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Saturday, January 17, 2004

Calls for Labeling Grow After Meats Are Found in 'Veggie' Foods

A great article that goes far beyond the discussion below. Oh ye beware "Natural Flavors" on the ingredient list...

Via: NCM

Food producers marketing their products as vegetarian, or meat-free, now do so on a voluntary basis. Although meat must be mentioned on a food label if it appears as a stand-alone ingredient (such as in chicken or beef stock), meat may appear under a vague listing of "natural flavors" without the need to be identified.

Title 21, Chapter I, Part 101, Section 101.22 of the Code of Federal Regulations FDA requirements on food labeling states: The term natural flavor or natural flavoring means the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional.

The laws governing the labeling of food are complex to the point of absurdity, points out Marion Nestle, professor and chair of the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies at New York University, in her book Safe Food: Bacteria, Biotechnology and Terrorism (University of California Press).

For example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture regulates beef broth and dehydrated chicken soup, but the Food and Drug Administration regulates dehydrated beef soup and chicken broth; and the USDA regulates open-face meat and poultry sandwiches, while the FDA regulates closed-face meat and poultry sandwiches.

Adding to the confusion, lobbyists from the meat and other industries have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in an attempt to sway legislation.

As Nestle explains in her latest book, Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health, food companies have been able to exert disproportionate influence on government nutrition policy through monetary contributions and by hiring well-connected former lawmakers in a revolving door system which invites conflicts of interest. Nestle cites an analysis of the travel practices of members of the House of Representatives for 1989-1990, for example, which showed that House members had collectively taken nearly 4,000 sponsored trips (two-thirds of them courtesy of corporations or trade associations), and had accepted more than $500,000 in honoraria. In 1996-97, she writes, one Congressional lawmaker had gone on no fewer than 26 trips paid for by the meat industry, valued at $18,550.

Posted by Richard
1/17/2004 05:56:27 PM | PermaLink

Friday, January 16, 2004

Disclosure of Environmental Hazards and National Security

Via: Mapcruzin

Does the disclosure of data regarding environmental hazards at chemical facilities threaten national security by providing terrorists with information about potential targets?

While the first impulse of officials at many levels of government has been to clamp down on information regarding the locations and quantities of toxic material inventories and the consequences of their accidental release, there is reason to believe that this approach is counterproductive.

In fact, national security might be strengthened through greater disclosure.

In a recent Master's Thesis, one U.S. Air Force student author investigated the impact of government controls on such information and considered whether environmental secrecy could effectively discourage terrorism.

Air Force Maj. Joseph D. Jacobson conducted his own research "toexplore the question of whether reasonably accurate targeting data is obtainable through means other than government-provided environmental information."

"The answer is a disturbing yes.... Even without a computer, telephone books, newspapers, and trade journals could be effectively used as [terrorist] planning tools. Unless our society is ready to completely suspend several amendments to the U.S. Constitution, we must assume that those planning attacks on chemical facilities have the research tools they need for adequate targeting."

Moreover, there is a "down side" to efforts to restrict environmental
information. Official controls may impede the public's ability to
contend with chemical hazards, thereby reducing safety and security,the author wrote.

"The road that restricts access to information leads us to a destination where the public is blissfully unaware of the dangers surrounding them while terrorists carefully research targets for maximum potential impact. The other road allows an informed public to prepare for potential attacks, plan responses, and put pressure on industry to change practices and processes in a meaningful way, thus reducing the likelihood of attacks."

See "Safeguarding National Security Through Public Release of Environmental Information: Moving the Debate to the Next Level" by Joseph D. Jacobson, a master's thesis submitted to the George Washington University School of Law, August 31, 2002, 97 pages (3.9 MB PDF file).

Posted by Richard
1/16/2004 06:11:33 PM | PermaLink

Thursday, January 15, 2004



This is an interesting site that is a little over a month old and devoted to tracing the Bush administration's environmentally-destructive record. Today, they ran a videocast (link to transcript above) of a sponsored Al Gore speech on Bush's environmental failures. Gore is without a doubt right on with the large part of his analysis -- especially perceptive is his noting of the way in which Bush has used Orwellian language to cover up his real objectives, as in the case of opening up old growth forests under the guise of a Healthy Forests Initiative.

The idea that Al Gore is the environmental conscience of the Democratic party is, however, not something that I find very palatable. Gore's environmentalism is at best itself analyzed as the sort of white bourgeois nature vacationing that is typical of priviledged classes in this country. He takes Bush rightly to task here for his distancing from the Kyoto Protocol on global warming; but unfortunately, he neglects to mention that the Clinton/Gore team perpetually shelved attempting to ratify Kyoto during their tenure, and were in the end a big business neoliberal administration in much the same general way that the Bush people go about their business. This is not to say that Clinton/Gore was anywhere near as regressive and ecologically destructive as Bush/Cheney -- but it is just to point out that the logic which finds that Clinton/Gore was not as anti-environmental does not then lead to the conclusion that Clinton/Gore was pro-environment. And this they were not.

The real distinction between these two is not between Earth destroyer and Earth lover, but it is rather between old guard big-business natural resource miner and new guard big-business natural resource conserverationist. The problem, however, is that the language of "natural resources" -- a language that also uses abstract, shadowy terms like "Earth's environment," which connote much but actually denote nothing -- this is the institutional language of technocratic managers; and while such technocrats may not be the root cause in themselves of global ecological crisis, they are certainly complicit in promoting the economic, cultural, and political initiatives that transform ecological sound habitats into degraded zones of commerce.

Thus, Gore's paean to the pale blue dot called planet Earth at the end of his speech is misconceived. For it is the very technocapitalist dream that has allowed for a handful of elite personages to float high above the places in which we inhabit in order to re-envision them as a cosmic speck or a blue planet. As Ivan Illich noted, we cannot have anything resembling a real relationship to a cosmic speck or lonely blue globe, and the contemporary imagination that believes that it can is already half-way lost to the very planet that it seeks to protect.

Posted by Richard
1/15/2004 06:15:01 PM | PermaLink

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

The New Apollo -- Will it Take Off or Just Crash and Burn?


The New Apollo Alliance has been announced and is apparently a burgeoning Democratic energy platform with Gephardt and now Dean pledging support. It is interesting, certainly, because of the way it has brought together a wide range of major labor, environmental, and civil rights organizations as under-signees; and its call for a 10-year move away from oil and gas dependence to renewable energy sources and improvement of existing factories and infrastructure certainly represents a 180 degree change from the present Bush policy. However, its rhetoric of American scitech leadership and innovation (thus the link to Kennedy's Apollo), as well as its interest in further extreme modernization of the culture and economy is wrong-headed and its political formula of clean the environment, increase jobs, and make America more powerfully rich should serve as an example of how strange the current political climate is in this extremely right-wing nation.

Earlier today I heard the head of (this is no endorsement, please) the New American party complaining about Bush's fiscal irresponsibility by waging religious war while cutting taxes and the Democratic humane irresponsibility in their claims that they would re-institute taxes, which could go to cutting the deficit, but which instead would go to a new wealth of increased social program spending. The New Apollo project as I read it would certainly fall under the category of the latter. It calls for $30 billion federal investment each year for 10 years and concludes that this spending will create a new wave of economic wealth such that America will actually make a great return on this investment. There is some precedent for this line of thinking -- a la the tech boom of the 1990s. However, as the present record budget shortfalls show, even if moving to a new energy economy could grant America its next boom, there is no reason to think that this boom would be either long-lasting or truly transformative.

What America really needs is to get away from the next new boom mentality that presently drives much of the political and cultural thinking. New technologies are not going to give us back the garden of eden, nor will they transform us into the type of people who conserve our habitats and treat beings with reverence and tolerance. Putting men on the moon (though I am of the "conspiracy camp" that is hard-pressed to believe that we in fact have ever done this) was a bad idea in the 1960s and was a reactionary cold war political move that could legitimate the technocapitalist dream that was as old as Truman, even as it mobilized large-scale unconscious nationalism in a quasi-fasicistic manner. We don't want to go down that road again, whether the enemy is Khruschev or Bush.

If we are concerned about the future of America, then we need to be concerned about the future of the planet. Calling for America to become the leader in hi-tech renewable energy isn't the answer b/c its a will o' wisp. No sooner would the investment begin than the plants and jobs to make the hi-tech components would spring up beyond the American border and transnational firms would sell those parts domestically. That is, an underlying problem with the vision is that it not only takes for granted, but promotes and exploits, capitalism as a social system. Whether it makes money for a few via oil or hydrogen cells, it cares not; and neither does the great majority of the world or the 3.3-odd billion indigent who survive on a couple bucks a day at most, often in conditions of hunger, war, and slavery. Granted -- there is something better about the kings and queens of the mountain driving around by the hundreds of millions in 60mpg sustainable hybrid vehicles than world-dominating, militaristic 10mpg Hum-vees. There is something better about Americans -- who are responsible for the great amount of energy released into the atmosphere which results in global heating -- pulling out of oil/gas exploration and thus regime change operations around the world and instead focusing on improving solar, wind, and water power to make it socially/environmentally (and hence ecologically) friendly. But to just change the energy source without transforming the underlying need for energy and inability to conserve it is little more than to just chase the very wind mill that the New Apolloists seem so excited about erecting.

Read their 44 page report here.

Posted by Richard
1/14/2004 03:41:05 PM | PermaLink

Uncaging "Free" Luers

Please consider endorsing this statement in defense of Oregon eco-defense political prisoner Jeff "Free" Luers.

This is a statement that was written by supporters of Oregon political prisoner Jeff "Free" Luers. We are looking for respectable individuals in the progressive and social justice communities to sign on to this statement. If you're willing to endorse this statement, please contact and be sure to include a brief self-description [for instance, you can mention what organizations you belong to or books you have authored]. The goal of the statement is draw attention to the case of Mr. Luers, and to positively affect his appeal. For more info on the case of Jeff "Free" Luers, visit Questions, comments, or concerns may be addressed to or Thank you.



Jeffrey Luers is a political prisoner serving a 22 year prison sentence for actions that did not physically threaten, let alone harm anyone.

Prior to his imprisonment, Mr. Luers was a very well-liked community activist inEugene,Oregon. He was known to law enforcement because of his involvement with forest defense and anti-police brutality activism.

Mr. Luers was arrested in June, 2000, after leaving the scene of a fire at a Romania car dealership in Eugene,Oregon. He was initially charged with three counts of First Degree arson for setting fire to three Sports Utility Vehicles [SUVs] at the car dealership, and later received additional charges of Attempted Arson and Conspiracy to Commit Arson at Tyree Oil Company.

Mr. Luers admits to having committed an act of property destruction at the Romania dealership. The stated purpose of this act was to bring attention to global warming and the increasing environmental crisis facing the world because of it. Mr. Luers took measures to make sure that no one would be injured as a result of his actions [an arson specialist and the Romania Night Watchman later confirmed at the trial this fire did not pose a threat to human beings]. He denies being involved in - or even knowing about - the attempted arson at the Tyree Oil Company. There was no physical evidence presented that tied him to the latter incident. Fingerprints found at the scene of the crime did not match Mr. Luers’ or those of his co-defendant.

During the course of his trial, statements were made by the police and prosecuting attorney that indicated it was Mr. Luers' political views on trial, not merely his actions. His defense successfully proved that evidence had been tampered with, officers had lied and that the prosecutor had manipulated evidence to get a legal search at his residence.

The defense had the upper hand until the untimely death of Mr. Luers’ lead attorney, Ken Morrow. This caused the judge to declare a mistrial leading to significant delays, allowing the prosecution to regroup and rethink their strategy.

In June of 2001, Mr. Luers was convicted of 11 of 13 charges and sentenced to 22 years imprisonment. Under Oregon’s Measure 11 mandatory-minimum sentencing guidelines, he does not have the possibility of parole or early release.
The length of this sentence is patently unjust, particularly when compared to those commonly given to people convicted of crimes against persons. For example, Manslaughter 1 carries a 10 year sentence; Attempted Murder, only 7 and-a-half years; Rape 1, 8 years and four months. Clearly, Jeffrey’s sentence is vastly disproportionate to the crime of burning three vehicles. A research project sponsored by supporters of Mr. Luers and the Human Rights Commission of the City of Eugene revealed this disparity and prompted the Commission to sign a statement questioning the role Mr. Luers politics may have played in his sentence.

Mr. Luers was given a sentence that would send the message to environmental and social justice activists that even a merely symbolic act of property destruction would now be equated with terrorism and punished more harshly than many crimes against persons. Since his imprisonment, Mr. Luers has been labeled by the FBI and corporate press as an “eco-terrorist.” This label has been used by the Oregon Department of Corrections to justify placing Mr. Luers at Security Threat Group status – a designation typically reserved for white supremacists and gang members.

During these difficult times, we must work diligently to ensure that the basic civil rights of everyone are equally protected and upheld. We cannot tolerate the criminalization of dissent or repression against activists, even if we may not agree with their tactics.

Mr. Luers is a sincere young man, and has a tremendous amount to offer the community. We feel that it would be an injustice to keep him locked up during the most precious years of his life. He has stated that, if released, he would continue to be active in efforts to protect the environment, but would avoid activities that would lead him back to prison.

In light of Mr. Luers stated political beliefs and the unusual length of his sentence, we recognize him as a political prisoner. We also support his appeal process, and call for a review of his sentence that would lead to a reduction in time served. 



Thanks a lot! Here's some who have signed so far:

Jello Biafra
Musician, spoken word artist, and owner of Alternative Tentacles Records (San Francisco,CA)

Rita Brown
Community Advisory Board member for thePrison Activist Resource Center (Berkeley,CA)

Daniel Ni Dighe
Prisoner Welfare Officer, Irish Republican Socialist Committees of North America (Tukwila,WA)

Arif Dirlik
Author and Professor of History and Anthropology at theUniversityof Oregon (Eugene,OR) 

Lyn Gerry
Radio Journalist and member of the Board of Trustees of IthacaCommunity Radio (Ithaca,NY)

Anthony Hall
Founding coordinator of Globalization Studies at theUniversityofLethbridgeand author of The American Empire and theFourth World (Alberta,Canada)

Chris Hannah
Guitar player and vocalist for political band Propaghandi (Winnipeg,Canada)

Robin Irish
Community activist, business owner (Eugene,OR)

Derrick Jensen
Award winning author and environmental activist (Crescent City, CA) 

James Johnson
Executive Director, Cascadia Wildlands Project (Eugene,OR)

Timothy Jones
DisabledVietnamveteran, business owner (Eugene,OR)

Jack Cohen-Joppa
Co-editor of Nuclear Resister (Tucson,AZ)

Todd Kowalski
Bass player and vocalist for political band Propaghandi (Winnipeg,Canada)

Richard Kraus
Professor of Political Science at theUniversityof Oregon (Eugene,OR)

Josh Laughlin
Campaign Coordinator for Cascadia Wildlands Project (Eugene,OR)

Claude Marks
Founder of the Freedom Archives (San Francisco,CA)

Hope Marston
Community activist involved with groups such as the Pacific Green Party, Bill of Rights Defense Committee, and various other campaigns for peace, social justice and an end to racism (Eugene,OR)

Ed Mead
Founder of Prison Art Inc. and former editor ofPrison Legal News (San Francisco,CA)

Scott Miksch
Coordinator for the Committee In Solidarity with the Central American People (Eugene,OR)

Peg Morton
Retired rural mental health counselor and Quaker nonviolent activist for peace and justice (Eugene,OR)

Chuck Munson
Coordinator, Alternative Media Project (Washington DC)

Anthony J. Nocella, II
Co-founder of Center on Animal Liberation Affairs and Institute for Revolutionary Peacemaking and Education (Houston,TX)

Michael Novick
Founder of People Against Racist Terror (Los Angeles,CA)

Christian Parenti
Author and PhD Research Fellow, Center for Place, Culture & Politics at the City University Of New York Graduate Center (New York City, NY)

Lauren Regan
Executive Director, CivilLiberties Defense Center (Eugene,OR)

Jordan Samolesky
Drummer and vocalist for political band Propaghandi (Winnipeg,Canada)

Peter Urban
Director of the Irish Republican Socialist Committees of North America (San Francisco,CA)

Phil Weaver
Eugene Peace Works Board of Directors, local activist, mediator (Eugene,OR)

Mary Martinez-Wenzl
Development Coordinator for Community Alliance of Lane County (Eugene,OR) 

Jeremy Wilson
Industrial Workers of the World (Kansas City, KS)

Posted by Richard
1/14/2004 09:06:33 AM | PermaLink

Environmental Justice: Frequency and Severity of US Chemical Industry Accidents and the Socioeconomic Status of Surrounding Communities

Over a 6 year period, over 15,000 industrial facilities that had filed chemical accident reports were evaluated, comprising a demographic make-up of over 2,300 US counties. What was discovered was that larger and more chemically intensive (read: toxic and dangerous) facilities tend to be located in counties with large African-American populations AND in counties that have BOTH high median incomes and high levels of income inequality -- that is, in communities that have rich (i.e.; white) folks living in the hills and poor (i.e.; black or latino or indigenous) folks living on the "other side of the tracks" in the industrial zone. These conclusions help to demonstrate what environmental justice advocates have been saying all along, which is that oppression based on race, class, and gender has an important environmental component, with society structuring and building itself such that politically under-represented communities tend to be located in places that are more environmentally toxic or degraded than should be otherwise expected due to averages. Again, "environmentally toxic" is here an understatement -- the Union Carbide accident in Bhopal, India was an example of an industrial/chemical accident into a poor community that killed thousands and left a legacy of injury that was much larger still. Just as sad, however, are the constant mini-releases of chemicals into communities via the accidents that appear to be considered the collateral damage of modern life.

The full report can be read here: EJ Report.

Posted by Richard
1/14/2004 08:19:53 AM | PermaLink

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Ancestral Diet Gone Toxic

After a lengthy 3 month break from blogging, in which we saw a number of important issues like the disgusting passage of the Healthy Forests Plan, the US bi-partisan formation of an energy plan that 'preserved' the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge while caving in to big energy everywhere else -- calling for increased natural gas drilling, increased oil prospecting worldwide, a startling increase in terribly unclean nuclear energy development, an attempted Bush roll back of the last of the great environmental legislation of the 1970s -- the Marine Mammal Protection Act and Endangered Species Act, and the recent discovery of Mad Cow disease in American cattle families (also known as 'beef stocks'), with all this flashed across the news media's tickertape and left for dead as yesterday's news, I am now well rested and back to archiving the stories and providing critical context and connections wherever I can. During my layoff I also took the time to reconsider the ecological blog project generally and I feel more certain that I would like to try to blog positively about the successes that we are having much more, with an emphasis about the local victories I and others are having in my area. I had not done this previously because I felt that a personal/local blog (while certainly sound) would by definition have a less broad audience and my hope was to get animal and ecological stories as broad an audience as possible, as blogging went mainstream and grabbed headlines. In this I was, if not amazingly successful, successful still -- we got mentions by major media circuits, write ups in academic forums and book chapters, and remain daily reading in over 30 countries by up to 1000 people a day (this without blogging in 3 months!). Yet, my own work in ecological education is in large part about "place" -- learning about one's place, its traditions, and the forces and beings that comprise the place in harmony to allow it to flourish. It is also about learning how to reclaim one's space so as to reinhabit it as a revered place when harmony has been lost and beings and traditions have been destroyed. So, I would like to contribute some examples of what is going on in my own place in this regard. I welcome comments about this proposed change and future entries to this effect.

My first story back, however, will be a headline story about the way industrial pollutants are being carried north to the arctic circle, where they are toxifying the food chain, becoming stored away in ice caps, and destroying the last vestiges of indigenous culture that rely on age-old historical practices developed out of the region's ecology. We already know about the legacy of colonization that has exterminated indigenous peoples across the planet, but here is an even more odious reality -- it is not just that the ecology of such peoples has to fear the vampiric quality of mass produced marketization, now we are beginning to learn of the ways in which mass produced industrial pollution refuses to STAY HOME and crosses borders, affecting others unfairly and harmfully even when they exist thousands of miles away from the problem's root cause and have no other relation to it.

What we should take from this is two-fold: modern industrial processes are themselves out-of-balance and cannot be reformed as they stand to make a healthy and just planet and, to the degree that they do presently exist in this form, we must have the immediate reform of powerful international legislation and regulation that supersedes national policies. Pollution does not conform to national borders and so the laws governing it cannot afford to either...

Via: Los Angeles Times

Living closer to the North Pole than to any city, factory or farm, the Kristiansens (a family of Inuit) appear unscathed by any industrial-age ills. They live much as their ancestors did, relying on foods harvested from the sea and skills honed by generations of Inuit.

But as northbound winds carry toxic remnants of faraway lands to their hunting grounds in extraordinary amounts, their close connection to the environment and their ancestral diet of marine mammals have left the Arctic's indigenous people vulnerable to the pollutants of modern society. About 200 hazardous compounds, which migrate from industrialized regions and accumulate in ocean-dwelling animals, have been detected in the inhabitants of the far north.

The bodies of Arctic people, particularly Greenland's Inuit, contain the highest human concentrations of industrial chemicals and pesticides found anywhere on Earth ? levels so extreme that the breast milk and tissues of some Greenlanders could be classified as hazardous waste.

Nearly all Inuit tested in Greenland and more than half in Canada have levels of PCBs and mercury exceeding international health guidelines.

Perched atop a contaminated food chain, the inhabitants of the Arctic have become the industrialized world's lab rats, the involuntary subjects of an accidental human experiment demonstrating what can happen when a heaping brew of chemicals builds up in human bodies.

Posted by Richard
1/13/2004 09:19:58 AM | PermaLink