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November 30, 2006

Bonobos

Until recently I thought bonobos were just chimps. But I found out that even though there are some similarities between the two, there are key differences. They both live in African rainforest, eat fruit, and live in troops. However, Bonobos are the “make love, not war� primates. The females form coalitions, there is less violence and they have sex 10 times as much as the chimps. What was more interesting was that these differences are due to the different location of the species. So sociologists might be right after all, interactions are context-specific and they could explain our behavior.

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November 29, 2006

Supreme Court Melts Over Greenhouse Gasses

The article I read dealt with the recent case that was brought before the Supreme Court regarding the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision that they did not have the authority to say whether or not it was within their power to regulate that. The current law only deals with CO2 emissions. The case brought forth by 12 states, 3 cities, and a slew of environmental groups. The argument not only revolves around the authority to regulate green houses gases but is this enough to curb global warming.

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The supreme court steps in on global warming

The Supreme court recently began deliberating on the case of Massachusetts vs. EPA on the issue of global warming. At the heart of the case is the Environmental Protection Agency's refusal to mandate manditory emission standerds on new cars made in America. A number of states have jointly filed suit in the case in an attempt to force the EPA and Bush Administration to constitute carbon dioxide as a pollutant which would mandate regulation. The EPA maintains that it is their discression and theirs alone whether to deterimine the nature of polutants and they only are responsible to the President. This suit will be one of the most significant cases before the Supreme Court in this century. There are a number of precedents at stake on this issue and the decision will be far-reaching. The most obvious outcome of this case will be the effect on stopping global warming but this is also part of the issue. Everyone's favorate Justice, Anton Scalia argues that carbon dioxide does not a pollutant because CO2 does not endanger health because it does not directly pollute directly but on stratospheric levels. He does not believe that CO2 in the air directly endangers health and thus is not a pollutant. THe real power struggle will be between the power triangle of the Executive, Congress, and the Supreme Court. The Supreme court has to decide if congress authorized the Executive to maintain a "sweeping greenhous-gas control program. The link between congress and the executive is being challenged but also, it is contested whether the Supreme court has jurisdiction over the EPA at all. This entire issue will boil down to a fight over executive privalege and presidential power. The suit is an attempt to force the hand of the President to change CO2 emmissions standards and that is something the president doesnt seem to want to do. The Supreme COurt could be excersizing significant control over the executive branch and that is an issue that came to the forefront durring the Roberts and Alito conformations. It is scarry that an issue as important as global warming will be in the middle of such a big power struggle in our government

November 27, 2006

The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act and the Green Scare

Recently both houses of congresses voted overwhelmingly the pass the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, a law which they claim is meant to battle “eco-terrorism,� or terrorism against institutions which exploit the environment or animals. It is part of a larger policy course these past few years, which environmental rights activists have labeled the “Green Scare.� Supporters of the bill say that it will protect scientists, researchers, farmers, and other industries from animal rights extremists.

The main criticisms of the bill are similar to other counter-terrorism legislation passed in recent years, such as the USA Patriot Act, and are that the law is too vague and curtails civil liberties. The bill is supposedly meant to curtail violent extremism, yet it specifically mentions nonviolent protestors. Many of the nonviolent tactics that animal rights activists use, such as sit-ins, blockades, trespassing into research centers to investigate animal cruelty, and freeing animals who are used as test subjects, would now be considered “terrorism.� And in fact, according to this law, it is a crime for animal rights activists to cause “loss of profit� to companies.

The most ridiculous thing about this bill, in my opinion, is that while it is true that some groups, such as the ELF and ALF occasionally cause property damage, they go out of their way to make sure that no animals - “human or nonhuman� - are hurt by their actions. So, to me, someone who lived in New York City and still has lots of family there, it is rather offensive that the government is now putting the murder of 3,000 people in an actual terrorist attack in the same category as activists freeing puppies, monkeys, and other animals that are used for various research and testing projects

October 31, 2006

Modern society

Emile Durkheim is one of the most important theorists in sociology. He has from time to time, stressed the problems of modern society. He had believed that as society becomes modern, shared collective representation are reduced in numbers and richness. In traditional society there existed a mechanical solidarity- 'sameness' or shared collective representations. In modern society, organic solidarity increases- based on playing one's part in a differentiated system, need rules and norms to govern society. Durkheim would have looked at urban areas as a place where individual behaviors are less regulated, a place with reduced social contact, where norms are not informed or regulated thus leading to anomie- a condition of norm-less. It is safe to say that Durkheim believed smaller communities or areas would be better, community members would know one another and they would work together.

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Oil-Free Sweden

Sweden has long been a country with a strong focus on the environment. Over the last few years, it has grown more adamant about the cause, going as far as to proclaim that Sweden will be the first nation in the world to be oil independent, and set the ambitious timeline of 2020 to achieve not only this, but sweeping reforms in environmental protection and energy production. The goals set by Sweden would phase out fossil fuels not only in the industrial and residential energy sectors, but in the transportation sector as well. While this may seem like a lofty goal, a closer look at the country make it look very attainable. For example, between 1970 and 2003, the proportion of Sweden's energy that came from oil dropped from 77 percent to 32 percent, with 26 percent of total energy coming form renewable sources. By increasing taxes on vehicles that have excessive CO2 emissions, giving grants and tax breaks to consumers and government institutions that switch to renewable energies, and partnering with industry to increase the availability of biofuel vehicles, Sweden seems poised to make their goal a reality.

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September 14, 2006

Cigarettes: Politics or Health Issue?

As a cigarette smoker myself I find myself split on the issue of restricting smoking in public venues. The origional reason for the restriction is one in which I can completely understand and comply with, that cigarettes and cigarette smoke is extremely hazardous to everyones health. However recently the health issue has been put aside and there has been a political struggle that has ensued between business owners and city councils. Some business owners happily complied, however bars and small restaraunt owners did not take the new ban well. Some bar owners in St. Paul were able to lobby thier view to the city, making the ban only effective where food was served as a main source of business. The ban however effective or ineffective is only enforced in Minneapolis and St. PAul. Many states have complied or enforced their own bans since the health effects of cigarette smoking have been revealed, however they are able to not get into political debates by making cigarette smoking in enclosed areas illegal throughout the entire state, not just one or two cities.

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September 13, 2006

"When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts" (Spike Lee, 2006)

For this blog entry, I watched Spike Lee's film "When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts" (2006). This film is based on Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans and other Gulf Coast communities. We all know that this hurricane was the worst natural disaster in U.S. History. This four hour HBO documentary is full of familiar images such as the flooding, damaged homes and the discovery of human remains. But this documentary provides us with the residents who witnessed, and those who reported the devastation. Spike Lee reminded us of the slow federal response to the disaster. Furthermore, it was pointed out that the levees protecting the city had broken. But some residents suggested that they heard loud explosions before the flooding, and some have said that the levee system was "intentionally dynamited". And lee connected this story to the 1927 Great Flood of Mississippi.

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