If you combine failed programs, do you get success?


I am a dedicated journalist, and therefore I am highly concerned about public safety because, a.) I am a member of the public, and b.) exploiting people's natural impulse to fear everything around them makes writing a column pretty easy.

That's why when I read the BBC News headline "Killer shrimp threat on the Norfolk Broads," I knew I had to inform the public.

At first I thought this was a health article warning English women not to eat shellfish, but I quickly learned it is much worse.

As it turns out, the Broads in question are a series of English waterways that are being invaded by "Alien Killer Shrimp."

These shrimp, according to the BBC, could affect the local fishing industry due to their voracious appetites. Luckily, Andrea Kelly, a senior ecologist for the Broads Authority (which is not a bad name for a feminist punk band) said more monitoring will now take place.

Killer shrimp aren't the only invertebrate on my watch list this week. According to EurekAlert!, Lynn Kimsey, a scientist at UC Davis, recently discovered a giant wasp in Indonesia.

The wasp is huge, according to Kimsey, and was first captured in 1930, but forgotten about to make sure it could be rediscovered when more grant funding became available.

Unfortunately, scientists have studied only dead samples and have not actually witnessed the Megalara Garuda (Latin for "Get it off me, aaaagghh...") alive in its natural habitat.

This giant insect could eat anything. It could be one of those bugs that crawls into your ear to reproduce. It could even be the larval form of special-interest lobbyists for all we know.

One thing we do know is giant wasps aren't the only oversized animals we need to be aware of.

Florida, for example, is infested with giant rats. I'm not talking about the kind of rat that would use the shooting death of a teenage boy to further a political agenda, either. I'm talking about actual giant rats.

The story has been picked up by just about every news agency around the United States in an effort to fill column inches while expending the least amount of effort possible.

Apparently, Gambian pouch rats, which can grow up to three feet long and weigh nine pounds, began showing up in the Florida Keys in 1999.

Florida officials have claimed the rats first appeared after a breeder of exotic pets turned eight of the monstrous rodents loose.

More likely, in my opinion, the rats threatened bodily harm - but the pet breeder's not talking. In fact, he's not even named and may be part of the federal witness protection program.

In any case, Florida officials and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have been working to wipe out the rats ever since. For some reason, however, the doughty men and women being paid to eradicate the rats over the last decade have only come close to wiping them out.

"Officials thought they had successfully gotten rid of all the Gambian rats back in 2008, but several of the burrowing creatures recently began showing up in the yards of local residents," Eric Pfeiffer reported for Yahoo News.

Odd. It's true that not every government program is a wild success. Operation Fast and Furious, where our government supplied weapons to Mexican drug cartels, apparently in an effort to find out where the cartels were getting weapons, is a case in point.

However, for every "Operation Fast and Furious," there are programs like the California Public Health Department's effort, from 2005 to 2007, to promote healthy lunches for students by giving away lead-contaminated lunch bags.

Speaking of California, recent efforts by the state to go "green" have hit a snag.

As you may well know, California jumped on the green technology bandwagon early with wind turbines. Of course, the turbines were killing migratory hawks and falcons, along with other birds.

California decided to cajole Washington and Oregon into supplying it with wind energy.

California officials, (motto: Nothing to too Crazy to be a Miserable Failure!) decided to build massive solar collectors in their place.

Of course, there is a downside. According to a lawsuit filed recently by three national environmental groups, the solar field intended to be built in the Mojave Desert may harm endangered tortoises.

In an odd twist, one of the groups opposing the project, California Unions for Reliable Energy, lobbied Tessera, the company scheduled to build the plant, to both build and not build the plant.

CURE (for what?) asked Tessera to use union labor to build the plant, but also lobbied to have the project shut down over environmental objections. So much for union dues.

Luckily, I have a solution: just move the planned solar plant, and possibly the wind turbines, to Florida. These obviously dangerous machines should wipe out the giant rat population in no time.

I'd offer to take my family down there with high-powered pellet rifles, but in the current job market, I hate to put anyone out of work.

Luke Hegdal can be reached at lukehegdal@wwub.com or 526-8326.


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