Monday, January 23, 2006

Smoking stacks, murdered heros, and lying politicians--oh my.

We’re number 28! We’re number 28!--A survey of the countries of the world and how they treat the environment places the United States 28th, behind most of Europe, Japan, Taiwan, Malaysia, Costa Rica and Chile. But don’t worry, the Russians are worse. Lovely, gentle New Zealand came in first and anyone whose been there is happy with that result. The joint study, by Yale and Columbia Universities, measured things like clean drinking water and low ozone levels, fisheries and greenhouse gas emission. Using the Environmental Performance Index, the survey measured how governments do with what the world has handed them. For instance, the British cut down all their trees 500 years ago and there’s not much the present government can do about that. Air quality rankings generally are higher in undeveloped countries because they are not spewing as much industrial waste into the air, while industrialized countries do better in the index in environmental health--things like lead poisoning.

Just because you love the world doesn’t mean the world will love you back--Joan Root, a conservationist and film maker, was murdered in her Kenya home Jan. 13, probably by poachers pissed at her interference in their commerce. It’s on the same lake outside of Nairobi where George Adamson and his wife Joy of “Born Free” fame, also were killed and probably also by poachers. Root was shoot down by a sniper. Root was trying to keep fishing poachers out of Lake Naivasha, knew she was a target and hired private bodyguards, but they were ineffective. She and her ex-husband made several noted documentaries about Africa and were nominated for an Academy Award.

Of course you can trust me, I’m a politician--A Canadian researcher used an algorithm that detects when politicians are “spinning,” and discovered that yes, they are. We're amazed aren't we? David Skillicom at Queen’s University in Ontario, analyzed the usage patterns of 88 deception-linked words within recent campaign speeches in Canada, which is holding an election today, and then determined the frequency of these patterns and averaged that number over the number of speeches. Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin scored higher than his Conservative opponent, Stephen Harper or the New Democratic Party’s Jack Layton. (Canada has three main parties, not counting the Quebec nationalist party--good for them). Martin scored 124, Harper and Layton 73 and 88. One polling expert was not surprised. The Liberals have been in power for the last 14 years and the party in power usually has the toughest time explaining themselves. The algorithm was developed by James Pennebacker at the University of Texas. I know another Texan he can try that on.

P.S. Harper won.

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