[Mb-civic] NY Times: Congress Slouches Toward Home + amazing environews

ean at sbcglobal.net ean at sbcglobal.net
Fri Sep 24 20:42:20 PDT 2004

----- Congress Slouches Toward Home
The New York Times | Editorial 
Friday 24 September 2004
The Republican-controlled Congress is shambling to the end of one of the 
lightest workloads in decades without a hint of embarrassment, concentrating 
on the defense of the flag, tax cuts and marriage while failing at the most 
demanding obligations of government.
When the lawmakers get back home, voters should ask them how they 
could quit their posts while leaving a dozen basic spending bills in next year's 
budget unfinished - hung up once more in back-room feuds about pork and 
logrolling. The assault weapons ban was allowed to lapse to appease the gun 
lobby. A simple $5 billion corporate-tax plan to satisfy a violation of tariff laws 
remains mired in a $150 billion pork fest, while American products suffer 
retaliatory sanctions in the billions. As for fully financing and enforcing the No 
Child Left Behind Act, voters have to settle for lawmakers' posing tenderly 
with schoolchildren.
Equally disturbing is how our elected representatives have been spending 
their time.
Eager to help the middle class, a goal no one can argue with, they threw 
moderation to the winds this week on a $145 billion extension of existing tax 
cuts benefiting families. They hoped voters would not notice that they had not 
bothered to find budget savings to offset the costs of this program, and that 
these tax cuts will spawn a borrowing binge by the government from banks 
around the world. The loans will come due for America's children and 
grandchildren, whose earnings may just as well be stamped "Payable to the 
Bank of China." Republican leaders did find the fiscal constraint to brush 
aside proposals to extend minimal credits for millions of children in working-
poor families, only to add a $13 billion dollop of tax boons to corporations.
The House began its work on the decades-delayed reform of the American 
intelligence agencies by announcing that its kudzu patch of competing 
committees, one of the central points of criticism by the 9/11 commission, 
was too sacred to touch. Beyond that, House Republican leaders' most 
enthusiastic response to the call for reform seemed to be in trying to tack on 
a Patriot Act postscript that would grant law enforcement even more powers 
that could curtail civil liberties.
Republican leaders have also been chipping away at the Constitution by 
proposing to deny judges jurisdiction to review selected acts of Congress. 
The House passed a measure yesterday retaining the Pledge of Allegiance's 
"under God" phrase and prohibiting any federal court - including, 
outrageously, the Supreme Court - from judging the law's constitutionality.
In essence, the House proposed to protect a patriotic ritual by trashing the 
constitutional system it celebrates. This measure was spurred by discontent 
over a 2002 federal appeals court ruling that invalidated the recitation at 
public schools of the pledge with the "under God" phrase in it, and the 
Supreme Court's recent choice to dismiss the case on technical grounds 
rather than addressing the merits. It echoed the mean-spirited and 
unconstitutional Marriage Protection Act, which the House approved in July to 
bar federal courts from reviewing the legal definition of marriage.
The other day, Congressional Republicans celebrated the 10th anniversary 
of their ascendancy to power with the Contract With America, somehow 
failing to mention that their fervid conversion to unchecked deficits was not 
exactly part of that contract. Once upon a time, gridlock was considered the 
ultimate problem with Congress. That looks better than what we're getting 
right now.

>From the Daily Grist:  http://www.grist.org

China establishes its first-ever fuel-efficiency standards for cars

Attempting to combat its growing dependence on oil imports, China is set
to establish fuel-efficiency standards for cars, SUVs, and vans for the
first time.  The standards are identical to those in a draft circulated
last November, about which the auto industry strenuously complained,
claiming they were too strict.  One thing about a communist dictatorship,
though -- it's not particularly responsive to criticism.  So the industry
is more or less resigned to meeting the standards; Volkswagen, which
dominates the Chinese car market, even went so far as to say that it
"views China's new gas-mileage policy as a positive step towards modern
fuel economy and addressing the ecological impact of its rapidly growing
car population and economy." The standards are set to go into effect in
two phases.  In the first phase, the SUV and minivan standards will be
more strict than those in the U.S.; in the second phase, set to start in
2008, the standards will be, well, way more strict than those in the U.S.

straight to the source:  The New York Times, Keith Bradsher, 23 Sep 2004

Honda's new hybrid Accord takes aim at Toyota

Toyota has thus far dominated the market for gas-electric hybrid 
vehicles, with its so-hot-Cameron-Diaz-has-one Prius outselling 
Honda's diminutive Civic Hybrid by an almost two-to-one margin in the U.S.
this year (and let's not even mention Honda's Insight -- you ever seen
one?).  Now Honda is fighting back by offering a hybrid version of one of
America's most popular cars, the Accord sedan -- and by making the hybrid
version more powerful than its conventional cousin.  Set to reach
showrooms in December, the new Accord will be the first hybrid with a
six-cylinder engine, boasting a 0-60 mph time of 7.5 seconds.  Honda sells
almost 400,000 Accords annually, and while it won't predict sales figures
for the hybrid, "we think our strategy of making hybrids just another
choice in a model line is the right one," said Honda's Robert Bienenfeld. 
Toyota isn't shrinking from the fight, though; it plans to start building
and selling the Prius in China, a booming car market in dire need of
pollution control.

straight to the source:  Los Angeles Times, John O'Dell, 17 Sep 2004

straight to the source:  Planet Ark, Reuters, Chang-Ran Kim and Edwin
Chan, 17 Sep 2004

After protests, Newmont scales back operations at Peru mine

Newmont Mining Corp., the world's leading producer of gold, is facing yet
another public-relations setback.  Poor dears.  Just last week, the
company -- which has been accused of environmental degradation on four
continents -- suffered an unflattering profile of their Indonesian
operations in The New York Times.  Now they've been forced to temporarily
halt some operations at their Yanacocha gold mine in Peru, after two weeks
of protests, roadblocks, scattered violence, and denunciations by local
politicians. Turns out the locals didn't appreciate it when Newmont
started digging for gold on Cerro Quilish, a mountain they consider sacred
-- and an important source of water, no trivial matter in a country
enduring a three-year drought. Newmont said short-term production will
continue, as workers extract gold from the ore in leach ponds.  The stakes
are high:  The mine was projected to produce 21 percent of Newmont's gold
this year, and last year produced an estimated $527 million in profits. 
Per usual, the company denied the locals' charges and dismissed their

straight to the source:  The Denver Post, Ross Wehner, 16 Sep 2004

straight to the source: San Francisco Chronicle, P. Solomon Banda, 15 Sep
2004 <http://www.grist.org/cgi-bin/forward.pl?forward_id=3092>

ExxonMobil wants restrictions on oil exploration -- all of them -- removed

Yesterday, we found out what happens when ExxonMobil chief executive Lee
Raymond stops being polite and starts getting real.  "The future need for
petroleum energy will be such that restrictions, in whatever form and
wherever imposed, will jeopardize access to adequate energy supplies to
world consumers," he said.  Well now!  While the message, delivered at the
OPEC International Seminar in Vienna, was primarily directed at those OPEC
countries with state-run oil monopolies, the implication for countries
like the U.S. -- where "restrictions" means environmental protections --
was unmistakable.  Continuing his bout of frankness, Raymond added that
the call for energy independence, playing such a large role in the current
U.S. presidential campaign, is just another impediment to supplies: 
"Energy independence was a flawed concept [during the Nixon
administration] and it is a flawed concept now."  In other news, Texas
fined ExxonMobil some $150,000 this week for, among other things, failing
to limit refinery emissions.  Texas, what's with the restrictions?  Didn't
you get the memo?

straight to the source:  Planet Ark, Reuters, 17 Sep 2004

straight to the source:  Planet Ark, Reuters, 17 Sep 2004

Arctic tundra may produce rather than absorb CO2, accelerating warming

It's not often that drama emerges from the Arctic tundra, but there 
seems to be genuine excitement around revelations from a 20-year 
study just completed and published in the journal Nature. 
Researchers have long assumed that Arctic tundra would be a carbon 
dioxide "sink," absorbing CO2 and slowing -- at least slightly -- the
global-warming trend.  Well, turns out not so much:  According to the
study, warming might cause accelerated decomposition of the lower levels
of the tundra, releasing far more CO2 than subsequent growth will absorb
and establishing a "positive feedback" that accelerates warming -- and,
incidentally, could foul up Canada's attempt to meet its Kyoto targets. 
In other news from chilly-but-not-as-chilly-as-they-used-to-be spots,
scientists have found that the collapse of the Antarctic's Larsen B ice
shelf two years ago has drastically accelerated the collapse of
surrounding glaciers into the sea -- a grim harbinger of things to come in
a region particularly hard-hit by global warming.

straight to the source:  Toronto Star, Peter Calamai, 23 Sep 2004

straight to the source:  BBC News, 22 Sep 2004

You are currently on Mha Atma's Earth Action Network email list, option D 
(up to 3 emails/day).  To be removed, or to switch options (option A - 
1x/week, option B - 3/wk, option C - up to 1x/day, option D - up to 3x/day) 
please reply and let us know!  If someone forwarded you this email and you 
want to be on our list, send an email to ean at sbcglobal.net and tell us which 
option you'd like.

Action is the antidote to despair.  ----Joan Baez
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: http://www.islandlists.com/pipermail/mb-civic/attachments/20040924/af8e89e6/attachment.htm

More information about the Mb-civic mailing list