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This is the blog for Sean Brennan and London After Midnight. For more information please see the LAM website at londonaftermidnight.com.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Kids Are All Wrong • Climate Change • Nuke Disaster • Afghan Kids Attacked by US • Banning Latino Studies in Racist Arizona • Conservative War on Women • Afghan War Failure • Obama Attacking Leakers • more

- UK meat and dairy industries emit as much greenhouse gas as half of Britain’s cars, study says
    The study measured greenhouse emissions associated with 61 different foods and determined that fresh meat and cheese have the largest carbon footprints—approximately 37 and 33 pounds of carbon dioxide per pound of food produced, respectively. Researches speculate that if all UK citizens switch to a vegetarian or vegan diet, it could reduce the total greenhouse gases emitted during UK food production by up to 26 percent, potentially saving 40 million tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere.
- Least Reassuring Reassurance of All Time
    A study published this morning has been widely heralded as a clean bill of health for tarsands oil, because it shows—unsurprisingly—that burning the planet’s huge coal reserves would do even more damage.
    But even a quick read of the data demonstrates that there’s more than enough carbon in the planet’s various tarsands formations to cause huge damage. If we burn through the know quantities of tarsands oil, that alone will raise the planet’s temperature by .4 degree Celsius—which is about exactly how much we’ve already raised the planet’s temperature by burning everything we’ve burned since the start of the Industrial Revolution.

    That is to say, the tarsands alone would provide half again as much warming as we’ve already experience—a warming severe enough so far that summer sea ice in the Arctic has declined by 40% and the atmosphere has grown steadily wetter leading to vicious cycles of drought and flood.
- Texas drought leads to shade tree die-off
    Some 5.6 million urban shade trees were killed by the record drought that baked Texas last year, the Texas Forest Service reported on Wednesday.
    Last year was the driest year on record in the state and the second-hottest, according to the National Weather Service.

    The shade tree die-off represents some 10 percent of the state's urban forest, and is in addition to as many as a half-billion rural, park and forest trees that the forest service reported in December were killed in the drought.
- Harsh winter kills scores in eastern Europe
    The death toll from the week-long freezing weather across eastern Europe has risen to 123, while at least 11,000 villagers remain trapped under heavy snow and blizzards in the Serbian mountains.
- Texas Tech scientist sees intimidation effort behind barrage of hate mail
    Crazy Republicans target climate scientists for stating the facts about Climate Change. Fucking sick people.
- A-CAP Report Says Climate Change Predictions Proving True
    Climate change predictions are coming true.  That’s the finding in an updated report from the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy or “A-CAP.”
- We May Yet Lose Tokyo… Not to Mention Alaska… and Now Georgia, Too
    There are some two dozen of these Mark I-style containments currently in place in the US.Newly released secret email from the NRC also shows its Commissioners were in the dark about much of what was happening during the early hours of the Fukushima disaster. They worried that Tokyo might have to be evacuated, and that airborne radiation spewing across the Pacific could seriously contaminate Alaska.Reactor pushers have welcomed the NRC's approval of the new Westinghouse AP-1000 design for Georgia's Vogtle. Two reactors operate there now, and the two newly approved ones are being funded with $8.3 billion in federally guaranteed loans and state-based rate hikes levied in advance of the reactors' being completed.
- Child hunger: The world's 'greatest shame'?
    With 2.6 million children dying of malnutrition every year, we ask what it would take to save a starving generation.
- Jeremy Scahill: U.S. Has Ignited Islamist Uprising in Impoverished, Divided Yemen
    We speak with journalist Jeremy Scahill, who reports in a new cover story for The Nation magazine that U.S. drone strikes, civilian drone casualties and deepening poverty in Yemen have all contributed to the rise of an Islamist uprising.
- Army Officer's Leaked Report Rips Afghan War Success Story
    An analysis by Lt. Col. Daniel Davis, which the U.S. Army has not approved for public release but has leaked to Rolling Stone magazine, provides the most authoritative refutation thus far of the official military narrative of success in the Afghanistan War since the troop surge began in early 2010.
    In the 84-page unclassified report, Davis, who returned last fall after his second tour of duty in Afghanistan, attacks the credibility of claims by senior military leaders that the U.S.-NATO war strategy has succeeded in weakening the Taliban insurgent forces and in building Afghan security forces capable of taking primary responsibility for security in the future. [U.S. Army Pfc. Shawn Williams is evacuated after being injured by a roadside bomb in Kandahar Province on June 17, 2011. (DoD photo)]
- 'Quran burning' triggers Afghan protests
    Hundreds of Afghans have staged angry protests at two sites in and around the capital Kabul, angered by reports that NATO troops had set fire to copies of the Quran, the Muslim holy book.
- Nine Afghan schoolgirls injured in NATO air raid
    Nine schoolgirls were injured in a NATO helicopter attack in Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar province, an Afghan official alleged on Wednesday.
- A High-Tech War on Leaks
    ...the Obama administration, [] has brought more prosecutions against current or former government officials for providing classified information to the media than every previous administration combined.
- Speculators blamed for rising oil, gas prices
    Analysts suggest Wall Street is responsible for inflating the price of a barrel of crude by at least $10.
- The Conservative War on Women's Sexuality
    If you have been surprised to see an uptight prig such as Rick Santorum leading the Republican primary field in national polls, you shouldn’t be. Recent events have demonstrated that conservative positions on social issues are as much about repressing women and reversing the gains of the women’s movement as they are about saving the lives of the unborn.
- The NHL: Boxing Without A License?
    It is astonishing what the bosses of professional sports will do to make more profits. They wine, dine and pressure politicians to make taxpayers pay for their stadiums and arenas. They installed dangerous artificial turf that years ago ended sterling careers like that of the great NFL running back, Gayle Sayers. For years the big time hockey bosses have fed red meat to some fans who seem to need barbaric fisticuffs to stay excited watching a game.
    Who gets hurt? Not the bosses in their fancy boxes chewing on expensive cuisine. But players like Pat LaFontaine, Eric Lindros, and Keith Primeau have had their careers shortened from repeated head trauma. Currently concussions are threatening the careers of Pittsburgh Penguin's superstar, the young Sidney Crosby and the Philadelphia Flyers' Chris Pronger. Three enforcers, Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien, and Wade Belak, have died in the past year.
- Replacing History With Fiction in Arizona
    Such was the ostensible motivation of the Arizona officials who banned Mexican-American studies from the Tucson schools. Tom Horne, the state attorney general who surfed into office on a wave of anti-immigrant bigotry, wrote the legislation, which claims the curriculum “advocates ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.”
      Horne’s goal was not only to erase the teaching of Mexican-American studies but to collapse Latino identity into white American mythology—to rewrite history so fast it smudges because the ink is not dry on the first draft. He wasn’t really referring to nurturing Latino students as individuals (indeed, he targeted them as a group) but raising them as “patriots” for a country that exists only in his imagination.
- Noam Chomsky calls MAS ban an "international disgrace" video
    One of the world's top intellectuals, Professor Noam Chomsky, visits Tucson and on February 7th, 2012 gets asked about his thoughts on the Mexican American Studies ban in TUSD.
- Arizona Sheriff Rocked By Accusations Of Alleged Immigrant Ex-Boyfriend
    Rising Republican star and well-known border hawk Sheriff Paul Babeu, who’s now running for Congress in Arizona, was hit Friday night with bombshell accusations from a Mexican immigrant who said he dated the sheriff for years and was threatened with deportation if he ever told anyone about their romance.
- kids can't answer basic questions
    kids can't answer basic questions - video
- 25 Extremely Upsetting Reactions To Chris Brown At The Grammys
    GRAMMY AWARDS REACTION: Tweets from kids who say they would let Chris Brown beat them (Chris Brown plead guilty to felony assault against then-girlfriend Rihanna).
- Who Is Paul McCartney?!
    GRAMMY AWARDS REACTION: Tweets from kids who didn't know who Paul McCartney was, one of the most famous people on planet earth (ya know, that Beetles guy)
- The Secret to Facebook's IPO Value
    There is one thing missing in most of the hype over Facebook’s massive IPO [stock value]. Everyone knows the company is popular, with 845 million users, and successful, with a potential valuation of $100 billion dollars. (That’s five times the size of Google’s 2004 debut.) But what exactly makes Facebook so valuable?
    You. Its users. Or more specifically, its users’ stuff.

    In fact, in the modern era, Facebook’s IPO will constitute one of the largest voluntary transfers of property from a large group of people to a corporation.

    And “voluntary” is a pretty charitable gloss. Studies show many Facebook users have no idea that they clicked away their rights to photos and information by acquiescing to the company’s “terms of use” policy. After all, who has time to read 3,960 words?

'Perpetual Growth Myth' Leading World to Meltdown: Experts
UN-Sponsored Papers Predict Sustained Ecological and Social Meltdown
Published on Monday, February 20, 2012 by Common Dreams


"The current system is broken," says Bob Watson, the UK’s chief scientific advisor on environmental issues and a winner of the prestigious Blue Planet prize in 2010. "It is driving humanity to a future that is 3-5°C warmer than our species has ever known, and is eliminating the ecology that we depend on for our health, wealth and senses of self."


"We cannot assume that technological fixes will come fast enough. Instead we need human solutions. The good news is that they exist but decision makers must be bold and forward thinking to seize them."

Watson's comments accompanied a new paper released today by 20 past winners of the Blue Planet Prize - often called the Nobel Prize for the environment, and comes ahead of the 20th anniversary of the Rio+20 conference – which takes place in June this year – where world leaders will (it is hoped) seize the opportunity to set human development on a new, more sustainable path.

Civilization Faces 'Perfect Storm of Ecological and Social Problems'
The Guardian's John Vidal reports:
In the face of an "absolutely unprecedented emergency", say the [...] past winners of the Blue Planet prize – the unofficial Nobel for the environment – society has "no choice but to take dramatic action to avert a collapse of civilization. Either we will change our ways and build an entirely new kind of global society, or they will be changed for us". 
The stark assessment of the current global outlook by the group, who include [Watson]... US climate scientist James Hansen, Prof José Goldemberg, Brazil's secretary of environment during the Rio Earth summit in 1992, and Stanford University Prof Paul Ehrlich. [...] 
"The perpetual growth myth ... promotes the impossible idea that indiscriminate economic growth is the cure for all the world's problems, while it is actually the disease that is at the root cause of our unsustainable global practices"
Apart from dire warnings about biodiversity loss and climate change, the group challenges governments to think differently about economic "progress". 
"The rapidly deteriorating biophysical situation is more than bad enough, but it is barely recognized by a global society infected by the irrational belief that physical economies can grow forever and disregarding the facts that the rich in developed and developing countries get richer and the poor are left behind. 
"The perpetual growth myth ... promotes the impossible idea that indiscriminate economic growth is the cure for all the world's problems, while it is actually the disease that is at the root cause of our unsustainable global practices", they say. 
The group warns against over-reliance on markets but instead urges politicians to listen and learn from how poor communities all over the world see the problems of energy, water, food and livelihoods as interdependent and integrated as part of a living ecosystem.
The paper urges governments to:
  • Replace GDP as a measure of wealth with metrics for natural, built, human and social capital - and how they intersect.
  • Eliminate subsidies in sectors such as energy, transport and agriculture that create environmental and social costs, which currently go unpaid.
  • Tackle over-consumption, and address population pressure by empowering women, improving education and making contraception accessible to all.
  • Transform decision making processes to empower marginalized groups, and integrate economic, social and environmental policies instead of having them compete.
  • Conserve and value biodiversity and ecosystem services, and create markets for them that can form the basis of green economies.
  • Invest in knowledge - both in creating and in sharing it - through research and training that will enable governments, business, and society at large to understand and move towards a sustainable future.
“Sustainable development is not a pipe dream,” says Dr Camilla Toulmin, director of the International Institute for Environment and Development. “It is the destination the world’s accumulated knowledge points us towards, the fair future that will enable us to live with security, peace and opportunities for all. To get there we must transform the ways we manage, share and interact with the environment, and acknowledge that humanity is part of nature not apart from it.”

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said: “The paper by the Blue Planet laureates will challenge governments and society as a whole to act to limit human-induced climate change, the loss of biodiversity and the degradation of ecosystem services in order to ensure food, water energy and human security. I would like to thank Professor Watson and colleagues for eloquently articulating their vision on how key development challenges can be addressed, emphasizing solutions; the policies, technologies and behavior changes required to grow green economies, generate jobs and lift people out of poverty without pushing the world through planetary boundaries.”


A second UNEP report was also released today in Kenya. Though separate from the assessment of the Planet Blue laureates, it echoes many of their themes and concerns.
Capital FM News in Kenya reports:
A new report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has warned of a continued deterioration in the state of the global environment due to failure by governments to implement internationally agreed goals.
The summary report released at the sidelines of a UNEP Governing Council meeting in Nairobi stated that out of the 90 internationally agreed goals, only 40 were in progress, 32 had insufficient progress while 13 were not in development at all. 
“We have failed to meet agreed goals,” Peter Gilruth Director Division of Early Warning Assessment (DEWA) UNEP said. 
“The internationally agreed goal of avoiding the adverse effects of climate change is presenting the global community with one of its most serious challenges that is threatening overall development goals,” he noted.
He added that the rate at which forest loss, particularly in the tropics was taking place remained alarmingly high. 
“Today, 80 percent of the world’s population live in areas with high levels of threat to water security, affecting 3.4 billion people mostly in developing countries,” he stated. 
The Fifth Global Environment Outlook (GEO 5) assessed progress and gaps in the implementation of internationally agreed goals on environment and the full report would be released in June ahead of the Rio+20 Summit on sustainable development. 
The report recommended that policy makers focus on the underlying drivers of environmental change such as the negative aspects of population growth, consumption and production, urbanisation rather than just concentrating on reducing environmental pressures or symptoms. 
“The solutions put on the table are not intended to be prescriptive in nature but rather a menu of options that you (governments) might want to look at for your own use. It is just a potential source of information to assist in decision making,” Gilruth said.

Sean