Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Practical Suggestions on Protecting Biodiversity and Human Health

by the Harvard Medical School Center for Health and the Global Environment

The choices we make in three main areas of our lives—the food we eat, the way we live in our homes, and how we transport ourselves– have greatest potential to cause environmental damage and threaten biodiversity. Making better choices in these areas could improve the environment and slow the loss of biodiversity.

The Food We Eat

  • Seek out locally grown food whenever possible - find your area’s farmers’ markets ( and Community Supported Agriculture (
  • Help limit the extent of land under agricultural production by eating less meat and more cereals, fruits, and vegetables, and generally eating lower on the food chain (

The Way We Live in Our Homes

  • Choose appliances and home heating systems with high energy-efficiency ratings (
  • Replace light bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs – they use a fraction of the electricity (e.g. a 15 watt compact fluorescent bulb gives off as much light as a 60 watt incandescent bulb) and last up to ten times as long.
  • Plant trees around our homes, which can reduce energy costs from air-conditioning by as much as 25%.
  • Switch to an energy supplier (electric company) that offers energy from renewable (wind, wave, or solar) power sources. Alternatively, look into purchasing green energy certificates that support alternative energy systems. (
  • Recycle paper, cans, glass bottles, and plastic bottles if our communities participate in these programs.
  • Recycle electronic equipment (Cell Phone Recycling and Donation Computer Take Back Options:

How We Transport Ourselves

  • Lessen personal vehicle use; make one trip instead of several a week to the supermarket, and carpool to work.
  • Urge local authorities to make our towns more pedestrian- and bicycle- friendly and walk or bicycle to work when possible.
  • Encourage local authorities to improve public transportation services and use them (trains, buses).
  • Make sure our cars are well tuned, and that their tires are properly inflated.
  • Consider buying smaller, more fuel-efficient and less polluting cars, or hybrid gas-electric vehicles.

Our Own Back Yards

Managing the green spaces around us for biodiversity is something all of us can do, and even the smallest back yard or apartment balcony can become a haven for wildlife. Here are some tips for use in our own back yards:

Copyright © 2004 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College
The Center for Health and The Global Environment

Watch The BioDaVersity Code starring Robert Penguin and Sophie Minnow at

Monday, February 26, 2007

Why Have So Many U.S. Attorneys Been Fired? It Looks a Lot Like Politics

by Adam Cohen
The New York Times
February 26, 2007

Carol Lam, the former United States attorney for San Diego, is smart and tireless and was very good at her job. Her investigation of Representative Randy Cunningham resulted in a guilty plea for taking more than $2 million in bribes from defense contractors and a sentence of more than eight years. Two weeks ago, she indicted Kyle Dustin Foggo, the former No. 3 official in the C.I.A. The defense-contracting scandal she pursued so vigorously could yet drag in other politicians.

In many Justice Departments, her record would have won her awards, and perhaps a promotion to a top post in Washington. In the Bush Justice Department, it got her fired.

Ms. Lam is one of at least seven United States attorneys fired recently under questionable circumstances. The Justice Department is claiming that Ms. Lam and other well-regarded prosecutors like John McKay of Seattle, David Iglesias of New Mexico, Daniel Bogden of Nevada and Paul Charlton of Arizona — who all received strong job evaluations — performed inadequately.

It is hard to call what’s happening anything other than a political purge. And it’s another shameful example of how in the Bush administration, everything — from rebuilding a hurricane-ravaged city to allocating homeland security dollars to invading Iraq — is sacrificed to partisan politics and winning elections.

U.S. attorneys have enormous power. Their decision to investigate or indict can bankrupt a business or destroy a life. They must be, and long have been, insulated from political pressures. Although appointed by the president, once in office they are almost never asked to leave until a new president is elected. The Congressional Research Service has confirmed how unprecedented these firings are. It found that of 486 U.S. attorneys confirmed since 1981, perhaps no more than three were forced out in similar ways — three in 25 years, compared with seven in recent months.

It is not just the large numbers. The firing of H. E. Cummins III is raising as many questions as Ms. Lam’s. Mr. Cummins, one of the most distinguished lawyers in Arkansas, is respected by Republicans and Democrats alike. But he was forced out to make room for J. Timothy Griffin, a former Karl Rove deputy with thin legal experience who did opposition research for the Republican National Committee. (Mr. Griffin recently bowed to the inevitable and said he will not try for a permanent appointment. But he remains in office indefinitely.)

The Bush administration cleared the way for these personnel changes by slipping a little-noticed provision into the Patriot Act last year that allows the president to appoint interim U.S. attorneys for an indefinite period without Senate confirmation.

Three theories are emerging for why these well-qualified U.S. attorney were fired — all political, and all disturbing.

1. Helping friends. Ms. Lam had already put one powerful Republican congressman in jail and was investigating other powerful politicians. The Justice Department, unpersuasively, claims that it was unhappy about Ms. Lam’s failure to bring more immigration cases. Meanwhile, Ms. Lam has been replaced with an interim prosecutor whose résumé shows almost no criminal law experience, but includes her membership in the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group.

2. Candidate recruitment. U.S. attorney is a position that can make headlines and launch political careers. Congressional Democrats suspect that the Bush administration has been pushing out long-serving U.S. attorneys to replace them with promising Republican lawyers who can then be run for Congress and top state offices.

3. Presidential politics. The Justice Department concedes that Mr. Cummins was doing a good job in Little Rock. An obvious question is whether the administration was more interested in his successor’s skills in opposition political research — let’s not forget that Arkansas has been lucrative fodder for Republicans in the past — in time for the 2008 elections.

The charge of politics certainly feels right. This administration has made partisanship its lodestar. The Washington Post reporter Rajiv Chandrasekaran revealed in his book, “Imperial Life in the Emerald City,” that even applicants to help administer post-invasion Iraq were asked whom they voted for in 2000 and what they thought of Roe v. Wade.

Congress has been admirably aggressive about investigating. Senator Charles Schumer, Democrat of New York, held a tough hearing. And he is now talking about calling on the fired U.S. attorneys to testify and subpoenaing their performance evaluations — both good ideas.

The politicization of government over the last six years has had tragic consequences — in New Orleans, Iraq and elsewhere. But allowing politics to infect U.S. attorney offices takes it to a whole new level. Congress should continue to pursue the case of the fired U.S. attorneys vigorously, both to find out what really happened and to make sure that it does not happen again.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Meatrix

    The Meatrix

  • Watch the movie that started it all! The Meatrix ( The Matrix films and highlights the problems with factory farming. Join our heroes Moopehus, Leo, and Chickity as they help save family farms!
  • Winner of the 2005 Webby Award and viewed by over 15 million people, The Meatrix ( will change the way you look at meat!

    The Meatrix II: Revolting

  • The Meatrix II: Revolting ( even more action, adventure, and humor than the first Meatrix, as our heroes Moopehus, Chickity, and Leo plunge into the revolting reality of industrial dairy farming.
  • The original Meatrix changed the way we look at meat. The sequel changed the way we feel about cheese. Watch The Meatrix II: Revolting! (

    The Meatrix II ½

  • Taking the fast out of fast food! The action continues in award-winning Meatrix series with The Meatrix II ½ (, as our heroes Moopheus, Leo, and Chickity learn firsthand about the problems with meat processing.
  • Picking up from their last adventure at a dairy farm, Leo and Chickity attempt to rescue Moopheus, who has been kidnapped and taken to a slaughterhouse. Watch The Meatrix II ½ ( to find out what happens!
© 2006 Sustainable Table

Monday, February 19, 2007

Will the United States Attack Iran?

by Hans Blix
International Herald Tribune
February 19, 2007

Will the United States use armed force against Iran? Hardly any foreign policy issue is hotter right now. American planes are reported to be patrolling along the border between Iraq and Iran, and U.S. forces have been authorized to kill Iranian agents in Iraq. Two U.S. aircraft carriers are in the Gulf and missile defenses have been installed in Gulf states. The military buildup is either to scare Tehran or to prepare for American attacks on Iran.

Many remember that there was a U.S. military buildup in the Gulf during the autumn of 2002 and the first months of 2003 and that the U.S. attack on Iraq followed in March. Is something similar underway now?

Most commentators note that a large part of the American people would disapprove of more military adventures. Yet many worry that the Bush administration might be tempted to play up Iran's activities as an important reason for the anarchy in Iraq and to reduce the attention to the debacle in Iraq by opening a new front through bombings in Iran.

Many governments share the conviction of the Bush administration that the aim of Iran's program for the enrichment of uranium is to give Tehran at least the ability to make a nuclear weapon in a few years. They support the demand of the UN Security Council that Iran stop the program and believe that economic sanctions that prohibit the delivery of material and equipment for the program may influence Iran. However, practically all are of the view that a military attack would be disastrous. Although it might delay the program of enrichment a few years, it would, at the same time, probably lead to full national acceptance of the program, increased Iranian support for terrorism and perhaps a crisis in the supply and delivery of oil.

Iran's response to the action of the Security Council has so far been to reduce UN inspectors' access to Iranian nuclear installations and at the same time declare a readiness for talks — provided that the council drop the demand that the program for enrichment must be suspended before talks are opened. Iran is thus on collision course with the resolution adopted by the council. While Washington declares that diplomacy rather than military action is on the agenda, the administration evidently believes that naval demonstrations may have an impact. A recent column in the Washington Times suggested an even more explicit demonstration: the launching of a missile on the former U.S. Embassy in Tehran — now used by the Iranian revolutionary guards.

In Europe and elsewhere, people are worried that mistakes might lead to an armed conflict or to an Iranian withdrawal from the Nonproliferation Treaty or refusal of inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency. So, what can be done?

In the case of North Korea, the United States seems able to sit down for talks without demanding that the production of plutonium be stopped prior to the talks and even to indicate that an agreement could constitute the opening of diplomatic relations and guarantees against attacks in return for denuclearization.

It is difficult to understand why, in the case of Iran, the suspension of the program for enrichment of uranium has been made a precondition for any talks in which such suspension is the main subject. It is not long ago that an American commission led by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Representative Lee Hamilton declared that the United States ought to engage in talks with Iran and Syria. Yet, despite the dire situation in Iraq, the Bush administration prefers to talk to Iran and Syria through public statements and military threats. It is a little like the boss who said that he liked to have exchanges of views with his subordinates: They should come in to present their views and walk out with his views.

A less humiliating approach might give better results. Such an approach is now being tested in the case of North Korea. Why not in Iran, too?

Copyright © 2007 the International Herald Tribune

US 'Iran Attack Plans' Revealed

by the BBC
February 19, 2007

US contingency plans for air strikes on Iran extend beyond nuclear sites and include most of the country's military infrastructure, the BBC has learned.

It is understood that any such attack - if ordered - would target Iranian air bases, naval bases, missile facilities and command-and-control centres.

The US insists it is not planning to attack, and is trying to persuade Tehran to stop uranium enrichment.

The UN has urged Iran to stop the programme or face economic sanctions.

But diplomatic sources have told the BBC that as a fallback plan, senior officials at Central Command in Florida have already selected their target sets inside Iran.

That list includes Iran's uranium enrichment plant at Natanz. Facilities at Isfahan, Arak and Bushehr are also on the target list, the sources say.

Two triggers

BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner says the trigger for such an attack reportedly includes any confirmation that Iran was developing a nuclear weapon - which it denies.

Alternatively, our correspondent adds, a high-casualty attack on US forces in neighbouring Iraq could also trigger a bombing campaign if it were traced directly back to Tehran.

Long range B2 stealth bombers would drop so-called "bunker-busting" bombs in an effort to penetrate the Natanz site, which is buried some 25m (27 yards) underground.

The BBC's Tehran correspondent France Harrison says the news that there are now two possible triggers for an attack is a concern to Iranians.

Authorities insist there is no cause for alarm but ordinary people are now becoming a little worried, she says.


Earlier this month US officials said they had evidence Iran was providing weapons to Iraqi Shia militias. At the time, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the accusations were "excuses to prolong the stay" of US forces in Iraq.

Middle East analysts have recently voiced their fears of catastrophic consequences for any such US attack on Iran.

Britain's previous ambassador to Tehran, Sir Richard Dalton, told the BBC it would backfire badly by probably encouraging the Iranian government to develop a nuclear weapon in the long term.

Last year Iran resumed uranium enrichment - a process that can make fuel for power stations or, if greatly enriched, material for a nuclear bomb.

Tehran insists its programme is for civil use only, but Western countries suspect Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons.

The UN Security Council has called on Iran to suspend its enrichment of uranium by 21 February.

If it does not, and if the International Atomic Energy Agency confirms this, the resolution says that further economic sanctions will be considered.

© BBC 2007

Sunday, February 18, 2007

CNW's 'Dust to Dust' Automotive Energy Report

by CNW Marketing Research
December 8, 2006

This is the second year CNW has compiled the Dust-to-Dust energy cost per vehicle sold in the U.S. There have been some increases and some decreases. Remember, this the total cost of energy to society.

As Americans become increasingly interested in fuel economy and global warming, they are beginning to make choices about the vehicles they drive based on fuel economy and to a lesser degree emissions.

But many of those choices aren’t actually the best in terms of vehicle lifetime energy usage and the cost to society over the full lifetime of a car or truck.

CNW Marketing Research Inc. spent two years collecting data on the energy necessary to plan, build, sell, drive and dispose of a vehicle from initial concept to scrappage. This includes such minutia as plant to dealer fuel costs, employee driving distances, electricity usage per pound of material used in each vehicle and literally hundreds of other variables.

To put the data into understandable terms for consumers, it was translated into a “dollars per lifetime mile” figure. That is, the Energy Cost per mile driven.

In CNW Research’s second annual Dust-to-Dust Energy Cost study, only the Toyota Prius among all hybrids provides better lifetime energy efficiency than the auto industry average of $2.94 per mile.

What’s the price of being environmentally green? For Prius, the cost has come down since the first study by nearly 12 percent to $2.87 per mile. Improved utilization of Toyota’s hybrid technology, solid production volume and end-of-life advances in component disposal all contributed to the Prius improvement.

But it and other dual mode hybrids still cost society more in terms of energy consumption over their entire lifetime than many larger, more luxurious albeit lower fuel economy models.

The Hummer H3 SUV, for example, is $2.07 per mile over its lifetime. Ford Five Hundred all-wheel-drive full-size sedan is $2.22 per mile.

Most efficient and greenest of vehicles sold in calendar year 2006? Scion xB at a miserly $0.49 per mile.

And holding the top spot: Mercedes’ Maybach at $15.84 per mile – fully $5 more than even Rolls-Royce.

Primarily because of higher raw material and energy costs in 2006, only 77 of the 322 models measured had lower total “Dust to Dust” energy costs vs. the previous study. The industry average was 10.7 percent higher than a year ago.

CNW Research in Bandon, Oregon tracks consumer spending of all goods and services and is not solely an automotive research company. The Dust to Dust study is self-funded with findings free to both subscribers and the public at

The Bottom 10

Model (Cost per Mile)
Touareg ($ 4.797)
NSX ($ 4.994)
A8 ($ 5.041)
A6 ($ 5.120)
Cayman ($ 5.383)
allroad quattro ($ 5.936)
Bentley ($ 10.631)
Rolls-Royce ($ 10.977)
Phaeton ($ 12.963)
Maybach ($ 15.837)

The Top 10

Model (Cost per Mile)
xB ($ 0.492)
Neon ($ 0.641)
Tracker ($ 0.665)
Ion ($ 0.670)
Wrangler ($ 0.709)
Corolla ($ 0.720)
Aveo ($ 0.744)
Elantra ($ 0.748)
xA ($ 0.759)
S10 ($ 0.761)

Note: Some models have been discontinued but are included because they were sold by retail auto dealers and registered in cy2006 as “new” vehicles.

Source: CNW Research

Friday, February 16, 2007

Child Poverty in Perspective: An Overview of Child Well-being in Rich Countries

by the UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre
February 14, 2007

The true measure of a nation’s standing is how well it attends to its children – their health and safety, their material security, their education and socialization, and their sense of being loved, valued, and included in the families and societies into which they are born.

Main findings

• The Netherlands heads the table of overall child wellbeing, ranking in the top 10 for all six dimensions of child well-being covered by this report.

• European countries dominate the top half of the overall league table, with Northern European countries claiming the top four places.

• All countries have weaknesses that need to be addressed and no country features in the top third of the rankings for all six dimensions of child well-being (though the Netherlands and Sweden come close to doing so).

• The United Kingdom and the United States find themselves in the bottom third of the rankings for five of the six dimensions reviewed.

• No single dimension of well-being stands as a reliable proxy for child well-being as a whole and several OECD countries find themselves with widely differing rankings for different dimensions of child well-being.

• There is no obvious relationship between levels of child well-being and GDP per capita. The Czech Republic, for example, achieves a higher overall rank for child well-being than several much wealthier countries including France, Austria, the United States and the United Kingdom.

© The United Nations Children’s Fund 2007

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Tom Toles

February 14, 2007

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Billions and Billions of Dollars Just Disappear in Iraq

by Joseph L. Galloway
McClatchy Newspapers
February 7, 2007

Show me the money, or at least some receipts scribbled on the backs of old envelopes and grocery bags.

This week, we were treated to the spectacle of the former U.S. civilian overlord of Iraq, Ambassador L. Paul Bremer, squirming in the hot seat as he attempted with little success to explain what he did with 363 TONS of newly printed, shrink-wrapped $100 bills he had flown to Baghdad.

That's $12 billion in cold, hard American cash, and no one, especially Bremer, seems to know where it went.

It may be an urban legend, but the late Sen. Everett Dirksen, the Illinois Republican, is widely quoted as saying: "A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking real money." If he didn't say it, he should have.

Bremer, who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his role in totally screwing up the first two years of the Iraq Occupation, said that a lot of the cash was delivered to ministries of the Iraqi government to meet payrolls that were patently fraudulent.

The Department of Defense's special inspector general for Iraq, Stuart Bowen, said that a 2005 audit he conducted found that in some ministries the payroll was padded with up to 90 percent "ghost employees" - people who didn't really work there or perhaps didn't really exist.

Bremer said that he decided to provide the money to meet those payrolls, even though he knew they were bogus, for fear of starting riots and demonstrations among the Iraqis, real and imagined.

After all, the former czar told the representatives, it wasn't really our money anyway. It was Iraqi money - oil earnings and bank accounts seized from Saddam Hussein's government - that we were holding in trust.

I can think of no period in American history when we sat idly by while $12 billion just disappeared, poof, without a paper trail; without heads rolling; without someone going to prison.

And all this was happening at a time in the war when American soldiers and Marines were going without properly armored vehicles, without lifesaving body armor and even without some of the weapons they needed.

What does it take for the American people's gag reflex to kick in? When do we begin to realize that this is only the tip of an iceberg of fraud, waste, abuse and corruption perpetrated on a monumental scale by the Bush administration, its buddies among the military contractors and their handmaidens on Capitol Hill?

The cost of this war is swiftly building toward a trillion dollars. How much of that was siphoned off by crooked and incompetent contractors, greedy defense corporations and Iraqi crooks in a government that we created and installed?

No one in the congressional hearing has yet asked Bremer or the inspector general how much of that $12 billion in cash was handed out to American contractors in Baghdad, although that question begs to be asked and answered.

During the dark days of World War II, Congress established a Committee on War Profiteering and put a little-known senator from Missouri, Harry S. Truman, in charge. Truman, a veteran of combat service in World War I, was a bulldog.

His committee went after not only those who stole money but also those who provided shoddy or worthless equipment and supplies for our troops. He had the power to shut down an offending company or contractor, and he used it.

Where's our Truman Committee today? Where are the righteous representatives of the people charged with standing guard over our troops and our money?

We've wasted $600 billion on a war that we're losing, day by bloody day, at a time when our president presents a federal budget that cuts Medicare to find billions for more that war. The Decider boasts that if we do things his way, America's wealthiest individuals won't have to pay even one dollar more in taxes.

Meanwhile, the people's representatives, on both sides of the aisle, round up the contributions they need for re-election by putting themselves in the pockets of the very robber barons they're supposed to be investigating, interrogating and policing.

Perhaps we should let a no-bid cost-plus contract to Halliburton to construct large additions to the country club federal prisons to accommodate a population explosion in the years ahead. Or, for convenience sake, maybe we could just add a prison wing to the $500 million George W. Bush Presidential Library at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

Joseph L. Galloway is former senior military correspondent for Knight Ridder Newspapers and co-author of the national best-seller "We Were Soldiers Once ... and Young." Readers may write to him at: P.O. Box 399, Bayside, Texas 78340; e-mail:

Investments Financing Genocide in Darfur

by Mia Farrow
The Baltimore Sun
February 8, 2007

During three visits to Darfur and neighboring Chad, I have been witness to the first genocide of the 21st century.

In a displaced-persons camp called Zam Zam, I met Halima, who described the day her village was attacked, first by Sudanese government bombers and then by the merciless, government-backed janjaweed militia. She said, "The janjaweed tore my baby son from my arms and bayoneted him in front of my eyes."

Another young mother, Fatima, told how she had fled her burning village with her baby tied to her back. When the janjaweed shot her, the bullet passed through the child, killing him.

During my visit, I watched a small boy, shot in the lungs, struggling to breathe, and I saw others whose eyes had been gouged out with knives.

So you can imagine my horror when I recently discovered that I had inadvertently been helping to finance the genocide in Darfur. My own pension money was in Fidelity Investments mutual funds. Fidelity has immense holdings in PetroChina Co. and Sinopec Corp., two oil companies that have poured billions of dollars into Khartoum's coffers.

From 70 percent to 80 percent of the oil revenue, according to Human Rights Watch, has been used by the government of Sudan to purchase assault helicopters, bombers, armored vehicles and small arms, as well as to train and arm the janjaweed - the people and weapons responsible for murdering Halima's and Fatima's babies, along with more than 400,000 other people.

I have always taught my children that with knowledge comes responsibility. Who among us would knowingly be complicit in the murder of innocent people? So I withdrew my savings from Fidelity and wrote a letter to the company explaining why. I didn't expect my letter alone to make the difference, of course, but I hoped that my action, together with that of others, would persuade them to take a responsible course.

But so far, rather than divesting, Fidelity has, over the last year, significantly increased its holdings in PetroChina.

Fidelity says: "We believe the resolution of complex social and political issues must be left to the appropriate authorities of the world that have the responsibility, and capability, to address important matters of this type."

Well, I disagree. It's true that Asia and the West have failed to take the necessary steps to end the genocide, but that doesn't mean the rest of us (corporations included) can shirk our moral obligations. Fidelity's effort to shift the responsibility away from its decision to invest in companies that fund atrocities is cynical and hypocritical.

A new public campaign, Fidelity Out of Sudan, asks the company to own up to its responsibility. The moral necessity of divesting from commercial and capital investments in Sudan is broadly recognized and growing. Colleges and universities have divested, particularly from Sudan's oil industry, with Harvard leading the way, citing a "compelling case for action in these special circumstances, in light of the terrible situation unfolding in Darfur and the leading role played by PetroChina's parent company in the Sudanese oil industry, which is so important to the Sudanese regime."

When the University of California divested, it was a huge victory. Six states, including California, have already taken a moral position by divesting. Twenty-four other states are considering such legislation.

And, of course, we are all responsible for our own savings and retirement accounts. Each of us must send a clear message to our investment advisers that we refuse to have our savings used to slaughter innocent people.

Copyright © 2007 The Baltimore Sun

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Global Warming: The Final Warning

by Mark Lynas
The Independent
February 3, 2007

According to yesterday's UN report, the world will be a much hotter place by 2100. This will be the impact ...

+2.4°: Coral reefs almost extinct

In North America, a new dust-bowl brings deserts to life in the high plains states, centred on Nebraska, but also wipes out agriculture and cattle ranching as sand dunes appear across five US states, from Texas in the south to Montana in the north. Rising sea levels accelerate as the Greenland ice sheet tips into irreversible melt, submerging atoll nations and low-lying deltas. In Peru, disappearing Andean glaciers mean 10 million people face water shortages. Warming seas wipe out the Great Barrier Reef and make coral reefs virtually extinct throughout the tropics. Worldwide, a third of all species on the planet face extinction.

+3.4°: Rainforest turns to desert

The Amazonian rainforest burns in a firestorm of catastrophic ferocity, covering South America with ash and smoke. Once the smoke clears, the interior of Brazil has become desert, and huge amounts of extra carbon have entered the atmosphere, further boosting global warming. The entire Arctic ice-cap disappears in the summer months, leaving the North Pole ice-free for the first time in 3 million years. Polar bears, walruses and ringed seals all go extinct. Water supplies run short in California as the Sierra Nevada snowpack melts away. Tens of millions are displaced as the Kalahari desert expands across southern Africa.

+4.4°: Melting ice caps displace millions

Rapidly-rising temperatures in the Arctic put Siberian permafrost in the melt zone, releasing vast quantities of methane and CO2. Global temperatures keep on rising rapidly in consequence. Melting ice-caps and sea level rises displace more than 100 million people, particularly in Bangladesh, the Nile Delta and Shanghai. Heatwaves and drought make much of the sub-tropics uninhabitable: large-scale migration even takes place within Europe, where deserts are growing in southern Spain, Italy and Greece. More than half of wild species are wiped out, in the worst mass extinction since the end of the dinosaurs. Agriculture collapses in Australia.

+5.4°: Sea levels rise by five metres

The West Antarctic ice sheet breaks up, eventually adding another five metres to global sea levels. If these temperatures are sustained, the entire planet will become ice-free, and sea levels will be 70 metres higher than today. South Asian society collapses due to the disappearance of glaciers in the Himalayas, drying up the Indus river, while in east India and Bangladesh, monsoon floods threaten millions. Super-El Niños spark global weather chaos. Most of humanity begins to seek refuge away from higher temperatures closer to the poles. Tens of millions of refugees force their way into Scandanavia and the British Isles. World food supplies run out.

+6.4°: Most of life is exterminated

Warming seas lead to the possible release of methane hydrates trapped in sub-oceanic sediments: methane fireballs tear across the sky, causing further warming. The oceans lose their oxygen and turn stagnant, releasing poisonous hydrogen sulphide gas and destroying the ozone layer. Deserts extend almost to the Arctic. "Hypercanes" (hurricanes of unimaginable ferocity) circumnavigate the globe, causing flash floods which strip the land of soil. Humanity reduced to a few survivors eking out a living in polar refuges. Most of life on Earth has been snuffed out, as temperatures rise higher than for hundreds of millions of years.

© 2006 Independent News and Media Limited

Carbon Dioxide Rate is at Highest Level for 650,000 Years

by Steve Connor
The Independent
February 3, 2007

Concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are at their highest levels for at least 650,000 years and this rise began with the birth of the Industrial Revolution 250 years ago, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Carbon dioxide is the principal greenhouse gas responsible for global warming and, in 2005, concentrations stood at 379 parts per million (ppm). This compares to a pre-industrial level of 278 ppm, and a range over the previous 650,000 years of between 180 and 300 ppm, the report says.

Present levels of carbon dioxide - which continue to rise inexorably each year - are unprecedented for the long period of geological history that scientists are able to analyse from gas samples trapped in the frozen bubbles of deep ice cores.

However, the IPCC points to a potentially more sinister development: the rate of increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is beginning to accelerate. Between 1960 and 2005 the average rate at which carbon dioxide concentrations increased was 1.4 ppm per year. But when the figures are analysed more closely, it becomes apparent that there has been a recent rise in this rate of increase to 1.9 ppm per year between 1995 and 2005.

It is too early to explain this accelerating increase but one fear is that it may indicate a change in the way the Earth is responding to global warming. In other words, climate feedbacks that accelerate the rate of change may have kicked in.

The IPPC's report points out that, as the planet gets warmer, the natural ability of the land and the oceans to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere begins to get weaker.

It is estimated that about half of all the man-made emissions of carbon dioxide have been taken out of the air and absorbed by natural carbon "sinks" on the land and in the sea. Many computer models of the climate predict that as the Earth continues to get warmer, these sinks will become less able to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

This means that more carbon dioxide will be left in the air to exacerbate the greenhouse effect, so leading to further temperature rises and more global warming, which in turn will make the natural carbon sinks of the Earth even less efficient.

As the IPCC's summary says: "Warming tends to reduce land and ocean uptake of atmospheric carbon dioxide, increasing the fraction of anthropogenic [man-made] emissions that remain in the atmosphere."

This is just one of several "positive feedbacks" that could quickly accelerate the rate of global warming over the coming century. One isa warmer world is causing more evaporation from the oceans and a rise in water vapour - a powerful greenhouse gas - in the lower atmosphere. Another is sea ice and snow cover is shrinking at the poles and on mountains, leading to a further increase in local temperatures.

© 2006 Independent News and Media Limited

Bird Flu: A Virus of Our Own Hatching

by Michael Greger, M.D.

With the advance of the deadly strain of the "Bird Flu" into Britain, this blog revisits Dr. Greger's recent book with the following words from Professor Emeritus Kennedy Shortridge, who is credited with having first discovered the H5N1 virus in Asia. As chair of the Department of Microbiology at the University of Hong Kong, Dr. Shortridge led the world’s first fight against the virus. For his pioneering work studying flu viruses, which spans over three decades, he was awarded the highly prestigious Prince Mahidol Award in Public Health, considered the “Nobel Prize of Asia.” For more information or to purchase the book, visit

Foreword by Kennedy Shortridge, PhD, DSc(Hon), CBiol, FIBiol

Horse-drawn carts piled with dead bodies circulated through the small town of Queensland, Australia. A nightmare to imagine, yet even more horrific to learn that this scene was a recurring reality throughout the world during the 1918–1919 influenza pandemic.

My mother’s compelling stories about the devastating reaches of the pandemic have stayed with me since my earliest years. What started out as a spark of interest has led me to search the hows and whys of influenza pandemics through birds and mammals.

The world has seen unprecedented advances in science and technology over the past 50 years, and, with it, a phenomenal increase in the availability of food, especially meat protein, largely through the intensification of poultry production in many parts of the world, notably Asia. But at what cost?

Chicken, once consumed only on special occasions, has become a near-daily staple on dinner tables around the world as a result of animal agriculture practices that have dramatically changed the landscape of farming by confining ever greater numbers of animals in ever decreasing amounts of space. In China, the shift from small, backyard poultry rearing toward industrialized animal agribusiness began to take root in the early 1980s. In just two decades, Chinese poultry farming has increasingly intensified—and has developed an unintended by-product: the prospect of an influenza pandemic of nightmarish proportions, one that could devastate humans, poultry, and ecosystems around the world.

Influenza epidemics and pandemics are not new. Yet it wasn’t until 1982 that the late Professor Sir Charles Stuart-Harris and I put forward the hypothesis that southern China is an epicentre for the emergence of pandemic influenza viruses, the seeds for which had been germinating for 4,500 years when it was believed the duck was first domesticated in that region. This established the influenza virus gene pool in southern China’s farmyards.

Indeed, molecular and genetic evidence suggests that the chicken is not a natural host for influenza. Rather, the domestic duck is the silent intestinal carrier of avian influenza viruses being raised in close proximity to habitation.

It is the siting of large-scale chicken production units, particularly in southern China where avian influenza viruses abound, that is the crux of the problem. There, domestic ducks have been raised on rivers, waterways, and, more recently, with the flooded rice crops cultivated each year. The importation of industrial poultry farming into that same region introduced millions of chickens—highly stressed due to intensive production practices and unsanitary conditions—into this avian influenza virus milieu. The result? An influenza accident waiting to happen. The H5N1 virus signalled its appearance in Hong Kong in 1997, and has since made its way into dozens of countries, infected millions of birds, and threatens to trigger a human catastrophe.

Michael Greger has taken on the formidable task of reviewing and synthesizing the many factors contingent upon chicken production that have brought us to the influenza threat the world now faces. Drawing upon scientific literature and media reports at large, Dr. Greger explores the hole we have dug for ourselves with our own unsavoury practices.

Indeed, while governments and the poultry industry are quick to blame migratory birds as the source of the current H5N1 avian influenza virus, and to view pandemics as natural phenomena analogous to, say, sunspots and earthquakes, in reality, human choices and actions may have had—and may continue to have—a pivotal role in the changing ecology. Now that anthropogenic behaviour has reached unprecedented levels with a concomitant pronounced zoonotic skew in emerging infectious diseases of humans, H5N1 seems like a cautionary tale of how attempts to exploit nature may backfire. The use of antibiotics as farm meal growth promoters leading to antibiotic-resistance in humans or the feeding of meat or bone meal to cattle leading to mad cow disease are cases in point: profitable in the short term for animal agriculture, but with the potential for unforeseen and disastrous consequences. Intensified, industrial poultry production has given us inexpensive chicken, but at what cost to the animals and at what heightened risk to public health?

We have reached a critical point. We must dramatically change animal farming practices for all animals.

Michael Greger has achieved much in this volume. He has taken a major step toward balancing humanity’s account with animals.

Kennedy F. Shortridge

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Copyright ©2006

Thursday, February 01, 2007

France Tells U.S. to Sign Climate Pacts or Face Tax

by Katrin Bennhold
The New York Times
February 1, 2007

President Jacques Chirac has demanded that the United States sign both the Kyoto climate protocol and a future agreement that will take effect when the Kyoto accord runs out in 2012.

He said that he welcomed last week’s State of the Union address in which President Bush described climate change as a “serious challenge” and acknowledged that a growing number of American politicians now favor emissions cuts.

But he warned that if the United States did not sign the agreements, a carbon tax across Europe on imports from nations that have not signed the Kyoto treaty could be imposed to try to force compliance. The European Union is the largest export market for American goods.

“A carbon tax is inevitable,” Mr. Chirac said. “If it is European, and I believe it will be European, then it will all the same have a certain influence because it means that all the countries that do not accept the minimum obligations will be obliged to pay.”

Trade lawyers have been divided over the legality of a carbon tax, with some saying it would run counter to international trade rules. But Mr. Chirac said other European countries would back it. “I believe we will have all of the European Union,” he said.

Mr. Chirac spoke as scientists from around the world gathered in Paris to discuss an authoritative international report on climate change, portions of which will be released on Friday.

Mr. Chirac’s critics say that despite his comments in support of environmental measures, his record as president is far from green. He angered environmentalists across the globe when he conducted nuclear tests in a Pacific atoll within months of coming into office in 1995. He has been a loyal ally of French farmers and their pollution-causing practices, blocking some proposed Europe-wide reforms.

Most recently, France’s national plan for allocating carbon emission credits to businesses had to be revised after the European Union rejected it as too generous.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

Molly Ivins Tribute

by Anthony Zurcher
Creators Syndicate
January 31, 2006

Goodbye, Molly I.

Molly Ivins is gone, and her words will never grace these pages again -- for this, we will mourn. But Molly wasn't the type of woman who would want us to grieve. More likely, she'd say something like, "Hang in there, keep fightin' for freedom, raise more hell, and don't forget to laugh, too."

If there was one thing Molly wanted us to understand, it's that the world of politics is absurd. Since we can't cry, we might as well laugh. And in case we ever forgot, Molly would remind us, several times a week, in her own unique style.

Shortly after becoming editor of Molly Ivins' syndicated column, I learned one of my most important jobs was to tell her newspaper clients that, yes, Molly meant to write it that way. We called her linguistic peculiarities "Molly-isms." Administration officials were "Bushies," government was in fact spelled "guvment," business was "bidness." And if someone was "madder than a peach orchard boar," well, he was quite mad indeed.

Of course, having grown up in Texas, all of this made sense to me. But to newspaper editors in Seattle, Chicago, Detroit and beyond -- Yankee land, as Molly would say -- her folksy language could be a mystery. "That's just Molly being Molly," I would explain and leave it at that.

But there was more to Molly Ivins than insightful political commentary packaged in an aw-shucks Southern charm. In the coming days, much will be made of Molly's contributions to the liberal cause, how important she was as an authentic female voice on opinion pages across the country, her passionate and eloquent defense of the poorest and the weakest among us against the corruption of the most powerful, and the joy she took in celebrating the uniqueness of American culture -- and all of this is true. But more than that, Molly Ivins was a woman who loved and cared deeply for the world around her. And her warm and generous spirit was apparent in all her words and deeds.

Molly's work was truly her passion.
She would regularly turn down lucrative speaking engagements to give rally-the-troops speeches at liberalism's loneliest outposts. And when she did rub elbows with the highfalutin' well-to-do, the encounter would invariably end up as comedic grist in future columns.

For a woman who made a profession of offering her opinion to others, Molly was remarkably humble. She was known for hosting unforgettable parties at her Austin home, which would feature rollicking political discussions, and impromptu poetry recitals and satirical songs. At one such event, I noticed her dining table was littered with various awards and distinguished speaker plaques, put to use as trivets for steaming plates of tamales, chili and fajita meat. When I called this to her attention, Molly matter-of-factly replied, "Well, what else am I going to do with 'em?"

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Molly's life is the love she engendered from her legions of fans. If Molly missed a column for any reason, her newspapers would hear about it the next day. As word of Molly's illness spread, the letters, cards, e-mails and gifts poured in.

Even as Molly fought her last battle with cancer, she continued to make public appearances. When she was too weak to write, she dictated her final two columns. Although her body was failing, she still had so much to say. Last fall, before an audience at the University of Texas, her voice began as barely a whisper. But as she went on, she drew strength from the standing-room-only crowd until, at the end of the hour, she was forcefully imploring the students to get involved and make a difference. As Molly once wrote, "Politics is not a picture on a wall or a television sitcom that you can decide you don't much care for."

For me, Molly's greatest words of wisdom came with three children's books she gave my son when he was born. In her inimitable way, she captured the spirit of each in one-sentence inscriptions. In "Alice in Wonderland," she offered, "Here's to six impossible things before breakfast." For "The Wind in the Willows," it was, "May you have Toad's zest for life." And in "The Little Prince," she wrote, "May your heart always see clearly."

Like the Little Prince, Molly Ivins has left us for a journey of her own. But while she was here, her heart never failed to see clear and true -- and for that, we can all be grateful.

To find out more about Molly Ivins and read her past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at

Copyright 2007 Creators Syndicate, Inc.