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Saturday, July 12, 2003

Logging in California Leads to Houston-based Protest

Via: Treesit Blog

Drawing attention to Houston-based MAXXAM's role in the logging of trees in Northwest California, two forest defenders have climbed trees in Memorial park and set up treesits (listen to an interview with one of the treesitters).

They're also protesting increasing violence against their fellow activists in California who are trying to stop irresponsible, and in some cases, illegal logging by Pacific Lumber - owned by MAXXAM. They've hung a huge banner between their sits that reads, "Stop Max-Scam from clearcutting our ancient forests - Jail Hurwitz, $50,000 reward," in reference to the Charles Hurwitz, MAXXAM's CEO and majority sharholder.

** TODAY ** come to the Free Teach-In to Save the Redwoods, followed by a Candlelight Vigil!!

The treesitters have some requests to make thier stay comfortable. They love visitors and many have already gone to the park to show solidarity. You can too!

Through the efforts of groups like SACRED
(Southern Alliance of Coastal Redwood Earth Defenders), Houston area activists have become closer allies with activists working in California.

Posted by Richard
7/12/2003 12:43:24 PM | PermaLink

Bush Versus the American Environment

From Zyg Plater:

Here are roughly 50 pages of materials on the Bush Administration's environmental record to date, enclosed as an Attachment in RichTextFormat.

The materials are reprinted from the 2002 and 2003 Updates to our coursebook Environmental Law & Policy: Nature, Law & Society.

This year, even more than last year, a theme that must be acknowledged in any environmental policy course is the Bush II Administration's extraordinarily broad-front effort to alter environmental law as it previously existed. The presidential staffers who make national policy in the current Bush Administration have made clear that they are fundamentally antagonistic to many of the environmental policies and regulatory provisions instituted over the past twenty years. This means that any environmental course that purports to deal with reality must integrate some consideration of the ongoing political initiatives in Washington as an active backdrop to the doctrines and issues covered in the class. Most teachers in this field, though certainly not all, are likely to regard the majority of Bush initiatives as a deeply distressing backing-away from environmental protection. In any case it is clear that a major shift away from the environmental protection canon is occurring, in a siege far broader and more effective than in the Reagan '80s or the 1994 Contract with America Congress (and quite antithetically to the environmental law positions held by the Bush, Senior, Administration). Our students should ultimately be able to recognize the differences between what had been and what is now happening. In the second half of the materials there is a brief rough history of environmental protection in the U.S. that may offer a jumping-off point for your efforts to put current events in context. The evolving new political agenda offers our students an opportunity to reassess afresh the role and dimensions of national environmental policy, moreover providing a lens through which perhaps we can observe the evolving path of democracy in America.

Posted by Richard
7/12/2003 09:24:40 AM | PermaLink

The Juice on Agent Orange

The United States continues to spray toxic herbicides over populations around the world -- in my opinion, in violation of international law. The US answer is that it must be done as part of its "war on drugs" and so it sprays liberally in places like Colombia and Afghanistan. However, as the world saw in the 1980s -- when then first lady Nancy Reagan's "Just say no" campaign was in full propaganda force, the connection between various upper-level parties in the US military and state and drug lords abroad was quite clear. Thus, one wonders if America's campaign to squelch drugs from the sky (while causing death, birth defects, and general sickness and injury) is anything more than a campaign to prevent certain drug cartels and states from doing business that would end-around US interests and profits. Call me naive but it hardly seems worth it once one descends from the throne of the most cut-throat Machivellian politics.

Via: Asia Times

More than 30 years after the spraying of Agent Orange in Vietnam by US troops during the war, the health effects on US veterans and their families as well as affected Vietnamese remain devastating, experts say. Birth defects resulting from contamination with the chemical herbicide persist in today's third generation of grandchildren of the war and its victims - with no end in sight. An estimated 650,000 victims suffer from chronic illnesses in Vietnam alone, and another 500,000 have already died, researchers say.

"This is not a historical problem, but one with long-term consequences that have to be addressed," said Dr Wayne Dwernychuk, senior vice president of the Vancouver-based Hatfield Associates, an environmental-impact consulting agency. Dwernychuk spoke at a press briefing on Tuesday coordinated by the Fund for Reconciliation and Development, Oxfam America and the American Friends Service Committee.

Posted by Richard
7/12/2003 09:02:04 AM | PermaLink

 
Friday, July 11, 2003

The Hollywood Ending: It's Not Real Life

In the recently-opened movie "Legally Blonde 2," the main character Elle Woods, played by Reese Witherspoon, goes to Washington DC to introduce a bill to ban cosmetic testing on animals.

While Elle succeeds in the movie, still no such ban exists in the U.S. in real life. Millions of animals endure slow, painful, and lethal irritancy and toxicity (poisoning) testing for cosmetic and household products. These gruesome tests continue despite the fact that non-animal tests exist; safe and effective cruelty-free products are readily available; and animal testing for cosmetics has already been banned in Great Britain and other countries.

Posted by Richard
7/11/2003 08:41:39 AM | PermaLink

Greenspan Ditches 'Green' for Natural Gas

Greenspan is correct -- there is a choice at hand here, whether to continue to destroy the planet in an ongoing last ditch attempt to preserve economic extravagence (what most of us know as our accustomed "standard of living") or to begin to take a stand against the power brokers by saying, with our own lives, "No, I would rather live in a different way than to watch our children's future sold out for profit any further."

This is not a trade-off that people should be willing to make. But this choice will eventually be made -- either by this administration or some other -- if people do not stand up democratically and take responsibility for giving them no excuse to make it.

What are your energy costs? What role does natural gas in supporting your present lifestyle?

Greenspan gives you a clue -- electricity, can you limit your use and/or take yourself off of the grid; and factories, can you limit your consumption or affect the the forces of production in some other manner?

Via: Reuters

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan on Thursday said growing U.S. demand for natural gas to fuel factories and electricity plants may outweigh environmentalists' desire to preserve wilderness areas that contain energy reserves...

The Senate will resume debate on a broad energy bill later this month. The Bush administration and many Republicans want to allow drilling on more federal land in the Rocky Mountains, while Democrats and environmental groups support energy conservation and renewable fuels.

Commenting on the growing need for natural gas and the resulting environmental concerns, Greenspan said: 'We've got to make those trade-offs. They are very difficult'

'It is essential that one recognizes what the cost in energy policy is if you restrict the access to certain areas' that contain natural gas reserves, he said.

Posted by Richard
7/11/2003 08:19:17 AM | PermaLink

'Moby' the White Whale Sighted Off Australia

Via: Reuters

"A rare white whale has been sighted off Australia's east coast, exciting whale watchers but prompting suggestions that special laws might be needed to protect it from curious onlookers. The white humpback has delighted hundreds of whale watchers who have paid charter boats to watch as it breached and leisurely swam off Queensland state's Gold Coast tourist mecca over the past two days."

Posted by Richard
7/11/2003 08:04:52 AM | PermaLink

Public Participation Needed to Save Environment

Via: ENS

Increased public participation is needed to stem the deterioration of the world's environment and to slow the growth of global poverty, according to a new report released today. Greater transparency and accountability can lead to fairer and more effective management of natural resources, finds the report, which calls on governments to reach out for local community input in decisions that affect ecosystems and to integrate environmental impacts into economic decision making.

"Democratization of environmental decision making is one of the most direct routes to better environmental decisions," said Jonathan Lash, president of the World Resources Institute.

The report, "World Resources 2002-2004: Decisions for the Earth - Balance, Voice and Power," was published jointly by the World Resources Institute, the World Bank, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).

It notes that great strides have been made and successes achieved in convincing different stakeholders that protection of the environment is critical, but warns that these efforts must be sustained and built upon if global poverty and environmental degradation are to be tackled.

The world's poor must be given a greater voice in policy decisions, according to the new report. (Photo courtesy United Nations)
"Governments, businesses, civil society and the individual citizen are more aware of what needs to be done and are certainly taking action," said UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer. "But, as evidenced by the continued erosion and collapse of so many of the planet's life support systems, it is not nearly enough and more concerted, focused, action is urgently needed."

Statistics from report indicate an overwhelming human dependence on rapidly deteriorating ecosystems that support all life.

For example, one out of every six humans depends on fish for protein needs, yet 75 percent of the world's fisheries are over-fished or fished at their biological limit.

Some 350 million people are directly dependent on forests for their survival, with global forest cover declining by 46 percent since pre-agricultural times.

The report notes that global poverty appears to be on the rise - nearly half of the world's population lives on less than $2 a day.

"Poor communities are particularly vulnerable to failed environmental governance, since they rely more heavily on natural resources for subsistence and income," said Dr. Kristalina Georgieva, director of the Environment Department of The World Bank. "They are less likely to share in property rights that give them legal control over these resources."

Poverty can not be overcome without sustainable management of ecosystems, the report says, and ecosystems can not be protected from abuse without holding those with wealth and power accountable for their actions.

Posted by Richard
7/11/2003 07:56:29 AM | PermaLink

 
Thursday, July 10, 2003

Widely Used Flame Retardant Feared to be a Health Hazard -- Found in Women's Breast Tissue, Fish

Here's a 2001 link that sounds the North American alarm on this issue....

Via: SF Chronicle

Scientists say a class of flame retardants used in everything from foam cushions and mattresses to computers and hair dryers poses a potential danger to health and the environment as great as the ubiquitous PCBs.

Studies have found rising levels of the chemicals, called PBDEs, in breast tissue in Bay Area women, levels that were higher than those found in European and Japanese women. And new research released Wednesday shows an increase in PBDEs in sport fish and bird eggs from San Francisco Bay.

Now the state Legislature is poised to make California the first state in the nation to ban the chemicals.

A bill by Assemblywoman Wilma Chan, D-Oakland, phasing out two of the chemicals by 2008 passed the Assembly in May and is expected to go to the Senate for a vote as early as today.

PBDEs, or polybrominated diphenyl ethers, can impair brain development, particularly in the very young, and alter thyroid hormone balance, which is critical to the function of the central nervous system.

The chemicals were developed in the 1960s to protect people by reducing the flammability of polyurethane foam and plastics. Today they are commonly used in foam cushions and mattresses, carpet padding and car and plane seats as well as in hard plastics used in fax machines, computers and hair dryers.

Little is known about how the chemicals get into humans, but scientists fear that concentrations may be approaching levels that could prove harmful.

"PBDEs are in our homes, cars, buses and airplanes. We're constantly surrounded by products that have these chemicals in them. It's my hope that we're catching them before they've reached a level where we demonstrate that they cause harm to people," said Thomas McDonald, a toxicologist with the state Environmental Protection Agency and a national expert on PBDEs.

McDonald noted the chemicals seem to be widespread in the environment. "We're seeing levels in birds and in fish. It's everywhere. It's in streams and lakes and even in remote Arctic regions and the North Pole. Just like PCBs, there's long-range transport," he said.

Posted by Richard
7/10/2003 11:25:56 AM | PermaLink

UN Food Commission Lifts Irradiation Limits

Here is another example of large decisions being made about the global future "from above," without the proper amount of democratic debate and consent "from below." In this case, the Codex commission represents a federated team of global "experts" whose job is to advise the WTO on enforcement guidelines (however, the WTO's position is that all Codex guidelines will be treated as uniform law applicable to all under its direction). There can be little doubt that the commission is faced by a serious problem of food contamination globally -- this is a Major issue that requires global coordination, if such coordination exists and is deemed acceptable. However, the problem with the answers provided by such committees is that they almost inevitably provide a forum for advanced economic interests -- global leaders like the US and EU -- and thus rarely if ever challenge market-logic at its root...even when it may be directly responsible for the committee problems at hand. Instead, the technocratic (and usually technological) solution is proffered, in which new methods developed by advanced capitalist powers are underwritten by global policy as effective and normative, even when such solutions have not been proven safe or effective for the wide range of communities in which such top-down policy will be enforced and applied. Therefore, in this case that the Codex commission essentially gave the WTO the right to enforce new levels of food irradiation tout court is mind boggling -- and for someone concerned about the democratic rights to exist within a non-managed, fascist world, it seems reprehensible. The widespread contamination of food -- especially in "developing" nations -- is a symptom of socioeconomic problems generally...what could be an opportunity for the broad-based discussion of why food must be irradiated in order to be "safe," is being lost in the attempt by elite analysts and state agents whose compassion is unable to move beyond status-quo answers and hi-tech neo-colonialism.

Via: ENS

The commission adopted a controversial new standard for irradiated foods that allows the foods to be subjected to higher levels of gamma rays to kill bacteria and increase shelf life.

Codex removed the maximum radiation dose of 10 kiloGray to which foods can be treated, which had been in place since 1979. Countries wishing to use a higher dose will have to demonstrate that irradiating foods above 10 kiloGray meets a "legitimate technological purpose," a standard that was not further defined.

The commission determined that such levels would eliminate bacterial spores and the radiation resistant pathogenic bacteria Clostridium botulinum, and also reduce the need to use more toxic chemical methods of combating bacteria, some of which can be harmful to the environment.

Today 37 countries irradiate food using 170 irradiators. In the United States 500,000,000 tons of food are irradiated each year, including spices, flour, fresh fruits and vegetables, pork, poultry and beef.

But consumer groups in the United States, Canada and Italy today condemned the "weakening" of international food irradiation rules, which they say will allow any food to be irradiated at any dose, regardless of how high.

"This is the final straw in the reckless pursuit of using irradiation, which is still an experimental technology, to solve complicated food safety problems," said Andrea Peart of the Sierra Club of Canada. "This decision is a severe blow against the rights of nations to establish their own food safety laws. It is undemocratic on its face."

The groups say Codex has ignored documented evidence that irradiated foods may not be safe for human consumption. They say irradiation may destroy vitamins and promote the formation of chemicals linked to cancer and birth defects.

Among the toxic chemicals formed in irradiated foods are 2-alkylcyclobutanones (2-ACBs), which have been found to promote cancer development and cause genetic damage in rats, and cause genetic damage to human cells, the consumer groups point out.

Other toxic chemicals that have been detected in irradiated foods include compounds that are known or suspected to cause cancer or birth defects, including benzene, ethanol, toluene and methyl ethyl ketone.

Giulio Labbro Francia of the Italian consumer’s group Movimento Dei Consumatori said, "We are at a loss to explain Codex’s contention that irradiated foods are safe to eat in the face of so much evidence to the contrary. Now consumers throughout the world are in danger of the unknown health impacts."

The irradiation decision was made over the objections of 10 countries, including Austria, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Mexico, and Spain.

"The UN and WHO have abandoned their mission to protect the health and welfare of the world’s population," said Andrianna Natsoulas of the U.S. organization Public Citizen. "People who eat irradiated foods will become guinea pigs in what will amount to one of the largest feeding experiments in history."

Randell defended the lifting of radiation limits for foods. “This is a really important breakthrough,” he said. “For the consumer it means a potential for higher levels of food safety because of the protection offered by food irradiation. For example, it can be applied to spices which can carry bacteria resistant to other treatments. Irradiated foods are proven safe and do not contain any radioactive traces.”

Codex standards are enforceable through the World Trade Organization, so member nations with food irradiation laws stricter than the new Codex standard could have their laws challenged and overruled. Currently, only Brazil has a food irradiation law in keeping with the new Codex standard, meaning that laws in every other nation may have to be revised.

Posted by Richard
7/10/2003 08:55:26 AM | PermaLink

 
Wednesday, July 09, 2003

Environmental Agency to Spray Radioactive Wastewater into Gulf to Prevent 'Ecological Disaster'

When news articles include the words "ecological disaster" my eyes jump. This one is fascinating for two reasons:
1) Apparently, despite knowing about potential problems for over a decade, Florida politicians were unable to prevent a large fertilizer plant from accumulating enough waste to threaten the entire Tampa/St. Pete region. Citizens also failed to show up on this one -- perhaps they were too busy frequenting establishments like Hooters to care?
2) The state's answer to this problem of radioactive waste threatening their watershed is to, what? Yes, take it out into the middle of the Gulf of Mexico and dump it there. Now, certainly officials are correct that outside the bay and harbor such material stands a much better chance of being more widely dispersed. However, it does not make it any less radioactive or contaminated -- basically, Florida (with the EPA's approval) is deciding to dump radioactive material into public waters to prevent a local disaster of its own creation.

Where is the OUTRAGE?

Via: Sun-Sentinel

The state this week will try to clean up the Piney Point fertilizer plant, spraying millions of gallons of wastewater into the Gulf of Mexico to try to avert what one state regulator calls ``one of the biggest environmental threats in Florida history.''

State officials knew in 1995 that the owner, Mulberry Corp., was struggling and if it went under, the state would be stuck with hundreds of millions of gallons of acidic wastewater in gypsum stacks on the edge of Tampa Bay. [...]

Production of phosphate fertilizer creates a radioactive byproduct called phosphogypsum, which is stacked into sandy mountains. The stacks form dikes, creating holding ponds for radioactive water that is another byproduct of fertilizer manufacturing. Piney Point's two phosphogypsum stacks -- the walls of the ponds -- are 50 to 70 feet high. The biggest potential danger is that heavy rains will overflow the holding ponds, sending untreated radioactive water into the watershed that runs into the bay.

Posted by Richard
7/09/2003 11:09:01 AM | PermaLink

Bill to Legalize Greyhound Killing

Via: Our Dogs 2003

GREYHOUND RESCUE organisations and dog lovers across the world have been outraged by a Bill proposed in the USA by the Alabama Legislature which effectively legitimises the culling of Greyhounds by any person who chooses to do so.

Under Alabama's House Bill Number 37, which only requires the signature of the State Governor to become law, Greyhounds are to be re-classified as livestock.

This means that culling by shot or fatal injection can be undertaken by any unlicensed individual, rather than by veterinary professionals, who are, of course, bound by a code of ethical conduct.

Ann Bollens of the Greyhound Pets of America Emerald Coast Chapter attacked the Bill as bad legislation. "This is like saying these dogs aren't worth anything," she said.

The bill authored by Representative James Buskey of Mobile also prescribes lethal injection as the method of killing greyhounds. But it doesn't say what can or can't be used. Baldwin County District Attorney David Whetstone whose preparing to prosecute a Lillian man under the existing statute for killing thousands of greyhounds, says it could effect his case. Whetstone says he has real problems with this bill.

"Nor does it allow the dog the privilege of being executed by a vet, anybody can do it! So there are some real problems with this bill."

The bill was passed in the House under a Tourism and Travel Committee and in the Senate under a Tourism and Marketing Committee. All members of the Mobile and Baldwin County Legislative Delegations voted in favor of the bill except Senator Pat Lindsey and Representatives Mitchell and White who were not on the floor when the votes were taken.

Toby Hart, who is campaigning against Bill 37 told OUR DOGS: "At no point has the State Governor, or the proposer of the bill, James Buskey of Mobile, offered any explanation or justification for this extraordinary law, which sits well in Alabama's long tradition of illiberal and oppressive legislation."

By Nick Mays

Posted by Richard
7/09/2003 10:55:40 AM | PermaLink

 
Tuesday, July 08, 2003

Laws of Empire

Via: In These Times

In 1996, Burmese peasant villagers filed a lawsuit against Unocal. They charged the U.S. oil company with knowingly collaborating with the country’s repressive military government to forcibly relocate peasants living in the path of Unocal’s oil pipeline project. The military used these peasants as slave labor to clear a path for the pipeline and build service roads. The suit claimed that those who refused to work were often killed, beaten, tortured, or raped. Documents filed in the case indicate that Unocal had been well-informed by its advisors of how the military operated, and knew of its history of using slave labor. The villagers, who had fled to Thailand, had no legal recourse under the Burmese military dictatorship, but they did have an opportunity to seek justice in the United States, where they filed suit under the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) with the help of the International Labor Rights Fund (ILRF).

Now the Bush administration, acting on behalf of major multinational corporations, is planning to block that rare option for legal redress of international human rights violations. On May 8, the Justice Department filed a brief in the Unocal case, arguing that ATCA is being misused and poses a threat to the nation’s foreign policy and fight against terrorism. This is just the latest example of the Bush administration attempting to undermine international law in order to grant U.S. corporations and U.S. government personnel legal immunity for their actions overseas—except when it serves those corporate interests.

Posted by Richard
7/08/2003 03:31:51 PM | PermaLink

Eagles Poisoned by Euthanasia Drug

If it can kill an eagle, just imagine the effect that it is having on your favorite pooch or kitty when you unsuspectingly feed it to them in their dog and cat food. Despite FDA denials of causality, if you haven't done so, and you feed your dog or cat from a store-brand, meat food, I strongly urge you to investigate whether or not your food is made of rendered animals and has been found to contain pentobarbital in studies.

Via: ENS

Across the country, eagles and other wildlife are dying due to accidental poisoning by the euthanasia drug sodium pentobarbital. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) says that more than 130 bald and golden eagles have become casualties of pentobarbital poisoning from eating the carcasses of animals that have been euthanized. Residue from the chemical remains in the meat of animals long after they have been euthanized.

Posted by Richard
7/08/2003 10:07:54 AM | PermaLink

 
Monday, July 07, 2003

Nexcerpts

I think the nexcerpts are a valuable resource for archiving the various articles occuring around single issues -- easily accessible in one place. I try to do similar things here from time to time -- like around Navy Sonar -- but the blog format isn't as good for this...one must type in keywords in the search archive to try to find the history of related stories. Gary's nexcerpts have them all together which makes it quite easy to follow and get educated. Check them out.

Via: Gary of Nexcerpts

Poking around online, and noting your interest in all things alive (and in wanting to keep them that way :-), as well as in blogging, I thought you might appreciate some entries here.

I publish new Nexcerpts every week or two with highlights -- and lowlights, in far too many cases -- of marine mammal issues worldwide:

http://www.nexcerpt.com/pub/00260/00300/

Some other Nexcerpts may be of interest to you as well...

Posted by Richard
7/07/2003 08:37:27 AM | PermaLink

Extreme Weather Prompts Unprecedented Global Warming Alert

Via: Amity of Nature Is Profligate

I really enjoy reading your blog.  I am writing to pass on a recent environmental news item that caught my attention.  A story in the London Independent based on a press release from the World Meteorological Organization, documents a rise in the number of extreme weather events (e.g. this year's new record of 562 tornadoes in a single month, which easily beat the previous record of 399) as well as a rapid recent increase in global surface temperature.  Not necessarily new news, except for the fact that the WMO is not a nonprofit environmental organization -- it's a UN agency with higher mainstream credibility and access to _lots_ of data.  Sort of a nice antidote to the recently whitewashed EPA report on the environment, which I saw you blogged about.

The article begins:
In an astonishing announcement on global warming and extreme weather, the World Meteorological Organisation signalled last night that the world's weather is going haywire.

In a startling report, the WMO, which normally produces detailed scientific reports and staid statistics at the year's end, highlighted record extremes in weather and climate occurring all over the world in recent weeks, from Switzerland's hottest-ever June to a record month for tornadoes in the United States - and linked them to climate change.

The unprecedented warning takes its force and significance from the fact that it is not coming from Greenpeace or Friends of the Earth, but from an impeccably respected UN organisation that is not given to hyperbole (though environmentalists will seize on it to claim that the direst warnings of climate change are being borne out).

The Geneva-based body, to which the weather services of 185 countries contribute, takes the view that events this year in Europe, America and Asia are so remarkable that the world needs to be made aware of it immediately.

Posted by Richard
7/07/2003 08:11:07 AM | PermaLink

Studies Assess Risks of Drugs in Water Cycle

So far the research has been unable to document the effects of pharaceutical toxicity upon larger life species from insects on up, but they have found bacterial mutations resulting from the contamination, which leads to the suspicion that the problem must be more serious still...

Via: Nature 424, 5 (pay article)

Antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals given to humans and livestock are increasingly contaminating rivers, groundwater and soils, according to early results from three European studies.

Drug-contaminated waste water is a potential risk to both human health and the environment, the studies' participants say. Treating sewage with ozone would be the best way of cutting the drug residues, they suggest.

Groups behind the three European Union-funded studies released their results at a Gothenburg press conference on 27 June. They reported that high concentrations of excreted antibiotics have been found in hospital and household sewage, slurry and water used for irrigation. Antibiotics and their metabolites also reach the environment directly from the urine and faeces of farm animals, the scientists find.

Researchers worry that the growing levels of antibiotics in the environment may damage ecosystems and fuel a surge in antibiotic resistance among humans and animals. "Antibacterial resistance from farm animals can be transferred to humans, and is increasingly threatening the effective management of infectious diseases," says Wolfgang Witte, a microbiologist at the Robert Koch Institute in Wernigerode, Germany.

Posted by Richard
7/07/2003 07:52:29 AM | PermaLink