Monday, February 28, 2005

Basic Information on Tropical Rainforest -2

Blogger's Note: Tropical Rainforests

Tropical Rain Forests

The following information has been reprinted with permission of the National Wildlife Federation from the "Rain Forests: Tropical Treasures" issue of NatureScope.

Two hundred years ago, tropical rain forests circled the globe in an almost unbroken green belt that encompassed Latin America, Africa, South Asia, Indonesia, and Australia and covered about 20 percent of the earth's land surface. Today, rain forests cover less than 7 percent of the earth's land surface, and the once-continuous strip is now broken up into a series of green pockets. . . . Pockets of rain forest lie both north and south of the equator, bordered on the north by the Tropic of Cancer and on the south by the Tropic of Capricorn. Although rain forests grow in more than 50 countries, more than half the total area is found in just three countries: Brazil with 33 percent and Zaire and Indonesia with 10 percent each.

What Are Tropical Rain Forests?Hot, Humid, and Wet: Tropical rain forests are characterized by hot, humid weather throughout the year. By definition, they get more than 60 inches of rain a year, although some areas regularly get more than 200 inches and a few get more than 400! Temperatures sometimes climb into the 90s but usually hover between 70∞ and 85∞ F.

In most tropical rain forests, the temperature variation during the year is small, and there is very little variance between daytime highs and nighttime lows. Consistently high temperatures are characteristic of lands that hug the equator. And unlike other regions of the world, these equatorial areas get more energy from the sun because they experience year-round, 12-hour days, and because the sun's rays strike the equator at right angles, providing more intense and direct sunlight.

Consistently high temperatures and abundant rainfall contribute to another tropical rain forest characteristic -- high humidity. In the rain forests of South America, scientists estimate that as much as 250 billion tons of water vapor can be suspended in the air at any one time. The abundant water vapor in tropical rain forests is also a result of a high rate of plant transpiration. On the average, the humidity in a forest is about 70 percent during the day and 95 percent at night.

Luxuriant and Diverse: The moist, hot conditions in tropical rain forests support an abundant diversity of plant life -- from luxuriant shrubs and ferns to climbing vines and giant trees. The plants, in turn, support an amazingly varied community of wildlife.

Although tropical rain forests cover less than 7 percent of the earthís land surface, scientists estimate that they may house more than 50 percent of all species. In fact, some scientists calculate that this figure could actually be much higher, given the number of new species that are constantly being discovered in tropical rain forests.

Shallow, Damp, and Infertile: Rain forest soils support an incredible variety of plants, but the soil itself is often not very fertile. Most of the nutrients that are used by plants are stored in the plants themselves, not in the soil. In other types of forests, such as temperate forests, the soils are often much more nutrient-rich.

The lack of nutrients in tropical rain forest soil is the result of two things: abundant rainfall and age. In all forests, rain washes away, or leaches, important nutrients from the soil -- but leaching can be an especially serious problem in rain forests because there is so much rain and it comes in such intense and frequent bursts. And in many areas where tropical rain forests grow, the soils are relatively old and have been leached for millions of years, leaving very few mineral nutrients. . . .

RAIN FOREST LAYERSThe trees, shrubs, vines, ferns, and other plants that grow in rain forests form a complex system of layers. Although the layering system varies from area to area and the boundaries between layers are often not distinct, a generalized cross section would look something like the picture on the worksheet "Tropical Rain Forests" in the section for grades 3-5. Hereís more about each layer, starting at the top and working down.

The Emergents Towering above all the other plants in the forest are the giant trees called emergents. Although most emergents are about 115 to 150 feet tall, some grow to heights of over 250 feet. There are usually only one or two of these jungle giants per acre, and characteristically they have relatively small leaves, umbrella-shaped crowns, and tall, slender trunks. Emergents stick out from the crowd and must endure high and often changing temperatures, low humidity, and strong winds. . . .

The Canopy: Like a thick green carpet, the main canopy layer of the rain forest is formed by flat-crowned trees that are often between 65 and 100 feet above the ground. Like the emergents, trees in the canopy are subjected to changing temperature and humidity. The canopy trees, along with the emergents, form a continuous covering over the forest. The canopy acts like a giant sun and rain umbrella. It catches most of the sun's rays, allowing only about 2 to 5 percent to slip through to the forest floor. The canopy also absorbs much of the impact of the rain that falls on the forest. . . . The canopy is filled with life. The umbrella of leaves and branches provides a home for many treetop creatures, as well as for orchids, vines, bromeliads, and a host of other plants.

The Understory: Below the canopy there are small trees that usually don't grow to heights of more than 15 feet or so, and a shorter shrub layer of very young canopy trees and miniature woody plants. Together, these plants make up the understory. Some of these understory plants will eventually grow tall enough to become part of the canopy. But others will always remain in the shadow of the canopy giants. . . . Many also have large leaves, which scientists think help plants absorb as much as they can in the dim understory.

The Forest Floor On the forest floor, often more than 65 feet below the canopy, the conditions are very different from those at the top. The canopy is subjected to strong sun and plenty of wind, causing considerable daily fluctuations in humidity and temperature. But on the sheltered floor, the air is very still, humidity is almost always above 70 percent, and the temperature remains relatively constant.

Although seedlings, herbs, and ferns grow on the forest floor, the vegetation is fairly sparse -- mainly because of lack of sunlight. And although many people think the rain forest floor is littered with decaying logs and thick layers of dead leaves, the floor is actually quite open.

ABOUT JUNGLESMoist tropical forests that lie close to the equator at low elevations are commonly called tropical rain forests. However, much of what we say about tropical rain forests -- especially when we talk about the problems of deforestation -- also holds true for two other types of forests found in the tropics: tropical seasonal forests and tropical cloud forests. Tropical seasonal forests occur throughout the tropics and have two distinct seasons -- a wet season and a dry season. They differ from tropical rain forests in that they don't get abundant, year-round rainfall and they experience seasonal periods of drought.

Cloud forests are tropical forests that grow at middle to high elevations. These mountainous jungles are kept moist by mist and clouds, as well as by rain. Found in mountains throughout the tropics, cloud forests are denser and have shorter trees than tropical rain forests, and ferns, mosses, and liverworts often grow more thickly on tree branches. In some areas these forests are better known as "moss forests." Unlike lowland tropical rain forests, cloud forests can become relatively cool.

Where does the word jungle fit into our tropical rain forest definitions? Etymologists have traced the word to the ancient Sanskrit word jangala, which was used to describe thick, impenetrable vegetation. Today jungle is the popular term for tropical forests in general. Although many people use the word "jungle" interchangeably with "tropical rain forest," the literal definition of the word misrepresents what a tropical rain forest is actually like.

Tropical rain forests are not impenetrable masses of vegetation. Instead, in a mature tropical forest the forest floor is fairly open and uncluttered.

People probably first used the word "jungle" to describe tropical forests when they traveled by boat to explore these areas. Along tropical riverbanks and openings in the forests, tangled "jungle" vegetation does spring up.

That's because in open areas much more sunlight reaches the ground and encourages plant growth. Many early explorers mistakenly assumed that the inside of a rain forest was just like its overgrown edges. Tangled undergrowth is not the only rain forest myth that has been perpetuated through the years. Another is that rain forests, with their thick vegetation and abundant wildlife, are "tough" and can withstand changing conditions without serious consequences. Unfortunately, this isn't true, and as more development takes place in the tropics, people are finding out just how fragile rain forest ecosystems are. . . .

FUTURE SHOCKPeople have manipulated their surroundings since before early humans learned to build fires and wield stone axes. And sometimes our actions have caused permanent damage to natural habitats. But the rate and scale of the ecological, social, and economic damage we're causing today in tropical rain forests far surpasses anything we've experienced before. And many scientists think that the long-term effects of tropical deforestation could be much more devastating and far-reaching than most people expect.
Some scientists point to the loss of plant and animal species as one of the most tragic results of tropical deforestation. Collectively, rain forests are the most diverse habitats on earth -- and with every acre of rain forest we clear, we're chipping away at that diversity at a rate that some people estimate may be as high as six extinctions per hour. Some of the plants, insects, and other species we're losing are dying out before we even know they exist. By destroying natural diversity, we're not only destroying natural communities -- we're depriving ourselves of potential foods, medicines, and other products.

We're also causing changes in the ecology of areas that are nowhere near tropical forests. Many of "our" familiar songbirds, for example, fly to the tropics for the winter. And some songbird populations have been declining steadily in the past several years, probably because their winter habitats in tropical areas are disappearing. A lot of these songbirds feed mostly on insects, and nobody knows yet what effect this decline in songbird populations is having on insects in the birds' summer habitats. But we do know that many of these insects feed on plants, including agricultural crops.

As we carve rain forests into smaller and smaller chunks, we may also be tampering with weather patterns. Rain forest trees add a lot of moisture to the air as excess water evaporates from their leaves, and this moisture eventually falls as rain. Some areas that have been deforested have experienced droughts because the loss of trees disrupted the area's water cycle. And some scientists think that the cumulative effect of tropical deforestation worldwide could also interfere with global weather patterns.

Many scientists also feel that rain forest destruction may be contributing to the global warming we're experiencing because of the "greenhouse effect." As rain forests burn, carbon is released from the vegetation and mixes with atmospheric oxygen to form carbon dioxide. Excess carbon dioxide acts like a blanket in the atmosphere, trapping heat against the earth and ultimately causing the planet to warm up.

THE CHALLENGEDeforestation in the tropics isn't a straightforward problem that can be traced to just one or two sources. It's the result of a combination of social, political, and economic problems, and it's aggravated by the special characteristics of tropical topography, soils, and other physical features. And the effects of deforestation are as complex as the causes. Finding solutions to this sticky web of issues is proving to be a major challenge -- but it's a challenge we won't be able to ignore.

Paluwagan ng Bayan: One bank's micro-finance effort

Blogger's Note:

Empowering poor through micro-finance

Posted: 2:29 AM Feb. 28, 2005 Inquirer News Service
NAGA CITY-Fidel Cu, president and chair of the G7Bank, believes that the success of a financial institution must be measured by its commitment to serve poor communities.

The family-owned G7Bank is a success in itself. Its growth in the past 25 years of its existence has been phenomenal. From a one-branch rural bank, its network expanded in and out of this city. It now has branches in the Camarines Sur towns of Nabua, Bato and Balatan as well as in Ligao City and Polangui town in Albay.

It is now the country's third largest rural bank, based on the classification of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, and was listed by the National Economic Development Authority among the top 7,000 corporations in the country.

But the success seemed empty for the Cu family until last year when the bank decided to do an outreach program in poor communities in Camarines Sur and develop a community-based micro-financing program. It was then that the Cus started feeling good about the milestones and successes achieved by the bank.

Cu said the family and the bank personnel were moved by the hopelessness among the poor communities amid the continuing economic downturn that further decreased opportunities for livelihood.

"We feel that it is our responsibility to help our society ease the growing restiveness of the poor people. After all, whatever economic progress the financial institution has achieved is anchored on the development of the majority of the population," Cu said.

He said the program on micro-financing was actually a response to the narrowing livelihood opportunities and growing unemployment in the poor communities in the areas the bank was operating.

Before the program started, the bank deployed its personnel to do market research and come up with appropriate financial services that would empower the communities and make them self-sufficient.

Basic financial needs

Cu said the design of the micro-finance program addressed some of the basic financial needs of small entrepreneurs-including micro-enterprise development, savings mobilization and micro-insurance.

"We do these things here because we believe that ultimately, our success will be nothing if our community does not develop along with us," he said.

The micro-finance program has become a major outreach program of the G7Bank. It is now serving 6,073 beneficiaries in Naga City and in 11 towns in the province.

The concept of the program hinges on the need to provide accessible and appropriate financial services to the entrepreneurial poor families. These small entrepreneurs are those that most financial institutions would not trust because of their socioeconomic limitations and inability to put up collateral.

In the long-term, the program wants to contribute to alleviating the poverty situation of the poor communities.

The G7Bank believes that people, even if they are poor, are assets capable of improving themselves for the general good of the society.

The micro-finance program of G7Bank has 24 administrative and field staff members that carry out its projects.

They organize, train and monitor the beneficiaries and provide them technical services to achieve the program's goals. The field personnel integrate into the target communities to do market research, promote the program, form groups, provide technical inputs and guide the performance of the micro-enterprises.

The beneficiaries are formed into groups called cells, composed of five members each. Cells are then formed into a cluster that they call the Savings and Loan Center (SLC) with a chair, a secretary and a treasurer elected.
SLC officers and members meet every week and help each other resolve issues and overcome challenges of developing their micro-enterprises.

With the obvious limited financial capabilities of the beneficiaries who belong to the poverty threshold group, the micro-finance program demands no collateral in the loans applied. Instead, the field staff helps develop peer support and peer pressure among the SLC members who are made accountable for each other. Each SLC shares the responsibilities of developing the components of the micro-finance program.

On top of the micro lending and savings mobilization, the program also provides micro-insurance for SLC members and their dependents covering sickness, accident, permanent disability and death. The program also provides retirement and pension fund for members.

Humanitarian mission

G7Bank further complemented its thrust of providing livelihood opportunities to the poor communities here with humanitarian missions and projects.

It set up the FLC Foundation, which periodically provides free medical services and assistance to indigents.

Some 5,000 beneficiaries from Camarines Sur, Albay and Catanduanes have availed themselves of the foundation's medical services and assistance.

Under a special project, the foundation donated 60 wheelchairs to selected indigents with disabilities and organized a de-worming and sanitation campaign in Iriga City and the town of Nabua, which benefited 800 grade school kids.

Working with the National Voluntary Blood Services Program (NVBSP) and the Bicol Medical Center (BMC), the FLC Foundation conducts a yearly blood donation campaign by mobilizing G7Bank's employees, friends and clients. It has so far turned over 12,000 cc of blood to the NVBSP and BMC.

"Maybe these initiatives of our company are just a drop in a bucket, but we feel that we are heading in the right direction," Cu said.

by Juan Escandor Jr., Southern Luzon Bureau copyright ©2005 all rights reserved

this story was taken from


No ID, No Entry: Filipino's penchant for Identification Cards

Blogger's Note: This article shows you how many ID cards Filipinos have to carry. The whole idea to have 1 ID card should be anchored in the concept of convenience with national security as a secondary consideration. The best way to start the National ID Card Program is for anyone that reach 18 years old should be issued an ID card, with his ID number,picture, name, address, signature and other basic information. The card can then be used for verification whenever he/she votes, buy liquor and other "adult" goods. He can also used the ID for applying social security, driver's license and PRC license. Funding can be sourced from the number of IDs it will replace. Simplify and not complicate matters should be the main objective of the ID system.

Getting to know you (and how!)
Posted 02:09am (Mla time) Feb 27, 2005 By Inquirer News Service

FILIPINOS have consistently rejected the idea of a national identification card. In a historic act, Andres Bonifacio and the Katipuneros tore up their cedulas in August 1896. The cedula personal, equivalent to the present community residence tax, was a symbol of vassalage to Spain. The tearing up of this Spanish identification document marked the outbreak of the Philippine Revolution.

The short-lived First Philippine Republic led by Emilio Aguinaldo also imposed a form of identification certificate and taxation called contribucion personal. But Filipinos found this odious as it was considered a relic of the Spanish colonial rule.

Also unpopular were the residence certificates imposed during the Japanese Occupation and the attempts by President Ferdinand Marcos to come up with a national identification card.

Marcos, who had a penchant for employing instruments for surveillance on citizens to ensure political control, reportedly tried to adopt a national ID project similar to a counter-insurgency program developed by the US Central Intelligence Agency in Vietnam, which required the registration of all Vietnamese 15 years of age and above and the issuance of ID cards to them.

Filipino presidents after Marcos have also flirted with the idea of a national ID. But they, too, had not been successful. For instance, then President Fidel Ramos issued in 1996 an administrative order establishing a national identification system for Filipinos and foreign residents but was rebuffed by the Supreme Court in 1998. The tribunal said the order would put the citizens' right to privacy "in clear and present danger" and usurp the legislative function of Congress. (PDI Research)

The Supreme Court said the collection of "personal information constitutes a covert invitation to misuse, a temptation that may be too great for some of our authorities to resist."

President Macapagal-Arroyo is reviving her proposal for Congress to pass a bill setting up a national ID system following the Feb. 14 bombings in the cities of Makati, General Santos and Davao.

Filipinos already have a surfeit of IDs-SSS ID, GSIS eCard, PhilHealth card, driver's license, PRC ID, Taxpayer's Identification Number, Voter's ID, Postal ID, yellow card if one lives in Makati, and office ID, among others. They may not welcome another ID, which the government could use to snoop on them.

A Social Security System ID bears a member's photo, name, birth date and signature, as well as the SSS ID number. It is primarily used to hasten applications for salary loans and benefits for sickness, disability, maternity, disability and death.

At the back of the ID is a machine-readable magnetic strip that gives the cardholder access to his or her records with the agency after keying in a four-digit PIN number. It may be swiped in information kiosks operated by the SSS in malls.

The ID also helps facilitate transactions with banks, hospitals, health-care providers and other government agencies.

Under the Social Security Act of 1997, SSS membership is compulsory for private employees, whether permanent, temporary, provisional or self-employed, who are not over 60 years old. Household helpers, seafarers, and employees of foreign organizations or governments should also be covered. Children below 15 years of age are also subject to compulsory coverage.

To date, about 7.2 million SSS IDs have been issued by the agency since November 1998. Not all members are entitled to an ID, however. The members should make at least one monthly contribution to the agency before he or she may be issued a card. As of March 2004, membership in the SSS is as follows: employers, 715,564; employees, 20,299,548; and self-employed, 4,925,124

GSIS eCard
The GSIS eCard displays a member's name, picture and Government Service Insurance System number and allows cardholders to transact business with the agency without having to line up at its offices.

GSIS introduced the electronic ID system in September 2004 to replace its old card. As of January 2005, about 280,000 GSIS members had received their IDs out of about 1.4 million government employees.

Members can file their loan applications or benefit claims on the Internet and, with their e-cards, withdraw their loans or benefits over automated teller machines of Bancnet, Megalink and Expressnet.

The GSIS ID is used to speed up transactions with the agency such as applications for loans and claims for life insurance, retirement and other benefits. Members may also use the eCard as a debit card in establishments that accept Visa and Megalink.

One is eligible for GSIS membership if he or she is an appointive or elective official receiving fixed compensation; either a permanent, substitute, temporary, casual or contractual employee with employee-employer relationship; a member of the judiciary or a constitutional commission; and, receiving basic salary but not per diem, honoraria or allowances.

The GSIS has a total of 1,424,845 active members, categorized as follows: national agencies, 400,018; local government units, 390,463; Department of Education, 534,773; and government-owned and controlled corporations, 99,591.

PhilHealth card
The Philippine Health Insurance Corp. card bears the member's name, signature and his or her permanent PhilHealth number. It does not have the cardholder's photo, and so is not used for identification but for verification purposes only.

It is used in PhilHealth transactions such as inpatient and hospital care, and other programs under the National Health Insurance Program (NHIP).

The program covers employed members both in the government and private sector; individually paying members-self-employed, overseas Filipino workers and professionals in private practice; non-paying members-retirees and pensioners of the GSIS and SSS; members who have reached the age of retirement and have paid at least 120 monthly contributions; and indigent members under the component of the NHIP.

Senior citizen's ID
Cities and towns issue a senior citizen's ID to a resident who is at least 60 years old. The ID bears the senior citizen's name, age, address and date of issuance.

The ID entitles the cardholder to a number of privileges such as a 20-percent discount from all establishments, including theaters, restaurants and hotels, and a 20-percent discount in transport fare.

Driver's license
It is unlawful for a person to operate a motor vehicle without having in his possession a valid driver's license.
The Land Transportation Office (LTO) issues licenses to motorists. For a non-professional license, the applicant must be at least 17 years old and had undergone at least a month of driving instruction. A professional license applicant must be at least 18 years old and had undergone driving lessons for at least five months.

A driver's license serves as verification that the holder has passed the driver's exam given by the LTO. A license contains the photo of the holder, complete name, exact address, birth date, sex, height, weight, nationality, validity, license number and the restrictions and conditions imposed on the holder by the LTO.

PRC license/ID
The Professional Regulatory Commission (PRC) administers, implements and enforces regulatory policies on 42 professions. Once would-be professionals pass their respective board exams and registered themselves with the Commission, they will be given their license certificate and PRC ID. The PRC ID serves as identification and proof that the holder is a registered professional.

The name of the professional, registration number, registration date, validity and profession are the information on the PRC ID. Professionals sign their signatures at the back of the ID. They need to renew their IDs every three years.

The Taxpayer's Identification Number (TIN) ID is issued by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to employees and business owners. The ID contains the 9-digit TIN, photo, the complete name, birthday, address, the date when the ID was issued and signature of the holder. TIN IDs are valid for life.

Application and issuance of the IDs are entertained by the BIR's various revenue district offices. Aside from serving as proper identification for tax purposes, business establishments such as banks require TIN IDs for certain transactions.

Voter's ID
Information found on the Voter's ID includes the photo, the right thumb mark, the complete name, birth date, civil status, citizenship, address, precinct number and signature of the voter. Also contained in the ID is the municipality and province of the voter and the voter's identification number.

For the 2004 elections, the Commission on Elections underwent a revalidation procedure for voters in an attempt to computerize the voter's list and brand new Voter's ID system. The new IDs should have been used in the 2004 Elections but a lot of the voters did not receive their IDs from their respective barangays before the elections.

Postal IDThe Postal Identity Card or Carte D'Identite Postale is used as proof of identity for post office business. It is popular among Filipinos going abroad as this can be used as identification in addition to a passport. The ID is recognized abroad by members of the Universal Postal Union.

At 7 cm by 10 1/2 cm, the Postal ID card is bigger than the size of most IDs. It contains a bigger photo of the holder, too.

The obverse contains the surname, forename, occupation, nationality, address and the holder's signature. The reverse has the date and place of birth, date of issuance, height, color of hair and eyes, complexion and special marks. All these items have their French equivalent like nom de famille for surname, pr‚nom for forename, domicile for address, etc.

The Postal ID is issued by the postmaster or the manager of any post office in the country.
Employment is not a requisite to get a Postal ID. But the application form requires a reference who can vouch for the identity of the applicant. This form has to be notarized. Application fee is P150.

Residence certificate
The Individual Community Tax Certificate is more commonly known as residence certificate or cedula. It is required of every resident of a town or city, who is 18 years old or over and who has been regularly employed on a wage basis for at least 30 consecutive working days or who is engaged in business or occupation, or who is required by law to file an income tax return.

The cedula contains the name (surname, first, middle), sex, citizenship and Alien Certificate of Registration for foreigners, place of birth, date of birth, height, weight, civil status, community tax due and tax paid.

It is required when one acknowledges a document before a notary public, takes the oath of office upon election or appointment to any position in government, receives a license, certificate, or permit from a public authority, pays a tax or fee, receives money from any public fund, transacts other official business, or receives a salary or wage from a person or corporation.

Yellow card
Makati City's health program, popularly known as the yellow card, was conceptualized as a benefit and not as an identification card.

The yellow card program was conceptualized in 1986 to provide Makati residents with monthly incomes below P18,000 access to quality health care. Senior citizens and city government employees like public school teachers, policemen, and firemen are also included in the program.

Card holders could avail themselves of the following services at the Ospital ng Makati: surgery, pediatrics, obstetrics, medicine, otolaryngology (eyes, nose and throat), opthalmology, dermatology and orthopedics.

Last year, the city government allotted P165,000,000 for the program.

The Makati Health Program Office has approved of 297,181 yellow-card holders from 1986 until October 2003. Around 65,000 qualified residents were given yellow cards as of February 2005.

The yellow card has two types: the family card and the solo card. Legitimate residents of Makati with spouses and children, including government employees, househelp, and senior citizens with spouses 59 years old and below can qualify for the family card.

Single residents, senior citizens, government employees who are non-residents of Makati, Sangguniang Kabataan officers and single househelp can avail themselves of the solo card.

Information stated in the yellow card includes the name, address, birthday and classification of the holder.

©2005 all rights reserved
This story was taken from

The Choices We Make: To Cut or To Preserve Philippine Forests

Blogger's Note: I included this article for readers to critically think how to balance the need to export wood products for our country to earn much-needed dollars and the want to preserve the environment for today's generation and the future. We are indeed in the crossroads of history. Whatever our leaders decide, I hope and pray it is for the good of the many and not of the few.

Preserve our forests for tourism
Posted 11:02pm (Mla time) Feb 27, 2005 By Neal CruzInquirer News Service

THE MAIN and most important function of Congress is to enact the national budget. Not the crafting and passage of bills, or investigations, or any other thing; it is the passage of the budget. Yet the current members of the House of Representatives are deliberately staying away from the bicameral conference committee meeting that is to finalize the 2005 budget. The senators spend the day waiting for them but the congressmen don't show up.

Why are the congressmen doing this? Because they don't want a new budget passed. When there is no new budget, the old budget is adopted, meaning, in this case, the 2004 budget instead of the 2005 budget. The 2004 budget, in turn, was itself adopted from the 2003 budget because no budget was passed in 2004. The congressmen really want the 2003 budget. Why? Because the pork barrel allocations in the 2003 budget were very generous.

Because of the present fiscal crisis, the Senate cut the pork barrel for 2005. (It should have totally abolished it, not merely reduced it, to finally rid us of this shameful, wasteful, corrupt and legalized theft of the people's money by their representatives.) That is why the congressmen don't want the new budget and prefer the old one. That the House leadership cannot compel its members to attend the bicam committee meeting shows a total lack of leadership.

On second thought, some say it is an "abuse" of leadership. They suspect that the leaders are actually manipulating their members to boycott the bicam so that the deadline would lapse without a new budget and the old one would apply. There is only one way to put our House in order. Kick out the incumbent congressmen and replace them with new ones in the 2007 elections.

* * *

The loggers and wood producers now wailing for the lifting of the total log ban imposed by President Macapagal-Arroyo should listen to Sen. Jamby Madrigal (who was a guest at the Feb. 21 Kapihan sa Manila). The neophyte senator explained why we would all be better off-the loggers and wood producers included-with a total logging ban.

The Philippine Wood Producers Association has presented a position paper to show why the ban should be lifted. In summary, it said:
1. That two million jobs in the wood producing and furniture industries, as well as P21 billion annually in the export of wood products, would be lost.
2. That we would have to import our annual requirements of 2 million to 2.5 million cubic meters of wood at a cost of $500 million.
3. That local wood prices would rise because of the import substitutes.
4. That legal loggers are responsible and are practicing a "sustainable forest program."
5. That without the timber concessionaires guarding their concessions, illegal loggers would decimate the remaining forests.
6. That there is no guarantee that a logging ban would stop all logging.
7. That the government earns P840 million annually from the wood industry.
8. That logging was not responsible for the floods and landslides in Aurora and Quezon.

The loss of money and jobs is always a handy threat raised by industries adversely affected by government policies. True, some of those employed by the loggers will lose their jobs, but the alternative is for them and their neighbors to lose their lives when nature wreaks its revenge.

Our forests are our valuable natural resource-but they are there not to be cut but to be preserved for all to see. The world is rapidly running out of virgin forests, and tourists are looking for destinations that still have plenty of untouched nature. The redwood forests of California are earning much more from tourism than the loggers could have ever earned had they cut down those trees. The Americans realized in time to save these giants before the loggers could finish them off.

In the US East Coast, the states are earning billions of dollars annually from crowds of tourists who arrive in autumn just to look at the colorful leaves of their trees. Had not their grandfathers planted many, many trees in those mountains years ago and preserved them, there would have been no foliage tours now.
Likewise, African nations are now earning much more from tourism-from their live wild animals-than they would have ever earned from hunters killing them.

Once an animal or tree is killed it is gone forever, the tourists go away. Keep them alive and the tourists would keep coming back to look at them.

If those whale sharks in Bicol had been killed, they would have brought food and money to the fishermen for a
few days. But with them gone forever, so would the food and money. Alive, they attract tourists again and again and bring jobs to the people who live there and protect them.

Similarly, if the coral reefs in our seas and the colorful creatures that live among them are harvested or destroyed, they'd bring some money to the people who harvest them. But once they're gone, they'd be gone for good. Nothing more. Preserve them; not only would the fishes keep coming back to breed among the reefs; so would the tourists-with plenty of money-to swim among these creatures and watch them.

Let's preserve our forests, and tourists will climb our mountains and explore our forests to look at trees and the animals living there. Tourists would not be flocking to Boracay, Bohol and the other tourist islands if the beaches there had been despoiled. They go there because they like the unspoiled nature of those beaches.
(To be continued)

©2005 all rights reserved
This story was taken from

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Basic Information on Tropical Rainforest

Tropical Broadleaf Evergreen Forest: The Rainforest

Introduction. The tropical rainforest is earth's most complex biome in terms of both structure and species diversity. It occurs under optimal growing conditions: abundant precipitation and year round warmth. There is no annual rhythm to the forest; rather each species has evolved its own flowering and fruiting seasons. Sunlight is a major limiting factor. A variety of strategies have been successful in the struggle to reach light or to adapt to the low intensity of light beneath the canopy.

Climate: (Koeppen's Af and Am climate types.) Mean monthly temperatures are above 64 ° F; precipitation is often in excess of 100 inches a year. There is usually a brief season of reduced precipitation. In monsoonal areas, there is a real dry s eason, but that is more than compensated for with abundant precipitation the rest of the year.

Vegetation: A vertical stratification of three layer of trees is apparent.. These layers have been identified as A, B, and C layers:

  • A layer: the emergents. Widely spaced trees 100 to 120 feet tall and with umbrella-shaped canopies extend above the general canopy of the forest. Since they must contend with drying winds, they tend to have small leaves and some species are deci duous during the brief dry season.
  • B layer: a closed canopy of 80 foot trees. Light is readily available at the top of this layer, but greatly reduced below it.
  • C layer: a closed canopy of 60 foot trees. There is little air movement in this zone and consequently humidity is constantly high.
  • Shrub/sapling layer: Less than 3 percent of the light intercepted at the top of the forest canopy passes to this layer. Arrested growth is characteristic of young trees capable of a rapid surge of growth when a gap in canopy above them opens.
  • Ground layer: sparse plant growth. Less than 1 percent of the light that strikes the top of the forest penetrates to the forest floor. In such darkness few green plants grow. Moisture is also reduced by the canopy above: one third of the precipitation is intercepted before it reaches the ground.

Growthforms: Various growthforms represent strategies to reach sunlight:

  • Epiphytes: the so-called air plants grow on branches high in the trees, using the limbs merely for support and extracting moisture from the air and trapping the constant leaf-fall and wind-blown dust. Bromeliads (pineapple family) are especially abundant in the neotropics; the orchid family is widely distributed in all three formations of the tropical rainforest. As demonstration of the relative aridity of exposed branches in the high canopy, epiphytic cacti also occur in the Americas.
  • Lianas: woody vines grow rapidly up the tree trunks when there is a temporary gap in the canopy and flower and fruit in the tree tops of the A and B layers. Many are deciduous.
  • Climbers: green-stemmed plants such as philodendron that remain in the understory. Many climbers, including the ancestors of the domesticated yams (Africa) and sweet potatoes (South America), store nutrients in roots and tubers.
  • Stranglers: these plants begin life as epiphytes in the canopy and send their roots downward to the forest floor. The fig family is well represented among stranglers.
  • Heterotrophs: non-photosynthetic plants can live on the forest floor.
    Parasites derive their nutrients by tapping into the roots or stems of photosynthetic species. Rafflesia arnoldi, a root parasite of a liana, has the world's largest flower, more than three feet in diameter. It produces an odor similar to rotting flesh to attract pollinating insects.
    Saprophytes derive their nutrients from decaying organic matter. Some orchids employ this strategy common to fungi and bacteria.

Common characteristics of tropical trees. Tropical species frequently possess one or more of the following attributes not seen in trees of higher latitudes.

  • Buttresses: many species have broad, woody flanges at the base of the trunk. Originally believed to help support the tree, now it is believed that the buttresses channel stem flow and its dissolved nutrients to the roots.
  • Large leaves are common among trees of the C layer. Young individuals of trees destined for the B and A layers may also have large trees. When the reach the canopy new leaves will be smaller. The large leaf surface helps intercept light in the sun-dappled lower strata of the forest.
  • Drip tips facilitate drainage of precipitation off the leaf to promote transpiration. They occur in the lower layers and among the saplings of species of the emergent layer (A layer).

Other characteristics that distinguish tropical species of trees from those of temperate forests include

  • Exceptionally thin bark, often only 1-2 mm thick. Usually very smooth, although sometimes armed with spines or thorns.
  • Cauliflory, the development of flowers (and hence fruits) directly from the trunk, rather than at the tips of branches.
  • Large fleshy fruits attract birds, mammals, and even fish as dispersal agents.

Soil: Oxisols, infertile, deeply weathered and severely leached, have developed on the ancient Gondwanan shields. Rapid bacterial decay prevents the accumulation of humus. The concentration of iron and aluminum oxides by the laterization pro cess gives the oxisols a bright red color and sometimes produces minable deposits (e.g., bauxite). On younger substrates, especially of volcanic origin, tropical soils may be quite fertile.

Subclimaxes: Distinct communities (varzea) develop on floodplains. Jungles may line rivers where sunlight penetrates all layers of the forest. Where forests have long been cleared and laterites have developed to cause season waterlogging of the sub strate, tropical grasslands and palm savannas occur.

Fauna: Animal life is highly diverse. Common characteristics found among mammals and birds (and reptiles and amphibians, too) include adaptations to an arboreal life (for example, the prehensile tails of New World monkeys), bright colors and sharp patterns, loud vocalizations, and diets heavy on fruits.

Distribution of biome: The tropical rainforest is found between 10 ° N and 10 ° S latitude at elevations below 3,000 feet. There are three major, disjunct formations:
Neotropical (Amazonia into Central America)
African (Zaire Basin with an outlier in West Africa; also eastern Madagascar)
Indo- Malaysian (west coast of India, Assam, southeast Asia, New Guinea and Queensland, Australia.The species composition and even genera and families are distinct in each. They also differ from species of temperate forests. Species diversity is highest in the extensive neotropical forest; second in the highly fragmented Indo-Malaysian formation; and lowest in Africa. Where 5 to a maximum of 30 species of tree share dominance in the Temperate Broadleaf Deciduous Forest, there may be 40 to 100 different species in one hectare of tropical rainforest. Tropical species of both plants and animals often hav e very restricted distribution areas.
Alpine expressions of the biome: A simplification of the tropical rainforest in species composition and in stratification occurs as elevation exceeds 3000 ft. Distinct communities are found at higher elevations, communities that do not replicate latitudinal changes in vegetation as do alpine communities in temperate zones. For more information, see Tropical Life Zones.
Geography Department
Radford University
Created by SLW, October 13, 1996 Last modified October 29, 1997.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Goodbye AMD Socket A CPUs

Blogger's Note: For those buying new computers and considering AMD, delay your purchase until such time that Socket 754 AMD CPUs will be cheaper. Let say, June 2005. 8-)

Socket A to blow its brains out in March Both Sempron and Athlon XP socket A to vanish
By: Fuad Abazovic Tuesday 22 February 2005, 09:49

AFTER YEARS of loving socket A platform, it's time to say goodbye to all those nice chipsets and motherboards based on it. AMD decided to pull the plug on this one simply as it wants to make a big deal out of the Socket 754. We reported it was headed for the end of its life last year.

This decision affects K7 AMD Sempron 3000+, 2800+, 2600+ and 2200+ but AMD left a choice to its customer(s) to buy a lot of these CPUs if they want to. It's sure that this will be the last time they will be able to. AMD wants to make this move as smooth as possible. The last order date for those CPUs is May 15th 2005 while AMD will order the last phalanx of Socket A Semprons to march out of the fabs on November 15th. If you live in what are called "emerging markets" you will be able to get Sempron 2500+, 2400+ and 2300+ even beyond Q2.

AMD also decided to discontinue its very successful Athlon XP generation of CPUs. AMD calls these CPUs Model 10 Athlon XP and this decision will affect 3200+, 3000+ 2800+ CPU, the ones that are using Socket A. AMD thinks that Athlon XP brand is being phased out and that it's high time to replace this brand with Sempron processors. That’s AMD's reason for the planned obsolescence. Hey I learned a new word today. [Don't use it too often, Ed.]

Customers are advised to buy sufficient quantities during this last time buy in order to have as many as they plan to sell. This will surely be the last time the legit partners will be able to buy these CPUs from AMD. There is always a grey market, of course.

Customers will be able to make their last orders on March 1st 2005 when the call will go out "your very clean glasses now please". And AMD will ship the last contingent of these CPUs on September 1st 2005. I guess that you will be able to get Sempron and Athlon XP socket A CPUs by the end of the year while AMD will aggressively push us all toward socket 754. That's the way AMD wants to play it.

Fairwell Socket A you served us well and we will miss you. Sniff. µ

Ibang Klaseng Mansanas: Apple Computers

Blogger's Note: This article is a tribute to the computers made by Apple Computers. One way or another, Apple have a major influence in both software (Microsoft almost copied the whole OS for the upcoming Windows OS - Longhorn) and hardware (3.5 disk drive, USB, Firewire). I hope readers will appreciate the uniqueness and importance of Apple like me, even though I don't even own any Apple product. I always desire to have a 12-inch iBook, 17-inch iMac G5 and the latest iPod model. I keep dreaming.... 8-)

The 10 Most Important Macs

Last week Mobile PC magazine declared the PowerBook 100 the #1 gadget of all time, beating out the Swiss Army Knife, the iPod, pocket calculators, the transistor radio, cell phones, Palms, the original Sony Walkman, and the wireless remote control.

Over the weekend, MLAgazine posted Top 10 Apples by Tom Hornby, which also listed the PowerBook 100 as one of Apple's most important creations - along with the Mac Classic, the iMac, the PowerBook G3 (Pismo), and first generation Power Macs.

Both articles were a nice trip down memory lane for someone who has been into personal computers since the Apple II+ era. I remember personal computing before Windows, before the Macintosh, before the IBM PC, and before MS-DOS.

It's been fascinating watching the personal computing world evolve from 1 MHz CPU with 1-4 KB of RAM into today's powerhouses with GHz CPUs and MB of RAM. And Apple's been part of it since 1977.

Looking only at Macintosh hardware, here's our chronological list of the most important Macs of the last 21 years.
The Macintosh, 1984
Macintosh Plus, 1986
Macintosh II, 1987
PowerBook 100, 1991
Quadra 840av, 1993
Power Mac 6100, 7100, and 8100, 1994
PowerBook 500 Series, 1994
The iMac, 1998
12" Dual USB iBook, 2001
The Mac mini, 2004

The Macintosh, 1984
Apple spent years developing the Macintosh, which was originally going to be a low-cost information appliance with an 8-bit CPU and 64 KB of RAM. By the time Apple unveiled the Macintosh, it had evolved into an 8 MHz computer with 128 KB of RAM and a Motorola 68000 CPU.

The Mac was very different from the Apple II line and what was available in the PC world. It was similar to Apple's Lisa at first glance, but with a smaller screen (9" vs. 12"), less memory (128 vs. 1024 KB), a smaller keyboard (no arrow keys or numeric keypad), a faster CPU (8 vs. 5 MHz), and a far lower price (US$2,495 vs. US$9,995).

The original Macintosh brought graphical computing a broader market and made the mouse a de facto feature of computing. Every computer and every operating system on the market today owes something to the Mac 128K.
This isn't to say the Mac was without shortcomings. The 9" display was small, although that helped keep the size, weight, and cost down. The keyboard lacked cursor keys, something Apple addressed in 1986.

Mostly, though, 128 KB of RAM and a single 400 KB floppy drive didn't quite cut it, forcing users to buy an external floppy or do the floppy shuffle. When Apple was able to boost RAM to 512 KB later in the year, the Macintosh became a much more satisfying computer.

Macintosh Plus, 1986
I have a soft spot for the Mac Plus. Not only was it the first Mac I used or owned, but it was also Apple's low-end solution after the Mac SE was introduced.

The Mac plus had the same design as the original Mac, but it came with 1 MB of RAM, a double-sided 800 KB floppy drive, and a keyboard with both a numeric keypad and arrow keys. Thus it addressed the biggest complaints about the Mac 128K.

The Mac Plus went beyond that. Recognizing that hard drives were here to stay, the Plus was the first Mac with a hard drive interface. The SCSI port would be found on every Mac until the iMac was introduced in 1998.
The Mac Plus was also the first Mac to be designed with memory expansion in mind. Although it shipped with 1 MB of RAM - which seemed like a whole lot at the time - memory could be expanded to a very impressive 4 MB. Discontinued in October 1990, the Mac Plus had the longest product life of any Macintosh.

Macintosh II, 1987
Until March 1987, every Macintosh looked the same. Then came the Mac II, the first modular Mac. Like the IBM PC, it had room for two floppy drives, a hard drive, and several expansion cards. Unlike the IBM PC, it ran the Mac OS.

The Mac OS had to evolve to support color, and the Mac II allowed up to six video cards at once. The first color cards allowed 4-bit/16-color or 8-bit/256-color video - and those 256 colors could be selected from a 16 million color palette, giving the Mac II some of the most impressive color graphics of that era.

The heart of the Mac II's expandability was the NuBus expansion slot, which supported video cards, networking cards, DOS cards, high speed SCSI controllers, and coprocessors. NuBus slots would be a feature of high-end Macs until 1995, when Apple adopted PCI expansion cards.

Also new to the Mac line in 1987 was the Apple Desktop Bus, a technology pioneered on the Apple IIgs for connecting a mouse, a keyboard, and other peripherals to the Mac. Apple used ADB on every Mac until the iMac was introduced in 1998.

PowerBook 100, 1991
Apple's first battery-powered Mac, the Mac Portable, was a no compromise behemoth. It had a full-sized keyboard with either a numeric keypad or a trackball. It ran a 16 MHz 68000 CPU with 1-9 MB of RAM. It had a big (by 1989 standards) 40 MB hard drive. And the active matrix screen was incredible, as was the 10 hour battery life.

But it was very heavy (15.8 pounds), very bulky, and very expensive (US$6,500 floppy only, US$7,300 with hard drive). The Portable was a nice enough computer, but the market wanted smaller, lighter, more transportable.

Apple contracted with Sony to reconfigure the Portable as a true laptop, and the PowerBook 100 was unveiled in October 1991. It had the same 16 MHz 68000 CPU, supported up to 8 MB of RAM, but it weighed just 5.1 pounds - one-third the weight of the Portable.

Introduced alongside the larger, heavier, more powerful PowerBook 140 and 170, the 100 tended to be overlooked. That's a shame, because the tiny size (about the same as today's 12" iBooks) and adequate power made it a great field machine.

The only place the PB 100 didn't match Portable specs was battery life. To keep things small and light, the 100 had a two-hour battery.

Other PowerBook innovations include moving the keyboard toward the screen, using a centrally located trackball in front of the keyboard, and SCSI disk mode.

Quadra 840av, 1993
Apple's fastest 68040-based model, the Quadra 840av stood out more for its audio and video support than for its 40 MHz CPU. The Motorola 68040 may have been the brains of the AV Quadras (there was also a 25 MHz 660av), but the AT&T 3210 was its eyes and ears.

These digital signal processors not only allowed the AV Quadras to save video as QuickTime files, they also allowed real time compositing, making it possible for the Mac to add text or graphics to an incoming video feed and output video with titles, logos, or other things added to them.

Also new with the AV Quadras was Apple's GeoPort, a faster version of the serial port used in earlier Macs.
Power Mac 6100, 7100, and 8100, 1994

Apple moved the Macintosh line to a new family of CPUs in 1994, the PowerPC. The new CPUs were designed by Apple, IBM, and Motorola using IBM's POWER RISC architecture, some features from Motorola's ill-fated 88000 CPU, and intended for the Mac OS.

The 60 MHz Power Mac 6100, 66 MHz 7100, and 80 MHz 8100 weren't significantly faster than the Quadras they replaced, but they did move Apple from a dead-end architecture to one they still use today. If anything, the most impressive thing about the first Power Macs was that they worked so well on old software designed for Apple's old architecture.

Emulating the 680x0 CPUs was a big reason the Power Macs could be introduced when they were, and parts of the Mac OS remained in 680x0 code until the Mac OS 8.x era.

PowerBook 500 Series, 1994
Two months after introducing the Power Macs, Apple released the first PowerBooks with trackpads, stereo speakers, dual intelligent batteries, PC Card slots, and built-in ethernet. The "Blackbird" model was available in 25 MHz and 33 MHz speeds, with a color display or a grayscale one.

Top of the line was the PowerBook 540c, which had a 9.5" 640 x 480 8-bit color display. (Earlier PowerBooks had 640 x 400 screens.) With a pair of fully charged batteries, it could run for four hours in the field.
And if that wasn't enough, you could even buy a PowerPC upgrade.

The iMac, 1998
Apple acquired NeXT in 1996, which marked Steve Jobs' return to the company he co-founded. Jobs replaced Gil Amelio as CEO in 1997, and the first computer wholly designed under Jobs' leadership was the iMac.
The iMac ran the same Mac OS as its contemporaries, but it sure looked different with its swoopy curves and Bondi blue accents. The shrunken keyboard and round mouse had their detractors, as did the absence of a floppy drive, but the iMac was destined for success.

While Mac mavens and industry pundits debated the merits and demerits of each design decision, the computing public was introduced to something different from the beige boxes with external monitors and too many cables. Apple got a lot of buzz, but it didn't do a very good job of letting Windows users know how productive they could be with an iMac.

Still, the iMac consistently made the best seller list as it went through one revision after another, new colors, and faster processors.

If Apple did anything wrong with the iMac, it was moving from a single model to multiple models at different speeds - sometimes offering four different CPU speeds and six colors at the same time. Yes, it provided plenty of choices, but it also created stocking problems and kept the iMac off the best seller lists, since no single model dominated sales.

12" Dual USB iBook, 2001
After showing that it could design a nearly bulletproof (also big and heavy) iBook for the education market and a thin, full featured G4 PowerBook for the power user, Apple introduced a practically perfect laptop with the 500 MHz iBook.

The "iceBook" was still rugged, although it lost the swoopy curves and bulk of earlier iBooks. The new 12" model was just as big as it needed to be for a 12" LCD and a full-sized keyboard - almost identical in size to the PowerBook 100, in fact.

The 1024 x 768 screen is great, and much better than the 800 x 600 displays in earlier iBooks or the wonderful PowerBook 1400 (which was nearly as small at the white 12" iBook). The design seems to be the perfect combination of size, weight, power, and battery life.

The basic design remains in use with today's 12" iBook G4/1.2 GHz and the aluminum-clad 12" PowerBook G4/1.5 GHz.

The Mac mini, 2004
Picking the ten most significant Macs isn't easy. It's a subjective thing, and while some models obviously make the list, as you move down the list it gets harder to choose which models will round out the Top Ten and which won't make the list.

Right now, I'm rounding out the list with Apple's newest computer, the Mac mini. As nice as the Power Mac G5 and G5 iMacs are, they are nice evolutionary machines with very nice design.

The Mac mini is revolutionary, and not just because it's the most affordable Mac ever. It's one of the smallest computers on the market period. It's the first desktop I know of designed around a 2.5" laptop hard drive. And, like the Mac Plus and the original iMac, it has everything you need, just enough expansion, and hardly anything you might not want or need.

The true revolution, however, is Apple pursuing the consumer market with a computer that not only gets a lot of buzz but is also in the same price range as entry-level Windows PCs.

There's nothing state-of-the-art about the Mac mini, but the same can be said of low-cost Windows PCs. There are nice things the Mac mini has that most Windows PCs don't - a slot loading drive, a tiny footprint, and whisper quiet performance. (In the Windows world, small PCs and quiet PCs tend to command premium prices.)

It's selling like hot cakes, and I think it's going to continue to do so.
All in all, I think the Mac mini will go down as the most significant model of the Mac's third decade.

Dan Knight 2005.02.22

Just Do It: Learning by Doing

'Learning by doing' could revolutionize RP education
Posted 02:52am (Mla time) Feb 20, 2005 By Raul V. Fabella, Cristina B. Fabella, Vigile Marie Fabella, Inquirer News Service

TOURISTS come to Bohol to be transported by its natural wonders. Of late, a new type of visitors (educators from across the country) has made Jagna, Bohol their destination. Their unusual query is: "Where is CVI?" CVI stands for Central Visayan Institute, a high school run by the Bernidos (Maria Victoria is principal and Christopher is director of studies), at the heart of Jagna, a port town 63 kilometers east of Tagbilaran.
The visitors are anxious about something they have heard, the Dynamic Learning Program (DLP) of CVI.
The rumor has been slowly spreading through the Bohol Association of Catholic Schools and Catholic Educators Association of the Philippines (CEAP) that concrete results are wrapped in CVI's student portfolios.
Is the pilgrimage justified?

The National Academy of Science and Technology, sensing success, made the Bernidos plenary speakers at its 26th Annual Scientific Conference in Manila last August. The CEAP National Convention did the same on Sept. 16 and the Fund for Assistance in Private Education (FAPE) has made the Bernidos a permanent fixture in all its regional fora. Wherever they speak, they light up the audience with excitement.

Classrooms at CVI reflect the school's severe financial straits. Tables and chairs have clearly seen better days, back when Jose Abueva, former University of the Philippines president and emeritus professor, was a student. The main building, a reincarnation of a 1930s movie house, is rickety. Nonetheless, the ravages of time cannot hide the aura of dignity. There are no signs of habitual neglect. Nor are there graffiti. But nobody comes to CVI for its physical appearance.

The shelves at the back of each room are nondescript, but few in Ateneo or Poveda bear as precious a cargo-stacks of color-coded plastic-covered portfolios of the students. The folios contain accomplished activity sheets of each student in each course. These include exercise, concept, laboratory and exam sheets, all neatly accomplished in the student's own handwriting or illustration. And all done within the school.

Short lectures
For homework is anathema at CVI. This is the first adjustment to kawad-on (abject poverty), which is a sibling to most CVI students. Most of them hail from far-flung homes neither provided with plumbing nor electricity. "Schoolwork you do in school. Homework is helping your parents," is the unsubtle advice.

Because "homework," so-called, is done in school, lectures have to be pithy, just the basic concepts and some examples-20 minutes at most. Prepared exercises or student activity sheets are handed out. Students then get busy-they discuss concepts and attempt to solve or build, confer, search singly at first and then together, and when stumped, address questions to the expert teacher. More discussion. Work sheets are evaluated and go into each student's portfolio for the course.

The DLP, in effect, de-emphasizes "learning by listening," and expands "learning by doing." The latter, done within a group, dons the mantle of "play," a pseudo-play, if you will. This turns the current pedagogy on its head where schoolwork is "learning by listening" and homework is "learning by doing"-both done in isolation. Learning becomes a lonely, artificial and eventually a disdained exercise. Children everywhere love play; play is mostly with peers, and learning in groups can be play. At CVI, it is.

This strategy hinges on trust. A short discussion of the concepts can motivate kids to take off and explore for the next 40 minutes. How about short attention span? How about the unruliness that follows? Only actual program runs can decide these issues. As the outcome shows, the trust appears well-placed. Students begin to view school learning as play and respond with the rapt attention of card players. Naturally, there are exceptions and those are dealt with first with remedial effort and, if it fails, a pink slip.

Another interesting advantage: DLP reduces the distinction between exam days and class days.

Optimizing the teacher
In every pedagogic program, the teacher is central. The current pedagogic practice confronts the teacher only with students, with the review process, if at all, coming few and far between. This structure easily succumbs to that sneaky classroom bargain: teacher does not teach, students do not learn, teacher gives high grades, students shut their mouths and move on. Worse, predatory and abusive behavior by teachers may thrive in non-transparent environments.

The DLP reduces such Faustian bargains. (1) All sections of a year take Mathematics simultaneously in one enlarged (dividers folded in) room. (2) The 20-minute or so initial lecture segment is not repeated three times. Instead, the math teacher spends 40 minutes more every day fielding questions. (3) The questions are also more profound because they derive from actual problem-solving instances. (4) The teachers of the other subjects become facilitators of the Mathematics course, imposing discipline and fielding no questions in Math.

Socratic method
The math teacher faces a mini-faculty meeting daily. The DLP is, by design, question-and-answer-intensive ("Socratic"). She cannot, as happens in too many classes across the nation, be absent while being present in front of peers. The best pedagogic practice easily spreads.

Other advantages: (1) It is much easier for the principal to monitor the proceedings as all subjects are in one enlarged room. (2) When teachers are poorly prepared, less is clearly better than abundant nonsense. (3) All the other teachers, say of English or History, hear and presumably absorb the big ideas of the other disciplines such as Einstein's theory of relativity in Physics or Darwin's natural selection in Biology. There is more to interact over in the faculty room than the identity of "Jose Pidal." Math and science mentors also learn John Donne's "Send not to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee."

The DLP is a hot learning cauldron for both students and teachers.

Where's the beef?
Carol Porio, executive director of FAPE, has seen many pedagogical programs arrive with a bang and slink away with a whimper. She is a formidable skeptic. "Where's the result?" is her favorite rapier. Which is why she is profoundly intrigued by CVI. The results are plain to see. How do they come about? Enthused Eve Orbeta of the St. Bonaventure Center of Excellence, "The moment I walked into that school, I knew they had a different culture."

Just run through the stacks of student portfolios at the back of the room. Pick one up randomly from the Physics stack. Leaf through. One meets a neat, colored rendition of the Bohr atom and a brief essay on why electrons don't collapse into the nucleus. The romance with learning is palpable. The four graduates in 2003 and the five in 2004 who qualified for the University of the Philippines (UP) seem to suggest a program that works. These are not yet conclusive, according to the Bernidos. CVI's UP College Admission Test (UPCAT) performance will, however, only improve if UPCAT gives Mathematics and Science a higher weight than the puny 10 percent it gives today.

No report can convey the full compass and drama of the learning outcomes mirrored by the portfolios. Comparable outcomes from elite schools charging P80,000 in tuition a year have yet to be seen. CVI charges an all-inclusive P3,700 a year. Eager pilgrims of pedagogy leave enthusiastic about the DLP. How do the children of poor households learn to appreciate Fermat's Last Theorem?

Student response
The basic behavioral premise at CVI is that if you create a local environment that rewards enquiry and reflection, students will follow the cue. Each student is a pool of potentials (aggression, predation, reflection, etc.) and which gene becomes expressed depends on the payoffs in the environment.

The Philippine environment sadly punishes hard work and celebrates the "Eat Bulaga" chic; thus, the "Eat Bulaga" gene dominates and the smart gene recedes. By contrast, "Smart is cool" is idiomatic at CVI. This allows the "smart gene" to find expression.

Is it replicable?
To many, CVI appears in every respect a singularity. Where else do the principal and the director of studies appear as authors in the Journal of Mathematical Physics and other international journals? CVI has two PhDs with established international reputation in path integral method and white noise analysis, living like Trappist monks on a salary of P10,000 a month. Indeed, CVI faculty has a better international publications record than 90 percent of all science faculties in the Philippines, including UP where the Bernidos once taught with distinction.
CVI also co-hosts with its affiliated institution, the Research Center for Theoretical Physics, an international physics conference in Jagna every three to four years and whose past speakers included Frank Wilczek and Gerard 't Hooft, both Nobel Prize winners (2004 and 1999, respectively).

World science oasis
How the Bernidos made Jagna a world science oasis (the latest one held on Jan. 3-7 dealt with the exciting Hida-Connes calculus) with nary a government support is yet another miracle deserving a separate treatise.
And yet, CVI struggles with the most banal problems: it squats on land owned by others on whose kind sufferance depends its physical, though clearly not its intellectual position. Meeting weekly payroll is a regular challenge. Loss of faculty to public high schools (almost double entry pay) is a Poisson process.

The depth of absurdity was plumbed when the Department of Education (DepEd) banned the Bernidos from teaching high school Physics and Mathematics for lack of teaching licensure after teaching Quantum Mechanics at the UP National Institute of Physics. (Maria Victoria, initially stunned, dutifully took the minimum adequate education courses and ranked second in the national licensure exam.) CVI is nothing if not quintessentially abnormal.

That being said, the basic features of the DLP, the heavy emphasis on "learning by doing," the radical trust in the youth's capacity to learn, the learning as pseudo-play, and the unparalleled transparency through simultaneous instruction are all accessible without the idiosyncratic features of CVI. Great courage is still required to push DLP. The Bernidos made numerous enemies before being allowed to settle on the gentler side of fury. Theirs is an undeclared war against the Filipino disease of taking the path of least resistance. Can the entropic inertia be kept at bay elsewhere?

Can DLP produce its magic without the Bernidos? That experiment FAPE wants to run.

Empire strikes back
CVI represents a mutant subculture trying to find breathing space under an overarching dominant cultural milieu. That a discordant local steady state requires a counterforce provided by an outsider is demanded by the conservation principle. The Bernidos provide such counter-energy at CVI. They draw strength outside of the dominant culture. Will such rarity survive and replicate?

That the overarching ocean of entropy is itself under assault from forces it cannot control inspires hope. By every international comparative standard, the Philippines is falling behind (gross domestic product per capita growth, corruption indices, math and science standardized scores, and International Math Olympics).

The harvest is a massive "winter of our discontent," surfacing as a gnawing hunger for a way out of the morass. Some find solace in a US visa. Others prefer to stay and fight.

But the dominant ethos has automatic defense mechanisms. Does a CVI graduate's romance with the periodic table confer on him a superior advancement potential? As it stands, most CVI graduates are ending up in dead-end colleges. They join their parents in peddling RTWs or plowing the field. In 2004, only one of the five CVI graduates who passed the UPCAT enrolled at the state university because the package offered by the UP Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program was too puny for the poor. (UP should raise fees for wealthy entrants to adequately finance poor CVI and kindred hurdlers). For many, the romance will end in a bitter divorce. Creating scientific and technological smarts in the Philippines is a lonely Sisyphean labor.

Scaling up
Spreading the CVI virus is frustrating. There is reason enough to feed a proclivity for despair. But look closer. There are elements in society that already share the virus. In the business sector, global players like the Ayala Group and the Smart group embrace the ethos of precision and rules-based governance and chafe under the burden of the old ethos. Marching to a different drummer is a privilege they pay dearly for. Some local government units like Marikina are coming around. Scaling up these local successes, however, remains a daunting challenge.

Some suggestions may help. The chances of this type of graduates entering institutions that celebrate the kindred ethos must rise: (1) Make entrance exams heavily weighted for Math and Science, and (2) Offer adequate fellowships for poor hurdlers. CVI and kindred school graduates already have much higher math and science aptitude than a regular college graduate.

Second, DepEd should devise an accreditation exam for math and science teaching. The only requirement is a high school degree. Passing this exam is necessary but not a sufficient condition for teaching high school Math and Science. Those who pass the exam are required to finish only 18 additional education units to be fully accredited to teach Math and Science in high school.

This should reinforce the Makabayan Program, which the Bernidos consider a correct decision if still sorely inadequate. This was the path Marivic Bernido herself was forced to take. Was it so long ago when sixth-grade finishers taught grade school with distinction?

The private business sector can help by recruiting directly from the top echelon graduates of select high schools and providing them with work-study programs. Better attitudes and sturdier smarts are available here.
Linked up, they can make a tsunami of the lonely isolated ripples that will set Filipino smarts free.

(Dr. Raul V. Fabella is dean of the UP School of Economics and member of the National Academy of Science and Technology; Dr. Cristina B. Fabella, an obstetrician-gynecologist, is an active consultant at the Cardinal Santos Medical Center and Amang Rodriguez Medical Center; and, Vigile Marie Fabella is a freshman at the UP School of Economics. The paper was conceived while the Fabellas were on vacation in Jagna, Bohol.)

This story was taken from www.inq7.net ©2005 all rights reserved

Monday, February 21, 2005

Strike Three, You're Out: Three Rules Carly Fiorina Ignored at Hewlett-Packard

Commentary: Three Simple Rules Carly Ignored

Why things went wrong at HP -- and went right at P&G , UTC, and IBM Carleton S. Fiorina faced a daunting task when she took over as CEO of Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPG ) in 1999. She was an outsider brought in to revive a troubled tech giant. Iconic though HP was, its deeply rooted engineering culture was badly in need of an overhaul. Her failure to achieve her goals was a fiasco that reflected the quirks of both Fiorina as an executive and HP's corporate milieu. So are there any lessons here about how to handle the job of shaking up a company or its business model? Certainly, it is difficult to generalize -- every CEO has his or her own style, every company has its own culture. But Fiorina broke three key rules that most CEOs would do well to heed.

MAKE IT ABOUT THE COMPANY, NOT YOU. By the time CEOs rise to their post, most have a healthy ego, and Fiorina was no exception. She was also a sales whiz known for high-profile marketing events and a fondness for global gatherings packed with A-list politicians, celebs and CEOs. Problem is, many who spent time around her came away with the impression that she was as interested in burnishing her own image as she was in turning the company around. As Jim Collins noted in his 2001 book, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...and Others Don't, the defining hallmark of market-beating long-term leadership is the exact opposite -- CEOs who place their companies' well-being above all else, including themselves.Nowhere has that difference been starker than at Procter & Gamble Co. (PG ), which has seen both kinds of leaders over the last decade. Durk I. Jager sought to shake up P&G's insular culture and jump-start innovation when he took over the helm in 1999, but his abrasive nature and insistence on rapid change alienated the troops. Under Alan G. "A.G." Lafley, who also has a broad agenda but a less contentious and more patient style, P&G has made a comeback. Lafley also has no qualms about letting others take credit for success -- a critical trait for enlisting subordinates to your cause.

KNOW YOUR COMPANY INSIDE AND OUT. As skilled an executive as she was, Fiorina focused on marketing and didn't fully comprehend the impact on operations of her vision to transform HP's structure and strategy. She also resisted board efforts to name a strong chief operations officer to compensate for that weakness. As difficult as it is, successful CEOs must immerse themselves in the details of their empires -- or have a sidekick who does.United Technologies Corp.'s (UTX ) George David is no back-slapper and lacks Fiorina's marketing flair. But he is obsessed with the minutiae of production techniques that can make or break his company -- and has quietly amassed an extraordinary record: 10 straight years of higher profits.General Electric Co. (GE ) under Jack Welch was likewise a study in total management immersion. Talent, in particular, was a Welch obsession. He participated in hundreds of executive evaluations each year. If one slipped, he was among the first to know it, not the last.

HOLD PEOPLE ACCOUNTABLE -- INCLUDING YOURSELF. Fiorina's decision to fire three top executives after the company missed third-quarter earnings targets last year went down poorly. Many inside the company thought it looked more like scapegoating and a way to assuage Wall Street than good management.Contrast that with the dismissals Louis V. Gerstner Jr. made after coming to IBM (IBM ) in 1993. The first item on his agenda was to learn everything he could about the troubled tech giant's business, staff, and customers. So when it came time to hand out pink slips, workers had confidence that the cuts were necessary and that the right people were being fired for the right reasons.Much of this sounds obvious, the sort of thing any executive should know by the time he or she reaches the corner office. What's surprising is how many of them don't.By Louis Lavelle


Recyclable Plastics

Packaging That Means Green

Rising disposal costs for conventional plastics are helping to make biodegradable containers a fast-growing businessWhen Jim Middleton decided two years ago to test biodegradable plastic containers in a Wild Oats Markets store in Portland, Ore., he felt the motivation of an environmentally conscious citizen. He couldn't have had many other reasons. Back then, using green containers seemed foolish. They cost 50% more than regular containers. And if you piled something like hot macaroni into them, the bottom fell out. Yet Wild Oats (OATS ) soon discovered that taking care of the environment can pay off handsomely. The customers of Wild Oats, a store that sells organic foods, loved the containers, which are made from a biodegradable material produced by Cargill subsidiary NatureWorks. The store's deli sales rose by more than 15%, due at least in part to people who embraced the idea of taking home food in an eco-friendly container.

MAINSTREAM PUSH. The move had another, more surprising, benefit: As the price of oil, which goes into production of traditional plastics, has skyrocketed, Wild Oats has had a buffer with its biodegradable, nonoil-based containers. As a result, it's paying 3% to 5% less for the eco-friendly packaging than regular ones, says Middleton, senior director of operations support for Wild Oats stores. "To me, it's a no-brainer now," he says. The containers exemplify how eco-mindedness can dovetail with cost savings. That's why companies such as Coca-Cola (KO ) and Whole Foods (WFMI ) over the last year have begun using or testing biodegradable plastic packaging. By the end of 2005, consumers could see the introduction of biodegradable plastic utensils, cups, water bottles, shavers, cosmetics cases, and shotgun cartridges. One company recently unveiled a cell-phone cover, now undergoing testing by Motorola (MOT ). When buried in soil, it not only disintegrates but also sprouts sunflowers. The plastics contain sunflower seeds. Combine the new economics of containers with environmental consciousness among consumers and tough local landfill regulations, and you have a recipe to take biodegradable plastics -- a seemingly contradictory term if there ever was one -- mainstream. These materials disintegrate into carbon dioxide, water, and biomass (the same stuff that's left over from a banana peel) when in contact with sunlight, water, or bacteria found in soil. It only looks and feels similar to plastic, although its ingredients are quite different. For instance, packaging from Biosphere Industries in Carpinteria, Calif., is made of starches and grass fibers.

MOUNTING LANDFILL COSTS. While this emerging market is still tiny, some industry insiders believe it could eventually reach $50 billion. Chemicals manufacturer BASF (BF ) has seen U.S. sales of its biodegradable plastic, Ecoflex, rise 80% in the past year, says Keith Edwards, product manager for Ecoflex in Florham Park, N.J. BASF plans to double its manufacturing capacity, currently at a modest 8,000 tons a year. With the additional capacity, the plant will edge closer to the manufacturing capabilities of traditional plastics plants. Biosphere Industries hopes to increase its monthly production from 4 million units to 24 million within a year. Local environmental regulations are having an impact, as beach communities -- aiming to reduce pollution -- are cracking down on using Styrofoam. New landfills are also hard to come by, and dumping old-fashioned plastic containers is becoming harrowingly expensive. Landfills in New York charge $100 a ton to dispose of waste -- or twice the amount asked for by those who compost (placing waste into piles that can decompose).

THINK WAFFLES. These factors are encouraging many grocery stores to latch onto biodegradable packaging. While three-fourths of their garbage is made up of materials such as spoiled food that can easily go into compost piles, the stores need containers that can also decompose, says Steve Mojo, executive director of the New York-based Biodegradable Products Institute, which certifies green plastics. More important, a number of companies have developed ways to make biodegradable plastics -- which have cost four to five times more than their regular counterparts for years -- less expensive. In mass production for only about a year, green plastics from Biosphere Industries can be up to 40% cheaper than traditional plastics. "We're not trying to promote the fact that it's biodegradable by itself," says Biosphere Industries owner Elie Heldon Jr. "It's an add-on. We emphasize the cost advantage." That's because Heldon has developed a simple manufacturing process akin to baking waffles: You mix together a bunch of starch-based materials, like corn and potatoes, with other organic ingredients. Then, you pour the stuff onto a form and bake it. And soon, you've got a biodegradable lunch tray or a muffin container.

MAKING SENSE. The beauty of those containers is that unlike early versions that were brittle and caved in under heat, Heldon's wares are more durable than traditional plastics. They can go into a microwave or regular oven and can easily handle temperatures of up to 420 degrees. Biodegradable plastics from other manufacturers, such as Pvaxx, which expects to make its products commercially available within a year, are also crack-resistant. Eventually, Pvaxx is aiming for its plastic to be used in making cell-phone cases as well as the insides of electronics equipment. Beyond their practical appeal, some biodegradable plastics can have a fun side, too. Pvaxx's cell-phone covers, made out of biodegradable plastic, could contain seeds of sunflowers or trees. Tired of a cell-phone cover? That's O.K. Just make sure you bury it when you're done. "This would instill an environmental message in kids," says Peter Morris, project manager for Pvaxx, based outside of London. Green plastic will never replace with traditional plastics completely. No one wants TVs or computers to decompose. But with costs coming down, biodegradable plastics are starting to make sense to both the eco-conscious and the penny-pinchers.


By Olga Kharif is a reporter for BusinessWeek Online in Portland, Ore.

Environmental Impact of Tsunamis

Report looks at environmental impact of Asian tsunami

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) -- Coastlines already damaged by pollution and man's poor land management suffered more from the southeast Asian tsunami than those with healthy coral reefs and other natural protection, the U.N. environment chief said Monday.

This is one of the conclusions of a United Nations interim report on the environmental impact of the tsunami that is estimated to have killed at least 170,000 people in 11 countries in Asia and Africa, U.N. environment agency Executive Director Klaus Toepfer told world environment ministers.

The report will be made public Tuesday during the weeklong meeting of the U.N. Environment Program's top decision-making body, UNEP spokesman Nick Nuttall said.

"Those coastlines with intact coral reefs, mangroves, vegetated dunes and robust coastal forests came off better than those degraded by pollution and insensitive land use," Toepfer said.

"So the environment is not a luxury ... It is an economically important insurance policy whose wisdom we ignore at our peril," he said.

"Coral reefs and mangroves are absolutely vital in safeguarding people living in those areas," Marion Cheatle, UNEP's senior environmental affairs officer, told journalists during the launch of a U.N. report reviewing the major environmental issues of 2004.

The report, "Geo Year Book 2004/5," quotes a preliminary report by an Indian institute that showed mangrove forests in Pitchavaran and Muthupet regions of south India acted like shields and bore the brunt of the tsunami.
Tens of thousands of people are still missing, presumed dead from the December tsunami that the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization estimates cost the fishing industries of the seven countries hit hardest by the catastrophe U.S. $520 million (euro 398.3 million).

On Thursday, the Rome-based U.N. food agency said 111,073 fishing vessels were destroyed or damaged; 36,235 engines were lost or damaged beyond repair; and 1.7 million units of fishing gear -- such as nets, tackle, and similar equipment -- were destroyed. The seven countries studied are India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Somalia, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

Toepfer also said that for UNEP to be more effective he is immediately going to invest 30 percent of the agency's reserve funds in UNEP'S regional offices so that they may deal better with issues that are relevant to the countries they cover.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Thursday, February 17, 2005

Up in the Air? The latest in the Kyoto Protocol

Climate treaty takes effect, but will it matter?
Backers say more must be done; critics say it's worthless

MSNBC News Services
Updated: 3:07 p.m. ET Feb. 16, 2005

KYOTO, Japan - Seven years after it was negotiated, the Kyoto global warming pact went into force Wednesday — imposing limits on emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases that many scientists blame for warmer temperatures, melting glaciers and rising oceans.

The agreement, negotiated in Japan’s ancient capital of Kyoto in 1997 and ratified by 140 nations, officially took effect midnight New York time.

It targets carbon dioxide and five other gases that can trap heat in the atmosphere, and are believed to be behind rising global temperatures that many scientists say are already disrupting the Earth’s environment and weather patterns.

Even if fully implemented, Kyoto would cut a projected temperature rise by just 0.1 degrees Centigrade by 2100, according to U.N. figures — tiny compared to scenarios by a U.N. climate panel of an overall rise somewhere between 1.4-5.8C by 2100.

“Kyoto is without doubt only the first step,” said Klaus Toepfer, head of the U.N. Environment Program. “We will have to do more to fight this rapid increase in temperature on our wonderful blue planet Earth. It will be hard work.”

U.S., Australia stay out
The United States, the world’s largest emitter of such gases, has refused to ratify the agreement, saying it would harm the economy and is flawed by the lack of restrictions on emissions by emerging economies China and India.

“We have been calling on the United States to join. But the country that is the world’s biggest emitter has not joined yet, and that is regrettable,” Japan’s top government spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda, told reporters.

The United States accounts for almost a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions.

Australia, the only other developed nation not to join, defended that decision, with Environment Minister Ian Campbell saying the country was nonetheless on track to cut emissions by 30 percent.

“Until such time as the major polluters of the world including the United States and China are made part of the Kyoto regime, it is next to useless and indeed harmful for a country such as Australia to sign up,” Prime Minister John Howard said in Canberra.

The Kyoto agreement was delayed by the requirement that countries accounting for 55 percent of the world’s emissions must ratify it. That goal was reached last year — nearly seven years after the pact was negotiated — with Russia’s approval.

In a statement, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said “climate change is a global problem. It requires a concerted global response."

“I call on the world community to be bold, to adhere to the Kyoto Protocol, and to act quickly in taking the next steps," he added. "There is no time to lose.” The Kyoto pact is an adjunct to the 1992 U.N. treaty on climate change.

Different targets
The Kyoto targets vary by region: The European Union is committed to cutting emissions to 8 percent below 1990 levels by 2012; in the United States, the Clinton administration agreed to a 7 percent reduction but President Bush withdrew from the pact in 2001.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Tuesday that “we are still learning” about the science of climate change. In the meantime, McClellan said, “We have made an unprecedented commitment to reduce the growth of greenhouse gas emissions in a way that continues to grow our economy.”

The State Department said Tuesday that that commitment would mean $5.8 billion in 2005 on research and programs addressing climate change. The administration is particularly interested in funding technology to reduce and capture CO2 emissions.

“While the United States and countries with binding emissions restrictions under the Kyoto Protocol are taking different paths, our destination is the same, and compatible with other efforts,” said Richard Boucher, a spokesman for the State Department.

Kyoto allows nations to trade carbon dioxide quotas and Russia in particular expects to have plenty of spare quotas given the collapse of Soviet-era smokestack industries. That trade could bring it billions of dollars in revenue.

Russia also has access to a new European Union market that enables emitters overshooting their targets to buy emission allocations from those falling below. Carbon dioxide is trading at about 7.33 euros ($9.51) per ton.

Still, most agree the fight against climate change after 2012 hinges on policies by Washington.

Bo Kjellen, a researcher at Britain’s Tyndall Centre, said countries like China or India would feel little incentive to sign up if the United States is exempted. “Kyoto won’t work unless the United States is included after 2012,” he said.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Kyoto Protocol Basics

It's a pact agreed by government delegates at a 1997 U.N. conference in Kyoto, Japan, to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by developed countries by 5.2 percent of 1990 levels during 2008-2012. A total of 141 nations have ratified the pact, according to U.N. data.

Governments originally agreed to tackle climate change at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. At that meeting, leaders created the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, which set a non-binding goal of stabilizing emissions at 1990 levels by 2000, a goal not met overall. The Kyoto protocol is the follow-up to that and is the first legally binding global agreement to cut greenhouse gases.

Kyoto will have legal force for its participants from Feb. 16 after meeting twin conditions -- backing from at least 55 countries and support from nations representing at least 55 percent of developed countries’ carbon dioxide emissions. It passed the second hurdle in November 2004 when Russia ratified and now has backing from nations representing 61.6 percent of emissions. The United States, the world’s biggest emitter, has pulled out, saying Kyoto is too expensive and wrongly omits developing nations.

Under a 2001 deal made by environment ministers, if countries emit more gases than allowed under their targets at the end of 2012, they will be required to make the cuts, and 30 percent more, in the second commitment period, which is due to start in 2013. They rejected the idea of a financial penalty.

No, only 39 countries -- relatively developed ones -- have target levels for the 2008-12 period, adhering to a principle that richer countries should take the lead. Each country negotiated different targets, with Russia aiming for stabilization at 1990 levels and the European Union taking an eight percent cut.

Many countries are lagging behind Kyoto targets. Emissions by Spain and Portugal were 40.5 percent above 1990 levels in 2002. U.S. emissions were up 13.1 percent. Emissions by ex-communist bloc states fell most sharply due to the collapse of Soviet-era industries -- Russian emissions were down 38.5 percent.

Greenhouse gases are gases that trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere. The main one is carbon dioxide (CO2), and burning fossil fuel has added to natural emissions. The protocol also covers methane (CH4), much of which comes from agriculture and waste dumps, and nitrous oxide (N2O), mostly a result of fertilizer use. Three industrial gases used in various applications, such as refrigerants, heat conductors and insulators, are also included -- they are hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6).

The European Union set up a new market in January 2005 under which about 12,000 factories and power stations are given carbon dioxide quotas. If they overshoot they can buy extra allowances in the market or pay a financial penalty; if they undershoot they can sell them. Prices in the EU market are now about 7.2 euros per metric ton.

The protocol provides for "flexible mechanisms" -- ways for countries to reach their targets without actually reducing emissions at home. These include emissions trading -- where one country buys the right to emit from a country that has already reduced its emissions sufficiently and has "spare" emissions reductions. Another is the "clean development mechanism" where developed countries can earn credits to offset against their targets by funding clean technologies, such as solar power, in poorer countries.

Countries can also claim credits for planting trees in the Third World that soak up CO2 -- so-called carbon "sinks."

Source: Reuters