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Thursday, November 30, 2006

25 years of AIDS: global voices

It's been 25 years since the start of the AIDS epidemic. In that time the number of those infected with HIV has grown to a staggering 40 million worldwide.

What was once a fatal disease is now a treatable condition, but advocates say more needs to be done to protect the rights of those infected - ­ from universal access to treatment to the elimination of the stigma, which so often accompanies the disease.

This week on Making Contact, a special collaboration with Human Rights Watch, we'll hear stories from positive people and activists in the places worst hit by the epidemic.


Loon Gangte, President, Delhi Network of Positive People (DNP+); Father JP Heath, Secretary General of the African Network of Religious Leaders Living with AIDS (ANARELA); Rolake Odetoyinbo, Program Director, Positive Action for Treatment Access (PATA ­ NIGERIA); Grace Sediou, Founder, Bomme-Ifago Association, Botswana; Beatrice Were, Ugandan AIDS activist; Andriy Klepikov, Director, International AIDS Alliance, UKRAINE; Alan Clear, Director, Harm Reduction Coalition; Joe Amon, Director, HIV/AIDS program, Human Rights Watch.

Producer/Host: Pauline Bartolone

Greener News Room

For more information:

Delhi Network of Positive People (DNP+)
(a project of American Jewish World Service)

Father JP Heath
African Network of Religious Leaders Living with AIDS (ANARELA)

Positive Action for Treatment Access (PATA ­ NIGERIA)
20B, Brown Road,
Aguda, Surulere,

International AIDS Alliance, UKRAINE

Harm Reduction Coalition 22 West 27th Street, 5th Floor
New York, NY 10001
212-213-6376; Fax: 212-213-6582

HIV/AIDS program, Human Rights Watch
350 Fifth Avenue, 34th floor
New York, NY 10118-3299 USA
212-290-4700; Fax: 212-736-1300

Journalists Against AIDS, NIGERIA.

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2:23 PM

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

World AIDS Day demonstration DC Dec 1

"Together we must put an end to the paradoxical and terrible logic by which the medicines are in the North and the sick in the South."
President Abdoulaye Wade, Senegal

The UNAIDS’ report released last week reveals that more than 1 million people in Africa were receiving HIV/AIDS treatment by mid-2006. This represents a ten-fold increase from just 3 years ago, December 2003. Still, according to Africa Action,”The vast majority of those on the continent in need of such treatment still do not receive it.”

Ann-Louise Colgan, Director of Policy Analysis and Communications at Africa Action, said, “HIV/AIDS treatment is a basic right, and it is a matter of life and death for millions of people living with this disease around the world. Yet in Africa, less than one-quarter of those in need of life-saving HIV/AIDS treatment now have access.”

The UNAIDS report also points to HIV/AIDS gains in Uganda, which had previously been touted as a success story on the continent.

Africa’s women continue to bear a disproportionate burden of HIV/AIDS; the report urges a new approach designed to address the specific needs of women and girls who are most vulnerable to the pandemic.

This week, on World AIDS Day (Friday, December 1) Africa Action will join with Global Justice, the Student Global AIDS Campaign and other organizations rallying outside the White House. The rally, beginning at 2:45 pm, will feature live performances by local artists as well as statements from leaders in the struggle against HIV/AIDS in Africa.

Organizers intend to call for an urgent, increased international response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic and greater international support for the Global Fund to fight AIDS including a new initiative on health care workers, and an international plan to achieve universal access to treatment by the year 2010.

Greener News Room

Resource kit


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2:51 PM

Monday, November 27, 2006

Could global warming be crushing blow to crocodiles

Rising temperatures may disrupt gender balance among reptile populations, says Earthwatch-supported crocodile researcher Dr. Alison Leslie of University of Stellenbosch. Her comments came during the filming of A Year on Earth, premiering this week on Discovery Kids Channel.

With global temperatures generally on the rise, crocodiles may have a harder time finding mates. For crocodiles, gender is not determined genetically, but rather by embryo temperature during incubation, notes Earthwatch-supported scientist Dr. Alison Leslie, of South Africa’s University of Stellenbosch.

In an interview with three teenagers on a mission to find out about their planet, the subject of the new film A Year on Earth, Leslie explained how global warming could affect crocodile populations worldwide.

“A difference of 0.5 - 1ºC in incubation temperature results in markedly different sex ratios,” says Leslie, principal investigator of Earthwatch’s Crocodiles of the Okavango Delta project. Research shows that nest temperatures of about 32-33 degrees Celsius result in males, while temperatures higher and lower result in females. Temperatures within a nest can vary from the top to the bottom of the nest, and can result in mixed-gender hatchlings.

“More female hatchlings due to the cooler or hotter incubation temperatures could lead to eventual extirpation of the species from an area,” says Leslie.

The three teens, Jamie (18), Arsen (17), and Tyler (16), visited Leslie at her camp in the Okavango Delta, Botswana, where they acted as field research assistants on Leslie’s Earthwatch-supported research expedition. Their participation was part of a feature-length documentary, A Year on Earth, that will air on the Discovery Kids Channel in December.

The teens helped Leslie trap and examine Nile crocodiles big and small to monitor their diet, health, movements, and reproductive biology. Crocodile populations have dwindled dramatically in Botswana, due to overexploitation by hide hunters and conflicts with nearby communities.

“Even though crocodilians have been around for millions of years, and as important as these creatures may be in the systems they occupy, they are a much understudied species,” says Leslie. For more than eight years, in both Botswana and South Africa, Leslie has been working with the support of Earthwatch Institute to change that.

In 2007, Leslie will leave behind her Okavango research camp (in the capable hands of staff member Sven Bourquin), and will embark on a new study of the crocodiles along Zambia’s Zambezi River. Earthwatch volunteers will continue to assist her as she assesses the conservation needs of this population and surveys local villagers about crocodile impacts.

See Dr. Alison Leslie in A Year on Earth, a two-part special to debut on Discovery Kids Channel on December 3 and 10. A Year on Earth chronicles the work of three American teens who join Leslie in the Okavango Delta and several other Earthwatch research projects around the world. Together, they discover how ordinary people can make a difference in the most pressing environmental issues of our time.

Greener News Room


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10:08 AM

Sunday, November 26, 2006

12 Ideas for healthy holiday gifts

Thinking of giving cookies, fudge or a box of chocolates as a holiday gift? Perhaps, on second thought, a gift of health for the coming year might be closer to the heart - and better for it as well.

This year, think about giving something healthy to your loved ones, co-workers, neighbors and friends. Caroline R. Richardson, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School, offers some guidance for buying healthy gifts that the recipient will actually enjoy.

“Everyone thinks it is their own personal struggle to stay healthy, and that it is their own failure that they can’t keep their weight under control or stay fit,” Richardson says. “But this is something almost everyone struggles with. Helping out by getting someone a gift that will help them eat healthier or become more active is a wonderful thing to do during the holidays.”

In addition, Richardson notes, this is the time of year “that people fear most” in terms of the potential for weight gain. “People get plates of fudge and cookies at their offices. Food is everywhere, and most of it is not good for you.”

Dr. Caroline Richardson’s 12 ideas for healthy gifts

For healthier eating:

  1. Oil and vinegar. Richardson is a big fan of giving high-quality balsamic vinegar and olive oil as a gift. If someone is trying to lose weight by eating a lot of salads, some aged balsamic vinegar and a dash or two of good olive oil can make the difference between a boring salad and a nice treat. “This can be a really luxurious gift,” Richardson says.

  2. Sessions with a nutritionist. Lots of people have tried to go low-fat or low-carb, or have ridden the wave of the latest fad diet. But what works for individual people can vary dramatically. A nutritionist can help tailor a diet plan to a person’s individual likes and dislikes, and can come up with something the person is more likely to stick to, Richardson says.

  3. A healthy cooking class. Stores such as Whole Foods offer classes on how to cook healthy foods. In Ann Arbor, the U-M Health System’s MFit health promotion division offers classes. Other stores and community organizations around the country also offer classes.

  4. A healthy-eating book. One option, Richardson says, is Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy: The Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating by Walter C. Willett and P. J. Skerrett. And given the popularity of the book You: On a Diet, it seems some people are already following this advice.

  5. A crock pot, rice cooker or steamer. These will help the gift recipient prepare food in a healthier way, Richardson notes. Throw in a few recipes for a tasty soup or a meal that includes steamed vegetables.

For getting – and staying – active:

  1. Clothes for winter outdoor sports. “Get someone silk long underwear or furry, soft gloves or a good hat, and they will be more inclined to get outside and exercise,” Richardson says. This not only helps with physical health, but also can improve people’s mental well-being and reduce “cabin fever,” she says.

  2. A massage gift certificate. “Relaxation and stress relief are important for overall good health,” Richardson notes.

  3. A fun exercise class. Is the gift recipient someone who gets bored easily and may have trouble sticking to some types of fitness routines? Try signing him or her up for a dance class, or some sessions in yoga, Tae Kwon Do, water aerobics, indoor rock-climbing or spinning, Richardson says.

  4. A pass to the local park system. In the Ann Arbor and Detroit areas, a Metropark permit will provide access to a series of parks and outdoor activities. The gift recipient can go bicycling through the trails in the summer and cross-country skiing in the winter. Other areas of the country also have excellent park systems that can encourage people to exercise in the great outdoors.

  5. A session with a personal trainer. Do you know someone who can’t stay motivated to exercise? A personal trainer is a great way to get people on track with workouts that help them build muscle tone and endurance, Richardson says.

  6. A tune-up for a bicycle. That bicycle with the broken chain isn’t doing anybody any good rusting away in the garage. Pay for the tune-up of a friend’s bike, and throw in an offer to go on some rides with him or her this year.

  7. Last but not least, a pedometer. Richardson is a huge fan of pedometers and often gives them to people as presents. Make sure it’s a good one; “some pedometers just don’t count steps accurately,” she says. One good one is the Omron HJ-112 digital pedometer because it is easy to use and accurate, she says. Also, www.sportbrain.com is a Web site that uses uploadable pedometers and gives users feedback on a Web page. And some books offer guidance about walking and using a pedometer, such as Fitness, and Weight Loss, by walking guru, Mark Fenton, and Manpo-Kei: The Art and Science of Step Counting: How to Be Naturally Active and Lose Weight! by Catrine Tudor-Locke.
Greener Magazine


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11:26 AM

International changemakers - honoring elder women activists

Women are gaining influence as leaders throughout the world fighting for peace, justice, the environment and civil society. In this program we profile three courageous women elders honoring their lives of dedication to far reaching social movements. We¹ll hear their personal stories and hear about their current work.

Australia's Dr. Helen Caldicott is the premier spokesperson for the worldwide anti-nuclear movement. The Smithsonian Institute named her one of the most influential women of the 20th century. Dolores Huerta co-founded the United Farm Workers of America and is a tireless advocate for social justice; Mairead Corrigan Maguire won the Nobel Peace Prize for organizing a grassroots non-violence movement in Northern Ireland.


Dr. Helen Caldicott, founder, Nuclear Policy Research Institute; Dolores Huerta, co-founder, United Farm Workers of America; Mairead Corrigan Maguire, co-founder, Community of the Peace People.

Senior Producer/Host: Tena Rubio
Contributing Freelance Producer: Lynn Feinerman
Guest Host: Sandina Robbins

For more information:

The Peace People
224 Lisburn Road
Belfast, BT9 6GE, Northern Ireland
44-0-2890-663465; info@peacepeople.com

Dolores Huerta Foundation
Post Office Box 9189
Bakersfield, California 93309

Nuclear Policy Research Institute
4423 Lehigh Rd #337
College Park, MD 20740
202-822-9800; info@helencaldicott.com

United Farm Workers
National Headquarters
PO Box 62
29700 Woodford-Tehachapi Road
Keene, CA 93531

Other helpful links:

Radio Campesina Network

Nobel Laureates Decade for Culture of Peace and Nonviolence

United Nations Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organization

United Nations

Amnesty International

Peace Council, USA.

Greener News Room


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7:43 AM

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Doing well by doing good

Benetech is no ordinary startup and its founder, Jim Fructerman, is no ordinary entrepreneur; he just may change the world.

For the past 20 years, Jim Fruchterman has been applying engineering talent directly to the cause of social good. When he first started pursuing the idea, it was pretty far out. Now it's common enough to have a name--social entrepreneurship--and Fruchterman himself has just been honored with a MacArthur "genius" award.

One of the mainstay products of his six-year-old organization, The Benetech Initiative, in Palo Alto, is Analyzer, a software tool for collecting and analyzing data on human rights abuses around the world. Benetech created an online repository of books for people whose disabilities prevent them from reading printed text. Up next: low-cost land-mine detectors for use by humanitarian organizations around the world.

It may be the start of a new entrepreneurial revolution in Silicon Valley, this one generating solutions to the problems of the world.

Greener News Room


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7:12 PM

Christmas without the stress

The seasonal rush to Christmas began, in case you missed it, on Friday with the retailers traditional holiday kick-off. This seems to mark the beginning of what, for most of us, is the annual headlong slide into a frenzy of shopping, decorating, cooking, and family cheer-making , eventually leading to chaos, exhaustion and post-pardon my bah humbug but is it January yet attitude.

In an effort to get started on the right foot this year we’ve come up with a short list of dos and don’ts designed to ease your family into the season and perhaps even enjoy the holidays for a change. So pour a second cup of your favorite brew and start your holiday planning. The way we figure it, you’re already 2 days ahead of schedule.

First: start making a list, in fact, make several lists. They should include:

  • gift list
  • food list/menu
  • family to-do list
  • house cleaning
  • decorating
  • social schedule

One reason to make lists of course is that, eventually, you can ignore them and just improvise, this in itself, can provide you with a sense of accomplishment.

The gift list is a no-brainer, you know who’s on the list and who’s not so now perhaps is the time to make those calls to friends and relatives and suggest drawing names or redirected giving to favorite charities in lieu of exchanging gifts.

Once your list is manageable, schedule shopping excursions and keep them early and short. Combine gift shopping with a trip to the grocer or hairdresser. Have lunch with some friends or perhaps take the kids to a movie as part of an afternoon in the mall. This will keep you focused, on time and more importantly, prevent that all too common hazard, the “shop till you drop” syndrome. Ten minutes extra in the drugstore browsing for stocking stuffers now is far better than a late night run on the 23rd of December.

By the second weekend in December, you should have 90 % of the gifts stashed safely at home and ready for wrapping. Gift-wrapping, for most of us, is a chore but only because we wait until the last minute. If you have your gifts ready to go, wrapping can be a very “Christmassy” thing to do and quite relaxing. Now and then take an hour off from household chores: cleaning, stocking the pantry and running the kids back and forth to practice, fix a cup of tea, turn on your favorite “how to” maven and follow along with some of the more elaborate wrapping tips that seem to proliferate at this time of year. Now you’ve given yourself the best gift of the season, a little r and r.

Assign tasks for each member of the family, they need to be involved in the spirit of the season as well. Kids old enough to explore the house can bring out the decorations and decide which special items they want to display. Team little ones with older children to create a sense of responsibility in the older child and a sense of involvement for the younger. Older teens and adults take charge of the heavier decorating, outdoor ladder stuff and, of course, electrical details and finally, everyone should join in on the final “light it up” night with some Christmas treats and a little family time out from the day-to-day bustle.

While you’re on the go with last minute preparations, or shopping for the Christmas dinner drop the teens off at the post office. They can stand in line to mail the gifts while you spend your time choosing the right wine or picking out the turkey. Kids are good at standing in line, that’s why they have iPods.

Now is the time to begin planning your holiday cookery. If you’re making treats for the family or as gifts, week 2 is a great time to get started. Organize a day around baking, candy making or preparing those special foods that are part of your family’s tradition. If you’re firing up the oven, it's best to bake everything now and refrigerate it rather than bake batches here and there. This early in the season, your family will delight in the warm, seasonal smells emanating from the kitchen.

While you’re cooking regular meals, make double and freeze for that last hectic week before the 25th when you just don’t feel like ending each day with a stint in the kitchen.

Week 3 is a great time to entertain a few guests or attend some gatherings if they’re on the schedule. More importantly, it is easy to do because now you have all the shopping done, gifts are wrapped, the baking is nearly complete and your home is dressed out in all it’s festive glory. Your friends and neighbors will wonder how on earth you did it.

Christmas week and you’ve done it; no last minute frenzy, no hurried gift-wrapping or trips to the post office. The decorating, done and everyone has had a chance to get in on the act not to mention the sights, sounds and smells of Christmas. In fact, with the extra time at hand you could plan a family outing, perhaps a visit and some time donated to a local charity. Nothing can do more for your sense of well being at this time of year than giving back a little of your good fortune.

So, as you ponder the season ahead, remind yourself that the holidays are meant to be enjoyed with family and friends. Don’t over anticipate and above all, keep it simple.

Greener Magazine


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8:50 AM

Friday, November 24, 2006

The simplest step towards an energy efficient home

“I used to like to leave several lamps on in my house at night, because it made the house seem cozier and more cheerful,” says homeowner Anne Norwood. “If I left my bedroom to go make a snack, I’d leave the light on, not imagining one tiny light bulb could make much of a difference.”

Light bulbs are so small, after all. But if you leave ten bulbs burning for just one hour – quite likely in the average house – you’ve consumed one kwh of electricity. And if you live in an area fueled by coal power plants, such as the southeastern US, you’ve burned an entire pound of coal.

But what’s one pound of coal, in the scheme of things? Well, they add up quick. The average house in the coal-burning southeast burns 36 kwh per day, or 1100 per month. Nationwide, the monthly average is 850. When you consider that 8 pounds of mountainside are blown sky-high from the West Virginia mountains to obtain each kilowatt of coal-fueled energy, those numbers start looking pretty ugly.

Certainly, a lot of this can be attributed to heavy energy drawers, like air conditioners (2 kwh per hour) or water heaters (4 kwh per hour).1 But even though each incandescent light bulb uses just 0.1 kwh per hour, collectively, lights use as much as 40% of the electricity in many homes!

The good news is, by switching to compact fluorescent bulbs, you can leave your lights on just as much and burn only a fifth of the energy. A 20 watt CF bulb emits the same light as a 100 watt incandescent bulb, because it wastes less energy in the form of useless heat. Hold your hand over a lamp with an incandescent bulb. Feel the heat? CF bulbs emit almost no heat; instead, all that energy goes into making light.

Fluorescent bulbs also last much longer than incandescent bulbs. Replacing just ONE incandescent bulb with a CF will save you as much as $75 in replacement bulbs and energy bills. In the course of its lifetime, each CF bulb will prevent more than 450 pounds of emissions from a power plant. If every American home replaced just one incandescent light bulb with a compact fluorescent bulb, it would save enough energy to light more than 2.5 million homes for an entire year, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those of nearly 800,000 cars.

This seems incredible, but you do the math. Engineer Mike Stenhouse was doubtful as well, until he crunched the numbers himself. “It takes 100 pounds of coal to fuel a 100w incandescent light bulb for its 1200 hour life,” he calculates. “This is no urban legend. I did the math myself. So if you burn the bulb 4 hours a day, that is 100 pounds of coal a year per 100w light bulb. I have (no kidding) 84 light bulbs in my house.

“As a specific example,” he continues, “we have six 65w spotlights in our kitchen. They burn around 6 hours a day or around 2,000 hour a year. In the course of a year, it will cost me $24 to replace them and $66 to power them, $90 total. And it will use 280 pounds of coal to power them. I replaced them with 15w compact fluorescent spotlights with exactly the same light output. They cost 50% more a bulb than incandescent, but last 3 times longer. In the course of a year, it will cost me $12 to replace them and $15 to power them, $27 total. So I will save $63. And it will use only 65 pounds of coal to power them, a saving of 225 pounds. That is an 80% reduction in power, heat, and emissions. Not bad.”

Not bad at all. In fact, what’s to lose? The only down side, which is minor, is that fluorescent bulbs take about 30 seconds to come up to full light output. For this reason, CF bulbs are most useful in places where the lights are left on for a long time, but it doesn’t waste any more energy to turn them on and off than it does an incandescent bulb.

Changing your light bulbs is so ridiculously easy it’s hard to believe what a big difference it makes. This is one change you can make right here, right now, and feel good about, right away.

by Sara Kate Kneidel
Greener Magazine

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10:00 PM

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving and your daily "toon"

Introducing "Day by Day", a swank new daily cartoon feature and the first to be featured in Greener Mag.

Day by Day is written by Chris Muir whom we're sure you'll see much more of in the months to come. The strip features 4 characters: Damon, Jan, Zed and Sam (we'll call them techno-beats) smarmy young 20-40 somethings each with his or her own political agenda and lots of "attitude", or is that atta-boy.

A coder, a marketer, designer and an engineer: all about remaking their world or perhaps just each other and finding in the process that the world has its own design. The strip is bright and entertaining, sexy in a political way? And, oh yeah, daily.

You'll find it on our side bar "Day-by-Day" so grab a cup of half-caff and join us every morning for your day by daily.

Greener Magazine

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9:29 AM

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Deadly ocean burp

Could a dangerous gas buildup at the bottom of the ocean bubble up and wipe out most life on Earth? According to some researchers, it already has done so; several times. As this ScienCentral story explains, scientists are worried that global warming is making conditions ripe for another deadly ocean burp.

Attack from Below

Scientists mostly agree that it was an object from space that crashed into Earth 65 million years ago, killing off much of the planet's life, including most of the dinosaurs. But geologists have found evidence of four other major mass extinctions and more than a dozen other smaller similar extinctions over the past 500 million years. In addition they've not found any corresponding evidence of a collision from an object from space.

Peter Ward, Biology and Earth and Space Sciences Professor at the University of Washington says, "Try as people would, they could not find evidence for impact other than at, really, the age of dinosaurs." Writing in Scientific American, Ward says instead that, "A new type of evidence reveals that the earth itself can, and probably did, exterminate its own inhabitants."

The killer is a type of bacteria that needs lots of sunlight but very little oxygen to thrive. It gives off the gas hydrogen sulfide, which even in small concentrations is lethal. People generally call the gas "sewer gas."

Because there was no evidence linking space objects to the remaining mass extinctions scientists began looking back to earth. Ward says, "while geologists discovered, better and better dating methods," other scientists discovered, "a fantastic new method called biomarker methodology."

Ward explains, biomarkers are, "small bits of fossil material. But, it's not a shell; it's organic remains, microscopic ... It could be as small as an organic chain of carbon that came out of the side of a bacterium, but it is particular to that particular bacteria species."

Scientists then began searching the layers of rocks that delineate mass extinctions. Ward says, "at four of the five mass extinction boundaries, the biggest ones, the microbes are microbes we find associated with lots of very toxic sulphurs." He says the evidence is quite strong, emphasizing, "We've got a mass extinction, we've got a lot of dead bodies and we have this fossil evidence, molecular fossil evidence that a very bad bug was there."

But what caused these bacteria to grow? Ward says long ago volcanic activity spewed carbon dioxide into the air and warmed the oceans. He says, "You simply need to warm the oceans, they lose their oxygen and bad bacteria take over." He adds, "There are hydrogen sulfide producing bacteria growing at several places on our Earth's oceans' bottoms today." In fact, NASA has caught from space, evidence of such growth off the coast of Africa.

Today, instead of volcanoes, it's human activity that is creating greenhouse gasses like carbon dioxide, causing the earth to warm. Ward worries, "The last time we had one of these extinctions, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was a thousand parts per million. Today, we're at 385 parts per million and rising." He says some estimates put us reaching a thousand parts per million in 200 more years.

Ward says scientists now need to better understand this chain reaction, explaining, "We absolutely have to know how long it takes between a lot of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and enough hydrogen sulfide to kill things." He says while industrial accidents have sadly provided us a good understanding of how lethal hydrogen sulfide is on humans, we know little about how it impacts other living things, such as plants. Since that's an important part of the food chain, that will be his next research goal in this area.

This research was published in the October 2006 issue of Scientific American and funded by the NASA Astrobiology Institute, the National Science Foundation, and the National Research Foundation of South Africa.

by Jack Penland - ScienCentral News

Greener News Room


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10:28 AM

Monday, November 20, 2006

Global trade: neither free nor fair

In this second edition of Greener's alternative points of view: 'resources, want and the meaning of 'shared quality of life', we examine the light directed on "Fair Trade" in 2005-06, by campaigns like the "Starbucks challenge" and Fair Trade Labeling initiatives; is the social experiment in economic justice really working?

The National Radio Project interviews some of the people at the heart of the experiment.

Although the advent of so-called free trade has made it much easier for goods and services to cross borders, it hasn't always made life better for average people. On this edition we'll hear how workers in Ghana are struggling to cope with the pressures of globalization. We'll also take a look at the ballooning United States trade deficit, and examine the fair trade label.


Jorg Bergstermann, resident director, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung; Daniel Kubwafo, poultry farmer; Sam Hansen, agriculture ministry district director, Twifo Hemang Lower Denkirya; Andrew Esemezie, managing director, Supra Telecom Ghana; Marilyn Sandifur, public relations manager, Port of Oakland; Mark Weisbrot, co-director, Center for Economic and Policy Research; Josh Bivens, trade economist, Economic Policy Institute; Benjamin Powell, research fellow, Independent Institute; Kevin Danaher, co-founder and public education director, Global Exchange; Colleen Crosby, coffee shop owner; Kimberly Eason, strategic relations director, TransFair USA; Iris Mungia, first secretary of women, Coalition of Latin American Banana Unions; Steve Gliessman, director, Community Agroecology Network.

For more information::

Friedrich Ebert Stiftung
Ghana Office
P.O. Box 9972, KIA
Accra, Ghana
+233-0-21-77-24-71; fesghana@myzipnet.com; http://ghana.fes-international.de

Supra Telecom

Port of Oakland
Marilyn Sandifur
510-627-1193; msandifur@portofoakland.com

Center for Economic and Policy Research
1621 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 500
Washington, DC 20009
202-293-5380; cepr@cepr.net; http://www.cepr.net

Economic Policy Institute
1660 L Street, NW, Suite 1200
Washington, DC 20036
202-775-8810; epi@epinet.org; http://www.epinet.org

Independent Institute
100 Swan Way
Oakland, CA 94621
510-632-1366; http://www.independent.org

Global Exchange
2017 Mission Street, #303
San Francisco, CA 94110
415-255-7296; http://www.globalexchange.org

Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting Company
331 Locust St.
Watsonville, CA 95076
888-725-2827; info@santacruzcoffee.com

TransFair USA
1611 Telegraph Ave. Suite 900
Oakland, CA 94612
info@transfairusa.org; http://www.transfairusa.org

Community Agroecology Network
P.O. Box 7653
Santa Cruz, CA 95061
info@communityagroecology.net; http://www.agroecology.org

Coalition of Latin American Banana Unions
Apartado Postal 4128
San Pedro, Sula Cortes, Honduras C.A.
011-504-668-1736; colsiba@racsa.co.cr

Greener News Room


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7:55 PM

Sunday, November 19, 2006

In the shadows

Editor's note: In the final days before Americans celebrate Thanksgiving, we felt it was appropriate if not essential to feature a few alternative points of view regarding resources, want and the meaning of "shared quality of life."

We begin with In the shadows, a photo essay by free lance photojournalist Parker Eshelman.

A glimpse into the downtown alleys one young woman calls home.

Behind the popular coffee shops, crowded sidewalks, and entertainment of bustling 9th Street in Columbia, Missouri, lives a family stuck in the shadows of society.

Over the past three years, Sheena Marie Andrews has overcome drug addictions and struggled with emotional depression while living on the streets. She was kicked out of her father’s house at 17 for her drug use and turned to her street family, which offered money, alcohol, tobacco, and companionship for the high school dropout.

At 20, Sheena is one of the youngest women sleeping in the alleys of downtown Columbia. She has quickly grown tired of the city, but not the lifestyle, and is looking for a way to escape before her next court date. Sheena struggles to come to grips with reality, but confusion over love, family, and identity has clouded her future.

Click here to read the entire photo essay

Written and photographed by Parker Eshelman / Columbia, Missouri
Republished with the permission of INTHEFRAY Magazine

Greener News Room


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11:55 AM

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Last rights: respecting diversity at the end of life

“We act as if there is one definition of good end of life care. And I would argue there is no one definition. In the end, it’s going to be many definitions.”

In the American health care system, "good end-of-life care" often supports the white middle-class, but people of diverse religions, languages and races often have very different needs and expectations. On this edition, producer Claire Schoen looks at how miscommunication, stereotyping and racism influence health care for people of color as they approach

Dr. Lavera Crawley, faculty member, Stanford University, The Center for Biomedical Ethics; Norma del Rio, social worker and bereavement coordinator, San Francisco Health at Home; Anne Hughes, advanced practice nurse for palliative care, Laguna Honda Hospital; Tamara Liang, Self Help Homecare; Evelyn Jordan, president, Florida Coalition on Hispanic Aging; Carmalita Tursi, director, AARP's National Diversity Program; Mrs. Sang, Chinese woman who died of pancreatic cancer; Theresa Kwong, social worker, Self Help; Chui Lee, nurse, Self Help; Teresa Bowannie, Zuni Home Health Care Agency; Dr. Bruce Finke, consultant, Zuni Home Health Care Agency; Reverend Frank Jackson, Faith Presbyterian Church; Regina Dyer, African-American woman who died of breast cancer; Dr. Richard Payne, director, Duke University Institute for Care at the End of Life.

Senior Producer/Host: Tena Rubio
Contributing Freelance Producer: Claire Schoen
Freelance Associate Producer: Emily Polk
Intern: Alexis McCrimmon

For more information:

ACCESS Workshop on Culturally Competent End of Life Care
1351 24th Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94122

48 Juniper Street
Roxbury, MA 02119

Self Help for the Elderly Home Care & Hospice
407 Sansome Street
San Francisco, CA 94111-3122

Zuni Home Health Care Agency
P.O. Box 339
1203 B State HWY 53
Zuni, NM 87327

North General Community Hospital
Harlem Palliative Care Network
1879 Madison Ave.
New York, NY 10035


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2:07 PM

A reason for thanks: food, energy affordable this holiday

Consumers should be able to afford their Thanksgiving dinner this year, the fuel to cook the feast and the gasoline to drive it to grandma's, said a Purdue University agricultural economist.

Food and beverage prices are up 2.6 percent this holiday season, while gasoline and natural gas prices are much lower, said Corinne Alexander.

"Food price increases so far in 2006 have been about average, with abundant supplies of many food products," Alexander said.

"We've seen a decline in dairy prices. Milk and butter are much cheaper this year than they were even two years ago. We've also seen an increase in the cattle herd nationwide, so beef prices have moderated. And while there has been hot weather that has damaged fruit and vegetable crops, we haven't had the same number of hurricanes this year as we've had in recent years. So that's helped in terms of fruit and vegetable prices."

Whole milk prices are down 3.4 percent, with butter 6.4 percent less expensive than last fall, Alexander said. Fruit and vegetable prices, while less volatile this year, are up 6.5 percent.

Turkey production is slightly ahead of 2005, although stocks are not as great, Alexander said.

"We have very tight supplies of turkey nationwide, so wholesale prices for turkeys are up about 3 cents a pound from last year," she said. "However, we tend to see grocery stores lure shoppers into their stores with deals on turkey. So whatever wholesale prices happen to be for turkey doesn't necessarily mean that prices are going to be higher at the retail grocery store level.

"Grocers oftentimes are willing to sell turkey at wholesale cost or below wholesale cost to get shoppers into their stores to buy potatoes, cranberries, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie ingredients and all the rest."

Consumers have more choices for their Thanksgiving turkey than just a frozen bird. Many grocers are offering free-range and organically raised turkey.

"A new trend is pastured poultry," Alexander said. "A consumer can go to a farm and choose their bird while it is walking around the pasture, watch it grow up and then it becomes their Thanksgiving bird."

Regardless what's on the menu, energy prices should give consumers something to be thankful for this holiday.

"One thing that's exciting for holiday travelers this year is that energy prices have fallen quite substantially from last year," Alexander said. "Gasoline prices are down 18 percent, which means that your Thanksgiving travel will be a lot more affordable. At the same time natural gas prices are also lower, so if you've got a stove powered by natural gas it will cost less to cook your turkey."

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9:37 AM

Friday, November 17, 2006

New technology harnesses ocean energy from gulf

Florida Atlantic University has been selected by the Florida Technology, Research and Scholarship Board to receive $5 million to establish The Florida Center of Excellence in Ocean Energy Technology.

The Center of Excellence in Ocean Energy Technology will address Florida’s energy crisis by looking at South Florida’s ocean currents, specifically the Gulf Stream (the most energy dense ocean current), as an abundant renewable energy source to meet not just Florida’s power needs but also the world’s power needs. As one of the fastest growing states, Florida’s electricity consumption is estimated to increase by nearly 30 percent over the next 10 years. In-state energy production is less than one percent of consumption, leaving the state heavily reliant on imported sources of energy.

Each of the centers of excellence will be funded with money appropriated by the Florida Legislature under the 21st Century Technology, Research and Enhancement Act. The Florida Board of Governors of the State University System of Florida met on Thursday to review and approve the recommendations of the Florida Technology, Research and Scholarship Board.

“This funding will lead to the establishment of a world-class center that will revolutionize future energy production on our planet,” said Dr. Larry F. Lemanski, vice president for research at FAU and principal offeror of FAU’s new center of excellence. “We are very excited about developing these innovative, energy-producing technologies, and we have put together a strong partnership base composed of industrial, academic and government partners to accomplish our goals and mission for our new center of excellence.”

FAU will work with the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Florida Power & Light, Ocean Renewable Power, Lockheed Martin, Clipper Windpower, Oceaneering, Aquantis, the University of Central Florida, Nova Southeastern University and Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution in establishing the center.

“Our Florida Center of Excellence in Ocean Energy Technology will be a synergistic partnership utilizing our combined ocean engineering expertise to foster the research, design, development, implementation, testing and commercialization of cutting-edge ocean energies that are cost-competitive with existing power technologies such as fossil-fuel-based power generation,” said Dr. Rick Driscoll, associate professor in FAU’s department of ocean engineering and co-principal technical personnel for the project. “This new industry will provide a clean, reliable, and renewable source of energy that can be used to generate electricity, unlimited hydrogen and potable water, as well as provide alternative methods for residential cooling or A/C.” Driscoll will co-lead the project with Dr. Manhar Dhanak, professor and chair of the department of ocean engineering at FAU and co-principal technical personnel for the project.

“To harness ocean energy for power is a laudable goal for any ocean engineer,” said Dhanak. “This is a really exciting opportunity for our department.”

The Florida Center of Excellence in Ocean Energy Technology will be housed at FAU’s SeaTech—Institute for Oceans & Systems Engineering in Dania Beach, Florida. The Institute is part of FAU’s Department of Ocean Engineering, located within the College of Engineering & Computer Science.

About FAU’s SeaTech – Institute for Ocean Systems Engineering

Florida Atlantic University’s SeaTech provides easy access to the ocean and is located on eight acres between the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal water-way in Dania Beach. Established in 1997, the Institute is part of FAU’s Department of Ocean Engineering, which includes 11 world-class faculty members, 27 engineers and technicians, and 40 graduate students who are engaged in federal and industry sponsored ocean engineering research and technology development in the areas of acoustics, marine vehicles, hydrodynamics and physical oceanography, marine materials and nano-composites. The Institute builds on and complements the academic programs of FAU’s Department of Ocean Engineering and provides the means for technology advancement, collaboration with academia, industry and government, and the commercialization of research products to applications. The Institute has received federal funding for research and development in the areas of durability of composite materials, coastline security technology, harnessing ocean energy, a program under a national naval responsibility initiative for training and development of a new generation of workforce for naval laboratories, and most recently for seabasing.

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3:05 PM

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Crusher robot

Who would pay millions of dollars for a vehicle with no steering wheel, seats, or a gas pedal? The U.S. Military, whose unmanned "Crusher" robot can drive itself. This ScienCentral News video explains.

Extreme Off-Roading

Researchers at the National Robotics Engineering Center, a part of Carnegie Mellon University, have developed an autonomous off-road military vehicle they've dubbed Crusher. It can travel over extreme terrain, like a 4-foot vertical wall, and can carry up to 8,000 pounds of supplies. All this without any human interaction, using a combination of sensors and artificial intelligence.

John Bares and his team at Carnegie Mellon developed Crusher for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). While some details of its design have not been released, its basic hardware consists of cameras, a GPS receiver, and sensors for motion, balance and monitoring the environment. An on-board computer combines all this information.

"In time actually the vehicle will learn things, like it will learn when it's spinning wheels, it will learn when it's losing stability, and can slowly adapt to try to do better as it moves," says Bares.

Crusher is one of a growing class of vehicles that can autonomously roam the land, like the recently unveiled Oshkosh Terramax supply truck; fly through the air, like Boeing's unmanned combat and surveillance aircraft the X-45; and travel the sea like Sias Patterson's Fetch autonomous underwater vehicle for coastal surveying.

A main innovation of Crusher is its high mobility. The researchers used a platform that's six-wheel drive, with very large tires, and a very high travel suspension. It also has adaptive ground clearances that can lift it up for navigating steep terrain or lower it down for a low profile.

"When we put all of those together, then we get a vehicle that can keep itself very low to the ground, but go over a tremendous variety of terrain obstacles," Bares says.

As reported on Scientific American online, the ultimate goal is an unmanned surveillance or supply vehicle, or even an automated ambulance.

"Medevac is a great one because that's a very dangerous application and we tend to lose many more troops going in to pull out a fallen soldier," says Bares. "So to be able to take in a vehicle and scoop up and pull out a wounded soldier is great ... and that's also a good application for autonomy, it can be a somewhat slow and deliberate operation."

A hybrid-electric engine makes the Crusher able to supply power in the field, as well as to run silently during surveillance operations.

Bares says that while Crusher might have weapons for self-protection, the current goal of the vehicle is to help soldiers in the field with arduous or dangerous tasks.

"I view these kinds of machines are more assisting the troops in the field and protecting them, and helping them many times with the unglamorous tasks, rather than replacing them," says Bares.

There are questions, like: What if Crusher breaks down mid-mission? Does the top speed of 25 miles an hour make it an easy target? And is it any better than a tank or humvee driven by a soldier?

"This vehicle can certainly go places a humvee can't go, and on the other end of the scale an m1 Abrams tank can go a lot of places but weighs 10 times the weight of this vehicle, so I think given its size and its weight, it does pretty well in terrain, and we're trying to make it a little bit better every day," says Bares.

He points out that Crusher is still only a prototype. "Our dream is to make a vehicle that would drive as good as a 14-year-old or something, not even a 16-year-old yet," he says. "So we have a ways to go."

Some question the risk of having robots perform tasks that typically require human intellect and problem-solving skills.

But Bares argues that "very qualified operators fall asleep, or they get tired. So in automated vehicles the hope is that we can improve safety in applications where we put them, but certainly there will always be risk, they are vehicles driven by lots of computers, lots of software, lots of sensors, and they are only as good as how we teach them and how they learn," says Bares. "Right now we have tractors that can drive in agricultural fields more accurately and in straighter lines than a human operator. So there's certain things that computers and intelligence can do very, very well, but there are other things where we have a long way to go yet."

With the project that created the first two Crushers costing $35 million, they're unlikely to be mass-produced anytime soon. But Bares hopes the technologies developed for the Crusher will also find their way into commercial applications.

"The ultimate goal is to try to advance off-road autonomy to make vehicles that are exceptionally smart and capable as they move off-road and be able to in the future apply that to all kinds of arenas, including commercial arenas, anti-terrorism, rescue response, military, agriculture, construction," says Bares.

The researchers are conducting field experiments of Crusher this summer, and plan to finish it in 2008, when army officials will work with the researchers to test the vehicle on simulated missions.

Recent innovations in Crusher's navigation technology was published in the August 2006 "Proceedings of Robotics: Science and System." More information on Crusher, as well as additional video, was in the May 15, 2006 edition of Sciam.com. Crusher was presented at a DARPA/U.S. Army Presentation of Crusher at Carnegie Mellon on April 28, 2006. Bares' research is funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

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8:31 AM

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

No fish by 2050

Research announced this week shows that, if present fishing practices are allowed to continue, there will be no viable ocean fishing in just another 40 to 50 years.

Fishing Records

The researchers studied fishing records worldwide and found that there's been a major decrease in the number of the ocean's fish and that the decrease is accelerating. According to the report's lead author, Boris Worm of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, "When I saw it, I was chilled, I was really shocked because, I didn't expect it to be so soon."

Worm is blunt with his assessment, saying, "We see very clearly the end of the line. It shows that we're going to run out of viable fisheries, out of all seafood species by the year 2050; so within our lifetimes, certainly within the lifetimes of our children."

Worm says the problem is commercial fishermen are overfishing the world's oceans, and doing so in a way that is harming the ocean's ecological balance. He points out that fishermen accidentally catch and kill large numbers of commercially undesirable sea life, what fishermen call bycatch. Even though humans don't eat these, fish do. Worm adds other fishing practices, including dragging large nets along the bottom of the ocean floor, can damage the ocean's environment, especially fragile coral reefs.

He says the study shows, "That this is threatening the productivity and stability of ocean ecosystems over time." He says that, in turn, means the numbers of fish caught will vary more and the remaining fish will have less ability to survive further stresses such as warmer oceans or pollution.

To reach this conclusion, a group of scientists from the United States, Canada, Great Britain and Sweden worked for four years pouring over 50 years worth of fishing records. In some cases they went much further back. Worm explains, "We've looked at a thousand year time period of 12 coastal regions worldwide, seeing how species were lost from those regions and what the consequences were." They also examined small controlled studies where researchers removed species of fish and watched what happened.

"What really surprised me and all of my co-authors," says Worm, "was that the answer we got from the variety of sites was always precisely the same." Without the missing species, says Worm, "we were losing the productivity and the temporal stability of the ecosystem, meaning that it was delivering less goods and services over time…and this delivery was less reliable, more variable over time."

According to Worm, "We showed that we're about one-third down the trend. There's two-third to go, but since it's an accelerating trend, we only have another 40 or 50 years now."

Not all marine biologists agree that the decline will have such a strong impact on the amount of seafood available for people to eat. Among them is Ray Hilborn of the University of Washington. He says his studies show overfishing can depress fish stocks to just 20 to 40 percent of prior levels and still be very productive, losing only about 15 percent of the potential yield. He says, "Now, to me that's not a crisis. I defy you to find many things in life where you get 85 percent of maximum."

Hilborn agrees that there are many areas in the world that are in trouble because of overfishing, but he says the problem is sometimes overstated. He points to the ban on fishing some species of fish along the west coast of the United States. He explains, "There are six stocks that are overfished, and they collectively add up to 1.5 percent of the total potential biomas of the west coast of the United States. In other words, they're a trivial portion of the food producing capacity of the west coast, and we're effectively losing nothing on the west coast by overfishing."

Worm says the study also offers some hope. In an additional study, the researchers combed the records of marine reserves and places where fishing of some species has been banned. He said those areas quickly started recovering. He says this shows, "If … areas are sufficiently protected, we'll see recovery of ocean species and with it, the stability and productivity of the ocean ecosystem."

Worm is not advocating a ban on fishing, instead he says, "We have to get more intelligent about what we take out of the ocean and what we put into the ocean. … If we do this right, we can continue fishing as we were for hundreds of years, (but) if we continue with the destructive practices we've been employing, we will only have a few decades left."

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1:15 PM

Toxic at any speed

November 15, 2006:: The Ecology Center today released its annual “Automotive Plastics Report,” grading the country’s eight leading car manufacturers on their plastics policies and practices.

The report concludes that, although all companies can still make great strides in order to be completely safe for the environment and public health, Ford and Honda have made significant improvements since last year, joining Toyota as leaders in the movement toward using sustainable plastics in auto parts.

According to the American Plastics Council, the average vehicle uses 250 lbs of plastic. A significant proportion of this is used to make interior auto parts such as seat cushions, armrests, steering wheels, wire insulation and dashboards. Many of these plastics are made with harmful chemical additives, such as phthalates in polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and brominated flame-retardants (BFRs). These additives off-gas and leach from plastic parts contaminating the air and dust inside vehicles, putting drivers and passengers at risk. Many of the plastics are also not easily recycled and therefore usually end up in landfills or incinerators where their chemical additives contaminate the land, water and air. Incinerating these chemicals creates dangerous byproducts including dioxin, a carcinogen that is linked to serious reproductive, development and immune system problems.

The “2006 Automotive Plastics Report” focused on three areas in which some automakers are making significant progress, including: 1) Use of sustainably-sourced bio-based materials; 2) Improving interior air quality; and 3) Reducing the use of PVC. Here is how industry leaders ranked:

“Ford, Honda and Toyota’s leading edge efforts in the use of bio-based materials, improving interior air quality and reducing PVC clearly put them ahead of the pack,” said report author Claudette Juska of the Ecology Center. “These issues are important to consumers and show a broader commitment to healthier, more sustainable vehicles.”

BIO-BASED MATERIALS: Automakers have stepped up their efforts to use bio-based materials that reduce petroleum use, life-cycle carbon emissions and vehicle weight. Toyota has led this movement by pioneering the development of an “Eco Plastic” made from sugar cane or corn, and building a pilot plant to produce it. DaimlerChrysler increased the use of renewable materials in
some vehicles by up to 98% over previous models by using natural materials such as flax and abaca fibers. Ford has developed a soy-based foam, and will soon begin using a bio-fabric for seating.

INTERIOR AIR QUALITY: Plastic components contain chemical additives that off-gas and contribute to “new car smell.” When inhaled, these chemicals can cause strong allergic reactions as well as serious long-term health problems. Ford is the only automaker that has certified vehicles (4 so far) using an independent, third party certification standard for interior air quality – the TUV
Rheinland Group’s “Allergy-Free” standard. This standard targets a broad set of persistent, toxic chemicals that have adverse effects on the environment and human health. Toyota has set a goal to reduce in-cabin volatile organic compound (VOC) levels in all vehicles globally by 2010; however, they did not say to what levels they would be reduced. Honda and Nissan are also reducing in-cabin VOC’s in order to comply with the voluntary Japanese Auto Manufacturers Association agreement.

PVC: PVC is difficult to recycle and contains dangerous chemical additives. Honda has set a goal to “apply PVC-free applications across its entire North American product line wherever feasible.” The company has already removed PVC from most applications, demonstrating that virtually PVC-free vehicles are possible to manufacture. Hyundai, Toyota and DaimlerChrysler have provided examples of some indoor auto parts that have been replaced with PVC-free alternatives in certain vehicle lines; however, they have not provided quantitative measures of progress.

OVERALL GRADES: While some car companies have made improvements from last year regarding their use of sustainable plastics, they still have a long way to go. Following are how they ranked overall in the 2006 report: Toyota C+, Ford C, Honda C, DaimlerChrysler D+, General Motors D, Hyundai D, Nissan D and Volkswagen D-. Together these manufacturers account for 94% of total vehicle sales in the U.S.

RECOMMENDATIONS: In order to reduce the environmental and human health impacts from plastic materials used in vehicles the report recommends that automakers: 1) Increase the use of sustainably-sourced bio-based materials; 2) Certify all vehicles to an interior air quality standard; and 3) Accelerate efforts to eliminate problematic halogenated substances, such as PVC and brominated
Flame retardants.

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12:01 PM

Monday, November 13, 2006

Lesser Flamingos find refuge at Kenyan lake

For the first time, Lake Oloidien has attracted thousands of lesser flamingos, a near-threatened species hard hit by recent die-offs. Earthwatch-supported scientist Dr. David Harper (University of Leicester) and colleagues, who have been researching the lake ecology of Kenya's Rift Valley for almost two decades, are investigating the die-offs at nearby lake Bogoria.

Lesser flamingos are surprising scientists by flocking to one of Kenya’s smallest lakes for the first time, by the thousands. Earthwatch-supported scientist Dr. David Harper, of the University of Leicester, reports that Lake Oloidien recently turned saline for the first time, making it good feeding habitat for the near-threatened birds.

“Word is spreading that there is food at Oloidien,” said Harper, principal investigator of Earthwatch’s Lakes of the Rift Valley project. “Last time I looked there were nearly a quarter of a million flamingos there. Oloidien water, though far too saline for humans or cattle to drink, is not too saline for flamingos. What we have is a remarkable and rare spectacle of groups of lesser flamingos feeding, drinking, and bathing in the same place.”

Lake Oloidien is a volcanic crater lake found at the southwest corner of Lake Naivasha, home to Kenya’s largest flower farms and a popular tourist attraction. Oloidien, which used to be connected to Naivasha, has steadily been going saline since its water levels fell and it became a separate lake in 1979. In July 2006, it passed the magic salinity mark and began to produce bacteria called Spirulina, the main food for lesser flamingos.

This news follows the sudden deaths of thousands of lesser flamingos at Lake Nakuru and Lake Elmenteita in March this year. Lake Oloidien has not been without its mortalities as well, and few hundred lesser flamingos have already died here. Kenya's lesser flamingos also suffered three mysterious “die-offs” in the 1990s, with a cumulative loss of at least 250,000 birds.

“In March, the lesser flamingo population suddenly increased on the main Kenyan lakes,” said Harper. “At Nakuru, numbers grew from a few thousand to almost a quarter of a million. Elmenteita’s went from almost nothing to 70,000. The increase in numbers of healthy birds was accompanied by deaths, but at each lake, only two per cent of the population died. It is quite possible that the dead birds were weakened by their travels and became susceptible to disease, which spread quickly in their crowded groups.”

In an effort to resolve the mystery of the flamingo deaths, Harper will lead a research team at Lake Bogoria in November in partnership with Earthwatch, the University of Nairobi, National Museums of Kenya, Kenya Wildlife Services, and Tanzanian equivalent bodies. A veterinarian and a bacterial toxin expert will also be present. The team hopes to examine current theories of flamingo mortality in order to provide the scientific and conservation community with answers.

“The massed ranks of flamingos, which sometimes occurs in flocks of over a million on one lake, make a spectacular sight equivalent to the wildebeest on the Serengeti Plain of Tanzania,” continued Harper. Despite these numbers and density, lesser flamingos are considered to be a ‘near-threatened’ species because their numbers are only about half of those formerly recorded.

For 18 years, Earthwatch teams have assisted Harper and his colleagues in their efforts to understand the ecology of Kenya’s Rift Valley lakes and wildlife. Their findings have resulted in more than 50 articles in scientific journals and helped spur conservation efforts both locally and internationally. Their results have ranged from charting the cycle of destruction and regrowth caused by the introduced Louisiana crayfish in Lake Naivasha to satellite-tracking the movements of flamingos from lake to lake.

Earthwatch teams will return to Kenya to help Dr. Harper's team in 2007. For more information about Earthwatch’s Lakes of the Rift Valley project, go to Earthwatch - Lakes of the Rift Valley.

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4:57 PM

Friday, November 10, 2006

Blood Diamonds

The new movie "Blood Diamond", which is set to premier December 8th is based on the conflict, human rights abuse and corruption erupting from the trade in illicit diamonds.

Set against the backdrop of the chaos and civil war that enveloped 1990s Sierra Leone, the movie, which stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Connelly and Academy Award winner Djimon Hounsou portrays the underlying greed, chaos and havoc engendered by the trade in Conflict Diamonds, also known as blood diamonds.

Blood diamonds, called so because of the cost in human lives exacted obtaining them, are in turn used by rebel groups to fuel conflict and civil wars. They have funded brutal conflicts in Africa that have resulted in the death and displacement of millions of people. Diamonds have also been used by terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda to finance their activities and for money-laundering purposes.

View Blood Diamond trailer

Only a few African economies have actually benefited from diamonds, while Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Liberia and Sierra Leone are still recovering from widespread devastation resulting from wars fuelled by diamonds. Diamonds currently fund conflict in Cote d’Ivoire and in the eastern DRC and continue to be used for money laundering, tax evasion and organized crime.

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is extremely rich in natural resources. Diamonds, the country’s most valuable export, are one of those resources, one which has contributed to increased levels of funding of armed conflict in the Congo from 1998 to now.

Since 2003, the DRC has been participating in the Kimberley Process (KP), an international diamond certification scheme designed to eliminate the trade in "conflict diamonds". Its participation in this scheme is one element that has led to a significant increase in official diamond exports. However, the DRC still lacks a strong set of internal controls to ensure that it can track all diamonds from the mine to the point of export. Diamonds are still being smuggled out of the country, and diamonds from neighbouring countries are being smuggled in.

  • Explore satellite map of the Kolwezi mineral region near Lubumbashi in the Democratic Republic of Congo and an open pit mine as seen from space.

The transitional government, which has been in place since 2003, has not taken sufficient action to exercise control over the diamond sector and ensure that diamond revenues contribute to the country’s development. The international community initiatives to encourage reforms in the diamond sector during the transitional period have also been insufficient.

Some progress has been made, notably since the DRC joined the Kimberley Process, but broader reforms have been slow and have lacked the strong political will necessary to see them through. The election of a new government in the DRC in 2006 presents an opportunity to revive efforts to improve the management of the diamond sector.

Donor Countries should seize this opportunity to work with the new government to implement effective reforms without delay.

Conflict Diamonds

Although armed conflict has decreased in the DRC since the peace agreements signed in 2002, fighting between the national army and various rebel groups has continued in parts of the country, particularly in the east. Some of this fighting has been centered around diamond mines and other areas rich in natural resources.

One recent example was reported on 8 March 2006, when military from the FARDC (Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo), the DRC’s national army, clashed with an armed group known as Simba, believed to be linked to the Mayi-Mayi rebel group, in a diamond mine in Ombadio, Maniema province in eastern DRC. The diamond diggers had asked members of the Simba group to come to the mine because they felt threatened by FARDC soldiers situated near the site.

More information on mining Blood Diamonds and alternatives may be found at::

"Conflict Diamonds" - Amnesty International USA

"Green Grow the Diamonds" - Greener Magazine, January 06

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9:44 AM

Thursday, November 09, 2006

American healthcare - on the road to nowhere

In the last four years, the cost has increased more than 70 percent. Right now, more than 46 million people don¹t have health insurance and that number continues to rise. The U.S. is the only industrialized nation that does not guarantee universal health care.

As costs of insurance spiral out of control and the government continues to pour money into Iraq, many people wonder how they are going to survive the health care crisis in this country. Joshua Smith is an uninsured freelance journalist, who traveled across the country to find out what others are saying about the state of health care in the U.S.


Suzanne Gruber, executive director, Holy Rosary Medical Center Foundation; Greg Leatherman, Idaho Quality Insurance; Mary Hernandez, director, Mental Health Foundation; Ron Olmen, CEO, Saint John's Medical Center; Ron Hill, director of communication, Misericordia Health Center; Michael Haristhal, Hennepin County Medical Center; Megan Meagher, assistant director, Campaign For Better Health Care; Beth Lisberg, Technical Writer; Benjamin Day, executive director, Mass Care; Alan Sager, professor, Boston University School of Public Health.

Senior Producer/Host: Tena Rubio
Freelance Producer: Joshua Emerson Smith
Freelance Associate Producer: Emily Polk
Intern: Alexis McCrimmon

For more information:

Holy Rosary Medical Center351 SW Ninth StreetOntario, OR 97914-2693541-881-7000www.holyrosary-ontario.org

Mental Health Foundation1245 North 29th streetPO Box 219 Billings, MT 59103-0219781-239-0071www.mentalhealthscreening.org

St. John¹s Medical CenterPO Box 428, 625 East BroadwayJackson, WY 83001307-733-3636www.tetonhospital.org/frontpage/Default.htm

Misericordia Health Center99 Cornish Ave Winnipeg, Manitoba R3C 1A2 CANADA1-888-315-9257www.misericordia.mb.ca

Hennepin County Medical Center701 Park Avenue Minneapolis, MN 55415612-873-3000www.hcmc.org

Campaign For Better Health Care1325 South Wabash, suite #305Chicago, IL 60605-2504312-913-9449www.cbhconline.org

Beginnings 1325 North State Parkway, suite 6EChicago, IL 60610 312-335-1218;www.beginningsdesign.com/beginnings.html

Mass-Care The Massachusetts Campaign for Single Payer Health Care8 Beacon St., Suite 26Boston, MA 02108 1-800-383-1973www.masscare.org

Boston University School of Public Health715 Albany Street, Talbot BuildingBoston, MA 02118 617-638-4640http://sph.bu.edu

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1:43 PM

On the road this Thanksgiving, in ways you may not expect

The traditional Thanksgiving meal takes much longer to prepare than the three to five hours spent in the kitchen that day. The journey to the Thanksgiving table starts months, sometimes even years before, say food science and agriculture experts at Delaware Valley College in Doylestown, Pa.

According to Dr. Jacqueline Ricotta, assistant professor of horticulture at Delaware Valley College, the passage for most agriculture products seed to plate is complex.

Thanksgiving green beans, for example, are typically grown in warmer climates - California or Florida - so their trip is a long one to the East coast. Green beans that are of the frozen variety are en route sometimes for days before getting to the packaging plant.

It can take years to get your cranberry sauce. The cranberry, a low growing shrub harvested mostly in Wisconsin, New Jersey, and Massachusetts, often takes three to four years to get their full production levels. Whether a berry is to be dry-bagged or canned determines how it is harvested, says Dr. Ricotta.

If a cranberry is destined to be the convenient canned sauce variety, a farmer would flood the bog and, by machine, shake the berries off the bush. Cranberries float to the top and are “vacuumed” into the back of large trucks and off to the processing plant they go to be boiled, flavored and canned. The bagged variety is harvested dry in a much more labor-intensive process. Using a giant “comb,” laborers essentially pick the cranberries by “combing” the shrub.

Your potatoes were likely grown in Maine, Pennsylvania or New York, and Idaho, and when treated with an anti-sprouting inhibitor, potatoes can remain in cool, dry storage for months in the food supply chain, according to Ricotta.

Whether a loaf or cubes for stuffing, bread starts in the fields, too. Wheat flour is made from the berry (fruit) of wheat grass. The berries are dried out, hulls removed, ground to flour, (flour is often bleached). At the bakery, water, yeast and salt are added – and baked to tasty goodness.

The star of the Thanksgiving table is, of course, the turkey. Unlike European nations, Americans, by and large, prefer the white meat of a turkey. Thus, over the decades, turkeys have been genetically bred to provide the biggest white meat value to the consumer. “Big breasted turkeys continue to be bred with big breasted turkeys to form even bigger breasts,” says Robert Pierson, assistant professor and chair, Food Science and Technology Department at Delaware Valley College.

Ready for dessert? Some pie, perhaps?

The pumpkins of Jack-o-Lantern fame are not the pumpkins used to make canned pie filling. They could be, according to DVC’s Pierson, but it would take tons of them since they are genetically bred to have thinner skin and less flesh for easy cutting. The pumpkins used to make filling are another type of squash that look more like giant gourds. These are the ones that are grown in the Northeast, harvested, skinned, roasted (not steamed or boiled), pureed and put into those cans of pre-made pie filling, which, can help the modern pie maker achieve that “from scratch” taste and texture.

If you’re enjoying an apple pie after dinner, know that it might have taken months to get to your plate. Most individuals don’t know that apples “sleep.” In fact, according to Ricotta, after harvest, many apples go into controlled atmosphere storage within the food supply chain. Unlike tomatoes, apples are fully ripe when harvested, so they can sleep for up to eight months and still taste great.

Food and agricultural products are transported all over the world, involving thousands of miles of travel. Environmental impacts of transport such as noise and air pollution emissions, greenhouse gas emissions, land use and habitat loss and direct health impacts from emissions are a growing problem.

Apples are flown between France and the UK, day old chicks are flown to Southern countries, and horses are transported across the EU to be processed as dog meat. In Holland alone, 40% of the trucks on the road carry agricultural goods and food. Danish pig meat is exported to Japan. The Netherlands is among the biggest producers of tomatoes and cucumbers in Europe, which in fact means that mainly water is being transported all over the place.

There are endless commodities being flown, trucked or shipped around the world in what Caroline Lucas calls "the great food swap". Long distance transport leads to extra chemical inputs, processes such as irradiation to prolong the life of food products and extra packaging to keep food fresh.

Long distance transport of live animals also results in bad animal welfare practices. Animals can travel for hundreds of kilometers and many hours without food, water or rest breaks, often in stressful conditions. Transporting animals also increases the risk of transporting disease, as Britain's foot and mouth epidemic showed.

What can I do?

Always try to buy locally produced food. Ask your supermarket or greengrocer where the food you buy is produced. Try to buy food seasonally. Eat less animal products.

Buying organic products is in general better from an environmental point of view, but sometimes, organic products can involve a big amount of food miles, so always check the label to see from where your food has travelled.

Greener News Room


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8:47 AM

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Sign, sign, everwhere a sign

Wondering what to do with all of those campaign signs now that the elections are over? Recycle! Do your part to protect the environment and keep campaign signs out of the landfill.

Around the nation, local jurisdictions like the one in Hillsborough County, Tampa, Florida, have instituted programs and regulations to curb - so to speak - the proliferation of unwanted signs, particularly those unwelcome "political" signs that crop up every election season.

Paula Dockery, a state senator from central Florida crafted the 2005 pilot program for Florida. The program establishes a process, free to the public, which lets citizens and or volunteer workers for political candidates to take signs collected from front yards or public spaces to drop-off collection centers after the election is over.

The unwanted signs are then donated to clubs or schools that can use them for student projects or they are sent to businesses to be recycled.

It seems ironic that the very officials we depend on to craft our laws and provide for the common good are the same people who generate so much sign litter each election period. Would it not be nice if the politicians, winners and losers alike, would adhere to their own ordinances and quickly apply "term limits" to political signs - come to think about it, that might not be a bad idea for the politicians as well!

by Harlan Weikle
Greener Magazine


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1:42 PM

Energy research showcase at Virginia Tech

The Energy Research Engagement Showcase, Nov. 29-30, being held at The Inn at Virginia Tech and Skelton Conference Centers will feature more than 300 energy-related endeavors by universities in Virginia.

Sponsored by Virginia Tech’s Office of Economic Development and the Deans' Task Force for Energy Security and Sustainability, the showcase will foster commercialization of research from Virginia universities in the energy and energy-related environmental fields, enhance public-private partnerships that will make Virginia a leader in energy security and sustainability, stimulate economic development, and facilitate the adoption of profitable energy solutions. The showcase is part of Virginia Tech’s “Energy Ideas” initiative, a year-long series of events designed to increase dialogue within the university and acquaint the public with Virginia Tech’s efforts related energy innovations.

Some of Virginia Tech’s 300 energy projects have already produced significant results. Among these is the Frequency Monitoring Network (FNET), deployed in response to the August 2003 blackout that affected 50 million people in the United States. FNET can pinpoint the location of a power grid problem before a cascading effect can again cripple large parts of the nation. Today, FNET consists of more than 30 Frequency Disturbance Recorders positioned around the United States and managed centrally at Virginia Tech. The simplicity of the technology from a user’s point of view is astounding. Frequency Disturbance Recorders have no installation costs; the user just plugs a unit into a standard electrical outlet. Virginia Tech has received a U.S. patent for this technology.

Other key Virginia Tech energy inventions include economical fuel cell materials, a cost-effective bi-directional DC/DC current converter adopted by Ballard Power Systems, a Method and Apparatus for Packaging Fiber Optic Sensors for Harsh Environments that make oil wells more productive licensed to Tubel Technologies, and a Hydrogen-Selective Silica-based membrane licensed to ConocoPhillips.

Registration and a reception will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. Nov. 29 at The Inn at Virginia Tech and Skelton Conference Center on the university campus in Blacksburg, Va. On Nov. 30, the morning program will feature panels on non-renewable energy, renewable energy, and energy policy. In the afternoon, faculty members from Virginia universities will showcase their research through poster sessions and lab tours. Ample opportunity will be available for one-on-one time with the researchers.

The agenda will include discussions on Virginia’s efforts to commercialize energy research, renewable and non-renewable energy opportunities and challenges, energy policy, environment, infrastructure, and efficiency. There will be overviews of wind, biomass, solar, nuclear, fossil fuels, hydrogen, and fuel cell research at Virginia Tech and other Virginia public universities; industry perspectives; and government initiatives relating to energy.

To learn more and register, visit http://www.research.vt.edu/energy. For other information about the showcase, contact Virginia Tech’s Director of Economic Development Ted Settle at settle@vt.edu or (540) 231-5278.

Tours include:

Biofuels Lab (http://filebox.vt.edu/users/ypzhang/research.htm) – high efficiency cellulosic ethanol, hydrogen, and other valuable products from biomass using modest reaction conditions. Contact Y.-H. Percival Zhang, biofuels@vt.edu

Center for Intelligent Material Systems and Structures (http://www.cimss.vt.edu/)-- projects related to energy are Structural Health Monitoring of Wind Turbine Blades and Energy Harvesting for Small Electronics. Contact: Dan Inman, dinman@vt.edu

Center for Power Electronics Systems (http://www.cpes.vt.edu)-- power electronics applications from computers to transportation systems, from fundamental converter integration/packaging technologies to large power systems will be showcased. Contact: Fred Wang, wangfred@vt.edu

Center for Sustainable Mobility at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (http://www.vtti.vt.edu/index.cfm?fuseaction=DisplayResearchGroup&divisionID=8) -- See the mobile traffic laboratory, on-board emission measurement instrumentation, remote sensing emission sensors, simulation software to capture network-wide transportation-related energy consumption and emissions. Contact: Hesham Rakha, hrakha@vt.edu

Future Energy Electronics Center (www.feec.ece.vt.edu/) -- working prototypes of high efficiency power conditioning systems for fuel cells, solar photovoltaic devices, and thermoelectric generators. Contact: Jason Lai, laijs@vt.edu

Green Computing: Reducing global warming in your machine room -- a tour of several power-efficient high-end prototypes. Contacts: Wu Feng, director of Synergy research laboratory, feng@cs.vt.edu; Kirk Cameron, director of SCAPE research laboratory, cameron@cs.vt.edu

Microwave Processing Research Facility (http://www.mse.vt.edu/microwaves/) -- using stockpiles of radioactive waste to create fuel pellets. Contact: Diane Folz, dfolz@mse.vt.edu

Multidisciplinary Analysis and Design Center for Advanced Vehicles (http://www.aoe.vt.edu/research/collaborative/mad/), Contact: Rakesh K. Kapania, rkapania@vt.edu

Photochemical Capabilities to Study Nanomaterials -- synthesis and characterization of new mixed-metal supramolecular complexes and nanomaterials capable of converting solar light to other useable forms of energy such as hydrogen. Contact: Karen J. Brewer, kbrewer@vt.edu

Power Grid Situation Awareness Monitoring System (http://www.powerit.vt.edu/), Contact:Yilu Liu, fdr@vt.edu

Virginia Tech Fuel Cell Experimental Research Labs -- an overview of experimental fuel cell research, including proton exchange membrane fuel cells and nanowire microbial fuel cells that use waste water to produce electricity. Contacts: Scott Case, David Dillard, Michael Ellis, Jack Lesko, Nancy Love, James. McGrath, Ishwar Puri, jlesko@vt.edu

Greener Neaws Room


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11:29 AM