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Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Wishing everyone a Happy and Peaceful 2003...

Many thanks to everyone who has supported me in 2002, either with Earth-Info.Net, The Oxford Earth Summit, Earth Summit Info or the Junior Researcher Club.

I would especially like to thank Oliver, Erica M, Ida B, David, Fiona P, Alex K, Bo B, Nicholas L, Skippy + Norman M.

I'll try to minimise my displacement activities this year and promise to finish my PhD... honest!

Environmental Defense have come up with an interesting idea which could encourage car owners to use their cars less, ease congestion, cut pollution + save on insurance premiums!

It is called Pay-As-You-Drive Insurance.

Under this innovative scheme drivers who use their car less pay less for their insurance.

All that is needed is for an insurance company odometer (which measures the distance a car travels) to be fitted and the driver can then be charged according to their annual mileage.

It is estimated that this sort of financial incentive could cut car-use + congestion by 10-12% + accidents by 17%!

The Texas Department of Insurance is already offering a worked out scheme for it's drivers so hopefully it won't be long before other drivers are able to be rewarded for using their cars as little as possible.

Monday, December 30, 2002

openDemocracy (a site best known for it's thought-provoking opinion pieces) has produced a useful world calendar which outlines many of the key international events coming our way in 2003.

New Zealand's policy.net.nz website offers an incredibly useful service...

The site allows you to compare the policies of different political parties for a wide range of issues + in remarkable detail.

For example, you can find out what each of the major parties are saying they would do with respect to the environment, energy, health, social welfare and the Treaty of Waitangi...

This site is undoubtedly a great democratising tool and just the sort of service every country + informed electorate needs...

The BBC's Alastair Leithead has produced a thoughtful piece on the multiple problems facing famine-afflicted countries in Southern Africa.

In Zambia GM food aid was refused and has subsequently had to be replaced.

In Zimbabwe the economy has collapsed due to misrule (it is also suspected that opposition areas are being denied urgently needed food aid).

In Lesotho the ability of farmers and families to survive a famine has been dramatically weakened by the AIDS epidemic and

In Malawi most the country's food stores were mistakenly sold off following poor, short-term advice from international lenders.

The report ends up concluding that "long term planning - irrigation, development and poverty reduction - are the only ways to prevent this from repeating itself every time the rains fail."

For more details on the needs of the 38 million people in 21 African countries currently facing famine I recommend taking a look at the World Food Programme's country-by-country summary.

Welcome to Earth-Info.Net!

This weblog is committed to highlighting some of the social + environmental problems that exist and the work of those who are working to find solutions that make a positive + practical difference for people and/or the environment.

In it's first couple of months Earth-Info.Net has had almost 1000 visitors from 23 different countries including Cape Verde, Chile, China, Iceland, the USA + Finland!

If you know of a story, issue or organisation that you think deserves to be given greater attention please drop me a line and I will do my best to highlight what is going on in your part of the world...

Best wishes


Dear All,

Just a brief note to let you know that in order to remove unwanted advertising from this site I have just upgraded Earth-Info.Net from the free Blogger service to the ad-free Blog*Spot Plus service.

Before too long I also plan to change this blog's url from the rather long-winded http://earth-info-net.blogspot.com to the slightly more catchy Earth-Info.Net. When the time comes I don't know whether traffic will automatically be redirected from the current http://....blogspot.com address to the new address but if it isn't please try searching for "Earth-Info.Net" on Google.

Saturday, December 28, 2002

As Saddam Hussein retreated from Kuwait in 1991, at the end of the Gulf War, he deployed a scorched earth policy which caused billions of dollars of economic damage, poisoned the environment and left a legacy of ill health.

Concerns are mounting that a cornered Saddam Hussein may use similar tactics if there is another Gulf War...

Louisa Lim has produced an excellent report for the BBC World Service's Analysis programme which summarises the problems the UK faces when dealing with it's domestic waste and outlines many of the practical solutions that have been implemented by other countries... and in some cases within the UK.

Monday, December 23, 2002

Since the The Republic of Ireland started levying a plastic bag tax of 15 cents (9p) on every bag given to shoppers the numbers of disposable bags being thrown away has plummeted...

The success of this tax in reducing waste (by 40% in one year) has led to the British (who use 134 bags each and a total of 8,000,000,000 shopping bags a year), the Australians, Indians and Taiwanese to consider implementing similar measures in order to encourage shoppers to use fewer bags.

With a small plastic bag tax an incentive exists to recycle bags or purchase long-lasting cotton or jute bags which biodegrade when thrown away rather than persist for many years in landfile, block drains or pose a threat to wildlife.

See this Irish site for 10 easy steps to make a difference.

Sunday, December 22, 2002

Migrating whales have been given right of way along Canada's Nova Scotian coast by the International Maritime Organisation after collisions with ships became the primary cause of death for North Atlantic right whales near the Bay of Fundy.

In an interview given to the Sunday Times; John Bird, The Founder of the Big Issue streetpaper, has accused people who give money to the homeless on the streets of being misguided + doing more harm than good.

He was equally challenging of well-intentioned do-gooders when he spoke at the Oxford Earth Summit in April 2002.

Key quotes from his Oxford Earth Summit talk entitled "Self-help and society" (listen to the MP3) included...

* "I was astonished at the lack of opportunity for them to get out of poverty and stand on their own two feet."

* "We are interested in you winning control of your lives rather than relying, like pigeons, on being fed by others."

* "We have to change the way in which we give, we have to change the way in which we connect with society."

While we're on the topic of homelessness you might be interested to have a look at the stats on the back-grounds of homeless people released by the Nashville Metro Health Dept and posted on The Homeless Guy blog (12/12/02).

The introduced plant pathogen Phytophthora cinnamomi has been estimated to directly affect over 2000 of the 9000 native plant species in the Southwest of Western Australia (a global biodiversity hotspot), and is consequently a major land management issue in Western Australia.

The 'Dieback of plants caused by the root-rot pathogen P. cinnamomi' is listed as a 'key threatening process to Australia's native species and ecological communities by the Australian Government.

Unfortunately, Phytophthora is now present in most vegetation types across Australia including heathland, moorlands, dry sclerophyll forest + scrub and is altering the ecological processes + composition of many of these places.

This disease also impacts on tourism (restricting access to areas), forestry (killing plantations), conservation (disturbing natural ecological communities), mining (the movement of soil), potable water supplies (which may transfer soil and the disease), mammals + beekeeping (which may depend on certain plants for food + shelter)...

Sadly this "fungus" can easily enter new areas by dirt adhering to vehicles, items people are carrying or on footwear and then hide undetected in the roots of affected plants until plants start dying!

Consequently, it is almost impossible to know exactly where it already exists in Australia or to try to eliminate it once it reaches an area.

It is therefore much better to attempt to prevent Phytophthora's spread in the first place...

If you found this item of interest why not find out about California's Sudden Oak Death problems and solutions?

Saturday, December 21, 2002

Despite 143 countries wanting cheap generic versions of patented life-saving drugs to be made available in poor countries the US has blocked the implementation of plans agreed in principle at the WTO meeting held in Doha two years ago.

The US + Switzerland, the home of many major pharmaceutical companies, are worried that if patents cannot be protected, companies will not earn enough money to finance research and development of new drugs.

Another major stumbling block is that few poor countries - with the exception of India + Brazil - have the capacity to make their own medicines so negotiations have been bogged down over the question of under what circumstances larger developing countries can export their cheaper medicines to others.

OXFAM have called on rich countries to agree to a meaningful solution that is:

* fair, permanent and permits viable production
* beneficial to all developing countries and covers all diseases
* quick simple and easy to operate
* free from extra WTO obligations on developing countries

Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) also have an Access to Essential Medicines Campaign and say that...

"People caught in the midst of war, famine or major economic crisis - populations in danger - are the hardest hit by "big killer" diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria, and HIV/AIDS. These people have limited or no access to treatments."

At present the... "medications needed are too expensive, no longer manufactured, or insufficient research is being conducted. The reason for this is very simple: poor people cannot afford to pay for the medication they require to stay alive."

It is of note how quickly concerns over patent protection and drug cost could be addressed + resolved when the US wanted cheaper access to the powerful antibiotic Cipro (patented by the German company Bayer) on experiencing it's own "national emergency" in the form of last year's anthrax attack in which 5 people died, 2,400 people were treated following exposure to anthrax and stockpiles for 12 million people were acquired in case they were needed).

As an example of the price difference patent protection results in... Cipro costs $350 a month in the US, while generic equivalents cost $10 a month in India.

For the record... 35 million people are expected to die of TB and 68 million people are expected to die of AIDS over the next 20 years.

Friday, December 20, 2002

After 5 days of talks EU fisheries ministers are thought to have decided to cut fishing quotas for cod, haddock and whiting to 45% of last year's catch + 9 days fishing per month

In October 2002, independent scientists (ICES) recommended the complete closure of the cod fishery and of the "mixed roundfish fisheries which take a large cod component" in order to prevent a collapse of North Sea cod stocks similar to the one experience by Canada 10 years ago.

At the end of the commission's meeting ICES made the following press release:

"We estimate that the spawning stock of cod in the North Sea is now around 38,000 tonnes, which is roughly the same weight as a large car ferry. When you think that this is all there is in the whole of the North Sea this gives an idea as to why we have been so concerned about the state of this stock and also other depleted stocks in the Irish Sea and west of Scotland.

We resorted to recommending complete closure of these fisheries as the only way of giving them an opportunity to recover to their former productive state.

However, we are fully aware of the social and economic impacts of this advice and we understand that compromises are likely to be made in how it is implemented.

Unfortunately, the smaller the reduction in fishing effort, the greater the risk that these stocks will not recover".

International oil, gas, and mining companies pay billions of dollars a year to the governments of many less developed countries that are rich in natural resources, such as Angola and Nigeria.

Few of these countries' citizens benefit from this financial windfall, however, because of government corruption + mismanagement.

The "Publish What You Pay" campaign aims to help citizens hold their governments accountable for how these resource-related funds are managed and distributed.

George Soros and a coalition of more than 40 NGOs (including the Open Society Institute and the campaign's co-sponsor, Global Witness) place the onus on wealthy countries' governments to require transnational extraction companies to publish net taxes, fees, royalties, and other payments made so civil society can more accurately assess the amount of money misappropriated and lobby for full transparency in local government spending.

Thursday, December 19, 2002

I am pleased to announce that Dr. Fiona Proffitt a fellow member of Oxford University's Department of Zoology has agreed to join the Earth-Info.Net team.

Hopefully, Fiona will begin posting items in the next few days.

Welcome on board Fiona!

The Bat Conservation Trust have said it is "immensely exciting" that a male Greater Mouse-Eared bat has been found hibernating in Sussex. This is because the species was declared extinct in the UK in 1990 and has not been seen since.

It is possible that the individual found by the Sussex Bat Group has flown over from Europe or may even be a member of a larger colony which also hibernates somewhere in the UK...

It may interest you that before 1991 the last mammal to go extinct in the UK had been the wolf which disappeared 250 years ago!

Approximately, 80% of domestic waste in the UK is suitable for recycling or composting yet at the moment the UK recycles only 11% of domestic waste!

This compares with more than 50% of waste being recycled in countries like Switzerland and Austria.

In an effort to change the UK's poor performance at reducing + recycling the government has announced that it will be encouraging more local councils to try out rewards for households recycling waste and penalties for those who do nothing.

In a bid to focus minds the government will also be raising the landfill tax paid on waste buried in the ground to £16 per metric ton from 2005-2006 and 400 Members of Parliament have requested that every household in the UK be offered doorstep recycling services.

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Thanks to the work of Edward Jenner - the pioneer of scientific vaccination - the fatal and disfiguring disease smallpox has been eliminated worldwide and is officially only kept in existence by two labarotories, one in the USA and one in Siberia (although France, Iraq + North Korea are also suspected of having stockpiles).

Smallpox used to be a widespread disease responsible for millions of deaths each year. In the UK, smallpox was the most feared and greatest killer of 18th century, killing approximately 10% of the population and even well-known figures such as Elizabeth I, Mozart, George Washington + Abraham Lincoln experienced the terror of catching this dreadful disease.

In order to lessen the risk of dying of smallpox some communities tried scratching scab material from someone with a mild form of smallpox into their skin and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu introduced the practice of innoculating with smallpox into England from Turkey in 1721.

This practice of deliberately giving people smallpox was later called variolation... unfortunately, the identification of a suitable strain of the disease was not a precise science and deaths from variolation were not uncommon!

Although, Edward Jenner carried out variolation in order to protect his patients from smallpox he was intrigued by country-lore which said that people who caught cowpox from their cows could not catch smallpox. This and his own traumatic experience of variolation as a boy led him to investigate whether or not the country-lore had any basis in fact. Cowpox is a mild viral infection of cows that causes a few weeping spots (pocks) on their udders, but little discomfort. Milkmaids occasionally caught cowpox from the cows and although they felt rather off-colour for a few days and developed a small number of pocks, usually on the hand, the disease did not trouble them.

In 1796 a dairymaid, Sarah Nelmes, consulted Jenner about a rash on her hand. He diagnosed cowpox rather than smallpox and Sarah confirmed that one of her cows, a Gloucester cow called Blossom, had recently had cowpox. Edward Jenner realised that this was his opportunity to test the protective properties of cowpox by giving it to someone who had not yet suffered smallpox...

Jenner chose James Phipps, the eight-year old son of his gardener and on 14th May he made a few scratches on one of James' arms and rubbed into them some material from one of the pocks on Sarah's hand. A few days later James became mildly ill with cowpox but was well again a week later. This meant Jenner knew that cowpox could pass from person to person as well as from cow to person.

The next step was to test whether the cowpox would now protect James from smallpox. So on 1st July 1796 Jenner variolated the boy. As Jenner anticipated James did not develop smallpox, either on this occasion or on subsequent ones when his immunity was tested again.

Jenner subsequently developed techniques for taking matter from human cowpox pocks and drying it onto threads of glass so that it could be widely transported and, in Jenner's honour, the technique of introducing material under the skin to produce protection against disease became universally known as vaccination, a word derived from the Latin name for the cow (vacca).

In 1967 the World Health Organization (WHO) launched its campaign to eradicate smallpox worldwide. They estimated at that time that there were still up to 15 million cases of smallpox each year with the biggest problem areas being South America, Africa and the Indian subcontinent. Thanks to a massive international vaccination effort and extensive "mopping-up" operations by 1977 a hospital worker who became ill in Somalia, and survived, was the last person on Earth to catch smallpox by natural transmission.

In 1980 the WHO formally declared that smallpox had successfully been eradicated. It has thus been estimated that the task Jenner started has led to the saving of more human lives than the work of any other person.

Today, the use of the smallpox vaccine continues to be refined in order to tackle the risk posed by stored samples of smallpox should they are ever be obtained by terrorists. President Bush is even due to be vaccinated and millions of smallpox vaccine doses have been bought by the US and UK in case there is ever a terror attack.

The Global Alliance for Vaccine and Immunization (GAVI) are also working to fight preventable diseases such as Yellow Fever, Measles, Polio, Meningococcal Meningitis, Hepatitis B, Diphtheria + Tetanus which are still big killers. In due course it may even be possible to vaccinate against a range of cancers, HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis.

We obviously owe Edward Jenner, Blossom + James Phipps a great deal!

Please see the Edward Jenner Museum's site for more details about Jenner's life, work and impact... amongst other things he was interested in migration (they used to think birds hibernated in river mud), hibernation, balloon flight + fossils!

Monday, December 16, 2002

The Sea Watch Foundation aims to achieve better conservation of whales and dolphins in the seas around Britain and Ireland by involving the public in scientific monitoring of populations and the threats they face, and by the regular production of material to educate, inform and lobby for better environmental protection.

Twenty-eight species of cetaceans have been recorded during the present century in British and Irish territorial waters. This amounts to more than one quarter of the UK mammal fauna.

Keeping a check on the changing fortunes of cetacean populations not only leads to effective protection for these fascinating animals whose interests have been largely neglected until now, but can also provide a warning of potential problems in the marine environment and allow remedial action to be taken.

The Sea Watch website offers a very informative and easy to understand species identification guide, information about regional volunteer groups, a photo gallery and much more...

Friday, December 13, 2002

Every year Shelter helps well over 100,000 homeless + badly housed people across the UK.

Many of these people need help because they are on the streets or have become homeless through family breakdown, violence, poverty or discrimination. Others may be unfairly threatened with eviction, or living in property that is damp, dangerous or overcrowded...

Shelter believes that everyone should be able to live in a decent + secure home that they can afford, within a mixed neighbourhood where people feel safe, can work + fulfil their potential.

If you agree with these goals why not support Shelter this Christmas?

A regular gift can help Shelter provide information support and advice, campaign for changes in the law to protect the vulnerable and help people put homelessness behind them and start a new life.

Many rural areas in the UK have to live without the basic infra-structure services that nearby towns and cities are able to take for granted.

For example, large numbers of rural post-offices, buses, schools and pubs have been closed in recent years.

A more recent concern is that most rural schools and businesses still lack access to the high-speed broadband internet connections they want and need...

It's therefore good to hear that an organisation based in Cumbria called Edenfaster is urging the UK government to be more innovative in it's efforts to aid rural development, education + diversification through the use of the latest wireless technologies + the enthusiasm of local communities.

In the 1970s Iceland was catching about 350,000 tonnes of cod a year, but now it's a little under 200,000...

This story from BBC News Online outlines the difficult choice faced by Europe's cod fisherman and the quota setting authorities between following the latest scientific advice which says that cod and other "white" fish face extinction if quotas are not drastically reduced and the loss of a large proportion of the fishing industry in the north of England, Scotland, France, the Netherlands + Ireland.

As fish numbers have reduced the fishing technology has also improved. This means it is possible that our enhanced ability to locate and catch fish gives us a false sense of security... this false hope and belated reform seem to have already doomed cod stocks in the North Atlantic.

Global Witness' investigations in Angola over the past two years have uncovered that at least US$1 billion per year for the last five years – about a third of state income - appears to have been misappropriated from the state’s coffers.

This money is some three times the value of the international humanitarian aid that currently keeps about 10% of Angola’s citizens alive. These allegations have since been supported by official IMF documents leaked to the BBC.

Monday, December 09, 2002

European Union environment ministers have unanimously agreed to set-up a market to trade pollution permits for carbon dioxide (CO2) a gas believed by many scientists to be the chief human contributor to global warming.

Once approved by the European Parliament, the scheme will cap the amount of CO2 that key industries can produce and will allow companies to buy and sell emission rights within the 15-nation bloc.

The pollution market's aim is to cut greenhouse gas levels as agreed last year under the UN's Kyoto Protocol.

Under the Kyoto agreement, the EU must cut emissions of CO2 and five other gases between 2008 and 2012 to 8% below their 1990 levels...

In 2001 a Royal Commission in the UK urged a 60% cut over the next half century in the UK's emissions of CO2, said that credible scenarios for 2050 can deliver a 60% cut in CO2 emissions, but large changes would be needed both in the energy system and in society and improving domestic consumers' energy efficiency by 20% by 2010, and by a further 20% over the next decade.

The Grameen Bank (the original microcredit bank) has reversed conventional banking practice by removing the need for collateral and created a banking system based on mutual trust, accountability, participation and creativity.

The Grameen Bank provides credit to the poorest of the poor in rural Bangladesh, without any collateral and is a cost effective weapon to fight poverty + one that serves as a catalyst in the over all development of socio-economic conditions for the poor who are frequently excluded from mainstream banking services.

Professor Muhammad Yunus, the founder of the "Grameen Bank" and its Managing Director, reasoned that if financial resources can be made available to the poor people on terms and conditions that are appropriate and reasonable, "these millions of small people with their millions of small pursuits can add up to create the biggest development wonder."

Today, the Grameen Bank has over 2.4 million borrowers (95% of whom are women), 1,175 branches, services in 41,000 villages with more than 60% of all Bangladeshi villages covered.

Grameen Bank's positive impact on its poor and formerly poor borrowers has been documented in many independent studies carried out by external agencies including the World Bank, the International Food Research Policy Institute (IFPRI) and the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS).

Researchers studying the Greenland icesheet have found that this year's surface melt is the greatest in recorded history.

This matters because "Polar sea ice has an important function in moderating the global energy balance."

Sea ice reflects 80% of solar radiation. On the other hand, the open expanses of sea left after intense ice melting reflect only 20% of the incoming solar radiation and absorb the remaining 80%.

This increased absorption of energy then forms a positive feedback loop which leads to further ice melting and warming of the sea...

The World Health Organisation has announced the successful completion of nearly 30 years of work to eliminate river blindness as a public health threat in West Africa.

The Onchocerciasis Control Programme is responsible for the prevention of 600,000 cases of blindness!

As a result of this Programme, thousands of farmers will now be able to reclaim 25 million hectares of fertile river land, which is enough land to feed 17 million people...

The plot of J K Rowling's latest Harry Potter book has been kept heavily under wraps, until now...

A 93 word handwritten 'teaser' by the author will be auctioned at Sotheby's on 12 December with all proceeds going to Book Aid International.

The card gives an insight into the plot of the next Harry Potter book - 'Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix' and has a reserve price of £5,000-£6,000. This glimpse into the future of the young magician includes the words: "Ron... broom... sacked... house-elf... new... teacher... dies... sorry"

Book Aid International's director, Sara Harrity, commented, "We are absolutely delighted by the news - it's a wonderful Christmas present for readers in some of the world's poorest countries. The auction proceeds will allow us to provide around 5,000 books for children and adults around the world."

Saturday, December 07, 2002

A new website for UK students interested in international development called ExperienceDevelopment.Org has been launched.

ExperienceDevelopment.Org is supported by the Intermediate Technology Development Group (ITDG), Institute of Development Studies, Sussex (IDS), Lancaster University (Department of Geography), University College London (Development Planning Unit) and the University of East Anglia (School of Development Studies).

The site offers an vast array of annotated links under the Development Sector and Useful Link headings... of which the searchable NGO links and Research Sources are amongst the most useful.

A valuable and most welcome new resource!

According to a report by UNICEF on unexploded ordnance and mines in Vietnam:

* There are some 3.5 million landmines and 350,000-800,000 tonnes of unexploded ordnance scattered throughout Viet Nam.

* It would cost an estimated US$ 4-15 billion to clear these mines/ordnance.

* Over 38,000 people have been killed by unexploded ordnance/mines since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975.

* At least 64,000 additional people have been injured by unexploded ordinance/mines since the end of the war.

* The Vietnamese government estimates that there are some 2,000 casualties a year related to unexploded ordnance/mines.

Vietnam also has approximately 19,000 street children.

Most of these children experience considerable mental and physical hardship and are vulnerable to gangsters involved in the drugs trade, human trafficking and prostitution.

Terres des Hommes, Education for Development and UNICEF Vietnam are all working to help Vietnam's street children in ways that are appropriate to their individual needs... services these organisations provide range from free housing, food and education to work training and assisted reunions with families.

On a related note... a former Oxford University student Jacci Garside has set up a charity called the Kianh Foundation in order to raise money and awareness and help bring physiotherapy, good nursing care, education and fun to disabled children living in an orphanage in Hoi An, Vietnam.

Of the 1 million disabled people in Vietnam the International Red Cross (IFRC) has estimated that 100,000 disabled Vietnamese children have suffered birth defects as a result of Agent Orange (Dioxin) poisoning experienced by their parents during, and since, the Vietnam War.

Vietnam also has approximately 19,000 street children.

Most of these children experience considerable mental and physical hardship and are vulnerable to gangsters involved in the drugs trade, human trafficking and prostitution.

Terres des Hommes, Education for Development and UNICEF Vietnam are all working to help Vietnam's street children in ways that are appropriate to their individual needs... services these organisations provide range from free housing, food and education to work training and assisted reunions with families.

On a related note... a former Oxford University student Jacci Garside has set up a charity called the Kianh Foundation in order to raise money and awareness and help bring physiotherapy, good nursing care, education and fun to disabled children living in an orphanage in Hoi An, Vietnam.

Of the 1 million disabled people in Vietnam the International Red Cross (IFRC) has estimated that 100,000 disabled Vietnamese children have suffered birth defects as a result of Agent Orange (Dioxin) poisoning experienced by their parents during, and since, the Vietnam War.

Friday, December 06, 2002

The lower house of the parliament in Belgium has voted to phase out nuclear energy by 2025, following months of debate on nuclear safety.

Nuclear energy currently supplies 60% of Belgian electricity needs, making it the country most dependent on nuclear power after France. The Belgian government has said that it will now invest in solar, wind and other renewable energy resources as well as build more gas plants in order to compensate for the loss of nuclear power.

Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden have also announced plans to abandon nuclear energy despite the loss of nuclear energy supplies meaning it will become harder to meet the carbon dioxide emission limits set in the Kyoto Protocol.

For World AIDS Day on 1st December, OneWorld Radio offered its members a variety of programmes around the issue of HIV/AIDS - MTV Staying Alive 2002 clips, UNAIDS Director Peter Piot soundbites and other material and features about AIDS from their members all around the globe.

With 42 million people infected with HIV throughout the world and 3 million deaths in 2002, AIDS remains a serious problem we need to tackle.

The MTV Staying Alive audio clips are available copyright free until 1st of January and you can download songs by Michelle Branch, Missy Elliott, Dave Matthews, P Diddy + Alicia Keys and messages from others such as Nelson Mandela and Bono.

For the full list of clips, why not have a look at the playlist...

Global Witness, an NGO that works to highlight the links between the exploitation of natural resources and human rights abuses - particularly where natural resources such as timber, diamonds and oil are used to fund conflict - have sent in their most recent press releases.

The first release higlights concerns about the conditions agreed between auditing firm Deloitte, Touche, Tohmatsu and the Government of Liberia with regard to an audit of logging and shipping registry revenues demanded by the UN Security Council.

Evidence provided by Global Witness, the International Transport Workers’ Federation and Security Council Panel of Experts document how these industries finance the illicit arms trade and paramilitary militias that are destabilising West Africa. Global Witness therefore urge as much transparency as possible in the terms and conditions that have been agreed by Deloitte Touche with the Government of Liberia.

The second release highlights the dangers faced by community representatives when they come up against economic interests.
With the example of Cambodian community reps being beaten by state security forces while waiting outside the offices of the Department of Forestry and Wildlife (DFW) in order to request a workshop on forestry management.

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

The BBC World Service Trust has established an initiative called I have a right to... in association with the Human Rights Projects Fund of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office

This project has been set up because the continuing violation of human rights around the world means there is an increasing need for individuals to know their own rights and understand issues that affect them directly.

The World Service's I have a right to... project aims to fulfill these needs.

It is designed to assist people to make informed choices about their lives and participate in discussion and debate and consists of radio programmes, produced by 25 language services, international awareness-raising events, debates and an excellent website.

The website offers case studies, radio programmes, reporters stories, briefings on key issues/treaties and numerous useful links.

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

The Stop TB Partnership has warned that tuberculosis rates in some parts of the UK are at 'Third World' levels and said that more resources need to be devoted to detecting and treating sufferers of this re-emerging disease, especially amongst the homeless and refugees.

The London borough of Brent has the highest rate of TB in the capital with over 116 cases per 100,000. These rates compare with 113 per 100,000 in China and 64 per 100,000 in Brazil....

Worldwide more than 23,000 people develop active TB and almost 5,000 die from the disease every day.

A report from the United Nations Population Fund has said that investing in women's health makes countries richer because of a newly-identified "demographic bonus".

The bonus occurs when countries invest in areas like family planning and safe childbirth as well as traditional economic infrastructure.

As women are empowered to make choices, the report argues, fertility rates decline. The proportion of dependent children relative to the productive working population therefore also declines and economic growth follows.

The report also says that while countries like India appear to be heading for a demographic bonus, the poorest 50 states of the world, many in Africa, will require outside help if they are to benefit from the phenomenon. The poorest will not reach the economic take-off point where the bonus kicks in because they do not have the money to invest in women's health even though they know it would be a profitable investment.