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Saturday, May 24, 2003

Toronto Bans Lawn Chemicals

From CBC:

Toronto city council has approved a controversial bylaw that restricts the use of pesticides for cosmetic purposes on public and private property.

After making a series of amendments to the bylaw, council voted 26 to 16 in favour of the bylaw. The vote marked an end to two days of acrimonious debate and months of intense lobbying.

The city will start by launching a public education campaign aimed at discouraging people from using pesticides, which can include herbicides, insecticides and fungicides.

The bylaw won't be fully implemented until September 2005 - a year later than originally planned - when $250 fines will be levied for ignoring the ban. Beginning next year, people will receive warnings.

Only organic methods would be allowed to fight the dandelions and other weeds.

Posted by Richard
5/24/2003 08:24:32 AM | PermaLink

Cascadia Summer Begins

From: Indymedia Network

While the U.S. military machine attempts to bring the oil reserves of the Middle East under its control, another war is being fought, this one in North America itself, against the forests. The timber industry, working through its Republican and Democratic lackeys, has its sights set on the last 4-6% of the old growth trees that survive. George Bush's Orwellian-named "Healthy Forests Initiative" is taking aim at what little citizen oversight and environmental standards exist to protect delicate ecosystems on public lands. In response, forest defenders in Cascadia (which stretches from Northern California to British Columbia) have declared their intent to fight.

Cascadia Summer is a direct action and education campaign called by a diverse group of local conservationists who work to protect forests, streams, and wildlife in the northwest Pacific's bioregions. Resistance in the area is active and the goal is simple: to stop the cutting. The campaign will utilize a wide-range of tactics from civil disobedience, tree-sits, public outreach in urban and rural areas, lawsuits, political pressure, to popular education.

Posted by Richard
5/24/2003 08:14:42 AM | PermaLink

Hydrogen's Dirty Secret

From the Office of Transportation:
FreedomCAR isn't an automobile, it's a new approach to powering the vehicles of the future. The C-A-R in FreedomCAR stands for Cooperative Automotive Research. DOE will carry out the program in partnership with the U.S. Council of Automotive Research, a cooperative research organization formed by Ford Motor Company, General Motors Corporation, and DaimlerChrysler Corporation.

From Mother Jones:
When President Bush unveiled his plans for a hydrogen-powered car in his State of the Union address in January, he proposed $1.2 billion in spending to develop a revolutionary automobile that will be "pollution-free." The new vehicle, he declared, will rely on "a simple chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen" to power a car "producing only water, not exhaust fumes." Within 20 years, the president vowed, fuel-cell cars will "make our air significantly cleaner, and our country much less dependent on foreign sources of oil."

By launching an ambitious program to develop what he calls the "Freedom Car," Bush seemed determined to realize the kind of future that hydrogen-car supporters have envisioned for years. Using existing technology, hydrogen can be easily and cleanly extracted from water. Electricity generated by solar panels and wind turbines is used to split the water's hydrogen atoms from its oxygen atoms. The hydrogen is then recombined with oxygen in fuel cells, where it releases electrons that drive an electric motor in a car. What Bush didn't reveal in his nationwide address, however, is that his administration has been working quietly to ensure that the system used to produce hydrogen will be as fossil fuel-dependent -- and potentially as dirty -- as the one that fuels today's SUVs. According to the administration's National Hydrogen Energy Roadmap, drafted last year in concert with the energy industry, up to 90 percent of all hydrogen will be refined from oil, natural gas, and other fossil fuels -- in a process using energy generated by burning oil, coal, and natural gas. The remaining 10 percent will becracked from water using nuclear energy.

Such a system, experts say, would effectively eliminate most of the benefits offered by hydrogen. Although the fuel-cell cars themselves may emit nothing but water vapor, the process of producing the fuel cells from hydrocarbons will continue America's dependence on fossil fuels and leave behind carbon dioxide, the primary cause of global warming.

Posted by Richard
5/24/2003 07:48:58 AM | PermaLink

Friday, May 23, 2003

Afghans' Uranium Levels Spark Alert

In the months after 9/11 the writing was on the wall -- we were going to war in Afghanistan and the environmental effects of our doing so were going to numerous. At that time, I called attention to the DU issue which had precedents in US interventions in both Kosovo and the 1991 Gulf War. Further, I privately speculated that Afghanistan -- an extremely poor and degraded country, far from media and domestic interests -- might very well be serving as a sort of "testing ground" for new weapons...weapons that in retrospect may have been tested for the War on Iraq. While we now know that some new weapons were used in Iraq, it remains speculation that such is the case with Afghanistan. However, what is NOT SPECULATION, is that DU weapons were used there -- for, at the least, DU is the secret ingredient of the myriad numbers of Bunker Busters that were dropped on caves and compounds. Now random Afghanis are starting to show all the signs of radiological toxification. The US and British answer? To DENY EVEN USING DU in the region! Thus, though we know that this is in part an outright lie (at least by the Americans -- it may be that the British didn't fire Bunker Busters, etc.), the DOD's answer is giving rise to new fear. For, if the forces there didn't use uranium weapons "in any form," what kind of weapons did they use that are causing these results?
Critics Suspect New Weapons Used

A small sample of Afghan civilians have shown "astonishing" levels of uranium in their urine, an independent scientist says.

He said they had the same symptoms as some veterans of the 1991 Gulf war.

But he found no trace of the depleted uranium (DU) some scientists believe is implicated in Gulf War syndrome.

Other researchers suggest new types of radioactive weapons may have been used in Afghanistan.

The scientist is Dr Asaf Durakovic, of the Uranium Medical Research Center (UMRC) based in Washington DC.

Dr Durakovic, a former US army colonel who is now a professor of medicine, said in 2000 he had found "significant" DU levels in two-thirds of the 17 Gulf veterans he had tested.

In May 2002 he sent a team to Afghanistan to interview and examine civilians there.

The UMRC says: "Independent monitoring of the weapon types and delivery systems indicate that radioactive, toxic uranium alloys and hard-target uranium warheads were being used by the coalition forces."
Shock results

It says Nangarhar province was a strategic target zone during the Afghan conflict for the deployment of a new generation of deep-penetrating "cave-busting" and seismic shock warheads.

The UMRC says its team identified several hundred people suffering from illnesses and conditions similar to those of Gulf veterans, probably because they had inhaled uranium dust.

Bomb damage was widespread

To test its hypothesis that some form of uranium weapon had been used, the UMRC sent urine specimens from 17 Afghans for analysis at an independent UK laboratory.

It says: "Without exception, every person donating urine specimens tested positive for uranium internal contamination.

"The results were astounding: the donors presented concentrations of toxic and radioactive uranium isotopes between 100 and 400 times greater than in the Gulf veterans tested in 1999.

"If UMRC's Nangarhar findings are corroborated in other communities across Afghanistan, the country faces a severe public health disaster... Every subsequent generation is at risk."

It says troops who fought in Afghanistan and the staff of aid agencies based in Afghanistan are also at risk.

Scientific acceptance

Dr Durakovic's team used as a control group three Afghans who showed no signs of contamination. They averaged 9.4 nanograms of uranium per litre of urine.

The average for his 17 "randomly-selected" patients was 315.5 nanograms, he said. Some were from Jalalabad, and others from Kabul, Tora Bora, and Mazar-e-Sharif. A 12-year-old boy living near Kabul had 2,031 nanograms.

Troops and aid workers could be at risk

The maximum permissible level for members of the public in the US is 12 nanograms per litre, Dr Durakovic said.

A second UMRC visit to Afghanistan in September 2002 found "a potentially much broader area and larger population of contamination". It collected 25 more urine samples, which bore out the findings from the earlier group.

Dr Durakovic said he was "stunned" by the results he had found, which are to be published shortly in several scientific journals.

Identical outcome

He told BBC News Online: "In Afghanistan there were no oil fires, no pesticides, nobody had been vaccinated - all explanations suggested for the Gulf veterans' condition.

"But people had exactly the same symptoms. I'm certainly not saying Afghanistan was a vast experiment with new uranium weapons. But use your common sense."

The UK Defence Ministry says it used no DU weapons in Afghanistan, nor any others containing uranium in any form.

A spokesman for the US Department of Defense told BBC News Online the US had not used DU weapons there.

He could not comment on Dr Durakovic's findings of elevated uranium levels in Afghan civilians.

By Alex Kirby, BBC News Online environment correspondent

Posted by Richard
5/23/2003 08:37:21 AM | PermaLink

Navy Admits Burning 600,000 Gallons of Radioactive Fuel at S.F. Shipyard

First they never revealed it. Then when questioned about it, they lied and failed to report it -- even though the SF Weekly already had. Then, from growing pressure against the Navy that they were not being entirely forthcoming, they suddenly came to the realization that they had in fact left one small item off their report about what had been conducted at their base in San Francisco: that the Navy had burned into the air the fuel from the war ships used in the Bikini Atoll a-bomb explosions (the ships had been subjected to a nuclear blast to see if they could survive). Highly contaminated, and in one case completely mangled, first the ships were brought to San Francisco -- that in itself is a crime. But then over 600,000 gallons of their plutonium-laden fuel was burned. Plutonium has a half-life of 24,000 years and is highly carcinogenic even at the levels of a dust particle if breathed in or ingested. Interestingly, the area has a history of chronic illness and respiratory disease.

Read this very important article from the Weekly.

Posted by Richard
5/23/2003 08:07:11 AM | PermaLink

Thursday, May 22, 2003

Grave Risk To Humans From Loss Of Species

What is the relationship between how you live your life and the spiraling-out-of-control mass extinction that our planet is now in the grips of? Have you ever thought about connecting the two before? Did you even know that there is a mass extinction underway unprecedented in the last 65 million years of life as we have known it? Will you begin to take the drastic steps necessary towards reducing the footprint you leave on this Earth -- living in a manner wholly different than you have been programmed for by the masters of culture and commodity? Or will you just watch life extinguish in a geological second over pizza, beer, and NBA basketball...?
Rising Extinction Rates Threaten Our Survival, Conference Told

The increasing rates of extinction of plants and animals worldwide must be slowed to avoid threatening human food supplies, sources of wood, medicine, energy and clean water, and opportunities for recreation and tourism, a London conference was told yesterday. The meeting, organised to implement the UN target of "significantly reducing the rates of biodiversity loss by 2010", heard that instead of slowing down, extinction rates were now rising rapidly. Hamdallah Zedan, the executive secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, ratified by 187 nations, said that, at the Earth summit in Johannesburg last summer, it had been formally recognised that halting the loss of species was "a basic necessity of life".

Read the entire article.

Posted by Richard
5/22/2003 07:28:49 PM | PermaLink

Republicans Overturn Ban on Research Concerning Nuclear Weapons Development

I watched this debate unfold on CSPAN yesterday until I got so angry and upset that I turned it off and assumed the inevitable -- that the Republican majority in the Senate would pass this piece of, what they are calling "benign," legislation. Though the claim is made that spending money to draw up plans for developing such weapons doesn't necessitate developing such weapons, and (additionally) that developing them doesn't then mean using them, we can see in the Republican argument at least two big problems:

1) Their own logic seeks to "deny that developing them means using them" (the US is still the only nation on Earth that has used such highly immoral weapons we might add -- so the precedent does exist). This should lead us to understand that the intention is to develop such nukes from the plans that have now been okayed...for it is already part of the rhetorical strategy to insist that "no one is saying use them." But is the argument don't use them, or don't build them? The Republicans are saying both at this time, thus, clearly, their argument that planning to develop such weapons doesn't mean produce them is nonsense in this respect.

2) Still, we might grant that the intention is really to fund research and not production. But if the intention isn't to produce such weapons, why when our nation is undergoing economic problems, should we bother to set such an expensive new precedent by overturning existing law -- a law which, while requiring no de-proliferation of our thousands of nuclear missles, at least stops the insanity by holding us to the course of non-proliferation? Why should the Congress -- post War on Iraq -- vote in another unprecedented military budget of over $400 billion when people domestically are jobless, tightening their belts, and steadily losing outright many of the already shabby social services that existed?

Well, now it has been done by the Senate -- the military and the corporations that sustain it are making bank, and the general mass of people domestically, in a country that has defined itself as the great international screwer of people, will again get screwed themselves.

"Oh you're nuts -- it doesn't mean anything," might be the reaction here..."After all, will the legislation allowing for the return of nuclear arms production in this country ring in apocalypse tomorrow?"

That's right, my guess is not. But will it pass mostly unnoticed and uncritiqued, allowing vast enterprises and interests to act in increasingly irrational and militaristic manners, outright destroying some, while jeopardizing all others? This I think is perhaps the more likely...and more wicked...scenario.
Senate Democrats Fight Administration's Effort to Build 'Mini-Nukes' and 'Bunker-Busters'

The Senate agreed yesterday to require President Bush to win approval of Congress before ordering full-scale development of a new generation of battlefield nuclear weapons but turned back a Democratic drive to retain a decade-old statutory ban on such work.

Democrats vowed to continue fighting what they described as a determined effort by the Bush administration to produce new nuclear weapons, arguing that it would undermine U.S. efforts to curb the spread of nuclear weapons, prompt a new arms race and invite nuclear war.

"We are in this for the long haul," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), suggesting Democrats will try again to halt the weapons development when spending bills are debated this summer and fall.

In response to Democratic attacks, Republicans said the administration is interested only in research at this point and argued that the new weapons could prove critical in modern warfare, especially in dismantling chemical and biological weapons. It makes no sense not to explore all options, they argued.

At issue were two systems: low-yield "mini-nukes" of 5 kilotons or less that Congress put off-limits in 1993; and high-yield, burrowing nuclear "bunker-busters" that target underground military facilities or arsenals.

Funds to continue studies on the bunker-busters and language lifting the mini-nuke ban were included in legislation to authorize $400.5 billion in military programs for next year, an increase of nearly $18 billion over current spending.

Read the entire article.

Posted by Richard
5/22/2003 09:37:06 AM | PermaLink

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Green Party Established in Iraq!

I say give them power! In another related story, recently, the United States officials in the region rejected the Green Party there as a possible solution -- "They might actually help people," said an unidentified government spokesperson, "and just think how bad they would be for our business operations!"
Iraq Green Party Founded

As part of the recent active re-emergence of various political activities in Iraq, the Green Party was founded for the first time in Iraq's political life, as a movement to defend the environment in Iraq and protect its green spaces against fire and pollution.

This party, which is part of the world-wide movement, which has become active in the past years in the West, endeavours to keep away threats to the environment and the climate, particularly in Iraq which has, during the past 40 years under the ousted Ba'th Party regime, been polluted by gunpowder and various chemical and biological experiments.

Source: Hawlati, Al-Sulaymaniyah, in Sorani Kurdish 7 May 03, BBC Monitoring

Posted by Richard
5/21/2003 01:52:39 PM | PermaLink

Greenbiz Puts McDonalds on Steering Committee: Hawken Resigns

Whatever you think of Paul Hawken's and Amory Lovins's idea of "Natural Capital" -- some have charged that it smacks of a more liberal sensibility that would speak of the logic of "ecoservices" and promote ideas like "ecotourism," instead of promoting more radical language that outs the growing ecological problem at its deepest levels -- but Hawken has taken in publicly asking to be taken off the Steering Committee for, now that they have annointed McDonald's with a similar honor. Citing McDonald's attempt to greenwash its image, while it spends over $2 billion dollars a year in no-holds barred advertising an unhealthy diet and, in a recent unpublicized move back, has gone back to non-recycled, bleached white paper product and away from recycled brown bags, Hawken felt that there was no choice but to resign rather than allow notions of corporate ecological sustainability to be corrupted to this extent...

I used to have GreenBiz's little news applet, GreenBuzz, running on the side of this blog -- I thought it was interesting to see how companies were getting promoted as ecologically friendly and progressive. Ocassionally, also, there were good stories or items of real interest. But a few months back I decided to lose it, as it was increasingly (as Hawken's feared) promoting corrupt visions of a more benign future.

From Mapcruizin:
So this is what it has come to? The great hopes for true sustainability, for improving environmental and social conditions -- dashed to pieces! Nothing left but GreenBizSpeak?

Has the human potential for creative genius become so small, so constrained by greed and fear that we laud those who pollute a little less, who destroy a little less habitat, who make lives a little less miserable? Failure is success? Destruction is restoration? Suicide is sustainability? Death is life?

Check's sister site,, for their list of known gross polluters and irresponsible corporations who, says, "align environmental responsibility with business success, as judged by independent agencies and organizations." -- independent of what? Their senses, their ethics, their minds?

Read Paul Hawken's resignation, GreenBiz's reply, and Hawken's reply back.

Posted by Richard
5/21/2003 07:17:42 AM | PermaLink

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Keep Our Forests "Healthy" -- Get Informed on Bushspeak and Vote Down This Industry Initiative!

With his smug spinner Ari Fleischer leaving an increasingly sinking ship, the President was forced to do his own lying in person today. He took the opportunity to create a spectacle around his "Healthy Forests" deregulation policy, a firefighting forester from the Blackfeet tribe by his side to remind people of last summer's wildfire in unnatural fire set by a tribal firefighter who had hatched the plan because he was in need of economic opportunity, I might add.

I've posted and posted and posted on why the Bush "common-sense plan" is little more than highly questionable, right-wing industry science and an attempt to give the timber and logging industries the right to go after prized "old growth" as they please...all this done under the name of "American wilderness" and giving the land back to "the people." Don't believe this -- this President, no matter what you think of him, even if you have thoughts of re-electing him (gasp!), is this much for sure: anti-environment and pro-industry. This President has done more to undermine and limit long-standing environmental regulations than any other President of recent history...going so far as to overturn moves his own father made, Senior himself not being exactly Mr. Green.

Fellow Americans, get informed on "Healthy Forests" and tell two people you know about how laughable a plan this is -- your leader takes you for an idiot!

Also see this dossier from Earthjustice.

Posted by Richard
5/20/2003 10:57:13 AM | PermaLink

Mountains of Polluting Trash in 5,4,3,2,1...

Another example of how corporations freely develop "disposable" tech, factoring in its marketability and user-friendliness (though in this case the latter is highly questionable!), but failing to think about the resulting output of the trash which would accumulate from such a scheme. The idea of billions of metallic DVDs filling up landfills is not progressive...

Via Mercurial:
Disney is going to put out a self-destructing DVD , possibly to annoy customers and treat them like thieves:
This disc will self-destruct in 48 hours....The technology cannot be hacked by programmers who would want to view the disc longer because the mechanism that closes the viewing window is chemical and has nothing to do with computer technology.

Posted by Richard
5/20/2003 10:07:25 AM | PermaLink

Monday, May 19, 2003

Bush Shows No Fear in Grizzly Territory

Grizzlies are long-serving superstars of the environmental movement. Since they came under the protection of the Endangered Species Act in 1975, the hirsute, meat-eating beasts -- "charismatic megafauna" in the activist argot -- have helped raise money and motivate voters for environmental causes. Now, the Bush administration -- more than any White House in the past 28 years -- has been willing to take on the charisma of the big bears. The administration has made land-use decisions that it describes as sensible and scientifically based while largely ignoring howls from environmental groups about how those actions will harm Ursus arctos horribilis. As a consequence, a painstakingly won consensus among federal experts and environmentalists about what is needed to protect grizzlies is breaking down.

Read the entire article.

Posted by Richard
5/19/2003 10:10:00 AM | PermaLink

Trees Illegally Cut, Harvested, and Sold to the Tune of $1 Billion Annually

OLYMPIC NATIONAL FOREST, Wash. -- Daniel Hughes loves stealing trees. He loves the pungent mix of blue chain-saw exhaust and spicy fresh wood. He loves the loud snaps that resonate from a Western red cedar as it teeters. He loves slip-sliding on the forest floor in his spiked boots, hauling cedar to his pickup in the Olympic National Forest. He even loves the tension. Stealing trees is, after all, breaking the law. The only thing 38-year-old Hughes doesn't like about cutting down old growth is going to jail, which is where he is now. But that doesn't happen to tree thieves often. "There are a lot of trees out there," Hughes said. "It's easy to get away with this."

Read the entire article.

Posted by Richard
5/19/2003 09:22:22 AM | PermaLink

Sunday, May 18, 2003

Instant-Mix Imperial Democracy: Buy One, Get One Free by Arundhati Roy

Presented in New York City at The Riverside Church, May 13, 2003
Sponsored by the Center for Economic and Social Rights

I saw Arundhati deliver this speech last night on CSPAN2 -- people who have that channel are encouraged by me to check its listings for when this event will be rebroadcast. This was some powerful stuff...

Full speech text available here (apparently the video too but I couldn't get it to work):

In these times, when we have to race to keep abreast of the speed at which our freedoms are being snatched from us, and when few can afford the luxury of retreating from the streets for a while in order to return with an exquisite, fully formed political thesis replete with footnotes and references, what profound gift can I offer you tonight?

As we lurch from crisis to crisis, beamed directly into our brains by satellite TV, we have to think on our feet. On the move. We enter histories through the rubble of war. Ruined cities, parched fields, shrinking forests, and dying rivers are our archives. Craters left by daisy cutters, our libraries...

Posted by Richard
5/18/2003 08:56:50 AM | PermaLink

Leopard Befriends Cow

This story comes via Yogablog -- a very interesting new blog (haven't seen anything like it really) that is so far managing to bring the whole ethos and practice of yoga into the blogging community (keep it up!):
Vadodara, May 12: In a rare case of predator-prey friendship, a leopard coming to "visit" a cow at night has literally become the talk of the town.

The incredible ways of the two animals at Antoli village in Waghodia Taluka of the district have attracted the attention of one and all, including the wild life activists.

According to honorary wildlife warden Rohit Vyas, who has visited the village several times with other enthusiasts, "the leopard has been visiting the cow from October last year at regular intervals".

"After the villagers informed us about frequent visits of the leopard to the sugarcane field for its close encounter with the cow in the field, our team comprising conservator of forest H S Singh and others including wildlifer Manoj Thakkar and Kartik Upadhyay, visited the village for verification", Vyas told PTI here on Monday.

"It was unbelievable", he said adding, "they approached each other at very close proximity and the fearless cow would lick the leopard on its head and neck".

Giving further details about the animals-bond, Vyas said "the dogs would start barking when the leopard came to meet the waiting cow every night between 9.30 PM to 10.30 PM".

The Forest Department, which was trying to capture the beast, gave up its efforts after learning about the friendship. Moreover, the leopard did not harm other animals in the village and its visits have benefited villagers as other animals kept away from damaging crops in the fields and crops yields went up by 30 per cent, Vyas added.

Posted by Richard
5/18/2003 06:27:38 AM | PermaLink