Tibetans are risking their lives to defend one of their important holy mountains. Gold miners had moved into the precincts of Drimgye Ngo Sorma sacred mountain to exploit its wealth. The Chinese authorities in charge of the mining have warned the Tibetans to not interfere with the operation.
The Tibetans have responded by burning the tents of the miners and driving them off the mountain. While news from the region is hard to get, Radio Free Asia
through its contacts, has reported that the nomads who live in the area and worship the deity they say resides there will patrol the mountain and keep intruders off.
They do so at a very real risk to their lives. Earlier this month a demonstration by Tibetans protesting another gold mining operation resulted in six people being detained and another killed by the Chinese security forces.
There are proven deposits of chromium, copper and gold in the mountains of Tibet and every expectation that more valuable minerals are also present.
This looks like the dilemma that people around the world are facing as large corporations or governments seek to fill their coffers by exploiting mineral wealth regardless of its effect on the people and environment that sequesters the treasures. The list is a long one of local people exploited for the benefit of a few in faraway places. For instance, much of Canada’s oil sands operation is owned by foreign companies/governments. The people in the far north bear the brunt of the environmental degradation. Profits go overseas. Wars have been fought, and still are, over the control of the Middle East oil pools. Those that lose their lives are often the “little people” while the profits go to the wealthy.
Data coming from NASA has let the world know that the sea ice cover in the Arctic is now at its lowest extent since records have been kept, starting in 1979. Thinning of the ice cover has also occurred and the ice has declined by 40%. The sea ice is now only about 30% of what it was in the 1980s. It is expected that this summer’s decline will continue through September.
The summer melting of the Northern Ice Cap sets up a positive feedback situation in which the melting will accelerate, eventually leaving the Arctic Ocean ice free for part of the year. As the white ice melts to expose the darker ocean, more heat is absorbed. The open ocean also allows waves from storms to break up the thinner ice cover exposing more dark ocean, and so on.
The warmer Arctic Ocean waters are starting to melt the ocean bed permafrost which in turn releases large amounts of methane gas trapped below the surface. Methane gas is a powerful greenhouse gas which is at least 20 times more efficient at trapping Sol’s heat, adding to the positive feedback engine.
What do these changes mean to us?
As the sea ice retreats, people move onto the water. Shipping is venturing farther north each year. Oil and gas exploration are poised to move into the Arctic Ocean where a treasure trove of petroleum is believed to be. The boundaries and control of the sea bed are not agreed to in some areas with overlapping claims of jurisdiction. Added to this, the Chinese government has been making noises that they should be allowed to exploit this resource as well. This opens a now pristine area up to pollution by accidents and leaks which even in the best run companies, happen from time to time.
The warming ocean may help the acceleration of the melting of the Greenland ice sheet which is in the process of melting. If the whole of the miles thick ice sheet should be lost, ocean levels will rise inundating many river deltas and farming areas as well as coastal ports.
Wildlife that depends on ‘hauling out’ on the ice to give birth or to hunt is increasingly under pressure. Polar bears will likely go extinct in this century from loss of their unique habitat. Other marine mammals like walruses and seals also need to have stable ice for their nurseries.
As the air over the Arctic warms, the Jet Stream will likely change. In Canada, the Jet Stream rules the weather, bringing in storms or holding them at bay as it circumnavigates the globe. As more cold, fresh water enters the oceans, the salinity of the ocean will change which may lead to the slowing of the Gulf Stream, that river of warm water that circulated up from the Caribbean to modify weather along the east coast of N. America. The warm Gulf Stream is responsible for modifying the weather is S. England before looping south along the coast of France.
So while many of us have not visited the high Arctic and are not likely to do so, events there will have a direct impact on our lives. The debate about climate change has moved to a new phase. The evidence is in and we are in trouble as a species.
Lance Armstrong couldn’t be defeated by cancer, but he has been wrestled to the ground by the American judicial system. This phenomenal athlete has given up the fight against what he calls a witch hunt.
Lance Armstrong’s statement is on his web page. The following is the opening words of it. AUSTIN, Texas - August 23rd, 2012 - There comes a point in every man's life when he has to say, "Enough is enough." For me, that time is now. I have been dealing with claims that I cheated and had an unfair advantage in winning my seven Tours since 1999. Over the past three years, I have been subjected to a two-year federal criminal investigation followed by Travis Tygart's unconstitutional witch hunt. The toll this has taken on my family, and my work for our foundation and on me leads me to where I am today – finished with this nonsense. Lance Armstrong
The US Anti-doping Agency may decide that they can strip Armstrong of his titles and medals, but they do not have the authority to do so. The Tour de France is subject to international regulations which the US agency thankfully does not have jurisdiction over.
The US Anti-doping Agency has taken Armstrong’s declining to participate in their quasi-judicial inquiry as an admission of guilt.
Armstrong has been subject to many blood and urine tests, both during competitions and during the off seasons. Professional cyclists have to notify the governing body of their whereabouts at all times and are subject to surprise visits by drug testers. Over the years, with numerous needle sticks and urine samples, Armstrong has never failed or ducked a test.
After winning seven Tour de France titles as well as numerous other accolades, Armstong has gone on to raise money for cancer research. This cancer survivor has raised over $500 million to date and is continuing his campaign through his LiveStrong Foundation.
The American judicial and quasi-judicial systems are a wonder of convolution. It has been said that these agencies and boards could convict a hamburger if they set their mind on it. The truth is out there, but it is unlikely to be found by ambitious politicians seeking a greater audience.
Garlic is increasingly popular as a vegetable as more people learn about its great taste.
As I sit in the shade, cleaning my garlic harvest, I think about all the wonderful recipes that call on garlic as an ingredient. I’m not talking about timid little shakes of garlic salt or garlic powder, I’m talking about fresh, well grown garlic, sticky and full of life.
One of the simplest recipes for enjoying fresh garlic is often found as a pricey appetizer in restaurants. To make it costs only pennies.
· One bulb of garlic per person
· Extra virgin olive oil
· Spreadable goat cheese
· Whole grain crackers
· Select garlic bulbs with large cloves. A local farmers’ market is usually a good source. If the stem is still attached, trim it down level with the top of the cloves.
· With a sharp knife, cut the tips of the cloves off and discard.
· Place the bulb into a small dish that will keep it upright in the oven. If you do not have a suitable dish, make a nest for it with aluminum foil.
· Pour about one tablespoon slowly onto the garlic bulb.
· Set oven to 350 F. When oven has reached temperature, place bulbs into oven. Leave for about 30 minutes or until cloves have softened. They will brown.
· Serve with goat cheese spread onto crackers. To access the roasted garlic pick off clove and squeeze onto top of spread goat cheese.
· Even better if served with a robust red wine.
The Senkaku Islands are claimed by both the PRC and Japan. Rich fisheries and the oil and gas resources are at stake.
Twelve cities in China witnessed mass demonstrations today against Japan. The fervor was whipped up as the Japanese including two elected officials made a trip to the Senkaku Islands in move sure to tweak the Chinese Dragon.
Japan had just deported 14 pro-Chinese invaders of the disputed islands in the East China Sea. The Chinese activists were attempting to plant a Chinese flag to show ownership of the archipelago which both countries lay claim to. Taiwan also claims the islands. China claims Taiwan, formerly known as Nationalist China, also Formosa.
The islands have become increasingly important as pressure on fisheries has increased. Oil and gas exploration in the area has led to promising finds as well.
It is extremely unusual for the Chinese authorities to allow mass demonstrations. Often small demonstrations are met with police violence and arrests. Some of the gatherings were estimated in the tens of thousands according to Radio Free Asia
As China has developed into an economic powerhouse, it has developed a large standing army and is moving towards more control of coastal waters. It is currently in dispute with its neighbours on the South China Sea. China claims the whole of the sea, while seven other countries claim parts of it. Fisheries, oil and gas are prizes in the game here.
Sharks around the world are being killed for their fins.
The face of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, Paul Watson, has disappeared after jumping bail in Germany. He was facing charges in Costa Rica and Germany was considering extradition proceedings against him. Japan was also starting to make noises about progressing extradition to face charges in that country.
The issuance of a red notice by Interpol serves to alert member countries that Costa Rica has an arrest warrant out for him. While Watson is a Canadian citizen, he has little support from the Canadian government.
The public has not heard from Watson since late July when he vowed to be front and centre again this fall in the Southern Ocean. There were rumours that he had found sanctuary in Ecuador, but these were unfounded. “The information that Interpol has issued a ‘red’ notice against Mr. Watson on the charges of Costa Rica only means that the police in the member countries shall be aware that Mr. Watson is wanted by Costa Rica. It is up to the police and the judicial authorities within the Interpol member countries whether or not they want to act on this local arrest warrant from Costa Rica.” Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
The incident for which Costa Rica is seeking to arrest Watson revolved around shark finning. Shark finning is not illegal in Costa Rica, but the interchange with the Sea Shepherd group occurred in Guatemalan waters where it is illegal.
If Watson can elude arrest and extradition to Costa Rica, he will not face the judiciary there as the statute of limitations will have run out. The confrontation occurred in 2002.
People are starting to wake up to the damage done to the oceans when the sharks are removed. The brutal and wasteful practice of finning needs to be stopped. Towns and cities around Canada are starting to ban Shark Fin Soup inside their limits. My local city, Nanaimo, has just passed a by-law banning it. While much of the demand for shark fins arises in Asia, N. America has its share of afficianados. Talk to you local politicians to get shark fin soup banned in your community.
Enbridge Pipeline Corporation produced a video of their proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline route. It is still available to interested people on the Enbridge website. Unfortunately for Enbridge’s credibility which has recently taken some hits, the pipeline video is wildly inaccurate.
When their depiction of the pipeline gets to the village of Kitimat it encounters Douglas Channel. This is where international tankers would deliver solvent to dilute the oil sands and also to pick up the oil sands for refining in Asia. One of the aspects of this proposal that sets the environmentalists’ hair on fire is the treachery of this channel. It is full of reefs, shoals and islands. The weather can be some of the worst in the world. Most large shipping stays well offshore to avoid grounding.
Enbridge has apparently solved the safety concerns by depicting a flat, calm ocean and removed the islands, reefs and shoals. In fact, in their promo video, they have removed about 1000 square kilometres of rocky islands.
An environmentalist activist group has taken Enbridge’s video and put the islands back in which shows quite a different picture. I checked, Enbridge’s home page is still using the misleading video. It makes me wonder if they are careless or lying or simply ignoring details.
Enbridge has nice videos about the safety of about 250 tankers transiting Douglas Channel each year. Big, wide passageways and flat calm seas do make for an easy route. Unfortunately, like the story of Cinderella, the video strays from real life situations.
China's economic resurgence is one of the emerging "dragons" of Asia.
Japan arrested 14 Chinese activists who landed on a disputed island in the East China Sea. The island, part of the Senkaku Group also goes by the name of Diaoyu Islands. Both sides claim ownership. Ambassadors have been summoned.
The group out of Hong Kong is known as the Action Committee for Defending Diaoyu Islands. They made a foray into the disputed territory in July of this year when they were assisted by the Taiwan coast guard. They raised a Republic of China flag, but did not plant the flag of Taiwan as they had led their protectors to expect. Today’s foray resulted in their arrest by the Japanese.
This is part of an ongoing dispute between the two nations. Two years ago a fishing trawler was seized by Japanese authorities for fishing in what the Japanese consider their water. Ambassadors were summoned.
This might have comical overtones if the stakes were not so high. There is the obvious advantage in being able to fish in the productive ocean but even greater is the potential for offshore oil and gas reserves. China is in territorial disputes over much of the ocean that it shares with countries as far south as Vietnam and the Philippines. They have gone so far as to establish a military outpost on one of the disputed islands in the South China Sea, confident that their military strength will keep them unchallenged.
Some Americans just south of our international border have opened a Facebook Page
trying to have some shopping time set aside just for them. The small town is an easy drive from Metro Vancouver. Prices for many items are considerably less than they are in Canada, mainly because taxes are quite high in Canada.
At the centre of the ire of the Americans is the Bellingham Costco store. This chain of warehouse type stores has deep discounts on many items. They are located on both sides of the border, but prices are less on the southern side. Gas at the store chain is much cheaper as well. Many people brave the long border crossing lineups to gas up and stock up on groceries at the lower prices.
The Facebook page has had a lively discussion around the issue of overcrowding at the discount retailer.
The city of Bellingham is trying to restrict the growth of big box stores and to revitalize their downtown core and is restricting outlying merchants from expanding their premises.
When the Canadian dollar is strong against the US money, more people tend to border hop for bargains. Currently the Cdn money is on par or slightly ahead of the greenback. After a while someone in one of the small border towns expresses his annoyance of Canadians and their funny coloured money. About 25 years ago Canadians were accused of pushing up the price of cheese in Bellingham. Hostilities peaked with the Americans resorting to name calling. Canadians were labelled “Cheeseheads”.
Like many other spats in a close relationship this too will blow over. Canadians have had a largely peaceful relationship with our southern neighbour for quite some time. We are not going to see a reinactment of the War of 1812. Hostilities in 1844 culminated with most of the border between us set at the 49th parallel
The last war between the countries, known as the Pig War, had one fatality. It was the trespassing pig who invaded a garden one too many times. 1859 saw British and American forces trading insults and the issue was finally settled by international diplomacy.
The Strait of Hormuz. One fifth of the world's oil passes through this narrow channel. It is becoming a flashpoint between Iran and the Arab States.
The US warship USS Porter, a guided missile destroyer and an oil tanker tangled in the entrance to the Strait of Hormuz this morning. The US destroyer was left with a hole in its side about 10 x 10 feet. There are no reported injuries or fatalities. It was able to make its way under power to a port in Dubai.
The Japanese tanker has not reported any oil leaking into the Persian Gulf. The ship, the Otowassan, is registered in Panama.
The narrow Strait of Hormuz is a strategic route for oil to leave the Middle East. Iran has threatened to close the Strait to ship traffic. The US has its 5th Fleet stationed there and is conducting exercises in the area. In what seems like an ongoing tit for tat, the Iranians are threatening action and the US and its allies have been building up the military presence there.
The Strait is a bottleneck and heavy with marine traffic. Collisions are not unusual. Three years ago a US nuclear submarine and a US surface vessel collided and caused millions of dollars damage to the vessels.
The US navy is understandably tight lipped about further details.