Sunday, January 28, 2007

Hi, I'd like to buy a copy of Vista (Image)

Man says he zapped wife's grandma

A man who said he used a stun gun on his wife's 79-year-old grandmother was arrested for investigation of domestic assault.

Aaron de Bruyn, 26, was cited with fourth-degree domestic violence assault Wednesday and released from the Skamania County jail Thursday, Police Chief Calvin Owens said. The grandmother wasn't injured.

De Bruyn said he was arguing with Rosemary Garlock, who accused him of abusing his seven-month-old son when he swatted the boy's diapered bottom to stop him from grabbing electrical wires.

When she refused to leave, he said he shocked her on her right shoulder as she sat on the living room couch.

"She yelped, because getting Tased hurts," de Bruyn told The Columbian newspaper.

De Bruyn said he had the 50,000-volt Taser X26 energy weapon to protect against burglars. He said he called authorities, saying he had a relative in his house who would not leave.

De Bruyn's stun gun was confiscated.

"If I had to do it over again, I wouldn't," he said.

OpEd:Let's Be More Like Russia

Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov called Monday for drug dealers to be "destroyed" during a speech to law enforcement and city offficials at the Moscow headquarters of the Federal Drug Control Service, according to an account in the Moscow Times. Luzkhov suggested Russia implement drug laws like those in Singapore, where drug traffickers face execution.

"In Singapore, there is no drug addiction," he said. "Let us do the same." Luzkhov somewhat wistfully noted that "these days, a democratic government does not accept" a draconian drug policy like Singapore's, but added that Russia should "accept something close to it."

But Russia has gone in the other direction in recent years. Since 2004, when a new law decriminalized simple drug possession, official drug policy has been to go after traffickers and sellers, but not users. Apparently, the increased penalties for drug dealers and traffickers under the 2004 law is not enough for Luzkhov, and the decriminalization of drug possession sticks in the craw of Russian narcs. The Federal Drug Control Service has fought bitterly to reinstate penalties against small-time possessors, first attempting to subvert the new law's intent by defining personal use quantities at ridiculously low levels, such as 0.01 grams of heroin. Instead, the personal use quantity was set at one gram, but in a small victory for the drug warriors, that was cut back to half a gram last year.

Drug use has been on the rise in Russia and other republics of the former Soviet Union since its dissolution. The country registers several hundred thousand "drug addicts" each year, with the real number being likely much greater. An estimated 70,000 Russians die from drug overdoses each year, and injection drug use is involved in many of the country's hundreds of thousands of AIDS cases.

While officials like Mayor Luzkhov see only greater repression as the answer, non-governmental organizations like New Drug Policy seek to balance the hardliners by lobbying for reasonable harm reduction policies. "Using a drug is not a criminal offense," said the group's Lev Levinson in response to the mayor's remarks. "It is punishable only by a fine. The mayor, Levinson said, had cast an envious glance on Singapore's harsh policy for at least a decade.

A 3,375-mile swim up the Amazon

A LONG-DISTANCE swimmer known as “the Fish Man” will start a daring 3,375-mile journey along the entire length of the Amazon this week, a feat that has never been attempted before because of its extraordinary dangers.

Martin Strel, 52, a Slovenian who has already swum the lengths of the Danube (1,877 miles), the Mississippi (2,360 miles) and the Yangtze (2,487 miles), was completing preparations this weekend for his toughest challenge by far.

On his way from Atalaya in Peru to Belem in Brazil — a marathon equivalent to swimming the Atlantic — he is expected to encounter venomous snakes, crocodiles, rapids, whirlpools and a 13ft tidal wave called the Pororoca.

His support team, travelling in three boats and filming a documentary on his progress, will carry buckets of fresh animal blood to pour into the water in order to distract potentially lethal predators, particularly the flesh-eating piranha.

“I’m a little afraid because the Amazon is a huge river filled with ferocious creatures, fish and insects,” Strel said last week. “I’m going to swim that river or die trying — but I’m hoping for a happy ending.”

Among the perils he faces is the candiru, or toothpick fish — otherwise known as the “vampire fish of Brazil” — which is said to swim up the penis and deep into the urethra where it raises a spine and feeds on blood and tissue. Only surgery will remove it.

Strel, who plans to swim 14 hours a day for 70 days, will wear a wetsuit and use copious quantities of Vaseline to protect himself. His support team includes two doctors, who will carry several pints of his blood in case he needs a transfusion.

The expedition, which will be broadcast live on the internet, will draw on advice from doctors and scientists around the world who will monitor his health.

A grizzled bear of a man, Strel, who is a national hero in Slovenia, may also come across poisonous fresh-water stingrays and aggressive bull sharks, which travel far up the river from the Atlantic and frequently attack swimmers. Other hazards range from tarantulas to malaria, dengue fever and rabies spread by bites from vampire bats.

Many experts on the river have expressed their fears for his safety. Sergio Bringel, a researcher at Brazil’s National Institute for Amazon Research, said: “Anything is possible but the Amazon is far more treacherous than the Mississippi or the Yangtze.

“I wouldn’t try and stop him but the risks are there — from being eaten by piranhas, drowning in the rapids or being attacked by cannibal tribes.”

Strel, who will sleep on a support boat at night, has been training for two years, swimming three to four hours a day, deliberately putting on weight to guard against emaciation during his adventure. He boasts of a diet that allows him to eat anything he wants, washed down with copious quantities of red wine and Slovenian beer.

He told one interviewer about his fears during long river expeditions. “On a bad day you’re fighting currents and big waves. Sometimes you’re hungry and tired,” he said.

“Other times you’re swimming through polluted waters, dodging electrical storms and desperately trying not to think what else might be swimming alongside or under you. Water snakes are the things I hate most.”

He will dive into the Amazon on Thursday at least 40lb overweight but if all goes according to schedule on the $1m (£510,000) expedition, he will arrive at the coast on April 11. “I want to achieve the impossible,” he said.

Born in the former communist Yugoslavia, Strel was a guitar student before becoming a professional marathon swimmer in 1978. He swam the Channel in 1997, a modest effort by comparison with what was to follow. In 2001 he broke the world record for an uninterrupted swim, covering 313 miles in a time of 84 hours 10 minutes.

He is also the only man to have swum from Tunisia to Italy, completing the 49 miles in less than 30 hours.

“As a young boy I was beaten a lot by my parents and schoolmasters,” he confessed. “This no doubt contributed greatly to my ability to ignore pain and endure.”

Last warning: 10 years to save world

THE world has just 10 years to reverse surging greenhouse gas emissions or risk runaway climate change that could make many parts of the planet uninhabitable.

The stark warning comes from scientists who are working on the final draft of a new report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The report, due to be published this week, will draw together the work of thousands of scientists from around the world who have been studying changes in the world’s climate and predicting how they might accelerate.

They conclude that unless mankind rapidly stabilises greenhouse gas emissions and starts reducing them, it will have little chance of keeping global warming within manageable limits.

The results could include the destruction of the Amazon rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef, the forced migration of hundreds of millions of people from equatorial regions, and the loss of vast tracts of land under rising seas as the ice caps melt.

In Europe the summers could become unbearably hot, especially in southern countries such as Greece, Spain and Italy, while Britain and northern Europe would face summer droughts and wet, stormy winters.

“The next 10 years are crucial,” said Richard Betts, leader of a research team at the Met Office’s Hadley Centre for climate prediction. “In that decade we have to achieve serious reductions in carbon emissions. After that time the task becomes very much harder.”

Among the scientists’ biggest fears is that rising temperatures and levels of greenhouse gases could soon overwhelm the natural systems that normally keep their levels in check.

About half the 24 billion tons of carbon dioxide generated by human activities each year are absorbed by forests and oceans — a process without which the world might already be several degrees warmer.

But as CO2 levels rise and soils dry, microbes can start breaking down accumulated organic matter, so forests become net producers of greenhouse gases. The sea’s power to absorb CO2 also falls sharply as it warms.

The latest research suggests the threshold for such disastrous changes will come when CO2 levels reach 550 parts per million (ppm), roughly double their natural levels. This is predicted to happen around 2040-50.

“At the moment the real impact of our emissions is buffered because CO2 is absorbed by natural systems. However, if we reach this threshold they could be magnified instead,” said Betts. “It means we must start the action needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the next few years.”

His warnings were backed up by Dr Malte Meinshausen, a researcher at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. He has used computer modelling to work out what might happen if greenhouse gas emissions were cut immediately, in 10 years’ time or later.

His results showed that immediate action might allow mankind to hold CO2 levels at 450ppm — well below the 550ppm danger level. However, Meinshausen and his colleagues recognise that this is unrealistic because the world’s governments are in such disarray over global warming. The best hope, they say, is that a global plan will emerge in the next few years, most likely from the renegotiations of the Kyoto treaty on reducing emissions.

“We have to make sure carbon emissions peak no later than 2015 and then fall at around 3% a year. If we let them keep rising after that date it becomes much harder to bring them under control,” said Meinshausen.

His views were echoed by Dr Carol Turley of Plymouth Marine Laboratories who has been studying how rising CO2 levels are acidifying the ocean. When the gas dissolves in water it creates carbonic acid. “Rising acidity makes it much harder for marine organisms to build shells,” she said.

Turley, like the other scientists, has contributed to the IPCC report but all commented this weekend on the basis of already-published research. “If we do not take action in the next decade, by 2100 swathes of the ocean could have been stripped of creatures from plankton to coral reefs,” she said. “Such changes would devastate ecosystems and fisheries.”

Commissioner Barroso leads the battle from his gas-guzzling 4x4

THE president of the European commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, has been accused of hypocrisy for driving a fuel-guzzling off-road vehicle while insisting that cars must become more frugal to combat climate change, write Daniel Foggo and Nicola Smith.

Barroso last week backed proposals to force manufacturers to slash carbon dioxide emissions from new cars by more than 25% within six years.

His car is a Volkswagen Touareg, a hulking 4x4 with high fuel consumption and a carbon dioxide output of 275 g/km compared with an average of 163 g/km.

Barroso said the Touareg was chosen by his wife Margarida and that he rarely travelled in it. His other mode of transport is understood to be a commission Mercedes.

His spokesman said it was “against the concept of a free society to micro-manage people’s choices”.

Jan Kowalzig, climate campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe, said: “Barroso claims to be committed to fighting climate change whilst driving a big gas-guzzling

car in the narrow roads of Brussels. As a high-profile politician he should lead by example, making significant changes to his own lifestyle.”

In contrast, Stavros Dimas, the European environment commissioner, drives a small, green-pleasing Honda Jazz.

Iran begins big nuclear build-up

IRAN plans next month to begin installing equipment that will enrich uranium on an industrial scale, dramatically raising the bidding in its confrontation with the West.

Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Iranian officials had told him they planned to start installing the centrifuge equipment in an underground plant at Natanz, 150 miles south of Tehran. Centrifuges are the machines that spin uranium gas to enrich it to a grade suitable for nuclear power or weapons.

ElBaradei said he was worried that further sanctions against Iran, which the United Nations has threatened to impose next month if it fails to halt its enrichment programme, were “only going to lead to escalation”.

He dismissed as “absolutely bonkers” suggestions that Israel or the US might mount a military attack on the Iranian nuclear sites. It might destroy the buildings, he said, but it would not deprive Iran of its nuclear expertise and would strengthen the hand of hardliners in the regime.

The US has said it wants a diplomatic solution to the standoff but has not ruled out military action if that failed.

In a move analysts said was a warning to Iran, it has sent a second aircraft carrier to the Gulf.

American officials say that there may be an element of bluff in the Iranian statement of intention as the regime had promised a year ago to have 3,000 centrifuges in operation by now.

The credibility of official Iranian pronouncements was further undermined last night when a leading politician in Tehran claimed that the centrifuges were already being installed. “We are now installing 3,000 centrifuges,” Alaeddin Boroujerdi, head of the Iranian parliament’s foreign affairs and national security committee, announced. However his statement was swiftly denied by a spokesman of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation.

A formal announcement on Tehran’s nuclear plans is expected for the anniversary of the Iranian revolution next month.

In Washington, the White House reiterated the US stance that the installation of the centrifuges would be a “major miscalculation” by the Iranian government. UN sanctions imposed last month banned the transfer of sensitive materials and know-how to Iran’s nuclear and missile programmes.

The United States has also imposed sanctions on two big Iranian state banks, ratcheting up the pressure on Tehran.

In a separate sign of mounting tensions Iran has demanded the removal of Chris Charlier, a Belgian UN official in charge of inspecting the country’s nuclear programme. The move follows a ban on 38 inspectors from the US, Britain, Germany and France that had pushed for UN sanctions.

The IAEA has a pool of 200 inspectors to verify Tehran is not diverting materials into bomb production. Iran has the legal right to reject any inspector and says it is still co-operating with the IAEA.

Diplomats have said the IAEA did not want a precedent set for hampering inspections and thereby escalating confrontation with the West.