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Saturday, August 17, 2002

Francione Issues Challenge to AR Advocates Concerning Chronicle's Saunders: Engaged Debate is Crucial

Dear Animal Rights Advocates:

The San Francisco Chronicle has published a series of editorials written by Debra Saunders, who is critical of the animal protection movement. Her columns have been reprinted on various news and discussion lists with accompanying calls to animal advocates to write to the Chronicle in order to lodge complaints about Saunders, who is labeled on AR News as an "animal enemy."

When journalists oppose animal rights, we clearly disagree with them. At the same time, however, we ought to take notice when their criticisms identify some of the many inconsistencies that have plagued modern animal advocacy in the United States. Consider some of the questions that have come up in Saunders's editorials.

Do Animal Rights People Think It's Okay to Have Sex with Animals and Kill Babies?

In one of her editorials, Saunders condemned the essay "Heavy Petting," in which Peter Singer argued that we had to rid ourselves of our "taboos" and recognize that certain "mutually satisfying" sexual activities between humans and nonhumans might be morally acceptable if they do not involve "cruelty." Quite remarkably, most animal advocates did not condemn Singer's outrageous and offensive support for bestiality; indeed, there was an outpouring of support for Singer from the animal protection community. Those animal advocates who did criticize Singer were reprimanded for being "divisive." Such a response is more indicative of a cult than a social movement. Saunders was dead right to call the movement on this issue.

Saunders also noted that Singer supports infanticide. She is correct. Singer has, for many years, advanced the idea that it is morally acceptable -- indeed, morally obligatory -- to kill disabled human infants whose lives are, in Singer's view, not worth living. Again, those few animal advocates who have criticized Singer's support for infanticide have been labeled as "animal enemies" just as Saunders is now labeled, and the animal protection movement as a whole continues to regard Singer as a leading spokesperson and theorist. It is neither surprising nor inappropriate that the media would expose Singer's neo-Nazi views, given that most animal advocates did not.

Do Animal Rights People Support Humane Vivisection?

Saunders ridicules humane education bills that propose general "be kind to animals" language. Although we would probably disagree with Saunders on the bottom line, she is quite correct to point out that these "humane" initiatives are completely meaningless. As long as animals are our property, as long as we can buy them, sell them, kill them, and eat them, it does not matter whether we call ourselves "guardians" or how much we ramble on about "humane" treatment. In reality we are still their masters, and they are our slaves. We have had "humane" laws for 200 years now and we are using more animals in more horrific ways than ever before. Animal welfare simply does not work.

What Do Rights Mean?

Saunders also derides advocates who argue that animals ought to have the civil rights that humans have. Again, Saunders raises a legitimate concern. When animal advocates talk about "animal rights," what do they mean? Many advocates maintain that animals ought to have all of the same rights that humans have. But that is silly. Many rights that we have that would make no sense when extended to nonhumans. For example, we regard adult humans as having the right to travel where they please. Could we extend this same right to nonhumans and let all the dogs, cats, cows, chickens, and other domesticates wander at large? Of course not. To do so would create enormous safety hazards for them as well as for us. Recently, certain lawyers have argued that we should give legal rights to animals and allow animals to sue their owners in court. Again, this is a silly idea that misses the point. As long as humans own animals, then animals will never have any meaningful legal recourse against humans -- just as human slaves had no meaningful legal recourse against their masters. It is our view that animals should not be brought under the control of human owners in the first place and that humans should stop producing domestic animals for human use. In other words, we should take the position that it is wrong to have the lion in a zoo in the first place, and not that we ought to give the lion standing to sue the zookeeper for some reason or other.

In any event, Saunders's concern about the meaning of "animal rights" should cause us to stop for a moment and contemplate what we mean by a phrase that many of us throw around every day.

What Do Animal Rights People Really Want?

Saunders expresses suspicion about the real goals of animal advocates. She says that although "animal rights people like to argue that they only want to ensure that rats and mice are treated well," they really want the complete abolition of animal research. Once again, Saunders has -- perhaps unwittingly -- touched on a real inconsistency in the animal protection movement.

Some -- and it appears as though an increasing number of -- animal advocates really do want nothing more than the "humane" treatment of research animals. Indeed, the modern American animal rights movement has, for the most part, collapsed back into the animal welfare movement of the 1950s. This "new" movement supports such insidious -- and ultimately counterproductive -- legislation as the CHIMP Act (see http://www.friendsofanimals.org/chimp.htm) and amendments to the wholly useless federal Animal Welfare Act. Some animal advocates ironically support "humane" behavioral research on chimpanzees and other nonhuman primates in order to show that they can communicate in English and deserve "rights."

On the other hand, some advocates really do support the abolition of vivisection. The problem is that many of those in this second group do not articulate their positions publicly for fear of offending others -- including those in the first group -- and this allows journalists like Saunders to observe correctly that at least some animal advocates are not straightforward about their views and goals.

There are important moral and scientific reasons why vivisection should be abolished. But we are never going to have that debate as long as one segment of the animal community thinks "humane" vivisection is a great idea and another segment disagrees but is reluctant to say so because its members do not want to be vilified by others who will label them as "animal enemies" for not supporting more "humane" vivisection.

Do They Want to Take Our Hamburgers Away?

Saunders's writing indirectly touches on yet another interesting inconsistency in the modern animal protection movement. For the most part, the focus of that movement for the past hundred years has been on vivisection and the movement has very much avoided, or relegated to a secondary or tertiary position, the matter of eating animals, which involves a much larger number of animals than does vivisection or any other animal use. The reason often given for this choice of emphasis is reluctance to offend people regarding matters of diet.

There is nothing offensive about asking people to think! We live in a culture that claims to embrace widely the principle that imposing "unnecessary" suffering on animals is morally wrong. Although we may disagree about what "necessity" means as a general matter, in this context it must surely exclude imposing suffering on animals merely for human amusement, pleasure, or convenience. But we have no better justification for eating animal products than human amusement, pleasure, or convenience. It is 2002. No one maintains that it is necessary to eat animals or animal by-products to lead an optimally healthy life. Indeed, an increasing number of mainstream health care professionals are arguing that animal foods are detrimental to human health. And it is hard to find an ecologist who will not agree that an animal-based agriculture is a disaster for the planet. In short, the only justification we have for continuing to eating meat -- and imposing the consequent suffering on animals -- is our pleasure.

Although we believe that vivisection should be abolished, there are some who claim that vivisection is "necessary" in that without the practice, certain data will be impossible to obtain. But no one can maintain that the numerically much more significant activity of eating animals is "necessary" in any sense.

So why hasn't the animal protection movement focused more on the meat issue?

The answer is simple -- and reveals yet another inconsistency. Many so-called "animal rights" advocates are not vegans. Indeed, many of the "leaders" of animal protection organizations are not vegans. For example, the late Cleveland Amory of the Fund for Animals proclaimed that "animals have rights, too" while he ate his chicken. Jane Goodall, who is relentlessly promoted by animal advocates, serves meat at functions that she sponsors and has been a spokesperson for a dairy company. Moreover, the failure to promote veganism as a baseline issue allows animal organizations to engage in endless fundraising campaigns to promote "pink veal," to regulate the "humane" treatment of "downed animals," and to praise fast-food chains for their more "humane" treatment of "food" animals or their adoption of a "veggie burger" (that is not even vegan). The result is that the animal protection community has actually made an industry of making the general public feel better about eating meat.

Can we blame journalists for pointing out that animal advocates rant and rave about vivisection while they eat their chicken parmesan, bacon and eggs, fish fillets, or yogurt? Surely not.

Conclusion

Animals do not need people breaking "taboos" and seeing them as potential sex partners. They do not need to be able to communicate in a human language in order to be members of the moral community. They do not need the meaningless gestures of laws that characterize animal owners as "guardians" or that require "humane" treatment. All sentient beings -- irrespective of their particular mental characteristics -- need one right and only one right: the right not to be treated exclusively as means to human ends.

So instead of burying the San Francisco Chronicle under an avalanche of indignant letters, the most productive response to media critiques might well be to use them as starting-points for discussion, in order to develop a coherent and serious approach to animal rights.

Gary L. Francione, Professor of Law & Nicholas deB. Katzenbach Distinguished Scholar of Law and Philosophy
Rutgers University School of Law

Posted by Richard
8/17/2002 08:30:20 AM | PermaLink

Republicans Pressure Bush to Snub World Summit

London (ENS) -- Less than two weeks before world leaders gather for the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, U.S. President George W. Bush has not publicly indicated whether or not he will attend. A letter from Republican Party and conservative lobbyists to Bush made public today by Friends of the Earth UK makes it clear that the President is under pressure not to attend the summit.

Posted by Richard
8/17/2002 08:09:39 AM | PermaLink

Global Warming and Canadian Drought Connected

Ottawa -- Natural Resources Canada is warning global warming will be a big threat to the country's supply of fresh water over the coming century.

The warning is detailed in a paper on climate change. Environmentalists say the report is just one more reason for Canada to implement the Kyoto accords.

According to the report, Canada's abundant water supply could be at risk because of climate change. The report warns of greater droughts on the Prairies and lower water levels in the Great Lakes.

It doesn't surprise John Bennett, the Sierra Club's climate change specialist. But he is surprised by the severity of some of the predictions.

"They're predicting conflicts between communities over water and rights to water because there will be a shortage of potable water in Atlantic Canada. These are incredible things, these are Third World kinds of things happening here in Canada, and we're doing it to ourselves."

Bennett says he's happy to see the federal government recognize the potential problem. And he says it's time to quit stalling and take action on the Kyoto Protocol.

Posted by Richard
8/17/2002 08:06:39 AM | PermaLink

 
Friday, August 16, 2002

Almost Half of U.S. in Drought

Name me the Senator or Representative that has seriously proposed any form of wildfire management that links it to water management, name me one ranking official of the Bush Administration that has a compelling answer for why the nation's forests, prairies, and wetlands are currently at risk and suffering through a historic change in weather patterns, rising temperatures and dry conditions...

Can you do it? Give it a try. Let's call this assignment: Ecological Mindset on the Hill.

Washington, D.C. (ENS) --Drought is now affecting almost half of the contiguous United States, according to the National Climatic Data Center.

Above normal temperatures and drier than normal conditions occurred across large parts of the United States in July, and led to persistent or worsening drought in many states. At the end of the month, 49 percent of the contiguous United States was in moderate to extreme drought, based on the Palmer Drought Index, a common measure of drought severity.

The Palmer Drought Index uses numerical values derived from weather and climate data to classify moisture conditions throughout the contiguous United States and includes drought categories on a scale from mild to moderate, severe and extreme.

Precipitation was well below average in 27 states in July. New York had its second driest July on record, and it was the third driest July since 1895 in New Hampshire and Colorado.

Drier than average conditions have persisted in many areas for several seasons; in some parts of the country, for several years. The past 12 months were the driest August through July on record in four southeastern states - Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia - and two Rocky Mountain states - Colorado and Wyoming.

Three other states - Arizona, Nevada and Delaware - had their second driest August through July in the 107 year period of record.

Parts of the Southeast and western United States have been in various stages of drought since 1998. Rainfall alleviated drought in West Texas and some areas of the Gulf Coast in July. Though at the end of the month, moderate drought or worse was present in at least part of 37 states as reported by the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Based on the Palmer Drought Index, 37 percent of the contiguous U.S. was affected by severe to extreme drought in July. Areas of extreme drought stretched from the Southwest to Montana and Nebraska and from Georgia to Virginia.

The greatest historic area of drought coverage to date occurred in July 1934 when moderate to extreme drought covered 80 percent of the contiguous United States.

Wildfires continued to burn large areas in the western United States last month. More than four million acres had burned throughout the United States by the end of July, with most large wildland fires occurring in the west according to the National Interagency Fire Center. This is slightly more than twice the 1991-2000 average for the same period.

Posted by Richard
8/16/2002 08:13:03 AM | PermaLink

 
Thursday, August 15, 2002

Big Wolf and Cougar Kill Planned For Vancouver Island

With Black-tail deer populations declining sharply over the last 20 years, a plan is being proposed for implementation that targets the islands (also declining) wolf and cougars for extermination. The idea is that these large carnivores are preying upon the deer in a devastating manner.

However, scientists who study the carnivores and activists who are aware of the island's political realities are singing a different tune -- the truth, they say, is that the logging of the old-growth forests has significantly reduced populations (of all the species concerned) and that this is simply a ploy to lure hunters in for big game during what amounts to a sagging economic period.

You read this stuff day after day and its sometimes very hard to believe that the year is 2002 and not 1902 or 1802. Policies often look little different. It gives people like myself, who are in the business of conscious-raising, a real bad feeling that the technologies of the self (as Michel Foucault once put it) simply don't exist in scope to deal with the social environment of power politics and economy. It is as though we must expend 10x the input to get 1x the output -- a T3 connection here but a 28.8 baud modem on the receiving end. Sadly, you can't jam an elephant through a mouse hole. There is nothing comic about this world at present. Somehow, we must find the desire to keep experimenting and trying. We must build the new technologies if they are not ready at hand.

--------------------

Lenny Ignelzi / Wolves and cougars could be in peril if a predator cull is undertaken on Vancouver Island.
 
ADVERTISEMENT

The B.C. ministry of water, land and air protection is considering a controversial plan to kill up to 30 per cent of all the wolves and cougars on Vancouver Island to rescue what it says is a declining deer population.

Doug Janz, the head of the fish and wildlife science and allocation section of the ministry's Vancouver Island region, said the island's black-tailed deer population has dropped from 200,000 to about 55,000 in the last 20 years, and that excessive predation may be to blame.

"When you have predators in the system, they can reduce deer numbers down to a very low equilibrium, far lower than what the habitat can support," Janz said.

Consequently, meetings will take place in Victoria this fall to discuss the organized killing up to 30 per cent of the deer's chief predators -- wolves and cougars.

Ministry estimates suggest there are about 400 cougars and 150 wolves left on the island, Janz said. He says that 20 years ago there may have been twice as many.

Opponents of the plan call it "far-fetched at best."

"It doesn't hold up to scrutiny," said Paul Paquet, a University of Calgary large-carnivore specialist, who has studied B.C.'s wolf population for the past 15 years.

He says the logging of old-grown forests, not predation, is to blame for a decline in deer numbers, and that even a population of 55,000 deer is sufficient to maintain current populations of wolves and cougars without the deer population suffering.

Deer, he said, depend on old-growth forest for their long-term survival, so it's inevitable that as more and more of that forest is logged, the deer population will suffer.

"For a short time after forests are cut, deer will thrive because there's a lot of new vegetation around," Paquet said. "But over time that vegetation disappears. Then there isn't enough food to support them.

"This was predicted by government biologists in 1978."

Paquet believes the only reason the ministry is considering the kill is to provide more deer for sport hunters.

"It's a difficult thing to be a provincial biologist," he said. "You have to deal with a lot of special interests. I suspect there's a lot of pressure to improve hunting opportunities."

"One of the things people need to recognize is that wildlife management does not necessarily address ecological issues. Often [the provincial biologist's] mandate conflicts with what's best for conservation and what's best for the ecological integrity of an area."

Janz rejected criticism that the plan is intended to please hunters and said a ban on deer hunting on the island is also under consideration.

"That's another option," he said.

At the moment, he says hunters kill about 10 per cent of the deer on the island.

He said if a wolf cull takes place, 30 per cent will need to be killed because wolves are prolific breeders.

Chris Genovali of the Raincoast Conservation Society called the government's proposal "stone-age wildlife management."

"It's driven by the sport-hunting agenda, and sport-hunting lobby groups who have almost a death grip on wildlife management policy," he said.

He also said if the government adopts the proposal and starts killing wolves and cougars, his and other conservation groups will alert other countries to the cull.

"We would go beyond B.C. and let the international community know the kind of regressive, almost barbaric, wildlife policies that are being implemented here."

Janz said he and the ministry know it's a controversial idea, and admits that there is bound to be widespread opposition to a cull if one takes place.

But he says it is only one of several plans being considered by the ministry.

"This is an intensively managed piece of real estate, so we're saying that if we're going to have intensive management of it, let's have some active management of the predators as well."

Posted by Richard
8/15/2002 08:27:32 AM | PermaLink

 
Wednesday, August 14, 2002

Quiet Raid on Public Lands -- Los Angeles Times Editorial

The battle for the environment is never easy. The struggle to clean the air and water and preserve wild lands for our children and our children's children was tested in the 1980s by the attacks of Interior Secretary James G. Watt. Fortunately, public outrage stymied Watt.

But today, from Florida to Alaska, the environment again is under assault. The Bush administration is undercutting laws and reversing regulations under the guise of "balance" and of what's good for the nation. The beneficiary is industry.

It's the most concerted exploitation of the public's land, air and water since fundamental protection laws went into effect three decades ago.

Many worthy initiatives are being junked, including a Clinton administration decision to halt road building in 59 million acres of untracked national forest. Corporations itching to tear up federal lands in the West for their energy and mineral wealth are getting a sympathetic hearing in the White House.

The present reversal is smarter, broader and more threatening than the Watt actions. Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton, a Watt protege, extols the parks and wild animals; behind that shield, damage is taking place.

Many Americans are familiar with the administration's quest to drill for oil on the Arctic plain in Alaska and repeal the snowmobile ban in Yellowstone. Scores of other rollbacks never make headlines. A sampling:

* A new Environmental Protection Agency rule allows companies to dump mine waste into rivers and streams.

* The Interior Department is pushing to develop oil and gas leases off the Central California coast and new energy leasing in the Los Padres National Forest, part of it habitat for the California condor.

* The EPA ordered a 16-year delay in enforcing rules to clean emissions from dirty older electric power plants.

* The Interior Department says it will allow drilling of 51,000 methane gas wells in northeast Wyoming, threatening the area's groundwater supply. Interior also is opening the pristine Rocky Mountain Front in Montana and the red rock country of Utah to oil exploration.

* The U.S. Forest Service is expanding logging plans in the national forests and Interior is proposing oil exploration near Florida's Everglades.

The administration also is slashing the regulatory budgets of agencies such as the EPA. Committed professional staff members have felt ignored, sometimes driven out. Former energy and logging industry executives manage the nation's parks and forests.

Norton talks of restoring balance between protecting the environment and the need to develop public resources. But her initiatives, far from being balanced, are a swing back toward the exploitation that ravaged the public estate in the 20th century.

Congress should be fighting these shadowy dealings, but most members are preoccupied with national security issues and some are simply cozy with the energy industry and thus happy with the Bush administration actions.

If Congress continues its passive acceptance of this environmental reversal, the courts may be the only defense left. Americans should make their voices heard before it comes to that.

Posted by Richard
8/14/2002 08:15:08 AM | PermaLink

Wildfire Literature from the Center for Biological Diversity

"Effectively Treating the Wildland-Urban Interface to Protect Houses and Communities from the Threat of Forest Fire"

Center fire staff did an exhaustive literature review and consolidated the best available science into a coherent definition of the WUI. It is critical to make a distinction between work to protect communities and what it takes to restore forests. Having a clear definition of the WUI clarifies where more aggressive home protection treatments are appropriate and where more ecologically sound approaches to forest restoration make the most sense.

"Prelude to Catastrophe: Recent and Historic Land Management within the Rodeo-Chediski Fire Area"

This comprehensive review of the management history and its effects on how the Rodeo fire burned shows that the area was and continues to be heavily logged and grazed. These actions, along with the 2002 drought conditions, clearly added up to a recipe for disaster. The report reveals the fallacy that more logging will reduce fire intensity.

Other reports available at the Center for Biological Diversity include:

"Southwestern National Forests Threatened By Logging - Community Protection Takes Back Seat To Timber Cut"

The Forest Service and the Bush Administration are teaming up to increase logging in the Southwest. This report showcases examples of timber sales that the Forest Service is trying to pass off as forest restoration or community protection.

"Analysis of Land Ownership and Prior Land Management Activities Within the Rodeo & Chediski Fires, Arizona"

Pacific Biodiversity Institute used satellite imagery and aerial photography from before and after the Rodeo Fire as well as from the early 1970's to analyze historical and recent land management history. The report concludes that previous logging was instrumental in causing the intense fire behavior on both the Rodeo and Chediski Fires.

Posted by Richard
8/14/2002 07:55:28 AM | PermaLink

Wildfires Stoke Tensions Over Conservation Policy

The spate of wildfires this summer is inflaming more than just the Western landscape. Longtime allies are turning into adversaries as the fires stoke tensions between environmentalists and some normally supportive Democrats in Congress.

Environmentalists who had long sought a bill to protect old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest are now vowing to oppose it, accusing Senate Democrats of undercutting conservation in the name of wildfire prevention.

Republicans and representatives of the timber industry say it is environmentalists who have a credibility problem. The fires now raging in the West are helping build public support for more logging to thin overstocked forests after decades of fire suppression, they say.

Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., and other Western senators are leading an effort to loosen federal restrictions that have allowed dry tinder to build up in the national forests, fueling the devastating blazes.

"You've got forests that don't look like forests anymore," Domenici said. "They're totally built up with undergrowth. You try to do something about it, you're in court - it takes forever. We want to change that and I think we're going to do it."

Among those caught in the shifting political winds is Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. A longtime friend of the environmental movement, Wyden now finds himself under attack from it because he's willing to allow increased logging in some areas to reduce the fire threat in exchange for GOP support of bill to ban timber harvesting in old-growth forests in western Oregon.

With much of his state on fire, Wyden was under pressure to do something, said Chris West, vice president of the American Forest Resource Council, a Portland-based timber group.

So Wyden agreed to allowing expedited thinning in dry areas east of the Cascades to win Republican support for his plan to ban logging in areas where trees are more than 120 years old. With a Republican-controlled House and a closely divided Senate such a compromise was essential for Wyden's old-growth bill to have a chance of becoming law, West said.

Jasmine Minbashian, coordinator of the Northwest Old Growth Campaign, called Wyden's proposal "somewhat shocking." Conservationists will not agree to a "divide and conquer approach" that sacrifices eastern trees in return for protection of older, western trees, she said.

Wyden is not alone among Senate Democrats in challenging the conventional environmentalist line that prohibitions on logging represent the best forest policy. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota moved quietly last month to exempt some areas of his home state from environmental constraints on tree cutting.

Daschle attached a rider to an emergency spending bill to allow some logging in areas of South Dakota's Black Hills National Forest. The measure waives key restrictions on forest thinning and blocks court challenges by logging opponents - a heresy the environmental movement fears will spread to forests throughout the West.

Republican lawmakers quickly seized on Daschle's measure, calling it a model for allowing speedy action on thinning other national forests.

Domenici and Republican Sens. Jon Kyl of Arizona and Larry Craig of Idaho have vowed to introduce legislation that would allow up to 24 million acres of federal timberland with high fire potential to be thinned without going through standard environmental reviews.

"If it can happen in South Dakota it should happen in all of the West," the three senators said in a statement.

Daschle, in a letter last month to Republican lawmakers, defended his measure, saying it was the product of months of negotiations that involved all sides, including local chapters of the Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society and other environmental groups.

"If Congress is ever to succeed in resolving the ongoing national debate over forest management ... it should foster more consensus-based decision-making like the one that produced the Black Hills agreement," Daschle wrote.

Some environmentalists are not convinced.

Measures similar to Daschle's could be used to bypass environmental laws "and log old-growth forests in the name of fire protection," said Joseph Vaile of the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center in Oregon. "It's pretty scary."

Those fears were exacerbated when Wyden and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., appeared at an Aug. 1 news conference with Domenici. Wyden did not speak in favor of the forest-thinning plan, but his presence - coupled with his proposal for expedited logging east of the Cascades - was troubling, Vaile said.

Wyden declined to be interviewed for this story. But his chief of staff, Josh Kardon, said his office was "a little surprised that some of the groups seem to prefer to clear-cut the senator's proposal instead of selectively thinning what they don't like."

"Unless you are willing to compromise," Kardon said, "you are resigned to sloganeering and accomplishing nothing."

By Matthew Daly, Washington Post

Posted by Richard
8/14/2002 07:09:34 AM | PermaLink

House Introduces Bills to Ban Citizen Appeals of Logging

Rep. Dennis Rehberg (R-MT) introduced House bill H.R. 5214 that proposes to permanently suspend all laws for logging, and bans citizen appeals and judicial review to all "existing timber sale analysis area." Co-sponsors of the bill include Don Young (R-AK), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ).

Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ) introduced H.R. 5309 that proposes to suspend environmental laws and citizen involvement in any project that involves thinning or salvage logging. Co-sponsors include Reps. James Hansen (R-UT) chairman of the Resources Committee, Scott McGinnis (R-CO) who is chairman of the Forest Subcommittee of the Resources Committee, and Jeff Flake (R-AZ).

Posted by Richard
8/14/2002 06:40:43 AM | PermaLink

Wildfire in the West -- Culprits?: Drought and Money

This year's fierce wildfires have led to even fiercer political battles over who's to blame. Is it the Forest Service, which suppressed previous fires it should have let burn? Is it loggers, who left debris behind after timber sales? Or is it environmentalists, who delayed and stopped timber sales and other projects that could reduce fuels?

The answer turns out to be none of the above. The hazardous-fuel crisis is mostly a myth. Drought, not fuel, is the chief culprit behind big fires in Colorado, Arizona and elsewhere in the West, and perverse incentives are the main reason why the Forest Service spends so much money suppressing fires that it should let burn.

Forest Service stories about a hazardous fuel crisis convinced Congress to give the agency a whopping 38 percent, $1.4 billion increase in its budget last year, mostly for fire-related activities such as thinning overgrown forests.

Hazardous fuels also excuse the Forest Service's big fire-suppression program, which - if you include activities such as keeping firefighters on standby - nearly doubled its budget to well over $1.3 billion. Though everyone agrees federal land managers should let more fires burn, the supposed danger of hazardous fuels gives them a pretext to fight more than 99.5 percent of all wildfires.

I am not claiming there are no fuel problems on federal lands. But after studying all available data, I can't find any evidence that fuel build-ups have much to do with recent fires. More acres burned in 2000 than in any of the previous 40 years, and even more may burn in 2002. But the average number of acres burned in the last five years is no greater than the average number burned 40 years ago. That figure depends mainly on droughts.

The number of firefighters killed each year more than doubled, from about eight per year in the 1950s to nearly 17 per year in the 1990s. But that was not because of fuels: The average number killed by fire declined from about six to five a year. Where fatalities increased was in aircraft and vehicle accidents - increasing from one to six per year - and heart attacks, which increased from an average of one-half to five per year. An aging workforce and greater use of aircraft and vehicles, not fuels, are responsible for increased firefighter deaths.

Firefighting costs have flamed skyward, but for reasons other than fuels. Besides droughts, there's the growing number of homes in the "wildland-urban interface" near federal lands. One study says 38 percent of new homes built in the West are in this zone, and the Forest Service spends extraordinary amounts of money trying to protect them.

But the biggest reason for high firefighting costs is more basic: Congress gives the Forest Service a blank check to put out fires. This was also true before 1978, but in the 1980s, Congress tried to rein in fire costs by giving the Forest Service a fixed amount each year. Deficits in one year were to be covered by surpluses in the next.

This led the Forest Service to control its costs for nearly a decade. Then severe fires in 1987 and 1988 forced the agency to borrow hundreds of millions of dollars from its reforestation fund.

Forest Service officials persuaded Congress to reimburse this money in 1990. The agency is now free to spend as much as it likes on fire suppression, and Congress always covers the deficits.

No wonder firefighters say the Forest Service attacks fires by dumping money on them. After the great fires of 2000, Congress began an even greater firestorm of spending on fuel treatments, research, community assistance and, especially, suppression. Once again, we're trying to solve a problem by dumping money on it. But it won't work. Ponderosa pine forests are ecologically adapted to frequent, low-intensity fires. But most Western forests, including Douglas fir, lodgepole pine, spruce, fir and hemlock forests, are adapted to infrequent, high-intensity fires. The West has always had big fires and it always will.

The real problem with fire is the Forest Service's incentive to spend too much money. Except to protect adjacent private lands, federal land managers should let fires burn on federal lands. This will save money, save lives and restore ecosystems.

By Randal O'Toole, Denver Post
Randal O'Toole is the senior economist with the Thoreau Institute and a lifelong resident of Oregon. He is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News.

Posted by Richard
8/14/2002 06:03:09 AM | PermaLink

 
Tuesday, August 13, 2002

Why All These Posts About Military Weaponry?

I am posting two articles today dealing with a secret military program that is in the works for testing in a region near you (the sky). No, I'm not talking about white chem-trails streaking across from horizon to horizon -- that's merely the tip of the iceberg compared with the information that has been coming in to me lately. Apparently, the U.S. military is attempting to create space weaponry of a kind previously unknown -- weapons that would affect the near-Earth medium of the upper ionosphere for affecting the weather (!), electronic and computer networks, and any other system that is in relation to that which the military will attempt to affect. Of course, like the Manhattan Experiment before it and perhaps like cloning and related scientific ventures today, our ability to create scientific manipulations of the environment far outstretches our ability to comprehend the possible side-effects and consequences. Much of this is being learned and policy devised as the experiments unfold.

Needless to say, then, I am (and people should be) gravely concerned about the level and types of experimentation being done by the military-industrial complex during this time of warfare. In the name of protection, devices have been and will be developed that do not belong on the Earth as we now know it. This has been the lesson handed down from on high, tragically, and the history of weaponry and military experiment is unthinkably insane. From Hiroshima and Nagasaki to the Persian Gulf disaster, from the bombs of radiological material dispersed throughout Kosovo to the deployment of Agent Orange throughout the jungles of South Asia, from the chemical war that has become a common place amongst ground troops of all nations to the mutant biological agents like Smallpox and Anthrax, the world is being exposed to a dangerous level of monstrous invention under the guise of necessity.

However, these tenuous lines, once crossed are not easily reversed. People have the right to know about such measures as they are being planned, devised, and implemented. Anything less is not only anti-democratic, but it is inhuman. As the lives of beings everywhere become jeopardized and the energy of the planet is itself harnassed to unknown ends, should the people not have a right to discuss, debate, and cast the final opinion on whether such activities are helpful, necessary, or safe?

Posted by Richard
8/13/2002 09:19:00 AM | PermaLink

US HAARP Weapon Development Concerns Russian Duma: US Could Dominate the Planet if Weapon is Deployed in Space

MOSCOW (Interfax) - The Russian State Duma has expressed concern about the USA's programme to develop a qualitatively new type of weapon.

"Under the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Programme (HAARP) [website address: http://server5550.itd.nrl.navy.mil/projects/haarp/], the USA is creating new integral geophysical weapons that may influence the near-Earth medium with high-frequency radio waves," the State Duma said in an appeal circulated on Thursday [8 August].

"The significance of this qualitative leap could be compared to the transition from cold steel to firearms, or from conventional weapons to nuclear weapons. This new type of weapons differs from previous types in that the near-Earth medium becomes at once an object of direct influence and its component.

These conclusions were made by the commission of the State Duma's international affairs and defence committees, the statement reads.

The committees reported that the USA is planning to test three facilities of this kind. One of them is located on the military testing ground in Alaska and its full-scale tests are to begin in early 2003. The second one is in Greenland and the third one in Norway.

"When these facilities are launched into space from Norway, Alaska and Greenland, a closed contour will be created with a truly fantastic integral potential for influencing the near-Earth medium," the State Duma said.

The USA plans to carry out large-scale scientific experiments under the HAARP programme, and not controlled by the global community, will create weapons capable of breaking radio communication lines and equipment installed on spaceships and rockets, provoke serious accidents in electricity networks and in oil and gas pipelines and have a negative impact on the mental health of people populating entire regions, the deputies said.

They demanded that an international ban be put on such large-scale geophysical experiments.

The appeal, signed by 90 deputies, has been sent to President Vladimir Putin, to the UN and other international organizations, to the parliaments and leaders of the UN member countries, to the scientific public and to mass media outlets.

Among those who signed the appeal are Tatyana Astrakhankina, Nikolay Kharitonov, Yegor Ligachev, Sergey Reshulskiy, Vitaliy Sevastyanov, Viktor Cherepkov, Valentin Zorkaltsev and Aleksey Mitrofanov.

Posted by Richard
8/13/2002 09:18:17 AM | PermaLink

Washington's New World Order Weapons Have the Ability to Trigger Climate Change

by Michel Chossudovsky, Professor of Economics, University of Ottawa

The important debate on global warming under UN auspices provides but a partial picture of climate change; in addition to the devastating impacts of greenhouse gas emissions on the ozone layer, the World's climate can now be modified as part of a new generation of sophisticated "non-lethal weapons." Both the Americans and the Russians have developed capabilities to manipulate the World's climate.

In the US, the technology is being perfected under the High-frequency Active Aural Research Program (HAARP) as part of the ("Star Wars") Strategic Defence Initiative (SDI). Recent scientific evidence suggests that HAARP is fully operational and has the ability of potentially triggering floods, droughts, hurricanes and earthquakes. From a military standpoint, HAARP is a weapon of mass destruction. Potentially, it constitutes an instrument of conquest capable of selectively destabilising agricultural and ecological systems of entire regions.

While there is no evidence that this deadly technology has been used, surely the United Nations should be addressing the issue of "environmental warfare" alongside the debate on the climatic impacts of greenhouse gases...

Despite a vast body of scientific knowledge, the issue of deliberate climatic manipulations for military use has never been explicitly part of the UN agenda on climate change. Neither the official delegations nor the environmental action groups participating in the Hague Conference on Climate Change (CO6) (November 2000) have raised the broad issue of "weather warfare" or "environmental modification techniques (ENMOD)" as relevant to an understanding of climate change.

The clash between official negotiators, environmentalists and American business lobbies has centered on Washington's outright refusal to abide by commitments on carbon dioxide reduction targets under the 1997 Kyoto protocol.(1) The impacts of military technologies on the World's climate are not an object of discussion or concern. Narrowly confined to greenhouse gases, the ongoing debate on climate change serves Washington's strategic and defense objectives.

"WEATHER WARFARE"

World renowned scientist Dr. Rosalie Bertell confirms that "US military scientists ... are working on weather systems as a potential weapon. The methods include the enhancing of storms and the diverting of vapor rivers in the Earth's atmosphere to produce targeted droughts or floods." (2) Already in the 1970s, former National Security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski had foreseen in his book "Between Two Ages" that: "Technology will make available, to the leaders of major nations, techniques for conducting secret warfare, of which only a bare minimum of the security forces need be appraised... [T]echniques of weather modification could be employed to produce prolonged periods of drought or storm." Marc Filterman, a former French military officer, outlines several types of "unconventional weapons" using radio frequencies. He refers to "weather war," indicating that the U.S. and the Soviet Union had already "mastered the know-how needed to unleash sudden climate changes (hurricanes, drought) in the early 1980s."(3) These technologies make it "possible to trigger atmospheric disturbances by using Extremely Low Frequency (ELF) radar [waves]." (4) A simulation study of future defense "scenarios" commissioned for the US Air Force calls for: "US aerospace forces to 'own the weather' by capitalizing on emerging technologies and focusing development of those technologies to war-fighting applications...". From enhancing friendly operations or disrupting those of the enemy via small-scale tailoring of natural weather patterns to complete dominance of global communications and counterspace control, weather-modification offers the war fighter a wide-range of possible options to defeat or coerce an adversary... In the United States, weather-modification will likely become a part of national security policy with both domestic and international applications. Our government will pursue such a policy, depending on its interests, at various levels. (5)

HIGH-FREQUENCY ACTIVE AURAL RESEARCH PROGRAM (HAARP)

The High-Frequency Active Aural Research Program (HAARP) based in Gokoma Alaska --jointly managed by the US Air Force and the US Navy-- is part of a new generation of sophisticated weaponry under the US Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). Operated by the Air Force Research Laboratory's Space Vehicles Directorate, HAARP constitutes a system of powerful antennas capable of creating "controlled local modifications of the ionosphere". Scientist Dr. Nicholas Begich --actively involved in the public campaign against HAARP-- describes HAARP as:

"A super-powerful radiowave-beaming technology that lifts areas of the ionosphere [upper layer of the atmosphere] by focusing a beam and heating those areas. Electromagnetic waves then bounce back onto earth and penetrate everything -- living and dead." (6) Dr. Rosalie Bertell depicts HAARP as "a gigantic heater that can cause major disruption in the ionosphere, creating not just holes, but long incisions in the protective layer that keeps deadly radiation from bombarding the planet." (7)

MISLEADING PUBLIC OPINION

HAARP has been presented to public opinion as a program of scientific and academic research. US military documents seem to suggest, however, that HAARP's main objective is to "exploit the ionosphere for Department of Defense purposes." (8) Without explicitly referring to the HAARP program, a US Air Force study points to the use of "induced ionospheric modifications" as a means of altering weather patterns as well as disrupting enemy communications and radar.(9) According to Dr. Rosalie Bertell, HAARP is part of a integrated weapons' system, which has potentially devastating environmental consequences:

"It is related to fifty years of intensive and increasingly destructive programs to understand and control the upper atmosphere. It would be rash not to associate HAARP with the space laboratory construction which is separately being planned by the United States. HAARP is an integral part of a long history of space research and development of a deliberate military nature. The military implications of combining these projects is alarming. ... The ability of the HAARP / Spacelab/ rocket combination to deliver very large amount of energy, comparable to a nuclear bomb, anywhere on earth via laser and particle beams, are frightening. The project is likely to be "sold" to the public as a space shield against incoming weapons, or, for the more gullible, a device for repairing the ozone layer. (10)

In addition to weather manipulation, HAARP has a number of related uses:

"HAARP could contribute to climate change by intensively bombarding the atmosphere with high-frequency rays... Returning low-frequency waves at high intensity could also affect people's brains, and effects on tectonic movements cannot be ruled out. (11)

More generally, HAARP has the ability of modifying the World's electro-magnetic field. It is part of an arsenal of "electronic weapons" which US military researchers consider a "gentler and kinder warfare". (12)

WEAPONS OF THE NEW WORLD ORDER

HAARP is part of the weapons arsenal of the New World Order under the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). From military command points in the US, entire national economies could potentially be destabilized through climatic manipulations. More importantly, the latter can be implemented without the knowledge of the enemy, at minimal cost and without engaging military personnel and equipment as in a conventional war.

The use of HAARP -- if it were to be applied -- could have potentially devastating impacts on the World's climate. Responding to US economic and strategic interests, it could be used to selectively modify climate in different parts of the World resulting in the destabilization of agricultural and ecological systems.

It is also worth noting that the US Department of Defense has allocated substantial resources to the development of intelligence and monitoring systems on weather changes. NASA and the Department of Defense's National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA) are working on "imagery for studies of flooding, erosion, land-slide hazards, earthquakes, ecological zones, weather forecasts, and climate change" with data relayed from satellites. (13)

POLICY INERTIA OF THE UNITED NATIONS

According to the Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) signed at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro:

"States have... in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and the principles of international law, the (...) responsibility to ensure that activities within their jurisdiction or control do not cause damage to the environment of other States or of areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction." (14)

It is also worth recalling that an international Convention ratified by the UN General Assembly in 1997 bans "military or other hostile use of environmental modification techniques having widespread, long-lasting or severe effects." (15) Both the US and the Soviet Union were signatories to the Convention. The Convention defines "'environmental modification techniques' as referring to any technique for changing--through the deliberate manipulation of natural processes--the dynamics, composition or structure of the earth, including its biota, lithosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere or of outer space." (16)

Why then did the UN --disregarding the 1977 ENMOD Convention as well as its own charter-- decide to exclude from its agenda climatic changes resulting from military programs?

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT ACKNOWLEDGES IMPACTS OF HAARP

In February 1998, responding to a report of Mrs. Maj Britt Theorin --Swedish MEP and longtime peace advocate--, the European Parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs, Security and Defense Policy held public hearings in Brussels on the HAARP program.(17) The Committee's "Motion for Resolution" submitted to the European Parliament:

"Considers HAARP... by virtue of its far-reaching impact on the environment to be a global concern and calls for its legal, ecological and ethical implications to be examined by an international independent body...; [the Committee] regrets the repeated refusal of the United States Administration... to give evidence to the public hearing ...into the environmental and public risks [of] the HAARP program." (18).

The Committee's request to draw up a "Green Paper" on "the environmental impacts of military activities", however, was casually dismissed on the grounds that the European Commission lacks the required jurisdiction to delve into "the links between environment and defense". (19) Brussels was anxious to avoid a showdown with Washington.

FULLY OPERATIONAL

While there is no concrete evidence of HAARP having been used, scientific findings suggest that it is at present fully operational. What this means is that HAARP could potentially be applied by the US military to selectively modify the climate of an "unfriendly nation" or "rogue state" with a view to destabilizing its national economy.

Agricultural systems in both developed and developing countries are already in crisis as a result of New World Order policies including market deregulation, commodity dumping, etc. Amply documented, IMF and World Bank "economic medicine" imposed on the Third World and the countries of the former Soviet block has largely contributed to the destabilization of domestic agriculture. In turn, the provisions of the World Trade Organization (WTO) have supported the interests of a handful of Western agri-biotech conglomerates in their quest to impose genetically modified (GMO) seeds on farmers throughout the World.

It is important to understand the linkage between the economic, strategic and military processes of the New World Order. In the above context, climatic manipulations under the HAARP program (whether accidental or deliberate) would inevitably exacerbate these changes by weakening national economies, destroying infrastructure and potentially triggering the bankruptcy of farmers over vast areas. Surely national governments and the United Nations should address the possible consequences of HAARP and other "non-lethal weapons" on climate change.

NOTES

1. The latter calls for nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 5.2 percent to become effective between 2008 and 2012. See Background of Kyoto Protocol at http://www.globalwarming.net/gw11.html.
2. The Times, London, 23 November 2000.
3. Intelligence Newsletter, December 16, 1999.
4. Ibid.
5 Air University of the US Air Force, AF 2025 Final Report, http://www.au.af.mil/au/2025/ (emphasis added).
6 Nicholas Begich and Jeane Manning, The Military's Pandora's Box, Earthpulse Press, http://www.xyz.net/~nohaarp/earthlight.html. See also the HAARP home page at http://www.haarp.alaska.edu/).
7. See Briarpatch, January, 2000. (emphasis added).
8 Quoted in Begich and Manning, op cit.
9. Air University, op cit.
10. Rosalie Bertell, Background of the HAARP Program, 5 November, 1996, http://www.globalpolicy.org/socecon/envronmt/weapons.htm
11. Begich and Manning, op cit.
12. Don Herskovitz, Killing Them Softly, Journal of Electronic Defense, August 1993. (emphasis added). According to Herskovitz, "electronic warfare" is defined by the US Department of Defense as "military action involving the use of electromagnetic energy..." The Journal of Electronic Defense at http://www.jedefense.com/ has published a range of articles on the application of electronic and electromagnetic military technologies.
13. Military Space, 6 December, 1999.
14. UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, New York, 1992. See complete text at http://www.unfccc.de/resource/conv/conv_002.html, (emphasis added).
15. See Associated Press, 18 May 1977.
16. Environmental Modification Ban Faithfully Observed, States Parties Declare, UN Chronicle, July, 1984, Vol. 21, p. 27.
17. European Report, 7 February 1998.
18. European Parliament, Committee on Foreign Affairs, Security and Defense Policy, Brussels, doc. no. A4-0005/99, 14 January 1999.
19. EU Lacks Jurisdiction to Trace Links Between Environment and Defense, European Report, 3 February 1999.
(C) Copyright by Michel Chossudovsky, Ottawa, November, 2000. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to post this text on non-commercial community internet sites, provided the essay remains intact and the copyright note is displayed. To publish this text in printed and/or other forms contact the author at chossudovsky@videotron.ca, fax: 1-514-4256224.
Department of Economics, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, K1N6N5 Voice box: 1-613-562-5800, ext. 1415, Fax: 1-514-425-6224 E-Mail: chossudovsky@videotron.ca; (Altern. E-mail: chossudovsky@sprint.ca)

Posted by Richard
8/13/2002 09:15:08 AM | PermaLink

 
Monday, August 12, 2002

U.S. Military Joins Fight Against Chronic Wasting Disease

Hypothetical Pentagon conversastion
Rumsfeld: Wait, you mean to tell me that there are little mutant proteins that can be stored in meat and that, when ingested, enter the brains of people, replicate, and kill them?
DOD Administrator: Yes, sir.
Rumsfeld: And our boys abroad are eating this meat?
DOD Administrator: Yes, sir.
Rumsfeld: Sounds like biological warfare! Saddam behind this? Oh, I can't wait to get my filthy hands on that son of a...
DOD Administrator: No, sir, it doesn't appear to be Saddam.
Rumsfeld: Then, Bin Laden! I swear, if I ever find that bearded gypsy I'm gonna...
DOD Administrator: No, sir, not Bin Laden either.
Rumsfeld: Then who? Who is jeopardizing American military might and making the world unsafe for democracy?
DOD Administrator: It appears that it was the British Beef Industry. You'll remember that deal we made with them for cheap meat for the troops?
Rumsfeld: Quiet soldier. Blair, Blair! I told G.W. I never did trust that guy. Says he wants to play ball -- but then again, he represents Labor! Labor! You know what that means dontcha?
DOD Administrator: No, sir.
Rumsfeld: Commie. Them Labor types are always Communist...Hey, here's a question: if these prion-thingies aren't from Saddam or Osama, do we suspect that anyone else out there is doing research on them for a possible military use? Seems pretty easy to release and infect populations -- I mean, am I wrong or are a lot of our young boys and girls abroad pretty much screwed at the moment?
DOD Administrator: Yes, sir, screwed. No, sir, it doesn't appear that anyone's done any research. People have tried to keep it under the rug for the most part, but then, with the recent deaths, those environmental-types started talking...
Rumsfeld: Yeah, yeah -- the environmentalists...don't even get me started. Anyhow, let's start up a program pronto on these prions -- I may be wrong but there might be some real potential here for the U.S. military to establish a dominant lead in developing these things. I can just see it now: the Mad Cow Missle.
DOD Administrator: But it appears that you have to eat these prions, sir?
Rumsfeld: Oh, of course -- now....but I didn't get to be the Chief by dealing with the present son. Nothing we can do about it now -- but it's the future possibilities wherein things get interesting! Remember, the world must continually be made safe for democracy. Today's freedom may be in peril tomorrow! Am I a genius or what?
DOD Administrator: Yes, sir. A genius...

-------------------

At the direction of Congress, the U.S. military will dole out $42.5 million to learn more about prions, the deadly infectious agents suspected of causing chronic wasting disease and "mad cow" disease. John Fauber and Mark Johnson of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report.

Posted by Richard
8/12/2002 11:16:15 AM | PermaLink

How to "Humanely" Kill a Pond of Snakeheads

The following article tells the tale of the intended strategy -- apply massive amounts of toxic herbicides to the water (weed killers like Monsanto's Round Up known to be devastating to organic life and linked to non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma amongst other things) , kill the plants and reduce oxygen in the water to zero. This will strangle the pond's inhabitants to death. But, then, just to make sure that this toxic experiment does the trick -- another chemical murderous to juvenile snakeheads will be released.

Reading the article is like reading a case-history in operational, bureaucratic policy-making. Everything gets its team. They have teams to apply for special permits for the unprecedented toxic releases. Teams to dig the fish graves. And teams to wash the turtles off that come running from the pond as they become the unwitting victims of chemcial warfare -- its sadly humorous that the officials involved really appear to think that anything is going to survive this...that one can just wash the toxicity off the body with soap and water. I am reminded of plant workers exposed to dangerous levels of radiation -- quick, to the shower!

The entire job is being handled with the sort of instrumental rationality that is devoid of ethics and morals and sees in any given situation only means to desired ends. Like a bunch of cops standing around a homicide site -- the operation manager jokes that he'll be in big trouble with his crew if he doesn't "bring the doughnuts."

Again, perhaps the pond must be murdered and the snakeheads eradicated -- but in truth there's no way that anyone can say definitively that this act will really be effective in the way that officials are hoping, it may be that they'll kill this pond only to find snakeheads already widely distributed and all this for naught. But let's say that this must happen, is this the most humane option -- or simply the quickest and cheapest? Will anyone there feel remorse for what they are tragically required to do, or will they simply pat each other on the back, drink coffee and gluttonously munch doughnuts, until the job is finished and it's time to go home?

The answer is clear. But the same person that could dump a ton of Round Up into a pond without wincing is little different than the Nazi peon that could lead people to the ovens in the name of cleansing the land for the common weal.

Hopefully, this type of thoughtless extermination won't have to be carried on much farther.

Posted by Richard
8/12/2002 10:51:17 AM | PermaLink

 
Sunday, August 11, 2002

European Union to Consider Banning "Blood Diamonds"

Anything but a "girl's best friend," a large percentage of the world's diamond trade is directly associated with and the primary funder for murderous war, transnational corporate oppression of local peoples in central and sub-saharan Africa, and the utter devastation of the environment there. This article from London below uses the 4% figure that is oft quoted by De Beers Corporation, historically one of the largest illicit diamond sellers in the world. However, many estimates insist that "blood diamonds" account for at least 10% of the trade, with some estimates as high as 20%.

"Blood diamonds," associated directly with repressive conflict zones, are not the same as "illicit diamonds," or diamonds that are mined illegally and/or outright stolen. Both flood the black market and so it can be very difficult to tell the history associated with a particular diamond. A U.N. group of experts recently estimated that about 20 percent of the global trade in rough diamonds is illicit in nature.

That makes upwards of 40% (or nearly half of the diamonds in the world) directly associated with the plunder of Africa and her species, the continued destablization of diamond-rich regions for the gain of both corporations and the repressive regimes and rebel-factions they arm and fund, and the total murder of (so far) millions of people.

Something to think about the next time you see someone's finger sparkle...

--------------------------

Diamonds that fuel armed conflicts would be banned from the European Union under strict rules outlined yesterday.

The European Commission unveiled the first far-reaching plans to outlaw imports of diamonds without a certificate proving they are not "blood diamonds" - those coming from parts of the world where they are used to bankroll wars.

The ban, which would apply to rough diamonds imported for processing and polishing, is likely to have a serious impact on London and the Belgian port of Antwerp, home to more than 80 per cent of the worldwide trade in rough diamonds.

An effective ban on such diamonds would deprive rebel groups of income used to finance conflicts in countries including Sierra Leone, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It would help also the legitimate diamond market, which is vital for some of Africa's poorest countries.

Global Witness, a non-government organisation that campaigns against blood diamonds, says the Commission's proposals are stricter than the Kimberley Process, an international certification system already agreed on but not yet implemented by more than 30 governments.

Controls in place in some countries require diamond imports to be accompanied by a document showing only the most recent country of export. Traders in blood diamonds exploit this loophole and conceal the country of origin by channelling the stones via other countries.

Under the Kimberley Process, likely to come into force by the end of the year, shipments of diamonds would be sealed in containers resistant to tampering. Re -export certificates would be issued for each subsequent movement of the stones until they were cut into finished jewels. Anthonius de Vries of the European Commission said: "Traceability is the catchword here. It will be practically impossible for a fraudster to sell his diamonds."

Legitimate producers and traders have agreed to regulate themselves against illegal trading, which could trigger a consumer boycott. Each sale of diamonds will also be accompanied by a warranty on the invoice stating that the stones are not being sold to finance conflicts. The Commission would require firms to support these warranties with evidence.

Alex Yearsley of Global Witness said: "We hope the Commission proposals will go through. We think they will go a long way towards stopping the conflict diamond trade."

Blood diamonds are estimated to make up about 4 per cent of the global diamond trade, which is worth more than $ 7bn (pounds 4.5bn) annually. All 15 EU states will have to back the Commission proposals before they become law.

Posted by Richard
8/11/2002 11:24:55 AM | PermaLink

Once the Leading Edge of Earth's Evolution, Amphibians are in Dire Straits

AMPHIBIA FADING by Ashley Mattoon
The more we think we understand amphibian decline, the more mysterious it becomes--and the biggest mystery of all is whether we will act to stop it.

"Amphibian" is a Greek construction meaning "double life"--a reference to the fact that they typical amphibian lifecycle is partly aquatic and partly terrestrial. That can make amphibians doubly vulnerable: disturbance of either water or land can affect them. Habitat loss, pollution, UV exposure, non-native species, disease, and climatic instability are the stresses that we know or suspect are killing off so many of the world's amphibians, but it all remains a bit of a mystery. Therefore, the survival of these creatures now depends on our willingness to confront the major, systemic environmental issues of our day, we cannot protect amphibians simply by trying to protect amphibians.

You can read the entirety of the above Worldwatch Institute article here, AMPHIBIA FADING (July 2000), (5.54MB in PDF format).


Posted by Richard
8/11/2002 11:02:38 AM | PermaLink