News You Might Have Missed * Vol. 6, No. 30

Important but overlooked news from around the world.


“All of these renewable sources of energy are incredibly invasive and aggressive with regard to nature. Renewables may be renewable, but they are not green.”

— Prof. Jesse Ausubel of Rockefeller University, NY, says the industrialization of open space for biofuels and wind farms undermine the benefits of renewable power (see “Energy,” below).


*Top Stories*
A farewell to arms
Copyright expires on British Invasion
Mommy, I got the safe-sex merit badge!

Green hopes pale as energy appetites grow

*Oil Spills*
Oil spills are commonplace, decried, and tolerated


A Farewell to Arms

Gun sales and stockpiles may be booming worldwide, but in Colombia an unusual ceremony saw the destruction of 13,778 handguns, machine guns, rifles and mortars. The weapons were melted down as part of International Gun Destruction Day, and will be used to make school chairs and a memorial for victims of gun violence there.

According to Inter Press Service, Colombia has one of the highest homicide rates in the world, and 70 percent of those murders were committed with mostly illegal firearms in 2005. Most of the guns destroyed were taken from gangsters and militias, officials said — while the rest were legally owned, and turned in voluntarily by their owners.

In addition to Colombia, International Gun Destruction Day was also observed by Ukraine, Sri Lanka and Albania.

While the Global Arms Trade Treaty was backed by a majority of U.N. member nations in 2006, it was opposed by the United States, and must also get past other members of the U.N. Security Council, such as China, Russia, Britain and France, which lead the world weapons trade.

Copyright Expires on British Invasion

The United Kingdom has denied efforts by Paul McCartney and other figures from music history to extend the copyright from 50 to 70 years on their early hits. This includes the Beatles classic “Please Please Me,” among others.

In contrast, the estates of U.K. novelists enjoy copyright protection for 70 years beyond the author’s death. In the United States, performers retain copyright on their work for 95 years past the original release of a recording.

Mommy, I Got the Safe-Sex Merit Badge!

The U.K.-based Girl Guides are raising a few eyebrows, and acknowledging the realities of modern life, by initiating a new program of sex education, debt management, and such basics of today’s home life as “flat-pack” furniture assembly.

The decision follows a survey of Girl Guides in the United Kingdom to determine the priorities of a century-old organization that once caused a scandal by encouraging young women to go camping and join sports teams.


“Disarmament: The Meltdown Begins”
Inter Press Service, July 19, 2007

“U.K. won’t extend copyright on rockers’ old hits”
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, July 24, 2007

“Guides keen to be prepared — for safe sex and living with debt”
The Times (U.K.), July 25, 2007


Green Hopes Pale as Energy Appetites Grow

As humanity’s energy needs only grow, world powers are plumbing the depths of the Arctic Ocean for fossil fuels and making plans to give countless acres of land over to “green” power production — even as the citizens of energy-rich developing nations rely on firewood and struggle with the labor abuses of emerging biofuel markets.

Russia sent a submarine carrying two legislators 14,000 feet below the Arctic ice to plant a flag on an underwater ridge they say connects the mainland to vast fossil fuel reserves there.

The move, which according to the BBC anticipates greater future access to the Arctic seascape thanks to global warming and melting ice, is opposed by the United States and others.

Concern for climate change caused by fossil fuels is driving a boom in renewable and “green” energy projects around the world.

This includes wind farms and biomass, which are touted as free of carbon emissions blamed for rising temperatures.

But a U.S. researcher says these efforts will come at an enormous cost — the industrialization of vast swaths of countryside given over to wind farms and biofuel crops.

But biofuels and ethanol stand to gain hundreds of millions of dollars in support thanks to farm legislation now before the U.S. Congress.

In the developing world, wealth in fossil fuels and renewables alike seems a false promise.

Human rights campaigners decried a darker side to biofuels after more than 1,000 “enslaved” workers were freed from a Brazilian plantation growing sugar cane for ethanol, the Independent reports.

And in Nigeria, the world’s sixth-largest oil producer, 70 percent of the population never sees the financial benefits of their abundant natural resources, and must resort to burning firewood for their basic energy needs.

This fuels deforestation — Inter Press Service reports the nation lost 35 percent of its forest cover between 1990 and 2005 — and bitter complaints about government and industry corruption.


“Russians to dive below North Pole”
BBC, July 24, 2007

“Renewable energy projects will devour huge amounts of land, warns researcher”
The Guardian, July 25, 2007

“Farm bill planting energy seeds”, July 25, 2007

“Brazilian ethanol ‘slaves’ freed in raid on plantation”
The Independent (U.K.), July 4, 2007

“Nigeria: Rich in Oil, Dependent on Firewood”
Inter Press Service, July 23, 2007


Oil Spills Are Commonplace, Decried, and Tolerated

Far from isolated mega-catastrophes — such as the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska’s Prince William Sound — oil spills occur routinely around the world, causing environmental and economic damage, provoking investigations by regional governments, and often leaving the victims unsatisfied.

Entering the words “oil spill” in the Google News search engine returned more than 2,500 distinct articles published in the last 30 days on the topic.

At the top of the news right now is the 100-foot fountain of petroleum that smothered the Canadian town of Burnaby this week, after a pipeline was pierced by a road-excavation crew.

Fifty homes were evacuated and the contamination spread to the nearby Burrard Inlet, a harbor and wetlands ecosystem home to a variety of marine wildlife, inclding four species of salmon.

Experts told the Canadian Press that the cleanup will cost millions, and that the toxic effects of petroleum in soil, sand and water could last for decades.

According to the Canadian Broadcast Corporation, members of the road crew that breached the pipeline said it was improperly marked, a charge denied by the company that owns it.

Burnaby officials, meanwhile, say the city has strict guidelines to prevent such accidents.

International Problem
But Canada is not alone in its plight.

In Kenya, 40,000 liters of oil spilled from an overturned tanker truck into the nearby Nzoia River.

The Nation, based in the capital of Nairobi, reports that the river is already degraded from overfishing and deforestation, and that the spill could be a coup de grace for fish species there.

South Africa’s Saldanha Bay is also threatened by a spill from a ship that was refueling last weekend.

Environmentalists called for bolstered fines and enforcement, saying that the harbors is already degraded, and that oil has covered the water and shoreline, threatening fish, crustaceans and birds, including flamingos.

In Spain, the cleanup of tons of oil leaking from a sunken ship off the coast of Ibiza was set back by renewed leaks, after underwater welding failed to seal cracks in the ship’s hill.

In Scotland, authorities say an oil slick spreading through the Firth of Forth can only partly be blamed on a nearby refinery, but they are at a loss to identify other potential sources.

Lebanon’s coast remains polluted with oil spilled during Israel’s 2006 war with the Hezbollah militia.

The Lebanon Daily Star reports that spokespersons for the Environment and Public works ministries blame each other for the lack of action.

Domestic Disasters
Back in the United States, 813 reported oil and fuel spills have contaminated Prince William Sound, despite new regulations and awareness following the Valdez disaster.

The latest such spill saw 3,500 gallons of diesel fuel pour from a fishing vessel that grounded itself in well-marked waterways.

In Massachussets, a state senator complained that four years after a “catastrophic” spill near Cape Cod, coastal waters are still vulnerable after the state’s Oil Spill Prevention Act was largely nullified by a federal court.

The U.S. Justice Department successfully argued that coastal regulation was the domain of the Coast Guard, not states. The ruling is currently under appeal; the Standard-Times of Bedford, Mass., reports that more than 2 billion gallons of petroleum products pass through Cape Cod every year.

In New York, officials are suing ExxonMobil for 17 million gallons of oil spilled over 50 years in Brooklyn; CNN reports that even now oil is spilling into local waterways, which border on numerous refineries, including ExxonMobil properties.

And a 72,000 gallon refinery spill affecting Oklahoma and Kansas residents was described by environmentalists as “another Love Canal.”, a legal trade and consumer publication, claims that “thousands” of homes have been condemned, farm crops destroyed, and “hundreds” of fish killed.

Legal Solution?
The publication also says that the refinery was built in a low-income neighborhood, and that complaints of odors and pollution have been ignored, provoking a class action lawsuit by residents.

But legal recourse can be cold comfort, not always fruitful, and potentially abused.

In the Philippines, the International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund turned down more than 125,000 claims over a spill near the island of Guimaras.

The fund said many claimants “failed to prove they were directly affected by the spill,” GMA News reported, and that 134 applications still needed final approval.

While a governmental task force said that “life in Guimaras has been restored,” a Wikipedia entry flagged for potential bias claims that the spill is an “ongoing environmental and economic disaster,” and “the worst oil spill” in Philippine history.


Google News Topic Search: “Oil Spills”

“Burnaby oil spill will have long-term toxic impact: experts”
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, July 25, 2007

“Oil-spill cleanup could cost millions”
Canadian Press, July 25, 2007

“Kenya: Experts Want Dangers of Oil Spills Tackled”
The Nation (Kenya), July 25, 2007

“Oil Spill in Saldanha Bay Poses Threat to Wildlife”
Cape Argus (South Africa), July 23, 2007

“Spain Deals With Oil Spill Near Island”
Associated Press, July 14, 2007

“Watchdog on alert after oil spill in Forth”
The Scotsman, July 20, 2007

“Environmental group presses ministry to clear coastline of polluted sand”
The Daily Star (Lebanon), July 25, 2007

“Cleanup starts on large diesel spill in Prince William Sound”
Associated Press, July 23, 2007

“Sen. Montigny says Buzzards Bay still ‘unprotected’ in oil spill aftermath”
The Standard Times (Massachusetts), July 24, 2007

“New York sues Exxon over oil spill”, July 17, 2007

“‘Another Love Canal’: Environmentalists Assess Oil Spill Dangers” — BIAS CONCERNS
Lawyers & Settlements, July 21, 2007

“Int’l body junks 125,000 Guimaras oil spill claims” (Philippines), July 23, 2007

“Guimaras oil spill” — BIAS CONCERNS

Editors: Josh Wilson

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