Flotsam & Jetsam
Attorney Ford Greene Makes Banner Headlines, Meet Ilana Wexler, John Kerry's Smallest Big-time Supporter, Rice Yields Fall as Planet Warms, Diesel Pollution Deadlier than Guns, AND Honduran Environmentalists Threatened with Death
July 31, 2004

San Anselmo Attorney Ford Greene has been exercising his free speech rights and exorcising the demons of censorship. CREDIT: Gar Smith / The-Edge
Ford Greene's Banner Headlines
American dissidents are used paying a price for speaking out but in Marin Attorney Ford Greene's case, it's costing $7 per letter. "Free speech isn't free," Greene grins, "but it's worth it." Greene is the fellow behind (literally) the eye-catching canvas-and-velcro banner gracing the side of the two-story law office building in the 700 block of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. Greene's billboard-sized political broadsides have raised cheers, headlines and hackles.

It all started last October when Greene posted election posters for the Fairfax council race on the side of his building only to discover they'd been removed in the dead of night by local police using a cherry-picker. Turns out, Greene had run afoul of a secret San Anselmo sign ordinance passed the wake of the 9/11 attack. Greene filed a civil rights lawsuit that resulted in a court judgment invalidating half of the secret sign law. When San Anselmo rewrote the law to restrict outdoor signs to six-square-feet, Greene upped the anti by hoisting a 96-square-foot canvas billboard assembled from 16 2'x3' panels. He laboriously spells out political messages using Velcro-backed letters – costing $7 each. So far, he hasn't run out of letters – or messages – although he does confess, "It would be nice to have a question mark."

Greene's law office is also a visual landmark, with the large papier-mâché heads of John Ashcroft and Donald Rumsfeld in the window and the blow-up of Rumsfeld's recently declassified December 2, 2002 "Torture Memo."

On June 28, an anonymous caller left a message for Greene: "It's a great day for you and the terrorists!" Greene's answering machine recorded that the call came from Fairfax Councilmember Mike Ghiringhelli. When the Ross Valley Reporter contacted the Ghiringhelli, he protested that his message was not "meanspirited." He then proceeded to declare: "I'm sick of his liberal agenda and hate speech. He's a communist and a terrorist supporter... What's his problem? He's a twerp."

Greene is undeterred. "The banner has helped me cathartize my feelings of frustration at seeing our democracy going further down the toilet under Bush. It makes enduring the repression and suppression slightly easier." Greene hopes to win a variance to continue displaying his canvas billboard. (Gar Smith/ Common Ground magazine)

Bravas in Boston: Twelve-year-old Ilana Wexler scolds Dick Cheney and steals the show. Michael Macor (SF Chronicle) and The-Edge
Meet John Kerry's Smallest Big-time Supporter
One of John Kerry's most recognizable campaign directors enters the Espresso Roma in Berkeley, California lugging an armload of manila envelopes, fliers, sign-up sheets and a dozen freshly sharpened pencils. She scans the crowd, stakes out a corner of the coffeehouse, commandeers some tables and sets to work. Pound for pound, 12-year-old Ilana Wexler is John Kerry's most effective volunteer.

When a local film crew showed up for Ilana's 12th birthday party, a reporter shouted out the inevitable question: "What do you want for your birthday." Without missing a beat (or a bite), Illana looked up from her cake and chirped: "I want a new president!"

Ilana became interested in the Kerry campaign after hearing her parents talking about the candidate. She had already heard enough to know that Dubya was Trubya. Ilana checked out Kerry on the Internet and liked what she saw. She rounded up her pre-teen posse and they created a website, Kids for Kerry -- "We have learned our ABCs and we believe that John Kerry represents our best hope for a peaceful and hopeful future." (www.kidsforkerry.org) That lead to a larger web-based campaign called Kids For a Change.

Ilana is a bundle of energy, topped with a freckled face, a bracing smile and a crown of curly red hair. As the kids (ranging in age from 6 to 14) start to show up, Ilana makes sure the kids get the first seats. The parents (mostly mothers) are consigned to the background. Ilana passes out Kids4aChange name tags, which the kids quickly slap on their shirts. It's clear that the younger girls absolutely adore her. And, like a born politician, Ilana pauses to share a personal word with each young volunteer.

"The environment, healthcare and education are the key issues to focus on," Ilana instructs her band of volunteers as she explains how to fill out the voter registration forms the kids will be carrying. Today the kids will be going to collect signatures and donations at local shopping centers and theaters showing Fahrenheit 9/11. Quick to smile and quick to laugh, Ilana occasionally needs to be reminded by her father to "slow down, Ilana. Don't talk so fast."

Speech-making seems to have become second-nature for Ilana. She recalls with happy amazement how "I was asked to speak in front of a crowd with 500 other women." (Note her choice of the phrase "other women.") One of the women at that event was Theresa Heinz Kerry. And that is how Ilana Wexler wound up invited to appear on the stage of the Democratic Nominating Convention in Boston on Tuesday, July 27.

Keep an eye on Ms. Wexler. She's got your best interests at heart.

To see online videos of Ilana in action, go to: www.kidsforkerry.org/multimedia.htm

Rice Yields Fall as Planet Warms
World rice production needs to grow about 1% every year, just to meet the demand of the Earth's bulging population but an article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences warns that rice production has been falling 10 percent with each one-degree rise in global temperature.

Researchers working in the Philippines studied 12 years of rice yields and 25 years of temperature data and found a link between rising temperatures and falling rice production. This is an alarming trend since rice is the staple diet for most of the world's people.

A research team at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines, found that average daytime temperatures (which increased by 0.35C since 1979) had little effect on productivity but there was a strong link between increasing night-time temperatures (which rose by 1.1C over 25 years). Scientists believe that during hot nights, rice expends more energy on respiring than growing.

Computer models of climate change foresee night-time temperatures rising faster than in the day -- by several degrees C in the coming decades. This is bad news for rice fields in the tropics -- very near the top end of its temperature range." Of course, global warming will make cooler regions more hospitable to rice growing, but that may not offer any hope for poor farmers who depend on rice for their livelihood.

Diesel Pollution Deadlier than Guns
Governor Schwarzenegger has proposed funding a landmark $61 million-a-year diesel cleanup program. The cleanup is a key element of the state's attempts to protect Californians from the health and economic impacts of diesel exhaust. A report from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) predicts that diesel pollution will cause an estimated 3,000 premature deaths in California in 2004 alone -- well above California's homicide rate.

The Governor's cleanup proposal will "help Californians breathe easier and live longer," said Don Anair, a UCS Vehicles Engineer and lead author of the report. "Our analysis estimates that a larger ten-year investment at $100 million annually will help prevent over 1,200 premature deaths and save California about $7 billion. The Governor's proposal is a good down payment for public health, but much more can and should be done."

"Californians are sick of soot," said UCS Senior Analyst Patricia Monahan, co-author of the report. "Not only is diesel exhaust costing our citizens money, it's costing them their lives." This year alone, LA Basin residents will inhale more than 30 percent of California's emissions of toxic diesel soot and nitrogen oxides (NOx). They also will experience nearly half the state's estimated 1,400 premature deaths, 1,300 cases of chronic bronchitis and 2,100 hospitalizations for cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses. LA and the South Coast have more diesel-related deaths and illnesses than anywhere in the state -- followed by San Francisco, San Joaquin, San Diego, and Sacramento Valley Air Basins.

Diesel soot penetrates deep into the lungs and can cause severe respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses, chronic bronchitis, cancer, and premature death. In 2000, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) estimated that diesel soot was responsible for 70 percent of the state's risk of cancer from airborne toxics -- not to mention smog-related respiratory problems, including increasing asthma rates (especially for children), and damage to agricultural crops and forest habitats.

Using financial data from the EPA, the UCS sets the cost of diesel health impacts statewide is $21.5 billion-per-year. Comparing the costs of health impacts with those of pollution reduction measures, the report finds that diesel cleanup creates enormous savings for Californians.

UCS expressed concern that the Governor's funding plan comes at the expense of the state's Smog Check Program. "Cutting back on smog check will result in increased pollution from gasoline vehicles," said Anair. "Funding for diesel cleanup should instead come from fees on polluters."

The Governor's new investment will not protect Californians from dirty diesels since only a fraction of the state's diesel emissions can be reduced through the Governor's proposal. If CARB's Diesel Reduction Plan (which aims to cut particulate matter by 75 percent in 2010 and 85 percent in 2020) were fully implemented, more than 11,000 lives would be saved and health costs would be halved by 2020. Current retrofit regulations do not address over 85 percent of diesel pollution sources. The School Bus Incentive Program is chronically under funded, leaving California's school buses among the oldest and dirtiest in the nation.

Environmentalists Threatened with Death
HONDURAS (June 14, 2004) -- Jose Idalecio Murillo, a leader of the Regional Coordination of Popular Resistance (CRRP), an umbrella group of Honduran human rights, environmental and other grassroots organizations, has received death threats and gunmen have fired at his house. Other CRRP members have also received death threats, all apparently in retribution for the group's campaign against government corruption and illegal logging in environmentally protected area.

Jose Idalecio Murillo, who works as a teacher, heads the CRRP in the department of Intibuca in southwestern Honduras. On May 27, at about 1am, four men fired several shots at his family home. The family reported the attack to the Attorney General's Office and the General Directorate of Criminal Investigations. The DGIC reportedly claimed that spent cartridges submitted by the family were not valid evidence. Witnesses to the shooting originally said they could identify the four men, but later stated that they had only seen the car the men drove, suggesting that they had been intimidated.

On May 21, the CRRP signed agreements with the authorities in Intibuca and the national government that dismissed the Departmental Director of Education for corruption and instituted a 40-day logging ban in Intibuca.

The Civic Council of Indigenous and Popular Organizations has also experienced death threats and intimidation because of its anti-logging activities. COPINH recently had stopped logging trucks and confiscated timber that was being transported to La Paz. On May 28, a 9mm cartridge was found in the doorway of the COPINH office. A week earlier, a man (reportedly a member of a local family that sells timber to logging companies) entered the office and threatened three COPINH members, demanding to know: ''What gives you the right to steal my timber?" As the man left, he shouted: ''I'm going to kill the three of you.''

The harassment of environmental, grassroots, and indigenous activists, is part of a pattern of human rights abuses against those defending the environment. Illegal logging and dam construction are causing grave environmental damage. Amnesty International has documented killings of activists, and death threats against others.

What You Can Do:
Please send appeals expressing concern for the safety of Jose Idalecio Murillo and his family and calling for an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the attack and into the campaign of harassment against other members of the CRRP.
The results must be made public and those responsible brought to justice.

  • Minister of Security: Dr. Oscar Alvarez, Ministro de Seguridad Publica Ministerio de Seguridad Publica, Edificio Poujol, 4o piso Col. Palmira (Blvd. Morazan), Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Fax: 011 504 220 4479 Salutation: Dear Minister/Senor Ministro

  • Attorney General: Dr. Ramon Ovidio Navarro Duarte, Fiscal General de la Republica Fiscalia, General de la Republica, Colonia Loma del Guijaro, Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Fax: 011 504 221 5666 Salutation: Dear Attorney General/ Senor Fiscal General

  • Ambassador Mario Miguel Canahuati, Embassy of Honduras, 3007 Tilden St. NW, Suite 4-M,Washington DC. 20008. Fax: 1 202 966 9751

    For the latest information, contact the Urgent Action Network of Amnesty International USA, PO Box 1270, Nederland CO 80466-1270. Email: uan@aiusa.org www.amnestyusa.org/urgent (303) 258-1170. Fax: (303) 258-7881.

    For more information contact:

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