Palin Loses Attempt to Block Protection of Alaska's Whales


When the Center for Biological Diversity's 2006 request to have Alaska's beluga whales put on the endangered list came up for consideration last April, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin questioned the scientific evidence that the population was declining and lobbied for a six month delay to count the whales.

The answer is in. According to the National Marine Fisheries Service, run by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the whales, whose population declined by 50& in the 1990's, have shown no recovery despite the protections already in place. As such, the federal government determined on Friday that the "beluga whales species native to Anchorage, Alaska, is endangered and will require protection to survive."
"NOAA scientists estimated the Cook Inlet beluga population at 375 for both 2007 and 2008," NOAA stated. "Estimates have varied from a high of 653 belugas in 1994 to a low of 278 belugas in 2005."

The listing has the potential to affect major Alaska projects including an expansion of the Port of Anchorage, additional offshore oil and gas drilling, a proposed $600 million bridge connecting Anchorage to Palin's hometown of Wasilla and a massive coal mine 45 miles south of Anchorage.

Palin had opposed the endangered listing -- as well as one decreed for polar bears due to melting summer sea ice -- in part by questioning the science and saying the listings would hinder oil and natural gas drilling.

NOAA's decision to list whales means any federal agency that funds, authorizes, or carries out new projects or activities in the area must first consult with NOAA to determine the impact on Anchorage's beluga whales.

Friday's listing follows an accusation by the Center for Biological Diversity of stalling by the Bush Administration, citing federal law that required the identification of a critical habitat listing by last April.

NOAA has stated they will determine -- within one year -- the changes needed in the whales' habitat for their survival. In the meantime, the placement of the beluga whales on the endangered list provides for their protection according to NOAA scientists' assessment of the species' needs which supersedes Governor Palin's and the Bush Interior Department's interpretation of science... Continued...


The International Day of Peace


The International Day of Peace was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1981 for “commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace within and among all nations and people”. Twenty years later, the General Assembly set the date of September 21st to observe the annual occasion as a “day of global ceasefire and non-violence… through education and public awareness and to cooperate in the establishment of a global ceasefire”.

This year, 2008, I had the opportunity to be present at the 60th anniversary of the International Day of Peace and to introduce my new film, ‘Rooted in Peace’ to the United Nations. Among the participants were 192 children who each carried a flag representing the nations of the world. It was also the 60th anniversary for UN Peacekeeping operations and its Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The International Day of Peace session was opened by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon who rang the Peace Bell at 10:00 am on Friday, September 19th in the United Nations headquarters accompanied by UN Messengers of Peace, Jane Goodall, Elie Wiesel, Michael Douglas, and violinist Midori Goto, appointed as the messenger of Peace that day. United Nations offices and peacekeeping missions around the world also held events to commemorate the occasion with a minute of silence observed at 12 noon local time around the world on September 21st.

To encourage even greater awareness of this important day, the United Nations encouraged people around the world to send text messages for peace on or before September 21st. Messages of peace were then collected by the UN who presented them to world leaders gathered in New York for the 63rd General Assembly held on September 23rd, 2008.

Conflicts rooted in grievances caused by systematic human rights violations, discrimination, marginalization and impunity manifest themselves long before violence begins. In a time filled with despair and gloom, from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to clashes in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Darfur, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, destructive violence continues to pervade our planet. This year, 27 million children live in conflict affected areas and more than 25 million in displaced homes. Continued...


European Union Proposal for Addressing Global Deforestation


The European Commission (the Commission) just released their proposal for addressing the challenges of deforestation and forest degradation to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss. This is the long awaited Communication on the European Union’s (EU’s) proposed position on global warming emissions from deforestation in the lead-up to the international climate negotiations in Copenhagen.

The lack of a specific position had caused some interesting back-and-forth between the negotiators for Papua New Guinea and the EU at the climate negotiations in Ghana. So, what clarity did the EU provide on its position as we move towards Copenhagen? (It is important to remember that this is a proposal and is not a definitive position of the EU, but rather begins to establish their negotiating position).
Serious goals for addressing deforestation are called for:...objective to halt global forest cover loss by 2030 at the latest and to reduce gross tropical deforestation by at least 50% by 2020 compared to current levels.Cutting deforestation loss 50% by 2020 is a similar goal to the one called for in the Eliasch Review (conducted for the United Kingdom government). This would cost an estimated €15-20 billion per year (~$20-27 billion), according to the Commission’s calculation.

Deforestation reduction credits not allowed in their emissions trading system prior to 2020 for a number of reasons including:

-- the scale of potential deforestation credits (deforestation emissions are roughly three times the total regulated emissions under the EU’s emissions trading system); and

-- unresolved monitoring, reporting, verification, and liability questions (e.g., what happens if the credited forest loss reverses due to a forest fire…who is held responsible?)

This is different than the approaches being outlined in two of the main climate proposals in the U.S.—the Boxer-Lieberman-Warner bill and the Boucher-Dingell discussion draft—which both envision that a portion of a company’s compliance could be met through the purchase of deforestation emissions reduction credits.

Major portion of EU’s funding coming from use of auction revenues from its emissions trading system (an idea proposed at the climate negotiations in Ghana). The Commission proposed that at least 20% of the proceeds from the auctioning system post-2012 be used to support climate objectives including tackling deforestation emissions. As the Commission notes, this could generate €1.5-2.5 billion (~$2-2.7 billion) per year in 2020 if 5% of the proceeds from the auction was dedicated to battling deforestation
... Continued...


John McCain's Missed Opportunity


John McCain missed the single greatest opportunity to address his most dangerous supporters directly and to repudiate their threats of violence after Senator Obama brought up the threats in the debate. McCain chose not to do so, calling them "fringe" while lauding ALL his supporters as "patriotic."

This came after Senator John McCain made a point during the debate that Barack Obama should repudiate John Lewis' Wallace comparison, which Senator Obama had done already, while pointing out that Lewis' concern about violence, given the congressman's first hand experience, was a valid consideration.

Senator McCain was not impressed. Nor was he impressed when Senator Obama directly brought up the vitriol from McCain and Palin's rallies, citing words like "terrorist" and "kill him," which John McCain dismissed as coming from fringe supporters, after which the Republican senator went on to laud all his supporters as "patriotic Americans."

This exchange has haunted me since I saw it. Not only because of McCain's hypocrisy (demanding repudiation for something for which Senator Obama was not responsible while refusing to repudiate his own supporters' threats of violence against Obama), but because I felt connected to Barack Obama at that moment, the shared concern for both his safety and for our republic, should these "fringe" supporters that McCain/Palin have purposely fired up act on their threats.

I felt haunted, as well, because Obama's words, to me, had the ring of Martin Luther King's "I may not get to the mountaintop with you" coupled with: "here's your opportunity, John, to do the right thing."

Senator McCain missed that single greatest and likely only effective opportunity to address his supporters and say: "I know most of you, my supporters, are good Americans. For those who might feel, however, that violence is the answer, IT'S NOT. Our democracy depends on the smooth transition of power, no matter who the candidate is. You must not go there or we will lose more than just a good man. We will lose what our founders wanted our country to be."

The sin of omission. And by that omission John McCain missed the opportunity to not be held responsible should the worst happen. Hopefully (God, please) nothing will happen. But that doesn't change the fact that John McCain had the opportunity to keep it from happening and chose not to.

Senator McCain: Shame on you.


Obama-sponsored Mercury Storage Bill Sent to White House


by The Environmentalist Staff

A bipartisan bill sponsored by Senator Barack Obama that will ban the sale of toxic mercury abroad in 2013 has been sent to the White House for signature:
Stockpiles of toxic mercury kept by industry soon will be stored safely in the United States instead of ending up on the world market where it might pollute the environment.

Under bipartisan legislation Congress sent to President George W. Bush Monday for his expected signature, mercury exports would be banned in 2013 and the Energy Department would be required to store the heavy metal permanently.

The bill's chief sponsor, Sen. Barack Obama, introduced the bill in response to a 2005 [Chicago] Tribune series about mercury contamination in fish.
"We know that mercury can cause serious developmental problems in children and problems affecting vision, motor skills, blood pressure and fertility in adults," Obama said in a statement. "While the United States has improved its efforts to collect and contain mercury, this country remains one of the leading exporters of this dangerous product."

Senator Obama, in conjunction with other lawmakers, had previously worked to obtain an agreement from the Energy Department earlier this year to keep its own 2,600,000 lb stockpile off the market. This new legislation will address both the Energy Department's stockpile and the mercury used by industry by requiring its permanent stockpile within the United States.

The Obama bill passed the Senate on Friday. It is co-sponsored by Democratic Congressman Rep. Tom Allen, of Maine, and Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska. Continued...


McCain's Worrisome Debate Lapse


Published on Reuters

During last night's debate, when John McCain was asked to name his order of priority for addressing heath care, energy and entitlement reform, he requested a repeat of the question in a way that matches a worrisome cognitive test.

Tom Brokaw asked John McCain to name his order of priority for addressing the three items and in which order, Senator McCain asked Brokaw to repeat the question and then replied by saying he would address all of them but did not repeat the three items back in his response.

I lost someone close to Alzheimer's Disease. During the heartbreaking progression of his disease, I watched as they performed cognitive tests, telling him items in order and asking him to repeat them back. His hesitation, attempts to answer without answering and then delayed recollection to some part of the question was eerily similar to McCain's response (which was quite different from Obama's specific answers to the actual question in which he addressed all three priorities).

Coincidence? Perhaps. But if not, it raises the question that anyone who has lost someone to Alzheimer's would ask as we know the signs and progression of this horrible disease.

From The Medical Post, April 9, 1996:

Cognitive testing can predict with 90% accuracy which patients with memory problems will go on to develop Alzheimer's disease (AD), researchers here report [...] cognitive tests had the best results. These were a delayed recall test, in which the person was taught new information and after a time delay, asked to recall it.
McCain didn't have the extra burden of time delay and he was taking notes. Despite that, he did not repeat back nor did he address the specific three items about which Brokaw had asked after he asked Brokaw to repeat them to him. There was also McCain's disdainful "that one" against Obama instead of using Senator Obama's name, which could have been a slight, as has been presented and questioned in the media.

But what if McCain, at that moment, could not recall Senator Obama's name?

I do NOT wish this diagnosis for Senator McCain. I use the term heartbreaking and Alzheimer's and all forms of dementia are just that and I sincerely hope he is not at effect of it.

But we don't know because, as Robert Greenwald of Brave New Films has pointed out, Senator McCain hasn't released his full medical records... Continued...