Thursday 24 December 2009

it's mighty funny, the end of time has just begun

or damned with faint praise
or not with a bang but a whimper
(and it's not even Christmas yet)
Up, Down.

well, that was a bust ... (skip to Peter Sinclair Crock of the Week videos)

Advent was very different this year, waiting to see the (foregone) conclusion at Copenhagen instead of waiting for Christmas, I was like Lula da Silva, "Eu não sei se algum anjo ou algum sábio descerá neste plenário e irá colocar na nossa cabeça a inteligência que nos faltou até a hora de agora. Não sei. Eu acredito, como eu acredito em Deus, eu acredito em milagre, ele pode acontecer, e quero fazer parte dele. / I don't know if some angel or some wise man will descend into this meeting room and will put into our heads the intelligence that we have been missing until this very hour. I do not know. I believe, as I believe in God, I believe in miracles, it could happen, and I want to be a part of it."

hoping right up to the last minute, believing in miracles, and in good company

Advent is mostly about music for me, Handel's Messiah, even if it is continuous in its insistence on a physical rebirth, "yet in my flesh shall I see God," even though it has been co-opted by shallow bourgeois sensibility, still there are always a least a few sublime moments when the musicians' and singers' efforts to fuse, to integrate, and to transcend are successful and I am lifted for a moment out of time

there are a few tunes that I can sometimes still sing from memory: Good King Wenceslas (1, 2, 3) The Swallow, Lo, how a Rose e’er blooming, and Barrett's Privateers; and I have been singing them off and on this week, crazy old fuck, I have often thought of re-writing Barrett's Privateers with a love theme - I have never managed it, but when I sing it, that is what I am thinking about

Marina Silva e Fábio Vaz de LimaI have been low lately, even moreso since Copenhagen, and I have noticed that I resent seeing and even hearing stories about people who are complacent about ... the fact that they have a house, or are married to a loving spouse, or get to walk with their grand-children, whatever ... and my tourettes kicks in and I find myself muttering obscenities - BUT - when I discovered the other day that Marina Silva was indeed married, with four children (two from a previous marriage :-) I was delighted ...

so, "tens of thousands" of demostrators in Britain ... not enough by far ...

maybe this is all just a confusion of microcosm/macrocosm ... whatever ...

Jim Prentice said, "There's always a lot of hype and drama that gets built into this sort of international event, much of it intended to force the hand of participants. We aren't going to buy into that. We are not going to panic. We are confident about the actions we are taking on the domestic and the continental fronts," and he has told a bunch of lies since the conference, foremost among them that the tar sands are not going to get a free pass, outright bare-faced lies

but it is nothing but par - dig this, Ontario Power Generation - OPG dumps 300,000 gallons of water polluted with tritium from the Darlington Nuclear plant into Lake Ontario which is the water supply for all the cities bordering the lake, and they say, "Residents are advised that their water is safe to drink," of course, they have to say that, what else could they say? but it is an outright lie, but who cares?

nobody cares, not really, here we have the illustrious City of Toronto failing to even enforce basic public health rules about vermin, mice and rats, around food: mouse found, bakery continued to serve customers, and pizza place closed after dead rats found, nobody, as my lawyer friends like to say, gives a rat's ass

the odd reasonable voices to be heard, for example an editorial in the NYT, are drowned out by the pestilent stupidity of the majority and their rogue leaders like this Jim Inhofe and Sarah Palin, and the half-dozen Republicans who held a press-conference in Copenhagen, Jim Sensenbrenner, Joe Barton, Fred Upton, Shelley Moore Capito, John Sullivan, & Marsha Blackburn, and then at least one Democrat, Dianne Feinstein, and not forgetting our very own Wild Rose Alliance deniers led by (fanfare) Danielle Smith, and she is no shrinking violet and she even has the Edmonton Journal wondering (these are the wizards who will maybe go so far as to say that climate change is happening but don't admit that it is man-made)

Stephen Harper Apology Greenpeaceharsh? I don't think so ... here's a story for you ... I didn't know what to do with Copenhagen coming up so I went out and had 5,000 buttons made up with "350" on them, and I just started handing them out on the streets of Toronto, and I discovered that not 1 in 100 people know a single thing about it, not root 1, I say, "do you know what 350 means?" and they say, "350 euros?" or just "no," I will give the people of this city full points for being open and willing, very few people did not want to have it explained, they had a minute to listen, and I told them, and they took the button and maybe a few extras for their kids and their grand kids, several school teachers took a pocketful to give to their classes, including a beautiful woman from Jane/Finch with her daughter who took three big handfuls

but I was turned away by a church and by politicians: Church of the Holy Trinity (In The Heart of The City) right next to the Eaton Centre turned me away, the Green Party candidate Zoran Markovski turned me away, the City of Toronto turned me away, Jack Layton took one but scowled and turned his back on me when I gave Jim Prentice a slightly rude name ('that asshole' I said, and I meant it, and still do),

Copenhagen The Survival of the Fattest Jens GalschiotCopenhagen The Survival of the Fattest Jens GalschiotCopenhagen The Survival of the Fattest Jens GalschiotCopenhagen The Survival of the Fattest Jens Galschiothaving watched closely, day after day, the intimidating diplomatic courtesy on the floor of the UN Plenary I have to wonder what it might be good for? not that I endorse gratuitous insults either, but even Lumumba Di-aping's remark, “L9 asks Africa to sign a suicide pact. It is a solution based on the values which, in our opinion, channelled six million people in Europe to the furnaces,” linking the Copenhagen Accord with the Holocaust was not out of line, to me at least, nor Ian Fry's “Can I suggest that, in biblical terms, it looks like we are being offered thiry pieces of silver to betray our people and our future. Mr President our future is not for sale,” nor Marina Silva also comparing it to slavery and the Holocaust

Copenhagen Canada Michael MartinI did so have to laugh, that was the only time I actually saw our Canadian fellow Michael Martin say anything, and it was to see if he could pour a bit of gas on Lumumba and light him up, what do you call such behaviour? I call it shitty, I call Michael Martin a shit-head for doing it, or maybe a dipshit? petty? whatever ...

for the record Beaches United Church did not turn me away - they took three handfuls in a bowl for their congregation

I had no idea that 5,000 buttons were so many, I managed to distribute almost 2,000, mostly one at a time, I wish someone would tell me it was worth it

I will tell you the truth - being turned away by those I thought might help hurt like hell, hurt, hurt too much, and finally I stopped (I have not given up I have just stopped) because I could not face any more of it alone, I mean to say that those who did give me a boost, my son, a woman at the Toronto Climate Campaign, the teacher from Jane/Finch I mentioned, were just not enough ...

there are two souls particularly worthy of mention here, they are the two organizers of the candle light vigil at Queen's Park on Saturday the 12th

I got there quite early and thought there was no one at all, but I decided to walk up to the sort of 'geometric' centre of the space anyway, and there, in the darkness, down on their knees on the asphalt, in the bitter cold wind were two young people, a boy and a girl trying to get candles lit, and they could not get them lit, so I helped them, and eventually we got one going, working together, and then two and then three, and someone else came along, and we got one going for him, and a few more, and a gust would come along and blow most of them out and we would light them all up again, a couple from Kingston came along, and after a while there were quite a few people there, maybe 150 or even 200, cold night, I was shivering by then, in the end I forgot to get their names and I forgot to give them buttons

at one point there was that obvious smell of burning hair, and it was the girl's, she had beautiful long hair and the wind blew a bit of it into a candle, and she just didn't care, I was so impressed by that, just didn't care, vanity be damned, at the end as I was leaving the boy came along and he thanked me and I thanked him and I went away hoping that they will grow up and be leaders of this country, I was proud to help them, God bless them both

Queen's Park Candlelight Vigiland that (o my best beloved children and grand daughters) was the best thing that happened during the Great Button Fiasco, and it was very good, and it kept me going for another week and a bit more until I crashed like an amphetamine junkie, into the arms of Judas Priest which is where I died of thirst

I know I know I know I know, you are supposed to have faith and take enough energy from what happens that is positive ... but if it is not enough then what do you say? I don't know?

Pastis, Spiritual JourneyBallard, The Crux of the Problem

but I do know what the matter is, it's me ... old and burnt-out and no damned good, whatever ... like Bob says, it's kinda funny, and as a matter of fact it is as funny as ever-can-be ... you might even say it's mighty funny

Khrushchev banging his shoe at the UN, October 12 1960I grew up with the threat of nuclear armageddon, JFK playing hardball with Russia over missiles in Cuba, Khrushchev banging his shoe on the UN desk,

but here are my children and their children imagining the literal end of human civilization, even imagining human extinction ... you would have to call this a 'paradigm shift'

I truely do not know, I cannot even guess at how they deal with it, beyond the obvious built-in endocrine mechanisms that send us out each day looking for food & fucking, even those subtler urges to experience the sublime, to transcend through beauty into timelessness

I'm sorry kids, beyond staring open-eyed down the muzzle of this awful thing and not abandoning all hope I have nothing to offer ... a shrug, a grin, a laugh

Makosi Musambasiwell, I was going to post some pictures of the delightful Makosi Musambasi from Zimbabwe and her voluminous boobage as she struggles to make it big in London, just to cheer you up y'unnerstan, (and me too :-) AND she does have some opinions on global warming and the Copenhagen conference reported in the Zimbabwe press ... BUT I will save it, instead here is a list of YouTube videos, Climate Denier Crock of the Week by Peter Sinclair, being concise rebuttals of some of the arguments used most often by climate change deniers:
1. Climate Deniers Love the 70s!, the Remix.
2. Climate Crock Sacks Hack Attack Part 1.
3. Climate Crock Sacks Hack Attack Part 2.
4. The 'Urban Heat Island' Crock.
5. The 'Temp leads Carbon' Crock.
6. The 'Medieval Warming' Crock".
7. Creepy at the EPA.
8. Party like it's 1998.
9. Party like it's 1998 Revisited.
10. That 1500 Year Thing.
11. Ice Area vs Volume.
12. It's cold. So there's no Climate Change?.
13. Denial was a River in Africa.
14. Birth of a Climate Crock.
15. All Wet on Sea Level.
16. Mars Attacks!!!
17. Watts Up With Watts?
18. This Year's Model.
19. Solar Schmolar.
20. Sense from Deniers on CO2? Don't hold your breath ...
21. The Big Swindle Movie.
22. 2009 Sea Ice Update.
23. Don't it make my Green World Brown.
24. The Big Mist Take, original.
25. The Big Mist Take Remix.
unfortunately they are in no particular order, he does not date them, and the sound and general quality is sometimes spotty, but they comprise an excellent primer for anyone who gets involved in discussions around climate change - especially if you happen to be discussing with a denier

here's a thought - there have been people around since the early 50's who knew just about what I know now, quite possibly knew it much better than I do now, and giving up would dishonour those people - sketchy maybe but a reason to carry on :-)

1. Climate change protests ahead of Copenhagen summit, BBC, Dec. 5 2009.
2. Loneliness is a social disease, study finds, Zosia Bielski, Dec. 1 2009.
3. Barrett's Privateers - Stan Rogers.
4. Leak from Darlington station poses no danger: OPG, Tyler Hamilton, Dec 22 2009.
5. Mouse found, bakery continued to serve customers, Jennifer Yang, Dec 22 2009.
6. Pizza place closed after dead rats found, Toronto Star, Dec 23 2009.
7. Editorial - That Climate Change E-Mail, NYT, Dec 5 2009.
8. Desert Vistas vs. Solar Power, Todd Woody, Dec 21 2009.
9. Canada won't be swayed by Copenhagen 'hype': Prentice, Mike De Souza, Dec 4 2009.
10. Alberta's Wildrose leader is no shrinking violet, Gary Mason, Dec 16 2009.
11. Climate-change denial is dangerous, Graham Thomson, Dec 10 2009.
12. Marina Silva: fracasso em Copenhague é tão grave quanto o Holocausto, Veja, 17 de Dezembro de 2009.

Climate change protests ahead of Copenhagen summit, BBC, Dec. 5 2009.

Demonstrations have taken place around the UK to urge action on climate change ahead of the Copenhagen summit.

Organisers Stop Climate Chaos want world leaders to reach a tough new deal on cutting emissions.

In London, police originally said about 20,000 people had taken part - but did not contradict claims by the organisers that the actual figure was over 40,000.

Gordon Brown praised the protesters for "propelling" leaders to reach the "first world climate change agreement".

About 7,000 turned out for a demonstration in Glasgow. A protest also took place in Belfast.

As the main protest drew to a close on Saturday evening , some 150 protesters from a different action group - Camp for Climate Action - set up camp in Trafalgar Square, central London.

Organisers of the camp told the BBC News website they wished to draw attention to the role of the "political and economic system" in causing climate change.

The Metropolitan Police said they had been told the camp would remain in place for 48 hours.

"A small neighbourhood style police team will be in place to provide a police presence around Trafalgar Square," said a Met spokesman.

'Flat earth group'

The prime minister, who met some of the demonstrators in Downing Street, said it was essential that a deal be reached in Copenhagen and leaders had to be "ambitious".

Mr Brown said he and the "vast majority of people" were convinced by the scientific evidence for man-made global warming.

He said Copenhagen had to convince everyone of the risks, including the sceptics.

"There's a flat earth group over the evidence, if I may say so, that exists about climate change, and we've got to show them that the scientific evidence is strong," he said.

"The public need to be angry about the extent to which we have not taken action sufficiently as a world until now, and they've got to then see that the first climate change agreement is not only necessary, it's absolutely essential."

Cut emissions

The demonstrators on Saturday made several demands, such as calling on Western nations to commit to an 80% cut in carbon emissions by 2050.

A series of events known collectively as The Wave took place in London.

They began with an ecumenical service at Westminster Central Hall, which involved both the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, and Archbishop Vincent Nichols, head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales.

Religious leaders said they were taking part in The Wave because they "recognise unequivocally that there is a moral imperative to tackle the causes of global warming".

At about 1200 GMT, they joined environmental campaigners, aid agencies, trade unions and organisations including the Women's Institute for a rally close to the US embassy in Grosvenor Square, before beginning their march to the Houses of Parliament.

In Glasgow, demonstrators marched from Bellahouston Park in the south of the city to Kelvingrove Park for a rally.

Strathclyde Police said about 7,000 had turned out, which is believed to be Scotland's largest protest in support of action on climate change.

Ashok Sinha, from the Stop Climate Chaos coalition, said: "We will call on Gordon Brown to make Copenhagen count by committing rich countries to reduce their emissions by at least 40% in the next 10 years, finally putting the right sort of money on the table to help poor countries, and urgently start the process of decarbonising our energy supply.

"With bold leadership at home, Mr Brown can help inspire a fair, effective and binding international deal at Copenhagen."

Mr Brown will join Barack Obama in Copenhagen next week, after the US president announced that he had changed his plans and would now attend the end of the conference.

Ahead of the summit, Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband took part in "the first ever ministerial mass phone call" on Saturday, after inviting questions from members of action group 38 Degrees via his website, Ed's Pledge.

He told the BBC: "We're going to go all out, the whole of the British government, over the next two weeks to make sure we get the most ambitious agreement we can."

Any agreement made at Copenhagen must become a legally-binding treaty "within months", he added.

Barbara Stocking, chief executive of Oxfam, said world leaders must do more to help those in developing countries cope with the effects of global warming.

"For poor people, climate change is not something in the future. Climate change is hitting them now," she told the BBC.

Loneliness is a social disease, study finds, Zosia Bielski, Dec. 1 2009.

Researchers find that lonely people that were surveyed ‘infected' remaining friends with the emotion before those relationships faltered

Loneliness is contagious and expressing it can make us even more isolated, according to new research from Harvard, the University of Chicago and the University of California-San Diego.

Looking at a longitudinal study of more than 12,000 people, the researchers found that lonely respondents “infected” remaining friends with their loneliness before the relationships crumbled, perpetuating a cycle of isolation.

Loneliness spreads because even as lonely people seek social connection, their “caustic” behaviour often frays relations down the line, says John Cacioppo, a University of Chicago psychologist and one of the study authors.

Loneliness, he says, is a “sensitivity to social rejection” that makes our brains more alert to social threats – and subsequently makes us harder to be around.

Lonely people tend to be shyer, less trusting and more socially awkward, anxious and hostile, wrote the authors, whose findings were published in the December issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

The researchers found that next-door neighbours and friends were more likely to make each other lonely than siblings or spouses, and that women were more likely to “catch” and spread loneliness than men.

They say their findings have particular implications for older people. Previous research has shown that loneliness can play a serious role in their health, including cardiovascular risks, the progression of Alzheimer's, obesity, alcoholism and depression.

“Social species do not fare well when forced to live solitary lives,” the authors write, comparing loneliness to hunger, thirst and pain.

The researchers tracked the “topography” of loneliness in Framingham, a town in Massachusetts whose residents had been tested extensively since 1948 for a study of cardiovascular risk factors.

The townspeople filled out a battery of surveys on depression and loneliness and also listed the names of all their family members and friends on tracking forms. Many of these acquaintances lived in Framingham and underwent the same study, giving the authors of the loneliness research a unique glimpse into the town's social networks.

The researchers had already used the Framingham sample as the basis for a number of inquiries into the process of “contagion,” tracing how obesity, smoking and happiness can spread through social networks and communities.

As with the other studies, the researchers found that loneliness spreads through three degrees of separation.

“Participants are 52 per cent more likely to be lonely if a person to whom they are directly connected (at one degree of separation) is lonely,” the authors write.

At two degrees of separation, they were 25 per cent more likely to feel lonely. At three degrees it was 15 per cent and at four degrees the effect disappeared. This pattern – what the authors term the “three degrees of influence rule of social contagion” – also appeared in the obesity, smoking and happiness studies.

Lonely people in Framingham often cut the few ties they had left, having transmitted “the same feeling of loneliness to their remaining friends, starting the cycle anew.”

The researchers found that lonely spouses rubbed off much less than lonely friends. Lonely siblings appeared to have no effect on each other, suggesting that “loneliness in older adults is about the relationships people choose, rather than the relationships they inherit,” the authors wrote.

The study suggests loneliness is not a “quintessential individualistic experience,” but a complex group dynamic, one that remains stigmatized.

“We have this notion that it's personal weakness,” Dr. Cacioppo says.

He argues that today's culture is particularly vulnerable to loneliness because we are postponing family, divorcing more often and living longer.

The average person spends 80 per cent of their waking hours in the company of others, and prefers that to time alone, the authors write, citing earlier studies.

The researchers are now looking for predictors of social isolation in south Chicago neighbourhoods, and hope their work will eventually trickle down to city policy.

“[The research] implies cities, communities, neighbourhoods, buildings and roads can be constructed in a way that either promotes social cohesion and a feeling of connection or places that at high risk,” Dr. Cacioppo said.

Other members of the study team were James Fowler, associate professor of political science at the University of California-San Diego, and Nicholas Christakis, professor of medical sociology at Harvard Medical School.

Barrett's Privateers - Stan Rogers

Oh the year was seventeen seventy eight
I wish I were in Sherbrooke now!
A letter of marque came from the King
To the scummiest vessel I've ever seen
God Damn them all! I was told
We'd cruise the seas for American gold
We'd fire no guns, shed no tears
Now I'm a broken man on a Halifax pier
The last of Barrett's privateers.

Oh Elcid Barrett cried the town,
For twenty brave men, all fishermen, who
Would make for him the Antelope's crew.

The Antelope sloop was a sickening sight.
She'd a list to port and her sails in rags,
And a cook in the scuppers with staggers and jags.

On the King's birthday we put to sea.
We were ninety-one days to Montego bay,
Pumping like madmen all the way.

On the ninety-sixth day we sailed again.
When a bloody great Yankee hove in sight
With our cracked four-pounders we made to fight

The Yankee lay low down with gold.
She was broad and fat and loose in stays,
But to catch her took the Antelope two whole days

Then at length we stood two cables away.
Our cracked four-pounders made an awful din,
But with one fat ball the Yank stove us in.

The Antelope shook and pitched on her side.
Barrett was smashed like a bowl of eggs,
And the maintruck carried off both me legs.

So here I lay in my twenty-third year.
It's been six years since we sailed away,
And I just made Halifax yesterday.

Leak from Darlington station poses no danger: OPG, Tyler Hamilton, Dec 22 2009.

Radioactive tritium accidentally released Monday into Lake Ontario from Darlington nuclear generating station poses no harm to local residents, according to Ontario Power Generation, which has launched an investigation and continues to test lake water hourly.

OPG spokesman Ted Gruetzner said the tritium - a radioactive isotope of hydrogen - was in water that spilled from an underground tank, which is used for backup cooling in the event of an emergency. About 300,000 litres escaped, roughly enough to fill three Olympic-sized swimming pools.

Gruetzner said little is known at this point about how much tritium was in the water, though concentration is expected to be low. The water also contained a toxic inorganic chemical compound called hydrazine. "Water sampling at local water treatment facilities indicates that levels of tritium continue to be at normal background (safe) levels," OPG said in a statement. "Further samples will continue to be taken regularly."

The accident happened at around 3 p.m. on Monday, after which the Ministry of Environment, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, the Durham Medical Officer of Health, and water treatment authorities in the area were notified.

"We know what happened, we just don't know why it happened," said Gruetzner, explaining that staff charged with filling up the underground tanks inadvertently filled one that was already full. The tank overflowed and water ran onto the ground, much of it flowing into the lake.

OPG said it is working closely with relevant agencies and taking "all conservative, precautionary measures to ensure the public and the environment continue to be protected."

Tritium can be harmful when ingested in enough quantity. It immediately travels to the gastrointestinal tract and is absorbed uniformly in the bloodstream within two hours. "The health hazard of tritium is associated with cell damage caused by the ionizing radiation that results from radioactive decay," according to the U.S. Argonne National Laboratory.

Durham Region said in a statement that water sampling and testing is taking place at water supply plants in Oshawa, Bowmanville and Newcastle. "Residents are advised that their water is safe to drink," according to the statement.

The spill comes a month after the Sierra Club of Canada released a report warning that "routine and accidental releases of tritium" are rising and that accumulation in the environment is a growing health concern. It criticized Canada for allowing tritium levels in drinking water that are 70 times higher than in the European Union and 473 times higher than in California.

Canada's nuclear safety commission dismissed the Sierra Club report as "junk science," but Linda Keen, former head of the agency, told the Star that community concerns should be taken seriously. She said tritium is an operational byproduct of Candu nuclear reactors, making Canada the world's largest producer of the otherwise rare radioactive isotope.

"Accumulative effects of tritium are what really worried me (when I was head of the agency), not just the dose at a certain date," she said.

Mouse found, bakery continued to serve customers, Jennifer Yang, Dec 22 2009.

The campaign began as a twitch of brown fur spotted from the corner of Borys Machnikowski's eye – a tiny mouse, munching on a mini cheese roll inside an eatery located in a TTC station.

Borys Machnikowski snapped a cellphone picture of a mouse eating a mini cheese roll at Bakery on the Go in the Warden subway station.

Machnikowski, a 20-year-old Centennial College student, snapped a photo and showed it to employees at Bakery on the Go in the Warden subway station. But when workers failed to remove surrounding food and kept serving customers, he had to act.

"It's a public health issue," he said. "There's bound to be mice but they (kept selling) baked goods to people knowingly and willingly."

Since their Saturday night rodent encounter, Machnikowski and his friends have done everything they can to "get the word out," including contacting public health officials, alerting media outlets and posting flyers to warn would-be customers.

While they aren't surprised a food establishment could have mice – especially one inside a TTC station – they're shocked at how employees handled the complaint. Machnikowski said an employee "gave him a blank stare," removed the tray of cheese rolls and continued selling bread from the same display case without cleaning the area.

The students began warning customers, showing them the photo of the rodent. A manager asked them to leave. "He was just saying, `It's a subway system, there are mice. So what?'" Machnikowski said.

Store officials could not be reached for comment, and employees refused to speak with reporters.

According to the bakery's DineSafe history, the establishment received a conditional pass in August 2008 for two infractions and was given a full pass two days later.

The complaint prompted a new investigation and on Monday, the bakery was given a conditional pass for five infractions, including failure to protect food from contamination and failure to provide adequate pest control, the latter given a severity rating of "significant."

Jim Chan, the city's public food safety manager, said investigators found no indication of an "active infestation," but old droppings were found on the floor. He said the bakery operator was "lectured" and it will be reinspected within 48 hours.

But Machnikowski feels the TTC should be more active in ensuring its food establishments are safe.

Pizza place closed after dead rats found, Toronto Star, Dec 23 2009.

A popular downtown Toronto pizza place has been closed for a rat infestation and dirty conditions after twice being hit with warnings earlier this year.

Cora Pizza, located on Spadina Ave. at Harbord St., is a late-night favourite among University of Toronto students. It was closed Monday by health inspectors for a litany of problems, including a "crucial" failure to protect food from contamination.

Toronto Public Health described a "number of dead rats and fresh droppings" at Cora, which has been in business since 1984.

Its run-ins with health inspectors date to March 20, when Cora was cited for rodents, dirty food surfaces, unsanitary conditions and staff who didn't wash their hands.

It passed a reinspection three days later, then fell back to a conditional pass on June 9 for the same reasons. Cora got its green pass back on June 12, then failed with 16 infractions on Dec. 21. The closure order included a summons and declaration of a health hazard because of "gross unsanitary conditions."

A new inspection is scheduled for Wednesday and the owner has promised Cora will reopen.

Editorial - That Climate Change E-Mail, NYT, Dec 5 2009.

The theft of thousands of private e-mail messages and files from computer servers at a leading British climate research center has been a political windfall for skeptics who claim the documents prove that mainstream scientists have conspired to overstate the case for human influence on climate change.

They are using the e-mail to blast the Obama administration’s climate policies. And they clearly hope that the e-mail will undermine negotiations for a new climate change treaty that begin in Copenhagen this week.

No one should be misled by all the noise. The e-mail messages represent years’ worth of exchanges among prominent American and British climatologists. Some are mean-spirited, others intemperate. But they don’t change the underlying scientific facts about climate change.

One describes climate skeptics as “idiots,” another describes papers written by climate contrarians as “garbage” and “fraud.” Still another suggests that the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, whose 2007 report concluded that humans were the dominant force behind global warming, should pay no attention to contrarian opinions.

Another quotes an exasperated Phil Jones — director of the climate center at the University of East Anglia, from which the e-mail was stolen — as expressing the hope that climate change would occur “regardless of the consequences” so “the science could be proved right.”

However, most of the e-mail messages — judging by those that have seen the light of day — appear to deal with the painstaking and difficult task of reconstructing historical temperatures, and the problems scientists encounter along the way. Despite what the skeptics say, they demonstrate just how rigorously scientists have worked to figure out whether global warming is real and the true role that human activities play.

The controversy isn’t over. James Inhofe, the Senate’s leading skeptic, has asked for an inquiry into what some are calling “Climategate.” And on Friday, Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the United Nations’ intergovernmental panel, announced that he would conduct his own investigation.

It is important that scientists behave professionally and openly. It is also important not to let one set of purloined e-mail messages undermine the science and the clear case for action, in Washington and in Copenhagen.

Desert Vistas vs. Solar Power, Todd Woody, Dec 21 2009.

AMBOY, Calif. — Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced legislation in Congress on Monday to protect a million acres of the Mojave Desert in California by scuttling some 13 big solar plants and wind farms planned for the region.

But before the bill to create two new Mojave national monuments has even had its first hearing, the California Democrat has largely achieved her aim. Regardless of the legislation’s fate, her opposition means that few if any power plants are likely to be built in the monument area, a complication in California’s effort to achieve its aggressive goals for renewable energy.

Developers of the projects have already postponed several proposals or abandoned them entirely. The California agency charged with planning a renewable energy transmission grid has rerouted proposed power lines to avoid the monument.

“The very existence of the monument proposal has certainly chilled development within its boundaries,” said Karen Douglas, chairwoman of the California Energy Commission.

For Mrs. Feinstein, creation of the Mojave national monuments would make good on a promise by the government a decade ago to protect desert land donated by an environmental group that had acquired the property from the Catellus Development Corporation.

“The Catellus lands were purchased with nearly $45 million in private funds and $18 million in federal funds and donated to the federal government for the purpose of conservation, and that commitment must be upheld. Period,” Mrs. Feinstein said in a statement.

The federal government made a competing commitment in 2005, though, when President George W. Bush ordered that renewable energy production be accelerated on public lands, including the Catellus holdings. The Obama administration is trying to balance conservation demands with its goal of radically increasing solar and wind generation by identifying areas suitable for large-scale projects across the West.

Mrs. Feinstein heads the Senate subcommittee that oversees the budget of the Interior Department, giving her substantial clout over that agency, which manages the government’s landholdings. Her intervention in the Mojave means it will be more difficult for California utilities to achieve a goal, set by the state, of obtaining a third of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020; projects in the monument area could have supplied a substantial portion of that power.

“This is arguably the best solar land in the world, and Senator Feinstein shouldn’t be allowed to take this land off the table without a proper and scientific environmental review,” said Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the environmentalist and a partner with a venture capital firm that invested in a solar developer called BrightSource Energy. In September, BrightSource canceled a large project in the monument area.

Union officials, power industry executives, regulators and some environmentalists have also expressed concern about the impact of the monument legislation, but few would speak publicly for fear of antagonizing one of California’s most powerful politicians.

The debate over the monument encapsulates a rising tension between two goals held by environmental groups: preservation of wild lands and ambitious efforts to combat global warming.

Not only is the desert land some of the sunniest in the country, and thus suitable for large-scale power production, it is also some of the most scenic territory in the West. The Mojave lands have sweeping vistas of an ancient landscape that is home to desert tortoises, bighorn sheep, fringe-toed lizards and other rare animals and plants.

As conflicts over building solar farms in the Mojave escalated earlier this year, Mrs. Feinstein trekked to the desert in April. The senator’s caravan, including the heads of two of the nation’s largest utilities, top energy regulators and a group of environmentalists, bumped along a dirt track and pulled up to a wind-whipped tent. Inside, executives with a Goldman Sachs-owned developer waited to make their case for building two multibillion-dollar solar power plants.

The presentation over, the entourage rolled on to the next solar project site to hear the developer’s pitch. Mrs. Feinstein gave the developers a hearing but was not moved by their arguments, according to five people present on the tour. The senator seemed concerned about the visual effect of huge solar farms on Route 66, the highway that runs through the Mojave, they said.

“When we attended the onsite desert meeting with Senator Feinstein, it was clear she was very serious about this,” said Gary Palo, vice president for development with Cogentrix Energy, a solar developer owned by Goldman Sachs. “It would make no sense for us politically or practically to go forward with those projects.”

Another project, a huge 12,000-acre solar farm by Tessera Solar, was canceled last week, and the company cited Mrs. Feinstein’s opposition.

Steven L. Kline, chief sustainability officer for Pacific Gas and Electric, called the proposed monument “prime territory” for solar development and noted that the loss of the planned solar projects would hurt his company’s efforts to comply with state renewable energy mandates. The utility was planning a solar farm in the monument area.

“In the near term, it would have a very substantial impact,” he said, emphasizing that in principle, P.G.& E. supports Mrs. Feinstein’s efforts to preserve sensitive desert lands. “Over time those projects will be built somewhere else and we’ll have benefits of the power.”

Mrs. Feinstein has long championed desert preservation, sponsoring legislation in 1994 that created Death Valley and Joshua Tree national parks and the Mojave National Preserve. Five years later, she pushed for federal money to help acquire nearly 500,000 acres owned by Catellus.

A small Southern California environmental group, the Wildlands Conservancy, had negotiated the acquisition of the Catellus property and raised tens of millions of dollars for its purchase from a major benefactor, the financier David Gelbaum, a former hedge fund manager turned philanthropist.

The Catellus holdings consist of hundreds of small parcels that form a checkerboard across the Mojave.

“The whole objective was to preserve the core of the Mojave Desert,” said David Myers, executive director of the Wildlands Conservancy. “To a large extent this land is the connective tissue that holds the desert together.”

When Mr. Myers became aware that solar and wind developers had applied to lease federal land that included the former Catellus holdings, he contacted the senator.

The legislation to protect a million acres of desert land would include 266,000 acres of the former Catellus lands. (The balance of the half-million acres of Catellus property is already protected, in various ways.) The proposed renewable energy projects would have occupied about 30,000 acres of Catellus land, according to the Bureau of Land Management.

“If all this solar development took place in the Mojave, the higher you climb the more industrialized the vistas would look,” Mr. Myers said recently as he walked past bighorn sheep tracks and scrambled up a peak overlooking the Trilobite Wilderness Area.

Mr. Myers stresses that he is not against large-scale solar power plants but prefers that they be concentrated on already disturbed farmlands. In recent months, he said, he has worked with solar developers to find alternative sites.

On Thursday, Mrs. Feinstein introduced legislation to provide a 30 percent tax credit to developers that consolidate degraded private land for solar projects. She followed that on Monday with the legislation to create the 941,00-acre Mojave Trails National Monument and the 134,00-acre Sand to Snow National Monument.

“I strongly believe that conservation, renewable energy development and recreation can and must co-exist in the California desert,” Mrs. Feinstein said in a statement. “This legislation strikes a careful balance between these sometimes competing concerns.”

Developers and environmentalists say Mrs. Feinstein has modified the monument legislation to address some of their issues. The 2.5 million acres set aside in a draft version of the monument act has been shrunk to around one million acres, allowing at least two projects to proceed. The bill also includes provisions designed to accelerate approval of renewable energy projects on federal land.

That is not likely to mollify monument opponents, including unions that were anticipating the creation of thousands of construction jobs.

“Unfortunately, Senator Feinstein wants to wall off a large part of the desert based on historical land ownership rather than science,” said Marc D. Joseph, a lawyer for California Unions for Reliable Energy. “It seems the wrong approach to where solar should go and where it shouldn’t go.”

But John White, executive director of the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies in Sacramento, said the monument legislation would put so much land off limits for development that it might actually spur a more vigorous state and federal effort to compensate by creating renewable energy zones. “The problem is,” he said, “if you take a million acres off the table, what are you going to replace it with?”

Canada won't be swayed by Copenhagen 'hype': Prentice, Mike De Souza, Dec 4 2009.

The Harper government won't buy into the "hype" surrounding the Copenhagen climate summit to rush into a new deal, said Environment Minister Jim Prentice on Friday.

In a lunchtime speech delivered to Montreal business leaders, Mr. Prentice said Canada won't agree to anything at this month's international conference just for the sake of saying it is taking action.

"There's always a lot of hype and drama that gets built into this sort of international event, much of it intended to force the hand of participants," Mr. Prentice said in the prepared speech. "We aren't going to buy into that. We are not going to panic. We are confident about the actions we are taking on the domestic and the continental fronts."

Although opposition parties, environmental groups and scientists have suggested that Prentice's goal of reducing Canada's emissions roughly to 1990 levels by 2020 is too weak, he said that any drastic changes to that plan could damage the economy since the United States has adopted a similar target.

"If we do more than the U.S., we will suffer economic pain for no real environmental gain -- economic pain that could impede our ability to invest in new, clean technologies and other innovative solutions to climate change," Prentice said. "But if we do less, we will risk facing new border barriers into the American market."

Several Canadian provinces, have announced their own targets that go beyond the U.S. target. Quebec, which pledged to reduce emissions by 20%, was even praised by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for showing leadership in its own climate change plan.

Mr. Prentice indicated that a political agreement could be achieved at the Copenhagen conference, which begins next week, that would eventually lead to a new treaty to take effect after the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.

"Make no mistake," Mr. Prentice said. "We absolutely understand the urgency around environmental issues - and I make a practice of meeting regularly with Canadian companies, associations and ENGOs [environmental groups] who share that desire to move forward boldly."

The Kyoto agreement was the first legally binding treaty that forced industrialized countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels through domestic measures or investments in projects abroad that reduce pollution.

Under the Harper government, Canada announced that it would not try to meet its commitment to reduce emissions by six per cent below 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012. Instead, its emissions are about 30% above that target.

Prentice has not yet introduced a framework or regulations to cap pollution from industrial facilities, but indicated earlier this week that they would be expected to make absolute reductions in their greenhouse gas emissions.

Alberta's Wildrose leader is no shrinking violet, Gary Mason, Dec 16 2009.

Danielle Smith is not entirely convinced there's a climate-change problem. And that will make the many skeptics in her province happy.

If recent polls are to be believed, Alberta's four-decade-old Conservative government could be toppled in the next election – by an even more right-wing alternative.

Only in Alberta.

The Wildrose Alliance Party seems for real, however, even though it has only one MLA. Party leader Danielle Smith possesses an intelligence, charm and charisma that belies her days as a newspaper columnist. Her speeches and public writings are receiving more attention – and scrutiny. As such, remarks she made this week concerning the United Nations climate-change summit in Copenhagen caught many people's attention.

In an address to the Canadian Club of Calgary, Ms. Smith urged Ottawa not to sign on to any accord in Copenhagen. Instead, she said, Canada and the provinces should find their own homegrown measures to slay the problem of rising greenhouse-gas emissions.

That is, if there's a problem at all.

Ms. Smith, it appears, is not entirely convinced. And that will make the many climate skeptics in her province – and across the country, for that matter – deliriously happy. “The science isn't settled,” Ms. Smith told her Canadian Club audience. “If we're going to embark on this path, we've got to be darn sure that the science makes sense.” She quoted from Lawrence Soloman's book The Deniers , which details studies that contradict the science supporting claims of man-made global warming.

The crowd lapped it up.

But Ms. Smith wasn't done.

In an opinion piece that appeared in the Calgary Herald this week, Ms. Smith questioned spending billions of dollars on carbon-capture technology that “won't yield results for decades,” denounced cap-and-trade schemes and carbon taxes and pretty much gave the thumbs down to UN plans to send billions to help developing countries cope with the impact of climate change.

As top-to-bottom denunciations of climate-change strategies go, it was quite impressive.

Not even Alberta Environment Minister Rob Renner denies the existence of global warming. Or that the art of extracting oil from Alberta's oil sands contributes to it. And he'd like to do something about it, honestly. As long as it doesn't hurt the economy. Not the most progressive outlook on climate change, admittedly. Yet, it seems almost Suzukian compared with the view taken by Ms. Smith.

For someone emerging as a major player on the Canadian political scene to come out and effectively question the existence of global warming, well, that takes more than a little chutzpah.

Or maybe just naiveté, of which I think Ms. Smith can certainly be accused.

Whether or not she accepts it, the world is moving on climate change. Achieving consensus will be difficult, but even reluctant joiners such as China and India now understand that the world's economy will be powered, in part, by the changeover from fossil-based fuels to clean technologies.

They accept, too, that their countries are contributing to a carbon dioxide problem and that they're going to need to address it sooner than later or risk facing the wrath of a world with which it hopes to trade.

If nothing else, U.S. President Barack Obama is driving a green agenda and is going to force trading partners such as Canada – and provinces such as Alberta – to play the game according to new, environmentally friendly American rules or risk losing billions in investment opportunities. Polluters need not apply.

So Ms. Smith can score easy points with like-minded and self-interested supporters if she wishes, getting rousing ovations with each skeptical utterance she makes. That's fine, if not a little transparent. But, ultimately, it will be a position that hurts her province far more than it helps it.

To be fair, Ms. Smith isn't saying there isn't something Alberta could be doing to becoming greener – in the event this whole global warming thing turns out to be real. There are practical ways Albertans can reduce energy use and improve energy efficiency, she said this week. Tax incentives could be used to help individuals and businesses improve energy efficiency in their homes.

An idea, perhaps, borrowed from one of the many governments around the world that have been giving green tax breaks for years.

But most of these same governments recognize that sealing windows and doors isn't going to get it done when it comes to reversing the impact of rising greenhouse gases. Then again, if you're not sure there's a problem to begin with, what's the big deal?

Climate-change denial is dangerous, Graham Thomson, Dec 10 2009.

Mankind-caused or not, it is a reality that must be faced

The danger for politicians trying to be all things to all people is they risk end up being nothing to anybody.

Take, for example, the recent policy announcement on climate change by Wildrose Alliance Leader Danielle Smith. It is a statement that dances around every conceivable angle on climate change so that Smith doesn't have to take a position on the issue herself.

You think global warming is real? You may be right, according to Smith.

You think it's man-made? Hmm. You may be right, too.

You think it's not real and the climate is actually cooling? Well, you may be right on that, too.

"There are at least eight positions I have read," says Smith. "Some scientists say that man-made emissions of greenhouse gases are causing global warming and the effects will be catastrophic (1), some say the effects will be moderate (2), some say they will be mild (3), some say it will be beneficial (4).Some say there is nothing we can do about it so we should adapt (5).Some say the cost of trying to do something is too high and we would be better off dealing with pressing environmental issues (6).Some say it is natural, and being caused by solar flaring (7).Some say we have actually entered a period of global cooling that began in 1998 (8). It is quite clear to me the science on this issue is not settled."

Actually, the preponderance of science from credible experts is that climate change is real, that it is caused by humans and it poses a serious threat to millions if not billions of people. That is why 192 countries have sent delegations to the Copenhagen conference to figure out how to deal with the problem, not because they want a two-week vacation in Denmark in December, and not because they are part of a global conspiracy to siphon money from the Alberta oilsands.

For Smith to say there are eight positions on climate change is not just misleading but disingenuous. She is hiding behind a smokescreen that is raised by those who want to delay or avoid taking significant action. Her statement misrepresents the scientific consensus surrounding man-made climate change and elevates discredited arguments about climate cooling to the same level as respected science. Even skeptics who question whether humans are behind global warming at least acknowledge the climate is getting warmer, a fact underlined this week by 160 years worth of temperature records from the U.K.'s Meteorological Office supported by the U.S. National Climatic Data Center and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (NASA is hardly a bastion of climate conspiracists).

"These figures highlight that the world continues to see global temperature rise, most of which is due to increasing emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and clearly shows that the argument that global warming has stopped is flawed," said the Met Office.

These days Smith is trying to position herself and her party as moderate conservatives. However, by disregarding the science of climate change and lumping the global cooling myth into her argument Smith risks painting herself as the most extreme of climate-change deniers.

By comparison, the Alberta government begins to look like Greenpeace. If Smith keeps this up we'll have Environment Minister Rob Renner unfurling banners from the High Level Bridge and hanging from the rafters at Wildrose Alliance conferences.

Smith would do better to follow the lead of Alberta's own climate change experts, such as the University of Calgary's David Keith -- a hard-nosed scientific pragmatist who is as crusty with Greenpeace as he is with climate-change deniers. This week, he wrote an opinion piece for Alberta newspapers on the dangers of climate-change denial to Alberta's economy.

"The culture of climate science denial runs deep in Alberta," writes Keith. "In part, denial arises from a healthy dose of skepticism for multinational entities such as the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change); for overhyped nonsense from the some in the environmental community suggesting that global warming poses an existential threat to humanity; and for overreaching environmental bureaucrats in Europe who imagine that they can impose their solution on the world. But most denial is, I suspect, rooted in the perceived self-interest of a province dominated by oil and gas.

"I share the skepticism of bureaucracy. And I share the self-interest: oil and gas revenues drive this city (Calgary) and, through taxes, pay my salary as a professor.

"If Alberta digs in to defend our oil and gas industry against change to the bitter end, then the landing will be a hard crash. We have a better chance of leaving a healthy economy to our kids if we take the facts as they are and shape our strategy around them, a strategy that gives Alberta the best chance in a carbon-constrained future."

Keith's editorial was not aimed at Danielle Smith specifically, but it nonetheless contains sage advice.

"Leaders do not win battles in business or war by fooling themselves about reality. Ignorance is dangerous, wilful ignorance doubly so."

Marina Silva: fracasso em Copenhague é tão grave quanto o Holocausto, Veja, 17 de Dezembro de 2009.

COPENHAGUE (AFP) - A ex-ministra do Meio Ambiente Marina Silva pediu nesta quinta-feira que os líderes mundiais não saiam de Copenhague sem um compromisso porque um fracasso da reunião será tão grave quanto a escravidão e o Holocausto, segundo declarações feitas à margem da cúpula.

"É preciso impedir que os líderes deixem Copenhague sem o compromisso necessário para salvar nosso planeta", afirmou a ex-ministra.

"Um fracasso ao final da rodada de negociações será tão grave quanto a escravidão ou Holocausto", acrescentou a ecologista e possível candidata à presidência brasileira.

Como a escravidão e o Holocausto, "os perigos da mudança climática são fatos tão graves que não podem ser castigados ou perdoados", insistiu.

"Se formos embora de Copenhague sem acordo, será algo da mesma ordem que esses males, o mal absoluto", concluiu.

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