EPA sued to force transparency on pesticide ingredients

Three environmental and public health groups sued the Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday, seeking to press it to move forward with rules that would require public disclosure of certain pesticide ingredients.

The Center for Environmental Health, Beyond Pesticides, and Physicians for Social Responsibility, all non-profit advocacy groups, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.

The groups claimed there has been an “unreasonable delay” on the EPA’s part in finalizing rules to require chemical manufacturers to disclose hazardous inert ingredients in their pesticide products.

The groups said there are more than 350 inert pesticide ingredients that can be just as hazardous as active ingredients that are labeled and can comprise up to 99 percent of a pesticide’s formulation. Of the common inert ingredients, many are classified as carcinogenic, possibly carcinogenic or potentially toxic, the lawsuit said.

More than 20 public health groups and a coalition of state attorneys general petitioned EPA in 2006 to take action on this issue. EPA said in 2009 that it was starting the rule-making process regarding disclosures of such ingredients…But the lawsuit claimed that since 2009 EPA has taken no further action to adopt any new rules on disclosure of inert ingredients.

What a surprise. EPA officials haven’t yet responded to requests for comment. Words are always easier than deeds. The EPA seems to have trouble with both.

Barclays bank corporate tax paid for 2009 = 1% of profits

Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Barclays Bank has been forced to admit it paid just £113m in UK corporation tax in 2009 – a year when it rang up a record £11.6bn of profits.

The admission stunned politicians and tax campaigners. It was revealed on the eve of a day of protests planned against the high street banks by activists from UK Uncut, a group set up five months ago to oppose government cuts and corporate tax avoidance.

The Labour MP Chuka Umunna, who lobbied Barclays’ chief executive, Bob Diamond, to reveal the tax paid by the bank, described the figure – just 1% of its 2009 profits – as “shocking”.

The current rate of corporation tax in the UK is 28%, although global banks such as Barclays – which has hundreds of overseas subsidiaries, including many in tax havens – do not generate all of their profits in their domestic market.

Max Lawson, of the Robin Hood Tax Campaign, said: “This is proof that banks live in a parallel universe to the rest of us, paying billions in bonuses and unhampered by the inconvenience of paying tax.

“If banks paid their fair share we could avoid the worst of the cuts and help those hit hardest by the financial crisis they did nothing to cause.”

Just to give you an idea of how “tough” the Blair Labour government was on big corporations.

Sounds like home to an American.

Carnivorous sponge and a minnow with fangs lead new species

And then there’s Phallus Drewsii

The International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University and an international committee of taxonomists – scientists responsible for species exploration and classification – announce the top 10 new species described in 2009.

On the list are a minnow with fangs, golden orb spider and carnivorous sponge. The top 10 new species also include a deep-sea worm that when threatened releases green luminescent “bombs,” a sea slug that eats insects, a flat-faced frogfish with an unusual psychedelic pattern, and a two-inch mushroom that was the subject of a “Bluff the Listener” segment on the National Public Radio quiz show “Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me.” Rounding out the top 10 list are a banded knifefish, a charismatic plant that produces insect-trapping pitchers the size of an American football, and an edible yam that uncharacteristically sports multiple lobes instead of just one.

The top 10 new species come from around the world, including Africa, Indonesia, Madagascar, Myanmar, New Zealand, the Philippines, Thailand, the United States and Uruguay. The announcement of the top 10 new species list coincides with International Day of Biodiversity being marked May 22 by the United Nations.

Here’s a gallery of these glorious critters. Don’t let them overwhelm your curiosity.

Korchnoi-Spassky in Elista, 2009: Final score 4-4

A little post-mortem analysis.

Final Score: Korchnoi 4 – Spassky 4

The “Battle of the Giants” between tenth World Champion Boris Spassky, 72, and multiple World Championship challenger Viktor Korchnoi, 78 began with the latter pressing. But in the second half of the match it was Spassky who called the shots.

You can find the game scores here: All eight games in PGN format

You can read my previous comments on the match here:
A chess match only an old fart could love

A chess match only an old fart could love: Korchnoi vs. Spassky

The two guys who look like they are too old to be there are the combatants.

It is billed as the “Battle of the Giants”, between tenth World Champion Boris Spassky, 72, and multiple World Championship challenger Viktor Korchnoi, 78. The latter is still very active in competitive play, while Spassky has essentially retired from chess. In the first game an exhausted Korchnoi (he had rushed to Kalmykia from London) put the pressure on Spassky and won. Illustrated report.

My sarcasm is, I assure you, reverential.

Garry Kasparov recently said that it is a sad day when excitement in chess means a match between two “old guys” (he was referring to a recent contest between himself and Karpov). By the same token, however, it is affirming that many chess players do not forget their predecessors, and are appreciative of chess history. Anyone with an appreciation for chess history will understand why Korchnoi vs. Spassky, even today, is a significant event.

Korchnoi, aka “Viktor the Terrible”, I had the pleasure of seeing in the 1970s. I never have gotten to meet Spassky, though he would be on my short list of living players whom I would like to meet. Both played an extraordinary role in the world of chess when the world of chess was still extraordinary. Of all living Grandmasters, Korchnoi impresses me most, because of his longevity in competition at the highest level, which almost should not be possible. Yes, some players are stronger than he, now, but their full history has not yet been written.
Update: Final Score: Korchnoi 4 Spassky 4
Korchnoi won games 1 and 6. Spassky won games 5 and 7. Other games were drawn.

Why is contemporary chess pure crap? Interesting thoughts by Kasparov.

“Something is wrong… something is dead wrong.”

You can read more and see the video here: Something’s wrong in the world of chess.

Oh, what a delight, an interview fertile for comment — by me.

Is chess dead, or are we just making it irrelevant by the way we handle modern competition?

Where do I begin? I could revert to the irritation my high school physics instructor expressed when someone would want to know what the answer to a problem was. “It doesn’t matter,” he would blurt. “Did you understand the concept?” Most current players are obsessed with right answers– which is why they run to Fritz every time their brain hurts.

Then again, I could turn the topic to faster time controls, which have turned competitive chess from something almost sexy to sheer intellectual masturbation.

Or should I quote a certain American Grandmaster, who not long ago explained that the likes of Emanuel Lasker could teach him nothing?

Which.. reminds me..

Kasparov also said this: “Something is dead wrong, if nobody cares about everything else and everybody pays attention to a match of, okay, two old guys.”

The fact is, it’s not only more interesting to watch Kasparov and Karpov play now– because at least it reminds us of a day when a world title actually meant something– but it is more interesting still to study the games of.. Emanuel Lasker– you know, the really, really old guys… than the ever-increasing heap that has become the modern Grandmaster pool.

Global ocean surface temperature warmest on record for June

The world’s ocean surface temperature was the warmest on record for June, breaking the previous high mark set in 2005, according to a preliminary analysis by NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. Additionally, the combined average global land and ocean surface temperature for June was second-warmest on record.

* The combined global land and ocean surface temperature for June 2009 was the second warmest on record, behind 2005, 1.12 degrees F (0.62 degree C) above the 20th century average of 59.9 degrees F (15.5 degrees C).
* Separately, the global ocean surface temperature for June 2009 was the warmest on record, 1.06 degrees F (0.59 degree C) above the 20th century average of 61.5 degrees F (16.4 degrees C).
* Each hemisphere broke its June record for warmest ocean surface temperature. In the Northern Hemisphere, the warm anomaly of 1.17 degrees F (0.65 degree C) surpassed the previous record of 1.12 degrees F (0.62 degree C), set in 2005. The Southern Hemisphere’s increase of 0.99 degree F (0.55 degree C) exceeded the old record of 0.92 degree F (0.51 degree C), set in 1998.
* The global land surface temperature for June 2009 was 1.26 degrees F (0.70 degree C) above the 20th century average of 55.9 degrees F (13.3 degrees C), and ranked as the sixth-warmest June on record.

* El Niño is back after six straight months of increased sea-surface temperature anomalies. June sea surface temperatures in the region were more than 0.9 degree F (0.5 degree C) above average…
* Arctic sea ice covered an average of 4.4 million square miles (11.5 million square kilometers) during June, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. This is 5.6 percent below the 1979-2000 average extent. By contrast, the 2007 record for the least Arctic sea ice extent was 5.5 percent below average. Antarctic sea ice extent in June was 3.9 percent above the 1979-2000 average.

Just checking in on the weather – since the nutball skeptics tend to skip the bits which don’t fit their religion.

The pilots in the family are as bad as farmers when it comes to being weather freaks. We do a monthly discussion of El Niño/La Niña. Keep Skype in business between Asheville and Santa Fe.

Bargainhunter? Start planning Christmas 2009 now!

The day after Christmas
Daylife/Reuters Pictures

Well, here’s something that’ll cheer you up. Let’s start planning Christmas 2009! Oh, why the sour face? Lots of people have it all boxed off already by now and some aren’t even mentally ill.

Let’s see. Bookings are already being taken for festive Pontin’s breaks next December. Isn’t that wonderful? Prices start at £124 per apartment, and you’re assured that, “The party never ends, with tinsel, balloons, party games and laughter, and a fantastic festive dinner with turkey and all the trimmings.” But hurry! You must book by February ’09 or prices will go up.

What do you mean, you’d rather deep-fat fry your own hair? All right, what about this offer: Christmas ’09 in Kissimmee, Florida, at a Best Western Hotel, from £569? No? Well, how about taking over an entire pub in Cumbria for £1,500? Apparently, it will be “a truly unique Christmas present for your friends and family”.

Yes, I know. It’s sick, isn’t it? The very idea of thinking about next Christmas when this year’s sprouts are still passing through the digestive system not only tempts fate but is grotesque. Yet plenty do. Which is why, as we speak, there are people out buying reduced wrapping paper, slightly damaged cards, cut-price shirt-and-tie sets, just so that they can say smugly, around next August, “Oh. We’ve had Christmas done and dusted since last December.”

You could waste energy fantasising about beating such people to a pulpy mass, but why bother? Probably best just to accept that Christmas now lasts for the best part of 12 months. January, of course, is taken up with sales and saying how glad we are that Christmas is all over…

I’ll race you to the basement!

2009 EPA fuel economy: the Ten Best

The list begins and ends with Toyota

The EPA website for the environmentally cleanest and best fuel efficient car and truck models is at Green Vehicle Guide.

The best of the best, according to the EPA, is (miles per gallon highway/mpg city)

1. Toyota Prius Hybrid 48/45

2. Honda Civic Hybrid 40/45

3. Nissan Altima Hybrid and Ford Escape Hybrid FWD 35/33

4. Mazda Tribute Hybrid 2WD and Mercury Mariner Hybrid FWD 34/31

5. Smart Fortwo Convertible and Smart Fortwo Coupe 33/41

6. Toyota Camry Hybrid 33/34

7. Volkswagon Jetta (manual, diesel) 30/41

8. Volkswagon Jetta (automatic, diesel) and Volkswagon Jetta Sportwagon (automatic, diesel) 29/40

9. Toyota Yaris (manual) 29/36

10. Toyota Yaris (automatic) 29/35

As much as I like either the Toyota Prius or the Civic Hybrid, for the MSRP of either you could buy a Yaris for each foot.