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Mysterious Tubular Clouds Defy Explanation 24 Aug 2009 These long, crazy-looking clouds can grow to be 600 miles long and can move at up to 35 miles per hour, causing problems for aircraft even on windless days. Known as Morning Glory clouds, they appear every fall over Burketown, Queensland, Australia, a remote town with fewer than 200 residents. Similar tubular shaped clouds called roll clouds appear in various places around the globe.  For complete story, click here.
Scientists: Global warming has already changed oceans 09 Jun 2009 Researchers, scientists and Jacques Cousteau's granddaughter painted a bleak picture Tuesday of the future of oceans and the "blue economy" of the nation's coastal states. The hearing before the oceans subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee was expected to focus on how the degradation of the oceans was affecting marine businesses and coastal communities. Instead, much of the testimony focused on how the waters that cover 70 percent of the planet are already changing because of global warming.  For complete story, click here.
Recycled radioactive metal contaminates consumer products --No federal agency is responsible for oversight. 03 Jun 2009 Thousands of everyday products and materials containing radioactive metals are surfacing across the United States and around the world. Common kitchen cheese graters, reclining chairs, women's handbags and tableware manufactured with contaminated metals have been identified, some after having been in circulation for as long as a decade... A Scripps Howard News Service investigation has found that -- because of haphazard screening, an absence of oversight and substantial disincentives for businesses to report contamination -- no one knows how many tainted goods are in circulation in the United States.  For complete story, click here.
Study Confirms Genetically Modified Crops Threaten Human Fertility and Health Safety--November 16th, 2008-- (Los Angeles, CA.) - A long-term feeding study commissioned by the Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety, managed by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Health, Family and Youth, and carried out by Veterinary University Vienna, confirms genetically modified (GM) corn seriously affects reproductive health in mice. Non-GMO advocates, who have warned about this infertility link along with other health risks, now seek an immediate ban of all GM foods and GM crops to protect the health of humankind and the fertility of women around the world. Feeding mice with genetically modified corn developed by the US-based Monsanto Corporation led to lower fertility and body weight, according to the study conducted by the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna. Lead author of the study Professor Zentek said, there was a direct link between the decrease in fertility and the GM diet, and that mice fed with non-GE corn reproduced more efficiently. In the study, Austrian scientists performed several long-term feeding trials over 20 weeks with laboratory mice fed a diet containing 33% of a GM variety (NK 603 x MON 810), or a closely related non-GE variety used in many countries. Statistically significant litter size and pup weight decreases were found in the third and fourth litters in the GM-fed mice, compared to the control group.   The corn is genetically modified with genes that produce a pesticidal toxin, as well as genes that allow it to survive applications of Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup.  For complete story, click here.
GOVERNMENT SLASHES PESTICIDE REPORTING LAWS--Bowing to pressure from Monsanto and the agro-toxics industry, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced May 21 that it plans to eliminate pesticide reporting at National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). The program has tracked national pesticide use and provided critical information for consumer groups, scientists, farmers and environmental groups monitoring pesticide use and hazards.. NASS' elimination of the Agricultural Chemical Use Database is a direct attack on consumers and farmworkers' Right to Know about pesticide residues and food safety. Pesticide reporting has become particularly important in the last ten years with Genetically Engineered crops requiring more and more pesticides. Please contact USDA Secretary Ed Schafer and your Congressperson today: http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_12662.cfm  For complete story, click here.
Britain to allow blended human, animal embryos--May 20th, 2008--LONDON — British lawmakers voted Monday to allow the use of animal-human embryos for research after a national debate that pitted religious leaders who called it unethical against the prime minister and scientists who said it would help cure disease. Last month, scientists at Newcastle created part-human, part-animal embryos for the first time in Britain. An attempt Monday night to ban the process, during consideration in the House of Commons of the first major revisions to embryo research laws in a generation, failed overwhelmingly on a vote of 336 to 176. The overall bill, argued Prime Minister Gordon Brown, would enable lifesaving research that could help people with Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and other diseases. He said in an article published in the Observer newspaper Sunday, "I believe that we owe it to ourselves and future generations to introduce these measures." The bill would allow scientists to continue injecting an empty cow or rabbit egg with human DNA. A burst of electricity then is used to trick the egg into dividing regularly, so it becomes a very early embryo, from which stem cells can be extracted. Scientists say the embryos would not be allowed to develop for more than 14 days and are intended to address the shortage of human embryos available for stem-cell research. By allowing such mixed embryo experiments, Britain is expected to maintain its reputation as a leading center for stem-cell research. Cardinal Keith O'Brien, a leading figure in the Catholic Church, had described the research as a "monstrous attack on human rights, human dignity and human life." He said the bill would allow experiments of "Frankenstein proportion." Human Genetics Alert, a science watchdog in favor of the ban, claims the laws could lead to the creation of genetically modified "designer babies." Lawmakers also voted late Monday to support the government's plans to allow "savior siblings," the screening of embryos for genetic characteristics in cases in which a parent is seeking a child to help a diseased older child in need of tissue donation.  For complete story, click here.
US Navy infectious disease lab under microscope in Indonesia --US insists all American staff at disease lab be given diplomatic immunity 02 May 2008 The future of a major US Navy research laboratory in Indonesia is in doubt amid allegations, dismissed as "crazy" by US diplomats, of espionage and secret experiments. Negotiations between Washington and Jakarta over the renewal of the operating contract of US Naval Medical Research Unit-2, or Namru-2, have stalled over a range of issues including diplomatic immunity for its US staff. Established in Indonesia in 1970 and charged with researching infectious diseases of military importance [aka *bioterrorism*], the facility employs 19 Americans... and is based in Indonesian health ministry grounds. Parliamentary foreign affairs commissioner Mutamimul Ula called Thursday for an "investigation into allegations that Namru-2 staffers were involved in intelligence operations." The controversy and the delays in the renewal of the contract appear to be causing a degree of angst among US officials in the departments of health and state, reflecting the importance Washington attaches to the facility.  For complete story, click here.
U.S. Importing 6,700 Tons of Radioactive Sand From Kuwait --Sand contaminated with DU and lead from U.S. Army base in Kuwait to be shipped to Idaho 28 Apr 2008 Longshoremen should finish unloading 6,700 tons of sand contaminated with depleted uranium and lead Tuesday afternoon, said Chad Hyslop, spokesman for the disposal company American Ecology. The BBC Alabama arrived at the Port of Longview (WA) Saturday afternoon with the 306 containers carrying the contaminated sand from Camp Doha, a U.S. Army base in Kuwait. Half of the containers will be loaded onto 76 rail cars and transported to the company's disposal site in Idaho. The other half will remain at the port until the trains return to haul them to Idaho. State Department of Health personnel are at the port to test radiation levels and to ensure none of the sand spills [!], Hyslop said. For complete story, click here.
Breaking: Bush official fails to show for polar bear hearing --Senator wanted Interior chief to explain indecision on endangered listing 02 Apr 2008 Sen. Barbara Boxer held a hearing Wednesday to find out why the Bush administration has put off deciding whether to list Alaska's polar bears as a threatened species. But her star witness, Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, didn't show. "This listing is months overdue, in violation of the Endangered Species Act," the California Democrat said at the hearing of the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee.  For complete story, click here.
Scientists Use Sunlight to Make Fuel From CO2--January 4th, 2008--Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico have found a way of using sunlight to recycle carbon dioxide and produce fuels like methanol or gasoline.  The Sunlight to Petrol, or S2P, project essentially reverses the combustion process, recovering the building blocks of hydrocarbons. They can then be used to synthesize liquid fuels like methanol or gasoline. Researchers said the technology already works and could help reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, although large-scale implementation could be a decade or more away.  "This is about closing the cycle," said Ellen Stechel, manager of Sandia's Fuels and Energy Transitions department. "Right now our fossil fuels are emitting CO2. This would help us manage and reduce our emissions and put us on the path to a carbon-neutral energy system."  The idea of recycling carbon dioxide is not new, but has generally been considered too difficult and expensive to be worth the effort. But with oil prices exceeding $100 per barrel and concerns about global warming mounting, researchers are increasingly motivated to investigate carbon recycling. Los Alamos Renewable Energy, for example, has developed a method of using CO2 to generate electricity and fuel.  S2P uses a solar reactor called the Counter-Rotating Ring Receiver Reactor Recuperator, or CR5, to divide carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide and oxygen.  "It's a heat engine," Stechel said. "But instead of doing mechanical work, it does chemical work."  Lab experiments have shown that the process works, Stechel said. The researchers hope to finish a prototype by April.  The prototype will be about the size and shape of a beer keg. It will contain 14 cobalt ferrite rings, each about one foot in diameter and turning at one revolution per minute. An 88-square meter solar furnace will blast sunlight into the unit, heating the rings to about 2,600 degrees Fahrenheit. At that temperature, cobalt ferrite releases oxygen. When the rings cool to about 2,000 degrees, they're exposed to CO2.  For complete story, click here.
Spiders worked together to weave massive web--September 12th, 2007--FORT WORTH, Texas — Spiders worked together to make the massive web in Lake Tawakoni State Park, researchers say.  Three times the spiders built it. Three times wind and rain ravaged it.  Tuesday afternoon, thousands of spiders were back at it again, working to rebuild the massive web that at one time stretched about 200 yards, covering bushes and trees to create a creepy canopy.  Researchers say they think thousands of spiders from different species worked together to make one large, all-encompassing web, unusual from the traditional individual webs that normally would be woven. Together, the spiders have built and rebuilt a web that has caught potentially tens of thousands of flies and bugs and the attention of people nationwide.  "These spiders seem to be working together to build it back," said Zach Lewis, an office clerk at the Lake Tawakoni park.  "It's really something to see. They're crawling on trees, on the ground, everywhere. We're here praying for rain all the time, but with something like this, you kinda want the rain to stop."  Ever since the web was noticed this summer at the state park about 50 miles east of Dallas, tourists and park workers have been amazed by its magnitude.  Researchers say it likely took 1 ½ to two months to weave such a large web.  Researchers took samples of the spiders in late August, and Allen Dean, an entomologist at Texas A&M University in College Station, helped identify them.  He found 12 spider families, with the most prevalent being from the Tetragnathidae family.  Among what was identified: funnel web weavers, sac spiders, orb weavers, mesh web weavers, wolf spiders, pirate spiders, jumping spiders and low-jawed orb weavers, according to the researchers' report.  For weeks, many have speculated about how such a big web could have been created and whether spiders worked together to build it.  The motive may well be food, researchers say. The larger the web, the more flies and bugs get stuck, providing an abundant food supply for the spiders.  "Spiders generally are cannibalistic and keep their webs distinct," Dean said. "We're not sure what started the initial webbing ... but there probably have been thousands of spiders working on the web.  "With the amount of rain that has occurred this year and the huge food supply available, it just created the right condition for all of this."  For complete story, click here.
USDA TO APPROVE RICE ENGINEERED WITH HUMAN GENES:  The USDA public comment deadline of March 30th regarding rice engineered with human genes is quickly approaching. The rice, developed by Ventria Bioscience has been given pre-approval by the USDA for planting and harvesting in California. The plants have been engineered to synthesize a human protein that would be used as a drug to treat diarrhea. When planted in an open environment, these biotech rice fields have the potential to contaminate conventional rice fields where the crops are being grown for consumer food products. According to Jane Rissler of the Union of Concerned Scientists, "This is not a product that everyone would want to consume. It is unwise to produce drugs in plants outdoors."  Learn more: http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_4472.cfm or click here.
BEES MYSTERIOUSLY DISAPPEARING ACROSS THE U.S.: Beekeepers in 24 states are reporting record losses of honeybees. The exact cause of this problem has not yet been determined, but bee colonies across the U.S. are disappearing, with some states reporting a 70% drop in bee populations. "I have never seen anything like it," said California beekeeper David Bradshaw. "Box after box after box are just empty. There's nobody home." A Cornell University study has estimated that honeybees annually pollinate more than $14 billion worth of seeds and crops in the United States, mostly fruits, vegetables and nuts. "Every third bite we consume in our diet is dependent on a honeybee to pollinate that food," said Zac Browning, vice president of the American Beekeeping Federation. The Organic Consumers Association is closely monitoring the situation with efforts to determine if the problem of disappearing bees is related to genetically engineered pollen or pesticide toxicity. Learn more: http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_4404.cfm  or click here.
Cracking up: Ice turning to water, glaciers on the move - and a planet in peril: Nothing else quite like it has happened at any time in the past 10,000 years. In  just over a month an entire Antarctic ice shelf, bigger than a small country, disintegrated and disappeared, altering world atlases for ever.  A new study  shows that the catastrophic collapse of the Larsen B shelf, four and a half years ago, was man-made, not an "act of God". It is thought to have been the first  time that a major disaster has been proved to have been caused by global warming.  Research at the blue-chip British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge,  published last week, has identified the causes of "dramatic warming" of the eastern side of the Antarctic peninsula, where the vast, 3,250 sq km expanse of  ice used to be. Gareth Marshall, the lead author of the study, says it marks "the first time that anyone has been able to demonstrate a physical process  directly linking the break-up of the Larsen ice shelf to human activity".  The research has also linked the collapse to the hole in the Earth's protective ozone  layer that opens up over the Antarctic every southern spring. Nasa scientists reported last week that this year's hole, at a massive 10.6m square miles, is  bigger than ever.  It was in March 2002 that the ice shelf - thought to have been stable for thousands of years - suddenly gave way. In just over 30 days an unimaginable 500bn tonnes of ice shattered into tens of thousands of icebergs, drifting in the Weddell Sea. This one event dumped more ice into the  Southern Ocean that surrounds Antarctica than all the icebergs of the past 50 years combined.  For complete story, click here.
U.S. Rice Supply Contaminated --Genetically Altered Variety Is Found in Long-Grain Rice 19 Aug 2006 Agriculture [Agribusiness] Secretary Mike Johanns announced late yesterday that U.S. commercial supplies of long-grain rice had become inadvertently [sic] contaminated with a genetically engineered variety not approved for human consumption.  For complete story, click here.
GENETICALLY ENGINEERED COTTON KILLING SHEEP AND GOATS In India's Warangal district of Andhra Pradesh, government officials have ordered an investigation into the deaths of hundreds of sheep and goats who appear to have been poisoned by eating genetically engineered (GE) cotton. "They just became very dull and lifeless and died," said one shepherd, Pendala Venkatamma. Sheep and goats regularly graze on traditional cotton, but after 4-5 days of eating Monsanto's genetically engineered bT cotton, the animals' stomachs swelled, and they died. Although Monsanto denies its cotton could have this effect, government officials have launched a scientific investigation. "We have immediately alerted the animal husbandry department to give us the details of villages where this has happened and... their findings regarding this" said Poonam Malakondaiah, Agriculture Commissioner.  Learn more: http://www.organicconsumers.org/2006/article_646.cfm  or click here.
DRIVING AWAY FROM CORN-BASED ETHANOL President Bush has made a surprising call to eliminate a two decade long tariff on ethanol produced from sugarcane in Brazil.  Sugarcane produces eight times more energy per pound than corn, making U.S.  corn-based ethanol appear to be irrational and inefficient. But according to Monte Shaw, executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, a biofuel trade organization, competition in the global marketplace will only create demands for U.S. farmers to generate biofuels more efficiently.  A potential competitor to sugarcane ethanol is cellulosic ethanol, derived from switch grass and farm waste. "No threat. It's an opportunity," Shaw said. "We are in Iowa. All you see is cellulose."  Meanwhile, Archer Daniels Midland, one of the most powerful corporate agribusiness lobbyists in Washington, continues to successfully push Congress to approve subsidizing the less efficient corn-based ethanol with billions of dollars of taxpayer money. Some studies have estimated that in order to replace all U.S. oil imports with domestically produced corn ethanol, as much as five times the entire area currently farmed for all crops in the U.S. would be needed.  Learn more: http://www.organicconsumers.org/2006/article_661.cfm or click here.
Solution to Greenhouse Gases Is New Nuclear Plants, Bush Says Solution to Greenhouse Gases Is New Nuclear Plants, Bush Says:  LIMERICK, Pa., May 24 — With Democrats seizing the national stage on gasoline prices and the environment, President Bush came here Wednesday to take it back, calling for the construction of more nuclear power plants to help reduce the greenhouse gases believed to contribute to global warming.  "Let's quit the debate about whether greenhouse gases are caused by mankind or by natural causes; let's just focus on technologies that deal with the issue," Mr. Bush told workers at the Limerick Generating Station, a nuclear power plant here in Montgomery County. "Nuclear power will help us deal with the issue of greenhouse gases."   For complete story, click here.
HORIZON AND AURORA BANNED IN CO-OPS:  One month ago, after a poll of our members, the Organic Consumers Association called on consumers to boycott dairy  companies like Horizon and Aurora for their practice of raising "organic" cattle on intensive confinement feedlots. A number of natural food stores and co-ops across the U.S.  are beginning to respond to concerned consumers and removing suspect dairy products from their stores. The Wedge Co-op in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the second largest  co-op in the U.S., no longer carries Horizon products. In Colorado, the Boulder Co-op Market, has also discontinued stocking Horizon products. Amy Wyatt, Assistant  General Manager for the Co-op, says, "Based on our concerns regarding Horizon's practices, we didn't feel that continuing to carry this company's products was consistent  with our mission and values.” Dean Foods, Horizon’s parent company, is also starting to come under fire for abandoning U.S. organic soybean farmers and importing cheap  soybeans from China, where organic standards are dubious, and farm labor wages and conditions are abysmal. Dean Foods now controls the nation’s largest organic  soymilk brand, Silk, as well as the largest organic tofu brand, White Wave.   To view complete story, visit: Learn more: http://www.organicconsumers.org/2006/article_400.cfm or click here.
Hunter kills 'grolar' bear:  An American hunter in Canada's far north may have killed the first grizzly-polar bear cross ever discovered in the wild, officials said today.  Jim  Martell, 65, who paid $58,570 to hunt polar bears, shot the animal, described by local media as a "pizzly", a "grolar bear", or Martell's favourite, a "polargrizz" two weeks ago.  The Idaho native told The National Post: "Everybody thought it was a polar bear, and then they started looking more and more and they seen other features that resembled some of a grizzly as well."  The bear had thick, creamy white fur, typical of polar bears, but its long claws, humped back and shallow face, as well as brown patches around its eyes, nose, back and on one foot are grizzly traits.  For complete story, click here.
Planet Earth As Weapon and Target:  Beginning with the use of nuclear energy for military purposes, mankind has entered a seemingly endless race to harness the natural forces within the planet, in the atmosphere and in space for waging war. The earth is already gravely affected by many of those secret research and testing programmes leading to unpredictable environmental and epidemiological consequences.  LEUREN MORET--The term ‘exotic weapons systems’ includes weapons designed to damage space or natural ecosystems (such as the ionosphere and upper atmosphere) or climate, weather, and tectonic systems with the purpose of inducing damage or destruction upon a target population or region on earth or in space. For complete story, click here.
Polish Senate Approves National Ban on GMO Seeds:  WARSAW - Poland's upper house of parliament banned trade and plantings of genetically modified (GMO) seeds on Thursday, increasing the risk of a conflict with Brussels for adopting legislation that breaks EU rules.  The bill was pushed through thanks to the combined forces of the minority-ruling conservatives and their fringe allies, who want to protect Poland's image as an environmentally-friendly state and fear biotech crops could contaminate other crops.  For complete story, click here.
SUPERWEEDS SPREADING IN GENETICALLY ENGINEERED COTTON FIELDS Pesticide resistant weeds are introducing a new problem to cotton farmers. Traditionally, herbicide resistance is dealt with by simply changing the herbicide. But according to North Carolina State weed scientist Alan York, farmers are running out of options: there are no more effective pesticides to switch to. The majority of farmers in the Cotton Belt are now growing Monsanto's genetically engineered Roundup Ready cotton, which is resistant to glyphosate pesticides. As a result of the heavy use of glyphosate in the area, varieties of pigweed have developed an immunity to it. Tests at the University of Georgia showed that the pigweed Palmer Amaranth has developed amazing resistance to glyphosate. Scientists doused the weeds three times with a quadruple concentrated dose of glyphosate, but the pigweed continued to grow and multiply. "If you grow cotton in the Southeast, and you have Palmer amaranth in your fields, looking at side-by-side comparisons of resistant and non-resistant pigweed should scare you to death," York says. http://www.organicconsumers.org/ge/cotton060404.cfm or click here.
JAPANESE OFFICIALS RESIGN OVER U.S. MAD COW DEBACLE Despite new cases of Mad Cow disease surfacing in the U.S., Japan is reopening its borders to American beef. As a result of the policy decision half of the members of Japan's beef-safety government advisory panel have resigned. Morikazu Shinagawa, a researcher at the national Institute of Animal Health and a resigning member of the panel, told Kyodo News Service he "couldn't continue to work" on the panel because the conclusion to resume imports was preordained by the government. Japan banned U.S. beef imports in 2003 due to weak beef safety regulations in the U.S. While 100% of cows in Japan, aged 24 months and older, are tested for the Mad Cow disease, only 1% of the 35 million cattle slaughtered annually in the U.S. are tested. Japan recently caved to pressure from the Bush Administration and lift the ban on U.S. beef imports while appointing new "experts" to its beef safety advisory panel. http://www.organicconsumers.org/artman/publish/article_227.cfm or click here.
CHILDHOOD OBESITY CAUSES SHORTAGE IN CAR SEATS Thanks to increased consumption of fast foods and junk foods, the obesity level among American children has reached epidemic levels. In addition to the countless negative health effects of childhood obesity, a new study says the dietary problems have led to an unexpected shortage of car seats designed for overweight children. Research published in the April issue of Pediatrics indicates a shortage of over 100,000 car seats for obese children. Motor vehicle crashes account for 23 percent of deaths among infants and 30 percent among preschool-aged children, meaning car seats designed for the correct body type are essential. The problem is compounded for impoverished families, considering the average car seat designed for an obese child costs $200-300, which is three to four times more expensive than conventional car seats. http://www.organicconsumers.org/artman/publish/article_223.cfm or click here.
EUROPEAN LEADER SAYS BIOTECH CORPORATIONS PROVIDE BIASED RESEARCH Europe's environment chief has announced that more studies on long term impacts of genetically engineered (GE) crops must be implemented before any new GE crops can be approved. Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said that too many of the current GE regulatory decisions are based on biased data provided by the biotech industry, which put GE crops in a biased positive light. "Applications for cultivation of GMO products raise a whole new series of possible risks to the environment, notably potential longer-term effects that could impact on biodiversity," he said. http://www.organicconsumers.org/ge/flawed060406.cfm or click here.
Hole discovered drilled into pipe at Miami-Dade nuclear reactor 01 Apr 2006 Officials conducting a routine inspection of a nuclear reactor at the Turkey Point power  plant found a small holed drilled into a pipe that helps maintain pressure, and investigators were trying to determine if the hole was drilled accidentally or deliberately, Florida  Power & Light officials said Saturday... The Nuclear Regulatory Commission and FBI are also conducting their own investigations.  For complete story, click here.
WORLD LEADERS VOTE AGAINST THE TERMINATOR AND FRANKENTREES:  Leaders of the world have made some important decisions regarding genetically engineered crops over the past two weeks at the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity's (CBD) Eighth Conference of the Parties in Brazil. A majority of world leaders voted against the release of genetically engineered trees, referencing the possible spread of the plants into native forests. "Because there is insufficient scientific data regarding the biological impacts of transgenic trees, as well as an absence of socio-economic and cultural impact assessments, it is good scientific practice to invoke the Precautionary Principle, which is enshrined in the CBD," stated Dr. Ricarda Steinbrecher of the Federation of German Scientists. "This means no release of transgenic trees into the environment whilst this research is on-going," she added. A majority of world leaders also voted to maintain the moratorium on the "Terminator" technology, wherein plants are genetically engineered to produce sterile seeds, forcing farmers to purchase seeds year after year, rather than continuing traditional practices of saving seeds with each year's harvest. The U.S. and other leading biotech nations voted in the minority for the spread of these technologies.  For complete story visit: http://www.organicconsumers.org/ge/trees060324.cfm or click here.
CONSUMER DEMAND FOR ORGANICS EXPLODE WHILST SUPPLY DWINDLES:  Not enough U.S. farmers are finding it possible to make the transition to organic production, according to a January 2006 marketing report from the research firm Organic Monitor in London. Domestic consumers are buying record amounts of organic foods, but farmers are unable to meet that demand, resulting in $1.5 billion of organic crops imported into the U.S. in 2005. This means that 10% of all organic sales in the U.S. today are imports. In comparison, U.S. organic exports amount to a meager $150 million. In the European Union, government programs help conventional farmers make the transition to organic production with subsidies and technical assistance. In contrast, the majority of U.S. agricultural subsidies are earmarked for large chemical-intensive and energy-intensive farms and genetically engineered crops, making it difficult for family-scale farmers and ranchers to afford the expensive and difficult three year transition from conventional to organic production. "Unless more American farmers consider converting to organic practices, exporters are likely to capitalize on this lucrative market," the report said.  For complete story visit: http://www.organicconsumers.org/organic/shortage060326.cfm  or click here.
Global warming yields "glacial earthquakes," future sea level rise - by World Science   For complete story, click here.
UN warns of worst mass extinctions for 65m years :  Humans have provoked the worst spate of extinctions since the dinosaurs were wiped out 65m years ago, according  to a UN report that calls for unprecedented worldwide efforts to address the slide.  The report paints a grim picture of life on earth, with declining numbers of plants, animals, insects and birds across the globe, and warns that the current extinction rate is up to 1,000 times faster than in the past. Some 844 animals and plants are known to have disappeared in the last 500 years.  For complete story visit:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,,1735459,00.html  For complete story, click here.
NASA scientist has chilling global warming tale:  The Earth is fast approaching a global warming "point of no return," a tipping point that could lead to lifeless poles and inundated coasts -- and even floodwaters that reach Ridgewood and Tenafly, a top NASA scientist warned Friday.  James Hansen, the physicist whose clashes with the White House have made national headlines, warned a crowd of more than 300 in Paramus that the planet was already feeling the effects of overheating, though he said it still wasn't too late to avoid a crisis.  "Up until now, you could say we still didn't understand what we were doing when we emitted these gases," Hansen told a packed conference room at Bergen Community College in Paramus. "That's no longer true."  If the trend isn't reversed, he said, "there's no court of international opinion that will forgive us."  For complete story, click here.
The Green Scare:  On January 20th, eleven people were indicted in Oregon by a grand jury investigating acts of sabotage linked to the underground Earth Liberation Front (ELF). The actions, going back nearly a decade, include a number of arsons - with such targets as a ski resort expansion into endangered lynx habitat and a facility for rounding up wild horses for dog food. There were no injuries in any of the actions, but the FBI claims over $25 million in damage to property.  Some of those indicted had been arrested in December, including one person who died in custody in Arizona. Shock waves have been reverberating through the environmental activist community, and the situation is still unfolding. Two more people were arrested in Olympia, Washington, on February 23, and the day before, outspoken Native American and animal rights activist Rod Coronado was arrested in Tucson, Arizona, on charges sent down by a grand jury in San Diego. In addition, there is a grand jury investigating Animal Liberation Front (ALF) activities in San Francisco.  But those being rounded up are not only being charged with crimes associated with the acts the FBI and grand juries allege - they are also being labeled as terrorists. Moreover, Coronado's charges stem solely from a public address he gave in San Diego in 2003. During this speech, in response to a question from the audience, he explained how he went about setting a fire at an animal testing lab in Michigan in the early 1990s - an arson crime for which he had previously served a four-year term in federal prison. For answering that question, Coronado has been accused under a little-used federal statute making it a felony to "teach or demonstrate the making or use of an explosive or destructive device."  The FBI announced last year that ELF was their #1 priority for domestic terrorism. Now they have help from groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative public policy lobbying group funded by over 300 corporations. ALEC, in collaboration with the US Sportman's Alliance, has written model legislation stepping up the ante for acts of property destruction committed against corporations in the business of development, logging, mining and vivisection. For complete story, click here.
Climate scientists issue dire warning:  The Earth's temperature could rise under the impact of global warming to levels far higher than previously predicted, according to  the United Nations' team of climate experts. For complete story, click here.
CHILE: ‘Yes' to Gold Mine, but Don't Touch the Glaciers:  Environmental authorities in Chile gave the go-ahead Wednesday to the Pascua Lama gold mining project on the Argentine border, but told Canadian mining giant Barrick Gold that it would not be allowed to carry out its plans to "relocate" three glaciers.  The Regional Environment Commission (COREMA) also demanded that the company do its utmost to protect the flora and fauna in the region of Atacama, and that it adequately treat all waste.  "It struck us that the resolution was unanimous, without a single vote against the project," César López, a member of the Committee for the Defence of the Huasco Valley, remarked to IPS. "This seems to us to indicate that the decision had already been reached, and that our presentation to COREMA, explaining the extremely negative consequences that the mine will have, served no purpose at all."  For complete story, click here.
Bottled water taxing ecosystem:  Washington - Bottled water consumption, which has more than doubled globally in the last six years, is a natural resource that is heavily taxing the world's ecosystem, according to a new United States study.  "Even in areas where tap water is safe to drink, demand for bottled water is increasing, producing unnecessary garbage and consuming vast quantities of energy," according to Emily Arnold, author of the study published by the Earth Policy Institute, a Washington-based environmental group.  Arnold said although in the industrial world bottled water is often no healthier than tap water, it can end up costing 10 000 times more.  "At as much as $2.50 per litre, bottled water costs more than gasoline," the study says.  It added that the US was the largest consumer of bottled water, with Americans drinking 26 billion litres in 2004, or about 25cl glass per person every day. For complete story, click here.
Greenland ice cap breaking up at twice the rate it was five years ago.:  A satellite study of the Greenland ice cap shows that it is melting far faster than scientists  had feared - twice as much ice is going into the sea as it was five years ago. The implications for rising sea levels - and climate change - could be dramatic.  Yet, a few  weeks ago, when I - a NASA climate scientist - tried to talk to the media about these issues following a lecture I had given calling for prompt reductions in the emission of  greenhouse gases, the NASA public affairs team - staffed by political appointees from the Bush administration - tried to stop me doing so. I was not happy with that, and I ignored the restrictions. The first line of NASA 's mission is to understand and protect the planet.  This new satellite data is a remarkable advance. We are seeing for the first  time the detailed behavior of the ice streams that are draining the Greenland ice sheet. They show that Greenland seems to be losing at least 200 cubic kilometers of ice a  year. It is different from even two years ago, when people still said the ice sheet was in balance. For complete story, click here.
Farmers, others sue USDA over Monsanto GMO alfalfa:  KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) - A coalition of farmers, consumers and environmental activists on Thursday sued the U.S. government over its approval of a biotech alfalfa that critics say will spell havoc for farmers and the environment."  Opening another front in the battle over genetically modified crops, the lawsuit contends that the U.S. Department of Agriculture improperly is allowing Monsanto Co. to sell an herbicide-resistant alfalfa seed while failing to analyze the public health, environmental, and economic consequences of that action.  http://www.heal-online.org/farmer.pdf
INNOVATION -- U.S. MANUFACTURERS FAILING TO CLOSE GAP ON HYBRID VEHICLES: Japanese-produced cars "from Honda Motor Co., Toyota Motor Corp.,  Hyundai Motor Co. and Kia Motors Corp. occupy 10 of the top dozen spots in the annual 'green car' survey" released yesterday by the American Council for an Energy- Efficient Economy. The highest-ranked U.S. car was GM's Pontiac Vibe; it tied for 10th place, and was actually built with a Toyota emissions system and engine. Another American vehicle, the Dodge Ram SRT10 pickup truck, was judged the least green car for the second year. "Unfortunately, the domestic manufacturers are not closing the  gap with the leading foreign manufacturers on fuel economy,” Therese Langer, ACEEE’s transportation program director, said. “Detroit has had a difficult year, but given high  gasoline prices and shifting consumer preferences, offering more fuel-efficient vehicles is not a luxury -- it’s a business necessity." See the full rankings here.  For complete story, click here.
Climate 'warmest for millennium' - research finds : The last 100 years is more striking than either the Medieval Warm Period or Little Ice Age Timothy Osborn, UEA In  the late 20th Century, the northern hemisphere experienced its most widespread warmth for 1,200 years, according to the journal Science. The findings support evidence  pointing to unprecedented recent warming of the climate linked to greenhouse emissions.  The UEA team showed that the present warm period is the most widespread  temperature anomaly of any kind since the ninth century.  The records included long life evergreen trees growing in Scandinavia, Siberia and the Rockies which had been  cored to reveal the patterns of wide and narrow tree rings over time. Wider rings related to warmer temperatures.  The chemical composition of ice from cores drilled in the  Greenland ice sheets revealed which years were warmer than others.  In November, Science published a paper showing atmospheric levels of the greenhouse gases carbon  dioxide and methane are higher now than at any time in the past 650,000 years. For complete story, click here.
Report Suggests That a New Model Is Needed for Renewable Energy Production:  On any given day, the solar energy falling on a typical oilfield in the Middle East is  far greater than the energy contained in the oil extracted from it. However, while oil provides a highly concentrated source of power, solar energy is distributed over a wide  area. According to a report to be published later this week by Cambridge UK analysts CarbonFree, collecting energy from a wide area is an activity usually associated with  farming, and an agricultural, as opposed to an industrial, model should be used for the harvesting of renewable energy.  The report, "Farming Renewable Energy", suggests  that large areas of land will be used for energy generation over the next two decades, and highlights the opportunities energy farming will open up for the agricultural sector  and next generation energy producers.  The report notes that some farmers are already active in the energy market: either selling biomass for conversion into electricity or  fuel or renting their land to wind turbine operators. It predicts that this trend will continue and recommends governments encourage the development of a comprehensive  agricultural energy strategy rather than merely subsidise individual initiatives such as biodiesel production.  CarbonFree sees wind energy, which in some cases is already  profitable, expanding steadily and highlights the trial in Dakota of a hydrogen refuelling station powered by wind turbines as a potential application for energy farming in rural  areas.  The report explains that improvements in the equipment used to farm solar energy depend on advances in semiconductor technology and that the market will  therefore follow a boom-and-bust growth path similar to that of the IT industry. CarbonFree suggests the market may stabilise with the arrival of third generation photovoltaic  devices constructed using advanced nanotechnology. For complete story, click here.
These hybrids run on hydrogen:  Ten Toyota Prius sedans cruising the streets of Riverside and Santa Ana, Calif., aren't your ordinary hybrids — they're hybrids that run  on hydrogen, not gasoline.  Delivered over the last week, the 10 are the first of 30 hydrogen hybrids that the region's air quality agency will test over the next five years.  "These vehicles drive and perform like regular gasoline cars and yet they emit no global warming gases and meet the state's strictest standard for smog-forming pollutants," Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido said in a statement.  Modified by Quantum Fuel Systems Technologies Worldwide, the hydrogen hybrids still use electric power from braking to improve mileage but are refueled with hydrogen instead of gasoline.  Each hydrogen-fueled Prius has a compressed gas fuel cylinder that holds up to 1.6 kilograms of hydrogen, giving the vehicles a range of up to 80 miles per fill.  The $7 million project aims to create a bridge to fuel cell vehicles, which run on hydrogen but are still prohibitively costly.  "The five cities program is aimed at stimulating demand for hydrogen fueling, accelerating the expansion of the region's hydrogen fueling network, and educating the public on hydrogen-fueled vehicles," the South Coast Air Quality Management District said in a statement.  Other cities receiving hydrogen hybrids are Burbank, Ontario and Santa Monica, as well as the air quality agency headquarters in Diamond Bar. Hydrogen refueling stations are also being installed for each city. For complete story, click here.
China and India Grow Organically:  LONDON, Jan 27 (IPS) - China and India are emerging as new giants in production of organic food, United Nations experts say.  As European Union (EU) countries switch more to organic foods for value addition the two big developing countries, and also others in Latin America are beginning to catch up.  But it might be too soon to fear any agricultural trade wars now in organic produce.  ''China and India have a huge potential to tap domestically to begin with,'' Mattia Prayer-Galletti, country programme manager for Asia with the International Fund for Agriculture and Development (IFAD) told IPS. The Rome-based organisation is a specialised agency of the United Nations dedicated to eradicating rural poverty in developing countries.  At the moment IFAD is trying to ''increase the space for organic farming as much as possible,'' Prayer-Galletti said. Organic farming eliminates use of chemicals both by way of fertilisers and pesticides. That means largely a return to natural and traditional methods of farming.  Given the rapidly growing demand for organic food in Western markets, organically grown food which usually fetches a 20 to 40 percent premium over other produce, represents a new opportunity for small farmers for whom a lack of means to buy fertilisers and pesticides can now be turned into an advantage. For complete story, click here.
A new security command in Bolivia - by Martin Arostegui, The Washington Times (read this story)  For complete story, click here.
Climate Expert Says NASA Tried to Silence Him - by Andrew C. Revkin, The New York Times (read this story) For complete story, click here.
Clinton: Climate change is the world's biggest worry - by Dan Perry, Associated Press (read this story) For complete story, click here.
Global warming to speed up as carbon levels show sharp rise - by Geoffrey Lean (read this story) For complete story, click here.
Ocean's temperature off Santa Barbara now highest in 1,400 years - by Usha Lee McFarling, Los Angeles Times (read this story) For complete story, click here.
Is America Exporting a Huge Environmental Problem? Old Computers Often End Up in Toxic Heaps in Developing Countries:  Glavin and his son used to export  some of their scrap to China, until they went there and saw for themselves what happened to it.  "There was no environmental regulations. There's no safety regulations.  There's no data security, because it's not being recycled over there. It's being dumped over there," he said.  "We don't send our trash to China. Why should we send the  electronic trash to China?" his son, Jim added.  Jim Puckett, coordinator of a group called Basel Action Network, which monitors exports of hazardous waste, also saw what  was happening in China firsthand. Three years ago he documented it in a video called "Exporting Harm."  For complete story, click here.
Hurricane Wilma Is Most Powerful Storm in Atlantic History - by Willie Drye (read this story) For complete story, click here.
Army secret surfaces: Deadly chemicals at sea:  Millions of pounds of unused weapons of mass destruction were dumped in oceans before Congress banned the practice in 1972. The threat is still out there, and may be growing.  For complete story, click here.
Pope Francis: Those Who Fail To Protect The Environment Will Face God's Judgment By Avaneesh Pandey @avaneeshp88 a.pandey@ibtimes.com on May 13 2015 3:28 AM EDT 1.4k 46 0 1 Pope Francis arrives to lead a special mass for the opening of the 20th Caritas Internationalis general assembly in Saint Peter's basilica at the Vatican May 12, 2015. Reuters/Max Rossi The “powerful of the Earth” will have to face God’s judgment if they fail to protect the environment, Pope Francis said on Tuesday. His comments came just months before the publication of a papal memo on climate change -- an event that is eagerly awaited by many environmental activists around the globe. “We must do what we can so that everyone has something to eat, but we must also remind the powerful of the Earth that God will call them to judgment one day and there it will be revealed if they really tried to provide food for Him in every person and if they did what they could to preserve the environment so that it could produce this food,” the Pope said, on Tuesday, during the opening of the general assembly of the Catholic charitable organization Caritas Internationalis in Rome. “The planet has enough food for all, but it seems that there is a lack of willingness to share it with everyone,” the Pope added. Pope Francis, since he took over leadership of the Catholic church in 2013, has made the preservation and care of environment a hallmark of his papacy. He has, in the past, made comments indicating that he believes in anthropogenic climate change and emphasized the need to protect the “work of God.” “A Christian who does not protect creation, who does not let it grow, is a Christian who does not care about the work of God; that work that was born from the love of God for us,” Francis said, in February. “We must respond with the responsibility that the Lord gives us.” Francis’ encyclical, which will be issued in the form of a letter to bishops around the world, is expected to be published in June or July. It would come just months ahead of a crucial climate summit later this year, when nations across the globe would aim to pledge emissions cuts to get a handle on manmade climate change. Although his comments on the environment have angered several conservative groups and the so-called climate skeptics, who have reportedly accused him of demeaning the church, Francis has found support among his aides, including Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga -- one of his closest advisers. “The ideology surrounding environmental issues is too tied to a capitalism that doesn’t want to stop ruining the environment because they don’t want to give up their profits,” Maradiaga reportedly said, on Tuesday, criticizing “movements in the United States” for derailing action on climate change.  Source: http://www.ibtimes.com/pope-francis-those-who-fail-protect-environment-will-face-gods-judgment-1919915
12 May 2015: Unique Stretch Marks Show Greenland Ice Accelerating Toward Sea Enlarge NASA Earth Observatory Crevassing in Greenland ice The Greenland ice sheet is accelerating as it flows toward the ocean, and the unique markings visible in this photograph are one piece of evidence demonstrating its rapid movement. Captured as part of NASA's Operation IceBridge, which is wrapping up its seventh season of Arctic observations, this image details heavy crevassing near the coast of Melville Bay in northwestern Greenland. These fissures are essentially stretch marks on the ice, NASA researchers say. Ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are losing mass at an unprecedented rate of 500 cubic kilometers per year — enough ice to cover the Chicago metropolitan area with a layer of ice 600 meters thick — according to one recent report. Greenland's ice volume alone is shrinking by about 375 cubic kilometers per year, with the loss doubling since 2009, the study found.  Source: http://e360.yale.edu/digest/unique_stretch_marks_show_greenland_ice_accelerating_toward_sea/4435/
Duke Energy pleads guilty to environmental crimes in North Carolina RALEIGH, N.C. | By Marti Maguire Water is seen draining into the Dan River from a coal ash pond at the site of the Duke Energy coal-fired power plant in Eden, North Carolina February 19, 2014. Reuters/Chris Keane RALEIGH, N.C. Duke Energy Corp pleaded guilty on Thursday to environmental crimes over a North Carolina power plant's coal ash spill into a river and management of coal ash basins in the state, U.S. prosecutors said. The plea entered in federal court in Greenville, North Carolina, by the country's largest utility owner was expected under a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice announced in February. As part of the deal, Duke agreed to pay $102 million in fines and environmental projects, and to reserve more than $3 billion to comply with environmental standards. “Duke Energy's crimes reflect a breach of the public trust and a lack of stewardship for the natural resources belonging to all of the citizens of North Carolina,” U.S. Attorney Thomas Walker said in a statement. The company admitted to failures at five of its power plants over several decades that allowed coal ash to enter waterways, including documented problems with the 48-inch pipe that would eventually cause the spill into the Dan River in February 2014. The stormwater pipe beneath a coal ash pond at Duke's retired power plant in Eden ruptured, releasing up to 27 million gallons of wastewater and as many as 39,000 tons of coal combustion residue into the river that supplies drinking water to two towns in neighboring Virginia. Duke “failed to take reasonable steps to minimize or prevent discharge of coal ash to the Dan River that would adversely affect the environment," according to a joint statement filed by the company and prosecutors in federal court. Duke and its subsidiaries pleaded guilty to nine misdemeanor violations of the Clean Water Act. In a statement on Tuesday, the company pledged to "operate our system as safely as possible." Duke has separately agreed to close and clean up coal ash sites at 14 coal plants in North Carolina, though their methods have been disputed. Duke’s environmental critics lauded the settlement, one of the largest levied for clean water violations, but noted other lawsuits continue. “This confirms that Duke has committed serious and long-standing environmental crimes,” said John Suttles, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center. “But it does not clean up the coal ash that is every day continuing to contaminate our drinking water.” (Additional reporting by Jim Brumm; Editing by Grant McCool, Diane Craft, Letitia Stein and Bernard Orr)  Source: http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/05/14/us-duke-energy-spill-idUSKBN0NZ25920150514
UN invites world’s seven billion people to become agents of change on World Environment Day Sugar cane and soybean plantations have replaced hectare after hectare of jungle as the Amazon has been exploited in the name of agriculture, with little regard for the environmental impacts. Photo: UNEP GRID Arendal/Riccardo Pravettoni 168 Print 5 June 2015 – With many of the earth’s ecosystems nearing “critical tipping points,” the United Nations invited each of the seven billion people on the planet to mark this year’s World Environment Day by making one change towards a more responsible consumption of resources – “be it refusing to buy single-use plastic bags or riding a bike to work.” “Humanity continues to consume far more natural resources than the planet can sustainably provide,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in this year’s message for the Day, observed annually on 5 June. “It is time for us to change.” “The goal of sustainable development is to increase the quality of life for all people without increasing environmental degradation and without compromising the resource needs of future generations,” he noted. “We can do this by shifting our consumption patterns towards goods that use less energy, water and other resources and by wasting less food.” World Environment Day is the opportunity for everyone to realize the responsibility to care for the Earth and to become agents of change. The theme of this year’s Day – “Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume with Care,” – emphasizes the personal responsibility each person bears for enabling inclusive and sustainable economic development while stabilizing and reducing the rate of resource use. Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), invited “everyone to imagine what the world would be like if each of the seven billion people made one change towards a more responsible consumption of resources.” “I would like you to hold on to that vision and strive to make it reality – be it refusing to buy single-use plastic bags or riding a bike to work,” Mr. Steiner said in his message. Noting “it is easy to underestimate the power of individual action,” Mr. Steiner said “our daily decisions as consumers, multiplied by billions, have a colossal impact on the environment – some of them contribute to the further depletion of natural resources, others help to protect fragile ecosystems.” “We must ask ourselves what the consequences of this pace of consumption and trajectory of population growth – forecasted to reach nine billion by 2050 – will be,” he said. “Under current trends, global extraction of resources is set to reach 140 billion tonnes by 2050, compared to around 7 billion tonnes in 1900,” said Mr. Steiner. “This will probably exceed the availability and accessibility of resources, as well as the carrying capacity of the planet to absorb the impacts of their extraction and use.” World Environment Day “is the opportunity for everyone to realize the responsibility to care for the Earth and to become agents of change,” Mr. Steiner said. Italy is the host of this year's celebrations of the Day which are taking place at Expo Milano 2015, which runs from 1 May to 31 October and is expected to include over 140 countries plus a significant number of international organizations.  Source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=51063#.VXOZfenbK1s
World environment day: consume with care The JRC supports global efforts to move towards a more sustainable consumption © UNEP The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) motto for this year's world environment day is "Seven billion dreams. One planet. Consume with care". It reminds us that the well-being of humanity, the environment, and the functioning of the economy ultimately depend upon the responsible management of the planet’s natural resources. In this context, the JRC supports the EU's efforts to move towards a more competitive, resource-efficient circular economy. Evidence is building that people are consuming far more natural resources than what the planet can sustainably provide. Living sustainably is about doing more and better with less, and several JRC activities try to achieve this by supporting EU policies linked to recycling, waste management, material-efficient products, efficiency requirements or best available techniques for production. For instance, the JRC has developed the methodology under which certain valuable waste streams can obtain ‘end-of-waste status’ and become products again. After having agreed this methodology with the Member States, the Commission is now preparing a set of end-of-waste criteria for priority waste streams. The criteria have been laid down for iron, steel and aluminium scrap and next waste streams to be addressed include copper scrap metal, recovered paper, glass cullet, plastics and biodegradable waste/compost. The JRC has also submitted reports with technical proposals for the end-of-waste criteria on copper scrap metal, recovered paper, glass cullet and is conducting further studies biodegradable waste/compost and plastic. In addition, the JRC closely collaborates with UNEP in areas such as climate change, biodiversity, protected areas, forests, lands, soils, desertification and land degradation, sustainable energy, life cycle assessment or disaster risk management.   What is a circular economy?   Since the industrial revolution, waste has constantly grown. This is because our economies have used a “take-make-consume and dispose” pattern of growth – a linear model which assumes that resources are abundant, available and cheap to dispose of. What we need is a more circular economy. This means re-using, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials and products. What used to be regarded as ‘waste’ can be turned into a resource. The aim is to look beyond waste and to close the loop of the circular economy. All resources need to be managed more efficiently throughout their life cycle. Using resources more efficiently will also bring new growth and job opportunities.  Source: https://ec.europa.eu/jrc/en/news/world-environment-day-consume-care
New EIA Report Details Trade Deal Failure to Support the Environment | Ilana Solomon New EIA Report Details Trade Deal Failure to Support the Environment Posted: 06/09/2015 3:43 pm EDT Updated: 06/09/2015 5:59 pm EDT Share 15 Tweet 76 0 Email 0 Comment 0 tumblr stumble reddit On June 4, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) published a new briefing paper that demonstrates how free trade agreements fail to lift up environmental standards. Their report, focused on the failure to enforce environmental obligations in the U.S.-Peru trade pact, is particularly timely given that proponents of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal have claimed that its still-secret environment chapter will lift up environmental safeguards in countries like Vietnam and Malaysia. As EIA's report demonstrates, however, simply including environmental obligations in trade pacts provides no guarantee that environmental protections will improve in reality. And if enforcement has been this difficult in a free trade agreement with only one other country -- a trade agreement containing the most detailed conservation rules in history, no less -- it is impossible to imagine that implementation and enforcement will look any better in the 12 country TPP, especially since we expect the TPP will include broad and often-vague conservation rules. So here's a bit of background and some highlights from EIA's new report. In 2007, in response to the illegal logging crisis in Peru that was fueling climate disruption, destroying communities and ecosystems and threatening U.S. jobs, the U.S.-Peru trade pact included a detailed set of binding obligations to curb illegal logging and associated trade. Years later, however, the obligations still haven't changed the reality on the ground, and the illegal logging crisis continues unabated. In 2012, EIA released an investigative report that documented the systemic fraud and corruption that plagued the Peruvian forest sectors. The report uncovered at least 112 illegal shipments of cedar and mahogany -- high value, precious hardwoods -- coming into the U.S. EIA and the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) formally petitioned the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to take action under the U.S.-Peru trade deal to stop the illegal timber trade and hold those responsible to account. More specifically, the organizations called on the USTR to verify the legality of these and any future shipments from two companies EIA found to have a well-documented history of exporting significant volumes of illegal timber to the U.S. But USTR did nothing,and the two companies continued to export large volumes of high-value cedar species into the U.S., thereby allowing U.S. consumers who purchased this timber to become the unwitting financiers of the black market trade that is decimating the Peruvian Amazon. As EIA noted in its report, "Not only has no one been held accountable for past violations, but the U.S. is turning a blind eye to ongoing trade in timber that should be considered at high risk of illegality...." In the petition, EIA and CIEL also called for an audit of 29 concessions -- or state owned forested areas that are given to a person or firm to selectively harvest timber under certain conditions. In 2012, EIA found that in many cases, the owners of concessions falsified documents with information about trees that didn't actually exist on their concession so they could obtain permits that they used to illegally harvest timber from outside their concession. In some instances, the concession owners attempted to crudely cover up their crime, including by literally staging cut down stumps on their concessions when authorities came to visit. The USTR, however, once again declined to take any enforcement action or use any tools in the free trade pact to try to address these egregious violations of Peruvian law and of the trade pact. It justified this decision by reporting that 22 of the 29 concessions highlighted in the petition (just a subset of those highlighted in its report) had been suspended or cancelled, meaning that the right to harvest timber from these forested area had been removed. EIA's report, however, uncovered that the majority of the concessions that were listed as suspended or cancelled have actually been under appeal to a non-existent tribunal -- meaning that the concessions could still be in operation. USTR told EIA back in December 2012 that the tribunal, which is supposed to be in charge of solving appeals, was close to being established. But EIA's report revealed that the establishment of the tribunal has been delayed for the past 2.5 years, and has just now begun recruiting the personnel needed to operate. As a result, the report notes, "the appeals have not been heard and many of those concessions may well not have stopped operations." Furthermore, in USTR's recent report which boasted the environmental benefits of free trade agreements, the USTR noted that Peru is developing a "state-of-the-art electronic timber tracking system that will trace logs from stump to port in order to better detect illegal exports." Sounds impressive, right? Well, it would be, if it weren't for the fact that EIA found that "the entire system is based on fraudulent inventories that are used by concessionaires to launder timber, resulting in a 'garbage-in, garbage-out' tracking system." While the USTR has been made aware of these weaknesses, the problem has still not been addressed. And finally, it's worth noting that EIA also found that no exporters or importers have been held accountable for the clear violations of Peruvian law and the free trade pact. No investigations, no prosecutions. So given the complete lack of environmental enforcement with the U.S.-Peru trade deal, it seems completely reasonable -- and in fact necessary -- to question the assertions that having rules in an environment chapter of a trade pact -- a trade pact like the TPP -- will lead to any meaningful change on the ground. Getting the rules right is important, but change requires political will -- political will that is clearly lacking today.  Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ilana-solomon/new-eia-report-details-tr_b_7546686.html
Michigan’s Attempt to Destroy Democracy and the Environment Michigan’s Attempt to Destroy Democracy and the Environment Laura Gottesdiener and Eduardo Garcia | June 9, 2015 Exclude left body block This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com [1]. To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from TomDispatch.com [2]. Something is rotten in the state of Michigan. One city neglected to inform its residents that its water supply was laced with cancerous chemicals. Another dissolved its public school district and replaced it with a charter school system, only to witness the for-profit management company it hired flee the scene after determining it couldn’t turn a profit. Numerous cities and school districts in the state are now run by single, state-appointed technocrats, as permitted under an emergency financial manager law pushed through by Rick Snyder, Michigan’s austerity-promoting governor. This legislation not only strips residents of their local voting rights, but gives Snyder’s appointee the power to do just about anything, including dissolving the city itself—all (no matter how disastrous) in the name of “fiscal responsibility.” If you’re thinking, “Who cares?” since what happens in Michigan stays in Michigan, think again. The state’s aggressive balance-the-books style of governance has already spread beyond its borders. In January, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie appointed bankruptcy lawyer and former Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr to be a “legal adviser” to Atlantic City. The Detroit Free Press described [3] the move as “a state takeover similar to Governor Rick Snyder’s state intervention in the Motor City.” And this spring, amid the hullabaloo of Republicans entering the 2016 presidential race, Governor Snyder launched his own national tour to sell [4] “the Michigan story to the rest of the country.” His trip was funded by a nonprofit (fed, naturally, by undisclosed donations) named “Making Government Accountable: The Michigan Story.” To many Michiganders, this sounded as ridiculous as Jeb Bush launching a super PAC dubbed “Making Iraq Free: The Bush Family Story.” Except Snyder wasn’t planning to enter the presidential rat race. Instead, he was attempting to mainstream Michigan’s form of austerity politics and its signature emergency management legislation, which stripped more than half [5] of the state’s African-American residents of their local voting rights in 2013 and 2014. As the governor jaunted around the country, Ann Arbor-based photographer Eduardo García and I decided to set out on what we thought of as our own two-week Magical Michigan Tour. And while we weren’t driving a specially outfitted psychedelic tour bus—we spent most of the trip in my grandmother’s 2005 Prius—our journey was nevertheless remarkably surreal. From the southwest banks of Lake Michigan to the eastern tips of the peninsula, we crisscrossed the state visiting more than half a dozen cities to see if there was another side to the governor’s story and whether Michigan really was, as one Detroit resident put it, “a massive experiment in unraveling US democracy.” Stop One: Water Wars in Flint Just as we arrive, the march spills off the sidewalk in front of the city council building. “Stop poisoning our children!” chants a little girl as the crowd tumbles down South Saginaw Street, the city’s main drag. We’re in Flint, Michigan, a place that hit the headlines last year for its brown, chemical-laced, possibly toxic water. A wispy white-haired woman waves a gallon jug filled with pee-colored liquid from her home tap. “They don’t care that they’re killing us!” she cries. We catch up with Claire McClinton, the formidable if grandmotherly organizer of the Flint Democracy Defense League, as we approach the roiling Flint River. It’s been a longtime dumping ground for the Ford Motor Company’s riverfront factories and, as of one year ago today, the only source of the city’s drinking water. On April 25, 2014, on the instruction of the city’s emergency manager, Flint stopped buying its supplies from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department and started drawing water directly from the river, which meant a budgetary savings of $12 million [6] a year. The downside: people started getting sick. Since then, tests have detected [7] E. coli and fecal bacteria in the water, as well as high levels [8] of trihalomethanes, a carcinogenic chemical cocktail known as THMs. For months, the city concealed the presence of THMs, which over years can lead to increased rates of cancer, kidney failure, and birth defects. Still, it was obvious to local residents that something was up. Some of them were breaking out in mysterious rashes or experiencing bouts of severe diarrhea, while others watched [9] as their eyelashes and hair began to fall out. As we cross a small footbridge, McClinton recounts how the city council recently voted [9] to “do all things necessary” to get Detroit’s water back. The emergency manager, however, immediately overrode their decision, terming it “incomprehensible.” “This is a whole different model of control,” she comments drily and explains that she’s now working with other residents to file an injunction [10] compelling the city to return to the use of Detroit’s water. One problem, though: it has to be filed in Ingham County, home to Lansing, the state capital, rather than in Flint’s Genesee County, because the decision of a state-appointed emergency manager is being challenged. “Under state rule, that’s where you go to redress grievances,” she says. “Just another undermining of our local authority.” In the meantime, many city residents remain frustrated and confused. A few weeks before the march, the city sent out two notices on the same day, packaged in the same envelope. One, printed in black-and-white, stated bluntly: “Our water system recently violated a drinking water standard.” The second, in flashy color, had this cheery message: “We are pleased to report that City of Flint water is safe and meets US Environmental Protection Agency guidelines… You can be confident that the water provided to you today meets all safety standards.” As one recipient of the notices commented, “I can only surmise that the point was to confuse us all.” McClinton marches in silence for a few minutes as the crowd doubles back across the bridge and begins the ascent up Saginaw Street. Suddenly, a man jumps onto a life-size statue of a runner at the Riverfront Plaza and begins to cloak him in one of the group’s T-shirts. “Honey, I don’t want you getting in any trouble!” his wife calls out to him. He’s struggling to pull a sleeve over one of the cast-iron arms when the droning weeoo-weeooo-weeoo of a police siren blares, causing a brief frenzy until the man’s son realizes he’s mistakenly hit the siren feature on the megaphone he’s carrying. After a few more tense moments, the crowd surges forward, leaving behind the statue, legs stretched in mid-stride, arms raised triumphantly, and on his chest a new cotton T-shirt with the slogan: “Water You Fighting For?” Stop Two: The Tri-Cities of Cancer The next afternoon, we barrel down Interstate 75 into an industrial hellscape of smoke stacks, flare offs, and 18-wheelers, en route to another toxicity and accountability crisis. This one was caused by a massive tar sands refinery and dozens of other industrial polluters in southwest Detroit and neighboring River Rouge and Ecorse, cities which lie along the banks of the Detroit River. Already with a slight headache from a haze of emissions, we meet photographer and community leader Emma Lockridge and her neighbor Anthony Parker in front of their homes, which sit right in the backyard of that tar sands refinery. In 2006, the toxicity levels in their neighborhood, known simply by its zip code as “48217,” were 45 times higher [11] than the state average. And that was before Detroit gave $175 million in tax breaks [12] to the billion-dollar Marathon Petroleum Corporation to help it expand its refinery complex to process a surge of high-sulfur tar sands from Alberta, Canada. The Marathon tar sands refinery in southwest Detroit. Photo credit: Eduardo García “We’re a donor zip,” explains Lockridge as she settles into the driver’s seat of our car. “We have all the industry and a tax base, but we get nothing back.” We set off on a whirlwind tour of their neighborhood, where schools have been torn down and parks closed due to the toxicity of the soil, while so many residents have died of cancer that it’s hard for their neighbors to keep track. “We used to play on the swings here,” says Lockridge, pointing to a rusted yellow swing set in a fenced-off lot where the soil has tested for high levels of lead, arsenic, and other poisonous chemicals. “Jumping right into the lead.” As in other regions of Michigan, people have been fleeing 48217 in droves. Here, however, the depopulation results not from deindustrialization, but from toxicity, thanks to an ever-expanding set of factories. These include a wastewater treatment complex, salt mines, asphalt factories, cement plants, a lime and stone foundry, and a handful of steel mills all clustered in the tri-cities region. As Lockridge and Parker explain, they have demanded that Marathon buy their homes. They have also implored the state to cap emission levels and have filed lawsuits against particularly toxic factories. In response, all they’ve seen are more factories given more breaks, while the residents of 48217 get none. Last spring, for example, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality permitted the AK Steel plant, located close to the neighborhood, to increase [13] its toxic emissions as much as 725 times [14]. The approval, according to the Detroit Free Press [14], came after “Governor Rick Snyder’s business-promoting agency worked for months behind the scenes” lobbying the Department of Environmental Quality. “Look at this cute little tree out of nowhere over here!” Lockridge exclaims, slowing the car in front of a scrawny plant whose branches, in the midst of this industrial wasteland, bend under the weight of white blossoms. “That tree ain’t gonna grow up,” Parker responds. “It’s dead already.” “It’s trying,” Lockridge insists. “Aww, it’s kind of sad. It’s a Charlie Brown tree.” The absurdity of life in such an environment is highlighted when we reach a half-mile stretch of sidewalk sandwiched between a massive steel mill and a coal-fired power plant that has been designated a “Wellness Walk.” “Energize your Life!” implores the sign affixed to a chain-link fence surrounding the power plant. It’s an unlikely site for an exercise walk, given that the state’s health officials consider [15] this strip and the nearby park “the epicenter of the state’s asthma burden.” After a sad laugh, we head for Zug Island, a Homeland Security-patrolled area populated by what look to be giant black vacuum cleaners but are actually blast furnaces [16]. The island was named for millionaire Samuel Zug, who built a lavish mansion there only to discover that it was sinking into swampland. It is now home to U.S. Steel, the largest steel manufacturer in the nation. On our way back, we make a final stop at Oakwood Heights, an almost entirely vacant and partially razed subdivision located on the other side of the Marathon plant. “This is the white area that was bought out,” says Lockridge. The scene is eerie: small residential streets lined by grassy fields and the occasional empty house. That Marathon paid residents [17] to evacuate their homes in this predominantly white section of town, while refusing to do the same in the predominantly African-American 48217, which sits closer to the refinery, strikes neither Lockridge and Parker nor their neighbors as a coincidence. We survey the remnants of the former neighborhood: bundles of ragged newspapers someone was once supposed to deliver, a stuffed teddy bear abandoned on a wooden porch, and a childless triangle-shaped playground whose construction, a sign reads, was “made possible by generous donations from Marathon.” As this particularly unmagical stop on our Michigan tour comes to an end, Parker says quietly, “I’ve got to get my family out of here.” Lockridge agrees. “I just wish we had a refuge place we could go to while we’re fighting,” she says. “You see we’re surrounded.” Stop Three: The Great White North Not all of Michigan’s problems are caused by emergency management, but this sweeping new power does lie at the heart of many local controversies. Later that night we meet with retired Detroit city worker, journalist, and organizer Russ Bellant who has made himself something of an expert on the subject. In 2011, he explains, Governor Snyder signed an emergency manager law known as Public Act 4. The impact of this law and its predecessor, Public Act 72, was dramatic. In the city of Pontiac, for instance, the number of public employees plummeted [18] from 600 to 50. In Detroit, the emergency manager of the school district waged a six-year slash-and-burn campaign that, in the end, shuttered 95 schools [19]. In Benton Harbor, the manager effectively dissolved the city government, declaring [20]: “The fact of the matter is, the city manager is now gone. I am the city manager. I replace the financial director, so I’m the financial director and the city manager. I am the mayor and the commission. And I don’t need them.” So in 2012, Bellant cancelled all his commitments in Detroit, packed his car full of chocolate pudding snacks, canned juices, and fliers and headed north to support a statewide campaign to repeal the law through a ballot referendum in that fall’s general election. For two months, he crisscrossed the upper reaches of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, the part of the state that people say looks like a hand, as well as the remote Upper Peninsula that borders Wisconsin and Canada. “Seven or eight hours a day, I would just knock on doors,” he says. In November, the efforts paid off and voters repealed the act, but the celebration was short-lived. Less than two months later, during a lame-duck session of the state legislature, Governor Snyder pushed through and signed Public Act 436, a broader version of the legislation that was referendum-proof [21]. Since then, financial managers have continued to shut down [22] fire departments, outsource [18] police departments, sell off [18] parking meters and public parks. In Flint, the manager even auctioned off the plastic Santa Claus that once adorned city hall, setting the initial bidding price [23] at $5. And here’s one fact of life in Michigan: emergency management is normally only imposed on majority-black cities. From 2013 to 2014, 52 percent of the African-American residents in the state lived under emergency management, compared to only 2 percent of white residents. And yet the repeal vote against the previous version of the act was a demographic landslide: 75 out of 83 counties [24] voted to nix the legislation, including all of Michigan’s northern, overwhelmingly white, rural counties. “I think people just internalized that P.A. 4 was undemocratic,” Bellant says. That next morning, we travel north to the city of Alpena, a 97 percent white [25] lakeside town where Bellant knocked on doors and the recall was triumphant. The farther north we head, the more the landscape changes. We pass signs imploring residents to “Take Back America: Liberty Yes, Tyranny No.” Gas stations feature clay figurines of hillbillies drinking moonshine in bathtubs. It’s almost evening when we arrive. We spend part of our visit at the Dry Dock, a dive bar overseen by a raspy-voiced bartender where all the political and demographic divides of the state—and, in many ways, the country—are on full display. Two masons are arguing about their union; the younger one likes the protections it provides, while his colleague ditched the local because he didn’t want to pay the dues. That move became possible only after Snyder signed [26] controversial “right-to-work” legislation in 2012, allowing workers to opt-out of union dues and causing a sharp decline [27] in union membership ever since. Above their heads, the television screen projects intentionally terrifying images of the uprising in Baltimore in response to the police murder of Freddie Gray, an unarmed African-American man. “The Bloods, the Crips, and the Guerrillas are out for the National Guard,” comments a carpenter about the unarmed protesters, a sneer of distain in his voice. “Not that I like the fucking cops, either,” he adds. The bartender of the Dry Dock plays pool with other regulars. Photo credit: Eduardo García Throughout our visit, people repeatedly told us that Alpena “isn’t Detroit or Flint” and that they have absolutely no fear of the state seizing control of their sleepy, white, touristy city. When we press the question with the owner of a bicycle shop, the hostility rises in his voice as he explains: “Things just run the way they should here”—by which he means, of course, that down in Detroit and Flint, residents don’t run things the way they should. Yet, misconceptions notwithstanding, the county voted to repeal Public Act 4 with a staggering 63 percent of those who turned out opting to strike down the law. Reflecting Bellant’s feeling that locals grasped the law’s undemocratic nature in some basic way, even if it would never affect them personally, one resident offered this explanation: “When you think about living in a democracy, then this is like financial martial law… I know they say these cities need help, but it didn’t feel like something that would help.” Stop Four: The Fugitive Task Force The next day, as 2,000 soldiers from the 175th Infantry Regiment of the National Guard fanned out [28] across Baltimore, we head for Detroit’s west side where, only 24 hours earlier, a law enforcement officer shot and killed a 20-year-old man in his living room. A crowd has already gathered near his house in the early summer heat, exchanging condolences, waving signs, and jostling for position as news crews set up cameras and microphones for a press conference to come. Versions of what happened quickly spread: Terrance Kellom was fatally shot when officers swarmed his house to deliver an arrest warrant. The authorities claim that he grabbed a hammer, prompting the shooting; his father, Kevin, contends Terrance was unarmed and kneeling in front of him when he was shot several times, including once in the back [29]. Kellom is just one of the 489 people [30] killed in 2015 in the United States by law enforcement officers. There is, however, a disturbing twist to Kellom’s case. He was not, in fact, killed by the police but by a federal agent working with a little known multi-jurisdictional interagency task force coordinated by the U.S. Marshals. Similar task forces are deployed across the country and they all share the same sordid history: the Marshals have been hunting people ever since the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act compelled the agency [31] to capture slaves fleeing north for freedom. One nineteenth-century newspaper account, celebrating the use of bloodhounds in such hunts, wrote: “The Cuban dog would frequently pull down his game and tear the runaway to pieces before the officers could come up.” These days, Detroit’s task force has grown particularly active as budget cuts have decimated the local police department. Made up of federal Immigration and Customs officers, police from half a dozen local departments, and even employees of the Social Security Administration office, the Detroit Fugitive Apprehension Team has nabbed more than 15,000 people [32]. Arrest rates have soared since 2012, the same year the local police budget was chopped by 20 percent. Even beyond the task force, the number of federal agents patrolling the city has risen as well. The Border Patrol, for example, has increased its presence in the region by tenfold [33] over the last decade and just two weeks ago announced the launch of a new $14 million [34] Detroit station. Kevin Kellom approaches the barricade of microphones and begins speaking so quietly that the gathered newscasters crush into each other in an effort to catch what’s he’s saying. “They assassinated my son,” he whispers. “I want justice and I’m going to get justice.” Yet today, six weeks after Terrance’s death, no charges have been brought against the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent who fired the fatal shot. Other law enforcement officers who have killed Michigan residents in recent years have similarly escaped punishment. Detroit police officer Joseph Weekley was videotaped killing [35] seven-year-old Aiyana Jones with a submachine gun during a SWAT team raid on her home in 2010. He remains a member of the department. Ann Arbor police officer David Reid is also back on duty [36] after fatally shooting 40-year-old artist and mother Aura Rosser in November 2014. The Ann Arbor police department ruled that a “justifiable homicide” because Rosser was holding a small kitchen knife [37]during the encounter—a ruling that Rosser’s family members and city residents are contesting with an ongoing campaign calling for an independent investigation into her death. Residents march during a #BlackLivesMatter protest on May 1, 2015, in Ann Arbor to call for an independent investigation into Aura Rosser’s death. Photo credit: Eduardo García And such deadly incidents continue. Since Kellom’s death, law enforcement officers have fatally shot at least three more Michigan residents—one outside the city of Kalamazoo [38], another near Lansing [39], and a third in Battle Creek. [40] Stop Five: The Unprofitable All-Charter School District Our final stop is Muskegon Heights, a small city on the banks of Lake Michigan, home to perhaps the most spectacular educational debacle in recent history. Here’s the SparkNotes version. In 2012, members of the Muskegon Heights public school board were given two options: dissolve the district entirely or succumb to an emergency manager’s rule. On arrival, the manager announced that he was dissolving the public school district and forming a new system to be run by the New York-based for-profit charter school management company Mosaica Education. Two years later, that company broke its five-year contract and fled because, according to [41] the emergency manager, “the profit just simply wasn’t there.” And here’s a grim footnote to this saga: in 2012, in preparation for the new charter school district, cryptically named the Muskegon Heights Public School Academy System, the emergency manager laid off every single school employee. “We knew it was coming,” explained one of the city’s longtime elementary school teachers. She asked not to be identified, so I’ll call her Susan. “We received letters in the mail.” Then, around one a.m. the night before the new charter school district was slated to open, she received a voicemail asking if she could teach the following morning. She agreed, arriving at Martin Luther King Elementary School for what would be the worst year in her more than two-decade career. When we visit that school, a single-story brick building on the east side of town, the glass of the front door had been smashed and the halls were empty, save for two people removing air conditioning units. But in the fall of 2012, when Susan was summoned, Martin Luther King was still filled with students—and chaos. Schedules were in disarray. Student computers were broken. There were supply shortages of just about everything, even rolls of toilet paper. The district’s already barebones special education program had been further gutted [42]. The “new,” non-unionized teaching staff—about 10 percent [43] of whom initially did not have valid teaching certificates—were overwhelmingly young, inexperienced, and white. (Approximately 75 percent of the town’s residents are African-American.) “Everything was about money, I felt, and everyone else felt it, too,” Susan says. The smashed glass of the front entrance of Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School, which closed after students fled the charter school district. Photo credit: Eduardo García With her salary slashed to less than $30,000, she picked up a second job at a nearby after-school program. Her health faltered. Instructed by the new administration never to sit down during class, a back condition worsened until surgery was required. The stress began to affect her short-term memory. Finally, in the spring, Susan sought medical leave and never came back. She was part of a mass exodus. Advocates say that more than half the teachers were either fired, quit, or took medical leave before the 2012-2013 school year ended. Mosaica itself wasn’t far behind, breaking its contract at the end of the 2014 school year. The emergency manager said he understood the company’s financial assessment, comparing the school system to “a broke-down car [44].” That spring, Governor Snyder visited and called the district [45] “a work in progress.” Across the state, the education trend has been toward privatization [46] and increased control [47] over local districts by the governor’s office, with results that are, to say the least, underwhelming. This spring, a report from The Education Trust, an independent national education nonprofit, warned that the state’s system had gone [48] “from bad to worse.” “We’re now on track to perform lower than the nation’s lowest-performing states,” the report’s author, Amber Arellano, told [49] the local news. Later that afternoon, we visited the city’s James Jackson Museum of African-American History, where we sat with Dr. James Jackson, a family physician and longtime advocate of community-controlled public education in the city. He explains that the city’s now-failing struggle for local control and quality education is part of a significantly longer history. Most of the town’s families originally arrived here in the first half of the twentieth century from the Jim Crow South, where public schools for Black students were not only abysmally underfunded, but also thwarted by censorship and outside governance, as historian Carter Goodwin Woodson explained in his groundbreaking 1933 study [50], The Mis-Education of the Negro. Well into the twentieth century, for example, the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution were barred from grade-school textbooks for being too aspirational. “When you control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his actions,” Woodson wrote back then. More than eight decades later, Dr. Jackson offered similar thoughts about the Muskegon Heights takeover as he led us through the museum, his bright yellow T-shirt reminding us to “Honor Black History Every Day 24/7—365.” “We have to control our own education,” Jackson said, as we passed sepia newspaper clippings of civil rights marches and an 1825 bill of sale for Peggy and her son Jonathan, purchased for $371 by James Aiken of Warren County, Georgia. “Until we control our own school system, we can’t be properly educated.” As we leave, we stop a moment to take in an electronic sign hanging in the museum’s window that, between announcements about upcoming book club meetings and the establishment’s hours, flashed this refrain in red letters: The education of Muskegon Heights Belongs to the People Not the governor The following day, we finally arrived back in Detroit, our notebooks and iPhone audio records and camera memory cards filled to the brim, heads spinning from everything we had seen, our aging Prius-turned-tour-bus in serious need of an oil change. While we had been bumping along on our Magical Michigan Tour, the national landscape had, in some ways, grown even more surreal. Bernie Sanders, the independent socialist senator from Vermont, announced that he was challenging Hillary Clinton for the Democratic ticket. Detroit neuroscientist Dr. Ben Carson—famous for declaring that Obamacare was “the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery”—entered the Republican circus. And amid the turmoil, Governor Snyder’s style continued to attract attention, including from the editors of Bloomberg View<, who touted [51] his experience with “urban revitalization,” concluding: “His brand of politics deserves a wider audience.” So buckle your seat belts and watch out. In some “revitalized” Bloombergian future, you, too, could flee your school district like the students and teachers of Muskegon Heights, or drink contaminated water under the mandate of a state-appointed manager like the residents of Flint, or be guaranteed toxic fumes to breathe like the neighbors of 48217, or get shot like Terrance Kellom by federal agents in your own living room. All you have to do is let Rick Snyder’s yellow submarine cruise into your neighborhood. Source URL: http://www.thenation.com/article/209489/michigans-attempt-destroy-democracy-and-environment Links: [1] http://www.tomdispatch.com/ [2] https://app.e2ma.net/app/view:Join/signupId:43308/acctId:25612 [3] http://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/detroit/2015/01/22/kevyn-orr-atlantic-city/22169071/ [4] http://www.politico.com/story/2014/12/rick-snyder-2016-elections-detroit-michigan-113487.html [5] http://www.clickondetroit.com/blob/view/-/29818864/data/2/-/wyero5/-/Emergency-Manager-filing-by-Judge-Caram-Steeh.pdf [6] http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/25/us/a-water-dilemma-in-michigan-cheaper-or-clearer.html [7] http://www.mlive.com/news/flint/index.ssf/2014/08/second_postivie_ecoli_test_mea.html [8] http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/25/us/a-water-dilemma-in-michigan-cheaper-or-clearer.html?_r=0 [9] http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/4/3/flint-residents-find-state-water-control-hard-to-swallow.html [10] http://michiganradio.org/post/flint-may-wind-court-over-its-water-problems#stream/0 [11] http://www.nytimes.com/gwire/2011/09/12/12greenwire-health-worries-stalk-neighborhoods-in-detroits-86388.html?pagewanted=all [12] http://archive.freep.com/article/20140314/NEWS01/303140013/Tax-break-for-Marathon-refinery-expansion-fails-to-bring-jobs-for-Detroit-residents-city-officials-say [13] http://www.freep.com/article/20140513/NEWS02/305130033/ [14] http://archive.freep.com/article/20140504/NEWS02/305040079/severstal-emails-worst-air-polluters [15] http://www.politico.com/agenda/story/2015/05/inside-war-on-coal-000002 [16] http://daveayers.com/Modeling/images/Steel/GL_Steel_1964.jpg [17] http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/3/3/michigan-tar-sandsindustryaccusedofactingwithimpunity.html [18] http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/14/us/lessons-for-detroit-in-pontiacs-years-of-emergency-oversight.html [19] http://www.metrotimes.com/detroit/after-six-years-and-four-state-appointed-managers-detroit-public-schools-debt-is-deeper-than-ever/Content?oid=2302010 [20] http://thecolbertreport.cc.com/videos/38grqn/the-word—-autocratic-for-the-people [21] http://www.mlive.com/news/index.ssf/2013/01/critics_expect_to_test_michiga.html [22] http://www.firefighterclosecalls.com/news/fullstory/newsid/111483 [23] http://www.mlive.com/entertainment/flint/index.ssf/2013/05/santa_claus_shopping_carts_and.html#incart_river [24] http://www.michigancapitolconfidential.com/17936 [25] http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/26/2601740.html [26] http://www.mlive.com/news/index.ssf/2012/12/gov_snyder_signs_right-to-work.html [27] http://www.detroitnews.com/story/business/2015/01/23/michigan-union-membership/22214357/ [28] http://www.armytimes.com/story/military/guard-reserve/2015/04/28/baltimore-national-guard-mission-freddie-gray-protests/26529499/ [29] http://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/detroit/2015/05/15/attorney-kellom-shot-back-ice/27371041/ [30] http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/ng-interactive/2015/jun/01/the-counted-police-killings-us-database [31] http://www.usmarshals.gov/history/timeline.html [32] http://www.clickondetroit.com/news/us-marshalled-dfat-considered-one-of-the-best/20156214 [33] http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/4/29/terrance-kellom-shot-dead-in-detroit-by-ice-agent.html [34] http://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/local-media-release/2015-05-28-000000/us-border-patrol-opens-new-detroit-station [35] http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2015/04/12/police-officers-charged-in-fatal-shootings-while-on-duty-54-cases-in-the-past-decade/ [36] http://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/index.ssf/2015/03/ann_arbor_officer_who_fatally.html [37] http://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/index.ssf/2015/01/red.html [38] http://www.mlive.com/news/kalamazoo/index.ssf/2015/05/police_kill_1_man_injure_anoth.html [39] http://www.lansingstatejournal.com/story/news/local/2015/05/27/man-hospitalized-shot-police-near-st-johns/28004917/ [40] http://www.mlive.com/news/kalamazoo/index.ssf/2015/05/fatal_police_shooting_in_battl.html [41] http://www.mlive.com/news/muskegon/index.ssf/2014/04/mosaica_out_as_manager_of_musk.html [42] http://michiganradio.org/post/despite-state-takeover-special-education-problems-linger-muskegon-heights-schools [43] http://michiganradio.org/post/state-fines-muskegon-heights-schools-hiring-teachers-without-proper-certification-0 [44] http://michiganradio.org/post/muskegon-heights-ends-contract-charter-school-company#stream/0 [45] http://www.mlive.com/news/muskegon/index.ssf/2014/04/gov_rick_snyder_discusses_musk.html [46] http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2011/09/michigan-republican-privatize-teacher-public-education [47] http://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/2015/03/12/rick-snyder-michigan-school-reform-transfer/70217338/ [48] http://michiganachieves.com/ [49] http://www.mlive.com/lansing-news/index.ssf/2015/05/michigan_risks_falling_behind.html [50] http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/misedne.html [51] http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2015-05-11/rick-snyder-non-candidate

Source: http://www.thenation.com/article/209489/michigans-attempt-destroy-democracy-and-environment
Indiana must take better care of environment 4:24 p.m. EDT July 5, 2015 GENERAL INFORMATION: 12/12/00. staff photo/HKaren Ducey. #54473A year ago after the city's plant suffered a disruption this outfall carried a foamy toxic brew that traveled through three counties and wiped out 117 tons of fish. IN THIS PHOTO: Treated water flows out of the Anderson Water Pollution Control Plant into the White River.(Photo: INDIANAPOLIS STAR) I read the article about the airport dumping de-icing chemicals into streams. I did some quick research into the side effects of the listed chemicals. None of them are healthy for the life of a stream, and none of them are especially good for humans to be exposed to in the likely amounts that are being released. I find it appalling that the airport is permitted to dump chemicals into nearby streams knowing that these chemicals are not safe to discard in this manner. I feel strongly that the people who complain have a right to feel worried about health issues, as the symptoms they list are all listed side effects from these chemicals. When is Indiana going to take responsibility for the environment and, for the health of our citizens? The sooner we realize this sort of disposal of chemicals is unsafe, and the sooner we dispose of them appropriately, the sooner we will all benefit. Our priorities seem out of kilter when we are willing to risk the well-being of others for any reason. Our citizens are the best asset we have, and we need to take better care of them and our environment. Elizabeth Farr Indianapolis  Source: http://www.indystar.com/story/opinion/readers/2015/07/05/indiana-must-take-better-care-environment/29739921/
Inequality isn’t just bad for the economy — it’s toxic for the environment By Susan Holmberg on 5 Jul 2015 comments Share Tweet The pope’s encyclical on climate change was received with both enormous enthusiasm and criticism, reactions that will only intensify as he continues to lead efforts to solve our climate crisis and generate momentum for the U.N. Climate Conference later this year. His latest move? Inviting Naomi Klein, author most recently of This Changes Everything, to help lead last week’s Vatican conference on climate change. The most consistent and profound message threaded throughout Pope Francis’ text is how disproportionately vulnerable the poor are to the escalating effects of climate change. Poor communities are on the front lines, particularly susceptible to induced mega-storms, droughts, flooding, and other conditions that make life even more difficult. Because of their economic instability, impoverished communities are also more easily affected by a storm that in itself is not deadly. In 1998, when Hurricane Mitch hit Honduras, the poor were disproportionately devastated; impoverished households lost 15–20 percent of their assets as a result of the storm, while the rich lost only 3 percent. This is why the environmental justice movement has long spotlighted the role of structural racism in coercing people of color and the poor into living in vulnerable areas and near the most polluted environments (landfills, industrial plants, etc.) and consequently experiencing worse health and quality-of-life outcomes. Yet, to build on the pope and environmental justice movement’s message that economic inequality and environmental quality are linked, it is important to point out that the relationship between the economy and environment goes both ways. We’ve become more aware that environmental damage can be especially bad for poor people and people of color. What is less obvious is that high economic inequality — in the case of the United States, we’re almost at pre-Great Depression levels — is also bad for our environment. Economist James Boyce argues that, because wealth ultimately converts into political power, a society with high levels of wealth and income inequality leaves those at the bottom less able to resist the powerful interests that benefit from pollution. That’s consistent with the environmental justice movement’s message, but Boyce takes it further by arguing, “the total magnitude of environmental harm depends on the extent of inequality. Societies with wider inequalities of wealth and power tend to have more environmental harm.” Boyce provides two compelling pieces of evidence for his argument. The first is his study, with colleagues from the Political Economy Research Institute, comparing industrial air pollution across U.S. metro areas. The authors look at the distribution of air pollution impacts across income levels and racial groups and find that in cities where the gaps in pollution exposure between people of color and whites are larger, there tends to be much more pollution in general. The second study Boyce conducted, with another group of colleagues, looked at environmental quality across the 50 states and asked why it’s better in some states than others. It again turns out that these variations have much to do with differences in wealth and power. “Where income inequalities were greater, where educational inequalities were greater, where the fairness of fiscal policy in terms of both the tax system and access to services like Medicaid was better, you tended to find differences in environmental degradation.” More equal distributions of wealth and power were associated with better environmental outcomes. Boyce’s results are supported by complementary studies. Economist Jungho Baek and his coauthors also find that more equal income distribution in the U.S. results in better environmental quality in both the short and long run. Australian researchers identify similar impacts on the “stability of major systems including the social, terrestrial, water and mineral industry.” We can imagine a variety of mechanisms for how wider disparities in economic inequality would lead to higher “quantities” of environmental degradation. One is how we make environmental policy decisions. The Reagan administration mandated that cost-benefit analysis would be the primary tool for making these decisions, like allowable use of pesticides and levels of resource extraction. The belief was, and still is, that cost-benefit analysis is always the most objective, transparent, and efficient method. But in addition to the fact that cost-benefit analyses are often criticized for being widely inaccurate and politically motivated, benefits are often valued by the willingness to pay for environmental improvements, which is problematic. When surveyed, the rich say they are willing to pay more than the poor for keeping a landfill incinerator out of their communities. Thus, despite the fact that common sense tells us impoverished and disempowered communities would just as much like to live in a clean and safe environment as the more wealthy and powerful, cost-benefit analyses typically say otherwise. The end result is that a cost-benefit survey might recommend a higher level of allowable pollution than if the survey results were based on a more equitable population. Precipitated by the 2008 global financial crisis, we are finally having a lively debate about economic inequality in the U.S., which, after decades of stability, has been rising for the past 30 years or so. Yet our urgent conversation about climate change and environmental quality is siloed from this broader debate. As we confront the realities of our changing climate, we must recognize that environmental devastation is a distinct byproduct of economic inequality. We need to blend these conversations and also understand that the host of policy ideas coming out of the inequality debate could play an important role in solving our current environmental crisis. —– Susan Holmberg is the research director and a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute in New York. She holds a Ph.D. in economics from UMass, Amherst.  Source: http://grist.org/politics/inequality-isnt-just-bad-for-the-economy-its-toxic-for-the-environment/
Greens blast anti-trespass Bill COLIN BETTLES 08 Jul, 2015 04:00 AM 7   I think these are extremely disappointing things for a fellow Senator to say RELATED Ministers agree on farm trespass Anti-trespass bill 'recommended' More hurdles for Back’s Bill LATEST Battle of the bulge Beauty at ‘Beckworth Court’ Preschools in peril Pastoral webinar focuses on funding Beef's Strong man honoured by AMSA No subsidies for MPCI development A STOUSH over the controversial anti-farm trespass Bill has erupted after the Greens described the proposed legislation as “repulsive”. Liberal Senator Chris Back has returned fire at the Greens’ description of his proposed Criminal Code Amendment (Animal Protection) Bill. The Bill is aimed at animal rights activists trespassing on livestock facilities to take covert video footage and protracted delays in reporting any subsequent evidence of malicious animal cruelty offences, to proper authorities. An inquiry by the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Committee was tabled last month and recommended passing the Bill. However, that support was conditional on amending the proposed 24-hour period for reporting any video footage of animal cruelty to relevant authorities to “as soon as practicable”. But NSW Greens Senator and animal welfare spokesperson Lee Rhiannon remains staunchly opposed to the WA Senator’s Bill and last month introduced her own proposal to initiate an independent Office of Animal Welfare. Senator Rhiannon said the proposal would create an independent statutory authority responsible for reviewing, advising and promoting the protection of animal welfare in Commonwealth regulated activities. “While the Labor opposition want to reinstate the Inspector General of Animal Welfare and Live Animal Exports, this position is beholden to the whims of the Agriculture Minister and continues the failed Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) which has not stopped the horrific abuse of animals,” she said in a statement. However, Senator Back took offence to the language used to describe his Bill and its intent in Senator Rhiannon’s second reading speech on her legislative proposal. “Currently before the Senate sits Coalition Senator Back’s repulsive Private Members’ Ag-gag Bill that would prosecute without need for proof, animal welfare investigators who take visual recordings of systematic animal cruelty on Australia’s factory farms, in greyhound training grounds, in live export slaughterhouses, shearing sheds and laboratories and other animal use industries,” her speech said.  Source: http://www.theland.com.au/news/agriculture/general/politics/greens-blast-antitrespass-bill/2736958.aspx
The bat factor: Mammals' deaths could cripple environment - News3LV The bat factor: Mammals' deaths could cripple environment Video Images SPECIAL REPORT: The bat factor: Nocturnal and mysterious Reported by: Denise Rosch Email: drosch@mynews3.com Print Story Published: 7/08 7:36 pm Share Updated: 7/09 11:48 am LAS VEGAS (KSNV News3LV) -- They're nocturnal and mysterious, sometimes feared and often misunderstood. Here in Nevada there are 24 different species of bat, and some scientists say it's time to rescue their reputation before a disease wipes out the critters that are critical to our environment. "Bats are all over in Vegas. People don't realize bats are in their backyards," says biologist Christy Klinger. Just after sun down, Christy Klinger with the Nevada Department of Wildlife is hard at work. During News 3's outing with the professional, she was busy preparing a catch and release survey of some of nature's most misunderstood night dwellers, the bats that emerge from the shadows of Potosi Mountain. An acoustic bat detector helps to pick up on their high frequency chatter. "They're echo-locating, able to turn on a dime because they're honing in on an insect. It gives them an erratic flight pattern that kind of freaks people out," says Klinger. The set-up was fairly easy. A few well-placed stakes support a net across the mountain pond. Then scientists spend the evening waiting to see what sticks. On this outing, scientists check the health of the colony. The scientists note everything from wing condition, to the size of the ears to their thumbs. They hope to shine a positive light on the tiny mammals, responsible for everything from pest control to pollination. Our night vision lens picked up plenty of action in the dark. "Mangos, bananas, cashews, almonds. All of those sorts of things get pollinated by certain species of bats. And we'd have a lot less tequila out there too because the agave plant gets pollinated by bats," says Klinger. Despite popular belief, bats are not blind. And if they're paying attention, they can see the net set up by scientists. What scientists have instead is the element of surprise. Wildlife biologist Jason Williams explains it like this: "If you get up in the middle of the night to use the restroom, you don't turn on a light because you know where the furniture is. But if you're husband moved the furniture and didn't tell you, you'd walk into it. Because you're not paying attention," he says. There is reason to worry about the fate of bats in North America. Since 2012 upwards of 6-million have died from White Nose Syndrome. It is a fungus that attaches to bats during hibernation. So far, the disease has only been found in the eastern and central parts of the country, but biologists here are watching, hoping it does not move west. "It's an irritant so it causes the bat to arouse out of hibernation. Once they arouse they're metabolism increases and they burn up their fat reserves too fast. Before spring time, and they usually starve to death," says Klinger. One reason to care? With fewer bats eating bugs, farmers will rely more heavily on expensive pesticides and that leads to higher prices at the grocery store. Studies are going on now to note temperature and humidity inside mines and caves. It's an attempt to understand the conditions the deadly fungus needs to thrive. Our infra-red video, shot inside a cave in central Nevada, is a bat migration stop-over site. "That cave alone over the course of about 3 months we'll see anywhere from 1 to 3 million Mexican free tail bats funnel through it," says Klinger. Back at Mt. Potosi, forty bats are netted in just one hour. Each are marked and set free. The creatures of the night left to hunt in peace once again. Another fear many people have when it comes to bats is rabies, but Klinger says one recent estimate shows less than one-tenth of 1 percent of bats potentially carry the disease. Sure they can, any wild animal can. So if you see them out, especially during the day, leave them alone. Don't touch.  Source: http://www.news3lv.com/content/news/local/story/The-bat-factor-Mammals-deaths-could-cripple/mTAPHefP0E2F7Szhr6lLKg.cspx
Environment Ministry brings charges against Haifa Oil Refineries for polluting air Facilities accused of a number of transgressions, including emitting excessive quantities of pollutants such as sulfur oxides and carbon monoxide. By Zafrir Rinat | Jul. 10, 2015 | 12:34 PM The Oil Refineries Ltd. plant in Haifa. Photo by Yaron Kaminsky Text size Comments (0) Print Page Send to friend Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share related tags Haifa Environment & Nature related articles Report: 15% of cancer cases in Haifa due to air pollution By Zafrir Rinat | Apr. 15, 2015 | 5:14 AM | 1 Israeli government sending mixed messages on Haifa pollution By Zafrir Rinat | Apr. 16, 2015 | 3:00 AM Knesset panel: Haifa Oil Refineries air pollution must be cut By Zafrir Rinat and Eli Ashkenazi Aug. 1, 2014 | 4:33 AM The Ministry of Environmental Protection brought charges against Haifa Oil Refineries on Thursday for environmental violations, including emission of air pollutants, in what the ministry said was part of its efforts to clean up the Haifa Bay area. In an indictment filed in Haifa Magistrate Court, the ministry charged the refineries and two of its subsidiaries with violating a ministry directive and the terms of its business license as a result of environmental transgressions that occurred in 2012-2013. The charges were submitted after an investigation by the “Green Police” and after hearings held with managers of these companies. The charges claim that the facilities involved did not meet standards for prevention of air pollution. Excessive quantities of pollutants such as nitro-and sulfur oxides, as well as carbon monoxide, were emitted into the air by these plants. They thereby violated a directive, under which they have been operating as well as the terms of their business license, according to the indictment. The charges against the refineries include infractions of guidelines for toxic waste treatment. This relates to sludge created during petroleum refining and to the treatment of sewage. This toxic sludge must be transferred to approved disposal sites. According to the indictment, 28,000 tons of sludge had accumulated in the refineries’ compound. The refineries did not follow ministry directives to treat the sludge and remove it. It was finally removed from the site, 13 months behind schedule. Most of it was sent to two sites in the Negev and the rest was sent to a treatment facility overseas. The Ministry for Environmental Protection emphasizes that large investments were made in these plants in recent years to address environmental concerns, leading to a significant drop in the emission of dangerous toxic products. Relating to the pressing of charges, the ministry’s director general David Leffler said that “this was a direct continuation of our zero-tolerance policy vis-à-vis offending plants, and of our efforts to reduce pollution in the Haifa Bay area. The message to industries is clear: We’ll use all the enforcement tools at our disposal, including shutting down offending plants.” Over the last few weeks, discussion are continuing at an appeals committee at the National Council for Planning and Building, regarding a plan for regulating the area around the refineries. The plan aims to coordinate planning in the compound as well as allowing for development and further production. Many agencies have objected to any expansion of the refineries. The Minister for Environmental Protection Avi Gabay and Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman toured the area this week and discussed ways to prevent pollution with the managers of industries in the area. The refineries group responded by saying that it has invested more than 1.2 billion shekels (over $300 million) in recent years in order to resolve the problems. The sludge which had accumulated was removed in a big project that ended two years ago. The emission of pollutants is now dealt with using state-of-the-art technology in coordination with the ministry. This has reduced emission by 60-70 percent, the company said.  Source: http://www.haaretz.com/life/nature-environment/1.665334
Bacteria Making Meds in Wastewater Outflows Saturday, 01 August 2015 00:00 By Brian Bienkowski, Environmental Health News | Report font size decrease font size increase font size Print  12   Email Wastewater treatment plants not only struggle removing pharmaceuticals, it seems some drugs actually increase after treatment. When researchers tested wastewater before and after treatment at a Milwaukee-area treatment plant, they found that two drugs — the anti-epileptic carbamazepine and antibiotic ofloxacin — came out at higher concentrations than they went in. The study suggests the microbes that clean our water may also piece some pharmaceuticals back together. Carbamazepine and ofloxacin on average increased by 80 percent and 120 percent, respectively, during the treatment process. Such drugs, and their metabolites (formed as part of the natural biochemical process of degrading and eliminating the compounds), get into the wastewater by people taking them and excreting them. Flushing drugs accounts for some of the levels too. "Microbes seem to be making pharmaceuticals out of what used to be pharmaceuticals," said lead author Benjamin Blair, who spearheaded the work as a PhD. student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Blair is now a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Colorado Denver. Blair and colleagues found 48 out of 57 pharmaceuticals they were looking for at the South Shore Water Reclamation Facility in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, which serves the greater Milwaukee area. The researchers have a clue as to how this might happen: microbes. After removing the solids from incoming wastewater, treatment plants use microbes — tiny single-celled organisms — to decompose organic matter that comes in the sewage. Blair's best guess is that people take the drugs, their body breaks them down into different metabolites that are excreted, and the microbes take these different parts of the drug and put them back together. "It's a fascinating idea," Blair said. Tanja Rauch-Williams, principal technologist at the environmental engineering company Carollo Engineers, said it was a strong study but cautioned that this doesn't mean wastewater treatment plants are acting as pharmaceutical factories. "It's a large amount of pharmaceuticals that we [wastewater treatment plant researchers] look at, it's not a trend that the plants generate higher compound concentrations," she said. "It's very specific compounds." She said that this apparent piecing back together of metabolites into pharmaceuticals could, in principle, also happen in the environment after effluent discharge.  It's not the first time researchers have noticed this trend. Canadian researchers found carbamazepine more than doubled its initial medicinal load after treatment at a Peterborough, Ontario, plant. "When others have found this, people thought it was due to things like sampling errors," Blair said. "But we found a clear upward trend over time." What remains unclear is why only certain drugs would increase post-treatment. Blair and colleagues saw the trend in just two of the 48 pharmaceuticals found in their wastewater samples. "We need to look for what the structural or metabolic commonality is in these compounds. And then we could possibly predict whether some would increase [after treatment]," Rauch-Willlaims said. Even with the increases, the pharmaceuticals are at levels far below what could impact humans if they consume the water, she said. But the ubiquity of the drugs in wastewater is a concern for fish and other aquatic creatures. Carbamazepine, used as an anti-epileptic drug, impacted the enzymes in gills, livers and muscles of common carp, according to a 2011 study. Such enzyme changes are indicative of tissue damage and impaired cells. The drug also has been linked to endocrine disruption and reproductive problems in zebrafish.  Rauch-Williams said the wastewater industry is getting more efficient at removing pharmaceuticals. "Things like advanced oxidation, UV disinfection coupled with peroxide, different membrane processes … these remove a large majority of these compounds," she said. Blair said the drawback to many of the more effective treatments is expense. And there's no urgency for plants to upgrade because there aren't any U.S. regulations for pharmaceuticals in water, he added. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency evaluates substances that may be in drinking water by developing Contaminant Candidate Lists and periodically issuing a Regulatory Determination. The EPA's latest drinking water contaminant candidate list — water pollutants not subject to regulations yet but that might render water unsafe — includes several pharmaceuticals that act on hormones.  Source: http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/32113-bacteria-making-meds-in-wastewater-outflows
 

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