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  • Garden Mosaics projects promote science education while connecting young and old people as they work together in local gardens.
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  • In August 2002, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Board voted to ban soft drinks from all of the district’s schools

#858 -- Part II as Growth Slows, 08-Jun-2006

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Rachel's Democracy & Health News #858

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

Thursday, June 8, 2006..................Printer-friendly version
www.rachel.org -- To make a secure donation, click here.
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Featured stories in this issue...

The Context of Our Work: Slow Economic Growth, Part 2
  Here we pick up the thread from last week, examining the
  consequences of three decades of decelerating economic growth. The
  system's responses to slowed economic growth explain much of what
  passes for "the news" each day.
Humboldt County, California Passes a Law Curbing Corporate Rights
  On June 6, 2006 the voters in Humboldt County, California approved
  a new law prohibiting corporations headquartered outside the county
  from making contributions to electoral campaigns within the county.
Activists Urge EPA to Draft Nanotech Rule to Counter Industry Views
  Environmental Defense (ED), a major U.S. environmental
  organization, has petitioned U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  (EPA) to regulate nanotechnology under the Toxic Substances Control
  Act TSCA). TSCA is widely acknowledged as one of the least-effective
  government regulations ever written. ED's petition could signal a rift
  between ED and some of its partners in the chemical industry. On the
  other hand, it might be viewed as ED asking EPA to throw their Brer
  Rabbit friends into the regulatory briar patch.
Chemical in Plastics Is Tied to Prostate Cancer
  Important new research has linked prostate cancer to bisphenol A
  (BPA), a common chemical that leaches out of plastic food and drink
  containers. The chemical industry releases 6 billion pounds of BPA
  each year into products and waste. The new work reveals that small
  amounts of BPA can permanently change male animals in the womb, making
  it more likely that they will develop prostate cancer later in life.
  Prostate cancer has been steadily increasing among human males in
  recent decades, tracking the rise in use of BPA.
Uncertainty Surrounds Plans for New Nuclear Reactors
  The U.S. nuclear industry is expecting orders soon for a dozen new
  nuclear power plants. It's a sweet deal because taxpayers are
  subsidizing it with billions of dollars and Uncle Sam is offering
  "risk insurance" for this latest military-industial adventure. If
  nuclear power were not subsidized, it would fall flat on its face.
  Investors reap the benefits, taxpayers bear the costs. Sweet indeed.
A Call to Youth: It's Time to Start Protesting
  "The reason that youth aren't protesting about anything, let alone
  the war in Iraq, is because there is no longer a serious youth
  political culture in this country. And the reason for that is because
  this generation does not believe in its ability to alter, or even
  slightly disrupt, the status quo."
Correction: Rachel's News #857 -- Hormone-in-milk Story
  Our story last week about Monsanto's hormone-treated milk was
  accurate, but the introduction we added to the story was not.

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From: Rachel's Democracy & Health News #858, Jun. 8, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]

THE CONTEXT OF OUR WORK: SLOW ECONOMIC GROWTH, PART 2

By Peter Montague

Introduction: We began last week examining the effects of slowed
economic growth on U.S. society. The argument is simple: since 1970,
each decade has brought slower economic growth while at the same time
there is a glut of capital seeking a decent return on investment. More
capital accrues each year; that's what "economic growth" means. Each
year it gets a little harder to find safe places to invest the ever-
growing supply of capital to provide decent returns. As a result,
corporate-governmental policies are increasingly aimed primarily at
helping investors achieve their goals. Don't misunderstand: This is
not about greedy individuals demanding to get rich -- this is about
"system responses" from a complex system that cannot continue
unmodified without a hefty rate of growth because, as the system is
currently set up, the only alternative to substantial growth is
recession or depression. The economy either grows or it stalls and
goes into a decline -- a steady state is not an option. Those who are
doing their best to pump up returns for investors believe that what
they are doing is essential for saving the modern economy, and they
may be right. Unfortunately, on a finite planet, perpetual growth of
material production is impossible to sustain, so the current path is,
without doubt, a dead end. Ecological limits have already begun to
appear.

System response No. 14: Relax environmental standards

As growth slows, environmental standards are being relaxed on the
assumption that they retard economic growth. This is the main force
driving the current bipartisan move to extinguish all meaningful
environmental regulations, to the extent that any ever really
existed.[26]

For reasons that escape me, environmentalists want to see
environmental regulations as a partisan issue. Angry books have been
written about the way the George W. Bush administration has relaxed
environmental standards,[27] so I won't go into it here. But let's not
forget to examine the Clinton/Gore administration's fudging and
waffling on environmental controls in the name of stimulating economic
growth. And let's not forget that it was Republican Richard Nixon who
created the EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency).

Both Republicans and Democrats have an identical interest in returning
the economy to historical rates of growth, and to the extent that
protecting nature is seem as an impediment to growth, to that extent
regulations to protect nature will be ignored, repudiated,
reinterpreted or placed within the purview of a "regulatory" system
the main purpose of which is to keep the public at bay, give the
appearance that people's concerns are being addressed, and meanwhile
leave corporations free to do what they need to do to make the economy
grow.[28]

Most importantly, let's ask ourselves whether the nation's labyrinth
of environmental laws and regulations -- at least 12,000 pages of fine
print in the Federal Register -- is adequate to resolve the problems
it was presumably intended to fix. If we are honest, we will
acknowledge that the regulations are hopelessly inadequate. An
overwhelming body of scientific and medical evidence -- much of it
available to every reader of a daily newspaper -- demonstrates that
damage to nature and human health is steadily increasing.[29] As
Donella Meadows observed shortly before her death, the best that can
be said after 40 years of environmental regulation is that things are
growing worse at a slower rate.

System response No. 15: A Social Insecurity Program

The cumulative effect of the previous 14 system responses has been to
stabilize and regularize American society by making middle- and
working-class Americans more insecure, and at the same time busier,
each passing year.

Insecure people do not start revolutions or even ask too many
questions. They tend to assume that change will be for the worse --
and for at least three decades they have been right. As Eric Hoffer
has observed, "Fear of the future causes us to lean against and cling
to the present..."[30, pg. 19] And: "In a modern society, people can
live without hope only when kept dazed and out of breath by incessant
hustling."[30, pg. 24] In sum, keeping people insecure and ever-busier
keeps them in line, holds them in thrall.

As a result of slow economic growth -- and the 14 system responses
described above -- Americans are working longer hours for the same or
less pay. They are traveling further in worsening traffic to find a
tolerable job. They are borrowing more -- a lot more -- and taking
extra work to pay off their loans. Many are not sure they will have a
job next year; they are not even sure their employer will exist next
year, perhaps the victim of a hostile takeover, perhaps simply moved
to Mexico where labor is cheap and rules are few. For the U.S.
workforce, benefits like health insurance and retirement benefits are
getting scarcer. Overtime pay is under attack. Rollbacks and givebacks
are demanded of the nation's workforce at every turn.

We are constantly reminded that food and water are laced with cancer-
causing chemicals, which corporate/governmental risk assessors assure
us are "completely safe" (wink, wink). Everyone knows someone who has
had, or now has, cancer. The cost of college tuition rises each year,
at the same time we are told thriving in the "information age" will
require a college degree. With libraries closing and most schools
overcrowded and many downright dangerous, how will the kids survive in
a world of unbridled competition? It's enough to keep you awake at
night -- which may be the point.

In sum, the net result of the past 30 years is a huge increase in
anxiety and insecurity. Perhaps in response, people are turning to
crime[31] or escaping into addictions (drugs, alcohol, TV) and
apocalyptic visions of a divine end to earthly distress. In late 2004,
a Newsweek poll found that one out of every six Americans -- some 51
million people -- now expect the world to end during their
lifetime.[32] Far from being a lunatic fringe, these people now form
the electoral base of the ruling political party in the U.S. If the
country is not run in a way that measures up to their other-worldly
preconceptions, they threaten to turn the Republicans out of office,
and most likely they have the power to do it. In deference to this
contingent, both President Bush and Senator Hillary Clinton are
presently stumping for a Constitutional amendment to outlaw burning
the American flag as a political statement (while retaining the right
of their wealthier, politically-satisfied supporters to blow their
noses on American-flag cocktail napkins or kerchiefs).

Everyone knows the system is rigged against the average person. The
people who run the system no longer even try very hard to hide that
fact. The response of most people in the face of widespread corruption
and cronyism is to withdraw into weariness, resignation, cynicism --
and flashes of anger.[31]

That anger draws a response because its politically dangerous. There's
now a whole industry devoted to deflecting that anger away from the
Masters of Our Fate and onto "welfare queens" (shorthand for poor
black single mothers and, by extension, all black women); "Willie
Horton" (shorthand for black male criminals, and, by extension, all
black men); physicians who perform abortions; homosexuals; so-called
"liberal elites," and other scapegoats, now including most recently
Muslims and foreigners, especially those with brown skin. The science
of scapegoating -- which entered world consciousness via the work of
Paul Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's minister of propaganda -- is now a very
highly developed set of techniques. In the U.S. the science of
scapegoating was refined to greatest effect by Lee Atwater, political
advisor to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and by
Atwater's best-known student, Carl Rove, political advisor to
President George W. Bush.[33] The lineage from Goebbels to Rove is
direct and unlikely to be broken because these techniques really do
work.

System response No. 16: Divide and Rule

As noted above, five percent of the population owns 2/3rds of all
private wealth in the U.S., and the other 95% of the population makes
do by divvying up the remaining one-third of the nation's private
wealth.

Naturally this astonishing inequality in wealth gives rise to enormous
disparities in income, quality of life (employment, health, education,
leisure time, and life span), and overall opportunities. Each year
these economic inequalities grow greater as the 5% become a little
wealthier and the 95% a little less so. You can think of the U.S.
economy now as a kind of Rube Goldberg conveyor belt, lifting money
out of the pockets of the middle class and the working poor and moving
it, by circuitous routes, into the pockets of the super rich. Lights
flash, whistles shriek, gizmos pop and spin, gears and belts carry
weights and buckets to and fro -- all highly amusing and distracting,
as all of Rube Goldberg inventions were. But beneath it all runs a
steady conveyor, relentlessly moving money from the have-lesses to the
have-mores. It's not greed; it's the way the system functions in order
to survive.

The first thing we might notice here is that, by definition, the super
rich 5% are outnumbered 19 to 1 -- yet each year that tiny minority
manages to retain (and even strengthen) social and economic policies
that keep that conveyor belt chugging along, steadily transferring
rewards upward.

Since the 95% could readily outvote the 5%, the only ESSENTIAL
strategy for the 5% is divide and rule. If 54% of the 95% ever got
together, rule by the 5% would end. Indeed, divide and rule, or divide
and conquer, is really the ONLY thing the 5% have going for them. It
is their lifeline, and therefore also their major vulnerability.

To maintain the status quo, the 5% must divide the 95% (or convince
them that voting will not change anything and is therefore pointless).
This is the essential function of "social issues" like abortion
rights, gun control, prayer in school, amendments to prohibit flag
burning, women's liberation, "liberal elites," "pointy-headed
intellectuals" (as former Vice President Spiro Agnew liked to call his
adversaries), the "Eastern establishment," godless communists, Muslim
evil-doers, bunny huggers, labor bosses, welfare queens, homosexuals
-- name your favorite pariah. The reason your favorite pariah exists
as an "issue" is to keep the pot boiling, to ensnare 48% of the 95%
into voting with the 5% (or staying home on election day), so the 5%
can continue to have their way with us all.

The divide-and-rule strategy has a noble lineage. The British
discovered in 1610 that they could divide Ireland and thus finally
bring it under British rule after 250 years of failed effort. King
James I realized that he could split northen Ireland along Protestant-
Catholic lines and thus allow a foreign power to dominate both
Protestants AND Catholics who could never combine forces to confront
their common enemy. It worked like a charm and thus entered the book
of tricks used ever since by the few to rule the many.

The Brits went on to use "divide and rule" to subjugate India, Africa,
and the Middle East. By pitting one group of subjects against another
group (offering one group special privileges, for example) and
constantly whipping up ethnic, religious and class or caste
animosities, tiny numbers of Brits were able to dominate enormous
numbers of colonials for 400 years, exacting tribute for the mother
country all the while. The threat of violence by the British military
always lay in the background during these colonial adventures but it
was generally not needed. The Brits used a combination of carrots and
sticks -- plus leadership jealousies, religious fractures, tribal
disputes, regional differences, and cultural animosities -- to get
half a population to help them subjugate the other half. I am reminded
of the strategic advice given by U.S. financier and railroad
businessman, Jay Gould: "I can hire one half of the working class to
kill the other half."

SUMMARY

Using nature as a toilet in the name of economic stimulus is not
restricted to one political party or the other -- let us acknowledge
that, to gain election, both parties must feed at the same trough and
therefore serve the same master.

Some might say that real campaign finance reform is the only hope for
fixing this. But it goes far deeper than that.

Given an economic system that derives investment capital from
investors who have a right to expect a substantial annual return on
investment, and given that such a system requires growth to produce
the return for those investors, and given that environmental harm is
roughly proportional to economic growth, it seems silly and naive to
think that nature can be protected from this ever-growing juggernaut
by a set of rules negotiated between the juggernaut and a central
bureaucracy created by the juggernaut.

If I am entitled to a 7% annual return on my investment (or even a 3%
return), that return must come from somewhere without much delay, and
that requires stuff to be dug up or grown, moved, processed, moved
again, packaged, promoted and sold, moved again, used, moved again,
perhaps recycled a few times, and eventually discarded (at which point
nature starts moving it once again, into waterways and food webs). The
second law of thermodynamics tells us that each of these steps will
inevitably be accompanied by waste, disorder and other disruptive
unintended consequences. Environmental regulations are not going to
change any of that, no matter who negotiates them.

The pattern of the U.S. regulatory system was designed by business
interests in the early 20th century to serve business interests by
stabilizing and regularizing the social/governmental environment
within which business operates.[28] Environmental regulation followed
that same pattern when it evolved in the 1970s. As Tom Linzey and
Richard Grossman point out, the social purpose of environmental
regulation is not so much to regulate business as it is to restrict
the objections that can be raised by dissenters (whether small
business competitors or angry citizens). Regulation limits and
channels the responses anyone can make to corporate harms and thus
environmental regulations mainly serve to make citizens predictable
and manageable. The same could be said of labor regulations, financial
regulations, and all the other regulatory constraints placed on
business enterprises. The purpose is the regularize and stabilize the
business environment, which means restricting the responses of those
who are (inadvertently or not) harmed, taken advantage of,
shortchanged, cheated or otherwise abused.

Real protection of nature and human health will require reforms far
more fundamental than trying to curb the flow of corrupt money into
elections and creating bureaucracies in Washington to try to police
the behavior of corporations that can operate in 120 countries on all
continents simultaneously in outer space if they choose to. The simple
fact is that the owners of capital want decent returns, this requires
economic growth, and they will not be denied their due. Against this
ever-growing juggernaut, regulations are powerless to protect nature
or human health. Harm will be done, and it will be judged justifiable
as the cost of doing business.

It is now clear that continued growth is incompatible with the need to
protect the ecosystems on which all humans (and all other creatures)
depend -- so human survival requires that growth must slow and then
stop. In this essay, I have described 16 system responses to a slow-
down in the rate of growth, so this should give us some idea of the
task we face and the intensity of the opposition that will develop if
we proceed down this road. It could easily turn ugly.

The global south needs growth (of roads, ports, and power plants) to
give people the basics, and the global north already suffers from too
much growth (and a glut of basics, which is one reason return on
investment has diminished in recent decades). So growth in the north
will need to stop -- or even go negative -- so that growth in the
global south can proceed apace. Many in the investor class are
unlikely to sit idly by as this unfolds, especially if they are made
to feel unwelcome in the global south.

Perpetual growth on a finite planet is a logical and physical
impossibility. In recent decades it has become indisputably clear that
an irresistible force (the human-animal need to protect the Earth, its
habitat) has met an immovable object (the need for economic growth to
reward investors so that the modern economic system can survive
unmodified). Let's at least acknowledge that this is the nub of "the
environmental problem" and that the environmental movement hasn't yet
begun to bark up this particular tree.

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

[26] Richard W. Stevenson, "The 2004 Campaign: The Issues: President
Has Aggressively Pursued 'Pro-Growth' Ideas Nurtured in the Texas Oil
Fields," New York Times Oct. 8, 2004, pg. A20. And see
http://www.nrdc.org/bushrecord/

[27] For example, Donald C. Lord, Dubya: The Toxic Texan : George W.
Bush and Environmental Degradation (N.Y.: iUniverse, 2005); ISBN
0595351034.

[28] Gabriel Kolko, The Triumph of Conservatism; A Reinterpretation of
American History, 1900-1916. NY: The Free Press, 1963, describes the
historical development of the regulatory system as a necessary adjunct
to the growth of corporate influence over the nation's political,
commercial, and cultural life.

[29] I have been documenting this since 1986 in Rachel's News
(www.rachel.org).

[30] Eric Hoffer, The True Believer; Thoughts on the Nature of Mass
Movements. NY: Harper and Row, 1951. Edition cited here is Mentor
paperback published by New American Library, 1958.

[31] Kate Zernike, "Violent Crime Rising Sharply in Some Cities," New
York Times February 12, 2006, pg. A1, reports, "Milwaukee -- One woman
here killed a friend after they argued over a brown silk dress. A man
killed a neighbor whose 10-year-old son had mistakenly used his dish
soap. Two men argued over a cellphone, and pulling out their guns, the
police say, killed a 13-year-old girl in the crossfire.

"While violent crime has been at historic lows nationwide and in
cities like New York, Miami and Los Angeles, it is rising sharply here
and in many other places across the country.

"And while such crime in the 1990's was characterized by battles over
gangs and drug turf, the police say the current rise in homicides has
been set off by something more bewildering: petty disputes that hardly
seem the stuff of fistfights, much less gunfire"

[32] According to a Newsweek poll, 17 percent of Americans (one in
every six) expect the world to end in their lifetime. Cited in Frank
Rich "Now on DVD: The Passion of the Bush," New York Times Oct. 3,
2004.

[33] In his book, What's the Matter With Kansas (NY: Henry Holt, 2004;
paperback 2005; ISBN 0-8050-7774X), Thomas Frank "reveals how the
political right continues to win elections, despite the fact that its
economic policies hurt the vast majority of ordinary people, by
portraying itself as the defender of mainstream values against a
malevolent cultural elite. The right 'mobilizes voters with explosive
social issues, summoning public outrage which it then marries to pro-
business economic policies. Cultural anger is marshaled to achieve
economic ends." This is showmanship at its best. Politicians talk
about 'traditional values," but their true loyalty is to economic
policies intended to primarily benefit the wealthiest 5%: 'Vote to
stop abortion; receive a rollback in capital gains taxes. Vote to
stand tall against terrorists; receive Social Security privatization."
It may seem far-fetched, but so far it's working." writes Paul
Krugman, "Kansas on My Mind," New York Times Feb. 25, 2005.

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From: The Nation, Jun. 7, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]

CITIZENS 1, CORPORATIONS 0

By John Nichols**

In states across the country Tuesday, primary elections named
candidates for Congress, governorships and other important offices.
But the most interesting, and perhaps significant, election did not
involve an individual. Rather, it was about an idea.

In Northern California's Humboldt County, voters decided by a 55-45
margin that corporations do not have the same rights -- based on the
supposed "personhood" of the combines -- as citizens when it comes to
participating in local political campaigns.

Until Tuesday in Humboldt County, corporations were able to claim
citizenship rights, as they do elsewhere in the United States. In the
context of electoral politics, corporations that were not
headquartered in the county took advantage of the same rules that
allowed individuals who are not residents to make campaign
contributions in order to influence local campaigns.

But, with the passage of Measure T, an initiative referendum that was
placed on the ballot by Humboldt County residents, voters have
signaled that they want out-of-town corporations barred from meddling
in local elections.

Measure T was backed by the county's Green and Democratic parties, as
well as labor unions and many elected officials in a region where
politics are so progressive that the Greens -- whose 2004 presidential
candidate, David Cobb, is a resident of the county and a active
promotor of the challenges to corporate power mounted by Democracy
Unlimited of Humboldt County and the national Liberty Tree Foundation
-- are a major force in local politics.

The "Yes on T" campaign was rooted in regard for the American
experiment, from its slogan "Vote Yes for Local Control of Our
Democracy," to the references to Tuesday's election as a modern-day
"Boston Tea Party," to the quote from Thomas Jefferson that was
highlighted in election materials: "I hope we shall crush in its birth
the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to
challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to
the laws of our country."

Just as Jefferson and his contemporaries were angered by dominance of
the affairs of the American colonies by King George III and the
British business combines that exploited the natural and human
resources of what would become the United States, so Humboldt County
residents were angered by the attempts of outside corporate interests
to dominate local politics.

Wal-Mart spent $250,000 on a 1999 attempt to change the city of
Eureka's zoning laws in order to clear the way for one of the retail
giant's big-box stores. Five years later, MAXXAM Inc., a forest
products company, got upset with the efforts of local District
Attorney Paul Gallegos to enforce regulations on its operations in the
county and spent $300,000 on a faked-up campaign to recall him from
office. The same year saw outside corporations that were interested in
exploiting the county's abundant natural resources meddling in its
local election campaigns.

That was the last straw for a lot of Humboldt County residents. They
organized to put Measure T on the ballot, declaring, "Our Founding
Fathers never intended corporations to have this kind of power."

"Every person has the right to sign petition recalls and to contribute
money to political campaigns. Measure T will not affect these
individual rights," explained Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap, a resident of
Eureka who was one of the leaders of the Yes on T campaign. "But
individuals hold these political rights by virtue of their status as
humans in a democracy and, simply put, a corporation is not a person."

Despite the logic of that assessment, the electoral battle in Humboldt
County was a heated one, and Measure T's passage will not end it. Now,
the corporate campaign will move to the courts. So this is only a
start. But what a monumental start it is!

Sopoci-Belknap was absolutely right when she portrayed Tuesday's vote
as nothing less than the beginning of "the process of reclaiming our
county" from the "tyranny" of concentrated economic and political
power.

Surely Tom Paine would have agreed. It was Paine who suggested to the
revolutionaries of 1776, as they dared challenge the most powerful
empire on the planet, that: "We have it in our power to begin the
world over again. A situation similar to the present hath not happened
since the days of Noah until now. The birthday of the new world is at
hand, and a race of men, perhaps as numerous as all Europe contains,
are to receive their portion of freedom from the events of a few
months."

It is time to renew the American experiment, to rebuild its battered
institutions on the solid foundation of empowered citizens and
regulated corporations. Let us hope that the spirit of '76 prevailed
Tuesday in Humboldt County will spread until that day when American
democracy is guided by the will of the people rather than the campaign
contribution checks of the corporations that are the rampaging
"empires" of our age.

** John Nichols is the Washington Correspondent for The Nation.

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From: Environmental Policy Alert, Jun. 7, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]

ACTIVISTS URGE EPA TO DRAFT NANOTECH RULE TO COUNTER INDUSTRY VIEWS

A key environmental group, Environmental Defense (ED), is calling on
EPA to issue guidance and possibly initiate a rulemaking regulating
nanomaterials as new chemicals under the Toxic Substances Control Act
(TSCA) in an effort targeting recent chemical industry arguments that
the agency lacks authority under the toxics law to regulate the
materials.

The group sent a letter May 22 to EPA's general counsel arguing that
engineered nanomaterials are "new" substances under TSCA, which would
mean industry would have to submit information to the agency in a pre-
manufacture notice (PMN) on the makeup of a nanomaterial. Such an
application can slow the process of bringing a product to market, but
allows EPA to review and assess the potential for risks from a new
material and allows the agency to limit use of, and exposure to, the
material. Relevant documents are available on InsideEPA.com.

The dispute suggests a breakdown in joint efforts by the group and the
American Chemistry Council (ACC) to develop consensus policies on
nanomaterials. But ED and DuPont officials are still working on a
joint nanotech policy process, sources say.

Nanotechnology is an emerging technology that is expected to have
widespread uses in industry, medicine and consumer products. But
activists are concerned about the potential risks to the environment
and human health, and industry officials have called for a regulatory
framework to limit future liabilities posed by nanomaterials. The
unique makeup of the materials, however, poses challenges to EPA in
determining how to regulate the technology and whether current
statutes and regulations can adequately apply to nanomaterials.

EPA's general counsel is expected to release later this year a
guidance on the scope of EPA's authority under TSCA to regulate
nanomaterials and what materials require PMNs. EPA sources were
unavailable for comment.

ACC and ED issued a joint statement last year at an EPA-convened
public meeting on nanotechnology in which the two organizations
outlined common principles for developing policies for the emerging
technology. The statement called for, among other things, increased
government investment in research on nanotechnology; development of
international standardized testing protocols; regulation of
nanomaterials in a "transparent process" that will minimize risks to
human health and the environment; and a "multi-stakeholder dialogue"
that will "assure the development of an effective program for
nanoscale materials."

But last March, ACC's Nanotechnology Panel sent a document to EPA
arguing that the definition of a "chemical substance" under TSCA
limits the information EPA can seek on a chemical's makeup. This would
minimize the volume of PMNs industry may have to submit before brining
a nanotechnology product to market.

In its response to ACC's document, ED argues that it is "entirely
consistent with both the language of TSCA and EPA's own regulations
and practice to designate engineered nanomaterials as 'new' substances
under TSCA and thus subject to PMN review, even where a material has a
chemical structure that is identical to a substance already included
on the [TSCA] Inventory, unless the nanomaterial's chemical and
physical properties are demonstrably identical to an existing
conventional substance with the same chemical structure."

The letter also argues that EPA can consider a broad range of
information when it defines a "chemical substance" under TSCA,
refuting a number of statements the ACC panel makes. The
environmentalists point to a number of longstanding agency practices
under which it considers factors beyond the basic chemical structure
to define a substance.

"In short, EPA can and routinely does consider factors beyond chemical
structure in order to define a chemical substance, and it does so in
particular when chemical structure alone is insufficient," the letter
says. "Engineered nanomaterials are perfect examples of such chemical
substances: Their enhanced or novel properties, which in many cases
are a direct function of the means by which they are produced, are
what make them new, giving them their own molecular identify and
distinguishing them from existing chemical substances possessing the
same molecular structure. To ignore such factors would be to ignore
the very nano-ness of engineered nanomaterials."

Meanwhile, ED and DuPont in recent weeks have been seeking verbal
comment from scientists, industry and others on how to move forward
with a framework for the development, production, use and disposal of
nanomaterials that "identifies, manages and reduces potential risks
across all lifecycle phases."

The framework, which was first outlined last year, hopes to identify
potential hazards; assess the potential for exposure to such
materials; demonstrate the application of the framework on at least
one nanotechnology product; apply the framework to all of Dupont's
involvement in nanotechnology; and promote the principles of the
framework so that it will adopted broadly by government, industry,
public interest groups and others.

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From: Los Angeles Times, Jun. 1, 2006
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CHEMICAL IN PLASTICS IS TIED TO PROSTATE CANCER

Bisphenol A, found in baby bottles and microwave cookware, permanently
altered genes in newborn lab rats, a study finds.

By Marla Cone

Linking prostate cancer to a widespread industrial compound,
scientists have found that exposure to a chemical that leaks from
plastic causes genetic changes in animals' developing prostate glands
that are precursors of the most common form of cancer in males.

The chemical, bisphenol A, or BPA, is used in the manufacture of hard,
polycarbonate plastic for baby bottles, microwave cookware and other
consumer goods, and it has been detected in nearly every human body
tested.

Scientists and health experts have theorized for more than a decade
that chemicals in the environment and in consumer products mimic
estrogens and may be contributing to male and female reproductive
diseases, particularly prostate cancer.

The new study of laboratory rats suggests that prostate cancer, which
usually strikes men over 50, may develop when BPA and other estrogen-
like, man-made chemicals pass through a pregnant woman's womb and
alter the genes of a growing prostate in the fetus. One in every six
men develops prostate cancer, a rate that has increased over the last
30 years.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the
University of Cincinnati exposed newborn rats to low doses of BPA and
found the structure of genes in their prostate cells was permanently
altered, a process of reprogramming in early life that promotes cancer
in adulthood. One key gene was switched on, producing too much of a
cell-damaging enzyme that has been detected in cancerous prostate
cells but not normal cells.

Also, as the rats aged, they were more likely than unexposed animals
to develop precancerous lesions, or cellular damage, in the prostate
that have been known for years to lead to prostate cancer in humans.
"The present findings provide the first evidence of a direct link
between developmental low-dose bisphenol A... and carcinogenesis of
the prostate gland," according to the researchers. Results from the
team, led by Gail S. Prins, associate professor of andrology at the
University of Illinois at Chicago, and Shuk-mei Ho, chair of
environmental health at the University of Cincinnati, are reported
today in the journal Cancer Research.

Exposure to the chemical "may provide a fetal basis for this adult
disease" in humans, the report said.

Dr. Rebecca Sokol, a USC medical school professor who specializes in
male hormone research, called the study "cutting-edge." She said it
added to a growing body of research, called epigenetics, that
suggested environmental chemicals could alter how DNA sequences turned
on and off in a fetus, permanently imprinting the genes of a child and
sensitizing him or her to disease in adulthood.

Such findings could have major implications for human disease and
could, in part, explain why the prostate cancer rate has surged. BPA,
used for about half a century, is a key building block in the
manufacture of polycarbonate plastic and ranks among the world's most
widely used industrial chemicals.

Prins, Ho and other researchers cautioned that the study was conducted
on rats, which sometimes reacted differently to chemicals than humans
did. Replicating the work in humans is virtually impossible because 50
or more years usually pass from exposure in the womb to the onset of
prostate cancer.

"You can't say from the results of this study that this is going to
affect humans," Sokol said. But she said the results were in line with
previous animal research that showed chemicals could induce genetic
changes that altered sperm and other reproductive functions. The
prostate gland, which develops in human males when they are fetuses,
is extremely sensitive to natural estrogen. As a result, scientists
have long theorized that prostate cancer could be increasing in men
because of their exposure to estrogen-like chemicals in the womb.

Unlike carcinogenic chemicals that can cause profound damage to DNA,
BPA seems to inflict subtle changes that are passed from one
generation to the next, Sokol said.

"The big focus today is whether or not environmental toxicants will
induce heritable changes in gene function.... In other words, is there
something that happens to alter genes without actually altering the
genetic code?" asked Sokol, who studies the effects of chemicals on
sperm. "This [new study] is cutting-edge research in this field and
the role that environmental toxicants may play in altering the
genetics of exposed offspring."

Steve Hentges, a representative of the American Plastics Council,
called it "fascinating research, a good piece of research" that should
be studied further. But he said the "real question is what does this
mean for human health," because there are too many limitations in the
study for it to apply to humans.

"No one has actually observed prostate cancer after any treatment with
BPA," he said.

The study's authors said the animals developed the precancerous
lesions and genetic changes when exposed to low concentrations of the
chemical similar to the amounts found in human blood and fetuses. But
Hentges said the rats were injected with doses 100 to 1,000 times
higher than the most recent human testing done by federal officials in
2004.

In recent years, evidence has been building that BPA causes changes in
the hormones and reproductive tracts of male and female animals. Lower
sperm counts, decreased testosterone and enlarged prostates were
reported in male animals, and early puberty and disrupted hormonal
cycles in female animals.

Of more than 100 studies that examined low doses of the chemical, 94
funded by government agencies found harmful effects in lab animals,
and 11 funded by industry reported no effects, according to a 2005
review by Frederick vom Saal of the University of Missouri.
Polycarbonate, which cannot be manufactured without BPA, is a clear
and shatter-free plastic. In addition to beverage bottles, utensils
and food packaging, it is used in automobiles, medical equipment and
compact discs.

Small amounts of the chemical can leach from plastic containers,
especially when heated, cleaned with harsh detergents or exposed to
acidic foods or drinks. It also is used in children's dental sealants
and as a resin lining metal food cans.

Last year, the California Legislature considered a bill, introduced by
Assemblywoman Wilma Chan (D-Oakland), that would have banned
children's products that contained BPA or other plastic compounds
called phthalates. It died in an Assembly committee after sparking a
scientific debate and intense lobbying by the plastics industry.

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From: New York Times, Jun. 4, 2006
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UNCERTAINTY SURROUNDS PLANS FOR NEW NUCLEAR REACTORS

By Matthew L. Wald

WASHINGTON, June 3 -- The nuclear industry is poised to receive the
first new orders for reactors in three decades, but what remains
unclear is whether the smartest buyers will be those at the head of
the line or a little farther back.

The industry expects orders for a dozen or so new reactors. Since the
last completed order was placed in 1973, much has changed. There are
new designs, a new licensing system, new federal financial incentives,
new costs and new risks, and no one is sure how the changes will play
out as orders, or requests to build, are filed.

For example, the federal government is offering "risk insurance" for
the first six reactors, to protect builders against bureaucratic
delays, with the biggest share of the insurance going to the first
two. Loan guarantees are also possible, but probably only for the
first few plants.

Manufacturers have design costs that they will probably try to recoup
from the first few reactors sold, increasing the cost. And no one
seems eager to be the first to try out a radically different licensing
system.

Substantial questions remain about the predictability of the
regulatory process, said James R. Curtiss, a former member of the
Nuclear Regulatory Commission who is a lawyer at Winston & Strawn. The
firm recently helped with an application for a license for a new
uranium enrichment plant in New Mexico.

Long delays occurred, Mr. Curtiss said, as new issues were argued
before a three-judge administrative law panel and then went to the
five-member commission for a ruling. Licensing a second plant will go
much more smoothly, he said.

Progress Energy, a utility based in Raleigh, N.C., has preliminary
plans for four new reactors, and it could be the first to announce
that it is applying for a license.

But Keith Poston, a spokesman, said, "One can imagine the benefits of
not being first, and watching and learning from others."

The industry itself has taken steps to lower the stakes.

For example, the energy bill created a production tax credit, a per-
kilowatt-hour benefit, for the first 6,000 megawatts of new capacity,
which would represent about five new reactors if applied on a first-
come-first-served basis.

The total value is about $1 billion over eight years. But the industry
persuaded the Bush administration to spread the credit around, so it
will be shared by all the plants that are announced by the end of 2008
and have construction under way by 2014, reducing the value of being
first in line.

Michael J. Wallace, the executive vice president at Constellation
Energy, which is also contemplating a new reactor, said the industry's
effort to spread the tax credit was intentional.

"This is not a race," he said.

"If I end up being the first, I'm quite comfortable with that," Mr.
Wallace said, because the incentives would offset the extra risks. "If
I'm third, I'm comfortable, because there is less incentive, but two
guys will be two or three years in front of me."

The first buyer may get concessions from reactor vendors, who are
eager to end a 33-year drought and position themselves for a big slice
of the new market, which industry backers hope will include more than
a dozen reactors in the next few years.

But opponents of new plants predict doom for any company that tries to
build a reactor, with the first likely to draw the most opposition.

"It's like volunteering for an experiment," said Paul Gunter, a
nuclear reactor expert at the Nuclear Information and Resource
Service, an antinuclear group. "These first experimenters carry a lot
of risk."

One, Mr. Gunter said, is getting negative credit reviews from the bond
rating agencies.

Curt L. Hebert Jr., a former chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory
Commission who is now an executive vice president of Entergy, a
potential builder, sized it up the other way. "I think the financial
incentives and governmental guarantees certainly outweigh the risk,"
Mr. Hebert said. "As we look at this, we see there being more risk in
being third or fourth than being first or second."

For all the companies, the biggest factor is the estimate of future
electricity requirements, executives say. Next is the cost of
competing technologies: the price of natural gas, as well as the price
of coal, which is cheap but requires expensive pollution controls.

Speaking of the various kinds of aid offered in last year's energy
bill, Mr. Poston said, "We would pursue incentives because they would
be beneficial to customers and lower the project cost." That leaves
open, however, whether going first is the lowest-cost option.

While the risk and cost of some factors can be calculated, there are
nonfinancial considerations as well, said Richard J. Myers, executive
director of the Nuclear Energy Institute, the industry's trade
association. "It reflects the C.E.O.'s personality," he said. "Some
corporations want to be the pioneer, want to be the first one out
there. They earn a footnote in the history books by doing so."

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

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From: International Herald Tribune, May 31, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]

MEANWHILE: WHERE HAVE ALL THE PROTESTERS GONE?

By Sam Graham-Felsen

NEW YORK The greatest disappointment of my generation has been its
failure to truly stand up to the Bush administration -- and
particularly, its refusal to actively oppose the war in Iraq.

We are the youth who are living through what will perhaps be
remembered as the most scandal-plagued, secretive, privacy-invading,
rights-infringing, incompetent administration in American history -
and we have barely made a peep.

How is it possible, that during a time of unprecedented promise for
youth mobilization that this generation has remained so silent, so
acquiescent?

Many point to the lack of personal threat; there is, as of now, no
draft to frighten us into action. Others suggest that the pressures of
an unstable and uncertain economy have caused my generation to look
inwards, focusing on creating a solid economic future for themselves
rather than dilly-dally with Utopian visions.

All of these explanations have merit, but I want to offer an
alternative hypothesis. The reason that youth aren't protesting about
anything, let alone the war in Iraq, is because there is no longer a
serious youth political culture in this country. And the reason for
that is because this generation does not believe in its ability to
alter, or even slightly disrupt, the status quo.

Community service and volunteering is at an all-time high, so young
people do, in fact, care. But this generational shift from activism to
volunteerism reflects our lack of faith in our ability to affect broad
social change.

We were force-fed the ideology that there is no alternative to the
existing model of neoliberalism and corporate-controlled
globalization. If we tried to suggest that we could play a role in
molding our own destinies, we were laughed at. What's best for
business is what's best for the world, we were told, and if you
disagree with the bosses, too bad, because no one's going to listen.

All you can do is face this cold reality, get a good job, and try to
keep as warm as possible within the confines of your isolated,
insulated home.

Idealism died in this country because the doctrine of "There Is No
Alternative" killed it. We don't dream of utopia anymore. So it's no
wonder that our parents, not us, are showing up to protest the war in
Iraq. They believe in the power of social movements because they saw
the civil rights movement and the anti-Vietnam War movement shape
history before their very eyes.

I grew up with the belief that the only people who had real power were
CEOs. When you grow up in an age of tax cuts for corporate bosses and
slashed social programs, this is what happens.

But we are not asleep. We realize, plainly, that we're inheriting a
profoundly precarious world. We know our economy is on the verge of
collapse, that the climate crisis will soon leave our cities under
water, that nuclear weapons will soon find themselves in the hands of
willing detonators.

We know that the current course is unacceptable. We know that the
future they want to hand us is far from what we want. And we are
finally beginning to channel this anxiety into action.

This month, in one of the most significant moment of youth opposition
to the war yet, New School undergraduate Sara Jean Rohe boldly
challenged commencement speaker and uber-hawk John McCain. "I am
young," Rohe stated after scrapping her original speech, "and although
I don't profess to possess the wisdom that time affords us, I do know
that pre-emptive war is dangerous and wrong, that George Bush's agenda
in Iraq is not worth the many lives lost." Her speech created a buzz
on the blogosphere and Internet news sites, where those of us who do
follow the news read it.

Because the war in Iraq embodies nearly every problematic aspect of
the "There Is No Alternative" doctrine, it is the natural starting
point for a youth social movement in this country.

If America's young are ever going to shape their own futures, they
must first help put an end to this costly, bloody, directionless war.

And if millions of young people take to the streets -- as they have in
other countries, and as they have in the past in this country -
policies will change, the status quo will shift, and young people will
once again believe in their own power.

Sam Graham-Felsen writes about youth and campus politics for The
Nation.

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From: Rachel's Democracy & Health News #858, Jun. 8, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]

CORRECTION: RACHEL'S NEWS #857 -- HORMONE-IN-MILK STORY

Last week in our introduction to the story linking Monsanto's milk
additive, bovine growth hormone (rBGH, also known as rBST), to a
five-fold increases in the chances of a woman giving birth to twins,
we mischaractertized the study described in the story. The story that
we ran was accurate, but our introduction to the story erroneously
stated that the study being reported compared women drinking Monsanto-
treated milk against women drinking normal milk. In fact the study
compared women drinking Monsanto-treated milk against women drinking
no milk.

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  Rachel's Democracy & Health News (formerly Rachel's Environment &
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  often considered separately or not at all.

  The natural world is deteriorating and human health is declining  
  because those who make the important decisions aren't the ones who
  bear the brunt. Our purpose is to connect the dots between human
  health, the destruction of nature, the decline of community, the
  rise of economic insecurity and inequalities, growing stress among
  workers and families, and the crippling legacies of patriarchy,
  intolerance, and racial injustice that allow us to be divided and
  therefore ruled by the few.  

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