Friday, March 28, 2008

Dutch Abortion Boat Granted License for International Abortions

A Dutch abortion boat has been granted government permission to perform abortions in international waters on women up to 7 weeks pregnant, despite a massive national and international outcry, the Times online reported earlier today.

The boat has caused an uproar at home in the Netherlands and abroad. Condemned by governments and pro-life organizations as a propaganda tool for pro-abortion activists, the abortion boat has come under intense criticism for offering to perform abortions on women from countries where the procedure is illegal.

Operated by Women on Waves, the abortion boat was effectively shut down in 2004 after then-public health minister ClĂ©mence Ross imposed a ban on travel into international waters, forbidding the boat to travel outside a radius of 25 km from Amsterdam’s Slotervaart hospital.

The ban instituted by Ross was overturned by the Council of State last year, which said Ross had failed to adequately justify the decision to restrict the boat‘s activities. The coalition parties now in power have said they are left with no choice but to permit the boat to sail into international waters.

Vowing to target the nations of Ireland, Poland and Malta where abortion is illegal, Women on Waves is not satisfied with the terms of their license and intend to challenge the seven week restriction on gestational limits for abortion, according to the ANP, seeking the right to abort babies throughout the full first trimester of pregnancy.

Special Thanks to Life Site News

Cow flatulence monitored in bid to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

In a bid to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the Victorian and New Zealand Governments have teamed up to tackle one of the more unpleasant sides of life, especially on the farm. Burping and flatulence from cows pose a great threat to the environment , but now there's a high tech solution.

Kate Arnott reports that the "calorimetre" can be used not only to monitor greenhouse gas emissions, but to improve farm productivity.

KATE ARNOTT: Up to five per cent of methane emissions come from the back of the cow. Surprisingly, the rest comes from the front.

The animals produce a significant amount of greenhouse gases, and Dr Richard Ekhart from the Victorian Department of Primary Industries says it's a bigger problem than most people realise.

RICHARD EKHART: Probably in Australia from agriculture, we have about 20 per cent of all greenhouse emissions come from the agricultural sector – you know, compared to stationary energy, the power sector, which is about 60 per cent – but it's equal to transport emissions.

KATE ARNOTT: To help work out how to reduce these methane emissions, the Victorian and New Zealand Government's have spent half a million dollars on a "calorimetre."

The Victorian Agriculture minister, Bob Cameron.

BOB CAMERON: If you can imagine, like, a big type of container, and the cow will be in it – as the gases are released from the cow, they can all be very accurately measured. And while the cow is in there, the cow will be eating in there, the cow will be being milked in there, so we're able to get a very precise estimate as to what exactly is happening.

KATE ARNOTT: The cow's reaction to different diets can be assessed in a controlled environment for the first time, giving scientists a more accurate picture of which foods produce the most methane and what can be added to food to reduce emissions.

Dr Ekhart says the data obtained from the calorimetre will also help researchers find ways of minimising energy loss in livestock and converting it to more milk, meat and wool production.

RICHARD ECKHART: I think that's what this whole project is about, is looking for the unleaded fuel for cows, if you can put it like that. But seriously, what we are looking for is those additives, or ways of reducing methane. But not just reducing methane for the sake of it, because methane is, as you know, is a high form of energy.

If it's going out as a gas, if we stop that, we can actually put that back into production. So you might ask what's in it for the farmer? Well, if we can stop a high form of energy escaping from the cow and re-direct it back into production, some of our figures show that we could produce a litre to a litre-and-a-half of milk per cow per day more at peak lactation.

KATE ARNOTT: Data will be collected over the next three years, and by the end of that time Mr Cameron says farmers should start seeing real results.

BOB CAMERON: When we know what changes bring about a reduction in greenhouse gases and an increase in production, then very clearly there are two vested interests here. One from the environmental side, to reduce greenhouse gases, and the other from a production side, things which increase production. So we get that win-win.

Special Thanks to ABC The World

Chocolate is good for you

Scientists reported preliminary evidence recently that cocoa and other chocolates may keep high blood pressure down, your blood flowing and your heart healthy.
The research, the latest which correlates eating flavonoid-rich foods with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease(1), was presented in February at the American Association for the Advancement of Science's (AAAS) annual meeting in Boston.
One study found that a substance in cocoa helps the body process nitric oxide (NO), a compound critical for healthy blood flow and blood pressure. Another study showed that flavonols in cocoa prevent fat-like substances in the bloodstream from oxidizing and clogging the arteries, and make blood platelets less likely to stick together and cause clots. Flavonoids are plant compounds with potent antioxidant properties; so far, scientists have found more than 4,000 kinds. Cocoa beans contain large quantities of flavonoids, and so do red wine, tea, cranberries, peanuts, strawberries, apples and many other fruits and vegetables.(2) The flavonoids in chocolate are called flavonols.
Generally, science has found that dark chocolate is higher in flavonoids than milk chocolate.(3) The way that cocoa powder and chocolate syrups are manufactured removes most flavonoids.

Cut Your Cancer Risk

Eating foods rich in magnesium can help cut your cancer risk by 41%. Foods high in magnesium include turkey breast, nuts, tofu, avacados, peas and beans. Several stuides show that a diet rich in magnesium is especially helpful in reducing colon-cancer risk in women. Taking a multi-vitamin that contains 200mcg. of selenium, 400mcg. of folic acid, and 400IUs of vitamin D can cut your cancer risk by 34%. Extensive research suggests this powerful trio mops up cell-damaging free radicals in the intestines and boosts the absorbtion of cancer-fighting calcium. Exercising for 30 minutes a day can cut your cancer risk by 40%. This increases your immune system's ability to destroy abnormal cells, plus remove toxins from the digestive tract before they can do harm. "And you do not have to do them all at once", says intenal medicine specialist Pamela Peeke, M.D., author of Body for Life for Women. "Three 10-minute sessions can be just as helpful." For best results fuel up on whole grains before you workout. Women who eat five daily servings of nutrient rich whole grains (bread, bagels, crackers) are 33% less likely to develop cancer than those who opt for carbs made with white flour, according to research.

German beer threatened by biofuels

Germans will have to dig deeper to indulge in their beloved beer in the next few months as barley is increasingly displaced in the country's fields by heavily subsidised crops used for biofuels.

"Many brewers have no choice but to raise their prices. They decided not to pass on the three-percentage point rise in value-added tax that came into force in Germany on 1 January, but in this case they have no alternative," said Kai Schuerholt, a spokesperson for the German brewers' association.

The German arm of Belgian brewer InBev, which owns the Beck's and Franziskaner brands, confirmed it would be implementing "slight" price rises, while Germany's Radeberger said it was considering a similar move.

It is hard to overstate the importance of beer in Germany — it is drunk in vast quantities and the market is fiercely competitive and extremely price-sensitive.

A half-litre glass currently costs as little as €3 in a bar or restaurant, a price to leave drinkers in most other western European countries green with envy.

Average daily consumption of beer in Germany last year was 111.6 litres per head, equivalent to every one of the country's 82 million people drinking a 0.31-litre glass every day, according to figures released on Friday.

But the price of barley, which is used to make malt, an essential ingredient in brewing, has doubled in the space of a year from €200 to €400 per ton on the German market.

'Monopolising the land'

Brewers and farmers say an extremely poor barley harvest in 2006 has exacerbated an emerging trend of converting barley fields to growing the plants used in biofuels, such as rapeseed. The amount of land used for growing barley in Germany is receding by five percent a year.

The march of biofuels is inexorable. Of the 12 million hectares farmed in Germany, two million are already being used for plants which can be turned into biofuel.

"Biofuels are monopolising the land," said Manfred Weizbauer, the head of the German millers' federation, which is calling for a cut in the subisidies granted to biofuel crops.

"The German government has got to be reasonable and not give more importance to energy security than to food security," he said.

The impact of the biofuels is not restricted to beer, with the price of bread likely to rise by 10 percent as a result of reduced grain production, the German bakers' federation has warned.

Germany is not alone in experiencing the effects of converting arable land to new uses and although it is not suffering the potentially catastrophic consequences felt by Mexico, where the phenomenon has caused maize prices to climb sharply, German millers fear the effects of steadily rising cereal prices.

The biofuels policy is encouraged by the European Union, which wants vehicle fuel to contain at least 10 percent of the 'green' fuel by 2020.

But Jens Redemacher, the head of the cereals division of the federation of German farmers, said the brewers also had themselves to blame.

"They have demanded lower and lower prices for barley which has caused farmers to abandon growing it because it was no longer profitable. So biofuels are not the only culprits," he said.

The food industry is "just going to have to get used to having a competitor for the purchase of cereals, especially those used for biofuels," Redemacher said.

How Italy's 'white gold' turned sour

Delicate and delicious, buffalo milk mozzarella is one of Italy's most famous - and lucrative - export products.

The balls of milky cheese, which travel around the world cushioned in their own protective fluid, are considered one of the finest delicacies, fashioned from fat-rich buffalo milk taken from herds in just a few Italian regions.

Some 20,000 people depend on the mozzarella cheese industry.

Yet the news that levels of potentially carcinogenic chemicals, called dioxins, were above legal limits in some of the cheese-producing areas around Naples led to them being rapidly dropped from the menu - both in Italy and beyond.

The European Commission has flexed its regulatory muscle and Japan has seized consignments of the freshly flown-in cheese to carry out its own tests.

While consumers might simply be swapping what they put in their shopping baskets, many of the mozzarella producers - among 20,000 people employed in the industry - are terrified.

'Total disaster'

Francesca Corso, a buffalo mozzarella maker based in Cardito, 10km (six miles) north of Naples, says the scare has been a catastrophe.

The link has already been made between mozzarella di buffala and other 'Made in Italy' products - this is a dangerous step

Rolando Manfredini, Coldiretti

"It simply cannot get any worse. We've had a drop of between 40% and 50% of sales. It is like the cholera outbreak that hit Naples in 1972 - a total disaster," she said from her cheese factory, Caseficio delle Rose. She employs 45 people in a business run by her family for more than three decades.

"And it isn't just the cheese makers - it's the whole sector, from the dairy farmers to the milk distributors - everyone," she added.

She and her team make some 4,000kg (8,800 pounds) of the cheese a week, which is mostly boxed up and shipped to New York and Tokyo.

"We've basically just stopped working, we haven't been making any cheese for several days now," she said.

Domestically, choosy Italian consumers have been turning their noses up at the product, regardless of how many mouthfuls of the stuff are eagerly swallowed by smiling ministers.

Ministers moved swiftly to reassure Italian consumers
Mrs Corso says that sales in her adjacent shop have already plummeted from an average of 600kg a day to just 200kg.

Damage control

Italy's farmers' association, Coldiretti, which represents many of the 2,000 buffalo farmers in the cheese-producing region, says the scare has been inflated by the media.

"The fear has been exaggerated. Mozzarella di buffalo is a DOC product, which means that as well as the normal controls it also has to meet additional, stringent EU guidelines. It is a hyper-controlled product," says the organisation's food safety officer Rolando Manfredini.

The market in the cheese has already lost 30m euros ($48m; £24m) - 10% of its total value - and it could lose another 60% over the next 15 days, he warns.

More worryingly though, he says the scare will damage the country's enviable reputation for high-quality foodstuffs.

"The link has already being made between mozzarella di buffalo and other 'Made in Italy' products - this is a dangerous step," he said.

Scientists agree that a vast quantity of the cheese would have to be consumed at each and every meal to pose a risk. But the European Commission is taking no chances.

"The experts I have talked to don't think there is a serious risk to human health," a commission source said.

"It is important that everything that leaves the EU complies with EU legislation, but it doesn't mean that anyone is getting poisoned. The dioxin levels are over the maximum amount, so measures are needed to decrease the levels."

The mystery remains the source of the contamination, which Italian newspapers speculate may be linked to Naples' long-running rubbish crisis.

The Campania region is under EU investigation over its environment and waste management.

Many herds are run by small-scale farmers with as few as five cattle
Scenes of smouldering rubbish piles have already damaged both the southern port city's image and its tourism industry.

But earlier this year the local health authority also began screening residents for dioxin contamination, after rumours that toxic waste was being dumped by the Mafia-controlled waste disposal industry.

Daniela Battaglia, livestock production officer at the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, says dioxins can enter the food chain by a variety of methods.

Prized cheese

"Dioxin can be present in the air, water and soil. An animal could have exposure to it through the air or through animal feed, or through its grazing.

"Normally dioxin comes from by-products of industrial processes - like waste incineration for example," she said.

It is the buffalo milk's high fat content which could concentrate the dioxins in any contaminated milk, she explained.

"The higher the fat content of the contaminated milk, the higher the level of dioxin," she said.

Even some loyal fans of the cheese admit that the scare has forced them to change suppliers. One such is Marco Gravante, who works at a buffalo mozzarella bar in a plush central London department store, where a plateful of the prized cheese sells for about £11 (13 euros; $22).

"We used to get our mozzarella from northern Campania region, but now we are sourcing it from southern Salerno region instead," he said.

"But to be honest, I don't really trust what the media are saying. I come from Campania and, believe me, mozzarella di buffala is one of the best foods on the planet."

Special Thanks to BBC News

EU to ban cat and dog fur trade

The European Parliament has backed a ban on cat and dog fur imports, in a move to curb the slaughter of millions of cats and dogs in China.
MEPs say shoppers buy goods made with the fur unknowingly, because exporters attach false labels.

It is used in coats, linings for boots and gloves, stuffed toys, and even homeopathic aids for arthritis.

MEPs have agreed with EU member states on the text of the law, which will come into effect from 31 December 2008.

Up to 10 adult dogs needed to make fur coat
Up to 24 cats needed for cat fur coat
Cat and dog fur also used in hats, gloves, shoes, blankets, stuffed animals and toys
Dog fur labelled as: Gae-wolf, sobaki, Asian jackal, goupee, loup d'Asie, Corsac fox, dogues du Chine, fake or exotic fur
Cat fur labelled as: house cat, wild cat, katzenfelle, rabbit, goyangi, mountain cat

The rules exempt fur sold under strict conditions for educational purposes or for taxidermy.

"Many people are unwittingly deceived into buying garments made out of cat and dog fur due to mislabelling. This law will put an end to these deceptive practices," said Labour MEP Arlene McCarthy.

Conservative MEP Struan Stevenson, said: "Slaughter of these animals is horrific, with cats strangled outside their cages as other cats look on.

"Dogs noosed with metal wires are slashed across the groin until they bleed to death as the wire noose cuts into their throat."

DNA tests

Ministers from the EU member states will need to give the ban their approval, but are not expected to reject it, following an informal agreement with the parliament on the text.

Liberal MEP Liz Lynne said a Europe-wide ban would add weight to bans already in force in several EU member states and the United States.

The legislation was initiated by the European Parliament, more than half of whose members signed a written declaration supporting a ban in December 2003.

The European Commission then drafted a regulation in 2006.

It aims to:

Block cat and dog fur imports at the border

Introduce penalties for traders

Encourage sharing of information on how to detect cat and dog fur

Campaigners say hundreds of thousands of animals can be saved
The Commission says the obligation on member states to carry out checks and test for the fur will also provide a clearer picture of what products it is being used in, and where it comes from.

As cat and dog fur can be hard to detect when it is dyed, some states are already using hi-tech systems - mass spectrometry or DNA testing - to identify it.

Europe and Russia are reported to be the main markets for the cats and dogs killed in China and some other Asian countries.

David Neale, UK director of Animals Asia Foundation, said the ban would stop hundreds of thousands if not millions of animals from being killed.

Special Thanks to BBC News

Speaker of the House Mrs. Nancy Pelosi

Achmed the Dead Terrorist