AmeriScan: August 27, 2001


WASHINGTON, DC, August 27, 2001 (ENS) - Green Party organizers and activists call the policies of the Bush administration "irresponsible and reckless," and warn of severe damage to the world environment, the U.S. economy, and the role of the U.S. in international relations.

In their end of the summer review of President George W. Bush's agenda, the Greens add that the lack of a strong, unified response from Democrats in Congress on many of these policies shows an "urgent need" for a progressive third party.

"When Clinton adopted the Republican Party's rhetoric about 'big government,' it gave Republicans an excuse to call for even more deregulation and privatization," said Jo Chamberlain, member of the steering committee of the newly formed Green Party of the United States and a California Green. "These extremes come out of the Bush White House on a daily basis, schemes like the privatization of Social Security and the halt on federal prosecutions for violations of the Clean Air Act."

The Green Party criticizes Bush administration plans to open more public lands, including a portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, to energy exploration. Also condemned are President Bush's moved to withdraw from a number of international agreements, including the Kyoto Protocol, which aims to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

"Bush has been reckless as the leader of the only global superpower," said Ben Manski, a member of the Green Party Steering Committee and a Green from Wisconsin. "Bush refuses to sign agreements establishing the international ban on biological warfare which updates the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention, a United Nations proposal to curb the international sale of small arms, an international court to investigate and prosecute genocide and war crimes, and the Kyoto Treaty committing the U.S. to a first step in slowing global warming."

The Democratic Party can not be counted on to block Bush's policies, warned Chamberlain.

"Thirty-six Democratic members of the House joined with Republicans to allow Bush to open Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling," Chamberlain noted.

"The Green Party is now the party of the newly emerging center," said Carol Miller, a New Mexico Green Party member. "We demand government that's locally based and which advances environmentally healthy sustainable economies, democratic workplaces, human rights, and a strong social safety net."

More information is available at:

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TALLAHASSEE, Florida, August 27, 2001 (ENS) - The Florida Department of Health (DOH) announced Friday that the state's fourth human encephalitis case caused by the West Nile (WN) virus has been confirmed.

The case was reported in a 73 year old female from Sarasota County. It is believed that the woman contracted the disease while visiting Marathon in the Florida Keys last month.

A medical alert is now in effect for Monroe County. Acting state epidemiologist Dr. Steven Wiersma said it is not unexpected that this virus has been found in south Florida.

"Although it might seem unusual that West Nile virus has now been found in the extreme southern part of Florida, this is consistent with migratory bird patterns. We will intensify our surveillance for human and dead bird cases in south Florida and will continue to provide regular updates," Wiersma said.

So far, there have been four confirmed human cases of WN virus encephalitis and two confirmed cases of Eastern equine encephalitis (in horses) in Florida. The medical alert is now in effect for 34 Florida counties.

The state Department of Health (DOH) urges all Floridians to take precautions against mosquito bites. DOH is recommending the following:

For more information on mosquito borne encephalitis, including reporting human cases and dead birds, visit the DOH Bureau of Epidemiology's Arboviral Encephalitis and West Nile Virus website at:

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COLUMBIA, South Carolina, August 27, 2001 (ENS) - The former president of an environmental contracting firm pleaded guilty today to several felonies related to his role in an illegal scheme that caused hundreds of people to believe in error that their underground storage tanks were properly tested for leaks of petroleum and other contaminants.

James Edward Adams and the firm he owned, Carolina Upgrading of South Carolina Inc., entered guilty pleas today in federal court in Columbia. A federal grand jury in February 2000 returned a 15 count indictment against Adams and Carolina Upgrading, charging them with conspiring to commit mail fraud, make false statements and submit false claims, and with committing mail fraud and submitting false claims.

Under the terms of the plea agreement, Adams faces 27 months imprisonment and fines of up to $250,000 per felony count of the 15 count indictment. Carolina Upgrading of South Carolina Inc. faces fines of up to $500,000 per count. The court will determine whether to accept the plea agreement, and will then impose a sentence.

Federal law requires that underground storage tank owners have their equipment tested to ensure that the tanks are not leaking pollution into soil or groundwater. From March 1994 until October 1999, Adams directed employees of Carolina Upgrading to carry out a scheme to give false tank testing reports to gas stations and several state and federal facilities in South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Virginia and Tennessee.

"People who represent that they provide accurate testing of underground storage tanks cannot defraud the public trust," said John Cruden, the acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's environment division. "Tank owners must have accurate information to determine whether or not their tanks are leaking pollutants. The Justice Department will prosecute those who intentionally mislead customers about the stability of their tanks."

According to the plea agreement, Carolina Upgrading employees sent fraudulent tests and reports to clients, claiming that the clients' underground storage tanks had been properly tested. However, in some cases, the defendants did not perform any test all.

In other cases, they performed tests that they knew to be invalid. In all, more than 1,500 false tests were performed for at least 400 customers. The total fraud suffered by customers was about $500,000.

In April 2000, Mark Scruggs and Chris Fletcher, former employees of the company, pleaded guilty to federal charges and admitted they were part of the fraudulent testing scheme.

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NEW PALTZ, New York, August 27, 2001 (ENS) - A coalition of environmental groups has completed the $1.7 million purchase of 2,100 acres to add to the protected wilderness in New York's Shawangunk Mountains.

The Open Space Institute, joined by other conservation and recreational groups, is leading an effort to acquire thousands of acres of forested lands around the mountains, known locally as the Gunks. Since 1985, the coalition has helped buy 16,783 acres at a total cost of $14.1 million.

The Gunks, which cover 85,000 acres, hold one of the premiere rock climbing destinations in the eastern U.S. In recent years, they have also hosted - for the first time in decades - nesting peregrine falcons.

The Nature Conservancy, another partner in efforts to protect the mountains, has identified the Shawangunk Ridge as one of the country's "last great places" in recognition of the unique ecosystem and rare and endangered species found throughout the Ridge.

Almost 38,000 acres of the Shawangunks are protected by state or private parks and preserves, including the 6,400 acre Mohonk Preserve which caps some of the region's finest climbing cliffs.

Much of the land protected with the help of the Open Space Institute will be turned over to the state for addition to parks and other public lands. Last year, for example, the Institute helped the state acquire a 1,300 acre parcel containing an extensive dwarf pitch pine forest community, one of only two such examples of this forest community in the world.

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BLACKSBURG, Virginia, August 27, 2001 (ENS) - Learning whether groundwater contains dangerous chromium 6 can be difficult, as the volatile metal can degrade into harmless chromium 3 before a water sample makes it to the laboratory.

Chromium three is an essential dietary mineral, but chromium six is a toxic pollutant, as dramatized in the movie "Erin Brokovich."

Virginia Tech researchers are testing an innovative method for capturing and preserving chromium six until it can be tested. They presented their research Sunday at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society in Chicago.

Heavy metals like chromium can seep into groundwater from any number of sources - such as from old landfills after a heavy rain. For the last 30 years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has limited how much metal can be present in drinking water, and analytical chemists have learned how to determine concentrations at very low levels.

There are problems in looking at the form of a metal, however. In the case of chromium three and chromium six, the number relates to the number of electrons on the molecule. Chromium six is carcinogenic because it interacts with the body's chemistry and functions, says Gary Long, chemistry professor at Virginia Tech.

"If you have a site with chromium contamination and you want to find out what form it is and whether it is in the groundwater, you could dig wells to sample the water. If you could do analysis immediately, you could avoid the problems that plague us in the lab," said Long. "The problem is that chromium six can be reduced to chromium three by light, organic material, or pH. Even if you work hard to get the samples, by the time you get to the lab, they no longer represent the real situation."

Now, Long and Cherese Winstead-Allen, a Ph.D. student in chemistry at Virginia Tech, are working on a method to trap chromium six on a plastic membrane in the field and preserve it until it can be tested in the lab. The form of chromium cannot change once it is in the trap.

Chromium six is a smaller molecule than chromium three. "Since three is bigger, it can't be trapped by our membrane system," said Long. "You can't trap a fox in a trap only big enough for a mouse."

The device, called a Selective Ion Trap (SIT), looks like a 35 mm film canister with a membrane at each end. The SIT uses a polymer based liquid membrane for the selective absorption and stabilization of specific types of chromium.

The multi-layer sampler can be used by people with no more training than their certification for drilling and sampling. The new device, which is still being tested in the lab, would be used with existing sampling technology.

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PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania, August 27, 2001 (ENS) - The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has proposed an $8,800 fine against a Pittsburgh medical facility for violating agency regulations pertaining to the possession and disposal of radioactive material.

Based on an inquiry conducted by the NRC's Office of Investigations, the agency has determined that the South Pittsburgh Cancer Center possessed depleted uranium from January 1994 to December 1, 2000. The center kept the material even though the uranium, which was in the form of bricks used for shielding for two linear accelerators, was not listed as required on an NRC license.

The NRC also learned that the center tried to dispose of the depleted uranium in April 1998 and October 2000 by transferring it to persons who did not have an NRC license authorizing them to possess radioactive material.

In the case of the April 1998 transfer, the material was handed over to a handyman. That individual attempted to dispose of the depleted uranium but was unable to do so after the bricks set off a radiation monitor at a disposal facility. The material was later returned to the Cancer Center.

In a letter to center owner and radiation safety officer Dr. Antonio Ambrad announcing the enforcement decision, NRC Region I administrator Hubert Miller said the agency was concerned that Ambrad had "deliberately" violated NRC requirements.

"It is essential for the NRC to maintain the highest confidence that licensees and their employees will abide by requirements designed to protect the health and safety of the public," Miller wrote.

South Pittsburgh Cancer Center is required to submit a written response to the NRC within 30 days.

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KENNEBUNK, Maine, August 27, 2001 (ENS) - U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, joined the Trust for Public Land and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) today to celebrate the addition of 157 acres on the Mousam River estuary to the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge.

The newly protected land lies near Parsons Beach on the Mousam River. Its unique mix of pitch pine forests and open fields supports nesting populations of several declining bird species, including bobolinks, black throated green warblers, and scarlet tanagers.

The property lies adjacent to other Refuge holdings along the Mousam River estuary, one of the principal estuaries that the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge was created to protect.

The Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge owns and manages more than 5,000 acres between Kittery and Cape Elizabeth. This stretch of southern coastal Maine has, over the past decade, been threatened by urban sprawl.

The Refuge and the Trust for Public Land also released a new report today, "Where the Rivers Meet the Sea: Fulfilling the Promise of the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge," addressing the impacts of development on southern coastal Maine's environment.

The report recommends that the focus of future land acquisitions for the Refuge be expanded to include critical inland and coast habitat, upland buffers around refuge marshes, and corridors along the rivers that feed refuge marshes, helping to secure the health of refuge ecosystems for wildlife and recreation.

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BOSTON, Massachusetts, August 27, 2001 (ENS) - A delegation of ministers descended upon a Staples shareholder meeting today at the law firm of Hale and Dorr to deliver a letter signed by over 127 religious leaders.

The letter urges the office supplies company to stop buying and selling paper made from endangered forests. The paper industry is the largest single forest consumer in the world.

Reverend Pat Jobe, a minister from outside of Spartanburg, South Carolina urged the shareholders to act. Reverend Jobe flew to Boston from his hometown outside of Spartanburg, South Carolina because of growing concern among his congregation and fellow ministers about the clear cutting of the state's forests to feed International Paper's paper mill in Georgetown, South Carolina, which supplies paper to Staples.

"Ministers across the country implore you to sign the dotted line and agree to a long term commitment that protects our forests, future generations, and all of God's creation," said Jobe.

Residents of the American south have a particular interest in this campaign, as 70 percent of the nation's paper comes from southern forests.

Churches have joined recreation companies and environmentalists in a national campaign urging Staples to become a leader in the paper industry by committing to purchase and sell high post consumer recycled paper products. Less than 12 percent of the paper products that Staples now sells contain any recycled content.

During the past two months, Staples' practices have come under increased scrutiny by the national media with stories on "Newshour with Jim Lehrer" and in the "Financial Times."

The campaign against Staples is modeled after the successful campaign against do it yourself home improvement giant Home Depot. Home Depot's decision to stop selling endangered forest products caused a chain reaction of similar commitments.

The religious leaders hope to achieve similar victories for forests and communities impacted by paper production by securing a commitment from Staples.

Throughout South Carolina, trees are being cut down faster than they are growing, show U.S. Forest Service records.

"As the nation's largest and fastest growing office supply retailer worth over $11 billion, Staples is in a prime position to continue to not only control the market financially, but ethically as well," stated Reverend Gary Phillips, from Chatham County, North Carolina.

More information is available at:

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WASHINGTON, DC, August 27, 2001 (ENS) - West Coast commercial fishermen harvesting sablefish may find their job safer, more efficient and a bit more profitable, thanks to changes in how the fishery is managed.

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) said it has approved a proposal by the Pacific Fishery Management Council to let fishermen combine or "stack" as many as three permits assigned to any one vessel for harvesting sablefish, a staple of the West Coast groundfish fishery. The Pacific Fishery Management Council, an 11 member quasi-governmental body, manages 82 species of groundfish on the West Coast.

Last year, landings of sablefish, also known as black cod, topped 14 million pounds worth just over $21 million in Washington, Oregon and California.

While every vessel needs a permit to fish for sablefish, in the past boats could be assigned just one permit, creating a fishery with lots of vessels (an estimated 165 in 2000), each with its own permit and with only a tiny slice of the sablefish pie. While the overall quotas for sablefish will stay the same as they would have under the old system, under the permit stacking program, vessel owners can buy or sell their permits.

As some vessel owners sell their permits to other vessel owners and get out of the fishery, the number of vessels participating in the fishery will decline, leading to a more efficient fishery, NMFS officials said.

In addition to the permit-stacking program, NMFS managers also approved lengthening the fishing season for sablefish. Instead of a typical nine day, first come first served, grueling season with a high safety risk to fishers, the new season will be a less frantic two and one half months in 2001. Even longer seasons are anticipated for 2002 and beyond.

"These changes are a milestone in fishing management on the West Coast," said Bill Robinson, head of NMFS's Northwest regional sustainable fisheries division in Seattle. "I'm proud that the council and the fisheries service were able to make this fishery safer and more efficient for Northwest commercial fishermen."

More information about the permit stacking program, is available at:

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GREENBELT, Maryland, August 27, 2001 (ENS) - NASA has boosted the orbit of the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) spacecraft to prolong the satellite's life, and continue to provide meteorologists and climatologists data to forecast and better understand global climate change.

The satellite was nudged to its new orbit altitude under the control of NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) engineers at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. After the satellite's successful first three years, and with fuel starting to run low, scientists realized that they could extend the mission's life and gather further vital information by raising TRMM's orbit from 350 kilometers (km) to 402 km away from Earth.

The TRMM satellite has been recording rainfall data over the tropics since it was launched in 1997. TRMM has already achieved or surpassed many of its original goals since it became operational.

These include collecting data on rainfall and the heat release associated with rainfall, as well as information about interactions between water vapor, clouds and precipitation that are central to regulating the climate system.

"Raising TRMM's orbit to 402 km could extend the lifespan of TRMM to somewhere between 2005 and 2007," said TRMM project scientist, Dr. Robert Adler of NASA Goddard.

By changing the orbit, NASA engineers do not have to burn as much fuel to make orbit adjustments to counter effects of drag and friction. From a science standpoint, an extended mission provides a better climate record of rainfall.

It also gives scientists a chance to capture additional information about the global changes in rainfall that occur during El Nino and La Nina events. A longer TRMM mission will help scientists to better establish potential links between pollution and rainfall suppression.

TRMM is a joint mission between NASA and the Japanese Space Agency (NASDA). For more information on the TRMM mission, visit: