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FEATURE

The Bali Communiqué: Big business weighs in on Climate Change





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Q. When is it time to take climate change seriously?

A. When even Fox News' parent corporation says so.

That's right. NewsCorp has weighed in (at least on paper) as part of the Prince of Wales's Group on Climate Change at the University of Cambridge's announcement that 150 signatory companies (including NewsCorp) -- comprising many of the world's most influential corporations and accounting for trillions of dollars in trade and some of the best known global brands -- have circulated a petition in advance of the upcoming U.N. Bali Climate Conference "calling for a comprehensive, legally binding United Nations framework to tackle climate change."

The Bali Communiqué's specific requests:
- A comprehensive, legally binding United Nations framework to tackle climate change.

- Emission reduction targets to be guided primarily by science.

- Those countries that have already industrialised to make the greatest effort.

- World leaders to seize the window of opportunity and agree a work plan of negotiations to ensure an agreement can come into force post 2012 (when the existing Kyoto Protocol expires).
Citing the U.N.'s alarming report on climate change, issued last week, the signatories are also requesting a minimum 50% reduction in emissions by 2050:

The hastily prepared petition drive, coordinated through the environmental office of Britain's Prince Charles, is signed by leaders from mainstream powerhouse companies such as Shell UK, GE International, Coca-Cola Co., Dupont Co., United Technologies Corp., Rolls Royce, Nestle SA, Unilever, British Airways and Volkswagen AG. Link.

The list also includes the aforementioned NewsCorp, AIG, ABAmro, Sun Microsystems, Nike, Nokia, and many other firms, all of whom now cite climate change as a risk to commerce as well as to the planet.

Here's the link to the
signatories list.

Let's hope their efforts make a difference at the upcoming conference.

U.N. Climate Panel Warns of 'Abrupt' Warming





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The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will issue a report this weekend that warns of "abrupt and irreversible" impacts unless world leaders address climate change this year.

In its strongest statement to date, the panel warns of a potential temperature rise up to 6.4C, sea level rise up to 43cm, Arctic summer ice to disappear within the second half of this century, and an increase to the increase we're already seeing in heat waves and tropical storm intensity.

The report condenses information from the three major reports produced by the IPCC:

Working Group I:
Physical Science Basis
Working Group II:
Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability
Working Group II:
Mitigation of Climate Change

The Synthesis Report will be introduced by U.N. Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, in a statement to the 450 delegates of the 27th Session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The Session is being held this week in Valencia, Spain, a region which is currently experiencing a loss of available water due to its diminishing reservoir (see: 43 percent of the United States).


The Synthesis Report will cover the following topics:
  • Observed changes in climate and its effects
  • Causes of change
  • Climate change and its impacts in the near and long term under different scenarios
  • Adaptation and mitigation options and responses, and the inter-relationship with sustainable development, at global and regional levels
  • The long term perspective: scientific and socio-economic aspects relevant to adaptation and mitigation, consistent with the objectives and provisions of the Convention, and in the context of sustainable development
  • Robust findings, key uncertainties
"Climate change is here, it's impacting our lives and our economies, and we need to do something about it," commented Hans Verolme, director of the climate change programme with the environmental group WWF. "After this report, there are no politicians left who can argue they don't know what climate change is or they don't know what to do about it."

Given the unexpected growth in C02 emissions due to the loss of carbon sinks, the aforementioned drought conditions in 43 percent of the U.S., the category-four cyclone that just hit low-lying Bangladesh, it is should not be surprising that the UN report warns of millions that could be affected by rising temperatures and up to a third of all species that could be lost.

Not surprising, perhaps. Alarming, heartbreaking, frightening and frustrating, definitely, and, according to the IPCC and the United Nations, an impact that may happen abruptly and irreversibly if world leaders don't act to counteract climate change at the U.N. IPCC meeting scheduled for Bali this December.


Bangladesh Feels Cyclone Sidr's Wrath





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Cyclone Sidr surprised meteorologists by speeding up and strengthening as it slammed into Bangladesh's low-lying southern coast late Thursday. Making landfall at a category four, there have been 3,114 deaths (so far), with thousands missing and ~280,000 waiting to return home. [video]
Meteorologist Kevin Corriveau said the storm sped up as it approached shore and reached land before forecasters had predicted it would. As it crossed over onto land, it began to weaken but still brought torrential rainfall and floods to the low-lying area. -snip The U.S. Embassy in Delhi has issued a statement to Americans in the region, warning of "heavy rains, flooding, strong winds, damage to buildings, and other life-threatening conditions." Source.
Local officials and Red Crescent workers said at least 328 deaths have already been confirmed while hundreds more were injured or missing following the cyclone, which struck overnight packing winds of 250 kph (155 mph).

"The death count is rising fast as we get more information from the affected districts," an official at the food and disaster ministry said. Source.
World Vision, the Red Cross, Save the Children and the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society are asking for donations as they work to find shelter for the homeless and to assess the actual and impending damage. They face a daunting task to reach remote areas cut off by downed trees and flooded waterways and the ever increasing threat of starvation and disease. The Bangladesh Air Force has been dropping some supplies. That should increase when two U.S. warships arrive with forty helicopters between them. But it is the relief agencies (the NGOs above) that will be providing assistance for the long term.

As Bangladesh is a low-lying country in the path of increasing storms, given this warning by the IPCC regarding climate change, it is an unfortunate, albeit safe, assessment that their effort will have to be an ongoing.


FEATURE

Latest Recall News - Aqua Dots, Bindeez, Curious George Dolls, Cargill and more...





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Aqua Dots in US/Canada and Bindeez in Australia have been pulled from the shelf following the discovery that a chemical used in the product metabolizes as the "date-rape" drug, GHB (gamma hydroxy butyrate), which can induce unconsciousness, seizures, drowsiness, coma and death:
Naren Gunja from Australia's Poisons Information Center said the drug's effect on children was "quite serious ... and potentially life-threatening."

The recall was announced by the Consumer Product Safety Commission on Wednesday several hours after published reports about the recall in Australia.

Link

Two US children are reported to have been in a coma from exposure to Aqua Dots (ingesting the beads) and three children in Australia are reported is sick from ingesting Bindeez. The product has been pulled from the shelves in Canada, the US and in Australia, but may still be in homes or available through other outlets. Do not buy them. If you have them already, here is information from CPSC with instructions:
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with the firm named below, today announced a voluntary recall of the following consumer product. Consumers should stop using recalled products immediately unless otherwise instructed.

Name of Product: Aqua Dots

Units: About 4.2 million

Distributor: Spin Master, of Toronto, Canada

Hazard: The coating on the beads that causes the beads to stick to each other when water is added contains a chemical that can turn toxic when many are ingested. Children who swallow the beads can become comatose, develop respiratory depression, or have seizures.

Incidents/Injuries: CPSC has received two reports over the past several days of children swallowing Aqua Dots. A 20-month-old child swallowed several dozen beads. He became dizzy and vomited several times before slipping into a comatose state for a period of time, was hospitalized, and has since fully recovered. A second child also vomited and slipped into a comatose state and was hospitalized for five days.

Description: The recalled toy is a craft kit which allows children to create various multi-dimensional designs using small colored beads. The beads fuse together when sprayed with water. The recall applies to all models of Aqua Dots. The product is available in various different kits with accessories such as a drying fan, applicator pen, design templates for the beads, and spray bottle. The product is labeled for ages 4+.

Sold at: Mass merchandisers nationwide from April 2007 through November 2007 for between $17 and $30.

Manufactured in: China

Remedy: Consumers should immediately take the recalled toy away from children and contact Spin Master to return for free replacement beads or a toy of equal value.

Consumer Contact: For additional information, contact Spin Master at (800) 622-8339 between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, or visit the firm’s Web site at www.aquadotsrecall.com

An important note to anyone entertaining the idea of utilizing these toys to acquire GHB: this chemical is metabolizing as a stronger form of the drug whose impact cannot be measured.

Don't use it.

For everyone else: If you have Aqua Dots or Bindeez, get them away from your children immediately!

Other news: Curious George Plush Dolls have been voluntarily recalled by Marvel Toys:
Marvel recalling plush 'Curious George' dolls
After passing four lead tests,110,000 plush dolls with plastic faces were recalled for excessive levels of lead after the company re-tested its entire product line. Link.
Images of the dolls are available here. If you have these toys, take them away from your children immediately and contact the company about obtaining a refund here.

Tainted meat news: The E. coli recalls keep coming. As reported in this post, five million General Mills frozen pepperoni pizzas were recalled last week (check your freezer), and now one million pounds of frozen Cargill ground beef patties, meat loaf and other forms of beef have been recalled for possible E. coli O157:H7 contamination.

Cargill products under recall include the following brands:
  • Century Farm
  • Giant 75/25
  • Giant Eagle
  • Shop Rite
  • Stop & Shop
  • Wegmans
  • Weis Premium Meats
  • Meat Loaf Mix
  • 85/15 Coarse Ground Beef
  • Ground Beef Chuck for Chili
  • Price Rite
A full list with product details is available here.

More on past recalls here.




FEATURE

More Fragile than They Might Appear





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Cross-posted on Huffington Post

A twenty-two year USGS study of 21,000 trees in the Sierras has produced an unexpected result: The trees are dying. Not just one variety, but the Ponderosa Pines, the White Fir Conifers, the Red Fir, the Jeffrey Pines and the Subalpine are all dying of the thirst and the heat and the insect infestation that accompanies drought conditions.

“They’re more fragile than they might appear,” says Dr. Phillip van Mantgem, an ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey and lead author of the report that suggests even the slightest change in climate can produce unexpected results in a delicate ecosystem. In this case, in addition to the millions of Southern California trees that have already died due to the Bark Beetle infestation, the Sierra range will be more vulnerable to fires as the dying trees become kindling while the air their leaves and pine needles once cooled grows warmer...[more]

FEATURE

Mexico's Katrina





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Over two thirds of the Mexican state of Tabasco is under water, following inundation by tropical storms, and more rain is on the way:



President Calderon has sent the Mexican army into the region and food and water is being distributed to the over one million displaced by the floods and now living in shelters or walking through the flooded streets as they leave the region.

Some 80% of the state is under water in the worst flooding for 50 years. Heavy rain is forecast for the weekend and there are concerns that disease could spread in the murky waters. -snip- Helicopters and boats are being used to move people stranded on rooftops or pockets of high land, and hospital patients are being flown to neighbouring states. Link.
Mexico's entire air force has been sent into the region and the president is urging citizens with boats to help out, as well.

President Calderon said it was "not just the worst natural catastrophe in the state's history but, I would venture to say, one of the worst in the country's recent history". He went on to compare it to Hurricane Katrina, pointing out that New Orleans was small compared to the entire state of Tabasco. Not entirely accurate, when one takes into account the damage to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, but the comparison may be understandable, given the scope of the disaster.

Mexico's oil industry has also been impacted by the storms, with its offshore production all but shut down following the storms that have crippled its production:
Twenty-one people died last week when storms forced an oil platform into another rig in the Gulf of Mexico.

No word on how the loss of its available crude will impact world-wide prices, but with oil already over $95 a barrel, it's bound to influence the already volatile market and, perhaps, help to push it past the impending $100 a barrel mark.

Of more concern is the probability of disease as the flood waters rise, both in Tabasco and in neighboring state, Chiapas, also hit by floods.

The Mexican Red Cross is calling for donations here.

FEATURE

Pat Buchanan: 6,000 Future Voters versus a Dinosaur of the Past





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Cross-posted on
The Huffington Post


Pat Buchanan faced off against Energy Action Coalition youth leader, Jessy Tolkan, on Hardball Monday, with a gentlemanly, albeit condescending, smile, which accompanied his insistence that global warming, while possibly real, is not as serious as she believed.

Ms. Tolkan, the Challenge Campaign Director for the Energy Action Coalition, a 'Youth United for Clean Energy" group, listened patiently while Buchanan went on to say that "global warming, if it happens, would not be "all that bad."

Ms. Tolkan's response: "Pat, with all due respect, I think you're living in the past."

This Hardball 'debate' was prompted by a session of Rep. Edward j. Markey's (D-MA) Select Committe on Energy Independence and Global Warming entitled: "Youth Leadership for Clean Energy and Healthy Climate." with testimony from several youth environmental groups (video), including Energy Action Coalition's co-Founder, Billy Parish, the youth leaders of Environmental Justice, Alaskan Youth, various student representatives and California's Public Interest Research Group. The committee members then moved to the West Lawn of the Capitol where they were greeted by ~6,000 young people who'd traveled to call for new energy legislation.

Later, on Hardball, Mr. Buchanan countered their enthusiasm by pointing out that the inaction vis-à-vis Kyoto implied a consensus lack of belief in the urgency of global warming and that Ms. Tolkan's 6,000 young people versus the 500,000 outside the Nixon White House protesting the Vietnam War, showed a lack of serious concern by her peers and by the world. He then referred to Al Gore's "little badge" (Nobel Peace Prize) and "awards" (Oscar) as something given while others do nothing (he may have something there on the 'others doing nothing' part).

Ms. Tolkan's response: "Pat's living in the past and I'm here to represent the future." She added: "It is my future."

Granted, 6,000 is a small number of protesters, especially when compared to the millions expected to be displaced by climate change in the future. But then, the environment has never been as emotionally charged an issue as war.

However, despite the relatively small number of protesters this week, it may be increasingly difficult to ignore the millions impacted by the many climate and energy warning signs of late. These include the reports on the increasing inability for the oceans to absorb C02 (carbon sinks), impending $100 oil, the underreported floods in Mexico, the wildfires in the West, the over forty percent of our country currently experiencing severe to extreme drought, the calls to arms by the world's religous leaders, and this report on how climate change threatens our national security.

So, while 6,000 youth voters may not compare to the half-million Pat Buchanan remembers descending upon the Nixon White House while he worked there, it could not have been, as Chris Matthews mentioned, an easy task for Ms. Tolkan and her colleagues to get that many of today's young people to drop what they were doing and come together in Washington for an environmental rally, and even Pat Buchanan had to acknowledge that.


FEATURE

Latest Recall News





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11/08/07 update: See the latest post for information on the Aqua Dots/Bindeez recall.


General Mills has announced they are recalling ~5 million pizzas due to possible E. coli contamination. Also, information has surfaced through congressional testimony that the FDA is not inspecting ~two-thirds of drugs from foreign manufacturers:
General Mills Recalls Frozen Pizza

Totino’s and Jeno’s today announced a voluntary recall of frozen pizzas with pepperoni toppings because of possible contamination of the pepperoni topping with E. coli O157:H7.

Brand Product SKU number
Totino's Party Supreme 42800-10700
Totino's Three Meat 42800-10800
Totino's Pepperoni 42800-11400
Totino's Classic Pepperoni 42800-11402
Totino's Pepperoni Trio 42800-72157
Totino's Party Combo 42800-11600
Totino's Combo 42800-92116



Jeno's Crisp 'n Tasty Supreme 35300-00561
Jeno's Crisp 'n Tasty Pepperoni 35300-00572
Jeno's Crisp 'n Tasty Combo 35300-00576

Foreign drugmakers escape FDA Scrutiny (AP)

Two-thirds of the foreign drug manufacturers subject to inspection by the Food and Drug Administration may never have been visited by agency inspectors, a government watchdog told Congress Thursday.

More information on past recalls and inspections issues here.

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