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.
Winds wane as 18 wildfires burn in California
October 24, 2007 04:36 PM - Adam Tanner, Reuters
SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - Dying winds gave California firefighters their first big break on Wednesday after four days battling wildfires, but San Diego faced more calamity as blazes there burned out of control and kept more than half a million evacuees from returning home.
The skies over much of the region were filled with thick, acrid smoke, forcing residents to stay indoors or wear masks.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said 18 fires burned on Wednesday and threatened 25,000 structures. Nearly 1,500 homes had already been lost. San Diego bore the brunt of the damage and officials there put losses in excess of $1 billion.
More than 500,000 people have been forced to leave their homes in the biggest mass evacuation in California's modern history.
Six deaths have been reported, while 40 people suffered injuries, many of them firefighters.
Countrywide, Non-Profit Partner to Help Homeowners
October 24, 2007 09:54 AM - Reuters
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Countrywide Financial Corp, the largest U.S. mortgage lender, and non-profit group Neighborhood Assistance Corp. of America said on Tuesday they are partnering to help borrowers stay in their homes.
Under the plan, which aims to stem further worsening of the U.S. housing slump, homeowners would have options including a payment plan, or ways to modify, refinance or restructure their mortgages.
CNN's "Planet in Peril" Confronts Tough Issues
October 24, 2007 08:23 AM - Reuters
LOS ANGELES - This Halloween season, if you want to watch something truly scary, try "Planet in Peril," a two-night, four-hour special that aired Tuesday andtonight on CNN This is not to say that correspondents Anderson Cooper, meteorologist Sanjay Gupta or Animal Planet's Jeff Corwin try to frighten viewers. Far from it. They report from around the world in a straightforward, even restrained, fashion. It's just that what they have to say about what's happening to the planet is very unsettling.
Is Beijing’s Air Quality Ready for the 2008 Olympics?
October 24, 2007 08:19 AM - Alana Herro, Worldwatch Institute
The upcoming Summer Olympic Games have galvanized the host city of Beijing into a frenzy of efforts to beautify its image. With the clock ticking down to August 8, 2008, Beijing has expedited the revitalization of buildings along the city’s major roads, painting worn gray exteriors with more vibrant colors. Flat rooftops have been converted to more-attractive sloped ones, and shoddy and chaotic one-story houses are now hidden behind newly erected ancient-style walls decorated with beautiful imagery.
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.
Gore says 2007 pivotal year in climate change fight
October 23, 2007 07:28 PM - Erik Kirschbaum, Reuters
BERLIN (Reuters) - Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore said on Tuesday he was optimistic future generations would look back at 2007 as the pivotal year when the world finally found the courage to fight together against climate change.
In one of his first public speeches since winning a share of the award on October 12, Gore also said world leaders should meet in January under the auspices of the United Nations to act on the results of U.N. climate change talks in Bali in December.
Women peace laureates appeal for Myanmar action
October 23, 2007 06:53 PM - Jeremy Lovell, Reuters
LONDON (Reuters) - Six female Nobel Peace laureates called on the world to keep up pressure on Myanmar's military junta to restore liberty and democracy in the country.
The seventh living female Peace Prize winner -- Aung San Suu Kyi -- is in detention in Myanmar, where she has spent nearly 12 of the last 18 years in prison or under house arrest.
The call comes weeks after the junta's bloody suppression of pro-democracy demonstrations led by Buddhist monks.
"Since Burmese monks courageously took to the streets in September to call for democracy, the Burmese regime has enforced a vicious crackdown on peaceful demonstrators and democratic opposition leaders," the six wrote in a letter in Wednesday's edition of the Guardian newspaper, using the country's former name.
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.