Recent eye-catchers

Thanks to everyone who sent their best wishes to Trinity and his family. The folks at Trin’s paper have been especially supportive – he received two sympathy cards from individual coworkers and a lovely plant from the newsroom in general.

Anyway, I haven’t been blind the last couple of days. I compiled a collection of stories I’ve read recently so I can blog about them.

In my neighborhood: Scientists tracking cougars in the Santa Monica Mountains believe there’s a new, previously unknown cat roaming the area, which apparently stretches from Topanga Canyon all the way to Point Mugu. In terms that may be more understandable, that’s from Woodland Hills to Oxnard, dude:

Riley and his colleagues at the largest urban national park in the U.S. began monitoring cougars in 2002, when they received state funding to launch the Mountain Lion Project. The scientific study was designed to allow researchers to learn more about the habits of cougars in the 154,000-acre park.

When they started the project, scientists had only a rough idea of how many pumas lived in the mountain range. Solitary by nature, the buff-colored cats generally avoid people. Bobcats, which look similar but are smaller, with tufts of hair sprouting from their ears, are much more prevalent.

To find the mountain lions at the beginning of the project, biologists looked for signs of the cats, then set up remote-controlled cameras in the hills and canyons of the Santa Monica Mountains and in the nearby Simi Hills.

Using the information they gathered, researchers were able to capture all four of the pumas caught on camera and fit them with collars containing radio transmitters.

The lions dubbed P1 and P2 roamed a huge territory in the Santa Monica Mountains south of the 101 Freeway.

The other two, P3 and P4, lived in the Simi Hills north of the 101.

When P2 gave birth in 2004, the biologists were understandably excited. The known cougar population had climbed to eight, although only six lived in the Santa Monicas.

But at the time, scientists quietly worried that the fragmented mountain range would not be large enough to support so many of the large cats, especially as freeways, business parks and houses steadily encroached on open space.

It’s a good thing I don’t let Kip out – there’s lions in them thar hills! Agoura Hills, thank you very much, is right smack in the middle of that area they’re describing, by the way.

Not fishy enough: It seems this story could have been inspired by Happy Feet – or vice versa. At the very least, Kenneth R. Weiss should have at least given a mention to the (absolutely adorable) animated film. Anyway, the story is essentially about how the world’s seemingly bountiful fish supply is dwindling, and corporate interests like Wal-Mart and McDonalds are leading the charge to only buy fish that meet sustainability guidelines (you know, by not catching fish faster than they can reproduce and by not using methods that would destroy sea life or habitat). In a way, this could also be described as the guys traditionally perceived as bad guys (Wal-Mart, McDonalds, President Bush) trying to do good:

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has pledged within three to five years to sell nothing but wild-caught seafood that meets standards for sustainability set out by the nonprofit Marine Stewardship Council. Founded in 1997, the council grants a blue and white label to fish that stand up to independent certification.

Wal-Mart’s shift in policy has rippled through the global seafood trade. The National Fisheries Institute, the seafood industry’s principal lobby, has become a booster of the sustainable seafood movement after years of resistance.

McDonald’s is now nudging its suppliers to come up with sustainably caught fish for its Filet-O-Fish sandwiches, which consume 110 million pounds of Alaskan pollack, New Zealand hoki and other whitefish from around the globe.

Meanwhile, Darden Restaurants, the parent of Red Lobster, is taking similar steps, as is the Compass Group, America’s largest food-service provider to corporate and university cafeterias.

In turn, commercial fisheries are seeking certification, for flounder caught off Japan, herring in the North Sea, Chilean hake and albacore off California.


Occasionally, progress on the policy front has been made.

Disregarding industry objections, President Bush earlier this year established the world’s largest marine reserve around the northwest Hawaiian Islands. Such reserves act as fish nurseries, and scientists say a global network of them is needed to help depleted stocks rebound along with the health of the oceans.

Scientists say governments also need to reduce fishing pressure around the reserves. One way is to thin fleets by buying out boats and licenses. Another is to allocate an overall catch limit among fishermen and let them buy and sell shares, creating an economic incentive for some to quit fishing.

Experts say lasting reform is impossible until fishermen, like those in Alaska, are persuaded that short-term sacrifice ensures the long-term health of fish stocks.

Life imitating art: There hasn’t been a lot of TV coverage on this story, and I can’t quite figure it out. On Halloween, a group of black kids allegedly surrounded and beat three white women, while shouting racial epithets and insults. Eight kids have been charged in the attack, which happened in Long Beach’s swanky Bixby Knolls area:

The violence occurred on a predominantly white block known for elaborate Halloween decorations and fancy candy. According to police, a group of black youths — mostly teenagers but some as young as 12 — allegedly hurled racial insults at the women, threw objects at them and then knocked them to the ground with kicks, punches and skateboard blows.

The attack was broken up by a black man who stopped his car and pulled the assailants away. But the women — two of them 19 years old, the other 21 — suffered injuries, including broken bones.

“What could have possibly gone through their mind to make them think this kind of behavior was OK?” Long Beach police Officer Jackie Bezart asked.

The youths, who also face felony assault charges, appeared in court Wednesday and pleaded not guilty. Attorneys for some of them said they were good students and had no history of criminal behavior.

One of the girls is in line to receive an athletic scholarship from USC and had represented the United States at a track meet in China, her attorney told the court. He asked the judge to allow the girl out of Juvenile Hall so she could take her SAT and complete college-prep classes.

“She’s anxious to return to life as she knew it, a typical young girl who is concerned with the prom, her schooling, boys and athletics,” attorney Frank Williams Jr. said. “They are all good girls. They stand to lose a lot.”

It angers me a little that that girl is so concerned about her USC athletic scholarship, but was not concerned enough to a) refrain from participating in the attack and b) call for help. I also wonder if the reason why there’s been so little media coverage (so far I’ve mostly seen Long Beach PressTelegram coverage and this LAT story) is because its seems to be a reverse racial attack – a black attack on white people. Considering all the media coverage on Michael Richards and his Laugh Factory racial tirade, the theory that TV news is reluctant to touch black-on-white hate crimes might very well be true, but I have no idea.

The incident, incidentally, smacks – pun intended – of a recent CSI episode, called “Fannysmackin’.” Long story short – a bunch of youths (including one played by K-Fed Ex) run around beating up mostly tourists for fun, but they happen to beat one guy – a hotel worker – to death. One of the youths is killed by a CSI guy trying to rescue one of the tourists. The killed youth happens to be on his way to college and his community and family are, of course, outraged.

See the parallel? Scary, huh?