Shanghai, into a smoggy future.
Airports in China’s showcase city of Shanghai were shut down due
to smog Friday, December-06-13. The city has been suffering from record breaking smog all week. Records were set earlier when air pollution reached ten times that which the World Health Organization deems acceptable. Friday the pollution reached between 23 and 31 times that level. Sales of face masks have skyrocketed.
A combination of still air and increased burning of coal have contributed to Shanghai’s pollution burden. Piled on top of China’s burden of air pollution from industries matters have reached a crisis. Much of the industry in China is fueled by burning coal. There is a gradual acknowledgement that the “great leap forward” has brought some costs with it.“Smog and haze are largely attributed to the current development model,” said Xie Zhenhua, deputy minister of the National Development and Reform Commission. He said companies cared more about output growth and that environmental protection was being ignored Shanghai Daily
The costs of ignoring environmental protection can be enormous. Outdoor activities are discouraged with advice to the elderly and young to remain indoors. Schools have restricted movement of their pupils. The tiny unseen particles pose the biggest health risks as the body takes the toxins in and they are then free to travel throughout the body creating mischief as they go. Those particles are the size of 2.5/1000th of a millimetre. The WHO deems levels above 20 per day as dangerous to health. The readings in Shanghai on Friday were in the range of 466 to 503.
The economic fallout is evident in the cancellation of tourism junkets. The city known for its modern architecture and historic neighbourhoods has had numerous tours cancelled because of the poor visibility. The bad driving
conditions have also led to tour bus operators arriving late to scenic spots or having to switch the travellers to indoor activities. The bid to attract world bankers to the city is in jeopardy.
Social unrest is gathering steam in the PRC as its citizens become aware of the health dangers in breathing bad
The new monetary system known as BitCoin has hit the mobile phone
systems in a big way. The ability of a new app that allows transactions using a cell phone has given the scheme a big boost. The app, called Glyph, enables users to access and pay for items directly from their mobile units. The system is rapidly gaining in popularity, adding 5 000 new users daily. While BitCoin physical tokens exist, the electronic or virtual currency is more popular.
Much of the value of the virtual currency lies in the shared agreement that it has value. China has banned financial institutes from handling the money as it has no intrinsic value. Although debate rages about our modern paper money, there is some backing of it by respective governments.
The following is an excerpt from Bloomberg News that explains some of the idea behind this new phenomenon. Bitcoins emerged in 2008, designed by a programmer or group of programmers going under the name of Satoshi Nakamoto, whose real identity remains unknown. The currency isn’t regulated by any government or central bank. New Bitcoins can only be created by solving complex problems embedded in the currency, keeping total growth limited. Bloomberg.
The rapid spread and acceptance by merchants of this new form of money has legislators moving to regulate it. The BitCoin industry currently may be used by criminals seeking to avoid the tracing of their worldwide activities.
Thefts of BitCoins have also taken place through computers whose security has been compromised.
A brief explanation of the history of Bitcoins can be found on the Wikipedia site
It will be interesting to see if this new payment scheme is the wave of the future or a set of digital new clothes for the emperor.
Everything is connected to everything else.
Monday night’s city council meeting was a raucous affair. The Nanaimo City counsellors faced an auditorium packed with people opposed to their consideration of placing a garbage burner in the area.
Members of environmental protection groups as well as concerned citizens held signs and voiced their approval and disapproval of the events.
The crowd was expecting that the city council would drive a stake into the heart of the burner proposal and tell Metro Vancouver that a garbage burner was not welcome. It was expected that a motion proposed by Councillor George Anderson to do this would pass. What happened was that Anderson was blindsided by most of the council issuing platitudes about “fairness” and “information”. The motion was defeated with only Anderson, Diane Brennan and Ted Greves voting for it. The others on council voted to kick the issue down the road until next year, when it could be too late to stop the juggernaut.
Arguments about delaying decisions in order to ensure the opportunity to gain more information from Wheelabrator Technologies are without merit. City of Nanaimo politicians have had six months to gain needed information. Some spoke publicly about meeting privately with Wheelabrator Technologies
. Not one of those speaking to kick the issue down the street spoke about consulting with recognized environmental experts for neutral, scientifically based information as opposed to information presented by those with a profit motive in mine.
Some of the Councillors spoke about fairness. They wanted to give Wheelabrator representatives the opportunity to speak to the public about their technology. They seem to have forgotten the City of Nanaimo council meeting of November 4, 2013 at which Mr. John Lucas representing Seaspan and Mr. David Garcia representing Urbaser
the parent company of Wheelabrator, spoke at length about the merits of their proposal.
Nanaimo City, located centrally on Vancouver Island is part of a confederation of electoral areas that makes up the Regional District of Nanaimo. The city sends the mayor and six councillors to sit as voting members on the RDN Board. When this issue was dealt with in July and August of this year, rejecting the concept of importing Metro Vancouver’s garbage to burn it in an incinerator, city representatives voted unanimously to reject importing garbage, not once but three times.
If you are concerned with the rising tide of air pollution and environmental degradation, take a moment to tell those counsellors who stood up to the blandishments of Big Garbage that you stand with them. Nanaimo Councillors Voting to Keep Big Garbage Out ·
George Anderson firstname.lastname@example.org ·
Diane Brennan email@example.com ·
Ted Greves firstname.lastname@example.org Nanaimo Mayor and Councillors Voting to Keep Door Open for Big Garbage ·
Mayor John Ruttan email@example.com ·
William Bestwick firstname.lastname@example.org ·
Diana Johnstone Diana.email@example.com ·
Jim Kipp firstname.lastname@example.org ·
Bill McKay email@example.com ·
Fred Pattje firstname.lastname@example.org
Full video of December 2nd meeting
is available. I suggest you look at the time 3:28:36 for some of counsellor Greve's well thought out comments.
Shanghai, a modern city with pollution problems.
Air pollution in Shanghai has reached levels more than ten times what is considered dangerous. The air quality monitors register the highest level on their scale. The most dangerous particles, the very small, are also at the top of current scales. Authorities have urged parents to keep their children indoors and warned the elderly to do the same.
They do not add that it is futile to use an apartment or home as a barrier against the pollution unless it is sealed for all airflow. The invisible poisons seep into living spaces unimpeded. The saving grace is that generally physical activities are curtailed while people remain indoors.
This latest air pollution crisis comes one day after Shanghai hosted 35 000 runners for the 2013 Shanghai International Marathon.
“The sky was pretty bad,” said Bridget O’Donnell, a U.S. citizen living in Shanghai who ran in the race. “It didn’t really affect me during the race but toward the end of the race I started to feel a little sick. After the race and today my lungs are really hurting.” Bloomberg News
Shanghai has become China’s showcase city that seeks to attract foreign business but air pollution problems may thwart that great push forward. The incident of the dead pigs floating in the city’s water supply this spring also damaged its image abroad.
Ref: Shanghai Daily
Bangkok a city in turmoil.
The deep political divide in Thailand has worsened as violence has increased. The Thai people are counting up the casualties as tensions mount in the nation’s capital.
In a very simplified version of the current crisis, the nation is divided between Red Shirts and Yellow Shirts, nicknamed as such by the colour of the T-shirts they wear to proclaim their loyalties. The Red Shirts represent largely the urban working class, agricultural workers and people from the north. The Yellow Shirts largely represent the urban middle class, royalists and people from the south. Three years ago the capital saw widespread violence between the two groups. Eventually elections were held and Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her government were elected.
The current crisis came to a head when the leader of the opposition, Suthep Thaugsuban, resigned his position within the Thai parliament and rallied his supporters to demonstrate to bring about the downfall of the government. He is calling for an un-elected People’s Council to decide the state’s course of action. The Yellow Shirts have occupied government buildings in an effort to bring down the government.
Meanwhile thousands of Red Shirts have occupied a sports stadium and are expecting thousands more that are being bussed into the capital.
Saturday one demonstrator was killed, more required hospitalization as the army refrained from action. Since then tear gas and rubber bullets(that is steel bullets encased in rubber, sometimes deadly) have been fired at the crowds. PM Yingluck has moved to the fortified central police station and the Thai army has been deployed. "If a House dissolution or my resignation can make the demonstrators return all the government offices and end their protests, I'm willing to do it," Ms Yingluck said. Bangkok PostSuthep has announced that no compromise is possible. Meanwhile, the Internal Security Act(ISA) is in effect in Bangkok which gives the military and law enforcement officers extraordinary powers to maintain order.Travel Advisories Issued by Governemts Re: Thailand · Canada – exercise a high degree of caution · Hong Kong – significant threat, adjust travel plans, avoid non-essential travel · UK – aside from warnings of theft, murder and sexual assault, the official UK page refers to the “unpredictable and volatile” political situation. The terrorist situation is mainly in the southern regions, but attacks have occurred within Bangkok. · Australia – advises to exercise a high degree of caution and goes on to point out several areas in the south that they advise citizens to not travel
Politics in Bangkok remain sharply divided.
A person is dead following violence between the Red Shirts and Yellow Shirts in Bangkok. The two large factions came to violence in 2010 when the Red Shirts were calling for the end of the military coup. The elections that followed saw Yingluck Shinawatra, sister of a former prime minister elected as the head of government with a comfortable majority.
Those belonging to the Yellow Shirt faction are calling for an end to the current government and the formation of a “people’s council”. They are gradually occupying many of Bangkok’s government buildings and have made public their goal to turf out Shinawatra’s government by Sunday. Generally the supporters of the Yellow Shirts come from the south, are urban middle-class and supporters of the monarchy.
The Red Shirt currently have a rally/occupation in the local sports stadium. They have gathered to show their support of the government. In order to minimize violence between the two, the Red Shirts have remained largely within the confines of the stadium. The Red Shirts draw their support largely from the working class, farmers and peasants in the north.
Saturday night saw people roughed up on their way to the rally, gunshots fired and possibly grenades thrown. A bus was attacked and people injured. One person is confirmed dead. The Yellow Shirt faction has announced its intention to bring down the government by Sunday.
Meanwhile, in response to the anti-government faction, an estimated 13 000 Red Shirts are converging on the Thai capital to show their support of the Shinawatra government. Each side is vowing only peaceful actions, but the peace has been broken and it is hard to imagine that thousands more demonstrators in the mix will damp down the passions. Some Tweets Re: Bangkok Red Shirts targeted by anti-govt protesters outside University. By @TheLilyfish - @Demotix News http://www.demotix.com/news/3380521/red-shirts-targeted-anti-govt-protesters-outside-university … 2:55am Soldiers being deployed at Government House - RT @poohtnn24: ทหารเข้าประจำการทำเนียบรัฐบาล pic.twitter.com/bxD5fkWrVw #Bangkok don't wear red or yellow shirts and be vigilant when u go to crowded places #foreignstudents #bangkok
This tough old tree is no match for the tiny invader.
Centuries old olive trees in southern Italy are dying. They are being attacked by a tiny killer, a bacterium known as Xyella fastidiosa.
The bacterium is native to the Americas and the olive trees have no natural defense against the microscopic invader. To date at least 8 000 hectares(19 768 acres) have been affected. Some of the trees succumbing are at 500 years old.
The situation is serious enough that the European Union’s European Food Safety Authority(EFSA)
has issued warnings about the importation of the parasite with plants from abroad. Sap sucking insects known as leaf hoppers, spread the killer bacteria as they drill into the olive tree’s circulatory system. The bacteria take up residence in the tree’s veins and block the passage of water and nutrients.
This is the first evidence of Xyella fastidiosa
in Europe and experts do not know how badly the olive groves and other vegetation will be affected. The leaf hopper insects have a wide range of plants that they infest. The EFSA is urging strict attention to keeping the offending bacterium out because there has never been a successful eradication of the pest once it is established out of doors.
The olive oil industry is an important one for southern Italy where 80% of their production is grown. The trees take five to seven years to begin producing and can continue for hundreds of years. A plus for farmers whose land is dry and stony is that the olives can thrive in such conditions.
While for many consumers this will not create a shortage in supply, this will come as another economic blow to Italy. Globalization has hit the olive oil industry and such diverse countries as Australia, China and North Africa are now engaged in growing the trees.
For an excellent recap of the history of the olive in Italy have a look at Made in South Italy
Nothing mythical about the frankenfish.
The AquaBounty Fish Company
, manufacturer of the genetically modified salmon made up of three species of fish has been accused of shirking its environmental responsibilities.
The fish eggs for the super-salmon are prepared in Canada, in the Province of Prince Edward Island. They are then shipped to Panama for hatching and raising the young salmon to market size. The fish have the appearance of Atlantic salmon, but carry genes from the Chinook salmon(a different species) as well as genes from an Ocean Pout.
Both of the latter species have genes that promote rapid growth.
The Canadian government has recently given the go-ahead for the PEI labs to start commercial production of the GM salmon eggs.
The Environmental Advocacy Center in Panama has submitted a complaint about Aqua-Bounty to the Panamanian National Environmental Authority alleging that the biotech company has failed to submit required reports and they also have failed to obtain appropriate waste water discharge permits. This comes as a surprise to those in PEI who have been opposing the commercial manufacture of GM fish.
Sharon Labchuk, of the P.E.I. group “Islanders Say No to Frankenfish”, said she was surprised at the complaint.
“We always assume that because something is as controversial as this is, the proper controls are in place,” said Labchuk. “It’s also very experimental and the risks of anything going wrong are disastrous. They can wipe out the wild salmon population if these fish ever escape and their eggs end up in the wild rivers.” The Guardian
While the GM fish are supposed to be raised inland in self-contained sometimes circumstances thwart the best of plans. N. America is battling the Chinese carp which has escaped from containment during a flood and is now poised to invade the Great Lakes. On the Pacific Coast, Atlantic salmon raised in nets in the ocean have escaped into the wild. Despite being assured that the Atlantic salmon could not breed in the Pacific waters, they have been found making their way upstream during breeding season.
Aside from the danger posed by escaping GM fish, the “salmon farm” is unsustainable. Unlike vegetarian fish, salmon are voracious carnivores. In order to feed the fish and to maintain good growth rates, tonnes of “trash fish” must be harvested to make the high protein fish food. Over-harvesting of non-commercial fish upsets the natural balances in the ocean.
Zeppelins are often used for advertising.
Zeppelins and blimps once used for passenger travel by the rich and famous may be making a comeback. This time around they are expected to be central to the mining industry in Siberia and Northern Canada. The daunting expense of engineering roads into untouched, frigid territory has makers of the lighter than air craft once more in the spotlight.
The financial stakes are high. Bloomberg News
states that the world mining industry is worth $960 billion dollars. Much of the unexploited reserves of valuable resources lie in otherwise inaccessible areas. One gold mining company in Russia’s far north resorted to constructing a fleet of ice breakers to move heavy equipment. In Canada, ice roads constructed after freeze-up move heavy cargo but are temporary and must be abandoned to the muskeg each spring.
Modern lighter than air vehicles use the inert gas helium. While diesel or other inflammables are used to provide propulsion, the modern zeppelins are very safe. Not only safe, they are much cheaper to operate than helicopters and have grown increasingly muscular. One English aircraft manufacturer, Hybrid Air Vehicles
, has machines that are capable of lifting 50 tonnes, can stay airborne for three weeks at a time and land just about anywhere. Aircraft lifting five times as much are already on the drawing boards.
Airships were used for the well-heeled travelling public until the disaster of the Hindenburg in 1937. Public confidence was shaken by the fire and crash which claimed 35 lives. The Hindenburg was lifted by hydrogen gas which is explosive given a spark. Helium was a rare commodity at that time. The US had the technology to extract it from the atmosphere but was using it for military blimps.
The failed state of the Central African Republic(CAR) will get an additional 1000 French peacekeepers in addition to the over 400 French troops already stationed there. The aim is to prevent CAR from descending into total chaos.
The elected president was overthrown in March. Since then rebel groups have been fighting with each other. In addition, they have been accused of human rights violations against the civilian population.
"It's in collapse, and we cannot have a country fall apart like that. There is the violence, massacres and humanitarian chaos that follow a collapse," Le Drian told Europe 1 radio. "It will be a short mission to allow calm and stability to return." CBCThe troops under the flag of the UN are expected to bolster security in the capital city of Bangui as well as the airport there. They are expected join with military from the African Union.CAR is one of a group of troubled African nations that are former European colonies. CAR achieved full independence from France in 1960 but did not achieve elections until 1993. Elections since then have been dogged with accusations of corruption.
The country should be wealthy, with only about 4.5 million people, abundant farm land, rich deposits of valuable minerals, petroleum, diamonds a peaceful nation could enjoy an elevated standard of living. Instead ethnic differences, religious differences and jockeying for power have made the CAR one of the poorest nations on Earth.
Further reading: CIA Handbook