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#890 -- Regulations Fail, 18-Jan-2007

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Rachel's Democracy & Health News #890

"Environment, health, jobs and justice--Who gets to decide?"

Thursday, January 18, 2007..............Printer-friendly version
www.rachel.org -- To make a secure donation, click here.
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Featured stories in this issue...

Regulatory Failure in the Great Lakes, Part 1
  A new government report on the Great Lakes says the system for
  regulating toxic chemicals is "inadequate" and needs to be replaced by
  a precautionary approach because large numbers of humans are in
  danger. Both the U.S. and Canadian systems for controlling toxic
  chemicals have failed.
The Source of Hopelessness: A Review of 'An Inconvenient Truth'
  "My nickname for our current economic system is 'The Tapeworm.'
  ...Believing that our solutions for addressing global warming lie
  within the system defined by the Tapeworm goes hand in hand with
  obtaining our media from companies controlled by the Tapeworm, and
  having to choose from among leaders anointed by the Tapeworm, such as
  Al Gore. This belief is, in fact, the source of our hopelessness."
Exposing the Roots of Health Disparities
  "What intrigues Williams are not just extreme forms of racism, but
  their subtler, more insidious, day-to-day manifestations. A huge body
  of research on health disparities has led him to conclude that stress
  resulting from institutionalized racism and discrimination, be it real
  or perceived, blatant or muted, is an 'added pathogenic factor' that
  contributes to well-above-average levels of hypertension, respiratory
  illness, anxiety, depression, and other ills in minority populations."
The Garbage Industry Plans to Redefine Reality in Indiana
  In Indiana the garbage industry has gained extraordinary influence
  within the Department of Environmental Management and the state
  legislature: Garbage incineration is about to be declared a form of
  "recycling" and real recycling is about to lose its funding.

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From: Rachel's Democracy & Health News #890, Jan. 18, 2007
[Printer-friendly version]

REGULATORY FAILURE IN THE GREAT LAKES, PART 1

By Peter Montague

The system for regulating toxic chemicals has failed in the Great
Lakes and a precautionary approach should be adopted, according to a
new report [6 Mbyte PDF] published by the International Joint
Commission (IJC), the U.S.-Canada governmental body responsible for
water quality in the Lakes. The IJC was created by treaty in 1909 and
has focused aggressively on water quality since 1978. The Great Lakes
hold 20% of the world's fresh surface water.

The Major Justification for Precaution: Ignorance Abounds

IJC scientists, and independent researchers, are now reporting a host
of new toxic chemicals in fish and other wildlife in the Great Lakes.
However, "Insufficient data are available to establish consumption
guidelines for these toxic substances," the report says. (pg. 115)
[Page numbers inside parentheses refer to the IJC report.]

After 30 years of under-funded effort, the government agencies charged
with protecting public health remain ignorant about most of the
chemicals being discharged into the Lakes:

"Due to analytical limitations, only a very low proportion of the
large number of potentially troublesome compounds identified as likely
present in the Great Lakes environment are currently analyzed in Great
Lakes monitoring programs," the report says. (pg. 124)

Even the industries producing the chemicals are ignorant of their
effects: "Industry's capacity to invent and produce new chemicals has
overwhelmed both their ability to produce adequate data for the
regulatory system to assess, and the regulatory system's capacity to
assess it," the report says. (pg. 125)

Both the U.S. and Canadian systems for regulating chemicals stand
accused of failure.

The report was written by the Great Lakes Water Quality Board, the
Great Lakes Scientific Advisory Board, the International Air Quality
Advisory Board, and the Council of Great Lakes Research Managers and
was published in June, 2006, by the International Joint Commission
(IJC).

Unfortunately, the IJC's withering criticism of the chemical
regulatory system is buried deep in the report, in chapter 5, "Human
Health," where many readers may miss it.

Chapter 5 makes these points:

1. Legacy Toxicants Are Declining Slowly, If At All

As time passes, "legacy" chemicals (mainly PCBs and mercury) in the
Great Lakes are declining much more slowly than expected. In fact,
mercury is not declining at all -- it is holding steady or, in some
places, even increasing because of coal-burning power plants. (pg.
115)

2. A New Set of 'Emerging' Toxicants Has Been Identified

Meanwhile, a new set of "emerging" contaminants has appeared in the
Lakes during the past few years (pg. 124):

** Brominated fire retardants (BFRs), PBDEs and tetrabromo bisphenol-
A;

** Perfluorinated compounds or PFCs (PFOS, perfluorooctanoic acid,
N-ethyl perflourooctane sulfonamidoethanol);

** Phthalates (a large class of plastic additives);

** Pharmaceuticals and chemicals found in personal care and household
products (PPCPs);

** Estrogenic and hormonally active compounds (birth control agents,
natural estrogens, alkylphenol ethoxylates, bisphenol-A, Trenbolone);
and

** Some currently used pesticides (Atrazine). (pg. 124)

3. 'Persistence' Has a New Meaning

The IJC report says pharmaceuticals and personal-care products are
"persistent by virtue of their ongoing release into the environment in
human and animal excreta" -- in other words, even though individual
chemicals may degrade, they enter the Lakes in a steady stream, so
they are constantly available for uptake by fish and other wildlife.

4. New Hazards Are Being Identified for Old ('Legacy') Toxicants

In addition to these newly-discovered "emerging" contaminants, a host
of new information about harm to wildlife and humans has become known:

The IJC report notes that, "The National Research Council (NRC) [in
2000] concluded that 'the population at highest risk is the children
of women who consumed large amounts of fish and seafood during
pregnancy.' Its report concluded that the risks to that population are
likely to result in an increase in the number of children who have to
struggle to keep up in school, and who might require remedial classes
or special education." (pg. 117)

The IJC report estimates that as many as 15% of all pregnant women in
the U.S. may have sufficient mercury in their blood to produce
children burdened by cognitive deficits.

And the report says no amount of mercury can be considered safe:
"There is no evidence to date that a threshold blood-mercury
concentration exists where effects on cognition are not seen." (pg.
118) In other words, any amount of mercury causes some cognitive
damage.

5. Fish Are Too Dangerous for Children & for Women Prior to Menopause

For the first time, this IJC report recommends that fish-consumption
advisories should warn all children, and women younger than the age of
menopause, to not eat ANY fish from the Great Lakes "as an option."
(pg. 128) It is not clear what "as an option" means -- but the rest of
the phrase is clear: the authors of the IJC report are saying for the
first time that the health benefits of eating Great Lakes fish are now
outweighed by the cocktail of toxic chemicals the fish contain.[1]

This is a major and very far-reaching recommendation from the IJC
Science Advisory Board. The Great Lakes commercial and sport fisheries
are valued at $4 billion per year and support thousands of jobs.

6. Men, too, should restrict their intake of Great Lakes fish

** Mercury consumption is now associated with high blood pressure,
heart-rate variability, and heart attacks. (pg. 118)

** New data from the laboratory of Ellen Silbergeld at Johns Hopkins
Medical School suggests that mercury can cause an autoimmune reaction
that damages the heart, autoimmune myocarditis. In autoimmune
myocarditis, the body's own immune system attacks the heart muscle and
can ultimately cause heart failure.

The report concludes, "These findings suggest that future
fish-consumption advisories in the Great Lakes region, which are
largely issued to protect women of child-bearing age and children, may
need to be extended to other segments of the population (such as adult
males, etc.)." (pg. 118)

In other words, the population of people who can safely eat most Great
Lakes fish is essentially zero.

7. New health effects discovered from eating Great Lakes fish

Birth defects

According to one study, eating two meals of Great Lakes fish per month
is sufficient to increase the number of serious birth defects: "Among
the 2,237 infants born to female members of the New York State Angler
Cohort between 1986 and 1991, there was an increased probability of a
major malformation (including hypospadias, cleft palate, and
musculoskeletal defects) in males but not females, whose mothers
consumed two or more sport fish meals per month during pregnancy."
(pg. 119)

Breast Cancer among Pre-Menopausal Women

One study showed that young women eating Great Lakes fish have a 70%
increased risk of breast cancer: "McElroy et al. (2004) found an
increased relative risk of developing breast cancer of 70 percent in
pre-menopausal Wisconsin women who recently consumed Great Lakes
sport-caught fish." (pg. 120)

Immune system impairment in children

Children have an increased incidence of inner ear infections, and of
asthma, from exposure to common contaminants in Great Lakes fish --
PCBs, DDT and its breakdown byproduct, DDE, and hexachlorobenzene. The
obvious suggestion here is of immune system damage. (pg. 120)

The report emphasizes again and again the dangers to children posed by
eating fish from the Great Lakes: "Researchers are discovering an
increasing suite of behavioral abnormalities in infants and children
and in laboratory rodents prenatally exposed to environmentally
relevant concentrations of PCBs or mercury." (pg. 119)

8. Fish Consumption Advisories Don't Protect Public Health

The IJC report seems schizophrenic on the question of fish consumption
advisories as a way of protecting the public from eating contaminated
fish. On the one hand, as we have seen above, the report recommends
fish advisories containing tougher language: children and pre-
menopausal women should be advised to eat NO FISH from the Great Lakes
"as an option" (whatever that means). On the other hand, the report
acknowledges that fish advisories don't reach the people most
endangered by Great Lakes fish -- subsistence fishers:

"While advisories provide excellent advice, they have limited
effectiveness, in part because they focus on sport fishing.
Subsistence fishers who depend on Great Lakes fish to feed their
families often eat species that are not covered by advisories. In
addition, the current emphasis on sport fishing tends to target male
sport fishers rather than subsistence fishers, many of whom are women
and minorities. These latter groups are largely unaware of the dangers
of contaminated fish." (pg. 121)

Could it be more plainly stated? Fish advisories are ineffective. To
prove the point, the IJC report says that, before fish advisories were
initiated in 1994, a survey was taken of fish consumption. After 8
years of publishing extensive fish consumption advisories -- warning
people which fish to avoid eating in specific waters of the Great
Lakes -- a second survey showed that, "the numbers of individuals
consuming fish and the amount of Great Lakes sport fish consumed had
not decreased." (pg. 122)

The IJC then turns about-face and says, "Fish consumption advisories
can only be regarded as a limited and temporary solution for public
health protection." (pg. 122) To be blunt about it, this is nonsense.
If eight years of fish advisories have not changed the number of
people eating Great Lakes fish and have not changed the amount of fish
they eat -- and if fish advisories don't even reach the subsistence
fishers, who are women and children and who are most endangered --
then fish advisories can only be regarded as a failure.

Summary

The report says, "The issues associated with 'legacy' and 'emerging'
contaminants of concern and the contaminant-associated health effects
described in [chapter 5] are, to varying degrees, surprises, in that
they highlight the short-sightedness of our profit-driven approach to
innovation, and the inadequacy of our hazard-based regulatory system."
(pg. 126)

Instead of an "inadequate" regulatory system based on risk assessment,
the IJC report recommends a new approach, based on precaution:

"A much more precautionary, responsive, and democratic approach is
clearly required," the report says. (pg. 125) And: "Other
jurisdictions widely apply the Precautionary Principle to stimulate
innovation and science, and provide good governance," the report says.
(pg. 126)

[To be continued next week.]

=========================================================

[1] The exact wording is: "The Science Advisory Board recommends to
the IJC that... The Parties modify their fish consumption advice to
address overall fish consumption to focus on... Promoting special
precautions for pregnant women including effects on the fetus, women
of child-bearing age, and children under 15, and advocating that this
group adopt the additional prudence of not eating Great Lakes fish as
an option;"

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From: Solari, Inc., Jan. 1, 2007
[Printer-friendly version]

THE SOURCE OF HOPELESSNESS: A REVIEW OF 'AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH'

By Catherine Austin Fitts, Solari Inc.

[Catherine Austin Fitts served as Assistant Secretary of Housing and
Federal Housing Commissioner at HUD in the first Bush Administration;
she previously served as Managing Director and Member of the Board of
Directors of the Wall Street investment bank, Dillon, Read & Co.,
Inc.]

The day after 9-11, a person whom I respect and care about a great
deal said to me, "George Bush was anointed by God for a time such as
this." He then asked me what I thought. I said that I thought that the
Bush family was anointed by financial fraud, narcotics trafficking,
and pedophilia. Stunned, he said, "If that is true, then it's
hopeless." I replied that things were far from hopeless, but that for
me solutions started with faith in a divine intelligence rather than
affirming a dependent relationship with organized crime.

Last week I had dinner with a wonderful couple -- activists in the San
Francisco Bay Area-- and the woman told me how wonderful she thought
Al Gore's documentary An Inconvenient Truth was. She then asked for
my opinion. When I gave it, she said, "If that is true, then it's
hopeless." We then proceeded to have a rich conversation about why
folks who used to call themselves "liberal" or progressive are in the
same trap as folks who use to call themselves "conservative"

In order to respond to the problem of global warming, it is necessary
to look at the ways that we as citizens support criminal activity by
our government and how we as consumers, depositors and investors
support the private banking, corporate and investment interests that
run our government in this manner. This is easier said than done. When
we 'get it' -- i.e., that we have to withdraw from a co-dependent
relationship with organized crime in order to save and rebuild our
world -- we can find ourselves struggling to envision the system-wide
actions that are needed and feeling overwhelmed by the task of
determining how to go about them personally and in collaboration with
others.

My nickname for our current economic system is "The Tapeworm." For
decades I have listened to Americans from all walks of life insist
that we must find solutions within the system -- i.e. within the
socially acceptable boundaries laid down by the Tapeworm. Believing
that our solutions for addressing global warming lie within the system
defined by the Tapeworm goes hand in hand with obtaining our media
from companies controlled by the Tapeworm, and having to choose from
among leaders anointed by the Tapeworm, such as Al Gore. This belief
is, in fact, the source of our hopelessness.

George Orwell once said that omission is the greatest form of lie.
Gore's omissions in An Inconvenient Truth are so extraordinary that it
is hard to know where to start.

Watching An Inconvenient Truth is more useful for understanding how
propaganda is made and used than for understanding the risks of global
warming (I am not qualified to judge the scientific evidence here -- I
am assuming that Gore's presentation on global warming is sound).

The fundamental lie that Al Gore is telling comes from defining our
problem as environmental -- in this case global warming, whereas our
environmental problems -- as real and important as they are -- are but
a symptom of the problem, not the problem. Gore defines our problem as
"what." He is silent on "who." For example, Gore does not ask or
answer:

** Who is doing this?

** Who has been governing our planet this way and why?

** Cui bono? Who benefits?

** Who has suppressed alternative technologies resulting in our
dependency on fossil fuels? Why?

** Who has generated how much financial capital generated from this
damage?

** How did things get this bad without our changing? How much was
related to fear of and dirty tricks of those in charge?

** How do we recapture resources that have been criminally drained and
use them to invest in restoring environmental balance?

Utah Phillips once said, "The earth is not dying. It is being
killed, and the people killing it have names and addresses." In one
sentence, Utah Phillips told us more about global warming than Al Gore
has told us in a lifetime of writing and speaking, let alone in An
Inconvenient Truth.

Needless to say, Gore offers no names and addresses. Gore's "who"
discussion is limited to population. He seems to imply that the issue
is the growth in population combined with busy people being
shortsighted, leading to some giant incompetency "accident." That
makes it easy to avoid digging into the areas that would naturally
follow from starting with "who" -- which should lead to dissecting the
relationship between environmental deterioration and the prevailing
global investment model that is such a critical part of the governance
infrastructure and incentive systems.

Gore walks us through timelines showing the global warming of
temperatures. By defining the problem as simply environmental damage,
and shrinking the history down to temperatures, there is no need to
correlate environmental deterioration with the growth of the global
financial system and the resulting centralization of economic and
political power. The planet is being run by people who are
intentionally killing it. Their power is their ability to offer all of
us ways of making money by helping them kill it. Hence, understanding
how the mechanics of the financial system and the accumulation of
financial capital relate to environmental destruction is essential. If
we integrate these deeper systems into an historical timeline,
authentic solutions will begin to emerge. But Gore omits the deeper
systems and the lessons of how we got here and in so doing closes the
door on transformation.

For example, there is no place on Gore's time line that shows:

** the creation of the Federal Reserve:

** the movement of currencies away from the gold standard:

** the growth of non-accountable fiat currency systems:

** the growth of consumer, mortgage and government debt;

** the growth in the superior rights of corporations over people and
living things;

** the growth of "privatization" (which I call "piratization");

** the subversive and sometimes violent suppression of renewable
energy, housing and transportation technologies and innovations;

** the growth of the offshore financial system and the use of that
system to launder and accumulate vast sums of pirated capital
accumulated through the onshore destruction of communities.

Understanding the fundamental imbalance of the corporate model --
where enterprises have the rights of personhood, but not the finite
existence of people or the legal responsibilities and liabilities --
and the corporate model's economic dependence on subsidy that drives
up debt, economic warfare and the destruction of all living things is
a critical piece to developing actions to reverse environmental
damage. Al Gore is a man that has made money for corporations his
entire life. He is a member in good standing of the Tapeworm and his
current lifestyle and this documentary are rich with the resources
that corporations can provide.

There is also no personal accountability. Al Gore has not "come
clean." There is no discussion of Gore's role in the Clinton
Administration in facilitating worldwide economic centralization and
warfare, and with it genocide and environmental destruction -- for
example, there is no mention of The Rape Of Russia or the driving
out of Washington of an investment model proposing to align places
with capital markets to create a win-win economic model that he
intimates is possible. For more, see my recently published case study
on Tapeworm Economics, and the competition between two economic
visions during the Clinton Administration, "Dillon, Read & the
Aristocracy of Prison Profits".

The documentary ends with a long list of things that we can do. Many
of these items are on my list. We all need to come clean in the
process of evolving towards sustainability. However, without a new
investment model and the governance changes that automatically follow,
the result of An Inconvenient Truth is to teach us to be good
consumers of global oil and consumer product corporations and banks
and -- we are supposed to intuitively understand -- vote for Al Gore
or the candidates he endorses. Gore draws us down a rabbit hole, which
leaves us even more dependent on the people and institutions that
created and profited from the problem in the first place. What that
means is that the real solution will be significant depopulation. The
viewer is left to preserve a bit of the shrinking American bubble to
protect us from having to face the depopulation solutions underway
(See above links on "The Rape Of Russia" and "Dillon, Read & The
Aristocracy of Prison Profits".)

The way a tapeworm operates inside our bodies is to inject a chemical
into its host that makes it crave what is good for the tapeworm and
bad for the host. An Inconvenient Truth is an injection from the
Tapeworm. Don't see it and crave a new round of what has not worked
before. Things are not hopeless. There is no need to waste time and
money adoring and financing the people who are killing the planet, or
counting on the politicians who protect them.

To get you started, let me recommend that you take the money and time
that you would spend watching An Inconvenient Truth and invest it in
reading or watching a few of many authentic leaders with useful maps
and solutions that are leading to serious ecosystem healing and
transformation:

Mind Control, Mind Freedom By Jon Rappoport

Escaping the Matrix: How We the People Can Change the World By
Richard Moore

America: From Freedom to Fascism A documentary by Aaron Russo

Scholars for 9/11 Truth

What The Bleep Do We Know? A documentary by William Arntz, Betsy
Chasse and Mark Vicente

Messages from Water

The Gold Anti-Trust Action Committee Bill Murphy, Chris Powell

Cynthia McKinney for Congress

Ron Paul for Congress

Can you imagine what these folks could do and what could happen if we
all invested 2 hours each and the price of a movie theatre ticket in
their work? Can you imagine what would happen if all the money donated
to Al Gore and candidates like him were invested in authentic leaders
and our access to them? I can -- and the truth and beauty of that
future fills my life and work with hope.

Catherine Austin Fitts is President of Solari and may be contacted at
www.solari.com

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From: Harvard Public Health Review, Jan. 1, 2007
[Printer-friendly version]

EXPOSING THE ROOTS OF HEALTH DISPARITIES

By Richard Saltus

In his latest bid to unearth the dark, tangled roots of disparities in
health between blacks and whites, Harvard School of Public Health
(HSPH) newcomer David R. Williams has gone to South Africa....

Insidious racism

Williams looks at social policies and historical patterns of
discrimination through a sociologist's lens. By sifting and sorting
data in fresh ways, he has cast new light on the causes of blacks'
poorer health and rates of survival, observe his new colleagues at
HSPH. In August, Williams joined the faculty as the Florence Sprague
Norman and Laura Smart Norman Professor of Public Health in the
Department of Society, Human Development, and Health.

What intrigues Williams are not just extreme forms of racism, but
their subtler, more insidious, day-to-day manifestations. A huge body
of research on health disparities has led him to conclude that stress
resulting from institutionalized racism and discrimination, be it real
or perceived, blatant or muted, is an "added pathogenic factor" that
contributes to well-above-average levels of hypertension, respiratory
illness, anxiety, depression, and other ills in minority populations.
Socioeconomic status is just part of the problem. While lower-income
people generally tend to be less healthy, Williams says, "blacks do
more poorly than whites at every level of socioeconomic status."

The roots of health disparities run so deep that they're invisible to
most of society, he has found. "A lot of what I struggle with is
understanding the larger social, political, and economic context in
which health is embedded and the broader forces, many of them hidden,
that shape mobility and access to health care," Williams says. "I have
argued, for example, that residential segregation, resulting from
historical racist policies, is a fundamental cause of excess levels of
ill health in the African-American population."

Segregation by neighborhood is so high at every income bracket in the
United States that, in many cities, it comes close to levels once
legally mandated by apartheid in South Africa, Williams says. Sixty-
six percent of blacks would have to move in order to distribute blacks
and whites evenly.

Truth in numbers

Over the past decade, Williams has been among the top 10 most-cited
researchers in the social sciences. His more than 100 papers have
yielded insights such as these:

Blacks die at twice the rate of whites in the age groups 1-4 and
25-54--a grim fact often missed in comparisons of overall mortality
rates, which yield a 30 percent mortality disadvantage for blacks.

In Pitt County, North Carolina, the odds of having hypertension were
seven times higher for black men who as children and adults had low
socioeconomic status (SES) than for black men whose SES was high.

In Mississippi, home to the highest heart disease death rates in
America, the healthiest black women die from heart disease at a
greater rate than the sickest white women.

According to Joseph Betancourt, MD, MPH, director of the Disparities
Solutions Center at Massachusetts General Hospital and a senior
scientist in MGH's Institute for Health Policy, Williams "understands
the issue of disparities in its entire breadth and depth--
discrimination and socioeconomic status, community and societal
factors. Few people have that expertise."

Betancourt and Williams served together on the National Academy of
Science's Institute of Medicine committee that issued the landmark
2003 report, Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial and Ethnic
Disparities in Health Care. The authors found that, even when they had
overcome barriers to getting health care, African-Americans and other
minority populations were still less likely to receive certain high-
tech, expensive, yet common procedures such as coronary bypass
operations, kidney dialysis, and kidney transplants. They were more
likely, however, to undergo certain other procedures, including lower-
limb amputations for diabetes. Why this is so continues to be a
subject of research. Possible explanations include health care
providers' biases, miscommunication, and blacks' lack of trust in the
largely white health care system.

If death rates for blacks and whites were equal, the authors wrote,
about 100,000 fewer black Americans would die every year. In fact,
blacks are still dying at rates whites did 30 years ago. "And this is
not an act of God," Williams points out dryly.

Reversing entrenched policies

Williams is frenetically busy, always on the move. Yet, sitting in his
box-filled office, he is expansive, his conversation accented with the
lilt and softness of St. Lucia, an island nation in the Caribbean
where he grew up.

His college studies, in nearby Trinidad, were in theology, not as a
road to the ministry but because of his view of the church as "a
foundation for meaningful engagement and service to community." After
college, Williams came to the United States, braving the bitter
Michigan winters, to study at Andrews University, the flagship
educational institution of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, which
promotes preventive health practices such as exercise, vegetarianism,
and abstinence from smoking and alcohol. Williams earned an MPH from
the Adventist Loma Linda University in California, his field work
bringing him back to Michigan as a health educator at an Adventist
facility in Battle Creek.

There Williams worked in fitness, stress management, and heart-disease
risk-reduction programs, where he says he was impressed by "the extent
to which health practices and behaviors of individuals were shaped by
larger social forces. The nature of the family environment was a
strong predictor of the long-term success of a stop-smoking program,
for example." This insight led to a PhD in sociology from the
University of Michigan where, after a six-year stint at Yale, he
returned in 1992 as professor of sociology and senior research
scientist at the Institute for Social Research.

Along the way, personal experience fed into Williams' views of the
corrosive effects of racist attitudes upon psychological health and
well being. Not long after emigrating to the United States, for
example, Williams and four other black university students were pulled
over by Indiana police at about 1 a.m. on their way back to Andrews
University from a weekend trip. The driver was allegedly speeding, but
when the officer insisted on seeing the licenses of everyone in the
car, the young men felt the sting of racism. "It made us all angry--we
were nearly home, we were tired, we felt we shouldn't have to do
this," remembers Williams.

A more menacing act shook him and his wife in the predominantly white
neighborhood of Battle Creek, Michigan, where they were renting an
apartment. "As I was going to sleep there was an explosion, and a
flash of light," Williams recounts. "Someone had fired shots in the
air, and on the lawn of a black family who had just moved in next
door, a cross was burning." Although the police sent a hate crimes
unit to investigate, "there was nothing reported in the local media."
That seeming indifference rankles Williams to this day.

If entrenched social policies have contributed to the insidious health
disadvantages that persist among today's minorities, it should be
possible, if daunting, to reverse these, Williams believes. As part of
a group that is collaborating with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation,
he is working to establish a national commission that will "look
systematically at disparities in race, health, and socioeconomic
status, and see what policies can be used to improve health."

"It's primarily about improving the circumstances in which people live
and work," Williams says. That means job training and initiatives that
improve their ability to take advantage of the opportunities that
society offers." If there are no easy answers, Williams is
nevertheless generating new information he hopes will help societies
narrow health and economic divides along racial lines.

"What's phenomenal about David," says Lisa Berkman, who chairs
Williams' department and helped lure him to HSPH, "is that he takes
data that have long been in the public domain, such as decades of life
expectancy data, and uses them to point out underlying causes of
racial disparities in health that lay hidden or silent. He's making
the roots of disparities transparent."

Richard Saltus has been a reporter for the Associated Press, the San
Francisco Examiner, and the Boston Globe. He writes about science,
medicine, and public health.

Copyright, 2006-2007, President and Fellows of Harvard College

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From: The Bloomington (Indiana) Alternative, Dec. 31, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]

ENVIRONMENTAL FIRE

By Thomas P. Healy

In an unprecedented move, the Indiana Department of Environmental
Management (IDEM) is seeking to alter the definition of what
constitutes recycling by including incineration -- specifically waste-
to-energy projects.

Additionally, IDEM's Office of Pollution Prevention and Technical
Assistance is establishing an integrated recycling plan with new
guidelines that could undermine local government recycling programs,
encourage more polluting industries in Indiana and divert limited
funds from legitimate recycling operations.

The state's environmental community -- especially members of the
Indiana Recycling Coalition (IRC), a statewide nonprofit advocate for
waste reduction and recycling -- is concerned that such initiatives
threaten existing recycling projects and send plans to expand them up
in smoke.

At a mid-December Business Summit on Recycling Issues called by the
IRC, stakeholders in resource reduction and reuse activities learned
about these policy changes and heard about legislative initiatives
that may be introduced in the upcoming session of the General
Assembly.

IRC President Melissa Kriegerfox told attendees that Indiana is the
first state to propose a redefinition of recycling to include
incineration.

"As far as the Environmental Protection Agency is concerned, this is
turning the solid waste hierarchy upside down," she said.

Kriegerfox, recycling and reuse director for the Monroe County Solid
Waste Management District (SWMD), explained that the EPA's solid waste
hierarchy places source reduction at the top, followed by reuse and
recycling. The bottom tier is considered final disposal, and that
includes incineration, waste-to-energy facilities and landfills, she
said.

While not opposed in principle to waste-to-energy projects, Kriegerfox
said IRC does not consider incineration to be recycling.

"Recycling takes materials and puts them in a process to make into a
new product," she said. "Incineration is final disposal."

***

The IRC is also concerned about any policy shifts at IDEM that would
mandate that recycling programs become "revenue neutral" and utilize
only Indiana outlets for materials in an effort to "close the loop."

"Not all civic services generate revenue," Kriegerfox said, citing
diverted costs -- both financial and environmental -- that rarely seem
to end up in the equation. "As IDEM has proposed it, there's no way
that you can make it work."

For example, there is no consideration for diverted greenhouse gas
emissions from recycling, say, aluminum cans. Other values such as
"pride of place" generated through community cleanups or the value a
community derives from educational programs cannot be neatly plugged
into a spreadsheet cell.

IRC claims the meaning of "closing the loop" -- a catchphrase long
favored by waste reduction and reuse advocates -- is being subverted
in IDEM's usage to insist that recyclables generated in Indiana be put
back into the manufacturing process within Indiana.

Kriegerfox says IDEM ignores other options for boosting the
marketplace for recycling in the state and the global nature of the
commodities market.

"You can't expect businesses like Rumpke or Waste Management or
Republic to use only the Indiana marketplace when they could get $25
to $100 more a ton by sending materials to California or China," she
said.

The same holds true for community recycling programs. Monroe County's
SWMD collects sorted office paper that is sold to a mill in Manawa,
Wis., where it is made into tissue and tissue paper.Under the new
proposal, that arrangement would be viewed with disfavor during the
grant review process, in which the solid waste district would have to
prove it is "successful" -- "revenue neutral" -- by using "closed-
loop" Indiana-based outlets.

In this scenario, Kriegerfox said, IRC fears its member groups would
suffer when it comes to competing for funds.

"If you don't meet those requirements then you can't apply for the
grant," she said, which leaves more funds to give to waste-to-energy
projects such as burning automobile tires or trash for energy.

***

That's not exactly accurate, according to Sandra Flum, director of
intergovernmental affairs for IDEM.

"I think there's a misconception that we're talking about all waste-
to-energy projects, and that's not the direction we're heading right
now," she said. "We're looking at what's a good use."

Flum noted that waste-to-energy is currently not on the list of
priorities the Recycling Market Development Board (RMDB) uses when
considering applications for grants or low-interest loans.

"As the priority list is currently written, it's unclear whether state
funds could be used for such projects," she said. "So adding [waste-
to-energy projects] seemed like a good idea."

Indiana's problem with discarded automobile tires -- nearly 6 million
annually -- prompted the specific inclusion of projects that involve
burning tires for energy, Flum said.

An IDEM report created in November examined how funds available
through the Recycling Market Development Program are being utilized
and found that some remain leftover at year's end.

"So we thought it makes sense, if we're not going to spend money on
the first priorities, that we at least add waste-to-energy as a
priority," Flum said.

According to Flum, the report was the first step toward getting the
RMDB to consider an expanded definition of recycling so it could
provide grants to waste-to-energy projects. She stressed that
including such projects would not threaten recycling programs.

"We clearly prioritize it so that the other valuable projects that
have been traditionally funded would be higher priorities," she said.
"For us it's where this falls in the priority, and we recognize it as
a lower priority than other types of recycling."

Asked about pollution from waste-to-energy projects, Flum said, "You
would certainly have emissions controls on any kind of incineration or
smokestack, and it would be defined on a health-based standard.
There's no way that we would encourage a business to come in here
without controls on what they're emitting."

***

Flum was unaware of any "revenue-neutral" proposals and said that
evaluating such recommendations would be appropriate for the state's
Environmental Quality Service Council (EQSC) to study.

"We think that's the right organization to give the direction that the
RMDB asked for," she said.

Although the RMDB has thus far declined to include waste-to-energy in
its definition of recycling, don't expect IDEM to stop pushing to
expand the definition to include one of Gov. Daniels' pet projects.
Flum suggested that another waste-to-energy source could be manure
from Confined Animal Feeding Operations.

For its part, IRC will continue educating Hoosiers, reminding them
that source reduction is the first of the three Rs of recycling.

In addition to participating in the Business Summit, IRC recently met
with 15 environmental groups from around the state to discuss the
proposed changes. The organization is poised to launch a Defend
Recycling campaign next week, in time for the 2007 session of the
Indiana General Assembly.

Thomas P. Healy can be reached at thomasphealy@sbcglobal.net

Details are available at http://www.indianarecycling.org

Copyright 2005 by The Bloomington Alternative

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