Harmful Levels/ Two World Forums
The pollution of the Willamette is in part a Portland responsibility. The Eugene Weekly published an important article on the levels of contamination. Mark Weiskopf, "Two World Forums", reports that 70,000 flocked to nurture the idea that another world is possible. More articles on globalization are on www.mbtranslations.com..
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News Briefs: Harmful Levels | Vinyl Madness | Clark Sale Reduced | Campus Crusades
News: Undercovered #1`5 -- Tales of desperation and an impending assault.
News: Two World Forums -- Ideology vs. pragmatism: Another world is possible.
Happening People: Matthew Rutman.
We hear the mantra at PeaceHealth's corporate headquarters in Bellview, Wash., is "Ya gotta have a margin to have a mission," and the regional non-profit has been very good at socking away reserves over the years. PeaceHealth bails out and revives failing medical institutions, pumps millions into equipment, personnel, systems, real estate, etc. to keep its mission healthy and to provide vitally important medical services where needed. But is it possible to go overboard? Can empire-building take on a life of its own? You bet your sweet bedpans.
Lawyers, mediators and maybe even a jury will be wrestling with a federal anti-monopoly suit filed against PeaceHealth by McKenzie-Willamette Hospital last week. PeaceHealth's spokesman Brian Terrett tells us it would be disastrous for everyone, including PeaceHealth, if McKenzie-Willamette were to shut down. So why then is PeaceHealth continuing what appears to be predatory insurance contracting practices that threaten to destroy their rival, and planning to build a colossal medical center in McKenzie-Willamette's back yard? If this lawsuit goes to a jury, PeaceHealth's benevolent mission could lose its healthy margin. Maybe that's not such a bad thing. We need two strong, competing hospitals in our metro area -- one in downtown Eugene, one in Springfield.
President Bush's call for Congress to approve a budget that includes an extra $48 billion for the military and an extra $38 billion for homeland defense is absurd, but we imagine government contractors are weeping with joy and popping corks in anticipation. Let's say it again. True security for our nation comes not from bombs and missile shields but rather from fiscal responsibility, education, caring for our most vulnerable citizens, protecting our natural resources and bolstering our diplomacy and foreign aid programs.
Isn't it peculiar that the Bush/Cheney administration is going to ridiculous and even unconstitutional lengths to battle terrorism, but they balk at any efforts to prevent terrorists from buying assault rifles at U.S. gun shows?
While Bush is eager to run up huge national deficits to pad his buddies' wallets, our state Legislature is meeting later this week to begin resolving an $830 million problem in the state's budget. Republicans want to slice education and social services -- short-term solutions with disastrous long-term effects. Kitzhaber was in Eugene this week to stump for more common-sense solutions, and his proposed tax increases deserve bi-partisan support. It won't happen, of course, but hopefully a few R's will recognize that their party hasn't come up with anything better to stabilize funding for education.
SLANT includes short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes compiled by the EW staff. Heard any good rumors lately? Contact Ted Taylor at 484-0519, firstname.lastname@example.org
Federally approved pesticides, used in federally approved ways, are directly harming threatened and endangered salmon runs, according to a new report by the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides (NCAP).
The Eugene-based group is one of several currently suing the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for violating requirements of the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) to look at how its actions -- in this case, approving pesticides -- may harm imperiled species, including salmon.
The Poisoned Waters report, released Feb. 5, cites results of a series of studies by the U.S. Geological Survey that looked for certain known pesticides in five major river systems in the Northwest, including the Willamette. The studies found at least 35 pesticides present in each of the watersheds, and found a total of 16 pesticides in levels the EPA says will harm aquatic life, including salmon.
The Willamette bears the dubious distinction of being the most contaminated of the river systems studies by the USGS. For instance, researchers found four of the chemicals in question at harmful levels in California's Sacramento River. Puget Sound and the central portion of the Columbia River in Washington and Idaho each had seven. Nine showed up in the San Joaquin-Tulare river system in California, which flows through that state's famous agricultural central valley.
But the Willamette, along which 70 percent of Oregonians live, had 12 pesticides in levels exceeding EPA standards. Those pesticides included 2,4-D, atrazine and malathion.
Pesticides in the water can kill fish directly. But the chemicals can also harm fish more subtly, altering their behavior and the adaptations that allow them to evade predators or spawn abundantly.
The high pesticide levels found in Northwest rivers comes not just from overuse. According to the NCAP report, EPA documents show the agency expects 36 common pesticides to get into waterways at harmful levels even when used according to EPA restrictions.
The ESA prohibits federal agencies from harming protected plants and animals. In order to meet that goal, whenever an agency contemplates an action that could have an effect on threatened or endangered species that agency is required to consult with federal fish and wildlife agencies to find ways to avoid harm. The EPA has never done that consultation when approving pesticides, a claim that forms the basis of NCAP's lawsuit.
The suit itself has raised substantial concern among pesticide users. Thirty-seven such groups jumped into the lawsuit to argue for the need to continue the current system of approving the chemicals -- groups including golf course superintendents and mint growers. Environmental groups and the EPA are currently discussing ways to settle the case without going to court.
NCAP argues that the EPA should phase out all pesticides that harm salmon and restrict pesticide uses to those that won't let the chemicals into waterways. States, according to the report, need to spend more money on monitoring for pesticides in water, and should establish systems to track quantities of pesticides used.
Copies of the report are available at www.pesticide.org/PoisonedWaters.pdf -- OI
If you're a music collector (or would like to be), EW suggests you follow three easy steps: 1) Find a calendar. 2) Locate the Feb. 10 box. 3) Fill it with an exclamation point or some other dramatic symbol.
That's right, kids -- the 14th Annual Eugene Record Convention will be held at the Hilton Sunday, Feb. 10. Bring your $2 admission charge and plenty of time for browsing.
"We get people from all over the West," says Bill Finneran, who has organized all 14 conventions. "It's the biggest record convention in the Northwest."
Posters, CDs, and movies will be available at the convention, but the real emphasis is on vinyl. Turntable owners will find plenty of records to tempt them -- and plenty of people to trade with. Bartering is the preferred method among conventioneers, so if you feel guilty about just throwing away that Ted Nugent LP your brother-in-law picked out, get down to the Hilton and find yourself a sucka.
Finneran, for one, can't wait. "Eugene is the perfect place for something like this," he says. "This town is so diverse in its tastes ... we just get great support for it every year." -- Nate Puckett
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CLARK SALE REDUCED
Forest activists in Lane County and around the region are celebrating news that the Clark Timber Sale has been reduced in size from 96 acres to 29 acres. The action by the U.S. Forest Service Jan. 22 is seen as a response to a combination of direct action, activist surveys for endangered tree voles, and lawsuits.
The sale area has been the site of the Fall Creek treesit, a direct action over the past four winters to protect some of the last remaining low-elevation ancient forests in the Oregon Cascades.
The reduction of the sale area is seen as an opportunity for the contractor, Zip-O Mills, to get out of the sale completely, based on the reduced profits from logging a small area.
Winter is conference time at UO and the line-up of speakers and workshops continues. Already we've seen the Against Patriarchy Conference, the Journal of Environmental Law and Litigation Symposium, and the Coalition Against Environmental Racism. Next, after a short break, will be the Wayne Morse Center national conference on "The Law and Politics of the Death Penalty" March 1-2. Keynote speakers include Sister Helen Prejean, Stephen B. Bright, Charles J. Ogletree Jr., Mark Hatfield, Robert Blecker and Bryan Stevenson. More info at www.morsechair.uoregon.edu
The grandmother of them all, the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference, is March 7-10 with Ralph Nader leading the extensive speakers list. The PIELC has grown to become an international gathering linking up several thousand scientists, lawyers and activists from 30 countries. Last year, student volunteers at the UO Law School organized 130 panel discussions in addition to arranging keynote speeches, entertainment, meals and housing for out-of-town participants. The updated web site is nearing completion at www.pielc.uoregon.edu
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Tales of desperation and an impending attack.
By Kate Gessert
Fifteen-year-old Mukhtar was hit by shrapnel from U.S. bombing. His left arm was fractured, one of his legs was seriously burned, and the other has been amputated. He may not walk again. "I want to be with my family at home," he said in his Kabul hospital bed (IrinNews).
--In remote Jawand district, 160 miles from Herat, whole villages are infected with tuberculosis. In Siya Sang village, four men died in January during the 24-hour climb to their villages carrying heavy bags of donated wheat. Rahim Dad said, "I sold my [12-year-old] daughter for money because of the hunger ... to save the other people in my family, to save them from dying." With the money he bought flour, rice, tea, and soap, and still has enough food left for 10 days (Guardian). Ahmed Shah sold his 7-year-old daughter for five bags of wheat. These transactions are desperate kin to Afghan dowry traditions (Independent). Afghan girls from age 5 to 17 sell for $80 to $100 at a warehouse in Pakistan's mountainous border region. Prices vary with the colors of the girls' eyes and skin, and whether they are virgins. Most are the children of poverty-stricken Afghan refugees. Usma, an Afghan prostitute, was 12 when she and her family were crossing the border into Pakistan with "no money, [nothing] to eat. The man gave them $80, so my mother told me to go..." According to buyers, most girls die before age 30 (Washington Times).
--The International Rescue Committee says that warlords are arming young men in Afghan refugee camps. The warlords want to keep drug and smuggling profits high by destabilizing the country, according to the Afghan administration. In camps such as Sakhi, near Mazar-i-Sharif, gun battles and rape have become common. Iruma, a woman in Sakhi, went out for grain and was sodomized by 10 armed men (Washington Times). Health workers worry that women are afraid now to go outside and bring their babies to camp clinics (Doctors Without Borders).
Land mines and unexploded bombs from U.S. bombings and a 20-year war litter Afghanistan. Fourteen-year-old Abdul Rehman was collecting grass for cattle when he was thrown into the air and part of his leg was blown off (IrinNews).
--According to military planners, the Pentagon has planned a two-pronged invasion of Iraq, with 100,000 U.S. troops supporting Kurdish and Shi'ite rebels under air cover of helicopter gunships and fighter planes. Air Force analysts and U.S. Third Army headquarters are now in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, preparing this attack (~Herald~, U.K.) 73 percent of Americans support U.S. military attacks in countries where terrorists are believed to be, with only 18 percent disapproving (CBS News).
--Bush's State of the Union Address rattled the globe, bringing protests from Western Europe to China. In Iraqi newspapers Bush is portrayed as a savage dwarf, to the Iranian parliament a threat to world security (Reuters). Reporter Robert Fisk summarized Bush's address as "dangerous [and] infantile" (Independent) and Madeleine Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State, said that many in the international community fear the U.S. has lost its mind (Afghan News Network).
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Two World Forums
Ideology vs. pragmatism: Another world is possible.
By Mark Weisbrot, Alternet
More than 70,000 people flocked to Porto Alegre, Brazil, to nurture the idea that "another world is possible" (Brasil Indymedia).
PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil -- Bankers and billionaires, their hangers-on and friends in government now have some serious competition when they gather -- as they did this past weekend in New York City -- for their annual World Economic Forum (WEF). The shadow forum down South is less exclusive -- nobody pays $25,000 to get in to the World Social Forum (WSF), and you don't need an invitation. But the 70,000 people who flocked to this waterfront Brazilian city of 1.2 million from every corner of the globe were greeted by an appealing theme: "Another World is Possible."
It is common to dismiss such thinking as naive or utopian at best, or driven by ideology rather than practicality. The hard-headed CEO's, IMF disciplinarians, and associated politicians at the WEF are seen as pragmatic leaders, even visionaries, who are willing to make the "tough choices" and compromises necessary to achieve progress in the real world.
But perhaps the conventional wisdom has it backwards. Here in Porto Alegre, the Workers' Party -- a major participant in the WSF -- has run the city government for 12 years. They win by large majorities because they have proven that the left can govern: they cleaned up corruption and waste, instituting a participatory budget process that is a model of transparency and democratic process.
The city has seen falling crime rates, improved health and education, and a noticeably more equal distribution of income than other Brazilian cities. For the last two years the Workers' Party has also held the governorship of the state (Rio Grande do Sul).
Demonstrators marched against the World Economic Forum in New York to draw attention to the destructive impact of globalization.
Of course there is still poverty -- this is Brazil, a middle-income country with the worst inequality in the world. But just an hour by bus from Porto Alegre, you will find people who have a sensible solution, and are putting it into practice. Sidnei dos Santos, a farmer and organizer with the MST (Move-ment of the Landless), explains to a group of about 80 visitors from the WSF how the Capela co-operative is run.
One hundred families farm these 5,400 acres together and share the proceeds of this verdant, fertile land. Nobody gets rich, but no one goes hungry -- as do millions of other Brazilians who remain landless and unemployed. The MST farmers look strong and healthy, with dignity and pride and a missionary's zeal for the righteousness of their cause. They feed their visitors fresh meat and vegetables and fruit (grown without pesticides), and seem genuinely moved by the warmth and solidarity that the conferees bring from afar.
The MST is the largest and most successful land reform movement in the world, having settled 300,000 families on millions of acres of land. In a country with vast amounts of unused arable land, and millions of hungry, landless peasants, what could make more sense?
But land reform is not on the agenda of the WEF, nor are these leaders impressed with the Workers' Party as an alternative to the rampant corruption of their friends in government throughout Latin America. They have their own formula for the progress of humanity: Open your country to foreign trade and investment, privatize everything that can be taken out of the public sector, and swallow the IMF's bitter prescription of austerity when -- because of skittish foreign investors or other external circumstances beyond your control -- your economy ends up in crisis.
Argentina is the latest casualty of this dogma, which is considered "economically correct" in WEF circles. For 20 years these people have used their economic muscle, and a creditors' cartel headed by the IMF, to make the world conform to their textbooks. The result has been the most widespread economic failure since the Great Depression.
During the last two decades (1980-2000), the world's low and middle-income countries have seen their income per person grow at less than half the rate of the previous 20 years (1960-1980). Even ignoring the distribution of income, which has worsened in many countries, there just hasn't been much that could potentially "trickle down" to the poor. Yet our leaders cling to their sacred texts; at this moment they are still trying to pry open the jaws of Argentina to pour more of the hated austerity medicine down its throat.
Who are the stubborn ideologues, and who are the pragmatists? Who is offering practical alternatives to the madness of a world that has more than enough food and resources for everyone, but where 800 million people are malnourished, and tens of millions die each year from hunger and easily preventable diseases? These are the questions that American journalists should be asking.
Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (www.cepr.net), in Washington, DC.
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After graduating from the UO in the spring of 2000 with a degree in environmental studies, Matthew Rutman liquidated his assets to finance a year of traveling and volunteering in Latin America. "I spent seven months in Guatemala, working for NGOs that are trying to make things better," he says. In the Mayan village of Pasac Segundo, Rutman worked on a Habitat for Humanity project and helped out with street kids in a shelter. "I was invited to a meeting -- it was an honor for me -- by a committee of parents who wanted to start a school," he relates. Rutman organized weekly benefit dinners in the nearby city of Xela, researched and applied for dozens of grants, landed one, and raised $10,000 in all -- enough to purchase land for the school, now under construction and set to open in April. Since his return to Eugene last spring, Rutman has founded a non-profit, Partners in Solidarity, dedicated to supporting locally initiated educational and health-care projects in the highlands of Guatemala. Partners in Solidarity is seeking donations of computers and school supplies for a March shipment. For details, call Rutman at 683-8572.
-- Photo by Paul Neevel
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