Archive for March, 2009

fish-and-drugs

Pharmaceuticals are polluting the waterways of our world. A study funded by a $150,000 grant from the EPA found fish carrying detectable levels of pharmaceuticals in their bodies. The research, conducted by Baylor University researcher Bryan Brooks, and published in Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, examined fish caught near Phoenix, Dallas, Chicago, Philadelphia and Orlando, testing them for residues of pharmaceuticals. Brooks found the fish to be contaminated with:

  • Seven different pharmaceuticals, including cholesterol drugs, blood pressure drugs, allergy drugs and psychiatric medications used to treat bipolar disorder and depression
  • Two different chemicals used as artificial fragrance in soaps

The trace chemicals were found in fish near all of the sites tested bar one: in order to establish a baseline reference of healthy, non-contaminated fish, researchers caught fish in the Gila River Wilderness Area of New Mexico, which is far from any cities or developments.

It seems to be quite clear from this research that pharmaceuticals have become a widespread source of chemical pollution that has permeated delicate aquatic ecosystems and now poses yet another threat serious threat to our environment.

To read more on this topic, go to Natural News.

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Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Little Red Riding Hood, the Animated …“, posted with vodpod

What a great way by Tomas Nilsson, a graphic design student from Linköping University, to tell the story of Little Red Riding Hood with animated infographics. The video was inspired by Röyksopp‘s ‘Remind Me’. And the sometimes quite funnily place graphics cover topics from grandma’s nutritional value to the aerodynamics of the traveling bus – very well done!

Via Flowing Data

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penis-house

This is too hillarious to let go off, even for me who is not the biggest fan of seemingly mindless media drivel.

The house above stands in Hungerford, UK. The Guardian reported that a teenager called Rory McInnes painted a giant phallus on the roof of his parents’ £1million mansion in West Berkshire mansion, apparently after watching a program about Google Earth. The BBC said it was there for a whole year before his parents found out. Rory’s certainly become a celebrity, and even his dad took it with a dose of good humour. Rory, 18, is currently in Brazil on a gap year and apparently will have to clean up the drawing when he comes back. Good to see those parents not minding it in the meantime, although I’m not sure – Rory’s Brazil gig might already be over.

It is not the first time the stunt has been tried. In 2006 the Sun reported that pranksters drew a dick on the roof of the posh Yarm School at Stockton on Tees, Teesside that went ­unnoticed until it appeared on Google Earth; they also burnt another one into the grass next to the school. Similarly for the benefit of Google Earth, pupils drew a 6m penis in weedkiller on school playing fields in Southampton in 2007. In both cases remedial action (scrubbing and re-seeding) apparently was only semi-successful – at least for a while.

Also in th UK there’s the Cerne Abbas village, featuring a huge outline sculpted into the chalk hillside above the village representing a naked, sexually aroused, club-wielding giant; it seems to be a product of the 17th century. I’d like to hear more about the psycho-cultural significance of this UK obsession with publicly painting and carving dicks. In the meantime though I’m quite amused by the public reactions it causes.

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[Is there one reason not to utterly despise Israel, given the cold-blooded hatred and racism that drives its policy of extermination of the Palestinian people? This is the exact same fascist attitude that motivated Hitler’s ‘Vernichtungspolitik’ or ‘Endloesung’ against European Jews. In this regard there is no difference at all between the Jewish State of Israel and Germany’s Third Reich. Israel represents the new face of Nazism. What a macabre and sinistre turnaround.]

Human Rights Watch report claims Israel committed war crimes in its use of air-burst white phosphorus artillery shells

Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem
Guardian, Wednesday 25 March 2009

white-phosphorus

Palestinian civilians and medics run to safety during an Israeli strike using phosphorus shells at a UN school. Photograph: Mohammed Abed/AFP

Israel‘s military fired white phosphorus over crowded areas of Gaza repeatedly and indiscriminately in its three-week war, killing and injuring civilians and committing war crimes, Human Rights Watch said today.

In a 71-page report, the rights group said the repeated use of air-burst white phosphorus artillery shells in populated areas of Gaza was not incidental or accidental, but revealed “a pattern or policy of conduct”.

It said the Israeli military used white phosphorus in a “deliberate or reckless” way. The report says:

  • Israel was aware of the dangers of white phosphorus.
  • It chose not to use alternative and less dangerous smoke shells.
  • In one case, Israel even ignored repeated warnings from UN staff before hitting the main UN compound in Gaza with white phosphorus shells on 15 January.

“In Gaza, the Israeli military didn’t just use white phosphorus in open areas as a screen for its troops,” said Fred Abrahams, a senior Human Rights Watch researcher. “It fired white phosphorus repeatedly over densely populated areas, even when its troops weren’t in the area and safe smoke shells were available. As a result, civilians needlessly suffered and died.” He said senior commanders should be held to account.

Human Rights Watch called on the UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, to launch an international commission of inquiry to investigate allegations of violations of international law in the Gaza war by the Israeli military and Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement that controls Gaza.

The Israeli military has defended its conduct in Gaza in the face of mounting allegations of serious violations of international law and said its soldiers did not intentionally target civilians. When Israel’s use of white phosphorus emerged during the war, the military at first denied using the weapon, then said it only used weapons in accordance with international law. Later it announced an internal inquiry, led by a colonel, would be held.

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The following passionate Monbiot article is interesting (as his articles generally are) because it points to the dangers of biochar (charcoal) use. Those dangers are arise from some people’s suggestions for how we should create charcoal – basically by eliminating forests and other eco areas. These kinds of extremes need to be totally refuted. But biochar production can have its place if it is limited to using waste, and Monbiot agrees. So, rather than rushing into praising charcoal as the new panacea to save us from climate change, we need to develop a framework that ensures that its production does not cause any further damage to already stressed eco-systems or food growing areas.

Monbiot critises some biochar advocates, like Chris Goodall, James Lovelock and Jim Hansen – click on the links at the end of the article to read their responses.

biochar

Woodchips with everything. It’s the Atkins plan of the low-carbon world?
The latest miracle mass fuel cure, biochar, does not stand up; yet many who should know better have been suckered into it

George Monbiot
The Guardian, Tuesday 24 March 2009

Whenever you hear the word miracle, you know there’s trouble just around the corner. But no matter many times they lead to disappointment or disaster, the newspapers never tire of promoting miracle cures, miracle crops, miracle fuels and miracle financial instruments. We have a limitless ability to disregard the laws of economics, biology and thermodynamics when we encounter a simple solution to complex problems. So welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the new miracle. It’s a low-carbon regime for the planet that makes the Atkins diet look healthy: woodchips with everything.

Biomass is suddenly the universal answer to our climate and energy problems. Its advocates claim that it will become the primary source of the world’s heating fuel, electricity, road transport fuel (cellulosic ethanol) and aviation fuel (biokerosene). Few people stop to wonder how the planet can accommodate these demands and still produce food and preserve wild places. Now an even crazier use of woodchips is being promoted everywhere (including in the Guardian). The great green miracle works like this: we turn the planet’s surface into charcoal.

Sorry, not charcoal. We don’t call it that any more. Now we say biochar. The idea is that wood and crop wastes are cooked to release the volatile components (which can be used as fuel), then the residue – the charcoal – is buried in the soil. According to the magical thinkers who promote it, the new miracle stops climate breakdown, replaces gas and petroleum, improves the fertility of the soil, reduces deforestation, cuts labour, creates employment, prevents respiratory disease and ensures that when you drop your toast it always lands butter side up. (I invented the last one, but give them time).

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monsant1

By Devinder Sharma
Devinder Sharma’s ZSpace Page/ ZSpace

Lies, damn lies, and the Monsanto website. Tell a lie a hundred times, and the chances are that it will eventually appear to be true. When it comes to genetically modified crops, Monsanto makes such an effort – and it could be that you too are duped into accepting their distortions as truth.

My attention has been drawn to an article titled “Do GM crops increase yield?” on Monsanto’s web page, although I must confess that this is the first time I have visited their site.

This is how it begins: “Recently, there have been a number of claims from anti-biotechnology activists that genetically-modified (GM) crops don’t increase yields. Some have claimed that GM crops actually have lower yields than non-GM crops. Both claims are simply false.”

It then goes on to explain the terms germplasm, breeding, biotechnology, and then finally explains yield.

Here is what it says: “The introduction of GM traits through biotechnology has led to increased yields independent of breeding. Take for example statistics cited by PG Economics, which annually tallies the benefits of GM crops, taking data from numerous studies around the world:

  • Mexico – yield increases with herbicide tolerant soybean of 9 percent.
  • Romania – yield increases with herbicide tolerant soybeans have averaged 31 percent.
  • Philippines – average yield increase of 15 percent with herbicide tolerant corn.
  • Philippines – average yield increase of 24 percent with insect resistant corn.
  • Hawaii – virus resistant papaya has increased yields by an average of 40 percent.
  • India – insect resistant cotton has led to yield increases on average more than 50 percent.”

These assertions are not amusing, and can no longer be taken lightly. I am not only shocked but also disgusted at the way corporations try to fabricate and distort the scientific facts, and dress them up in such a manner that the so-called ‘educated’ of today will accept them without asking any questions.

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palestinian-ambulance

Rules on who can be targeted and how in warfare derive from customary law and international treaties and regulations

Afua Hirsch, legal affairs correspondent
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 24 March 2009 14.00 GMT
Article history

The use of drones, targeting of medical staff and facilities and use of human shields raise numerous issues of international humanitarian law, the body of law concerned with the treatment of individuals during international armed conflict.

Some of these are allegations of war crimes – defined as grave breaches of international humanitarian law, including wilful killing, wanton destruction of property and attacking civilians. Some of these rules derive from customary law – generally recognised practices binding on all states. Others are contained in international treaties including the fourth Geneva convention of 1949, the first additional protocol to the Geneva convention of 1977, and the Hague regulations of 1907 that regulate means and methods of warfare.

Although Israel is only party to the fourth Geneva convention, and Palestine has not been party to any international agreements due to its lack of recognised sovereignty, many of these principles have also become recognised as general principles of customary law, extending to all international armed conflicts.

Drones

Lawyers say that the use of drones in the Gaza Strip caused widespread destruction in violation of the principles of necessity, distinction and proportionality.

“Necessity” requires a state fighting an armed conflict to use only the degree and kind of force required to achieve the legitimate purpose of the conflict. This is presumed to be the submission of the enemy at the earliest possible moment, with minimum expenditure of life and resources.

Causing death and the destruction of property is only lawful where it complies with necessity and where there is a reasonable connection between the actions and the military objectives pursued. This principle is often closely linked with proportionality – the requirement that “the losses resulting from a military action should not be excessive in relation to the expected military advantage”. Under the principle of proportionality, when conducting hostilities in an urban area, the combatants have an increased duty of diligence to spare civilians from the effects of hostilities.

Civilians and civilian buildings and infrastructure

In addition, Israel is accused of failing to distinguish between civilians and combatants, and also between civilian buildings and infrastructure, and legitimate military targets.

A civilian is defined under international humanitarian law as somebody who is not a combatant. The practical application of this term is a major issue of contention between Israel and Gaza. The Israeli Defence Forces are accused of applying a “membership of Hamas” approach to defining combatants, whereas lawyers say members of Hamas are not legitimate military targets unless they are directly involved in hostilities at the time.

Hamas is also accused of violating the principle of “distinction” in its use of rockets fired into Israel. However, one of the further claims against Israel is that any response to Hamas under the right of self-defence in the UN charter – a separate source of international law – has not been proportionate.

Medics and hospitals

Medics and medical workers are not legitimate targets under international humanitarian law, and any wilful killing of such people who are clearly identified is capable of amounting to a war crime.

Similarly, civilian property and infrastructure, defined by international humanitarian law as those which are not military targets, cannot be intentionally destroyed. Israel is accused of regarding the general governmental infrastructure as a legitimate military target, as well as targeting medical facilities and hospitals, in contravention of this rule.

Wherever any attacks may affect the civilian population there are obligations under international humanitarian law to provide “effective advance warning” and to take steps to minimise incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects.

Human shields

The use of involuntary human shields has already been declared unlawful by Israel’s supreme court, which said the practice was a violation of international humanitarian law. There are specific rules against hostage-taking in international conflicts.

The practice of hostage-taking – usually defined as detaining someone illegally and putting pressure on a third party as a condition of not harming the detainee – is specifically prohibited by the Geneva conventions.

White phosphorus

The use of white phosphorus is governed by protocol III of the convention on conventional weapons, which Israel has not signed but which is regarded as binding under customary international law. Israel is accused of using white phosphorus outside its lawful limits – as an obscurant or smokescreen in open areas where combatants are caught under fire in the open. Using white phosphorus in densely populated areas where these conditions are not met is a violation of international law.

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