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December, 2015:

Futian rail link speeds up travel to Guangzhou

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Shenzhen landslide caused by mountain of manmade waste

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Cancer is not just ‘bad luck’ but down to environment, study suggests

Cancer is overwhelmingly a result of environmental factors and not largely down to bad luck, a study suggests.

Earlier this year, researchers sparked a debate after suggesting two-thirds of cancer types were down to luck rather than factors such as smoking.

The new study, in the journal Nature, used four approaches to conclude only 10-30% of cancers were down to the way the body naturally functions or “luck”.

Experts said the analysis was “pretty convincing”.

Cancer is caused by one of the body’s own stem cells going rogue and dividing out of control.

That can be caused either by intrinsic factors that are part of the innate way the body operates, such as the mutations that occur every time a cell divides, or extrinsic factors such as smoking, UV radiation and many others that have not been identified.

The argument has been about the relative importance of intrinsic and extrinsic factors.

The team of doctors from the Stony Brook Cancer Centre in New York approached the problem from different angles, including computer modelling, population data and genetic approaches.

They said the results consistently suggested 70-90% of the risk was due to extrinsic factors.

Dr Yusuf Hannun, the director of Stony Brook, told the BBC News website: “External factors play a big role, and people cannot hide behind bad luck.

“They can’t smoke and say it’s bad luck if they have cancer.

“It is like a revolver, intrinsic risk is one bullet.

“And if playing Russian roulette, then maybe one in six will get cancer – that’s the intrinsic bad luck.

“Now, what a smoker does is add two or three more bullets to that revolver. And now, they pull the trigger.

“There is still an element of luck as not every smoker gets cancer, but they have stacked the odds against them.

“From a public health point of view, we want to remove as many bullets as possible from the chamber.”

There is still an issue as not all of the extrinsic risk has been identified and not all of it may be avoidable.


Kevin McConway, a professor of applied statistics at the Open University, said: “They do provide pretty convincing evidence that external factors play a major role in many cancers, including some of the most common.

“Even if someone is exposed to important external risk factors, of course it isn’t certain that they will develop a cancer – chance is always involved.

“But this study demonstrates again that we have to look well beyond pure chance and luck to understand and protect against cancers.”

Dr Emma Smith, from Cancer Research UK, said: “While healthy habits like not smoking, keeping a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet and cutting back on alcohol are not a guarantee against cancer, they do dramatically reduce the risk of developing the disease.”


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Email Exchange between CTA and EPD on Municipal Solid Waste

date: Tue, Dec 15, 2015 at 2:46 PM
subject: Fw: E(15/3607) per capita MSW to landfills

Dear Ronald,

Thank you for clarifying what we though was the situation, anyway

The current ENB/EPD method of announcing waste per capita stats is (deliberately ?) flawed

They seemingly divide the total MSW by 7.24 million which is the population of Hong Kong in 2014 to produce the alleged per capita waste per day figure of 1.35 kgs

However this method ignores the waste generated by 61 million tourists (Q1) the cruise and container / other OGV ships (Q2) and at least the transit/transfer pax passing through Chep Lap Kok and adjacent ferry terminal

Adding these additional numbers to divide into the total MSW would obviously reduce the 1.35 kgs per capita per day alleged by ENB/EPD.

Given that there is no source separation of waste legislation, a vast amount of local MSW is tainted by food waste which comprises 3600 tonnes per day.

This ultra wet taint of course prevents the recycling of materials once tainted by that food waste .

The per capita waste numbers would be far different if the food waste were separated allowing recyclables’ collection. Sadly the Government does not collect recyclables outside of housing estates

yet proposes in future to charge for waste collection under a polluter pays system, when the basics are not in place for separation and recycling in the first place.

And this is ‘Policy’ ?

Kind regards,
James Middleton


Sent: 15 December, 2015 01:58 PM

Subject: Re: Fw: E(15/3607) per capita MSW to landfills

Dear Mr. Middleton,

Thank you for your interest in the coverage of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) in Hong Kong.

At present, this Department compiles statistics on disposal of solid wastes at landfills based on weighbridge data and other relevant information recorded at entrances of landfills. The MSW are classified into three categories, namely, domestic, commercial and industrial wastes. Please refer to Appendix 1 of the report on ‘Monitoring of Solid Waste in Hong Kong’ at the link provided below for more details. Statistics on various categories of solid wastes disposed of at landfills are shown in Plate 2.1 of the report.

On the specific questions you raised, our consolidated reply is given below.

Q1. Why is no allowance apparently made for the 61 million visitors who would contribute to the daily said MSW disposal rates to landfill here ?
Q2. What about the MSW taken off visiting container ships and other Ocean Going Vessels berthing here?
Q3. What consideration is given to MSW deposited / food waste from transit passengers at Chep Lap Kok ?

A1-3: Statistics on wastes generated locally out of economic activities including local consumption by those visitors mentioned in your above questions will be captured when the wastes generated by them are collected and transported to local landfills for disposal. These wastes will be recorded as part of the commercial waste received at landfills and be captured in our solid waste disposal statistics.

Yours faithfully,
Ronald Mak,
Environmental Protection Department


Sent: 09/12/2015 12:32

Subject: E(15/3607) per capita MSW to landfills

Dear Sir,

We have seen in the press that Hong Kong per capita MSW to landfills is 1.35 kgs per capita in 2014

Why is no allowance apparently made for the 61 million visitors who would contribute to the daily said MSW disposal rates to landfill here ?

What about the MSW taken off visiting container ships and other Ocean Going Vessels berthing here?

What consideration is given to MSW deposited / food waste from transit passengers at Chep Lap Kok ?

Kind Regards,
James Middleton

image001 (1)

Overnight arrivals 27 770 459
Same-day arrivals 33 068 377
Average hotel occupancy rate 90%
Average length of stay of overnight visitors 3.3 nights ( ie is that 4 days?)
Overnight arrivals 27, 770, 459 x 3.3 = 91,642,514 equiv days
Same-day arrivals = 33, 068, 377 days


Hong Kong OWTF phase 1 – Design Build Operate tender cost per tonne of treated food waste almost HK$ 2,400

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‘Laziest’ Hong Kong lawmaker last session? A duo of Pan-dem ‘super seats’

No amendments put forward by both for entire 2014-15, watchdog reports

Two pan-democrat “super seat” lawmakers have been listed, along with the usual suspects from the pro-establishment camp, as the laziest members of the last legislative session.

The research, conducted annually by a watchdog group Catholic Monitors on Legislative Councillors, showed that James To Kun-sun and Albert Ho Chun-yan, both from the Democratic Party, did not move any motion or put forward amendments to others’ motions for the entire 2014-15 session.

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Others who shared the dubious distinction of not bothering to move any motion or amendment included a regular – Lau Wong-fat of the Business and Professionals Alliance – who was described as the worst offender for not moving even one motion since the research started in 1991.

There were three from the Liberal Party – James Tien Pei-chun, Felix Chung Kwok-pan, and Tommy Cheung Yu-yan.

A spokesman for the watchdog, Francis Hui Wai-bun, said: “These legislators might be too busy with other affairs. But we believe it is their duty to put forward motions so as to urge for improvement of governance or other people’s livelihood affairs.”

Ho, in defending his poor track record, blamed filibustering by some of his pan-democrat colleagues for taking up most of the time.

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Ho and To are so-called “super seat” legislators. They were returned from the district council (second) constituency of the Legislative Council. There are five such “super seats”. Four of the incumbents, including To and Ho, took part in this year’s district level elections. To was re-elected, while Ho lost.

The research also found that To and two of his fellow pan-democrats, Dennis Kwok and Ronny Tong Ka-wah, had not shown up or abstained on more than half the occasions when they were required to vote.

A total of seven lawmakers, including Lau, were found to have done so.

The watchdog group criticised them for not making their stances known. “They deserve to be openly criticised,” said Hui. “As a legislator, he or she has the responsibility of telling the public their position on a social issue.”

Hui acknowledged that Lau had been in poor health but said: “If he feels he cannot manage to serve the public well, he should ­resign.”

The group’s research also found that 36 of the 109 motions put forward by legislators in the last session would otherwise have been approved, but they failed because of the so-called “split voting” system that requires endorsement by a majority of lawmakers from both geographical and functional constituencies.

On overall attendance, the group identified Lau, non-affiliated Dr Leung Ka-lau, and Cheung Kwok-che of the Labour Party as the three worst offenders.

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Accusation flies about runway views

The Town Planning Board is being accused of violating its own rules by not properly informing interested parties about dates when the pros and cons concerning the construction of a third runway at Hong Kong International Airport will be heard.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Town Planning Board is being accused of violating its own rules by not properly informing interested parties about dates when the pros and cons concerning the construction of a third runway at Hong Kong International Airport will be heard.

Green Sense chief executive Roy Tam Hoi-pong said 99 percent of the 12,000 submissions received by the board were against the construction, but only 200 representatives were at a hearing yesterday because of how the board handled invitations.

Tam said the board had sent e-mails to interested parties asking if they were available this month without giving any dates. So only 200 replied and were informed of yesterday’s meeting.

“Not only is the Town Planning Board acting as a rubber-stamp authority,” Tam said. “It now seems to have adopted administrative hegemony.” That led to him writing to the board yesterday, asking it to think again on opportunities for people to present their views. A failure to do so could lead to action such as seeking a judicial review.

But board chairman Michael Wong said a legal consultant had cleared the arrangement, though some people were unhappy about meetings on weekdays as they could not take time off work.

Wong said others had demanded improvements in the way meetings were held as “they might have to wait for a whole day before they could speak.”

Also yesterday, Civic Party members against the HK$140 billion runway protested outside the meeting venue, the board’s North Point offices.

Legislator Kwok Ka-ki said it was wrong to push on with plans when problems such as air-traffic control and financing were unresolved.

The board has amended the Chek Lap Kok outline zoning plan and defined parts of a reclamation as an “airport service area.” The board is now carrying out public consultation on the plan with four hearings this month and in January. JANE CHEUNG

Like Copenhagen Talks, Paris Climate Negotiations Were Mostly Smoke and Mirrors

France's President Francois Hollande, bottom center, hosts a dinner at a Paris restaurant on the first day of the UN climate change conference, November 30, 2015. (Photo: Stephen Crowley / The New York Times)

France’s President Francois Hollande, bottom center, hosts a dinner at a Paris restaurant on the first day of the UN climate change conference, November 30, 2015. (Photo: Stephen Crowley / The New York Times)

The recent climate conference in Paris followed a nearly inverse format from the 2009 climate conference in Copenhagen, but its results were the same: more woefully inadequate commitments in the face of impending climate disaster.

At the Conference of the Parties (COP) in Copenhagen, the heads of state arrived at the end. President Obama then proceeded to shut himself up with a carefully selected minority of other heads of state to produce a toothless “statement” that satisfied nobody and represented a major step backward in climate control.

At the COP in Paris, the heads of state arrived for the first days (for “the biggest gathering of heads of state in history,” as we were constantly reminded). They had themselves photographed together, chatted bilaterally or multilaterally, and then mostly departed, leaving their delegations to do the work of eliminating the dozens of disputed passages in the text (all in brackets). The result is supposed to represent the victory that eluded the delegations at Copenhagen. Rather, it is as much a sham as Copenhagen’s “statement.”

If the final drafting could be so easily delegated, it is because the primary outcome has long been known apart from the details: It will codify the woefully inadequate commitments already submitted to the Conference by the member states. These submissions represent what each country is prepared to commit itself to doing in order to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. Well before the conference’s opening, the climatologists and vigilant members of civil society were pointing out that, even if all the commitments were implemented (which is highly unlikely in view of past performances), we would still be on track to a warming of 3 to 5 degrees Celsius, depending on whose figures one chooses to trust.

It is worth recalling that the 2-degree limit was never a scientific estimate. Long ago, when the polluters were less impeded in spreading doubt about the whole warming process underway, they were able to insist that the science was embryonic, too immature to be trusted as a basis for any serious policy decisions, that their (hired) science postulated that the earth could tolerate warming of up to 3 degrees before any major difficulties might appear. The scientific community maintained its claim that, after 1 degree, major disruptions were in store. The end result was a compromise: the 2-degree limit.

At the entry to the conference center at Le Bourget – a substantial distance outside of Paris – was a huge panel listing the conference’s sponsors, who “helped make all this possible,” as the pitch justifying their participation would have it. In addition to being major contributors to the funding of the conference, they were all major contributors to the disastrous situation that the Good Earth and its peoples find themselves in.

Since the commitments are voluntary, there is no serious monitoring planned. Further, those who in the past raised serious questions about the whole COP process and tried to steer it in the direction of responsible action have been systematically sidelined: scientists, civil society and even delegates. There are numerous testimonies from these people of interference from the major hydrocarbon-producing countries. That Saudi Arabia and the United States are the ones most frequently mentioned will surprise nobody.

It is also worth noting that the representatives of the island states – among those already most affected by what is under way – and civil society groups have been steadfastly insisting on a 1.5-degree limit. This requires a radical rethinking of how humankind lives on the earth. Such a rethinking is long overdue.

Kumi Naidoo of Greenpeace International told Amy Goodman during the December 10 broadcast of Democracy Now! that 1.5 as a goal is still alive owing to the activism of civil society. He thus uttered one of the most significant statements of the entire conference.

André Gide wrote: “The world will be saved – if it can be saved at all – only by those who refuse to be subjugated.” (“Le monde ne sera sauvé – s’il peut l’être – que par les insoumis.”) Civil society has shown a remarkable refusal to accept subjugation to the established criminal order of globalized capitalism, and the admission that the 1.5-degree goal is alive owing to civil society’s efforts should also not surprise anybody.

In the late 1970s, during the “dirty war” in Argentina, there were repeated attempts to bring the horrors of the Argentine military regime before the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. At the time, nongovernmental organizations were excluded from the Commission’s work, which was carried on entirely by governmental delegations. The level of “horse trading,” as it was commonly called, was appalling.

With the firm support of the United States, the Argentine atrocities were kept off the Commission’s agenda until, finally, the unrelenting pressure from the NGOs caused the dam to break. Not only was the subject finally put on the agenda, however temporarily, but – more importantly – the NGOs were also admitted to the work of the Commission as well as to that of its subsidiary body, the Sub-Commission. This latter body comprised 26 independent experts and was largely free of the governmental politicking that constantly plagued the Commission. Most of the significant work done by both the Commission and its Sub-Commission thereafter bears the indelible imprint of the unflagging efforts of civil society.

Later, the United States, declaring that the Commission had become “politicized” (cynical, coming from the country that had done the most to politicize and enfeeble it), pushed for reform. The main real reason was the independence of the Sub-Commission, which had tackled the devastating effect of sanctions on the Iraqi people and the crimes of transnational corporations. The Sub-Commission, backed untiringly over the years by the NGOs – and especially by one major human rights research center in Geneva, the “Europe – Third World Center,” or CETIM – had actually come up with a draft binding treaty for a legal international framework for transnational corporations and handed it up to the Commission for action on it.

The proposed reform was initially for a new “council” which, like the Security Council would have five permanent members with veto power. This was in essence shouted down by the NGOs, but the next proposal was for a council that would exclude the NGOs, on the pretense that this would avoid politicization. In the end, the new Human Rights Council was set up in 2006,with open participation by the NGOs but without an independent Sub-Commission. The NGOs refused to accept this setback.

The draft norms for transnational corporations were relegated to the dustbin of history and replaced by a voluntary set of norms that have proven useless.

However, binding draft norms are once again on the agenda – thanks largely to the CETIM and its NGO partners. And the role of NGOs has never been greater within the United Nations, as testified by the impressive work on the rights of Indigenous peoples and on the right to land – all comprising a climate-related approach.

It was all done against the odds, yet now the NGOs are leading the way more than ever before.

Similarly, when the governments of the world refused any work on banning anti-personnel land mines, it was civil society that moved in and took the initiative, sponsoring the drafting of the treaty now in effect – in record time, moreover. Again, against all odds.

There are numerous other examples of the triumphs of civil society over bought governments and corrupt corporations.

Paris and its document are a sham, yes, but civil society is coming into its own on this major issue, and civil society refuses to be silenced and refuses to be subjugated.

The future looks grim, but if there is yet hope, even if it is only the hope for attenuation of the worst, it is because civil society groups are again leading the way.