Politics & News
31 Dec 2006 06:24 pm
Grand Canyon National Park is not permitted to give an official estimate of the geologic age of its principal feature, due to pressure from Bush administration appointees. Despite promising a prompt review of its approval for a book claiming the Grand Canyon was created by Noah’s flood rather than by geologic forces, more than three years later no review has ever been done and the book remains on sale at the park, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).“In order to avoid offending religious fundamentalists, our National Park Service is under orders to suspend its belief in geology,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “It is disconcerting that the official position of a national park as to the geologic age of the Grand Canyon is ‘no comment.’”
In a letter released today, PEER urged the new Director of the National Park Service (NPS), Mary Bomar, to end the stalling tactics, remove the book from sale at the park and allow park interpretive rangers to honestly answer questions from the public about the geologic age of the Grand Canyon. PEER is also asking Director Bomar to approve a pamphlet, suppressed since 2002 by Bush appointees, providing guidance for rangers and other interpretive staff in making distinctions between science and religion when speaking to park visitors about geologic issues.
31 Dec 2006 06:05 pm
Global Warming Comes into Focus in 2006
2006 will be remembered by climatologists as the year in which the potential scale of global warming came into focus. And the problem can be summarised in one word: feedback.
During the past year, scientific findings emerged that made even the most doom-laden predictions about climate change seem a little on the optimistic side. And at the heart of the issue is the idea of climate feedbacks - when the effects of global warming begin to feed into the causes of global warming. Feedbacks can either make things better, or they can make things worse. The trouble is, everywhere scientists looked in 2006, they encountered feedbacks that will make things worse - a lot worse.
Climate feedbacks could turn the Earth into a very different planet over a dramatically short period of time. It has happened in the past, scientists say, and it could easily happen in the future given the unprecedented scale of the environmental changes caused by man.
There are two types of feedback that can play a role in the future direction of the Earth’s climate. The first is a “negative” feedback, which is largely good for us, because it works against things getting worse. The classic example of a negative feedback is the fertilising effect of carbon dioxide. As concentrations rise, then so does the amount of carbon absorbed by the higher growth rate of plants. The result is a negative feedback that tends to check rising levels of carbon dioxide.
A “positive” feedback makes things worse by adding to the existing problem. It brings about a vicious circle, in which a rise in carbon dioxide or global temperatures causes some change in the climate system which, in turn, leads to further rises in carbon dioxide or temperatures.
A classic example of a positive feedback is the melting sea ice of the Arctic. As temperatures rise, the ice floating on the Arctic sea melts, exposing dark ocean where once there was white ice that reflected sunlight, and heat, back into space. The newly revealed dark ocean absorbs more sunlight and heats up, causing more ice to melt, and so reinforcing the positive-feedback cycle.
But even this simple description belies the true complexity of life on Earth. In fact, there is a negative feedback at work as well with Arctic sea ice, which insulates the underlying ocean and keeps it warmer during the cold, dark northern winters. However, on balance, it is the positive feedback that dominates here, as it does in several other instances investigated by scientists in 2006.
“The main concern is that the more we look, the more positive feedbacks we find,” says Olivier Boucher, a climate scientist at the Met Office. “That’s not the case when it comes to negative feedbacks. There seems to be far fewer of them.” The sentiment is echoed by Chris Rapley, the director of the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge: “When we look at the list of all the feedbacks in the climate, the list of positive feedbacks is worryingly long - a lot longer than the negative feedbacks. To be honest, it’s a wonder that the climate has remained so stable.”
Iraq & foreign policy
30 Dec 2006 10:01 am
In the next few days much will be made of the 3,000th U.S. casualty in Iraq. It will be treated as a tragic milestone.
But how much will we hear about the estimated 600,000 Iraqis who have died? Or the million Iraqis that have fled the country? Or the 100,000 Iraqis made homeless in the month of December alone?
Riverbend, a woman blogger in Baghdad expresses the desperation of the Iraqis:
That is Iraq right now. The Americans have done a fine job of working to break it apart. This last year has nearly everyone convinced that that was the plan right from the start. There were too many blunders for them to actually have been, simply, blunders. The ‘mistakes’ were too catastrophic. The people the Bush administration chose to support and promote were openly and publicly terrible- from the conman and embezzler Chalabi, to the terrorist Jaffari, to the militia man Maliki. The decisions, like disbanding the Iraqi army, abolishing the original constitution, and allowing militias to take over Iraqi security were too damaging to be anything but intentional.
The question now is, but why? I really have been asking myself that these last few days. What does America possibly gain by damaging Iraq to this extent? I’m certain only raving idiots still believe this war and occupation were about WMD or an actual fear of Saddam.
Former British Army Sergeant James Blunt has put the soldiers’ view into words:
There are children standing here,
Arms outstretched into the sky,
Tears drying on their face.
He has been here.
Brothers lie in shallow graves.
Fathers lost without a trace.
A nation blind to their disgrace,
Since he’s been here. And I see no bravery,
No bravery in your eyes anymore.
watch the video
End this illegal war!!
27 Dec 2006 06:39 pm
Save the planet: don’t pee while you fly.
China Southern airlines has some advice for cutting global warming emissions when you fly–don’t pee in the plane. They claim each flush burns one liter of jet fuel, creating about 5.6 lbs of CO2.
Of course there are other ways to save jet fuel. For a cross-country flight, each extra pound you carry on puts almost a pound of CO2 in the air. Flying with skis and boots instead of renting slopeside puts about as much extra CO2 into the air as your drive from Salt Lake City to Alta.
So, when you are visiting relatives, don’t pig out before you go home. Step on a scale, then go running a few miles to lose the extra pounds.
Better yet–don’t fly at all. Get out the sleigh! After all, the horse knows the way–and nobody ever got a ticket for drunk sleigh riding.
Have we got that straight? Good! Now, enjoy the holidays!
U.S. Casualties in Iraq Surpass 9-11
The deaths of 6 U.S. soldiers yesterday has pushed the American death toll to 2,978–five more than died in the attacks on 9-11. Since Iraq had nothing to do with 9-11, this has been a pointless sacrifice every bit as tragic as 9-11.
Of course, the U.S. casualties in the war are dwarfed by the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths in the chaos unleashed by the U.S. invasion, as well as suffering of the million or more Iraqi refugees who have fled the violence.
The Bush administration continues to focus on “winning” the war, but there is no winning possible in Iraq. Too much has been lost already and no end is in sight.
Politics & News & Iraq
20 Dec 2006 09:08 am
Unprecedented Military Dissent to Iraq War
A recent website, Appeal for Redress has gotten over a thousand active duty soldiers to sign an online petition opposing the war in the two months it’s been online. The petition reads:
As a patriotic American proud to serve the nation in uniform, I respectfully urge my political leaders in Congress to support the prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases from Iraq . Staying in Iraq will not work and is not worth the price. It is time for U.S. troops to come home.
Signers are wide-ranging and include recent recruits and high-ranking officers. Some are serving in Iraq, others are based in the U.S. or elsewhere. Some reported that they thought long and hard about what signing it could mean to their career, although they are protected by the Military Whistleblower Protection Act, which says that as long as they are not on duty or in uniform, they have first amendment rights.The site maintains attorneys experienced in military law to help service members who need assistance in countering any attempts to suppress this communication with members of Congress.
Our troops are finally finding some of the support that they really need.
New England Global Warming Efforts Failing
In 2001, regional leaders in New England and Eastern Canada set a goal of reducing greehouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2010 and 10 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2020.
Five years later, a study by Environment Northeast has concluded that the rate of carbon dioxide emissions has continued to increase and could be as much as 50% higher than 1990 levels by 2020.
The group has published a “Climate Change Roadmap” that calls for increased energy efficiency, reduced greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles andpower plants and carbon sequestration.
The report highlights the difficulty that has been experienced meeting global warming goals in even the most supportive regions. Their failure so far, combined with the unwillingness to face the issue on a national level will, in the long run, only mean that more drastic measures will be needed if runaway global warming is to be avoided.
15 Dec 2006 01:57 pm
Maryland Green Party Petition Drive A Success
This morning the State Board of Elections notified us that the Maryland Green party has met the required 10,000 valid signatures to remain on the ballot for another four years. The Board still has another 1,800 to verify so we beat the requirement with plenty of room to spare.
Our validation rate has been a remarkable 85%; 10% better than our 2002 petition drive, and even better when compared against other parties’ petitions drives (69% for Libertarians in 2003 and 67% for Populists in 2004).
The successful drive will allow the Maryland Green Party to be in continuous existence for 10 years. In just seven years (six as a recognized party and three with full ballot access), we have become the third largest party in Maryland, hosted eight state-wide assemblies, struck down unconstitutional ballot restrictions, put 41 Green candidates on the ballot, built numerous vibrant Locals, attracted over 8,000 SBE-affiliated Greens, and established a notable presence in Maryland public policy making.
12 Dec 2006 10:30 pm
When do we tell the truth: Iraq is Genocide
Darfur has received a lot of attention in recent months–and rightly so. What has taken place in Darfur is genocide, as even the Bush administraton has admitted. Estimates are that 400,000 people have died and another 2.5 million live in refugee camps in Darfur and neighboring Chad. The Bush administration has taken growing criticism for doing nothing to relieve the problem.
But, if Darfur is genocide, how can we not apply the same label to Iraq, where an estimated 650,000 have been killed and 1.8 million have fled the country, with another 100,000 leaving every month?
U.S counterinsurgency offensives against the Sunni rebels, such as the leveling of Fallujah which included the use of the banned white phosphorous have accounted for some of the casualties, but increasingly, Sunni and Shiite death squads are killing off civilians on the other side. Particularly guresome are the death squad activities undertaken by the Shiite controled security forces–trained by the U.S.
Ethnic rivalries led to genocide in Rwanda and now they have reached the level of genocide in Iraq.
It’s time to put the Iraq war in its proper perspective. It has become the worst case of genocide presently taking place in the world.
U.S. forces should stop supporting those who commit genocide and try to bring the conflict under control. We must end the fantasy that the Iraq war is about Islamic militants and face reality. If we leave, we must leave admitting that we have caused a genocide of major proportions.
We must never use military force in such a cavalier fashion again.
12 Dec 2006 05:00 pm
Income Inequality Study
A great article posted on Too Much.
Some people, at year’s end, like to spread holiday cheer. The world might do better, suggests a landmark new report from the United Nations University in Helsinki, to start spreading wealth.
The new study — the first ever to tally, for the entire world, all the major elements of household wealth, everything from financial assets and debts to land, homes, and other tangible property — finds some $125.3 trillion worth of wealth about in the world, as of the year 2000.
If that wealth were divided in perfectly equal shares among all the world’s 3.7 billion adults, every adult on Earth would hold a net worth of just under $34,000 in U.S. dollars.
In real life, says the new study from the United Nations University’s World Institute for Development Economics Research, half the world’s adults hold under one-tenth that modest sum, less than $2,161. The vast bulk of the world’s wealth, the study observes, sits “highly concentrated” in the pockets of a relative few.
How concentrated? The richest 1 percent of the world’s adults — minimum wealth, $514,512 — hold 39.9 percent of the world’s wealth, 13,000 times more than the entire bottom 10 percent.
The new UN University study, The World Distribution of Household Wealth, at one point translates our global distribution of wealth into a technical measure called a Gini coefficient, with “0” representing a situation where wealth is divided in total equality and “1” the opposite, a situation where one person owns everything. The higher the fraction in between, the more severe the inequality.
The UN University study computes the year 2000 global wealth Gini at 0.892, a level higher than the inequality rate within any individual country.
What does this abstract number mean in actual people terms? If you reduced the world’s population to 10 people, the study points out, this 0.892 Gini would correspond to a situation where the richest of the 10 people held $1,000 in wealth and the remaining nine a single $1 each.
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