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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Global Climate Change Worsening; Pakistan Floods; BP is Evil; Net Neutrality; Nagasaki; Mormons; More Afghan Civilians Dead

- Ignoring the Obvious: The Floods and Fires, the Droughts and Disasters Will Continue Yet despite the evidence of floods and flames, of drought and danger, there is no concerted international action towards reaching an agreement on the best way to fight climate change.

- Greenland Ice Sheet Faces 'Tipping Point in 10 Years' Scientists warn that temperature rise of between 2C and 7C would cause ice to completely melt, resulting in 23ft rise in sea level...

- News at 11: How Climate Change Affects You  Our daily weather reports, cheerfully presented with flashy graphics and state-of-the-art animation, appear to relay more and more information. And yet, no matter how glitzy the presentation, a key fact is invariably omitted. Imagine if, after flashing the words "extreme weather" to grab our attention, the reports flashed "global warming." Then we would know not only to wear lighter clothes or carry an umbrella, but that we have to do something about climate change.

"We will start seeing more and more years like this year when you get these amazing events that caused tremendous death and destruction," Masters said. "As this extreme weather continues to increase in the coming decades and the population increases, the ability of the international community to respond and provide aid to victims will be stretched to the limit."

- UN Appeals for Pakistan Aid as Flood Threat Continues The deluge has left a trail of devastation, destroying roads, bridges and other infrastructure and overwhelming the government's ability to cope. It's affected some 14 million people, of whom an estimated 1,600 have been killed and about 2 million left homeless.

- Obama's Pakistan Katrina? Helicopters for War, But Not Flood Relief "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste," Rahm Emanuel said, correctly, in November 2008, referring to the economic crisis, and that fact that it created political opportunities to advance long-needed reforms.

But if the White House does not prominently, quickly and decisively bring all assets to bear in response to the flood crisis in Pakistan, it will be letting a serious crisis go to waste. It will be passing up an opportunity to show the Muslim world that the United States cares more about saving Muslim lives than taking them away. It will be passing up a unique opportunity to reframe and de-escalate the conflict in Afghanistan. [NOTE FROM SEAN: this article is quite cynical, I think the primary concern should be saving people's lives. But, yeah, providing aid to a largely Muslim nation is obviously another factor that could help the USA's reputation when we have, without reason, killed so many innocent Muslims around the world, either directly or indirectly].

- Claims of Afghan Civilian Deaths Spark Protest A crowd of about 300 villagers yelled "Death to the United States" and blocked a main road in eastern Afghanistan on Thursday as they swore that U.S. forces had killed three innocent villagers, officials said.

- BP Links Compensation With Continued Oil Production In The Gulf The Huffington Post is reporting the oil giant BP appears to have structured its $20 billion compensation fund so that it will only be solvent if the company continues profiting from oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

- Is Environmental Injustice Morphing Little Girls’ Bodies? If this sounds unnatural, it's the reality for many young girls of color who experience early signs of puberty at alarming rates. The latest research adds to a growing body of evidence suggesting that an array of social and environmental factors may be causing girls' bodies to develop prematurely.

- End of the Internet? Google-Verizon Pact: It Gets Worse So Google and Verizon went public Monday with their "policy framework" -- better known as the pact to end the Internet as we know it.

- Press Censorship: How the Truth Was Hidden About Nagasaki 65 Years Ago   One of the great mysteries of the Nuclear Age was solved just five years ago: What was in the censored, and then lost to the ages, newspaper articles filed by the first reporter to reach Nagasaki following the atomic attack on that city on Aug. 9, 1945. 

- Hi, I'm A Mormon and I'm Totally Normal Even Though I Believe In Spirit Children, Goddess Wives, the Planet Kolob and Endless Celestial Sex With Republican Mitt Romney considering a presidential run, the Mormon Church has begun an unofficial ad campaign across the country to show Americans they're just like the rest of us. Then again, a cartoon video  on "what Mormon theology is really all about" - including racism, homophobia, Temple underwear as protection from the evils of the world, "dark-skinned Indian Israelites" and guerrilla posthumous baptizing of Jewish Holocaust victims – makes us, umm, wonder.

Russia's Agony a "Wake-Up Call" to the World
by Stephen Leahy
Published on Thursday, August 12, 2010 by Inter Press Service

VIENNA - A wind turbine on an acre of northern Iowa farmland could generate 300,000 dollars worth of greenhouse-gas-free electricity a year. Instead, the U.S. government pays out billions of dollars to subsidise grain for ethanol fuel that has little if any impact on global warming, according to Lester Brown. [NOTE FROM SEAN: Actually ethanol production has a bad impact on Climate Change since it takes more energy to produce the materials needed and requires huge amounts of land, while taking resources away from food production while there are food shortages (and as climate change worsens, food shortages will dramatically increase). There are other bio fuels that are better, more "green" or truly "green", like algea and halophytes, and those are things that should be pursued].

[Fires rage in Russia as 2010 experiences hottest summer on record. The global climate is warming and most food crops are both heat and drought sensitive. Rice yields have already fallen by 10-20 percent over the last 25 years in parts of Thailand, Vietnam, India and China due to global warming, new research has shown. (Photo: EPA)]Fires rage in Russia as 2010 experiences hottest summer on record. The global climate is warming and most food crops are both heat and drought sensitive. Rice yields have already fallen by 10-20 percent over the last 25 years in parts of Thailand, Vietnam, India and China due to global warming, new research has shown. (Photo: EPA)
"The smartest thing the U.S. could do is phase out ethanol subsidies," says Brown, the founder of the Washington-based Earth Policy Institute, in reference to rising food prices resulting from the unprecedented heat wave in western Russia that has decimated crops and killed at least 15,000 people.

"The lesson here is that we must take climate change far more seriously, make major cuts in emissions and fast before climate change is out of control," Brown, one of the world's leading experts on agriculture and food, told IPS.

Average temperatures during the month of July were eight degrees Celsius above normal in Moscow, he said, noting that "such a huge increase in temperature over an entire month is just unheard of."

On Monday, Moscow reached 37 C when the normal temperature for August is 21 C. It was the 28th day in a row that temperatures exceeded 30 C.

Soil moisture has fallen to levels seen only once in 500 years, says Brown. Wheat and other grain yields are expected to decline by 40 percent or more in Russia, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine - regions that provide 25 percent of the world's wheat exports. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announced a few days ago that Russia would ban all grain exports.

Food prices will rise but how much is not known at this point, says Brown. "What we do know, however, is that the prices of wheat, corn, and soybeans are actually somewhat higher in early August 2010 than they were in early August 2007, when the record-breaking 2007-08 run-up in grain prices began."

Emissions of greenhouse gases like CO2 from burning fossil fuels trap more of the sun's energy. Climate experts expected the number and intensity of heat waves and droughts to increase as a result. In 2009, heat and fire killed hundreds in Australia during the worst drought in more than century, which devastated the country's agriculture sector. In 2003, a European heat wave killed 53,000 people but as it occurred late in the summer crop, yields were not badly affected.

If a heat wave like Russia's were centred around the grain- producing regions near Chicago or Beijing, the impacts could be many times worse because each of these regions produce five times the amount of grain as Russia does, says Brown. Such an event could result in the loss of 100 to 200 million tonnes of grain with unimaginable affects on the world's food supply.

"Russia's heat wave is a wake-up call to the world regarding the vulnerability of the global food supply," he said.

The global climate is warming and most food crops are both heat and drought sensitive. Rice yields have already fallen by 10-20 percent over the last 25 years in parts of Thailand, Vietnam, India and China due to global warming, new research has shown. Data from 227 fully-irrigated farms that grow "green revolution" crops are suffering significant yield declines due to warming temperatures at night, researchers found.

"As nights get hotter, rice yields drop," reported Jarrod Welch of the University of California at San Diego and colleagues in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) Aug. 9. Previous studies have shown this result in experimental plots, but this is the first under widespread, real-world conditions.

With such pressures on the world's food supply it is simply wrong-headed to use 25 percent of U.S. grain for ethanol as a fuel for cars, said Brown.

"Ethanol subsidies must be phased out and real cuts in carbon emissions made and urgently," he said.