Falling Cranes and New York’s Growing Pains


The dangerous hypocrisy of overbuilding in Bloomberg’s New York.

It happened again. A crane has fallen in New York City, killing a construction worker, wrecking an apartment building nearby, terrifying and disrupting the lives of nearby residents who must scramble about looking for someplace to stay, find their pets, try to recover their precious possessions, and hear the same blather from the current city administration. Tighter restrictions, more inspections will be called for.

This same event occurred a short while ago a few blocks down from Yorkville in the Beekman Place section of the city. And it will happen again and again because it is now a familiar p
art of Mayor Bloomberg’s New York where a crane hangs dangerously over the world below every few blocks. Indeed, it is a direct result of the policies in place in the city. Build! Build! And build more until they have wiped out the sky altogether. This is the way it is in Hedge Fund Heaven – a/k/a New York City.

The secret of living in this New York is to live in a protected area of historic brownstones and town houses such as the Mayor lives in; a place which cannot be taken down to be rebuilt as a monster residential building; a secret that now requires the possession of several million, no, possibly several billion dollars.

The trick for the rest of us is not to get killed or driven from our homes by the reckless overbuilding that has overtaken New York since Bloomberg became Mayor, which coinci
ded with the great building bubble here and elsewhere. An impotent, toothless, realty based (not reality based) Landmark Commission has done little to protect the environmental, esthetic, or plain safety of the city and its citizens. A building inspection commission designed to encourage building and turn a blind eye to infractions in existing laws is embedded into the culture of the city.

Real estate is the true religion of New York and it requires constant devotion by its adherents, which means, put up yet another tower next to another tower, ad infinitum. Sure, I know that real estate is a vital part of our tax base. But this does not mean that it cannot be challenged, or replaced by other forms of revenue.

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Art and the Environment


California mixed media artist, Sara Zimmerman, has come up with an innovative idea to combine her passion for the visual medium with her love for the environment -- helping to save on the cost of materials along the way.

Zimmerman, a fine artist working out of the Lake Tahoe area, has begun to utilize discarded cabinet doors, such as those replaced during construction, as well as paper and other recycled materials, as a mixed-media canvas for her art.

Part of a growing creative community along the Northern California/Nevada border, Zimmerman's work as a mix-media painter has long juxtaposed urban and natural landscapes with the detail of close-range subjects.

With the Sierra region as both subject and inspiration, it's not surprising that the artist's work would reflect the beauty of the environment that surrounds her studio.

By utilizing discarded materials, Zimmerman has provided an important example of how respect for the environment can help to preserve the subject of the art that it has inspired in its most pristine form...

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New danger: China's rivers blocked by quake


Cross-posted on Reuters, Chicago Sun-Times

Chinese authorities are rushing to dynamite dams of over 30 lakes caused by mudslides that have blocked rivers in the central China province of Sichuan. This is the latest in a series of threats from the May 12th 7.9 earthquake that has cost over 65,000 lives (that count is expected to rise), injured over 300,000 with over 20,000 still missing, and has left millions homeless:
Authorities are concerned the swelling lake will burst as water from the Jianhe river in Beichuan county in China's southwestern Sichuan province rises behind the earthquake-created dam, the Xinhua news agency reported.

"The lake ... may cause a devastating flooding if the barrier bursts," Xinhua said. Authorities want to control the flow of water -- rather than have the dam give way all at once -- by creating a spillway.
The Chinese government has been struggling to manage 69 dams that are threatening to break in the area and to provide shelter for the millions of homeless families. They have put out a request for donations of 3 million tents to the international community and have been sending large numbers of troops to repair the failing dams and blocked rivers.

Chinese environmental teams have also been sent to contain 50 sources of
radiation from destroyed facilities in the region. International teams are preparing to review the impact to projects under construction for the purpose of providing carbon offsets as a way to lower China's impact on climate change.

The concern about the quake-formed lakes was exacerbated by a 6.0 aftershock -- one of over 94 recorded strong aftershocks -- on Sunday that was reported to have killed four more, injured 1,000, to have damaged another 400,000 structures and to have threatened another dam.

The loss of life has been even worse for families under China's one-child policy. Much of the structural damage in the initial quake was to poorly built schools that collapsed while they were in session. Many parents lost their their only children in the aftermath, leading to calls for investigation into the possibly corrupt construction practices and for a lifting of the one-child policy...

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Cracks found in Arctic Ice Shelf


A new expedition by the Canadian military has uncovered vast cracks in the Ward Ice Shelf, the Arctic's largest, leading to new concerns that climate change is producing a collapse of ice shelves faster than anticipated [video]:
One of the expedition's scientists, Derek Mueller of Trent University, Ontario, [reported]: "I was astonished to see these new cracks.

"It means the ice shelf is disintegrating, the pieces are pinned together like a jigsaw but could float away," Dr Mueller explained.
This follows the partial (gigantic) collapse of the Antarctic's Wilkins Ice Shelf as reported in this article from February:
The National Ice and Snow Institute (NISDC) has released a report documenting a dramatic and troubling collapse of a large portion (nine times the size of Manhattan) of the Wilkins Ice Shelf in Antarctica.
Scientists now report a 23% loss of sea ice due to climate change in the last year alone, citing the changes in the ice shelves as impacted by the same forcings.

The shifting of the ice has also led to potential disputes over Arctic sovereignty rights, an increasing consideration for countries that hope to tap natural resources that may become exposed by the melting ice. The Canadian expedition was part of an effort to determine territory in a changing terrain, as the different nations who lay claim to the Arctic try to solve the melting jigsaw puzzle the Arctic's ice has become...

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SF Bay Area Businesses to Pay C02 Fee


The San Francisco Bay Area Air Quality Management District's Board of Directors has voted overwhelmingly (15-1) to impose a carbon fee on Bay Area businesses. The new rules will cover the nine Bay Area counties and will include refineries and power plants:
The Bay Area fees are expected to generate $1.1 million in the first year to help pay for programs to measure the region's emissions and develop ways to reduce them.

More than 2,500 businesses will be required to pay the proposed fees. About seven power plants and oil refineries would have to pay more than $50,000 a year, but the majority of businesses would pay less than $1, according to district estimates.

This follows efforts by San Francisco Mayor, Gavin Newsom, to curb emissions through an initiative proposed for the November ballot...
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Toxic alert: Bottles, Cans and BPA


As reported in this June 2007 article , the EU banned of the use of the chemical, bisphenol A (BPA) (along with 3,000 other chemicals) last year, after they identified BPA as an endocrine disrupter. Now, nearly one year later, a report from the National Institute of Health's Toxicology Unit has agreed with their conclusion:
A chemical called bisphenol A, which is in hard, clear polycarbonate plastics like those used to make many baby bottles, certain reusable water bottles, and even containers for canned foods, may pose health risks. Specifically, the federal government's National Toxicology Program expressed concern that BPA exposure could cause neural and behavioral abnormalities in fetuses, infants, and children.

Since that announcement, Canada has proposed a BPA ban, and retailers Toys "R" Us and Wal-Mart both said they plan to stop selling BPA-containing baby bottles, according to USA Today. Playtex also said it would stop using BPA in its products, and Nalgene, a maker of durable plastic water bottles, said it intends to do the same.
An endocrine disruptor is a substance that alters the function of the endocrine system and consequently can cause adverse health effects to an organism and/or its progeny. Endocrine disrupters interfere with the endocrine system in (at least) three ways...

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Texas oilman planning huge wind farm


T. Boone Pickens, Jr., the Texas billionaire oilman, is planning to put billions into a 4,000 megawatt wind farm in Texas with the capacity to power 1.3 million homes.

Pickens said he will be purchasing GE Turbines to install in central Texas from 2010 to 2015 on a royalty share basis with landowners in order to obtain access to wind.
"The Department of Energy came out with a study in April of '07 that said we could generate 20 percent of our electricity from wind. And the wind power is -- you know, it's clean, it's renewable. It's -- you know, it's everything you want. And it's a stable supply of energy.

It will be located in [the] central part of the United States, which will be the best from a safety standpoint to be located. You have a wind corridor that goes from Pampa, Texas, to the Canadian border. And it has -- the wind, it's unbelievable that we have not done more with wind. Look at Germany and Spain. They have developed their wind way beyond what we have, and they don't have as much wind as we do. It's not unlike the French have done with their nuclear. They're 80 percent power generated off of nuclear, we're 20 percent.

A turbine will generate somewhere around 20,000 [dollars] a year in royalty income [some of which to benefit those who put them on their land]. And on a 640-acre tract, you can put five to 10 of these on the tract. And you don't have to have them if you don't want them."
This is an important offering from Pickens, the chairman of the BP Capital Management hedge fund, known as the "Oracle of Oil" with a personal net worth (in 2007) of 3 billion dollars...
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A Letter to Two Wives


In the 1949 film, “A Letter to Three Wives,” three women receive letters from an unseen character telling them that she, their friend, Addie Ross, had run off with one of their husbands. Since the Joseph Mankiewicz film dropped two of the “Five Wives” of the original story on which it was based, I feel free to drop one wife more for the purposes of this post. The letter I write below is to Michelle Obama, and to Cindy Hensley McCain, and I’m not the kind of guy to run off with either of your husbands. No Addie Ross me. But one of you will discover what it is to be deeply disappointed and sadly surprised this year, when your beloved spouse loses the big one and disappoints your hopes for him, and yourself. Both of you are strong defenders of your husbands, while being women of accomplishment. But only one of you has come under attack of the main stream press, and that says something about America today that’s worth exploring.

Dear Cindy and Michelle. If you don’t mind we’ll start with you Cindy, after all, you are accustomed to having pride of place at any gathering. Cindy, it is hard for me to find fault with a woman who devoted her early years to treatment of children with severe disabilities, one who founded the American Voluntary Medical team to provide MASH style care to disaster areas, and personally participated in fifty five of their missions, without a blonde hair, or a remark out of place. You are Mother Theresa in an Armani suit. You are undoubtedly kind and deeply charitable. And real lucky. For eight years you have been the chair of your late father’s beer business Hensley &Co, earning for yourself some four hundred thousand dollars a year. Your good works go on and on from Operation Smile to CARE to an organization that removes land mines in Cambodia. And you have learned to smile your way through some abusive language that your salt of the earth husband has aimed at you...

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Contributing writer, Sherman Yellen, screenwriter, playwright, and lyricist,
has won two Emmy Awards and a Peabody Award, first for his drama John Adams, Lawyer in the PBS series The Adams Chronicles, and later for An Early Frost, a groundbreaking drama about AIDS in America. His Beauty and the Beast was nominated for an Emmy and won the Christopher Award. Yellen was nominated for a Tony Award for his book for the Broadway musical, The Rothschilds. Yellen's other plays include Strangers, December Fools and Josephine Tonight! Sherman Yellen received a lifetime achievement award in Arts and Letters from Bard College.


Starvation warning for Burma/Myanmar's Children


Save the Children has warned that thousands of children impacted by Cyclone Nargis may starve to death within days:
"We are extremely worried that many children in the affected areas are now suffering from severe acute malnourishment, the most serious level of hunger," said Jasmine Whitbread, who heads the agency's operation in Britain. "When people reach this stage, they can die in a matter of days."
International outrage has been growing at the Myanmar Junta's obstructive behavior and unwillingness to allow experts and aid into the devastated region. This has prompted the U.N. Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, to send U.N. humanitarian chief John Holmes to Myanmar this weekend.
"He's going at the request of the secretary-general to find out what's really going on the ground, to get a much better picture of how the response is going and ... to see how much we can help them scale up this response," [Amanda Pitt, a U.N. spokeswoman in Bangkok] said. Details of the visit, she said, were still being worked out.

The U.N. report said all communications equipment used by foreign agencies must be purchased through Myanmar's Ministry of Posts and Communications -- with a maximum of 10 telephones per agency -- for US$1,500 (euro960) each. Importing equipment is not allowed.
There have been reports of the Junta taking the limited aid that has been allowed in and distributing it to those associated with their regime, stockpiling it in warehouses and/or selling it at inflated prices on the Yangon market.

Britain's prime minister has directly accused the Junta of preventing aid from reaching victims and said "the military regime cares more about its own survival than it's people's welfare."

"This is inhuman," Gordon Brown stated.

French and U.S. supply ships, including the fully stocked USS Essex, with its scores of helicopters and Marines trained in disaster relief, have been anchored off the Burmese coast awaiting permission to bring their supplies directly to the 2.5 million failing survivors. Authorization has not been forthcoming...
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Wildlife numbers plummeting: "A great extinction is underway"


The World Wildlife Fund, in conjunction with the Zoological Society of London, has released a report that concludes more than one in four of all wildlife species has been lost since 1970.
Populations of land-based species fell by 25%, marine by 28% and freshwater by 29%, it says. Humans are wiping out about 1% of all other species every year, and one of the "great extinction episodes" in the Earth's history is under way, it says. Pollution, farming and urban expansion, over-fishing and hunting are blamed.
This level of extinction has not been seen since the age of the dinosaurs. The Living Planet Index compiled by the Society with the World Wildlife Fund cites marine species as the most impacted:
Some of the worst hit are marine species which saw their numbers plummet by 28% in just 10 years, between 1995 and 2005. Populations of ocean birds have fallen by 30% since the mid 1990s, while land-based populations have dropped by 25%. Among the creatures most seriously affected have been African antelopes, swordfish and hammerhead sharks. Another, the baiji - or Yangtze River Dolphin - may have been lost altogether.
"Reduced biodiversity means millions of people face a future where food supplies are more vulnerable to pests and disease and where water is in irregular or short supply," said James Leape, World Wildlife Fund...
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New report: obesity adds to global warming


A new report by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, writing in the journal Lancet, has concluded what might be obvious when you add up the numbers, that the growing rate of world obesity is adding to global warming:
Obese and overweight people require more fuel to transport them and the food they eat, and the problem will worsen as the population literally swells in size, a team at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine says.

This adds to food shortages and higher energy prices, the school's researchers Phil Edwards and Ian Roberts wrote in the journal Lancet on Friday.

At least 400 million adults worldwide are obese. The World Health Organization projects by 2015, 2.3 billion adults will be overweight and more than 700 million will be obese.
The report established that the obese require 1,680 calories per day for normal energy and an additional 1,280 calories for activities per day. That is 18 percent greater than those at normal healthy weight and impacts the environment through an addition need for agriculture (source for twenty percent of greenhouse gases) and transportation, as the obese drive more than their healthier counterparts...

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China quake may reduce vital carbon offsets


The deadly China earthquake's toll continues to rise, with an estimated 50,000 dead and an entire region's infrastructure impacted. This includes 15 million tons of carbon that have been subject to offsets -- the barter system that allows developed nations to trade their pollution credits with developing nations, thereby providing an incentive for new infrastructure to be built in a carbon neutral manner -- within a 150 kilometer radius of Monday's quake centered in China's Sichuan province.
"We counted seven impacted companies among the world's top 20 project developers," said Laurent Segalen, Lehman head of emissions trading, who listed EcoSecurities, Deutsche Bank, Endesa and Mitsubishi Corp among developers with nearby projects.

They included projects to cut greenhouse gas emissions from chemical plants or by replacing fossil fuels using wind and hydropower.

Stockholm-based project developer Tricorona said on Thursday that it had over 10 offset projects in Sichuan that it said may have been affected and corresponded to 8 million tonnes emission cuts through 2012.
Carbon offsets are an essential part of greenhouse gas emission control of China's growing emissions caused by the ongoing development of coal-based plants and the increased automobile usage by their billions of citizens. The companies involved have not been able to assess the damage on their individual projects, but, given the scope of the destruction, it is a likely assumption that the carbon offset projects will be impacted, adding tons of greenhouse gases that would otherwise be taken out of the atmosphere, unless an alternative arrangement can be worked out in time.

The Chinese government has put out requests for assistance with the rescue and recovery effort, the scope of which, after the 7.9 earthquake that was said to have lasted approximately five minutes, has been estimated at least 50,000 dead with cities nearly leveled and infrastructure such as dams threatening to fail...

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McCain's Murderers Row


A new website (firethelobbyists.com) has been created by Campaign Money Watch, to convince Senator McCain to fire three lobbyists working on his campaign that have ties to ruthless dictators. You may recall that over the past two days, two McCain aides have resigned because of their willingness to do public relations work for the Burmese Junta.

It turns out that they have friends in low places, however. I contacted David Donnelly, Director of
Campaign Money Watch, for a comment, and what he had to say explains what his group is trying to accomplish:
"John McCain ought to immediately fire three lobbyists — Charlie Black, Tom Loeffler, and Peter Madaigan -- whose lobbying for brutal dictators and foreign governments is every bit as bad as the two lobbyists who left his campaign over the weekend. Frankly, McCain's campaign is turning out to be an effort of, by, and for these types of Washington influence peddlers. His credentials as a reformer are gone."

Pretty strong words. Yet, if you read what these men have been up to, perhaps not strong enough...

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Polar Bears finally on the endangered list


by Janet Ritz

Cross-posted on Reuters

After months of delay following the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's recommendation to place the polar bear on the endangered list (a delay that included Interior Secretary, Dirk Kempthorne's failure to appear at a Senate hearing and a final order from a federal judge), the government finally listed the polar bear as threatened today:
“While the legal standards under the ESA [Endangered Species Act] compel me to list the polar bear as threatened, I want to make clear that this listing will not stop global climate change or prevent any sea ice from melting," Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne says in a statement.

"Any real solution requires action by all major economies for it to be effective. That is why I am taking administrative and regulatory action to make certain the ESA isn’t abused to make global warming policies.”
The move requires the government to protect the species and to take measures to help the bears survive, an important consideration and the likely reason for the delay, as this is the first time a species has been listed due to climate change.

The Natural Resources Defense Council and other environmentalist groups that sued the government to force the decision has said they will fight to for regulations on emissions that they cite as the causal relationship to the melting ice that is harming the bears.

"This is a profound acknowledgment of the threat not only to polar bears but to the entire Arctic ecosystem," said Andrew Wetzler of the Natural Resources Defense Council. "It is going to provide important protection for polar bear populations."

Dirk Kempthorne's response made it clear that he did not want to see this decision lead to a broader effort to curtail global warming...

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Myanmar/Burma's Cyclone Catastrophe: est. 100,000 killed, million homeless


Cyclone Nargis' ten hour devastation of Myanmar/Burma last Saturday is quickly emerging as a humanitarian catastrophe, leading their repressive and secretive military junta to take the unprecedented step of requesting international aid, while resisting granting the visas to allow those aid agencies and government organizations the access needed to bring those supplies to the impacted areas.

Reports of Cholera and Malaria in the cyclone zone have now been confirmed. The U.S. was able to land one transport plane with mosquito nets and water purification supplies. The Myanmar Junta has said they will let two more planes in. Concern is growing that the regime is either keeping the supplies for themselves, distributing them only to those with relatives in the military or otherwise connected to the regime and/or selling them on the inflated open market.

NGO's accepting donations for this disaster: World Vision, Red Cross Red Crescent, America Burma Buddhist Assoc., Global Giving, Doctors without Borders, UN World Food Program).
YANGON, Myanmar (CNN) -- The death toll from the Myanmar cyclone is more than [new U.N. estimate: 100,000] people, Myanmar's Foreign Ministry said Monday. Survivors were facing their third night without electricity in the aftermath of the historic cyclone that also clogged roads with thousands of downed trees.

Diplomats were summoned to a government briefing Monday as the reclusive southeast Asian country's ruling military junta issued a rare appeal for international assistance in the face of an escalating humanitarian crisis.

A state of emergency was declared across much of the country following the 10-hour storm that left swathes of destruction in its wake.

The people of Burma/Myanmar only learned of the impending disaster through outside news sources, such as Radio Free Asia and Voice of America -- which left them without enough time to prepare for the cyclone. There are reports of growing numbers of dead and homeless (rumored six figures), with an estimated ten thousand killed in one town alone:
The hardest-hit area was the Irrawaddy region where about 10,000 people died in Bogalay, 90 kms (55 miles) southwest of Yangon.

Aid agencies gathered in nearby Thailand are trying to work out access to the country with the regime. International calls to allow access to aid workers have fallen on deaf ears with the military junta. A U.S. carrier group that is in the Bay of Thailand to conduct, ironically, disaster relief exercises, could have helicopters with relief supplies and experts in the effected areas within hours, but thus far, has not received permission from the Myanmar regime to land.

The U.S. government is now asking China, a Myanmar trading partner, to get the reclusive regime to grant permission. These attempts, thus far, have been unsuccessful, leaving the USS Essex and its tons of relief supplies, marines and disaster relief experts to watch the growing humanitarian disaster in horror and frustration.

“Stories get worse by the hour,” one Yangon resident, who did not want to be identified for fear of government retribution, said in an e-mail message. “No drinking water in many areas, still no power. Houses completely disappeared. Refugees scavenging for food in poorer areas. Roofing, building supplies, tools — all are scarce and prices skyrocketing on everything.”
The U.N. Secretary General has issued a statement to say that he was "deeply saddened by the loss of life and the destruction suffered by the people of Myanmar" and has promised international support. No word, as yet, from the Myanmar regime's main trading partner, China, or from the oil and gas companies that do business with them.
Scenes of the destruction showed extensive flooding, boats on their sides in Yangon harbor, roofs ripped off buildings, uprooted trees and downed power lines after cyclone Nargis battered the Irrawaddy delta with 150 mile (241 km) an hour winds throughout Friday night and Saturday morning, dumping 20 inches of rain.
The death toll and ongoing humanitarian crisis within the already devastatingly poor population is expected to worsen as are the tensions between the government and their opponents, led by the country's Buddhist monks, whose protests against the junta were put down with violence last fall.

President Bush has pleaded with the junta to "let the United States come in and help you."

First Lady, Laura Bush, in a rare press conference, announced:
"Although they were aware of the threat, Burma’s state-run media failed to issue a timely warning to citizens in the storm’s path,” Mrs. Bush said in a rare news conference at the White House. “It’s troubling that many of the Burmese people learned of this impending disaster only when foreign outlets, such as Radio Free Asia and Voice of America, sounded the alarm."

The American Embassy in Myanmar has authorized the release of $250,000 [now $3 million] in immediate emergency aid, and Mrs. Bush promised, “More aid will be forthcoming."

Within Burma/Myanmar, the price of gas has soared to $10 per gallon. Food staple costs have risen out of reach of the population. This has led to growing anger across southeast Asia, as the evidence mounts that the regime was not only unprepared for the disaster...

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Honeybees at unsustainable levels: over one-third lost


A disturbing new survey has reported that 36.1 percent of commercial honeybee colonies have been lost, the majority due to mysterious phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder (CCD) where the bees abandon their hives and disappear.
SAN FRANCISCO, California (AP) -- A survey of bee health released Tuesday revealed a grim picture, with 36.1 percent of the nation's commercially managed hives lost since last year. Last year's survey commissioned by the Apiary Inspectors of America found losses of about 32 percent.

As beekeepers travel with their hives this spring to pollinate crops around the country, it's clear the insects are buckling under the weight of new diseases, pesticide drift and old enemies like the parasitic varroa mite. (snip)

About 29 percent of the deaths were due to colony collapse disorder, a mysterious disease that causes adult bees to abandon their hives. Beekeepers who saw CCD in their hives were much more likely to have major losses than those who didn't.
The University of Pennsylvania has received emergency grants of ~$80,000 to investigate the problem. These funds have been supplemented by up to a $250,000 grant from Haagen-Dazs Ice Cream Company to be split between the university and U.C. California Davis. The ice cream company relies upon honeybees for pollination of plants that provide many of the natural flavors used in their products.

This earlier report,
It's Official, the Honeybees are Gone, discussed the measures being taken in Congress...

The Gas Tax 'Holiday' Shell Game


Senators Hillary Clinton and John McCain have challenged Senator Barack Obama over his refusal to support their proposal that would suspend the .18 Federal gas tax for three months this summer.

The problem?

A near-unanimous chorus of protests from experts, economists and environmentalists, all of whom support Senator Obama's position that the 'holiday' would net less than thirty cents a day for consumers -- if indeed any net at all -- since, historically, oil companies have absorbed the savings without passing them on, while gutting the transportation infrastructure trust fund that is the source of income for thousands of American workers and the safety net for our highways and bridges that are currently crumbling.

Environmentalists have also added that it would likely lead to more gasoline usage as at time when we need to reduce our carbon footprint due to the impact of climate change.

The lone 'expert' in support of Senators Clinton and McCain in this scenario so far?

Spokesman for the Clinton campaign and SHELL OIL LOBBYIST, Steve Elmendorf.

To which, Senator Obama responded:
“In a moment of candor, her advisers actually admitted that it wouldn’t have much of an effect on gas prices. But, they said, it’s a great political issue for Senator Clinton. So this is not about getting you through the summer, it’s about getting elected,” Obama argued. “This is what passes for leadership in Washington, phony ideas, calculated to win elections instead of actually solving problems.”

The environmental organization, Friends of the Earth, has endorsed Senator Obama, citing the gas tax issue as false and lauding the Illinois Senator for standing up to political pressure to tell the truth about it. Newspapers across the country have also weighed in with their criticism, including this quote by one of Senator Clinton's own supporters:

“I was appalled by Hillary going with the gas tax,” said Alice M. Rivlin, a budget director under former President Bill Clinton who supports Mrs. Clinton for the nomination. It “looked like pandering,” Mrs. Rivlin said.

An open letter signed recently by more than 100 economists said the proposed tax holiday would do little to reduce gas prices. In part, that is because a fall in prices would lead to more demand, which would cause prices to return to their earlier level. The result would be that overseas oil-producing governments would get money now flowing to the United States government in gas taxes.

What is also being lost in this pandering: the fact that this idea was first floated by John McCain and then picked up by Senator Clinton...

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Why Rush Limbaugh thinks this site is 'unfriendly'


Recently, I posted an article by Huffington Post contributor,
Terry Leach, entitled: Hillary Clinton's 'Victory' in Pennsylvania: The Rush Limbaugh Effect.

The article discusses the potential impact on the primary numbers by those influenced to change their registration from Republican to Democrat, in order to vote for Hillary Clinton, as part of Limbaugh's "Operation Chaos."

Today, I was informed that Mr. Limbaugh
had mentioned this on his radio show:
Rush Limbaugh: 'I stumbled across something called The Environmentalist.org, but it's a blog on environmentalists. It was posted on Saturday: "Hillary Clinton's 'Victory' in Pennsylvania: The Rush Limbaugh Effect." And he goes on to analyze what all happened there. He said, "Something's not right." He goes on to analyze even more, and then says, "I believe that Rush's Operation Chaos is at play here and authenticity has nothing to do with too may new Democratic registrants in the last contests. This re-registration is, I believe, being undertaken at Rush's suggestion to cynically stretch this contest out -- as long as possible -- so that Hillary's promised kitchen sink theory -- will end up driving both candidates' negatives through the roof so that neither is likely to win against McCain. Voters in upcoming contests will always be swayed by the outcome of preceding contests. It's human nature to be influenced by the wisdom of those who've gone before us. But if I'm right -- and the outcome in Pennsylvania, and perhaps Mississippi, Texas, and Ohio were influenced by Rush's call to Republicans to keep Hillary in the race longer --Democratic voters in Indiana and North Carolina, and the states that follow, deserve to know that we're being manipulated."

This is not a friendly blog.'

I beg to differ.

is a very friendly blog (site, actually, we don't take comments), where contributors post about geopolitics, the environment and other subjects of interest -- not as a rule on environmentalists themselves -- and Terry Leach, a respected activist and former Democratic strategist, is a she, not a he.

Ms. Leach's response, upon hearing of Mr. Limbaugh's broadcast: "it is human nature to dismiss those out-of-hand that you either don't respect, those that you don't wish to empower or to acknowledge as to the impact of their actions. However, if there is any truth to the possibility that "Operation Chaos" is having an impact, it should be explored to determine if those changing their registration are doing so out of their own beliefs or because they hope to influence the process."

Mr. Limbaugh closed by saying "everyone is talking about Operation Chaos."

Apparently, thanks to Mr. Limbaugh, they are now talking about


Hillary Clinton's ‘Victory’ in Pennsylvania: The Rush Limbaugh Effect


What if Democratic voters and the uncommitted super-delegates come to learn that Rush Limbaugh had a greater impact on Hillary Clinton’s victory in Pennsylvania, and maybe Texas and Ohio, than say, the Reverend Wright, and the so-called ‘bitter’ comments? Would such a finding influence how voters view the Pennsylvania ‘victory?’

If my thesis is correct, you have to ask yourself why so many Republicans want Hillary Clinton to run against John McCain in November.

Here is what we know: Approximately 160,000 Pennsylvania Republicans, Independents and/or new voters registered as Democrats in the months preceding the April 22 Primary. Media reports widely credit the tanking economy, health care crisis, and war in Iraq for Republican disillusionment. But wait—let’s look at those very impressive numbers a little closer and compare the re-registration data to say, California. Pennsylvania is the home of approximately 12 million residents while California is the home of almost 38 million residents, over three times the size of Pennsylvania. So we might expect the California re-registration figures to climb to about three times the number of Pennsylvania’s re-registrants.

But that isn’t the case.

At 170,000 new Democrats, California, the most populous state, and arguably the state widely considered as being the most likely to hop on the latest bandwagon, roughly approximated the Pennsylvania experience, prior to its Primary election on Super Tuesday.

Something’s not right.

In the weeks between Super Tuesday and April 22, the date of the Pennsylvania Primary, the circular firing squad occurring between the two Democratic campaigns increased both Democratic candidates’ unfavorability ratings, while McCain began to win against both candidates in hypothetical match-up polls, for the first time. If distressed Republicans wanted to bail out of their Party, common sense suggests that they’d have been much more likely to do so after McCain locked up the GOP nomination but before Clinton and Obama began to engage in the 24/7 mud wrestling match leading up to the Pennsylvania campaign.

I’ve worn a lot of hats in my life, one of which was to serve as a Democratic strategist for congressional and statewide campaigns, and the other, as the Democratic Party’s Voter Registration Chair for the most evenly split county in the nine county San Francisco Bay Area. I have conducted over 100 voter registration events in front of area Target stores, Farmers’ Markets, at the mall, in schools and colleges and at area train stations in the last several years. I have talked to voters of every age, color, religion, socio-economic class, and gender. I have observed one common characteristic of authentically disillusioned Republicans.

They share with me that they are torn about their decision to register out of the Party of their parents. Almost reverently, they talk about the Republican Party they grew up with, and often articulate a concern that their family not learn about their defection. And in almost all cases, and I’ve helped hundreds of voters re-register--they leave their Grand Old Party by first going to Decline to State
and then, after placing their newly liberated toes in the water by voting Democratic several cycles in a rowthey take the plunge and re-register Democratic.

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'Friends of the Earth' Endorse Barack Obama


The Friends of the Earth Action, the PAC political arm of The Friends of the Earth environmental organization, has endorsed Senator Barack Obama for President, citing Senator Obama's stand for "real energy solutions instead of sham Clinton-McCain ‘gas tax holiday’" as the key reason for endorsement.
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Friends of the Earth Action, a national environmental group based in Washington, D.C., announced today that it is endorsing Senator Barack Obama to be the nation’s next president.

“We endorse Senator Obama because we believe he is the best candidate for the environment,” said Friends of the Earth Action President Brent Blackwelder. “The ‘gas tax holiday’ debate is a defining moment in the presidential race. The two other candidates responded with sham solutions that won’t ease pain at the pump, but Senator Obama refused to play that typical Washington game. Instead, Obama called for real solutions that would make transportation more affordable and curb global warming. He showed the courage and candor we expect from a president.”

Experts agree that gas prices are likely to decline only slightly under a Clinton-McCain “gas tax holiday”—if they decline at all. Instead of signing onto this gimmick, Obama has called for long-term solutions that would limit oil consumption by requiring cars to be more fuel efficient and expanding transportation options including passenger rail.

Blackwelder cited Obama’s strong pro-environment record, his policy proposals, the profile he has given global warming in his campaign, and the broad mandate he is building for change as other reasons for the endorsement. Obama earned a 96 percent rating from the League of Conservation Voters during his first two years in the Senate. Blackwelder said Friends of the Earth Action plans to inform its more than 100,000 activists in the U.S. about its support for Obama and to campaign for him in remaining primaries.
Friends of the Earth Action previously endorsed John Edwards in the Democratic primary process and engaged in early state independent expenditures on his behalf.

Gourmet Boutique Brand recalls 143 Tons of Meat


A high end New York food company, Gourmet Boutique, has voluntarily recalled 143 tons (286,000 pounds) of beef and poultry for fear that it may be contaminated with the Listeria monocytogenes bacteria.

The Jamaica, NY, company manufactures both fresh and frozen foods. The problem
was discovered through sampling by federal and Florida food safety inspectors. No associated illnesses have been reported.
Included are specific chicken salad and sandwiches sold under the name Gourmet Boutique, and several frozen wraps and burritos sold under the names "Jan's" and "Archer Farms."
The fresh food products have end dates of May 2 and May 3. The company had an earlier voluntary recall, last March, of 7,000 pounds of meat for the same contamination. The company said in a recorded message they had made "environmental changes" at their plants to prevent a repeat of the problem.

Listeria monocytegenes is a bacteria that exists in ground water and other sources. It is responsible for the disease Listeriosis which is most dangerous to those with depressed immune systems, although it can be a problem for whoever ingests the bacteria.

The symptoms of Listeriosis include:
Fever, muscle aches, nausea or diarrhea. If infection spreads to the nervous system, headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, or convulsions can occur. Infected pregnant women may experience only a mild, flu-like illness; however, infections during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage.
If you find you have these products or have questions, you may contact the company here.

Rethinking Learning: Reading First's problems


President Bush’s Reading First program has had problems from the beginning. There are charges of conflicts of interest, budget fights, and now the Department of Education finds that it doesn’t work any better than approaches already in place. There was no difference in comprehension scores between students who participated in Reading First and those who did not.
"There was no statistically significant impact on reading comprehension scores in grades one, two or three," Grover J. "Russ" Whitehurst, director of the Institute of Education Sciences, the Education Department’s research arm, said in a briefing with reporters. He said students in both groups made gains.
"It’s possible that, in implementing Reading First, there is a greater emphasis on decoding skills and not enough emphasis, or maybe not correctly structured emphasis, on reading comprehension," he said. "It’s one possibility."
Whitehurst said there are other possible explanations. One, he said, is that the program "doesn’t end up helping children read." He said the program’s approach could be effective in helping students learn building-block skills yet not "take children far enough along to have a significant impact on comprehension." (Washington Post May 1, 2008)
The Institute of Education Statistics (IES) study:

Impacts were estimated for each study site and averaged across sites in proportion to their number of Reading First schools in the sample for years 2004-2005 and 2005-2006. Average impacts represent the average study school. On average:

* Reading First did not improve students’ reading comprehension.
The program did not increase the percentages of students in grades one, two, or three, whose reading comprehension scores were at or above grade level. In each of the three grades, fewer than half of the students in the Reading First schools were reading at or above grade level.

* Reading First increased total class time spent on the five essential components of reading instruction promoted by the
program. The program increased average class time spent on the five essential components of reading instruction by 8.56 minutes per daily reading block in grade one, and by 12.09 minutes per daily reading block in grade two. This implies a weekly increase of three quarters of an hour for grade one and one hour for grade two.

* Reading First increased highly explicit instruction in grades one and two and increased high quality student practice in grade two.
The program increased the percentage of class observational intervals spent on the five dimensions of reading instruction that involve highly explicit instruction by 3.65 percentage points in grade one and by 6.98 percentage points in grade two. The program also
increased the percentage of class observational intervals spent on the five dimensions of reading instruction that involve high quality student practice by 3.67 percentage points in grade two. There was virtually no observed change in grade one.

Reading First had mixed effects on student engagement with print. The program reduced the percentage of students engaged with print by a statistically significant 8.42 percentage points in grade two. The impact on student engagement with print in grade one (4.63 percentage points) was not statistically significant.
Rep. George Miller, D-Calif. chairman of the House education committee, said the report, "coupled with the scandals revealed last year, shows that we need to seriously re-examine this program and figure out how to make it work better for students."

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Lawsuit filed to stop wolf killings


30 days after the Bush Administration removed Yellowstone's Gray Wolves from the endangered list, a lawsuit has been filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council to stop the toll on the small population, now at 37 dead wolves and counting.
On the very day that these wolves lost their Endangered Species protection, a crippled wolf named "Limpy," one of the most photographed wolves in Yellowstone's famous Druid Peak pack, was shot to death when he ventured outside the park.

Another wolf was stalked for over 35 miles by snowmobile before being overtaken and shot. Another was found dead on the side of the highway, his still-warm body torn apart by bullets. And, tragically, at least four female wolves have been killed just prior to the denning season, which could doom some of the region's wolf pups.
The Gray Wolf was taken off the endangered list earlier this year, after repeated attempts by the Bush Administration to remove them from the list, despite their marginal population. The NRDC Action Fund has issued a press release (excerpt):

The restoration of the gray wolf in the Northern Rockies is one of America's greatest environmental success stories. Wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone and the central Idaho wilderness in 1995 after being exterminated by settlers, trappers and the federal government. Since then, these new populations have increased to 1,500 or so animals. Wolves play a crucial role in the ecosystems of the Northern Rockies, helping to preserve riparian forests and maintain healthy populations of raptors and coyotes. They are also a boon to the region's economy, generating tens of millions of dollars in tourist revenue each year.

But Rocky Mountain wolves are now in grave danger. In March 2008, the Bush Administration stripped gray wolves in Greater Yellowstone and across the Northern Rockies of endangered species protection. Earlier in the year, the administration issued a new rule allowing the slaughter of hundreds of these wolves. Entire packs of wolves could be gunned down from airplanes in minutes. In fact, the federal government has already spent our tax dollars to buy two planes for the purpose of aerial gunning.
The Bush Administration's move is supported by trophy hunters who wish to protect the elk population from the wolves so that they may hunt them instead and by ranchers who want to keep the wolves away from their herds.

A tragic outcome, as there are proven, non-violent methods to keep the wolves away from ranches, such as the ancient Turkish Akbash dog. This is a mastiff-sized white livestock guardian animal brought back to ranches around the world after it was discovered that predators would not approach herds where the dogs were in use...