Archive for May, 2007

Heavy rains hit parched Australia

Thursday, May 24th, 2007

– Finally, some relief for Australia.

———— ————– —————

Heavy rains have been falling in south-eastern Australia, bringing welcome relief for the region’s drought-stricken farmers.

Some areas recorded their best rainfall in years, but farmers warned that much more was needed to end the six-year drought – Australia’s worst on record.

The rains, which began on Thursday, have raised hopes for a successful winter harvest in the region.

PM John Howard warned last month of an irrigation ban if rains did not come.

Rains have so far bypassed most of South Australia and the Murray-Darling river system, the country’s main agricultural system.

Water storage in the basin was only at 6% capacity, local officials said.

The basin, which covers an area the size of France and Spain combined, accounts for 41% of Australian agriculture and usually provides about 85% of the nation’s irrigation supply.


China Drought Threatens Water Supply for Millions

Thursday, May 24th, 2007

BEIJING – A spring drought is intensifying across north China thanks to scarce rainfall and high temperatures, drying up reservoirs and farmland and threatening drinking water supplies for millions, state media said on Tuesday.

A top meteorological official warned last week thatChina was likely to be hit by more extreme weather, including typhoons, floods and drought, this year than at any time in the past decade because of global warming.

Among the hardest hit is Henan province, the country’s bread basket, where rainfall since March has been down 70 percent on the average for the last two years, with no significant rain expected this month, Xinhua news agency said.

A total of 157 reservoirs in the northwestern region of Ningxia, or about 77 percent, and 186,000 wells had dried up, Xinhua said. Drought had damaged or destroyed 11 million hectares of crops and left 4.8 million people and as many cattle short of drinking water, it added.

In Hebei province, another major wheat- and corn-growing area, more than 200 reservoirs had dried up and 1.87 million hectares of farmland had been damaged or destroyed.

China suffered heavy agricultural weather-related losses last year, with parts of the southwest suffering the worst drought in more than a century last summer.

To the original:

A Climate Change Tutorial

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2007

RealClimate graphic

There’s a great post over at RealClimate that provides a index of places to learn about climate change. If you are a beginner or if you are long-in-the-tooth on the subject, there’s something for you here. Check it out:

070521 – Monday – Why New Zealand?

Monday, May 21st, 2007

I’ve put up a new page here that discusses why New Zealand might be the place to go if you are beginning to get concerned about how things are going in the world.

This piece is not meant to be a recommendation that you consider leaving or not – that’s up to you. It’s merely information about one of your possible alternatives.

If all the doom and gloom is getting to you, it’s something to think about. If you are more of the “What, me worry?” type, then Disney World might be what you’re looking for <smile>.

The 14 Characteristics of Fascism

Monday, May 21st, 2007

by Lawrence Britt

Global Research, November 7, 2004

Free Inquiry Magazine – 2003-05-05

Political scientist Dr. Lawrence Britt recently wrote an article about fascism (“Fascism Anyone?,” Free Inquiry, Spring 2003, page 20). Studying the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia), and Pinochet (Chile), Dr. Britt found they all had 14 elements in common. He calls these the identifying characteristics of fascism. The excerpt is in accordance with the magazine’s policy.

The 14 characteristics are:

1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism

Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottoes, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.

2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights

Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of “need.” The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.

3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause

The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial , ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.

4. Supremacy of the Military

Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.

5. Rampant Sexism

The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Opposition to abortion is high, as is homophobia and anti-gay legislation and national policy.

6. Controlled Mass Media

Sometimes the media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.

7. Obsession with National Security

Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.

8. Religion and Government are Intertwined

Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government’s policies or actions.

9. Corporate Power is Protected

The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.

10. Labor Power is Suppressed

Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed .

11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts

Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts is openly attacked, and governments often refuse to fund the arts.

12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment

Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.

13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption

Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.

14. Fraudulent Elections

Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.

– To the original:

– This came off the web site of the Centre for Research on Globalization.

– And a tip of the hat to the Leave America blog for making me aware of this piece.

Tainted Chinese Imports Common

Monday, May 21st, 2007

– Does it sound like I’m picking on China? Well, I don’t mean to. They just happen to be the biggest example on the planet of how badly wrong things can go for people when governments, corporations and cultures put profits above people.

– The US certainly has nothing to smirk about in this regard. Among a thousand other stories, I remember one in particular about our own rapacious Capitalism. After the FDA decided that the levels of tar and nicotine in American cigarettes were too high and thus unhealthy for smokers and forced them to lower the levels in this country, the tobacco companies simply took their high tar and nicotine versions over to the Philippines and other countries which, because of their naivety and immaturity, hadn’t yet passed laws to protect their own people and we sold the hell out of them there. Cancer deaths? No problem – just look at those great profits! And then there was the baby formula we sold into South America and the pesticides we sell worldwide.


– And besides China, India can’t be far behind. Where as China has decided to supply the world’s cravings for ultra-cheap junk of every description, India has focused more on high tech. But, there are stories lurking in the sub continent as well. I recall a story on TV within the last year about the ship-breaking industry India runs along its Eastern Coast in Alang. It wasn’t pretty.

– So, read here, below, what it all comes to when profits are placed before people in food production industries. And ask yourself what the purpose of governments should be. To provide happy sandboxes for profit oriented corporations to play in this world or to look out for the health and welfare of their people? Then consider that the US is the only advanced industrialized western nation without national healthcare in spite of the fact that we are the world’s wealthiest nation – and ask yourself what’s going on.

– Now, on to fun with China and what you might be eating:

— — — — — —

In Four Months, FDA Refused 298 Shipments

Dried apples preserved with a cancer-causing chemical.

Frozen catfish laden with banned antibiotics.

Scallops and sardines coated with putrefying bacteria.

Mushrooms laced with illegal pesticides.

These were among the 107 food imports from China that the Food and Drug Administration detained at U.S. ports just last month, agency documents reveal, along with more than 1,000 shipments of tainted Chinese dietary supplements, toxic Chinese cosmetics and counterfeit Chinese medicines.

For years, U.S. inspection records show, China has flooded the United States with foods unfit for human consumption. And for years, FDA inspectors have simply returned to Chinese importers the small portion of those products they caught — many of which turned up at U.S. borders again, making a second or third attempt at entry.



– I’ve categorized this under Perfect Storm, Capitalism & Corporations and Culture – How not to do it because the preoccupation of Corporations for profit above all else is slowing mankind’s perceptions of the coming climatic dangers which contributes to the coming Perfect Storm. I’ve put it under Culture – How not to do it because cultures, like here in the US, which allow Capitalism and Corporations to free-run are cultures which are destructive to all of our futures.

UN warns on impacts of biofuels

Saturday, May 19th, 2007

– I am and have been suspicious of biofuels. The issues, for me, have been that we are just shuffling our problems around to obscure them from ourselves and that what we grow as biofuels will have a high probability of subtracting from what we can grow as food. There is, after all, only so much land.

– I’ve posted on this subject before (and not all of it is bad news): 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

———– ———– ———-

A UN report warns that a hasty switch to biofuels could have major impacts on livelihoods and the environment.

Produced by a cross-agency body, UN Energy, the report says that biofuels can bring real benefits.

But there can be serious consequences if forests are razed for plantations, if food prices rise and if communities are excluded from ownership, it says.

And it concludes that biofuels are more effective when used for heat and power rather than in transport.

“Current research concludes that using biomass for combined heat and power (CHP), rather than for transport fuels or other uses, is the best option for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the next decade – and also one of the cheapest,” it says.

The European Union and the US have recently set major targets for the expansion of biofuels in road vehicles, for which ethanol and biodiesel are seen as the only currently viable alternative to petroleum fuels.


U.S. Military Begins Planning for Avian Flu Pandemic

Friday, May 18th, 2007

– I’ve published before on the potential for global problems as a result of pandemics. Previous posts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7.

– Such pandemics are just one of the elements in the Perfect Storm Hypothesis.

– Especially worrying is the potential for an outbreak of Avian Bird Flu. This virus (H5N1) currently infects humans only very rarely and usually only after very close contact with infected birds. But, the scientists have been saying for several years now that just a single mutation in the current virus could give it the ability to move easily from human to human. The flu pandemic that swept the world in 1917/1918 was just such an event wherein an avian virus mutated so that it could easily infect humans and the result was more people died in the resulting pandemic than died in WWI.


Bird Flu Virus - H5N1

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The US military has begun to plan for a possible avian flu pandemic that could kill as many as three million people in the United States in as little as six weeks, a Pentagon planning document said.

The Defense Department’s “Implementation Plan for Pandemic Influenza,” which was posted Wednesday on a Pentagon website, lays out guidelines and planning assumptions for US military services and combatant commands.

Possible scenarios include US troops being called in to put down riots, guard pharmaceutical plants and shipments, and help restrict the movement of people inside the country and across its borders.

The plan envisions fast moving, catastrophic waves of disease that would overwhelm health facilities and cripple the ability of state and local authorities to provide even basic commodities or services.

“A pandemic in the United States could result in 20-35 percent of the population becoming ill, three percent being hospitalized, and a fatality rate of one percent,” the document said in a section on “planning assumptions.”

A human-to-human outbreak of avian flu was most likely to occur outside the United States and may not be contained effectively, it said.

“A pandemic outbreak will last between 6-12 weeks and multiple pandemic waves will follow,” it said.

If a pandemic influenza starts outside the United States, it will enter the US at multiple locations and spread quickly to other parts of the country, according to the report.

A vaccine for the specific strain of flu would not be available for distribution for a minimum of six to nine months after a human-to-human outbreak had been clinically confirmed, it said.

Transportation within states or internationally will be restricted to contain the spread of the virus, and communities may voluntarily close schools and limit public gatherings.

“Quarantine and other movement restrictions, especially if the restrictions are involuntary, will have minimal effect on the spread of the disease due to a very short incubation period and the ability of asymptomatic individuals to shed the virus,” the document said.

“Military and civilian medical treatment facilities will be overwhelmed,” it said.

It said the military will be called on to evacuate non-infected people from areas abroad that are having problems, and to help allies.

But the guidance said the US military’s top priority would be to preserve the operational effectiveness of the Defense Department and its forces around the world.

Additionally, the Defense Department will develop a plan to ensure the continuity of operations of the US government and be prepared to support civilian authorities with medical supplies, airlift and security forces.

A key military role will be to distribute medical supplies and medications and provide security for the production and shipment of vaccines on orders of the president.

“When directed by the president, DoD will provide support to civil authorities in the event of a civil disturbance,” the document said. “DoD will augment civilian law enforcement efforts to restore and maintain order in accordance with existing statutes.”

The military also may assist civil authorities in “isolating and/or quarantining groups of people in order to minimize the spread of disease during an influenza pandemic,” it said.

To the original:

– thanks to Kevin at The Cryptogon for this story.

Charity warns of migration crisis

Friday, May 18th, 2007

– I’ve believed for some time that the only way to view our coming history is as an interlocked interdependent set of increasingly probable events. People like to think of global climate change as one thing and poverty as another but as the future unfolds, each will feed into and potentiate the other. In fact, most of the elements I consider part of the Perfect Storm hypothesis do, or will, work this way as well.

– This report by the Christian Aid Charity is pointing out the likely causal connection between global climate change and global immigration and poverty.


The effects of climate change could make at least one billion people homeless between now and 2050, says the charity Christian Aid.

The group expects climate change to deepen an already worsening global migration crisis.

In a report, the charity says it fears the wave of migrations will generate new conflicts in areas of the world where resources are most scarce.

The migration crisis in poor countries is not recognised, says Christian Aid.

In a report to mark the start of Christian Aid week, the charity says that forced migration is now the most urgent threat facing poor people in the developing world.


FDA Finds Chinese Food Producers Shut Down

Thursday, May 17th, 2007

– Ah, I don’t know what we really expected to find. Maybe Chinese workers standing around with the offending chemicals stacked in bags around their feet several weeks after the international firestorm broke? Yeah, right. Of course it was all cleaned up.

– I love this part especially:

David Acheson, FDA’s assistant commissioner for food protection, said that despite appearances, U.S. investigators in China “have received good cooperation and support” from Chinese authorities.

And “consumers can feel reassured,” he said….


American inspectors who arrived in China last week to investigate the two companies that exported tainted pet food ingredients found that the suspect facilities had been hastily closed down and cleaned up, federal officials said yesterday.

“There is nothing to be found. They are essentially shut down and not operating,” said Walter Batts, deputy director of the Food and Drug Administration‘s office of international programs.

Word of the American team’s inability to conduct a firsthand inspection came as investigators in this country learned that as many as 198 U.S. fish farms and hatcheries may have received fish feed contaminated with the chemical melamine, which came from the same two Chinese companies.

Officials said they are trying to figure out how many of the hatcheries and farms received the chemically laced food and how many fish that were fed it may have been released — either into streams or lakes for sportsmen or onto grocery store shelves.

Despite the revelations, officials sought yesterday to put a positive face on the two-month-old scandal, which includes the inadvertent sale of millions of chickens that ate the tainted feed and the ongoing quarantine of tens of thousands of hogs.

David Acheson, FDA’s assistant commissioner for food protection, said that despite appearances, U.S. investigators in China “have received good cooperation and support” from Chinese authorities.

And “consumers can feel reassured,” he said, that according to a federal risk analysis, they face virtually no increased health risks from eating fish that may have been given contaminated feed.