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September 30, 2008

Vancouver and Montreal could become flooded


CANADA - If Greenland's ice sheet melts (which a group of UK scientists predict will happen by 2014) the rising sea levels would flood Canadian coastal cities Vancouver and Montreal.

The data is relatively simple. If the Greenland ice sheet melts it will raise sea levels by 7 meters (23 feet). Melting ice in the antarctic could raise sea levels even more or faster. Due to the low proximity of much of Vancouver and Montreal they would experience excessive flooding. Approx 70% if Vancouver would be under water and approx. half of Montreal would be flooded too.

Canadian province Prince Edward Island would also be hard hit, with 30% of the island being lost to the sea and erosion (indeed the island would become two islands).

The United States would also be hard hit, with New Orleans, all of southern Louisiana and a large chunk of Florida would all be underwater.

Religulous

ATHEISM - Ridiculous and religion get combined in a new atheist documentary about the sheer silliness of many of the world's religious beliefs.

The documentary is hosted by comedian Bill Maher from the show Politically Incorrect and is directed by Larry Charles, the staff writer for Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Reviews:

Christie Lemire of the Associated Press: "If you're an atheist or an agnostic, you'll be completely on board and happy to tag along with Maher as he travels the globe asking people about their faith - everywhere from Jerusalem to the Vatican to Amsterdam, where he finds not only the Cannabis Ministry but also a Muslim gay bar (with two people in it)."

Stephen Schaefer of Newsday: "much that's funny, insightful and thought-provoking. But it certainly doesn't give the religious a lot of slack."

Nick Schager of Slant Magazine: "atheistic wannabe-dissection of modern faith" and compared it to Ben Stein's Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed in that he considered both films to have "[employed] a similar, debilitating brand of smug disingenuousness, feigning interest in discussion while arrogantly and speciously preaching in the very same manner that their subjects are ridiculed for."

Sarah Palin hates Polar Bears?


Palin fought safeguards for polar bears with studies by climate change skeptics

United States - The Republican Sarah Palin and her officials in the Alaskan state government drew on the work of at least six scientists known to be skeptical about the dangers and causes of global warming, to back efforts to stop polar bears being protected as an endangered species, the Guardian can disclose. Some of the scientists were funded by the oil industry.

In official submissions to the US government's consultation on the status of the polar bear, Palin and her team referred to at least six scientists who have questioned either the existence of warming as a largely man-made phenomenon or its severity. One paper was partly funded by the US oil company ExxonMobil.

The status of the polar bear has become a battleground in the debate on global warming. In May the US department of the interior rejected Palin's objections and listed the bear as a threatened species, saying that two-thirds of the world's polar bears were likely to be extinct by 2050 due to the rapid melting of the sea ice. Palin, governor of Alaska and the Republican nominee for US vice-president, responded last month by suing the federal government, to try to overturn the ruling. The case will be heard in January.

Though the state of Alaska has no polar bear specialists on its staff, the governor's stance has pitted it against the combined scientific fire-power of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the US Geological Survey, and world experts on the mammal.

In its lawsuit, Alaska said it opposed the endangered label partly because the listing would "deter activities such as … oil and gas exploration and development". Oil companies recently bid $2.7bn (£1.5bn) for rights to explore the Chuckchi sea, an established polar bear habitat.

The threatened species status might also impede the building of an Alaskan natural gas pipeline, which Palin has called the "will of God". In a letter last year to the US interior secretary, Dirk Kempthorne, she said she believed the polar bear population was "abundant, stable and unthreatened by direct human activity". She opposed the call for the listing because it "did not use the best available scientific and commercial information".

Her own Alaskan review of the science drew on a joint paper by seven authors, four of whom were well-known climate-change deniers. Her paper argued that it was "certainly premature, if not impossible" to link temperature rise in Alaska with human CO2 emissions.

The paper, entitled Polar Bears of Western Hudson Bay and Climate Change, has been criticized for relying on old research and ignoring evidence that Arctic sea-ice is melting at a quickening pace. Walt Meier, a world authority on sea ice, based at the National Snow and Ice Data Centre, said: "The paper doesn't measure up scientifically."

One co-author of the paper, Willie Soon, completed the study with funding from ExxonMobil — which has oil operations in Alaska's North Slope — as well as from the American Petroleum Institute. Soon was a former senior scientist with the George C Marshall Institute, which acts as an incubator for climate-change scepticism. The institute has received $715,000 in funding from ExxonMobil since 1998.

In May, ExxonMobil announced that it was no longer funding Marshall and other groups linked with climate-change denier views. It said this was to avoid "distraction from the need to provide energy while reducing greenhouse gas emissions" and stressed that the company did not "control the research itself".

Another co-author of the document was Sallie Baliunas. In 2003 she and Soon were criticized when it was revealed that a joint paper had been partially funded by the American Petroleum Institute. Thirteen scientists whom they cited issued a rebuttal and several editors of the journal Climate Research resigned because of the "flawed peer review". A third co-author of the polar bear study, David Legates, a professor at Delaware University, is also associated with the Marshall Institute.

The citation by Palin and her officials prompted complaints from Congress. One member, Brad Miller, dubbed the polar bear study phony science.
Palin told Miller: "Attempts to discredit scientists...simply because their analyses do not agree with your views, would be a disservice to this country." Miller now says that Palin's use of the paper shows she differs greatly from John McCain, the Republican presidential contender, who has pressed for scientific integrity. "Turning to the cottage industry of scientists who are funded because they spread doubt about global warming is not integrity," Miller said.

Palin's submission consulted J Scott Armstrong, a specialist in forecasting, who regards the global warming issue as "public hysteria".

Two other climate change deniers were cited. One was Syun-Ichi Akasofu, formerly director of the International Arctic Research Centre, in Alaska, who argues that climate change could be a hangover from the "little ice age". He is a founding director of the Heartland Institute, a thinktank that has received $676,500 from ExxonMobil since 1998.

Timothy Ball, a retired professor from Winnipeg, is cited for his climate and polar bear research. He has called human-made global warming "the greatest deception in the history of science". He has worked with both Friends of Science, and the Natural Resources Stewardship Project, which each had funding from energy firms.

Kert Davies, research director at Greenpeace US, said the state of Alaska under Palin's leadership had relied on scholars who argue the opposite view to that of the overwhelming consensus in the scientific community. "It shows that she is completely out of touch with the urgency of the climate crisis."

Last month Palin agreed that the Alaskan climate was changing but added: "I'm not one though who would attribute it to being man-made." She later tried to retract the statement.

University of Calgary working on CO2 Scrubber


University of Calgary climate change researchers say they are close to figuring out how to commercialize the capture of carbon dioxide directly from the air with a simple system that could be set up anywhere in the world.

If they can make it work, it would allow greenhouse gas to be removed from ambient air and reduce the effect of emissions from transportation sources such as cars and airplanes.

"That's the excitement about it. It's a tool for dealing with diffuse CO2 emissions from transportation that account for roughly half of emissions," physicist and climate change scientist David Keith said Tuesday in a phone interview from his Calgary office.

That's important given how conventional systems for capturing CO2 work. Most involve installing "scrubbing" equipment at, for example, a coal-fired power plant to capture carbon dioxide produced during the burning of coal. But a system that can take CO2 out of ambient air is attractive because cars and airplanes aren't equipped with such scrubbers.

"You could do it wherever labour or capital costs are the cheapest and wherever you can best put the CO2," said Keith.

Over the summer, Keith and his team conducted an outdoor test of its seven-metre CO2 capture tower at the University of Calgary sports stadium.

The tower acts as a scrubber, with sodium hydroxide, also known as caustic soda, reacting with air blown into its base. A metal honeycomb system inside the tower slows down the flow of caustic soda, allowing it to efficiently scrub CO2.

While Keith said the technology isn't new — it's been used since the 1950s in industrial processes that call for carbon dioxide-free air — he believes his team has surmounted one of the two biggest obstacles to CO2 capture.

For the system to be effective, it must remove more carbon dioxide from the air than it emits as a byproduct of the energy used to run the scrubber. This summer's experiment showed that can be done, said Keith.

He estimates that if the electricity used to run the ambient air scrubber were to come from a coal-fired power plant — a heavy emitter of CO2 — he could capture 10 times more CO2 than the coal plant emitted.

The second catch, of course, is finding somewhere to store the CO2.

While some scientists have suggested storing it deep underground or at the bottom of the ocean, it's not yet clear how effective or affordable that would be on a large scale.

Marlo Raynolds, executive director of the Pembina Institute, an Alberta-based environmental think tank, said Keith's system merits the research effort.

"But while we advance technology like this, we need to deploy current technology that we know works now — conservation, hybrid vehicles. And we have to have the right policies in place to promote that, such as a price on carbon," Raynolds said.

"I think David Keith would be the first to admit it will be a long time before we see these things on street corners."

Indeed, Keith stresses that point, saying, "The steps between this and building an engineering company that gets a lot of smart people working on this project are pretty big."

Other researchers — most notably at Columbia University in New York City and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California — are also working on ambient air scrubbing technology, and Keith said he'd like to investigate potential commercial partnerships with them.

Certainly there is incentive beyond doing the environment a good turn.

Richard Branson, head of Virgin Group, has made a standing offer of $25 million US for anyone who can come up with a system to remove the equivalent of one billion tonnes of carbon dioxide or more every year from the atmosphere for at least a decade.

The University of Calgary's scrubber tower experiment will be featured in January on an episode of Discovery Channel's new Project Earth series.

Bush has increased exports to Iran

Exports to Iran increased more than ten-fold under Bush

United States - House Foreign Affairs Chairman Howard Berman of California and committee member David Scott of Georgia are asking the Government Accountability Office for the review, in reaction to an Associated Press report earlier this year that chronicled a more-than-tenfold increase in the dollar value of U.S. exports to Iran, from about $8 million in 2001 to nearly $150 million in 2007.

The AP found cigarettes, bull semen, military apparel and a grab-bag of other U.S. goods including musical instruments and bras went shipped to Iran during that period in addition to medical supplies, corn and soybeans. The exports were sent under agricultural, medical and humanitarian exemptions to U.S. sanctions on Iran. The Bush administration has refused to say who is getting the export licenses.

"The revelations in the AP article are deeply disturbing, particularly at a time when Iran continues to pursue its nuclear program in defiance of the will of the international community," the lawmakers told the GAO in a letter yesterday, adding that there are few national priorities more pressing than U.S. policy toward Iran.

The AP found the government's own records showed at least $106,635 in military rifles and $8,760 in rifle parts and accessories going to Iran, along with thousands of dollars' worth of military aircraft parts.

Why the hell are we selling military equipment to Iran?

The Bush administration looked into those exports after AP questioned them. It responded that the rifles and parts actually went to Iraq, and that Iran was erroneously entered on the shipping record. At least $13,000 in "aircraft launching gear and/or deck arrestors," equipment needed to launch jets from aircraft carriers, actually went to Italy, not to Iran as records showed, the administration said.

"In light of this odd circumstance, your report also should address the following questions: Is the U.S. in fact selling military equipment to Iran? If not, what is the explanation for recording errors indicating that such sales did, in fact, take place?" the lawmakers told the GAO. "Why was nobody aware of the recording errors until the AP story appeared?"

George W. Bush signed legislation earlier this year banning the Pentagon from selling its leftover F-14 fighter jet parts, a move prompted by the AP's reporting on security gaps in Defense Department surplus sales that made them a prime hunting ground for buyers for Iran and other countries. Iran, allowed by the U.S. to buy Tomcats decades ago when the two countries were still allies, is believed to be the only country trying to keep the old fighter jets airworthy.

Stephen Harper Plagiarizes Speech


What kind of leader can't even write his own speeches? The kind who is so lazy he steals them. Despicable.

Here is Stephen Harper, who repeatedly accuses of Stephane Dion of being a weak leader, but Harper can't even write his own speeches. Instead his staff steals other people's speeches. Makes you wonder how many of Harper's other speeches are plagiarized and if we should be voting for Australian Prime Minister John Howard instead...

September 29, 2008

European banks collapsing despite US bailout

World stocks tumbled further today, as three European banks became the latest casualties of spreading credit woes, and news that Citigroup would purchase rival Wachovia Corp. overshadowed Washington's bailout plan.

The Belgian, Dutch and Luxembourg governments rescued financial firm Fortis over the weekend to prevent a domino-like spread of failure.

The U.K. government said lender Bradford & Bingley's branch network will be sold to Spanish bank Santander and the remainder of the group will be nationalized.

Moreover, Iceland's government bought a 75% stake to take control of Glitnir bank after the bank's funding position deteriorated in recent days, knocking the crown currency to record lows against the euro.

German lender Hypo Real Estate struck a last-minute deal with the government and a consortium of banks to resolve a refinancing squeeze.

In the United States, Citigroup Inc. is acquiring the banking operations of Wachovia Corp. in a deal supported by the U.S. government.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. made the announcement this morning as Wachovia became the latest institution to succumb to anxiety over mounting losses tied to toxic assets.

The money market remained frozen with banks refusing to lend to one another for all but the shortest periods, prompting central banks in Europe and Asia to pump in more cash.

U.S. lawmakers are due to vote today on a $700 billion toxic debt fund after more than a week of negotiations. The $700 billion will be added to the US National Debt and will be paid for by American taxpayers, allowing many of the rich and wealthy working for America's investment banks to keep their jobs.

"One sees now, that not only American but also European banks are affected and that the crisis is after all global," said Carsten Klude, strategist at MM Warburg.

"A rescue plan worth 700 billion is simply not enough to overcome the crisis for the foreseeable future. If anything, all the real economy problems will escalate as a result in the foreseeable future."

The US bailout will help American investment banks (and their upper class employees) in this credit crisis, but the rest of the world's banks will be financially screwed.

If a global recession pulls down the American economy with it, whats the point of a bailout? American banks are only the tip of the iceberg.

64% of Canadians plan to register for no-call list

Nearly two-thirds of Canadians are tired of dealing with telemarketers and plan to register their phone numbers on the CRTC's new national do-not-call list, which takes effect tomorrow (Sept 30th), a new poll suggests.

Once a number is on the no-call registry, telemarketers will be barred from dialing that number, or face a hefty fine if they do. The maximum fines for individuals and companies telemarketing are $1,500 and $15,000, respectively.

The poll, conducted for the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, indicates 51 per cent of Canadians are aware of the no-call list, up from 44 per cent at the same time last year.

Once respondents were informed of the list, 64 per cent said they planned to register their phone numbers.

The poll for the association, which represents the majority of the country's advertising and market research companies, also suggests 61 per cent of Canadians believe exemptions from the no-call list – which includes pollsters, researchers and government agencies – will not affect the list's ability to stop calls from unwanted telemarketers.

When compared with a similar poll conducted last year, Canadians' awareness of the no-call list is up seven percentage points, a number Wycks attributes to media coverage and campaigns from advocacy groups. The polls were conducted as part of the research association's program to promote the power of public opinion in a democracy, Wycks said.

The United States has had a no-call registry since 2003, with similar exemptions for research firms.

The confidence Canadians have in a list's ability to block telemarketing calls despite the exemptions is justified, Wycks said. A poll by the American firm Harris Interactive of 2,565 U.S. adults surveyed online between Oct. 9 and Oct. 15, 2007 indicated 72 per cent of Americans had registered their telephone numbers for the U.S. no-call registry, with 18 per cent reporting they received no telemarketing calls.

About 59% said they still received some calls, but far fewer than before they signed on.

See also:

Dealing with Telemarketers and their Economics

Advertising in America

Telephone Marketing And SPAM Should Be ILLEGAL!

September 21, 2008

US National Debt to break $10 Trillion

George W. Bush's plan to bailout America's biggest investment banks involves buying out $700 billion worth of bad mortgages... this $700 billion will boost the US National Debt, currently sitting at $9.7 trillion, to the $10.4 trillion mark.

So if you've been keeping track of the US National Debt over the past 8 years you will have noticed something... Bush spends like a drunken liberal.

Furthermore Bush's plan also involves raising the National Debt ceiling to $11.3 trillion, suggesting Bush has other things he want to buy.

Apparently Bush doesn't understand the concept of a "ceiling". Its a spending limitation. You can't spend over it. Instead however he's been spending like crazy and has raised the debt ceiling every year he's been in the White House. Its like a welfare case calling the credit card company every year to ask for a bigger limit.

The United States is in for a hell of a time paying back this huge debt. Sooner or later China and Japan (which own 49% of the US National Debt) are going to stop loaning America money because its evident the Republicans have no intention of paying back this rather large IOU.

Don’t be surprised if the US defaults on the National Debt.

September 20, 2008

Bailing out America's Big Banks

George W. Bush announced yesterday that the United States will bail out America's big investment banks (who collectively have lost hundreds of billions of dollars on bad mortgages) and the American taxpayer will pay the bill. He basically wrote a blank cheque to the American investment banks and all their bad deals.

Lest we remind people, these are investment banks. Privately owned and privately funded. If they make bad financial decisions and their stocks crash maybe they should just be left to die? Why are we rescuing big corporations with huge financial bailouts at the expense of the taxpayer?

Its relatively simple: Panic.

Several days ago the stock market was crashing and it looked very dire, possibly on the verge of a depression. Bush has been asleep at the economic wheel so long its no surprise his answer is to just throw money at the problem.

But will throwing money at the problem really solve anything? Lest we forget this is the result of a credit problem in the United States.

Americans have too many mortgages, car loans, bank loans, student debt, credit cards, etc. Almost everyone in America owes people money, even the supposedly rich on a regular basis have leveraged their finances or property in some kind of debt. It is this huge debt load that set off the mortgage credit crisis, the crash in housing prices and the resulting credit crisis in American banks.

America's National Debt has a similar problem... huge budget deficits under the Bush Administration has pushed it to $9.7 trillion, which has to eventually be paid back in taxes. Those private banks debts, thanks to Bush, are now going to be public debts to be paid off by the American public.

Why?

So Bush's buddies in the banking industry won't lose their collective shirts. The crashing stock market was so close to collapse recently it would have demolished America's investment banks. Everyone working for those banks would have been fired and the bank stocks would be worthless. They potentially could have even had a run on their banks with everyone withdrawing all their cash and investments.

That kind of scary stuff makes people panic. Everyday Americans would have been fine, but the big investment banks, everyone working for them and everyone with investments with them (usually the rich) would have been screwed.

Imagine if it had collapsed? America would have suddenly had a lot less rich people.

So instead we had a bailout, keeping America's rich people rich, and passing the cost on to America's poor people in the form of taxes.

Wow. Just wow. Its like the complete opposite of communism. This is capitalism gone wrong. Tax the poor, give the money to the rich.

We should all be stunned and stupefied right now.

Polling Inaccuracy and Delusion

Should we be polling elections to see who people will vote for?

Think about it: How can it be truly democratic to know what other people are voting for, which party supposedly has "momentum" and who has the biggest % of the polls?

If you're voting for the party that has momentum or the biggest % according to the polls then you're not really making a democratic choice are you? You're just following it like a sheep following a herd.

Also, how accurate is polling anyway? The polls typically have a line that says "this poll is accurate within 3%, 19 times out 20"... which essentially means the real numbers could be dramatically different 5% of the time.

But there's a fallacy in that statement, and here's why:

1. Not everyone talks to pollsters on the phone. Some just hang up.
2. Some people use only cellphones and don't get polled.
3. Some people only answer the phone if they recognize the number calling.
4. Some people who do get polled don't vote anyway.
5. People can change their minds about who their voting for (I frequently don't decide until I'm physically in front of the ballot box).
6. Polls don't count the people who are undecided.
7. Some people just plain forget to vote.

And a myriad other reasons that could change the accuracy and validity of polls.

And frankly how does the numbers matter anyway? Shouldn't we be more concerned about the issues? Abortion, education, health care, the environment, the economy, the recession in the United States, wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and a possible war with Iran... these are issues that need to be talked about seriously.

Lets take the upcoming Canadian election as an example:

The Issues, The Conservatives, The Liberals

September 17, 2008

Carbon taxes originally a Conservative idea

Canada is in the midst of a new federal election and the biggest thing on the agenda is a proposed new carbon tax and income tax cut the Liberal Party is pushing for.

But here's the rub: Its not originally a Liberal idea. Its a Conservative one. Stephen Harper's Conservative Party commissioned a Conservative think tank to make a study into what ways the government could cut carbon emissions in Canada and NOT harm the economy. They spent several million dollars on the study and the conclusion was: Tax carbon omissions and there will be no detrimental effect to the Canadian economy.

But the oil industry in Alberta didn't like the report's conclusions, so they have since pressured Stephen Harper to ignore the findings and to simply do nothing about greenhouse gases.

However the Liberal Party saw the report and said "Hey, tax carbon omissions... not a bad idea. Why aren't we doing this?" And it has since become party policy and no doubt will some day pass in parliament.

So if carbon taxes was originally a Conservative idea, why not just run with it? Well the answer is simple. The Alberta oil industry is funding the new Conservative Party and they're not about to bite the hand that feeds them.

The NDP, the Green Party and the BLOC also support the carbon tax. Indeed according to a poll conducted last march 72% of Canadians support taxing greenhouse gases.

Heck, if we held a Referendum on the topic of carbon taxes (and lowering income taxes simultaneously), its pretty much guaranteed to pass.

Lets pretend for a moment that the Conservatives win a minority government, which could happen. The opposition parties could join together and vote in a referendum on the topic and then let Canadians decide what they want.

At which point Stephen Harper would be wise to flip-flop on this issue again and suddenly remember "Oh yeah, carbon taxes was originally our idea!" just so he can get the credit for it.

Carbon taxes originally a Conservative idea

Canada is in the midst of a new federal election and the biggest thing on the agenda is a proposed new carbon tax and income tax cut the Liberal Party is pushing for.

But here's the rub: Its not originally a Liberal idea. Its a Conservative one. Stephen Harper's Conservative Party commissioned a Conservative think tank to make a study into what ways the government could cut carbon emissions in Canada and NOT harm the economy. They spent several million dollars on the study and the conclusion was: Tax carbon omissions and there will be no detrimental effect to the Canadian economy.

But the oil industry in Alberta didn't like the report's conclusions, so they have since pressured Stephen Harper to ignore the findings and to simply do nothing about greenhouse gases.

However the Liberal Party saw the report and said "Hey, tax carbon omissions... not a bad idea. Why aren't we doing this?" And it has since become party policy and no doubt will some day pass in parliament.

So if carbon taxes was originally a Conservative idea, why not just run with it? Well the answer is simple. The Alberta oil industry is funding the new Conservative Party and they're not about to bite the hand that feeds them.

The NDP, the Green Party and the BLOC also support the carbon tax. Indeed according to a poll conducted last march 72% of Canadians support taxing greenhouse gases.

Heck, if we held a Referendum on the topic of carbon taxes (and lowering income taxes simultaneously), its pretty much guaranteed to pass.

Lets pretend for a moment that the Conservatives win a minority government, which could happen. The opposition parties could join together and vote in a referendum on the topic and then let Canadians decide what they want.

At which point Stephen Harper would be wise to flip-flop on this issue again and suddenly remember "Oh yeah, carbon taxes was originally our idea!" just so he can get the credit for it.

September 16, 2008

Boys use gossip to bully too


Gossip, rumours and social exclusion aren't just used by girl bullies, says a study released today in the journal Child Development.

Surprisingly, boys do engage in this type of bullying – also called indirect aggression – just as often as girls, and continue to be much more likely than girls to use physical, or "direct" aggression such as hitting or punching, says the study led by Noel Card, assistant professor of family studies and human development at the University of Arizona.

"We have a tendency to think [...] that boys are physically aggressive and girls must be this other type of aggressive," Card said in an interview.

"There's no meaningful difference in indirect aggression between boys and girls. When you go in and observe kids, boys are just as likely to do these things as girls."

The study, called a meta-analysis, looked at 148 studies of about 74,000 children and teens. Card said even though boys engage in more physical bullying, "plenty of girls are physically aggressive too... We need to recognize that both types of aggression is a problem for boys and girls."

Regardless of the type of bullying, boys and girls who are the aggressors tend to suffer adjustment troubles, added Card – for physical bullies, problems such as delinquency, hyperactivity and poor impulse control, and for social bullies, depression and anxiety.

"If anything, I think we might say we're maybe paying too much attention to gender with regard to bullying and need to address that aggressive kids have problems irrespective of gender," he said.

American Banks Imploding

Yesterday was the worst day in years for North American stock markets, which crumbled under the weight of a bankruptcy filing from Lehman Brothers Inc. and Bank of America Corp.'s takeover of Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc. American International Group (AIG) also announced it was seeking $40 billion in emergency funds to help it avoid a credit crisis.

The Dow Jones industrial average plunged 503 points, or 4.5%, in its biggest single-day point loss since September, 2001. The S&P/TSX lost 515 points, or 4%, to close at 12,254.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson tried to reassure investors that the United States's financial system was able to withstand the current crisis, and said the government would step in to prevent further turmoil if necessary. Last week, it took over the operations of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae to safeguard $5-trillion in mortgages.

So will Uncle Sam step in and provide more financial bailouts to America's imploding banking industry? Foolhardy seems like a choice word to describe such an action.

When governments bail out their large corporations it sets a bad standard and creates a false sense of security. These banks are now like children living in Uncle Sam's basement, but sooner or later Uncle Sam is going to say "No, you're on your own." This whole bailout system is the result of nepotism and corruption within the government and the American banking system, to say nothing of incompetence and greed.

Possible fraud within these corporations could also be a factor, but at the present it looks like the banks just got greedy by handing out too many sub-prime mortgages when they didn't have the money to cover them.

Part of the systemic problem is that the whole mortgage industry is reliant upon housing prices going up and down, and a housing price crash throws the whole system into turmoil. It makes for a decent argument for why housing prices should be at least partially government regulated. After all the government sets standards for property taxes, so why not use those standards as a "bare minimum" for housing prices too? Thus it would prevent housing prices from slipping too much in the event of a crash.

September 15, 2008

Oil prices fall below $96


Oil prices fell decisively under $100 US a barrel today after hurricane Ike inflicted minimal damage to oil installations on the Texas coast.

The oil market was also hit by turbulence in the U.S. financial sector, which aggravated expectations that the American Recession and global economic slowdown will suppress demand. Investors are now concerned falling oil demand in the United States, Europe and Japan as the recession threatens to undermine consumer spending.

Light sweet crude for October delivery was down $5.39 at $95.79 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, after going as low as $94.13 overnight. The contract had settled Friday at $101.18 after dipping to $99.99 — the first time Nymex crude had traded below the $100 mark since April 2.

Federal officials said the storm destroyed at least 10 oil and gas platforms and damaged pipelines in the Gulf of Mexico — a small proportion of the 3,800 production platforms in the Gulf. Three years ago, back-to-back hurricanes knocked out more than 100 platforms.

Oil fell despite reports that militants launched another attack on Nigeria’s oil infrastructure in a third day of violence. The Nigerian military in the southern oil delta region said militants in speedboats attacked troops at a Royal Dutch Shell PLC oil-pumping station early Monday. The fighters arrived in about 10 boats and detonated dynamite and other explosives during the battle.

September 13, 2008

Sarah Palin, America's right-wing sweetheart


Twelve years before she became America's right-wing sweetheart, Sarah Palin rode another wave of "change" to power.

Immediately after her election as mayor, the self-described pit bull ran into trouble in this tiny community tucked into Alaska's Matanuska-Susitna Valley, sparking a colourful internecine political battle. It was remarkable even by the intense, incestuous standards of America's Last Frontier.

John McCain's Republican presidential running mate arrived as mayor already facing allegations she had introduced conservative social issues – including her anti-abortion position – into the mayoral campaign. She even questioned why the incumbent mayor's wife still used her maiden name.

As mayor, she fired administrators, gagged others and tried to move a museum out of the downtown.

She mused about banning books, was accused of being in the pocket of the National Rifle Association, dissolved a commission seeking ways to improve the city's problem with drinking and driving, and faced charges she had tried to break laws to put her supporters on council. On Day 120 of her administration, the first day such a move was allowed by law, she faced an incipient recall movement.

Her journey to today as the most talked about politician in the U.S. began Oct. 1, 1996, when she won 616 votes, enough to win election as Wasilla's mayor.

Immediately, Wasilla's local newspaper, The Frontiersman, publicly worried about the new leadership being "too deeply entrenched in the conservative agenda."

One by one, city officials who had backed defeated incumbent mayor John Stein felt the wrath of "Sarah Barracuda" as she began to fire department heads.

When the Wasilla newspaper accused newly minted Mayor Palin of trying to break laws to stack council with her supporters she called it "brilliant manoeuvering" on her part, before backing down.

Four months later, The Frontiersman editorialized that she thought her election was a coronation.

"Welcome to Kingdom Palin," it wrote, "the land of no accountability."

She stared down her opponents and brazened her way through her first mayoral year, an early performance that foreshadowed this week's interview with ABC's Charlie Gibson in which she fixed her steely gaze on her interlocutor and told him she "never blinked" when McCain asked her to be his running mate.

"I have never cared for Sarah's style of campaigning, but she has always had a dedicated base behind her and I find that worrisome," said Darlene Langill, who served on city council during the first year of the Palin administration.

Langill, a fiscal conservative, butted heads with Palin on financial and administrative issues.

"She and her backers are borderline extreme conservatives," Langill said. "They think only their way is the right way and if you question that, you will feel the backlash... I define extremists as those who push their agenda on others."

Linda Beller, a member of the Wasilla Historical Society, also bucked Palin when she tried to move a museum from the downtown, claiming it was costing Wasilla $16.79 every time a visitor walked through the museum door.

At the time, a defiant Beller said: "You can't put a price tag on a museum and what it offers the community."

Beller won and Palin ultimately backed down.

"My first impression was, `Oh my God, who is this little punk?'" Beller recalled. "I didn't understand where she thought she had anything to give this community."

Today, Beller still differs with Palin on abortion – Beller is pro-choice – and she has a non-uniformed niece stationed in Iraq but cannot support the war.

Maintaining a populist streak Sarah Palin cut her $68,000 mayor's salary by 10 per cent, saying such a stipend for the mayor of such a small community was "embarrassing."

Still, behind the populist streak was a draconian bent.

Three days after her election as mayor she dissolved the city's Liquor Task Force and won plaudits and campaign contributions from The Wasilla Bar and The Mug Shot who were allowed to stay open later – even though drunken patrons were driving home to nearby Anchorage where bars closed earlier.

"We were just starting to connect with the bar owners and getting more public awareness about alcohol problems," Michelle Overstreet, co-ordinator of the Mat-Su Council Outreach program, said at the time. "It's a shame some kind of power trip could end that."

Under Palin, Wasilla was the only community in Alaska which forced rape victims to pay for their own medical exams, former Governor Tony Knowles told reporters.

Knowles signed a bill outlawing the practice eight years ago as a direct response to Palin's policy.

But Palin's major confrontations the first year were with the fired police chief Irl Stambaugh and chief librarian Mary Ellen Emmons.

Today, both matters are shrouded in gossip and selective memories.

Stambaugh, the town's first police chief, sued for $275,000, a suit he ultimately lost.

He claimed he was fired for his backing of ex-mayor Stein, his opposition to a concealed weapons law Palin backed and his opposition to the extended bar hours.

He alleged Palin secretly told him the NRA had wanted her to fire him and denied allegations that the much larger Stambaugh had tried to "intimidate" her at meetings.

The Emmons controversy had its roots with Palin twice inquiring about banning books in Wasilla, something she said she had raised only "rhetorically."

Nobody would discuss which books Palin wanted to ban.

Angry Black Cat, please come back!


Interracial Relationships is a big no-no for some people, however there's a lot of information out there showing that such relationships are becoming normal and natural.

One of our favourite websites on the topic was "Angry Black Cat", which no longer exists. The site was run by ABC and her beau JeffG. Unfortunately the site has been removed and there's been no word on when or whether ABC or JeffG will ever repost all their articles again, or their podcasts which was also quite entertaining.

Apparently they were getting a lot of hatemail from people opposed to interracial relationships, and that may have been a factor in why the website was eventually removed. They also had a house they were renovating, so perhaps that is now keeping them busy. (If ABC and JeffG read this, please contact us!)

HOWEVER, thanks to the miracle of the Wayback Machine we've been able to go back and find a lot of their old articles and repost them to a blog we created today called In My Hair

Our hope is that ABC and JeffG will come back someday. In the meantime here is some of their articles of interest:

By Angry Black Cat

* Experiences with White Women
* Googling Interracial
* How ABC and JeffG Met
* My Marriage Doesn’t Affect You
* Never Felt So Black
* The Excuses of Black Men
* The IKEA Conflict
* You're So Strong Willed

By JeffG

* A few reasons why I married a black woman
* Bigotry is a Learned Behavior
* Common sense isn't common: Safety Nets and Personal Accountability
* Corporate America & Tolerance
* How ABC and JeffG Met
* How I was exposed to my own color-blindness
* Marrying the Family
* Open letter to NBC
* The College of Segregation
* This Is Like, The Worst Area!
* Uncontrollably White

September 12, 2008

Gas prices still high while oil hovers around $102


Today gas prices in Toronto soared 13 cents to $1.37 per litre (a little over $5 US/gallon). Similar prices are posted across Canada.

Which is really weird, because oil prices have dropped $40 in the last month (currently hovering about $102/barrel), so gasoline prices in Canada SHOULD be down roughly 30 to 40 cents.

The oil/gas industry is blaming supply concerns about Hurricane Ike which is currently rampaging over the Gulf of Mexico.

Oil prices have been going down recently due to less demand in the United States as Americans buy more hybrids and/or smaller cars. Oil demand in the United States dropped by 800,000 barrels per day (bpd) in the first half of 2008, the steepest volume drop in 26 years.

See Also: Why does gasoline cost so much?

September 10, 2008

Environmental Blabble



If you're a fan of Facebook you'll probably like this new Facebook application called Blabble. Loads of fun for you and your friends.

September 9, 2008

North Korean Dictator suffers stroke?


North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il has apparently suffered a health setback, "possibly a stroke," a US intelligence official said today, noting he had not appeared at a 60th anniversary parade.

While it has not been confirmed, it does appear that Kim Jong-Il has had a health setback, possibly a stroke. Kim has not been seen the last couple of weeks in public. US intelligence is "pretty confident" of its assessment of a health setback.

Kim failed to appear at a massive military parade in Pyongyang Tuesday, marking the 60th anniversary of the founding of the secretive Stalinist state. The North Korean leader has never before missed the parade celebration.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack declined to comment on what intelligence officials were saying about Kim's health and on his absence from the parade.

"Obviously, this is a very opaque regime, so I'm not in a position to offer any comment to you," McCormack said.

He said he could comment only on North Korea's failure to press ahead with arrangements for verifying the internationally-agreed disablement of its nuclear weapons program.

"We don't necessarily have a good picture into the decision-making processes of the North Korean regime, but we can see very clearly outputs or lack of outputs," McCormack said.

"And thus far we have, over the past several weeks, we have not seen outputs in terms of their agreement to a verification regime," he said.

"So that's where our focus is on," he said.

He again acknowledged that North Korea has also taken steps toward restarting the Yongbyon nuclear reactor by putting equipment that had been in storage back to former positions.

However, he said there is no sign it is operational.

North Korea last week announced that it has stopped work on disabling Yongbyon, and would consider rebuilding the plants, because Washington has failed to drop it from a terrorism blacklist.

The Yongbyon reactor is at the heart of Pyongyang's decades-old nuclear weapons drive and produced the plutonium for its October 2006 atomic test.

Last year North Korea sealed a landmark deal with the United States, China, South Korea, Japan and Russia to abandon all its nuclear weapons in exchange for badly needed energy and economic aid and security and diplomatic benefits.

September 7, 2008

AIDS/HIV Statistics


The latest statistics on the world epidemic of AIDS & HIV were published by UNAIDS/WHO in July 2008, and refer to the end of 2007.

2 million people died of AIDS in 2007. Another 2.7 million became infected during 2007.

The number of people living with HIV has risen from around 8 million in 1990 to 33 million today, and is still growing. More than 25 million people have died of AIDS since 1981.

At the end of 2007, women accounted for 50% of all adults living with HIV worldwide, and for 59% in sub-Saharan Africa. Africa has 11.6 million AIDS orphans. Around 67% of people living with HIV are in sub-Saharan Africa.

Young people (under 25 years old) account for half of all new HIV infections worldwide.

CAUSE?

Disbeliefs about the use of condoms, frequently touted as the tool of the devil by the Catholic Church which preaches abstinence. Abstinence doesn't work. People need a real solution, and that means contraceptives like condoms.

Proper breakfast prevents snacking and obesity

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It gives kids and teens the energy they need to perform at school and helps adults get through the workday without burning out.

We're not talking the William Shatner fibre-type breakfast, or sugar dusted Frosted Flakes either. We're talking a good cereal, toast, some eggs and juice or milk.

Studies show that a blend of different healthy foods is best.

Healthy foods in the morning stimulate the digestive system to better utilize the nutrients we consume. Morning eggs for example will boost your metabolism and help regulate your appetite throughout the day.

Breakfast is an effective tool for weight control at every age. The more often you eat breakfast the less likely you are to have an obesity problem, and you are more likely to meet your body's fibre, calcium and B vitamin needs.

All of this breakfast hype begs the question - what constitutes a healthy breakfast?

"There's a simple way of looking at it," says Nicole Springle, Acting Director of Nutrition at Cleveland Clinic in Toronto. "Choose three of the four food groups. Try for four."

"People often forget to include protein," Springle says. She recommends getting protein from lean meats, eggs, nuts or dairy. "Breakfast is also a great time to get in a high source of fibre, from whole grains, berries or a high fibre cereal," she adds.

A 2006 Statistics Canada report showed that Canadians were getting more calories from snacks than from breakfast. The report also revealed that 10 per cent of Canadians skipped breakfast entirely. Some research suggests the number of people eating breakfast every day is much lower than reported by Statistics Canada, especially among obese youth.

Recently released findings from the Nova Scotia-wide Physical Activity and Dietary Intake of Children and Youth (PACY) study show that 53.3 percent of normal weight students ate breakfast everyday, while only 28.6 percent of their obese classmates did the same. This study also revealed that the majority of overweight and obese students were concerned about their weight.

"We're seeing a trend where more normal weight students eat breakfast alone," explains Dr. René Murphy, PACY research team member. "These students are taking the initiative to eat this meal every morning. This may be playing a major role in their ability to maintain a healthy weight."

Evidently it would be very easy to point the finger at lazy parenting and allowing snacks to get out of hand with a solid breakfast is what kids really need. We're all guilty of skipping breakfast now and then, but if a person is skipping breakfast all the time and snacking on sugary/high fat items all the time instead... its time to make a NO SNACKS RULE and start reinforcing a healthy breakfast.

September 6, 2008

European Union calculating the cost of fighting climate change

How much will it cost the European Union to fight global climate change? Clearly the answer depends on what your target is, how you propose to get there and the size of the EU's contribution compared with those of the US, China and so on. But a new report from the Centre for European Policy Studies offers some useful estimates.

It assesses six recent studies, from the UK's Stern review of the economic impact of climate change and a World Bank analysis to research prepared by Vattenfall, the Swedish energy company. In these reports, the average annual global costs for mitigating and adapting to climate change are put at anything from €230bn to €614bn, based on 2006 data.

The EU is not, these days, one of the world's great polluters. In 2004, the global economy emitted about 49bn tons of greenhouse gases (measured in carbon dioxide equivalent). The share of the 27-nation bloc was only 5.2bn tons, or 10.6 per cent.

However, as western Europe is one of the world's richest areas, and as Europe has historical responsibility for the CO 2 emissions of its industrial heyday, the EU will surely have to pay more than 10.6 per cent of the global costs of fighting climate change.

According to the CEPS study, the smallest bill the EU could expect to pick up is €24.4bn a year, while the biggest is €194.3bn. The think-tank's own estimate, based on what it calls "the limited likelihood of a global burden-sharing according to current emissions", is that the EU will face annual costs of at least €60bn.

This figure is close to the forecast provided by the European Commission last January, when it published its all-encompassing proposals on energy and climate change policy. At the time, the Commission said €60bn - or about 0.5 per cent of the EU's annual gross domestic product - might seem a lot of money, but the cost of doing nothing would be even higher.

Has the message got through to Germany's car manufacturers and their friends in the European Parliament?

This week, the legislature's industry committee tried to weaken a Commission proposal for capping CO2 emissions from new cars. Rather than imposing a target of 130 grammes per kilometre on all new cars by 2012, the committee voted to apply it to only 60 per cent of new cars and to delay full introduction of the target until 2015. The vote was unmistakably aimed at helping German carmakers, whose models are bigger and less green than those of France and Italy.

This is, of course, hardly the last word on the subject. The parliamentary committee's vote isn't binding. But when it comes to converting the EU's high-sounding principles on climate change into concrete legislation, the devil is always in the detail.

Learn more about Eco-Friendly Cars.

McCain ignores environment and climate change

In his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention Thursday night, presidential candidate John McCain mentioned climate change and global warming exactly zero times. He never even uttered the "E" word (environment).

It used to be that McCain's bipartisan work combating global warming was a point of pride for the GOP senator. That was before he selected VP candidate Sarah Palin, who is a global warming denier and is passionate about drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The closest McCain got to the climate was in talking about energy:

We'll produce more energy at home. We will drill new wells off-shore, and we'll drill them now. We'll drill them now.

We'll -- we'll -- my friends, we'll build more nuclear power plants. We'll develop clean-coal technology. We'll increase the use of wind, tide, solar, and natural gas. We'll encourage the development and use of flex-fuel, hybrid and electric automobiles.

Senator Obama thinks we can achieve energy independence without more drilling and without more nuclear power. But Americans know better than that.

We must use all resources and develop all technologies necessary to rescue our economy from the damage caused by rising oil prices and restore the health of our planet.

Asian pollution may cause American climate shift

WASHINGTON - Pollution from Asian coal power plants could create summer hot spots in the central United States and southern Europe by mid-century, US climate scientists reported on Thursday. The full report is available online at www.climatescience.gov and was released by the US Climate Change Science Program.

Unlike the long-lived greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, the particle and gas pollution cited in this report only stays in the air for a few days or weeks but its warming effect stays over the long term.

"We found that these short-lived pollutants have a greater influence on the Earth's climate throughout the 21st century than previously thought," said Hiram Levy of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"By 2050, two of the three climate models we use found that changes in short-lived pollutants will contribute 20 percent of the predicted global warming. By 2100, that figure goes up to 25 percent."

The short-lived pollution that can cause long-term warming comes from soot, also known as the black carbon particles that result from fires, and sulfate particles, which are emitted by power plants. Soot particles are dark and absorb heat; sulfates are light and reflect heat, actually cooling things down.

Asian soot and sulfate pollution is likely to make for hotter, drier summers in the American Midwest and the Mediterranean region of southern Europe, Levy said, adding that heating and drying effects are not expected to hit Asia.

The reason for the expected pollution-related warming trend is that sulfate pollution, which has been linked to respiratory problems, is expected to decrease dramatically while soot pollution is forecast to continue increasing in Asia.

Ground-level ozone emitted by US transport vehicles is also a factor, the scientists said.

These pollutants have usually been dealt with as threats to air quality, but should also be considered for their impact on climate change, said Drew Shindell, a climate expert at NASA.

Carbon dioxide, which spurs global warming and is emitted from natural and human-made sources, still is going to dominate the climate change picture in the coming century, but because modern societies are built to emit lots of this substance, change is likely to be slow, Shindell said.

Targeting these air pollutants now makes sense, because of their role in the quality of the air people breathe as well as their impact on global warming, he said.

"It's no substitute for targeting CO2 (carbon dioxide), which in the long run is the main contributor to global warming and has to be tackled, but ... the shorter-term pollutants can have a very large impact," Shindell said.

Climate change could dramatically hurt the US economy.

Conservatives fail in climate change report


OTTAWA - A new report card by the Sierra Club of Canada gives the Liberal Party high marks for its green shift plan, while failing the Conservatives for their lack of effort and commitment on climate change.

In its report card released today, the Sierra Club of Canada took the Conservative government to task, giving it an “F+” for setting emission reduction targets that amount to nothing more than “regulating the status quo.” Meanwhile the Liberal Party was lauded for having “a credible plan to achieve significant reductions in greenhouse gases and received a “B+,” second only to the Green Party.

The report is an eye opener for Canadians who think that the Conservative government is actually concerned about reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Economists, scientists and environmentalists alike have repeatedly stated that allowing Stephen Harper to implement his ‘Turning the Corner’ plan is a recipe for failure.

While more than a dozen independent analysts have determined that the Harper plan will not meet its already meager targets, the Sierra Club noted that “the way forward really is to have a carbon tax regime such as the Liberal green shift plan.”

Canadians have a choice in the coming election: Elect Harper who will maintain the status quo, or they can choose a party that understands the scope of the problem and has a credible plan to address it.

Global droughts resulting in Wheat Shortage


Droughts caused by global climate change have led to a drop in wheat production, a worldwide shortage and high food prices around the world.

The global wheat supply is at its lowest point in 50 years, with wheat reserves so low that some countries will simply run out of wheat and flour. This has been one factor pushing the prices of bread, beer and other wheat-containing foods steadily higher. In Canada alone the price of flour has more than doubled over the past eight months.

Usually prices are more seasonal, going up or down 10%. But due to the worldwide drought its created a huge shortage of wheat, resulting in prices to double in countries that export wheat, and to be significant worse in countries that don't.

Also to blame for the global wheat shortage is rising population, coupled with increasing meat consumption worldwide. This has led to the increasing diversion of grain to animal feed.

Analysts anticipate that the shortage may be resolved within 12 months, when more farmers are expected to cash into wheat production. But even when the shortage resolves, food prices are only expected to keep climbing above the norm due to other factors, such as high energy and shipping costs.

Public health experts have expressed concern about the effect that rising food prices have on the poor. The United Nations recently reported that in 2007, the cost of food imports in the world's neediest countries increased 24 percent, to a total of $107 billion. Large populations will simply go without...

At which point some idiot in Washington will likely say "Let them eat cake."

Greenland ice melting faster than expected


When scientists make a prediction they usually make several: A conservative estimate and a seemingly wilder number which is frequently more accurate. The conservative estimate is really more the press and the naysayers, and the more other number is either scary or delightfully good news, depending on the situation.

So when a group of scientists comes forward and says that Greenland's ice sheet is melting faster than expected, you have to ask... were they comparing it to the conservative estimate or the supposedly-more-accurate one? As you will see below scientists don't agree all the time.

A group of NASA and university scientists are warning the steady loss of the Greenland ice sheet could raise sea levels three times higher than estimated. In a report in the journal Nature Geoscience, the study challenges current predictions about the rate at which the massive ice sheet is predicted to melt over the next century as greenhouse gases rise and temperatures warm.

The report's authors say the loss of the ice mass could raise global sea levels by up to five millimetres a year – almost three times the current estimates set by an international authority on the issue. (Basically its one group of scientists saying the other group was using a really conservative estimate.)

"We're showing that the geologic record shows that in the past, ice sheets have melted much faster than we're predicting at the end of this century," Anders Carlson, a geologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The team of researchers, including scientists from NASA and the University of British Columbia, used geologic data to study the Laurentide ice sheet, the last massive ice dome to cover much of the northern hemisphere.

Faron Anslow, a glaciologist at UBC in Vancouver, said they studied marine and terrestrial records to determine how fast the Laurentide sheet melted and if it might predict the fate of the Greenland sheet.

The team discovered that the ancient ice cap, which spanned 1.7 million square kilometres, went through two periods of rapid melting. The first occurred about 9,000 years ago and again about 7,600 years ago, when there was increased solar radiation.

"The ice sheet was existing in a pretty warm climate and what we show is that that sunlight was enough to melt the ice sheet away very rapidly," he said.

They also found that the melt led to a speedy rise in sea levels of almost two centimetres a year.

Anslow said the temperatures at the time of the Laurentide melt are similar to what's expected for Greenland by the end of this century, suggesting it could undergo an equally rapid melt.

The Laurentide sheet, which was almost twice the size of its Greenland cousin, was at its largest about 22,000 years ago when it began its slow decline due to warming temperatures.

It virtually disappeared about 6,000 years ago.

Carlson says that if the Greenland sheet completely disappeared, it would raise sea levels by seven metres, adding that even the slightest increases could threaten hundreds of millions of people in coastal communities.

"The word 'glacial' used to imply that something was very slow," co-author Allegra LeGrande of the New York-based NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies wrote in the report. "This new evidence ... indicates that 'glacial' is anything but slow.

"This finding shows the potential for ice to disappear quickly, given the right push."

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts a maximum sea level rise over the next 100 years of up to 10 centimetres, based mainly on the expansion of the oceans through warming.

Anders said it doesn't take into account contributions from ice sheet melt.

"They now predict a half-metre sea level rise with most of that coming from the expansion of the ocean due to warming and very little of that coming from ice sheet melting," he said.

"Ice sheet melting could be a much bigger component, so these values should be seen as low estimates."

Anders said science hasn't been able to get an accurate picture of how fast ice sheets melt as a result of climate change until now. The scientific team used sophisticated computer modelling and terrestrial records to track the sheet's disappearance, linking it in time to warming temperatures.

In 2006 a huge iceshelf snapped in northern Canada, surprising scientists at the sheer speed it disappeared. In 2007 the Greenland ice sheet retreated by a record amount and that record will likely be broken again in the future.

Greenland ice melting faster than expected


When scientists make a prediction they usually make several: A conservative estimate and a seemingly wilder number which is frequently more accurate. The conservative estimate is really more the press and the naysayers, and the more other number is either scary or delightfully good news, depending on the situation.

So when a group of scientists comes forward and says that Greenland's ice sheet is melting faster than expected, you have to ask... were they comparing it to the conservative estimate or the supposedly-more-accurate one? As you will see below scientists don't agree all the time.

A group of NASA and university scientists are warning the steady loss of the Greenland ice sheet could raise sea levels three times higher than estimated. In a report in the journal Nature Geoscience, the study challenges current predictions about the rate at which the massive ice sheet is predicted to melt over the next century as greenhouse gases rise and temperatures warm.

The report's authors say the loss of the ice mass could raise global sea levels by up to five millimetres a year – almost three times the current estimates set by an international authority on the issue. (Basically its one group of scientists saying the other group was using a really conservative estimate.)

"We're showing that the geologic record shows that in the past, ice sheets have melted much faster than we're predicting at the end of this century," Anders Carlson, a geologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The team of researchers, including scientists from NASA and the University of British Columbia, used geologic data to study the Laurentide ice sheet, the last massive ice dome to cover much of the northern hemisphere.

Faron Anslow, a glaciologist at UBC in Vancouver, said they studied marine and terrestrial records to determine how fast the Laurentide sheet melted and if it might predict the fate of the Greenland sheet.

The team discovered that the ancient ice cap, which spanned 1.7 million square kilometres, went through two periods of rapid melting. The first occurred about 9,000 years ago and again about 7,600 years ago, when there was increased solar radiation.

"The ice sheet was existing in a pretty warm climate and what we show is that that sunlight was enough to melt the ice sheet away very rapidly," he said.

They also found that the melt led to a speedy rise in sea levels of almost two centimetres a year.

Anslow said the temperatures at the time of the Laurentide melt are similar to what's expected for Greenland by the end of this century, suggesting it could undergo an equally rapid melt.

The Laurentide sheet, which was almost twice the size of its Greenland cousin, was at its largest about 22,000 years ago when it began its slow decline due to warming temperatures.

It virtually disappeared about 6,000 years ago.

Carlson says that if the Greenland sheet completely disappeared, it would raise sea levels by seven metres, adding that even the slightest increases could threaten hundreds of millions of people in coastal communities.

"The word 'glacial' used to imply that something was very slow," co-author Allegra LeGrande of the New York-based NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies wrote in the report. "This new evidence ... indicates that 'glacial' is anything but slow.

"This finding shows the potential for ice to disappear quickly, given the right push."

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts a maximum sea level rise over the next 100 years of up to 10 centimetres, based mainly on the expansion of the oceans through warming.

Anders said it doesn't take into account contributions from ice sheet melt.

"They now predict a half-metre sea level rise with most of that coming from the expansion of the ocean due to warming and very little of that coming from ice sheet melting," he said.

"Ice sheet melting could be a much bigger component, so these values should be seen as low estimates."

Anders said science hasn't been able to get an accurate picture of how fast ice sheets melt as a result of climate change until now. The scientific team used sophisticated computer modelling and terrestrial records to track the sheet's disappearance, linking it in time to warming temperatures.

In 2006 a huge iceshelf snapped in northern Canada, surprising scientists at the sheer speed it disappeared. In 2007 the Greenland ice sheet retreated by a record amount and that record will likely be broken again in the future.

Environmental Headlines


Asian pollution may cause American climate shift


Canadian Conservatives fail in climate change report

Global droughts resulting in Wheat Shortage

European Union calculating the cost of fighting climate change

McCain ignores environment and climate change

Polls suggest Obama will beat McCain 280 to 258.


There are a variety of pre-election polls available out there, but the most reliable is the daily Gallup three day poll. Every day Gallup polls hundreds of American voters and after three day tallies the results and posts them online.

As of yesterday Obama and McCain (a George W. Bush carbon copy) were pretty close, with Obama leading with 48% and McCain trailing close behind at 44% (the remaining 8% of voters are either voting third party or are undecided).

State by state polling shows a different story. According to the state polls Obama will win 280 electoral votes while McCain will win only 258. Obama only needs 270 to win, so a possible tie in Nebraska (currently going to McCain) and several other keys states where the polls are very close in an opportunity for either opponent to try and pick up some extra electoral votes.

Florida, which is currently 47% McCain and 45% Obama.
Nebraska, which is currently 45% McCain and 42% Obama.
New Hampshire, which is currently 44% McCain and 46% Obama.
New Jersey, which is currently 43% McCain and 42% Obama.
North Carolina, which is currently 47% McCain and 45% Obama.
South Carolina, which is currently 48% McCain and 45% Obama.
South Dakota, which is currently 47% McCain and 43% Obama.
Texas, which is currently 47% McCain and 46% Obama.
Virginia, which is currently 47% McCain and 48% Obama.

A number of the possible ties are currently in favour of McCain, making him the one with the most to lose if Obama manages to secure those states too. With 2 months still to go these polls are likely to change.

States that have been hard hit by the American Recession are showing Obama with a 10% to 30% lead in the polls. The failing American economy appears to be the Achilles' heel of the Republicans, and history seems to be repeating itself (in the 1992 election Clinton beat Bush Sr. on the issue of the failing United States economy).

September 4, 2008

Dawson College Shooting, coroner recommendations


The coroner's report for the Dawson College shooting incident (Kimveer Gill killed Anastasia De Sousa and injured 19 others at Dawson College on September 13th 2006 during a 20 minute shooting frenzy) was released today.

The report recommends banning semi-automatic assault rifles and giving police heavier weapons. Ramsay said police should be allowed one or two rifles that would be kept in the trunks of their vehicles and to be used in the event of mass shootings.

It is up to the federal public safety minister (Stockwell Day) to ban semi-automatic assault rifles.

The report by Quebec coroner Jacques Ramsay, also says health and education officials should have access to the federal gun registry so they would know if a student or mental patient has a gun.

Gunman Kimveer Gill was treated for depression and suicidal thoughts in March 2004, 18 months before receiving a gun permit to obtain a semi-automatic Beretta CX4 Storm rifle. Gill tried anti-depressants and the doctor suggested an alcohol rehabilitation program, but Gill never went.

After writing a will on the morning of the shootings, he drove to Dawson College and opened fire, shooting De Sousa at least a dozen times and injuring 19 others. Gill fired at least 72 shots total. Gill was then shot in the right elbow by police and, in front of two witnesses, killed himself rather than be taken alive.

In response to the Dawson College shooting the Quebec government passed a new law earlier this week that bans firearms from schools, school buses and daycare centres, except for authorized personnel such as police.

What a freaking useless law! That law is the last thing on a gunman's mind when they go on a shooting rampage. Why not pass a real law that will actually make a difference?!

Coroner's recommendations:

• Health and education officials should have access to the federal gun registry.

• Ban weapons where the charger is located behind the trigger.

• Police should immediately liaise with staff at the beginning of operations involving a shooter to maximize information about the shooter's location

• Police should consider equipping each station with one or two rifles or shotguns to be used by trained officers and kept in patrol car trunks.

• Police should keep track of patrol cars dispersed across its territory with electronic mapping such as GPS to make response more effective.

• Schools and colleges should prepare emergency plans to deal with potential shooters with the assistance of police.

See Also: Gun Control in Canada

September 3, 2008

Stephen Harper's Hidden Agenda (again)


CANADA - Prime Minister Stephen Harper is about to pull the plug on the 39th Parliament and plunge the country into an election because, according to his spokesperson, he could find "no area of common ground" with the opposition that would allow the government to move forward with its agenda.

But just what is the Conservative government's agenda? In his meetings with the opposition leaders over the past week, Harper reportedly played his cards close to his vest. He did not lay out a government agenda for the fall and seek opposition approval to move ahead. Rather, he posed rhetorical questions like (according to Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion): "Do we have common ground about the orientation of the country?"

Perhaps Harper was simply holding back because he had already decided to have an election and didn't want to give away any of the Conservative platform in advance. In other words, instead of an agenda for a minority parliament, during the course of the election campaign we could see an outline of what Harper would do if he had a majority. (The polls say he is on the cusp of one.)

Then again, maybe not. There have been suggestions in recent days that Harper will run on "strong leadership" (see the TV ads that have already been launched) and against Dion (who has been called a weak leader in Conservative attack ads). As for what Harper would do in a second term, we might get no more than generalities.

Which raises the question that has often plagued Harper and the Conservatives: Do they have a hidden agenda?

Unshackled from the requirements of a minority Parliament to temper their policies, would Harper and the Conservatives return to their Reform roots and implement more tax cuts accompanied by deep reductions in government spending, outsource regulatory oversight, privatize the CBC, create a triple-E Senate and even adopt socially conservative stances against abortion and gay marriage?

While Harper has worked hard to moderate his party's image in recent years, there have been recent glimpses that the old ideas are still kicking around inside the government, including the cuts to arts programs and the shifting of some responsibility for food inspections from the public service to the industry.

In explaining the decision to go to the polls rather than face Parliament this fall, the Prime Minister's spokesperson said on Monday: "We are in uncertain economic times. There are a number of things that the government would like to move forward on."

The public ought to know what those "things" are before voting.

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