My World of “Ought to Be”
by Timothy Wilken, MD


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Monday, April 12, 2004

Timothy Wilken, MDThanks for visiting this website. It has been my pleasure to post articles and essays here for your enjoyment.

This site has been a part of the SynEARTH Network for the past two years. Today, it is time to renew my Radio license for another year, but I realize I simply don't have the time to properly develop and support this site.

So please visit our main page News for a Synergic Earth, or our other websites: Future Positive, CommUnity of Minds, and The Time-binding Trust.

You are also welcome to contact me through the Future Positive Yahoo Group.

Tim’s Sig:

Timothy Wilken, MD

From the SynEARTH Archives:

The Protecting the Future series: 1) Beyond Property, 2) Wealthy Beyond our Dreams, 3) Synergic Trusts - Moving Beyond Property, 4) Trustegrities could change our Future, and 5) Synergic Guardians — Protecting the Future.

The SAFEearth series: 1) Beyond Crime and Punishment, 2) Synergic Containment: Protecting Children, 3) Synergic Containment: Science & Rationale,  4) Synergic Containment: Protecting Community, and 4) Synergic Disarmament: Wisdom, they shouldn't have.

Also see: 1) Aggression and Violence,  2) Evolution of Weaponry,  3) Psychological Effects of Combat, and 4) Necessary Evil. 

A Synergic Future, ORTEGRITY,  GIFTegrity (brief)(PDF)(scientific basis), The Unified Stress Concept, Protecting Humanity ,  Beyond WarTensegrity, What is a Time-binding Trust?, What is a ‘knowing’utility?

BOOK: UnCommon Science - (PDF) Intro—Science 2001  1—Knowing 2001 2—A Limit to Knowing 3—Scientific Mistakes 4—What Do We Know 5—Order (PDF)

BOOK: Crisis: Danger & Opportunity

5:22:20 PM    

Christ Crucified by the Virtues

An Example of Crucifixion by the VirtuesPeter Steinfels writes: Christ Crucified by the Virtues." To contemporary eyes, it is a strange and thought-provoking image, particularly at a moment of impassioned discussions about who was responsible for the death of Jesus. This full-page frontispiece of a 13th-century volume of readings for saints' days shows Jesus being crucified not by Roman soldiers or Jewish authorities or even the sins of humanity — but by virtues.The figure of Jesus, peacefully, almost elegantly slumped on the cross, is familiar. So are the large figures standing on either side of the cross: his mother, Mary, and the apostle John. But who are those smaller female figures with halos? Above the crossbeam, two of them labeled Misericordia (mercy) and Sapientia (wisdom) are hammering nails into Jesus' hands. Below, a figure labeled Obedientia (obedience) is hammering a nail into his feet. Sponsa (bride, symbol of the soul, the church or both) is piercing Jesus' side with a lance, while just beneath his right arm, wearing a crown and floating on a cloud, Fides (faith) holds a chalice to catch the sacred blood. "At some level a very violent as well as lyrical image," said Jeffrey Hamburger, a professor in Harvard University's department of history of art and architecture, who will include this manuscript illustration in "Crown and Veil, the Art of Female Monasticism in the Middle Ages," a major exhibition that will open in Germany next year. Beneath Jesus' left arm, an angel pushes away a figure labeled Synagoga (synagogue). The role of Jewish authorities in the death of Jesus, like the Roman role, may be missing from this picture, but Christianity's claim to have superseded Judaism is not. This image, produced for a convent of Dominican nuns in Regensburg, Germany, is not unique. The motif of the virtues crucifying Jesus had a wide enough currency in the 13th and 14th centuries that dozens of examples survive, in manuscripts, paintings and stained-of examples survive, in manuscripts, paintings and stained-glass windows. The theology behind these images is complex. In giving himself over to death, Jesus was thought to have brought to perfection such virtues as obedience, humility, patience and perseverance. ... It is a commonplace that between the 11th and the 15th centuries, Western Christian piety shifted its focus from the divinity of Jesus to his humanity. Of the earlier period, Giles Constable, a scholar at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, writes, "The cross signified Christ's Second Coming rather than his suffering and death." Christ's body on the cross, he adds, "was always erect, alive, and indifferent to suffering." This was Jesus resurrected and triumphant, king and victor over death rather than its victim. But as the Middle Ages progressed, Jesus' royal crown was replaced by a crown of thorns, Jesus' head dropped to one side, his eyes fell closed, his arms curved under the weight of his dying body. The images are more and more calculated to elicit an emotional response. The pain-racked renditions of Jesus' death on the cross are the counterparts to the glowing presentations of his birth in the manger. Certainly, where once the emphasis was on the deification of humanity by sharing in Christ's divine nature, increasingly the emphasis shifted to sharing in Christ's sufferings and imitating his earthly way of life. (04/12/04)


Time for a Change

Jonathan LashJonathan Lash writes: Despite two decades of international environmental agreements, and great progress in controlling local pollution in some parts of the world, the data show that the health of the natural systems that sustain us -- oceans, the atmosphere, rivers, wetlands -- is declining. Failed international commitments to address global environmental problems have engendered growing cynicism and diminished hope. The threats are real and urgent, but history suggests that the potential for change is real as well. Imagine it is a hundred years ago: 1904. The first automobiles are being sold; the Wright brothers fly at Kitty Hawk; a wire is laid down across the Atlantic. New technologies are reshaping the world. But reading an electronically distributed document like this is unimaginable. People and communities are isolated. Most of the world is under the influence of a handful of colonial powers. Racial and cultural segregation is the norm. For the most part, women cannot vote. The world's first national parks have recently been created. However, most people believe that nature is inexhaustible, and that wilderness unconquered is wasted. In The United States, there is no national legislation and no national park service to protect newly created Yellowstone and Yosemite parks. These things changed. ... The process of change seems to be getting compressed in the global era. As powerful as the globalization of markets has been, the globalization of information may ultimately have the greater impact on our world. Information and ideas flow frictionlessly around the earth in an increasing torrent overwhelming the significance of borders as barriers and diminishing the capacity of governments to control events. We have effectively addressed many of the immediate and obvious problems, those that people could see, touch, smell, and understand. What we are left with are the large-scale, long-term threats of essentially irreversible harm -- extinction, destruction of ecosystems, climate change. Threats that are the consequences of fundamental alterations human activity are causing in the carbon, nitrogen and hydrologic cycles, and the composition of the Earth's biota. One can neither comprehend nor respond to problems on this scale by responding to his immediate place and time. Change requires a shift in perspective and values: A comprehension of systemic rather than anecdotal problems; A sense of responsibility to the future as well as a stake in the present; A commitment to global engagement. But this kind of change is no more profound than the shift in attitudes towards wilderness that occurred 100 years ago. And just like 100 years ago, this kind of adaptive change of values and understanding is the job of our leaders. It is the job of truth tellers and of open minds. It requires vision, courage and tenacity. (04/12/04)


Splender in the Dark

Discover Magazazine -- Scientists have discovered that fish in the ocean glow, gleam, spark, and light up like neon signs. Now they want to know how. ... Fireflies, some earthworms, fungi, and bacteria can do it, and a field full of fireflies with light pulses in sync can be fascinating to watch. But nothing above the sea’s surface compares with the display of light below. Bioluminescence is found in every ocean, in every sea, from surface to seafloor. In the upper 3,200 feet of the ocean, as many as 90 percent of the creatures are bioluminescent, says Laurence Madin, a pioneering marine ecologist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Earth’s most abundant vertebrate, an inch-long fish called the bent-tooth bristlemouth, is bioluminescent. Another, the viperfish, has lighting that looks as if it came from fiber optics at the base of its protruding teeth and at its fins. There is an illuminated lure that arcs out from the top of its head, a light under each eye to help it see, lights on its belly for camouflage, and tinted photophores in a mucous layer along its belly and back. So when startled, the viperfish presents an outline of itself, like a neon sign hung outside a bait shop. Although reported for centuries, bioluminescence is one of the great mysteries of the sea, and scientists are only now asking important questions about it. “What organisms are bioluminescent, and where are they found?” asks Peter Herring, a marine scientist at the Southampton Oceanography Centre in Britain and author of The Biology of the Deep Ocean. What are the characteristics of these emissions, how are they achieved—and, most important to the ecologist, when and why is bioluminescence produced? Herring says we know a good deal about which creatures glow and where they live. But the question of when and why bioluminescence is produced is complicated and can be answered only with more field observations. “That is ultimately the only way we are going to understand what bioluminescence is really for and how important it is to the success of those organisms that have it,” Herring says. “Part of its intrinsic fascination is, of course, that we humans can’t do it.” (04/12/04)


Low Stress Ranching

The New Farm -- Stress-free handling is not only good for the cattle, it has a surprisingly calming effect on the handler, too. ... Dr. Jennifer Lanier, a director of scientific programs for the Humane Society of the United States and a prominent researcher in animal behavior and livestock handling, led the workshop. She has worked closely with Dr. Temple Grandin, the revolutionary figure in animal handling systems design. It’s no surprise that they have found that the pre-slaughter stress of an animal is a significant meat quality indicator. The hormones that are released in response to stress cause tough, dry meat. The meat industry has taken note of this research and Dr. Grandin has influenced significant changes in how animals are handled prior to slaughter. The small group of participants was broadly experienced in animal handling and each had their own nightmare loading story to tell. There were students, extension agents, farmers, and animal researchers, every one looking for a new approach to animal handling. By doing handling exercises with Penn State’s well-trained beef herd, the group learned first hand the inherent difficulties of dealing with prey animals. Our first assignment was to move a group of steers from one holding pen, down an aisle, into a holding tub, through a curved chute, then weigh them on a scale and move them through a squeeze chute. Like several other producers there, as we got started I was saying under my breath that this would be no big deal because Penn State has a handling set-up of which any farmer would be envious. But even after our handling lessons that day, with the “best” equipment, and a group of experienced folks, we still struggled with the chore. We tried for almost an hour to move the herd, and only got about 80 percent of the animals where we wanted them. Dr. Lanier was quick to take advantage of the teachable moment to remind us “it’s not about your facilities, or what you are wearing, it’s about reading the animals." It takes practice—and lots of it—to truly empathize with animals, to assess their temperament, read their stress levels in a given situation, and to change our human behavior to accommodate their natural tendencies. (04/12/04)


Revolutionizing Banana Production

The New Farm -- Three-quarters of all bananas exported from the Dominican Republic are now certified organic. Six years ago, none were. That's the word that comes to mind when speaking with Christoph Meier of Finca Girasol, Inc. It would be difficult to find anyone else who has had such a tremendous impact on the growth of organic agriculture in the Dominican Republic, although it would be equally difficult to get Christoph to take credit for the amazing successes. The numbers are astounding: in 1998, when Christoph arrived in the Dominican Republic to do consulting work for Mercantile Food Company, there were no organic bananas grown for export here. Today, 75 percent of all banana exports leaving this Caribbean nation are organic. To reach the original 61 ha (151 ac) property of Finca Girasol (or 'Sunflower Farm'), you drive an hour and a half southwest from the capital city of Santo Domingo. After the provincial city of Azua, the terrain changes from desert scrub to irrigated tomato, melon, plantain and banana fields fringed with coconut trees. Eight kilometers west of Azua, Finca Girasol looks no different from any other farm along this sun-beaten stretch of asphalt. Other than a small sign with the farm’s name, the only identifiers are the plastic bags protecting the maturing banana bunches from insect damage. ... Organic agriculture as a whole still has a long way to go in the Dominican Republic. The major markets for tropical organic products are thousands of miles away. Events happening in other countries have a greater impact on local production practices than domestic events. Although the Dominican Republic receives tariff protection in Europe through a long-standing arrangement, this is about to change. The World Trade Organization, prompted by Chiquita and the US government, says this is unfair. Soon, small producers like Horizontes Orgánicos will have to compete with large American-owned firms operating from other Central American countries. So where’s the hope? On a practical level, Christoph believes the market for biodynamic bananas has yet to be saturated in Europe. The Meiers' eldest son Kaspar has joined the family business full-time and will bring new energy to meet the coming challenges. On a larger level, Christoph takes hope from the rising anti-globalist movement worldwide. Governments, he says, must begin to understand the essential role of small farms in our societies and develop policies and protections toward that end. (04/12/04)


5:56:21 AM    

Friday, April 09, 2004

Seven Stars: A Better Way

Laura Sayre writes: Today, Seven Stars processes about 1.25 million pounds of milk per year (about three-quarters of which is produced on-farm), makes 175 to 200 quarts of yogurt a day six days a week, and employs 15 people year-round. ... Seven Stars is home to an 80-cow herd of mixed Jersey, Guernsey, and Holstein crosses. They all have names as well as numbers, and they all get to keep their horns (except for Cerveza, the bull), which gives them an individuality and even a majesty you don't realize is missing in de-horned animals. Milking takes place twice a day, at 4 a.m. and 4 p.m., two milkers working their way toward each other from opposite ends of the barn. Each cow gets two months off around calving time. "They're really hard-working, these little Jerseys," says Edie, who takes her own share of barn shifts; at least two a week. "They'll milk the fat right off their backs if you ask them to." ... The Seven Stars processing facility is remarkably simple: One room holds the milk tanks, another serves as an incubator, a third is a cooler, a fourth is storage and an informal shop front (you can buy direct here, but only by the case). In between, a large room holds the machine that makes and packages the yogurt: bringing the milk down to the correct temperature after pasteurization, adding the live yogurt cultures, pumping it into the 32-ounce containers and sealing, capping, and date-stamping them. To preserve this simplicity, they have kept their product line strictly minimalist, selling just three flavors of whole milk yogurt (plain, maple, and vanilla) and two of lowfat (plain and maple), all and only in one-quart containers. "If you do cups, you need to have a whole range of flavors to fill out the shelf," Edie points out. They’re just not interested in that sort of complication. Instead, they've established a loyal customer base devoted to their distinctive product.  (04/09/04)


Learning to Expect the Unexpected

Nassim Nicholas Taleb writes: A black swan is an outlier, an event that lies beyond the realm of normal expectations. Most people expect all swans to be white because that's what their experience tells them; a black swan is by definition a surprise. Nevertheless, people tend to concoct explanations for them after the fact, which makes them appear more predictable, and less random, than they are. Our minds are designed to retain, for efficient storage, past information that fits into a compressed narrative. This distortion, called the hindsight bias, prevents us from adequately learning from the past. Black swans can have extreme effects: just a few explain almost everything, from the success of some ideas and religions to events in our personal lives. Moreover, their influence seems to have grown in the 20th century, while ordinary events — the ones we study and discuss and learn about in history or from the news — are becoming increasingly inconsequential. Consider: How would an understanding of the world on June 27, 1914, have helped anyone guess what was to happen next? The rise of Hitler, the demise of the Soviet bloc, the spread of Islamic fundamentalism, the Internet bubble: not only were these events unpredictable, but anyone who correctly forecast any of them would have been deemed a lunatic (indeed, some were). This accusation of lunacy would have also applied to a correct prediction of the events of 9/11 — a black swan of the vicious variety. (04/09/04)


Living Longer

Jeanne-Louise Calment at 122 years of ageBBC Science -- Scientists are trying to find out which genes govern whether or not people live long lives. A study will take DNA samples from 3,000 90-year-old brothers and sisters. A team led by Professor Claudio Franceschi at the Italian National Research Centre on Ageing will then analyse their genetic make-up. Once they have found the genes which govern ageing, they hope to develop medicines which allow people to stay healthy for longer. Professor Franceschi said: "Theoretically, there is no upper limit for human life, so 110, 120, 125 and so on is possible." The Genetics of Healthy Ageing study is taking place across Europe at a cost of 7million euros and the plans have been presented to the Human Genome Meeting in Berlin. Professor Franceschi hopes to have identified the relevant genes within five years. The study will also consider the effect of lifestyle on the age that people live to. "There are certain families that contain several centenarians, which is highly improbable by chance," said Professor Franceschi. The children of longer lived parents tend to survive into old age themselves. ... The search for the elixir of life has baffled scientists for centuries, and the elderly themselves have their own theories about living a long life. Agnes Henderson, who is 89, said: "The secret of my long life is to keep your mind occupied and not sit and look at four walls and get depressed." Professor Franceschi's team hope to be able to provide a scientific answer to the question, but he agrees that exercising the body and mind are vital. His previous research has studied centenarians and the effect of the immune system on ageing. Andrea Lane at Help the Aged said: "We very much welcome research of this type into the field of ageing. (04/09/04)


Protecting Earth from Asteroids

asteroid, nasaBBC Science -- An unmanned spacecraft should test ways to deflect a threatening asteroid, two astronauts have told the US government. Rusty Schweickart and Edward Lu said a mission of this type could be launched to an asteroid in 2015. In February, Earth was almost placed on impact alert because of an asteroid then thought to be on an impact course. Mr Schweickart told a hearing that "the media and the general public realise that asteroids are of more than passing interest." Testifying before an investigation into the threat from asteroids to the Earth, Apollo astronaut Russell L Schweickart called for a new mission to develop the technologies needed to protect the Earth. "More and more people are coming to know that some few of these asteroids do not silently pass the Earth, but indeed crash in, largely unannounced. "On the rare occasions when this happens they can wreak havoc of a magnitude unprecedented in human history." He pointed out that even the small, most frequent events are more powerful than the blast from the most powerful nuclear weapon in the current US nuclear arsenal. A known threat that can potentially destroy millions of lives and can be predicted to occur ahead of time, and prevented, cannot responsibly go unaddressed," he said. Scientists realise that they lack much fundamental information about asteroids that would hamper them if they ever needed to contemplate nudging one off an Earth-impact course. To remedy this, Schweickart said the US should "adopt the goal of altering the orbit of an asteroid, in a controlled manner, by 2015". He added that, in his view, such a mission would not require the development of additional new technologies. "The key capabilities required are already "in the pipeline" of the existing Prometheus Program. No new Nasa money is required, nor is a change in Nasa's mission called for." Astronaut Edward Lu, recently back from the International Space Station, backed the audacious plan. "The first attempt to deflect an asteroid should not be when it counts for real, because there are no doubt many surprises in store as we learn how to manipulate asteroids," he said. He added that the demonstration asteroid should be large enough to represent a real risk, and the technology used should be scaleable in the future to larger asteroids. (04/09/04)


Oldest Pet?

The cats at Shillourokambos may have been like this African wildcatBBC Science -- The oldest known evidence of people keeping cats as pets may have been discovered by archaeologists. The discovery of a cat buried with what could be its owner in a Neolithic grave on Cyprus suggests domestication of cats had begun 9,500 years ago. It was thought the Egyptians were first to domesticate cats, with the earliest evidence dating to 2,000-1,900 BC. French researchers writing in Science magazine show that the process actually began much earlier than that. The evidence comes from the Neolithic, or late stone age, village of Shillourokambos on Cyprus, which was inhabited from the 9th to the 8th millennia BC. "The cat we found in the grave may have been pre-domesticated - something in between savage and domestic. Alternatively, it's possible it was really domestic," Professor Jean Guilaine of the CNRS Centre d'Anthropologie in Toulouse, France told BBC News Online. "We have this situation of the person and the cat. This same situation of men and dogs are known much earlier from the Natufian culture of Israel which dates to 12-11,000 BC." The complete cat skeleton was found about 40 cm from a human burial. The similar states of preservation and positions of the burials in the ground suggest the person and the cat were buried together. The person, who is about 30 years of age, but of unknown sex, was buried with offerings such as polished stone, axes, flint tools and ochre pigment. Based on this the researchers argue that the person was of high status and may have had a special relationship with cats. Cats might have had religious as well as material significance to the stone age Cypriots, the French archaeologists add. "It's difficult to say the cat was a religious animal but it probably played a role in the symbolic and imaginative world of these people," Prof Guilaine explained. During the Neolithic, when agriculture was beginning to spread from the Near East, grain storage would have attracted large mice populations. So cats may have been encouraged to settle in villages to control the mice. "If this hypothesis is true, cats could have been attracted into the villages as early as there were mice. These mice in the Near East were present as early as 12,000 years ago," co-author Dr Jean-Denis Vigne of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris. (04/09/04)


6:22:49 AM    

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

The Theory of the Universe ...

Terence R. Wilken writes: Jack Henry WilkenMy 3-1/2 year old grandson came up with his theory of how the world works.  He informed his mother of his findings: During the day, all the stars come together to form the sun. During the evening they all break apart and become stars again. After this announcement, all other things became less important.  It takes children to put everything in perspective. Now it is time for some of those less important issues. ... Outsourcing has become the new buzzword to upset us.  It is the practice of sending our jobs overseas.  It has been primarily occurring in the tech industry.  It began with the call centers that were used to call you at dinner time to sell you a cheap tour or vacation trip.  This type of job did not take a lot of thought, and was easy to ship to the labor markets overseas.  With the proper set up, calling on the phone did not cost much, even if the calling party was in India or Korea.  The cost of using labor overseas could save a lot of money.  It worked so well, that with the proper training, they could even move the tech support jobs to the same locations.  Suddenly, Companies that were using this practice started making higher profits.  That is when the trouble began. Outsourcing has become anathema to the talking heads on our news programs.  Even Lou Dobbs joined in the fray.  We must stop all our Companies from sending our jobs overseas.  They are just too greedy to listen to reason, or to hire American workers to do the same job.  To some, these Companies cannot even be patriotic.  Where was our President when all this was going on?  Surely someone will put a stop to this practice! (04/07/04)


The Secret of “Enough”

Thom Hartmann writes: First, the truth. If you are naked, cold, and hungry, and somehow you get shelter, clothing, and food, you will feel better. Providing for these necessities creates a qualitative change in life, and could even be said to, in some ways, produce “happiness.” You feel comfortable and safe. Your internal state-your state of mind and emotional sense of well-being-has improved as a result of these external changes in the circumstances of your body, the result of your having acquired some stuff. Let’s refer to this as the “enough point.” It represents the point where a person has security, where their life and existence is not in danger.Now, the lie or myth. “If some stuff will make you happy, then twice as much stuff will make you twice as happy, ten times as much will make you ten times as happy, and so on into infinity.” By this logic, the fabulously rich such as Prince Charles or Donald Trump or King Fahd must live in a state of perpetual bliss. “Greed is good,” the oft-repeated mantra of the Reagan era, embodied the religious or moral way of expressing this myth. More is better. He who dies with the most toys wins. Many of those Americans who lived through the Great Depression discovered in that time that “more is better” is a myth. My wife’s grandmother, now in her nineties and still living frugally but comfortably, owned a family farm during that time, and was able to provide for nearly all her family’s needs by growing her own food, burning wood, and making their clothing. Recycling wasn’t a fad to save the environment, but a necessary part of staying alive and comfortable. Now in her old age, great-grandma has enough money in investments and from the sale of the farm to live a rather extravagant lifestyle, but she still buys her two dresses each year from the Sears catalog, collects rainwater to wash her beautiful long hair, writes poetry, and finds joy in preparing her own meals from scratch. She saw the myth for what it was, and continues to be unaffected by it. Some, of course, came through the Great Depression so scarred by the experience that they went in the opposite direction and totally embraced the myth. The excesses of Howard Hughes, for example, are legendary-as is the painful reality that virtually limitless resources never bought him happiness. Similarly, the myth has become a core belief in the cultures of America, much of Europe, and most of the developing world. Advertisers encourage children and adults to acquire products they don’t need, with the implicit message that that getting, having, and using things will produce happiness. Often the advertising message of “buy this and you will be happier” is so blatant as to be startling to a person sensitized to the myth. Forget about the “enough point,” these sellers say: this product or service will be the one that finally brings you fulfillment. (04/07/04)


Being your own Doctor?

Baby is healthyBBC Health -- A woman gave birth to a healthy baby boy after performing a Caesarean on herself with a kitchen knife. It is thought to be the first known case of a self-inflicted Caesarean in which both the mother and baby survived. The unidentified 40-year-old, lived in a rural area of Mexico without electricity or running water, and eight hours from the nearest hospital. The International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics reported the case. The woman performed the operation when she could not deliver the baby naturally, having lost a previous baby due to labour complications. Dr R Valle, of the Dr Manuel Velasco Suarez Hospital in San Pablo, Mexico, said: "She took three small glasses of hard liquor and, using a kitchen knife, sliced her abdomen in three attempts and delivered a male infant that breathed immediately and cried." Before losing consciousness, the woman told one of her children to call a local nurse for help. After the nurse stitched the wound with a sewing needle and cotton thread, the mother and baby were transferred and treated by Dr Valle and his colleagues at the nearest hospital. "This case represents an unusual and extraordinary decision by a woman in labour who, unable to deliver herself spontaneously, and with no medical help or resources, decided to perform a caesarean section upon herself," he said. He added that a mother's instinct to save her child can move a woman to perform extraordinary acts but said it would not have been necessary if adequate medical care had been available. Professor James Walker, professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at St James's University Hospital, Leeds, said the situation should never arise in the UK. (04/07/04)


Red Squirrels Face Extinction

Red squirrelBBC Environment -- A group of squirrels unique to Cumbria could become extinct in the next 20 years, a leading biologist has warned. Dr Peter Lurz, of Newcastle University, has identified a unique type of the species, different from any other in Britain or the Continent. There are less than 1,000 of the rare Cumbrian reds in the Lake District. The reds should be put into a captive breeding programme to ensure their survival and a cull of grey squirrels should be considered, Dr Lurz said. The biologist said the Cumbrian red squirrel was important because more genetically diverse species were less likely to die out. Cumbria, along with the North East of England and parts of Scotland, is one of the last strongholds of the red squirrel in the UK. Research has shown reds have coped better with man-made forests, such as Northumberland's Kielder Forest, whereas greys thrive in broad-leaf woods more often found in the Lakes. Dr Lurz said: "Although we applaud the current conservation efforts to build refuges for the red squirrels, we think these may not be enough. (04/07/04)


Learning from our Cousins

Our closest animal relativeBBC Nature -- If humans behaved more like their chimp relatives they might be better at communicating, say experts. Scientists at the Zoological Society of London are looking for volunteers to "talk chimp" in their everyday work and home life to test out the theory. One part of the survey recommends waving your arms, brandishing objects and making yourself appear large, to assert authority over others. Volunteers can also bond with their group by grooming each other. Chimps are our closest living relatives and share a variety of similarities, not only in genetic make-up but also in expression and behaviour, said ZSL. Animal behaviour experts want to see how "primate patter" can resolve workplace conflicts, express emotions and strengthen human bonds. Volunteers are expected to replace their usual human reactions with chimp behaviour, and report back on how it worked. Instead of bitching about your terrifying boss behind their back, try showing them your fear by baring your teeth and using submissive body language such as lowering your head and crouching. A simple hello when greeting friends should be replaced with an extended arm and throaty "huh huh huh" pant. The research, launched on Wednesday, coincides with the opening of ZSL's new chimp facility at Whipsnade Wild Animal Park. The charity is investigating these similarities so they can to communicate better with chimps and to see what can be learned about communication between humans. (04/07/04)


Best Views Ever of Titan

Titan, EsoBBC Science -- Astronomers at the Paranal Observatory in Chile have obtained the best images yet of Titan - Saturn's major moon. They show what may be clouds in its thick and hazy atmosphere of nitrogen, methane and oily hydrocarbons. The Chandra X-ray telescope in orbit also studied Titan's atmosphere as the moon passed in front of the glowing wreckage of an exploded star. In January 2005, we may find out more when the Huygens probe attempts a splashdown onto Titan's oily oceans. Although it was imaged in some detail by the Voyager missions of the 1970s there is much about Titan we do not know. Astronomers are aware that it is one of the most significant objects in the Solar System - the second largest moon and the only one with a thick atmosphere. It has a hazy atmosphere of nitrogen, methane and hydrocarbons, testimony to a world in which complex chemistry is taking place. It may even have oceans of methane or ethane beneath its clouds. Ground-based observations are essential to ensure the success of the Huygens entry probe that will plunge into Titan's atmosphere in January 2005. Using an adaptive optics package on the 8.2-metre 'Yepun' telescope at the Paranal Observatory astronomers have obtained the most detailed images yet of its clouds. The adaptive optics package uses a flexible mirror to adjust the optics of the telescope to compensate for the distortions in the image caused by the Earth's turbulent atmosphere, thereby obtaining sharper images. The extraordinary images show a formation near the moon's south pole, apparently a cloud feature of some sort. (04/07/04)


5:53:29 AM    

Monday, April 05, 2004

What is the Internet for?

Purple Areas Have Internet 1997Timothy Wilken, MD writes: In 1984, I imagined a future where information and knowledge flowed from home computer-communication terminals like water from a tap, electicity from a plug or gas from a spigot. I am a synergic scientist. Synergy is that postive relationship between humans when both individuals–both self and other– are mutually benefited by their relationship. Both individuals are more happy, more effective, and more productive because of relationship than they would be without the relationship. A synergic scientist seeks to know how such relationships can be created and sustained. In 1984, I originated a prototype for today's web site. It utilized 'state of the art' software that allowed the user to create a RBBS–Regional Bulletin Board System–that ran on the original IBM Personal Computer and its clones. The software could serve information and files and and allow message exchange over a 'state of the art' 1200 baud modem to callers who using their own IBM PC 's could connect using 300 baud to 1200 baud modems. I called this prototype the Future Positive BBS. It was on that BBS, that individuals could download my 18 page proposal for what I called The Knowing Utility. (04/05/04)


Designing Sustainable Communities

FAMU LogoRobert Hsin writes: Global warming, ozone layer depletion, rampant species extinction, overflowing landfills, air pollution, overpopulation, and acid rain, these are just a few of the environmental dilemmas we have created in our modern technocratic society. As our man-made cities expand throughout the globe, the ever-shrinking natural world becomes altered toward a new definition of nature. The line between the natural and the artificial becomes blurred. By the year 2000, 38% of the children born in this world will be from cities with populations in excess of one million people. If these cities are planned and designed with the same priorities and perspectives of today, a great portion of the world's population will lead an existence completely disconnected from nature. This "illiteracy" in our "natural" world is already evident today, being one of the main reasons why humankind now faces extinction due to environmental degradation. Much of our population today views the world through an altered, tunnel-vision reality. It is a technological reality based on the limited perspective of city dwelling. Cities cover only two percent of the world's land mass. If we view the earth from outer space, we see the earth as a whole; an inter-related, complex, living, breathing ecological system, which includes cities as one part of the whole, but not the whole. A society which does not understand the principles and ecological processes of nature cannot function in harmony with the natural world. Society has forgotten that despite our technological advances we are still a part of nature, not above it, and therefore must function as a piece of the whole. How did our society stray so far from ecological reality? The reasons are plentiful and complex. In short, it began with a basic philosophical mistake which, derived from the western Judeo/Christian belief that man was separate from nature. A result of the misinterpretation of the first book of the Old Testament in which God entrusted the earth to Adam and Eve. This was interpreted to emphasize man's divine right to subjugate and exploit nature. When combined with the industrial revolution and the discovery of fossil fuels, this created a recipe for ecological disaster. (04/05/04)


More Troops Needed in Iraq

U.S. Senator Richard LugarReuters Foundation -- The United States may need to bolster its troop presence in Iraq and extend the deadline for transfer to Iraqi rule, amid an insurgency that could lead to civil war, a leading Republican lawmaker said on Sunday. "It may be that we do need more troops ... because I think we have to have security (in Iraq)," U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, an Indiana Republican and head of the Senate foreign relations committee, said on ABC television's "This Week." Last week, four U.S. contractors were murdered and mutilated in Falluja, with cheering Iraqis parading the charred bodies through the streets and stringing up two of them for public view. On Sunday, Spanish-led troops and Iraqi police fought a 3-hour gun battle with Shi'ite militiamen near Najaf that left almost two dozen Iraqis and four Salvadoran soldiers dead. Lugar said he is worried that when the U.S.-led coalition turns over sovereignty to Iraqis on June 30, the new government will be unable to deal with the violence. "They're at a point in which clearly they can't control the situation," he said. "You have the militia that has not been disarmed, and if in fact the worst situation comes, the militia begin to fight each other, that is, civil war." Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright also said more U.S. troops were probably needed in Iraq, and the Bush administration should get other countries to contribute more forces. ... Lugar said he supported a proposal from Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, the top Democrat on the foreign relations panel, that calls for U.S. President George W. Bush to convene a summit with European leaders -- including those who opposed the war -- and repair the U.S.-European alliance. "He (Bush) should tell them that none of us can afford failure in Iraq," Biden wrote in a editorial in the Sunday edition of The Washington Post. (04/05/04)


How Dangeous is Second Hand Smoke?

smokeBBC Health -- Passive smoking is being blamed for an increased risk of death, heart disease and the slower healing of wounds. Research published in the British Medical Journal online found a 15% higher risk of death among non-smokers who live with a smoker. Another study showed the number of heart attack admissions in Helena, US, fell by 40% during a smoking ban. And research published in BMC Cell Biology suggested passive smoking damages cells needed to heal wounds. ... The first study was based on the 1981 and 1996 censuses in New Zealand among those aged 45 to 74. Researchers from the Wellington School of Medicine and Health Sciences said even after age, ethnicity and social background were taken into account, the 15% increased risk of mortality for passive smokers remained. They said: "The results from this study add to the weight of evidence of harm caused by passive smoking and support steps to reduce exposure to other people's smoke - in the home and in other settings." The Helena ban on smoking in public places and workplaces was imposed between June and November 2002 before a legal decision overturned it. Hospital admissions for heart attack during the ban and for the same months from 1998 to 2003 were looked at by researchers from the University of California. They found admissions fell from an average of 40 during the same months before the ban to 24 during the ban. The researchers said their findings suggest that "smoke-free laws not only protect people from the long-term dangers of second-hand smoke but also that they may be associated with a rapid decrease in heart attacks". The final study, into wound healing, found fibroblast cells became more adhesive because exposure to smoke altered their chemical make-up. As well as reducing the speed of healing, this would account for abnormal scarring of wounds in passive smokers, as the cells remain concentrated at the edge of the wound, preventing it from closing properly, the researchers said. (04/05/04)


It's All Bad News

ReasonOnLine -- Journalist Nir Rosen writes: Rubaei street in Baghdad's Zayuna district is one of the city's unknown oases of normality, far away from the more famous Kindi street of Harthiya or 14 Ramadan street of Mansour in the center of the city. On either side of the wide and brightly lit boulevard good restaurants are open well into the night, the sidewalks are crowded with families and even young couples; expensive cars slowly cruise the street, young men gazing at the crowds of girls in tight clothes. I was sitting outside at dusk (staring at them too) with my Iraqi friend Rana in a fresh fruit juice and ice cream restaurant called Sandra. Rana ate imported ice cream, explaining that she did not eat the local ice cream for fear of nuclear contamination in the milk. She noted that the scene before us reminded her of the days before the war, when she would go out at night with her sisters, unafraid of the dangers that keep women sequestered in their homes today. As she was waxing nostalgic about the good old days under Saddam, a refrain I am by now accustomed to hearing, and I was trying not to roll my eyes, two sharp gunshots cut her words short and returned her to reality. By now the sound of gun shots rarely distracts me, but this time it was too close, and too incongruent with the bustling nightlife. I saw two men walking hurriedly across the street in between the traffic, arms raised and pistols in the air. "They killed a man!" someone shouted. I got up and saw a man in a suit collapsed on the curb, blood spreading from beneath his head. The two men had walked up to him, shot him in the head, taken his pistol, then walked away laughing into a dark street. The crowd grew and cars slowed down as their drivers gazed at the corpse. Soon about fifty men stood around silently, looking at the body then looking away guiltily. Someone tried calling the police but the call did not go through. Two men ran a few hundred meters away to the nearest police checkpoint, but were told by the policemen there that it was somebody else's jurisdiction. Two armed security guards from a building across the street returned panting, having failed to find the killers. They said they provided security for "an official" nearby. People told me the official was a judge. Someone from a nearby shop covered the body with a rug that failed to conceal the growing pool of blood. Half an hour after the shooting, Iraqi police began arriving, just as the several men in the crowd had turned over the body and were looking through his pockets for identification or a phone. When I returned to my hotel I told a photographer about what I had seen. He asked me if I had heard about the explosion in Fallujah. I asked him if he had heard about the deputy chief of police in Mosul getting assassinated. "It's all small news, so you never hear of it," he said. "It's all small news but its all bad news." (04/05/04)


6:22:37 AM    

Saturday, April 03, 2004

State of Humanity

David C. Korten writes: We of the human species stand poised on the threshold of a choice between self-destruction and creative possibility. Able to imagine worlds yet to be, enquire into creation’s deepest mysteries, journey to the stars or into the world of sub-atomic particles, create great civilizations and systems of global communication, unlock the secrets of the physical building blocks of matter, and decipher and rearrange the genetic codes of life, we now confront a set of conditions new to the human experience.  § Our nuclear and biological technologies give us the capacity, by miscalculation or intent, for total self-annihilation.  § Our human demands on the life support system of our living planet exceed the planet’s limits of tolerance; increasingly overstressed sub-systems are going into decline and collapse with alarming speed. § On the positive side, we have ventured into space and looked back to see ourselves as one people sharing a single destiny on a living space ship hurtling through the vastness of dark space.  § Global institutions have been created that make it possible for representatives of all the world’s nations and peoples to resolve their issues and solve common problems through dialogue rather than force of arms.  § Our communications technologies give us the ability, should we choose to use it, to link every human on the planet into a seamless web of communication and to choose our future through a dialogue of the whole.  § Millions of people the world over are coming together to create a global social institution unlike any other in the human experience: a dynamic, self-directing social organism that transcends the boundaries of race, class, religion, and nationality to function as a shared conscience of the species. We call it global civil society and on February 15, 2003 it mobilized more than 10 million people around the globe in the cause of peace.  Each of these conditions has come to be within the lifetime of a single generation — the generation to which I was born. Together they present us with the opportunity and imperative to choose our common human future as a conscious and intentional collective act. It is time to renew the American Experiment in light of the distinctive needs and opportunities of this unique moment, because to meet the challenge we must bring to bear the full creative potential of our species. Unleashing this potential depends in turn on the full flowering of democratic institutions in America and beyond. That is what the still unfinished American Experiment is about. (04/03/04)


Testing Einstein's Theories

Albert EinsteinBBC Science -- A satellite that will put Albert Einstein's Theory of Relativity to the test is ready to be launched. NASA hopes Gravity Probe B will lift off from California on 17 April. Now it is ready to test two of Einstein's theories about the nature of space and time, and how the Earth distorts them. The unmanned satellite will orbit 640km (400 miles) above Earth, measuring any slight changes in gravity. The satellite will carry four ping-pong-sized balls made from quartz and sealed in a vacuum. The scientists behind the project say they are the most perfect spheres ever made. To ensure accuracy, the balls must be kept chilled to near absolute zero, inside the largest vacuum flask ever flown in space, and isolated from any disturbances in the quietest environment ever produced, said Anne Kinney, director Nasa's division of astronomy and physics. Once in space the balls will be sent spinning. If Einstein is correct, there should be slight changes to the balls' orientation, or 'spin axis'. Scientists will carefully measure the expected tiny changes in the balls' movements. Einstein proposed in 1916 that space and time form a structure that can be curved by the presence of a body. Gravity Probe B will test how space and time are warped by the presence of the Earth, and how the Earth's rotation twists and drags space-time around with it. The warping effect has been measured before, but the twisting effect, called frame-dragging, has never been directly detected. The Nasa mission aims to examine both. Francis Everitt, the principal investigator of the project, said: "Aren't Einstein's theories all established and confirmed? After all it was 50 years ago that Einstein himself died and it's 100 years next year when he developed his first theory of relativity. Don't we already know it all? The answer is no." (04/03/04)


Adversity, Neutrality and Synergy

Timothy Wilken, MDTimothy Wilken, MD writes: There are three ways that humans can get the help they need as an INTERdependent class of life. We can force others to help us. We can purchase help in the fair market. Or, we can help others and trust others to help us. These three ways have their basis in our biology. In 1921, Alfred Korzybski, a mathematician and scientist, classified Life with precise and accurate operational definitions of plants, animals, and humans. He defined the plants as energy-binders, the animals as space-binders, and we humans as time-binders. Korzybski explained that: The plants adapt to their environment through their awareness and control of energy. The animals adapt to their environment through their awareness and control of space. And we humans adapt to our environment through our awareness and control of time. ... Neutral relationships originate in the plant world. Sunlight provides unlimited energy for the plants. Each individual plant needs only the sun, and adequate water and minerals to survive. Plants are solar energy collectors. They use the sun's radiant energy in photosynthesis to manufacture glucose, carbohydrate and other plant cells. Individual plants do not relate to each other. They relate only to the earth and the sun. Plant survival does not require any relationship with other. The plants unique ability to utilize sunlight directly to synthesize organic tissue frees them from the need for others. This fact makes plants the independent class of life — independent of other. ... Adversary relationship originates on earth in the animal world. Earth supplies limited space for the animals. Space is finite. Good space is even more finite. Thus, it is very limited. There is only so much good water, so much good grazing land, so much good shelter, and so much good potential food. There is not enough to go around. The space-binders must compete for this limited amount of good space. They compete adversarily. They compete by fighting and flighting. They compete by attacking and killing other space-binders. They compete by devouring the energy-binders. Animal survival depends entirely on finding others to eat. The herbivores depend on finding plants to eat. The carnivores depend on finding other animals to eat. The animals inability to utilize sunlight to synthesize organic tissue means they must eat. Animals survive by eating either plants or animals. Animals are completely dependent on other for survival. This fact makes animals the dependent class of life — dependent on other. ... The synergic relationship originates in the human world. Universe provides unlimited time for humans. This is the sense of Time-binding. Human lives are finite, but human knowledge is not. Humans discovered control of fire ~1.5 million years ago,and it has been in daily use since then. Humans invent the wheel ~5500 years ago and its use is everywhere today. Because humans pass their knowledge to their descendants, in a sense, collective human life is not limited. Understanding is not limited. Knowledge is not limited. Technology is not limited. Quality of human life based on knowledge and technology is not limited. We first discover synergic relationship in the microscopic universe. It is the basis of human cellular organization. Each of us has approximately 40 trillion cells organized within our bodies. These cells are related synergically, each acting in a highly co-Operative way. Synergic relationship becomes available to human individuals because of Time-binding. Our ability to invent and to understand new ways of doing things creates a new possibility for co-Operation which does not exist in the world of the plants and animals. Co-OPERATION —def—> Operating together to insure that all parties win and no party loses. The negotiation to insure that all parties are helped and no party is hurt. This makes humans the INTERdependent class of Life — sometimes others depend on me and sometimes I depend on others.  (04/02/04)


Tomorrow's God

The world is going to get a new God, according to New York Times best-selling author Neale Donald Walsch. It's not question of whether this astounding prediction will come true, his new book asserts; it's a matter of when. And the "when," Walsch says, is soon, within the lifetime of most of us. This bold and stunning prediction -- including what this new God will look like and how it will inspire the human race -- is the basis of “Tomorrow's God: Our Greatest Spiritual Challenge”. Will we wake up and develop this life-transforming awareness of our new God now, the book asks, or will it take an unprecedented, earthshattering tragedy before those still left on Earth admit that the ideas of “yesterday’s God” no longer work? “Tomorrow's God” predicts we will face this choice imminently. How we respond will be up to us, the book says, but one of those prospects -- breakpoint or turning point -- will characterize life on this planet before long. In what he purports to be the dictation of an actual conversation with God, author Walsch quotes God as saying that the requirements, judgments and punishments now attributed to God will soon be gone. Gone too will be the perennial cycle of conflict and violence on Earth, which the book says is based on a misbelief that God practices, and therefore approves of and encourages, such conduct. In place of “Yesterday’s God” will be a deity “whose only emotion is total love for all of humanity and Life itself, and whose agenda includes no objective other than to empower Life to produce more Life, more abundantly and more gloriously in each moment,” Walsch says. While predicting the emergence of a “New Spirituality” among the world’s people, Walsch says this does not mean the creation of a new religion. Instead, he says, “Tomorrow's God” invites us to create a new view of the religions we now embrace. The idea is not that humanity will benefit from rejecting or abandoning its present spiritual beliefs, but, rather, from expanding them to include extraordinary new possibilities. While certain principles of this New Spirituality may seem heretical to some people today, they’ll become universal truths tomorrow, Walsch asserts. These New Spirituality principles include: • There is only One God and this One God doesn’t care whether we’re Catholic or Protestant, Jewish or Muslim, Hindu or Mormon, or have no religion at all. • We are one with God and with each other. • No one is better than anyone else. • Freedom is the essence of Life, not something we earn. • Love knows no condition or limitation. Striking in its theology and expansive in its cosmology, “Tomorrow's God” offers the world a path out of its unremitting despair and a just-in-time detour from what many agree could be our journey to self-destruction. (04/02/04)


8:09:03 AM    

Friday, April 02, 2004

Oil Price Trends 2004-2010

Andrew McKillop writes: Growth rates of world oil consumption (e.g. 3-year averages) started moving up since the 1994-96 period, and have received new impetus through a combination of higher oil and gas prices, and the very fast economic growth of China, India and other large population, fast industrialising countries. Current ‘trend rates of growth’ are likely about 2.25%-per-year, that is well above world population growth, indicating that per capita average demand is increasing. Oil price rises since 1998-1999, it should be stressed, have not reduced this trend, but in fact have bolstered and reinforced it. Through a mix of factors, oil demand by the US economy – consuming about 27% of world oil production for 4.5% of world population – is showing sustained growth. In early 2003 this ran at about 2.9% annual; year-on-year trends will likely remain well above 1.75%. Only self-imposed recession through high interest rates would or will change this. While initially unrelated, fast rising US gas prices underlain by slow growth or fall in domestic gas production capacities, will likely exert a ‘ratchet effect’ on oil prices in US markets. In turn, this will affect oil prices outside the US. In Europe, traditionally high gas prices will set a floor to any short-term falls in oil prices due to increasingly erratic oil supply increments, which themselves are due to the world moving rapidly towards Peak Oil (maximum production rate the world can achieve). China, India and certain other fast industrializing, large population economies may triple or quadruple per capita oil demand within 10 to 15 years, on a ‘trends continued’ base. In the case of the Asian Tigers and taking their period of fastest oil consumption growth (generally 1965-85), we find that South Korea and Taiwan, for example, achieved a growth of 1604% and 703% respectively, in their national oil consumptiom through 1965-78, using data from BP Statistical Review. In the case of China and India, today, their oil import demand growth will be considerably higher than their consumption growth due to falling domestic oil production. Annual growth rates of imported oil are typically at double-digit rates (for China about 27% in 2002-03). Consumption growth trends for natural gas in these markets is even stronger than for oil – Indian gas demand is likely to increase about 20% for 2003-04, with China’s demand up by about 13.5%. Very large investments are needed if both OPEC and nonOPEC suppliers are to blunt the arrival of structural undersupply on world oil markets, which is likely imminent without much higher prices. These (higher prices) will both limit demand growth in the energy-saturated OECD countries, and enable financing of increasingly risky, higher cost exploration-development. Based on statements by Lee Raymond, and by John Thompson (notably in articles published by ExxonMobil in its journal ‘The Lamp’) spending in the oil sector, on a worldwide basis, may need to exceed 2500 Billion US dollars, at early 2003 purchasing power levels (or about 3000 Bn dollars at early 2004 parities), in the next 12 years. Enabling this quantum leap in exploration and development is likely impossible without much higher, and sustained prices, well above USD 45 or Euro 36 per barrel, and about USD 7.50 or Euro 6/MBTU for natural gas.  (04/02/04)


6:50:04 AM    

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Liquorice Good for the Brain

BBC Health -- Carbenoxolone is derived from liquorice root. It used to be prescribed by doctors to treat stomach ulcers. However, it has since been replaced by more effective drugs. ... A drug once used to treat stomach ulcers may help to boost brainpower in old age, a study suggests. Researchers at the University of Edinburgh carried out tests on 22 men between the ages of 52 and 75. Some of the men were given a drug called carbenoxolone and others were given a dummy drug. Writing in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences, they said those on carbenoxolone had better memory and verbal skills after just six weeks. ... Studies have suggested that this chemical is involved in the production of a key hormone - glucocorticoids - in the brain, which has been linked to brainpower. Professor Jonathan Seckl and colleagues carried out tests to see if blocking this chemical could boost memory and verbal skills. They enrolled 10 healthy men and 12 men with type 2 diabetes in their study. People with diabetes are more likely to suffer poor memory or dementia. The men were given either carbenoxolone or a dummy drug three times a day. Tests carried out after four weeks showed that verbal skills had improved in those who had taken carbenoxolone. After six weeks, the researchers found that verbal memory had also improved in those men with type 2 diabetes. Those on carbenoxolone did not appear to suffer any side-effects. The researchers said studies should be carried out to see if carbenoxolone could be used to help people suffering from dementia and other similar conditions. "The findings are very encouraging," Professor Seckl told BBC News Online. (03/31/04)


Dust & Sand Storms Threaten Asia

Dust over Korea, SeaStar/SeaWiFs/Nasa BBC Environment -- Scientists say they believe the dust and sand storms that for centuries have blanketed north-east Asia are becoming more dangerous to people's health. They think the storms are now combining with airborne pollutants emitted by human activities, and are adding to the region's severe air quality problems. Similar dust storms from the Sahara have been blamed for spreading illness and destroying Caribbean coral reefs. The concern has been raised with the United Nations Environment Programme. ...  Records of severe storms here go back at least to the 16th Century: one account from the Korean capital, Seoul, in 1550 spoke of "a fog that looked like smoke creeping into every corner in all directions". There is evidence that the storms are governed by a natural cycle. Youngsin Chun, of the Korea Meteorological Administration, said they affected Korea on 41 days a year in the mid-1940s, but on fewer than 15 in the 1950s. She told BBC News Online: "The rate does vary, and we think the storms tend to be more frequent in warmer winters." The trend in the last few decades has been upwards, with Korea registering 25 storm-affected days in 2002. In April that year dust levels in Seoul reached 2,070 micrograms per cubic metre, twice the level judged dangerous to health. The World Health Organization estimates there are more than 500,000 premature deaths a year in Asia from outdoor air pollution. The storms have other effects, too, grounding aircraft, closing businesses and schools, and damaging livestock and crops. They originate in the desert regions of China and Mongolia and blow south over the Korean peninsula and Japan. What scientists believe is happening now is that the intensity of the damage caused by the storms is increasing, and that they are combining with pollutants like soot and microscopic particles given off in vehicle exhausts and by power plants. Researchers funded by the US space agency Nasa have found bacteria and fungi are transported in plumes of dust from the Sahara across the Atlantic. They say a fungus isolated in the dust from Africa, Aspergillus sydowii, has been shown to cause sea fan disease in coral reefs throughout the Caribbean. (03/31/04)


Say Goodbye to our Cousins

BBC Nature -- Numbers of the eastern lowland gorilla have plummeted by more than 70% over the past decade, scientists say. The researchers have estimated that fewer than 5,000 of the endangered great apes remain in their habitat. That represents an astonishing drop of 12,000 gorillas since 1994, says the group Conservation International. War, over-hunting, mining and the spread of humans into the apes' former habitat have placed the species under serious threat it is claimed. "This decline is massive. But these are also extraordinary circumstances. This is an area that was ravaged by war," Juan Carlos Bonilla, senior director for Central Africa at Conservation International, told BBC News Online. ... if the gorilla's decline continues at the present pace, conservationists agree that it might not be long before it is driven to extinction. "Gorillas are slow reproducers. This has to be a long-term focus," Dr Patrick Mehlman, director of Africa programmes for Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, told BBC News Online. The eastern lowland gorilla is found almost exclusively in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Civil war and mining of the mineral coltan, which is used to make pinhead capacitors in mobile phones and laptops, has brought an influx of people into areas where the apes live. With this often comes a thriving bushmeat trade. "There's all sorts of things being done, but it's logistically a very difficult place to work," said David Jay, project co-ordinator at the Born Free Foundation.  (03/31/04)


6:00:05 AM    

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