Archive for August, 2008

Not-So-Permafrost: Big Thaw of Arctic Soil May Unleash Runaway Warming

Sunday, August 31st, 2008

New estimates show that frozen Arctic soil contains far more potential greenhouse gas than previously recognized–and could speed climate change as it meltsDamage to buildings

“Drunken” trees listing wildly, cracked highways and sinkholes—all are visible signs of thawing Arctic permafrost. When this frozen soil warms, it releases carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases as microbes start to thrive on the organic material it contains—a potentially potent source of uncontrollable climate change.

Now new research published in Nature Geoscience shows that such frozen Arctic soil holds nearly twice as much of the organic material that gives rise to planet-warming greenhouse gases as previously estimated.

“When the air temperature rises two to three degrees, the Arctic tundra would switch from a carbon sink to a carbon source,” says soil scientist Chien-Lu Ping of the University of Alaska Fairbanks. “The greater the carbon stores, the greater the impact it causes,” including even faster warming in the already changing Arctic.


Bush Aims to Relax Endangered Species Rules

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

Just months before U.S. President George Bush leaves office, his administration is proposing changes that would allow federal agencies to decide for themselves whether subdivisions, dams, highways, and other projects have the potential to harm endangered animals and plants.

The proposal would cut out the advice of government scientists who have been weighing in on such decisions for 35 years.

Agencies also could not consider a project’s contribution to global warming in their analysis.

Democrats and environmental groups reacted swiftly to the news.

Senator Barbara Boxer, a Democrat from California and head of the Senate’s environment committee, said Bush’s plan is illegal.

Environmentalists complained the proposals would gut protections for endangered animals and plants.

Chairman of the House committee that oversees the Interior Department, Representative Nick Rahall, a Democrat from West Virginia, said he was “deeply troubled.”

“This proposed rule … gives federal agencies an unacceptable degree of discretion to decide whether or not to comply with the Endangered Species Act,” Rahall said.

Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne defended the revisions, saying they are needed to ensure that the Endangered Species Act is not used as a “back door” to regulate the gases blamed for global warming.


– If Bush doesn’t end up with the worst legacy of any U.S. president, I will be completely surprised.

Many think it’s too late for climate, survey finds

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

– It’s not like we didn’t know.  Consider this: 

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Ten per cent of New Zealanders believe it is too late to do anything about climate change, a new survey reveals.

The figure has alarmed campaigners trying to spread the message that everyone can do their bit for the environment.

Paul McElwain, strategy director of advertising company Publicis Mojo, presented the results of the online survey to a conference in Auckland yesterday.

The poll of more than 4000 household shoppers showed hundreds thought it was too late to act on climate change. One in 10 New Zealanders and about two in 10 Australians thought time had run out.


Recycled Sewage: Coming to a Tap Near You?

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

Is recycled sewage water coming to a tap near you? If you live in certain parts of the developed world—including areas of the united States—the answer, perhaps surprisingly, is yes.

Persistent droughts and competition for resources are leading to increased use of recycled sewage for drinking water and fertilizer, water experts say.

You know what he’s doing…In developing countries human waste is already used by an estimated 200 million farmers, according to a recent report by the Sri Lanka-based International Water Management Institute (IWMI).

Now wastewater use is gaining steam in the developed world too, though in rich countries, the water undergoes a cleansing process before being pumped out to taps.

“Wastewater recycling is something we will have to rely more heavily on,” said Shivaji Deshmukh, program manager for the groundwater replenishment system at the Orange County Water District in southern California.

Orange County has been recognized for its innovative sewage system, which collects what people flush down the toilet, separates its components, then treats the wastewater to drinking-water standard.

The county water district pumps the treated wastewater into underground caverns, where it is stored and later used as tap water or irrigation water.


Fundamentalist [fill in the blank]

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

– There’s a lot of folks deeply concerned about Islamic Fundamentalism and I’m not saying they are wrong to be worried.  But, they might just take a look back over their shoulder to see who else might be coming down that road.

“Joel’s Army believers are hard-core Christian dominionists, meaning they believe that America, along with the rest of the world, should be governed by conservative Christians and a conservative Christian interpretation of biblical law. There is no room in their doctrine for democracy or pluralism.”

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‘Arming’ for Armageddon

Militant Joel’s Army Followers Seek Theocracy

LAKELAND, Fla. — Todd Bentley has a long night ahead of him, resurrecting the dead, healing the blind, and exploding cancerous tumors. Since April 3, the 32-year-old, heavily tattooed, body-pierced, shaved-head Canadian preacher has been leading a continuous “supernatural healing revival” in central Florida. To contain the 10,000-plus crowds flocking from around the globe, Bentley has rented baseball stadiums, arenas and airport hangars at a cost of up to $15,000 a day. Many in attendance are church pastors themselves who believe Bentley to be a prophet and don’t bat an eye when he tells them he’s seen King David and spoken with the Apostle Paul in heaven. “He was looking very Jewish,” Bentley notes.

Tattooed across his sternum are military dog tags that read “Joel’s Army.” They’re evidence of Bentley’s generalship in a rapidly growing apocalyptic movement that’s gone largely unnoticed by watchdogs of the theocratic right. According to Bentley and a handful of other “hyper-charismatic” preachers advancing the same agenda, Joel’s Army is prophesied to become an Armageddon-ready military force of young people with a divine mandate to physically impose Christian “dominion” on non-believers.

“An end-time army has one common purpose — to aggressively take ground for the kingdom of God under the authority of Jesus Christ, the Dread Champion,” Bentley declares on the website for his ministry school in British Columbia, Canada. “The trumpet is sounding, calling on-fire, revolutionary believers to enlist in Joel’s Army. … Many are now ready to be mobilized to establish and advance God’s kingdom on earth.”

Oh yes, you should read more of this…

080827 – Christchurch is empty

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

Christchurch sunset

I’ve got a web cam that shows me Christchurch, New Zealand, from the nearby Port Hills.   These last three weeks, I’ve been looking at this image from the other side of the world thinking that the person I am nearest to in the entire world is down in and among all of those lights so far away.

But, tonight Christchurch is empty and she’s somewhere out over the vast South Pacific ocean heading north on a jet for 13 hours towards Los Angeles.   Christchurch looks the same but it’s not – knowing she’s not there.   It’s a hard thing to explain.   I’m glad she’ll be here soon.

Where have all the Doctors Gone?

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

– I received a magazine with a story by this title and I wanted to see if I could find it on-line so I could Blog about it and provide a reference.   Imagine my surprise when a long list of stories with this name came up.

– This should be a wake up call to anyone that the takeover of the medical industry by large health care corporations in the U.S. – is not in the best interests of the people.

– Primary Care Physicians are disappearing fast from the American scene because of the amount of time and aggravation they have to endure justifying their decisions to insurance companies and healthcare management.

– Let me say it simply:  Health care should be about making people well, not about corporate profits.   We’ve gone very badly off the tracks in this country on this issue.

– Here’s a list of stories I came up with by Googling, “Where have all the doctors gone

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Boston Globe: 

New York Times: 

Columbia Journalism Review 

Physician’s News Digest: 

San Francisco Business Times: 

– And the story I originally went looking for by that same title, in the AARP Magazine, apparently hasn’t been released onto the web yet, so I never found it.

– At least one of the stories referenced here is from the NY Times and they insist that folks have an ID and a PW in order to read their stuff. You can get these for free just by signing up. However, a friend of mine suggests the website :arrow: as an alternative to having to do these annoying sign ups. Check it out. Thx Bruce S. for the tip.

Chinese recognised as ‘black’ community

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008

– I’m sorry, but when I read Mahatma Gandhi’s autobiography, I thought this was a problem he was describing in South Africa in 1915.  At that time, the whites had decided that East Indians were black and had to go to the back of the proverbial bus.

– It’s pretty amazing to see that here and now in South Africa, the local Chinese have just been declared to be black.  Amazing.  Even more amazing?  This is what they wanted.

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JOHANNESBURG // It has to be one of the more surreal court decisions. In South Africa’s high court, Justice Pretorius recently ruled: “It is declared that South African Chinese people fall within the ambit of the definition of ‘black people’.”

In terms of human skin tones, east Asians are about as far removed from Africans as it is possible to be without being Caucasian. But in modern South Africa “black” is a relative concept.

South Africa’s naturalised Chinese community – as opposed to more recent arrivals as part of the Asian global diaspora – are largely the descendants of traders and small businessmen who immigrated in the first 40 years of the 20th century, in the wake of the discovery of gold on the Witwatersrand.

Most of the indentured labourers who were brought in to work in mining and construction were sent home at the end of their contracts, but a few stayed on, and their children and grandchildren are Chinese South Africans too.

Some Taiwanese investors, who arrived in the 1980s after trade agreements were signed between Taipei and Johannesburg, were effectively treated as “honorary whites”, but under apartheid, Chinese South Africans were included within the “coloured” designation, along with those of mixed race and all who did not fit into the convenient categories of “white” or “black”. As such, they were subject to discrimination, educated in “coloured” schools, not allowed to live in “white” districts under the Group Areas Act, and barred from marrying whites, with sexual relations between the races illegal under the Immorality Act.

After the advent of democracy in 1994, when South Africa’s new ANC-led government instituted a series of measures designed to redress historical wrongs, known as Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE), South African Chinese thought that they too would benefit.

Instead, the legislation defined “black” as Africans, coloured people, Indians, disabled people and women. Chinese, who now number between 6,000 and 10,000 people, were reclassified as “white”.


In India, New Opportunities for Women Draw Anger and Abuse From Men

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008

– Come on, India.   You are rapidly improving yourself in so many ways, and yet you have such ugly things locked away in your closets.   For all your Bollywood and your high tech campuses, so very much of what happens out in your streets is utterly grim.

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Every morning, Gitanjali Chaudhry, 17, walks to her high school through a labyrinth of temples and vegetable markets. Along with her books, she carries an Indian version of Mace — a bag of chili powder and a pouch of safety pins — to fend off the often boorish men who loiter in the narrow passageways.

“We learned that women have to be brave,” said Chaudhry, a loquacious, ponytailed girl who wants to be a lawyer. She has started attending increasingly popular neighborhood classes on self-defense for women.

Chaudhry is one of the brightest students in her working-class district. But since several local men started following her to class, she sometimes stays home now. She has friends who have been raped or are constant victims of “Eve teasing,” when men on the street spew lewd comments or aggressively paw women’s bodies.


Mexico City Struggles With Law on Abortion

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008

MEXICO CITY — When Mexico City’s government made abortion legal last year, it also set out to make it available to any woman who asked for one. That includes the city’s poorest, who for years resorted to illegal clinics and midwives as wealthy women visited private doctors willing to quietly end unwanted pregnancies.

But helping poor women gain equal access to the procedure has turned out to be almost as complicated as passing the law, a watershed event in this Catholic country and in a region where almost all countries severely restrict abortions.

Since the city’s legislature voted for the law in April 2007, some 85 percent of the gynecologists in the city’s public hospitals have declared themselves conscientious objectors. And women complain that even at those hospitals that perform abortions, staff members are often hostile, demeaning them and throwing up bureaucratic hurdles.


– This article is from the NY Times and they insist that folks have an ID and a PW in order to read their stuff. You can get these for free just by signing up. However, a friend of mine suggests the website :arrow: as an alternative to having to do these annoying sign ups. Check it out. Thx Bruce S. for the tip.