How to talk to a nuclear power enthusiast July 31, 2007Posted by Andreas in Environment, Nuclear Power.
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If you’ve had enough of my anti-nuclear rants, why not read this one by Rebecca Solnit. I really like her closing paragraph:
Sure, you can say nuclear power is somewhat less carbon-intensive than burning fossil fuels for energy; beating your children to death with a club will prevent them from getting hit by a car. Ravaging the Earth by one irreparable means is not a sensible way to prevent it from being destroyed by another. There are alternatives. We should choose them and use them.
Unsustainable Cape Town July 27, 2007Posted by Andreas in Cape Town, Climate change, Environment, Global warming, Society, South Africa, Sustainable Living.
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An edited version of this appeared in last Big Issue. Haven’t bought your own copy yet this month? Don’t tell me you haven’t come across anybody selling them!
The city of Cape Town relies heavily on non-renewable fossil fuels and controversial nuclear power for its transport and energy needs and is highly dependent on limited and seasonally variable water supplies, while literally generating mountains of waste every year.
The area of land that Cape Town requires to supply its resources and to absorb its wastes – its ecological footprint – is nearly equal to the size of the entire Western Cape. The city needs a forest the size of its whole municipal area just to absorb its annual carbon dioxide emissions.
At approximately 4.28 hectares, the average Capetonian’s individual ecological footprint is slightly bigger than the national average of just over 4 hectares, the largest in Africa. Average individual footprints range from more than 10 hectares in countries like the United Arab Emirates and the USA to less than 1 hectare for Namibia and Bangladesh.
Although Cape Town is not nearly as unsustainable as Hong Kong or Singapore, with average individual footprints of 7.1 and 12.4 hectares respectively, we still consume more than twice our “fair Earthshare” – the amount of ecologically productive land available on the planet shared equally between each of its inhabitants.
Ward Churchill fired! July 25, 2007Posted by Andreas in activism, anarchism, News, Politics, rant, Society.
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If you’ve been following the adventurous life of Ward Churchill, it may not come entirely as a surprise that the University of Colorado has finally managed to fire the man who famously called the empire apparachniks who died in the World Trade Centre “little Eichmanns”.
BOULDER, Colo. – The University of Colorado’s governing board on Tuesday fired a professor who likened some Sept. 11 victims to Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann, ending more than two years of academic investigations that provoked a national debate.
Our feet are too big July 24, 2007Posted by Andreas in Cape Town, Climate change, Environment, Global warming, Politics, Society, South Africa, Sustainable Living.
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Here’s the (unedited) story I wrote for the July version of The Big Issue. What do you mean you haven’t bought your own copy yet!? You only have a few days left, so you’d better get out there right now and fork out 12 Rond, 6 of which will go straight to the vendor.
“We’re devouring the life-sustaining resources of the earth as if it were a bag of Doritos”, says US writer Phil Rockstroh. “The size of our denial is as enormous as the body of a Brachiosaurus and our response to the dire situation has been about as adequate as if we were using its walnut-sized brain”.
More and more of the 6.68 billion people who inhabited the planet at the beginning of 2007 are agreeing with Stanton’s assessment. Although global population growth rates have been declining from a peak of 2.19 percent in 1963, our numbers are still growing by 75 million people every year. Long-term future growth is difficult to predict, but most current estimates suggest that by 2050 there will be about 9 billion of us.
Overpopulation is just one of a number of interrelated problems, including global warming, excessive exploitation of scarce and non-renewable resources, deforestation, pollution and soil degradation, which are putting the earth under increasing pressure.
Almost 15 million hectares of tropical forest are being cut down every year and industrialised fishing has reduced the total mass of large fish in the oceans by 90 percent. By 2100, global average temperatures could increase by 2 to 11 degrees and sea levels could rise by 60 centimetres. We can expect disappearing glaciers, severe droughts, epic floods, widespread water and oil shortages, famine, disease and the extinction of a quarter of all plant and land animal species.
Until now, a relative minority, living in the developed world, has been at the forefront of unsustainable living, out-consuming and out-polluting the rest of the world. In the near future, aggressively industrialising and immensely populous developing nations, led by India and China, are set to make similarly damaging contributions and some environmentalists are predicting very dire consequences.
According to Derrick Jensen, a popular US writer and public speaker, “the only sustainable level of technology is the Stone Age”. Jensen and his fellow primitivists believe that humanity took a fatally wrong turn thousands of years ago with the invention of agriculture and that the human population has long exceeded the earth’s “carrying capacity”. According to them, industrial civilisation is inherently unsustainable and will collapse spectacularly sooner rather than later, resulting in a massive population “die-off”.
It’s not only people from the radical fringes of society that envisage such doomsday scenarios. James Howard Kunstler, author of The Long Emergency, who warns of the fact that global oil production is about to reach its maximum, and James Lovelock, originator of the Gaia hypothesis, who believes that global warming is the most pressing issue, talk of millions or even billions of people dying unless drastic measures are taken worldwide.
Richard Embleton, another oil-theorist, agrees that “regardless of what we call it, “die-off” is a distinct and serious possibility”, but believes that the process will take decades or even centuries.
Critics point out that such disastrous predictions have been made before without actually turning into reality. In 1798, Thomas Malthus famously forecast a giant population crash for the middle of the 19th century, and in 1968, Paul R. Ehrlich warned that a worldwide food shortage in the 1970’s would lead to the death of hundreds of millions of people.
Some futurists are somewhat less pessimistic. Thomas Homer-Dixon, who wrote The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity, and the Renewal of Civilization, expects economic, political, social and technological crises and breakdowns, but not necessarily a total collapse. He argues that such crises may in fact provide the impetus for far-reaching change. Michael Wesley, Professor of International Relations at Griffith University in Australia, agrees: “It’s much more likely that environmental problems and resource scarcity will promote a co-operative approach between nation states”.
Clearly, predictions about what may or may not happen in coming years and decades are ultimately flawed. What is equally obvious, however, is that a monumental shift in behaviour and mindset is required from individuals as well as society as a whole.
Potential remedies for our environmental predicament are as varied as the forecasts, ranging from calls for simpler, less resource-intense lifestyles and smaller, more sustainable and self-sufficient communities (for those who can’t quite get their head around a return to the hunter-gather clans of the Palaeolithic era), to energy-saving light bulbs, solar water heaters and ambitious proposals for space mirrors to cool the earth and the colonisation of Mars.
In the opinion of Jared Diamond, the author of Collapse, successful societies practice long-term thinking and are willing and flexible enough to change their values when they no longer serve them. The question is: will we as a civilisation respond positively to the challenge implicit in Diamond’s assessment, or will we (my horribly mixed metaphor notwithstanding) behave like dim-witted dinosaurs, helplessly caught in the headlights of an oncoming global disaster?
Global Overlords July 20, 2007Posted by Andreas in Politics, rant.
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Here are some extracts from a scary article by Nick Turse:
For many years, the U.S. military has been gobbling up large swaths of the planet and huge amounts of just about everything on (or in) it.
In 2003, Forbes magazine revealed that media mogul Ted Turner was America’s top land baron — with a total of 1.8 million acres across the U.S. The nation’s ten largest landowners, Forbes reported, “own 10.6 million acres, or one out of every 217 acres in the country.” Impressive as this total was, the Pentagon puts Turner and the entire pack of mega-landlords to shame with over 29 million acres in U.S. landholdings. Abroad, the Pentagon’s “footprint” is also that of a giant. For example, the Department of Defense controls 20% of the Japanese island of Okinawa and, according to Stars and Stripes, “owns about 25 percent of Guam.” Mere land ownership, however, is just the tip of the iceberg.
In his 2004 book, The Sorrows of Empire, Chalmers Johnson opened the world’s eyes to the size of the Pentagon’s global footprint, noting that the Department of Defense (DoD) was deploying nearly 255,000 military personnel at 725 bases in 38 countries. Since then, the total number of overseas bases has increased to at least 766 and, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service, may actually be as high as 850. Still, even these numbers don’t begin to capture the global sprawl of the organization that unabashedly refers to itself as “one of the world’s largest ‘landlords.’”
The DoD’s “real property portfolio,” according to 2006 figures, consists of a total of 3,731 sites. Over 20% of these sites are located on more than 711,000 acres outside of the U.S. and its territories. Yet even these numbers turn out to be a drastic undercount. For example, while a 2005 Pentagon report listed U.S. military sites from Antigua and Hong Kong to Kenya and Peru, some countries with significant numbers of U.S. bases go entirely unmentioned — Afghanistan and Iraq, for example.
In Iraq, alone, in mid-2005, U.S. forces were deployed at some 106 bases, from the massive Camp Victory, headquarters of the U.S. high command, to small 500-troop outposts in the country’s hinterlands. None of them made the Pentagon’s list. Nor was there any mention of bases in Jordan on that list –or in the 2001-2005 reports either. Yet that nation, as military analyst William Arkin has pointed out, allowed the garrisoning of 5,000 U.S. troops at various bases around the country during the build-up to the war in Iraq. In addition, some 76 nations have given the U.S. military access to airports and airfields — in addition to who knows where else that the Pentagon forgot to acknowledge or considers inappropriate for inclusion in its list.
[...] the Pentagon’s [...] land holdings [extend over] 120,191 square kilometers which [is] almost exactly the size of North Korea (120,538 square kilometers). These holdings are larger than any of the following nations: Liberia, Bulgaria, Guatemala, South Korea, Hungary, Portugal, Jordan, Kuwait, Israel, Denmark, Georgia, or Austria. The 7,518 square kilometers of 20 micro-states — the Vatican, Monaco, Nauru, Tuvalu, San Marino, Liechtenstein, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Maldives, Malta, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, Seychelles, Andorra, Bahrain, Saint Lucia, Singapore, the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati and Tonga — combined pales in comparison to the 9,307 square kilometers of just one military base, White Sands Missile Range.
The Pentagon is now considering — and planning for — future “sea-basing.” No longer just a ship, a fleet, or “prepositioned material” stationed on the world’s oceans, sea-bases will be “a hybrid system-of-systems consisting of concepts of operations, ships, forces, offensive and defensive weapons, aircraft, communications and logistics.” The notion of such bases is increasingly popular within the military due to the fact that they “will help to assure access to areas where U.S. military forces may be denied access to support [land] facilities.” After all, as a report by the Defense Science Board pointed out, “[S]eabases are sovereign [and] not subject to alliance vagaries.” Imagine a future where the people of countries at odds with U.S. policies suddenly find America’s “massive seaborne platforms” floating just outside their territorial waters.
With a real-estate portfolio that includes the earth and the sea, the sky would, quite literally, be the limit for the DoD. According to Noah Shachtman, editor of Wired’s “Danger Room” blog, the “U.S. Air Force Transformation Flight Plan” of 2004 outlined what “analysts call the most detailed picture since the end of the Cold War of the Pentagon’s efforts to turn outer space into a battlefield…. the report makes U.S. dominance of the heavens a top Pentagon priority in the new century.” As the U.S. military’s outer-space policy statement puts it, “Freedom of action in space is as important to the United States as air power and sea power.”
Eat, drink and be… worried! July 18, 2007Posted by Andreas in Cape Town, Climate change, Environment, Global warming, Society, South Africa, Sustainable Living.
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The following was part of a story I wrote for The Big Issue this month. Obviously the numbers are all estimates, but they’re a good indication of what’s happening in reality.
If you haven’t bought The Big Issue yet this month, why not do so on your way home today? Not because you feel obliged to, but because it’s actually a good read and it’s still one of the most progressive publications in the country. Also, half of the price (R6 of R12) goes directly to the vendor who needs it a lot more than you do…
The average citizen of Cape Town consumes about:
● 300 litres of water a day (think two bathtubs every day and over 110 000 Olympic swimming pools for the entire city every year),
● 1.2 kg of food a day (think 2 Big Macs for breakfast, lunch and supper),
● 383 kg of oil a year (think over 5 supertankers for the city every year),
● 130 kg of paper a year (think more than 50 reams of paper every year),
● 200 kg of cement a year (think more than 4 million wheelbarrows for the whole city every year), and
● 75 kg of plastic a year (think 100 plastic teaspoons every day).
The average citizen of Cape Town generates about:
● 900 kg of solid waste a year (think a full plastic shopping bag every day), and
● 180 kg of liquid waste a day (think the weight of your typical sumo wrestler every day).
Averages are misleading, however. The third of the city’s population that falls into the high-income category consumes by far the largest amounts of electricity, water and petrol, while they produce more than half of the residential solid waste that is rapidly filling municipal waste disposal sites.
Over 20% of Cape Town’s annual fresh water budget is consumed by suburban gardens and swimming pools. High-income Capetonians use almost twice as much water as their low-income neighbours and generate more than three times as much solid rubbish every day.
(Sources: M. Swilling and B. Gasson)
So you like nuclear power…?! July 17, 2007Posted by Andreas in Environment, News, Nuclear Power, Sustainable Living.
Here are a few recent news stories to make you think again:
On June 28, a fire broke out at a 1316 MW nuclear reactor called Krummel in Germany as a result of a short-circuit in one of the reactor’s two transformer stations. According to Germany’s federal environment ministry,
“It is apparent that the [reactor's] staff did not act according to the guidelines during the time of the emergency shut-down [...] The emergency shut-down caused a loss of pressure and change in the fill-level of Krummel’s cooling water “which can be the forerunner of severe disturbances or accidents,” the ministry said.
The pilot of a firefighting helicopter tackling a wildfire near Long Lake, Washington state, USA, inadvertently scooped water from a defunct uranium mine tailings pond on 2 July. The helicopter took two bucketloads of water, totalling some 440 gallons (1665 litres), from the pond and dropped it over a large area of land. [...] The tailings pond is believed to have only relatively low levels of radiation. It holds waste from nearly 30 years of uranium ore processing. Most of the ore came from the nearby Midnite Mine, which is now a federal Superfund site undergoing a $152 million cleanup.
An earthquake of 6.8 magnitude struck Japan [on July 16], causing leak of radioactive water [...]. Tokyo Electric Power Co. said radioactive water leaked from its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa power plant in Niigata. About 1.5 liters (0.4 gallons) of water leaked from a container of used fuels, entering into a pipe that flushed it with other water into the ocean, the company said on its Web site.
The UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) has been fined GBP15,000 ($30,400) by Wick Sherrif Court after an employee at the Dounreay nuclear plant breathed in 1.7 mSv of plutonium. Two workers were exposed to the plutonium in the incident while they were loading contaminated lead bricks contained in plastic bags into drums in January 2006. The court heard that the bags had not been marked to identify what they contained and that no risk assessment had been conducted prior to the workers being instructed to pack the bags in drums. The UKAEA also failed to ensure one of the employees was wearing a protective radiation suit during the operation. [...] Dounreay, a former fast reactor research and development centre, was shut in 1994. It is earmarked for a GBP2.9 billion ($5.9 billion) decommissioning by 2033.
[US] government investigators found US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) procedures seriously lacking when they obtained a radioactive materials licence in the name of a bogus company.
The investigation, by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), was carried out on the instructions of the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. It raised the specter of terrorist ambitions to spread radioactive contaminants, possibly by way of explosion.
GAO staffers made two applications for a radioactive materials licence in the name of a company that existed only on paper. [...]
Basic checks on the legitimacy of the company – such as internet searches and checks with state company registries – were not carried out by the NRC, which supplied a licence by mail in four weeks after some liaison. Upon receipt, GAO found that the licence could be altered to allow the company to hold an “unrestricted quantity” of material, rather than the “small amounts” on the original licence.
Then, using the amended licence, GAO staffers agreed with commercial suppliers to buy sealed-source equipment of the kind used in the construction industry. [...]
[...] the equipment under discussion contained over 1.6 Curies (59.2 TBq) of americium-241 in total – an amount the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) consider “could cause permanent injury to a person who handled it, or was in contact with it for some hours.” It could also prove fatal for a person to be in close contact with this amount of unshielded radioactive material for a period of days to weeks, although the IAEA stresses this is unlikely.
In 2003 americium 241 was listed by an NRC/Department of Energy working group among the “materials of greatest concern” with respect to potential terrorist misuse.
Go Organic! July 13, 2007Posted by Andreas in Environment, genetic engineering, Sustainable Living.
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Organic agriculture is a lovely idea, but it’s only for bunny-hugging rich folks with a bad conscience and it certainly won’t feed the world, right!?
In order to keep feeding the planet’s growing population we need industrialised factory farming with high inputs of synthetic fertilisers and pesticides and high-tech genetically engineered crops, right!?
Wrong. In a new study, researchers from the University of Michigan have found that “organic farming can yield up to three times as much food as conventional farming on the same amount of land”.
According to Ivette Perfecto (great name!), a Professor at the university’s School of Natural Resources and Environment and one of the study’s co-authors:
My hope is that we can finally put a nail in the coffin of the idea that you can’t produce enough food through organic agriculture.
Corporate interest in agriculture and the way agriculture research has been conducted in land grant institutions, with a lot of influence by the chemical companies and pesticide companies as well as fertilizer companies—all have been playing an important role in convincing the public that you need to have these inputs to produce food.
They found that “in developed countries, yields were almost equal on organic and conventional farms. In developing countries, food production could double or triple using organic methods.”
Who is who in the environmentalist zoo July 11, 2007Posted by Andreas in Environment, Life, News, Politics, rant, Society, Sustainable Living.
I wrote this (slightly edited) for the last issue of Obrigado (I know, beneath this radical mask I am just another corporate slut):
Gone are the days when the term “environmentalist” was synonymous with Richard Attenborough whispering sweet nothings into his mic while stalking a herd of Thompson’s Gazelle across the plains of the Serengeti. Today everyone with the social conscience of an eight-year can be an environmentalist of some sort. In fact, environmentalism has flourished recently, evolving into a species-rich fauna that provides an ecological niche for every high school debating team leader, politician, marketing guru, taxi driver, Jane Deer and John Doe. If you’re not quite sure where to place yourself on the spectrum of green consciousness, take a leaf from one of these eco-profiles.
The hardcore eco-warrior
You understand that although individual environmentally friendly lifestyle choices are laudable, the underlying problem is the “system” itself. Human evolution took a wrong turn some 5000 years ago with the birth of agriculture and permanent settlements. Your guiding motto is: “The only sustainable level of technology is the stone age”.
You do not equate property destruction with violence, particularly if said property is owned by large oil, biotech, forestry or pharmaceutical corporations. You are wanted in several countries for spiking trees in old-growth forests and torching a few SUV dealerships and the odd ski resort.
You fantasise about blowing up dams and setting rivers free around the world and the imminent crash of civilisation that will follow. You have proudly embraced the descriptor “luddite”.
Your favourite movies are Twelve Monkeys and Fight Club, your favourite books are “The Monkey Wrench Gang” by Edward Abbey, “Ecotopia” by Ernest Callenbach and Derrick Jensen’s “Endgame”.
You survive by dumpster-diving for day-old bagels behind supermarkets and other self-taught hunter-gatherer techniques.
You represent the outer fringes of the radical left wing of the progressive environmental movement, but are one hundred per cent convinced that you are right and will succeed.
The earnest tree-hugger
You know that greedy multi-national corporations in cahoots with the World Bank, Fox News and all manner of corruptible politicians are ruining our environment. You are passionate about grassroots politics and know that a disciplined programme of peaceful protest action and petition writing will eventually convince your democratically elected representatives of their errant ways.
You think that BP re-inventing themselves as “Beyond Petroleum” shows that even the worst environmental villains can be rehabilitated.
Your motto is “People and planet before profit (within the constraints of a free-market economy)”.
You use bio-degradable toothpaste, eat organic strawberries imported from Israel all year round and wear vegan shoes made from petroleum by-products by nine-year old Chinese girls. You believe in the power of crystals and are convinced that individuals can make a difference in this world one baby-step at a time.
Your most sustainable celebrities are Daryl Hannah, Willie Nelson (biodiesel pioneers both), Cameron Diaz and any other movie star who owns a Toyota Prius (as well as a Humvee, a limo, a Lear jet and one or two helicopters). Oh, yes, and Bono, of course.
You are mortified by genetic engineering, nanotechnology and dioxins and you wear a commemorative Greenpeace Vial of Eternal Remembrance and PenitanceTM filled with contaminated Chernobyl soil around your ankle. You dream of life in a self-sufficient off-grid ecovillage with its own egalitarian barter exchange system and have seriously considered home schooling your children.
Your favourite films are Erin Brockovich and An Inconvenient Truth and your favourite film star, politician and environmental idol is Al Gore.
Although you’re somewhat hazy on the details, the ideas of ethical consumerism and carbon trading excite you, because you believe that there is no problem we can’t shop ourselves out of.
You’re an “atmosphere-half-empty-of-carbon-dioxide” kind of person.
You dream of starting your own luxury eco-tourism company that will take green travellers to our planet’s last Edens, as yet unspoilt by civilisation, such as central Antarctica, the deepest jungles of Borneo, the bottom of the Pacific and certain parts of the American mid-west.
You are pro-atomic power because the nuclear industry has created thousands of jobs while producing clean and virtually free electricity for millions of people. The 56 Ukrainians who died at Chernobyl seem an acceptable price to pay for all of that.
BP’s re-branding exercise was a stroke of marketing genius that will surely be reflected in the company’s stock value for decades to come.
Your favourite environmental movie is Happy Feet and the most prominent member of your ranks is George W. Bush (in public).
The eternal denialist
A good and honest look at the available scientific data will convince anyone who is genuinely interested that “global warming” is not actually happening. If it was happening, it wouldn’t be our fault in any case. Worldwide climate changes are natural phenomena that have been happening for millions of years. You have it on good authority that a single, half-decent volcanic eruption produces more greenhouse gases than all of humanity in a century.
“Global warming” is, in fact, an enormous conspiracy perpetrated by pinko-commie lobbyists in Brussels, Al Gore and sell-out oil companies who are trying to improve their public image on the advice of new age image consultants. You believe that green is the new red and fully support a revival of McCarthyism for the 21st century.
If global warming was really happening, there would be nothing we could do about it at this stage anyway. We should burn as much oil and coal as possible before the Chinese and Indians get their hands on them. You would consider it a positive side effect of “climate change” if “global warming” was to flood the world’s low-lying coastal cities like Rio, Amsterdam, New Orleans and Cape Town – godless dens of iniquity that they are.
Your favourite eco-movie is The Great Global Warming Swindle and you are currently reading Bjorn Lomborg’s “The Sceptical Environmentalist”.
The techno-fix planet saviour
You are a scientist, an engineer or at the very least a Popular Mechanics reader and no longer get upset when people call you a “mad professor”.
To you, there is no insurmountable ecological crisis. Humanity is merely faced with the challenge of ascending to the next logical step in its evolutionary development from homo sapiens to homo technologicus.
Your guiding motto is “There is always a new wonder technology in the pipeline that can fix the unforeseen and unpredictable disasters created by the last wonder technology”.
You believe that giant sunlight-reflecting space mirrors and commercial-scale nuclear fusion will become a reality in the next ten to fifteen years, spelling an end to all our current energy and environmental woes.
You know that all human progress, including conquering global warming, is premised on science. All that is required for your monumental ideas to save the world is for governments to throw enough taxpayers’ money at the problem.
Anyone who believes that renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power can ever do the job is an unscientific dirty hippie luddite in need of a serious reality-check.
You don’t have time to go to the movies or read books, but have heard good things about Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy, particularly his detailed depiction of terra-forming technology and space elevators.
Your idea of communing with nature involves magic mushrooms at Vortex in some mielie field in the middle of nowhere and the annual Rich Kid’s Farm Party at your No.1 Bhangra club.
What’s all the fuss about? There are more important things to worry about than a habitable planet. Like whether or not Kimi Raikkonen has got what it takes to win the first post-Schumi F1 championship and whether or not Wentworth Miller has got what it takes to make the transition from TV to the big screen.
Besides, global warming sounds like a good thing to you – you much prefer summer to winter and would consider spending more time in places like London and Berlin if climate change helped with the local weather.
You think Peak Oil is the latest trend in chemical peel treatments.
Your favourite book is Heat magazine and your best environmental programme on the telly is Survivor Panama.
You are comforted by the fact that millions around the globe share your opinions on green issues, including celebrities such as Homer Simpson and George W. Bush (in private).
International Police State July 9, 2007Posted by Andreas in Politics, rant, Society.
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Below are some extracts from a story by Lou Dubose, which appeared in The Washington Spectator (find the full text here).
Fifteen American Soldiers watched over a man, shackled to a seat in the cargo bay of a C-17 Globemaster [...]. Wearing goggles that shut out all light, a soundproof headset and a mask that covered his mouth so he could not speak, spit or bite, the prisoner arrived at Ramstein Air Force Base in Kaiserslautern, Germany, under the tightest security. [...] During the seventeen-hour ride, the prisoner was provided with neither food nor water. Nor was he allowed to stretch his legs or relieve himself.
This was how what had been the world’s greatest democracy when George W. Bush took the presidential oath in 2001 [sic!!] repatriated an innocent man who’d never represented a security threat to the United States. Murat Kurnaz was nineteen when he was taken off a bus in Peshawar, Pakistan. [...]
Kurnaz was twenty-four and had been the last European held at the American prison camp in Cuba when the Globemaster touched down in Kaiserslautern in August 2006. [...]
“He was dumped on German soil like some sort of alien,” said Bernhard Docke, one of Kurnaz’s attorneys [...].
[German-born Kurnaz has written a book:] Fünf Jahre meines Lebens: Ein Bericht aus Guantánamo (Five Years of My Life: A Report from Guantánamo), is a straightforward account of his rendition, torture, detention and interrogation by American forces–torture that continued in Guantánamo.
“In Kandahar,” he said, “they hanged me by my hands.”
“The beatings began as soon as I was turned over to the Americans,” Kurnaz said.
In [a] prison camp in Kandahar, Kurnaz said, he was hoisted on chains and was forced to hang by his hands while he was being interrogated. He was left hanging for “hours and days” after the interrogators left. An American physician in camouflage would come and check his vital signs to determine if he could withstand more enhanced interrogation.
Kurnaz said he was also subjected to waterboarding and electric shock. And that beatings were routine and constant. He theorizes that much of the torture was a result of the failure of the American soldiers and agents to capture any real terrorists in the initial sweeps. (He was told that he was sold to the Americans for $3,000 by Pakistani police, who identified him as a terrorist.) “They didn’t have any big fish. And they thought that by torture they could get one of us to say something. ‘I know Osama’ or something like that. Then they could say they had a big fish.”
Movie rights have been sold in the U.S.