Ebb & Flow

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Pope to WTO: "Repent"

ITALY -- In a May Day address, Pope John Paul II declared "the globalization of finance, of the economy, of commerce and of work, should never be allowed to violate the dignity and centrality of the human person or the democracy of peoples." Confessing that he felt "close in spirit to people who are forced to ... feed themselves with what falls from the table of the rich," the Pope urged world leaders to "tackle economic and social equality" and warned that globalization "needs to be wisely harnessed. It is necessary to globalize solidarity, too."

Planet of the Apes

INDIA -- New Delhi residents are alarmed following the death of Arvind Kumar Jha, who died after being hit in the head by a flowerpot tossed by a monkey As many as 7,000 monkeys -- displaced by the loss of forest habitat and the paving of city parks -- are roaming the streets of the Indian capital, breaking into offices and homes to steal food. Monkeys are considered sacred in India and cannot be killed. Meanwhile, in drought-stricken Kenya, monkeys attacked and killed an animal herder in a squabble over a spring. The East African Standard reports that Ali Adam Hussein died from "severe head injuries" after he was stoned by a troop of thirsty primates. Hussein's animals reportedly were "monopolizing [the] watering hole."

Coal Comfort

US -- The Great Lakes aren't so great these days. Over the past two years, as global temperatures have risen the levels of Lakes Michigan and Huron have dropped 2.9 feet. The Lake Carriers' Association (LCA) reports that its 60 vessels must forfeit as much as 270 tons of cargo "for each one-inch reduction in loaded draft." The shrinking of the lakes reduced cargo-vessel shipments by 6.5 percent in 1999. As LCA spokesman Glen Nekvasil noted in all seriousness, "A major utility in the Great Lakes area burns about 22,000 tons of coal a day, so you can see what the loss of nearly half of that amount can mean." (Less global warming, for one thing.)

Slower Traffic Means Cleaner Air

US -- For years, the US Department of Transportation (DOT) has paid to extend and widen freeways on the assumption that easing congestion reduces auto emissions. Not so, says a DOT-funded study by the University of California at Riverside. According to the Sierra Club, the study showed that emissions in most vehicles slowly rise as speed increases until pollution levels "go through the roof above 60 mph." The research also showed that "slow, non-aggressive neighborhood traffic" produces less pollution than traffic on streets controlled by stoplights. "Traffic-calming not only protects your children," the Sierra Club concludes, it "cleans the air."

A Cry for Alps

SWITZERLAND -- The permafrost in Europe's Alps is warming three times faster than at any other time in the last 100 years. The thawing permafrost threatens to topple everything built atop it -- homes, resorts, and ski lifts. The famed St. Moritz cable car that carries skiers up the slopes of Corvatsch Peak is endangered and plans are underway to secure the lift with anchors. Eventually, the BBC reports, "the whole station [must be] rebuilt elsewhere." Costly 13-meter-tall walls are being built to protect tourist villages vulnerable to rockfalls caused by melting permafrost.

Did Chernobyl Kill Millions?

INDIA -- An investigation by R. Ashok Kumar presented at a meeting in Mumbai marking the 14th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor explosion in the Ukraine on April 26, 1986, claims that the fallout from the accident may have killed "one million infants in India alone. …