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Saturday, September 21, 2002

Green Adviser Offers Environmental Lifestyle Tips

New York (ENS) -- A new website compiles advice from a variety of environmental groups on ways for people to save money while living a more environmentally friendly lifestyle.

The new site from Environmental Defense, Green Adviser (http://www.greenadviser.org), debuted this week. Green Adviser features links to articles, interactive tools and databases that help consumers make smarter, healthier choices.

The site's tips show how simple changes in daily activities, such as shopping or driving, can save money while saving the planet. In addition, a recipe section offers suggestions on maintaining a more healthful diet.

"Simple changes in day to day activities can have a beneficial environmental effect," said Environmental Defense's director of Internet and media services Joyce Newman. "Green Adviser helps those seeking practical advice with new tips every week on positive lifestyle changes."

Created and maintained by Environmental Defense, the non-commercial site offers advice on everything from buying environmentally friendly products to learning how to enjoy nature without leaving more than footprints behind. It features links to the best advice available from web sites representing regional and national green groups, health programs, conservation associations and other environmentally conscious organizations dedicated to promoting a healthier lifestyle.

Green Adviser includes advice and tips on green products, such as the least polluting automobiles and energy efficient appliances, and suggestions on how to shop online for green items. Green diet tips include how to read the labels of organic or natural foods, health news and a selection of recipes from celebrity chefs.

The Green Places section offers advice on exploring the great outdoors or creating a green spot in your own backyard, and the recycling section includes information on how to reduce waste, eliminate junk mail and shop for products that contain post consumer recycled materials.

Green Adviser also showcases a "Green Link of the Week" and links to interactive tools for consumers, like Environmental Defense's Seafood Selector, which suggests eco-friendly fish choices, and Tailpipe Tally, which helps consumers choose less polluting cars and trucks.

Posted by Richard
9/21/2002 07:49:44 AM | PermaLink

Vietnam Takes Stock of Environmental Degradation

Hanoi, Vietnam (ENS) -- In the last 50 years, Vietnam's natural forest cover has shrunk from 43 to 29 percent of land area, there is an acute shortage of arable land, and habitat loss has led to a rise in the number of threatened species. These facts are described in a new World Bank report issued Wednesday, "Vietnam Environment Monitor 2002."

Since 1992, Vietnam's economy has doubled, poverty has been halved to about 35 percent of the population, exports have risen by an average of 25 percent a year, and foreign direct investment has grown. But this economic growth has brought with it environmental problems experienced by all developing countries.

Swelling urban populations are overwhelming municipal infrastructure and services. Vietnamese cities are marked by unmanaged landfills, transport related air pollution, untreated hazardous waste, and raw sewage flowing in open channels, the report documents.

Sedimentation, plus point and non-point sources of pollution, are threatening the health of rivers. Overfishing and destruction of coral reefs and mangroves have reduced the fishing yield.

Dr. Pham Khoi Nguyen, vice minister, Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment, says the data gathered for the report will help the country implement its environmental priorities as outlined in the National Environmental Strategy and Action Plan (2001-2010).

"The Vietnam Environment Monitor 2002 has been developed through significant and effective cooperation between the donors, government agencies and national and international consultants and scientists. We hope its impact on our environmental strategy and policymaking will be significant," he said.

The national strategy aims to change the behavior of polluters, and involve communities and citizens more fully in environmental protection. Governments aim to improve institutional effectiveness, and diversify sources of financing for implementing priority programs.

Klaus Rohland, new World Bank Country Director for Vietnam, says the Monitor is seen as a modest first step to address the fact that impressive growth has come at a price - rapid deterioration in the environmental quality and natural resources. By presenting a snapshot of key environmental trends in the country, it is intended to engage and inform stakeholders of key environmental changes as they occur.

The Danish International Development Agency supported the data collection aspect of the Monitor. It is important to have the data, and equally important that "Vietnamese institutions themselves gather this data and use it for political decisions," said Mikael Winther, Charge d'Affaires for the Embassy of of Denmark.

Vietnam is among the many countries in the East Asia and Pacific Region that the World Bank is assisting in the preparation of Environment Monitors.

Zafer Ecevit, World Bank sector director for Environmental and Social Development said, "We intend to prepare annual monitors for Vietnam, each with special emphasis to priority environment issues in the coming years."

Posted by Richard
9/21/2002 07:45:30 AM | PermaLink

Mexico City Declares Air Pollution Emergency, Orders 350,000 Cars Off the Streets

Hundreds of thousands of cars were ordered off Mexico City streets Thursday as the city declared its first pollution alert in almost three years after ozone levels reached about 2.5 times acceptable limits.
http://enn.com/news/wire-stories/2002/09/09202002/ap_48484.asp

Posted by Richard
9/21/2002 07:32:11 AM | PermaLink

 
Friday, September 20, 2002

HHS Seeks Science Advice to Match Bush Views

The Bush administration has begun a broad restructuring of the scientific advisory committees that guide federal policy in areas such as patients' rights and public health, eliminating some committees that were coming to conclusions at odds with the president's views and in other cases replacing members with handpicked choices.

In the past few weeks, the Department of Health and Human Services has retired two expert committees before their work was complete. One had recommended that the Food and Drug Administration expand its regulation of the increasingly lucrative genetic testing industry, which has so far been free of such oversight. The other committee, which was rethinking federal protections for human research subjects, had drawn the ire of administration supporters on the religious right, according to government sources.

A third committee, which had been assessing the effects of environmental chemicals on human health, has been told that nearly all of its members will be replaced -- in several instances by people with links to the industries that make those chemicals. One new member is a California scientist who helped defend Pacific Gas and Electric Co. against the real-life Erin Brockovich.

The changes are among the first in a gradual restructuring of the system that funnels expert advice to Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson.

That system includes more than 250 committees, each composed of people with scientific, legal or academic expertise who volunteer their services over multiyear terms.

The committees typically toil in near anonymity, but they are important because their interpretation of scientific data can sway an agency's approach to health risk and regulation.

The overhaul is rattling some HHS employees, some of whom said they have not seen such a political makeover of the department since Ronald Reagan took office in 1981.

HHS spokesman William Pierce said he could not provide a tally of the number of committees that had been eliminated or changed so far, but he denied that the degree of change was out of the ordinary for the first years after a change of administration.

He acknowledged that Thompson has irritated some HHS veterans with his "top down" approach to reshaping the department, but he defended Thompson's prerogative to hear preferentially from experts who share the president's philosophical sensibilities.

"No one should be surprised when an administration makes changes like this," Pierce said. "I don't think there is anything going on here that has not gone on with each and every administration since George Washington."

Routine or not, the restructuring offers a view into how tomorrow's science policies are being constructed -- and how the previous administration's influence is being quietly dismantled.

One example of the recent changes is the Secretary's Advisory Committee on Genetic Testing, created during the Clinton administration after a major federal report concluded that the public was at risk of being harmed by the emerging gene-testing industry.

One of the first topics tackled by the committee was how to deal with the proliferation of so-called home-brew genetic tests, which are offered by a growing number of companies and doctors.

The blood tests can detect DNA variations that may increase a person's odds of getting a disease or affect a patient's response to medicines.

The Food and Drug Administration has long asserted that it has the authority to regulate these tests, but it has opted not to do so -- in part because of a lack of resources. As a result, companies are free to market tests for genes even if those genes have no proven role in disease susceptibility or any proven usefulness at all. A growing number of companies are doing just that -- at no small expense to consumers -- in some cases needlessly alarming people with meaningless results and in other cases offering false reassurance.

The committee convinced the FDA to use its authority to oversee the marketing of these tests, and the agency was developing rules when the Bush administration took over. Suddenly the FDA's stance changed: The agency was no longer certain it had the regulatory authority in question. Oversight plans stalled. Today the FDA is still mulling whether it has authority, Pierce said, and last week members learned that the committee's charter, which just expired, will not be renewed.

"This is a real turnaround. It's bad. It's terrible," said Neil A. "Tony" Holtzman, a Johns Hopkins University professor emeritus who chaired the HHS task force that led to the committee's creation.

Wylie Burke, who chairs the department of medical history and ethics at the University of Washington and was a member of the committee, said gene-test oversight is needed now more than ever because companies are starting to advertise tests directly to consumers and are offering questionable services over the Internet.

"People need to know what they're getting," Burke said. "We were making real headway with informed-consent issues and with categorizing levels of risk. It would be a shame if that does not get completed."

Pierce said the committee's demise had nothing to do with its recommendations or regulatory approach. Rather, he said, HHS intends to create a new committee that will deal with a broader range of genetic technologies. The department has not said who will sit on that committee.

Another example is the National Human Research Protections Advisory Committee, created under President Bill Clinton after a series of government reports found serious deficiencies in the federal system for protecting human subjects in research. The call from HHS to disband "came out of the blue," said committee chair Mary Faith Marshall, a professor of medicine and bioethics at the University of Kansas in Kansas City.

Some sources suggested the committee had angered the pharmaceutical industry or other research enterprises because of its recommendations to tighten up conflict-of-interest rules and impose new restrictions on research involving the mentally ill.

"It's very frustrating," said Paul Gelsinger, who became a member of the committee after his son, Jesse, died in a Pennsylvania gene therapy experiment that was later found to have broken basic safety rules. "It's always been my view that money is running the research show," he said. "So with this administration's ties to industry, I'm not surprised" to see the committee killed.

Other sources said the committee had run afoul of religious conservatives when it failed to support an administration push to include fetuses under a federal regulation pertaining to human research on newborns. Some within HHS said they'd heard the department may reconstitute the committee with a purview that includes research on human fetuses or even embryos -- a change seen by some as part of a larger administration effort to bring rights to the unborn.

Consistent with that possibility, HHS officials recently told committee members they hope to name Mildred Jefferson to a reincarnated version of the committee that the department hopes to create. Jefferson is a medical doctor who helped found the National Right to Life Committee and who three times served as that organization's president.

Pierce said HHS had allowed the committee to expire not because of the direction of its work but because, as with the genetic-testing committee, the department wants to create a new panel with a broader, as yet undetermined, charge. That committee has yet to be created or its members named.

Yet another committee caught up in the recent upheaval is one that advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Environmental Health on a range of public health issues from pollution to bioterrorism.

Thomas Burke, the Johns Hopkins public health professor who has chaired the committee for almost five years, recently learned that 15 of its 18 members are to be replaced. In the past, he said, HHS had asked him to recommend new members when there were openings. This time, he said, a list of names was imposed. He was among those who were let go.

Burke said he was not offended that his own membership, which was expiring, was not renewed. "There's constant turnover on these boards," he said. "What's of concern though is to see so much turnover at one time, especially at such a critical time for the CDC."

He mentioned another concern: One of the committee's major endeavors has been to assess the health effects of low-level exposures to environmental chemicals, yet as first reported by Science magazine last week, several of the new appointees are well known for their connections to the chemical industry.

They include Roger McClellan, former president of the Chemical Industry Institute of Toxicology, a North Carolina research firm supported by chemical company dues; Becky Norton Dunlop, a vice president of the Heritage Foundation who, as Virginia's secretary of natural resources, fought against environmental regulation; and Lois Swirsky Gold, a University of California risk-assessment specialist who has made a career countering environmentalists' claims of links between pollutants and cancer.

The committee also includes Dennis Paustenbach, the California toxicologist who served as an expert witness for Pacific Gas and Electric when the utility was sued for allowing poisonous chromium to leach into groundwater. The case was made famous in the movie "Erin Brockovich."

"It's in the nation's interest to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest on these committees," said Burke, the former chairman. "To see friends of the administration . . . clearly that's what we're seeing here. It's wholesale change. The complexion has changed."

HHS's Pierce said the committee remains balanced overall, and no prospective member of any advisory committee is subjected to political screenings.

"It's always a matter of qualifications first and foremost," Pierce said. "There's no quotas on any of this stuff. There's no litmus test of any kind."

At least one nationally renowned academic, who was recently called by an administration official to talk about serving on an HHS advisory committee, disagreed with that assessment. To the candidate's surprise, the official asked for the professor's views on embryo cell research, cloning and physician-assisted suicide. After that, the candidate said, the interviewer told the candidate that the position would have to go to someone else because the candidate's views did not match those of the administration.

Asked to reconcile that experience with his previous assurance, Pierce said of the interview questions: "Those are not litmus tests."

By Rick Weiss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 17, 2002; Page A01

Posted by Richard
9/20/2002 08:14:40 AM | PermaLink

A Voracious Forest Plan

Heard in from a reader yesterday that he disagreed with my take on Norton and this new attempt to open the ANWR to oil drilling and forestry -- (even though voters have essentially stopped this administration twice already from going ahead with this). He felt that the Democrats should not be pressured into handing any bill over with the ANWR in it b/c of the fear of a presidential veto. For the record, in case it was unclear, this is certainly my position. The idea that Norton and Bush would propose the ANWR now is outrageous and irresponsible. We demand their veto b/c it sheds light on their own corruption. We will not play ball and I encourage all evironmenatlists and environmentally-minded people in America to contest the needs and wants of the corporate state at this moment.

The following is a major article sent in by another reader:
--------------------------
We have to cut the nation's forests to save them. That seems to be the Bush administration's rationale for its misnamed Healthy Forests Initiative, now before the Senate. The measure grants the U.S. Forest Service and private loggers virtual free rein to saw down trees on 10 million acres--no environmental review needed. It also lets them bulldoze roads into areas long set aside for possible designation as wilderness.

All this would be done in the name of fire prevention, ostensibly spurred by the reaction to sweeping forest fires in the West this year. But the Bush measure, sponsored by Sen. Larry E. Craig (R-Idaho), would not improve the health of the forests or protect against fires. Forestry experts say that, historically, the worst fires usually burned land that had been logged or cleared.

The legislation's cynical joke is a requirement that the loggers leave standing at least 10 of the largest trees on any given acre. Some fire-prone timber stands have as many as 500 large trees per acre, and even the Forest Service's own standard for one tract in Colorado was to leave 50 to 75 large trees. Besides, big trees aren't the big problem. Little trees and dry underbrush are the kindling that feeds conflagrations.

Such fuel has accumulated over a century of misguided policy that called for immediate suppression of any blaze. The problem will take years to correct, no matter how many towering trees the loggers are allowed to cut. Meanwhile, drought and the sprawl of development into forested areas are the main causes of the increased devastation from this year's fires.

Ignoring all that, federal officials say they must allow timber companies to log big trees to raise the money needed to finance thinning. This too is almost laughable considering that the Forest Service has a history of losing money on timber sales.

Instead, Congress should provide money to do what's really needed. Historically, natural fires kept forests open and healthy. Federal officials increasingly are setting fires to clear remote forests, which is risky in areas adjacent to human habitation. So the forests need to be thinned. But this can be done without gutting them.

The Senate should defeat the Bush-Craig plan. A proposal by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) offers a more reasonable and effective approach.
Existing laws let the Forest Service do its job, provided it files environmental impact reports and stays clear of protected areas. In fact, President Bush can thin as many trees as he wants right now. He just can't take a saw to the nation's environmental protections in the process.

Posted by Richard
9/20/2002 08:09:41 AM | PermaLink

 
Thursday, September 19, 2002

Norton Wants Energy Bill Veto If No ANWR Drilling

Gale Norton has now proven herself so corrupt and irresponsible on environmental issues that we can only laugh and thank her for this new threatened abuse of power. From now on, everytime she speaks she illuminates the utter moral failure of the Bush administration and its one-sided ideology that seeks only more capital at the expense of community, wilderness, and tradition. In short, the vision is simply the absolute de-regulation of the major resource industries -- the very industries with the longest track records of exploitation and land devastation known. They are also the industries that many in the administration have connections to and stand to make significant profits from by endorsing and extending.

So, thank you Sec. Norton for making the case plainer than most experts could ever do -- from now on the people of America know that the correct vote on any issue you raise is the opposite, and the checklist grows with your every statement of intent as to why Bush/Cheney (and their ilk) will be buried in 2004 and dismissed as one of the worst political administrations ever to have seen the light of day in this country.

-------------
Washington , D.C. -- U.S. Interior Secretary Gale Norton said Wednesday she would recommend the White House veto a broad energy bill if Senate and House negotiators failed to include opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.

The Bush administration is urging Congress to give energy firms access to the Arctic refuge located in northeast Alaska, arguing the area's possible 16 billion barrels of oil are needed to reduce U.S. crude imports from hostile countries like Iraq.

In an interview, Norton said she would prefer President Bush veto the energy bill if it kept the Alaskan refuge closed because boosting domestic oil production is the centerpiece of the administration's energy plan. "From the Department of Interior perspective, if ANWR is not in the legislation, it does almost nothing to enhance (oil) production," she said.

Even if the energy bill contained other minor provisions to increase U.S. oil output and raise other energy supplies, it would be better to scrap the bill altogether than give up on drilling in the refuge, according to Norton. "At this point, we really don't see a lot that is going to significantly enhance the energy picture unless we take some steps like ANWR (drilling)," she said.

Senate and House negotiators face a deadline at the end of September to reach a compromise energy bill that is expected to include tax incentives for drilling, require more ethanol use to stretch gasoline supplies, and tighten energy efficiency standards. Whether to allow drilling in the Arctic refuge is expected to be the most contentious issue that lawmakers face in hammering out the final energy bill.

Norton said the administration is willing to work with lawmakers on a drilling compromise, and she would not rule out reducing the area in ANWR that could be opened to exploration. "It's got to be something that maintains the ability to access the (oil) reserves in ANWR," she said.

The refuge sprawls across 19 million acres (7.7 million hectares), but only the area's 1.5-million-acre (607,000-hectare) coastal plain would be accessible to energy firms. The Republican-led House has voted to limit drilling activities to just 2,000 acres (809 hectares) at any one time in the 1.5 million acres that would be opened to exploration. The Democratic-run Senate and many environmental groups oppose opening the refuge, saying the area's caribou, polar bears, and other wildlife would be harmed from drilling.

IRAQ FIGURES IN DEBATE

Supporters of ANWR drilling say the issue has taken on more urgency now that the United States may soon be at war with Iraq. Military strikes would cut off Iraq's roughly 2 million barrels a day of oil exports to the world market. Last year, Iraq was the sixth biggest foreign oil supplier to the United States, although shipments have fallen significantly in recent months.

A disruption in Iraqi oil imports could not immediately be offset by tapping the Arctic refuge. If Congress agreed to open ANWR, it would take several years for oil to start flowing and about eight years to reach peak production of about 1 million barrels a day, according to industry executives. A quicker and more likely response would be for the administration to order a release of oil from the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

Norton refused to speculate on whether the White House would order a drawdown of the emergency stockpile in advance of a possible U.S. attack on Iraq to counter an expected disruption of oil supplies. "We want to have that (emergency oil stockpile) available to the country. Whether the situation will arise to use that (reserve) or not, that is something that can be determined as we get closer to those situations," she said.

The reserve, created by Congress in the mid-1970s after the Arab oil embargo, holds 584 million barrels of crude. That is equal to about a 60-day supply of total U.S. oil imports or two years' worth of crude shipments from Iraq. The administration is currently in the process of filling the reserve to its 700-million-barrel capacity by 2005.

There were no plans to speed up oil deliveries into the stockpile to be better prepared in case the United States attacked Iraq, Norton said. The oil being put into the reserve comes from in-kind royalty payments by companies drilling on federal lands leased by the Interior Department.

Separately, Norton raised concerns about the costly tax breaks that might be in the final energy legislation. The House-passed version of the bill included some $33 billion in energy tax breaks and production incentives, compared to $14 billion in the Senate's bill. "We would like to see the price tag overall brought down," Norton said, adding the White House's proposed energy plan did not include items like tax credits for small well operators when oil and natural gas prices fell too low.

Posted by Richard
9/19/2002 08:01:20 AM | PermaLink

 
Wednesday, September 18, 2002

Magazine Paper Project

http://www.ecopaperaction.org/

San Francisco -- The Magazine PAPER Project has launched a new Web-based calculator that offers magazine publishers and readers the opportunity to calculate the number of trees that are logged as a result of printing any particular U.S. magazine on non-recycled paper. Currently, less than 5 percent of U.S. magazine paper has any recycled content, a practice that consumes about 35 million trees each year.

The Paper Wizard can present a sophisticated calculation or a close estimate of the trees logged for any magazine, depending upon the level of detail in the publishing information entered into the Wizard. The Wizard considers the weight and the grade of paper used for a magazine's cover and inside text pages; the size of the publication; and the number of pages, circulation, and frequency of the magazine. The Paper Wizard also calculates the number of trees that could be saved by switching to recycled paper. Currently, paper containing 10 to 30 percent post-consumer recycled content for coated and uncoated stock offers the same performance as non-recycled paper and is frequently competitively priced.

"The Paper Wizard presents in very stark, exact terms the impact that each magazine has on forests," says Frank Locantore, WoodWise project director at Co-op America, a member of the Magazine PAPER Project coalition.

Sample calculations have been done by Magazine PAPER staff for leading publications:
* Cosmopolitan, which uses 328,577 trees every year, could save at least 32,858 trees a year by switching to competitively priced recycled paper offering the same performance as virgin paper.
* People, which uses 546,134 trees a year, could save 54,613 trees each year.
* Condé Nast Traveler, which uses 52,734 trees a year, could save at least 5,273 trees annually.
* National Geographic, which uses 505,819 trees every year, already saves 2,255 trees annually by using 10 percent post-consumer recycled paper for its cover. But it could save an additional 48,552 trees each year if it used recycled paper for its text pages as well, according to Magazine PAPER estimates.
"The Wizard is a great tool for helping publishers understand the environmental impact of their publications and the tremendous benefits that can be obtained by switching to recycled paper," says Susan Kinsella, executive director of Conservatree, also a coalition member of the PAPER Project.

Posted by Richard
9/18/2002 07:37:24 AM | PermaLink

Air Pollution Fatalities Now Exceed Traffic Fatalities by 3 to 1

http://www.earth-policy.org/Updates/Update17.htm

by Bernie Fischlowitz-Roberts

The World Health Organization reports that 3 million people now die each year from the effects of air pollution. This is three times the 1 million who die each year in automobile accidents. A study published in The Lancet in 2000 concluded that air pollution in France, Austria, and Switzerland is responsible for more than 40,000 deaths annually in those three countries. About half of these deaths can be traced to air pollution from vehicle emissions.

In the United States, traffic fatalities total just over 40,000 per year, while air pollution claims 70,000 lives annually. U.S. air pollution deaths are equal to deaths from breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. This scourge of cities in industrial and developing countries alike threatens the health of billions of people.

Governments go to great lengths to reduce traffic accidents by fining those who drive at dangerous speeds, arresting those who drive under the influence of alcohol, and even sometimes revoking drivers' licenses. But they pay much less attention to the deaths people cause by simply driving the cars. While deaths from heart disease and respiratory illness from breathing polluted air may lack the drama of deaths from an automobile crash, with flashing lights and sirens, they are no less real.

Air pollutants include carbon monoxide, ozone, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulates. These pollutants come primarily from the combustion of fossil fuels, principally coal-fired power plants and gasoline-powered automobiles. Nitrogen oxides can lead to the formation of ground-level ozone. Particulates are emitted from a variety of sources, primarily diesel engines. "Smog"--a hybrid word used to describe the mixture of smoke and fog that blankets some cities--is primarily composed of ozone and particulates.

The air in most urban areas typically contains a mixture of pollutants, each of which may increase a person's vulnerability to the effects of the others. Exposure to carbon monoxide slows reflexes and causes drowsiness, since carbon monoxide molecules bind to hemoglobin, reducing the amount of oxygen that red blood cells can carry. Nitrogen dioxide can aggravate asthma and reduce lung function, as well as making airways more sensitive to allergens. Ozone also causes lung inflammation and reduces lung function and exercise capacity.

Smaller particulates, especially those 10 micrometers in diameter (1/2,400 of an inch) or smaller, can become lodged in the alveolar sacs of the lungs. They are associated with higher admissions to hospital for respiratory problems and with increased mortality, particularly from respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. As particulate concentrations in the air rise, so do death rates.

When people inhale particulates and ozone at concentrations commonly found in urban areas, their arteries become more constricted, thus reducing blood flow and oxygen supply to the heart. This is why air pollution aggravates heart conditions and asthma.

Unlike some pollutants that have threshold levels below which no health effects are seen, ozone and particulates have negative health effects even at very low levels. Thus no "safe" level of such pollutants exists. Research published in Science in 2001 noted that in industrial as well as developing countries, exposures to current levels of ozone and particulates "affect death rates, hospitalizations and medical visits, complications of asthma and bronchitis, days of work lost, restricted-activity days, and a variety of measures of lung damage."

While these affect health care systems, they also take a toll on the economy. The increased monetary expenses related to air pollution induced illness include the costs of medication, absences from work, and child care expenses. In the Canadian province of Ontario, for example, which has a population of 11.9 million, air pollution costs citizens at least $1 billion annually in hospital admissions, emergency room visits, and worker absenteeism. According to the World Bank, the social costs of exposure to airborne dust and lead in Jakarta, Bangkok, and Manila approached 10 percent of average incomes in the early 1990s. In China, which has some of the world's worst urban air pollution, the illnesses and deaths of urban residents due to air pollution are estimated to cost 5 percent of the gross domestic product.

The economic costs of air pollution argue for reducing income taxes and raising taxes on fossil fuels. This would encourage more efficient fuel use, a shift to clean energy sources, and the adoption of pollution controls. The alternative is to spend more on health insurance to treat air pollution-related ailments. Raising the costs of polluting fuels will reduce suffering and premature death.

In response to traffic congestion and their notorious air pollution problems, Mexico City and São Paulo restrict people from driving on certain days of the week, based on the last digit on their license plates. And Bogotá, Colombia, has put in place a series of measures to reduce air pollution from transportation; in the process, it has become a more livable city. Since 1995, the city has reduced traffic during rush hours by 40 percent and increased the gasoline tax. Some 120 kilometers (75 miles) of main arteries are closed for seven hours each Sunday, which allows the streets to be used for walking, bicycling, and jogging.

The solutions to urban air pollution are not difficult to discern. Individuals can reduce car usage in favor of cycling, walking, and mass transit and can use more fuel-efficient cars. Urban planning commissions and regional governments can redirect transportation funding toward mass transit options: light rail, heavy rail, or rapid bus transit.

Zoning laws and other regulatory tools can be used to encourage the higher density development that is conducive to mass transit. And countries can shift electricity generation from coal and natural gas toward wind and solar power, using the lever of government subsidies and tax incentives for clean energy, rather than continuing to subsidize fossil fuels.

When purchasing a new car, consumers typically consider price, extra features, safety, and sometimes fuel economy. The fact that air pollution fatalities substantially exceed traffic fatalities worldwide suggests the need to broadly redefine notions of safety to include the goal of decreasing air pollution. While only some motorists contribute to traffic fatalities, all motorists contribute to air pollution fatalities.

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Additional data and information sources at www.earth-policy.org or contact bernie@earth-policy.org

Posted by Richard
9/18/2002 06:19:43 AM | PermaLink

A Reader Writes in About Her Experience of Willie B. at the Atlanta Zoo

In response to this post, Anna (of annatopia.com) wrote in to say:
I just wanted to share a short story with you. I read your post about Willie, the gorilla who formerly resided in the Atlanta Zoo.

When I was about ten years old, I was visiting relatives in Atlanta and we went to the zoo. I've always been an animal lover, and I wanted to see all the exotic animals. We went to the zoo, and I remember being completely saddened by the experience. I remember seeing these poor, lonely animals lying around with not much stimuli, and surrounded by concrete and steel and glass. As a child, that hit very hard, as I was not aware of the realities of zoos back in the day. I wasn't sensitized to the animals' needs like I am today, and I've gotta say that experience really made me think twice about the happiness of captive animals.

In particular, Willie really effected me. I remember walking up to his cage. It was this plain little room (20X40 as you blogged) painted an eggshell white. It had a concrete floor and big plexiglass walls. There was a tire on a rope hanging in his cage, and he was just sitting there on the floor in the corner. I remember looking into his eyes and staring hard. I saw the pain and loneliness in his face, and when his eyes finally met mine, I felt an odd connection, like he wanted to get out but was resigned to his fate. I remember he just sat there, and we stared at each other for a few moments, and my heart completely broke. Some other people walked up and one annoying kid started banging on the plexiglass. Willie jumped up and grabbed the tire, then swung it violently towards their direction. The kid and his family jumped back, and Willie beat his chest for a moment, then returned to his corner.

When I read about his death, I cried my eyes out. All I could remember was how sad he looked on that day back in 1981. I was so glad to come across your post and read about the naturalistic environment that Atlanta built. I can only hope that he was truly happy when he died, and that he didn't feel as isolated as I know he felt in that little cruel room. So I guess I'm saying thank you for posting something that put a silver lining on a traumatic childhood memory.

Posted by Richard
9/18/2002 06:04:13 AM | PermaLink

 
Tuesday, September 17, 2002

Interior Secretary Gale Norton Held in Contempt

...of something, finally.
-----------
http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&ncid=514&e=4&cid=514&u=/ap/20020917/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/norton_contempt
Washington D.C. (AP) - A federal judge Tuesday held Interior Secretary Gale Norton in contempt for failing to heed his order to fix oversight problems with a trust handling hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties from Indian land.

Posted by Richard
9/17/2002 02:03:32 PM | PermaLink

Nodes Coming to City Near You

The concept goes by many names, some cumbersome and some evocative: nodal development, urban - or suburban - village, neo-traditional neighborhoods, new urbanism. And they're all the rage in land use planning circles, around the country and throughout Oregon.
At http://www.registerguard.com/news/2002/09/16/1a.nodal.0916.html

Posted by Richard
9/17/2002 11:37:02 AM | PermaLink

Chad - Cameroon Oil Pipeline Gets World Bank OK

For those that believe that the World Bank has changed its tune and is interested in getting out of the business of funding corrupt regimes int the name of their pledge of opening their countries up to development, resource exploitation, and massive debt in the process, here's the first major deal to come out of the W.S.S.D. and it doesn't look good for the World Bank's moral authority.
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The construction of a 650 mile long buried pipeline to carry oil from landlocked Chad in central Africa to Cameroon's Atlantic coast is one step closer to reality over the objections of environmental and human rights groups.

The World Bank's Board of Executive Directors has approved management's response to a report by the bank's Inspection Panel on three projects in support of the Chad Petroleum Development and Pipeline Project totaling US$80 million.

The $3.7 billion project includes the development of 300 oil wells in the Doba Basin of southern Chad by a consortium of oil companies led by Exxon. Exxon and Shell are each financing 40 percent of the project and Elf is handling the remaining 20 percent. The governments of Chad and Cameroon would participate in joint ventures with the consortium to manage pipeline construction, but not the development of oil fields.

In June 2000 the World Bank agreed to provide more than $200 million to build the pipeline. Oil revenues are estimated to earn $2.5 billion over the next 30 years.

The governments of Chad and Cameroon have asked the World Bank for US$115 million in loans that would cover a share in two pipeline construction ventures.

The pipeline has been opposed by many environmental groups such as Friends of the Earth who says oil spills may contaminate the groundwater, and the upgrading of existing seasonal roads could lead to illegal poaching and logging in areas that would otherwise be inaccessible.

"The findings of the Panel will lead to improvements in the ongoing implementation of this challenging project, which has enormous potential to bring great benefits to the people of Chad and Cameroon," said World Bank president James Wolfensohn on Thursday after the Board meeting.

The report of the Inspection Panel, an independent internal auditing body, was prepared in response to a Request for Inspection submitted by Ngarlejy Yorongar, who was acting for himself and on behalf of more than 100 residents living in the vicinity of three oil fields of the Doba Petroleum Project. They claimed that their rights and interests had been, or were likely to be, directly harmed due to inadequacy of environmental assessment and compensation.


The panel agreed with Yorongar and the residents in finding that while many of the project's activities are in compliance with the Bank's policies and procedures, a number of them are not. These include a cumulative impacts assessment, and consideration of the environmental costs and benefits of alternatives to the proposed pipeline route.

The management action plan to address the panel's findings focused on four areas - environmental and social compliance with the Bank's policies and procedures, economic issues, poverty reduction issues, and monitoring and supervision.

On issues of environmental and social compliance, the Bank will work with Chadian agencies to prepare a Regional Development Plan, an extension of the Environmental Assessment and Environmental Management Plans that were written as part of the project's preparation.

The Regional Development Plan will address the concerns about the project's cumulative regional impacts raised by the panel, the Bank said.

Chad is one of the world's poorest countries, with an estimated 80 percent of the population living on less than $1 a day. Oil revenues are eventually expected to more than double current government revenues.

The Bank report points out that by law, more than 80 percent of the oil revenues accruing to the government will directed to expenditures in the priority sectors of health, education, rural development, infrastructure, environment, and water, and 10 percent will be saved in a fund for future generations.

The oil producing region will receive five percent of these resources to be managed locally, in addition to what it will receive through the national budget. The action plan will accelerate efforts to strengthen the capacity of government to manage these expenditures and to effectively monitor oil quantities produced and revenues generated.

But Friends of the Earth says there is no evidence that profits from the pipeline will be invested in projects aimed at development or poverty alleviation. "In fact, experience in neighboring African countries, such as Nigeria and Congo, proves otherwise. A 1995 World Bank report questioned the willingness of the Government of Cameroon to address the issue of poverty and criticized its financial management," the group said, and it points to the "poor environmental record of Shell and Exxon in their overseas operations."

In addition, the New York based organization Environmental Defense has warned that a violent crackdown last June by the government of Chad President Idriss Deby is reason enough for the Bank to rethink its involvement in the oil development project.

"Government backed killings and torture show that that the World Bank must draw the line and recognize that the present Chadian government can only be expected to misuse loans," said Delphine Djiraibe, president of the Chadian Association for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights. According to news reports, in 1991 Deby used money from the pipeline project to purchase $3 million in weapons."

The Bank says its action plan will intensify monitoring and supervision of the project. Since the June 2000 project approval, the Bank says "exceptional resources" have gone into monitoring and support of the project's implementation.

In addition, the project is under the independent scrutiny of the International Advisory Group and Environmental Monitoring Compliance Group, which has been regularly conducted since Board approval. depleting chemicals.

Posted by Richard
9/17/2002 08:36:36 AM | PermaLink

The Big Business of Sustainable Development in Action

Johannesburg, South Africa (ENS) - Adding up what delegates to the World Summit on Sustainable Development spent on accommodation, transport, food and beverages, plus private sector investment, the summit generated more than eight billion rand (US$745.6 million) for South Africa, tourism officials say. “The results exceeded all expectations," said South African Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism Valli Moosa.

The official summit and 500 parallel events that were held throughout the country from August 20 through September 4 were analyzed in terms of their economic impact.

A team of professional consultants from the Bureau for Market Research based at the University of South Africa, Iklwa Structured Financial Products, and economists from UrbanEcon conducted the survey, which was commissioned by the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism.

The analysts found the summit generated good will for the country, and was a profitable venture as well. In just two weeks the summit generated the equivalent of one third of the entire annual contribution of tourism to the South African economy.

Moosa said, "Over and above the applause we received from the international community for the excellent manner in which we, as South Africa, organized this massive event, the study confirms the fact that the summit generated a good return on investment for the country.”

More than 400 delegates attending the summit were interviewed about their expenditures in the country. Based on these interviews, the analysts estimate that the 37,000 international delegates who attended the summit spent an average of between R27,000 (US$2,500) and R39,000 (US$3,630) in South Africa.

Investment from all three levels of government in the summit amounted to about R449 million (US$41.84 million).

The leverage effect of government’s contribution from the private sector amounted to about R620 million (US$57.78 million) of which about 60 percent came from international sponsors and donor agencies.

The analysts concluded that the reputation of South Africa as a tourist destination of choice got a boost from the summit. Eight-four percent of the delegates surveyed gave South Africa a positive rating to hospitality and friendliness, 70 percent approved of the personal service, and 60 percent liked the quality of their accommodations.

The full interim report is available at: http://www.environment.gov.za. A detailed final report will be available by the end of November 2002.

Posted by Richard
9/17/2002 08:17:52 AM | PermaLink

 
Monday, September 16, 2002

GetVegan Tee Shirts are In and Ready to be Ordered!

Amaze your friends and family with a new Don't Get Mad, Get Vegan! tee (M, L, or XL) -- get your's today! Screenprinted on the highest quality and comfortable Champion knit tees and sporting a large version of our nifty logo on the front, now you can educate people around the issues of Veganism and Mad Cow Disease as you walk around town and sip your coffee at the shop. In recent polls, the number one cause people have reported that has kept them from becoming vegetarian or vegan is peer-pressure (a lack of familiarization with the issue). Therefore, the movement has to publicize the word(s) as much as possible and make people comfortable with the subculture -- it's the necessary step towards achieving a more ecological politics at the grassroots level.

This first batch is $10 each, plus shipping and handling. I will be setting up an order page shortly for payment online. For now, however, please contact me via email if you are interested: richard@getvegan.com. Thanks.

Posted by Richard
9/16/2002 02:34:08 PM | PermaLink

The Anti-Campaign Continues -- Can the War be Blogged Away?


http://www.shinybluegrasshopper.com/nowar/

Posted by Richard
9/16/2002 09:51:02 AM | PermaLink

Scorched-Earth Tactics Ultimately Burn All of Us

We must consider environmental damage from war.

Last year, in the U.S. Air Force's Air & Space Power Chronicles, Col. Richard Fisher published what many of his peers might consider rank heresy.

"As a general consideration," Fisher wrote, "the U.S. should include environmental effects as an issue of central value along with politics, economics and social effects when deciding whether or not to wage war.... It may well be that the potential long-term environmental risk ... outweighs the importance of other considerations."

Are we ready to weigh environmental impacts in the calculations of war? We certainly notice them after the shooting stops. Farmers, elephants and other creatures in Cambodia, Angola and many other countries still are regularly killed by shells and land mines left from old wars. Children still are born crippled and deformed in Vietnam, three decades after U.S. planes stopped spraying Agent Orange and other herbicides. Forests leveled in Civil War battles still have not entirely recovered.

Such consequences seem predictable in hindsight; in the heat of war they tend not to be foreseen or even considered. Iraq, however, affords a rare chance to weigh environmental impacts beforehand, try to prevent or mitigate them and perhaps choose not to risk them. The last war there gave a preview. It's not a pretty picture.

In February 1991, the world watched in horror as Saddam Hussein's troops unleashed one final, spiteful assault of their own. They opened the spigots on Kuwait's vast oil reserves and detonated its wells, releasing what was far and away the largest oil spill in history. About 60 million barrels--more than 200 times as much as the Exxon Valdez spilled--oozed onto the ground, forming 246 black, lifeless lakes. It took nine months to put out the 613 oil-well fires spewing dark clouds that covered the region, lowering local atmospheric temperatures an average 10 degrees Celsius. Physicians now await the cancer toll in those who breathed this oily air.

Even before allied bombing began, Iraqi troops had begun releasing 10 million barrels of oil into the shallow Gulf waters, hoping to forestall a seaborne invasion--by far the largest marine spill in history. The slick coated nearly 1,000 miles of coastline.

American and Iraqi tanks chewed up the hard-packed desert, a particularly fragile ecosystem. Afterward, Kuwait's top environmental official reported that shifting dunes covered twice as much of the country as before, and dust storms rose to record levels.

In 1998, the Swiss-based Green Cross International assessed the extent of recovery and lingering environmental effects in Kuwait. The Gulf's waters showed surprising resilience in the short term; shrimp harvests were back to normal and coral reefs appeared healthy, unlike reefs elsewhere. But in 2000, the Manchester Guardian reported a vast die-off of fish, apparently caused by surging nutrient levels that choked off oxygen. Kuwaitis blamed this surge on Iraq's draining the southern marshes to punish the Shiite marsh-dwellers who, at U.S. urging, had rebelled against Hussein.

The land and the water beneath the land proved more vulnerable. Green Cross reported that the Kuwaitis had collected a third of the pooled oil, but the rest continues to seep through the sand. Oil has contaminated at least 40% of Kuwait's freshwater reserves, leaving less than a two-month supply--a thin margin if the next war knocks out desalination plants.

Back in the U.S., anguish and controversy continue to fester over the cryptic, chronic symptoms afflicting a reported 100,000 Gulf War veterans, despite $200 million spent on studies. Across Iraq, thousands of armor-piercing depleted-uranium shells--one suggested cause of Gulf War syndrome--continue their slow nuclear decay.

Kuwait's postwar disaster is commonly described as unprecedented: "For the first time in the history of warfare," the Encyclopedia of the Gulf War intones, "a retreating army destroyed the environment." But the Iraqis merely practiced one of the oldest tactics in warfare. Like the Russians who burned their own capital as Napoleon approached, the Romans who (if legend is true) salted the ground where Carthage stood, and prehistoric hunters slaughtering mega fauna to starve rival bands, they scorched the Earth, denying resources to their enemies.

The difference is that today the means of scorching are vastly grander and more diverse. Hussein never employed the most feared--his chemical and biological arsenals--in 1991. But he was never cornered then, and he still had Kuwait's oil to spit at his attackers.
In any future Iraq war, the clean-up guys in white moon suits may play as big a part as the grunts in desert camo.

By Eric Scigliano for the L.A. Times


Posted by Richard
9/16/2002 09:45:59 AM | PermaLink

 
Sunday, September 15, 2002

How Warmongers Exploit 9/11 by Norm Dixon

In the week before the first anniversary of the devastating September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, TV networks aired a seemingly never-ending string of "special events'' featuring "exclusive'' or "never before seen'' footage of the collapse of the twin towers of the World Trade Center (WTC) and its aftermath. People around the world again experienced the horror, anger and tragedy of that terrible day, when almost 3000 working people were murdered.

Culminating on the anniversary of the day itself, thousands of journalists and TV presenters from across the globe will converge at "ground zero'' in New York for "remembrance and reflection''. Solemn ceremonies will be telecast and patriotic speeches by top US politicians broadcast, restating Washington's determination to pursue its "war on terrorism''.

But by the end of the 9/11 anniversary hoopla, after the thousands of hours of TV time and the column-kilometres published in the world's newspapers and magazines, you can be sure that the most glaring aspect of the post-9/11 period will have remained unmentionable by all but the most honest commentators: that Washington's "war on terrorism'' is a cynical fraud.

The most repeated 9/11 media cliche is that on that day "the world changed''. However, few commentators have bothered to explain how.

September 11 did mark a change in the US and world politics -- just how permanent remains to be seen. On that day, the US rulers realised that those awful acts of terrorism provided them with a golden opportunity to achieve the US capitalist ruling class' long-held objective of world domination -- the "American century'' it predicted was at hand at the end of World War II.

Top officials in President George Bush junior's administration seized that opportunity, coldly calculating that the traumatised US people would now support significant military interventions by US ground troops abroad, in the guise of fighting "terrorism'', even if there was a risk of large numbers of US casualties -- something they have refused to accept since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975.

Before September 11, Washington had long labelled governments and political movements it opposed as "terrorists''. The US State Department each year publishes a list of countries that ``support terrorism''; for years it has included Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Sudan, North Korea and Cuba. Until September 11, that was not enough to convince the US people to support sustained military operations against them.
Almost as soon as the smoke from the rubble of the WTC had cleared, the Bush administration moved to take the focus of the "war on terrorism'' from the alleged perpetrators of the 9/11 atrocities -- Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network of religious reactionaries -- to US-defined "terrorism'' and "evil'' in general.

"From this day forward'', Bush told Congress on September 20, "any nation that continues to harbour or support terrorism will be regarded as a hostile regime''. The "first war of the 21st Century'' will not end, he declared, ``until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated''.

The bombing of Afghanistan began on October 7. On November 21, Bush outlined what has become known as the "Bush doctrine'': "Afghanistan is just the beginning of the war against terror. There are other terrorists who threaten America and our friends, and there are other nations willing to sponsor them. We will not be secure as a nation until all these threats are defeated. Across the world, and across the years, we will fight these evil ones, and we will win

"America has a message for the nations of the world: if you harbour terrorists, you're terrorists; if you train or arm a terrorist, you are a terrorist; if you feed or fund a terrorist, you're a terrorist, and you will be held accountable by the United States and our friends.''

On November 26, with Iraq now in his cross-hairs, Bush expanded the scope of the "war on terrorism'' further when he stated, ``If they develop weapons of mass destruction that will be used to terrorise nations, they will be held accountable''.

The transformation was complete with Bush's January 29 State of the Union speech. The next stage of Washington's ``war on terrorism'' was officially delinked from the specific events of 9/11. Bush did not even mention bin Laden or al Qaeda. Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had suddenly taken the elusive Bin Laden's place as public enemy number one.

The "axis of evil'' that now topped Washington's hit-list -- Iraq, Iran and North Korea -- has no proven links with al Qaeda, bin Laden or the 9/11 attacks. Nor do three of the four organisations Bush cited by name -- Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah -- have a connection with al Qaeda; their "crime'' was to oppose Israel's illegal occupation of Palestine.

Bush also bluntly stated that the US had the right to unilaterally launch military action against "terrorists'' inside any country, and launch preemptive military strikes against states that Washington suspected of developing chemical, biological or nuclear weapons: "Some governments will be timid in the face of terror. And make no mistake about it, if they do not act, America will.''

Bush reminded the world that US vengeance has no geographic limits. "Our armed forces [in Afghanistan] have delivered a message now clear to every enemy of the United States: even 7000 miles away, across oceans and continents, on mountain tops and in caves, you will not escape the justice of this nation'', he warned.

In less than six months, Bush's "war on terrorism'' had morphed seamlessly from action directed at the alleged perpetrators and backers of the 9/11 mass murders into a war against any Third World state or political movement that Washington considers too independent, too defiant or a hurdle to the goal of US global hegemony.

Bush's State of the Union speech was the formal announcement that Washington is unashamedly seeking world domination. As the February 1 New York Times editorial noted: "The application of power and intimidation has returned to the forefront of American foreign policy Not since America's humiliating withdrawal from Vietnam more than a quarter-century ago has US foreign policy relied so heavily on non-nuclear military force, or the threat of it, to defend American interests around the world.''

Since the end of World War II, the US ruling class' overarching strategic goal has been the maintenance of overwhelming military, economic and political dominance and the prevention of the emergence of other powers -- great or regional -- that could challenge that position. This goal was dubbed the "American century'' at the end of World War II.

However, Washington's expectations of total world domination were frustrated for nearly 50 years by the industrial and military strength of the Soviet Union and the national liberation struggles, beginning with the victory of the Chinese revolution in 1949 and the Cuban revolution in 1959, followed by the wave of successful independence struggles in Africa and Asia throughout the 1960s that culminated in the historic defeat of US forces in Vietnam in 1975.

Washington's defeat in Vietnam was a political defeat as well as a military one. Over time, with the assistance of a growing anti-war movement, the US people had come to realise that the US rulers had cynically lied when they proclaimed the bloody war against the people of Vietnam as a fight for democracy -- at the cost of 50,000 young US soldiers' lives and the deaths of millions of Vietnamese -- when in fact it was an unjust, imperialist war of aggression.

The ``Vietnam syndrome'' was born, and for more than 25 years, it made it politically impossible for Washington to deploy large numbers of ground troops in ``hot'' wars overseas.

Militarily and politically hamstrung by the Vietnam syndrome, US imperialism suffered further setbacks in the late 1970s with the victories of the independence struggles in Angola and Mozambique, a revolution in Ethiopia in 1977, the 1978 Afghan revolution, and the revolutionary processes begun in Nicaragua and Grenada in 1979.

The overthrow of the pro-US Shah of Iran in 1979 was also a serious threat to US imperialism's hold on the strategic oil-rich Persian Gulf.

Under President Ronald Reagan, who came to power in 1980, the US ruling class launched a counter-attack against what it dishonestly dubbed ``Soviet expansionism''. Washington massively funded and armed counter-revolutionary bandits and terrorists, such as RENAMO in Mozambique, UNITA in Angola, the contras in Nicaragua and the mujaheddin in Afghanistan. Reagan also boosted US support to the apartheid regime in South Africa and dictatorial regimes like those in Pakistan, Indonesia and Chile.

However, Reagan's strategy was also specifically engineered to avoid putting US troops in harm's way. When Reagan ordered US troops to invade Grenada in 1983 (and when George Bush senior ordered the invasion of Panama in 1989), the operation relied on massive firepower before elite US troops entered and then left as quickly as possible.

However, Reagan massively boosted US war spending across the board, including on the "star wars'' missile defence system. The goal of this fanciful project was to achieve the ability to launch a first-strike nuclear attack on the USSR without fear of retaliation. Attempts to match these massive military expenditures played a role in "bleeding'' the Soviet Union, hastening its collapse.

With the demise of the USSR in 1991, the US rulers hoped that the "American century'' was again on the horizon. George Bush senior hailed the US victory over Iraq in the 1990-91 Gulf War as also marking the ``end of the Vietnam syndrome'' and declared that Washington would now oversee a "New World Order''.

However, he spoke too soon. Bush senior had been not prepared to test the Vietnam syndrome. The US military had relied on the use of its overwhelming air superiority and its massive technological edge to avoid significant ground operations. Fear of the Vietnam syndrome in part deterred Bush from sending US troops into Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein.

Throughout the 1990s, this was the pattern of US military operations. The Vietnam syndrome was shown to be alive and kicking with the public outcry in the US to the deaths of 18 soldiers during Washington's ``humanitarian'' intervention in Somalia.

The Bush senior and the Clinton administrations clothed their military actions in the guise of defending human rights, halting ``ethnic cleansing'' or providing humanitarian assistance. They were conducted under the cover of regional or UN "peacekeeping'' operations and were generally conditional on winning multilateral endorsement.

The American people's hopes that the end of the Cold War would result in much reduced military spending and a ``peace dividend'' also frustrated US ruling class demands for the maintenance of military spending at Cold War levels.

With 9/11, the dominant wing in Bush junior's administration clearly believes the Vietnam syndrome has finally been put to rest.

The claim that the attacks on the WTC "changed the world'' are part of a myth that is being carefully crafted: that the launch of the "war on terrorism'' was simply a response to the terrible events of one day.

This myth-making is exemplified by a melodramatic September 5, 2002, article by Associated Press White House correspondent Ron Fournier: "In a cramped nuclear shelter deep beneath the White House, President Bush stared across a spare wooden table and told his national security team, `Get the troops ready'. Twelve hours after the terrorist strikes, moments after his nationally televised address, Bush was preparing for a war that would transform and define his presidency 'This is a time for self defence', he told his war council. `This is our time'.''

The truth is more straightforward. In the 12 months following 9/11, Bush junior's administration has cynically seized upon and exploited the terror attacks to launch a drive to achieve the US ruling class dream of an "American century'' or "New World Order'' -- an unchallenged global US military, political and economic empire.

The power behind the throne of George Bush junior's regime is vice president Dick Cheney and a warmongering team made up of veterans of the Reagan and Bush senior administrations.

Throughout the 1990s, these ``hawks'' organised for their return to power, formulated their programs for unchallenged US hegemony and advocated the unbridled use of US military power through a network of tightly interlocked right-wing ruling-class think-tanks -- the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), the American Enterprise Institute, Americans for Victory over Terrorism and the Center for Security Policy. The Murdoch-owned Weekly Standard and the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal championed their views (and continue to do so).

The lessons of the Bush senior and Clinton administration, the new "centurions'' constantly claimed, was that US power should not be constrained by attempts to balance US interests with those of its European or other allies. Alliances, international organisations or multilateral treaties must not get in the way of the unfettered exercise of US military or economic power.

Other key planks pushed by the hawks have been unconditional military and political support for Israel -- Washington's key ally in the Middle East -- and implacable opposition to any regimes in that region that could pose a threat to US domination of the strategic, oil-rich Persian Gulf. As a result, a trademark of the centurions has been extreme hostility towards the regimes in Iraq, Iran,Syria, Libya and even Lebanon, as well as cheering every move made by Tel Aviv to crush the national liberation movement in occupied Palestine.

In 1997, the PNAC was established to promote ``American global leadership''. Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld (now US defence secretary), Paul Wolfowitz (now deputy defence secretary) and Jeb Bush (Bush junior's brother) were signatories to the PNAC's founding ``statement of principle''. It stated bluntly: ``[Conservatives] seem to have forgotten the essential elements of the Reagan administration's success: a military that is strong and ready to meet both present and future challenges; a foreign policy that boldly and purposely promotes American principles abroad; and a national leadership that accepts the United States' global responsibilities

"America has a role in maintaining peace and security in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. If we shirk our responsibilities, we invite challenges to our fundamental interests. The history of the 20th century should have taught us that it is important to shape circumstances before crises emerge, and to meet threats before they become dire. The history of this century should have taught us to embrace the cause of American leadership.''

The PNAC argued that the US must "increase defense spending significantly'' and "modernize our armed forces if we are to carry out our global responsibilities today'' ; "strengthen our ties to democratic allies and to challenge regimes hostile to our interests and values''; ``promote the cause of political and economic freedom abroad''; and ``accept responsibility for America's unique role in preserving and extending an international order friendly to our security, our prosperity, and our principles''.

"Such a Reaganite policy of military strength and moral clarity may not be fashionable today'', the PNAC conceded. "But it is necessary if the United States is to build on the successes of this past century and to ensure our security and our greatness in the next.''

In September 2000, the PNAC fleshed out its imperial vision with the release of a report, Rebuilding America's defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century. The project's participants included Wolfowitz, Lewis Libby (now Cheney's chief of staff) and Weekly Standard editor William Kristol.

The report's introduction noted that the US ``is the world's only superpower, combining preeminent military power, global technological leadership and the world's largest economy At present the US faces no global rival. America's grand strategy should aim to preserve and extend this advantageous position as far into the future as possible''. To preserve this "desirable strategic situation'', the report stated, the US "requires a globally preeminent military capability both today and in the future''.

The report's authors admitted that they had built upon the 1992 draft of the Pentagon's Defense Planning Guidance (DPG), which was prepared for Cheney, who was then US defence secretary in the Bush senior administration, Wolfowitz and Libby.

This document stated bluntly that the US must continue to ``discourage ... advanced industrial nations from challenging our leadership or ... even aspiring to a larger regional or global role ... [To achieve this, the US] must retain the preeminent responsibility for addressing ... those wrongs which threaten not only our interests, but those of our allies or friends, or which seriously unsettle international relations.''

This was an admission that the massive build-up of US military might in Europe, Asia and the Middle East after 1945 was not simply directed at containing "Soviet expansionism'', crushing Third World revolutions and controlling natural resources such as Middle Eastern oil -- as vital to US interests as they were. It was also aimed at enmeshing its potential capitalist rivals -- Britain, France, Germany and Japan -- within US-dominated military alliances designed to prevent them developing independent armed forces.

The PNAC report endorsed the DPG's ``blueprint for maintaining US preeminence, precluding the rise of a great power rival, and shaping the international security order in line with American principles and interests... The basic tenets of the DPG, in our judgment, remain sound.''

The PNAC report recommended that the US turn around the 1990s "decade of defence neglect'' and boost war spending to a minimum of 3.5-3.8% of GDP (up from around 3%) by adding US$15 billion to US$20 billion annually; increase the numbers of active-duty military personnel from 1.4 million to 1.6 million; and "reposition US forces ... by shifting permanently based forces to southeast Europe [the Balkans] and Southeast Asia [preferably the Philippines and/or Australia], and by changing naval deployment patterns to reflect growing US strategic concerns in East Asia [meaning the 'containment' of China and the 'defence' of Taiwan]''.

The report also urged Washington to develop the capability to "fight and win multiple, simultaneous major theater wars'' and at the same time ``perform the 'constabulary' duties associated with shaping the security environment in critical regions''; maintain ``nuclear strategic superiority'' by developing smaller "bunker-buster'' nuclear weapons and resuming nuclear testing; develop the ``star wars'' global "missile defence system''; and "control the new 'international commons' of space and 'cyberspace' and pave the way for the creation of a new military service -- US Space Forces -- with the mission of space control[!]''.

As all the above indicates, the Cheney-Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz cabal have had a long-standing program for the expansion of US hegemony. What it lacked was the "trigger'' to implement it or the existence of a serious enough ``threat'' that would convince the US people to abandon their desire for a "peace dividend'' and their opposition to US war casualties abroad.

Which is why the 9/11 attacks were a godsend for the Bush gang. Washington immediately recognised the opportunity with which it was presented. As Bush junior's national security adviser Condoleezza Rice admitted: ``I really think this period is analogous to 1945 to 1947 in that the events ... started shifting the tectonic plates in international politics. And it's important to try to seize on that and position American interests and institutions before they harden again.''

Since 9/11, Bush's new centurions have fast-tracked the implementation of their agenda in case the ``window of opportunity'' closes. They have won a massive increase in military spending of US$48 billion, to US$379.3 billion, in 2002-2003. Adding non-Pentagon military spending, mostly by the energy department for the nuclear weapons program, total military spending will be US$396.1 billion.

A further US$38 billion is to be spent on ``homeland defence'' -- mainly for the plethora of US police agencies. Washington has projected that the war budget will steadily increase to more that US$451 billion by 2007, a 30% increase.

Washington has signalled -- with its repudiation of the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gas emissions, the war crimes provisions of the International Criminal Court and the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty -- that US military, economic and political power will not be subject to any form of international constraint.

It has been revealed that the US has plans to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states under guise of eliminating the threat of ``weapons of mass destruction''. There have also been reports that US special forces will soon be authorised to kill or capture ``terrorists'' anywhere in the world, whenever the opportunity arises, without having to obtain permission from the relevant government.

As a result of its war to overthrow the Taliban, Washington has secured a permanent military bases and stationed tens of thousands of troops for the first time in the increasingly strategic Central Asian region. From these bases, the US can more easily "contain'' Russia and China, control the emerging oil and gas resources of the Caspian Sea region, strengthen its hold over the Persian Gulf and increase further its military stranglehold on most of the world's vital energy resources.

Using the cover of the ``war on terrorism'', Washington has increased or resumed military funding for notoriously repressive regimes -- including as Yemen, Georgia, Indonesia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Colombia and the former Soviet Central Asian republics -- as well as sending thousands of troops and military advisers to help them crush anti-government movements.

Washington has given the green light for Russia to continue its brutal campaign against the Chechen freedom struggle and the Chinese government's repression of separatists in Xinjiang.

The September 11 attacks and the subsequent US "war on terrorism'' has presented the US ruling-class warmongers with their biggest opportunity yet to "cure'' the Vietnam syndrome. The greatest test of this will be the coming US invasion of Iraq.

Anti-war activists need to organise and mobilise in massive numbers to stop this war and to revive as rapidly as possible the seemingly dormant anti-war consciousness of the US people. Solidarity must be offered to the inevitable resistance to the imperialist warmongers that will develop throughout the US empire.

Posted by Richard
9/15/2002 10:18:47 AM | PermaLink

The Question of the Zoo: If It's Such a Great Place for the Kids, Why Don't You Live There?

The move away from cages and cement enclosures for wildlife born at zoos and not stolen from their native habitats is certainly a progressive change. The question remains, and this article does attempt to raise it, can the zoo be redeemed through any series of changes or is its concept itself oppressive and lending further creedence to the types of infiltration upon wild spaces and extinction of species that zoos appear to fight against?

The article ends with a paean to the zoo as a faulty institution but one that still has the greatest ability to sow the emotional connection with wildlife that people need nowadays more than ever if we are to fend off ecological catastrophe. It's worth asking if this is true. Is it? It seems to me that institutions like the National Parks program instill an even greater connection, which goes beyond the emotional, and no simulation of wilderness is required.

I grew up on the Bronx Zoo, however, and I can understand that zoos may have a part to play in educating urban and suburban communities about pure wilderness, the crisis of mass-extinction and the integrity of species even as they foster conservation programs internationally and attempt to put their money where their exhibits are. Still, as a critical educator, I can also recognize that the move to make zoos more humane for the animals (and more appealing for the people) doesn't come close to going far enough unless built into the educational structure of the zoo is an on-going critique of the zoo itself. It should constantly be pointed out the numerous ways in which the zoo is failing the very animals that it is attempting to help, and in which the very idea of a zoo itself is a tragic reminder of how far-gone our world has become.

Of course, no zoo in its right mind is going to take the millions of donation dollars and spend them by promoting its worst aspects -- instead, there is always the attempt to concentrate on the positive, and perhaps, promote the worldwide crisis that the zoo is attempting to combat. Zoos need to move to the next level, however, and provide education and historical context for why they stand in close relation to the problems that lead to them. Once this is done, an imperfect institution will at least provide the greater focus of knowledge that allows visitors to understand that the problems "there" are also "here" and that Manhattan has as much to do with loss of habitat space for lion prides in southern Africa as it does with regulating the global economy.

--------------------------
Shaping Nature's Unnatural Homes

WILLIE B. did not have a lucky start in life. In 1961, this silverback gorilla was captured in Africa and delivered to the zoo in Atlanta, where he grew fat, bored and lonely in his 20-by-40-foot cage.

It took 27 years before he roamed outdoors again. That was when the zoo was renovated and a newly "naturalistic" Zoo Atlanta was created, with a space designed to resemble an African rain forest. Other gorillas were introduced into Willie's space, and he eventually became a father of five. In 2000, at age 41, Willie died, presumably happy, with more than 7,000 people attending his memorial service.


Willie's life story parallels the evolution of American zoos in the last 40 years and hints at the questions about their future amid growing awareness of animal rights and ecology.

The now-familiar debate about zoos — from their design to the rationale for their very existence — is decades old. As many have observed, zoos are caught in an inherent contradiction: visitors go to experience nature in unnatural places. To what degree do zoos exist for the animals as opposed to the visitors? Is there something fundamentally wrong about using any animal for display and entertainment, or should zoos be seen as extensions of conservation efforts, much-needed protectors of vulnerable wildlife?

Most reputable modern zoos around the world today subscribe to a four-pronged mission of conservation, research, education and recreation, but a number of new books argue that there is still controversy over how well zoos have achieved those goals and how they should operate in the future.

Elizabeth Hanson, a science historian, opens her forthcoming book, "Animal Attractions: Nature on Display in America's Zoos" (Princeton University Press), with Willie's life story. She explains that while the first American zoo opened in 1874, it was only in Willie's lifetime that children's zoos and farm-in-the-zoo exhibits gained popularity and that zoos stopped collecting animals in the wild and began breeding them. They also began arranging displays according to animal behavior and incorporating ideas about the ecological relationship between animals and their habitats.

By the 1970's, Ms. Hanson says, zoos began hiring full-time veterinarians and research scientists, charging admission fees and raising money for captive breeding programs. She notes that while Willie B. was always popular, the zoo managers were once so inept they tried to cure his loneliness by placing a television set in his cage.

Most modern zoos certainly stand in contrast to the well-documented and now-familiar past accounts of brutal animal capture and transportation from the wild to filthy, unnatural conditions. But as historians of zoos point out, in any institution there is both good and bad, with zoos attracting their share of hucksters and public relations gimmicks.

"You have all these zoos claiming entertainment, education and science and then conservation in the 20th century," said Nigel Rothfels, a historian, whose book "Savages and Beasts: The Birth of the Modern Zoo," (Johns Hopkins University Press) is due out in September, "but they never really solved the central problem: people worry about having animals in captivity. So they keep coming up with these new things."

The beginning of the modern zoo, with the kind of open, landscaped spaces where Willie B. thrived, can be traced to the German animal impresario Carl Hagenbeck, according to Mr. Rothfels's book. In 1907, Hagenbeck opened Hagenbeck Animal Park in a village near Hamburg.

Hagenbeck's zoo featured not only wild animals in spaces that resembled natural habitats but also "primitive" people from places like Africa and the Pacific islands, who eventually grew tired of playing savages.

While it was good public relations for Hagenbeck to be photographed with loving animals, Mr. Rothfels writes, he downplayed how animals were transported under crowded conditions and how baby animals were taken from their brutally slaughtered mothers.

"The real revolution of Hagenbeck and the modern zoo was he figured out a way to hide the fact of captivity," Mr. Rothfels said. "The thing to remember is that the exhibit was not created for the animal. It makes people feel good about what they are seeing."

In his book "A Different Nature: The Paradoxical World of Zoos and Their Uncertain Future" (University of California Press, 2001), David Hancocks, an architect and director of Victoria's Open Range Zoo in Melbourne, Australia, points out that zoos have an uneven record. He looked at zoo design and history around the world, dating the first zoo to the city of Ur, in Sumeria, about 4,300 years ago.

Mr. Hancocks writes that zoos have done a poor job of conservation and contends that they have saved fewer than five species from extinction; that using animals for entertainment is an indulgence difficult to defend; and that behavioral research is problematic because zoo animals are not in their natural environments. He believes the greatest future role for zoos is in educating the public about animals and nature.

But for now, when he thinks of zoos, he says a jumble of unpleasant sights and sounds comes to mind: "Bored animals in small and sterile spaces, popcorn and ice-cream wrappers littering asphalt sidewalks, balloons, plastic snakes."

It was that central contradiction between nature and unnatural displays of animals that fascinated Ms. Hanson.

American zoos, she said, were created during the nation's transition from a rural, agricultural society to an urban, industrial one and reflected an effort by city planners to stay close to nature.

There were always traveling menageries that put animals on display, but between 1874, when the Philadelphia Zoo opened, and 1940, more than 100 zoos were built in America. In her book, Ms. Hanson examines how zoos were influenced by their placement in large parks.

"In the U.S., zoos almost all started as something in a city park that got municipal funding," Ms. Hanson said in an interview. "It was a way to get people to do activities that were associated with middle-class self-improvement. Zoos were morally acceptable in a way that sitting in a beer garden or dancing the polka wasn't to 19th-century park planners. It didn't have anything to do with animals, really."

For Ms. Hanson, zoos are a way "to force conflicts about the relationships between humans and wildlife into public debate." She believes that zoos largely adhere to their four-pronged mission but make strange detours.

She writes, for instance, that exhibits of animals can't help but objectify the natural world. And she claims that although zoos want to educate visitors about authentic animal behavior, zoo advertisements make them seem too much like humans, with announcements of zoo births featuring, for example, giraffe-length baby booties or a cradle toy made of bananas.

Still, she declares that zoos provide an alternative to other, more destructive interactions with wildlife, like private game hunting.

Zoos, Mr. Rothfels said, walk an often-thin line between entertainment and education, rationalizing the morality of one species dominating another; Ms. Hanson calls them "an emblem of imperialism."

One way for zoos to better ensure the happiness of animals, in Mr. Rothfels's view, is by providing better programs of research and education.

"The Bronx Zoo, for instance, does a great job at animal conservation, giving money to animal programs in situ, like in Africa," he said. Currently, 1,353 animal species are endangered, 3,157 are considered "vulnerable" and another 925 are called "critical," according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.

Given those kinds of numbers, zoos are needed for conservation and education, Mr. Hancocks said, despite their terrible history, their slow progress and the inevitable charlatanism in the business.

"This might not all be so terrible if the public did not seem to be so gullible and accept awful things being done to animals for the sake of someone's vanity," he said. Still, he concluded, "no other institution has the ability to make such strong emotional connections with wildlife."

By Felicia R. Lee, N.Y. Times

Posted by Richard
9/15/2002 08:09:04 AM | PermaLink

With White House Approval, E.P.A. Pollution Report Omits Global Warming Section

For the first time in six years, the annual federal report on air pollution trends has no section on global warming, though President Bush has said that slowing the growth of emissions linked to warming is a priority for his administration.

The decision to delete the chapter on climate change was made by top officials at the Environmental Protection Agency with White House approval, White House officials said.

"Some people at pretty high levels in my organization were saying, `Take it out,' " said an E.P.A. official outside Washington who helped prepare the report. Others at the agency confirmed his account.

Agency officials say the decision was made for two reasons: the agency has issued two other reports on climate this year, and the annual report is mainly meant to track pollutants that directly threaten people or ecosystems — substances like lead, carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide, which causes acid rain.

The report, released early this month, is an overview intended for the public that draws on more detailed E.P.A. data on air pollution trends. Most emissions have been sharply reduced in the last decade, but not carbon dioxide, the heat-trapping gas that most scientists say is the main contributor to global warming. Most carbon dioxide comes from burning fossil fuels.

Industry lobbyists are praising the decision. Coal, oil and car companies say carbon dioxide, which occurs naturally, should not be labeled a pollutant. But environmental groups say the omission reflects the administration's close ties with industry.

"White House censors may have made global warming disappear from this report, but that won't make it disappear as a serious threat to our environment," said Jeremy Symons, an authority on climate policy at the National Wildlife Federation.

Mr. Bush said last year that carbon dioxide appeared to be linked to rising temperatures, and he has since said that voluntary measures should be taken to slow emissions but that the evidence is not yet clear enough to require reductions.

The new report, "Latest Findings on National Air Quality: 2001 Status and Trends," is online, with those from previous years, at: epa.gov/airtrends/reports.html.

Published since the 1970's, the reports have focused on air pollution restricted under the Clean Air Act as directly harming human health or ecosystems. But starting in 1996, the report also included sections on emissions that affect the global atmosphere, including chemicals that damage the ozone layer and carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

The latest report has a section on the ozone-depleting chemicals, which are rapidly being reduced under the 15-year-old Montreal Protocol. But there is no section on climate change.

Global warming is mentioned twice: once in a note in fine print at the bottom of the table of contents, listing agency Web sites with climate data, and once in a paragraph that refers, apparently by mistake, to the omitted section on climate.

"Although the primary focus of this report is on national air pollution," the paragraph says, "global air pollution issues such as destruction of the stratospheric ozone layer and the effect of global warming on the earth's climate are major concerns and are also discussed."

Environmental and conservative groups have accused the administration of sowing confusion on the climate issue.

In late May, the White House approved a climate report that was then submitted by the State Department to the United Nations, though it contained far more dire projections of harm from global warming than Mr. Bush had publicly accepted. The president quickly distanced himself from the report, saying it was "put out by the bureaucracy." New copies of the report have been changed to emphasize scientific uncertainty about the effects of global warming. Some officials at the E.P.A. said the handling of that State Department report heightened concern about climate documents, prompting the changes in the new report.

"There's a complete paranoia about anything on climate, and everything has to be reviewed widely," an agency official said.

Other officials said the report was changed to avoid redundancy with earlier documents and to draw a line between carbon dioxide and pollutants that fall under air quality rules.

The annual report focuses on pollutants "that pose a local and regional threat to human health and the environment," said Joe Martyak, a spokesman for the agency. "The whole issue of climate change doesn't fall under that category."

The change in the document was welcomed by Myron Ebell, an authority on climate policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

"After such a long string of disasters on climate, this is the first glimmer of good news," he said. "If they have now gotten clear with the E.P.A. that they're not in the business of regulating CO2, that's a hopeful sign."

By Andrew C. Revkin
Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company

Posted by Richard
9/15/2002 07:37:14 AM | PermaLink