Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Granny D Talks About the Future

by Doris Haddock
Common Dreams News Center

The following remarks were made on May 27, 2006, by Doris "Granny D" Haddock during the "Heartwood" forest conference in West Virginia.

"...Strategically, I can image two possible outcomes for this battle. One is dark and one is bright.

"Here is the dark one. Global catastrophe builds upon global catastrophe. Democracies become dictatorships as the masses reach for leadership and rescue from storm, pestilence and famine. Shooting wars break out between those who follow and those who oppose. A time of violence and suffering falls upon the planet. The resources that could have been spent to repair the ecosystem are needed for police security and mass imprisonment or worse. The weakened species, as a whole, finds itself in no position to survive when agricultural systems collapse and anarchy overwhelms all authority. I cannot see much past that, though there is probably much to see.

"Here is the bright one. Global catastrophe builds upon global catastrophe. (Yes, I know it starts out badly.) More and more people opt out of the carbon economy to join a rising society of people and communities who have moved rapidly toward an ethic of responsibility and sustainability. These communities produce the best leaders, more and more of whom are elected to national positions. Many existing national leaders begin to move toward the ethic of these communities and of sustainability. More and more towns and cities, led by goal- setting organizations dominated by young people, accept sustainable goals. The first President of the United States from such a community is elected in the same year that similar leaders are chosen in Europe, India and several other regions. The Untied Nations is rapidly reorganized around its own Universal Declaration of Human Rights and a post-carbon age economic model. Multi-national corporations are outlawed, as corporations must now be overseen by the communities that grant their limited, public purpose charters...

"...Here is why the brighter scenario is the more realistic: the problems of the carbon age are not based on innate self-destructiveness, they are based on addiction, and all the enabling supports of that addiction are unsustainable and are now teetering. We who lose more environmental battles than we win are now about to win the war. We must become ready to keep that victory from turning into a new kind of hell...

"...It is interesting to be in a region where so many people escaped that corporate lemming treadmill in the 1960s and 70s to create just such communities. Some of the places survive as small communities or weekend retreats where friends may be free and happy. The parties are good, I am told. But gray heads cannot change the world alone, and, while escapism is healthy for personal renewal, it is not revolution, and revolution is what we need. It will come from people now in junior high school and younger.

"Do not despair; they are but a few years from voting, if voting will mean anything. We do not have to tell them about fairness or about the value of a healthy earth or the value of freedom. But we do have to give them ways to move their ideals into effective political action. Can we help them be more effective than we have done for ourselves? I think we can, and I will get to that.

"First, here are a few things I hope we can do to prepare the ground for a peaceful, happy revolution.

"We need to make the better world visible, so the carbon addict may be drawn to it, and may see it as a place to go as nature begins to vote more often in her harsh way-and there is no way to rig her vote.

"We must encourage and advance the positive, human-scaled and community-based systems already in place, such as community supported agriculture, edible schoolyard programs, local economy support projects and the like. We must go far beyond these ideas. We must create political support organizations in every housing project, to assist people with their immediate needs and build a new base for progressive politics. We must work closer with labor unions, so that they see a longer view, particularly in regard to environmental issues, and so that the tremendous political power of united workers begins again to shape public policy. We need more "listening projects," to hear people and connect with their higher values. Many of you are doing precisely these things. We need a greater international reach. If some local communities in this country would partner with communities in, for example, Mexico, non-exploitive agricultural cooperatives can be established that enable people to stay in the communities they love, rather than suffer the abuses of illegal immigration. Let's create the leadership for a better world, and let's make it visible and attractive and real...

"...Part of the problem of the progressive left is that we have fragmented into dozens of organizations, each of which must struggle for funds and email addresses and all the rest. We need to fold ourselves back into the Democratic Party and thoroughly invigorate it. Do not worry that we will cause the Party to marginalize itself. If the Party can base its actions on good science, effective governance, and efficient delivery of the programs the people need, it will prosper across all the left and all the middle of the American political spectrum. But by splitting ourselves off into all these good government organizations we have left the party to the selfish elites, and they don't know how to serve the people or the truth, and that means they do not know how to win...

" is time to know that a phase is over, and we must be ready to move into a better world or another bad one. It is time to do new things to advance new voices and new visions of the better world we want for our children..."

© Copyrighted 1997-2006

Doris Haddock turned 96 on January 24, 2006.

Study Finds No Link Between Marijuana and Lung Cancer

by David Biello
Scientific American
May 24, 2006

The smoke from burning marijuana leaves contains several known carcinogens and the tar it creates contains 50 percent more of some of the chemicals linked to lung cancer than tobacco smoke. A marijuana cigarette also deposits four times as much of that tar as an equivalent tobacco one. Scientists were therefore surprised to learn that a study of more than 2,000 people found no increase in the risk of developing lung cancer for marijuana smokers.

"We expected that we would find that a history of heavy marijuana use--more than 500 to 1,000 uses--would increase the risk of cancer from several years to decades after exposure to marijuana," explains physician Donald Tashkin of the University of California, Los Angeles, and lead researcher on the project. But looking at residents of Los Angeles County, the scientists found that even those who smoked more than 20,000 joints in their life did not have an increased risk of lung cancer.

The researchers interviewed 611 lung cancer patients and 1,040 healthy controls as well as 601 patients with cancer in the head or neck region under the age of 60 to create the statistical analysis. They found that 80 percent of those with lung cancer and 70 percent of those with other cancers had smoked tobacco while only roughly half of both groups had smoked marijuana. The more tobacco a person smoked, the greater the risk of developing cancer, as other studies have shown.

But after controlling for tobacco, alcohol and other drug use as well as matching patients and controls by age, gender and neighborhood, marijuana did not seem to have an effect, despite its unhealthy aspects. "Marijuana is packed more loosely than tobacco, so there's less filtration through the rod of the cigarette, so more particles will be inhaled," Tashkin says. "And marijuana smokers typically smoke differently than tobacco smokers; they hold their breath about four times longer allowing more time for extra fine particles to deposit in the lungs."

The study does not reveal how marijuana avoids causing cancer. Tashkin speculates that perhaps the THC chemical in marijuana smoke prompts aging cells to die before becoming cancerous. Tashkin and his colleagues presented the findings yesterday at a meeting of the American Thoracic Society in San Diego.

© 1996-2006 Scientific American, Inc.

Stop the National Animal Identification System

by the Organic Consumers Association

Congress is on the brink of voting on an important amendment that could stop the USDA from spending money to implement a controversial program called the National Animal Identification System. Follow this link for more information on "Animal I.D."

While this program is being sold as a way to prevent disease, the real motive behind it is to aid corporate agribusiness. If implemented, this tracking program will have a devastating impact on small family farmers who are already struggling. Please call your representative and ask them to support this amendment.

The USDA’s current plan to create an animal identification system has lots of problems:
1. It does not prevent animal diseases like mad cow or reform the livestock production practices that lead to disease.
2. It does not address the USDA’s weak rules for recalling meat, a vital step in preventing animal diseases from impacting people.
3. It discriminates against small farmers and ranchers.
4. It does not track imported animals or animals once they reach a slaughter facility.
5. It could allow private entities (like meat industry trade associations) to manage the program’s databases, without guaranteeing farmers and ranchers that business information about their operations will be protected.

Rather than devote time and resources to implementing a flawed animal identification system, Congress and USDA should be working to prevent animal diseases like mad cow disease and avian influenza that are the result of factory farm production methods. If they are sincere about gathering information necessary to track animal diseases, they should immediately fund and implement Country of Origin Labeling for meat, which would not only give consumers information about their food, but also allow imported animals to be easily identified.

See also:
Old Big Brother Had a Farm
USDA Poised to Push Us Off Our Farms With the National Animal Identification System

Bush Energy Plan Whacks Conservation

by Mark Clayton
The Christian Science Monitor
May 31, 2006

A few years ago a little-known US Energy Department program helped produce a design technology for lightweight cars and trucks that in 2004 alone saved the nation 122 million barrels of oil, or about $9 billion.

Even without that breakthrough, the tiny Industrial Technologies Program routinely saves the United States $7 worth of energy for each dollar it spends, proponents say.

So, with energy prices spiking and President Bush pushing for more energy research, the ITP would seem a natural candidate for more funding. In fact, its budget is set to get chopped by a third from its 2005 level. It's one of more than a dozen energy-efficiency efforts that the Energy Department plans to trim or eliminate in a $115 million cost-saving move.

The push to solve the nation's energy woes are bumping up against the federal government's budget problems. To be sure, the Bush administration is anxious to fund its new Advanced Energy Initiative - long-term research into nuclear, coal, wind, solar, and hydrogen power. But to accomplish that, it is cutting lesser-known programs like ITP whose payoffs are far more near-term.

"This is the worst time to be cutting these programs," says William Prindle, deputy director of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, a Washington think tank. "At this point in time, with high energy prices and pressures, you'd think maybe we'd want to invest in a suite of energy-efficiency programs that make a dent right away."

If Congress accepts the Energy Department's proposed 2007 budget, it will cut $152 million - some 16 percent - from this year's budget for energy-efficiency programs. Adjusting for inflation, it would mean the US government would spend 30 percent less on energy efficiency next year than it did in 2002, the ACEEE says.

Copyright © 2006 The Christian Science Monitor

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Reform the System Or Lose the Democracy

by Molly Ivins
May 30, 2006

A Houston jury convicted both Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling, despite the fact that Kenny Boy packed his Bible to the courtroom every day.

Since it is a long and noble Texas tradition for the accused to fight all allegations by finding Jesus, this indicates a major degree of guilt. (While on trial for murder, T. Cullen Davis, the Fort Worth millionaire, not only found Jesus but also threw a big party to celebrate at the mansion, with piles of shrimp and BBQ and a soundtrack that announced over and over throughout the grounds that night, “The son of Stinky Davis has found the son of God.")

Meanwhile, Houston reacted as though the Rockets had won the NBA championship.

Many a thoughtful analyst has given us to understand that Lay and Skilling are guilty of arrogance and hubris. Actually, they were convicted of fraud—massive, overwhelming and monstrous fraud. They also stole money and looted pension funds. They rigged energy markets and almost drove California (seventh-largest economy in the world) into bankruptcy.

And all along the way, this monstrous fraud was connected to government. Enron bought the politicians who bent the rules that let them steal, con and gyp. Lay and Skilling talked state after state into following the California model and deregulating electricity. Happy summer, everyone.

And then, of course, there was the thumbing-the-nose thievery, the offshore partnerships tricked out with the clever names so insiders would know how slick they were.

As the late Rep. Wright Patman Sr. observed: “Many of our wealthiest and most powerful citizens are very greedy. This fact has many times been demonstrated.”

The interesting thing about Lay and Skilling is they weren’t trying to evade the rules, they were rigging the rules in their favor. The fix was in—much of it law passed by former Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas, whose wife, Wendy, served on the board of Enron.

Where does that sense of entitlement come from? What makes a Ken Lay think he can call the governor of Texas and ask him to soften up Gov. Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania on electricity deregulation? Not that being governor of Texas has ever been an office of much majesty, but a corporate robber wouldn’t think of doing that if it were Brian Schweitzer of Montana or Bill Richardson of New Mexico.

The extent to which not just state legislatures but the Congress of the United States are now run by large corporate special interests is beyond mere recognition as fact. The takeover is complete. Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay put in place a system in which it’s not a question of letting the head of the camel into the tent—the camels run the place.

It has all happened quite quickly—in less than 20 years. Laws were changed and regulations repealed until an Enron can set sail without responsibility, supervision or accountability. The business pages are fond of trumpeting the merits of “transparency” and “accountability,” but you will notice whenever there is a chance to roll back any of the New Deal regs, the corporations go for broke trying to get rid of them entirely.

I’m not attempting to make this a partisan deal—only 73 percent of Enron’s political donations went to Republicans. But I’ll be damned if Enron’s No. 1 show pony politician, George W. Bush, should be allowed to walk away from this. Ken Lay gave $139,500 to Bush over the years. He chipped in $100,000 to the Bush Cheney Inaugural Fund in 2000 and $10K to the Bush-Cheney Recount Fund.

Plus, Enron’s PAC gave Bush $113,800 for his ‘94 and ‘98 political races and another $312,500 from its executives. Bush got 14 free rides on Enron’s corporate jets during the 2000 campaign, including at least two during the recount. Until January 2004, Enron was Bush’s top contributor.

And what did it get for its money? Ken Lay was on Bush’s short list to be energy secretary. He not only almost certainly served on Cheney’s energy task force, there is every indication that the task force’s energy plan, the one we have been on for five years, is in fact the Enron plan. Lay used Bush as an errand boy, calling the governor of Texas and having him phone Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania to vouch for what swell energy deregulation bills Enron was sponsoring in states all over the country.

It seems to me we all understand this is a systemic problem.

We need to reform the political system, or we’ll lose the democracy. I don’t think it’s that hard. It doesn’t take rocket science. We’ve done it before successfully at the presidential level and tried it several places at the state level. Public campaign financing isn’t perfect and can doubtlessly be improved upon as we go. Let us begin.

Copyright © 2006 Truthdig, L.L.C.

Monday, May 29, 2006

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Rules Collide With Reality in the Immigration Debate

by Julia Preston
The New York Times
May 29, 2006

Six years after he came here from Mexico, David E. has a steady job in a poultry plant, a tidy mobile home and a minivan. Some days he almost forgets that he does not have legal documents to be in this country.

David's precarious success reflects the longtime disconnect between the huge number of Mexican immigrants the American economy has absorbed and the much smaller number the immigration system has allowed to enter legally.

Like many Mexicans, David — who spoke in Spanish and whose last name is being withheld because he feared being fired or deported — was drawn by the near-certain prospect of work when he made his stealthy passage across the desert border in Arizona to this town among the cucumber fields of eastern North Carolina.

"If I had the resources and the connections to apply to come legally," said David, 37, "I wouldn't need to leave Mexico to work in this country."

In the foundering immigration system being debated in Congress, immigration from Mexico is a critically broken part and, researchers and analysts say, central to any meaningful fix.

By big margins, Mexican workers have been the dominant group coming to the United States over the last two decades, yet Washington has opened only limited legal channels for them, and has then repeatedly narrowed those channels.

"People ask: Why don't they come legally? Why don't they wait in line?" said Jeffrey S. Passel, a demographer at the Pew Hispanic Center, a research organization in Washington. "For most Mexicans, there is no line to get in."

The United States offers 5,000 permanent visas worldwide each year for unskilled laborers. Last year, two of them went to Mexicans. In the same year, about 500,000 unskilled Mexican workers crossed the border illegally, researchers estimate, and most of them found jobs.

"We have a neighboring country with a population of 105 million that is our third-largest trading partner, and it has the same visa allocation as Botswana or Nepal," said Douglas S. Massey, a sociology professor at Princeton.

Several guest worker programs exist for Mexicans to come temporarily to the United States. But there is general agreement that those programs are inefficient, and employers often avoid them.

The 11.6 million people born in Mexico who now live in the United States account for one-third of all residents who were born overseas, census figures show. About six million of the Mexican immigrants are here illegally, more than half of all the illegal immigrants in the country, Professor Passel estimated.

For generations, starting with the Bracero program in the 1950's, Mexican men came to the United States to work for a few months each year before returning home to their families. But in the last 20 years, Mexicans "have settled in the United States; they have kids born here," said Wayne Cornelius, director of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at the University of California, San Diego.

"Clearly there are some migrants who attempt to maintain an economic foothold in Mexico," Mr. Cornelius said. "But their main project is to build their lives in the United States."

And so communities of illegal Mexican immigrants have sprung up in places like Mount Olive, a town far from the border with a famous pickle factory and a population of 5,000. Grocery stores on country roadsides carry corn tortillas — authentic ones imported from Mexico. A Pentecostal church has services in Spanish only, and the Virgin of Guadalupe, Mexico's patroness, is a common image on key chains and mobile home walls.

In North Carolina, the immigrant population has nearly tripled since 1990, the biggest increase of any state in the nation, according to the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan group in Washington. By far the biggest group of new immigrants in the state is illegal Mexicans.

Stephen P. Gennett, president of the Carolinas chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America, which represents commercial builders, said Mexican immigrants filled an important gap in the labor market.

"We have a problem here: a people shortage," Mr. Gennett said. "In the 90's, we began to feel the stress of an inadequate work force," he said. "The Hispanics have been filling those jobs."

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

House Wrong On Mideast

by the Madison Capital Times
May 26, 2006

Since the political wing of the militant group Hamas swept parliamentary elections in the Palestinian territories, the United States and Israel have been trying to use economic pressure to force a change of course. Disregarding the democracy that President Bush says he wants to promote in the Middle East, the United States has sanctioned policies that have fostered chaos on the Gaza Strip and the West Bank and created increasingly harsh conditions for people who have known more than their share of suffering.

Former President Jimmy Carter has decried the reaction to the Palestinian election. "It is unconscionable for Israel, the United States and others under their influence to continue punishing the innocent and already persecuted people of Palestine."

"Innocent Palestinian people are being treated like animals, with the presumption that they are guilty of some crime," argues Carter, a Nobel Peace Prize winner whose involvement in the Middle East peace process has extended across three decades. "Because they voted for candidates who are members of Hamas, the United States government has become the driving force behind an apparently effective scheme of depriving the general public of income, access to the outside world and the necessities of life."

Unfortunately -- for Palestinians, Israelis and Americans -- U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, and most of her fellow House members decided this week that they know more about the Middle East peace process than Carter.

Instead of checking and balancing Bush's misguided approach to an election result that displeased him, Baldwin and her colleagues are adding fuel to the fire.

By a lopsided vote of 361 to 37, the House voted Tuesday for the so-called "Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act," a measure so draconian that even the Bush administration opposes it.

The legislation, which still must be reconciled with a similar measure passed by the Senate, would cut off all assistance to the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority and place conditions on humanitarian assistance delivered directly to the Palestinians by non-governmental organizations. Presidential spokesman Tony Snow, in restating the White House's opposition to the measure, says that it "unnecessarily constrains" the flow of essential humanitarian aid -- food, fresh water, medicine.

It also has the potential to encourage, rather than restrain, violence.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., who was one of the few opponents of the legislation, rightly said that the approach endorsed by most of his colleagues will strengthen the hand of Palestinian extremists.

"It does little to prioritize on the basis of our strategic interests and provides no prospect for Palestinian reform coming through the process of negotiations," Blumenauer said. "In so doing, it weakens the hands of those who advocate for peace negotiations and supports those extremists who believe in violence."

Debra DeLee, president of Americans for Peace Now, which works closely with Israeli groups seeking a peaceful settlement of tensions with the Palestinians, calls the bill "an exercise in overreaching that will undercut American national security needs, Israeli interests, and hope for the Palestinian people if it's ever signed into law."

Despite its dramatic flaws, the bill drew bipartisan support. Among the backers of this bad legislation were Wisconsin Democrats Baldwin and Ron Kind, as well as Wisconsin Republicans Mark Green, Paul Ryan, Tom Petri and Jim Sensenbrenner.

Hopes by Americans for Peace Now to alter the legislation during the reconciliation process have been dimmed by the overwhelming House vote in favor of this misguided measure. It is especially disappointing that Baldwin, who usually gets international affairs issues right, got this one so very wrong -- and, in so doing, undermined prospects for peace and progress in the Middle East.

© 2006 The Capital Times

Friday, May 26, 2006

Here We Go Again

If At First You Don't Succeed ... Keep Not Succeeding

Here we go again: for the 947th time, the House has passed legislation that would open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling. Less than six months before congressional elections, House Republicans are desperate to show they're doing something about high gas prices. Of course, that something is largely symbolic, as the measure is likely to crash and burn in the Senate. The bill passed 225-201; 30 Republicans voted against drilling, but were balanced out by 27 Democrats who voted in favor. The drilling measure's chief sponsor, California Republican Richard Pombo (who else?), thundered at Democrats, "You've got this pie-in-the-sky [idea] that we're going to invent a 100-mile-per-gallon carburetor, and all of a sudden our problems are going to go away." He's right, you know. Our problems won't go away until we drill in the refuge and gas prices drop. By a penny. In a decade.

straight to the source: Los Angeles Times, Richard Simon, 26 May 2006

©2006 Grist Magazine, Inc.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Washingtonians Test Positive for Toxic Chemicals

May 23, 2006

Today a diverse group of Washingtonians gathered together for the first time to react to results from recent lab testing of their blood, hair, and urine, which detected from 26 to 39 toxic chemicals in each of their bodies.

According to Pollution in People, a study commissioned by the Toxic-Free Legacy Coalition, all of the study participants tested positive for multiple toxic chemicals. The chemicals tested for included: common pesticides such as carbaryl; plasticizers and fragrance carriers found in vinyl, toys, and personal care products; perfluorinated chemicals such as those used to make “Teflon” and stain-repellants found in some food packaging, carpeting, and clothing; toxic flame retardants found in electronics such as televisions, mattresses, and furniture; heavy metals such as lead, mercury, and arsenic; and even chemicals such as DDT and PCBs, which have been banned for decades.

“To find out I have this load of toxic chemicals in my own body and know there isn’t really any way to keep them out is very disturbing,” said Allyson Schrier, a test subject, children’s book author, and mother of two. Schrier added, “I have a son with learning disabilities and to think that exposure to toxic chemicals may have played a role in that makes me feel angry, sad, and helpless.”

The chemicals detected in the 10 Washingtonians tested have been linked with serious health problems such as infertility, cancer, and learning deficits.

  • Several test subjects had levels of chemicals that were at, near, or even higher than EPA “safe” levels.
  • All 10 participants tested positive for “Teflon chemicals” or PFCs, one of which has been declared a “likely carcinogen.”
  • Phthalates, dubbed the “everywhere chemical,” also showed up in all of the participants. Linked in boys and men to reproductive problems such as small or abnormal testes, lower sperm counts and damaged sperm, phthalates are found in a wide array of everyday products including cosmetics, vinyl toys, and vinyl flooring.
  • Even toxics expert and organic gardener and shopper Laurie Valeriano tested positive for more than two dozen chemicals.

“Something should have been done to make sure these toxic chemicals were better regulated 20 years ago,” said Dr. Patricia Dawson, one of the test subjects and a breast cancer surgeon at Swedish Providence Medical Center.

Most of the nearly 82,000 chemicals in use today are not tested for toxicity and are not required by federal law to pass basic health and safety testing, and Washington state lacks the regulatory structure to prevent harmful chemicals from turning up in products, air, water, and people.

“We know enough now to act to restrict the use of many of these toxic chemicals; waiting for people to get sick or tackling the problem chemical by chemical won’t address this threat to our health,” said Pam Tazioli, one of the test subjects, a breast cancer survivor, and the Washington state coordinator for the Breast Cancer Fund.

The chemicals turning up in people come from some obvious sources such as food, but exposure to many of them also comes from other everyday products such as cosmetics, vinyl, home electronics and furniture, packaging, pans, and even clothing. The presence of these toxic chemicals is often not on the label, and the companies that sell them may not even know whether they contain the chemicals.

“The system is broken and in urgent need of comprehensive reform. It is time to stop putting people at risk for serious health problems from exposure to toxic chemicals they have no control over,” said Washington Toxics Coalition staff scientist and author of the study, Erika Schreder.

State Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown of Spokane, who was also a test subject, commented, “Innovative businesses, as well as state and local government agencies, have begun to phase out some dangerous chemicals. We need a more comprehensive policy to ensure that Washington is not only the most beautiful place in the world to live, work, and raise a family, but also a truly healthy place to call home.”

The Toxic-Free Legacy Coalition offered consumers the following tips for avoiding toxic chemicals in their homes:

  • Choose organic food, at least for these foods found to be most contaminated by pesticides: apples, bell peppers, celery, cherries, grapes, nectarines, peaches, pears, potatoes, raspberries, spinach, and strawberries.
  • Don't buy products made of vinyl (PVC). There are many alternatives to vinyl toys, flooring, shower curtains, and food packaging.
  • Choose cosmetics and personal products from companies that are committed to safer products made without toxic chemicals like phthalates. These include Burt's Bees, Avalon, and Aubrey Organics.
  • When buying seafood, make safer choices such as wild salmon, Pacific cod, Alaskan black cod, Atlantic herring, tilapia, and sardines. Avoid more contaminated fish such as tuna steaks, swordfish, and king mackerel.
  • Contact your elected officials and tell them it's time for a new common sense chemicals policy that will keep our families safe.
For more information, go to

Copyright Pollution in People 2006

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Ten Stories the World Should Hear More About

by the United Nations Department of Public Information

Concerned that some issues continue not to receive sustained media attention or slip off the radar screen, the United Nations Department of Public Information (DPI) has unveiled a new list of "Ten Stories the World Should Hear More About."

"The media and the UN share an interest in getting information about what is happening in our world to the public," says Shashi Tharoor, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information. "But journalists are often inundated with stories, all competing for their -- and the public's -- attention. Our aim is to make it easier for them to see that important issues do not fade from the headlines."

The initiative, first launched in 2004, is not meant to be representative of the Organization's agenda. As in previous years, the 2006 list covers a spectrum of issues and geographical regions, some of which draw on troubling humanitarian emergencies and conflict situations (such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nepal) while others focus on such vital areas as human rights (asylum law and child prisoners) and development (Liberia and water as a shared resource).

While the stories are enumerated from one to ten, their ranking is not a reflection of their relative significance. In this year's list, some stories focus on conflicts that may have been in the media spotlight - but highlight a perspective that does not usually get much play. Although DPI takes responsibility for the final list, it was arrived at following extensive consultation with UN departments, field offices and programmes.

© United Nations 2006

Iran Proposal to U.S. Offered Peace with Israel

by Gareth Porter
Inter Press Service
May 24, 2006

Iran offered in 2003 to accept peace with Israel and cut off material assistance to Palestinian armed groups and to pressure them to halt terrorist attacks within Israel's 1967 borders, according to the secret Iranian proposal to the United States.

The two-page proposal for a broad Iran-U.S. agreement covering all the issues separating the two countries, a copy of which was obtained by IPS, was conveyed to the United States in late April or early May 2003. Trita Parsi, a specialist on Iranian foreign policy at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies who provided the document to IPS, says he got it from an Iranian official earlier this year but is not at liberty to reveal the source.

The two-page document contradicts the official line of the George W. Bush administration that Iran is committed to the destruction of Israel and the sponsorship of terrorism in the region.

Parsi says the document is a summary of an even more detailed Iranian negotiating proposal which he learned about in 2003 from the U.S. intermediary who carried it to the State Department on behalf of the Swiss Embassy in late April or early May 2003. The intermediary has not yet agreed to be identified, according to Parsi.

The Iranian negotiating proposal indicated clearly that Iran was prepared to give up its role as a supporter of armed groups in the region in return for a larger bargain with the United States. What the Iranians wanted in return, as suggested by the document itself as well as expert observers of Iranian policy, was an end to U.S. hostility and recognition of Iran as a legitimate power in the region.

Copyright © 2006 IPS-Inter Press Service