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Saturday, October 19, 2002  

Shell Renewables has launched a cable advertising blitz profiling committed environmentalists who actually work for this subsidiary of the Shell oil company. Royal Dutch Shell, as well as BP, have been expanding their investment in renewables steadily. These voluntary moves by major energy companies is a shot in the arm to the idea of saving the environment without renouncing a modern standard of living. While American oil companies don't seem to be following along, Shell is moving into the worldwide renewable power generation market with wind and solar products.

posted by Natasha at 10:23 PM | PERMALINK |

Molly Ivins commented on the doctrine of pre-emption in September. Good stuff.

posted by Natasha at 8:00 PM | PERMALINK |

Courtesy of CalPundit we found a link to this recent NY Times story about the First Lady's literary symposiums. Thank god there's something nice to say about what's going on in the White House.

posted by Natasha at 7:50 PM | PERMALINK |

Ungodly Politics notices this gem about who sold N. Korea its nuclear equipment. Herr Rumsfeld had apparently stepped off the board of the company in question to assume his present responsibilities. Our 'experienced' presidential cabinet members strike again.

posted by Natasha at 7:37 PM | PERMALINK |

The Guardian's Nick Cohen is on a roll today, discussing how a divorce settlement was able to reveal certain Ernst & Young accounting practices for the first time, and a denunciation of what he calls privatization mania. This July column of his on the dim prospects of Iraqi diplomacy is also worth reading, perhaps even more relevant now than when it was written.

posted by Natasha at 7:24 PM | PERMALINK |

On Reuters:

A genetic study of Icelanders yields valuable clues about genetic susceptibility to a wide range of conditions, from anxiety to stroke. It's important to remember that not all individuals with genetic susceptibilities to conditions actually develop them, they just have increased chances over the general population.

Afghan music critics may have been responsible for the bombing of a wedding party, killing a member of the band and wounding 40 people. Violence has been threatened against area musicians before, in a place where all music was forbidden until recently.

Compromises are being proposed for the new UN resolution on Iraq which is in the works. There has been some indication that the US might be willing to accept a final wording that does not explicitly authorize the use of force.

The Israeli government has begun dismantling rogue settlements, scuffling with a small group of settlers this Saturday. They have (good for them) been trying to enforce a promise that there would be no new settlements. Around 200,000 Israelis live on land which Palestinians regard as theirs, and there is increasing Palestinian agitation for international observers. The article continued:

In a separate incident, peace activists said Palestinians harvesting olives near Nablus were threatened by Jewish settlers who pushed them around and then fired in the air to keep them away from trees planted next to a settlement fence.

Israeli police said two settlers were detained for questioning.

In another small village near Nablus, 15 Palestinian families fled their homes after being subjected to repeated vandalism by settlers who smashed their windows and contaminated their water supply, Palestinian witnesses said. Israeli police said they had received no complaints.

posted by Natasha at 6:59 PM | PERMALINK |

Construction of the International Space Station is proceeding apace, with the latest shuttle mission returning home safely from delivering critical parts and aiding in the building project.

posted by Natasha at 6:40 PM | PERMALINK |

The glacier at the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro is disappearing at an alarming rate. It is now 82% smaller than its size in 1912, and is projected to disappear entirely by 2020.

This week, in the October 18 issue of the journal Science, Thompson and 10 colleagues have published the results of a study of six ice corps from Kilimanjaro, which document climate and environmental variability over nearly 12,000 years. The period of the greatest historically recorded drought in tropical Africa, some 4,000 years ago, was so severe that it has been considered instrumental in the collapse of a number of civilizations, including the Old Kingdom of Egypt. That drought was known to extend into the Middle East and western Asia, and Thompson's research in the Andes of northern Peru indicates that it may have been much more extensive.

Nevertheless, the findings of Thompson's team suggest that the current pace of climate change in eastern equatorial Africa is without precedent in its implications for human civilization. The melting of tropical glaciers is, according to Thompson, "an indicator of massive changes taking place and a response to the changes in climate." The evidence of the retreat and loss of these large bodies of ice are part of the evidence that has convinced him that global warming has begun to make an irreversible mark on the planet.

The ice of high-altitude glaciers is likely to be severely damaging to the areas above which they tower. "The loss of these frozen reservoirs threaten water resources for hydroelectric power production in the region, and for crop irrigation and municipal water supplies," Thompson says.

posted by Natasha at 6:36 PM | PERMALINK |

On CNN today:

Andrea Mitchell reported on the North Korean situation. It's now been released that the administration did deliberately hold back the information regarding that country's admitted nuclear program to avoid having it considered during the congressional debate on Iraq. They did not wish to be charged with pursuing a double standard regarding Iraq and North Korea. With a 1.7 million man army, war is considered a last resort in dealing with this isolated nation. (It would seem to that, especially in light of this, our 'gravest eminent threat' label for Iraq is overblown at best. They're just the gravest threat we feel we can tackle. Not as stirring an argument.)

General Bernard Trainor came on to speak about a planned joint operation by US and Israeli special forces at the beginning of an Iraqi invasion to neutralize Hussein's scud missile stockpile. Between 12 and 40 of the weapons are thought to be in western Iraq. The general said there was no question that Israel would retaliate if attacked.

On the CNN website, this story was published regarding a private campaign started by two California men to send AOL CDs back whence they came. They're asking people to send unwanted (by definition, virtually all of them) AOL discs to their address. On collecting a million CDs, they plan to load them into a truck and drop them off in front of AOL headquarters. They have around 70,000 so far, and I'm planning to add to their collection shortly. I'm almost inspired to start my own regional drop off center, to get the bulk shipping ;)

posted by Natasha at 6:32 PM | PERMALINK |

Friday, October 18, 2002  

CNN Headline News shared the following tidbits this past hour, among other things. Follow-up links included with some items:

The University of East Anglia will be having a conference titled Blood, Text, and Fears to discuss the cultural impact of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer.

A Dr. Syler (sp?) has started a company called Vizual Edge to train athletes' eyes to track targets properly. Apparently this is a skill that can be improved, and increases the accuracy of data sent to the brain, improving performance. Sounds to me like something that more than the athletic community might be interested in, but you decide.

The Japanese government has tested a space shuttle of their own. The radio controlled mission was the first of four scheduled tests.

A third carrier battlegroup is heading towards the Gulf region. Its ostensible mission is to relieve one of the two groups there presently, but a war would likely lengthen the projected deployment times of the units already stationed there. Two more carriers are preparing to make the trip in coming months.

In a brief piece about videophone reporting on military activity from the Gulf... Reporters on American bases in Turkey, from which the no-fly zone enforcement is launched, may not videotape any Turkish people or buildings. Kuwait's government will not allow military action to be portrayed by reporters as practice for invasion, but instead as defensive. The correspondent finished the piece by wondering whether or not (loose paraphrase follows) 'we will be able to use (our reporting equipment) during the first critical hours and days of the war'. Apparently, our war correspondents have more certain knowledge about whether or not there will be war than even the president admits to anymore.

There's been a suicide bombing on a bus in the Phillipines, the second terrorist incident in that country in days.

The Clean Water Act turns 30: We no longer have rivers that catch fire, but the act is widely violated. Up to 40% of the nation's waterways carry advisories regarding recreational use or the safety of fish. Fishing in the Chesapeake Bay is presently threatened by shellfish stocks that are being destroyed by severe pollution.

Autism cases have quadrupled in California. A UC Davis study has apparently ruled out the possibility that the jump is due to better diagnostics.

From the ticker: Legal pot could bring estimated 29 million dollars per year in tax revenue for the Nevada state government. Further searching on the net reveals an upcoming Nevada ballot measure to legalize the ownership of small quantities of the weed.

The US tones down its language in the proposed UN resolution against Iraq.

posted by Natasha at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK |

The Nation discusses election strategy for Democrats in the coming mid-terms. Look here to support Democratic candidates with backbone, who did what their constituents asked instead of caving to the president. If you're in Florida, or if you're just interested in defeating sons-of-Bushes, read this article about the changing demographics of Florida's 'likely voters'.

And if I haven't made myself perfectly clear before, if you have complaints about the government, you better get to the polls and vote come Nov. 5th. If you don't participate, you can't complain how it all turns out. You don't get counted in the 'likely voters' side of the survey. Your issues will never get a fair hearing in Washington, and that's only right because you wouldn't speak up.

We saw in 2000 how even a few hundred votes can make all the difference. Your vote makes even more of a difference in a mid-term, when barely over a third of the electorate shows up. So SHOW UP.

posted by Natasha at 10:54 AM | PERMALINK |

Thursday, October 17, 2002  

From the Guardian:

A more thorough analysis of the EU vs. US split on the future of energy policy. It closes thusly, though I recommend reading the whole article:

While bombing Iraq would not in itself cause the oil price to rise sharply, an attack by Saddam on Saudi or Kuwaiti oil fields or an uprising in Riyadh would. The loss of, say, 5m barrels a day of oil production cannot be made up quickly or easily. A big crude producer paralysed by revolution can see production fall precipitously because its workforce is out on the streets rather than manning the taps in the terminal. This is what happened in Iran during the 1979 revolution. Iranian oil production fell from 6m barrels a day to 3m and never recovered. If the same happened in Saudi Arabia, the world would see oil prices spurt upwards.

...The EU has already committed itself to seeing 12% of all energy by 2010 coming from low-carbon, renewable sources in a bid to prevent climate change. Although the US Congress is considering a proposal to require utilities to supply 10% of power from renewables, the White House is suspicious of the theory of global warming and refuses to sign up to international treaties on climate change.

...More than 92% of the continent's oil and 81% of its gas will come from abroad by 2030 - putting the continent at the mercy of Opec and a nascent gas cartel led by Russia, Iraq and Algeria. The message from Europe is the need to move faster to renewable energies - more than 2bn euros will be spent on green fuels such as hydrogen in the next three years.

The US response is to build up its strategic reserve of oil, prospect for new fields in Alaska and consider launching a war for control of the world's biggest petrol pump. Given the diverging paths taken by the two power blocs, America should be wary of taking Europe's support for its military adventures for granted.

If such a divergence occurs, I await the magical transformation of Western Europe from 'close ally' to 'communist source of all evil.' We have always been at war with Oceania, my dear...

posted by Natasha at 6:28 PM | PERMALINK |

From the BBC:

Ever on the lookout for new ways to be arbitrary and phenomenally irritating, our government has taken to refusing visas for internationally admired film directors.

A UK minister thinks outside the box on energy, noting that "Paid predominantly by the US, the costs of protecting our Middle East oil supplies are as high as $15-25 a barrel - that is about a dollar a gallon." You'd think that the US, apparently footing the bill for all this, would have realized the high cost of our oil addiction in the face of reasonable alternatives before other beneficiaries of our saintly largesse. But apparently not.

And in a rare spot of good news, mountain gorillas seem to be on the comeback. We should probably not mention to them that we're all having a recession, and it's terribly impolite for inferior species to be having a better time of it under the circumstances ;)

posted by Natasha at 5:15 PM | PERMALINK |

My political compass:

Economic Left/Right: -3.62

Authoritarian/Libertarian: -7.44

Middlin' Left Libertarian. 's official.

posted by Natasha at 1:03 AM | PERMALINK |

Wednesday, October 16, 2002  

Woody Harrelson writes this article care of the Guardian titled 'I'm an American Tired of American Lies.' I'm not sure if this is 'the' Woody Harrelson, but the commentary stands on its own.

...I remember playing basketball with an Iraqi in the late 80s while Iran and Iraq were at war. I didn't know at the time that the US and Britain were supplying weapons to both sides. I asked why they were always at war with each other and he said something that stayed with me: "If it were up to the people, there would be peace. It's the governments that create war." And now my government is creating its second war in less than a year. No; war requires two combatants, so I should say "its second bombing campaign".

I went to the White House when Harvey Weinstein was showing Clinton the movie Welcome to Sarejevo, which I was in. I got a few moments alone with Clinton. Saddam throwing out the weapons inspectors was all over the news and I asked what he was going to do. His answer was very revealing. He said: "Everybody is telling me to bomb him. All the military are saying, 'You gotta bomb him.' But if even one innocent person died, I couldn't bear it." And I looked in his eyes and I believed him. Little did I know he was blocking humanitarian aid at the time, allowing the deaths of thousands of innocent people...

posted by Natasha at 10:55 PM | PERMALINK |

The news according to Fox: Christian Romance Novels! What will they think of next. To be fair though, they did also post this piece on civil liberties, and this one regarding a checklist for the arms inspectors. The arms inspector piece by Kenneth Adelman ends thusly:

... U.S. officials, including President Bush, can ask French and Russian leaders, "Do you wish to have closer relations with Iraq, or with America?" And: "Do you think your future rests more with Saddam Hussein or with George W. Bush? You chose, so we know."

Given our toughness, they'll choose right. And, if not, it's better to know that now, rather than later -- after we naively rely upon them in the global war on terrorism.

Apparently the son of a Bush isn't the only one who can't distinguish between the war on teror and the war in Iraq. And again, more of the 'with us or against us' attitude. Autocratic arrogance like this can only come to a bad end, especially now that we've got to the shoe-banging phase of nationhood. The US can barely even keep fairweather friends any more.

posted by Natasha at 5:29 PM | PERMALINK |

The Independent runs this story on the 'Forgotten' Al-Qaida victims in Africa. Where was their benefit concert?

Elsewhere, the Israeli inhabitants of Kibbutz Metser express displeasure with their government's plan to build a berlin-style wall that will cut off thousands of Palestinians from what remains of their lands and livelihoods.

posted by Natasha at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK |

TBogg this Top 5 list of the 12 least convincing reasons to start a war. Also mentioned was a new name for the proposed operation - "I am Inigo Montoya..."

My favorite least convincing reason: 8> They're a bunch of dangerous, narrow-minded religious fanatics who totally refuse to embrace Jesus as their personal savior.

posted by Natasha at 12:12 PM | PERMALINK |

This evening I heard a Democracy Now broadcast of a talk given by Arundhati Roy, author of "The God of Small Things. Highlights from a transcript, emphasis ours:

...The term "anti-American" is usually used by the American establishment to discredit and, not falsely - but shall we say inaccurately - define its critics. Once someone is branded anti-American, the chances are that he or she will be judged before they are heard, and the argument will be lost in the welter of bruised national pride.

But what does the term "anti-American" mean? Does it mean you are anti-jazz? Or that you're opposed to freedom of speech? That you don't delight in Toni Morrison or John Updike? That you have a quarrel with giant sequoias? Does it mean that you don't admire the hundreds of thousands of American citizens who marched against nuclear weapons, or the thousands of war resisters who forced their government to withdraw from Vietnam? Does it mean that you hate all Americans?

This sly conflation of America's culture, music, literature, the breathtaking physical beauty of the land, the ordinary pleasures of ordinary people with criticism of the U.S. government's foreign policy (about which, thanks to America's "free press", sadly most Americans know very little) is a deliberate and extremely effective strategy. It's like a retreating army taking cover in a heavily populated city, hoping that the prospect of hitting civilian targets will deter enemy fire...

To call someone "anti-American", indeed to be anti-American, (or for that matter, anti-Indian or anti-Timbuktuan) is not just racist, it's a failure of the imagination. An inability to see the world in terms other than those the establishment has set out for you. If you're not a Bushie you're a Taliban. If you don't love us, you hate us. If you're not Good, you're Evil. If you're not with us, you're with the terrorists...

Everyday I'm taken aback at how many people believe that opposing the war in Afghanistan amounts to supporting terrorism, of voting for the Taliban. Now that the initial aim of the war - capturing Osama bin Laden (dead or alive) - seems to have run into bad weather, the goalposts have been moved. It's being made out that the whole point of the war was to topple the Taliban regime and liberate Afghan women from their burqas, we are being asked to believe that the U.S. marines are actually on a feminist mission [laughter, applause]. (If so, will their next stop be America's military ally Saudi Arabia?) [Laughter] Think of it this way: in India there are some pretty reprehensible social practices against "untouchables", against Christians and Muslims, against women. Pakistan and Bangladesh have even worse ways of dealing with minority communities and women. Should they be bombed? Should Delhi, Islamabad and Dhaka be destroyed? Is it possible to bomb bigotry out of India? Can we bomb our way to a feminist paradise? [Laughter] Is that how women won the vote in the U.S?...

In the last ten years of unbridled Corporate Globalization, the world's total income has increased by an average of 2.5 percent a year. And yet the numbers of poor in the world has increased by 100 million. Of the top hundred biggest economies, 51 are corporations, not countries. The top 1 percent of the world has the same combined income as the bottom 57 percent and that disparity is growing. ...

As the War Against Terror casts its net wider and wider, America's corporate heart is hemorrhaging. For all the endless, empty chatter about democracy, today the world is run by three of the most secretive institutions in the world: The International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization, all three of which, in turn, are dominated by the U.S. Their decisions are made in secret. The people who head them are appointed behind closed doors. Nobody really knows anything about them, their politics, their beliefs, their intentions. Nobody elected them. Nobody said they could make decisions on our behalf. A world run by a handful of greedy bankers and C.E.O.'s whom nobody elected can't possibly last.

Soviet-style communism failed, not because it was intrinsically evil but because it was flawed. It allowed too few people to usurp too much power. Twenty-first century market-capitalism, American style, will fail for the same reasons. Both are edifices constructed by the human intelligence, undone by human nature. ...

posted by Natasha at 12:39 AM | PERMALINK |

Tuesday, October 15, 2002  

More evidence that Bush can't tell one thing from another, just as he said he couldn't.

posted by Natasha at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK |

This Guardian commentary on GATS by George Monbiot is yet another reminder of why there is still much to protest anytime world leaders hold secret meetings behind barricades. Emphasis ours:

GATS is the General Agreement on Trade in Services, which is overseen by the World Trade Organisation, the body responsible for bringing down the trade barriers between nations. The new negotiations have been driven, above all, by British corporations, hoping to open up the service sectors of poorer countries.

They are controversial for two reasons. The first is that GATS will prevent poor countries from defending their indigenous businesses, as all the current industrial powers did during their major phases of development. The second is that the welfare of the foreign companies' shareholders often appears to take precedence over the welfare of their customers: following water privatisation in Bolivia, for example, some families had to pay more for water than they paid for food...

Altering the constitution of the World Bank or the IMF requires an 85% vote. This looks achievable, in view of the profound discontent with these bodies in almost every nation in which they operate. Unfortunately they are controlled by the nations in which they don't. The US alone possesses 17% of the votes: it can stop every measure proposed by other nations, however desperately they are needed...

posted by Natasha at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK |

Afghan expatriates come home in droves. What was (is?) the largest refugee population in the world seems ready to give their home country another go. But they still face droughts and lack of infrastructure.

If you would like to help returning Afghan citizens rebuild their country; Doctors Without Borders, this UN program, the Afghanistan Women's Council, Oxfam America (there's a selection box where you can earmark your contribution for Afghanistan), and the home-grown Afghani group RAWA are all doing charitable work in that country.

posted by Natasha at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK |

The Onion hasn't disappointed this week, running this article "Bush On Economy: 'Saddam Must Be Overthrown'." While the Onion isn't the first comic outlet to enjoy the humor factor of our son-of-a-Bush's 'message' to the American people about the gravest of immediate dangers, they've done a fine job. Truly, as was said of Our President on his Ascension, comics everywhere breathed a sigh of relief, being guaranteed four years of solid gold material.

posted by Natasha at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK |

Monday, October 14, 2002  

In the Christian Science Monitor:

Joseph Stiglitz gains fans in latin america. His book 'Globalization and Its Discontents' has become a popular bestseller in several countries.

Canada's PM has signalled his possible approval for decriminalization of marijuana, which would change possession from a criminal to a civil charge. At this point, amnesty is planned for previous criminal convictions for possession, with records expunged and inmates released. While the US is of course, strongly opposed, they've so far indicated that they won't interfere. For more information on drug law issues, visit the November Coalition or the Media Awareness Project.

posted by Natasha at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK |

In the Guardian:

Blake Morrison addresses the question of why the popularity of marriage persists, all paranoia to the contrary.

Richard Norton-Taylor thinks that the bombing in Bali is a compelling argument against focusing on Iraq. Whereas Larry Elliot thinks that the economy is a more looming threat.

posted by Natasha at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK |

Jerry Falwell has finally apologized for calling the prophet Mohammed a terrorist. He said in his statement, "I have always shown respect for other religions, faiths and denominations." Now *that* is news.

posted by Natasha at 12:07 PM | PERMALINK |

Sunday, October 13, 2002  

For the people who still think it's all about WMD, Ethel the Blog presents the history of the current conflict in terms of a 'Great Game' framework.

posted by Natasha at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK |

The Light of Reason lives up to it's name, excoriating an argument for censorship on the basis of... a letter from *Mark Twain*. There's an interesting quote from an Ayn Rand essay, regarding the difference between liberals and conservatives. It's description of conservatives put forth a very clear argument as to why it's far more dangerous to freedom (or democracy, or any other virtue we supposedly favor) to have people take its name and violate its spirit.

As to Rand's assessment of liberals, show me how to make our lives free of the consequences of rejecting any obligations to take care of each other, and I'll go right along in agreeing that government controls should be completely removed.

posted by Natasha at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK |