Saturday, September 27, 2008

"Army Unit to Deploy in October for Domestic Operations"

Hmmmm - sounds like someone is expecting unrest for some reason...

From Democracy Now

Beginning in October, the Army plans to station an active unit inside the United States for the first time to serve as an on-call federal response in times of emergency. The 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team has spent thirty-five of the last sixty months in Iraq, but now the unit is training for domestic operations. The unit will soon be under the day-to-day control of US Army North, the Army service component of Northern Command. The Army Times reports this new mission marks the first time an active unit has been given a dedicated assignment to Northern Command. The paper says the Army unit may be called upon to help with civil unrest and crowd control. The soldiers are learning to use so-called nonlethal weapons designed to subdue unruly or dangerous individuals and crowds.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

"How the Chicago boys wrecked the economy..."

From An interview with Michael Hudson

...International law is not clear on financial fraud. Caveat emptor is the rule. Foreign investors took a risk. They trusted a deregulated U.S. financial market that made it easiest to make money via financial fraud. Ultimately, they put their faith in neoliberal deregulation -- at home as well as in the United States. England is now in the same mess. The “accountability” was supposed to lie with U.S. accounting firms and credit rating agencies. Foreign investors were so ideologically blinded by free market rhetoric that they actually believed the fantasies about “self-regulation” and self-regulating markets tending toward equilibrium rather than the real-world tendency toward financial and economic polarization...

Mr. Greenspan’s idea of “wealth creation” was to take the line of least resistance and inflate asset prices. He thought that the way to enable the economy to carry its debt overhead was to inflate asset prices so that debtors could borrow the interest falling due by pledging collateral (real estate, stocks and bonds) that were rising in market price. To his Ayn Rand view of the world, one way of making money was as economically and socially productive as any other way of doing so. Buying a property and waiting for its price to inflate was deemed as productive as investing in new means of production...

His ideology led him to believe the “free market” ideology that the financial sector would be self-regulating and hence would act honestly. But he opened the floodgates to financial crooks. His set of measures did not distinguish between Countrywide Financial getting rich, Enron getting rich, or General Motors or industrial companies expanding their means of production. So the economy was being hollowed out, but this didn’t appear in any of the measures he looked at from his perch at the Federal Reserve...

In other words, most foreign investors lack a realistic body of economic theory. The United States could simply argue that they should take responsibility for their bad investments, just as U.S. pension funds and other investors are told to do.

...the financial model has been a great success from the vantage point of the top of the economic pyramid looking down? The economy has polarized to the point where the wealthiest 10 percent now own 85 percent of the nation’s wealth. Never before have the bottom 90 percent been so highly indebted, so dependent on the wealthy. From their point of view, their power has exceeded that of any time in which economic statistics have been kept.

You have to realize that what they’re trying to do is to roll back the Enlightenment, roll back the moral philosophy and social values of classical political economy and its culmination in Progressive Era legislation, as well as the New Deal institutions. They’re not trying to make the economy more equal, and they’re not trying to share power. Their greed is (as Aristotle noted) infinite. So what you find to be a violation of traditional values is a re-assertion of pre-industrial, feudal values. The economy is being set back on the road to debt peonage. The Road to Serfdom is not government sponsorship of economic progress and rising living standards, it’s the dismantling of government, the dissolution of regulatory agencies, to create a new feudal-type elite...

In order for the American people or any other people to assert greater control over monetary policy, they need to have a doctrine of just what a good monetary policy would be. Early in the 19th century, the followers of St. Simon in France began to develop such a policy. By the end of that century, Central Europe implemented this policy, mobilizing the banking and financial system to promote industrialization, in consultation with the government (and catalyzed by military and naval spending, to be sure). But all this has disappeared from the history of economic thought, which no longer is even taught to economics students. The Chicago Boys have succeeded in censoring any alternative to their free-market rationalization of asset stripping and economic polarization...

The Fed has turned “maintaining order” into a euphemism for consolidating power by the financial sector and the FIRE sector generally (Finance, Insurance and Real Estate) over the “real” economy of production and consumption. Its leaders see their job as being to act on behalf of the commercial banking system to enable it to make money off the rest of the economy. It acts as the Board of Directors to fight regulation, to support Wall Street, to block any revival of anti-usury laws, to promote “free markets” almost indistinguishable from outright financial fraud, to decriminalize bad behavior -- and most of all to inflate the price of property relative to the wages of labor and even relative to the profits of industry.

The Fed’s job is not really to impose the Washington Consensus on the rest of the world. That’s the job of the World Bank and IMF, coordinated via the Treasury (viz. Robert Rubin under Clinton most notoriously) and AID, along with the covert actions of the CIA and the National Endowment for Democracy. You don’t need monetary policy to do this -- only massive bribery. Only call it “lobbying” and the promotion of democratic values -- values to fight government power to regulate or control finance across the world. Financial power is inherently cosmopolitan and, as such, antagonistic to the power of national governments...

And another thing...

John McCain's campaign manager, Rick Davis, also has ties to Fannie Mae...

Davis, was president of the Homeownership Alliance, a Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac-led advocacy group which has tried to fend off regulation sought by large private banks and mortgage lenders.

The front story of the Homeownership Alliance is that it sought to make home ownership affordable to the broadest possible range of people and feared that that this mission would be compromised if Congress stepped in with too many rules.

The back story, according to critics, is that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac feared that Congressional meddling would lower their healthy profits.

The issue really hasn't been who could buy a home. It's been more about the playing field for the vast mortgage market.

Fannie and Freddie are publicly-traded companies, but they are federally-chartered, which creates the widespread impression that if they really screw up, the government will bail them out.

"Physicists urge U.S. to prioritize energy efficiency"

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. can reduce its dependence on foreign oil and greenhouse gas emissions by making cars and buildings much more energy efficient, according to a study released Tuesday by a large national association of physicists.

The 46,000-member American Physical Society argues the need for action is urgent because the energy crisis is the worst in U.S. history. It also says that the physics and chemistry behind the human causes of climate change - such as heat-trapping pollution from the burning of fossil fuels - is "well understood and beyond dispute."

The report argues that the country can still go a long way to reduce energy use in cost-effective ways that allow for continued comfort and convenience. Although efficient energy technologies can save money, the U.S. has been slow to catch on, the report says. It recommends that the federal government adopt policies and make investments.

"The opportunities are huge and the costs are small," the report said...

"The bottom line is that the quickest way to do something about America's use of energy is through energy efficiency," said Burton Richter, the chairman of the study panel and a 1976 Nobel Prize winner in physics. "Energy that you don't use is free. It's not imported and it doesn't emit any greenhouse gases. Most of the things we recommend don't cost anything to the economy. The economy will save money."

The report concludes that the projected growth of energy use in buildings - 30 percent by 2030 - could be cut to zero using existing technology and what's likely to become available in the next decade at the current level of research and development. It argues that the federal government should encourage states to set standards for residential buildings and make sure they're enforced.

"One of the things we would love to see is all buildings have Energy Star labels," Richter said. "Right now you don't know how much energy a building is going to use that you're interested in moving into. We'd like to see an energy audit required before a building is sold or even built."

Some of the report's suggestions included installing roofs that reflect rather than absorb the sun's energy in hot climates, more efficient heating, cooling, lighting and appliances, and more government investment in research and development in building technologies...

"Common plastics chemical linked to heart problems"

ROCKVILLE, Maryland (Reuters) - A major study links a chemical widely used in plastic products, including baby bottles, to health problems in humans like heart disease and diabetes, but U.S. regulators said on Tuesday they still believe it is safe.

The chemical bisphenol A, or BPA, is commonly used in plastic food and beverage containers and in the coating of food cans.

Until now, environmental and consumer activists who have questioned the safety of BPA have relied on animal studies.

But the study by British researchers in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that among 1,455 U.S. adults, those with the highest levels of BPA were more likely to have heart disease, diabetes and liver-enzyme abnormalities than those with the lowest levels.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials said they would review the new findings, which were not yet published when the agency issued a draft conclusion in August that BPA is safe at current exposure levels...

"Indonesian govt "gives up" on stopping mud volcano"

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia's vice president said on Friday the government had given up all hope of halting a mud volcano in East Java which has displaced thousands of people, hurt businesses, and destroyed the local environment.

The disastrous mud volcano, which started erupting in May 2006 near Indonesia's second-biggest city of Surabaya, has proved a huge problem for the government.

The hot, noxious mud has displaced more than 50,000 people, submerged homes, factories and schools and is now flowing at a rate of more than 100,000 cubic meters a day. Various attempts to halt the flow have all failed.

"The government has given up in terms of efforts to stop the mudflow, but will never give up when it comes to taking care of the people," Vice President Jusuf Kalla told reporters.

"There have always been people that said stopping the mudflow is not an easy task," he said, adding the government had spent "trillions of rupiah every year" trying to solve the problem.

Some scientists have said that energy firm PT Lapindo Brantas' drilling for a gas exploration well set off the mud volcano, but Lapindo has denied it is to blame, saying the mud disaster was triggered by tectonic activity.

Lapindo is linked to the Bakrie Group, controlled by the family of Chief Social Welfare Minister Aburizal Bakrie, who was recently ranked by a local business magazine as Indonesia's richest man.

The government has ordered Lapindo to pay 3.8 trillion rupiah, or about $400 million, in compensation to the victims and to cover the damage.

($1 = 9,435 rupiah)

Santos denies playing down Indonesia mud volcano disaster

Australian oil and gas giant Santos on Monday denied downplaying the seriousness of the disaster caused by the world's largest "mud volcano" in Indonesia.

The company was responding to a report that said it faced a ten-fold blowout of the clean-up bill from the unstoppable mudflow that was caused by a gas drilling incident in East Java in 2006...

Fairfax newspapers quoted a leaked report by the UN Environment Program (UNEP) and Australia's government aid body AusAid as saying the disaster has so far caused economic damage of 3.4 billion dollars and could be contained.

The study reportedly said the only way to mitigate the disaster would be to transport the mud 14 kilometers (8.75 miles) to the ocean to create a wetland, which would send the cost skyrocketing to 4.6 billion dollars.

The mudflow could cost Santos 830 million dollars (681,762 US), the report said, while the firm has declared provisions of just 88.5 million dollars to the Australian Stock Exchange to cover the clean-up cost...

A study by foreign scientists in Indonesia has found the mud volcano was caused by drilling by oil and gas firm Lapindo Brantas, which holds a 50 percent stake in the scheme.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Toxic Soup (Ike)

It's bad enough when these toxins (asbestos, lead and gasoline) are more or less confined - but when all of this is unleashed under circumstances such as hurricanes - whole towns and regions become like toxic dumps.

I can see that people want to stay and be able to clean up their places - but it could be that the top inches of soil needs to be removed and trucked away. Anything that the water reached could be coated with the toxic soup. What a mess.

From the New York Times (Galveston):

As the search continued here for people killed or stranded by Hurricane Ike, the authorities said Monday that they were faced with much larger challenges than simply clearing roadways and restoring electricity before they could let residents back onto this debris-strewn island.

The sludge left in homes and on roads as floodwaters recede represents a “toxic soup” of mud, human waste, asbestos, lead and gasoline that poses serious health risks and must be removed before people return, they said.

Homes must be inspected for structural damage and for leaks before natural gas service can be restored.

And before debris can be hauled away, hazardous material has to be separated from what can be sent to recycling centers, burned or chipped into mulch.

“At 60,000-feet altitude, the damage just looks like a lot of debris,” said Steve LeBlanc, the city manager. “Just clean it up. Flip a switch. And we can be back online. It’s a whole lot more complicated than that.”

Total damages to the island are estimated to be more than $10 billion, city officials said.

Officials said that they did not expect electricity and natural gas to be restored on the entire island for at least a month and that it might take more than a year to remove all the debris. Water should be running within the next couple of weeks, they said.

Waiting on hold with his insurance company, one resident of Galveston Island, John Strange, took a break from scraping sludge off his home’s vinyl floor. He said the bugs that were emerging from the sludge were just too overwhelming...

City officials said the death toll on the island remained at four. They estimated that 15,000 to 20,000 people had stayed on the island, and they pleaded with them to leave.

“Quite frankly, we are reaching a health crisis for those that are remaining on the island,” Mr. LeBlanc said. “We’re asking and strongly encouraging those that are here to leave, and we’re certainly telling those that are away to stay away.”

He added, “We don’t want to go in a downward spiral.”

Officials said the bridge onto the island would remain closed to all but emergency workers for several more days, or at least until safety concerns could be addressed.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Higgs Vs. Hawking (CERN)

The Large Hadron Collider went online at Cern yesterday. I thought this article added a human componant to the science.

By Lewis Page

Famous retired physics prof Peter Higgs - of boson renown - has stingingly counter-poohpoohed the theories of his equally well known Nobel Prize rival, Stephen Hawking, who has already poohpoohed Higgs' particle concept. The clash of intellects is expected to be settled by particle-punishment results at the Large Hadron Collider.

Speaking of Hawking's methods at a press conference yesterday, Higgs was sternly critical.

"I don’t think the way he does it is good enough," he snapped, quoted in today's Times.

“He puts together theories in particle physics with gravity ... in a way which no theoretical particle physicist would believe...

“From a particle physics, quantum theory point of view, you have to put a lot more than just gravity into the theory to have a consistent theory and I don’t think Stephen has done that. I am very doubtful about his calculations.”

Hawking is well known to have bet $100 that Higgs' boson brainchild, the so-called "god particle", doesn't exist.

It's thought among boffins that if the elusive deiton - postulated by Higgs back in 1964, but never yet detected - is real, it ought to appear in coming years among the variegated debris to be produced at the LHC by smashing up protons with extreme violence. If it does, Higgs will be in line for a Nobel Prize.

Hawking, however, reckons that instead a number of "partner" particles will appear. These would potentially torpedo the Standard Model on which modern physics is based, and snatch away Higgs' long-awaited Nobel laurels to rest instead atop Hawking's eminent brainbox.

It would seem that the duelling boffinry heavyweights will have to settle the matter in the only honourable way open to men of their sort: with enormous hyper-powered magnetic proton cannons at fifty paces*. Higgs for one seemed confident about the result, telling the Times that he has champagne waiting on ice to celebrate victory.

* Underground. The LHC is situated 50 to 175m beneath the surface.


This article credits the project with "the world wide web, invented in 1990 by Cern scientist Tim Berners-Lee as a way of sharing information between scientists working in different universities all over the world."

So it's already earned back it's cost a few times over at that rate.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Palin, Women's Rights and Responsible Contraception

The media likes to see who is on what side of what - what the issues are. I was listening to NPR and the commentators were trying to figure out who was more likely to take up Palin's side as far as having 5 kids and being the Vice President nominee.

So on the one hand there are people who think it's dreadful to question a mother being the VP (or President apparently - since that could be likely with McCain and his age and cancer history). Like - what's to question?

Some people think that with 5 kids - one being a Down's Syndrome infant - that she would be too busy.

Of course there are nanny's and husbands and such.

But I think the issue ought to be responsible contraception.

People think nothing of questioning "teenage pregnancy". It seems that the thinking goes that if teenagers are going to have sex - they should at least use reliable birth control.

I see the problem with Palin is that she is against birth control. For her, for her 17 year pregnant daughter, for everyone.

If she, as a responsible adult, had limited her children to 2, there wouldn't be an issue. Her children would be fairly well grown up by now. She would have been modeling responsible parenthood, including using birth control, for her children. Her 17 year old may well not have gotten pregnant at 17 (or 16?).

Continuing to have children into ones 40s because one doesn't believe in any kind of birth control, having a child with down syndrome (not so unusual for 40 year old mothers) as if that is so much more noble and "pro-life" than being concerned for all life on the planet, is just wrong.

It's not like she doesn't have more than enough children - she is going to keep having them whether her body gives her the message that it's past time to stop or not.

There is more of a problem here than teenagers who don't know better - because 44 year olds really should know better by that age. And maybe they would if our society/culture/media/church/etc. were to expect responsible birth control instead of supporting ridiculous ideas such as birth control is murder or that it doesn't matter how many kids people have - as if people make no impact on the planet. As if there is no global warming....

And now - Palin in the limelight - is not setting a good example. The right-wingers who deny global warming and who think that any birth control is wrong must be loving it.

The big CHOICE these days - is do you support the planet and other people who are already alive (by choosing to limit one's number of births).... OR do you support the idea that fertilized eggs are sacred (no birth control pills, no IUDs, no abortions - perhaps not even sterilization), that science is bogus, and that people should procreate until the world fizzles out or ends in a war over lack of resources for the number of people that are alive.

IOW - we have so-called murder (of 10 celled "babies", embryos & fetuses) or extinction of many entire species, mass starvations, more diseases, birth defects, a toxic, stressed out planet, inadequate water supplies, energy, etc. Take a side.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

"Green" Cement

Back when Stanford Professor Brent Constantz was 27 he created a high-tech cement that revolutionized bone fracture repair in hospitals worldwide. People who might have died from the complications of breaking their hips lived. Fractured wrists became good as new.

Constantz says he has invented a green cement that could eliminate the huge amounts of carbon dioxide spewed into the atmosphere by the manufacturers of the everyday cement used in concrete for buildings, roadways and bridges.

His vision of eliminating a large source of the world's greenhouse CO{-2} has gained traction with both investors and environmentalists.

Already, venture capitalist Vinod Khosla is backing Constantz's company, the Calera Corp., which has a pilot factory in Moss Landing (Monterey County) churning out cement in small batches.

And Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club, says it could be "a game changer" if Constantz can do it quickly, on a big scale and at a decent price.

"It changes the nature of the fight against global warming," said Pope, who has talked with Constantz about his work.

That might sound like hyperbole, but the reality is that for every ton of ordinary cement, known as Portland cement, a ton of air-polluting carbon dioxide is released during production. Worldwide, 2.5 billion tons of cement are manufactured each year, creating about 5 percent of the Earth's CO{-2} emissions.

When Constantz learned about the high CO{-2} levels, he thought he could do better. After all, the majority of his 60 patents have to do with medical cement.

He claims his new approach not only generates zero CO{-2} , but has an added benefit of reducing the amount of CO{-2} power plants emit by sequestering it inside the cement.

To make traditional cement, limestone is heated to more than 1,000 degrees Celsius, which turns it into lime - the principal ingredient in Portland cement - and CO{-2}, which is released into the air.

Constantz uses a different approach, the details of which remains secret pending publication of his patent.

At his pilot factory, a former magnesium hydroxide facility that made metal for World War II bombs, magnesium crunches underfoot as Constantz, wearing a pressed, blue button-down shirt with rumpled shorts and sandals, outlines how the process works.

He pointed to two enormous smokestacks billowing flue gases full of carbon dioxide next door at Dynegy, one of the West's biggest and cleanest power plants.

Constantz takes that exhaust gas and bubbles it through seawater pumped from across the highway. The chemical process creates the key ingredient for his green cement and allows him to sequester a half ton of carbon dioxide from the smokestacks in every ton of cement he makes.

Constantz believes his cement would tackle global warming on two fronts. It would eliminate the need to heat limestone, which releases CO{-2}. And harmful emissions can be siphoned away from power plants and locked into the cement.

The same process can also be used to make an alternative to aggregate - the sand and gravel - that makes up concrete and asphalt, which would sequester even more carbon dioxide from power plants.

"The beauty here is we're taking this old industrial polluting infrastructure and turning it into something that will save the environment," Constantz said....

As far as cost, Constantz estimates his cement would retail for $100 a ton versus roughly $110 for Portland.


The pro-privatization courts paved the way for "life" to be "patented" (under Reagan?). I knew that there have been plant varieties that supposedly I can't reproduce or it would be "against the law". As if some person or persons "created" aster plants. It makes me all the more pro-native varieties. It makes plant swaps all the more important.


Our genes have been evolving for hundreds of millions of years. The basic food crops that sustain us all have been carefully bred for at least ten thousand years by farming communities. Yet individuals, institutions, and corporations have the audacity to claim to have invented these shared biological resources. In the two decades since the US Supreme Court first ruled in Diamond v. Chakrabarty that a genetically engineered bacterium could be patented, the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has expanded patent rights to encompass not just microorganisms, but gene sequences, expressed sequence tags (ESTs), proteins, cell lines, genetically modified plants and animals, and even non-genetically modified species.

Meanwhile, similar patents on life are being forced on the rest of the world through the Trade Related Aspects of International Property Rights (TRIPs) agreement of the World Trade Organization (WTO). In an attempt to reverse this trend of patenting life, the Council for Responsible Genetics is now working with other groups throughout the United States to draft model legislation that would exclude living organisms and their parts from the patent system. We hope that this model legislation will help build a “No Patents on Life” movement in the United States, which not only supports the growing international movement but also successfully challenges US domestic policy on life patents...

Obama Visits Terre Haute

I was able to go to see Barack Obama in Terre Haute yesterday. It's not so different from seeing his speech on TV - but it's nice to get out and be a part of whole thing - see him in person, applaud and support his ideas. It was a good crowd. And a beautiful day.

I was glad to hear the Democrats condemn privatization, support green energy ideas, as well as address healthcare and other issues


It's always good to hear Republicans - like the two with questions for Obama yesterday - who are fed up with what Bush&Co. are doing and are out supporting Democrats.

We hosted an Obama party the night of his convention speech. That was fun to have people come over and join us who lived near us - but whom we didn't know. And to make a party out of it.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Palin: the real scandal (her environmental ideas/actions)

Sarah Palin - Governor of Alaska is McCain's choice for a running mate. Too bad she is so "pro-life" that she doesn't believe in women's rights, is against sex education (her unmarried, 17 year old daughter's pregnancy has been a big news item), thinks that God is for a $30 billion oil pipeline in Alaska and the Iraq war, and has no concept of global warming science. The typical right-wing nonsense.

With the Republicans - I think they figure it doesn't really matter who is president as long as they will do the bidding of whomever is in charge behind the scenes. The democrats tend to have candidates, like Obama, who actually have good credentials - Harvard Law graduate, etc. Who one expects to be able to make good decisions - with advisors - but who will actually be a person who will make the decision his or her own self.

From Independent.UK

Seen from the air, Sarah Palin's state is an environmental wonderland. From Anchorage to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, there is a vast landscape of snow-capped peaks, fjords, crystal glaciers, coastal lagoons, wide river deltas and tundra.

The guardian of this wilderness – and Governor of Alaska – has, this week, become one of the most recognisable faces in the world. But behind her beaming smile and wholesome family values is a woman aligned with the big oil and coal firms that are racing to exploit Alaska's vast energy reserves. In the short term, that has bought her popularity at home.

"I love the woman," the pilot on our flight shouts over the noise of the engine, "especially what she wants to do with oil, we just have to drill more, there is no alternative. What's the point of leaving it all in the ground?"

It is a stance that guaranteed John McCain's new running mate a rapturous reception at the Republican convention this week where the response to the coming energy crisis was a chant of "drill, baby, drill".

But the woman who could soon be a 72-year-old's heartbeat away from the United States presidency has an environmental policy so toxic it would make the incumbent, George Bush, blush.

...environmentalists are describing Mrs Palin, who denies climate change is man-made, as "either grossly misinformed or intentionally misleading".

She wants to start drilling. She wants to block US moves to list the polar bear as an endangered species. And she has allowed big game hunters to shoot Alaska's bears and wolves from low-flying planes.

The 44-year-old governor says a federal government decision to protect the polar bear will cripple energy development offshore. As a result, she is suing the Bush administration, which ruled the polar bear is endangered and needs protection.

The US Geological Survey says climate change has shrunk Arctic summer sea ice to about 1.65 million sq miles, nearly 40 per cent less than the long-term average between 1979 and 2000.

In such a situation it was unconscionable for Governor Palin to ignore overwhelming evidence of global warming's threat to sea ice, says Kassie Siegel of the Centre for Biological Diversity.

"Even the Bush administration can't deny the reality of global warming," Ms Siegel said. "The governor is aligning herself and the state of Alaska with the most discredited, fringe, extreme viewpoints by denying this."

Governor Palin would also like to bring open-cast coal mining to Alaska's Brooks Range Mountains, an act of environmental vandalism in the eyes of many.

The Palin administration has allowed Chevron to triple the amount of toxic waste it pours into the waters of Cook Inlet. This, even though the number of beluga whales in the bay has collapsed from 1,300 to 350 – the point of extinction – because of pollution and increased ship traffic.

On the Republican convention floor she said: "We Americans need to produce more of our own oil and gas and take it from a gal who knows the North Slope of Alaska: We've got lots of both."

...Mrs Palin also took a swipe at Barack Obama's environmental stance saying: "What does he actually seek to accomplish, after he's done turning back the waters and healing the planet?"

...Many oil companies abandoned Alaska when prices fell in the 1980s but they have been rushing back to drill and prospect areas that are among the least hospitable on earth. That spirit of the Klondike is already in full swing in Prudhoe Bay the epicentre of oil production and one of the world's largest industrial complexes. It's so big that BP, UPS and FedEx operate a special fleet of jets from Anchorage just to service to the region.

Hundreds of spills involving tens of thousands of gallons of crude oil and other petroleum products occur in the area each year. Decades-old spills are still a problem and 17,000 acres of wildlife and marine habitat have already been destroyed.

But Prudhoe is just a tiny fraction of the area being targeted by Governor Palin and the oil companies. A similar fate of environmental destruction awaits the entire coastal plain as well as the special areas of the western Arctic – home to migratory caribou herds, musk oxen, wolverines, grizzly and polar bears should a McCain-Palin administration be elected.

The oil boom has attracted oilmen from across America. One of them is Todd Palin, husband to the vice-presidential candidate who works for BP on Alaska's North Slope....

Last year, Mrs Palin proposed offering a bounty of $150 per wolf, as long as the hunter provided the wolf's foreleg as proof of the kill. The measure did not pass. She even spent $400,000 on a state-funded campaign to block attempts to end the hunt.

Its not just wildlife conservationists who object. Many ordinary Alaskans also condemn the practice as barbaric.

Trish Rolfe, who runs the Sierra Club's Alaska office, thinks Governor Palin has been a disaster for Alaska's environment. "The idea that she stands up to the oil companies is a joke," she says.

"The governor pays lip service to the issue of global warming but denies it is man made. She will not even spend money to help the Inupiaq villages which are about to fall into the sea."

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

"Arctic becomes an island as ice melts"

The North Pole has become an island for the first time in human history as climate change has made it possible to circumnavigate the Arctic ice cap.

The historic development was revealed by satellite images taken last week showing that both the north-west and north-east passages have been opened by melting ice.

Prof Mark Serreze, a sea ice specialist at the National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC) in the US said the images suggested the Arctic may have entered a "death spiral" caused by global warming.

Shipping companies are already planning to exploit the first simultaneous opening of the routes since the beginning of the last Ice Age 125,000 years ago. The Beluga Group in Germany says it will send the first ship through the north-east passage, around Russia, next year, cutting 4,000 miles off the voyage from Germany to Japan.

Meanwhile, Stephen Harper, Canada's Prime Minister, has announced that ships entering the north-west passage should first report to his government. The routes have previously opened at different times, with the western route opening last year, and the eastern route opening in 2005.

The satellite images gathered by Nasa show that the north-west passage opened last weekend and the final blockage on the east side of the ice cap, an area of sea ice stretching to Siberia, dissolved a few days later.

Last year the extent of sea ice in the Arctic reached a record low that could be surpassed in the next few weeks, with some scientists warning that the ice cap could soon vanish altogether during summer.

Four weeks ago tourists had to be evacuated from a park on Baffin Island because of flooding caused by melting glaciers, and polar bears have been spotted off Alaska trying to swim hundreds of miles to the retreating ice cap...

"The rate of change is clearly faster than nearly all the models predict, which has huge implications for climate change and how to tackle it."