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March 2008

Biofuel: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly


In the search for alternatives to oil, biofuels have emerged as a promising answer to wean us off our oil addiction. By some estimates, biofuels could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1.7 billion tons per year, be cost competitive with gasoline and provide a major source of revenue for farmers. However, not all biofuels are created equal and the rapid rush to develop biofuels is beginning to show some dangerous trends. Biofuel material is being grown on protected lands, fuel production is competing with food production, and recent data seems to indicate that almost all biofuels used today in the United States cause more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional fuels when the full emissions costs of producing the biofuel is taken into account.....


Neurosurgeon Says Cell Phones Cause Cancer


    Go to Original

    Mobile Phones "More Dangerous Than Smoking"
      By Geoffrey Lean
      The Independent UK

    Sunday 30 March 2008

Brain expert warns of huge rise in tumours   and calls on industry to take immediate steps to reduce radiation.

    Mobile phones could kill far more people than smoking or asbestos, a study   by an award-winning cancer expert has concluded. He says people should avoid   using them wherever possible and that governments and the mobile phone industry   must take "immediate steps" to reduce exposure to their radiation.

    The study, by Dr Vini Khurana, is the most devastating indictment yet published   of the health risks.

    It draws on growing evidence - exclusively reported in the IoS in October   - that using handsets for 10 years or more can double the risk of brain   cancer. Cancers take at least a decade to develop, invalidating official safety   assurances based on earlier studies which included few, if any, people who had   used the phones for that long.

    Earlier this year, the French government warned against the use of mobile phones,   especially by children. Germany also advises its people to minimise handset   use, and the European Environment Agency has called for exposures to be reduced.

    Professor Khurana - a top neurosurgeon who has received 14 awards over   the past 16 years, has published more than three dozen scientific papers -   reviewed more than 100 studies on the effects of mobile phones. He has put the   results on a brain surgery website, and a paper based on the research is currently   being peer-reviewed for publication in a scientific journal.

    He admits that mobiles can save lives in emergencies, but concludes that "there   is a significant and increasing body of evidence for a link between mobile phone   usage and certain brain tumours". He believes this will be "definitively   proven" in the next decade.

    Noting that malignant brain tumours represent "a life-ending diagnosis",   he adds: "We are currently experiencing a reactively unchecked and dangerous   situation." He fears that "unless the industry and governments take   immediate and decisive steps", the incidence of malignant brain tumours   and associated death rate will be observed to rise globally within a decade   from now, by which time it may be far too late to intervene medically.

    "It is anticipated that this danger has far broader public health ramifications   than asbestos and smoking," says Professor Khurana, who told the IoS his   assessment is partly based on the fact that three billion people now use the   phones worldwide, three times as many as smoke. Smoking kills some five million   worldwide each year, and exposure to asbestos is responsible for as many deaths   in Britain as road accidents.

    Late last week, the Mobile Operators Association dismissed Khurana's study   as "a selective discussion of scientific literature by one individual".   It believes he "does not present a balanced analysis" of the published   science, and "reaches opposite conclusions to the WHO and more than 30   other independent expert scientific reviews".


Nau Clothing: Beautiful, Functional, Sustainable

NAU is the sustainable outdoor clothing brand that donates 5% of the purchase price to a nonprofit organization (customers get to choose where donations go during checkout). It's a win-win: Better the world by bettering your wardrobe.

Company Background
Nau opened its doors in March 2007 under the premise that each piece it creates must be functional, beautiful, and sustainable. Through its Partners for Change program, it's also setting an example for other businesses by donating a portion of its profits to - and raising awareness about - organizations such as Conservation International and Mercy Corps that are working to solve environmental and social issues. You can even follow the program's progress, and your part in it, online. Designwise, Nau's clothes are edgy and multipurpose. Chief Sustainability Officer Jil Zilligen, says "We're urban dwellers who love the outdoors, so we make clothing that keeps us moving between the two." The fall line includes sleek, recycled-poly jackets and sexy, eco-merino dresses, so you can look stylin' for your hike and your coffee date without needing to change in between (just remember your aluminum-free deodorant).

Why Care
Nau purchases renewable energy credits (such as wind) for 100% of its electricity use in stores and HQ, and carbon offsets 100% of employee travel and product transport. The company donates 5% of gross revenue (more than 70 times that of most Fortune 500 companies, which average 0.07% of sales) to charities through its Partners for Change program. Nau worked in partnership with manufacturers to develop 43 all-new eco-fabrics, such as recycled polyester and corn-based cloth. The company shares its sustainable technology (its new fabrics, for example) with competitors, free of charge.Nau is transparent about its practices, publishing a section on its site called Grey Matters where you can read about its eco-initiatives.

Keeping It Real
Nau produces most of its line overseas. It's necessary to stay competitive, says Zilligen, but "it's also very much because that's where the technical expertise exists." A third-party audit ensures that labor requirements are met. Also, its rainproof gear uses a finish that isn't very eco-friendly, so Nau's working hard to find an alternative.


Global Warming: We Can Solve It

Climate change is an urgent issue that requires immediate solutions. That's why I've joined with Al Gore and others across the country and around the world who want to halt global warming. We're are over one million strong and I'm asking you to join us. Please click here today to become part of the solutions to global warming:


If leaders in business and government are going to make stopping climate change a priority, we need to send a loud message that we want action now. That's why I'm asking you to get involved today. Why? Because the world your children inherit literally will not be livable if we don't change how we are polluting with greenhouse gases CO2 and methane. Together, we can stop global warming.

Ahnold Terminates Joe Kidd & Bobby the Kid

In a shootout, Clint Eastwood usually wins. Or at least, that's how it goes in the movies. But it seems Clint  recently got terminated by the Terminator. GET THE SACRAMENTO SCOOP HERE. With no advance notice, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger summarily refused to reappoint Eastwood and the governor's own brother-in-law Bobby Shriver to the California State Park and Recreation Commission. This unexpected action has been read as "payback" by the governor for the refusal of Eastwood and Shriver to vote for the governor's plan to bulldoze a major new freeway through the middle of San Onofre State Beach. The State Coastal Commission, after a hearing in which more than 3,500 persons participated, also rejected that idea: SURFERS AND GREENS SAVE THE BEACH. (From Planning & Conservation League newsletter)

Please Don't Nuke the Garlic


Consuming large amounts of pungent, raw garlic may be good for your heart, but not necessarily your social life. Until recently, researchers and nutritionists assumed that eating uncooked garlic was the best way to obtain the cardiovascular benefits attributed to it-and its close relative, the onion. Both are rich sources of heart-protective compounds called "thiosulfinates." These sulfur compounds, best known for causing eyes to water, are thought to lower blood pressure and break up potentially harmful clusters of platelets in the bloodstream.

To test the effects of cooking on garlic's beneficial compounds, scientists boiled, baked, and microwaved both crushed and uncrushed cloves and evaluated them for their antiplatelet activity. They learned that crushing the garlic helped free up the compounds. And though garlic retained most of its health benefits with light cooking, microwaving practically stripped it of its blood-thinning characteristics.

[From Agricultural Research, March 2008, courtesy of Jake Sigg's Nature News]

City Lawsuit Against Shelter Cove Landlord



Juan Carlos Pometta Betancourt/Special to The Examiner

The only way tenants of Pacifica’s Shelter Cove can currently reach their homes is by traversing a narrow path of dirt steps down a steep cliff ­ a makeshift pathway that has created an imminent landslide risk, the city argues.

Tamara Barak Aparton, The Examiner
2008-03-28 11:00:00.0

PACIFICA - The owner of Shelter Cove, a community of 17 buildings on a beachfront property, has failed to maintain the property and has allegedly created an imminent landslide threat, according to a lawsuit filed by the city. Current conditions of the pedestrian path leading to the community of low-income tenants “pose an immediate threat of serious injury of death” to anyone traversing on the hillside or near the path, according to the lawsuit filed March 19.

Owner Arno Rohloff’s years of favoring the cheapest solution and providing makeshift and temporary access to his tenants over a permanent fix for the active landslide area has made the pedestrian path completely impassable, according to the lawsuit. The rudimentary measures have also put the properties above his land at risk of collapsing down the cliff, according to the lawsuit. Currently, a narrow path of dirt steps sloping down a steep cliff is the only way tenants can reach their homes.

Rohloff’s attorney, Francois Sorba, said his client has a permit pending with the city to construct a bridge-like path that will allow people to easily access their homes. He denied that Rohloff has been neglectful of Shelter Cove. “Mr. Rohloff has spent a lot of money dealing with his property and trying to comply with what the city has wanted,” Sorba said.

The battle between Rohloff and the city has been going on for years, said attorney Kimon Manolius, who is representing the city. However, storms that hit the area in January and February have transformed the problem into an emergency, he said. “The city is concerned about a pedestrian path going across an active landslide. They’re concerned someone is going to get hurt,” Manolius said.

City officials are seeking an order declaring Shelter Cove a public nuisance as well as a restraining order preventing Rohloff from employing any more makeshift measures that might worsen the landslide. They are also seeking an order that will require work on the landslide area to be approved and monitored by a state-licensed certified engineering geologist and geotechnical engineer. Officials also want danger signs to be posted.

The tiny neighborhood used to be a popular day stop for San Franciscans, but a 1960 storm washed out the access road, leaving it accessible only by foot or boat. Public access by footpath was closed in 1975, though there have been efforts since to make the beach open to the public.

Greener Cleaners and Fresheners


Uh Oh: Biofuel Dirtier Than Fossil Fuel?

Biofuels Switch a Mistake, Say Researchers 
    By Tristan Farrow 
    The Guardian UK

    Friday 17 August 2007

    Increasing production of biofuels to combat climate change will release between two and nine times more carbon gases over the next 30 years than fossil fuels, according to the first comprehensive analysis of emissions from biofuels.

    Biofuels - petrol and diesel extracted from plants - are presented as an environmentally friendly alternative to fossil fuels because the crops absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as they grow.

    The study warns that forests must not be cleared to make way for biofuel crops. Clearing forests produces an immediate release of carbon gases into the atmosphere, accompanied by a loss of habitats, wildlife and livelihoods, the researchers said.

    Britain is committed to substituting 10% of its transport fuel with biofuels under Europewide plans to slash carbon emissions by 2020.

    "Biofuel policy is rushing ahead without understanding the implications," said Renton Righelato of the World Land Trust, a conservation charity. "It is a mistake in climate change terms to use biofuels."

    Dr Righelato's study, with Dominick Spracklen from the University of Leeds, is the first to calculate the impact of biofuel carbon emissions across the whole cycle of planting, extraction and conversion into fuel. They report in the journal Science that between two and nine times more carbon emissions are avoided by trapping carbon in trees and forest soil than by replacing fossil fuels with biofuels.

    Around 40% of Europe's agricultural land would be needed to grow biofuel crops to meet the 10% fossil fuel substitution target. That demand on arable land cannot be met in the EU or the US, say the scientists, so is likely to shift the burden on land in developing countries.

    The National Farmers Union said 20% of Britain's agricultural land could be used to grow biofuels by 2010. However, the researchers say reforesting the land would be a better way to reduce emissions.

    Biofuels look good in climate change terms from a Western perspective, said Dr Spracklen, but globally they actually lead to higher carbon emissions. "Brazil, Paraguay, Indonesia among others have huge deforestation programmes to supply the world biofuel market", he said.

    The researchers say the emphasis should be placed on increasing the efficiency of fossil fuel use and moving to carbon-free alternatives such as renewable energy.


Air Force Dumps Dirty Water in Half Moon Bay

In October of 2004, a California agency chided Vandenberg Air Force Base — which has an installation on Pillar Point — for discharging dirty storm water into the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, recently released documents show. The water reaches the reserve via a system of man-made trenches and gutters on Pillar Point that empty out onto the beach.

Following at least two studies conducted on the matter, Air Force officials are now proposing to solve the problem by redirecting the water — tainted with high levels of nitrogen, copper, zinc and fecal coliform into Pillar Point Harbor.

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