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Saturday, December 14, 2002

Critical Media Literacy in Light of Nuclear Spectacles by Richard Kahn

Working with Rhonda Hammer this last term on critical media literacy, I've produced a paper that draws upon Doug Kellner's work and that attempts to problematize media and tech by its relation to environmental disaster. This paper is in HTML now.

I also produced a corresponding 27 minute video that I have digitized to streaming Quicktime format -- which is freely available from Apple for download for both PC and Mac. You will need at least Version 4 -- current version is 6.0.2.

As I recently posted, the video is called Seeing the World Through Nuclear Spectacles and is a compilation of images and facts about nuclear weaponry and its Post WWII reality. It seems a timely topic.

The video is not a masterpiece and it represents more of the possibilities of what one person (me), with little to no experience in making videos, can do by himself in 8 weeks time with the technology at hand. Unfortunately, in transferring to Quicktime, the image is shrunk for the web -- making the text more difficult to read. Setting the screen to 800x600 will result in the best possible image.

Unfortunately, while modem users will receive a very poor image and possible tracking issues because of the complexity of multimedia. I am working on a version for 56k users, but right now it requires DSL or higher to get the real deal...

For your interest...

Posted by Richard
12/14/2002 01:26:11 PM | PermaLink

Follow-up to Wolves and Cougars on Vancouver Island

Some months ago I posted on the attempt by officials in Canada to create a legal option for large predator (wolf and cougar) hunting on Vancouver Island -- really for tourism and votes -- in the name of "saving the deer population." To this end, there may also have been some real concern to save a deer population for hunters as well.

As I pointed out then, while the idea that the wolves and cougars hunt deer, and thereby limit their numbers, is absolutely true, the idea that they were hunting them to the point of extinction would be highly irregular. If such a process really were happening, it would point more towards some other underlying factor that was affecting deer health and reproduction, creating an unnaturally large population of cullable deer, and thereby greatly increasing the number of kills wolves or cougars were making. The emphasis would be away from wolves and cougars, then, because they would be the end part of the process and not the underlying cause.

However, it was my opinion that the data on the issue was completely inconclusive and there was no real evidence that deer population was indeed in the grave danger that was being predicted. Well, I'm happy to report an unexpected victory in this matter, with the caveat that now they are trying to go after large predators in the name of the marmot:
Thanks to your enormous support through letters, petitions, and emails, Joyce Murray, Minister of Water, Land and Air Protection, announced onTuesday that there would be no culling of wolves and cougars on Vancouver Island in order to assist with deer recovery. This would not have been
possible without all of you! Raincoast is incredibly grateful for your help with this important campaign.

But all is not won.

Murray has directed her ministry staff to provide recommendations on a possible limited cull or sterilization program for wolves in areas where the Vancouver Island marmot still exists. Apparently the Vancouver Island Marmot Recovery Team is recommending lethal predator control as a preferred option.

There is clearly not enough solid scientific information regarding the status of the wolf population on Vancouver Island for the province to make an informed and credible decision to cull or sterilize these large carnivores. Raincoast is pushing for the ministry to consider non-lethal methods that discourage wolves away from specific areas (in this case marmot colony area). Methods such as fladry (flagging tape) have been successful in discouraging wolves from specific areas, and must be looked at as a first option as opposed to culling or sterilization.

We respectfully ask you to help us again by writing to Joyce Murray, congratulating her decision to oppose a wolf and cougar cull for deer recovery, and insisting that she consider non-lethal methods to protect the marmot colony area. A decision will be made in the first week of January.

Joyce Murray, Minister of Water, Land & Air Protection
Fax: 250-387-1356
Phone: 250 387-1187
Leg Ass, PO Box 9047 Stn Prov Gov
Victoria BC V8W 9E2

Be sure to include your full name and return street address in your letter or it may be ignored. Please send a copy of your letter to

Please forward this message to your friends. For more information please
visit, or contact Chris Genovali, Raincoast Conservation Society, at

Thank you!!! Raincoast Conservation Society
PO Box 8663
Victoria BC V8W 3S2
250-655-1339 (fax)

Posted by Richard
12/14/2002 08:38:53 AM | PermaLink

Friday, December 13, 2002

Court Clears Way for Clinton Ban on Forest Roads

Court clears way for Clinton ban on forest roads - 12/13/2002 - Washington, D.C. -- Environmental groups claimed victory Thursday after a federal appeals court effectively reinstated a Clinton-era ban on road construction on nearly 60 million acres of U.S. forest land, overturning a preliminary injunction obtained by Boise Cascade Corp. last year.

In a sweeping 55-page decision, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said repealing the ban would open federal forests to logging, mining, and other activities, harming some pristine wilderness lands.

The decision overturned an Idaho court ruling in favor of Boise Cascade, which cannot move in heavy equipment without new roads.

"This is a huge victory for our last wild forests, but also for the one million people who supported this rule," said Tim Preso, a lawyer with Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, which argued the plan in court on behalf of environmental groups.

Posted by Richard
12/13/2002 05:47:03 PM | PermaLink

Parents Protest U.S. Schools Irradiated Meat Plan

Parents protest U.S. schools irradiated meat plan - 12/13/2002 - WASHINGTON ? The Bush administration's plan to allow irradiated meat to be served to millions of U.S. school children is raising the ire of some concerned parents.

Irradiation, which has been endorsed by the World Health Organization, exposes food to low doses of electrons or gamma rays to destroy deadly microorganisms such as E. coli O157:H7 and salmonella.

Under the U.S. farm subsidy law enacted in May, the U.S. Agriculture Department must allow government-approved food safety technology such as irradiation to be used in commodities purchased by the federal school lunch program. Some 27 million schoolchildren receive free or low-cost meals daily in the program.

The USDA currently prohibits the irradiated meat in its vast school lunch program, which spends billions of dollars annually to buy meat, vegetables, fruits, and other foods.

Posted by Richard
12/13/2002 05:45:45 PM | PermaLink

Thursday, December 12, 2002

Save the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument!

The Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument is an incredible public treasure, with rich fir forests that shelter endangered owls, pristine streams that flow with trout species found nowhere else, and lush meadows alive with a diversity of butterflies unmatched in the United States.

Right now, the Bush administration is completing the planning process that will determine the fate of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. Incredibly, this and other national monuments face an uncertain future. Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton has made it clear that her agenda for our public lands is to accommodate logging, mining, and oil and gas companies wherever and whenever she can.

Please take a moment to participate in the Bureau of Land Management comment period going on now and ask that the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument be protected. Follow the link below to go to a web page where you can e-mail the BLM.

Posted by Richard
12/12/2002 06:13:17 PM | PermaLink

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Chicken and Fish Farms Filling Stocks With Antibiotics -- Now Resistant Bacteria Being Found

Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria Found in U.S. Poultry

By J.R. Pegg

Washington, DC - Three times more antibiotics by weight are fed to poultry in the United States than humans consume, and the poultry industry's use of antibiotics is a health risk to American turkey and chicken eaters, according to two independent studies released today. and

Los Angeles Times: December 9, 2002

Fish Farms Become Feedlots of the Sea
Like cattle pens, the salmon operations bring product to market cheaply. But harm to ocean life and possibly human health has experts worried.

By Kenneth R. Weiss, Times Staff Writer

Port McNeill, Canada -- If you bought a salmon filet in the supermarket recently or ordered one in a restaurant, chances are it was born in a plastic tray here, or a place just like it.

Instead of streaking through the ocean or leaping up rocky streams, it spent three years like a marine couch potato, circling lazily in pens, fattening up on pellets of salmon chow.

It was vaccinated as a small fry to survive the diseases that race through these oceanic feedlots, acres of net-covered pens tethered offshore. It was likely dosed with antibiotics to ward off infection or fed pesticides to shed a beard of bloodsucking sea lice.

For that rich, pink hue, the fish was given a steady diet of synthetic pigment. Without it, the flesh of these caged salmon would be an unappetizing, pale gray.

While many chefs and seafood lovers snub the feedlot variety as inferior to wild salmon, fish farming is booming. What was once a seasonal delicacy now is sometimes as cheap as chicken and available year-round. Now, the hidden costs of mass-producing these once-wild fish are coming into focus. [Read More]

Posted by Richard
12/11/2002 07:15:37 AM | PermaLink

Canada Ratifies Kyoto

This was expected to happen despite the entire oil-bearing province of Alberta more or less opposing it and the liberal government struggling to overcome a series of no confidence ventures launched by conservative opposition. As I've written about in the past -- search the archives -- the numbers on Kyoto are that really its just a small drop in the bucket compared to what would be required to really affect the reduction of industrial greenhouse pollution and the like. Still, any limit to growth in this regard should be supported at the Internatonal level. With Canada's passage, pressure will mount on Australia and the United States -- despite the Bush administration's many objections -- would probably move to pass it last when Bush is thrown out on his ear in the next election cycle. Bush himself, considering the nature of international politics, would probably even pass Kyoto eventually but would hold out on doing so to gain the maximum economic benefit, and greatest negotiating power for future concerns.
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada - The Parliament of Canada voted today to ratify the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, bringing the treaty to limit greenhouse gases one step closer to entry into force. Environmentalists cheered the vote, but industry remains opposed to the binding emissions limits.

Posted by Richard
12/11/2002 07:06:29 AM | PermaLink

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Before You Eat That Corn Chex, Corn Bread, or Corn on the Cob...

The bright side is that your getting treated with some potentially expensive drugs for free! Unfortunately, you probably didn't need AIDS vaccine right now, your blood clotted up, or industrial adhesive in your body...(sigh) it's a mad, mad, mad world out there people...
US Won't Say Which Pharmaceutical GM Crop Escaped from Prodigene Corporation

US Authoritites unwilling as of today to report which Genetically Modified Pharmaceutical maize was found in the food chain - The United States food chain has been contaminated by Genetically Modified (GM) maize plants used to produce a pharmaceutical or industrial chemical but US authorities are unwilling as of today to disclose what the mysterious GM Pharmaceutical maize is that was found for the first time among food crops in two US States (Iowa and Nebraska).

US Won't Say Which Pharmaceutical GM Crop Escaped

Mysterious Pharmaceutical GM Crop Goes Wrong in the US

BRUSSELS -- US Authoritites unwilling as of today to report which Genetically Modified Pharmaceutical MAIZE was found in the food chain

The United States food chain has been contaminated by Genetically Modified (GM) maize plants used to produce a pharmaceutical or industrial chemical but US authorities are unwilling as of today to disclose what the mysterious GM Pharmaceutical maize is that was found for the first time among food crops in two US States (Iowa and Nebraska).

Friends of the Earth is seeking urgent reassurance from the European Commission that food in Europe has not been contaminated. The company that produced the maize, Prodigene, carries out a range of outdoor tests on crops containing pharmaceuticals and industrial products in at least 96 locations in the US.

The ProdiGene incidents reportedly frustrated the US food industry, which stated on Thursday Nov. 14 that biotech companies need to change which crops they have chosen to make drugs and industrial products.

This was an accident waiting to happen. If you grow GM crops outdoors then they will eventually contaminate the rest of the food chain. We are seeking urgent reassurances that food imported into Europe has not been contaminated, said Adrian Bebb, GM Campaigner at Friends of the Earth.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced on Tuesday Nov. 12 that it quarantined over $2.7 million worth of soya beans (500,000 tonnes) destined for human consumption at a Nebraska grain elevator after finding parts of ProdiGene's GM maize mixed with the soya beans. They later ordered their destruction.

USDA authorities, who refuse to reveal the chemical or drug genetically engineered in the GM maize, also claim that a similar incident happened last year involving the same company. The soya crop was planted and harvested on the same site where a GM pharmaceutical maize was grown on the previous year. Seeds dropped by the maize grew this year and contaminated the soya crop.

Friends of the Earth, as part of a wider US coalition, warned the US Government earlier this year that this could happen. The coalition is now filing a legal petition demanding an immediate halt to the outdoor growing of pharmaceutical GM crops.

Research into the company involved, Prodigene, reveals that the contamination could be one of the following :

* AIDS vaccine gp120 -- a glycoprotein

* Blood-clotting agent -- Aprotinin

* Trypsin - Digestive enzyme that can be used in leather tanning or to produce insulin.

* Industrial adhesive Laccase -- an enzyme derived from a fungus

Other pharmaceutical GM crops reportedly grown by ProdiGene include experimental oral vaccines for hepatitis B and for a pig disease, transmissible gastroenteritis. According to USDA records ProdiGene has received 85 test permits for experimental open-air trials of pharmaceutical GM crops and chemical crops for planting in at least 96 locations.

Once you start genetically engineering drugs and chemicals into crop plants then you really are opening Pandora's box. The consequences could be catastrophic, said Adrian Bebb of GM Campaigner at Friends of the Earth.

Posted by Richard
12/10/2002 08:02:01 AM | PermaLink

European Union Backing Down on Genetically-Modified Foods and Organisms?

Shari sent the following in (thanks Shari!) with the message, "Institutionalization of GM foods under way...":
Network of European Labs Takes on GMO Analysis
BRUSSELS, Belgium,December 9, 2002 (ENS) - A new network of 45 control laboratories located in European Union Member States is being mobilized to improve traceability of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the food chain and to support regulation of their use in Europe.
European Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin inaugurated the European network of GMO laboratories at a launch in Brussels on December 4. The network will develop and validate methods for detecting and quantifying GMOs in food and feed. Activities will be coordinated by the European Commission's Joint Research Centre.
"I welcome the political agreement on the GMO labeling requirements, reached at the Agriculture Council on November 28," said Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin. Robust legislation to regulate the use of GMOs in food and feed is necessary, he said, but "it is not enough on its own."
Commissioner Busquin wants the European Union to "harvest the potential that biotechnology holds for consumers in a responsible way."
On November 28, the Council of Agriculture Ministers reached a political agreement on labeling and tracing GMOs in Europe. The draft law provides for all foods in Europe produced from GMOs to be labeled. The Council of Environment Ministers is set to address the issue of GMO traceability at its meeting today.
The EU draft law is based on the premise that consumers have the right to choose between products that do or do not contain GMOs. Still, the lawmakers acknowledge, "even a very well organized food chain cannot fully guarantee that traditional foodstuffs are free from trace amounts of GMOs."
The Commission has therefore proposed simple and straightforward "threshold" regulation for food labeling. For example, if a biscuit has been made from flour that contains less than one percent of genetically modified maize (corn) flour, it should not be labeled; if it contains more than one percent, it should be labeled.
The Commission proposal, as endorsed by the Agriculture Council on November 28, lowers this threshold to 0.9 percent.
The Council also set a tolerance threshold of 0.5 percent for a three year period for the adventitious presence of GMO material unauthorized in the EU, but which has undergone a favorable risk assessment.
"We have to enforce the legislation and develop reliable, validated tests to verify compliance," said Commissioner Busquin. "I am confident that the network of GMO laboratories will greatly improve our capacity to detect and screen GMOs and to provide a sound scientific basis for enforcing biotechnology legislation."
Labeling is only the tip of the GMO regulatory iceberg, the Commission recognizes. Biotechnology companies, control authorities, trade partners and importers have all faced the analytical implications of GMO regulations.
"By creating a strong pan-European network of scientists, such technical issues can be tackled in a transparent way, making the regulatory framework more flexible and manageable, and boost public confidence," the Commission said last week.
GMO inspection is not just a matter for European Union control laboratories, so the new lab network is inviting future EU Member States to participate in working groups. Ten countries are about to join the EU, bringing to 25 the number of Member States.
Seeking collaboration on a worldwide basis, the lab network is also interacting with all EU global trade partners.

Is this the same EU that was talking so tough just this last September at the Earth Summit II in Johannesburg about no GM and blocking US farm subsidies because their unethical for both the world's poor and the world's foods consumption in general?

What's going on here? I thought the EU had a "no GMO" policy flat out -- didn't you? Why are they arranging for a US model of implementation of genetically modified stuffs?

Well, as I said during the WSSD in September (and am sadly being proven correct), at the level of international diplomacy and politics, brazen talk like the EU was producing at the summit is usually only equivalent with hard-bargaining and a done deal -- one only talks tough on the world stage unless one is either a) a quasi-fascist American leader, or b) attempting to better one's strategic position at the negotiating table, whereupon one is prepared to ultimately "meet in the middle." The EU's rhetoric at the World Summit for Sustainable Development was the latter, and everyone but the most hopeful European idealists knew it to be true.

Interestingly, Shari's article comes at a time that our old friends the Bush administration are granting further subsidies for their agrobusinesses (to compete and flood the world markets) and pressuring the EU tremendously to accept American GMO product. So it may be that the EU is simply preparing for what it knows is either coming sooner or later -- frankenfoods to a store near you.
New US-EU trade war looms as US Tries To Force GM Food On EU, Zambia Has Refused GM Crops Despite Famine

By Steve Schifferes
BBC News Online economics reporter

The United States is considering a fresh trade war with Europe over the issue of genetically modified (GM) foods.

The move would increase tension with Europe at a delicate time for the world trade talks, which were launched one year ago.

-- US has more GM crops than any other country

US trade officials are urging the Bush administration to begin proceedings against the EU in the World Trade Organisation for blocking imports of GM food.

The EU has maintained a ban for the last four years on approving any US biotech foods, which it says is based on the "precautionary principle" but which the US says has no scientific basis.

Already, the US and the EU are at loggerheads over several trade issues.

The EU objects to new US "anti-dumping" tariffs on its steel products and US tax breaks for foreign sales of its big multinationals, while the US has taken the EU to task for its ban on imports of bananas and beef.

-- Restraint

Previously, the US has refrained from any formal complaint on GM foods, mindful of the strength of anti-biotech feeling in Europe, and concerned that the EU could argue for compulsory labelling of US grain exports - which would force US farmers to implement separate storage facilities for GM and non-GM crops.

-- The EU has banned US hormone-treated beef

But now US officials fear that other parts of the world, and especially Africa, are rejecting US agricultural exports because of fears that they may contain genetically modified crops.[and pharmaceutically modified GE crops!]

In October, Zambia rejected 26,000 tonnes of US food aid, despite its famine, on the grounds that it contained GM crops which would pollute its seed stock and hurt exports.

US Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, who visited Africa with rock star Bono in the autumn, is believed to back tough action against Europe.

But US state department officials have reportedly warned that it would be unwise to alienate European public opinion while trying to gain support for a possible war in Iraq.

-- Safety fears

The EU has long maintained that GM foods are unsafe until proven otherwise.

In 2000, the US and the EU signed an agreement, the Montreal bio-safety protocol, which agreed that this "precautionary principle" should apply to the export of GM foods.

It also agreed to the voluntary labelling of GM foods in order to give consumers a choice.

However, talks over how to implement a voluntary labelling agreement have stalled, despite a deadline of 31 December 2002.

Even in the UK, the government has been under pressure to stop field trials of GM crops from environmentalists.

-- The politics of trade

The US would be likely to win any case it took to the World Trade Organisation.

Several years ago, the US fought and won a similar action when EU officials banned US beef exports on the grounds that they contained unsafe growth hormones.

However, it will take several years before the US obtains a final ruling under the laborious WTO disputes settlement procedure. And that would not necessarily be the end of the matter.

In the beef hormone dispute, the EU has chosen to pay a $100m fine each year rather than admit US beef products.

Even environmentalists believe that it would be unlikely that European consumers would be persuaded to buy GM foods as a result of a WTO ruling that says they are safe.

But US farmers - who export 30% of their crops - would be pleased.

They are a key constituency for the Bush administration, which recently passed a farm bill giving them an additional $180bn in aid.

However, this aid package could be under threat if the world trade talks reach agreement on limiting agricultural subsidies - something they are scheduled to do by 31 March 2003.

And those same trade talks could hold a trump card for the EU.

That is because in principle, trade ministers have agreed that in future, environmental agreements like the Montreal protocol should have equal legal weight in trade law treaties.

Posted by Richard
12/10/2002 07:55:22 AM | PermaLink

Monday, December 09, 2002

Seeing the World Through Nuclear Spectacles by Richard Kahn

It's no masterpiece but I've put together a little 27 minute video on aspects of the present nuclear reality (based on what's going on with the war on terror, etc.) interspliced with some stock footage of representations of nuclear history. It is a streaming Quicktime file -- so Mac or PC, if you don't have at least Quicktime 4, you must go to Apple's homepage and download it for free in order to watch.

The video is at: rtsp://
[The movie is educational and not for profit -- all footage is fairly used.]

Posted by Richard
12/09/2002 10:37:32 AM | PermaLink

The Double-talk of Land Mass

Here is an example of why science is political and the media represents a field that the average person needs to becoming "literate" in the same way one would become literate in a profession or in any art form:

The following article came out a few days ago and was touted as (while still containing a warning) a reason for hope that things aren't so bad on Earth, even with the human cultural explosion of globalization:
By Paul Rogers of Mercury News
Wednesday, December 4, 2002

Despite population growth, logging and other environmental threats, nearly half the land on Earth remains wilderness -- undeveloped and nearly unpopulated, according to a study released today. The study by 200 international scientists, the most comprehensive analysis ever done on Earth's wild places and population trends, was seen by some experts as a surprising cause for optimism. Biologists also viewed it as a warning, since only 7 percent of the wilderness is protected.

But this information -- while "scientifically" correct -- is exactly the sort of misleading science that development corporations use and governments tout as figures for why they are "sustainable" practitioners when the truth is otherwise.

For in fact, the 46% of undisturbed landmass includes the largest land mass -- Antartica, that is virtually uninhabitable for a great deal of life -- as well as other Arctic regions to the north such as that which lies above the Arctic circle from extreme Siberia to the great north of Alaska, etc. It also includes all the land masses that are at extreme slope -- say 50% incline -- and the ever-growing deserts.

Which isn't to say that the deserts, Siberia, or extremely mountainous regions aren't important ecosystems and that they don't sustain life (often a great deal more than one would think). But the point is that they are not the middle-latitudes, fertile plains and jungles of the temperate and tropical zones that are homes to the majority of species.

When factored in and contextualized in this manner, the idea that humans are taking their share but leaving plenty behind is clearly false. Humans are indeed acting -- producing, consuming, and reproducing -- in such a manner as to rightly be considered a cancer upon the body of the Earth. Unfortunately, the only cure for cancer we know is surgical removal and radioactive attack -- which is both brutal to the cancer and the body. The parallel to this strategy, at the level of the planet, would be nuclear war. The other option is to let the disease run its course and holistically become accustomed to it -- which is to say that there is no going back, and the process that has led to the great human overflourishing will bring about an end (that must happen for us eventually whether we like it or not) and our job now is simply to become comfortable and integrated with what is occuring.

I'm not sure that I'm happy with either strategy. But that's a discussion for another time -- today, I only want to point out again that one must not believe scientific facts just because they infiltrate the media. We must ask -- who created this, how, for what purposes, who is using this information and why?

Posted by Richard
12/09/2002 10:32:46 AM | PermaLink