Sunday, October 30, 2005

World History (In the beginning) ;-)

History began some 12,000 years ago. Humans existed as members of small bands of nomadic hunter/gatherers.

They lived on deer in the mountains during the summer & would go to the coast & live on fish & lobster in winter.

The 2 most important events in all of history were the invention of beer & the invention of the wheel. The wheel was invented to get man to the beer. These were the foundation of modern civilization & together were the catalyst for the splitting of humanity into 2 distinct subgroups: Liberals & Conservatives.

Once beer was discovered it required grain & that was the beginning of agriculture. Neither the glass bottle nor aluminum can were invented yet, so while our early human ancestors were sitting around waiting for them to be invented, they just stayed close to the brewery. That's how villages were formed.

Some men spent their days tracking & killing animals to B-B-Q at night while they were drinking beer. This was the beginning of what is known as "the Conservative movement."

Other men who were weaker & less skilled at hunting learned to live off the conservatives by showing up for the nightly B-B-Q's & doing the sewing, fetching & hair dressing. This was the beginning of the Liberal movement. Some of these liberal men eventually evolved into women. The rest became known as 'girleymen.'

Some noteworthy liberal achievements include the domestication of cats, the invention of group therapy & group hugs & the concept of Democratic voting to decide how to divide the meat & beer that conservatives provided.

Over the years conservatives came to be symbolized by the largest, most powerful land animal on earth, the elephant. Liberals are symbolized by the jackass.

Modern liberals like imported beer (with lime added), but most prefer white wine or imported bottled water. They eat raw fish but like their beef well done. Sushi, tofu, & French food are standard liberal fare.

Another interesting evolutionary side note: most of their women have higher testosterone levels than their men. Most social workers, personal injury attorneys, journalists, dreamers in Hollywood & group therapists are liberals. Liberals invented the designated hitter rule because it wasn't "fair" to make the pitcher also bat.

Conservatives drink domestic beer. They eat red meat & still provide for their women. Conservatives are big-game hunters, rodeo cowboys, lumberjacks, construction workers, firemen, medical doctors, police officers, corporate executives, fighter pilots, athletes & generally anyone who works productively outside government. Conservatives who own companies hire other conservatives who want to work for a living.

Liberals produce little or nothing. They like to "govern" the producers & decide what to do with the production. Liberals believe Europeans are more enlightened than Americans. That is why most of the liberals remained in Europe when conservatives were coming to America. They crept in after the Wild West was tame & created a business of trying to get MORE for nothing.

Here ends today's lesson in world history.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Hail Mary!!!

New York Times

Increasingly, Football's Playbooks Call for Prayer

October 30, 2005

Every preseason for 30 years, Coach Bobby Bowden has taken his Florida State football players to a church in a white community and a church in a black community in the Tallahassee area in an effort, he said, to build camaraderie. He writes to their parents in advance, explaining that the trips are voluntary, and that if they object, their sons can stay home without fear of retaliation. He remembers only one or two players ever skipping the outing.

Since becoming the football coach at Georgia in 2001, Mark Richt, too, has taken his team to churches in the preseason. A devotional service is conducted the night before each game, and a prayer service on game day. Both are voluntary, and Mr. Richt said he does not attend them.

On game days, Penn State players may choose between Catholic and Protestant services or not go at all. Coach Joe Paterno and the team say the Lord's Prayer in the locker room after games.

As in politics and culture in the United States, college football is increasingly becoming a more visible home for the Gospel. In the past year more than 2,000 college football coaches participated in events sponsored by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, which said that more than 1.4 million athletes and coaches from youth to professional levels had attended in 2005, up from 500,000 in 1990.

Mr. Bowden believes that prayer and faith are part of the American way.

"Most parents want their boys to go to church," he said. "I've had atheists, Jews, Catholics and Muslims play for me, and I've never not started a boy because of his faith. I'm Christian, but all religions have some kind of commandments, and if kids would obey them, the world would be a better place."

But others raise concerns about separation of church and state.

"This is a lawsuit waiting to happen, and I believe university administrations are playing a game of chicken," the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, a lawyer and executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said. "But eventually, you got to believe that one kid is going to say, 'I've had enough,' and step forward."

The spiritual fervor of some coaches and athletes at public institutions, however, did not escape notice at the high school level this month. Marcus Borden, the football coach in East Brunswick, N.J., resigned rather than stop participating in a player-initiated pregame prayer, as he was ordered to do by the district after parents complained. He returned to his team after agreeing not to pray, but is considering a legal challenge.

Last June, in the wake of a Pentagon task force investigating broader allegations of religious intolerance at the Air Force Academy, Fisher DeBerry, the football coach, stopped leading pregame prayers and removed a banner in the Falcons' locker room. It bore the Fellowship of Christian Athletes' Competitors Creed, which begins "I am a Christian first and last."

"The problem inherently is the hierarchal nature of the player-coach relationship, where the coach is all-powerful," Mr. Lynn said. "Team members want face time and playing time. And if they don't go along with what the coach offers, they fear that they will become second-stringers."

Peer pressure in a group dynamic, Mr. Lynn said, has prevented any college player from coming forward to mount a legal challenge. No one wants to alienate a coach, especially a popular one.

In 2000, the United States Supreme Court reaffirmed its decisions against officially sponsored prayer in public schools in a case involving a district in Santa Fe, Tex., where prayers preceded high school football games over the public-address system.

The 6-to-3 majority opinion by Justice John Paul Stevens said that even when attendance is voluntary and when the decision to pray is made by students, "the delivery of a pregame prayer has the improper effect of coercing those present to participate in an act of religious worship," which violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment.

That may be the law, but God has long played a prominent role in the game's mythology, from the postcards of the former Alabama Coach Bear Bryant walking on water, to the mosaic of Christ with raised arms on a Notre Dame library that looms above the football stadium and is known as Touchdown Jesus.

"It's an awkward issue to raise because much of these things are grounded in boosting team morale and building unity more than hard gospel," Leo Sandon, professor emeritus of religion and American studies at Florida State, said. "When you juxtapose it with the iconic status of some of these coaches, it becomes more daunting and doesn't get much comment. "

Mr. Richt, 45, was once Mr. Bowden's assistant at Florida State and has followed his successful ways on the field. Entering yesterday, the Bulldogs (7-0) were ranked No. 4, while the Seminoles (6-1) were No. 10 in the Associated Press news media poll. Mr. Richt has also followed his mentor's lead by making his private faith a matter of public record.

He has one supporter with a different perspective: Musa Smith, a rookie running back for the N.F.L. Baltimore Ravens, who played at Georgia. Smith was reared a Muslim and did not attend chapel services with his teammates. When he did pray with them, he stuck to his own prayers. Mr. Smith said he was inspired by the example set by Mr. Richt.

"At the end of the day, it was about strengthening your spiritual foundations and to walk in a righteous way in whatever you believe," Mr. Smith said. "It reminded me of my fundamentals and made me a better person."

Mr. Bowden, 75, who has been outspoken about his faith throughout his 50-year career, does not doubt that he has kept critics at bay because of his success and his popularity in north Florida, where the predominantly Christian population recognizes one of its own in his folksy ways.

"I win too many games," said Mr. Bowden, who is major college football's most successful coach with 357 victories.

Neither Mr. Richt nor Mr. Bowden drinks alcohol or smokes, and both adhere to a spiritual regimen. Mr. Richt reads a chapter of Proverbs a day, and prays between meetings and before interviews; Mr. Bowden begins his day at 4 a.m. with an hour of reading the Bible and is known for offering fiery church sermons.

Each believes that by exemplifying his religious values he can develop not only better players, but also better students, sons, husbands and fathers.

Center David Castillo, who is in his final season at Florida State, said that Mr. Bowden has been sensitive to the diversity of his players. The pregame and postgame prayers Mr. Bowden leads are nondenominational and directed at the safety of both teams and those traveling to see them, Mr. Castillo said.

"He tells us that he doesn't care if we don't believe what he does, "Mr. Castillo, who is preparing for medical school, said. "But he wants us to believe in something."

Mr. Bowden, however, injected himself in the Air Force controversy when he told attendees of a Fellowship of Christian Athletes event in Colorado Springs, home of the academy, that Mr. DeBerry was in a "heck of a battle because he happens to be a Christian, and he wants his boys to be saved."

"I want my boys to be saved," Mr. Bowden added.

In fact, he said, when about 70 percent of his players come from single-parent homes, or are reared by an extended family, it is his right and responsibility to be candid about his faith. "You got 90 kids in a history or psychology classroom around here, and a professor can stand up and say anything he wants in creation," Mr. Bowden said recently in an interview at his office. "Why can't I tell my boys what I believe?"

Ron Riccio, who is representing Mr. Borden in New Jersey, said God and religion have not been swept away by the government: the Pledge of Allegiance, and the words In God We Trust remain on currency. Legislative bodies often begin sessions with a prayer, and "you have nearly every president in history saying, 'God bless America,' " Mr. Riccio, who teaches constitutional law at Seton Hall's law school, said.

Mr. Sandon, the retired Florida State professor, has had an amicable relationship with Mr. Bowden since serving as a member of the university's athletic board. But in his syndicated newspaper column, Religion in America, Mr. Sandon criticized Mr. Bowden's remarks regarding Mr. DeBerry and Air Force.

"Don't make any mistake - the biggest man around here is Bobby Bowden, and I have never seen any president or athletic director call him to heel," Mr. Sandon said. "If you have a strong religious dimension to your program, there is going to be church-and-state issues."

Despite the Santa Fe decision, T. K. Wetherell, the president of Florida State, said he did not believe Mr. Bowden had violated the Constitution, nor was he worried that Mr. Bowden would.

"Coach Bowden has the right and ability to speak his mind, as do all of our faculty," Mr. Wetherell said. "He doesn't push his views on his players. It gets back basically to the academic-freedom issue, and we give that some leeway for all our faculty and staff. He understands that he works for a public institution."

So does Mr. Richt. Yet in 2001 and 2003, Americans United for Separation of Church and State wrote to Georgia saying that Mr. Richt's program was in violation of the establishment clause. In both instances, Stephen M. Shewmaker, the executive director of legal affairs at Georgia, replied that because participation was voluntary the university had found no violations of the Constitution.

Mr. Richt has shown he is sensitive to both the threats to the Constitution and public opinion. In 2002, after Georgia clinched the Southeastern Conference East title, he began his news conference with religious comments. He was criticized by some fans and the news media, and subsequently apologized.

"My goal is not to cause somebody grief or to make anyone upset," Mr. Richt said. "My goal is to love these guys and put them in a situation where they can grow up to be the best men they can be. We are an authority over them, and I have influence over them, and I take that responsibility seriously."

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


US security chief strives to expel all illegal immigrants

Oct 18 11:47 AM US/Eastern

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said his department aims without exception to expel all those who enter the United States illegally.

"Our goal at DHS (Homeland Security) is to completely eliminate the 'catch and release' enforcement problem, and return every single illegal entrant, no exceptions.

"It should be possible to achieve significant and measurable progress to this end in less than a year," Chertoff told a Senate hearing.

Thousands of "Mexicans who are caught entering the United States illegally are returned immediately to Mexico. But other parts of the system have nearly collapsed under the weight of numbers. The problem is especially severe for non-Mexicans apprehended at the southwest border," Chertoff explained.

"Today, a non-Mexican illegal immigrant caught trying to enter the United States across the southwest border has an 80 percent chance of being released immediately because we lack the holding facilities," he added.

"Through a comprehensive approach, we are moving to end this 'catch and release' style of border enforcement by reengineering our detention and removal process."

Chertoff's remarks in favor of returning "every illegal entrant, no exceptions" appeared to conflict directly with the US policy toward illegal Cuban migrants.

Though Cubans picked up at sea are returned to their country, those who reach US soil by air, sea or ground are allowed to stay and work -- a fact Cuba says encourages dangerous illegal emigration attempts.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

The Big Melt

The New York Times:

October 10, 2005

As Polar Ice Turns to Water, Dreams of Treasure Abound

This article is by Clifford Krauss, Steven Lee Myers, Andrew C. Revkin and Simon Romero.

CHURCHILL, Manitoba - It seems harsh to say that bad news for polar bears is good for Pat Broe. Mr. Broe, a Denver entrepreneur, is no more to blame than anyone else for a meltdown at the top of the world that threatens Arctic mammals and ancient traditions and lends credibility to dark visions of global warming.

Still, the newest study of the Arctic ice cap - finding that it faded this summer to its smallest size ever recorded - is beginning to make Mr. Broe look like a visionary for buying this derelict Hudson Bay port from the Canadian government in 1997. Especially at the price he paid: about $7.

By Mr. Broe's calculations, Churchill could bring in as much as $100 million a year as a port on Arctic shipping lanes shorter by thousands of miles than routes to the south, and traffic would only increase as the retreat of ice in the region clears the way for a longer shipping season.

With major companies and nations large and small adopting similar logic, the Arctic is undergoing nothing less than a great rush for virgin territory and natural resources worth hundreds of billions of dollars. Even before the polar ice began shrinking more each summer, countries were pushing into the frigid Barents Sea, lured by undersea oil and gas fields and emboldened by advances in technology. But now, as thinning ice stands to simplify construction of drilling rigs, exploration is likely to move even farther north.

Last year, scientists found tantalizing hints of oil in seabed samples just 200 miles from the North Pole. All told, one quarter of the world's undiscovered oil and gas resources lies in the Arctic, according to the United States Geological Survey.

The polar thaw is also starting to unlock other treasures: lucrative shipping routes, perhaps even the storied Northwest Passage; new cruise ship destinations; and important commercial fisheries.

"It's the positive side of global warming, if there is a positive side," said Ron Lemieux, the transportation minister of Manitoba, whose provincial government is investing millions in Churchill.

If the melting continues, as many Arctic experts expect, the mass of floating ice that has crowned the planet for millions of years may largely disappear for entire summers this century. Instead of the white wilderness that killed explorers and defeated navigators for centuries, the world would have a blue pole on top, a seasonally open sea nearly five times the size of the Mediterranean.

But if the Arctic is no longer a frozen backyard, the fences matter. For now it is not clear where those fences are. Under a treaty called the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, territory is determined by how far a nation's continental shelf extends into the sea. Under the treaty, countries have limited time after ratifying it to map the sea floor and make claims.

In 2001, Russia made the first move, staking out virtually half the Arctic Ocean, including the North Pole. But after challenges by other nations, including the United States, Russia sought to bolster its claim by sending a research ship north to gather more geographical data. On Aug. 29, it reached the pole without the help of an icebreaker - the first ship ever to do so.

The United States, an Arctic nation itself because of Alaska, could also try to expand its territory. But several senators who oppose any possible infringement on American sovereignty have repeatedly blocked ratification of the treaty.

Indeed, not everyone agrees that warming of the Arctic merits concern. No one knows what share of the recent thawing can be attributed to natural cycles and how much to heat-trapping pollution linked to recent global warming, and some scientists and government officials, particularly in Russia, are dismissive of assertions that a permanent change is at hand.

"We are not going to have apple trees growing in Vorkuta," said the mayor of that coal-mining city, Igor L. Shpektor, who is also the president of Russia's union of Arctic cities and towns.

But the current thaw is already real enough for the four million people within the Arctic Circle, including about 150,000 Inuit. "As long as it's ice," said Sheila Watt-Cloutier, leader of a transnational Inuit group, "nobody cares except us, because we hunt and fish and travel on that ice. However, the minute it starts to thaw and becomes water, then the whole world is interested."

Increasingly, big corporations, the eight countries with Arctic footholds and other nations farther south are betting on the possibility of a great transformation. Energy-hungry China has set up a research station on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen and twice deployed its icebreaker Snow Dragon, which normally works in Antarctica, to northern waters to conduct climate research.

Interest in Arctic-hardy vessels has picked up so much that in January, Aker Finnyards, a giant shipbuilder based in Helsinki, created a subsidiary just to develop ice-hardened ships. Its new double-ended tanker slips smoothly through open water bow first but can spin around and use an icebreakerlike stern to smash through heavy floes. A Finnish energy company bought two for about $90 million apiece, and after buying one Russia licensed the design and is building two more.

In January, the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research held a closed two-day meeting to hear from experts on the implications of a warming, opening Arctic.

"There are likely to be a number of foreign-policy issues that must be addressed by the United States and other nations" if the climate trends persist, said a summary of the meeting. "These issues include the availability and potential for exploitation of energy, fisheries and other resources; access to new sea routes; new claims under Law of the Sea; national security; and others."

A look at a map of the globe with the North Pole at its center explains why a new frontier matters. Some countries that one might think of as being half a world part appear as startlingly close neighbors, and relatively speaking, they are.

In the days of empire, Rudyard Kipling called jockeying among world powers in Central Asia the Great Game. Christopher Weafer, an energy analyst with Alfa Bank in Moscow, says this new Arctic rush is "the Great Game in a cold climate."

The Petroleum Rush

To understand the practical terms of this new competition for territory, opportunity and resources, a good place to begin is Hammerfest, Norway, one of the northernmost towns in the world and one of 12 Arctic settlements visited over six months by correspondents of The New York Times preparing this series of articles.

Hammerfest, once an austerely beautiful fishing village burned to the ground by the Nazis in World War II, is starting to swell with young people from other parts of Norway, Finland, Russia and Asia, as well as with highly trained technical workers from Europe and North America. They are drawn by Snohvit (in English, Snow White), a mammoth complex being built to receive natural gas piped from the Barents Sea and liquefy the gas for shipping.

The Norwegian government, which controls Snohvit in part through its majority ownership of the energy company Statoil, is desperate for Snohvit to be a success and put the country in the forefront of Arctic energy exploration. Being first, however, has had its challenges in the severe operating environment of the High North, as Arctic areas are called in Norway. Overruns have put the price of Snohvit at $8.8 billion, almost 50 percent above its original estimate.

The project has a firm backer in John Doyle Ong, the blunt United States ambassador in Oslo. Snohvit is scheduled to start sending liquefied natural gas to the Cove Point port in Maryland in 2007, just as American imports of liquefied gas from competing sources in the Middle East and Africa are set to rise rapidly. Importing natural gas from a stable country like Norway - already the world's third-largest oil exporter, after Saudi Arabia and Russia - is a rare option these days.

"Norway's importance to the United States in terms of our national energy policy is increasing with every passing year," Mr. Ong said.

But the United States' interests go beyond that - too far beyond for many in Norway. In September, the opening of frontier areas in the Barents and Norwegian Seas emerged as a central issue in elections that brought a leftist coalition to power, with some coalition members favoring a ban on Arctic oil and gas exploration in environmentally sensitive areas.

And besides supporting Snohvit, Mr. Ong, a former energy executive, has stepped into disputes between Norway and Russia over a large gray zone in the Barents. His insistence that Arctic-related matters be "trilateral" rather than bilateral is viewed as belligerent by some Norwegians.

In private, Norwegian officials welcome the heft of the United States in its negotiations with Russia. Norway is eager to resolve the territorial dispute so that some order, and Norwegian drilling expertise and environmental standards, can be imposed on Arctic exploration. Because as large as Snohvit is, it is dwarfed by a far bigger gas field to the east in Russian waters. That field, called Shtokman, is being developed by Gazprom, Russia's gas behemoth.

In September, Gazprom selected five companies - Statoil and Norsk Hydro from Norway, Total from France and Chevron and ConocoPhillips - as finalists in a search for partners to develop Shtokman, in the Barents Sea, 350 miles north of Russia's Kola Peninsula. The development costs are estimated at $15 billion to $20 billion. The field is reported to hold more than double all of Canada's gas reserves.

"They're going to find more of them," Mr. Weafer, the Moscow-based energy analyst, said of Arctic gas deposits. "It's the next energy frontier."

And while natural gas is certainly valued, the prize that is generating the biggest interest is oil. Virtually every large international energy company is studying how eventually to win permission from Norway and Russia to explore in the Barents, and the Norwegian Polar Institute has been contacted repeatedly by oil companies to explore the feasibility of drilling in the icier waters north of Spitsbergen.

Jan-Gunnar Winther, director of the institute, said the seasonal melting of the polar cap might allow access to more petroleum deposits but also create more challenges.

"A warmer climate in the north would mean more icebergs, rather than less," he said. "There will be obstacles in getting to the petroleum, but if oil prices stay high there will be enticements as well."

A push into the Barents Sea could help redraw the politics of energy allegiances, and gas in particular puts Russia in a strong position. "It has a good chance of becoming a more effective counterbalance to OPEC," Mr. Weafer said.

As for Norway, the warming world gives it the chance to seek influence far beyond its size. Energy-hungry countries that might have written off the Arctic not long ago are showing considerable interest in Norway's opening of the Barents; one visitor to Oslo in September was India's oil minister, seeking a role in exploration. And if a route farther north opens just four or five months of the year, Norway could even become a major supplier of oil and gas to China, said Sverre Lodgaard, director of the Norwegian Institute for International Affairs.

Norway is trying to position itself as "a dwarf among giants," Mayor Alf Jakobsen of Hammerfest said. "We're attracting young people to Hammerfest instead of sending them away, for the first time in years. The opportunity to become a springboard into the Arctic is upon us."

Fisheries Head North

Charlie Lean easily recalls when he realized that big changes were sweeping the fish stocks along the northern shores of Alaska.

Just over 10 years ago, when Mr. Lean was the state's fisheries manager for the northwest region, a call came in from the tiny Eskimo outpost of Kivalina, on the Chukchi Sea 150 miles northeast of the Bering Strait. A village elder was reporting "a massive fish kill" in the Wulik River, Mr. Lean said. Everyone assumed it was from some toxic spill upriver at the giant Red Dog zinc mine.

"I rounded up a plane and blasted off and flew up there," he said. "Flying overhead I could see right away it was the end of a pink salmon run. They were dying of natural causes as they always do once they spawn."

The elders had never seen a run of this salmon species. But they have shown up every year since.

The colonization of new rivers by pink salmon is just one of many changes in fish and crab stocks that appear linked to retreating sea ice and warming waters in the Chukchi Sea and, farther south, the Bering Sea. The changes are important because the Bering is rich with pollock, salmon, halibut and crab, already yielding nearly half of America's seafood catch and a third of Russia's.

Recent studies have projected that in a few decades there could be lucrative fishing grounds in waters that were largely untouched throughout human history.

In a 2002 report for the Navy on climate change and the Arctic Ocean, the Arctic Research Commission, a panel appointed by the president, concluded that species were moving north through the Bering Strait. "Climate warming is likely to bring extensive fishing activity to the Arctic, particularly in the Barents Sea and Beaufort-Chukchi region where commercial operations have been minimal in the past," the report said. "In addition, Bering Sea fishing opportunities will increase as sea ice cover begins later and ends sooner in the year."

But problems could emerge, as well, as stocks shift from the waters of one country to those of another. Snow crabs, for example, appear to be moving away from Alaska, north and west toward Russia, as the sea ice retreats. They depend on nutrients that sink to the bottom from algae growing under the ice. The valuable fishery could eventually move entirely out of American waters, some federal fisheries scientists said.

The fishing industry, a business where surviving one year to the next is the main worry, has largely not taken notice of the changes, although American crab boats are finding they have to steam farther and farther to haul in a decent catch.

"If the crabs move over into the Russian zone," said Glenn Reed, the president of the Pacific Seafood Processors Association in Seattle, "there's not much to be done about that except hope they come back someday."

Who Governs What

"Stalin once just drew a line from Murmansk to the North Pole and then to Chukchi and said, 'U.S.S.R. Polar Region' - and nobody worried about it," said Artur N. Chilingarov, an Arctic explorer and deputy speaker of Russia's lower house of Parliament.

Now, instead of Stalin, the lines will be drawn by an international commission and the geography of the seabed itself.

That means that the Arctic land grab could be decided in part inside a lab at the University of New Hampshire in Durham. There, at the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping, scientists are studying sonar scans of the seabed from a 2002 expedition on a United States Coast Guard icebreaker in waters north of Barrow, Alaska.

In the lab, Larry Mayer, the center's director, gave a reporter a joystick-driven virtual tour of the seabed two miles beneath the ice. The ocean appeared on a wall-size screen as a basin with ridges and valleys dropping into the depths around the edges, representing oceanographers' best guess at the topography before the expedition. Then Dr. Mayer pushed a button, adding depth data from the survey, which used new multibeam sonar. Suddenly a giant underwater mountain sprouted up 10,000 feet where the old chart had shown only a vague bump.

One of the old depth-sounding voyages had passed within a few miles but missed it. "That's the state of our knowledge," said Dr. Mayer, who named the undersea mountain Healy, after the icebreaker.

Such physical features matter enormously to nations seeking to expand their undersea territory under a murky clause, Article 76, in the Law of the Sea. With only fragments of the Arctic ever surveyed, by icebreaker or nuclear submarine, various countries are mounting new mapping expeditions to claim the most territory they can.

The exclusive economic zone controlled by a country generally extends 230 miles from its shores. But under Article 76, that zone can expand if a nation can convince other parties to the treaty that there is a "natural prolongation" of its continental shelf beyond that limit.

The shelf is the relatively shallow extension of a landmass to the point where the bottom drops into the oceanic abyss. But in many places, the drop-off is a gentle slope or is connected to long-submerged ridges that, if precisely mapped, might add thousands of square miles to a country's exploitable seabed.

Claims of expanded territory are being pursued the world over, but the Arctic Ocean is where experts foresee the most conflict. Only there do the boundaries of five nations - Russia, Canada, Denmark, Norway and the United States - converge, the way sections of an orange meet at the stem. (The three other Arctic nations, Iceland, Sweden and Finland, do not have coasts on the ocean.)

"The area does get to be a bit crowded," said Peter Croker, chairman of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, which assesses claims. It is composed of experts appointed by countries that ratified the treaty.

Disputes over overlapping claims must be worked out by the countries involved, but the commission weighs control over areas that would otherwise remain international waters.

Countries that ratified the treaty before May 13, 1999, have until May 13, 2009, to make claims. Other countries have 10 years from their date of ratification.

Russia adopted the treaty in 1997, and four years later laid claim to nearly half the Arctic Ocean. The commission's technical panel rejected the claim, and now Russia hopes the recent voyage of its research ship Akademik Fyodorov to the North Pole will yield mapping data in its favor.

In June, Denmark and Canada announced that they would conduct a joint surveying project of uncharted parts of the Arctic Ocean near their coasts.

Denmark is particularly interested in proving that a 1,000-mile undersea mountain range, the Lomonosov Ridge, is linked geologically to Greenland, which is semiautonomous Danish territory. If it finds such a link, Denmark could make a case that the North Pole belongs to the Danes, Danish officials have said.

Canada could also claim a huge area, and then face challenges from the other Arctic nations. The United States could petition for a swath of Arctic seabed larger than California, according to rough estimates by Dr. Mayer and other scientists. But while the government financed Dr. Mayer's survey, it has not made a definitive move toward staking a claim.

American ratification of the Law of the Sea treaty has repeatedly been blocked by a small group of Republican senators, now led by Senator James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma. They say, among other things, that the treaty would infringe on American sovereignty.

In a Senate hearing last year, Mr. Inhofe said, "I'm very troubled about implications of this convention on our national security." The deadlock has persisted even though the Bush administration in 2002 described ratification of the Law of the Sea and four other treaties as an "urgent need."

Many proponents of the treaty, including the Pentagon, the American Petroleum Institute and Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, say this paralysis leaves the United States on the sidelines while others carve up an ocean.

"We need to be in the game, at the table, talking about fisheries management, mineral extraction, freedom of navigation," said Adm. James D. Watkins, a retired chief of naval operations who is chairman of the United States Commission on Ocean Policy.

Mr. McCain said, "I think what it would require really is a hard push from the president."

Treaty or no, territorial disputes ultimately imply questions about a country's ability to defend its interests. Here, too, the United States has shown less urgency while Canada has acted more aggressively to ensure sovereignty over a fast-changing domain it had long neglected.

Already, oil tanker traffic is rising and fishing boats are going farther north. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police is concerned that melting seaways could make it easier for narcotics traffickers to reach indigenous communities, and for organized crime to exploit the growing diamond trade. And the United States, which disputes Canada's control over parts of the petroleum-rich Beaufort Sea, has in the past sent vessels unannounced through other Arctic waters that Canada claims.

Three years ago Canada began patrolling the most remote Arctic reaches with army rangers, a mostly Eskimo force of 1,500 irregulars. Next year the military plans to launch Radarsat 2, a satellite system that will allow surveillance of the Arctic and sea approaches as far as 1,000 miles offshore.

The military is also buying three reinforced tankers to supply ships patrolling the north. The fleet of Twin Otters, the primary surveillance and transport planes in the north since the 1960's, will be replaced with bigger, faster transports. And senior officials are touring places that offer little but symbolic value.

Canada's aim is not only to tighten control of its territory, but also to establish a strong posture in future talks over the Northwest Passage, the long-sought shortcut from Europe to Asia across the top of Canada.

Bill Graham, the defense minister, said, "I don't see the Northwest Passage as something for another 20 years, but at the rate of present global warming, we know that it will be within 20 years and we have to get ahead now." This summer he made a point of visiting Hans Island, a two-mile-long rock claimed by both Canada and Denmark.

The Pentagon has focused elsewhere. The Navy spent up to $25 million a year on polar research in the 1990's, and in April 2001 produced a report warning that weapons and ships were not designed with arctic conditions in mind, and that charts, navigational systems and support networks were inadequate for the north.

"Safe navigation and precision weapons delivery capability," the report said, "may be significantly constrained unless these shortfalls are addressed."

But in the budget shake-up after the Sept. 11 attacks, the Navy severely reduced spending for polar research.

At the same time, America's three large icebreakers are deteriorating. One of them, the Polar Sea, is inoperable and docked in Seattle, where it is being readied for a year or two of repairs. No replacements are planned.

Three Shipping Passages

Churchill, Manitoba, and Murmansk, on the Russian Arctic coast, are unlikely sister cities.

Churchill is not a city at all, but a barren outpost of 1,100 people on the western shore of Hudson Bay. It survives on the 15,000 tourists who visit each year for the chance to see and photograph migrating polar bears.

Murmansk, by contrast, has a population of 325,000, making it the biggest city inside the Arctic Circle. Founded in 1916 as Romanov-on-Murman, just before the revolution wiped out the Romanovs, it is a place of stolidly attractive old buildings, newer high-rises, wide boulevards and green parks. Though it lies north of Churchill, which is ice-bound up to eight months a year, Murmansk's harbor is kept free of ice by the Gulf Stream, the ideal base for the Russian Arctic fleet and commercial shipping.

One thing the communities have in common, however, is hard times. Churchill, never much to begin with, lost most of its population when Canada finished phasing out the Fort Churchill military base in the 1980's. Murmansk, like much of the rest of Russia, lost economic ground with the collapse of the Soviet Union. But the more relevant connection is an accident of geography and a shared dream: that the thawing of the Arctic Ocean would help create the so-called Arctic Bridge, a shipping route with their ports as the logical terminals.

The advantage of maritime shortcuts across the top of the world can be startling. For example, shipments from Murmansk to midcontinental North America by the well-worn route through the St. Lawrence Seaway and Great Lakes to Thunder Bay, in western Ontario, typically take 17 days. The voyage from Murmansk to Churchill is only 8 days under good conditions, and from Churchill, rail links snake down through Manitoba, the American Midwest and points south all the way to Monterrey, Mexico.

For Murmansk, an extended shipping season in Arctic ports that are now frozen much of the year could mean a boon in traffic - to the west and, perhaps once again, to the Far East.

The city was once the anchor of the Soviet Union's Northern Sea Route, which stretched to nearly 3,500 miles to the rich nickel mines at Norilsk and on to newly established Arctic colonies at Dikson, Khatanga, Tiksi and Pevek before reaching the Bering Sea.

At its height, in 1987, more than seven million tons of cargo traversed the icy route. But when the Soviet Union collapsed, so did the Northern Sea Route. Today it handles only 1.5 million tons.

The Murmansk Shipping Company, newly privatized, now uses its icebreakers for tourist cruises to the North Pole - $15,000 to $20,000 a ticket, depending on the cabin.

The same way an Arctic Bridge could drastically cut the distance to Canada, a revived Northern Sea Route could shorten the journey for goods and raw materials from Northeast Asia to Europe by 40 percent.

Vladimir M. Chlenov, the transportation minister from the Siberian republic of Sakha, a vast region that borders the Laptev Sea, envisions dozens of ships carrying gold, timber and other resources up the Lena River to the port of Tiksi, and from there through ice-free seas to Europe and Asia.

The waters near the Siberian shore - when free of ice - are too shallow for giant cargo ships, and the infrastructure needed for navigation has deteriorated. But a study conducted from 1993 to 1999 by researchers from Russia, Norway and Japan found that a route once sustained by Soviet diktat could also be viable for private enterprise.

There is, of course, a third Arctic shipping route besides the Arctic Bridge and the Northern Sea Route: the Northwest Passage. It would be the last of the three main routes to succumb to the thaw. But some Canadian officials, eyeing what will happen in 20 years, say it is all the more justification for investing in the rebirth of Churchill.

"We're gearing up for the future," said Mr. Lemieux, the Manitoba transportation minister. "We look to be the gateway, the logistical hub of the world for circumpolar navigation."

A lucky winner would be Pat Broe, the American who bought the Port of Churchill in 1997 almost as an afterthought, for a token $10 Canadian. Looking to expand his railroad company, OmniTrax, he had already paid $11 million for 810 miles of denationalized tracks in Manitoba. He acquired the port at auction, figuring he would rather own it than have someone else use it as a "toll booth" for his railroad.

Mr. Broe, a private man, declined to be interviewed for this article.

Since his acquisitions, OmniTrax estimates it has spent $50 million modernizing the port to accommodate big ships carrying exports like grain and farm machinery to Murmansk, and incoming Russian products, including fertilizer and steel. By some hopeful estimates, Churchill's shipping season could eventually grow to 8 or even 10 months a year, compared with the current 4.

Michael J. Ogborn, OmniTrax's managing director, said he could see a future for Churchill when "the activity at the port will be as busy as an anthill, with machines, people, freight and ships at dock."

For now, though, there is a problem. While the port has continued to ship grain to Europe and North Africa, it is still waiting for its ship to come in - any ship from Russia, to demonstrate the advantages of the Arctic Bridge.

"There is still a huge marketing effort needed to educate shippers why they should ship through Churchill," Mr. Ogborn conceded.

And in an arena where sharp elbows are often the norm, there is great cooperation between Canada and Russia, not least through Russia's ambassador to Canada, Georgy E. Mamedov. A spreader of good will, the ambassador has even suggested using decommissioned nuclear submarines to transport cargo under the ice. On a visit to Churchill last year, he appointed his local driver honorary Russian consul, and stopped at the "jail" for polar bears that wander into town, laying his hand on the big black nose of one anesthetized inmate and addressing it fondly in Russian.

In the months since, Mr. Mamedov has talked ebulliently of the Arctic Bridge in meetings with Canadian officials, business groups and reporters. "Go to Churchill," he said in one interview. "Go there."

Clifford Krauss reported from Canada for this article, Steven Lee Myers from Russia, Andrew C. Revkin from New Hampshire and Washington, and Simon Romero from Norway. Craig Duff contributed reporting from Canada, Norway, Russia and Alaska.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Long Past Due

With US Politicians long bowing to environmental groups and pandering to environmental refineries have been built since 1976. Even though advancements have led to refineries with little environmental impact at all, to support them is political suicide.

The recent hurricanes had little to NO effect on the US oil supply...yet prices rose sharply. Why??? Because a mojority of our refineries are located in hurricane devastated areas. The United States has a surplus of oil...but a shortage of refineries to convert the crude oil for us. As we speak...the US imports a large portion of it's oil (ALREADY REFINED) by tankers from Europe for high, high prices. Why such a waste of US money? Because politicians don't want to upset environmentalists. Turns out that political careers are more important than doing what is in the best interest of the people you represent. BIG SURPRISE?!

Democrats Attack Bill to Boost Refineries

Oct 07 11:10 AM US/Eastern

Associated Press Writer


A new Republican-crafted energy bill, prompted by the hurricane devastation and high fuel prices, came under sharp attack Friday from Democrats who called it a sop to rich oil companies that would do little to curb gasoline or natural gas costs, while hurting the environment.

Supporters argue the measure is needed to spur construction of new refineries. The House was expected to vote on it later in the day.

In an attempt to ease approval of the bill, Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, removed a particularly contentious provision Friday that would have implemented clean air regulation changes long sought by the Bush administration. It would have allowed not only refineries, but also coal-burning power plants and other industries to expand and make changes without adding pollution controls even if emissions increase.

Still, Democrats and a few Republicans lambasted the legislation as debate opened on the House floor.

It does nothing to curb oil use by requiring more fuel efficient cars or promoting alternative energy sources, said Rep. Edward Markey, D- Mass. He called it "a leave-no-oilman-behind bill."

Attempts to add requirements that automakers increase vehicle fuel economy and a measure aimed at producing more natural gas were thwarted by GOP leaders who strictly limited the ability by lawmakers to amend the bill.

"Natural gas is an issue this (Congress) needs to deal with," said Rep. John Peterson, R-Pa., who was prevented under House rules for the bill from offering a proposal that would have opened offshore natural gas resources to drilling.

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita shut down more than a dozen refineries and disrupted natural gas supplies. Gasoline prices soared and huge increases in heating bills are expected this winter for users of both gas and fuel oil.

Barton says vulnerabilities in the fuel supply system exposed by the hurricanes show that the country needs to build more refineries, especially away from the Gulf Coast region. No refineries have been built in the United States since 1976 as the industry has consolidated to fewer, but larger facilities.

The GOP legislation also would limit to six the different blends of gasoline and diesel fuel that refiners would be required to produce, reversing a trend of using so-called "boutique" fuels to satisfy clean air demands. And it would give the federal government greater say in siting a refinery and pipeline. It also calls on the president to designate military bases or other federal property where a refinery might be built.

"The bill weakens state and federal environmental standards ... and gives a break to wealthy oil companies while doing little or nothing to affect oil prices," Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, R-N.Y., said in a letter Thursday to colleagues.

With prices soaring, "oil companies now have all the profits and incentives they need to build new refineries" without government help, he maintained.

Barton countered that it will give industry more "certainty" that a refinery project will not be delayed "without lessening any environmental law now on the books. ... The bill sets in motion a chain of events for lowering gas prices for Americans."

Among the groups trying to kill the bill were the National League of Cities, nine state attorneys general, most environmental organizations and groups representing state officials in charge of implementing federal clean air requirements. They said the bill would hinder their ability to ensure clean and healthy air.

Environmentalists also have argued that the limit to six gasoline types could jeopardize the requirement for use of low-sulfur diesel fuel. The low-sulfur diesel regulations have been touted by the Bush administration as one of the Environmental Protection Agency's most significant accomplishments.

In 1981, the United States had 325 refineries capable of producing 18.6 million barrels a day. Today there are fewer than half that number, producing 16.9 million barrels daily. Still, refining capacity has been increasing, though not dramatically, for the last decade. Imports have made up the difference as demand has continued to increase.


The bill number is H.R. 3893. Additional information can be found at

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

A Decent Proposal

Federally Funded "Border Militia" Proposed

LAST UPDATE: 10/4/2005 9:48:06 PM
Posted By: Jim Forsyth

Several border area Congressmen said Tuesday they're preparing to introduce a measure calling for a federally funded, sworn border militia to patrol the country's borders and assist the U.S. Border Patrol, the Office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and other federal border security agencies, 1200 WOAI news reported today.

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) says the proposal calls for the federal government to spend $100 million over several years to hire, train, and equip 'reserve deputies,' who would patrol the border under the authority of border county sheriffs.

Cuellar said the measure is in response to the activities of the Minutemen and other civilian groups which have recently encamped in border areas of Texas and Arizona, and claimed to be helping report illegal immigrant activity.

"These people would be trained, they would be sworn, they would be inside the law enforcement chain of command, and this would be a lot different than the Minutemen, who are out there on their own, and we don't know who they are or what their motives are," Cuellar said.

Other members of Congress who Cuellar says have signed on as co sponsors include Republicans John Culbertson and Henry Bonilla, both of Texas. he said he expects to obtain additional co-sponsors before the measure is introduced, which he expects to occur before the end of October.

Cuellar says the members of the militia would be 'reserve deputies.' He says they could be retired law enforcement officers, or part time officers who work on an as needed basis at the command of local officials.

"Those sheriffs would work arm in arm with the Border Patrol to provide security along the border."

Cuellar says how the reserve officers would be deployed, what their duties would be, and whether they would be armed would be up to the local officials and would be handled according to the laws in place in each jurisdiction.

He says the militia would have a decided advantage over the Minutemen, whom Cuellar said he 'doesn't want' in Texas. Cuellar said most of the Minutemen are untrained volunteers from out of the area, and the reserve deputies would have to be residents of the county where they would be deputized.

"They know the trails," he said. "They know the area because they have been doing this kind of work for a long time."

Cuellar unveiled his proposal at a time when several hundred Minutemen volunteers are engaged in a border watch operation in Brooks County, in rural south Texas.

NFL say's, "SHOW ME THE $$$!"

[That green background ain't no coincidence.]

October 2, 2005


As the NFL prepares to tightly embrace (i.e., make a lot of pesos off of) the burgeoning Spanish-speaking population, players throughout the league are pissed that they are being required to don ugly-ass decals that read "Futbol Americano" on their helmets this weekend.

The concern isn't that the league is going a bit too far (it is) with its efforts to sell a few urban sombreros emblazoned with the NFL shield, but that the NFL is requiring these decals to be worn not long after it utilized half-hearted, in comparison, efforts to memorialize guys like Johnny Unitas and Pat Tillman.

A year ago, the powers-that-be threatened to fine Jake Plummer 30 large if he dared to wear a decal in honor of Tillman, an American solider who died in a hail of friendly fire after giving up his NFL career to do his part to preserve freedom. In 2002, the NFL refused to let Colts quarterback Peyton Manning to wear black high tops after Unitas died of a heart attack.

So let's hope that, the next time a high-profile NFL player passes, the league will keep its cabeza out of its culata and permit the guy to be properly honored. If helmets can be used to curry favor with our muchachos in Mexico, they can and should be used to pay tribute to the guys who have made the game what it is.

NFL says Nolan cannot 'suit' up

Kevin Lynch
Sunday, May 8, 2005

Coach Mike Nolan recently petitioned the NFL to allow him to wear a suit on the sidelines during game days.

"To me, it's professional. I think it's respectful," Nolan said. "There was certainly no deal, no one came to me, there was nothing to gain. I wasn't trying to put the spotlight on me. But what I was trying to say, there's somebody in charge and this is what they look like."

The league turned Nolan down. Head coaches must wear the NFL-sanctioned team garb.

"There were marketing issues and sales issues, all that stuff," Nolan lamented. Beyond wanting to look the part of a man in charge, Nolan also viewed it as a tribute to his father, Dick, who was the coach of the 49ers from 1968-75.

"I must say looking at the pictures of my dad -- they are all around my office -- I thought, 'I'm going to do that.' But they are not going to let me."

Coaching the hard way: One difference from the staff of Dennis Erickson is the level of coaching involvement. Assistants are often vociferous and critical during practice.

Running backs coach Bishop Harris, for example, bellowed at his group when he didn't see the intensity he wanted during a drill.

"That's B.S.," Bishop railed. He then told his running backs he would hold them after practice to run the drill again, which he did.

"I tell the coaches if you are yelling at your guys, you are just trying to love them up," Nolan said. "Of course, you have to treat your players as individuals."

Rice out: Receiver Jerry Rice has made known his desire to return to his former team for his 20th season before retiring. Nolan reiterated that Rice could return to be a 49er, but only for a day, and then retire.

"Our focus is going to be on our young players and developing those guys, and we don't want to take anything away from those guys we've got on the roster," Nolan said. "He's been the greatest wide receiver ever. I'd feel pretty good about that if I was him."

Monday, October 03, 2005

The United Soviet Socialist States Of America!!!

Florida city considers eminent domain

By Joyce Howard Price
October 3, 2005

Florida's Riviera Beach is a poor, predominantly black, coastal community that intends to revitalize its economy by using eminent domain, if necessary, to displace about 6,000 local residents and build a billion-dollar waterfront yachting and housing complex.

"This is a community that's in dire need of jobs, which has a median income of less than $19,000 a year," said Riviera Beach Mayor Michael Brown.
He defends the use of eminent domain by saying the city is "using tools that have been available to governments for years to bring communities like ours out of the economic doldrums and the trauma centers."

Mr. Brown said Riviera Beach is doing what the city of New London, Conn., is trying to do and what the U.S. Supreme Court said is proper in its ruling June 23 in Kelo v. City of New London. That decision upheld the right of government to seize private properties for use by private developers for projects designed to generate jobs and increase the tax base.

"Now eminent domain is affecting people who never had to deal with it before and who have political connections," Mr. Brown said. "But if we don't use this power, cities will die."

Jacqui Loriol insists she and her husband will fight the loss of their 80-year-old home in Riviera Beach.

"This is a very [racially] mixed area that's also very stable," she said. "But no one seems to care ... Riviera Beach needs economic redevelopment. But there's got to be another way."

In the Kelo ruling, a divided Supreme Court held that private development offering jobs and increased tax revenues constituted a public use of property, but the court held that state legislatures can draft eminent-domain statutes to their satisfaction.

Dana Berliner, senior lawyer with the Institute for Justice, which represented homeowners in the Kelo case, said "pie in the sky" expectations like those expressed by Mr. Brown are routine in all these cases.

"They always think economic redevelopment will bring more joy than what is there now," she said. "Once someone can be replaced so something more expensive can go where they were, every home and business in the country is subject to taking by someone else."

Last week, the Riviera Beach City Council tapped the New Jersey-based Viking Inlet Harbor Properties LLC to oversee the mammoth 400-acre redevelopment project.

"More than 2,000 homes could be eligible for confiscation," said H. Adams Weaver, a local lawyer who is assisting protesting homeowners.

Viking spokesman Peter Frederiksen said the plan "is to create a working waterfront," adding that the project could take 15 years and that "we would only use condemnation as a last resort."

Viking has said it will pay at least the assessed values of homes and businesses it buys.

Other plans for the project include creation of a basin for megayachts with high-end housing, retail and office space, a multilevel garage for boats, a 96,000-square-foot aquarium and a manmade lagoon.

Mr. Brown said Riviera Beach wants to highlight its waterfront.

"We have the best beach and the most attractive redevelopment property anywhere in the United States," he said.

Mr. Frederiksen said people with yachts need a place to keep and service them. "And we want to develop a charter school for development of marine trades."

Mr. Brown and others said this could be one of the biggest eminent-domain actions ever. A report in the Palm Beach Post said it is the biggest since 1954, when 5,000 residents of Washington were displaced for eventual development of the Southwest D.C. waterfront, L'Enfant Plaza, and the less-than-successful Waterside Mall.

The fact that Riviera Beach is so financially downtrodden may seem ironic because as Mr. Brown notes "it sits right across the inlet from Palm Beach," one of the nation's wealthiest areas.

"Palm Beach County is the largest county east of the Mississippi, and we have the second-highest rate of poverty in the county," the mayor said.