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FEATURE

Got Milk? Got Money? (You'll need both)





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Today, ABC News reported that milk prices are expected to "soar" in the near future. The reasons?

  • Reduced supply of milk supplies due to the drought in Australia (a milk exporter)
  • Increased demand for milk in China, Canada and Mexico.
  • Increased cost of feeding US dairy cows (that corn for ethanol thingee)

Powdered dairy products are traded globally and supplies are down, Leibtag said. He pointed to two recent changes that have had an impact on the international supply of dried dairy products: the European Union recently ended subsidies for dairy production, which has resulted in a reduction in supplies, and worse, Australia -- the world's second largest exporter of dairy products after the United States -- has been suffering through a severe drought for the past several years.

It "couldn't produce as much as it used to and world markets are looking for other sources of dairy," [...] largely to the United States.

How soon until these prices start to soar? July 1st

Price of milk spouts higher: All-time record is due July 1 -- a seventh monthly rise -- and cost ripples affect food firms.

Jun 27, 2007 -- You've got four more days to buy milk before the price goes up for the seventh month in a row -- this time, into record-high territory.

As supplies of the four globally traded dairy commodities that determine California milk prices continue to be tight, the minimum retail price for a gallon of low- or reduced-fat milk will reach an all-time high on July 1 of $3.10 a gallon -- up 55 percent from a year earlier.

And that's the rock-bottom price that many retailers reserve only for bulk purchases of 2 gallons or more. Consumers buying smaller quantities can expect to pay more.

http://news.tradingcharts.com/...

[Likely] Translation: That's the Costco price.

From the ABC Report:

All combined -- high corn prices, increased global demand in the face of tight supplies, more costly transportation fees -- these factors translate to higher prices for that gallon of milk at the checkout.

They go on to point out how it sounds very familiar to the increase in prices at the gas pump.

"It's all supply and demand."

Well... Given how serious the drought is in Australia, I think the correlation is the environment (one giveth, the other taketh away) and the increased cost of transportation, not necessarily a case of gouging by the milk industry (a argument that cannot be made, imo, by the oil industry).

Australia suffers worst drought in 1,000 years

Depleted reservoirs, failed crops and arid farmland spark global warming tussle

Australia's blistering summer has only just begun but reservoir levels are dropping fast, crop forecasts have been slashed, and great swaths of the continent are entering what scientists yesterday called a "one in a thousand years drought".

http://www.guardian.co.uk/...

And

"The cattle and feed industry is getting decimated," said Brian Rice of Rice Dairy, an independent dairy trader, of the situation in Australia. "Their milk production is down because it is very hot and very dry."

http://abcnews.go.com/...

Got [any] Milk [left]? You know, that liquid canary in the global milk mine, one of many products that used to be taken for granted and now may very well be on its way to becoming a luxury that those who need it most cannot afford????

Peak Oil, Peak Milk, Peak [fill in blank here]

Milk Derivatives (likely to be impacted):

  • Butter
  • Butter Fat
  • Butter Oil
  • Cappuccino Mix
  • Chocolate
  • Cocoa
  • Coffee Whitener
  • Condensed Milks
  • Cream
  • Cream Cheese
  • Cultured Milk Products
  • Dairy Products
  • Dessert, Pudding and Mousse
  • Ice Cream
  • Lactose
  • Milk
  • Pudding and Desserts
  • Soft Cheese/Fresh Cheese
  • Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • UF Feta
  • Whey / Whey pre-treatment
  • Whey Protein
  • Yogurt
  • ????

Alternatives:

  • Soy Milk
  • Rice Milk
  • Almond Milk
  • Oat Milk
  • Soy Yogurt (plain and frozen)
  • Soy Ice Cream
  • Rice Ice Cream
  • ???

Here's a link to the ABC story.

To the McClatchy Report from Futures and Commodity Market News

And the one about the (1000 year) drought in Australia.

Frontline's Exposé of Iraq War Endgame Strategy





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Frontline's latest documentary, ENDGAME (what when wrong, and why, in America's tragically failed effort to find a strategy for success in Iraq), shows a shocking level of incompetence leading to the options we face now:

On Dec. 19, 2006, President George W. Bush said for the first time that the United States is not winning the war in Iraq. It was a dramatic admission from a president who had insisted since the start of the war that things were under control.

Now, as the U.S. begins what the administration hopes is the final effort to secure victory through a "surge" of troops, [snip] military and government officials talk to FRONTLINE about both the military and political events that have led up to the current "surge" strategy.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/endgame/

The fifth in a series on the Iraq war, this documentary casts a clear light on the mistakes made at the highest levels, both from a civilian and military point of view.

In a particularly telling segment, Thomas Ricks from the Washington Post refers to the army's early strategy as: "War Tourism."

"You have war tourism. Units based on big forward operating bases - FOBS, going out and doing patrols from Humvees, usually not foot patrols, but mounted patrols, and then coming back to their base. If that's the way you're operating, you're not in the war. You're simply a war tourist."

General Jack Keane (Ret.), former Army Vice Chief of Staff, added:

"When you look back on that, and analyze that, it's a short war strategy. Nowhere in there, is a plan to defeat the insurgency."

The documentary points out that the original strategy was to leave Iraq by Sept. '03, that the top generals in charge were brought back shortly after the invasion and command was assigned the "lowest ranked three start general in the Pentagon" (Sanchez) for what what was, essentially, supposed to be a mopping up and withdrawal operation.

The narrator says the planning did not account for an insurgency.

One can't help but remember Saddam Hussein saying -- prior to the start of the war -- if you attack we'll turn Iraq into another Vietnam.

In fairness to Gen. Casey (the four star general brought in to replace Sanchez after Abu Ghraib), he was one of the first to point out that the solution needed to be political, not military, after he realized his requests for more troops would not be met.

He brought in a large group of military strategists (Casey's Ph.D's) who tried to figure out the best way fight the insurgency without alienating moderate Sunnis. At one point, they suggested the military hold off on attacking the insurgents at Fallujah until they could figure out a way to reach out to the moderate Sunnis.

That strategy lasted until Nov. 8, 2004 (just after the Iraqi election). Then the army was sent in to take Fallujah.

"Ultimately," according to Major Thomas Mowle, one of the advisers that Casey had assembled, "if you draw out all the events that followed Fallujah, that certainly decreased the Sunni Arab support and, in that sense, it did help the insurgency."

The Iraqi elections produced warnings from Casey's Ph.D's that the Sunni boycott had split the Iraqi government into something that would increase the insurgency and prevent a political solution at the same time that Bush's rhetoric was painting the result at Fallujah as a success.

It's important to note that it was not that the military on the ground that failed. Specifically, the successful strategy created by a Col. H.R. McMaster (Clear, Hold and Build), where his troops went into a city, lived among the population in small units, built trust and protected the population while they fought the insurgents.

Requests to implement his strategy that went up the ranks were stopped at the highest levels. The reasons given: it would take more troops and put them in more danger. Thomas Rick's reaction: you can't fight a war as a tourist." It was not implemented by the Pentagon.

The State Department representative in Iraq heard about "Clear, Hold and Build" and flew back to tell Condoleeza Rice. Rice then went before Congress and, in what turned out to be a direct challenge to Rumsfeld, formally recommended the Clear, Hold and Build strategy during a hearing that was broadcast live.

Rumsfeld quickly held a press conference where he said (paraphrase): we didn't have the troops to implement it and it wasn't our responsibility to protect the Iraqis.

The insurgency exploded.

The State Dept and several generals did not give up on the idea of Clear, Hold and Build, however. While acknowledging it would put more troops at risk, they pointed to Col. McMasters' success as the only feasible strategy, and also noted, in what was described as an act of sheer will on McMasters' part, that he managed to do it with the limited number of troops he'd been given.

Limited was the condition during the summer of '06 when Clear, Hold and build was tried on a "limited" basis -- enough resources to clear but not to hold, with Iraqi troops for the hold part.

Which Gen. Keane says was doomed to failure.

Which it did (just before the '06 elections).

Rumsfield's departure soon followed. After that, the drive for the strategy of Clear, Hold and Build began to gain momentum, renamed "Surge", which Keane was told to put together for a presidential briefing. He says he was clear with President Bush about the resources needed, the risks, the need for a political solution, etc.

Keane came away from the meeting thinking he had a consensus.

But Thomas Ricks, referring to Dick Cheney as the "Moby Dick" of the administration, said that Vice President "Cheney, as a rule, goes in after meetings and works on Bush until he changes the outcome of decisions."

As a result, the Clear, Hold and Build, which had worked with McMasters, began with exponentially less troops than were needed to provide success.

Gates and Petraeus then came on board. General Petraeus, who Ricks describes as a realist, a strong advocate of Clear, Hold and Build, brought both Keane and McMasters into his inner circle once he took command and ordered the implementation of the "Surge" years after McMasters had proven its feasibility.

Some conclusions after viewing the documentary:

  1. The planning from the start was to go in and get out within a few months. Anything that didn't fit in with that strategy was disregarded.

  2. The bases and embassy planned were part of a combination army and contractor force that would stay to protect oil resources and as a forward operating base on both Syria and Iran's borders, while the combat invasion forces would be withdrawn.

  3. The experienced commanding generals were called back within a few months of the invasion and the command.

  4. The successful strategy developed early on by Col. McMasters, Clear, Hold and Build, was not supported by Rumsfeld and, as such, was not implemented until the arrival of Gates and Petreus.

  5. Condolezza Rice did see the value in Clear, Hold and Build enough to challenge both Cheney and Rumsfeld by going before Congress to advocate for it.

  6. The Clear, Hold and Build strategy was refused by Rumsfeld at a time when the circumstances on the ground might have allowed that strategy to provide for a political solution.

  7. After Rumsfeld was ousted, Clear, Hold and Build was put into planning stages, resulting in what is described now as "The Surge."
LINKS:

FRONTLINE: ENDGAME on PBS.

And the five part FRONTLINE ENDGAME SERIES ON THE IRAQ WAR (Video)

FEATURE

FDA Tracked Tainted Chinese Drugs 10 Years Ago





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The NY Times is reporting today that the FDA has been trying to track tainted drugs from China for over a decade. Let me say that again -- for over a decade:

After a drug ingredient from China killed dozens of Haitian children a decade ago, a senior American health official sent a cable to her investigators: find out who made the poisonous ingredient and why a state-owned company in China exported it as safe, pharmaceutical-grade glycerin.

In a case echoed by recent poisonings, at least 88 Haitian children were killed in 1996 by medicine made with a toxic syrup sent from China.

http://tinyurl.com/...

"In a case echoed by recent poisonings"... That's right, the same story as the toothpaste/anti-freeze warning that came out on June 1st.

A decade...

The NY Times report goes on to say that China either stonewalled or destroyed records on the glycerin poisonings ten years ago.

By the time an F.D.A. agent visited the suspected manufacturer, the plant was shut down and Chinese companies said they bore no responsibility for the mass poisoning.

Ten years later it happened again, this time in Panama. Chinese-made diethylene glycol, masquerading as its more expensive chemical cousin glycerin, was mixed into medicine, killing at least 100 people there last year. And recently, Chinese toothpaste containing diethylene glycol was found in the United States and seven other countries, prompting tens of thousands of tubes to be recalled.

From the FDA:

FDA Advises Consumers to Avoid Toothpaste From China Containing Harmful Chemical

FDA Detains One Contaminated Shipment, Issues Import Alert

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today warned consumers to avoid using tubes of toothpaste labeled as made in China, and issued an import alert to prevent toothpaste containing the poisonous chemical diethylene glycol (DEG) from entering the United States.

DEG is used in antifreeze and as a solvent.

Consumers should examine toothpaste products for labeling that says the product is made in China. Out of an abundance of caution, FDA suggests that consumers throw away toothpaste with that labeling. FDA is concerned that these products may contain "diethylene glycol," also known as "diglycol."

http://www.fda.gov/...

In both cases (a decade apart), Chinese companies, not certified to produce pharmaceuticals, shipped the diglycol -- oh, heck, let's just call it anti-freeze -- to European manufacturers that did not check back to see where it had come from or test to see if it contained glycerin.

In the case of the 1997 Haiti poisonings, the NYT says that "Virtually every young poisoning victim who showed up at the main hospital in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, died."

The route the anti-freeze took in Europe? German broker, Chemical Trading and Consulting, who could not "trace glycerine lots to their manufacturer." From there, 72 barrels were sold by a Dutch company, Vos B.V. to Haiti. When the FDA inspected Vos B.V., they found 66 more barrels of diglycol labeled as glycerin.

So, this has been going on for years. There are Chinese companies that are selling poison as medicine (or Melamine as Gluten...) in order to raise their profits, since glycerin will get you more bang for the buck than anti-freeze any day of the week. And, according to the NYT article, the Chinese government then obstructs the investigation into same said companies...

If there's anyone left who doesn't think our food and medicine supply is not at risk, I just don't know what to say to you anymore.

For everyone else: Buy locally, walking distance, if you can find it.

Here's a link to the NYT article.

Here's the FDA Press Release.

And here's link to Farmer's Markets by U.S. State.

Courtesy of DrWolfy: Farmer's Markets in Canada.

And here's a link to Farmer's Markets in Great Britain.

FEATURE

Iraq U.S. Embassy Accused of Using Forced Labor





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First Kuwaiti, the company contracted to build the $600 million dollar U.S. Embassy in Bagdhad has been accused of using forced labor to build the one-hundred four acre U.S. State Department site:

Whistleblowers who worked on the embassy have told officials at the State and Justice departments, as well as NBC News, that the contractor, First Kuwaiti International Trading, had brought workers, mostly South Asians and Filipinos, to Baghdad under false pretenses, then abused and threatened them while there.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/...

The embassy (dubbed Fortress Baghdad), one-hundred four acres - twenty-one buildings -- $600 million dollars, will be "as big as Vatican City" according to the NBC Nightly News Report (video).

The good news? It's on time and budget ($600 million of your taxpayer dollars at work...).

The bad? It's been alleged to have been built with forced labor and it may not be secure.

From an Australian Report:

On the west bank of the Tigris, at the edge of Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone, a forest of cranes marks the progress of Iraq's newest monument: a US embassy that will be the largest in the world.

Once an army of more than 3,500 workers have completed construction next June, the vast site will be the hub of the American administration in Iraq.

http://www.theage.com.au/...

First Kuwaiti, the contractor that has received $400 million for the embassy project, to date, denies the allegations:

The State Department and First Kuwaiti deny the allegations, but State admits it is continuing to monitor human trafficking and abuse allegations and the Justice Department has begun a preliminary inquiry out of its Civil Rights Division.

According to the NBC report: First Kuwaiti has received over one billion dollars in other contracts from the U.S. Army, the Army Corps of Engineers and Halliburton, which hired it as a subcontractor on other projects.

The main whistleblower is a medic named Rory Mayberry, who was contracted by First Kuwaiti to work on the embassy project:

Mayberry alleges that when he showed up at the Kuwait airport for his flight into Baghdad, there were 51 Filipino employees of First Kuwaiti also waiting for the same flight — except the Filipinos believed they were going to Dubai.

[snip]

"The steward was having problems keeping guys in their seats because they were so upset, wanted to get off the airplane," says Mayberry. "They were upset they weren’t headed to Dubai where they were promised they were working."

He says when he arrived in Baghdad he notified the State Department official in charge of the embassy project about what had happened on his flight and she replied "that’s the way they do it."

The State Department Inspector General, Howard J. Krongard, says he did a "limited investigation" after Mayberry's complaint and found no wrongdoing. But then added that the company had three months notice that he was coming.

Asked for a comment, First Kuwaiti's co-founder, Wadih al-Absi, called the charges: "bullshit."

This is not the first time such allegations have arisen, however. The Chicago Tribune raised questions in 2005 about Nepalese workers who'd claimed to have been forced to go to Iraq:

"The company was forcing them to go to Iraq," said Lok Bahadur Thapa, the former acting Nepalese ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

A First Kuwaiti executive, Wadih al-Absi, acknowledged that Thapa helped Nepalis at the firm's compound return to their homeland. But he denied anyone from First Kuwaiti tried to coerce them into Iraq. "It's nonsense," he said.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/...

Mayberry also brought up concerns about conditions at the medical clinics within the construction site. He said that workers were given painkillers by Indian nurses who "didn't know anything" and recommended one of the clinics should be closed due to lack of water and unsanitary conditions. His charges also include two wrongful worker deaths due to incorrect medications/possible allergic reactions.

The embassy itself, described by Andrea Mitchell of NBC as being "the size of Vatican City," has raised significant controversy over security, due to repeated rocket attacks, the publishing of the plans to the media, as well as the costs:

"They thought they could simply make it work by spending more money and more money until they got to the point where the amounts were so obscene that nobody dared say no," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. "Just throw money at it — or take our money out of something we need in the United States — just toss it over there."

Here's a link to First Kuwaiti's KBR (Halliburton Subsidiary) subcontracts.
Here's the link to First Kuwaiti's US Army contracts.
Here's the link to First Kuwaiti's website.
Here's the link to the NBC report.
To the Australian Report.
And a link to the Nightly News report on the Embassy with Brian Williams.

FEATURE

Kurds Offer Ceasefire - Turkish PM: We Won't Fight in Iraq





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Turkish Prime Minister, Tayyip Erdogan, indicated today that Turkey should confine its fight against the outlawed Kurdish separatist group known as the PKK within Turkey's borders:

"Has the fight with the 5,000 terrorists finished domestically, that we should now be talking about Iraq?" Erdogan said when reporters asked him about a cross-border operation against separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) rebels.

Erdogan did not confirm whether he had the support of Turkey's all powerful military. However, given the way their financial markets were destabilized after their (unacknowledged) limited cross-border raid last week, the pressure on the military to comply with Erdogan's change in focus is likely building.

As for the PKK, word has come that they are offering a cease fire in exchange for peace talks, with the qualification that they would defend themselves against attack:

Kurdish separatists declared a "unilateral cease-fire" in attacks against Turkey on Tuesday and said they were ready for peace negotiations, but the group maintained the right to defend itself.

I've been suggesting for a while that the Turks and Kurds would find a way to deal with this prior to it escalating to a full scale cross-border conflict. That's because neither the Turks nor the Iraqi Kurds (the PUK/KDP) can afford a Turkish/Kurdish civil war spilling over to Iraq. Here's an analysis I did on the Turkish/Kurdish border situation on December 22, 2006:

But will the Kurds help themselves?

You've hit on a favorite subject of mine (warning: Kurdophile here).

I agree that the situation is volatile, I consider it the potential tipping point of a larger war (as in, anywhere there is a Kurdish minority -- which is a lot of borders). But, I'm not convinced the PKK will be able to hold on to their camps on the Iraq/Turkish border or in the Zagros Mountains.

So, addressing just the Turkish/Kurdish issue (the Iranian/Kurdish situation requiring a longer post):

A (very) little history: (please see this link for more)

The PUK and KDP have, in the past, chased the PKK out of their territory after negotiations with the Turks.

4 October 1992, the Kurdish government in Erbil: "PKK should either withdraw from the border bases or be expelled. And from this article in 2003:

Turkish foreign minister Abdullah Gul is claiming that American forces have clashed with PKK/KADEK forces in northern Iraq...

"It is true that clashes took place yesterday," Gul has said. "Not only U.S. forces but also Kurdish 'peshmerga' fighters were involved in engaging the PKK. Some U.S. helicopters were also deployed.

A Kurdish friend of mine was visiting a Peshmerga camp during that period. He was surprised to find the Pêşmerge were cleaning their weapons in anticipation of a battle with the PKK. When he asked them why they were doing it, their commander replied "Ez ĥes ji partî demokratî dikim (I like the Democratic Party)."

They have two well known sayings in Kurdistan: "Kurds have no friends but the mountains" and "Leşkerê Kurdî bi hêz e, (Kurdish soldiers are strong)".

The two sayings are intertwined. The Peshmerga are mountain guerillas with a long history of warfare. They are stronger than the PKK and, frankly, one of the reasons you don't see the Sunni/Shi'a violence spilling over the Kurdî border. This is because the Iraqi Sunni/Shi'a know how how strong they are and that they practice blood feud (kill my brother, I will kill everyone you even might be related to...).

The influence of oil:

Kirkuk is the sticking point of any agreement with the Kurds. To them, it's their Jerusalem. They want it.

Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey threw the gauntlet down about Kirkuk on this Dec. 19th Newshour interview.

Erdogan: You speak of the more peaceful north. Well, the north, there are also some issues there, as well. For example, in the city of Kirkuk, the demographics of the city are being changed, and that is like a bomb that is ticking to explode.

There are Shiites, Sunnis, Kurds who live in that area, and the demographics must reflect the situation as it is. And Kirkuk must be granted a special status based on its historical background.

There is a referendum that is planned for 2007, and I don't think the referendum results will be very positive. And, in my opinion, the referendum must be postponed.

So he's put his terms forward. Which is useful to the U.S., and not just because of the demographics. It has to do with this oil find in Iraqi Kurdistan.

So now the western oil interests have a self-interest reason to need a stable Kurdistan.

When Erdogan puts forward an ultimatum: Try to keep Kirkuk and you're screwed, he's not doing that in a vacuum.

Kurdish political activities:

The guy to watch in all of this is the son of the current president of Iraq, Qubad Talibani:

Christopher Allbritton: Qubad Jalal Talabani, the deputy representative for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan in Washington -- which has had sometimes warmer, sometimes cooler relations with the PKK -- told me via email:

There is much talk about US-Turkey action towards the PKK, but in reality, the US are already fighting a war on a few fronts (Al-Qaeda, Ansar, Saddam loyalists etc). The last thing would want to do is open another front. Secondly, the US and the Kurds (Iraqi), are on a very new and different playing field, in terms of the respect that each shows the other. The US would never do such actions with first consulting, and second receiving permission, from us. Our advice to the US and to Turkey has always been, the PKK are tired, regardless of what some idiots from within them think, the majority of them are ready to lay down their arms and go back to their homes. If the US can pressure Turkey into providing them with an amnesty (a real one!) then this problem will be resolved.

So... There's a Kurdish response. Find a way for some of these Turkish PKK to come home. Is he trying to help the PKK? Perhaps. Eithe way, it puts the onus on the PKK if they don't stop their terrorism.

In which case, they may just face the Kurdish Peshmerga (those best fighters in the regions) clearing out the PKK sometime in the near future.

There is also talk of the U.S. -- when they pull out of Iraq proper -- establishing bases on the Turkish/Kurdish border...another reason to clear the PKK out

MARGARET WARNER: ...There are also ideas of moving American troops up to the more peaceful Kurdish area near the border with Turkey.

What would you say should be the U.S. military posture, say, in the next six months to a year?

RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN: The world must be prepared for the future in Iraq. And that's what must be carefully planned, based on the experiences that exist, and it must be done by seeking wise counsel.

And by doing that, and if such a road map is prepared based on a consensus, including the views and the opinions of the neighboring countries, this will help the people in Iraq to feel more secure about their future.

So, the question becomes: Will the Kurds help themselves to keep the peace?

Given the:

  • The discovery of a large oil field in their area and the new leverage that gives the Kurds.
  • The clear statement from Erdogan regarding Kirkuk, the PKK and the hint above that he would not have a problem with U.S. troops on his border (he's stated elsewhere he'd welcome them)
  • The U.S. as appointed a special envoy for "countering the PKK," Joseph Ralston.
  • Qubad Talibani, Kurdish heir appearant, just married an American socialite and lives, for the most part, in the U.S.
  • The U.S., the EU and almost everyone else as declared the PKK a terrorist entity.

From that point of view: The PKK are the ones looking lonely. The hotspots to watch - vis-a-vis Turkey and Iraq are: Kirkuk, the overall volatility of Iraq, whether the U.S. puts their bases within Kurdistan, and, if they don't, what the Turks do to fill the void.

Either way, the Turkish/Kurdish border is one place in the Middle East where active diplomacy, albeit behind the scenes, seems to be taking place.

Whew... long winded... Sorry. Like I said, I'm a Kurdophile.

What's not in today's news reports? Just what Jalal Talabani's son, Qubad, or his counterpart, Barzani's son (the current Prime Minister of the Kurdish Regional Government) have been discussing with Turkey, but, given the information from December, my guess would be they've been talking.

From the CNN report:

"We are renewing our declaration to halt attacks against the Turkish army," Abdul Rahman Chaderchi, the PKK official in charge of foreign affairs, said in northern Iraq, where the rebels have several bases.

"We want peace and we are ready for negotiations, but if Turkey decides to attack our bases inside Turkey or inside Iraqi Kurdistan, then this unilateral cease-fire will be meaningless. If we are attacked, we will fight back and we have the ability to confront any Turkish aggression," he added.

"We want peace and we are ready for negotiations..."

Fingers crossed.

Here's my story on the Kurds.

The link to the Reuters News Story.

The link to the CCN story with the confirmation of the PKK cease fire offer.

FEATURE

G8 leaders agree to climate deal





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The BBC just announced that the G8 leaders have agreed to a climate deal:

Leaders of the G8 nations have agreed to seek "substantial" cuts in emissions in an effort to tackle climate change.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the G8 would negotiate within a UN framework to seek a replacement for the Kyoto Protocol by the end of 2009.

That's the good news. A general agreement. The not-so-good news?

No mandatory target was set for the cuts...

Merkel's preference for a 50% emissions cut by the year 2050 was included and the countries that actually agreed to Mrs. Merkel's preference: EU, Canada and Japan.

Okay, so I'm all for that. I'm also for teeth...

From the text of the G8 statement:

"Taking into account the scientific knowledge as represented in the recent IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] reports, global greenhouse gas emissions must stop rising, followed by substantial global emission reductions."

From Reuters:

The agreement, sealed at a G8 summit on the Baltic coast, binds the world's largest polluter, the United States, more closely into international efforts to curb the gases scientists say are causing dangerous changes to world weather patterns.

But it does not commit the club of industrialized nations -- Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States -- to the firm emissions reduction targets that the summit host, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, had wanted.

Bush stated he will not sign on to actual C02 targets unless China and India sign on first (ever heard of leading by example, dude?).

So, we all melt while he plays doctor (I'll show you mine if you show me yours).

Now, there are good things about the agreement, don't get me wrong. Blair was his usual optimistic self: "I'm both surprised and very pleased at how far we have come forward." And the UN spokesman spun it to the positive, as well:

Yvo de Boer, head of the UN's climate change division, quickly welcomed the agreement.

He told the Reuters news agency the deal augured well for a meeting to discuss a post-Kyoto consensus scheduled for Bali in December.

So, all we have to do is make it through the next Hurricane Season to see what happens in Bali.

Okey dokey, all righty then...

Here's the link to the BBC Report.

And the Reuters Report.

FEATURE

NASA chief "regrets" remarks on global warming [not]





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by Janet Ritz

Um... Okay, so Michael Griffin held a closed door meeting (leaked to the AP - somebody's still pissed) with a few (really irate) NASA scientists regarding his recent global warming minimizing comments, and said this:

NASA administrator Michael Griffin said in the closed-door meeting Monday at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena that "unfortunately, this is an issue which has become far more political than technical, and it would have been well for me to have stayed out of it."

"All I can really do is apologize to all you guys.... I feel badly that I caused this amount of controversy over something like this," he said.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/...

All well and good, except for when you get to this part:

Griffin told JPL workers he tried to separate his opinions during the NPR interview, but that it got "lost in the shuffle."

His opinions...

So, what is NASA Chief Administrator Griffin's opinion?

Michael Griffin NASA Administrator has told America's National Public Radio that while he has no doubt a trend of global warming exists "I am not sure that it is fair to say that it is a problem we must wrestle with.

Not sure a problem that NASA must wrestle with.

Gee, does that explain what what was behind the cuts reported last (insert exploding head) diary?

NASA's Climate Change Satellites - Drastic WH Cuts Leaked

Oh, yeah, that's right, one of NASA's job's is to gather climate data.

Griffin went on to say:

"Doing media interviews is an art. Their goal is usually to generate controversy because it sells interviews and papers, and my goal is usually to avoid controversy,"

Heckofajob on the avoiding that controversy thing...

The link to the MSNBC article is here.

To the Space Daily article on Griffin's original remarks.

FEATURE

EU bans 30,000 chemicals used in the US





AnswerTips-Enabled

by Janet Ritz

New regulations on 30,000 chemicals, currently unregulated (according to the EU report) in the United States, went into effect in the European Union on June 1st under the acronym REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals). These chemicals, known as endocrine disrupters, are suspected of "increasing rates of breast and testicular cancer, male infertility, diabetes, even obesity."

Jun. 1--COPENHAGEN, Denmark -- Are a group of modern chemicals present in everyday household products behind increasing rates of breast and testicular cancer, male infertility, diabetes and even obesity?

As new regulations on the chemicals, known as endocrine disrupters, go into effect in the European Union today, select scientists from around the globe met to share their research and growing concerns. Some of the chemicals -- found in plastic containers, dental sealants, soda and soup can linings, carpets, paints and pesticides -- remain virtually unregulated in the United States.

http://www.jsonline.com

What is an endocrine disrupter?


[Bisphenol A]

Endocrine disrupters have been defined as exogenous substances that alter function(s) of the endocrine system and consequently cause adverse health effects in an intact organism, or its progeny, or (sub)populations.

Endocrine disrupters interfere with the functioning of the endocrine system, in at least three possible ways:

  • by mimicking the action of a naturally-produced hormone, such as oestrogen or testosterone, and thereby setting off similar chemical reactions in the body;
  • by blocking the receptors in cells receiving the hormones (hormone receptors), thereby preventing the action of normal hormones; or
  • by affecting the synthesis, transport, metabolism and excretion of hormones, thus altering the concentrations of natural hormones.

Potential human health effects caused by EDCs:

  • For women: Breast and reproductive organ tissue cancers, fibrocystic disease of the breast, polycystic ovarian syndrome, endometriosis, uterine fibroids and pelvic inflammatory diseases. Declining sex ratio (fewer women)
  • For men: Poor semen quality (low sperm counts, low ejaculate volume, high number of abnormal sperm, low number of motile sperm), testicular cancer, malformed reproductive tissue (undescended testes, small penis size), prostate disease and other recognised abnormalities of male reproductive tissues.
  • Other potential effects: impaired behavioural/mental, immune and thyroid function in developing children; osteoporosis, precocious puberty.

Okay, I'm scared.

Now, the EPA does say they regulate endocrine disruptors (wiki), but the EU claim is that they're too many not on the EPA list. But do the new EU regulations provide a solution? That's a controversial question. Some of the EU says yes. Others say it doesn't go far enough. And in the US (on both sides of the ecological spectrum), there are significant questions regarding the industry self-policing nature of the new regulatory system (more on that below).

A link to the new regulations, acronym REACH [Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals], which were adopted by the European Union in 2006, went into effect yesterday.

The European Chemical industry stands on the cusp of a revolution in regulatory controls. The new EU regulatory network, known by the acronym REACH, comes in to force from 1st June 2007, after its initial publication in the European Commission's Official Journal on 30th December 2006. The official title of the regulatory controls is: REGULATION (EC) No 1907/2006 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 18 December 2006 concerning the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of CHemicals (REACH). REACH runs to 849 pages and replaces over 40 pre-existing laws.

The two most important aims of REACH are to improve protection of human health and the environment from the risks of chemicals, while enhancing the competitiveness of the EU's chemicals industry. REACH will require a registration, over a period of 11 years, of some 30,000 chemical substances. The registration process requires the manufacturers and importers to generate data for all chemicals substances produced or imported into the European Union above one tonne per year. The registrants must also identify appropriate risk management measures and communicate them to the users. Amongst the myriad of controls and regulations facing chemical companies will be a requirement to take cognisance of the multiple language dimension of the European Union.

As mentioned above, REACH is not without critics on both sides of the ocean and ecological fence:

EU's REACH law enters into force amid controversy

The regulation on the Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals (REACH) continues to evoke controversy as it enters into force on 1 June. While the chemical industry appears ready to work with the new law, environmental groups continue to lament what they see as its shortcomings.

http://www.euractiv.com/...

"We have been and continue to be concerned about the REACH program for a number of reasons," said Mike Walls, managing director at the Virginia-based American Chemistry Council, the trade association that represents the U.S. chemical industry.

Walls called REACH "a very complex and complicated system," and one that is untested. "At a minimum we think it is inappropriate to look to REACH as a model when there is no experience under it."

[snip]

Frederick vom Saal, an endocrinologist at the University of Missouri, was concerned about the EU program's reliance on corporations and industry.

http://www.lef.org/...

Walls went on to say that the EPA was the correct regulatory agency for this within the U.S.

vom Saal's concern was that REACH relies too much on industry testing, as opposed to government and/or independent tests. A valid concern, given his experience with a chemical known as bisphenol-A, which was proclaimed by industry testing to be safe, but then, upon independent testing, showed up at a trace level in every American tested for it.

So, within the US, there seems to be a strange bedfellows moment -- independent research combined with government regulation as opposed to industry self-policing.

The question that REACH raises for the U.S. then, is not about method, as vom Saal's research seems to point to our independent model as a more secure test than industry self-policing.

It's why the EU has found so many endocrine disruptors to regulate that the report claims the U.S. is not currently regulating.

Classification

There are two classes of substances which can cause endocrine disruption:

Natural hormones, which include oestrogen (responsible for female sexual development), progesterone and testosterone (=androgens: responsible for male sexual development) found naturally in the bodies of humans and animals, and phytoestrogens, substances contained in some plants, such as alfalfa sprouts and soya beans, which display oestrogen-like activity when ingested by the body. Natural hormones are believed to be easily broken down in the human body; thus they do not accumulate in body tissues, which is the case with certain man-made substances.

Man-made substances which include:

  1. Synthetically produced hormones, including those hormones which are identical to natural hormones, such as oral contraceptives, hormone-replacement treatment and some animal feed additives, which have been designed intentionally to interfere with and modulate the endocrine system; and
  2. Man-made chemicals (thousands of new and existing man-made chemicals exist) designed for uses in industry, such as in industrial cleaning agents, in agriculture, in certain pesticides, and in consumer goods such as in plastic additives. This group also includes chemicals produced as a by-product of industrial processes such as dioxins, which are suspected of interfering with the endocrine systems of humans and wildlife. Some of the potential environmental endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are persistent and ubiquitous in the environment (persistent organic pollutants – POPs ).

Here's a PDF file on chemicals suspected to be EDCs.

Here's a list of some regulated EDCs:

  • Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxin and benzopyrene: Interfere with components in the steroid, thyroid and retinoid signalling pathways.
  • Phthalates (plasticisers, e.g. in PVC).
  • Bisphenol A (lacquers) [one w/ trace amounts found in EVERY American]
  • Pesticides (insecticides such as DDT, endosulfan, dieldrin, methoxychlor, kepone, dicofol and toxaphene; herbicides such as alachlor, atrazine and nitrofen; fungicides such as benomyl, mancozeb and tributyl tin); nematocides such as aldicarb and dibromochloropropane).
  • Ordinary household products such as alkylphenols (e.g. nonylphenol)
  • Heavy metals (lead, mercury, cadmium).

Where the new law is now in effect:

Chemical companies wanting to sell their products in within EU will have to translate into 23 official EU languages. These are Bulgarian, Czech, Danish , Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French , German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Irish, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovene, Spanish, Swedish

Here's a link to an analysis of five EU countries on the chemical initiative from the University of Mass - Lowell.

I have not been able to slog through all the chemical lists to confirm which are or are not on each countries yes or no column. For reference, if anyone cares to check the stuff in their kitchen cabinet:

And here's the EPA's page on chemicals regulated in the US as of October 2006.

This link is to a PDF file (5 mg) of all EPA regulated chemicals.

This link is the the EU's official REACH homepage.

Here's a link to Ed Begley Jr's FAQ page, which has a link to a natural cleanser, for those who want to clean without ECDs.

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