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Saturday, June 14, 2003

Human Rights Abuse Prevalent -- Amnesty Report

What do human rights have to do with critical ecology? Humans are animals too, and for those interested in establishing a higher set of legal protections for other species, places, and the Earth generally, we must look to see how the "top of the rights-chain" is being handled -- the illegal treatment of humanity goes hand in hand with the illegal treatment of all others generally...
Human rights activists continue to face new challenges. The war on Iraq has dominated the international agenda, diverting attention from other vital human rights issues. "Forgotten" conflicts have taken a heavy toll on human rights and human lives – in Côte d'Ivoire, Colombia, Burundi, Chechnya and Nepal.

"Iraq and Israel and the Occupied Territories are in the news – Ituri in the Democratic Republic of Congo is not, despite the imminent threat of genocide, said Irene Khan, Amnesty International's Secretary General. "Drawing attention to 'hidden' crises, protecting the rights of the 'forgotten victims' is the biggest challenge we face today."

Governments have spent billions to strengthen national security and the "war on terror". Yet for millions of people, the real sources of insecurity are corruption, repression, discrimination, extreme poverty and preventable diseases.

Human rights defenders also celebrated some successes during 2002, such as the establishment of the International Criminal Court, which marked a breakthrough in the struggle against impunity for the worst crimes known to humanity.

The Amnesty International Report 2003 documents human rights abuses in 151 countries and territories during 2002. It is a contribution to the work of human rights defenders struggling to achieve a safer world, a world where human rights take priority over political, military or economic interests.

Posted by Richard
6/14/2003 10:32:13 AM | PermaLink

 
Friday, June 13, 2003

Downer Cows

KIRO has come out with a new piece: State Agencies Help Fund Attack On Downer Cow Investigations

Via: Dawnwatch

Last fall, (Thursday, October 31, and Friday, November 1) Seattle's KIRO-TV, the CBS affiliate, aired a graphic three part news series on the slaughter of downer cows. Human safety and animal cruelty issues were covered. The KIRO team won a Genesis award for their groundbreaking work.

Yesterday (Wednesday), people who had emailed appreciative notes to KIRO after the series aired last year, received the following message from the station:

"Investigative reporter Chris Halsne has uncovered new information about the practice of using downer cows in Washington State and a new eyewitness to how the cows are treated at slaughterhouses. Chris Halsne's investigative report can [be] read and view[ed at] www.kirotv.com following the airing of the report."

Though the report is not up yet, there is a page headed, "Downer Beef Series: Grade 'A' Journalism" on which we read "Chris Halsne's response to a column in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on May 29" that criticized the series.

His defense, available at http://www.kirotv.com/station/2249324/detail.html is well worth reading and includes wonderful bits of information such as:

"'Downers' are typically dairy cattle at the end of their productive lives. These cows are called 'downers' because they cannot walk into the slaughterhouse. They are too sick or too injured to even stand, so meat processors drag, hoist, and chain the 'downer' cows by the neck to get them inside the plant.

"The use of these cattle for food is a matter of extreme controversy and something consumers have a right to know before buying their next hamburger."

KIRO has been under attack for the series. Halsne writes,

"KIRO-TV's investigative team doesn't shy away from stories that challenge big business, big government, or powerful people and organizations. We understand fully that these kinds of subjects have lots of money and the capability of lashing back at the messenger. In this case, it's the Beef and Dairy Commissions. They claim their attack on KIRO-TV is just a way to 'create a sort of firewall for the future in the way that folks report about agriculture.'

"In reality, big-money beef and dairy promoters are out to protect themselves, their industry, their profits and their political interests by silencing future journalists who dare question them. KIRO TV's sole interest is to protect the public."

By contacting those who expressed appreciation for the original series, the KIRO team have made it clear how important public support on this matter is to them. Watch the show on TV or the web if you can, and most importantly, please let Chris Halsne and TV-TV know how much you appreciate their perseverance on this issue.

KIRO takes comments at:
http://www.kirotv.com/contact/
Select "news comment"

You can "email Chris" at: chalsne@kirotv.com

I recommend sending thank yous to both.

Posted by Richard
6/13/2003 10:38:22 AM | PermaLink

 
Thursday, June 12, 2003

Sharp Decline in UK Wading Birds

Via: The Green Man
According to the RSPB, BTO, Defra and English Nature (in a report, The Breeding Waders of Wet Meadows survey) there has, since 1982, been a sharp decline in the number of some previously numerous English and Welsh wading birds. Species on the down include, lapwing, redshank and snipe.

It is thought that the problem arrises from drainage of land in the lowlands. However, the report states that careful management by farmers and land-owners could help to turn the decline around.

Specifically, snipe have dropped by 60%, lapwing and curlew by 40% and redshank by 20%. The distribution of the three species is amazingly restricted with half of their combined populations being found in six sites, mainly nature reserves or areas managed for wildlife.

To quote the report, "In parts of England and Wales, snipe are now approaching local extinction - in the West Midlands, for example, only four were recorded from a total of 106 sites."

What a terrible state to have got into over the past two decades. We just do not care and nature reserves provide both a refuge for some wildlife and an excuse to ignore the protection of wildlife outside of these areas.

Posted by Richard
6/12/2003 08:41:32 AM | PermaLink

Report: Drinking Water at Risk, Phoenix is Given 'Poor' Rating by Environmentalists

Via: Arizona Daily Star

Aging pipes and outdated treatment plants threaten the nation's drinking water systems, says an environmental group that reviewed 19 cities.

While no city received a failing mark, five were given poor ratings: Albuquerque; Boston; Fresno, Calif.; Phoenix; and San Francisco.

Treatment plants, many of them using nearly century-old technology, are simply not up to the task of cleaning up contaminants, said Erik Olson, author of the report by the Natural Resources Defense Council. Pipes carrying water often are old, too, in some cities dating back more than a century, he said.

There was good news as well as bad.

Overall, drinking water purity has improved slightly in most cities in the past 15 years, the study said.

Chicago was singled out for its tap water, earning an "excellent" rating for water quality and compliance with regulations in 2001.

Five cities - Denver; New Orleans; Manchester, N.H.; Baltimore; and Detroit - were rated good.

Eight got marks of fair: Houston; Los Angeles; Philadelphia; Atlanta; Newark, N.J.; San Diego; Seattle; and Washington.

Phoenix was cited for, among other things, failing to comply with basic water safety monitoring and reporting requirements.

Washington was cited for violating a new national standard for trihalomethanes in 2000, but levels were reduced the following year. Trihalomethanes are a byproduct of the chlorination process for drinking water - and the government says they may increase the risk of cancer.

"People would be surprised to know that their water contains cancer-causing chemicals, toxic chemicals like lead, that it often contains the remnants of pollutants like sewage that slip through some of the treatment plants," Olson said.

Mike Keegan, an analyst with the National Rural Water Association, which represents 22,000 utilities and communities, took issue with the report.

"There's always been an issue of replacing infrastructure, but now there's more and better infrastructure in the country" than ever before, Keegan said. Compliance with water regulations and standards has been improving, he said.

Environmental Protection Agency spokesman John Millett said that while there are problems in some cities, the vast majority are meeting water quality standards.

Millett said the Bush administration has committed $850 million a year through 2018 for assistance to the nation's drinking water systems.

However, the environmental group said it would take up to $500 billion over the next 20 years to fix the nation's public water system.

Posted by Richard
6/12/2003 08:28:55 AM | PermaLink

Don't Get Cod, Get Vegan!

Via: Ananova

Cod on 'brink of extinction'

European ministers are discussing how to save the fishing industry after the latest scientific evidence shows cod is on the brink of extinction.

EU fisheries Commissioner Franz Fischler has already warned of a the threat of the eradication of cod stocks unless drastic measures are taken on the basis of previous expert advice.

Fishermen's leaders believe that evidence is out of date, claiming there are signs of cod recovery in key fishing grounds.

But now Mr Fischler believes the latest research, yet to be published, rings more alarm bells about the plight of the fishing industry.

Stocks in the North Sea and off the west of Scotland are in an even worse state than so far acknowledged, according to the European Commission.

The EU body is reinforcing its campaign for a massive cod recovery programme centred on cutting the permitted fishing days for the already beleaguered UK fleet.

And Mr Fischler went further yesterday by acknowledging that the Common Fisheries Policy - intended to "manage" European fishing grounds" - has been a complete failure.

He said the policy of regulating fish stocks with annual catch limits and national quotas "was a flop".

It is a message the UK fleet has been trumpeting for years - and now it faces drastic conservation action based on Mr Fischler's cod recovery programme, involving strict controls on "fishing effort" - the amount of time the fleet spends at sea.

The aim of today's talks is to find a way to more effectively manage the fishing effort in "western waters", - extending from the Atlantic Ocean around the Canary Islands and the Azores to the north and north-west of Ireland and the UK.

Posted by Richard
6/12/2003 08:19:39 AM | PermaLink

 
Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Paradise Lost

Via: Orion Magazine

SUDDENLY WE'RE NOT the same nation. There is in almost all of us a place -- even if some days only a small, postage stamp-sized place -- that is off-balance, frightened, pensive, even confused. And only now are we beginning to accept some of the basic truths about this small world, truths that we have previously been denying or debating for decades: that species extinction is rampant, perhaps unstoppable; that clear-cuts are crazed expressions of raw madness; that global warming is a reality, and that the mass of our numbers, and our relentless routine of consumption, are accelerating it; and that the heart of man is unchanging, always capable of great evil as well as great love. [...]

Posted by Richard
6/11/2003 07:13:40 AM | PermaLink

 
Tuesday, June 10, 2003

The Cerrado: Brazil's Second Biggest Biome, Part 1 of 2

Via: ENS

The countryside surrounding this city of 100,000 in central Brazil is dominated by vast soybean plantations where hardly a tree is left standing. But 64 year old Benjamin Menezes, a local expert on medicinal plants, remembers when the region was covered with cerrado - a mosaic of savanna and forest that once extended over two million square kilometers in central Brazil.

The country’s second largest biome after the Amazon rainforest, the cerrado covers 23 percent of Brazil’s national territory – an area about the size of Mexico. It is composed of some 10,000 plant species, 44 percent of which are endemic, and is home to 170 reptile and amphibian species, 161 mammal species and 837 bird species, among them the blue and gold macaw, the toco toucan, and the ostrich like rhea.

That wealth of plants and animals led Conservation International to designate the cerrado one of Brazil’s two biodiversity hot spots; the second being the Atlantic Forest. But nearly two-thirds of the cerrado biome has been destroyed, or severely degraded, and the state of Goiás, in which Rio Verde lies, is one of the most altered regions.

“From the 1970s onward, the cerrado here has been almost completely destroyed,” said Menezes, who explained that many plants with medicinal value are now extremely rare.

Brazil’s soybean export boom triggered most of the deforestation around Rio Verde, but according to University of Brasilia ecologist Carlos Klink, the expansion of cattle pasture has claimed much more cerrado on a national scale.

“In the cerrado, the culprit is more agribusiness and ranching than small farmers,” he said.

Posted by Richard
6/10/2003 10:55:34 AM | PermaLink

Bush Opens Forests Up For Logging, Roads

In yet another important anti-environmental, pro-industry move, the Bush administration is overturning the Clinton (and Federal court upheld) policy regarding carving the National forests up with roads -- the so-called Roadless Rule has been effected because such roads have been shown to lead to significant ecological devastation in forest regions, while doing little more than opening up avenues for logging and development. The Alaskan wilderness, one of our great national treasures, is governed by a different set of regulations and so the Bush industricrats must supply a different policy in order to get their ugly hands on the 300,000 acres of old growth forest in Tongass, etc., that they so dearly crave...but it is coming! Where are the Democrats in this? Bush pledges that the new roads would only be implemented to "fight fires and save lives" -- but this, as we know is just part of the rhetoric surrounding deregulated logging generally. Democrats -- do not play Tom Daschle on this. You seek credibility? Show it...
Via Washington Post:

More Forest Access Proposed for Tongass
The U.S. Department of Agriculture this month will propose a new regulation to reopen parts of the 17 million-acre Tongass National Forest so they would be available for logging, reversing a rule putting virtually all of the forest off-limits to road construction. Officials also said the department later this year could seek exemptions from the "Roadless Rule" for Alaska's Chugach National Forest and allow state governors generally to seek modifications in the rules covering areas previously deemed by the government to be left as roadless wilderness. Under the agreement, USDA will propose an amended rule late this month, the practical effect of which would be to open 300,000 acres of Tongass to logging. Those areas were previously designated for harvesting under a resource management plan put in place in 1997.

Also see:
Roadless-rule exemptions sought
Bush plans to relax roadless rule
Bush to Prohibit Building Roads Inside Forests
Bush OKs part of Alaska forest to cut old-growth
Bush cuts hole in forest plan
New twist on forest roadless rule
Deal may open up land to logging
INFORAIN MAP: Timber Sales in Roadless Areas of the Tongass National Forest
INFORAIN MAP: Alaska Rainforest Protection Proposal for the Chugach National Forest

Posted by Richard
6/10/2003 10:47:12 AM | PermaLink

 
Monday, June 09, 2003

Tribe Sees Its Culture Drying Up

When indigenous interests butt heads with state and national agriculture, how will the Feds mediate the problem? Answer: poorly.

Via: LA Times

Before dams and water diversions, the cold tributary to the Klamath River brought salmon and steelhead trout runs so thick that Hoopa elders boasted you could cross the river on the backs of fish. The U.S. government, intent on tapping the West's major rivers, tunneled through a mountain range 40 years ago to drain the Trinity for the benefit of Central Valley farms. In some years, as much as 90% of its water headed south. The tribe has battled ever since to save the Trinity. Success finally seemed at hand 2 1/2 years ago, with a federal promise to increase flows to about half the historic volume. But farmers who depend on the Trinity's waters shackled that deal with a lawsuit. And, as so often happens now in the West, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals probably will decide the Trinity River's destiny later this year.

Posted by Richard
6/09/2003 10:02:41 AM | PermaLink

 
Sunday, June 08, 2003

Water Privatization Seen as New Apartheid

The following story points, not particularly to the fault of the African National Congress, but to the problem facing Third World nations today -- how to equitably provide social services to all in an age of Neo-colonialism (when one's economy is integrated into the global capitalist system). The answer has been to hand over service sectors to capitalist investors (mostly foreign), who can afford to generate the necessary infrastructure many of these countries need developed. In return, the investors are handed an unregulated market through which they can take some form of monopoly profit (this is what is going on in Iraq right now, for instance). While this process can in fact generate more service provided to people in a relatively short time, due to the growth in national infrastructure, it also further degrades the possibilities of those who need such services from adequately receiving them. There is no trickle down effect here, I'm afraid -- even when the service is water.
Via: New York Times

Not long after this country's first democratic government came to power in 1994, putting an end to white minority rule, the new government enshrined the right to "sufficient food and water" in its constitution, and pledged to make water and sanitation available to every citizen by the end of 2010.

At the same time, the government also began to shift more of the financial burden of those promises to a population in which at least one-third of people live on less than $2 a day. Officials urged municipal water utilities to adopt "cost recovery" policies that require them at least to break even, if not turn a profit.

Municipalities have begun working to turn debt-ridden and inefficient water utilities into profitable operations that could attract private investment. A handful have already granted long-term management concessions to private multinationals.

Advocates argue that such policies have become conventional wisdom, helping governments around the world make ends meet while encouraging conservation. Not only here in South Africa, however, but also in other developing countries such as Bolivia, Ecuador and Argentina, privatization and water pricing have met strong resistance and public protests.

"Privatization is a new kind of apartheid," said Richard Makolo, leader of the Crisis Water Committee, which was formed to resist the privatization effort in a township called Orange Farm, 25 miles south of Johannesburg. "Apartheid separated whites from blacks. Privatization separates the rich from the poor."

Posted by Richard
6/08/2003 12:30:16 PM | PermaLink