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Protecting our Environmental Resources
Updated: 13 hours 25 min ago

Baltimore Becomes First Big U.S. City to Ban Water Privatization

Sat, 12/29/2018 - 10:34
Baltimore Becomes First Big U.S. City to Ban Water Privatization

Baltimore City paves the way for how cities across the country can protect their water systems from the risks and costs of corporate control.

water systems from the risks and costs of corporate control.

We all need safe food and clean water.

By Rianna Eckel 11.8.18

On Tuesday, Baltimore became the first big city in the country to ban water privatization. With a huge margin of victory — 77 percent of voters approved the charter amendment — Baltimore residents declared their water system to be a permanent, inalienable asset of the city. No corporation can take the water and sewer system away from the city. This is a historic victory for local control of water.

Baltimore offers a model for the nation on how to protect local control of essential public services. This measure provides a framework for cities to prevent the sale and lease of their water and sewer systems to outside interests.

When corporations run water systems, they have one primary goal — profit. They don’t have altruistic aspirations of ensuring that everyone has equitable access to safe and affordable water. Many communities that have privatized their water have experienced skyrocketing rates, job losses, or worse service. And this burden falls hardest on working families, poor people, and communities of color.

Baltimore’s charter amendment had full support from the entire city council (it was shepherded by Council President Jack Young to get it on the ballot in time) and it was first proposed and later signed by Mayor Catherine Pugh. Baltimore’s elected officials recognized the importance of preserving public control of this critical resource, but the grassroots-powered movement is what inspired and educated voters about this measure.

Food & Water Watch worked with the campaign committee Keep Baltimore’s Water Public along with labor unions and community groups, including the City Union of Baltimore, AFT-Maryland, AFSCME Local 67, Jews United for Justice, Maryland Working Families, and many other partners. We knocked on doors, called voters, and talked with people at the polls to explain the importance of the ballot question.

For at least 25 years, corporations have sought control of Baltimore’s water system. But now the city has responded with a resounding “No.”

Water companies have approached almost every new mayor and public works director. Most recently, French multinational company Suez and Wall Street firm KKR have aggressively pitched Baltimore officials on a long-term lease of the utility. The companies offered up-front cash for long-term control of Baltimore’s public water system. That upfront money was nothing short of an expensive loan that residents would repay through hikes in their water bills. By passing Question E, Baltimore has outsmarted predatory private companies, stopped these schemes, and protected its water system from extreme privatization deals.

With this vote, Baltimore has sent a clear message to these companies: our water system doesn’t exist for you to profit from; our water system belongs to us now and for generations to come. TWEET

Baltimore is the first U.S. city to amend its charter — the city’s constitution — to prohibit water privatization. And it is part of a global water justice movement to realize the human right to water. In 2004, Uruguay voters amended their constitution to become the first country to ban water privatization. Around the globe, cities have committed to keep water services in public control, most recently Berlin and three other German cities.

Baltimore voters too have chosen to resist pressure to sell and outsource one of the most vital and precious resources they have. They have protected public control, accountability, and transparency of their water.

Now that privatization is out of the picture, Baltimore can work to improve the accountability and affordability of the water system and ensure every person in the city has access to safe and affordable water service. Food & Water Watch looks forward to working with other cities to protect their water systems from corporate control and lifting up Baltimore as a model for water justice for the nation.

Categories: G2. Local Greens

San Francisco Chronicle: ‘Death by a thousand cuts:’ California’s first year of legalized pot is no smooth trip

Fri, 12/28/2018 - 12:38
‘Death by a thousand cuts:’ California’s first year of legalized pot is no smooth trip

Updated 10:14 am PST, Friday, December 28, 2018              

The legal marijuana market, so long a twinkle in the eye of the cannabis cognoscenti, has hit hard times in California, where high prices, red tape and competition from the black market have cast a pall over what was supposed to be a triumphant first year of recreational sales.

The cost of legalization was so high in 2018 that hundreds of growers and retailers went out of business, the number of available products spiraled down, tax revenues from sales fell below projections and the black market revved up, according to industry officials and business representatives.

It was, said one insider, “death by a thousand cuts.” And the drip, drip continued this month with the recall of thousands of pounds of marijuana, extracts and products after a Sacramento laboratory was caught faking test results for 22 pesticides over a four-month period.

“The reality is, this isn’t working out the way that anyone hoped,” said Hezekiah Allen, the chairman of Emerald Grown, a co-op made up of about 100 licensed growers mostly north of San Francisco. “It’s looking like some of the worst fears of the (cannabis) business community are being realized.”

Legal sales of recreational cannabis started with great hoopla on Jan. 1 as the state attempted to transform the semi-regulated medical marijuana market into a multibillion-dollar industry. But the costs of setting up, licensing, testing and packaging requirements have proved a heavy burden, and revenues haven’t flowed in as expected.

Cannabis taxation hasn’t lived up to governments predictions……

The year-end tax revenues haven’t been tabulated, but third-quarter figures show California falling well short of the $630 million from recreational marijuana sales that Gov. Jerry Brown predicted in budget documents. As of November, $234.2 million in taxes had been paid to the state in cultivation, excise and sales taxes, according to the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration.

There is reason for some optimism. Tax revenue from sales has improved over the year, jumping from $60.9 million in the first three months of the year to $80.2 million in the second quarter and $93.1 million in the third quarter. But, overall, cannabis sales have been lackluster.

It’s a problem for the state because the tax revenues are used to pay for cannabis research, addiction prevention and law enforcement, including the hoped-for eradication of the illegal market that is siphoning away money.

Many growers, retailers and consumers around the state believe it is a systemic problem, starting with the 15 percent excise tax and snowballing as cities and counties tack on charges.

When all the charges are added up, including cultivation taxes, they amount to about 40 percent of the cost of the goods, merchants say. Meanwhile, the wholesale price for marijuana has dropped over the past year, from around $2,000 a pound to about $500, further reducing profits.

Steve DeAngelo, a co-founder of Oakland’s Harborside marijuana dispensary, said as many as 90 percent of the 500 growers he did business with last year and a dozen “legacy” dispensaries — longtime operators that formed the foundation of the medical marijuana industry — have gone out of business.

“I look back on this year and think of it as the agony and the ecstasy,” DeAngelo said. “On the one hand, it’s the culmination of my life’s work, but on the other hand we’ve seen the destruction of a very special, unique, eclectic and colorful culture.”

The focus now seems to be on making the recreational market viable, but efforts to ease the tax burden, including proposals to cut excise taxes from 15 percent to 11 percent, have gotten little traction.

Meanwhile, growers say, the cost of being in the business is astronomical. Business licenses cost anywhere from $1,205 for a permit to grow 25 outdoor plants to $77,905 for a 22,000-square-foot indoor plantation. Growers and manufacturers also have to pay for lab testing to assure regulators that the marijuana is free of pesticides, chemicals and toxins.

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Categories: G2. Local Greens

Report on President’s Environmental Record So Far ‘Reminds Us That Trump Soap Opera Has Dire Real-World Consequences’

Fri, 12/28/2018 - 12:22
Citizens health: collateral damage to corporate profits. “Since taking office, Mr. Trump has consistently sided with powerful economic constituencies in setting policy toward the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the presence of chemicals in our communities.” Report on President’s Environmental Record So Far ‘Reminds Us That Trump Soap Opera Has Dire Real-World Consequences’

“We are sort of powerless,” a Fort Berthold Indian Reservation resident said of Trump’s rollbacks on pollution rules. “This is our reality now.”

by Jessica Corbett, staff writer

On Earth Day in 2017, people worldwide participated in the March for Science to demand evidence-based policymaking. This sign was displayed by participants in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Becker1999/Flickr/cc)

A New York Times investigative report on President Donald Trump’s nearly two-year environmental record and how his industry-friendly policies are impacting communities nationwide, published in the Thursday paper, “reminds us that the Trump soap opera has dire real-world consequences.”

That’s according to 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben, who added on Twitter that “futures are foreclosed because he’s a tool of dirty energy.”

The “must-read” report focuses on examples from California, North Dakota, Texas, and West Virginia, with special attention paid to policy changes at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Interior Department—which have both seen Trump-appointed agency heads resign amid numerous ethics probes.

Acknowledging a previous Times analysis of the 78 environmental rules—including many implemented under former President Barack Obama—that the Trump administration and Republican-controlled Congress have worked to eliminate, the report details how the EPA, at the behest of industry lobbyists, quashed a ban on the toxic pesticide chlorpyrifos, which has “sickened substantial numbers of farmworkers” in rural California, where more than a third of U.S. produce is grown.

While that move is being contested in federal court, it exemplifies how the administration has often defied scientific findings and warnings in favor of demands from pesticide producers, fossil fuel developers, and other polluting industries. As the Times put it:

If your heads in the sand you know what’s showing.

Since taking office, Mr. Trump has consistently sided with powerful economic constituencies in setting policy toward the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the presence of chemicals in our communities.

In the process, he has frequently rejected or given short shrift to science, an instinct that has played out most visibly in his disdain for efforts to curb global warming but has also permeated federal policy in other ways.

The Times also examines Trump’s rollbacks—and the subsequent public health consequences—of air quality regulations that aimed to reduce dangerous levels of sulfur dioxide pollution from coal-burning power plants in Texas; policies crafted to clean up West Virginia waterways polluted with arsenic, mercury, and selenium by the coal industry in West Virginia; and limits targeting flaring and leaks of methane on federal or tribal lands, including the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota.

Considering the Interior Department’s September 2018 reversal of such limits after complaints from Big Oil, Walter DeVille, who lives on the reservation and whose wife has been diagnosed with a respiratory condition common among oil field workers, told the Times, “We are sort of powerless… This is our reality now.”

A Times summary highlighting five key takeaways from the report—which pointed out that while the consequences of Trump’s polluter-friendly policies “are starting to play out in noticeable ways in communities across the United States,” the full impact “of the Trump-era policies may not be fully apparent until years after Mr. Trump leaves office”—emphasized:

  1. Trump has quickly undercut Obama’s legacy;
  2. Environmental impacts span the country;croyn capitalkism
  3. The rollbacks touch air, water, chemicals, and climate;
  4. The decline of coal has not been stopped; and
  5. Progress is slowing—but there’s still progress.

Although the “incredible” and “devastating” report—produced by Eric Lipton, Steve Eder, and John Branch—garnered significant praise, some more cautious language choices also elicited criticism. For example, the Times reads, “Beyond the glare of Washington, President Trump’s retreat on the environment is unfolding in consequential ways for the health and safety of Americans.”

While characterizing the report as “a great package on the real-world, human costs of Trump’s gutting of pollution regulations,” author and climate activist Alex Steffen noted, “Trump is not ‘retreating’ from environmental responsibility, he’s overtly attacking it.”

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Categories: G2. Local Greens

Dismissing science has put these California workers at risk – Las Vegas Sun News

Fri, 12/28/2018 - 12:08
Excerpt: A Regulation Undone: Chlorpyrifos THE REGULATION: Chlorpyrifos, developed as a nerve agent, has been in use as a broad-spectrum pesticide since 1965 despite growing evidence of its harmful effects, especially in children and pregnant women. Most residential uses ended in 2001. The EPA moved to ban it for agricultural purposes, with a March 2017 deadline to act. THE ROLLBACK: On March 29, 2017, the new EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, canceled the proposed ban on chlorpyrifos. The reason: not enough science. “By reversing the previous administration’s steps to ban one of the most widely used pesticides in the world, we are returning to using sound science in decision-making — rather than predetermined results,” Pruitt said at the time. THE CONSEQUENCES: The use of chlorpyrifos, an estimated 6 million pounds a year, continues across the country. Only Hawaii has banned its use. BY THE NUMBERS $1 million: The amount that DowDuPont, the leading manufacturer of chlorpyrifos, donated to President Donald Trump’s inauguration. One of the EPA’s early acts under Trump was to quash the chlorpyrifos ban on March 29, 2017. 902,575 pounds: The amount of chlorpyrifos applied in California in 2016, covering 640,000 acres. As the pesticide’s use has continued, so have the accidents. One episode in May 2017 sickened 37 cabbage pickers. $30,250: The fine levied against Sun Pacific after investigators found that the company had applied chlorpyrifos at seven tangerine sites between half a mile and 1.5 miles from the cabbage field where the workers became ill. 60: The number of crops, including citrus, almonds, alfalfa and grapes, routinely treated with chlorpyrifos. Had Trump not won the presidency, millions of pounds of the chemical most likely would not have been applied.

4:30 a.m.: The time that some parents drop off their children at Sunset Child Development Center, a day care that is next to vineyards. Pesticides like chlorpyrifos are allowed to be sprayed from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Dismissing science has put these California workers at risk  Dismissing science has put these California workers at risk

Gabriella Demczuk / The New York Times

A crop is watered outside Arvin, Calif., Nov. 27, 2018. Nearly 29 million pounds of pesticides were spread over Kern County in 2016. The president’s distrust of expert studies has put farm workers at risk in California, where a pesticide the Obama administration moved to ban is still in widespread use.

Thu, Dec 27, 2018 (2 a.m.)

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — The spring air was cool. There was the slightest breeze. The smell floated into the cabbage field about six weeks after the newly installed Trump administration brushed aside scientifically established health concerns and overturned a planned ban of one of the world’s most potent pesticides.

It was the early morning of Cinco de Mayo — May 5, 2017 — but there was no day off on this holiday. In three groups, 48 farmworkers, most of them women, were scattered around a field in the southern part of California’s vast and flat Central Valley. Some did the back-aching work of bending over and using a knife to chop the heads from the plants. They passed them up to packers standing on a flatbed trailer behind a tractor.

Vicenta Rivera, 49, was one of the first to feel it — a pesticide drift, the agriculture industry calls it, in this case of chlorpyrifos, one of the most powerful and toxic pesticides in widespread use, that had been sprayed on a nearby grove of mandarin oranges. There was a strong odor, a taste in the back of the throat, numb lips, itchy skin and watery eyes. A headache set in quickly.

Some workers scurried to nearby cars to avoid the toxic air. Others kept picking and packing, squinting and covering their faces and trying not to breathe. They were afraid of the repercussions of walking away. They needed the money. Women coughed. Some vomited.

Bricmary Lopez fainted. A 37-year-old mother of three, she remembers the smell, the dizziness, the overwhelming feeling of nausea. Other workers thought she was faking it, trying to be funny, when she hit the ground and started convulsing.

“We were teasing each other, saying, ‘Ha, you don’t want to work,’” said Lucia Martinez Polido, 57.

Reality bit. Soon, nearly everyone felt the burning sensation and queasiness. Some fainted. Those not immediately incapacitated helped the others. They put a pillow under Lopez’s head and stood over her, waving their arms over her face, trying to offer fresh air. Firetrucks and ambulances came. They stayed out on Copus Road, a couple of hundred yards beyond the cabbage field and adjacent almond groves, because the rescuers did not want to get exposed.

Lopez remembers being ushered behind curtains, a makeshift room assembled for roadside decontamination. She remembers being naked in a temporary shower and riding in an ambulance to a Bakersfield hospital, about 20 miles away.

She said she was given medicine and released. No longer working the fields and riddled with health problems, Lopez has been searching for answers.

“All I want to know,” she said at her home recently, “is am I going to be OK?”

Trump Wins, and EPA Quashes Ban

Had Donald Trump not won the presidency in 2016, millions of pounds of chlorpyrifos most likely would not have been applied to U.S. crops over the past 21 months. It would not have sickened substantial numbers of farmworkers or risked what the Environmental Protection Agency’s own studies suggest could be continued long-term health problems for others exposed to the chemical at low levels.

Widespread concerns about chlorpyrifos led to its removal for nearly all residential uses in 2000. Environmental groups kept pushing, and two filed a petition with the EPA in 2007 to ban it on food crops. The EPA eventually agreed in 2015, released its revised human health risk assessment in November 2016 and was ordered by a court to “take final action” by the end of March 2017.

Days after the assessment was released, Trump won the election. DowDuPont, the leading maker of the pesticide, donated $1 million to his inauguration. One of the early acts of the man Trump appointed to head the EPA, Scott Pruitt, was to quash the chlorpyrifos ban on March 29, 2017.

Since taking office, Trump has consistently sided with powerful economic constituencies in setting policy toward the air we breathe, the water we drink and the presence of chemicals in our communities.

In the process, he has frequently rejected or given short shrift to science, an instinct that has played out most visibly in his disdain for efforts to curb global warming but has also permeated federal policy in other ways. Trump has expressed skepticism about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines. His administration supported rolling back safeguards for workers exposed to some toxic substances. And in rolling back nearly 80 environmental regulations, he has regularly played down findings that bolstered the need for the rules in the first place.

The administration’s choice not to curb the use of chlorpyrifos is a case study in how ideological and special-interest considerations outweighed decades of evidence about the potential harm associated with its use.

The effects of such large-scale decision-making are felt locally. And in the case of chlorpyrifos, there may be no place where the tension between science and the administration’s policy inclinations plays out more than in California’s Kern County, the vast crosshatched expanse roughly the size of New Jersey that surrounds Bakersfield.

California is the nation’s leading state for agriculture production. Kern County is a primary hub, with more than $7 billion in agricultural commodities in 2017, led by almonds, citrus and grapes, among dozens of crops.

It also leads the state in the use of chlorpyrifos. And its toll may extend well beyond farmworkers. Neighborhoods and schools are carved out of old orchards and groves. They may be separated from crops by mere feet, maybe a road. Even in the middle of the small towns, nobody is far from the fields or the nearly 29 million pounds of pesticides — including 200,000 pounds of chlorpyrifos — spread on them in 2016, just within Kern County.

“For the federal government to not just ignore, but throw away, 10 years of science showing that chlorpyrifos is damaging, we feel that at the local level,” said Valerie Gorospe, a community organizer in Delano, near Bakersfield, whose mother was a longtime advocate for farmworkers and pesticide overhaul.

Weighing the Risk When Exposed

Chlorpyrifos is part of the same chemical family as sarin nerve gas. An estimated 6 million pounds are spread each year across dozens of agricultural crops nationwide, including alfalfa, almonds, citrus, corn, cotton and grapes. It is useful as a broad-spectrum pesticide, farmers and agricultural experts say, because it kills virtually every kind of insect.

The chemical’s effect on humans is the subject of some debate but its toxicity is not in doubt. Acute poisonings, from things like spills or drift, can result in respiratory distress, vomiting, convulsions, unconsciousness and death.

There is also broad concern over the impact of low-level exposure, including in drinking water and on the fruits and vegetables we eat. Chlorpyrifos is deemed particularly dangerous to young women in farming communities, as studies have found it in the blood of pregnant women and their babies. It has been linked to neurodevelopmental problems such as reduced birth sizes and weights, lower IQs, attention deficit problems and disorders on the autism spectrum — symptoms found with higher frequency in farming communities, studies suggest.

Those in the agriculture and chemical industries who say there is still doubt about the degree of the health risk often point, paradoxically, to the problem that the chemical is too toxic to be tested on humans, leaving scientists to rely on epidemiological studies of people who might have been exposed to it in their normal environment over long periods.

An increasing number of the studies show correlations to neurological problems in children, among other issues. But are their problems the result of chlorpyrifos?

Dow says no, and other people associated with the agriculture industry, in an echo of the argument against aggressive action to confront a warming planet, say not enough is known yet to come to a firm conclusion.

“Our attitude is not that chlorpyrifos is good or bad,” said Gabriele Ludwig, director for sustainability and environmental affairs for the California Almond Board. “We don’t know. We feel it hasn’t gone through the proper process.”

Hundreds in California have been acutely sickened by chlorpyrifos in the past 15 years, mostly farmworkers and mostly by drift. The incidences have slowed since 2015, when state regulators added restrictions to chlorpyrifos use, requiring licensing and training.

But as chlorpyrifos use has continued, so have the accidents — at least a half-dozen reported episodes of drift in California, including the one in May 2017 that sent Lopez to the hospital and sickened 36 other cabbage pickers.

More recently, in July, 10 workers were sickened in Solano County, between Sacramento and San Francisco. They were working in a sunflower field when chlorpyrifos apparently drifted from sprayers in an adjacent almond orchard.

The vast majority of incidents, involving chlorpyrifos or any other pesticide, go unreported. Most farmworkers in California are immigrants living in the country without permission. They worry about everything from missing much-needed work to reprisal from bosses and deportation from the authorities.

“There is no incentive to report these things,” said Eriberto Fernandez, the research and policy coordinator for the United Farm Workers Foundation in Bakersfield, whose parents have worked the fields for decades.

Most farmworkers in Kern County do not distinguish chlorpyrifos among hundreds of pesticides used in agriculture. They may smell different, or cause different reactions, but few, if any, can name them. That was certainly true during the drift incident in May 2017. No one knew it was chlorpyrifos that was sickening the workers, because most had never heard of it until the Trump administration halted the proposed ban.

“A pesticide is a pesticide,” said Polido, one of the women picking cabbage that day.

If pesticides are not floating in the air, they are smeared on their fingers and skin from nearly everything they touch. Shiny citrus leaves are dulled by a white film. Pruning grape vines at the end of the season, for example, can free a chemical odor. Kicking up dust releases it from the soil.

It is why many farmworkers cover their skin from head to toe, wrapping bandannas around their noses and mouths, even in the teeth of triple-digit summer days. They bring snacks to the fields that they do not have to touch with their hands. They carry their own bottles of eye wash.

But concern over chlorpyrifos extends well beyond farmworkers and acute poisonings.

Each spring, the dozens of schools and licensed child-care centers in Kern County within a quarter mile of an active crop receive a list of the restricted-use pesticides that the growers plan to use, sometime between July 1 and June 30. Some of the lists contain more than 50 chemicals. Chlorpyrifos is often one of them.

If the pesticides are known to drift, like those spread by crop dusters, they cannot be used within a quarter mile of schools, this year’s notifications state. If they are less susceptible to drift, “such as most applications using a tractor,” the buffers shrinks to 25 feet. Monday through Friday, they cannot be sprayed from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Precautions at the Day Care Center

Among those notified is Sunset Child Development Center, a day care south of Bakersfield. It is part of the Arvin Migrant Center, commonly called a “labor camp,” with rows of housing for itinerant farmworkers.

The day care is next to vineyards. The children there range from 6 months to 5 years old. Because most of the parents are farmworkers themselves, they drop off their children as early as 4:30 a.m. — within the allowable time slot for spraying pesticides like chlorpyrifos.

One parent of a 3-year-old girl is Byanka Santoyo, 28, a single mother from Arvin. She is a daughter of farmworkers and spent time in the fields herself.

Santoyo works as a community organizer for the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment. It was the area’s notoriously polluted air, sometimes the worst in the nation, that led her to activism. It was the drift episodes experienced by her parents over the years, and now the concern over her daughter’s health, that pulled her toward fighting unsafe use of pesticides.

“We all live surrounded by ag,” Santoyo said. “We just want it to be safe.”

The day care center is required to allow the children outside for parts of the day. There are sun shades to protect from the heat, but nothing to protect from whatever pesticides might be drifting in the air. Playground equipment is scrubbed several times a week because it often becomes covered in a sticky film that sometimes works its way indoors. Santoyo says her daughter’s clothes get tacky, and the residue is visible when she wears something like black leggings.

Chlorpyrifos is not the most-used pesticide, but it is the most contentious. In California in 2016, according to the state’s Department of Pesticide Regulation, 902,575 pounds of chlorpyrifos was used in more than 12,000 applications across 640,000 acres on more than 60 different crops.

The fight to ban chlorpyrifos in California has several fronts, fought by organizations that include the United Farm Workers, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Californians for Pesticide Reform. They are ramping up pressure on state regulators and politicians as uncertainty over the federal ban persists.

This August, a three-judge panel from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the EPA to ban it. In its ruling, the panel wrote, “There was no justification for the EPA’s decision in its 2017 order to maintain a tolerance for chlorpyrifos in the face of scientific evidence that its residue on food causes neurodevelopmental damage to children.”

The ruling has been appealed, and in the meantime California is weighing tighter regulations of its own. While lawyers and lobbyists fight, the pesticide, sold under a variety of brand names like Lorsban and Vulcan and employed by farmers nationwide, remains in use.

What Happens, a Farmer Asks, If It Is Banned?

Dennis Johnston is a fourth-generation farmer in Exeter, east of Bakersfield. He remembers using chlorpyrifos on the citrus groves since he left college in 1980.

“We use it for katydid, which takes a bite out of the fruit when it’s in the flower form,” Johnston said, referring to a pest that looks like a grasshopper. “It’s a little bite when they do it, but it grows and becomes a big chunk when it’s ripe and makes it unmarketable.”

Chlorpyrifos, to Johnston and countless other farmers, is a go-to pesticide when others do not work. But Johnston, who said he has never had a drift incident, is using it less and less. He simply would like to have it available.

The cloudy future of chlorpyrifos has left farmers like Johnston unsure how to proceed. Will the appeals court force the EPA to ban it? Will California step in? And what if any of that happens while this season’s crop is growing?

“We’re cautious about it, as most farmers are,” Johnston said. “Will it kill us if we can’t use it? Probably not, not in my business. Can we make something else work? Yes, but it’s what happens when you lose it. You have to use something in a different manner, or more of it. It’s kind of a daisy chain sometimes.”

That concern echoes across the agricultural landscape, in Kern County and beyond.

“That is a real dance that goes on out in the grove,” said Jim Cranney, the president of the California Citrus Quality Council. “You can have, at some point, the need to use a pesticide, but in other cases, you can allow the insects already in a grove to get rid of the harmful insects. When we use a pesticide that is harmful to the beneficial insects it can cause harmful insects to go haywire.”

In November, in the absence of federal guidelines over chlorpyrifos, California’s Department of Pesticide Regulation announced tighter, although voluntary, restrictions, effective Jan. 1. The state agency wants to declare the chemical a “toxic air contaminant,” which would mean much stricter rules on chlorpyrifos use. But the process could take two years, so the agency made recommended changes in the interim.

That was little relief to people like those in the Coalition Advocating for Pesticide Safety.

In November, in Lindsay, 60 miles north of Bakersfield, the group opened a storefront office. Staffed by volunteers, it is seen as a safe place for farmworkers and concerned residents — most of them Latino, many of them in the country without authorization — to ask questions without worry over repercussions from labor contractors or government officials.

On the night of its opening, about 50 people stood in the parking lot. There were balloons and a ribbon to be cut. Jill Stein, the Green Party presidential candidate who entered politics partly because of pesticide concerns, gave a short speech, pausing as each line was translated to Spanish.

She spoke the language of organophosphates, with a deep knowledge of chlorpyrifos — its regulatory history and the risks increasingly attached to it. (She is an author of a 2000 report for Physicians for Social Responsibility called “In Harm’s Way: Toxic Threats to Child Development.”)

“If it’s too dangerous to be used in the home, why isn’t it too dangerous for farmworkers?” Stein said later, as people mingled inside.

Unable, or Afraid, to Return to the Fields

Lucia Montero came to the United States from Mexico at age 15 and immediately began working the fields. Now 33, she was a foreman in that cabbage patch on May 5, 2017, overseeing one of the three crews, when the invisible but toxic cloud of chlorpyrifos arrived.

At first, she thought she smelled grease or burned oil. Believing it was the tractor, she turned off the engine.

Then came the burning, the itching, the nausea. Montero phoned her supervisor, who told her to get her crew out of the field. By then, several were vomiting. Two or three fainted, she said.

An investigation by the Kern County agricultural commissioner’s office was complicated by the fact that four separate pesticide applications had taken place that morning within 1.5 miles of the cabbage field.

Ultimately, investigators found that a company called Sun Pacific applied chlorpyrifos at seven tangerine (a common name for a type of mandarin) sites half a mile to 1.5 miles from the cabbage field. Sun Pacific, a large grower behind the Cuties brand of mandarins, was fined $30,250.

Another company nearby had sprayed grapes with a sulfur compound found to have drifted into the cabbage patch, too. That company was fined $20,000.

The investigation said that 37 workers reported illness. Almost all declined medical treatment. In interviews, several said they were afraid of the repercussions, like missed paychecks or being blacklisted by contractors.

Montero has not been back since that day. She said she cannot fully shake recurring headaches, dizziness and nausea. Still living in Bakersfield, she has taken courses to become a barber.

This month, Montero learned she was pregnant. She no longer worries just for herself.

“I am scared,” she said. “I just hope I have a healthy baby.”

Bricmary Lopez, the only one of the workers in the field that day to be taken to a hospital, has not returned to the fields either.

She fainted many times after she was sickened by the drift incident, three or four times a week at first, she said. Her asthma has spiked, her skin gets blotchy, and her red-blood cell count has dipped.

She filed a workers’ compensation claim with the packing company she was working for, but action has been slow. Most farmworkers, advocates said, never take it this far.

But Lopez, who arrived from Colombia in 2015 and has filed for asylum, does not fear the repercussions.

“I shouldn’t be worried about calling attention to this,” Lopez said in her living room. Her daughters, ages 15, 18 and 21, stood at her shoulder, her fiancé sat at her side. “It was not my fault it happened.”

A Regulation Undone: Chlorpyrifos THE REGULATION: Chlorpyrifos, developed as a nerve agent, has been in use as a broad-spectrum pesticide since 1965 despite growing evidence of its harmful effects, especially in children and pregnant women. Most residential uses ended in 2001. The EPA moved to ban it for agricultural purposes, with a March 2017 deadline to act. THE ROLLBACK: On March 29, 2017, the new EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, canceled the proposed ban on chlorpyrifos. The reason: not enough science. “By reversing the previous administration’s steps to ban one of the most widely used pesticides in the world, we are returning to using sound science in decision-making — rather than predetermined results,” Pruitt said at the time. THE CONSEQUENCES: The use of chlorpyrifos, an estimated 6 million pounds a year, continues across the country. Only Hawaii has banned its use. — BY THE NUMBERS $1 million: The amount that DowDuPont, the leading manufacturer of chlorpyrifos, donated to President Donald Trump’s inauguration. One of the EPA’s early acts under Trump was to quash the chlorpyrifos ban on March 29, 2017. 902,575 pounds: The amount of chlorpyrifos applied in California in 2016, covering 640,000 acres. As the pesticide’s use has continued, so have the accidents. One episode in May 2017 sickened 37 cabbage pickers. $30,250: The fine levied against Sun Pacific after investigators found that the company had applied chlorpyrifos at seven tangerine sites between half a mile and 1.5 miles from the cabbage field where the workers became ill. 60: The number of crops, including citrus, almonds, alfalfa and grapes, routinely treated with chlorpyrifos. Had Trump not won the presidency, millions of pounds of the chemical most likely would not have been applied. 4:30 a.m.: The time that some parents drop off their children at Sunset Child Development Center, a day care that is next to vineyards. Pesticides like chlorpyrifos are allowed to be sprayed from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.

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Communities fighting back: BOR vs BOE: Ohio Communities Champion Local Democracy

Thu, 12/27/2018 - 11:30
Corporations have more rights than the community: “Without this, we just have to wait until the harm happens and then we get vocal and ask for cleanup,” says Markie Miller of Toledoans for Safe Water. “We want to be able to be more proactive and take some more preventative measures.” CELDF: Ohio Communities Champion Local Democracy “Let us vote! Let us vote!” members of the Columbus Community Bill of Rights organization chant outside county offices and their state courthouse. “Let us vote!” “It’s crystal clear that not only do we have a water problem. We also have a democracy problem,” says Lynn Anderson with the Youngstown Bill of Rights Committee.

“Democracy is being denied!” insists Kathie Jones with Sustainable Medina County.

These champions, and others like them across Ohio who are working in partnership with CELDF, have encountered the same roadblock to asserting Community Rights. Call it the “BOR vs BOE Dilemma.”

Local community members partner with CELDF to draft laws and charters that establish local Bills of Rights (BOR). Using their state constitutional right to initiative, residents gather the signatures, get their initiatives certified, prepare get-out-the-vote campaigns, and then have their BORs blocked from the ballot by the appointed – not elected – members of their county Boards of Elections (BOE).

The BORs would give community members the authority to protect their drinking water, their air, their soil from pollution, and enforce local ecosystems’ rights to exist, thrive and flourish.

In Toledo, toxic algae blooms from industrial farms and agriculture fertilizer runoff have made Lake Erie water unsafe, summer after summer. In parts of Youngstown, water runs brown from the faucets, while the water department has warned of high toxin levels that could cause serious health effects, including cancer. In Columbus, as well as Athens, Meigs, and Portage counties, the concerns center on fracking wastewater injection wells leaking into the underground drinking water sources. In Medina County the threats to air from the Nexus pipeline and compressor station are a constant concern.

In Youngstown, they’ve been through the BOR exercise nine times since 2013. 1900 signatures are required for each attempt. In Franklin County (Columbus) there were over 12,000 valid signers of the BOR petition in 2018. And in Medina County, where champions in three attempts collected over 18,000 signatures to take the initiative to a vote.

“We the people put in hundreds of volunteer hours collecting nearly 11,000 signatures because we’re alarmed about Lake Erie’s deterioration. We’re apprehensive about the safety of our drinking water,” explains Markie Miller with Toledoans for Safe Water. “We’re worried about our survival, too.”

Yet no matter how many signatures they gather over and above the required minimum, the BORs keep getting blocked by the BOEs.

“We don’t lose until we quit, and we’re just going to keep coming right back every time they try to stop us,” Miller says.

Austin Babrow, of Athens County, sums up the courage and conviction of all of these Ohio Community Rights champions. “We’re here, we’re united, and we’re not going to stop demanding our rights until we truly have them.”

Your support makes our work with these Ohio champions possible. Be a Community Rights and Rights of Nature champion – donate today. Here is what your support provides:

Here’s what your help can do in 2019:

  • $25 covers postage for 100 Common Sense newspapers.
  • $50 ensures a community member can attend a Community Rights workshop, teaching the tools needed to confront corporate control and state interference on a powerful single front: people’s and nature’s inalienable rights.
  • $100 covers travel expenses for our community organizer to speak at an event educating residents on Community Rights.
  • $250 allows us to print and distribute informational handouts on Community Rights and Rights of Nature as tools to protect local communities.
  • $500 helps pay litigation costs as CELDF fights for democratic and environmental rights on behalf of Ohio residents.

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DuPont Wants to Filter Your Contaminated Drinking Water

Thu, 12/27/2018 - 10:52
Read about Dow: Dow knew decades ago that this chemical damaged kids’ brains.But Al Telsey, an attorney suing DuPont over massive contamination from PFOA and more than 1,000 other chemicals in New Jersey, is one of the many people contending with PFAS contamination from DuPont who may be more focused on the company’s role putting the chemicals into water than removing them. “These guys are polluters, not water cleaners,” said Telsey, who nevertheless acknowledged the business acumen involved in getting into the filtration business.” DuPont Wants to Filter Your Contaminated Drinking Water DuPont Has Spread Its Pollution Around the World. Now It Wants to Filter Your Contaminated Drinking Water.

DuPont opened a factory in Saudi Arabia last week that will produce reverse osmosis water filters. The filters use ultra-thin membranes to remove water impurities, including PFAS — chemicals made and used by DuPont that have caused widespread water contamination around the world.

Reverse osmosis is one of the technologies that the Environmental Protection Agency recommends for reducing water contamination from PFAS chemicals, which are associated with cancers, immune dysfunction, reproductive issues, and other health problems. According to the agency’s website, reverse osmosis “membranes are typically more than 90 percent effective at removing a wide range of PFAS, including shorter chain PFAS.”

DuPont Water Solutions, a division of DowDuPont that focuses on water filtration, opened the plant with a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Jubail, Saudi Arabia, on December 3. “Milestone achievement improves direct access to potable and industrial water solutions,” announced a DuPont press release about the plant, which is expected to begin production early next year.

The reverse osmosis business was previously owned by Dow, which has had a production facility in Minnesota since 1977 and merged with DuPont last year. The new production plant will make reverse osmosis technology to be used by the Sadara Chemical Company complex, a joint venture developed by Dow and Saudi Aramco, the country’s oil and gas company. The plant’s filters will also be used in Saudi Arabia and other parts of the Middle East, as well as Africa, Eastern Europe, India, China, and Southeast Asia. In addition to removing industrial pollutants such as PFAS, the membranes can desalinate seawater.

“This new production line is providing game-changing innovation to help municipalities, businesses and people thrive by enabling sustainable access to clean, high-quality water,” Marc Doyle, chief operating officer for the Specialty Products Division at DowDuPont who attended the event, said in a press release.

An executive from DuPont Water Solutions who was also at the ribbon-cutting, H.P. Nanda, emphasized the company’s role in cleaning up water contamination. “We remain committed to delivering solutions that help purify and reclaim water sources, especially in areas facing water scarcity and resource challenges.”

But Al Telsey, an attorney suing DuPont over massive contamination from PFOA and more than 1,000 other chemicals in New Jersey, is one of the many people contending with PFAS contamination from DuPont who may be more focused on the company’s role putting the chemicals into water than removing them.

“These guys are polluters, not water cleaners,” said Telsey, who nevertheless acknowledged the business acumen involved in getting into the filtration business.

“DuPont has learned the art of making money coming and going,” said Telsey. “They profited off the environmental contamination and now can profit on cleaning it up. It’s quite a feat.”

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Trump administration to strip pollution protections, harming vital wildlife | Environment | The Guardian

Thu, 12/27/2018 - 10:42

Free pass to corporate polluters.

SWAMP WATCH “The Trump rule would maintain requirements for permission to pollute bigger bodies of water, the rivers that empty into them and the wetlands that touch them. Courts had already blocked the rule from taking effect in 28 states, but allowed it to proceed in the other 22. “The Trump administration will stop at nothing to reward polluting industries and endanger our most treasured resources,” said Jon Devine, director of the federal water program at the Natural Resources Defense Council.” Trump administration to strip pollution protections, harming vital wildlife | Environment | The Guardian

List of waterways land users must obtain permits to pollute to be scaled back, which could also allow pollution in drinking water

Aerial view of Louisiana’s marshlands threatened by the BP oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico. Migratory birds pass through the wetlands and much of America’s seafood comes from the region. Photograph: Julie Dermansky/Corbis via Getty Images

The Trump administration is planning to strip Obama-era pollution protections from thousands of US streams and millions of acres of wetlands, in a move environmentalists warn will harm vital wildlife and could allow pollution into drinking water.

The federal government plans to scale back the list of waterways for which land users are required to obtain permits to be able to pollute, according to a description of the proposal by officials before text was made available.

That pollution includes agricultural runoff from fertilizers and pesticides and other industry waste, which can flow from smaller tributaries or wetlands into major bodies of water. The vast network of waterways covered by the current protections provide drinking water to  around 117 million Americans.

Andrew Wheeler, acting administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), said the Obama-era regulations are a “power grab” that aimed to control farmers, developers and landowners.

“More landowners had to go through a costly and time consuming process that runs counter to our Republican form of government,” Wheeler said, as he signed the proposed rule flanked by Republican lawmakers and Ryan Zinke, the interior secretary. “This ends years of uncertainty over where federal jurisdiction begins and ends.”

Zinke added that there is a “lot of anger in the west over federal overreach” which he claimed Trump administration was addressing.

Mark Ryan, a former water expert at the EPA who helped write the original regulation, said the Trump administration seems poised to reverse core parts of the 2015 rule, as well as some of the protections that were in place before then.

“They’re trying to sidestep the science,” Ryan said. “The science is pretty clear that whatever happens at the top of the watershed affects the bottom of the watershed.”

The 2015 Obama rule drew on hundreds of peer-reviewed studies, but the Trump rewrite focuses on a reinterpretation of the agency’s legal authority.

Environmental experts said the change could harm wetlands that are home to fish and wildlife and help protect against floods and naturally purify water. They said it could allow pollution into connected drinking water sources, too. The proposal comes as the administration is also rescinding climate change and pollution rules for coal plants and cars, weakening efforts to save at-risk species and introducing drilling and mining on what were protected areas.

Run off after hurricane from CAF’s, confined animal farms waste pools..

The move would fulfill a key Trump campaign promise, and is likely to be put forward as a move that protects the rights of farmers, landowners and real estate developers. Under the new rule, major rivers would fall under federal protection while converted cropland, wastewater treatment systems and most ditches on the roadside on or farms would not.

Conservatives have seen the Obama-era rule – known as the Waters of the US (WOTUS) rule, which was published by the EPA and the army corps of engineers – as federal overreach. Trump’s acting environment administrator Andrew Wheeler argued the Obama standard “further expanded Washington’s reach into privately-owned lands”, putting local decisions in the hands of distant “bureaucrats”.

EPA’s water chief David Ross told reporters the agency did not conduct any modelling ahead of the planned move, including of how climate change will alter water flows.

“Our job is to implement what power we’ve been given by Congress and to stay within the limitations of that executive branch delegation,” Ross said. “We’ve considered some of the scientific terminology and scientific information we have, but our job is to really draw a line where we think our legal authority allows us to do that.”

The Trump rule would maintain requirements for permission to pollute bigger bodies of water, the rivers that empty into them and the wetlands that touch them. Courts had already blocked the rule from taking effect in 28 states, but allowed it to proceed in the other 22.

Further legal action, waged by environmental groups, is likely in the wake of the EPA’s reversal of protections.

“The Trump administration will stop at nothing to reward polluting industries and endanger our most treasured resources,” said Jon Devine, director of the federal water program at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“This proposal is reckless, and we will fight to ensure it never goes into effect.”

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How the Government Shutdown Could Impact the Nation’s Environment

Thu, 12/27/2018 - 10:27
How the Government Shutdown Could Impact the Nation’s Environment

A partial government shutdown continued for a third day Monday as legislators left the capital for the holidays, CNBC reported Monday. The shutdown is due to an impasse between President Donald Trump and Congress over $5 billion in funding for Trump’s border wall, a construction project that would have devastating consequences for wildlife in the region.

In the meantime, the shutdown is impacting about one-fourth of the federal government, meaning some 800,000 staffers will either be furloughed or asked to work without pay over the holidays, The Weather Channel explained. The shutdown will now last at least until Thursday, when the Senate returns after Christmas, and could drag into the New Year, when the new Congress’s session begins Jan. 3, CNBC reported.

Here are some of the key ways the shutdown could impact the nation’s environment.

1. National Parks

For the most part, the nation’s parks and monuments will remain open, but unstaffed, meaning toilets, campgrounds and gift shops will be closed. This could also have major consequences for the safety of visitors and the health of the parks.

Operations director of Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides Haley Woods told The Guardian she was not sure if there would be enough staff to keep roads clear if it snows in the park. And co-owner of Cliffhanger Guides Seth Zaharias, who leads climbing tours in Joshua Tree National Park, told The Guardian he was worried about the damage unsupervised visitors could do if the shutdown drags on.

“It’s going to come down to environmental degradation. It’s going to be trash; it’s going to be human waste; it’s going to be people driving around on the land,” he said. “We expect to have about 100,000 people out there in the park during the holiday season, so if 0.1 percent do stupid things, that could have a big impact.”

2. Climate and Weather:

Some 3,600 forecasters with the National Weather Service (NWS) will be required to work without pay, according to The Weather Channel. They are some of the workers considered essential for public safety by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Grist explained, but the requirement puts additional stress on these workers even as they try to keep us safe.

“All I can think of is ‘what happens if my car breaks down on the way to work’ or ‘what if I get really sick and have to go to the hospital?'” NWS forecaster in Mobile, Alabama Morgan Barry told Grist, explaining how a lack of pay might impact her.

Outside of essential warnings about extreme weather events, however, the shutdown could have long-term consequences for the ability of scientists to better understand climate change. Research funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) or the National Science Foundation will be put on hold, and NASA and NOAA won’t be able to share data and updates during the shutdown, AccuWeather explained.

One scientist worried about the shutdown is Mike MacFerrin of the University of Colorado, who is waiting on a government grant to study how the Greenland ice sheet could contribute to sea level rise.

If the shutdown persists, he told Grist, it “could tank the project, or put it off for a full year, even if we eventually get approved for funding. The stress is a background cloud that is always there, and this makes the cloud a little darker,” he said.

3. Environmental Protection

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has enough carryover money to keep most of its around 1,400 staff members working for a limited amount of time, so most agency operations will not be massively impacted unless the shutdown drags on for more than two weeks, Bloomberg Environment reported.

However, the shutdown plan includes some restrictions on travel that could slow down the ability of staff members to inspect polluting facilities or approve wetlands for protection, former EPA Deputy Regional Administrator Stan Meiburg told Bloomberg Environment.

Any shutdown leads to “sluggishness, delays, and general pileups,” he said.

 

 

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Guatemalan child dies in U.S. custody on Christmas morning

Tue, 12/25/2018 - 11:21
Trump’s America: Guatemalan child dies in U.S. custody on Christmas morning Tuesday, December 25, 2018, 10:59 AM PT An 8-year-old Guatemalan boy died early on Christmas Day in the custody of U.S. immigration authorities, the second death in less than three weeks of a child in detention.

The death, announced by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, comes against the backdrop of bitter battles over immigration policy and a partial government shutdown over President Trump’s demand for $5 billion for a border wall.

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Carols at Tornillo: Protesters Sing for Children Held in Trump’s Tent City

Tue, 12/25/2018 - 11:18
The whole world is watching…Guardian UK reports Carols at Tornillo: Protesters Sing for Children Held in Trump’s Tent City

By Edwin Delgado, Guardian UK

24 December 18


Beto O’Rourke addresses activists at Tornillo. (photo: Edwin Delgado/Guardian UK)

Beto O’Rourke showed up to boost locals and activists seeking to give migrants some festive season cheer

 

inging and chanting as loud as they could, a few hundred feet from where thousands of children remain detained in a tent-like facility, activists and members of the public hoped their voices would find their way across fences and barbed wire. They wanted to let the children know people were thinking of them during this holiday season.

El Paso organizations put together the Christmas Caroling event in Tornillo, which began on Sunday and will continue daily until 1 January. The idea came from Joshua Rubin, an activist from Brooklyn who has spent the past two months at the border, monitoring the treatment of migrants held by the federal government.

Rubin first visited McAllen, Texas in the summer, when the Trump administration’s controversial family separation policy was in place. He came back in October, after learning about the expansion of the Tornillo facility.

“I decided to come down, sit here at the gates and watch what goes in and what goes out,” he said. “I gather what I see and report to people, and maybe if I’m here watching, the rest of the country might start watching and these kids won’t be forgotten.”

As of last week, more than 2,700 minors remained in custody at the temporary facility next to the Tornillo-Guadalupe port of entry. The camp lies to the east, surrounded by pecan fields and empty lots, away from the eyes of the public.

The caroling attracted a strong contingent of locals. Supporters also came from New York, Ohio, Dallas, Houston, San Marcos and elsewhere.

Martin Bates and his wife had driven from Fort Collins, Colorado. Bates said they had wanted to come to the border for some time, to support the migrants. When they found out about the singing, it felt like a great opportunity. They planned to head to McAllen, too.

“These children have done nothing wrong,” Bates said. “They should be with their families.”

Attendees spoke about their dislike of Trump immigration policies, sang carols and chanted “No están solos” – “You’re not alone” – in an attempt to remind the migrant children they had a community behind them.

“I really hope they can hear us and that it would help them raise their spirit just a little during the holidays,” said Anna Diaz, from El Paso.

Texas state senator José Rodriguez thanked everyone who showed up and encouraged them to keep up the pressure, to make sure the facility closes sooner rather than later. Both the children in the camp and the White House should know Donald Trump’s hardline policies do not represent the values of the country, he said.

Diego Adame, an organizer for Hope Border Institute, told attendees to remember the thousands of other migrants held in similar facilities across the US.

“This is my home,” he said. “I’m happy that you are here but I’m ashamed to tell you that we let this happen at our community. What scares me the most is that Tornillo was put in place for the sake of greatness. This does not make us great. We are sick and Tornillo is just another symptom of ignorance and hate.”

The facility opened in the summer with a capacity of about 300. The government has extended its contract with BCFS, the operator, three times. The current contract expires on 31 December. BCFS officials told Texas Monthly they did not want to renew the contract, but with thousands of children still in detention it would take weeks before all of the minors could be released.

Last week, the Trump administration relaxed requirements for sponsors who wanted to look after the children. From May, the Department of Health and Human Services had asked all adults living in a sponsor’s home to submit fingerprints, information it shared with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Now only a sponsor must submit fingerprints.

The El Paso congressman Beto O’Rourke, who made a national name for himself in a narrow Senate defeat by Ted Cruz in November, was not scheduled to speak at the rally. But the potential presidential candidate showed up anyway and addressed the crowd, thanking them for their persistence.

“Let’s continue to show up here,” he said, “let’s continue to get behind Josh and others who have been here every single day so that we can witness with our own eyes, testify with our own words to our fellow Americans what is going on here. The fact that you are here is producing the change that these kids so desperately need.”

O’Rourke told the crowd he had spoken to the BCFS chief executive, Kevin Dinnin. He was told, he said, the company was no longer accepting children and had 300 ready to be reunified with their families as soon as flights and bus rides could be found. If BCFS stays strong, O’Rourke said, Tornillo could be shut down by mid- or late January. Late on Sunday, the New York Times reported that would happen.

Rubin disputed the BCFS claim, saying he had seen a bus carrying children come in on Saturday. But he said: “I think it’s possible that this place can close down. It’s possible that, if enough of us make a fuss and keep the pressure on, this place will close. If enough of these people are willing to stay here for a few days in a row, I think we can have an effect.”

Adame said rallies would continue so the press and public could be reminded that the children held at Tornillo are “human beings”.

“They are our brothers and sisters,” he said. “They are us.”

 

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HAPPY HOLIDAYS PEACE ON EARTH

Tue, 12/25/2018 - 10:50
HAPPY HOLIDAYS PEACE ON EARTH

 

 

 

 

Categories: G2. Local Greens

Scientists identify vast underground ecosystem containing billions of micro-organisms

Mon, 12/24/2018 - 10:38
Scientists identify vast underground ecosystem containing billions of micro-organisms

Global team of scientists find ecosystem below earth that is twice the size of world’s oceans

A nematode (eukaryote) in a biofilm of microorganisms, an unidentified nematode (Poikilolaimus sp.) which lives 1.4 km below the surface. Photograph: Gaetan Borgonie/AFP/Getty Images/Extreme Life The Earth is far more alive than previously thought, according to “deep life” studies that reveal a rich ecosystem beneath our feet that is almost twice the size of all the world’s oceans. Despite extreme heat, no light, minuscule nutrition and intense pressure, scientists estimate this subterranean biosphere is teeming with between 15bn and 23bn tonnes of micro-organisms, hundreds of times the combined weight of every human on the planet.

Researchers at the Deep Carbon Observatory say the diversity of underworld species bears comparison to the Amazon or the Galápagos Islands, but unlike those places the environment is still largely pristine because people have yet to probe most of the subsurface.

“It’s like finding a whole new reservoir of life on Earth,” said Karen Lloyd, an associate professor at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. “We are discovering new types of life all the time. So much of life is within the Earth rather than on top of it.”

The team combines 1,200 scientists from 52 countries in disciplines ranging from geology and microbiology to chemistry and physics. A year before the conclusion of their 10-year study, they will present an amalgamation of findings to date before the American Geophysical Union’s annual meeting opens this week.

Samples were taken from boreholes more than 5km deep and undersea drilling sites to construct models of the ecosystem and estimate how much living carbon it might contain.

The results suggest 70% of Earth’s bacteria and archaea exist in the subsurface, including barbed Altiarchaeales that live in sulphuric springs and Geogemma barossii, a single-celled organism found at 121C hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the sea.

One organism found 2.5km below the surface has been buried for millions of years and may not rely at all on energy from the sun. Instead, the methanogen has found a way to create methane in this low energy environment, which it may not use to reproduce or divide, but to replace or repair broken parts.

Lloyd said: “The strangest thing for me is that some organisms can exist for millennia. They are metabolically active but in stasis, with less energy than we thought possible of supporting life.”

Rick Colwell, a microbial ecologist at Oregon State University, said the timescales of subterranean life were completely different. Some microorganisms have been alive for thousands of years, barely moving except with shifts in the tectonic plates, earthquakes or eruptions.

“We humans orientate towards relatively rapid processes – diurnal cycles based on the sun, or lunar cycles based on the moon – but these organisms are part of slow, persistent cycles on geological timescales.”

Underworld biospheres vary depending on geology and geography. Their combined size is estimated to be more than 2bn cubic kilometres, but this could be expanded further in the future.

The researchers said their discoveries were made possible by two technical advances: drills that can penetrate far deeper below the Earth’s crust, and improvements in microscopes that allow life to be detected at increasingly minute levels.

The scientists have been trying to find a lower limit beyond which life cannot exist, but the deeper they dig the more life they find. There is a temperature maximum – currently 122C – but the researchers believe this record will be broken if they keep exploring and developing more sophisticated instruments.

Mysteries remain, including whether life colonises up from the depths or down from the surface, how the microbes interact with chemical processes, and what this might reveal about how life and the Earth co-evolved.

The scientists say some findings enter the realm of philosophy and exobiology – the study of extraterrestrial life.

Robert Hazen, a mineralogist at the Carnegie Institution for Science, said: “We must ask ourselves: if life on Earth can be this different from what experience has led us to expect, then what strangeness might await as we probe for life on other worlds?”

In these critical times …

… The Guardian’s US editor John Mulholland urges you to show your support for independent journalism with a year-end gift to The Guardian. We are asking our US readers to help us raise $1 million dollars by the new year to report on the most important stories in 2019.

A note from John:

In normal times we might not be making this appeal. But these are not normal times. Many of the values and beliefs we hold dear at The Guardian are under threat both here in the US and around the world. Facts, science, humanity, diversity and equality are being challenged daily. As is truth. Which is why we need your help.

Powerful public figures choose lies over truths, prefer supposition over science; and select hate over humanity. The US administration is foremost among them; whether in denying climate science or hating on immigrants; giving succor to racists or targeting journalists and the media. Many of these untruths and attacks find fertile ground on social media where tech platforms seem unable to cauterise lies. As a result, fake is in danger of overriding fact.

Almost 100 years ago, in 1921, the editor of The Guardian argued that the principal role of a newspaper was accurate reporting, insisting that “facts are sacred.” We still hold that to be true. The need for a robust, independent press has never been greater, but the challenge is more intense than ever as digital disruption threatens traditional media’s business model. We pride ourselves on not having a paywall because we believe truth should not come at a price for anyone. Our journalism remains open and accessible to everyone and with your help we can keep it that way.

We want to say a huge thank you to everyone who has supported The Guardian so far. We hope to pass our goal by early January 2019. Every contribution, big or small, will help us reach it. Please make a year-end gift today to show your ongoing support for our independent journalism. Thank you.

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CRISPR Gene-Editing Tool Linked to Increased Cancer Risk in Studies

Sun, 12/23/2018 - 10:51
WWW has reported on this in our food supply…‘A Disaster’: Critics Pounce on Trump USDA’s New GMO Labeling Rule CRISPR Gene-Editing Tool Linked to Increased Cancer Risk in Studies CRISPR-Cas9 interferes with a tumor-suppressing protein in cells Health Science By Mike Barrett

For several years now, scientists have been gushing over the possibilities swirling around gene-editing technology. The ability to safely snip away bits of damaged DNA, or add missing pieces, could eradicate certain cancers, birth defects, and a host of genetic diseases, we’re told. But the most widely-discussed gene-editing tool, CRISPR-Cas9, may be tied to an increased risk of cancer, according to 2 recent studies. [1]

In one study by the Karolinska Institutet and another one by Novartis published in the journal Nature Medicine, researchers suggest that a successful CRISPR-Cas9 edit may indicate that the modified cell lacks a cancer-suppressing protein that may put a patient at increased risk for developing a form of the disease.

Study: CRISPR Gene-Editing Ignites Tons of Unintentional Genetic Mutations

The missing protein, p53, serves as a “first aid” kit to the body’s cells, thereby causing some CRISPR edits to fail. When CRISPR is used to snip away strands of DNA, it can cause p53 to either repair the damaged cell or cause it to self-destruct, the authors wrote.

To put it in simpler terms, the p53 protein can repair some of the cuts made by CRISPR-Cas9 – cuts that are intended to snip away genetic material that cause disease. This can slow down or inhibit the work of the gene-editing tool. It appears that CRISPR-Cas9 works best in cells that lack p53, or which can’t activate the protein. [2]

The problem is that p53 also suppresses tumors, so in cells that lack this vital protein, cells may start to multiply abnormally and become malignant.

Emma Haapaniemi, a co-author of the Karolinska Institutet study, explained:

“By picking cells that have successfully repaired the damaged gene we intended to fix, we might inadvertently also pick cells without functional p53. If transplanted into a patient, as in gene therapy for inherited diseases, such cells could give rise to cancer, raising concerns for the safety of CRISPR-based gene therapies.” [1]

Read: Scientific Panel Softens Stance on Human Gene Editing

Almost half of all ovarian cancers, 43% of colorectal cancers, and a large number of lung, pancreatic, stomach, liver, and breast cancers can be traced back to p53 dysfunction.

But according to Bernhard Schmierer, a researcher with the Karolinska Institutet, there is no need to panic…yet.

He said:

“Like all medical treatments, however, CRISPR-Cas9-based therapies might have side effects, which the patients and caregivers should be aware of. Our study suggests that future work on the mechanisms that trigger p53 in response to CRISPR-Cas9 will be critical in improving the safety of CRISPR-Cas9-based therapies.”

Additionally, Schmierer said, “it is unclear if the findings translate into cells actually used in current clinical studies.”

Sources:

[1] The New York Post

[2] Medical News Today

Read more: http://naturalsociety.com/crispr-gene-editing-tool-linked-increased-cancer-risk-studies-5814/#ixzz5aXBdO8x3
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U.S. Senate Fails to Renew Land and Water Conservation Fund

Sun, 12/23/2018 - 10:42
Government chaos has consequences U.S. Senate Fails to Renew Land and Water Conservation Fund America’s most successful conservation and recreation program still expired WASHINGTON – Today, the Senate passed a Continuing Resolution that funds the government into February, but fails to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), a successful bipartisan conservation and recreation program that has funded projects in all 50 states since it began in 1965. The program, which expired in September and now remains dormant, supported everything from the expansion and maintenance of local parks and recreation centers, to national forests, national parks and historical sites.

”Despite many champs on both sides of the aisle, the lame-duck Congress dropped the ball and didn’t permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund,” said Erik DuMont, public lands campaign director for Environment America, “But given that all of us Americans get to enjoy the parks and lands the LWCF protects, we remain hopeful that the next Congress will get the job done, and soon.”

Since LWCF funding expired, public lands projects have missed out on more than $200 million in revenue, and continue to lose roughly $2.5 million a day.

When the program expired in September, Environment America’s conservation team went to Capitol Hill. On the first day of the World Series, they handed out baseball cookies to remind members of Congress of all the local baseball fields that LWCF has helped to fund. After the midterm elections, they also gave every member of Congress a “#SaveLWCF” rubber duck to keep the program front of mind during the lame-duck session. Also, two of Environment America’s state affiliates, PennEnvironment and Environment Colorado, strategically placed billboards urging Congress to reauthorize LWCF.

“Americans from all walks of life love their public lands, from small city parks to big, iconic national parks,” said DuMont. “The next Congress needs to pick up the conservation mantle and move to permanently reauthorize and fully fund this vital program.” ### This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

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Environment America is a federation of state-based, citizen-funded environmental advocacy organizations. Our professional staff in 27 states and Washington, D.C., combines independent research, practical ideas and tough-minded advocacy to overcome the opposition of powerful special interests and win real results for the environment. Environment America draws on 30 years of success in tackling environmental problems.

Organization Links Environment America Environment America (Press Center) Environment America (Action Center) Share This Article

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Supporting Nature Spotlight: To Help Birds This Winter, Go Easy on Fall Yard Work

Sun, 12/23/2018 - 10:36
Audubon Society: To Help Birds This Winter, Go Easy on Fall Yard Work 

A manicured lawn might look nice, but messy is better for birds and bugs.

By Andy McGlashen

October 06, 2017

Blue Jays and other birds find more winter food in “messy” backyards. Photo: Laura Frazier/Audubon Photography Awards Find Your Bird-Friendly Plants

Native plants help birds and people. With our native plants database, you can easily find the best plants for the birds in your area. Search the Database

There’s a certain satisfaction in autumn chores. When the weather’s right, cleaning gutters, touching up paint, or splitting some firewood can feel less like manual labor and more like a rite of the season.

But if you want to make your backyard a welcoming winter haven for birds, some fall tasks call for a laissez-faire approach. “Messy is definitely good to provide food and shelter for birds during the cold winter months,” says Tod Winston, Audubon’s Plants for Birds program manager.

So let someone else keep up with the neighbors this weekend. Sleep in, linger a little longer with your morning coffee, and follow these tips for a bird-friendly yard you can be proud of.

Save the seeds. When fall arrives, some tidy-minded gardeners might be inclined to snip the stems of perennials in the flower garden. But the seed heads of coneflowers, black-eyed Susans, and other native wildflowers provide a helpful food cache for birds. “They’re almost invisible, those seeds, but birds eat them all winter long,” Winston says. Grasses—not the stuff you mow, but native species like bluestems or gramas—also make for good foraging after they go to seed. And letting other dead plants stick around can fill your property with protein-packed bird snacks in the form of insect larvae, such as the fly and wasp larvae that inhabit goldenrod galls.

Leave the leaves. You can help birds and other wildlife—and save yourself some backache and blisters—by skipping the leaf raking. “Those leaves are important because they rot and enrich the soil, and also provide places for bugs and birds to forage for food,” Winston says. If a fully hands-off approach doesn’t work for your yard, consider composting some leaves and letting the rest be. You could also rake them from the lawn to your garden beds, or mulch them with a mower to nourish your lawn.

Leaf litter isn’t just free fertilizer—it’s also a pretty happening patch of habitat for a variety of critters such as salamanders, snails, worms, and toads. “If you’re digging in the garden and come upon these squirmy little coppery-brown dudes, and you don’t know what they are—those are moth pupae,” Winston says. A healthy layer of undisturbed soil and leaf litter means more moths, which in their caterpillar phase are a crucial food source for birds.

Leave native perennials standing until spring and their seed heads will provide nutrition for birds, like this American Goldfinch nibbling on bergamot seeds. Photo: Ross Frid/Alamy

Build a brush pile. Along with shaking loose showers of leaves, blustery fall days also tend to knock down tree limbs. Rather than hauling them away, you can use fallen branches to build a brush pile that will shelter birds from lousy weather and predators. American Tree Sparrows, Black-capped Chickadees, and other wintering birds will appreciate the protection from the elements. Rabbits, snakes, and other wildlife also will take refuge there. You’ll find that the pile settles and decomposes over the seasons ahead, making room for next year’s additions. (And it’s a great place to dispose of your Christmas tree.)

Skip the chemicals. You might see your neighbors spreading “weed and feed” mixtures in the fall to fertilize their lawns and knock back crabgrass and other unwanted plants. In most cases, though, grass clippings and mulched leaf litter provide plenty of plant nutrition, and using store-bought fertilizers only encourages more non-native plants to grow. Generally speaking, native grasses, shrubs, trees, and flowering plants don’t need chemical inputs. Save a few bucks and keep your yard healthy for bugs and birds.

Hit the nursery. Although laziness can be a good thing when it comes to creating a bird-friendly backyard, it’s worth putting in some hard work planting native shrubs and trees. (Cooler temperatures also make fall a more comfortable time to tear out some turf grass and expand your native plant garden.) Native dogwoods, hawthorns, sumacs, and other flowering shrubs produce small fruits that not only feed birds during the colder months, but can also provide a welcome pop of color when winter gets drab. Planted in the right place, evergreens like cedars and firs give birds something to eat and a cozy shelter. Fall is also a great time to liven up your property with late-blooming perennials such as asters or sages—and to buy spring- and summer-blooming wildflowers at a substantial discount.

To find species suited to your yard, just enter your ZIP code in Audubon’s native plants database. If you plant trees or shrubs this fall, they might not bear fruit this year—but come next winter, you and your backyard birds will be glad you did. Birds in This Story American Tree Sparrow

Spizelloides arborea

American Goldfinch

Spinus tristis

Black-capped Chickadee

Poecile atricapillus

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Taking Path of a ‘Pirate Whaling Nation,’ Japan Reportedly Set to Resume Commercial Whale-Hunting in Its Waters

Sun, 12/23/2018 - 10:31
“Japan has failed to bully the IWC into permitting a return to the cruel and outdated industrial whaling of the past,” said Darren Kindleysides, CEO of the Australian Marine Conservation Society. “So now Japan is reportedly threatening to turn their back on international efforts to control whaling and conserve whales.” Taking Path of a ‘Pirate Whaling Nation,’ Japan Reportedly Set to Resume Commercial Whale-Hunting in Its Waters

“This is a grave mistake which is out of step with the rest of the world.”

by Julia Conley, staff writer

The fate of whales is discussed by stakeholders around the world every four years at meetings of the International Whaling Commission, which Japan is reportedly planning to leave by the end of the year as it prepares to resume commercial whaling. (Photo: Cyrille Humbert/Flickr/cc)

Greenpeace joined a number of Australian wildlife conservation groups in condemning a reported Japanese plan to openly flout three decades of international law banning commercial whaling, saying the country’s expected decision to withdraw from a global commission on the issue and allow the killing of whales in its waters for profit would put it “out of step with the rest of the world.” Kyodo News Agency originally reported Thursday that Japan is planning to announce its withdrawal from the International Whaling Commission (IWC) by the end of the year, resuming commercial whaling in its coastal waters. Under the plan, Japan would end its regular so-called “research” whaling trips to the Southern Ocean off the coast of Antarctica that already enable it to sell whale meat. Last year alone, Japan killed 122 pregnant whales and 53 juvenile females. Such killings have violated international law, the International Court of Justice (IJC) said in 2014, and showed that the purpose of Japan’s trips south were not truly for scientific research.

“Japan has failed to bully the IWC into permitting a return to the cruel and outdated industrial whaling of the past. So now Japan is reportedly threatening to turn their back on international efforts to control whaling and conserve whales.” —Darren Kindleysides, Australian Marine Conservation Society

“We would like to wholeheartedly celebrate an end to Japan’s whaling in the Southern Ocean, but if Japan leaves the International Whaling Commission and continues killing whales in the north Pacific it will be operating completely outside the bounds of international law,” said Nicola Beynon, head of campaigns at Australia’s Humane Society International, in a statement. “This is the path of a pirate whaling nation, with a troubling disregard for international rule.” Japan has denied that it plans to leave the IWC but a fisheries official acknowledged to the Guardian that the country wants “to resume commercial whaling as soon as possible.” Japan’s reported plan comes three months after it attempted to secure enough votes at the IWC’s annual meeting to lift the commercial whaling ban, which was put in place in 1986. Norway and Iceland already operate commercial whaling industries, disobeying the ban.

“Japan has failed to bully the IWC into permitting a return to the cruel and outdated industrial whaling of the past,” said Darren Kindleysides, CEO of the Australian Marine Conservation Society. “So now Japan is reportedly threatening to turn their back on international efforts to control whaling and conserve whales.”

Kindleysides agreed that Japan’s anticipated withdrawal from the IWC was the action of a rogue nation and warned the move could harm international cooperation in other areas as well. “Leaving the IWC would set a very dangerous precedent for other international treaties and conventions,” Kindleysides said. “Not satisfied with harpooning whales, it now looks like Japan is threatening to harpoon the future of the IWC. The IWC has become the driving force for global whale conservation efforts in the 21st century. If Japan is serious about the future of the world’s whales, they would not leave the IWC.” “This is a grave mistake which is out of step with the rest of the world,” said Sam Annesley, executive director of Greenpeace Japan. “This snub to multilateralism is unacceptable and deeply concerning but let us not forget that the Japanese fleet has continued its operations in violation of the findings of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in past years. “Ultimately, the protection of the world’s oceans and marine life needs global cooperation,” Annesley added. “We hope that Japan will reverse its decision and take its place beside the nations trying to undo the damage human activities have done to whale populations.” This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

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United States added to list of most dangerous countries for journalists for first time

Sun, 12/23/2018 - 10:22
Support Free Press United States added to list of most dangerous countries for journalists for first time At least 63 professional journalists were killed doing their jobs in 2018, a 15 percent increase over last year, Reporters Without Borders said. Dec. 18, 2018 / 5:56 PM PST / Updated Dec. 19, 2018 / 7:04 AM PST By Reuters

PARIS — The murder of the Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi — in a year when more than half of all journalists who were killed around the world were targeted deliberately — reflects a hatred of the media in many areas of society, a free-press advocacy group said Tuesday.

At least 63 professional journalists were killed doing their jobs in 2018, a 15 percent increase over last year, said the group, Reporters Without Borders. The number of deaths rises to 80 when all media workers and people classified as citizen journalists are included, it said in its annual report.

The world’s five deadliest countries for journalists include three — India, Mexico and, for the first time, the United States — where journalists were killed in cold blood, even though those countries weren’t at war or in conflict, the group said. “The hatred of journalists that is voiced … by unscrupulous politicians, religious leaders and businessmen has tragic consequences on the ground, and has been reflected in this disturbing increase in violations against journalists,” Secretary-General Christophe Deloire said in a statement.

Video Will Begin In… 3

Video reportedly shows documents being burned at Saudi consulate

Oct. 22, 201800:52

Khashoggi, a royal insider who became a critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and began writing for The Washington Post after moving to the United States last year, was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, in October.

His death sparked worldwide outrage. Saudi officials have rejected accusations that the crown prince ordered his death.

Reporters Without Borders said the three most dangerous countries for journalists to work in were Afghanistan, Syria and Mexico.

Meanwhile, the shooting deaths of five employees of the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland, in June propelled the United States into the ranks of the most dangerous countries for the first time.

5 killed in shooting at Capital Gazette newspaper in Maryland

June 29, 201805:00

Reporters Without Borders said 348 journalists were being detained worldwide, compared with 326 at this time in 2017. China, Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt hold more than half of the world’s imprisoned journalists, it said.

FULL STORY
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While we were distracted: White House Orders Up More Logging To Combat Wildfires

Sat, 12/22/2018 - 10:09
While the order lists a number of forest threats made worse by climate change ― drought, disease, insect infestations, invasive species ― it ignores climate change as a whole. That comes as little surprise, given the misinformation and climate change denialism that the administration rolled out in response to the fires in August. All the fire ecologists are saying the same thing: You can’t log your way out of this situation,” Boggs told the paper. “Logging in the back country is just a gift to the timber industry.” White House Orders Up More Logging To Combat Wildfires The Trump directive makes no mention of climate change. By Chris D’Angelo With a government shutdown looming, President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Friday to boost logging and forest thinning on more than 4 million acres of federal lands to combat extreme wildfires

The order, which makes no mention of climate change, comes on the heels of another devastating and deadly wildfire season in California. Trump has blamed the state’s infernos on everything from a lack of raking to a nonexistent water shortage resulting from “bad environmental laws.” And the administration has used the disasters to push partisan policy, connecting devastating California wildfires to a longstanding fight between farmers and environmentalists over water resources.

“For decades, dense trees and undergrowth have amassed in these lands, fueling catastrophic wildfires,” Trump’s order reads. “These conditions, along with insect infestation, invasive species, disease, and drought, have weakened our forests, rangelands, and other Federal lands, and have placed communities and homes at risk of damage from catastrophic wildfires.”

The order directs the Interior Department and the Department of Agriculture to identify ways to reduce “regulatory barriers” to better manage forests and get rid of hazardous fuels. It calls for “treating” 4.25 million federal acres — an area larger than Connecticut — to cut fuel loads. And it allows for a total 4.4 billion board feet of timber to be harvested from Forest Service- and Interior-managed lands in 2019 (board feet is a unit of measurement for the volume of lumber).

That would be a significant increase over the combined 3.2 billion board feet removed from those agencies’ lands in 2017, the Sacramento Bee reports.  

“Active management of vegetation is needed to treat these dangerous conditions on Federal lands but is often delayed due to challenges associated with regulatory analysis and current consultation requirements,” the order states.

Justin Sullivan via Getty Images A firefighter battles the Camp fire on Nov. 9, 2018, in Magalia, California.

The order also calls for addressing invasive species and working to mitigate flooding and erosion risks that result from wildland fires. And it requires the agencies’ secretaries to “identify salvage and log recovery options from lands damaged by fire during the 2017 and 2018 fire seasons, insects, or disease” by no later than March 31, 2019.

While the order lists a number of forest threats made worse by climate change ― drought, disease, insect infestations, invasive species ― it ignores climate change as a whole. That comes as little surprise, given the misinformation and climate change denialism that the administration rolled out in response to the fires in August.

“I’ve heard the climate change argument back and forth. This has nothing to do with climate change,” Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told KCRA-TV in Sacramento during a trip to assess damage from the Carr fire. “This has to do with active forest management.”

Climate denier in Chief…

Zinke, who is resigning at the end of the year amid numerous federal investigations into his conduct and policy changes, has gone so far as to blame the blazes on “environmental terrorists” who he claims are standing in the way of forest management. He echoed that sentiment in an interview that aired Friday on Fox News.

“Those who want to wrap [public lands] up in bubble wrap are fully content with watching our forests burn down,” he said.

The Carr fire this summer ― then the sixth most destructive on record in California ― burned more than 200,000 acres, destroyed 1,600 structures and killed seven people, including three firefighters. November’s Camp fire ― the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California’s history ― engulfed more than 153,000 acres, killing at least 85 people and destroying nearly 14,000 homes.

Scientific research has shown that climate change is contributing to the extreme fires raging across the West. It is true that the accumulation of fuel is a factor that contributes to increased fire activity; however, a 2016 study found that human-caused climate change had doubled the amount of land that burned in Western forests over a 30-year period by significantly drying out vegetation.

Denise Boggs, director of Conservation Congress, a forest and wildlife advocacy group in California, told the Sacramento Bee that Trump’s executive order won’t work.

“All the fire ecologists are saying the same thing: You can’t log your way out of this situation,” Boggs told the paper. “Logging in the back country is just a gift to the timber industry.”

Chris D’Angelo

FULL STORY & COMMENTS

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‘A Disaster’: Critics Pounce on Trump USDA’s New GMO Labeling Rule

Sat, 12/22/2018 - 09:59
Buyer Beware: “Highly processed ingredients, many products of new genetic engineering techniques such as CRISPR and TALEN, and many meat and dairy products will not require disclosure. Animal feed is not covered by this law; meat, eggs, and dairy from animals fed a GMO diet will not require a disclosure. In light of such loopholes, Dana Perls, senior food and agriculture campaigner at Friends of the Earth U.S., summed up the new rules as “a disaster.” “No one should be surprised that the most anti-consumer, anti-transparency administration in modern times is denying Americans basic information about what’s in their food and how it’s grown,” argued Scott Faber, senior vice president of government affairs for the Environmental Working Group (EWG).” Common Dreams: ‘A Disaster’: Critics Pounce on Trump USDA’s New GMO Labeling Rule

“It is obvious that this rule is intended to hide, not disclose, information about genetically modified foods.”

by Andrea Germanos, staff writer

49 Comments

Advocates of labels for genetically modified food take part in the March Against Monsanto in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Stephen Melkisethian/cc/flickr)

Food safety advocates are expressing sharp disappointment with the final federal GMO labeling rule, released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

While industry-friendly Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue asserted in a press statement that the new standard for foods produced using genetic engineering (GE or GMO) would boost “the transparency of our nation’s food system” and ensure “clear information and labeling consistency for consumers about the ingredients in their food,” groups like the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP)—and even food giants like Nestlé—say it does nothing of the sort.

“It is obvious that this rule is intended to hide, not disclose, information about genetically modified foods,” said IATP senior attorney Sharon Treat.

Among the concerns being raised is that the rule, published Friday in the Federal Register and with implementation set to begin in 2020, refers not to the widely recognized phrase “genetically-modified food” but rather “bioengineered (BE) food.” “USDA’s prohibition of the well-established terms, GE and GMO, on food labels will confuse and mislead consumers,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director at the Center for Food Safety.

To make the disclosure, food producers have four options: text, a friendly-looking symbol, an electronic or digital link, or a text message. According to Food & Water Watch executive director Wenonah Hauter, the symbol suggests “to consumers the product is natural and sustainable, when genetically engineered foods are anything but.”

The option for the use of electronic codes, meanwhile, discriminates against those without access to a smartphone, tablet, or reliable internet access, and while the companies would also need to provide a telephone number for a consumer to call, that is onerous, the groups say.

Moreover, says the NonGMO Project, many products that deserve a label won’t have to get one:

Highly processed ingredients, many products of new genetic engineering techniques such as CRISPR and TALEN, and many meat and dairy products will not require disclosure. Animal feed is not covered by this law; meat, eggs, and dairy from animals fed a GMO diet will not require a disclosure.

In light of such loopholes, Dana Perls, senior food and agriculture campaigner at Friends of the Earth U.S., summed up the new rules as “a disaster.”

“No one should be surprised that the most anti-consumer, anti-transparency administration in modern times is denying Americans basic information about what’s in their food and how it’s grown,” argued Scott Faber, senior vice president of government affairs for the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

“At a time when consumers are asking more and more questions about the use of genetic engineering,” Faber continued, “today’s rule will further undermine the technology by sowing greater confusion among Americans who simply want the right to know if their food is genetically modified—the same right held by consumers in 64 other countries.”

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don’t survive on clicks. We don’t want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can’t do it alone. It doesn’t work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do.

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At Last! FDA Bans Use of 7 Synthetic Food Additives

Sat, 12/22/2018 - 09:50
At Last! FDA Bans Use of 7 Synthetic Food Additives

The move follows a petition brought by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Center for Food Safety (CFS), the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), and other environmental and consumer groups.

Erik Olson of NRDC called the decision “a win for consumers,” saying the group’s petition “laid out the science” linking the additives to cancer. “The law is very clear that any chemical that causes cancer is not supposed to be added to our food supply.”

In a statement on the petition, the FDA said it had concluded that the chemicals were safe for consumers, but not for animals.

“The synthetic flavoring substances that are the subject of this petition are typically used in foods available in the U.S. marketplace in very small amounts and their use results in very low levels of exposures and low risk.

While the FDA’s recent exposure assessment of these substances does not indicate that they pose a risk to public health under the conditions of their intended use, the petitioners provided evidence that these substances caused cancer in animals who were exposed to much higher doses.”

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Toxicology Program tested the additives and found they caused cancer in 2 species of lab animals, the FDA said. [2]

Under the Food, Drugs, and Cosmetic Act of 1938, any substance that is found to cause cancer in humans or animals cannot be used as a food additive. [1]

Six of the substances will be removed from the agency’s food additives list based on the NRDC’s evidence that they are carcinogenic to animals, the FDA said. The 7th substance, styrene, will be removed simply because it is no longer used by the food industry.

According to the NRDC, the de-listed additives are found in a wide swath of foods, including ice cream, baked goods, beer, gum, and more. But Olson said it is impossible to know how ubiquitous the substances actually are because manufacturers are not legally required to disclose their presence.

The FDA will give manufacturers 2 years to “identify suitable replacement ingredients and reformulate their food products.”

The 6 de-listed additives still used in the industry have a natural counterpart in food or nature, which the FDA said are not affected by the decision. For example, mycrene and eugenol are naturally occurring in basil. [2]

In 2016, the FDA banned 3 other synthetic additives following a petition by the NRDC and a handful of other environmental groups. It began accepting public comment on the 7 newly-banned chemicals, in addition to Trans,trans-2,4-hexadienal.

A regulatory loophole allows food manufacturers to add potentially toxic ingredients to their products without as much as an FDA safety review. What’s more, companies don’t have to inform the agency when it adds one of these substances to a product.

Americans deserve to know what additives go into their food, especially when there is doubt over their safety.

Sources:

[1] NPR

[2] CNN

Post written byMike Barrett:
Mike is the co-founder, editor, and researcher behind Natural Society. Studying the work of top natural health activists, and writing special reports for top 10 alternative health websites, Mike has written hundreds of articles and pages on how to obtain optimum wellness through natural health.
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