Australian farmers face bankruptcy from drought
October 24, 2007 04:41 PM - Michael Byrnes
WEST WYALONG, Australia (Reuters) - Farmer John Ridley won't be harvesting so much as a bag of wheat this season from fields that stretch to the horizon as Australia's worst drought in 100 years takes its toll on the country's grain belt.
Beneath a cloudless sky, 60-year-old Ridley, a descendant of one of Australia's pioneering farming families, pulls a clump of brittle stubble from the dusty earth.
"It should be this high, waving green in the breeze," he says. "Farmers are in a stunned state at the moment. In a state of disbelief, shock, helplessness."
Ridley's farm is in the epicenter of devastation from the drought, about 500 kilometers (310 miles) west of Sydney. Prime wheat growing territory, the district normally grows much of the wheat that makes Australia the world's second-biggest exporter. Yet this year the district will produce almost nothing.
White House Accused Of Watering Down Climate Testimony To Congress
October 24, 2007 04:15 PM - Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House watered down climate change testimony to Congress - testimony by the head of the CDC -- the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The changes were made before the testimony was delivered, according to a watchdog group Both the CD and White House deny it.
The anti-nuclear group Physicians for Social Responsibility said White House officials had forced CDC director Dr. Julie Gerberding to remove specific references about the effects of climate change from Tuesday's testimony to a Senate committee.
Fires create electricity 'island' in San Diego
October 24, 2007 04:01 PM - Bernie Woodall
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - California wildfires created an electricity "island" of San Diego County on Wednesday as one major power transmission link to the U.S. West grid was shut and the other flickering on and off, said San Diego Gas & Electric Co.
This makes the San Diego area susceptible to major blackouts unless customers conserve power, said Michael Niggli, chief operating officer of SDG&E.
San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders implored residents to cut power use.
"You've got to conserve today. You have no choice," Sanders said.
About 20,000 homes and businesses were without power late Wednesday morning, down from 33,000 on Tuesday, SDG&E spokeswoman Rachel Laing said.
California evacuees unwind with yoga, Kosher food
October 24, 2007 09:52 AM - Dana Ford, Reuters
SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - As emergency shelters go, the Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego might get a five-star rating, with yoga and acupuncture for stressed-out adults, clowns and candy for bored kids and even Kosher meals.
The stadium, best known as home to the National Football League's San Diego Chargers, was converted this week into an emergency evacuation center accommodating 10,000 people forced from their homes by wildfires scorching the county.
City and state officials and legions of volunteers running the center did their best to provide not only for evacuees' basic needs but also lifestyle perks designed to make the Golden State's displaced denizens feel more at home.
Global Water Initiative Created in Response to World Water Crisis
October 24, 2007 08:12 AM - ICUN
A new partnership has been launched to address the declining state of the world’s fresh water supply and the lack of access to clean water services by the world’s poorest people. The Global Water Initiative (GWI) brings together a group of seven leading international NGOs, including Action Against Hunger (ACF) – USA, CARE, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), The World Conservation Union (IUCN), International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), Oxfam America and SOS Sahel – UK.
EU Allows Imports of Four GMO Crop Products
October 24, 2007 07:35 AM - Reuters
BRUSSELS - The European Union has authorized imports of four genetically modified (GMO) crop products for sale across its 27 national markets for the next 10 years, the European Commission said on Wednesday. Three of the GMO products are maize types, two of them hybrids, and the fourth is a sugar beet. None would be grown in Europe but would be imported for use in food and animal feed.
Watching funny shows helps children tolerate pain longer, study finds
October 23, 2007 09:27 PM - Kim Irwin, UCLA News
Los Angeles - Watching comedy shows helps children tolerate pain for longer periods of time, according to a study by UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center and the nonprofit organization Rx Laughter. The study findings, published in the October issue of the journal Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, suggest that humorous distraction could be used in clinical settings to help children and adolescents better handle painful procedures.
California fire evacuees top 500,000
October 23, 2007 06:45 PM - Dana Ford, Reuters
SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - At least 16 wind-driven wildfires burned from the Mexican border to areas north of Los Angeles on Tuesday, forcing more than half a million people from their homes and claiming a second life on the third day of fire calamity.
San Diego County faced the most dire situation as flames raced unchecked, with 500,000 people now ordered to evacuate their homes, county supervisor Ron Roberts said. At least 1,250 homes were destroyed.
Another person died on Tuesday from burns in a fire north of Los Angeles, after the first death reported on Sunday some 150 miles away near San Diego.
Food safety rules tightened after E. coli recall
October 23, 2007 06:20 PM - Reuters
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. food safety inspectors said Tuesday they will expand tests and recall infected meat more rapidly to combat E. coli contamination of meat products after the largest American manufacturer of hamburger patties went out of business this month.
The U.S. Agriculture Department's Food Safety and Inspection Service said in a briefing the number of E. coli recalls climbed to 15 so far in 2007 compared to the five cases reported in all of 2005.
"We want the American consumer to know that FSIS has taken a number of aggressive actions ... associated with this pathogen and we are further expanding these efforts," said Under Secretary for Food Safety Richard Raymond.
Target Recalls Game Pieces: Cars
October 23, 2007 11:43 AM - Reuters
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - About 110,000 magnetic game pieces that accompanied "Cars" themed backpacks sold at Target Corp retail stores have been recalled because the toys can be swallowed by young children, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said on Tuesday.
The gray and red backpacks were sold with four magnetic game pieces that can fall out of their plastic enclosure, the safety agency said. The game pieces were made in China.
The agency said there have been three reports of a magnet that became loose but no injuries have been reported. Small children can swallow a magnet, and if more than one magnet is swallowed they can attract each other and cause intestinal perforation or blockage.