Good News/Bad News Sept. 26, 2002

For a change, we decided this week to lead off with Good News. No real reason, and there's certainly no especially wonderful news to share, but hey, there's a reason we're called Good News/Bad News, right?

Good News

In what may sound like a horribly overdue idea, the European Parliament this week banned cannibalism! Not so much for people, as there are probably some rules that cover that, but the meat industry can no longer feed its cows/chickens/pigs/whales ground up pieces of dead cows/chickens/pigs/whales. A shocking idea, true, but one whose time has come...

At long last, and at nearly the same time, the USDA decided to take some steps to ensure meat safety. USDA chief Ann Veneman made it a "top priority" to randomly check meat for E. coli in meatpacking plants.

One-hundred and eight members of the U.S. House of Representatives sent a letter to Bush this week urging him to address climate change. In a bold response, Congressional leaders added a measure to the energy bill raising fuel economy by one mile per gallon. Leadership in action, people!

Lots of car-based news this week: A French company has announced that it has a prototype for a car that runs on compressed air. Cheap to run and non-polluting, the only way it could be better is if it was recyclable.

For European Car-Free Day 2002, Brussels, the capital of Belgium, blocked off its roads last Sunday to the 600,000 autos that usually prowl the streets. As a result, it was reported that air pollution was cut in half for the day.

And on the opposite side of that coin, Mexico City was forced to ban 350,000 cars from its streets to limit crisis-level pollution. Whatever it takes to clear the air, apparently.

And now, the inexorable forward march of Bad News

We can think of no positive spin for this damn bit of news: there may be no streams left in the U.S. that aren't polluted. None. Chemical, industrial, and agricultural pollution has taken root in every corner of the country, and still the governments waffle on controlling pollution.

Now you'll have to forgive our cynicism, but this week saw a lot of very suspect developments around the world.

First came the news that the Bush administration is planning to use the forthcoming war (Bush vs. Saddam: The Feud for Crude II) as an excuse to drill in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge. Bush immediately denied these charges, and said that despite pressure from Gale Norton, he's not yet sure if he'll veto an energy bill that doesn't allow ANWR drilling. All this arguing for six months of oil...

Next came a report, "partially funded by the U.S. Army," that shows Gulf War Syndrome wasn't caused by chemical weapons. The report admits that something caused combat veterans' higher incidences of depression, heart disease and cancer, but it certainly wasn't any of the chemical weapons laying around Iraq from "The Feud for Crude I." Depleted uranium? Untested vaccines? We'll have to look into those...

And then we heard a fine story from Spencer Abraham, a huge fan of drilling in the ANWR, that the Bush administration leads the way in climate change research. We support research, but we support action following from research quite a bit more. From dismissing the EPA's report on global warming as "bureaucratic" to fighting to raise fuel standards by less than one m.p.g., Bush has made it clear that research is the only thing he's working on.

As you read this, Canadian governments and industries are furiously debating the Kyoto Protocol. Some say it will be good for Canada, some say it will "cause chaos" in Canada, and some just say it has to happen. We don't remember much debate when Clinton signed on to the treaty, nor when Bush pulled out of it, so we guess all this talking is a good thing.

When George W. Bush railed against "focus groups" in his campaign speeches, who knew how far he'd take his unilateral dreams? Not only is his foreign policy deeply one-sided, Dubya's now trying to change governmental rules to speed up "thinning" forests without congressional approval.

What's more offensive: buying and consuming whale meat, or finding that said whale meat is actually porpoise meat? We're gonna have to call this one a tie...

Finally, no week would be complete without some serious bad news from our friends in the biotech business. Monsanto this week announced an exciting! new!! cotton product with twice as many bacterial genes than regular GM cotton! The problem seems to be that pests are developing tolerance to crops with just one type of pesticide or bacteria, so of course doubling the amount will make us all safe forever, right?

Matt Wheeland is an AlterNet Fellow.

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