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September 23, 2012

Rare fishing cat born in Isle of Man zoo

Fishing cats are twice the size of your standard house cat, their paws are actually webbed, and, as the name suggests, they really love water.

They are a very rare and endangered feline species and now there's one more of these rare and little-known creatures, after a new kitten was born at Curraghs Wildlife Park on the Isle of Man in the United Kingdom.

Curraghs Park staff announced the birth last week, but the kitten is already eight weeks old and is often seen out and about with its mother at the park's Asian Swamp enclosure. It will be weaned in about six months, and mature within the year.

Due to encroachment on the species' native wetlands in southeast Asia, the fishing cat is listed as endangered.

Around 200 are kept in captivity worldwide, and only 10 are born per year. Adult fishing cats can weigh as much as 16 kg (35 lbs) and live up to ten years in captivity.

Curraghs Park staff say the kitten is the second born to a pair at the wildlife park, although its sibling was later taken to another zoo for a breeding program.

The sex of the new arrival has not been revealed, and there's no word on a name.

September 17, 2012

Farmers still getting the short end of the stick

Between droughts and governmental lack of concern over agriculture, farmers are still getting the short end of the stick.

Consider this: As of 2011 over 81% of the American population is urban (meaning they live in cities or towns). Less than 19% of Americans still live on farms or in rural regions. In Canada it is also 81%.

So from a political standpoint who are you going to show favouritism to more? City-Slickers or Farmers? The answer is obviously cities.

Farming is one of the most difficult, and yet most important, careers available, but it is horribly underpaid and there is very little government support for it. Many farmers now work second jobs just to make ends meet because farming by itself doesn't bring in the necessary money to raise a family.

Often just to try and get ahead in life farmers borrow large sums for machinery and equipment, which means they are either borrowing from the government or banks, and if there is a drought or bad weather for several years in a row its pretty much guaranteed the farmers will lose their farms and their homes because of inability to pay back loans.

Let us take for example one piece of machinery commonly used by cattle farmers: Livestock scales are used to weight cattle before or during auction. It is an approx. $1,000 investment to get scales, but the idea is so you can fatten up your cattle to the right size, then send to auction to fetch a good price. Its basically a necessity if you're a cattle or pig farmer.

Now you might think, oh, but how could a drought effect cattle or pig farmers? Well, two ways:

1. Cattle can die from something called "Heat Stress". It is basically heat exhaustion. For pigs they also get Heat Stroke (and sunburns). Preventing Heat Stress means providing shade, improved ventilation and a sufficient quantity of water... which adds up to extra costs and equipment.

2. More droughts = Less food to feed the cattle. If the farm in question grows their own food for the cattle and they aren't growing enough due to a drought, they have to buy extra food for the cattle from other farmers. If there is a huge shortage due to the drought the food has to be shipped even further and will cost a lot more. The prices can end up bankrupting the farmers.

Next lets look at the case of Utah... which as of September 2012 has had all 29 counties declared "drought disaster areas". River beds and groundwater ditches have all dried up.

It is all one big dusty mess.

Since October 2011, only 17.2 inches of rain has fallen on northern Sanpete County in Utah, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That is just over half of the previous year's rainfall of 32.5 inches (which was also a poor year for rainfall in Utah).

While many farmers throughout Utah have fallen back on water storage and reservoirs, the farmers in the Sanpete Valley have little to no water storage available. They simply don't have facilities available to store water and then use it for their crops and livestock. The natural springs and runoff from the mountains in Utah that usually supply the region's rivers fell short this year after last winter's meagre snows and early spring snow melt.

Some farmers have multiple basins which they used to use to store water, basically ponds where their livestock could drink. But the ground of those ponds are now cracked and chalky, completely dried up.

It hurts all the farmers too. Utah's wheat production has dropped to 30% of what a normal season would yield. Hay is also down 50%. Many families will be short 50% to 70% of their yearly income because of the drought.

Cattle in the region sell for considerably less since they weigh between 100 and 150 pounds less on the livestock scales than they would have if the family could wait a month to sell them. But they can't wait. They need money for food, to pay the bills, to keep the banks off their backs. They could be making more off the sale if they just had the extra time, but times are tough and when the bank freezes your credit cards you have to sell what you can at dirt cheap prices just to get the banks to unfreeze your credit cards.

The end result is that farmers need machinery like tractors, combines and even livestock scales in order to make a living. And they can't get those things without getting a loan. Every penny counts.

And with global warming and more drought on the horizon farmers aren't getting any help from government buck-passers who blame other levels of government and refuse to help farmers when they're in bed with the banks.

September 14, 2012

The Peugeot Onyx Concept Car

Peugeot stunning new Onyx supercar concept you see on the right here comes the engine from a former Le Mans 24hrs racer: An engine made for both speed and endurance, giving it better fuel efficiency. The concept car is notable for its revolutionary engineering.

You might not realize what you are looking at either. Yes, its a kewl looking concept car... but it is also an engineering marvel. It's a one-off supercar concept designed by a group of car designers exploring the use of unprocessed materials in new ways.

#1. The body of the car isn't aluminum, plastic or carbon fibre. It is hand-finished using pure copper sheet metal, and because it's untreated, the finish will change over the course of time, giving it a new look (like the green copper roofs on government buildings).

#2. The remainder of the bodywork panels are made from carbon fibre, finished in a matt black. Not really that high tech since carbon fibre is pretty par-for-the-course with supercars, but the Onyx sports a double-bubble roof which is fun by itself.

#3. The windows and the roof are made from PolyMethylMethAcrylate (PMMA) - basically, shatter-resistant plastic - an unusual new material.

#4. The Onyx chassis was developed with the help of Peugeot Sport and is constructed from monolithic carbon, and comprises just 12 parts.

#5. It's built with a flat carbon fibre floor like they use in racecars, even if the Onyx has been made "suitable for the road". In total the whole car weighs just 1,100 kg with torsional stiffness said to be ‘optimised'.

#6. The engine under the hood: A 3.7-litre V8 hybrid HDi FAP engine used for Peugeot's Le Mans programme, developing 600bhp transmitted to the rear wheels through a six-speed sequential gearbox.

#7. An 80bhp boost button, utilising battery power recuperated from brake energy. So its sorta like a hybrid... but made so you can EXTRA fast using the battery energy. And those brakes? 380mm discs at the front and 355mm at the back. Huge if you know anything about automotive brakes.

#8. The interior is compressed and stretched felt (made from boiled wool), formed as a one-piece moulding with no stitching required. Its one large piece including soundproofing, seats, roof and upper console. It is almost alien how easily everything flows without any nuts and bolts.

#9. The dash is made from wood produced from recycled newspapers - complete with digital screens and an aluminum switchgear operating the engine and air-conditioning controls.

So... its part copper, part paper-mache... The interior... the boost function... the shatter resistant plastic...

Its a shame we can't buy it. But maybe some of the ideas will be put into use in future car designs that are actually for sale.

September 12, 2012

Extreme Weather = Economic Catastrophes

Have you noticed the increasing rate of Extreme Weather in the USA and across the globe?

Probably. Especially if you know anything about climate change and global warming.

However lets consider the economic results of these increasing intense and frequent storms.

During the past decade the economic costs of extreme weather has more than tripled. Global weather disasters in 2011 cost the global economy $150 billion USD, which was a 25% increase over 2010 ($120 billion).

In 2011 the USA recorded 14 events that caused over a billion dollars of damage each. Compare that to the previous record year, 2008, when there was just 9 such disasters.

Economic costs, loss of life, destruction of property. These things are only going to get worse.

Especially while right-wing politicians and the oil/coal industries are still tooting the old horn of "economics is more important than environment", not realizing that they are shooting economics in the proverbial foot by ignoring the environment.

September 9, 2012

Renoir found at flea market for $50

A buyer at a Virginia flea market, who paid less than $50 for the box lot that held it, also purchased what is now believed to be a painting by the illustrious French Impressionist artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

The newly discovered Renoir is scheduled to be auctioned off on Sept. 29th. The small pastel-coloured painting is believed to be Renoir’s “Paysage Bords de Seine”. It is believed to be valued at $75,000 to $100,000.

Zombie-fied British Royals

Worth a peek.

Zombie-fied Prince Charles and Queen Elizabeth from 'Zombiewood' by Canadian artist Rob Sacchetto.

September 6, 2012

Bill Clinton's Speech in support of Barack Obama

Clint Eastwood hands Barack Obama his re-election

Hollywood legend Clint Eastwood's strange and somewhat senile looking speech with a chair has practically handed Barack Obama his re-election.

The speech even overshadowed Mitt Romney's nomination acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, according to a new poll.

According to the Pew Research Center poll, 20% of television viewers said the actor's empty chair performance was the highlight of the convention.

However, only 17% of viewers said the presidential nominee's acceptance speech was the highlight, Politico reports.

A tenth of viewers said Ann Romney's address on the convention's first night was a high point, and nine percent said the same for vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan's speech.

According to the report, other speakers all received less than 3% in the poll, while 20% of viewers said the convention had no highlight whatsoever.

The poll also revealed that fewer Americans watched this year's convention than in 2008.

A majority, 61%, said they watched little or none of the convention, compared with 44% four years ago, when 50% of viewers named then-vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin's speech as a convention highlight, and 17% named Arizona Senator John McCain's address.

Coincidentally it was Sarah Palin who hammered the nail in the coffin and practically handed Barack Obama his election... So will history repeat itself? Republican gaffs = Democratic election? We shall see.

In the meantime Clint Eastwood has been a target of paraphrasing, showing what one badly scripted skit can do. During his skit Eastwood basically admitted that the economy's failures was the Bush Administration's fault.

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