Saccopteryx leptura - Lesser Sac-winged Bat
Photo by Photo by José Gabriel Martínez Fonseca
Are we in the midst of a sixth mass extinction?
Source - NYT graphics editor Bill Marsh
Ending a year-long series of negotiations, the Obama administration on Thursday approved Gov. Corbett’s Medicaid expansion alternative proposal to extend health care benefits to as many as 600,000 uninsured Pennsylvanians.
In what is described as a five-year demonstration project, Pennsylvania received the go-ahead to use federal funds to pay private insurers.
The decision by the Department of Health and Human Services means Pennsylvania joins Arkansas and Iowa, which also received waivers to provide alternatives to Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. Twenty-seven states and the District of Columbia have approved traditional Medicaid expansion.
The “Healthy Pennsylvania” program, which has been modified several times since Corbett announced it last September, is scheduled to begin Jan. 1.
In a recent update of the IUCN Red List, scientists have identified 13 new bird species that have gone extinct since 1500. In total the list now finds that at least 140 bird species gone extinct in the past five hundred years, representing 1.3 percent of the world’s total known birds.
The new extinct birds were added to the list for a number of reasons. Seven of the 13 were due to recent discoveries of fossil birds on Bermuda, Mauritius, Rodrigues, and Tonga. Four were due to taxonomists splitting species that were considered subspecies prior to this update. Finally, two of the extinct birds—Finsch’s duck (Chenonetta finschi) and Hodgen’s waterhen (Tribonyx hodgenorum)—were found to have survived longer than previously believed, making them eligible for the IUCN Red List data. The IUCN Red List only tracks species that were present on the planet as of 1500 AD.
All of the newly-added extinct birds were island birds that were decimated by overhunting and invasive species, such as rats. While most of the now recognized species went extinct over a hundred years ago (and many longer), the South Island snipe (Coenocorypha iredalei) from New Zealand survived until 1964 went its last two endlings died in captivity.
Image: Illustration of the Tristan moorhen (Gallinula nesiotis), which went extinct at the end of the 19th Century. Illustration by: J. Jury.
Although there’s only one formed tropical cyclone in the Atlantic: Hurricane Cristobal, there are three other developing areas of low pressure and all were captured in this panoramic image from NOAA’s GOES-East satellite today at 8 a.m. EDT. Cristobal is a hurricane located east of the U.S. East coast and is forecast to move up toward eastern Canada tonight (and stay off-shore). The image was made at NASA’s GOES Project at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
Low #1. A weak area of low pressure near the coast of South Texas is producing disorganized showers and thunderstorms. Significant development of this system is unlikely before it moves inland over South Texas and northern Mexico today. It has a ten percent chance of development into a tropical depression in the next 2 days.
Low #2. A tropical wave located over the eastern Caribbean Sea continues to produce disorganized cloudiness and showers. Upper-level winds are expected to remain unfavorable for development during the next couple of days while the system moves across the eastern and central Caribbean Sea. However, environmental conditions could become conducive for some development when the system moves over the northwestern Caribbean Sea on Sunday and into the southwestern Gulf of Mexico early next week. It has a near zero chance to develop in the next 2 days.
Low #3. A tropical wave is forecast to move off the west coast of Africa on Friday. Environmental conditions could be conducive for some gradual development of this system while it moves westward at 10 to 15 mph across the eastern Atlantic early next week. This has a near zero chance of development in the next two days.
This broad-winged skipper butterfly (Poanes viator) is perched at the intersection of nature and human culture. Native to eastern North America, its caterpillars thrive on common reed, a notorious introduced wetland plant that obliterates cattail marshes. In this photo it’s nectaring on purple loosestrife, another wetland invader. This delicate little fuzz-face has a lot of stories to tell.
Thirty Years’ War: Battle of Breitenfeld
The Battle of Breitenfeld was fought September 17, 1631, during the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648).
Crossing the Baltic Sea in 1630, Swedish forces, led by King Gustavus Adolphus, entered the Thirty Years’ War. Allying with France and several Protestant German states, the Swedish king possessed an army of around 13,000 men and began consolidating his position. Dismissing the Swedish threat, the commander of the Catholic League’s armies, Johann Tserclaes, Count of Tilly, elected to continue campaigning in northern Italy. It was only with the conclusion of these operations in early 1631 that he began moving north to deal with the Swedes.
During this interlude, Gustavus worked to build alliances and enhance his army. As the two armies maneuvered towards each other, they were blocked by the Electorate of Saxony. The region had yet to be touched by the conflict remained a rich source of supplies and wealth. Wishing to pass through Saxony, Tilly requested permission from Elector John George I. This was denied as the elector wished to remain out of the conflict. Requiring food for his army and wishing to prevent an alliance between John George and Gustavus, Tilly invaded Saxony.
The two armies which moved against each other in Saxony were constructed along very different lines. Gustavus’ infantry consisted of a mixed force of light and heavy infantry along with several ranks of musketeers. These utilized a linear formation which generally saw six ranks of musketeers formed in front of the heavier pikemen. Trained in volley fire, the Swedes were capable of unleashing a steady and deadly fire upon an approaching enemy. In addition, while the majority of artillery in this period was slow and heavy, the Swedes had developed light 3-pdr guns which could be incorporated into their infantry.
Conversely, the Catholic League’s Imperialist troops were typically deployed in Spanishtercios. These consisted of around 1,500 densely-packed men, the majority of which were pikemen. Four groups of musketeers were included and were generally placed at the corners or on the side. As a result, only a small number of the musketeers could be engaged at any one time. Though a strong defensive formation, the tercio was slow to maneuver and did not incorporate artillery. Cavalry tactics also varied with the Swedes preferring a fast charge and swords, while the Imperialists used a caracole (turning) pistol approach.
With the invasion of Saxony, John George moved to join Gustavus Adolphus with his army. Linking up north of Leipzig, they prepared to meet Tilly who had captured the city on September 15. Having taken Leipzig, Tilly soon learned of Gustavus’ approach. Though he was reluctant to leave the city’s defenses, his cavalry commander, General Gottfried Heinrich Graf zu Pappenheim was eager for battle and rode north seeking the enemy. Making contact on the evening of September 16, he informed Tilly that he was unable to withdraw. As a result, Tilly was forced to march north to the rescue.
Forming on a ridge between the villages of Seehausen (Göbschelwitz) and Breitenfeld, Tilly’s men created seventeen tercios with the army’s artillery deployed to the fore. His cavalry was deployed on each flank. Moving south, Gustavus and his allies crossed the Loder River and prepared for battle. The Swedish infantry moved into two lines with the bulk of the cavalry on the right, though some was placed in the center and left as well. The Saxons and other allied forces formed on the Swedish left extending the line. Around mid-day the fighting began with a two-hour exchange of artillery fire.
During the course of this, the Swedish artillery quickly showed its skill by achieving a superior rate of fire. As the firing slowed, Pappenheim began a series of seven attacks on the Swedish right. Turned back each time, he was then counterattacked by General Johan Banér’s Swedish horse and driven from the field. On Tilly’s right, he ordered his other cavalry forces to attack. Moving forward, they scattered their Saxon counterparts. Sensing an opportunity, the Imperial commander directed his tercios to begin an oblique march to the right to sweep away the Saxons and strike the Swedish left.
Seeing his allies crumble under Tilly’s attack, Gustavus shifted his second line, under General Gustav Horn, to meet the threat. Forming a right angle to the original front, these forces began a heavy bombardment of the approaching enemy. Tilly’s maneuver left the Swedish right unopposed and Gustavus began efforts to bring these troops into the fight. Accompanied by Banér’s heavy cavalry and some infantry, Gustavus personally led his light cavalry across the original front on an attack against the Imperial artillery.
Capturing the guns, they were soon turned against the flank and rear of Tilly’s slow-moving formation. Under heavy fire on multiple fronts, Tilly’s men exchanged shots with the Swedes as their advance ground to a halt. Taking more punishment than they were able to give, the Imperial troops held their position until evening when their lines began to crumble. In the course of the fighting, Tilly was wounded and had to be removed from the field. Falling back, the retreat quickly became a rout as the Catholic League’s army lost cohesion and fled the field.
In the course of the fighting, Gustavus lost around 3,000-3,500 men, while his allies suffered around 2,000. Tilly’s losses totaled around 7,000-7,600, while an additional 6,000 were captured. Many of these prisoners were permitted to join the Swedish army further swelling its ranks. A decisive Protestant victory, Breitenfeld saw the effective destruction of Tilly’s army. In the wake of Gustavus’ triumph, additional German states rallied to the cause and the French government began greater financial support of the Swedish campaigns. The victory at Breitenfeld was also a validation of Gustavus’ new, combined arms approach to warfare in which infantry, artillery, and cavalry worked together in self-supporting units.
Painting: Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden at the Battle of Breitenfeld (1632)
Artist: Johann Walter (1594-1632)
oil on canvas
Musée historique de la ville de Strasbourg
Text source: http://militaryhistory.about.com
This land being swallowed by the Gulf is home to half of the country’s oil refineries, a matrix of pipelines that serve 90 percent of the nation’s offshore energy production and 30 percent of its total oil and gas supply, a port vital to 31 states, and 2 million people who would need to find other places to live.
The landscape on which all that is built is washing away at a rate of a football field every hour, 16 square miles per year.
For years, most residents didn’t notice because they live inside the levees and seldom travel into the wetlands. But even those who work or play in the marshes were misled for decades by the gradual changes in the landscape. A point of land eroding here, a bayou widening there, a spoil levee sinking a foot over 10 years. In an ecosystem covering thousands of square miles, those losses seemed insignificant. There always seemed to be so much left.
Now locals are trying to deal with the shock of losing places they had known all their lives — fishing camps, cypress swamps, beachfronts, even cattle pastures and backyards — with more disappearing every day.
Fishing guide Ryan Lambert is one of them. When he started fishing the wetlands out of Buras 34 years ago, he had to travel through six miles of healthy marshes, swamps and small bays to reach the Gulf of Mexico. “Now it’s all open water,” Lambert said. “You can stand on the dock and see the Gulf.”
The evidence that Obamacare has lost its salience as a political attack has been mounting in recent months, as the 2014 elections kick into gear. The latest clue is a Wednesday report from the New York Times that analyzed official releases from congressional offices. This summer compared to last, the number of releases related to Obamacare fell from 530 to 138.
"The relative dearth of Obamacare-titled statements this August shows that (Republicans) have found other issues to raise with constituents as the midterm elections approach," the Times’s Derek Willis wrote, "like investigations into the Internal Revenue Service and Department of Veterans Affairs."
That conclusion is backed up by other recent indicators. Bloomberg reported last week that anti-Obamacare ads had been disappearing from airwaves in key Senate states. The number of ads in North Carolina, where Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) has been targeted over the law, fell by half from April to July. A similar trend has been tracked in Arkansas and Louisiana, both states with incumbent Democrats on defense over the law. Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor even had the gall to go up with an ad that put a positive spin on Obamacare, though it didn’t mention the law by name. A group supporting Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) has done the same.
The GOP’s anti-Obamacare strategy — which the RNC Chair Reince Priebus declared in March was enough to give them control of Congress — died not from one fatal blow but by dozens of smaller cuts leading up to the midterm elections.
A reduction of political attacks on the Affordable Care Act would be welcome indeed, but even so, the law still needs to weather a barrage of politically-motivated lawsuits.
We saw the Three Caballeros parrots! Thanks to your tips I visited the Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn and got to watch the adorable Monk Parakeet.
These parrots are similar to the wild parrots living in LA. They started as pets, escaped, and established themselves in the city.
After two years of assessment and public comment, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has whittled down an initial list of 66 coral species considered for protection under the Endangered Species Act in 2012 and today listed 20 as threatened and no species as endangered — the most protective category. Five of the newly listed species are from the Caribbean and 15 from the Pacific or Indian Oceans. Two coral species, elkhorn and staghorn, were listed as threatened in 2006. The move was a response to a 2009 petition to list 83 coral species filed by the Center for Biological Diversity.