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May 10th, 2012:

Are you Getting Lighter Babies?

Morello-Frosch et al (2010) from Berkeley University estimated average ambient air pollutant concentrations throughout pregnancy in the neighborhoods of women who delivered term singleton live births between 1996 and 2006 in California. They adjusted effect estimates of air pollutants on birth weight for infant characteristics, maternal characteristics, neighborhood socioeconomic factors, and year and season of birth.

Their study indicates that maternal exposure to ambient air pollution results in modestly lower infant birth weight. A small decline in birth weight is unlikely to have clinical relevance for individual infants, and there is debate about whether a small shift in the population distribution of birth weight has broader health implications. However, the ubiquity of air pollution exposures, the responsiveness of pollutant levels to regulation, and the fact that the highest pollution levels in California are lower than those regularly experienced in other countries suggest that precautionary efforts to reduce pollutants may be beneficial for infant health from a population perspective.

Download PDF : Morello-Frosch (2010) – Ambient Air Pollution Exposure & Full-term Birth Weight in California

PM 2.5 and Lung Cancer – Not a Strong Correlation but a Positive Trend

Few studies have explored the potential relationship between PM2.5 exposure and lung cancer incidence. Viniknor et al from US EPA using an ecologic study design, examined the county-level associations between modeled PM2.5 concentrations and lung cancer incidence and mortality in North Carolina. Although variability is high, which partly reflects the fact that there are other etiologic agents that influence lung
cancer incidence and mortality besides PM2.5, there is a positive trend observed between PM2.5 concentration and lung cancer incidence and mortality rates. This provides evidence to suggest that PM2.5 concentrations are associated with lung cancer incidence and mortality rates.

Beijing to close 1,200 polluting enterprises

Agence France-Presse in Beijing
2:47pm, May 10, 2012

The authorities in Beijing said on Wednesday they plan to get rid of 1,200 high-polluting enterprises by 2015 to improve air quality in China’s capital, one of the world’s most polluted cities.

The move follows a public backlash over the heavy smog that often envelops Beijing – sometimes so thick that it delays planes and trains going to and from the city – sparking health concerns among the general population.

The Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau said in a statement it planned to eliminate 1,200 high-polluting facilities such as foundries, chemical plants and furniture factories by 2015.

“Industrial pollution is one of the main factors influencing the air quality in this city,” the bureau said. It did not specify whether the enterprises would be shut down or relocated to other areas of the country.

Air quality in the capital has been bad for years, but netizens began to focus on it late last year after the US embassy started publishing its own pollution readings, which are often alarming.

The embassy measures PM2.5 – the smallest, most dangerous pollution particles in the air – and posts the results on a Twitter feed. They often rank as “very unhealthy” or “hazardous”.

Beijing’s government eventually caved into online pressure and said it would start publishing its own measures of PM2.5, as opposed to basing information on particles of 10 micrometres or larger, known as PM10, which are less harmful.

It has also set up bicycle rental kiosks in the city in a bid to ease traffic congestion – another source of pollution. Authorities are also mulling new bike lanes.

Pollution fighter flees bad air


Government’s failure to address pollution and lack of long-term ‘green’ vision is finally forcing the head of the WWF, Eric Bohm, to quit the city after 30 years
Cheung Chi-fai
May 10, 2012

Eric Bohm always feels outraged when he sees coach and car drivers leave their engines running outside his office next to the Peak Tram station in Garden Road, Central.

They are in breach of the law against idling engines and, if he isn’t in a hurry, he will go out and challenge the drivers to switch off.

But not any more.

The 68-year-old chief executive of WWF Hong Kong, the city’s largest green campaign group, is leaving the city he has spent the past eight years trying to save from further environmental degradation.

And his departure is a direct result of that continued degradation.

“My wife has asthma and the air quality here is not good. She had pneumonia twice last year, triggered by bad air and irritation. So I say enough is enough,” he said.

Bohm, a Canadian who has been in Hong Kong since 1981 and worked as a financial controller before joining the WFF. He will migrate to Britain with Diane, his wife of 44 years, and be reunited with their daughter.

Bohm said he was reluctant to leave the city and would miss many things – the food, the people, the opportunities and the ice hockey team he founded.

But his disappointment over the government’s inability – and lack of courage and determination – to address air pollution has finally become intolerable.

He hopes matters will change under the new government of chief executive-elect Leung Chun-ying, who, along with the environment secretary he will appoint, should have the “courage of conviction” to defend good environmental policy.

He said Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen’s administration lacked vision. It took the wrong approach by filling the city with more highways, another airport runway and more concrete. He said: “I hope C. Y. Leung’s government will come in with [a vision of] what Hong Kong should look like and get that message across to the public.”

Bohm said the problem was not that citizens did not care about the environment, but that the political system had become a stumbling block to environmental progress.

He cited the idling-engine ban as an example. The ban was heavily toned down after a political outcry from the transport sector.

“There is a very high level of public participation in Earth Hour. You know from it [this campaign] that the Hong Kong public is on that wavelength. So what is the problem?” he asked. “The problem is the political representation system, which looks after vested interests before it looks after the general [public’s] interest.”

He hoped a different dynamic would be introduced in 2017 with expected universal suffrage.

Bohm joined the WWF branch in 2004 and led it in persuading the government to introduce a trawling ban in Hong Kong waters and finish the Hoi Ha Wan education centre.

It was also involved in the setting up of two conservation sites in Fujian and Guangdong under the Ramsar convention, which calls for the maintenance of the ecological character of wetlands.

He also left the group in a much stronger financial position with what he terms “the right people in the right places”. But he has one big disappointment – the hostility to his group over its involvement in the controversial Fung Lok Wai wetland development in Deep Bay.

“It surprised me. And the anger shown to WWF Hong Kong I found very disappointing,” he said. “We were seen as an enemy and one of the green groups even wrote on Facebook calling on people to withdraw donations from us … a very infantile response to a difficult situation.”

Bohm also defended WWF’s pragmatic relationship with Cheung Kong (SEHK: 0001), the developer with which the green group teamed up for the project, supported by the government’s conservation policy.

He said the partnership ensured the developer would honour its pledges to conserve part of the wetland. But the partnership also made some people uneasy, with the developer seen as a manifestation of “property hegemony”.

However, Bohm asked: “What are you going to do? Are you going to shut them down? You can’t because they are reality. You have to deal with the reality in a situation that you are in. You have to raise a noise when things are bad, but somehow you have to work with the existing system.”

While Bohm had his ups and downs in his work, he was able to stick to his motto of living through any crisis. That’s especially so when settling in a new environment.

“I say to everybody moving to Hong Kong, the first thing is that you do is not lose your sense of humour because things are different and unique here.

“You have to learn to laugh at yourself because you can’t transplant Canada into Hong Kong,” he said.

Bohm recalled how his wife burst into tears and cried for help at a ParknShop outlet after she was told the supermarket could offer neither parking nor delivery – services provided by most Canadian retailers.

Despite minor inconveniences – one of which was removed when ParknShop introduced a delivery service – Bohm still believes in the city’s social and cultural strengths.

“It might take a long time to develop a business and social relationship. But once you have developed it, the need for a lawyer will disappear because everything is done with your integrity,” he said.

He recalled when a Chinese friend asked him and his wife to be guardians of their son while they were in the process of migrating to Australia.

“I am very honoured as I am outside of the culture, but here the family offers this responsibility to me. I am very touched by it,” he said.

Bohm, who is also a trustee of St John’s Cathedral, will leave the WWF next month.

Description: Eric Bohm, chief executive of WWF Hong Kong, is leaving the city to move to the UK … and also leaving these model ducks behind.

Eric Bohm, chief executive of WWF Hong Kong, is leaving the city to move to the UK … and also leaving these model ducks behind.

Graftbuster warns of more sinister fiddling

The Standard

Abuse of power for personal gain has overtaken bribery as the main form of corruption by public servants.

Phila Siu

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Abuse of power for personal gain has overtaken bribery as the main form of corruption by public servants.

That was the message from the Independent Commission Against Corruption commissioner at the opening of the Fifth ICAC Symposium entitled Old Challenge, New Approach: Fighting Corruption in a Changing World.

Addressing the three-day forum, which began yesterday, Timothy Tong Hin-ming said: “Recent times have seen in Hong Kong a clear shift away from the quid pro quo bribery situations to a more sinister form of self-generated advantage, created by a public officer using and abusing his public office to obtain private benefits.” He called this misconduct in public office.

Tong also told forum members that it is time to review the adequacy of the government’s existing probity framework.

“The current monitoring mechanism is robust and effective,” he said. “But a system is only as strong as its ability to adapt to change.

“While the public expects interaction between public officials and the business community to take place, the public expects such interactions to be appropriate.”

Recently, Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam- kuen and former chief secretary Rafael Hui Si-yan have been involved in ICAC probes.

In addition, three graftbusters were jailed for 18 to 30 months for coaching a key witness to provide false evidence in a HK$100 million fraud case.

Tong stressed that no matter how powerful the people involved in the probes are, the graftbuster will remain unswerving in cracking down on corruption.

“We will act with dogged determination, with no exception as to the time, place, or manner in which the alleged offence was committed, or the status or the levels of the persons involved.”

Tong said that the number of corruption complaints rose by 4percent to 1,267 in the first quarter of this year compared to the same period last year.

Meanwhile, ICAC Operations Review Committee chairman Michael Sze Cho-cheung said in a video uploaded to the agency’s website that the committee will make sure the graftbusters do not abuse their power.

Three key posts filled as Leung builds team

HK Standard

Bonnie Chen and Phila Siu

Thursday, May 10, 2012  HK Standard

The positions for three key secretaries and all bureau chiefs have been filled, says Chief Executive-elect Leung Chun-ying.

Leung said his task now is to fill undersecretary positions, followed by those of political assistants.

He also said he has not started the search for non-official Executive Council members, although reports suggest that New People’s Party chairwoman Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee has been invited.

“I have to say I have not started looking for Exco’s non-official members,” he said when asked about reports the current head of his office, Fanny Law Fan Chui-fun, will become Exco convener.

Leung’s remarks come on the heels of reports that former Hospital Authority senior executive Ko Wing-man will become the new secretary for food and health, and Centre for Food Safety controller Constance Chan Hon-yee the health director.

Arthur Li Kwok-cheung is tipped to become the next Hospital Authority chairman, while Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority chairman Eddie Ng Hak-kim will become education secretary.

Meanwhile, a source said Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference Standing Committee member Yu Kwok-chun may also join Exco. He currently heads the Hong Kong Federation of Overseas Chinese Associations.

His predecessor was Robin Chan Yau-hing, father of Exco member Bernard Charnwut Chan, who previously said he would not join the government or Exco. The source said the Chan family may control the federation again.

Others tipped for Exco include legislator Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung, and Urban Renewal Authority chairman Barry Cheung Chun-yuen.

As for other political appointees, 30SGroup convener Laurence Li Lu-jen is expected to be one of the undersecretaries. The barrister threw his support behind Leung during his election campaign.

Li said he needs time to digest the information.

Shek Kwu Chau Incinerator Judicial Reviews

The Legal Aid department has today granted legal aid certificates to all three persons of standing in their separate judicial reviews of decisions made by HK Government regarding the rezoning of Shek Kwu Chau and other matters concerning the incinerator Environmental Impact Assessment and other salient matters.

Heartland Institute

With a simple statement on Tuesday, State Farm Insurance became the latest company to withdraw its support from the Heartland Institute, a Chicago-based think-tank which claims a “realist” position questioning that humans are responsible for climate change.

“State Farm is ending its association with the Heartland Institute. This is because of a recent billboard campaign launched by the Institute,” said the entirety of the statement, which ran on the State Farm Facebook page.

Also, just announced Wednesday, the United Services Automobile Association, an insurance and financial services company for military familes, has also withdrawn its support for Heartland.

The withdrawals are part of what has become a small-scale defection from the institute since it launched what it called an “experiment” in the form of a Maywood, Ill., billboard featuring a photo of convicted “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski and the words, “Do you still believe in global warming? I do.”

According to the Heartland Institute’s own press release explaining the billboard, the Unabomber image was only the first in a series to also feature Osama bin Laden, Charles MansonFidel Castro, James J. Lee (who took hostages at the Discovery Channel headquarters in 2010 and was slain by police) and “other global warming alarmists.”

“The most prominent advocates of global warming aren’t scientists,” said Heartland’s president, Joseph Bast, in the press release. He then names the figures above, and adds, “The leaders of the global warming movement have one thing in common: They are willing to use force and fraud to advance their fringe theory.”

According to the latest polling conducted by Pew, Gallup, Angus-Reid, Yale and many others, believers in this “fringe theory” would include anywhere from 30% to 50% of Americans and an overwhelming majority of scientists across the globe – few of whom (if any) have ever aligned themselves with a self-described terrorist who killed three people and injured 23. The Unabomber billboard only appeared in Chicago and was up for 24 hours before being pulled due to the controversy.

Asked if the rest of the proposed billboard series were running, Heartland director of communications Jim Lakeland said, “No. The other ones that we had teed up, we do not anticipate running those.”

The group is running billboards for its 7th International Conference on Climate Change in Chicago on May 21-23, featuring Czech President Vaclav Klaus, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and others.

Two speakers have withdrawn from the conference. Donna Laframboise, who recently authored a book critiquing the work of the U.N. International Panel on Climate Change, withdrew from that conference. On her blog,, she said her reputation had been “harmed,” adding, “Suddenly, we were all publicly linked to an organization that thinks it’s OK to equate people concerned about climate change with psychopaths.”

Lakeland confirms that economist Ross McKitrick has now also withdrawn. In a letter sent to Heartland on Friday, he said, “You cannot simultaneously say that you want to promote a debate while equating the other side to terrorists and mass murderers.”

Heartland’s Washington-based Center on Finance, Insurance and Real Estate took the biggest hit, as insurers like State Farm withdrew support and staff have reportedly considered leaving. The unit, known by the acronym FIRE, had aggregated a unique coalition of interests seeking to reduce development on coastlines and in known flood plains and to reduce government subsidies in federal flood insurance. Environmentalists supported these efforts, and many of the companies involved also support efforts to fight climate change, which demonstrates the tricky issue-specific alliances that characterize legislative advocacy.

According to a story on the Environment and Energy website, however, the Assn. of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers was the first to pull out. The group had donated $125,000 to Heartland over the last two years. Other insurers are reportedly considering withdrawing funding, and State Farm was the latest. E&E reported that FIRE director Eli Lehrer was considering leaving Heartland, where he is a VP, but Lehrer declined to comment. Lakeland said they had “no comment” on this matter, and that Heartland made a policy of not discussing its donors.

report on insurance-industry website Property Casualty 360 also says that XL Group, Allied World Assurance and (according to an SNL Financial story) RenaissanceRe Holdings Ltd were also withdrawing support, and that the entire FIRE unit may split from Heartland in order to continue its work.

Other companies that have withdrawn support for the institute since the billboard went up last week include Diageo, one of the world’s largest beverage companies and parent to Guinness, Smirnoff, Johnnie Walker and Moet & Chandon. GM withdrew support for other reasons in March.

“We know that our billboard angered and disappointed many of Heartland’s friends and supporters, but we hope they understand what we were trying to do with this experiment,” said a statement from Heartland President Joseph Bast posted on the group’s website Friday. “We do not apologize for running the ad, and we will continue to experiment with ways to communicate the ‘realist’ message on the climate.”

Microsoft donated software worth $59,908 to Heartland in 2011, according to documents now known to have been acquired under false pretenses by climate change warrior and MacArthur grant recipient Peter Gleick. But on Friday, Microsoft distanced itself from Heartland with a statement on its blog that read, in part, “the Heartland Institute’s position on climate change is diametrically opposed to Microsoft’s position. And we completely disagree with the group’s inflammatory and distasteful advertising campaign.”

Asked if Heartland were damaged by the billboard, Lakely replied, “A lot of people seem to think so. As Joe Bast said in our statement, the billboard was intended to be provocative, and we expected the left to raise a stink about it. We were surprised that our friends and supporters were so put off by the billboard, and that’s why it was removed, out of respect for their opinions.”,0,7023138.story

Dr Martin Williams. Writing. Photography. Multimedia.
Recognised as an Outstanding Earth Champion by the Earth Champions Foundation
Cheung Chau, Hong Kong; tel 96201824

DocMartin – Passion for the Wild, PR for the Planet
Hong Kong Outdoors – Wild About Hong Kong
Cheung Chau HK – South China Sea Island in Hong Kong