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Saturday, October 04, 2003

Killing Mice to Save Bush?

Who would possibly want to serve a mouth like this tampered food?

Via: ANI -- India

Being the President of the United States is not a joke. If we look at the precautions being taken on the food front ahead of George W. Bush's visit to Indonesia to attend the ASEAN summit, it borders on the ludicrous.

According to a report in Peoplenews, the Bush camp is leaving no stone unturned to ensure his safety.

Thai health officials have thought of a unique way to ensure that Bush eats food that is safe. The finest cuisine that Thailand has to offer will first be injected into mice for tests against possible poison before it is served to the American head of state.

"We'll have the result within a minute. If it's safe, we'll tell the waiter to start serving," says Somsong Rugpao, chief of Department of Medical Sciences in Bangkok.

What, however, isn't clear is how many mice will be used in the process. Will it be one per foodstuff or one per course? Or is it one for the whole night?

This certainly is " food for thought" for animal rights activists.

Posted by Richard
10/04/2003 10:55:58 AM | PermaLink

Friday, October 03, 2003

Geese are Attached to Their Foie Gras

Now if someone would just release the definitive study that connects eating the liver of animals (the organ charged with removing toxins from the blood) to illness of some kind in the humans who eat it, this industry might be taken down once and for all. As it is, the Foie Gras industry worldwide has rightfully come under a multipronged attack the last couple months, the like I have not seen since the battery cage campaign. It's nice to see the press pick up on this...

Via: New York Times

"My friend Arthur considers himself a sophisticate, especially when it comes to food. The subject came up recently as an antidote to the soggy sandwiches we had grabbed for lunch one day. I nodded blankly as he rattled on about the pleasures of cinnabar chanterelles, morels and other wild fungi, but when he switched to the subject of pâté de foie gras, I jolted back to attention.

'That's nothing,' I suggested, before he had a chance to coast into the next course. 'You should try beagle liver. It absolutely can't be beat.'

He fixed me with a steely look. He knew that I knew he had a pet beagle at home. 'It isn't the same at all,' he said. 'Geese are farm animals.'

That's what I used to think. I once scoffed at the chatterers who pop up this time of year during foie gras season, crying collective foul over the beak clipping and force feeding of waterfowl before their being processed as cracker spread.

Then Liza came into my life. Liza, I explained to Arthur, was the 'free' African brown goose that had ended up costing my wife, Linda, and me $800 in veterinarian's bills and medicine after she came down with the respiratory disease aspergillosis." [...]

Posted by Richard
10/03/2003 06:12:20 AM | PermaLink

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

160,000 Said Dying Yearly from Global Warming

If 30,000 Americans shot yearly with handguns warranted Bowling for Columbine, what could Michael Moore do with this?

Via: Planet Ark

About 160,000 people die every year from side-effects of global warming ranging from malaria to malnutrition and the numbers could almost double by 2020, a group of scientists said yesterday.

The study, by scientists at the World Health Organization (WHO) and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said children in developing nations seemed most vulnerable.

"We estimate that climate change may already be causing in the region of 160,000 deaths...a year," Professor Andrew Haines of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine told a climate change conference in Moscow.

"The disease burden caused by climate change could almost double by 2020," he added, even taking account of factors like improvements in health care. He said the estimates had not been previously published.

Most deaths would be in developing nations in Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia, which would be hardest hit by the spread of malnutrition, diarrhea and malaria in the wake of warmer temperatures, floods and droughts.

"These diseases mainly affect younger age groups, so that the total burden of disease due to climate change appears to be borne mainly by children in developing countries," Haines said.

Milder winters, however, might mean that people would live longer on average in Europe or North America despite risks from heatwaves this summer in which about 15,000 people died in France alone.

Haines said the study suggested climate change could "bring some health benefits, such as lower cold-related mortality and greater crop yields in temperate zones, but (that) these will be greatly outweighed by increased rates of other diseases."

Russia is hosting a World Climate Change Conference this week to discuss how to rein in emissions of gases like carbon dioxide from factories and cars that scientists blame for blanketing the planet and nudging up temperatures.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who opened the conference on Monday, suggested in jest that global warming could benefit countries like Russia as people "would spend less money on fur coats and other warm things."

But Putin also backed away from Russia's earlier pledge to swiftly ratify the key Kyoto pact on curbing global warming, a plan that will collapse without Moscow's backing.

He told 940 delegates to the conference Russia was closely studying the issue of Kyoto. "A decision will be taken when this work is finished," he said, giving no timetable.

Haines said small shifts in temperatures, for instance, could extend the range of mosquitoes that spread malaria. Water supplies could be contaminated by floods, for instance, which could also wash away crops.

Posted by Richard
10/01/2003 02:37:09 PM | PermaLink

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

White House Review of Environment Rules Finds Benefits Outweigh Costs

Interesting, so just after George W. goes on his nation-wide campaign fund-raising tour selling the idea that its either the economy or the environment and he's for jobs and the working person, after a year in which we have seen Bush attempt to stifle almost every major environmental protection from the 1970's onward and vote down Kyoto and other sustainability policies on the international level, and after he clashed openly with the EPA on its report that clamed global climate change is real and a pressing issue that must be dealt with, forcing it to be edited out of the released report, only now is it revealed after the fact that the environmental protections Bush scorns have real economic value and are the fiscally responsible thing to do. This has been the argument of people like E.O. Wilson who have been championing the "eco-services" platform that underlines that we depend upon nature for a few trillion dollars worth of "free" social services -- like providing water, clean air, healthy soil, etc. -- and the cost is the estimate of what it would take to generate these services via advanced technology after ecological collapse. Even if it were only a fraction of that, the costs are so staggering as to wreak havoc on the financial markets and bankrupt smaller governments (some of which we may in fact be seeing already). Again, the point here is not to applaud thinking about nature in terms of its economic value on the open market, but just to point out how -- in the system's own corrupt language -- the Bush presidency has been truly extreme and had a negative social this case, on BOTH the environment and the economy.

Via: New York Times

The White House office in charge of reviewing federal regulations has reported that the benefits of some major environmental rules appear to exceed the costs by several times and that the net benefits may be even larger than previously acknowledged.

In its annual review of the costs and benefits of regulations, the Office of Management and Budget examined a sampling of major rules and found that the total benefits, to the extent they can be measured, were at least triple the costs.

In this report, which was described on Saturday in The Washington Post, the Environmental Protection Agency was found to have produced significantly greater net benefits than last year's report acknowledged. But the change was mainly due to accounting technicalities.

In one change, the budget office expanded its review by looking back 10 years. This meant the latest report included the effects of the successful efforts of the 1990's to rein in the pollution that causes acid rain.

The report included only a handful of the 4,135 final rules published in the Federal Register during the fiscal year that ended on Sept. 30, 2002. Its principal focus was on three rules issued by the Energy Department, the Transportation Department and the E.P.A. They imposed estimated annual costs of $1.6 billion to $2 billion, but produced estimated annual benefits of $2.4 billion to $6.5 billion.

Posted by Richard
9/30/2003 07:09:43 AM | PermaLink

Monday, September 29, 2003

Sale of Russian Forests to Private Loggers Could Create (a Global) Ecological Crisis

See this CNN 2000 story that documents the sadly expected, that the illegal harvesting of trees is already a major business in a Russian nation dominated by its own band of gangs and thieves and a healthy black market. The Kremlin's answer, as if it didn't have a healthy share in all these proceedings, is "Can't beat 'em, join 'em." The political reality is probably that some of the more powerful logging interests are looking to use the state to sure up their territory against others by receiving state legitimation, while more moderate interests in the Russian state are also for the plan because they see it as a way to bolster the economy and grab some taxable money off of otherwise untallied sales. Meanwhile Bush and Republican allies seek to open up the Alaskan Tongass and other national forests to road making and logging in order to grab economic advantage on this side of the Pacific.

Via: Guardian UK

A plan by the Kremlin which would allow Moscow to sell off the 843m hectares of Russia's forests to private logging companies has raised fears of an ecological disaster. Forest makes up 70% of Russia's territory and spans 12 time zones. It is known as Europe's lungs and is second only to the Amazon in the amount of carbon dioxide it absorbs, and is home to many rare species.

Andrei Ptichnikov, forest coordinator of the World Wildlife Fund, Russia, said: "Russia has 22% of the forest on earth - a very important part of climate stability and global biodiversity because of all the rare species that live there. According to some estimates, Russian forests absorb 15% of the world's carbon dioxide or carbon monoxide. It provides a huge amount of oxygen for not just Europe, but the world." [...]

Posted by Richard
9/29/2003 07:16:33 AM | PermaLink

Sunday, September 28, 2003

Jurassic Pot Plants Available Soon

Not that kind of pot...

Via: BBC News

The Wollemi Pine, a plant from Jurassic times which survived in a single isolated Australian grove, is set for an amazing comeback.

In 2005, small plants cultivated from the tree once thought to have gone extinct will go on sale to the public.

The discovery of the pine in 1994 caused a scientific sensation, and prompted the Australian Government to protect the site where it was growing.

Years of investigation into the best way to grow the plant have now paid off, allowing commercial exploitation.

Like finding a dinosaur

A collection of Wollemi Pines were discovered in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, when park ranger David Noble stumbled across the unusual trees.

The species had been thought to have been extinct for at least two million years. The only known examples were fossils 175 million years old.

The location is a secret

Professor Carrick Chambers, director of Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens, said at the time of the discovery that it was "the equivalent of finding a small dinosaur still alive on Earth".

Today, the trees' home is a closely guarded secret. No roads lead to the area. Even scientists studying them are blindfolded as they are flown in by helicopter to the site.

Now, the pines are set to meet a wider audience.

Perfect patio plants

Botanist Sally McGeoch says that by the end of 2005 Wollemi Pine saplings will be available from selected retailers.

They could survive in hot or cold climates and would make perfect indoor plants.

"They grow slowly, like low-light and would be perfect on a patio," the scientist told BBC News Online.

Looking for the best growth medium

The breeding programme began in 1998 as a collaboration between the Queensland Forestry authorities and a commercial grower.

The initial plan was to extract seeds from the tips of the pines. This involved a scientist dangling from a helicopter and was not very successful.

Working with cuttings has proven to be much more satisfactory in producing a robust plant for commercial propagation.

"It's a piece of scientific history," says McGeoch. "Interest has already been expressed by gardeners in many countries."

Posted by Richard
9/28/2003 04:45:25 PM | PermaLink