Tag Archives: citizen

Your previously worthless tweets could be used for science.

The state’s attorney general, Xavier Becerra, filed a lawsuit on Friday to get the agency to say how it plans to handle Administrator Scott Pruitt’s potential conflicts of interest. Pruitt is now in charge of enforcing rules that he tried to unravel with numerous lawsuits as Oklahoma’s attorney general.

“Administrator Pruitt’s ability to serve as an impartial decision maker merits close examination,” Becerra said in a statement.

In April, Becerra filed a broad Freedom of Information Act request for documents tied to Pruitt’s potential conflicts of interest and efforts to follow federal ethics laws. Generally, agencies must respond to a FOIA request within 20 business days, though they have some wiggle room. But four months later, the EPA has yet to turn over anything.

Liz Bowman, an EPA spokesperson, told the Los Angeles Times that the agency had twice told Becerra’s office they were working on assembling the documents. She said the lawsuit was “draining resources that could be better spent protecting human health and the environment.”

The suit from the Golden State is just part of the legal backlash Pruitt’s staring down: He’s already been sued over ozone regulations and the suspension of methane restrictions for new oil and gas wells.

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Your previously worthless tweets could be used for science.

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Two Dakota Access protesters say they purposely damaged the pipeline.

Climate change is rapidly altering the region, and less sea ice means more ships are lining up to traverse its remote waters. “It’s what keeps us up at night,” Amy Merten, a NOAA employee, told the New York Times. “There’s just no infrastructure for response.”

Cargo ships and cruise liners are already setting sail, and the Trump administration is clearing the way for oil rigs to join them.

Canada, the U.S., and Russia have an agreement to help each other during emergencies, but the U.S. only has two functional heavy icebreaker ships, and rescue efforts would likely have to rely on other commercial ships being nearby.

To top it all off, the head of the Coast Guard, Paul Zukunft, says the U.S. is unprepared to deal with an Arctic oil spill. Zukunft pointed out the difficulty in cleaning up the Deepwater Horizon spill, which had much more favorable conditions.

“In the Arctic, it’s almost like trying to get it to the moon in some cases, especially if it’s in a season where it’s inaccessible; that really doubles, triples the difficulty of responding,” the head of the Navy’s climate change task force told Scientific American.

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Two Dakota Access protesters say they purposely damaged the pipeline.

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Dear climate visionaries: Resist France’s allure

Back in February, when France’s then-presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron thumbed his nose at President Donald Trump and invited jaded U.S. scientists and inventors to come build a sustainable future in France, I applauded and played along.

“[L]et’s face it,” I wrote. “France is a tough sell. The food is irritatingly fresh, the architecture tends to distract people from their cellphones, and the high-speed rail lines get in the way of SUVs.”

But now that Macron is president and has backed up his words with substance, setting up a program to bring American climate visionaries to France, it’s no longer funny. If you’re an entrepreneur, scientist, or engineer disillusioned with Trump’s America and tempted by this offer, please don’t go. It’s a terrible idea. Do you hear me, Katharine Hayhoe?

Mais porquoi? you say, after thumbing through your French phrasebook. Because the United States, the world’s second-biggest polluter, is a much more pernicious driver of climate change than France, the 18th. We need you here. The world needs you here. The future needs you here.

OK, I’ll cop to getting a little carried away. We should give Macron his due. He’s offering a four-year grant to people from anywhere in the world, so they can come work on climate change projects in France. That’s great! Science, technologies, and companies created in France won’t be constrained by French borders. We’ll all benefit. And it’s just for four years, the nominal length of Trump’s (first) term. But c’mon, be real: Nobody goes to France to live for just four years.

This screenshot from Macron’s new website, titled “Make Our Planet Great Again” seems to confirm my concerns that France wants to keep our smarties forever.

I’m worried about a brain drain. We can’t afford to lose the political heft of scientists as communicators and U.S. citizens. The United States needs people who weigh evidence and allow that evidence to change their minds. We need men and women like this of all political stripes living in American towns, talking to their American friends, going to American churches, and helping to make this country sane again. If we all sort ourselves into like-minded factions, and a chunk of the rational faction moves to France, we’re screwed. We really can’t afford to lose Neil DeGrasse Tyson to the Riviera. James Hansen, Pam Ronald … stay!

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Dear climate visionaries: Resist France’s allure

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Trump’s new vision: Cover the border wall with solar panels.

In a new report, Grist 50-er Liz Specht identifies the obstacles that prevent earth-friendly meat from taking over the world. If meat stopped coming from cows and was instead grown in the lab, she argues, it would slash meat production’s environmental footprint.

So, Specht and her colleagues at the Good Food Institute hope to midwife the birth of a new clean-meat industry. To get there, we’d need some crucial innovations. Here’s a taste:

Better bioreactors: Bioreactors are big tanks that slowly stir meat cells until they multiply into something burger sized. They already exist, but we need the a new generation that do a better job at filtering out waste, adding just the right nutrients, and recycling the fluid that the cells grow in.

Scaffolding: If you want nice tender meat, instead of a soup of cells, you need a scaffold — a sort of artificial bone — for meat cells to cling to so they can take shape. People are experimenting with spun fiber, 3D-printed grids, and gels that cue cells to form “the segmented flakiness of a fish filet or the marbling found in a steak.”

Growth fluid: At the moment, meat cells are mostly raised in fluid taken from cattle embryos. But there won’t be enough embryonic fluid if reactor meat replaces the livestock industry. So scientists are working to mass produce fluid that nurture’s developing cells.

For more detail, see the report here.

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Trump’s new vision: Cover the border wall with solar panels.

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Scientists, like someone barging into an occupied bathroom, realize they’ve been lax on others’ privacy.

In a new report, Grist 50-er Liz Specht identifies the obstacles that prevent earth-friendly meat from taking over the world. If meat stopped coming from cows and was instead grown in the lab, she argues, it would slash meat production’s environmental footprint.

So, Specht and her colleagues at the Good Food Institute hope to midwife the birth of a new clean-meat industry. To get there, we’d need some crucial innovations. Here’s a taste:

Better bioreactors: Bioreactors are big tanks that slowly stir meat cells until they multiply into something burger sized. They already exist, but we need the a new generation that do a better job at filtering out waste, adding just the right nutrients, and recycling the fluid that the cells grow in.

Scaffolding: If you want nice tender meat, instead of a soup of cells, you need a scaffold — a sort of artificial bone — for meat cells to cling to so they can take shape. People are experimenting with spun fiber, 3D-printed grids, and gels that cue cells to form “the segmented flakiness of a fish filet or the marbling found in a steak.”

Growth fluid: At the moment, meat cells are mostly raised in fluid taken from cattle embryos. But there won’t be enough embryonic fluid if reactor meat replaces the livestock industry. So scientists are working to mass produce fluid that nurture’s developing cells.

For more detail, see the report here.

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Scientists, like someone barging into an occupied bathroom, realize they’ve been lax on others’ privacy.

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Donald Trump’s Vision of Pittsburgh is Sooooooo 80s

Mother Jones

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN” “http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd”>

This story was originally published by Slate and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Donald Trump officially announced the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on climate change on Thursday, framing the 2015 deal as a kind of global plot to sabotage America.

“The Paris Agreement handicaps the United States economy in order to win praise from the very foreign capitals and global activists that have long sought to gain wealth at our country’s expense,” Trump said. “They don’t put America first. I do, and I always will.”

And if Paris was the symbol of that ideology, the alternative, a nation of miners and pipelines, belching smoke like a charcoal grill, was represented by…Pittsburgh? “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” Trump said.

It was a bad comparison, since citizens of both Pittsburgh and Paris share an interest in averting a minimum projected sea level rise of 2.4 feet by 2100, in the scenario in which the climate accord’s goals aren’t met.

But it was an especially bad comparison because Pittsburgh isn’t the burned-out steel town Trump thinks it is. In fact, it’s a pretty good example of how a city can recover and adapt to changing economic circumstances. Pittsburgh’s doing OK.

Once again, Donald Trump has shown himself a man who has acquired little to no new knowledge since the 1980s. And during the 1980s, Pittsburgh was indeed having a very tough time. The city lost 30 percent of its population between 1970 and 1990; in 1983, unemployment in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area hit 17 percent. Neighboring counties fared even worse. Deindustrialization and globalization slammed the Monongahela Valley. But that was 35 years ago.

Today, Pittsburgh’s biggest employer is the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Its other university, Carnegie Mellon, is home to a world-renowned robotics laboratory. The Golden Triangle is a landmark of downtown renewal. And Homestead, site of the great American labor battle of the 19th century, is a mall.

Before Pittsburgh was the poster child for a midsized, postindustrial city, it was a symbol of the ills of pollution. The soot from the steel mills hung so thick in the air the streetlights had to be on during the day. In 1948, 25 miles south of the city, the town of Donora was enveloped in a thick yellow smog that killed 20 people and sickened half the town. It was the worst air pollution disaster in US history and led to the passage of the Clean Air Act.

There’s no city in America that stands to benefit from climate change, whose enormous costs are and will continue to be borne mostly by the federal government (and hence distributed among us). But as a symbol for withdrawal from a global climate treaty, Pittsburgh is an especially poor choice.

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Donald Trump’s Vision of Pittsburgh is Sooooooo 80s

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EPA cutbacks are real, and they’re here.

In seemingly choreographed lockstep with President Trump’s revelation that the U.S. would exit the Paris Agreement, the Environmental Protection Agency announced on Thursday a buyout program to begin the process of cutting its staffing levels. 

According to an internal memo from Acting Deputy Administrator Mike Flynn (not that Mike Flynn), the EPA’s offer encourages “voluntary separations” that would cause “minimal disruption to the workforce.”

The workforce was plenty disrupted, however, by the budget proffered earlier this year by the Trump administration. It basically suggests taking a blowtorch to the agency — proposing a 31 percent budget cut and the elimination of 3,200 out of the EPA’s 15,000 jobs.

The proposed buyout will cost $12 million, and will first have to be approved by the Office of Management and Budget. The agency hopes to complete the cuts by September.

If approved, the buyouts may be popular. After Trump was elected, some EPA career staff cried, others set up rogue Twitter accounts, some quit, and others just waited anxiously for what would come next. Now we know: The newly arrived EPA honchos are sharpening their knives.

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EPA cutbacks are real, and they’re here.

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Trump made some pretty wild claims when announcing the U.S. exit from the Paris Agreement.

Some highlights:

“I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.”

Pittsburgh’s votes went mostly to Hillary Clinton. She won 55.9 percent of votes in Allegheny County. Note that the Paris Agreement encompasses people from nearly 200 countries, not just the city where it was drafted.

“The bottom line is the Paris accord is very unfair at the highest level to the United States.”

Other countries think U.S. involvement is extremely fair. The United States blows every other country away in terms of per capita emissions.

“This agreement is less about the climate and more about other countries gaining an economic advantage over the United States.”

Actually, the economic advantages of combating climate change are well documented. Companies like Exxon, Google, and even Tiffany & Co. asked Trump to stay in the agreement.

And, just for fun, a comment from Scott Pruitt:

“America finally has a leader who answers only to the people.”

Nearly 70 percent of Americans were on board with the Paris Agreement. Only 45 percent voted for Trump.

This story has been updated.

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Trump made some pretty wild claims when announcing the U.S. exit from the Paris Agreement.

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Why Would a President Schmooze With Vicious Autocrats and Repressive Monarchs?

Mother Jones

A version of this story first appeared on the TomDispatch website.

Much outrage has been expressed in recent weeks over President Donald Trump’s White House invitation to Rodrigo Duterte, president of the Philippines, whose “war on drugs” has led to thousands of extrajudicial killings. Criticism of Trump was especially intense given his warm public support for other authoritarian rulers, including Egypt’s Abdel Fatah al-Sisi (who visited the Oval Office amid presidential praise weeks earlier), Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan (who got a congratulatory phone call from Trump on the recent referendum victory that cemented his powers), and Thailand’s Prayuth Chan-ocha (who also received a White House invitation).

But here’s the strange thing: The critics generally ignored the far more substantial and long-standing support US presidents, Democrat and Republican, have offered to dozens of repressive regimes over the decades. These regimes have one striking thing in common: They are all on an autocratic honor role of at least 45 nations and territories hosting scores of US military bases—from tiny outposts to installations the size of a small city. All told, these bases are home to tens of thousands of US troops.

To ensure basing access, American officials regularly collaborate with regimes and militaries that have been implicated in torture, murder, suppression of democratic rights, systematic oppression of women and minorities, and countless other human rights abuses. Never mind Trump. These collaborations have been the status quo for nearly three-quarters of a century. In fact, since World War II, US administrations have often shown a preference for maintaining bases in undemocratic and/or despotic states—Spain under Generalissimo Francisco Franco, South Korea under Park Chung-hee, Bahrain under King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, and Djibouti under four-term President Ismail Omar Guelleh, to name just a few.

Many of our 45 undemocratic base hosts qualify as fully “authoritarian regimes,” according to a democracy index compiled by the Economist. Which means American installations and the troops stationed there are effectively helping block the spread of democracy in countries like Cameroon, Chad, Ethiopia, Jordan, Kuwait, Niger, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

This support for dictatorship and repression should trouble any American who believes in the principles of our Constitution and Declaration of Independence. After all, one of the long-articulated justifications for maintaining US military bases abroad has been that our military presence protects and spreads democracy. Far from it, such bases tend to help legitimize and prop up repressive regimes, while often interfering with genuine efforts toward political and democratic reform. The silencing of the critics of human rights abuses in base nations such as Bahrain, which has violently cracked down on pro-democracy demonstrators since 2011, has left the United States complicit.

During the Cold War, such bases were often justified as the unfortunate but necessary consequence of confronting the “communist menace.” Yet in the quarter-century since the Cold War ended, few of those bases have closed. So today, while White House visits from autocrats generates indignation, the presence of American military installations in the same countries receives little notice.

The 45 nations and territories with little or no democratic rule represent more than half the roughly 80 countries now hosting US bases—countries that often lack the power to ask their “guests” to leave. They are part of a historically unprecedented global network of military installations the United States has built or occupied since World War II.

While there are no foreign bases in the United States, we have around 800 bases in foreign countries—almost certainly a record for any nation or empire in history. More than 70 years after World War II and 64 years after the Korean War, there remain, according to the Pentagon, 181 US “base sites” in Germany, 122 in Japan, and 83 in South Korea. Hundreds more dot the planet from Aruba to Australia, Belgium to Bulgaria, Colombia to Qatar. Hundreds of thousands of troops, civilians, and family members occupy these installations. By my conservative estimate, manning and maintaining these installations costs US taxpayers at least $150 billion annually—which is more than the budget of any government agency other than the Pentagon.

For decades, our leaders in Washington have insisted these foreign bases spread American values and democracy—and that may have been true to some extent in occupied Germany, Japan, and Italy after World War II. But as base expert Catherine Lutz suggests, the subsequent historical record shows that “gaining and maintaining access” for our outposts “has often involved close collaboration with despotic governments.”

Consider the Philippines: The United States has maintained military facilities in the archipelago almost continuously since seizing it from Spain in 1898. America only granted the colony independence in 1946, conditioned on the local government’s agreement that the United States would retain access to more than a dozen military installations there.

After independence, a succession of US administrations supported two decades of Ferdinand Marcos’ autocratic rule in the Philippines, ensuring the continued use of Clark Air Base and Subic Bay Naval Base, two of our largest overseas bases. The Filipinos finally ousted Marcos in 1986 and ordered the US military to leave in 1991, but five years later, the Pentagon quietly returned. With the help of a “visiting forces agreement” and a growing stream of military exercises and training programs, it began to set up surreptitious, small-scale bases once more. A desire to solidify this renewed base presence, while also checking Chinese influence in the region, may have driven Trump’s White House invitation to Duterte. It came despite the Filipino president’s record of joking about rape, swearing he would be “happy to slaughter” millions of drug addicts just as “Hitler massacred six million Jews,” and bragging, “I don’t care about human rights.”

In Turkey, President Erdogan’s increasingly autocratic rule is only the latest episode in a pattern of military coups and undemocratic regimes interrupting periods of democracy in Turkey. Since 1943, however, US bases have been a constant presence in the country, where they have repeatedly sparked protest—throughout the 1960s and 1970s, prior to the Bush administration’s 2003 invasion of Iraq, and more recently, when US forces began using them to launch attacks in Syria.

Although Egypt has a relatively small US base presence, its military has enjoyed deep and lucrative Pentagon ties since the signing of the Camp David Accords with Israel in 1979. After a 2013 military coup ousted a democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood government, the Obama administration waited months to withhold some forms of military and economic aid, despite more than 1,300 killings by security forces and the arrest of more than 3,500 members of the Brotherhood. According to Human Rights Watch, “Little was said about ongoing abuses,” which have continued to this day.

The United States also has maintained deep connections with the Thai military, which has carried out 12 coups since 1932. Both countries have been able to deny they have a basing relationship of any sort, thanks to a rental agreement between a private contractor and US forces at Thailand’s Utapao Naval Air Base. “Because of contractor Delta Golf Global,” writes journalist Robert Kaplan, “the US military was here, but it was not here. After all, the Thais did no business with the US Air Force. They dealt only with a private contractor.”

In monarchical Bahrain, which has had a US military presence since 1949 and now hosts the Navy’s 5th Fleet, the Obama administration offered only the most tepid criticism of the Bahraini government despite an ongoing, often violent crackdown on pro-democracy protesters. According to Human Rights Watch and others (including an independent commission of inquiry appointed by the Bahraini king, Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa), the government has been responsible for widespread abuses, including the arbitrary arrest of protesters, ill treatment during detention, torture-related deaths, and growing restrictions on freedoms of speech, association, and assembly. The Trump administration has already signaled its desire to protect the military ties of the two countries by approving a sale of F-16 fighters to Bahrain without demanding any improvements in its human rights record.

This is typical of what the late base expert Chalmers Johnson once called the American “baseworld.” Research by political scientist Kent Calder confirms what’s come to be known as the “dictatorship hypothesis”: that “the United States tends to support dictators in nations where it enjoys basing facilities.” Another large study concluded that autocratic states have been “consistently attractive” as base sites. “Due to the unpredictability of elections,” it added bluntly, democratic states prove “less attractive in terms of sustainability and duration.”

Even within what are technically US borders, democratic rule has regularly proved “less attractive” than preserving colonialism into the 21st century. The presence of scores of bases in Puerto Rico and the Pacific island of Guam has been a major motivation for keeping these and other territories—American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the US Virgin Islands—in varying degrees of colonial subordination. Conveniently for military leaders, they have neither full independence nor the full democratic rights—voting, representation in Congress—that come with US statehood. Installations in at least five of Europe’s remaining colonies have proved equally attractive, as has the base US troops have forcibly occupied in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, since shortly after the Spanish-American War of 1898.

Authoritarian rulers are well aware of the desire of US officials to maintain the status quo when it comes to bases. As a result, they often capitalize on a base presence to extract benefits or help ensure their own political survival.

The Philippines’ Marcos, former South Korean dictator Syngman Rhee, and more recently Djibouti’s Ismail Omar Guelleh have been typical in the way they used bases to extract economic assistance from Washington, which they then lavished on political allies to shore up their power. Other autocrats have relied on US bases to bolster their international prestige and legitimacy, or to justify violence against political opponents.

After the 1980 Kwangju massacre—in which the South Korean government killed hundreds, if not thousands, of pro-democracy demonstrators, strongman General Chun Doo-hwan explicitly cited the presence of US bases and troops to suggest that he enjoyed Washington’s support. Whether that was true remains a matter of historical debate. What’s clear, though, is that American leaders have regularly muted their criticism of repressive regimes lest they imperil US basing rights. And the US presence tends to strengthen military, rather than civilian, institutions because of military-to-military ties, arms sales, and training missions that generally accompany the basing agreements.

Opponents of repressive regimes often use the bases to rally nationalist sentiment, anger, and protest against their ruling elites and the United States. In some such cases, fears in Washington that a transition to democracy might lead to base eviction leads to a doubling down on support for the undemocratic ruler. The result can be an escalating cycle of opposition and US-backed repression.

While some analysts defend the presence of US bases in undemocratic countries as necessary to deter bad actors and support American interests (primarily corporate ones), backing dictators and autocrats frequently leads to harm—not just for the citizens of the host nations, but for US citizens as well. The base buildup in the Middle East is the most prominent example. In the wake of the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the Iranian Revolution the same year, the Pentagon has built up scores of bases across the Middle East at a cost of tens of billions of dollars. These bases and the troops stationed in them have been a “major catalyst for anti-Americanism and radicalization,” according to former West Point professor Bradley Bowman, who cites research noting a correlation between the bases and Al Qaeda recruitment.

Outposts in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Afghanistan have helped generate and fuel the radical militancy that has spread throughout the Greater Middle East and led to terrorist attacks in Europe and the United States. The presence of US bases and troops in Muslim holy lands was a major recruiting tool for Al Qaeda, and part of Osama bin Laden’s professed motivation for the 9/11 attacks.

With the Trump administration seeking to entrench the renewed base presence in the Philippines, and the president commending Duterte and similarly authoritarian leaders in Bahrain and Egypt, Turkey and Thailand, human rights violations worldwide are likely to escalate, fueling unknown brutality and baseworld blowback for years to come.

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Why Would a President Schmooze With Vicious Autocrats and Repressive Monarchs?

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Everyone On The Internet Is Fighting About This Image. What Do You Think It Is?

Mother Jones

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN” “http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd”>

Good afternoon.

What is this?

Twitter user @wayne5540 made this amazing observation today. But what exactly is the observation? People can’t agree!

Do you know? Because I know. The internet isn’t sure. “What is this drawing?” asks the internet.

Is it a cat?

An Elephant?

The United States of America?

What do you think?

#qp_main1071606 .qp_btna:hover input background:#00355F!important #qp_all1071606 max-width:815px; margin:0 auto;

What is this?

Cat

Elephant

USA

Something else


survey maker

It’s an elephant.

Have a nice day.

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Everyone On The Internet Is Fighting About This Image. What Do You Think It Is?

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