Friday, September 30, 2005

Millions could die from bird flu pandemic, UN says

Millions could die from bird flu pandemic, UN says - Asia - Pacific - International Herald Tribune

MANILA Southeast Asian nations approved the creation of a regional fund to fight bird flu and other animal diseases, officials said on Friday, as the United Nations warned the virus could mutate and kill up to 150 million people.

They said the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) will also endorse a global plan to contain avian influenza, which has killed 66 people in four Asian countries since late 2003 and led to an estimated $15 billion in losses for the poultry trade.

''The creation of the animal health trust fund has been approved,'' Philippine Agriculture Secretary Domingo Panganiban told Reuters by telephone from Tagaytay, a resort city south of Manila where ASEAN agriculture ministers were meeting.

The fund would also be used to prevent the spread of other illnesses affecting animals such as foot-and-mouth disease and hog cholera, other officials have said.

The World Health Organisation (WHO), the U.N. health agency, said on Thursday that if the bird flu virus spreads among humans, the quality of the global response would determine whether it ends up killing 5 million people or as many as 150 million.

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer


Questionable Quote of the Day

OK, on Tuesday I knew that we would get another questionable quote from Washington. Here we go:

Media for America reports that while "addressing a caller's suggestion that the 'lost revenue from the people who have been aborted in the last 30 years' would be enough to preserve Social Security's solvency, radio host and former Reagan administration Secretary of Education Bill Bennett dismissed such 'far-reaching, extensive extrapolations' by declaring that if 'you wanted to reduce crime ... if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down.'

Bennett conceded that aborting all African-American babies 'would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do,' then added again, 'but the crime rate would go down.' "

Hmmm! Does this remind you of someone in history?

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Hurricanes, global warming, and global politics

Dáithí Stone and Dave Frame

Read the entire story at:


The devastation wrought by hurricane Katrina and the subsequent development of hurricane Rita have invited speculation about the role of greenhouse warming in the frequency and intensity of hurricanes.

Over the last decade many scientific studies have attempted to examine the links between the two.

This index is plausibly linked with observed climate signals, including multi-decadal cycles in the north Atlantic and north Pacific, and global warming.

The results suggest that continued warming may lead to an increase in hurricane destructiveness, which, combined with the accumulation of coastal risk that has resulted from urbanisation along vulnerable coasts, may lead to a substantial increase in socio-economic damage over the coming century.

New techniques available to researchers which exploit the probabilistic turn in climate science can, in some instances, allow us to examine the degree to which an event becomes more or less common in a world with increased greenhouse gases.

Peter Stott and co-workers applied this technique to the European summer 2003 heatwave and concluded that the risk of such a heatwave was strongly amplified in our 2003 (378 parts per million [ppm] CO2) world, when compared to a non-industrial world (278ppm).

This is a softer sort of causal link than the sort of deterministic cause-effect chain that people customarily associate with science, but the complexity which characterises the earth system make such determinism elusive.

The most literal sense of global greenhouse warming is that the Earth's average surface temperature is expected to rise by a few degrees over the coming century because of increasing atmospheric abundances of greenhouse gases.

But climate impacts are felt on a range of scales beneath this: El Niño affects much of the Pacific region; the heatwave that beset Europe in 2003 was pretty much continent-wide; and hurricane Katrina affected one large city and the surrounding regions.

Where risks remain constant we can continue as before; when risks change, we need to try to quantify the magnitude of those changes and adapt accordingly by figuring out what the new odds are.

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer

Highly Recommended Read --'s Panel Discussion on Rebuildng the Coast

If you care about poverty, the economy and/or how your tax dollars are spent this will be very interesting reading News | After the deluge, what next? recently convened an e-mail panel of individuals who long before Katrina and Rita have been addressing the issues of poverty and opportunity issues and asked them the hard questions about the real anti-poverty agenda.   The questions include:
  • Can Opportunity Zones work, and how?
  • Are there better models from a new generation of anti-poverty efforts?
  • Should evacuees return, or be helped to improve their lives wherever they landed?
  • Should parts of New Orleans even be rebuilt at all?

A Sigh of Relief in Northern Ireland

Commission: IRA has 'destroyed its weapons' |

The Daily Telegraph describes how the IRA's decision to give up its arms came about. The Belfast Telegraph looks at the reaction in Belfast to the news, which it says comes as "Sigh of relief ... but not a hallelujah."

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Good Move of the Day

BBC NEWS | UK | Education | Junk food to be banned in schools


Junk food to be banned in schools Foods high in fat, salt or sugar are to be banned from meals and vending machines in English schools.  The ban has been announced by Education Secretary Ruth Kelly at the Labour Party conference.

Vending machines in schools will not be allowed to sell chocolates, crisps or fizzy drinks, Ms Kelly announced.

The School Meals Review Panel next week will give details of the nutritional standards for ingredients to be allowed in school meals.  "I am absolutely clear that the scandal of junk food served every day in school canteens must end," said Ms Kelly.  "So today I can announce that we will ban poor quality processed bangers and burgers being served in schools from next September."

The review panel, an expert advisory group, was set up after a campaign to improve school meals by TV chef Jamie Oliver.

In response, the government promised extra funding to bring the primary school meal budget up to 50p per pupil per day, with 60p for secondaries - and created the panel to set minimum nutritional standards. These will be introduced from this term - and will become mandatory from September 2006.

Monitoring the standards of food served to pupils will be part of the responsibility of Ofsted school inspectors.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Ms Kelly said it was "common sense" that some sorts of foods should be excluded from school menus.

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer


Thought for the Day

"Life is mostly froth and bubble, but two things stand like stone, kindness in another's trouble and courage in your own." -- Princess Diana 1961-1997

Quote courtesy of Staci Stalling's "My Daily Insights"

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

News from the Global War Against Poverty

This past weekend, 184 world leaders stood up and signed on to the G8 plan for 100% debt cancellation for 38 of the world's poorest countries. At Washington meetings of the World Bank and IMF, top officials agreed to a plan for up to $55 billion in debt cancellation, funding that will get kids in school, build health clinics and put clean water into more communities. 18 countries will be the first to benefit, and others will also in the near future.

What is debt cancellation? It means releasing poor countries from crushing debts, left over in many cases from loans stolen by corrupt dictators and negligent donors. It means honest leaders in some of the world's poorest countries will no longer have to choose between taking care of their people or repaying impossible debts. It means giving people the fresh start they need to create real opportunity and change lives.

From meetings in church basements to the millions who took part in the Live 8 concerts, over 1.5 million people around the world joined to demand real action on debt cancellation.

Would you like to invite a friend to be part of the next victory that makes a difference? Take a minute and ask them to join ONE today.

Questionable Quote of the Day

"I know what I'm doing, and I think I do a pretty darn good job of it." -- Former FEMA Driector Michael Brown, quoted by the AP earlier today at congressional panel where he blamed the poor response to Hurricane Katrina on state and local officials.

I'm entitling this post Questionable Quote of the Day because I fully expect there to be an equally dumb statement spewing forth from Washington in the very near future. plk

Get Hitched or Stay Poor say the Conservatives

Get Hitched, Young Woman
September 26, 2005

Read the entire article at:

Ruth Rosen, professor emeritus at U.C. Davis and senior fellow at the Longview Institute is the author, most recently, of The World Split Open: How the Modern Women's Movement Changed America.

Why have "out-of wedlock" pregnancies suddenly entered the national debate over President's Bush's astonishingly incompetent failure to rescue the poor in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina?

The answer is obvious: It's a great way to change the subject, and to remind us that in contemporary America, only unmarried mothers fail to demonstrate "personal responsibility."

Never mind that neither the Pentagon nor Congress can account for the $200 billion that have been spent waging war in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Or that George W. Bush has saddled the nation with a monstrous national debt.  Never mind that he sent tens of thousands of young people to Iraq on cooked-up intelligence and that no government official has taken responsibility for the torture of prisoners.   Or that Afghanistan is once again the world's leading exporter of narcotics.  Never mind that Bush chose Michael D. Brown, an inexperienced and incompetent crony, to run FEMA, with disastrous consequences.

The Bush administration only believes in accountability and personal responsibility when it involves women's sexuality and their reproductive choices.

What a perfect moment to change the subject and blame poor African-American women for causing the poverty the world witnessed in the aftermath of Katrina.

Without skipping a beat, Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review, proclaimed that the "The root of it [the poverty exposed by Katrina] is the breakdown of the family.

Roughly 60 percent of births in New Orleans are out of wedlock."

Lowry then went on to propose a "grand right-left bargain that includes greater attention to out-of-wedlock births from the left in exchange for the right's support for more urban spending..."

As New York Times reporter Jason DeParle revealed in his book American Dream, it is poverty itself--- not a lack of personal responsibility---that is the main reason for single-parent families.

Don’t get me wrong. Stable two-parent families—absent violence, drugs or alcohol—usually offer children the best chance to escape poverty. But Lowry and his cheerleaders have it backwards. The decline in teenage pregnancies since the early 1990s, particularly among African-American girls, indicates that young women are, in fact, taking greater personal responsibility. As New York Times reporter Jason DeParle revealed in his book American Dream , it is poverty itself— not a lack of personal responsibility—that is the main reason for single-parent families.

With amazing gall, conservatives have shredded the safety net and then blamed unmarried mothers for their own neglect-the-poor policies.

Spending millions of dollars to promote marriage and sexual abstinence, for example, has not improved the "personal responsibility" of poor boys and men.

Ending welfare---without providing affordable child care and health care, paid family leave and a higher minimum wage----hasn't kept working women and their families from plunging below the poverty line.

Poor women, moreover, are not the only ones choosing to raise children by themselves. Single women—across all racial and class lines—are now the fastest growing demographic group in our population. One-third of American women are currently single, and growing numbers of them are choosing to bear and raise children alone. Despite conservatives’ glorification of “family values” and “the traditional family,” only one-quarter of American households now include two parents and children.
The fact is, women's lives have dramatically changed during the last 40 years, but neither our government nor our society have made the necessary changes that should have accompanied the entry of such huge numbers of women into the labor force.

Meanwhile, social conservatives gaze upon the human consequences of their policies, are embarrassed by what they see, and then attack unmarried mothers for their lack of personal responsibility---and condemn them for the poverty exposed by Katrina.

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer


Quote of the Day for Mike Brown

"We confess our little faults to persuade people that we have no large ones." -- Francois de La Rochefoucauld

Five steps to make your computer more secure - Five steps to make your computer more secure

These days, a firewall, anti-virus software and anti-spyware programs are essential, but they might not be enough to protect you.

This is a change from an earlier recommendation that you turn it off to save energy.

Security software and your computer's operating system are regularly updated to counter new viruses, worms, spyware and hackers probing for weaknesses.  If your computer is off at night, you'll have to update during the day, when you're working.  Or worse, the new threat hits your system before you have a chance to download and install the updates.  Turn off the printer, monitor and other extras, and find other ways to save energy.

You can prevent others from taking control of your computer by giving up some privileges.  Too many people use Windows Administrator accounts when they run their computers.  Users with administrator accounts can install software and change system settings.  So, if you use the Internet with a limited account, and you click on the wrong thing, malicious programs cannot install themselves on your computer.

To create a limited account, click Start, Settings, Control Panel, then User Accounts.  Select Limited and then click Create Account.

Spammers are always looking for more e-mail addresses.  Now they're enlisting the help of unsuspecting teens and adults.

Spammers send out messages with subject lines like "Someone has a crush on you."   A link directs you to a site that resembles a dating service.
To find out who has the crush, you must guess by entering the correct e-mail address.

These days, most adults are fairly cautious about disclosing e-mail addresses.  Teens may be more naive, particularly when an e-mail message preys on their insecurities.

The status bar is a frequently overlooked tool at the bottom of your browser.   You can use it to check links on a Web page.

Hold your mouse over a link, and the address of the link appears in the status bar.  It may not help if the address is spoofed, but it is still handy.

For Internet Explorer, close all windows. Open Windows Explorer and click View, Status Bar. Then click Tools, Folder Options. On the View tab, click Apply to All Folders. Click OK.

Malicious Web sites may attempt to copy information from your Windows Clipboard.

You can prevent sites from downloading information from the Clipboard. In Internet Explorer, click Tools, Internet Options. Click Custom Level on the Security tab. Scroll to the Scripting section. Select prompt for "Active scripting," "Allow paste operations via script" and "Scripting of Java applets." Click OK, then OK.

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer


Monday, September 26, 2005

Lawmaker Cautions Against Eminent Domain in Rebuilding

Lawmaker Cautions Against Eminent Domain in Rebuilding
WASHINGTON - Rep. Maxine Waters, a Los Angeles Democrat, warned Tuesday against using government's power of eminent domain to redevelop New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina concentrated its devastation on largely poor African American neighborhoods.

"We have to watch the redevelopment in New Orleans for a lot of reasons, and one of them is to make sure that the shadow government of the rich and the powerful does not end up abusing eminent domain to take property that belongs to poor people in order to get them out of the city," Waters said.

Waters' comments came after the Senate Judiciary Committee held its first hearing on legislation to cut off federal funding for cities that use eminent domain to condemn private property for economic redevelopment, including such private uses as shopping malls, hotels and condominiums.

Congress is searching for ways to blunt the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision in June in Kelo vs. New London, Conn., which held that governments can condemn private property if the project serves a "public purpose."

The decision created a public uproar and a rare alliance of conservative and liberal lawmakers, many of them minorities, concerned about government incursions on private property.

They want to roll back what they consider a misreading of the Constitution's Fifth Amendment, which prohibits the taking of "private property for public use without just compensation."

Traditionally, public use has meant condemning land for public schools or highways, but in recent decades has expanded to include clearing "blighted" neighborhoods or redeveloping commercial areas.

Two downtown Oakland property owners, John Revelli, who owned a tire shop that had been in business since his father opened it in 1949, and his neighbor Tony Fung, owner of Autohouse, were forced by the city of Oakland to vacate their properties July 1, days after the June 23 Kelo decision, to make way for a city-subsidized apartment complex.

"We had one week to move all our equipment and vacate our property," which is prime commercial real estate a block from the 19th Street BART Station, Revelli said. "I wouldn't want anyone else to go through this."

Since the 1950s, African American communities have been targeted for "urban renewal" projects so many times that the redevelopment efforts came to be known as "black removal," said Hilary O. Shelton, director of the Washington office of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Minority and poor communities are affected more often by eminent domain and have less ability to fight back politically or legally, Shelton said.

The recent Supreme Court decision "to allow the government or its designee to take property simply by asserting that it can put the property to a higher use will systematically sanction transfers from those with less resources to those with more," Shelton said.

Jose Mendoza, owner of San Jose Men's Wear in the Tropicana Shopping Center in East San Jose that is made up of Latino and Asian businesses, said he won an eminent domain case in 2003 against the city's redevelopment agency, which wanted to build a new shopping center on the site. 

Mendoza said he had already lost two properties, one in Salinas and one in downtown San Jose, through condemnation.  And we fought until we beat them."

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer


China Income Gap Between Rich and Poor Provoking Alarm, Reports Say

China Income Gap Between Rich and Poor Provoking Alarm, Reports Say

SHANGHAI, China - The gap between China's richest and poorest citizens is approaching a dangerous level and could lead to social unrest, state media reported Wednesday, citing a government study.

The most affluent one-fifth of China's population earn 50 percent of total income, with the bottom one-fifth taking home only 4.7 percent, said the report by the official Xinhua News Agency, carried in newspapers Wednesday.

"The income gap, which has exceeded reasonable limits, exhibits a further widening trend.

The reports reflect a growing public recognition of the simmering discontent that has provoked protests and sometimes violent clashes in disputes over labor, pollution and other issues.

But apart from adjusting income taxes to reduce the burden on middle-income earners, there have been no signs the government plans to confront the problem with any major policy changes.

Attention has focused especially on mistreatment of migrant laborers from the countryside, in the wake of a case involving a construction worker who killed four people when he despaired about his pay.

The language harkens back to the revolutionary era of Mao Zedong, when the Communist Party nationalized private business and seized land from wealthy farmers in one of the most extreme leveling campaigns ever undertaken.

Among the wealthiest are private business owners whose fortunes were built through hard work and talent, the Xinhua report said - and those whose riches stem from corruption and crime.

Meanwhile, according to the China Poverty-Relief Fund, nearly 30 million Chinese live in absolute poverty, meaning that by local standards they lack enough food and clothing.

It cited a report by Xinhua detailing a nearly seven-to-one gap between the highest and lowest earners among the country's more than 5 million civil servants - still vastly more egalitarian than income levels in the private sector.

But it noted that wages alone are only a small part of the overall package for top civil servants, who once they reach the vice minister level are allocated a 2,000-square-foot apartment worth at least 1 million yuan ($125,000) and free use of a standard Audi sedan worth at least 350,000 yuan ($43,000).

Civil servants nationwide earn an average of 15,487 yuan ($1,900) a year, it said.

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer


Saturday, September 24, 2005

Quote of the Day

Being defeated is often a temporary condition. Giving up is what makes it permanent.
-- Marilyn vos Savant

On the Scales: The Road to Obesity Begins at Your TV

On the Scales: The Road to Obesity Begins at Your TV - New York Times

How much time children spend watching television is a better predictor of obesity than what they eat or how much physical activity they get, a new study has found.

The research, done in New Zealand, tracked more than 1,000 children born in 1972 and 1973 from ages 5 to 15.

Every two years, the researchers calculated their body mass index.

They also recorded television watching habits, based on reports from the children and their parents.

By the age of 26, when the participants were examined again, 41 percent were overweight or obese, and their body mass indexes were closely related to the amount of television they had watched as children.

And this association held even when factors like parents' weight and socioeconomic status were taken into account.

The researchers speculated that the amount of time children spent watching television was closely related to how much they ate and how much they exercised.

The study was published online in The International Journal of Obesity.

Dr. Robert J. Hancox of the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand, the lead author of the study, said that reducing the time children spent in front of the television set might be a reasonable way to reduce their risk of obesity.

"This would mean that they did something else with their time," he said.

"Whatever it was, it would probably be more energetic, and would also reduce the influence of all those TV ads for junk food, fizzy drinks, sweets, and so on."

But Dr. Hancox said he was not optimistic.

"I think this would be a good thing for parents to try," he said, "but many of them might find it hard to get the TV tuned off for long."

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer


Friday, September 23, 2005

Priorities or Pork?

Courtesy of The Progress Report published by The American Progress Action Fund
Contributing editors: by Judd Legum, Faiz Shakir, Nico Pitney, Amanda Terkel, Payson Schwin and Christy Harvey

All around the country, Americans are debating how best to pay for reconstruction efforts in the Gulf Coast. We've taken a sample of opinions -- from members of Congress, Bush administration officials, and Americans around the country -- to help you figure out who's more interested in clinging onto pork and tax cuts than in responsible fiscal policy and shared sacrifice.

THUMBS DOWN -- REP. TOM DELAY (R-TX): House Majority Leader Tom DeLay "scoffed at the suggestion he give up his earmarks," which are thought to total $114.4 million over five years. "My earmarks are pretty important to building an economy in that region," DeLay said. Not a surprising sentiment, considering DeLay once claimed that calling "our transportation system pork barrel would be like calling our own blood vessels and aortas pork."

THUMBS UP -- BOZEMAN, MONTANA: A citizens' group there "petitioned its congressional delegation to rescind the $4 million the city obtained for a parking garage and redirect the money to Katrina victims."

THUMBS DOWN -- SEN. PETE DOMENICI (R-NM): Domenici, the Energy Committee chair, was asked whether any of the latest energy bill's $8.5 billion in hand-outs to the fossil fuel industries should be cut back. No, he said, there "should have been more, not fewer, industry incentives."

THUMBS UP -- REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): House Minority Leader Pelosi was the first member of Congress to announce that she would give up virtually all of her $130 million in earmarks (she's keeping an earthquake retrofitting project for the Golden Gate Bridge). "I would give them up to help Katrina victims," she said. "The people of San Francisco would be very proud of that.''

THUMBS DOWN -- REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R-IL): House Speaker Hastert could follow Pelosi's lead and "defer his prized Prairie Parkway, a $200-million-plus project dismissed as a behemoth Sprawlway by hometown critics." But he has "avoided answering whether he would make the same pledge as Pelosi."

THUMBS UP -- REP. MIKE PENCE (R-IN): Pence is following Pelosi's lead, saying "he would give up his $16 million in highway-bill earmarks to help pay Katrina's costs."

THUMBS DOWN -- REP. MIKE PENCE (R-IN): Pence is also one of the leading figures behind "Operation Offset," a set of broad spending cuts proposed this week by House conservatives. The Navy Times reported yesterday that those cuts "include trimming military quality-of-life programs, including health care." Soldiers will be asked to "accept reduced health care benefits for their families," while "the stateside system of elementary and secondary schools for military family members could be closed."

THUMBS DOWN -- REP. DON YOUNG (R-AK): Rep. Young is a self-proclaimed "little oinker" who aspires to be the "chief porker." As chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, he packed this year's transportation bill with $721 million in projects for Alaska, including more than $400 million for two "bridges to nowhere." Young’s response to those asking that his state give up some of that earmarked money? "They can kiss my ear! ... That is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard."

THUMBS UP -- MICHIGAN MEMBERS OF CONGRESS: The bulk of the state's congressional delegation said last week that Congress "should consider eliminating some of President Bush's tax cuts to help pay for the massive post-Katrina reconstruction of the Gulf Coast and the ongoing war in Iraq." Rep. Joe Schwarz (R-MI): "We have to look at the wherewithal to get the job done, and you can't do it with smoke and mirrors. It may require some adjustment of the tax structure -- that's just being honest."

THUMBS UP -- SEN. JUDD GREGG (R-NH): Gregg, the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, "refused to rule out" rolling back the Bush tax cuts on Wednesday as a way to offset Gulf Coast relief spending. "We've got two sides to the ledger," Gregg said. "I'm willing to look at a revenue solution ... as part of a package."

THUMBS DOWN -- SENATE BUDGET COMMITTEE: When Gregg recommended a "balanced package" of spending cuts and tax cut rollbacks, "he was met with stony silence."

THUMBS DOWN -- SEN. RICK SANTORUM (R-PA): Santorum says he won't consider giving up his earmarks, claiming it would endanger the homeland. His spokesman told reporters, "Bridges, roads and other critical infrastructure needs are vital to Pennsylvania's economy and homeland security."

THUMBS DOWN -- SEN. FRANK LAUTENBERG (D-NJ): Lautenberg supports repealing tax cuts for the wealthiest 1% of Americans to offset Katrina costs, but even if that doesn't happen, he "doesn't believe that taking away transportation funds for New Jersey is the way to help fund relief on the Gulf Coast."

THUMBS UP -- TREASURY SECRETARY JOHN SNOW: Addressing a group of credit-union officials on Tuesday morning, Treasury Secretary Snow said that post-Katrina spending would "push to the back burner" the president's plans to extend the tax cuts this year.

THUMBS DOWN -- REP. TOM DELAY (R-TX): About 90 minutes after Snow's remarks, the Washington Post reported, DeLay "held a news conference in his office and asserted that 'we're not reexamining' the commitment to extend the tax cuts. 'That's not an option,' DeLay said, then, for emphasis, added: 'Not an option.'"

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Not God's Wrath

Thoughts from someone who reads the same bible I do. plk

Katrina: God's Wrath? by Rubel Shelly

Some of the most irresponsible, wrong-headed, and downright foolish things I have heard in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation have come from the mouths of Christian leaders. Not quite as bad as one preacher’s quip about assassinating the elected leader of another country, they nevertheless reveal a dark side to the theology of some people that paints a sinister look on the face of the Christian religion. On the face of God. That picture is repulsive. “This happens in our country when we have taken God out of our schools and God out of society,” said one evangelist in a TV interview. “We don’t have a moral standard.” So why did church buildings get leveled? Why were inner-city ministries to New Orleans prostitutes, homeless people, and hungry children stopped in their tracks? Why such indiscriminate devastation and suffering?

And does anybody really think New Orleans is the seat of our nation’s moral confusion? Tsunamis, hurricanes, and house fires are natural phenomena that occur for a variety of reasons. To add a layer of guilt to what the victims of those tragedies have experienced is to add (spiritual) insult to (bodily) injury!

But didn’t God use a flood in Noah’s day? Send judgment on Sodom? Overthrow Nineveh? Yes, but only after graciously sending a specific prophet with a clear advance warning and giving people the opportunity of repentance and escape. He didn’t send a prophet after the fact to figure out only then what a disaster meant or who its real target was.

Has anybody read the Book of Job? While we humans often bring anguish on ourselves, that is too glib an answer to explain all suffering! During his ministry among humankind, Jesus spoke to this sort of thing time and again. When some fellow-Galileans were assaulted and killed by thugs under Pontius Pilate, he rebuked the idea that they were somehow being punished by God. He held the same view of eighteen people who died in a construction accident in Jerusalem. And a fellow who had been blind from birth.

For anybody who thinks the way to “lead people to the light” is to work at scaring them to death with images of a vicious God tossing thunderbolts and pouring the waters of Lake Pontchartrain over the poorest sections of New Orleans, I beg to differ. That’s mythical Zeus. Not God made flesh in Jesus.

Christians do well to unite with all people of goodwill to show mercy. We only look foolish and offend God by turning storms into political commentary.

© 2005 Used by permission. From Rubel Shelly's "FAX of Life" printed each Tuesday. See
Faith Matters for previous issues of the "FAX of Life." Title: "Katrina: God's Wrath?" Author: Rubel Shelly Publication Date: September 22, 2005

Studies question effectiveness of flu treatments - Health & Science - International Herald Tribune

Studies question effectiveness of flu treatments - Health & Science - International Herald Tribune

As governments around the world stockpile millions of doses of flu vaccine and antiviral medicines in anticipation of a potential influenza pandemic, two new surprising research papers published Thursday have found that many of the standard treatments now in use are far less effective than previously thought.

"The studies published today reinforce the shortcomings of our efforts to control influenza," wrote Dr. Guan Yi, a professor at the University of Hong Kong, in an editorial that accompanied the papers.

The two studies were published early online by the British medical journal the Lancet because of their important implications for the coming flu season.

In one paper, international researchers analyzed all the data from patient studies on the flu vaccine performed worldwide in the past 37 years, and discovered that the vaccine showed at best "a modest" ability to prevent infection with influenza or its complications in elderly people.

"The runaway 100 percent effectiveness that's touted by proponents was nowhere to be seen," said Tom Jefferson, lead scientist for the historical vaccine study.

Jefferson is a Rome-based researcher with the Cochrane Vaccine Fields project, an international consortium of scientists who systematically review research data.

"We were alarmed to find such a dramatic increase," said Dr. Rick Bright of the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.

He added, "Our report has broad implications for agencies and governments planning to stockpile these drugs for epidemic and pandemic strains of influenza."

Before 2000 almost no virus was resistant to the drug Amantadine.

During the first six months of 2005, 15 percent of the influenza-A viruses in the United States were resistant, up from 2 percent just one year before.

The immediate implications of these findings are most ominous for the developing world, because wealthier locations - European countries and places like the United States, Hong Kong, South Korea and Singapore - have been stockpiling newer, vastly more expensive antiviral medicines like Tamiflu, which are still on patent but are effective against the disease.

Even for wealthier countries, the research is alarming because it demonstrates how quickly and unexpectedly flu viruses can become impervious to medicines once the medicines are put into common use.

Called for comment, Dick Thompson, a spokesman for the World Health Organization, said that the agency could neither support nor deny the findings of the historical vaccine analysis, though he said some experts had criticized the researchers for "not including some important past studies" in their sample.

But the viruses' increasing resistance "is a finding that is being discussed widely within the flu world and will bear careful monitoring," he said, noting that he was not aware of any country in the developing world that had been able to stockpile the more expensive drugs.

The finding that flu vaccines have only a modest effect for the elderly is particularly worrisome, because that group tends to suffer high rates of complications and deaths from the disease, and vaccination is standard practice.

In people older than 65, the historical study said, the vaccines "are apparently ineffective" in the prevention of influenza, pneumonia and hospital admission, although they have reduced deaths from pneumonia by "up to 30 percent."

The best strategy to prevent the illness is to wash your hands."

The research showed, however, that vaccine offered better protection in nursing home patients, who suffered significantly lower rates of complications like pneumonia if inoculated.

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer


Schools 'must fight segregation'

BBC NEWS | UK | Schools 'must fight segregation'

Schools 'must fight segregation' Schools should do more to encourage integration to stop the UK sleepwalking its way to racial segregation, race equality chief Trevor Phillips says.

The Commission for Racial Equality head warned the country's increasingly segregated schools were "schooling people to be strangers to each other".

He suggested "creative" solutions such as changing school catchment areas.

Labour peer Lord Ahmed said the comments were "insensitive" and did not reflect life in much of Britain.

In an interview with Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Phillips said ethnic segregation in the UK was "reaching US levels".

He said schools should be leading the way in terms of integration but research had shown they were in fact slightly more segregated than their wider neighbourhoods.

Mr Phillips said it "cannot be right" that in a borough with a 30 to 40% ethnic minority population, there might be some schools with 95% minority pupils and others with just 2%.

And he is warning some universities are now effectively "colour coded".

He rejected the idea of positive discrimination in education or quotas to ensure diversity.

Mr Phillips was speaking ahead of a controversial speech he is expected to make to the Manchester Council for Community Relations, voicing fears that Britain could be drifting towards "New Orleans-style" racial divides.

He told BBC News: "We have now done some research which shows that we are not making friends across the colour line.

Our worry is this, that this is fertile breeding ground for extremists.

Liberal Democrat MP Dr Evan Harris said it was "sheer lunacy" that the government was establishing more faith schools, which would segregate children on the grounds of religion and "effectively therefore their race".

"I live in the north and I travel in the north every weekend.

I travel around the country and I see many, many very good examples of communities living together very happily and they're very successful."

Mohammed Shafiq, of the Liberal Democrats' Muslim Forum, also disagreed with Mr Phillips, saying multi-culturalism was a success.

Speaking at the Lib Dems' party conference, Mr Shafiq said Mr Phillips' comments were "inflammatory and offensive" and called for him to resign.

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer


Blog censorship handbook released

BBC NEWS | Technology | Blog censorship handbook released

Blog censorship handbook released A handbook that offers advice to bloggers who want to protect themselves from recrimination and censors has been released by Reporters Without Borders.

The handbook was part-funded by the French government.

"Bloggers are often the only real journalists in countries where the mainstream media is censored or under pressure," Reporters Without Borders said on its website.

Included in the booklet, called The Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-dissidents, is advice about how to blog anonymously, as well as how to identify the most suitable way to circumvent censorship.

Technorati, a blog search engine, tracks more than 17 million blogs globally.

Blogs can be anything from personal diaries, to technology news, and political comment.

Iranian authorities have been clamping down on mainstream media for some time, but it has recently turned its attention to cyber-dissidents and bloggers.

Campaign groups say at least two dozen Iranian bloggers have been jailed as a result of the clamp-down.

In June, Microsoft's MSN Spaces site in China started to block blog entries which used words such as "freedom", "democracy" and "demonstration".

Microsoft said the company abided by the laws, regulations and norms of each country in which it operates.

China recently introduced regulations that required all blog owners to register their sites with the state by 30 June.

And on Wednesday, two Chinese Singaporeans appeared in court charged with posting racist remarks about minority Malays on the net.

The blogger booklet can be downloaded from the Reporters Without Borders website in English, French, Chinese, Arabic and Persian.

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer


BBC NEWS | Americas | Fires rage in Brazil's rainforest

While it is not clear that global warming is the cause for the intensity in hurricane activity in Gulf of Mexico, it is known that the lost of tropical rainforest has an impact of global warming.   plk
BBC NEWS | Americas | Fires rage in Brazil's rainforest

Fires rage in Brazil's rainforest A state of emergency has been declared in Brazil's western state of Acre as fires continue to rage across the country's vast Amazon region.

Thousands of hectares of the world's largest rainforest have already been destroyed by the blazes.

Acre's Governor Jorge Viana urged the federal government in Brasilia to act swiftly, expressing particular concerns about pollution caused by the smoke.

Hundreds of soldiers, rescuers and also local residents are battling the fires.

Correspondents say it is not known what caused the blazes, some of which broke out nearly two weeks ago.

Some 500 people have been evacuated from the area, officials said earlier this week.

In the past, authorities have blamed farmers who burned forested areas in the dry season to make space for their crops.

The blazes have often raged out of control in recent years.

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer


US jobless claims hit by Katrina

BBC NEWS | Business | US jobless claims hit by Katrina

US jobless claims hit by Katrina The number of Americans out of work and seeking benefits as a result of Hurricane Katrina has risen to 214,000, according to US government figures.

The news came as jobless claims rose by 8,000 to a seasonally adjusted 432,000 in the week ending September 17.

About 103,000 of the claims in the previous week were related to Katrina, the US Department of Labor said.

Katrina hit the US Gulf Coast in late August, causing widespread devastation and the mass evacuation of New Orleans.

The storm, which was the country's most expensive natural disaster, flooded much of the city, which supported about 600,000 jobs before Katrina struck.

The total bill for federal government relief in the wake of the storm could reach as much as $200bn (£112bn), analysts believe.

Many of the jobless claims in the region were being processed in mobile offices at shelters, and a spokesman warned that upward revisions to the claims total caused by Katrina were possible.

Initial claims in the week ending September 10 were revised up by 26,000 to 424,000, the Labor department said.

News of the rising jobless claims caused by last month's storm came as more than one million people began evacuating the US Gulf Coast ahead of Hurricane Rita.

The hurricane, which has been upgraded to Category Five storm, is heading towards Texas with winds of 175mph (280km/h) - greater than those of Katrina when it hit land.

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer


Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Review of the Proposed Hurricane Tax

Report: Hurricane tax aid does more for wealthier survivors
9/20/2005, 3:39 p.m. CT
The Associated Press

Read the entire article:

WASHINGTON (AP) --- Tax breaks designed to help Hurricane Katrina victims get their hands on needed cash could do more for higher income survivors than for the neediest, a congressional report says.

The Congressional Research Service, an office that provides nonpartisan legislative analysis to lawmakers, pointed to several items in virtually identical bills that passed in the House and Senate last week.

One helps hurricane victims get access to their savings by waiving penalties imposed on taxpayers who tap into their retirement savings accounts before retirement.

Because many lower income individuals and families pay little tax, assistance efforts that lower their taxes may do little good, the report said.

However, the same tax bills also include tax assistance specifically for lower income families that help the working poor hang onto their income tax credits, which can be disrupted by unemployment or family separation.

The provision lets those left unemployed or earning less because of Hurricane Katrina calculate their earned income tax credit based on income earned last year, allowing some families to claim a bigger credit.

Congress has started working on other fronts to help the poorest victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Lawmakers sent the president a bill giving states immediate access to more welfare funds.

Lawmakers have also discussed giving hurricane survivors access to Medicaid health care and making unemployment insurance funds more flexible.

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer


GOP Divided Over Storm Relief Financing

Read the entire article at:


The chairman of the Senate Budget Committee refused to rule out increasing taxes yesterday as he and many of his GOP colleagues called for offsets to temper the effect of the next round of federal spending for disaster relief in the Gulf Coast.

"We've got two sides to the ledger," said Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.). "I'm willing to look at a revenue solution ...

Though Gregg declined to specify or rule out any solution, there are limited options for generating revenue, many of which involve deferring expected tax cuts or increasing taxes in a targeted or across-the-board fashion.

Conservatives demanded accountability and offsets in the next package of spending for the recovery from Hurricane Katrina, but many of them, including House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), scoffed at tax increases.

"The so-called Katrina tax hikes are not about Katrina; they're about tax hikes and will only serve to balloon the oversized, under-responsive emergency-management system that broke down three weeks ago in the wake of the hurricane," DeLay said in a House floor speech, according to prepared remarks provided by his office.

Like DeLay, most Republicans who called for offsets focused solely on spending.

Many said they would like to see offsets in the form of reductions in government "waste, fraud and abuse."

Others called for increasing the amount Congress plans to cut from mandatory programs through budget reconciliation --- currently $35 billion over five years --- later in the year.

That could lead to funding Katrina recovery through more severe cuts to programs aimed at the poor and elderly.

Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps are among the programs on the chopping block in a reconciliation process that was already pushed back after Katrina hit.

Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) repeated his call for a commission to review government programs, similar to the one that closes and realigns military bases.

Brownback introduced legislation in 2002 that would create such a panel, called the Commission on the Accountability and Review of Federal Agencies.

John Sununu (R-N.H.) said tax increases could slow the economy, but he said he might support "rethinking" business incentives in the recently enacted energy law, a position he has long advocated.

He did say he would not request the repeal of highway projects in his own district after Pelosi volunteered cutting her own transportation projects to help foot the cleanup costs.

One Senate Republican aide pointed out that many of the suggestions for offsets are either unrealistic or would hardly make a dent in the spending.

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer


Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Thoughtful Quote of the Day

"The most certain test by which we judge whether a country is really free is the amount of security enjoyed by minorities. " -- Lord Acton, Historian

Lord Acton is best known for the quote:
"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

Around the Kitchen Table -- Job's a Job, Isn't It?

Job's a Job, Isn't It?
By: Jim Lardner, Demos

"The New South is not so different from the Old South in one respect - its aversion to unions. In the Southern Auto Corridor, which follows Interstate 65 from southern Alabama up through Kentucky, starting wages run as much as $5 an hour below the $20 Michigan average, and the benefits gap is even bigger. Workers at Hyundai's new plant in Montgomery, for example, pay $360 a year for health coverage that is free to their UAW counterparts. Nevertheless, the United Auto Workers has been unable to organize any of the eight plants built by foreign-owned automakers plants in the South. And some southern states use the words "right to work" as a marketing slogan.

'Policymakers in the South are interested first and foremost in reducing that unemployment rate,' says Ed Malecki, an economic development specialist on the faculty of Ohio State University. 'Part-time jobs will help them do that. Low-wage jobs will help them. They've never understood the concept of job quality. To them, a job is a job.' "

While most of the country complains of a slow or even a "jobless" recovery, jobs are comparatively plentiful below the Mason-Dixon Line.

Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, and Texas were among the top ten states in employment growth for 2003 and 2004, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Florida recorded a two-year gain of 291,000 jobs -- more than a fifth of the figure for the nation as a whole.

If the number of new jobs is striking, so is the nature of some of those jobs.

A few decades ago, the big regional industries were textiles, furniture, and food-processing.

Now southerners work in state-of-the-art factories making microchips and biomedical products.

In Canton, Mississippi, former catfish farmers assemble Nissan's top-of-the-line Titan pickup truck.

In Durham, North Carolina, the grandchildren of tobacco farmers will soon be applying for work at a new Dell computer factory.

The biggest shift, though, is away from manufacturing, toward professional and service jobs.

Software engineers who check out these days will find more opportunities in Virginia than in Microsoft's home state of Washington.

The mainstays of the Florida economy, alongside tourism, real estate and health care, include a thriving financial services industry, nourished by Miami's status as the unofficial banking capital of the Caribbean.

Once the South was known for protectionism and cultural insularity.

The distinction between a "foreign" and an "American" car has pretty much disappeared in Alabama, where the Big Three automakers are Mercedes, Honda, and Hyundai.

Immigrants from India and Russia have flocked to the Research Triangle area of North Carolina and its computer and biotech firms.

Atlanta has a Latino population of more than a quarter of a million.

Newcomers are arriving from places like Chicago, Cleveland and Detroit as well, and the latest crop of transplanted Rust Belters includes - for the first time ever - large numbers of African-Americans settling in the South by choice.

From one end of the region to the other, politicians and business leaders have plenty to boast about.

Inc. Magazine recently rated Atlanta the best of all American cities to do business in.

Nashville finished first in similar rankings by Relocation and Business Expansion magazines.

Southern metropolises came away with six of the top ten spots in the Milken Institute's list of "best performing cities."

In some communities, though, citizens' groups are beginning to question the performance yardsticks.

"Growth has left us sprawled and divided - one community from another, one business sector from the next," the Tampa Tribune recently observed.

"It has also given us an illusion of prosperity, disguising a vulnerable economy that depends on a comparatively undereducated and underpaid work force.

This, in turn, has left us with a tax base that barely supports our basic needs for things such as new roads and strong schools."

Many northern Floridians feel that their economy has become dangerously dependent on call centers and banking back offices - businesses that don't pay very well to begin with, and tend to pick up and leave when they spot an opportunity to reduce their costs even further.

The electronics industry has been known to behave the same way.

In North Carolina, Governor Mike Easley and legislative leaders have taken flak for showering Dell with tax concessions worth an estimated quarter of a billion dollars, in return for a factory where the average annual salary will be $28,000.

"Policy makers seem to have heard the word 'computer' and lost all high brain functions," one local resident complained in a letter to the Carolina Journal.

Many development experts regard these deals as penny-wise and pound-foolish, undermining the skills and infrastructure that, they say, are the true underpinning of a strong economy.

From that point of view, the South is still emerging from its longtime condition as an economic backwater, and the best things happening today can be traced to long-term forces, including the building of the interstate highway system, investment in higher education, and the invention and spread of air conditioning.

But elected officials and business leaders tend to think in shorter time frames, which leads them into a habit of cutting deals with individual employers in what critics say are often sham competitions staged for the purpose of pitting one state against another.

The New South is not so different from the Old South in one respect - its aversion to unions.

In the Southern Auto Corridor, which follows Interstate 65 from southern Alabama up through Kentucky, starting wages run as much as $5 an hour below the $20 Michigan average, and the benefits gap is even bigger.

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer


Around the Kitchen Table -- Debt


Predatory Lending: A Virus We Can Eliminate
By: Ellen Schloemer, Center for Responsible Lending

Read the entire article at:

Predatory lending costs American families more than $25 billion every year.

Driving down Bragg Boulevard in Fayetteville, North Carolina, home of the world's largest Army base, it's hard to miss all the alluring signs advertising fast cash.

Among the bars and tattoo parlors, there's a generous sprinkling of payday lenders who specialize in doling out small loans in return for big fees and triple-digit interest payments.

These lenders "serve" a steady stream of soldiers, African-Americans and single mothers.

When any customer enters a payday shop, it's likely he or she is a regular.

Ninety-nine percent of payday loans go to repeat borrowers.

Payday shops are designed to keep people in debt, a business model we call "the debt trap."

A person strapped for cash pays back, on average, $800 for a $325 loan.

In North Carolina, payday stores aren't even supposed to be here.

In 2001, state lawmakers recognized that payday loans do much more harm than good, and they banned them.

So what are payday lenders doing in Fayetteville and all over my state?

Like a nasty virus, they seem to regroup and multiply every time they encounter an obstacle.

By "renting" a bank's charter, payday lenders avoid usury limits in the states where they operate - thumbing their noses at the intentions of state lawmakers and continuing to take hard-earned dollars from people who don't have any dollars to spare.

This circumvention of state law seems particularly brazen in North Carolina, where we have taken a lead in fighting other types of predatory lending.

This is a relatively low-wealth state; in 2003, the median 4-person household income was about $57,000, ranking North Carolina 36th in the nation.

Predatory mortgage lending encompasses an array of abusive practices among subprime lenders, who offer mortgages to people with credit problems.

We at the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) estimate that predatory mortgage lending nationwide costs consumers at least $9.1 billion every year.

North Carolina was a pioneer in recognizing the problem of predatory mortgage lending and doing something about it.

A study by the University of North Carolina showed that North Carolina's predatory lending law curbed harmful lending, and CRL estimates that North Carolina borrowers saved $100 million during the first year alone.

Since then, more than 20 other states have followed suit by passing similar laws against predatory mortgage lending.

Critics from the subprime industry predicted that state laws would prevent borrowers from getting access to credit but, in fact, that hasn't been the case at all.

This year Representatives Ney (R-Ohio) and Kanjorski (D-Pennsylvania) introduced an industry-friendly bill that would override state laws, create loopholes and exceptions that would encourage more abusive loans, and in some instances actually weaken existing federal law.

If this bill is passed, predatory lenders will no longer have to worry about pesky state laws - but families will be fair game for unscrupulous lenders.

Other "innovations" include title loans, overdraft lending and refund anticipation loans.

Overdraft loans also are similar to payday loans, commonly charging triple-digit interest rates and trapping families in high-cost debt.

And refund anticipation loans, though they don't create a debt trap, take a huge chunk of a low-income borrower's much-needed tax refund.

We have the tools to combat it: sensible laws that require lending policies to help families rather than harm them.

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer


Around the Kitchen Table

Will the South Rise Again?
Playing Catch-Up in the Ownership Society
By: Sam Bishop and Beadsie Woo, CFED
Despite the national buzz about an "ownership society," results from a new national report suggest that many people in the southern part of the U.S. have few opportunities for building and protecting wealth.

In a recent cross-state comparison, 11 southern states-Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia-are among the weakest in terms of financial security, health care, and education, critical components of economic stability and family wealth.

The Assets and Opportunity Scorecard: Financial Security across the States, released this summer by CFED, evaluates states in two main categories: 1) performance measures, which assess how well state residents are doing in accumulating and retaining wealth; and 2) policy measures, which assess the degree to which states encourage and facilitate wealth creation and protection.

The scorecard compares the states by analyzing available data and policies in the areas of financial security, business development, homeownership, health care, and education.

The Southern states fared poorly on the scorecard.

In fact, none of the states received better than an average overall grade on its asset performance, and eight states' asset policies are rated "substandard."

Part of the reason for their substandard performance may be because these 11 southern states exhibit two of the alarming trends in ownership that characterize our nation: 1) wide disparity between segments of the population, and 2) limited opportunities for working poor families to move out of poverty.

Disparities in wealth, particularly across race, are even more pronounced in the South.

Across the U.S., for every $1 that a white household has in net worth, a minority household has just 6 cents.

For these 11 states, minority net worth ranges from 5.6 cents (in Arkansas) to 20 cents (in Tennessee) for every dollar of white household net worth.

The picture for male and female headed households is also one of acute disparity.

For every $1 in net worth that a dual- or male-headed household has, a female-headed household has between 25 cents (in Arkansas) and 92 cents (in Kentucky).

(Nationally, female-headed households have 40 cents for every $1 that dual- or male-headed households have.)

Assets and savings play a critical role in moving people out of poverty and into the middle class.

Without the extra cushion of savings, many families fall back into the poverty trap after they face income loss due to a layoff or an accident.

Out of every 100 people who live in these 11 states, 43 are "asset poor," meaning that in the event of a job loss or an illness-anything that interrupts the households' income - these families do not have enough savings to subsist at the federal poverty level for three months.

Additionally, household debt is another detrimental factor for many families: 35 percent of minority households in Alabama have zero or negative net worth.

One in 10 dual- or male-headed households in Louisiana has zero or negative net worth.

Kentucky and Virginia boast outstanding homeownership rates (74.4% and 75%, respectively).

And North Carolina stands out as the only state in the South to have policies consistently supportive of wealth building and protection.

In 2004, Virginia became one of just three states (the others are Ohio and Illinois) across the nation to have eliminated asset limit tests for public assistance programs.

In some states, once a family accumulates $1,000 in savings or acquires a car, it becomes disqualified from receiving important income supports.

State policy plays a critical role in ensuring opportunities and incentives to build wealth are widely shared.

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer


Questionable Quote of the Week

Lining Up to Be Raped?
Published: September 20, 2005

Our close ally President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan visited the U.S. last week and fretted aloud about a surprising problem: The "easiest way" for Pakistani women to make money is to get raped, he said, so they're lining up to be raped and thus making him look bad.

That's right. He's nuts.

"You must understand the environment in Pakistan," The Washington Post quoted him as saying. "This has become a moneymaking concern. A lot of people say if you want to go abroad and get a visa for Canada or citizenship and be a millionaire, get yourself raped."

Quote of the Day

"A single event can awaken within us a stranger totally unknown to us." Antoine De Saint-Exupery(1900-1944, French aviator, writer)

Cleaner, Greener And Richer

Cleaner, Greener And Richer
by Chris Flavin and Molly Hull Aeck
September 15, 2005
Christopher Flavin is president and Molly Hull Aeck is renewable energy program manager at the Worldwatch Institute.

Affordable energy services are among the essential ingredients of economic development, including eradication of extreme poverty as called for in the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).  Meeting these energy needs economically and sustainably requires a balanced energy portfolio that is suited to the economic, social and resource conditions of individual countries and regions. Today, the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21) released a report concluding that in many circumstances, renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, hydro, geothermal and bioenergy have an important role to play, alongside fossil fuels, in an energy portfolio that supports achievement of the MDGs.

Roughly 1.6 billion people worldwide do not have access to electricity in their homes, representing slightly more than one quarter of the world population. They often go without refrigeration, radios and even light.  The International Energy Agency estimates that if the MDG poverty-reduction target is to be met, modern energy services will need to be provided to an additional 700 million people by 2015.

In recent decades, the energy needs of poor people have been most often met via petroleum-based liquid fuels, and by extension of the electricity grid, which is powered mainly by fossil fuels and hydropower.  However, these conventional energy systems are often out of reach for people in remote areas, and even in urban slums, they are sometimes too expensive for the poorest to afford.  In addition, in many developing countries, most of the fuel and many of the technologies are imported.  Of the 47 poorest countries, 38 are net importers of oil, and 25 import all of their oil.

The economic risk of relying primarily on imported energy has grown in recent years as oil prices have become less stable, doubling in less than two years to more than $60 per barrel. These rising prices have had a disproportionate impact on poor people who depend on kerosene and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) for their basic cooking and heating.  In many poor countries, governments subsidize basic fuels such as kerosene, and the cost of these subsidies has skyrocketed in the past two years—reducing the funds available to governments to pay for education, health care, clean water and other public investments that are essential for meeting the MDGs.

The rapid recent growth in solar, wind, geothermal and biomass energy in global, coupled with ongoing technology improvements and cost reductions, is making a growing array of renewable energy options available to help achieve the MDGs. Although the strongest renewable energy growth has been in grid-connected power systems and liquid fuels for transportation, several renewable energy technologies are well-suited to providing modern energy services for low-income people, including:

  •  Biogas for decentralized cooking and electricity
  •  Small hydro power for local electricity
  •  Small wind power for water pumping and local electricity
  •  Solar photovoltaics for local electricity
  •  Solar collectors for water and space heating
  •  Ethanol and biodiesel for agriculture and transportation
  •  Large hydro power for grid electricity
  •  Large wind power for grid electricity
  •  Geothermal energy for heat and grid electricity

Renewable energy projects implemented in scores of developing countries—many with international donor assistance—have demonstrated that renewable energy can contribute to poverty alleviation directly. These projects provide the energy needed for creating businesses and jobs—turning locally available resources into productive economic assets. 

Renewable energy technologies can also make indirect contributions to alleviating poverty by providing energy for cooking and space heating. Improved biomass stoves and liquid and gaseous fuels derived from locally produced biomass can reduce the drain on household income, while freeing up time for education and income-generating activities. By making light more affordable and reliable, renewable energy technologies also permit schools and businesses to operate after dark.

Renewable energy can contribute to education as well, by providing electricity to schools, improving attendance, retaining teachers and powering educational media.  Renewable energy for cooking and heating can reduce the time that children, especially girls, spend out of school collecting fuel. In addition, the displacement of traditional fuels reduces the health problems from indoor air pollution produced by burning those fuels.  Renewable energy can also contribute to improved health by providing energy to refrigerate medicine, sterilize medical equipment and incinerate medical waste. And it can provide power for supplying the fresh water and sewer services needed to reduce the burden of infectious disease.

By developing energy sources such as large hydro power, wind power, geothermal power and liquid biofuels, developing countries can reduce their dependence on oil and natural gas, creating energy portfolios that are less vulnerable to price fluctuations.  In many circumstances, these investments can be economically justified as less expensive than a narrower, fossil fuel dominated energy system.

Most poor countries have abundant renewable resources, including varying combinations of solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass, as well as the ability to manufacture the relatively labor-intensive systems that harness these. However, only a few developing countries have adopted the policies needed to spur the development of renewable energy technologies and markets, which have been dominated by Europe, Japan, and North America.  The exceptions include Brazil, which has built the world’s leading biofuels industry; and China and India, which are leaders in developing decentralized renewable sources such as small hydro, small wind, biogas and solar water heating.

Renewable energy technologies face a number of barriers that have delayed scaling them up their production and use in developing countries.   Most renewable energy sources require a significant upfront investment, as has been the case for most of the conventional energy sources that dominate today’s energy system. This means that in the early years of deployment, renewable energy options are typically more expensive than the conventional alternative.  Government intervention to level the playing field is therefore needed to start the development process.  Experience shows that as the scale of use increases, costs decline significantly in the early years. 

It is through the combined efforts of governments and the private sector that strong, sustained markets for renewable energy are most likely to develop. 

Monday, September 19, 2005

Post-disaster, comes the job search - Sep. 15, 2005

Post-disaster, comes the job search - Sep. 15, 2005
 Read the entire article at:


NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Post-disaster, now comes the job search Katrina victims face incredible challenges. But there are resources to help them get back to work.
Hurricane Katrina will cost the nation 400,000 jobs by the end of the year, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

To put that in perspective, employment in New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast totaled about 775,000 at the end of 2004.

If you are suddenly displaced and unemployed, how do you find new work?

Your first task is to make sure at least some income is coming in while you hunt for work.

Many companies, such as McDonald's, Marriott International and Union Pacific are continuing to pay salaries.

But if not, there are other options, including unemployment insurance or disaster unemployment assistance.

The latter provides assistance to disaster victims not eligible for regular state unemployment insurance, such as the self employed.

To apply, contact your state employment commission, or the U.S. Department of Labor at 1-866-4-USADOL or

The Texas Workforce Commission, for example, already sponsored job fairs in Dallas, San Antonio and Austin.

Adecco, a temporary-staffing agency, held a job fair in the Coliseum in Charlotte, NC.

Other staffing agencies and state employment commissions are holding similar fairs.

Look for flyers in and around shelters and areas heavily populated with evacuees.

Nationwide, the Department of Labor has 3,500 walk-in CareerOneStop centers, which provide assistance filing unemployment claims, applying for jobs and searching online.

You can search for permanent full-time jobs and temporary disaster recovery employment.

Contact professional organizations, if such things exist in your industry.

Or consider taking work outside your former specialty.

Many of the displaced employees in the Gulf Coast worked in hospitality or retail, but you may not find these jobs in your adopted town.

For now, don't sweat a lack of documentation.

For 45 days the Department of Homeland Security is allowing employers to hire workers without the documentation usually required.

Consider growing occupations such as registered nurses, post-secondary teachers, retail salespersons, and customer-service representatives.

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer