The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has granted a financial hardship waiver to an oil refinery owned by billionaire Carl Icahn, a former adviser to President Donald Trump, exempting the Oklahoma facility from requirements under a federal biofuels law, according to two industry sources briefed on the matter. The waiver enables Icahn's CVR Energy Inc to avoid tens of millions of dollars in costs related to the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program. The regulation is meant to cut air pollution, reduce petroleum imports and support corn farmers by requiring refiners to mix billions of gallons of biofuels into the nation's gasoline and diesel each year.
The Small Refiners Coalition, which represents companies that operate small refining facilities, has defended the EPA's waiver program, saying the EPA is required by law to help small refineries struggling with the RFS and that the exemptions are crucial to their financial well-being. But the exemption for CVR's Wynnewood, Oklahoma, plant prompted fresh criticism from the powerful corn lobby, which already has accused Trump's EPA of over-using the hardship waiver program in a way that hurts demand for ethanol. "This one's going to be hard for (Scott) Pruitt to explain," Brooke Coleman, head of the Advanced Biofuels Business Council industry group, said in an email, referring to the EPA administrator.
An early supporter of Trump's 2016 presidential run and a key supporter on Wall Street, Icahn had met with Pruitt when Pruitt was being vetted in late 2016 for the EPA administrator job, according to news reports at the time. Icahn stepped down from his position as special regulatory adviser to the Republican president last August after lawmakers cited potential ethical problems in his dual role as an adviser and an investor.
Currently, Icahn is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice for his role in influencing biofuels policy while serving as Trump's adviser. To prove RFS compliance, refiners must earn or purchase tradable blending credits - awarded by the government for each blended gallon of fuel - and hand them in to the EPA yearly. The EPA has the authority to exempt small refineries of under 75,000 barrels per day from the requirement under the hardship waiver program if they can prove that compliance would cause them "disproportionate financial hardship." CVR had been denied the exemptions by Democratic former President Barack Obama's administration, federal filings showed.
The EPA has said it granted around two dozen waivers for 2017 but has declined to name the recipients, deeming it confidential business information. Under Obama, the EPA granted about eight waivers annually. The waivers have the potential to save companies tens of millions of dollars, by allowing them to avoid blending or paying for credits on the open market, and by permitting them to sell any credits they have on hand to others. CVR reported a $23 million profit in the biofuels credit market in the first quarter of 2018 due to what it called a lower RFS obligation, an unusual return for a refiner that has no biofuel blending facilities.
The company also said it expects its cost of complying with the RFS requirements to fall to $80 million for the entirety of 2018 from a previous estimate of $200 million, and from roughly $249 million in 2017. CEO David Lamp said in a conference call with analysts that he would not discuss whether the improved numbers were derived from an EPA waiver.
A heat shield used in a NASA spacecraft designed to send a six-wheeled rover vehicle to Mars in 2020 suffered an "unexpected" fracture during a structural test this month, causing the space agency to build a replacement, the space agency said.
"The situation will not affect the mission's launch readiness date of July 17, 2020," the National Aeronautics and Space Administration said in a statement, issued late on Thursday.
The fracture occurred near the shield's outer edge and spans the circumference of the component, NASA said.
The $2 billion mission will place the rover on Mars where it will drill in rocks and soil to look for signs of past microbial life. The mission will also look into ways to support a manned-mission to the planet.
The timing of the launch is key. In July and August of 2020 the positions of Earth and Mars are aligned in a way that will mean less power is required to reach the red planet compared to other times.
The heat shield on the Mars 2020 spacecraft would reach temperatures of about 3,800 degrees Fahrenheit (2,100 Celsius) as it speeds at more than 12,100 mph (19,550 kph) towards the Mars surface, NASA said.
About 5 miles (8 kms) above the surface of Mars, the heat shield is designed to pop off the spacecraft as it is slowed by parachutes. From the craft, a so-called "sky crane" will be deployed that will lower the tethered rover onto the surface.
Pet insurance is now a $1 billion market in North America, a new report reveals.
The number of pets insured in the U.S. and Canada exceeded 2 million in 2017, according to a state-of-the-industry report from the North American Pet Health Insurance Association. That represents a market average increase of nearly 17 percent year-over-year.
According to the 2018 report, the pet insurance marketplace also surpassed the $1 billion mark in gross written premium by the end of 2017, an increase of 15 percent over 2016. The SOI Report tracks trends based on data gathered independently from member companies.
The average accident and illness premium for dogs in 2017 was $535, or $44.58 per month, according to the report. The average accident and illness premium for cats in 2017 was $335.19, or $27.93 per month.
The annual report is compiled by Willis Towers Watson. It's "based on confidential data provided by all of the major companies that offer pet health insurance in North America, representing over 99 percent of the market," said Rick Faucher, NAPHIA president, who is also president of Pet Health Division for The IHC Group.
Kentucky Derby favorite Justify will break from the seventh post position for the 144th Run for the Roses, as the 20-horse field was set on Tuesday for the first jewel in American thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown.
Unbeaten in three starts, Justify was established as the early morning favorite at 3-1 for Saturday's showcase at Chuchill Downs.
Justify will attempt to become the first horse since 1882 to win the Kentucky Derby without having raced as a two-year, known as the Curse of the Apollo in honor of the last horse to achieve that feat.
Mendelssohn, winner of the UAE Derby by 18 lengths, will break from the 14th hole and was set as second favorite at 5-1.
"I'm happy, I think everybody should be happy with their post." said Justify's Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who trained four Kentucky Derby winners including 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. "When I looked at the board I was in seventh so I was happy with that.
"I wanted to be in the middle or outside, we didn't want the one hole that's for sure, so I was relieved when I saw him in seventh.
"The break is so important, when you are in the seven you better break."
While the Curse of Apollo may be a concern for the superstitious, on the other side of the coin favorites have won the last five Kentucky Derby's and seven of the last 11.
Magnum Moon, winner of both the Arkansas Derby and Rebel Stakes, was set as third favorite at 6-1 and will leave from 16th post.
Audible, fourth favorite at 8-1 with Bolt d'Oro, drew lucky number five, the post position having delivered 10 Kentucky Derby champions including last year's winner Always Dreaming.
The Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) has released its annual parasite forecasts for 2018, predicting an increase in the prevalence of heartworm and Lyme disease. Heartworm is forecasted to spread aggressively across the United States and Lyme disease to spread west into states east of the Rocky Mountains.
The warm, wet weather over the last two years has contributed to the expansive nature of heartworm disease, a release from the organization says. Shifting weather patterns have created ideal breeding conditions for heartworm-transmitting mosquitoes across the country. Another contributing factor is the relocation of unknown heartworm-positive dogs across the country that survived the hurricanes in 2017. The Lyme disease agent transmitted by ticks, is spreading as the white-tailed deer population grows and migratory birds carry ticks to new areas, the release says.
“Our annual forecasts provide critical and important information to help veterinarians and pet owners understand parasites are a true risk to both pets and people,” says Dr. Dwight Bowman, CAPC board member and professor of parasitology at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, in the release. Aside from increased prevalence of heartworm and Lyme, the council also predicts the following areas of risk in 2018:
> Heartworm, besides being above average nationwide, will be even more active than normal in the lower Mississippi River region. The northern-tier states from Washington state to Vermont may see a rise in heartworm infections among veterinary patients.
> Lyme disease is a high threat this year, and veterinarians near Lyme's endemic boundary line (the Dakotas, Iowa, Missouri, southern Illinois, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina) should be on alert. Western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio, West Virginia and the Appalachian region in Virginia should prepare for an active year, the release states. The area from Washington, D.C., to Philadelphia and eastward, along with the Boston/Cape Cod area, are expected to see relief this year.
> Much of the United States is forecasted to see the transmission of anaplasmosis in 2018, but northwestern Minnesota will have an especially active year. The Wisconsin/Minnesota border area and the Boston/Cape Cod region are expected to see less activity than normal.
The parasite forecasts represent collective expert opinion of academic parasitologists who participate in ongoing research and data interpretation to better understand and monitor vector-borne disease agent transmission and the changing life cycles of parasites. These annual forecasts are based on many factors that include temperature, precipitation and population density, the release notes.
For free prevalence data that localizes reported disease activity at the county level that can be used in discussions with veterinary clients, visit the CAPC website at petsandparasites.org.
A positive pregnancy test often comes with a negative view of the family cat due to toxoplasmosis fears—and not without reason. Felines are the definitive hosts of Toxoplasma gondii, which, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, infects an estimated 60 million plus people in the United States. Most infected people with healthy immune systems experience only mild symptoms, if any. But in pregnant women, toxoplasmosis can cause miscarriage, stillbirth and severe eye and nervous system problems in the child.
Despite the risks, Susan Nelson, DVM, clinical professor at Kansas State University’s Veterinary Health Center, says in a recent university release that many pregnant women have been mistakenly advised to give up their cats. “Toxoplasmosis is a devastating disease, but with proper precautions, a woman does not need to rehome her cat if she becomes pregnant,” Dr. Nelson says. The release notes that cats aren’t even the most common way people become infected. Raw meat, unpasteurized goat milk, raw vegetables, contaminated water and gardening are the most common sources.
- Change your cat’s litterbox every day. Infected cats can shed millions of microscopic T. gondii oocysts in their feces, and it takes one to five days for these oocysts to become infective after being shed. Pregnant women should avoid changing the litterbox, if possible. If not, they should wear disposable gloves and wash their hands with soap and water afterward.
- Cats pick up the T. gondii parasite by eating rodents, birds and small animals, so keep your cat indoors.
- Don’t feed your cat raw or undercooked meats. Use only canned or dried commercial food or fully cooked table food.
- Don’t adopt or handle stray cats while pregnant. Kittens are at an especially high risk of shedding T. gondii oocysts.
- If you have an outdoor sandbox, keep it covered so cats are unable to defecate in it.
- Freeze meats at subzero temperatures for several days before cooking, then cook them to recommended safe temperatures.
- Peel or wash fruits and vegetables before eating.
- Don’t eat raw or undercooked oysters, mussels or clams.
- Don’t drink unpasteurized goat milk, and don’t feed it to cats.
- Use soap and hot water to wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils, counters and hands after they come in contact with raw meat, poultry, seafood and unwashed fruits or vegetables.
- Wear gloves when gardening and while coming in contact with soil or sand that could be contaminated with cat feces. Wash your hands afterward.
- Instruct children to wash their hands to prevent infection.
All horses shake or toss their heads from time to time. Some exhibit the behavior far more often than others. In cases where head shaking is so frequent or violent that it interferes with the horse’s comfort or use, an effort should be made to find the cause. Asking questions about the horse’s habits may be the key to breaking the code. The signs of headshaking are variable and are loosely categorized into reflex responses — such as the twitching, plus ear and eyelid flicks—and pain responses—rubbing, sweating and rearing or striking at the face.
Does the horse toss his head only when ridden? This may indicate pain. Dental-Have an equine dentist do a thorough oral exam to make sure the teeth do not have sharp points or edges that are irritated by the pressure or position of the bit. Leg & Back– Subtle lameness or back pain can be a cause of head tossing as the horse tries to find relief from discomfort. You– No owner likes to hear that her rough hands are the problem. If the horse does well with another person, a subtler touch may be necessary.
Does the horse toss or shake his head in the field or stall as well as under saddle?
Sunlight-Some horses are extremely sensitive. Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine explains that exposure to bright light causes a nerve in the head to send a shock-like sensation to the horse’s face, resulting in violent flinging of the head. This type of head shaking is typically worst in the summer but is also seen on bright winter days. A horse with this condition, called photic head shaking, may also sneeze or snort frequently, and may try to rub his nose or face against his legs or other objects. Affected horses like to stand in the shade or at least keep their heads shaded by a barn, hedge, or pasture pal.
Nerve involvement- According to UC Davis-Veterinary Medicine, trigeminal mediated headshaking (HSK) in horses is manifested as a painful disorder consisting of violent head flicks with no apparent stimuli and has been described for over 100 years. Neuropathic pain is characterized by sudden onset of itching, burning, tingling or electric-like sensations. In horses with headshaking, this neuropathic pain may be manifested behaviorally by sudden jerking of the head, rubbing the nose on objects, lip movements and snorting.
Ears-Irritation of the ears because of mites, ticks, and other insects can cause a horse to toss his head. Tumors within the ear are another possible cause. A veterinarian can often pinpoint the problem and suggest treatment and prevention measures.
Eyes-Some horses have tiny retinal fragments or bits of tissue floating in the jellylike substance within the eye. One theory to explain head tossing is that, as the horse exercises, these “floaters” change position, suddenly entering the field of vision and causing the horse to throw his head up and away from what he perceives as a threat. So what can you do if your horse is a head tosser?
- Try to determine the circumstances that trigger head shaking.
- Describe the problem to your veterinarian and ask him to conduct a thorough examination. This may involve tests for lameness or stiffness, nerve blocks of the facial area, and trials of various medications.
- Ask an equine dentist to examine your horse and treat any problems or abnormalities.
Slaughterhouses in the U.S. can already kill pigs at the breakneck speed of 1,106 pigs per hour, but the federal government wants to let slaughterhouses kill pigs even more quickly. The USDA’s proposed rule, the New Swine Inspection System (NSIS), would eliminate line speed maximums at some pig slaughterhouses across the nation. The USDA also wants to shift crucial inspection duties for animal welfare and food safety from federal inspectors to the slaughterhouses themselves.
At current slaughter line speeds, workers are already under immense pressure from managers and slaughterhouse owners to drive pigs off the trucks and into the kill line as quickly as possible. As a result, many slaughterhouse workers become frustrated and repeatedly beat or shock pigs with electric prods to get them to move. If regulatory line speed maximums were removed, workers would likely be under even more pressure to use even more force. Faster line speeds could also increase the risk of botched slaughter—pigs could be shackled upside down and have their throats slit while conscious and able to feel pain.
But the USDA’s proposal wouldn’t only be a nightmare for pigs—NSIS would endanger slaughterhouse workers as well. Slaughterhouse employees already deal with large, powerful, and frightened animals, and workers are forced to stand in frigid rooms, repeatedly making the same cut on pieces of meat for hours on end. Faster slaughter line speeds would increase the likelihood of occupational injuries for slaughterhouse workers, who already incur on-the-job injuries at an alarming rate. According to an investigation by Harvest Public Media, the current pace of pig slaughter lines can be linked to repetitive stress injuries and musculoskeletal disorders, among other issues.
NSIS would also endanger food safety and public health. If NSIS passes, the USDA will reduce the number of federal inspectors in pig slaughterhouses, leaving key food safety inspection duties to the slaughterhouses, which have shown time and again that they put profits over animal welfare, workers’ rights, and food safety.
The degree of optimism a chicken experiences in its day-to-day life depends on the complexity of its environment, new research has shown. Many people might be surprised to learn that chickens experience optimism at all, and many more might be bemused to discover that in an extensive study conducted by scientists from Linköping University in Sweden the thing that most inspired hope in the birds was a small square of grey card.
In a paper published in the journal Scientific Reports, a team led by evolutionary biologist Hanne Løvlie set out to determine whether stressful conditions affected chickens’ emotional stability. To do this, the researchers used both behavioral and chemical measures.
Løvlie and her team raised a batch of female chickens (Gallus gallus domesticus) from the moment they emerged from eggs. The brood was divided first into two cohorts: one living in a physically plain environment, and the other in surroundings full of stimuli, such as varied floor coverings, multiple perches and secluded areas. Both groups had unlimited and free access to food and water.
Once established, the training started. Each chicken was shown, repeatedly, squares of black and white card. Behind one was a reward, in the form of a tasty mealworm. Some birds were trained to associate food with white cards, others with black.
As a control, the researchers then measured the levels of dopamine – a neurotransmitter that correlates with stress – in all the chickens. They found no difference in stress levels between the plain-living cohort and those in the more complex environment.
All the birds were then exposed to environmental stressors, including changes in temperature, bursts of heavy metal music, random noises, and flashing lights. None of them were physically hurt.
Løvlie and colleagues then set about measuring the presence of optimism. They did this by showing them grey cards – a tone exactly midway between black and white. If a bird pecked at the card looking for a reward it was judged to be optimistic. If it ignored it, then that was taken to be an expression of pessimism.
Behavioral evidence was backed up by further dopamine tests. The results showed that the chickens in the complex environment were much more likely to be optimistic than those in the simple one.
The researchers concluded that environmental complexity serves as a buffer against the negative effects of stress, and suggest that this should be taken into account when designing enclosures for farmed animals.
United Airlines has announced to its policies for animal transportation.
And that's bad news for about 50 breeds of dogs and cats. The airline said it will not accept reservations for certain "brachycephalic (or short- or snub-nosed) dogs and cats and strong-jawed dog breeds" out of concern for health risks.
The new policies go into effect June 18. They allow only dogs and cats, not other household pets.
United said it will be working with American Humane "to improve the well-being of all pets that travel on United."
"Throughout the remainder of the year, United and American Humane will continue to make enhancements as needed to further improve the safety and care of animal transportation," the airline said on its website.
Click on and see the list of banned breeds in this story at talkinpets.com.
United announced in March that it was halting new reservations for PetSafe, its program for pets that travel in the cargo compartment. Its decision came "after three dogs were loaded onto wrong planes ... and a fourth died in an overhead bin," the Chicago Tribune reported.
United said it was "conducting a thorough and systematic review of our program for pets that travel in the cargo compartment to make improvements that will ensure the best possible experience for our customers and their pets."
May Events: Chip Your Pet Month, Endangered Species Day, Bike to Work Day, and More
18As an animal lover, you’ll probably want to note ENDANGERED SPECIES DAY. You can solicit donations for the World Wildlife Fund. Or take it a step further and identify endangered species in your own area — whether plants or animals — and launch a campaign to help.
1It’s CHIP YOUR PET MONTH. Make sure your customers know where to go to get their favorite fur-bundles chipped. And, of course, how easy (less than five minutes) and cheap (less than $100) micro-chipping is. (Also note that it is National Pet Month.)
1It’s NATIONAL SMALL BUSINESS WEEK. Fly your independent flag high. Send a message to customers reminding them of the positive community effects of buying local and from independents. Be sure to list some local independents in other shopping categories that you patronize. (And hopefully, they’ll do the same for you.)
5It’s CINCO DE MAYO, the one day a year when you can dress your dog in a sombrero and poncho and not have people think you’re insane. (What your dog thinks is another matter.) In your quest to bring human-styled social events to your canine audience, maybe you could hold a “Cinco de Mayo de los Perros”?
6MAYDAY FOR MUTTS is your chance to help bust the negative preconceptions about mixed-breed dogs. Post images of lovable mutts in your business’s orbit with the hashtag #maydayformutts.
7In the midst of NATIONAL PET MONTH comes NATIONAL PET WEEK, so raise the volume on your promotions this week. Parties, discounts, free services, demos. It’s a good week for you to claim the stage.
13Happy MOTHER’S DAY. Have a salon nearby? Combine forces to offer a fun gift package for mothers and their pampered pets. Manicures, hairstyling and fluffy pink bathrobes for both.
14A toast has been proposed in your honor. You say “thank you” and take a sip of your drink. Uh-oh ... was that the correct thing to do?* If you don’t know the answer (below right), you need to brush up on your manners during NATIONAL ETIQUETTE WEEK, which starts today.
18Strap on your helmet, tuck in your trouser legs and get up on the saddle to join the 2 million Americans who will cycle to work today as part of NATIONAL BIKE TO WORK DAY. It’s about fun, fitness and clean air.
19Offer thanks (and a healthy discount) to active service members on ARMED FORCES DAY. Perhaps you could sponsor a mixer at a local shelter for soldiers and animals looking for a home.
28MEMORIAL DAY is here, and along with it the unofficial start to summer. Leave the discounting to stores selling plasma-screen TVs, but freshen up your displays to reflect the seasonal change.
May is RESPONSIBLE ANIMAL GUARDIAN MONTH. Teach proper habits.
May 1 is NATIONAL PUREBRED DOG DAY. Promote pure magic.
May 3 is NATIONAL SPECIALLY ABLED PETS DAY. Spread the word.
May 7-13 is BE KIND TO ANIMALS WEEK. And also Puppy Mill Action Week.
May 14 is INTERNATIONAL CHIHUAHUA APPRECIATION DAY. Be happy ... and yappy.
May 21 is WAITSTAFF DAY. Offer a professional discount and special offer.
May 23 is TURTLE DAY. Slow and steady wins the race.