Month: May 2007


Yes, fight and die for us in the most important war we ever fought, but god forbid, we don’t want you to live with us.

BBC NEWS | UK | Gurkha hero appeals for UK entry

A former Gurkha who won the British military’s highest honour is appealing against a decision to deny him a home in the UK. Tul Bahadar Pun, 84, who was awarded the Victoria Cross during World War II, wants to move from Nepal to the UK for health reasons. But British officials in Nepal told him that he was unable to demonstrate strong enough ties to the UK.

Geez, are these guys morons or what? Is this just plain old “going by the book” incompetence, or something more malign? Anyway, I don’t expect anything more from these people. It’s kinda like how the US lets fewer Iraqi refugees in than Sweden.

Update June 3rd:

All’s well that ends well…

Tul Bahadur Pun, 84, who wanted to move from Nepal for medical reasons, promised to be a “credit” to Britain and expressed “deep gratitude”.

He was initially told he did not have enough British ties to move but was eventually granted a visa because his case was “exceptional”

NASA chief not worried about climate

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the chief of NASA, Michael Griffin

NASA chief not worried about climate – Yahoo! News

I guess I would ask which human beings, where and when, are to be accorded the privilege of deciding that this particular climate that we have right here today, right now, is the best climate for all other human beings. I think that’s a rather arrogant position for people to take,” Griffin said.

Nothing more to say other than if I were American, I would first be a little ashamed, I would then start demanding his resignation. This is the chief of one of this country’s premier scientific institutions, one that does a lot of weather and climate research, one that employs the world’s foremost scientific voice on global warming. Here’s what Hansen had to say…

James Hansen, a top NASA climate scientist, said Griffin’s comments showed “arrogance and ignorance,” because millions of people will likely be harmed by global warming in the future.

Wow, he was being kind.

Models underestimate global warming impacts

No, not Tyra Banks and Riyo Mori, climate models that is.

ES&T Online News: Models underestimate global warming impacts

Modelers don’t purposely err on the conservative side, says Marika Holland of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, but some processes “are just not well understood, and because of that have not been incorporated into climate models.” Holland has published model results on the fate of sea ice and coauthored the recent paper showing that ice is melting faster than models predicted. There are many reasons for the underestimates, she says. For example, models don’t fully capture heat transport between ocean and atmosphere, or faster warming as reflective ice gives way to darker, heat-absorbing waters.
But Rahmstorf says that modelers might unwittingly make models more conservative by applying “one-sided filters”, weeding out models that clearly overestimate the changes seen so far, but hanging onto ones “where everything is too well behaved and stable.”

Scientists are human too. The political and social climate in the US have been harsh to people who overestimate the effects of climate change. So, modeling scenarios that deviate significantly from accepted limits or runaway uncontrollably are discarded. Models are sets of assumptions based on underlying theory. If the theory of a particular sub-process is not clearly understood, then the assumptions become subjective. In a social climate that is waiting to pounce on an overestimate as example of negating the entire global warming phenomenon, assumptions made are conservative. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it comes at a price! As more observations come in, it does become clear that sometimes, things are happening faster and at greater magnitudes than our model predicted.

American feed makers used melamine as well

Well, turns out all that China baiting was for naught, because right in America’s heartland, Ohio, some feed manufacturer was using melamine as a binding agent.

Melamine From U.S. Put in Feed – New York Times

Ever since pet food contaminated with an industrial chemical was traced to shipments of wheat flour from China, American officials have concentrated on cracking down on imports.

It turns out the problem was closer to home, too.

Yesterday, federal officials announced that a manufacturing plant in Ohio was using the same banned substance, melamine, to make binding agents that ended up in feed for farmed fish, shrimp and livestock.

Apparently, it is Tembec, a Canadian company with a plant in Ohio. I am sure the effects to humans are not significant, but where’s the control? Where’s the list of things you can’t put in food. More importantly, where’s the list of things you’re allowed to put in? Food being a very easy mode of pollutant ingestion, the ingredients list must be exclusionary, that is, only approved ingredients are allowed. If something is not approved, it is not allowed…

Government fights to prevent testing slaughtered cattle for mad cow

Imagine a country where the government will go to great lengths to prevent you, a small business, from holding your products to high safety standards because it is concerned that big business will be hurt. Well, if you live in the US of A, it is your government! Yes, it sounds anti-competitive to me, and it is, but the USDA is in the hands of big business, and the plutocracy protectionary principle is in full force here, I can only laugh! Wouldn’t you like it if you’re suspected of a crime and try to argue that you don’t want to be fingerprinted because there might be a false positive identification on you? I suspect you would not get very far with that argument!

That being said, it would be interesting to compare the incidence rate of mad cow disease with the incidence rate of false positives, would settle this question…

U.S. government fights to keep meatpackers from testing all slaughtered cattle for mad cow – International Herald Tribune

The Bush administration said Tuesday it will fight to keep meatpackers from testing all their animals for mad cow disease.

The Agriculture Department tests fewer than 1 percent of slaughtered cows for the disease, which can be fatal to humans who eat tainted beef. A beef producer in the western state of Kansas, Creekstone Farms Premium Beef, wants to test all of its cows.

Larger meat companies feared that move because, if Creekstone should test its meat and advertised it as safe, they might have to perform the expensive tests on their larger herds as well.

The Agriculture Department regulates the test and argued that widespread testing could lead to a false positive that would harm the meat industry.

What happens when…

the national science academies of the 13 most important countries release a landmark strong statement about the state of the world’s energy crisis? According to the grist, nobody listens. Well, here’s to my 10 or so readers (self deprecation is the best deprecation!), the rant!

Bad news re: good news about bad news | Gristmill: The environmental news blog | Grist

The bad news is that we are in quite a pickle.

The good news about the bad news is that the national science academies of the G8 countries, along with those of Mexico, Brazil, South Africa, China, and India, have issued a unanimous and remarkably strong statement about our global energy quandary.

The bad news about the good news about the bad news is that the press is almost totally silent about it, at least in English-speaking countries.

Among the crucial statements in this document (PDF):

  • “Our present energy course is not sustainable.”
  • “Responding to this demand while minimizing further climate change will need all the determination and ingenuity we can muster.”
  • “The problem is not yet insoluble but becomes more difficult with each passing day.”
  • “G8 countries bear a special responsibility for the current high level of energy consumption and the associated climate change. Newly industrialized countries will share this responsibility in the future.”

Let me be as polite as I can stand about this. Where in the @$#! is the press?

And it goes on in similar vein…

If you read the pdf, you will note that it has the obvious solutions (obvious to the half alive, that is)

  1. Set standards and promote economic instruments for efficiency, and commit to promoting energy efficiency for buildings, devices, motors, transportation systems and in the energy sector itself.
  2. Promote understanding of climate and energy issues and encourage necessary behavioural changes within
    our societies.
  3. Define and implement measures to reduce global deforestation.
  4. Strengthen economic and technological exchange with developing countries, in order to leapfrog to cleaner and more efficient modern technologies.
  5. Invest strongly in science and technology related to energy efficiency, zero-carbon energy resources and carbon-removing technologies.

Nothing new here, just a very easy policy framework under which every major action taken by every one of these countries (and others) needs to work. Of course, planning, evaluation, implementation, etc. are difficult, especially on the technology transfer, behavioral change, and deforestation, but evaluate every major decision under this framework. You will see that things like corn ethanol (promotes deforestation, carbon intensive, not energy efficient), coal to liquid technology (carbon intensive, polluting, inhibits behavioral change), suburban sprawl (energy inefficient, inhibits behavioral change, etc.), excessive patent protection and intellectual property rights (inhibits technology transfer), war (well, everything on the list, really!), and I can keep going on, are just plain stupid, irresponsible and will lead the world to ruin.

just print that framework out (or better still, put it in your PDA) and evaluate every thing you read about energy policy using it. You’ll see why I beat my head against the wall a lot!

Also, note this simple two sentence evisceration of the “China and India are not doing it, so we won’t” argument…

G8 countries bear a special responsibility for the current high level of energy consumption and the associated climate change. Newly industrialized countries will share this responsibility in the future

I would add, of course, that G8 countries bear both current, and historical responsibility, other than that, well said.

California takes coals out of the fire

Seriously, for every bit of bad news you read in the New York Times about coal, you read a good news story about the LA Times about coal!

State acts to limit use of coal power – Los Angeles Times

The California Energy Commission on Wednesday imposed new rules that effectively forbid the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and all other municipal utilities in the state from signing new contracts with coal-fired power plants. The move, together with identical regulations imposed on private utilities in January, is a significant step toward reducing the contribution of California, the world’s sixth largest economy, to global warming.

This is important because California is a huge market and is imposing its market power wisely. It will buy coal power if sequestration actually works.

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Brazil offers AIDs drug factory to Mozambique

Brazil is positioning itself as a major manufacturer of generics, and offering to build this factory is a very good move because it will provide AIDs treatment options for Mozambique at affordable prices (well, better prices than the pharma giants would provide, at any rate). Is there expertise available in Mozambique to staff this factory and run it at the level of quality a pharmaceutical production facility needs? I don’t know the answer, but I sure hope so. Alternatively, is there any plan for Brazil to train and equip the personnel as well? It is good news, at any rate.
Brazil offers drug factory to AIDS-ravaged Mozambique – Yahoo News

Brazil has offered to build a $23 million pharmaceutical plant in Mozambique that will provide drugs to treat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, Mozambique’s national newspaper said on Tuesday.

Brazil, a leading pharmaceutical manufacturer, will monitor quality and transfer technology to the proposed plant, which would produce a range of drugs, including generic antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) to fight HIV/AIDS, Noticias reported.

The plan was presented to the Mozambique government by Brazil’s ambassador in the southern African nation.

Mozambique, one of the poorest nations on the continent, is struggling to find the money to rebuild its dilapidated health-care system, which was neglected during a 17-year civil war that ended in 1992.

The former Portuguese colony has been hard hit by the AIDS epidemic, with an estimated 1.6 million of its 18 million people infected with HIV. Only a fraction of those requiring ARVs are on treatment, with most of the drugs imported from India.

The offer to build the pharmaceutical plant was first raised by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva during his 2004 official visit to Mozambique. Lula said he wanted drugs from the plant to be available to other African nations as well.

Brazil claims the use of generic anti-retrovirals has cut its AIDS mortality rate in half.

Mozambican Health Minister Ivo Garrido said the government would decide next month whether to approve the Brazilian proposal. “We will have to study it very carefully,” he was quoted as saying by Noticias.