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Oregon Standoff Ends in Time to Prepare Malheur Refuge for Avian Occupiers

With the last armed occupiers in handcuffs, the abused Malheur wildlife refuge in Oregon can be prepared for the spring bird occupation. View article:   Oregon Standoff Ends in Time to Prepare Malheur Refuge for Avian Occupiers ; ; ;

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Oregon Standoff Ends in Time to Prepare Malheur Refuge for Avian Occupiers

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Dot Earth Blog: Oregon Standoff Ends in Time to Prepare Malheur Refuge for Avian Occupiers

With the last armed occupiers in handcuffs, the abused Malheur wildlife refuge in Oregon can be prepared for the spring bird occupation. See original article here:  Dot Earth Blog: Oregon Standoff Ends in Time to Prepare Malheur Refuge for Avian Occupiers ; ; ;

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Dot Earth Blog: Oregon Standoff Ends in Time to Prepare Malheur Refuge for Avian Occupiers

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This “Peace Troubadour” Wanted to Perform in ISIS Territory

Mother Jones

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James Twyman wants you to know that he’s not going to just wander into ISIS-controlled territory with a guitar slung on his back for his upcoming “peace prayer concert” inside Syria. He isn’t crazy, he tells me over the phone from his houseboat in Oregon. “I have no intention of being a martyr.”

The 53-year-old “Peace Troubadour” first announced his plan to venture into Syria in a blog post last month:

Performing the peace prayers in ISIS Controlled Syria will be the most important and dangerous peace mission of my life…Every peace mission I’ve been on has been dangerous, but this journey is without question the most perilous, and in my opinion—the most important. People everywhere are concerned about the escalating violence in the Middle East, especially with the rise of ISIS, but they don’t feel empowered to be part of the solution. That is what we are about to change.

Twyman’s original idea was to enter Syria through Turkey, travel through Kurdish-controlled areas, and then into ISIS territory, where he would perform wherever he could get to. “But now things have really escalated,” he says. The State Department made it clear that it would have little ability to help him should anything go awry. “People have been writing me, begging me not to go. You know, just the most fearful things you could imagine.” Things like the kidnappings, beheadings, and the chaos that have become ISIS’ trademark. Twyman’s well aware of it all, but says, “I try not to put too much energy in it, but I do need to be responsible about it. I think the most important thing we all need today is courage.”

Now, his plan has changed—phew!—from a really horrible one to a less horrible one. Twyman leaves on the 20th for Italy, where he’ll spend a week preparing for the performance. Then he flies to Tel Aviv to meet with a collection of supporters and a group of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish leaders who will join him as he crosses the Israel-Syria border to Majdal Shams, an Israeli-occupied town in the Golan Heights that overlooks ISIS-held territory several miles away.

This isn’t Twyman’s first musical peace mission. He performed in the Balkans during the region’s wars in the ’90s and sang in Baghdad in 1998—at the behest of Saddam Hussein, he claims.

Twyman hopes that millions of people from around the world will join him in focused prayer as he leads a peace vigil near Majdal Shams and sings an Islamic prayer for peace on February 1. (Watch his rendition in English below.) “There is definitely a correlation between massive numbers of people focusing their energy on a situation, and then a shift in the energy—or a crisis being averted—because of it.” Each of the religious leaders will offer prayers of peace from their own tradition, what Twyman calls “The Great Abrahamic Pulse.”

Twyman says the decision to scale back his Syrian trip is due to the spiritual leaders who are now involved. “I feel that it’s more important that they be there” than to go closer to ISIS territory, he says. “So we’re going to be as close as possible while remaining as safe as possible.” Will he have a security detail? “No,” he tells me. “I’m someone who believes on the power of prayer and positive energy.”

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This “Peace Troubadour” Wanted to Perform in ISIS Territory

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How the Leader of the Oregon Armed Protest Benefited From a Federal Loan Program

Mother Jones

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As one of the leaders of a band of armed, anti-government activists who have taken over a National Park Service building in Oregon, Ammon Bundy has denounced the “tyranny” of the federal government. And he has brought a new round of attention to the anti-government militia movement that in 2014 rallied behind his father, Cliven Bundy, when the elder Bundy and armed supporters confronted federal agents in Nevada. But not long ago, Ammon Bundy sought out help from the government he now decries and received a federal small-business loan guarantee.

Ammon Bundy runs a Phoenix-based company called Valet Fleet Services LLC, which specializes in repairing and maintaining fleets of semitrucks throughout Arizona. On April 15, 2010—Tax Day, as it happens—Bundy’s business borrowed $530,000 through a Small Business Administration loan guarantee program. The available public record does not indicate what the loan was used for or whether it was repaid. The SBA website notes that this loan guarantee was issued under a program “to aid small businesses which are unable to obtain financing in the private credit marketplace.” The government estimated that this subsidy could cost taxpayers $22,419. Bundy did not respond to an email request for comment about the SBA loan.

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How the Leader of the Oregon Armed Protest Benefited From a Federal Loan Program

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The Great Oregon Standoff Enters Its First Day

Mother Jones

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When I went to bed last night, the hot topic on my Twitter feed was the occupation of a United States Fish and Wildlife Service building in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. This is near Burns, Oregon, which would probably need to be a little closer to Bend to even qualify as the middle of nowhere. As for the building itself, it’s even more remote.

So, anyway, it turns out that a bunch of self-described militiamen, headed by Ammon and Ryan Bundy of Bundy ranch fame, decided to take over the building as a protest against federal tyranny. The particular tyranny at issue was the imprisonment of a couple of local ranchers who had burned some federal land next to their property. None of these details really matter much, though. The question is, what should we do about these guys? Here’s David Atkins:

As with ISIS, the Bundy clowns are actively seeking a confrontation with the big bad wolf of Big Western Government. They believe that an active confrontation will spark a movement that will lead to the overthrow of Big Brother. So far, especially after the incidents at Ruby Ridge and Waco, American leaders have been disinclined to give those opportunities to the domestic militiaman terrorists. Cliven Bundy and his miscreants got away with a wide range of crimes due to the forbearance of federal officials.

But the problem with taking that hands-off approach is that the treatment of left-leaning protesters is far different. Occupiers and Black Lives Matter protesters aren’t met with hand wringing and gentle admonishments. They’re met with batons and tear gas….So on the one hand it’s understandable that federal officials would not want to make martyrs of the right-wing domestic terrorists who are actively seeking to engage in a confrontation and make themselves appear to be downtrodden victims of the federal beast. But on the other hand, it’s infuriating that they receive special kid glove treatment that would not be afforded to minority and liberal activists.

I feel that if Bundy’s little crew wants to occupy a federal building and assert that they’ll use deadly violence against any police who try to extract them, then they should get what they’re asking for just as surely Islamist terrorists would if they did likewise. As much as restraint is the better part of valor when dealing with entitled conservative crazies, principles of basic justice and fair play also need to apply. What’s good for one type of terrorist must also be good for another.

And Mark Kleiman:

It’s crucial to avoid a shoot-out, but it’s equally crucial to assert the rule of law. There’s no need here to repeat the back-down in Nevada, and the ringleaders need to go away for long, long time.

It’s also crucial that Republican politicians — most importantly, the Presidential candidates — be forced to take a stand for or against acts of lawless violence. And that’s not something the President can or should try to manage alone. Everyone needs to speak out, and keep speaking out.

Gotta go with Kleiman here. I understand the gut satisfaction of fantasizing about a Bonnie & Clyde style shootout that leaves the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge soaked in terrorist blood, but that’s really not what any of us should want. These guys aren’t terrorists, anyway. They’re just as misguided as real terrorists, but they haven’t taken anyone hostage or threatened to blow up an airplane. They’re just morons with guns. We can wait them out, or fill the place with tear gas, or play loud music all night like we did with Manual Noriega. I don’t know. I’ll leave the tactics up to professionals.

In any case, I don’t really want to kill these guys, and I don’t think their movement needs martyrs anyway. Just let them rot quietly away for a while until they finally come slinking out of their hole into the hands of federal officials. Then they can be put on trial. By that time, they’ll just seem like a bunch of pitiful loons, and their “movement” will be dead. That’s all I care about. No need to give them more publicity than they’ve already gotten.

But, yes, I would like to hear all the Republican presidential candidates denounce them in no uncertain terms. That shouldn’t be so hard, should it?

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The Great Oregon Standoff Enters Its First Day

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Armed Militia Occupies National Wildlife Refuge

Mother Jones

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As many as 100 armed militia members seized control of a Fish and Wildlife Services building in a remote part of eastern Oregon on Saturday and threatened to shoot law enforcement officers who attempt to kick them out.

Led by Ammon Bundy, the son of the Nevada rancher whose standoff with the Bureau of Land Management over cattle grazing fees made national headlines in 2015, the group took over the headquarters of Malheur National Wildlife Refugee shortly after a peaceful march in the nearby town of Burns. The militia’s latest cause celebre is that of Dwight and Stephen Hammond, father-son ranchers who face prison time under an anti-terrorism statute for setting fires on federal lands. Both Hammonds already served short sentences for the crime, but after they got out, they were re-sentenced to the mandatory minumum of five years.

In addition to freedom for the Hammonds, the Bundy group is demanding that the federal government give up control of nearby Malheur National Forest.

The Malheur occupation is only the latest in a long line of armed confrontations between conservative land rights activists and the federal government on public lands. But the clearest historical precedent for Saturday’s takeover came in 1966, when Alianza Federal de Mercedes, a group founded by Chicano land rights activist Reies Lopes Tijerina, occupied a part of Carson National Forest north of Santa Fe and declared it New Pueblo Republic of San Joaquin del Rio de Chama. They even arrested two Forest Rangers who come to confront them, and charged them with trespassing. Tijerina’s occupation lasted all of one day. Ammon Bundy told the Oregonian on Saturday that his group might hold their position for years.

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Armed Militia Occupies National Wildlife Refuge

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The King of Beers Wants to Push Craft Brews out of Your Supermarket

Mother Jones

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Pity Anheuser-Busch InBev, the Belgian-owned behemoth responsible for such beloved US beers as Budweiser, Bud Light, and Michelob Ultra. When InBev bought US beer giant Anheuser-Busch back in 2008, the company accounted for 49 percent of the US beer market, the Wall Street Journal reported. Since then, its US market share has dipped to 45 percent. Since 2005, sales of its big domestic brands like Bud have dropped 5.7 percent, even as craft-beer sales have rocketed up 173.6 percent. What’s a transnational, industrial-scale maker of flavor-light, marketing-heavy brews to do?

The answer, according to the Journal: use its still-formidable US market heft to squeeze out those fast-growing craft-beer makers. Understanding AB InBev’s maneuver requires a bit of background. After Prohibition, the US government sought to limit the market power of brewers by imposing a three-tiered system on the industry. One set of firms would brew beer; another set would distribute it; and a third would retail it, either in bars or carryout stores. Much of that old regime has broken down—in many states, for example, small brewers can sell directly to the public through brewpubs. But in most states, distributors—the companies that move beer from breweries and stock retail outlets’ shelves and bars’ taps and bottle offerings—can’t be owned directly by brewers. â&#128;¨

To get around that restriction, megabrewers have for decades sought more or less exclusive agreements with nominally independent distributors. Today, the US beer market is dominated by AB InBev and rival MillerCoors, which together own about 80 percent of the market. Independent craft brewers account for 11 percent of the US market—and that’s growing rapidly, even though crafts tend to retail for $8 to $10 per six-pack, versus about $6 for conventional beers. Most distributors sell either InBev or MillerCoors brands as their bread and butter, the Journal reports, plus a smattering of independent craft brews. That’s why in supermarket beer coolers these days you’ll typically find a few national craft brews like Sierra Nevada, along with maybe a few local favorites, after you walk past towering stacks of Bud and Miller six-packs.

So AB InBev has launched a “new plan to reverse declining volumes” in the United States by offering sweet incentives for company-aligned distributors to restrict sales of craft beers and push more Bud Light and whatnot. Get this, from the Journal:â&#128;¨

The world’s largest brewer last month introduced a new incentive program that could offer some independent distributors in the U.S. annual reimbursements of as much as $1.5 million if 98% of the beers they sell are AB InBev brands, according to two distributors who requested confidentiality because they were asked not to discuss the plan. Distributors whose sales volumes are 95% made up of AB InBev brands would be eligible to have the brewer cover as much as half of their contractual marketing support for those brands, which includes retail promotion and display costs. AB InBev, which introduced the plan at a meeting of distributors in St. Louis, estimates participating distributors would receive an average annual benefit of $200,000 each.â&#128;¨

The beer giant plans to devote big bucks to the scheme—about $150 million next year, as part of a “three-year plan to restore growth in AB InBev’s most profitable market,” the United States, the Journal reports. â&#128;¨

And beyond pushing up the percentage of AB InBev products in the mix, the incentive plans place another restriction on the distributors who choose to take advantage of the offers: They can only carry craft brewers that produce less than 15,000 barrels or sell beer only in one state.â&#128;¨ Such a provision would put a hard squeeze on excellent, relatively large craft brewers like San Diego’s Stone, Northern California’s Sierra Nevada, and Colorado’s Oskar Blues. InBev’s new program is already having an impact, the Journal reports.

At least one distributor has dropped a craft brewer as a result of the incentive program. Deschutes Brewery President Michael Lalonde said Grey Eagle Distributing of St. Louis last week decided it will drop the Oregon brewery behind Mirror Pond Pale Ale because it “had to make a choice to go with the incentive program or stay with craft.”

All of this raises the question: Under US antitrust law, can a giant company legally throw around its weight like that? The answer may well be yes. Ricardo Melo, Anheuser-Busch’s vice president of sales strategy and wholesaler development, stressed to the Journal that the incentive program is voluntary—that is, distributors are free to decline the extra support and continue stocking as many craft brands as they want. But apparently, the company doesn’t think many distributors will turn down such a sweet deal. Currently, the Journal reports, just 38 percent of AB InBev-aligned distributors participate in the company’s incentive programs. The company “aims to double participation in three years behind the new rewards plan,” the article adds.

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The King of Beers Wants to Push Craft Brews out of Your Supermarket

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Here’s What You Need to Know About the West Coast’s Toxic Crabs

Mother Jones

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Fisherman from across the West coast are flocking to California, where the start of crabbing season is just days away. Or not: Health officials are warning that rock and Dungeness crabs along the state coast are contaminated by high levels of domoic acid, a known neurotoxin. State authorities are expected to decide this week whether or not to delay the opening of the Dungeness season—which yields one of the biggest harvests in the nation—and temporarily halt the harvest of rock crabs, which is permitted all year. In the meantime, here’s what you need to know:

How do I know whether that crab on I ordered last week was contaminated? Commercial seafood is regularly tested, so while there may be less Dungeness crab, you don’t have to freak out too much about consuming neurotoxins with the crab you ate at a restaurant or bought at a store. West Coasters should avoid eating recreationally caught shellfish (more details here). If domoic acid is ingested, it can cause vomiting, seizures, and in extreme situations, death. There haven’t been any reported hospitalizations or deaths from domoic acid poisoning since the late 1980’s, when three deaths and multiple hospitalizations spurred increased regulation.

Besides Dungeness crabs, are any other marine creatures are affected? Yes, lots. according to a NOAA report released Tuesday, domoic acid is showing up at potentially lethal levels among a record number of animals, including dolphins, whales, sea lions, and seabirds, and causing seizures among the latter two. Washington closed some areas to crabbing and clam digging earlier this year, Oregon has indefinitely postponed the start of its razor clam season, and California health officials have warned against eating recreationally caught shellfish in some regions.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

What’s this going to do the West Coast’s robust crabbing industry? California, Oregon, and Washington are the top producers of Dungeness crab in the United States; in California alone, commercial crabbing boats brought in 17 million pounds of the crab in 2014, worth nearly $60 million. Some fishermen make half of their income from the California Dungeness crab harvest, and the bloom is particularly ill-timed since Dungeness crabs are in highest demand between Thanksgiving and New Years. “These are incredibly important fisheries to our coastal economies and fresh crab is highly anticipated and widely enjoyed this time of year,” said the state Fish and Wildlife regional manager Craig Shuman. “But public health and safety is our top priority.”

Where is the domoic acid coming from? The acid is coming from a toxic phytoplankton, or algae, species that thrives in warm waters and makes its way into the food web as it’s consumed by anchovies, sardines, and shellfish. This year, thanks to a combination of El Niño and a large stretch of warm water off the west coast dubbed “the blob,” the algae has bloomed at record-setting levels, forming a ribbon up to 40 miles wide snaking up the West coast.

Is climate change causing this problem? Scientists are reluctant to attribute any one event solely to climate change, but warmer waters are certainly playing a role—and ocean temperatures are expected to continue warming with climate change. “The toxins are commonly present in the food web but this year, with this unprecedented bloom, they’re likely having a bigger impact than ever before,” said Kathi Lefebvre, a biologist at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center. “Our concern is that there does appear to be a link between warm water and bigger blooms, so what does this tell us about future years with warmer conditions?”

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Here’s What You Need to Know About the West Coast’s Toxic Crabs

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The Obama Administration Is (Rather Belatedly) Making Homegrown Terrorism a Priority

Mother Jones

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In the wake of this year’s series of devastating mass shootings on American soil, the Department of Justice is boosting its efforts to fight the loosely defined menace of “domestic terrorism” with the appointment this week of a “domestic terrorism counsel.” The new appointee has not yet been named but will coordinate cases, identify trends, and “analyze legal gaps or enhancements required to ensure we can combat these threats,” Assistant Attorney General John Carlin, head of the agency’s National Security Division, said Wednesday.

“We recognize that, over the past few years, more people have died in this country in attacks by domestic extremists than in attacks associated with international terrorist groups,” Carlin said in a speech at George Washington University.

Mass shootings have struck a number of communities across the United States this year, from this summer’s massacre at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, to the killings at Umpqua Community College in Oregon earlier this month.

The shooting in Charleston set off debates in the media and across society on how the perpetrators of ideologically motivated attacks are to be viewed. Are they disenfranchised, potentially mentally ill young Americans? Or are they “domestic terrorists”? And if the latter, what qualifies as domestic terrorism? FBI Director James Comey drew criticism for saying shortly after the Charleston shooting that the attack did not appear to bear the marks of terrorism, a claim contested by historians and security experts.

Carlin on Wednesday offered an expansive definition of violent extremism and terrorism, terms he used interchangeably, saying, “The threat ranges from individuals motivated by anti-government animus, to eco-radicalism, to racism, as it has for decades.”

Carlin also drew a close parallel between these domestic attacks and the activities of the brutal radical Islamist group ISIS, which has seized broad swathes of territory across Iraq and Syria and is currently under fire from US air strikes.

Both ISIS and domestic extremists have made intensive use of social media to promulgate their messages and attract followers, and both have lately seen a rise in attacks by “lone offenders,” he said.

While there is no definitive evidence proving the role of social media use in the rising tide of mass shootings, a recent Mother Jones investigation found that many law enforcement and forensic psychology experts do believe there is a connection.

In order to combat the menace of homegrown terrorism, Carlin called for the use of all means at investigators’ disposal—including, controversially, the cooperation of internet service providers.

“Service providers must take responsibility for how their services can be abused,” he said. “Responsible providers understand what the threats are and take action to prevent terrorist groups from abusing their services to induce recruits to commit terrorist acts.”

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The Obama Administration Is (Rather Belatedly) Making Homegrown Terrorism a Priority

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California Is About to Stop People From Pumping So Many Drugs Into Meat

Mother Jones

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After decades of ignoring a deadly problem, the Food and Drug Administration finally came out with rules restricting the meat industry’s heavy reliance on antibiotics back in 2012. But the new regime had two major flaws: (1) It was voluntary, relying on the benevolence of two industries (pharmaceuticals and meat) with long records of lobbying hard for their own interests, and (2) it contained a loophole that allowed meat producers to maintain their old antibiotic habit if they so desired.

Enter California, with new legislation—expected to be signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown any day now—that would retract those regulatory gifts from the state’s teeming livestock farms.

The bill would make California’s regulation of animal antibiotic use more stringent than the federal government’s simply because it’s compulsory and not voluntary, according to Natural Resources Defense Council senior attorney Avinash Kar. But it also snaps shut the infamous “prevention” loophole in the FDA’s policy, he adds.

Antibiotics are used in three ways on factory livestock farms: (1) growth promotion—when animals get small daily doses of the the stuff, they grow faster; (2) disease prevention—animals stuffed together in stressful conditions are prone to infection, they pass diseases among themselves rapidly, and antibiotics provide a kind of pharmaceutical substitute for a natural robust immune system; and (3) disease treatment—an animal comes down with a bug and gets treated with antibiotics.

The FDA’s policy phases out growth promotion but leaves prevention intact—even though giving animals small daily doses of antibiotics to “prevent” disease is virtually indistinguishable from giving them small daily doses to promote growth. A 2014 Pew analysis found no fewer than 66 antibiotic products that the FDA allows to be used for “disease prevention” at levels that are “fully within the range of growth promotion dosages and with no limit on the duration of treatment.” In other words, you change the language you use to describe the practice and continue giving your herd of 4,000 confined pigs the same old daily dose of antibiotics.

The California bill, too, allows antibiotic use as “prophylaxis to address an elevated risk of contraction of a particular disease or infection,” but it adds an important qualification, Kar points out: The drugs can’t be used “in a regular pattern.” In other words, no more daily, indiscriminate dosing based on some vague notion of “prevention.” “We think this the “regular pattern” language puts serious restraint on the routine use of antibiotics,” Kar said.

The California law won’t have an immediate impact on national policy, Kar said, but he pointed out that the bill’s passage might embolden several other states with significant livestock production, including Oregon and Maryland, that are considering similar legislation. And California itself is a massive producer of dairy, beef, and chicken.

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California Is About to Stop People From Pumping So Many Drugs Into Meat

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