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Saturday, October 05, 2002

U.S. Taking Heat Over Lower Klamath Fish Kill

Like the Spotted Owl controversy of the 1990's, what is now happening in the Klamath basin in Oregon is a major symbol of how nature buckles and then breaks under the contradictions imposed by the present American lifestyle and big-business government from beyond.

As I drove the Klamath basin earlier this summer, the area was replete with signs of unionized farmers, "People not Fish!" and "Water: Bringing American Food to Your Table". And the idea of the farmers is certainly sensible -- in drought conditions, faced with a nationalized system of agriculture and price-fixing, they simply cannot compete (or exist) unless water subsidies are provided them. That is, the family farm has already been broken economically by the giant agra-farm, but this new corporate farm's yield cannot be sustained by present water resources: there is a capital contradiction at work.

It should aslo be pointed out, however, that traditionally farms have had a historic impact upon the Klamath basin as well -- draining a good portion of the wetlands and reducing them to farmable prairies...had this not been done (long before the innovations of the corporate farm), water reserves would be sufficiently high so as to meet the needs of both farmers and fish in the current drought-cycle.

Gale Norton and the Bush administration made a typical mistake in failing to understand the complex causes and historical background to this issue and by attempting to appease industry and economy (yet again) at the expense of habitat.

But this idea that habitat is simply a transformable (and endless) series of "resources" for human production and consumption is itself the prime cause behind so much of the present crisis.

The first to suffer are always "the resources" themselves -- and so in this case we have 30,000 dead salmon and counting, the reduction of water supplies, and a future of uncertain ecological consequences. But the effects of such capital ideology will not stop there -- once the resources have been finally depleted, fisheries and the fish-industry will suffer and then collapse (that means human workers out of jobs) and the corporate farms themselves (barring further subsidy) will slowly collapse under the management of a monopolistic corporation that can afford to underwrite their short-term losses for long-term gains.

The end result, then, is devastation for species, local habitats and environments, and workers on the job whilst business becomes increasingly underwritten by government and corporation towards monopoly and hegemonic policy.

The only people who don't lose are the same fat cats who sign the policy initiatives, stock transfers, and loan agreements. In other words, the generally crooked CEO-types that became linked obviously to Bush and Cheney through Enron and Halliburton prior to their Gulf War II media diversion.

Environmentalists and farmers must stand united and come to an understanding of how both suffer under the policies of the present administration, certainly, but also under the modernization of American lifestyle generally. Again, farmers demand of water is understandable -- but their campaign of people first, fish second is mis-guided. Fish are not the farmers problem, except in as much as the big-city sharks that control an entire social organization of capital put the squeeze the farm-worker and the salmon alike.

---------------------
Six months after it restored water to grateful farmers in the Klamath basin, the Bush administration is paying for that decision: 20,000 dead salmon in one of Northern California's worst fish kills ever.

Critics say the administration helped trigger the crisis by cutting back water in the lower Klamath River this summer. Interior Department officials say people are "rushing to judgment" but acknowledge they now face an array of tough choices.

To help the salmon, Interior Secretary Gale Norton started releasing extra water into the Klamath last week. She can't do that indefinitely. The extra water is drawing down Upper Klamath Lake -- home to two endangered lake fish in Oregon -- and the only other supplies are in two reservoirs that farmers want for next year's crops.

But the feds have to do something. Without a big rain, biologists say, an imminent cutback of water could strand the remaining salmon that are running upriver, or dry up the egg nests they are now laying.

"Fish need water," said Paul Wertz, a spokesman for the California Department of Fish and Game. "It doesn't get much simpler than that."
Described as the river's largest die-off ever, an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 fish have perished in the lower Klamath, and crews are scooping them up with bulldozers.

Most of the fish are Chinook salmon -- some 40 pounds or larger -- but the kill has also claimed threatened coho salmon and steelhead trout, and is posing a major test for the Bush administration.

Since coming to office, Norton has vowed to restore balance to often-contentious environmental issues. But American Indian tribes say she has repeatedly favored commercial concerns over their interests, and environmentalists have seized on the fish kill.

On Wednesday, environmental groups and U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, a Democrat who represents the North Coast, hauled buckets of dead fish to a street outside of Norton's office in Washington.

"It was the federal government who caused this crisis with their misplaced water priorities," said Glen Spain, a lawyer with the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations. "They simply violated the law by failing to set aside enough water for fish and tribal trust obligations."

But it is not just environmentalists who are protesting the fish kill. Members of the Yurok tribe say their source of food has been wiped out. And business owners along the Klamath River are angry as well.

Scott Faas, owner of an RV park on the Klamath, hauled coolers of dead fish to the state Capitol Thursday. Faas says he lost all of his customers as fish started piling up in the river, leaving behind a nasty stench.

"I blame the Bush administration," said Faas. "They took away water that belongs to the Indians. The Indians have been living here for thousands of years."

Interior officials, however, say there is no confirmed evidence that reduced flows triggered the fish kills. Steve Williams, head of the U.S.

Fish and Wildlife Service, said biologists are investigating two fish diseases that may or may not be related to the lower flows.

"There's a premature rush to judgment," Williams said Wednesday. "This is a complex system. A lot of factors have contributed."

Starting last spring, the Klamath basin was the focus of a pitched battle when the Interior Department cut off water to irrigators to protect fish following a dry winter.

After months of protests, Interior provided close to full supplies for farmers this summer. That irrigation water, combined with a dry summer, decreased flows to the Klamath by 24 percent and also dried up wildlife refuges that are home to thousands of birds.

Now the Interior Department faces a tougher decision: Whether to keep extra water flowing down the Klamath, even if it takes away supplies that irrigators might need for next year.

Sue Ellen Wooldridge, Norton's deputy chief of staff, said the government can't release too much water because of two rare sucker fish that live in Upper Klamath Lake.

Environmentalists say there is extra water in two Klamath reservoirs -- Gerber Lake and Clear Lake -- but farmers are leery of parting with it, worried about another dry winter ahead.

"Its a real concern," said Dan Keppen of the Klamath Water Users Association. "The Klamath Project shouldn't be asked to carry this burden."

Environmentalists, however, say the burden is being paid by the salmon and now must be spread around. "There is no doubt the choices are tough," said Spain. "But it didn't have to be this way."

By Stuart Leavenworth -- Sacramento Bee

Posted by Richard
10/05/2002 09:32:02 AM | PermaLink

 
Friday, October 04, 2002

Speaking of NEPA: House Democrats Rolling Over For the Right on Everything These Days

While George Miller can pat himself on the back for brokering a deal to log the nation's old growth wood, the idea that House Democrats would pass this initiative and present it as a significant improvement over the defeated "Healthy Forests" initiative of the Bush administration, timber industry, and right-wing Western Governors Association is simply outrageous. House democrats should be ashamed of their recent willingness to court war and industry and Dick Gephardt should be held accountable for failing to show any public counter-right leadership.

Democrats continue to provide all the evidence we need why (at least) a new third major party must come into existence that provides a real alternative to the politics as usual that is being practiced in D.C. these days. Perhaps its the Green party -- maybe you feel its something else. In any event, I generally encourage everyone to get informed and involved in their local parties and support anyone but the republicans or democrats come election day.

------------------
House Democrats, Republicans strike deal on forest treatments

Thursday, October 03, 2002
By Robert Gehrke, Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Western House members struck a deal Wednesday that could break a deadlock in Congress and speed up projects designed to avoid a repeat of this year's massive wildfires.

The agreement seeks to expedite projects to cut down trees in overgrown national forests and federal land, focusing on areas near homes, watersheds, endangered species habitat, and diseased or insect-infested forests.

"By limiting it to those areas, we think it's a program that can work," said Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., who helped negotiate the deal. "We can get on with the fire treatment and hopefully mitigate future catastrophic fires and tragedy with people losing their homes, their lives."

To expedite the forest thinning, the proposed bill would streamline the environmental studies — requiring the government to look at fewer alternatives — and tighten deadlines for administrative and judicial appeals. Seventy percent of the forest treatment projects would have to be focused on areas where the federal land abuts homes or watersheds.

The changes are projected to cut in half the time needed to implement logging projects designed to remove excess trees from overgrown, at-risk forests.

The agreement comes after weeks of negotiations among key representatives but faces an uncertain future in the Senate, where several proposals to speed up forest treatment bogged down last month in partisan battles.

The 2002 fire season has been among the most intense on record, with more than 6.5 million acres having burned due to severe drought and overgrown forests resulting from a century of aggressive fire suppression.

Rep. Scott McInnis, R-Colo., chairman of the House forests subcommittee and sponsor of the bill, praised Miller and Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., for setting aside partisanship and working out a deal. "They rejected rigid ideologies and joined me in hammering out a bipartisan compromise to address the problem directly," McInnis said in a statement. "After all that we've been through this wildfire season, doing nothing is simply not an option. This bill won't be all things to all people, but it does represent real progress."

DeFazio said he hopes the bill moves the debate past politics and toward a reasonable, long-term solution. "My concern is we do something that is sustainable, that is environmentally responsible, provides protection for old-growth, mature trees and begins to deal effectively with 100 years of mismanagement in the forest," he said. "This bill, I believe, meets those objectives."

Forest Service spokeswoman Linda Brett said the agency is encouraged by the negotiations.

Interior Department officials were still reviewing the bill Wednesday and could not comment.

Niel Lawrence, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council forestry project, said drafts of the bill he has seen show it is an assault on the National Environmental Policy Act because it exempts agencies from studying alternatives to their preferred project. He was disappointed that Miller and DeFazio, normally friendly to environmentalists, supported the bill. "I can't fathom why anybody who wants to be known as a conservationist would have anything to do with it," Lawrence said.

It would also increase the spending for forest-thinning projects, from $514 million in 2004 to $900 million to 2008.

The House Resources Committee is scheduled to vote Thursday on whether to send the bill to the full House for consideration.

Posted by Richard
10/04/2002 09:34:23 AM | PermaLink

Mystery Effect in Biotech Drug Puts Its Maker on Defensive

Shari sent this article in w/ the comment: The following article raises so many issues, I can't take the time to explain all of the reasons I'm forwarding it to you.  Once again, we see how structural substantive wrongs are not addressed, instead procedural problems are tackled, and only partially. What will it take for people to unearth and toss the capitalistic roots of all this horror?

Richard replies: I would agree that any attempt to criticize or promote biotech without a thorough-going examination of the social-structure that supports it is superficial at best...which is not to say that every article must make a structural analysis of technocapital, but that we the readers and citizens are placed in a position of responsibility to read-against-the-grain of the media with this principle of structure in mind.

As to bio-tech, I follow the precautionary principle which says that we should not be producing and releasing technologies in such a way that their potential costs are learned "after the fact". Rather, it is only after careful consideration of the benefits and costs, a thorough-going information campaign in the public domain, and a vote of popular approval that such technologies should be integrated into society at large. This is, of course, the very principle of the magna-carta of environmental law -- NEPA (which Bush and the DOD are currently attempting to undermine). As such, I would call for a much-broader application of NEPA wherein the "environment" is no longer deemed "wilderness" or "ocean" but the social habitat as a whole, in accordance with present ecological understandings.

If this were the case, new technologies (bio-tech or otherwise) would have to pass a careful, lengthy and democratic environmental review and vote of approval before being introduced to the marketplace. This would greatly slow the pace of development, of course, so it will never happen unless demanded from the masses proper. But as part of any revolutionary platform of social transformation, it makes all the ethical sense in the world to take the current NEPA law and demand that it be enforced at the level of planetary habitat. You heard it here first!

-----------------------
Paris -- As director of hematology at the Hτtel Dieu hospital here, Nicole Casadevall had seen such cases before. A patient in her 60's had developed pure red cell aplasia, in which the body's germ-fighting defenses go haywire and attack its own bone marrow, leaving her severely anemic and facing a lifetime of transfusions to survive.

Dr. Casadevall knew of several diseases — lymphoid cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus — that could cause red cell aplasia. But this patient had none of them. Indeed, the woman had regularly been injected with a drug to stimulate the production of red blood cells while she received dialysis twice a week. Why, then, was she now unable to make any red blood cells at all?

Four years after Dr. Casadevall began to investigate this mystery, answers remain elusive. But the pattern that she uncovered — that her patient was just one of scores in the same condition, nearly all of whom had taken a drug made by Johnson & Johnson — has raised doubts about not just the company but about a whole class of drugs that are a cornerstone of biotechnology.

The Johnson & Johnson drug, Eprex, is the market-leading version of a protein known generically as erythropoietin, or EPO, that is the best-selling genetically engineered drug ever, and one of the largest-selling drugs of any kind in the world. EPO is given to patients with conditions that hamper red blood cell production — usually people being treated for kidney problems, like dialysis patients, or for cancer.

Global sales of EPO products exceeded $13 billion last year, with Johnson & Johnson alone accounting for $3.4 billion of that. EPO drugs were the company's best-selling pharmaceutical group, providing more than 10 percent of its revenue.

It was Dr. Casadevall's work in the cloisterlike confines of the Hτtel Dieu, and her publication of the results earlier this year, that alerted doctors and nurses to the problem. That alert contributed in part to increased reporting of red cell aplasia, intensifying the questions about Johnson & Johnson's drug.

Of the 141 cases of red cell aplasia reported in EPO users, most have involved people taking Eprex in Europe, Canada and Australia. Only a handful of cases have appeared in patients using other brands of the drug, including Procrit, Johnson & Johnson's name for the EPO drug it sells in the United States.

Johnson & Johnson makes Eprex at a factory in Puerto Rico. But Procrit is produced for Johnson & Johnson at a factory in Colorado run by a competitor, Amgen, which developed the drug. Regulators and scientists seeking to explain the cases of red cell aplasia have focused on the Puerto Rico plant, and Johnson & Johnson's competitors — mainly Amgen of Thousand Oaks, Calif., and Roche of Switzerland — say the problem is specific to Eprex, not to their EPO drugs.

Those companies cannot help but see opportunity in the tarnishing of Eprex's reputation. Indeed, the problems with Eprex could help Amgen, which now sells a new version of EPO called Aranesp in competition with Johnson & Johnson.

Johnson & Johnson, though, contends that the handful of cases of red cell aplasia in users of its competitors' drugs are evidence that the problem, whatever it is, goes beyond Eprex. Yet J.& J., the third-largest American drug maker, is racing desperately on two fronts: to solve the mystery and to salvage its leading pharmaceutical product.

"Frankly, I'm not sure we realized when we began just how difficult and complex this would become," said Per Peterson, the chairman of pharmaceuticals research at Johnson & Johnson. "But our knowledge is evolving, and we know much more today than we did a year ago."

Dr. Peterson said the company debated whether to take Eprex off the market several times as reports of red cell aplasia multiplied, but decided not to do so, concluding that the drug's benefits far outweighed the risks. Economics, he insisted, were not a deciding factor, noting that Johnson & Johnson did not hesitate to withdraw a popular heartburn drug, Propulsid, when it was linked to dozens of deaths two years ago.

European regulators, loath to withdraw a drug that has proved valuable for hundreds of thousands of patients, have limited their response so far to recommending changes in how Eprex is administered. They have advised doctors to give it intravenously rather than through injections under the skin, noting that most cases of aplasia have been associated with injections. At the same time, they are appealing to doctors to report any new cases.

Dr. Casadevall said she agreed that Eprex should not be taken off the market. When bioengineered EPO reached the market a dozen years ago, she said, "it changed the lives" of patients with kidney disease. Because EPO is naturally produced in the kidneys, when those organs fail people often need to deal with anemia as well as receive dialysis to clean their blood.

"At long last, such patients could live without the risk of anemia," she said. "It was a revolution."

Her belief in that advance was so strong that she was at a loss to explain why her patient in 1998 was acutely anemic, despite being administered Eprex. To try to unwind the riddle, she enlisted the help of Patrick Mayeux, a biochemist at the Cochin Institute of Molecular Genetics in Paris.

Mr. Mayeux used radioactive tracers to study the patient's bone marrow, the soft tissue inside bones that produces red blood cells. He discovered antibodies that not only neutralized the red-cell-producing effect of the Eprex that the woman was taking, but also her own body's ability to replenish its red blood cell supply. Most puzzling, the production of the destructive antibodies seemed to be set in motion by the drug itself.

That unexpected conclusion was soon confirmed by a stream of new, similar cases elsewhere in Europe, Canada and Australia. In virtually all of them, patients on kidney dialysis had been injected with Eprex.

Scientists make Eprex, like other brands of bioengineered erythropoietin, by splicing the human EPO gene into hamster cells. But genetically engineered EPO is subtly different from the natural protein. In the patients with red cell aplasia, Mr. Mayeux found that antibodies treated the drug as a foreign protein — and then did the same to the patient's natural EPO as well.

Early in 1999, after Dr. Casadevall had reviewed three cases of aplasia, she notified the pharmacological centers of Johnson & Johnson and Roche. In the meantime, reports of similar occurrences of red cell aplasia had been coming in to the drug companies from doctors and hospitals. "Perhaps at the beginning they thought it was only one or two cases," she said. "They thought it was chance, not important. But with each new case, they became more and more anxious."

Dr. Casadevall said she knew of two cases in which people who were using erythropoietin had died, though she said she did not know which brand of the protein they were being given and doubted that the deaths were related to the drugs. In most cases, patients who develop red cell aplasia are treated with transfusions or immunosuppressant drugs that neutralize the antibodies. In some cases, she said, patients undergo kidney transplants.

Dr. Peterson praised the work of Dr. Casadevall, calling it "first-rate science," adding that "she has done a tremendous service by calling attention to this problem."

Johnson & Johnson's response has taken several forms: to try to figure out why so many Eprex users have developed aplasia, to seek to shift attention to cases involving its competitors' drugs and to try to hang on to its lead in the European market.

After discovering the pattern that seemed to implicate Eprex, Johnson & Johnson reviewed the way it makes the drug at its factory in Manati, P.R. Among other changes, it reduced the amount of silicone in syringes used to inject Eprex because tiny amounts of the silicone can leak into the drug.

Johnson & Johnson also got a better grip on distribution. Because Eprex prices vary from country to country, independent dealers would buy it in cheaper countries, like Greece and Portugal, and ship it to countries with higher prices in Northern Europe. But did they keep Eprex at temperatures of 36 to 46 degrees, and protect it from light, as required? Johnson & Johnson found that one shipper did not deliver under the right conditions.

The company's troubles with Eprex were compounded last spring when J.& J. learned that the Food and Drug Administration was reviewing accusations by a former employee, Hector Arce, that he had been told to falsify data to conceal manufacturing lapses. The company denies the accusations, which Mr. Arce made in a whistle-blower lawsuit; it says he was a boiler operator not directly involved in making Eprex. The F.D.A. is still investigating.

In the meantime, Johnson & Johnson began to note red cell aplasia in patients taking competing products, including NeoRecormon, which is made by Roche, and Epogen, which is manufactured by Amgen. Dr. Peterson said Johnson & Johnson found that three people taking NeoRecormon exclusively had developed red cell aplasia. If Roche tracked reports of the condition as carefully as Johnson & Johnson did, he added, "they probably would have come in the same ballpark we have been in."

Alexander Klauser, a spokesman for Roche, disputed that. He said his company had not seen evidence to suggest the problem was with combinant EPO in general; rather, that it appears to have something to do with Eprex itself. He acknowledged red cell aplasia in one patient using only NeoRecormon, and said Roche had "no explanation" for it.

At the same time, Johnson & Johnson ordered its sales representatives to knock on doctors' doors throughout Europe to make sure that the drug was being properly stored and administered. It also wrote to doctors telling them of the difficulties that Eprex was encountering.

In an article in February in The New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Casadevall and Mr. Mayeux professed ignorance of just how the body recognizes Eprex as a foreign protein. Despite continued research since, they can still only speculate. "The trick now is to determine the part of the molecule toward which the antibodies are directed," Dr. Casadevall said. "But it is very difficult technically."

One clue may have been in the sharp rise in reported cases of red cell aplasia in 1999. J.& J. changed the manufacturing process at the Puerto Rico plant in 1998, ending the use of a human blood protein as a stabilizer in Eprex at the request of European health officials concerned about the spread of mad cow disease.

"We clearly speculate that the removal of human serum albumin is a contributing factor to the problem facing patients," said Dr. Peterson, the Johnson & Johnson scientist.

Complicating this theory, Roche never used human blood protein as a stabilizer in its formula for NeoRecormon. Mr. Mayeux, the French scientist, said the problem might be attributable to "something in the patients themselves, some susceptibility in their immune system."

Dr. Casadevall said her first patient still relies on transfusions to survive. "She's a rather older woman with other illnesses, including diabetes," she said. "She received immunosuppressant treatment, though light, because her general health was not good. She is still not cured."

By John Tagliabue, NY Times

Posted by Richard
10/04/2002 09:24:23 AM | PermaLink

 
Thursday, October 03, 2002

Davis Vetoes Computer Recycling Act

This is a follow-up to news from the middle of September about ground breaking computer recycling legislation in California that made it all the way to the governor's desk. Turns out that 9/30/02 Governor Gray Davis vetoed SB 1523 saying the legislation would have expanded the California government bureaucracy while the state is making major cuts. Computer recycling remains unsupported by significant federal or state laws. Find the whole postmortem at:
http://www.siliconvalley.com/mld/siliconvalley/4186758.htm

From: jim lynch, jimlymch@compumentor.org

Posted by Richard
10/03/2002 07:32:52 AM | PermaLink

Green, Wireless Networking

"At the Big Green Gathering, near Cheddar in Somerset, UK, over 5 days during 21 to 25 July 2002, Psand.net ran a truly mobile, sustainably powered satellite wireless internetwork. This page attempts to cover what we did, how we did it, and some of the lessons learnt." A solar and pedal powered bi-directional satellite connection shared out over 802.11b.

You can find the information here: http://www.psand.net/green/

Posted by Richard
10/03/2002 07:29:25 AM | PermaLink

Internet "Best" for Green News

An online poll conducted for the Andreas Papandreou Foundation of Greece finds that the Internet is the best place to go for obtaining news about the environment. The poll, which involved more than 25,000 respondents in 175 countries, asked about people for their opinions on the environment in their own country and worldwide. Thirty-eight percent of the respondents surveyed favor the Internet for environmental news, versus 17 percent who favor newspaper and television. "This experiment in e-democracy created a unique opportunity for ordinary people to participate in a global debate about the critical issues that affect their daily lives," said Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou.

By Alex Kirby, BBC News
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/2290380.stm

Posted by Richard
10/03/2002 07:27:17 AM | PermaLink

 
Wednesday, October 02, 2002

A Courtroom Champion for 4-Legged Creatures

It should be pointed out that Mr. Wise is not without his detractors on the radical animal left. For instance, read this review from Friends of Animals. There was an even more damning review of Wise personally, which appears to be down. If interested contact their webmater.

Personally, I'm not interested in war on the left and I think Wise makes some valuable, if limiting, contributions to furthering the debate and qualifying legal changes here in the US. His own books, in the end, are complex texts with a design towards a very minor effect however. His design is NOT to define animal sentience or rights but rather to create small interventions into already existing laws that win for some species the rights that are denied all en masse.

This is a long-term project, however (and one wonders how much time we have?) -- part of the left-liberal tradition of progressivism. As such, it is a valuable friend for the movement as a whole, but in as much as it comes to be seen as authoratative by the establishment, it can also be damaging b/c it ends up denying rights to many in order to win rights for some. AR activists and theorists should use Wise's material but be sure to place it in the larger context of the movement as a whole.

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Cambridge, Mass. -- Among the high-flying lawyers who roam the halls of Harvard Law School, Steven M. Wise, 51, is an oddity. Instead of devoting himself to the fine points of torts or contracts, he teaches the school's first ever course in animal rights law.

Moreover, Mr. Wise, who runs a small law firm that litigates for the interests of animals, has written two well-reviewed books on the subject, "Rattling the Cage: Toward Legal Rights for Animals" and the recently released "Drawing the Line: Science and the Case for Animal Rights."

Mr. Wise spends much of his time trying to develop legal theories to advance his cause. "Almost all my work is directed toward breaching the legal wall that separates humans from nonhumans," he said over coffee at the Charles Hotel. "I'm interested in getting the first nonhuman animals their rights because I think once that happens the paradigm will shift. I'm very practical about this. It's going to take a while."


Q. How did this issue, legal rights for animals, begin for you?
A. I had been practicing law in the late 1970's, doing criminal defense and personal injury work, and I read Peter Singer's book "Animal Liberation." I thought, "Gee, I hadn't realized that animals were mistreated in all these ways." That was the beginning. I immediately began spending whatever legal talent and time I had working in the interests of nonhuman animals.
Q. To commit your professional life to animal legal rights must have been difficult. Did some of your colleagues think you'd gone mad?
A. Oh, yeah. In the early 1980's, I'd walk into a courtroom and people would just laugh at me. I'm talking about judges, clerks, other lawyers. I had a partner at the time who always spoke about how embarrassing it was to be my law partner. It took years for people to accept that I had serious arguments to put forward.
Q. Would you give us the outlines of arguments you've pioneered?
A. I've been trying to apply those traditional sources of our most basic rights — liberty and equality — to nonhuman animals. I've argued that some of them are entitled to basic legal rights for the same reasons humans are.

The first, the liberty argument, is that some nonhuman animals — great apes, African gray parrots — have a kind of autonomy that judges should easily recognize as sufficient for legal rights.

The second is an equality argument. It goes: Because some individuals have rights, others who are like them must be allowed rights too. A human infant who is born without a brain has all kinds of liberties, even though she isn't autonomous. You can't kill her, enslave her or perform experiments on her. If you can give her rights, the principle of equality requires us to give them to a bonobo who has high levels of cognition, a great deal of mental complexity and who probably has a protolanguage.
Q. How much of your argument is based on new scientific research about animals' mental abilities?
A. A great deal of it is. I rely upon the work of people like Dr. Irene Pepperberg, who has been observing Alex, an African gray parrot, for 25 years, and who has found that he can grasp abstractions, understand symbols, is probably self-aware, imitates and uses a sophisticated protolanguage. The work of language researchers like Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, Lyn Miles and Penny Patterson has been crucial because they are showing that great apes are clearly self-aware and can use complex communications systems that begin to approach human language. Field researchers like elephant observer Cynthia Moss, orangutan observer Anne Russon and chimpanzee observer Richard Wrangham have taught us all a huge amount about what animals are capable of.
Q. If I hear you correctly, you argue that some animals should be granted rights because they are smart and conscious: they have what you call practical autonomy. But aren't you limiting your case with that argument?
A. Well, I want to win where it might be possible to win — create some legal basis for animal rights.

As to your question, you are correct: the number of animals we know enough about to make a determination as to whether or not they have practical autonomy is relatively small. What really opened my eyes to this odd fact is dogs. When I was looking at the literature to see if dogs were entitled to rights as a result of practical autonomy, I found that there were virtually no cognitive studies of dogs before the 1990's.

Even now, there are only a dozen or so scientists working on that. This surprised me in light of the tens of millions of companion animals existing in the United States alone.
Q. In addition to your writing, you sometimes represent animals in court. Is that difficult?
A. It is. Because you are litigating in a system that sees animals as things, and you have to figure out how you can protect their interests as best you can in a system that does that.

In the late 1980's, I sued to try to stop the U.S. Patent Office from patenting genetically engineered and other nonhuman animals. I lost that case on the grounds of "standing," which is something that animal rights lawyers frequently lose on. In most cases, it's the animal being hurt and not the human, so the judge says, "I'm throwing this case out on the grounds of standing because there is no plaintiff before me who's been injured."

The cases I can win are those when a person comes in and says, "The vet killed my cat," or "The condominium is going to throw me out because of my animal."
Q. What were some of your wins?
A. Well, to be honest, the cases I really think more about are those I've lost. But I win most often in cases where dogs have been sentenced to death because they are said to have a vicious disposition.

I treat it as I would a capital case. I'll hire experts to do a psychological evaluation of the dog and the family. Often I'll ask, "Tell me from the dog's point of view what was going on."

For example, children are sometimes bitten in the face by dogs. It turns out that children are at a dog's teeth level and dogs tend to warn away other dogs by nipping them on the muzzle. When they do that to a child who's been bothering them, they're warning them away.
Q. What about dogs who've been made vicious by their owners? Would you represent them? For instance, would you represent those two Presa Canarios who killed the woman in San Francisco?
A. That would be the hardest thing. There's hardly ever a bad dog. Often, there are bad owners.
Q. How will the rights of animals change as our definition of what is an animal changes because of gene manipulations, hybridizations and xenografting?
A. That's a big question. At the moment, only humans bear rights, but soon we'll be wondering, What is a human?

I've often speculated on what we would do legally if we suddenly found a holdout band of Neanderthals who'd survived in some hidden part of Andalusia. Would we consider them Homo sapiens and thus rights-bearers or would we define them as animals and, therefore, things? Would we do to them what we do to chimpanzees — eat them, perform tests on them, put them in zoos?
Q. Tell us, how do you live your beliefs in your everyday life?
A. I try to respect nonhuman animals. I don't eat them. I don't wear them. I try to avoid being involved in the abuse of them. But you do grow up with certain things. Sometimes, I'll be walking on a street and I'll smell roast beef, I'll simultaneously feel attraction and repulsion.
Q. After two successful books, are there still people in the legal world who still consider you a nut case?
A. Yes, but the good news is that there are a diminishing number of them. There's a foundation for these ideas being laid with law courses, symposia and books. There's now a debate in the legal community. It takes time for ideas to filter through to the point where you might have a state supreme court somewhere rule in favor of animal rights. But it will happen.

By Claudia Dreyfus, New York Times

Posted by Richard
10/02/2002 08:23:09 AM | PermaLink

U.S. Scientists Look for Cancer-Causing Food Compound

Washington, D.C. -- Concerned about a chemical only recently discovered in food, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said this week it would investigate whether people risk getting cancer from eating fried and baked goods.

The chemical, acrylamide, has for years been designated as a possible or probable carcinogen, a cancer-causing agent. But no one thought it was in food until last year, when Swedish scientists announced they had found it in fried foods and some breads and other foods baked at high temperatures.

The World Health Organization urged further research.

"It is clear that acrylamide is a problem," FDA Deputy Commissioner Lester Crawford said in an interview. "It doesn't need to be in food."

But no one knows whether acrylamide causes cancer in people, and if so, what amounts are dangerous, what foods it is in, or whether it can be removed.

The FDA is testing baby food, canned beans, cereals, chocolates, cookies, crackers, french fries, infant formulas, nuts, nut butters, potato chips, meat, and other foods, Dr. Lauren Posnick of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Nutrition said at a public meeting. She said her team had sampled 150 of 600 different foods the FDA plans to test.

French fries and potato chips had a varying amount of acrylamides, some with a high amount. Some crackers and nuts also did, but most foods — including infant formulas — contained very low levels of acrylamides or none at all.

ACRYLAMIDES DAMAGE DNA

Other FDA researchers said they had done tests on acrylamides and found they damage DNA and cell proteins. Such damage is often a first step to cancer because it can lead to mutations that cause cells to grow into tumors. "It is the fact that acrylamide ... attaches to DNA that is of concern to us," said Dr. Bernard Schwetz, the FDA's senior adviser for science.

Acrylamide, used to purify water and for other industrial processes, can cause cancer in laboratory animals but has never been linked to human cancer.

Schwetz noted that not all the animal studies duplicated how humans become exposed to acrylamides. For instance, the chemical was injected directly into rats for one study.

Food is known to carry cancer-causing agents. For example, barbecuing or grilling foods can form compounds called PAHs, which can cause cancer, and now the federal government advises Americans to grill foods carefully to avoid burning them.

"The fact that a chemical that has carcinogenic properties in laboratory animals in food is not a new finding," Schwetz said. "The presence of acrylamides in food isn't something that just happened in the past several months."

Schwetz said the FDA is working to find out how acrylamides are formed, whether changing cooking oils will lower their occurrence and whether people absorb them when they eat them — or if the chemicals simply pass through the body.

One possible precursor is aspargine, a common amino acid. Two teams of scientists reported this week that they had found amino acids, including aspargine, react with sugar at high temperatures.

Richard Stadler at the Nestle Research Center in Lausanne, Switzerland, and Donald Mottram at Britain's University of Reading said they had found a chemical process called the Maillard reaction could explain how acrylamides form in food.

Writing in Thursday's issue of the science journal Nature, they said they had found asparagine has the potential to become an acrylamide in the Maillard reaction. Asparagine is particularly abundant in potatoes and some cereals.

One important question is how much of the chemical people actually eat. Thomas Sinks of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said his agency will add a test for acrylamide to its annual survey of what chemicals Americans are exposed to. The CDC screens thousands of Americans to see what chemicals are in their blood and urine.

In the meantime, the FDA sticks to the standard government advice to eat a balanced diet, with plenty of fruits and vegetables and only the occasional fried food.

Food processors said they would cooperate with the FDA. "The FDA is asking the right toxicological questions about how the body metabolizes acrylamide and how toxic it may or may not be. And, FDA is moving to determine whether any additional steps are necessary," Jim McCarthy, president of the Snack Foods Association, said in a statement.

By Maggie Fox, Reuters

Posted by Richard
10/02/2002 07:58:01 AM | PermaLink

Mercury, Other Toxins Theaten Peoples and Wildlife of the Arctic

Helsinki, Finland — Mercury and other toxins in the food chain are threatening humans and wildlife in the Northern Hemisphere, leading to high blood pressure in newborn babies and causing polar bears to lose cubs at birth, scientists said Tuesday.

"We were really surprised by the mercury problem. The amount of mercury transported into the area seems to be much higher than anyone believed before," said Lars-Otto Reiersen, one of the compilers of a report on Arctic pollution.

Released at a conference of environmental experts in Rovaniemi, 830 kilometers (520 miles) north of the capital Helsinki, the Arctic Pollution 2002 report says human-made toxins follow air and water currents from as far away as Asia to the remote and fragile Arctic environments of North America, Greenland, and the Svalbard islands north of Norway.

Although still one of the cleanest regions in the world, indigenous peoples — especially the Inuit in Greenland and Canada — are particularly vulnerable because they depend on whale blubber and seal meat containing high concentrations of toxins.

"The energy is in the fat, the vitamins are in the fat, and now, unfortunately, we see the pollutants are in the same place," said Reiersen, who heads the Norway-based Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP).

The effects of the toxins are felt further south too, including in the Faeroe Islands, an archipelago midway between Iceland and Scotland several hundred kilometers (miles) south of the Arctic Circle, the AMAP report said.

"Newborn babies in the Faeroe Islands have increased blood pressure, and it stays high for six years," Reiersen said. "It's the only place we have studied this, but it's bound to occur in other more northern areas where concentrations of pollutants are equally high or even greater."

Reiersen said that while mercury emissions — from burning coal in power plants and garbage incinerators — have fallen in Europe and North America, they are increasing in China and elsewhere in Asia.

Reiersen said polar bears are giving birth to fewer cubs, and many more are dying at birth because of the toxins. Arctic fox, seals, killer whales, harbor porpoises, and birds also suffer high levels of contamination by organic pollutants that damage the nervous system, development, and reproduction, the AMAP report said.

But it's not all bad news. Emissions of some heavy metals such as zinc are down, and lead has been substantially reduced because of a switch from leaded to lead-free gasoline, the report said.

Lapland, which stretches across northern Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia, provides a livelihood — mainly fishing, reindeer husbandry, and tourism — for 40,000 indigenous Sami, or Lapps.

"The fish, reindeer, and plants of Lapland are safe to eat. Numerous tests have proven this," said Outi Mahonen, a Finnish member of AMAP.

In a separate study, female polar bears with both male and female sexual organs were discovered in 1997 on Norway's Svalbard Archipelago, some 500 kilometers (300 miles) north of the mainland. Researchers believe the deformity could be due to PCBs and other toxins. Potentially cancer-causing PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, are chemical compounds once widely used in plastics and electrical insulation that can take decades to break down. They have been widely banned in the West.

But new pollutants are taking their place. "Now we are seeing evidence of a new generation of pollutants in the Arctic: brominated products or flame retardants" used in radios, televisions, and textiles to reduce the risk of fire, Reiersen said. "We are near to achieving a ban on them in Europe, but once again, they are being increasingly used in Asia from where they will travel here," he added.

By Matti Huuhtanen, Associated Press

Posted by Richard
10/02/2002 07:55:01 AM | PermaLink

IFAW Concerned about Illegal Ivory Trade Trends as 3-tons of African Ivory is Seized in China

Nairobi, Kenya -- The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW – www.ifaw.org) has expressed concern around current elephant poaching and illegal ivory trade trends following the seizure in China of a 3-ton consignment of ivory from Kenya. The African ivory was hidden in containers and represents the largest ivory smuggling bust in China to date.

The information on the seizure of late August this year and revealed today by Chinese customs officials was confirmed by the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS). KWS is currently conducting investigations at the Kenyan Port of Mombasa to determine the origin of the ivory and how the consignment left Kenya. The Kenyan wildlife authorities have indicated that Kenya is being used as a transit for ivory and that the seizure is unlikely to have come from poached Kenyan elephants.

“Over 16 tons of African ivory has been seized, mostly in Asia, this year. This is a dramatic increase since last year and the volumes of ivory in trade are much larger than before. It is clear that the illegal trade is increasing, and we attribute this is a result of speculation that the ivory trade will be opened later this year,” said Joseph Kioko, KWS Director.

“The information on this seizure should be taken very seriously by the CITES Secretariat and the Parties to the 12th Conference of the Parties to CITES, to be held in Chile in November this year,” said Michael Wamithi, IFAW Regional Director for East Africa. “Such seizures exemplify the serious challenges that wildlife law enforcement authorities in these states are confronted with in their endeavours to control or prevent the illegal trade in wildlife products such as ivory across international borders,” added Wamithi. “We certainly hope that Parties will oppose moves by five southern African countries to reopen a legal ivory trade and rather support the proposal from Kenya and India to include all elephant populations on Appendix I of CITES.”

The haul included 64 packages of smuggled ivory, containing 303 whole tusks and 408tusks that were cut into smaller pieces. The heaviest piece is more than 10 kilos and the lightest about 1 kilo. The ivory was hidden in a 20-foot container and was declared to Chinese customs to contain wood board from Kenya.

In June this year six metric tonnes of African ivory, the largest consignment ever, was seized in Singapore.

Ends
For more information, contact:
Jennifer Ferguson-Mitchell
Communications Manager
International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW -- www.ifaw.org)
(508) 744-2076
jfm@ifaw.org
Web site: http://www.ifaw.org

Posted by Richard
10/02/2002 07:49:33 AM | PermaLink

 
Tuesday, October 01, 2002

Whales Strand Themselves During NATO Exercises

Who wants to deny that naval sonar harms ocean life and kills whales? It is time to stop this madness -- the idea that militarizing the oceans doesn't have horrible effects is an anachronism from another age. We know that the oceans are an environment like any other and that pumping deafening amounts of sound through the water affects ocean life just as it would beings on land. Naval sonars amount to the worst form of noise pollution known, and the only reason for having them is so that paranoid militarists can protect their coastlines from enemy submarines. Again, the answer to all this inhuman warfare is not more militarism -- this is a highly reactionary and irrational response to a problem that threatens life on Earth. People must awaken at the planetary level to the root causes of militarism and stand against the further use and testing of monstrous military technologies. Laws currently exist on the books against the deadly use of naval sonar -- who will make the governments of the world enforce such laws? It must be us -- we the people. It can come from no where else...

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Canary Islands, Spain - Nine beaked whales died as they stranded themselves on the Canary Islands September 24 and 25 during NATO naval exercises. Vidal Martin of the Society for the Study of the Cetaceans in the Canary Archipelago says volunteers from his group managed to refloat six others.

The whales were found on the beaches of Fuerteventura and Lanzarote islands.

All the whale strandings occurred during NATO manoeuvres called "Neo tapon 2002," in which at least 58 boats, six submarines, and 30 planes participated. Martin says, "A Military High Command recognized that they were making acoustic exercises" at the time of the strandings which occurred in the early morning hours. "At dawn, most of the animals were already beached," Martin said.

The naval exercises were suspended at the request of the Canary Islands government. Still, to date military authorities say they have not found any relationship between their manoeuvres and the strandings.

The work of animal rescue and pursuit was coordinated by the Environment Department of the Canary Islands, with the participation of city councils and town halls of the islands of Fuerteventura, Lanzarote and Gran Canaria, as well as numerous organizations and volunteers.

The heads of the six animals stranded in Fuerteventura have been transferred to the Veterinary Department of the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria for analysis. This veterinarian unit is studying their auditory systems and conducting histological analysis.

Similar strandings have occurred in the Canary Islands in 1991, and in every year from 1985 through 1989. In all instances except 1986 and 1987, Martin has documented that naval exercises were taking place at the same time as the strandings.

Members of WWF-Spain protested Thursday in front of the Spanish Ministry of Defense to request that the ministry avoid new events of this type.

Many whales and dolphins depend on sound for their navigation and communication, use echo-location to obtain their food. For a long time, WWF says, it has been known that high levels of noise under water, due to intense a marine traffic, for example, are harmful to these species.

Posted by Richard
10/01/2002 08:34:30 AM | PermaLink

 
Monday, September 30, 2002

Sierra Club Profiles Communities at Risk from Bush Environmental Policies

Spokane-Coeur d'Alene a "poster child" for national Superfund debate

Spokane --Tina Paddock's three sons helped the family remodel their home in Wallace, Idaho, just months before they found out the house was contaminated with toxic heavy metals. Profiled in a Sierra Club report released today, communities in the Spokane-Coeur d'Alene Basin are at risk from the Bush Administration environmental policies that will expose Americans to more lead that causes brain damage, and other toxins that cause disease and even death.

"This report is a call to action," said Chase Davis of the Sierra Club. "We must not stand by and allow the Bush Administration to push policies that harm people's health and the future of our communities."

According to the report, "Leaving our Communities at Risk," federal clean air protections, toxic waste cleanups and environmental enforcement initiatives have been critical in protecting American's health and safeguarding our environment. 205,000 premature deaths between 1970-1990 were prevented by protections from the Clean Air Act, according to one EPA study. In the past 20 years, more than 800 toxic waste sites in communities across America have been cleaned up as a result of the Superfund law.

The Bush Administration is weakening the Superfund toxic waste cleanup program by letting it wither due to lack of funding. Since its inception, the Superfund program has been funded by the 'polluter pays' tax, an excise tax on oil and chemical companies and a corporate environmental income tax. When Congress amended Superfund in 1986, President Ronald Reagan signed the polluter pays tax into law. Presidents George H. Bush and Bill Clinton collected the tax until it expired, and President Clinton sought the reinstatement of the tax during the rest of his term. President George W. Bush is the first president since Superfund's inception to oppose the polluter pays tax that prevents shifting the cleanup burden to taxpayers.

"This is not rocket science: you have to have $360 million to implement the Coeur d'Alene Basin's cleanup plan," said John Osborn, Spokane physician and the Sierra Club's conservation chair for Idaho and eastern Washington. "The Bush Administration opposes the 'polluter pays' tax.

Christie Whitman, EPA's Administrator was here in August drinking lake water and toasting Lake Coeur d'Alene, but she offered no clues for funding the cleanup."

The report highlights the recently released cleanup plan for the Coeur d'Alene Basin. That plan fails to address major problems, including household dusts contaminated with lead, floods from damaged forests that carry heavy metals into Lake Coeur d'Alene, and the 70 million tons of toxic sediment in Lake Coeur d'Alene.

"The Bush Administration even caved into Idaho's demand that its Commission control the cleanup," said Neil Beaver, director of WaterWatch for The Lands Council. "How can you possibly get this mess cleaned up when those in control--Idaho County Commissioners and the State of Idaho--don't support the basin-wide cleanup? The lack of adequate representation from Washington state is an outrage."

"The Spokane-Coeur d'Alene Basin is fast emerging as a national poster child for the Bush Administration's environmental policies," said Davis. "For our families and our future, we must redouble our efforts to defend our communities, rivers, and lakes from pollution. If done right, this cleanup brings economic development and family wage jobs to our communities."

"Leaving Our Communities at RISK: How Changes in Toxic Waste Cleanup and Clean Air Policies Hurt 25 American Communities" is available online at: http://www.sierraclub.org/communities (specifically for the CDA Basin at : http://www.sierraclub.org/communities/idaho/ )

Contacts:
Chase Davis (Sierra Club) 509.990-0170
Neil Beaver (The Lands Council) 509.979-9550
John Osborn, MD (Sierra Club) 509.939-1290

Posted by Richard
9/30/2002 07:40:03 AM | PermaLink

 
Sunday, September 29, 2002

California Children Exceed Lifetime Pollution Limits at 12 Days Old

Children in some built-up areas of the US state of California exceed their lifetime acceptable cancer risk at the age of only 12 days, saysnew analysis.

Those in the South Coast region are most at risk, with children in the San Francisco Bay area, the Sacramento Valley, San Diego and San Joaquin Valley exceeding their lifetime acceptable risk between 19 and 23 days, says environmental group the National Environmental Trust (NET).

According to the California Air Resources Board, the levels of 10 cancer-causing toxic air contaminants in the South Coast region of the state - which includes diesel exhaust particles - pose a cancer risk 1,005 times the US Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) lifetime acceptable level.

However, NET claims that, despite being alarming, this figure is an underestimate as the figures are calculated for the lifetime of an average adult, and does not take into consideration the physiology and behaviour of children. Children spend more time outdoors than adults, points out NET, and breath in more air relative to their body weight. The EPA's figures also fail to take into account the cumulative effects of being exposed to several carcinogens at the same time, says NET.

The majority of the exposure comes from diesel particulate matter and four chemicals: carbon tetrachloride, 1,3-butadiene, benzene, and formaldehyde; with the majority of the last three chemicals originating from on-road mobile sources, says the report.

"Parents need to be aware that their children are facing serious risks from harmful air pollution," said Executive Director of the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice Penny Newman.

"This is a clear issue of equity," she says. Children from communities in Inland Empire, an area to the east of Los Angeles, grow up in classrooms, on playgrounds and in neighbourhoods next to diesel truck thoroughfares and other major sources of air pollution, Newman explained. "The source of this pollution is literally right before our eyes and a part of our everyday lives," she said. "Better local land use decisions can certainly help in protecting our children's health."

Even if the EPA's acceptable level for lifetime exposure was adhered to in California, children would reach the limit by the age of four, and adults moving to the state would achieve it after seven years, says NET.

The organisation has made a variety of suggestions, including increasing monitoring in the region, and replacing diesel buses, ferries and other municipal vehicles with cleaner fuelled vehicleswhere possible, and retrofitting existing fleets with emissionscontrol equipment.

In a move that may help protect childrens' health, on 18 September the California Governor, Gray Davis, signed legislation allowing Californians to use their tax return to contribute to a fund designated for asthma and lung disease research.

On 12 September, Davis also signed new legislation designed to promote the use of renewable energy in the state. The signing establishes the California Renewables Portfolio Standard, requiring companies selling electricity to increase their use of renewable resources by at least 1% every year until 20% of their retail sales are procured from renewables - at the latest by 2017. It is thought that the requirement will double the state's existing base of wind, geothermal, biomass and solar resources.

Posted by Richard
9/29/2002 03:07:40 PM | PermaLink