Good News/Bad News September 12, 2002

Cripes! This has been a slim week for Good News. The closest we got was a series of fluff pieces about Keiko "Free Willy" the Orca in Norway. So bear with us as we descend into what sometimes feels like the ninth circle of Hell in summing up the Bad News

Everyone, relax! We've finally got the magic bullet! The cure for everything! Nanotechnology is going to cure all the ills of the world, in just two or three short years. We remember being keen on Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age, but that's sci-fi, and this is reality. Any discussion of a magic bullet technological fix-it makes us think of all the other excellent magic bullets of human history: genetic engineering, the internet, nuclear power, the internal combustion engine, pretty much all the way back to fire. Take this one with a grain of salt, people. There's good reason for concern about nanotech.

Woo! Speaking of great and stupid technologies, here's some great new information about a great new "science:" cloning has thus far only created short-lived genetic anomalies. Scientists aren't reporting this, but we believe Dolly the cloned sheep was CG.

As long as we're bashing down the holy pillars of 21st century science, we may as well tell you that there's a disturbing story circulating about genetically modified corn making livestock infertile. Not only is Bt-enhanced (Bacterium thuringiensis, a beneficial soil bacterium and natural pesticide) corn dangerous to the soil and plants, but it's apparently bad news for farmers and animals alike. We could use a quick reminder: what are the reasons we stand up for Monsanto again?

Here's a bizarre turn of events for drought- and famine-stricken Africa. Zambia, one of three African countries that has categorically refused any aid that consists of GM food, decided that it would accept the shipments, but would feed the controversial meal to refugees only. After several days of scorching criticism from the rest of the world, Zambia clarified its position by saying that it never actually approved the shipments, and that no such feeding of refugees would occur. While we sit here scratching our heads, Zimbabwe quietly reverses its position on GM corn, thus ending that chapter of the struggle.

With the global heat wave this week and the arrival of yet another El Niño, Russia, Hong Kong, and Ontario all face toxic levels of smog. Meanwhile, Canada's oil companies are lobbying Prime Minister Chrétien to disregard the Kyoto treaty as bad for business, and incredibly enough, bad for the environment! What a bunch of hosers...

Around the world, dams are being torn down as their environmental impacts are coming to light. Unfortunately, China's government is forging ahead with its gargantuan Three Gorges River project, even as Chinese state-run media are admitting the dangers inherent in the dam's operation.

Finally, this week's award for heads deepest in the sand goes to the U.S. Senate, which has introduced a "destroy the forest to save the forest" plan to "thin" 10 million acres of national forest to "prevent fires." We're sure Maxxam, Boise Cascade, and other timber companies will regretfully fire up their chainsaws to rid the world of these dangerous forests.

Brace yourselves for what little Good News we could dig up this week:

Even though this has some of the faint stench of the Ginger/IT/Segway hype, we like the idea of plastics going to compost instead of landfill. Note, however, the "someday, maybe..." tone of this article, as opposed to the "two to three years" for nanotechnology.

The past week found a serious glut of confusing fluff-pieces about Keiko, the orca that played Free Willy so well. Some say he was typecast as a down-on-his-luck killer whale after four movies in the series, but is that any reason to kill him? Yes, Keiko turned up in Norway recently, and some murderous opinions aside, there's a public push to retire Keiko in Norway's fjords as a tourist attraction. [We checked -- "retire" is NOT a Norweigan euphemism for "kill, stuff and mount." -- Ed.]

Finally, there's been some seeing of the light in Congress, as the new energy bill gets hammered out and money for a vast natural gas pipeline from Alaska to the U.S. dries up. We're all for no more pipelines, if only it could mean no more exploration at all...

Matt Wheeland is an editorial intern at AlterNet.

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