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Saturday, March 08, 2003

Pentagon Wants Mini-Nuke Ban Endeds: Congress Asked to Permit US to Develop 'More Usable' Bombs

The Pentagon has asked the US Congress to lift a 10-year ban on the development of small nuclear warheads, or "mini-nukes", in one of the most overt steps President George Bush's administration has taken towards building a new atomic arsenal.

Buried in the defense department's 2004 budget proposals, sent to congressional committees this week, was a single-line statement that marks a sharp change in US nuclear policy.

It calls on the legislature to "rescind the prohibition on research and development of low-yield nuclear weapons".

If passed by Congress, the measure would represent an important victory for radicals in the administration, who believe the US arsenal needs to be overhauled to make it more "usable", and therefore a more meaningful deterrent, to "rogue states" with weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

A Pentagon official said yesterday the research ban on smaller warheads "has negatively affected US government efforts to support the national strategy to counter WMD, and undercuts efforts that could strengthen our ability to deter or respond to new or emerging threats".

Democrats fought off earlier Republican attempts to lift the ban on research and development work on nuclear warheads under five kilotons (a third of the power of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima), fearing that the new weapons would lead to an end to the US moratorium on nuclear testing, and to a new arms race.

But since the Republicans won back control of the Senate last year, the administration believes it is in a strong position to lift the "Spratt-Furse restriction", named after two Democratic congressmen who proposed the ban in 1993.

"It's significant because this is the first time the administration - and it comes from the department of defense - has said it wants low-yield weapons," said Kathryn Crandall, a nuclear weapons expert at the British American Security Information Council.

She said the policy statement contradicted denials from administration officials that they had any ambitions to build new weapons.

The Pentagon official, who did not want to be named, said a repeal of the research and development ban would not commit the US to developing, producing and deploying new, low-yield warheads. "Such warhead concepts could not proceed to full-scale development, much less production and deployment, unless Congress authorizes the substantial funds required to do this," the official said.

Congressional Republicans approved $15m last year for new research on nuclear "bunker busters", bombs designed to penetrate reinforcedunderground targets before exploding, but those weapons, known as the B83 and the B61, are modifications of existing high-yield nuclear bombs. Developing a new generation of low-yield devices would probably require testing.

The Senate never ratified the comprehensive test ban treaty, but the US imposed a moratorium on testing in 1992.

Many arms experts expect the moratorium and the treaty to come under increasing pressure as work progresses on the new arsenal. "Here we have the administration in one of its more open steps so far," Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Washington-based arms control association, said.

"The only reason why the administration might want to pursue low-yield nuclear weapons is to develop a weapon they believe is less damaging to the immediate environment.

"In the strange logic of these people, it would be more 'usable' - the political costs, they believe, will be lower," he said.

John Spratt, a Democratic congressman and one of the authors of the ban on "mini-nukes", accused radicals in the Bush administration of hypocrisy.

"My greatest concern is that some in the administration and in Congress seem to think that the United States can move the world in one direction while Washington moves in another that we can continue to prevail on other countries not to develop nuclear weapons while we develop new tactical applications for such weapons, and possibly resume nuclear testing," Mr Spratt said.

The Pentagon's request to Congress comes only days after the disclosure of its plans to stage a conference in Omaha in August at which a range of new nuclear weapons, including "mini-nukes", is due to be discussed, and plans drawn up to develop them, test them, and persuade the public of the need for them.

by Julian Borger, Guardian/UK

Posted by Richard
3/08/2003 06:57:29 AM | PermaLink

 
Friday, March 07, 2003

Memo Exposes Bush's New Green Strategy

The US Republican party is changing tactics on the environment, avoiding "frightening" phrases such as global warming, after a confidential party memo warned that it is the domestic issue on which George Bush is most vulnerable.

The memo, by the leading Republican consultant Frank Luntz, concedes the party has "lost the environmental communications battle" and urges its politicians to encourage the public in the view that there is no scientific consensus on the dangers of greenhouse gases.

"The scientific debate is closing [against us] but not yet closed. There is still a window of opportunity to challenge the science," Mr Luntz writes in the memo, obtained by the Environmental Working Group, a Washington-based campaigning organisation.

"Voters believe that there is no consensus about global warming within the scientific community. Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly.

"Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate."

The phrase "global warming" should be abandoned in favour of "climate change", Mr Luntz says, and the party should describe its policies as "conservationist" instead of "environmentalist", because "most people" think environmentalists are "extremists" who indulge in "some pretty bizarre behaviour... that turns off many voters".

Words such as "common sense" should be used, with pro-business arguments avoided wherever possible.

The environment, the memo says, "is probably the single issue on which Republicans in general - and President Bush in particular - are most vulnerable".

A Republican source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said party strategists agreed with Mr Luntz's conclusion that "many Americans believe Republicans do not care about the environment".

The popular image is that they are "in the pockets of corporate fat cats who rub their hands together and chuckle manically [sic] as they plot to pollute America for fun and profit", Mr Luntz adds.

The phrase "global warming" appeared frequently in President Bush's speeches in 2001, but decreased to almost nothing during 2002, when the memo was produced.

Environmentalists have accused the party and oil companies of helping to promulgate the view that serious doubt remains about the effects of global warming.

Last week, a panel of experts appointed at the Bush administration's request to analyse the president's climate change strategy found that it lacked "vision, executable goals, clear timetables and criteria for measuring progress".

"Rather than focusing on the things we don't know, it's almost as if parts of the plan were written by people who are totally unfamiliar with where ecosystems science is coming from," panel member William Schlesinger told the Guardian.

Mr Luntz urges Republicans to "emphasise the importance of 'acting only with all the facts in hand'", in line with the White House position that mandatory restrictions on emissions, as required by the Kyoto protocol, should not be countenanced until further research is undertaken.

The memo singles out as a major strategic failure the incoming Bush administration's response to Bill Clinton's last-minute executive order reducing the permitted level of arsenic in drinking water from 50 parts per billion to 10 parts per billion.

The new administration put the plan on hold, prompting "the biggest public relations misfire of President Bush's first year in office", Mr Luntz writes. The perception was that Mr Bush "was actively putting in more arsenic in the water".

"A compelling story, even if factually inaccurate, can be more emotionally compelling than a dry recitation of the truth," Mr Luntz notes in the memo.

By Oliver Burkeman, Guardian UK

Posted by Richard
3/07/2003 07:41:01 AM | PermaLink

No Safe Place: Canada's Pound Seizures for Animal Experimentation

This from Dave Pollard of How to Save the World:
The investigative CBC Television program Disclosure has just done a report on current laws on animal testing in Canada, and how pounds provide most of the animals used. Their website describes what they discovered, and contains an enormous and valuable set of background links and resources for more information. My blog post, Canada's Shame: Pound Seizures, contains some suggested actions, both for Canadians who want to stop this horror, and for those in other countries who want to prevent or rectify similar abominations where they live.


Posted by Richard
3/07/2003 07:24:43 AM | PermaLink

End Farm Subsidies to Help Feed Africa, says Annan

Kofi talks tough for a change, but this on an issue that hardly anyone (save CEOs or lobbyists for giant agribusinesses) can deny is a major problem and cause for great starvation and suffering the world over. As this article points out, even G8 leaders admit that if they cut back farm subsidies that so-called "developing nations" would see a drop in starvation, poverty, and economic chaos.

One suspects that the U.S. government, despite its major commitment to subsidies, would like to get out of that game as soon as possible -- as more and more farms are swallowed up within a corporate ownership scheme and the family farm falls by the wayside.

Subsidies, though there are arguments against this as well, appear to have helped the family farm through a modernizing process in the U.S. economy. It stabilized the farmer's situation and allowed for long-range planning. Of course, it also led to extremely wasteful growing practices -- with farmers many times growing fields of crops that they knew from the outset were destined to be destroyed under subsidized contracts.

Now that agribusiness is the norm, its quite plausible that the federal government would like to stop expenditures to ADM and other big growers and move towards a free-market scheme in which such giant businesses do their own dirty work in order to gain an advantage and get ahead.

However, with the U.S. and world economy slipping, without increased pressure from the public, one would be foolish to expect the limitation of subsidized American goods anytime soon. Additionally, to that end, one will need to remember that the same structural conditions that affect farmers in Africa affect family farmers here too. Those that continue to hold on against the current trend toward corporatizing would be negatively affected by the de-subidizing process.

As this issue gets played out, people need to be aware that widespread transformations and solutions will be needed across the economic board. In an entire industry resting upon subsidies, it is not possible to simply turn off the money flow and say sink or swim.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged the world's wealthiest nations Wednesday to stop subsidizing their farmers as a first step toward dealing with famine in Africa.

The plea came during a meeting at United Nations headquarters of a newly formed Group of Eight Contact Group on Food Security in Africa, created to give a higher profile to agricultural development issues as severe food shortages, aggravated by the AIDS epidemic, threaten more than 30 million people in southern and northeastern Africa.

The Group of Eight includes the Group of Seven highly industrialized nations — the United States, France, Britain, Germany, Canada, Japan, and Italy — plus Russia.

Annan told the contact group as its first meeting got under way that world governments had to deal with the structural causes of a looming famine as well as the lack of food itself.

They needed to do more to develop agriculture, improve the global marketplace for farm goods, and bolster the fight against AIDS, which is rapidly killing off farmers while creating a generation of orphans in Africa, the U.N. leader said.

Achieving these goals will require significant additional resources and investment, Annan said, calling on the rich nations to "recognize that agriculture is an essential pillar of development."

He continued, "But it will also require dismantling the agricultural subsidies from rich countries, which currently total more than $300 billion a year. Only then will Africa be able to achieve truly sustainable agricultural production."

Both the European Union and the United States pledged last year at trade talks in Doha, Qatar, to reduce tariffs and subsidies which hinder world commerce.

But there has been no agreement yet in world trade talks on winding down farm subsidies, leaving developing countries increasingly frustrated at the difficulty of getting their agricultural goods into markets in the developed world, particularly in highly protected Europe and Japan.

At Wednesday's Contact Group meeting, U.S. Undersecretary of State Alan Larson said Washington agreed that a move toward ending farm subsidies and trade barriers "would be profoundly pro-developmental."

French Cooperation Minister Pierre-Andre Wiltzer agreed, reminding a news conference at U.N. headquarters that President Jacques Chirac had called on developed nations last month to observe a moratorium on subsidizing farm exports destined for Africa.

Larson later said the Group of Eight had chosen to take up the crisis because it saw it as an opportunity to give the issues a higher profile. The contact group hopes to draw up a plan addressing the long-term issues in time to present it to a Group of Eight summit in early June, he said.

By Irwin Arieff, Reuters

Posted by Richard
3/07/2003 07:18:24 AM | PermaLink

Bacteria in Fermented Soya Kills Cancer Cells

Singapore (ANI): Scientists have long suspected a link between eating soya products and lowered cancer risks. A Chinese researcher has discovered that bacteria found in fermented soya can help to kill cancer cells.

Professor Yang Zhen Hua who is positive about the discovery now wants to hold clinical trials on cancer patients here.

Prof Yang, 58, who has a United States patent and three international patents pending for her discovery, said many scientists believe that isoflavanoids - plant hormones in soya products - act as a cancer inhibitor.

The discovery, which was made five years ago, proved that a group of compounds in fermented soya beans caused cancer cells to commit suicide, while normal cells remained unmolested, says a report in The Straits Times.

She told The Straits Times that she had found 88 anti-cancer compounds in fermented soya beans, and produced drugs from the three top performers.

Yang, who runs her own health supplement company in Fujian, China, has had her work published in various international journals and presented at the prestigious Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research.

Pre-clinical trials have been completed in China, and are ongoing in the US.

"I want to start trials in Singapore because it costs less than in the US, but the results will be approved internationally, whereas tests done in China may not be universally accepted," she said.

Posted by Richard
3/07/2003 07:04:45 AM | PermaLink

 
Thursday, March 06, 2003

Pentagon Seeks Widespread Environmental Exemptions

This is criminal. The anti-war movement needs to step up and demand that environmental restrictions are not further removed from military activities and designs.
With war looming in Iraq, the Bush administration this week asked Congress to exempt the Defense Department from a broad array of environmental laws governing air pollution, toxic waste dumps, endangered species and marine mammals. The Pentagon says it needs the changes to ensure unfettered training and readiness activities.

At: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A48414-2003Mar5.html
By Eric Pianin, Washington Post

Posted by Richard
3/06/2003 09:44:46 AM | PermaLink

Leaked Document from WTO's GATS Negotiations Reveals "Environmental Services" Held by Developing World are Prized by Develpers

At: http://www.scoop.co.nz/archive/scoop/stories/94/2e/200302251450.1a7a25e3.html

Leaked documents show poor countries are the main targets of GATS negotiations - "Today's massive leak of the WTO's General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) negotiation documents exposes the so-called  Doha 'development' round as the sham we've always said it was," says  Professor Jane Kelsey from the Action, Research and Education Network  of Aotearoa (ARENA). The extent of the EC's demands that the world's poorest countries open their services to Europe's transnational firms has shocked even veteran analysts of the GATS negotiations. A British-based development agency, the World Development Movement (WDM), and the international secretariat of public services unions, Public Services International, (PSI) have condemned Europe's promises to protect and promote the interests of poorer countries as "empty rhetoric".

Posted by Richard
3/06/2003 09:39:29 AM | PermaLink

Ecopsychology: A Reconaissance

Ted Roszack, author of the great The Making of a Counterculture, has a new one out, The Voice of the Earth: An Exploration of Ecopsychology. There is interesting work going on in this field, which draws directly from Gregory Bateson's Mind in Nature arguments, as well as from Humanistic psychology (such as Abraham Maslow), but which also draws from 19th century psychologists, William James, and even psychoanalysis. Stanislav Grof, the father of LSD psychotherapy and holotropic breathwork, and the transpersonal theorists are also connected; as is Ralph Metzner, Tim Leary's student and utopian associate.

Read the preface at: http://www.cosmopolis.com/ecopsychology/ecopsychology-intro.html

Posted by Richard
3/06/2003 09:32:00 AM | PermaLink

Campus to Run Entirely on Geothermal Energy

Nevada will soon have the only college campus in the world completely powered by renewable energy.

The full story is available at http://www.solaraccess.com/news/story?storyid=3727

Posted by Richard
3/06/2003 09:23:26 AM | PermaLink

Tackling World's Water Crises Resolveable at US$100 Billion a Year

War or water -- that's a glossed version of the economics at work here...
You can click here to download the executive summary of this report in English. Six other languages are available at the UNESCO website as well.

Tokyo — Most of the world's water crises can be resolved but would require political will and spending from US$50 billion to $100 billion a year, the United Nations' top envoy on water issues said Wednesday.

Gordon Young, coordinator of the Paris-based U.N. World Water Assessment Program, warned that crises ranging from contaminated drinking water to polluted rivers and underground reserves threaten the lives of tens of thousands of people every day.

According to U.N. statistics, more than 200 million people every year suffer from water-related diseases, and about 2.2 million of them — mostly the poor — die. About 20 percent of the Earth's population of 6 billion lacks access to safe drinking water.

"If we were to take relatively small amounts of extra money, we could more or less solve most of the world's water problems," Young told a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan. "The difficulty is having the political will to do it."

Young, who was in Tokyo to present the 600-page U.N. World Water Development report ahead of the Third World Water Forum in Kyoto later this month, said the scale of the problem is enormous.

To reach the United Nations' goal of halving the number of people without access to water for nourishment and hygiene by 2015, every day 270,000 people would have to be provided with safe drinking water and 340,000 people would have to see improvements in sanitation, Young said.

In the report, the United Nations predicted as many as 7 billion people in 60 countries could face a water shortage by 2050 — when the global population is expected to reach 9.3 billion — as climate changes aggravate droughts or increase rainfall and temperatures.

As natural sources are tapped to near limits, international conflicts over water rights may boil over, the report said.

Disagreements over water underlie the hostilities between states, from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in the Middle East to the Colorado River in the United States and Mexico to the Nile River, which runs through nine African countries, said Young.

The U.N. report also divides countries into those with water resources and those without. Kuwait, the Gaza strip, the United Arab Emirates, the Bahamas, and Qatar have the least fresh water reserves per person among 180 countries and territories assessed. And — with the exception of the U.S. state of Alaska and Denmark's Greenland — French Guiana, Iceland, Guyana, Suriname, and Congo have the most.

By Kenji Hall, Associated Press

Posted by Richard
3/06/2003 07:02:30 AM | PermaLink

 
Wednesday, March 05, 2003

Republicans Rate the Bush Administration on the Environment

The information below is pasted from the winter 2003 edition of The Green Elephant (the online newsletter of "Republicans for Environmental Protection"). You can see it (including a lengthy rationale for each grade) for yourself at:

http://www.repamerica.org/news/ge6.3_reportcard.htm

Environmental Report Card for the George W. Bush Administration, 2001-2002
Key Issues...

Energy Policy F
Climate Change D-
Air Quality D
Water Quality D+
Public Land D
National Environmental Policy Act D-
Farm Policy B-
Appointments D-

Posted by Richard
3/05/2003 08:46:25 PM | PermaLink

Vegan Wines

I continue to be interested in getting more information on Vegan Wines -- it's not the easiest thing to acquire. Many companies simply don't give out the information as to whether or not animal products have been used in "fining" or "finishing" their fermented grapes...

Here's a link to some info on wines at a good vegan messageboard.

Posted by Richard
3/05/2003 09:46:42 AM | PermaLink

Back to Blogging...

After two weeks on the road it's nice to be home. Of course, ecologists have a special relationship to home -- "ecology" comes from the Greek work "oikos" which literally meant "home."

Now, however, deeper understandings of how all areas stand in relation to one another, of part/whole system dynamics, and insights into the living macro-organismic nature of the planet as a whole (i.e. Gaia theory) tend to lead us away from our first homes out towards a larger understanding of our habitat. We stand in relation to a galaxy 10 parsecs away, and however miniscule, it exerts influence upon us (and we upon it). It too is our home.

Further, as I had mentioned dynamics previously, recent ecological insights point to the non-static aspects of space. The old Newtonian view that space is simply a giant, empty container -- that objects move within, but which itself remains absolute and stationary -- no longer holds. Space is in motion. Everything extended in space is affected by this and is either in the process of building up or breaking down. Thus, on some level, whatever space I choose to call home is not the space that I can ever live in for long. We cannot step into the same river twice -- home is not "there," but it is always being refounded anew "here and now."

Two weeks on the road gave me the opportunity to meet many interesting people, witness firsthand the disgusting views of numerous industrial superfund sites and the sad, polluted environs of America's many who live on the other side of the tracks. You don't get this travelling by plane -- I took Amtrak. I wanted to consciously take up the extension and creation of my home across America, and not simply get "there" quick. Air travel is disembodied in that way. I travelled by rail in search of something else.

As my wife puts it -- its an Odyssean experiment...the journey from home that is continually about the impossible return to origins. Thomas Wolfe may have been right -- you can't go home again. But you can do something better -- you can build your home anew, integrating your experiences and furthering your relationship to place and process.

I'm home now, and back to blogging. I know the routine. But it's not the same author who sits here. My space in Los Angeles is filled with disturbances, possibilities, mysteries, and disavowals...

Posted by Richard
3/05/2003 08:57:47 AM | PermaLink