Saturday, February 19, 2005

Some News is Good News

The Good News Roundup

Mon, 7 Feb 2005 00:00:00 -0600 Congo

Basin forest protected

By Savanna Reid

Election reform, debt relief, forest protection, a pastoralists' summit...

I rarely have the pleasure of amassing this much good news for one week’s roundup. From Washington to Tashkent, dozens of small but significant advances for the environment, human rights and democracy made headlines – here are the top twelve. Highlights include a proposal in the U.S. Senate to abolish the electoral college, 100% debt relief for more than thirty countries, a first-of-its-kind global pastoralists’ summit, and the discovery that viagra can save your life (or mine, anyways).

For the first time since 1979, the U.S. Congress will reconsider abolishing the Electoral College – Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is now gathering co-sponsors for her proposed bill to replace the antidemocratic process with a direct vote for the presidency. Now would be the time to contact your own Senators about it.

The G7 finance ministers officially adopted plans to write off up to 100% of the multilateral debts of the poorest countries in the world. Gordon Brown of the UK spearheaded this initiative with unilateral British debt relief for some countries, but this plan will be much broader in scope – releasing as many as 37 countries from the punishing debt treadmill – despite the non-participation of the U.S.

“Spanish sheep herders, Mongolian camel owners and pastoralist leaders from countries such as Kazakhstan, Argentina and Israel” met in Ethiopia (a country estimated to have 8 million nomads) to discuss “how pastoralist wisdom can be more widely understood, how governments and powerful institutions can recognize their needs and interests and how they can influence change.” The representatives also shared ideas on the World Initiative for Sustainable Pastoralism and fighting political marginalization in modernizing countries.

A treaty signed in Brazzaville commits seven African nations to protecting “one of the world’s two lungs,” the central African forests spanning 200 million hectares in the Congo basin. Wangari Maathai will serve as a goodwill ambassador for these forests, and a system of lumber origins tracking – similar to the Kimberly process used to distinguish legal diamonds from conflict diamonds – will be developed to enforce the protections. In other forest news, the Attorney General of California is suing the U.S. Forest Service to protect eleven million acres of woodland in the Sierra Nevadas from a management plan that favors logging interests.

A group of 143 prominent investors have re-launched the Carbon Disclosure Project, demanding greenhouse gas emissions data from 500 of the world’s largest corporations, to help them make sound investment decisions. Their findings from the last two years can be downloaded from where this year’s results will be posted in September.

Gitmo enthusiasts faced several major setbacks this week – Rumsfeld’s belated show of chagrin, a federal court ruling against the CIA’s efforts to withhold photographs of torture at Guantánamo Bay, and a ruling against military tribunals which upholds both Constitutional and Geneva convention rights for the detainees.

In Tashkent, Uzbekistan a group of 50 displaced people from a border region hit the streets demanding compensation for their homes, which were bulldozed when the no-man’s-land on the Uzbek-Kazak border was expanded last year. This week they were finally promised compensation from the government, which has become more responsive to opposition movement-sponsored street protests over the past year.

The Spitzer Effect is making waves in the insurance industry, extracting an apology and $850 million from the biggest insurance broker in the U.S., Marsh & McLennan. “Chicago-based Aon Corp., the nation’s second-largest insurance broker, after Marsh, is in talks with Spitzer but has not been charged with wrongdoing,” the Chicago Tribune reports.

A new, more effective treatment for Type I diabetes has been successfully tested: live donor transplant of insulin-producing pancreatic cells. In other health news, a vaccine for bone cancers – which are extremely difficult to treat – is being developed to make bone marrow transplants more effective in fighting myeloma.

Last but not least, it turns out that viagra can reverse hypertrophy, returning overgrown hearts to normal size before they fail. As someone with a common heart condition that sometimes leads to hypertrophy, I’m very happy to hear it!

Posted by gavin_rose
Savanna Rose Reid is a student researcher completing her environmental thesis on contaminant migration from underground nuclear test cavities on the Nevada Test Site.

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