ZapBurgers: Would You Like Alpha Particles with That?
Study Reveals Top US Polluters Tied to Bush
Eco-Journalist Assassinated in Honduras
May 22, 2004
Would You Like Alpha Particles with That?
|Some people wouldn't be caught dead eating rad-infested beef. Credit: Graphic by The-Edge|
On April 27, the San Francisco Board of Education voted to take food out of the mouths of children and parents cheered. The food in question was irradiated beef, a controversial food item being promoted by the US Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National School Lunch Program.
The Board's rejection of the USDA's rad-infested food was unanimous. Board Commissioner Mark Sanchez hoped the vote would send a message that the big-biz-and-beef-friendly White House "can't use out children as guinea pigs for this questionable technology." Clearly, eco-sensitive San Franciscans (who would rather eschew than chew genetically engineered "Franken-foods") were not about to subject their offspring to an untested menu of Roentgen-foods.
The USDA may not be listening. In 2003, the USDA invited public comments on feeding Zap-burgers to tots and 93 percent of the responses ranged from negative to ballistic. That didn't deter the USDA from proceeding to dangle the offer of "free meat" to 27 million school kids.
What makes the USDA's beef-patty-pandering even harder to swallow is that laws requiring producers to label irradiated foods don't apply to such free-fryer zones as restaurants, hospitals and school cafeterias. It was another case of the government putting (big) profits before (little) people.
Sure, zapping food with radiation kills bacteria, but it also vaporizes essential nutrients and vitamins and produces a fallout of suspected carcinogenic by-products.
Public Citizen's safe-lunch campainer Tracy Lernam praised San Francisco for drawing a line in the sandwich. Lerman hailed the vote as "evidence of an increasing demand for wholesome, healthy and nutritious food in schools."
By placing its 116 schools off-limits to radiation-enhanced Bush-burgers, San Francisco has joined five other California school districts that have just said "No." Opponents are pleased to note that, to date, "no school district has purchased irradiated meat through the USDA for the 2004-2005 school year."
For more information: www.safelunch.org.
Study Reveals Top US Polluters Tied to Bush
|Financial backing from major polluters like W. H. Sammis has given rise to the acid reign of George W. Bush. Credit: Graphic by The-Edge|
WASHINGTON (May 5, 2004) -- The nation's top power-plant polluters -- measured in terms of mercury, sulfur dioxide (SO2) and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions -- are owned by corporations that are tightly allied with the Bush Administration according to a joint study by the nonprofit Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) and Public Citizen.
America's Dirtiest Power Plants: Plugged into the Bush Administration, ranks the top 50 polluting power plants. While these facilities represent only about 5 percent of the 1,000-plus plants in the US, the produce most of the industry's problem emissions -- 43 percent of sulfur dioxide; 31 percent of CO2; and 43 percent of mercury.
Since 1999, the 30 biggest utility companies own the majority of the 89 of the country's dirtiest power plants. These 30 companies have poured $6.6 million into Bush's presidential campaigns and the Republican National Committee (RNC). The companies and one of their trade associations, the Edison Electric Institute, have produced 10 "Rangers" and "Pioneers" -- Bush campaign super-fundraisers who collect at least $200,000 or $100,000, respectively, in earmarked contributions.
The 30 companies hired at least 16 lobby or law firms with 23 Rangers or Pioneers between them who have raised at least $3.4 million for the Bush campaigns. These firms, together with the private utility industrys trade association, met with Vice President Cheneys energy task force at least 17 times to help formulate the countrys energy and pollution policies.
Environmental Integrity Project Director Eric Schaeffer said: "It is no coincidence that a wholesale assault on the Clean Air Act is taking place today. This attack is part of a campaign by a White House that understands what the industry wants and is willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen."
Public Citizen's Congress Watch Director Frank Clemente said: "This is a classic Washington follow-the-money story. When the electric utility industry faced strong government attempts to clean up many of its aging coal-fired power plants, an action that could cost the utilities billions, a few dozen corporations and their trade association began an intensive campaign to derail the effort. Their strategy: help elect an industry-friendly president, fill federal regulatory posts with former utility executives and lobbyists, and hire a small army of lobbyists and lawyers connected to the new president to engineer regulatory changes that would undermine the EPA's Clean Air Act enforcement cases and weaken rules that already were in the pipeline."
Key Study Findings
Top polluters identified. The study ranks the top 50 power plants for each of three pollutant categories -- mercury, sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide. According to the report, the three worst polluters in terms of SO2 are: Bowen (Georgia); W.H. Sammis (Ohio); and Keystone (Pennsylvania). The three worst polluters in terms of CO2 are: Martin Lake (Texas); Scherer (Georgia); and Bowen (Georgia). The three worst polluters for mercury are: Keystone (Pennsylvania); Mount Storm (West Virginia); and Monticello (Texas). Of this group, only Mount Storm, which is operated by Dominion Electric, has agreed to a comprehensive clean up of its pollution.
Key campaign contributors identified. The study looked at the 89 plants that comprise the three top 50 lists and found that the majority of the plants were owned by 30 corporations. Those utility companies and their trade association engaged in an intense fundraising campaign that netted $6.6 million for Bush and the RNC since 1999. They also produced 10 Bush Rangers and Pioneers who have between them raised at least $1.5 million alone.
Pollution indicators are up. EPA's 2003 emissions data shows that power plant SO2 emissions increased by more than 400,000 tons between 2002 and 2003, rising from 10.19 million tons to 10.59 million tons, or 3.9 percent. Carbon dioxide emissions increased by roughly 47 million tons during the same period, from 2.425 billion tons in 2002, to 2.472 billion tons in 2003, a 2 percent increase. Nitrogen oxide emissions from power plants declined 5.6 percent, dropping from 4.36 million to 4.12 million tons.
Over half of major polluters have been in hot water. Of the 89 plants that made it onto one or more of the dirtiest plant lists, 47 have been sued or investigated by EPA for violating the Clean Air Act's New Source Review (NSR) requirement. Of the top 50 SO2 emitters, 18 plants have been brought to court and another 11 were investigated by the government. In August 2003, EPA relaxed the rules for New Source Review, exempting many facilities from the law's pollution control requirements -- only to have a court stay the rules. Many of these companies have either had the cases against them undermined or simply dropped by the Bush Administration.
Major harm inflicted by pollution. Sulfur dioxide inflicts a serious health toll in terms of asthma attacks and lung ailments. According to EPA studies, powerplant pollution is linked to heart and lung diseases that contribute to more than 20,000 premature deaths a year. Mercury, once released into the atmosphere, settles in lakes and rivers, where it moves up the food chain to humans. In 2003, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that roughly 10 percent of US women carry mercury concentrations at levels considered to put a fetus at risk to neurological damage.
Major lobbying clout for polluters. Once Bush was in office, many of the utilities that helped elect him hired lobbying and law firms with Rangers and Pioneers to lobby the government or defend them against the EPA's pollution lawsuits. The 30 Dirty companies hired at least 16 firms (that between them have 23 different Rangers and Pioneers) who raised at least $3.4 million for Bush's campaigns. Their firms, together with the trade association for most coal-fired electric utility corporations (whose president is a Pioneer for 2000 and 2004), met with Vice President Cheney's national energy task force at least 17 times to help formulate federal energy and pollution policies. The recommendations led directly to EPA's rewriting of the Clean Air Act rule that the utilities had been accused of violating.
Influence inside the Administration. After raising millions of dollars for his election in 2000, many of Bush's biggest utility contributors were invited to join various transition teams -- the committees that nominated officials to serve in the new administration. The 30 big utilities on the three dirtiest plants lists had four officials appointed to the Energy Department transition team. The new administration contained five of the industry's former executives or lobbyists, who were given senior positions where they were responsible for formulating or enforcing clean air policies. And once a controversial rewrite of air policy was finalized in late 2003, two officials left the EPA and were immediately hired by electric utilities or lobbying firms that represented them.
The Environmental Integrity Project is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization established in March of 2002 to advocate for more effective enforcement of environmental laws. Schaeffer directed the EPA's Office of Regulatory Enforcement until 2002, when he resigned after publicly expressing his frustration with efforts of the Bush Administration to weaken enforcement of the Clean Air Act and other laws.
Public Citizen is a national, nonpartisan and nonprofit consumer advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. Public Citizen's Congress Watch, which operates the www.WhiteHouseForSale.org website, analyzes the influence of money in politics, among other things.
The report is available at www.environmentalintegrity.org and www.WhiteHouseForSale.org.
Eco-Journalist Assassinated in Honduras
On November 26, 2003, Germán Antonio Rivas, a 45-year old journalist and managing owner of the Maya Television Corporation channel 34 in the city of Santa Rosa de Copán, was shot by unknown assailants, who had been waiting outside the television company and who fired as Rivas got out of his car. Station employees heard the gunshot and exited the building, only to find Rivas lifeless body lying in the street. He was married and the father of three children.
Rivas was the director of CMV-Noticias, a TV show known for its criticism of Minerales de Occidente (MINOSA), which operated a controversial mine inside the Guisayote National Park. Rivas also dealt with other controversial issues including the illegal trafficking of livestock and coffee in the border zone between Honduras and Guatemala.
On February 24, 2003, Rivas survived an assassination attempt at his residence when he returned from airing a CMV-noticias newscast. A would-be assassin opened fire while Rivas was parking his car but the bullets missed their target. Rivas denounced the crime to the criminal investigation entity (DGIC) in Santa Rosa de Copán, but when he returned home, the police agents who had offered him protection were nowhere to be found.
Rivas left a high-paying career with the commercial networks to found a communications company that put its microphones at the service of the most dispossessed. In the 80s Rivas worked closely with the Human Rights movement during the repressive reign of the doctrine of national security.
The first attempt on Rivas life came after he denounced the ecological damage caused by the MINOSA mining company, which had spilled cyanide into the Lara River, a tributary to the major water source for the residents of Santa Rosa de Copán. MINOSA was fined a million lempiras (about $58,800) for the spill.
Nine months after the attempted murder, the police still had not completed the report on the results of their investigation. (Police investigators initially argued that there was no evidence of an assassination attempt.)
Other criminal acts committed against journalists in Honduras include:
1981. Journalist Tomás Nativí Gálvez, director of the newspaper Unión Revolucionaria del Pueblo (Revolutionary Union of the People), was disappeared.
1984. The disappearance of Eduardo López, columnist of the Diario Tiempo newspaper in San Pedro Sula.
1986. An attack, using explosives, against Rodrigo Wong Arévalo, for which the Intelligence Battalion 3-16 was identified as the principal perpetrator.
1989. Assault against journalist Elan Reyes Pineda in Tegucigalpa.
1999. Attempted kidnapping of journalist Renato Alvarez in his residence in Tegucigalpa.
2000. Attack against Julio César Pineda in San Pedro Sula on April 26.
What You Can Do:
Rivas' friends have called on the international community to support the following demands: that the State of Honduras undertake an exhaustive investigation into the assassination and that the intellectual authors be brought to justice; that journalism and freedom of expression be protected; that the State effectively protect all journalists who are being constantly threatened.
Please direct your appeals to: Licenciado Ricardo Maduro, Presidente de la República de Honduras, Casa Presidencial, Boulevard Juan Pablo Segundo, Palacio José Cecilio del Valle, Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Fax: (504) 221-4552 Salutation: Señor Presidente
For more information, contact: Paula Palmer, Global Response PO Box 7490 Boulder CO 80306 USA TEL: 303-444-0306 FAX: 303-449-9794 firstname.lastname@example.org, www.globalresponse.org.
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