Saturday, May 31, 2008

Anti-U.S. beef protest draws 100,000 S.Koreans

Anti-U.S. beef protest draws 100,000 S.Koreans
Sat May 31, 8:52 AM ET
South Korean students, parents with toddlers in tow, and union members took to the streets on Saturday in a massive protest against a government decision to resume imports of U.S. beef that they see as dangerous.

The organizers of the candle-lit vigil said 100,000 people were at the rally that stopped traffic on the 16-lane central Seoul main thoroughfare, after more than a week of daily protests against President Lee Myung-bak.

South Korea, once the third-largest importer of U.S. beef until a 2003 outbreak of mad cow disease in the United States, said it would start quarantine inspections of U.S. beef, a move that opens its market fully for the first time in four years.

Lee, who came to power with the largest margin of victory in history, has been caught by surprise by the protests and his popularity has plummeted over the decision to import U.S. beef.

Critics said the decision, announced during his visit to the United States in April and just before he met President George W. Bush, was a move to please Washington.

College student Ju Ha-na, 24, who took part in a head-shaving ceremony in protest with 19 others, said the people at the protest were not only alarmed by U.S. beef.

"Not just the beef deal, but the Lee Myung-bak government's policies are anti-working people and are not right," she said.

U.S. and South Korean officials have said U.S. beef is safe but that has not placated South Koreans.

Several hundred people have been detained from the daily protests, but police have so far refrained from using full force to contain the crowd. Officials again ordered restraint on Saturday.

The protests have grown over the past week as the government stood by largely idle and public discontent grew. People felt the government was ignoring public outcry and waiting for the protests to die down.

Chung Hye-ran, 38, at the downtown rally, said she did not like being ignored. "I came out here as a mother and as a member of the public to protect the health of my child and that of the people of this country."

Under the deal to reopen its market, Seoul agreed with Washington to accept all cuts of beef from cattle of all ages, while other U.S. trading partners such as Japan still will not do so because of concerns over mad cow disease.

President Lee last week apologized for ignoring public health concerns and promised to restore the ban if there was a fresh outbreak of mad cow disease.

Critics said the apology came too late and did not adequately address public concern.

(Reporting by Reuters TV; Writing by Jack Kim)

Copyright © 2008 Reuters Limited.

The Koreans, so much more enlightened than us. In America, we just don't protest like this (not that I think violence is the answer). We are just so "civilized" and "nice" about stuff like this. We just lay back and take it. Take the mother quoted in the article, Chung Hye-ran. Just trying to keep her children healthy just like any of us.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Inconvenient Wired Magazine: Inconvenient Truths: Get Ready to Rethink What It Means to Be Green

Inconvenient Truths: Get Ready to Rethink What It Means to Be Green

The environmental movement has never been short on noble goals. Preserving wild spaces, cleaning up the oceans, protecting watersheds, neutralizing acid rain, saving endangered species — all laudable. But today, one ecological problem outweighs all others: global warming. Restoring the Everglades, protecting the Headwaters redwoods, or saving the Illinois mud turtle won't matter if climate change plunges the planet into chaos. It's high time for greens to unite around the urgent need to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

Just one problem. Winning the war on global warming requires slaughtering some of environmentalism's sacred cows. We can afford to ignore neither the carbon-free electricity supplied by nuclear energy nor the transformational potential of genetic engineering. We need to take advantage of the energy efficiencies offered by urban density. We must accept that the world's fastest-growing economies won't forgo a higher standard of living in the name of climate science — and that, on the way up, countries like India and China might actually help devise the solutions the planet so desperately needs.

Some will reject this approach as dangerously single-minded: The environment is threatened on many fronts, and all of them need attention. So argues Alex Steffen. That may be true, but global warming threatens to overwhelm any progress made on other issues. The planet is already heating up, and the point of no return may be only decades away. So combating greenhouse gases must be our top priority, even if that means embracing the unthinkable. Here, then, are 10 tenets of the new environmental apostasy.

Go Green — Buy A Used Car. It's Better Than A Hybrid


Live in Cities:
Urban Living Is Kinder to the Planet Than the Suburban Lifestyle

A/C Is OK:
Air-Conditioning Actually Emits Less C02 Than Heating

Organics Are Not the Answer:
Surprise! Conventional Agriculture Can Be Easier on the Planet

Farm the Forests:
Old-Growth Forests Can Actually Contribute to Global Warming

China Is the Solution:
The People's Republic Leads the Way in Alternative-Energy Hardware

Accept Genetic Engineering:
Superefficient Frankencrops Could Put a Real Dent in Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Carbon Trading Doesn't Work:
Carbon Credits Were a Great Idea, But the Benefits Are Illusory

Embrace Nuclear Power:
Face It. Nukes Are the Most Climate-Friendly Industrial-Scale Form of Energy

Used Cars — Not Hybrids:
Don't Buy That New Prius! Test-Drive a Used Car Instead

Prepare for the Worst:
Climate Change Is Inevitable. Get Used to It

It's Not Just Carbon Stupid:
The Danger of Focusing Solely on Climate Change

Go to the full article to read each of the 10 points they make in detail. My only problem with all of this is that they don't do a good job on referencing. They make some good points though. It looks as though, per usual, we must choose between our planet (the future) and the health of our families today. I like the counterpoint article a lot which is at the bottom of the article (a link) on the website.

Food Prices To Stay High on "Grain Drain" Fuel

Food prices to stay high on "grain drain" fuel
By Brian Love

Food prices will remain high over the next decade even if they fall from current records, meaning millions more risk further hardship or hunger, the OECD and the UN's FAO food agency said in a report published on Thursday.

Beyond stating the immediate need for humanitarian aid, the international bodies suggested wider deployment of genetically modified crops and a rethink of biofuel programs that guzzle grain which could otherwise feed people and livestock.

The report, issued ahead of a world food summit in Rome next week, said food commodity prices were likely to recede from the peaks hit recently, but that they would remain higher in the decade ahead than the one gone by.

Beef and pork prices would probably stay around 20 percent higher than in the last 10 years, while wheat, corn and skimmed milk powder would likely command 40-60 percent more in the 10 years ahead, in nominal terms, it said.

The price of rice, an Asian staple expected to become more important also in Africa in the years ahead, would likely average 30 percent more expensive in nominal terms in the coming decade than over the 1998-2007 period.

"In many low-income countries, food expenditures average over 50 percent of income and the higher prices contained in this outlook (report) will push more people into undernourishment," the report said.

Millions of people's purchasing power across the globe would be hit, said the report, co-produced by the Food and Agriculture Organization, the U.N. food agency in Rome, and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development in Paris.

The cost of many food commodities has doubled over the last couple of years, sparking widespread protests and even riots in some of the worst affected spots, such as Haiti.

Many factors, including drought in big commodity-producing regions such as Australia, explained some of the acceleration in prices, as did growing demand from fast-developing countries such as China and India, the report said.


But it singled out the big drive to produce biofuels as an alternative to fossil fuels, a push the U.S. government is sponsoring heavily, and Europe as well.

"Biofuel demand is the largest source of new demand in decades and a strong factor underpinning the upward shift in agricultural commodity prices," said the report, adding it was time to consider alternatives.

The benefits at environmental and economic level as well as in terms of energy security were "at best modest and sometimes even negative," the report said.

Under U.S. plans, about a quarter of the U.S. corn crop will be channeled into ethanol production by 2022 while the European Union is also aiming for as much as 10 percent of road transport fuel to be produced using crops by 2020.

While it was hard to always identify exactly how much retail food prices were affected by food commodity prices, the direct impact was clearer in poorer countries where there is less of the value-added, packaged and processed food that is consumed more in wealthy regions, the report said.

The proportion of total funds that households use to pay for food varies hugely, from more than 60 percent in Bangladesh, to 40 or 50 percent in many other developing countries, and just 10 percent in the United States or Germany, or 27 percent in China, the report said.

It also highlighted the impact of financial investors in the commodities futures markets, saying this added upwards pressure on prices in the short term but that the jury was still out as to the long-term impact, beyond generating greater volatility.

(Additional reporting by Sybille de la Hamaide, Editing by Peter Blackburn)

Copyright © 2008 Reuters Limited.

Another reason to make sure I water my garden today. I wish I could grow rice!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Kindergarten ASD Student "Voted Out" of class By Peers

St. Lucie teacher reassigned after student 'voted out' of class
By Colleen Wixon

Originally published 10:12 a.m., May 27, 2008
Updated 06:30 p.m., May 27, 2008

PORT ST. LUCIE — Morningside Elementary kindergarten teacher Wendy Portillo has been reassigned until further action may be determined, according to St. Lucie County School District spokeswoman Janice Karst.

Last week, Portillo held a vote in her classroom in which kindergarten students "voted out" 5-year-old Alex Barton, who was in the process of being tested for Asperger's Disorder, a type of high-functioning autism. Alex's mother, Melissa Barton, said the vote was taken after classmates were allowed to tell Alex what they didn't like about him.

The class voted Alex out of the room, by a 14 to 2 margin.

Portillo was reassigned out of the classroom at the district offices on Friday, as soon as Schools Superintendent Michael Lannon heard about the incident, Karst said. She said it could be up to two weeks before the district's investigation on the matter is concluded.

Portillo has been a St. Lucie County teacher for 12 years, and at Morningside Elementary for nine, Karst said.

Barton said Tuesday morning that Alex had officially been diagnosed with an autism-spectrum disorder and attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. He is not in school, but misses the one friend he made in the classroom, she said.

"He's a little better today," she said. "He's just being Alex."

Barton said she thinks Portillo should be fired.

"She has no business being near children at all," she said.

As to the news of Portillo being reassigned, Barton responded, "That's just a slap in the face."

© 2008 Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers

I am beyond disgusted by the ignorance of this school district and teachers. I hope this case can be used as an example of how we need to EDUCATE THE EDUCATORS. Autism Vox has one of the more popular blogs about this issue.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Things That Make My Head Explode

Some people have been asking why I haven't blogged about the recent "articles" in the news, such as the one that I can't even mention that again points fingers at the parents rather than at the true culprits. And the usual vaccine garbage. I am just too PISSED. I am trying to make "better choices" in what I go crazy about - things I can hopefully make a difference on. Like keeping my family healthy and that includes myself. I am trying to get myself mentally (and physically) healthy these days or I think I'll really lose my mind. So there ya go.

Vinyls vs. PVC, What is What?

I just found this when I researched buying these reusuable sandwich bags I use for the kids. One side is cloth and the other side is wipeable/cleanable plastic that's PEVA. They are about $6 a piece. I spend that on a couple boxes of plastic bags not to mention how much they add to my list of environmental infractions. I decided to be a jerk and buy them as teacher gifts. This isn't California, it's stodgy old New England where we are a bit behind on "green " stuff like that. Boy will I be unpopular, but I don't care. This year's theme is "It's All About ME." I'll go ahead an force my values on my well meaning AWESOME teachers that we've had this year. Of course, I'm too lazy to give credit where credit is due regarding the plastic info...that's my mood for today and I'm too tired to fight it. also has water bottles (other than Nalgene) and other pricey greeny thingys. Fun fun fun!

Sorting out the Vinyls – When is "Vinyl" not PVC?

Vinyl is commonly used as a shorthand name for polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic as used in a range of products from flooring to siding to wall covering. Most commonly, when a product is referred to as "vinyl," it is comprised primarily of PVC. Occasionally it also may refer to polyvinylidene chloride (PVDC) a closely related compound, used in food wraps ('Saran') and other films, that shares most of the same environmental health problems.

In chemistry, however, the term "vinyl' actually has a broader meaning, encompassing a range of different thermoplastic chemical compounds derived from ethylene. In addition to PVC, "vinyls" in building materials also include:
- ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA), used in films, wire coating and adhesives
- polyethylene vinyl acetate (PEVA) a copolymer of polyethylene and EVA used in shower curtains, body bags
- polyvinyl acetate (PVA), used in paints and adhesives, such as white glue, and
- polyvinyl butyral (PVB), used in safety glass films.

What differentiates PVC from the other vinyls is the addition of a chlorine molecule (the chloride "C" in PVC and PVDC). Chlorine is the source of many of the environmental health concerns with PVC, such as the generation of dioxin, a highly carcinogenic chemical produced in both the manufacture and disposal of PVC. Due to its persistent and bioaccumulative nature (it travels long distances without breaking down and concentrates as it moves up the food chain to humans) dioxin has become a global problem and an international treaty – the Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants (POPs) - now prioritizes the elimination of processes that produce dioxin.

Some of the non chlorinated vinyls (EVA, PEVA, PVA and PVB) are now beginning to be used as direct substitutes for PVC. EVA has been in use for several years as a chlorine free substitute for PVC – primarily in non building materials like toys and athletic shoes, but occasionally as a protective film or binder. In the building industry, post-consumer recycled PVB is now beginning to be used to replace PVC in carpet backing. Absence of chlorine alone does not make these other vinyls the final answer in the search for green polymers. There are still plenty of toxic challenges and untested chemicals in the life cycle of any petrochemical product. As is the case with most other polymers competing with PVC, however, the weight of available evidence indicates that the absence of chlorine in the formula will generally render the lifecycle environmental health impacts of PVB and the other vinyls less harmful than PVC and initial study is bearing this out. Like the polyolefin plastics, the use of PVB and the other non chlorinated vinyls represents a step forward in the search for alternatives to PVC.

In summary, with the exception of paints, glues and certain films, "vinyl" as a product description almost always means made of PVC. The term vinyl in ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA), polyethylene vinyl acetate (PEVA), polyvinyl acetate (PVA), and polyvinyl butyral (PVB), however, does not refer to PVC and does not raise the same concerns associated with chlorinated molecules like PVC.

When in doubt about the use of the term "vinyl", ask if it is PVC.