The 2007 Rubber Dodo Award
Hurricane George
Ireland's Shame: A Superhighway across the Hill of Tara
Save the Hill of Tara and the Skryne Valley

September 6, 2007

The 2007 Rubber Dodo Award
The Center for Biological Diversity

Dirk Kempthorne is acknowledged as the
Interior Secretary Who Has Protected
Fewer Species than Any other in History

On August 24, 2007, The Center for Biological Diversity presented Secretary of Interior Dirk Kempthorne with the first annual Rubber Dodo Award.

Since his confirmation as secretary of interior on May 26, 2006, Kempthorne has not placed a single plant or animal on the federal endangered species list. The last listing (12 Hawaiian picture-wing flies) occurred on May 9, 2006 -- 472 days ago. The previous record-holder was James Watt, who listed no species for 376 days between 1981 and 1982.

Watt's refusal to list species resulted in a 1982 congressional amendment to the Endangered Species Act, which established firm timelines for listing species and litigation consequences for violating the deadlines. Kempthorne's refusal prompted Ed Markey (D-MA) to introduce H.R. 3459, the "Transparent Reporting Under ESA Listing Act," on August 4, 2007. It would amend the Endangered Species Act to require the secretary to explain the scientific basis of decisions to deny Endangered Species Act protections to imperiled plants and animals.

"Kempthorne is eminently deserving of the first annual Rubber Dodo award," said Kieran Suckling, policy director of the Center for Biological Diversity, which administers the award. "His refusal to protect a single imperiled species in more than 15 months gives him the worst record of any interior secretary in the history of the Endangered Species Act. His policies should go the way of the dodo as soon as possible."

"Political appointees like Kempthorne come and go, but extinction is forever. No politician has the right to destroy the future of an endangered species."

2007 marks the inaugural year of the Rubber Dodo Award, which will be presented annually by the Center for Biological Diversity to a deserving individual in public or private service who has done the most to drive endangered species extinct.

In 1598, Dutch sailors landing on the uninhabited island of Mauritius discovered a flightless, three-foot tall, extraordinarily friendly bird. Its original scientific name was Didus ineptus. (Contemporary scientists use the less defamatory Raphus cucullatus.) To the rest of the world, it's the dodo -- the most famous extinct species on earth.

Having evolved over millions of year with no natural predators, the dodo lost the ability to fly, becoming a land-based consumer of fruits, nuts and berries. Having never known predators, it showed no fear of humans or the menagerie of animals accompanying them to Mauritius.

It trusting nature led to its rapid extinction. By 1681, the dodo was extinct, having been hunted and out-competed by humans, dogs, cats, rats, macaques, and pigs. Humans logged its forest cover and pigs uprooted and ate much of the understory vegetation.

The origin of the name dodo is unclear. It likely came from the Dutch word dodoor, meaning "sluggard," the Portuguese word doudo, meaning "fool" or "crazy," or the Dutch word dodaars meaning "plump-arse" (that nation's name for the little grebe).

The dodo's reputation as a foolish, ungainly bird derives in part from its friendly naiveté and the very plump captives that were taken on tour across Europe. The reputation was cemented with the 1865 publication of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

Based on skeleton reconstructions and the discovery of early drawings, scientists now believe that the dodo was a much sleeker animal than commonly portrayed. The rotund European exhibitions were accidentally produced by overfeeding captive birds.

Hurricane George:
How the White House Drowned New Orleans

By Greg Palast / Greg

It's been two years. And America's media is about to have another tear-gasm over New Orleans. Maybe Anderson Cooper will weep again. The big networks will float into the moldering corpse of the city and give you uplifting stories about rebuilding and hope.

Now, let's cut through the cry-baby crap. Here's what happened two years ago -- and what's happening now.

This is what an inside source told me. And it makes me sick:

"By midnight on Monday, the White House knew. Monday night, I was at the state Emergency Operations Center and nobody was aware that the levees had breeched. Nobody."

The charge is devastating: That, on August 29, 2005, the White House withheld from the state police the information that New Orleans was about to flood. From almost any other source, I would not have believed it. But this was not just any source. The whistle-blower is Dr. Ivor van Heerden, deputy director of the Louisiana State University Hurricane Center, the chief technician advising the state on saving lives during Katrina.

I'd come to van Heerden about another matter, but in our talks, it was clear he had something he wanted to say, and it was a big one. He charged that the White House, FEMA and the Army Corp hid, for critical hours, their discovery that the levees surrounding New Orleans were cracking, about to burst and drown the city.

Understand that Katrina never hit New Orleans. The hurricane swung east of the city, so the state evacuation directors assumed New Orleans was now safe -- and evacuation could slow while emergency efforts moved east with the storm.

But unknown to the state, in those crucial hours on Monday, the federal government's helicopters had filmed the cracks that would become walls of death by Tuesday.

Van Heerden revealed: "FEMA knew at 11 o'clock on Monday that the levees had breeched. At 2 PM they flew over the 17th Street Canal and took video of the breech."

Question: "So the White House wouldn't tell you the levees had breeched?"

Dr. Van Heerden: "They didn't tell anybody."

Question: "And you're at the Emergency Center.'

Dr. Van Heerden: "I mean nobody knew. The Corps of Engineers knew. FEMA knew. None of us knew."

I could not get the White House gang to respond to the charges.

That leaves the big, big question: WHY? Why on earth would the White House not tell the city to get the remaining folks out of there?

The answer: cost. Political and financial cost. A hurricane is an act of God -- but a catastrophic failure of the levees is an act of Bush. That is, under law dating back to 1935, a breech of the federal levee system makes the damage -- and the deaths -- a federal responsibility. That means, as van Heeden points out, that "these people must be compensated."

The federal government, by law, must build and maintain the Mississippi levees to withstand known dangers -- or pay the price when they fail.

Indeed, that was the rule applied in the storms that hit Westhampton Dunes, New York, in 1992. There, when federal sea barriers failed, the floodwaters wiped away 190 homes. The feds rebuilt them from the public treasury. But these were not just any homes. They are worth an average of $3 million apiece -- the summer homes of movie stars and celebrity speculators.

There were no movie stars floating face down in the Lower Ninth Ward nor in Lakeview nor St. Bernard Parish. For the 'luvvies' of Westhampton Dunes, the federal government even trucked in sand to replace the beaches. But for New Orleans' survivors, there's the aluminum gulag of FEMA trailer parts. Today, two years later, 89,000 families still live in this mobile home Guantanamo -- with no plan whatsoever for their return.

And what was the effect of the White House's self-serving delay?

I spoke with van Heerden in his university office. The computer model of the hurricane flashed quietly as I waited for him to answer. Then he said, "Fifteen hundred people drowned. That's the bottom line."

They could have survived Hurricane Katrina. But they got no mercy from Hurricane George.

For the rest of the story, get the DVD, "BIG EASY TO BIG EMPTY: The Untold Story of the Drowning of New Orleans," as reported by Greg Palast from Louisiana for Democracy Now, with Amy Goodman and the music of "the city that care forgot."

Ireland's Shame:
A Superhighway across the Hill of Tara

By T.S. Kerrigan / American Reporter Correspondent

"Tara is, because of its associations, probably the most consecrated spot in Ireland, and its destruction will leave many bitter memories behind it."
-- W. B. Yeats, et al., in a letter of protest to The Times, 27th June 1902, when Tara was last threatened.

Just when you thought the Celtic Tiger economy had done it worst, there's news that the Irish Government -- in the name of progress, of course -- is implementing a plan to build the M3 freeway through the Hill of Tara, the ancient seat of the high kings of Ireland.

This would seem to be the worst news to befall that lovely site since medieval times, when Irish ecclesiastics, locked in a struggle with the lay authority of the times, put a curse on the place and destroyed all secular power in the land of saints and sages until the coming of Brian Boru.

Will romantic Ireland be "dead and gone," as poet W.B. Yeats contended, when that location is straddled with a four-lane toll road and a 50-acre interchange? Will this obvious playing to the whims of the Irish motorist result in yet another desecration of the values of the past?

Work has, unfortunately, already begun despite an outcry which has spread beyond the borders of the country. William Harding, Professor of Archeology at Edinburgh University, has claimed that "it is an act of cultural vandalism as flagrant as ripping a knife through a Rembrandt painting." Government-owned forests in Rath Lugh are being systematically decimated as part of the project.
Poorly supervised digging at nearby Baronstown has produced bones in various and random parts of that area, with no attempt to mark or number these finds. At Roestown, a complex of beehive souterrains (Bronze Age condominiums) has been removed by workers, prompting its nomination by the respected World Monuments Fund to the list of 100 Most Endangered Sites.

Destruction is also taking place at Collierstown, even before the Public-Private Partnership has entered into a contract to build the M3 Highway. The bureaucrats of the nation seem to be in a great hurry to complete the planned highway before public opposition grows too strong.

The insensitivity of the government to the beauties of the west of Ireland has been apparent before in places like Bantry Bay and Bellanboy, but this surely is its most momentous outrage in recent years. What's next, a shopping center connecting the Lakes of Killarney? A strip mall in Dingle? The possibilities are only limited by the imaginations of the unprincipled people who seem to be in charge of the country's cultural future.

Those who are not indifferent to the destruction of Irish culture are being advised to write to the Taioseach, Bertie Ahern, to Dick Roche, the Minister for the Environment, and Sean Haughey, Chairman of the Environmental Committee of the Irish Dail.
Tourism being one of Ireland's major industries, those who oppose the project want to enlist the voices of people conscious of their Irish heritage in places like the United States and Australia.

A quick response is needed if these geographical treasures of Ireland are to be preserved.

The American Reporter.
You can reach AR Correspondent T.S. Kerrigan at:

Save the Hill of Tara
And the Skryne Valley

The Global Arts Collective

Professor Dennis Harding, Department of Archaeology, Edinburgh University, has called the plan an act of cultural vandalism as flagrant as ripping a knife through a Rembrandt painting. Hardings powerful metaphor comes closest to expressing the horror felt by many at the prospect of Tara being brutally excavated by machine, and then straddled with a four-lane toll road and a fifty-acre interchange....

We call on the Irish Government to review their decision to build the M3 freeway through the Hill of Tara/Skryne Vallley. There are other options available. These include: improving the existing N3; re-opening the Navan-Dublin railway line; or moving the M3 away from this delicate archaeological landscape.

Join the growing worldwide grassroots movement of people who want to protect Tara.

ACT Now!
Join the growing worldwide grassroots movement of people who want to protect Tara.
You can take action by going to the following website.

  • Learn about Anam Cara for Tara Festival campaign
  • Read Tara Position Paper
  • Sign the petition.
  • Tell a Friend
  • View photos and read Save Tara Press Release
  • Join the Save Tara Yahoo Group
  • Download the latest edition of the Tara Foundation Magazine

    Contact Irish government representatives:
  • Write a letter to the Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister).
    Mr Bertie Ahern, Taoiseach, Department of the Taoiseach, Government Buildings, Upper Merrion Street, Dublin 2, Ireland.
    Phone: 00353 1 6194020 / or 4021 / or 4043. Fax: 00353 1 6764048

    Other government officials to contact:
  • Minister for the Environment, Dick Roche, Department of the Envioronment, Heritage and Local Government, Customs House, Dublin 1, Ireland.

  • Sean Haughey, TD. Chariman, Environment Committee,
    Dáil Éireann, Dublin 1, Ireland.

    Write to the Irish Media:
  • The Irish Times
    The Irish Times Building,
    PO Box 74,
    24-28 Tara Street,
    Dublin 2, Ireland

  • The Irish Independent
    1-800-733-733 (free -- registration required)

  • The Irish Examiner
    Academy Street, Cork (free-registration optional)

  • The Meath Chronicle (free -- registration required)

  • The Sunday Times

    For more information contact:

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