AmeriScan: October 16, 2001

INFANT CONTRACTS ANTHRAX AFTER VISIT TO ABC

NEW YORK, New York, October 16, 2001 (ENS) - The seven month old son of an ABC News producer has contracted anthrax after a visit to the ABC network offices in New York City.

The child first showed symptoms in late September, a day after he attended a birthday party at ABC headquarters in Manhattan. The illness was at first attributed to an insect bite, but was confirmed to be anthrax on Monday.

The child was hospitalized was severe symptoms, but has since been treated with antibiotics and released. He contracted cutaneous anthrax, the skin infection version of the disease.

The New York City Department of Health said it is not aware of any other individuals with symptoms of cutaneous anthrax who work in or visited the ABC building, and cannot be certain that the child was exposed to the disease at the network offices.

"It's possible that the child was exposed somewhere else," emphasized David Westin, president of ABC News.

Since symptoms of cutaneous anthrax develop within seven days of exposure and since more than two weeks have passed since the child's presumed exposure on September 28, the Health Department says it is unlikely that other individuals will develop symptoms. If widespread exposure to anthrax had occurred in the building, many more cases of anthrax disease would have appeared by now.

Unlike the investigation that was conducted at NBC News last week, where an assistant to anchor Tom Brokaw has contracted cutaneous anthrax, in this situation there is no known source of possible exposure.

Health officials, agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigations and New York City police officers are now combing the ABC offices looking for evidence of anthrax contamination.

New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani urged city residents to remain calm.

"This is a noncontagious, very treatable disease," Giuliani said. "There are situations that people face every day in their lives that are significantly more dangerous than this."

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FFTF RESTART REVIEW TROUBLED BY CONFLICTS OF INTEREST

SEATTLE, Washington, October 16, 2001 (ENS) - Public interest groups say the Bush Administration's review of the restart of a research reactor is tainted by illegal conflicts of interest, and are calling upon the Department of Energy (DOE) to refer the problems to the Justice Department for investigation and possible prosecution.

The call for an investigation comes on the heels of a Notice of Intent to Sue the DOE filed by public interest groups on September 27 with Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham. The lawsuit would challenge conflicts of interest on the part of the company that prepared an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the proposed restart of the Fast Flux Test Facility (FFTF) nuclear reactor at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state.

Evidence obtained and released by the groups shows that the DOE paid SAIC Corporation to review allegations that the EIS that SAIC itself prepared was inadequate. SAIC's review recommended further government funding for the project.

Secretary Abraham had promised an independent review of possible problems with the EIS prepared by SAIC. According to public interest groups Heart of America Northwest, the Government Accountability Project (GAP) and Columbia Riverkeeper, SAIC had an undisclosed financial interest and partnership in the business proposal to restart the reactor.

In response to the public interest group allegations, SAIC Corporation announced on October 5 that it had withdrawn from the FFTF Reactor restart proposal because of the company's conflicts of interest. The company's withdrawal was called insufficient by the public interest groups, which represent tens of thousands of members in the Northwest.

"The taint of SAIC being paid to study the environmental impacts and risks from restart of the FFTF Reactor, from which the company intended to profit, cannot be removed by SAICs withdrawal," said Tom Carpenter, director of GAPs nuclear weapons oversight program. "The bell was rung, and the studies they prepared supporting reactor restart proposals are not credible. Their withdrawal does not unring the bell, and cure their studies of the risks they ignored or claims they embellished to improve their own financial interest."

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PUBLIC PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP PROMOTES COGENERATION

WASHINGTON, DC, October 16, 2001 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) joined with 17 Fortune 500 companies, city and state governments and nonprofits on Monday to announce the Combined Heat and Power Partnership, promoting a clean and reliable alternative to conventional electricity generation.

Combined heat and power (CHP), also known as cogeneration, is an efficient form of electric generation which recycles and utilizes heat that is lost under traditional power combustion methods. CHP captures this leftover heat, providing a source of residential and industrial heating and air conditioning in the local area around a power plant.

"Combined Heat and Power is not only better than conventional electricity generation at reducing air pollution and fuel consumption, it's more reliable and costs less to do so," said EPA Administrator Christie Whitman. "Founding partners in this program are leading the way toward a cleaner future."

At the kick off event at EPA headquarters Monday, partners in the program agreed to work with the agency to develop and promote the benefits of new CHP projects. The EPA will provide public recognition of projects and benefits to the company, public and the environment.

The EPA will also support accelerated development of new projects, through education, streamlined permitting and provision of technical tools and services.

CHP systems are already being used by 17 founding partners, including Archer Daniels Midland, Bethlehem Steel, Dow Chemical, ExxonMobil, General Motors and International Paper. These existing CHP projects represent more than 5,800 megawatts of power generating capacity, an amount capable of serving almost six million households (about the size of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area).

The projects reduce the main global warming gas, carbon dioxide, by more than eight million tons each year above what would achieved from traditional generation methods. The annual energy savings equal 19 million barrels of oil more than would be attained under conventional combustion.

Monday's kick off event will be followed by the National CHP Roadmap Workshop on October 16-17 at the Pier 5 Hotel in Baltimore, Maryland, sponsored by the U.S. Dept. of Energy, EPA and the U.S. Combined Heat and Power Association. The workshop addresses strategies to accelerate use of CHP systems throughout the United States.

The EPA is working to implement several other actions to promote cogeneration in the U.S., including steps to clarify the Clean Air Act requirements for constructing CHP facilities, speed up permitting, and ensure that environmental benefits are realized.

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PLANT HEALTH SCIENTISTS SUPPORT BIOTECHNOLOGY

ST. PAUL, Minnesota, October 15, 2001 (ENS) - The American Phytopathological Society (APS), the world's largest organization of plant health scientists, has issued a formal statement in support of biotechnology.

Citing the potential benefits to humanity possible through biotechnology, while advocating responsible and science based oversight and regulation, the APS members hope to call attention to the importance of biotechnology in their work.

"Virtually all aspects of plant pathology are affected by biotechnology," said Sue Tolin, a plant pathologist with Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and a member of the APS Public Policy Board. "Advances in this area have played a critical role in our ability to identify and control plant pathogens that cause billions of dollars of crop losses each year, particularly in developing countries where diseases routinely destroy important food crops."

Among the benefits outlined in the APS statement are the environmental gains promised through biotechnology. Plant pathologists point out that biotechnology could be a tool for reducing dependence of growers on synthetic pesticides for controlling plant diseases, and minimizing adverse environmental impacts of modern agriculture practices.

The statement also calls for placing consideration of risks associated with plant disease management through biotechnology in perspective with other disease management approaches, including social, economic, and environmental issues and concerns.

"Biotechnology must be practiced in a responsible way, respectful of human, economic and environmental impacts," said Noel Keen, current APS President. "We believe it would be an enormous setback if we were unable to continue the progress we've already made."

APS, Keen said, created and issued their statement at this time to underscore the substantial contribution biotechnology has made to the understanding and control of plant diseases, and to stress the important role it can play in future advancements.

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GRANT SUPPORTS DEVELOPMENT OF EFFICIENT INSULATION

ARLINGTON, Virginia, October 16, 2001 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded a $135,000 grant to the Spray Polyurethane Foam Alliance in Arlington to develop energy efficient, ozone friendly alternatives for insulation foam.

The company will develop alternative blowing agents, used to produce different densities and bubble sizes of insulation foam in homes and commercial buildings.

Spray polyurethane foam is now made with a stratospheric ozone depleting chemical, HCFC-141b, which is being phased out of production in the United States in accord with the Clean Air Act and the Montreal Protocol. The grant will assist the spray polyurethane foam industry to convert to alternative technologies that are economical and provide energy efficient products for consumers.

The grant will allow the Spray Polyurethane Foam Alliance to collect detailed technical information on field applications in various parts of the country. The Alliance will monitor physical properties and performance of insulation spray foam produced with new formulations.

The information collected will allow chemical companies and spray foam applicators to develop new formulations that do not deplete the ozone layer but do provide excellent thermal insulation value.

The spray polyurethane foam industry continues to search for more ozone friendly products. The EPA is working in partnership with associations like the Alliance to overcome technical challenges to ensure worker and consumer safety and continued product performance.

The Spray Polyurethane Foam Alliance provides educational and technical resources to the industry. It also works on industry issues with government and organizations responsible for creating building codes and material standards.

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SCIENTISTS DEVELOPING GERM KILLING SURFACE COATINGS

BOSTON, Massachusetts, October 16, 2001 (ENS) - A professor at Northeastern University is working on a way to make surfaces germ free by using a polymer glass coating capable of killing airborne bacteria on contact.

Kim Lewis, professor of biology at Northeastern University, has worked with scientists at M.I.T. and Tufts University to demonstrate that covalent attachment of N-alkylated poly(4-vinylpyridine) (PVP) to glass surfaces can make surfaces lethal to several types of bacteria.

Lewis, former associate professor at Tufts' Biotechnology Center, along with MIT's Joerg Tiller, Chun-Jen (Jason) Liao, and Alexander Klibanov, have found a narrow range of N-alkylated PVP compositions that allow the polymers to retain their bacteria killing ability when coated on dry surfaces. These are the first engineered surfaces that have been shown to kill airborne microbes in the absence of any liquid.

Previous efforts to design dry bactericidal surfaces were unsuccessful, the researchers hypothesized, because the polymer chains were not long and flexible enough to penetrate bacterial cell walls. Their polymer includes a long linker that enables the toxic N-alkylated pyridine groups to cross cell walls.

The researchers found that dry surface bonded PVP with either no N-alkyl chains or long N-alkyl chains (10 or more carbon units) is not bactericidal. But three to eight unit PVP chains have enough of a positive charge to repel each other, staying flexible enough to penetrate bacterial cell walls.

Such surfaces kill 94 percent to more than 99 percent of bacteria sprayed on them, and because the coating is bonded to the surface, it does not come off when touched or washed. The surface treatment could be long lasting and capable of being scaled up to commercial production at moderate cost, being applied as a paint or coating.

The researchers' goal is to make any common surface capable of killing airborne bacteria.

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PENNSYLVANIA RELEASES GREEN PLAN

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania, October 16, 2001 (ENS) - The Pennsylvania government's Green Government Council (GGGC) today released the fourth annual "Green Plan," which highlights pollution prevention and energy conservation projects from 39 state agencies and commissions.

The GGGC is co-chaired by Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) secretary David Hess and Department of General Services (DGS) secretary Kelly Logan.

"Pollution prevention and energy efficiency can be accomplished at all levels - from state government to local governments to individual Pennsylvanians," Hess said. "Three years into the Green Government Council's mission, state government is serving as an example by thinking about how our current actions will effect our environment for subsequent generations and by making environmentally conscious choices."

The 96 page Green Plan presents plans from state agencies focusing on land use issues, paper reduction, energy efficiency improvements and recycling.

"From wetland restoration projects and energy efficiency retrofits to green electricity purchases and bicycle mail runs, state agencies are embracing the concept of sustainability and finding ways to build it into their jobs," Logan said. "Last year DGS alone recycled more than 4,100 tons of paper. Combined with its other recycling activities, DGS saved taxpayers more than $500,000."

Another example of savings resulting from environmental initiatives is DEP's newest green building - the Cambria County District Mining Office in Ebensburg. The 34,500 square foot building combines ground source heating and cooling with a raised access flooring system and a high performance thermal envelope.

"From November 2000 to June 2001, energy bills at DEP's Cambria County District Mining Office were less than half the average cost per square foot compared with offices in the northeastern United States," Hess said.

DGS has drafted guidelines for the implementation of the Downtown Location Law, designed to help revitalize traditional central and neighborhood business districts. DGS also developed contracts for purchasing environmentally preferable office products and established programs to recycle used tires and computer components.

The DEP will continue implementation of its award winning brownfields program, providing grants to municipalities and economic development agencies to encourage the redevelopment and marketing of lightly polluted urban properties.

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PUBLIC MEETINGS ADDRESS PROPOSAL TO BOOST GOOSE HUNTS

WASHINGTON, DC, October 16, 2001 (ENS) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has scheduled a series of public meetings across the country to discuss a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) that will establish a national management strategy for controlling overabundant light goose populations.

The meetings will be held to gather public comments and to discuss the management options evaluated in the EIS, as the USFWS seeks to halt ongoing destruction of Arctic breeding grounds caused by exploding light goose populations.

"Breeding grounds in the Canadian Arctic used by dozens of migratory bird species that winter in or migrate through the U.S. are in jeopardy, degraded and stripped of vegetation by populations of light geese that exceed the lands' ability to support them," said Tom Melius, assistant director for migratory birds and state programs at the USFWS. "I urge the public to comment on the draft EIS as we develop a strategy to bring light goose populations down to sustainable levels."

The draft EIS evaluates a range of alternatives that could reduce and stabilize light goose populations, including greater and lesser snow and Ross' geese, and prevent further degradation of habitats important to those geese and other migratory birds.

The USFWS proposed course of action would increasing goose hunting and modify current habitat management programs. Other alternatives range from taking no additional action to the direct removal of large numbers of light geese on the birds' breeding grounds in the Arctic, using wildlife agency personnel or their agents.

Increasing agricultural and refuge development along waterfowl flyways has improved the food supply available to light geese during their annual migrations. As a result, the annual winter population of mid-continent light geese has tripled in the past 30 years, and the total number of birds on known breeding colonies in the Arctic now approaches an estimated 5.8 million birds in spring.

The fragile tundra and salt marsh habitat in the vicinity of light goose breeding colonies cannot support populations of that size.

Meetings will be held in the following cities:

More information is available at: http://migratorybirds.fws.gov

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EPA SAYS CHANGE A LIGHT, CHANGE THE WORLD

WASHINGTON, DC, October 16, 2001 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is launching a "Change a Light, Change the World" campaign across America to demonstrate to consumers how changing a light bulb or fixture at home can save energy, money and the environment.

Throughout October and November, the EPA's Energy Star program will work in cooperation with retailers, manufacturers and electric power generators to encourage every U.S. household to make their next light an ENERGY STAR product.

"'Change a Light, Change the World' is not just a slogan. It embodies EPA's commitment to building voluntary partnerships and working to make a difference for the environment," said EPA Administrator Christie Whitman. "If every U.S. household looked for the Energy Star label on the next light bulb they purchased, the nation could save up to $800 million annually in energy bills, keep one trillion pounds of global warming gases out of the atmosphere, and get air pollution reduction equivalent to removing 1.2 million cars from American roads every year."

Lighting accounts for 10 to 15 percent of the average household's energy bill, yet 90 percent of the energy generated by the traditional incandescent bulbs found in most homes is wasted in the form of heat. Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), are up to 75 percent more efficient and last up to 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs.

While CFLs may be more expensive, they will save more than $25 in energy costs over the bulb's lifetime, the EPA said. If used no more than four hours a day, a CFL bulb need not be changed for about five years.

During the "Change a Light, Change the World" campaign, participating partners will promote Energy Star qualified lighting products, such as energy efficient lighting fixtures and CFLs. These promotions, to vary from region to region, will include rebates, sales and other special events.

The Energy Star label helps consumers identify energy efficient homes, offices, buildings, appliances, electronics, lighting, and heating and cooling equipment. For more information about Energy Star and the "Change a Light, Change the World" campaign, visit http://www.changealight.com

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RESISTANCE GENES KEY TO PROTECTING CHOCOLATE SUPPLY

MIAMI, Florida, October 16, 2001 (ENS) - Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists have signed an agreement with Mars, Inc. to protect the world's cocoa beans from fungal diseases like witches' broom, frosty pod rot and black pod

Mars, Inc., a major supplier of chocolate candies, will work with plant geneticist Raymond Schnell at the ARS Subtropical Horticulture Research Station in Miami, Florida to develop more resistant cacao trees as fast as possible.

Large pods holding 20 to 60 cocoa beans rich with chocolate butter sprout from cacao trees, where fungal diseases can rot mature pods. Witches' broom gets its name from the white, broomlike fungal structures that form on leaves, pods and stems, blocking new pod formation.

Witches' broom has reduced Brazil from a net exporter to an importer of cocoa beans. Frosty pod rot has closed farms in Ecuador, Colombia and Costa Rica.

Now, black pod rot threatens the West African plantations that supply more than half of the world's cacao. If the other two diseases were to reach West Africa and join forces with black pod, the world's chocolate supply could be jeopardized.

ARS scientists have found 75 cacao genes similar to resistance genes in other plant species. These may help scientists breed more resistant varieties. If the resistance genes are clustered together, the known genes could lead to discovery of their neighbors.

The U.S. is working with Brazil, Costa Rica, Trinidad, Ecuador and the United Kingdom to develop resistant cacao trees. These countries have long standing cacao breeding programs and have supplied the range of plants needed to map the cacao genome's 10 chromosomes.

Mars, Inc., has waived its patent rights to any new varieties that might result from this research.