President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the Inflation Reduction Act in the State Dining Room at the White House on Thursday, July 28, 2022, in Washington, D.C. (Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS)
A key tech industry bank’s sudden collapse this week was the second-largest in U.S. history, putting Silicon Valley on edge as the federal government took over the operation on Friday.
The scale of California-based Silicon Valley Bank’s failure – it had around $209 billion in assets at the end of 2022 – comes second only to the $307 billion collapse of Washington Mutual in 2008, the Washington Post reported.
The bank inspired a run on deposits Wednesday night with a surprise filing that it had sold $21 billion in assets to improve its balance sheet, raising the possibility that funds held there by tech start-up founders and venture capitalists could be lost.
In a statement, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation said it took over the bank on Friday and transferred all deposits to a newly-created bank. The FDIC said “full access” to insured deposits should be available “no later than Monday morning.”
Silicon Valley Bank – which partnered with nearly half of all U.S. venture-backed tech and healthcare companies, according to CNN – had been key to funding the risky start-ups that are a signature of the tech industry.
“They have a 40-year reputation earned the hard way built on the most extensive network of insider relationships with Silicon Valley’s most important players,” venture capitalist Antoine Nivard told the Post.
The federal takeover came before a wider market downturn around the world on Friday, CNN reported. A Reuters analysis found that U.S. banks lost more than $100 billion in stock market value from Wednesday to Friday.
Palm Warblers are migratory, insectivorous songbirds that pass through Ohio during migration. Photo by Ryan Sanderson
The issues I work on as American Bird Conservancy’s (ABC’s) resident pesticides guy rarely receive national attention. Imagine my shock when “chemical regulation,” “contaminant mitigation,” and, as an Ohio resident, “East Palestine on the Ohio-Pennsylvania border” became household phrases when the Norfolk Southern train derailed last month.
News of the derailment was soon followed by stories of the chemical spill’s impacts on wildlife. Ohio’s Division of Natural Resources estimated that 40,000 individual animals died in the weeks immediately following the crash, mostly minnows and other small fish. Frogs, snails, insects, and other small animals were found dead as well. So far, there is no direct evidence of bird deaths connected to the chemical spill, but I see plenty of warning signs that this is something that could impact them.
With large-scale pollution events, birds often suffer the most as indirect victims of long-term effects. Before the EPA banned DDT in 1972, this insecticide accumulated up the food chain and killed birds by thinning eggshells, making successful chick hatching nearly impossible for species like the Peregrine Falcon and Bald Eagle. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 coated the feathers of many nearby seabirds and hindered their ability to fly, but the loss of habitable coastline probably led to a higher loss of birdlife in the long run.
In the case of this chemical spill, mass die-offs of a single species, like minnows, may hamper local population recovery for years to come, with impacts that echo up the food chain. Water contamination may decrease habitability for insects and other invertebrates, which are vital food sources for birds trying to raise chicks. Fewer plants and less fertile streams mean fewer places to nest, rest, and refuel during migration. Plant die-offs could also pave the way for opportunistic nonnative species like Amur Honeysuckle, Purple Loosestrife, and Giant Hogweed — plants that crowd out the native species most valuable to birds and other wildlife.
These subtle changes are often the most harmful. In the Netherlands, use of a water-contaminating neonicotinoid insecticide was correlated with a population decrease in dozens of species of local birds. It was not that the birds were being poisoned themselves; rather, the insecticides reduced the supply of food to the point that it was insufficient to sustain population growth.
Regarding the question of exactly how birds will be impacted by the derailment, the most honest answer I can give is “we do not yet know.” We can take educated guesses based on the known impacts of other chemicals or past disasters, but there are no obvious precedents for the kind of spill that happened in Ohio in February. The upcoming migration season, with its influx of billions of individual birds into U.S. skies — millions of which will either pass through or even stop to breed for the summer in Ohio — will probably be the first real test of this environmental tragedy’s more immediate impacts on birdlife.
So, what can we do about it? While we cannot prepare for every possible accident or disaster, we can do a better job of addressing the threats we do know about, the events we can plan for. The more we cut back on existing environmental stressors, the better equipped ecosystems will be to bounce back from this kind of shock to the system. For example, we need fewer chemicals used in farming so that there are fewer contaminants already in the environment when there is a spill. We need fewer rodenticides in our communities so there is one less chemical threat posed to our pets, children, and native raptors. We need safer insecticides, fungicides, and herbicides that will have little to no impact on the environment.
These steps help ensure that an unexpected chemical spill is not the straw that breaks the songbird’s back.
American Bird Conservancy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving wild birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation. Find us on abcbirds.org, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (@ABCbirds).
Nearly all seafood contains mercury, a naturally occurring metal buried deep in the Earth’s crust. At room temperature, elemental mercury is quite dangerous; just a few drops can contaminate an entire room. When heated, the element becomes an odorless, colorless gas that can travel great distances before being absorbed into bodies of water. It can also enter lakes, rivers, and oceans when human activities’ waste or runoff flows into the surrounding biomes.
Here, we explore how this hazardous metal escapes from rocks to pollute aquatic habitats. We also detail measures we can take to remove mercury from marine ecosystems, improving the health of marine animals and the ocean.
Mercury and the Environment
Mercury finds its way out of the Earth and into living creatures in several ways. While forest fires and volcanoes release toxic gas into the atmosphere, the most significant cause is human activity, accounting for nearly two-thirds of all mercury released into the environment.1
Each year in the United States, burned fossil fuels release 160 tons of mercury into the atmosphere.1 Eventually, it returns to Earth through rainfall, air deposition, or gravitational forces and is transferred into the ocean. Research estimates that between 80,000 and 450,000 metric tons of mercury pollute our oceans, with around 66% of the chemical residing in shallower waters.2
Agricultural processes; municipal, industrial, and medical waste; and the burning of wood or any mercury-containing waste can also release the toxin into the air. This is known as non-point source pollution.3
Mercury can also enter environments through direct point sources where factories—including paper mills and battery manufacturers—or mining operations expel the chemical into nearby marine habitats. Mercury can also contaminate freshwater when engineers flood land to create reservoirs for hydroelectric power. As the waterlogged plants and trees decay, the resulting low-oxygen environment allows bacteria to thrive, and those microorganisms combine elemental or inorganic mercury with carbon to create methylmercury.
What Is Methylmercury?
Methylmercury is a neurotoxic compound of mercury and carbon that bioaccumulates in the marine food chain. When humans consume mercury, it is almost always in this form.
In this compounded form, methylmercury can attach itself to tiny particles in the water and soil in aquatic habitats, where it collects and builds up throughout the food web. According to the Centers for Disease Control, it is this hazardous substance in specific that scientists see collecting in living creatures—from coral, to fish, to birds, to humans.
Fish and Mercury Exposure
Tilefish contain high levels of mercury.
Because anthropogenic activity expels so much mercury into the atmosphere, nearly all aquatic life around the globe has traces of mercury as well as other contaminants known as persistent organic pollutants. One 2009 study from the U.S. Geological Service found mercury in every fish sampled from 291 streams across the country; a quarter of the fish tested had mercury levels that exceeded human consumption guidelines.4
Mercury is also highly bioaccumulative, meaning that concentrations of the element increase simply because living creatures absorb it from their surrounding environment. Once released into a body of water, mercury attaches itself to the fat cells of fish, passing through the lipid membranes of cells and spreading throughout the surrounding tissue.5
Because it binds so well with proteins and amino acids in the muscle of fish, mercury quickly travels up the food chain. Small fish eat particles containing mercury; then those fish are eaten by bigger fish where the mercury from the small fish coalesces, increasing by roughly a factor of 10 at each step along the way.6 The longer the fish lives, the more mercury it retains.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lists top predator species—including tilefish, swordfish, sharks, and king mackerel—as the fish with the highest levels of mercury. In contrast, bottom-feeding scallops, clams, and shrimp have the lowest. Fish exposed to the methylated element can experience several issues, including reproductive toxicity, congenital disabilities, and disruptions to the nervous system.7
While the effects of mercury consumption on humans have been widely studied, its impact on fish and aquatic ecosystems has not seen the same level of investigation. Still, the limited research describes how mercury can damage fish genes, cells, and proteins, causing profound changes to behavior, growth, and survival.
Humans and Mercury Exposure
People exposed to mercury by eating contaminated fish, working in mercury mines, or other means suffer from similar health problems. Either through food consumption or air pollution, mercury is almost entirely absorbed into the bloodstream and then distributed quickly through all the tissues of the body. The largest amount of the poison collects in the brain, which is why mercury is considered a neurological toxin.8
With an estimated half-life of 39 to 80 days, levels of the toxin can build up in the human body over time, just like in fish.5
Reducing Mercury Exposure
For those with the preference and privilege to avoid eating fish, reducing mercury exposure from eating fish is simple enough. For the three billion people worldwide who depend on seafood for survival, it’s difficult to fathom that the advice to avoid mercury exposure is simply to eat fish in moderation.9 But short of global governmental intervention, eating less fish may be consumers’ only way of avoiding harmful levels of this ever-present toxin.
Only by reducing the amount of mercury introduced into the atmosphere can humans lower the amount of mercury in fish. Luckily, research at the International Institute for Sustainable Development Experimental Lakes Area found that when mercury is no longer added to an ecosystem, the ecosystem can heal, ultimately reducing the amount of mercury humans consume. This healing, however, can vary significantly between bodies of water; the response time in one part of the world might be quite different from somewhere else.
Still, positive changes are underway: 138 parties have ratified an international treaty called the Minamata Convention on Mercury. The initiative aims to #makemercuryhistory and to keep people healthy by reducing the number of neurotoxins released into the environment. Efforts include limiting mercury in consumer products (including skin-lightening face creams), banning the construction of additional mercury mines, and controlling the release of mercury in the air, water, and land.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), too, has issued new standards controlling the emissions from power plants burning fossil fuels, and the efforts have made a significant difference in the health outcomes of people affected by mercury exposure. Since 2015 when the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards went into effect, the regulations have prevented 130,000 asthma attacks, 4,700 heart attacks, and 11,000 early deaths.10
Incinerated municipal and medical waste was at one time a significant source of mercury emissions, but thanks to federal and state regulations, these emissions have been almost zeroed out.11 The EPA has also outlined the Methylmercury Fish Tissue Criterion—guidelines for acceptable levels of mercury in fish—as well as funding programs to clean up contaminated sites.
Restoring Ocean Health
Processes that remove mercury from aquatic habitats can play a role in rehabilitating global oceans. The most common, reliable, and affordable treatment is coagulation/filtration, which uses aluminum sulfate to consolidate both inorganic mercury and methylmercury into a solid that can be removed from the water and summarily disposed of at a hazardous waste site. Other processes include reverse osmosis, lime softening, and activated carbon.
Researchers have also looked to other aquatic life for inspiration to rid the ocean of mercury. Like all heavy metals, mercury is deadly to coral because the sea creatures so easily absorb the substance. In 2015 a team of scientists used this notion to invent a synthetic coral made of nanoplates of aluminum oxide that, through biomimicry, can actually remove mercury from the water by pulling in the metallic particles, just as biological coral would.12
Mercury contamination is undeniably one of the biggest environmental issues humanity faces, and while there has been significant awareness of and progress toward removing mercury in seafood, without worldwide diligence, humans still face rising levels of exposure. Anthropogenic activities like industrial-scale agriculture and deforestation can potentially disturb the long-term storage of mercury in soils, creating another potential source of mercury pollution.2 Without further and fast action to restore ocean habitats to their historical level of mercury, the future of marine ecosystems—and, by extension, all life on Earth—could be in great peril.
Frequently Asked Questions
How harmful is mercury in fish? Mercury in fish is harmful to the fish and the people who eat fish. It is a potent neurotoxin that can affect brain development in children and fetuses. That’s why the EPA recommends limiting the consumption of fish with higher concentrations and instead eating clams, shrimp, and scallops that have lower levels of exposure.
Do all fish have mercury in them? According to the FDA, almost all shellfish and fish have at least trace levels of mercury.
What fish is lowest in mercury? Small fish like anchovies, Atlantic mackerel, catfish, flounder, haddock, mullet, plaice, pollock, and salmon as well as shellfish like clams, crab, crawfish, and oysters have the lowest levels of mercury contamination, according to the FDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
Tomorrow, March 11, 2023, marks the 10-year anniversary of a historic paradigm shift away from cosmetics animal testing. When the European Union and Israel became the world’s first markets to ban animal tests for cosmetics such as makeup, shampoo and cologne, the change jump-started our global campaign to extend this precedent. It’s incredible to see all that we’ve accomplished since then: Norway, India, Taiwan, South Korea, New Zealand, Switzerland, Guatemala, Australia and Mexico have all enacted national measures against cosmetics animal testing. Through sustained advocacy efforts made possible by our multinational presence, we’ve secured cosmetics animal testing and sales bans on nearly every continent. This progress not only spares animals from needless suffering but puts pressure on other nations to follow suit or risk losing the ability to export and sell their cosmetics to key markets. The number of country-level cosmetics animal testing sales bans or restrictions has risen from 28 to 43, and that’s not even counting 10 state-level bans in the U.S. and 13 more in Brazil.
And that’s just the legislative progress: On the corporate side, we’ve seen just as much enthusiasm for using non-animal testing methods that are more relevant to human safety than the painful chemical tests carried out on guinea pigs, rabbits, mice and rats. Many of the top beauty brands in the world—Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Avon, L’Oréal, Johnson & Johnson—have joined us, our longtime partner Lush Cosmetics and our local NGO partners to outlaw cosmetics testing on animals in many of the world’s most influential economies.
You have helped to make this more humane world a reality; consumer demand has spurred a cruelty-free products sector now valued in the billions. And even more people became active on this issue when Save Ralph, our short film that featured rabbit Ralph’s life as a laboratory “tester,” inspired nearly 800 million #SaveRalph posts and homages on TikTok, driving more than 5 million people to sign one of our petitions, and prompting Mexico to become the first country in North America to pass a ban and led to renewed campaign momentum in other countries.
As we celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the EU and Israel bans, we’re looking forward to the fights ahead. Here’s where we’re working and how you can help:
In the U.S., we continue to push for the passage of the bipartisan Humane Cosmetics Act, which would prohibit the production and sale of animal-tested cosmetics. Last year, the bill garnered immense support, with 20 senators and 188 representatives co-sponsoring the legislation. The bill is also endorsed by the Personal Care Products Council, as well as hundreds of companies, including Whole Foods Market. We expect the measure to be reintroduced soon, and we’re determined to work toward its passage in the 118th Congress. You can urge your legislator to support an end to cosmetics testing on animals. In the meantime, we are active on the state level, pressing for additional laws to prohibit the sale of cosmetics newly tested on animals.
In Canada, bills backed by Humane Society International/Canada and our partners have fallen just shy of becoming law. In 2021, we helped secure an election pledge by the country’s ruling party to introduce legislation to end cosmetic testing on animals by 2023, and our team is working closely with the Canadian industry and other stakeholders to hold the government to its commitment. You can sign our petition to urge the Canadian government to include cosmetics animal testing ban language in its 2023 budget bill.
In Brazil earlier this month, we celebrated the introduction of a regulation that would restrict some animal testing for cosmetic purposes countrywide. The measure builds on the state-level testing bans we have previously secured there and provides further incentive for lawmakers to enact a federal law that HSI, our partners and the Brazilian industry association have been championing. (You can sign our petition to encourage Brazilian lawmakers to take action.)
In Chile, a federal bill backed by HSI, our NGO partner and the national industry association is only one step away from becoming law. Please sign our petition to help us push it across the finish line.
Even in the EU, the landmark 10-year-old ban on animal testing in the cosmetics regulation faces challenges from regulators who are demanding new animal testing for cosmetic ingredients under the EU’s chemicals regulation. This is unacceptable, and our team is spearheading a call for essential revisions to the law in order to advance the goal of safety innovation without animal suffering.
In addition to our campaign efforts, HSI has been working with global industry partners via the Animal-Free Safety Assessment Collaboration to create a first-of-its-kind master class in animal-free cosmetic safety assessment. The AFSA Master Class will support smaller companies, government authorities and other stakeholders in a transition to state-of-the-art non-animal methods. This training and capacity-building effort is a vital complement to our policy efforts, to build understanding, confidence and acceptance of new non-animal approaches, assuring human safety is maintained and providing vital information on how to comply with animal testing bans.
There is so much to be proud of in this work, and we’re honored to have led the way this far. With your continued advocacy, we’re surely close to a world where cosmetics testing on animals is only a distant memory.
Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Nevada Senate Committee on Natural Resources heard SB90, a bill to recognize the wild mustang as the official state horse. Like the original wild horse and burro movement in the 1960s, the effort was supported by Nevada’s schoolchildren with over 100 kids showing up to attend the hearing! The students eloquently expressed their support for the wild mustangs who call Nevada home and we are so grateful for their passion.
Unfortunately, the opposition also came out in full force. Nevada ranchers who graze their privately-owned cattle and sheep on public lands used their testimony time to blame horses for range degradation. Each rancher who spoke made the hearing about wild horse management and not about the naming of the state horse. The hearing ended with no vote, as committee members discuss next steps.
We need people from all over the country to speak up about the mustang’s historic importance and the tourism resource they are for the state. Smithsonian Magazine even named Nevada the number one place in North America to see wild horses!As a potential visitor to Nevada, your voice matters, but it will only be heard if you act now!
Call each of the five committee members and ask them to support SB90.
All you need to say is: “Hi, my name is [NAME] and as a tourist who visits Nevada for its wild mustangs, I am calling to ask that Senator [NAME] support SB90 to recognize the wild mustang as Nevada’s state horse. Thank you.
(StraightNews.org) — Walmart has announced it is to close all of its stores in Portland, Oregon, for financial reasons, only months after claiming that “theft is an issue.” The company said it is still performing well across the United States, but its outlets in Portland will close because their sales are not as healthy as expected. In December, CEO Doug McMillon said, “Theft is an issue. It’s higher than what it has historically been – prices will be higher and/or stores will close if authorities don’t crack down on prosecuting shoplifting crimes.”
Businesses in the left-wing city have been under increasing strain due to high levels of law-breaking. Last November, the owner of a clothing store Marcy Landolfo closed her business and left a note on the door as she departed. The note stated that she had suffered 15 break-ins within a year and a half and was not able to keep going. “We have no protection, or recourse, against the criminal behavior that goes unpunished,” Landolfo wrote, before adding, “Our city is in peril.”
Portland’s crime rates have exploded over the past few years, and the city is a focal point for extreme left activism and politics. Over the past 3 years, homelessness figures have shot up from 4,000 to 6,600, while homicides have almost tripled from 36 in 2019 to 97 in 2022. Vehicle theft had risen from 6,500 to 11,000 during the same period. The city was the scene of notorious protests at the height of the Black Lives Matter campaigns in 2020 which prompted President Trump to send in federal troops. While the city’s Mayor Ted Wheeler sided with the protestors, he was still subjected to violent threats when he refused to reduce sufficient levels of funding to the police. However, the city commissioners did cut $15 million from the law enforcement budget and disbanded the Gun Violence Reduction Team. The result was a crime eruption and record numbers of homicides and shootings.
There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true. —Soren Kierkegaard. "...truth is true even if nobody believes it, and falsehood is false even if everybody believes it. That is why truth does not yield to opinion, fashion, numbers, office, or sincerity--it is simply true and that is the end of it" - Os Guinness, Time for Truth, pg.39. “He that takes truth for his guide, and duty for his end, may safely trust to God’s providence to lead him aright.” - Blaise Pascal. "There is but one straight course, and that is to seek truth and pursue it steadily" – George Washington letter to Edmund Randolph — 1795. We live in a “post-truth” world. According to the dictionary, “post-truth” means, “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” Simply put, we now live in a culture that seems to value experience and emotion more than truth. Truth will never go away no matter how hard one might wish. Going beyond the MSM idealogical opinion/bias and their low information tabloid reality show news with a distractional superficial focus on entertainment, sensationalism, emotionalism and activist reporting – this blogs goal is to, in some small way, put a plug in the broken dam of truth and save as many as possible from the consequences—temporal and eternal. "The further a society drifts from truth, the more it will hate those who speak it." – George Orwell “There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.” ― Soren Kierkegaard
Following in the spirit of Britain's Queen Boudica, Queen of the Iceni. A boudica.us site. I am an opinionator, do your own research, verification. Reposts, reblogs do not neccessarily reflect our views.