Indonesia plans to sell endangered tigers as pets to the wealthy

Indonesia has a new plan to save the Critically Endangered Sumatran tiger, reports the AFP: sell captive-born tigers as pets. The proposed price is 100,000 US dollars for a pair of Sumatran tigers with the money going to conservation efforts, though it was unclear who would manage these funds.

“We’re not selling or renting tigers. We’re only authorizing people to look after them,” forestry ministry conservation chief Darori told AFP. “These people will have to follow certain conditions. The tigers will still belong to the government.”

Officials would require that the ‘pet’-owners would have to have at least 60 square meters (646 square feet) to contain the two animals. Government officials would monitor the animals’ health and punish owners for mistreatment. The AFP reports that the idea was first raised by wealthy businessmen who want to possess tigers for the ‘prestige’ it gives them.

Sumatran tiger. Photo by Rhett A. Butler.

However, environmentalists are skeptical. They say that instead of selling tigers as pets, the government should be focusing on conserving the dwindling tiger habitat on Sumatra. Deforestation for logging and oil palm plantations has devastated tiger habitat on the island. In addition, conservationists warn that selling captive tigers to private individuals is likely to only fuel the black-market trade in tiger parts, which has devastated tigers across their range.

Tigers are the world’s largest cat; they are also the most dangerous. Even as pets they are extremely unpredictable. Long-trained tigers still attack. Working with tigers for years did not prevent Roy Horn, of the magic act Siegfried and Roy, from being nearly killed by one on-stage.

The Sumatran tiger, a subspecies of the tiger, is classified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List. Wild Sumatran tigers have attacked and killed a number of people in recent years as rampant deforestation in Indonesia has brought the remaining great cats, estimated at 200 animals, into closer contact with Indonesians.


The Supreme Court’s Citizen United Decision Is Terrifying

If you’re looking for a concise way of capturing today’s Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, how about: “We are all royally, hopelessly fucked for the rest of recorded time”? It’s coarse, I know, but it really does the trick.

As you may have heard, in a 5-4 decision, the SCOTUS essentially went at the teeth of McCain-Feingold reform with hammer and tongs, leaving America in a “David After Dentist” state, wailing, “What’s happening? Is this going to be forever?” Except that its not the anesthetic talking — it’s the very real, excruciating pain.

In one swoop, the court did away with nearly everything in federal campaign finance law, allowing corporations free reign to inject as much money as they jolly well please into federal campaigns. The decision completes what Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick calls “The Pinocchio Project,” in which the Court transforms “a corporation into a real live boy,” complete with personhood, free-speech rights and the unfettered opportunity to drown the body politic in a tidal wave of perverse incentives.

Here’s what President Barack Obama had to say about this:

“With its ruling today, the Supreme Court has given a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics,” said President Obama in a statement. “It is a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans… That’s why I am instructing my Administration to get to work immediately with Congress on this issue. We are going to talk with bipartisan Congressional leaders to develop a forceful response to this decision.”

Oh, but the president is being charitable! Here are some data points to chew on:

A very large percentage of U.S. corporations are owned by foreign persons or entities. In 2006, USA Today reported: “Nearly one in five U.S. oil refineries is owned by foreign companies. Foreign companies also have a sizable presence in running power plants, chemical factories and water treatment facilities in the United States.” It was also reported that, “Roads and bridges built by U.S. taxpayers are starting to be sold off, and so far foreign-owned companies are doing the buying.” In 2008, it was reported that foreign ownership of U.S. companies “more than doubled” between 1996 and 2005. To get a fix on the spending power, consider this: “The total receipts of foreign-owned companies were $1.7 trillion in 1996 and just $39 billion in 1971.”

I’m not trying to stoke zero-sum xenophobia, here. The idea of foreign persons or entities seizing — by judicial fiat — such a dramatic advantage in terms of influence over the American people seems to me to be, as they say, less than ideal.

In the 2008 election, Barack Obama and John McCain combined to spend about $1 billion, a number that Politico‘s Jeanne Cummings called “an unprecedented figure.” And the combined expenditures of the entire 2008 cycle came to “a record-shattering $5.3 billion in spending by candidates, political parties and interest groups on the congressional and presidential races.”

By means of comparison:





In the Massachusetts Senate election, Martha Coakley raised about $5 million and spent about $4 million — obviously not particularly well, considering Scott Brown only spent about one-fifth of that amount. But! Imagine what might have happened if that election, in which America’s insurance companies believed they had tens of billions of dollars at stake, took place in the environment created by this Supreme Court decision. Yeah, that feeling is the hair standing on the back of your neck.

What, if anything, is preserved from campaign finance reform? Well, corporations still have to disclose the money they spend — I’m sure that you’re only too familiar with the awesome job the media has done penetrating the shadow network of corporate influence, which I would characterize as “the null set.” Also, issue ads will continue to require those teensy disclaimers at the bottom of the screen, divulging the entity behind the ad. So, look forward to ads from outfits like “Americans For Freedom and Awesomeness” and crap like that.

Let’s go back to Lithwick, on the scene as this decision was rendered:

While Stevens is reading the portion of his concurrence about the “cautious view of corporate power” held by the framers, I see Justice Thomas chuckle softly…Stevens hammers, more than once this morning from the bench on the principle that corporations “are not human beings” and “corporations have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires.” He insists that “they are not themselves members of ‘We the People’ by whom and for whom our Constitution was established.”
But you can plainly see the weariness in Stevens eyes and hear it in his voice today as he is forced to contend with a legal fiction that has come to life today, a sort of constitutional Frankenstein moment when corporate speech becomes even more compelling than the “voices of the real people” who will be drowned out. Even former Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist once warned that treating corporate spending as the First Amendment equivalent of individual free speech is “to confuse metaphor with reality.” Today that metaphor won a very real victory at the Supreme Court. And as a consequence some very real corporations are feeling very, very good.

This decision is nutlog, utterly bonkers. If corporations can’t be held to account in electoral politics, we are seriously at an end. So it’s a good thing that John Edwards’s love child is clogging up the news cycle today!

Body With ‘Very Long’ Fingers Discovered On Plum Island

PLUM ISLAND, N.Y. (WPIX) – An alleged mutated human body washed ashore on Plumb Island, a small island where the U.S. Government typically studies dangerous animal diseases.

A security guard on foot patrol reportedly discovered the clothed decomposing body Thursday afternoon on the southwest beach area of the island, where access is restricted, police said.

The body was described as that of a white male about 6-feet tall with a large build and “very long” fingers. According to authorities, there were no obvious signs of trauma.

An autopsy will be conducted by the Suffolk County medical examiner in order to determine an exact cause of death.

Plum Island, which is located about 100 miles northeast of New York City in the Long Island Sound, has been called a potential target for terrorists because of its stock of vaccines and diseases.,0,5592896.story

California sees 4th day of rain, evacuations urged

Southern California authorities strongly urged residents of endangered foothill homes to obey evacuation orders Thursday as the week’s fourth Pacific storm blew into the region and flash flood watches were expanded to numerous urban areas including downtown Los Angeles.

The siege of storms has led to several deaths statewide and flooding in urban areas and on freeways.

Officials appeared concerned the lack of massive debris flows from wildfire burn areas was misleading for residents.

“It’s time to roll, it’s time to evacuate,” said Los AngelesCounty Public Works Director Gail Farber.

In the upper reaches of suburban La Canada Flintridge, where mountainsides rise sharply from the backyards of homes, authorities put pink ribbons on the mailboxes of residents who stayed behind so they would know where to search in the event of a catastrophe.

One person who didn’t leave was Delos Tucker, a retired geologist who has lived in the community since the homes were built in 1962.

“I’m just gambling it’s not going to happen,” he said. “Let’s hope I’m right.”

The county’s extensive flood-control system was working, but many of the basins designed to catch debris-laden runoff from fire-scarred mountains were full and evacuations remained necessary, Farber said.

“The Los Angeles County Fire Department is anticipating that a significant mud flow and debris flow is likely today,” said Chief DeputyJohn Tripp, announcing that fire departments in a five-county region had been put on alert that urban search and rescue teams might be needed.

The arrival of the new storm system shut down Interstate 5 in the snowy Tehachapi Mountains north of Los Angeles for the second day in a row, interrupting travel on one of state’s major arteries.

The storm was expected to drop 2 inches to 4 inches of rain in the already drenched foothills and mountains, with potentially strong downpours and intense rain rates, said National Weather Service meteorologist Eric Boldt.

Rain was expected to taper off by night, followed by showers on Friday and a dry weekend.

The major area of concern has been foothill communities along the perimeter of the San Gabriel Mountains, where a summer wildfire denuded 250 square miles of steep slopes northeast of Los Angeles.

The number of homes under evacuation orders has grown to more than 1,200 since the beginning of the week. Estimates of compliance have ranged up to 75 percent in some jurisdictions but down to 40 percent elsewhere.

As an overnight lull gave way to more rain at midmorning, public works crews shoveled mud from yards, driveways and gutters along Ocean View Boulevard in La Canada Flintridge. The neighborhood was otherwise all but deserted, with newspaper and mail deliveries cut off.

Tucker acknowledged that with catch basins filled with mud, water and debris, things could become difficult. But he said he had seen regrowth in the fire-scarred hills and believed it would hold soil in place.

At one point he left to bring his wife back from a visit to their daughter and defied a deputy who threatened to arrest him if he returned to his house. The deputy didn’t follow through on the threat, and Tucker was not upset by the incident.

“They have to play it super safe,” he said. “Obviously there is danger of a major mudflow coming down from the canyon.”

Despite the statewide extent of the storms, the number of deaths remained low. Two people were killed by falling trees, and police in Newman were searching for the body of a man who tried to drive across a flooded road.

In San Jose, a man died after falling 30 feet from the side of a freeway after he got out of a car that spun out in the rain and then jumped out of the path of an out-of-control car.

In San Diego, the Border Patrol said three people were rescued and treated for hypothermia after being swept away while trying to cross the storm-swollen Tijuana River from Mexico.

California State University, Long Beach, remained closed after some buildings flooded Wednesday.

Air travel through Phoenix was expected to be disrupted by severe weather as the storms moved eastward through Arizona.