'Fortress Washington'


Informant: kevcross5

The Secret Government

Bill Moyers, documents U.S. support of terrorist regimes and the brutality of Americas foreign policy...


More Than 100 Children Imprisoned

Report Of Abuse By U.S. Soldiers: Samuel Provance, a staff sergeant stationed in the now infamous Abu Ghraib prison said that interrogating officers had pressured a 15 or 16 year old girl. Military police had only intervened when the girl was already half undressed...


Rumsfeld gave go-ahead for Abu Ghraib tactics, says general in charge

The former head of the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad has for the first time accused the American Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld, of directly authorising Guantanamo Bay-style interrogation tactics...


From Information Clearing House

Government Is Not “Us”

When Rumsfeld talks about “us,” he blurs a crucial distinction, most likely intentionally. But a moment’s thought is all it takes to see that we, the American people, are not the government and vice versa...


More Than 16,000 U.S. Service Members Wounded and Injured from Iraq War

The national press missed this blockbuster on June 18: the Pentagon confirms more than 16,000 U.S. service members have been wounded or injured in the Iraq War. DoD failed to report 11,000 soldiers who were wounded or injured...


From Information Clearing House

Legality of Iraq occupation 'flawed'

The senior Foreign Office lawyer who resigned after ministers ignored her advice that the war in Iraq was illegal has issued a damning legal critique of the occupation, claiming that the alleged abuse of prisoners "could amount to war crimes"...


From Information Clearing House

This war on terrorism is bogus


Are the People of the Middle East Fit for Freedom?


Informant: Deborah Sobwick

Death at sea

Marc S. Kaufman

This article appeared in Ode issue: 15 Evidence is mounting that Navy sonar tests seriously harm whales and porpoises. From his tropical hideaway, a veteran marine biologist works to stop the killing. Marc Kaufman reports from the frontlines.

Ken Balcomb stood almost knee deep in the gentle Atlantic surf, standing at a makeshift wooden table on the verge of tipping. On top was the massive head of a Cuvier’s beaked whale, or rather half of the head with its inner bones, muscles, veins and fats exposed to Balcomb’s knife.

A biologist and whale researcher for almost 40 years, Balcomb was performing a necropsy on the defrosting head of an 8,000 pound animal that had beached a year before on the other side of this Bahamian island of Abaco. He worked methodically, cutting away and preserving pieces of the animal as he made his way deep into the skull where the whale’s bulla—or boney inner ear—is located. That was his scientific destination because the ears and hearing of whales has been at the center of his life for several years now. He was looking for hemorrhages, and especially blood around the ear or in other places where it shouldn’t be found.

“We don’t know why this whale died, but it appears to be natural causes,” Balcomb explained, several hours into the dissection. “That’s very useful because it can be a control animal. We’ll know what the inside of a beaked whale head is supposed to look like, so we’ll know better how to understand the damage inside the other ones.”

Gulls circled and the dogs played along the sunny beach as he went about his work—an unlikely setting for such a skilled and exacting endeavor. But it actually was entirely appropriate, since the chain of events that led to this dissection began only a stone’s throw away. Just up by the beach, where a volleyball net now stands, on another spring morning four years earlier, a different Cuvier’s beaked whale was found alive but disoriented and stranded on the beach, suffering from a condition akin to vertigo. It took five tries before Balcomb and his colleagues managed to push the 17-foot whale—with the smooth, cool skin of a seemingly healthy animal—back into deeper water that day.

But by that time, two beaked whales had washed up along the same beach, and Balcomb and his wife—whale researcher Diane Claridge—realized they were in the midst of a mass whale stranding. It’s not uncommon for a single whale to come ashore, but group strandings are rare. It’s even more uncommon for different kinds of whales to be stranded at the same time. In all, 17 whales from four species ultimately beached around nearby islands that day, and six immediately died. The others were pushed back out to sea, but haven’t been seen since.

Balcomb was distraught about what he was seeing that day, March 15, 2000. He and his wife had spent more than nine years studying the beaked whales off Abaco, and had come to know three dozen of the more reculsive Cuvier’s that often frequented the nearby channel. Balcomb and his wife are among the world’s few experts on beaked whale habits, and are so enamored of the animals they pioneered a marine mammal survey program to bring young people down to the island for study and research.

But as a scientist, Balcomb knew he had been given a remarkable opportunity to preserve some of the dead whales so their condition and injuries could be studied. He and his wife later cut off the heads of four dead animals and stored them in the freezer of a nearby restaurant. That same day, Balcomb called a former graduate school classmate now at the U.S. Office of Naval Research in Washington, and asked that the daily log of all underwater sonar used in the area be saved.

Balcomb made the call because, as both a whale expert and a former Navy man, he had a strong hunch—that the beached whales had been affected by deafening blasts from the Navy’s active sonar systems. Military fleets around the world use increasingly loud and far-traveling sonar to detect the movement of other nation’s submarines. A few years earlier researchers had tentatively linked another mass whale stranding off the coast of Greece to a NATO naval exercise that featuring extensive sonar use. Most of the dead animals in that case were beaked whales as well, and so Balcomb was familiar with the research. He also knew that beaked and other whales have highly evolved systems for hearing, including masses of ‘acoustic fat’ around their jaws that channel sound into the inner ear. Imagining what a wall of sound louder than a jet engine could do to that highly-evolved system made him cringe.

Navy maneuvers had been scheduled off the eastern side of the Abaco for mid March, but none were publicly disclosed for the western channel where the whales were regularly seen before their strandings. So Balcomb asked a friend to take him up in an airplane to look for military boats in the channel where the beaked whales fed, and to look for other beached animals. He found both. The scientist and marine mammal advocate in Balcomb quickly came together as he posted his unsettling news on the Internet, making the Bahamas a cause celebre in some environmentalist circles.

Balcomb’s quick work preserving the dead whale’s heads led the federal government to dispatch a specialist in marine mammal sensory systems to the Bahamas five days later to determine if the sonar had indeed caused physical harm that led to the strandings. Balcomb watched (and videotaped) the necropsy in the Bahamas, and then another in a lab in Boston, and both found damage to the ears and below the brain that appeared to be the result of a massive wave of sound.

But eight weeks later, the Navy was still hedging on the connection and the results of the necropsy were not being made public. The scientist in him wanted to hold back, but Balcomb was so concerned that the information might be covered up that he agreed to join an environmental group at a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington in releasing the findings. Sonar, he said, had caused the stranding and killed the whales.

Going so aggressively public with this news has made Balcomb something of a pariah in certain scientific and government circles, but it was also instrumental in sparking four years of intense (and often contentious) debate in the United States and Europe about how sonar might be harming whales to stand and what could be done to stop it. Although the U.S. Navy at first denied its boats had anything to do with the whale strandings, or were even in the channel that day, they later reported that eight Navy ships, including three submarines, were conducting a maneuver testing sonar at the time in the channel. A year later, they released a report stating that the sonar pings emitted twice a minute for 16 hours, at the jet-engine noise level of around 225 decibels, were the likely cause of the strandings. It was a remarkable aboutface and acknowledgement.

Then in 2002, another mass stranding of beaked whales occurred off the Canary Islands during multi-nation naval maneuvers and—alerted by events in the Bahamas—researchers there got even fresher specimens to study. Their research led them to the unexpected conclusion earlier this year that beaked whales in particular were stranding after sonar exercises because the intense noise invading their territory caused them to panic and surface too quickly. The smoking gun in these findings was the discovery of widespread gas and fat bubbles in the organs and vessels of the dead whales—the kind of bubbles that that amount to a cetacean version of the bends and can cause internal hemorrhaging. A scientifically plausible, though still debated, explanation for sonar-induced whale strandings had been found.
Soon after, the U.S. Congress allocated more than $1 million to hold a series of unprecedented scientific and policy conferences on the subject, involving scores of experts on whales, sonar, and their troubled interactions. Those meetings are now underway. The issue has clearly caught Washington’s attention, and money has begun to flow into research on how man-made sounds are changing the underwater world.

Concern is also growing internationally. A resolution to address sonar use was introduced last year in the European parliament, and a collection of 67 European and North American environmental groups wrote a letter to NATO headquarters calling for a major reconsideration and modifications of the alliance’s policy on sonar use. “We are deeply concerned about the growing use of intense active sonar in the marine environment,” the petition began. “There is grave concern that proliferation of this technology poses a significant threat to marine mammals, fish and other ocean wildlife.”
Balcomb finds all this activity remarkable and encouraging. But as he unhappily concluded during his beachside dissection, it doesn’t seem to make the animals much safer. The beaked whale—a canary of sorts in the oceanic mineshaft—is sending a message that man-made sound is seriously harming the underwater environment. But developments in Washington and elsewhere make it seem unlikely that much help is at hand.

Rear Admiral Steven Tomaszeski, the Navy’s Chief Oceanographer and for 30 years a Navy combat officer, wanted to be clear about one thing, the Navy cares about creatures in the sea, and is willing to spend millions of dollars each year to learn how to best protect them. In fact, the Navy funds about 70 percent of all marine mammal research in the United States, and almost 50 percent of the total worldwide. The Navy’s goal, he said, is to be the absolute, global standard-bearer for understanding and protecting marine mammals.
But that said, Tomaszeski wanted to be clear about something else—the U.S. Navy is a war-fighting organization, and its goal is to protect the United States and to “make sure that nobody can deny us access to any part of the world.” The hostilities of today’s world, he said, require more and better sonar, not less.
So there’s a balance to strike: Protect the marine mammals, but don’t jeopardize Ameica’s military readiness. There’s a problem, however, and Tomaszeski acknowledges it. Neither the Navy nor anyone else knows a great deal about life under the seas.
“We actually know more about the surface of the moon than we know about our oceans,” said the admiral, a tall man eager to be genial. “We don’t really know where many of the whales are, and we don’t know too much about how a whale’s ear works. Some would say that if you don’t know, then don’t take chances and let‘s keep our acoustic energy out of the water. It’s the precautionary principle. But in good conscience, I couldn’t send a fleet out to sea without sonar. It’s the best anti-submarine defense by far.”
To be a good defense, however, the sonar systems need trained sonar readers, and Tomaszeski said that requires on-the-water experience. Navy sonar training maneuvers occur regularly around the world, he said, and it was a sonar training exercise that brought the Navy to the channel off Abaco in 2000. Although literature was available describing the area as a haven for whales, Tomaszeski said the commander didn’t know that when he ordered the sonar exercise to commence. “The people involved told us they felt really terrible about what happened to the whales, but the truth is we just didn’t properly consider that they might be there.”

For the U.S. Navy and other military leaders around the world, the Bahamas stranding could not have come at a worse time. For several years, the Navy had been battling environmentalists over its plan to deploy a new and far louder global system of active low-frequency sonar, which can travel much further underwater than traditional mid-frequency sonar. That legal battle had been waged over regulatory issues—Did the Navy properly study the environment impact of its sonar system? Had they properly defined the possible harm to whales?—and was based largely on theoretical arguments. With the beaching on the Bahamas, the theoretical turn suddenly real, and in a manner that few predicted. The kind of mid-frequency sonar used in the Bahamas was supposed to be time-tested and safe.
The Navy position quickly changed from denying that sonar could harm whales to differentiating between the mid-frequency sonar used in the Bahamas and the low-frequency system (with its longer sound wavelengths) it now wants to deploy. The distinction is justified in that marine mammals do hear at different frequencies, but not particularly reassuring to many environmentalists. The largest baleen whales do not appear to be harmed by mid-frequency sonar because they hear at low frequencies. Does that mean they might be at greater risk from the new low-frequency systems?

The stakes are very high in this debate, and not only because the U.S. Navy has invested $350 million and a decade of research to develop the low-frequency active sonar. Military planners fear a new generation of ‘quiet’ diesel submarines from potentially hostile nations such as China, North Korea or Iran. The Navy says that unless it can deploy its more effective and longer-range sonar, these inexpensive and low-tech submarines can sneak into the busy American coastal waters and lay undetected, waiting for the right moment to strike. And it’s not just the U.S. Navy that wants low-frequency sonar; the Netherlands, United Kingdom, France, and Germany are also developing low-frequency sonar systems.
In the aftermath of the Bahamas stranding, a federal judge ruled last year that the Navy had not properly assessed the impact of its low-frequency sonar on marine life, and ordered that all testing be stopped. The Navy and the environmental groups that sued it later reached a temporary agreement to limit Navy testing of low-frequency sonar to the waters off East Asia—a result that the Navy finds unsatisfactory.

But just as the whale strandings galvanized environmentalists against Navy sonar, the sonar legal setback and rising protests over whale strandings spurred the Bush Administration and some members of Congress to do something that the Navy had been advocating for years—to exempt its ships and sonar from some of the marine mammal protection laws that it considers burdensome.
Legislation to do that had been defeated in Congress for several years, but last fall –with the military’s political muscle stronger than ever because of the wars in Iraq and against Al Qaeda—it passed as a last-minute addition to the Defense Department’s budget bill. The changes loosened the definition of ‘harassment’ of marine mammals, increased the number of animals that could be harmed without regulatory or legal consequences, and made it possible for the Navy to claim a total exemption from marine mammal laws if the defense secretary decided that was necessary. The relaxation occurred the same year that Congress allocated $1 million to examine how and why sonar might be harming whales, leading some to wonder whether Congress wasn?t putting the cart before the horse. “Don’t we need to know more about how sonar effects the whales before we make any decisions that would loosen the regulations we already have?” asked Naomi Rose, a marine biologist with the Humane Society of the United States, and a member of the congressionally-mandated.

Tomaszeski said that the Navy has no intention of invoking the exemption for anything short of combat. What’s more, he said confidently, the Navy is now capable of testing and using its sonar without causing any more strandings. But given the Navy’s history on the subject, some are skeptical. The Navy points to the Bahamas and later Canary Islands strandings as the only proven examples of harm caused by sonar, but researchers are now actively re-examining dozens of other beachings in the past decade to see whether sonar might have played a role as well. There have been unusual and unexplained mass strandings of whales off Japan, the Madiera Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands and additional ones off the Bahamas and, especially, the Canary Islands, but nobody at the time knew to investigate whether Navy exercises were underway. “We understand that people are watching now like never before, and it’s pretty hard to miss a whale if it comes up on a beach,” Tomaszeski replied. “So if more strandings occur, it’s pretty obvious who will be the first ones questioned about it.”

People around the world love whales and other marine mammals—for their grandeur, playfulness and intelligence—and are eager to protect them from man-made dangers. But because they spend their lives largely out of view, much about them remains a mystery. The North Atlantic right whale is said to be the most studied whale in the seas, but researchers still don’t know where they all go for several months of the year. If that’s the case for a well-studied whale, imagine what isn’t known about the beaked whale, which is as little understood as a five ton animal on Earth can be.
Named for their hard, sometimes long snouts, they spend as little time on the water surface as any known marine mammal. Nobody knows how many beaked whales swim the oceans, but researchers believe they are distributed widely around the globe. They are especially deep divers—regularly going down to 1000 meters for more than an hour—and they return to the surface in what recent research has found to be a uniquely slow pace. Because they spend so much time at such depths, they appear to live in a state of chronic supersaturation with nitrogen, a condition that could leave them especially susceptible to forming the kind of gas bubbles that lead to the bends. So while loud sonar blasts may be disorienting many kinds of marine mammals, beaked whales that are washing up on beaches because they are the most sensitive to its effects.
All whales depend on sound as their primary sense, using it to find food, to keep together in groups, to attract mates. Some sing long ‘songs,’ some whistle and make cries or howls. Whale vocalizing can be extremely loud—the sperm whale lets out a sound almost as loud as a jet engine—but clearly ocean creatures have learned to live with it.

Man-made noise is different. Researchers have found that the underwater background noise from shipping, gas and oil exploration, sonar and other sources is ten times louder in some places than it was just two decades ago. “It’s very hard to know if the increased background sound is causing subtle behavioral effects that could, we worry, translate into longterm population breeding declines,” said John Hildebrand, an underwater acoustics specialist with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California, and another member of the federal marine-mammal panel. “The research here is limited, but it seems that the noise levels are going up a few percent each year.”
The growing man-made din underwater is a longterm threat, but it took the Bahamas whale strandings to put the issue of oceanic noise squarely on the scientific and public agenda. That stranding was the first to produce specimens to study, and the first to establish a direct, if still incompletely understood, physiological connection. Its aftermath also made clear that the community of people and organizations that had a stake in what noise might be doing to marine mammals was both large and deeply divided. Congress appropriated the $1 million last year to address the issue in large part because there was no agreement on how to proceed.
The second general meeting of the congressionally-convened panel took place in late April and included 28 representatives organizations ranging from the Navy to ExxonMobil and the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society. Balcomb, a bushy-bearded man of 62, was also a panel member. Most at home on a boat tracking whales, he seemed especially uncomfortable in the conference room just outside Washington. That the room included quite a few people he had tangled with personally about whales and sonar surely didn’t help.

The panel’s stated goal is to achieve a consensus on what kind of regulations, if any, the United States should implement to better protect marine mammals from the effects of man-made sound. The series of conferences, which will include a late September meeting in London, is supposed to end by the middle of next year. Listening to the discussion over two days in April, it’s difficult to see how the group could reach even the most basic agreement.
The issues tackled were often technical and theoretical, but it quickly became apparent that an underlying policy question was driving the debate: To what extent should humans be allowed to annoy, harass, and sometimes kill whales and other marine mammals with our noise? Environmentalists, whale advocates and scientists like Balcomb around the table made clear that they believe we’ve already gone too far. The Navy, research geologists and representatives from the oil and gas exploration and shipping industries said the problem was not only controllable, but already under control.
Perhaps because the Navy had scored its political victory in Congress last fall, the most pointed exchanges involved the oil and gas exploration representatives. Both they and research geologists fire extremely loud collections of airguns at the ocean floor in their work, and at least one whale stranding has been linked to an airgun array used by an American research vessel. The dead animal was found by American government biologists on vacation off Mexico, and researchers assume that if one animal has been harmed, then others are probably dying as well without being discovered.
Chip Gill, a panel member from the International Association of Geophysical Contractors, stressed of the need for ‘balance.’ “Yes, acoustic energy can be harmful, but that has to be weighed against the benefits to man,” he said after the meeting. “We
‘re quite concerned there may be regulations drawn up with significant economic impact on our ability to operate, and we just don’t see how the benefit to animals justifies the potentially significant costs.”
Panel member Naomi Rose of the Humane Society said she’s been dismayed by what she’s heard from the producers of ocean noise. “They try to say there’s no real problem, but it seems pretty clear that there is one. As we’ve seen in the strandings, the noise can be deadly itself. But even more, it’s an added burden on ocean ecosystems that are already under attack in so many other ways. Do we really want to push them to the breaking point?”

Ken Balcomb is a man of science, someone who believes in identifiable causes and effects, but he sometimes can’t help but wonder about how and why that first beaked whale came up quite literally to his beachfront doorstep in the Bahamas.
It was surely coincidence, he said recently on that same beach, that the animal and later several others swam to the place where they were most likely to get help. Not that they could be saved, since many already had major hemorrhages, and Balcomb believes even the animals he and others pushed back to sea probably soon died. Rather, the famously intelligent animals presented themselves to people who might best understand their unseen plight, and who would be most likely to sound the necessary alarm.
For a field biologist to have that kind of experience once is unusual. For it to occur again is well beyond unlikely. But that’s what happened to Balcomb three years after the Bahamas stranding, this time near his other whale research center across the United States in Washington state. After a Navy destroyer using sonar passed through the Haro Strait near the border with Canada in May 2003, a pod of orcas (or killer whales) began to act in what Balcomb and others considered to be a highly agitated manner, and in the next two weeks harbor porpoises began to wash up dead on nearby shores. In all, at least 16 porpoises died in the days after the sonar use, and once again Balcomb was there to collect samples for research.

This time, the Navy quickly concluded that it was not at fault. Its specialists examined Balcomb’s videotapes of the orcas, and found that their behavior was within normal ranges. If there was unusual behavior, the Navy report said, it was probably because a number of whale-watching boats were nearby and were themselves creating a lot of noise. As for the dead porpoises, the experts brought in by the Navy concluded that 10 died of natural causes and that six died for unknown reasons—a percentage they described as normal as well. The Navy maneuvers had been appropriate and necessary to train sailors in detecting floating mines, the report determined, and there was no reason to curtail them in that area in the future.
The conclusions made Balcomb angry, and he was especially critical of the way the animals were examined. The expert brought in by the Navy looked only for damage to the ear, he said. She made no effort to look for signs that the sonar had caused the animals to act in ways that led to their death, and she didn’t look for the kind of deadly gas and fat bubbles found in the Canary Island beaked whale stranding.
Balcomb described the porpoise stranding and the Navy‘s response as he searched a beach on the eastern side of his Bahamian island for another beaked whale that had washed up several weeks before. There was little left but the skeleton when he found it, but what he saw disturbed him. The large facial bones were an unusual color of black, stained by the likely remains of blood, possibly from an internal hemorrhage.
“Not long ago, we would have assumed it had been attacked by sharks as it beached and maybe the blood came from that,” Balcomb noted. “But because of what we know now, we have to consider the possibility of a sonar incident that caused internal bleeding. It’s a whole new way of thinking about whales and what they face out there in the ocean?

Marc Kaufman is a reporter on the national staff of the Washington Post, where he has followed the sonar story since 2001. He has worked as a journalist for more than 25 years, including reporting stints in India, Afghanistan, Vietnam and elsewhere in Asia. He currently focuses on science and health, and how the two intersect with U.S. government policy. He wrote this story exclusively for Ode.


Informant: Iris Atzmon

Top Indian Rice Geneticist Rebuts SRI Critics

Dr. A Satyanarayana responds to criticisms of SRI as someone responsible for introducing the practice to the Andhra Pradesh state of India.

I read the news feature "Rice cultivation: feast or famine" in Nature (25 March 2004) with great interest as I was responsible for introducing the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh since the kharif (summer) season of 2003.

I found the message conveyed by the article not quite balanced. The experiences of farmers are very different from what is said by sceptical scientists. Instead of trying to understand how a rice plant can respond differently under an SRI environment, they are confused about the potential of SRI, giving information based on rice cultivation under flooded conditions that are definitely not SRI practice.

Having worked as a plant geneticist for over 3 decades on the genetic improvement of leguminous crops under rice-based cropping systems, I have released 34 varieties of various grain legumes that are widely adopted in rice-pulse or rice- rice-pulse cropping systems covering over one million hectares in the state. I have been responsible, from 1995 to 2000, for research in the Krishna and Godavari deltas, which, with 1.5 million ha of rice-growing area, are known as the rice bowl of Andhra Pradesh. At present, I am Director of Extension for the state agricultural university (ANGRAU) and transfer of technology is my job. So, I do know about the rice crop.

In January 2003, I was able to learn about SRI on a study tour to Sri Lanka, and was amazed to see the potential of this system. On returning to Andhra Pradesh, I started educating farmers on the skills involved in SRI and motivated them to take up this system on a small scale in demonstration plots. We planned to organise 50 demonstrations through ANGRAU's extension service and 150 through the State Department of Agriculture. But more than 300 farmers took up SRI during the summer season of 2003.

On average, the size of the demonstration plot was 0.4 ha, with the largest at 1.6ha. As many as 10 different varieties, chosen by the farmers themselves, were tried in all 22 districts of the state, under different soil and irrigation systems. The results achieved were highly satisfactory, giving an average yield advantage of over 2.0 t/ha. About 40 farmers got yields over 10t/ha, and 5 districts had average yields over 10t/ha. The highest recorded was 16.2 t/ha followed by 15.7t/ha.

The average over all the demonstration plots was 8.36t/ha compared to 4.9 t/ha with conventional practice and the state average of 3.89t/ha. These yields are not theoretical. They were properly recorded after thorough drying. On seeing the performance of this system, many farmers volunteered to practice SRI during the current winter season on more than 5 000 acres in the state.

Many farmers used SRI on over 10 acres. One farmer (Mr. N. V. R. K. Raju) practiced SRI on over 100 acres (40ha.), and an average yield of more than 10 t/ha is expected. I request sceptics to visit Andhra Pradesh and see SRI in practice before drawing conclusions.

Under SRI, the rice crop is maturing 10 days earlier than with usual cultivation practices, irrespective of the variety, which is contrary to what was stated in the Nature news feature, that SRI takes two weeks longer to mature. Also, SRI required less water and less chemical inputs. SRI gave higher grain as well as straw yield. Moreover, the SRI rice crop has withstood cyclonic gales and a cold spell.

It is unfortunate to say in the headlines of the news feature that proponents call SRI a "miracle". No one has ever said this because SRI results are quite explainable. Planting young seedlings carefully and at wider spacing gives the plant more time and space for tillering and root growth. Careful water management keeping the field wet and not flooded gives better yield because it supports healthy root growth. This practice should be encouraged everywhere as the whole world is facing water shortages. Weeding rice fields with a rotary weeder helps by churning the soil and incorporating the weed biomass as it aerates the root zone. This encourages the soil microorganisms to proliferate and makes the soil living and healthy. All of these practices are known to agronomists, and there is nothing new or magical.

The productivity of SRI as a function of input is very high, which is more important now as the Green Revolution technologies are showing fatigue. SRI has the potential to give higher yields at lower costs. Even when the farmers were unable to practice all the aspects the first season, just planting young seedlings carefully at wider spacing with somewhat better water management resulted in over 2.0t/ha extra yield compared to conventional methods using higher inputs. With more experience and mastering of skills, still higher yields are possible, as those obtained by the best farmers clearly suggest.

Rice yields all over the world have leveled out under the present system of flooded cultivation. Genotype x environment interactions are known to affect the plants' phenotype and performance. We need to be looking for alternatives to the present costly practices with an open mind. SRI is still evolving with the innovations of the farmers making implements and practices more labour-saving.

There is more than enough evidence accumulated here and elsewhere for scientists to take SRI seriously. I hope that the scientific community will collaborate in further research. Possibly it can refine the technology and reveal the factors responsible for the higher productivity observed. That would be more constructive and more in the spirit of science than dismissing it with limited or faulty data and preconceptions.

The author is Director of Extension, Acharya N. G. Ranga Agricultural University, Hyderabad-500030, Andhra Pradesh, India, and this article is adapted from his response to the Nature news feature mentioned.


Mobile Phones and Children: Is Precaution Warranted?

RNCNIRP vs. the Health Council of the Netherlands over children & mobile phones

The following letter to the editor of Bioelectromagnetics is from Youri Grigoriev, the Russian National Committee on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection, State Research Centre, Institute of Biophysics, Moscow, Russia

Following that is a reply from Eric van Rongen, the Health Council of the Netherlands The Hague, Netherlands.

The argument is over the scientific validity for an advisory against
the use of mobile phones by children.

Don Maisch


Bioelectromagnetics 25:322-323 (2004)

Letters to the Editor

Mobile Phones and Children: Is Precaution Warranted?

Van Rongen [2004] considers the problem of possible unfavorable influence of cellular phones EMI to children from only one seemingly not so essential side, the physical one. On this basis, a conclusion was made that there is no need to restrict children from using mobile phones. This conclusion was stated earlier by the Health Council of the Netherlands.

Even assuming the absence of differences in distribution of absorbed energy in heads of children and adults and similar EMF interaction with tissue of children and adults, there is one more argument, which is more essential from our point of view, for restriction of use of cellular phones by children. Children have a growing organism with its own physiology, typical only to them in terms of tissue regeneration speed, tissue and organ function, development of the immune and other systems, and mechanisms for compensation and protection of the organism from unfavorable factors of environment. Formation of children's brain function plays a very important role. Children have a unique vulnerability.

We really have to admit that we have little research showing that children or young experimental animals are more sensitive to EMF than adults. However, the authors did not take into consideration the secular world experience of age physiology, on the basis of which the conclusion is made that a child's organism during its growth period is more sensitive to physical and chemical factors of the environment WHO [2003] officially confirmed this conclusion: "children have a unique vulnerability. As they grow and develop, there are 'windows of susceptibility': periods when their organs and systems may be particularly sensitive to the effect of certain environmental threats." Many years' experience of chemical toxicology and ionizing radiation radiobiology proves the correctness of this conclusion.

There is another aspect of this problem. We do not have enough information for evaluation of consequences of using cellular phones by children. In this regard the conclusions of Hardell and Hansson Mild [2003] on the increased risk of adults' brain tumor development, if they used cellular phones when they were children, are worth our attention.

Thus, in my opinion the conclusion of van Rongen [2004] on the absence of a necessity to restrict using of cellular phones by children was ill founded. A one-sided analysis of the problem was made, using only a physical approach and not taking into account world-wide experience of monitoring and investigations of physiologists, psychologists, morphologists, pediatricians, and other specialists and fields. I find the second argument more essential.

The Russian National Committee on Protection from Non-Ionizing Radiation adopted a decision on restriction of using cellular phones by children in September, 2001. The Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation included these recommendations in the state EMF standard(SanPiN 2.1.8/, valid from 01.01.2003). We also support the resolution of the Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones [IEGMP, 2000] on refraining from using cellular phones in maximally possible ways, as it takes into account all arguments in evaluation of this problem.

The resolution of the Health Council of the Netherlands that it "sees no reason for recommending limiting the use of mobile phones by children," opens the way for aggressive advertisement of a 'cellular phone for each child" and the possibility of using cellular phones by children without limit or control.


Hardell l, Hansson Mild K. 2003, Mobile telecommunications and brain 5th COST MCM and Workshop, Budapest, Nov.15-16, 2003

IEGMP. 2000. Mobile phones and health. Report of an Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones. Chilton, IEGMP (available at http://www.iegmp.org.uk/report/index.htm).

Van Rongen E, The Electromagnetic Fields Committee members, 2004.
Mobile phones and children: Is precaution warranted? Bioelectromagnetics 25:142-144

WHO Backgrounder No. 3, 2003. World health day 2003; Healthy environments for children.

Youri Grigoriev*
Russian National Committee on
Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection
State Research Centre
Institute of Biophysics
Moscow, Russia


Eric van Rongen Comments

We thank DR. Grigoriev for his comments. We do not agree, however, with his point of view that we only considered physical effects and did not take into account "world experience of monitoring and investigations of physiologists, psychologists, morphologists, pediatricians, and other specialists and fields." Actually, that is exactly what we did. We considered the physical environment and attempted to correlate it to possible differences in sensitivity to electromagnetic fields. Of course it is true, as Dr. Grigoriev quotes WHO, that "children have a unique vulnerability. As they grow and develop, there are 'windows of susceptibility': periods when their organs and systems may be particularly sensitive to the effect of certain environmental threats." But we had to come to the conclusion, on the basis of the available scientific data, that there are no sound scientific reasons to assume that electromagnetic sensitivity would change significantly after the second year of like. Therefore, this cannot be an argument for recommending to limit the use of mobile phones by children. The reason the Stewart Committee (IEGMP, 2000) did recommend this was because they followed a precautionary approach, not based on validated assumptions about higher electromagnetic susceptibility by children. We choose to consider the available scientific data. This did not lead us to the idea that precaution is necessary.

One can think of a number of arguments why children should make less use of their mobile phones than they do now, but a suspicion for
health effects lacks any sound scientific ground.

Eric van Rongen*
Health Council of the Netherlands
The Hague, Netherlands

* Correspondence to: Eric van Rongen, Health Council of the
Netherlands, The Hague, Netherlands
Received for review 1 April 2004

DOI 10.1002/bem.20042
Published online in Wiley InterScience

( http://www.interscience.wiley.com ).



The Health Council of the Netherlands is one of the older 'independent' expert advisory groups in the world, being established in 1902. However, all that worldly experience has not stopped the council from a tendency to favor scientific viewpoints over health risks that are promoted by the very same interests that have produced those risks in the first place.

Lets briefly consider (a)the cell phone issue and then (b) the Health Council's expert advice on depleted uranium.

(a) It is particularly interesting to note how the Health Council has re-defined the Precautionary Principle to one also promoted by the cellphone industry:

"The Precautionary Principle is not, by definition, the same thing as taking measures to reduce exposure. It can also include other actions." The Committee states, "carrying out further research...together with monitoring scientific developments and publishing its findings...are adequate steps in the current context of precautionary measures."

So, in other words, as long as industry funded research is progressing-that is the Precautionary Principle in action and no need to take any further action. They then conclude "Furthermore the Committee feels that there are no health based reasons for limiting the use of mobile phones by children."

This is in line with their earlier 2002 report where they stated: "It is unlikely from a development point of view that major changes in brain sensitivity to electromagnetic fields still occur after the second year of life". ( How they came to this subjective conclusion is unclear - given the lack of scientific research in this area.)

"The Committee therefore concludes that there is no reason to recommend that mobile telephone use by children should be limited as far as possible.". . .The Committee also concluded that the scientific information concerning non-thermal effects* discussed in its report provided no reason to apply the precautionary principle"

So the Health Council gives us:

*a new definition of the precautionary principle - the very same one written up by the cell phone industry;

*questionable conclusions matching the industry viewpoint;

* and a rejection of non-thermal effects - again the old industry line.

Is this quality unbiased science?

To better get a feel of the type of reasoning the Health Council can apply to health issues there is none better than its amazing stand on the supposedly safety of depleted uranium.

(b) The HCN on Depleted Uranium:

In spite of all the scientific evidence to the contrary the Health Council concludes:

"For "relevant exposure scenarios" the Committee does not anticipate that exposure to DU will result in a demonstrable increased risk of diseases and symptoms among exposed individuals as a result of a radiological or chemical toxic effect exerted by this substance."

Now "relevant exposure scenarios" is the sort of trick statement one could find in small print in a policy from a Nigerian insurance company. A "relevant exposure scenario" is one where "the strategy for protection laid down in the rules and regulations governing radiation protection...as regards limiting radiological and chemical toxic risks" is followed.

This is like saying that exposure to asbestos is not a health hazard for "relevant exposure scenarios" that is - wearing full protective suits and masks.

So as long as one goes to war with full radiological protection and knowledge, exposure to DU is safe! Such a statement shows a complete lack of awareness of what really happens on the battle field - especially for Iraq.

If this was a health insurance policy with our hypothetical Nigerians they could say to all those irradiated soldiers making claims: I'm sorry but didn't you read the fine print? - for obviously if you are contaminated with DU you didn't follow instructions!

Does the HCN's assurance of DU safety for "relevant exposure scenarios" also cover the citizens of Iraq, especially including children who are breathing in DU from the thousands of destroyed military vehicles and spent ammunition still littering their country? Perhaps the HCN should air drop them copies of the relevant rules and regulations for radiological protection - in Arabic of course.

Further on the health Council also resorts to the tried and true risk assessment spin of using risk comparisons:

" The radiation dose caused by incidential exposure to DU in the exposure scenarios considered is limited compared with the radiation dose received during a lifetime of exposure to natural uranium, as at the common levels of exposure to natural uranium a contribution to the induction of cancer in the population cannot be demonstrated, the Committee concludes that the same is true for exposure to DU. This general conclusion is also valid for the appearance of lung cancer and for the appearance of leukaemia after the inhalation of dust containing slightly soluble uranium compounds."

However, if the HCN had done their risk comparison more accurately by making a comparison with with naturally occurring Radon the above assurance could NOT be made. The beauty of risk comparisons is one is free to choose from a almost endless list to support your particular opinion.

What the Health Council of the Netherlands has done with its advice on DU is to downplay the health impact in such a way that the DU weapons industry can quite happily continue business as usual.

SO when you read that the experts at the Health Council of the Netherlands say that its okay for children to use mobile phones - read the fine print!

Don Maisch


Health Council of the Netherlands: Reports 2002,
and: http://www.amta.org/default.asp?Page=300

J. Radiol. Prot. 22 (March 2002) 100-101,

High court decision - 188 cancer cases

According to radio news, The High Court in Israel rejected today the appeal of Herzelia and Ramat Hasharon Municipalities, and gave the decision to the parliment to vote for a new law. (But the lobby of the cellular companies in the parliment is very very strong, it is hard to believe anything will happen there).

The appeal was filed two months ago in order to make the public and the local municipalities a part in the decisions of erecting cellular antennas in Israel. At the current situation the law is in favour of the cellular companies, and the public & local municipalities has no saying.

From the government answer to the court it is exposed that the government avoids on purpose from enforcing the law on criminal acts in the issue of cellular antennas.

The reason is that the state ministry for legal issues adviced the environment ministry to not enforce the law. Doubts were raised in the environment ministry about the existing law as a basis for managing the whole radiation issue.

More details will be published today on TV and tomorrow in the newspapers so I will update. Herzelia mayor is very angry, and Stelian Galberg (environment ministry) said on the radio that they cannot do anything, they just publish things so the public will know (that for example many of the antennas are illigal). He also said there is no connection between the radiation and cancer.


It is exposed also that in Osafia there are no less than 188 cancer cases around antennas from celullar companies, Bezeq and the police. There are 15 antennas of 20 meters and 40 lower antennas, in two main streets. Of the 188, 83 died. In the history of Osafia there is no high cancer rate, until lately since the antennas have been erected. The people didn't have genetic background of cancer and they are from different ages.

The cellular companies: "Unfortunately, no one knows exactly the reason to cancer disease. The disease is known long ago before cellular devices existed in the world. There is no research in the world that can define exactly the source of this serious disease, and certainly there is no research that links the cellular [radiation] effects with cancer disease"

("Wild Radiation", Guy Leshem Yediot Ahronot 5.7.2004)

The high court ordered the government to give the court its position about the legislation in the issue of non-ionizing radiation within 4 months, before the high court will continue to discuss the appeal.
The appeal asked to cancel the current national programs for erecting antennas. Herzelia municipality says in the appeal that the programme ignores the municipality consideration and doesn't enable it to prevent the erection of antenna near public institutions like kindergardens and elderly houses.

Stelian Galberg from the Env. Ministry said on T.V that nobody wants a bus station near his house, but nobody asks him whether he wants a bus station or not, unless it's central bus stations. He also said that all the cellular antennas, including the ones in the street lamps and in the sun boilers are all in the Env. Ministry website, which is open to everyone.

Yael German, Mayor of Herzelia is angry because, as she said on T.V, she signs permissions that she doesn't agree with. She doesn't want to give to companies to erect cellular towers near the elderly but she does it because of the current law.

Message from Iris Atzmon

Bush's police state and Independence Day

by Elaine Cassel

Civil Liberties Watch


My client was arrested, cuffed, taken to jail, finger-printed, charged, released on bail, and faces trial. Depending on the judge and prosecutor, they may be little I can do. For technically, she violated the law. She 'interfered' with an officer in the line of duty -- which, now, the Supreme Court has recently told us, includes stopping any of us and inquiring about our identity, even if we are doing nothing wrong. Even though the charges against her friend were summarily dismissed by the judge, the charge against her stands. For the case against her does not depend on the valid arrest of her friend -- but on the fact that she attempted, so the officer has charged, to impede him while he was making an arrest. Under the law, that arrest can have been illegal, and my client still found guilty."...


Informant: Thomas L. Knapp

About independence

by staff

New York Times


People too often get the impression that the only people who use the nation's civil liberties protections are lawbreakers who were not
quite guilty of the exact felony they were charged with. Perhaps we should thank the Bush administration for providing so many situations that demonstrate how an unfettered law enforcement system, even one pursuing worthy ends, can destroy the lives of the innocent out of hubris or carelessness.

... Virtually every time the Bush administration feels cornered, it falls back on the argument that the president and his officials are honorable men and women. ... But this nation was organized under a rule of law, not a dictatorship of the virtuous. The founding fathers wrote the Bill of Rights specifically because they did not believe that honorable men always do the right thing...

[registration required, or use login "newsdigests/newsdigests"]


Celebrating our freedom

by Don Newman

Hawaii Reporter


The problems we presently confront are immense and constantly growing, encroaching government on every level and scale. From city to state to federal, those in government want ever larger and more expansive pieces of everyone's lives. From local public transportation to Patriot Act initiatives, control of individual
lives through government continually grows. It appears endless...


Informant: Thomas L. Knapp

A citizen's independence movement

by Jeffrey Kaplan & Jeff Milchen

Tom Paine


[F]ew Americans today doubt that corporations wield immense power over our laws, governments, and almost every realm of civic society. ... Today's challenge for those who seek to revitalize democracy and free our country from control by corporate interests is to show others a clear vision of an America where corporations serve a narrow role -- doing business and nothing more. The trend, of course, is in the opposite direction. There have been 150 years of legal decisions favoring big business, granting corporations legal rights that our founders intended solely for individual human beings. And while human liberty is on the defensive against authoritarianism, corporations are seizing power as aggressively as ever...


Informant: Thomas L. Knapp

Abu Ghraib, USA


Informant: NHNE

Mobile phone safety to be investigated

Here we go again with yet another unquestionably unbiased governmental investigation into how any of us could possibly claim to experience adverse bioeffects from something as convenient, lucrative, and indeed essential as cellphones! As submissions from members of our group to this committee couldn't but help our cause here is some relevant info for making contact:

Joint Committee on Communications, Marine and Natural Resources 2002- 2007

Clerk to the Committee: Ronan Lenihan
Noel O'Flynn (Fianna Fáil) (Chairman)
Eamon Ryan (Green Party)

e-mail: ronan.lenihan@oireachtas.ie
Phone: + 353 (0) 1 618 3899
Fax: + 353 (0) 1 618 4123

Leinster House, Kildare Street, Dublin 2, Ireland

Best, Imelda, Cork


Mon, Jul 05, 04

Mobile phone safety to be investigated

Carl O'Brien

An Oireachtas committee is to investigate the potential adverse health effects of mobile phones following a number of scientific studies which raised fresh safety concerns.

The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Marine and Natural Resources is questioning medical experts and mobile company executives as part of its investigation, which is due to start in the autumn.

The committee chairman, Fianna Fáil TD Mr Noel O'Flynn, said yesterday there was a "moral obligation" to investigate health concerns given the contradictory findings of recent studies.

"This is an issue of paramount importance to citizens. It would be very wrong of us to ignore the potential hazards of mobile phones, and we would rightly fall in for heavy criticism if we did not investigate this issue," Mr O'Flynn said.

The 15-member committee has started gathering relevant international studies, which will form the basis for the investigation.

The Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, which maintains a watching scientific brief on health issues related to mobile phones, is also expected to participate in the investigation.

A number of studies published in recent weeks and months have raised concerns over the effects of mobile phone use.

Research released at an international conference on the issue last week suggested that the sperm count of men who regularly carry and use mobile phones may be cut by up to 30 per cent.

Last month an expert workshop established by the World Health Organisation concluded that children were more sensitive to adverse health effects than other age groups.

The Department, however, says published information to date indicates there is no demonstrated adverse health effect from the use of mobile phones.

A similar investigation was held in recent years, by the Oireachtas Committee on Public Enterprise and Transport, relating to claims of a link between mobile phone masts and radiation.

After reviewing scientific literature and questioning mobile-phone company chiefs and residents' groups, the committee concluded there was no firm evidence to suggest the masts posed a significant health risk.

© The Irish Times


Sachstandsermittlung zur Netzwerktechnologie WLAN

HLV INFO 5-07-2004/AT

Unter der Adresse


können Sie die ECOLOG Studie (703 KB), welche für das Ministerium für Umwelt - und Naturschutz Nordrhein-Westfalen im Dezember 2003 erstellt wurde, herunterladen.

Dort wird in der Sachstandsermittlung für Netzwerktechnologie WLAN insbesondere auf Seite 83-85 unter den Punkten Anlageplanung, Information und Aufklärung sowie Abschirmung sehr deutlich auf den nach möglich durchzuführenden Verzicht auf kabellose Laptops über Access Points in Schulen usw. hingewiesen. Vielmehr sollte das drahtgebundene Netzwerk benutzt werden und grundsätzlich rät auch ECOLOG allen Nutzern möglichst wenig die drahtlose Kommunikation zu verwenden, um die persönliche Strahlenbelastung zu minimieren!

Also eine hervorragende Lektüre, die wir der breiten Öffentlichkeit zugänglich machen sollten, insbesondere bei Schulen, wo die ungeprüfte Technik jetzt betreiberseitig forciert und subventioniert eingeführt wird. (wie bekannt auch hier in Hessen)

Alfred Tittmann


Die Gefahren von Mobilfunk und Wireless LAN

Gesundheitsgefahren durch kabellose Laptops

Bluetooth und Gesundheit

Daten-Adern für das Krankenhaus der Zukunft

Wi-Fi mobilize your Chromosomes in Hospital

Hollywood macht mit Fernsehspots gegen Bush mobil

Washington - In Hollywood machen jetzt Schauspieler, Drehbuchschreiber und Regisseure mobil, um eine Wiederwahl von US-Präsident George W. Bush im November zu verhindern. Für die Organisation MoveOn.org wollen unter anderem Scarlet Johansson, Kevin Bacon, Woody Harrelson und Danny Glover in Fernseh-Werbespots spielen, wie die US-Zeitschrift "Time" und die Tageszeitung "Los Angeles Times" am Sonntag übereinstimmend berichteten. Einen der Wahlkampfspots soll demnach Regisseur Rob Reiner drehen, der unter anderem mit "Harry und Sally" und "Eine Frage der Ehre" erfolgreich war. Auch der Musiker Moby hat seine Unterstützung zugesagt. (AFP)

05.07.04, 07:45 Uhr


Another Top Bioweapons Expert Killed


Informant: vinski2004

Michael Moore Shills for Illuminati Bankers


Informant: vinski2004


EU passes the buck on EMF occupational guidelines

The EU Council of Ministers have shown themselves to be totally ignorant of the science by declaring (for occupational EMF exposures): " Because for the moment there is insufficient scientific evidence of possible long-term effects, the Directive is limited to the short-term effects of exposure to EMF." (See press release below)

The ignorance of this statement is astounding. For power frequency EMFs they are endorsing the ICNIRP guidelines that allows a maximum magnetic field exposure of 5000 milliGauss for workers.

This ignores the consistent evidence for a doubling of the risk of childhood leukaemia at 4 mG? In their infinite wisdom the Council of Ministers have apparently decided this is not relevant to occupational settings since kids are not in the workforce!

What they have not thought through however is consideration of at what point does the increased risk of childhood leukaemia start? From my understanding that increased risk begins after conception, not just after birth.

In the old industrial society it could be said that, as a general rule, the majority of the industrial factory work force was male but in the modern information age this is no longer the case. Now we see a high percentage of females employed in the modern equilivant of the factory - the officeplace (I think in Sweden, for instance its about 50-50). Therefore for any female worker who wants to have a family and is pregnant, or is thinking of getting pregnant, the 4 mG finding IS an occupational health & safety consideration.

The EU Council of Ministers is, in effect, ignoring a significant OH&S standard setting issue. Do we have a male gender bias here on behalf of the EU Ministers?

Old Sir Richard Doll, himself hardly an icon of un-biased science, has at least termed 4 mG as an unusually "heavy" exposure level. What would Sir Richard then consider 5000 mG to be - Crushing?

There is no scientific justification for maintaining this level in something which is supposed to be a "health based"guideline. However if ICNIRP is considered as an economics based 'guideline' - it then makes more sense by providing protection against litigation for the power industry. And that is what the scientific inflexibility of ICNIRP is all about.

Note in the below press release that the responsibility of employee OH&S safety is being passed on to the employer - a move sure to meet with corporate approval.

Don Maisch


(EU Council of Minister's press release)

The Council of Ministers of the European Union in Brussels have adopted the Directive on Physical Agents - minimum health and safety requirements regarding the exposure of workers to electromagnetic fields - with amendments proposed by the European Parliament.

The Directive will complement Directive 89/391/EEC on the safety and health of workers, laying down minimum requirements and allowing the Member States to adopt more protective provisions. It gives priority to reducing exposure at source, through preventative measures related to work station design, work equipment design, procedure and method.

The Directive establishes "exposure limit-values" and "action-values" based on recommendations drawn up by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation protection (ICNIRP). It attributes responsibility to employers for assessing exposure levels, adopting preventative measures and arranging for information and training for their workers. Because for the moment there is insufficient scientific evidence of possible long-term effects, the Directive is limited to the short-term effects of exposure to EMF"

Nation and World Pay Enormous Price for Bush's Inadequacies


Informant: Eric R. Stietzel

Red Sea corals close to extinction



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