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Update as of December 5th, 2008
Trend spotter warns of
economic collapse, food riots in U.S. by 2012
Gerald Celente, the CEO of Trends Research Institute — known for predicting the 1987 stock market crash and the fall of the Soviet Union — is forecasting revolts and food scarcity in the U.S. by 2012, Commodity Online reports.
Celente warned that by 2012 America will become an undeveloped nation, that there will be food riots, squatter rebellions, tax revolts and job marches, and that holidays will be more about obtaining food, not gifts.
“We’re going to see the end of the retail Christmas….we’re going to see a fundamental shift take place….putting food on the table is going to be more important that putting gifts under the Christmas tree,” said Celente, adding that the situation would be “worse than the great depression”.
“America’s going to go through a transition the likes of which no one is prepared for,” said Celente, noting that people’s refusal to acknowledge that America was even in a recession highlights how big a problem denial is in being ready for the true scale of the crisis.
But Celente is not alone in predicting class tension and food problems. In an interview on Huffington Post journalist Christiane Amanpour predicts that food scarcity and the growing divide between the have and the have-nots will be among the major international stories of 2009.
Update as of December 1st, 2008
Al Qaeda says order given for US attack “far bigger than 9/11”
The notice said “the operation is very near” and “precise instructions were in the hands of “the fighters, who are already on their way to America” armed with bin Laden’s orders. The pretext offered for the attack is the rejection by the US and Europe of al Qaeda’s four-year old truce offer whose original pre-condition was the withdrawal of their armies from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Thursday night, Nov. 14, Central Intelligence Director Gen. Michael Hayden said: “Al Qaeda, operating from its safe haven in Pakistan’s tribal areas, remains the most clear and present danger to the United States.” He was addressing a Washington think-tank.
“Today, virtually every major terrorist threat that my agency is aware of has threads back to the tribal areas. Whether it is command and control, training, direction, money, capabilities, there is a connection to the FATA (Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas.)”
Hayden also mentioned Yemen and Somalia as important al Qaeda theaters of operation.
In private, most heads of the intelligence agencies fighting al Qaeda admit that an attack on the United States or major American interest outside is only a matter of time.
Update as of November 29th, 2008
City of the future: The giant
glass pyramid that could house one million people
With its sharp angles and its glass
walls shimmering in the sunlight it looks like a piece of modern art.
But this innovative design is actually a
blueprint for the city of the future - a giant glass pyramid that could house up
to one million people.
The development, named the 'Ziggurat',
will be self sufficient and carbon neutral with power being supplied by wind
No cars will be allowed inside the 2.3
square kilometre building, with residents being whisked around by a monorail
network which operates both horizontally and vertically.
pyramid could provide homes for around one million people
Security in the city will be provided by
biometrics with residents relying on facial recognition to enter their homes.
Dubai based designer Timelinks has
already patented the design and technology incorporated into the project.
They have also applied to the European
Union for a grant to carry out more work on the project.
Ridas Matonis, managing director of
Timelinks, said the city would work by 'harnessing the power of nature.'
He said: "Ziggurat communities can be almost totally self-sufficient
"Apart from using steam power in
the building we will also employ wind turbine technology to harness natural
building will be environmentally friendly with no cars, and will be powered by
But it is not just about reducing the
carbon footprint - the pyramid has many other benefits.
"Whole cities can be accommodated
in complexes which take up less than ten per cent of the original land surface.
"Public and private landscaping
will be used for leisure pursuits or irrigated as agricultural land.
"If these projects were realised
today the world would see communities that are sustainable, environmentally
friendly and in tune with their natural surroundings."
Update as of September 15th, 2007
Who's Minding the Mind?
In a recent experiment, psychologists at Yale altered people's judgments of a stranger by handing them a cup of coffee.
The study participants, college students, had no idea that their social instincts were being deliberately manipulated. On the way to the laboratory, they had bumped into a laboratory assistant, who was holding textbooks, a clipboard, papers and a cup of hot or iced coffee - and asked for a hand with the cup.
That was all it took: The students who held a cup of iced coffee rated a hypothetical person they later read about as being much colder, less social and more selfish than did their fellow students, who had momentarily held a cup of hot java.
Findings like this one, as improbable as they seem, have poured forth in psychological research over the last few years. New studies have found that people tidy up more thoroughly when there's a faint tang of cleaning liquid in the air; they become more competitive if there's a briefcase in sight, or more cooperative if they glimpse words like "dependable" and "support" - all without being aware of the change, or what prompted it.
Psychologists say that "priming" people in this way is not some form of hypnotism, or even subliminal seduction; rather, it's a demonstration of how everyday sights, smells and sounds can selectively activate goals or motives that people already have.
More fundamentally, the new studies reveal a subconscious brain that is far more active, purposeful and independent than previously known. Goals, whether to eat, mate or devour an iced latte, are like neural software programs that can only be run one at a time, and the unconscious is perfectly capable of running the program it chooses.
The give and take between these unconscious choices and our rational, conscious aims can help explain some of the more mystifying realities of behavior, like how we can be generous one moment and petty the next, or act rudely at a dinner party when convinced we are emanating charm.
"When it comes to our behavior from moment to moment, the big question is, 'What to do next?' " said John A. Bargh, a professor of psychology at Yale and a co-author, with Lawrence Williams, of the coffee study, which was presented at a recent psychology conference. "Well, we're finding that we have these unconscious behavioral guidance systems that are continually furnishing suggestions through the day about what to do next, and the brain is considering and often acting on those, all before conscious awareness."
Dr. Bargh added: "Sometimes those goals are in line with our conscious intentions and purposes, and sometimes they're not."
Priming the Unconscious
The idea of subliminal influence has a mixed reputation among scientists because of a history of advertising hype and apparent fraud. In 1957, an ad man named James Vicary claimed to have increased sales of Coca-Cola and popcorn at a movie theater in Fort Lee, N.J., by secretly flashing the words "Eat popcorn" and "Drink Coke" during the film, too quickly to be consciously noticed. But advertisers and regulators doubted his story from the beginning, and in a 1962 interview, Mr. Vicary acknowledged that he had trumped up the findings to gain attention for his business.
Later studies of products promising subliminal improvement, for things like memory and self-esteem, found no effect.
Some scientists also caution against overstating the implications of the latest research on priming unconscious goals. The new research "doesn't prove that consciousness never does anything," wrote Roy Baumeister, a professor of psychology at Florida State University, in an e-mail message. "It's rather like showing you can hot-wire a car to start the ignition without keys. That's important and potentially useful information, but it doesn't prove that keys don't exist or that keys are useless."
Yet he and most in the field now agree that the evidence for psychological hot-wiring has become overwhelming. In one 2004 experiment, psychologists led by Aaron Kay, then at Stanford University and now at the University of Waterloo, had students take part in a one-on-one investment game with another, unseen player.
Half the students played while sitting at a large table, at the other end of which was a briefcase and a black leather portfolio. These students were far stingier with their money than the others, who played in an identical room, but with a backpack on the table instead.
The mere presence of the briefcase, noticed but not consciously registered, generated business-related associations and expectations, the authors argue, leading the brain to run the most appropriate goal program: compete. The students had no sense of whether they had acted selfishly or generously.
In another experiment, published in 2005, Dutch psychologists had undergraduates sit in a cubicle and fill out a questionnaire. Hidden in the room was a bucket of water with a splash of citrus-scented cleaning fluid, giving off a faint odor. After completing the questionnaire, the young men and women had a snack, a crumbly biscuit provided by laboratory staff members.
The researchers covertly filmed the snack time and found that these students cleared away crumbs three times more often than a comparison group, who had taken the same questionnaire in a room with no cleaning scent. "That is a very big effect, and they really had no idea they were doing it," said Henk Aarts, a psychologist at Utrecht University and the senior author of the study.
The Same Brain Circuits
The real-world evidence for these unconscious effects is clear to anyone who has ever run out to the car to avoid the rain and ended up driving too fast, or rushed off to pick up dry cleaning and returned with wine and cigarettes - but no pressed slacks.
The brain appears to use the very same neural circuits to execute an unconscious act as it does a conscious one. In a study that appeared in the journal Science in May, a team of English and French neuroscientists performed brain imaging on 18 men and women who were playing a computer game for money. The players held a handgrip and were told that the tighter they squeezed when an image of money flashed on the screen, the more of the loot they could keep.
As expected, the players squeezed harder when the image of a British pound flashed by than when the image of a penny did - regardless of whether they consciously perceived the pictures, many of which flew by subliminally. But the circuits activated in their brains were similar as well: an area called the ventral pallidum was particularly active whenever the participants responded.
"This area is located in what used to be called the reptilian brain, well below the conscious areas of the brain," said the study's senior author, Chris Frith, a professor in neuropsychology at University College London who wrote the book "Making Up The Mind: How the Brain Creates our Mental World."
The results suggest a "bottom-up" decision-making process, in which the ventral pallidum is part of a circuit that first weighs the reward and decides, then interacts with the higher-level, conscious regions later, if at all, Dr. Frith said.
Scientists have spent years trying to pinpoint the exact neural regions that support conscious awareness, so far in vain. But there's little doubt it involves the prefrontal cortex, the thin outer layer of brain tissue behind the forehead, and experiments like this one show that it can be one of the last neural areas to know when a decision is made.
This bottom-up order makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. The subcortical areas of the brain evolved first and would have had to help individuals fight, flee and scavenge well before conscious, distinctly human layers were added later in evolutionary history. In this sense, Dr. Bargh argues, unconscious goals can be seen as open-ended, adaptive agents acting on behalf of the broad, genetically encoded aims - automatic survival systems.
In several studies, researchers have also shown that, once covertly activated, an unconscious goal persists with the same determination that is evident in our conscious pursuits. Study participants primed to be cooperative are assiduous in their teamwork, for instance, helping others and sharing resources in games that last 20 minutes or longer. Ditto for those set up to be aggressive.
This may help explain how someone can show up at a party in good spirits and then for some unknown reason - the host's loafers? the family portrait on the wall? some political comment? - turn a little sour, without realizing the change until later, when a friend remarks on it. "I was rude? Really? When?"
Mark Schaller, a psychologist at the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, has done research showing that when self-protective instincts are primed - simply by turning down the lights in a room, for instance - white people who are normally tolerant become unconsciously more likely to detect hostility in the faces of black men with neutral expressions.
"Sometimes nonconscious effects can be bigger in sheer magnitude than conscious ones," Dr. Schaller said, "because we can't moderate stuff we don't have conscious access to, and the goal stays active."
Until it is satisfied, that is, when the program is subsequently suppressed, research suggests. In one 2006 study, for instance, researchers had Northwestern University undergraduates recall an unethical deed from their past, like betraying a friend, or a virtuous one, like returning lost property. Afterward, the students had their choice of a gift, an antiseptic wipe or a pencil; and those who had recalled bad behavior were twice as likely as the others to take the wipe. They had been primed to psychologically "cleanse" their consciences.
Once their hands were wiped, the students became less likely to agree to volunteer their time to help with a graduate school project. Their hands were clean: the unconscious goal had been satisfied and now was being suppressed, the findings suggest.
What You Don't Know
Using subtle cues for self-improvement is something like trying to tickle yourself, Dr. Bargh said: priming doesn't work if you're aware of it. Manipulating others, while possible, is dicey. "We know that as soon as people feel they're being manipulated, they do the opposite; it backfires," he said.
And researchers do not yet know how or when, exactly, unconscious drives may suddenly become conscious; or under which circumstances people are able to override hidden urges by force of will. Millions have quit smoking, for instance, and uncounted numbers have resisted darker urges to misbehave that they don't even fully understand.
Yet the new research on priming makes it clear that we are not alone in our own consciousness. We have company, an invisible partner who has strong reactions about the world that don't always agree with our own, but whose instincts, these studies clearly show, are at least as likely to be helpful, and attentive to others, as they are to be disruptive.
Update as of September 7th, 2007
Report says world conflict spiking
The level of international conflict has risen precipitously in the past two years and is higher than at any time since World War II, says a new U.S. report.
"Peace and Conflict," a biennial study from the University of Maryland Center for International Development and Conflict Management, uses more than 100 statistical measures to assess the relative state of peace and conflict in each of the world’s nations.
The authors find that, in 2005, the latest year for which some of the statistics they use are available, more countries were involved in conflict than at any time since World War II.
The historic post-WWII low of 19 ongoing armed conflicts in 2004 was followed by an increase to 25 in 2005. "This represented an unprecedented one-year spike in inter-state violence attributable to a resurgence of previously settled or quieted conflicts."
“There’s a striking lesson in all this for policymakers: Exclusive attention to any single threat to peace -- such as terrorism -- will likely produce faulty policy that will serve only to prolong a cycle of insecurity,” said University of Maryland researcher and report co-author Joseph Hewitt. “It is this ‘conflict syndrome’ that poses the greatest danger to world security and stability.”
Update as of September 7th, 2007
Gulf of Mexico "Dead Zone" Is Size of New Jersey
Each year a swath of the Gulf of Mexico becomes so devoid of shrimp, fish, and other marine life that it is known as the dead zone.
Scientists have identified agricultural fertilizers as a primary culprit behind the phenomenon. Researchers are now focusing on shrinking the zone.
Dave Whitall is a coastal ecologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Center for Coastal Monitoring and Assessment in Silver Spring, Maryland. He said the dead zone forms each April and lasts through the summer, adding that the zone "generally grows throughout the summer, reaching a peak in late July."
At its peak, the nearly lifeless water can span 5,000 to 8,000-plus square miles (13,000 to 21,000 square kilometers), an area almost the size of New Jersey.
The dead zone is the result of oxygen-depleted water. Fish, shrimp, and all other marine organisms that require oxygen to survive either flee the zone or die.
Whitall says the phenomenon is triggered by excess nutrients in the Mississippi and Atchafalaya River Basins. Streaming into the Gulf of Mexico along the Louisiana coast, the rivers drain about 40 percent of all U.S. land area and account for nearly 90 percent of the freshwater runoff into the Gulf.
The nutrients that flow into the Gulf of Mexico allow microscopic organisms called phytoplankton to bloom. When these algae die, they sink to the bottom of the ocean. There, they are decomposed by oxygen-consuming bacteria.
In the process, the bacteria consume most of the surrounding waterborne oxygen, leaving little oxygen for the other life-forms that depend on it.
While the excess nutrients that flow into the Gulf of Mexico come from a variety of sources, Whitall said, the main source is agricultural runoff, namely chemical fertilizers and animal manure.
"Nitrogen and phosphorus also come from human waste, via wastewater treatment plants and septic systems; domestic animal waste; and industrial sources," he said. Additional nutrient sources include power plants, cars, and agricultural and industrial ammonia emissions.
Dead zones are not unique to the Gulf of Mexico.
Robert Diaz is a researcher with the College of William and Mary's Virginia Institute of Marine Science in Gloucester Point, Virginia. He and his colleagues have found evidence for more than a hundred dead zones worldwide. They range in size from 0.4 to 27,000-plus square miles (1 to 70,000-plus square kilometers).
In the U.S. these oxygen-depleted, or hypoxic, zones develop annually in western Long Island Sound off New York and Connecticut, the Chesapeake Bay off Maryland and Virginia, and the Neuse River in North Carolina.
Outside the U.S., dead zones are found in the North, Adriatic, Baltic and Black Seas and Japan's Seto Inland Sea.
Scientists first noted the annual formation of the Gulf of Mexico dead zone in the 1980s.
In 2001 a multilevel government task force led by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency set a goal of reducing the Gulf of Mexico dead zone to a five-year running average of less than 2,000 square miles (5,000 square kilometers).
Donald Scavia, a marine scientist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor who led the science team that advised the task force, said the figure "represents conditions that were likely to be typical in the early 1970s-and a significant reduction from the current conditions."
Whitall, the NOAA coastal ecologist, said, "To achieve this goal, a 30 percent reduction in nitrogen load from the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers is being implemented."
The effort focuses on refining agricultural practices in the watershed. Such tactics include timing of fertilizer applications better, plowing more efficiently, restoring natural wetlands, and improving manure management.
Computer modeling by Scavia and colleagues suggest that, to reduce the Gulf of Mexico dead zone to 1970s levels, a 40 to 45 percent reduction in nutrient runoff may be necessary.
"This does not negate the original agreement," Scavia said. "In fact, it supports it. This basin is a massive, slow-moving system. And moving toward practices that produce [a] 30 percent or 40 percent [reduction] is appropriate."
Update as of August 22nd, 2007
Arctic Sea Ice Extent Hits Record Low
Arctic sea ice fell below all previous records for the lowest absolute minimum extent ever measured by satellite on Thursday and Friday, said scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center. Sea ice extent has fallen below the 2005 record low absolute minimum and is still melting, said researcher Walt Meier.
A rapid disintegration of Arctic sea ice during July has prompted scientists to warn there is a 92 percent chance that Arctic sea ice extent will hit an annual record low. Sea ice extent, the area of an ocean covered by at least 15 percent of ice, has been shrinking since the late 1970s, when satellite measurements began. The decline is believed by many researchers to be due to higher temperatures due to global warming from a buildup of greenhouse gas emissions in the Earth's atmosphere. In April, scientists at the University of Colorado-Boulder forecast a 33 percent chance that the September minimum of sea ice would set a new annual low record, but after observing what happened to the ice in July, they drastically revised that prediction.
Satellite images of the coast of eastern Siberia and the New Siberian Islands, 1,200 miles northwest of Alaska, show sea ice retreat over 42 days this summer. (Images courtesy NASA) "During the first week in July, the Arctic sea ice started to disappear at rates we had never seen before," said Sheldon Drobot, who leads the Arctic Regional Ice Forecasting System group at the Colorado Center for Astrodynamics Research, CCAR.
The group at the University of Colorado-Boulder's aerospace engineering sciences department is the only group in the world making seasonal Arctic sea ice forecasts based on probability. Arctic sea ice researchers pay particular attention to the months of September and March because they generally mark the annual minimum and maximum sea ice extents respectively, said Drobot. The record low September minimum for sea ice, set in 2005, is 2.15 million square miles, Drobot said.
For 2007, the most likely minimum extent is 1.96 million square miles, he said. But there is a 25 percent chance the September sea ice extent will shrink even more - to 1.88 million square miles - said Drobot, and even a five percent chance it will fall to 1.75 million square miles, he said. Arctic sea ice is "one of the better predictors of climate change on Earth," Drobot said. "There will probably be about two-thirds as much sea this September as there was 25 years ago, a good indication that something significant is happening with the climate."
The factors triggering the unusually strong July sea-ice decline appear to be a combination of less multi-year ice and more cloud-free days, which accelerated the melting effects of solar radiation on the ice, Drobot said. "Things can really change fast, which is why we continually update our forecasts," he said. The sea ice research by the CCAR group is funded by the National Science Foundation and NASA. "We have been seeing a sharp decline in thicker, multi-year ice that has survived more than one melt season," said CCAR scientist James Maslanik. "This has been replaced in many areas by a thin, first-year layer of ice as well as by younger, thinner types of multi-year ice. The thinner ice just does not have the mass to withstand the effects of warming climate," Maslanik explained. The CCAR researchers used satellite data from the U.S. Department of Defense and temperature records from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for the forecasts, which they have been producing for five years.
Melting sea ice, Blackhead, Newfoundland, Canada. June 2007 (Photo by Diana Cardoso) Currently, sea ice extent is particularly low in the East Siberian side of the Arctic and the Beaufort Sea north of Alaska. Ice in the Canadian Archipelago is also quite low, the scientists said. Along the Atlantic side of the Arctic Ocean, sea ice extent is not as strikingly low, but is still less than normal.
Over the past few years, the Arctic sea ice decline has been sharpest in the western Arctic, said Drobot. Such regional variation is of interest to the maritime industry, including government agencies, international shipping companies, energy exploration corporations and tourism cruise lines active in the far North, he said. "This type of information is useful for ship operators trying to plan activities several months out," Drobot said. "It's also useful for short-term operational planning, including cruise ship excursions."
Assuming the sea ice decline continues in the Arctic, there probably will be intercontinental "Northwest Passage" type of transit from North America to places like Europe in the coming decades, Drobot projected. A seasonal or year-round, ice-free channel through Arctic waters would be shorter and cost less than shipping through the Panama Canal.
Update as of August 16th, 2007
China tells living Buddhas to obtain permission before they reincarnate
Tibet's living Buddhas have been banned from reincarnation without permission from China's atheist leaders. The ban is included in new rules intended to assert Beijing's authority over Tibet's restive and deeply Buddhist people.
"The so-called reincarnated living Buddha without government approval is illegal and invalid," according to the order, which comes into effect on September 1.
The 14-part regulation issued by the State Administration for Religious Affairs is aimed at limiting the influence of Tibet's exiled god-king, the Dalai Lama, and at preventing the re-incarnation of the 72-year-old monk without approval from Beijing.
It is the latest in a series of measures by the Communist authorities to tighten their grip over Tibet. Reincarnate lamas, known as tulkus, often lead religious communities and oversee the training of monks, giving them enormous influence over religious life in the Himalayan region. Anyone outside China is banned from taking part in the process of seeking and recognising a living Buddha, effectively excluding the Dalai Lama, who traditionally can play an important role in giving recognition to candidate reincarnates.
For the first time China has given the Government the power to ensure that no new living Buddha can be identified, sounding a possible death knell to a mystical system that dates back at least as far as the 12th century.
China already insists that only the Government can approve the appointments of Tibet's two most important monks, the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama. The Dalai Lama's announcement in May 1995 that a search inside Tibet - and with the co- operation of a prominent abbot - had identified the 11th reincarnation of the Panchen Lama, who died in 1989, enraged Beijing. That prompted the Communist authorities to restart the search and to send a senior Politburo member to Lhasa to oversee the final choice. This resulted in top Communist officials presiding over a ceremony at the main Jokhang temple in Lhasa in which names of three boys inscribed on ivory sticks were placed inside a golden urn and a lot was then drawn to find the true reincarnation.
The boy chosen by the Dalai Lama has disappeared. The abbot who worked with the Dalai Lama was jailed and has since vanished. Several sets of rules on seeking out "soul boys" were promulgated in 1995, but were effectively in abeyance and hundreds of living Buddhas are now believed to live inside and outside China.
All Tibetans believe in reincarnation, but only the holiest or most outstanding individuals are believed to be recognisable - a tulku, or apparent body. One Tibetan monk told The Times: "In the past there was no such regulation. The management of living Buddhas is becoming more strict."
The search for a reincarnation is a mystical process involving clues left by the deceased and visions among leading monks on where to look. The current Dalai Lama, the fourteenth of the line, was identified in 1937 when monks came to his village.
China has long insisted that it must have the final say over the appointment of the most senior lamas. Tibet experts said that the new regulations may also be aimed at limiting the influence of new lamas.
Update as of August 10th, 2007
World hit by record extreme weather events in 2007
Many parts of the world have experienced record extreme weather conditions including unusual floods, heatwaves, storms and cold snaps since the beginning of the year, the UN's weather agency said Tuesday.
Preliminary observations also indicated that global land surface temperatures in January and April reached the highest levels ever recorded for those months, the World Meteorological Organisation said in a statement.
The WMO said global land temperatures were likely to have been 1.89 degrees Celsius warmer than average in January and 1.37 degrees above average in April.
In Europe alone, April temperatures are thought to have been about four degrees above average, WMO scientist Omar Baddour told journalists.
The conditions match predictions of more frequent extremes given by scientists in the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), who are monitoring the progress and causes of global warming, Baddour underlined.
"The beginning of 2007 was very active in terms of extreme weather events," he said.
The WMO's list of extreme weather events includes current exceptionally heavy monsoon rains and floods in South Asia this summer which have affected 30 million people, as well as the severe flooding in Britain fuelled by the wettest May to July on record.
Other events include the summer heatwave in southeastern Europe, heavy rain in June that ravaged part of southern China and cyclone Gonu, the first documented tropical cyclone in the Arabian Sea that hit Oman and Iran in June, causing 50 deaths.
Abnormally heavy and early rainfall in Sudan caused the River Nile to overflow in June, while unusually heavy snowfall clad South Africa and parts of South America.
In May, swell waves up to 4.5 metres (15 feet) high swamped parts of the Maldive islands, causing serious flooding and extensive damage, while across the world Uruguay was hit by the worst flooding since 1959, the WMO said.
Update as of April 8th, 2007
Experts approve bleak climate change report
The environmental organisation WWF Switzerland warned that the Alps could be hit by heatwaves and droughts, and called for a dramatic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the worst consequences.
On Friday more than 100 nations belonging to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) agreed a final text in Brussels after all:night disputes.
The report, the second of three being published by the IPCC, lists numerous consequences on people, the climate and ecosystems. It will guide policy in coming years on issues such as extending the UN's Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012.
A warming world will place hundreds of millions of extra people at greater risk of food and water shortages and threaten the survival of thousands of species of plants and animals, the scientists said.
Floods, heat waves, famines, storms and droughts are all expected to increase, with people in poorer countries suffering the worst effects.
According to the WWF, the report contains for the first time specific details on the impact of climate change in Switzerland. For example, flora and fauna more sensitive to the changes in temperature are expected move into higher areas and others, which are less mobile, will reduce in numbers or die out.
The report predicts that up to 30 per cent of species face an increased risk of extinction if global temperatures rise two degrees Celsius above the average in the 1980s and '90s.
Small glaciers in Switzerland could disappear altogether while larger, more important ones would shrink between 30 and 70 per cent by 2050. This could result in the formation of large lakes and greater risks of flooding.
"The most dramatic effects can only be avoided if industrialised countries like Switzerland reduce their greenhouse emissions by 30 per cent compared with 1990 levels by 2020," said Patrick Hofstetter, from WWF Switzerland.
But other measures should be taken to reduce damage from climate change in the Alps, such as preventive measures to deal with rockfalls and mudslides, it added.
Swiss expert Andreas Fischlin, one of the lead authors of the report, said that politicians should pay close attention to the new document.
"It translates what the findings [of the first IPCC report] really mean for humans, settlements, industry, agriculture, forestry, and natural systems such as glaciers or ecosystems," Fischlin told swissinfo.
The IPCC's first report, published in February, made Swiss politicians sit up and take notice of climate change.
Most political parties in Switzerland agreed that the scenario was dramatic and action was urgently required. Environment Minister Moritz Leuenberger described it as "alarming".
José Romero, a Swiss delegate from the Federal Environment Office who took part in the Brussels negotiations, said the report would be "very useful" for politicians in their decision:making.
"Whatever reduction policies are adopted, the effects [of climate change] will be felt from now onwards. We therefore have to find ways of adapting to the changes," said Romero.
The release of the report was delayed. Some scientists accused government delegates of watering down their findings in a draft 21:page summary for policymakers.
The climax of five days of negotiations was reached when the delegates removed parts of a key chart highlighting devastating effects of climate change that kick in with every rise of one degree Celsius and in a tussle over the level of confidence attached to key statements.
The United States, China and Saudi Arabia raised the most objections to the phrasing, most often seeking to tone down the certainty of some of the more dire projections.
Update as of April 8th, 2007
Study Predicts Century of Drought in American Southwest
Human-induced change in Earth's atmosphere will leave the American Southwest in perpetual drought for the next 90 years, a new study finds.
Conditions in the southwestern states and portions of northern Mexico will be similar to those seen during a severe multiyear drought in the Southwest during the 1950s, as well as the drought that turned the Great Plains into the Dust Bowl in the 1930s.
The southern United States lies in a climatic region called the subtropics, which is dry because "the atmosphere moves water out of those regions," explained study team leader Richard Seager of Columbia University's Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory.
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The moist air is transported to temperate regions at higher latitudes.
The study, published in the April 5 issue of the journal Science, found that as greenhouse gases warm the air, it can hold more moisture, so the atmospheric flow moves more water vapor out of subtropical zones and into higher latitudes.
The dry areas then become drier, and the wet become wetter.
This flow, known as the Hadley cell, features rising air over the equator and descending air over the subtropics, which suppresses precipitation.
"And that Hadley cell, in a warming world, expands poleward," Seager said, bringing the U.S. Southwest more under the influence of the descending air.
Similar changes in the atmosphere produced past droughts and conditions such as the Dust Bowl, but the study found that the ultimate cause of historic droughts was natural, unlike this projected drought.
During those droughts, La Niña, El Niño's cool-water counterpart, brought cooler ocean temperatures to the equatorial Pacific, which resulted in drier conditions over North America.
The researchers used climate models to determine the level of drought based on the amount of evaporation at the ground subtracted from the amount of precipitation that falls at the surface.
The balance between these two processes is what maintains rivers and groundwater flow. As less water is available, water resources become jeopardized.
"The lifeline there is the Colorado River," Seager said, and it and other rivers are already stressed by the 10th year of drought in the Southwest.
As populations in the Southwest increase, governments will have to make adjustments to reduce water usage, but Seager and others unsure just what those changes should be.
Update as of April 7th, 2007
Global warming already changing the environment, report says
Manmade global warming is already causing environmental changes throughout the world and is likely to result in widespread human suffering in the future -- including droughts, floods and an increase in disease -- according to a report released today by the leading authority on climate change.
The United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is the most definitive and grim assessment of global warming's impact to date and highlights a key point: Poor countries will suffer the greatest as the world continues to warm because they have the least ability to adapt to rising sea levels and changing precipitation patterns.
"If a government doesn't react to this (report), it could be considered negligence," said Susanne Moser, a geographer at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado and a contributing author to the document. "It's a fairly bleak picture."
North Americans can expect more heat waves in cities, flooding, and fiercer storms, as well as wildfires and pests in forests. The Southwest will get drier and those places such as the western United States that get drinking water from melting mountain snow will suffer shortages. One piece of good news is that crop yields could increase by as much as 20 percent in some places, largely because of longer growing seasons. More specific regional assessments will be released during the next two weeks.
The report's release was delayed for several hours in part because scientists clashed with U.S., Saudi Arabian and Chinese government officials over wording about the degree of certainty scientists have that global warming is already influencing physical and biological systems. All governments must sign off on the document and its release was preceded by five days of intense negotiations with officials from more than 100 countries.
The wording was ultimately changed to reflect less certainty, a move scientists opposed. The final report says it is "likely" that human-caused global warming has had a discernible influence, while the original language had said it was "very likely," according the The Associated Press.
Still, the report's over-arching message to government officials around the world was that if emissions of heat-trapping gases, chiefly carbon dioxide, are not dramatically reduced, virtually every part of the world will experience a changing environment that plants, animals and humans many not be able to adapt to. The report warns that 20 percent to 30 percent of plant and animal species could face increased risk of extinction.
Update as of April 3rd, 2007
Iran 'getting ready for US war'
Iran is making defensive preparations for what it fears will be a US military attack this summer, Israel's military intelligence chief said on Sunday.
Major-General Amos Yadlin also told the Israeli cabinet that Lebanon's Hezbollah fighters and Syria believed they could be targeted in any US-initiated war against Iran, an Israeli government official said, briefing reporters on his remarks.
"What we are seeing is their preparation for the possibility of war in the summer.
"My assessment is that they are defensive preparations for war," Yadlin was quoted as saying, referring to Iran, Syria and Hezbollah.
The government official said Yadlin spoke about Iranian fears of a US, not an Israeli, offensive.
The official gave no details about the type of military preparations Yadlin said Iran was making to meet any US attack.
"We are closely monitoring these preparations because (Iran, Syria and Hezbollah) could misinterpret various moves in the region," Yadlin said, according to the official.
In Washington on Thursday, US Under-Secretary of State Nicholas Burns said the United States was "convinced diplomacy is the way to proceed" to curb Iran's nuclear programme.
Burns told the Senate's foreign relations committee that Washington did not believe conflict with Tehran was inevitable.
The UN Security Council widened sanctions against Iran on March 24 after it defied a second deadline to stop enriching uranium - a process Tehran says will yield solely electricity, but world powers fear could be used to build atomic weapons.
Washington and London also accuse Iran of supporting insurgents fighting their forces in Iraq.
Update as of March 30th, 2007
A Russian newspaper has claimed that the USA will shoot Iranian nuclear facilities
Many politicians, diplomats and journalists have mentioned the possibility of US military intervention in Iran to stop its nuclear program. The US government has implied supporting this option by saying "every option is on the table." A weekly newspaper in Russia has even gone so far as to announce the date of the war. According to the Argominti Nidili newspaper, the USA will bomb Iran's nuclear facilities
Update as of March 29th, 2007
NAVY WAR PLANES FLY OFF IRAN COAST
The U.S. Navy on Tuesday began its largest demonstration of force in the Persian Gulf since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, led by a pair of aircraft carriers and backed by warplanes flying simulated attack maneuvers off the coast of Iran. -Forbes
Update as of March 17th, 2007
Japanese are apparently slaughtering and eating dolphins
Here's a link to a video on U-tube that we'd like you all to see - though it will be painful. It got me misting up, so I paused it and am posting it to you first. I think I'll wait to watch it all until the Sun's shining - not at the dark of 2AM, pre-sleep. According to this video, the Japanese are apparently slaughtering and eating dolphins. If that weren't bad enough, it sounds like they're killing large numbers each year....prepare your heart for the hit. We have to be realistic about the world and all it's horrors, and also diligently keep sight of compassion and Love wherever we find it, nuturing it in ourselves and others continually. Hoping and sending you all wishes for renewed strength and inspiration in your quest to bring Love, truth and compassion into your lives and into the world in these often lonely and sorrowful times. You are not alone - we've all got to keep looking up and we will indeed reach the stars - that's a promise from Creation itself. Here's the
Update as of March 9th, 2007
Scientists study Earth's missing crust
SANTA CRUZ DE TENERIFE, Canary Islands - British scientists have embarked on a mission to study a huge area on the Atlantic seabed where the Earth's crust is mysteriously missing and instead is covered with dark green rock from deep inside the planet.
The 12-member expedition to take an unprecedented peek at Earth's mantle left the Canary Islands on Monday with a new high-tech vessel and a robotic device named Toby that will dig up rock samples at the site and film what it sees.
The main site - there is at least one other in roughly the same area and a third is suspected - is about three miles below the surface of the Atlantic and located about 2,000 nautical miles southwest of the Canaries.
It is part of a globe-spanning ridge of undersea volcanos, the kind of structure that forms when Atlantic tectonic plates separate and lava surges upward to fill the gap in the Earth's crust.
But that apparently did not happen this time. Where there should be a four-mile-thick layer of crust, there is instead that much mantle - the very dense, dark green rock that makes up the deep inner layer of the Earth.
Scientists have seen chunks of mantle that have been spewed up with lava, but never such a large, exposed stretch.
"It is like a window into the interior of the Earth," Bramley Murton, a geophysicist who is taking part in the six-week mission, said Tuesday from the research ship RRS James Cook as it headed to the site, still five days away.
This exposed layer is irregularly shaped, about 30 miles long and perhaps that distance or more at its widest. It was detected about five years ago with sonar from a surface vessel.
There are two main theories as to what happened, Murton said: A fault ripped away huge chunks of crust, or in an area of crust-forming volcanoes, this area was mysteriously devoid of that outer material, Murton said.
Roger Searle of Durham University, one of the lead researchers, said the study aims to provide insight on everything from the chemistry of oceans to the mechanisms of how the Earth behaves under so much water.
The robotic device will land on the exposed mantle, deploy a drill, and dig into the rock to bring back samples.
The project is being financed by Britain's National Environment Research Council and the Department of trade and Industry's Large Scientific Facilities Fund.
Update as of March 9th, 2007
Study compared 1,521 cellular phone users who received a glioma to 3,301 control participants without tumors
For people who have used a modern cellular phone for more than 2000 hours in their lifetime, the risk of getting a brain tumor rose by 270 percent.
The study is considered the second that firmly correlates cell phone usage with an increased risk of developing certain brain tumors.
The risk was highest among people under the age of 20.
Older-style analog cell phones already have been shown as a source of brain tumors, but even with the development of digital cellular phones, the risk is still there.
According to a scientist associated with the web site foodconsumer.org, the study results should not make readers assume that ten years of cell phone use will correlate to an immediate tumor, but that the tumor will show up later than that.
Update as of March 9th, 2007
Scientists attention on world's poles to gauge global warming
Polar researchers describe liquefying glaciers. Some say that within this century, the Arctic may no longer be ice-locked.
Facing this prospect, 50,000 scientists from 63 nations launched a study yesterday called the International Polar Year, to investigate how global warming is affecting the Earth's poles and what that means for all those living in between.
It's been 50 years since international researchers last pooled together research on the polar world, known as the
cryosphere. Since then, the world's temperature has risen slowly but steadily.
An authoritative report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change last month said humans were very likely to blame for this warming.
"The hour is no longer for skepticism. It is time to act, and act urgently," Prince Albert II of Monaco, who has visited the Arctic several times, said in announcing the project in Paris. He called global warming "the most important challenge we face in this century."
Scientists will use icebreakers, satellites and submarines to study the effect of solar radiation on the polar atmosphere, the exotic marine life swimming beneath the Antarctic ice, and the culture and politics of Arctic inhabitants.
The lifestyle of the Athabaskan, an indigenous group in northern Canada and Alaska, is already under threat, said James Allen of the Arctic Athabaskan Council.
Update as of February 20th, 2007
Dolphin 'dying of broken heart' after keeper is stabbed to death
By Peter Popham in Rome
A rare grampus dolphin, rescued 18 months ago after it swam into an Italian port, seems to be dying of a broken heart after the woman who reared it like her own child was murdered.
Tamara Monti, 37, the creature's keeper, was stabbed to death two weeks ago by the man who lived in the flat above her. Police found an unemployed man, Alessandro
Doto, 35, standing in the street outside the block where they lived, frozen like a dummy with a blood-spattered knife in his hand. He told them Ms Monti's two dogs barked all day and it drove him mad.
The issue had been simmering between them for months. Ms Monti and her partner had found a new place to live with their cat and dogs and were due to move the next day.
Ms Monti was from the Lake Como region, hundreds of miles north-west of Riccione, a resort on the Adriatic coast just south of
Rimini, but Riccione had taken her to its heart. The town was in mourning on hearing of her death. But no one missed her like Mary G.
The grampus dolphin was a calf in June 2005 when she and her mother blundered into the port of
Ancona, south of Riccione, and ran aground. They were rescued and brought to hospital, but Mary G's mother died three days later. After two months the dolphin had recovered sufficiently to be brought to Oltremare Park in
Riccione, a seaside theme park, where she was given a pool of sea water and the constant attendance of experts. They bottle-fed her a mixture of herring, vitamins and mineral salts, rocked her like a baby and gave her swimming lessons. But only one of the keepers talked to her as if she were her own child, and that was Ms
As Mary G grew, she became the park's big attraction. Her fame spread through Italy, via websites, television programmes and blogs. Visitors flocked to Riccione to see her.
"We wanted to return her to the open sea," said Sauro Pari, head of the organisation that runs the park, "but international experts advised against it. They told us she would not survive."
Instead the grampus dolphin with the comical rounded forehead and cartoon-like grin, and her surrogate mother, remained together - for life, or so it appeared.
But now Mary G is dying. The word began to spread within days of Ms Monti's murder, through the blogs and websites devoted to her. One message read: "Since Tamara's death, Mary is unwell. Let's help her." She would either refuse her diet of milk and squid, or eat it then spew it out.
Mary G's weight plummeted from 210kg to 160kg in a couple of weeks. As happened 18 months ago, she is being attended by specialist vets, but has so far failed to respond to treatment.
At the theme park, dolphin experts are going out of their way to deny any firm connection between the keeper's murder and the dolphin's sickness. They say there is a simple explanation for her rejection of food: an intestinal parasite which she could have acquired at any time.
"From a strictly scientific point of view we absolutely cannot assert that the two facts are connected," Mr Pari said. "But there is no doubt that her grief for the death of Tamara is great. We are very worried about what will become of her."
Update as of February 17th, 2007
Earth's Magnetic Field is Shifting?
We received this article from a good friend, and it confirms other reports we've received. We haven't had the time to research it thoroughly, but it definitely warrants consideration. Here's the
Gregg Braden is probably the most recognized person who is evaluating
and revealing the scientific phenomena pointing to this shift. He became
intrigued with all this when he was working for Phillips Petroleum in
the late 1970s and noticed that the magnetics of the earth were at their
lowest point in 2000 years and decreasing at a rapid rate.
Eventually, Braden wrote a book - Awakening to Zero Point - that
documented this and other indicators of our rapidly changing planet.
Wynn: Is it true that the magnetic poles of the earth are in the process
of shifting right now?
Gregg: In May-June-July of 2002, it was very well acknowledged and
esteemed scientific journals actually were saying for the first time
that we are in the process of a polar reversal.
Back in the 1960s, geologists were certain that the earth periodically
went through a reversal. They could tell from core samples, ice samples,
and fossils, as well as magnetized particles that were locked into
certain positions in the rock of the earth. Geologists were so certain
about this phenomenon that they actually mapped out the last
four-and-a-half-million years, and the resulting records suggested that the earth has gone
through fourteen of these polar reversals.
At that time, back in 1961 and 1962, scientists felt that the last pole
reversal occurred at about the time of the last Ice Age, ten to twelve
thousand years ago. And they were certain it would happen again, but not
for thousands of years, so it was nothing to worry about.
But through the 1990s, geologists continued to refine this kind of
information. They had been saying it took thousands of years for this to
happen. Then they began to say, "Well, it can happen in hundreds of
years." But now, recent evidence from some of the ice cores in Greenland
and Antarctica say that it could happen in as little as a decade.
But now, we know that the poles are actually moving. We're living it
right now. We don't know exactly what that means, because even though
it's happened fourteen times in the last four and a half million years,
it's never happened with six billion people on the earth.
Wynn: Are you saying that it's common knowledge?
Gregg: It's common knowledge to people that need to know these things.
For example, FAA regulations say that when the poles move beyond five or eight degrees, the runways at the airports have to be renumbered to
correlate with the magnetic headings that the pilots are seeing. The
first airport in the United States to comply with this mandate was
Minneapolis/St. Paul, where they spent something on the order of
eighty-five thousand dollars to go through and renumber the runway
headings. But what happened in the May-June-July time frame of 2002 is that journalssuch as Nature, Science, Scientific American, and New
Scientist released reports saying that we are definitely in the process
of a magnetic reversal, and the AP wires picked it up.
Scientists have no idea what the impact is going to be to electronic and
electromagnetic power grids. But even more, they don't know what it
means to human immune systems. Alternative healing modalities have shown a connection between magnetics and the immune system, which also would
imply that our immune systems could very well be keyed into the magnetic fields of the earth.
We know that birds and animals migrate along the lines of these magnetic
fields. So there is speculation that the changes taking place in the
magnetic field are responsible for the changing migratory patterns in
birds that have been recorded in Asia and North America.
The change in the fields also may explain why whales are beaching
themselves. The lines of navigation that the whales have always followed
have shifted and now lead them onto a beach. When we take them back out into the water and set them free, they continue to align themselves with
the same magnetic lines, and in following them, they end up on the beach again.
So, yes, it's common knowledge now. The most respected scientific
journals say that we're in this shift. And even though we don't know
precisely what that means, it's significant that it is being
acknowledged in peer-review kinds of literature, and not just in
speculative or pseudo-scientific magazines.
Wynn: When was this magnetic shift first acknowledged?
Gregg: It would have been in the June/July time frame of 2002. People
were sending me emails that they had seen it, and giving me references.
I also found references in the magazines myself.
Wynn: Would we survive a complete pole shift?
Gregg: Any answer to that question must of necessity lie within the
realm of speculation, because in traditional recorded human history it's
never happened. On the other hand, there are Native traditions and
ancient Hebrew biblical traditions suggesting that a magnetic shift may
have happened even more recently than the last Ice Age. That was 10,000 to 12,000 years ago, but these traditions suggest that the last shift
may have happened as recently as 3,600 years ago.
Native legends speak of a day 3,600 years ago when the sun rose from the west as it had always done, hovered in the sky for more than a full day,
and set in the east - but the next day, it rose in the east and set in
the west, as it does today. Hebrew traditions speak of this event, also,
saying that it happened during a battle. The ancient Hebrews took it as
a sign that one side was receiving celestial assistance, because it
stayed light long enough for the battle to complete in their favor.
We can't verify this in the rock or fossil records, because 3,600 years
is too short a period of time for such an event to be reflected there.
All we have to go by are traditions, legends, and myths preserved in
oral and written documents.
What the tradition tells us, however, is that if something like this
were to happen, the people of the earth would live through it. It would
have to be a really strange day to live through, but if the ancient
legends are true, it happened and the people apparently survived.
However, we don't know how it affected their lives.
Update as of February 10th, 2007
Scientists Say 2007 May Be Warmest
January 04, 2007 — By Raphael G. Satter, Associated Press
LONDON -- A resurgent El Nino and persistently high levels of greenhouse gases are likely to make 2007 the world's hottest year ever recorded, British climate scientists said Thursday.
Britain's Meteorological Office said there was a 60 percent probability that 2007 would break the record set by 1998, which was 1.20 degrees over the long-term average.
"This new information represents another warning that climate change is happening around the world," the office said.
The reason for the forecast is mostly due to El Nino, a cyclical warming trend now under way in the Pacific Ocean. The event occurs irregularly -- the last one happened in 2002 -- and typically leads to increased temperatures worldwide.
While this year's El Nino is not as strong as it was in 1997 and 1998, its combination with the steady increase of temperatures due to global warming from human activity may be enough to break the Earth's temperature record, said Phil Jones, the director of the Climatic Research unit at the University of East Anglia.
"Because of the warming due to greenhouse gases, even a moderate warming event is enough to push the global temperatures over the top," he said.
"El Nino is an independent variable," he said. "But the underlying trends in the warming of the Earth is almost certainly due to the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere."
El Nino can sometimes lead to milder weather, such as in the in the northeastern United States or the Atlantic Ocean, which is likely to see fewer hurricanes this year. However, it can also increase the severity of weather-related disasters, such as typhoons in the Philippines or drought in southern Africa and Australia, a country that is already suffering through its longest dry spell on record.
Environmental groups said the report added weight to the movement to control greenhouse gases.
"The evidence that we're doing something very dangerous with the climate is now amassing," said Campaign against Climate Change coordinator Philip Thornhill.
"We need to put the energy and priority (into climate change) that is being put into a war effort. It's a political struggle to get action done -- and these reports help," Thornhill said.
Update as of February 3nd, 2007
A planet on the edge
THEY cling precariously to the top of what is left of the ice floe, their fragile grip the perfect symbol of the tragedy of global warming.
Captured on film by Canadian environmentalists, the pair of polar bears look stranded on chunks of broken ice. Although the magnificent creatures are well adapted to the water, and can swim many kilometres to solid land, the distance is getting ever greater as the Arctic ice diminishes.
"Swimming 160km is not a big deal for a polar bear, especially a fat one,'' said Dr Ian Stirling of the Canadian Wildlife Service. "They just kind of float along and kick. But as the ice gets farther out from shore because of warming, it's a longer swim that costs more energy and makes them more vulnerable.''
The plight of the bears was highlighted as the prospect of a gloomy future emerged from leaks of the most comprehensive report into global warming yet undertaken.
Concluding that it is "highly likely'' that mankind is to blame for climate change, it talks of more droughts, torrential rains, shrinking Arctic ice and glaciers, and rising sea levels for at least the next century.
And it warns that the effects of a build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will last far longer. Studies of polar bears have revealed that not only have their numbers declined by nearly a quarter in just 20 years to around 25,000 but so has their physique.
The bears can be 3m tall and 770kg in weight, using their body fat to keep themselves alive when the temperatures plummet in the harshest part of their winter to -45C. But the scientists have observed that in the struggle for survival, the bears - and females especially - are now much thinner.
Scientists believe that four bears which recently drowned off the coast of Alaska had simply been unable to cope with a violent Arctic storm. Dr Stirling says that the phenomenon of a female giving birth to triplets is now part of history, with usually only single cubs recorded. Soon, he says, the species may be extinct.
Usually at this time of year, polar bears would be sheltering with their young in the dens they carve for themselves in mountain slopes near the shoreline or in snowdrifts on the sea ice. But global warming, which has raised the temperature in the Canadian Arctic by 4C in the past 50 years, means their habitat is inexorably disappearing.
In Hudson Bay, where the ice melts completely in summer, scientists have noted that it is now happening three weeks earlier than normal. This is having a catastrophic effect on the bears, which hunt seals over the winter and spring before coming ashore where they rely on their build-up of body fat to survive and feed their cubs.
Reports are now being received of polar bears, perfectly equipped for Arctic survival with two coats of insulating fur and a 10cm layer of blubber, scavenging for scraps in rubbish tips and campsites.
Scientists say the survival of polar bears may rely on special conservation areas, but even that seems a forlorn hope with a United Nations report expected to say that sea levels will carry on rising for more than 1000 years even if greenhouse gases can be curbed.
The report, from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, draws on the work of 2500 researchers from more than 130 nations and is the most comprehensive overview of climate change for guiding policy-makers.
It claims that global warming is "very likely'' caused by human activity, delegates to a climate change conference said. Dozens of scientists and bureaucrats have been editing the new report in closed-door meetings in Paris. Their report, which must be unanimously approved, was officially released this weekend.
Two participants, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the group approved the term "very likely'' in previous sessions. That means they agree that there is a 90 per cent chance that global warming is caused by human activity.
The last report, in 2001, said global warming was "likely'' caused by humans. There had been speculation that the participants might try to change the wording this time to "virtually certain'' - which means a 99 per cent chance.
Update as of February 2nd, 2007
Carbon dioxide rate is at highest level for 650,000 years
Concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are at their highest levels for at least 650,000 years and this rise began with the birth of the Industrial Revolution 250 years ago, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Carbon dioxide is the principal greenhouse gas responsible for global warming and, in 2005, concentrations stood at 379 parts per million (ppm). This compares to a pre-industrial level of 278 ppm, and a range over the previous 650,000 years of between 180 and 300 ppm, the report says.
Present levels of carbon dioxide - which continue to rise inexorably each year - are unprecedented for the long period of geological history that scientists are able to analyse from gas samples trapped in the frozen bubbles of deep ice cores.
However, the IPCC points to a potentially more sinister development: the rate of increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is beginning to accelerate. Between 1960 and 2005 the average rate at which carbon dioxide concentrations increased was 1.4 ppm per year. But when the figures are analysed more closely, it becomes apparent that there has been a recent rise in this rate of increase to 1.9 ppm per year between 1995 and 2005.
It is too early to explain this accelerating increase but one fear is that it may indicate a change in the way the Earth is responding to global warming. In other words, climate feedbacks that accelerate the rate of change may have kicked in.
The IPPC's report points out that, as the planet gets warmer, the natural ability of the land and the oceans to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere begins to get weaker.
It is estimated that about half of all the man-made emissions of carbon dioxide have been taken out of the air and absorbed by natural carbon "sinks" on the land and in the sea. Many computer models of the climate predict that as the Earth continues to get warmer, these sinks will become less able to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
This means that more carbon dioxide will be left in the air to exacerbate the greenhouse effect, so leading to further temperature rises and more global warming, which in turn will make the natural carbon sinks of the Earth even less efficient.
As the IPCC's summary says: "Warming tends to reduce land and ocean uptake of atmospheric carbon dioxide, increasing the fraction of anthropogenic [man-made] emissions that remain in the atmosphere."
This is just one of several "positive feedbacks" that could quickly accelerate the rate of global warming over the coming century. One isa warmer world is causing more evaporation from the oceans and a rise in water vapour - a powerful greenhouse gas - in the lower atmosphere. Another is sea ice and snow cover is shrinking at the poles and on mountains, leading to a further increase in local temperatures.
Update as of February 2nd, 2007
North Sea gas and oil boom threatens dolphins
Marine conservationists have called for permanent protection of one of the UK's most important colonies of dolphins which is being threatened by a boom in North Sea oil and gas exploration.
Bottlenose dolphins have been living in and around the Moray Firth in the north-east of Scotland for a number of years. They have become a major tourist attraction, as the cold water is credited with the dolphins growing larger than other populations of bottlenose dolphins.
However, experts from the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) fear that expansion of the off-shore drilling industry is threatening to drive the creatures away.
There are only around 130 left and a previous mathematical model, based mainly on data collected from the Firth, predicted an annual decline of almost 6 per cent in the dolphin population - which could mean extinction in a little less than 50 years.
Recently Alistair Darling, the Trade and Industry Secretary, issued a temporary reprieve for the dolphins when he excluded the section of sea bed within the Inner Moray Firth and Cardigan Bay in Wales from those areas on offer to oil firms for drilling in the 24th offshore oil and gas licensing round.
Both areas are considered extremely important for marine life in general and for cetaceans in particular. It is feared that any major disruption to the seas in these areas could have a noise impact over a wide sea area and drive the animals out of the adopted habitats.
The dolphins' sensitive hearing can put them at risk from the noise of "powerful impulses" used for the seismic surveys required to find the oil, which travel tens and even hundreds of miles.
The two areas were under threat from applications by oil companies to drill within and adjacent to the Special Areas of Conservation in these regions - the only two in the UK designed specifically to protect dolphins.
An initial appraisal by the DTI showed there was not enough information on the possible effects to ensure the dolphins are protected and a delay granting further licences was introduced while a separate "Appropriate Assessment" is carried out.
"We need to recognise the importance of the entire Moray Firth and Cardigan Bay for dolphin populations and to prohibit such potentially harmful activities in these areas," said Mark Simmonds, the WDCS director of science.
"Though we welcome the fact that the DTI has belatedly recognised that both Cardigan Bay and the Moray Firth, with their resident bottlenose dolphin populations, deserve special treatment, we are concerned that the DTI think they can get round European legislation by re-writing an assessment of the potential environmental effects.
"We urge the DTI to use this opportunity to stop these disastrous plans from going any further."
The WDCS, which has long campaigned for proper protection for dolphins and porpoises around the UK, has said that existing protection methods are at best superficial and called for greater efforts to be made to protect the other 40 or more species of cetaceans found in British waters.
"This clearly shows the need for a proper network of protected areas around the UK coast to conserve our populations of whales, dolphins and porpoises," said Mr Simmonds, who added that the WDCS hopes the forthcoming Marine Bill will include legislation to provide for the designation of a representative network of Marine Protected Areas.
The discovery this week of a pod of killer whales swimming in the Firth of Forth has also increased calls for a rethink on plans to allow ship-to-ship transfers of Russian oil in the river estuary amid fears that it will jeopardise the flourishing wildlife.
Workmen repairing the iconic Forth Rail crossing spotted the enormous predators swimming under the bridge at high tide - the first such sighting in more than a decade.
It is estimated that there are at least four adults and two calves patrolling the waters and feasting on an abundance of seals.
The sightings have added to fears that if Forth Ports is given the go-ahead to carry out oil transfers in the area, it could endanger protected species and their habitats if there was an accident.
Update as of February 2nd, 2007
Global warming: the final warning
According to yesterday's UN report, the world will be a much hotter place by 2100. This will be the impact ...
+2.4°: Coral reefs almost extinct
In North America, a new dust-bowl brings deserts to life in the high plains states, centred on Nebraska, but also wipes out agriculture and
cattle ranching as sand dunes appear across five US states, from Texas in the south to Montana in the north.
Rising sea levels accelerate as the Greenland ice sheet tips into irreversible melt, submerging atoll nations and low-lying deltas. In Peru, disappearing Andean glaciers mean 10 million people face water shortages. Warming seas wipe out the Great Barrier Reef and make coral reefs virtually extinct throughout the tropics. Worldwide, a third of all species on the planet face extinction
+3.4°: Rainforest turns to desert
The Amazonian rainforest burns in a firestorm of catastrophic ferocity, covering South America with ash and smoke. Once the smoke clears, the interior of Brazil has become desert, and huge amounts of extra carbon have entered the atmosphere, further boosting global warming. The entire Arctic ice-cap disappears in the summer months, leaving the North Pole ice-free for the first time in 3 million years. Polar bears, walruses and ringed seals all go extinct. Water supplies run short in California as the Sierra Nevada snowpack melts away. Tens of millions are displaced as the Kalahari desert expands across southern Africa
+4.4°: Melting ice caps displace millions
Rapidly-rising temperatures in the Arctic put Siberian permafrost in the melt zone, releasing vast quantities of methane and CO2. Global temperatures keep on rising rapidly in consequence. Melting ice-caps and sea level rises displace more than 100 million people, particularly in Bangladesh, the Nile Delta and Shanghai. Heatwaves and drought make much of the sub-tropics uninhabitable: large-scale migration even takes place within Europe, where deserts are growing in southern Spain, Italy and Greece. More than half of wild species are wiped out, in the worst mass extinction since the end of the dinosaurs. Agriculture collapses in Australia
+5.4°: Sea levels rise by five metres
The West Antarctic ice sheet breaks up, eventually adding another five metres to global sea levels. If these temperatures are sustained, the entire planet will become ice-free, and sea levels will be 70 metres higher than today. South Asian society collapses due to the disappearance of glaciers in the Himalayas, drying up the Indus river, while in east India and Bangladesh, monsoon floods threaten millions. Super-El Niños spark global weather chaos. Most of humanity begins to seek refuge away from higher temperatures closer to the poles. Tens of millions of refugees force their way into Scandanavia and the British Isles. World food supplies run out
+6.4°: Most of life is exterminated
Warming seas lead to the possible release of methane hydrates trapped in sub-oceanic sediments: methane fireballs tear across the sky, causing further warming. The oceans lose their oxygen and turn stagnant, releasing poisonous hydrogen sulphide gas and destroying the ozone layer. Deserts extend almost to the Arctic. "Hypercanes" (hurricanes of unimaginable ferocity) circumnavigate the globe, causing flash floods which strip the land of soil. Humanity reduced to a few survivors eking out a living in polar refuges. Most of life on Earth has
been snuffed out, as temperatures rise higher than for hundreds of millions of years.
Update as of January 18th, 2007
Russian admiral: Numerous US nuclear subs signals imminent strike on Iran
A former Russian Black Sea Fleet Commander believes that the US is likely to strike soon at Iran's nuclear facilities.
Update as of January 18th, 2007
Russian admiral: Numerous US nuclear subs signals imminent strike on Iran
A former Russian Black Sea Fleet Commander believes that the US is likely to strike soon at Iran's nuclear facilities.
Admiral Edward Baltin was quoted by news agencies as saying he believed the presence of so many US nuclear submarines in the Persian Gulf meant a strike was likely.
Last week the British newspaper, The Sunday Times, reported that Israel was preparing to use tactical nuclear weapons to take out the Iranian programm.
Update as of January 18th, 2007
Attack on Iran 'will deal fatal blow to Iraq'
Dubai: Amid the lack of a solution to the controversial Iranian nuclear issue, experts give different possibilities of what is next: a peaceful or military solution to uproot Tehran's nuclear infrastructure?
Some analysts paint a dim picture in the foreseeable future if Washington prefers the military option. They strongly believe that the continuous sectarian violence in Iraq needs to be tackled first.
Wayne White, an adjunct scholar with the Washington-based Middle East Institute, says that should the US President opt to attack Iran, the region will turn from a controversy pot to a cauldron with Iraq at its core.
People and many experts fear another war before US President George Bush's term ends next year.
"It is possible that before this President leaves office, [and] because he has very strong views about the Iranian nuclear issue, he will exercise what is known as a military option against Iran, which would be disastrous for the Gulf," adds White in an interview with Gulf News, in reference to the ramifications of attacking Iran.
White, who was among the advisors for the Iraq Study Group (ISG) that produced its report last month and recommended talking to Syria and Iran to help stabilise Iraq, warned that Iran would unleash its arsenal weapons, mainly anti-ship and ballistic missiles.
"I should say if [President] Bush ever did this, it would be a huge operation in which he would try to eliminate Iran's ability to retaliate in the Gulf by destroying Iran's retaliation capabilities."
But in this case, two problems arise, explained White, a former Deputy Director of the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research.
"One, it could take days to do that, and during the days, Iran could fire some of it [the arsenal] ... Second, the more you eliminate Iran's ability to retaliate in the Gulf, the more Iraq becomes appealing to the Iranians as the place to retaliate.
"If Iran is ever attacked by the US, Iran will surely make the situation in Iraq much worse for Iraqis and anyone else associated with the Iraqi government inside Iraq," White said.
Iran insists it has the right to have a nuclear programme for peaceful purposes, while the West demands it stops the programme. The American expert said the current tour of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is aimed at winning the support of Washington's allies to the recently-announced Iraqi strategy, which includes increasing the number of American troops in Iraq.
"But the most important thing ... is selling it to the American people" he said, in reference to US public opposition.
One of the strategy problems is the number of troops.
"If you have made a decision to send troops, 20,000 troops are not enough. The Baghdad area is huge."
Many US experts who discussed the issue among them before the announcement of the strategy "concluded that nothing less than 50,000 to 100,000 would be adequate to provide security to people".
White said American warnings to Tehran of continued support of "dangerous militias" in Iraq, "was not a threat, this was just an effort to push the Iranians away from the situation in order to weaken the militias".
Yet, the ongoing cycle of violence in Iraq is the main cause of worry to Washington at present, he says.
"The spiral is just ongoing, whether Iran is supporting or not supporting.... Iran is not as important in the equation now as it once was. It is the internal situation that is so serious just between Iraqi Shiites and Iraqi Sunni Arabs," said White, a former political officer at the US Interests Section in Baghdad.
The ongoing bloody sectarian strife, if not stopped, would make "Iraq divide itself into separate ethno-sectarian areas," he said in reference to fears of dividing Iraq into a northern Kurdish, a middle Sunni and a southern Shiite state.
White says the separation process was started in Iraq by Al Qaida, and that the majority of its fighters are not "international" but "extremist Iraqis".
According to White, signs of divisions "are just happening now," with three million Iraqi refugees in Jordan, Syria and Iraq.
Both advisors and experts at the ISG felt appalled at the idea of dividing Iraq, because divisions mean "you'll have ethnic cleansing, you'll have murder, you'll have people stealing property, and you'll have all ugliness that accompanies any separation".
But a civil war in Iraq would not expand beyond its borders, and create Sunni-Shiite conflicts in other parts of the Middle East.
"What is happening in Iraq frightens Sunnis and Shiites throughout the Gulf. It is terrifying. And I think even if a civil war happens in Iraq, it will be confined there."
Update as of January 18th, 2007
Animal tests provide insight into 1918 flu virus
Scientists who infected monkeys with a resurrected version of the 1918 Spanish flu virus reported Wednesday that the animals became mortally ill with symptoms similar to those reported among humans during that pandemic, which killed an estimated 50 million people nearly 90 years ago.
As a result of the controversial research, conducted in a secure laboratory in Canada, doctors say they now have a clearer understanding of what made the virus so lethal and have new tools to find ways to fight similar contagions if they ever arise.
The research might yield insights into the feared H5N1 strain of bird flu, which is similar to the 1918 strain but does not yet spread easily from person to person.
In a study published Wednesday in the British scientific journal Nature, the team of U.S., Japanese and Canadian researchers said the 1918 Spanish flu virus apparently carries a one-two punch: It first knocks out natural antiviral defenses, then produces such severe and persistent inflammation that the lungs are swamped with fluid and blood.
"We know this virus is different. We want to know what is different about it,'' said University of Wisconsin virology Professor Yoshihiro Kawaoka, who led the research.
The findings are the latest from a remarkable and unnerving effort that began in 1995 to reconstruct the Spanish flu virus.
First, researchers reassembled the genetic code that serves as a blueprint for the virus by piecing together fragments of Spanish flu genes taken from victims of the pandemic. One of those victims had been buried in the Alaskan permafrost for almost 80 years.
Then, using a technique called reverse genetics -- pioneered by Kawaoka -- a team of scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in October 2005 that they had assembled a living copy of the virus. It infected and killed laboratory mice.
In the fall of 2005, Kawaoka made his own copy of the virus at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, Manitoba, by following the blueprints for the virus that the CDC team published. His experiments on macaque monkeys were carried out with his reconstructed virus, which he said was nearly identical to the U.S. version.
"We synthesized it based on the published sequence," Kawaoka said during a telephone news conference. Although the precise genetic code is now published, he said, the techniques required to build a virus are sophisticated. "It is not as easy as one may think," he said.
Kawaoka said there are only two living strains of the 1918 virus, both of them in labs where security is tight -- one at the CDC in Atlanta, the other at the Canadian government lab in Manitoba.
Edward Hammond of the Sunshine Project, a Berkeley organization critical of biotechnology and biological warfare research, warned that scientists working with the reconstructed 1918 flu virus are courting calamity for marginal gains in medical knowledge.
If the resurrected virus were to escape the lab, either by accident or deliberate act, Hammond said, it would unleash an artificial pandemic every bit as bad as the natural one researchers believe will one day occur.
Hammond said that if a natural pandemic strain emerges, chances are it will "throw us a genetic curveball" and none of the findings from the current research will be relevant.
Researchers who worked on the Spanish flu project said the monkey studies revealed information about the disease's effect on humans that could not have been gleaned from the mouse research. "There are many influenzas that are very lethal to mice but do not even infect humans," Kawaoka said. Macaques, on the other hand, are primates that contract many of the diseases humans do.
In the latest experiment, seven monkeys were infected with a high dose of the reconstructed 1918 virus, and three others with similar amounts of a common seasonal influenza virus. Within three days, the monkeys had cleared most of the common flu virus, and damaged lung tissue had begun to heal.
But the 1918 virus replicated wildly in the lung tissue of the seven other monkeys.
Ordinary influenza caused the three control monkeys to produce large amounts of interferon, a natural virus-fighting protein. But the monkeys infected with the 1918 strain did not produce much interferon, despite having virus levels 10,000 times as high as the controls.
That has focused researchers' attention on a flu gene called NS1, which suppresses interferon. The gene is thought to play a role in making the H5N1 avian virus more virulent in mammals.
After the initial infection, monkeys with both ordinary influenza and the 1918 strain mounted a strong immune response -- flooding the bloodstream with chemical signals known as chemokines and cytokines that rally infection-fighting white blood cells to the body's defense. Within a few days, however, this inflammatory response was abating in the monkeys with ordinary flu.
In the monkeys with the 1918 strain, the inflammation persisted. The lungs became congested with fluid and blood, a condition noted in victims of Spanish flu. Oxygen levels in the blood fell to two-thirds of normal. The inflammation caused so much damage to the lungs that all the surviving monkeys were euthanized after eight days.
University of Washington microbiologist Michael Katze, who took part in the study, noted that the Spanish flu was unique in that it killed many people in their 20s and 30s, while most influenzas kill the very young and the very old. Healthy individuals typically have the strongest immune systems.
"Instead of protecting these individuals, their immune response may have been contributing to the lethality of the virus," Katze said.
Update as of January 18th, 2007
Hawking warns: We must recognize
the catastrophic dangers of climate change
Climate change stands alongside the use of nuclear weapons as one of the greatest threats posed to the future of the world, the Cambridge cosmologist Stephen Hawking has said.
Professor Hawking said that we stand on the precipice of a second nuclear age and a period of exceptional climate change, both of which could destroy the planet as we know it.
He was speaking at the Royal Society in London yesterday at a conference organized
by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists which has decided to move the minute hand of its "Doomsday Clock" forward to five minutes to midnight to reflect the increased dangers faced by the world.
Scientists devised the clock in 1947 as a way of expressing to the public the risk of nuclear conflagration following the use of the atomic weapons that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of the Second World War.
"As we stand at the brink of a second nuclear age and a period of unprecedented climate change, scientists have a special responsibility, once again, to inform the public and to advise leaders about the perils that humanity faces," Professor Hawking said. "As scientists, we understand the dangers of nuclear weapons and their devastating effects, and we are learning how human activities and technologies are affecting climate systems in ways that may forever change life on Earth.
"As citizens of the world, we have a duty to share that knowledge. We have a duty, as well, to alert the public to the unnecessary risks that we live with every day, and to the perils we foresee if governments and societies do not take action now to render nuclear weapons obsolete and to prevent further climate change.
"We are here today to outline the results of the Bulletin's recent deliberations and to warn the public about the deteriorating state of world and planetary affairs by moving the hand of the clock," Professor Hawking said.
"Lord Rees of Ludlow, president of the Royal Society, said humankind's collective impacts on the biosphere, climate and oceans were unprecedented. These environmentally-driven threats 'threats without enemies' should loom as large in the political perspective as did the East-West political divide during the Cold War era.
Technology in the 21st century could offer immense opportunities to everyone but it would also present new threats that were more diverse and more intractable than those posed by nuclear weapons, Lord Rees said.
"To confront these threats successfully and to avoid foreclosing humanity's long-term potential scientists need to channel their efforts wisely and engage with the political process nationally and internationally.
"We shall need, in all fields of science, individuals with the wisdom and commitment of the atomic scientists who founded the Bulletin," he said.
The board of directors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists said the threat of nuclear apocalypse was now almost matched by the environmental threats posed by climate change.
"We stand at the brink of a second nuclear age. Not since the first atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki has the world faced such perilous choices," the board said in a statement issued yesterday.
"North Korea's recent test of a nuclear weapon, Iran's nuclear ambitions, a renewed US emphasis on the military utility of nuclear weapons, the failure to adequately secure nuclear materials and the continued presence of some 26,000 nuclear weapons in the United States and Russia are symptomatic of a larger failure to solve the problems posed by the most destructive technology on Earth.
"As in past deliberations, we have examined other human-made threats to civilization. We have concluded the dangers posed by climate change are nearly as dire as those posed by nuclear weapons. The effects may be less dramatic in the short term than the destruction that could be wrought by nuclear explosions, but over the next three to four decades climate change could cause drastic harm."
Update as of January 17th, 2007
A Litany of Remembrance for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
We remember the conviction of Martin Luther King, Jr., that “freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”
Therefore, let us pray for courage and determination to help all who are oppressed. Let us re-dedicate ourselves to the cause of Love and Liberty for all Beings, everywhere. Thomas Jefferson said that "Obedience to God is Resistance to Tyranny". Let us all vow to remember this and stay awake in these important chapters of our world's book.
We remember Martin’s warning that “a negative peace which is the absence of tension” is less than “a positive peace which is the presence of justice.”
Therefore, let us pray that those who work for peace in our world may cry out first for justice.
We remember Martin’s insight that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.”
Therefore, let us pray that we may see nothing in isolation/separation, but that we may know ourselves bound in Oneness to one another and to all beings under heaven.
We remember Martin’s “hope that dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.”
Therefore, in faith and Love, let us commend ourselves and our work for justice, kindness in the name of the goodness of that thing that we may call God, the Universal Spirit, the Great Spirit, etc.
Today we celebrate Martin Luther King day as a tribute to his leadership in the fight for freedom, equality, and justice for the oppressed. We celebrate his insight and courage in helping us to realize that all of us are children of the same God, the same Heavenly Creator. Through his influence we came to a better understanding of how important it is to treat everyone with respect and dignity. He gave his life in the quest that all people would get equal treatment legally and socially. We haven’t yet accomplished the task set before us but with a dedicated effort by good people everywhere perhaps someday we will. The great teachers, sages and holy people of history have given us the example if we will only follow in their footsteps.
"Jesus loves the little children, all the children in the world.
Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight."
This little children's verse is true of all beings who have awakened their true Christ nature and are living it.
Oh merciful Creator, please help us all to love one another freely and without reservations or barriers. Help us to realize that we are all children in the family of God and keep us from sibling rivalry. Let us follow in the example of all those, leaders and followers, who have or do actively seek to bridge the differences that sometimes tend to grow into divisive and almost insurmountable obstacles. With the help and strength of this divine Love, let us all be a Christ-like example to the world - showing others how to destroy the walls that keep us from understanding one another, and let Love's light shine, eternal and magnificent on this Earth.”
Update as of January 5th, 2007
Commuter Saves Man From Oncoming Train
NEW YORK (Jan. 5) - A man's daring rescue of a teen who fell on the subway tracks earned him the unique title "the hero of Harlem" plus $10,000 from Donald Trump and a trip to Disney World.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg bestowed the title upon Wesley Autrey as he presented him with the city's highest award for civic achievement on Thursday, calling the 50-year-old construction worker "a great man, a man who makes us all proud to be New Yorkers."
Past recipients of the Bronze Medallion have included Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Martin Luther King Jr., Muhammad Ali and Willie Mays. The last honoree was Housing Authority employee Felix Vasquez, who caught a baby thrown from a burning building in 2005.
On Tuesday, Autrey saw Cameron Hollopeter, a 19-year-old film student, suffering a seizure while waiting for a train. After stumbling down the platform, Hollopeter, of Littleton, Massachusetts, fell onto the tracks with a train on its way into the station.
Autrey, traveling with his two young daughters, said something needed to be done and he thought: "I'm the only one to do it."
He jumped down to the tracks, a few feet below platform level, and rolled with the young man into a drainage trough between the rails as the southbound No. 1 train came into the Manhattan station.
Some train cars passed over Autrey and Hollopeter with only a couple of inches to spare, but neither man suffered any harm from the incident. Hollopeter, hospitalized for his medical condition, was in stable condition Thursday.
Metropolitan Transportation Authority Executive Director Elliot Sander called Autrey's action "a death-defying act of bravery. We truly have not seen anything like this. ... He was at the right place at the right time and did the right thing."
After the City Hall ceremony, a limousine whisked Autrey, who also received a year's worth of free subway rides, to a meeting with Trump, who presented him with $10,000.
He also has received $2,500 from the New York Film Academy to start a scholarship fund for his children, and tickets and a backstage tour to the Broadway musical "The Lion King."
Autrey, who did the morning news show circuit on Thursday and taped a David Letterman appearance later in the day, will be flown to Los Angeles for an appearance next week on Ellen DeGeneres' show.
As for his new celebrity, he concluded, "good things happen when you do good."
Update as of January 1st, 2007
The Big Wheel and Angels in Indiana
(My brother just sent me this story and I’d like to pass it along. There was no author listed. It fits in perfectly with the John Doe ideas we talked about in this latest newsletter, and reminds me of our “Phantom” from the Lost Teachings. Nice little story to lift your heart a bit.
The Big Wheel and Angels in Indiana
In September 1962, I woke up one morning with six hungry kids and just 75 cents in my pocket. Their father was gone. The boys ranged
from three months to seven years; their sister was two. Their Dad had never been much more than a presence they feared. Whenever they heard his tires crunch on the gravel driveway they would scramble to hide under their beds.
He did manage to leave $15 a week to buy groceries. Now that he had decided to leave, there would be no more beatings, but no food either.
If there was a welfare system in effect in southern Indiana at that time, I certainly knew nothing about it. I scrubbed the kids and then put on my best homemade dress, loaded them into the old 50 Chevy and drove off to find a job.
The seven of us went to every factory, store and restaurant in our small town. No luck. The kids stayed in the car and tried to be quiet while I tried to convince whomever would listen that I was willing to learn or
do anything. I had to have a job.
Still no luck. The last place we went to, just a few miles out of
town, was an old Root Beer Barrel drive-in that had been converted to a truck stop. It was called the Big Wheel.
An old lady named Granny owned the place and she peeked out of the window from time to time at all those kids. She needed someone on
the graveyard shift, 11 at night until seven in the morning. She paid 65 cents an hour, and I could start that night. I raced home and called the
teenager down the street that baby-sat for people. I bargained with
her to come and sleep on my sofa for a dollar a night. She could arrive with her pajamas on and the kids would already be asleep.
When I got home in the mornings I woke the baby-sitter up and sent her home with one dollar of my tip money. As the weeks went by, heating bills added a strain to my meager wage. The tires on the old Chevy had begun to leak. I had to fill them with air on the way to work and again every morning before I could go home.
One bleak fall morning, I dragged myself to the car to go home and found four tires in the back seat. New tires! There was no note, no
nothing, just beautiful brand new tires. Had Angels taken up residence in Indiana ? I wondered.
I made a deal with the local service station. In exchange for his mounting the new tires, I would clean up his office. I remember it
took me a lot longer to scrub his floor than it did for him to do the tires.
I was now working six nights instead of five and it still wasn't
enough. Christmas was coming and I knew there would be no money for toys for the kids. I found a can of red paint and started repairing and painting some old toys, then hid them in the basement so there would be something
for Santa to deliver on Christmas morning. Clothes were a worry too. I was sewing patches on top of patches on the boys pants and soon they would
be too far gone to repair.
On Christmas Eve the usual customers were drinking coffee in the Big Wheel. These were the tough truckers, Les, Frank, and Jim, and a gruff state trooper named Joe. A few musicians were hanging around after a gig at the Legion and were dropping nickels in the pinball machine. The regulars all just sat around and talked through the wee hours of the morning and then
left to get home before the sun came up.
When it was time for me to go home at seven o'clock on Christmas morning, to my amazement, my old Chevy was filled full to the
top with boxes of all shapes and sizes. I quickly opened the driver's side door and crawled inside.
Reaching back, I pulled off the lid of the top box. Inside was whole case of little blue jeans, sizes 2-10! I looked inside another box: It
was full of shirts. Then I peeked inside some of the other boxes. There was candy and nuts and bananas and bags of groceries. There was an enormous ham for baking, and canned vegetables and potatoes. There was a bag of laundry supplies and cleaning items. And there were five toy trucks and one beautiful little doll.
As I drove back through empty streets as the sun slowly rose on the most amazing Christmas Day of my life, I was sobbing with gratitude.
And I will never forget the joy on the faces of my little ones that precious morning.
Yes, there were Angels in Indiana that long-ago December. And they all hung out at the Big Wheel truck stop.…
Update as of January 1st, 2007
Tapped-out trees threaten frankincense
AMSTERDAM, Netherlands - A word to the wise men: The world may have plenty of gold and myrrh, but it could run short of frankincense.
Trees in the Horn of Africa provide most of the world's supply of the prized incense that was carried to the infant Jesus by the wise men from the East, in the New Testament's Nativity story. But researchers say the trees are failing to reproduce because they are overexploited for the sap that yields the Christmas staple.
According to a study co-authored by botanists and ecologists from the Netherlands and Eritrea and published this month in The Journal of Applied Ecology, the more heavily a frankincense tree is tapped, the less likely it is to produce viable seeds.
That's not a big problem as long as new trees take root, but other recent studies by scientists and observers from the U.N. Environmental Program have found the number of trees is dwindling in Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia — which together make up the bulk of the export market.
They say humans are clearing trees for farmland, and allowing their goats to feed on sapling leaves.
The new study found that remaining plants cannot reproduce because they are tapped too heavily and too often.
"At the moment there's not a shortage of frankincense, but there's no regeneration of the forests. There are no young trees anymore," said Frans Bongers, the study's lead author.
In clusters of trees untapped for at least four years, seeds germinated at a rate above 80 percent, the report said. Heavily tapped groves produced one-third as many seeds and their germination rate was less than 16 percent.
Eugene Bozniak, chairman of the botany department at Weber State University in Utah, who was not involved in the research, called it a "good solid study" in an area where it is notoriously hard to get good data.
Frankincense trees "grow in arid climates. So when you create a wound, which is what you do to make the sap run, they have to devote resources to plugging the wound," he said.
Frankincense is dried sap harvested from several related species of trees found on high scrublands at the southern end of the Arabian peninsula and the Horn of Africa.
In biblical times, Southern Arabian kingdoms such as Sheba, the Yemen of today, had a monopoly on the frankincense trade and the substance was worth its weight in gold.
Frankincense and myrrh came by ship north through the Red Sea and Persian Gulf, or by camel through the Arabian desert.
Today, top-quality frankincense sells for roughly $100 a pound in the West, though lower quality can be bought for a tenth of the price.
It's still used in perfumes and herbal medicines, especially in China, and in incense mixes used by various religious groups — notably the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches — because of the fragrant, citrus-like odor it emits when burned.
The World Conservation Union's "red list" includes 10 species or subspecies of the Boswellia genus — frankincense — as "vulnerable" to becoming extinct in the wild.
No one is certain which species of frankincense the wise men would have carried, though many think it came from modern-day Oman. Botanists aren't even sure how many species there are.
"The consensus view is that there are only four or five," Bozniak said, and the differences in the resins would be apparent only to experts.
In western Christianity, tradition holds that the wise men were three kings on camels: Melchior, of Arabia, bringing gold to represent Jesus' royal nature; Balthasar, from Ethiopia, bringing frankincense, representing his divinity; and Caspar, from Tarsus (modern Turkey), bearing myrrh, another sap incense once used in death rites, presaging the Crucifixion.
The Gospel of Matthew doesn't say there were three of them or how long it took between Jesus' birth and their arrival, saying they came from the east following a star that led them to Bethlehem.
Matthew 2:11 says: "When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when ... they saw the young child with Mary his mother, they fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh."
Update as of January 1st, 2007
US to put polar bears on endangered list
The United States government has announced plans to list polar bears on its endangered species list.
The Secretary of the Interior, Dick Kempthorne, says he is concerned that the bears ice-bound habitat is melting.
A statement from the department said it was not analysing why the climate in Alaska was changing.
But it stressed that the Bush administration treated climate change seriously and recognised the role played by greenhouse gases.
"Global warming is the single biggest threat to polar bears' survival, and this will require the government to address the impacts on the polar bear," said Andrew Wetzler, a senior attorney with Natural Resources Defence Council, one of the groups that sued the government seeking action to protect the polar bear.
Scientists have concluded that global warming is caused mainly by heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and motor vehicles. The United States is the largest producer of those pollutants worldwide.
Update as of January 1st, 2007
Twenty-Five Sq. Miles of Ice Broke off Canada's North
An ice floe with an area of 25 square miles (66 square km) broke off the Ayles Ice Shelf at Ellesmere Island. The break occurred in the summer of 2005 but was only detected recently by satellite photos, said Luke Copland, assistant professor at the University of Ottawa's geography department.
Ellesmere Island is about 800 km south of the North Pole.
"The Arctic is all frozen up for the winter and [the floe] it's stuck in the sea ice about 50 km (30 miles) off the coast," he said. "The risk is that next summer, as that sea ice melts, this large ice island can then move itself around off the coast and one potential path for it is to make its way westward toward the Beaufort Sea, and the Beaufort Sea is where there is lots of oil and gas exploration, oil rigs and shipping."
The ice chunk is now 19 square miles in size. Initially, it was larger than Manhattan which only has about 24 sq. miles. It is basically a floating ice island. Only five Canadian ice shelves remain connected to land, and measurements show they are 90% smaller than they were a century ago.
The breakup was so powerful that earthquake monitors 250 km away picked up the tremors as the 3,000 to 4,500 years old shelf tore away from its fiord on Ellesmere.
Copland said the break was likely due to a combination of low accumulations of sea ice around the mass's edges as high winds blew it away, as well as one of the Arctic's warmest temperatures on record. The region was 3 degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees F) above average in the summer of 2005, he said, according to Reuters.
"It's hard to tie one event to climate change, but when you look at the longer-term trend, the bigger picture, we've lost a lot of ice shelves on northern Ellesmere in the past century and this is that continuing," he said. "And this is the biggest one in the last 25 years."
Thinking about buying some real estate? Forget that house on the beach. Some scientific reports think that most polar ice could be gone by 2040.
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