10,000 and as large as $600,000.
He said Cladek offered them a choice whether to collect 15 percent interest monthly or roll 15 percent into an accruing investment account.
The investor said that in 2006, long before the crash, he woke up one day and "didn't have a good feeling" about the amount of interest Cladek was paying.
He withdrew a substantial part of his original investment.
"It's rare that any investment pays 15 percent," he said. "Lydia called me and said my check would be there within 60 days. But it was there the next day."
People trusted her
Several victims said Cladek inspired confidence because of her quick refund policy and sympathetic ear. Word of mouth also grew from her church, The Center for Positive Living.
The Ponte Vedra Beach investor said he kept a third of his account active, happy to collect $700 per month interest on the amount remaining.
"I knew I could lose it all," he said. "But I wanted to see how long I could collect interest checks until they stopped."
The FBI cordoned off the business March 31.
Another Cladek victim, Kevin Crowell of St. Augustine, a staff sergeant with the Florida Army National Guard, said he and his wife Lisa invested their retirement money and lost it.
They became suspicious when their interest checks started arriving late, then stopped entirely.
Crowell said he demanded his investment back. She refused to refund anything.
"I told her in her office that I would bring her down," Crowell said. "She said, 'I'm sorry you feel that way.'"
According to Crowell, Cladek acted deeply spiritual around spiritual people and deeply concerned about animals when with animal rescue people.
"She had many, many different faces," he said.
Cisar agreed with that observation. "She was playing this wonderful do-good person with other people's money," Cisar said. "She had to be a very good actress."
Crowell said Cladek's friends were people in this town going to her Sea Colony home -- after Cladek disappeared to one of her other 12 houses -- who took expensive things and sold them for her.
"The FBI took a while to shut that down," he said.
Glad she's behind bars
Crowell is also frustrated at how much the attorneys handling the bankruptcy case are paid.
"Any money recovered goes to them first," he said. "Any time they make a call or send a letter, the victims have that much less money to get back. We get only the pennies left over."
And the victims can't claim any of their losses on their income tax forms until the entire criminal process is complete, which could take years, he said.
"This case won't be hard to prove," Crowell said. "It would be nice to know she's wearing a little orange astronaut suit behind bars rather than sitting around in her multi-million-dollar home."
Cisar, now needing full-time oxygen due to emphysema, said her daughter also lost a small nest egg she had been building.
The federal list of victims has Cisar also owed $1,038 in back pay.
"I hear people say it was greed that drove them to Lydia," she said. "It disturbs me to hear that. I did it to build a retirement for myself. I didn't have one. Right now, I'm trying to rebuild, but I don't have too much to work with."
Posted: November 24, 2010 - 12:23am
By Dana Treen
Lydia Cladek's promise to convert car loans to fast cash was still being touted on her website Tuesday even as the St. Augustine businesswoman was being indicted on 14 counts of using the business in a Ponzi scheme.
She was arrested Tuesday at her Fort Myers apartment and went before a federal judge there.
She is in federal custody and will be held until a detention hearing in Jacksonville next week, according to the FBI, which investigated the case.
Investors were bilked of at least $100 million by Cladek's scheme that promised high returns for those willing to buy car loans gathered from across the Southeast. The pitch was that the loans, bought at less than face value using investor money, would be serviced by Lydia Cladek Inc., and return profits of as much as 15 percent to 20 percent to those buying the paperwork.
Federal prosecutors instead said Cladek, 69, was enriching herself and have indicted her on counts of wire and mail fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud.
While investors reacted with a mix of satisfaction over the arrest and disbelief about the woman they once trusted, calls made to Cladek's St. Augustine Beach business number continued to be answered Tuesday. One person at the office said she did not know where Cladek was but said the business was still operating.
A website for Lydia Cladek Inc., says Cladek was buying and servicing loans from auto dealers in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina and Tennessee.
The site offers testimonials from dealers across the Southeast.
Retired Ford Motor Co. engineer Barry Tuttle, 77, was an investor who lost $70,000 to Cladek since about 2007, he said. The St. Augustine Beach resident said Cladek was a well-known businesswoman around the community who had an upscale office along Florida A1A.
Cladek 'almost mousey'
She struck Tuttle as quiet and unassuming, "almost mousey," he said.
"She said that these monies that were loaned to her could be returned in a minimum of a week's time," he said.
Tuttle said the transactions were called loans and not investments, which would have required greater oversight. He said he had friends who worked for Cladek and said she kept tight control over the financial matters of the business.
"She kept her thumbs on everything that went on in terms of the business," he said.
For years Tuttle got a steady stream of interest checks of 15 percent "like clockwork" and all of a sudden they just stopped.
"A lot of people here in the town of St. Augustine Beach knew her," he said. "It's surprising how many had money with her."
He said she also seemed to have a lot of support in the community.
"She's just a frail little person," he said. "You just wouldn't think she would do something like this."
He said some investors want to keep Cladek's business open in the hopes of collecting on what is left of legitimate profits to be made.
FBI spokesman Jeff Westcott in Jacksonville would not comment specifically on the Cladek case but said it is not uncommon for investment schemes to rely on early participants using word-of-mouth to recruit new investors from among friends and business associates.
Jane Edney, 79, said Cladek first opened an office in north St. Augustine where desks were cobbled together using sawhorses and doors. Cladek became a regular at weekly gatherings in St. Augustine Beach, where she lived and recruited Edney and others.
"She was a friend," Edney said. "We all just thought she was the neatest thing."
Checks kept coming
Of 30 in the group, Edney said probably half invested with Cladek. Some were hammered financially when the checks stopped coming, she said.
Cladek opened the office in St. Augustine Beach and built a home in the upscale Sea Colony subdivision, Edney said. Signs Cladek may have been in distress financially came when art work vanished from her home and she asked her friends to invest in a CD-style loan in 2009. Payments on that loan eventually stopped coming and Cladek, too, vanished, Edney said.
About then, she and her friends realized they knew little about Cladek's past, where she was from, if she had children, even if she was married, though there seemed to be a man in her life.
Another in the group, Nancy Brantly, 76, said Cladek took special care to visit her when Brantly had breast cancer, which is now in remission.
"The woman was wonderful to me," she said, giving her gifts and writing poems.
"I had the highest respect for her," she said. "I think that is my biggest problem."
Brantly lost $50,000.
Cladek opened her business in 1998, according to the indictment that said the Ponzi scheme was running in 2003 and continued through March.
Instead of going to investors, money generated from investors went to Cladek's living expenses, to acquire property. Some was used to repay investors enough that the scheme would not be discovered.
Prosecutors are seeking $113.2 million in a judgment and also want to seize art work, vehicles, a Rolex Daytona watch and a baby grand piano. One item listed "Painting -- by Tony Curtis -- Marilyn Monroe" is among 17 paintings, four sculptures and other works of art.
Seeking BeBe's World
Among Cladek's assets is land in Madison County where 320 animals are cared for by the group Goliath and BeBe's World, a St. Johns County based no-kill animal shelter. Now, the shelter's operators are faced with trying to raise $197,000 to buy the land and facilities that Cladek was leasing to the group, said spokeswoman Fran Charlson.
"We're unsure of what our situation is going to be," Charlson said. She said 75 percent of the animals come from Duval and St. Johns counties. In the past, Cladek provided support to the group that is now faced with having to organize fund-raisers for the first time.
"Now they have to start," she said.
The group is among five nonprofits that now stand to lose assets to repay investors.
Cladek also faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison on each count and a $3.5 million fine, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.