Backcasts archive: Through Jan. 11, 2008


Blog calendar: Jan. 10 | Jan. 9 | Jan. 8 | Jan. 7

posted Jan. 10, 2008

Plastic bag ban has a new champion in China

China is a lot of things to a lot of people, and it's certainly gotten grief lately over the lead-in-toys issue.

But this is the year of the Beijing Summer Olympics and the nation appears motivated to improve its image. And despite its shortcomings, we laud China now for banning plastic bags.

Castaway plastic shopping bags are everywhere you look, it seems. It's remarkable how deep into the outdoors they show up.

As the Associated Press reports out of Beijing, in China they are choking its cities, farms and waterways.

Enough with "white pollution," says the State Council, China's Cabinet, which levees the country's highest level of administrative regulation and follow-through.

The measure eliminates the flimsiest bags and forces stores to charge for others, making China the latest nation to target plastic bags in a bid to cut waste and conserve resources.

Beijing residents appeared to take the ban in stride, reflecting rising environmental consciousness and concern over skyrocketing oil prices, according to the AP.

"If we can reduce waste and save resources, then it's good both for us and the whole world," said college student Xu Lixian, 21, who was buying tangerines out of cardboard boxes at a sidewalk stall.

The ban takes effect June 1, two months before Beijing hosts the Summer Olympic Games, ahead of which it has been demolishing run-down neighborhoods and working to clear smog. The games have added impetus to a number of policies and projects, likely boosting odds for the bag ban's implementation.

More durable plastic bags still will be permitted for sale by markets and shops.

The regulation, dated Dec. 31 and posted on a government Web site Tuesday, called for "a return to cloth bags and shopping baskets to reduce the use of plastic bags."

Hurrah for China, and let's hope the ban has a longer half-life than a plastic bag, too.

"I think this really shows that China is being a responsible country," said Xu, the citrus buyer.

Internationally, legislation to discourage plastic bag use has been passed in parts of South Africa, Ireland and Taiwan, and the bags have been banned altogether in Bangladesh and at least 30 remote Alaskan villages, according to the AP.

Last year, San Francisco became the first U.S. city to ban petroleum-based plastic grocery bags, and in New York yesterday the City Council was set to vote on a measure that would require large stores to recycle plastic bags.

It's a good start here, but we've certainly got a long way to go.

You see in the United States, the Sierra Club's Sierra magazine estimates almost 100 billion plastic bags are thrown out each year, the AP reports. And, as you well know, way too many of them wind up in our hunting fields and fishing waters.


posted Jan. 9, 2008

In New Mexico, a snow survival story from which we all can learn

Heed these words, winter adventurers: "Snow caves do work. They do save lives."

A snow cave, along with the ingenuity and fortitude of the two snowboarders who built it, is being credited for keeping the lost souls alive during three frigid nights in the New Mexico backcountry, the Associated Press reports out of Santa Fe.

It's a survival story all sportsmen can appreciate and serves notice to all of us that being prepared is essential for any outdoor activity.

Adam Putnam, 36, an emergency room physician and an experienced winter camper, and his fiancée, Rachel Fehl, 30, a nurse, became disoriented Saturday in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains east of Santa Fe after boarding at a ski area.

Fortunately, the Albuquerque couple had a shovel with them to dig snow caves for shelter, said Peter Olson, a spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety who is quoted at the beginning of this item.

"In this case I think it was the difference for them," Olson said of the snow caves.

Combined with cool heads, a backpack hydration system to melt snow for drinking and a series of calls from their cell phone and it all resulted in a happy ending yesterday. Searchers took advantage of a break in the whiteout conditions and a National Guard helicopter plucked the pair from a ridge where they had stomped SOS in the deep snow, according to the AP.

After a couple of hours in the hospital for treatment of cold toes and mild dehydration the couple were able to thank their lucky stars, quick thinking and shovel.

Meanwhile, two other Albuquerque snowboarders, Michael George and Kyle Kerschen, both 27, remain lost in the snow and miserable weather of Colorado, according to the Denver Post.

The boarders went missing Saturday from the Wolf Creek Ski Area. Heavy snow and strong winds have grounded helicopters being used in the search, and we can only hope for the best in this difficult situation.


posted Jan. 8, 2008

Zimbabwe elephant that crashed New Year's party is killed by rangers

What has one tusk and doesn't take kindly to fireworks or having its rump slapped by strangers or any other form of human harassment.

That would be the late African elephant Tusker, who was shot and killed Sunday by rangers after New Year's revelers provoked the animal into trampling several cars, the Associated Press reports from Harare, Zimbabwe.

Apparently the mammoth pachyderm had become a favorite among visitors at the Charara safari camp on the shores of Lake Kariba, 230 miles northwest of Harare, according to conservationists.

But after its recent escapades the 50-year-old bull elephant was labeled a "problem animal" and rangers said they were forced to put it down.

The elephant was provoked into trashing cars by some of the hundreds of young people at a New Year's party, said Johnny Rodrigues, head of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force.

Music from powerful speakers at the party could be heard for miles across the bush, he said.

Witnesses told the Associated Press the elephant stomped on beer and soda bottles and attempted to eat broken glass. They also reported drunken partygoers taunting the elephant by throwing bottles, lighting fireworks, flashing car lights, hooting and even plucking hairs from the animal's tail and slapping its rump.

Thankfully no one was hurt, Rodrigues said.

But that's definitely no way to treat wildlife. When you think about it, isn't that tantamount to poaching? Either way, it's the same result – one dead animal, and completely unnecessary.

Rodrigues disagreed that Tusker had become a danger to people after the New Year's incident.

"Despite this senseless abuse, we have had no reports of Tusker hurting anyone, which is testament to his basic good nature," he said. "It is shocking these parties where drugs and alcohol are abused should be permitted in wildlife areas."

The one-tusked elephant was a regular to the Charara area, where he foraged for food in garbage cans, according to the AP.

"Tusker was the resident Charara elephant," Rodrigues said. "He was a legend and a great favorite of tourists and locals alike."

He said an attempt to take the elephant to another area was abandoned because veterinarians said Tusker had an intestinal infection and was unlikely to survive medications given to him and the journey in a freight container.

Rough "cut": Cold cat blamed for black out in Gem State

A cat may have nine lives, but not after blowing out nine feeder lines at an electrical substation.

That's the story from Nampa, Idaho, where a feline seeking shelter yesterday snuggled up to a warm transformer and contacted a live circuit, causing a power outage that blacked out more than 12,000 homes and businesses, the Associated Press reports.

Service was restored in less than three hours to most customers, including City Hall, where the lights came on in time for a City Council meeting, utility spokesman Dennis Lopez said.

The outage also disabled traffic lights in the city of about 77,000 people. Temporary stop signs were set up at affected intersections and about 15 police officers were assigned to direct and monitor traffic. Police Lt. Eric Skoglund said he didn't know of any accidents that could be blamed on the outage.

Some say it was curiosity (sorry, couldn't help it), but, yes, the short circuit killed the cat.


posted Jan. 7, 2008

Heist of rodeo animals is a bunch of bulls

It turns out the hijacking of a truckload of rodeo animals was just a bunch of bulls – just a bunch of very valuable, very expensive, very ornery bulls.

Who knows how well thought out was this heist in Tennessee, but we're figuring not very, considering the culprit abandoned the live cargo early Saturday after running out of fuel, the Associated Press reports from Nashville.

We're also betting the scalawag fled the cab less than eight seconds after the truck came to a halt. Either way, the cattle rustler was out of the money.

The truck and trailer were found early Saturday with an empty gas tank in the outskirts of Nashville, police said. On board were about a dozen animals bound for a professional bull-riding show. The bulls, valued at $100,000, were unharmed. A suspect had not been arrested.

Police Sgt. Robert Durbin said the animals were being delivered to Nashville's Municipal Auditorium for the show when the thief jumped into the cab late Friday.

A woman in the truck escaped despite the carjacker's attempts to keep her inside, witnesses said.

Attempt to smuggle birds doesn't take flight at New York border crossing

Speaking of illegally transporting live animals, border inspectors in New York put a halt to two lawbreakers' bird-brained idea of smuggling pigeons from Canada – in their coat pockets.

Agents stopped the pair last week at the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge border crossing and retrieved four live birds, taped from neck to tail, from the pockets of a pigeon collector and a traveling companion, the Associated Press reports from Lewiston, N.Y.

After being asked to remove his jacket, one of the two detainees from Uxbridge, Ontario, told Customs and Border Protection officers he is a pigeon collector who belongs to a club that trades and sells birds of various colors. He claimed to be taking the birds to trade or sell to his uncle in Le Roy, N.Y., outside Rochester.

The men, whose names were not released, were fined $1,000 and the case was referred to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and United States Department of Agriculture inspectors for possible criminal charges, said Customs and Border Protection spokesman Kevin Corsaro. USDA inspectors took custody of the birds.

For all of you bird lovers and would-be pigeon collectors out there, know the law: People bringing pet birds into the United State are required to arrange for a veterinary inspection at the border three to five days before entering to protect against the transmission of communicable diseases such as bird flu, according to the AP.

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    About the author: Brett Pauly spent nearly six years editing and publishing ESPNOutdoors.com before moving on to produce the ESPN.com Sports Travel site. He is a national award-winning writer and editor with 14 years of experience in the newspaper trade, including stints at the Los Angeles Daily News and Seattle Times. The Evergreen State is where he now makes his home. Click here to email him.

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