Will Climate Change Ruin Your Vacation?

Climate change could alter your travel plans in the not too distant future — including the face of world tourism destinations, how visitors get there, and who gets to go. A new report by the British tourism industry and a sustainability think tank, Forum for the Future, warns the impact of climate change could degrade now-popular vacation hot spots. Among the scenarios imagined is a type of “doomsday” see-it-while-you can rush to visit natural resources before they disappear; the high cost of a “green” travel and climate-related political instability in some destination countries may also threaten the industry. Another study on the issue is just kicking off at Michigan State University, where a $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation will be used to examine climate-change impacts on global industries such as tourism. Yet destinations around the United States and the world may already be feeling the effects.

The Bottle Problem

Plastic water bottles, a global pollution problem, have been banned from San Francisco to Bundadoon, Australia. Yet waste still proliferates, with 1,500 bottles thrown out each second. And in the U.S., the water itself is less regulated than what comes out your kitchen tap. Photo: Nairobi street/Meaduva

Again With the Bottled-Water Wars

If you want to buy a bottle of water, you won’t find it in Bundadoon. Residents of the small town in southern Australia voted in late September to ban bottled water and set up high-tech, filtered water stations throughout town, where people can have a free drink. For those who can’t break the bottle habit, chilled filtered water in ‘bundy-on-tap’ reusable bottles can be purchased in stores, Kazakhstan News Net reported. While Bundadoon may be the world’s first “bottle-free zone,” the move away from the sale of bottled water has achieved a steady flow. In London, the government will install water stations this month at heavily trafficked bus and rail stations, reports the Guardian.

Playing for Life?

Because so many U.S. veterans are video game mavens (right), researchers are using warlike games to help treat post-traumatic stress syndrome. Even as governments worldwide try to regulate video game violence, new research is finding a curious flip side to the virtual carnage. Photo: Soldier in Iraq/U.S. Army

Zap! The Other Side of Video Game Violence

As legislators around the world try to rein in video game violence, a new spate of research is finding a flip side to all the virtual carnage. In the United States, warlike videogames are being used, with initially positive results, to treat veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Advocates say that video games help veterans, many of whom are already experienced gamers, overcome their doubts about psychotherapy and confront shocking events, reports American Medical News. One such game, “Virtual Iraq,” which takes its lead from the consumer video game “Full Spectrum Warrior,” can be tailored to meet a particular patient’s experience, by recreating the specifics of a traumatic event — even down to sounds and smell. But don’t violent video games spur violence?

Pigeon 1, Broadband 0

A leading Internet service provider has been one-upped by a pigeon toting a four-gig memory stick. Despite the economic boons of broadband, developing and wealthy nations alike are lagging. Good news? Innovation is happening where the resources are scarcest.Photo: Wikimedia Commons

When High-Speed Internet Isn't, Try a Carrier Pigeon

South Africa’s largest Internet service provider has been one-upped by a carrier pigeon with a four gigabyte memory stick strapped to its leg. Winston, the bird in question, took off for a 60-mile trip at the same time that four gigabytes of data were transmitted to a computer at the destination. The plucky pigeon got there first, beating out Telkom’s ADSL service by more than an hour, according to BBC and other sources. Wealthy nations, as well as the developing world, are often plagued by poor Internet connectivity — and the slow speeds come at a cost. The U.S. Department of Agriculture noted in an August study that rural economic growth and broadband go hand in hand.

Is Schwarzenegger’s Prison Plan Good Enough?

By Bernice Yeung | Crowdfund this with Spot.Us
Part of the Prisons & Public Health news blog
Facing a court-ordered deadline to reduce overcrowded state prison populations, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger released a plan last Friday (PDF) that would revisit a previously rejected “early release” program, along with other measures. Early release would place elderly, medically infirm inmates and some prisoners with less than 12 months left to serve on their sentence under house arrest with GPS monitoring. Thus, an elderly or ill inmate could be “housed” in a hospital or treatment center. Previously, Newsdesk.org reported that California’s underfunded public health systems are already struggling to absorb existing parolees, and that local officials fear that situation will worsen as the state tries to meet the court-imposed mandate to lower the prison population by 40,000 over the next two years. The state estimates that early release, also known as “alternative custody,” could reduce the prison population by 4,800 inmates, but the measure was rejected by the California assembly earlier this month due to public-safety concerns.

Guns, Not Butter, for Latin America's Poorest

Military spending is increasing in South and Central America — and so is poverty, as regional governments are opting to spending limited resources weapons instead of development. Defense spending in the region has nearly doubled in the past five years to $47.2 billion in 2008, according to studies cited in a Miami Herald column, which also notes a simmering border dispute between Chile and Peru. Elsewhere in the region, Brazil struck a multi-billion-dollar deal with France to buy fighter jets and other weapons systems, according to news reports, while Venezuela just secured a $2 billion line of credit with Russia to buy combat helicopters, tanks and advanced anti-aircraft missiles, Reuters reports. Meanwhile, World Bank statistics anticipate that the ranks of the poor in the region will swell by 6 million people this year. A report by Knowledge @ Wharton confirms increasing poverty in the region, with millions of people expected to join the ranks of the unemployed and underemployed.

After Prison, Calif. Women Find No Care

By Bernice Yeung | Crowdfund this with Spot.Us
Part of the Prisons & Public Health news blog
Women parolees in San Francisco and Alameda counties face long waiting lists for access to health and welfare services, many of which are unreachable by the phone numbers in official resource guides, according to a recent survey by prisoner advocates. A lack of adequate social services has already challenged California counties dealing with an increased number of parolees — and the problem is expected to only get worse, with a court order requiring the state to ease overcrowded prison populations by 40,000 people over the next two years. A look at the services available to women parolees reveals a difficult situation that is only getting worse. Unreachable by phone
This August, All of Us or None, a national advocacy organization of ex-prisoners, teamed with the California Coalition for Women Prisoners to survey the East Bay and San Francisco housing programs for women listed in the parolee resource guide given to inmates upon release. Published by the City of Oakland’s Private Industries Council, the guide — one of the few of its kind — listed 17 East Bay housing options listed, 10 of which weren’t reachable by phone; in San Francisco, four of the 11 housing options were unreachable.