Swearing off salmon
Taras Grescoe is the author of "Bottomfeeder: How to Eat Ethically in a World of Vanishing Seafood."
The first chinook salmon from Alaska's Copper River arrived in Seattle last month, for shipment to fish counters throughout the country. With the commercial chinook season in California and most of Oregon canceled for the first time in 160 years, Alaska chinook were going for record prices: $40 a pound for fillet.
Wild Atlantic salmon are commercially extinct, and runs of Pacific salmon south of the Alaska panhandle are experiencing catastrophic collapses. This year, for the sake of the remaining wild salmon on the West Coast, as well as my own health, I'm changing my diet. Whether it's wild or farmed, I'm swearing off salmon.
What happened to the mighty chinook of the Pacific Northwest? Regional fisheries officials have blamed ocean conditions for a temporary decline in the plankton and small fish that juvenile salmon feed on. But most of the problem is man-made.
Spawning salmon need gravel streambeds and cold, fast-running water to lay their eggs. Giant pumps have been piping water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to towns and farms in California's Central Valley, degrading river habitat and even sucking up young fish before they reach the sea. Farther north, dams on the Snake River have prevented egg-bearing fish from reaching streambeds inland.
Overfishing is also a factor; too many nets have been scooping up too many fish for too long. What's more, higher water temperatures brought on by global warming prevent the eggs of spawning females from maturing. It's not surprising that the only consistently healthy salmon runs left are those in the cold waters of Alaska.
The fact that salmon is still available in supermarkets, and is cheaper than it ever was, is no comfort. Ninety percent of the fresh salmon consumed in the United States is from farms, and I have come to believe that the farmed product is not a healthy alternative.
Three Norwegian-owned companies dominate the salmon-farming industry in North America, and their offshore net-cages dot long stretches of the west coast of the Americas. In Chile, overcrowding in these oceanic feedlots led to this year's epidemic of infectious salmon anemia, a disease that has killed millions of fish and left the flesh of survivors riddled with lesions.
The situation in Canada, which supplies the United States with 40 percent of its farmed salmon, is not much better. In British Columbia, offshore net-cages are breeding grounds for thumbtack-sized parasites called sea lice. In the Broughton Archipelago, a jigsaw of islands off the province's central coast, wild pink salmon are infested with the crustaceans. Scientists think that the tens of millions of salmon in Broughton's 27 Norwegian-owned farms are attracting sea lice and passing them on to wild fish, killing them. They say that this infestation could drive Broughton's pink salmon to extinction by 2011.
To rid salmon of the lice, fish farmers spike their feed with a strong pesticide called emamectin benzoate, which when administered to rats and dogs causes tremors, spinal deterioration and muscle atrophy. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, already hard-pressed to inspect imported Asian seafood for antibiotic and fungicide residues, does not test imported salmon for emamectin benzoate. In other words, the farmed salmon in nearly every American supermarket may contain this pesticide, which on land is used to rid diseased trees of pine beetles. It is not a substance I want in my body.
I avoid farmed salmon for other reasons. It takes four pounds of small fish like sardines and anchovies to make a single pound of farmed salmon, a process that deprives humans of precious protein. (Feedmakers have lately increased the proportion of soy in the pellets, which means the fish have even lower levels of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids.) Organic farmed salmon would be a good option, if the term meant something - outside Europe, there is still no credible, widely available eco-label for responsibly farmed salmon.
Fish farming is an essential industry, but it must be sustainable. Striped bass, trout and even ocean species like halibut and cod are already being raised in concrete tanks, which prevent the transmission of disease and parasites to wild fish. A few pioneering companies have started raising salmon the same way. Such techniques have to become the industry norm.
In the Atlantic, overfishing, habitat destruction, disease and parasites from farms have left only struggling remnant populations of the ocean's original salmon stocks. If we don't want the same thing to happen in the Pacific, we need to give the salmon a break. Legislators could start by calling on companies to remove net-cages from migration routes, dismantling superannuated dams, reducing fishing quotas in rivers and oceans and committing money to habitat restoration. Consumers can help by looking at salmon as an occasional luxury, rather than expecting it as an alternative to chicken or beef in in-flight meals.
All of Europe getting a whiff of Naples garbage problem
HAMBURG: Naples's garbage - the plastic Ferrarelle water bottles, the soggy copies of Internazionale magazine, the decomposing kitchen compost - has ended up here, waiting to be dumped into an incinerator on the outskirts of this tidy German city.
For months, mountains of rotting trash have piled up in the streets of southern Italy because the region has run out of places to put it. So for the time being - for 11 weeks actually - a 56-car train will arrive in Hamburg every day after a 44-hour journey, each bearing 700 tons of Neapolitan refuse.
"We are doing this because we were asked to provide emergency aid, but we will do it only for a few months, not years," said Martin Mineur, technical director of two of Hamburg's incinerators, as a steady stream of trucks carrying garbage from the train station roared by. "This is not a long-term solution. Italy will have to solve Italy's problem."
NEWS ANALYSISWest's business elite swarm to Russia's honey pot
ST. PETERSBURG: The lineup told it all about Russia's importance today. There, rarely on one stage, sat the chief executives or chairmen of BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, ConocoPhillips, Total, Schlumberger and Dow Chemical, plus the chairman of the Russian energy giant Gazprom and the president of the Russian oil company Lukoil.
While Alexei Miller of Gazprom exuded pride (that, too, characteristic of today's Russia) at attracting such a group to his hometown, Andrew Gould of Schlumberger, which provides equipment to extract oil and natural gas rather than doing that job itself, voiced some concern this weekend at being with "six of my top 10 customers at the same time."
Albinos in Tanzania face deadly threat
Many people in Tanzania - and across Africa, for that matter - believe albinos have magical powers. They stand out, often the lone white face in a black crowd, a result of a genetic condition that impairs normal skin pigmentation and affects about 1 in 3,000 people here. Tanzanian officials say witch doctors are now marketing albino skin, bones and hair as ingredients in potions that are promised to make people rich.
Police officers are drawing up lists of albinos in every corner of the country to better look after them. Officers are escorting albino children to school. Tanzania's president even sponsored an albino woman for a seat in Parliament to show that "we are with them in this," said Salvator Rweyemamu, a Tanzanian government spokesman.Rweyemamu said the rash of killings was anathema to what Tanzania had been striving toward; after years of failed socialist economic policies, the country is finally getting development, investment and change."This is serious because it continues some of the perceptions of Africa we're trying to run away from," he said.
The young are often the targets. In early May, Vumilia Makoye, 17, was eating dinner with her family in their hut in western Tanzania when two men showed up with long knives.Vumilia was like many other Africans with albinism. She had dropped out of school because of severe near-sightedness, a common problem for albinos, whose eyes develop abnormally and who often have to hold books or cellphones just inches away to see them. She could not find a job because no one would hire her. She sold peanuts in the market, making $2 a week while her delicate skin was seared by the sun.When Vumilia's mother, Jeme, saw the men with knives, she tried to barricade the door of their hut. But the men overpowered her and burst in."They cut my daughter quickly," she said, making hacking motions with her hands.The men sawed off Vumilia's legs above the knee and ran away with the stumps. Vumilia died.
Al Qaeda threat has analysts split into 2 opposing camps
On one side is Bruce Hoffman, a cerebral 53-year-old Georgetown University historian and author of the highly respected 1998 book "Inside Terrorism." He argues that Al Qaeda is alive, well, resurgent and more dangerous than it has been in several years. In his corner, he said, is a battalion of mainstream academics and a National Intelligence Estimate issued last summer warning that Al Qaeda had reconstituted in Pakistan.
On the other side is Marc Sageman, an iconoclastic 55-year-old Polish-born psychiatrist, sociologist, former CIA case officer and scholar-in-residence with the New York Police Department. His new book, "Leaderless Jihad," argues that the main threat no longer comes from the organization called Al Qaeda, but from the bottom up - from radicalized individuals and groups who meet and plot in their neighborhoods and on the Internet. In his camp, he said, are agents and analysts in highly classified positions at the CIA and FBI.
If Hoffman gets inside organizations - focusing on command structures - Sageman gets inside heads, analyzing the terrorist mind-set. But this is more important than just a battle of ideas. It is the latest twist in the contest for influence and resources in Washington that has been a central feature of the struggle against terrorism since Sept. 11, 2001.
If there is no main threat from Al Qaeda - just "bunches of guys," as Sageman calls them - then it would be easier for a new U.S. president to think he could save money or redirect efforts within the huge counterterrorism machine, which costs the United States billions of dollars and has created armies of independent security consultants and counterterrorism experts in the last seven years.
Preventing attacks planned by small bands of zealots in the garages and basements just off Main Street or the alleys behind Islamic madrasas is more a job for the local police and the FBI, working with undercover informants and with authorities abroad. "If it's a 'leaderless jihad,' then I can find something else to do because the threat is over," said Peter Bergen, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan New America Foundation, who puts himself in Hoffman's camp. "Leaderless things don't produce big outcomes."
On the other hand, if the main task can be seen as thwarting plots or smiting Al Qaeda's leaders abroad, then attention and resources should continue to flow to the CIA, the State Department, the military and terror-financing sleuths.
"One way to enhance your budget is to frame it in terms of terrorism," said Steven Simon, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. "But the problem is that 'Al Qaedatry' is more art than science - and people project onto the subject a lot of their own preconceptions."
The divide over the nature of the threat turned nasty, even by the rough standards of academia, when Hoffman reviewed Sageman's book this spring for Foreign Affairs in an essay, "The Myth of Grass-Roots Terrorism: Why Osama bin Laden Still Matters." He accused Sageman of "a fundamental misreading of the Al Qaeda threat," adding that his "historical ignorance is surpassed only by his cursory treatment of social-networking theory."
In the forthcoming issue of Foreign Affairs, Sageman returns fire, accusing Hoffman of "gross misrepresentation." In an interview, Sageman said he could not explain his rival's critique: "Maybe he's mad that I'm the go-to guy now."
Some terrorism experts find the argument silly - and dangerous.
"Sometimes it seems like this entire field is stepping into a boys-with-toys conversation," said Karen Greenberg, executive director of New York University's Center on Law and Security. "Here are two guys, both of them respected, saying that there is only one truth and only one occupant of the sandbox. That's ridiculous. Both of them are valuable."
Asian gains seen in terror fight
Three years after the region's last major strike — the attacks on three restaurants in Bali that killed three suicide bombers and 19 other people — American and Asian intelligence analysts say financial and logistical support from Al Qaeda to other groups in the region has long dried up, and the most lethal are scrambling for survival.
In Indonesia, authorities have arrested more than 200 members of Jemaah Islamiyah, an Islamic group with ties to Al Qaeda, since 2005. In the Philippines, an American-backed military campaign has the Abu Sayyaf Group, an Islamic extremist organization with links to Jemaah Islamiyah, clinging to footholds in the jungles of a handful of southern islands, officials said.
Indonesia and the Philippines, which have faced the most serious terrorist threat in the region, have taken sharply different approaches to combat it. Each has achieved some success, offering lessons to American and allied counterterrorism efforts worldwide. But there are worrisome signs that the threat could rebound quickly.
Civil liberties groups to monitor controversial DC checkpoints that seek to reduce violence
WASHINGTON: Police in the U.S. capital set up controversial vehicle checkpoints Saturday in a neighborhood reeling from gun violence, with civil liberties groups considering legal action and closely observing officers.Police in neon yellow vests stopped motorists traveling through the main thoroughfare of Trinidad — a neighborhood near the National Arboretum in the city's northeast section. Police checked drivers' identification and turned away those who didn't have a "legitimate purpose" in the area, such as a church visit or doctor's appointment.The checkpoints were announced after eight people were killed in the city last weekend. Most of the killings occurred in the police district that includes Trinidad. Already this year, the district has had 22 killings — one more than in all of last year.The checkpoints have drawn harsh criticism from civil rights groups."Trinidad should not be treated like Baghdad," said Mark Thompson, the leader of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's (NAACP's) local police task force.
Obama taking campaign to Republican turf
Obama has moved in recent days to transform his primary organization into a general election machine, hiring staff members, sending organizers into important states and preparing a television advertisement campaign to present his views and his biography to millions of Americans who followed the primaries from a distance.
In one telling example, he is moving to hire Aaron Pickrell, the chief political strategist for Governor Ted Strickland of Ohio, who helped steer Clinton to victory in that state's primary, to run his effort against McCain there. In another, aides said, Obama has tapped Dan Carroll, an opposition researcher who gained fame digging up information on opponents' records for Bill Clinton in 1992, to help gather information about McCain. That is the latest evidence that, for all the talk on both sides about a new kind of politics, the general election campaign is likely to be bloody.
Cohen: The good American and Monsieur Obama
As George Packer notes in a must-read New Yorker piece called "The Fall of Conservatism," the politically fruitful Republican-engineered polarization of politics around military might, family values and small government has died with Bush.
"Polls," Packer writes, "reveal that Americans favor the Democratic side on nearly every domestic issue, from Social Security and health care to education and the environment."
Or, as the Republican strategist Ed Rollins puts it to Packer, "Today, if you're not rich or Southern or born again, the chances of your being a Republican are not great." No wonder John McCain's campaign is very short on polarizing conservative orthodoxy.
Poetry and rehabilitation
For years, Jay Parini, the Robert Frost biographer and literature professor, had been writing - wrestling with, he says - a book titled "Why Poetry Matters." No sooner was it published than the writer was confronted with a slice-of-life demand to demonstrate his thesis.
The criminal justice system in Ripton, Vermont, prescribed poetry, of all things, as punishment - and we hope rehabilitation - for 25 teenagers who broke into Frost's old summer house in the woods last December. They trashed it during a snowy night's bout of drinking and partying.
Skeptical at first, Parini, who teaches at Middlebury College, accepted the invitation to teach the wayward teens. He did not pull any iambic punches in class.
One lesson was built around "The Road Not Taken," Frost's caution on the fateful choices that crop up in the dense woods of life.
Harsher still was the choice of "Out, Out," Frost's account of a youth's life spilling away in a sawmill accident amid the heedless glories of Vermont.
"They seemed shaken to their foundations," said Parini. "A wake-up call: Don't waste your life."
The young perpetrators must also do community service, but the professor knows Frost's words struck home best. "Poetry is about life and death and who you are as a person," Parini explained, quoting the prose line from Frost's essay "Education by Poetry," in which the poet warned, "Unless you are educated in metaphor, you are not safe to be let loose in the world."
EUROPE'S ECONOMIC UNION
Trichet on the ECB's coming challenges
Jean-Claude Trichet is president of the European Central Bank.
Today, more than half a century after the launching of the European Community idea, the Economic and Monetary Union, which is only 10 years old, is contributing to stability and prosperity for our continent in a global environment undergoing very rapid change. In 20 years, when the ECB and the euro will be 30 years old, the center of gravity of the world economy will have shifted. Brazil, Russia and Mexico will be much more important economic players. China and India might be competing - along with the United States and the European Union - to be the world's leading economy in the second half of our century. There is little doubt that in this profoundly changed world Europeans will regard their Economic and Monetary Union as even more justified than at the time of its creation - and the idea of its founding fathers as even more visionary.
Carter guides N.Zealand to tight win over Ireland
WELLINGTON: New Zealand flyhalf Daniel Carter overcame an erratic performance to guide the All Blacks to a 21-11 victory over Ireland at a rain-soaked Railyards Stadium on Saturday.
Carter, who had a poor kicking game from hand, slotted 11 points and produced a game-breaking burst to set up a Ma'a Nonu try with 17 minutes remaining that enabled New Zealand to open a winning 10-point advantage.
Sitiveni Sivivatu also scored a brilliant first half try after a searing break from centre Conrad Smith for the All Blacks, whose last test match was their ignominious 20-18 defeat to France in the World Cup quarter-final last October.
Ireland centre Paddy Wallace scored a well-worked try after his side switched back quickly to the blindside from a free kick, while flyhalf Ronan O'Gara kicked two penalties for the visitors.
The match was played in atrocious conditions, with a cold southerly wind blasting rain across the field and ensuring the match became a battle of attrition between the forwards.
"Not just the players, but the management is also pretty disappointed and quite frankly we're pretty embarrassed by that performance," Gatland told a news conference.
In the week leading up to the first match, Gatland said Wales were hoping to use the two-test series to earn respect, but the coach conceded that the team's performance had not helped their cause.
"I don't think we earned any respect -- our handling was poor, and we're disappointed with the number of penalties we gave away," said Gatland. "It just allowed South Africa to keep the scoreboard ticking over."
South Africa outscored the Six Nations champions four tries to two and dominated in most areas of play. Four early penalties from Butch James gave the world champions the initiative
"They were very strong in the collision areas and ran really hard. One area of the game that they dominated us physically was at the breakdown in attack and defence."
Captain Ryan Jones said the scrum was pretty much the only department where the Welsh had competed and said they had plenty to work on ahead of the second test in Pretoria on June 14.
Could steroids use have fueled Big Brown's run at glory?
He blew away the field at the Kentucky Derby. He made the Preakness field look like circus ponies. But on the day that would solidify his legacy and give racing a respite from intense scrutiny, Big Brown crumbled. He crumbled so badly that one could legitimately wonder whether he was nothing but a chemical horse, a paper tiger propped up - and propelled - by steroids. After three months of dominance, Big Brown became the first Triple Crown hopeful to finish dead last at the Belmont Stakes. His jockey, Kent Desormeaux, said that heading into the final turn, when he called on Big Brown to give him that special reserve, he realized, "I had no horse."
The racing public has the right to ask: Did he ever have a super horse?
Late entry wins English Derby at Epsom
The Jim Bolger-trained colt pushed ahead in the final furlong to storm past Tartan Bearer (6-1) over the line. Casual Conquest, the pre-race favorite, was four and a half lengths behind in third.
Watched by Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, 5-1 shot New Approach came from the rear to win his and Bolger's first English classic.
He has got a serious, serious engine," Manning said. "He took a bit of a tug early on and got further back than I would have liked, but coming down the hill I had loads of horse and just hoped the gaps would come.
"He's just very, very classy."