Friday, April 28, 2006

"Congress Struggles to Act"

AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois, center, gets out of a Hydrogen Alternative Fueled automobile, left, as he prepares to board his SUV, which uses gasoline, after holding a news conference at a local gas station in Washington, Thursday, April 27, 2006 to discuss the recent rise in gas prices. Hastert and other members of Congress drove off in the Hydrogen-Fueled cars only to switch to their official cars to drive the few blocks back to the U.S. Capitol.
Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press

"In my many years I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm, and three or more is a congress."
- John Adams

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Hell on Earth

by John Vidal
Common Dreams News Center
This piece was published by the Guardian on April 26, 2006.

"Humans have fared badly. In the past few weeks four major scientific reports have challenged the World Health Organisation (WHO), which believes that only 50 people have died and 9,000 may over the coming years. The reports widely accuse WHO of ignoring the evidence and dismissing illnesses that many doctors in Ukraine, Russia and Belarus say are worsening, especially in children of liquidators. The charge is led by the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, which last week declared that 212,000 people have now died as a direct consequence of Chernobyl. Meanwhile, a major report commissioned by Greenpeace considers the evidence of 52 scientists and estimates the deaths and illnesses to be 93,000 terminal cancers already and perhaps 100,000 deaths in time. A further report for European parliamentarians suggested 60,000 deaths. In truth no one knows."

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006

Sunday, April 23, 2006

The Democracy Gap

by Ralph Nader
Common Dreams News Center

Export This?
by Jim Holt
The New York Times
Are we sure that what we are enjoying and promoting is democracy?... Our own government, to the Athenians, would look like an elective oligarchy. In fact, it was deliberately set up to ensure, as James Madison wrote in the Federalist Papers, "the total exclusion of the people in their collective capacity, from any share" in it."
Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

Saturday, April 22, 2006

A Proposal for Lasting Peace in Darfur

by Human Rights First

"Our proposal for a senior envoy is based on three underlying assumptions:

(1) There is an immediate need to initiate an All Darfur Peace Dialogue to establish meaningful negotiation among all of the parties to the conflict in Darfur.
(2) There is a need for much greater pressure on regional governments as well as powerful governments in the world to exercise the political will to address the conflict.
(3) Despite the enormity of the problem and the staggering loss of life, there is still far too little public attention to Darfur."

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Top 10 Green Cities in the U.S.

by P.W. McRandle and Sara Smiley Smith
The Green Guide

The Green Guide's Top Green Cities 2006
1. Eugene, OR
2. Austin, TX
3. Portland, OR
4. St. Paul, MN
5. Santa Rosa, CA
6. Oakland, CA
7. Berkeley, CA
8. Honolulu, HI
9. Huntsville, AL
10. Denver, CO
© Copyright 2006 The Green Guide Institute.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

One-Woman Protest Helps Halt Huge Dam Project

by Justin Huggler
Common Dreams News Center
Published on April 19, 2006, by the Independent.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
-Margaret Mead

Many Children Left Behind

Can Uncounted Be Left? by The Contra Costa Times.

'No Child' Loophole Misses Millions of Scores by the Associated Press.

Education: Many Children Left Behind by the Center for American Progress.

Many Children Left Behind - A Review by No Child Left and FNO Press.

Monday, April 17, 2006

The Dangers of Nalgene Bottles and Food Cans

Hazards of Hydration by Frances Cerra Whittelsey, Sierra magazine, November 2003.

A Suspect Chemical in Plastic Bottles and Cans by Catherine Zandonella, The Green Guide, May 2006.

Our Stolen Future by Dr. Theo Colborn, Dianne Dumanoski, and Dr. John Peterson Myers, 2005.

An Extensive New Literature Concerning Low-Dose Effects of Bisphenol A Shows the Need for a New Risk Assessment by Frederick S. vom Saal and Claude Hughes, Environmental Health Perspectives, August 2005.

8 Ways to Avoid Harmful Chemicals in Plastics and Cans

1. If you already own polycarbonate bottles, including the Nalgene bottles popular on college campuses, labeled #7 on the bottom, wash them by hand with mild dishwashing soap, not in the dishwasher, to avoid degrading the plastic and increasing leaching of BPA (see "Picnic Perfect Plastics").

2. Even plastic does not last forever. Look for cracks or cloudiness on your reusable clear plastic bottles. See The Green Guide's survey, "A Nalgene Bottle Poll."

3. Use glass baby bottles or plastic bag inserts, which are made of polyethyelene, or switch to polypropylene bottles that are labeled #5 and come in colors or are milky rather than clear.

4. Choose soups, milk and soy milk packaged in cardboard "brick" cartons, by Tetra Pak and SIG Combibloc, which are made of safer layers of aluminum and polyethylene (#2) and also recyclable.

5. Choose canned foods from makers who don't use BPA, such as Eden Foods (, which sells certified organic canned beans and other foods.

6. Eat fresh foods in season and save the canned foods for convenience or emergencies. The exception is some canned fruit such as that found in smaller fruit-cocktail cans, which do not require a liner, according to the Can Manufacturers Institute.

7. Buy or can your own fruits and vegetables in safe glass jars. For more, see Amy's Green Kitchen "In a Summer Pickle".

8. Some wines have been found to contain up to six times the BPA of canned foods. While most wines probably don't, it's another good reason to drink in moderation.

© Copyright 2006 The Green Guide Institute.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

A Culture of Corruption

by Bill Moyers
The Washington Spectator

"You may say, "What can we do about it? These forces are too rich, too powerful, too entrenched to be defeated." Maybe. But if others had given up before us, blacks would still be three-fifths of a person, women wouldn't have the vote, workers couldn't organize, and children would still be working in the mines. It's time to fight again. These people in Washington have no right to be doing what they are doing. It's not their government, it's your government. They work for you, and if they let you down and sell you out, they should be fired. That goes for everyone, from the lowliest bureaucrat in town to the senior leaders of Congress on up to the president of the United States. The stakes are too high for us to give up."

©Copyright 2004-6, Public Concern Foundation Inc.

American Injustice Comes to Ithaca

by Anne Ju
The Ithaca Journal

Federal marshals showed up at Ithaca resident Bruce McDonald's downtown restaurant Wednesday afternoon, escorting him to a federal detention center in Batavia, N.Y., where he awaits deportation to his native Jamaica.

“They put him in a green van with tinted windows, and off they went,” said Marcia Fort, a friend of McDonald's family who said she'd spoken with McDonald's wife, Donya, after McDonald was taken away. Fort is executive director of Greater Ithaca Activities Center.

The 30-year Ithaca resident is being deported on the grounds of pleading guilty in 1999 to felony charges of drug possession — charges that were later reversed following a 2005 trial that acquitted McDonald of the felonies.

“I frankly was disheartened, but not surprised that the appeal was denied,” said Scott Miller, of Ithaca law firm Holmberg, Galbraith, Van Houten & Miller.

McDonald, whose wife and four children are U.S. citizens, first faced deportation proceedings in 1999 following a guilty plea for possession of marijuana and cocaine. His defense attorney at the time, Thomas Kheel, advised him to plead guilty. Shortly thereafter, McDonald said he did not know he would face deportation upon pleading guilty and said he would not have done so if he had known.

In early 2005, Tompkins County Judge John Rowley ordered a trial for McDonald based on the improper guilty plea, Miller explained. Based on a New York State Court of Appeals decision that came down in late 2004, the case was then sent back to Rowley for a ruling.

His indictment reinstated and his guilty pleas vacated, McDonald was tried and acquitted of the felony charges last spring.

While acquitted of the more serious drug charges, McDonald still faced two class B misdemeanor marijuana charges, plus a 1991 charge involving possession of a firearm, according to his lawyers. But those charges were much less serious, Miller said, and he would not have been deported based on just those offenses.

“In a terrible ironic twist, Bruce's immigration hearing, which was the hearing to determine whether in fact he should be deported based on the drug dealing conviction which Rowley had vacated, that hearing was scheduled two weeks before the trial,” Miller explained. A request to adjourn the hearing was denied, and a federal judge ruled that McDonald should be deported.

The immigration judge ordered McDonald deported last summer, according to Sophie Feal, a senior attorney with Buffalo-based Serotte, Reich & Wilson, who has been representing McDonald on his immigration proceedings since 2000. She appealed that deportation order to the Board of Immigration Appeals, but about a month ago, the board issued a decision affirming the judge's order.

“It was made by one member of the Board of Immigration Appeals, and it contains no assessment of the facts in the law,” Feal said.

Immigration officials in Buffalo, where McDonald's case was heard, could not be reached for comment.

Feal said that her firm will no longer be able to represent McDonald pro bono for the next step, which is to appeal the immigration board's decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals. A New York City law firm, Shearman & Sterling LLP, has agreed to take over the case pro bono, Feal said.

A call to the law firm was not returned on Wednesday, but Feal said she expected that a motion to stay — or delay — McDonald's deportation to Jamaica would be filed immediately.

McDonald was taken to the Batavia Federal Detention Facility Wednesday afternoon to await further action from immigrations officials.

Fort described McDonald as a good citizen, a strong provider for his family, and a frequent volunteer at GIAC, where his wife, who is expecting the couple's fifth child in about three weeks, has worked for several years.

“He went to prison, he suffered the consequences of his actions, but since that time he got out, and he did what I think we are supposed to want people to do, which is to turn their lives around and become productive citizens in whatever community they live in, and in the United States,” Fort said. “It is difficult to understand how this could be considered justice.”

Copyright ©2006 The Ithaca Journal

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Decline of the Penguins?

By Paul Rincon
BBC News

Have Some Arsenic With Your Chicken?

by Marian Burros
The New York Times

Arsenic may be called the king of poisons, but it is everywhere: in the environment, in the water we drink and sometimes in the food we eat.

The amount is not enough to kill anyone in one fell swoop, but arsenic is a recognized cancer-causing agent and many experts say that no level should be considered safe. Arsenic may also contribute to other life-threatening illnesses, including heart disease and diabetes, and to a decline in mental functioning.

Yet it is deliberately being added to chicken in this country, with many scientists saying it is unnecessary. Until recently there was a very high chance that if you ate chicken some arsenic would be present because it has been a government-approved additive in poultry feed for decades. It is used to kill parasites and to promote growth.

The chicken industry's largest trade group says that arsenic levels in its birds are safe. "We are not aware of any study that shows implications of any possibility of harm to human health as the result of the use of these products at the levels directed," said Richard Lobb, a spokesman for the National Chicken Council.

Chickens are not the only environmental source of arsenic. In addition to drinking water, for which the Environmental Protection Agency now sets a level of 10 parts per billion, other poultry, rice, fish and a number of foods also contain the poison. Soils are contaminated with arsenical pesticides from chicken manure; chicken litter containing arsenic is fed to other animals; and until 2003, arsenic was used in pressure-treated wood for decks and playground equipment.

Human exposure to it has been compounded because the consumption of chicken has exploded. In 1960, each American ate 28 pounds of chicken a year. For 2005, the figure is estimated at about 87 pounds per person. In spite of this threefold rise, the F.D.A. tolerance level for arsenic in chicken of 500 parts per billion, set decades ago, has not been revised.

A 2004 Department of Agriculture study on arsenic concluded that "the higher than previously recognized concentrations of arsenic in chicken combined with increasing levels of chicken consumption may indicate a need to review assumptions regarding overall ingested arsenic intake."

"When this source of arsenic is added to others, the exposure is cumulative, and people could be in trouble," said Dr. Ted Schettler, a physician and the science director at the Science & Environmental Health Network, founded by a consortium of environmental groups.

Those at greatest risk from arsenic are small children and people who consume chicken at a higher rate than what is considered average: two ounces per day for a 154-pound person. The good news for consumers is that arsenic-free chicken is more readily available than it has been in the past, as more processors eliminate its use.

Tyson Foods, the nation's largest chicken producer, has stopped using arsenic in its chicken feed. In addition, Bell & Evans and Eberly chickens are arsenic-free. There is a growing market in organic chicken and birds labeled "antibiotic-free": neither contains arsenic.

Dr. Paul Mushak, a toxicologist and arsenic expert, said that the fact that Tyson stopped using arsenic in 2004 is encouraging. "What that tells me as a toxicologist and health-risk assessor is that if a vertically integrated company like Tyson can do that then presumably anyone can get away from using arsenic."

But there are still plenty of chickens out there with arsenic.

A report by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, based in Minnesota, examined the levels of arsenic in supermarket chicken and chicken sold in fast-food outlets and found considerable variation. None of the samples in the study, collected in December 2004 and January 2005, exceeded the F.D.A. tolerance levels. (The report is at

Dr. David Wallinga, a physician who is the director of the food and health program for the institute, a nonprofit advocacy group that promotes sustainability and family farms, tested 155 samples of raw chicken from 12 producers and 90 samples from 10 fast-food restaurants. Chicken from five of the brands had either no detectable levels of arsenic or levels so low they could be from environmental contamination: Gerber's Poultry, Raised Right, Smart Chicken and Rosie and Rocky Jr., both from Petaluma Poultry.

None of the fast-food chicken purchased was arsenic-free, but some had extremely low levels. KFC thighs bought in Minnesota, where the company's supplier does not use arsenic, had 2.2 parts per billion. The company would not comment on its suppliers in other states.

The report offers many caveats to the findings, cautioning that the results "are not definitive" because the sample size is small. The method used, says the report, "gives a snapshot picture of the arsenic found in those brands on that one day of testing."

Dr. Mushak described the Wallinga report as a pilot study. "It was done during a limited time period, with limited geographical reach and a limited number of sampling, but the information they came up with is not that far afield from the other information that is out there," he said, referring to the small amount of research that preceded Dr. Wallinga's work, including the Department of Agriculture study.

Dr. Tamar Lasky, an epidemiologist and the lead researcher on the Agriculture study, commended Dr. Wallinga for taking the initiative.

"We are at the beginning stages of understanding an issue that we, including scientists, knew very little about," she said.

In the Wallinga study, the chicken from Perdue, Foster Farms and Gold'n Plump tested positive for arsenic and the companies acknowledged that they sometimes use it. Trader Joe's samples also tested positive for arsenic but the company said it would have no comment.

McDonald's, the country's largest fast-food chain, said it does not use chicken with arsenic but the test revealed the presence of more than incidental amounts. Perhaps the chickens were purchased before the company started demanding arsenic-free chickens a couple of years ago.

Because there are still many more arsenic-fed than arsenic-free chickens for sale, consumers can reduce their exposure by buying from companies that have stopped using arsenic, or by choosing chickens labeled organic or antibiotic-free. They can also remove the skin from the chicken treated with arsenic, which reduces levels significantly.

Copyright © 2006 The New York Times Company

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EPA Air-toxics Plan Sparks Internal Rift

by Mark Clayton
The Christian Science Monitor

"The Environmental Protection Agency has drafted a plan that would allow so much extra industrial air pollution that 7 of 10 of the agency's own regional air-quality directors have signed on to a memo condemning it. The changes, the memo said, would "essentially negate" today's limits on industry toxic air emissions like arsenic, mercury, and lead..."

Copyright © 2006 The Christian Science Monitor

Hazardous Migration for Salamanders

by Jennie Daley
The Ithaca Journal

Blogger's note:
The modern ways of humans are often not kind to life on earth. Military weaponry and human conflict, toxic waste, "greenhouse gases", ozone depletion in the atmosphere, ozone production on the ground, deforestation, mining practices, jet planes, and loss of habitat all take their toll on our planet. But our extensive use of motor vehicles often takes the biggest toll on a personal and a local level. They not only create toxic air pollution, contribute to greenhouse gases, kill tens of thousands of people every year, swallow up much of our income, create the desire for wars, habitat destruction, and toxic ground and water pollution in our quest for petroleum, create the desire to build more roads and fix the ones we have swallowing up even more of our income in taxes and destroying even more habitat, but they can also have a serious effect on life on a small scale. Little critters, such as salamanders, need to cross roads and are defenseless against the motor vehicles that you and I use every day. Will awareness of our destruction cause us to change our ways or will we just shrug our shoulders and say there is nothing that can be done?


Tuesday, April 04, 2006

French Students and Workers are Right

by Mark Weisbrot
Common Dreams News Center

"The idea that labor protections are the cause of European unemployment is part of an overall myth that Europeans would benefit from a more American-style economy."

© 2006 Knight-Ridder/Tribune Information Services

Monday, April 03, 2006

Wrong on Iraq? Not Everyone

by Steve Rendall
FAIR's Extra!

10 Questions for Mikhail Gorbachev

by Sally B. Donnelly
Time magazine

"America is intoxicated by its position as the world's only superpower. It wants to impose its will. But America needs to get over that. It has responsibilities as well as power... I think some people may be pushing President Bush in the wrong direction. I don't think the U.S. can impose its will on others. This talk of pre-emptive strikes, of ignoring the U.N. Security Council and international legal obligations--all this is leading toward a dark night."
-Mikhail Gorbachev

April 10, 2006

History will remember Mikhail Gorbachev as the leader who brought openness (glasnost) and economic restructuring (perestroika) to the Soviet Union, ushering it toward the end of communism. In Rhode Island last week to speak at the Carnegie Abbey Club, Gorbachev, 75, sat down with TIME's Sally B. Donnelly to talk about his new book, To Understand Perestroika, Russia under Vladimir Putin and life after the 1999 death of his beloved wife Raisa.

WHY DID YOU WRITE YOUR NEW BOOK ABOUT PERESTROIKA? We think the introduction of perestroika in the Soviet Union [in 1985] was one of the three most significant events in Soviet history--the others are the 1917 revolution and the victory in World War II. On the 20th anniversary, we thought it important to note it and explain it. And while there has been sharp debate in Russia about perestroika--many people have considered it a bad thing for the country--I think people are starting to change, and polls are showing people appreciate what it did for the country. Seventy-seven percent of Russians say they want to live in a free and democratic country. That is the legacy of perestroika.

WHO STILL THINKS PERESTROIKA WAS BAD FOR RUSSIA? The old ruling class, the former communists, veterans. I understand--they have very hard lives now. Life is very difficult for some in Russia today. But I want them to think about it again.

WHAT IS THE ROOT OF THE CURRENT DIFFICULTIES IN THE LIVES OF MANY RUSSIANS? [Former President Boris] Yeltsin ruined the country. He allowed the wealth of the country to be taken by a few people. And the West was never critical of Yeltsin. I think President Vladimir Putin is correcting the mess that Yeltsin made.

IS PUTIN ON THE RIGHT TRACK? Putin is trying to move toward more social-democratic policies--to improve health care, education and the like. But just as Russia is beginning to rise again, the West doesn't accept it. America is intoxicated by its position as the world's only superpower. It wants to impose its will. But America needs to get over that. It has responsibilities as well as power. I say this as a good friend of America.

THE U.S. SEEMS WORRIED ABOUT SOME ANTIDEMOCRATIC DEVELOPMENTS IN RUSSIA, SUCH AS KREMLIN CONTROL OF THE MEDIA. The U.S. should be concerned about Russian domestic issues if Russians are concerned. Yes, the media are under some assault. There are some authoritarian methods being used. That is not in the interests of the people. Democracy is fragile.

DO YOU THINK WE ARE MOVING BACK TOWARD A COLD WAR? I think some people may be pushing President Bush in the wrong direction. I don't think the U.S. can impose its will on others. This talk of pre-emptive strikes, of ignoring the U.N. Security Council and international legal obligations--all this is leading toward a dark night.

IS CONDOLEEZZA RICE ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE? Oh, I don't think so. She is a knowledgeable person, a person who knows Russia, a cultured person. She is one who is committed to political and diplomatic solutions. But she is having a difficult time. So did Colin Powell.

HOW HAS LIFE BEEN FOR YOU SINCE THE DEATH OF YOUR WIFE RAISA IN 1999? That is something I can speak about more calmly now, but for a while after she died, I thought there was nothing positive about life. I have learned how important family is. I spend a lot of time with my daughter Irina and my two granddaughters. They have busy lives, but we do things together like go out to restaurants.

ARE YOU ENJOYING LIFE? Yes, but there are some difficulties. Traveling is physically hard. And my [government] pension is only 40,000 rubles a month [about $1,400].

HAVE YOU PICKED UP ANY NEW HOBBIES? I have become really interested in fitness--my daughter encouraged me. I have a gym at home with a treadmill, a bike and weights. And I really love those elastic resistance ropes. They're great. We also like to cook. I love Russian food the most, but also Italian and Mediterranean. I am more involved as the theoretical director of meals, but when they are ready, I get involved at the consumption stage too. [Laughs] Then I have to explain to people why I can't lose weight.

Copyright © 2006 Time Inc.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Eliot Spitzer Campaigns on the Environment

by The Associated Press
March 30, 2006

"George Bush is, hands down, the worst president on environmental and energy issues that this country has ever seen..."

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press

Agent Orange: The Legacy of a Weapon of Mass Destruction