Human Rights

Ship Breakers And Ship Takers


Many of us familiar with Newcastle and Sunderland have heard of ship makers and takers before. But I've been waiting many months for a chance to post about activities we almost never see in the news - ship breakers and repossessors.

Over at Slate.com, Jacob Baynham briefly describes a part of the world we never see - the ship breaking scrapyards of Bangladesh and India (one is pictured above).

And then there's Max Hardberger, a former freighter captain who now works as an independent vessel repo man and recovery agent in some of the most dangerous places in the world.  

LA Times: He's His Own Port Authority (.pdf file)

Now if I only had time, maybe I could pen a screenplay that somehow combines these two extraordinary stories.  Maybe a ship recovery agent hired to go to a third world scrapyard to recover a stashed whatzit/muggufin.  But of course his actions attract the attention of criminal organizations and spy agencies. Cat and mouse on the high seas and on multiple continents ensues.

We're Back, Busier, and Behind.

Cadillac grills Cadillac mills...

Happy New Year! Mister Sterling has found a job selling rocks and minerals in a smokey cold store basement. We're going to do our best to keep this blog rolling in 2009. But the frequency of postings will slow down for the time being. So what is there to report today? Let's start with -

A faint hope for justice. I was 16 and at a jesuit high school when this massacre happened. It is good to see Spain continue to lead the world in pursuing justice for human rights.

Goodbye, Queens native, Patrick McGoohan.

Goodbye, great Mexican actor, king of Corinthian leather, Ricardo Montalban.

The House of Lehman will never go back in business, but Bryan Marsal has ambitious plans to limit the time the firm remains in Chapter 11 to 2-3 years, tops. Artwork is being sold and revenues are still coming in. Lehman's debts will be paid one way or another. I just wish we former employees could be included among those who are collecting.

Barry's car in Chicago is a Ford Escape Hybrid. But this is Barry's new Presidential Cadillac DTS. No pimping required.

And, uh, holy crap! Only in New York?

Freedom Officially Dead In Zimbabwe


Freedom and democracy were endangered for years. But a wave of terror, intimidation, rape, and murder have officially shut-down the opposition party, and have made Robert Mugabe stronger than ever. And Mugabe has essentially vowed not to relinquish power until he dies. Claiming that the MDC, the opposing party, is not patriotic and panders to British interests, the 84 year-old Mugabe said this:

Only God, who appointed me, will remove me. Not the MDC, not the British. We will never allow an event like an election [to] reverse our independence....

Mugabe's challenger, Morgan Tsvangirai, and the MDC won more votes by narrow margin in parliamentary elections in March, but fell short of earning 50% of the popular vote required to avoid a runoff. The runoff was scheduled for June 27th. But today Tsvangirai and the MDC stood down amidst intimidation, beatings, and killings by pro-Mugabe gangs. As is frequently the case in dictatorships, Mugabe explained that the months of escalated violence has been committed by the MDC, not by his party or supporters.

Time for a disclaimer as well. I don't think there are any liberal bloggers who defend Mugabe. I say this because I know that Mugabe was once a victim of a white apartheid government when his country was known as Southern Rhodesia. Surely a man who survived white imprisonment and helped lead his nation to independence could be admired 30 years ago. He is also a vocal adversary of the UK and the US - two governments we liberals are always happy to criticize. But by no means does that make him someone to admire.

Since 1980, Mugabe has become quite a monster. And yes, some right-wing blogs, such as Instaputz, have frequently attacked Mugabe. But in this case, the enemy of our enemy is still our enemy.

Same applies to Hugo Chavez. On one hand, he is proving that second-world, resource-rich countries, can compete with the USA in the same hemisphere (like Brazil). Venezuela is a viable, alternative economic partner to African and Asian countries that don't like the USA's prices. But on the other hand, Chavez is still a power-hungry, irrational, democracy-smothering son of a bitch.

And Mugabe is becoming a murderous, dangerous, son of a bitch. His actions threaten not only his country, but to a lesser extent, he threatens the already-fragile prosperity and democracy in Africa as a whole.

Public Health Crisis Roundup


Gloucester, MA: Alleged teen pregnancy 'pact' quadruples the normal number of pregnancies at Gloucester High School. It's a localized public health anomaly that will be sensationalized by the media, and studied by scholars for years.

Japan: The number of domestic suicides topped 33,000 in 2007, the second-highest recorded number since the nation began compiling them. The article correctly points out that Japan does not have the highest suicide rate in the G8. That would be Russia. But as Parag Khanna and others point out, Russia cannot be considered a part of the elite industrialized world, given its shrinking population and increasingly vast, sparsely populated regions. Russia is too big, too corrupt, and is losing too many smart people. But that's another post for another time.

Me Loves The French




I have never been to France. But I have heard time and again an interesting, little-understood fact. While it is true that the French tend to be snobs, somewhat condescending, and have a bit of an attitude problem, they are wonderful people compared to a minority group found in their major cities. That group is Chinese nationals, or to be more specific, Chinese businesspeople, or, as the Chinese government calls them, "Patriotic Capitalists."

We should re-familiarize ourselves with the Chinese flag. The big yellow star represents the communist state. The four smaller stars represent peasants (farmers), laborers (manufacturing workers), petty bourgeoisie, and "Patriotic Capitalists." It is the Patriotic Capitalists who have the privilege to do business overseas, representing their state and their businesses all over the world. One place they have found opportunity and prosperity is France. And without getting into a long post solely about them, I have been told time and again that Chinese businesspeople in France are monsters. They might be rudest, nastiest, least likable people found in all of Western Europe. Taking over the VIP section of clubs and ordering Cristal is expected when you are wealthy and have a healthy ego. I hear these people make Kanye West look like a quiet college professor.

So keep an eye out for stories about them. If what I hear is true, then the Wingnuts have gotten it all wrong. The monsters in France are not Muslim youths in housing projects. They are these Chinese millionaires shitting on and in Paris, Lyon, and Nice.

The French have demonstrated their dislike of this small minority, which I applaud. And today, I have an even bigger reason to applaud the French. Today, they clearly showed their dislike of the Chinese communist state. They snuffed-out the Olympic torch. Actually, they force the officials protecting the torch to extinguish the flame 3 times. Note that they did not extinguish the Olympic flame, which is enclosed in a protective, transparent lantern. But still, this moght be the first time than an anti-Olympic protest snuffed-out an Olympic torch. The Parisians did what the British protesters yesterday could not (they deserve kudos nevertheless):

And as of 14:00 New York time, Reuters and UPI report that the 17-mile Paris torch relay was aborted before it reached its end point. It had been nearly 3 hours behind schedule due to the protests.

This Never Happens To American Citizens...

...except when it does.

Immigration Officials Detaining, Departing American Citizens

So scary. It could happen to anyone born in the USA. If Real ID is implemented nationwide, just how difficult would it be to reverse identity theft? Or what if a natural disaster destroyed your original birth certificate? Or what if your hometown city hall simply 'lost' your certificate someday. To quote Donald Rumsfeld, stuff happens!

Jose Padilla Sentenced To 17 Years


He was originally accused of plotting to detonate a dirty bomb. The president declared him an 'enemy combatant' in June 2002 with a stroke of a pen. He was held without access to a lawyer for over 2 years. And in the end, he was never charged with anything related to a dirty bomb.

But he is off to a federal prison, for agreeing to be part of some jihadist terrorist conspiracy.

Yes, Jose Padilla was sentenced today for what could be called a 'thought crime'.

He allegedly agreed to help alleged terrorists to kidnap and/or murder civilians of an unnamed foreign nation.

The US Attorney wanted him sentenced to life in prison. Federal Court Judge Marcia Cooke, a Jeb Bush and George W. Bush appointee, felt she did the right thing by sentencing Mr. Padilla to 17 years and 4 months in her Miami courtroom.

17 years. For a thought crime. No physical evidence other than an application form that Mr. Padilla filled-out to attend an alleged Al Qaeda training camp (strange but true). No opportunity to see any of the 78 interrogation videotapes at trial. No justice.

Lewis Koch reviews how Citizen Padilla was stripped of all constitutional rights, confined, tortured, and ultimately sentenced to solitary confinement.

I don't recognize the USA anymore. It has always been rife with injustice, but never as scary as this. Supporters of this new, evil empire claim that the terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001 'changed everything.' They are correct. This new kind of injustice is the change they brought. Those who attacked us have virtually won.


Padilla Receives 17-Year Sentence

MIAMI (AP) -- Jose Padilla, once accused of plotting with al-Qaida to blow up a radioactive ''dirty bomb,'' was sentenced Tuesday to 17 years and four months on terrorism conspiracy charges that don't mention those initial allegations.

The sentence imposed by U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke marks another step in the extraordinary personal and legal odyssey for the 37-year-old Muslim convert, a U.S. citizen who was held for 3 1/2 years as an enemy combatant after his 2002 arrest amid the ''dirty bomb'' allegations.

Prosecutors had sought a life sentence, but Cook said she arrived at the 17-year sentence after considering the ''harsh conditions'' during Padilla's lengthy military detention at a Navy brig in South Carolina.

''I do find that the conditions were so harsh for Mr. Padilla ... they warrant consideration in the sentencing in this case,'' the judge said. However, he did not get credit for time served.

Padilla's lawyers claimed his treatment amounted to torture, which U.S. officials have repeatedly denied. His attorneys say he was forced to stand in painful stress positions, given LSD or other drugs as ''truth serum,'' deprived of sleep and even a mattress for extended periods and subjected to loud noises, extreme heat and cold and noxious odors.

Cooke also imposed prison terms on two other men of Middle Eastern origin who were convicted of conspiracy and material support charges along with Padilla in August. The three were part of a North American support cell for al-Qaida and other Islamic extremists around the world, prosecutors said.

The jury was told that Padilla was recruited by Islamic extremists in the U.S. and filled out an application to attend an al-Qaida training camp in Afghanistan.

Cooke said that as serious as the conspiracy was, there was no evidence linking the men to specific acts of terrorism anywhere.

''There is no evidence that these defendants personally maimed, kidnapped or killed anyone in the United States or elsewhere,'' she said.

Padilla was added in 2005 to an existing Miami terrorism support case just as the U.S. Supreme Court was considering his challenge to President Bush's decision to hold him in custody indefinitely without charge. The ''dirty bomb'' charges were quietly discarded and were never part of the criminal case.

Cooke sentenced Padilla's recruiter, 45-year-old Adham Amin Hassoun, to 15 years and eight months in prison and the third defendant, 46-year-old Kifah Wael Jayyousi, to 12 years and eight months. Jayyousi was a financier and propagandist for the cell that assisted Islamic extremists in Chechnya, Afghanistan, Somalia and elsewhere, according to trial testimony. Both also faced life in prison.

Padilla's mother, Estela Lebron, smiled at reporters in the courtroom when the sentence was announced and questioned outside the courthouse whether the Bush administration had misplaced its priorities in prosecuting her son.

''This is the way they are spending our money? Hello?'' she said.

But she was also pleased he didn't get the maximum sentence. ''I feel good about everything. This is amazing.''

Attorneys for Hassoun and Jayyousi were also gratified but repeated that they will appeal their convictions and sentences, as will Padilla.

''It is definitely a defeat for the government,'' said Hassoun lawyer Jeanne Baker.

''The government has not made America any safer. It has just made America less free,'' said William Swor, who represents Jayyousi.

The Justice Department praised prosecutors and investigators in the long-running case.

''Thanks to their efforts, the defendants' North American support cell has been dismantled and can no longer send money and jihadist recruits to conflicts overseas,'' Kenneth L. Wainstein, assistant attorney general for national security, said in a statement.

The men were convicted after a three-month trial based on tens of thousands of FBI telephone intercepts collected over an eight-year investigation and a form Padilla filled out in 2000 to attend an al-Qaida training camp in Afghanistan. Padilla, a former Chicago gang member with a long criminal record, converted to Islam in prison and was recruited by Hassoun while attending a mosque in suburban Sunrise.

Padilla sought a sentence of no more than 10 years. Hassoun asked for 15 years or less and Jayyousi for no more than five years.

Padilla's arrest was initially portrayed by the Bush administration as an important victory in the months immediately after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, and later was seen as a symbol of the administration's zeal to prevent homegrown terrorism.

Civil liberties groups and Padilla's lawyers called his detention unconstitutional for someone born in this country.

Jurors in the criminal case never heard Padilla's full history, which according to U.S. officials included a graduation from the al-Qaida terror camp, a plot to detonate the ''dirty bomb'' and a plot to fill apartments with natural gas and blow them up. Much of what Padilla supposedly told interrogators during his long detention as an enemy combatant could not be used in court because he had no access to a lawyer and was not read his constitutional rights.

Attorneys for Hassoun and Jayyousi argued that any assistance they provided overseas was for peaceful purposes and to help persecuted Muslims in violent countries. But FBI agents testified that their charitable work was a cover for violent jihad, which they frequently discussed in code using words such as ''tourism'' and ''football.''

Friday News & Blog Roundup

Lindsay Lohan is Going to See Dead People: She'll be working two half days in a morgue, as part of her punishment for drunk driving.

Bobby Fischer Dead at 64: Goodbye, Grand Master. You were incredible. You were also quite mad. Your story is begging for a grand biopic.

Beware of Americans: A training manual published by the Canadian government advises diplomats to be aware of, and be on the lookout for, signs of torture in a 'watch list' of nation states. Those nations include Iran, Syria, Israel, China, Afghanistan, and the USA / Guantanamo Bay. Keith Olbermann discusses the significance of this Canadian watch list.

New York City Needs Tourists: And we're not ashamed to say so. We need tourists so the city stays financially solvent, since we don't manufacture anything, and we have a shrinking middle class. Remember The Gates? Get ready for four giant waterfalls this summer. Meanwhile, the NYC unemployment rate edges up for the fifth straight month.

Sadly, No! Ups Its Critique of Jonah: Clif over at Sadly No! has produced a magnificently researched post on how Jonah Goldberg is not only guilty of projection when he calls progressives racists, but he's totally full of shit in a very serious way. His book is currently ranked #2 in sales over at Amazon.com. It is an insult to historical research and intellectual debate worldwide, and copies of it need to find their way to bargain bins soon. I'm never for censorship. But I am against wingnut welfare and rediculous political and historical arguments. Really, if it wasn't for his mom and Linda Tripp, he wouldn't be a contributing editor at America's Shittiest Website or have this 400 page book published.

Bless the Pets: In Mexico, it is the the annual feast day of St. Anthony The Abbot.

!Tenga un buen fin de semana, amigos!

Chaos Is On The March



So this is how democracy dies - in two fragile democracies.

In Kenya, the rioting and violence related to the nation's contested election was taken to a new level when a mob torched a church where people tried to escape the chaos. Over 30 civilians, including many children, were killed. The UN ought to join the US and EU in calling for an internationally monitored recount and/or independent investigation of the election.

In Pakistan, the general election scheduled for January 8th, has now been called 'impossible' to hold as scheduled by the nation's election commission. A postponement would almost certainly provoke international criticism and more violence on the streets.

2007 UN Human Development Index: Africa Remains The Forgotten Continent; Climate Change Now Clearly Visible Worldwide


The 2007 UN Human Development Index has been released today. You can read a summary and download it here.

The Human Development Index calculates algorithms that factor-in life expectancy, literacy rate, school enrolment percentage, and GDP. The results classify nations as developed (green in the Wikipedia map above), developing (yellow), or underdeveloped (red), and also provide a simple scale measuring overall quality of life.

News reports today focus on the index itself, which is the ranking of nations. Iceland has taken the top sport for the first time since the report was created by economists in 1990. But the full 300-page report spends a great deal more time talking about climate change, as it is the biggest risk facing underdeveloped nations. Looking at the index, it is clear that the nations of the northern hemisphere consume far more resources than the nations in the south (Brazil, Australia, and New Zealand being major exceptions). And since most of the world's countries are north of Equator, let's try to be fair and say that the south begins around 10 degrees north latitude (so anything south of Nicaragua / southern India / Philippines is "south").

This report ties that division to the issue of climate change, which will drastically affect more people in the south than in the north. Not that the north will be unaffected, of course. But the entire sub-Saharan region, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, plus parts of southeast Asia and Micronesia / Oceania are at grave risk due to shortages in fresh water and a rise in ocean levels.

So the warning bells continue to sound for our planet.

One Of The Last Taboo Arguments: Human Overpopulation Is Bad For Planet Earth



One can write a book about this subject. But given the recent attention to Alan Weisman's book The World Without Us, it is time for this blog to add its two cents.

First, a tangent, something I have difficulty avoiding when embarking on a long post.

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Now I try my best to ridicule and attack people known as Wingnuts. These are people who make irrational, usually right-wing or even fascist arguments covering a wide range of subjects, and often combined with angry, personal attacks on their opponents. They often embellish or exaggerate the threats, problems, and dangers they see around them.

They write scathing opinions about 'dirty hippies' (i.e. people who were against invading Iraq), Mexican immigrants, the unfounded desire of militant Muslims to conquer the west and enslave its women, the exaggerated threat of bigger terrorist attacks happening on US soil (they seem to frequently fantasize of left-leaning, coffee and wine drinking cities like Seattle and San Francisco being destroyed), and our offensive and shameless pop culture (and its role in weakening us for an incoming Muslim invasion). They use equally angry and irrational arguments to defend Bushworld policies like wiretapping, rendition, indefinite imprisonment, and torture. Simply put, they are fascists who write like eigth graders, cheer the people who run Bushworld, and are almost always wrong about everyhting.

Most have blogs. They write books. They write for magazines and newspapers. Some have radio or TV shows. The most educated ones are hired by right-wing think tanks and groomed to become policymakers and lobbyists. Some are regarded as scholars and experts on various topics and appear on cable news shows. As a result, they are usually paid more than more rational writers of the same age and demographic. They have names like Ann Coulter, Dinesh D'Souza, Jonah Goldberg, Michelle Malkin, Rich Lowry, Debbie Schlussel, Bill Kristol, John Podhoretz, James Lileks, Dennis Prager, Megan McArdle, Professor Mike Adams, Pam Atlas, Ace of Spades, Confederate Yankee, Andy McCarthy, Ben Shapiro, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Glenn Reynolds, Michael Medved, Maggie Gallagher, Dan Riehl, Jill StanekJeff Goldstein -and those are the ones I can name right away. Since the rise of the original contemporary Wingnut, Rush Limbaugh, there has been the development of a Wingnut industry.

You can even see young Wingnuts developing in the Wingnut farm system. One Wingnut farm is the magazine formerly known as The Atlantic (look for Matthew Yglesias and the already-mentioned Megan "I've only been a journalist for a few years." McArdle under the "voices" menu). It's a Wingnut incubator over there. They aspire to be famous pundits someday, writing about Important Things, and appearing on news networks saying Important Things. Yup.

As the links above suggest, I think greatest website to learn about Wingnuts is Sadly, No!

Calling All Wingnuts is also very good. Jesus' General is great. Actually there are a ton of blogs that attack Wingnuts. Hmm. There is a non-profit left-wing blogosphere thanks in-part to the well funded Wingnut industry.

I'm mentioning this because what I'm about to write about could get me labeled as a wingnut. So I have to keep this as rational as possible. It's not like walking in a minefield, but it is a slight risk. So here goes -

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In 1907, the world had close to 2 billion people. Today it has 6 billion. By 2050, it is expected to have 9 billion.

(Yeah, I know you know where I am going, but you've made it this far, so hang-on).

In the last 100 years, the levels of greenhouse gases have risen even more dramatically. The scientific consensus is that CO2 emissions account for most of the global warming trends we have observed over the last century. And while it is true that we are still exiting a relatively recent ice age, the rate of polar ice melting has dramatically accellerated alongside human industrial activity, especially coal burning for electric power. As a result, sea levels could rise between 6 and 30 inches this century, depending on whether the glaciers in Greenland melt, the ice in Antarctica melts, or both.

Now it would seem obvious that since the dawn of the industrial revolution in the 18th century, growth in human population and greenhouse gas emissions are interrelated. But we require science to to prove that. So far, the scientific consensus agrees that human industrial activity, the rise of developed nations, human population growth, and accelerated global warming are all related.

And I am not even going to get into early species extinction, which scientists have extensively studied and argued that human development and industrial activity is shrinking or destroying wild animal habitats.

Assuming that the scientists are correct (and people like Chris Mooney will argue that they are), then how should environmentalists address the need for us humans to change lifestyles in order to slow the damage being done to our planet?

There are so many ways. Here are just a few -

1. Advocate recycling. This finally caught-on in the 1990s after a 20-year effort to do so. Some of us, including me, thought that recycling would be the biggest hurdle to cross, but in fact it is a comparitively small hurdle, and it is not nearly fully-mastered nor implemented.

2. Advocate less energy use. This is slowly catching-on in the G7. Compact fluorescent light bulbs, while containing mercury, do use less electricity and last a lot longer than conventional light bulbs. Sales of CFLs have risen sharply in the last 3 years or so, and I myself have begun to buy them. Their use in the European Union has caught-on fast since the 1990s.

3. Invest more in renewable energy. Wind, solar, hydro-electric, and new hydrogen-based fuel cells for automobiles are all making advances in their use and practicality. Much more needs to be done - beginning with a promise that is yet to be made: Not one more coal-burning power plant should be built in the developed world. That is a promise no one here can keep yet.

4. Make cars more fuel efficient. Hybrids are nice, it would be nicer if every 4-cylinder car got 35MPG or more. I love 4-cylinder cars. They dominate the streets of Europe and come in many flavors to suit just about every taste. But the four-banger I dream of owning, the Subaru Impreza WRX, only musters 25MPG. Now while it is not an SUV, we ought to have the technology to get more miles out of a small sports car. Legislation can force the issue on carmakers. Of course, I could reduce my need for speed and aim for a car with less horsepower. The non-turbocharged Honda Fit gets about 35MPG, for example. The new Scion xD also musters 35MPG. Even the Mini Cooper provides fun and a guilt-free economy rating. Cars with better economy are out there, but they are still in the minority. Until we get practical hydrogen fuel cells in our future zero-emission cars, we should aim to get only as much car as we need, and only use them as much as we need. We can still make a car reflect our personality, but ideally that should not include a desire to ruin our air quality.

5. Make buildings more energy efficient. Most of the electricity consumed by our cities is used by big buildings. We can reduce our electricity use at home, but we need to tackle inefficient or wasteful power consumption by our commercial spaces. Shopping malls, airports, and office buildings can all be much more energy efficient. But that requires new engineering and new architecture that developers and owners need to embrace. There is a fight today to get more capitalists to build green-certified buildings, as as my friend Archetype has written here, it is a serious and frustrating struggle.

6. Eat less meat. I am guilty there as I resumed eating burgers after a 10-year hiatus from beef in 2003. The developed world's appetite for chicken and beef has increased chicken and cow populations dramatically. This adds to inhumane treatment of livestock and massive increases in methane, which is a greenhouse gas (as bad or even worse than CO2 depending on which scientist you listen to).

But there is a taboo subject most environmentalists dare not touch. It would be the next logical item on my list (or at least be further down the list after many more suggestions). If there are too many chickens and cows in the world, farting greenhouse gases into our atmosphere, then what about us? Isn't global warming tied to our numbers? Aren't we carbon-based creatures with big carbon footprints?

Which brings us back to global human population.

You can see where this is going. I'm going to touch the taboo subject that suggests that there are too many people on this planet.

I'm not suggesting a cull. Nor am I hoping for a calamity that kills millions. I am nothing like those who obsess over the book of Revelation. I never advocate limiting the number babies we can produce. To see where I am coming from, read my comments at Slate.com here.

I think I made sense. I know I offended a mother of several children who responded.

I'm going to try to state again what I think. A list might be best.

1. We know that with higher human populations, the higher the potential for massive calamities and disasters. The bigger the aircraft, the bigger the accident death tolls, for example. The more dense the population in a flu pandemic, the higher the death tolls. The more dense the population in an area hit by an earthquake or typhoon or tsunami, the same thing.

We can't predict the future, but one popular prediction for the 21st century is that we could see some very deadly pandemics in the third world. The Ebola virus in Africa is a small yet very frightening example. Certainly the notion of a modern plague is a popular theme in literature. Earth Abides, The Stand, and The Road are three popular examples in the last 60 years. But lets stick with science. Science says that we may see an increase in pandemics this century. While the jury is still out, there are historical precedents we can look at. While the threats may be over-hyped, SARS and Avian Flu opper glimpses into future virus challenges, while on the microbe side, we have seen alarming resiliency and survivability of so-called 'super-bugs.' There are many warning signs, as outlined in books in the past decade such as The Coming Plague.

But the bigger picture is that fundamental resource shortages are tied to disease. The world's fresh water supply is shrinking, and of course, it is the third world that suffers the most. Over 5 million children die each year, mainly from preventable diseases, and many of them from water-based disease and/or lack of sanitary drinking water, which can lead to cholera and diarrhea. About 1 million of these deaths occur in India each year alone.

Now couldn't you make the argument that overpopulation is one reason there is such a large loss of life? Just stating what seems to be a fact. The bigger the population, the bigger the numbers all-around.

2. It is highly likely that rising sea levels will cause a phenomenon contemporary history has not seen before - massive environmental refugee crises. The most likely site of such a crisis is in southern Bangladesh, where millions of people will probably have to move many miles north sometime during this century. Many of the old and the sick among them will die. Disease might spread. Fresh water might be scarce. Famine might even ensue. A refugee border crisis with the Indian state of Bengal might also occur. Isn't it fair to ask if this pending catastrophe is linked to global warming, which in-turn is linked to human overpopulation? Again, I never blame the victims of past, present, or future calamities. It is not their fault that they might have to pack-up and move north. It's 'ours', right?

Now given these two types of 21st century calamities -more disease and rising sea levels, both coupled with a shortage of fresh water- shouldn't honest and logical environmentalists address the relationship between global warming and a human population that has tripled in just 100 years?

I think so.

I think the most 'ideal' environmentalist is someone who doesn't own or rent a car, doesn't eat meat of any kind, uses as little electricity as possible, walks as much as possible.....and also takes into account the effects of reproducing.

In an ideal world, a couple would not produce more than 2 children together.

I advocate not population control, but family planning. I advocate Zero Population Growth. This organization can help you to learn more about it in a rational way.

This is not a war on families. This is not an anti-religious initiative. I completely understand that in some religions, the production of 'as many children god will give' is strongly encouraged. I am an atheist, but I am not immoral or insensitive to anyone else's religious beliefs.

And looking over my comments at Slate, I should advocate something that is very, very green: adoption.

That might be the greenest thing you can ever do in your lifetime. You are saving a life, and you are not making a net addition to the world's total population at that moment in time. Of course, you will probably increase the adopted child's carbon footprint by raising him or her in the USA, and especially if he or she owns a car someday. Daniel Engber makes that argument. But I would add that there are plenty of kids who need homes right here in North America already.

Given this definition, would Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie fit my ideal? If you took away the excessive travel, private jet, and extra vehicles, I'd actually say yes....sort of.

I don't advocate creating a model UN in your house by shopping around Africa and Asia for babies. But adoption can be a great thing.

And a side point - if they are setting-up a model UN, then when the hell are they going to get a kid from South America? That continent needs representation in the Pitt-Jolie family.

The issue of overpopulation needs to be addressed. We need to get it out of the closet, so to speak.

Continuous Gun Violence in Rio


Heartbreaking stories coming out of Rio de Janeiro concerting the gang and drug-related gun violence that seems to be relentless since 2004 / 2005. Bullets fired into the air or from the hills spare no one. What goes up must come down.

And it isn't just the gangs who are shooting bystanders. The police in both Rio and Sao Paulo are widely known to shoot or beat people first and ask questions later. Amnesty International filed this report when the current surge in violence began.

Brazilian urban slums are known as farvelas. And while the gang violence in Brazil's two largest cities is not common to other urban slums around the world, they still share the same fundamental traits.

Mark Davis is a Los Angeles journalist and an urban historian and theorist. I highly recommend his book, Planet of Slums, to learn more about what slums are becoming in the 21st century. You thought the late 20th century was bad for the world's urban poor. We not only have extreme poverty and suffering in densely-populated areas, but increasingly, we have military or military-style operations within these areas, which can kill scores of people. In the last few years, Brazil has deployed assault vehicles to engage in firefights with gangs in public streets. These operations have killed criminals and innocents alike.

And 21st century warefare is increasingly urban. The Battle of Mogadishu ("Black Hawk Down") was the US's first 21st century military operation (if you accept the Soviet collapse of August 1991 to be the start of the 21st century as I do). In 2003, Israel experimented with rifles fitted with muzzle video cameras so troops can shoot around corners without exposing themselves in dense urban areas (Gaza). And the US military is designing tiny flying vehicles that can deliver small bombs to living quarters in dense neighborhoods that feature open windows and doors (the slums and shantytowns we see in the third world).